Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Published 9:59 AM by with 7 comments

My One Word for 2015

This year my One Word was DEEPER.

It really hit me hard. Without telling any long stories, I've gained a Deeper understanding and acceptance of myself, a Deeper relationship with my husband, a Deeper connection with my close friends, and a Deeper love for God. It has been messy sometimes, and uncomfortable at other times, but in the end, I'm glad for the struggles, because they allowed me to dive Deep and discover more about myself, God, others, and our world.

This year I've come to accept that:

~ God is mysterious, and cannot be contained merely in the pages of a book or the walls of a building. He is Deeper than that. He works in relationship.

~ The Spirit speaks in beautiful, quiet ways to the Deep places of our hearts, if we can only be silent enough to hear it.

~ I am an individual with talents, failings, and personality quirks just like everyone else, and I don't need to apologize for being myself. Everyone is Deeply Themselves, both positive and negative, but we should focus on loving each other in order to help everyone become the best they can be.

~ In order to develop/maintain Deep relationships with those you are closest to in life, you need to Deeply pursue them, both in connection and in seeking to understand them better.

~ Just because you go Deeply into something does not mean that you will always find it is more complex. Sometimes the Deepest things are simple.

Thank you, Deeper, for everything you have taught me in 2014.


My new Word for 2015 will be HONOR.

At first, I thought that I should choose a different word, like Observe or Respect, because those have aspects of what I am hoping the year will hold. Plus I was a bit nervous that Honor would be too much, too weird, or too abstract. But in the end, three things brought me back to Honor as my Word.

~ All the different definitions of Honor, both as a verb and a noun: regarding with great respect, holding in high esteem, "a belief that your actions represent more than just yourself" (thank you Urban Dictionary), recognizing a significant part of someone's dignity or value. 

~ This word made me tingle with excitement. Part of Susannah Conway's excellent five day course in discovering your Word said that you should choose something that gave you a shiver of anticipation.  Honor certainly does! It seems beautiful yet challenging.

~ My mom created the most beautiful piece of art for me as my Christmas gift, out of a broken piece of pallet wood, and it brought me back to one of the most important messages that our world needs: doing good, Honoring each other, Honoring the earth. We hung it in our living room where I'll be able to see it every day.

I want to find ways to Honor others and the world around us: my family, my friends, strangers, nature, the seasons, myself, my students, the calendar of change, and most importantly, God. All the positive that is present and potential deserves Honor, so that's what I hope to find in this new year. Along the way, I know that I will be taught lessons of life, just like every other year, and will grow and change through the experience, even if it is difficult or bumpy.

Welcome, Honor, for everything you are going to teach me in 2015.
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Published 9:24 AM by with 3 comments

Happy Holiday, and Goodbye Facebook!

Christmas vacation has been lovely. That's why I'm getting rid of Facebook.

I'll explain. But first, here's what we've been up to!

Christmas has been SO fun to decorate in our new home!

Harmony is old enough for the old Christmas tales finally.

My entire family created beautiful handmade gifts for each other.

I even had some time to myself, to rest and enjoy the vacation!

My favorite part, though, has been spending time with my family.

Still working as a musician over the holiday.

We enjoyed holiday traditions like looking at Christmas lights.

I've had so much fun with my family, activities on my own, and friends that I've barely been at my computer at all. Ever since getting a smartphone and Instagram, the easiest way for me to document our lives together has been to simply take a quick picture and either save it on my phone or share it with folks on Instagram. I haven't been near my computer to get on Facebook. And it hasn't bothered me at all.

Before you remind me that you can download the Facebook app, I know! But I'm trying very hard not to be glued to my phone too much, so everything I can do to keep myself off it as much as possible is good. I told myself that I could have my email and Instagram on my phone, not Twitter or Facebook. It's definitely made it easier to not constantly be on my phone, but I'm still working on finding a good balance.

Getting onto Facebook has just not been something I've wanted to do lately also because... honestly, I'm tired of all the political posts and advertisements everywhere. I originally liked Facebook because I could see people's cool pictures and keep up with their lives that way. But there's not as much of that because there's so much other information coming through. 

The sheer amount of information coming through from hundreds of people is getting overwhelming.

