Advent Day 1: Modeling Hope

Today begins our Advent journey, a time to reflect, to pause, to think about the coming of Christmas. We’re finishing our thankful leaves (though I can’t bring myself to take our tree down) and I have the Jesse tree ornaments printed.

Our refillable calendar

In our house, we have several Advent and countdown activities planned – lighting the candles, creating ornaments to align with a reading, opening a drawer with chocolate, opening a book…. Part countdown, part reflection, lots of anticipation, I wonder how we will strike a balance for our girls – celebrating the childlike excitement of Christmas with its trees and stockings and lights and encouraging the reflective cadence of Advent observation.

My hope, above all, is to have conversations with Bea that will help her understand the broader nature of this season. That it’s not simply about presents for her and excitement for Santa but remembering we are part of something bigger. That, together with all of creation, we anticipate and long for peace and reconciliation.

My prayer is that, through intentionally modeling Advent, my girls will recognize the stories of others and that they weave their way into our own.

ButtonJoin us this season as we pray through Advent together. I have some beautiful guest posts and there’s space for your voice, too. I hope you join us – either by contributing or on your own.

Thankful for Help

A couple weekends ago, we went for a hike at Butterfly Hill in Cherry Creek State Park. It’s a favorite hike for us – just over a mile with views of the mountains and lots of prairie dogs to spot. At the top of the hill is a large cairn where we stop so Bea can rearrange the stones or add new ones.

IMG_9172.JPGI posted a picture of her in action and a friend commented that it reminded her of Ebenezer stones. In Hebrew, Ebenezer means “stone of help.” It’s mentioned in 1 Samuel 7:12, when Samuel places a stone as a remembrance of God’s help against the Philistines.

Today, Ebenezer stones are used to help us remember a time God has been faithful. Some write a word on a stone in remembrance; others place stones in a symbolic pile. Our church sets aside a Sunday each year to listen to life stories and place stones at the front of the church.

I’ve loved preparing for Thanksgiving this year. Doing our nightly thankful tree leaves has helped ground our family and ready our minds for Thursday’s celebration. I love looking at the leaves each day. We’re thankful for friends, for time changing diapers, for community, for paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, family, our table, bathrobes, and hats. We’re thankful for big things and small, for every day things and masterpieces.

In this week before our Thanksgiving meal, I also want to take time to recognize and be thankful for how God has helped us. As we balance exploration with boundaries in our parenting, I need God’s help. As we deal with vacillating expectations at work, I need God’s help. As we learn to love as Jesus has taught – the least first and our enemies as our neighbors, I need God’s help.

And I’m learning that God’s help comes in so many forms. It comes in partnering with Frank on this parenting adventure. It comes with encouraging texts from my mom at my lowest mothering moments. God’s help is in friends asking and listening and advising. It’s in a poem read and a devotion written.

While I’m thankful for so much, I’m mostly thankful for the help I receive on this journey. In big ways and small, in every day moments and masterpieces, I’m learning to stop and place a stone for the moments God has helped me.

How have you experienced God’s help recently? As we approach Thanksgiving, what are you thankful for?

ButtonDon’t forget, if you’d like to contribute a prayer for Advent, I need it by November 30 at the latest. Thanks for sharing your voice!

Dwell in Advent

Good thing she’s cute!

The past couple days have been off with our sleep. We’ve totally been spoiled with sweet Elle – she’s been a good, long sleeper from the beginning, so while I was trying to figure out what was wrong the past two days, Frank suggested that perhaps she’s simply acting her age. An adjusted bedtime got us back on track.

It made me think about how with so many things, we get used to the status quo. And then something is off and we remember that an adjustment needs to be made.

This can work negatively, too. When a major tragedy occurs – like the attacks on Paris or the World Trade Center or the kidnapping of the girls in Nigeria last year – we reset and remember that yes, the world is this bad for many people. All the time.

Should we be remembering the terrorism and crises around the world daily? We should! But, it’s easy to get into a routine and not remember those “smaller” tragedies until something big happens. In some ways, we need those big things to jolt us back to the realization that our world is in constant crisis and that we need to recognize the marginalized daily.

As Advent approaches and we dwell in this time of anticipation and reflection, I hope to remember those whose voices aren’t heard. I’ll be praying in anticipation for peace in the big moments as well as in the small, unheard ones.

