Yesterday, the advertisement section of the local Sunday paper was twice as thick as the news section. This morning, the radio station screamed about shootings at home and abroad and the television broadcasts pathetic scandals every time I turn it on. Magazines overwhelm me with data about climate change and all the billboards I pass, commuting to work, shout for me to buy something, shop and spend. This media bombardment is part of the world I live in but I experience most of these media dispatches as negative energy and am challenged not to fall into despair in response to these message themes.
     I’m someone who prefers to think my own thoughts at the break of day, before being inundated with messages that could contaminate my spirit. These days of the year, when darkness is more abundant, I know I must work harder to keep myself centered on what I value. For me, that means I must be more active to identify those things, during the day, that fill me up and expand my sense of well being. This year, I noticed the Christmas frenzy commenced before Halloween, in fact, so I’ve had a few weeks to practice what works for me to enjoy winter.
     I actually like these shorter days for a couple of reasons.  It gives me an excuse to lounge more since there is nothing much for me to do outside. I can sit and sew, read a book or watch a movie, all of which I enjoy but rarely pursue during summer months. I also love sprinkling the darkness with lights. This year, a friend helped me fill my Redbud trees with orange lights in October and then I replaced them with white lights last weekend. Each night it’s a simple thrill to drive down my street towards home and see the swirl of lights gleaming in my front yard.  My neighbors enjoy them too!
     On Thanksgiving, I had the most wonderful walk up Cornelius Creek with my daughter before we came home and cooked our favorite foods. As I put down the rolls to rise, I realized that the being spirit filled is a lot like making bread. If I’m intentional and patient I’ll experience abundance and the difference in feeling flat and being filled is like the difference between flat bread and one that rises. Instead of responding to all those Black Friday invitations, my daughter and I spent our time together doing what we preferred. One evening, we walked downtown, to Buchanan, Virginia, and joined friends for a drink, supper and a movie. On Saturday, we sat and worked through her finances to figure out a reasonable budget for her next semester. None of these events are newsworthy or snazzy enough for an advertisement yet these are the moments that counteract the shouts and screams from the billboards and headlines.
     After my daughter left for school, the house was so still. I looked around my house and figured what I wanted next so I tossed the soft pumpkins into the compost heap and unpacked the window candles to light up the inside of my house for Advent. Just when that task was completed, I had a visit from a friend who told me a wonderful story. He took his son to purchase a Christmas tree for his fiancé. They picked out a lovely tree and the attendant gave his son the ticket with a barcode for the cost of the tree so they could buy some other items at the hardware store. His son put the tree ticket into his pocket and they did their shopping. Since my friend is a veteran he’s able to use his veteran card for a discount at that store. He showed his card at the checkout counter and they purchased their items after which his son remembered the barcode invoice which he pulled out of his pocket to show the fellow at the checkout counter. They were told to forget the invoice and enjoy the tree.  Both men were reluctant, at first, but my friend was able to walk away feeling appreciated in a small but significant way. This story won’t make it to the newspaper but it filled me with a sense of hope and abundance.    
     During this season of darkness and chaos, I aim to remain vigilant at extracting goodness from this world and harness energy that fills me up, like bread rising.