Advent Joy for Sharing this Season

As we round the bend of November and Thanksgiving, I love that we immediately head towards December, with its Advent Joy for sharing this season. Our family looks forward to Christmas, but we have to be careful to slow down and lean in to the Advent season first, even as Christmas trappings swirl all around us. Our cultural Christmas screams that the holiday is already here in music, parties, and lights, but the Christian story of waiting is still unfolding in the quiet places.

Even in Christian circles, prioritizing Advent has become counter-cultural. As a worship leader, I can run headlong into aaallllll the stuff that is Christmas in church ministry, OR I can continually remind myself that my congregation needs the Advent wait too, just like my family does.

So, what is Advent?

Advent is actually the beginning of the Christian calendar year. It is the “reset” button for those who pattern their lives around the Story of Christ. And it is a time to reflect on what the anticipation for the Messiah was like 2000 years ago, and how much they needed God to send the Light of Life into a world of darkness. It also helps us to consider how our dark world still needs the breaking-in of Jesus, and to look forward to His return. Check out Seedbed for some helpful Advent history.

So, how does a family, or a church family, lean into Advent Joy in the middle of a Christmas-crazed culture?

Today I’m sharing 6 ways we can engage in the season of Advent this year.

6 Ways to Advent Adventure This December: Advent Joy

6 Ways to Advent-Adventure this December
  1.  Share Joyful Blessings:

I actually started this one early. Beginning at Thanksgiving, I wanted to begin to look ahead to what Advent Joy there would be. Our church Life Group was hosting a “Friendsgiving” on the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving. (If you’ve never done a Friendsgiving, it is wellI worth your time and effort!)

Our Life Group (15 adult members in all) invited family, friends and neighbors to a huge pot luck Thanksgiving dinner at our home. These could be people who already know Jesus, or people who don’t. All are welcome. Each LG member brought a portion of the meal, and were able to seat all 42 people who came! At one point, several of us shared why we are grateful, including how Christ had transformed us. 

My mother-in-law had given me  101 Blessings of Joy Cards – A Box of Blessings back in August, as an encouragement on my  joy-journey.This seemed like a perfect time to bring them out. Each card holds 2 blessings, quotes, or Scripture verses (one on each side), to encourage others in their  joy.

So, I decided to use these joy blessings in my table settings, drawing attention to them as we prayed for our meal. We encouraged people to read them and even use them as conversation starters. I know for me, this helped me begin to focus on the upcoming Advent Joy season. And these will also serve nicely at table settings all throughout the month of December.

Joy Blessings: Advent Joy Advent Joy, Blessing, Table setting

2. Daily Advent Joy Readings

I love to shift my focus in the month of December. I try to be purposeful about what I read that helps me to engage with Advent Joy. This year, I picked up John Piper’s The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent, an inexpensive little paperback that I sense is loaded with power. Piper’s reason for writing it was that He was praying for an experience of Christ’s fullness. Wow, do I ever want that too!!

That is my prayer for you this Christmas–that you would experience the fullness of Christ; that you would know in your heart the outpouring of grace upon grace; that the glory of the only Son from the Father would shine into your heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ; that you would be amazed that Christ can be so real to you. – J. Piper

Though I haven’t yet started the readings–I’ll begin on December 3rd, the first Sunday of Advent–I anticipate that the Lord will use these in my life.

The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Advent Joy

3. Advent Wreath

As our family grows, we find it increasingly important (and difficult!) to make space for family meals around the table. Throughout the month of December, we will use our mealtime together to light Advent candles in our wreath. The Dawning of Indestructible Joy may serve us well for readings in the evenings, to focus us all together. But there are other valuable resources as well. 

Last year, we used Kaylene yoder’s Names of Jesus Advent Pack on as many evenings as we could be together, and found them very helpful. I wrote about it here. We would accompany the readings with the lighting of candles, adding one more each week of Advent.

I also recently purchased Seedbed’s Reset: Advent Devotions for the Whole Family, which may become the backbone of our family time this year.

Advent Wreath with Candles: Advent Joy

4. Advent Adventures

This morning, I posted the first of 4 blog posts I am doing for Waterline Church, where I am the Director of Relational Arts. We are calling these our Advent Adventures.

