The time of the year when Advent falls has always been my favorite. Just after Thanksgiving the air cools down even more, so cups of tea are overflowing throughout my day, Christmas music playlists are in full swing, and dinners are mostly hearty meat-and-potatoes or soup. I've always understood that it was a time of preparation for gifts and gatherings, not something particularly spiritual. For me that time of year when I experienced true spiritual change was always Lent, and reflecting on the Passion for any amount of time brings pause to any person. Nativity scenes of Baby Jesus weren't penetrating my heart because all I could think about was Nat King Cole, eating dessert, and wrapping gifts. I was just not aware of the great mystery that exists in the birth of a real Savior. Being pregnant with a baby boy due on Christmas Eve has been a crash-course in understanding exactly what the Virgin Mary was going through in very real way.
Only after becoming a parent did I think more intentionally about how I wanted our family to spend Advent. After musing over which traditions were special to me and Stephen, and looking to the rich history of the Church for inspiration, little by little we came up with what we now celebrate every year.
Now, for the first Sunday of Advent we get our Christmas tree. We start off with it bare for the first weekend, add lights for the second weekend, ornaments the third weekend, and gifts underneath the fourth weekend. Almost every night of Advent we sit in front of the tree with only its light in the room to do our night prayers with our daughter, followed by a quiet song of Silent Night or Away in a Manger.
For the feast of St. Nicholas on December 6th, we put our boots by the tree to be filled with Santa chocolates (we get ours at World Market) and spend the afternoon decorating cookies with cousins. We light the candles on our Advent wreath every Sunday before dinner, which is such a wonderful visual for the season of awaiting the feast of Christmas. This year we are adding a new tradition for our Pre-K homeschooler by creating a bead box for acts of kindness that will be her gift to Baby Jesus on Christmas day.
Our traditions are simple, and I think we will add to them as the years go on, but this year I really wanted something to transform my experience of Advent. I saw the beautiful Advent Journal Blessed Is She created with designer Erica Tighe and writer Laura Kelly Fanucci. Though I wanted to order it, but it was definitely an "extra" outside of the budget. Then one day last week one of the journals showed up in my mailbox! A thoughtful friend knew just what was in my heart without me saying so, and now I am so excited to see how the journal accompanies my spiritual journey through this liturgical season.
At first glance, the original abstract artwork really grabs you. The shade of peach used throughout the book is warming, but not overly Christmas-y, which I think lends to its use as a tool for growth, rather than a distraction that there is much to be done on the list for Christmas. I've never tried a devotional journal before, have you? What was your experience? I'm thinking that even if Louis is born prematurely, which there is a chance of, I will still look forward to my time with the journal as self-care in the midst of the chaos.
In case you do want to purchase the Advent Journal, I would do so quickly! They sell out every year, so buy yourself a little gift (it's only $25) that will transform the way you get ready for Christmas. Shop it here.