Memmory Keeper

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A few favorite instgram photos from Christmas. An unexpected White Christmas and sleepy girls on the drive up. Some how all seem to fit with this theme of silence, and waiting, and listening.

Normally I am ready for the last week of the year to be over. Ready to move on with routine and schedule and life. But something in my heart aches to cling to this in between time. This time of low expectations. The thought of moving forward hurts just a touch to much.

My aunt passed away today. She was my mother's sister and, because of a large age gap between her and my mother, was more like a grandmother to me. The past few months have been about reconnecting for me. Reconnecting with my past, with my families stories, with the women in my family. I have had the beautiful opportunity of "meeting" a cousin on my mother's side through facebook this winter. I was doing research for a story for The Clutch Guide. It has been an unexpected and wonderful experience.

Over Christmas I was sharing a story with my brother and his wife of a Christmas our family spent at the beach. Neither had any recollection of the moment. Laughingly my sister in law said she was glad some one remembered her life. That it was a comfort to know that though she forget things, friends and family remembered moments for her.


I have wondered lately why I write. Why I blog to be more precise. So often it feels like no one is listening/reading. The past few days I have come to realize, that it doesn't matter at all if any one reads this at all. I am a story teller, a memory keeper. It is in my blood to notice the beautiful and to hold on to it for a rainy day. And, in the processes, I have found a new found connection and relation to aunts, cousins, old neighbors, old classmates. It's important to tell our stories. They make us who we are. They bind us together. They keep us alive.




Last Days.

It's gotten pretty cold this week. Combinations of ice and rain and snow. The girls and I are staying warm with sweatshirts and fuzzy socks and wishing we had stocked up on fire wood earlier. Poor Hubby is working all week trying to catch up his numbers the last week of the year. Sick with a horrible cold and standing out side all day. He is my hero.

It is always a funny time to me. This week between Christmas and New Years. It always feels so.... silent.... like C.S. Lewis' wood between the worlds in Magicians Nephew. My goal was to use this time to clean and organize and prepare for the coming year. However, with all four of us being sick with a nasty bug it has become more of a time to flop on the sofa under lots of covers and watch a crazy amount of Law and Order.

The kids are:

Enjoying Christmas gifts.

Pushing boundaries after all Holiday hubbub.

Sick as dogs.

Going to bed late.

Napping where ever they fall.

Next week we will get back into a rhythm. But this week is more about keeping the peace. Keeping the quiet. Keeping the calm.

What are you all up to these last few days of 2012?



After my last post I just can't seem to get the concept of silence out of my head.

These are the words that have been rolling around. Stuck somewhere in my brain just brewing. I have a feeling they will be important in the year to come, though I am not entirely sure what exactly they will mean or look like. So for now I am simply living with them. In this in between time between the old and the new. Between last year and next. Between the path we are on and the one we will take. Be Silent. Be Still. Listen.



Things were insanely busy the last few weeks. Despite my best effort we had a repeat of last year. Packages going out at the very last minute and sick as a dog the last days before Christmas. Next year will be different. I swear. In the mean time we are at my parents. Playing with aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents. However I think these sweet moments when my sick babies crawl into my lap and sleep have hands down been the sweetest. There is something about my parents home that speaks rest to me (and many other I believe.) And so we are resting. And I am taking lots of time to hold my babies and drink tea and chat with my mom and sit by the fire with my sister and enjoy with quiet anticipation this advent season.





Letting Go of Haven'ts

I’m not entirely sure why, but it is has been far too easy this advent season to focus on the haven’ts. The things I haven’t done. The movies we haven’t watched. The projects I haven’t finished. The cookies I haven’t baked. The memories we haven’t made. The gifts we haven’t shipped. So much so, that the haven’t seem to have taken over the past week or so for me leaving me feeling drained, weary, and defeated.

Last night due to poor planning on my part I spent 2 hours at our church building with nothing to do. No book to read, no project to work on, no laptop/tablet to fiddle with. Just me, a comfy chair, and a cell phone with an almost dead battery. I was kicking myself for letting this happen and thinking of all the “haven’ts” I could have turned into “haves”.

I was driving myself nuts so I decided to use the last bit of my cell battery to catch up on some blogs. I follow some awesome blogs, but for whatever reason last night it just wasn’t doing it for me. Looking at every one's beautiful Christmas projects and cute elf on the shelf postings was just making me feel more like a failure.