Yes, I think social media has a good purpose. I like that I can have a web page there for myself as a musician/music teacher (it's got my full name, so I don't have it linked here, sorry!) and a web page for my other blog, Life is the Teacher, on Facebook. Those will still stay up! But my personal Facebook page is going to come down. At least for a while. Maybe I'll be back in a month, or a few months. The one big drawback is that I won't be connected with some of my closest family and friends who are on there, so that might be what brings me back eventually. 

In the meantime, if you're friends with me on Facebook and you want to continue to connect with me, you can find me here on this blog where you can leave comments or a message in the message form, or you can private message me for my email address or number, or you can find me on Instagram at Lyssagirlloveslife, or you can text or call me if you already have my number, or we can set up a time to get together and have a real conversation, which is what I prefer :-) I'll be deleting my Facebook page on January 3rd.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Published 6:28 PM by with 0 comment

Merry Christmas!

Christmas break is here! Despite the crazy schedule of the final week before the holiday break, life didn't feel out of control (although the piles of dirty dishes in my sink were definitely overflowing). Around here we were enjoying the season, so here are some pictures of our escapades that I've been taking on Instagram. I'll be writing a blog post very soon with details about New Year's "intentions"!

My sister and I immortalized in an ornament :-)

The chocolate buckeye candies I made for all my guitar students.

Harmony and I continued to do activities together. She is a ball of energy, obsessed with ponies, always insisting on music and dancing constantly, and fighting any efforts for us to get her to sleep. A typical toddler!

Playing with an alphabet puzzle and her ponies.

Happy half-birthday! Two and a half on the 19th.

She simply loves flowers.

Learning to match socks while we fold laundry.

An amazing shapes game I picked up at the thrift store.

Remembering Sandy Hook, ringing our bell twenty-six times.

Most of my time out of the house was taken up with performances and music-related events. Instead of six performances in one weekend, I ended up having seven! They all turned out beautifully. December is truly the most busy time for musicians!

The carol sing we held at our home.

Performing at the children's hospital.

Performing at a choral concert.

Rehearsing with my musical family.

Playing at coffee shops with two of my students.

Oh yeah, and I found a cello in someone's trash by the curbside while driving through our neighborhood. No, it doesn't currently play, but how could I leave a cello in the trash?! At some point I think I'll get it appraised for how much it would cost to make it playable again. It doesn't have to look great, it just needs to sound okay.

She still has soul!

Through the busyness, I tried to savor the little beautiful moments that make life worthwhile.

My mantra for this season has been "breathe deep, seek peace, and enjoy the little things"!

She makes me smile.
Having a holiday from teaching means I wear purple pants and star socks.

Nothing better than a morning cuddle with my love.

Merry Christmas to everyone, and may you have a beautiful holiday with your loved ones!

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Published 11:56 AM by with 5 comments

A Christmas Miracle: Finding Jane

I wrote this true tale from my life almost exactly a year ago, but I loved it so much that I wanted to share it again as a testimony of how incredibly connected our lives are, all of us humans all over the world.

This is the story of a girl who loved music. Who felt in her bones that she was meant to be a guitarist, a classical guitarist, since she was four years old. Who waited both patiently and impatiently until she was eight to begin guitar lessons. Who was determined to pursue music in college, go on to grad school, and hopefully dive into the world of competitions, and maybe tour some day.

She gave up that dream.

Halfway through college, a book came into her life: Hidden Art, by Edith Schaeffer. One of her mentors (now a beloved best friend) suggested that she read it, because it spoke about the beauty of expression and art that can be found in ordinary life. One story stood out. In the chapter about music, Schaeffer wrote of a woman named Jane.

"I have told in "L'Abri" how Jane came to a place of certainty, after much prayer and struggle, that God was calling her out of opera, where she was having a tremendously successful career, into the work of the L'Abri fellowship. She was willing simply to cook, garden, scrub floors, talk to people, and teach the Bible. There is a place for the conscious sacrifice of the expression of a talent, asking God to show His will for the use of our lives in any way He plans- rather than insisting that it must be fulfilled in particular ways. It is a turning from or giving up- with complete trust that God really is love, and all wise, and would not waste the life of any one of His children... among those who have met in L'Abri [are] people who have chosen to put aside ambitions, and are simply enjoying musical expression without the desire for 'success'."

