#HolyLens, Advent, feasts and seasons, giveaway

3 ways to get ready for Advent (so you can get ready for Christmas)

Advent is coming. 

It is. It’s coming.

I always start out the Advent season feeling panicky, like I’m falling behind before I’ve even started.  Time to find the wreath and the prayer book. Time to make all the lists…gifts, cookies, cards, events. Time to start getting everything ready. I’m not even ready to think about getting ready. Part of me wants to run away down the street and not look back, squeezing my eyes tightly shut so I won’t see all the giant Christmas inflatables that are already popping up on my neighbors’ lawns.

Maybe it’s okay that I feel apprehensive. Jesus is going to be born. We’re not ready…how could we be? Having recently welcomed a baby who is not the Son of God, I’m more than aware that there’s a lot to do. We need time to make preparations, to quiet our souls, to sink into the knowledge that in the midst of all the chaos and confusion of our world, God is entering. God is going to sit down with us right in the middle of our mess, because that’s what God does.

Emmanuel. God with us. Ready, or not.

But that’s why we have Advent. We don’t have to be ready yet. This season exists to help us become ready, to bring us into a space where we can prepare.

We have a choice. We can spend the next four weeks running around and wringing our hands about the crazy that surrounds us, or we can take a deep breath, accept that it’s coming, and decide to prepare.

I’m going with the deep breath option.

If you are also starting out this Advent feeling a bit behind, these three things might help:


First, there’s the new Advent journal from Blessed Is She. This slim booklet is so lovely. It’s filled with scripture verses, prompting questions and space for your thoughts and reflections each day from the first day of Advent through Christmas. A lot of love and care went into creating it especially for you, the busy reader who wants to take time to ponder and reflect but doesn’t have a lot of time to spare. I am really looking forward to using my copy, and guess what? I have one to give away to one of you!

If you’d like to win, just leave a comment here on this post or on our facebook page with either a challenge you are facing this Advent or something you’re especially anticipating this season.

If you don’t want to wait, you can purchase a copy of the journal here or by clicking on the ad in the sidebar. Your purchase helps support the ministry of Blessed Is She (an entirely volunteer effort).

Second, I’m sharing my favorite Advent music in a playlist on Spotify. You can find the playlist here. (If you don’t have a free Spotify account, you’ll need to set one up and download the software, which is easy to do.) I love Christmas music, but in this season of preparation, I’m not ready to listen to it yet. I fill the gap by listening to Advent music (yes, that’s really a thing!) If you have favorites that would be good additions, drop me a line- I’d love to expand the list some more this year.

Finally, how about joining me in a photo challenge? I’m focusing on finding holy moments and treasuring them in my heart by doing #HolyLens again. #HolyLens started during Lent 2014 as a way to notice and share the sacred moments we find each day. I will be posting a list of daily photo prompts for you each week. Just take a picture related to the day’s prompt, post it on Instagram- don’t forget the hashtag- and share your everyday holy with our little photo-happy community. Your eyes and your photos create our shared experience, and we all get to reflect on the little bits of grace that surround us. You can follow me on Instagram here…I’m dere_abbey.

If you are not on Instagram, you can post your photos on our brand-new HolyLens Facebook page.

I need to prepare my heart and mind for the arrival of Christ. If you do, too, please join me in any or all of these things. Together, we’ll be a little community of works in progress, headed down the road to Bethlehem just as we are, getting more and more ready to receive Jesus all the time.

That’s what Advent is all about.

The fine print: The Blessed Is She journal giveaway closes at 11:59 pm on Wednesday night, 11/27/14 (so I can mail you your journal in time for the first Sunday of Advent). This giveaway is open to US residents only. 

#HolyLens, Lent

#HolyLens: Prompts for Holy Week

It’s finally here…Holy Week. The last week of our journey together this Lent. I’ve grown from seeing the world through your eyes (and your images) in the past six weeks. I hope you’ve found this project a helpful way to focus on some of the holy beauty that is present every day in our ordinary lives.

This week, our prompts run from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. Please share these prompts in your circles and encourage people to join us, even if they haven’t participated before now. Holy Week is a wonderful time to practice seeing the sacred in our everyday lives as we prepare for Easter.

Here are the prompts:

Keep sharing your wonderful photos on Instagram and other social media, but also feel free to link up your favorite photos here in the linkup below. You can share any photos from this Lent as well as the photos you take this week leading up to Easter.

Thank you for your participation and support of this project. I’m grateful for each of you who have spent time with us this Lent and hope you feel it was meaningful.

Have a blessed Holy Week.


