This is a two part story, so be sure to read it in its entirety, in order to get the full picture. If you connect with this, please pass it along.
Upon waking, we open the hand woven advent calendar as my girls eyes peer with anticipation of the coming day's event. We sit around the table drinking fresh squeezed orange juice, buttery, crispy waffles with real maple syrup as the tree lights twinkle within view. Cozy in pajamas, licking lips & sipping up life.
Evening falls as we gather around the table to fill our bellies & souls with food & life together. Dishes cleared for the burgundy creme plate lined with five candles. The girls breathe in the story of the sojourners traveling that lonely road as a foreshadow of Good Friday, only to find that redemption is found in the most unlikely of places. Melodious songs bellow out as though a choir in the heavenlies had greeted us that night.
Candlelight blown out. Advent is anticipation of the coming One, and when I witness days like this, it feels as though my heart witnesses heaven on Earth.
The image above is what I feel like I read via Facebook status, blog posts, & Pinterest pics; however, it is not, I repeat, NOT, what we experience in our home. It's what I call fictitious. It appears that most people live in this magical world of complete intentionality, where homemade Christmas gifts abound, only local source food & toy items are given, and children sit patiently & beautifully around the Advent candles listening to the Christmas story.
Wouldn't it be so wonderful to live in this world? Where mamas had more than 24 hours in a day to sew, cook, felt, knit, & bake all of the holiday splendor (and love every minute). Where littles wake up with glorious, "Good morning Mama! Good Morning Papa! I can set the table." Where Advent candle & story time always came with the insightful, "Mama, how come God sent Jesus to be born in the manger & not the palace? Isn't he the King of kings?"
Can I share a secret with you? Here's what our family's actual Advent time looked like...
Complete with an unedited picture
In October, I began pinning various Advent calendars to make, along with homemade Christmas gifts to give. In November, I decided upon partaking in an Advent of giving with my girls, which I found to exemplify the heart of the season (reflecting giving instead of receiving). There was even this cute kid Advent craft book I purchased for my girls & I to do together.
But you know what happened? Thanksgiving hit & the first Sunday of Advent rolled around and I had nothing. There was no beautifully hand woven Advent calendar, nor any papers, gifts, activities to pull out for each day. I could hear "Failure" echoing off the walls. Where would my girls learn of giving, of the season beauty, if I wasn't giving opportunity each day in Advent?
And then, that beautiful evening candle time to share snippets of the Christmas story, singing songs, and knowing more of that babe lying in swaddling clothes. Do you know what our Advent candle time looks like? Nothing like the first story. We clear our dishes, while Tay shouts out, "I wanna blow out the big candle!," and V exclaims, "I wanna sing my Christmas song!"
Meanwhile, Ben & I assure them that each girl will have a turn, but first we will read a little of the story, sing songs, pray & then blow out the candles. V interjects, "And I get to sing my song?" "Yes," we tell her, "yes, then you can sing your song." We turn down the lights and Ben lights the candles. He pulls out the story entitled, "The Journey."
He begins, "Girls, do you remember Mary has a baby in her belly. Who is the baby?"
"Jesus!," they reply.
"Yes. And Mary & Joseph had to travel on a long journey from their hometown to Bethlehem. And did you know they didn't even have any DVDs to watch when they traveled?," he continued.
Here I am thinking how wonderful it is to share this ancient, full story with our girls and here my husband, their Papa is talking about DVDs. I feel it's a bit sacrilegious to say the least. They listen on just barely as they count down the seconds to hurry this Advent time along to sing their song.
Once the story is over, Tay quickly says her prayer, "Thank you Jesus for (insert mind boggling, I don't know what?)." We sing "Away in the Manger" and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," which has much to be desired from any choir director. The candles are quickly blown out as Tay jumps off my lap running to the tree to grab a candy cane. She proceeds to sing her song entitled, "Candy," which goes something like this, "Candy, candy, candy (pause) candy, candy, candy!"
By the looks of it, it would seem our family Advent time & season has much to be desired. In my romantic & idyllic mind, I create the first story as a picture of what I think should be. But truly, the second story is what is. It's mine. It's not always order & intentional. It's not what you write home about, but it's real life around our table.
So friends, be encouraged to know that what you may think happens in others homes, most likely doesn't quite fit the bill with what we've painted. My table is often messy & most often, not Pinterest worthy....what does yours look like this season?