I've written a lot about how it's hard to be away from family—and it is especially hard this time of year. But we did have a wonderful, truly joyful Thanksgiving, as we celebrated with our friends, Fleet and Molly. 

We wanted to keep things simple this year, and rather than stress about the day, just enjoy ourselves. They hosted, Molly made the turkey and potatoes, and I made a really good gluten-free stuffing mix from Trader Joe's and brussels sprouts. We had our meal together and then dessert (pumpkin pie and almond cake!) with peppermint coffee afterwards. And I'm just feeling really, really thankful for our Austin friends who are the kind of friends who are steadfast and faithful and just plain fun to be around.

I worked on Black Friday, per my preference. It was better that I take a step back from all the deals and just get to work at the hospital. Since our Christmas shopping is pretty much done already, I didn't truly have a need to shop the deals for anyone else and I certainly didn't need to shop for myself. Am I the only one who is so tempted to buy lots of things for herself on that day? Working kept me occupied and away from the barrage of "50% off" and "free shipping" and "lowest price of the year."

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we gave the apartment a solid dusting and vacuuming and then put up the tree, and I rediscovered a Christmasy paper star I bought last year and left unopened, as I intended to return it. Of course, I forgot about it and couldn't return it, so we assembled it and hung that. And let me tell you, I love how cozy our home is right now, especially at night. 

My tendency this time of year is to feel a general excitement about the season, but also a fraction of aimlessness. You see, the Christmas season is a joyful one, and there is something wonderful about carving out a cozy space in your home with twinkle lights and seasonal candles, but also, I don't feel 100% joy if I'm swept up with the nostalgia of it all. Cozy things can bring happiness to a certain degree, but I only feel joy and contentment when I look for it elsewhere. My heart is only truly, wholly content when it's abiding with my Savior. 

I wrote a post about approaching this season in a slow way, and I'm still very much in the process of slowing down. My goal was to finish Christmas shopping by December first, and by golly, I think we're gonna make it. However, as long as I have the "just one more thing" mentality of getting it done, that in and of itself distracts me in these weeks leading up to December, so the unrest and hectic season isn't really skipped, it's just bumped forward. But I feel myself emerging from the whirl of shopping and list-making, I just don't want to miss out on one moment of intimacy with my Creator as I shop for just one more gift. So today, I'm trying to strike a balance. I'm about 90% done with my Christmas making, and then this afternoon is all about clearing my head of all the stuff, the best way I know how: in prayer and time in the Word, and a fixation on all the immaterial and infinitely more meaningful things in my life. 

All that said, I'm giving myself a lot of grace. A friend of mine wisely said to me recently that she thinks I have a very strict thought life, and I truly think that's true. I believe in grace and try to practice grace with others, and I truly want to extend that to myself, as well. In the past I've thought, well, once I've figured this out and typed it out in a blog post, surely its stuck and I've learned it for good. But my goodness, I still learn so much from re-reading previous posts about heart growth—things I've written in years previous. And that's okay. A lot of heart lessons are seasonal for me and overall, I see my heart growing in love for Jesus and wanting more of him, rather than more of this world.

So, be patient with yourself too. I feel like I'm unlearning a lot of behavior, specifically, a lot of busy behavior that's so engrained this time of year, and it takes time to settle into new (slower, more contented) habits. We can practice new things and still have grace on ourselves, and one another. I'm just gonna keep moving forward, continually trying to point my heart to the One who made it, and be joyful for Him (and that He sent His son for you and me, and that's why Christmas is so, so wonderful!!).

In that same spirit, here are some little happy things I love lately:

  • Picnik butter coffee (the dirty chai flavor) given to me by the sweetest coworker
  • pancakes for Saturday breakfasts
  • Christmas socks, in-progress
  • cozy layers
  • foggy mornings
  • celebrating a friend on her birthday with cardamom lattes
  • a new project bag for me, made with most adorable tiny house print
  • crunchy leaves on the ground and lots of sunshine-y days
  • breakfast hash with a fried egg
  • beginning Colossians
  • pretty lighting at a coffee shop
  • receiving a King's College Choir album (from 1990!) that my mom bought from the UK and had sent to me. One of my most iconic childhood Christmas albums.