saturday morning

from my journal…

Saturday morning: We had two days of a full house of family, for Thanksgiving and then for games and leftovers. Children all around, playing pool and ping pong and piano, in dress up worlds of Cinderella and tea parties. Aunts and uncles, siblings and in-laws, parents and grandparents, friends — so many clusters of conversation and dishwashing and laughter. And the semi-composed house I greet this morning, looking none the worse for the wear (thanks to Ryan and my parents and bustling aunts!), but rather, seeming to glow with the lingering joy of a home used and lived in. This is a house at its best — with chairs askew and coffee flowing, candles lit on every extended table.

There is so much insight to be found here — glimpses of how we were made, what we were made for.

Today we will pause to rest — Daddy called for PJs and movies! But even in this resting, we are launched into the biggest celebration of all: Jesus was born for us!

*****

So much to be thankful for, truly, but having Jack with us rated pretty high up there.

what december looks like here:

I am waiting for a baby.


(Taken 10 days ago!)

But I am also trying to just enjoy this favorite season of the year, noticing the way certain things have become Christmas in our little family:

Enjoying our first December dinner with the flicker of candles in Advent wreath, reading the first of 24 little books telling the story of Jesus, and followed by a viewing of The Nativity Story (and cookies!)

Making cookies, and being sure to have a variety for tree-decorating night!


(Rum logs — add 1/2 tsp salt! –, Pepparkakor, and Chocolate Crackles. Coming soon: Peanut Butter Balls, for my favorite guy.)

Getting a tree, as soon as we can. Dashing through rows (that makes it sound tidy — not quite!) of trees, finding the “right” one. We don’t agonize too long: The right height, not prickly, a little bit wild. Done, settled, bring that baby home!

Music playing, softly each morning, more loudly during cookie decorating, and just plain old loud while tree-decking. I love filling the house with the sounds of Christmas, which for us have become Diana Krall, Tony Bennett, Luna Moon, The Cambridge Singers, The Nutcracker, and (when Ryan’s not home — he doesn’t get the same warm fuzzies as I do!), Sandi Patty.

A growing collection of books to read all month, which I put by the tree this year. I have it in my head that I will sit by that tree with a brand new baby, doing nothing but reading books to my other sweet babes. Even without that new baby, I’d say the arrangement is working out just fine. I am so happy to just read out loud while they eat it up.

There are so many favorites, but this year I’m being asked to read The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree on repeat.

Meals that aren’t fancy, but certainly feel that way when you add candles and a bit of holiday prettiness. It’s amazing how easy it is to linger a bit longer when there are cookies to pass around as the candles burn low. December forces a quick and complete embrace of short days and cozy evenings — things we’ll cling to long after the holiday bins have been stored back in the basement.

Corners of the house that the kids can almost arrange themselves, so familiar are the decorations and arrangements. Oh, I have to have a really good reason for changing the location of anything from year to year!

Anticipation that doesn’t have to be taught. It only takes a few Decembers to realize that these cookies, these songs, these books, these moments — they are special.

Easter

Another month, gone.

March flew faster than I had time to even realize. According to photos, there were innumerable sick days, basketball games, watching wildlife from the windows, dinners consisting of comfort food, boys performing, and… that’s pretty much it.

*****

And this past week, there was the Resurrection to celebrate.

Food,

Reflection,

The boys’ first Seder,

Clothes and table,

Fiona’s first basket of goodies,

Family time after church.

*****

A truly special celebration. An annual hard-stop that my soul really benefits from. We push pause on whatever devotional track we’ve been on and just read along with Jesus’ activities during Holy Week. “Keep the kids quiet for a bit” meant working on their Holy Week coloring books I assembled (which they didn’t begin to finish, but that’s okay.) We talk about crucifixion, more than just the passing, “Jesus died for us,” that is our habit the rest of the year. This year, we sang the same two hymns every day, and can I tell you how wonderful it is to have two children old enough to follow along in their hymnals? And when we sang one of those hymns at the Good Friday service, and their eyes lit up with the pride of, “Hey, Mom, that’s our song!”, I just smiled. Treasures tucked into hearts. And for me, treasure unearthed and dusted off and reevaluated — and found to be even more precious than ever before.

