This Advent, I’ve been thinking about waiting. So many of the Advent readings reflect not just on Mary’s anticipation of the birth of Jesus, but also the the nation’s waiting for a political savior. We read of people’s waiting on a future where there will be justice, a righting of wrongs, and an end to sorrow.

I’ve been wondering where I’m waiting for the wrong thing. For years, I asked God to release me from the practice of medicine. Faithfully, daily, I begged God to let me stop being a doctor. The persistent widow had nothing on me. God said no. Persistently, daily, gently: No. Now, fifteen years on, I’m grateful for that No, but it was a long road to get here, and I spent much of it waiting on the wrong thing.

I look at the rising tide of racism in our country, the online bullying of a 16 year-old by the President of the United States, families losing access to food assistance, children fleeing violence and hunger in their home countries who think they’ve reached freedom only to be held in detention without access to medical care or education, and I want a political solution.

I walk alongside families whose loved ones are wasting away from cancer and chemo, or autoimmune diseases that ravage their bodies, and wonder When will there be healing? It can’t be wrong to ask and hope for physical healing, but when the answer is No, what then?

So I’m praying and contemplating this Advent. Wondering in which wrong places I have set my hope. Asking for God to open my eyes to where Hope is at work even now, even today, even in me. And I’m waiting for justice and healing, here and now. What are you waiting for?

Advent: it’s not too late to make room

It’s been a few years since I wrote a post on how I love the church year and how it loves me back. I used to post every year on our Advent traditions, and what I loved about Lent and Ordinary Time. But then some of my posts had the opposite effect of what I’d wanted. I shared a practice that was life-giving for me, and it was making other people feel bad.  That had to stop.

But, as a perpetual optimist, I’m back this year to try again.  I want to share a few things I love about the Advent, which began yesterday. Happy New (Church) Year.


Advent is about waiting and making room. It is a season for contemplation. I need more of all three of those in my life, so it’s no wonder Advent is my favorite season.


There are a million and one resources out there to enrich your Advent, but I’m not here to talk about those today.  I don’t want to add anything to your burden, because Advent is about waiting to receive.  Making room. Advent isn’t asking you to do more, or be more.

“Mom, that Prepare sign is really freaking me out.” — child

Advent is asking us to rest in a place of waiting.  Waiting on God to fix what’s broken. (Not my strength. I’m more of a Sarah kind of gal.)

Anyway, I’m here to tell you that it’s not too late. Even if you don’t have any candles, or can’t find your Advent wreath (or don’t have one), or if the broken light is the second one in the string and none of them will light, or you are too overwhelmed to dig any of your decorations out of the basement, or they all went down with your house in a fire, and your kids refuse to snuggle on the couch to listen to The Best Christmas Pageant Ever even though we do it every year but now they think they’re too old for it…

Even if all of that is true, it’s not too late. You don’t need to do anything. Because Advent is about the promise that God is going to show up in the flesh to take care of everything. It’s not going to look like what we expected, and that’s all right, too. Our job is just to make room to see what the Incarnation really looks like.

7QT: Seven Free Ways to Slow December Down

I blinked yesterday and found out it was December. It had been December for several miles already, but we were moving so quickly I hadn’t noticed the scenery. So in honor of December, here is a collection of free things to do with your family to slow the pace down a little bit.

One: Make a paper calendar as a family. Put everything on it. The more discerning of your children will recognize that that it’s really full and will agree to pull back a little bit, or at least complain less when you say, “No, we can’t do that.”

Two: Spend an evening (or fifteen minutes) walking/driving around your neighborhood to look at your neighbors’ decorations.  One year I made Bingo boards with the different things we’d seen. This year’s Bingo squares here include an inflatable Minnie Mouse, a Storm Trooper, Yoga (it’s a big year for Star Wars and Minions, apparently), Minions, a dragon in a Santa Hat, and Santa smashed into a chimney.


Three: Bake cookies or cinnamon ornaments. Here’s the recipe we like. (Do me a favor and don’t compare ours to hers.)  Our ornaments have held up for 6 years, through two moves, so they’re more durable than you think.


Four: Go through old photos together.  Repeat your family stories.


This gem is from 2010, when we helped Aunt Mandy decorate for Christmas. (You can see that hair care was a top priority even then.)

Five: Make gingerbread houses. Make them cheaply, from graham crackers or pretzels. Think of these as Minecraft structures, built to be destroyed by your siblings, instead of enduring architectural masterpieces.


Six: Observe Advent. It’s a quiet church season, unlike Christmas (and especially unlike the commercial version of Christmas.) Pray together over the injustice you see in the world. It takes a minute, especially for the younger ones to slow down enough to think about the second coming and what we’re waiting for, but it’s worth the effort.

