We lit the Joy candle a day late this year. Parties, celebrating, community. This is what gives me joy. In the midst of all the sweet moments, we had our share of meltdowns and overtiredness because that’s part of this season, too. I often need to remember that it’s ok to reset in the mist of everything. I wrote this for the MOPS Blog and I hope it resonates, one week before Christmas.
We’ve had five years of practice in celebrating Advent with kids. Last year, I caught a glimpse at the results of our hard work and intention. At the time, my four-year-old was finally starting to “get” the daily readings, the candles, the coloring pages and family discussions. We actually start our preparation in November with a thankful tree so that by the time the first week of Advent arrives, we’re in a ritual as a family.
The thing I grapple with most about creating traditions is keeping the magic and wonder of the season alive. I’ve got the details down: Thankful Tree? Check! Christmas tree and decorations after Thanksgiving? Check! Boots out for St. Nicholas with Christmas jammies? Check! Candles and a wreath on our table? Check! Age-appropriate nightly devotional with optional coloring pages? Check!
Without these details, we wouldn’t observe the slower pace of Advent. It would feel like “one more thing” to do during an already busy month. Knowing which details work for our family has helped Advent run a bit more smoothly and has given space for the magic and joy of this season.
But sometimes I get too caught up in these details. I forget to pause and allow for joy and wonder. I focus on the outcome of the moments rather than the moments themselves. How can I live in the wonder of discovering the point of our Nativity if I’m so busy creating “easy” moments and experiences?
Some of my friends thrive on spontaneity and magical moments come naturally for them. Joy is not something they plan into their lives. Even as I write this, I know that joy is so much deeper than the plans themselves.
But I also am a realist and know that even the best intentions of letting go of holiday expectations can be forgotten in the midst of everything we juggle. I’m remembering that God created me as a detail-oriented planner and I can find joy within my nature.
It’s not too late to pause and recalibrate. I’ll do self-checks throughout this season to make sure I’m truly enjoying all that we’ve planned. If I’m not, I remember it’s not too late to fix it! What can I let go of or reframe so that I’m less focused on the details and more focused on the reason I planned those details?
If you’re like me, and can feel a bit lost in the midst of holiday expectations, can I offer a few ways to keep your joy at the center of all the plans?
Write down what reminds you of the birth of Jesus.
I know this sounds cheesy, but think about which activities you do during this time that bring the focus back to the manger. Is it a personal devotional each morning? Is it playing Christmas hymns in the car or while you make dinner? Is it lighting the Advent candles each night with your family? Whatever keeps that focus at your core, find time to do it every day. Keep it simple!
Decide what you can outsource.
I can’t do it all, nor do I want to. I have a friend who loves crafting with her kids and they sit together cutting out leaves for their Thankful Tree each year. That’s not me. So, I go to our local teacher supply store and buy precut bulletin board leaves. The outcome is the same and it guarantees success for our family. Likewise, my mom has a tradition of baking cutout cookies each year for our annual Christmas party. It’s time consuming and messy and feels like one more thing. But it’s a sweet time of creativity and bonding for her and my girls. Buy something ready-made or find a friend, neighbor or relative who loves doing that. Asking for help is a great way to bring your community together.
Remember that each year is different.
Our first year of Advent as parents looked vastly different from last year, which will look different from this year. I’m learning to gauge what works and doesn’t work and adjust as needed. This may mean that we only read a Bible verse at dinner, rather than a whole devotional. Or maybe this year, we’ll have time to color all the ornaments for a Jesse tree instead of a few selected coloring pages. Remember the practice of this season – we are creating traditions and rituals to help shape our kids’ faith. Keep it about them!
All of these small things helps me remember the joy of the season. As much as I’d love to go back to a time before consumerism and parties and the chaos of December, I am remembering that this is the world I live in. How do I find joy within our cultural norms and expectations? How do I keep Christ at the center of our anticipation? By working to make space in the midst of it all, I am finding joy and Christ in all the details of the season.
How’s Advent going for you this year? What are you learning? How do you make space for resets?
Originally posted on The MOPS Blog: http://blog.mops.org/advent-2017-making-space-joy-details/.
4 thoughts on “Making Space for Joy in the Details”
I’ve been thinking about how caught up int he details I can get too, Annie. Thanks for these helpful suggestions, even for an empty nester.
Wait…. Life doesn’t magically get easier and more spacious with an empty nest?! 😉 Love that these are universal lessons.
Boy, busy is about right. Work has been a bear this year. I have not been home (travel) or I have been getting home as late as Midnight. Incredibly, 12 to 15 hour work days have been the norm. Even Sundays have been impacted. I think it has to do with the day of Christmas falling on a Monday. I work in Theatre exhibition. So this is the busiest time of the year and this year, add that we were sold to new ownership and it closed on the 8th. Star Wars opened the 15th. New films hit the 20th, 22nd, and 25th. Projector equipment issues, Banking switch over issues, staffing issues… My family coordinated the Angel Tree at our Church, (Hectic, but ultimately rewarding). There have been more than a few days that have been a struggle. However, when we have been able to sit, light the candles, read the devotionals as a family it has been a huge game changer. It has helped these in between days to be more palatable. I have been reminded of the struggles Christ himself faced and how he overcame them. And for that reminder I and my family have been thankful. My daughter Gianna has loved it. She has no problem with discussing her thoughts each night after the reading and payer. In the end that is all that matters to me. In her I see the love of Christ, that keeps me going. The days we cannot be together I encourage them to read on there own. I do, wherever I am physically. I am most thankful for the advice you dispensed – Keep it simple this year. Doing so have created a central focus of learning and discussion. The wreath, the candles, the readings – even when I walk into a sleeping house, I see the wreath and take a moment to be thankful, no matter my weariness of the day.
I love this! We don’t light the candles every day because…life…. But seeing the wreath on the table, knowing its meaning and presence. That helps me pause, even when the details crowd out the practice.