EEEEP! They’re here, they’re here! I am so excited to share our formal Christmas photos for this year. Planning our Christmas cards is one of my favorite things I do every single year, even though my hubby always takes some convincing to do it. Ladies, you’re not alone! Even my husband hates doing family photos. But, it’s always worth it. I absolutely love seeing how my sweet family has grown over time and I actually REALLY want to get prints made from all of our shoots to hang up at Christmas every year. That’s my current project!
This year’s shoot was… an almost disaster. See just a glimpse below… lol. If it weren’t for our incredible photographer, Cottonwood Road Photography, we would have had a total flop of a shoot. Knox, who usually LOVES getting his picture taken, just wanted to explore. I mean, he is a toddler boy. I should have known! But, somehow, Hannah H. captured the milliseconds we got of Knox not asking to “get down” or yelling “stop it” as we would chase him down to keep from falling into the barbwire fences around us as he searched for the horses he swore were around, but absolutely did not exist. L O L.
Quick tips for shooting with a toddler:
- Just roll with it. If they want to run around, that is how your shoot needs to be. Our photographer, Hannah, set the tone for this so well and we just followed her lead. Rather than getting frustrated with him, which would have upset him and made the shoot a lost cause, we tried to be adventurous with him. It kept him smiling, even though he was frustrated with us for not letting him run into the open field by us.
- We would play in the leaves with him (which ended up being some of my FAVORITE shots Hannah got!) or tossing him in the air to get giggles. Whatever you got to do, do it. It’s not about you or about getting the “picture perfect” shot. It’s about capturing your family, as it is. And, if you have an amazing photographer, then you get the picture perfect shots mixed in WITH the real shots. I love them both, honestly! This is also why it’s so worth paying a great photographer, if you’re able, once a year for your Christmas photos. They can capture things you just wouldn’t be able to on your own or with a non-professional.
- We left saying “Well, even if we have to send out a funny picture, we are going to be happy!” Having images, no matter how your shoot goes, is so worth it and you’ll never regret it.
Thanks to Dillard’s for sponsoring all of our looks! Everything except for Knox’s jacket and Paul’s shoes are entirely from Dillard’s. I have them all linked for you below.
It feels impossible to narrow down our hundreds of photos to a graspable amount… so I tried my very best to pick the best, the funniest, and the cutest!
Heya babes and HAPPY SATURDAY!
Okay, so by the title of this, you’re probably expecting some post with links to all the things you need for your home to make it beautiful for Christmas this year. There’s a time for that, because believe me… I believe in that. I love making my home as festive as possible every year and creating a special place for memories for my little family.
However, that’s not the point of this post. (If you want decor ideas, go here!) But here is what I wanted to share about a little: Prepping your home for the holidays goes way beyond the garland and ornaments. As the holidays inch closer and closer, I know there is probably this looming feeling of “gotta do”, “gotta buy”, “gotta deal with x, y, or z”, because the holidays can often bring up within us hurts or unmet expectations or a need to buy and spend and keep up.
DON’T DO IT! This year, I hope you can feel the freedom from pressure of the outside- whatever that may be for you. Whether it’s certain people or just cultural pressures, you are free from that and you just have to walk in it. Here are a couple ways you can ENJOY your holidays more this year!
- Choose a budget for your family over the next two months and stick to it. Pull the cash and put it in an envelope titled “Holiday Fun.” Seriously, cash envelopes are a game changer. If you can’t put your whole budget in the envelope ahead of time, then go through your budget for November and December to see how much you can put in it bi-monthly as you plan for your Christmas activities. Include outings and presents in this budget! Then, stick to it. It’s that simple. Go through lists of things happening in your city this season and pick the ones you really want to do! Plan out your holiday season and make it FUN without spontaneous spending. Get a calendar and write out on it family activities for the season. Family movie nights in, Christmas light drive, hot cocoa and visiting Santa, Christmas shopping day, etc. You will enjoy the holidays more without the pressure of money or overspending. That starts with planning it out well!
