No time to prepare my heart for Jesus . . . I’m overwhelmed. Gotcha! You are trapped! The Devil wants you to feel hopeless and time stressed. And if you really feel stressed during Advent, it’s normal. Society has placed so many traditions that ‘must’ be kept in this ‘holiday season’, that many of us who struggle with normal time duties become overwhelmed during the ‘holidays’. True confession: I’m one of those people. So, I’ll offer this memory (embarrassing as it is! – one small consolation – it was years ago) to those who may be just like me, with the desire to spread hope. I went to confession angry at my family for not helping me do the Christmas decorating. When I confessed this, the wise priest asked me to answer two questions: 1) Why was I putting up Christmas decorations? 2) How was what I asked them to do preparing their hearts for Christmas? Of course, I broke into tears because the answers were 1) Decorations are expected of me and 2) I hadn’t even thought about the responsibility of preparing hearts (justification: I took them to Sunday school and they attended private school, wasn’t that sufficient?). He gently asked if I could consider carefully what actions I might take to changes to help me be joyful and contribute to my family’s faith formation. He made NO suggestions as to how. He asked me to go pray one decade of the Rosary as penance and to think about what I needed to do.
Prayer (it took me more than a decade of the Rosary, I’m stubborn and really proficient at justifying.) and talking to older, wiser people helped me make the following changes. The community of catechists in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd helped me with decorating carefully and meaningfully, because that is what we did when we changed our atria to reflect the liturgical seasons. (Sadly, I had not thought to bring that peace and simplicity into my home.) Maybe the list here will help you give yourself the gift of time and peace to prepare your heart for Baby Jesus! It is only a report of what helped in my life NOT if you do this, then you will get that effect type of list. Each one of us must pray and seek counsel according to what works for us.
1) No cookie making (not supposed to eat so much sugar anyway!)
2) Tree replaced with carefully arranged Bethlehem scene where the three wise men traveled closer all Advent from a position elsewhere in the house, to that room for example.
3) Colors in my house were green, purple and pink until Christmas, when the white candle was put into the middle of the Advent wreath and the white Christmas linens were used to set the table, and only a few items of these colors were present in the main room and the eating area, lessening the task of decorating in every room of the house.
4) Every aspect of cleaning and sorting clothing was tied to preparing our physical space as a symbol of preparing our heart space.
5) Clothes went to the poor because Jesus was born poor!
- My boys didn’t care about cookies because they got treats so many places (and they did not like to make them)!
- The Nativity scene was much easier to do than a tree and much more meaningful.
- Since the colors made me happy, I was fine doing that decorating alone! Win/win!
- Cleaning still caused complaining Parenting isn’t easy!
- Compassion for the poor made that sorting of the clothing more meaningful (if not fun), and we still eliminate clothing every Advent and Lent to this day!
Sometimes, the many thoughts and our long “to-do” lists stop us from thinking clearly through what we are doing and why we are doing it. In times when the reminders are too frequent, and overwhelm becomes a ruler of your life, try switching it all off and focusing on just one word for just five minutes. Giving yourself that permission may be made difficult if your thoughts keep pestering you. Coloring a prayer card with the word “Peace” on it is a great way to stop the thoughts and start that conversation with Jesus, so that you will realize He will give you the wisdom to choose according to His will.
Please comment below to help us all prepare for Jesus by sharing your wisdom and preparations. Blessings to All!