Tag Archives: anticipation

In some other place

The trip seemed so far away

when I booked it.

Time seems to have a way of moving at its own pace,

sometimes too fast and

sometimes too slow.

The mindfulness people tell us that

today is all we have,

and I know what they mean,

but I like to have things to anticipate,

plans and dreams.

I suppose I live in the future,

creating my packing list,

immersed in my daydreams and guidebooks,

imagining myself in some other place,

on the other side of the ocean,

visiting museums and historic spots,

being in buildings erected

before the first ship sailed west.

It seemed so far away

when this trip was just a dream,

and now it is here.

Preparing for Christmas

This weekend, we begin the season of Advent, four weeks of preparing for Christmas. One of my past parish ministries was writing a reflection for our weekly church bulletin. Advent reflections could be my most challenging because the Pastor encouraged us to focus on preparing for Christmas, instead of celebrating Christmas throughout December. “Advent is a season,” he would say.

This was a reflection I wrote at the beginning of Advent one year that resonates with me this year:

“As we begin this time of preparation for the birth of Jesus our savior, I am so very aware of the suffering throughout the world, in our cities and neighborhoods, and in our homes. Peace seems elusive; despair seems pervasive.

“The Advent readings, though, remind us that we are a people of hope from a tradition of hope. The light of Jesus overcomes the darkness of despair.

“Advent is highlighted in the Church year as a time of waiting which is something that many of us are not particularly good at doing. We have become a people of instant communication, instant replay and instant gratification. We have fast food, EZ pass and express lanes. We tend to want what we want when we want it. For many, this is most true during the month of December.

“This Advent, I invite you to try something different. I invite you to deliberately try to slow down and experience the season of Advent. I invite you to put off celebrating Christmas until the end of Advent and to use this time as an opportunity to become stronger in our faith, more rooted in our traditions.

“Here are some suggestions for the weeks ahead:

  • Spend a few minutes every day with the Sunday or daily scripture readings.
  • Save and don’t open the Christmas cards you receive during Advent. Open a few on Christmas Eve and then a few more during each evening during the Christmas season.
  • If you decorate the outside of your house, do not turn the lights on until Christmas Eve.
  • Create an Advent wreath for your home—three purple candles and one pink.
  • If you put up your Nativity set during Advent, wait until Christmas Eve to place the baby Jesus figure in the scene.
  • Simplify your gift-giving practice. Give more handmade and symbolic gifts.”

I remember writing this piece while I was drinking my morning coffee from my Christmas mug, so very aware that I am one of those people who feels uncomfortable with the not-yet, who likes to jump ahead. I am reminded of the words of Teilhard de Chardin.


I was supposed to be in Europe right now, but I decided against going because of covid. So, the thirteen days I had planned to be away are now free. I will use this time for baking, knitting gifts and writing Christmas cards. I will try to be more patient. I will set up my Advent wreath and ponder light and hope.

How will you celebrate the season of Advent?

Watching the horizon

Twelve seagulls sit along the cottage rooftop,

scanning the horizon,

like tiny white sentinels,




Are they offering a lesson in mindfulness?

Teaching me to sit still,

to linger,

to pay attention

without agenda or need,

without expectation or hope.

Watch the horizon, they seem to say.

Be open to what appears.

In this place, at this time

We have entered Advent, the season to prepare spiritually for Christmas. Advent is a time of watchful hope—think of a pregnant woman in the last trimester, waiting for the birth of her child. Every day, as her belly grows, so do does her anticipation of meeting the child growing within.

One of the women at work is pregnant, and her due date is December 27. Watching her excitement grow as her due date approaches helps me get in touch with the spirit of Advent. She is positively bursting with promise.

Advents invites us to join in that kind of joyful anticipation.

So how do I summon that kind of anticipation in my own life? What new life can I anticipate with a sense of urgency? What is growing within me and bursting to be born?

Good questions.

More than anticipation at this particular time, I am feeling anxious. There is the pandemic, which is spreading like wildfire where I live.

And then I am having my kitchen renovated (you will not be the first to ask why I would undergo a major construction project during a pandemic). The work is going fairly smoothly, but the upheaval is a bit distressing (the contents of my kitchen cabinets are stored through the house, and I have limited cooking capacity).

And then there is my ninety-four-year-old mother. Friends joke that she has nine lives; she is indomitable. While she easily denies her limitations (“no diminishment,” is her mantra) I find myself watching closely for signs of decline, and that kind of vigilance makes me anxious.

When I opened my prayer book on Wednesday morning and read Isaiah 25:6-10 and Matthew 15:29-37, these words jumped off the page—in this place; at this time.

It was a reminder that in the midst of whatever is happening in my life and in the life of the world, I am called to pay attention to God’s work, to what God is doing, here and now.

The coronavirus will pass and my kitchen project will be finished—these are passing things. My mother will be my mother—a force who lives on her own terms and will die on her own terms.

More important than what is happening outside is what is happening inside. Like the baby growing in the womb, God invites me to look inside, to see if my heart is aligned with God’s work of wiping away tears; of tending to the lame, blind, deformed and mute; of feeding those who are hungry.

Shifting my focus from the details of everyday life to the expansiveness of God’s view, I asked God, “What am I invited to do in this place, at this time?

When my friend Jim got brain cancer eight years ago, I asked God that very question, and the response was that I was to love unconditionally, to forgive without limit and to let go.

When I live like that, I will be non-judgmental, merciful and free—and ready for Christmas.



Lately, I have been aware of the invitation to reframe situations and issues.

At the day of reflection I facilitated last month, one of the volunteers shared that she felt unprepared for the ministry she had recently begun. She lacked experience and feared she would not meet the expectations of her ministry site. She said she was “not good at” doing what she was being asked to do.

I suggested that she reframe the issue and instead of saying, “I don’t know how to” or “I am not good at…,” she might say, “I am learning to…” or “I don’t have much experience with this but I am willing to try.”

Reframing the issue and seeing herself as a learner changes her expectations of herself and also sheds light on assumptions she has made about others’ expectations of her.

I became aware of my need for some reframing when I stopped to pick up a package at a local store. I was impatient while I waited for my package, grousing as if I had been stuck in some limbo for forty days—or even forty minutes, when it was actually closer to four minutes.

My impatience stemmed from a lack of understanding the process, and that made me feel vulnerable. Rather than accept and embrace my vulnerability, I became defensive.

Step back, Madeline, I thought. Become a learner.

Being a learner presumes that I would not know how the process works—I am, after all, still learning. Being a learner shifts the focus from assuming I should know how things will go to assuming I don’t know and am willing to learn. It enables me to be curious and to wonder, and to ask questions of those who do know, allowing them to share their knowledge.

Not all situations that would benefit from reframing are that obvious or easy to discern another approach.

I am stuck in a negative loop concerning upcoming travel and am having difficulty letting go of my expectations based on past experiences of flights being cancelled and luggage being lost. The anxiety is not helping, but how to reframe the situation is unclear.God-Advent-trustAs we begin Advent, I feel invited to reframe my expectations around the ways God enters my life. I want to look from a different perspective and see with new eyes. I want to approach this season with a sense of curiosity and wonder and be surprised at the gifts God will bring me.

I want to make this Advent a time of holy anticipation and joyful waiting and be open to every experience of God breaking into my world.

The young volunteer last month taught me to be on the lookout for situations where I am limiting God’s intervention by my own closed mindedness, my fears and expectations. I hope that by stepping back to get a different perspective, I will be able to see the potential in every person and situation.

I pray for the grace to experience what is possible.