how to have a (brave) merry Christmas

"I'm just not looking forward to the holidays this year. I feel jaded by the whole thing."

When the holiday season kicks off with this type of conversation between you and your sister. 

How does one celebrate the joy of Christmas on days when your heart is too heavy? As if it's sitting stone-like in your chest, dark and cold. Afraid to beat again. Afraid of getting hurt.

Just afraid. 

This year, the search for our Christmas tree led us to a beautiful farm ten minutes from our home. It was oddly warm for this time of year. The sun draped on the shoulders of watchful hills as we sized up potential trees. 

Sometimes it feels like nothing will ever size up around here. 

How do you wrestle with the truth that the Christ-babe came to heal when  people you love are still laying busted and bleeding from living  life in a broken world? This weight in my chest aches. I've been wide awake at night lately crying out to Jesus for this one to find freedom, for that one to be healed, for this beloved one to rise from the ashes. 

Everywhere I look, we're cutting down trees to string up at home. All the while, lives I know are being sliced down and strung out too.

It seems folly doesn't it? To march outside during the onset of Winter; to celebrate anything when the whole of nature is quite literally dying around us. But maybe that's just exactly when we need to celebrate the most. Maybe it's less about waiting for the " happy feelings" to show up, and more about preparing for Christ to arrive. 

Perhaps preparing--in hopeful, stubborn faith--for the miracle to come, becomes part of the miracle itself. 

The grass is cold under our feet. I watch as a woodpecker lands in a walnut tree to my right. He flies off, bobbing in the wind like a cork in water.  I think maybe a lot of us are just trying to stay afloat too.

Behr looks at tree after tree and does that crinkle-face he makes when he's amused. For some reason, a forest of fir trees was something completely hilarious to our boy.  Watching him sparks a bit of light into the shade cast over my spirit. "A joyful heart is good medicine..." -Proverbs 17:22

Scout rides in the hollow on my chest, the same place Behr used to.  Enjoying her cosmic eyes and deliciously round cheeks remind me of how much I longed for days like just like this last year. 

We decided on our tree just as the day's last light was winking into the West hollows surrounding the farm. I stopped myself for a minute. Breathe this in. I thought.

"I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him from all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them." Psalm 34:4-7

I have to pocket light and truth when they're unavoidably evident. That way, on the days when darkness paces thick on the edges, I can have a match to strike for the torch I need to wield it off. 

As I'm writing this, our tree is sitting just there over my left shoulder. Once we stood it up in the living room, we laughed. Out on the farm, we didn't realize how big it was. 

Isn't the hope Jesus offers like that? It's more vast than we realize and kind of ridiculous in how it keeps showing up no matter how bleak things feel. 

So here I am, heart a bit heavy, spirit a bit wearied, but hopeful. People I know may be hurting, my anxiety might still be robbing me of confidence and rest, but the brave cheer of Christmas (of Christ coming, hallelujah!) is just what I need. And maybe you do too. 

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them a light has shined." Isaiah 9:2

here's to the chaos--in partnership with whirlwind

Don't let anyone fool you, life with multiple children is good. Like, so good. And it's also time consuming. And it's also magical. And it's also exhausting. Essentially, this lifestyle is a beautiful chaos of ups and downs, of breathtaking views and knee-scraping valleys. I need reminding on somedays but, this is what I signed up for. 

I wouldn't want anything less.

Ok, actually I maybe do want less. As in, less things in my life that add to the chaos of what it already needs to be. We're all about simplifying things over here. From our schedule, to the items we bring into our home. Simplicty is the overarching theme.

Enter the Whirlwind Backpack.

I initially reached out to Adina because I admired the 'look' of her backpacks but now, after using it for several weeks, I'm totally in love with how effortlessly it fits into our life. 

What we love about it:

  • The simply beauty.  I keep mentioning it but, since having kids, I get excited over products that we have to have anyway that are designed with beauty and functionality in mind. I love that we don't have to comprise on either with our Whirlwind Bag. 
  • The lightweight and compact design. Since we're already lugging two kids around, the last thing we need is a bulky diaper bag that's already heavy before we stuff it full of everything we need.
  • The primary zipper design that goes all the way down on both sides. It offers such easy access to everything inside. 
  • The two side pockets with elastic tops. They're both big enough to hold water bottles and sippy cups. But also secure enough at the top for me to slip my phone in if I need and know that it won't fall out.  
  • The capacity.  With how slim the profile is, I was pleasantly surprised to find how much we could fit in this bag. It holds everything we need for an outing with Scout and Behr with room to spare. 

