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Holding Things Loosely During Advent, by Colleen Pressprich

Advent is almost upon us. A fresh start, a new beginning, a chance to get myself out of the liturgical living rut I have inevitably slipped into by the end of Ordinary Time. Each year, grand plans dance in my head like sugar plums- snuggly moments of reading Christmas stories, candlelit faces singing 'O Come O Come Emmanuel' around the dinner table every night, deep discussions and prayer times, acts of service and a deeper understanding of

what it means to give. I imagine it all. And I used to plan to do it all.

But invariably, reality hit me like a ton of bricks. Even under ideal circumstances, with ideal children, my Advent dreams are too much. But factor in being the wife of a very busy resident and the mother of children with ADHD, ADD, and anxiety, and well, my dreams can easily go up in smoke.

Instead I have found a better way, one that is more likely to leave me entering the Christmas season rested, renewed, and ready for the celebration of Christ’s birth. I have learned to hold Advent loosely, to think about what I want my family to experience during the season and to create space for the Advent that my family needs instead of what I feel I should be doing.

Every year my family’s needs are different. Some years the children are thriving and need the extra events and have all the questions, and in those years we complete the Jesse Tree, bake the cookies from scratch, learn all the prayers and traditional hymns, and spend lots and lots of time on craft projects. Some years, when anxiety levels run high and the ADHD is balanced precariously, there will be no joy in all of those things, and what my family needs is quiet snuggles each night with a Christmas book. We’ll light the Advent wreath at dinner and maybe we’ll sing a verse of O Come O Come Emmanuel. This year my Advent discernment has looked like this:

What do I want for my family?

This Advent I want my children to experience joy, wonder, and anticipation.

What are our limitations? What are our needs?

This Advent we are dipping our toes back into gatherings with family and friends for the first

time in years, so my younger kids are more likely to be overstimulated and anxious with crowds and lots of parties. My husband’s work schedule is crazy for December, so I know that I’ll be carrying the lion’s share of any holiday preparations, and that factors into the calculations as well.

What will our Advent look like?

Now that I have my goals and our family’s limitations clear in my head, I can choose activities and prayers that will fit with them, and feel much more free to say no to the things that won’t. I have a clear framework in my head to use when opportunities come up or I see new ideas on Pinterest. I can let go of the guilt and the comparisons, and in doing so become more aware of the ways that God is working in my heart through this wondrous season.

I hope you and your family have a blessed Advent this year, one full of grace and blessings- and that you are able to find peace in holding the season loosely.

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