Hear It On Sunday, Use It on Monday: The Awakening

It used to be that the month leading to Christmas was a time of increased stress and responsibility for me. I felt burdened by the extra shopping, decorating, baking and socializing, and often resented the fact that as a mom, wife and woman, much of the Christmas load fell on my shoulders. Don’t get me wrong – the start of Advent still brings out my grumpy side from time to time (just ask my husband what my mood was like on Friday around here, as we transitioned from Thanksgiving to Christmas in 24 hours) – but in recent years I’ve also learned how to approach the season more mindfully.
As December’s weeks pass, our family participates in several traditions that we’ve established over the last few years. We set the nativity on the coffee table. We bake mini chocolate chip pumpkin loaves for the kids' teachers. We blast Christmas carols as we drive slowly up and down neighborhood streets to admire the decorations. At dinnertime we read from the Advent devotional that our church provides for us each year. And we volunteer a couple evenings of our time to help the less fortunate in our city. All of these small traditions help us create a more meaningful Advent and a sense of eager anticipation, not just for Santa Claus but for the arrival of Jesus himself.
I’ve learned over the years, too, to make an effort to carve out a bit of quiet for myself amidst the bustle of the season. Once or twice a week when Brad’s out playing basketball and the kids are in bed, I shut the laptop early and sit alone in the glow of the Christmas lights. And I never miss the evening of quiet contemplation, prayer and communion at my church. I sit toward the back of the sanctuary in warm darkness and take as long as I need to steady the frenetic buzz of my mind.
I look forward to these rituals. They’ve become a way for me to remember who it is I await in this season of anticipation, a time of quiet renewal and new beginnings. They awaken joy in my heart and bring peace to my restless spirit.
"And what I say to you, I say to all: Keep awake." (Mark 13:37)
What traditions do you and your family enjoy during the Advent season? Do you have any particular rituals that help awaken your senses to the season?
Please join me this season as I write about our Advent traditions here for Hear It, Use It on Mondays in December.

Emily Freeman over at Chatting at the Sky is doing a special Tuesdays Unwrapped link-up community during the month of December. Please do visit and participate - her community has really helped me slow down and open my eyes, and I guarantee it will do the same for you.

Welcome to the "Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday" community, a place where we share what we are hearing from God and his Word. 

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kendal  – (November 28, 2011 at 4:57 AM)  

we have advent calendars, and that is about it. i want to add something to the daily devotion time we do....

journeytoepiphany  – (November 28, 2011 at 5:07 AM)  

We do have some traditions!! We watch a Christmas movie one night a week.  We make a gift to bring to the police station.  We participate in a Christmas Cantata.  This year the title is Listen:  An Ancient Story - A Fresh Sound...Then we stand on major shopping corner streets with a large white cross that reads "Merry Christmas"!  We prepare a gift "Fit For a King".  And last but not least, we have a progressive dinner with friends. 

June Scott –   – (November 28, 2011 at 8:19 AM)  

Great traditions, Michelle. The Advent devotionals are great ways to focus on the true meaning of the season!

Shelly –   – (November 28, 2011 at 8:25 AM)  

Michelle, we share many of the same traditions. One we miss the most since leaving Phoenix is a Christmas Eve mexican meal at our house for all the friends and church staff that stay over for the midnight service. It grew to around seventy five people. Love this season and the intentionality it brings. Lovely post today and I look forward to your future Monday posts.

mamaabby –   – (November 28, 2011 at 9:08 AM)  

Hey there friend!  Yes, beautiful...I guess I'm pretty excited about this year and just where we are at in life we don't really want presents (more to pack)...both of our families have decided to be more simple in recent years and I find that I have changed and so I just feel a peace aided by a lack of responsibility in this in-between time;} This year, Christmas is on Sunday too, which is just...PERFECT! 

Sharon Brobst –   – (November 28, 2011 at 9:44 AM)  

Just love this Michelle! Now that our boys are grown and beginning traditions with their own families my husband and I have been trying to begin some new traditions as a couple.

For me personally I try to purpose in my mind daily to remember why we are celebrating. I want to keep Christ the center of not just this holiday but everyday and that means I must be intentional about it. This time of year it does get harder with all the distractions and busyness! :-)

jennifer –   – (November 28, 2011 at 9:56 AM)  

Christmas is something we're still working on--I can get so grumpy because I hate that Christmas can end up having nothing to do with Christ, but then my grumpy attitude isn't exactly Christ-like, either!

This year, the kids and their cousin Max are excited to put on a Christmas show. Caleb is memorizing part of Luke 2, and I working with the kids to learn 'Joy to the World.' The oldest kid is five, though, so I'm not sure how long they'll let this tradition go! ;)

Lori  – (November 28, 2011 at 12:56 PM)  

Michelle, I hear the sound of peace in your post. What a lovely memory this will leave for your children. Mine are older, now, and while we definitely celebrate at a slower pace, I am so happy to see them enjoying each other and making time to participate. And yes, sitting & reflecting by the glow of the Christmas lights is on my own personal list!  

Theresa  – (November 28, 2011 at 1:58 PM)  

I love that you wrote about this...I was wondering...:) Those sound like wonderful traditions. Holiday traditions are the key to being mindful and sane throughout the season. Loved reading this.

it000016 –   – (November 28, 2011 at 2:17 PM)  

Dear Michelle, Love your post and photo! The Advent season is truly special as we celebrate Jesus' first coming and await His second coming! I have collected special ornaments since I was a young woman, as remembrances of special people, events, places visited, etc. As we hang them on the tree, we reminisce about these and thank God for blessing us so richly with treasured memories as well as our eternal future with Him and one another!
Laurie Collett, Saved by Grace


Seashore  – (November 28, 2011 at 4:39 PM)  

This is great.  I am trying to make this a more mindful advent this year.

