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Reflecting on Spirituality – Advent 2023

by Becca Townley, Spokane, ’23-’24

As we approach this advent season, we anticipate Christ’s birth. It can feel mundane. We listen to the same Christmas songs, see the same colors, light the same candles…but each year is different. Every year we approach advent as new people with new challenges, new careers, and maybe a new environment. As I approach this advent, in a new environment, with new people, and responsibilities, I see my inmost hopes shift. What am I waiting for this advent season? I am waiting to find the stillness amidst the chaos. To truly embrace gratitude with open arms as I take intentional time to reflect, pray, be. 

In my own life, the past month has been a season of loss. This is not unique to just me, losses are being felt all over the world. In this state –losing hope is easy. Despair and grief creep in ever so slightly and can become all consuming. Amidst all this, I am flooded with beautiful memories. Memories that make me grateful that I know what it feels like to be shown immense love. This not only grounds me, but reminds me that there is something larger in which I might feel faith and trust. This act of centering myself is to be able to breath and go deeper. To be centered in humility, gratitude, and trust. The majority of us are doing service work. This typically means being in an environment where work is a rush of adrenaline. After an extremely busy day, I often struggle to come into the present moment, to pay attention to my life in a conscious way. It is easy to immediately plug into my phone to consume hours of media and information. The external pull to focus on a screen makes it challenging to come into the present moment and experience inner stillness. 

I experience this inner stillness in the kitchen, when I get to express my love and gratitude for those in my life by taking intentional time to bake and/or cook. This act of love is a way to not only (hopefully) make the people around me happy, but a way for me to connect to creation. The ritual of planning, preparing, and creating meals that feed us, aids in finding connection and stillness. As the Christmas season approaches, finding stillness in the kitchen is inevitable for me. I eagerly await the hours I will spend in the kitchen preparing to enjoy all of the food and the company that will be seated around the table. Before we are able to devour the delicious food, we must take a moment to reflect and pray. Honor those who have gone before us and thank those who were able to make it to the table. We must create a space of gratitude. My grandmother always stresses, “the practice of praying before meals not only gives us a pathway and a moment to pause and reflect on our connection to all- it is a way to value the sacred need to pause and reflect before proceeding.” It is a practice of connecting the mind and body and recognizing us as whole- whole selves, whole family, whole world. When prayer commences, I lift my head to be reminded, yet again, of the love that surrounds me. As Howard Thurman says: “Love does that for us, for it inspires in an individual what was sleeping, a relaxed sense of worth and value and meaning, and when this slumbering thing awakens, the kind of radiance that circulates through all the corridors of one’s life makes the individual see in [themselves] what [they] had never seen before. It is the discovery of a new center around which increasingly all of the details of life are more and more organized.” 

Becca Townley is serving in Spokane, WA as the Community Programs Coordinator for the Spokane County Bar Association. She is originally from Omaha, NE and attended Saint Louis University. She is pictured above sharing a meal with her JV community.

 

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