Preparing for Advent

Advent Calendar Printable

I often feel anxious. Some days it’s because I feel stressed about work or money. Some days I wonder if I’m doing enough, while other days maybe too much. Some days I’ve just had an extra cup of coffee. Some days I can’t quite put my finger on a reason at all, but I can’t ignore a nagging restlessness that keeps my mind and heart from being still.

Advent is coming. What a wonderful reminder, these weeks leading up to Christmas, that our lives are not about us. We do not hope in ourselves, we hope in a God who makes all things new, a God for whom all things are possible. So we join in the anticipation of the Israelites, of Mary, of Simeon, who knew something incredible was going to happen that would change everything. Advent is more than a countdown to Christmas. It is a time when peace and hope and joy can break through our anxiety. God sent his Son to save his people, and he has promised he will do the same for us.

That anxiety I feel so often, maybe it actually is more than a caffeine overdose. Maybe at its root, it is a physical longing for the peace and deliverance that God promises us through Jesus. A peace that for now feels just out of reach while it is clouded by earthly circumstances and sin in this life.

While we look forward to Jesus’s birth during Advent, we have permission to stop dwelling on ourselves, our stress, our sin and imperfections. Instead we can focus on the Giver of all good things who promises perfect joy and redemption for those who will take it, and with the wonder of a child look forward to His coming.

Advent is a deep breath.


Make Your Own Advent Calendar

Of course no post is complete without a DIY, so I’ve come up with an easy one for you. Print this, cut out the cards, and string/tape them up above the fireplace, on the fridge, down the hallway, wherever you’ll see them. Advent begins on December 1 this year. We’re planning to draw a picture (Alex) or write a phrase (me) from that day’s Scripture reading on the back of each card.

Advent Calendar Printable

I hope this project helps you and your family enjoy a meaningful Advent season.

Advent Calendar Printable


Keepin’ My Day Job

I haven’t ever actually written here about what I do all day. As much as I love and am inspired by creativity and pretty handmade things and could spend lots and lots of hours hanging and rehanging the pictures over our fireplace (that post coming soon), this is what I care about the most:

I work for World Vision, a Christian international humanitarian and relief organization. Specifically, I help provide opportunities for average folk to do something about poverty. One of the ways to do that is by running a marathon and fundraising to provide clean water in Africa. Let me explain.

Running for clean water

In Kenya I met a girl who walked 6 miles every single day to fetch water for her family that would inevitably make them sick. Now because World Vision has partnered with the community, they have a clean water tap in their YARD! Rosemary gets to go to school, her family is healthy, and her mom has time to tend a garden that provides food for them all too.


In Kenya, there’s a saying: Water is life.

I believe God wants to see everyone experience fullness of life. Water, among other things, is essential for that to happen.

Which brings me back to running marathons. I’m running the Chicago Marathon with Team World Vision again this year because I always want to have my own skin in the game. It’s one thing to work for an organization and sit at a desk all day sending emails telling people to run marathons. It’s another thing to train for the marathon myself, physically connect with the people we serve, and remember how scary it can be to ask people for money. But I do it because I know the change that happens as a result is real. It’s as real for me as it is for Rosemary.

So, if you’ve ever been inspired by anything on this blog, I hope it’s this. And I’m going to boldly ask you to make a donation today on my fundraising page. $50 provides clean water for 1 person for life! That is $50 well spent.

Donate at

PS: That video above is a preview of a new Team World Vision short film featuring little old me and showing in theaters on June 12 only! 

Go ahead, make my day.

A few months ago I promised you a new series: Absolutely no occasion. In a few words, do this and make someone you love/like a lot feel awesome.

6-pack printable |

So today I bring you…the six pack of love.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Your someone’s favorite six pack. (Alex recently discovered a new favorite beer ne’er to be found at the local grocer. So while he worked today and I did not, I took a trip to Binny’s for this most loved Augustiner. But of course, this isn’t really about the beer. So any variety will do the trick.)
  • Six Pack Printable. Six tags that print on a single sheet of paper.
  • Scissors.

Six-pack surprise supplies

Simply cut out the tags, fold on the dotted line, cut slits in the top portion of the tags, and slip onto the bottle necks. When Alex got home from work today and opened the fridge, he gave me the look of giddy delight that I had hoped for. It works!

Now gents, before you give me the ol’, “My lady’s not much of a beer drinker,” let me show you something else:

photo (5)

Yep, these tags are multi-purpose. They fit perfectly on these tiny vases we had. They also worked on candles and wine bottles. (I saved you the trouble and tried it myself.) And let’s not underestimate the power of Scotch tape to attach these tags to any chocolatey treat.

So go ahead, make someone’s day. Heck, make their week! Take something seemingly ordinary and turn it into a reminder of just how cool and appreciated your spouse/BFF/roomie/boo really is.

Absolutely no occasion.

The day that Alex and I got engaged (two years ago yesterday!), I was totally and completely 100% shocked and surprised. Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye, I had absolutely no idea when I woke up that morning that I would be making the biggest (and best) decision of my life.

But no one believes me when I say that because everything about the experience screamed, “Look!!!!! You’re getting engaged today!!!!!! It’s so obvious!!!!!!!!”

