I’m sure some of my friends might think this is corny, but this year I am going to try this form of counter-cultural living: I’m not making New Year’s resolutions…I’m making Advent resolutions. Advent is the beginning of the Christian year and it is a good time to re-focus, re-connect, and renew my faith and life commitments. So, even though we are two weeks into the season of Advent, I am noticing that I need some renewal…so here we go…
1. Lose 12 pounds. I know, I hate that this is number one, and I really don’t want people to get the wrong idea about it because I am not trying to push a cultural agenda dealing with body image issues. But here’s the thing: since I quit Breast feeding my son in July I have gained 12 pounds. My blood pressure is slightly up, I am snoring horrifically, a lot of my clothes don’t fit, my knees and feet ache every night, and I was recently diagnosed with “mild” sleep apnea. At 36 years old I am sitting on the cusp of a moment when I can change my life and have better health or it will begin to get worse. So, if I lose 12 pounds, it will be the beginning of getting back the control. Maybe it will lead to more, maybe it will keep me steady for now. The reason this is number 1 is because I have done what is very common in my vocation of ministry, which is I have allowed everything else to take priority over me and my health. Two small children, their care, their education, the time and energy they need, the money it takes to take care of them; an active smallish sub-urban church struggling to discern God’s vision while also finding a way to be authentic evangelists and all the big and tiny stresses that go with that work including balancing everything, preaching an authentic and meaningful albeit gospel based and spirit feeding sermon each week, meetings, prayer groups, finding ways to include Bible study in our gatherings since most people are not available for a separate weekly study, and people politics; my marriage which is beautiful and meaningful and normal (including the conflicts of normal marriages with children), we still have some of those “roommate” issues that come with being married. All of that makes it easy to say, “I’ll go work out tomorrow,” “A little stress eating won’t hurt too much…” I have to make me number one again, following the rule of the airplane oxygen masks: take care of yourself first before you help others otherwise you will have nothing left to help others. So, I’m going to lose 12 pounds.
2. Focus on my own spiritual formation: praying more, studying the Bible more, writing more, maybe even reading more (yes, Don, I said it), being a better steward, and softening my boundaries in public places (I want to start engaging people the way I used to, and the way my coach Rev. Bill McConnell does). I cannot teach what I do not practice, and the more I practice, the better teacher I will be.
3. Stop yelling so much. I realize it gets attention well, but it’s not a good habit, it’s not good for my blood pressure, and I don’t think it helps the children in their adjustment to the world.
There are several other things I would like to do better, but I thought if I could try these three for now, I would see where it gets me in my practice. Maybe it will affect some of the other things I am working on.
Advent is the season of waiting and preparing. We are waiting and preparing for the day when Christ will arrive. It’s called active waiting. Active waiting is different from forced or passive waiting. Active waiting is like multitasking, we will prepare for Christ’s arrival while we wait as well.
In his book, Oh, The Places You’ll Go, Dr. Seuss talks about the waiting place. The following is a quote:
“You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
That’s not for you!”
Dr. Seuss calls the waiting place a useless place, but I disagree. The waiting is not only a necessary place it is a place we cannot avoid in our lives, and thank goodness! We need the waiting places in our lives so we can take some time to let our brains and our bodies rest and regroup and prepare for whatever is next. The waiting place is a good place to meditate, or pray, or prioritize, or live if you are using your time there wisely. Sometimes, nothing to do, is a great thing to have happen, as long as you can let go of all those things you need to get done that can wait until you are done sitting still.
This Advent, I am going to wait…I am going to get back into yoga, I am going to pay attention to my volume and look for new ways to get my children’s attention, and I am going to spend some time writing, studying, praying, getting to know people, and sharing generously.
I hope your Advent continues to be fruitful.