Easter, faith, liturgical year, Uncategorized

Easter Vigil

Untitled design-1

That first Easter was made in stillness…

in empty spaces where a scattered people once gathered

in uncertainty, unknowing, and unprepared how-in-the-world-did-we-get-here unsureness.

And this one is made in keeping each other company within the silence of our hearts as we go through the motions we can while mourning the ones we can’t.

 

That first Easter was made in darkness…

in stumbling together on the way to a tomb that contained everything they thought they’d been living for.

And this one is made in walking together-while-apart, virtual companions on a path we can’t even see yet.

 

That first Easter was made in grief…

in crushing sadness over what was lost and with no idea how anything could ever be the same again.

And this one is made in admitting that no, things are not the same…

but also in reminding each other that in these parallel Easter stories, we have the advantage.

We know already how this Story will end.

 

My friend says, “It’s the Lentiest Lent that ever lented.” I repeat her words in the kitchen and wonder aloud––what’s Easter if your cross is just as heavy when you wake up Sunday morning as it was on Friday afternoon?

My husband, still quick with a sermon title after all these years, reminds me: not all Easter Alleluias come easily. The first ones certainly didn’t. But Alleluia, anyway.

 

Christ isn’t in that tomb, or in any other one––

except as the One who never lets Death have the last word.

Where he is present isn’t in the stillness of defeat––

except to whisper, “This isn’t over yet.”

 

Some Easters are made of Alleluias borne on golden, soaring chords toward heaven, carried by the singing of children and the scent of lilies, effortless, effervescent.

This one is made of Alleluias murmured through tears, pressed out from between clenched teeth, spoken with a full knowledge of what we’ve lost but without knowing just how much more we’ve got to let go.

Some Alleluias are hard-fought.

 

Yes, it’s the Lentiest Lent we’ve ever lived. And when the first morning light begins to shift the sky from black toward grey this Easter, our penances won’t all dissolve

our sorrow won’t evaporate with the night

our losses won’t be magically restored as the sun rises.

But

He is still risen.

We are still His Body––fingers, eyes, ears––all still connected whether we feel it or not.

This, this moment, is where our faith defines us.

This moment––this very one––is what faith is for.

We have faith. And it is enough to sustain us.

We are still an Easter people.

He is risen, indeed.

Alleluia, anyway.

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liturgical year, reflection, yes

on the Annunciation

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Artwork from pen&paint via Catholic Family Crate. Icon from the inimitable Nancy O (emmanuel_studio on Instagram)

There’s a certain sameness to days right now that has me constantly checking the calendar or my phone or my watch to remind myself what day it is. I’ve been as much as two days off, even during the same day…the proverbial woman/mom/grad student who checks the calendar for the date and immediately forgets what day it is.

(If there’s not a proverb about that person, there should be.)

I’ve written so many words here about the ordinariness of my life and the beauty I see in it. Sometimes I have to look really hard into the corners to find that beauty, but I can always find it if I look hard enough. Lately, though, things seem to be spreading out into a shallow grey puddle…the kind of grey that reflects a grey sky and becomes even more grey because of it. The things that made Thursday, Thursday or Sunday, Sunday are no longer there. It all feels like the same day to me.

This isn’t necessarily alarming yet, although it could be if it goes on for too long. So I’m doing the things I know will help me keep moving forward. I’m going to bed on time. I’m getting up on time. I’m praying the Liturgy of the Hours (which helps some with distinguishing the days, since I have to find the right pages). I’m upping my water intake. I’m taking a walk outside once a day, no matter the weather. I’m listening to lots of music. I’m trying to focus on what I have, on the people in front of me, instead of what I’ve lost and the people I can’t see right now.

The irony of becoming a stay-at-home online student of theology again after having moved across the country to study in person is probably worth its own blog post. In a short time, I’ve found a little community of kindred spirits at the School of Theology, lingering over lunch and having Big Conversations about Important Things, delighting in shared discovery and mutual growth and the thrill of accompanying each other as we brush up against the mysteries of the universe.

