hannaly grace july,

you are one today. you are the brightest, sweetest, most beautiful baby girl of all time (well, you and noelle). i get teary thinking about this year with you. you’ve lived on my right hip for the last several months and there is no place i would rather you be. you are always right there, content and smiling. when you crawl your hips move quickly and your tush bobs around back and forth. you have taken a few small steps and will be completely walking in no time. when you laugh and your whole body shakes with joy. you are amazed by your brothers. you adore your sister. your dad is completely in awe of you. you make me so proud to be a mom. i love you completely. i always will. happy birthday, baby girl.




it’s december what? 4th or 5th?

we still have stuffing in the fridge and a sandwich size bag of turkey left over that i dread throwing away.

my friends are days ahead of me in the advent calendar and it turns out that everyone on social media is doing elf on a shelf this year.

our boxes are covered in cobwebs and i really hate most of our Christmas decorations. they are raggedy and breaking and a mesh of a million different colors.

Christmas music is playing, but all i hear is the cha-ching of my credit card maximizing.

do you know why i spend so much money in december? guilt.



i want my kids to feel so special.

like the deep, joyful, glittery Christmas feeling that makes their smiles burst from cheek to cheek. i want them to run out of their rooms Christmas morning and jump up and down. i want presents to overflow from under the tree like the hundreds of legos flooding out from under their bed right now. i want them to love Christmas. i want their hearts to race and eyes to pop open. i want them to feel deep down how exciting it is to celebrate and decorate and do our annual traditions.

i spend money (way too much money) because i started believing that feeling special means i have to do so much. i feel guilty because i haven’t done enough to give them that butterfly in their stomachs experience. i spend so much money because i’d feel guilty if there was only one present under the tree. i feel guilty for not having started advent readings with them. i feel guilty that our tree doesn’t have shimmer and shine on it. i feel guilty for not sending out Christmas cards. so to silence my guilt, i spend.


i’m trapped in the tension of what commercials and culture tells me and what i believe to be true.

culture says, “do more to make the season special.”

Jesus says, “come to the manger.”

commercials say, “buy more, spend more, and see more to make this season meaningful.”

Jesus says, “come to the manger, just as you are.”


i want my kids to have the most amazing experience of Christmas. i want them to run from tree to tree trying to find the perfect one. i want them to marvel at city Christmas lights and to sing carols in the car. i want them to feel just how wonderful Christmas is. i want them to look back on their childhood Christmas experience with that sparkle in their eyes.  i am so tempted to spend money.  i have to keep my hands glued to that red target shopping cart or i will be in serious trouble this year.

i am just not convinced that the way to deal with my guilt or to give my kids the joy of the season is by spending more money.



i am convinced that the greatest gift i can give my kids this month is to take them to the manger. i can show them the simple, torn down, tiny manger. i can show them where the Savior of the world was born. i can talk about that baby. i can talk about the temptation to fill our lives with stuff that won’t ever fill our vacant hearts. stuff only makes us grow to grab for more. i can tell them stories about how that baby didn’t enter the world with glitter and pizazz but he came to bring one thing: peace. i can tell them about how the world says in order to be happy you have to perform or achieve or be perfect, but that baby made it possible for our brokenness to be brought into the light.

because more than seeing a sparkle in their eyes Christmas morning, i want their hearts to slowly start seeing the manger scene. i want them to see how we were given the gift of freedom and hope. i want their little hearts to start awakening to the awe that is found in that nativity. i want them to start following the star that leads to Jesus.



we will spend money this month. more than we do any other month of the year. but i’m not going to feed my guilt and need for my kids to feel special with an outrageous amount of stuff under the tree. we will bake and sing and walk through the most decorated streets, but i’m not going to let culture and commercials define our experience.

i’m going to tenderly take my kids to the manger. i’m going to gather them in my arms and have them peek over the wooden slats of that nowhere barn in Bethlehem and tell them stories about how that baby saved me and them and the entire world because He loves.

and love, what other gift could make souls dance, and sing, satisfy and sparkle?


we got our tree today. manoah was thoroughly unimpressed, samuel was climbing all over of the tangled trees like it was his playground and noelle was spinning in circles, while hannaly sat content in the cart. we got home and the boys fought and noelle spilled hot chocolate down the side of our white kitchen cabinets.

as i wiped up the mess and listened to my boys arguing over whose ornament was highest on the tree, i thought to myself, “this is what Christmas is all about.”

Jesus cleaning up our mess. with Christmas music blaring and kids battling it out, and my mismatched Christmas tree tilting to the right, i exhaled.

being with each other in our mess and letting love meet us in the middle. less stuff, less spending and a lot more manger.


tonight i watched my older son read to my younger son in the doorway of their bedroom.

he ran his fingers across the words and when he got to a word that the littler one might be able to read, he stopped and let him try to sound it out.


it’s moments like these that i never want to forget.