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When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among neighbors,
To make music in the heart.

Howard Thurman

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I’ve been seeing and hearing many comments about people being exhausted and stressed along with discussions about goals and resolutions for the New Year.

Reading yet another comment this morning on all that needs to be done before Christmas … here is my personal refection.

I am a gardener and so I tend to think in gardening terms and I have learned ….
for everything there is a season …. does this sound familiar?

Every year I put my garden to bed for winter. As I do I reflect on what flourished and what withered away or simply didn’t take hold. What did I learn from it? What can I do differently to get a different outcome? What do I need to be patient with? What do I need to let go? I make notes of these things so I can come back and review them when I need direction. Then I let it go, enjoy the snow on the bare branches and in January sit down again and set some intentions for the garden, knowing that my plan is only a temporary guideline that may change throughout the coming year.

Many other gardeners do the same. We know there is a time for everything. That no matter how much we plan and do, we can’t control the outcome of some things or what sometimes blows our way and we learn the rhythm of the seaons.

Moving into the New Year works the same way. We can’t move on till we have put the ‘old’ year to bed. Before we make resolutions, set our intentions, pick a word to walk with, set goals or whatever it is that we do each year, we need to sit with the old year a bit. What were the joys and sorrows? What did we learn from them? Where did we grow, where did we plant seeds and help others thrive?

But for right now …. stop for a moment… BREATHE! … and think about the season we are in. What does it mean to you? What would you like it to be? Don’t do what everyone else is doing just because it is expected of you. If you don’t enjoy shopping, crowds or long lines.. like me… don’t do it! If you are exhausted from going to concerts, celebrations, too much preparation, don’t do it! Give yourself the gift of rest, time for walking, eating well, time with those you care about. And remember the best gift you can give someone is the give of yourself, your time, your attention.

The New Year will come soon enough …

A recent dream caused me to stop and take notice about what I teach and who I teach it to. In the dream I am helping a young man learn how to care for his motherless infant triplets, one of them I called Hope as I carry her. In reality other than the men in my family, I almost always teach or facilitate women or groups of women. I’ve been comfortable with this, because often the women feel safe in their sharing in the company of other women what they would not feel comfortable sharing with men. And having grown up in a family with many aunts, sisters who were very close and who were the shakers and movers, I was accustomed to women gathering together with the men in the margins.

I think about the men in my life, other than family. The ones I’m drawn to, ones I consider brothers as well as friends. Most are artists, gardeners, lovers of music, poetry, nature and creation in some way or other, some are monks. Quite a few of these friends were raised by single mothers, or by their grandmothers, or had a mother with health or other chronic issues. Some had no siblings or were the youngest.

When I was a girl, some tasks and responsibilities were still divided, those done by men and those done by women. But many of my ‘brothers’ were taught skills and rituals that would have been taught to daughters, either because there was no daughter or because the man was raised by someone who saw the value in teaching him these things and took the time to do it. They were also taught to care for others.

As I set up my nativity set that reminds me of children in a Christmas Pageant, I can’t help but look at Joseph and gently touch his face. I’m drawn to him this year. What do I know about him? Scripture tells me he was a righteous man who did not want to expose Mary to public disgrace, a man of honor, even though he had to be experiencing a bit of dismay. I know that he is considered the patron saint of families, fathers and orphans, pregnant woman, married couples, carpenters, teachers, lawyers, laborers, working people … and more.. He is also considered by some to be the unofficial patron against doubt and hesitation.

I see men (and women) I know as I look at Joseph. The people whose greatest gift is to support others in whatever it is they need to do, often having to take a different path than what they themselves had planned in order to do so. They have a gift of compassion, being honorable, faithful. They do what is necessary to protect those they love. And many of them take the time to teach children, both the girls and boys.

This Advent season I’m teaching my 8 year old grandson the tradition of lighting the Advent candles. This is a new practice for us, by next year he will remember having done this and it will become a tradition for him to share with others. I want to teach him family history, tradition, knowledge. But I also want to teach him to be a Joseph. To be open to supporting others. To listen to messages that will guide him.

As I gather with women this coming year I will encourage them to not only share what they experience and learn with other women, sisters, daughters, but to also remember the men, brothers, sons. We often invest so much time teaching girls and women, empowering them, sharing knowledge, passing on traditions and rituals that we often forget to teach our boys the qualities that will help them grow into compassionate, faithful and honorable men.

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