Sharing Christmas 2014

When Christmas appears in shops, and carols begin to play on the radio, giddy excitement rises within me. I love Christmastime. The light displays, the concerts, the gifts (yes, the gifts, totally my number one love language), delicious food, gatherings, hugging the people you love dearly but never see enough. You name it, I love it.

And then I begin the frenzy. I jam-pack our schedule until you feel like you can't breath because you have eaten too many hors d'oeuvres. I want all the activities, events, places, and things. I squeeze each hour to its fullest, inevitably exhausting myself and those around me. When slowing down, in an effort to do less, it feels like missing out. When attempting to hibernate for a weekend, I get hives. My tendency is to want to go, go, go. And on top of the constant activity, I am overwhelmed by the desire for things to be just so, perfectly times and positioned. I've once heard it called, "forced family fun." There are plenty of other unflattering labels, but ultimately it stems from a fear of falling short.

I've shared about advent calendars before. This year we are adding in Mom Diggity Design's advent calendar (#mddadvent on instagram) and I am reading both She Reads Truth Advent Study and We Will Wait by Heather Boersma. These resources are wonderful contributions to preparing my heart for Christmas, but they can also be a downfall when the schedule or activity begins to rule too greatly. The "I must make it perfect" mentality begins to rear its ugly head. The thought to scream, "Stop interrupting me, I am reading my bible," begins to bubble up inside me. (Don't get me wrong, I highly recommend these resources as well as the ones I included in my previous advent post.) The problem isn't with the things I am doing or the what I use, the problem is in my heart. Reaching too far out, stretching too thin instead of focusing that all we really need is Jesus. He is the perfect gift. I will never fall short, because he has bridged the gap. He is the perfect gift. Abiding in Him is never missing out.

So what does that actually look like?
It means opening an advent activity card that says, "make Christmas cookies" and telling the boys, we have no flour in the house, but if we were to make cookies, what flavors would they be? And colors? What shapes, if we had any cookie cutter in the world? Instead of frantically fighting rush hour and rain to get to the store to force an activity, we played pretend and my kids had just as much fun! Hopefully there was also some life lessons in there about not being perfect.

Or when the boxes of Christmas ornaments sat out for days, taking up the last of the available space in our teeny tiny apartment, I waited patiently for the night we would decorate the tree and we did so one ornament at a time instead of the hurried rush that would have been the day we initially "scheduled" the decorating to be done.

Not hanging the 27 feet of pre-lit garland you just bought last year. Because some years you don't need it all.

Slowing down enough to answer questions like, "Why do we put lights up for Christmas?" and "Can we give candy canes to everyone in the city and tell them its a J for Jesus?" I have a feeling I am still bustling about too much and missing gems, but taking hold of the ones I catch and having good chats.

It means reading a few days worth of She Reads Truth at once because you are falling behind on the study, but in honesty have given yourself through January to finish reflecting on the birth of our Savior. Because why rush that?

Its switching around the days in the advent calendar (that you also wrote in your calendar so you wouldn't miss them!) because the weather looks nice and it is a good day to go see lights instead of whatever was supposed to happen.

It means letting all the ornaments live on the same branch.

After eight years of marriage and Christmases, we bought stockings and a tree topper this year for the first time. The years without weren't bad. And they weren't necessary this year. But I finding building a collection of Christmas decorations symbolic of our growth -- building year over year. I try to remember this when scrolling through pinterest...

We've begun singing O Holy Night without the music in the background. It would most definitely hurt your ears. But there is something about singing "fall on your knees, O hear the angels singing" that keeps Christ in the center of our hearts and conversations. I am not standing on a mountain proclaiming my successes, I am falling on my knees, awed by the miracle in a manger.

Perhaps these aren't your particular struggles. Maybe letting these seemingly small things go would still amount to greater stress in your life. Or maybe holding things loosely looks different for you. Hear me when I say that these are all still a learning process for me. Whatever your struggle may be, remember it is a journey of growth, not a race towards perfection.

And lest you think our decorating one ornament at a time was happy jolly family fun, imagine this scene: Hudson pulling ornaments off the branches, separating the top foil from the ball and then stomping the foil under his feet, flattening it like a pancake. An activity that brought him great joy, laughter from his brother and increasing heartburn for me. In fact, while writing this post, I had to take one of those foil tops and ornament hangers out of his mouth. The ornaments are high! Our of his reach! He just pushes a chair up to the tree to grab them. Heartburn. There is always a bit of "forced family fun" during the holidays, but even that leads to learning, right?