Will you join me in praying this Advent season for our world? I’m collecting prayers and would love to add your voice. Check out the details here: Button

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

The Practice of Caring

Did you know that November is National Family Caregivers Month? I didn’t until Heather Von St. James emailed and asked if I’d write a post highlighting when someone helped me through a difficult time.

Heather certainly knows about the need for help – she is celebrating 10 years since her diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer caused by asbestos.

Being in the throes of early motherhood, I have a glimpse into the world of full-time caregiving. While I’m not witnessing a life-threatening illness or deterioration that comes with age, this phase is nonstop. Even with an incredibly supportive partner, I am the primary cleaner, discipliner, feeder, and playmate. Even on our quiet days, I am on.

Even though I haven’t needed caregiving for any traditional needs, I want to take a moment to highlight my aunt, who has cared for me emotionally during these early years of motherhood.

Growing up with seven aunts, I never lacked support. They almost seemed to take turns – one aunt would send books during my tween years; another checked in regularly during college. When I became a teacher, my Aunt Elaine would send notes of encouragement. We both taught second grade and she became another mentor – someone who shared lesson plans and ideas. Our classes were even pen pals for a few years.

IMG_8821But it was when I became a mom that Elaine’s support became a necessary, grounding part of my practices of early motherhood. She takes the time to check in, to FaceTime, to text, to send encouragement. She gets those crazy days and loves them. Whenever we visit, she has her home ready, not only for Bea but also for me – good food and wine and conversation ready to rejuvenate.

What she’s modeled to me is the need to care for people before a life crisis. She’s taught me the importance of checking in, of laughing, and of relationally caring for others in the mundane, daily practices of life.

I’ve learned that caregiving is calling when someone comes to mind. It’s sending a note in the mail. It’s checking in and doing life messily together. It’s remembering to ask others over for dinner, even when the house is a messy. It’s being intentional about playdates – as much for my connections with other moms as for interactions for our kids. It’s about sending a note when someone is on my mind.

It’s remembering to do the work of caring for others, before a meal is needed or a crisis occurs.

How do you care for others in the day-to-day? I encourage you to take some time this month to thank someone in your life who is a caregiver.

Praying in Anticipation – Join Me this Advent

I love living in the technology age. Staying in touch with friends, feeling connected to the world, getting news easily from a variety of sources all fills my “connectivity” strength. At times, the instant access to news can be overwhelming – I have to take a break because the world can seem so heavy. And yet, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Finding out about Michael Brown and Ferguson to elections in Zimbabwe to the attacks on Paris to news of refugees and the crisis in the Middle East allow me to remember that our world is groaning in anticipation of peace.

Right after the attacks on Paris, people began posting a prayer saying yes, but

Yes, praying for Paris is important… But attacks on Beirut happened two days prior.

Yes, we are concerned for the families… But what about the massacre of Kenyan students?

Yes, we feel connected to Western tragedy… But what about the rest of the world – the world that doesn’t look like us or hold romantic memories?

Yes, terrorism is tragic… But what about the daily tragedy of trafficking and slavery?

My initial reaction to this prayer was How insensitive! Yes, tragedy happens the world over but in this moment, Paris is the most recent. Just as I do believe all lives matter, in this moment in history we must focus on the importance of black lives. Just as I believe one death is as tragic as one hundred, in this moment we remember one hundred and one. As more and more people questioned our response to news, fingers were pointed. It’s not me – it’s the media not giving me information! It’s not me – it’s the fact that my Facebook newsfeed doesn’t highlight other crises. It’s not me…

Praying in-4So I thought, why not make it me? If we need to pray daily for conflict and crisis and tragedy – and we do – then let’s start highlighting these places that are overlooked. Why wait for the media to tell us when to mourn and when to raise awareness?

Advent begins in just a couple weeks. As we prepare for Christmas and wait in anticipation of peace permeating the world; As we wait in anticipation of reconciliation and the end of conflict, I want to stop and remember the places that need prayer, that need highlighting, that need us to remember.

Each day for the season of Advent, I’ll post a prayer or a picture or a reflection to highlight an area of our world that needs remembering. And I need your help! This won’t be powerful unless we raise our voices together. If there’s an area of the world or a conflict or a people group you feel should be represented, please write a prayer or reflection or create a piece of art. I’ll include it in our daily prayers as we wait in anticipation together.

