A Very Normal List of Things I’m Grateful For

(Inspired to make my own list, thanks to Katie Blackburn)

Every morning since that dreaded November time change, my alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m. and getting my feet to touch the floor doesn’t feel quite so hard anymore. Why didn’t someone tell me before this year to pair new habits with the time change? Thanks to promptings by friends, it’s become one of my new favorite habits. Or maybe it’s knowing I have finally perfected the most delicious dairy-free maple latte and can have it in my hands in under 6 minutes. 

No one told me how thankful I’d be at age 33 for an hour of silence in the house every morning. Or how incredibly life-giving space heaters and warm blankets are when it’s just me typing away at thoughts I’ll probably never publish. Google docs has become like a diary of sorts this last year. Filled with ideas and dreams, thoughts and notes, endless links and articles, shared writings with friends, but no organization. And I love that. Another detail in my life that I have simply decided not to care about.

As I close my computer I remember to put a few more library books on hold. Bless those librarians who are still putting up with me. Is there a checkout limit? “50,” one claims. “It doesn’t really matter for you,” says another. Every time we drive up to that window I say another silent “thank you” for the convenience of book pickup, mostly because the five year old forgot to put on his shoes and I didn’t check (and no late fees, can we just keep that please). 

In the chaos of breakfast and habit training and morning cleanup routines, I think about the bread machine. “I should start that,” I think to myself. A little flour, salt, and oil really can make anything. That everyday artisan bread sure is simple and there’s something about hot, crusty bread to go with the best broccoli cheddar soup in the world. Does it really get any more delicious than that? Today I’m thankful for the enticing smells coming from my kitchen that remind me of the feast to come (that’s what I’ll remind myself of when no child touches the soup).

“Mama, need new jammies!” yells the toddler and I notice the gigantic rip in the bottom foot. I hop on facebook marketplace to see what’s for sale in town in his size. If I’m lucky, I can score a few pairs for $5. Where would I be without this page? It’s redecorated most of my living room the last few months thanks to the random finds. I’m promising myself that this year I will learn to become the plant lady and I secretly applaud myself that the plants have survived more than a few weeks. Maybe there’s hope yet.

My phone flashes and I notice there’s a Marco Polo message from a friend a few states away. This little device that constantly tries to steal so much of my time and attention really can be a great tool (or so I keep promising myself). I listen while I throw some snacks in a bag for the park, grateful that this app has encouraged friendships to continue despite the miles. 

I know my day will not be without tears (probably from everyone), and meltdowns (we won’t name them here), and if I’m honest a few moments when I wonder what in the world we were doing when we said yes to this parenthood thing (it really is hard sometimes). But as I find myself yelling again “Get your water bottles and get in the van!” and hear the little feet running through my house undoing all the work I’ve already done, I remember the paragraph I read in one of Katie Blackburn’s emails

“I recently read about a man in a wheelchair who, when someone said to him apologetically, ‘Gosh, it must be so limiting to be in that wheelchair,’ he responded, ‘Oh no, my wheelchair is what liberates me, I couldn’t do anything without it!’ and I just thought my goodness, if that isn’t exactly what a life of gratitude looks like

I’m thankful, lastly, that I always have the choice to see it that way.”

Advent Guide 2022

“If you’re physically starving, you will groan, but spiritual starvation will make you groan too. So here’s the good news of the Christmas story: the birth of Jesus is an invitation to the best, most satisfying dinner ever.”

Paul Tripp

The purpose of this Advent Guide is not to provide a complete list of resources (there are simply too many to include!) but a simple guide to help get you started if you don’t know where to begin this Christmas season. I’m including links to some of our favorite family items, personal advent study guides for individual use, family advent guides, children’s picture books, and even some podcasts to inspire you. My top recommendation is to keep things simple and purposeful. In our home we do one family advent study (we use the advent blocks linked below) and I do daily individual advent readings (using John Piper’s Good News of Great Joy and this year Emmanuel by Ruth Chou Simons). There’s nothing “magical” about any of the resources listed below. The best things you can to prepare for Christmas will be the things you are willing to do consistently. It is my hope that this guide is a blessing to you as prepare for this Christmas season.


Our Family Favorites

Advent Blocks

Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noel Piper

This Nativity Set

This will be our third year using the Advent Blocks and their family devotional. This is by far one of the family traditions we most look forward to each year as a family! While many advent calendars can lean towards being self- focused on fun family memories or favorite holiday events, this particular advent countdown keeps the focus on Christ.


Personal Advent Study

Emmanuel: An Invitation to Prepare Him Room at Christmas and Always by Ruth Chou Simmons

The First Songs of Christmas by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Come, Let us Adore Him by Paul Tripp

Good News of Great Joy by John Piper

Fulfilled by Well Watered Women

The One True Light: Daily Advent Readings from the Gospel of John by Tim Chester


Family Devotionals

A Better Than Anything Christmas by Barbara Raeoch

A Jesus Christmas by Barbara Raeoch

Prepare Him Room: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus by Marty Machowski

The Light Before Christmas by Marty Machowski

Family Advent Devotional: Celebrate Christ Together by Matt & Lauren Chandler (with videos)


Children’s Picture Books

There’s a Lion in My Nativity!

The Christmas Promise 

The Christmas Surprise

A Very Noisy Christmas

The Littlest Watchman

Seek and Find The First Christmas


Podcasts

Traditions, Christmas, and Thoughtful Christian Living 

Treasuring Christ in our Traditions by Revive our Hearts

Lifegiving Christmas Traditions by Sally Clarkson

Mom Hacks for the Holiday Season by Mom to Mom Podcast 

Finding Rest in Advent by Risen Motherhood

Celebrating Advent with Little Ones by Risen Motherhood

Advent Blocks by Family Discipleship Podcast

Talking With Your Littles About Santa by Family Discipleship Podcast