Monday, September 23, 2013

Family Crafting Retreat

Hi friends!
So sorry I missed our coffee date on Saturday. My weekend was a bit of a marathon and I didn't really catch my breath till Sunday evening. September has been one of those months when everything collided, but knock on wood, the busiest parts are behind me and things may just slow down to a steady trot instead of a marathon of sprints.
Even though this month has been intense, it has also been filled with wonderful opportunities to meet new people and share A Homemade Year

When my book first came out I said "yes" to each and every opportunity related to promoting it.
 Book signings, crafting demonstrations, speaking to church groups, and whatever else people asked me to do. And I was so excited and grateful for each and every invitation. But after a couple of months I grew a little weary of always being 'on" and on the go. Over the past few months I have learned a lot about what I really enjoy and what is honestly more work than I can afford to expend at this season in my life.  A season that includes working full time outside the home, and being a. mom, wife, friend, helping care for my elderly grandparents and doing this blogging thing.

I have discovered, through trial and error, that what I really love is getting to speak to a group.  Getting to share stories and lessons from the book and the experience of writing the book itself, and hopefully getting to shine a some light and grace in the process. I want to erase the idea that if we cannot do something perfectly (craft, cook, entertain, celebrate our faith at home) then we shouldn't even try.  I also love having the time to get to know those in the group. To see their eyes light up as they try new things, and hear words of freedom, is a beautiful thing. I try to pour out words that encourage instead of words that exhaust, and I pray before, during, and after each event, that every person will meet Christ's love and tenderness through something they hear or see or experience that day. 

These  things, light and love, inspiration and freedom- these are the heart and soul of A Homemade Year.

 Two weekends ago, I had one of my most fun and sweet engagements to date related to promoting the book.  I had the honor of leading ten families from a local church in a Family Retreat that focused on preparing for Advent and Christmastide. I loved this event because I got to really dig in and encourage families as I helped them create their very own "Christmas in a Box" using crafts from A Homemade Year.

The event was held at a local church campground and retreat center, and the weather was nearly fall. Such a perfect day to spend with young families. We began by giving everyone a plastic tub filled with supplies for each craft - including these great log slices for their Advent Wreaths.

Then we set about making four crafts from the book:
The Advent Wreath with the elements (star, rock, bells, white feather, heart)
Collage Serving Trays
Family Paschal Candle
12 Days of Christmas Star Box Garland

The families that came had mostly young kids, primarily five and under, so I tried to chose crafts that I felt most of the kids could help with in some way, even if that meant that they "contributed" by tearing up magazine pages while their parents made their collages.

Note: I have never been so happy ever before to see all the Christmas items in stock at Hobby Lobby so early!  I usually fuss that the store is head to toe Christmas before Halloween has even arrived, but this year instead of complaining, I was singing their praises!

For the collages I gave each family the following challenges:

Look for an image that represents something you like about your family
Look for an image that represents a favorite holiday tradition
Look for an image that represents a holiday tradition that you would like to start

These trays- whether they used them as serving tray or as a decoration- are to serve as a sort of totem for the families during the hectic holiday season. A way to refocus themselves when they feel as if Advent and Christmas are spinning out of control. Each family can look back at their unique tray and remember who they are as a family, and what is most important to them.

It was fun to see what each family came up with. Which images the kids picked versus which images the adults picked, and then how each family put all of those ideas, image, and wishes, together.

After the trays we started working on the Advent wreaths and their elements. One of the projects related to this  included rock painting. In my opinion rock painting never goes out of fashion as it is such a classic camp activity and always a lot of fun for everyone.

For some reason I missed taking pictures of  everyone making the paper mache stars, the felt pillow hearts,  the hand stamped feathers, and the bells for their Advent Wreaths. I also didn't get any pictures of our star-boxes for the 12 Days of Christmas garland.
 I think we must have been having too much fun. I loved how everyone jumped right into all the sewing, gluing, glittering and stamping. Even the husbands got into the spirit of things!

We also made Family Paschal Candles that could be used by the families as the Christ candle with their Advent Wreaths, and then again for Easter, Pentecost, and on birthdays and other special occasions or feast. To put everyone at ease I showed them what the "book" version of the candle looked like and what our "real life" family candle (that my boys made)  looks like. Needless to say everyone felt a lot less pressure after seeing the "real life" version.
Next time I do a retreat like this I am going to try and get cute "finished product" photo's with the families so that you can see how everything came together.

After we were all done, families were able to take their bins home, filled with the crafts, activities and even their own copy of A Homemade Year.  Hopefully, they will feel a little less overwhelmed by their to-do list, and a little bit more prepared to enter this years Advent and Christmas season with fresh hope and joyful expectation.

I have to admit that I was a little nervous about leading a full day retreat that included whole families with lots of littles, but the feedback afterwards was great, and I loved getting to spend so much time with each participant. Sweet Man said I came back the happiest I have ever been after a book related event, which is saying a lot. 

*(to inquire about hosting this sort of event for your church or community group please visit my Events page)


And guess what? Just in time for the holidays, you can now purchase A Homemade Year for your  Kindle (or as a gift for someone else's Kindle!!)
You can even see a preview of how the book has been laid out (once again, Paraclete has outdone themselves. So grateful for them!) for this medium.


  1. It was great! Thanks so much for your leadership. I can't wait to see how the families use their boxes!

  2. That looks like such fun!


ok, really. tell me the truth... do these comments make me look fat?

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