And now, will you join us in Sharing Christmas?

I am honored to host with this group of fabulous ladies.
Check them out and share your own post below!

Hardware Store Christmas Tree

A friend recently reminded me that going to the same local hardware store for your Christmas tree each year is just as much an adventure and tradition as tree farms and suburban wonderland can be. Sometimes life in the city seems void of spirit and adventure. But supporting small business is no joke. This is our family tradition, trees from Frager's, supporting a business that is fighting its way back after a fire. We have a blast and I am so thankful for a tradition that is both meaningful and also easy, even if it isn't quite picturesque.  The same friend also reminded me that trees from big box stores can also be traditions (and economical to boot).  

No matter what your Christmas tree tradition looks like, I am glad that we get a whole season of celebrating from my hardware store tree to your freshly cut off the mountain or white flocked plastic beauty. A tradition would not be nearly as special if all of our traditions were exactly the same. What are your Christmas traditions?

I've teamed up with a few of my friends to host a "Sharing Christmas" link up. 
Share your heart, your traditions, your favorite family recipes, how you celebrate Jesus. 
Whatever feels like Christmas in your home.
Will you join us on Monday, December 15th?

25 Family Favorite Christmas Books

This is our collection of both Christmas and winter books. I keep all of our snow and winter related books packed away with our Christmas decorations. And when these come out, a box full of our other books takes its place in the closet. This keeps our old books fresh and give us a fun host of reading throughout December and often into January. I hope these can make your December reading time as lovely as ours.

  1. Frosty the Snowman by Jack Rollins and Steve Nelson
  2. The Story of Christmas by Patricia A. Pingry
  3. The Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats
  4. A Christmas Wish for Corduroy by Don Freeman
  5. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
  6. Snow by P. D. Eastman
  7. A Joyful Christmas, a treasury collected by James Ransome
  8. A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles M. Schulz
  9. A Christmas Carol (the baby lit version) by Charles Dickens
  10. Frosty the Snowman, the little golden book* 
  11. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the little golden book by Robert L. May*
  12. Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman
  13. I am Small by Emma Dodd
  14. Holly & Ivy by Rumer Godden and Barbara Cooney
  15. How Brown Mouse Kept Christmas by Clyde Watson
  16. Humphrey's First Christmas by Carol Heyer
  17. Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
  18. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
  19. Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry
  20. Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones
  21. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
  22. The Jolly Christmas Postman by Allan Ahlberg
  23. Babar and Father Christmas by Jean De Brunhoff
  24. The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg
  25. A Bakers Dozen by Aaron Shepard

*our copy of these two books were my Dad's when he was a boy, which makes them extra special.

I am always looking to grow our collection, what are your favorite Christmas books?

Disclaimer: compensated affiliate links may be used in this post.

December 2014 Goals with Grace

As a year comes to a close, I start taking stock, things I have done, goals I have reached, but over the past few weeks I've had a surprisingly different focus.  I've been thinking more about how I have grown rather than what I've done. So instead of taking stock here of accomplishments and to-dos checked off, I am praising God for his faithfulness.

My November goals didn't go well. My December goals are simple. As we celebrate Advent, we want to keep things simple.

  • Start our days with the advent calendar and reading from the Jesus Story Book Bible.
  • Involve the kids in cooking -- helping in the kitchen is one of their favorite activities and I hope one that becomes both a tradition and a fond memory.
  • Celebrate Mark's Birthday well, he was born on the 22nd and it usually get wrapped into family events, not a date celebrating my husband. So somewhere over the celebrations of Christmas, our goal is to have a date as husband and wife, specifically to celebrate his birthday. 
  • Plan Behr's birthday party before we go out of town for Christmas. (Can someone tell me how he is nearly 4 already?)

I am tempted to add more hopes to what our time away for Christmas will look like, but I am holding that loosely and remembering to approach my day in thanks and praise. 

Linking up with Hayley of The Tiny Twig for Goals with Grace
I'd love to hear what your November goals are looking like 
and how you balance the crazy of the season. 

Disclaimer: compensated affiliate links may be used in this post.


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