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Dear Mushka,

OUR HOUSE: CHRISTMAS TOUR

OUR HOUSE: CHRISTMAS TOUR

We moved into our house over the Summer so this is the first Christmas we're spending here. That always feels a little extra magical doesn't it? 

I promised you all a house tour months ago (whoops!) so I thought a little Christmas edition would be fun until I get around to a room-by-room post. Enjoy!

1. This fireplace is in the space we've turned into the dining room. We painted the brick and have plans to tile inside the no-longer-working fireplace space (and instead put a fireplace outside!) For now, the brass gate is up so that a certain toddler does not walk around soot-covered all day ;) 

I leave the "Give Thanks" banner up all November & December because it feels extra applicable around Christmas time. 

My favorite part is the The Little People nativity set in the corner. Mostly, my kids have fun throwing the people across the floor (#boys), but it also sparks sweet conversation. 

Mirror- Anthropologie (snagged on a big sale)

Small Trees & Give Thanks Banner- Target

White Bunting- Joann's Fabrics (I just snipped a few yards from a spool)

Brass Candle Sticks- Antique

Bigger Trees & Wreath & Basket- TJ Maxx

 

2. I found this dresser on Craigslist a few years ago and have loved moving it around from house to house. Right now, it's tucked into our kitchen and holds things like cloth napkins and table runners. 

The basket is for our mail and the large piece of art was a gift from my Dad a few years ago. It makes me think of him all the time :) 

I love layering in holiday pieces here for a little whimsy and fun. 

Abstract Art- One King's Lane

Born is the King Art- Salt Stains (she custom made this for me)

Nativity Art- Rifle Paper Co (I just framed a card)

Basket- Old

Wooden Tree & Lamp- Target 

 

3. I talked all about this book on this blog post & in my Instagram Stories (I saved them to my highlights-- "advent"), but this is where it will stay all month long. I leave this tray out on my kitchen counter as a constant call back towards God's word when I have a free minute. Having it right in front of my eyes has helped me keep my focus on Christ instead of social media.

Candle & Tree- Target

Tray- garage sale

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus- I'm so excited to begin this! 

Bible- I think mine is out of print, but this is a very similar option. 

 

4. Last year, we decided not to hang ornaments that didn't point our eyes back to Jesus. Of course, you can make so many things work (the rhino above... creation!), but it has been the sweetest way to turn our attention from a cultural Christmas to a Jesus-centered one. The boys love seeing their "first Christmas" photo ornament and talking about how Jesus came as a baby boy, too. 

 

5. This is the advent calendar I talked about on this blog post & in my Instagram Stories (I saved them to my highlights-- "advent"). It hangs in our dining room, where our Christmas tree is. Every morning, we'll pull out the ornament, read the corresponding verse, and hang it on the tree. I love how our tree displays the whole gospel story, from Genesis to Jesus, on Christmas morning. 

 

6. Our boys each have a touch of Christmas decor in their rooms, too. This banner is soft and perfect for little hands (we're getting really good at finding all the letters in "Merry Christmas"). 

And yes, that's the giant bear from Costco. My dad got it for Brooks three years ago and it is still a most-beloved item. 

Banner- TJ Maxx

Bed- Ikea

Sheets- Target

 

7. Another little peek at Brooks' room. Growing up, we always had a small tree of our choice as a night-light to use all season; I love passing down this tradition. It's the only colored-lights tree in the house and I have to admit, it's my favorite. 

 

8. We kept our kitchen pretty simple (although the two big windows are begging for some pine garland above them!)-- for now, just a wreath by the stove and a cozy cookbook in the basket is perfect. 

Basket- Target

Cutting Boards- Anthropologie clearance

Wreath- TJ Maxx

Book- The Year of Cozy 

 

9. This is my office & also our family library. It's my favorite room in the house, no surprise :) The chair is worn and faded so I just threw a king-sized coverlet on it and called it a day.

The art prints are so inspiring to me, four very different women all in conversation with one another. I often use it as a muse when I create new lines, picturing you all and your stories. 

Light- Pottery Barn 

Coverlet- I can't remember but here and here are similar

Pillow Cover- Etsy, shop no longer open 

Art- Elizabeth Mayville 

 

10. This is a cozy little spot in our living room. A flocked tree (from Goodwill!), a winter edition of The Magnolia Journal, and an extra blanket or two make a perfectly decorated space. 

