When Transition Becomes a Tradition

transition and tradition

I haven’t had a normal Christmas in a few years.

By normal, I mean waking up at my parent’s house, waking up my brother who I’ve convinced to stay the night at our parents’ place (mostly so I can wake him up at my leisure), opening stockings, having a special breakfast, distributing presents and opening them around the circle one at a time, hanging out with various members of the family, enjoying dinner, then reading one of my Christmas presents (because I invariably get at least one book) the rest of the evening.

The last Christmas I had like that was three years ago. Dating, marriage, and moving have all disturbed my normal when it comes to holiday traditions. Before that, college and loss created their own unique transitions. This year is no different. Baby James’ due date made flying to New York for Christmas (the plan before I became pregnant) a bit iffy. My parent’s travel schedule, which included Coeur d’Alene in November and then again in January, made it impractical for them to come out in December too. So, Tim and I will be spending this Christmas alone.

Alone. Initially that held all the bad connotation you might imagine. But the longer I sat with those plans as reality, the more I realized God had my best in mind.

You can read more about how transitions have permeated my holiday traditions over on Kindred Grace today. Bonus: the post includes the recipe for one of my favorite holiday foods!

My Christmasy Recommendations

The Best of Christmas

I’m in a festive mood today. I pulled out the holiday decor boxes and the tree we chopped down this weekend will finally get some trimmings tonight. The laundry I plan/hope to do later will most certainly be accomplished with Christmas music playing in the background.

Since I’m feeling so festive (and North Idaho is finally looking festive – aka, white), I thought I’d share a little Christmas recommendations round-up of my favorite holiday books, music, movies, and decor!

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Books for Advent

The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping The Full Love Story Of Christmas by Ann Voskamp

A beautifully designed Advent devotional with daily readings, meditations, and reflection questions to turn your heart and mind towards our Savior during this crowded season. I was not familiar with the Jesse Tree concept before beginning this book, but I love how it focuses on the family tree of Jesus. My favorite part of each day’s devotional is the “Unwrapping More Of His Love In The World” section where Ann gives a simple and practical action step to be an extension of God’s love that day.

The Women of Christmas: Experience the Season Afresh with Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna by Liz Curtis Higgs 

I love Liz Curtis Higgs’ Christian fiction but had yet to read any of her non-fiction before this Advent themed one. I’m enjoying her easy to digest thoughts about the different female perspectives of the Christmas narrative (though I haven’t quite finished it yet). There’s tons of Scripture throughout so it reads like a conversational commentary.

Books for Children (and Adults)

Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

I absolutely adore Amy’s first book, Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons, and the Christmas edition is more of the same, with a holiday twist: beautiful illustrations accompanying an ABC dictionary of sweet life lessons. I love keeping this on the coffee table during the Christmas season and will enjoy reading it to James next year (though he’ll probably just enjoy the pictures at that point…).

I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Holly Hobbie

I’m pretty much enamored by Toot and Puddle, two adventurous pigs who happen to be best friends. They are cute and thoughtful and utterly endearing. Toot is a traveler, Puddle is more the anxious sort. This story will have you rooting for both as they try to spend the holidays together. Let It Snow is also a charming Toot and Puddle Christmas story.

The Greatest Shepherd of All: A Really Woolly Christmas Story by Holly Gerth

I must have a thing for children’s books with cute creatures because I’m a huge fan of the Really Woolly sheep. The combination of the Biblical Christmas story and the facial expressions on these chubby sheep make me cry every time I read this book.

Christmas With Anne by L.M. Montgomery

If you find a copy of this, snatch it up. A friend sent one to me a couple years ago and I love to reread the compilation of holiday stories every Christmas. Though not technically for children, this would be a great read aloud for older kids. There are new and old stories, all told with the same innocence and heart that Montgomery infused into all her Anne books.

Music

  • How Many Kings is my favorite modern, Christ-centered Christmas song. The rest of downhere’s album is stellar too.
  • I’m semi-ashamed to recommend Justin Bieber (I blame youth ministry), but I do really enjoy his holiday album, Under The Mistletoe. It’s fun and danceable – perfect for your December workouts.
  • I got Wrapped In Red, the new Christmas album from Kelly Clarkson, this year and was not disappointed. Her original songs are catchy and her covers are well-done.

