Christmas

Christmas Card 2016

Merry Christmas! 

I hope this letter finds you well.  This Christmas, as I am typing this letter, I am looking at the same Christmas tree we’ve had for many years, with the same ornaments topping it, but with a vastly different view out of my window.  In the way news spreads in our digital age, I’m sure it is old news to you by now that we moved our family to Tennessee.

Due to the move, the new job, our new family member, Sibs (who joined us on May 23), and not finding time to work in fall family pictures into this craziness, I attempted, but ultimately failed at sending Christmas cards this year (I think the first one since we’ve been married??).  I gave it a valiant effort, but in 2016, it was just not meant to be.  So here is a little story for you instead, based on a family photo and probably what I would have said if I did.

Every day I look at this picture that was printed and placed on our bathroom counter as decoration.

This is our one professional photo from 2016. But the truth of it is, this photo was taken three days after Sibby was born…AKA our first full day home from the hospital.  Our photographer (who lives an hour and a half away) was in the middle of the move but offered to take us on anyway.  Our babe didn’t help us out any and decided to come 11 days late, therefore, we drove to the photographer’s house on the last possible day for it to work for her moving timeline.  On our way there, we had to stop in Indianapolis for a job interview for N.  The night before, I’d had a moment of panic when I realized that I had not planned any outfits for the girls for this session, nor for myself, so the morning was spent trying to pull everything together, adjust to the newest one’s schedule, and not be a minute late to the interview.

On the way there, our our van had an issue that required immediate maintenance, N had to cancel his interview, and the photographer kindly let us show up an hour and a half late (with my hair and makeup disheveled, not to mention the girls’ patience wearing thin, and Sibby wide awake).

I tell you this story because it greatly characterizes our year: a lot of stressful things happened, things didn’t go according to plan, sometimes I found myself grossly underprepared, some systems failed us that we had put our trust in (but ultimately everything worked out)

N had a “ton” of interviews (both in IN and TN, we weren’t sure where we would end up); we had a babyshe got really sick after she was born; while she was in the hospital, we found out we were moving to TN; we put our house on the market 2 days before we left on vacation with a 4 week old; on the way home from that vacation, we dropped N off, permanently, in TN; the girls and I went back to IN to try to sell our house, I kept up with the showings on my own, and it finally sold 5 months later; we learned the ins and outs of the crazy TN housing market and bought our house in August; MG started school early August and went to live with my parents and N; we moved in as a family on Labor Day.  And my head is still spinning.

A verse that became particularly meaningful to me this year was 1 Peter 5:6-7

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

I spent many fretful hours casting some cares upon the Lord this year, and in His perfect timing He answered those cares out of His great love.  If there is anything that 2016 has taught us is that He is faithful in all things.

Wishing you (and MYSELF) a restful, PEACEFUL 2017 surrounded by the ones we love,

-smk

A 2014 Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas from the Midwestern cornfields!

(Photo cred: Kimmy Howard Photography)

We hope this holiday season finds you happy and healthy.

We’ve had some big changes in our lives this year, including our view.

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The cornfields haven’t worn on us yet and we still find our new small town life kind of charming.  We’ve joined a church, converted all of our shopping/dining/doctors to local places and we even have changed the pronunciation of our town to match how the locals say it (emphasis on the second syllable).

 

Even though it hasn’t been quite a year yet, we’ve seen four seasons in our house (summer was our favorite) so it feels like we’ve been here long enough to call it home.  Our project list is still rather long but we feel pretty proud of all the work we’ve put into it so far (including, dormers, painted 75%, water filtration, fireplace, new carpet, stair runner, & outdoor playset).  And before this year’s out we are looking forward to new windows and N putting up built-in bookshelves.

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N loves to work in the little “workshop corner” of the garage when he has the time (in between doctoral work and actual work…).  He has made a few things for our house including a chicken coop (which we hope to fill in the spring…) and has also helped make quite a few plaques for my business venture.

My little Etsy shop kept me quite busy these last few weeks (especially as the holidays were approaching) but I have truly enjoyed the creative outlet.  Right now though, I’ve closed up for a few weeks as a break (both physically and mentally) was truly needed.

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It’s no secret that this year has been a challenge for us as well. MG’s endured a long sickness this summer that turned into a severe intolerance for dairy (and a few other trigger foods, but dairy being the main culprit).  Seeing her so sick (and not having any answers for a while) brought me to tears and really scared me.  I’m thankful to have a diagnosis now (gastroparesis) but I still get sad for her that she isn’t able to enjoy her old favorites (cheese and ice cream) and that she isn’t able to have a “normal” relationship with food.

