Thinking About Advent, Family Traditions and Rhythms of Life

Advent begins a week from today. The past few years, before I had a child, I really enjoyed celebrating each of the different seasons of the church calendar, but since becoming a mom all of that went out the window. My mind and heart were pretty absorbed with just figuring out how to do life with a new baby. I had little to no motivation to do anything special beyond just getting dinner on the table. Lately though as my hormones finally start to stabilize again, as my son get’s a bit older and more interested in the external world, and as I begin to get more sleep and have more energy, I find myself longing for ways to observe the changing seasons in the natural world and in my spiritual heart. I find myself longing for traditions, and rituals and routines (something I’ve never been very good at in the past). I think often about what sort of family traditions I want my child to grow up with.

I recently read a blog post from Holy Experience about living a celebrated life and bringing beauty and ceremony into the everyday. It really inspired me. I want my son to grow up with the security and comfort that comes from regular, predictable, times of celebration and beauty as well as the surprise moments of celebration. I want him to grow up with a sense of being part of a deep rhythm of life. We are part of a natural rhythm and part of a spiritual rhythm as well and I want him to know that. God himself initiated a structure and rhythm to life when he gave us the gift of the Sabbath as well as the gift of the changing seasons of nature. I want my son to grow up feeling these changes deep in his soul. I want a day of Sabbath, I want seasons of planting, working, harvesting and resting. I want seasons of remembering Jesus’ birth, life and death.

I long for a daily rhythm, a weekly rhythm, a monthly and seasonal rhythm.

As Advent begins, and I find myself once again at the start of a new liturgical year, I’m thinking a lot about what kinds of rhythms and traditions I want to start in my family. How do I want my son to experience seasons? How do I want him to learn about and enter into the liturgical seasons? How do I want him to celebrate and encounter various holidays? Which holidays do I want to make particularly special and how do I want to do that?

It all starts with Advent… how do I want my son to grow up experiencing Advent?

These are all questions I have right now, but I’m not sure I really have answers for them yet. I think that’s ok though, since my son is only 14 months old. But, I do want to be intentional even this year about starting to create some traditions and rituals for our family moving forward.

So, what do you do to celebrate Advent? If you have kids I’m particularly interested to hear how you engage in Advent with them. Please share!

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Winter Rhythm and Trusting God

Lately, I’ve been feeling really depressed. Honestly, I think some of it is stress from a busy schedule and uncertain future. Some of it is from some things that God allowed to be stirred up and ways he allowed me to hurt over the past month, but I think some of it is just natural and seasonal.

It seems to me that in winter, especially in climates like Prague, there is this natural desire to slow down. With short cold days, there’s a desire to stay inside, to be home and spend a lot of time with family and close friends. There’s a desire for familiar and comforting things. I’ve felt this very tangibly lately. I don’t want to keep long active hours, I don’t want to run all over town, and I don’t want to meet a bunch of new people or spend times in large groups. Instead, I long to reflect, to read, to think, to ponder, to write, to have deep conversations with close friends, to cuddle up with my husband, and to eat and drink warm food.

Today I was trying to catch up on blogs that I’d gotten behind on and I came across this post, by Christine Sine at Godspace. She writes:

“Maybe, we reflected, we need to take notice of our bodies and build a slow down time into our winter schedules. In nature the winter is a time when on the surface there seems to be no activity, but beneath the ground roots are growing deep and strong. In fact shrubs planted in the Fall send down deeper roots than those planted in the spring and so are more resistant to drought. Maybe we too are more resistant to spiritual droughts if we take time to slow down and reflect over the winter, allowing our roots to go down deep…We are not meant to be continually producing fruit or even be continually blossoming. In fact plants that are forced into bloom at the wrong season by florists never recover their natural rhythm. Most of them will never blossom again.”

