Eight months stretched between the day we got engaged and the day we said, "I do." I thought it would never end. Thankfully, I had filled every inch of my calendar to help pass the time. I was working on the student ministries staff in a large church, teaching seven dance classes per week, and going to school full-time. For the two months prior to our wedding, each weekend had a different event planned, including a recital for my dance students just nine days before I walked down the aisle. Unscheduled minutes were packed with the cascade of decisions and conversations that precede marriage. During that last week, I woke up and saw how little time I had reserved to prepare for and enjoy the moments leading up to our wedding; and my heart began to grieve those missed months.
As the season of advent approaches, the memory of my pre-wedding experience drives me to not let history repeat itself. Despite our best intentions to be present and engage in the holiness of the season, we cannot escape the reality of Christmas concerts, holiday office parties, and maddening Black Friday traffic. There will be gift exchanges, greeting cards, and family newsletters, and if you happen to work in a church—welcome to your busiest season of the year. Without a focused plan, we could easily find ourselves at a Christmas Eve service, turning our minds to the hope and redemption brought into world through Christ's birth, and wishing we had positioned our hearts for this place weeks ago.1