- To start off this year on the freedom train, yeah we are calling it that, I spent hours this week cleaning my home out of things we don’t need anymore. Bags of baby clothes, toys, odds and ends, clothes from mine and Paul’s closet… PURGING. I do this fairly frequently with my own closet, but I forced myself to get rid of baby things we don’t need or use finally (and I may have cried packing up Knox’s tiny sneakers that don’t fit anymore.) We went through all of his toys and got rid of ones he doesn’t tend to play with so that they can go to other kids who will. We sat down and dumped out everything! Knox helped as I would ask him what he wanted… I am not kidding, y’all. Your kid isn’t too young to make choices! We will take all of our donations together to the local Goodwill and make it special. I want Knox to hear us, though he won’t fully grasp it right now, say how important it is to give away what we’ve been given. We get to graciously give to others and share things. That is the spirit of Christmas and I want my kid to KNOW IT from as young as possible. That’s the gospel on full display for my 2 year old.
Anyways, we got rid of so much. I have ONE drawer of tiny baby toys in our office for future babies, and then one 3 shelf unit in Knox’s closet of toddler toys he actually plays with. A couple friends told me recently they actually OFFER to their kids a few options for the day and their child chooses one or two toys to play with… We have tried this for two days and already it’s amazing. Rather than making a disastrous space to play, dumping out everything, they have a few toys to be imaginative with for the day. Knox played with his Christmas Train and Tree for 4 hours, role playing and laughing by himself. FOR REAL. All from just having less to overwhelm his ability to play. Kids get over-stimulated with too much… and now I believe it more than ever before.
Give this a shot! I want to know how it works for you. At the end of the day, the holidays are honestly better when rooted in simplicity. I mean it. More isn’t better. Spending doesn’t mean special. Enjoy your time with your family and make the most of every moment this holiday season! Your home can be the most special space for your family, and it starts with simply being intentional!
Advent season has begun, and more than ever before, I feel like I get to experience true anticipation of a gift closest to what it must have felt like waiting for Jesus’ birth as it was foretold, and what it feels like to anticipate the return of Christ.
See the season of advent is a time of celebrating and reflecting on Jesus’ birth, the anticipation of the best gift that was ever given, which is the entire reason we celebrate Christmas and what everything Christmas (whether you believe Jesus was Lord or not) circles around. Christmas is so magical and full of anticipation for a reason… it’s all about the best love story ever told. And who doesn’t get giddy over a good love story? Jesus told us to live with child-like faith (Matthew 18:3), and Christmas is a season that embodies that command more than any other time of the year.
As my due date inches closer, this child could literally come any second, I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas morning so that they can finally unwrap that gift under the tree they know is the gift they asked for the most. The best part is, like so many of us before we discover a relationship with Jesus, my gift I am waiting on… I didn’t even know the extent of how much I wanted or needed it until I saw it wrapped and waiting for me to open it. It wasn’t until I experienced pregnancy that I knew what this love was. How sweet to experience this kind of love and agonizingly long wait now, during Advent.
Isn’t it beautiful how much those gifts under our tree that we so meticulously picked out and wrapped for the people we love truly represent? The gifts you bought for mom, dad, your husband, your best friend… they represent Advent.
Now, because the Lord has given me a platform, I wouldn’t be using it well if I didn’t share with you the story of Jesus’ birth.
You may be a Christian who has ready the story of Jesus’ birth in Luke hundreds of times, or you may be a brand new Christian still figuring out this CRAZY story. Or, what really gets me excited, you might be here on my blog for some random reason -maybe the first time ever- and you do not claim Christianity. I am SO GLAD you’re here. You, my friend, are supposed to be here today. Right now. Yes, I am talking to you.
So, yes, the story of Jesus is crazy.
Like, if you really think about it… it’s a wild thing to believe what I believe. That is, that God sent a piece of himself in the form of a baby to grow up and walk with us, fulfilling a prophecy foretold hundreds of years before, and bringing the promise of oneness with the creator of the universe again following the fall of man in The Garden of Eden….
Yeah, it’s a little crazy. But I believe in it with every single bit of me, because I have experienced a relationship with Jesus that makes all of the crazy make sense.
