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Inspired by two favorite podcasts and a spiritual classic, Michelle Hamel has spent Advent intentionally seeking stillness and silence.

I don't have a lot of free time. (What mom does?!) In order to get to listen to some podcasts, and try to make chores less burdensome, I “treat” myself when doing the least favorite items on my to-do list. Two podcasts that I play weekly without fail are the Poco a Poco and Abiding Together podcasts. 

The Abiding Together podcast is doing an Advent book study on The Reed of God by Caryll Houselander. I wasn't planning on buying the book because I don't have a lot of bandwidth this Advent, and was just going to listen to Sr. Miriam, Heather Khym, and Michelle Benzinger's explanation and commentary. After taking in Week 1 of the study, I wrote down so many things that struck me that I hopped over to Amazon to grab my own copy! 

Advent is the season of the secret. The secret of the growth of Christ, the Divine Love growing in silence. (The Reed of God 38) 


The word silence had come up multiple times for me in the days leading up to Advent as I considered where God was asking me to focus for this special season. Thoughts of slowing down and entering into the silence of my heart to find Jesus there really appealed to me. The week before Advent, the Poco a Poco podcast had discussed making our hearts a little Nazareth for Advent ... "a place of beauty, simplicity, and stillness." Fostering stillness and silence felt like an invitation that I wanted to accept, even though I wasn't sure exactly how it could work in the midst of the busiest season of the year. Just thinking about the words stillness and silence and the posture of waiting during Advent created a hush in my soul and opened a deeper place in my heart where I longed to connect with God and see where He might lead me. 




Just days into Advent, I already felt like I was failing. All of the to-dos of the season were looming, the unplanned was happening, some wounds were triggered, and stillness and silence seemed unattainable. I was doing too much striving and not enough abiding. There are things in this busy season that need attention and some kind of plan. But black-and-white thinking had me looking at Advent as a time I could be productive or as a time I could be meditative. I had it all wrong: it wasn't supposed to be the either/or situation I was making it out to be.  

God knows my state in life. He knows I have a husband, children and grandchildren that need a lot of my time and attention. He knows I want to create memories and delightful moments for my family at this special time of year. He knows that I like to shop for thoughtful gifts and bake special treats. God isn't asking me to give that all up. He just wants me to make room for Him. God even helps me to make room for Him. He orders my life for me when I surrender it all to Him. When I put God first and surrender my schedule and 'to-do' list, I get to stay closely connected to God and everything that's important still gets done with the bonus of maintaining a level of peace that I'm not capable of when doing "all the things" in my own power.  It's a win, win, win! 

Emptiness is not a void, in the sense of a nameless, shapeless, purposeless void.  
It's an openness to be filled. (19) 


This quote brought to mind the manger on the night of Jesus' birth. The manger was empty but not purposeless. It was waiting to be filled with the most meaningful way. Its emptiness would be filled in the ultimate purpose the manger would ever have ... to hold the Son of God. 


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Fostering stillness and silence felt like an invitation that I wanted to accept, even though I wasn't sure how it could work in the midst of the busiest season of the year. #CatholicMom


What if our hearts became a manger for Jesus this Christmas? What would we need to declutter in order to make room for His arrival? Possibly even harder than making the space, is the wait to be filled. It's hard to be patient and not see that emptiness as a void that we have to fill. (And we are SO good at trying to fill ourselves! Food, alcohol, Netflix, social media scrolling, shopping—there are lots of ways to fill ourselves with all the things that don't truly satisfy our needs!)   

What if we make room in our heart and wait for Jesus to come in the way that He wants to fill our hearts this year? We don't have long to wait. It's only a few more sleeps until Christmas. No matter how well or not well we've lived this Advent, Jesus desires to come and fill the manger of our heart in whatever way we are able to welcome Him in and receive Him. We still have time!  Let's ask Jesus what we can let go of to declutter our hearts and for the grace to wait for Him and remember that "emptiness is not a void ... it's an openness to be filled" by Him. 



Copyright 2023 Michelle Hamel
Images: Canva