Now, my communicating with these same amazing people has collapsed to text-length phrases punctuated by emojis, and I can’t find the exact circular yellow facial expression I need to convey how I feel about it. After half a semester of feeling more like myself than I have in a long time (maybe ever), I’m back to typing out responses in boxes to online discussion posts at my kitchen table while my kids throw their opposing armies at each other in a RISK-related squabble over whether that die was a three or a six when it landed.

It could feel like a huge mistake. What was I thinking, moving everyone out here away from our families and support system, away from our community and our friends and “my” organ and the familiar mountains and running trails I loved? No, I couldn’t have predicted a pandemic. But what kind of responsible adult changes everything about her life to pursue a long-deferred dream over a thousand miles from home?

This one does, apparently.

But how can I complain about this? This is my kitchen table, and we have a window-filled kitchen to sit in. I’m still studying the thing that makes my heart beat faster. George is working from home, which he couldn’t have done before. This house even has a downstairs, so the fallout from the RISK-related conflict is more contained than it would have been in Virginia.

I’m not here because I made One Spectacularly Bad Decision. I’m here because we said “yes,” not one time or three times, but hundreds of little times that led us down this path.

During Lent, George and I have been reading a Psalm each day and using it for lectio divina, a contemplative practice of praying with the text by reading the words slowly and intentionally to see what emerges. Today, my Psalm was the twenty-third. I actually rolled my eyes. Blah, blah, blah – still waters, cup runneth over, we’ve heard all of this before.

The thing about the Psalms, though, is that they are a living conversation with the Divine. The Psalmist speaks to God, and God speaks back. And when I read those Psalms from my heart, I make their words my own, and God speaks back to me, too.

Today, the twenty-third Psalm is all about right paths for me.

Today, I’m choosing to see that all those little yeses of the last ten or twenty years that led to the bigger yeses of the last year and a half were not a mistake. God is leading me in right paths. He has brought us this far. He will not abandon us.

That’s the miracle of the Incarnation at work in my little life today. God entered the world––a world that was not less messed up than our own, a world full of suffering and struggle and boredom and hunger and injustice and sorrow. God showed up there in human skin––not to wave a magic wand and make all the problems go away, but to be there with us in the middle of them.

This is the God we believe in––the One who occupies the same space we do just because He wants to be with us. The One who is here whether we choose to acknowledge that presence or not. Not one who is aloof, or judging our behavior, or standing to the side waiting to see what we’re going to do with this mess we’re in…but one who waded down into it on purpose to be where we are.

It’s like the opposite of social distancing, really.

So as we figure out how to be community for each other in this complicated and confusing time when we can’t sit around the same table and ponder the mysteries of the universe, I’m feeling thankful for this one Big Mystery made known in the angel’s message to Mary so long ago.

God is with us. And we really need Him right now.

I can’t be anything but grateful.

 

Lent

It’s not about my stuff (except when it is)

It’s Ash Wednesday.

I’m not going to write my annual essay about how I’m not ready for Lent yet. I didn’t expect to feel prepared or have the energy to perfectly arrange things as I’d like them to be for our family in the liturgical living department this year. Everything is upside down and completely new and different in so many ways. God is constantly surprising me in this season.

I did think of putting all the Lent and Easter things we usually use in a box marked for that purpose, but when we hit the hardest part of packing and there wasn’t room for everything in the short-term boxes that would go with the movers, that Lent/Easter box had to go in the pod for longer term storage. A lot of my books went there, too, and some sheet music I’ve very much wished I had access to right now. Some of the kids’ stuffed animals also had to go in storage, which they have begun referring to as “POD camp.” Not a day goes by that someone in our family doesn’t say, “I really wish ____ wasn’t in the pod, because I need it.”

Things I could tell you about this situation in this moment, if this was one of those blogs:

  • We’re feeling so unencumbered without our family library that from now on, we’re limiting ourselves to five books each and selling the rest to buy really beautiful bookshelves handmade from reclaimed wood that will look attractively sparse in our home! or
  • We are so grateful that we know we need fewer clothes that we are just going to live in an Airstream trailer and travel the country! or
  • We’re radical minimalists now, and we’re going to make a documentary about our decision to set the pod on fire as a statement against our consumerist society because this way is so much better!

or some variation of this.

