For the Living of These Days—A Word from Renee Purtlebaugh

God of hope, God of peace, free me to breathe slowly and notice where You are appearing, even as I am present to all of the fullness of life right before me.

The first Advent devotion of the season included my reflections on the purist/rebel in me about my Advent practices. Wanting to hang the greens when the church does. Wanting to light the candles each weekend at home.

You can guess how well that has gone. The tree went up on peace weekend, but the tree skirt is still nowhere to be found having stored it in what I was certain was a memorable new location. The candles were out on the first Advent Sunday, but the advent wreath wasn’t unearthed until it was time to light the first and second candles. The decoration boxes are not back in the attic and remain cluttering up the floor until someone can help me put them away. Thank goodness I’ve had a lot of practice these past years becoming a ¾ perfectionist. It’s serving me well as undone lists wait for the time and space to tackle them, and prioritizing commences minute by minute some days.

As we’ve bounced from one trip to the next activity to the next meeting and beyond, we are actively living into the fullness of life right before us. And as I expected, there have been beautiful moments where somehow joy has made way through the fullness and exhaustion to emerge in brilliant fashion.

The 4:45 a.m. wake up call to “Let’s put the ornaments on the tree, Mommy!” – a call we waited over a decade to hear from a little preschool voice. The voice of Kathy Collier ringing through our car speakers, as we sing together “Little grey donkey, clip clop clip clop; on the way to Bethlehem” on repeat every time we are going somewhere. Travel where, upon arrival, a cousin I’ve never met graciously helped carry in all of our bags at the hotel, truly grounding the beginning of our time with extended family in kindness and self-lessness. And of course the Highland traditions of hanging the greens and placing the poinsettias and the beautiful and challenging practice of placing crosses on the lawn (it occurred to me that at an average of nearly 100 names per year, I’ve heard nearly 1,200 names and ages read over these 12 Advent  seasons at Highland… in the words of the Psalmist, how long, O Lord?). There are likely many more of these sacred in-breakings of God into my own rhythms, if I took the time to rewind and look back and pause and name them all.

And so I wonder…

* In the fullness of life right before you these past Advent weeks, where have you experienced joy?

* Where have you seen God breaking into the midst of your own life rhythms and family traditions?

* In the coming days, can you practice stepping back in the moment to breathe slowly and notice where God is appearing? Write them down? Name them out loud to one another?

As we draw nearer the birth of Love made flesh among us, may Advent hope, peace, joy and love find you, envelop you, form you and prepare you for the journey ahead into 2020 and beyond.