Advent Plans 2017 + Christmas Favorites

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Since our Jesse Tree ornaments are only partially done, I made a list of things to do with S for Advent this year. She’s 3, so while a lot is over her head still, there is a lot she can understand and participate in. I wanted to have activities that will help all of us grow in delight, wonder, and worship as we anticipate Christmas, and hopefully in that anticipation point her (and ourselves!) towards His purpose in coming and longing for His second coming. I also wanted to find small ways we could be a part of our community and even lift others’ burdens.
Some of these are taken from Preemptive Love’s 25 Days of Peace from last year, and I will probably be reviewing some of my past Advent writings as well, which you can see here.

I wrote out these ideas on strips of construction paper and we made a paper chain and will take one off the chain every day, in addition to reading one chapter from the Jesus Storybook Bible (not our first Toddler Bible choice but the number of chapters fits better with Advent) and memorizing Joy to the World and Luke 2:10-11.
These may be reordered as our calendar fills!

What are you doing with your littles for Advent this year?

1. get a Christmas tree
2. decorate, while drinking Wassail and eating gingerbread.
3. wrap presents
4. mail presents
5. write out/decorate our memory verse
6. make paper snowflakes
7. watch the Nutcracker
8. Make hot chocolate (we often throw a banana in the blender with 1 c milk and 2 Tbsp cocoa then heat)
9. pay it forward (not sure where this will be yet)
10. decorate pinecones with glitter
11. pick up trash & greet people on our walk
12. tell the Christmas story with our Nativity Scene (which is awesome by the way – a creche crocheted by Syrian refugees, my parents got it for us last year).
13. go through our toys/clothes/books and donate some
14. bake cookies for Ezra’s work/neighbors
15. watch The Snowman
16. send mail to build someone up
17. walk/drive to see Christmas lights
18. go caroling
19. “dance party” to favorite Christmas music
20. color a Nativity Scene & listen to the Christmas part of the
21. Leave a thank-you for the mail carrier
22. drive to Grandma’s house
23. care package for the homeless/do something kind for someone who did something mean (these ones need more research for us in our area and S’s circle).
24. Christmas Eve service
More ideas here!
We also threw in A Charlie Brown Christmas, gingerbread dutch baby, and a church carol sing.

At the end of that I hope to spend some time considering how to keep giving into our community AFTER Advent! It’s good motivation to start doing these things but it’s something we should keep doing.

Favorite Christmas music:
Rescue’s The First Christmas
Kings’ Singers & Albrecht Mayer’s Let it Snow
Michael Card’s The Promise
Eden’s Bridge’s Celtic Christmas
The Nutcracker
Handel’s Messiah
Nativity Story Soundtrack
Joel Clarkson’s Midwinter Carols
Ola Gjeilo Winter Songs

Some background music from YouTube:
The Kings’ Singers
King’s College Choir
The Three Tenors

A Christmas Festival
Sleigh Ride
Boston Pops
London Symphony

Favorite Christmas Books
Three Christmas Journeys
Baby Jesus, Prince of Peace (Greene)
The Nutcracker (The one illustrated by Hague is our favorite for the “whole story” but Valeria Docampo’s is most similar to the ballet).
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree (Gloria Houston/Barbara Cooney)
Christmas in the Barn (Margaret Wise Brown)
The Little Drummer Boy (Ezra Jack Keats)
…and still searching! I’ll probably update this as the season progresses.

For more on Advent, especially with kids, check out these podcasts:
Risen Motherhood: Celebrating Advent with Little Ones
Storyformed: Following Jesus Through Advent

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Advent Musings 2016

Emmanuel, God with us. After the recommendation of a friend and a short devotional on it, I read “Practicing the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence shortly after Ellie was born. I thought it was a good time to read it, to be challenged to be in His presence continually in a time when there wasn’t really much opportunity for specific times of reading and prayer.
But only a few weeks later, His presence was gone in the throes of postpartum depression. As I struggled to find it again and struggled to pray, slowly it came back, even as the breakers and waves crashed down on me drowning out at sea. I remembered Emmanuel: His Son sent to be God with us and be our rescue. That He would be with me. His forgiveness, and intercession, and His love which nothing can separate me from. In the suffocating of hormones, and a sin nature exacerbated by those hormones, I found Emmanuel before the throne, my strong and perfect plea, living and interceding for me, making it so nothing can pluck me from His hand or take away the presence He came and bled and died and rose for us to have. I’m not fully healed of the struggle yet. But every moment His presence is there is one of thankfulness and sweetness and joy. And to help in the moments He feels far away, one of the things I am doing for Advent this year is memorizing some key verses. Another is reading John Piper’s “The Dawning of Indestructible Joy,” and striving to look ahead with longing to His second Advent.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it. This was quoted to us at church, the second Sunday of Advent, the 102nd day of Aleppo under siege. And we also prayed for the persecuted church. And I thought of those suffering under ISIS and Boko Haram, and Christians persecuted all over the world, and prayed that they may have hope remembering that the darkness does not overcome the Light.

Prince of Peace. And as I think of Aleppo and of Mosul, and prepare to return to an America reeling at election results, I remember that He is also the Prince of Peace, and that He came not be served, but to serve. That I as His child can be His ambassador in the world and be a peacemaker. And so the other thing I am doing for Advent is Preemptive Love’s 25 Days of Peace.

