Adventures in Advent: Reflections

OMG, it’s December.

Where did the year go? I’ve officially turned into the old person who talks about how fast time flies. Since last week’s solo Thanksgiving in Japan, I’ve slowly made my way a little further around the world and just woke up to a very sunny first morning of December in Johannesburg, South Africa.

If you’re curious after last week’s post, I’m not holiday avoiding. I’m finishing up a round-the-world trip that I began last year, making a few pit-stops on the way home to celebrate the advent season with my global friend-family, and taking a little time away in the sunshine for my 2020 planning. (Yes, I know it’s only going to be 2018. More on this later).

When I packed my bag to leave for this trip weeks ago, I did something that I often do when I’m traveling over a holiday. I threw something in my bag that would remind me to be mindful. In this case, it happened to be a pine scented candle.

The inclusion of a candle in my luggage may have been an afterthought, but it was no accident. I’m a carry-on-only girl on a trip that covers 4 continents and extreme climates- real estate in my bag is limited. I probably sacrificed at least one day without a clean shirt to bring it.

This is a magical candle, you see. It not only smells like the trails where I feel most at home in Oregon, it also smells just like I imagine Christmas does if you’re sitting around a tree rather than flying around the world. As a bonus, I’d also received this candle as a gift, so it also reminds me of the important people that I have in my life.

Two weeks into my trip, sitting in Hong Kong, I was in a planning funk (I have a serious problem with not knowing where I want to go next), and I got out the candle. In that moment I realized why I’d brought it.

This candle was meant to be my anchor for advent.

As I’d been thinking about how I wanted to re-invent rather than avoid the lead up to Christmas this year, I’d come to the conclusion that a daily meditation or reflection would most likely be more beneficial to me than a daily chocolate.

I devised a very simple plan to put the advent in my adventure. I’d Google up an advent meditation, save it to my iphone and then as I traveled through December, I’d light my candle every morning and read one reflection a day. Like a prepare-your-system-for-Christmas vitamin.

While the idea was great, I ran into a small problem with the execution. Everything I found in my advent meditation search was everything you’d expect that I’d find – traditional Christmas readings and devotions. As a spiritual person recovering from decades of religion and trying to reinvent traditions that aren’t black and white, this wasn’t what I needed.

So, I did what I tend to do when I can’t find something I like. I made my own.

Starting today, I’ll be lighting up my candle in some little corner of the globe once a day thinking through some advent things.

Not thinking about the story or the season, like I was always taught to do when I lit the advent candle and recited the Christmas story as kid. Rather, thinking about what the whole thing actually means for me as an adult today in 2017, and well beyond December.

What it means to wait, to expect, to wander in a time that feels dark, to hope, and to give.

I’m not going to share my actual reflections day to day, but if you want to join along on any of the days, here’s the list of the 25 prompts I jotted down from my heart following my failed Google attempt. And of course they may change–or you can change them yourself. Always trust your intuition over the internet. Do you.

*Pine scented candle is not required for participation.

Advent Reflections

  1. What is advent really about to me?
  2. What does it mean to welcome a stranger? To be a stranger?
  3. Is there meaning to advent outside of traditional religion?
  4. If advent is about … Watching, what am I paying attention to?
  5. What is the path I want to be on? How am I preparing?
  6. If advent is about … Expectation in waiting. What is my expectation?
  7. If advent is about … Welcoming others. How am I living this in my life?
  8. If advent is about … Hope. How am I shaped by it?
  9. What am I counting down to?
  10. If advent is about … Presence. What does this mean in my experience?
  11. What hopes do I need to be reinvented or restored?
  12. If advent is about … Generosity. How am I being generous with my life?
  13. What is the impact of my advent on others?
  14. How can I show love better this week? This season?
  15. If advent is about … Showing up, how am I showing up?
  16. Ritual vs. Real. What does this mean to me?
  17. What is the role of my community in celebration & expectation?
  18. Where can I give something of myself this week?
  19. What does the Christmas liturgy actually mean to my life?
  20. What do I really want for Christmas?
  21. What are my hopes for the year ahead?
  22. If advent is about … Anticipation. What is this about?
  23. Where is the margin for advent waiting in a life focused on hustle?
  24. What is the role of darkness in visualizing hope?
  25. Gifts. What have I been given and how can I give these back to the world?