Advent at Home (with children!) guest post with Jennifer Goebel

So, how do you do that?

I like asking questions. Several years ago, my church had an inter-generational mom’s brunch. A neighbor hosted. I love women who host food events. I shared a couple of my favorite children’s books and a panel of moms fielded a few questions. Our priest’s wife advised me to prepare the questions beforehand rather than allowing an open forum. She said that lots of mom topics are divisive. I was still naive. I’m grateful for wise women.

Several moms submitted questions that made the cut for the morning. My question did, too, after revision. I’d wanted to ask, “How do you do family devotions?” But the panel decided that the question should be, “Do you have family devotions?”

I’m glad they reworded that thing because the answers were all over the place. And a few of the answers were, “we don’t.” That was from the panel of respected moms, not from the crowd.

Honesty is refreshing.

We heard real answers that day.

I want you to hear real answers today. You’re about to be bombarded by at least two things in the next week – the world’s Christmas rush and the church’s Advent wait. And you will not do either of them perfectly.

For my family, my Advent desire to wait to celebrate Christmas will take a back seat when our ten year old wants to get out the tree. Ours is artificial. Get over it. Allergies here. For all my thoughts of putting up a tree and leaving it bare until Christmas Eve when we will go to Midnight Mass and return home to decorate it, it will not happen that way. It will not.

Because often the holiday season brings depression and the smiles of a boy reminiscing about so many tree ornaments and their back stories will make me smile, no matter what. And I need to smile before December 24th.

And when the church down the street does a drive through Bethlehem on the second weekend of Advent, I will go.

Because I like drive through Bethlehems and that’s when they do it.

I look at all my friends that say they do a proper Advent season with longing. I look at them and wish I could do that, too.

Wait. No, I don’t.

I don’t have any friends that really do what someone said was the proper four weeks of waiting for everything.

But I do have friends who make little steps to be different.

Jennifer is one of them.

She has a husband and two girls. Just look at them –

Family Pic

I’m about to share with you her thoughts on her Advent. Mine will not be like hers. For one, I have a ten year old boy. For two, I do not have a husband who would do this –

advent decor

That dad is coloring an Advent wreath. Ain’t gonna happen in this house. And you know what? My husband is still pretty darn awesome.

Jennifer is one of those women who actually does a few of those pinterest crafts that she posts. Look at that decorated tree by the fireplace. It’s felt and one of my favorite pins. I thought about doing it last year when I was doing a long term sub job in kindergarten. (Yeah, I didn’t.)

But Jennifer is still like you and me. She doesn’t do all the pinterest crafts. I’m sure of it. Just listen to her response that she gave when I mentioned Advent and asked,

How do you do that?

When Miss Melanie asked me to write about my life with my girls who are four years old and seventeen months old, I wasn’t quite sure I had anything to offer.

I instantly thought, “how honest can I be without sounding like we do nothing more than watch Disney Jr. and eat snacks?”

(Oh, Jennifer, Go ahead. You can be honest. Completely honest.) 

Yes, there are days when all we do is watch Mickey, Sofia, and Miles, but then there are days when my oldest asks for us to do a project. For her, that means painting, cutting, gluing, and proudly writing her name on whatever masterpiece she whips up.


(We love the masterpiece!)

There are also days when we read books and play dress up or go to the park.


(And now we all want to be pulled to the park with you. We do.)

I have to say even on the days it feels like we do nothing of importance I find there was at least twenty minutes when I feel like the girls and I connected.

That’s what I am shooting for these days. I want moments with my family that I know were spent getting to know them a little better than I already do.

It is with this goal in mind that I approach the season of Advent.

In our family, Advent has always been a kind of restart for us to grow closer together as we grow closer to God. This started well before we had kids. I am looking forward to our planned activities that create family time each night as we get ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

I anticipate our girls will be a bit squirmy during devotions and not totally understand why we have to wait to turn the next page in the Advent Book.

(It’s OK, girls. Miss Melanie gets squirmy, too.)

(Hey, y’all, I asked. They use this Jennifer’s Family Advent Book)

I foresee my oldest wanting to display more decorations than I usually put out for Advent which will lead to a lovely conversation about the celebration of the Season of Christmas.

I expect my husband and I to contemplate not doing devotions one night because we are tired (happens every year).

(One night? Let us know. It will make us all feel so much better!)

With all my expectations of how our observance of Advent may go, I know for sure we will make some memorable moments and our girls will understand a little better the hope found in the birth of Christ.


ME: Can you share a couple of your planned activities that are family time each night?

JENNIFER: For each Sunday in Advent we color part of the nativity scene and glue it to a piece of poster board.  We save baby Jesus until the Sunday before Christmas.  One night we have an indoor snowball fight with paper balls.  One night we have a dance party.  We color a picture of an advent wreath and talk about the symbolism.  After each activity we do devotions.

ME: Oh my goodness, Jennifer, an indoor snowball fight? A dance party? What about a tickle monster visit? That’s more a McGehee possibility. Seriously, though, do you use a specific format or book for devotions?

JENNIFER:   Rob and Aaron Burt worked together to write an Evening Family Devotion for each season. That is what we use and I made follow along cards for the girls.  For the reading we use THE ADVENT BOOK.

ME: We will certainly be waiting on the link for those Evening Family Seasonal Devotions 🙂 Tell me again about the decorations in your home and contrasts between Advent and Christmas.

JENNIFER: We keep decorations to a minimal and pull out all the stops for Christmas. We do our best not to listen to Christmas music. We wait until Christmas to go see the Christmas lights or to make cookies. In Advent, we keep it simple. Christmas is a big party for 12 days including family activities and devotions. We really focus on waiting during Advent.  During Christmas we focus on celebrating.

ME: I get it. There are so many traditional Christmas activities! I’ve enjoyed waiting to do some of them until after Christmas day and spreading them throughout the 12 Days of Christmas. We often make our gingerbread house the week following Christmas Day and go to our local zoo’s light extravaganza then.

I think what I heard Jennifer say is that Advent isn’t that hard, but it is intentional. And I love her goal of getting to know her family and the Lord better. How do you do Advent? And, which twenty minutes of today did you connect with your people …