December was packed with Christmas gatherings, activities, travels, Advent reading, and time with people I love. Here’s the gift that December was!

What I did

Took a restful retreat with my friend, Rachel. I knew I wanted to have one last escape from normal life before the busyness of the Christmas season arrived, so I booked a Getaway stay with a friend in north Georgia! We spent two days and two nights in an adorable tiny trailer named Millie playing Scrabble and Quiddler, reading, napping, listening to music, cooking over the fire, making s’mores, and exploring nearby. We made a stop at the Toccoa Swinging Bridge and R & A Orchards on the way home too! It was such a relaxing and restful time full of good conversations with great company.

Celebrated Christmas with the youth ministry at church. It was so fun seeing the youth at my church get dressed up in tacky Christmas apparel, try and guess Christmas songs based on superfluous descriptions, and participate in a white elephant gift exchange. What a great way to end the year with them!

Celebrated Christmas with my mom’s family. My mom’s side of the family is the only group of relatives with young children, so getting to open gifts and see their faces light up with excitement is oh so enjoyable. I got to experience both the joy and frustration of assembling toys for my cousins’ kids, play Rummikub with my cousins, and simply enjoy being in everyone’s company.

Enjoyed a holiday piano concert by Jon McLaughlin with my friend, Anna. Two years ago I went to a Jon McLaughlin concert at City Winery Atlanta by myself and LOVED it, so when I saw that he was coming back I knew I had to go and bring a friend with me. We enjoyed dinner at Ponce City Market, as well as a drink for her and dessert for me at City Winery as we listened to Jon play his holiday concert. His piano-playing talent never ceases to amaze me, and I absolutely love listening to him sing. Two older men were sitting close by, and I loved getting to interact with them too!

Celebrated my dad’s 70th birthday. We went out for breakfast at IHOP, and I gifted him an Atlanta Braves World Series Champions ornament! He loved it, and I was grateful to be able to spend the day with him.

Celebrated Christmas with my dad’s family. Seeing my dad’s family at Christmas is a highlight of my holiday gatherings. We always have good food and all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins are such a delight to talk to. The past few years we’ve been enjoying playing games together too! This year I got to watch one of my cousins show me his new archery skills, and I was so impressed. There’s just something about being around good people that fills me up!

Listened to a Christmas Cantata at my childhood church. We got home from visiting with my dad’s family in time to attend the Christmas Cantata at his church, and it was both nostalgic and strange to be back in a place where I had been known by so many people and see the changes in the space, people, and performance since I was last at one of their cantatas. I was glad to be able to enjoy the concert with my dad and talk to an old friend while I was there!

Hosted a pre-holiday dinner at my house. There were some evenings leading up to Christmas that I would’ve spent home alone (which I didn’t want too many of), so I decided to host a dinner for some friends in my old small group from church! I made a lasagna and some brownies, and we enjoyed four hours of conversation together! It was so heartwarming having other people in my home and enjoying their company.

Attended two Christmas Eve services. I went with my dad to the Christmas Eve service at his church since it was early enough to not overlap with the service at my church! We spent the in-between time with some friends and their four children before heading to my church for their Christmas Eve service, and it was so nice getting to chat with them. I loved getting to hear different people of all ages and stages read the Christmas story from both the Old and New Testaments, and singing Christmas hymns with my church body. It’s such a sweet way to enter into Christmas Day!

Enjoyed a quiet and chill Christmas day at home. I slept in later than I have in ages, had a slow morning, opened gifts, built and assembled gifts, and drove around to see Christmas lights after it got dark. My dad and I also made a short trip to rescue my friend, Amanda’s car after her battery died – a funny-to-me-since-it-wasn’t-happening-to-me experience, but I’m glad we were able to help her out and take her a homecooked meal for later. This year I was especially grateful for the laidbackness of Christmas Day. My emotions and heart needed it after the last few Christmases I’ve had.

Decluttered lots of things. I always get the urge at the end of the year to clean out and get rid of things we’re not using in the house. I decluttered lots of clothes and our kitchenware, which totaled up to seven bags and four boxes of things to get rid of! I’ll spare you the pictures of the aftermath, but I’m relieved to have gotten this done.

Went to Callaway Gardens with my dad. It was my dad’s idea to go see Fantasy in Lights, one of the top light displays in the world! We drove around the garden grounds, stopped at the Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel and admired the stained glass windows, ate a delicious lunch at The Country Kitchen, walked through the Winter Wonderland display, and enjoyed the jolly trolly ride through the illuminated Christmas scenes. We both picked out an ornament to bring home too! The displays were gorgeous and magical, and I’m a sucker for pretty lights!

