the gift of Advent

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as the calendar flips to november & flurries begin to fly, i find myself in what i realize is a familiar state of mind. the one where the anticipation of the upcoming holidays meets an intense desire to be present to the people & moments around me. i know all too well that if i’m not careful, time will steamroll right through Thanksgiving & Christmas, and we’ll find ourselves crashing into the new year, dizzy from busy-ness.

as my mind swirls with thoughts of what fun things we’ll do to mark the holidays this year (especially now that charlie loves to help with & gets SO excited about things), i’m equally excited to create space for stopping to rest, relax, and enjoy the heart & gift of the celebrations.

maybe you’ve been in a similar place before? maybe even now?

for me, the feeling applies pretty universally november through january. however, as as a creative person who loves to make gifts, bake, and decorate, the weeks between Thanksgiving & Christmas can be a blur if i’m not intentional. a few years ago, i stumbled upon an Advent devotional, and it really influenced how i felt & prepared for Christmas. it has looked a little different from year to year (a series of daily emails, a set of cards with an image or verse, a journaling activity, a daily illustration aligned with portions of the Christmas Story), but the rhythm of pausing each day of Advent to reflect on Jesus changed me that year and has become a practice i continue to prioritize and treasure.

looking back, i noticed that the most meaningful, transformational aspects of each of those various Advent experiences that kept me pointed towards Jesus as i entered into Advent were been Scripture, questions, and reflection. i need Scripture – sometimes just a verse, and sometimes a story – to keep me grounded in the character of God…the bare beginnings of Jesus’ story…the tenderness of it all. i need questions to help me connect those ancient words to my everyday life. the combination of those two things serve as points of reflection that i come back to throughout the day.

when laura & i were dreaming this summer about our next set of devotional cards, Advent was #1 on our list. having a visual reminder with the devotional cards adds a whole new depth of engagement for me with the Scripture, questions, and reflection, and we pray that they are helpful in the same way for you, too. we’ve been working away on these little beauties for the past few months – praying over the verses & questions, praying for the people that will hold them. praying for you, sitting with Jesus as you slow your hustle & rest more deeply in to Him.

the Advent devotional card set is 23 simple, pretty cards with a verse on the front and a Scripture reference & questions/prompts to reflect on on the back. on days that you’re short on time, you can easily tuck a card into your bag or purse to take out later in the day while you’re waiting at an appointment, for the bus, or in the carpool line. you can read the full Scripture reference on your phone app, if  you’d like, & simply reflect on the question/prompt or jot down your thoughts in the blank space on the back of the card.

on days that you have a little extra time, you could sit down with a warm cup of coffee or tea, your bible, and a card. after reading the verse on the front of the card and the Scripture reference(s) on the back, you could take more time to reflect on your thoughts about the question/prompts and sit in a few moments of quiet to pray about them, rest with your wonderings, jot down some notes on the back of the card, or write them in your journal.

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those are just two ideas of ways we envision the devotional cards could be used as you look at, listen to, and talk with Jesus this Advent season. our heart for these cards is that they can be part of your day no matter what your routine looks like. we hope you love them so much that you display them on your desk to help you reflect on verses in between emails & to-dos…maybe on your fridge as you try to memorize a verse…as a garland on your mantle… we think they would also be great to discuss as a family around the dinner table. however you choose, we pray that they enrich your Advent!

the full set is $20 (sales tax and shipping are included), and you can order yours online here. for purchases of 3 or more sets, we will contact you to adjust shipping costs. the Advent devotional cards are also available at Pathway Bookstore at Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina.

