Tag Archives: advent

Family Advent Time

It’s advent season again.

In our home we set up candles on a table in the corner of the living room and hang the felt tree with pieces to put up each day from December 2 to December 25. Various nativity scenes also take over the table, placed there by the children to whom they belong.

In an ideal world, each day we would gather as a family in the living room, have a system for who goes first, rotating by year to give all a fair shot at the manger on Christmas morning. We have yet to find that ideal place.

The routine has become to gather in the living room, figure out whose night it is to put up the piece, have the piece placer place the piece, struggle through where the piece will be placed, have the piece placed, have the piece placer read the corresponding Scripture, choose a carol, and close with prayer and snuffing out the candle.

Life is never routine here, so often pieces pile up leaving several to do in one night.

Allow me to give a recent example . . .

IMG_2720

It’s a three-candle night. The pile of pieces rests on the table next to butterfly binoculars and a Rudolph headband craft. Let’s back it up.

advent

Here you have a clearer view of the xbox controllers and sundry nativities. And the placement of pieces on (or off of) the tree.

This is a five or six piece night, which tells you that we have not been consistent with advent. Child one takes his first turn.

Kirk advent

Some improvising takes place, invoking laughter, an inside family joke inserted where the angel of the Lord is supposed to be making an announcement. We laugh and regroup.

Kanah advent

Sort of.

The next child reads, adding her version of humor before putting up a piece and choosing a song.

Chloe advent

And so on, until . . .

Finally the baby gets a turn.

Mairi advent

Notice that the sheep is taking a bite of the pear. That is important.

felt tree

And here you have what the felt advent tree looks like once we have caught up with it. Tomorrow is a new day, and we will try again.

Friendship Friday ~ Soul Mates

I bought this ornament for Steve in 2002. I know this, because 2002 is written in black Sharpie on the back.

It is 2014.

That means I gave this to Steve twelve years ago.

Twelve years ago, we had been married for ten years.

It didn’t feel like we were soul mates back then. I know this, because we started working on our stuff eight years ago, and it certainly wasn’t feeling very soulmate-ish at that point! It was feeling more like yoke-fellows, camp counselors, teammates, boarding house operators, partners in crime.

What were feelings, anyway?

Eight years ago, we had been married for fourteen years.

And by started working on our stuff I mean taking the first tiptoes into healthier emotional places with our seven children in tow.

We didn’t really start working until sometime after that, and then, mostly individually. We still have a lot of couple work to do.

So how could I get Steve a Soul Mates ornament in 2002?

I had hope. I had faith. I was committed to trying.

I deeply desired to be whatever “soulmates” is, which, I think might be kind of over-rated and over-used.

I married a good man. A good, broken, messed-up man. A hilariously funny, completely creative, extroverted mess of a man.

He married a broken-down mess of a girl. A nightmare disguised as a daydream to quote from current pop culture.

I think that might qualify us as soulmates in the fine print.

Those who know us in real life may or may not be surprised to find that we have struggles. Really big struggles. We try not to keep that a surprise and to just let people know that we do.

We struggle.

In the midst of the laughter and the weekends away and the coffee dates and the facebook updates, there is heartache and disillusionment and disappointment and pain.

We hurt each other.

We are hurt by each other.

We annoy each other.

We are annoyed by each other.

We shut down.

We hide.

We keep trying.

through a glass darkly

One day we will no longer see through a glass darkly and will be able to rejoice in what really IS. Until then we are choosing to live together and to love together and to walk together into the dark, rainy messy places where there is beauty reflected in the broken. Together.

Soul Mates.

I love mine.

So. Much.

Keepsake from the Chaos

Married January 4, 1992, I was expecting my second child in March, 1994.

Our first married Christmas together was not as a couple but as a family. Our second Christmas together, we were Awaiting our second little lamb.

This ornament was made for me by a new friend that year. A woman older and wiser and more virtuous with many more children who also had time (or made time) to make crafts, gave this to me.

It became a treasured keepsake.

Even as I think back and remember, my eyes fill with tears.

So young. So idealistic. So much ahead. So much already broken at 22.

None of us knows the journey before us. That is a good thing. I daresay any of us would be able to get out of bed if we knew.

I don’t know what prompted my friend to make this and give it to me. I can’t remember.

I’d like to think it was an older mother reaching out to a younger, overwhelmed one in a way that she knew.

We walked a long path together for many years. Our paths changed in ways we never would have imagined that Christmas of the craft. Our paths cross in unexpected ways these days.

I hold this, and her, close to my heart each year as I lovingly hang this mama sheep ever-awaiting her little lamb.

It’s a special keepsake from the chaos of my life back in ’93. It reminds me that somebody saw.

