What A Year! - Our 2017



The house is mostly asleep, and Derek is getting ready for bed.  We watched the ball drop on TV, and I am alone in the living room, typing out this post in an effort to get it up before midnight.  Because this is one of the favorite posts of the year to me - where I look back on the year, month by month, and record everything that happened (I've been doing it for years - here's 2016's).  I love looking at the previous year in one whole chunk like this - it makes me realize again the Lord's faithfulness to us throughout the year.  But more on that at the end.  Let's start with January!


January

-Rang in the New Year with a nasty cold!  I gave up on the one word thing.

-Had to report to court because I got in a car accident in December. The other car was hardly damaged, my car was totaled. Let's just not talk about it.


-The kids and I discovered this cute little creek close to our house!  Fun day exploring outside.

-Did a unit about the presidents in honor of the inauguration, which we all watched together!

-Visit to the stock show.

-Got a haircut with my friend Katy Jo, and she did a fantastic job!  I always go to her now.  Also started buying candy hearts.

-Derek and I went bowling, which we hadn't done in a very long time.  Actually we had TWO date nights in a row!





February

-Wyatt turned six years old!  We did a PJ Masks party theme.


-My lovely sister was on the blog!

-I attempted the Big Backyard Bird Count, and quickly gave up when I was kinda sorta called out for misidentifying a bird.  In the birder's defense, I accidentally misidentified a bird as a really rare bird for my area, so they were just trying to gather more information, but the grilling might have scared me off.

-I got a bunch of Usborne books to use for homeschooling.


-I took a bunch of Valentine's photos of the kids! I love Valentine's Day.  I shared a bunch of old movie ideas for Valentine's.  I shared how my parents always made Valentine's Day special for me.  The kids sent Valentine cards.  I shared a bunch of Valentine gift ideas.

-Wyatt lost his first toot! The tooth fairy visited.



March

-On March 5th I found out I was pregnant! We took pictures and announced a week and a half later! Read the Baby #5 story here!

-I visited an antique mall with my mom and sister (the day before I took a test and found out I was pregnant!).

-I thought I should share a day in the life post with four before we announced we were having FIVE, so you can read that here.

-I secretly watched a lot of TV in the week and a half before we announced, to distract myself from my excitement and early pregnancy symptoms.

-Gwen surprised me with a paper bracelet one morning and it pretty much made my day!


-We made a difficult decision to search for a new church.



April


-We took a trip out to visit our rancher friends and had such a beautiful time visiting them!  My dear friend Holly also gave me a turntable, which I have wanted for a very long time!  Finding records to play on it has been one of my favorite things this year!

-Had an ultrasound on April 12th and saw our sweet baby moving on the screen!  I turned 8 weeks pregnant and felt like I was already starting to show!  I turned 10 weeks pregnant and bought some maternity pants (already).

-Celebrated Easter and did a bunch of Good Friday/Palm Sunday things with the kids!

-Got a new couch cover, which was very exciting.

-Lots of trips to the museum and zoo.

-The exhaustion really hit this month. I was so tired in the first trimester this time.

-I wrote about helping Clarice adjust to the new baby, and I'm happy to report now that she has done amazing with Georgie!



May


-I finally shared all my audiobook secrets on the blog!

-We went on vacation to Arizona! I brought a bunch of books. Saw Mesa Verde, the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Lake Powell, and Meteor Crater.

-We visited my grandpas' graves in advance of Memorial Day. It was neat to let me kids see all the headstones and talk about how men have died for our freedom.

-Celebrated my first Mother's Day as a mom of five on the road to Arizona!



June

-Derek finished our porch extension! It turned out beautifully.  We also got new appliances!

- I shared a little bit about our previous year of homeschooling kindergarten with preschoolers and toddlers underfoot.

-We visited the church we would end up choosing as our new church home, even though we didn't make a final decision then!  We also enjoyed a lovely park day that same day.

-Celebrated my birthday! Entered the last year of my 20's.



-Went to the homeschool conference and finalized my curriculum picks for first grade.



July

-We found out the gender of Baby #5 and had a gender reveal party!



-Derek and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary.

-Chopped my hair off and got new summer makeup.

-Decided to do a maternity capsule wardrobe for the remaining months of my pregnancy.

-Went to a family reunion on Derek's dad's side!

-After visiting at least ten churches over the last several months, we finally decided on our new church home!



August

-I sent in a letter to apply for an inactive status on my dental hygiene license.