Monique Zackery –   – (November 28, 2011 at 5:01 PM)  

Hi Michelle! I'm new to your site. I was here recently and love your posts. I've been contemplating joining Hear it/Use it and today I decided to jump right in! :) I'm kind of new to blogging and I'm still figuring all this stuff out. But here's the link to my site. http://moniquezackery.blogspot.com/2011/11/hear-it-on-sunday-use-it-on-monday.html. Thanks for letting me join you in community. :) P.S. following you now. ;) 

Charity Singleton  – (November 28, 2011 at 7:43 PM)  

Oh, so happy to see Advent thoughts here! I did a cross linky here, as I am hosting a High Calling writing project for Advent over at my place. Join us there, too, won't you? I'm planning to write all month, so I'll be linking up again and again! Love what you do here, friend!

glenda childers –   – (November 28, 2011 at 8:07 PM)  

When our girls were young we used Ann Hibbards advent book for a simple devotion after dinner each night. We memorized the same verses each year. I loved it that it took no prep and we all looked forward to it. When we had company, they just joined in. Great memories.


Duane Scott  – (November 28, 2011 at 8:17 PM)  

I'm doing Advent for the very first time this season. :) 

Connie@raise your eyes  – (November 28, 2011 at 10:38 PM)  

Love your traditions...I feel the calmness just reading about them. My preparation begins in November with Operation Christmas Child.

Then resumes the 1st Sunday of Advent as I ponder Jennen's assembly of scriptures set to Handel's music. I've been formulating a booklet for Advent using those for contemplation and preparation.

And oh yes, preschoolers & grandkiddos help usher in the joy!

Kat LaMantia Calling Shotun –   – (November 29, 2011 at 3:28 AM)  

What a comfort certain rituals are. The thoughtful ones as in full of thought. Thank you for this honeycake.

Courtney Buxton  – (November 29, 2011 at 5:28 AM)  

Ahh, yes. I've been thinking about just that thing. I focus on family traditions, but forget to take some time to quiet my mind - overloaded by this time of year. I have to be more conscious of that. Sitting in front of the tree at night is a lovely idea. I'm doing that right now, this morning, and it is so relaxing.

Carissa  – (November 29, 2011 at 11:36 AM)  

Mmm, just sitting in Christmas lights... that sounds nice! I am glad you are not letting it create so much stress for you anymore :) (P.S. Thanks for the visit and comment... nice to meet you as well!)

smoothstones –   – (November 29, 2011 at 8:18 PM)  

Thank you for sharing the ways in which you are slowing down. I feel grumpy, this season. We do well, usually, at shopping throughout the year, but somehow we have failed, this year, and there's so much left to do. I daydream about making gifts but know I don't really have the time, which contributes to my grouchiness. To think of cards...decorating...even cleaning...all of it makes me feel overwhelmed, grouchy, and tired.  It's supposed to be about Jesus, but it's so hard, I think, to make it about Jesus.

Lauren Johnson –   – (November 29, 2011 at 11:49 PM)  

Thanks for hosting! This is my first time here.  What a great blog hop. Glad I found you through Ashley Sisk. :)  

beyondgracegirl –   – (November 30, 2011 at 5:58 AM)  

i do love advent, even though it does cause me to gulp.  as we light the candles i can see time slipping on by and so many years i wish for one or two more candles.  that would be enough, right?  oh, i imagine that i'd find too much to squeeze into those weeks, too.

thanks for the reminder to sit in the warm quiet.  i need my lights up.  by the next candle, for sure...

Kim –   – (November 30, 2011 at 7:55 AM)  

I think traditions are the glue that hold us together. Wishing you an Advent of hope and anticipation, as well as opportunities to slow down and savor this meaningful time of year!

Kim @ kimscountyline.blogspot.com

tinuviel  – (November 30, 2011 at 4:27 PM)  

I get grumpy about "the fact that as a mom, wife and woman, much of the Christmas load [falls] on my shoulders," too (although not the mom part for me). Health issues have a way of shrinking the to-do list, but it can still be overwhelming. Thanks for the camaraderie and for sharing your family's countermeasures. May God richly bless you in those quiet evenings with laptop off.

Michelle DeRusha  – (December 1, 2011 at 8:15 PM)  

Thank you, and may God bless you, too, friend.

Michelle DeRusha  – (December 1, 2011 at 8:16 PM)  

I hear you, I really do. I was soooo grouchy last Friday when we put up our tree. I'm afraid I kind of ruined the spirit of Christmas for everyone involved. So yeah, I think if we are honest, the holiday grumpiness gets the best of a lot of us from time to time.

Wishing you peace, joy and respite during this busy time...

Laraj  – (December 2, 2011 at 3:58 PM)  

I've been known to grump a bit during the transition too, Michelle. Seems to come earlier every year. And folks don't seem to ease into it...just hurry up and put up the decorations and hurry up and take them down when it's over.

These are all good traditions. I'm still working ours out. We do a lot of the same. The past couple years we've played a game with the wise men in our nativity. I hide one to start, then whoever finds it hides it again. The boys have a blast with that. And, of course, baby Jesus is hidden until Christmas day.

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