The One Gift Always Worth Receiving


Eleven years ago my boys were two, three and six years old. I joined a local group who wanted to celebrate Advent with our families and create handmade ornaments for our individual Jesse Trees. There were 25 of us well-meaning moms. Each assigned one day–one ornament, we agreed to make 25 identical ornaments so that when we all got together at the end of November, we could swap them and each have 25 different hand-made ornaments.

Do you smell this recipe for disaster?

It was the worst way to welcome the season of Advent.

Being short of attention span, low on patience and high on hot glue I remember making 25 lambs out of cotton and maybe toothpicks. Rushing around over Thanksgiving.


One sweet mom somehow convinced herself that she had time to cross stitch 25 angel ornaments. Cross Stitch! I still admire her ambition. We’ll go to great lengths to teach our children the real meaning of Christmas.

She came that day full of apology and guilt because only a few ornaments were completed. We were sent home with directions on how to finish up her work and a copied paper print-out stapled together, with daily readings that went along with the Jesse Tree. Bless it. It was 2003 y’all. This is how things were done.


And secretly? This is horrible, HORRIBLE for me to say, but because 25 people made the ornaments, each a different scale and skill level and color scheme–I couldn’t bear to use the motley crew of unmatching ornaments for more than that first year. I am THE WORST. It was my first attempt at a Jesse Tree and I never did one again. It was too much work. I lost that paper printout and I figured only organized, good moms with clean cars did things like this with their kids–and this was light years before Pinterest.


And just like how maternity clothes have come so far now that my childbearing years are over. Now there’s a beautiful hardback book with daily readings for you at Christmas. Our family read The Greatest Gift together last year and we plan to again this year.

greatest gift

And let me tell you, to walk through Advent with Ann Voskamp is to read The Greatest Story Ever Told written in the words of one of the greatest storytellers of our time. Ann, who reminded us all to count the gifts now reminds us how to unwrap The Greatest Gift.

unwrapping the greatest gift


This year, there’s a family read aloud edition — a keepsake hardback book full of beautifully illustrated photos, and a plethora of tools to encourage and guide you through Advent with your family. What I would have done for this 11 years ago. This book is selling like crazy and for good reason, families have been looking for a book like this for ages. Seriously, y’all get everything. Even Pinterest.

If you purchase one thing this season for your family, I hope it’s this book, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.


With either book you can access free printable ornaments for your Jesse Tree (that look great together and only take a few minutes to tie on some string!).

jesse tree

May your season be long on wonder, short on ‘to-dos’ and full of anticipation.

May you find true rest, true life and the one true Gift.

our story

Happy Thanksgiving, friends…

Find free resources, encouragement and more about The Greatest Gift here.

And free ornaments for the kids, or coloring pages, just to print out and hang on the tree. Done! Beautiful! All free at




 It’s an honor to share this post about an author and books I deeply love on behalf of its sponsor, Tyndale House.

The Easiest Bead & Tassel Craft

bead & tassel

We made a simple craft at The Barn last weekend.

The challenge for making a craft as a group (we had 40 and no surfaces to lay our stuff out on) is to find something worth making–that doesn’t take too many supplies, doesn’t have to dry, that actually looks pretty and has somewhat of a use when you are done.

bead & tasselbeaded tassel. or tasseled beads?

I used to help with MOPS crafts (12 years ago when my boys were tiny) and I was always frustrated because I love crafts, but sometimes the finished craft, even when created to its finest, was something I’d never use in the first place. (no offense to MOPS, I’m sure the crafts are all fantastic now)

Once I was a part of a craft outing and it was the most stressful thing ever. There were right angle tools because it was imperative that we have a perfect 90 degree angle, rulers where we had to use the centimeter side and lots of women quietly wiping the sweat from their furrowed brow worried they would mess up their precious craft.

I felt like I was building a bomb. One wrong move and we’d all be blown to pieces.

This is not how making a craft should feel. Ever.

It was a crime against crafts. This kind of crafting is wonderful– but for professionals.

Some of us need a craft rehabilitation center. A place where we can come make easy, imperfect crafts. If we throw them away when we are done, that’s okay. Because the point is to enjoy the process. BUT, if it turns out, we’ll actually have something we can put in our house. That’s the kind of crafts I want to do at our barn.


So I bought thousands of wood beads. I found mine at Oriental Trading Company (thank you instagram for bead ideas). I ordered these natural beads and these dark beads.  (for this project I wouldn’t go smaller than 14 mm). The beads came in bags of 100 and we used about a three foot piece of lacing to string them on. It took about 60 of the dark beads to fill one strand and maybe 85 of the natural beads (they are smaller) to fill a strand. Amazon has lots of bead options too.

We simply strung the beads on a length of clear plastic lacing.