-I felt like I started nesting at the end of July and beginning of August.  I organized a lot, and drank a lot of coffee, and watched a lot of TV.


-I flew out to New Orleans to meet Derek, since he was there at a work conference! It was a wonderful trip!  We counted this as our "babymoon" since we never got to have one with any of the other kids.

-Wyatt started first grade at home!


-I started our baby's quilt.

-Went to visit the city's botanic gardens.



September

-I talked a barista out of a pumpkin spice latte on September 1st.


-Finished the baby's quilt in record time! Finished putting the nursery together.

-Went on a gorgeous fall hike.

-Went Christmas shopping!

-Got our maternity pictures taken by my dear friend. It was pretty much my dream maternity photo session.

-I discovered the joys of making play dough and wearing leggings.

-I made a fall wreath with felt flowers for our front door.

-In case you couldn't tell by now, this was definitely a nesting month.  I finished a ton of pre-baby to-do's and thought of a few more.




October

-I decided to do a blog-every-day challenge in October on memory-keeping.  Wrote a lot of thoughtful posts as part of it, and it was fun to just blog without over-thinking it.


- I tried to take the kids on separate "mom days" before the baby came!

-We went to our dental office's fall festival and the kids got their first taste of mini golf. Clarice especially took it very seriously.

-Derek took Gwen on a princess movie date and she loved every second of it!

-Derek took Wyatt to his first CU game.

-I started an Etsy shop (oops, did I forget to mention that? I did.).


-I told many, many people that I was sure we were definitely going to our due date.

-Georgiana Bea was born on October 30th, two weeks early!



November

-We headed home from the hospital on November 1st!

-I suffered through a lot of back/shoulder pain for the first couple weeks postpartum, which was weird, but Georgie was a dream baby and started sleeping through the night at a couple weeks old.

-Spent most of the month hanging around the house and settling in with our sweet girl! But Derek and I did go out to a movie on November 10th and everyone who saw us was quite impressed. Georgie was declared the "cutest baby ever" by the concessions clerk.

-Celebrated Thanksgiving with Derek's family!


-I attempted to go postpartum jeans shopping.

-Georgie turned one month old.



December

-More hanging around the house and settling in. 

-Lots of Christmas gatherings. 

-Sugar cookie decorating (twice, because the first batch got ruined with sour frosting flavoring). 

-Made a gingerbread house with the kids on Christmas Eve Eve.

-GEORGIE SMILED!



-Rang in the New Year with a two month old!


So here we are, on the last day of the day of the year. Today is that day in the middle, when we all are looking back and forward at the same time. We look forward to everything we think will happen in the year ahead, but the year before is still fresh, reminding us that we can never really know. Every year holds some surprises. I didn't suspect on last December 31st that I'd be holding the best kind of surprise before the 2017 year was out!  What an unexpected blessing this whole year has been.

So today I'm looking back with gratitude on the beauty of God's plan for our family as it has played out over the last 12 months...and I'm looking ahead with anticipation for what the next 12 months might hold. Maybe there will be unexpected joys, maybe unexpected sorrows, but I'm so thankful that God is in His heaven, with His gracious hand over it all.

Happy New Year, friends!  May His faithfulness be more apparent to you than ever in 2018 - or if you've never put your trust in Jesus to save you, I pray that this is the year you will.


My Darling Gwen, You Are Five.



Dear Gwen,

I'm sitting here on the evening of your fifth birthday to write this letter.  I can't believe you are five years old!  You have grown before my eyes in so many ways this year, and I see your unique personality coming out more day by day.

My favorite thing about you right now is how much you love to laugh.  

You are constantly making jokes or coming up with funny games to play with your brothers and sisters, and I often hear your laugh ringing through the house (or the car).  You are such a little extrovert, but at the same time, when you are in a new environment you can be pretty shy, with just a quiet smile on your face. 

Something you seem to be especially good at is any gymnastic-type activities.  You'll come running into the kitchen and ask me to come watch you, and then you'll flip upside down and backwards off the bed, or do an almost-cartwheel, or prop yourself up against something into a "head stand".  You love to dance, especially if it's like a ballerina.  I bought you a book this year with ballet positions in it, and you ask me to put on music so you can practice your "skeels".

I would be remiss if I didn't take a chance here to mention your memory.  You remember the words to an impressive amount of songs for a five year old.  You even know the words to songs I don't know (thanks to Dad listening to old '80's songs in the car with you!).  Lately I've been able to watch you apply your memory skills to Bible verses and catechism questions, and it gives me so much joy to hear you hiding God's word and truth in your heart.