If you look at the picture below, you will see question marks inked across this page. When the girl read it, her world exploded. How could someone give up their musical dreams?! To mop floors? To SACRIFICE years of study, hours of practice every day for months and months, the fine tuning of a talent? WHY would you do that???

She and her friend discussed the possibilities at length several times. There was obviously a deeper turmoil going on in this girl's heart and mind. Recently the girl had begun teaching, a job she enjoyed very much, but one that she intended to use just as financial support through college until leaving for grad school. Maybe someday she'd pick teaching back up again, but the world of music performance called!

At least, she thought it did. Now she wasn't so sure.

Reading about Jane in "Hidden Art" planted a tiny seed of change. Now, instead of plunging ahead with her own plans, the girl began asking God to show her what His plan for her was.

Long story short: by the time she reached her senior year, she knew without a doubt that she was not meant to be a performer, but a teacher for children instead, a teacher in the same classical music program she had studied in when she was eight. It took months of prayer, listening for the Spirit, seeing her path change, watching opportunities come and go, realizing that she didn't really have the mindset it would take to make it in the competitive realm of music, and most importantly, discovering where her joy really lay.

Fast forward almost five years.

The girl was at a Christmas party, happily chatting with an elderly man, the grandfather of one of her new students. During the conversation the man mentioned that he used to live at L'Abri. And then went on to describe how wonderful the music was at L'Abri, especially when a woman named Jane was around. "Not the same Jane from the book by Edith Schaeffer?" the girl gasped. Yes, the very same.

The Jane whose operatic debut was on stage in Vienna. The Jane who was set to become a Wagnerian soprano. The Jane who spent some time at L'Abri to search for answers and felt the Spirit gently whispering to her that there might be another Path for her life, who finally found that she felt most satisfied by serving others, singing with handicapped children, and teaching at L'Abri. And more than just being satisfied: she felt that she was doing exactly what she was meant to do, created to do. She found joy. She found peace.

The girl blurted out her own story, how Jane had been a key to a new way of listening to God instead of forcing her own way. The elderly man nodded and smiled, then he reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. "It's late, but I know her. She'll still be up." He dialed a number, listened to the ring, and spoke to the hello on the other end: "Good evening, Jane, my old friend. There's a young woman here, a classical guitarist and teacher for children, who would like to talk to you."

Tears filling her eyes, the girl took the phone. In the midst of the Christmas festivities going on around her, she was oblivious to all except the quiet, gentle voice of the eighty year old woman halfway across the country. Jane asked for her story. The girl managed to tell her of a Path changed, of tough decisions, of the pages in a book that inspired her to think differently, of a new life as a wife and mother that would have been hard if not impossible as a performing musician, of her love of teaching, of the incredible grace given in spite of so many mistakes.

"God will never waste the life of one who lays it down for him," Jane said, her ancient voice still deeply rich. "My dear, I am so glad that our journeys have crossed here! What a blessing to know that God always works in mysterious ways. We may not understand at the time what he has in store, but he always has a plan for our future good."

Passing the phone back, the girl cried tears of wonder. Now, whenever the question of "what if" arises, this miracle of a woman named Jane speaking across the page and over the phone, a living testimony to the incredible Providence of the Living God, echoes through her heart.

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose..."

Questions are Marked in the Pages of Our Lives

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Published 2:45 PM by with 5 comments

The Days Are Merry and Bright

Between now and December 21st, I have ten performances. *deep breath*

As long as I breathe, take one thing at a time, focus on what I'm doing at the moment, keep my planner handy, and get sleep at night, then I continue to absolutely ENJOY what I do. I am a musician: I feel honored and privileged and blessed to say that! On top of my musical endeavors, I am a mother and wife and daughter and sister, so caring for and spending time with my family needs to be at the top of the priority list too.

This is a beautiful season. I love the holidays! It's not all fun and games, of course... we've all passed around a nasty cold that brought my cough from November back full force, Harmony has been working on her last molar coming in which led to a few restless nights this week, one of our cars got a flat tire that needed to be replaced, my sink is NEVER empty of dirty dishes, and I currently have four loads of clean laundry waiting to be folded and put away. But in spite of all the craziness, it's still been great capturing the best times with my phone camera, so that we can remember what we loved. If you don't follow me on Instagram, here is what's been going on with our family lately.

