Christmas Traditions

Christmas Traditions Ornament

Many of my friends shared their Christmas traditions this year through Facebook and Twitter. I was so inspired by their creative ideas that I began writing down both our own traditions and some I would like to incorporate into the future. Our move meant there was little time in our own home this year. SkipperClan was amazing at making my wishes come true, however, and we were able to complete most of our annual festivities together.

O Holy Night

I was not in a church service at any time in December. We drove out of Washington on December 1st and we were only in our new town one Sunday of the entire month when my mom came to visit. It felt like I went to a birthday party for a friend but didn’t invite him. However, attending church is not what gives me a relationship with my Savior. We are blessed to serve a God who seeks us every day, right where we are. I am so grateful to friends from our church in Washington who shared photos of the candlelight services.

Toss On Some Tinsel

I remember feeling those plastic strands of shimmering silver in my fingertips as a child-literally throwing them onto the tree. I cannot even remember the last time I saw packages of tinsel in a store, but I love decorating for Christmas! I thought we would only put up our tree since we were setting up December 15th. We purged a lot over the last year though, so setup was fun and simple. We got everything displayed except the Christmas village when my mom came to visit that weekend. We even ran a simple border of multi-colored bulbs along the roofline. {And by we,  I mean he}

Christmas Outdoor LightsChristmas TreeChristmas Mantle

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

Christmas music and movies are part of our annual lineup. Free streaming music channels at home and having satellite radio service {thanks Mom and Dad} meant we had a greater variety than years past. Every year there seems to be one song that just gets played to death though. According to KitKat, this year’s song was Carol of the Bells. Two years ago it was Rudolph. I insist on watching The Santa Clause with Tim Allen every year, usually on Thanksgiving weekend. I try to get at least one new Christmas album each year and this year it was the She and Him Christmas album.

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

When I was younger, my dad would get canned cinnamon and orange danish rolls every year for Christmas morning. I carried this tradition into our new family, mainly because I didn’t cook well. We soon had two toddlers on our hands and I had no ambitions of becoming a baker in addition to my shopping/wrapping/mailing/party responsibilities every December, so the canned rolls tradition continued.

A couple of years ago, I ventured into the world of homemade cinnamon rolls and they were delicious. However, I did not make the orange danish variety. While he may deny it now, SkipperClanJr went on and on for weeks about how he did not get his Christmas morning rolls. I quickly went back to the canned variety and this year was no different. We also enjoyed two different family celebrations full of ham, dressing, broccoli casseroles, yeast rolls, cheesecake, fried turkey, and so much more.

Orange Danish Rolls

Christmas Dinner

Christmas Cards Have All Been Sent

This year was the first year I remember sending a Christmas postcard but it made my tradition of Christmas greetings so much simpler during our move. Before we packed up the printer, I made address labels for most of my card recipients. I ordered the cards from {along with several Christmas gifts I’ll be sharing about tomorrow} and had the cards shipped to our parent’s home in Florida. Once we arrived and were waiting on the keys to our new home, I put everything together and dropped them in the mail. For those who received one, you may have missed our address running right down the middle of the back of the postcard.

2012 Erin Condren Christmas Postcard

What are your must-have Christmas traditions? Do you still use tinsel?

10 Things My #Allume Roommates Should Know About Me

When I attended the first Relevant Conference in 2010, I shared a list of ten things my roommates should know, it’s still pretty accurate.

But now the Conference is called Allume, and reposting something from two years ago would be boooooooring so…

Here’s ten things my Allume Roommates should know about me!

  1. I love to lead and mentor women. In my business, in my faith, and as wives & mothers.
  2. I feel like I’m looking at my life from the outside right now. It seems impossible that I have a high school senior applying to colleges.
  3. I have two children, just over one year apart in age. So even though I have teenagers right now, I remember the exhaustion, joy, frustration, love, and adventure of having little ones at home.
  4. I used to homeschool but now we’re not. I loved having the option of keeping our kids at home for most of their junior high years, but we are loving our local school options here in Washington. I hope I can support and encourage those homeschooling now, but don’t be offended if I wander from the group when the topic turns towards it.
  5. I am married to a military man. He is, in fact, in the United States Air Force. He is also, in fact, amazing and my best friend in the world.
  6. I wish I could say my hobbies are photography, scrapbooking and reading.  Lately those things don’t seem to actually be a routine part of my life though. I would really like a better camera. I rarely sit long enough to sort through my photos, much less journal alongside them in a book. My reading seems to be sporadic this year despite my focus to read 100 books last year.
  7. I love my work. I will talk about what I do as it comes up in natural conversation just like you would if you are a dentist or a stay at home mom. It doesn’t mean you have to buy my products or become a consultant. Those things happen as a natural part of people trying what I offer and deciding for themselves if they like it or not. I won’t push it on you just because it’s a direct sales company and I appreciate you not treating it like it’s not really work just because it’s a direct sales company. I talk about it because of the great people it’s allowed me to work with and because I love the products myself.
  8. I need my sleep. I know I won’t get nearly enough of it at the conference, but please don’t be offended if I don’t want to chat til 2am or sleep a little longer while you get a shower in the morning. I can also sleep through a lot, so feel free to talk amongst yourselves if I crash!
  9. I want to hear your story. I’m big on networking because of the benefits I’ve seen it give to others, not just myself. I love to hear about your work, your family, your dreams and more. When it comes to blogging, tell me what got you started, what’s kept you going, and what you’d like to do next.
  10. I cannot function without music in my life. I need it for encouragement, calming in stressful situations, praising my Creator, and so much more. Today, the song that is speaking to me is this lovely collection of musical praise.