In years past, we have followed an Advent devotional through the four weeks, always crashing somewhere in the middle a missing a few days here and there. So if you’ve always wanted to do an Advent book/reading series/devotional but didn’t manage to start on Sunday, no worries. Start where you are!

Here’s my favorite easy Advent “calendar”: write out the verses from Luke 2: 1-20, breaking them into enough segments to cover the days of Advent. (Or, if you’re starting today, just 17.) Then cut the paper into rings, staple them together. Open one each day, pasting them up and reading the story each day as it develops.


Side note: I tried to have the girls in my Sunday school class at church do this with me this week. We couldn’t decide if it was better to label them 1-22 (since there are 22 day of Advent this year), or 3-24 for the actual dates of December. Two of the girls told me what a terrible craft it was, because it wasn’t perfect. So anyway, do it yourself and then you won’t have tiny perfectionists criticizing your crafting.

Seven: Pull out a favorite Christmas book and spend time curled up together, reading. Our favorite is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, but I just bought a new-to-us audiobook of The Christmas Carol I’m hoping to slip in here one night, accompanied by hot chocolate and popcorn.

What would you add? What are your favorite free ways to slow December down?

Looking forward to Advent

I hate Halloween.  I’m like a Halloween Grinch.

Image result for grinch

And I especially hate that Halloween falls during my birthday month (yes, I’m that annoying person who wants the whole month to be about me), so that all of October as I’m admiring the gorgeous fall colors, giant plastic pumpkins and creepy skeletons keep intruding.  There’s a giant plastic spider in a polyester web over an exam room at work that made one of my young patients scream the other day, and I knew just how he felt.

This is what I love about October.

And this, too.

The one thing I like about Halloween is that it tells me Advent is almost here.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Thanksgiving and especially Christ the King Sunday (the last Sunday before Advent, this year on November 20).  But I especially love Advent. It’s a season of contemplation and prayer.

I love that the Giant Retail Machine has not figured out how to turn Advent into a commercial enterprise.

In a fit of pique about a particularly icky lawn ornament I saw the other day, I came home and pulled out our Advent books, just to see if there were any gaps I wanted to fill in.  (There were.  I ordered a few new-to-us books.)

If you don’t have any Advent traditions, or want to know what the Advent fuss is all about, let me recommend a few of my favorite Advent resources.


For advance planning and ideas for how to meditate and celebrate at home, I recommend Let Us Keep the Feast, edited by Jessica Snell. For each of the church seasons, it provides a collection of resources, including an introduction to the season, an explanation of the calendar, information on seasonal traditions- old, new and international, seasonal recipes, suggestions for how to celebrate with the very young, ways to serve beyond the home, selected readings, music and prayers. (I wrote the section on Ordinary Time, but that isn’t my favorite one.)  The book is available from Doulos Resources, or Amazon, both in electronic, pdf and paperback forms.

Elizabeth Foss has an Advent devotional called Comfort and Joy that looks beautiful (though I haven’t tried it.)  She also has some lovely book lists I’ve used to shape our collection of special books we read during Advent.

In past years we have enjoyed Geraldine McCaughrean’s The Jesse Tree, which we’ve read as an Advent family devotion.  This year, I think we’ll be back to Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas.

Do you have an Advent resource to recommend as we look ahead (past Halloween)? Please share in the comments.

Wrapping up some love

I spent rest time this afternoon wrapping up books.  Not just any books. Christmas books.

My friend Christine gave us one of her favorite Christmas books before my oldest was even born– it must have right after I told her I was pregnant.  And with that gift, she started us down a road of piecing together our Christmas book library.  Little by little, year by year, we have added to the collection.  It seems frivolous, to have a box of books we only read in December, but it was the box we missed most last year when all our Christmas ornaments and decorations (and books!) were in storage.

Yesterday at church, my friend Gabs was asking my about our Advent wreath.  (It’s this one, in case you’re looking for it.)  But we use our books as a type of Advent observance, too.  Slowing down, gathering on the couch, unwrapping a book each night, and snuggling together to read.

So today I hauled the box of Christmas books off the shelf in the basement and began wrapping them.  The plan (alas, if I could only stick to the plan!) is to open one each night and snuggle together as we read.  I know just which ones my kids will look for, weighing the books in their hands and trying to see through the paper.  (How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever are two of their favorites.  I will be especially happy when we unwrap A Child is Born and The Shoemaker’s Dream.)  This year I’m adding a few more I’ve been looking for: a version of the Christmas Carol that’s been out of print, and The Baker’s Dozen.  Most of the books I have bought used, and we have imagined them in older, now grown-up hands before us.  The first few years I bought blindly and found some lemons, but now I am picky.

