Sunday, November 29, 2015

Preparing to prepare



Advent.  A season of . . . 

Preparation.
Anticipation.
Introspection.
Repentance.

I'm not very good at the first two, and certainly not the last one.  But introspection -- I take that to a whole 'nother plane of excellence!



I overthink.

And in my recent overthinking, I thought about Advent (which starts today,) and what it truly means, and how I do a pretty lousy job of preparation, anticipation, and repentance.

I'm lazy, and I get drawn into the glitz and fun and distraction of Christmas because it's easy.  It's easy to make lists and bake and shop.  It's not easy to clear my heart of ugly resentments, bad habits, and default self-absorption.  The chaos and frenzy of our commercialized Christmas culture facilitates the status quo.  "Don't change; just buy / do / make more," it says.  However, the call of Advent asks us to slow down. . .
pause,
breathe.
Clean out the junk.
Reflect.
Repent.


In past years, I wanted to celebrate a holy Advent, but I never knew how.  So I baked more, sewed more, crafted more, and in turn, felt more empty.  I didn't understand why that happened.  I didn't recognize the truth that less would be more.

too much?

Less busy-ness would mean more time for family, for reading, for praying.


Less stress would mean more mindfulness, and living in the present.


Less stuff would mean more substance.


Less pride would mean more repentance and grace.
This. ^^^ This is what I want! ^^^ And this is what I'll be striving for this Advent.  But I'll need grace, and lots of it.

I can't do it on my own.  Doing it on my own is what wrought all of my past Advents, with the accompanying emptiness, sadness and confusion.  Doing it on my own comes from a place of a fallen nature.  The true call of Advent promises to lift us, to let us peek at the Divine, and to invite us to the side of the Manger, to join in the most joyous of miracles -- the Incarnation.  To do so, we have to humble ourselves, admitting our shortcomings and failures, to join the light of that miraculous and incredible promise.


Preparation.  Anticipation.  Introspection.  Repentance.

So what does that look like in reality?  For us. . . .

My husband and children would absolutely lose. their. minds. if I mandated an undecorated tree or home until Christmas day, or a season of no cookies or crafts at all.  And I don't think, for our family, that that would be the right path.  At least not during this season of our lives.



I do think that LESS rushing, LESS chaos, LESS stress, and FEWER expectations would benefit all of us.

We can do this by attending events and activities that bring my family together, rather than just keeping them occupied.

We'll continue with the tradition of the Advent wreath, as we have for the past 20+ years.

the wreath and ribbon are from Michael's, and the candles are from Hobby Lobby.

We also participate in giving to others in some way during Advent, whether it's donating food to the food pantry, donating coats and jackets to the homeless, or choosing an Angel from a local Angel Tree.  This year, we'll focus more on this aspect than we have in past years, and we'll meet as a family to decide what project we'd like to undertake.

We're incorporating the devotion of the Jesse Tree into our rituals this year.  We did this once when the kids were small; it was beautiful.  We didn't continue in the following years because several of the ornaments were mysteriously lost (I think we moved?) and in my opinion, it's a lot of work to create the whole set.  I'll have to keep better track of the ornaments this time!  :)  (I'll try to remember to post pictures of our Jesse Tree later in the season!)

the older girls and I made the ornaments this time, using a free Holy Heroes download.

printed on card stock, colored, then laminated to last.  hopefully.

Turning off the TV will benefit us all TREMENDOUSLY, especially in the evenings.  Aside from spawning the gimmies from the constant barrage of toy commercials, I think that the continual airing of "Christmas specials" (as they were known when I was a kid) aren't so special when they're broadcast every single night.  We'll choose our favorite movies, and have a weekly movie night!  Our favorites are Elf (of course!). . .


Scrooge (the 1970 Albert Finney version). . .


It's a Wonderful Life. . .


and The Nativity Story... one movie for each week of Advent!


Aaand we'll probably squeeze in A Christmas Story, just because.  It's a family favorite, too.


With the TV turned off, we'll have time for family reading.  Years ago, we read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe aloud together, one chapter per night, and they still talk about that special time. . . 12 years later.  Do you have any reading suggestions?  I'd like something seasonally-related, if possible.  A longer chapter book would be ideal.  I considered A Christmas Carol, but that might be a little dry for the younger set.  Or even the older set. . . .  ;)

Now, I'll be honest.  The kids are not thrilled about turning off the TV, nor at the prospect of READING as a family. *gasp*  I hope their attitudes will improve, but we're going to move ahead with this plan regardless.  Growing in mind and spirit isn't always easy, but I think Advent is a particularly good time to start.


And for the repentance part, I plan to attend a daily Mass {at least} once a week during Advent, and to avail myself of the sacrament of reconciliation.  It's been awhile, and I feel the call to go. . . .

So those are my Advent plans!  Do you observe Advent?  What do you and your family do during this season?  And do you have a reading suggestion for our family reading time?  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

Talk to you soon. . . .

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