For Advent this year we’re keeping it simple.
After dinner, we read a chapter of the Jesus Storybook Bible and take a link off of a paper Advent chain given to us by our church. Each link has a discussion question or a small game/activity to do. Easy, right?
We missed December 1st altogether. Nothing says intentionality and awesomeness like missing the very first day.
On December 2nd, we played a hot potato game and tears were involved for one kid. And when we talked about what they were excited about for Christmas, several said presents, which is ironic, because I just posted about how we DON’T EVEN DO PRESENTS ON CHRISTMAS CHILDREN!!
And yesterday I stopped reading mid-sentence to say (loudly), “Can’t you guys just sit and listen to a short story for 5 seconds???!!”
Advent memories, baby.
At our house, the kids get to open their gifts on New Years Day instead of Christmas. While it’s only a slight variation, it’s one that matters to us. For our family, Christmas is about waking up to Jesus in a manger, not gifts under a tree.
We also recognize that gifts are an expression of love to our kids and to each other, so we shifted the idea of gifts to the New Year. It’s a fun way to start the new year!
In case you haven’t noticed, it’s become best-practice to give experiences to our kids instead of toys. You know, because toys are wasteful and experiences create memories that last forever. But, despite the trend towards giving vacations, experiences, lessons, and money towards an education fund, our kids will be getting (three!) toys under the tree this year. Some of them will be plastic and all of them have zero educational value. And we’re happy with that.
I can admit that I like the sentiment behind the “non-toy” gifts. Less stuff. Less waste. Simple.
But I resist the trend for several reasons:
Today I’m sitting in my in-laws house, happy and full of food and family. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, mostly because, well, food (duh), but also because the whole center of the holiday is focused on gratitude, family, and just hanging out.
November was a stressful month overall for the family. Jake finished his prelims and is now waiting on feedback from his committee. A favorable response would mean that Jake has moved from coursework to “All But Dissertation”– a huge step in the doctoral student journey. The sense of progress is mentally energizing for both the student and the family :).
We also had a couple birthdays this month….
A few weeks ago REI announced it would not be open on Thanksgiving.
Just today, I came across a list of 28 major retailers who will also not be participating in the Thanksgiving consumer craziness.
I’ll be the first to admit that while I adhere to a philosophy of simple living and minimalism, deep down I love stuff. I enjoy buying
myself the kids new sets of Legos and the newest, hottest education toys. If I would have it my way, I would buy new clothes all. the. time. and I’d probably have a huge scarf collection. Target is my kryptonite (seriously, have you seen the new red patterned kitchen items they have on display right now? SO CUTE).
The tension is real. Needless to say, the holidays are a tricky time of the year for me. I love thinking about what to get the kids and how to best spend our small budget on items that are worthy of being in my home. I love Amazon Lightening and Cartwheel Hot Toy deals. But I also love Advent and the time of reflecting and waiting and hoping that comes with it. In years past I’ve tried to marry these two holiday mindsets (both are about giving, right?!), but I’ve emerged every time feeling like I had a case of multiple personalities.
For the life of me I can’t focus on Jesus and waiting and hoping and quieting my soul while I’m frantically searching for the best deals and (to be honest) dealing with a mild case of both the gimmies and the frustration of “the gifts I buy will never show the love I have for the person I’m giving them to.” Other people might be able to. Not me.
So, this year I’m trying something totally different.
This year I will be done holiday shopping before Advent even begins. Yes, I will miss many deals. I will probably pay more for things I buy and our holiday budget won’t go as far. But my goal is to be able to focus my heart on the season of Advent. To slow. To celebrate. To pray. To spend time away from the ads and messages that tell me my life would be just a bit easier/happier/simpler/spiritual if I had one. more. thing.
How do you stay sane during the holidays? What practices help you manage the tension of the season?
Okay, so perhaps this isn’t doesn’t exactly fit into my #write31days Soul Shaping writing challenge, but what we love shapes our souls, yes??
This month I’ve spent nearly every evening writing. I thought taking the #write31days challenge would invigorate me and blossom me into a better writer. I was wrong :). I feel in need of a writing break and I have found that the increase in writing has meant less time for reading and other things that give me inspiration. Plus, who has time to edit and craft sentences when you’re just trying to crank them out?
So, whatever, it is what it is.
Onto my favorite things this month. (more…)
So far in this series I’ve shared things that work well with my crazy life: sleep, Sabbathing, and praying as I go (mostly so I stay sane, yes??). Now that I have those few things out of the way, I come to the next 26 days with a lot more questions and hopes and dreams, and not a whole lot of tried and true tips and tricks. If you’re looking for that kind of stuff, then perhaps this is where we part ways :).
Here’s what I know to be true: God meets us in our ordinary days, in very ordinary ways.
There was that one time not too long ago when God met me in the midst of reading a children’s book to my kids. I was totally blindsided by it all. When I started that book, I wasn’t praying or reading Scripture or anything “spiritually forming” like that. I was simply reading a kids book that I had taken off of the top of our stack of library books.
Or the time when I lied to a homeless person about not having money because I didn’t want to miss my train (not one of my proudest moments).
You all, that’s the kind of God we have.
He’s a God that sees us and knows our stages and seasons. He doesn’t demand of us to check off a bunch of spiritual formation dos and don’ts. He just wants us to love Him and trust Him. Sometimes I have to remind myself that He’s not trying to hide His will for me– if my heart is open and I’m mindful of Him throughout my day, He’s going to be communicating with me. I just have to have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.
I guess spiritual formation practices helps us to fine tune our eyes and ears, but I just need us all to know (i.e. I need to know) that He’s not demanding. The demanding voice is a different kind of voice. Not one from the Father. So we can just ignore that one, okay?
Tomorrow I’m going to write about one way I love to think about spiritual formation– not as a giant list of “Things to Fit into My Already Busy Day”- but as a prayerful, short list of ways in which I hope to grow into the person that I want to be. A lot of people call it a Rule of Life. For Type As, I think you’re gonna love this. For those other types, I’m not sure- you’ll have to let me know. 🙂
Today I’m guest posting over at The Moving Mom, a space created to help connect women who move frequently. They are a pretty new blog, but have already helped hundreds of moms move well by offering the ultimate packing checklist (seriously, isn’t this list AMAZING??!!). Their site is full of other great tips, suggestions, and interviews with professionals– so head on over and take a look!
My post today is about moving overseas. We spent some time in Kenya early in our marriage, and we learned a lot in the moving process! Enjoy!
I love the month of September, mostly because I love fresh starts and that’s always what September feels like to me. I’m also a huge fan of school, and even though I’m not in school anymore, the rest of my family is, and I feel so happy for them (even when they’re not). 🙂 (more…)
It’s been awhile since I wrote a real post.
It’s easy for me to write about what we’re reading and what I’m loving and what we’re doing. Doing is easy in this stage of life. I wake up every morning and immediately the cogs are in motion. Most mornings I don’t even have to think about going from one thing to the next. I just look at my planner and it tells me what’s on the agenda for the day. All I have to do is, well, do it.
I’ve always been a doer. I remember calling my dad sometime last year and complaining about how much stuff I had to do. I was working for a non-profit a few hours a week, blogging for 3 blogs, running a household while the hubs was taking 12 hours of doctoral classes (+ teaching at 50% + a side job), and training for a half-marathon. Oh yeah, I also had a 1 year old and a 3 year old home with me all day. WHY DO I DO THIS TO MYSELF?