Movies

  • For some people, it’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. For me, it’s A Garfield Christmas. My Gramma taped it one year when I was in elementary school and my brother and I have watched it every year since. I think we have the whole thing memorized. I now have it on DVD and make my husband watch it with me.
  • Who doesn’t get weepy when the General walks in on his Christmas surprise? White Christmas is a classic in every sense of the word.
  • I realize Frozen isn’t a Christmas movie, however, the icy landscape makes it feel festive and holiday appropriate. Disney scored with this one – great values, loveable characters, wonderful story and animation. My favorite line comes from Olaf, the snowman: “It’s so cute. It’s like a little baby unicorn!”. If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure to 1. go see it and 2. stay for the ALL the credits.

Fun Christmasy Extras

I love simple gift wrap, especially when the base is kraft paper or something else natural looking – like this and this. It’s even better when the natural substance is cheap – like a paper bag.

Card Collage

Paper bags aren’t just good wrapping paper. They make awesome Christmas cards. When you make them like this, they have a built-in little pocket. Perfect for a gift card or cash.

Since frames are a dime a dozen at thrift stores, I love this idea for an inexpensive and unique wreath that could be customized so many different ways (think spay painted white with snowflakes, or gold with book page ornaments).

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One of my favorite decorations to put up is the simple garland my mom and I made last year out of fabric scraps.

For other festive ideas, check out my Christmas and Celebrate boards on Pinterest.

 

What are your favorite Christmas books, movies, music, and decor ideas?

Seasons {a mom’s reflection}

SEASONSI thought of many ways to introduce this post.

I could talk about how much I love my mom. I could talk about how moms have this uncanny way of knowing exactly what you need to hear. I could talk about how this message made me cry, the words meeting me and traveling with me on this primitive road.

But, the simplest thing to do is just explain.

My mom knew that I was struggling with the cold, struggling with Christmas, struggling with adjusting to this new season of life.  She sent me an email yesterday.  This is what it said:

Sovereign in all seasons. I have been contemplating that theme for awhile.  It was a particularly meaningful/challenging/powerful meditation as I decorated the Christmas tree on Sunday afternoon.  I’d put it off for over a week, having put the lights on a week ago.  Finallly decided I’d better just go for it, anticipating a significant emotional challenge: in 56 years, I have NEVER decorated a Christmas tree by myself.

SO… I put on the Christmas music, Greg had lit a fire and brought in the ornament box, and I prayerfully committed to choose joy and thanksgiving in this new season.  It was a constant recommitment, that choosing, as I remembered with so much love the significance of special decorations.

One of my recurrent thoughts, when I felt myself slipping into sorrow, was  “What would I want to be different?”  My children living at home forever, never experiencing the joy of having a spouse and children of their own?  To everything there IS a season, and a time for EVERY purpose under heaven.  Amen and Amen.

I was genuinely comforted and experienced a quiet joy knowing that my loving Father is, indeed, designer of all my seasons.

His blessings in the springtime of babies and toddlers, storybooks and puddlejumping;  an amazing summer of growing children and a growing faith, Bagelry breakfasts and dinnertime laughter…  I’m certain that the God of those precious times and memories will continue to reign in my autumn, orchestrating blazing colors and harvest blessings in my life.

May I not limit His purposes with my fear of the unknown or lack of trust in His sovereignty, love, and care.

That’s my prayer and that was my thought process for a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon. Absolutely earnestly praying for you, my springtime Cria, as you walk with your Abba through your own change of seasons.

~

Seasons, by nature, are ever changing.  When one passes, another arrives, bringing its own unique changes and challenges.

My instinct is to rush through each season in hopes of eliminating discomfort.  These words reminded me to slow down and embrace the joy in each season.

When It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas

Less than a week until Christmas?  I still can’t believe it.  It doesn’t feel like Christmas.

Christmas is generally sunny, about 70 degrees.  Christmas is waking up, romping up and down on my slumbering brother (yes, I did this in my twenties – don’t judge), and opening stockings before breakfast.  Christmas is lights in Naples, gum drop trees downtown, and a post-meal walk up Big Dalton canyon.

None of that is happening this year.  Maybe that’s why it doesn’t feel like Christmas.

I’m stuck in the sentimental space between Christmases past and Christmases in the future.  For a newlywed, this space is called Christmas Present.  As the marital status implies, everything is new.  New spouse.  New lodging.  New responsibilities.  New life.

Christmas Present is new, and for a holiday built on traditions and memories, new can take the feelings of Christmas right out of Christmas.