 

Often when I found myself discouraged, I would look out our bedroom window and think “how could anybody be sad when this is their view?”  Even in the trials we have so much to be thankful for.

God’s blessings have been very evident to our family this year and I hope to yours as well,

-smk

 

Advent Musings

As we prepare our hearts this season during Advent, I often find my mind wandering to Mary.  In the great story, after all, she is a mother, and therefore the one I most relate to.

Reading through this story, I am left wanting more.  There are so many details missing and I find myself filling in the blanks.

What was Mary’s labor like?  Did she cramp and suffer through the ride to Bethlehem?  Or was God merciful on her, granting her Son a fast entrance?  (I’d like to vote in favor of the second option seeing as how the suffering for this child would most surface later in life.  Though perhaps an agonizing labor was to prepare her for what was to come….).

Did she bleat and moan in the safe presence of the animals?   Was she quiet and introspective, young but strong as the Scriptures seem to portray her?

I assume Joseph was there to rub her back and catch her Child in the absence of a midwife or mother.  Did this act bond them together, strengthening his love for this woman he had not known and this child that was not of him?  After the moment had passed, was she embarrassed by his presence?  Did he fumble around, feeling like an intruder on a helpless stranger?

I find it kind of God to allow Mary and Elizabeth to be with child at the same time.  Elizabeth, who had waited years for this moment, was just a few months ahead of Mary and had possibly watched many friends enter this stage of life prior to her.  As Mary was heaving alone in the darkness of the stable, were Elizabeth’s sage words running through her mind as a constant reassurance?  After He was delivered, was she wrapping Him remembering Elizabeth explain, “Now this is how you swaddle a baby, Mary”.  That is how I would like to think it happened.  My heart hurts for her to think she went through the moment alone…with only a man by her side that didn’t yet fully love her.

And finally, when Mary was told the Child she would be carrying, was she aware?  Did she go to the temple and search the Scriptures for the words from the Prophets?  Or did she close her mind to the future in order to enjoy the sacred moments she would be allowed with Him?  Was her motherly intuition strengthened with knowledge that their days together would be short?

I love all of the beautiful reminders of the miracle of Jesus’s birth this time of year and each year the story grows a bit more personal.

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I’ll be taking the next few days off as I’ve got some last minute Christmas outfits to sew up, a tree full of presents to open, a few holiday destinations to travel to, and an excited little girl to entertain.

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May your days be Merry and Bright as well,

 

 

Holiday Wrap-Up

Well, a little late, but better late than never, right?

Our holidays were filled with much love and joy.  Just the way we like ’em
From finding out It’s A Girl!

To celebrating two Christmases, plus our own little family one.

(one of MG’s many baby-related Christmas gifts.  Think she’ll still want to change diapers when Mayby comes?)

(who knew Elmo was so mulit-functional)

(our good little traveler)

To a “blizzard” of meager proportions (I kind of expected a blizzard to be more Laura Ingalls Wilder meets The Long Winter.  But I guess I’m glad it didn’t inhibit us from safely taking off on our travels the following day.)

(our apologies for the outfit, MG.)

(and for not being able to stop laughing at you)

(but you sure modeled it well)

(she wanted to help Daddy shovel the driveway :))

(following in his footsteps)

(snow!)

(love them)

To a New Year’s Eve celebration that got us home and in bed by 11pm (for the first time in years!  I can’t remember the last time I didn’t stay up until midnight to ring in the New Year).  But I guess this is just a sign that “we are getting old” as we were giddy with excitement to go to bed early.

Although, I do have to say, the local fireworks woke me up at midnight, so I did officially get to ring in 2013 right on cue: with N sleeping peacefully beside me, MG warm and cozy in her bed, and baby girl sweetly kicking her excitement.  I can’t think of a better way end to our year!

 

Tra-di-tion!

Don’t you just love this time of year?

 

From Thanksgiving, to MG’s birthday, and then finally to the culmination of Christmas, it is quite busy–but in a lovely way.  My to-do list has powered me through many a nap time; but right now it is full of only fun things, like: finish that one book before book club Christmas dinner, address Christmas cards, and embroider tree skirt.  The calendar is punctuated by nights out with friends, cookie and ornament exchanges,  living nativities, and Christmas parties.  Everyone is feeling festive and that means lots of extra time spent with friends and family.

