I remember it clearly. I was surrounded by piles of Christmas decorations, trying to untangle no-longer-twinkling twinkly lights from the evergreen garland I was supposed to be wrapping around our staircase. Beautiful Christmas carols played on the magical Bluetooth speaker singing of peace and joy and hope and love, but all I felt was frustration and sweat. The sweet voice of my youngest questioned, "Mom why don't we have an elf? All my friends do and he goes all over their houses and does crazy things at night! Why doesn't he come here?" I took a huge breath as a montage of all the hilarious elf adventures I'd seen on Facebook scrolled through my mind and thought to myself: Yes it would be nice to have him here but I will quite literally lose my flippin' mind if I add one more thing to all of my things this holiday season!!! I responded quite firmly, "Huh...guess he just doesn't come here."
Christmas has always been my most favorite time of the year. I have such fond memories of singing Christmas carols, wondering what Santa would bring, gathering with people I loved, cool weather and hot cocoa, the midnight candlelight services at church, and of course, the food! As I got older and began a family of my own, passing down these beloved traditions brought a whole new kind of excitement. I longed to make it perfect and magical for my kids. But year after year, as I discovered the next amazing way to create "the most wonderful time of the year" for my people, I became more exhausted, more overwhelmed, and sometimes downright angry. I found myself thinking something is missing here. Something's just not right.
Turns out...something was missing.
I ended up going to an Advent workshop at my church the year of that elf breaking point. I went huffing thinking, "Great! One more thing to add to my already too long list." However, I left empowered. A beautiful lady named Nancy spoke miraculous words like "slow down," "less is more," "it's not about the destination but the journey to get there." She told of ways to invite God into this holy season and celebrate Him with our families. She spoke of those feelings of joy and peace I'd once had (but now seemed more like a distant memory). And then she shared ways to experience joy and peace during the countdown to Christmas by celebrating Advent. I left with another feeling that this season had once meant for me - hope.
Since that workshop, we have begun yearly Advent celebrations. We start by making promises to each other and to God about how we want to go through the days leading up to December 25. We commit to welcoming Jesus and preparing our hearts for Him. We look at Pinterest and find fun (kids' request) and simple (my request) activities we can do. We have a weekly celebration where we light our Advent wreath and add to our progressive nativity. We make messes and don't worry about them. We snuggle on the couch for Christmas stories and movies. We look at our schedule and cut as much out as we can. We give gifts to Jesus by doing random acts of kindness every day in the month of December. We invite Jesus into our moments and come Christmas morning, as we rush to find out what Santa brought, we also stop and remember the greatest gift ever given.
I am so grateful for a woman named Nancy who helped me to see there is more to this season, but is often found through doing less and keeping our hearts and minds focused on the One who makes it so. And side note: my youngest made an elf with a picture of herself as the face last year in school. It's just so cute that it stays up all year long in the exact same place to watch over us and make sure we're all behaving 😉. I guess I was just waiting for the right elf!
Lisa is a deep-thinker, a philosopher in cute jeans and flip flops, a Nutty Professor - mom style. She recognized God's presence at an early age and has lived life mostly open to Him. She hears His voice in books, movies, and music - no matter the genre! She is serious about the work of living Loved, loving God, and loving people.