The Anticipation and Longing of Advent

Friends, the short season between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a blessed season of anticipation. Advent is defined as “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event”. Advent in the sense of the Christian church is defined as “the coming of Christ”. I’d say the two are on par with each other.

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As I researched Advent a little more, I discovered that the word is from the Latin word meaning “coming”. Its definition expands to include “the four Sundays preceding Christmas” and “the liturgical season preceding Christmas, approached by some with fasting and prayer”. Other phrases included “expectant waiting”, “preparation for celebration” and the arrival of “something extremely important”. I don’t know about you, but I feel like every single one of those things describing Advent make me even more excited that this is the time of year it is.

I loved all of those, but my favorite word used to describe Advent was the word “longing”. It adds such a personal touch to a widespread idea. To feel a longing for the coming of Christ would be so personal, so intimate, so unique to you. The relationship that it implies is truly beautiful. You wouldn’t long to see someone you don’t know well. You wouldn’t long for time to spend with a person you didn’t get along with. You long to be with cherished loved ones.

It is hard to imagine carrying in your womb the Savior of the world. It’s even tougher to imagine an angel’s appearance and an immaculate conception. But it isn’t hard to think of something truly exciting to be waiting for. We’ve all looked forward to something, waited for something, a person, a moment… Perhaps a walk down the aisle to the one you love. Perhaps the birth of your first child (or your second, or your seventh!). The first day of a new job. The first day of retirement! A lunch date with an old friend. The first time you see a new niece or nephew. We all have an example of a person, event, or thing we’ve been awaiting with anticipation. This anticipation is sweet because we know that what we’re anticipating is even sweeter!

So, for the next four weeks, while we await the celebration of the coming of Jesus, the fulfillment of promises, and the ultimate manifestation of love and faithfulness, I will ponder the feelings of Mary, as she spent nine months in total wonder of the job she’d been given, awaiting the birth of her son, of the Savior of us all. I will be soaking in the excitement that must have been whirring around all who knew the prophecy would be fulfilled. I will be longing for sweet, intimate moments with Jesus, where he can do as he promised, and deliver me from brokenness and sin. What an incredible lover is our Lord, who sacrifices to make us whole! What a blessing it is to worship, adore, and celebrate the birth of a Savior, and to anticipate his coming again!

“Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus”
Charles Wesley

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

Running in the Cold

Up until these past couple of weeks, I’ve always thought working out or running in the cold was terrible… hurting lungs, hurting ears, hurting skin… oh yeah, and runny nose. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t do more than 5 minutes of exercise in the cold without these things plaguing me SO MUCH that I quit right then.

However, the last few times I’ve gone out for a run, it’s been chilly, but I haven’t been miserable! Maybe I’m getting used to it, maybe I’m growing up, or maybe I was just dressed appropriately for once. But I really enjoyed my cold work outs all three times! Here’s what I did that I might not normally do:

Layer. I wore my favorite exercise leggings, and one of my Champion sleeveless workout shirts, then added a thin fleece pullover and an ear band. My ears getting cold is the WORST, so the ear band was a necessity, which leads me to…

Head gear. I don’t really like my entire head to be covered (when I get hot I want some of the heat to get out) so I wear a band to cover my ears. Specifically, I’ve been wearing Hubby’s 1994 “turtle fur”. Weird, I know. It’s neon green. At least I won’t get hit by a car?

You don't need to tell me how attractive that head band is.
You don’t need to tell me how attractive that head band is.

Music. I know, I know… most people listen to music when they run. But 1. I have weird ears that HATE headphones, and 2. I’m terrified of being hit by a car that I didn’t hear because my music was too loud in the headphones that I can’t wear. So I used my iPhone armband, and just blasted the music out loud instead of wearing headphones. I guess everyone could hear me coming from a quarter mile away, but eh, who cares?

Chapstick. And. Hand lotion. These things are essentials. I hate gloves, so hand lotion keeps me from getting chapped hands, and lip balm of some sort (I’m digging Rodan & Fields Lip Shield) keeps me from licking my lips and causing cracks and splits.

