first snow

DSC_0063DSC_0065DSC_0071DSC_0076DSC_0080DSC_0081DSC_0085DSC_0088DSC_0095DSC_0092DSC_0097DSC_0099DSC_0102DSC_0103DSC_0104DSC_0109DSC_0110DSC_0111DSC_0112DSC_0113DSC_0114DSC_0116DSC_0118DSC_0119DSC_0121DSC_0123DSC_0126DSC_0127DSC_0128DSC_0129DSC_0132DSC_0133DSC_0135DSC_0144DSC_0150DSC_0139DSC_0142DSC_0151DSC_0152DSC_0154DSC_0156DSC_0158DSC_0167DSC_0008DSC_0012DSC_0016DSC_0019DSC_0023DSC_0029DSC_0032DSC_0034 (1)DSC_0059DSC_0036DSC_0018 (3)DSC_0024

The “first” everything in this home is special, as we are still finding our way in these four walls.  Decorating the house for the Christmas season is new, finding new homes for old favorite decorations.

I’ve been looking forward to our first snow in this home for a long time, really since before we bought the home.  Last February we were out of our rental, living temporarily with my parents while waiting to close on this home, and we drove over one day to drive by the house on a snowy day.  The neighborhood was transformed, so quiet and pretty and white, and we couldn’t wait for the day when we’d be building snowmen in the yard and tracking footprints all over the yard in our own fresh snow.

The snow began early in the morning before the kids were up, and it just kept coming and coming, all day long.  We had a playdate at a friend’s house and had a blast playing in the snow together with them, stayed through lunch and then realized the roads were quite covered and we had better hurry home.  We slid around all the way, but made it safely.  I had the kids rest briefly but then we couldn’t bear to not be out playing in it all.  Daddy came home from work early with milk and a couple other provisions and we prepared to hunker down for the weekend.  We were prepared to lose power, as some other folks around us had, but miraculously we didn’t.  Church was canceled on Sunday but our roads were relatively clear by then, so we headed instead to our very favorite pottery place in a nearby town, where we have gone every Christmas season since before Phoebe was born.  They have an open house the second weekend of December usually, and you can get a free small pottery mug (per person) and they have hot cider, snacks and treats, live folksy music, and crafts for kids.  We often buy a little christmas ornament or something there to support them and it’s just one of the most Christmasy feeling things we look forward to doing during the season.  So festive and fun.  We try to get a picture every year in front of their cheery red door.

Otherwise, I’ve attempted to keep our December still and quiet.  Advent readings and Christmas hymns begin and end our days.  We’ve made yummy grain-free Christmas cookies (though I never got around to making icing for them) similar to these.  We decorated the tree one evening and remembered all our favorite ornaments.  I treasure the junky kid-made ornaments, especially the ones from last year that Phoebe made while in the hospital in Winston Salem waiting for her endoscopy procedure.  My, what can change in a year’s time.  Phoebe has been practicing for weeks at church to sing in the Christmas children’s choir, and she requested a solo.  They sang last Sunday and what a joy it was to see her do so well, and to see her making new friends at our new church home.

This week is busy with birthday celebrations and today will probably be our quietest day until after Christmas.  Phoebe turns 7 tomorrow and I still have a few things to do to prepare.  Mostly, I just can’t believe that teeny tiny baby girl has gotten so big, grown-up, sophisticated and smart.  Sob.  With little ones, our lives are filled with change even as we try to nail a few things down around us.

I hope your December has been cheerful and meaningful thus far, and that you are enjoying these last few days before Christmas.  If I don’t pop in here before then, Merry Christmas to you and yours!  May you find Jesus to be enough for you, the very fulness of joy, and every other good merely the overflow of His grace.

 

looking back

I feel sort of silly posting about Christmas, but a blogger friend reminded me recently that we blog in part to keep a little family scrapbook.  I sort of hate how quickly everything moves, everyone always looking ahead to the next thing.  We can’t help it.  In some ways it is our nature, our way of hurrying on ahead of the unpleasantness of the moment we’re currently in.  Casting our eyes onto the hazy future that looks so much more appealing than this dreary now.  Anyway.

