A Simple Christmas

I love decorating our home for the holidays. I always have.  Sometimes I even start planning what I want to do months in advance.  This year has been different though. As Christmas approached quickly this year, Jamie and I debated if we should make our house a little festive or just skip it altogether this year.

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It’s not that we weren’t into the holiday spirit, it just felt like too much on our plate. We have been pretty busy the past few weeks as we have been getting our client details to a good place so Jamie can take a maternity leave.   We have also been in nesting mode at our house the past few weeks preparing for our baby to arrive. With Jamie’s due date actually on Christmas day, the idea of finding all of the ornament boxes, unpacking everything and then taking time to decorate felt like a lot, not to mention the hassle of decor clean up while simultaneously learning how to take care of a newborn baby also felt overwhelming.

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And… I think we were also both a bit scarred from our Christmas tree last year that we carried up to our fourth floor apartment only to find that it wouldn’t fit in the stand… not to mention it fell over multiple times throughout the season, and we were still somehow cleaning up the pine needles nine months after we had already thrown it out. We didn’t want a repeat of that headache.

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We went back and forth, but in the end we eventually decided to put up a Christmas tree and went out and purchased an artificial one.  I learned that I should have measured how tall our ceilings were before shopping for a tree. It was too tall. I was so irritated at myself. The frustration of re-packaging the tree and trekking it back to Target made me once again want to cancel Christmas decorating altogether. The holidays shouldn’t feel difficult. It defeats the purpose of why we are even celebrating in the first place.

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Luckily Jamie spotted these little Charlie Brown-ish trees that were already pre-lit and wrapped in burlap. All we had to do was set them out and plug them in. That I could handle. We added about twenty ornaments and some ribbon and yarn we already had on hand. We then hung a simple, premade garland over the entrance to our dining room. Done. It felt easy. It felt quick. It felt simple. It felt right.

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I’ve decided that simple is good. It may not always be the most beautiful, award-wining look, but that is ok. I think in our image driven, social media saturated world, it is so easy for people to feel pressured to always create something innovative, big and beautiful that stands out from everyone else. It can be draining and life depleting at times. Making the decision to be simple was completely liberating. As we enter into this new phase of life, and embark on this steep learning curve they call parenthood, I am releasing myself from anything that feels too complicated and choosing simplicity as often as I can. What a freeing, life- giving decision this has been.

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I had originally planned on doing several blog posts for the holidays, wanting to share a few complicated recipes. I released myself from that as well, and decided to just do something simple in the kitchen. We decided to make sea-salted caramels; they only take a few ingredients and are pretty easy to create. We wrapped them up in natural wax paper and then boxed them up for simple gifts. We’ll be sharing the recipe in the next day or two, so make sure to check back if you are looking for something home-made to gift this year

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And for those of you who saw this grey velvet ribbon on our instagram account, and e-mailed me for a source, here is where I typically get all of my velvet ribbon from: MJ Trimming .  If you are ever in NYC, this is definitely a place you want to check out!

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photography:  Matthew Land Studios 

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Thanksgiving

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I stared at my computer for days trying to write a blog post to accompany these photos, but the words were just not coming. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year, and with all that I have in my life to be thankful for, this should have been a straightforward easy post to write. I kept reading our post from last year, hoping to be inspired. Yet, for some reason the words just wouldn’t come.

I finally gave up last night and just posted these images without any text. I was relieved to just be done, but disappointed in myself that I didn’t write anything. Thanksgiving is rich in meaning and there is so much potential depth to the holiday. I went to bed discouraged that I couldn’t find a way to articulate that in written form.

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I woke up early this morning to finish up some holiday baking, and to prepare a few last dishes before we head over to my in-laws home later today. Although I was tempted to jump out of bed and get my day started, I forced myself to just stop and be still. I decided before I could get out of bed I needed to spend time thanking God for at least twenty blessings in my life. I initially thought this would be a quick prayer, but I decided I wanted to thank God for more than just my material possessions. Don’t get me wrong… I am very thankful for the house we live in, the car we drive, the clothes on our back, the toys we play with and the food we eat… but I am fully aware that if you take those things away, my life is still filled with things to be thankful for. My heart was longing to give thanks for what really makes my life richer and fuller… the blessings that really matter most.

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As I laid in bed praying, my thoughts took a journey through the years of my life and all the ways God has been faithful, proving Himself over and over. With my wife still sleeping beside me, my mind drifted to our growing baby within her, the miracle of life and this blessing within our marriage. Although we’ve only been married for three years, it is hard to remember what life was like before I met her. But this morning as I took time to be still, it all came back to me.

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Thanksgiving five years ago was probably one of the saddest days of my life. I remember it so clearly. I had recently turned thirty years old. It seems comical now, but at the time, that felt really old. All of my friends had been married for about eight years, and most of them had at least one child. I felt behind in life. I felt alone. I felt like it was pointless to pray anymore. I was angry with God because He hadn’t provided someone. I questioned His faithfulness. I was envious of all of my friends and in all honesty I think I even resented how happy they all seemed. I remember people would often times tell me how blessed I was because I had everything a person could possibly want. Sure… I had the possessions in life that many strive for in this world, but I remember thinking I would trade it all to find someone to love. I wanted to be married. I wanted to become a father. Thanksgiving 5 years ago was rough. In many ways it was rock bottom, as I clearly remember giving up and accepting I would be alone the rest of my life.

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I had forgotten all about that Thanksgiving, the sadness in my life and the longings in my heart that I thought would never come to fruition. Although it is not fun remembering painful times in my life, I realized this morning how important it is for me to recall that part of my journey. Without remembering the pain, frustration, disappointment and loneliness I felt, I can’t truly appreciate all that I have right now and be thankful for the answered prayers and faithfulness of God.

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The two richest blessings in my life today are my wife and our unborn child that is due in just four weeks. What I am most thankful for today, however, is God’s faithfulness in my life… for answering prayers I had stopped praying… for knowing my deepest longings… for choosing who would be the best partner for me in life… for knowing the right time to bring her into my life… for allowing me the opportunity to love someone… for giving us the joy of bringing life into this world.

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Although today is supposed to be filled with joy and thanksgiving, I imagine there are a few people out there who will have a Thanksgiving like I did five years ago. I am guessing there are people who are lonely, or suffering with an illness, or hurting financially, or going through divorce, or struggling to conceive or don’t see their dreams coming to fruition or maybe even just feel like praying is pointless because they just go unanswered. To those people I say… I hear you! I know your pain and sorrow! But… just hold on… there is hope… keep praying… there is grace for today and new mercies for tomorrow.

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I truly hope that no matter what circumstances you find yourself in today, whether in plenty or in want, and despite answered or unanswered prayers, that you can choose thanksgiving, joy and hope.

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“I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is.

So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.

I well remember them, 
and my soul is downcast within me.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.”

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him;

Lamentation 3:17-25

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Special thanks to Matthew Land Studios ,  Lisa from Simms Town  and Libby Tipton  for collaborating with us on our Thanksgiving feast.

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