Advent is coming + a free download

One of my writing goals for 2018 was to write an e-book. Joyous wedding preparations declared dibs on the first half of the year. But in October, visions about Advent started to percolate, an idea was born. Then 3 weeks of fatigue from a strange virus left me wondering if my window of time and opportunity had passed.
Lately, I have realized how often I break promises to myself so I rose early to write and came home from work to write even more. I must admit, I had a lot of fun thinking about Advent from my childhood through adulthood.
Tomorrow, the calendar turns to December and the procession to Christmas day quickens. Sunday marks the first day of the Advent season, which is the first day in the church calendar. Essentially it is a new year before New Year’s Day ūüôā There are 4 Sundays in Advent and many church traditions celebrate by lighting candles, singing specific Advent carols, reading scriptures, praying and a whole host of other ways as well.
Sometimes the most challenging part of Advent is it happens during the crush of December. Why not spin this reality and respond by acknowledging the fullness of December and endeavoring to counteract it by spending time pondering the birth of Jesus?
As the image above displays, I have written an e-book called
Behold
An Uncommon Advent Guide.
I have compiled 4 weeks of short readings and meditations to draw you away from incoming stress and towards resting in the peace Christ came to bring. This is not a daily devotional but weekly reflections.
On the sidebar (or at the bottom of site if using a mobile device), you can download your free copy and print as you desire. With the help of my son Caleb, we kept the color minimal to be visually restful and not empty a computer ink cartridge.
I hope you will enjoy this gift for my faithful readers. I am so immensely grateful for your continued reading.
Blessed Advent and Christmas to you!
Helen

advent and riverdance

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The girls and I went to see Riverdance a few weeks ago.

Allow me to rewind by at least 14 years to our very first encounter.

The girls were ¬†8 and 12, maybe younger, we can’t quite place the exact year.

We sat high up in the auditorium and from the opening note and shoe tapping

unison, I was smitten.

At intermission, I sped past the concessions (good call) and the restroom (bad call) and

plunked down money for a CD and not a DVD but a VHS tape.

Yes, it was a long time ago.

I skipped back to my seat before the lights extinguished and quickly was entranced

once again by the singing and dancing of Riverdance.

During the final curtain call, I sniffed back tears as I clapped along with the audience.

It’s easy to be swept away in the moment, make an impulsive purchase only to later

shake your foolish head, this was not one of those occasions.

I played the CD incessantly, in the car and while I did chores.

When I was discouraged, I would press play and my mood was elevated.

I can’t explain it, but Riverdance reached a place deep inside me.

The music is haunting and joyful, the dancing is exhausting to witness yet celebratory.

Somehow when Riverdance was on its farewell tour a number of years ago,

I wasn’t able to¬†attend.

Major disappointment.

When I learned the company was touring to celebrate 20 years, I decided

even if I went solo, I was going.

Keeping my cool, I casually asked Court if she was interested in seeing the show

and she said sure.

I inquired of Carlen and she kind of groaned and said yeah I guess so.

I didn’t wait for any minds to change and

proceeded to purchase tickets online.

I had a budget and decided the 1st balcony would be just fine.

No matter how I tried, I kept getting an error message and could not complete my order.

I was forced to call a ticket agent. I say forced because the site clearly stated

not to call for ticket orders.

Thankfully my plea was answered by the most kind helper,

who inquired about my seat selection and once she had this information,

she asked if I wanted closer seats.

Absolutely but my budget and we are three short women who do not want to risk

our view being obliterated by tall patrons of the arts.

I suspected she wanted to make a higher dollar sale, but she assured me

she had orchestra level tickets for the same price and this way we would see their faces.

You want to see their faces.

Sold.

So off we three short women hustled through downtown Portland in pursuit of

Celtic merriment.

We found our section entrance and our seats. Superb.

Then I got a little giddy.

As I fidgeted in my seat, I wondered if the same magic would be

present. I knew every song, the order and the timing of every breath of each vocalist.

As the lights dimmed and the first tones of the music vaulted into the room, I found

myself already crying.

Black hat.

Wand.

Rabbit.

Magic.

Breathe, I reminded myself.

Simply enjoy the event.

I exhaled and  let the Riverdance world captivate me. Again.

And because I knew this music by heart, I also knew when it would end.

I felt equally sad and happy but grateful it lived up to the memory.

The crowd rose to their feet from floor to ceiling and clapped endlessly

and the dancers tapped faster and faster and stopped only in obedience

to muscle fatigue.

Carlen (she who previously groaned) leaned across Courtney to say she was surprised

how well she knew the music and when she realized it was ending she felt sad.

Fist pump.

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Over sandwiches and sodas, we debriefed about Riverdance.

It wasn’t until that moment we realized how much Riverdance had become a part of the

soundtrack of our three lives. The girls would probably add The Wiz as well.

By now, nearly 800 words invested, it is clear how deep my affection

runs for this stage show.

I believe what truly moves me even beyond the music

and the dancing is laying hold of excellence.