Every morning, Harmony and I eat breakfast together, light the Advent candles, and read a story.
It was so much fun setting up and decorating our first real, full-sized Christmas tree!
Creative retreat! More on that at the end of this post ; )
There have been plenty of silly, happy moments together.
Harmony had her first hair trim, at almost two and a half years old.
My mom did a great job! Harmony thought it was funny to look at herself in the mirror.
We set out our shoes for St. Nicholas' Day on December 6th.
The chocolate coins were a bust, but the Hello Kitty candy and stickers got a rousing cheer.

My family banded together to watch Harmony for an entire day while my best friend Heather and I went on a creative retreat! This is our third year getting together in December to review the entire year and set intentions for the next year. We have gone through Susannah Conway's amazing FREE workbook called Unravelling the Year Ahead, which you can download (did I mention for free?!) on her website here! Highly, highly recommended.

This year Heather and I met at a local coffee shop in the morning, talked and went through our goals, thoughts, and writing from 2014, and had hot drinks. Then around noon we went to a Vietnamese/Chinese restaurant that we've both wanted to try and ordered delicious food. Afterwards, we went back to her house to figure out what we hoped our lives would hold in 2015.

It's so great to have a good friend to discuss these things with. I might share a few of my plans for 2015 in a later post. I'm still in the process of choosing my One Word for next year, and finishing filling in my Unravelling workbook.

The older I get, the more I realize how vital it is to have intentions for what you want to accomplish, so that I can have direction to my life and know that I am still doing what I want to be doing rather than aimlessly wasting time! Yet that doesn't mean every minute of my life needs to be scheduled. I value rest, peace, and mornings in my pajamas eating donuts with my family just like everyone else : )  It's the long-term goals that I like having plans for, and writing down what I hope my year to look like is a great start to accomplishing what I hope for.
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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Published 8:43 AM by with 4 comments

Meet Ariana

As I think I wrote somewhere earlier on my blog, ever since June I've been attending a bluegrass jam at a local music store that happens every other week. It's free for any musician, professional or amateur, to come join, or even for folks who simply want to listen. Rather than play guitar (my primary instrument for nineteen years) I wanted to use this time to improve my very limited skill on mandolin. My mandolin was from a pawn shop several years ago but it's only been within the past two years that I've been performing on it or really working to get better.

Occasionally I will go into this music store to purchase guitar strings or music, or to check out instruments with my students, etc. I've been getting to know the guys who work there, especially the one who leads the bluegrass jam, himself a talented multi-instrument musician. The jam has been HUGELY helpful! Bluegrass is a new realm for me as a classical musician. Watching the other mandolin players there is certainly a humbling experience; my use of a pick is pretty laughable still, even though my left hand plays the frets tolerably well, and I am learning the chords along the way. Lately I've even been attempting to learn some of the melodies of the songs we play. There's no music, of course, so I write down the names of the pieces and look up the ones I like later at home. I am in awe with how many pieces all these musicians have memorized! Hundreds, I bet.

Anyway, long story short... the leader of the bluegrass jam, after we were done last night, said, "Hey, I have something to show you. Come check it out before you leave." I was super tired after a long day and an evening of teaching, but I am always up for looking at a cool instrument. He's showed me some amazing instruments before, including a parlor guitar built over a hundred years ago that still sounded beautiful (and was smooth as butter to play!).

When I came over to the counter, he handed me a gorgeous little mandolin. I instantly fell in love with it! It's smaller than mine, with a quiet tone that sang sweetly. There's no way to identify what brand it is, no sticker on the inside or factory number or name plate. But it had character. There are dings and scratches all over; it had been played often for a long time, after already being a decades-old instrument. After I was playing it, the guy said, "Someone a long time ago gave it to me for free. I played it for a while, but it hasn't been played as much recently, and after seeing you come here week after week playing that cheap mandolin, and knowing that you're a musical person on the guitar, I figured you also needed a mandolin that will help you play musically. If you like it, it's yours, for free."