Almost every morning I come upstairs to find you drawing something, or creating something out of paper.  It's like you just have all this creativity bundled up inside you, waiting for a quiet minute when it can bubble over.  I can't wait to see everything you make and do with that creativity, Sweetheart.

Whenever I ask someone to grab us a book to read, you are the first to jump up and pick one out.  It is fun to see what kinds of books you gravitate toward, because I realize that they are the same types of books I loved when I was a girl.  You've been asking to learn to read, and I am so excited to share all my favorite books with you as you grow!  We are going to have so much fun with kindergarten this year.

One of the sweetest character traits I see you developing is your eagerness to help.  I can't even remember a time when I asked for your help and you weren't completely happy to do the task.  I especially love to see the way you have jumped into helping your little siblings with both feet.  You love being a big sister, and you've been such a help and joy to me since we added the baby this year.  You have such a giving heart, and you do every task with a cheerfulness that amazes me. I could learn a lot from you, my sweet darling.  God truly gave me a wonderful gift when He gave me you, and I am so blessed to have the privilege of being your mom.  

I love you always,  

Mama


The Christmas My Camera Missed



I didn't get a good picture of me and Georgie yesterday.

I was upset about it last night.  I couldn't believe I failed to get a non-fussy, non-blurry picture with my baby daughter on her first Christmas morning!  I rely on my pictures to be my memory-keepers, because I feel like I don't remember things if I don't have pictures of them.  Some tears might have been shed (and I partially blame exhaustion and postpartum hormones).

Once I settled into it a bit though, I realized that maybe I don't remember things as well without a picture, but maybe that's partly because I take so many pictures.  I let the camera do the work for me instead of taking a second to memorize the moment.  And maybe I need to hold the pictures a little more loosely and hold the mental snapshots a little more tightly.  Because there are some things a picture doesn't capture.

Like the grin that jumps to my face when my kids can hardly sit still for excitement, and my newborn's head bobbing around trying to see everything with her wide eyes.

Like the excitement on the kids' faces when they bring the presents they picked especially for me.

Like settling in on the couch to feed Georgie and watching the kids (and Derek) construct train tracks, and build race cars out of legos, and arrange furniture in a dollhouse.

Like playing Scrabble with my husband, and drinking wassail while listening to our new vinyl record of old songs on the turntable.

Like having my baby fall asleep on my lap while the last of the wrapping paper flies.

Like the translucent (but long) eyelashes that brush her tiny little cheeks.  Like the feel of her breath, rising and falling, while snow falls and joyful noises sound in the background.

Like all the kids tucked away in bed, listening to the account of the birth of our Savior one more time before we turn out the lights.




















Overall, it was a lovely Christmas, and I'll store up all the images I missed with my camera in my heart.

Did you all have a good Christmas?

All The Christmas Favorites - A Survey



This has been such a fun Christmas season!  I didn't expect that this year.  I thought we'd be a lot more stressed with balancing Christmas preparations and a newborn, but it's been the opposite - I've kept my expectations low, and it's ended up being the least stressful Christmas I've had in a while.

Unfortunately that also means there are things that didn't happen quite in the ideal timeframe...like this Christmas survey I saw several weeks ago. I am just now sitting down to fill it out, and it's certainly made the rounds in blogland already!  But here we go anyway, just for fun.

1. Real tree or fake tree?  We always go with fake.  I have one vague memory of getting a real tree as a child, with impressions of wet feet, crying siblings, and a tree turning brown in our backyard until springtime.  I've never felt that it was worth the effort as an adult, so we just do fake trees.  I will say that I wish fake trees smelled like real ones though.  Someone told me once to get a real wreath to enjoy that evergreen smell, and I thought it was a brilliant idea, but it's one of those things forever on my Christmas to-do list and never crossed off.

2. Favorite Christmas cookie?  I have a particular fondness for soft ginger cookies (I love to enjoy them with a cup of tea), but my favorite is probably snowdrop cookies!  Easy, delicious, and gluten-free even (for my gluten-free friends, because personally I love my gluten).

3. Home on Christmas morning or travel? In the last couple years we have started staying home on Christmas Day, and it's the best.

