Coventry Carol

I’m excited and thankful to have taken part in Headpiece Filled With Straw‘s 25 Days of Christmas for the third time – this year with an oboe multitrack of my favorite Coventry Carol arrangement.

Head over to Headpiece Filled With Straw to listen.

For more on sorrow in the midst of joy at Christmas, take a look at these posts:
Life and Death at Christmas
The Problem with Holly Jolly Christmas Songs 
Christmas Music for a More Sober Joy

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Backyard: Fall

There wasn’t a lot going on in Fall in our yard, but what did happen was surprising – roses, snow, and wind!

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A surprise November rose!

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My camera was having issues but we had snow in early November.
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UGH.

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And then a wind storm blew over the tomato plants. I can’t remember when but at some point we went out and picked all the green tomatoes and made green tomato salsa.

November

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The girls and I were outside raking leaves and we found a rose on another rose bush!

The two big November things were potty training and a trip to my grandparents’ for Thanksgiving.
We were not expecting to be potty training but she told us she wanted to wear underwear so we jumped at the chance since she has been so resistant previously.

Lessons learned:
– less messy but more exhausting than expected
– don’t give her a warning that it’s almost time… She will take that as a hint to pee now in her panties.
– she needs a lot of non-potty time attention
– teething baby sister also needs more attention
– papa is a miracle worker

This podcast and this blog post (not the series; we didn’t use this method) were so helpful in preparing me for it!

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Horrible photo, but I finally made the one recipe in Jerusalem we had skipped due to not being able to find turnips and beets out of season in Japan. My childhood favorite, pink pickled turnips!

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SNOW. Twice. In the first week of November. Ugh.

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Bubble wrap occupied her very well on our walk!

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Making almond roca for some early Christmas presents.
It took longer to cook than the recipe said, but was so easy and turned out beautifully!

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We still have some warmer, clear blue skies, but mostly grey days now.

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Thanksgiving preparations at my grandparents’. We had a restful almost-week down with my family and extended family.

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Enjoying the last of the crunchy leaves.

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It does occupy her well!

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Turkey bullion! I make stock and then boil it down and freeze it in cubes.

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Got the wassail ready to simmer and we hopped in the car to go pick a tree! I had never gone to a tree farm for a tree so we wanted to do that this year… and because the forecast is now rain forever, we decided not to wait for good weather.
This year for wassail I just dumped in some cider we had in the freezer, frozen cranberries, an orange, and some whole cloves and cinnamon sticks, and we simmered it during nap time.
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They didn’t have any u-cut ones that were small enough for our budget and home, but we found a beautiful, feathery one that was the perfect size and price. The branches are so soft, but that also means that they aren’t as sturdy so the heavier ornaments were a bit difficult to put up. And we didn’t want to buy more ornaments so the back is basically empty, but you don’t see it unless you’re in the back yard.
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This silver aspen leaf was a birthday gift I picked out last time we were in the Rockies (thank you, Mommy!), which was also the last time I saw my great Uncle and my cousin Kristen, both of whom passed away last year, so it’s become not only my prettiest ornament but also the most special. This year I thought of Kristen often as it’s my first Thanksgiving in the US where it has been really Fall in a long time, and the last few Fall-weather USA Thanksgivings were with Kristen. It made me sad, but also made me really long for seeing her again in Heaven where she will have a new body that will be able to partake in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb without pain.

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And this is our Japan ornament!

Hymns of the month// still reviewing Children of the Heavenly Father // Sleepy Eyes (a favorite lullaby)

favorite recipes// our favorite Paleo chocolate cake // cultured dairy (though the creme fraiche didn’t really work) // sourdough pie crust // sourdough pumpkin pancakes // braised French onion chicken // pasties // chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream (used 1 c cream and 2 c milk instead of coconut milk) // chocolate sourdough cake (my favorite chocolate cake!) // no-knead sourdough bread // salsa verde // plantain gingerbread (left out any sweetener other than the plantains and molasses) // pork roast // combined this and this for a delicious Thai yellow curry soup! // almond roca //

best of online// smartphone dystopia // why church shootings don’t intimidate the church // why we can rejoice that marriage will end // momma, Jesus invites you to come and rest // tea blending // a mother’s microbial gift (did you know mom’s body tailors milk based on the bacteria in a nursing baby’s mouth?!?) // how does your body know you’re full? // James White’s Keys to Effective Debating // can my son be friends with white people? // look up: trading introspection for awe // love the life you never wanted // 14 Secrets of US Postal Service Carriers // Lessons Learned on Sexual Abuse (Newheiser) // my biggest mistake as a mother // WWJD about transgender? // miserable millenials (video) // aborted baby parts in vaccines // learning the lost language of lament (part 3. All of this series is good!) // this has some good tips on sourdough bread (video)

