We got home Sunday evening from Chicago and made great time, enough so that we were able to light our wreath for the first day and start our St. Andrew prayers and Jesse Tree. Yesterday, we took out our Nativity sets and set them up. It is such a joy to see the boys get so flipped-out excited to unwrap each piece and decide where to put it. Michael insisted on putting one of the sets upstairs.
Yesterday evening I practiced a bit of mortification and heroic virtue and let them take out every Jesse Tree ornament and go through all of them. It was even past their bedtime. You can add that to my canonization cause, if you'd like. They spent a good twenty minutes or so lining them up, comparing them, figuring out what went with what and comparing the ones that are doubles, voting on which one should have the honor of being used on the tree. It was so amazing to sit back and watch them remember the stories and delight in the ornaments. It all seemed so special and it did my heart good to realize that these are the memories that will stick with them. These are those magical Advent moments that they will hopefully look back on with joy and nostalgia and maybe a bit of appreciation for the wonder and history it gave to them. At least, a girl can hope.
I love that over the years the traditions in our home have solidified to something normal and rhythmical. We don't do any of them perfectly and oftentimes in the thick of night prayers or lighting the oh-so-tempting candles at the dinner table there is, of course, still arguing and tension amidst the joy and delight. It's easy to see only that. It's easy to fall into the narrow interior dialogue of why am I doing all this anyway? But when I can step back and see the anticipation in their eyes or when they remember the stories told them from years past or see the horror in their expression when I dare to suggest an omission, I see it. I see the work being worth it and the sense of history and belonging and ownership of the story taking root in their hearts.
The traditions we have developed took time and effort but I now see the tiny fruits growing and it is so good. So worth the hours spent planning and fertilizing and (over)thinking all the pieces of our Advent over the years. I feel this year like I can take a breath and take it in even more. The practices have become easy (in the sense that anything with four kids can be, ahem, 'easy'). There is freedom in tradition. It allows us the space to keep digging further. There is a beautiful peace in that. Of course, I'll still probably want to add or change things up (because me) but I have that peace that anything else we do tradition-wise would be an extra and that now even more energy can be spent on the point of it all - digging deep into my own heart and preparing it for Him.
I feel the Lord inviting me, though, to remember yet again that the preparations of Advent are not just for them, those entrusted to my care, but it's also for me. Me! All those traditions are meant to speak to my heart, too, drawing it into wonder and awe of the mystery of the Incarnation and challenging me to be ready for His coming again. It is so very easy as moms to see Advent and Christmas as all about them. We long to create memories for them and catechize them and let the Lord speak to their hearts. We plan and schedule and scour Pinterest and blogs to make it all as meaningful and special as we can for them. But we forget that all of this is meant for us, too.
The Lord has something unique and beautiful to offer each one of us this Advent.
Do you believe that, dear sister?
Or do you surrender to (or perhaps hide in) the belief that our time is past and this work, this season, is all for them now?
We think so very much about the catechizing of our children that perhaps we can forget that Advent is for us, too. The Lord wants to speak to our hearts and see them prepared just as much as our children's.
The seasons of the Church are for all of us. Can you see that the Lord is inviting you to something more, something deeper, and perhaps He has a perfectly selected gift or two just for you? The thought of that pulls me to my knees in expectation and wonder, drawing me back into that childhood sense of Christmas mystery and anticipation.
We are mothers, yes, but we are still His daughters.
As adults we take on the careful planning of all the gifts and the scheduling of the events and the remembering of what needs to get done and the meticulous timing of all the things necessitating a pages long to-do list, it's so easy to lose that wonder and mystery, isn't it? We forget that He has something up His robed sleeve as well. Something beyond our wildest dreams. And it's specially picked out just for you.
Dear mom, please don't forget that this Advent is for you, too.
Please take some time this Advent to let your heart be moved to wonder and prayer. Remember to do something that will allow you to see and open that gift that is waiting just for you and that He specially picked out just for you. Don't leave that gift He is offering dusty and unopened.
Plan your traditions, moderate those candle fights, and check those things off the list but don't forget that He is calling you to enter in, too. He has something beautiful and unique for you. Take some time and intention and yes, effort, this Advent to unwrap that gift and delight in the surprise that is that gift made just for you.