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Chicago O'Hare International AirportLast month, after two and a half days of intense discussion and planning in Chicago, I was booked to return home from the NACAR board meeting at 1:30 PM. Since other Board members were scheduled on earlier flights, I was anticipating a fairly long wait in the terminal. I arrived at the Air Canada gate just as the 11:30 plane heading for Toronto was in the process of boarding. I was able (at no charge) to change my booking and unexpectedly I found myself heading home 2 hours early.

Anyone who knows me is aware that I am a bit of an anxious traveller. I like to arrive at an airport with lots of time. I come prepared. I carry a book to read, Sudoku puzzles to solve, or my laptop so that I can work. But this time I had finished my novel, had forgotten my puzzle book, and although there was much I had to do after the Board meeting, I did not have my computer with me. I was not prepared for the hours of waiting, for simply being still. Flying home early was a great relief.

As I reflect on that feeling I find myself asking an important question. What would happen if I didn’t try to fill every moment with activity; if I left some space and time to be open to something unexpected? The hours of waiting in the airport that I was so happy to avoid, might then in fact have become an opening for some quiet reflection, a chance to experience a new awareness or an opportunity to connect with a “stranger.”

This month we enter into a time of preparation and waiting as we begin the season of Advent. And just as I usually organize myself for waiting in an airport, I realize that I usually fill these weeks before Christmas with activity. These days of waiting and preparation most often become for me a time packed with projects and errands; busy with baking, decorating, writing cards and shopping for gifts.

However, this year, my airport experience challenges me to remember that, like Mary who said “yes” to the unexpected, as I await the promise of the baby born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, I must remain open to all that is unforeseen in His coming. This is only possible if I welcome the great gift of stillness; if I am willing to put down my busy plans and constant activity and ready to cultivate a quiet spirit of prayerful contemplation.

This Advent, instead of giving in to the pressure and constraints of holiday chores, let us try to set aside some time and space within our busy lives, so that we can open our hearts to the grace of a quiet moment; embrace the unexpected; and allow ourselves to be surprised by God.

Thank you for the overwhelming support for Creative Conversations. Our first webinar in November had 20 participants and a small Waiting List. Those who "waited" were the first invited to Creative Conversations #2 in January. We have raised the limit of registrants and hope to accommodate all who register. Watch for the schedule of dates and topics for the remaining Creative Conversations in 2018.

Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/15216811@N06/ [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons