Friday, December 8, 2017

(Not Quite) 7 (Not So) Quick Takes: The Advent Edition

This isn't actually going to catch you up, in case you had any hopes for that. Part of the reason I've been putting off writing here is that the list of things I haven't told you just gets longer and longer. So I'm jumping in mid-stream, and I'll just put in backstory where it's needed, and if you're lost you'll have to holler at me to slow down or back up.

Deal?

Good, now that we have that all figured out, here's what we've been up to lately:

1. Advent School



I decided this year when planning our schedule for school to leave space during Advent and Christmas to do something different. We're doing a light study of Christmas traditions around the world using Mary Lankford's Christmas around the World as our main read-aloud and then reading all the Christmas picture books we love from our collection plus a healthy infusion of them from the library. My confession is that I put all those library books on hold in late October/early November and have just been renewing them so that we'd be sure to have them before someone else did. Sorry, y'all with whom I share a library system. I am being good about bringing them back when we have finished, though, so that's something.




Without the usual schedule of math and history and science and other stuff, I have actually had the self-discipline to bake with my kids and let them do messy crafts without losing it entirely. We've hung pinecone bird feeders, made gingerbread play dough, painted wooden ornaments, sewn felt Christmas trees and made lavender sachets with cross-stitched letters on them. Not everyone has done all of these things. Someone hasn't really done any of them. It's okay, though- we have had time for extra reading, extra making, extra music, and extra lounging around, and it feels like overall things are working out as I hoped they might.



2. Advent- marking time

These are the things people want to know, right? What do you do? What should we be doing?

I'll tell you what we are doing if you promise not to think it is what you should be doing.

Our Advent calendar - we open one door a day and there's a short reading that goes along with it. This is my favorite Advent calendar of all time.

Our Advent wreath- we light the candle for the week on Saturday evening as a vigil for the coming Sunday, and we light it each night during the week before the kids go to bed and sing the first verse of O Come, O Come Emmanuel. We've been using this book by Lisa Hendey for several years now, and it's just about perfect for the age that our family is- short, sweet, and to the point. (There are questions to discuss if you want to be more elaborate. We never do.)

The Sam of Advent Past: he is basically the same now, just bigger


Advent chain- I came up with this project for Sam a few years ago, and then the lovely Nancy of Do Small Things with Love made a wonderful printable version of it. There is a name of Jesus for each day of Advent. You can print Nancy's pages out, cut them into strips, and make a chain so that you can remove a link each day leading up to Christmas. Scripture references on the chain links make it easy to look up the verses where each name of Jesus originates in the Bible. It's been fun.

Jesse Tree- I have a pretty terrible track record with the Jesse Tree. We can't seem to sustain it- things get busy, we get behind, and then I'm totally overwhelmed and we just drop it. I printed out Nancy's ornament patterns a couple of years ago and we colored them, but we've never really gotten very far with the actual reading and doing of the tree.

This year, we are trying to keep up. Since I don't have a lot of space to put out more things, we wrapped a branch with thread and are hanging the ornaments from it. No picture I can take of this branch is even remotely inspiring. So far, we are only slightly behind, but I'm not too worried about it yet.

We already put up our tree because we have a couple of trips away this month and didn't want things to feel rushed. We could have waited until Gaudete Sunday, but we didn't. I think at other times I've been more precious about the most correctest possible way to do everything, but this year I am just...not.

3. Hand-me-down hobbies
I thought this article from Brandy at Afterthoughts was so encouraging. I've been a little worried about how some of my kids don't seem to be picking up certain things I wish they would pick up, or how I'm not spending equal time teaching each one of them the same things...but the older they get, the more different they are, and with so many different interests, it's just not possible to cover everything with everyone in the same degree of detail. So for now, I'm spending more time with Lucy picking out carols on the piano or singing in parts, and Nora's sitting with me working on her crochet technique (which will be better than mine quickly, since I don't really crochet), and I'm playing chess with Sam or talking about theology or Hobbits or whatever else he's read that I've always meant to read and haven't gotten around to reading yet.

Bottom line: it's going to be okay, because siblings.

4. Siblings

There is so much sibling conflict here right now that I often wonder if siblings are the reason why it is NOT going to be okay, maybe ever again...so I especially welcomed the reminder from Brandy (see #3) that there are practical advantages to having several children in my home, even if they aren't immediately apparent. The squabbling is killing me, y'all. The boys are always whacking each other with swords, and if we take the swords away, they find other things with which to whack. The girls are constantly making and breaking and reforming alliances and sneaking Halloween candy into their room and arguing over who should have to clean up the dirty clothes that are everywhere. And I'm running around saying, "Everything has a place!" and "Don't leave underwear in the kitchen!" and "Swords are not for whacking your brother!" (even though swords really are kind of for whacking your brother, aren't they?)

