A small miracle occurred in our home this weekend. My husband and I, faced with an afternoon alone (one teen was at work; the other at the Apple Cup) both shared our fantasies of what we wanted to accomplish, and both had "clean out the storage closet" on that list.
The storage closet houses emergency food supplies, luggage, wrapping paper, golf clubs, back packs, and various holiday paraphernalia. The latter is what seriously needed to be gone through. I undauntedly carried each cardboard holiday box into the house to sort. I felt a bit like Scrooge on his journey into holidays past, smiling at old Halloween costumes (I think I put three "Scream" masks and capes in the give-away pile), masses of unmatched plastic Easter eggs, and heart-shaped Valentine baskets and pillows. I had a moment of wondering how we got here--to the place where I was truly ready to throw some things out, pass others on, and do so joyfully and clearly, without a lot of grief or regret.
Armed with measurements of storage space and numbers of containers needed, I headed to Fred Meyer to purchase plastic bins with tops to deter whatever had chewed the last bag of dog food we had stored in the closet. At home, I put everything in its place back in the closet, and turned to look at the boxes of Christmas decorations still in the living room, waiting to be undone and put out.
There was a kind of grace and serendipity to doing this the day before Advent began. In years past, I have felt there was hardly enough room in our lives for Christmas, and all the shopping, activity, stress, and chaos it has brought with it. I felt as though I had suddenly been handed a mandatory part-time job on top of an already full plate of work, family, friends, church, and such. I tried planning way ahead, which only served to prolong the stress. We started drawing names for gifts, which helped some. Slowly, over the years, I realized I was the one who was stressing me out, and only I could cure that. I began to make a conscious effort to make time and room for things that bring me joy during the season, and to be more OK with mediocrity in some areas, which took a lot of pressure off. Good enough is sometimes, well, good enough....
This year, with the other holidays nestled snug in their plastic bins, I realized I feel like I have room for Christmas. I have room to choose good-enough gifts, to make a few cookies, to light a fire and watch cheesy Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel. I have room to put a small tree on my desk, room to spend time with youth and children at church crafting a pageant, room to look at the beauty of lights in the darkness with my sweetie.
This is the true gift I have given myself--room to prepare. On this First Sunday of Advent, I asked myself, "What could be more important than giving ourselves time and energy to prepare for the greatest love of all? " And I felt it--Hope. The hope that springs from room in my heart.
My challenge to you this holiday season, whether you celebrate Advent, Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, or Kwanzaa--is to give yourself room to prepare, and to hope.