Like Mother Like Daughter, Modern Mrs. Darcy and Elizabeth Foss have lovely lists of Christmas books, but I’ll share here a few that didn’t make it onto theirs:

The Shoemaker’s Dream (Schell/Kasuya)- a shoemaker encounters Christ (no elves involved)

Silver Packages (Rylant/Soentpiet)- an Appalachian boy who receives a life-changing gift from the Christmas train

The Oxford Book of Christmas Poems (ed. Harrison & Stuart-Clark)- poems for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, as well as winter.





Daybook: Just before Christmas


Outside my window: I woke up and put running clothes on, but it’s cold.  Really cold, and the snow on the ground doesn’t make for good footing.  Maybe my run will be inside today.

In the kitchen: not much.  We’re meeting friends for dinner tonight.  But we might be able to make the peppermint bark today.


In the schoolroom: It’s vacation! Hooray!  Of course, there are still four children to corral and keep entertained.  We have been missing our late-afternoon play times with friends coming home from school– there are none of those around here.  It makes the 4-6 p.m. crazies even worse.  One more thing to look forward to in our move…


We hit Mythbusters exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Denver Art Museum (including Passport to Paris) and the Gates Planetarium during the past two weeks, before they would be crowded with vacationing children. For the record, the Mythbusters mechanical shark is on display.

Yes, that’s me behind all that Plexiglas.  No, I was not fast enough to dodge the paintball. And yes, I needed all that PPE.


Building a house of straw, sticks and bricks with Papa.  Will it hold when the big bag wolf blows?

About that move: thanks for asking.  Yes, we finally have a closing date: February 6.  That’s right.  Sandwiched between two overnight hospital calls, the Super Bowl (Go Broncos!) and the Winter Olympics, we have date for our move.  Someone forgot to order cabinets for the entire block, so when the contractor called to ask when the cupboards would be delivered, the cabinet company asked, “What cabinets?”  Today is 45 days, so we’re hoping to lock in a loan before the vagaries of the US economy play any more havoc with our hypothetical mortgage payment.


Handmade: There’s no sewing or knitting happening, but I have been busy.  Six-and-a half years ago (when I was pregnant with SweetP) my friends Eva and Dean were married, and I traveled to Seattle to celebrate with them.  Apparently I gabbled so much about my children (as I am wont to do) that Eva decided to give my daughters her doll house, which is a gorgeous handmade gingerbread affair with antique furniture like my great-grandmother’s crank phone and a pedal-foot sewing machine table and a piano.  I have been waiting for the right time to give it to her, and this is it, so I have been repairing it.  I can’t wait to see SweetP’s face.  Thanks, Eva!!


In my shoes: As soon as I announced my proposed running streak, I fell off the wagon.  I have nine days to run the ten miles left to go (to get to 1000 lifetime miles), so hopefully today will be include three… although that feels much longer on the inside track than on the road.  I did ski Thursday, with all four children, which is a post in itself if I ever recover enough to write about it.

What I’m reading: Isaiah.  Song in the Night by Bob Massie.  Harold and the Purple Crayon.


Grateful for: Mandy’s arrival home from the hospital.  My health insurance and my new doctor.  Advent, even if waiting is harder this year than before (you’d think all this practice would have made me good at it).  Fifteen children at children’s church yesterday (and all the adults who came to help me).

Friday night’s church worship concert.


Praying for: Mandy.  My back.  Lisa.  Anne.  Jerusha.  Refugees and those who minister among them. For patience in our home…

Giveaways and Reviews

Several bloggers (who all have blogs with fantastic names!) have reviewed Let Us Keep the Feast: Advent and Christmas and are hosting giveaways.

So if you’ve wanted to check out the book, here’s your chance: La Strada Tostada ‘s review.  Click on over there and enter a comment to win (closes Thursday night).

My Broken Fiat‘s drawing is open through Friday, and Filling My Prayer Closet’s giveaway is open through 12/20.

And wait!! One more from Life of a Catholic Librarian.

Good luck!

{phfr}: St Nicholas Eve

Sorry about the blog silence here… I feel a little bit like I’m in a cast and can’t find my crutches.  Meanwhile, there are Christmas letters to write and piles of mail on my desk to dig out and kindergarten presentations on Guatemala (let alone my own processing of the trip), and we’re already halfway through the first week of Advent.

But that’s where the traditions come in to help us– my mom pulled out all her decorations (saving me the trouble of digging through the mountains of boxes) and set things up, and the children are off and running on their Advent traditions. I didn’t make it to Trader Joe’s for gold coins while we were in Chicago last week, but I did find two St Nicholas books at the library.  And we can probably manage a batch of sugar cookies cut into mitre hats.

So without further ado, I have a few photos of Advent doings around here.

Pretty:  My parents’ Christmas decorations. My favorite it the olive wood crèche.