(Surprise. I’m not going to say any of those things.)

Tradition is worth a lot, and some of our family traditions are bound up with the stuff we use to carry them out. The burlap cloth and the stones in shades of purple and grey that we brought back from Prince Edward Island are usually arranged attractively in the center of our table by now. I usually have our prayer table set up with a purple cloth and some seasonally-appropriate art and a grapevine wreath. These things appear, and that means it’s Lent.

I went by the chapel at the School of Theology last evening on my way out to practice the organ, and the guy in charge of the liturgical environment was putting the finishing touches on the altar space. It’s draped in purple, with some branches arranged simply on one side and a small pile of stones on the other. It’s striking and prayerful, and it drew me right in. It was completely different from how it had looked earlier in the day, and yet it was comfortingly familiar (even though I’d never seen it that way before) in its penitential purpleness.

That’s what we’re doing at home, too, when we print out the same Lent calendar to color that we use every year, or when we get out the same tablecloth or set of candles or icons. We are making space. This is domestic liturgy. The objects that we use to create the space for our prayer and for our family’s spiritual experience at home during this season are part of that prayer, not just accessories to make the house look nice. Seeing them in our home is an invitation for us to shift our thinking a little…to remember that it’s Lent, that we’re supposed to be thinking about sacrifice and prayer and how we can serve each other better.

So I guess it’s kind of about the stuff.

On the other hand, as I’ve frequently said around here, liturgical seasons come whether or not we are ready, and part of the purpose of the season is to remind us that it’s not about us. Praying in rhythm with the church’s liturgical year is what forms us in our identity as part of the Body of Christ. The most important thing here is our intention, not what we use to carry it out.

I recycled the purple flowers and some greens from the bouquet we’ve had on our table all week, trimmed them stuck them in a smaller pitcher, and put them in the center of the table.

My daughter walked in a few minutes later, spotted the reworked flowers, and said, “Wow, it really looks like Lent around here.”

So maybe it’s not about the stuff, after all.

Anyway, I hope you’re having an appropriately penitential day, whatever that looks like for you, and I pray you’ll have the strength to grasp whatever you need to hold onto and the grace to relinquish whatever you should do without in the coming weeks. God be with you!

Uncategorized

Minnesota nice

I’m wondering if I might need cultural competency training to live in Minnesota. I feel like I don’t come across well here.

I wouldn’t have expected to need a major adjustment to figure out how to talk to people, but I feel like I’m misunderstood about 75% of the time. I end up scrambling to correct someone’s misinterpretation while they stand there looking sort of offended, and I’m not ever sure where I’m going wrong. It is not less jarring than being misunderstood in France or Canada or Mexico or London. It might actually be more unpleasant, because it surprises me every single time.

Probably, I’ll figure it out. I’ll become an avid observer of central Minnesota culture and figure out where I’m going wrong. The biggest mistake we can make in cultural misunderstandings is thinking we have no culture of our own. Somehow, my Virginia must be getting in my way, and through a process of trial and error, I’ll hopefully be able to find out why (or at least figure out how to fake it until I do!). As George said this afternoon, if the only way to learn is through trial and error, I should be well on my way. And while I know it’s probably better to learn these things gradually, I do find myself wishing a little bit for a Matrix-style instant upload of Everything You Need to Know to Live Happily in Central Minnesota.

 

Uncategorized

Once upon a time, I had a blog.

Dear friends,
I’ve been thinking it might be time to bring back this blog.

In some ways, it seems like a weird time to start writing here again, since I have way more reading and writing to do at present than I have in recent memory. There is a stack of books half a meter high on the side table (which isn’t unusual for me) and all of them have to be read basically right now (which is a new development). I’m a fairly fast reader, but becoming a full-time grad student when I already have a full reading life is still going to be a challenge.


