I like themes. Party themes. Slogans. Mantras. A good theme can carry you a long way.
As I approached Advent this year I spent some time at a monastery in northwest Missouri. I needed time, peace, quiet, vigils, lauds, monks chanting Latin, space. This has been a helluva year, and I needed to think of a theme that could capture my focus and carry my attention through this holy season.
On the way to vespers (5:15 p.m. service at the monastery) I saw my theme: Light. I snapped the picture you see here and texted “May you anticipate the birth of Christ by being mindful of The Light around you” to friends as I entered the abbey. I sat in the gorgeous basilica and conjured a plan on how to be mindful of The Light for the next 24 days. I decided to snap pictures of light and share them with friends! This little light of mine! I’m gonna let it shine! A perfect theme!
Until I got home. Until I realized that I have a huge project and a bunch of mini papers to write before the 15th. Until I realized I have children and pets and PTA and shopping. Until I made a list of things to do that was so long that when I reread it “breathe” was on there TWICE. Until I got really irritated at the state of my microwave. Until all the Boy Scout popcorn had to be delivered. Until I started using the word “glare” instead of “light.” Until I didn’t want to be mindful anymore. Until…
I picked up Kat and Ben Sunday night after five very quiet days of being apart. I’m not sure the car doors were closed before there was a verbal tirade (Ben) and dramatic tweenage huffing (Kat). I sat in the car and chanted “Breathe. Peace. In. Out. Breathe. Peace. Now.”
I knew we would have to transition back to life at my house and my rules and detox after a long weekend with grandparents. So, I decided that we would pray in color. (Click here for the book about this.) It’s a simple concept. You write a word or name or phrase on a sheet of paper and then doodle as you just BE with that person or concept. The time focused on the person is a prayer in itself. I explained this to Kat and Ben who then asked a barrage of questions about paper size, could they use a ballpoint pen and not a colored pencil, did things have to be spelled right, “what is it that we are doing again, Mom?” WE ARE PRAYING! Mindfulness and I may have had the shortest relationship in history.
Being the stubborn redhead I am we proceeded with glares and huffs and really pathetic attempts of creating a time and space to pray and just “be” with the person or concept we wrote down.
The four restarts by my (non-diagnosed) OCD son didn’t help either. The paper wasn’t cut straight the first time. He forgot to write his word before he started coloring the second time. Katarina LOOKED AT HIM the third time. I breathed. IN. OUT. IN. OUT. with huge gulping breaths because we were supposed to be PRAYING. “Ben, it’s okay,” I kept repeating. “Just color.”
And he did.
And he asked “How do you spell ‘nothing’?”
I breathed deeply. Really? He was praying about NOTHING???
“How do you spell ‘remember’?”
I breathed even more deeply.
And then he handed me his first completed color prayer.
And I sat there.
And I read it.
And I looked at him.
And I read it again.
And I cried.
I have a new theme for Advent this year.
And for 2015.
And for the rest of my life.
Nothing is Perfect (Remember it)