Today is the birthday of the English poetess Christina Rossetti. Of all the poets we have met in our poetry-centered homeschool, her poems have caught the imaginations of my children. Listen here to her words set to music by Gustav Holst:
Besides the loveliness of the candlelit faces, listening to the poem as a carol underscores the music of the poem. Often I dismiss poems in the ballad form, poems with end rhyme. And yet, there is something magical about poems that lean toward song.
Today is also St Nicholas Eve. Don’t forget to set out your shoes filled with carrots for the saint’s donkey! Last night found me cutting + gluing the beautiful St Nicholas Coins that Jessica at Shower of Roses created. More poetry goodness at the Poetry Friday link below…including haiku written by the saint himself!
The world is so full of a number of things,
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings–Robert Louis Stevenson
…Except that all those things can sometimes make it too hard to choose. Sometimes the fact that we could do any number of things makes it hard to do anything. At our place it’s movies. When it’s the perfect night to spend the evening together sharing stories through movies, we sometimes spend so much time trying to pick the right one that it gets too late to watch anything.
In the days leading up to Christmas, there will be no end to the things you can do together. But don’t get bogged down in finding the perfect activity. Choose simply; enjoy deeply; rest quietly.
Here is a list of simple activities to get you started:
drink hot chocolate with whipped cream
watch a movie
read a book outloud
share old family stories
take a bubble bath
watch the moon come full
make peppermint chocolate cookies
or peanut butter kisses
…and a pot of tea
Charlotte Mason said that education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life. There’s no better time to take advantage of the education that comes from surrounding ourselves with beauty than Advent and Christmas.
The season offers such accessible ways to bring a little bit of lovliness into our homes to enrich our children’s learning.
- Candles–Lighting the Advent wreath is a lovely addition to any week. But don’t forget the scents of the season too! I just got my supply of peppermint candles from the dollar store.
- Music–We’ve started learning a new carol each year. We use Tomie dePaola’s Book of Christmas Carols and we listen to the Festival of Carols in the days leading up to Christmas.
- Handwork–We’ve been paging through the simple crafts in Fa La La Felt to plan what we might make. I also picked up some washi tape to make the simple Christmas trees that Pam mentioned.
Taking time to add the sparkle of candlelight, the joy of seasonal music, or the goodness of shared work can fill the days leading up to Christmas with a quiet sense of expectation. It’s the beginning of an education in wonder.
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.
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 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.
it’s the last day of October! what a wonderful month it’s been! without further ado, the giveaway winners are:
Rachael, i will be sending you Gertud Mueller Nelson’s To Dance with God!
Susan, i will be sending you a set of six holy cards from the Faith Keepers series!
thank you all for entering! since i wasn’t exactly overwhelmed with entries, i’d like to send you each a copy of my zine. i’ll be emailing in the next week to get your addresses…or you can email me your contact information. (you can find my email on the *hello there!* page linked at the top of the page.)
what a surprisingly difficult thing to write on the same topic every day! i had already been posting nearly every day, but keeping on topic–even one as dear to my heart as Advent–has kept me on my toes. here are a few observations in case you are considering your own 31 days series:
- there is a longing for spiritual practices that nourish our families.
- a posting schedule is a good idea. i had a list of things i wanted to write about, but i don’t think the series flows together as well as it might.
- being a part of a link up is fun! lots of new people come by and other opportunities arise. it’s been a blessing. i am interested to see if people keep finding these pages, especially as we near Advent.
- i really like posting “the bits and pieces of our days.” without the blog, i didn’t have a place for the silly pictures and book lists and funny kid quotes that make up my day, and i’ve missed that!
and here are links to other women who i have been reading all month long. your time will be well-spent with them!
thank you all for reading and linking and commenting! it makes my heart glad! tomorrow i’ll be back with our regularly scheduled programming…and stayed tuned because Pam at Everyday Snapshots has wonderful things planned for crafting an everyday liturgy. wonderful, no? i’m so excited!
the blueberry coffeecake is made, and all the candles are lit! we’ve been keeping Advent together for the past month. but really this is only the beginning of the Church’s year.