Maybe I need to figure out how to read while walking, like I used to do in elementary and middle school. Or maybe this wouldn’t be safe at all, since I’m also still learning how to walk on ice, which is everywhere in patches on the ground and sometimes covering entire swaths of sidewalk.

Anyway, you might start hearing from me again…probably not a lot, and certainly not in polished and witty form…but some words, anyway. I’ll try to write a bit about what I’m doing and learning, what we as a family are doing and learning, and the new places we go and discover. I’ll probably write about how much colder it is here than in Virginia. And otherwise, it will probably be kind of like it was before, when I used to write here – just with the developments of older children and more life experience and possibly a more developed theological lens.

See you around.

7 quick takes, flannery, garden

7QT: Summer Rundown Edition

I’m told that the best way to start writing again after not writing and not writing and not writing is just to write. I’m hoping this is true, because it’s what I’m going to do.

There’s no real way to catch up on everything that’s happened since I last posted something (January!), so let’s pretend you’re starting the next book in the series and some events may have transpired in the in-between, ok?

Things always transpire in the in-between.

1. Summer is still happening here, although we’ve started some school up again already because we are traveling in September. I loved our Advent School so much last year that I didn’t want to give it up. To make it all work out and still leave the weeks of Advent basically open for reading and crafting and baking, we are doing some schoolwork now, and it’s going well. Somehow, we’re beginning our sixth year as a homeschooling family, with Sam going into fifth grade and the girls into second. It doesn’t seem true when I type it.

This is my pre-reading stack from a couple of weeks ago. We’ve finally switched to Ambleside Online this year, and I’m loving it. That’s probably another blog post.

2. Sam and Nora swam on the swim team this year- Sam’s second year and Nora’s first. They both really liked it. Starting out our summer with swim team makes the first month feel a little bit crazy, but things have slowed down now and I’m so glad they had the experience.

3. We’ve been gardening better this year than ever before. I had no idea I would become this person- someone who is excited every day to see if there are any new zucchini and who spends a lot of time hunting bugs on her bean plants to keep them from being chewed upon- but I love growing our own food and I love looking at that green bean arch and thinking of how much it’s grown since I put seeds in the ground back in the spring. Plants grow. From seeds. It’s basically miraculous.

4. I’m not sure if it’s just that we live in a weirdly moth-filled spot or if I’ve just gradually become someone who notices these things, but we’ve spotted a lot of really amazing moths in our yard this summer. We currently have a Cecropia Silkmoth caterpillar hanging out in our kitchen. He’s totally amazing, even though every time I look at him I get a tiny “thrill” like Matthew Cuthbert digging up grubs in his potato patch. I learned yesterday that these caterpillars spend the winter in their cocoons and then emerge as their moth-selves in the spring. Apparently you can observe this process by overwintering them in your refrigerator.

Polyphemus Moth on our sycamore

 

Rosy Maple Moth on our arborvitae

 

“He’s kind of yuck but I also like yucky things.”

 

Cecropia Silkworm caterpillar

I think this may exceed my commitment level…but I’m actually considering it, because I really want to see how this guy turns out! They are the largest moths north of Mexico- 5 1/2″ wingspan. That’s bigger even than a Luna moth or the Polyphemus we found.

5. I’m currently in the middle of a Summer of Flannery project- reading or re-reading everything that Flannery O’Connor wrote- with my kindred spirit Katherine. (Read her beautiful blog here.) I’ve always loved Flannery’s writing, but I feel like we are really getting to know her as a person by intentionally reading all her words and discussing them. So far we’ve done just short stories and Wise Blood, one of her two novels, but it’s been a lot of fun (and has occasionally resulted in late night or early morning texts back and forth about the deeper meaning of the shaving cream dripping from a character’s chin or the potential Marian symbolism of being gored by a bull). Such good stuff.

6. We are prepping for a Great Big Roadtrip to Points North- hitting Old Town Quebec for a few days and traveling to Prince Edward Island on a trip I have always wanted to take. I’m taking car entertainment recommendations, song suggestions, and lists of your favorite audiobooks, so send them my way! Our family is currently reading Anne of Green Gables aloud in preparation for the trip, and I underestimated how delightful it would be to share this particular book with my family. George has never read it before, so I’m reading aloud, and everyone is begging for “just one more chapter!”

