The month before Christmas

It’s been a month of finding greenery and adding a little warmth to the drabness that is our as of yet unhelped kitchen and dining room.  You’d think after a year I could have at least managed to find curtains.

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…of David working in the basement every possible spare minute and in spite of his amazing, frequent clean ups, finding a new layer of dust in the house every single day.

…of cookie baking …. every single one of the traditional favorites I grew up with except for turtles.  It still takes a mom to make turtles and mine lives too far away.  But date nut balls, rice krispy candy, peanut butter balls that make Reese’s cookies cower in the corner with their hands over their eyes, peanut blossoms, Russian tea cakes, thumbprint cookies, chocolate covered pretzels …. yep, we’ve got those covered.  Or maybe by now they’ve got us covered.  Or they would have if 80% of them wouldn’t have been gifted to our lovely neighbors.  Did you know that the secret to making the best rice krispy candy ever is to put almost three times as much butter as what the recipe calls for?  Seriously, they’re light and fluffy instead of dry and chewy.

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…of crafting.  At camp, the boys make crafts for their families.  Staff make crafts for the staff Christmas exchange.  And this year, Adam and Liam jumped on the bandwagon of crafting, too.  Adam came up with a wood burning idea for David and pulled it off pretty diligently one afternoon.  Liam’s first soap carving didn’t go so well because the soap kept falling apart.  I’m just hoping David’s guessing skills will shoot up like a ski lift Christmas morning.

soap carving

wood burning


I’ve been having fun crafting, too, although mine has *mostly* stuck with the paper version and simple things like Christmas table decor.  But oh, it’s been fun to do something mindless and creative … especially after going cross-eyed late at night over technical issues while trying to set up a new website for camp.  I love being stretched and learning new things.  I just have to keep chanting that to myself when I google a question and I still don’t understand the explanation in the tutorial.  😉  But I have a few fabulous resources I plan to make the most of soon and hopefully in January we’ll be able to replace the existing site with the new one.  But decor?  Just fun!  The only downside is that it is so much fun the boys keep wanting to take the job!  I’m exploiting the gold crush that’s running viral and loving it!  I still haven’t pried my fingers loose from the beloved greys and silvers when it comes to clothes, but ribbon and table decor?  It’s so sparkly and pretty!  I can’t wait to put it all together Christmas Day!

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No tools?  no problem.  Did you know you can make a lacy paper edge with a scallop scissors and a pin?  I’m pretty sure an edger of some sort is probably out there just hanging on the store shelves, but I don’t have one and this works.  The holes may or may not end up in the middle of the scallop when you have five years olds who want to help poke though.  It’s called embracing imperfection and life and assuming the lace is handmade and unique.

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I thought I was doing relatively well with that thought until Liam wanted to finish out writing the names for me.  Does anyone else ever get torn in that no man’s land battle zone between “I love that the boys want to help and be involved and oops, this is not going to look like I was planning?”  I was nearly finished and I really, really, really just wanted them to all look the same.  But I felt so guilty about saying no.  When is it ok to have your own project and when is that just selfish??  I bet that if you’re a mom in my generation you’ve heard it over and over and over.  “Let your children help you now if you want to be involved in their lives later.  Get your children involved; don’t just push them aside.”  I agree with them.  I really do.  But sometimes when the boys want to be with me all.the.time doing everything I do, the devil’s advocate in me wants to ask, ten years from now are we going to be telling mom’s that it’s great to let your children help, but they should also learn that sometimes they have to be okay with just watching or doing their own thing?  Because I’m pretty sure we can fall into the opposite ditch so far that they end up feeling entitled and like the world revolves around their being allowed into every fun thing that happens.  Do you let your children help with everything?

Philosophy aside, I suggested Liam make paper name tags to put around our napkins for our own little Christmas breakfast with just our family.  He and I were both thrilled.  I stitched a big red zig zag stitch along both edges for a bit of chevron vibe and he sat down with the new silver paint pen to write names.  And then I nearly swooned.  I know it’s just mom-heart palpitations but that five-year-old kindergarten font is so precious I want to save them forever!

paper crafting

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place cards


… a month of this lovely Pear Pomegranate Salad becoming almost a staple.  My sister-in-law, Jo, is the finder of the most amazing salads.  She introduced us to this one at our Christmas get together two years ago.  Now I can hardly look at a Pomegranate without instantly thinking of this salad.  Spinach, lettuce, glazed pecans, pears, feta cheese, and pomegranates married with a red wine vinaigrette dressing.  Seriously.  That pile is none too big when you’re looking at this salad.

