the last of November

November finished with a sweet and simple Thanksgiving spent with Brandon’s parents at our home. I made all the fixings but I haven’t cooked a turkey in some years and the recipe in Danielle Walker’s Celebrations cookbook for a brined turkey did not disappoint. It was delicious if I do say so myself. ūüôā We sang “Now Thank We All Our God” as we sat down to eat, the hymn the children and I had been singing daily in the month of November. What a beautiful act of worship, to give thanks in the very midst of so much hard.

That weekend we made our annual trip to our favorite dreamy Christmas farm, just a simple quiet tract of land out in the boonies. We open our van doors and the kids tumble out and start running free in the wide fields, and all feels right with the world. The very fat, funny looking tree pictured was the one we thought we would get but ended up finding a different variety that we liked better for its huge and healthy bristles. Our children couldn’t wait to decorate it, though we didn’t get to it for a few days more. It is always the sweetest thing to unpack all the ornaments from our 14 years together. Always, so many memories and stories. This year it was Wren’s turn to hang the star. I am so grateful for this season of light to end a very dark year, reminded that in all things, in all things, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. I’m looking for all the ways, and I hope you are too.

arbor vitae


Another year, another trip to our favorite tree farm where we’ve cut a tree for the past several years. ¬†As usual, it takes us hours as we romp around, snap pictures, play hide and seek, munch on snacks, and just generally pretend that this peaceful plot of land is ours. ¬†It does something in my soul to see children running around in all this open quiet space, laughing, gathering found bits of nature to treasure. The weather was gloomy but beautiful for pictures. ¬†It isn’t Christmas until we have our tree, and how nice it is to enjoy its light all Advent long.

growing like trees

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A visit to our favorite tree farm which we’ve gone to for 5 years now. ¬†Family pictures were attempted but mostly unsuccessfully. ¬†Oh well. ūüôā ¬†Lots of little eyes and mouths needing to coordinate into one big looking smiling bunch and I have to laugh remembering my parents trying to take family photos of us when I was little. ¬†Only then, we didn’t hear the wrath about it until dad got the pictures developed (back in the dark ages) and then he’d flip through them and realize they were all basically worthless. ¬†This is a part of the journey a family makes–the quest for the illusive family photo–and really it’s better to laugh about it and accept defeat. ¬†All of these pictures together paint a better portrait of us, anyway: in constant motion and with the full gamut of human emotion on display.

This tree farm is now a 30ish minute drive away for us so we packed a picnic on a Sunday after church and made a day of it. ¬†We did eat more than chips but that’s all that was pictured, so there you go. ¬†The children played hide and seek amongst the trees and the girls made bouquets with spruce clippings. ¬†Everyone graciously allowed me to choose the tree–my specifications were that it be very fat and short. ¬†You pay for height, you see, not girth. ¬†We did end up with a $45 tree that is quite a bit wider in our living room than it looked at the farm, but we all think maybe it’s the best one we’ve ever had (though we say that every year). ¬†I think next year someone else should get a turn to pick the tree since my skills are obviously lacking in sensibility. ¬†Phoebe had Brandon and I pose with a bouquet of pine in my hand, which we did to oblige her as she snapped our picture. ¬†This is how she sees us, how they see us, and we need to remember it.

We put the tree up that evening and decorated it the next, all before the first of December. ¬†I like to have the tree up after Thanksgiving but definitely before December and the beginning of Advent because it’s so wonderful to have our advent readings by the tree. ¬†Brandon and I are getting better at figuring out ways to simplify and keep December as chaos-free as possible and this includes getting birthday and Christmas shopping done early in the month (I have everything for birthdays + Christmas already purchased and wrapped at this point except for one gift for Wren) so that we can savor the season.

Anyway, we decorated the tree, myself unwrapping ornaments in crinkly tissue paper and handing them out to each child from the couch, while Daddy stood at the tree to help and lift children. ¬†It was Philippa’s year to put the star on the top, her first year, and she was so proud. ¬†It’s the best time of year, having a bright pungent spruce in the home, remembering our tree-farm-one-day dreams, making memories for our children and teaching them all the little traditions that are special to our family. ¬†I keep snapping photos and writing these words, bundling the memories up and wondering why I keep at it, and then I look back at old posts like this one and this one¬†and this one¬†and I remember. ¬†Here I am, just trying to nail down the memories and the moments while they spin by me. ¬†These days are going by in a blur and how did these babies transform into these big lanky kids while I blinked? ¬†Everyone says it–it goes by so fast–but it is only becoming more and more true in my experience.

(Also, in the farm pictures, Philippa is wearing her birthday sweater that I knit in the yarn I dyed myself. ¬†So love it, though she sort of doesn’t.)

Is it too early to say Merry Christmas? ¬†I don’t think so. ¬†Merry Christmas, friends. ¬†May these days be merry + bright!

one special thing


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.



it’s beginning to look a lot like


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.


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.