And then I stumbled upon a favorite blog of mine. One I had forgotten about, but that had pulled me into the world of blogging in the first place. If you have checked out HABIT you need to. It never fails to sooth my spirit and put me into a better frame of mind. It’s the kind of place I want my blog to be to others.

Sitting there in the church lobby listening to the choir practice Silent Night I was overwhelmed with God’s grace and peace.  It’s not about the doing and the going and the busy. It’s about the little moments. Like carrying my sleeping three year old in from the car and being washed in the scent of my mother-in-laws fabric softener. She watched the girls so we could finish Christmas shopping. The coats were dirty. She washed them. And in that very simple way reminded me of the beauty of practical love. Not big screen, holiday movie love. But a love that came down from the glory of Haven to sleep in a dirty manger because we so desperately needed him. Practical love. Wow.

This morning as I looked around I was reminded of all we HAVE done. SO I thought I would share a few pictures of our Advent season.

Making Christmas Cards for family and friends.

Finished Cards

Duckies for the bathtub.

A ride around daddy's work in the golf cart.

I guess we are doing pretty good at the memory making after all.

Moments after I published this post my mother shared the following quote from a favorite play. It was too beautiful not to share.

EMILY: "Does anyone ever realize life while they live it...every, every minute?"

STAGE MANAGER: "No. Saints and poets maybe...they do some.”
― Thornton Wilder, Our Town

Here is to letting go of the "haven'ts" in hopes of realizing at least a few of life's moments today.


Why Advent?

To some it might be  the most wonderful time of the year. To many it often feels like the busiest time of year. To many people doing "Advent" is just piling more onto the never-ending seasonal to do list. So, why do Advent?

For starters we celebrate Advent in two ways. An Advent Calendar (which I will discuss today and probably a few more times this season) and an Advent wreath which I hope to write about tomorrow.

Growing up my parents started doing the advent calendar as a way to organize and schedule all the various Christmas activities that came with being a senior pastor. As my dad's church grew and his job changed it wasn't needed for that as much. By the time my younger brother and I came around the Advent Calendar was about celebrating the small ordinary moments of life and making them "special". My parents never went looking for an activity to do to fill a square. Rather they made a big deal out of things we would have done any ways like wrapping Christmas gifts. They used the calendar as a tool to purposely celebrate the normal things in life and elevate them to "moments."

Advent Calendar: What it is not.

For us the Advent calendar is not about giving gifts to our kids every single day.

It's not about spending a lot of money.

It's not about adding to a never-ending to do list or creating seasonal mommy guilt.

It's not about coming with activities just to fill up a square.

What our Advent Calendar IS:

We celebrate Birthday Months in our house and the advent calendar is a way to celebrate Jesus' Birthday Month.

It is a way for us to celebrate the little things.

It is being intentional in our activities and actions for a month.

It's about spending time together.

It's about embracing the inherent magic of the season.

It's about a few extra surprises that don't cost much but bring big smiles to our kids faces (more ideas for that later).

Most years we forget a day or two, but that's ok. It's about doing what you can and what works for your family.

Advent Day One: A special toy hidden on the Christmas tree. (I found a package of two large zipper pulls at Wal-Mart for $1.00 super cheap advent "gift" that had my kids so excited. Their favorite part was hunting on the tree).

Advent Day Two: Put on new Santa hats ($0.99 each at Wal-Mart) and go walk in the Lynchburg Christmas Parade!

Extra treat, stop for ice cream after.

I love Advent Calendar so much and would love to help one of your out. So leave a comment about some of the activities you would like to put in your own advent calendar and I will send a few goodies to fill in the days when you don't have the time or energy for an activity. Comments will close Tuesday night. I'll use a random number generator on Wednesday the 5th to pick the winner.



Lessons from the Kitchen

I love baking. I especially love baking bread. There is something about being up past my wrists in dough that just brings me peace and contentment. The Holidays in particular bring out in me the need to fill my home with the aroma of rising bread. They say that scent is one of the strongest memory triggers. I know this to be true. The simple scent of certain bread products that flood my mind with images and moments from my childhood.

