Traditionally, the season of Advent is a time of waiting and preparation. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the past year and anticipate the arrival of a new one, to slow down and ponder what’s important – the hope, peace, joy, and love in our lives. However, if the four potlucks I’ve had in the past five days are any indication, I have not had much time for thoughtful reflection. I’ve been caught up in gift exchanges and gingerbread house competitions!
In fact, if I had to describe my experiences since starting my service year in August, I would certainly include the word “busy.” It’s the sort of “busy” that feels like the holiday season; it’s full of warm friendships and celebrations of communities. But it’s also the busyness of the New Year, complete with anticipation of things to come and resolutions to try different things. One would hope Advent would invite myself and my fellow corps members to set aside some time to pause the business of placement sites, Durham area meet ups, and traveling home. In an attempt to do this, I am going to use the rest of this blog post to provide four short reflections from the past month. Each one corresponds with a theme from the four weeks of Advent – hope, peace, joy and love.
Hope: Last week, I visited two graduate schools I applied to. I was able to meet with current students and staff who felt fulfilled and excited by the work they were doing, and they were happy to be doing it in those programs. I was so gratified to be able to connect my current experiences to theirs, and to get a clearer picture of what graduate study would look like. I am hopeful that this service year will segue into fulfilling work and study.
Peace: At our holiday party, the director of Anathoth Garden said her goodbyes to the organization. She’s stepping down after six years, much of which were characterized by difficult challenges. There are many unanswered questions about what the garden will look like next year, and many people involved have been worrying about its future. However, her recognition and thanks to the garden supporters at the party demonstrated the wholeness and beauty of that community. The peace found in resilient and genuine community can calm many anxieties.
Joy: We’ve spent a lot of time laughing this month. Whether we are decorating a tree that physically can’t stand up on it’s own, or trying to determine what my first knitting attempt is (and it truly defies definition), we’re laughing. Our many celebrations seem to bleed together, so that even nights at home feel celebratory. I’m glad joy is present among us throughout this season.
Love: Our whole cohort had a Secret Santa last weekend, helpfully put together by Nicole. I was so impressed by the thoughtfulness of each gift. People seemed to put a lot of effort into making the most of our ten dollar budget, and into making the recipient feel loved. Even though these friendships are relatively new, we have taken the time to love on each other. I am grateful for the many ways love manifests itself among friends.
I wish that everyone gets a chance to recognize the hope, peace, joy, and love in their lives this season and in the coming year.