We were looking for a way to help our church family engage with the Advent Joy of the season. So I am creating this series with the twofold purpose. They will teach more about Advent. And they will give people (of all ages) tangible “adventures” to take. We pray that we will all slow down and experience the joy and hope of the season. Especially if we do these simple activities with our families and friends. I’d invite you to head over here to see if they might be activities you could incorporate into your December family activities.

5. #GiveJoy Challenge

A friend and  Joy Let Loose reader recently shared a great resource with me that I’d like to pass along to you today. It is called the #GiveJoy Challenge 2017 from Amy Pike. I love it because it is designed for families. I think it will help parents and children alike to look beyond themselves this Christmas, and to look for ways to let joy loose this Christmas. That is something I can definitely get behind!!

Amy’s #GiveJoy challenge 2017 offers families 28 challenges, complete with instructions for each day. Obviously, you can pick and choose to go at your family’s pace. But there is something for every day of Advent if you are up for it. And you’ll find opportunities to share joy with friends & family, community members, and service professionals. Why not join Amy and spread a little  joy this Advent?

#GiveJoy 2017 Challenge: Advent Joy

6. Life Skills

Practically speaking, the Advent Joy season is a preparation time for Christmas. And we all know we generally have a lot to do to get ready! One group I’ve chosen to come alongside here at  Joy Let Loose is Skill Trek. 

I love their taglines!  There is “Lifeproofing the next generation like nothing else”. And “Making ’em ready for anything”. Skill Trek has been designed for parents, to assist in learning important life skills that generally aren’t taught in schools. They have fun adventures for kids of all ages in everything from hygiene and cooking, to financial literacy and emergency preparedness. And they offer varying levels of digital curriculum for families of different budgets.

One thing I recently learned about from Skill Trek is The 12 Skills of Christmas, a seasonal curriculum they offer. Since Christmas prep is so busy, why not pull everyone into the festivities? We can help them learn to prepare holiday menus (including turkey!). Or organize a neighborhood cookie exchange, or create their own Advent calendar? It’s on sale right now, so it’s a great time to pick up this fun curriculum to help you organize and teach your kiddos this season.

12 Skills of Christmas from Skill Trek: Advent Joy

I hope that this post inspires you to actively engage in the Advent season with your family. There are many ways, even beyond the regular holiday festivities. I’d love to hear from you in the comments below if you do try any of these ideas, or if you have some great family Advent traditions we should know about here at  Joy Let Loose!

Elizabeth Joy

 

 

 

 

How to Make a New Home When You Can’t Stay Where You’ve Been

Our family moved into a new home in a new neighborhood. And then one week later, we left.

One step forward, two steps back…

Actually, we left for vacation – 26 hours of driving back to what still feels like home, but isn’t, and to places where our history still tugs on our heartstrings, but can’t be our present reality

The relief of welcoming arms, long-term friendships, and family relationships embraced us like the salty air: cool, comfortable, and without pretense.

There's something so refreshing about not needing to make a first impression. Click To Tweet

When life changes happen (like a ministry move, a significant loss, or a job transfer) a new normal is thrust upon us. We have an immediate choice to adapt – or not. Depending on the circumstances, we can choose to dive in to the startingover of life, and the writing of a new chapter. Or we can resist by clinging to what once was.

How to Make a New Home

We’ve moved a lot in the twenty years we have been married. I’ll be the first to admit that, in my twenties, these moves were exciting. My husband and I lived on the precipice of adventure when we were young. We looked at ministry relocation and a new home with great anticipation.

But as I’ve gotten older, (and now that we have moved away several times from people and jobs we have loved dearly), I have a keen sense of the amount of energy it takes to start life all over again. 

And this is kind of where I have sat for the past 11 months since we started over…again. 

Two new houses (first a rental, now our own), new neighborhoods, new ministry, new country… Each footstep has felt measured, like it just might take the last bit of energy that I have.

But I’ve still taken the steps…

I’ve had to, otherwise I would sink under the weight of my own resistance. 

So, how do you make a new home when circumstances dictate that you can’t stay where you’ve been? Here are some key steps I take. In fact, I will be taking many of these as soon as we get back to our new home from vacationing at our old one…

Seven Crucial Steps to Make a New Home
  • Tie Some Ribbons Before You Leave

The reality is that things don’t stay the same. The people you are leaving behind will keep on living and changing, just like you will. As you prepare to move, wrestle with the sadness of leaving, and allow some closure to come to your relationships.

