Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Advent study

The Advent book I talked about in the last post merits a few more details.  It is really thoughtfully written with beautiful pictures that go along with each "name of Christ" we study in the mornings.  It is from The Small Seed.  The link to buy it (or a digital copy) is HERE.  Yes, it's the middle of December, but it's good enough to still get in my opinion!  

This is what it looks like up close and personal in our "study drawer:"

And this is what we studied this morning:

This was yesterday, and I took a pic. of it because this is one of my favorite paintings:

You can also download a printable version of the "names of Christ" to hang in your home each day.  I love these beauties and the visual reminder (just barely got on the ball enough to hang them up), we'll hang a new one each day up until Christmas.

(All front and center to help us remember the true meaning of the season in the midst of all the other stuff rolling around here.)

One extra cool thing about this is that there is a "daily devotional" each day on Instagram (my friend just told me about this), and you can listen to all these insights (about 10 minutes each), one a day, to further get these beautiful thoughts infiltrating into our minds.  There are also devotionals hosted @thesmallseed, but these ones specific to this book are @multiplygoodness.
This is what the one from today looks like...
...it is HERE if you want to click into it.

I just started listening to that this morning as I was getting ready and I love the added insights shared!

Anyway, there you go, just a little something to keep the true meaning of Christmas at the forefront.
This sounds like a sponsored post, but it's not.  Just something I love enough to feel compelled to share. 

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, December 10, 2018

out with the envelopes, and three things that have brought in Christmas beauty

I feel like my weekends should be categorized somehow lately.  They are somehow like a pause in the panic-mode.  Ha!  I feel like each weekday I have my head down kind of in scramble-mode, but and then the weekends are a breath of fresh air.  I don't know why, it's actually kind of weird because there's not much "breathing" going on with all this hullabaloo getting ready for a wedding in the midst of Christmas-time.  But there is some kind of a gentle pull that I have felt more than ever that is grounding me a little more this Christmas.  

Perhaps God knows I need those little pulls.  Sometimes it seems that He places them right in my lap.  And perhaps I have been better at listening, and noticing.  Because I desperately want to feel the peace and beauty of the wedding as well as Christmas.  So I say a little prayer each morning trying to "spiritually create" my day and for the most part I feel the power of that communion with God somehow more powerfully right now.  

This is the time of life that I want desperately to remember.  It is so full and beautiful (mixed in with the sometimes ugly and crazy of course).  But we are awaiting the celebration of the arrival of Christ's birth!  And we are simultaneously planning a wedding! (which could be categorized as it's own kind of birth, beautiful and new).  And what could be more beautiful than that?

I feel like life the last week could be categorized by the stages of "the envelopes."  The stacks and stacks of Christmas cards and wedding invitations (that happened to all arrive at the same time, thanks to a random mishap of the invites being sent to Clearwater Florida instead of here to the desert...strange...).  They sat in our home, in various stages of addressed, stamped, stuffed, still-needing-new-addresses-looked-up, still needing international postage, still needing notes written from us (we tried to write little notes to each missionary we know and love out there in the world), blah blah blah.  

I don't have pictures of many of the stages, but here are a couple from one of them with the wedding invites...we were watching something, I think "Elf" this time around, as we stuffed and addressed:
 Lu was a good sorter:

Needless to say, it felt really good to dump those babies in that large blue receptacle at the post office.
(I don't think I have any pics. of the Christmas card envelope stacks, but you get the main idea...)

In the midst of getting those envelopes out, there are three things that have helped that velvety Christmas mode to seep into our home.  

1) The first is Advent.  We have never done Advent properly in our home.  We have done "Light the World" which I love, and we've done different variations of scriptures in the morning to lead up to Christmas, but we've never done the whole light-the-candle-each-Sunday and other various things that go along with Advent.  Maybe it's awful to admit, but I've never really understood the whole deal...and we are still trying to figure it out.  But this ad from the Small Seed popped up on my Instagram one day in November showing this Advent book to help celebrate the different names of Christ each day and it spoke to me.  

So I ordered it.  (And ordered a few for some friends too.)  In hopes that it would bring the Christmas spirit into our home.  We are reading through it each morning, a new name for Christ each day, and we love it. 

I can't figure out if I love the book and the messages (and images...they are beautiful!) more, or the fact that this is how Lucy feels about it:

She loves that thing, and her ears perk up each time we read.  I love how her soul shines in all things spiritual.  How can I bottle that up and help her keep it forever and ever?

2)  Our fireplace.  Here is one night when I was trying to do some wrapping and we were gathered close, (Claire doing homework):
There is something about a gathering place like that to draw us all near.  It's speaking to all of us this year.  It's a little chillier than usual and there is nothing like turning that thing on and nestling around it to slow life down.