Jesus’ birth was foretold from the minute God started the process of redemption after Adam and Eve separated themselves from God by listening to Satan’s lies and welcoming sin into the world. But there was always a plan of bringing us back, and the Old Testament into the New is the story of how God proved time and time again he was real, at work, and redeeming. As it was said it would happen, the prophet Samuel chooses David as King -son of Jesse- and the process of redeeming God’s people continues. Then in Isaiah, the prophet gives a word from God that the process of redemption is still happening (can you imagine being the people of God waiting thousands of years… hoping for oneness with God again?… ahhh the spirit of Advent!).
Read Below to see what I mean:
“There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. His delight is in the fear of the LORD, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears; But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, And decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.”
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
So far, so good. All the proof is in the pudding, everything has happened that people said God told them to share would happen hundreds of years before. Then just as it was said, fast forward hundreds of years from David, and the king of the universe, the bright morning star, was born in Jerusalem from a virgin betrothed to Joseph from the lineage of David who came from Jesse.
You can’t make this stuff up. It sounds crazy, but crazy love is hard to grasp. God is hard to understand.
Jesus’ life, he did exactly what he said he would. He did exactly as the prophets of old said the son of God would do. He lived a life you couldn’t live because of sin, and then died the death you deserved because… again, your sin. He was sinless, he did as he said he would, and on the cross the story of redeeming love was complete. He absorbed the wrath of God, God hates sin and hated we were separated, and Jesus soaked up every bit of that as the replacement.
It is THE greatest love story. Period.
Now we get to pray and talk to God in constant communication because Jesus did what he did, and God did just as he foretold for thousands of years. (Have I said that enough yet?)
BUT HOW GOOD IS THAT? And, sometimes my logic tells me I am crazy for believing this stuff. But, I cannot deny the relationship I have with God. When I doubt HOW we got to where we are, I cannot deny the perfect love I have felt and live in daily. Faith the size of a mustard seed is all God says we need, and I can say I definitely have that. As I said above, my relationship with Jesus daily proves the crazy just enough to me.
I can’t deny my finger has healed the week of my due date after having a pregnancy tumor removed at an unreal rate. I have watched a miracle unfold, but of course I have… I prayed for it and God cares.
“For all the promises of God find their YES in him (Jesus). That is why it is through him that we utter our amen to God for his glory.” 2 Corinthians 1:20
I cannot deny that at 12 years old I asked God to make me nauseous on every single date I went on until I met my husband. And, because I prayed it, of course it happened. You can’t make this stuff up.
There are so many instances in my life I have seen God unify my heart in crazy, God ways with people, timing, and circumstances. That I have been prompted awake from my sleep to pray for things I had no explanation for, but come to find out was timely and needed at that second.
God is so real. That is what I am trying to get at here. The story of Jesus and his birth, the story of Christmas and all that the season of Advent represents, it is proven to me daily throughout the year in my relationship with Jesus.
Advent is a season of waiting and reflecting, just as the people we read about in the Old Testament did for years and years, generation after generation waiting for Jesus. They waited for this king to come, like a gift that they anticipated unwrapping underneath the tree. Like at 39 weeks and 4 days pregnant, waiting for a baby to finally be born.
Like Mary who was told she would be the one to carry the child of God for 9 months, and had to -at the worst timing ever- ride with her betrothed to Bethlehem on a donkey for a census BECAUSE Joseph had to go to the city of his ancestors… Jesse, David… Can you imagine? As a very pregnant women myself, no. I cannot imagine.
“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David.” Luke 2:4
God is the God of answered prayers, miracles, and fulfilling promises.
I hope you experience this Advent season in a new way like I have been able to already as I wait for Baby K to come any day. I hope you feel the anticipation of Jesus’ return in a way you’ve never experienced. I recently read that we are in between two different Advents right now. We reflect on the first Advent, the thousands of years God’s people waited for Jesus to fulfill the prophecy of his first coming and redemption. And, now, we are in a season of Advent waiting for his second return as it is foretold throughout the New Testament after his death and in Revelation.
I hope you know love like you’ve never known this Christmas.
Merry Christmas, my friends. Happy Advent. Happy waiting, happy anticipation.