Be Still. Wait with Anticipation.


Two more days.  Advent begins on Sunday!

I know that I have been harping on this theme. I have been pestering. I have spent far more time on this this year than ever before, and probably more time on this than any other theme on the blog…at least for writing on one theme over several days. Other than maybe the theme of wonder.

There is a reason.

I need the harping and the pestering myself. Even with all this, I still feel slightly unprepared. I fall into a trap fairly often in my parenting: I want to make things perfect. Pinterest worthy. Picture perfect.

Rarely do they work out that way, and often I become stressed.

So, that is part of the harping as well.  Advent is absolutely, non-negotiably, emphatically NOT about being stressed.

Whatever we do, this season is about stilling ourselves so we can listen and we can wait. Wait with anticipation, and wait with hope. Wait with joy.

Advent is about the awareness of our need for a savior, yes. There is in the history of Advent the element of penitence, but it is more I think about this anticipation of the arrival of the Christ child. And that should be filled with wonder and awe.

In the midst of of struggles with jobs and with life and with raising kids and with being tired and with laundry and with family dynamics and with the turmoil around us in the world…and it is great…we need moments when we focus on wonder and when we focus on hope. When we still ourselves and we wait.

So I pester and I harp and I poke you, and myself, to pause over the next four weeks and pay attention. Do something to make this season stand out.

Light candles. Sing songs. Read poetry.

Be still.

How is this going to look in our family? Steve and I decided we would not ask for the technology to be completely shut off, because that would feel more like punishment to the kids. We are, however, pulling it back. We will only have one tv show a day (and one a week for mom), and the tech time is being cut in half…down to just an hour and half a day. And it has to be off by 6pm.  At 6pm we’ll have dinner and light the Advent candles and we’ll talk and sing and be with each other.

Not drastic, but something to make this season stand out. In the midst of the days there will be other activities that draw our attention toward the coming of the Christ child. We will keep pointing and focusing and making room to think about the wonder of Christmas.

And we will pray that God will meet us in this season. That He will enlarge our imagination and He will infuse this season with His Spirit. I hope you will come along with us!

Here are a few more links with ideas and resources…

Ideas for Adults:

I posted a few links Wednesday  here which will help the adults with some devotionals and focus, and I will be posting poetry each day through Advent here on the blog.

Poet and musician Malcolm Guite  last year posted sonnets from his book Sounding the Seasons. Each of the seven sonnets is accompanied by art.

SimpleLiving has a fantastic list of ideas on ways to make your Advent season and Christmas stand out from the commercialized season it has become.

Ideas for Families:

Baby Steps for Celebrating Advent

No Panic Advent – with a bunch of great book suggestions

Simple Kids – Great ideas on how to make Advent simple and kid-friendly

Homeschooled-kids has an $8 printable packet with activities and crafts and lots of ideas.




Our Thanksgiving Tree is beginning to fill out. We are writing one thing on each leaf, and they range from quieter dishwashers to our salvation. Family and the laughter of Maddie to jobs that provide meals and shelter.

While I have been writing much about Advent over the last few days, I do not want to miss Thanksgiving. I wanted to take the time to write about Advent with enough advance that we can be prepared before it begins, but I also do not want to simply skip over Thanksgiving.

This holiday is one of the best. One of the simplest and purest.


Family and meals and sharing around a table.

There is of course drama in every family, I am sure. There are things we can find wrong with the holiday, and there are things we can find to complain about. But there is so much more we can find to be thankful for. I know tomorrow I will not have time to write, so I thought I would post my Thanksgiving post a little early.

Every year Thanksgiving heralds the beginning of slowing down for me. I know that it means Christmas is around the corner, and sometimes that can mean things are hectic because so much needs to be done, but instead Thanksgiving means the beginning of the a season of the mixture of memories and the making of memories.

I have been blessed with 40 plus years of Thanksgiving meals that were filled with wonderful food and great conversation. My mother knew how to prepare a meal in a way that stood out and heralded something grand. Thanksgiving stood out. The food was grand and the setting stated that it was special. We knew it was something different. We didn’t rush through the meal and we learned to enjoy the conversations.

Even though I cannot tell you all the specifics of the meals, I am thankful for the overall sense of family and of meaning that I have from all those years. Dad sent a picture today of the meal they are having, and I am thankful they are sitting down to a special table again with sister-in-law who will prepare a great meal even when Mom doesn’t understand what it is all about anymore.

I am thankful for special days that are marked out to remind us to take the time to be thankful. I am thankful for the traditions in our midst that train us to remind our children of all the things we have to be grateful for. I am thankful for the moments around the table where stories area shared and where we focus our attention on blessings rather than grievances.

I am thankful:

For family.

For laughter of children. For their giggles and their silliness. For their grins and their goofy jokes.

For my husband who sustains our home and provides a foundation that allows the goofiness and the giggles and the freedom to be silly, because we are not worried about where our meals come from or our shelter.

For my father who teaches us through his example and love what it means to love in faithfulness and sacrifice and generosity. And who taught me to love animals and outdoors.

For my mother who taught me to love table settings and china and proper forks and I promise we will use them again in our home when Maddie is a bit older.

