The Speckled Goat's "Tops" of 2016

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It's hard to believe another year has come and gone.

Usually, I'm one of those flakes who starts projects and doesn't finish them... but this marks yet another year that I've been consistently writing here. Which is in part surprising, and in part shows me that I'm pretty blessed to have found something that I am passionate about.

And I'm glad that you, my loyal readers, find my words encouraging and valuable.

It's been another great year, so let's do a little review!


Blessings this Week: 12.23.2016

Oh this week.

Oh, oh this week.

The fun of seasonal work means that the busy comes all at one time. Crashing in on my sleep, my rest, my peace, my wholeness... and eventually, my contentment.

But I'm finding blessings. Lots of them.


White as Snow

The first day of December dawned bright and clear.

And brown.

Everything was brown. Dry, dead, and brown.

It wasn't at all typical, either. Colorado in December usually means knee-deep snow everywhere. Cold, crisp, and white.

This winter has been slow in coming. Unusual. Strangely so. And for a tourist area that depends on snow, it wasn't good. You could feel the tension in the air.

But finally, weeks after the snow typically arrives in full force, we had our first snowstorm of the season.


A Home for the Holidays

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Half-asleep from the ten-plus-hour drive, my little family pulled into the driveway around eight o'clock in the morning.  Our silver car was trailered behind us, filled to the brim with boxes and suitcases, and a menagerie filled the back seat of the truck- a dog, three fish, and an extremely grouchy turtle.

The sunshine seemed almost offensive because of how tired I was. I resisted the urge to just walk into the house and find a bed and crash. Instead, I turned to the dog (who had slept most of the way, lucky jerk), and said cheerfully, "We're home!"

"Home" has been a very fluid concept for me, these past five years.

In five years, we've lived in an apartment at the Bible Camp where we worked, then a house at Camp, then briefly in our camper followed immediately by crashing at a cabin at Camp, then finally in our own little farmhouse... and now up in the mountains in my brother-in-law's spare bedroom.

Lots of work, so many boxes, plenty of stress.

It's been an adventure.


Blessings this Week: 12.09.2016 and 12.16.2016

This December-in-Colorado thing feels suspiciously like July in Iowa, except for the temperature and the snow, of course.

Things are really getting busy around here- crazy busy, in fact- and while I'm pretty used to insane seasons at work, I'm not used to winter being so intense.

My head tells me that it's a good thing to be so busy- it means a successful business, happy customers, people who have the opportunity to experience God's beautiful creation in a new way- my heart often says something different. It's easy for me to get overwhelmed or discouraged, burnt out by the busy.

And that's just another reason why I count. I have to remain thankful to fight back the entitlement. I have to be grateful to keep from feeling sorry for my busy self. I have to find the gifts so I recognize the blessing in the busy.


12 Days of Christmas Cookies

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My dress was scratchy and my tights were bunching up uncomfortably around my toes, but it didn't matter. It was the most wonderful party of the year.

The annual family Christmas party.

This wasn't just any Christmas party, and even my seven-year-old self knew it. This was special.

The first notable thing about this specific Christmas party was the number of people in attendance. My mother is one of seven children, my grandmother is one of eleven... and this party included the entire family. Little tiny Italian great-aunts as far as the eye could see.

Besides all the hand-waving and kisses on the cheek, putting all those little Italian women together in one place meant that the food. was. incredible.

But my favorite place to be was next to the dessert table, where my grandma had carefully arranged The Christmas Cookies- an assortment both colorful and delicious, ranging from traditional Italian pizzelles to Hersey-Kiss topped peanut butter cookies to sugar cookie cut outs.

It's twenty years later, and not much has changed-- the great-aunts have gotten even shorter, the number of people has grown a little as all my cousins and second-cousins and people-I'm-related-to-but-don't-know-how get married and have families of their own, and now I get to pick out my own tights... but my favorite part of every Christmas party is still the cookies.

This year, I want to add some new contenders to the platter with these twelve holiday cookie recipes from around the interwebs-- all sure to be a great addition to any family tradition.


O Come All Ye Family

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I open the passenger door, and, careful not to get that nasty salt-mixed-with-gravel-dust grime on my skirt, settle into the car.

I take a deep breath and turn to my husband.

"Okay, let's do this thing."

And we're off to the family Christmas party.

Let's just go right ahead and be honest about it.

The holidays bring out the crazy in every family.

Whether it's grandpa's slightly inappropriate remarks, or an old rivalry between cousins, or the sister's boyfriend that no one really likes, tension is almost as plentiful at the dining room table as the mashed potatoes.

Family is... complicated.

The holidays bring tension in family relationships.


What I Do with Christmas Cards

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... And... with the first red envelope in my mailbox this morning, my favorite season of the year is here.

It's Christmas card season.

There's been this trend lately of people just not doing Christmas cards.

I get it. I do. Christmas cards can be expensive, time consuming, and with everyone and their grandmother on social media, it seems a lot easier to put up a Facebook picture and be done with the whole thing.

But I just can't help myself. I love Christmas cards.


Understanding Came Upon a Midnight Clear

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When infertility is an issue, family gatherings and holiday parties can be minefields.

The questions. There are always questions.

When will you two have a little one?

You look so nice holding a baby... when can we expect one from you?

Don't you want kids?

Honestly, they almost always mean well, but knowing that doesn't help in the moment.

Good intentions don't keep me from, say, choking on that sip of sparkling cider, my face turning as red as those holiday napkins, and then hurrying to hide in the bathroom to cry. Not that I've done that. <ahem.>

The truth is, as well-meaning as they may be, the majority of the people asking those baby-related questions just don't understand.

They can't. They haven't been there.

It can be so tempting to just grin and bear it, put on a mask and hide my true feelings. Sometimes it's a bit of survival, too.

But when I'm not really being myself, really being transparent, I'm also not letting anyone else in.

It's different when it's with my sister, though.

My sister and I are very much alike, and she's kind of my go-to person when it comes to dealing with some of the holiday family drama. We are similar enough that she really understands a lot of the struggles I'm dealing with, because she's been there.

That kind of empathy is important- it creates a special relationship. We can be transparent with one another, because she gets it.


Blessings this Week: 11.25.2016 and 12.02.2016

And so I missed it.

Yep. I didn't put up a blessings post on the most thankful week of the year, and I've been totally slacking on the blessings posts this month...

But you know? It's just the season I'm in right now.

We all have seasons. For me, this season is about intentionally finding the blessings even in hard things... and maybe that means fully living them first. The daily quiet gratitude I'm fighting for... maybe it needs to be deeper, even more personal.

And that's okay.