 

A few weeks ago, we had a MOPS speaker that talked about Christmas traditions.She specifically said that she felt unqualified to speak about it because she didn’t think her family had many traditions. But the neat things was that when she started questioning her kids they listed off many things that she had never realized that they held so important about the way their family celebrated Christmas.
That night N and I sat around the dinner table for a lot longer than usual (it is a good night if we get 20 minutes of eating time before a little someone starts begging to be released :)).   I told him about the speaker’s family traditions and also the ones that came out of natural discussion at our table.  Some were funny, some were serious, some were dear and common.  We both felt like we also didn’t have many traditions, but when we starting thinking about the things we do exactly the same, year after year, we were amazed at how many we already had in place.
Some of our annual traditions include:
putting up decorations the weekend of Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving has been declared a very important and not-to-be-overlooked holiday in our house.  So we will give it the respect it is due and will wait to pull out the decorations and music until it is over.  And then we will go full-out Christmas.  No offense if you do it any other way…that’s just how we roll 🙂
listening to Christmas music non-stop.  Pandora is set to *NSYNC Christmas and we also have a meager collection of Christmas CD’s.  Not to be overlooked: my BIL has an awesome Christmas album.  It is currently on repeat in the car.
Christmas morning breakfast. The past few years, we’ve traveled on Christmas day for convenience sake.  To see my side of the family requires a road trip and there is usually less traffic and problems if you go on Christmas day.  Christmas eve is reserved for my in-laws.  But afterwards, N and I have exchanged our stockings and gifts and then had a big breakfast on Christmas morning.
Night at Bethlehem, Living Nativity, Breakfast in Bethlehem.  We aren’t always able to do all of these events every year, but we try to do at least one with MG.  She loves seeing the live animals and it will mean a lot more to her as she gets older.
Christmas cookies.   My mom has the BEST recipe.  We’ve made them most years and given some away to friends and neighbors.
Celebrating Advent.  Every year it has looked different.  One year I gave small gifts each day, one year it was only words of affirmation.  This year we are following a source I found online and doing verses each night. I am also following the She Reads Truth (claim to fame: SRT was co-started by my college friend Kacia!) Advent devotional.   It is definitely a great way to prepare for Christmas.  Along those same lines, we purchased One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham.  It is for children just a little bit older than MG but tells the Christmas story starting in the Old Testament and weaves everything together for His birth at the end.  Plus it has amazing illustrations.  I look forward to reading a section a night with MG + co. starting next year.
(the bottom half of our Advent calendar)
Watching It’s  a Wonderful Life with N.  Would you believe he had never seen it until we were married?  We both love it.
Observing Hannukah. N’s mom’s side of the family are Ashkenazi Jews.  She grew up going to temple and while they were not extremely Orthodox, she observed some Jewish traditions.  She converted to Christianity in college, as did the rest of her living family.  It is still a big part of her life, as she has been to Israel several times and has become passionate about sharing her heritage with her children and grandchildren.   The past few years we have observed the first night of Hanukkah with a traditional Jewish meal (including latkes and macaroons) and bless the LORD in Hebrew as we light the menorah.  Every time it gives me chills.  It is true that the LORD kept His promise to the Jews to not destroy them and out of the Jewish line came the Savior of the world.  Had it not been for Hanukkah, we would not have Christmas.

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After we discuessed our annual traditions, we talked about things that we want to incorporate with our kid(s) in addition to or in place of ones above. Like: looking at lights/Starbucks, making/each picking out an ornament each year, making a felt tree that they can decorate, and having a special Christmas breakfast and reading the Christmas story (Luke 2).  As far as Santa goes, he probably won’t be a big deal in our house, but we would definitely like to share with our kids the tradition of where Santa came from–St. Nicholas.  Maybe we will incorporate some “St. Nicholas” activities for them to do every year too.

The best part about this conversation was that we were able to talk about what we wanted our future family to look like.  What traditions we wanted our kids to focus on and what we hoped they would hold in their hearts when they looked back on Christmases past.  It made me a little weepy to think that this time next year, we will have a 3 year old who will understand so much more and truly be able to start getting excited about all things Christmas and also a little, unknown right now, 6-month old who will bring a whole new dimension to our family.  For some reason, having two kids (!) makes celebrating Christmas traditions as a family feel so much more important.
So, we hereby declare, that Christmas of 2012 will be the year where we sort through our traditions, add to the growing list, refine the ones that just won’t work anymore, and decide what is important for our family. I can’t wait to see the outcome!
Merry Christmas,