Monday, November 26, 2012

Preparing for Advent & Some Gift Ideas

In years past, I've "prepared" for Advent during Advent.  Not the best way to really ready my heart when "preparing" means Christmas shopping, decorating, baking, sending Christmas cards, and stressing about all the above.

I'm not the only one who's decided to change when this kind of "preparing" occurs.  Many others have started altering their ways and some of you have known the secret all along.  The secret being to have most of the Christmas preparations done by the beginning of Advent.  This leaves space for centering our focus on what Christmas is about- the most important way to prepare.

This is a perfect year to start shifting how things are done because Thanksgiving came so early.  Speaking of Thanksgiving, would you like to see what my plate looked like?

Do you recognize any of your favorites? Glory be, what a meal that was!  Thanks, again, Mom (and Dad) :-).

Okay, back to Advent.  This year, we have a whole week (going on now!) between Thanksgiving and the start of December.  If you can, get a big jump on things this week so that once Advent starts, you can rest, focus and anticipate.  And help your family to do the same.

Here is my list of what I want to accomplish by the start of Advent.  Mind you, I've already been working on this list and have much of it completed.  Hear ye, hear ye!  If you are a mom of toddlers and/or babies or if you work outside the home, do not, do not, do not stress about this list!!!  My kids entertain themselves for the most part and I'm home full time.  Make these your goals for next Christmas and start in, like, August, okay?  I don't ever want to make anyone feel discouraged!  If I do that (even) unintentionally, stop reading me.  Please?  I mean it (with lots of love).  My list:

1) Finish the Christmas shopping.  It is still a tradition on both sides of our family to exchange gifts.  Some of you have moved away from this and enjoy the way it simplifies Christmas preparations immensely.  We continue to hope to move in this direction one day.  Advent Conspiracy is an excellent site to get you inspired to simply your Christmas season.  And, thank you to reader Liz, I was keeping my eye out for the book Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case For A More Joyful Christmas and picked it up at a thrift store for $1.50.  It's fascinating.

2) Decorate.  At our house this means: the Christmas tree (artificial, if you're wondering), the nativity scene, stocking hangers on the (fake) mantel, and lights hung (in the school room, kitchen, on mantel, and in each of the kids' rooms).  Hanging the stockings and cutting out snowflakes for the windows comes closer to Christmas.

3) Get out our Advent book and ornaments.  For the past few years, we've used The Advent Jesse Tree: Devotions for Children and Adults to Prepare for the Coming of the Christ Child at Christmas by Dean Lambert.  We had tried other Advent devotionals and like this one best. It has devotions perfect for elementary school age children and a separate devotion for adults for each day.  We have ornaments that correspond with the each day's theme that we hang on a branch that sits on our table.  The ornaments came from another Jesse Tree devotional we weren't very impressed with.  Do a quick google search for "Jesse tree ornament printables" and you can make your own.

4) Wash the windows.  I love clean windows and somehow letting in the sun light makes me think of clean hearts and The Light that came into this world on the first Christmas.  Please don't picture me out on a ladder with bucket and squeegee.  Washing windows, to me, means washing the downstairs windows that tilt in- that's it.

5) Send out Christmas cards.  Oh, please forgive me.  In the age of facebook, I still hang on to my Christmas-card-sending.  I just can't let it go...probably because I love getting Christmas cards so much.

Baking cookies comes the week before Christmas because I have ZERO self-control when it comes to sweets, frozen or otherwise.  Waiting until closer to the time and baking only a handful of kinds makes it something the kids and I look forward to once our Christmas break starts, doesn't become overwhelming, and keeps my goody-indulgences in check.

Okay, back to shopping for gifts.  I have just a few suggestions of gifts that are thoughtful and reasonable (especially price-wise) in case you're still working down your lists or still need to give gift suggestions to family members.

1) In the age of ridiculously expensive dolls, these are delightful.  Our girls have had all three for over a year.  They are well-made and so very sweet.  The outer clothes come off, but the shoes are sewed on (thank heavens!).

2) I Never Forget A Face Memory Game exposes your kids (or grand kids) to what children look like all over the world.  We love it.

3) Mavis introduced our kids to Smencils last Christmas.  They are a great way to motivate kids to work on homework/schoolwork and they're just plain fun.

4) Lastly, I would like to {humbly} mention the cookbook.  For those of you who live outside the U.S., please order this week if you'd like one by Christmas (email your order to  We've already sent multiple copies to Canada and Australia and we blew through our first printing in one week and have the second printing in hand so we're ready for future orders.

5) Stay tuned- in a couple days I'm going to show you a handmade gift that I bet you've never thought to make before.  It costs close to nothing (literally) and takes 15 minutes to make, tops.

However you prepare for Advent this year, I pray that it's with a light heart.  And I hope that at least once each day, you can calm your mind and heart and with sincere joy pray, "Come, Lord Jesus, Come!"

Jane Pin It


  1. I have the exact same nativity I think --- my grandma bought it in Israel and had it shipped here.


  2. Your home looks warm and inviting my friend. And, yes...I *Love* the Christmas Card tradition too!! SO much more personal. And, yes, as well to a simpler Christmas! Our tradition with our kids is three under the tree (following the idea of three gifts to the LORD from the wise men). We don't, however, keep to the symbolism of those three's just three gifts. Works well for us! Less stress on's all good. I've just caught up on all your posts Jane...been a little *out of the loop* lately. Your fire starter idea looks like a fun idea for a gift for someone who has a wood burning stove. I think it's lovely that you heat your home that way. Merry Christmas to you!

    With Love,


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