I have the joy of spending a morning each week with a group of really great moms and their super cute babies. We gather to chat and visit, share food and recipes, stories and laughter. Sometimes we talk about some serious stuff and some times not. It is sweet precious fellowship.
We've had a baby boom recently. We're even missing one of our little friends in this picture.

Once we did the above picture we noticed our little friend setting up her babies for a photo op.
 Besides eating and visiting some of the moms crochet, knit and do other stitching work. I just take pictures and offer food :-)

The kids are really good at playing and getting along for the most part.

They can be pretty goofy.

I'm blessed by my friendship with these young moms. They make me a better mother...friend...they bless me more than they know.

I'll be honest, I just wasn't feeling it. I even toyed with the idea of just skipping it today. I felt uninspired and not really motivated to come up with a picture of the day.

But instead of not doing it...of not pulling my camera out (ok off the desk shelf) I went ahead and made my self do it. I made myself look for inspiration. And I was gently reminded of a great truth. Often times we may think the answer is found in one direction when in reality it is in another. A simple thing like flipping my lens backwards to do reverse macro reminded me of that.

My house still smells like Christmas.

And we bought more lights but that still isn't enough so the oldest is making a Walmart run for more.

Another batch of fudge to go along with the batch of peanut butter fudge from yesterday is cooling on the counter.

Cookies and fudge balls still to be made. Why fudge balls when we have two ginormous pans of fudge already? Because it's a different recipe with a different texture that is perfect for these little fudge balls that my beloved adores. (All the prep is due to the fact that we'll be celebrating Christmas tomorrow with some of my family.)

The other children have moved from putting hooks on ornaments while singing "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas" to seeing who can stand on their head the longest.

I love my life.

It happened our very first Christmas. My beloved, the man I had forever joined my life to, actually suggested we put our Christmas tree in the spare bedroom.



Since then we have struck a balance and tempered each other's enthusiasm, or lack thereof.

But I have to say that he did it this year. He has redeemed himself from that horrible first Christmas faux pas.

He brought home the biggest most beautiful Christmas tree that ever was.

This tree is so big that Santa himself could hide in it.

It's so big and beautiful that I am reasonably sure I clapped my hands and squealed like a little girl.

Growing up I loved decorating our tree. Half squished handmade ornaments and the tinsel! Oh, my goodness that silvery slippery sparkle just delighted my soul. My trees now look quite different. I tried that beautiful silvery sparkle and cleaned up for months afterwards once and do not feel compelled to experience it again as an adult as well as the chief housekeeper. (God bless my dear Mother.)

But tomorrow we'll trim the tree with red and gold and lights. Lots and lots of beautiful sparkly lights.

And each night we'll turn the regular lights off and just sit in the simple glow of this big beautiful tree.

It's the simple things that give so much pleasure. Like the fact that my house now smells like Christmas.

The I-really-want-some fudge-so-I-am-going-to-make-some-and-blame-it-on-the-holiday tradition yielded a mighty tasty confection. It also yielded quite a lot. Like, seriously a lot. So I shared some this morning at my weekly moms group and had a few friends mumble their hatred for my new tradition through a mouthful of fudgy goodness. There's plenty left, and by plenty I mean well over half a pan, so I am taking it for dessert at our church dinner tonight.

This recipe is definitely a keeper but I think it will only be made to give out as a gift or for parties and such. I had no idea it would make so dang much. I guess my friends better get ready because I really want to try a peanut butter fudge. That one I may have to give away for the sake of my own waistline.

It has been a busy day. All chopped up into bits and pieces of time. Not a bad day but that kind of all-over-busy-ness bothers me. The older I get the more uninterrupted I like my days. Which is hilarious because I have five children. There is no such thing.

Regardless of the hectic back and forth kind of day this evening has been pretty calm and rather pleasant. Currently we're listening to A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. It's one of my favorite jazz holiday cd's.

After dinner my beloved lit a fire and we settled in for Advent. I think we all look forward to this peaceful way to wind down our evening. I love hearing the questions the kids come up with. It's a sweet family tradition.

I started a new tradition tonight too. It's called the I-really-want-some-fudge-so-I-am-going-to-make-some-and-blame-it-on-the-holiday tradition. It's a new recipe so I'll let you know how it goes.

It's not that I didn't take the pictures each day ~ I even uploaded them to facebook. It's just the blog was m.i.a for a few days due to a domain renewal snafu. But thanks to my wonderful long suffering husband it's back and I'm going to overload this post with the pictures that weren't shared on their day. (Actually it's not much of an overload just about three or four pictures.)

