5 Ways to Make Advent Meaningful

(Advent is only a couple of weeks away so I thought I would get a head start and give you some ideas to think about before it officially begins.)

Do you ever take on too much during the Advent/Christmas season and then feel overburdened? If so, I can totally relate. I wanted to make Advent so special for my family that I would get completely overzealous about it. It was “go big or go home” for me! I would make all sorts of resolutions and added all these prayers and activities; however, instead of making Advent meaningful, they left me drained or guilty for not fitting in all the things I had planned. Indeed, these activities became ‘just one more thing to do’ before Christmas.

Image by hansjoergrichter50 (2013) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

Over the last few years, I started learning my lesson and I’ve scaled way back in how I celebrated Advent. It has become a time for revisiting the basics. Therefore, rather than  adding on tons of prayers or activities, I am only adding on a couple of things and doing them as well as possible. My goal is to spend Advent in a way that truly prepares my heart for the coming of Christ. And I want that for you, too. If you are looking to making Advent meaningful this year, consider trying a tip or two from this list.

I. Take Care of Most of the Material things early.

Every year I say I am going to get everything done early so that I can focus on the spirit of the Season but I never actually follow through. This year, I am actually using the Christmas Planner I created last year and it is already making a difference.

Of course, you don’t have to use my Christmas planner. You probably know what you have/want to do. Why not start now and put a dent in your to-do list? Can you order your Christmas cards now? How about getting started with your Christmas shopping? Maybe you can create your cooking/baking shopping list now and start buying any needed ingredients?

The point is, do as much preplanning and doing now so that once Advent/Christmas really goes into high gear you will be ahead of the game.

2. Go to Daily Mass Twice a Week (or more).

In years past, I would commit to going to daily mass and would fail every year. As much as I would love to make daily Mass, it just isn’t realistic for this time in my life. Therefore, I have decided to commit to going to daily Mass twice a week. That is definitely doable.

Seriously, if you don’t do anything else for Advent, do your best to make it to Mass – even if it is only one extra day a week. I have said it before and I will say it again because, as Catholics, there is no greater thing we can do than to receive our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. The Holy Mass is the summit and center of our faith.

3. Go to Confession.

I won’t lie. I love going to Confession. 🙂 I know that sounds crazy but I feel for light and free after going to Confession. But, as much as I try to go regularly, life happens and I don’t make it as often as I could. Truly, Confession is good for the soul, so even if you don’t love it like I do, please try to make Confession at least once during the Advent season. I promise, you won’t regret it!

I am not sure about your area but there should be several Advent penance services going on during the Advent season. If you can, why not try to attend? The services are usually beautiful and knowing others are making Confession as well can be an incentive. If you can’t make a penance service, check your Church’s bulletin for their regular Confession  schedule. If that doesn’t work, most priest offer confession by special appointment. Cleansing and strengthening your soul is a wonderful way for preparing for Christmas! (Need a little help going to Confession? Here are some tips on How to Make a Good Confession.)

4. Use an Advent Calendar and Advent Wreathe.

If you have young children, they usually love the Advent calendar because they get to eat a piece of candy every day! Believe it or not, though, they have Advent Calendars for adults too. What is nice about these calendars is that they usually include a little scripture verse to reflect on and they don’t take up a lot of time. A minute or two at most.

The same goes for the Advent Wreathe. It is only a matter of lighting a candle and maybe adding a little prayer. It is a no-brainer. it is a small thing but it can make a big difference in appreciating the reason for the season.

5. Journal.

If you know me, you know writing is in my blood and I journal regularly. In fact, that is one of the reasons I started creating journals in the first place. It may sound crazy, like my love for Confession, but having my own little space to write out my thoughts, dreams, and struggles is important to my spiritual welfare. In fact, writing is my preferred way of communication and it is how I best “talk” to God. Can you relate or is it just me?!

That’s why I created an Advent journal a while back. Once can never have too many journals and I like having a separate journal for Advent. Unlike my regular prayer journal, which I use as a “regular” journal too, I use the Advent Prayer Journal strictly for prayer and reflections about the scripture readings throughout Advent. It helps me to go deeper into the mysteries we are celebrating during this holy season.

Whether you use my journal, or creat your own, or just use loose-leaf paper, journaling is a wonderful way to make Advent meaningful. There is something therapeutic and special about handwriting your thoughts and prayers out on physical paper. Who knows, maybe the habit of journaling will extend long after the Advent season and that would be wonderful, too!

Bonus Idea!

If you have some extra time to spare, why not join in on a virtual Advent retreat? I will be “conducting” the retreat via Facebook Live and doing weekly short meditations on one of the readings from the week. It may be from the Sunday readings or the daily readings, depending on where the Holy Spirit leads. I will also be including a complimentary copy of the pdf version of the Advent Prayer Journal (normally $10) and other guides and goodies. Best of all, it is free. The only “cost” is being a member of my Facebook Group where the retreat will be held. 🙂

I pray that this Advent/Christmas season is the most magical, beautiful, prayerful, and wonderful season you have ever had. May God bless you and bring you ever closer to His merciful heart. And may our dear Blessed Mother intercede for you and all your intentions!

4 Ways I am “Saving” Christmas This Year

Does this sound like you? Every year when Autumn comes around, and the Christmas stuff starts going on sale, you think, “This year I’m going to be organized and not wait until the last-minute.” But, then you blink and Christmas day is here and it’s like, “Whoa, where did the time go?!” (Please tell me I am not the only one!)