This struck me so profoundly. I feel this physical and natural urge to slow down, but I realize that this beginning season of winter has been and is and will continue to be incredibly busy for me. I have not been listening to my body or this call I have felt to rest and slow down, and instead I have sped up. And it seems that this pressure and speed of action will continue for some time still.

It seems interesting to me that this is common for many people – winter is actually a very crowded and busy season, not a relaxed or slow season. Especially December is a month filled with stress and activities for people, not a month of reflection and waiting and rest. And January as well, though a slower month in many ways, it is also a time when we set  new goals and try to plunge head first, full speed ahead, into the New Year. January is often a time for making changes, for starting new things, for trying to create fruit in our lives – does this seem counterintuitive to anyone else?

This month will be busy. I can’t really change that. But, what I can do is not add to that busyness. I can choose to take time as often as possible to reflect and be with God. I can be picky about the things that I add to my schedule and the things that I choose to let drop. I can choose not to give into the pressure to perform, to produce, to fill my days with motion. I can choose a different rhythm.

I was talking with a friend the other day and she made a statement about Sabbath and about rest. She basically said that choosing to rest is choosing to trust God.

So, often I choose to produce and perform and crowd my schedule, because I am not trusting God, because I want to control my life and control the outcomes of my life. I choose not to rest, not to slow down, not to take the time to put down deep roots, because I feel that I have to make things happen. But, the truth is that I can’t make anything happen.

The truth is that only God can provide for my needs.
The truth is that only God can really raise financial support for Bryan and I.
The truth is that only God produces a harvest and makes fruit grow and drop from the trees.
The truth is that only God draws people to himself, and only God grows a church.
The truth is that only God can make me or some project that I think is mine succeed.

Really, my job isn’t to make anything happen – I can’t really make anything happen. Yes, God chooses to involve me in his work, but it is HIS work, not mine. Really, what God calls me to is to abide in him, to rest in him, to put down deep roots and stay connected to the true vine, Christ Himself. He calls me to listen to him. Sometimes He may call me to action and sometimes He may call me to rest, but the important thing is that I am connected and listening to Him.

Lord, teach me to trust YOU. Teach me to rest in YOU. Teach me to not grasp at control, or rush forward in my desperation for results.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Scheduling Ourselves

So, Bryan and I decided that for the next week we are going to give ourselves a schedule and try to stick to it pretty strictly. We have spent nearly the last 2 years working from home and although I have longed for more structure and routine in my life we have never been able to keep to a schedule. Now that we aren’t working at the moment and really don’t have any outside structure put on us at all I felt like it would be even more important to try to give ourselves some order. So, over the weekend we sat down and made a list of daily activities and tried to organize them into a schedule.

Here are the things we want to try and do every day:

          Spend at least 30 minutes studying Czech

          Eat all our meals together (when possible)

          Spend an hour doing some form of exercise (yoga for me, whatever else for Bryan)

          Read for 1 hour a day

          Spend 30 minutes to an hour having coffee klatch time together (for us this means reading the Bible together and talking about the passage or more generally talking about our day and our relationship)

          Spend 1 hour in creative pursuits (for Bryan right now this means spending 1 hour playing guitar and for me this means spending 1 hour writing or taking pictures)

          Spend 4 and a half hours each “working” (neither of us has an actual job right now but we do each have smaller projects we are working on to make money or things we are doing to get jobs and this is time that we will spend working on those endeavors)

I’m excited about this new schedule. I think it will provide the discipline I need to actually get things done and pursue things that I want to pursue, but that it will also have a lot of enjoyable fulfilling time in it. We are still working out the kinks and figuring out the best order for things but I’m just excited to have some more structure and rhythm to my live. I think having more of a set rhythm and order to my day will really help, especially during this season of our lives when everything seems to be uncertain and up in the air.