We recently hung the gallery wall and, of course, I just want to stare at it all day long. My three men have my heart. xx

Frames- Ikea

Couch- Sprintz

Wire Basket & Tree- Goodwill 

Candle- Anthropologie 

Table- Overstock or Wayfair, I can't find a link. Sorry!

 

11. Here's a pulled back view of our living room. We added the walls to make the library on the end (it used to be one really long room) and use this space all day long, for reading and small groups and running in circles. The book basket on the table holds seasonal books, and my boys love to sit there and look through the new ones I put out. (Well, my 4 year old does. My 1 year old just likes to try to jump from the table to the couches...)

A bigger coffee table, piano, and maybe a layered rug are in the plans for one day, but I think there is such value in living in a space before you begin to add in/change too many things. 

Couch- Sprintz

Rug- Rugs USA

Table- Vintage

Art- DIY by me

Leather Chair- Vintage, from Robert's grandpa! 

Office Chair- World Market

***

As you can see, we love decorating with simple things (lights & trees mostly) that make us think of the Creator & Light of the World. Merry Christmas season, sisters. xx

ADVENT: WHY & HOW

ADVENT: WHY & HOW

As soon as Adam and Eve rebelled and sin separated man from God, God began instilling hope in His people through the promise of a redeemer. The Old Testament is one giant, exciting story of God's rescue plan. And, of course, at Christmas we celebrate the fulfillment of what He promised—that He would provide a way for us to be near to Him once again, despite our sin and brokenness.

The season leading up to Christmas is called advent, meaning coming. It begins four Sundays before December 25-- December 2nd this year-- and allows us to build anticipation for who is coming. For four weeks, it’s as if we’re re-enacting, remembering the thousands of years God’s people were anticipating and longing for the coming of God’s salvation, for Jesus. 

It is also a time for us to remember that we are still awaiting the second advent of Christ, when He comes again to bring us home and restore the world (John 14:2-3).

If you didn't grow up participating in advent, don't worry. I didn't either! We can learn and savor together :) There are many ways to celebrate the season, depending on tradition, background, family size, etc

· Many of you have seen or uses an advent calendar, typically made up of 24 spots containing verses, pictures, candy, etc to count down the days until Christmas. As each window is opened and the final day draws closer, our expectation increases. This reminds us of the hopeful yet anxious waiting God’s people experienced as they longed for the promised Savior to come.

In our family, we have little felt pieces that represent part of the Christian Story tucked into each slot as well as a corresponding Bible verse. We read & talk each morning and then hang our ornament on the tree. It's really beautiful to see the whole story represented there on Christmas morning. (The felt pieces go with this book but we don't use it yet-- a little over my boy's heads).

We also have this and love it, especially for littles ones who are just starting to understand the concept of Christmas. This is also a favorite around here during the month of December to simply start the conversation. It doesn't have to be fancy or complicated!

· Another tradition is using an advent "wreath" made up of four or five candles (or just candles on a tray); it focuses on the idea of Jesus Christ being the Light of the World. Each Sunday, a new candle is lit in anticipation of Christmas Eve with the idea of ever-increasing light penetrating the darkness. 

Our family doesn't do this because #toddlersandfire, but I do love the idea of ever-increasing lights as Christmas day approaches! Lighting a candle and reading a family devotion together every Sunday evening is a wonderful & completely doable idea. 

·There are many advent devotion guides and reading plans to center you each day or each week. Here are some of my favorites: 

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus-- I just bought this and really like the setup; a devotion that can be read as a family each Sunday, a short devotion to read M-F, and then a small activity to do on Saturday that focuses on the week's theme. I can't wait to begin!

Join the Advent Chorus -- a free daily e-mail from the Revive Our Hearts team. There's also a matching book, but I don't think it's necessary if you don't want to buy something. 

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus-- a book to read all month long; I did this last year and was so blessed.

Solid Joys Podcast-- a quick podcast to turn on while you're cooking, full of advent wisdom and truth from John Piper and the Desiring God team.

Treasuring God in Our Traditions-- it's not an advent book, per se, but it's full of ways to keep each holiday gospel-focused including sweet ideas for Christmas.

Prepare Him Room-- another family devotion to do all month long; I haven't done this one but have heard good things

Come Let Us Adore Him-- an advent devotion from Paul Tripp; this would be a great one for men/husband's to read and lead with!

