Hello friends! Oh! It’s been so long! Truth be told, these last several months have been a struggle for me. I’ve been in somewhat of a dark place as our family has tried to navigate this life-change of me no longer working. It feels somewhat silly, since this is a dream come true – an answered prayer – but what I’ve come to realize (yet again!) is that transitions are hard, even good transitions. Now that I’m finding some clarity I hope to share some of my struggle with you in the future but that’s not why I’m here today. Today, let’s talk Advent!
A friend called the other day and asked, “What are your plans for Advent….?” Advent is a time of preparation; it’s usually fairly easy to see this preparation of our homes – trees are decorated in our living rooms, lights are strung from our rooftops, the smell of cookies loft from the oven…but amid the hustle and bustle of the holiday parties and Christmas concerts and finalizing of shopping lists and sending of cards it can be easy to neglect the preparation that should take place in our hearts.
Her call came at the perfect time, as I had just been rummaging through our books that very morning. “What are your plans for Advent? Are you using any book in particular?” I started to answer her slowly at first, telling her about the devotional I used last year, but before long I was rattling things off a mile a minute. My heart sings to a life lived seasonally and the liturgical season is no different.
In the off chance anyone is looking for some last minute Advent ideas I thought I’d share with you what we’ll be using this year to prepare our hearts. But before I begin I just want to remind you that this is not another “to-do” list. Using these, or any books, should not be something that should cause one more bit of stress during an already hectic season. To be completely honest with you I rarely actually finish an entire Advent book. Do I feel a bit of guilt about that? Yeah, maybe kind of, but when I really sit back and think about the Advents of the past what I remember is how still and peaceful and how truly in awe I felt in the moments I carved out to pause and reflect and listen… and that’s what it means to prepare our hearts, not finishing another page, chapter, or book.
So, without further ado…..I present to you what’s “On my Nightstand: Advent Addition.”
Rooted in Hope is the devotional I was referring to that I used last year and will be using again this year. Without a doubt this study is what made my Advent season truly enjoyable last year as I juggled the fear and uncertainty of our future with the demands of a newborn babe. I should note with this one that the readings begin on November 30th.
Approaching Christmas is a book a friend told me about the year Stella was born (also a newborn babe during Advent) and I liked it so much that I read it again the following year. I wasn’t able to fit this in last year so I am very much looking forward to picking it up again this season.
Those are the two I will be focusing on over the coming weeks but let us not forget about the kids and the family reads!
Advent Storybook is possibly the cutest little bedtime read you’ve ever seen. This will be our fourth year reading this book. Last year I pulled it out more for the littler kids, thinking my big boys might not be quite as interested anymore, but I was wrong. They still loved it, even if they knew who Benjamin Bear was going to meet nearly every night. I love the little reflections Mama Bear gives when she’s done telling her stories. It’s my dream to someday have (make?) an Advent Calendar to go along with this book. I should note with this one that the readings begin on December 1st and the recommended ages are 4 – 8.
Jotham’s Journey was new to us last year and here’s where I’m going to admit my failures to you…..we never actually finished it. BUT! That being said, my boys LOVED this book. They asked me to read it to them everyday….well, everyday until Mom finally threw up her hands and said “I’m overwhelmed! I’m shutting down now!” I do remember it being a little bit scary in parts so if you have sensitive listeners you might what to do a bit of pre-reading. I actually have sensitive listeners and they were okay, but I do want to warn you of that. The recommended ages are 9 – 12; mine are only 6, 8, and almost 10 this year and I expect them to be fine.
The Jesse Tree and this corresponding book to the ornaments is also something we added last year and will be the foundation of our study of Salvation History for religion for my big kids this year (as I try to get my 6 year old caught up to them so we can all move on together to the next study….but that’s a different post.) If you do a quick google search you can find a lot of Jesse Tree options out there that range from these pre-made ornaments to DIY ornaments. I ordered mine in a season where I didn’t have much margin in my life and making them myself was simply just not going to happen – but any option will work beautifully.
I hesitated including this last book on here, A Boy Called Christmas….I mean….it’s not preparing our hearts for the coming of our Savior….but then I couldn’t resist. This is going to be our fun family read aloud for Advent. I don’t actually know much about this book, as it is brand new to us, but flipping through it it looks like fun. The recommended ages are 8 -12.
In addition to these we will also be reading lots of picture books – you’re never too old for picture books! – and as a family will be listening to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol via Audible while we make and bake.
Whatever you choose for you and your family to prepare your hearts this season I encourage you to really sit in stillness and consider what it is we are preparing for. I am guilty of getting sidetracked by the decorating, and gift giving and the sharing of our home with friends and relatives; all these things are truly great and wonderful and beautiful, but sitting in quiet contemplation of the Incarnation (even if it’s in the Target parking lot!) and pondering the coming of our Lord as a humble, fragile, crying infant….that, THAT is what will truly prepare us for Christmas.
Wishing you a Blessed Advent, my friends.