Dear me: Can’t you come up with something good for Advent?

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Dear Advent-preparing me:

You don’t have any intention of reinventing Advent – but you do need to breathe some life into the season around here.

I know, you’ve done wreaths, candles, Jesse trees, sung O Antiphons, hung O Antiphons, read scripture, colored calendars, you name it. You’ve got 20 years of Advent with kids under that belt and are searching for a fresh way to look at this seasonal gift called waiting.

I know you don’t want to revisit last year when you were later putting up the  tree in acknowledgement of the “real” Christmas season. But it felt like Christmas passed you by. Everyone else was taking down their trees, and you were just getting started without the benefit of Christmas music on the radio or decorations at the stores. The hat-wearing bell ringers at Kroger had long turned in their red buckets, and you had pockets full of change.

You arrived at the party just as everyone was leaving.

You were left standing in the picked-over Christmas clearance section of Walmart.

(I could come up with many more to continue to distract me from the point of this letter to you, I mean me. Whatever.)

So, what do you think is the actual benefit of holding off to celebrate Christmas and actually embracing waiting? There’s certainly no real outward point to be proved. You were just there in your own little house trying to stick with the program laid out for by the church year – whether you liked it or not. (That sounds dramatically dreary. Which it wasn’t at all. It was  a joyful season. Waiting included.)

So Advent-preparing me, I challenge you to this: Incorporate the joy of the upcoming season while meaningfully embracing the waiting of the soon-to-be-current season. Make it engaging for the littles and not overlooked by the bigs, and try to keep sane with both Advent and Christmas clutter.

Affectionately,

Me

P.S. Oh, and good luck with that.

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Building the house of the Lord

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My dearest and I – with another couple – are part of a leadership team for a big stewardship campaign at church. It’s a diocesan-wide thing, and we’re coming up with … (wait for it) … the children’s activities. The deal about this campaign is that all the planning and education has to happen in a pretty condensed period of time. So we’ve had to bust-a-move.

I’m excited. (Okay. I’m excited about everything.) The program is coming together, we’ve gathered some great folks willing to share their time and talents with the parish.

Yesterday, we delivered our first piece of the program for kids in the religious education program and those enrolled in our parish school: That’s more than 900 children.

We decided that the theme verse for our activities is “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15. With that as the focus, we have come up with a few very tangible ways to help students learn about stewardship. The activity we introduced yesterday was for every child to build a little paper house. There was a short lesson plan – introducing them to the theme verse, the theme song (A rousing version of Rorey Cooney’s “We Will Serve the Lord”) and the idea that all our gifts come from God. There was also a little room for discussion.

Since time in the Religious Education program is at a premium, we designed the activity to be doable in 15-20 minutes.

I found a great house template at the most charming blog site: Just Something I Made. (One of my new favorites for creative ideas. Nice photography, too.) We needed something that was one piece, easy to follow, didn’t involve glue and was cute. (Okay, I needed the cute.) And after combing through what seemed like a mountain of examples, this template really fit the bill. I added graphics and some text, and we decided to print it on 11 x 17, 67 lb. cover stock. That made the finished house about the size of a pint Chinese takeout box and offered a little more durability since the children will be using these houses for activities the next five weeks.

The only decorating for the students was that they “cover” the house with their gifts and talents. For little ones, it could be drawing pictures, for older children, they could write them out. We made accommodations to the fact that the littles might not be able to actually cut out the houses. (Remember, time is limited.) They instead just drew on them while they were still one uncut piece, and students earning service-hour credits cut out the templates and assembled the houses for them. I’m sure they’ll be excited when next week they see their work put together as a house.

We will continue to use the houses throughout the program – I’ll fill you in more on that later.

I actually provided photos with instructions for the teachers for ease. Here’s a peek at a few:

 

There were a few more photos – just for ease. But you get the picture. It all seemed to go well. We used a portion of the paper to add a bookmark highlighting the family event that will be the culmination and celebration of all of these activities – it also gave the children something to take home related to the activity.

Stay tuned for more. Next week, the houses go with the students to mass for a special blessing.

Oops, We did it again

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The candles were such a popular craft for advent, we decided to make more for Lent. Often on Fridays we have a late meal (after Stations of the Cross) by candlelight. So, with that in mind, I thought the candles would be craft worth repeating. Also, when we come together to pray as a family, candles are always a nice touch. We decided to use Easter colors so that even during the solemn season of Lent we keep our hearts on the promise of the resurrection and all that it brings.

As previously, it was a fun activity for all. Richard even made one, and we made one for the baby. And of course, the candles are so telling of each of the children. Helen’s was a creative flower, Mary Claire’s was orderly and in all in line. Henry made his with more glue, more glitter than everyone else. And Lillian’s had a lot of pink. (She needed a little help but enjoyed painting and painting and painting the glue.) We had one minor accident when the baby reached up on the table and grabbed a paper plate full of excess glitter. I’m sure we’ll all have little extra sparkle for days to come, but with each stray sparkle, I’ll be reminded of the fun we had putting our projects together.

Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Preparing the way

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We made an Advent candle project yesterday. I know, it looks like I’m on the ball — planning ahead. Yep, that’s me.

Hardly. It was more an effort to avoid my usual Advent candle mayhem, which goes something like this:

Our project

Henry, MC and Lil admire their work.

We make a trip to the Catholic bookstore to buy candles in early November. (They actually run out.) I buy them. I stash them some place I’m sure to remember when the time comes. But instead, I forget. I look in all the reasonable spots. Accuse my spouse of moving them, then I end up blaming the candles themselves  (as in, “where are those stupid candles?”).  I buy a second set. Then mid season, find the first set. Promise myself I’ll remember I have them for next year … but I don’t. And so it begins all over again. Oh, and by the way, the candles never quite fit the wreath properly. So I’m always melting them, shaving them, adding extra wax, you name it.

Not this year. I won’t be able to lose these. And the kids are so excited about them. So for once, I’ll actually be prepared to prepare the way.