Advent is a week away. These five simple ideas will help you enter the season with joy.
Almost every woman experiences a nesting urge in the weeks leading up to her pregnancy. The desire to get things organized and spruced up before the baby comes. I’ve had all my babies at home, so I’ve done a fair amount of thinking and planning to welcome them. Stacks of diapers, tiny clothes folded and waiting in the drawer, the freezer stocked with meals.
Advent is the time to nest. It’s the time to get ready to welcome the baby that will be born. If we build in time and space for margin and rest, we’ll be ready when the baby comes.
My plan for Black Friday is to make a few meals ahead from my favorite cookbooks, Not Your Mother’s Make Ahead and Freeze Cookbook and Fix, Freeze, and Feast. A few hours of work will buy me peace on our busiest days. Dinner will be mostly taken care of, and I can focus on other things.
Something by Hand
I don’t have any ambitious goals for a handmade Christmas, but I do know that the long evenings lend themselves to making things by hand. We will be coloring our Jesse Tree Ornaments and saint days pages from Paper Dali. This year Mabel and I are also making Jesse Tree Ornaments with felt. We probably won’t have the set done by Christmas, but that just means we’ll happily still have work to do.
A Thick Novel
Reach for your book instead of your phone! Let your kids see you enjoying a few minutes of personal, pleasure reading. I love thick novels on these long nights because they just go and go!
For the past few years I’ve read A Child in Winter by Caryll Houselander. Highly recommended. This year I’m also looking at The Vigil: Keeping Watch in the Season of Christ’s Coming by Wendy Wright. I’ve loved her companion book for Lent called The Rising. She has a wonderful gift for translating lofty spiritual ideas into the lives of women and children.
There will be the Advent wreath and The Way of Light Wreath, but we’ll be lighting candles extravagantly this month. Over the kitchen sink, first thing in the morning as the house wakes up in the dark, last thing in the evening as we head to bed. I’m stopping at Goodwill this weekend to stock up, but I might even splurge on some lovely beeswax candles too. The scent and rich color are a balm. Dawn is talking about ways to build cozy nests, and her ideas are always so lovely!
Give yourself the gift of a schedule that isn’t over full. Save a little bit of space for that extra shopping trip or the party you didn’t expect. Otherwise the extras that should be drawing us closer will weigh us down and make us more fragmented.
Even the simplest Christmas celebrations usually mean more stuff. Decorations and trees and seasonal books and gifts! But where is it all going to go? Before we welcome this new things that wants to be born, we’ve got to make space.
This is a huge, recurring theme for me. It’s one of Gretchen Rubin’s Secrets of Adulthood: outer order contributes to inner calm. When I’m feeling frazzled and over-extended, there’s a pretty good chance that my space is overrun with too much stuff.
Last year, I discovered the Decluttering as an Act of Self-Care workbook at Right Brain Planner. Reading Teresa’s words really turned on lights for me. Decluttering moved from being a necessary evil, to being the way I can set the stage for the next bit of creating.
Create a Staging Area
As you clear out a little space, see if you can create a staging area. Maybe in a little used closet or a corner of your bedroom. We’ve got an (unheated!) sun porch that I’m going to use. This will be the place where the books we are opening each day are stored until it’s their turn. A place to wrap gifts. A place to hold the rest of the decorations that aren’t being used this year.
Advent is traditionally a season of repentance. It’s a time to prepare our hearts for the wonder of the Incarnation. All this preparing is just a way of welcoming the child, practices of hospitality that make us ready.
One, if by land, two, if by sea / And I on the opposite shore will be / Ready to ride
Feeling a little like Paul Revere these days. I keep warning people–Advent is early this year! Get your candles! Make your plans! It’s coming. A very late Thanksgiving and a very early Advent this year means that Advent begins in November, before St. Andrew’s Day. Who even really knew that was possible?
If Advent is going to be a time of preparation, now is the time to give a little thought to how you will keep the season. Here are a few of our practices to get you thinking in the right direction.
Reading the stories of our redemptive history and coloring together is the anchor to our days during Advent. We use the Children’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos (it’s a three generation book in our family!) and let the stories speak for themselves.
Winter is the time for stories, and nothing is better than a basket full of storybooks and the morning free to read. We unwrap a book every day (from our stash and the library). Presents–and presence–from the beginning.
Keeping these feasts at the beginning of Advent really sets the tone for what is coming. Here are our St Andrew, St Nicolas, Virgin of Guadalupe, and St Lucy Day celebrations from past years. For our simple celebrations, I incorporate three elements–food, art, and story.
And all the rest…
Advent wreaths, cards, gifts, parties, handwork…not to mention church! Now is the time to think through these choices. So that the comfort and joy doesn’t become obligation and stress.