Advent + Christmas Day: New Traditions, Same Celebration

Advent is my favorite season. A time of anticipation, expectation (read last year’s post HERE), longing, desire, and preparation for a new birth. I always look forward to advent, maybe even more so than Christmas. There’s something to be said about foregoing the instantly gratifying option and embracing the stillness of WAITING. In today’s world we can often get anything we want at the touch of a button (if it’s not already at our fingertips). Everyone rushes around getting ready for Christmas day, but what about stopping to rest in those sweet moments of advent? If we never stop to breathe in the STILLNESS, we miss why this season is so special. Advent invites us into the WAITING that so often gets overlooked. The majority of December is not yet about celebrating Christ’s birth, but rather the HOPE and LONGING of ANTICIPATING Christ’s birth. I definitely made this a priority this season. We got out our only decorations, our multiple nativity sets from around the world. We told the story over and over in a variety of ways, and answered a billion questions from our two boys, now 5 and 3. I lingered over (multiple) cups of tea and spent more time than usual reading books (for fun! not for my Master’s). I played and practiced my ukulele more for fun too instead of solely prepping for church music, and I savored time with my kids out in NZ’s beautiful Summer weather.

the boys loved this giant tree at a nearby mall

Advent leaves us longing for something more and greater, EXPECTANT of a new life just waiting to burst forth.
What many call “the Christmas season”, advent is not about preparing for one day of gifts and cookies, stressing over not having purchased “enough” gifts or having everything wrapped in time for the big day. It is about PREPARATION for the BIRTH of something new. Jesus’ birth in fact, which changed the whole course of history.

we’ve had a lot of extra reading time recently

I always look forward to advent, but this season was different from advents of years past. For one, I’m on a different hemisphere; it’s warm this advent, and that alone is a bit disorienting. Second, something about the slower pace of life in NZ has encouraged me to slow down even more. It’s summer break here in NZ so it seems everyone and their moms are out of town (literally!). Everything seems quieter than usual, all the regular activities are canceled for a couple months, many shops are closed, and the only busy areas are the touristy ones with people taking the holidays to visit from all over the world. And not having nearly as many friends or family nearby, we weren’t invited to many parties or end-of-year get togethers. Third, I participated in the #Dressember campaign this year, raising money for organizations that fight against modern day slavery and work to rescue victims from human trafficking. There’s a lot rolling around in my head and my heart about what it means to advocate for a cause like this. What help can I be? How can someone who’s never known oppression firsthand fight for the oppressed?

Moses always wanted to be in my pictures for Dressember 🙂

Advent was filled with patience, desire, and stillness which led to a wonderfully joyous Christmas morning.
It was our first time celebrating as a small family of 4 and we enjoyed attempting to create new traditions and craft new markers for these seasons that feel so foreign and so familiar at the same time.
This post-holiday downtime reminds us that we’re a bit isolated down here and that can sometimes feel a little sad. There’s nothing like calling family to see them all laughing together to make you smile and then sorely miss being with them. I miss Kansas City Christmas: watching the Christmas trains at union station, ice skating at crown center, endless (dairy free!) hot chocolates and coffees from my favorite coffee shops, Christmas lights, bundling up for fun in the snow, caroling at nursing homes, getting invited to far too many Christmas parties to realistically attend, and BAKING (healthy) treats! It is far too hot here to turn on the oven!

gifts from family arrived just before and just after Christmas day!

This advent season was marked by:
Christmas Music, all the time- especially the Hawaiian Ukulele Orchestra’s Christmas album! It sounds very Summery and is a nice change from all the winter-focused songs!
Frozen Hot Chocolate- all the right flavors with a different temperature 😉
Christmas Eve Enchiladas– Dec 24th was not super sunny so we took advantage of the cooler weather and baked enchiladas for dinner! Mexican food is an annual Christmas tradition on the Carr side of the family, so it was fun to continue this!
And, eating cherries on the beach, seeing “The Star” movie in theaters, eating our meals in the back garden, helping the boys pick out gifts for each other, and taking advantage of a rainy day to bake and decorate christmas cookies.
cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning (a paleo version!)