4. Clear or colored lights?  I no longer have to decide between the two, because last year we sprung for the expensive strands of LED lights that can change to any color we want!  I will say, I am not a huge fan of the white light setting though, because they are almost fluorescent, so our downstairs tree still has regular clear lights.

5. Send Christmas cards? Yes, yes, yes!  

6. Favorite Christmas present received? Hmm.  I hate this question.  It's kind of depressing that I don't remember most of my Christmas gifts over the years.  My most memorable and favorite is probably when Derek had a star named after me, the year I was pregnant with Wyatt.  I might have cried.

7. Favorite Christmas present given? I hate this question too.

8. Stockings or no stockings? Yes, but in recent years we haven't put much effort into stocking stuffers.  Stocking stuffers can really eat into the Christmas budget!  And we are on a tight budget (five kids, you know).

9. Christmas PJs? I have tried to buy the kids Christmas pajamas in years past, but this year I let that one go.  It was a good decision.  I just can't do everything.  Thankfully our sweet brother and sister-in-law send pajamas to the kids as part of our advent, and the kids are so excited about their nutcracker pajamas this year!



10. Favorite Christmas carol? I always liked "Hark The Herald Angels Sing", but "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day" is another one I like.

11. Favorite holiday tradition?  Derek and me sitting with our sparkling cider on Christmas Eve after all the presents are put out for the kids.  Think that final scene in "A Christmas Story".  It's Christmas-y and romantic, and gives us a much-needed moment of quite before the Christmas morning flurry.
 
12. Early shopper or last minute? This year we were early shoppers, and it was wonderful!  I think I'm going to shop early from now on.

13. Favorite Christmas movie or t.v. show? I love "The Nativity Story" movie (we make sure to watch it every year), and my second favorite is probably "A Christmas Story".  I also can't help but like "Christmas With The Kranks".

14. Favorite holiday beverage? Eggnog or wassel!

15. Cookies and milk for Santa? When I was a kid we always picked our best-decorated sugar cookie (usually the one that was most drowned in frosting) and left it out for "Santa", who we really knew was my dad.  My poor dad.  He had to eat three over-frosted sugar cookies every Christmas Eve!  Probably quite the sugar rush.  I haven't really had the kids put out cookies for Santa yet, because they are not all old enough to remember that "Santa" is really Derek, and I don't want to make it confusing before we are all on the same we-just-like-to-pretend-for-fun page.


Everyday Watercolor Review - Highly Recommend




(Affiliate link below.)

This fall, before I had Georgie, I decided to try to get better at watercolor painting.  I have dabbled in it for a couple years, but I haven't been consistent about practicing at all.  I love the look of watercolor and it's one of those things that I know I need to practice more consistently in order to get better.  I signed up for an online class this fall, and I snagged Everyday Watercolor by Jenna Rainey as soon as I saw it!

This book is a thorough introduction to modern watercolor painting.  Rainey explains her choice of supplies and color theory in the introduction, and then she jumps right into 30 days worth of watercolor projects designed to help you develop your own painting skills.  I loved that Rainey didn't just tell you how to paint each project, but she really explains the reasoning behind the different techniques that she uses so you can take them and apply them to different subjects.

The book is also just gorgeous to look at.






I really appreciated how Rainey guides the reader into thinking about the shapes of the subjects and how the light should fall, and I am excited to practice.  I love Rainey's style of painting, and this book is perfect if you would like to learn to paint in a similar style.  After reading this book I feel like learning to pain in watercolors is that much more attainable. 

Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to read this until after Georgie was born, and I haven't been able to actually sit down with paint between adjusting to five kiddos!  But one of my goals for the new year will be to get back into practicing, and I'm excited to work through all the projects in this book.  I'll hopefully share some of the projects in 2018 - my goal is at least one a week!  Highly recommend if you are interested in the watercolor medium.

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

The Austen Escape Review



(Affiliate link below.)

I've only read one other book by Katherine Reay (Dear Mr. Knightly), and I really enjoyed it, so I was excited for the opportunity to read another one of her books for review!  Though the publisher is Christian, I wouldn't say Reay's novels are Christian or even religious at all - but they are clean, sweet stories, usually with a little romance thrown in.

The Austen Escape is about an electrical engineer, Mary, who has a crush on a consultant at work, Nathan.  She also has a tumultuous relationship with her childhood best friend, Isabel, but Mary ends up going with her to England anyway for an Austen-era experience at a house in Bath.  While they are there, Isabel has a nervous breakdown and thinks she is actually living in the early 1800's, and Nathan shows up to help Mary.  

