Tuesday, November 29, 2016

One Woman's Pre-Advent Checklist

Advent is a season for waking up to all the ways Christ comes to us.  Yes, the themes of Advent help us celebrate and commemorate his first coming in the Incarnation.  They encourage us to anticipate his second coming in glory - of course!  But there is also such a thing as the third coming of Christ; that is, all the ways in which Jesus comes to us now, bringing light for our darkness, peace for our turmoil, hope for our despair.

I don't know about you, but it takes some level of thought and planning for me to fully be present to the Advent season.  To still my heart, to calm my mind, to carve out substantial pockets of silence and solitude. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak when it comes to being a fully focused Christ wait-er, worshiper, adorer.

Like you, I'm craving that sacred light, yearning for His radiant peace, in need of a big portion of hope.

But honestly?  I realize that I can't be in that place of joyful expectancy without intentionally taking care of as much holiday busy-ness ahead of time as reasonably possible.

Over the years, I've learned this lesson the hard way, trying to cram far too much frenetic activity {much of it meaningless} into too short a space of time.

I've had to learn to weed through all the expectations {mostly self-imposed} and opportunities {most of which I didn't care about} to create a holiday rhythm that was meaningful to my soul even while getting things done that need to get done.

And let the ridiculous load of excess go undone.

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The pre-Advent checklist?

Come early November, I can't wait to see the candles in the windows, lit and glowing bright in the gray of dusk, in the dark of night.

By the end of the month the tree is up and ready to roll, its quiet twinkling lights reminding me that yes, all is calm, all is bright.  The grandkiddos will be set free to decorate it any way they'd like when they arrive a few days before Christmas.

check

I've pestered my daughters for wish lists, to give me some fairly specific clues of what they'd like to see under the tree for themselves, for their men, and of course, the six kids.

And as they comply, I take full advantage of Amazon's free shipping, and whenever I reach that $49 minimum, I'm hitting that pale orange Place your order bar on the right side of the screen.  With a very thankful heart.

For I loathe crazed last minute shopping marathons and avoid them like the plague.

check

The house is doesn't exactly overflow with places to nestle lots of spare decorations, so I'm beginning to wonder just how to decorate the mantle ... maybe some old and shabby Santas perched on aged books, bindings edged in faded green?

My husband suggests a home for my grandma's fragile manger scene upstairs atop the oak bookcase, the one with the glass doors.  And I'm finagling a location in the living room for a big ol' ironstone bowl filled with my prized vintage glass ornaments.

check

I'm lining up December's calendar and sighing just a bit in relief as meetings and weekly groups are canceled.

This reluctant lazy cook is starting to figure out what meals to whip up for Christmas week, what goodies I might bake if the spirit moves.  My shopping list begins to gradually take shape, scrawled on the back of an abandoned envelope.

check  

One more task accomplished, one more item checked off the to-do list, one less obligation to fulfill.  The big stuff, the must-dos are completed.  And sheer gratitude mixes with a warm anticipation as I begin to shift gears, slowly, subtly.  I catch myself smiling and sighing with a festive, yet peaceful relief as I putter away around this place we call home.




Come December's arrival, my soul wants to sing, 'oh come to my heart, Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for Thee.'

And be able to joyfully share His outrageously generous love with whoever He brings across my path.

Let's talk holiday rhythms, Advent preparation, your victories, your near disasters ...






Read on ...
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my first ever Christmas post, 8 years later!

superb thoughts on thorny relationship issues

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46 comments:

  1. About 5 years ago I realized Christmas should be about kids and family, not trying to present a perfect Christmas to others. So.........I'm looking at my tree that the kids decorated. The top 1/3 is blue and white lights, the rest are multi colored lights.........and it's perfect. The light up candy canes outside are askew because little hands couldn't get them properly into the ground........and it's perfect. My holiday card this year is a mish mash of pictures taken thru the year instead of a formal picture........and it's perfect. I can't wait to see how the cookies look............or the wrapping paper..........I bet it will be perfect!!!

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  2. Exactly!

    I wish I had done the same as you when my kids were young, Valerie. I was too busy trying to create a pristine Country Living magazine scenario to impress my friends instead of offering lots of grace and a free hand to my girls.

    Perfection is overrated, impossible to attain, and a pain in the neck for those who have to live with a mama tryin' to go there.

    Your home, your decor, and your holiday greetings all sound wonderfully creative and laid back. {And I'd love if you'd mail me a card!}

    Advent's sweetest blessings to you and yours, dear ...

