Sunday, November 30, 2014

Digging Into the Wait

One year ago, I was in a very different place than I find myself today.

One year ago, I dreaded Advent. Experience had led me to believe it would be a painful season, a season that only heightened my feelings of loss and frustration.

One year ago, God surprised me.

Not only with an Advent experience that ended up being full of peace, an experience that taught me more about Him, that helped me take the focus off myself- but weeks into it's celebration when He had already shown up and worked some healing in my soul, we also got the call that changed our lives. Last advent, the Lord met me in powerful ways- both spiritually and tangibly- with the gifts of hope and the (almost) fulfillment of a dream that was to come to fruition just a few weeks into the new year.

This year, I have been eagerly anticipating this time. Remembering dark, quiet mornings, sipping coffee, pondering the stillness. Knowing that there will be mornings I don't quite get to enjoy it that same way this year, but for a pretty good reason. This year, I have a crazy one-year-old careening around the house, pulling ornaments off the tree. We can't put up our stockings or he'll pull them down. He won't understand a bit of what goes on for the next month, but he'll enjoy the sparkly lights, the crinkle of the wrapping paper, the Christmas boxes that will be so much more fun than the actual toys that come inside them. My older son, however, continues in that sweet spot of parenting. Old enough to enjoy, old enough to participate, to continue to learn and young enough to want all three of those things. To find magic in awaiting the Christ child, to anticipate our nightly readings with the Jesse tree. We don't do Santa or the Elf around here- and I'm pretty convinced his Christmas is just as magical, and certainly as or more meaningful, as any other kid's.

This year, though, I want to dig in in a fresh way. I want to blog my way through the experience. I want to see it from my son's eyes, to experience the Jesse Tree like he does, to do my morning Advent Experience and to continue to train my heart that grew up without much idea of liturgy what it means to really live Advent.

So, today I start. This morning I'll start the Advent Project online. Then I will head to church to worship with my community where hymns and choruses will be sung, where the first candle of Advent will be lit. Later this afternoon, I will head back to celebrate with 70 of those people and our children as we make our own, fresh advent wreaths and celebrate the beginning of the season with a meal together.

Let's go, Advent. Let's see what fresh joys and challenges await.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Delight

No one ever said that parenting is easy. Well, maybe somebody said it, but I'm sure if he did he was delusional. Or particularly gifted in dealing with unreasonable and illogical humans. 

I've learned, though, that finding small things to enjoy and delight in each day goes a long way. And one of my favorite parts of being a mother these past 8 years is watching my sons with their father. 

The way my firstborn would wait at the back window with the dog for his daddy to get home from work. 

The way my youngest now goes charging in his loud, passionate way down the hall when he hears the kitchen door open, yelling until his dad picks him up. The difference between the two ways they deal with this is so telling of their personalities- one, cautious, thoughtful and always a little older than he really was and the younger who never stops moving, exploring and throws himself at everything.

Hands down, though, one of my current joys is watching the youngest at the end of dinner. 

It's become habit that when the youngest is clearly finished, my husband will get up and walk over to the piano and play some music to keep dinner time going a little longer so the oldest one (and usually me) can finish our food. The sheer anticipation and joy of that walk and those first few notes played cannot be described with anything other than a video. 

Seriously, people.

The grinning, the clapping, the dancing. The realization dawning on his face of what's going to happen as his daddy walks across the room. It's almost too much. And I know this is one part of the early years that I will miss deeply when he's older. When he goes through apathetic phases or times when he doesn't feel like a rousing family band moment is all that cool. 

It struck me this week as I watched this scene unfold for the umpteenth time, how much my husband's actions mirror the Lord's. How we are going through the day, the regular, mundane activities of cooking, eating, cleaning up and how he sees us. He knows what we delight in. He knows the aspect of His character that we need to see, to know better, to yearn for. And he reveals himself to us. In sweet, moments like this. Like a daddy walking slowly to the piano to create music for his infant, he longs to bring delight to us. I love how watching my husband be a father has shown me so much of my own heavenly Father's heart for us. 

It brings to mind a verse that has always meant much to my music-loving, dancing soul:

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
    he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. 

Zephaniah 3:17 (RSV)

This picture of a God who loves us, who fights for us, who renews us and who covers us with his song. That is a picture of fatherhood that is one worth pondering, one worth embracing. 

I am so grateful my sons are growing up with a daddy who knows how to delight in them and to bring them joy, who is constantly discerning what it means to cover them with his love and exult over them. When the evening piano times fade, as most phases do, I eagerly anticipate what new and fresh and delightful ways the Lord will continue to teach us who He is through this crazy and exhausting thing we call parenting. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

DIY Holiday Luminaries

I am not ashamed to admit that I love the Christmas season. I love the spiritual side of it - the advent readings, the carols, the Jesse Tree, the candlelight Christmas Eve Services. And I love the aesthetic side- the decorating, the twinkle lights, the smells of baking, the parties. All of it, really.

My son shares in my deep love for this. Each year on the day after Thanksgiving, we get down all the boxes, carefully take all our knickknacks down from around the house and replace them with holiday decorations, trim the tree, wrap the banisters and set up the advent wreath, manger scene and Jesse Tree. He has already asked me several times if we can just do it early.

Nope, I'm a stickler. Thanksgiving first, my boy.

In anticipation of that day, however, there is one area of my house I've never felt looked truly finished when decorated- our mantle. I had a little idea rolling around in my mind this fall involving mason jars, glitter, letters and candles and my son was completely on board with making a fun holiday project a few weeks in advance.He loved that it felt like decorating early and I loved that they would be ready for when that actual day comes.

So, without further ado, here is what we did.


3 Large Mason Jars
3 Small Wooden Letters - we chose "J", "O" and "Y". You could obviously adjust and do a longer word with more mason jars.
Mod Podge
Foam Brush
Glitter - we used a white/silver snow-like glitter.
Votive Candles or Tea Lights
Paint or Spray paint- we chose royal blue

First, we covered the mason jar with a layer of mod podge using a foam brush. You don't have to wait for it to get tacky before moving on to the second step, like you do with some projects.

Second, we sprinkled glitter all over the jar.

Repeat steps 1 and 2 until all your jars are glittery.

Third, while the jars were drying, we spray-painted the letters with a royal blue. I also painted the jar tops but didn't end up liking the way they looked on the finished product. We chose spray paint because (a) we already had it in the house and (b) it dries quickly. I did also paint the tops of the jars but ended up not liking the way they looked.

Fourth, we cut some silver and white ribbon and tied it around the tops of the dried mason jars. We added a decorative silver bead at the top to cover where we tied it and left one piece hanging down the middle of the jar. Make sure it's long enough to glue to the back of a letter.

Fifth, once the letters were dry, we got out the hot glue gun and glued the piece of ribbon to the back of each letter. Hot glue dries so quickly you can just hold it there for about 30 seconds and then gently turn it around so it lays against the jar.

Sixth, we raided our candle stash and found three small votive candles and gently placed them inside.

We lit the candles, turned down the lights and were delighted with the results!

I think they'll spice up the mantle nicely.