This month has, as it probably has for everyone, flown by. Even with the early Thanksgiving date – and therefore the longest possible Christmas season – all of a sudden we find ourselves at Christmas Eve.

With Advent being a time of preparation, I have been preparing for two very different events: Christmas and Africa. And as excited as I am for my trip in January, I have to remind myself to slow down and enjoy the days leading up to my departure. While they will be filled with training and packing lists (and checking them twice), I find myself marveling at this magical time of year.

I have always loved Advent as it was a special time in our home growing up. My mom created a Children’s Advent Program, that I now enjoy with my own children. We try to spend a little more time thinking about others less fortunate (a goal to remind ourselves of this all year). We purchase, wrap, bake and decorate. And sometimes the stress kicks in (like about 10 minutes ago, when I told my kids they had to stay outside until they could play nicely on the basketball court…it’s 35 degrees outside…)

Ah yes, the stress. This is where my Africa trip folds nicely into this time of year. I have to train. I have to walk and hike and make sure I am in shape to make it to the summit of Kilimanjaro. So I take time each day to do this; and it’s as healthy physically as it is mentally. While a workout doesn’t sound much like “slowing down,” it’s a time to pause from the traffic, talk to a friend, breathe in the fresh (35 degree) air, and remind myself of my blessings.

Hope. Love. Joy. Gifts. The blessings of Advent. Sprinkle in Family and Christmas is complete.

Merry Christmas from our house (or if you’re my kids, outside our house) to yours.