Wow, its almost Advent! Its the most
But if you're like me and have a steady stream of awesome Catholic blogs in your reader, you know that it can also be the craftiest time of the year. And it can also seem like the time of year where there are the most saint days, the most activities, the most things you can do to expose your children to the wonders of the Church.
It's probably just me and my allergy to crafts, but I feel a little anxiety when I see how much some families do. I also know that most of these families are in a completely different stage of life than we are, they have children who can dress themselves! I'm usually keeping my head above water just trying to cloth 5 kids and throw 3-almost-squares at them. Any extras end up taking a toll on our day's routine and/or my mental health!
There are also a lot of challenges we can't change about this time of year. As much as we want to experience Advent to the fullest ourselves, we're also the ones who have to meticulously coordinate every aspect of Christmas, (which happens at the end of Advent in case you didn't know). So we're caught between wanting to practice Advent, complete with not hauling out every piece of Christmas themed decor we own, but still having a long list of to-dos for the next month.
We all need to just take a breath. Relax a little. Maybe put an "Advent" shot of Bailey's in our coffee and calm-the-jesse-tree-down.
We can only do so much. But what will destroy the prayerful, anticipatory, and reflective attitude we wish to cultivate for Advent if there is too much busy-ness, freaking out about too many crafts and ideas, and forcing toddlers to sit through five hours worth of prayers. As moms we've got to plan and prepare our expectations as well as our activities for the season, and we should do so now so that not only are the kids not disappointed but neither are we!
What makes for a relaxed, reasonable, and hopefully prayerful practice of Advent (or so I've been told!) boils down to three things. One: get a good handle on all of what needs to get done for Christmas. Two: planning out even our Advent activities carefully, and Three: making sure we make our own spiritual preparation for Advent a priority.
For Number One I recommend doing as much online shopping as you can. I really can't get to stores often, and when I can its usually only for those life necessities like food, so instead of running around and being frustrated by my lack of gift progress I'm just ordering toys, books, etc online. It may cost a little more, I may not have checked out every possible toy selection out there, but its done and that's worth it for my time and sanity. It does require some thought in advance but its do-able. The Christmas food and such I'm trying to do a little each week to not make it too stressful, and I'm really only baking a small bit to create an illusion of a homemade Christmas! We're also not going to a ton of Christmas functions, but trying to keep to the ones either the kids or us parents enjoy the most.
Number Two - I'm making sure we only do a select amount of Advent traditions and/or activities, which can be hard because there are so many amazing ideas and activities on the internet, which I think is great! We have an Advent wreath and talk about preparing for Jesus and have done so for the last couple years. This year because the kids have progressed quite a lot in saying prayers, we're going to add praying each day the Advent wreath prayers from Lisa Hendey's book O Radiant Dawn: 5-Minute Prayers Around the Advent Wreath. St. Nicholas day complete with shoe presents and maybe a small craft that the kids can do that won't kill me, is also a day we all enjoy observing. We'll also try to go to Mass for either the Immaculate Conception or Our Lady of Guadelupe and have a special dinner, but we'll talk about the saints days just like we always do and probably do some reading if we're lucky. Then I'm going to try to hold out as long as I can on the Christmas decorations. And that's it. I'm going to be relaxed and ok with that amount, I swear! I think the most important part of creating a home that practices living the liturgical year is the knowledge of what it means and what it spurs us to do spiritually. This really means talking about it, praying about it, and creating a noticeable difference between liturgical seasons in our homes be it through physical things like the advent wreath and no christmas decorations, through our food, like simple meals etc, and other traditions that appeal to the children's ages.
Number Three: In paying attention to what I think my children are capable of I also have to come to grips with what I'm capable of too. My kids are pretty young, and just beginning to grasp the meaning of Advent and its importance which is exciting to see! But my younger babies still take up most of my time and adding anything extra to my day adds a lot of work. So I know I shouldn't be picking all the crafts, all the meals, all the feasts. I've got to remember that we teach our kids about Advent every year. I don't have to cram everything in one year, in order to fulfill the baptismal promises I made when I got my kids baptized! I'm also going to try really, really hard to keep up with my own advent preparation in trying to fit in some devotional Advent reading, and carving out time to keep up my own prayer. If you've still got just young babies take this Advent to prepare just yourself, with reading and prayer and anything you can fit in. That's great Advent preparation and will rub of on your babies now and in the future, trust me!
We've got to try and live not only Advent, but the entire liturgical year, not as something extraordinary but as seasons we live with the entire Church that are woven into our ordinary days. In being intentional in how we can best incorporate and practice the liturgical year we'll also be able to do it with minimal stress while growing in God's love.
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