What would you want to know about me? {Hint, there is more here}

My house shall be called…

We sold our home, it was an answer to prayer. It was an answer to many prayers. People we do not even know have prayed for us.

I think it is easy for us to take a moment and pray for those in critical situations like the victims of the earthquakes in Japan.

We cannot imagine their suffering, their great physical need, the urgency of their circumstances. It is wonderful and powerful that we do this.

Why do we think our days need less prayer than this?

Why do we spend hours, days, and weeks on programs in our church buildings yet only minutes per week in prayer? I say we because I am part of this group.

A question was asked in a video I saw today that struck a chord with me. (Remember, we have recently moved and we are searching for the church in which God has planned for us.) The question was, “Why are we willing to spend $20 to attend a concert at church but are not willing to be part of a focused time of prayer?”

If you do not know me, I cannot begin to express to you the importance of music in my soul. I believe it is an essential tool in joy and in worship.

After today though, I have to wonder if I have made it the center of church. If not the music, maybe the sermon? Do I see that as the ‘main point’ of attending a worship service?

Jesus said in Luke 19:46 his house (the church) shall be “called a house of prayer.” I believe the message from the Pastor and the music are also important, foundational even to our ability to become more like our ultimate example, Christ. What are these things if we are not praying? I don’t just mean praying before a meal out of routine, but earnestly, patiently, willingly praying.

Will you take the time to listen to what he has to say? How can I pray for you today?

The Finale

Today I am going to finish telling you about our drive across the country because it was over a month ago everyone likes a happy ending.

I think part of why it seemed so hard to write about the next part of our trip was because it involved many, many hours of driving along highways without much else. I could not begin to capture the amazing sunset we experienced in Kansas though.


There were also about seventy thousand modern day windmills from there to Wyoming.

Wind Farm

We decided to spend a full day in the Denver area. That turned into spending the extra day in Colorado Springs at the Air Force Academy for a private tour. My favorite part was the chapel and the art inside.

Inlay Art
Stained Glass Windows

In Denver, we also had some amazing Mexican food…


And we even took in some local culture and shopping…

Car or Art
Jeep Shopping

From Denver to Salt Lake we saw beautiful miles of mountains and quite a bit of wildlife, most of which we did not capture on camera.

It was coooooold here

Mountain Drive through Wyoming

The Boys Took the Jeep to Antelope State Park at the Great Salt Lake

Antelope Island State Park

By the time we got to Salt Lake City to spend time with my awesome best friend, my back decided it was done with all this traveling nonsense and completely went out on me. So I had a major failure in the photo-taking department except for this awesome shot of our two boys together…

Dude, I'm literally looking up to pressure

And the most delicious version of French Toast ever…

Cinnamon Roll French Toast

After a couple days more than we had originally planned, we made the drive to Idaho where SkipperClanJr got a little guitar time…

Music Time

Then we made the final drive towards Seattle and our new home, via Portland. Oregon is beautiful in a way words nor my camera from the inside of the car could capture.

Riverside Bridge

If you are still with me, thank you for spending some time with us here. Have you ever driven across the country? In two weeks’ time we literally went from Washington D.C. to Washington State. Two cars, two teenagers, two dogs…a trip we will never forget!

Final Reading

Foto Friday–#6 Guitar

One of the most amazing conversations I had at Relevant was with Mela Kamin. This mother of three, singer, and blue-guitar owning woman shared her story with me as we waited in line during a book signing Saturday. (I kept running into her in random places and had just said to Courtney, I need to find the girl who gave us the CD before I go. I’d barely finished the sentence before seeing Mela turn to me and our time together began.)

You can read how she journeyed from her public relations career to mom to recording her CD in Nashville at her blog.

Mela Kamin

Now, for those who know me, you know I’ve done a little singing here and there. I don’t feel immeasurably talented, but I absolutely love to do it and miss it these last few years. Hearing her story literally put a well spring of hope in me. Not that I would necessarily get to fly to Nashville and record (but wouldn’t that be fun!). Instead, it was a reminder of the hope that God can do a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g He wants, in His perfect timing.

