We’re running late with the video this year, and you may have thought this moment wasn’t coming, but I’m excited to finally reveal our 2019 family video! And trust me, you want to watch this one. It’s CUUUUUUTE. (And that’s not even me being biased! I mean, I am, but still….)

This year was a big one for our family in many ways. New job, a published book, an amazing new literary agent, a kindergartener, a one-year-old who’s walking… There’s been a lot of incredible moments and glorious high-points for this year. But there’s also been months of grief as we said good-bye to my mom and learned what life looks like without her here.

These are the things we weigh and balance as reflect upon 2019.

There’s an extra empty chair around the dining room table this Christmas and that’s never an easy thing to face. But the table is also covered in love and surrounded by family and laughter — and those are the things we cherish most this holiday season.

And the year’s not quite over yet.

Through it all, God has been so faithful. And may have one more surprise in stock for you all… But to find out? Well, you’ll just have to watch the video. 😉

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Lights twinkle off branches and along pathways, glittering and shimmering against the darkened night sky. There is so much beauty contained in these mini-capsules of lights. Thousands of coloured strands line the garden, each one capturing a bit of the magic of Christmas.

This was my first time visiting Van Dusen Garden (for a Vancouver-born girl, this is a shocker I know!) And with their annual Festival of Lights, I was excited to finally check out this new-to-us Christmas location.

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As we draw near the end of our Advent season this year, I am so grateful for these daily reminders of God’s love, faithfulness and salvation plan. The entirety of scripture echoes His redemptive plan — a plan that includes a child born to a virgin and laid to rest in a scratchy, old feeding trough.

As we arrive at Christmas morning, we stand together with millions of others around the globe. We kneel before that babe in a manger, the straw tattooing our knees and the stench of manure on the tips of our noses, and worship. With love, we bow before the one who came and who is yet to come again. Our hearts join in with the hope-filled prayer of generations past as we cry out, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come.”

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Merry Christmas!

2018 was a year of great joy in the Mannegren household as we welcomed the arrival of a baby girl, Adelaide Jean. In addition to the abundance of diapers and baby onesies filling the latter half of our year, these past twelve months have also been marked by a four-year-old’s shark birthday party, a Thailand trip for hubby, and countless ultrasound appointments for me. We bought a new vehicle, took it on a long summer road trip, and then got a bit banged up in our first accident. Gymnastics, swimming lessons, and Swedish school — this year has been full!

And so, our 2018 video is brought to you by a couple of sleep-deprived parents. To celebrate the arrival of our new little one, we decided to give you a bit of a flashback to our very first video. (If you haven’t watched the 2014 video before, or just need a refresher, be sure to do so before watching this one!)

With great love from all of us, we present to you, our 2018 Christmas video!

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“We only have a few days left, mama!”

My son’s excitement rings out as he flips through his Bible each morning, checking to see how many days remain until Christmas morning. It’s part of our December Advent activity, working our way through the Jesus Storybook Bible. Each day we read a story from the Old Testament, leading up to the birth of Christ, and make an ornament to accompany it.

It’s been one of my favourite parts of this month: sitting down next to each other at the kitchen table and carefully turning soft pages, reading about God’s great plan together.

His excitement is tangible, his anticipation building. I’ve never seen him so eager to read his Bible. Not only are we uncovering the meaning of Advent, we’re also building a deeper love for God’s word. As we bend little pieces of wire and glue popsicle sticks together, we see how each of these stories point to Christmas morning — to the birth and life of Christ. God’s grand narrative is wrapped together better than any present we might find under our tree.

Here’s what we’ve been learning this week:
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O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
And ransom captive Israel.
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

This is one of my favourite Christmas songs.

In a season strewn with jingly tunes about reindeer and jolly, bearded men these five words, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” cut straight to the heart. They remind us of all that we long for and hope for in this Christmas season: the coming of a Saviour. Tiny and new, nestled amongst scraps of cloth and bits of hay, a King is born.

This Christmas, we are celebrating Advent as a family by reading our way through the Old Testament stories in the Jesus Storybook Bible. In this children’s Bible, there are twenty-four OT stories leading up to the birth of Christ. (One for each day leading up to Christmas!) Each night, we will be reading a different story and creating an ornament to go along with it. (I originally stumbled across this idea here.)

