Small Joys: Christmas Snow

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We had a dump of snow on Wednesday night — almost 10 inches. It was the first true snow, leaving branches with little white hats and threatening to fall into the tops of boots.

We just had to go out and trudge into it yesterday evening. We couldn't stop ourselves. There's magic in being the first to walk across a freshly laid blanket of snow. I highly recommend it. 

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Anne came dancing home in the purple winter twilight across the snowy places.
— L.M. Montgomery

A Peek at our Christmas

Christmas was a success around here. Things were a bit different, but still very good.

We got a tree late on the 23rd. In fact the tree farm was already closed, but we tracked down the owner and practically begged to get a tree. He actually ended up giving us one of the display trees for free and I love it. It's the only thing in our living room right now and it's so pretty. 

We spent all day Christmas in our matching PJs and enjoyed family time, lots of food, games and gifts. It felt calmer and quieter than in past years, but since I was a bit under the weather, that was just fine.

Dave gave me some coffee making equipment and the rest of my gifts fell into the category of "Keep Esther Warm." I got a fluffy hat, wool socks, hot water bottle and a really sweet blanket (Rumpl). 

Our new house really feels like the big present this year. It's just so exciting to dig into things and make it our own. 

I really hope you have a wonderful last couple days of the year. This season is so special.

Merry Christmas

A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices...

In so many ways, we all find ourselves weary this December. For me, the big changes of a move and new house, leaving our first home, the disappointment of cancelled family Christmas plans, the concerning health issues of loved ones, among other things weigh heavy on our hearts this year. (Not to mention any of the heart-wrenching pain and suffering we see happening around the world.)

"Weary" is the perfect word for the way I've felt for a while now. 

The beauty of a weary soul is how much deeper and more poignant the thrill of Christmas hope is. I feel a little sad that we've missed out on some of my favorite holiday activities this year due to the hustle and bustle of our move. But it's been an amazing chance for me to remember the true reason we celebrate this time of the year.

Making Merry: The Great Tree Hunt

Making Merry is our first guest series. Every Friday of Advent we'll hear from a lady about how she and her family make the Christmas season merry. GraceMarie is a lovely friend from my college days. She and her husband, Brett, currently live in the Chicago area, but she grew up in California. Today she shares about her family's tree hunt tradition.

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Saturday morning, we throw on our closest equivalent to Winter attire—sweatshirts and jeans, maybe a scarf—even though the weather normally settles somewhere between 70 and 80 for the day. But we're determined to play the part, Californians or not, and we all pile into our van. 

We are on a hunt for the perfect Christmas tree.  

Now, it's important to know that the perfect Lambert Christmas tree isn't just any Christmas tree. It's one that "speaks" to us—one that’s broad enough for Christina, sparse enough for me, and tall enough for Hannah. For my Dad and brother, it has to be a size they can actually fit through the door. My mom holds the final veto. She, of course, has to look at it the most, she argues. 

On arriving at the tree farm, we are all hot, still tired, and we've bickered just the tiniest amount—because it's tradition, obviously. 

But we shake all these less than holiday feelings off in the rush of excitement that comes with pine trees and seasonal festivities. 

The trees are tall and beautiful and there are many. 

This won't be easy. 

We begin in a rush—racing from tree to tree, until someone suggests a more systematic approach. But the key here is that whoever "feels" most deeply wins the day; whoever can throw him or herself down in front of the tree with the most passion (Ahem—I may or may not be guilty of prostrations in the dirt), or whoever can get my mom on their side.  

Once we pick the tree, we deem it not just perfect but more importantly “ours”. And we pile back in the car—a little warmer than we started (especially if you’ve run around the tree farm yelling “they’re speaking to me, the trees are speaking!), but all as jolly as could be. And we blast Christmas carols all the way home. 

Then we decorate—with all the funky, precious, and dear ornaments of old. We pull out shoeboxes with “Grace’s Ornaments” and “Christina” written in childish script on the sides and unpack our own collections, ornaments that represent things uniquely us. Porcelain ballet shoes from one year, a bear reading the Iliad from another… all carrying with them the tiniest memories. We exclaim over my parents’ beautiful “first Christmas” ornament, and we tell stories—folklore my mom would call it—about favorite moments or “that time when….” 

And when everything is decorated and hung, and Christina has regulated where every ornament should be placed in order to have the correct spacing on the tree, we still the whole house and darken every light.

Everything goes silent. 

And we open Christmas season, normally with something slightly goofy (one year Christina gave the first gift of Christmas, which happened to be Hannah wrapped in huge amounts of wrapping paper with a giant bow) and with something solemn (Silent Night sung completely out of tune with candles). And then we flip on the Christmas tree lights, and it glows. 

We gaze satisfied. And we sit as a family, preparing our hearts for the season we’re entering. 

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Small Joys: Christmas Edition

Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk missing out when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.
— Brene Brown

Gathering up things that brought joy this week and taking a moment to be grateful.

Cookies. With all the sweets and treats, I love things that aren't too sugary. My mom's Christmas cookies are perfect when it comes to that. Austrian baked goods just aren't as sickly over-sweet like American goodies tend to be. If you'd like to give some a try, my mom's Linzer Cookie recipe would be a perfect start.

Jammies. When we were younger, my grandma from Austria would send us new pjs for Christmas Eve. As we got older, my mom took over the tradition. This year, I gave in to Cyber Monday sales and couldn't resist some matching organic cotton Hanna Anderson pj pants for Dave and I. I didn't quite realize that they were long john style and I have to say seeing Dave in fair isle long johns was worth the purchase in itself.

Lights. Is anything better than Christmas lights when the days are so short and the nights so cold? I just love the cheer and light they bring. I would be in favor of keeping them up until days get long again and the snow melts. We need all the light we can get this time of the year in Michigan! 

Music. I'm kinda weird when it comes to Christmas music. Depending on my mood, I listen to vastly different stuff. But Dave and I both agree that Sidewalk Prophets: Merry Christmas to You album is our favorite for singing and dancing along to. This year especially, What A Glorious Night has been our version of Advent Devotionals. When we need a quiet moment, we listen to it and the intro with Linus from A Charlie Brown Christmas reading the Christmas Gospel has been super meaningful to us. We also quote "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown!" all the time. It's such a good reminder.

Movies. Also, it's worth a mention that I can't wait until we have a moment to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. We always watched it growing up and I love it more every time I watch it. It addresses big things like consumerism, but brings it back to the most important thing. Too good. (Other favorites: The Holiday, Elf, White Christmas)

Candles. The Austrian tradition of real candles on a Christmas Tree shocks most Americans. But when mounted on a fresh tree and watched vigilantly, there is little danger. Because of our move this year, we haven't brought a tree home yet. This weekend we'll finally remedy that and I can't wait to clip my shiny new tree candle holders (my sister brought from Germany for me) to our tree in our new home. 

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