Dear Northeast US and Canada, especially PEI, I’m sorry I haven’t yet learned what shapes you are.

Bonus: Felix is running around saying, “Fiddlesticks!” all the time. It’s rather disarming.

7. Are any of y’all afraid of geese? Because I think I might be.
This guy looks clever here (on George’s mom’s patio), but when he puts his head down and his neck out and runs really fast at you, it’s less charming. Also, I think I will always have an issue with large groups of birds convening in one place thanks to an ill-timed viewing of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” at a tender age.

That’s 7. That was fun. Maybe I’ll do it again sometime soon!

 

Linking up with Kelly for 7QT (and feeling so grateful for this linkup, which feels like an on-ramp for writing here again). Go visit!

books, well read mom, yarn along

New books, new projects {yarn along}

Happy New Year!

The start of a new calendar year makes me eager to start a hundred new projects. My brain is bursting with ideas. But first, I’m finding energy to finish old things…books I’d made my way partly through, knitting and sewing projects I’d started, little jobs around the house that have sat, undone, waiting for attention. I think it’s something about my desire to start a bunch of new things and realizing that my lists already have things on them and feeling like making new lists and pretending the old lists don’t exist is somehow dishonest.

As Felix has been saying lately whenever he doesn’t believe someone, “You are not TRUE.”

In the interest of being TRUE, I’m trying to whittle down my stash a bit and finish some old projects and books before I jump headlong into the new ones I really want to be doing. So, I’m using some yarn I bought a few years ago from this farm to make a quick cowl. Working with this yarn is heaven! I wish now that I had bought so much more of it. I love the weight, the feel of it- it’s spongy and springy and has the perfect amount of twist so it never splits. The little variations in color are so beautiful, too. The pattern is Sweeping Angels Neck Cowl by Ivy Brambles (Ravelry link)…and the worsted weight is working up really quickly.

I’m hoping to finish it this weekend, because my yarn is coming for the Big Life Goal project I’m going to finish this year…and I really want to be able to start on it right away! More on that next week, I hope.

We are reading On Pilgrimage by Dorothy Day for our Well-Read Mom group, and I’m really finding a lot that connects with how my life feels right now. It seems Dorothy Day and I both like to ruminate on a broad range of things while we wash dishes, clean clothes, and care for people’s needs…and her thoughts are elevating mine these days. She’s all about the holy moments in the middle of the everyday ones, which y’all know is a favorite theme of mine.

“All things are His, and all are holy.”

                                 – Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage

I’m also working my way through The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God by Fulton Sheen and finding it jaw-droppingly amazing. I’ve never read any Sheen before (although I’ve always meant to) and he is wonderful. This book is Smart, Occasionally Snarky, the stuff of Light Bulbs Illuminating Inside My Brain every few pages- I really love it, but I can only take a few pages at a time or my head will explode.

In addition to finishing a few books this week, I’ve decided a few other books are not worth finishing right now and have put them aside. I never used to do this, ever, but my friend Katherine has persuaded me that a busy mama’s reading time is precious and that there is no shame in ditching a book if I really don’t like it or it isn’t speaking to me at a particular moment.

I can always go back for them later, right?

What are you reading? I’m still making my To-Read list for this year, and I’m open to suggestions- I like everything!

Linking up with Ginny Sheller’s Yarn Along…I’m so glad to see it back again as a monthly linkup.

Advent

Somehow, I almost missed it {grace in the good enough, Advent version}

There are two sticky notes sticking out of my Advent journal this morning.

That’s what sticky notes are for, to stick out- to remind me of something I’m probably going to forget otherwise. I sometimes think sticky notes are the thing that keeps me together- or, if not together, at least from falling completely apart.

The first bright pink flag in the book marks the place where I first missed a day of the journal this Advent. I meant to go back and pick it up later, but I fell further and further behind. The second note marks the place where I actually am supposed to be right now, today, but I’m not really there, either.

