It’s coming….are you ready?

“So, are you Catholic?”

Okay, I have to back up and tell a little of what happened before that question, but you have to hear that the question came with just the slightest inclination of a sneer. Just that hint, well, maybe more than a hint, of judgment.

Seriously, I mean, are you?

Here’s the story. The boys go to tutorial on Tuesdays (maybe I should begin referring to the boys as “the Trio”, that would work well with the Tuesday Tutorial…) so Miss Maddie and I stopped off at a small local coffee shop. This place is one of my favorites. The owner actually built the shop around the cabin has been in his family for ages and the wood floors date back to the 1800’s, I believe. The wood panelling in the main room is from the 70’s and his dad put it there, so it stays.

This is not Starbuck’s. This is a local spot, with local folks who stay for hours and are regulars. Maddie was playing a few toys that were there and I was talking with two men who asking about her. The questions turned eventually to if she was caught up in the “tech toys”.  I think they were pleased to see that she wasn’t playing on the iPad or other instrument at the moment and was having fun exploring.

I told her she knew her way around the computer and most of the other toys, and that like most families we were pretty tied to our technology. I just in passing mentioned that we had been thinking about taking a break from technology for Advent.

Advent.

That did it.  They didn’t hear what I said about technology any more, but they heard that one word and it labelled me in their minds.

“So, are you Catholic?

Honestly, it took me a second to figure out why on earth they were asking me about my denominational background. Then he clarified, “Advent. You do that stuff?”  When I told him I was not Catholic, but we that as a family we try to respect the season of Advent and let it stand apart, he asked why.

While I was trying to formulate a response…and still engaging Maddie…something else happened that surprised me.

“Our church is celebrating Advent.” This man is a pastor who studies at the coffee shop. I see him there often, although I’ve only talked to him a little because he is usually fairly focused on his studying. “We’re Baptist, but we observe elements of the Church Calendar. Advent. Reformation Sunday. You don’t have to be Catholic.”

That was that. We both simply said that the celebration of “Advent” meant to focus for an extended time on Christ through the Christmas season. Then we left it at that. It is not that the other men were mean, they just had always associated Advent with a part of the Church they disregard.

That’s dangerous…we miss out sometimes when we do that.

I’m thankful that the understanding of Advent seems to have spread beyond just liturgical churches. We need the rhythm of the Church Calendar. We need the help in the hectic pace of our lives to focus.

With Thanksgiving coming late this year, Advent starts immediately after, and that is coming quickly. Steve and I are praying about shutting down the technology for the season of Advent. Shutting out some of the noise, and some of the frustration of having to tell the kids to get off for the ninth time.

Shutting down some of the input so that our focus can turn to the truth of the Season.  I don’t know about you, but we need help sometimes. Sometimes it takes more than a few hours to draw our focus to Christ during Christmas, or even a few days when school is done and Christmas Day is near. Sometimes a few weeks is what is needed.

So, no, I’m not Catholic. There are some things we can learn from each other in the church, though. We can learn a bit about slowing down and focusing during this season.

It’s almost here. Are you ready? Are you making ready?

The decorations may up and the presents bought…but how are we preparing ourselves spiritually to focus during the onslaught of advertising and “want” during this season? Google Advent 2013 and there are numerous resources. We are going to use the one from  Matt Chandler’s church, The Village Church. 

I’ll write more about what this actually looks like in the coming days. Although I won’t be writing during the Advent Season, since, you know, I won’t be on the computer. We have to work out the details of how we make this work in a way that it doesn’t feel like punishment to the kids. That would be the worst…to have the idea of Advent tied to misery. Nope. That is not what it is about. It’s all about anticipation and hope and focus.

Stake it out – This is a ‘Quiet Zone’

“Honey, I realized today that it has been 12 days in a row we have had to get in the car and go somewhere. I’m so glad today we don’t have to go anywhere.”

“Sarah, we leave for Biblestudy in an hour.”

“Crap.”

Okay. I love Biblestudy, love our home group, and was very happy to be there last night. I was actually in the midst of cooking enchiladas and cupcakes to take to the home group with us, I just had not connected the concept that I had to leave the house.

Not so happy that the string of days is continuing. I looked at the calendar…the string will go to 18 days before we have a day without the requirement of loading up and heading out the door. I know for most of you that seems rather obvious; everyone goes somewhere pretty much every day, right?  Well, with home school my goal is to stay put as much as we can, and this year it just seems that we cannot achieve that simple goal.

Dentist appointments, car registration renewal with the mandatory emissions test, tutorials, practices, church, doctors appointments, etc, etc….ugh.

Simple things add up to what feels like a fractured and distracted life. Mostly because I have never been the best at organization. I have always been the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type, always been the procrastinator, and now that I am mom and homeschool teacher I am realizing more and more how much I need to change. I have matured and become better at not trying to become Suzy Homemaker (which I will never be), but at trying to create an environment where family and faith can happen…or at least where there is the opportunity.  A place where there is the space to understand each other and to be heard; a place where life can happen in all its messiness, but where there is a sense of calm and sanctuary.

That’s why the last 12 days, and the next 6, frustrate me. I don’t like feeling scattered and I want to have days at home to linger over the school work and to get the house in order. To cook good meals and to enjoy the process of being together and learning. Rather than rushing and marking off the to-do-list.

I do not respond well to the scattered feeling. I become agitated and frustrated and the spiral goes downward. The kids respond in kind. 

Then I read this simple line in an article (the whole article is good, but this line caught me)

Staking Out & Creating Quiet Zones

Yes.  It was one of those moments where everything just eased and I was able to focus. I have said before how there is this ache for silence and for quiet, especially in the midst of a household that is increasingly attracted to technology. We gave in whole hog to Twitter and Instagram and FaceBook leading up to Nate’s birthday in the hopes of catching Taylor Swift’s attention…and really just for the fun of the experience. It was fun, for a very short season.

Now, I want to stake out and create a quiet zone.

More than that, I want to teach my kids to do the same. I am continually convinced that this next generation is not going to understand how to handle distractions and noise. They are not going to know how to turn it off. That is one of my goals, and I think this may become one of my mantras.

“With the people I love most I can sit in silence indefinitely. We need both for our full development; the joy of the sense of sound; and the equally great joy of its absence.”

-Madeleine L’Engle

Stake it out. Protect that quiet zone and that space of silence. The author of the above article was addressing professional writing, but when we think of this in view of our walk in faith, it takes on even richer application.

Stake it out and protect that quiet zone and that space of silence that allows us the opportunity and the framework where we turn our attention toward God.

Wholly. 

I’m hanging on for another six days and cannot wait for those three days in a row when we will not have to leave the house!!! Woohoo!! Today, however, I am eyeing the zones. I think this is one of the most difficult things about home school for me…finding the space to handle the usual household duties, the space to deal with personal things, and the space for educating, the space for parenting. Those things can be juggled and they happen somewhat organically…but the space and the zone for quiet is something different. We have to stake it out and protect it, or it simply gets run over.

Off to set some stakes…