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I remember, as a child, staring up at the big Christmas tree in my elementary school lobby. It was decorated with paper ornaments; each of them carefully (or not so carefully) crafted by sticky-fingered, glitter-covered students. It was a Jesse tree. A reminder of the generations who waited on the arrival of a Messiah.

As kids, most of our anticipation around Christmas comes with what’s found under the tree. But the truth is, this sense of yearning and longing for Christmas morning can be transformed into something so much more than our desire for new toys and sparkling gifts.

This yearning leads us to the stable — past some scraps of swaddling cloth and an exhausted mother to a newborn babe. We’re reminded of those who waited for His birth, just as we ourselves wait with open hands and hearts for His return.

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We are so excited to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and present to you, this years annual Christmas video! 

We get so many questions as to how these videos started, and truthfully, it’s mostly due to our misguided understanding of Christmas cards. For some reason, when we started this in 2014, we thought that it would be easier to make a video than to collect addresses and mail handwritten letters and cards. I’m not sure what we were thinking… but I’m glad that we decided to do it!

These Christmas videos are a lot of fun to film and a lot of fun to share. We hope that you enjoy our silly family tradition as much as we do. 🙂
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This time last year I was waiting on a miscarriage.

Nine weeks pregnant, I arrived at the ultrasound with a baby bean in my belly and a heart full of anticipation. And then, with a few fated words, the dreams that I had carried so close to my heart began to crumble once more.

“Maybe you’re not as far along as you thought…”

The ultrasound technician quietly snuck out to consult a doctor and I was left alone. Music floated softly through the room, and lyrics to the song, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” assaulted my ears and ground against my wounded heart. Wrapped in a cheap, blue gown, I listened and I wept. It felt far from wonderful.

The doctor’s results were inconclusive and I was told to wait it out. For two weeks, I wrapped gifts and hung lights and attended holiday parties. With anxiety and secrets tucked behind an ugly Christmas sweater and a holiday smile, I waited to see if the baby would grow.

But mostly, I just waited to miscarry.

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Saffron buns (called Lussekatter) are a favourite Christmastime treat for Swedes. Light, fluffy, and full of saffron infused goodness, these buns are traditionally enjoyed on December 13, St. Lucia Day.

St. Lucia Day is an advent celebration that takes places in Sweden and Norway. Honouring St. Lucia, who was martyred for her faith, girls chosen to play Lucia are dressed in flowing white robes with a red sash and crown of candles. Boys may celebrate by dressing up as “Stjärngossar” or “star boys.” (Take a look at last year’s Christmas video to see what this looks like!) Saffron buns are a major part of the days festivities and are often served for breakfast by the children.

When my husband’s family first introduced me to these buns a few years back, I wasn’t sure how I felt about them. Saffron is a flavour entirely foreign to me (I don’t usually cook with spices that cost more than gold!) But the treat’s unique flavour quickly grew on me.

This year, I decided to treat my husband to a batch of freshly made lussekatter. Given that I am not a baker and did not grow up making these buns, I wanted to find a simple recipe with a non-overwhelming taste.

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Last year my son wanted to be a thermometer for Halloween.

Yep, you read that correctly: a thermometer.

He was two-years-old and wanted his Halloween costume to be the most difficult word in his (admittedly limited) vocabulary. My dreams for easy, store-bought costumes quickly evaporated into a haze of pipe cleaners, felt, and the ragged stitches of a woman who never took Home Ec.

Fast forward to September of this year, and I tentatively ask my son what he wants to be for Halloween. I’m hoping for something more like Spider Man and less like “a portable TV” (his suggestion for my husband) or “a rolling pin” (his suggestion for our house).

I breathe out a sigh of relief when he says, “I want to be an apple tree!”

Apple tree. Phew. I can do that.

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I don’t do good with birthdays.

Never have. Probably never will.

My parents like to tell stories about my childhood birthdays: stories about how each and every one of my parties ended with me as an absolute wreck, tears galore. I’m pretty sure that’s why they stopped hosting them when I turned twelve. Turns out I’m better suited to marking the passage of time in a more subtle manner.

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