Blow your nose. I know this isn’t practical for everyone, but I am close enough to my neighborhood Lowe’s to incorporate it into my workout. So I’ve been running there, and I can pop in and blow my nose! That way I don’t have to carry anything with me, or blow snot rockets in people’s front yards. And, while I’m there, sometimes I also do a little bladder emptying as well. You know, because, I’ve given birth twice and I pee a lot. (TMI. Sorry.)

So those are my tips. You might already be doing those things, and if you are, why didn’t you tell me about them?! I know, I should’ve known.

Happy Running!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, one and all!

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J’s fall outfit from Thanksgiving dinner with Hubby’s family last night. My baby blue eyes ❤

Today, I challenge you to love your family a little extra, hug your friends one more time than you normally would, savor the flavor of your favorite dish, and linger in a moment of celebration. Reach deep down and find things you’re grateful for… even if you don’t have much. Holidays can be tough. Families can be complicated. Budgets can be tight. Expectations and tensions can be high. Sometimes, holiday gatherings can bring out less than the best in us.

But find a few simple things to thank God for today. The laughter of a child. The smile of a grandparent. An encouraging word from a friend. The chance to sit down for a few minutes with a friend. Hey, you might even get a start on your Christmas decorating today! Take the extra sets of hands, and put them to work. If you are the extra set of hands, then do a little work for someone else. Soften your words as you speak them and show some love. Everyone’s Thanksgiving will be a little better. Good luck, safe travels, happy eating, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 

New Shelves for Joseph!

A few months ago, I bought two old wooden filing cabinets on the cheap from one of my favorite consignment stores here in town. They had been painted white – seemingly a long time ago – and were distressed from use, and I loved that. I pictured some adorable icons or patterns painted on them in bold colors, and cute drawers pulls, and voila! Better, cuter and more unique storage in my son’s room.

((Before I go tooting my own horn here about how great I think they look now that they’re finished, I will say that I brought them home, cleaned them up, and then they sat in my garage for a month. Then I sketched the pictures/patterns, and they sat in the garage for a month. Then I painted a few drawers. Then… you get the idea.))

The first thing that was super helpful was my tip from my friend Lauren about using chalk paint. No sanding or primer necessary. What a time saver! I used Annie Sloan brand, and it was fabulous. Went on like a dream, and two coats later, I had the bold color I wanted.

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Whoever had painted the cabinets white did a very eh job, so when I took off the industrial-looking handles, I had to have Hubby sand around the area to make it smooth. Then I just kept a-painting…

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A little Annie Sloan wax coat on the outside, a little bit of buffing, and the drawers were all finished!

The insides of the drawers were a little rough, so I wanted to line them. Don’t want those baby clothes and swaddles to get snagged! When I went to Wal-Mart there was nothing really whimsical, so I went with… wood grain? I know. Terrible. But it won’t really be seen.

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One sad point about the Contact drawer liner… it didn’t stick very well to the unfinished wood, so I ended up gluing a little bit underneath it. Extra work, but ah well. Such is to be expected when you start a project like this, right?

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You can see the outer space theme… and I think they fit well! I actually want to reorder the drawers – Hubby put them in out of order. And we still need to attach the drawer pulls. But I couldn’t wait to put them in there, and couldn’t wait to share the project! However, once I got them on either side of the changing table, it seemed like there was too much extra space. So I swapped the changing table and crib!

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Much better, right? I like the scale a lot more. And it made the whole room feel bigger right when you walked in. I’m pretty pleased with the effect, and now I’m all ready to finish organizing!

**A big thanks to Hubby for the heavy lifting, to Lauren for helping wax, and to my mom, who helped with the sketching and painting!**

What DIY projects have you done recently? Have you ever refinished or upcycled some old furniture?

Currently: The Thanksgiving Edition

Today’s Currently isn’t a link up. But I just haven’t posted anything in what feels like AGES, so here I am, telling you what I’m Currently up to, in the style of the link up!!

