Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Traditions, Old and New

Growing up I always loved Christmas, and I definitely have my parents to thank for that. They made it such a special time of year: finding the perfect tree to cut down and decorate, baking cookies and teaching us how to put the right amount of sprinkles on them, watching Christmas movies and singing the songs, and of course the excitement of St. Nicholas and Santa. It was the traditions that our family had that made the holiday season come alive. My brother and I were so excited about the gifts Santa brought that we started waking up earlier each year to open our stockings and then wait for our parents to wake up to unwrap the rest of the presents under the tree. It started off at 6am, but soon turned to 5am, and when we were a bit older, excitement still coursed through our veins on Christmas eve/morning that we were out of bed by 2am opening our stocking gifts. That usually resulted in sleeping on the couch, but I'll always cherish those times spent with my brother. We know who left the gifts under the tree, but it was still magical and the gift tags still read "To: Lisa, From: Santa."

Every Christmas we had the same routine of attending the 5PM Mass, spending the night with my dad's family munching on a buffet of goodies, opening our gifts on Christmas morning, and then spending the remainder of the day with my mom's family. Last year was the first Christmas I was not home in Wisconsin, instead I spent it in Texas with my husband of three weeks. And it was weird. Mass was different than what I was used to, plus we had to sit in the parish hall, and my husband had to work on Christmas eve. On Christmas morning I woke up early before he came home so I could still make the morning magical; our apartment was set up perfect and I had breakfast started. It was enjoyable, just different.

This year we live in Minnesota and once again we'll be able to do the "normal" routine of Christmas celebrations. But we don't know if every year will be like this one, and it likely won't be the same. We're starting our own family and we'll need to come up with our own traditions for Christmas (and Advent). I know that it will be a special time for our own children, but we also want to keep the focus on Jesus and not just the "magic of the season." I don't know how we'll make that happen yet, but it's exciting to think about. Change is difficult and I would love to stick with the familiar celebrations, but as a new family things will be different.

What are your traditions you have started with your family?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Intentional Advent

I'm baaaaack! I thought Advent would be a great time to start blogging again, so here we go!

Every year at the beginning of Advent I always have a glorified vision of what the season will look like for me and my spiritual life. I romanticize the prayer time, thinking it will be lovely to spend it in front of our beautiful tree with some candles lit and my mind set on the Nativity of our Lord. In reality, I always wonder where Advent went and feel guilty about the lack of prayer that ends up happening. Right now the home is a mess and our tree is only half decorated. My husband and I are both exhausted; he began a new job a couple weeks ago and I have a baby in my womb zapping my energy here and there. And of course let’s not forget about all the extras fighting for space in the calendar: grocery shopping, Christmas shopping, doctor appointments, Christmas parties, and extra work commitments.

We all know how busy December is and throughout Advent we should take time to calm our minds and hearts and focus on prayer a little bit more. There are so many Advent resources out there that, at times, even trying to figure out what we want to do for this beautiful season can be overwhelming. So maybe instead of creating some grandiose plan for the next four weeks, I need to take Advent day by day. Perhaps my prayer time will be different every day, and some days it might be 5 minutes, other days I can spend 30 minutes with Scripture, soaking in the presence of the Lord. No matter what, it needs to be intentional. That’s what Mary’s pregnancy was all about, it was intentional on bringing forth the Savior of the World. It’s ok if our prayers aren't glamorous and we don’t get in that full 30 minutes or an hour of prayer time. We need to do what we can, and as long as we’re being intentional about it, we won’t feel guilty. Because sometimes you just need to go to bed at 7:30 PM with dirty dishes crowding the sink and your Bible unopened that day.

Despite our busyness, let us intentionally focus on the Lord and on the joy and peace this season brings. Every day may our lips proclaim "Come, Lord Jesus" and our hearts rest in His love.