If Advent was a high-stakes test, I’d be repeating a grade this year. I started off the season with grand plans for nightly prayer services, themed baking projects, craft ideas and maybe even a Jesse Tree. Heck, if nothing else, we’d at least steal Charlotte’s “box of books” idea, right?
My plans fell apart almost immediately. The baby was teething and glued to me day and night. Then my husband’s grandfather died and we had to take a funeral trip to Jasper, 6 hours away. Somewhere in there, there was a blizzard, and we couldn’t leave the house for a few days. So much for complicated crafts that needed supplies!
Finally, in the last week or so, I started to get my act together. On Gaudate Sunday, I finally found my magnetic Advent calendar. (The one in the picture-- got to love the Amazon widgets! :) ) We went down to Indy to visit family. (Another visit, to Scottsburg, got cancelled due to ice.)
Yesterday, I made Toffee, Gingerbread, and a Cheesecake for my mother-in-law’s birthday. Then, my husband reminded me about the evening of recollection at church. We dashed out the door. (I’d forgotten it was Tuesday. Not the evening of recollection – I knew that was on a Tuesday. But I’d thought it was still Monday, for some reason. My internal calendar tends to go a bit berserk when I’m exhausted.)
We made it there about 15 minutes late- not bad – and we got to hear all of the second talk and a decent junk of the first one. Best of all, we made it to confession! And Father even gave me some really awesome advice about praying every time you change a diaper (because that way you’ll be praying all day long! Especially if you’re a nursing mom with two kids in cloth...)
Today, I made a huge dinner, got the kids’ pictures taken in front of the tree, and celebrated Grandma’s birthday. Advent was back on track.
And then it happened. The toilet overflowed. It didn’t just overflow a little. It hemorrhaged water all over the bathroom and the kitchen. The water was so deep that it started running between the floor boards. It was raining sewage in my basement, over by the hampers and the laundry machine. So, Advent had to go on hold again, so that I could bleach all my floors and everything else the flood had touched. (I think the man who invented Clorox should be canonized. Seriously. How would we live without it?)
Anyway, as I was scrubbing my floor at 10:30 at night while the baby screamed and the other kids complained about the bleachy smell, I realized something:
Maybe the interruptions in my Advent weren’t actually interruptions at all. After all, Advent isn’t really about preparing for Christmas. I mean, sure, we act like it is, but Christmas already happened. Christ has been born. Heck, He already grew up, died on the cross, and saved us, too!
Advent is about preparing for the Second Coming, and for our own death and judgments. Jesse Trees and Wreaths are nice tools for preparing ourselves to spend eternity with God. But so are funerals, unexpected changes to plans, and even nasty kitchen floors that demand several hours with a bucket of bleach. God gives us these tasks to prepare us.
“Overflow your toilet and then kill all the bacteria” may never make it into the “Catholic Mom’s Guide to Raising Saints-in-Training by Doing Advent RIGHT,” but it’s the task God has given me today, the task that will eventually lead me to His side.
Maybe next year I'll be able to give my kids an Advent to remember - but then again, maybe not. And that's OK too.