What I discovered

Elise Joy on Instagram. I’ve been receiving Elise’s emails all year since she announced the launch of her Make36 project, her year-long project of making creative products in batches of 36 or 360. I’m not sure why I hadn’t followed her on Instagram, but her feed and the way she uses hashtags has been the coolest inspiration to follow! I love her love for setting goals and working towards achieving them, and seeing her creative endeavors gives me the motivation to tend to my own.

What made me smile

Getting through the end of the year. I know that time is arbitrary and nothing *technically* changes with the turning of a calendar year, but starting a new one always brings a sense of refreshment and anticipation for newness that is so needed by the time the holidays are over. Making it to the end of 2021 felt like an achievement, a win in and of itself, that I’m grateful to be through with.

What I wrote down

“Practicing conversation is practicing our humanity, echoing the incarnation. Speech and silence, that delicate dance back and forth, taking and giving, freedom and restraint, help us all to become more human and thus more like Jesus.”Grace Hamman

“I think hope is an action—it is holding on, right now, in the present. Hope sees the reality of the storm and the darkness, and gets out of bed anyway. Hope is a discipline of holding on to truth: Jesus came, Jesus will come again, and in the meantime, we are able to hold on because God is holding on to us.”Heather Moffitt

“It’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last.”Counting Crows

“Suffering well can simply mean that when we come completely apart, we can come completely apart to Him.Sharon Hodde Miller

“The fruit of the Spirit slowly grows in the soul of abiding prayer.”Rich Villodas

“Finishing regular means finishing as ourselves and not as a try-hard version of somebody else.”Emily P. Freeman

“Life is full and teeming and will not be flattened into a story, but in what other what can we talk about our lives?”Seth Wieck

“It’s the right decision because it’s what we’ve chosen. Steady on – you’re in the middle of living a really good story.”Annie Parsons

“Life with Jesus is about having relentless indifference to everything but Him.”Scott Cash

“You aren’t on the margins of God’s goodness.”Kaitlyn Bouchillon

“The ornament of a house is the people who frequent it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Whether we are working through these holidays or playing through them or resting through them, He’s working in us and through us the whole time.”Lore Ferguson Wilbert

“May these Christmas days meet you where you are and bring you at least a little bit of what you need. The light is here.” Annie B. Jones

“This season doesn’t come with a feeling requirement – you’re allowed to feel however you feel and there’s nothing wrong with you.”Savannah Locke

“Because this child is for all of us, no one needs to feel childless at Christmas. But it can take the family of true community to help us unwrap the gift.”Karen Swallow Prior

“This is my life, and me in it, right here in the piles of unknown and in the middle of the process and halfway through getting over a broken heart that feels like it’s never going to heal because I keep picking at the scab and halfway through four books.”Jess Janz

“The hope for average doesn’t feel like settling, it feels like aspiring.” – Eddie Kaufholz

“We can’t make sense of these things. But there’s still goodness swirling with this bitter air. Given for us. Noel.Shannan Martin

“Don’t look back on 2021 like you didn’t have a kind Father carrying you through it. Find the sometimes. They’re worth searching for.”Kristen Lavalley

“None of this seems to turn out just as I pictured, but it always turns out. What I thought should have been isn’t what will be, but it will somehow be better. God has always been faithful. He will be again.”Annie F. Downs

Where I saw God

In the slower Advent season and writings on Advent. I’ve been fairly intentional with protecting my schedule and embracing slowness in the Advent season for the past few years, and this year I especially felt the benefits of that.

I read so many good and faith-filled words this Advent season! I enjoyed reading through my She Reads Truth: The Everlasting Light Advent study, Hannah Brencher’s daily Advent emails, Sharon Hodde Miller‘s weekly Advent emails, and Michael Wright’s weekly recaps on his return to church attendance during the season.

I also took more notice this year of just how much more people were talking and sharing about the tension, heartache, and nuanced emotions that are present during the holiday season. I was seeing more people talk about the pain and darkness many of us experience but don’t always know how to share or be around others with, and that was a piece of silent solidarity that I didn’t know I needed but was pleasantly surprised to receive. Shannan Martin said it best, “without weariness there is no thrill of hope.” But man am I so grateful that hope has come, hope is here, and hope is coming soon!

What I’m looking forward to

New Year’s is my absolute favorite time of the year. No mistakes have been made in it yet, a refreshed spirit from the slow, final week of the previous year, and new goals to work toward make me so very excited.

I am looking forward to seeing how a no-followers account of mine on Instagram will look.

I am looking forward to growing as a writer through this blog space and the new newsletter that I’m launching. (PS – these monthly reviews on my blog are ending here with this one)

I am looking forward to growing as a deeper-rooted follower of Christ Jesus and learning and practicing faithfulness in the year ahead in everything the Lord gives to me.

Onward and upward – cheers to the end of a year!

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