So here are some snaps from our Christmas of 2016.  A sweet little Christmas it was.  Being that we have two kids’ birthdays that week, we try to keep things really slow and minimal in terms of festivities we are running around to.  Brandon’s sister came to stay with us for Christmas weekend, which was a real treat for us and the kids!  She surprised us with an awesome family gift of a telescope.  We are really excited to play around with it more, especially as we talk about constellations soon in our homeschool co-op.  We decided not to do any gift opening on Christmas Eve.  We had a quiet evening together instead, and did a little singing by the candlelight.  Christmas morning the kids slept in until maybe 8 am I think, until we finally went and woke them up.  We hadn’t put any gifts out around the tree until after they were in bed on Christmas Eve so that little hands wouldn’t be messing with presents, and we hoped it would be a delight to them to see how full the tree was with presents.  Brandon and I tried to buy each child only one main Christmas gift and then fill their stockings with little fun and practical things.  They were completely showered by grandparents and aunties and uncles.  Our parents absolutely spoiled Brandon and I, too.  I know gift-giving gets a bad rap in our day and age, and in some ways we wrestle with that as well.  How quickly our hearts make Christmas about someone giving us something!  Or about getting that “perfect gift” for our kids.  There may be some years ahead where we choose not to exchange gifts.  For now, it is really the only time of year that we wrap up gifts for one another and it is such a joy to give to do so.

I was surprised this year with how well Christmas morning went.  We had a Christmas a couple of years ago where everyone single one of us cried that morning at some point and it took us awhile to recover the day.  We were bracing ourselves for lots of squabbling and grumpiness and dissatisfaction, but our children really enjoyed themselves and watching each other open gifts.

When the kids woke up we let them open stockings.  Daddy read them the Christmas story from the bible.  Then we had breakfast, a yummy gluten-free coffee cake with eggs and bacon.

We filled their stockings with some gluten-free chocolates and candies, new wooden brushes for the girls (because they are always stealing mine), a wooden snake for noah, new water bottles, a knitting fork for phoebe, a small set of blocks for philippa, a lacing toy each for phoebe and noah, and bonnets for the girls.  Phoebe has loved hers, Philippa still won’t let me try hers on.  She’s not a big fan of hats or hair ties.  But I plan to use them a ton in the summer as they offer such great coverage!

After breakfast we began opening gifts.  They received so many fun things from family members: new dresses and tights for the girls, a new sweater for noah, a toy plane and matchbox car semi truck for noah, lots of crafty things like a beginning knitters kit for phoebe and beeswax modeling sheets (since we can’t have play dough in the house).  A toy drum and tea set for philippa.  Some new books.  Our gift to Phoebe was an indian dress-up costume and a nice bow and arrow set.  She has been obsessed with playing “indians” (I’m sure that is not PC to say anymore) since reading Island of the Blue Dolphins and the Indian Captive earlier in the year.  We gave Noah a big truck that carries a yellow excavator on the back.  It was Brandon’s idea, I thought it was a bit redundant but he informed me that a boy can never have too many trucks.  We gave Philippa a wooden dollhouse.

Brandon really loved the hat I knitted for him, and I’m relieved that it fit and that he likes the color and fit of the hat, being I wasn’t able to try it on him.  My parents gave us a gorgeous pottery dish set made by a friend of theirs.  Eight new plates, mugs, and bowls!  It got me really excited about moving and hopefully buying our first home soon.  I’ve packed them away for now, to wait until that day when we can open them in our new home.

As the Lord would have it, I was reading to the kids in our bible study time this morning from Luke chapter 2.  We were reflecting back on the prophecy in Micah about a savior being born in the city of Bethlehem.  Caesar Augustus ordered a census, which caused Mary and Joseph to have to make the long trek to the city of their family’s heritage.  Bethlehem.  Virgin Mary, pregnant with the Son of God.  Making it to the city of Bethlehem just in time for that baby boy to be born.  Because of the order of the Roman governor.  According to the timeframe and perfect foreknowledge of our God.  In the fulness of time, at just the right time (Gal. 4:4) the Savior was born.  God’s time and way works within and through the circumstances of human history.  It bends and obeys Him, unbeknownst to it.

