I’m pecking along on my next novel here, but I thought I’d mention a bit of what’s going on in our lives as well. I called this blog Writing Like a Mother in part because I want to shed light on what it’s like to keep writing even when you’re very busy and juggling life with children. It’s important when you’re preparing to “be a writer” to actually be a writer, to write as often as possible on a schedule, no matter what. Trying to wait to write until the kids are grown or the debts are paid or the hair is all gray doesn’t make for a very satisfying writing life. Plus! Having too much to do makes it easier to get the writing done anyway, even if it’s not perfect. You can’t edit yourself into self-loathing when you just have to get this book done anyway.
Parenting is rife with examples of stuff you just have to do and not worry about it, not least of which is child-bearing itself. When the time comes to give birth, there’s no room for fear, excuses, doubts. You have to give over to the process and accept the grace and help that are given. This logic also works with less romanticized parts of parenting, like, say, caring for a barfing child or changing poop diapers.
Advent is like writing and parenting. It’s a season of preparation, but it’s also its own thing. You can’t avoid Advent just to get to Christmas. You have to go through it; it’s upon you and immediate and not romantic. But it can be very, very good for you.
We’re not doing a lot of fun Pinterest inspired stuff this Advent. We like to use penitential seasons to form new family habits. This year, we’ve added Evensong to our family’s practice of daily prayer. We’ve sung Compline to the children their whole lives, but adding the other monastic prayer hours has been a challenge. I’m not enough of a morning person to coherently do morning prayer — that can come later in our child-rearing years (and later in the morning, too, knowing me). Noonday prayer usually gets tossed aside in favor of trying to figure out what to feed everyone for lunch, and whether someone is napping or needs to be napping but isn’t. But Evensong is flexible. It’s just prayers at the end of the day.
We’ve adopted a simple formula: candle light, doxologies, three child-friendly hymns. We stand together as a family holding our lights against the darkness. We sing the doxology, This Little Light of Mine, a scripture-hymn, an Alleluia, and maybe another simple hymn, then close with the doxology again. On the last Amen, we blow out our candles. After candles, we don’t watch videos. We read books and cuddle and play and get ready for bed. Is our version of Evensong perfect? No. Is it meaningful and consistent and good? Yes.
There are hundreds of ways to do Advent. You can use the wreaths (we do, but it’s not a big deal). You can open windows and eat chocolates or get presents. (We don’t, but it’s because our children get enough sweets already, and we make a really big deal of the 12 Days of Christmas instead.) You can decorate, which we’ll do slowly, as we get around to it. But mostly, you get through Advent. Hopefully, blessedly, you’ll notice that that’s enough. There is so much grace in just getting through each day. Even when the day is not perfect, and the laundry is not finished, and you forgot to defrost supper, and you maybe let the children watch too many cartoons. Daily life and daily disciplines are good because love makes its footprints in our daily dust.
This Advent, I hope that you’ll write if you want to be a writer. Just write; don’t judge, because you don’t have time for that. I hope that you’ll feel ok about yourself and your family if you’re a parent. I hope that you’ll know you’re loved right in the middle of whatever your life is giving you. The other days you’re looking forward to will get here Adventually. But today, today is where the grace is.