For friends who are honest and willing to encourage and to challenge. Friends who are like-minded and enjoy enough to have fun with, but are different enough to surprise me with new things. To broaden my world.

For our church that provides fellowship that feeds our soul and nourishes us and encourages us and sustains us and builds us up and challenges us.

For our pastor and his wife who teach us in the Word and in prayer and in example and in friendship.

For a God who loves us and redeems us. Who creates with wonder and imagination and creativity and who delights in us and surprises us. Who is holy and yet gracious and merciful.

I am thankful.

What is this Advent you keep talking about?!

One more post on Advent before Thanksgiving. The rest of the day today will be spent preparing food and thinking of all the things for which I am thankful. The kids are happy to have a day off school and I am happy to have a day to putter around the kitchen. Although my thoughts on the blog have been focused on Advent, offline we have been talking much about Thanksgiving…putting up leaves on our thankful tree and celebrating family.

Today will mainly be a day of links on Advent. Resources where you can cull some ideas of how to make Advent your own. First, though, some history lessons. These links will help you understand Advent, the moment in the Church Calendar, more fully. Some ideas for devotionals and a few links on music are listed as well.

Friday I’ll write more about what Advent is going to look like for us in our home.


Calvin Seminary has a brief, but helpful overview in Introducing Advent.

If you have a hot cup of coffee and time to read, head over to read Mark D. Roberts What is Advent.  He actually has a book called Discovering Advent, which is only 2.99 on Kindle. The blog post, however,  pulls together several articles and gives a thorough overview of Advent and how Roberts has been impacted by the season of Advent.

Here is brief overview from

One more short article of history from


Mark D. Roberts has an easy to follow devotional from last year.

Again, The Village Church has a great Advent Guide, especially for families.

God is in the Manger is a devotional of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings, formatted specifically for Advent reading.

Max Lucado has an Advent devotional, which is only 1.99 on Kindle:  Celebrating Christmas with Jesus

Marva Dawn also has devotional, at only .99 on Kindle: Follow the Story- Daily Advent Devotionals

Ann Voskamp has some great ideas about turning Christmas Upside Down. You could spend hours on her site. Seriously.


If you are hoping to include some music in your Advent practice, here are a couple links that might help.

Tony Jones at Patheos has a post on Advent Hymns. Read through the comments for lots of suggestions for songs to use in our discipline of training our focus on the coming of Christ:  Best Advent Hymns and a suggestion for the CD Advent Carols from St John’s

The Seedbed has 11 Songs to Add to Your Advent Playlist

Reformed Worship has a list of a few songs, with some good thoughts.

How about a Steve Bell CD, written specifically for Advent.  Keening for the Dawn

The Extraordinary Thing is Coming…

“The house lights go off and the footlights come on. Even the chattiest stop chattering as they wait in darkness for the curtain to rise. In the orchestra pit, the violin b​ows are poised. The conductor has raised the baton.

In the silence of a midwinter dusk there is far off in the deeps of it somewhere a sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of the silence itself. You hold your breath to listen.

You walk up the steps to the front door. The empty windows at either side of it tell you nothing, or almost nothing. For a second you catch a whiff in the air of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you’ve never been and a time you have no words for. You are aware of the beating of your heart.

The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.

The Salvation Army Santa Claus clangs his bell. The sidewalks are so crowded you can hardly move. Exhaust fumes are the chief fragrance in the air, and everybody is as bundled up against any sense of what all the fuss is really about as they are bundled up against the windchill factor.

But if you concentrate just for an instant, far off in the deeps of yourself somewhere you can feel the beating of your heart. For all its madness and lostness, not to mention your own, you can hear the world itself holding its breath.”

 -Frederick Buechner  “Advent”

Yes.  This is what I am trying to convey in my own clumsy way. Advent is not something that belongs only to certain strains of the Church. Advent is not some ritual which aims at adding burden to our lives.

Advent is the opportunity to concentrate. The opportunity to change our focus, and we need this all the more in the midst of a season that screams at us constantly. The Christmas season has become so filled with noise, we need the reason and the opportunity…and the push…to be silent more.

We need the tradition and the ritual and the rhythm of Advent to bring wonder into our midst and to teach us to sit with that wonder.

God made flesh.



I know that I am spending much time leading up to Advent pestering you about this tradition. No, I have not forgotten Thanksgiving, and I promise I will pause the Advent pestering to spend some time thinking about Thanksgiving. Here’s the thing, though…Advent takes preparation. I have so often been caught by surprise that Advent is beginning, that I enter the season feeling flustered. Or worse, I simply decide I have failed and it’s not worth trying to jump in.

So I pester.  Advent begins this Sunday.

You may not want to make a big deal of Advent, but I encourage you to take a look around at some of the resources that would help at least get your toes wet. Again, The Village Church has an excellent Advent Guide which will have sermons connected and even a Spotify playlist of music to go along. They have done a great job of including ideas for ways to bring your kids into the understanding of Advent.

Tomorrow I’ll post mainly resources and links. For now, read again Buechner’s words above and begin preparing your heart.

The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.