The sun sets early these days. Why not spend these long nights together?
watch a movie
make shadow puppets
tell family stories
go for a walk
listen to a book on tape while you fold laundry
What you do together isn’t the most important thing. It’s committing to shared experience. It’s setting time apart. It’s closing up the laptop. It’s creating a strong family culture. It’s giving the gift of your presence.
The spiritual practices of Advent open us to the wonder of Christmas. They can help put us in a place where we can truly welcome the coming baby. Instead of being just one more thing to check off our lists, these practices are habits of a life tuned to God’s rhythms. These aren’t things we can ever be done with. They really are practices, the work of a disciple, ways of attending to the Spirit.
- Listen to Pray As You Go. In 15 minutes you can be transported. The bells, the music, the thoughtful readings–they help quiet my clamoring heart and give me ears to hear. There is a special Advent retreat in addition to the daily readings.
- Advent marks the opening of another church year. It’s the perfect time to start reading The Sacred Space Prayer Book. I have the 2014 edition, and am finishing up the last week of readings and prayers. Come November 30th, I’m just going to turn to the front of the book and begin again. The dates won’t line up, and I won’t be reading along with the right year in the lectionary, but I think it will still be fruitful.
- Go to church. Yes, this is a practice! If your children are up for it, see if there is a Midnight service on Christmas Eve. The candlelight, the music, the sense of anticipation fill the place.
- Listen to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on the BBC. How many times do you get to hear live broadcasts of British church services? Because of the time difference, it happens at 7 in the morning West Coast time on December 24th. Make a sweet treat, put the kettle on, and settle in. Our local classical station will stream it…I’ll post more details closer to the day.
- Like the Nine Lessons, the Jesse Tree reflections follow the work of redemption through time. They are based on the genealogy of Jesus from Matthew, and tell the great Old Testament stories on the way to the promised messiah. We read from the Child’s Story Bible and color images from Tired Need Sleep.
Listen to what Adele Calhoun says in The Spiritual Discipline Handbook:
Spiritual practices don’t give us “brownie points.” They simply put us in a place where we can begin to notice God and respond to God’s word to us.
Spiritual disciples give the Holy Spirit space to brood over our souls.
These practices give people space in their lives to keep company with Jesus.
May you find a practice that helps you prepare for the coming of the word made flesh.
What goes on in our prayer right now is only a small part of the prayer of our life…prayer is a shared life with God.
We must be persistent and brave, willing to trust…God is always at work in us in ways we do not know.
Prayer is for life…it carries us into love. Prayer and love remove the boundaries between the “spiritual” and the “everyday.”
–Roberta Bondi in To Pray & To Love
Krista Tippet interviews Roberta for Speaking of Faith.
Advent comes early this year. Over the next week I’ll share approachable ways to meet the season with grace. Day 1: Cutting Clutter
The bad news first: if your days are generally overfull, preparing for the Christmas season is not going to help. This is a great time to practice saying no. And really, the most important word in that sentence is practice. But listen to the good news. Living the church year with your family isn’t a test you take, it’s a path you walk. Here are a few ways to clear a little space before the crush of parties and presents hits.
- Schedule–Try to scale back your everyday responsibilities. Simple meals, simple routines, fewer outside obligations. There are all kinds of good things that we want to add into our days, but rushing from place to place makes it nearly impossible to enjoy them.
- Place–This week is a great time to take a laundry basket from room to room and fill it up with things you don’t need anymore. Our interests shift; our children grow and change. It’s okay to let things go. Put the bags in the back of the car to donate, and give thanks for such abundance.
- Clean–After you’ve cleared a bit of the physical clutter, you might consider spending a little time establishing a cleaning routine. I really like getting an assignment each day from Apartment Therapy. Clean Mama also has a simple weekly routine. You will see marked progress in even 15 minutes a few times a week spent working on hot spots and high traffic areas.
- Expectations–There is no other holiday bound with such unrealistic expectations as Christmas. Events to plan, gifts to buy, experiences to curate. When we let go of some of the pressure to makes things perfect, we take the first steps to opening ourselves to the wonder of Advent.
Our midwives said that worry is the work of pregnancy. When I was pregnant with Nicolas, I worried that he would never get to be the first and only child. His experience of life in our family would always be a competition for divided attention. The midwives smiled and reminded me that the baby wouldn’t just have our love and attention, he would have Mabel’s too. The love wasn’t dividing; it was multiplying.
Yesterday, Nicolas was sitting in a chair reading The Gods and Goddesses of Olympus by Aliki. Joseph decided to try and climb up to join him even though there was only room for 1 in the chair. I asked Nico if he would go sit on the couch so that Joseph could sit next to him and look at the book too. He was happy to, and they spent the next little while looking at the book together. Joseph listened as Nicolas told him the stories.
This boy has such a generous, patient heart.
I think that being really smart is the ability to live well–that is in harmony with one’s own needs and the needs of the rest of the world. Really smart is the ability to solve problems.
I would never tell the school board this, but my goal for my own and my children’s education here at home is to get better and better at solving problems, and at meeting needs.
That is our curriculum here; those are the “basics.” Math and reading and such are the frills.
–Andrea Kelly-Rosenberg in Growing Without Schooling Issue #45
Find more reading goodness at Wednesday With Words!
Earlier this year, author Liz Garton Scanlon spoke at a writing conference. She challenged the writers there to read 100 storybooks in the next 6 months. But not just read them, really learn from them. What makes this story shine? How do the text and pictures work together? What elements from this book might become a part of the stories you write?
Though I don’t think I’m going to be writing a storybook anytime soon, I love this idea. I think talking through these sorts of things might be the first step in literary analysis. Really puzzling out how a story works is a great skill at any age.
At our house, kindergarten is a Storybook Year. We have been reading through the ABCs of Authors and Illustrators and the ABCs of Saints. Even though we read a lot of chapter books together, storybooks have not been in short supply. But we’ve gotten such great ideas from some of the other authors who are keeping pinboards of their reading!
Have you received your copy of Keeping Advent? Just subscribe (using the form in the sidebar) and I’ll send a copy right over!
Our to-do lists seem to get longer even as the days grow shorter. If you are eager to meet this coming holiday season with grace and expectation, come away and spend a little time reflecting, planning, preparing.
After you subscribe to One Deep Drawer, I’ll send you a copy of Keeping Advent. It’s a 20 page ebook filled with beautiful illustrations and thoughtful ideas to help breathe a little new life into your Advent celebrations.
Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee;
Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee;
Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise;
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine;
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store;
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.
– Frances R. Havergal
Last month we traveled a little way from home and had a great big adventure. We were celebrating our girl turning 8 and went to stay a few nights in the yurts at Champoeg, a historic townsite from the 1840s. Even though it was rainy and cold outside, the yurts kept us dry and happy! We went for walks along the river, built fairy houses, took a daytrip to the monastery, and even roasted cinnamon rolls over the fire!