Any time I cook my little one's want to be part of the processes. Maddie especially wants to be part of whatever is going on. If I am baking their desire to participate is even more intense. Either because they want to eat the cookie or play with the bread dough. So often my first instinct is to brush them off. Our kitchen is small and there isn't a lot of extra space for little ones. But something about this time made me pause. And so I took a deep breath, scooted over, and taught them how to brush butter onto the paper-thin dough before I rolled it into crescent shapes.  I explained how to place the rolls on the baking sheet (though that clearly went over their heads).

Some where along the way I looked down and instead of seeing my hands forming the rolls, but my mothers. Instead of the voice of my daughters I heard my own childish voice asking to help and in that moment I was reminded of the connection to the women in my family. My mother, my sisters, my aunts, my grandmothers. The women who came before (if only by a few years) and have made their way into the every day of my life.

There is quote by that I fell in love with years ago. Pearl Mae Bailey

"My kitchen is a mystical place, a kind of temple for me. It is a place where the surfaces seem to have significance, where the sounds and odors carry meaning that transfers from the past and bridges to the future."

This is why I love to bake. Because, in the mixing of flour, and water, and eggs, I am connected for the women who came before me, and helping to form the little ones who will come up after me. And some day they will look down at their hands and see mine, and my mother's and my Grandmother Hazels and know that they are part of a beautiful heritage of strong, capable women who lived lives marked by love.


Free Thank You Card.

So I have been participating in 30 Days of Thank You this month. If you read yesterday's post you know it has been an emotional time for me realize just how blessed I am when it comes to friends.After planning that post I was so excited to get an e-mail from shutterfly about a new card brand they just launched

They are so excited about this new brand that they sent a coupon code I get to share with you all. So what does that mean? You can now create and send a totally personalized greeting card from Treat for FREE. Whether saying thanks for Thanksgiving, wishing a best friend a holiday birthday, or simply sharing the holiday cheer with a just because card, Treat lets you create a one-of-a-kind card that is sure to impress.

So grab a cup of coffee, check out Treat Cards, and use coupon code TREATBLOGR today or tomorrow to send one free card. Hope you enjoy!

(This is a sponsored blog post however, I only share my honest and genuine opinions.)


Thank you!

As some of you may remember that I participated in Onetober last month. Well this month Jennifer the lady behind The Clutch Guide came up with another great idea (that thankfully didn't involve clothing this time).

30 Days of Thank You has over 400 participants each attempting to write and mail 30 thank you notes in the month of November. That's over 12,000 thank you cards! That's a whole lot of mail and a whole lot of people being thanked.

I have loved the processes. Admittedly I am a little behind. I had a horrible cold and serious cut on my hand so I've been a little slow. BUT it has been so special.

Back in high school I was blessed with a number of friends. While we had our share of high school drama it was still a fun group that loved each other and loved God. In college I struggled a bit more making friends. Out of my comfort zone it took me a while to open myself up. But when I did I was once again blessed with amazing women who came along side of me and did life. We laughed, and cried and prayed together.

And then I got married and all of my friends graduated and most moved away and I was more lonely than I have ever been in my life. I was blessed with three amazing older sisters plus an older sister by marriage. But they all lived out-of-state and I missed the dailiness of local friends.

For years my husband and I prayed for friends for me. After nearly two and a half years of praying God answered us in one answer came in the form of my husband's best friends' wife. An amazingly selfless woman who has shown me and my daughter love in so many ways. What started out as two women hanging out while their husbands played video games has turned into one of the most rewarding relationships in my life.

The other answer came in an unexpected way when my younger brother started dating an amazing young women. Instead of bringing a friend into my life He brought me a younger sister. I am so thankful to have her in my life. She came along side of me and for nearly two years we truly did life together. And, in a way we still do, but now that she is Kansas and I'm still in VA it's a little different. So when she moved I was seriously concerned about being alone again.

This project has been such an eye-opening experience. Some how, over the past few years, my life has been FILLED with amazing women. Some where a long the way I lost track of how many ways He has answered my prayers.

He answered with fellow mom friends who answer my questions, and watch my kids, and understand the trials of raising two little ones.

He answered with the college friend who came back into my life, walked me through some of the darkest days I have ever experienced, who became my daughter's  Godmother.