If you’d like to participate, here’s what I need:
1) Pick a country or a conflict or a cause – anything you feel called to pray for.
2) Create a prayer or reflection in any media (writing, painting, photography…) that represents your prayer.
3) Email me your contribution by Monday, November 30: anniehrim and I’ll compile our prayers into a daily Advent post.

Feel free to invite friends, share the button, write on your own blog and link up… Rather than waiting for one tragedy to remind us of all the tragedies we’ve missed, let’s take a moment to remember now.

grab button for Annie Rim

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Paris, je t’aime

It’s been over ten years since I’ve been to Paris. Travels, life, other adventures have always put returning on the back burner. Yet, it holds a very dear place in my heart. The four years I spent there were transforming. Like so many other people who experienced Paris in their early twenties, my experiences there made me who I am today.

DSCF0741In many senses, my college experience was typical: Testing out the world I grew up in against the world of different points of view; Finding friends who challenged me; Creating my own community apart from my parents. But set against the backdrop of the City of Lights gave all those typical experiences a certain magic. I solved the world’s problems at the same cafes students have been solving the world’s problems for generations. I learned the history of architecture at the actual pivotal churches. I read Les Miserables while walking those same streets Hugo references.

I didn’t realize those four years would so permeate my life a decade later. Even Bea, as we’re driving, looks for structures “similar to the Eiffel Tower.” (Anything tall made of steel counts.) She learned Bonjour! at a young age and loves her books about artists and life in Paris. She talks about going there with us someday.

And like so many others, when I heard about the tragedy, my heart broke for Paris. Not because other tragedies aren’t important or other lives don’t matter, but because it seemed to hit home just a little bit more. I knew the neighborhood and had friends checking in, confirming they were safe. I have a personal connection with this city.

Less than 24 hours after the news of attacks broke, people are already questioning the authenticity of grief. Are we grieving because Paris is a beautiful city? Are we grieving because Parisians look like us? (Do they?) Why aren’t we grieving for other bombings and tragedies like this one?

Am I praying for peace the world over? Of course. Do the events in Beirut, in Baghdad, in so many other places I don’t even know sadden me and cause me to pray for peace? Of course. The refugee crises, the immigration crises, slavery, trafficking, so many crimes and deaths closer to home sadden me. Do I wait in anticipation of a day when our world is at peace? I do.

But right now, in this moment, the city in which I became an adult, the city that gave me my voice and my confidence is in the news. Praying for Paris doesn’t mean I’m not praying for the world. It doesn’t mean I am less saddened by other tragedies that occur daily. It does mean that I have an emotional connection to this city and it just made the tragedy of our world feel a bit closer. And so I pray for Paris, for the families who are grieving, for the leaders who struggle to respond, and for all those who weep alongside this suffering.

Rejoicing in This Season

Even though I’m a firm believer in waiting until after Thanksgiving to begin celebrating Christmas, I can’t help but start thinking about Advent and how we’ll introduce it to our kids. I think this is the year we can begin establishing traditions that Bea will understand.

Our Thankful Tree
Our Thankful Tree

We began the month with a Thankful Tree – just a bulletin board cutout and leaves (because I am so uncrafty!) that we add to each night at dinner. I went into this with low expectations, thinking we may have to help out with prompts. But, Bea has taken the Thankful Tree seriously. Every guest at our table is given a leaf and Bea has no end of ideas for her leaves. (And Elle’s – my favorites are “paintings by Vincent van Gogh” and her carseat. We have a cultured and safe baby.)

For Advent, I’m thinking we’ll keep it simple. We’ll light the Advent candles each Sunday with a simple verse. I bought Unwrapping the Greatest Gift last year, and while the readings are probably too long, we can color the ornaments and talk about the themes.

As the days get shorter and shorter and as we come off of a rough couple weeks of upended schedule, I’m already feeling the tired winter feelings. I think of Placide Cappeau’s lyrics in O Night Divine:

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

As we settle into this season of celebration in the midst of seasonal weariness, I know I need to be intentional about stopping and recognizing the restoration happening right now. That we are celebrating a season of family, of generosity, of the birth of Christ, but also of the thrill of a new, glorious morn.

That, as the news and world events can make me weary, we are in fact celebrating the coming restoration of broken systems in a broken world.

How do you stop and recognize something deeper in this season that can be crazy?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.