Even Bo feels it and is found right here much of the time:

3) Christmas books.  At the library a few weeks ago I found a book called "The Christmas Box" on sale for $1 and felt like it would be something Lu would like.  And I was right.  I love that when kids ask to read books it pulls you out of whatever busy-ness that is keeping you away from "real" ness to nestle in with them.  She begs for chapters here and there, and those gentle pulls lure me away from my "stuff" to her heart. 
I sneak reading in with my older girls too as much as I can.  (We have a big box of Christmas books waiting and ready whenever we stop to read them.  We used to read them every night when the kids were little, but now with older kids that gets more complicated...some of my favorites are HERE.)  While Claire was taking a homework break one day I pulled out a Christmas book as we snuggled by the fire.  When Grace was home the other day I pulled them all three plus Dave to the couch and took a minute to read about the first Silent Night, then all sang that beauty song together, our voices slightly off-key but beauty seeping in all around.

This is not to say that things are peaceful and calm here all the time, because that is far from true.

I just picked up Claire who is sick from school just now, for instance, and got mad at her about something or other...yep, right as she's coughing and sallow-eyed.  That's just one example among I'm sure hundreds of me shattering that Christmas spirit that is trying so beautifully to infiltrate our home this year.

But it is there for the taking if I will recognize it.  And for some reason this year the stars have aligned in such a way that I'm not willing to let it slip away. 

Friday, December 7, 2018

winter formal

Winter Formal rung in December back on the first.
 Grace looked as radiant as ever.

So did all these beautiful girls:

 ...and boys too.
Well, maybe more handsome than beautiful, but there's something awesome to me about a bunch of teenagers dressing up and being all formal with such good manners and cell phones mostly tucked away for an evening.
Loved it.

 Grace graciously offered for us to host the dinner...

...for twenty at our home. (Winter Formal is girls' choice.)

So that was fun.  Ha!  But really, it was great. Grace and her friends helped a ton on the set-up and all the other moms brought delicious food.
We had these tables all set up outside first but decided it was too cold so we brought them in.

Which led me to worry more about weather on the upcoming wedding night...but that's a post for another day.

Let's back up to the getting-ready prep.  Elle's friend helped her (and a ton of other girls) with make-up because she's pretty good at it!  Here she is waiting for her turn painting her nails:

Grace did her hair while she was waiting.
 Have I mentioned how jealous I am of Grace's hair?  Oh boy, it is so beautiful!

Then we headed over to take pictures.  I was the photographer but someone's mom found a pretty great spot.

 Grace's date is one of the most kind and mature boys.  Love him.


I keep getting these pangs of heart-sick thinking about that girl leaving me next year.

So the two of us hug a lot.
She's a good sport :)

Meanwhile, guess who joined the dance bandwagon this time around?

Yep, this girl:
 ...and all her girlfriends.
We don't date until we're 16 in our family so none of my other kids have gone to dances until then.  People in these parts don't usually go to dances without a date.  But this was a cheer fund raiser, so a lot of Claire's friends and under-classmen were supposed to go.  One of Claire's friends had an extra (free) ticket so she decided "why not??"

As you can tell, these girls were pretty excited to dress up all fancy.
And I was so glad my friend took some pictures.

Ok, back to Grace...we raced back after pictures to find all the food had been delivered and we got to feeding all these kids. 
 The girls served up their dates and then they sat and talked and talked.
(I turned down the lights for a little mood effect :)

After that that whole crew of twenty kids headed off to a fireside.

Yep, you got that right. A fireside right smack-dab in the middle of the festivities.  Elder Bednar, one of the apostles in our church, happened to be speaking here and our specific congregation of churches (stake) happened to be invited to be there.  On the very same night.  I loved that those kids decided, even in the middle of all the winter formal hoopla, to go listen to that good man.  I've got to admit I was a little overcome with that use of free-agency.  They all wanted to go (well, I guess any that didn't were brought in by peer pressure), and we sure have heard some great things about that fireside.  Mostly with Grace who has brought up some pretty interesting things from that night that have become good discussions ever since that night.  (Parents weren't invited.  Boo!)

Claire and even Lucy went too (to the fireside).  So grateful for friends who carted those two around while I was on clean-up, photo-downloading duty.  Here's my friend helping situate all the clean-up (the kids helped too).  Love these kids.

Both of our girls had the "best nights ever."  At first I think Grace was a little skeptical of her little Freshman sister "crashing the party," but I those two ended up pretty enamoured by the fact that they got to share that dance in some way.  I love that any high school memory they can make while they have time there together this year is so cherished by them both.  Makes my heart feel heavy with love for sisters and for them.  

Here's the only picture they sent, and yes it's blurry, but can you see that love just glowing out of them?  I love it.

They both came home with so many funny/great/crazy stories to tell.

I know I've said it before, but high school is the best.
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