A Simplified Advent

The busyness of December can quickly gobble up our anticipation for the amazing arrival of God With Us. Advent readings help us see Jesus’ birth through the eyes of God’s people. We can share in their anticipation, their fear, their yearning and experience a renewal of our own wonder at the gift of the promised Messiah. The longing and expectant hope of the people of Israel that brightens every passage of Scripture brightens our homes, too. While we already know the account of the Messiah’s birth (and have probably each sat through hundreds of Sunday School lessons to ensure it), these readings take us back to the early promises of Jesus’ coming – promises to a people desperate for salvation, walking by faith through mysteries, prophecies, and shadows. Advent’s renewal of hope quickens our faith in God’s promises and our gratitude for His great mercy.

Daily advent readings also help us to not only look forward but also look inward – preparing our hearts to long for Jesus. Setting short times for the daily readings aids in personal reflection and in teaching children a love for the anticipation. By preparing our hearts for advent, we can experience Jesus’ coming afresh and our sense of wonder and amazement is renewed – we will know Him at his arrival and our joy will be full. What Joy? As Christians, know that the waiting and anticipation is not for a baby, but for a savior. The Christmas story may start with a star and manger; but it ends with a cross, a death, and a joyous resurrection!

There are many advent resources for families, and one we’ve thoroughly enjoyed in the past is a Jesse Tree. This December, we are reading a second time through All Is Bright: A devotional journey to color your way to Christmas. It is different in that it includes short readings for the whole month of December and beautiful coloring pages accompany each daily devotional. Perfect for some of the children to color while you read aloud.

Each evening, at the dinner table, Nathan reads these advent Scripture passages:

with love. Nathan and Damaris

December: Preparing For The Season

The twinkling lights glowing day and night and the extra greenery brought inside fill our home with wonder. With little effort, we all can turn our homes into a snow mountain lodge overlooking the frozen lake (that’s what imaginations are for- wink!) This is the month for stringing up a little tinsel, sneaking a kiss under the mistletoe, and sampling the entire array of hot chocolates – embracing all the simple joys! yay!

Our family loves December because it’s the month we get to spend extra time together! …and Christmas! Full of advent readings and carols, we also enjoy the mood with a few fun activities. Over the years, many of these have become traditions.

Here are the activities we’ve been up to:

  1. wearing our flannel plaids

  2. making stock pots of soup

  3. listening to Christmas music all day long

  4. trekking across a tree farm for the perfect Christmas tree cutting

  5. burning seasonal candles like “mulled cider” and “fresh balsam”

  6. diffusing essential oils that complement our freshly-cut tree (3 drops cedarwood+3 Douglas fir or 2 wintergreen+2 rosemary+2 peppermint)

  7. trimming the tree and decorating the house – the kids love it!

  8. making cookies

  9. advent readings

  10. popping giant bowls of popcorn

  11. roasting chestnuts

  12. filling up our Christmas book basket

  13. making homemade hot chocolate (recipe coming soon-yum!)

  14. writing cards to friends near and abroad

  15. taking the obligatory cheesy smile portraits

  16. making a bucket list for our upcoming Christmas break (sharing it on the blog tomorrow)

What do early December days look like at your house?

with love. Damaris

Wishing You A Happy Thanksgiving!

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!

It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;

his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100

Tomorrow morning, as we sit around the quiet breakfast table feasting on praline baked french toast (skip the corn syrup) and listen to instrumental hymns of praise, we will be thankful. As we remember the Pilgrim’s faithfulness, courage, and sacrifice by reading excerpts of Thanksgiving: A Time To Remember, we will be thankful.

Over the years we have all memorized Psalm 100, and I expect we will say it together again. Finally, we’ll continue to build this tradition of sharing our gratefulness with one another and add our last tags on the Thanksgiving Tree. Amidst the succulent food, enjoying the day off work, family games and talks, we’ll seek to center around recognizing our God’s perfect provision for our family and His lavishing grace. Our desire is that our home and yours be filled with biblical thankfulness this holiday!

“…for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and PRAISE: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; …”

First Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1777

with love. Nathan and Damaris

Holiday Hosting: Five Ways To Prepare

We’re so excited about hosting Thanksgiving this year! Last year was the first time we all gathered in our home, and it filled the feast with more meaning than ever before. Of course, there’s no shortage of eating, and we always plan for a walk and for leftovers for days! We don’t get to see cousins but twice a year, so you best believe we’ll be savoring every morsel of time together!

The joy of preparing our hearts and our space happens long before they come through our door. Even as the table is set for the feast, it’s more than a cozy family gathering, but the knitting of hearts in gratefulness. Welcoming others into our home isn’t so much about the space, but about our readiness to prepare a place in our home and hearts.