#HolyLens, parenting, Theme Thursday

Theme Thursday and #HolyLens: Chosen

Today’s Theme Thursday is also today’s #HolyLens, so I’m killing two birds with one stone (in the most non-violent, bird-loving way possible, of course, because you can’t really kill birds…and if you do, you certainly can’t just announce it in public like it’s no big deal, like, “Hey, I just killed two birds! With one stone!”).
Totally not okay.
Anyway, I’m staring at a sinkful of dirty dishes today and piles of laundry that should have already been washed and toys everywhere and floor desperately in need of vacuuming again. I’m snapping at my kids, who (in my defense) are being really testy and challenging today. I’m dreading Sam’s violin lesson this evening, because I have no idea what he’s going to do when we get there. Will he sit in the hall and refuse to go in? Will he be totally fine and just smile and act like he’s having the time of his life? They’re equally possible. Only time will tell.
In the middle of all of this, I keep thinking…it’s my vocation to serve these people before me, these little Christs in front of me. They need things and care and love and tending, and I’m the one to do it.
Today, meeting all the needs feels like an impossible task. I’m marveling at how someone who currently feels this overwhelmed could be chosen to be the parent to another little person-in-progress. He’s the only one so far that I haven’t let down. Right now, his needs are simple, and he’s perfectly content. It’s only a matter of time until I can’t meet all of his needs so easily, either.
Why is it so hard sometimes to trust that there will be enough to go around, even if there isn’t enough of me to do it all? 

He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.   

                               2 Corinthians 12:9

I’d love your prayers for strength and for peace on this beautiful day…despite the sunny spring weather, I’m a little tempest-tossed.

#HolyLens, feasts and seasons, Lent

#HolyLens, Week Six Prompts

Greetings, intrepid Lenten photographers!

Here are the prompts for #HolyLens, Week Six. (To find the prompts for previous weeks, go here.)

There’s only one week left after this one- we’ll have special prompts up starting Palm Sunday for Holy Week. If you’ve fallen behind, it’s okay to just pick up and keep going from here. If you’re just joining us, welcome…we’re happy to have you along.

Feel free to share these prompts and the Holy Week ones next week- it’s never too late to join in.

#HolyLens, Lent

#HolyLens Week 5 Prompts

Greetings, Intrepid Lenten Photographers!

I hope you are enjoying the prompts so far and are having fun finding the sacred in the mundane with your cameras. It’s hard to believe we’re already on week five…but here are the prompts. This list begins on Wednesday of this week:

Don’t forget to share the prompts…it’s not too late to join in the project.

Blessings on your week!

#HolyLens, Lent, water play

#HolyLens- water on a Sunday afternoon (and prompts for Week 4)

Happy third Sunday of Lent, everyone!

I hope you all had great weekends and enjoyed whatever you did. After last week’s trials and exhaustion, it was nice to have some time to hang out as a family and rest a bit. I did completely lose it on Saturday morning over some dirty laundry and ended up shouting in the kitchen (breaking my no-yelling streak for the first time since Lent started), but my loving family members forgave me, and the rest of the weekend was lovely. I really enjoyed reading about how Rosie’s weekend went, too…she and I have similar kinds of chaos going on a lot of the time, and it’s encouraging to know I’m not the only one who can sometimes lose it with my kids.

This afternoon, I still hadn’t taken my picture for #HolyLens, so I put a bowl of water (today’s prompt) on the floor and waited to see what would happen.

Nora found it first.

She blessed herself.

Then Sam came over to join the fun.

Finally, Lucy couldn’t resist- she left her work of smacking all the magnetic letters down to make them disappear forever under the bowels of the refrigerator to come check things out.

Then, it spilled. Dinner was ready by then, anyway- it was probably just as well. My kids love playing with water, and it’s always hard for them when they have to stop.

For you intrepid Lenten photographers, here are the prompts for Week Four (which starts on Wednesday).

Also, if you are on Spotify and haven’t seen the Lent-Inspired Playlist yet, here’s a link. (I’m open to suggestions for more music, if you have them).

Have a blessed week!

#HolyLens, Lent

A Lent-Inspired playlist (and #HolyLens, Week 3 prompts)

Lent music…it’s a real thing. Did you know? Everyone is always excited to break out the Advent and Christmas music during the season. Since this is a holy season, too, and one in which we should be focusing on spiritual things, I think it deserves its own playlist, don’t you?

Although I could listen to the new Lent at Ephesus by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles on repeat for days on end, not everyone in my household wants to subsist solely on magnificently beautiful, breathtakingly wonderful nun-chant. I get it. So, to change things up a little, I put together an eclectic playlist for Lent. Expect a little bit of a lot of things: some gospel, some folk hymns, some soaring classical chorales, some modern interpretations, and some secular songs that still make us feel Lent-y. We are a people of varied musical tastes, and there’s a little something for all of us here.

(Here is a link to the playlist, in case the player doesn’t work for you.)

Feel free to skip the ones you don’t like, and feel free to share the playlist, too. If you feel like sticking to the calming nuns, you can start there and just listen to that part. I tried to group the songs a bit to put like things together. If you really want to live dangerously and mix it up, you can just shuffle the whole thing and see what happens.

Also, if you’ve been waiting for the Lent-stagram prompts for this week, here they are:

I think these are a little more down to earth than last week. I know a few people were feeling kind of stumped on some of the days this past week.

How are things going for you, Lent-wise? Or otherwise?

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