So even know, with January well under way and my mind full with what is ahead in the year 2017, Christmas still teaches.  In the fulness of time, at just the right time–God will work for you and for I in the very human circumstances of our lives.

merry + bright

dsc_0007-1dsc_0006dsc_0033dsc_0042dsc_0007dsc_0010dsc_0011dsc_0016dsc_0022dsc_0026dsc_0028dsc_0031dsc_0033-1dsc_0036-1dsc_0037dsc_0039-1dsc_0042-1dsc_0043dsc_0045dsc_0047dsc_0050dsc_0052dsc_0055dsc_0001dsc_0004dsc_0012-1dsc_0015dsc_0016-1dsc_0023dsc_0022-1dsc_0025-1dsc_0028-1dsc_0031-1dsc_0032dsc_0035dsc_0037dsc_0039-1dsc_0043dsc_0044dsc_0051dsc_0054dsc_0058dsc_0060dsc_0064dsc_0090dsc_0092dsc_0094dsc_0097dsc_0098dsc_0101dsc_0104

December rolls in and we hang stockings and hang Advent ornaments on our Jesse tree.  We bake Christmas cookies and go to holiday parades.  We snuggle up and read books and make holly wreaths.  We watch Christmas movies, and I keep busy with gift knitting.  We go to our favorite nearby pottery place for their holiday open house, pick out free pottery cups while listening to live music, and the kids play in the clay.  We squeeze in as much time with family as we can.  Brandon’s parents came up this past weekend after we got back from Phoebe’s procedure in Winston Salem.  They took Noah for the day on Friday to the Polar Express and then spent the day with us Saturday.  We pretended it was Christmas morning and the kids opened their birthday and Christmas gifts from the grandparents.  Such thoughtful and fun imaginative gifts.  Nain made dresses for the girls for their birthdays, and they together made Noah a remote-control Mater truck from a ‘build-a-truck’ store near where they live in SC.  They bought all of the kids puppets and a puppet stage for their Christmas gift.  Nain gave Phoebe a painting she made for her.  Her paintings are extra special because they are bathed in prayer.  She prays over colors and then begins to paint, then pulls out what she sees.  This one was for “princess braveheart Phoebe,” which is their nickname for her, and appropriate considering the day Phoebe had had on Friday.  I love it and I think it will always be a treasure for Phoebe, too.  I’m thankful Christmas is a bit spread out all over this month.  I’m thankful for our daily Advent readings that ground us and keep us feasting on God’s word, keeping our appetites hungry for Him more than all the material things and activities surrounding this season.

Now, I’m off because dinner must be made and things prepped for a little boy who is turning four tomorrow.  I hope your season is merry + bright all the way to the end.

it’s beginning to look a lot like

dsc_0080dsc_0084dsc_0088dsc_0094dsc_0095dsc_0100dsc_0109dsc_0116dsc_0126dsc_0135dsc_0130dsc_0145dsc_0149dsc_0151dsc_0182dsc_0190dsc_0191dsc_0194dsc_0199dsc_0202dsc_0205dsc_0209dsc_0211dsc_0217dsc_0218dsc_0223dsc_0227dsc_0229dsc_0242dsc_0243dsc_0251dsc_0256dsc_0271dsc_0274dsc_0285-1dsc_0314dsc_0327dsc_0328dsc_0330dsc_0334dsc_0337dsc_0344dsc_0350dsc_0354dsc_0363-1dsc_0374dsc_0379dsc_0380dsc_0381dsc_0386dsc_0394dsc_0404dsc_0408dsc_0409dsc_0423dsc_0426dsc_0004dsc_0016dsc_0021dsc_0023

Christmas!  We are in full swing and leaning into the season.  There are little traditions every year that we keep, one of which has become cutting a tree at a favorite farm tucked away in little ordinary, inglorious Rosman, NC just outside of Brevard.  We went after church the first Sunday of Advent, and my parents tagged along.  We had a quick picnic lunch together on a blanket, than tried to get a few family pictures.  The past couple of years the farm owners have offered a hay wagon ride for free for the kids, which they love of course.  Then we got to work picking a tree.  I wanted a short and really fat one this year, and Brandon indulged me.  For $30!  It’s my favorite tree that we’ve ever had, I think.  These sorts of traditions are more fun every year as the kids get older and are more involved.  Nothing feels merrier than a fresh spruce twinkling in our living room, greeting us every morning while we sip coffee in robes by the fire.

