goodbye 2012…hello 2013

Happy new year!

I hope the festive season was a good one for you. For me it was brilliant: a much-needed break, one which has brought me back home refreshed and eager to start the new term – and year – in anticipation of all that God will do.

I said I would explain my last post a little. Firstly, I want to make clear that, on the whole, my life is pretty good. Several of my friends suffered in a very painful way during Advent, and by blogging about my small-by-comparison woes, I’m certainly not making light of their suffering. But perhaps it’s helpful to communicate small hardships too. Perhaps it encourages others that it’s OK to be a bit miserable, that you don’t have to be standing on a cliff-top before you share your feelings.

Some very lovely things happened during Advent. We had a wonderful friend come stay for a weekend, and made many wonderful Christmassy memories together. Lots of mums got together for a celebratory meal after our first term of Tuesday Tots. The kids and I were lucky enough to see some real, live reindeer! I spent time with good friends over brunch, lunch, nibbles and dinner (not every day), in baby showers and surprise birthday parties. The Christmas pudding was a success!

Copy of 2012-12-12 13.50.30
Seeing the reindeer!

The difficult things were: illness one weekend (I’m never ill, and I’m a very bad patient when I am), a family bereavement, and God closing the door on some of our ideas for the future. It is totally gutting whenever we realise that our plans are not in line with God’s, but we trust that He is sovereign, and has closed this door for a reason. I’m thankful that He knows best, and that His ideas surpass ours!

So to 2013. I’m kind of into New Year’s Resolutions. The trouble is, there are too many possible ones to choose from. There are things I want to do less of (eat, faff, Facebook…) and the things I want to do more of (pray, fast, bake) – and, as you’ll have noticed, some of these are contradictory.

Therefore, I’ve decided to consider my general approach to life. Rather than nit-pick with small things which may not matter in eternity, I’ve resolved to live more of a celebratory lifestyle. I hope this will become clearer to me as the year goes on, because I’m not entirely sure that I haven’t said this to myself merely because it sounds grand, rather than because I actually know what it entails. But three things spring to mind:

1) Thinking about (and planning adequate preparation for) how our family celebrates major festivals (Easter, birthdays, Halloween, Christmas…);

2) Approaching smaller ‘events’ (having friends over, going out, attending church) with more generosity and hospitality;

3) Disciplining myself to celebrate Jesus, even (especially) when life is difficult.

There. No doubt that ‘celebration’ will be a regular theme on this blog in 2013. Looking forward to your input!

christmas is coming…

…the geese are getting fat and this desertmum is getting excited! I thought I’d share a few things I’m planning for Advent.

Christmas toy box

Have your kids ever received Christmas stuff for Christmas? It’s all very nice, but the motivation to play with it soon wanes in our household! Last year I stashed away all of the kids’ Christmas books, DVDs and jigsaws. This Saturday they’ll re-appear in a special Christmas toy box. (Well, a cardboard box and some cheap wrapping paper, but hey ho.) I reckon my kids will enjoy the novelty of ‘new’ activities to do through December.

Advent calendar

When Joel and Lois are a bit older, I look forward to doing an ‘active’ Advent calendar with them  – one where there’s a Christmassy task to do each day. For now, however, I’m sticking to a simple Nativity scene with 24 pieces. You can buy these, but I’ve made my own simple version using felt and cardboard. You could also draw or print out Nativity figures onto cardboard, and use blu-tack to stick them to a backdrop – or draw/print onto magnetic paper, and attach to an old metal tray. Here’s a sneak preview of what ours should look like by December 24th!

Food

I don’t like Christmas pudding…so this year I’m making my own, to see if I like it any better than shop-bought.

Mmmmm…if the gorgeous colours are anything to go by, I may just have found a new food-like!

I’ll also be hoping to make these scrummy mince pies with Joel at some point over the next few weeks. Besides being some of the most delicious I’ve ever tasted, the ‘pastry’ is actually a sort of shortbread, so it doesn’t require rolling, just pressing down. This is great news for Joel and others who don’t yet have the arm strength for heavy-duty pastry rolling!

Decorations

It’s not that I’m anti-Santa, it’s more that I don’t want people coming to our home over Advent and getting confused about what we’re celebrating. So, yes, there’ll be a few Santas, snowmen and other secular symbols of the season – but I hope that how they’re arranged will point towards the focus of our celebrations: the most amazing gift ever, Jesus. By focussing our decorations on aspects of His story, I hope it’ll prompt us to keep reminding each other of the mind-blowing sacrifice God made in sending His son to be born into the world!

Some of our decorations are bought, like this cute Nativity carousel:

Others are made:

Joel and I made these…they’re somewhat unconventional – but totally fitting prompts for the Christmas story! If he’s keen again, we might make mangers and donkeys. The angel looks a bit scary, doesn’t he?! Well, I suppose that’s pretty accurate, as I seem to remember Mary and the shepherds getting a little freaked out… The angel’s wings are cut-outs of Joel’s hands – the idea comes from Alice’s brilliant Christmas resources on her blog. Do check them out if you’re at a loose end for stories, play, craft, baking or Advent calendar ideas – there’s SO much on there to browse through!

Advent time

Our cell group has just started an excellent Advent series. On Monday, we were looking at the shepherds’ experience, and I was challenged by how they seemingly dropped everything and went off to look for Jesus – not dissimilar to the first disciples, I guess. In a similar vein, throughout Advent I’m aiming to ‘drop everything’ once the kids are in bed – much-needed chores, housework, email catch-up, time with Al – and spend just 10 minutes reading a section of the gospels relating to the birth of Christ: my Advent time. I might use this free e-book from the Desiring God website. It’s not much, but I hope that this regular routine will help me not to crowd out Jesus this Christmas. I’ve started this week – I’m so appalling at any sort of spiritual routine that I need a headstart!

How do you plan to celebrate the run-up to Christmas?

Through Advent, I’m linking up with Tanya’s blog. I’ve just found it – it’s so encouraging, and I highly recommend you take a look! If you write a blog and are interested in linking up, go to Tanya’s site for instructions.