By Mia, an EnCourage member
The year-end season is often one of frenetic activity and packed schedules. Every year during Advent, I feel the call to keep silence in my heart, and prepare enough room to welcome and receive Jesus come Christmas. However in reality, the opposite usually happens, with the activity and noise of the festive season crowding out the silence and peace in my heart and mind. Instead of being rested and centred, I usually become exhausted and dissipated.
In the past weeks, my schedule was once again packed with a flurry of activity. There were various groups of friends to meet, whom I had not had the time and space to connect with during the year. There were events, concerts and performances which I wanted to attend – enjoyment and reward for the hard work which I had put in over the past year. I went for holidays with family and friends, now that COVID restrictions have eased. I also volunteered my time and abilities to help others with some ad-hoc tasks. At the same time, I am also in the process of recovering from an intense and demanding year of work.
The near constant activity drained my energy, leaving me without sufficient time and space to replenish it and feel truly rested. But I think the biggest factor causing my exhaustion has been the mindless use of the phone. Unknowingly, bits of my time, energy and especially attention were easily frittered away by the indiscriminate consumption of information from the news, social media feeds, emails, articles and text messages. These drained away much precious mental resources needed for more important things, such as staying present in the moment, present to people, and present to God.
Despite the challenges of living a life of peace, balance, silence and true rest, I recognise that I have also been blessed with an abundance of gifts. A daily practice I try to keep to is the Awareness Examen at the end of each day. One of the steps in the Examen is to review the day in thanksgiving, noticing and thanking God for every gift I encountered during the day, no matter how small or ordinary. I found that intentionally writing them down in my journal helped me to concretely identify and recall the blessings I have received. With time, this daily practice gradually helped me be more sensitive to recognise blessings big and small at the very moment, not just at the end of the day.
From time to time, when I am feeling down, I look back at the entries of my gratitude journal and am often amazed at just how much blessings God has poured into my life. Recalling these blessings brings me back into having a heart of gratitude for what God is pouring into me, regardless of how I felt.
Another favourite annual ritual is to go away to a quiet place on New Year’s Eve, far from the maddening crowds and noise, to spend some time with God to recap the year that had passed, with my journal in hand. In spite of having gone through the often overwhelming, exhausting, demanding and fast-paced year that was almost over, taking the quiet time out with God helps me to recognise how He has wonderfully graced me with bountiful blessings and actively worked in my life, even into the new year ahead.
Amid the busy-ness of life and of this season, I wish for Peace.
• Peace, with myself. To accept myself where I am. To know that I am enough, worthy and loved, despite what I am able or not able to do, despite how productive and well-liked I am. I hope to be more deeply convinced that I do not have to do anything to earn God’s love or others’ acceptance, and find peace in being just as I am.
• Peace, to know that God has my future firmly in His hands, even though I sometimes worry that I cannot see the road ahead.
• Peace, to know that everything will eventually be okay. Because God is God, and I am loved by Him.
This Advent, I pray that the Prince of Peace, who came to restore our relationships and our lives, will reign in our hearts – yours and mine. I will continue to fix my gaze on Him and await His coming, and I look forward to experience the perfect peace He longs to give me.
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Mia is an EnCourage member who enjoys reading and writing, and tries to find true peace and rest in God alone.
The opinions and experiences expressed in each entry in the Reflections page belong solely to the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of Courage Singapore. Some entries have been edited for length and clarity.