I was dumbfounded. When I tried to protest, he said, "No no, I am just passing on the instrument! Folks have given me plenty of instruments for free, and in turn sometimes I give them away too. You have no idea how many instruments have come and gone in my large collection. You've been showing that you're really into playing mandolin, so you should have a decent one."

Tears came to my eyes. I tried to stammer thanks as best as I could. He waved me off with a smile.

So now, I have this amazing lady, and she is A Lady, in the best sense of the word. The name that is coming to me for her (I name all my instruments!) is Ariana. It will take some adjusting to get used to playing the smaller neck, but I am excited to learn! Someday maybe I will have the opportunity to pass on one of my instruments to someone who could use it. Until then, I will be extremely grateful for this community of musicians I am part of who support each other, and do my best to do justice to this beautiful instrument that is now mine.

So blessed. So thankful.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Published 8:23 AM by with 2 comments

The Ultimate Holiday Gift and Advent Guide

Advent has already begun, Christmas is a few weeks away, and the new year is right around the corner. Wow! If you're anything like me, you have definitely not finished your Christmas shopping yet, so here are some great ideas that I've found online to help us all along in this endeavor : )  Let me know if you have any other links to add, or if you found any of the ones listed here helpful!

Here are some articles about this holiday season that I am excited to share:

I love this article on how to respect children during the Christmas season. {A must-read for parents!}

Here are home-made gift ideas for children and adults:

Little Lantern Child {free knitting pattern, perfect for Solstice}

Do-It-Yourself Holiday Gift Ideas

Wurm: the Best Winter Hat {free knitting pattern from Ravelry}

For children ages 3-7ish: put together a small box of seasonal, personal, and unique items so they can start their own Nature Table (check out more ideas here).

Make these cute crafts as gifts to give or put together a kit for a child to make later.

Bluebird of Happiness {free knitting pattern from Ravelry... I just want to make a ton of these and give them away to my friends for New Year's gifts!}

Tiny House Art: create a kit with all the necessary items and then plan a special time to make these together!

Sew-It-Yourself Tea Wallet, for the die-hard tea drinker in your life.


Here are other wonderful gift ideas for all ages:

The Ultimate Ethical Shopping Guide: a List of Good Companies with a Conscience {PLEASE read!}

62 Educational Toys and Games, divided into age groups

Gift Ideas for Writers  {and book lovers too!}

Issues from Kindred, a beautiful magazine "that uses the power of story to bring people together".

Issues from the delicious seasonal series of Taproot, a magazine that explores "living fully, digging deeper". I received the first year's magazines last Christmas from my sweet husband, and I'm absolutely asking for another set of them this Christmas too, because they were just that amazing!


Here are several great ideas to celebrate and count down Advent:

The Giving Advent Calendar: a Meaningful Christmas Countdown

The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas {the book comes with a free online download of Jesse Tree ornaments}

Celebrating Advent with the Jesus Storybook Bible {This is the plan that we're using for 2014, because Harmony is just at the age where she is beginning to enjoy and understand this book. We read the story for the day at breakfast with the advent candles lit, then afterwards open up the drawer for the corresponding day on our advent calendar. Each day there is either a tiny piece of candy (like a chocolate coin) or a piece of paper with instructions on it for a gift or an activity, for both my sister and Harmony. So far it's been a hit!}

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Monday, December 01, 2014

Published 8:51 AM by with 3 comments

Welcome December, Goodbye NaNoWriMo

November, you gave me a run for my money! The main things I was worried about were preparing for December's musical events and doing NaNoWriMo. So far, I'm mostly on top of all the music stuff, just a little behind. I'm still keeping it at a level where I'm enjoying being a music teacher and a performing musician, thankfully. 

My goal for NaNoWriMo 2014 was to finish my first draft of the story of last year, "The Naming of Fio Re", by invoking the Zukotuo clause, as I wrote before. In the end, I wrote approximately 78,000 words total, which is only about half of what NaNo usually calls for. (The word counter for the NaNo website and my OpenOffice document do not agree with how many words I actually wrote, which is a bit frustrating.) But it was actually WAY harder this year! I couldn't figure out how to wrap my story up, which has always been a huge problem and the major reason I've NEVER finished a novel before. And I almost didn't finish it this year because:

~ I got really sick. I still managed to pull off most of my duties in life, but my writing suffered a lot. There were even days (it might have been about a week and a half) where I didn't write at all because I was so exhausted from coughing and just wanted to sleep when I had free time at night.