*****

Monday is sometimes hard for me after Easter. I wake up and realize the laundry is not miraculously gone and replaced by eternally-clean robes quite yet. My hair is nappy and I stink after exercising, since my body is subject to entropy and wear and tear. Kids get on my nerves by simply appearing too early, proving that I am still living quite firmly in the Not-Yet, needing sanctification. And these, I know, are small potatoes (embarrassingly small) when compared to the trials being experience by brethren around the world — even just down the street! But they are real, and they clue me in to this: I am yet groaning along with creation, looking for Jesus to come and make all things new. (Best, best, best promise ever.)

So this morning, as rumples appeared by the myriad in my soul, I thought about the stories following that wonderful Resurrection. I thought about this promise: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”

Today, rumples and wrinkles, bumps and bruises, trials and temptations: TRUE.

But, even more true, and far more amazing: POWER of GOD to be a witness in the midst.

POWER of GOD in this very, very normal, nothing-special kitchen. This very earthly pile of crusted breakfast dishes. This list of not-very-Books-of-Acts-ish duties.

POWER of GOD. IN ME.

wrapping up Christmas.

I finally got all Christmas photos moved to flickr, which was really just an excuse to savor one more time the special moments of that most special month. Thankful once again for my family, for having been taught to make Christmas special for my little clan, for a Savior to celebrate and exalt and make much of.

So, this. The last of my Christmas photos from 2014. Relived once more, and now tucked away for future late-night blog-wanderings when I’m wondering where the moments and years disappeared to.


“Christmas Eve Eve” sleep under the tree.


Christmas Eve morning, excitedly set up by Jameson


Her very first at-the-table setting. She was very happy with herself!


Beatrice at Christmas Eve dinner


My sister’s Christmas Eve centerpiece — well, one of them, anyway. We’re a houseful!


Candlelight Service. Beautiful.


Eggnog and Cookie party!


Intently sipping. I love that bow!


Cookies. Waiting for presents!


This pretty girl. And no other photos of Christmas Eve garb. I almost burst into tears when they put on their new pi’s, and I realized we would never have a photo of them all dressed.


Tree, ready.


New doll things


Fiona got her very own baby doll


Afternoon and evening at my parents’, eating and playing games.


Christmas Night. The aftermath.

And the best Day After ever: new flannel pajamas and new toys and Mama vacuuming to her heart’s content.

Deep sigh. Deep smile. Deep thankfulness for it all.

Back to the bins, absorbed into the toys, tossed into the hamper, vacuumed and dragged out to the field it all goes. And yet, not quite. Those memories, that investment, this pause becomes knit into who we are.

Until next year,

pictures of december

Excitement is ramping up around here. Today we exchanged names (well, the kids did) and bought gifts for one another. Four or five times, I was pulled aside because a little boy needed to tell me a secret — a bursting with joy secret because their gift is just so so so wonderful and the recipient is going to love it so so so much!

We drove home in relative quiet until William suddenly said, “Mom, I was just dreaming about opening my present [on Christmas Eve, when they exchange their gifts], and I was so excited, and then I remembered that the next day will be Christmas!! (Said in the most COULD LIFE GET ANY BETTER voice you’ve ever heard.)

Before that day actually comes, and I get swept away with everything that entails and suddenly find myself two weeks into a new year, I’ll quickly put up photos of this special month. I do so love coming to this little corner of the internet and reminiscing…

*****


Three little girls, Fiona wanting very much to be as big as Beatrice and Margaret


Ready to get a tree


Easily entertained


Can’t wait for Daddy to come with the tree


Here it comes!


And there it is.


Early Sunday morning reflections.


Rest and reading time after decorating the bagel shops!


She loves baby dolls.


Pigtail perfection.


Cookies baked for neighbors and friends.


Special afternoons with my grandparents.


Time with beautiful sisters and their scrumptious babes.


Concerts.


Lots of this.


A break from routine school means time for not-routing things.


They keep careful track of this growing pile.


Drawing names!


Fiona felt very grown up with that slip of paper!


Too excited to get a picture with all four looking at me.


Lunch with family at (drumroll…) The Bagelry. (Pretty yummy!)

*****

Have a wonderful last few days before Christmas!

december’s story: grace and peace

I can’t believe we’re halfway through December, and oh-so-close to Christmas.