I would say I enjoyed this book, but I thought it could have been stronger.  While in Bath, Mary works through a lot of her own internal feelings about the way Isabel treats her, but I felt the ending left a lot of things unresolved.  Isabel has a moment of repentance at the end of the story for the way she treats people, but it didn't really feel like she and Mary were fully reconciled.  Through the story we also learn that Mary had emotional problems connecting with her mother growing up, and while I suppose knowing this about Mary added some depth to her character, I didn't really see how that struggle added to the story since there was no realization related to this in the end aside from a brief conversation with her father.

I also felt like the main character was a little hard for me to personally relate to, probably because of personality differences.  Mary's character was very introverted and analytical, and though Reay tries to convince us at certain places in the book that Mary is a "romantic at heart," I didn't get that at all.  Nathan seemed to be the one in the relationship that was more emotionally in tune with Mary.  Though I'm not saying that women can't be analytical or men can't be emotional, I do think that it is a less common relationship dynamic, and somehow with the way it was executed I had a hard time buying it.  

I also felt that some of the relationships with the peripheral characters could have been developed a little better, and it would have strengthened the story.  But then, there was a lot of emotional issues going on in this book, so maybe it would have been too much.  I just know that I would have liked the secondary characters integrated more into the main storyline, and Mary's inner turmoil focused a bit more.

Aside from some of my frustration with the elements listed above, I did actually enjoy the book!  Reay's novels are always slower-paced, but while they take longer to get into, they have a comforting vibe to them.  I also think it could be argued that the multi-faceted emotional side of the characters does add a real-life element to her books, because rarely do we have all of our emotions resolved and tied up into a neat little package in real life.  In that way her characters and situations are really believable.  

I really liked the ending and thought it was nicely done, though I wish I could peek a little further into the future and make sure it all turned out well long-term!  Maybe she'll give us a glimpse of some of her characters in future books? (Katherine Reay, if you are reading, that's a request!  Because I will pick up more of your books in the future.)

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

My No-Stress Christmas To-Do List




Okay, maybe "no-stress" is a bit ambitious, but my goal is to keep my Christmas to-do's as low-key as possible this year!  Here are a few things I would like to squeeze in.  If they get done before Christmas, that's great, but I also love the idea of celebrating the whole yuletide this year and extending the fun activities beyond the 25th too.  So if some of this doesn't get done, we're just going to celebrate Christmas until January!

1. Gingerbread House.  The kids all requested a gingerbread house this year, so I want to make sure that happens.  Derek put the structure together last night, and we're hoping to get to the decorating this week!

2. Christmas Cards.  I addressed cards to all the critical people, like family, and I'm just going to keep this low pressure and either 1) write a few addresses here and there as I have time or 2) just focus on returning cards to people who send them to me.  

3. Baking.  There really isn't any way to simplify the work of baking, so my goal is just to do one type of cookie a couple times a week until Christmas, and then freeze them.  I've already got ginger cookies in the freezer.

4. Finish our stack of Christmas books.  I rented a whole stack of Christmas picture books from the library,and we are slowly working our way through them!  The kids are so excited every time I pull one out.  We also got this adorable book from Tommy Nelson to add to our permanent collection!





Christmas Blessings has a different Christmas poem on each page, and my plan is to pick this up this week and read one poem a day to the kids.   The poems are sweet celebrations of different aspects of Christmas.  I think my littler ones will especially like this book, because the illustrations are so cute, and it would be fun (and easy) to even memorize one of these poems with the kids!  I also love how so many of the poems point in some way back to the reason we celebrate Christmas as Christians, which is to remember what Christ has done for us through His birth, and later his death and resurrection! This book is a great starting point for reminding little ones of that.

5. Wrap Presents.  I have a couple presents left to wrap for my extended family, but I'm happy to report that Derek and I knocked out most of the present-wrapping before Georgie arrived!  So there is not much left to do here.

6. Advent.  My brother-in-law and sister-in-law make doing advent with the kids so easy, so this one is more for me to remember to do my own advent devotionals each day!  As I wrote last week, I have to make time for focusing on Jesus at Christmas, or I start to resent all the Christmas to-do's instead of celebrating the joy of His birth.

Notice one thing that is not on the list is shopping!  I am very happy to have all of that done early this year, but if you are still struggling for some gift ideas, I've got a post on Tommy Nelson idea with gift ideas for boys that will last!  Read and tell me what you think. 

