Surprise! I’m popping in with a Friday post because it’s recap week here on the blog, and this December just isn’t going to recap itself. Truth be told, I’d initially intended for this post to go out to you on Monday, but my OCDness simply couldn’t make peace with a December 2022 post showing up on the second day of 2023. So here we are, finishing up some late 2022 business before we trade our calendars in for the new model.
December’s reading was all about Christmas books, with some theology sprinkled in. Our family read The Christmas Pig together (it was cute, but Charleston liked it more than me) and I indulged in this seasonal family story and this inspiring little book I’d waited all year to read. I cried my way through this poignant novella and took copious notes while reading this book that is part apologetics, part memoir. This book gave me a lot to think about, though I haven’t drawn many conclusions just yet. Full reviews of most of these books will be headed your way soon.
Spirited ~ In this musical/comedy spinoff of A Christmas Carol, The Ghost of Christmas Present (Will Ferrell) is nearing retirement and has one final human soul to redeem. He sets his sights on Clint Briggs, a media consultant who has been classified as irredeemable; but soon, the conniving Clint has flipped the script and is forcing Christmas Present to reevaluate his own past, present, and future.
This movie was not what I expected and it was so much fun! The musical elements are intended to be a spoof, yet I was impressed with the songs and especially the dancing (even if Will Ferrell and crew didn’t exactly deliver on the vocals). The scenes are whimsical, and the story is clever and takes several unexpected turns. I loved the numerous Christmas Easter eggs, with nods to Elf and other holiday favorites. There is a lot of slapstick humor, and many cultural references that will feel dated in a year or two, but I’m much more forgiving of such things at Christmas time, and I love this movie’s themes of redemption, kindness, and integrity. I watch so little throughout the year, but this movie was well deserving of my limited media intake!
My Rating: 4.5 Stars.
<<LISTENING LATELY >>
I took periodic breaks from my enjoyment of Christmas carols this month to tune into some podcasts. Here are some that left an impression.
+ The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast: Episode 537—Tyler Staton on the Transition Between John Mark Comer and Him at Bridgetown, 3 Kinds of Biblical Discernment, and Why Prayer is More Important than Sermon Preparation
+ “Mom, I know they say there’s no such thing as perfect, but this rice really is totally perfect!” (It’s rare for one of my kids to rave about my cooking; I want to remember this!)
+ “I think it’s easier for us to believe in the second coming than it was for people in the Old Testament to believe He would come the first time, because He already showed once that He could do it.”
+ “You had a Christmassy wedding, right? I want to have a Thanksgivingy wedding, with turkey-flavored wedding cake.”
+ “I’m drink-y, I need some water.” (drinky = thirsty)
+ “I want to have hic-ups like you. To put on my face and make me look pretty.” (hiccups = makeup)
+ Looking up at me while on a donut date: “You’re my best friend, right Mommy?”
+ When she saw that I was sad: “It’s okay, Mama. We’re both here for you.”
+ “I’m gonna be a daddy and I’m gonna drink coffee, and Kalinda’s gonna be a mama and she’s going to drink Dr. Pepper that’s super yucky.”
+ “Mom, I want a punishment like Charlie.” Me: “Sully, do you know what a punishment is?” Sully: “Yeah, it’s a mint. Like a peppermint. A punishment.”
<<HAPPENINGS & HIGHLIGHTS>>
We did things a little differently for our Advent countdowns this year. Over the past several years we had always read the same two family Advent books; for Christmas of 2022 we instead read the storybook that accompanied our GoodKind Advent blocks. I loved this new tradition and look forward to doing it again next year: it makes for an attractive display and a great visual/kinesthetic tie-in for the Jesse Tree-like story experience. In addition to the blocks, we had a magnetic ornament calendar and Lego Advent calendar, and the kids rotated who got to do which calendar each night.
We took the kids to the winter festival in our local downtown, and they told us it was one of their favorite things we did all month! We got there early so the kids had free rein of the many inflatables before the crowds showed up. The kids also got to ride horses, got pulled in a horse-drawn buggy, and played in the snow. We browsed the vendors’ stalls and soaked up the goodness that is small town living at wintertime.
Luke and his dad and sister took all the kids to “Bethlehem,” a live nativity reenactment held in a neighboring town every year. I was bummed that I didn’t get to go, but the kids loved it and all month long, whenever they heard about Bethlehem in a song or book or Bible reading, they would exclaim about how they got to go there!
We took a trip to visit Santa Claus at his home (and by home, I do mean Bass Pro Shop). The kids were eager to make their Christmas requests and when asked, Santa told us that his Christmas wish was for everyone to be happy. We’ve reached the stage with the kids where they are excited to see Santa and not at all nervous, which makes for a fun visit if not the most humorous pictures!
A week later we were back to see Santa, this time with the cousins. We opted for a jammies pictures since it was a cold day; love that we ended up with Santa and his reindeer!
The day we put up our Christmas tree, the kids started asking to be allowed to sleep next to it, so a few nights before Christmas we made a bed on the living room floor for all of them. It wasn’t the most restful night for everyone, but they had a lot of fun!
