As the name of my blog indicates, I spend a lot of time thinking about home. Of course, my Heavenly Home is the one that is eternal, so that’s where I need to lay up my treasures, and that’s the one I’m striving for. But in the meantime, I have been given this tiny piece of the here-and-now—this home on the edge of town, this family, this neighborhood—in which to serve Him. And, though this is in the earthly realm, I want the things that happen here to be investments in the Heavenly realm.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reflections {2013}

For many years, our family has made a list of the past year's highlights. And for the past several years, I have also noted some of the memorable moments of our year as recorded through my blog.

Reflection is a good thing. Often we see better through hindsight. We can see how the Lord has directed our paths as we look back at where we've been. As I have looked back at 2013 through my blog, I can see how He was preparing my heart for what would lie ahead. I see His faithfulness. 

I began the year with some quiet reflection and a New Year's Prayer. 

Homeschool was in full swing as I wrote about enjoying

This month, I told you about "Special Days" With Papa and Gran  and then shared two of this year's "special days" with you.

In March, we hosted a gathering, a ladies' game night. Some of you were curious about the details, so I responded with 

I also told you about some of our favorite homeschool books.

We celebrated Bekah's 12th birthday, I ended my winter-long blog series of bread recipes,

We were blessed with lots of family togetherness. We had the nearby grands for the weekend...and then we spent a week with Ryan, Sarah, and the faraway grands in Maine! Oh joy! (There was a bonus in that trip to Maine too!)

I also told you about my hair transformation in Raising the White Flag. And somewhere along the way, the Lord began to whisper to me here and there about gray and gloom and growth.

I kicked off my summer recipe series, Fruit on Tuesday, and mused about honoring fathers and the fellowship of food.

Continuing with our summer reorganizing, we spruced up Bekah's room. I also shared some photos of our summer deluge!

Ahhh...the month of numbering our days.  There were a whole host of birthdays, which I wrote about here and here and here and here and here. And then there was our anniversary getaway, celebrating 35 years of marriage.

But there were also musings about the "small" things, the simple pleasures.

September was new beginnings and doing some house projects and (of course!) welcoming my favorite season.

For 31 days in October, I challenged us to have a renewed vision for celebrations.

I had lots to share this month! We marked Kati's 20th birthday with a celebration. I showed you our front porch makeover. I told you all about our DIY island. We had a wonderful visit with our son Ryan and his family, including a birthday party for Peter and our Thanksgiving gathering.

But in the midst of all the fun, our hearts were heavy and I felt the need to focus on the important.

Oh, December.  I announced our special project, shared our special day with the Rabes, invited you along on our Farmhouse Christmas Tour...and then I told you about the joy and sorrow that marked our celebrations in

And so I end this year with the idea that has permeated my thoughts and my heart these past months...Ebenezer.

"Thus far the Lord has helped us." 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Celebrating Christmas

We celebrated Christmas this year with a mixture of grief and joy, heartache and thankfulness, pain and peace.

It was the most unusual holiday season we have ever had. In fact, life has been a whirlwind since autumn. (I mentioned some of the challenges ~here~.) My aunt's illness was a continual part of our thoughts. There were plenty of joyous moments (a wonderful visit with Ryan and family, a day with the Rabes, fun with the grands, to name a few), but sadness was a companion all the while.

Two days before Christmas, we went to say our good-byes. On the way home, I learned that our friends' son was in serious medical trouble. That night, one of our little adopted stray cats died. On Christmas Eve, my heart was aching.

My beloved aunt passed away on Christmas morning.

And the words that I have written over the past several months? I was compelled to live them out.

Words like these...

I propose that celebrations can be a sort of Ebenezer. As we mark an occasion, a milestone, or a holiday, we can say, "Thus far the Lord has helped us."

We can celebrate a holiday with sincere hearts, hearts that are mindful of the purpose of our festivities, hearts that are filled with gratitude for what He has done. "Thus far the Lord has helped us." 

Marking an occasion as an Ebenezer, a "stone of help," can make all the difference in how we celebrate!

and words like these...

If our focus is marking the occasion, commemorating its significance, if our hearts are full of gratitude knowing that everything comes from His hand...then our celebrations will be those of true rejoicing, and not just meaningless exercises in "having fun"!

and even these...