Pear Pomegranate Salad


And because I already know you want the recipe, here it is.

Pear Pomagranate Salad
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/4 c. sugar
1 head romaine lettuce
1 (14 oz) bag baby spinach
seeds from 1 pomegranate (about 1 cup)
2 ripe pears
Juice of 1 lime
4 oz crumbled feta cheese
1. Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with non stick cooking spray and set aside.
2. Combine pecans and sugar in a small nonstick skillet. Cook over medium low heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar melts and coats the nuts (about 15 minutes). Place on the prepared foil and set aside.
3. Toss together lettuce, spinach, pomagranate seeds, pears, lime juice, and cheese, adding the candied pecans right before serving. Drizzle Sweet Red Wine Vinaigrette over the salad and serve immediately.
Sweet Red Wine Vinaigrette
1/2 c. red wine vinegar
1/2 c. sugar
1-2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 c. oil
Combine vinegar, sugar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a blender and process on high. Lower speed, and while blender is running, add oil in a steady stream. Dressing may be stored in refrigerator about 2-3 weeks. Shake well before serving.

….it’s been a month of gorgeous snows!  Two weekends in a row we were gifted with amazing, gorgeous, add many superlatives snowfalls.  The last one was especially heavy and just beyond gorgeous to watch.

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(These pictures are hard to believe now that it’s been sixty degrees two days in a row.  How can the weather possibly change so fast?)

…. a fun afternoon of sewing with this girl.  Sheryl and I grew up together in South Carolina and some days I still can’t believe we actually get to live in the same community for a little while again while she works as cook at camp.  She’s such a fun, happy person to hang out with; but best of all, it is just a fabulous gift to be around an old friend.  Unfortunately, her time is flying by and we don’t get to spend nearly enough time together.

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… a month of growing.  Or at least baby is growing.  I think I may be exploding.  Each of my pregnancies have involved Christmas time and each time, I think about Mary, with even more questions than before.  What was it like carrying the Son of God?  I wonder what her pregnancy was like and if she woke up during the middle of the night too miserable to go back to sleep like I do or if she was one of those women who blipped through pregnancy like it’s no big deal?  I wonder if she went til her due date or if Jesus arrived early thanks to the bumpy donkey ride to Bethlehem?  But even more, I wonder what questions she asked herself throughout those nine months.  Did she ever wonder if she was capable of being the kind of mother He needed or did being divinely chosen and talking with the angel remove all her womanly tendencies to doubt herself?

thirty weeks gestation

I love singing Christmas songs and the way different words become so meaningful from one year to the next.  This year, these are some of my favorites … “the weary world rejoices.”  There is so much weariness in the world right now.  Not just physically (although it’s nearly become my middle name these days) but spiritually.  It feels as though evil is everywhere wanting to win.  Evil possesses a man and causes him to shoot another man in the head.  Evil causes tension and hardship in relationships.  Evil wants us to get caught up in ideals and opinions that don’t really matter so that we don’t focus on Jesus and the things that really do.  And evil desperately wants to get the upper hand in our families, our churches, and the boys at camp.  This week as some things surfaced, I woke up some mornings feeling such a heaviness.  Not fear, because I know God’s power is infinitely greater, but a heaviness with the realization of how intense and close the battlefield lies.  I love Christmas and celebrating the miracle of Jesus’ birth; but more than ever this Christmas, I find myself longing for His next coming.  Unlike the silent four hundred years of darkness, we have his Spirit among us.  Meanwhile our world is weary and broken and leaking and longing for Him.  Thinking about how dark their world felt back then makes me realize how much more glorious it must have been to see the heavens light up with dozens of angels announcing the arrival of the Savior!  I can only imagine what it was like back then or what it will be like someday.  But for today, the weary world rejoices because He did come and He is coming again.


32 thoughts on “The month before Christmas

  1. April

    You are beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!!

    And your photos Michelle are just dreamy. I love eye-candy and your posts satisfy that craving :) Merry Christmas!

