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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Filled with hope

I started volunteering at a local day center for women and children experiencing homelessness a couple of weeks ago. My friend suggested it when I was looking for a place to volunteer as part of my plan toward returning to work with the help of the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. I have the joy of doing “Guest Relations” work, which basically means hanging out, being a listening ear, sitting with, just being with the women. How lucky am I?! Oh, and we play Bingo and color together. Yesssss!!!

My husband texted me to ask how my time went yesterday. I sent him this text back:

“Today was great. The house was packed because of the rain and cold. It was fun to do my activity with the women*, and more are trusting me with their stories the more they see me and get to know me. I got to watch some Price is Right with some of them. They have male models now. (laughing crying emoji) A woman came in angry that she couldn’t get services til January 1 (she somehow did something to lose them), and when she blew out of there yelling that she was calling the police, etc. the ladies all stopped and prayed for her and her kid. They are broken and beautiful women.”

I see myself in them, my own brokenness. Many of them are dealing with health challenges for example. One woman talked with me about how she started losing her vision, was blind for a time even, shortly after finishing all of her formal art education. She was devastated and wondered what she was going to do with all of her passion and learning. She has since joined a tactile art group with other people experiencing blindness, has had a piece make it into a juried show, and was telling me where I could find her collaborative sculptures around town. What resilience! She pushed through the literal darkness to find joy again. What perseverance for me to learn from.

And I can see ways that I have much to learn from them, these beautiful, beautiful women. I mean, think about your girlfriends. If I’m being totally honest, if I were with a group of mine and we witnessed someone lose their cool and create a scene, I’m knowing that our first collective thought wouldn’t be mercy, grace and to start praying. Ouch…! These women have beautiful hearts! One said under her breath, “I know how I’ve gotten to the place where I’ve done that before.” Humility and a vulnerable “me too” – I need to drink down more of that!

I get to watch the small ways they care for each other every time I’m with them. One woman shared yesterday that she is going to use her little money to buy a soda and a candy for a friend from the day center Saturday; they have time planned to hang out, and that is what good friends do, they share and they give. One woman spent 3 hours yesterday scrubbing down the kitchen until it shined. It is normally a chore that two women do together. I offered to help her twice, and both times she’d say something pretty much along the lines of: “You just go have fun, I’ve got this; I enjoy doing this, it’s my way to give back and take care of others here.” The second time I decided she was for real. When is the last time I’ve cleaned up after 30 other people for 3 hours hand washing dishes with nothing but joy & gladness in my heart? Ummm…never. One woman had her headphones in her ear all day, and spent an hour singing loudly enough that you could hear her throughout the upstairs of the house (and you know how no matter how great of a singer we are, headphones in our ears are not our friends). The only comment I heard was from one woman: “She must have her headphones in still. Just listen to her praising God and doing her thing.” These women are all so different, but one thing they share in common is making space for and actively showing grace for one another. They truly knock my socks off every time I’m there. They spur me on to see the best in others too, and to grow in grace and love and mercy. This is a place where the fruits of the Spirit are alive and well. Not what you thought about a homeless day center? It’s seriously like church sometimes up in there!!

In these last going on two years, I’ve spent a lot of time mostly by myself at home. I’ve spent a lot of time with me. It is so refreshing to be back out in the world with other women on a regular basis. Women who, like me, are broken and beautiful. Women who challenge me to grow in love and faith and perseverance. Women who think different than me and the same as me, but who’s graciousness cover over all our differences. There is laughing and crying and joking and silence and talking and all of the good stuff of life. I read the news and my heart breaks. I look at my Facebook feed and my heart breaks again. But I spend time with these women, and I see God’s goodness all around and am filled with hope. Hope that God’s people can be a people of love and light. That we have the capacity to lift each other up and be salt and light to each other no matter the hard circumstances of our daily lives or the junk of the person in front of us or beside us. I am grateful for the love these women show me, for the love they model to me, for the love they have for each other, for the love that I get to witness and be a part of when I am there. For how that love follows me out the door and helps me see that things can be alright in the world if we’d just take our cue from these women.

Find yourself some people like this!! Find a place to be love, receive love, be a part of love. Ooooh, I am filled with hope! This is God’s upside down kingdom at work, and I am ever grateful for these women.

*we watercolor painted Scripture cards (and faces and tattoos and all other kinds of stuff)

 

 

Advent Intro and The 1st Sunday of Advent: HOPE

Today marks the first Sunday of Advent! 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.

Advent also marks the beginning of the Christian, or church calendar.

Advent is the beginning of the Christian year, when the project of undoing time begins. One of the uses of the Christian year is to train our spiritual senses to see sacraments everywhere, at any time, to see all experiences as potentially revealing something of God to us. We can and should use Advent – waiting for Christmas – as a way of knowing God more deeply.

-Chritopher Hill, Holidays and Holy Nights: Celebrating Twelve Seasonal Festivals of the Christian Year

Here is more information on how we celebrate Advent as a family. {This year, we’ll continue to read Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas as a family, and I’ll read through  The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas on my own. Ash decided he wants to keep the Jesse Tree in his room, adding daily ornaments from InspiredTraditions on etsy each day starting December 1.} And here is a list of Favorite Advent Resources with additional ideas from The Art of Simple blog.

This year, we also plan to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas starting December 25, and ending with an Epiphany feast on January 6. More on that later! You can join us in our celebrations here for the 4 Sundays of Advent and the 12 Days of Christmas.

We celebrate each Sunday of Advent by lighting a candle, reading and reflecting on some of the church calendar readings for the day, and ending with the contemporary collect, or brief prayer, from The Book of Common Prayer.

Here is our Advent candle set up for this year.

1st Sunday of Advent: HOPE | Colibri Homestead

We do it differently each year, having fun using items we already have around our home. You can find a million ways people create Advent wreaths or set up Advent candles by googling “Advent candles” or “Advent wreath.” You’ll see some people have 5 candles, some 4, some a specific color or not. We use 4 candles of the same color, each representing a different weekly theme.

Here’s what we’ll be reading around the dinner table tonight, as we light our first candle:

The 1st Sunday of Advent is about HOPE.

Jeremiah, the prophet of hope, introduces us to the season of Advent. (source)

Jeremiah 33:14-16 reads,

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days, Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”

As Christians, we believe God answered the waiting and hoping of Jeremiah and his people, Israel, by sending Christ, a wee babe who would, in time, execute a much unexpected act of justice, that of dying for the sins of all humankind. God was more than faithful to his people in their anticipation of the fulfilling of his promise, giving them even more and differently than they (or we) could have hoped or imagined. We, God’s people today, are a people in waiting too. We are longing for Christ to come again, as he promised he would. In the meantime, we trust him with the every day big & small of our daily lives, and with the needs of our community and the world. We hang onto the hope that Christ’s just and restoring return will be the end of the story, not the pain, suffering and hardship we may be enduring ourselves or see at work around us. Christ, who’s arrival as a babe we celebrate soon, remains our hope and our trust for today, tomorrow, and the unknown days until his coming. We have great hope because Christ lives and will come again!

1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2 reads,

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

As we wait for Christ, our hope, may we be known for our love. Love that does not come from ourselves or out of our own strength, but that arises from our dependence on God and his great redeeming love for us. And may we look to Christ to strengthen our hearts to do the work and live the lifestyle that he has called us to do as we wait. May we live each day in the truth and the anticipation of his return!

Prayer:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

You can read about how two other families do Advent here and here