Nearby Fruit Foraging- We live within walking distance of the Red Zone, an area that used to be neighborhoods with houses and streets but was devastated by the earthquake. Now it is a grassy area with loads of trees often ripe with fruit this time of year! We picked some delicious yellow and red plums.

playing with Wilder provides cuddly entertainment!

sunny trampoline fun!

How do you mark the season of advent and christmas?

Ordinary Time: Settling In

As we’re coming to the end of this year’s season of ordinary time, I wanted to write a second installment. If you missed the first, read it here.

brothers having a chat

This past Sunday was the last one (for a bit) where we had the green cloth covering the communion table. Green: growth + life + cultivation + flourishing, all themes of ordinary time. On the northern hemisphere, ordinary time begins with Spring and ends a few weeks into Winter. It’s easy for us to think of metaphors of new life and growth when we’ve got SPRING in our gardens! This year on the southern hemisphere, it’s the opposite! We are ending ordinary time just a few days into Summer. Instead of starting out green, we’re ending it green. All the Spring blossoms have gone and given way to bold summer hues and a hot hot sun. This gives me a whole new set of metaphors as I think about growth. Do we grow more/stronger/faster/significantly at the beginning of our endeavors or at the end? Is it better to start out strong or finish strong? Hmmm… I’ll be rolling those around in my head for a wee while…

a beautiful Spring hike to a nearby waterfall

Ordinary time is a green growing time, and nothing about it has been “ordinary” for us per say, but we’ve seen growth in a variety of ways. This second half of ordinary time has found us settling into our home in a new country, a new city, and learning a new culture by jumping in head first. Part of the idea of “growth”, they say ordinary time is a season of discerning your vocation and shaping your ministry. That part is true. We are discerning what our role is as pastors in Christchurch, and shaping what the ministry of our church will look like. (Although we will be doing that for years! Constantly reevaluating what our role looks like.) One thing we’ve noticed is that people are longing for community.

Moses is so confident on his balance bike these days

How can our role at the church foster a connected community? How can we show people what a loving community of faith looks like? What does it mean to be part of an intimate community that spurs each other on in faith and love? And how can we guide our church congregation to do the same? These are all questions we’ve been asking ourselves these last four months as we seek to grow our community.

one of our local beaches (about 15 minutes away)

We are establishing rhythms and routines and getting a better feel for our city. We are making friends, joining various community groups, and putting ourselves out there every day (hard work for this introvert!). We are cultivating something new. We’re being “grown”, you could say 🙂
So, ordinary time, we’ll see you again. But now we continue our journey through the liturgical year. Next stop: Advent (my favorite)!!

Not So Ordinary

I find myself in the middle of ordinary time, a season in the church calendar celebrated as a green, growing time. A time to cultivate new rhythms, establish rituals of growth, wholeness, and flourishing. It’s also a time of discipleship, attention, vocation, ministry, and creativity.

It’s not a season meant to be “ordinary” or “boring”, simply a season of everyday, presence, and intention. This year, ordinary time started at the beginning of June and will lead us all the way to the season of advent in November.It takes up half the year, and rightly so, as we are gifted this time and space to cultivate, create, and flourish. On the northern hemisphere, this season starts during Springtime, when we are anxious to close the door on Winter and watch new flowers blossom. We move through Summertime, when we cultivate gardens, harvest produce, and take vacations, creating space for rest and rejuvenation. It takes us through Autumn, when children begin school and we notice their growth, when we establish daily rhythms of “getting back into the swing of things”.
 
