This is pretty much what advent feels like right now. Also, my kids are sneaky and smart and they somewhat resemble a pack of ravenous wolves.
My original plan for this post fell through. Spoiler alert: it involves me messing up a recipe. There is a reason I’m not a food blogger. I’m going to give it a try next week, but today, you get links to a few favorite things from around the internet this week.
1. Joy to the Whirled! by Rachel Jankovic // this reflects how I feel about Christmas right now. I’m currently resisting the desire to throw everything away.
4. Being a Husband who Unleashes His Wife // Not a Christmas post, but I can’t stop thinking about it. A lot of good points here.
5. Sarah’s last blog post // Sarah and I feel the same way about this blog series at the moment, but mostly we both need a good night’s sleep.
Have a restful, sweet weekend!
We’ve enjoyed a few snow days this week. Levi shares his mom and dad’s love of it.
Sarah shared yesterday about her favorite Christmas albums. Today is my turn.
The songs “Merry Christmas, Darling” by The Carpenters and “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” by Amy Grant immediately put me in the Christmas spirit. I remember my mom playing them around the house, and now I embarrass my kids by singing them loud and without missing a word. I’ve since added some new classics to our house playlist – Sufjan Stevens’ Songs for Christmas, Over the Rhine’s Snow Angels and A Very She & Him Christmas. A reliable Pandora station is the Sufjan Stevens’ Holiday one.
I’ve put together a Spotify playlist of some of our favorites. It’s a mix of songs you hear on the radio and songs you’re not likely to hear on the radio.
What songs, artists or albums do you love during the holidays? I’d love to add some to my list. Also, isn’t Sufjan a rad name?
Last week Sarah shared her tutorial for a star garland. I loved it and saved the idea for next year. The garland I made is above. The tutorial is:
- Buy a small box of jingle bells at the dollar store.
- String baker’s twine through jingle bells. (I used an embroidery needle for ease.)
- Hang anywhere you like.
Simple garlands for simple people.
This is my pretend mantle. We don’t have a fireplace so I make do with my hutch/cupboard. I planned to re-do the brown tree in the back to look like this one from Anthropologie, but maybe later this week. Do you also notice my kids’ pink, light-up bouncy ball on the side? Such is life, right? I’d post a picture of my tree, but there is not enough ribbon around it and the Christmas choo-choo circling the bottom is scattered all around waiting for Daddy to come home and fix it.
Meanwhile laundry and dishes sit in various stages of doneness, couch cushions make tents to hide in and my Thanksgiving decorations sneak in on the Christmas ones. These things tempt me to discouragement and worry. Am I good enough homemaker? This place sure doesn’t feel like the refuge and haven I want it to be.
Psalm 62 reminds me that my soul finds rest and refuge in God alone. I believe that our earthly homes should reflect our heavenly home, but that is not my ultimate hope for my or my children’s salvation. In my striving I remember He is a refuge and in that I find rest. When everything is a mess, He is a refuge. When all the lights are shining perfectly, He is still the refuge.
I hope that truth lightens any burdens you carry today as you care for your kids and your home. May today be full of rest and refuge even though your hands are busy with the work of creating a merry Christmas!
The weather people told us we would only get an inch of snow today. They were very wrong. It took us by surprise, and we spent the day battling against it and then enjoying it.
Before the snow we heard an inspiring message on Revelations 12. It’s not your typical Christmas passage, but you will rejoice in the Boy who conquered the dragon. Give it a listen, especially if you need a perspective on your sin and suffering in this season.
Sarah mentioned to me that she has a hard time thinking of stocking stuffers but I thought it might be an easy post. Trust me, it’s harder than I thought. Part of me wants to recommend a trip to Target dollar spot, but I came up with a few ideas to get you started.
First, I’m a big fan of the coupon book. Rick knows how to rock them, and I usually get a handmade, done-five-minutes-ago one in my stocking. It’s a favorite. Cash them all in on one day or savor them throughout the year. Give them to your spouse, friends, kids and parents!
- Flashlight or Headlamp // my kids are obsessed.
- A few new trains // we like the Ikea ones.
- Princess Palace Pets // Princesses, all the time.
- A set of dinosaurs // Participate in next year’s Dinovember!
- CAT toys // my son’s favorite mini diggers.
- Fun socks
- Charm bracelet
- Chapstick // The crazier the flavor, the better.
- A Tattly tattoo // Put one in my stocking too, please.
- Fun duct tape // So many fun crafts!
- Camelback water bottleCamelbak water bottle // Levi would love this!
- Kitchen towel // Anthropologie obviously, but also The Calm Gallery and West Elm. Etsy has some great options too.
- Mason Jar Company tumbler // (hint, hint Rick.)
- Socks // Buy extra-special ones from J. Crew.
- Magazine subscription
- A LiveFashionable scarf // A more expensive stocking stuffer, but for a good, good cause.
- Headlamp // My kids love these because of their Dad.
- Soap // Fancy soap for men.
- A LiveFashionable wallet
- Check out this post by the Art of Manliness for 50 more ideas!
ps. Some of the links are affiliate ones. Thank you! Also, sorry there is no fun image for this post. My 2006 macbook is sad.
