Hopes for Liturgical Living: Advent

I started this little series of how I would like liturgical living in our home to look like because two years into marriage and the rich, unfailing rhythms and traditions that I always imagined would be an effortless part of our lives are haphazard at best but mostly non-existent.

It’s the first week of Advent and this season has proved to be no different so far. Last week I bought an Advent calendar from Trader’s Joe and…that’s all I’ve got. And even though it was cute and cheap, I really think we can do better than just a piece of chocolate per day till Christmas. Here we go:

Food

I’m all about doing simple, sort of penitential meals during this season. Avoiding eating out as much as possible. Toast without toppings for breakfast. Soups for dinner that can be batch cooked and eaten all week. Less meat and dairy and more legumes and vegetables. I don’t want to be feasted out by the time the actual feast begins.

Wear

In my previous liturgical living posts, I’ve written about how I like the idea of wearing darker, more subdued colors during penitential seasons and brighter, cheerier colors during festive seasons. I think this idea can work here without having to create two winter wardrobes. Just having neutral basics and then darker scarves and accessories during Advent and brighter ones during Christmas. This probably sounds ridiculously trivial, but these are just my imaginings for a life integrated with faith in every possible way.

Another thought is donating warm clothes to those in need. St. Martin of Tours’ feast day is in November, but the tale of him sharing his cloak with the freezing beggar is a fitting Advent story to tell children. (Fun fact though: in the early centuries of the Church, a period of forty days of fasting before Christmas was celebrated starting on November 12th, the day after St. Martin’s feast. It was called Quadrasegimi Sancti Martini–St. Martin’s Advent.)

Work

I want to spend the first two weeks deep cleaning, decluttering, making our home generally more peaceful and ready for Christmas. And then I really like the idea of spending Gaudete Sunday onward making salt dough and cinnamon ornaments, popcorn garlands, paper snowflakes, and so on and then putting them aside until Christmas eve. As Auntie Leila says, Advent is for making.

I also want to give extra encouragement of a spirit of charity within the family during this season. I’m still not sure about how to tread the line of gift giving between materialism and giving and receiving out of love, but I think a good place to start is emphasizing that doing good works in secret for family members (like making a sibling’s bed for them or helping out without being asked) is just as much if not more a gift as buying them a present.

Leisure

This one is huge for me since I have a terrible addiction to distractions that eat up my scant leisure time but I am trying to cut them out this Advent and for all Advents in the future to make more time for resting and for prayer.

For children, I really like the idea of a wrapping books and letting them open one a day as a countdown each day till Christmas. Elizabeth over at In the Heart of My Home has a master list of books to read with your children during this season.

It is also my one true wish (and has been for the last five years) that Joe and I will learn a Christmas carol duet on the piano. And it is another ardent wish of mine that all our family members will put on a Christmas talent revue for the entire family one day. So I really like the idea of preparing for the Twelve Days by learning Christmas carols to sing or play on an instrument; memorizing a Christmas poem; putting together a Christmas skit; so that we might share those gifts with one another and with the newborn King rather than putting all the focus on material gifts.

And as far as keeping Christmas carols at bay until the Christmas season goes, I’ve found it’s not much of an issue once you realize just how many good Advent carols there are.

Prayer

All the usual: as much of the divine office as will fit in our daily lives, daily rosary etc. but extra things for this season:

Obviously the Advent wreath with prayers and Scripture reading. I also like the idea of adding evening prayer in here, singing an Advent carol, doing this Advent litany, and for the Octave before Christmas, “The Golden Nights”, adding in the O Antiphons–but you know I’m always unrealistically ambitious.

Then there’s the thirty day St. Andrew novena. (Starts tomorrow! Alarm is set and ready on my phone because I’m the wooorst at keeping up novenas.)

And of course there are all the other feast days that break up the quiet of this season and stir up excitement for the coming Nativity. We have St. Nicholas’ Day on December 6th with treats in shoes and baking cookies over at the grandparents’ house. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th. Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th. Every year on this day, I want to make ultimate Mexican comfort food: albondigas and Mexican wedding cookies which look like delicious little snowballs–both perfect for winter.  And then St. Lucy’s Day on December 13th with cinnamon buns in bed, cuccia for dinner, and hymns by candlelight.

Most of all, I want to make time for myself to spend in prayer and reflection. I just ordered the Blessed is She Advent journal and there are a host of good books to read during this season. This year at the very least I’m going to try to revisit St. Athanasius’ beautiful work, On the Incarnation.

….

Other things around the Internet that have been inspiring my Advent brainstorming:

A Simple Advent Plan from Jenny at Mama Needs Coffee
Catholic New Year Resolutions from Kaitlyn at Lily and Mama
All the advent links from Like Mother Like Daughter
December Liturgical Living from Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas

Happy Advent! Come, Lord Jesus!

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Hopes for Liturgical Living: Advent

The Crown, the election, and the Solemnity of Christ the King

the-crown-review1

The release of the Netflix series, The Crown, coming soon and possibly purposefully after the election was welcomed by those of us all too happy to dip into another country’s removed and far more decorous politics.

I binged through the show at an embarrassing pace. In my defense, my computer, on which I blog and work, died an unceremonious death one day and left my evenings free to read and watch Netflix. But I’m not complaining. It’s sumptuous and beautifully acted and had me reading an unhealthy amount on my phone about the ins and outs of the British royal family.

However much it may stray into fiction, the show gives us an intimate view of the personal lives of the royals. That human and flawed internal life in relation to the external life of the Crown—holy, dignified, and immutable—was incredibly fascinating to me.

Philip kneels before his wife and queen at her coronation and, on camera, looks to the world unremarkably dutiful when it was actually a tense and difficult moment for him.