Alex told me to get dressed up because we were going to do something REALLY special. We’d been dating for about 8 months. When he picked me up, he was wearing a suit and handed me tickets for a lunch cruise on the Odyssey II, the boat where we met. When we got to our table, there was a bottle of champagne and shrimp cocktail waiting for us. My response? “Alex! I love you because you would plan something like this with absolutely no occasion!” He just smiled.

A windy engagement day aboard the Odyssey II.

A windy engagement day aboard the Odyssey II.

The reason why I love our engagement story so much is because as obvious as that day sounds, in the moment it seemed perfectly natural for Alex to have planned something so thoughtful and fun with absolutely no occasion. He made me feel that special all the time.

I was so thrilled by the messages I got from people who used the Valentine’s Day cards I posted.  I love the idea of making cards and writing notes and encouraging people, but I don’t do it nearly as often as I would like, especially for Alex who I love and respect more than anyone in the whole world.

The response to the V-day post inspired me to regularly post some ideas about how you can easily encourage or appreciate people in your life year-round, with absolutely no occasion.

So consider this the intro to the Alex-inspired, Absolutely No Occasion series, premiering as soon as I get back from my work trip in Seattle…

In the meantime, why not start by simply telling someone that you appreciate them today. And give them a reason why. You certainly don’t need an occasion for that.

Thirty by 30

I’ve always struggled to know the line between contentment and ambition.

I want to travel and eat good foods and push myself at work and make new friends and take on challenges and be involved at church and learn new crafts and write letters and take meals to people who need them and exercise and have a welcoming home and do special things with Alex. All great things. And all things that take effort and planning and some amount of wanting things to be different than how they are right now.

So the question is how do I keep that desire — for change and challenge and newness — while being content with who I am now and the things I have now?

I’ve been married for just over a year now. The most significant thing I’ve realized is that my attitude is always my choice. I choose to be annoyed and resentful at a teasing comment or I choose to laugh along. I choose to talk about something or I choose to give the silent treatment. I choose to smile in the morning or I choose to stomp around and brood about running late. Living with someone else suddenly makes my choices much more visible.

This year I will turn 30. I’ve thought for the last 6 months about compiling a “30 by 30” list of things I want to accomplish before June 20. But I decided that it might be more helpful for me to compile a different sort of list. Still a “30 by 30.” But in a spirit of gratitude and contentment, this list will celebrate the opportunities I have already had. This year I want to look back on the last 30 and simply say, “Wow. Thank you Lord.”

Perhaps the answer is that simple: choose thanks.

Perhaps contentment, thanks for the gifts and opportunities we’ve already been given, is the very attitude that spurs us on toward a full life of creativity and newness, as we live with gratitude toward the Giver of all good things.

Psalm 103

. . . . .

Happy New Year from the Wilgi!

Happy New Year!

The Happiest Day

Alex and I just celebrated our first anniversary. (And finally got to eat some wedding cake — still delicious. Thanks for saving it, Mom!) We had a lovely weekend thinking back on our first year of marriage and looking forward to what could be ahead. When we returned home from said lovely weekend I got to tear open the wedding photos we got in the mail that I have been anxiously awaiting for a whole entire year!!!!!

So I’m sure this post is for me more than you. But hopefully it gives you a glimpse into the reasons behind why I loved this day so much. Even more than the things and details that made our wedding beautiful, were the people who came and the joy we all shared.

My sister (Emily) did my hair, my mom and Emily made all the bouquets, the ladies chose their own dresses and looked gorgeous. We took pictures with the most perfect New England fall backdrop at the Hillstead Museum in Farmington, CT.

The people who made it all happen. The Schmunks: responsible for such a beautiful event, gorgeous music (even while violently ill), and general willingness to do whatever needed to be done. The Wilgi: responsible for the best rehearsal dinner ever (where we watched this) and being supportive through every step, even all the way from Dallas. And of course, Em, who graciously helped me with every decision even as a newlywed herself. I love you all so much.

Prayer beforehand, a ceremony that made us laugh and tear up, family and friends who sang, played, and read (that’s you Jenn, Daniel, Sara, Jill, Aaron, and Jesse). And what I remember most clearly is when Jed told us to turn around and look at everyone who came to support us.

A wedding party who would do anything for us, and so so so much joy.

Dad tearing up the crowd, especially us. Incredible cocktail hour band of college friends, scheming siblings, friends from across the country, and last visit between brother and sister. So special having Aunt Ruth and Granddad before he died.

Greenhouse entryway styling by Emily, favor notecards drawn by Alex, tables BUILT by dad, and herbs planted by mom. Dancing parents, dancing fools, and lots of people we love.

*Many many thanks to Emily Johnston Anderson for the beautiful images (her post here). We will treasure the memories.

I’m So Proud of My Honey Muffin

Alex is taking the GRE this weekend, on top of taking multiple classes, while working a full time job, mind you. That means there’s been lots of studying around the Wilgus home lately. (I’m one proud Mrs.)

So last night I baked up a batch of “I’m-So-Proud-of-My-Honey-Muffin.”

Check out the recipe here (originally called Marmalade Muffins) and then soak up all of their jammy gooey goodness. They were sweet enough for an evening study break and nutty enough for a satisfying breakfast the next day.

Oh, and they call for Marmalade, but I used Strawberry Jam instead. I get the sense they’ll be good with whatever flavor you have in your fridge.