Day 12: For Those Who Still Believe

I’ve known of the project for a while–he spent months and months and months working on it, and once completed, invited us over for our first viewing.

It is an incredible work of art. Tim and I marveled at his imagination, his ingenuity, his skill. My brother had built this North Pole Village, you see, built it in his dining room, complete with ice skaters and a ski slope and all the things with no kit or instructions or anything, really, but a great curiosity to figure it out.

So happy he did!

but a small slice of the entire thing
uh oh. skater down!
William, making a little adjustment

(Yes, that’s The Polar Express train circling through the village!)

30 Days of Joy

Day 10: Ye Olde Town

To up the JOY factor we gathered my brother, William, and took a (cold) holiday stroll

through the streets and lights of Old Town St. Augustine.

Then a festive dinner at the Columbia Restaurant

where we drank Sangria, ate too much really, really good food

and told lots and lots of old stories.

It was fun!

(*Pardon the blurry photo. Too joyful not to share.)

#30 Days of Joy


Except where we are. IN FLORIDA. During the most exciting snow event EVER.

Still how can I complain? I spent the six-hour drive south yesterday watching every snow video and clicking through the snow photos from every person I love and every person I follow all across the interwebs.


And then this morning, as I sat here looking out at the cold, wet Palm Trees, these beauties arrived on my phone from my lovies, Emily and Eliza, in Atlanta. They’d foregone their beloved Sleep-in Saturday time to get outside and PLAY.

That there, my friends, is some December snow joy!

30 Days of Joy

Day 8: Just Exactly Perfect.

It’s a lovely and mind-boggling thing to watch your children become people–and by that I mean grownups with lives all their own, often lived in faraway cities. You feel great pride in watching their growth, their maturity, their learning to deal with all the incoming of daily life as they stand independent from you.

But it’s also a weird thing to spend much of the holiday season simply waiting for them to return home.

(Now I understand my own mother’s sentiments when I’d walk in her door after making the long six-hour drive to Virginia. “You’re here,” she’d say. “Now Christmas can begin.” Internally I’d roll my eyes a little, thinking she was being just a tad dramatic. I mean, there were 4000 Santas in her little den alone. Clearly Christmas had taken up residence.)

Oh do I get it now.

Still the point I meant to make as I sat down to write Day 8 is the joy my heart felt when this photo scrolled by on Instagram.

This is Maddie’s tree. Sweet, sweet Maddie, a dear friend of Eliza’s who lives in a tiny, tiny one room apartment in the city. I looked at this little tree with its white lights and star and felt the joy of simple things, of small spaces and kind gestures, of how awesome it can be when there is, in fact, less. Not more.

It’s just exactly perfect, this tree. Don’t you think?

About the time I hit the LOVE button on Instagram a ping popped on my phone. My own Eliza had sent a video of her three roommates running across a gigantic intersection with a long skinny bundle under their arms. (You have never heard such giggling.)

We just bought a real Christmas tree! she wrote.

Hanna and the star

I don’t know where they got the ornaments, or the tree skirt, or the star, but I know it makes me immensely happy that those four lovies have brought the spirit of the holidays to their apartment. It was a well considered decision, I am quite certain, as living in Atlanta requires each of them to budget well.

And so all of us–all the Moms and Dads and Grands and Aunties and Uncles–all of us are waiting, watching, counting the days until the planes land or the buses stop or the cars pull in the drives, counting the moments until those we love most come home.

And then it will be Christmas.


30 Days of Joy

Day 7: Cheers!

We found ourselves at home together, on a Monday afternoon, with much decorating left to do. Tim had been traveling, and I’d made some progress, but still there were the windows, the porch, the banister, finishing the tree.

Christmas music! I suggested, something that seemed a little aggressive for a regular old workday. Then for better measure, and a cocktail!  (It was not yet 4:00 and I must admit there was more enthusiasm than I expected as this spur-of-the-moment thought came out of my mouth.) Still I pressed on.

With bourbon! I said.

I have never been a bourbon drinker, I must tell you, but at a writing conference this summer, kind, new friends shared with me a splash of their aged Knob Creek. The taste warmed me nearly as much as the generosity of the offering. (Kristi and Matthew, I’m talking about you.)

Old Fashioneds, I smiled, something we’ve never made, my imagination serving up a vision of the gorgeous copper color, an orange peel curling in the glass. But alas an inspection of our cabinet revealed an absence of Bitters. And so Google brought us this, with just three on-hand ingredients: lemon, honey, and bourbon. The Gold Rush.

Oh my.

So it’s only Monday. Turn up the tunes!

