on embracing advent when your arms are already quite full

It's Advent again, that magical time of year when we scour pinterest and make lists and vow that this will be the year when do the season (and our expectations) justice. 

It's Advent again, which means let's declutter the house and pull out decorations and make it meaningful yet simple yet age appropriate yet not obnoxious. And amazing. Don't forget to make it amazing. 

It's Advent again, which means Christmas shopping is sneaking up on you so start your planning but don't spend too much but don't get caught at the last minute but don't obsess. 

It's Advent again, that time of year when something in you wants to slow down and light candles and wait and anticipate the coming of Christ but for some reason there's more parties and gatherings and too many good reasons not to slow down. 

It's Advent. So rest. As you accomplish more. So that it can be more meaningful. Which you can think about as you drive to things.

Maybe some of these realities resound with you as you turn your sights toward the Christmas season. I sat at church on Sunday and was struck by the thought of anticipation, of waiting for God to come to us, and how that waiting seems to be lost in a season of flurry.

Please know- I'm not saying down with decorating, down with parties, down with Christmasy stuff. It's not about any of that. The question I'm wrestling with is what does it really mean to cultivate a quiet pause in our family life for us to truly wait, to listen, to lean towards the coming of Jesus so that we can celebrate from way down deep?

How do I help my kids find meaning in the phrase, "God with us"?

How do I push the "holiday stuff" back, not excluding it from my life, but keeping it in its proper place?

How do I raise kids that love Jesus, that love Him so wholly that the story of His coming is sweet to them?

And how do I add anything, anything at all, to this crazy rhythm of my life when it feels like I'm barely making any of this happen? When I'm like a juggler that watches pins tumble to ground? When I feel that if my arms are so full, where is the room to embrace the meaning of this sacred season? 

I don't need more to do; none of us do. But I think I do need more of a few things: more quiet, more space to think about the bold step of Christ becoming man, more time to tell the old old story to my kids, more silence to contemplate what that coming means to me as a follower. 

And in order to have more of those things, I need less of others: less distractions, less input from voices and sources that don't matter to me, less time wasted, less worry about what it all looks like, less second guessing if I'll get it right. 

I want to wait, to tap my foot in impatience, to check the clock constantly, to feel the celebration of Christ's birth as if it is happening in real time. I want to acknowledge the bigness of it, to embrace the smallness of my own life, to ponder what the crossroads of those two realities could mean. 

I want to be less like the church girl who's heard the story a million times, "Yep, Christ came." And I want to be more like this...
He came! He's here!

So Advent, the season of holy anticipation, is upon us. Let's wait. Let's savor. Let's ditch the things that cause empty busyness and make space for things that are life-giving and truth telling. Let's renew our hearts to hear, and to wait, and to deeply, deeply celebrate.  


5 books for kids who walk to the beat of their own drum

Oh, books...how I love you so

This is true of me. I do love books. I love books from my childhood and books that speak to me and books that describe what I'm feeling better than I can. I love books that startle me and books that make me laugh and books that keep me up all night even though the littles are soon to rise. I even have a deep affection for my own flawed book. 

But guess what? Even with a love and knowledge of books that both run deep, it's hard for me to find books that my kids will love. Sometimes I nail it. Sometimes I strike out. And sometimes, a book that randomly got tossed into our library bag becomes somebody's favorite book. 

So here's five reads that inspire individuality. May they inspire the little readers in your life!

1. Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems 

Image result for naked mole rat gets dressed

We are big Mo Willems' fans at our place, and, surprisingly, most people that I recommend him to...well...they just don't feel it. But that's alright. Besides the brilliant Elephant and Piggy books and the rascally Pigeon, this particular book about a naked mole rat who bucks the status quo with his snappy dressing is such a fun read. 

And let's face it- your kids will giggle when you say the word 'naked' several times in one story. And just let them. 

2. Hilda Must be Dancing by Karma Wilson

Image result for hilda must be dancing 
You may recognize Karma Wilson from the well-known tales of Bear (Bear Feels Sick, Bear Snores On, etc.) but this book was our introduction to this author. In this picture book, Hilda the hippo expresses herself through a variety of dancing shenanigans, much to the dismay of her jungle friends. In the end, they find a compromise that let's Hilda be herself and her friends celebrate her individuality. Bonus points for the great outfits that Hilda sports. My four year old loves this one. 

3. Heroes Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Heally

Image result for hero's guide to saving your kingdom

I know, I know. You're tired of fairy tale reboots. But what if those fairy tales went wrong, the Prince Charmings all bumped into each other, and then set off on a quest to restore their good names and save the world? Major bonus points for characterizations and great illustrations. We've been reading this book aloud together and oh...the giggles, folks. So. Many. Giggles. And bonus points for the princesses, too. One princess in particular is a REAL PILL (and my girls love her for it...sigh). You'll have to read it to find out who!

4. Twisted Journeys books 

Remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books? Same idea here. Awesome plots? Nope. Startling narrative? Not really. Beautiful prose? Negative. BUT.... my eight year old boy will read them over and over, choosing and re-choosing his path through the book. He loves that his "fate" is in his own hands.  And today I caught him reading one aloud to his younger sister!!!! I'm sold. 

5. Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede

My girls want princess stories. What can I say? So over the last few months they've been listening to the audio books about Cimorene, a smart and practical princess who tires of royal living and leaves her kingdom to offer herself in service to a dragon. This is, after all, a respectable alternative to palace life. Cimorene not only befriends the dragons, she helps solve problems, makes new friends with other captured princesses, continues her Latin studies, and deals with the problem of those pesky wizards. Light-hearted, practical, a tad silly, and full of well-crafted story telling, the Enchanted Forest series is not your everyday fairy tale. It's full of stories your kids will listen to over and over. Trust me....I know!


So many books, so little time.  Any books out there that your little people are loving?