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  3. Linda, you've accomplished so much already for the Christmas season, yet it reads like all the tasks flowed gracefully and peacefully, entwined with joy! Having endured so many Christmas seasons now, I realize all that is necessary gets done eventually. I guess that is the blessing of growing older--the wisdom of time.

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    1. I like how you phrased that, Lynn ... 'the blessing of growing older--the wisdom of time.'

      So beautifully said, so necessary to hear.

      Delete
  4. Seeing your photo of Ann Voskamp's study reminded me to get my copy out and spend some time soaking in God's truth today. I'm working on decorating the house today since I'm home with a sick child. Lots on my to-do list, but I'm making headway.

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    1. Yep, today's the first day of the book! I'm off to grab a bit of breakfast and hunker back down under the covers. I can't wait to launch into this year's advent adventure!

      Thanks for joining us here, Sarah ...

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  5. Hi Linda,
    I love all the peace and tranquility here today! I imagine your home as a quiet haven dressed for the holidays, yet ready to welcome your children and grandchildren whenever they arrive. I don't care for the frenetic rush either and avoid the malls if I can so I'm right there with you doing the Amazon shopping for boxes delivered right to my door! And I I think when it's quieter, we can more deeply appreciate this Advent season . . . xoxox

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    1. Quiet. Yes, yes.

      We hear each other's hearts on this needed grace.

      Why am I not surprised?

      Delete
  6. Quiet is where it's at for me this year! I just checked out Ann's advent book from the library at the bidding of another fellow blogger who is leading a weekly check in and craft party inspired by it. I think I'm over the malls this year-- maybe even leaving the house in general?! I just want to soak in my family ...and free shipping. Can't wait to see more of your holiday home!

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    1. And you said this, Heather -->' I just want to soak in my family ...and free shipping.'

      I couldn't agree more!

      Glad you're here today, too ...

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  7. Oh, yes! It sounds as if you are applying all your lessons on the listening life from 2016 to your final month of celebration. I'm trying to do that as well. Thanks for this lovely list with all its delightful "checks"! That word always makes me happy!

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    1. check check check

      I'm with you, Michele ... I love when a to-do list is completed!

      {But is it ever?!}

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  8. Thank you, Linda, for reminding us all to slow down and take one step at a time during this reflective and joyful season of Advent. I plan to do just that (and let my oldest granddaughter help decorate the tree)!
    Blessings!

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    1. Have fun with your granddaughter, Martha. Aren't those the sweetest of times ... especially those 1 - 1 moments where it's all about just you and her?

      Bliss.

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  9. I loved the advent quote at the beginning of your post.

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    1. Ruth Haley Barton writes some rich advent words indeed ...

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  10. It's wonderful to claim the quiet when we can, isn't it, friend? Our lives can so easily go from 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye. I'm praying this is a season of silence for all of us. Blessings!

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    1. I hear ya', June ... and too much of that 0 to 60 leaves us exhausted and frazzled, doesn't it.

      A season of silence. Yes and amen. 'Peace, be still ...'

      Delete
  11. Linda,
    I love your heart and how you're planning ahead. I have two more weeks of school...and we're not exchanging gifts with the adults so that reduces the stress a lot :-) Many blessings and hugs to you :-)

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    1. Ah ... I remember those weeks at school right before a holiday. Not an easy time at all, is it, Dolly. I'm praying for a peaceful, focused heart and mind for you even as we speak.

      You're gonna run away with straight A's ... I just know it!

      ;-}

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  12. our school year ends in December in South Africa... so it is a mad dash to December... I felt quitter just reading this... I try to do as much beforehand too.

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    1. Oh Jandi, that's a real collision of busyness! I'd love to hear how you navigate it all ...

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  13. I should get myself a list like this. Hope it's not too late. :)

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    1. Nah ... it's NEVER too late, dear Lux!

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  14. I love this! It's so easy to surround ourselves with activity and lose sight of the point of the season. Those moments of quiet reflection are so important. And planning ahead definitely helps. Tonight's plan is to put up the tree and place an Amazon order- I'm so grateful for online shopping!

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    1. Enjoy the tree-trimming, Lesley! Hot cocoa, too?

      Advent comfort and joy to you ...

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  15. Wonderful post, My Friend! I am making lists and checking them twice--but working on keeping balance in my life. Thank you for the timely reminder.
    Blessings!

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    1. This sure is the most unbalanced month of the year, isn't it? For all us balance seekers, it doesn't take much to make us feel a bit out of kilter.

      One day at a time ...

