an imperfect, happy Christmas

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“My discomfort with the gifts was a result of the circumstances that rendered me impotent to deal with buying them.  By the very nature of things, there was a limit to the time that could be expended in acquiring them and an even greater limit to the money that could be spent.  While the season’s moralizers will always claim that the amount spent is not important (“It’s the thought that counts”), intelligence and simple observation militate strongly against that position.  The thought behind a standard boy’s bike and the feel of a ten-speed racer under that same boy are very, very unequal to a fourteen year old.  In 1984, they were also very unequal to my checkbook.

That year, the inequalities and loss of time were multiplied by children, children-in-law, grandchildren, grandmothers, and godparents.  The real issue, however, was that children need to experience the security and the largess of having those this-world things that help them fit easily into the patterns and flow of their own lives, both social and domestic, private and public.  For fourteen year olds in a farming village, that meant ten-speed racers…

Gifting is a way to demonstrate love.  It requires that we study another so intensely as to perceive his or her unspoken desires and meet them.  It means to startle with the unexpected, the perfectly chosen.  For our children we had always seen it as a way to form a thankful and satisfied adult, to create a readiness for generosity, the early habits of appreciation, and a sense of blessedness.”

I read these words by Phyllis Tickle in her short book of stories from her farm called What the Land Already Knows early in the month of December.  A small little book, yet multiple times in the dark night while I would be reading it, tears would prick my eyes.  Yes, to feel overwhelmed with the December things–the gift buying, the desire to bless our children and hope to provide them with hearts that understand what it feels like to both receive and give generously.  The desire to spend our affections richly on the One to whom the seasons is all about, Jesus, the babe in the manger.  The tug and pull of gatherings, pageants, birthdays, meals, Advent readings, the gift buying and wrapping (which largely falls on me and it can bring such weariness even though it is a joy).  The questioning of ourselves–are we spending ourselves (both our time and money) well in this season?  Are we giving our children too much?  Too little?

Her words brought freedom and the reminder of what it’s like to be a child–to hope for an item and to receive it.  To anticipate the good gifts of Christmas morning, to work through the ungratefulness and dissatisfaction in our hearts that can sometimes follow.  Her words helped me as a mother to wrestle my own guilt and frustrations with myself down–we are finite, limited.  We have so many pressures in these years with little ones and so few resources.  We cannot hope to dance through this season perfectly, we will mostly limp through it held up by the gracious and loving arms of the babe who came to save us.

This Christmas morning began with a child who wet the bed and then a screaming baby woken up too early.  I had slept quite poorly and had a hard time being in a good mood until well into the afternoon, unfortunately.  I apologized multiple times to everyone and was mostly very grateful that Brandon was unusually chipper and unaffected by my grouchiness.  Three different loved ones gave me products intended to help puffy, tired eyes this year and I do so hope these products do the job! 🙂

We had filled the children’s stockings with dried fruits from nuts.com, chocolates, a stainless steel cup, pencils, a couple of small toys, as well as a pair of knitting needles.  Yes, everyone got needles because all three older children are asking now for knitting needles and yarn. 🙂  Phoebe wanted her first pair of circular needles, which I had told her she would receive if she stuck with a knitted project and finished it.  (She has mostly done that).  Wren received some new rubber bath toys, her first glass sippy cup, new spoons, a rainbow stacker and a ball.  Each child got a book, one smaller item they wanted, and then one larger item.  Grandparents had sent along new pajamas, dried mangoes, books and such, plus one larger gift: a trampoline!  Both Brandon and I had gifts from secret santas (my family drew names for Christmas) and we both got each other a few things when in previous years we haven’t simply because of inability.  He bought me a beautiful pendant necklace (theres just something so romantic and lovely about a man giving jewelry to his girl).  He treated me to way too many bath salts, lotions, candles, as well as a new ball winder which feels heavenly to use.  I treated him to some new tools and carhartt overalls, a new belt and hat.  He spent the remainder of the day putting together Phoebes bike and the trampoline and we had a simple dinner of veggies/hummus, cheese and sandwich meat with a little bit of sushi (my favorite!) from our favorite local spot.

After baths and reading together the children treated us to a surprise performance of the nativity while they requested I play “Silent Night” on the piano.  It was so precious and sweet and it blessed me so — yes, when it’s all said and done and they’ve been inundated with far more than they really need by way of material items, they do understand what this season is all about.  We’ve been remembering the waiting for the Savior and what it’s like to hang in the long dark waiting for His coming and then to celebrate His arrival, Immanuel, God with us.  How we need Him!  What a miracle it is, God wrapped in such small, frail human flesh–given to us.

It was a Merry Christmas filled with the usual interruptions, bad attitudes, apologies, forgiveness, snuggles, joy and laughter that typically fill a family’s day.  All this holy wrapped up and tucked into all this ordinary.  I hope it was a Merry Christmas for you too, dear reader.  May these days leading up to the New Year be filled with sweet reflections, peace, and joy!

ps. I’ll pop back in here soon with photos from both Noah’s and Phoebe’s birthdays. ❤

first snow

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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.

 

one special thing

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Photos from the first week of Advent.  A tree hunt at several local roadside stands ended with a car full of disappointed children and no tree–they were twice as expensive as our little favorite tree farm!  So the next day we made a special trip back out to “our” farm, even though it was a bit of a drive, and cut our own tree as we’ve done for many years now.  It’s way more fun, anyway.  I guess I stupidly assumed roadside tree stands would be cheaper.  Anyway, the children were so happy to bring that tree in the house and make room for it.

We’re trying to do one special thing each day of Advent, whether it’s something as small as pulling out one more Christmas decoration, or something a little more time-consuming like dehydrating orange slices to sew into a little garland, or an act of charity/kindness to a neighbor.  On December 6th, St. Nicholas Feast day, we watched a little educational movie about St. Nicholas and colored pictures, and the children had set out their boots by the door the night before and woke up to find their new pair of knitted mittens.  Phoebe and I worked on finishing up her first semester of school, both of us feeling weary and needing a winter break.

 

 

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.