He answered with fellow creative women. Who have challenged me with my writing, and blogging, and creative pursuits.

He answered with women who pray with me and point me to God when everything feels like it's falling apart.

With one woman in particular who watches my kids, and prays for me daily, and always lifts me up and is there when I need anything from coffee too an encouraging word to a new dress.

I am truly, truly blessed.


Have any one you are extra thankful for and want to send an extra special card to? Check back tomorrow for a coupon code for a free card!



Reflecting on a lost pregnancy.

I realize that the timing on this post may seem odd to some. And perhaps it is. All I know is that for whatever reason, while doing dishes today, I felt that it was time.

When our due date first came and went I wasn’t ready to share. My mother came down that weekend and was a blessing in so many ways. I don’t think it was until we sat down the morning she left and talked about my lost one that I truly felt free to grieve.

As time passed and my dear nephew was born I hesitated to share. I didn’t want to mar such a beautiful time for them by bringing attention to myself. This is their first child and they deserved to bask in his beauty and perfectness. (And he is oh so perfect!)

And so here we are, six weeks past the day my little “George” was due, and I am finally ready to share with you all some of what this experiences has been to me. Perhaps some of you wonder why I share at all. I myself have even wondered that. And all I can say is that I share these thoughts in the hopes that someday some where they will bring encouragement to someone else in the same place.

Through this experience I have an increased awareness of the sorrow in those around me that struggle with conceiving. After two unexpected pregnancies it was hard to fully understand what these women I loved were going through. While I can never claim to fully understand the pain these amazing women must live with, I am slightly more aware of the bitter sweetness so many of life moments must hold for them. I pray God will use this to make me more aware in my words and actions that I will not bring any added pain to these women.

The irony in this whole situation is that after being surprised by three pregnancies, Josh and I have been unable to grow our family again. Before we were married I was told I may have difficulties conceiving. After thee surprise pregnancies this seemed almost a joke.  We laughed out how little doctors new. And yet here we are 7 months later, still not pregnant. And so I am left with so many questions. Perhaps the doctors were right all along?  Maybe my two angles are miracles? Maybe God does not see fit to bless us with more?

So often when women share their miscarriage stories with me the end with “but then God gave us so-and-so.” Yet here I, and so many women I know, are months out from our loss still waiting on the “but then.” With the doctors words echoing in my head I am forced to face the fact that my “but then” may not be another child. My “but then” may simply be healing, and peace, and other opportunities that God puts in place.  Dreams I wouldn’t be able to pursue if I were tending a new infant. Or perhaps my “but then” is simply waiting, till I have learned a few more lessons on parenting and grace.

All I know for certain is that I have learned how much I love being a mother.  In grieving the child that I lost I have come to appreciate that much more the two that I get to watch grow. While I still take pleasure in pursuing things out side of motherhood, being mama to Bear and Goose means so much more than it used to. Each emotional, spiritual, and physical milestone they hit feels like that much more of a triumph. Motherhood came so early in our marriage that I often felt like I was barely keeping up. It wasn’t something that happened to me rather than something I sought out. That has changed now and I feel myself embracing and valuing this role so much more.

I have come to realize how true it is that the Lord knows my hearts desires so much more than I do. As a young woman mothering was never high on my list of dreams. Through this I have come to realize how much it means to me. How much fuller my life is because of it. I am so thankful that the Lord so fit to disregard my own plans and set me on the path He had written for me.

And so

I am learning live with the questions, hopefully with grace.

I am learning to be more aware of the hurt in those around me.

I am learning often joy and grief  must live in harmony.

And I am learning that my Lord is on His throne so it is well with my soul.



I'm not sure what it is, but every time I sit down to write I just can't quite bring myself to actually do it. Nothing seems to flow quit as easily as I would like. Maybe it's this nasty cold settling in my chest, maybe it's my weird sleeping schedule lately, or maybe I'm just to lazy to put in the real work of writing.

It's easy to say "I write" or "I blog" but just saying those things doesn't make it so. Real writing happens when you are willing to put in the time, day in and day out. When you sit down and take pen to paper (or fingers to key board) even when your mind feels blank. And so today that's what I am doing. Simple writing, because not writing doesn't feel right.

As you might remember I did a post sponsored by Tinyprints a while back. I finally ordered my products and got them in the mail this week!

