Listen to God's voice at the foot of the crucifix." ~St. Gaspar del Bufaro~

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Advent For Dummies

*The title of this post is not meant to be insulting.  It's more of a "lessons learned" or HDYDI (How Do You Do It) post for people like me who had a hard time grappling with making Advent work in the family* 
We always have a late Fall here in California and it usually lasts through November.  It's beautiful weather but it sure makes it hard (mentally) to think about Advent when the sun is shining and the leaves are still drifting.  It just looks more like Thanksgiving, not Christmas!  The commercial stores sure don't help out with all of the Christmas stimulus in full swing:(
Our backyard
Yet, I've come to learn that I need to start thinking and planning ahead for our family Advent to be meaningful.  Each year, I desire more and more that Advent be simple, spiritual, and enjoyable, not just for my family but for me as well. As much as I try to simplify each year, there is still a lot to do when preparing for Christmas, hence stress creeps in on Mama!   Ultimately, if there's one thing I have learned, it's that planning ahead is worth every minute of invested time, even if Thanksgiving isn't here yet. These are a few things I wish someone would have suggested as I was introducing more faith-based Advent activities to our family. I definitely could have used an Advent for Dummies post!

1. Start a Christmas club savings account.  
This has been one of our best decisions.  It forces encourages us to save a little bit of money each month that we can't touch until November 1st. At least for our income level, we could never afford to do much of anything if we didn't plan ahead.  Within this allowance, we are able to afford special Advent spiritual reading (like the Magnificat Companions), extra feast day celebrations, and even printer cartridges for all of the fun online Advent printing options. These are all additional costs that add up on top of Christmas cards, gifts and adopting children in need from our Parish Giving Tree, etc, etc.  Saving ahead has truly paid off for us!

2. Keep a Binder with lists that help for planning each feast day.  
My binder includes a grocery list of special items that I like to use in our celebrating.  I always think I'm going to remember but I never do! Each year I have to review my list. This year, Lacy from Catholic Icing came up with an awesome Advent Planner, ebook.  I am looking forward so excited to print and review my copy. I haven't looked at it but I'm sure it's going to be good! (Post will follow about that soon:)  My binder also includes sheet protectors where I keep printed coloring pages and other items ready to go.
Jen from Forever For Always No Matter What is also offering a free printable planning sheet right now. Thank you, Jen:)
3.  Mark your calendar ahead of time with the special feast days that you'd like to celebrate.  
Since our Christmas money is available on November 1st, I push myself to start my planning then.  I know it sounds silly but having a "start day" for your planning is often half the battle.  I start with Christ the King (the Sunday right before Advent) and go from there. Each year that goes by, it gets easier and easier to do. Whether it's St. Nicholas Day or the Immaculate Conception, inevitably something will interfere if you haven't marked it down!  Making these significant days a priority takes effort.  To this day, I still love the printable calendars from Catholic Culture…They just work for me! I use them for information and to post for reference.  (I also include a page for each feast day that we want to celebrate in my binder/notebook that includes my list of items and websites needed to do that).

4.  Pick the feast days and celebrations that fit best for your family.  
Let's face it, most of us can't do it all.  Depending on our family sizes, situations, and ages, we put a lot of extra pressure on ourselves to do too many things.  Personally, I think it's best to pick a few things and do them well.  We can always add something new another year.  For example, it took me many years to make the Jesse Tree come alive in our home and I have yet to get past our paper ornaments! I am also finding that my family is changing so I must adapt a long with them.  Sadly, not everyone likes to color anymore and my olders need different spiritual expression.  Last year, I posted about some of our Advent traditions that have evolved over the years, not over night, and adaptions still to come!
5. Get Christmas cards done early.
If you send out cards every year, it can be an extra stress. i.e.) Getting "just the right" family photo, choosing a card, getting them all addressed and out the door.  In the last 3 years, I have set a goal to have all of my cards done, stamped and addressed, ready to go, before Thanksgiving.  It took all 3 years to make it happen and this year I finally did it!  Done.  They are stacked and ready for whenever I decide to drop them in the December mail...Oh, it feels sooooo good! Having the money from the Christmas account sure helps get this accomplished as well:)   For that matter, I try every year to do get gift shopping done early as well.  I've yet to master this task but I keep trying.

