Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advent and the Battle with Our Own Expectations

Yesterday a gaggle of posts began showing up in my facebook feed with a similar theme and it gave me pause.  I spent yesterday mulling over my thoughts as I wrapped up packages and folded laundry and cleaned the house.

The posts talked about the stress of Advent, the rush and bustle and they lamented the demands that we do all these things so that our children might be holy and the pressure that, if we don't do all of these activities in all of their pinterest-ly glory we'll have botched a chance at drawing them closer to God and it will be, quite certainly, the end of the world.

And while I don't think any of the posts I read were directed at this little blog, because frankly, I never assume that anyone other than my Mom reads it (Hi Mom!), I thought I'd talk about these worries and why I do blog about our Advent activities.

Every year Advent in our house looks different.  Some years I've been motivated to go out and find activities and attempt to get my kids to participate in them and it's ended with a flop.  Other years I've done nothing crafty and the world has not come to a screeching stop and my kids still got that Jesus was the reason for the celebration on Christmas day.  I've noticed, in general, the ebb and flow of activities from year to year in our little home directly relates to how pregnant I am, or whether or not there's a brand new baby in the house, which is to say, it is directly related to my energy level, which makes absolute perfect sense (at least around here!).

This is kind of what school
with her is actually like...
She's quite serious about it.
This year I'm motivated and excited.  Things have come together to give me a bit of time to make preparations.  In the mornings Maggie has therapy in the therapy room (right next to where we do our school work) and is completely occupied for three hours.  Sadie begins her mornings with her dearly beloved worksheets and while she occasionally will accept help from me, she doesn't need all that much (I'm watching her do fractions on her own right this second as I type this).  I try to do our quiet activities in the morning, so that we're not distracting to Mae.  And Patch is upstairs taking his 9am-11am nap, which he takes like clockwork every single morning, while sleeping through the noise and cheers of Maggie's lessons.  All of this gives me a bit of time.

It's also helpful that this month Patch is actually sleeping pretty well, which means that I'm at a point in the child raising cycle where I have a little more time and a little more energy than I have had in other years and more than I'll likely have in the future.

All of these factors have conspired to give me time to craft the Advent activities of my dreams this year, in the midst of what has been a rather stressful time.

Of course, as I said above, it's not always like this.  Some years have been frustrating.  The first year I made my Jesse Tree and I was excited about it, but the reality was that my kids were too little to take anything away from it.  Now that Sadie's old enough to be excited about our activities the reward of each little activity that I plan is pretty motivating for me.

Which I guess is a long winded way of getting around to saying that if Advent is stressing you out, take a step back.  Simplify.  Focus on prayer and preparing your heart for the coming of the King.  If pinterest or blogs are making you feel bad about your progression through Advent, close the window.  But maybe also give the people the benefit of the doubt about their motives for posting (because, while I can't speak to everyone's motives, I do believe that more than likely most people aren't trying to make others feel bad when they post about their Advent activities!).

It was especially interesting for me to read the posts I saw yesterday, because my reaction to all the pinterest posts is the absolute opposite reaction I've found myself reading about so frequently.  I love seeking out beautiful pictures on pinterest and blogs for ideas.  Blogs like Charlotte's and Melody's regularly inspire me.  They're words and pictures are just so beautiful.

And I love seeing the Advent pictures that my friends have pinned and have pretty much been using pinterest for that purpose exclusively for the past few weeks.

I know that it's likely my home won't turn out looking like a page out of a home decorating magazine (it will more likely look like a toy factory exploded), but I still like to scroll and dream and be inspired to do a little something extra.  Or I pin the idea and tuck it away for another day (or year) when I have more time and energy and, depending on the project, resources.  I don't tend to think that other people are posting these pictures at me.  I like to think they're posting them as inspiration.

Advent is here.  It will be gone before we know it.  Push away the things that are cluttering your mind and filling it with stress.  If you're one of those people (like me!) who actually find their minds growing quiet when they craft, then craft away.  If the idea of crafts makes you feel like having a panic attack, then think of activities that do fill you with peace.  After all, craftiness is not synonymous with holiness.  And Advent shouldn't make you feel like having a panic attack.

It's the season of preparation and anticipation and that's going to look different for different people.  So throw away the idea of some cookie cutter image and create the Advent that will draw you, and by extension the people around you, closer to the little baby whose birth we are eagerly awaiting.


  1. That last sentence of yours sums it up best, IMHO, especially for people like me. I'm a perfectionist about the way certain things should be, and oftentimes even if those things are good--decorating the house for Advent and Christmas, baking Christmas cookies, increasing prayer or donations at certain times of the year, etc--I tend to let the perfect get in the way of the good: if I can't make 12 different kinds of fancy cookies, or remember to say X prayer or read Scripture every single day, I just won't do it at all! Even though, of course, it's much better to do something like light the Advent wreath and say a prayer before dinner than it is to stress out of my mind because I haven't addressed all the Christmas cards yet, and then let the stress of that determine that I won't bother to light the Advent wreath, of all things.

    It all probably sounds very silly, but I imagine that other perfectionists understand...

  2. Isn't it funny, in our computer driven convenience age, we become hyper of all that we "should" do and don't get done? Is it a spirit of competition (I'm not keeping up with all those spiritual moms who are creating Advent experiences)? I don't know, but I do see that the hyperactivity of what now constitutes the secular "getting ready for Christmas" makes us rush around to get it all done, ironically at a time we're supposed to be quietly waiting.
    I was contemplating a while back about how in an agrarian society God spaced periods of hard work with times of waiting and rest (for instance, hard work planting crops followed by a time of relative rest during growing season; a period of hard work during harvest and storage followed by a season of quiet and relative rest during winter). I was thinking about how during winter people would have nothing else to do but care for the animals, sew, woodwork, repair tools, and sleep. I can imagine them sitting quietly in front of a fireplace, maybe reading, maybe just staring. Nowadays those periods of quiet time are usurped by outside influences pressing us to DO all the time.
    You are so right to advise if crafting or Advent activities make you feel panicked, let it go. For me, to get quiet and calm down I think of Our Lady sitting and quietly sewing to prepare for the birth of her Son, seeing her not worried trying to get it all done, but rather I imagine her letting her mind wander while her hands worked.
    I know with children the nativity means a birth of a baby, and that's most relate-able for them. For me, Christmas means the Incarnation: God made flesh. As an adult, that provides me with a wonderment at Advent: waiting for the coming of the Savior, for God coming into our existence so I can see Him and love Him and accept salvation . That should give anyone pause during this blessed season. God Bless. ~ Bonnie

  3. Amen, Sister. Let us cast off whatever keeps us from Jesus and cling to whatever else does. That's going to look different for all of us every year. I love your blog, too, and find consolation reading the words of someone (your!) who has her heart and hands so invested in blessing her domestic church. God bless!


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