It’s all Christmas, all the time around here. If Beatrice isn’t making up songs about angels and shepherds, boys are pounding out Christmas duets (duets! Yay!) on the piano, or Fiona is touching ornaments. Or I’m slipping to my room to wrap one more present— or make that one half a present, someone is pounding on my door.


December 1st Christmas movie, though I can’t remember for the life of me what it was.


celebrating our first Friday post-CFA with a lazy breakfast


sleeping under the tree


mornings like this.


performing with almost 100 voices and instruments in a beautiful Christmas cantata

Snow sure helps the mood along, and for some magical reason, it’s gently hanging over the edge of our roof right out the window in a way very reminiscent of frosting on rum logs. There is lots of outdoor play before breakfast, because somehow, jumping out of bed and pulling snow gear on over pi’s is just the most fun. (And it buys me time, since I can’t seem to make cookies and have breakfast thought through.)


early morning, after our first significant snowfall


Jameson has made all of the rum logs this year completely by himself


pepparkakor


preparing cookie gifts

We are watching Mary’s slow trek as she waits for her baby to be born. We do our best to read one little book each night from our Advent calendar. And this year, we’re sneaking in a bit of this book here and there — a whole week behind, mind you, but pressure is not very Christmasy, so I’m doing my best to not feel any. Today we read about Isaac, climbing a long road with wood on his back, a shadow of the Child of Promise who walked a long and dusty road for me. I’m blessed, blessed, blessed to hear the thoughts my boys share, the connections they make. William especially seems quite enamored with this whole typology thing, realizing that all of those stories were pointing to Jesus. And I get to be right there, watching that realization dawn. What a privilege.

This is a month made for Jameson, my gift-giver. Suddenly, he is busily hiding secrets and scurrying to prepare a surprise. He generously finds $1,000 guitars that he thinks I should buy William. (Ha!) He is in his element. Saturday, when William was at work with Ryan, he took advantage of the 20 minutes it took for me to lay the girls down for naps and found paper snowflakes to hang from the ceiling. After being stunned by that beautiful surprise, he then made coffee and set out a whole little “coffee date” for him and me. He beamed with love. Today he gave me the gift he’d made me and put under the tree: a little “Meery Christmas” garland. Insert mother heart bursting right here.


snowflake surprise


afternoon date with this boy


my Christmas gift this year

Then there’s quiet William, who made me a card two weeks ago and tucked it away for Christmas, but seeing Jameson’s gift giving (“I’m just so bad at waiting, Mom! I want you to have all of my presents right away!”), he decided to pull his out, too. Simplest, sweetest, “I love you, Mama” card.


cutest cards


moments to tuck inside my mama-treasure-box, i.e., my heart

Are you kidding?, I think to myself. How could anyone possibly be as loved as I am? Let alone someone as grumpy and ornery as me?? Is this real? Are these little boys really smiling that big at me, their hearts in their eyes? Is this little girl really climbing up to plant a random sweet kiss on my cheek with a whispered, “I wuv you so much, Mama,” in my ear? Is this baby really laughing and dancing and wanting me to know that I’m her world?

If it feels too good to be true, it’s because it is. It’s grace, a gift. I know what I deserve — I look that ugliness right in the face many times a day, and it’s ugly. There’s an equation here that just doesn’t seem to balance out: How can I have a life of blessing, of gifts, of walking with God? I could never seem to do a good job balancing my checkbook, but even with my enormous lack of accounting talent, I can see a serious discrepancy like this one. Maybe you don’t think it’s that serious, look at my life and see a good person who tries hard. But I know. I know the discrepancy. I know the selfishness and self-seeking and jealousy and pride that fights to have its way moment after moment. How can a heart like that then receive blessing?

Jesus.

That’s it. That’s the only way to justify the account of my life. For someone like me to walk with God, to know Him and love Him and know that He loves me — it’s Jesus.

So I open that handmade card with 6yo scrawl, I feel those arms around my neck and see bashful eyes full of love, and my soul feels more than just full. It feels grace.

“Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled

Reconciled.
Justified.
Balanced.
Paid in full.

Waking up to morning after morning of new mercy.
Too good to be true.
God is like that.