There is a widening gap between those two pieces of paper- the place where I ought to be and the place where I really am.

That’s the story of my Advent, actually.
Maybe it’s the story of my life.

I had such grand plans- again, because I usually do- of all the things I’d do and be and how it would all come together to create a place of spiritual readiness and material readiness and all things READY.

Somehow, I missed- again, because I usually do- that Advent isn’t about my readiness.

It’s about the Incarnation.
It’s about Jesus, who showed up in a world that was not ready to receive Him at all (but desperately needed Him, all the same!) in a place that was anything but prepared for a birth.

And yet, it was enough for Him.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

 
                                          from In the Bleak Midwinter by Christina Rosetti

The reason it was enough has nothing to do with what it actually was, at all. The reason it was enough is because He was enough to make up for all of what it wasn’t.

Somehow, I missed that- again, because I almost always do.
I mistakenly took the gift of time to prepare for the Incarnation and made it about me, about all the things I could do to get ready.

Advent- this one, or any one- isn’t about what I do or about how prepared I manage to be or about how many nights we successfully light our wreath as a family or about how many symbols make it onto our Jesse Tree. It’s not about taking the links off our Advent chain in the right order or about learning enough Latin verses of Adeste Fidelis so that we can sing along at Mass without a song book. It’s not about whether we got cookies made for our neighbors and friends or about whether we mailed our cards out on time or whether we managed to squeeze in every O Antiphon this last week before Christmas.

It’s not about squeezing anything in.

It’s about opening something up- our hearts, which are all He really wanted in the first place.

And in the next few days, there’s still time to do exactly that. There’s time to open my heart, even just a little bit, and make some space for Him. Any space I make in there will just allow Him to fill it with more Love.

Come, Lord Jesus. Fill us with your Love. We won’t be ready to receive you, but we long to receive you anyway, and we need you so much. Take what we have to offer, whatever it is, and make it enough. Help us remember that without You, nothing we have will ever be enough- and with You, whatever we have will more than suffice.

the adventures of margaret and june

"It’s kind of like a Christmas present for you, really."

I might be more excited about my daughters’ Christmas gift than they are.

That is definitely true for now, of course, since they don’t know what it is yet. It falls into the category  of “potentially life-changing things that you don’t even really know about.” So they can’t be very excited about it, not even knowing the potential it has for them both.

This is the year of the 18” doll.

We decided not to go for the American Girl doll, not yet. One daughter is still too likely to draw all over things that are not, strictly speaking, art materials, and one has a penchant for cutting hair. I did some preliminary browsing on eBay for Felicity and considered briefly whether it was the year to hand down my own beloved Samantha.

I decided it was not.

Instead, we are expecting the arrival (any day now! any day!) of Margaret and June, two lovely girls who are not American Girl dolls but are 18” tall and will be in for all kinds of excitement at our house.

Lucy and Nora have NO IDEA.

Margaret and June also have no idea…but I have every reason to hope they are solid, loyal, adventure-loving types who won’t be intimidated by space travel, medieval jousts, fort building, impromptu gymnastics meets in the backyard and long car rides. You know, the kind of girls that would be protagonists in an E. Nesbit novel, or maybe Jessie from the Boxcar Children.

My own American Girl doll story started way back when the company was still Pleasant Company. They sent out a small catalog (there was no internet then). There were only three dolls- Kirsten, Samantha, and Molly- with maybe three outfits each, and I was (by most accounts) too old to play with them.

I saved up all my money from doing odd jobs and babysitting my younger cousins to buy my very own Samantha. It was $74 for the doll and the paperback book, and it seemed like more money than I could imagine. It took me over a year. When I finally had the cash in hand, my mother bought the doll and even sprung for the extra money to upgrade to a hardback book.

That was lovely of her, wasn’t it?

I was old enough to sew, and one of my favorite things to do was to make clothes for Samantha. A few years later, my younger sisters were gifted Molly and Kirsten at Christmas, so we played school with them all together and made them elaborate wardrobes and took them everywhere we went. I can still remember my youngest sister’s voice when we were in a store someplace and she spotted something doll-sized: “That’s just the right size for Molly and them!”