As we plan for the upcoming holiday gathering in our crowded household, I was reminded of these five ways to help us prepare:

  1. Take time to fill your own soul so can give to others.

  2. Pray that we walk humbly so that our guests (family or friends) can see our failures and the all-sufficient grace of Christ.

  3. Pray that we may lighten someone’s load.

  4. Don’t grow weary in all the doing so we aren’t tempted to grumble. Remembering that serving others is the same as serving Him. (Matthew 25:31-46).

  5. Welcome them generously!

I have prayed for you as you prepare to open your home to family and friends, that everyone will leave deeply nourished beyond the feasting and aware of God’s abundance.

with love. Damaris

Thanksgiving Tree

I couldn’t wait to share with you our family’s favorite way to prepare for Thanksgiving! We have created and decorated a Thanksgiving Tree for the last 6 years, and it has been a meaningful visual reminder for our family and guests of the true meaning of Thanksgiving.

Sharing the wonder of God’s good gifts is helping us

cultivate a heart of gratefulness in our home.

In early November, we begin by cutting small branches and arranging them in a vase or pitcher. We punch tags with this helpful tool (makes great gift tags too!) or you can use premade craft tags. Since our family creates this together, we write words of gratitude on the tags and hang them in the evenings when Nathan’s home. We record them daily as part of our family worship through November till Thanksgiving Day. In order for little hands to be able to decorate the tree, we just hang the written tags through the thin branches. It actually looks quite wonderful! I have seen them tide with twine through the punched holes to the tree, and it’s so lovely that way, too! Wouldn’t it make a meaningful centerpiece at the Thanksgiving table where guests could share their gratitude and add to the tree? All of us look forward to this simple tradition!

A Thanksgiving Tree can help to make us pause and reflect, remember and articulate. By daily recording God’s attributes and graces to us, we focus on the Giver – not only the gifts. It has been an extra joy to keep some of the tags after we’ve taken the tree down. It is so good for our hearts to read the praises written in years past and recount His great faithfulness!

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;

praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

– Psalm 150

with love. Damaris

November Homebody

November air is chilled with the breath of coming winter. We have been waking up to a frost-covered meadow, and it’s magical to see it glisten in the morning’s first light. Everyday, the children look closely at the frost hoping it’s snow, but soon enough, my loves, soon enough. Crowded days of school go swiftly by, and our moments are full. November has also brought evenings of cozy reading aloud while drinking spiced tea. Does this time of the year turn you into a homebody too?

A good day is a slow one at home with a little nesting and a little baking. Time to read and time to make is what has been filling our November so far. The children helped put this list together of our favorite activities:

  1. Collecting leaves and pressing them

  2. Enjoying a bonfire for roasting marshmallows

  3. Taking a leisurely drive to see the colorful trees

  4. Making caramel brulee lattes: 1/4 cup strong coffee, 1 hot (steamed) milk, 2 tablespoons vanilla syrup, 2 tablespoons caramel ice cream topping.

  5. Making a pumpkin pie

  6. Harvesting our autumn garden: butternut and buttercup squash, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and kale – always more kale.

  7. Adding Thanksgiving books to the fall book basket. You can read about our favorite Thanksgiving books here.

  8. Making applesauce and serving it hot

  9. Making the best apple cake with the apples we preserved

  10. Making lots of homemade hot chocolate

  11. Looking forward to spending time with cousins for the holidays and dreaming up a delicious menu

  12. Taking turns adorning the Thankful Tree (full blog post coming tomorrow!)

    As November’s autumnal splendor swiftly fades into all shades of pale, let’s reserve a slow day at home and savor the small slices of life that make us smile.

    with love. Damaris

    Family Currents: Novelties

    November winds have blown the leaves off all the trees, and, if Michigan had a rainy season, I’d say we’re smack-dab in the middle of it. Yesterday barely got above 30 degrees! Needless to say, we were chill even in the house! Baking a couple custard pies did help warm up our tummies and the kitchen. Baby Samuel has been living in this one-piece ever since they days got colder. I love the hood for a little extra warmth at night or when head outside, but the 316 snaps on the bottom are no joke- ha! Carter’s has a huge sale right now, and I have my eye on this one for him too!

    Recently we came across this great find at an estate sale! This 12-inch cast iron skillet was rusty, but that was easily solved. I still remember my Yayas (both my grandmothers in Spain) using their large cast iron skillets when I was little! I do love how good the food tastes and how low maintenance they are!

    There’s no denying winter’s sending it’s warning chill, and we were grateful to find a few more thrifted sweaters. The girls’ corduroy skirts and cat tights will be perfect with them!