Daily Advent Jesus Storybook Bible-- This is a free resource with an outline of how to use The Jesus Storybook Bible during each day of advent. Perfect for families!

Kids Books:

The Littlest Watchman - My 4 year old loves this story 

The Christmas Promise - Another great one for kids

 ···

No matter what you choose to do, remember that it's not about what you're doing. It's about why you're doing it! Engage your heart, slow down, focus on Jesus first before decorations and gifts and cookies. After all, HE is the good gift. 

I'm going to talk more about advent over on my Instagram Stories. I'll save them to my highlights so check them out here

GIFT GUIDES FOR HER, HIM, & LITTLES

GIFT GUIDES FOR HER, HIM, & LITTLES

There are many ways to anticipate the arrival of Christ and to keep our hearts focused on Him-- lights, feasts, songs, service projects... and even gifts. 

James 1:17 says "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."

God is the very best gift-giver. Not only did He give us His son, but also every other good and wonderful thing in our lives. He takes delight in giving good gifts to us, which is why we can find delight in giving gifts to those we love. It's a way we can reflect His image!

Here are some ideas as you start planning out your gift-lists. How can we be intentional and Jesus-focused as we love our people well? 

For Her:

1. Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God- A short, inspirational book to remind her of the Godly (and very human) women who have gone before her.

2. The Promise Pack- 52 beautiful verse cards for her to put around her house or memorize, one for every week of the year.

3. A Dear Mushka Necklace- Because there is little better than jewelry that keeps our hearts and minds focused on Christ.

4. The Citizen Sweatshirt- It carries a forgiving fit and the much needed reminder that she is a citizen of Heaven. 

5. A Dear Mushka Gift Card- So she can pick the piece her heart most needs in this season.

6. Sing a New Song- A lovely breakdown of each Psalm for her to use as a guide when she's reading them. 

7. The Prayer Journal Pages- Help set her up for a more consistent prayer life in the New Year. Bonus: Print them off and put them in a pretty binder for her! 

8. Humble Roots- One of the best books I've read in a long time, she'll love it from beginning to end. 

9. An Art Print- Christ-focused beauty for her home. Bonus: Frame it for her! 

 

For Him:

1. ESV Scripture Journal Set- He'll have plenty of room to take notes inside; my husband uses these when He meets with some men to study scripture. You can also buy them individually!

2. 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You- A really interesting, scientific, helpful read as he decides when and how to use his phone. 

3. Systematic Theology- The best (easy to understand) guide for his office on every theological topic imaginable. 

4. New Morning Mercies- A gospel-focused daily devotional that he'll absolutely love. Bonus: It could be read and discussed at the dinner table with the family!

5. A CS Lewis Set- Classics he'll want to read again and again. 

6. Candle- A perfectly manly scent for him to light as he opens his Bible and prays each morning.

7. Soli Deo Gloria Tee- Glory to God alone, forever and ever. 

8. Pens- Wonderful pens to mark up his Bible and/or journal with as he learns more about God.

9. Hillsong Art- Encouraging art for his office or space. My husband loves these song lyrics... what might be best for your "him"?

 

For Littles:

1. The Child Pack- Verse cards perfect for little hearts to memorize and learn the importance of. 

2. A Baby Believer Book- There are five in the series, each one lovely for young minds with bright colors and a clear focus. 

3. Getty Kids Hymnal- Beautiful music from Getty Kids made to get your family worshiping God through beloved hymns. 

4. God's Very Good Idea- A wonderful book on God's beautiful plan to make people different from one another. 

5. ABCs of the Attributes of God Cards- Is there a better way to learn your ABCs than to focus on God? 

6. The Biggest Story- Another ABC method of focusing on God. Theologically correct and helpful. Here's the (even better) version for older children!

7. Little People Noah's Ark- Perfect for bath time stories about God. They also make a manger scene option. 

8. Bible Infographics Book- A super fun book to look through and learn from!

9. The Precious Tee- Because it's true, no matter our race, Jesus loves us all the same. 

MY MORNING PROTEIN SMOOTHIE

MY MORNING PROTEIN SMOOTHIE

Not to be dramatic, but this protein smoothie changed my life. 

(Okay, a little dramatic.)

But truly-- learning the importance of protein, fiber, and greens in the morning... and learning to remove the carbohydrates that immediately turn to sugar... has allowed me to feel full & satisfied until lunch time everyday. 