Our second little lamb will be home in a week. He is not so little, anymore, and I have to let him be an adult. That is hard. Hard, yet necessary and good.

I remember holding that little one. My smallest baby who always wanted to be held close. Sent to a mother who didn’t know what it meant to feel or trust but who knew that babies need love, so she would try really hard.

She tried. 

Remembering 2011 at Christmas

I made this for myself Christmas 2011. I know this, because there is a small 11 on one leg of the sheep.

2011 was a big year for me.

I went to China in March, 2011.

I went to Texas in August, 2011.

I went to The Journey in October, 2011.

I picked up a plain wooden sheep ornament at Gift and Thrift for $.25 that December and created a priceless reminder of what my heart was invited to in 2011.

IMG_2621

I turned 40 in 2011. It was a big year.

This helps me remember.

So It Was

The first decoration to grace my tree was not even mine. A snowman belonging to Little Mae appeared at the top.

Here, Mommy. You can use this for your angel.

And so it was.

And so the tree stayed, and stayed, and stayed this way.

IMG_2580

Until an eleven-year-old bundle of crazy-making boy nonchalantly entered the room, announcing that I could have this star that he made as a decoration for my tree.

I don’t really need to hang it on the living room tree.

And so it was.

And so it remained, and remained, and remained for more days.

candycanes

Until two boxes of candy canes were purchased to be hung by the kids on the family tree (2 boxes, 12 per box, divided by 4 kids equals 6 per kid to hang). Two canes mysteriously appeared on my tree, flanking the star.

One for mommy and one for daddy.

And so it was. Such generosity.

And so it remained for time and time and half a time until I finally got up the gumption to just open my ornament box and begin hanging things.

The moment didn’t have to be perfect.

The decorating happened four days later than the very latest I was hoping for, because I do that to myself. Put on this immense pressure to. . .decorate a plastic tree? Really to just do whatever it is I think needs to be done in whatever context I happen to be living.

my tree 2014

The ornaments hanging are mostly sheep, but there are others belonging to Steve and to both of us that also grace the tree.

I have a lot of sheep.

Many moons ago, Steve started a tradition of giving me some sort of a sheep ornament each year. Add to that ornaments made or given by friends and children, and I have quite an eclectic collection.

Such a story.

Always a story. Never enough time for all of the telling. Thanks for reading what there is.

More to come. . .maybe. (There! Now I can take the pressure off.)

In the Space

My little Gift and Thrift tree is set up in the space. It was purchased for not too much money a few years ago at my favorite thrift shop. I love that the branches stay attached and just kind of fold up, and that it assembles in two pieces.

I am not good about fluffing it to make it look real, though I am not sure how real a plastic tree can look. Once the ornaments are hung, it looks better.

The colored lights are strung, as I am a colored lights girl. Actually, I love the look of both colored and white together, but I also like using what I have, and this is it.

Decorating is not going according to plan. I removed the ornament box from our room when I realized that all we were doing was tripping over it. I know the decorating will happen, I am struggling to hold its timing very, very loosely.

So that is where things stand, and it is hard.

In the grand scheme of life it is not that big of a deal.

In fact, I am hearing a lot of things inside that try to minimize the hope and anticipation that I feel over the small act of unpacking my memories and hanging them for a season as a reminder of God’s goodness and faithfulness to me over the years.

Too much trouble.

Why bother?

There are bigger issues in the world and in other people’s lives.

But this is my life. And these are my issues. And I will continue to hope and wonder.

I will continue to be encouraged by women like this who remind me that it’s okay to hope and to show up in the space slowly and quietly.

Thistlehair and Kringle Bear

Our first Christmas as a teenage couple was in 1987, 27 years ago. I know this because that is the date on Kringle Bear’s scarf, and Kringle was one of the gifts I gave to Steve on our first Christmas together. Kringle came with a name already stitched onto the front of its stocking cap.

Thistlehair was named by me. I know this because Thistlehair is just a big, brown bear with no hat, scarf, or date and that is what I have always called him.

I saw him in the window of a store while shopping at Ballston Common Mall in Arlington with Steve on one of our teenage dates and expressed my longing for a big stuffed bear.

Steve got me that big, brown bear.

Somehow both have survived the 27 years that have passed since they were purchased by two teenagers in love, full of hopes and dreams of future Christmases together.

When the idea of unpacking memories and making space for my heart to feel struck me, it seemed like a good one. Two days later, I’m not so sure. My heart is feeling big feelings, and making space for that means creating a lot of tears.

I got home from work, this first day after Thanksgiving break, sailing through the pain in my back on an ibuprofen breeze, and retired to my room for some down time before the choir run began. Waiting in my messages was a song from a friend.