  2. Lydia Jo Martin

    Clears throat: Yes! I struggle with the Mom guilt when it comes to letting my children help. Having run into adults that have mothers that are great cooks but never taught their daughters to cook, I realize how this could happen. I will need to work at it, as I do tend to have control issues in the kitchen. I had gold spray paint out on Saturday! So fun.
    You are looking great!

  3. jennie

    Friends from the ‘growing up years’ are just awesome….I have one here in PA too. :)

    You are beautiful. Love the tummy. When are you due, again? Oh my, so cute!! I think I’m a selfish mother and do not involve my kids enough with my projects.

    It was so nice to hear from you…xoxo

    1. Michelle Post author

      Oh, cool! I love that you have a growing up friend in PA! I’m due Feb 25th so eight more weeks. And nope, I’m convinced you’re not a selfish mom. I’ve seen enough pictures to prove otherwise. :)

  4. Nola

    Your pictures are so fun and pretty, as always. I can relate with the dilemma of letting(or not) my children help. It seems like mine are always right by my elbow. I love how they love to be with me and “help”, but it can easily cross into frustration. I do think it is important TO let them help. That is how they will learn so many things. But I also think there is a balance and they need to learn that they will not be catered to on every whim and wish and sometimes they just need to accept “no.”
    “Amen and amen” to the sentiment expressed in the last paragraph. I think about this often.

  5. Mary Beth

    Your blog was beautiful Michelle…. As usual! And I to have had this heaviness of all the darkness around us!! I believe we are in or nearing the end times and pray that we can stand strong and our dear children will also cling to truth and not be swayed!! Love the photos … Your camera takes better photos then mine! :) Blessings to you as you near giving birth to another sweet baby! Luv u!

  6. Rachel Helmuth

    just so much inspiration… and ever so beautiful. love what you did to your windows and those napkin holders are the BEST. loved seeing a picture of you too and that pregnant belly, still just so happy for you. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  7. Marylou

    “The weary world rejoices” is a good description of how this month has felt to me. And I’m not even facing some of the heartaches that others are with losing family members just before Christmas. Life is wearying but I’m so glad there’s so much to rejoice about as well.

    I loved all of the snow pics! I wish I could experience it for a few days again!! Especially after the very warm weather this past weekend!

    Hope y’all have a great Christmas!!

  8. Mary Ann Mast

    I always needed curtains at my windows that had to be closed when it got dark. We lost our house due to fire March, 2012 and I have not put curtains in any windows that are not towards the road. I surprise myself that I am ok with this, but it does make a room seem more open and spacious. I enjoy reading your blog, I love your snow pics. And by the way my cousin Esther Beiler is cook at camp there.

    1. Michelle Post author

      I’m sorry about the house fire! That must have been devastating! I’m usually not a “closed window” person; probably too much the opposite. 😉 But the trim is so ugly here that the windows really would profit from valances at least. :)

  9. Lois Mast

    I admit I rarely get to read your blog but this was a treat! I feel inspired! I’ll be praying that the baby comes in good time, safely and that you have a good remaining pregnancy. I’d like to try those adorable little napkin holders. I loved your pics. We plan to have 36 here for Christmas Day. It will include my side of the family. Have a blessed celebration!

  10. Lillie Sommers

    Great post, Michelle!
    I always love reading what you write and looking at your photos!
    Please tell Sheryl K. Hello and Merry Christmas for me! I used to stay in touch with her but I didn’t know where she was and what she’s been doing the last couple of years. Wouldn’t it be great for us all to get together sometime?
    Anyways, keep on keeping on! And Merry Christmas to you!

  11. amber.

    oh, my goodness… you look so beautiful!.
    love your outfit. that dainty belt around your way too tiny to be pregnant belly! :))

    merry christmas my sweet friend. tight hug

  12. Clarita

    So much fun!!
    Love the pregnancy snow picture ~ you are so lovely!
    The snow… so dreamy and magical. The dog laying on the porch is one of my favorites.
    Letting kids help with everything? Um, nope. Not everything. A lot of things, and sometimes giving an alternative, and sometimes letting them try – only to realize it’s harder than they thought. :) The name tags that Liam made are darling! His font is so pretty too!!
    Your word pictures crack me up – “imagination shoots up like a ski lift…” Ha! :) I love your creative thinking!
    Happy happy Christmas!

