Adventing Still

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What a glorious time Advent is! And I’ve been too caught up in the business of Adventing that I haven’t been taking the time to write about it. Of course traditionally (so we have been hearing, especially, in the Anglican tradition) it is a season not unlike Lent. Advent prepares for Christmas like Lent prepares for Easter. The two glorious hallmark holy days of the Christian faith are preceded by seasons of waiting and anticipation, preparation and repentance. So we don’t party like it’s Christmas until Christmas. There are no flowers on the altar at church. The word “alleluia” is suddenly absent from some of the liturgical texts in worship, and the eucharist liturgy is actually altered a bit during this season too, with an emphasis on sin and repentance ~ and, praise the Lord, plenty of grace to soak in.

It is good to be children sometimes,
and never better than Christmas,
when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.
— Charles Dickens

In our family, we remind our kids of the waiting and the anticipation by giving them tiny tastes, little sips. They get one chocolate each night, and one tiny glass of wine at each Advent dinner (which we’ve been doing on Saturday nights, and we love this tradition!). I ask them questions (“what does Advent mean?” “who is coming?” “what does Emmanuel mean?” and more…). We sing songs (they’ve got O Come O Come Emmanuel memorized, and most of O Come All Ye Faithful). We read little books that are toddler friendly to remind everyone of the real Christmas story, and I sometimes ask the boys to fill in the blanks to see what they can recall (“what did Herod want done?” “what did the angels tell the magi?” “what did Mary say when Gabriel told her about the baby Jesus?” “what did the angels sing at Christ’s birth?” etc…).

And the kids are eagerly counting the days until Christmas. Every morning (and probably half a dozen more times throughout the day) they declare the countdown for everyone to hear. They love their Advent calendars in their rooms to help with this endeavor.

Most notably, the children know that Advent is about anticipation, hope, looking back but also looking ahead. While they only get one chocolate each evening of Advent, Christmas will soon be here ~ and on Christmas, they can have handfuls of chocolates if they want! We get a sugary, gooey breakfast with rich drinks. We get a big brunch, and a beefy dinner. There will be wine and cookies. And gifts ~ oh, there will be gifts!! I have put some under the tree already, because the kids were begging… but they are ones that can not easily be peeked into, haha! or they are ones not for the kids. :) Although even our two year old seems to be embracing obedience about the tree, the ornaments, and the gifts all being off limits for touching. We are thankful for that!

When the kids wake up on Christmas morning, the rest of the gifts will be under the tree, and the stockings will be full. Breakfast will be baking in the oven and coffee & hot cocoa will be steaming. Music will be on, candles lit, fireplace roaring. Gifts and games and laughter and singing and rejoicing will fill the day. And, Lord willing, it will overflow into the days yet to come afterward. Which is just what grace should be like. It should fill  you up, then overflow you. And one of the best ways of showing that to children is by the tangibles. For that matter, it’s a pretty downright good way to remind us adults too!

Thanks be to God for being the perfect Father, the giver of all good and perfect gifts, so that we know Who to imitate! Now… may He give us the grace to joyfully imitate Him with vigor, and the mercy to grow closer in our imitation accuracy year by year.

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“Man’s maker was made man that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey;
that Truth might be accused of false witnesses,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.”
― St. Augustine of Hippo

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First Week of Advent ~ Hope

When do we most need hope?
In hopelessness.

That is when we feel lack of hope most acutely. It is when we need to have our eyes opened to real hope.

“A prison cell in which one waits, hopes,…
and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom
has to be opened from the outside,
is not a bad picture of Advent.”
–Dietrich Bonhoeffer

That is what this first week of Advent is all about. Hope.

Anticipating, longing, looking ahead, believing that the fulfillment of promises and prophecies are yet to come.

I love these simple perspectives and tips for observing Advent, even in a family with little (messy, fussy, short-attentioned!) children.

“Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and put on the armor of light,
now in the time of this life,
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility;
So that, at the last day, when He shall come again
in His glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal.”
–The Book of Common Prayer

I am pulling out our Advent wreath, our Advent calendar, and a huge amount of chocolates.
Soon, other Christmas-is-coming boxes will be brought up from the basement, as we slowly see hope fulfilled by the advancing of Christmas.
May God give us eyes to see and ears to hear. May He make us awake and ready.
May He give us hope because of Jesus.

Celebrating Life with Hope

We are continuing to celebrate life! Simeon’s lungs filled with oxygen 36 days ago. Yesterday Simeon’s head was covered with water and oil. He has always belonged to Christ, but yesterday he was officially welcomed into the Church by receiving the sacrament of baptism. He is officially a son of the covenant, heir of God’s Kingdom, full participant in the body of Christ as a member of His bride. Hallelujah! What hope! What a perfect thing to celebrate on the first Sunday of Advent, where we lit the candle of hope. Please rejoice with us and celebrate the life of Christ in our little son.

