Sunday, 13 December 2020

Second weekend in December is the third weekend in Advent

I forgot that last weekend was Hurricane Tree update weekend. It was completely bare at the start of November so it's still waving gloriously naked branches to the thrill of the cold air, and will be doing just that for quite some merry time. We've been doing much the same thing in our swimming group, and will be doing just that for quite some merry time! My house has to go into sELF isolation for two weeks over Christmas and the New Year before a little hospital thing I have to do, so that could be the end of my winter sea adventures - not sure my courage will survive so much de-acclimatisation!
So what I'm doing does still involve as much swimming as I can fit in. Yes, it's really cold now! But the exhilaration is more than worth it. The loving acceptance of this group is pretty huge too. That has quite unexpectedly become as important as the swimming. 
What I'm also doing is being utterly absorbed in the world of sons. Their difficulties at school are myriad this year, and thankfully they are coping valiantly, most of the time. I'm finding that my coping strategies are as simple as they are difficult. Remembering to breathe very deeply at difficult times, making myself get outside to walk, and praying. Also, deliberately finding things in which to rejoice and for which to be thankful. 
I was "chatting" virtually to two very good friends last week about how you can get through most days by just doing the next thing. But, and this is my tenuous link to today's Gaudete Sunday, life is so much better if I can make the next thing, the simplest possible next thing, as beautiful and enjoyable and joyful as I can. And we've had a gorgeous weekend, with lots of simple joys. Gingerbread and candles have dominated today!
So that's what I'm doing in December: swimming for the next two weeks, finding joy in the small things, and praying as thankfully as this small human mind can. Waving my bare branches with as much exhilaration as I can!
Here's the maple that was still so gloriously clothed in at the start of November. What I'm reading, just to keep my little archive is Ali Smith's Winter (have just finished Autumn), the annual Christmas Mystery, a wee Agatha Christie sneeky short story from Mattman's Midwinter Murders anthology when he's not looking, and I'll be escaping into Winter Solstice anytime soon! Getting to the end of the Psalms. I'll miss them.
And what I'm making is still Cushla's Comfort Blanket, though it definitely at least feels like a blanket now. I'll miss it too when it's done! I gave up on the baubles for work colleagues - I'm leaving a box of oranges with a chocolate orange on the staff table instead! And I finally made the two zipped pouches - hoorah! They are all bagged up ready for my Santa run this week. I'm going to deliver everything I need to this week so that we can have our hibernation with all jobs done. 

 I do hope you've all seen our Emmanuel God and his hope, peace and joy in this Advent. And I wish you all great love as our journey to Bethlehem gets closer to its destination. Exciting! And just because our Advent season seems to be all about the videos this year, here's one I was asked to do for church!

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Christmas hygge

 At our Hookery Zoom last night (doesn't that have speedy and artisan connotations? Balls of yarn flying with abandon through the cold dark skies) we were making plans for our virtual Christmas party on 23rd December. Which turns out to be the night before the night before Christmas, or Christmas Eve Eve, or Christmas Adam (because Adam came before Eve*) or in fact Little Christmas, if you live in Denmark! Which we don't. Although the joys of Zoom do allow us to be in Newtownabbey and Glasgow all at the same time. 

So, Sun One came along just as I was Googling a nice picture to go alongside the Hookery facebook invitation to our Little Christmas Party (you can see how we love a pun), and to my wonder and astonishment he had never heard of hygge. What have we been doing in this house? Half an hour later, after hundreds of unbearably beautiful Scandi images, he decided that it was a middle-aged woman thing, based loosely on gnomes. I was appalled. Thankfully, as we went through the front door this morning and I declared that no, hygge wasn't a thing like the windowsill tomte or the door wreath, he did manage to grasp the abstract noun idea of a feeling or a lifestyle. Why didn't you just say that last night, he asked. I'm pretty sure I did.

All this to explain why I came across this hygge webpage this afternoon - Christmas hygge being still in the search bar and dinner being not quite ready to be cooked. It is the opening quote that I'm really very struck by this evening:

“I hope you find some time this week to get really, really quiet.  To curl up in a big cozy chair and watch a movie you’ve seen a million times before.  To hug people you love.  To wrap up in a warm blanket and read a good book. To drink hot cocoa from a Christmas mug.  To stand outside in the crisp night air and marvel at the stars. I hope you find the time this week to sit silently in front of your life and contemplate how magical it really is, before we turn the page and greet a New Year.” – Mandy Hale 

What a wonderful thing to stop and sit silently and contemplate the magic of our lives. To find joy in the small things, and the big. And to be thankful. I seem to be spending weeks drifting from one thing to the next, but I'm going to stop now, and sit silently. Just as soon as dinner is cooked...

*All credit to Hookery Miranda for the Christmas Adam. She's very clever!

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Advent's second week

These first two Sundays in Advent, hope and peace, I know that they should lead on to each other, the first enabling the second. But these last weeks have been difficult where we are, and I spend a lot of time trying to still myself at all. There is such beauty in the November skies, such colour some evenings this week. There is such stark loveliness in the seed heads in the garden. There is such comfort in home and the lights and the warmth. There is such startling vitality in the skin's reaction to the Lough's now burningly cold waters! But hope and peace? I'm finding the word "faith" to be my focus this year.

Our church has folk reading a sort of advent calendar every day. (Not at all like The Christmas Mystery though!) A major character from the narrative of the Bible from Adam all the way to Christmas. Prince Charming read on 2nd December: Noah and his big boat. It was such a comforting account of the story. Noah gathering his family safely aboard and out of the way of the mean people around. If only we could do exactly that. Sail forty days and forty nights on dark waters, and send out our hope to the skies at the end. Maybe that's what this time will be this year. Battening our doors against the dangers outside, a microcosm of all we are and all we have. (A noisy and smelly microcosm - with two teenage boys this is probably accurate enough.)

Here's PC and Noah, if you need a bedtime story! And the link to all the rest is here, if you'd like to catch up x

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