Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Advent


Happy Advent, all!

Somehow, it's December again. This year, it felt like Minnesota skipped over fall and wormholed from summer right into winter. The weather was very weird this year, wasn't it? Hardly any 70-degree transition to speak of; it was 80s and 90s one day and then torrential rain and then 40s, and then snow. All before Halloween, even.

So each year, November goes by in a blink and suddenly it's Christmas. I often have grand plans for  Advent. Not just because it's peak crafting (and baking) season with the kids, but because it's a whole month of anticipation: the grandeur of Christmas feasts with family, the thrill of seeing the faces of friends as they open gifts we've made (or saved to buy), the joy of delivering cookies to neighbors to say - among other things - "we're so glad you live next door (or around the corner, or across the street)." 

And every year, I swear Advent sneaks up on me. 

Sneaks

Like Argh Is It Dec 1st Already Where Are Those Nativity Thingamajigs That We Stick On The Fridge Oh Wait Our Fridge Door Is No Longer Magnetic Erm What To Do Now sneaks

And the children always ask if we're going to do Advent again this year, and Of Course We're Still Young Enough To Do Advent Mom What Were You Thinking. And I'm on the laptop at 2 am on Nov 30th googling "30 Fun Things To Put In An Advent Calendar" and curating the suggestions and becoming more despondent by the minute because half of the Fun Things are awesome for a 5-year-old but not so awesome for a 14-year-old. 

In desperation, I've even asked the children for ideas (because I'm such a loser Mom).

The 14-year-old said this year, "A book a day, of course. 24 books before Christmas - what could be better?" 
Splendid idea, but she wasn't talking about the Christmas picture books we pored over when the girls were preschoolers and kindergarteners. Novels, she meant. Stories with conflicts and cliffhangers. Stories of desperate last-stands and gut-wrenching sacrifices. Stories about good and evil, villains and heroes.

And I was reminded of what Christmas is: one short paragraph in a much longer story of exactly all those things. It's about an author who had a plan for a world that was good and free, whose characters were incredibly flawed but undeservingly precious, and who regrettably wrecked themselves and each other in their pursuit to discover who they were.  There's a villain so insidious that only a truly formidable hero could defeat so in an incredible plot twist, the author writes Himself into the story. Which then speeds toward a cliffhanger in which everyone's character arcs converge in one epic sacrifice. The hero dies, but unbelievably, the world is not destroyed. The people are saved. The villain is vanquished. The curse is lifted. And the hero comes back to life after, and we learn that it was in the plan all along, written into the storyboard from the very start. It may not have begun with Once Upon A Time and perhaps the ultimate Happily Ever After is still a long way off, but there is glorious closure and explosive hope for the future, for forever.

In Advent seasons past, I've only ever lingered on the manger portion of the Christmas story. When the kids were little, it was what appealed to them. There was a baby in a feeding trough, infinite wonder confined in the finite dimensions of an animal shed. There were domestic livestock, shepherds with lambs, learned visitors on camels who came from so far away that it took them two years to actually turn up. There were drummer boys whose percussive anthems somehow did not grate on a postpartum mother's ears (or a newborn's). There was (probably) no wicked Midwestern blizzard raging outside (probably because it wasn't even December). It was a good tale, with lots of quaint cultural embellishments (depending on the version). My kids - as do many other kids in this part of the world - know this account inside out.

I always felt that it needed more context, though. So this year, I'm including that bigger story in our Advent conversations. They know a lot of it from Sunday School, so maybe it won't be news to them. But some of the best stories are more fully enjoyed retold over and over, and I can't think of one that beats this. Already Kate has begun some good conversations with me, which I hold dear to my heart and pray that over our years together, I will find increasingly clearer ways to continue with her. 

Children, no matter how literal their dealings, will still always appreciate the metaphor, though - isn't that why we have Advent calendars? It isn't just the chocolate, or the Lego Christmas village in 24 installments. It's about the anticipation, the part of the whole, the longing for something to be finally finished. It's also about now: the blessings that are new every morning, the grace that is sufficient, the gift of the day thereof. Which, with our unique preferences and personalities, looks different for each of us, so this year, I made each of the girls their own, not-the-same Advent calendars.