    The kids came in from turning over the compost pile, and William (our treasure finder) was holding a large seed that had sprouted a tree. On closer inspection, it was an avocado pit that had begun to grow in our compost pile! For the last month, Alexander has been nurturing it in the basement and took this picture of it for you to see how it’s thriving. Completely accidentally, but we may be enjoying guacamole someday, friends!

    Shortly after we shared our news of Larry the llama joining our farm, we saw this promotion from World Market. We couldn’t believe it! The kids have really enjoyed looking through it, and these are my favorites from their Llama-Rama Collection. They have over 50 llama items ranging from pajamas to tea towels, lamps and wrapping paper – yay!

    Isn’t the little golden llama trinket dish darling? Even if you don’t have a real llama, you can still feel like you went on an exotic trip to Peru!

    with love, Damaris



    Farmhouse Biscuits

    Not too long ago, I had 5 babies. The oldest had just turned 7 and the baby was a very unhappy newborn. I felt that my world was upside down as I struggled to find time for the most daily basics. It was during those long weary days, that I dreamed of making a batch of biscuits. There was something so fulfilling about old-fashioned biscuits – If I could make a batch of well-raised biscuits, then all would be well with the world. I still get the same soul-satisfying feeling when I bring these biscuits, tall and tender, to the table. This farmhouse biscuit recipe is unbelievably easy to make and more than worth your time. In less than 20 minutes, you’ll enjoy golden, slightly crunchy tops and bottoms with a soft inside crumb. No kneading, no rising, and only four ingredients! This is the only biscuit recipe that my family requests again and again. When you make them, there will be no crumbs left, and everyone will feel all warm and cozy inside! Last night, as I dusted the rolling pin, I thought with pleasure of the days gone by, when the smells of the kitchen’s goods called everyone in from the fields. Our days aren’t quite like that, but we still think that our farmhouse kitchen sighs a familiar sigh when a piping hot batch of these biscuits comes out of the oven.

    This farmhouse biscuit recipe is adapted from this original that I fell in-love with. Aren’t there so many ways to enjoy a biscuit? These are some of our family’s favorite ways:

    -paired with soup or stew

    -for afternoon tea with a pat of butter and a bit of jam

    -makes a hearty breakfast with sausage gravy

    -strawberry shortcakes (add 1/4 cup or less of sugar to the dough)

    Farmhouse Biscuits

    • 2 cup flour

    • 1 tablespoon baking powder

    • 1 teaspoon salt

    • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream + a little more for lightly brushing the tops

    Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients and add the cream incorporating gently with a fork. No need to knead! With your hand, make a ball of your dough trying to gather all the little bits left on the sides of the bowl. I avoid a countertop mess by rolling them out on the parchment they’ll bake on. Dust your cut parchment and a rolling pin with a little flour (the original recipe has a very quick way to just shape the dough with your hands and cut rectangles into it, which will be the individual biscuits- works great!). Cut out (an upside down drinking glass does the job!) your favorite shape. Don’t be shy about combining the last bits of scrap dough pieces into one more biscuit! Arrange them on the parchment, brush their tops with a little heavy cream, and bake, on the oven’s middle rack, for 15 minutes or until tops are slightly golden.

    I can’t wait for you to try them!

    with love. Damaris

    10 Favorite Thanksgiving Books

    We’ve been reading about pumpkins and the changing leaves, busy squirrels and migratory paths. But apple harvests coming to an end and busy little squirrel friends storing away for the winter means it’s time to get out a new set of story books! We purpose to make Thanksgiving a very treasured day, and enjoying these sweet books with the children is part of the anticipation and celebration of the holiday. These are the days to clasp a mug of warmed cider while cozied on a quilt in the living room with a stack of books. Some of the books we recommend are from our own shelves – we visit them every year, and some are newly borrowed from the library.

    The First Thanksgiving: A Counting Story moves along very quickly because it’s written in lively rhyming verse and vivid illustrations. The book explains the story of the preparations for the first Thanksgiving feast while counting 1-12. There are hidden surprises in the art and a bold turkey on every page! Do you have a sharp eye?

    Sharing The Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story is a collection of paintings set in the 19th century that exude familial affection. The simple rhythmic four-line verse mirrors the ease in which this family works together to prepare their special Thanksgiving Day meal.

    Saying Grace: A Prayer Of Thanksgiving is a journey back in time to the hardships and blessings of some of the first settlers. It’s the most delightful story of a young child’s faith and prayer as she recognizes God’s bounty.

    Thanksgiving Day Alphabet is filled with historical facts about the special holiday. The plentiful scenes are painted in rich fall colors. Children will learn a treasure trove of details about the English settlers of 1620. Everyone will delight in the descriptions set to each letter of the alphabet.

    The Story of the Pilgrims is a nice simplified version of how Thanksgiving started. The text is clear and plain which helps the little ones follow the story while focusing on the illustrations. Perfect for the preschool-aged children!