Happy: I made these little Advent people (they’re just felt with beans and stuffing inside) when SweetP was a baby.  They were the first things she asked for when the other kids said it was Advent.


Funny: here’s what my medical assistant was making yesterday while I was seeing patients.


Real: Can you see how big Jonah’s hands are here? Just a week (or maybe 13 years) he was the baby lying on the floor giggling up at the Christmas tree. Now he’s the one we tap to decorate the top of the tree. Time’s a-flying, friends, so who cares about the mounds of stuff on the desk? Not I.


Capture more contentment in the context of every day life at Like Mother, Like Daughter.
round button chicken

Daybook, First Monday of Advent 2013

Out my window: it’s beautiful today, 61 degrees and sunny.  Even the wind is warm.  I went for a short run this morning, because I know things are a changing.  We’re supposed to have heaps o’ snow on Wednesday.

In the kitchen: I’m roasting chick peas, but they’re taking forever.  I keep setting the timer for 5 more minutes.  One of these times I’m going to go back and find them burnt to a crisp.

In the schoolroom:  I’m doing some tweaking here.  I have been putting it off, even though I know it’s not working, until we move and everything changes anyway… but I can’t wait that long.  It has to change now.  Sorry for being obscure and vague– more details to come– but I feel like we’ve fallen into an exercise rut, just doing what we’ve been doing even though people are challenged.  I feel too challenged in other ways to rock the boat here, but it has to happen.

In the garden: Sam and I are talking about where to put in raised beds (at the new house, obviously).  We’ll have some time between when we move in and when the builder comes to do the landscaping– that’s one advantage to moving in [we hope] in January.  He wants stone, I want wood… he wants permanent, I want organic…

On my mind: I am still sorting through our Guatemala trip before I share more here.  One of my favorite parts was having three meals a day together.

What I’m reading: Sticky Faith by Powell and Clark (it’s good)

and Let Us Keep the Feast (Advent and Christmas) by Telander and Bychek, ed. Snell.  I am really excited about this book.  Here’s a quote from Rachel Telander’s Advent chapter:

In a way, Christians are always in the season of Advent, twenty-four hours a day, seven  days a week, 365 days a year. We are In the Second Advent.  As we remember Christ’s first coming, we are waiting and preparing, in hope and expectation, for his second… Repentance is the final theme of Advent, precisely because we are preparing ourselves , even now, for Jesus’ arrival in splendor and glory from the right hand of God, the Father, and for the day when we will be with him, in paradise.

I was talking with Moriah recently about how we were coming back “late” for Advent, missing Christ the King Sunday (one of my favorites) and the first Sunday of Advent at our church… she was wondering if it was too late to start Advent.  (I confess to similar thoughts today as I am digging myself out from under Laundry Mountain.)  But I reminded her that Jesus is the God who pays the first workers and the latest workers generously, no matter how late we come to the feast.  So if you can’t find your Advent wreath (as I cannot) or your St Nicholas Day books (though I found one at the library this morning), do not despair.  You can start when you’re ready, and Jesus will join you there.  He’s that kind of man.

On the needles:  I’ve had it with the pattern I’m knitting.  I had to pull out a different pattern to use it to try to salvage what I’ve already put months into.  Hate that.  But the children are excited about what they’re making for grandparents and each other, and that makes me happy.

Grateful: for everyone’s coming home well from Guatemala.  For not having to use our evacuation insurance.  For Spanish being spoken in snatches around the house.  For the library’s copy of The Baker’s Dozen, tucked away until Thursday night.

For a few hours with my sisters-in-law Mandy and Jennifer on Friday night, even if we weren’t at a coffee shop.  For so much love and fun and football and food and hilarity this weekend with Sam’s family.

Praying for: Mel and her family.  Mandy.  Claire.  Jerusha.  The Philippines, and our friends who are working so hard there.  Displaced people all over the world.  I think they are especially close to God’s heart.



Ready, Set, Advent!

Since it’s the second most commonly searched topic on my blog (after my weird sleeping bag tutorial), I thought I would make it easy to find all my Advent Resources here on one page.

If you’re looking for books for Advent, or ideas for incorporating charity into your family Advent practice, simple family devotions , or a craft for your little ones, check out these links.

Here are all my previous posts on how our family celebrates St Nicholas Day (Dec 6) are here (and here and here.)  Here are a few posts on various Advent traditions we have kept, trying to make Advent different from our celebration of Christmas.

I am hoping to map out a rough “schedule” with room to wiggle– planning lighter school with extra afternoon time for crafting, or surprising our neighbors with acts of charity.  Not sure what those will be yet, but it’ll come.

We got A Christmas Carol on CD– read by Jim Dale!– and I’m looking forward to listening to that and reading through The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and The Oxford Book of Christmas Poems.

Be sure to check out the comments on the links above.  There are some wonderful ideas there, too.