Of course, now, there are no shortage of things that are the right size for Molly and them, since everyone in the world has an 18” doll from someplace. Pinterest is full of all the amazing things that properly motivated, crafty moms and other concerned adults can create for the dolls in their lives. The rational thing to do, especially the week before Christmas, is to say, “Oh, aren’t those cute?” but to privately thank your lucky stars that you have better things to do with your life than to build bunk beds for dolls out of end tables or create ballet barres for them out of pvc pipe (spray painted pink, of course).

This week, since we decided that Margaret and June will be joining our family, I have been falling down the rabbit hole of 18” doll paraphernalia DIY sites and currently have a list of projects to last a lifetime. I may have stayed up too late last night knitting a pink beret and matching mittens for June, prompting my husband to utter the words that titled this post in which I lay all the evidence out for you and wait for you to assure me that this is totally normal.

It’s normal, right?

I’m trying to convince myself my excitement for my girls (I mean my daughters, of course, not Margaret and June!) is just that, excitement for my girls, and that it doesn’t mean I’m projecting my childhood onto my daughters with expectations that they will have the same love for their dolls that I did for mine.

My Gram, who spent her retirement winters against her will in Florida away from her beloved grandchildren, once sewed complete wardrobes for Molly, Samantha and Kirsten while she was away, just because she loved to do such things. My mom tells stories about receiving dolls for Christmas with beautiful hand-sewn wardrobes of clothing, including wedding dresses and lined wool capes with matching skirts and blouses, all because Gram enjoyed making them so much.

I’m telling myself that a love for creating tiny clothes is just something I inherited from her and that I’m not actually obsessed. It’s hard, though, because I want Margaret and June to feel welcome and to be appropriately attired for the weather, and they ought to have pajamas and bedding that matches the girls’, don’t you think?

Maybe that’s going too far.

Maybe I could get by with monogrammed sleeping bags…

7 quick takes, Advent

(Not Quite) 7 (Not So) Quick Takes: The Advent Edition

This isn’t actually going to catch you up, in case you had any hopes for that. Part of the reason I’ve been putting off writing here is that the list of things I haven’t told you just gets longer and longer. So I’m jumping in mid-stream, and I’ll just put in backstory where it’s needed, and if you’re lost you’ll have to holler at me to slow down or back up.

Deal?

Good, now that we have that all figured out, here’s what we’ve been up to lately:

1. Advent School

I decided this year when planning our schedule for school to leave space during Advent and Christmas to do something different. We’re doing a light study of Christmas traditions around the world using Mary Lankford’s Christmas around the World as our main read-aloud and then reading all the Christmas picture books we love from our collection plus a healthy infusion of them from the library. My confession is that I put all those library books on hold in late October/early November and have just been renewing them so that we’d be sure to have them before someone else did. Sorry, y’all with whom I share a library system. I am being good about bringing them back when we have finished, though, so that’s something.

Without the usual schedule of math and history and science and other stuff, I have actually had the self-discipline to bake with my kids and let them do messy crafts without losing it entirely. We’ve hung pinecone bird feeders, made gingerbread play dough, painted wooden ornaments, sewn felt Christmas trees and made lavender sachets with cross-stitched letters on them. Not everyone has done all of these things. Someone hasn’t really done any of them. It’s okay, though- we have had time for extra reading, extra making, extra music, and extra lounging around, and it feels like overall things are working out as I hoped they might.

2. Advent- marking time

These are the things people want to know, right? What do you do? What should we be doing?

I’ll tell you what we are doing if you promise not to think it is what you should be doing.

Our Advent calendar – we open one door a day and there’s a short reading that goes along with it. This is my favorite Advent calendar of all time.

Our Advent wreath– we light the candle for the week on Saturday evening as a vigil for the coming Sunday, and we light it each night during the week before the kids go to bed and sing the first verse of O Come, O Come Emmanuel. We’ve been using this book by Lisa Hendey for several years now, and it’s just about perfect for the age that our family is- short, sweet, and to the point. (There are questions to discuss if you want to be more elaborate. We never do.)