Excellence strengthens the beat of my heart and floods my eyes.

Do you know what I mean?

It’s a gymnast sticking a landing at the Olympics or a diver achieving a rip entry into the pool.

It’s fingers coursing over black and white keys creating a soul-shaking melody.

Sometimes it’s a group of children singing one song in all sorts of tunes, yet it is not

one note shy of perfection.

Excellence usually requires hard work and effort but other times it simply arises

from the purest of hearts.

*****

Are you wondering about the title of this post?

Well, here’s the thing.

It’s Advent, the season of marking the 4 or sometimes even 5 Sundays

before Christmas.

Oh how I love Advent but I have often made it difficult.

I have attempted to do too many activities and readings to commemorate the

occasion, by the middle of December, I am defeated and exhausted.

This is what I have realized about Advent and the approaching birth of Christ.

The verses and passages from scripture are so familiar.

If you are a follower of Christ, you know them by heart.

You know the order and what comes next.

Even if you aren’t inclined to open a Bible, break out Charlie

Brown Christmas and give a listen to Linus

orating from the book of Luke,

this season is steeped with familiarity.

You know the story.

Often I wonder when approaching God’s Word if it will be full

of the thrill and wonder from when I first believed.

I curl up in a chair when the lights are low, wade through

the same passages for the same reason, for the same season

and hope that the sameness won’t abolish the glory and mystery.

It’s a circle without end because I long for wonder but I desperately need sameness.

I need Jesus to be the same yesterday, today and forever.

I need to read those familiar words because they place me in the best

seat for each stage of my life.

His words equally bring me to tears and create smile lines.

The Bible is the word track of my life.

This season of Advent, I am not doing more because often

it was about proving to God I was willing to give Him

a big stage show of my love.

His coming needs the center stage spotlight,not my tap dancing.

I am breathing,

lighting a candle each night and speaking or listening to time-tested words.

I will sit in my assigned and paid for seat, pour over His words and

let the curtain rise in front of my face long enough to see His excellence

and beauty.

Whether I am solo or among the masses,

I want to see His face.

Because I am smitten, entranced and captivated by Him.

Again and again.

Amen and amen.

And do you know what?

The lines in my smile will deepen as the promised ending approaches.

Excellent.

 

advent: one or two things edition

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The church I attended while growing up adhered to the church calendar.

I especially looked forward to the Advent season, the slow procession

towards Christmas.

Each Sunday leading to Christmas, a member or a family would

read a scripture related to each week’s theme and light one of the candles

circling the wreath.

With held breaths, the candlelit Christmas Eve service would

begin with high school students presiding over  the evening.

As children, we waited to reach the magical age of the teen years

and take charge of the church for an hour.

As adults, I hope we can wait with similar anticipation of the

unfolding season of Christmas.

Tomorrow, when I open my devotional books,

I will begin on page one.

Advent means coming or arrival and Sunday

marks the beginning of the church calendar year.

With all the promise of new

beginnings, they can create a tendency to overload

our to-do list.

Personally, I have done a bit of thinking and

am determined to put on an attitude of waiting

and only do 1 or 2 things during this season.

I went to a DIY craft fair with a friend last week

and saw dozens of great ideas, I am only

choosing one or two crafts and the same

goes for food items.

Believe me, I want to make 90% of the offerings,

but in this instance less means more time for other endeavors.

I reflected on my intentions regarding Advent calendars and

came to the conclusion that 24 days of doing anything is

a challenge during a busy Christmas season.

We always fall behind and I feel like a failure.

We are doing a stripped down version this year

a la 12 days of Christmas.

I audibly exhaled after making this decision.

Why do I often take activities designed to bring

joy and make them a burden?

As far as Advent reading, I can be so prone to

want to read every. single. book.

This year I will continue with my normal readings

and add this one and nothing else.

The following are a few other options you

might enjoy as well:

Good News of Great Joy

YouVersion (multiple options and lengths)

She Reads Truth-O Come Let Us Adore Him

 

In 2006, our pastor joined with 5 other pastors

to develop the Advent Conspiracy .

You can read more about it here.

In simplest terms it is a clarion call to

Give More, Spend Less.

We decided to revamp our Christmas list

for each member of

our family to fill out this year:

  • Something you need
  • Something you want
  • Something to wear
  • Something to do
  • Something to read
  • Someone to bless who is in need
  • A charitable activity to do as a family
  • The one movie I must see before the holidays end
  • The favorite holiday treat I must eat
  • My favorite holiday activity to do as a family
  • My favorite holiday tradition
  • A game I want to play with the family

Our hope is there will only be one or

two items under the “me” categories and

many more than one or two ideas under the

family and others categories.

That’s our intention.

That’s our plan.

Let’s welcome Advent with waiting

and extending ourselves on behalf of

others and not merely overextending

ourselves.

Oh and yes by all means exhale a lot

by only adding that which brings meaning

and exercising your right to say “no thank you.”

Joyous Advent!