Surviving (Thriving) Advent, Part 1
By Rev. Dr. Mandye C. Yates
Minister, First Christian Church (DOC), New Castle, IN
How do I find room for the holy with myself and my family during the chaos of leading a congregation through Advent?
That’s a fantastic question! It is a conscious effort to find room for the holy most any time while doing full time ministry, but it’s especially difficult during the Advent season. Even though several committees and teams take a break from meetings during the month of December, there are tons of small group parties and special get-togethers to take their place, and that doesn’t even take into consideration all the special Christmas programs for the Church children and your own. Needless to say, trying to institute anything that involves scheduling in more time just isn’t going to work. So, instead, I try to weave in some of the things that feed my spirit into my everyday work and time at home.
I try to listen to music as often as possible. I love holiday music, all of it, from Bing Crosby to the new Pentatonix album. So, I try to listen to it when I’m in the car driving to a meeting or a hospital visit. I listen to it in my office when I’m working and writing and I put some earbuds in and listen to music while I’m lying in bed unwinding at night. I also try to take advantage of a beautifully decorated Sanctuary just down the hall from my office. I slip in a CD into the sound system and settle into a pew and look at lights for a bit, and breathe in the stillness and calm.
Which leads me to the next thing…I try to take time to myself in the middle of the day. I know I’m going to be working plenty of extra hours this month to make up for a little time to myself here and there. So, when I feel my heart racing, when I feel overwhelmed with my daily “to do” list, I take a little time to myself to breathe, pray, listen to music…center myself. I find that I am a better minister, mom and wife when I do.
I love food, so something else that nurtures my soul and connects me with the holy is baking. Most of my job involves something I do with my head: thinking, writing, listening and talking, so it is very satisfying and therapeutic even to do something with my hands. Baking is also something I can do with my children. We bake cookies for shut-ins and deliver them together. I can teach them Nanni’s recipes for Christmas tree cookies, get quality time with my kids and brighten a shut-in’s day all at the same time!
This leads me to the last thing, which I’ll admit I don’t do enough…exercise. God knows there’s not much time for going to the gym this month. Still, even if I find time to stretch in the morning or at night, or do a little Yoga in the office, it’s a great tension release and a wonderful time to center myself, breathe and connect with God. This is my humble list of things that help me maintain my sanity in this extremely insane time.
I pray you will find things that nurture your connection with the holy without adding more to your already packed “to do” lists. May God bless you and yours with plenty of hope, peace, joy and love during this wonderful season.
The Ministry Life Choices Initiative (MLCI) will assist those in years 1-5 of ministry with developing habits and practices for sustainable ministry. The relationship will span the first few years of theological education and the introductory years as a congregational minister. The MLCI is a ministry of the Pension Fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in partnership with Lexington Theological Seminary.
The MLCI blog series, launched January 15, 2014, is designed to promote conversation surrounding issues related to clergy health and well-being. The blog seeks to include and incorporate writers from a wide variety of ministerial contexts, seminaries and demographics.