Advent: The Small and the Sacred

Friday, December 1, 2017

A distant light, muddled, blurred in motion...a soft haze of something joyful and celebratory, but not quite discernible, that will gradually become sharp and clear and wonderful and piercing. 

This coming Sunday is one I have long looked forward to...for the past month and a half now, I've caused Ryan to chuckle fondly by saying aloud every other week, while rocking back and forth on my feet, "It's almost Aaaaaadvent!"

He laughs because there is always a childlike wonder and joy in my eyes when I say it. All of us, I think, become children in December, halted in the wonder and sacredness of this season. It is a season of anticipation, one so dear to my heart that I spend all of October and November in a glorious state of anticipation for THE season of anticipation.

The season of Advent. Today we lay out wreathes and candles, purple and greenery are hung in churches because this is a new beginning. The end of Ordinary Time and the birth of a new liturgical year...Advent is the first of the two seasons of preparation in the liturgical year. Lent is the other...a penitential season of purple and somber fasting to prepare for Easter.

Lent is good in the way that most things in life are--it is hard and necessary in its request of sacrifice and silence, and that is precisely why we need it. Why it is good for us. We must go through the dryness and hardship to journey towards the triumph of Easter.

But I have always loved Advent in a different way from Lent. If Lent is a penitent waiting for the triumph and glory of Christ's resurrection, Advent is a quiet, hushed waiting beneath which pulses a steadily rising joy. We wait, tremulous and tender, on the edge of a holy anticipation.

There is something fresh and new and wondrous about Advent, like a deep inhale of cold, clear air on a dark starry night. Advent is the season of joyful waiting--waiting with hushed voices and bated breath for the birth of a new hope. For the promise made manifest in a Babe nestled within a wooden manger that something far greater is coming also in the form of wood. That a deed so wonderful and terrible will be worked that death will go backwards and the world itself will shake.

Advent is the promise in winter that spring will come--that soon, a Lion will shake His mane and an object wrought by man will become the means of his salvation.

It is the prelude, the rising note of joy to remind us that on the other side of the new year, a few short months away, lies a holy journey that ends in a dark, empty tomb, and the most glorious of all Light that bursts forth in the shadows never to be defeated.

And here we are, on the cusp of this joyous liturgical season. Every Advent, I feel my soul quicken and a longing to be still and hushed arises.

Last month, I decided I would write and publish an daily Advent devotional in time for December. I'd contemplated the idea last year and decided to make it a reality. I'd gotten quite far in the planning stage only to slowly realize how much I already had on my plate. November was slipping past me and I knew December would be full with work, wedding planning, and all the other things of life. I could either do it well and let everything else fall, or focus my attention on the things already tasked to me. If I truly wanted to carve out stillness and quiet my soul for this season, taking on something else (even if it was good), was not the way.

So with a silent sigh, I put that idea to the side and came up with a happy compromise: celebrating Advent in the small ways.

Even though December will be a flurry of a month in the rush before Christmas, I've planned ahead. This year, I'm challenging myself to find the small moments of each day. Because I believe there's a sacredness in the small and simple and mundane.

So I've made a list of 24 small things. Physical actions to do each day of Advent to celebrate both the small and the sacred. As this is not just a somber season, but also a joyful one, there are some Christmas activities sprinkled in. While my own list in in written in pen and paper in a small black-bound journal, I thought I'd put together a nicer version and share it on here. Just in case you, too, feel overwhelmed with everything in December and are looking for some way to mark each day of Advent.



Some of these are specific to things I'm hoping to do this Advent, some might sound unfamiliar to you, and some might not work with your schedule or time or season of life. Feel free to switch the days around or substitute your own ideas. I'll be back with another post breaking the list down a little more and sharing some of my favorite poems, verses, and quotes about Advent...it's a list of the silly and the sweet, the small and the sacred. Here's to a life of that, and to a joy-filled Advent.

Happy December, friends. Let us be awake and keep watch.

Don't Cry, Shopgirl

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


It's the week after Thanksgiving, everyone is in a glazed coma, and really all I want to do is curl up with the best rom com ever. For now, though, here's a few thoughts I wrote during my first two weeks in a new town:


I feel a bit like Kathleen Kelly.

Partly because I am nestled in the children's section Barnes & Noble, the real life manifestation of FOX Bookstores; partly because a Starbucks cup sits next to me.


"The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people
 with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make 
six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. 
Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. 
So people who don't know what the hell they're doing 
or on earth they are can, for only $2.95, 
get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self:
Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino." 
-Joe Fox


But mostly because I recently said goodbye to a place dear and familiar, and started over. 

I grew up in this exact bookstore in College Station. My mother brought me here weekly, sometimes even daily when I was younger. I remember it all: the soft tan and brown carpet I sprawled on for hours; small child-sized benches where storytime happened; the delightfully familiar carved illustrations suspended from the ceiling of Eloise, Piglet, Babar, Pooh with his pot of honey, Madeline, the Cat in the Hat. 

I sit tucked away in a corner of gleaming wooden shelves crammed with colorful spines and old friends I eagerly searched for: Strega Nona, Five Little Monkeys, Angelica, Josephina and Samantha and spunky Kit, Winne the Pooh, Brother and Sister Bear, and of course, Duck and Cat and Little Bear. This place was my childhood, as much as the Shop Around the Corner was Kathleen's. It belonged to me, and I to it. 

It was a sanctuary, my metaphorical treehouse where I felt safest and happiest. Where I fell deeply into the world of words and stories and, unlike Alice, never reemerged. Here, I was warm and safe, and in love. By giving me a bookstore to roam, my mother gave me the Wood between the Worlds as my playground. She gave me magic and love and pages that remain constant and welcoming even when everything else changes. 

