I wanted this Advent to be different.
I wanted to prepare my heart for the coming of our Savior. I wanted to teach my children the true spirit of the season.
And I wanted to build upon our family traditions so that our children would look back and remember with fondness all the ways we laughed, loved, prayed, served, and lived, especially at Christmastime.
In spite of it all, I found myself growling at my children while we decorated our Christmas tree.
“Don’t touch that one! It might break!”
“Stop pulling all the ornaments out of the boxes! Let me get everything organized!”
“That’s not a toy!”
Thankfully, I realized early on that I was ruining the moment and the memory by barking at everyone. I let go a little, relaxed a little, and took the time to enjoy the first of many activities we’ll be doing over the next few weeks.
The following day, I took some time to run on the treadmill. My running time is a special prayer time for me. My thoughts get jumbled with my prayers, and I often feel closer to God. So, I prayed and I pondered as I ran. And I truly believe God spoke to me and pressed an important lesson upon my heart.
I clearly heard Him say, “You have a lot of good intentions, but you don’t have love.”
It was a cold, hard, painful slap in the face, but one I certainly needed.
Suddenly, I heard 1 Corinthians 13 from a new perspective.
And my children have gained nothing.
I truly feel that God has called me to take a different approach this Advent. We’re not doing a Jesse Tree, though I was so hopeful to start it this year.
I never bought an Advent Wreath (for shame, I know) that’s been on my to do list for the last 5 years.
After waffling back and forth about it, I decided against the Elf on the Shelf. Not for any belief about it, but because it is just too much for me right now.
I purchased and downloaded the Truth in the Tinsel (which is fabulous, by the way), but decided not to incorporate it this year.
I’m not even pressuring us to do an act of service each day of Advent. We have a few tried and true projects and I’m letting the rest go.
Instead, I’m going to put all my heart and energy and focus into love.
Love is patient.
I’m going to remember that my children are little and the world is still quite large and foreign to them. I’m going to be gentle with them when they spill something, ask for something, test me and disobey. When they need help or when they want to play, I’m going to stop what I’m doing and show them love.
I’m going to remember that my husband works hard for us and makes many sacrifices for our family. I’m going to be patient with him when he’s cranky and tired after another 12 hour shift.
I’m going to remember that everyone is up against one battle or another. I’m going to be patient with the world around me.
Love is kind.
There are so many people who need kindness poured upon them. This Advent, my heart and my eyes are open. I want to radiate with kindness to all who come in contact with me. I’m going to remember, though, that doesn’t mean bending over backwards and running myself ragged in the process. Kindness is simple and doesn’t have to cost a thing.
It does not envy.
I will not get worked up about what so-and-so is doing at her house for Advent. I’m not going to feel inferior because I am incapable of doing what someone else masters. I will not worry or fret over how much or how little this person or that person spends, gives, or serves.
It does not boast, it is not proud.
Nor will I boast what I do or don’t do, spend or don’t spend, give or don’t give. I will do what I can with patience and kindness. And God will be my only witness.
Love never fails.
I wanted this Advent to be different. And boy will it ever be different. This might be the hardest Advent I’ve ever faced. The tasks before me are difficult. Love isn’t easy, but I want to have more than good intentions.
So I’m also forgiving myself if this Advent is a little quieter than normal. If I say “no” to something I’d usually attend. If, at the end of the day, the only “thing” we’ve done to celebrate is played a game or watched a movie or said a prayer.
I want my children to look back and remember with fondness all the ways their mother laughed, loved, served, prayed, and lived.
But, the greatest of these is loved.
Life happens when we love.