From the time I was in kindergarten through the sixth grade, I attended a public school, where religion was a topic we talked around instead of about. In fact, the only time religion came up was when my teacher announced that Steven, the boy who sat next to me in my sixth grade homeroom, did not have to say the pledge and sing "My Country 'Tis of Thee" with the rest of us because he was a Jehovah's Witness. That was the extent of her explanation. We had no idea what a Jehovah's Witness was, beyond the boy who sat quietly and stared at his desk when the rest of us stood.
When my parents enrolled me in a Catholic school in the seventh grade, it was quite a shock to experience religion as a subject, taught daily and graded pretty harshly. I spent hours committing my textbook to memory, in order to bring up my grade from a C to an A. When Advent rolled around that year, I found myself relieved as the teacher introduced a project that did not require memorization, but rather, reflection: an Advent journal. Each morning throughout December, she would have us read a passage marked for that day of Advent, and we would quietly reflect on the passage and share our thoughts in our journals.
Though I memorized so much information back then that today, I could hold my own in a game of Trivial Pursuit: Catholicism Edition (if such a thing existed), what truly stays with me from those years is that journal. Advent, as I learned back then, means "coming." It is a season before Christmas, a time of preparation and reflection. This year, as I considered how I wanted to approach the journaling in my holiday album, I recalled the journal that was so meaningful to my seventh grade self.
So I started going through the readings for Advent 2013, which runs from December 1 through 24, and I noted passages that stood out to me.
December 1: awake, spirit, begin, now
December 2: peace
December 3: notice, see, look
December 4: glad, rejoice, joy, celebrate
December 5: light(s), shine
December 6: wait(ing), expectation
December 7: give, gift
December 8: hope, prepare
December 9: yes
December 10: sing, song, comfort
December 11: rest, trust, pause, reflect
December 12: blessed, act
December 13: prosper, tree, grow
December 14: connect, friendship, company
December 15: soon, patience
December 16: kindness, compassion
December 17: happy, family, tradition, list
December 18: together, reminder, present
December 19: miracle, wonder, delight
December 20: sign(s)
December 21: come, music, anticipation
December 22: seek, serve
December 23: message, heart, wish
December 24: home, house
If you find yourself looking for a journaling kickstarter as you work on your album, feel free to borrow from the list! I tried to come up with terms that don't require a Catholic school education to understand -- no memorization needed! They're all pretty open to interpretation, and I think they'll all work wonderfully in a holiday album.
It all starts tomorrow!