What do you have left to do before Christmas?

Note: I received a copy of Christmas Blessings for free from Tommy Nelson in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Finding Christmas Joy As A Grown-Up




The kids have been asking me every day how many days are left until Christmas.  I have to say, it brings back memories of my childhood, when it felt like Christmas would take so long to arrive.  The anticipation was almost too much!  Ah, childhood.  We made paper chains the other day for the countdown, so I haven't had to answer the questions as often.

I've mentioned before how Christmas is usually filled with more stress than joy for me as an adult, but this year feels different.  After six years of Christmas as a mom, nine years of Christmas as a married lady, this year I finally feel like I'm figuring it out.

Being due with our fifth baby so close to the Christmas season definitely has had something to do with it I think.  Not only did I get started on Christmas to-do's earlier, but I have overall put less pressure one myself to do everything this year, and I feel the difference.   So, I have to write down what is working for me, so hopefully repeating it next year will bring about the same results of less stress, more joy!  

Buy presents early.  

I bought all of the presents early this year because I wanted to finish all my shopping before Georgiana was born.  I don't think I realized how much stress present shopping causes me when I save it for December.  It has been so nice to not be out and about so much so far this year, and I feel less stressed about finances since most of the purchases are already made.

Do all the Christmasy things as soon as I feel like it.  

I used to feel like I had to save all the Christmas activities until December, and that they had to be made into a big production.  This year I am spacing things out a little more and doing all the Christmas things as the mood strikes.  Example: Christmas cookies.  If I feel like baking Christmas cookies with the kids early in December, we'll just bake whenever the mood strikes and freeze them for later.  If we feel like wrapping presents and listening to Christmas music in November, why not?  It's more fun to do Christmasy things when we feel like it, instead of "saving" the Christmas fun to the point of procrastination and then getting stressed out when we have to squeeze it all in.

Take the family picture early.  

I'm continuing my strategy of taking a family Christmas picture before our actual Christmas gatherings.  If I get everyone dressed up in their Christmas clothes and get some good pictures on a low-stress day, then I don't feel like I have to try to wrangle everyone together for a family picture on days when we are actually going somewhere.  I can just enjoy being present and not worry about it, since I know we already got a good picture of the family at Christmas.

Cut out the non-essentials.  

I don't know why it took me so long to realize that I don't have to do all the Christmas things.  I'm learning to be a little more particular about what we choose to participate in at Christmas time, because it's a lot easier for me to enjoy the Christmas season if we have more days when we aren't doing anything specific.  When we all have more room to breathe, the Christmas fun happens more naturally, and it's a lot less stressful on me.  

I also think one of the reasons I have had a hard time enjoying Christmas is because I rush around so much, trying to make everything perfect, and I don't allow myself to have time to just relax and reflect on why we are celebrating in the first place.  Having a newborn this year has given me the perfect excuse not to do things. I am enjoying Christmas so much more since deciding to say no and allowing myself enough mental rest to reflect on our Savior.  Which brings me to my last point.

Prioritize Advent.  

It's tragic really, how often I let this get overlooked in previous years in favor of all the more commercial aspects of Christmas.  I think having the shopping done before the season started has really given me the space I needed to focus less on things and more on our Savior.  He is the reason our family celebrates Christmas in the first place, after all.  

I am doing this advent devotional, and listening to my favorite Christ-focused Christmas songs, and I've been spending a lot of time reflecting on why He came (to seek and save sinners) and my part in that (the great commission).  Of course I did advent stuff in years past, but I think the fact that so much of my other Christmas prep is already done this year has left me more space to keep advent in the "because I want to category", instead of the "I have to do this or my kids won't remember that Christmas is about Jesus" category.  I am convicted that I even let the Lord get relegated to the "have to" category during Christmas.  If other things have to take a backseat for our family to have the time and space it takes to focus on Jesus, well, that's what we'll do!  It's as it should be, even especially at Christmas time.  

As I've guarded my time a little more this year, and given more of it to the Lord, I feel the joy that I've been missing in years past coming back a little.  It makes sense.  He is the only true source of Christmas joy, after all.  Everything else ends up being a disappointment eventually, but in the gift of Jesus's birth and sacrifice for us - that's where the joy is.  

And it only took me nine Christmases as an adult to figure that out.


















Do you do anything to guard your time at Christmas?  How do you make sure the focus stays on Jesus during Christmas season?
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