* we’d love to see your posts about the devo cards as you use them!
Use #shareAdventdevo, and we can cheer each other on :o) *

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this everyday life.

this past monday, one of those completely awesome, out of the blue things happened where i crossed paths in the most unusual of places with a sweet friend i haven’t seen in at least two years. we keep in touch sporadically through texts & instagram, but nothing beats a big hug & getting to catch up ever-so-quickly; it was the greatest surprise.

in the maybe five minutes we had for catching up, i love that as we talked about what our families have been up to, we both mentioned that we’ve been enjoying a slower pace. more home time. more down time. more playing in the backyard & going for walks & finding airplanes in the sky and trucks passing by.

this, mind you, is coming from someone who is wired for productivity & multi-tasking. left to my own devices, i can really kick things in to high gear & make things happen.

however, a few years ago, when i met my husband, for the first time i realized – to my surprise – that i didn’t always miss doing all-the-things…because i was able to really be present when i was hanging out with him. i started saying no to after work groups and coffee with friends so that i could be home with him. a few years into marriage and with our sweet boy now, it’s even more important to not be gone more than one night a week. even that is hard for me sometimes!

although i’m aware of my natural tendency towards productivity, sometimes it still takes a second thought for me to not over-fill our time (even with fun things), be picking up toys when we’re playing with something else, or working on a project while we watch a movie.

but every. single. time., it’s worth it. the unplanned days when we get to wander around the farmer’s market – waving to all the puppies, high-fiving farmers & vendors, and dancing to the local musicians…planting flowers and vegetables in our backyard with our boy – watching him waddle around with his watering can, watering every patio paver and some plants sometimes, too, and teaching him in some tiny way about gardening…walking to the bench at the end of the block to watch the trucks – holding hands with my husband and talking about our days.

the everyday things that so often slip right by.

as laura & i sent devo card drafts back & forth to each other one bazillion times, there were a few cards that struck a chord for one reason or another. this one got me first with it’s whimsical font and unexpected pop of color. it just plain made me smile.

then i read the prompt that laura wrote to go along with the verse…and i have come back to this card every day since, considering this question she posed:

“What does it look like to like to live with [God] in everyday ways?”

i don’t know about you, but there are a number of big things i’m asking God for. trusting Him for. but most of all, i need Him in the everyday ways. i need to slow down my thoughts, my worries, my questions, my schedule so that i can see Him at work in my interactions, my family, and, go figure – my thoughts, my worries, my questions, my schedule. a slower, less full, dare i say less check-things-off-my-to-do-list-productive pace creates space for me to be more present and attentive to noticing the little everyday ways that i sense God’s nearness, see Him at work around me, and rest in Him.

when i am present in the little moments – the, “mama, see?” moments where i am more often smiling & laughing at what he’s pointing at as he’s asking me to look at it than i am asking him to show me again because i was doing something else (which also happens; don’t get me wrong – i’m a work in progress) – i am reminded of how deeply important the everyday things of life and the everyday ways of God are.

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come to the edge.

come to the edge quote

those passions. the ones that you find yourself thinking about when you’re supposed to be focusing on something else. that you can’t learn enough about. that you could lose hours wrapped up in. the ones that feed your soul & make you come alive.

i hope everyone has at least one thing like that in their life. for me, one of those things is lettering. i can remember saving my money when i was 9 or 10 to buy a book about how to make different letter shapes; a few years later i was gifted a calligraphy set that i practiced with whenever i could. (oh how i wish i had saved that little practice booklet that came with the set; it was fantastically awful!) somehow that little flicker of a flame didn’t burn out with bubble letters on science fair posters. for years i’ve daydreamed about some day having a little side business lettering quotes and invitations and envelopes and who-knows-what-else. but that seems scary and tiny-but-huge and like too big of an undertaking, so i mostly just doodle and practice and revel in addressing our christmas card each year (bubble letters haven’t made a comeback…yet). until recently, that is, when a super fun project came along that i got to collaborate on [insert giddy, nervous excitement].

my friend laura, who breathes encouragement, generosity, hospitality, honesty, and spiritual formation, wrote an incredible devotional centered around God’s invitation to each of us to come. just as we are, here & now in our everyday lives.

laura gathered 31 verses speaking to God’s invitation to us to come to Him, reminding us of how He comes to us, and encouraging us to come to & be with one another, and she paired them with simple, meaningful prompts: questions to reflect on, songs to listen to, reminders of God’s character, ideas for ways to connect with others. to help make the devotional useful, flexible, and engaging, we organized the devotional into 31 postcard-sized cards, then added a mix of modern, fun, handwritten fonts and pops of color.