Christmas is come and with it a new baby! savor the twelve rich days after Christmas. it almost seems like the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve are time outside of time.
Twelfth Night welcomes the traveling magi and ushers in Epiphany. where will God appear in your life?
Candlemas or the feast of the Presentation falls on February 12. this is one of the feasts that protestants should be celebrating. the story’s right there in the bible.
soon enough signs of Spring will be coming. but first we will travel the 40 days of Lent. simple, quiet, reflection–these are the hallmarks of the season. sounds a bit like Advent, no?
then the Alleluia returns: Easter! we kept a holy Lent for 40 days, but we will be celebrating Easter for 50 days! Ascension Day, and then ten days later, the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. glory!
and then the long season of Ordinary Time unfolds. summer and fall hold such rich saint days: St John the Baptist on Midsummer’s Day, St Anne, patron saint of all homeschooling mamas on July 26th. in September Michaelmas marks the beginning of the new school term, and we celebrate St Jerome and all grumpy scholars on September 30th. October 4th sees the blessing of the animals and St Francis Day. and that brings us all the way back round to All Hallows, All Saints, and All Souls.
you can find lots of ideas and resources on the word made flesh page. you can also enter something in the search box (in the sidebar on the right!), and see what you find.
two easy ways to change the atmosphere of the house are through lighting and music. candles can set a festive mood, but good, strong light can be just what’s needed for working on a project. match the light to the work at hand. music can add energy or space for contemplation. again, we can use this tool as a help to underscore or change the climate or feel of the day.
it also can help to have a simple plan for approaching celebrations. earlier this month i offered glimpses of our saint day celebrations throughout Advent. i try to keep three things in mind as i plan:
- food–is there some way to incorporate a festive feel to what we eat? oats for breakfast–because that’s what the saint’s donkey would eat–gets a lot of play around here! earlier this month we made a “tonsure cake” to celebrate St Francis. it’s just our normal the-bananas-have-gone-soft-so-let’s-make-banana bread. but i cooked it in our old bundt pan to make it look like the saint’s crazy haircut!
- art–coloring sheets are our favorite work, but we also really like looking for fine art images that might add to the day. for the past two years we have used the free sample of Giatto pages at Simply Charlotte Mason during Holy Week. the images are tender and beautiful and so human.
- story–story is the way into imagination; it’s how we learn by heart. we love hearing the stories of scripture and the saints through storybooks. there are so many good, illustrated editions available. there are also plenty of not so good books. find what you and your children like, and read them together. often! it’s these shared experiences that create family culture.
so. atmosphere. that’s what Charlotte Mason calls it. in Reggio it’s the environment, the third teacher. unschoolers call it strewing. all ways of saying a similar thing–our place matters. how can we pay attention?
Rahima Baldwin says that our homes can be places where each member’s spiritual needs are met. this can begin with cultivating a sense of reverence and gratitude–a sense that we are created and thankful. this can begin with a simple altar–a place set aside and marked with beauty, a place of focus. Rahima suggests using the ledge above the kitchen sink! we’re there (too) often anyways. our hands are busy, can we turn our hearts to prayer?
Lori at Project-Based Homeschooling says that our homes and work spaces will either support or hinder our goals. we can make a space that “celebrates what we love, reminds us of our goals, and encourages us to continue working.” i’ve spent the month outlining the work of keeping Advent, but i know that i could use reminders and encouragement.
what if instead of “decorating for the holidays,” we worked toward creating a home place where reverence and gratitude can thrive? what if we made space for the Spirit? What if we created provocations–simple collections of images and supplies presented in a beautiful way–that drew our children into the celebrations of the season by offering an image to color, a sweet treat to eat, space for quiet, and above all, time?