It is not the season for perfect. For getting it all done. For a Martha Stewart holiday. For checking everything on the to-do list. 

It is the season of enough. 

And in this season, if (when) I am called to do hard things, to live hard things, to glorify Him in painful circumstances, He is enough. 

When I am at the end of my resources, when I am not sure which step to take next, He is enough. 

Whether the path is busy or bumpy or bleak, He is enough, more than enough.

And so we celebrated. No, not in a "happy-happy-happy" kind of way. But in a "He is good" kind of way.

We celebrate Christmas because Jesus came to redeem!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

"Born That Man No More May Die"

As I was out running errands this week, the words "born that man no more may die" pierced my heart, and I drove home with a few last minute gifts and a renewed appreciation of The Gift

This is the heart of Christmas. This is the reason He came. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Farmhouse Christmas Tour ~ 2013


We're so glad to have you come for a little visit to our Farmhouse this Christmas!

This is what you see as you walk in the front door, a narrow central staircase, typical of turn of the century farmhouses in our area. The kitty has a red bow for Christmas and he sits atop some volumes of The Everyday Library for Young People that belonged to my great-grandfather.

To the right of the stairs is our dining room, which might be my favorite room to decorate for Christmas. It lends itself well to simple, natural touches. 

Ron made this sideboard many years ago from a pattern featured in Country Living magazine. The pewter tea service is a bicentennial reproduction given to me by my aunt. 

Again this year, I have made a Della Robbia arrangement for my mantle, with combination of faux and real elements.

Some of you may remember Ron's tree.  Well, he recently got a new tree, replacing the ancient (not antique!) fake tree that was shedding more and more needles with every passing year. The decorations are still the same, dried yarrow from our herb garden and raffia garland.

Some of the pewter in the corner cupboard is new this year, bargains purchased with Christmas money last December. For now I am displaying it in the corner cupboard (also made from Country Living plans in the '80's), although I will probably return my great-grandmother's china tea set to this spot come spring.

To the left of the stairs is our living room. At one time it was a kitchen! We know this because Ron found the hole where the pitcher pump had been when remodeling this room. But now it is our living room, and the place where we unwind at the end of the day.

This is my cozy chair, my favorite evening spot. I love that it is nestled up to the Christmas tree this year. This is our family tree, bedecked with ornaments that we have collected through the years.

Joy? Yes, even in trying circumstances. "Joy to the world! The Lord has come!"

The five nearby grands have already scouted out their packages under the tree. That is, all of them except for Owen (7) who couldn't find his! (Gran hadn't wrapped it yet. She hopes that he's not too worried!)

The "fantel" has its usual theme, soft candlelight and berries, fresh greenery to be added closer to the big day. (The wood stove, although loved for its cozy heat, dries fresh greens out so quickly; we usually have them only for a few days.)

Here's another view of the living room.

I love these carolers given to me by my mom many years ago. We place them on top of the piano. It seems the right place for singers, don't you think?

I wonder if they're singing "Carol of the Bells" while Bekah plays for them? (Apparently, she didn't need the pedals. ~smile~)

I told you about our kitchen (almost) disaster, so I only have a few pictures from that room. But it is the heart of our home -- our hangout, our school room, our party room, our gathering place. Our tour wouldn't be complete unless we made a little stop there.

Thank you for coming along on the Farmhouse Christmas Tour! 

I pray that your celebrations are Christ-centered as you honor the first coming of our Lord and King! 
May you be ready for His second coming!

 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;

Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, 
upon them a light has shined.

Isaiah 9:2

Linking to The Nester's 2013 Christmas Tour of Homes...where "it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful!"  (Hooray!)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Around the House

My plan to "uncomplify" gets more complified by the day.

That's the short of it. But since I rarely make anything short, I will fill in the details. (If you just want the short, you have already read it.)  

The story of this Christmas season begins in June.

On a stormy summer afternoon, I was astounded when I opened my inbox to find an email from Judy Condon, author of the Simply Country book series, asking if I'd be interested in having my home included in one of her books! Oh my!! After picking myself off the floor, I assured her that, although surprised, I'd be honored to have her consider our humble home. Judy said that she'd like to include our home in next year's holiday book, so she wanted to have the photographs taken when we were decorated for Christmas.