Since we didn’t have lots of tables for everyone to sit and spread their craft out, we packaged everything up in these lidded soup containers (I ordered them anyway to serve the beans in so we had enough left over to hold the craft too. And even if you dropped them, the lid didn’t fall off.) Since we were short on time and didn’t want to feel rushed, we went ahead and made one tassel for every container so each person would only need to complete one additional tassel to have two for their beads.

bead & tassel

tassel craft supplies beads

Each person received a tasseled container with:

  1. a premeasured length of yarn (we just eyeballed it, no rulers or measuring utensils were used in the making of this craft, promise)
  2. enough beads to fill the piece of clear string we provided. Again–we made one and then guesstimate how full the container should be–no counting of beads for each container. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
  3. the length of clear (ok so mine has glitter in it) plastic string. I measured from my left shoulder to the end of my outstretched right hand and that was the template we used for the length of the string.
  4. two 8 inch pieces of coordinating yarn: this is needed to create the tassel, just one less string we’d have to ask everyone to cut
  5. taped to the lid with artist tape (more secure than washi tape–this is what I use to tape up printables and such)


And we ended up with a little strand of beads with tassels tied at the ends, or anywhere.

DSC_8215 2

Easy to make on your lap.

making tassels

And ta da!


I tie tassels on any sort of string I have…like this felted wool garland I’ve had for years.


tassel diy

wood beads & tassel

Various sized beads are fun too! These big ones are 25 mm (seen here)

And I use them in our Christmas garland. And on Christmas gifts.


If you aren’t familiar with tassel making and you’d like to have a slew of tassel instructions with photos, I’ve written an ebook on how to make all sorts of tassels. You can tie them on beads, presents, shoes, bags and more.

how to make tassels DIY

I’ll show you how to make tassels from yarn, string, floss, tissue paper, wallpaper, leather, and felt that you can use just about anywhere to help celebrate any occasion.

This is such an easy and fun craft to do with your family or girlfriends or to have available after the big Thanksgiving feast for anyone to try out who’s in a crafty mood. It will give you something to do together if you aren’t into watching football or A Christmas Story. And it takes just a few dollars worth of supplies and a few pairs of scissors. Tassel making is a great skill to have. I’ve given many gifts that are simple necklaces or bracelets or run-of-the-mill cosmetic bags turned special with the addition of a well place tassel.

4.99 tassel ebook


well placed tassel


Hospitality. But Not The Kind You Are Thinking Of.


Lately I’ve been thinking about hospitality. But not the kind where I’m hospitable to others, I mean, wait… hold on, I need to back up. For awhile (I’m looking at you 2013 and 2014) I’ve been doing and doing like a crazed person. And even though having people over to our home is the best […]

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The Happiest Barn

the barn

This? This is a picture of a happy barn full of beautiful, happy people. Amen. Our family had a Hope*ologie event here this past Saturday. It was pretty much the best day ever with 40 people, a talk on each of the *ologies (fam*ologie–our dad, quiet*ologie–my sister & her husband, home*ologie–me) a craft, music with […]

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On Doing & Being


2014 is swiftly coming to a close.  I don’t even like writing that. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet. But there’s a tiny part of me–smaller than years past thankfully–but still there, that holds my breath as the season approaches. So. Much. To. Do. And all I want to do is slow it all down. To […]

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Warm & Cozy Weekend Links


  Nail & String Feather Art // Design Curiosities boho cheat // a 10 minute DIY Macrame // Make + Haus Free Thankful Printable // Ella Claire  Three years ago we all linked up our fantastic wreaths made from all sorts of items (shells, nuts, thumbtacks, wood) we had over 300 fun wreaths shared and […]

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Because Sometimes You Need to Listen to your Walls

idhtbptbb lindsay letters

Have you seen the new Lindsay Letters Holiday Collection?!  Every year she reveals her new holiday line and it takes me back to being an eight year old when my grandma would hand me the JC Penney Christmas Catalog. It’s a grown-up delight to see all the beauties she’s been working on creatively photographed. I […]

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Dashes, Risk and Imperfection

master bedroom wall diy

I put dashes on our bedroom wall. If you’ve been around here for long you know I’ve been in a white phase. After having all sorts of pretty colored walls, and patterned drapes and hanging out on pinterest I just needed a break and white seemed like a logical answer. So I painted lots of […]

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Weekend Links


Shannon writes about all sorts of things, but I especially love it when she writes about her house.   When the wait is over …but it isn’t // Gracelaced   Apple Pancake // Love & Lemons “The most revolutionary thing we can do is choose to see the good instead of the lack.” – Leeana […]

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Vignette With Opposites

working with oppoisites

I’m slowly putting things up on the walls of The Barn. I feel like our house can finally settle into whatever it needs to be for our family, because I’ve got this fun barn that’s kind of a grown up playhouse where I get to make even more holes in the walls and hang whatever […]

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