“I realized this year I was ‘serving up’ Advent to my family and friends like I was a waitress — watching them dine, but never participating in the feast.”
This week we, as a Church, rejoice with grateful wonder, “Christ is near.” But last weekend I awoke on the morning of the annual Advent Tea that I host for my daughter’s Little Flowers Catholic girls club and I thought, UGH. Now, mind you, this event has always been my idea. I love doing it. I take out my special dishes, use all the pink and pretty I have at my disposal, and make those girls and their mommies feel precious and pampered. So why on that morning, did I feel so completely, utterly Advented out? Pooped even?
Well, after Thanksgiving this year — a late Thanksgiving, right? am I right? — it was like a non-stop race through several projects and commitments. Boom, boom. Like fires to extinguish, even though I was a little grateful they were there. But then Advent was in the mix. SLAM. A little sweet brick in my face. Ow.
As I lay in bed that morning before our annual tea, I realized that this year I was “serving up” Advent to my family and friends like I was a waitress — watching them dine, but never participating in the feast. I was working hard to create just the right experience for those I love, but I was feeling spiritually detached.
My experience is surely familiar to other parents. As we enter the last days of Advent, I want to share some thoughts on how we parents can love our children generously while balancing our need for spiritual nourishment.
Remember the Why
Rather than going through the motions of Advent, truly reflect on what it all means for you personally. If we do all the right things for our family, but forget why we’re doing it, we’ve lost something valuable. Acting out of duty is great, but acting from a disposition of love and generosity is even better. Jesus wants our hearts.
Now, at this point, you might expect me to say that Jesus wasn’t born for the pretty in my tea party. Oh, but I think he was. Of course he was. He was born to show us that the entire spectrum our human senses are fantastic and even a sign of the Holy if we allow it. The problem was that I was trying so hard to force those girls to experience the Transcendent in Advent that I forgot who I was in the story of salvation. That morning before the Advent Tea, I honestly just wanted to “get through it” on some level. I wasn’t really in the mood for company and, after several days of neglect, my house was a mess. I was not in a good place. But I remembered why I love these Advent Teas so much: not so that I could show off a shiny floor, but so that I could open my home to human love and Divine Joy.
Never Forget the Who
I also forgot who Jesus is to me personally. In my perhaps understandable desire to make everything “just so” for my human guests, I forgot the reality of my Great Guest. Grounding my family culture in the liturgical calendar has been one of the giant breakthroughs in my own parenting. But I can easily forget that I need one-on-one time with my friend, Jesus; that he loves me enough to wait for me to meet him all alone, by myself — just little ol’ me.
We parents need to pray. Not only in those family prayers, which are so precious to him, but private prayer as well. Busy parents may think there’s no way they can find time to pray, but consider your day and when it’s most quiet — and seize those minutes. The big point I want to bring home for my loved ones is that their Savior is near. He is here, in our midst, ready to love us, in our current reality, however broken or imperfect. He only asks for our trust, our yes.
So that morning before the Advent Tea I might have spent the hours scrubbing my (very dirty) floor and making everything picture perfect for those precious girls and their mommies, all of whom I love so. But I realized Jesus was calling me to prayer, calling me to sit a while with him in his arms. So I prayed. I prayed for a long time before I even got out of bed because I knew once I walked out my bedroom door, the excitement of the day would be flooding my home and carry me away (not in a bad way, but in a way that would make it hard for me to STOP and reflect).
My little and big girl guests arrived for the tea — dirty floors, dishes in the sink, little sandwiches still to be cut. My physical home was not quite ready, but that morning it was more important that I was ready — that my heart was ready — and after my time in prayer and reflection, I think I was — at least more than I was a few hours beforehand. We had a wonderful time. The girls had their pretty and we moms connected. One mom announced her pregnancy and we all cheered! Toward the end of the party, my friend Angela and I led the little girls in a craft in my family room, and what do you know, the other mommies cleaned my kitchen!
I put my feet up that night and knitted some slippers for Dominic while watching a movie with my family, thinking of the arms of Jesus, so big and powerful. So near. I hope for the rest of Advent I feel less like a waitress and more like a child of God. He has invited me, I know. I just need to figure out hour by hour how to live the invitation. Pray for me.
Photo credit: Nomadsoul1 (photos.com)