She shared with me too that after she recorded, she began learning to play guitar. I have wanted to learn for years. I have told my son over the last eighteen months that I would sit down with him to learn once I finished my degree.


I had not kept that promise to my son in the month since finishing my degree.

I got home from Relevant late Saturday night and on Sunday afternoon, I sat down with him. He showed me chords. My fingers stung. We sat down almost every day this week. My fingers sting constantly from the pressing, learning, callous-forming time that comes as we begin.

I am grateful that my son can play. I am so grateful I can learn from him. I am grateful with each sting of pain through my fingers I am reminded of what my Savior endured for me.

What have you promised your kids, your husband, or yourself that you would do as soon as…?

Haven – Cleaning Up Clutter Challenge


Oh Courtney! How did you know?! We women are not so different from each other, are we? I woke up early with my husband this morning and do you know what caught my eye? His t-shirt and boots in the living room. Enter urge to nag and complain. I am especially glad that I refrained from that and refocused on enjoying our breakfast together because this is what my desk looked like this morning:

IMG_3555looking to my left

Notice I did light my candle first thing this morning.

 IMG_3556b somehow I don’t think this is what Max has in mind with his book title

Here’s week #3’s Challenge: List a few of the spots in your home that make you visually stressed because of all the clutter. Now go buy something for that spot – like a basket to put it all in! Work on cleaning up clutter. Throw things away. While you’re at it – clean up some clutter in your spiritual life. What gets in the way of your peace spiritually?

I think it is clear my desk is the place I need to start on de-cluttering. For me it’s more about finishing the tasks I start and that is exactly what will be happening for 90 solid minutes after this post is published. By next week I will share the ‘after’ pictures.

Visual clutter is actually one of the biggest hindrances to my spiritual peace. I constantly make mental lists of the things I ‘need’ to do. Seeing a book, pile of bills or business paperwork sends me off on tangents so that many things get started and few get completed. This distracts me from focused Bible study and having the peaceful spirit with my family that I desire.

These challenges have been great so far and I will be working on allowing God to be the focus this week more than the tasks I gravitate towards. Here are a our experiences from the challenge so far:

1. I’ve burned through almost all the candles we owned. Soon the only choice will be the “Christmas Cookie” scented ones. This could be detrimental to my weight so I may add a candle to the shopping list before month’s end. This habit of lighting a candle and praying for my family is one I want to carry forever.

2. Playing music in our home took on a different tone this week. I found it hard to have music playing while the kids are working on school since it distracts my daughter. Then we seem to be in a busy period where there are more phone calls, instruction and conversation going on prior to dinner. We are soon headed out for practices, Scouts or meetings. What did happen was an increase in the amount of time our children spent practicing their instruments. That is music to this mama’s ears! Our son is actually very good on the guitar and our daughter relaxes as she plays the piano. What better music to have playing than the music generated by your family?

My Heart is Alive…with the Sound of Music

This weekend reminded me of how much I miss singing. Years ago, a patient and kind young Music Minister encouraged me to work through my fear of being in front of an audience to share my voice with others. (Thank you Jason!) I dare say that most people who’ve met me these last few years don’t even know that I can hit a few notes. It’s not that I fear performing again, I have simply chosen to spend my time on other things since we moved here nearly four years ago.

So, back to the point of this. Saturday, we attended our church’s Christmas musical. This was no musical like I’ve ever seen! They literally planned it for a year and held it at a local performing arts center (the same place Sarah Palin stopped by during the 2008 Presidential Campaign). I’d so hoped to at least be part of the choir, but we had this little incident with our flooring and, well, there is only so many places I can be at one time.

Hmmm, I like rabbit trails apparently. So, the performance was amazing but not just in the strict, “everyone hit their notes” or “there were no technical difficulties” kind of way. It was amazing in a “I could get lost in the music and lyrics” kind of way. My heart just fills up during times like that. Which explains why I could feel just as moved at a recital of a dozen piano and guitar students. KitKat had her first piano recital today at a local church with her piano teacher. She did SO well and we are proud of her beyond words. She is truly turning into a young lady before our very eyes. SkipperClanJr also did a great job being our videographer.

We have already had an amazing Christmas season together. We volunteered at the local YMCA’s Breakfast with Santa.

We’ve sat around watching a Christmas movie together as a family. The kids built a HUGE snowman with our couple of inches of snow and enjoyed some hot chocolate when they were done.

We even managed to get a family photo!(And yes, everyone was in one of those kinds of moods when we took it, but at least we managed to get one with at least half smiles and open eyes using our tripod and timer.

All of this and we haven’t even told the kids about the biggest surprise of all! They will be with their grandparents for Christmas! I wish you all a truly Merry Christmas, may it be filled with spiritual meaning beyond what words can describe or music express.