Day Nine ~ the way every morning starts for me :-)

Day Eight ~

Say Seven ~ 

Day Six ~ This one has garnered a lot of attention. The colors were what caught my eye and there was no way I wasn't going to try and capture what I saw. I drove around the block downtown and looped back to take this picture.

There now. All caught up :-)

A friend quietly suffered a loss.

Another said goodbye to her mother.

Parents lost a child over the weekend and two days ago two children lost their mother.

That's just in the last week of my life, no one else's stories...just mine. Just my immediate world and not around the globe or down the street or across town.

And I am reminded why the Light needed to come. How darkness wants to reign and how the great deceiver wants to make us believe that the darkness does rule.

But the Light that came has conquered darkness and the deceived one and it only seems the opposite when we look at the darkness instead of the Light.

A friend gives thanks for medicine and doctors who successfully performed open heart surgery on her three month old last week.

A long awaited end to a work project is finally on the horizon and a family rejoices.

Still others share stories of grace and blessing from a trip to Haiti.

The Light is there. Spilling across our lives, dispelling the darkness...exposing it's emptiness and lies.

So this week we light the candle of Hope. Not because we're waiting for it to arrive. But because it has.

One of the posters in the facebook DPP group is including a haiku with each of her pictures. It makes for a pretty nice combo as well as some inspiration. I'm not going to try and do one every day because I don't think I'd handle the pressure well but I did come up with one this morning when I saw how foggy it was outside.

I was whining about the icky Florida December weather yesterday and, while it's still humid and kind of gross, the fogginess and colors of the Bradford pear trees has sort of redeemed itself.

gray and foggy morn
fall colors crackle and pop
winter in the south

You know what I really dislike about the time change? That when it's 6:54 pm it is so stinkin' dark outside that it feels like it's midnight. I say that as if there is anything else to dislike about the time change and frankly there isn't. I mean you get to fall back and gain an hour of sleep and what's not love about that?

But man, I really hate how early it gets dark.

I think another part of the reason I am quite the grumpy gus today is that it was almost 80 degrees. I realize I live in Florida and all but still...December should be cold. At least by about 10 or 20 degrees less then what it was today.

My kids don't seem to mind. They came home and still had a cup of hot cocoa. Go figure.

I did manage to sweat my way through putting some more decorations out so at least it looks more like Christmas even if it doesn't feel like it. (It also smells like Christmas since I stopped and loaded up on all the tree cuttings at Home Depot. Do you know they will let you haul off as much as you'd like of the limbs that are left after they've trimmed the trees for free?)

Maybe I should just crank the air conditioner way down and climb into bed with a cup of cocoa and pretend it's cold outside. You know...since it's so dark outside already :-)

I'm only counting the cocoa picture for my DPP. I'm pretty sure these decorative pine cones have been photographed for a previous year.

I forget sometimes, to look for the light in unexpected places...for beauty in the ordinary. I've been busy with editing a bunch of mini sessions I did (a fundraiser for my daughter's jr/sr trip) and I love how they are turning out. The families were all so fun and the pictures are just great. I love doing portraits. Of working to capture that smile or expression that really reflects a personality. And spending time with the families who have become friends.

I'm thankful for the busy-ness and for the friends we had visit over the holiday weekend. But I'm thankful for the timing of this yearly photo project too. Because I need to be reminded that there is rest in the normal things of life like the way sunlight comes in the window in the morning and illuminates the leaves of a house plant that I have managed to not kill or the almost readiness of the first lemon on our tree. I need to be reminded to look for the common grace in the quiet.

Not everything is planned or perfectly arranged...but there is simple joy to be found even then.

For the last several years I have been able to participate in the December Photo Project...a photo every day for the first 25 days of December. Last year I only managed a few days but that's the great thing about the project. The world doesn't end if you miss a day or two...or 12.

I actually have two pictures for today. For years the kids and  I have asked for us to string Christmas lights on the house. And by us I mean Rob. Finally, for the first time ever, he decided we could hang them and a sweet young man from our church came over a few weeks back and cleaned the rain gutters and started hanging lights. He couldn't finish though since we didn't have enough strands but I bought some more this weekend and my beloved finished hanging them this afternoon.

He looks thrilled doesn't he? (He was totally playing up the Grinch-ness here. "Whaaaat? I'm hanging lights and you want to take my picture?!)

In related news he also got my box of decorations down from the attic. I think I'm missing stuff. Or I could be imagining things that I've seen lately at Hobby Lobby but don't actually own and just wish I did. It's totally possible. Either way tomorrow I'll start putting things out around the house. I love holiday decorating, don't you?

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