  13. Christy

    It all looks and sounds so cozy. Tell Liam I really like his placecards. I think we were raised SO much more involved than a lot of other people, so we have a different frame of reference when it comes to involving our children. I’ve already heard moms talking about letting their children help with baking “this once” and people compliment her as though it were super commendable. Then I’m like, “Ooohhhh. Interesting. So it would be okay if “this once” I’d say no.” :) The winter pictures at the end are fabulous and you look very pretty. I like the pink!! :)

    1. Michelle Post author

      Liam just BEAMED when I passed along the compliment. :) And yes, I think too we were raised a lot more involved. Not just with projects but with a lot of things. Most of it is a good thing; it just gets too much when you hear all the regret from a lot of other moms and feel guilt to do still more.

  14. Tessy

    Your pictures are so lovely. The one of you in the snow with your pregnant belly is just stunning. Your baking pictures made me hungry. Hope you had a very Merry Christmas.

  15. Luci

    This post was just full of deliciousness.
    It’s funny…I was struck this year with “Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth” and couldn’t get that beautiful line out of my head.
    I long with you for the return of Jesus. But for now there’s also so much beauty to enjoy. Like your pictures. :) All the best with that growing baby.

  16. Beth

    I certainly feel the weary in the world sometimes myself, and long for the time when we don’t have to struggle this way any longer!

    How cute are you?! You look wonderful.

    I’m suspicious of you being a real person, wise words, beautiful photography, and CUTE? That’s too much for one person! 😉

    1. Michelle Post author

      Ha! I’m very much a real person. This morning I could hardly move out of bed for all the pelvic pain and David said, “I haven’t heard you talk about that much this time,” (because usually I have a dislocated hip most of my pregnancy) and I said, that’s because it hasn’t happened. I’m not saint enough to not complain. 😉 So if you ever REALLY have doubts, I can give you the scoop and remove all trace. Just believe me and I’ll refrain. 😀

  17. Cindy

    you look so beautiful! what a perfect outfit for you and your baby. I’m so excited!!! how many weeks till your due date?!

    finding curtains can take more than a year. at least for normal folks. so I would know. 😉

    and any recipe made with 3x the butter has me saying come to momma. (one of my fav Christmas cookie recipes is caramel shortbread, a 9×13 pan that takes 4 sticks, yep. an entire lb of butter!)

    your name cards are awesome. the handwriting is perfect. :) my opinion is that good moms can say yes and no. both. but I wrestle with what and when and sadly my own motives at times. so I understand.

    that “weary world rejoices” part are words that I barely even noticed until this season. and I’ve found them breathtaking. because the battlefield is yes. so close. and it’s why my card verse included the words “in HIS light, we see light.”

    happy next to last day of 2013 dear friend. <3

    1. Michelle Post author

      Eight more weeks …. or less I hope. I can always count on you to help me feel normal again so thanks! :) Caramel shortbread? Oh my word. Please can you send me the recipe??? It sounds marvelous! And like just the thing to go with the fabulous coffee David started making since he’s roasting the coffee beans.

      I always love your words about light on your Christmas cards!

  18. Jo Yoder

    I just love the beauty & peace of this post, and the glimpses I see of God being your light in a season that has brought you darkness in the past! Praising Him!
    I love the bokeh in your tree-on-the-porch/snow-on-the-trees photo. Lovely. And YOU. I just stared at that last photo with a huge lump in my throat. Thank You, Jesus, for miracles!!!
    The Christmas hymn that’s been my favorite this season is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” We sang it in a women’s prison at the beginning of the month. Before then, I’d never noticed its many references to bondage/chains/prison. I saw on their faces the truth & weight of the words, in a way that I never had before.

    1. Jo Yoder

      P.S. Please excuse the overuse of the word “love” in the above comment. :-(
      I forgot to say that the salad looks fabulous. It is now going to haunt me til I try it. Thanks. :-)

    2. Michelle Post author

      I can only imagine how real that song felt singing to people who knew bonds both spiritually and physically! I love that song, too! So many Christmas favorites! And yes, God is a God of miracles!! Some days I still can hardly believe it myself!

  19. Claudia

    But moms are not required for cheat-turtles…and littles love to help with them. :) A square pretzel and a rolo heated 4 minutes at 250 degrees, and a pecan to smoosh on top the melted rolo. They are wonderful!

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