Jenna's is the one in the top photo - 24 pairs of Harry Potter socks in 24 random IKEA gift bags. She says she likes that they're Harry Potter themed and that she gets a new pair every morning to wear to school without having to find one the night before to set out. Here, I'll cheat and repeat that photo for your viewing pleasure:

Kate's is 24 little squishy toys stuffed into the pockets of my old Pocket Quilt. I found them on Amazon in a 30-pack and Emily helped pick out the 24 she thought Kate would like most. Incidentally, we've used this quilt every Christmas since I made it 8 years ago. It was never intended as an Advent calendar but it's found its calling by being exactly that.
 

Emily's Advent calendar is, sadly, not 24 novels. I would've liked it to be, but I didn't think she'd be able to finish a novel a day quickly enough to hunger for another the next. She has, however, in recent months, discovered the joys of a warm cup of tea, so voila - 24 teas,

which I selected from a selection of far more (again, from Amazon).

and which I concealed in (for want of more innovative packaging) old guitar string envelopes with which my guitar-playing brother supplied me over the years.

These I sealed with funny clips, which I didn't really have 24 of, so there might have to be some re-using!

Also, 24 fancy truffles (because tea and chocolate are as close to heaven in Minnesotan winters as they get).

Speaking of which, this has been the view from my sewing window of late:

Pretty! Also a reminder that I have much to be grateful for, including a warm home in a state that knows how to deal with snowy roads and icky blizzards so people can actually get places safely. 

And you guys, of course. I'm always grateful for you, and all the stories (cardboard, sewing and life) you share with me in the comments and email. I appreciate your honesty, I admire your courage in raising your families, learning new skills, protecting our countries, and answering uncountable calls to help, to teach, to give. I hope your Advent is merry and bright, and that as you count down to Christmas, you will know that you are much loved and of infinite worth to a God who wrote Himself into His own story to prove it.



15 comments:

  1. I love all of the crafty fun on your blog but what keeps me coming back again and again is your writing. Thanks for your beautiful words!

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  2. Thanks for this post. I used to do the same thing for my two girls who are now 24 and 22. Brought back wonderful memories of our homemade Advent calendars, reading our Christmas books each year and watching them act out The Best Story That Came True. Merry Christmas to one of my favorite bloggers.

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  3. What a lovely post. Thank you.
    I do Advent calendars with my grandchildren. One set receives mini ornaments, one per child per day to add to a small Christmas tree so by Christmas Eve,72 ormanents grace the branches. The other set of grands are receiving a small gift each day. As you know it can be hard to come up with those for teens and preteens.

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  4. What a lovely post. Thank you.

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  5. I love your ideas! If you are looking for more (for next year, I mean), you should have a look at this French blog: https://www.ciloubidouille.com I think you will enjoy it. I wish you the best Christmas season possible.

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  6. That's so sweet! I never really had the imagination to pick out 24 different things for my 4 kids, so I'm always impressed by people who do. I really love following your blog, your ideas are always amazing

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  7. All of this is absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing your words and your talents. Merry Christmas.

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  8. Such fun advent calendars! We kept it simple this year with chocolate ones from Trader Joe's and our Christmas song advent calendar (which I sewed together from one of those pre-printed yardages a couple years ago).

    I would love to hear more about your religion discussions with your kids.

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  9. Your talents are infinite. You constantly amaze us with your ability to think on your feet or, in your case, craft on your feet. I don't comment much but I felt the need to comment on your description of the Bible. That is as in-a-nutshell as I have ever read/heard and I was, again, amazed. I have heard it described by theologians, pastors, biblical scholars, evangelists and many more well versed in the Subject. But I like your version better than any I have heard. No, it isn't a fairy tale but there was a Once Upon A Time and there will be a Happily Ever After. There can even be a Happily Along The Way if we so choose. I know that wasn't the focus of your post but I thank you for it.

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  10. You are always inspiring Lier
    Much love and admiration to you. I hope you have a calm and happy Christmas.

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  11. This was beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

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  12. I agree with Juanita. I think your Story of the Bible is more from a parent's point of view, and aren't we all children of God anyway? It seems to fit with the Once Upon A Time and the Happily Ever After and Juanita's Happily Along The Way idea. Thank you so much for this Advent post!!

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  13. I came to say that this post was incredibly heart warming and that anything I wanted to say has been said far more clearly by Juanita above.
    Thank you for continuing to share your thoughts and talents with us!

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