Elizabeth and Philip seem to ennoble all they touch at home and abroad and yet the peace within their marriage is subject to strains of exhaustion, over-scheduling, and family drama that any married couple might feel.

Elizabeth is expected to and appears to keep calm and carry on through scandals and drama within the government and within her own family, but she relies enormously on moral support from her husband and sister and mother to carry out her duties for the good of her country.

It’s made me reflect on marriage and monarchy as very general concepts but also in the very specificity of my own life. I’m of course the queen of nowhere and no one but my tiny home and family. And yet, the amount that my husband and I are willing to humble ourselves to one another and bear one another’s burdens also has long lasting, though far subtler, reverberations for the whole world. After all, our children carry whatever environment we raise them in, be it imbued with love or fraught with fear, out into the world.

Yesterday was the Feast of Christ the King. The election and all the ugliness it’s brought out has made me feel this urgency in my heart to actually live out in concrete ways the truth that our allegiance lies first with Christ the King rather than any earthly power. So, painful as it is for Philip to kneel before his wife and painful as it might be to sometimes metaphorically kneel to my husband, i.e. bite back my urge to snap at him when I’m upset or tired, it’s actually to the Crown, the heavenly Crown, to the truly holy, dignified, and immutable kingship of Christ, that I kneel.

So if this election’s got you down (and frankly, if you’re like me, would have got you down no matter the outcome), exercise your civic duty by volunteering, donating, and speaking out in constructive ways in the name of the oppressed and vulnerable, rather than just reposting and complaining in your echo chamber. But also worship your true King by loving the people in your own small kingdom well.

The Crown, the election, and the Solemnity of Christ the King

What is your true style?

william-morris-wallpaper

This is a completely unnecessary post–a first world problems post. I have a roof over my head and homemade French onion soup currently in my belly and a very cute baby who gets oatmeal stuck to the carpet and a very good husband who painstakingly cleans up after him. So my basic needs and more have been met and there’s nothing really legitimate to complain about. But for a little fluff post–let’s talk about style.

My sister and her husband bought a house not too long ago and she’ll ask for second opinions about door knockers and bedside tables and whatnot. This has led to a lot of conversations about style. What is her style? What is my style? What is the significance of styling one’s home in the first place? And the more I think about it, the more I think about how social media, particularly pinterest and instagram, have either shaped my style or perhaps imprinted a false style over my true style.

I think in one way, visual social media has helped me hone in what I really like. Without pinterest or instagram, I wouldn’t have discovered and fallen in love with designers such as Ulyana Sergeenko or Stephanie Fishwick who have made me rethink the possibilities of things like fashion and calligraphy.

But at the same time, the thought of “what my style should be” increasingly creeps into my head. When I’m scrolling through my Instagram feed and picture after picture of perfectly unstyled-styled homes with exposed natural wood furniture and white walls and thrifted trinkets and treasures and bonnet capped children (okay, that I can totally get on board with), I start feeling like I have too much visual noise in my home (not to mention too much very plastic tupperware), or like I’m at the mercy of a home full of things that have unconsciously been thrown together and don’t really make aesthetic sense. And then all of a sudden this “simple living” that these bloggers and influencers espouse, feels more stressful and expensive than simple.

Some of it is a work in progress. I would prefer pretty weck jars to the tupperware. But some of it is just a difference in style. And sometimes I just need to remind myself to follow my own stylistic impulses rather than go where are the legions of followers are. So what is and is not my style?

I adore Joanna Gaines but I don’t want wide open spaces and the bright whites from top to bottom in my home. I actually weirdly prefer colorful closed off rooms which I think has something to do with my feeling that rooms should be designated spaces for particular activities.

I think I might die of happiness if someone banished me to isolation in an English cottage but I wouldn’t say I’m all that into the shabby chic, vintage, and distressed look.

If we ever bought a house with a subway tiled kitchen, I would never ever ever breathe a word of complaint, but I’m more into this sort of thing.

I love spode and wedgewood and milk glass and jadite and brass but l love it all mismatched together. I like velvet, tufted furniture but in vibrant colors. I like patterned rugs, floral wall paper, black and white checkerboard floors, and whimsical touches like this.

So I guess my style is eclectic, whimsical, vibrant, elegant, a little bit happily chaotic?

But styling a home goes so much deeper than choosing and arranging things in it. (I guess this is going to get a little less fluffy than I originally planned.) When I think about the house and home I truly want, I think about homes I’ve been in that were made beautiful by my experiences in them. I remember falling asleep on the couch one advent evening in the glow of our Christmas tree. I remember exploring the prickly hill my grandma’s sunshine filled house sat on in Arizona. I remember crowding into my stara mama’s kitchen playing board games or eating bread and butter or just being together.

And then I think about films or stories that feature warm and loving homes. Mr. and Mrs. Badger’s home in Narnia, George and Mary’s drafty old house in It’s a Wonderful Life, the Bennet home in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice, Mole End in The Wind in the Willows, both the houses in Nanny McPhee 1 and 2 and so on.

And while many of the things in all those homes have usually been chosen with a sensibility for style and beauty, it’s the living, breathing community that talks and plays and laughs and reads and prays and sometimes weeps or is silent together that imbues the physical objects in a home with their power to evoke emotion and memory.

So, I do think, depending on the community (or the disunity) within, the most photogenic and home tour worthy home might, in reality, be a cold and tense place to live. And the more mismatched and rumpled home might be the most desirable place on earth. And vice versa.

I suppose my conclusions are more questions. What do you think the relationship between fostering community and styling a home is? Can you focus too much on one at the expense of the other? Has social media helped or hindered you from discovering your true style? Do you even think there’s such a thing as a true style? And how much does discovering your true home style or clothing style or whatnot really matter in living your life well?

Image above: William Morris wallpaper–always a good idea in my opinion.

What is your true style?