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My husband surprised me two weeks before Advent with two books. Actually, what was more surprising was that the identical devotional books were for both of us, and that he wanted us to read the books together to prepare for Christmas.
Be still my heart! Books are my love language, making time to talk to Jesus is my current soapbox, and having shared content to discuss was the cherry on top.
As I cracked open one of the books the week before Advent to page through it, a word jumped out at me. “Gentleness.” Hmmm, okay, I thought. The next day, on a nine hour car trip to spend Thanksgiving with family, I was reading a paragraph out loud from a different book and that same word jumped out at me again.
Back home, I noticed the fruits of the Holy Spirit word art I had asked my sister to make for my birthday, and guess which word seemed to shimmy and dance for attention in the frame?
Another day, the lion and the lamb line from Isaiah stuck out in prayer, Bishop Barron mentioned hardness of heart and the subsequent need for gentleness in a reflection, and Fr. Dubay wrote about how necessary firm yet gentle discipline is in parenting in a book I was reading.
All right! Holy Spirit, I get it! I said. And without further ado, I adopted “gentleness” as my theme for this Advent, and made some resolutions based on that theme.
I’m pursuing gentleness in my marriage by cutting out nagging.
Earlier this year, I had really worked to cut out nagging when it came to getting out of the door on time. I hate being late, and getting ready for the day does not take me very long. The fact that someone might take longer to get ready and not mind being a few minutes late continues to surprise me–even though it shouldn’t at this point. I have thankfully made big strides in that arena of nagging, but have noticed a few more places that I tend to nag. I’m pinpointing those and choosing better forms of communication. Incessant reminders don’t help me love freely or peacefully; they just lead to an impatient Cecilia — and an annoyed husband.
I’m pursuing gentleness with my kids in my tone and attitude.
I am practicing responding in a firm yet loving way, rather than responding distractedly or irritably. It always amazes me to discover how selfish I am when it comes to parenting. I tend to treat my to-do list, or whim of the moment, as the most important thing, and any needs my children have are not as important. Sometimes it is true that what I am doing or need to do is the main thing. But, many times I have not prioritized well, or am trying to accomplish something that is not pressing, and so react grumpily rather than lovingly.
I’m pursuing gentleness with myself by ending each day with closure.
For me, this means doing a quick examination of conscience every evening to acknowledge where I’ve made mistakes as well as where I’ve done well in a day. This way, I can end the evening with a resolve to do better, rather than replaying what went wrong or just focusing on the good parts of the day without acknowledging the ways I could grow and squashing any feelings of guilt.
Come Holy Spirit, gentle counselor, and renew the face of my heart in time for Christ’s birth.