playing with fonts & colors and doing behind-the-scenes logistics are my jam, so those were no-brainers, but initially i dreamily thought about hand lettering all the verses which was (massively, i-can-do-all-the-things) naive of me. when i realized that task was far too involved for what i had the capacity for, i got really discouraged, and in my discouragement, i immediately turned the idea off. it was all or nothing, and clearly i couldn’t do “all,” so i went about the rest of the details. however, as i kept working on other parts of the project, i couldn’t shake the prompting that i kept sensing – what i’m now calling a “come to the edge” invitation – to include hand lettering in the card set in some way. lo and behold, as i kept coming back to the project, kept picking up my pen, kept letting go of what i initially envisioned and trusted the prompting, in the end, i was able to tuck a few little hand lettered elements in.

i could stop there with, “it all worked out!” but it’s what happened between finally picking up my pen and finishing the final piece that opened my eyes a little and made the long-appreciated quote above come to life. the truth of the matter is that working on this project wasn’t always simple or easy. i laugh as i write that: “funny…doing things we are passionate about isn’t always easy.” i couldn’t get information i needed. no matter how badly i wanted to pick up my pen & work on lettering, i battled legitimate hurdles with real life circumstances that delayed me being able to get started. shipments didn’t arrive how they were ordered.

then along came fear and battling not just “i might fall” fears – i was full-on drowning in “I’M FALLING, SAVE ME!” fears: “this isn’t good enough,” “no one will like it,” “you’re wasting your time.” i was working my creative time in after work, after dinner-bath-stories-bedtime-cleanup, in between loads of laundry, during naps. i’d hit my stride only to realize i was verging on midnight on a work night…or charlie was waking up…or i’d blown past when i needed to be making diner. it took everything in me to keep listening to the tiny, quiet, consistent, deep prompt to keep going. to do the really hard, scary thing with the hope that there was purpose and meaning to what i was doing. that it mattered.

and, oh, if that isn’t the cry of my heart: to do things that matter.

the day that i fiddled with the hand lettering pieces for the last time, i almost cried. they are pieces that i am incredibly proud of, knowing what it took to create them, and i am thankful-beyond-words to be able to send those little pieces of my heart out to the world and share them with the recipients of the card sets. it feels…scary and tiny-but-huge and like too big of an undertaking, but i did it. a full schedule and work and fear and details-gone-awry didn’t win; creating and sharing and saying yes to my passion won.

and that, as sort of dramatic as it may sound, feels a bit like flying. He invited me, He helped create the space, and He gave me encouragement and the push-à-la-prompting that i needed to see that i had it in me to do a really hard thing that i really believe in.

so if you are in the midst of starting a new thing or sending something you love & are proud of out into the world, go for it. be brave with what you love, and share what God has gifted you with with those around you.

our prayers for the devotional are that it is engaging, thought-provoking, and refreshing and that it invites you into conversation with the Lord that reminds you of His nearness, His guidance, and His love.

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the devotional card set is printed on sturdy cardstock (80# cover, for my fellow paper fanatics) with a beautiful, glossy, full color front and matte black and white back. the set is designed so that, if you’d like, you can do one card per day for a month. for the months with 31 days, you’re right on; if you do it in, say, a non-leap-year february, you’ll have a bonus trio ;o)

each of the 31 cards:

  • has a verse on the front and a scripture reference and prompts on the back
    *i love the variety of prompts: questions to reflect on, songs to look up and listen to, reminders of God’s character, ideas for ways to connect with others
  • has plenty of white space on the back for responding to the questions, writing down thoughts, doodling…whatever you like!
  • is approximately 4.2″ x 5.5″ making it a great companion to your quiet time or easy to take with you on-the-go to do on your lunch break, on the bus, at the park watching your kids play…wherever, whenever.

the full set is $20 which includes sales tax and shipping. you can order yours here.

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