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For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off,
everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.
Acts 2:39

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them
 in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, to
 the end of the age.
Matthew 28:19-20

Introducing Simeon James

Sweet Teen’s rainbow has burst forth!
We joyfully welcome our precious son
~…~…~
Simeon James
~…~…~
~the Lord has heard, and supplanted our grief with joy~

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born on Sunday, October 25th at 4:06pm
5lbs 10oz ~ 19 1/2 inches ~ pumpkin fuzz atop his head

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Blessed be the Lord!
For He has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to Him.
Psalm 28:6-7

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I waited patiently for the Lord;
He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.
Psalm 40:1, 3

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This is the Lord‘s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:23-24

It’s a Boy!

The Lord has heard our cries, and granted us a healthy little son. A third brave knight to protect our princess. 🙂
The mercy of our God just humbles & astounds me.

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from Deuteronomy 26:7-11
Then we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. And the Lord brought us out… and He brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. …and we shall rejoice in all the good that the Lord our God has given to us and to our house…

Then & Now

May 2007 & May 2015~

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May 2008 & May 2015~

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…and after having numerous miscarriages and fertility struggles in May months in previous years (esp 2010 and 2014, but there were a couple other Mays right up there too…), this is marvelous for May 2015~

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Easter Lessons

This year, we went out of our way to do a few more hands-on lessons and Easter preparations with the children. The older they get, of course the more they grasp ~ and it is delightful to hear their own 6, 3, and 2 year old sized insights into why we do the things we do.

On Good Friday, rather than doing our normal homeschooling routine, while the little ones had individual room time (learning to play on their own for a solid hour is a good skill to learn), Gabriel helped me clean the house. We washed windows, cleaned bathrooms, swept floors, mopped floors, did laundry, washed dishes, wiped down cupboards. And while we worked together, we talked about why we were working so hard, and why is this what we chose to do on Good Friday. When I asked Gabriel what he thought, he paused in thought, then profoundly said, “Well, today is the day we remember the whole reason why Jesus came. He came to clean our hearts. So I guess that’s why we should clean our home.” I wanted to just stop the conversation right there, and leave it at that ~ because my kid gets SO much of the Gospel story, and I love hearing his perspective on it. It’s beautiful. But we went on to talk about how Jesus served others, even though He was King of all. We talked about “our people” ~ and who are our neighbors. Gabriel even asked if he could wash my feet when we were done cleaning, because he wanted to bless me and serve me like Jesus.

But I hate to admit, I forgot about the feet-washing, because by the time we were done cleaning the house, the little ones were ready to be done with solitary playtime, and we needed to move on to the phase of dirtying things back up again. Funny how we do that in my line of work: we clean things up so we can make them dirty again!

So after a little lunch, Evangeline was ready for a nap, and the boys & I got out supplies for some crafts that would hold more lessons.

We had already dyed Easter eggs with Grandmama, Auntie, and cousins, complete with super sweet and thoughtful conversations about the metaphors, symbolism, and just plain fun of the tradition. My children and I have talked numerous times this week about the symbolism we can see in the eggs… how they symbolize the rock which closed the tomb, but new life can spring forth from it… how we can take plain eggs and give them new clothing, as we do when we take on new life in Christ… how the yolk in a cracked egg can symbolize the glorious light of Jesus’ resurrection from the dark tomb when He burst forth in glorious array…
Click here to read about Easter Egg traditions throughout the life of the Church, following the Lenten season. Even plain old Wikipedia had some great thought-provoking things about Easter Eggs, or Paschal Eggs. And for some fun nuances on Easter Egg traditions, click here and have some fun with the kids in your life.

Romans 6:4
We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death,
in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might walk in newness of life.

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Thanks to Ann Voskamp’s diligent sharing each and every year, I finally felt like my boys were old enough this year to really grasp & enjoy a couple more unique & detailed hands-on projects.

First we had a snack of nuts and figs, while we made a crown of thorns (using a small grapevine wreath and a few dozen coffee-stained toothpicks) and talked a lot about the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Three year old Asher was nearly in tears (I love how his forehead crinkles and his chin quivers when he feels genuine sorrow), talking about Jesus being tortured, bleeding, and dying. He finally smiled again when I reminded Him that this was why Jesus came, and this is how He worked to save US from OUR sins. And in his sweet little voice, Asher proclaimed, “I sure love Jesus, Mommy.”

Matthew 27:29
…twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head…

Mark 15:17
…twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on Him.

John 19:2, 5
And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head and arrayed Him in a purple robe. So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe.

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Next we went out on to the back porch and put together our own little Gethsemane. Using a small moss planter (I used this, and don’t let the word “large” fool you!), we filled it with soil. Then we set our tomb carved in the rock in the corner of the garden (I found that aquarium accessories could offer some neat options, like this cichlid stone), before filling the rest of the garden with plants. We used some little succulents we got at a local store along with some pretty decorative moss, and then Gabriel used small smooth stones to make a little pathway through the garden to the tomb. Last of all, the boys went on a stone hunt outside to find something that would serve as a tomb cover.