Writing Update

I had hoped around this time to be posting a release date for Love Victorious, and it seemed for most of the year that it was going to be ready for release before the baby was born (my goal). I did my editing of it and sent it off to a few people to look over, and in the meantime started reading through Hope Victorious with the plan of starting to edit that.
But as I read Hope Victorious, I started seeing a lot of deep problems with it, especially as I read feedback on Love Victorious. For a while I felt like Love Victorious was salvageable, but Hope Victorious was not. As time went on, I started seeing a lot of more problems with the writing in Love Victorious, thanks to people who were willing to give me true and honest critiques from a writing perspective.

I spent a lot of time thinking and praying about writing and discussing my stories with Ezra and Megan.
One of the big things I realized is that lately writing (mostly the editing) has just been work and stress, another “to do” instead of for enjoyment or a sense of “calling” (too strong of a word, but can’t think of the right word). I think I was working on stuff to get it done on a certain timeline – timeline being S dropping her naps in 2-ish years, and feeling like I needed to do something with my stories because of all the work I’d put into them in the past that I didn’t want them just ending up only on my computer.
I’ve struggled with that sort of thing before, and I think in part it’s due to a combination of being task-oriented and stuff like “Do Hard Things” – I want my life to count for something… but have to really work to remember that the most important “something” is not my list of accomplishment but loving God & loving others (the greatest commandment).

That, combined with plot holes, flat characters, and a variety of other things have led to today’s update not being that Love Victorious will be released on x day but that I’m putting those stories aside.
Someday I may pick them up to re-write them – not just overhaul like I have done multiple times, but to really sit down and start again from almost-scratch – but I don’t know if I’ll ever have the time and energy to really do that properly, and so many of the flaws are so deeply ingrained in the story, because even though my writing grew, I kept going back to try and fix the same thing over and over… like trying to touch up an old painting instead of just re-painting it or moving on to something else.

My writing has grown so much since 2006 when I first created Edaled and started writing the Victorious trilogy. I have learned so much, and lately some of that is when to put things away and move on. I am not done writing at all… definitely not! But as my time for writing decreases, I want to put my effort where it will really be worth it, so am focusing on my blog and a few other projects. I will also be trying to “study” creative writing more, since that’s something I never really did, and then take what I learn and put it into practice, with new stories and editing some short stories and more recent longer ones (like Javi’s Cafe).

Honestly, having let the Victorious trilogy go has felt really freeing. I do have to be more careful not to waste time during nap time now, but I don’t think I realized how much of a burden it had become and how little my heart was in it until I decided it wasn’t time for them right now. And hopefully all of this will lead to posting more writing on my blog and ApricotPie!

Read to Win + Christian Musician in Paperback!

If you want some summer reading AND a chance to win prizes, you’ll be excited to hear about Read to Win, hosted over at Homeschool Authors.

The Christian Musician and all of the other books in the event will be on sale for 99c for all or part of the summer (June 1 – August 31), and if you read and review one, you get entered in drawings for great prizes (including a big grand prize Amazon gift card!). Every week there will be challenges posted on Homeschooled Authors that all of the authors have participated in.
The Christian Musician will be 99c for Kindle for the whole June-August time frame AND you can now purchase it in PAPERBACK from Amazon or CreateSpace. If you’re also doing Tim Challies’ reading challenge, it fits well in the “book under 100 pages” category.

The Christian Musician: Some more resources

In the time since The Christian Musician was released, I have read some more good articles and books that fit with the content and wanted to share them with my readers!

How To Discourage Artists in the Church (The Gospel Coalition)

Beauty is a clue that God exists (TCG again, but with Dan Forrest, composer of Requiem for the Living)

Efficient Practicing for Busy Parents (The Playful Piano)

Worship (from Kevin DeYoung’s church. Long, but very good, especially appendix 4).

What Comes first, the Notes or the Music? (The Bulletproof Musician)

Why Should Christians Participate in the Arts?

“Music is not worship. There can be music and no worship. There can be worship and no music. Music doesn’t lead to worship. Truth leads to worship. Music is a means for expressing worship.”
(John MacArthur).
Books
Art & the Bible (Francis Schaeffer)

Video/Audio
Interview with Michael Card

Advent: God With Us – Christ in Us

Romans 8:1-4
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law,weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,3 he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit…

31-39.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.10 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” – John 17:3

In His birth, Jesus shows us that we couldn’t be near Him on our own. He must come to us to save us before we can have eternal life – before we can know God. And so Jesus came down and joined our problem, but He didn’t leave it alone. He pronounced blessing and future joy for those who are mourning, but it didn’t come in the way the world expected. He showed us that the answer to our pain isn’t a formula, the solution to our problems not their absence, but His presence. It’s not what we asked for, but it’s what we need more than anything else.

He offered His love in a way that can never be lost because it is based on Jesus and not our performance. He came to free us from chains of sin that weighs us down. He came to fill our need, and to bring us to God, even when we were His enemies. He gave us so that we will have everything we will ever need.

He was Immanuel for a short time
So that Immanuel, God with us, can be for forever.

Don’t reject His love, or Immanuel will be to you a judge, not a Savior.
He came to free.
Don’t love your chains.
Worship the One who can set you free.
Who fills our every need
Who is all we need
Who is worth every pain
Who makes it not about us but about His glory
Which is far, far greater.
He has met our need.
Because Christ was condemned and separated.
Because He left His Father and humbled Himself.
Then, not just at Christmas, but always:
Immanuel.

Hymn: Joy to the World
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Advent Blessing

Revelation 21:1-4
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

Pray
– Give thanks for Immanuel: the person of Jesus, the work of Jesus on the cross, and the joy of being brought to Him!
– pray for those still separated from Him – remember that we were once the people walking in darkness, but He allowed us to see the Great Light. Pray that those (and be specific!) yet walking in darkness will see His Light. Remember that He can do far more than we can ask or imagine!