5. Advent playlist

I have an eclectic Advent playlist. It's still my go-to, and every now and then I add things to it, but that's hard to do because I made it way back in the day when George had the only Spotify account in our household. It's still under his name, but if you need music to accompany your Advent, give it a try. 


6. HolyLens



George and I are doing #HolyLens again this Advent, because we would miss it if we didn't. There is a small but faithful band joining us on Instagram. If taking pictures of your daily life helps you see the moments of grace embedded in your days, come and join us. Just look for the hashtag. I'm dere_abbey and George is grdvee.

That's it. I guess sometimes quick takes come in sixes instead of sevens. Or maybe I'll think of something else later.

Would you say a prayer for our parish Blessed is She leadership team and the women who will attend our Advent retreat tomorrow? It's supposed to snow, probably not a lot, but I'd hate for weather to get in the way of what might be a very needed two hours of peace and reflection for these ladies tomorrow. I love snow, and I refuse to apologize for that, but if we could have snow and safe travels/not-too-slippery parking lots tomorrow, that would be most excellent.

Thanks for reading. I know I have been silent quite a while, and I don't take it for granted that you stuck around now that I have something to say again. 


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Adventing, as you do {Abbey, the unready}



I startled awake this morning, anxious and uncomfortable.

Almost immediately, I realized part of my discomfort was from a pair of three-year-old feet pressed solidly into the small of my back, kneading my kidneys with ten still-chubby toes.

Also (possibly related to the toes), I needed the bathroom urgently.

Also, I’ve fallen into my usual trap of Advent anxiety.

Last night after a long day of meeting and errands and one particularly awful grocery store trip (in which a woman in the checkout line suggested that I should drink the entire bottle of wine I was purchasing), we put our four overtired children to bed. I sat at my desk and scrolled back through old blog posts, trying to find one about our favorite Christmas books (how do I not have a post about our favorite Christmas books after all these years?), and I had to laugh at myself. So many words about Advent. So many sentences about waiting and not rushing and being present in the moment. So many reassurances about how this is a time of preparation and we don’t have to have all the things ready right now.

I guess I was writing to myself all that time as much as anyone else. I needed to reread my own words.

So this morning, in the waning moments of darkness before the sun creeps up and my children burst forth to find their new slippers stuffed with chocolate coins and clementines and candy canes, here is a reminder from me to you (and from me to me):

Advent is for preparation. It’s a whole season in which to prepare for the Incarnation…an event large enough that we need weeks to get ready for it- not just once, but every single year. Even Mary, the mother of the Word made flesh, needed time to prepare for Jesus, leading Him to spend the first nine months of His life as a human being waiting silently in her womb. He was gestating. He was preparing, too, as His body was being woven together in the sanctuary of His mother. I can’t even get my mind to wrap around that truth.

And that's okay, because it’s Advent, and I have time to wonder over it. It is a mystery worth all the wonder I can muster in the coming days and weeks.

As we prepare our hearts, it is perfectly fine to also be preparing our everyday lives for the celebration that is coming. It’s okay to use Advent to clear our countertops while we ponder what it means to clean our hearts. It’s okay to use Advent to spruce up our front porches while we contemplate what sort of outward expressions of Christian joy we’re sharing with the world. It’s okay to use Advent to choose and wrap gifts for those we love as we consider the great Gift that came to each of us over two thousand years ago.

It’s okay to not be ready yet. It’s okay, because Advent is for getting ready, and getting ready is what what we are supposed to be doing right now.

But Advent is more than that, too. It’s an invitation to take advantage of the time we have to join Mary in pondering all these things in our hearts. The Incarnation is a mystery that never gets smaller. It’s never any less amazing. There is plenty of material there for thinking and praying and meditating on for a lifetime.

So stop worrying about not being ready, and go get ready. Get Adventing. Tell me what you’re doing to get ready. While you bake things (if you do that) and wrap things and arrange things, take a few minutes to ponder why we do this and what it all means. And if you are one of those amazing people who is already ready for Christmas before Advent begins, I salute you and would like you to write a guest post for me next year around October so that you can share your wisdom and best tips with the rest of us, because I could clearly use some help in that department.

Happy Advent.