Check out Sarah’s gift ideas from yesterday!
I love to give thoughtful gifts but my Christmas budget doesn’t always give me room to bless my friends (the people who put up with me all year). These ideas are all $10-ish and a few of them only require your time, a little effort and maybe your flour.
If you have a group of friends who want to exchange gifts, try a white elephant favorite things party. Our small group started this a few years ago when we grew tired of trading each other’s junk. Now we each bring a favorite item(s) $10 or less and trade white elephant style with steals. It’s fun to see what everyone loves and discover new favorites! The ideas are limitless and try to think outside of the “chocolate” box. (FYI: the guys in the group bring their favorite beer to trade. Most of them leave with a variety 6-pack.)
Gifts You Buy:
- Million Little Ways, A: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live // Emily reminds us that we are all artists. For a friend wanting to add meaning to their every day.
- This Lindsay Letters print (above) with a Shauna Niequist quote // Perfect to go above a dinner table (I bought it for my own). If you want, pair it with the Bread & Wine book (on my kindle waiting to be read) or a freshly baked loaf of bread.
- Brickyard Buffalo is my favorite “deal” site for trendier items. Keep an eye on it and pounce when you find that perfect gift.
- Attachments // One of my favorite fiction reads this year. Smart chick-lit. Give it to the friend who loves “New Girl” or “The Mindy Project.”
Gifts of Your Time:
- A coupon for a few hours of babysitting // Take your friend’s kids for a few hours one day so she can run errands or take a nap in peace. Moms, we can put up with a little chaos and a messy house for a friend’s sanity. Bonus: add a Starbucks card.
- A coupon to help her finish a project // Help her declutter her basement, purge her closet or paint her baseboards.
- A freezer meal // A gift of a home-cooked meal instead of another box of mac & cheese.
- Cinnamon rolls (1/2/3) or Chocolate chip cookie dough // Make and freeze both of these! Not recommended for a friend on a diet.
So many possibilities! Now, get to blessing.
Blogging is more fun with friends. Sarah cooked up this idea and asked me to play along. For the next 25 days, we’ll be sharing Christmas-y things on our blogs: one day on hers, the next day on mine. She shared her cute and creative advent calendar yesterday and I love how she emphasizes giving and teaching her girls about it. Make sure to check out her ideas.
This year we want to enjoy a simpler advent and so we aren’t going to try and pull off a calendar and all the activities (maybe next year). For myself I want to prepare my heart to make room for Jesus by reading more of Him and stilling my soul to wait for His work. For the kids we’ll still do the traditions and activities that we love. We’ll take one night of the week (most likely Mondays) to read a devotional together and light the candles on the advent wreath. Ways to celebrate advent are as numerous as there are families on earth and I hope you find what works best for you.
If you need ideas, the books that I would recommend are:
- Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson // This is the one I am using and it comes with separate readings for adults and kids, plus a weekly activity suggestion. Get it here or here. (If you order the paper version, email Elyse Fitzpatrick through her facebook page and they will email you the first 3 devotions.)
- Good News of Great Joy by John Piper // I enjoyed these daily devotions last year, and it’s FREE!
A few of the activities and family things we’ll do:
- Make ornaments. Either these or these. Or both!
- Find ways to surprise and bless family, friends and strangers. Last year we took flowers to friends and the kids loved it.
- A picnic under the Christmas tree.
- Visits to Longwood Gardens and Hershey Park.
- Lucy’s first preschool Christmas party! Plus a few other parties.
- Reenact the story of the shepherds and wise men. I’m hoping the kids will want to play pretend this year.
I love Christmas – the songs, celebration and joy. But part of me is hesitant and scared. I wish there was a newborn to ruin our nights and make us sleepy during the fun. You might have sorrows too and are unsure of how to have cheer when your heart is heavy with sadness. I understand, friend, and pray for you. I think Jesus understands too and calls you to Himself to find rest and refuge. It is why He came. From Isaiah 9:2 – “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.” Jesus, shine into our night.
Please share your advent ideas with Sarah and me! We are excited to share a little bit of Christmastime with you. Check out Sarah’s blog tomorrow for more.
I’m linking up Modern Mrs. Darcy‘s Twitterature – quick and casual reviews of the books I read the past month. This is my first time participating, but I’ve discovered so many great books through this linkup and look forward to everyone’s recommendations each month!
Good stories in their own rights, but juvenile fiction versions of Tolkien. I loved the characters and the themes, and cried at the end of the third book. Read with your kids for this reason. #storytelling
Maisie Dobbs, Jacqueline Winspear
Not from this past month, but I learned of these books through Twitterature earlier this year. The mysteries are satisfying, but it’s the character of Maisie herself that keeps me reading. #mystery #psycholgy
And now I’m off to find more books to add to my ever-growing list!
- Stargazer lights from Terrain
- a Cinnamon spice candle from Target // I usually find it on an endcap. Only $10 for the big one!
- The “Chalk It Up Thanksgiving” set from Caravan Shoppe // We are writing what we are thankful for on scrapbook paper and taping it to the poster (see above). Lucy is “thank you for” (as she says) toys and friends. Levi is thankful for mom-mom and backhoes. I am thankful for my family and the comfort of Scripture.