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 …


A New Year Starts, or my word from the Lord

So much of life is centered around a calendar:


And here I’ve blown it again. Faithful reader, faithful teacher … so few blog entries have come your way since the school year started. My apologies. Again.

One thing I offer in defense – a few months ago I got this word from the Lord. You ever get a word from him? Often the word from him is a little uncomfortable, a little unsettling, a little – warning: preachy word coming  – convicting.

But this wasn’t one of those kinds of words. This word was soothing. It was gentle. It was unexpected. If it was a touch then I’d describe it as a pat on the back turned into a sure hug. He’d been keeping this a secret from me for awhile, but he was ready to let me in on it. Want to know what my word from the Lord was?


I started this “school year” fresh with a new preschool Sunday School class. It’s the sweetest group of seven I’ve ever met and no more than three of them show up on any given Sunday.

There’s one that I’m quite sure is too old for my class and there’s one that I’m one hundred percent sure is too young. And one week there was just me and Alice, sweet Alice. Alice screamed the first two times they tried to introduce us. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t personal as her cries started before they drug her anywhere near my classroom door.

These days Alice comes in all quiet and proper like and smiles a lot and some weeks I understand what she tells me and other weeks I just smile, too, and nod my head.

Alice is my calling. And so is David. And Sarah. Both Sarahs. And those other three who came one time and will come back again one week.

My calling is stacks of picture books that often get overlooked,  and stickers that always get put on posters and faces, and a tea set with water from the fountain, and play dough, once five colors and now just one.

My calling is songs that play from a smart phone now, and hands that still clap in time, and directions that wait for obedience, and words that keep saying the same sweet things.

He made us. He loves us. He cares for us. He hears us. He forgives us. He likes us. He’s GOOD.

Sometimes blogs happen. Sometimes they don’t.

And I’m betting that for you, sometimes you’re all prepped for teaching, and sometimes you’re not.

We are in this for the long haul. One week won’t make you and one week won’t break you. But every faithful week that you show up, all of them all added up together, they will matter.

Let’s not make this more difficult than it really is.

Sometimes we do our part best by simply hiding his word in our own hearts until it spills out, just as naturally as that fountain water spills out from little tea sets.

The older class down the hall didn’t have a single student show up one Sunday, just a few weeks ago. Their teachers came to visit me and Alice. I was just a talking to the wife in the doorway, but the husband couldn’t help himself. That white haired man sat down on that floor, cross-legged, and started chatting, really softly, as softly as God talks to me sometimes.

Alice smiled and poured him some tea.

And time stood still for me.

Don’t worry. Another New Year is coming soon. I might do better.

We’ve been talking about the first few chapters of the Bible in my preschool Sunday School class this fall. The Bible is a chapter book, you know. It’s not a picture book. It’s a big book. My David reminded me that our first week.

We spent a lot of time making sure we got the beginning down.

The Maker and the making.

The instructions, not just the do not, but also the doing part.  The multiplying. The filling the earth with God’s glory.

The messing ups and the starting overs.

The big numbers that you can’t count, like the stars and the sand.

The moving around from Eden to Canaan to Egypt. We made us a tent.

We’re about to be slaves that need saving.

And then we’ll be ready to wait for our own Savior.

A New Year is coming.


I’m ready for it. I’m filling up my Pinterest board with all sorts of ideas. You could send me some more pins.


But there’s no telling what’ll really come of the next few weeks. We’ve got angel stickers and cotton for sheep. How much more could we really need …

Picture Reminders

This is how I often define a symbol to children.

A symbol is a picture reminder.

When referring to our Children’s Church table, I would point and say, “This cross is a picture reminder of Jesus.”

Of course there are other symbols, other reminders. And all reminders are not merely visual.

“When the cross is carried down the center aisle,” I will explain to children, “then we see it – it is our picture reminder of Jesus. But Jesus did not stay on that cross, did he?” I will wait for them to boldly answer, “NO!” and sometimes there will be extra explanations from many. I will continue, “No, he came to life again, proving that He is King over crosses and death and all the world.”

I will ask, “What would we do if the King of all the world walked into this room?”

Our children, because this has become routine, would both answer “bow” and also do it as they said it. Bowing. Perhaps even kneeling.

Bowing can be a picture reminder for us. When I see those around me do it, then I am reminded that I am in a place where we are remembering that Jesus, who died on a cross, is the King of all the World.

But when I bow, then it is more than a picture. It is an action. It is worship in movement.

I love liturgical worship because it is all engaging. I see and hear. I smell. I move and feel. I taste.

And yes, somewhere in the Eucharistic service, the reminding and remembering becomes the very presence of God. Sometimes in water. Sometimes in bread. Sometimes in wine.

Holy Week provides many opportunities to remember. In some of our services, there is touching and doing and smelling and tasting. There is the great chasm of emotion …

from triumph and joy to fatigue and despair,

from shouts of hosannas to cries of fear and blame and name calling,

from trembling to silence,

from dark to light,

from shock to delight,

Ash Wednesday and Lent and Palm Sunday and Holy Week are the seasons where I abandon all my disgust (from inadequacies) for crafting and plunge into the world of making. Making picture reminders.

Or, buying one 🙂

I’d love to invite you to my pinterest board and ask you to send me some pins to add of your favorite picture reminders.   

And if you’d like to win something from my new favorite etsy shop – jesse tree treasures – see them here –


Then share this blog post (not the etsy pin, but you can do that, too!) with a friend via email or facebook and comment below

In the comment, tell me who you shared the post with and where you would display your Holy Week ornaments if you won. I’ll try to get your set to you by Holy Week this year. I’ll try!

One random winner chosen at 8pm this Monday, March 16th!

Blessings, friends!

Introducing: PINTEREST

So on a whim I signed up for this and now I am somehow automatically following a lot of people – and, some are following me. One day I’ll learn how to use this,

Seriously. That’s my Pinterest. Oh my gosh! Was I overwhelmed in the beginning. Did I shy away from it or did I? Yes, I did. And then, I don’t know when. But I know it was one night when I was already in bed – I got hooked.

And every once in awhile, when I have insomnia – oh, please – I do not ever have insomnia.

Every once in awhile when I’m waiting for my husband to come to bed, I kind of, well, I kinda overindulge.

And I’d hardly ever admit that to anyone. Especially my best friend. (She hates the WORD.)

But there was this friend who’d moved away. A lot of people move away from me. A lot of people. And it makes me sad. And there was this way that I could connect with her that was different than email and different from facebook. I could connect with her via her Pinterest Boards.

You are laughing now. I know you are.

I am not completely naive. I know that Pinterest Boards are a lot of fantasy. Ok, majority fantasy.

But she had a baby right before she moved and I watched that child become a toddler and I got to see her ideas of what she wanted to do with her daughter. All on Pinterest. The cool thing is, because I do actually have a facebook account also, that sometimes she posted real photographs of those Pinterest ideas on facebook. As in, she actually made some of those “Pinterest crafts.”


She started having these boards called “LENT” and “ADVENT” and all of a sudden, I realized that this was my jackpot.

You have had those kinds of nights propped up on pillows in your bed. I know you have. The ones where you think, “Oh my word. That is AWESOME. I am going to do that!”



You’ll find the good stuff here 

Ok, Ok. Once I get that friend to help me with it …