As I write this I am sitting in my parents’ living room in the wee hours of the morning. The only lights come from the computer screen and the twinkling glow of the Christmas tree. I have finally settled my children down and they are fast asleep. Soon I will crawl into bed myself, snug as a bug in a rug between them. Their elbows and knees will knock and jar me all through the night. Tomorrow I will go back to our home, just sixty miles north, and they will remain here with their grandparents to ring in the New Year. Back home, their father and I will also ring in the New Year with friends and prayers and wishes almost too precious to speak out loud. My parents and the boys will join us on New Year’s Day for black-eyed peas and cabbage, and soon it will be time to go back to work, back to school.
This is my favorite week. It is the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s. Day. It is the week when nothing has to be decided. There are no presents to buy, no big meals to cook, and no resolutions to make. And yet this is still Christmas. In fact, Christmas has only just begun.
Ten years ago I did not know what Christmastide was. I did not know about Epiphany or St. Stephen or Maundy Thursday. I had heard the terms Candlemas
, but I could not have picked their definitions or dates out of a liturgical calendar. In fact I did not even know what a liturgical calendar was. Growing up in a Southern Baptist family meant that the Christmas season ended on December 25 and Lent was something we picked off our black sweaters. When my family moved to Juneau, Alaska (a melting pot of beliefs and practices), my world cracked a bit wider, as I was exposed to new traditions such as Passover and Eastern Orthodoxy. Later in college and as a newlywed I found myself becoming even more curious about how others, outside of my tradition, connected to their faith daily.
In my mid-twenties, cut free from the tether of a school calendar year, I found that I was attracted to—craved, even—the rhythm, internal and external, that liturgy seemed to bring to those who leaned in and embraced it. Once I had my own children, like so many other mothers around the world, I thought long and hard about what sort of traditions I wanted our family to have. I love a great celebration. I love party decorations and special menus and taking the time to do things up right. I even love the anticipation. To me, the preparation is half the fun because it is often in the doing and preparing that the best memories are made. So I set out to find a way that would create traditions of faith for our family through the rhythm of the liturgical calendar, using fun, modern, colorful crafts and recipes. In our home I have found that even the most common tactile acts such as kneading bread dough, threading a needle, or gluing paper can be important spiritual practices, especially when paired with intentional conversations and repetition over many years. A Homemade Year
is a book written out of this experience, and I hope it will be a yearlong guide, and sacred companion, to celebrating the rhythm of God’s story through the practice and experience of the domestic arts.
Any teacher will tell you that the hardest year of teaching is the year you have to write all your lesson plans from scratch. Once the lessons are written you can use them, tweak them, and adjust them for years. But no year is ever as taxing as that first year. That is also how making this book was for me. Somehow we (my long-suffering family and friends) managed to pull off all of the crafts, parties, and recipes you see in the book in twelve months’ time. I would not recommend this unless you only need three hours of sleep each night or you have a large and helpful staff, and, trust me, my family would not recommend it either. But joyfully there are several projects that we will never need to make from scratch again, because just like a classroom teacher we will be able to use them over and over for years to come, building on our experiences and memories each time.
In a recent post, blogger Penny Carothers wrote, “I’ve always elevated the lives of others above my own spiritual aspirations. . . . This mistaken belief parallels my long-held view that spirituality has to look a certain way to be legit.” I loved reading those words, because I too have gone through seasons of thinking that legitimate spirituality only fit into one very tight-fitting box. My prayer is that A Homemade Year
is the kind of book that will free you from just that sort of mistaken belief, from that phantom one-size-fits-all box. Instead I hope that this book inspires you to seek and experience God in a different way at your own pace. This book is meant to act as a guide, to encourage, and to teach—but never to induce guilt, to depress, or to intimidate.
As you look through this book you may find celebrations that you already observe and some that you may never have thought of. Some projects are filled with recipes, some with crafts, and some with parties. As your family grows and changes, so perhaps will how you use this book. You may try some of the recipes now, and some not for five more years. Some activities you may never even attempt until your children are grown, or you have grandchildren to entertain over the summer holidays. My traditions may not be your traditions, but perhaps they will inspire you to put a fresh spin on the ones you already practice. Perhaps also, you will find some new traditions waiting for you between these pages. There is no perfect way to use this book, but I hope you enjoy it thoroughly. And I hope that we are all able to find a way to live life being fully present in the midst of dirty dishes, laundry, and long road trips little bit by little bit. May this book be a jumping-off point from which you discover new and creative ways to experience the rhythm of God’s story in your home, not just for one season, but for every season, creating joy and lasting memories in the most ordinary days.