Just a few of Judy Condon's books...

Oh, how positively exciting! We began to do a few house-y projects (painting the front porch and giving it a little update,  building the island, new dining room curtains) and planning some extra Christmas touches. (This is the "special project" to which I alluded in this post.)

More emails, talking with photographer friends, more emails...and I wasn't entirely certain that it was going to happen for this year. In fact, as time went on, I kind of assumed that it wasn't. And since life presented some challenges back in the fall, and we made the choice to keep things simple, it was easy to simplify our Christmas preparations and scale down the decorating for this year. was a go! My dear friend (and photographer extraordinaire) Frances conversed with Judy and she will be photographing our house for Judy's holiday book!

So we needed to spruce up the Christmas decorating for this one-time opportunity. Hmmmm...we'll need to have a Christmas tree in the kitchen after all. And the Moravian star will look lonely on the front porch. We'll need to get some fresh pine garland to drape there...and maybe there'll be enough left over to festoon the banister. How soon can we cut fresh greens before Frances comes to shoot? Not too soon...the wood stove will dry them out. Maybe some cute little gingerbread men in a yellow ware bowl would look homey.  

Okay. No stress. We can do this. After all, this is a one-time shot, right?  It's worth some extra effort.

Frances was to

But (you knew there was a but, didn't you?)...Saturday afternoon came first.  

On Saturday afternoon, we were doing some housecleaning. Kati had invited some friends over for a game party, and Ron and I were going to go out for dinner and some shopping. I was dusting the chandelier over the kitchen table, when it made a popping noise, the bulb flashed and burned out, and then I noticed that every bulb of the chandelier was out. It must have tripped a breaker. Ron went out to turn the breaker back on, and when he did...snap! crackle! sizzle! pop!...and the arm of the chandelier went up in flames! 

I thought that I had presence of mind during emergencies, but I did not. I shouted at Ron to "Turn it off! Turn it off! Turn it off!" until my throat was sore. I thought that he didn't hear me so I kept shouting. The problem was that he did not know which of the breakers in the row he had just turned on. Instead, he ran back into the house and turned off the light switch (duh! why didn't I think of that?!) and then proceeded to blow out the flames. Crisis abated.

But (you know what the "but" is, don't you?) are we going to have house photos done with a blackened chandelier and no light?

In less than an hour, I had ordered a new chandelier. Now we must wait for it to arrive and for Ron to hang it before we can reschedule the photo shoot. And Christmas is mere days away. Sigh.

"Uncomplified?" Not. 

But (okay, just one more "but")...all is well. The house is safe. The damage was minimal, limited only to the chandelier. Well have a new chandelier. No one was hurt. Yes, thank you, Lord!

I plan to pop in sometime tomorrow with my annual Christmas house tour post.  Although there won't be any kitchen photos this year, I am just happy to have a kitchen. Hey, I am happy to have a house! Maybe when the new chandelier is up, I'll show you some pictures then.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday Snapshots: Christmas Cookies

Take a double batch of shortbread cookie dough, containers of sprinkles, and six willing helpers...and Gran's kitchen becomes Baking Central! What fun we had this afternoon watching the children decorate Christmas cookies, each with his or her own brand of creativity.  Each child was fully engaged in this project, from Bekah to the littlest grandgirlie.

Clockwise from left: Gavin (11), Owen (7), Maddie (9), Bekah (12), Ben (5), Alaine (3)

Maddie and I made the dough. Several of us took turns rolling the dough. But everyone cut out and decorated, and took their work very seriously.

Do you see Alaine adding pink sprinkles to her snowflake cookie? Can you tell what shape they are? 

Pigs!!  :)

The tools of the trade. (Yes, there are autumn sprinkles in the mix. Along with the pigs. We neglected to sort out the jars of sprinkles before we gave the basket to the children, so we have a few non-traditional Christmas cookies this year.)

Gavin's lovely tree. "Perfect," he says.

At the end of the day, there were sprinkles on the floor, warm cookies in small tummies, and sweet memories to savor. 

Thanks to Kati who took all the pictures for Sunday Snapshots this week while I was up to my elbows in flour.

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