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Friday, December 30, 2016

Goodbye 2016

As we say goodbye to 2016, I have a lot to celebrate about the year. Our family grew by one, we moved across the country, sold 90 year old our fixer-upper, and we started a new chapter on the eastern plains of Colorado. We took our first road trip as a family of four and I was an adjunct instructor last fall.

Although, I wasn't very consistent at blogging this year, I'm glad I recorded a few stories along the way. It turns out teaching a college course for the first time is time consuming (!!!) and left me little time to write, among other things.

Looking forward to a new year, means new goals and fresh starts await. The week between Christmas and New Year's feels a little awkward to me. I want to dwell on the sparkling lights of Christmas, keep playing Christmas music and nibbling cookies.

BUT this year we took down the Christmas tree just days after Christmas. The house felt cluttered (mostly with new toys) and we had to make space. I felt sad to pack up or throw away so many fun things we'd done over the holiday season-- decorate gingerbread houses, DIY snow globes, "stained glass" trees, new Christmas books, and our "activity set" (read: Nativity). I will cherish the memories we made and saved a few things to pull out next year.

Despite my plan not always going the way I imagined, we had some fun starting traditions and making memories. As much as I'll miss the feeling of preparing for Christmas, I am looking forward to things returning to normalcy and starting new rhythms.

Next week, Maggie will return to preschool, but I will not be teaching in the spring semester. Bodie is crawling (A LOT) and there will be no shortage of things to keep us busy. My hope is to focus on our family more fully and be open to what 2017 has in store for us.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

As we celebrate the waiting

Motherhood has felt like failure in a lot of ways lately. I planned activities to do throughout December. While I told myself to hold them loosely (after all I have a three year old and 10 month old), I also hoped things would go a certain way. I found cute crafts on Pinterest that would surely turn out just like the photo!

But as soon as I saw my three year old place a cookie cutter in the center of the dough, the memories of how difficult making cookies with a child could be flooded my brain.

And the snow globes-- those were a disaster! Thankfully, my three year old wasn't too bothered by the water turning blue-ish green (from the evergreen tree) or the fact that the snowman didn't stay glued to the bottom and was floating the next day. ((Deep breaths))

Don't get me wrong, not everything has tanked. We've made some memories and I've taken some fun pictures, but I have also gotten so frustrated in the process. I don't call myself a failure, but I don't always get it right.

I try to take on too much. I let small things stop me from fully doing what is planned.

I am so grateful for Advent and its reminder to celebrate the waiting, to anticipate Jesus' birth. He doesn't want us to fill our plate so full that we're are unable to fit Him in. He came from all people-- the ones who succeed AND struggle. But the Bible tells us He has a special place for the downtrodden, the weak, the ones who screw up (Matthew 5). He meets them in their need and picks them up.

I am so grateful we serve a God who meets us where we are, no matter where that is. Whether we are over-planning our days or trying to fill them.

Despite having created some less than Pinterest-worthy projects this month, my three year old will excitedly rattle off all the character's names in the "activity." I don't say this to take any credit, she has some fantastic Sunday School teachers and other adults who talk about these things with her. We keep reminding her it's called a "nativity," but I guess we have some work still ahead.

May your Christmas be filled with reminders of Jesus drawing near. Emmanuel means "God with us." I hope you can feel His presence as you go about your celebrations!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Our Advent Plans

It's December first and I'm full of expectation. I sit here listening to Austin Stone's A Day of Glory Christmas album and diffusing pine and blue spruce, as I think back to a year ago this month when I first came to Flagler with Brandon for his interview.

Here we are a year later, having put up our Christmas tree in the parsonage we now call home.

There is so much to look forward to, as with every start of the holiday season. I feel like this is the first year our three year old daughter will really "get it" in terms of retelling the story of Jesus' birth. It has been so fun to watch her excitement when the timer on the Christmas tree clicks on in the afternoons and when we do a craft (similar to this one).

I had fun planning our family Advent activities and was tempted to "do all the things." But who can? Even with a fairly open schedule (only one kid in (pre) school), I know it is best to keep it simple and have been cautioned against overdoing it by more than one mom who has already been there (via articles like this). We also live in a rural town, so there are not as many nearby options for some activities I would have planned a year ago when we lived in a city.

So here's what we are doing/planning on doing.

I bought the Kids Read Truth table cards and we started using those on the first Sunday of Advent since there are 29. They are designed for kids of various ages with a question for 2-5 year olds, 6-11 year olds and 12-1 year olds. I thought they would be useful for years to come and they are so cute! Maggie has loved them so far and each night during dinner ask "when do we get to read the card?" There's also an answer key (which I wish I could have realized last night while Brandon was away at Bible study and I was trying to explain what it means to "act justly, love mercy and walk humbly" to our three year old).

We're also using a paper chain count down from Color + Kindness' Advent and Christmas Countdown Calendar and Activity Kit (download). The bundle has a number of ways to "count down" and pieces to color. I've been loving her shop for downloadable PDF Bible-focused files for my preschooler (and some have memory verse cards for mamas!). 

I also bought five children's books to celebrate the season. I wanted to give them to the kids in a (somewhat) meaningful way, so I decided to wrap them up and have them open one every 4 days so we can enjoy the books before Christmas. My three year old loves reading so I think this will be right up her alley. I labeled each book with a number on the tag to correspond with certain days (1, 5, 10, 15, 20) and also wrote the numbers on the paper chain I previously mentioned. 

I also purchased Amen Paper Company's Adevent Bundle, something I've wanted to do for years (you can still  download the PDF devotional here for $12). I have the calendar hung up in our dining room, which is where we spend the majority of our time as a family. On the back of the cards I wrote an activity for each day. Some are simple like watch a Christmas movie and drink hot cocoa while others are baking cookies one day and taking them to neighbors the next. I also included things we already have on the calendar like attending and participating in the Living Nativity in town.

How are you celebrating the coming of Christ Jesus?