reading of late// The Lifegiving Table (Clarkson) // Gilead // Sanctification (Powlison) // a few short stories from a P.G. Wodehouse Anthology // The God I Love (Joni) // Different (Clarkson) //

thinking about// a gem from Sanctification: “God is light so bright that no man can dwell in His presence. God is love so tender that He makes His dwelling place with man.” // the pride and guilt that minimalism can take on: “We know that we don’t deserve more than another person, but we also know that we have more than another person. And so in an attempt to deal with this guilt, we can pursue a form of asceticism, all the while keeping ourselves at the center of the conversation… we miss the fact that even the ability to embrace a minimalist lifestyle is based in abundance.” (from Humble Roots) // rest isn’t the same as an empty schedule, but is relinquishing control and letting Him be God // loving my children > being on time // Christmas lights are wonderful no matter what, but when you’re so far North that it’s dark when you wake up and dark long before dinner time, there’s a whole new wonder and worth to them //

what brings joy// dough // the girls making each other laugh // Ezra’s long weekends

Lessons on PPD from a Paraplegic

In July, I read various articles by and about Joni Earekson Tada on the 50th anniversary of her diving accident. I remember watching her movie as a kid and had read other things by and about her, but to hear her pretty much say that she wouldn’t change what she’d gone through was mind-blowing to me as I was coming out of PPD. How in the world could I ever say that about PPD?

In October, I listened to her talk about how more than healing from paralysis she needs healing from sin. That really resonated with me, as I could see that PPD had dredged up so much awful stuff from my heart that went way beyond the immediate depression, and God was working on all of that in addition to PPD.

I kept glancing at The God I Love, a book by Joni that had been a Christmas present years earlier that I had read and shelved as something that was interesting but not really something I had deeply connected with. When Joni was announced as WORLD Magazine’s Daniel of the Year, I finally reached for it, and it was another piece in the PPD puzzle.

I read it the week before Thanksgiving, and the same questions kept rolling around in my mind. How could I ever be thankful for PPD like Joni was for her accident? Would being thankful for it be admitting PPD – something so dark and God-forsaken – was something good? Could I ever come to a place where I would choose to go through it again for what God worked through it?

The third question is one that only time will answer. It may be “over” but I shudder at the thought of what was going on a year ago, while knowing that those exact same circumstances will never repeat.

A quote from both the book and WORLD’s article more or less answer the first two questions:
“God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves.”
Postpartum depression is not something I ever have to call good. It’s not something I ever have to think of as something God loves. The book also talks about our suffering – wheelchairs or PPD – not being things that we embrace or accept, but as being jackhammers obliterating our sin and sheepdogs snapping at our heels, pushing us to God – who we DO embrace.

We may be called to be joyful in trials because of what they produce in us, to accept His sovereignty in bringing us difficulty instead of running from suffering… but that doesn’t mean we ever have to call things like PPD and paraplegia good.
The fact that God can use them for good isn’t about there being inherent good in the suffering, but about a God that is so incredibly good that He can turn even the darkest evil – which isn’t PPD or paraplegia, but the death of His Son – into the greatest good. And if He can do that with the cross, how much more with the daily suffering we face on earth?

Advent Plans 2017 + Christmas Favorites

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Since our Jesse Tree ornaments are only partially done, I made a list of things to do with S for Advent this year. She’s 3, so while a lot is over her head still, there is a lot she can understand and participate in. I wanted to have activities that will help all of us grow in delight, wonder, and worship as we anticipate Christmas, and hopefully in that anticipation point her (and ourselves!) towards His purpose in coming and longing for His second coming. I also wanted to find small ways we could be a part of our community and even lift others’ burdens.
Some of these are taken from Preemptive Love’s 25 Days of Peace from last year, and I will probably be reviewing some of my past Advent writings as well, which you can see here.

I wrote out these ideas on strips of construction paper and we made a paper chain and will take one off the chain every day, in addition to reading one chapter from the Jesus Storybook Bible (not our first Toddler Bible choice but the number of chapters fits better with Advent) and memorizing Joy to the World and Luke 2:10-11.
These may be reordered as our calendar fills!

What are you doing with your littles for Advent this year?

