By Ann Boyd

Advent Reflections 2022: Part 1

Looking Back

This year, as we’ve been talking with women in academia, we’ve heard one thing loud and clear: taking time for reflection is the first step in crafting a life that is satisfying, sustainable, and focused on the work God has called us to do.

To that end, we’re exploring a practice of short, manageable reflections together this Advent which you can enjoy in audio or written form, receiving them in the way that works best for your life. 

We’ve intentionally created this set of reflections with a sort of “choose your own adventure” path. ​This is our first installment of our Advent 2022 series. We’re releasing all five of them this week. You can find them in print form at The Well, if you prefer to read or write your way through, or in podcast form here, if you prefer to listen and think your way through. You can choose to work through one guided reflection each week through Advent and into the weeks of Christmas and Epiphany, or you could work through them over the course of a week – or even set aside a bigger chunk of a day. There’s not a right or wrong way to go about this.

Click on the podcast below to listen in, or scroll down to read through, and download the questions for reflection.

We're so glad you're here!

 
 
Notes from this episode:

Transcript

This year, as we’ve been talking with women in academia, we’ve heard one thing loud and clear: taking time for reflection is the first step in crafting a life that is satisfying, sustainable, and focused on the work God has called us to do.

We heard women say that to start the academic year well, it helps to look back on the previous year — to see what went smoothly, what might need tweaking, what might need to be added, and what might need an overhaul. So here we are, approaching the end of the semester. And wow! We’ve just started Advent.

I’ve been thinking about our observance of the Advent season, and I wrote an article about it at The Well just last week. Let me read a little bit of it for you, because I think it is relevant to our work today: 

“[In Advent, we have] four weeks to prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus into our world, to tune up our souls and make ready a space within our hearts for God incarnate. The time for preparation is limited, an echo of our mortal, physical limitations. And in the space of this time, we also have ordinary tasks to complete, humans with whom to connect, and sanity to preserve.” 

Hmm… And add to that time for reflection on the semester, just so future me has notes to work with? It seems preposterous. 

So, how can we manage to set apart the intentional time and space for deep reflection when our environment is constantly tugging us to complete the next task on our list?

We were thinking about all of these concerns as we created this set of reflection questions that I’m very pleased to share with you.

Deep reflection is the kind of thing that one might want to set aside two hours to engage in — but those two hours are difficult to find, so it often doesn’t happen. But isn’t it worthwhile to find time for just a little bit of reflection? To address this dilemma, we decided to try an experiment with our readers and listeners. As we wrap up this calendar year, we’d like to invite you into a series of short, manageable reflections to help you create some space here at the crossroads of Advent and the semester’s end as you look back, look forward, stay present, let go, and embrace the new year. 

Just as a food snack can help to round out the nutrition you get during the day, recent studies have shown that exercise “snacks” can support your body’s need for movement. In this vein, we thought we might test out a “reflection snack” — a few moments to think deeply in the middle of your day. 

We’ve intentionally created this set of reflections with a sort of “choose your own adventure” path. We’re releasing all five of them this week. You can find them in print form at The Well, if you prefer to read or write your way through, or in podcast form here, if you prefer to listen and think your way through. You can choose to work through one guided reflection each week through Advent and into the weeks of Christmas and Epiphany, or you could work through them over the course of a week – or even set aside a bigger chunk of a day. There’s not a right or wrong way to go about this.

Each guided reflection will include questions, Scripture, and some moments of silence in between to create space for considered responses and prayers. Your response can be your own — you might just like to hold your thoughts for a moment, or you may wish to sketch out a few notes, or you might like to journal about your thoughts. Each reflection will ask questions about four spaces in your life: heart, soul, mind, strength — as we think about Jesus’s words from Mark 12:30 — “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Let me get a few more details out of the way before we dive in. If you’re looking for the transcript, you can find it at our website, thewell.intervarsity.org. While you’re there, check out all the other great things we are doing. Rating and reviewing our podcast helps others to learn about it, and we appreciate all of your comments! And as you consider your end-of-year giving, we hope you might consider donating to our ministry. We’re funded solely through the gifts of our donors, and you can learn more and donate securely at givetoiv.org/thewell.

So as we enter into this first day of reflection, let me invite you to breathe deeply. Take a few minutes to get quiet and open up to God’s presence in our lives. Whether you find yourself at work, at home, in traffic, or awake in the middle of the night, hear this truth and this comfort: the Lord is with you.

Let’s begin … by looking back.

Heart. As you think about the past several months, can you identify a few significant moments in your relationships? You might remember a sweet time with a family member or a friend, or perhaps there are some moments of grief in your relationships. Hold these gently before God.

Soul. In what circumstances have you felt most connected with God this fall? What has that been like for you? If you have felt distant from God, maybe you would like to talk with God about that.

Mind. What intellectual pursuits have been rewarding for you recently? What has been frustrating? If you’re teaching or taking classes, where have you noticed the presence of God in the material you’re working with?

Strength. How has your body felt this fall? What have your habits of sleeping, eating, and moving been like? Are there parts of your body that need tuning up? 

Isaiah chapter 9 says:

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.

Gather up your reflections for a moment, and give thanks to the God who illuminates our past and brings light to our futures.
 

Photo by Mary on StockSnap

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About the Author

Ann is the Women Scholars and Professionals Podcast host and the managing editor for The Well. She has worked for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship since 1997, exploring her interests in community, spiritual formation, and writing. Ann has a BM in Music Education from Northwestern University and lives in Chicago, Illinois with one husband, two spunky teenage daughters, and three snuggly cats. You’ll often find Ann baking sweet treats in the kitchen while listening to a podcast or audiobook.

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