I wasn't sure I was going to keep the calendar notebook for myself so I put a favorite family saying on it rather than my name. As soon as I opened it up I new I would have to keep it!

It's so bright and colorful. I normally like weeks laid out and you can get that if you get the Erin Condrin Life Planner. Because it doesn't have the weekly break down I'm not sure I'll use it as a planner or if it will be more of a catch all for lists and deadlines ect. Either way I truly do love it!!

I may not be writing much here but I am writing daily. I have been participating in 30 Days of Thank You and I have been writing a thank you note every day to some one I treasure. It's been so much fun.

I've also been journaling on a pretty regular basis. I've been processing through the misscairiage a lot and am almost ready to share some of my thoughts in this space. I've also been writing for a few other blogs!

You can read about how having 5 women in my family suffer from cancer has changed how I live my life over at The Clutch Guide.

I will also be writing for The Motherhood Collective a few times a month starting this month. My first post doesn't go up for a few more weeks but if you want to check out their blog they are doing a give away featuring The Goose Beary Shop!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. I'll be back soon with thoughts on my Abi Bear turning 5!!


Creative Gift Giving Part 2: Staying Organized.

In the first part of Creative Gift Giving I shared how I go about getting ideas for meaningful gifts. Today I want to share with you how I organize all these ideas!

This is my Holiday Notebook (I say holiday not Christmas because I use it for Thanksgiving as well). It's just a simple note book with dividers that I glued a pretty gift picture onto. You can be as fancy or as simple as you want.

(If you buy a notebook with out dividers I suggest adding simple tabs yourself). As you can see mine is pretty beat up. That's because this is the four year I have used it so it's been through quite a lot. I have mine divided into four Sections.


Each year I keep a list of the dishes I am assigned to bring to any Holiday meals and parties. A lot of times I also keep my holiday meal/party grocery shopping list in there. Each divider in my book has a pocket which I LOVE. In the Menu section I keep index cards with go to recipes I use at the Holidays. (Corn casserole, Green Bean Casserole, ect).


A LOT of information goes in this section of the journal. I use the pocket in the divider to keep track of receipts I have also added an envelop that I put any gift cards/coupons I plan on using while shopping.

In the gift section I make a list of every one I am planning on giving gifts to. This is every one from family members, friends, teachers. I also keep a separate list of who is getting Christmas cards, and who is getting baked goods as a gift.

This is when all the research we did in Part One comes into play. DI keep a running list in my head (and some times in another note book) of ideas I collect from the observing I've done. During the year if I see a great deal on something some one would love I will often buy it. This helps spread the cost of Christmas out as well as reduce the stress of last minute shopping. I have a special draw I stash all the stuff I buy through the year and I keep a running list. As the holidays approach I sit down and compare that list with my Gift Giving list. A lot of times I can cross off quite a few people before I even start officially "Christmas" shopping.

Once I have crossed off any one who is already done I brain storm ideas for the people left. My shopping list for things I plan on buying also goes in to the "Gift" section of the note book.

To Make:

Because I make a lot of Christmas gifts the third section of my note book keeps track of any gifts I plan on making. From dolls to my daughters, to napkins for my mom, or towels for a friend all those projects get recorded as well as a craft/fabric shopping list.

To Bake:

My fourth section is a to bake section. I keep many of my favorite cookie/baked good recipes on index cards in this pocket as well as a list of anything I want to bake and who is getting baked goods as gifts. I've also collected fun ideas on how to package baked goods over the years and will often add a picture or jot down an idea in this section.

To Thank:

The last section of the note book is where I keep track of gifts we are given during the season so I can be sure to write out thank you notes. Some times I keep thank you cards in the fold so as soon as I get a gift I can jot down a quick note to be mailed in January.

You can organize yours however works best but it really does help. You can either use just a blanket note book or a fun holiday one. Here are a few ideas to get you going.


These fun notebooks are available at ChloesCards.

These two can be found over at Kimberly's Craft Corner.

And this pretty little organizer can be purchased from Crafting To Stay Sane.


(All pictures were used with the consent of the etsy sellers.)


