Every Woman a Theologian
— Phy's Christmas Favorites —
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Dear friend,
We are officially in Advent season! As we lit the first purple candle at Sunday lunch, we talked with the kids about this week of promise: a coming Savior, born so men no more may die
I know Christmas can be so busy for so many: benefits, parties, “obligations". One of my favorite things about this season - especially the last few years - has been the freedom I've felt to decide I am not, actually, obliged to anything. Do I HAVE to go to that benefit party, or would a donation go further? If I can be generous financially while protecting this time, letting it truly be slow, then I will.
Josh and my protectiveness over our time has expanded as our responsibilities have expanded. One would think the two couldn't live in harmony, but we've found they can… if you are willing to reject American norms to do what is best for your family (or your life as a single person). We started asking ourselves: What is the cost to saying yes? And we made a trade:
  • Long nights on the living room floor reading aloud and playing games in front of a fire, instead of running wintery roads to another great activity
  • Slow mornings reading the Word with coffee in hand instead of rushing kids or ourselves to another commitment
  • A dedicated night of the week for hosting and another for going out, with a firm “no” for any other night – so we are free to see friends without overbooking the calendar.
Truth is, the way we've lived out our commitment to margin - a commitment made in December of 2022 for our annual biblical-visioning getaway – has overflowed into our holiday season. We are looking at a month of restful celebration.
I'm sharing this to say: It's possible to have beautiful traditions, movie nights, read alouds, baked cookies, a crowded table… a rich, fun, magical, Christmas… from a place of rest
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I've seen a lot of posts about feeling guilty, or committing to too many activities or traditions for Christmas. And I know many of you probably struggle with those feelings. May I suggest that perhaps the real issue isn't too many things done at home, but too many things done outside of it? 
Too many “yeses” to people who are not the most important.
Too many “obligations” you are not obliged to at all. 
What would happen if you said no?
You'd have the ability to say yes. 
Single women/men: Your challenge may be yet another Christmas where you wanted someone with you, and you're looking down the pipe at more questions from Aunt Kathy. Maybe your calendar is actually EMPTY because only couples and families get invited. Maybe instead of saying “no”, it's time for you to say “yes” to hosting something yourself, to opening your home and table to others like you (and others not so like you).
And for people with kids: When you say no to the obligations of American/western culture and learn to slow down and listen for the Spirit, you'll find Christmas has TONS of space for the things we all “don't have time for”. Truth is, there is always enough time. We just believe we can't, or shouldn't, use it for ourselves… for baking, or reading, or going to the light show. Our pragmatism is showing. We think if it's not productive or obligatory it's not worth doing. But when we say no to the obligation, we are free to open the door and the table, including to our single friends who may just be waiting for an invitation.
Turn it upside down. My favorite thing about Christmas is that I'm obliged to do what is beautiful, not what I am (supposedly) obligated to do by my anxiety-ridden culture. 
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This email is about my faves. And my favorite thing about Christmas is the beauty born from a commitment to margin. It feels impossible when you've lived in a pattern of people pleasing for years; it feels impossible if the precedent you've set, by previous unhealthy choices, is constant rush and overfilling (I spent years there). But I can promise you, Advent is beautiful when you let there be time to truly see it. 
Below are some of my other faves this week. 
Five Faves

  • Sundays are for soups and stews. Sunday is our “sabbath” (not in a rigid sense, but a day we set aside for complete rest, no work, and family time). Cooking with no pressure/agenda is one of my favorite activities, and I love using leftovers to make yummy soups. Magnolia Cookbook's Country Potato Soup was amazing this week, but with ham instead of bacon.
  • Kid's Nativity Matching Game and Puzzle: These are from His Kids Company and are SO fun! All three of my kiddos (including Ivan, who is 3) loved the matching/memory game. The puzzle was a whole-family activity by the fire!
  • Christmas Countdown Snowman: My mom handed down a cute countdown snowman the kids love to update each morning. Here's a similar one at Pottery Barn!
  • Grow With Me Snowpants: I get lots of cold-climate Qs when I'm on Insta (I'm off for the month) and this is one of my best recs. We bought a pair of Obermeyer “grow with me” pants for Addie when she was 5. She's 8, and tall, and we JUST let them out. They had a bit of a high-water look last year but who cares… they're snowpants! I recommend buying high-quality brands on sale or secondhand, they last longer and can be passed down. I got Eva a pair of Burton GWM pants for $15 on eBay.
  • Annual Christmas Open House: One of my favorite nights of the entire year is our town's annual Christmas open house. The streets shut down, Santa Claus lights the tree, the high school steel drum band plays in the square, and you see everyone you know as you shop, eat free cookies and sip hot chocolate. 
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Bible in a Year 2024 Opens Soon!

