transitions and transplants

At the time of writing, it is 34 days, 9 hours and 50 minutes until the clock ticks over into a new year.
A new decade.
Twenty years ago, I was 15 and we were entering into a new millennium. I remember feeling the weight of it; there was a sense that I was living in an important time in history.
It was an important time in my own story. At the end of Year 10, I changed schools and ultimately changed the course of my life—the path I followed lead me to find Jesus, and lifelong friends, and myself and the church community where I met the man I would marry, only a few years after graduating.
I sometimes wonder what would have happened had I not made the decision to move schools, to seek a
fresh start.

This year I’m beginning to feel that weightiness again. The brink of a new decade feels heavy, important.
I sense the rapid passing of time, and there’s an urgency and intention that meets me in that space.
Maybe it’s because I’m no longer 15 but 35.
It could also be that this year has been just as transitional and profound as the year I started a new school.
This year has been uncomfortable and thrilling, frustrating and tiring and elating.
For the first time in 13 years, I shifted from the zone of work-from-home mum, to having an outside the home job—no small thing. Then, Daniel started a new job, after being in his job for almost twenty years—all this after he had worked hard for years to get a Diploma, and a Builders license and we’d almost given up hope.
This year has been so full of changes, and transitions and newness and adjustment.

We’ve unravelled and unlearned. We’ve been undone and been re-done and laughed till we cried.
We’ve worked as a team and high-fived each other every step of the way, but, it’s been hard.

A couple of weeks ago I stopped dead in my lounge room—I felt as if I had been slapped in the face.
There’s a transplanting that is taking place. My fiddle leaf had outgrown it’s pot. It was root bound. I had to find a new pot so that its roots could stretch out, so that it could begin to flourish again.
You see, I’d given it everything that it needed to thrive. It had water, good soil, the spot near the front window with the bright morning light. Regardless of all of the perfect elements, it had outgrown the space it was in, and if I didn’t transplant it to another pot, it wouldn’t survive.
It was in that moment in my lounge room I realised that sometimes we outgrow spaces, and that we can’t keep shrinking to keep ourselves there. We can’t stay small.
We can’t stay in doubt or in fear or in that place of concern for what others might think.
Sure, there’s a bit of trauma with a transplant, my poor fiddle definitely had a little shock.
When I slipped it out of the pot it had been in for too many years, its roots were densely curled around themselves, and so very squished.
The new pot got a load of fresh soil, and I had to forcefully pull apart some of the roots as a reminder—you don’t need to stay small, I know this hurts a bit now, but it’s going to be so much better in this bigger place. (I know you talk to your indoor plants too.)
Now it’s thriving again, unfurling new leaves in bright green, and not drooping sadly anymore.

The transplant is hard. Removing ourselves from spaces that limit us, lid us, and restrict our growth can be a shock.
But we need to remember that there is so much more ahead, in larger vessels where we can flourish.

One of my favourite life-verses talks about living in wide open spaces.
I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection.
Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!
(2 Cor 6:11-13 MSG)

The best thing about these wide open spaces waiting for us, is that He’s gone before us there too.

Things I’m asking myself on the brink of this new year:

What has kept me small?
What do I have to do to move into a bigger wide-open space?
What do I need to let go of?
What needs to be pruned out?

I’m making time over the next month to get honest, to reflect on what has been, and to prepare my heart for what is to come.


(As an aside, my friend Amanda has an amazing resource for those of us who want to intentionally move into a new year with vision and purpose. It’s a workbook called Seeking Clarity, you can find it in her shop.)

Advent: an easy list of activities to usher in Christmas with your family

“Aren’t you getting a bit old for it now?” I asked him skeptically.
My thirteen year old son looked at me aghast, “Mum. It’s Christmas. I will never be too old for Advent.”
”But what about Christmas craft?” I raise my eyebrows.
”I’ll still do Christmas craft,” he’s earnest, and it’s sweet, but I’m undecided.
”But you don’t want to write cards for your friends anymore. You didn’t last year.”
”I’ll write them to like, Granny and Grandpa instead, if it’s card writing.”

Our conversation went on like this, as I was stirring the dinner and he leaned his elbows on the island bench, watching me. I was smiling to myself, proud that we’d been able to create solid Christmas traditions that an almost 14 year old boy didn’t yet want to let go of.

I smiled even more when he reached for a piece of paper and began listing our every-year-without-fail Christmas Advent activities.
”Watch Elf, drive and look at Christmas lights… um… oh! Gingerbread houses, I can’t wait to do those again… And you have to use the calendar that we always use, with the pockets mum. Don’t get slack.”

