Spiritual Practices – End of the Year Reflection (part two)

brown tree with snow

The end of the year is a good time for reflection. If you’re a Christian, Advent will help guide you into reflection. The advent story features a harried and oppressed people, under the boot of an unjust government, finding hope in a radical new call to a life of love and action. Isn’t that what we all need this year?

In my last blog, we talked about reflecting on what we might need to savor, grieve, let go of, and learn from. This can open up a time of dreaming and goal planning for the new year. We looked at the categories of Body, Mind, and Spirit; today we will reflect on our Emotions, Work, Relationships, and Fun/Creativity.

Set aside some time before the month ends to journal some thoughts on the last year/decade, and what you want to see in the next!

Emotions: For me, when someone asks how I’m feeling I honestly have to stop and think, even though in the language of Meyers Briggs Temperament Indicator, I’m a Feeler. I’m often out of touch with how I feel. Looking back at 2019, however, I see a glaring period of depression. A job I loved ended the previous July, but my grief was postponed by the anticipation of our planned trip to Denmark, Scotland, and Ireland in October. That was fantastic!

The problem started when we returned. First, we had an endless winter Seriously, for a town that generally has over 250 days of sunlight, we were overcast for months on end. That, combined with the job I thought I was coming home to vanishing, and then the job I eventually got taking months to materialize, led to some dark times. I am not unfamiliar with depression, but I must say it always surprises me with its lethargy and lack of energy. I’ve learned not to fight it, but to go easy on myself during those times and lower my expectations. I generally re-watch the Harry Potter movies to help lift my spirits. Healing came with the summer sun, and from about June on I was back in better spirits, ready to enjoy some family fun. I learned that seasonal affective disorder is real and that I tend to tie my identity to what I am able to produce.

person wearing red hoodie sitting in front of body of water

How were your emotions this last year? What can you learn from them?

Work: My work this year transitioned from my beloved hospice to a part-time private counseling practice. The first few months, as I mentioned, were extremely slow and frustrating, with new computer charting to learn, and rather rusty counseling skills. But now my days are full and I’m enjoying the work. Apparently, I’m becoming a sought-after trauma therapist and am training in EMDR to enhance that work. I learned it’s never too late to learn new things and that age does bring wisdom!

How was work for you this year? Are you happy? Do you need to make a change?

Relationships: Relationships have always been important to me, but when I look closely, I have many people that I love and just a few I spend time with regularly. I cherish my husband, my kids, and grands, and I marvel that friendships shift with new ones moving up in importance and others moving to less frequent interactions. I made two new friends this year and I’m so grateful for both. Good friends are a surprise and a joy.

Have you made or lost friends this year? Who are you thankful for? Are there relationships you need to grieve?

amazing balance blur boulder

Fun/Creativity – I put those two together but they might be separate for you. For me, I have the most fun when I’m creating. Although my writing has been slow this year (see the section on depression), I’ve published all of my eleven books over the decade! But now I’m slowing down, taking my time, not afraid to rest. Looking back, the most fun I had this year was attending two writing conferences with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators — one in Las Vegas and the other in Los Angeles. I felt truly encouraged at those not to give up. Our world often seems dark and our creativity can bring much needed light. The writing itself has been a bit of a slog and I’m grateful for a critique group to hold me accountable.

I’m also happy anytime my husband and I can take a road trip. We had fun this year going to meet the biggest Sequoias, exploring caves, and traveling to southern California to see family. We did a tad of camping and got to watch the grandkids frolic in the water in several locations.

Did you remember to have fun this year? Did you spend any time creating? If not, it might be important to add some in for next year.

Thanks for taking a look back with me on your Body, Mind, Spirit, Emotions, Work, Relationships, and Fun/Creativity. Next time we’ll look forward into the new year/decade and set some goals and dreams for what is next!

I’d love to hear how your end of the year reflection is going.

 

 

Winter scene Photo by Simon Matzinger on Pexels.com
Person sitting alone Photo by Quintin Gellar on Pexels.com
 Cairn Photo by Nandhu Kumar on Pexels.com

Spiritual Practice: Mindfulness During Advent

advent_wreath (1)

mind·ful·nessˈmīn(d)f(ə)lnəs/ noun

– the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.

– a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

The word mindfulness is everywhere these days. I’m quite enjoying it, actually. I need to learn to be fully present in my body and to others. It is one of my greatest spiritual formation challenges: To stay in the moment; to be here, now – with myself, with you, and with God.

ad·vent /ˈadˌvent/ noun

– the first season of the Christian church year, leading up to Christmas and including the four preceding Sundays.

-Advent is a season observed in many Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas as well as the return of Jesus at the second coming.

In the faith tradition, I was brought up in there is no celebration of Advent, so I’m a newbie and I love it. What I have since learned about advent is that it helps slow me down and savor the season instead of dashing to stores, decorating the house, baking, worrying about finances. These activities do not lend themselves to mindfulness. That’s why I’m learning to enjoy advent. It helps me slow down and anticipate the birth of Christ before all the craziness.

At many churches, an Advent wreath sits on the altar and each week a different candle is lit to represent Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace. The center candle is The Christ candle. These are very good things to focus on, helping us to slow down and be mindful during the holiday season.

My dear friend, Deana Rogers wrote a beautiful Advent guide.  It’s called, Wrapped in Grace: The birth story that changes everything.  It is a beautifully illustrated slim edition.

When I was reading this book, I came across the word, “Mindfulness.” It was in the story where Mary (Jesus’ mom, freshly pregnant with him) goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth (who is old, not supposed to have kids, pregnant with John the Baptist). Mary launches into a song, which the author explains is very similar to other songs women have sung throughout the Bible. In it Mary says:

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.”

In this story (New International Version) in the gospel of Luke, God is said to be “mindful of Mary.”

God, the power of the universe, the one who holds it all together, is fully present with Mary.

God knows her circumstances (an unwed teenager, carrying a baby that does not belong to her fiancé). God also knows her heart.

If God was mindful of Mary and chose to use her to (literally) carry out God’s will, it occurred to me that God is also mindful of us. God knows our circumstances, however, messed up they may be. God knows our hearts, and many of us may be hurting this year. God is not concerned that we are too young, like Mary, or too old, like Elizabeth. God can and will use us to carry out Divine good on earth.

What was Mary’s end of the deal?  To say yes. Yes, yes, yes.

This advent season, I want to be fully present to myself (what God is doing within me).  I want to be fully present to others (what God is doing in the world); I want to be fully present to God (to help carry out Divine plans). That is what I’m pressing into this Advent Season.

In what ways are you being mindful this Advent Season?

Photos: Advent WreathDeana’s Book