Hello all!
I feel a bit shy coming back to this little white space.
It’s been a month since I last wrote here?
How can time pass so quickly!

This blogging break was really not even intentional,
but with traveling out-of-state over the holidays,
and exhaustion catching up with us from the busyness it all,
and a tree falling on our internet line,
and the cold days of January…
well, it all turned into a little break that was actually very needed.
Sometimes the best thing is to step away and just be quiet.

Turns out, life has been so full of busy I’m having to LEARN to be quiet!
I don’t mean not talking; I mean, quiet in my soul.
To where I can be in my home and sit still,
to read a book, to not have to be doing something.
I didn’t realize just how busy our past year was until I hardly knew how to do quiet.

Sometimes life just brings busy, and it cannot be helped.
That was a lot of it, last year.
But, I also know there are choices involved, and I want to learn how to make wise choices in our schedule in this coming year, to learn how to live WELL,
not just survive and end up exhausted!

I came across this quote recently:

“One thing’s for sure: if you decide to be courageous and sane,
if you decide not to overspend or overcommit or overschedule,
the healthy people in your life will respect those choices.
And the unhealthy people in your life will freak out,
because you’re making a healthy choice they’re not currently free to make.
Don’t for one second let that stop you.”
[Shauna Niequist]

While I’m not sure how it can all be played out in reality
when I also live in community (part of a living body of people & church),
I also did like the freedom given to step away and say no,
something I want to do better at learning to say…

So, my goodness, just where DOES one start again?
Everyone is long past the Christmas and New Years and Resolutions and even Organization 101, and headed toward Valentine’s Day projects.
And me? I just went through my holiday pictures yesterday, and am still working on those resolutions. :)

So, since I’m taking it slow-style these days, here’s backtracking waaay back,
nearly a month ago.

Most of my family lives in a beautiful garden state up north,
and this was the year for our Christmas get-together.
With six of us kids, four of us married, and two living out-of-state,
holidays are a little more complicated than they used to be! :)

But it was all okay; we decided the best time to work with everyone’s schedules would be the weekend after Christmas. It was a little sad at first to not be with my family on Christmas Day, but then we realized that our own little family could have our first Christmas together – something we’ve never done because of always having extended family events on that day. And that turned out to be really really special.

I kind of felt like a grown-up though (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but more of a “I can’t believe I’m the adult around here!”) ~ the tradition-making, all the food prep, it was all up to me! It was a reality-check for a woman who still thinks she’s a kid. :) But we had a lovely family day, playing games, reading by the fire, and just enjoying one another. Oh yes, we had grits and shrimp, as requested by the kids. :)

We traveled north the day after Christmas, and the pictures are all from our time there.

// Christmas dinner //

Christmas table
// Salad: English cucumber serving as the bowl, spring greens, red and yellow pears, pecans seasoned with butter & sugar & cinnamon & cayenne pepper, pomegranate seeds, and feta cheese, with a red wine vinaigrette dressing. //

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// centerpieces of candlesticks & paper snowflakes //

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// Time with family is always so special, and if you far away from each other, it’s even more treasured. My father leads us in meaningful times together, reading Scripture as he did when we were small children, and now giving us opportunity to share with each other and connect on a deep level. Priceless. //

Daddy reading the Christmas story

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// One of my favorite pictures of the whole time is below on the left: it’s a bit abstract, but it shows childhood wonder and delight. Zoe pulled out princess dress-up clothes and wore them for the Christmas dinner. Against the Christmas lights and tree, it speaks of life as beautiful.

Also, I thought it was so fine when I found a little hipster beanie for Hudson at Baby Gap on clearance. When he wore it in the north, snuggled in a cozy wool blanket, I started laughing because he looked like a little Amish boy! I think the Amish are more fashionable than given credit for. :) //

children's thrill of Christmas
// The kids and I had prayed for snow while we were there, and what do you know ~
IT SNOWED! A glorious, beautiful snow! My southern-transplant-sister and I were absolutely THRILLED. :) //

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// I love this picture. My three kiddos were in awe, and it was Hudson’s first time at seeing snow! [rave warning: I LOVE SNOW!! ] //

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little girl snowball fight

snow wonder pennsylvania holiday 198 Olivia's many faces pennsylvania holiday 239 lovely Jana   precious sleeping baby

// We had only part of one day when everyone in our family was all together, before the guys had to head back to work and schedules resumed. It was much shorter than usual, and we did have one or two evenings together besides that, but we just decided to soak it up and enjoy what we were given. We sisters were together, and spent time with extended family and friends too. //