There were years when the kids were little, and I was the driver of the Christmas Spirit, the creator of things I hoped would one day become tradition. Well, a decade later, and I’m sitting in the back seat—the wind’s in my hair and there are three kids in the front whooping with glee, directing and leading.
”Mum! Don’t forget the Christmas pudding candle that you always light!”
”Don’t forget we have to have a Home Alone movie marathon!”
”Mum! It’s time to get the Christmas mugs out!”
”Mum I created a new playlist, with Mariah and Michael Bublé”

You guys. I feel like I’ve made it.

And to celebrate, I’ve compiled our Advent activity list, thanks to my 13 year old who has written them all out so early.

Our advent calendar is one I sewed years ago, and what do you know, after a little bit of Google searching, I found the instructions (on the off chance you feel like making a tiny quilt from scratch right before Christmas, ahem). These types of advent calendars are easy to find in the shops now though, and Pinterest has a host of inspiration for you to create something with 24 activities.
I write our activities on little tags and tuck them in the pockets. The best thing is that you can move the activities around to suit—a movie marathon for a Saturday, writing cards for a week day after school. On days we’re pressed for time I’ll pop in an easy activity. On days I’m completely lazy, they’ll find a little chocolate each. I love that it can be completely simple.

For us, it’s not about extravagance. They don’t have to be expensive or over the top.
It’s about simply anticipating a day that is deeply important to our faith, and creating traditions of celebration and togetherness for our family.
Traditions are the foundations that memories are built on.
The way each and every year the kids remember dad decorating his gingerbread house with only icing and chocolate Freckles.
The way that I have to make rice pudding with vanilla ice-cream when we watch Elf.
The smell of a balmy summer, rising from the bitumen as we drive local neighbourhoods in our pjs, to search for the houses with the best Christmas lights.

Most of these ‘activities’ we’d do together anyway. Putting them in an advent activity calendar just makes them a whole lot more fun.

So here’s our (not exhaustive!) Advent activity list. I hope this helps you to prepare for your own memory-making!

1. Put up the tree
2. Write Christmas cards to friends and/or family (I bought these ones from Kmart this year, I don’t think you could find any cheaper than that!)
3. Create snowflakes to bluetack to your windows. There are heaps of tutorials like this one online.
4. Have a Christmas movie marathon. Our favourites are Elf, Home Alone, and Home Alone: Lost in New York. Last year my husband introduced our then 12 year old to Die Hard, oh gosh.
5. Bake Gingerbread. (My recipe is here, it is the BEST and easiest, and there’s a link to our little bitty Gingerbread house pattern that we use every year too.) This is usually two activities in our calendar – one day we make the dough and bake the gingerbread, the next day is for building and decorating.
6. Go to the city at night. There’s something about our little city, and the Christmas decorations and the carols playing in the department stores. The City of Perth says their Christmas Lights Trail will be even better this year, too. We loved it last year.
7. Santa photos. We vowed never to get Santa photos again, after they were terrible a few years ago. Instead we set up a tripod to get a cheesy family photo in front of the tree. This also doubles as a little Christmas gift for all the great grandparents.
8. Put candy canes on the tree. They’re $1 a bag at Kmart. When visitors come over, they get offered a candy cane from the tree.
9. Write a letter to Santa. Only, since they stopped really believing in Santa, it’s not really a letter to Santa anymore, it’s more a re-cap of the year. Favourite memories, accomplishments, things they’re looking forward to for next year. This is pretty sweet to stash away and read the following years.
10. Donate food. The kids schools do food donation drives for our local favourites SOUL Soup Patrol. We go to our local IGA and do a little grocery shop, especially to donate.
11. Go gift shopping. Each of the kids has a set amount to spend on their siblings. We take them shopping and they get to buy each other their presents. This is super fun, especially when we split up, each of us taking a child or two, and then having to hide their purchase/bags from the others when we meet up again. They’re always so excited about their choices.
12. Wrap the gifts they’ve bought or made for each other, and for others.
13. Drive around our local areas with the best Christmas lights on the houses, blaring Christmas carols of course.
14. Salt dough ornaments. These are great teacher gifts, and gift tag/decorations.
15. Create a wreath out of branches from the garden for the front door.
16. Bake/make Christmas treats and invite friends over to share them.
17. Go to Carols by Candlelight or a church Christmas production.
18. Decorate the house with Christmas lights.
19. Have a picnic dinner on the floor in the lounge room by the tree.
20. Have a hot/iced chocolate in a Christmas mug after dinner (I think I need to try this one, omg).
21. Make thank you notes, and deliver them to houses with beautiful Christmas lights.
22. Bake shortbread for an elderly neighbour.
23. Read your favourite Christmas picture books.
24. Christmas Eve for us is always unwrapping one present. And it’s always summer pyjamas with a little chocolate. It’s not a surprise anymore, but still something we all look forward to (yep, Daniel and I get new pjs too!)

These are things we do each year. But there are hundreds of other ideas for advent activities across Pinterest.

Tell me what some of your favourite Christmas traditions are?


PS our tree has been up for almost two weeks already. Shhhh.