December Synchroblog: Experiencing Advent with a Toddler?

December 6th, 2010

NOTE: this post is part of the December Synchroblog I participate in. I’ll post all of the other links as soon as I get them, so please check back later to read some other great thoughts on Advent from my blogging friends all around the world.

EDIT: All the links are added at the bottom of this post now – personally I can’t wait to read what all these wonderful bloggers have to say about Advent. So, grab a cup of tea and join me in checking them all out.

I have to be honest… I’m really struggling with Advent this year.

I want to enter into it and really make my day-to-day life reflect the unique season. I want to have more of a rhythm for our year that includes the rhythm of God’s story. But, I’m not exactly sure how. I have read lots of suggestions. I’ve even tried a lot of them in various past years. But, truth be told, I feel like most of it hasn’t worked well for me. I’m really bad with routines and no matter how hard I try I don’t stick to them… so each Advent I think, oh I’m going to do an advent calendar this year, or I’m going to do an advent wreath or I’m going to do the daily readings from the lectionary for each day of advent, but then I just don’t. Sunday comes and goes without me even realizing it and I forget to light the candles. A week goes by and I realize I’m five days behind on the advent calendar. I start out well with the lectionary, but eventually there’s a day that’s busy full of Christmas prep and party and I forget and then the next day I forget again. This was how it was before I had a kid, I can’t imagine how it would be now, when I can never finish anything and my brain is constantly scattered because of a demanding toddler.

In the past the best way for me to enter into Advent was just to think about, meditation on, pray through and write about the meaning behind the season. I liked the years when I took time to do that. Even though it was informal and I didn’t stick to a schedule or remember to do the advent calendar, I still feel like I entered into Advent during those years.

Lately though, I’m not sure how to do that with a young child. I feel like I don’t have the space or quiet in my life (or mind) to think, meditate or pray more than a quick, jumbled up prayer. Writing has also become a bit of a struggle for me since having a child. I get a little tunnel vision when I write and like to tune everything out and just type, but I can’t do that with a toddler tugging at my leg saying “up, up, maum, up” every few seconds.

Essentially I’m realizing that, as the mother of a toddler the way for me to enter into advent is no longer through the door of the contemplative.

A friend of mine is writing an advent series on her blog with scriptures, prayers, and other resources for reflection and I love what she is doing and definitely recommend you check it out, but as I skimmed her first post I couldn’t help but think, “this is a great tool for experiencing advent for the stage of life that my friend is at, but these tools just don’t fit with the stage in life I find myself in right now.” Case in point, I tried to do the liturgy she posted and was interrupted by my toddler or my husband 4 times before giving up. I later went back and tried to watch one of the videos she recommended while my son was sleeping I got literally 10 seconds into it and he woke up.

On top of realizing that this stage of life is not very condusive to the contemplative I’m also wrestling with wanting to find ways to enter into Advent not as an individual but as a family. I want to experience advent not as something I participate in my own “quiet time” (not sure I have one of those much anymore anyway), but I want to experience advent as a mommy WITH my son. I do not want to separate my spirituality from my mothering, I do not want to practice my spirituality apart from my son, but how do I commune with the divine with a 14 month old? Mother is not something I do it is something I am now. It is not a role that I sometimes play and can sometimes lay aside to pursue spirituality. Mother is what I am. How do I connect with God AS a mother, within my mothering? This is my big question lately, and the smaller aspect of it is how do I connect with Advent, with this small part of God’s big story, within my mothering? How do I engage with Advent with my 14 month old? I have ideas for when my child gets a little bigger, but what about now? Am I supposed to just leave him out of it and try to find moments to myself when I can engage with this season? If that’s the case I’m really not sure I can do that.

How do I experience Advent, or any church season, as the mother of a toddler? How do I experience God as the mother of a toddler? Honestly, I’m not really sure right now. Most of the ways that I have experienced God in the past and connected with his story just don’t work for me now in this stage. So, I find myself really wrestling with this question. Where is God amidst the motherhood? I believe that God is present so how do I find him within my new role as mother.

I don’t have answers, I don’t have it all figured out, I don’t know how to practice Advent as a mother, but I do believe that our spiritual life is a journey and we figure things out one step at a time along the way.

Advent itself is a journey – a journey of waiting. And so today I find myself entering into that journey, simply by presenting my questions before God and before all of you and waiting…waiting for him to speak into my mothering. Waiting for him to speak into my questions.

Rejoicing in the journey -
Bethany Stedman

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7 Responses

  1. [...] bethany stedman – experiencing advent with a toddler [...]

  2. Liz says:

    Beth – I remember having some of these same questions when my two sons were toddlers. In hindsight I see those years as some of the most formative years in my spiritual journey – I learned so much about how to depend on God, how to let him live his love through my life, how to see the beautiful and the eternal in a seemingly ordinary day. Good for you for not wanting to seperate your mothering from your spirituality – because imo being a mother is one of the most spiritual things you can do. I pray that you and your family have a blessed season and that you see God at every turn this season.
    Liz recently posted..Advent- A Journey of Awakening

    • Beth says:

      Liz, thank you so much for that prayer – that is what I would pray as well that we can see God at every turn. I really appreciate your insight about mothering as well – it’s great to hear from someone who is a little farther down the road who can encourage me that this season will not be a wasted season of my spiritual life. It’s good to hear that you experienced so much formation in those years when your kids where toddlers and gives me hope that there is deep formation going on under the surface of my heart as well.

  3. Annie says:

    I love this post. I have three kids (6, 3, and 1) and I decided a while ago that contemplation is not for me, not right now. It doesn’t work and trying to make it work is too frustrating to be productive. I’m not sure I have an answer, on the other hand. If not contemplation, then what? I was thinking yesterday, though, that I have work and there’s some kind of mystery (to me, anyway) in the practice of patiently doing the work that needs to be done faithfully day after day.

    • Beth says:

      Annie, I’m glad I’m not the only one! You are so right about there being a sort of mystery in just faithfully doing the work that is before you. I need to be reminded of that often. Thanks for sharing!

  4. kathyescobar says:

    hey beth, thanks for sharing where you’re at this year. what i like about what you are saying is that we have to find what works for us, not necessarily what works for everyone else. it’s so easy to measure “this way is good and right or more spiritual and deep or a variety of other adjectives” and then be frustrated that we just aren’t there. i have 5 kids and there are so many moments when i am like “yeah, that just isn’t even remotely an option for me right now.” but i like finding what is. and i really like the thought of seeking how to celebrate advent not as an individual but as a community or family. it adds such a different texture to it. peace to you. they do grow up fast, enjoy!
    kathyescobar recently posted..making room for the unexpected

    • Beth says:

      Kathy, you are so right to say that we all need to find what works for us. I think that is so true, but so hard sometimes. We are definitely culturally conditioned to think some ways of connecting with God are more spiritual than other ways. I’m trying to let go of that and allow God to find me wherever I am. Thanks for sharing your thoughts in the comment – for some reason I never realized that you have 5 kids – I’m struggling with 1 I can’t even imagine 5. You have always been an inspiration to me and knowing that you do all that you do with 5 kids makes you even more inspiring to me :) Thanks for stopping by my blog and for all the wonderful and thought provoking posts you write regularly :)

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