// The Sisterhood! [don’t miss the subtle pointing at a baby bump :) ] //

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// Our grandmother is 81 years old and we are so grateful to still have her with us; we enjoyed brunch one morning with her and our aunt and cousin. ♥ //

 

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// Dear friendships that feel like family, and keenly missing the one beautiful friend waiting for us in heaven… //

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// Game time! we always try to make time for some lively interaction, and try not to hold grudges after the game is over. Ha! //

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// My husband was helping his brother in their new house for a few days, so we spent some time with his family too [sadly, no pictures :( ], and it gave a little extra time for things like taking coffee to my brothers at work. :) //

brothers

// It was tradition as kids and parents: after a snow at nighttime, we would go to the local Bird for breakfast. We did it again for old times’ sake, now with a family multiplied double in size. :) Thanks, Daddy. //

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// The final leg of our trip ended a bit west in a weekend with my dad’s big wonderful family. Late nights, crazy laughs, wonderful family times, and it was time to head due south… //
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// The dining hall where we last stayed, and I just loved this collection of dishes.
I think it would look fabulous as an oil painting in a kitchen! //

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And though there were many more memories and dear people not captured on camera,
we hold them all close in memory, and are so thankful for the richness of family and friendships we’ve been given.

Sometime over the holidays, as the wonderful mail and pictures came so thoughtfully to our mailbox, one of the girls asked, “Mommy, do we have a THOUSAND friends?”
And I laughed, and thought a second, and answered,
You know, honey, I think we almost DO.”

It was an amazing moment of realization, of feeling SO RICH.
No, we don’t get a thousand cards at Christmas. :)
But we have amazing family, and cherished friendships, and that is the best kind of wealth.
The wealth of loving and being loved?
There is no price high enough for that.

Is our world perfect?
Wow, NO.
Is our family perfect?
Wow, NO.

Behind every person, every picture, every blogger,
is a story unique and their very own, and nearly every time, there are elements of great pain.
Most times, you never know.
Most times, you shouldn’t know.
Pain is also sacredly private, often with only a safe inner-circle that knows.
The saying,

is so true.
Tread with kindness.
Speak with compassion.
Live with tenderness.

But, in the midst of the hard, imperfect things in my life,
AND IN ME,
I also am immensely grateful for all the beautiful gifts of friendship.
Those who love unconditionally,
who also love enough to speak truth,
who care and live and walk beside me in friendship.
Thank you.

Live quietly and with rest today,
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36 thoughts on “Of Christmas Past.

  1. peaceatthelake

    I was just checking today to see if I had missed one of your posts. The month since Christmas has been chaotic in my house as well. I love your first quote. In order to help my sanity I had to say no to a prior commitment. It was sad, but such a relief as well. I think it is hard to be an adult sometimes, making decisions what we should or shouldn’t do, yet letting God lead us. Also trusting that God gives us the grace to go through everything obstacle that is in our life.

    Your Christmas pictures make me smile. I’m so happy that you were able to spend time with your family and see snow. How exciting for your kids! Growing up in Ohio I can’t imagine what it is like to live in a place that doesn’t snow.

    Welcome back to the blogosphere after your brief sabbatical!

    Reply

    1. The Cottage at 341 South Post author

      Really good words… I can identify so much! That first paragraph, the sadness at saying no and the relief as well ~ YES. I so get that! Letting God lead us… the most important thing. Thank you for your words! And yes, living in a place without snow is kind of sad sometimes, because I’ve always loved snow! The upside is that we’re an hour from the coast, which is wonderful in the summer!

      Reply

  2. Breana

    The snow is BEAUTIFUL!!!! So glad that your baby got to see it for the first time! *smile* Welcome back! My inbox was lonely without your posts…. ;)

    Reply

  3. Oie

    Your photos are just magic!! We never have snow like that here, maybe I should put a “white Chritmas” on my to do list!!
    I’m with you on the simplifying your life stuff, we’ve had a few low key weeks ourselves before school starts next week.

    Reply

  4. Shannon

    A lovely Christmas. Family is best, no questions asked. :) Didn’t know you were in Warsaw. That’s only 30 minutes from us. :) We use that campground a lot too.

