Saturday, December 14, 2013

Advent Begins

We set aside one day a few weeks ago to decorate our Christmas tree, and, honestly, it was a long and somewhat frustrating process till we actually got to the decorating.  I was a bit more impatient and stressed than I would like to admit.  When it was all said and done, we had a lot to be thankful for.   The only things I brought with me were the kids' stockings (except for Xavier; I found him one this week at a market.) and cookie cutters.  A family left behind a huge beautiful tree for us to use, Christmas paper plates, napkins, a tiny nativity, and a few decorations.  Jacob went across town and found Christmas lights and a snowman decoration.  There were 5 pine cone ornaments and one snowman bell ornament left behind.  Not wanting to spend money in this department, I decided we could make our own.  It was a time consuming project, but it turned out better than I thought.  
Now our tree is decorated with apple cinnamon and salt dough ornaments, including handprint and footprint ones donated by Xavier, hung by cinnamon dental floss.  Hehe.  Just adds to the Christmas smell, right?!  Anyway, we spent quite a bit of time and thoughtfulness over how we wanted this season to look like for our family; what things we could and should keep the same, and what things should be different.  The kids still belive in Santa, and we are still doing elf on the shelf because I didn't want them associate loss of fun or imagination after coming here.  My mom thoughtfully mailed them chocolate advent calendars like we have every year.  It's been a family tradition since I was little.  We really desire the main thing to be the main thing, though.  
This year instead of our elf watching them to see if they are naughty or nice, he is showing them examples of grace by being naughty and nice, teaching them that we all make mistakes and need forgiveness.  Ever since they named him Larry Boy St. Nick last year, they have wanted to change his name.  I finally gave in, and told them it was ok since we changed Ephraim's name by adding a middle name and giving him a new last name.  He liked that a lot.  Though we have missed a few nights, we are also trying to do advent in our home.  
Since the calendars are challenging to find, I purchased an "advent box" that they discover something in every morning to symbolize what we will be doing or discussing that day.  The tree was our first one, and our most meaningful one, so far, has been a cloth for feet washing with a conversation on serving others, humbling yourself, and getting dirty.  I must admit, I first heard of the Jesse tree this year, thanks to other families here that use that, and hope to incorporate that next year.  I am so thankful for the other Mom's I am surrounded with who are great at brainstorming opportunities to serve, and teach our children about the real meaning of this time of year.  At the upcoming coop party, one of them is teaching our kids about the myths of the story, like wise men coming to the stable, etc.  
Others organized getting the kids involved in making gift bags for the people who clean the apartment stairwells and guard the gates in our community, and our city org.  is participating in a project to provide socks, hats, and toys, to kids outside our city.  I am so grateful for these people who are awesome examples of seeing a need, and doing what it takes to meet those needs.  If you have ideas on how to make the holidays more meaningful, we would love to hear about it!

Showers of Blessing:
Huge beautiful tree and decorations left behind by others.
Kids who are receptive to change and and excited by new ideas.
Other Moms and friends with great ideas.
Thoughtful Mom sending chocolate calendars.
Paper snowflakes by Eden.
Ephraim delighting in the association of his name change with changing the elf's name to Chippy Marshmallow.
Cute baby footprint on my tree.
Christmas paper plates and napkins.
A husband who constantly seeks ways to lead our family, like marking off spots on a candle to burn each night for advent, having those evening conversations about serving others, washing our kids' feet.

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