for ordinary people walking in wonder.

Endings and Beginnings

December was a lovely and full month for me. There was lots of work and stress, but also so many beautiful and fun moments.

One night, at the beginning of the month, I sat in the park looking across a foot-printed field. It felt like God was resting in the hollow of each and every foot-print. He felt very near, and I was grateful.

It was easy to feel the ache of waiting and expecting at the beginning of Advent. That first Sunday, with the strains of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” fading into the candlelight, the ache of emptiness felt real.

But when it got to be the middle of advent, I found it difficult to remember that there was something I was waiting for.

It was easier to think about what was right in front of me.

Exams, cookies, gifts, meals, work.

This year, I learned that remembering to wait takes a certain energy, a certain discipline, a certain strength. Waiting is different than merely passing the time until something comes to pass. There is an intention and expectation to it.

This year, we chose to light a row of candles and sit in that light as we listened to scripture and prayer from After that, we’d sing “O Come, Divine Messiah.”

Some nights, it was easy to take in the prayers and verses.

Other nights, I could hardly tear my attention away from the sound of the dishwasher, the fascinating way the candles were dripping, or the swirl of the snow in the streetlight on the other side of the window. Even with distractions and inconsistency, it felt like a worthwhile practice. It was a small way of slowing down, acknowledging my desire for God’s presence, and anticipating the day when all will be healed.

This candle burned straight and tall all through Advent, but on Christmas Eve it grew this lovely angel wing as it burned.

I did do other things in December besides celebrate Advent!

I completed final assignments and studied for exams. As the pressure of the end of the semester mounted, my attention grew so skittish that one time, I wrote the words stay here on my paper to remind myself to stick with what I was working on. It was mildly effective.

I also had a wreath-making party with some friends. It was a fun way to begin the Christmas season, and resulted in me making the largest wreath I have ever made! I put it on the front door of our apartment building.

There was also just a lot of ordinary life stuff that happened. For example, one night I made french fry casserole and squash (COMFORT MEAL, am I right??) and watched Christmas movies to my heart’s content.

We had the chance to go hear Handel’s Messiah in Toronto. It was glorious. One of my favourite parts was how long we all clapped at the end. It felt like a collective expression of how thankful the audience was to be able to appreciate beautiful music and the presence of God together.

We were so grateful to be able to be with our families in person for Christmas this year, after last year’s virtual/modified gatherings.

A favourite Christmas gift of mine this year was a fanny pack. It feels extremely natural. And it’s black. I feel much affection towards this fanny pack.

In other news, my friend, @christiebakesstuff, knitted a tiny red scarf for my hedgehog, Reggie. I just… It’s just so cute.

And…. I think that just about covers December.

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve spent quite a bit of time considering the coming year. I got in a little over my head as I tried to utilize too many resources in my planning. 2022 quickly turned into a rather large and intimidating undertaking. And then I went down a bunny trail of reflecting on my reflecting.

So right now, I’m taking a little break from trying to plan for the new year.

All I know is that next weekend, Ricky and I are going to go on a little winter trip and if all goes according to plan, I am going to get to finally try cross-country skiing.

And today, we went to downtown Kitchener and visited the market and a bakery. We bought bread and clementines. Both are delicious. The bushes just outside the bakery were full of little birds. They seemed perfectly at home and at ease and plump.

It was the perfect way to spend a beautiful January Saturday morning.

January is a good month to try small new things (like visiting a market you’ve never been to or cross-country skiing), to eat clementines, and to take naps with the sunshine streaming in the window.

I’ll leave you with a tiny piece of a poem by Wendell Berry. January is a good time to “be still and dark,” and to grow stronger in quiet ways.

“Leave word and argument, be dark and still, and come into the joy of healing shade. Rest from your work. Be still and dark until you grow as unopposing, unafraid as the young trees…”

-Wendy Berry, “Sabbaths,” VI, 1980

What do you like to do in January? Is it a month that you enjoy or is it a hard one for you?

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