Merry Christmas 2014



Merry Christmas from our family to yours. 2014 has been a year that, at first response, I would call "hard." But it was also very good. We enjoyed several great family adventures, the boys have begun to play as friends, and we have developed family rhythms. These photos are from our family vacation in Florida taken by Pam Bell. I am grateful that she captures our family each year and love that she gives us even the crazy faced photos that didn't quite make it to the annual card...

I hope you can look back on the year, even it it was difficult, and also remember the good.


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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!




Hudson Nineteen and Twenty Months



Hudson, you catch me off guard and you know it. You get a smirk smile that comes across your face, even when trying to be serious. Or sometimes you throw me a knowing glance and then shoot your expression straight back to stone cold. Nothing with you is straight forward or overly logical, instead you toss out the curveball and then bring on the grins. I can rarely guess what you want to do or what you are about to do next. You test limits -- your own strength, how hot something is, how far you can jump or fall. I love the adventurous side of you, even if it keeps me constantly jumping to save you. Over these past two months, your risks have had better endings. Less falls, more victories. You are proud of that.

You still love everything electronic, metaphorical buttons as well. Talking on the phone is one of your favorite activities. You perk up when you hear the phone buzz or ring and often walk around pretending, soundlessly to talk to the imaginary phone you have pressed to your ear, head tilted and all. Throughout a phone call on speaker, you will repeat high at least once for every word someone else tries to say. You enjoy face-timing with faraway family, but often the iphone camera on reverse tricks you well enough.

You now say cheese and make the accompanying face whenever you see a phone or camera pointed in your direction, often preemptively "cheese-ing" before anyone even thought of taking a picture. As exemplified in the pictures below.

Communication is a strong suit of yours. Perhaps its your stubbornness, or maternally gifted desire to control, but words are few and far between. And yet, you communicate extremely well. I often joke you communicate without words better than most well-spoken adults.

The words you do say, even if rarely, include:
Hi, Hi, Hi (always when greeting passing people, but this also means "I'm hungry" for you)
Shhh
Cheese
Mom
Da (Dad)
Bye
Yeah, yeah, yeah
That
Hot
Dog
Up (you've only said this once or twice, preferring to head butt our thighs until we lift you)
No
We are actively working on Off, Up, and Please, but you flat out refuse.

You enjoy using the duster and sweeping, a cleaning streak that comes from your big brother and dad for sure. I am so grateful you and Behr clean up about half the messes you make. And boy do you like to make messes. If it can be dumped or poured, you do just that. As I start to make dinner, you begin taking items out of cabinets, unloading the dishwasher, or out of baskets, covering the kitchen floor with dishes and bowls, as if you are expecting a feast. A subtle, yes I am hungry, don't forget to feed me too. Come dinner time, you yank off your still-clean-bib the bite before you spill your food down your shirt. You cleverly open your leak proof cups and full plates of food get flung around the room, only for you to happily sweep it up later. A bowl of dry cereal or crackers is your favorite thing to dump. Sometimes I can't decide if you make the messes because you know it makes me twitch or if its because you want the chance to clean it up.

Not that I would ever stop loving you, but you work your charm and win me over again and again. On even the best days, you will find me and warm my heart again. It reminds me of one of my favorite hymns, Come Thou Fount -- the second verse is "tune my heart to sing thy grace" -- as you remind me of my own love for you, I am reminded that the love of God is even greater. We don't have to win the favor of God, but we do need him to help us be in line with him. Hudson, in ways that I cannot seem to describe, you point me again and again to the everlasting love of God. You help, tune my heart to sing of God's great grace.





"Cheeeeese!"
with squinted eyes and everything

My little one and a half year old, you are moving too quickly towards full blown toddler. You will be two before we know it, but I am cherishing these wild and crazy exhausting days.





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?



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