I drink this whether I feel hungry early in the morning or not, because I know I'll otherwise eat the first thing I see when I'm starving by ten. (And the chances of that thing being healthy are 0%).

It takes two minutes to make, I always have the ingredients on hand, and it really does keep me full until lunch. 

CHECK!

Here's how I make mine, but feel free to substitute as you wish.

Ingredients:

· I scoop protein powder (I love the taste of this one-- not protein powder-y at all)

· I scoop collagen powder (I truly see a different in my joints when I use this. Crazy!)

· 1-2 scoops BP fit powder (you could also use another form of nut butter)

· a tbsp(ish) ground flax powder (the fiber helps break everything down in your body)

· half an avocado (makes it creamy and adds a good fat)

· handful of spinach (I keep mine in the freezer so it never goes bad)

· a banana 

· handful of ice (alternatively, you could freeze your bananas)

· 1-2 cups almond milk (alternatively you could use coffee/cold brew!)

To Make: 

· Add everything to your blender and mix! 

Note: We've had this blender for five years and love it. Our jar broke once and they replaced it, no questions asked. It's a little more pricey, but it's made a 1-2 smoothies for our family every morning without problem. We've gotten our money's worth! 

Enjoy!

HOW WE SPENT THREE DAYS IN NYC

HOW WE SPENT THREE DAYS IN NYC

New York City is one of my very favorite places in the whole world. I love how much of our country's history is wrapped up in it and how diverse it still is today. I'm always thrilled at how many other languages you can hear as you walk down the street or ride the subway, & could people (and building!) watch the streets all day long. 

I've been many times, but this was Robert's 1st real trip so we combined sight-seeing with leisurely walks. And lots of food!

Warning-- Long post ahead. But I know so many of you have trips planned, I wanted to give you a look at our weekend! 

Day 1

Our flight got in around 9 am Friday morning so we took a taxi from Newark to the city, checked into the hotel, and then headed to Sarahbeth's right by Central Park for brunch. I'd made a noon reservation but they were able to get us in earlier, and we got a seat right by the window. People watching + the lemon ricotta pancakes was the best way to start the trip.  

We were meeting friends in the city (so fun!) so while they checked in and ate, we wandered Central Park. There were kids on a zoo field trip, moms setting up for child's b-day party, and people already ice skating in the park. I kept saying how beautiful it was and Robert kept laughing and reminding me that our home is on multiple acres, we literally live in a park. Ha! 

We found a Strands Bookstore kiosk station right outside the park so we went on and picked up a few souvenir books (hi, this is my kind of party) and then walked up 5th Avenue. It's one of the most luxurious streets in the world and kind of fun to see so many fancy stores in a row. We grabbed a cookie at Milk Bar and then met up with our friends. 

It was supposed to rain the whole next day so we decided to cram as much as we could into our Friday. We took the Subway to Chelsea and walked the Chelsea Market, High Line, and along the Hudson River. Walking past all the piers was fun, especially seeing how many kids were playing on the playgrounds, in the skateparks, and in the fenced in soccer/basketball areas. There really is a lot of green/play space tucked inside the city. 

We made our way to The World Trade Center site. I'd done the museum before, but never seen the completed Freedom Tower; it's now the tallest building in the city and is just beautiful. The whole area feels sacred and I especially loved the signs around it I hadn't noticed before-- like the one posted on the elementary school nearby, recognizing the students who witnessed the attack firsthand. 

After that, we headed to Wall Street. Did you know it used to literally have a wall on it, blocking Native Americans? This area isn't particularly fun for me, but it's fascinating to walk the different neighborhoods; you can feel the atmosphere change as you go from one kind of people group to the next. 

Next, we found some fresh juice and then headed to the Brooklyn Bridge. I'd heard it gets pretty busy on the weekend and it was, but it was still enjoyable. People used to put "love locks" on the bridge, which is now illegal, but we found a few sneaky ones. 

By this point, we were starving and cold so we made our way to Grimaldi's Pizza on the Brooklyn side. No single slices, cash only, and it was so good. It puts Nashville pizza to shame. We also passed by the Etsy headquarters, which was extra fun for me since Dear Mushka got its start on Etsy! 

We took a subway back to Rockefeller Center, watched the people ice skate for a few minutes, saw all the TV studios around, and then walked through Times Square to grab a slice of Juniors cheesecake. We took it back to our hotel rooms, ate in bed, and fell asleep immediately. Long day! 