Instant tears.

About halfway through listening, my phone rang. I debated answering it, the sobs in my throat impossible to disguise, but I knew that my baby sister would understand.

She did.

She was quiet while I cried, while I tried to put words to the feelings behind the tears. We both found words that we needed for some hard places in our lives right now. Together.

One observation that she made was, The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas has always been really hard for you. And that’s not BAD. It’s just hard.

I have been pondering her words and how much truer they ring than probably she even knows. She was still in utero when I celebrated that first Christmas with my true love. When my true love gave to me, a bear that has grown mange-y.

Mange-y is a term of endearment that Coco and I have for her well-loved collie and any other stuffed animal that has taken on a real appearance as a result of being loved. She was thrilled to find that I, too, have a mange-y animal with matted fur and a peeling nose.

Back to Thistlehair.

I know that his name came naturally that year, so I decided to do some research and discovered this song on youtube. It makes complete sense, since Alabama was a much-listened to group in our home. My mom must have had the Christmas album.

I haven’t heard the song since, but when I found it on Saturday, I listened and did that laugh-cry. My kids listened and just laughed.

Creating Space

There is a breath mark between Thanksgiving and Advent, where the giving of thanks makes way for the light beginning to shine in the darkness. Some years offer natural space for this transition, allowing more time for preparation. Other years call for an intentional creating of space.

This year there is the tiniest of breath marks between the two.

This year calls for creating space.

I am making that choice in several ways, most obviously with physical space created in my room for the setting up of my own Christmas tree. There is a story behind this tree (isn’t there always?), and last year it served a different purpose. My ornaments remained boxed in the basement.

As Advent 2014 dawns, I feel a pull to create space in a less obvious way by making room to care for my heart. This looks like taking time to unpack my ornaments and the memories that they hold. It looks like remembering back to Christmases along my journey and holding my heart in those seasons.

There are many traditions, intentional and not, that have built up and taken place over the years. I feel a draw to unpack them from the haphazardness of my heart as I unpack my haphazard totes.

Maybe you have physical items to unpack.

Maybe there are only memories.

Maybe you will create your own space and join me.

Maybe you will create space to just rest.

Guide Us

Because of God’s tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace.
Luke 1:78-79

Am I the only one sitting in darkness tonight?

I wonder.

I sit heavy-hearted, longing for the light from heaven to break upon me.

It was family Christmas tonight. Cousins and grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends gathered for our traditional Christmas Eve celebration. The house was full, the food was delicious, the gifts were plentiful.

Except for that one that I forgot. Sorry, D. Thanks for grace!

And yet…

All is not picture-perfect. There is heartache and unmet longing and disappointment. There is sickness and pain. There is mess.

There are hard words to hear and hard realities to face. There are let-downs and sorrows and tears. There is darkness.

This season has not been what I expected or what I hoped it might.

It is what it is to be this year. I long to rest confidently in that as I continue to walk the path created uniquely for me. Sadly, I struggle. I resist the tidings of comfort and joy.

So my prayer tonight, these last hours of Christmas Eve, is for God to guide me, to guide us, to the path of peace.

Rise, Shine

Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see.
    For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you.
 Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth,
    but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you.
 All nations will come to your light;
    mighty kings will come to see your radiance.
Look and see, for everyone is coming home!
Your sons are coming from distant lands,
your little daughters will be carried home.
Your eyes will shine,
and your heart will thrill with joy,
Isaiah 60:1-5

At the beginning of the month, when I decided to focus on walking in darkness, seeking the light, I didn’t realize how literally dark and quiet the blog would remain. There is simply too much life happening to stop and write and post and then wonder if anyone cares.

There are real-life people around me needing and doing real-life things. I am engaging in real time which means that cyber-time waits.

There is a lot to ponder and keep in my heart and process and wonder over.

There are places in my home that quietly shine with the reminder that though the darkness grows longer and deeper these days, the light shines sines in the darkness and the darkness is not overcome.

The light above was a gift from a friend who has since moved on and away to a different leg of her journey but who walked with me through some dark places in mine. She was my phone-a-friend as we mothered a batch of babies together (my second, her first) and met for coffee dates and took a class together.

She bought this for me on an outing one fall, and it brightens my dark upstairs hallway each night. I call it the light of friendship.

I received her Christmas letter and picture the other day, and waves of tears crashed over me, a reminder that choosing to love deeply and engage as fully as possibly, opens one up to the pain of loss.

And as I grieve losses such as that, I rejoice as adult children begin to gather from (literally) all over to reconvene for the Christmas season. There is great joy in being all together under the same roof if only for a few days or weeks.

Enjoy this beautiful music this morning. The light IS coming!