giving thanks.

We are well into the Christmas spirit in our household, we've had our {real} tree for a week, Christmas music playing since November 1, and we have already baked sugar cookies with snowflakes, trees, candy cane, and gingerbread cut-outs. But, that doesn't mean we passed up Thanksgiving and focused on a heart of gratitude. In fact, I would say this was probably one of the best Thanksgivings yet. And not for any particular reason, but we decided to be more intentional with our time and allow for open space--time to relax, time to not-do, time for quietness and to be still in our own home. And specifically, me, I'm learning to let go of seeing life, especially holidays, as a 'check-off-the-list' thing; learning to enjoy the process rather than the end result and letting go of "rules" I've given myself in the past that have hardened my mood. I want to be present and allow God to fill the empty spaces. And if I want to put up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving, I'll do that too. {grin}

 In the past, we've been quick to fill up each day with fun activities, feeling obligated to see all family members, Black Friday shopping, and the tradition of watching the lighting in our downtown.  This year we passed on most of that. And not that those things are bad or wrong, but for us, we are desiring a season, or seasons of just being.  And what I found this Thanksgiving, is that God used our time for Him. And I'm so thankful for that. We were able to open our home to unexpected little guests, give a blanket to a young boy who was walking around in a t-shirt in the freezing cold, and bless some new friends with their first trip to the big screen movies. These moments came in the in-between, in the unplanned.

Today I finished up our Advent calendar, with a reading for each day and an activity to do. There are some blank days with zero activities, and I'm already telling myself that it's okay to not do an activity if we don't feel like it when the day comes. But to be present, in whatever we do. And to keep the heart of gratitude flowing.

We took a pit stop at the Children's Museum on the way to visit family.

Caught these two sharing secrets at the table. Be still my heart. 

Our attempt at getting Lincoln to smile. Real life at it's finest. 

Andrew and I got to sneak away for an impromptu day-date, it was fabulous! We hit up a coffee shop and I read in between working on a little secret we are going to reveal soon! 

We decided last minute to hit up our Farmer's Market this morning, live reindeer were quite the hit. 

And just for the record, Thursday evening we came home from visiting family out of town and my family ate Ramen noodles and yogurt for dinner. On Thanksgiving. Ain't no shame here.


holiday cards. {tiny prints}

One of my favorite traditions of Christmas is sending out the Christmas card and receiving them. With technology and the accessibility to contact someone through email, social media, or texting, I just love the idea of exchanging hellos through the traditional mailbox. I make a little goal for myself to get my cards mailed out sometime close to December 1st. I love writing a letter to go along with the card, reflecting back on the year to see how God has been working in our lives. I keep our cards and the letter I write each year in a special keepsake to get out with all of the holiday decor, so fun to read by the fire, sipping some homemade hot chocolate and seeing how our family has grown over the years.

I'd say half the fun in choosing the card is picking which pictures to use--thankful for our annual family photo shoot in October. The other half of the fun is choosing the design. Or in the case of Tiny Prints, you can choose the design, the layout, the font, the texture of the paper, the shape of the card, and even the envelope liner. How fun is that?! I've used Tiny Prints in the past because of the quality of their prints, but also because of their commitment to costumer service. Plus, I love to know that their products are made with corporate sustainability and printed in South Carolina and Minnesota.

While I was checking out the new holiday designs for 2013, I couldn't help but be attracted to all the cards that have gold on them. I'm slightly obsessed with a little bit of gold everywhere. Yes, you too?

I had a lot of fun plugging in our pictures into some of my favorite designs:

1. Golden Greetings

2. Stunning Stand

3. Circling Joy

 4. Adored Ornaments 

I thought I would try out the round ones that can also be hung on the tree! 
5. Spray on Glitter

Now excuse me while I dwell over which card to choose! 


sugarplum fairies. {right now}

Brother is napping, I'm making broccoli and cheddar soup, and this is my view…

the sweetest sugarplum fairies (as they call themselves) that I ever did see. ..

And for a moment, all is well in the world. 

{Pssssss. That outfit Audrey has on was mine when I was a little girl.}


the power of purchase. {christmas shopping ideas}

Something that has been on my heart lately is how much I'm buying, why, and where it is coming from.   We live in abundance and that more is always better--we need the next best gadget and upgraded bathroom sinks, and tile floors, and new hardware on the cabinets. And. And. And none of these things are necessarily wrong to have or want--trust me I would love a lot of these things. But then I go back to the verse--where my heart is there my treasure is also. (Matthew 6:21)

So, as I am making purchases, especially with the upcoming holiday season, I've been thinking about the ability to make a difference in someone's life just by what I purchase. This can get overwhelming pretty easily as I question where my food comes from, all my articles of clothing, my accessories, home goods, etc. But I think it's about doing something rather than nothing. Starting right where I am at.

I've come up with a power of purchase list of items that help sustain lives in one way or another. Some of these places I have bought from in the past and some are brand new and I've found through a friend or on Instagram or Facebook.  Take a peek and I hope it encourages you to think about your purchases you make this holiday season.

The Etsy Shop, Beautiful Uganda has some lovely hand-crafted jewelry that comes directly from Uganda by the artisan Grace Ayaa. My favorite piece is the Dreamy Mint Statement Necklace (above picture).
Simply Beautiful Shop is amazing handmade body products, I have bought from this shop before to have gifts handy for friends who need pick-me-ups and I also think they would make awesome stocking stuffers. The money from these items go to support their adoption--that's sustaining a life! 