3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons boiling water
1 1/2 lemons, juiced, about 4 tablespoons (2 ounces)
1/2 cup (4 ounces) bourbon

Mix honey and water to make a thin syrup and let it cool. Add this, along with lemon and bourbon, to an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake, shake, shake for 10 seconds or so. Strain over big ice cubes in a rocks glass.

(Can be refrigerated until ready to serve.)

30 Days of Joy

Day 6: Advent

And so we have made our way to Advent.

How I love the quiet of this reflective season, a practice that–admittedly–stands in stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

I love the watching.

I love the waiting.

I also love the Advent series coming to my inbox from Downtown Church. “Written, spoken and illustrated,” each is a prayer of reflection on scripture for the day. And those words are accompanied by a sweet illustration by my very most favorite, Maria Fabrizio (of the wonderful Wordless News).

If you’d like to be included, just click here to sign up. (And be sure to listen to the soul-filling audio devotion, which is included in the email.)

Thank you, Downtown Church.

30 Days of Joy

Day 5: Quiet Places (and great winter reads)

TIM HAS BEEN TRAVELING, which has rendered time slow, and my own. Every night I’ve headed to the bedroom early where I’ve stolen his pillow, snuggled under more blankets than my sweet husband can stand, and opened my book to read.

Then true to form I’ve promptly fallen asleep. Within 32 seconds or less, each and every night.

The upside is I’ve awakened each morning long before the sun. I throw on a sweatshirt, feed the dog and turn on every Christmas light in the house. Then for the next hour or two I pad around doing this and that, soaking up the dark and the quiet like an introvert just returned from a loud, boisterous party.

This morning was no exception. But this time I took my coffee to the living room where I sat facing the dark windows and the lake and the sunrise and I pulled out my book, to read.

I AM ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE who loves winter stories in the winter, my very, very favorite being Rosamunde Pilcher’s Winter Solstice. (It seems I’ve written about it here and here and here on The Daily Grace so this may not be a revelation.) I’ve also pronounced Lee Smith’s The Christmas Letters the very most perfect Christmas book ever, going so far as to write a letter to Lee in the style of her heroine Birdie Pickett, a letter my favorite author read and even responded to (!) before I got the joy-of-my-life opportunity to study fiction writing with her a few years later. (Isn’t life beautiful that way?)

Anyway, this December finds me reading The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey. Y’all. This book. It is quiet and heartbreaking and tender and a marvel. I sat here reading in the dark and quiet and tears came, they did, real live tears because the story is just so touching. So moving.

Here is a bit:

All her life she had believed in something more, in the mystery that shape-shifted at the edge of her senses. It was the flutter of moth wings on glass and the promise of river nymphs in the dappled creek beds. It was the smell of oak trees on the summer evening she fell in love, and the way dawn threw itself across the cow pond and turned the water to light.

Mabel could not remember the last time she caught such a flicker.

She gathered Jack’s work shirts and sat down to mend. She tried not to look out the window. If only it would snow. Maybe that white would soften the bleak lines. Perhaps it could catch some bit of light and mirror it back into her eyes.

I love this book. I love the cover of this book*.

I love December.

* (I am reading The Snow Child digitally from the library, but this morning I ordered my own copy. It is too beautiful not to own, and I know it will be a reread.)

30 Days of Joy

Day 4: hello, december

I find it astounding how each and every season offers its own joy.

It strikes me, particularly, as we make the slow turn from fall to winter. How difficult it would seem to leave beloved autumn, with its soft light and golden colors and picture-perfect everything.

But then December dawns with its own glorious rewards.

Soft misty sunrises over the lake.

The splash of camellias, prolific and bright.

The faithful cardinal.

Oh, December, here we are marching headfirst to the quiet of Advent, through the bustle of the holidays, toward the grand promise:

the coming of the light.


Third time’s a charmer

Mama Blue


My beloved bluebirds nested three times this season, a record here on Bickley’s Pond. Still that is not the most surprising thing that happened around here this summer. This is.



One precious teenager, whom we assume was born of the early brood, started hanging around during the last hot days of the third nesting. It was mid-July and Mama and Daddy were very busy trying to satiate 2017 babies numbers eleven, twelve, thirteen and fourteen.

(These loving parents were also, I am quite certain, exhausted.)

Junior waited. And watched.



Then he started hopping about the yard digging for worms and spiders and creepy crawlies. But rather than eating them himself, the youngster flew to the nest time and time again feeding the bounty to his little brothers and sisters.


Look, Mom!



Everybody good in there?


On Day 17 the brave little babies climbed to the opening, flapped their wings and jumped from the nest for the very first time. I wasn’t there to witness their fledging (I’m sad to say) but I am quite certain their big brother was very close by, cheering them on.



It was a sweet way to spend July, watching this little group, a reminder of the strength of love, the power of encouragement, and the bonds of family, united.



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