Encouragement from my favorite time of year

Advent – right now – is my absolute favorite time of year! If you’re curious about Advent, you can read more about its meaning and how we celebrate here. I also love the list of Advent info and resources compiled at Sacred Ordinary Days. For those who celebrate, I’d love to hear what your family does in the comments! Like my friend Charity, who created an Advent activities calendar for her family (she includes a free download!).

Encouragement from my favorite time of year | Colibri Homestead

As a family, we are reading through Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift for the 25 days leading up to Christmas. The message of hope, the message of Advent, contained in its pages is just what our hearts are needing. These simple and deep words from yesterday’s reading, the reading for December 3, were so beautiful I wanted to share an excerpt with you.

Talking about Adam and Eve in the garden:

“An enemy of God, Satan is like a wily snake that slithers in at the corner of everything and entangles around you. If he can trip you with a lie so you fall away from closeness with God, he can snatch your happiness, steal God’s glory, swipe away your love for God, and leave you robbed.

So that snake sneaked up to Eve, wrapped his own lie tight around her, and hissed his poison right into her heart: ‘God doesn’t really love you. God doesn’t really give you good-enough things. God doesn’t really give the gift of love all the time.

Eve fell for it.”

How am I falling for it? How are you? Are you feeling what Ann writes is the “painful loneliness we call the Fall”? “When you trip, you can fall off the path and end up lost in the long grass.” Don’t we all feel a bit lost at times? Or sometimes a lot lost?

And here’s the promise of Advent, the promise of the Bible, the promise for you & for me right here and right now:

“When we’ve fallen, and when we’re lost, God comes with one question. Not the question ‘Why did you do that?’ Not the question ‘What did you do wrong?’ The very first God-question of the Old Testament, of the whole Bible, is a love question howling out of God’s heart: ‘Where are you?’

God’s love never stops looking for you, trying to find you and gently draw you back close to him.

…Your God looks for you when you’re lost. Your God calls out for you when you’re ashamed and broken and hurting. God doesn’t run down the rebel. God doesn’t strike down the sinner. God doesn’t flog the failure.

Whenever you fall, whenever you fall short, whenever you sin, your God whispers to you with a love that wraps around you like a gentle arm: ‘Wherever you are, I will always come find you. Whatever you’ve done, I will always keep looking until My eyes see you, till My hands of healing reach you, till I can hold you close again to My heart.’

… And what was the very first question of the New Testament of the Bible? The very first question of the New Testament of the Bible was that of wise men asking everyone after Jesus’ birth: ‘Where is He?’

Really wise men and women never stop looking for God. And because your really wise God is love, He never stops looking for you.”

Can you feel Him looking for you? The Advent season invites us to look for Him. And it’s not to late to join in!

May God infuse fresh hope in your life and in your heart and in our world this Advent season! May we feel His love meeting us in all of the places we fall and fall short. May we remember, above all:

“No matter what the day holds, no matter how the season of your life unfolds, God holds you and enfolds you.”

Mmmm. Just sit with that for a bit and let God’s love wash over  you. You are loved!

Happy Advent!

(And thank you to Ann for your words!)

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Ringing in the New Year

I love hearing all of the different ways people ring in the New Year. And I’m not talking about how they party, but more how they reflect on the year that was and dream about the year to come.

Last year was my most intentional time of ringing in the New Year. I chose one word to guide my days (you can read about my word for 2014 here) and planned a party for my girlfriends in the month of January. We gathered in a tight circle in my living room and chatted over simple snacks. I made a Gadanke-inspired journal for each lady that was so much fun to create, but a tad bit tedious to assemble (still oh so worth it!!!).

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It included two of my favorite prayer practices, my favorite quotes from the year (I love keeping a quote journal to write down all of the things inspiring me!), and general prompts to help us: think through what makes us unique, the things that bring us joy and rest, and things we want to include and exclude from our lives; reflect on how we connect with God; remind us of God’s love and grace; and list the blessings in our lives.

Here are some peeks inside:

You can’t earn God’s love. You can only turn toward God’s love. – Ann Voskamp.

How I turn…

Bring what you hold in your hands. Bring what you carry on your back. Stand in the place where you are today and consider: What might Christ look like coming out of me, through the filter of my unique personality? – Emily Freeman

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We listened quietly and deeply to the long version of Hillsong United’s Oceans, and then visited a nearby prayer labyrinth. It was a filling day (minus slipping and falling on a trail by the prayer labyrinth and spraining my wrist…woops!), and I smile as I think back on it. It is a gathering that I plan to make a tradition on the years when it makes sense.

This year, I am taking a deep look at myself and praying about my word for the year. I’ll likely pick an un-word too (last year was busyness, then I later added fear). At night after Ash is sound asleep, Dan and I have been talking about our bucket lists big, small, far and near (one of mine is in its nascent stages and I can’t wait to start sharing about it here!). And I think our family will continue to use the Empty Container practice throughout the year to re-center our days.

How do you ring in the New Year? I’m all ears in the comments!!

How we celebrate Advent: The Jesse Tree

At the risk of repeating myself, Advent is my favorite time of year!

Advent, at its simplest, is celebrating the coming of Jesus Christ. It’s when we remember afresh Jesus’s coming as a baby, and also look forward to when he will come again.

We celebrate Advent using the Jesse Tree. It’s based on Isaiah 11:1,10, which says: Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot – Yes, a new branch to bear fruit from the old root…. In that day the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to him, and the land where he lives will be a glorious place. From December 1 through December 24 or 25 (depending on the devotional used), we dig into Jesus’ family tree. As we read the Bible stories, we also read our story; the story of God’s great, wondrous, redeeming love for all of us. It is a welcome, daily reminder of the reason we celebrate Christmas day. And it woos our hearts every year. It speaks the truth of our King of Kings and Lord of Lords come to us, for us, as a weak, little baby. What amazing love!

Here are some Jesse Tree resources that we’ve used and loved, and a new one we plan to use this year:

The Jesus Storybook Bible is one of our family favorites for use any day of the year. We have read the whole thing through many times, but I found and printed this Jesse Tree-inspired Advent reading plan because the stories never get old.

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We use it along with these Jesse Tree ornaments from InspiredTraditions on etsy, which are a near perfect match.

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Each evening we read the Jesus Storybook Bible reading, then hang the corresponding Jesse Tree ornament, either on our Christmas tree, or on this small stand.

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We like using the ornaments because it’s a visual reminder of the stories we’re reading every time we walk through our house during Christmastime.

Last year, I read through The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas devotional from Ann Voskamp, and will do so again this year (if it isn’t too identical to the next book).

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Ann recently released Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas, and this is what we plan to use this year all together. I pulled out the Jesse Tree Ornaments that match, and it’s about half of them. We are really looking forward to it!

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All of the book links are to Amazon so that you can read about them and see people’s reviews. Ann Voskamp also has a bunch of great free Advent/Jesse Tree printables on her blog, including color-in Jesse Tree ornaments (just keep scrolling through until you find them), and a Night Before Advent kit.

Whatever you do to celebrate, we wish you a Merry Christmas!

Happy almost Advent!