I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men!
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Friends, it’s a bittersweet month. I knew it would be. I miss dad of course – he loved Christmas. He loved Handel’s “Messiah.” He loved just being together. December also holds treasured experiences I’ve known for over a quarter of my life with Cultivate. I miss the rhythms I’ve known for 10+ years: helping you prep for the new year ahead, end-of-year planning for Cultivate, our annual team holiday celebration, and all the interactions in between. In all of this, I miss the people most of all. I miss coming together to focus on what matters and looking ahead with hope—together. Nothing quite feels right as we turn the corner to December. I’ve been repeating to myself what we’ve long talked about together: sometimes we have to say no to great things to do what’s best in the big picture. And here I am. Missing it all.
You’re probably thinking, “Lara, I don’t understand. You chose this new season with Cutivate.” Well, I did and I didn’t. I said yes to what God asked me to do and that also meant taking a leap of faith, not knowing exactly what was ahead. Add my dad’s passing into the mix and I’m on terra incognita. I am so grateful for this new season and yet I often feel, as a friend shared with me the other day, like an eaglet.
An excerpt from Invitation to Love: The Way of Christian Contemplation by Thomas Keating:
“In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses compares God’s training of his people to an eagle training an eaglet to fly. In ancient times it was believed that eaglets learned to fly by being pushed out of the nest, which was usually perched on the edge of a cliff. This is a marvelous image of what we feel is happening to us. God seems to push us into something that we feel totally incapable of doing. We wonder if he still loves us. Or again, he pushes us out of whatever nest we are in. Like the eaglet desperately flapping its wings, we seem to be heading straight for the abyss. But like the mother eagle, God swoops down and catches us just before we hit the rocks. This happens again and again until the eaglet learns to fly. After we have been treated in this fashion a number of times, we too may realize that it is not as dangerous as we first believed. We learn to trust God beyond our psychological experiences.”
Hawks, ospreys, and eagles captivate me. I see one flying over our house and it’s as if the world pauses for a moment as I gaze in wonder. They are free, strong, and live with purpose. They are also carried and created to rely on God’s provision. I’m right there in reliance, surrendering the comfort of the beautiful nest we’ve formed together over many years. I’m learning to trust God in this new open air. I’m gaining strength with each push out of the nest – even though I feel like my weaknesses are being revealed more than my strength most days! I’m learning a new life balance and it feels wild and unknown at the moment. I have not figured it all out, but I have faith that God has.
All of this new ground has me craving time in my new PowerSheets more than ever. I’m planning an at-home PowerSheets retreat for a couple of hours this weekend while Ari takes the kids to various lessons. I plan to write about my goals here on my blog (which I am grateful to have – writing has been such a gift lately!). I look forward to hearing your reflections and goals for the new year too. Stay tuned.
Till then, a few highlights from November before we look ahead at this new month.
We hosted my mom and brother over Thanksgiving, took UTVs out into the wilderness of our friend’s land in Blowing Rock, and got to hike with family and friends. I was proud of my mom for hiking and ever-inspired by my brother for doing so as well. The three of us spent time talking about our grief and missing dad with every step forward. It was good to be together and we’ll host my mom here in North Carolina for Christmas as well. Also in November, Grace turned 11 with a Narnia-themed birthday party at the Honeysuckle Tea House. It was a gift to spend time celebrating with her sweet friends. We all loved her lemon strawberry cake from this wonderful local bakery.
Things I’m loving right now:
As mentioned, books! What I read or listened to in November (affiliate links are used throughout!):
Simplicity Parenting – It has taken me way too long to finish this one, mostly because the writing is repetitive. I am probably the last person on earth to read it, but it was worth a read. A favorite quote: “We can provide the kind of stability and security that they will internalize. A basecamp that doesn’t move. This archetypal base camp will be their own strength of character. Their own resiliency.”
Wild and Free Family – I loved The Call all the Wild and Free, and had high hopes for this book. It was valuable, although a little fluffy for my stage of life. It reads like a manifesto in portions, one I champion: “We must become wonder warriors!” I have been a fan of Ainsley’s work for a long time and also recommend the Wild and Free homeschool community.
Swiss Family Robinson – We are almost through the unabridged version with the kids. I recommend this book for ages seven and up. The kids keep asking for it every day! I’ve read reviews about people feeling like the language is a little hard for kids to understand, which I agree with. However, If the reader (me) uses intentional intonation and expression in reading harder texts, the kids tend to understand the meaning—or will stop me to ask because the new words sound interesting. In cases, though, where I’m tripping over the words myself, well-narrated audiobooks are a gift. This narrator’s proper tone juxtaposed with the Robinson family’s wild new life is especially entertaining.
The Power of Showing Up – It’s hard to pick a favorite between this book and the one I’ll share with you next as my top reads for the year. This book was excellent – practical, engaging, and uniquely insightful. The authors cover challenging ground, guiding you to reflect on your own attachment history. Ari and I listened to the audio together, and it changed our parenting. If you haven’t read No Drama Discipline or The Whole Brain Child, The Power of Showing Up summarizes many of the core principles.
The Whole and Healthy Family – Okay, friends! I loved this book. I’ve long-followed Jodi Mockabee’s homeschool journey and have learned from her wisdom over the years. Her faithfulness inspires me. In this, her first book, she takes a deep dive into a variety of topics—the range is wide! From teaching your kids about pornography (I had the talk with them thanks to her guidance and it was easier than I thought!) to natural remedies, generosity, and family fitness, I so enjoyed every page. This book goes down as the one that created the most practical change in our home, igniting a family food overhaul, switching to various non-toxic home products, and a new view on our family culture. It was such a wonderful and practical read. Thank you, Jodi!
Raising Emotionally Strong Boys – Ari and I just started this and are benefitting from it so far. More to come as we finish and implement what we learn.
We shift slightly to “Christmas School” in December with holiday hymn study and some of the best poetry ever written. I love the richness of this month of school. We are using the Cultivate Advent scripture cards for our morning scripture memory. They are beautiful to hang around our homeschool room as well. Another favorite: Letters from Afar. Whether you homeschool or not, and whether you are a kid or an adult, get thee a subscription to Letters from Afar. This would make an amazing stocking stuffer for anyone who loves travel. These monthly letters are expertly designed and written. We’ve been subscribers for several years and love them all! This is best enjoyed by ages 6 and up. Also, all Christmas books! I have a separate post with our favorites coming tomorrow.
We’re doing the holidays differently this year and already enjoying our more minimal decorations and advent reading. Another book I highly recommend owning for the holidays: Then Sings My Soul: Holiday Special Edition. We use Robert Morgan’s hymn books in school and love them all. This special edition includes songs for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. I bought a copy for each family in our church group as a holiday gift this year (spoiler alert for any of them reading this!).
What are you focusing on in December? I love hearing about your goals.