In just over a week we’ll be on the southern hemisphere, moving from Summer in the U.S. to Winter in New Zealand. Though these seasons will change, the seasons in the church calendar are the same. Summer and Winter are completely opposite each other, but it will be ordinary time in both the U.S. and New Zealand. This is encouraging to me during our huge transition!
This ordinary time has brought us new classes in our Master’s degrees, weekly playdates with friends, constant travel to different churches as we fundraise, and a vacation on the beach in Alabama. We’ve had three successful fundraising events, eaten countless meals with friends (old and new!), logged many hours in the car, spent much-needed time with familyand recently packed up 9+ bags for our move.
Nothing about this season has seemed “ordinary”, and I notice in my heart a craving for rhythm, routine, and daily rituals. Some themes for our family’s season of ordinary time are relationship, presence, and ministry. As excited as we are to officially ARRIVE and begin our ministry, we realize that this time of preparation is part of the ministry and we are striving to stay in the present moment and soak it all in. Intentionally staying present has made this season all the more enjoyable!
Stay tuned for more blog posts as we get settled <3

BOOM, space. (A Lenten Theme)

Lent has been over for a couple weeks now, and we’ve since moved into the glorious season of Easter. Because our blog was down during most of that time, I wanted to share a bit about my Lenten theme of creating space. Across the board, this is a pretty general theme and one I think we should all embrace during the season of Lent. As we’ve been preparing to move to New Zealand, this Lenten season seemed busier than ever. Full of our regular weekly/daily/monthly activities + trying to add coffee catch-ups or dinners with friends + speaking engagements at churches, slowing down didn’t seem feasible. I decided to put forth conscious and intentional effort to create space.
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1) First, I looked at my calendar to see where and how I spent most of my time. I noticed a large chunk of it was spent preparing for, teaching, and driving to and from yoga classes. I decided to continue teaching Holy Yoga twice a week, and quit the other three prenatal classes + breastfeeding support group I was leading. Being a part of this particular studio family has been such a blessing to me over the last couple years, but I felt like a new chapter was unfolding for me. As bittersweet as it was, I ended my time there. BOOM, space.
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2) Second, I examined how I was spending all those free minutes waiting in line somewhere, waiting for someone to text me back, or just killing five minutes before a meeting or event started. The result? I found I was spending a lot of time on social media. I’m certain I’m not the only one who has noticed what a time-sucker (“space-destroyer”, if you will) social media is! Five minutes several times a day can really add up, and instead of spending those minutes mindlessly scrolling through other people’s “news”, comparing myself to others, or just “checking out” of what I should be doing in that present moment, I decided to transform those minutes by reading through the daily office prayer app, or simply engaging with my dear children. BOOM, space.
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3) This third area where space was created was unintentional on my part. (Shoutout to my Creator for closing doors that need to be closed!) I had enrolled in another seminary course for the Spring quarter but as the first week began, I quickly realized I was enrolled in the on-campus version instead of online. On-campus classes are held in Pasadena, CA so there was no way I could continue in this class and, according to the registrar, there was no way to get switched over to the online version. No longer would I spend Monday afternoons doing homework and evenings reading textbooks. I will say this creation of space was harder for me to deal with because my husband was still spending long hours writing papers, responding to forum posts, and reading textbooks. Honestly, I haven’t found a great alternative for “homework time” and seem to have filled this time simply, by sitting on the couch and resting. What began as a disappointment has turned into a blessing. BOOM, space.
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4) My yoga practice always helps to make space in my body. Creating length in side bends, releasing the lower back in a forward fold, or opening the heart/chest in cow pose all help create space. Moving from teaching 5 classes per week to only 2 has made me be more intentional in my practice. BOOM, space. I’m reminded me of the importance of sequencing postures to open up the body; it helps give me an image of the Holy Spirit LITERALLY inhabiting the space I’ve created. Not inward-focused, but outward-oriented. Filled with the Spirit, so we can love others better.
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Here’s to moving forward through Eastertide with an openness for redemption, resurrection, celebration, renewal, and freedom.
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Peace,
Abigail