Thinking about || Thanksgiving and all that that entails. For me, it has entailed rearranging my basement for guest space, two (so far) extremely expensive grocery store trips in preparation for cooking and baking, ordering a Honeybaked Ham (we could give or take a turkey, haha!) and making copious amounts of phone calls and emails planning, preparing, and getting excited. My parents, my brother and his girlfriend, my grandmother, my aunt, uncle and cousin are all coming up here from GA for the holiday. It may be a little hectic, but wonderful. And I haven’t even gotten to things I am thankful for!

Thankful for || family, friends, food to eat and a roof over my head. Here in North Carolina, we’ve had a couple of weeks of drastically changing weather, and I’m thankful for warm boots, rain boots, coats, scarves, and heat in my house. I’m also thankful that I have wonderful family and friends to spend my holiday with. It’s nice to not dread the family coming into town and the hours and days that we will spend together. I know many who are not this fortunate.

Cooking || some of my family’s favorite Thanksgiving staples to take them to Hubby’s family’s T-Giving meal. This will include my family’s dressing recipe and our well-loved cranberry salad. Today I also worked on one of my favorite holiday snacks to have around the house: ranch oyster crackers (basically a package of oyster crackers baked with olive oil, ranch mix, dill, lemon pepper, garlic powder and cayenne pepper) – yum! I’m also baking some cookies (the cherry shortbreads I talked about a few weeks ago and a gluten/dairy/sugar free sugar plum recipe that is SO GOOD. I’m basically excited about it.

Anticipating || some renovations around our home! Hubby and I have decided we’re staying put, and hiring a friend’s company to renovate the basement. The idea is that we will get two more bedrooms, a bathroom spruce up and a laundry room out of the project and we are PUMPED. Hubby and I also have a few projects on the main level that we’re going to be working on during the times that EK is at preschool and J is napping, such as repainting baseboards, touch up painting on walls, etc. I’m excited about this process, and loving my (already well-loved) home even more.

Hoping || I’ve been praying and hoping for more patience with EK. Confession: I don’t know how much better I’ve been getting. She’s amazing – communicating, behaving, potty training, being sweeter to her brother… but still there are attitude issues sometimes (I mean, she’s 2!) and some things she does (to her brother, mostly) that I feel like trigger me losing my cool. I’m working on it. Prayers for that, if you’re the praying type.

Loving || two new pairs of leggings and two new chunky, tunic-length sweaters, all from Crown & Ivy. They are comfy, the leggings are thick (think can’t see through them when you bend your knees, and no panty lines, because they aren’t painted on, either!) and therefore warm, and the sweaters are cozy. Basically, I’m living in them.

Alright. There’s my long-overdue update. What are you up to? What are your Thanksgiving plans and recipes?

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Crumbled biscuits and cornbread that I made this morning in preparation for the dressing I’ll put together tomorrow!

 

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Ranch Oyster Crackers, straight from the oven. The ones that I haven’t already eaten, at least.

 

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Cranberry Salad – a little complicated, but always a hit. My great-grandmother’s recipe (one of EK’s namesakes!)

 

Raising a Daughter in a World of Mean Dudes

This post also appeared on MyBigJesus.com!

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This week, I came across an article about that guy – Julien Blanc – who teaches men how to be sexual predators. It scared the mess outta me. I’m talking terrified. Not because I think that one of those men is going to be messing with me. No. It scared me because I have a daughter. I’ve written about how tough I think it is to raise a daughter before, and unfortunately, it’s not getting any easier.

I have a laundry list of things I want my daughter to be. It does not include doctor, lawyer, CEO, president, or even famous humanitarian. The list does include, however, things like loves Jesus, is happy in her profession, does kind things for others, and knows that she’s beautiful in the eyes of the Father who created her.

You see, I want her to know her worth in her Creator. Everyone else’s opinions matter not. She is called perfect and beautiful by the One who created her as such. She doesn’t need any certain clothes, tons of makeup, and the approval of a boyfriend or best friend to make it so. Her unique qualities and abilities are gifts. It’s Hubby’s and my job to raise her to know that. In a world of plastic surgery, eating disorders, cyber bullying and domestic violence, I want to raise a woman confident in herself because she knows who she is.

