advent in the heart and home (guest post by Roxanne Engstrom)

i am thrilled to welcome my sweet friend roxanne as my final advent in the heart and home guest.  it has been a privilege walking through life with this lady since high school.  i love her and her family dearly.  right now, the engstrom clan is living in zanzibar and when their internet works and the power is on, you can read about their east african adventures at her blog, immeasurably more.  

in planning out these posts, i knew i had to ask rox to be part of this series.  i love the idea of getting out of our amercianized view of Christmas and hearing from a family living it so differently.  i am so happy she could join in, especially considering they just arrived from an amazing trip to south africa.  (yes, they spent the night in a south african prison!) 

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When Annie asked me to be a part of this series I was pumped but initially thought that our celebration here on a small island that most people cannot locate on a map was too “small” and lacking in so many “Christmas-y” norms like twinkling lights, hot cocoa, and candlelight carols.

But as always the Lord spoke to me and reminded me that He is what it is about. That preparing our hearts during Advent can look different and yet still retain the anticipation of our coming Savior. It will look different as people of all tribes and tongues know and follow Him across the world and praise Him for diversity. We are all only called to follow after Jesus with everything in our being and allow His spirit to give us peace as we travel along as families. That was freeing.
Be you and be sold out, crazy in love with Jesus! It also occurred to me that our Christmas now is actually much more similar to the first Christmas simply because we have chickens and goats outside our windows, we live with people that are mostly farmers and fishermen who have never heard what the angel proclaimed that night. Grateful for new perspective. 

And the consumerism and the materialism can get in the way for me of what we are really anticipating (although for reals I would love me some cold day peppermint mocha drinking, fuzzy sock wearing snuggling on the couch to Christmas music right about now). Although we miss our family and friends and all things known to us we are grateful God brought us here. God took our family to this place to learn to simplify, to learn to ask why and what we celebrate and how we can prepare for His coming when no one around us is and how that can be meaningful for our family and focus our eyes on Jesus. The process of asking and seeking has been a blessing. God is doing a work in us to change us and to help us learn to rely more and more everyday on His promises. 

I love seeing how others celebrate and anticipate His coming so thanks everyone for sharing!   Here is a bit of what we do as a family to prepare our hearts and our home for the birth that changed the world and is still changing us today…

We read a devotion and open a little kanga bag with an ornament for our advent tree each day. I am not a crafty mama but I sewed these simple ornaments with help from various women in my neighborhood and we hang them on a banana leaf baobab tree we found in town. We started this last year in the absence of other advent calendars and it has become a family favorite. Amazing to see our kid's understanding of the devotions grow each year. 

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This year we received an always-fabulous-and-glee inducing package from dear friends with an amazingly beautiful book: The Advent Book by Jack and Kathy Stockman. Opening the ornate doors and reading along will definitely stay as a family tradition.
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 We also started a family tradition of making a pinata with kids from our neighborhood and telling about the angel's message to Mary. It takes a couple days to dry in this humidity before we can decorate but it is oh-so-worth-the-wait to some little watoto. I love using our resourcefulness and creativity as a family to celebrate and share the experience and blessing with others.(these photos are from last year as tomorrow is the day for this year's angel)
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 We have learned so much from the people we are privileged to live among and they have taught us to celebrate in ways meaningful here. In the culture on our island giving and receiving blessing is of the utmost importance and it is especially meaningful to visit people and share food. On Christmas each year we always bake or buy some kind of special treat and visit everyone around us sharing that we are celebrating the birth of the Messiah.
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 This year a guest from Canada brought us some candy canes that we too fabulous not to share. The special "spicy" (as our friends here called it) candies were shepherd staffs, the first to hear about the news. More info on the meaning here.
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 We will then read the story of the first Christmas from His Word in English and Kiswahili: of the miracles, of the fear, of the danger, of the fulfillment, of the rejoicing, of the worship, and of the joy. And usually this involves some breaking up of sister smack-downs or some unexpected visitors but those too are moments that belong to Him.
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Moments that are common where we live and in a stage of life we now enjoy. And we will rejoice in it and be grateful we have feisty girls and many friends and ask God for more grace and love and joy in everything. And then we will open the bag to reveal baby Jesus.
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And that changes everything.
Krismasi Njema from Africa!



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