Anyway, I thought I’d share where we are at this week and some of the things we are going to be holding ourselves to in this new season, however long it ends up lasting.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Beth Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

New Blog Structure: The Expirement Comes to an End

Ok, I think it’s time to end the blog schedule experiment. I enjoyed this little experiment and I think I will continue with a few parts of it, but I think I am in need of more freedom. I found that on some days I had things I wanted to write about but couldn’t because they didn’t fit the topic for the day. I also had times when I had trouble coming up with anything to write about that did fit the topic for the day and ended up sort of forcing it. So, I think I will go back to just writing about whatever I want whenever I want.

There are, however, two things that I would like to keep doing as carryovers from this experience. First, I would like to continue to write daily even when it’s difficult and I don’t have something to say, I think writing daily is a good discipline for me.

Second, I would like to continue to take Mondays to brag about the people that God has brought into my life. I have really enjoyed telling whoever would listen about the beautiful people that God has surrounded me with and how much they each mean to me. I really think it is important to let people know how truly uniquely beautiful they are and how much they mean to you and I find that it’s important to do that in front of others. I never realized how important it was to praise and admire people in public until I got married. I have learned over the last 3 years of being married that it is really important and means a lot to my husband when I admire him and tell him how amazing I think he is, but it means a lot more to him when I tell other people how much I admire him and how amazing I think he is. I think there is something special about admiring another human being in a public setting that increases and magnifies its significance. Hmmm, random side thought, maybe God likes that too – maybe it’s not enough for us to tell Him in private what we think of Him and how much we love Him, maybe it means something more to Him (and to us?) when we tell others how amazing He is and how much we love Him. Anyway, I think I will keep doing Admiration Mondays at least for a while longer.

Thank you all for joining me in my little experiment with a blog schedule, maybe we’ll try it again someday, but for now it’s back to regular UN-scheduled programming. J

Rejoicing in the journey –
Beth Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

New Blog Structure: An Experiment

So, as I wrote here a while ago, I have wanted more rhythm and consistency in my life. I have made a few steps towards creating rhythm and routine in my life, but it is still a struggle for me. So, I decided that I would maybe bring a little regular rhythm to my blog writing. I want to try a little experiment out for the next 2 or 3 weeks or so and see how it goes. I would like to try having a topic that I have to write on each day… I’m not sure if I’ll like it or not, so, like I said, this will be an experiment and I may give myself the freedom to scrap it all together if I don’t like it. But, here’s what I’m thinking a week might start looking like here at Coffee Klatch

Admiration Mondays – Each Monday I want to write about one person in my life that I admire and respect. I think it’s important that we tell the people in our lives how much we care about them and love them and that we take time to admire the beauty in each of them. God has given me some amazing friends and family and I want to take the time to publicly admire them.

Tuesdays Prayers – This will be a day to post prayers and conversations with God, whether they be my own prayers and conversations or the prayers of others that have touched my heart.

Wednesday Reviews – On Wednesdays I’ll review something – maybe a book I read, or a movie I saw, or a restaurant I went to, or a game I played. It’ll be a time for sharing with all of you about things that I’ve tried out or done and what my reactions where to those things.

Theology Thursdays – This day will be devoted to writing theology type things – so anything having to do with the study of God. It will be the time to write about things I believe about God and also questions I have about God.

Free Fridays – Friday’s will be a free day where I can write about anything I want or can take a break and not write at all.

Linky Saturdays – This will be a day to link to blogs, articles, videos, etc that I found interesting that week. A way of sharing what is going on in the larger web community.

Church Sundays – I’ll take Sunday’s to write about my thoughts on church and my own experiences with church.

Ok, that’s it. So, what do you think? I’m open to suggestions and changing this list a little. In fact it is likely that I will change it and likely that even if I don’t change it I won’t stick with it – I have a really hard time sticking with routines, but I know that they are really good and helpful for me. So, I’m gonna start this on Monday and try it out for a little bit.  We’ll see how it goes. I know that I will also probably have other things I want to write about and I will definitely give myself the freedom to write other things in addition to these topics, but I want to start with this structure and then see what happens from there.

Rejoicing in the journey –

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.