A few will rise to the surface as friendships you will be willing to cultivate from a distance over the long haul. You’ll know which ones those are. For the rest, spend time thanking God for the season you’ve had together, and have open conversations that display your gratitude for the relationship you’ve had.

Give yourself permission to tie a bow on this segment of your life before moving on.

  • Drive, Walk, Sit

If you have the luxury of time to house hunt, and the ability to spend time in your new area for a bit, take advantage of it! Drive all over, walk through neighborhoods, sit in parks. What personality do different areas have? Where do you feel the most you?

I was fortunate enough to be able to pair house-hunting with teaching one of my sons to drive. With a willing chauffeur who needed to accrue driving hours, we ran the roads and got a great feel for the areas that felt most like us.

God is already in this next season ahead of you, and He can place people perfectly. Be patient to seek Him in this. Drive, walk, and sit until He shows you where to put down your roots.

  • Allow Yourself to Dream of your New Home

There are always things to feel a little nervous about when heading into a new chapter. But don’t allow fear of the unknown to overshadow your hopes of what might be. Be proactive to dream.  Joy comes in the morning.

What stages of life will you (and your family members if you have them) potentially celebrate in this new home? Is this going to be a developing season, or a simplifying one? What milestones might be coming up in the next few months or years? Ask God the help birth dreams in your heart and mind for what is to come.

Once you figure out where to live, let your imagination run wild about how to permeate your home with your personality. Large renos or small DIY projects give you permission to invest your heart and soul into your new home. Joanna Gaines is my hero in this regard, sharing great insights about it in The Magnolia Story. Whether you are a professional decorator or not, let your personality shine!

  • Consider Your Potential Impact

It’s so easy to approach a move to a new home with a list of our own needs. But what if we came to it from the standpoint of the potential impact we might have there? Could God have a specific community for us to pour into?

Spend time considering what gifts you bring to the table. How might you most naturally impact the people in the neighboring apartments or houses at your new home?

Check out The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door to get an awesome perspective about your call to your neighbors. What new relationships might God be preparing for this next season of life? Where might God want us to let joy loose? When we approach home shopping from the perspective of our potential impact in addition to our own needs, I guarantee we will look at our neighborhoods with different eyes.

  • Ask and Listen

People love to be heard. Your new neighbors all have stories they’ve lived and stories their lives are still writing. The very best thing you can do to show them value is to learn them. Ask questions, and pay rapt attention to their answers. You are being written in.

And come to these conversations prepared to share a bit of yourself too. If the people around your new home are people God has placed in your life, it’s easier to dive right in than to let the awkward silence happen…you totally know what I mean! 🙂

  • Allow Yourself to Re-visit

From my moving experiences, it’s best not to return to the place you’ve left right away. But it is important to re-visit at some point, if you are able. I’d recommend waiting at least a year.

Two things are important about this return:

1) It is a good touch-point with people you know and love. It allows you to be able to share, face-to-face, what God has been doing in your lives.

2) It also helps you see the reality that things don’t stay the same. The place and people you left are not frozen in time, waiting for you to come back. Seeing that they’ve moved on gives permission for you to do so as well.

  • Learn From Where You’ve Been

Some of us have moved a dozen or more times. Others have planted deep roots and intend to remain forever. Still, change may be coming. And either way, the past not only impacts our future, it prepares us for it.

What things about your former home did you love that you can bring to your new home? What life changes can you make right now for this new season? What mistakes can inform your next steps, and what best practices can you bring forward?

The rearview mirror is a great coach, but we need to keep our eyes on the windshield. Click To Tweet

Learn from where you’ve been, but embrace the adventure of the road ahead.

Make a new home

One Step Forward…

Sometimes change is thrust upon us. We usually have a choice about how to respond to it. Whatever it is that brings about the move to a new home, find God in it. His joy will be there too. Each of these seven steps may need to be taken one at a time, but each will help in the process of discovering a new normal in a new chapter. So start by taking that first step; it’s exciting to consider what God might do.

Your turn:  What advice do you have for people getting ready to settle in to a new normal in a new home? Comment below!

Elizabeth Joy