Advent detox. (And a playlist!)

December 8, 2014

DIY Boxwood Wreath via Poppytalk
(Hoping to tackle this project on Poppytalk!)

Gabe always asks me in the weeks leading up to Christmas day if I want to open up my one of my gifts early. I am ALWAYS tempted, but the answer is always the same. It would take the fun away from the actual day of Christmas! He waits all year for this holiday, so I don’t blame him, and I often feel like a little kid who wants to peek through the wrapping paper to find out what is inside while no one is looking.

I am learning with each year, that the peace Christmas promises has to be fought for.  Every time the temptations come to unwrap the party early, to buy, eat, shop, or be merry, I have to ask myself if it will actually make room for more peace, and less chaos. I don’t want to fall for the traps this year of the fancy bells and wrapping. I know you can fill yourself full of all very good things, but there is no room left for the great things. The things you cannot quite verbally describe but fill your body and soul with an unearthly joy. That joy that beamed out of a humble stable on that first Christmas over 2000 years ago…

I guess this is why it is more quiet than usual on the blog and social media these days. Just trying to make room for inner renewal, and make as much time as possible to encourage  more purpose filled traditions in my little family.

Here are a few concrete ways we are trying to make this happen this year. An advent detox of sorts;)

1) I said no to Christmas cards. Gasp! I know, its horrible. But they are always a challenge for me to organize every year, and get them out the door. Going to find alternative ways to keep in touch with family and friends this year. 

2) Kept my calendar clean. Hustle and bustle is so easy to slip into. I had such a whirlwind year that I decided to keep my calendar free and take each day as it came. No commitments, but a true effort to do what was best for my family each day instead of the month turning into a string of events. We have many things we want or hope to do this, but keeping only the most important as a priority and the rest can come as it may.

3) Minimal shopping – Gabe and I LOVE to give gifts, and usually bite off more than we can chew with who we want to give gifts to. We decided that instead of spending all the time running errands, standing in line, and shopping online for gifts, we would keep the list very minimal, BAKE gifts,  and use the rest of the money for our favorite charities and spontaneous giving. (This has already brought us some incredible experiences!)

4) Saving the best Christmas movies/music for last. My personal favorites like It’s A Wonderful Life, White Christmas, Bishop’s Wife, etc. always deliver the Christmas spirit on a platter for me, and so I am trying oh so hard to save the best for the last week before Christmas, and the 12 days after.

5) Service. We hope that starting the tradition to serve our community, neighbors, family, etc. will become something our children look forward to. We looked into different opportunities in surrounding areas, and found places to volunteer and donate items or time. When Gabe and I first started dating, we met a very lonely women in meager circumstances who we would visit each week just so she had someone to laugh at her jokes and make sure she was okay. I think there are so many people who just need to know they are loved. This is my goal for not only in the coming weeks, but for the coming year. To let people know they are valued.

6) Reading. I don’t ever take time to read anymore and I am a former bookworm. Words move and shake me like only music can, so I am setting aside time each morning to read Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas, and it has been such a good way to keep me focused. The book for little ones is what we take excerpts from for the kids each night to help connect the dots for them about what Christmas is truly about.

Would love to hear some of the ways to add to this list! How do you all serve your community, or what projects you do for friends and family to give around this time of year? Leaving you all with an advent playlist with songs that are great for this preparation time for the 12 days of Christmas:) Any I should add to the playlist?

Leave a Comment

  • thanks so much for sharing Anna! I’ve been really clinging to a less full plate/schedule as well & we’ve been more diligent to do the things we want to with the kids & it is so rewarding to prepare in the right way!
    I’ll be adding some of your songs to our advent playlist. You should add The Brilliance’s Advent albums (there are two), Jars of Clay has some great Christmas ones, and Marian Grace’s What Wondrous Love album!

  • Can’t resist some John Mark McMillan!

  • What a wonderful approach to the holidays … and to everyday living for that matter. It is so easy to get caught up in the flurry of activities and not take the time to enjoy what Christmas is all about. I have done many of these for our family, keeping our celebration simple and low key. Also, for the last few years we have spent Christmas Day lounging in our pajamas while working on a 5000 piece. I find it very peaceful and introspective!

  • great ideas! i plan to save my favorite christmas movies until closer to christmas day 🙂 it’ll be sweeter to save them. i also like the idea of not shopping..for yourself. i need to work on that one. xo jillian

  • Oh girl, so much this post! I can so relate, and those areas where I didn’t scale back (despite plenty of prompting to do so), it stirred up anxiety and I am going to have to write myself a letter for next year to save myself the grief. Haha. And I absolutely love the Civil Wars’s O Come Emmanuel. Joy Williams’s “Here With Us” makes me well up in awe and thanksgiving every.single.time.

  • I grew up with really traditional choral music at Christmas, so it might not be to your taste, but I realized the other day that what my life was really missing was Mediaeval Baebes’ “Mistletoe and Wine” album; their rendition of In Dulce Jubilo makes my holiday, every year.

    Here’s a link if you want to listen!

  • I think these are all good except the no cards.
    I own a stationery company so I know I’m biased but part of the reason I went into the stationery business is because I think there is something special about getting a card from the a friend or family member; especially when it comes in the mail. I strive to keep good old fashioned communication alive in today’s world of “Like” buttons and 140 characters or less.

    Contact me next November and we’ll help you get your cards out on time without feeling stressed. I think it’s important to send snail mail communications at all times during the year but most especially during Christmas; it’s a great way to tell those you love that they are in your thoughts without spending tons of money. 🙂

    • Oh I agree with you Shayla! I just adore hand written mail and I love sending it. It trumps an email or text any day. It was more getting the family photos taken that was too much for me to co-ordinate this year. I will probably end up doing New Years cards like I always do;)

  • Anna, thank you so much for sharing this post! I definitely get caught up in the whirlwind that is the holiday season, both personally and professionally. I’m really feeling it this year. All I’ve been able to think about since mid-November is what deadline I’m supposed to be meeting or working toward, and it definitely has the potential to steal some of the joy from the season. That said, this post inspired me to take a hard look at our usual Christmas traditions and to opt for a small dinner home with just the four of us this year on Christmas day. (We hosted nearly 30 people last year!) We will likely still invite family over for cookies, cocoa and cocktails later in the evening, but knowing we won’t be prepping a meal for days already has me feeling better. 😉

  • As a fellow blogger, I know how the holidays can get frantic fast- especially when I’m trying to come up with new stuff myself! It’s good to step back if only for a moment and take that necessary breather and remember it’s about the family and memorizes first.


  • I love the things you’re focusing on this year. And what a beautiful playlist! Happy December!

  • Esther Zimmer

    Anna, I am a little behind on your lovely posts but I’ve just enjoyed spending some time reading and catching up. I love this one in particular, what a wonderful approach to the holiday season and a great way to really focus on what it’s all about! Thank you for this inspiration – wishing you and your family much love and laughter over this holiday season. Esther x
    PS I adored the pics from your Anthropologie post too – your children are just lovely, and I think it’s Max with all those little curls? Very cute! x

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  • Cathy Miller

    Great choices. You may want to add Angel Gabrielle by Sting and so many songs from Peter Paul and Mary live in New York Christmas album.” Joseph Gather Me Some Cherries for I am with Child” my favorite lyrics and song. Enjoy…and thanks for all you give to the world!

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