~ I seriously couldn't figure out what was going to happen in my story. It paralyzed me that I would sit at my computer and have no clue what to type next.

~ I had all kinds of doubt like "I'm a sucky writer", "this is a sucky plot", "these characters are sucky", etc. 

In the end, I just forced myself to sit down and WRITE, like I kept telling myself I'd need to do at the beginning of the month. My page for NaNoWriMo '14 here is sadly bare for the most part because I was so focused on simply getting healthy and plugging away at my novel that I didn't want to spare time for other writing if possible. 

And finally... it's done. I wrote "THE END" on page 123 last night at 11:50, ten minutes before the deadline. Technically I could have "won" before then, but since my goal was to finish the actual storyline of my novel I wouldn't allow myself to call it an accomplishment until the FREAKING STORY WAS DONE. Now it is : D

*throws confetti*

I'm surprised at the way it turned out. The story, I mean. You'd think that being the author I could predict what was going to happen, but I couldn't. Writing and simply letting the story take me where it wanted was like riding a roller coaster. Yeah, there are some plot bunnies that almost ran away with me, a few loose ends in the storyline that seem unresolved, but in general the story came to a close with  my protagonist in a place I was happy to see her. 

Now, as my friend Brenna (fellow NaNo winner, woohoo!) says, I just have to get over the habit of pressing "control, S" every few words that I write. The urge to frenetically save my work constantly is strong, even when I'm writing emails or blog posts! Ha ha.

Last year I was positive that I was going to edit, revise, and send out my novel to friends to beta read right away. When I didn't even finish my novel (even though I got to 50,000 words), I thought that I would just finish it in January and then begin the process of editing. NOPE. Didn't happen. I was too burned out with November's push for words and December's holiday busyness. So I'm not going to make any huge goals for this novel in 2015, except to say that I would certainly LIKE to get a second draft of "The Naming of Fio Re" completed so I can ask some friends' opinions of it and figure out what needs to be changed. 

What's my ultimate goal for my novel? I have no idea. I'm simply proud of the fact that for once in my life I proved to myself that I can finish a story. I am a more confident writer after this month's efforts. As Julia Cameron posted today on Facebook, "don't confuse the end result with the process". Who knows if my novel is even any good or not. Who cares! I WROTE A NOVEL!

Although, I'd love to discover that it was actually a decent novel ; ) We'll see!


On to December!

I'm not sure how much I'll be writing here because December is seriously the busiest time of the year for musicians, on top of just being busy with family and friends for the holiday season. I'm going to try to not let the busy-ness overtake the joyfulness. And I want to make time for reflection and quiet both physically and spiritually as we enter Advent, contemplating the true meaning of Christmas. 

One of the things that I loved about November was taking a picture every day of something that made me smile, with Laura and many other people on Instagram under the tag #thedailybon. It made me slow down and notice the little blessings of life. I was able to focus on moments of gratitude even as I dealt with the problems that inevitably threaten to poison our lives with anxiety, anger, or grumbling. 

With that in mind, I'm excited to sign up (for free!) to take a picture a day with Susannah Conway for December. The prompts are wonderful. I look forward to wrapping up 2014 with the community of #DecemberReflections as we reflect on what we love, what made us grow, and what we look forward to in 2015. Do join us if you're on Instagram, because I enjoy seeing what everyone posts there : )  I'm LyssaGirlLovesLife!

Also, I am VERY excited to start on Susannah Conway's "Unravelling the Year Ahead" workbook that she has always offered on her website! I've done it for two years in a row and it has been super helpful as I process the year past and plan for the year to come. The workbook is set to be available for download this week!

Advent started yesterday, but since we were driving back from Thanksgiving vacation with family across the states we didn't do anything to celebrate. We plan to get our tree and decorate this week, start our advent calendar, and plan Christmas presents. December announced its entrance with a layer of ice and beautiful snow in my city. Hopefully I'll be able to post here occasionally and share some of what's going on!