1. get a Christmas tree
2. decorate, while drinking Wassail and eating gingerbread.
3. wrap presents
4. mail presents
5. write out/decorate our memory verse
6. make paper snowflakes
7. watch the Nutcracker
8. Make hot chocolate (we often throw a banana in the blender with 1 c milk and 2 Tbsp cocoa then heat)
9. pay it forward (not sure where this will be yet)
10. decorate pinecones with glitter
11. pick up trash & greet people on our walk
12. tell the Christmas story with our Nativity Scene (which is awesome by the way – a creche crocheted by Syrian refugees, my parents got it for us last year).
13. go through our toys/clothes/books and donate some
14. bake cookies for Ezra’s work/neighbors
15. watch The Snowman
16. send mail to build someone up
17. walk/drive to see Christmas lights
18. go caroling
19. “dance party” to favorite Christmas music
20. color a Nativity Scene & listen to the Christmas part of the
21. Leave a thank-you for the mail carrier
22. drive to Grandma’s house
23. care package for the homeless/do something kind for someone who did something mean (these ones need more research for us in our area and S’s circle).
24. Christmas Eve service
More ideas here!
We also threw in A Charlie Brown Christmas, gingerbread dutch baby, and a church carol sing.

At the end of that I hope to spend some time considering how to keep giving into our community AFTER Advent! It’s good motivation to start doing these things but it’s something we should keep doing.

Favorite Christmas music:
Rescue’s The First Christmas
Kings’ Singers & Albrecht Mayer’s Let it Snow
Michael Card’s The Promise
Eden’s Bridge’s Celtic Christmas
The Nutcracker
Handel’s Messiah
Nativity Story Soundtrack
Joel Clarkson’s Midwinter Carols
Ola Gjeilo Winter Songs

Some background music from YouTube:
The Kings’ Singers
King’s College Choir
The Three Tenors

A Christmas Festival
Sleigh Ride
Boston Pops
London Symphony

Favorite Christmas Books
Three Christmas Journeys
Baby Jesus, Prince of Peace (Greene)
The Nutcracker (The one illustrated by Hague is our favorite for the “whole story” but Valeria Docampo’s is most similar to the ballet).
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree (Gloria Houston/Barbara Cooney)
Christmas in the Barn (Margaret Wise Brown)
The Little Drummer Boy (Ezra Jack Keats)
…and still searching! I’ll probably update this as the season progresses.

For more on Advent, especially with kids, check out these podcasts:
Risen Motherhood: Celebrating Advent with Little Ones
Storyformed: Following Jesus Through Advent

S’s Quiet Book

I never saw myself as someone who would make a ton of crafts for my kids, especially not of quiet-book scale or beyond crocheted hats. But I started wanting a quiet book for S to practice things like braiding, snaps, zippers, and buttons, and so decided to attempt making her a quiet book. I also wanted to include counting, shapes, and colors, and after browsing Pinterest this is what we ended up with.
We gave it to her for her birthday and she likes it but needs a fair bit of help. Ezra’s comment while I was making it about it occupying ME more than HER may be true! 😉 But it was fun to make and I realized I enjoy working with felt because you don’t have to hem it!

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Inspiration:
colorful Popsicle sticks
Abacus, shoe laces, phone
cookie shapes
picnic basket/place setting
vegetable patch
sewing quiet book pages
quiet book cover
pie weaving
mail box
clock & vest

It was more labor-intensive than I had expected, I think mostly due to there being more machine sewing than I had anticipated and less hand-sewing – I like having hand sewing as something to do while watching movies, etc. so I ended up having to put more sewing-only time into it. But any additional pages will be easier since we have all the supplies and I can whip them up for presents for birthdays, Christmas, etc. or make other covers to divide them up for multiple kids to use.

Future ideas – some more advanced for S, some easier for Ellie:
Maps – whether for cars/road or Atlas-style
Other shapes/color matching pages
Alphabet
weather

My next project is Jesse Tree ornaments – but I am not going to try to get them done for this year! I also have a rule for them that I can’t buy any supplies since I have so many bits and pieces. And we have tshirts to turn into a tshirt quilt…

Happy Thanksgiving

“When we have little and have lost much, Christ comes and reveals himself as more valuable than what we have lost. And when we have much and are overflowing in abundance, Christ comes and he shows that he is far superior to everything we have.”
John Piper

Thankful…
Being together
The way the girls grow and learn
God’s presence
A roof & four walls (and so much more) in the wind and rain
Feasting

We truly are overflowing in abundance, learning to love the Giver more than the gifts and use what He has given us to love others. And this week we are enjoying a restful time with my extended family.