Last year at this same farm.  What a difference a year makes.

 

season of light

dsc_0427dsc_0428dsc_0429dsc_0435dsc_0437dsc_0440dsc_0441dsc_0452dsc_0463dsc_0470dsc_0472dsc_0478

It’s the season of lights, the season of looking, waiting, longing, expectancy.  For the first night of Advent last night we talked about this as we rolled beeswax candles and then lit them.  This song by Gungor + All Sons and Daughters ringing in our hearts.  Hallelujah, He is with us!  Be blessed this Christmas season, dear friend.  May His light shine so brilliantly within you and all around you and may you find Him nearer and better than ever.

(Beeswax candle kit found here.)

christmas day

DSC_0085.jpgDSC_0081.jpgDSC_0168DSC_0104DSC_0091.jpgDSC_0094.jpgDSC_0095.jpgDSC_0098.jpgDSC_0099.jpgDSC_0102.jpgDSC_0117.jpgDSC_0121.jpgDSC_0129.jpgDSC_0132.jpgDSC_0137.jpgDSC_0145.jpgDSC_0149.jpgDSC_0151.jpgDSC_0155.jpgDSC_0160.jpgDSC_0164.jpgDSC_0167.jpgDSC_0171DSC_0175DSC_0177.jpgDSC_0179DSC_0183DSC_0189DSC_0193DSC_0198DSC_0202DSC_0203DSC_0208DSC_0213DSC_0228DSC_0258DSC_0259DSC_0270DSC_0296DSC_0310DSC_0316DSC_0317DSC_0321DSC_0332DSC_0324DSC_0337DSC_0342DSC_0349DSC_0355DSC_0359DSC_0366DSC_0363DSC_0371DSC_0372DSC_0376DSC_0377DSC_0381DSC_0386DSC_0367

This was probably our favorite Christmas with the kids thus far.  Whereas last year all of us cried at some point on Christmas morning and the children kept fighting over gifts, this year everyone seemed relaxed and content.  I got up a good bit earlier than the kids to make our breakfast cake, enjoyed some time alone with coffee and candlelight and the Lord, and just savored that holy quiet anticipation waiting for the house to wake up.  Soon the patter of feet running down the hallway, squeals and giggles and snuggles.  We let the kids open their stockings right away, which was really fun.  Phoebe tried on her socks that I had knit for her for the first time which was so awesome for me to finally see them on her and see how they fit!  Brandon read the Christmas story, and we ate our Blueberry Yogurt Morning Cake (thanks to Shauna Niequist’s recipe, adapted to be gluten-free) with eggs + sausage, and sang happy birthday to Jesus.  The kids truly love doing that.

After breakfast we opened the gifts under the tree and just took our time.  They got a lot of books this year, mainly, plus one bigger item and a couple of hand knits and clothing items.  Family members also contributed some of their gifts.  I bought Brandon some new jeans + boots, and a woodburning kit.  He bought me a beautiful bracelet (which I adore), a book I have been wanting, cozy socks, and some knitting supplies (a yarn bowl + wooden needles)!  We headed out for a walk and bike ride, then B + I snuggled and watched a movie (and I knitted) while the kids took naps.  After they woke up we headed to my parents house (10 min away) to gather with family, open some presents there together and have dinner.  It was maybe one of my favorite times together, singing Christmas songs with my brother leading us in worship + piano playing.  My parents always make the most amazing celebratory meals, and we were not disappointed!

It was a sweet day of worship and pouring out love on each other.  It was simple + extravagant at the same time.  For some reason it’s hard to achieve that, I feel, to worship our God and love one another extravagantly, and yet to keep the gifts simple.   It’s a battle to keep our focus on celebrating the greatest gift of all, which is Christ.  We fail in one way or another every year, but still, even knowing our frail and broken nature, He offers Himself to us afresh each year.

I hope you had a very Merry Christmas with your loved ones + that you have a blessed and happy New Year!  Thanks so much for reading along here with our little family.  You truly bless me!