John 19:41
Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.

Luke 23:55-56
The women who had come with Him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how His body was laid.Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

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On Good Friday, we used last week’s palm branches and our homemade crown of thorns to decorate our dinner table, when we ate lamb and roasted vegetables and matzo ball soup, along with the Seder plate with all  its elements and plenty of wine.

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Our kitchen island was cleared of all other decorations, and that is where we laid our own little Gethsemane. On Friday evening we closed up the tomb. On Saturday morning we found a little soldier to keep guard outside the tomb. And the children looked forward to seeing what would come of it on Sunday morning.

Matthew 27:59-60, 66
And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. … So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

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Come Sunday morning, the children came downstairs to find the guard fallen down, the stone moved away, and a piece of linen folded inside the tomb.

Matthew 28:2-8
And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.He is not here, for He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where He lay.Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and behold, He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Him. See, I have told you.”So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell His disciples.

Luke 24:1-12
…On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb,but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?He is not here, but has risen. Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee,that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”And they remembered His words,and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles,but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

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They found a table set for a beautiful little breakfast. Fruit salad, hard boiled eggs with sea salt, mimosas, Easter story cookies, and Easter tomb rolls (the kids had helped me make those all on Saturday, which was really wonderful). Candles and music and the excited rush of gathering and eating and praising God together, singing Christ The Lord Is Risen Today. Gifts for each one at their place ~ books and chocolates.

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Once the morning feasting was done, it came time to don our Easter clothing (clothing is hugely metaphorical and meaningful in Scripture and the history of the Church) ~ even the Easter sermon mentioned this, because we had three baptisms during the service and these Scriptures were emphasized.

Ephesians 4:17-24
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about Him and were taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus,to put off your old self,which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Colossians 3:12-17
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Galatians 3:27
 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

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And so we got dressed in new matchy-matchy clothes (and my heart ached in all the heaviest and bestest of ways, because I have been given a family to clothe, and children who can wear sickeningly matchy outfits!), and talked about putting on Christ, putting off our old selves, putting on the new self in newness of life and the beauty of holiness, putting on love above all other things.

And then? Then the party really started. Gabriel pointed out, “there sure is a lot of joy around church and everywhere today!” and I couldn’t help but laugh. Because isn’t that just exactly, precisely the way it should be?! May the joy of the gospel, and of the Resurrected Christ, and of the hope He has given His people, shed forth from your homes, your families, your churches, and your wanderings until He comes again and everything is made new and all is set right.

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To the glory of the Father, amen. Allelulia!

Tea for Two: a birthday tea party

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Ever since I can remember, I dreamed about having a daughter and celebrating her second birthday with a “tea for two” theme. Well, dreams (especially the silly little ones) sometimes come true. :) And I try to remind myself that the way God plans my dreams are better than the way I would plan them. It was a sweet time of celebration, and a special way to honor our little princess. Decked out in a poofy dress (she picked her outfit herself), three necklaces and four bracelets, this little girl drank lots of tea from her new porcelain tea set and enjoyed eating and playing with people she loves. While the kids were decked out in dainty & dapper duds, nobody had tea party hats! So our first activity was a craft for decorating hats. The boys got fedoras we picked up at the Dollar Store, and they decorated them with a little washi tape & fabric leaves. So handsome. The girls used ribbons, boas, fabric flowers, & washi tape to decorate their hats ~ the bases of which were Dollar Store plastic plates & bowls that my dad cut & I glued together. Fun times! We enjoyed afternoon tea next: chocolate mint rooibos tea (with plenty of sugar cubes), hot chocolate, scones (gluten free!) with whipped cream & strawberry jam, mini quiches (I didn’t use a recipe, but winging it worked just fine ~ even the GF version was delicious!), fresh strawberries, tea sandwiches (grilled cheese & pbj), teapot shaped sugar cookies, pink sugar wafer cookies. Everyone got to use antique silverware, porcelain teacups, and spectacular paper plates that looked like pretty china. Then to make the children even more dainty & dapper, the boys got real pocket watches and the girls got pearl necklaces (I love that gaudy costume jewelry is “in” again!). Next came a couple little games: a teabag toss game, and sugar cube relay. I love that little kids can have all kinds of giggly, emphatic fun even with lame games. Haha! Then Evangeline opened her birthday presents, and we had mini chocolate cupcakes (gluten free but packed with deliciousness) with sparkly pink frosting on top. She blew out her candle like a pro, and I made a wish on her behalf. ;)

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And yes, this is what we did while the rest of the world watched the Super Bowl. That’s what we get for having a daughter born on Super Bowl Sunday two years ago! 🙂

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