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  16. Hi Linda! (I make lists on old envelopes too!)
    I am hoping that the next few days will start to slow down for me, but I just seem to be chasing my own tail a lot. So much to do... I don't remember ever being this unsettled at Christmas time.
    I love your intentional work, so you can be freed up for quiet and reflection. I need that, and I hope that next week, I'll finally fall into some kind of routine.
    I guess that makes me a 'balance seeker' for sure!
    Blessings,
    Ceil

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    1. I hear you, Ceil. Sometimes our best laid plans vanish like dust in the wind and we can't quite figure out what's happened.

      Your word 'unsettled' is one that I often use and I think that sometimes it's the best way to sum up where we are. I try to pay attention to the what and why of it ... and often am surprised at what I discover.

      Thank God, He's not at all surprised. He loves us so.

      So ... give yourself grace, dear friend. This has been a difficult year for you, there is grief pooled in there, things are not the same as they were, are they.

      And please know I am praying for you. Grace and peace.

      Grace and peace.

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  17. Ahhh how we love to break out the decorations while listening to Christmas music. Perhaps with some egg nog!
    And oh how I love Amazon :)

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    1. Or maybe some mulled cider?

      ;-}

      Hope you've had a blast decorating this weekend, Sarah!

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  18. Love this post, Linda. I have to say that I'm not as organized as you are, but reading this did give me a feeling of peace. Maybe I will put some thought into what I can do in advance. :)

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    1. I'm glad you've found a little bit of peace here, friend. Your kind words have warmed my heart on this chilly winter's night ...

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  19. Hehehe, I love how organized you are!! I need to take a lesson from your book. This pre-Advent season I am reading through an old Lutheran hymn book I found... the old hymns for this season are soooooo inspiring!!! Anyhoo, great post my friend! <3 - http://www.domesticgeekgirl.com

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    1. Aren't those old hymnals just packed with deep truths and beautiful theology? They make the best devotional prayer books ...

      Thanks for the reminder to unearth them from piano benches, Gingi.

      Delete
  20. Sounds like you're finding those little corners and spots all over your much smaller home to light a candle or display a vintage Santa, Linda. I do hope you're enjoying this new home by the sea. I pray daily for your adjustment, since I know that last year was such a blur for you--grief and all. I'm making some choices to cut way back this year in the usual busy season. I don't even know yet if I'll decorate since our family is converging on Gary's parent's house in east Tennessee this year. But I do miss the fun of it all sparkling throughout my house. We'll see. ;-)

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    1. East Tennessee, huh?

      Sounds like coziness and sweet home-away-from-home. I hope your time there's a delight and a refreshment for your souls. I know this has been a rough autumn for you ...

      Comfort and joy, friend.

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  21. Spent most of Thursday decorating house and tree. Unfortunately, it exhausted me and I realize doing all this prep alone is a lot for one person. ......BUT I love to decorate and now enjoying the lights and "glitter." And I say hoooooray for Amazon. Would love to shop local but never can find what I need. Have not stopped listening to Christmas music and the selections are endless on Amazon prime streaming!!! Pentatonix seem to be my fav accapella group this year and Mary, Did You Know seems to say it all.

    Wish we could visit for the holidays and miss ya endlessly

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    1. It is exhausting, isn't it?

      I used to do everything in one gigantic marathon, these days I'm doing just a couple of things, enjoying it, and then returning another day when the spirit moves me.

      On the agenda today? Wreaths for the front doors. With shells on them.

      Where's that glue gun?

      ;-}

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    2. Oh, cool ... dear Lulu has shared Pentatonix in action!

      Go here -->
      http://www.loralujames.com/2016/12/what-gift.html

      Stunning melodic simplicity.

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    3. FYI- WED
      DEC 14
      8:00PM
      A Pentatonix ChristmasNEW
      NBC
      Vocal group Pentatonix performs favorite holiday tunes as well as modern songs. Appearing: Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson.

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    4. Thanks for the heads up, Carol!

      ;-}

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  22. I feel peace and a sense of order when I read this post. Your preparations are paying off because you are finding time to seek, lean in and listen. That's what it is all about. Christmas presents come and go but the time your spend with family and friends will last forever.

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    1. Oh I'm so glad this has ministered to your spirit, Mary. Thank you for your gift of encouragement.

      You warm my heart ...

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  23. I love the quiet and stillness this time of year. Every night I read a few pages in Ann's book and look up at our lighted Christmas tree. No ornaments yet or cards filled out -- hopefully this weekend. But in the light of the tree I forget about the to-do's and rest in the quiet.

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'I want the people in my life to know that when they come to me, with whatever is on their mind or heart, they will be heard. I am dedicated to hearing the hearts of those around me.'
~ Adam McHugh, The Listening Life

Linda