6. Get ourselves in spiritual order.
It's so much easier for me to quiet myself when I have frequented the Sacraments…(Ahem) Most specifically, Reconciliation.  Clearing the slate and being in a better state of grace works wonders.  Not to mention keeping prayer and the Eucharist (Mass and Adoration) as priorities...We owe this to our families.  These things don't make the world go away but they sure help me cope a whole let better with the world!  I love this quote:
"Peace:  It does not mean to be in a place where there is not noise, trouble or hard work.  It means to be there in the midst of these things and still be calm in your heart."~Unknown

7. Lastly, be flexible…Things don't always go as planned!
With all of this talk of planning, this is probably my biggest "note to self."  We all know that things don't always go according to plan.  It is my hope that by reminding myself of this, maybe I won't be so disappointed when things don't work out how I had hoped.  Things happen, whether it be financial difficulty, illness, new baby, or other. When this happens it's important not to look over at anyone else's paper, so to speak.  Don't beat yourself up because your house doesn't look like somebody else's.  My friend, Ann Marie, once said this about homeschooling and it's so wise:)  God has the ultimate plan, not us. 
In today's homily, Father M. reminded us all to live each day well and we will be prepared.  By our perseverance, our lives will be secure according to the Gospel. (Lk 21:5-19)  His bottom line was that we shouldn't fret over things that don't go our way or that we don't have control of.  God's got that covered and He gives us the grace to live for today.  We should not be people of gloom and doom but people of hope.  
What a wonderful message as we prepare our hearts and homes for Advent!


  1. Lovely advice my sweet friend! Timely too :-) I too am planning on printing out Lacey's Advent planner. See... the thing is that for a few years now I have thought about making an Advent planner. I even have the nice little cute binder that I purchased two years ago and it is still not filled :( This is the year that I take Advent by storm and get my spiritual house in order! I was thinking yesterday that if I wrote out just two cards a day I could get them done early instead of feeling terrible about having to do them all or not do them at all :( I want to sit back and drink in all of His goodness and grace this Advent and not feel pressure to do what I think needs to be done because it is the thing to do. Fabulous post, Tiffany and thanks for the shout out :-)
    Happy Monday!

    1. I pray you have just the Advent that God wants you to have, my friend! I'm with you on the goal to drink in all of His goodness. My heart and prayers are with you:)

  2. Another great post! As I have gotten older, I am definitely more flexible... however, I have always been a planner, and I agree that it helps tremendously. Speaking of Christmas cards, I just finished mine up today... 100 cards ready to mail! And, you are right... that is a GREAT feeling!
    Happy week! +JMJ+

    1. Yay for you getting all of your cards done, Annita! Wishing you and your family a very blessed Thanksgiving!

  3. Way to go, Tiffany!! This is some valuable information, especially for the new and young moms who may not know where to start. I haven't seen Lacy's planner yet, but I have seen one that Jen uses and blogged about in the past. It was such a life saver and helped me bind all my things together into one place. My goal was to be done with shopping by the beginning of December. I want Advent to be amazingly spiritual…and so much less commercial. I'm almost there. As a teen, the best thing we did was get a Christmas club when we started earning a small income. Putting $5 each week into our "savings" was an awesome feeling when you got the check from the bank! Thanks for sharing! Oh, btw, what spiritual book do you plan on using this Advent? You can text me if you want.

    1. Hi Patty~I was hoping to do just that…Maybe help someone who was wondering how in the heck people add more stuff (i.e) a faith-based Advent) to an already busy time of year! I'll be posting about Advent reads soon:) Or if I don't get to it, I'll text you!

  4. Oh Tiffany, I loved all your sagely advice and suggestions. This will be my first Advent with mom gone. I'm flying to Arizona for Thanksgiving with my nieces and their families, and then back in early December in time to dig out all the boxes and ornaments and put up my Christmas tree with friends. And then plan a Christmas gathering at my house, with friends I haven't seen in a while, and perhaps even some new ones. I've put up my outside Christmas lights on a warm day last week, and my travel plans for next week are set. All seems well.

    And then you mentioned writing out Christmas cards before Thanksgiving. Oh no! I hadn't even considered that. But then again, this WILL be a different Christmas celebration for me this year. Maybe it's a good year to start a tradition of New Year's Day cards?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Tom, that's right…I'm so sorry! That first set of holidays are so difficult. Keeping busy and doing things differently is key. Sounds like you are doing just the right thing! You must be the favorite Uncle:) I remember how good you are to your nieces and nephews.I will keep you in my Holy Hour prayers throughout all of Advent. Peace, my friend!

  5. I love this post! Thanks for linking to mine, I will be sure to do the same - you have great advice. I think getting Christmas cards done early is huge! I like to get mine done early too :) Thanks for this my friend!

  6. Oh, thank you Tiffany----I might actually get something ready this year thanks to you !!!! The new baby has significantly reduced my planning time!! Much love!

    1. Karaaaaaa! Did you have a new baby or are you pregnant??? That is SO exciting! I'll be adding you to my prayers if you are pregnant (or either way,actually( and I think you'd fall into the "give yourself a break" this year:) Hugs and blessings!!!!


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