Better Life Bags does just what it says. It helps make lives better--they hire women who wouldn't otherwise be able to get jobs near the Detroit area. Be sure to read all about their Mission Statement! They sell ipad covers and iphone wallets, and array of bags that are all custom designed by you! See the bag above? That is my design, how fun is that?! 

Echoes of Mercy is an Etsy Shop with beautiful, inspiring digital prints--which I love because you don't even have to wait to have them shipped, just emailed right to you! The purchases from this shop help a foster mama and the adoption of her twin girls. 

Humble Hilo is a new company I found on Instagram and I was instantly attracted to the vibrant colors in their bags, then I took a look at their story and saw that they partner with World Link Partners with individuals in Guatemala to help with nutrition for children, literacy, and giving opportunity for women to use their skills to help support their families. 

Beautiful & Beloved is another shop I found on Instagram. They support individuals who were once enslaved by human trafficking or living in extreme poverty--each item is created by these individuals and we have the opportunity to support them and bring awareness to these injustices. I'm loving the Aztec earrings in their shop! 

FashionABLE is a company that empowers women to earn a living, I love how you can read direct stories of women who have been changed by the opportunity to work. I've been gifted a scarf in the past from here, which are awesome--because they are light enough to work in all seasons and each come with a story attached of the woman who created it. But what I also love about FashionABLE is that there are leather goods to buy, which is great for men's gifts! 
If I come across some other shops that I love and can have a direct affect for the positive with a purchase, I will be sure to share. Do you know of a shop you love to support for this reason? Please share in the comment section! 


dear self.

[Last year I started the tradition of writing a letter to each of my children on their birthday. I've decided this year to add myself in there, I want to write a letter to myself, to remind myself of how God is moving in my life as each year passes.]

Dear Self,

You turned 31 sometime last week. It was no monumental birthday, except as life has taught you recently, it is monumental. Every day is important and worthy, even the very hard messy ones. And don't you know about those days with three small children?! Sometimes you feel like you will never get out of the trenches of hard days, but then, God gives you glimpses of grace, and you think yes, yes, this is exactly where I am suppose to be. Naomi had a hard time going to sleep tonight, which as you know, is nothing atypical for her. By the third time you put her back to bed she asked you to sing another song. You are a sucker for her sweet toddler voice, you can't say no to her asking you to sing. And in the dark of the room with the glow of the blue stars that she always requests for you to turn on, she clasped your face and repeated the Three Little Birds song line after line with you. And it felt like time stopped so you could etch her 3 year old silhouette into your heart forever. That was a moment of grace, especially before tomorrow.

Tomorrow Naomi goes in for her 6 month post-scan check up since her cancer diagnosis. And although anxiety and fear want to creep in, you know, that God is capable of giving you the peace that surpasses all understanding. This year, as you can put down in your books as your hardest year yet, it also has been the most beautiful because you felt God and saw God and heard God in ways you never thought were possible. This year you have realized that nothing, nothing can separate you from the love of God and what a comfort that is when you walk through the trenches of life. (Romans 8:38-39)

Do you realized how blessed you are? Like really realize what is before you, and I don't mean the things of this world. Yes, you are so blessed with a home and multiple cars and bed, and clean water for crying out loud. But your true treasure is your family. Your hard-working husband and your three children. God-willing, that number three may change. Isn't it exciting to think how God can use you, ordinary, broken you to be a part of His redemption story?

Ok, now let's get to the chase about turning 31. You were totally cliche on your birthday and went out bought Oil of Olay for the new found wrinkles around your eyes. Just whatever. Wrinkles around your eyes mean you have been in the sun squinting (which being in the sun is awesome in your opinion) or it means you have been smiling a lot, which is also awesome. So embrace the wrinkles, lady! And if buying Oil of Olay didn't age you quicker than turning 31, you used a gift-card to buy a new fancy cooking pan. Really? A pan. Just whatever. Oh, and you borrowed a book on CD from the library, so there's that to help embrace your age as well. And I can almost guarantee you will drink some warm tea before going to bed after typing this.

Who knows what this next year has in store for your little family. But saying 'yes' to Jesus doesn't mean easy and comfortable, but it is assurance that God is in control, and you can't go wrong with that. And remember when you heard a few months ago that it is a privilege to age? It's true. Each year is a gift. Each day is a gift. Don't let those words ever slip away.

Now go and be the hands and feet of Jesus. Live out your story for Him.


Your Self.



I'm a bit late posting about our trick or treating, but I couldn't resist sharing the adorable kiddos.

Wendy dresses made by their Gamma (Andrew's mom) and I made the hat for the Peter Pan costume--about 5 minutes before we walked out the door. 

Cousins! Spider-man and an 80s work out girl! 

Lincoln was the cutest to watch, he caught on real fast. And wanted out of that wagon as soon as we approached a house and had his bag out and ready to collect. 

We are so thankful for our neighborhood, a safe and fun place to go. The neighborhood gets together and throws a pitch in dinner too ---which is a great way to say hello to those around us. I'm not a fan of the scary Halloween, but I love that it is holiday where kids can be kids and dress up using their imagination!