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

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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 like this post please consider buying me a cup of tea (Suggested: $3 a cup)