Ready to read the Bible chronologically, in a year, in community? Bible in a Year Club reopens for 2024 enrollments December 26th!
2023 was our first year offering this program. I spent 110+ hours creating content, videos, and finding extra resources for our students this time around, and hundreds of people are finishing the Bible (many for the first time!) at the end of the year! I am so excited to relaunch with a new group and add even MORE to the course.
Launch details will be sent later in the month, but for now, here is what Bible in a Year entails:
  • It is a SUBSCRIPTION based program. If you end your subscription, you lose access to the course. It is designed for the entire group to stay on pace with each other for community, hence the subscription based model (if you wish for a self paced program, Bible Recap may be better!). 
  • BYC is focused on building the HABITS necessary to follow through on diligent Bible reading. Often the issue is not the Bible itself; it's a lack of training on habit formation, consistency, and discipline, paired with a perfectionistic mindset. This program will teach you to let go of perfectionism and find consistency!
  • We use Teachable as the hub of course content. There is an app for iPhone users (not Android) and while there is a discussion option in the app, most of us use a Facebook group for discussion. The accountability and community aspect are fundamental to success!
  • Each week you receive the week's reading plan, a summary of the upcoming content, tips for studying according to your learning style, and a list of optional additional resources (videos, podcasts, sermons, articles, maps) to aid your study.
  • We have learned a lot this year and are trying to improve the program in 2024. I manage this program entirely by myself (my team does not manage it) so I am grateful for the patience of our current members as we progressively improved throughout the year and made it better for 2024!
What I'm Reading

Teatime Discipleship for Mothers and Daughters by Sally Clarkson
I've had my eye on this one from Sally for a while. I have many of her other books but this one for moms of daughters really piqued my interest! It is full of ideas for cultivating a one-on-one time with your girls. *Sally's books are filled with IDEAS - not commands. You might not prefer a tea service to connect with your daughter; so come up with something YOU like and utilize the principles. Don't miss the value just because you don't identify with everything Sally personally likes!
House + Love = Home by Jenny Marrs
Adeline and I waited with bated breath for Jenny's book to launch! Adeline looks up to Jenny so much and is a massive Fixer to Fabulous fan. This is a beautiful book but the content is just as lovely. Jenny is a great role model for my girls and we are happy to support her. 
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
I struggled with this at first coming off of Emma, the style is so different. But I'm warming to it! It's about a village of mostly old-ladies in 1800s England. Quaint and cute. I plan to watch the show with the girls when I've finished.
For Advent: I am reading…
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At Home with Phylicia

This section is all about our home rhythms + homeschool routines. I work professionally 25-30 hours a week and homeschool/manage the home the rest of the time. 
  • Our favorite Christian Christmas playlist - for when kids are playing in the living room or while I make dinner - is this one by TGC. 
  • On Tuesday, St. Nicholas is making a visit. St. Nicholas Day is celebrated December 5th/6th. Since we're hosting our small group on the 5th, the kids are putting their boots on the porch for a fun surprise: chocolate coins and oranges! (For a guide to how we do Christmas without celebrating Santa, check out this free guide.)
  • We got creative with our Jesse Tree this year! I've had this reindeer (above) since I was 18 (saving for a future home) and he became our ornament holder this time. We use Pip and J for our Jesse Tree ornaments and guide, but you can find alternatives on Etsy.
  • My Advent guide this year is by The Peaceful Press. I am using it with All Creation Waits, an animal-based Advent book for kids. I love the stunning illustrations and Peaceful Press has some companion activities we will do.