We've taken our bag everywhere. From quick trips to run errands in town, to romping around in the mountains of Tennessee, to hiking in the park across from our house. It's held up through all that beautifully. At one point, it got stained up and I didn't get around to cleaning it for a week or too (because, well...kids) but when I finally did clean it, the stain lifted without any issues at all. 

It's also a totally "family style" diaper bag that blends feminine and masculine styles in such a way that both Jonathan and I can enjoy wearing it. 

As any mom knows, having kids means having learn how to do everything one handed. It gets even trickier once you start adding more kids. I so wish I would have had this backpack style diaper bag when Behr was born. It's much more functional! And, of course, if you've been around here any amount of time, you know how much I wear my kids. This backpack is a perfect compliment to that as well. 

I can't say enough how grateful I am for well-thought out products that we can incorporate into our everyday. As parents of little ones, we crave necessary products that have the ability to enrich and simplify our beautifully messy lives with the way they blend into our days. The Whirlwind Bag is just such a product. 

So, here's to this intense, soul-growing season of life. I have to choose to embrace it as it comes (like every hour some days, ha!). Bring on the sleeplessness, the gummy smiles, the emotional outbursts, the milestones, the toddler snuggles and baby coos. Give me the weight of them in my arms and the joy of them in my heart. This is exactly as it should be.

What a beautiful thought. 

expectations

I didn't get to see the ginkgo trees this year. 

Every Fall, I keep a watchful eye out for my favorite fan-leafed trees to don their gold coats. There's a particularly glorious row of ginkgos--at our Wal-mart no less--that gets set ablaze in every shade of yellow during Autumn.  I look forward to seeing it unfold every late October. 

It was the middle of November before I realized, "Wait. We haven't drove by to see them!" My sentimental heart twinged a little with disappointment. Well, it's too late now.  

Life hasn't been easy lately. I wouldn't call it particularly hard (just like, everyday life sort of hard). I'm a bit...weary. I simply feel as though I've been so deep in the trenches of nursing every two hours and potty training and coaxing to sleep and cutting grapes in half and tending to diaper rash and three year old emotions and hormonal adjustments and the time change that I'm missing the flashes of joy God has lovingly placed in this intense season. 

This past Tuesday, we made the worthwhile drive to Newport for some Carabello Coffee; our favorite little corner coffee shop just across the river from Cincinnati. We stepped from the van onto the cold sidewalk and soon found ourselves shuffling through a confetti  explosion of gold completely covering the street. 

Ginkgo leaves. 

A mosaic of Jesus' loving placed details spread thick right there at our feet. 

He made sure I got to see them after all

Inside Carabello, we sat at a square table with the bright afternoon sun leaking light through the windowpanes. Scout wobbled on Jonathan's lap while Behr played a game on a phone so we could sip our coffee in peace. I exhaled a little. The view from where I sat: our little family, the ones I get to love the most. All of us will never be this young together again. What a beautiful thing to partake in. 

She's got cheeks as round and fluffy-soft as cumulus clouds. We can't help but leave ten kisses on each one every hour. His inquisitive, connective spirit has rocketed in intensity since he turned three. I'm simultaneously playing an exhausting game of catch up and and in awe of the person he's becoming. 

Then Jonathan and I, we're tired. So tired. Have you ever tried to keep two beautifully needy humans alive, clean, fed and happy while also working demanding jobs while also trying to make sure your marriage doesn't shrivel up from neglect? It's hard, you guys. But I can't think of more worthwhile work. 

After a hot maple spice latte for me , an iced mocha for Jonathan, and a tiny cup of  "coffee" (almond milk) for Behr we walked back out into the crisp air. 

Behr threw a small tantrum when we took the phone away but quickly recovered when he got to hold Jonathan's hand to cross the street instead of being carried. We stopped where the ginkgo leaves had fallen for a few pictures. I knelt down to Behr's level to find him holding a single leaf in his ever growing but still baby-dimpled hands. "Is that for me, buddy? Oh, this is my favorite!" He nodded, a bit bashful that I was making such a fuss. 

I've got news for him: I'll always make a fuss over Jesus using other's to shout His love right when we need it most.

Ok, so maybe life currently isn't what I thought it would be. Maybe we're still figuring it all out as we go (I have a growing, relieving sort of suspicion that we're all still figuring out as we go).

Maybe I'm learning to stop holding onto my expectations and instead live expectant for whatever goodness God chooses to bring our way.