8Ways

So, how do you get Christmas back in Christmas?  Since I am currently waist deep in Christmas Present, my advice is fairly raw and being tested as I type.  In any case, here are the ways I’m approaching my first married Christmas:

  • Know that your feelings are okay. Marriage is a huge adjustment and holidays are part of the adjustment.  You are simultaneously mourning Christmas Past, trying to make it through Christmas Present, and hoping Christmas Future is better.  Give yourself a break.
  • Be honest with your spouse. Your feelings effect them, too!  I hesitate to talk about Christmas feelings because I don’t want Tim to feel bad.  Withdrawing (which is my default) makes him feel worse. Communicate!
  • Be honest with God. If you’re not used to speaking candidly with your Abba about how you feel, let David speak for you.  The Psalms are full of his heart, mind, and soul in song form.  If David can ask God, “Why?” and “What gives?” (Emily paraphrase), then you can pose the same questions.
  • Let God work on your feelings. Trying to force yourself into Christmas cheer isn’t going to get you very far. If you’re not feeling how you want to feel about Christmas Present, ask God for peace and joy, even in the newness.  If you’re feeling like me, you can even ask Him to help you want to have joy and peace in the newness.
  • Embrace the new. Don’t try to replicate Christmas Past. I have a good imagination, but jacking up the heater to 80 degrees, importing some palm trees, and creating cardboard cut-outs of my entire family just wouldn’t be the same as Christmases past.  Trying to recreate a SoCal Christmas in Northern Idaho is disappointment in the making.
  • Transform traditions. Is opening stockings your favorite part of Christmas morning? Stuff a stocking for your spouse or family member.  Always decorate Christmas cookies with your mom? Host a cookie exchange for college gals who might also be away from home. Not Christmas without a ham?  Try your hand at tamales instead.
  • Make new traditions. They probably won’t fill the Christmas Past void, but overtime new traditions will be special.  In fact, they will become the new Christmas Past. I know I will look back with fondness on the first time Tim cut down our own  tree, the first year our tree fell over, the first time Tim and I made Christmas dinner together, and our first Christmas in Coeur d’Alene.

Newlyweds: What are you doing to make Christmas Present feel like Christmas?

Married folks: What did you do to make your first married Christmas special?

Toilet Paper Roll Star

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Judging by the Paper Bag Christmas Cards I made earlier this week, I like to use household items to make pretty things.

Hang it on a tree, tie it on a package, or set it on a bookshelf.  However you display it, these stars (flower, maybe?) are lovely. and sparkly. and use book pages. and toilet paper rolls.

DSC_0487You’ll need:

  • 1 toilet paper roll
  • ruler, pencil, scissors
  • glue – preferably with a pointed applicator
  • 1-2 old book pages
  • glitter [optional]
  • button/pearl for the center [optional]

Toilet Paper Roll Star:

Flatten each roll and mark off 1/2″ segments along both sides of its length.

Cut across the roll using the marks as guidelines to make pointed oval (marquise) segments. You only need 6 pieces to create this star.  Use leftovers for more stars or some other crafty project.

Place a dot of glue about 1/8″ from the tip of one oval and press it into the same spot of another oval.  Wait 30 seconds or so for the glue to dry and continue the process until all the ovals are glued together (creating the star/flower shape).

As you continue to glue, the marquise shape will spread out to create the “petals”.  You may have to help them along a bit so they don’t tear apart.

Let the star dry while you work on the book page center.

Book Page Medallion:

My method for making the book page medallion was very experimental.  I’ll tell you how I did the one above, but would encourage you to check out any tutorial online for making paper medallions for a clear explanation of how you SHOULD make paper medallions.

I decided how wide I wanted my medallion and cut two strips of book page to that width.

Each strip was folded accordion style, about 1/4″ (ish) wide and then folded in half to create a middle crease.

The pieces of paper closest to each other in the crease were glued together, giving me two semi-circles of accordion book page.  Glue the semi circles together and voila!

starStar Construction:

I created a placket to attach the star and medallion because there are so many thin edges on both pieces.

Cut a square of card stock and glue to center of the star.  Glue the medallion to the card stock.

Use a toothpick to apply glue to random edges and sprinkle glitter liberally over the glue. Let dry for a minute then tap off excess glitter.  Tap over a piece of paper so you can recycle the glitter.

Add a button or pearl to the center.

photo (16)I tied mine on to a package of gingerbread granola for a hostess gift.

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