Well, THIS year, I have made a firm decision to really make a change. THIS year, I’m going to really be organized, relaxed, and actually enjoy the Advent and Christmas season. I am “saving” Christmas for myself and here are four ways you can save it for yourself, too!

4 Ways I am Saving Christmas This year

1. Change Your Mindset.

Instead of the go-to response, “Ugh, I am so not ready for the holidays,” this year, I am going to embrace the onset of the holidays. The holidays are a gift! They are a time to give thanks, spend time with loved ones, play with traditions, and, most importantly, to remember that God Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, became man for our sakes.

Jesus, the Living God, born of Mary, became a BABY. Jesus is the reason for all the festivities of the next few months – no matter what the stores or the world says. Therefore, when stress or angst about the craziness of the season gets to you, take a couple of minutes to slow down, breathe, and remind yourself of what is important.

2. Learn to say NO.

You know, you really don’t have to say yes to every opportunity or “obligation” that comes your way. Just say yes to those things you really want to do or to those things that bring joy to your life. If you feel like you can’t say no, say “maybe” instead. Take some time to check you calendar and think about whether you want to say yes or not. If you don’t, a simple, “I’m sorry, that won’t work for me.” Is enough. You owe no explanation to anyone!

Remember, you control your calendar. If something is on the calendar, it is there because you added the item. It is up to you to leave margin in your schedule. If you don’t control your calendar, it will control you! Or, at least, everyone else will control it for you.

BELIEVE me, I know how that can be. There are a lot of good and enjoyable things that happen during the Advent/Christmas season. I hate to miss out on good things, too. Nor do I want to let anyone down, either. It is so much easier to yes something rather than face the self-imposed guilt of saying no. In the end, though, it’s not worth it. In order to keep sanity, to stay healthy, and to actually enjoy the holidays, you  need to say no to some things.

3. Enlist Some Help.

You don’t have to do everything yourself. Delegate what you can or ask your spouse, children, or other families to help you with what you need to do. If you can afford it, you can even hire some temporary help. Get a one-time housekeeper to do a deep cleaning of your house. Use photo cards so you don’t have to handwrite every card and then have your children (or a teenager looking to make a couple of bucks) stuff, lick and stamp the envelopes. Of course, baking is one way to get the children involved – even if it makes for more work in the clean-up afterward!

With a little creativity, I am sure you can come up with tons ways to delegate your many responsibilities. Maybe getting help for the next couple of months will inspire you to continue to delegate into the new year!

4. Plan Ahead.

It really does make a difference if you can take some time to plan what you need to do and when. Getting, and staying, organized isn’t that hard if you have a plan in place.

Last year, I made a Christmas planner that made a difference for me. Unfortunately, I thought of it too late so it wasn’t as helpful as it could have been. So, I got myself in gear early and created one for 2017. I am already starting to use it and love it already! I was expecting to keep it to myself but when I told some friends about it, they wanted one too. So, I went ahead and created two: A dated planner for 2017 and an undated planner to be used for multiple years.

I will tell you, right off the bat, that it is nothing too fancy. There aren’t any pretty fonts or fancy tables. It is a clean-cut, straight-to-the-point planner that gets the job done – just how I like it! And, because it is in an e-book format, you can either print out the whole planner at once or just print out the pages you want.

To get the 2017 dated planner go here, and for the multi-year, undated planner go here.

Resources

I will be using the Advent Prayer Journal again this year. Using it last year definitely helped me keep the focus on the meaning of the season.

This year, I am hosting my first (free) virtual Advent retreat. It will be done via Facebook Live in my FB Prayer Group. More details to come soon, so if you aren’t in the FB Group, you can join here.

The ‘Ultimate’ Christmas Planning Toolkit

Christmas Planning Toolkit

Please excuse the “shameless” plug but November is next week and I wanted to make sure you knew about the ‘Ultimate’ Christmas Planner Toolkit I created.

Every year Advent/Christmas comes and goes so fast that it is hard sometimes to stay organized, sane and truly focused on the true meaning of Christmas. Do you have the same problem or is it just me? 🙂

That’s why I created the ‘Ultimate’ Christmas planner. It is a 96-page e-book chock-full of templates and lists that will help you keep track of everything you need and want to do during the Advent/Christmas Season. Actually, NOW is the time to start planning for the holy-days and this planner includes templates for Halloween, All Saints Day, Thanksgiving and more.

Here is a run-down of what is included in this toolkit:

  • Calendar Templates
  • Budget Template
  • Wish List
  • Gift Lists
  • Greeting Card Lists
  • Thank You Card List
  • Online Confirmation List
  • Menu Plans
  • Baking Plans
  • Grocery Lists
  • Recipe Template
  • Housekeeping Templates
  • Decorating Templates
  • Party and Entertainment Templates
  • Family Craft Template
  • Tradition Celebrations Template
  • Movie, Reading and Music Lists
  • Self-Care Template
  • Pet-Care Template
  • Inspiration List
  • To-Do Templates
  • Blank Note Pages

All you have to do is print out the pages you need, use a 3-hole puncher and put the pages in a binder. Keep the binder in a convenient spot and complete the templates as needed. 🙂

The toolkit is $10 and can be purchased through my Etsy Shop or by clicking the link below.

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