Wednesday, December 17, 2014

It's still Advent!

I had great plans to link to Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife’s Advent Post Link Up . Since it was announced before Advent I decided to wait until Advent began so I could include pictures of our Advent wreath. I read several linked posts. Many of these discussed what they did with their young children during Advent. Since we have elementary school age boys I wanted to post what we do.

I was so proud of myself for hanging up the Advent calendars and getting out the Advent wreath on the first Sunday of Advent. Grandma went overboard buying us Advent calendars and many are used every year at our house. Our boys are old enough to take care of the Advent calendars themselves. This year they took turns on 6 different calendars. The calendars went well this year and our six year old knows exactly how many days until Christmas.

Unfortunately we didn’t do as well on the Advent wreath. I didn’t dig out the candles until the second Sunday of Advent. We only lit the candles one time this year so that each boy had a chance to put them out. I still haven’t taken pictures of our Advent wreath. (The photo above was taken at church.)

This year was very different because instead of counting days until Christmas, we had a build up to my second son having surgery for some nose blockage. There were lists of things to do before his surgery, to prepare for his recovery, and quiet activities inside for our family to do together while he recovers. In my head I also had lists of things that we are not going to do this year during the Christmas season because of his surgery. I even started referring to events that we planned to go to as that is the day of his surgery, that is the day before his surgery, etc. This upset my oldest son and he requested that I say the real day of the week instead of that.

Because of this the focus for us has been attending church services and not a whole lot extra this year. I must admit this is the most relaxed Advent season I have had since I was in middle school. Our boys attended church services on Thanksgiving Eve, Sundays, and all midweek Advent services (except the son that will miss the last midweek service during his surgery recovery time). I have attempted to really concentrate during the sermons as all my boys are old enough to behave in church now. I would love to have family devotions and light the Advent wreath every night during Advent. But this year that didn’t happen. I'm thankful that attending church services was the one thing that did happen for us this year.

Here are some of my tips for Advent that I have learned after 12 Advent seasons as a wife and 10 Advent seasons as a mother.
1. Plan for Advent before Thanksgiving-Whether you have a cute Pinterest idea for an Advent calendar or just plan to do what you did last year, have a plan for Advent before Thanksgiving. Add “Get out Advent decorations” to your calendar on the first day of Advent. If you plan to make something for Advent try to complete it before Thanksgiving. Plan your family devotions before Thanksgiving. If you have grand plans to make something like homemade Jesse tree decorations, begin working on that in July. Add "Purchase Advent candles" to your September calendar. 
2. Plan for Christmas before Advent-I purchased ornaments for the Sunday School children last August when they were just put out at the store and on sale. I made extra dessert for our church bazaar in November and froze it for our ladies Christmas party. I bought St. Nick Day presents for my boys when there was a sale in July. I was so thankful that I did all of this before Advent. I did less shopping this December than I have for years.
3.  Consider waiting until at least the third Sunday of Advent to decorate your house for Christmas. Then try to leave your decorations up until Epiphany (January 6). Most years we waited until Christmas Eve to decorate our tree when I was little. While I don’t wait that long any more, we do usually wait until it is Gaudete Sunday. I have friends that decorate for Christmas on Veteran’s Day. While I understand you have to decorate while you have time, I do think if you wait it is one more way to celebrate Advent first. I have also found that we are less busy as it gets very close to Christmas when the holiday parties and holiday events are done. The rest of society begins decorating so early and stores have Christmas items for sale in July. I like to wait and have my decorations up for the true 12 days of Christmas. (We have not put our tree up this year yet.) 
4.  Honor a few traditions and don’t stress about the rest-Are you just not up to making two dozen different kinds of cookies this year? Do you just not feel like putting up a Christmas tree and dragging out all the decorations? Then don’t. You are probably the only one that considers you need to do all that because you do it every year. Make a list of the top three things that you want to do at your house this Christmas. Do those and nothing extra. It won’t be the end of the world if you serve store bought cookies this year. You don't have to go shopping for a new Christmas outfit for everyone, it is fine to wear regular church clothes. Everything does not need to be wrapped perfectly, especially after the toddler age when they like the box more than the gift. Less is more and if you limit what you do your children are more likely to remember what you do. 
5.  On Christmas Eve pack up the Advent decorations. Last year I packed up the Advent wreath and calendars and put them in a tub marked “Advent”. It was so easy to set up for Advent this year because I prepared for it last year.
6. Be gentle with yourself if you have a reason for grieving. I don't care if your reason for grieving happened this year or 50 years ago. I know the song says "It's the most wonderful time of the year", but I have found this is also a time with many memories that can be a trigger for my tears. I am so thankful for extra chances for Holy Communion at this time of year so that I can be with all the company of heaven. Try to take some time for yourself during this season if you need it. Do whatever you need to do to survive this holiday season. If it helps to hang ornaments that remind you of your loved ones do that. If it is too painful to hang those ornaments it is ok to keep them packed up. If you can't sing during a Christmas carol, just listen as everyone else sings. Remember that because baby Jesus came at Christmas, Easter will come.
7. There will be another December-If your plans didn't work out this year, you can try again next year. But remember that it is ok to not follow the plans if that worked this year!

This post was shared at Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife for their Advent Link-up Party.


Anna Ilona Mussmann said...

Thanks for linking-up!

Aubri said...

Thank Ewe (can I make that joke?) for this post! I'm finding that philosophy that "less is more" is very true. Each year it seems I'm able to do less and I'm fine with that. We don't have to clutter feasts and holy days with a bunch of stuff and activities, they're good enough on there own right? We've gotten to most of the Advent services and managed to get in some evening devotions, that was the important thing to me this year, but even that was difficult! :) Oh well.

Kristen @ Joyfully Thriving said...

I think points 2 and 3 are very important. I start planning and preparing for the next Christmas as soon as one is over. And I LOVE leaving my decorations up through Epiphany. We always do!