    Squanto And The Miracle Of Thanksgiving is a favorite of the boys at our house! This book captures the remarkable and providential true story that so few people have ever heard. This book clearly depicts Squanto’s Christian faith and the religious roots of the holiday. The illustrations are realistic renderings which all ages will enjoy.

    Thanksgiving: A Harvest Celebration offers the basic history behind Thanksgiving then explains how the holiday sill has meaning for us today. Recounting the difficulties of the Pilgrims and their gratefulness to God. The illustrations are old-fashioned with a wood-cut feel. A wonderful teaching tool! This Thanksgiving story is a classic read-aloud. It is a little long for one sitting, but certainly a cozy read. A great non-fiction introduction for little ones!

    Molly’s Pilgrim is the heartwarming modern story of a Jewish family who have immigrated from Russia to escape religious persecution. Anyone who has had to move to a new place will understand the difficulties that Molly faces. This book has been the girls’ favorite read-aloud! They love glazing at the penciled illustrations! With a powerful message to live in peace an safety, this is a wonderful book for the Thanksgiving season!

    A Cranberry Thanksgiving is a lighthearted and maybe silly story set in New England. It’s a cold and lonely cranberry farm at the edge of the sea, but on Thanksgiving, the house is warm and full of tradition. It’s a fun holiday read and includes Grandmother’s Famous Cranberry Bread recipe!

    Thanksgiving: A Time To Remember is our family’s all-time favorite! We read short portions of this book at the dinner table everyday in November. This book refreshes our memory of the courage and sacrifice that the Pilgrims made and of God’s provision for them. It is a moving account of the Mayflower crossing and the first winter in the New World. This book will help you establish a tradition of sharing your gratefulness with one another at home. It encourages families to build a legacy of memories and thankfulness and celebrates faith, family, and freedom.

    Every year we discover a new gem! What are some of your family’s favorite Thanksgiving books? Leave a comment sharing yours!

    with love. Damaris

    Future Men

    If you have or have had the blessing of raising boys, I hope you’ve enjoyed the boyishness of them! When our boys were little, nurturing them seemed natural, but as they’re getting taller than me and far stronger, I find myself praying for wisdom! I’ve sought out much wisdom in raising boys because my childhood memories offer no sage guidance. I wasn’t raised in a rambunctious house or amongst the shepherding of little men. Yet, God has given me to these sons and these sons to me, and I seek to find blessing in this relationship for each of us.

    But boys are different, and God intends for them to serve and glorify Him differently than girls. Accordingly, Nathan and I aim to see and raise our boys as future men. Hopefully this doesn’t strike you as chauvinist or gruff. Masculinity is not tough to the extent of rude. It isn’t lacking in respectful communication. Not gross or uncourteous. Teaching boys coarseness or callousness to the point of harm is as destructive as not teaching them the purposes of manhood at all.

    We teach our children the same general principles and responsibilities especially while they’re little. Both boys and girls learn to obey, share, help. Of course they are taught to make their beds, empty trash bins, wash dishes (we don’t have a dishwasher), dust, sweep, and vacuum. At the same time, Nathan and I know that there is distinction in God’s design for boys and girls, so we also strive to reflect those distinctions in how we train them.

    Boys intuitively know honor, and they can thrive under authority that doesn’t drive them to resentment. Cutting remarks will not foster this strength. There is one thing in particular that we teach our boys that we don’t teach our girls. It goes back to the original garden – we teach our boys to protect others, especially those who should be able to rely on their protection. They begin with their sisters.

    This is a distinct responsibility and even young boys can be trained to rise to it. The manifestations of it as they grow is that boys will open and hold doors for others, walk on the sidewalk between a girl and traffic, carry bags for mom w/o her asking, push the grocery store cart, when its overloaded, shield those who are weaker from verbal or physical abuse – essentially what I Peter 3:7 says: treating women as honored creations of great value, and John 15:14 says: giving of themselves for the aid of others.

    During our trip to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, we hiked some steep trails that required really good shoes and expert skill (of which I have neither!). Not only that, but for most of our excursions, I had Baby Samuel (10 months old) strapped to my chest in his baby carrier! One late afternoon hike took us trekking down an old ski run. About halfway – and a dozen switchbacks – down the run, I felt my feet begin to slip on some granite shards. Suddenly the harness of Samuel’s baby carrier was jerked from behind and held taught. Alexander had noticed me slipping. He reached out and held the back-strap of the baby carrier the rest of the way down the slope. I was quietly proud in that moment – experiencing the fruit of some of the lessons we had been teaching and witnessing one of the boys protect without request.

    God allows these little affirmations throughout our trials of faithfulness. Nathan and I wish you the same quiet joys of his grace in your endeavors, too!

    Nathan & Damaris