Day 2

It rained all day Saturday so we did our best to stay inside. We planned to eat at a fancy little breakfast place but after walking for a few minutes in the strong winds, decided to jut inside a nearby diner and called it good. And of course, it was, because basically anywhere you eat in the city is good. I think it was called 9ten and Robert's pancakes were some of the best I've ever eaten. 

Then we took a taxi to the MOMA along with every other tourist trying to make the most of their rainy day. Ha! I'd been before when very few people were inside and it was a sweet & enjoyable experience. So many people made it pretty chaotic, but seeing van Goghs and Monets and Picassos up close is special no matter what. 

We popped into Saint Philip's Church (it's gorgeous inside) and then we headed to the main NYC Library located at Bryant Park. I ventured down to the children's area by myself and loved watching all the families there on their rainy Saturday. I curled up in a corner to read a chapter of Harry Potter and admired the original stuffed animals the Winnie the Pooh characters were based on.

We were hungry by that point and decided to try Eataly. It's a giant space near the Flatiron Building that has 6 restaurants + an Italian market inside. We got fresh pasta (amazing!!) and listened to all the Italian conversations going on around us. And of course, a cannoli/ gelato for dessert. Next time, weather permitting, I'd love to grab something from one of the market stands and eat it in Washington Square Park. 

We walked over to Fishs Eddy, a quirky homegoods store, grabbed a warm drink, and then headed back to our hotel. Our friends had dinner & show reservations but Robert doesn't love the theater so we took a power nap and then went out for dinner. I'd heard about The Burger Joint, this random little burger spot located in The Parker Hotel behind a secret curtain, so we went there. The food wasn't amazing, but the experience was hilarious and we were both glad we did it. 

The rain stopped briefly so we walked back through Times Square, listened to some singer performing (the teenagers were going crazy, it made me feel old haha), shopped a little, and then jumped back in bed to snuggle up with a movie. The day wasn't at all what I'd planned, but we did the best we could do with the rain and enjoyed being together. 

Day 3

We woke up to sun (yay!) so we ditched our plans of seeing Tim Keller's church and instead headed to the west side for breakfast at Jacob's Pickles. It's a southern place so we wanted to compare it to Nashville food-- they did a good job! The portions were huge and the atmosphere was super sweet. We got there right after it opened at 9 and didn't have a wait, but the line was really long when we left. 

Then we just walked up and down the streets. They're more residential here and every bit of it is completely charming. Big trees, incredible detailing on the buildings, little gardens outside wherever they can make them fit, playgrounds, cute little stores tucked away. Lots of people walking to church! I could have done this forever. 

We got a Levain Cookies to go, perused the cutest little bookstore, walked a giant Anthropologie, and then hopped on the Subway to head south. We ate a quick lunch at a diner, laughing at how literally everyone decorates for Halloween, and then headed to The Tenement Museum for our tour. 

I absolutely love New York History (this book sealed the deal) and have wanted to do a Tenement Museum tour for years. It was incredible to walk through an actual apartment building made to look exactly as it would have various years ago, and to imagine the immigrants that made their way through. It was eye-opening, and even Robert (who was a good sport but not excited to go) had a lot to say when it was over. A trip highlight for both of us, I think. 

After that, we walked around Washington Square Park (my favorite!), watched some hilarious street performers, wandered through the NYU buildings, accidentally interrupted a commercial being filmed, and then walked over to the Greenwich Village area to find the Friends apartment building. We've watched the series so many times and couldn't resist heading there together. When we were close I said "I think it's around here somewhere..." and Robert was like "...it's probably that corner where the mob of people is staring up" ha. A few people around clearly didn't understand the significance of the spot and kept looking up with the group to see if they could see the apparently cool thing happening. It was pretty funny. 

Our trip was almost over so we headed back up towards our hotel and met up with an Instagram friend (Teresa). It was so exciting getting to hug each other in real life, we felt like we were catching up with an old friend. I also loved getting to peek inside her tiny & adorable apartment. It'll inspire a home purge, that's for sure ;)  

Then our car picked us up and we headed back to the airport (where we waited for hours in security. Three cheers for Robert who had us get there extra early! I would have missed our flight...) and got home right before midnight. 

It was a packed three days, and just what my heart needed. Until next time, New York. xx

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