    Reply

  5. Jessica @ This Blessed Life

    No no, don’t be shy! I may or may not have stalked…I mean excitedly checked…your blog several times this month just in the odds that my reader had somehow missed your *one* blog accidentally… haha! Chris and I have in recent years {mostly since becoming parents} taken a step back from a lot of things {much like that quote you mentioned in the beginning of your post}. I am sure to some people we might seem boring…or I’m sure even others wonder why we’re not doing more, especially at places like church that could always use extra volunteers for everything. We choose the essentials, but prioritize our family time right now. We have realized that we like the slow{er} life, especially in these years when the days are so long with little kiddos. It is refreshing to know that after dinner we are not pulled in a million directions or having to feel that rush to get out the door. I think it has made our family much richer and more calm as a result. Here’s to slowing down! ;)

    Reply

    1. The Cottage at 341 South Post author

      Ha ha! Thanks for the warm welcome back! :) And your choice to slow ~ that is such encouragement to me, and refreshing to know that other young families have chosen that as well! Here’s to a richer winter season, savoring these little moments!

      Reply

  6. Angie

    I stopped in a few days ago, as well, just checking to see if I had missed one of your posts. I have blogged twice, two teeny ones, since Christmas, and truthfully, I haven’t missed it a bit. The break was needed. I feel a heaviness when I read your posts though, & although I don’t know all the hurts you’ve experienced, I know the God who is in control of it all. He’s got you right in the palm of his hand. Love & prayers, Angie.

    Reply

  7. Sarah Dahl

    Clarita, I cannot express how your beautiful pictures and words made me feel today. January always leaves me feeling a little bleak, but this post cheered me right up! Thank you so much for sharing your Christmas with us! And welcome back to blogging! I’ve missed you!

    Reply

    1. The Cottage at 341 South Post author

      Ahhhhh, a fellow snow-lover?! Most people look at me strangely when I say I miss the northern winters, but I DO. I miss the quiet and hibernating that seemingly takes place, along with the magic of snow. But, I suppose I can choose the quiet here, even if I cannot choose snow. :) xo

      Reply

  8. Chelsea

    How wonderful to have had snow while visiting your family! I hope you’re able to remember how to slow your heart and mind and just enjoy the last weeks of winter. It’ll be blistering hot and humid again before you know it, and all you’ll want to do is sit around and fan yourself! God bless and have a great weekend!

    Reply

  9. Jo

    Well the quote about being courageous and sane spoke to me. I try so hard to protect myself and say no enough to keep myself sane. It is not easy. There is so much good that can be done. So I liked that quote a lot.
    And! the photo of all the dishes! Loved that, very arty. So your time with family looked like a blast, so glad you were able to do that.

    Reply

  10. Shelley Smucker

    No worries dear, a blogging break is always in order now and then! Good to have you back though. The pictures are all lovely as usual but that SALAD makes me salivate! Looks like a lovely Christmas.

    Reply

  11. Kim A.

    Clarita, So you WERE in Lancaster…and I missed getting to meet you in person! :( Bummer…maybe next time! I just love that picture of you and your sisters with Ruth’s family—how special to keep togetherness a priority. Somehow there is comfort in grieving together.
    Blessings to you in 2014!
    Kim A.

    Reply

    1. The Cottage at 341 South Post author

      I hope to be able to meet you one day as well! Hopefully there will be more return trips to Pennsylvania in 2014. :)
      And yes, you are so right – there is comfort in grieving and remembering together with Ruth’s family. I love them so dearly! Blessings right back to you.

      Reply

  12. Elizabeth

    I LOVE the Christmas table…the snowflakes and beautiful salad.
    I’m sure it’s hard to live so far away from family. I would miss my sisters if they weren’t nearby.
    Since you love snow, and our husbands have the same career…you should just move up here by us. Then you can visit with my sisters and I. ;)

    You have a lovely family Clarita! and you are always dressed so pretty and creative!
    Hope you’re having a fabulous weekend. XxOo

    Reply

  13. amber

    I feel like I still have some things to say about christmas so this makes me feel better! :))

    So glad you had such a nice visit. Your family sounds like a lot of fun. And SNOW!!! Well that just made me smile at that extra sweet blessing from God!!

    Love your last thoughts here… About the story behind everyone. So true! We don’t often see or know the full picture. Reminds me of one of my fav quotes- “be kinder than necessary.” I like that!! And know a lot of days that’s how I need others to treat me.

    Happy new week, beautiful you!! xo

    Reply

    1. The Cottage at 341 South Post author

      Please say what you want to about Christmas! I’ll listen! And I’ll tell you a little secret – I still have some Christmas décor up, and it’s almost February! :) I just have a hard time letting it go. xo

      Reply

  14. makingitcomplicated

    I read this days ago from my phone and wasn’t able to comment. Your family is too cute! I think I’m starting to see you and your sisters faces in your little girls faces, does that make sense?? ha.
    Families can be so wonderful.

    Reply

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