There’s only one starting point – the Gospel.

I can’t do everything. I can’t force her to internalize every single characteristic and ideal I might nudge her way. But I can teach her the Truth. I can tell her about God and his amazing sacrificial love. I can model the Father’s love for us by loving her with unconditional love. I can provide opportunities for other like-minded souls to help reinforce these bits of Truth in her life. I can help her understand that knowing Jesus is the best and only thing she can do to truly know her worth and potential. I can start now – at two and a half years old.

My little girl is beautiful and smart. She’s as witty as a two year old can be, and already a ham for the camera. For real y’all – she basically only wears tutus (see above photo) and won’t leave the house without her fanciest shoes. I just want to make sure she knows she’s awesome and doesn’t need anyone’s approval for that piece of information to be true. She just needs to know Who created her, how He feels about her, and where He wants her to go. It’s like the cheesy song goes: she’s gonna do great things; I already know.

Parenting Fail #87621: The Public Poopers

Yep, it’s that time again. Time for another parenting fail. Although it may not be as much of a fail as a “Oh my gosh did that actually happen?!”

I’ll set up the week for you – normally, my kids have (for months) pooped once a day, right when they get up in the morning. One morning this week, they had BOTH, within sheer minutes of each other, had the sort of poop where you throw away the pajamas and put them straight into the bathtub. Yes, I literally threw away both sets of pajamas that same morning because it was easier than cleaning it out. But after that day, it seemed that they were pooping – imagine me saying this out loud in my best accent – ALL. DAY. E’RY. DAY. My best friend suggested maybe they’re eating too much fruit and getting too much fiber. I say, eh, they’ve always eaten a ton of fruit. Who knows.

So anyway, both kids are basically to the point in their lives that I don’t keep extra changes of clothes for them. When they’re newborns and spitting up and pooping that liquid poop, you sorta have to. But at this point, EK isn’t wearing panties yet, still in Pull-Ups, so no worries there, and J’s biggest problem is his knees are always dirty. Who cares about that, right? So that being said, by some freak (beautiful) accident, I had an extra pair of pants in the diaper bag when we went out to dinner last night with a couple of friends.

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Blurry and devious J and Lauren. He’s thinking about what’s gonna happen in a minute…

 

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Blurry but adorable EK and Aida! This was pre-potty problems.

 

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What a yummy – and needed – margarita!

The kids, y’all, were angels. This place is pretty casual (it’s called The Porch Kitchen and Cantina… Tex-Mex, order at the counter, loud and bustling. We love it.) so the kids could make a little noise and no one was bothered. They ate really well, and were patient while we ate (which rarely happens, am I right?) so I’m thinking we’ve just had the perfect evening. Well, EK asks to go potty, so my friend Aida volunteers to take her. A few minutes after they left, J is squirming pretty awfully so I pull him out of the highchair and notice that he is stinky. So naturally I grab a diaper and wipes, and head to the bathroom. When I get there, Aida says, “Oh thank you! I didn’t know how to get help!” EK is on the changing table, no diaper, with poop on her legs. (Let’s all say a nice, “Poor Aida!”) Apparently, she had pooped a little in the potty – accidentally, of course – and it startled her, so she asked to get off the potty, and then did the rest in her Pull-Up. Then Aida didn’t have a new diaper or wipes to clean her up with. So I hand J to A, clean EK up and put her in the new diaper (the only diaper I had brought).

I take off J’s pants and realize the amount of poop he had was no joke. It’s on his clothes, shirt and pants. I send Aida for new clothes and a fresh diaper, and try to attack his mess. I literally think that I used most of the wipes cleaning up either J or the diaper station. (Yes I cleaned it up. No, you don’t have to worry about there being poop all over and it getting on your kid the next time you eat lunch there.) Aida comes back with the pants that were magically still in my bag, and his coat. Sorry, J, no shirt.

So he’s clean. EK is clean. I get back to the table, and the Hubby of the year looks at me and says, “Do you want me to take the kids home, and you girls can stay out and have a drink?”

Yes, Hubby. A thousand times yes.