The Sam of Advent Past: he is basically the same now, just bigger

Advent chain– I came up with this project for Sam a few years ago, and then the lovely Nancy of Do Small Things with Love made a wonderful printable version of it. There is a name of Jesus for each day of Advent. You can print Nancy’s pages out, cut them into strips, and make a chain so that you can remove a link each day leading up to Christmas. Scripture references on the chain links make it easy to look up the verses where each name of Jesus originates in the Bible. It’s been fun.

Jesse Tree– I have a pretty terrible track record with the Jesse Tree. We can’t seem to sustain it- things get busy, we get behind, and then I’m totally overwhelmed and we just drop it. I printed out Nancy’s ornament patterns a couple of years ago and we colored them, but we’ve never really gotten very far with the actual reading and doing of the tree.

This year, we are trying to keep up. Since I don’t have a lot of space to put out more things, we wrapped a branch with thread and are hanging the ornaments from it. No picture I can take of this branch is even remotely inspiring. So far, we are only slightly behind, but I’m not too worried about it yet.

We already put up our tree because we have a couple of trips away this month and didn’t want things to feel rushed. We could have waited until Gaudete Sunday, but we didn’t. I think at other times I’ve been more precious about the most correctest possible way to do everything, but this year I am just…not.

3. Hand-me-down hobbies
I thought this article from Brandy at Afterthoughts was so encouraging. I’ve been a little worried about how some of my kids don’t seem to be picking up certain things I wish they would pick up, or how I’m not spending equal time teaching each one of them the same things…but the older they get, the more different they are, and with so many different interests, it’s just not possible to cover everything with everyone in the same degree of detail. So for now, I’m spending more time with Lucy picking out carols on the piano or singing in parts, and Nora’s sitting with me working on her crochet technique (which will be better than mine quickly, since I don’t really crochet), and I’m playing chess with Sam or talking about theology or Hobbits or whatever else he’s read that I’ve always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

Bottom line: it’s going to be okay, because siblings.

4. Siblings

There is so much sibling conflict here right now that I often wonder if siblings are the reason why it is NOT going to be okay, maybe ever again…so I especially welcomed the reminder from Brandy (see #3) that there are practical advantages to having several children in my home, even if they aren’t immediately apparent. The squabbling is killing me, y’all. The boys are always whacking each other with swords, and if we take the swords away, they find other things with which to whack. The girls are constantly making and breaking and reforming alliances and sneaking Halloween candy into their room and arguing over who should have to clean up the dirty clothes that are everywhere. And I’m running around saying, “Everything has a place!” and “Don’t leave underwear in the kitchen!” and “Swords are not for whacking your brother!” (even though swords really are kind of for whacking your brother, aren’t they?)

5. Advent playlist

I have an eclectic Advent playlist. It’s still my go-to, and every now and then I add things to it, but that’s hard to do because I made it way back in the day when George had the only Spotify account in our household. It’s still under his name, but if you need music to accompany your Advent, give it a try. 
https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/1233061482/playlist/1NU3xalSmeK22Cn2iBlbZ0

6. HolyLens

George and I are doing #HolyLens again this Advent, because we would miss it if we didn’t. There is a small but faithful band joining us on Instagram. If taking pictures of your daily life helps you see the moments of grace embedded in your days, come and join us. Just look for the hashtag. I’m dere_abbey and George is grdvee.

That’s it. I guess sometimes quick takes come in sixes instead of sevens. Or maybe I’ll think of something else later.

Would you say a prayer for our parish Blessed is She leadership team and the women who will attend our Advent retreat tomorrow? It’s supposed to snow, probably not a lot, but I’d hate for weather to get in the way of what might be a very needed two hours of peace and reflection for these ladies tomorrow. I love snow, and I refuse to apologize for that, but if we could have snow and safe travels/not-too-slippery parking lots tomorrow, that would be most excellent.

Thanks for reading. I know I have been silent quite a while, and I don’t take it for granted that you stuck around now that I have something to say again.