Why is it that the beginning of Advent always seems to bring out the worst in me? I almost mindlessly begin the season with this desire for perfection, a desire to make everything perfectly meaningful for my children, and end up feeling a failure on the first day. Thankfully, today was salvaged before I single handedly ruined it. My main plans for today were to create our Advent wreath as we always do, and then to make our candles. When I excitedly called to my kids that it was time to go gathering holly and cedar for our wreath, I was mostly ignored. Today the weather was beautiful, and they were all busy with outdoor activities of their own. I resigned myself to a quiet walk alone to gather materials just as Keats came racing across the yard, followed soon after by Seth.
Seth was really just wanting to go metal detecting down in the portion of woods where the holly trees grow, but dear Keats actually wanted to help find the “twigs with red berries.” He climbed high into a holly, shushing my concern with claims that he “does this all the time” and began snipping little branches. I gathered them up as they dropped to the bed of leaves below.
Once safely on the ground again, Keats grabbed our basket and began to race for the cedar trees, telling me all the while that I am too slow. When did it happen, this slowing down? But Keats, didn’t you teach me this? …never to rush, to slowly and carefully pay attention to each delicate detail.
Later, all alone in the kitchen, I arranged all of our twigs in jars of water, leaving them to soak for a few hours, before dipping the ends in melted beeswax, in the hope of extending their days on our table. Silly, really, given that these branches will be lucky to survive a week on our busy kitchen table, regardless of water or wax.
Noticing that I had a quiet house, I carefully gathered a stack of Christmas and Advent inspiration, a notepad, and a calendar. I should have been doing this days or even weeks ago, going over our plans, and what still needs to be gathered or purchased. But it’s pointless to think of what I “should” have been doing. What I “should” be doing at any given moment, and what I am actually doing are typically one in the same. The shoulds of my reality just rarely line up with the shoulds in my mind.
Before I had written a single word, Beatrix entered the house crying, and Silas woke (crying) from his nap. I put my things away.
I gathered everyone to make Advent candles, simple rolled beeswax, just as we did last year. Larkspur of course made the pink one, and each boy a purple. Beatrix cried some more, because she didn’t get to make one at all. My telling her that she is too little didn’t help the situation at all. I will make a note to be sure and purchase an extra sheet of beeswax for her next year.
Beatrix did get to light the candle at dinner time though. Seth struck a match and handed it to her. She lit the candle and then dropped the lit match right into the wreath. Thankfully nothing caught fire, but like I said, we’ll be lucky if this wreath survives the week.
Jonny, reading from the Magnificat Advent Companion, blessed the Advent wreath. The blessing concludes with a verse from “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” He couldn’t remember the tune, so I, one who truly should never sing aloud unless in a very large group, joined him in an effort to help. As we giggled our way through a rather awful rendition of that beautiful hymn, I was able to let go of my silly goals for perfection on this First Sunday of Advent and embrace the gift of our beautifully imperfect life. My fantasy land version of perfect is most likely not what my children truly need anyway.