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Published 8:08 AM by with 4 comments

Welcome to Our Home! Part 2

Earlier I posted a mini-tour of the first part of our home. Here's the second half!

Harmony's room! It's a small space between the main area of the house and the back den. She loves it. Her tea set, box of treasures, stuffed animals, and some musical instruments stay in here. The wicker chair moves around the house wherever she wants it to be.

Yes, her toddler bed is on the floor. It used to be on the floor in our apartment next to our bed, and she still rolls around so much in her sleep that we just keep it this way now. Half the time when she falls out of the bed she'll just pick herself up and climb back in! She also likes having her books nearby.

Two beautiful pieces of art that my mom created: the owl and the pussycat at sea, and my favorite childhood lullaby that I now sing to Harmony: 

May the Lord, mighty Lord, bless and keep you forever. 
Grant you peace, perfect peace, faith in every endeavor.
Lift up your eyes and you'll see His face and His grace forever.
May the Lord, mighty Lord, bless and keep you forever.

More art hanging on the wall, Harmony's beloved set of handbells, my rocking chair that Chris bought me from an antique store before Harmony was born, and Harmony's baby doll in the hand-made cradle grandpa made for her birthday. We were blessed with more than half a dozen hand-knit or crocheted baby blankets when Harmony came along; I rotate them every so often, so that we can enjoy the warmth and beauty of all of them!

Here's our den! We use it as a combined t.v. room and toy room. And craft room. And storage room. It's full of all sorts of odds and ends, like our vacuum, and the thing you hang clothes on folded up behind it. You can also get into the backyard from this room.

Most of Harmony's toys stay in here, which is nice to have them contained in one main area. We have tried very hard to have toys that inspire imaginative play, and to limit noise-making or technology-driven toys. So far it's gone well. This past month I've been watching Harmony spend hours making up stories with her animal and pony figurines, building with blocks, playing with water toys in the bathroom sink, zooming her toy cars across the table, and developing her imagination!

More books! More art! More instruments! That is Harmony's rainstick in the corner. Yes, it's Harmony's personal rainstick. Our family gives awesome birthday presents to two-year olds. 

That's the door to my sister's room. No pictures of that space! We try to respect her privacy while she lives with us. My crafty things are mostly stored in that corner. The beanbag unfolds into a comfy mattress that many guests have used in our house.

Our room! I am still in love with this gorgeous comforter Chris and I purchased when we were first married. It is so cheerful!

There's the other entrance to my sister's room. Yeah, the floorplan is weird in the house. It's worked out well so far for all of us, though. I especially love the coat-rack my sister found for us at a thrift store. If you're curious, we have some knick-knacks on top of the bookshelf including a leprechaun whiskey container (empty) and a stuffed frog holding a guitar. WE ARE WEIRD.

Here you see all our clothes. Seriously, all of it is here except for the stuff we have hung up in the tiny closet you see on the side. We don't separate out our cold or warm weather clothes. The white bin is where I store my yarn stash, our gift-wrapping supplies, and all our heavy winter sweaters. My summer and winter shirts/t-shirts/tank tops are on the wire stand, along with our hats. Our pants and pajamas and underthings and socks and all Chris's shirts are in the dresser. 

It is bizarre to me just to realize how few clothes we own. Chris and I have very singular, independent (read"weird" again) approaches when it comes to fashion; we pretty much wear what we like, and what's comfy. Ninety percent of what I wear comes from thrift stores. Maybe I'll do another post about that later ; ) 

Oh, and I got that little ceramic pig on the dresser from a white elephant gift exchange years ago in Kansas City. It's adorable and matches my eight dollar thrift store lamp. Our wedding candles that we lit during the ceremony are on the dresser too. We light them during every anniversary. 

The newest art piece hung in our room, a beautiful quote hand-painted by my mom for my birthday this summer! I am so grateful to have meaningful art from many family members everywhere in our home. 

There you have it! Our home, looking decently clean, even though you can't see the dust on everything or the dirt on the floors. We're not spotless around here. But we do try to be welcoming. We look forward to having many friends over to enjoy time together!

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