I didn't read here; I lived. 

Nineteen, nearly twenty years later, I sit here without her. Unlike Kathleen's, my mother is alive and well. States separate us, I'm a grown woman now, college and high school behind me. After all these years, I've come back full circle. 

I sit here, smiling that this section is still what it was in my childhood: my safe place. This time, I am a newcomer. Like Kathleen, I've left my old life, said goodbye to beloved co-workers, closed the door on the life I'd carved out for myself in Waco. I came here for Ryan, for our relationship, our future marriage. 

For us. 

And yet it was hard. I understand Kathleen Kelly better than ever because I closed a door, too. Took one last look around my own small cottage just around the corner, at the memories it held, the people I'd smiled at and danced with and loved inside those walls. Then I closed the door, and walked away. 

From the moment I'd finally decided and inevitable fear set in--the panic and worrying over starting over--I kept hearing the words someone told me when I'd announced I'd be leaving: 

"Good for you, for putting your life first."

It couldn't help remind me of other words spoken to a former shopgirl--different and yet the same. 

"You are daring to imagine you could have a different life."


-Birdie Conrad

November

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

source

"October extinguished itself in a rush of howling winds and driving rain and November arrived, cold as frozen iron, with hard frosts every morning and icy drafts that bit at exposed hands and faces."
 --J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

"November always seemed to me the Norway of the year." --Emily Dickinson


The November evening had a bite; it nibbled not-quite-gently at her cheeks and ears. In Virginia, the late autumn was a lover, still, but a dangerous one." --J. Aleksandr Wooten, The Eighth Square


"It was November--the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines." --L.M. Montgomery


"In November, the trees are standing all sticks and bones. Without their leaves, how lovely they are, spreading their arms like dancers. They know it is time to be still." --Cynthia Rylant, In November


"November is usually such a disagreeable month...as if the year had suddenly found out that she was growing old and could do nothing but weep and fret over it. This year is growing old gracefully...just like a stately old lady who knows she can be charming even with gray hair and wrinkles. We've had lovely days and delicious twilights." --L.M. Montgomery


"For London, Blampied claimed, was of all cities in the world the most autumnal--its mellow brickwork harmonizing with fallen leaves and October sunsets, just as the etched grays of November composed themselves with the light and shade of Portland stone. There was a charm, a deathless charm, about a city whose inhabitants went about muttering, "The nights are drawing in," as if it were a spell to invoke the vast, sprawling creature-comfort of winter." --James Hilton, Random Harvest


SOMETHING NEW

Sunday, November 5, 2017


....while the main purpose of this post is to share an update on my life, as you might be able to tell, the blog herself has undergone an update!

Everything's cleaner, simpler, with a black and white design that feels like a delicious, bold-against-white font and an Old Hollywood movie rolled into one. It took ages for me to pull the trigger, but I'm so glad I finally did. I outgrew the bright pink and orange header long ago, and this just feels right. Chic, understated. Perfect.

And, of course, the name has also changed. I was even more indecisive about that and while I was said to say goodbye to My Spare Oom which has been such an enourmous part of the last nine years...it was time. I've grown and so has this space, and as I mean to write (and I mean really write by putting things out into the world with my name on them), it felt right that my blog reflect that.

So here I am, Grace K.

A twenty-four year old with an apartment of my own and a cat most dedicated to sleeping. But most importantly, a writer.

In addition to refreshing the blog, there have been a few other changes around here...

June was a rather exciting month as I got ENGAGED. It feels so strange to just now mention it on here (proposal story to come), but life picked up rather quickly and I kept struggling with the timeline (I never wrote a post about Ryan! How can I post that we're engaged when I've never MENTIONED him by name on the blog?!? #thelifeofablogger.)

Meaning, when Ryan and I began dating, I only ever announced it on Instagram. I mentioned him on the blog here and there, but never got around to a "how we met" post. And then this summer, the day before our 1 year anniversay, he asked me a very important question. I said yes, of course, cried twice, and tried to wrap my head around the fact that we were engaged.

And so we're currently planning our wedding (which still BLOWS my mind that I can say that and that I am actually in fact planning something I didn't think I'd be planning for another three to four years).

Then in September, just before my one-year-work anniversary, I left my job. 

Which is to also say, I left Waco and the last five years of my life behind. It involved several deep breathes and a letting go of...well, everything. I packed everything of my life in my small red car and drove to College Station. To Ryan, to a new part of life. To the part of adulthood that involves moving on from everything else.

I live here now--only an hour and a half from where I used to live, but it feels like a world away. I have my own apartment, a couch and a bed to call my own, a disherwasher and a stove (luxury), and the man I will marry (in seven months!) just a few blocks away.

Life is good.

Hard still, oh so hard in that we are human and complex and misunderstandings happen and money is tight because we are both young and broke. But good. 

I realized this slow Sunday afternoon as I drove to his apartment, that I've been here for nearly two months now. I'm finally catching my breath, settling into a rhythm and easing out out of transition. I see Ryan every night for dinner, I read the written hopes and dreams of young people for a living--measure their achivements and goals, whether they're a good fit for the university of maroon and white.

Sundays are still and calm--a day for gathering sleep, for spending the day curled with my cat amidst cushions on the couch, for cleaning and watching cozy British vlogs, for steadily working through a stack of library books, and for writing.

Here's to the week ahead...to a November full of stillness and holiday drinks and pulling out the winter clothes and making soup, and writing a novel in a month.

Cheers, friends. Join me in this new season?

Mood

Sunday, October 8, 2017