merry + bright

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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

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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

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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

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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!

Merry Christmas

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Merry Christmas from our family to yours!  I’m so thankful for every one of you who read along here.  I’m praying the light of Jesus Christ illuminates your heart + home today, and shines brightly over you in the year to come.

 

oh, december!

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Lots of life happens in this month!  These are just a few random snapshots from decorating with the kids, which is more fun every year as they get more excited about family traditions, and a recent visit to a local attraction, the Biltmore Estate, with my mom.  If only I could have taken pictures inside, it is so beautifully decorated for Christmas!  But it was nice to just soak it in with the kids.  I haven’t been inside the House since I was a little girl, what a crazy thing it is to visit and to imagine living there.  The kids thought it was a castle, which it sort of is.  I look at it differently now, after Downton Abbey. 🙂 Also, our weather here has been uncharacteristically warm, which we are enjoying but it just feels weird.  I’m ready for snow and storms and blustery wind and knitting cozy by the fire.  In the meantime, we are trying to play outside as much as we can and make the most of it.

yarn along

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I have finished Phoebe’s second sock, just need to weave in the ends.  Should I block them?  I haven’t done that before but was waiting to weave in the ends if you fellow knitters would recommend blocking?  Buying more supplies right now just makes me feel weary.  I am super happy with how quickly sock #2 went, it gives me hope that I can finish Noah’s pair before Christmas.  MAYBE even Philippa’s if I’m crazy. 🙂  I’m also making a big soft cozy bonnet hat for Phoebe with a pink pom-pom and tassels to match her socks.  It’s the same pattern as this one, just white with pink.  She has been asking for one for awhile now.  And a scarf.  Any recommendations for a good, fast, chunky knit kid scarf?  I may just do a basic stockinette stitch scarf or something fast that I can have done by Christmas also.  She already picked out her yarn for it awhile ago.

I’m still reading a couple of Advent books and The Things of Earth (slowly!) but have been quickly reading through Audacious by Beth Moore. She has been somewhat of a spiritual momma to me for many years now, and I will probably read anything she writes.  I admit I thought this one might be cheesy (not sure why), but it has been dead on.  The Lord has been using this one mightily to work some things in my heart in this season.  I will always love that kooky Texas lady with the big hair.  The fruit her labors have borne in my heart are immeasurable!

And here’s a picture of Phoebe’s socks, for those of you who were curious. I can’t wait to see her try them on!  I’m keeping them hidden until Christmas, though.

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Joining with Ginny Sheller’s yarn along today.

going on a tree hunt

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Oh the agony + joy of attempting family pictures!  And all the mommas said Amen.

A few years ago, when we were living in Brevard we stumbled across this little family-run Christmas tree farm right outside of town.  It sort of birthed this dream in us to have a little place like this, a big white farmhouse, quiet hills with neat lines of evergreens where it could feel like Christmas all year long.  Space to raise a quiverfull of children and maybe a handful of animals, space to tend the earth.  I don’t know if that dream will ever be a reality, but every year since then, we’ve headed back to this little farm that reminds of and beckons us to the way of life we hunger for.  If for nothing else, it reminds us of Eden in some way or another, a haunting for that good life that was lost, the good life that will be ours again in Heaven one day.  A future hope that makes us smile and remember that while we are here on this terrestrial sod we are here to work hard, our time here is temporary.

We went again a couple of weeks ago with my brother + sister-in-law and niece, took turns snapping pictures of each other, and hunted for a tree.  The owners didn’t mind us taking our time, traipsing all over their property with our photo props, and they even offered our kids a fun wagon ride behind their tractor!  It’s well worth it to me to pay $30 for a tree to support this little place + family.

As 2015 comes nearly to a close, my heart is full.  Though it has been a year full of challenges and stress and strain, I look through these pictures and feel immeasurably blessed.  When I fix my eyes on these simple but profound gifts instead of the long list of things I could complain about or worry over, joy truly floods my soul.  Nothing can touch the joy I have in Jesus Christ, nothing can ever separate me from Him and all that He has won for me and secured for me by His death on the cross.  Second to that, nothing can come close to comparing to the profound depths of delight and joy I have in my little family.  What a crazy good and wise God we have to come up with the idea of family!

I know so many dear loved ones who long for this and struggle deeply with loneliness during the Christmas season.  Know that I’m praying for you, that I long for you to experience the joy of family this season too, even in the broadest of terms, even in the arms of your spiritual brothers + sisters, mothers + fathers, children + grandchildren.  Ultimately, in Jesus, we enjoy “family,” because He is Immanuel, God with us.  The God who is always there, always present, among us, within us.  The kindness of our God: we are not alone!  Praying He satisfies you with His presence this season + always.

yarn along

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So I FINISHED my very first sock!  I’m super proud and stoked.  I have learned a lot of new things while working on this one, and I’m pretty hooked on knitting.  I started the matching sock for it last night.  I am pretty eager and ancy to get these done before Christmas and I’m feeling like at this rate I will most certainly not get everyone’s finished!  😦  Phoebe has seen me working on these, she sort of thinks they are for her but I haven’t said anything directly.  Even this morning, Noah saw me taking these pictures and he was excited to see the finished sock.  He asked, “Is that Phoebe’s?”  And I said yes and he was so enthusiastic.  I have been sort of thinking they won’t be that excited about these, but both seem super interested and excited that mommy is maybe making them something.

Also, I’m still reading a couple of Advent books, and working through The Things of Earth but this book has been a favorite of mine with to read with the kids this year.  A library find, but I will probably have to buy it.  It is set in the mountains where we live, such a sweet story of a humble family and hope, and the little girl is named “Ruthie” just like our little Ruthie (Philippa Ruth).  I have added a list of some of our other favorite + treasured Christmas children’s books in my little book store (on the slide-out sidebar under “Recommended Reads”).

Joining up with Ginny Sheller’s weekly yarn along today.

season of light

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Our week has been sort of slow, quiet, different.  We started off the week with a stomach bug which thankfully didn’t pass through the family as we thought it would, but it took a couple of days for Phoebe to be herself again.  And we’ve been battling a head cold.  And it rained for half the week.  So we have been pretty hunkered down.  As much as I hate battling sickness, it has given us some time to just be together and read books, snuggle, knit, watch movies, stay in our jammies.  In the midst of it, we’ve been observing Advent together, momma reading this book in the mornings in the early + dark quiet, bent over coffee.  Kids gather over this book in the evenings, freshly bathed and coloring ornaments to decorate the Jesse Tree as I read.  We’ve slowly been pulling out Christmas decorations, putting things here and there as we have time.  Phoebe made my bed for me this morning, and I snapped a picture of that simple grace.  In all its rumpled glory, it sings of her sweet spirit, her kindness and the quiet way she serves even at her young age.  I hope I can be more like her.

It’s been sweet, savoring this season of light so far.  Remembering our Savior, the hope of His birth, the way it proclaims the Gospel to us:  Jesus came, even in the midst of a very broken and fallen and evil world, a wicked generation.  He still came.  He didn’t just come to visit us, God visiting man, He came as one of us, God and man.  The hope in this!  The glory!  That He knows our frailty in an experiential way.  He knows our need.  Our weakness.  He offers Himself to us.  I pray for you and for myself this season that above all else we open our hearts and hands to receive Him.