Three Years Of Dolly Making

Four years ago my daughter Abi Bear was turning one and I went in search of the perfect "first" dolly for her. During the process my good friend Marliessa introduced me to Waldorf Dolls. (You can read a rough description of them here). At the time I couldn't afford the beautiful dolls I found on Etsy so I let it go.  A year later when Abi was turning two I just couldn't get this sweet style of doll out of my mind so I attempt to make my own.

Here is Miss Abi Bear and Annie Doll.

Since that first doll I have truly fallen in love with this art and have grown a business around it.I have tried my best to make dolls that I believe in. I think every one should be able to afford an heirloom quality doll for their child that protects the beauty and purity of childhood. When so many dolls are made of plastic and are holding up unrealistic ideals I wanted a dolly for my girl that was as sweet and innocent as she is.

My dolls have changed and evolved over time but I feel like they still hold the sweet innocence that I fell in love with and Abi still loves her Annie Doll.

To celebrate three years of doll making and as a way of making sure I stay true to why I started, I am offering ONE THREE custom 6 inch doll for $20.00. First  person three people to comment bellow with their paypal e-mail address will get an invoice and e-mail from me with details.

Much love!

~Joy Leanne


Handmade Awesomeness

Last month I signed up for the Love Club. If you are looking for a monthly subscription this is an amazing one! I've gotten two so far and just love everything in them as do my little girls. They have a bit of a waiting list but if you check out the Love Club Blog they are giving away a three month subscription PLUS you get to jump off of the waiting list. I love the fact that they work with handmade businesses. It's a fun way to get exposed to a bunch of new places and try out products from ones I admire.

This month there was an "awesome" sticker from Yellow Heart Art. I had seen them before and loved their stuff and was thrilled to get this little gem! At first I was unsure where I would use it. I loved it but just couldn't figure out what to do with it. Then it hit me! I was inspired by this  picture of Pen & Paints sketch book decorated with September Love Club goodies. The front of my new journal is pretty busy already so I decided to decorate the inside. So far I only have the Yellow Heart Art sticker on there but I can't wait to sit down and add my mini owl from decal from Three Thirty Six that I got in my September Love Club Box.

What are some of your favorite etsy/handmade businesses?



Safe, Dry, and Warm

Not much going on here. This storm Sandy seems to be headed to hit the East Coast pretty badly, but where we are is looking safe. Definitely cold and wet but nothing serious. We are staying warm and dry by the wood stove and making good use of our new crock pot!

I got permission to share some pictures of my new nephew!!

I can't believe how precious he is! I can't wait to snuggle him. :)

My brother has written a beautiful post on this little one's first moments in the world. If you are interested you can read it over here. Be for-warded, you will probably cry.

Hope every one in Sandy's path is staying safe and dry and warm. Happy Monday!



I've been silent here for a while I know. I'm not even sure I can give one reason as to why.

*Once you skip a day or two it's easy to just forget.

*I've been crazy busy prepping for shows.

*I've just needed some down time to processes and think and rest.

So, in case you've been wondering, here's a bit of what we have been up to.

My good friend Amber of Wildflower Photography Took some amazing photos of my girls in their Halloween costumes.

Lots of Halloween parties, Fall Parties, and Fall Festivals going on around here as well.

We are in the throws of Craft Show season right now which means a ton of sewing and playing with new patterns. I love this dolly and think she would make a great "Elf on a Shelf"

Here is me! Sorta. :) I've also been making a lot of non kid items for the shows this year. Loving my bags and teething necklaces.

I may not be writing much but I've been thinking about this space and all you readers quite a bit. Been doing a lot of reading about blogging and taking notes and thinking about who I want to be and what I want this space to become.

My baby nephew was born on Thursday. He is absolutely precious . (I am waiting to post a picture of him till I have his mama's approval. But as soon as I do trust me there will be LOTS of pictures on here.) I cannot wait to meet him at Christmas!

I am going to be perfectly honest at this point and admit there have been some bittersweet moments. There is a pretty big age gap in my family and I never thought I would get to be pregnant at the same time as a family remember. I was so excited to be expecting at the same time as my sister-in-law. There are still moments where I can't help wondering what it would be like to be sharing this time with her. But I am so excited for her and so thankful that she had a safe pregnancy and that her delivery wasn't overly traumatic. God is so gracious and I am praising God for his blessings on all of us. I love welcoming new little ones into our family.

What have you all been up to the past few weeks?