We did quite a bit of Christmas-light-seeing in December. One night we packed dinner and spent some time driving through surrounding neighborhoods, searching out the items on our Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt. And the Wednesday before Christmas we went to Peppermint Parkway, a drive-thru light experience that is just awesome. The kids LOVED it, and their excitement was just too precious; and when The Grinch called out hello to our little van-full of Whoo’s, they shrieked and squealed and could not stop talking about this celebrity spotting.
We spent December 23 baking! We usually do sugar cookie cutouts, but went with gingerbread this year. Luke had the day off of work and was able to join in the fun. And on Christmas Eve, we decorated a gingerbread house. (We’d planned to decorate those cookies too but didn’t get around to it.) This has been a Christmas Eve tradition for years now, and as the twins get older our house just gets crazier!
We attended a candlelight Christmas Eve service at our church and it was beautiful, as always. Our associate pastor gave a full presentation of the Gospel, we sang lovely carols, and the twins got to have a huge birthday party for Jesus in their preschool room. What a wonderful way to usher in Christmas: sitting at the feet of the One it’s all about.
On the night of Christmas Eve, the kids put out carrots for the reindeer and milk and cookies for Santa. Charleston also wrote a note (and threw Santa for a curveball with a last-minute ask for a picture of Dasher). I have such mixed feelings about the whole “Santa” thing, but it was a special part of my own childhood and I’ve enjoyed continuing the tradition with my own kids—if only because it gives them practice in exercising their belief muscles in ways that transfer to a flourishing faith in God as they get older (as I believe it did for me). Charleston has had lots of questions about Santa this year, but still believes; and the twins for sure believe, but had lots of confusion surrounding when and how Santa would come (and why they wouldn’t get to join him in eating those cookies and feeding the reindeer).
Christmas morning was everything my mama heart could have hoped for (minus the early start: we were up at 6:30 and done with presents before 8:00!). The kids’ reactions to seeing what Santa had left were joyous, with Sully squealing in delight and hugging his Paw Patrol tower, Kali excitedly exclaiming over the “something to eat” (candy canes and Reese’s Pieces) she found in her stocking, and Charleston amazed that Santa came through with that reindeer picture.
They all did great with our family gift exchange, too, helping each other open gifts and sharing in enthusiasm over what each child received. Kali cracked us up by wearing her new Cinderella costume all morning long, and hoarding gifts into her purses. Luke and I decided to forgo gifts for each other this year, but Charleston surprised me with one of the best gifts I’ve EVER received: a custom journal he worked on all year long, with illustrated entries from our memories together throughout the year. What a thoughtful and creative boy I have; I for sure cried when I opened this amazing gift.
We spent Christmas afternoon at my in-laws’ house with Luke’s side of the family (minus Tío Tommy who was unable to fly out for Christmas). It was Baby Brooke (Sissy)’s first Christmas and she was a doll, crawling around absorbing the excitement of the big kids. The kids were all really good about taking turns opening gifts even when it seemed like Sissy was the only one making out big.
The kids’ patience paid off: Tom and Grace nailed it with the kids’ gifts this year—they had a blast driving their fancy new wheels all around the yard. What a fun end to a wonderful day.
On Wednesday, Luke and I celebrated fourteen years of marriage. It feels like just yesterday and also a lifetime ago when we said “I do”! Our celebration was simple but wonderful: we began with a couple’s massage (bliss!) then went to The Domain for lunch and a people-watching stroll. It’s always nice to spend time together and remember how much we like each other, without little voices chiming in with frequent requests and commentary.
<<DECEMBER ON THE BLOG>>
In case you missed them the first time ’round, here’s a look at December’s offerings.
LIFE & FAITH
Peace “I remind myself of this daily: I am doing enough. And even if I am NOT doing enough, that’s okay. . . because I probably never will. The perfect holiday season does not exist, and even if it did, it would not rest on my shoulders to usher it in.”
Our Rock (Sermon on the Mount, Part 12) “I love that there is no limit to the grandeur and vastness of a faith-mansion that is built on a solid foundation. Jesus is unchanging, sovereign, and enduring. Obedience to His commands, and faithfulness to His message and His promises, is my solid ground.”
What I Learned in 2022 “God is teaching me to remain true to my convictions without feeling the need to micromanage the convictions of others.“
28 Underrated Christmas Gems (Those Movies, Books, and Songs I Love That You Might Not Know About Yet) “I especially love hearing unexpected under-the-radar favorites that speak to each of our unique upbringings and Christmas experiences.“
Nostalgic Christmas “I wished for a Christmas less weighted with earthly chaos and more heavily infused with values and virtues we all could agree were good and beautiful and true.“
“The Lord is coming, always coming. When you have ears to hear and eyes to see, you will recognize him at any moment of your life. Life is Advent; life is recognizing the coming of the Lord.” ~ Henri Nouwen
“No man ever errs on the side of giving too much honor to God the Son.” ~ J.C. Ryle
“When we turn from expectations to being expectant, we will never be disappointed because God never disappoints.” ~ Ruth Chou Simons
I hope your December was also eventful and memorable in all the best ways!