I’ve always loved those trendy Advent calendars. You know the ones that appear about this time of year. They are typically bought for the benefit of children who have a hard time knowing “how many days until Christmas.” These one-month calendars often take the form of cardboard wall hangings with little flip up tabs that a child can raise, one-per-day during the month of December. The daily ritual of flipping the page helps the youngsters keep track of the number of days until Santa arrives.
A particularly cute one I had hanging in my house for over 20 years was a sweet cloth affair with a little pocket for each day. In each pocket, there was tucked a tiny hand-sewn toy, which was joyfully pulled out each morning with the last being pulled on Christmas day. The appearance of this Advent calendar right after Thanksgiving was always a highlight for my children, akin to buying the yearly Christmas tree and hanging decorations.
Thinking back, for the life of me, I have no idea why these seasonal decorations are called Advent calendars, since they have little to nothing to do with Advent, or the story of a newborn Christian savior in Bethlehem. There were no traditional candles to light inviting invocations of love, happiness, peace and joy. Just daily promises that Christmas gifts and Santa Claus were imminent. These calendars have no more to do with the season of love and birth than does the Elf on the Shelf. But, please hold that notion of a Christmas countdown, while I segue into another story.
The Happiest Place On Earth
I recently returned from the Kingdom of Bhutan where I traveled with a merry band of photographers on a cultural jaunt across 500 km of unpaved roads, landslides and adventures. Our purpose was to learn about a very special, infrequently visited culture, and photographing the people in their daily lives in what has been termed “The Happiest Place on Earth.”
Why this lofty claim? Although the people of Bhutan do not use this label, visitors have deemed it happy, because the focus of the ruling bodies is Gross National Happiness, rather than Gross National Product. The king and government are focused on the happiness, joy and peace of the people, rather than financial growth (although it is now one of the fastest growing economies in the world.) What a concept, eh?
Respect for each other and their environment, along with the satisfaction with their lives and spirituality are all emphasized from birth to death throughout the country. Residents may not have all the worldly possessions that we Westerners do, but they live and radiate a harmony not found anywhere else on this planet. Bhutan is rich in blessings and I was fortunate to experience it for 3 awe-filled weeks. Imagine a country where 75% of the land is protected, where there is nary a stoplight anywhere, and a place where spirituality is woven into every movement and moment of each day.
Being The Change I Wish To See In The World
What does my recent visit to Bhutan have to do with an Advent calendar? Quite a stretch of the imagination, eh? But, I have made the connection. After being a part of this beautiful community of loving individuals, I was struck by the thought that living in such harmony IS entirely possible.
Often, I become frustrated and complain about traffic, government, the speed of the internet and everything else we must deal with in our culture. Once again, I realize that I am a huge contributor to this frustration. I can easily get sucked into crabby chat about how Austin has changed, how people within one of my groups of peers or friends keep changing things up, how my favorite restaurant has closed or that the toothpaste I want is out of stock…AGAIN! In such moments, I feel that I am part of the problem of dissatisfaction that permeates my world and yours. I would like this to change, but how to do it? And, I don’t mean change the circumstances but change ME and how I view these first world issues. In other words, how can I be the change I wish to see in the world?
The pundits and experts say that it takes twenty-one days to change, or create a new habit. But, here’s a novel thought. What if I take the road of the Advent Calendar, and do a “Blessing Countdown” from November 1 until Christmas, and even beyond to New Year’s Day 2020, in order to shift my own mindset? Surely, in that time span, I can shift the thoughts and feelings of my less than peaceful habits, and create the habit of peace as my response to the world I see.
God’s Love Is More Than Enough
Starting TODAY, I resolve to make that shift in my personal life, and I invite you to join me. Between now and New Year’s Day 2020, I resolve to wake up each morning with the intention to be in a place of peace and of joy. I affirm my willingness to shift into a consciousness that accepts all is in Divine Order and as it should be. I commit to cultivating a consciousness of LOVE where there is nothing but God’s Love right in front of my eyes. I establish the intention of maintaining an attitude of gratitude and blessings for whatever is in front of me. And, I affirm that it IS enough. If you join me, it will be more than enough.
Everyday advertisers and retailers bombard us with the notion that we need just one more consumer product before we can be happy, before we can be at peace. Just this morning in my Instagram feed, I was tempted by appeals for new articles of in fashion clothing, a sexier type of makeup, a more modern dog bed, and a designer piece of jewelry. All of these and more attempted to persuade me that what I already have is not enough. But, it’s not true. What I have is enough. Chances are, what you have is enough as well. For beyond all our material possessions is God’s Infinite Love, which is more than enough to sustain our peace.
Countdown To Gratitude & Peace In 2020
The state of affairs in the external may not be of our choosing, certainly not to our liking. But, it is what it is, exactly as it shows up. We make the choice of how we view it. We can choose to see it from a place of gratitude, or otherwise. Either way, we choose how we respond to the opportunity. Although faced with rising frustration in politics, we know that we have a voice and the will to choose to see peace instead. The daily news does not have the power to negatively affect our personal peace, unless we choose to allow it to do so. Enough is enough. We can be the voice of love, joy, peace and wisdom right here, right now, regardless of circumstances. And, we can learn to do it ONE DAY AT A TIME, just by taking up the Advent Calendar challenge.
So, I invite you to join me. Between now and New Year’s Day 2020, create your own Advent or Blessing Calendar, and create the habit of making it a part of your daily life. Choose each day to be grateful for what we have, and do not disparage or resist what might be causing irritations for yourself or for others. Affirm daily that “All is in Divine Order. All is Love.” With only God here in our presence and in our lives, there is only happiness, joy, gratitude and peace. Right here, right now in our very own happiest place on earth.