Friday, December 28, 2007

Looking back

We had a wonderful Christmas this year. To keep our personal finances private I won't mention specifics, but I'll just say that looking back on this year God has heaped financial blessings on our family. Which is an amazing gift considering that this year was the first full year that my husband has been self-employed and money is very uncertain and unpredictable. God has taught me many simple truths in deep, fresh ways. I am so grateful.

There were many squeals on Christmas morning. Many new toys, fun games, candy. But today I am marvelling at what we have, the lasting, lavish gifts, that are free. I have a husband that cares for me more than himself, and points me to Christ. I have three healthy children, all unique and beautiful, who love one another. I am surrounded by God's beautiful creation, only walking out my back door to enjoy all that I can take in. We have extended family who love the Lord and want to see us walk with Him. And, of course, I have a Savior that becomes more real and rich to me with each passing year. With great detail and excitement He has given me hopes and dreams and then surpasses those exceedingly, and in the most unimaginable ways. What an amazing year this has been!

Pictured: 1-Toot and Lydie: who needs toys?; 2- "Girl cousins"; 3- Toot and his cousin C; 4- Lydie loads up for a ride alone, the little daredevil; 5- Jaybird with his concentration face on; 6- Cousin Z all smiles

Monday, December 24, 2007

The spirit of Christmas

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law's house

We just arrived home from a wonderful trip to celebrate with my husband's family. I am anxious to share details of an exciting visit. There are also adorable memories to record from tonight at our own house; conversations with our children about Christmas. But for tonight, I will save all of those stories to quiet my heart and focus on Him. I read the following quote and thought it worthy of mention:
“We rejoice in the fact that God has actually been here — and that is one half of the meaning of Advent.That is why, behind all our fun and games at Christmastime, we should not try to escape a sense of awe, almost a sense of fright, at what God has done.We must never allow anything to blind us to the true significance of what happened at Bethlehem so long ago.Nothing can alter the fact that we live on a visited planet.We shall be celebrating no beautiful myth, no lovely piece of traditional folklore, but a solemn fact. God has been here once historically, but, as millions will testify, he will come again with the same silence and the same devestating humility into any human heart ready to receive him.” J.B. Phillips
Lord Jesus,
Remind me that every day is a celebration of your great love and grace. Every day is an opportunity to worship and remember you and that first Christmas morning. Thank you for laying down your crown and walking with us. Thank you for giving my life meaning and hope through your great sacrifice.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A new gift swap

My husband and I can not afford to exchange presents this year. It is so fun to look and pray and wait for the perfect gift for him. But, it is complete unnecessary. So, I came up with a great idea. We are going to exchange 5 prayer requests that we will promise to pray for vigorously for at least 10 days. I am so excited! I know that he is very committed to praying for me and our children and does so more often than ever before. But I am thrilled with the opportunity to request my deep, personal needs. And it just so happens that there are some big things on my mind! Prayer...a free, life-changing gift.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Advice needed!

I think I'm addicted to painting. I just can't ever be fully satisfied with the color of a room! Our last house was the only exception. I loved every choice. But this house...okay, I confess. I am about to paint our kitchen. Again. For the third time. I know, we have not even been here a year and a half. But think of all the hours I have spent in that room...three meals, two snacks a day. Every day. The thing is, I do love the bright color and the citrus-y theme. But I'm over it. And I know many of you have said sweet things about the bold, cheery look. But again, I'm over it. :)

If you've forgotten or haven't seen if before, here is what our kitchen looks like now, or link here for more views:

I would love a more muted color. Maybe a light tan or a grey-ish green. Then I could add some red and black and yellow accents for a punch. I would love a little blackboard on the wall for a daily quote. I like the idea also of a more cottage-y look. I love the style of my curtains, but I am thinking black and white toile, maybe. I do love the orange and white, too. Remember this chandelier, I would love to change the shades and use it as well. And paint my table and chairs a distressed white or black. The lime green bookshelf pictured above is in the boys' room and matches perfectly. So no loss there. I wonder if I could move my red bench under the window?
This is a big decision because we are also changing the flooring and lighting (Thank you Mimi and Papa for an amazingly generous Christmas present!). So if you have an opinion, please give it to me! I guess I know what I'll be doing after the new year!

M & M Christmas Poem

Another quick, fun Christmas idea for young children. Buy some M & Ms and enjoy this little story. Yum!!!

Hold these candies in your hand,
Now turn them, and you will see -
The M becomes a W,An E, and then a number 3.
They tell the Christmas story,
It's one I'm sure you know.
It took place in a stable.
A very long time ago.
The E is for the East,
Where the star shone so bright.
The M is for the Manger,
Where Baby Jesus slept that night.
The 3 is for the Wise men,
Bearing gifts, with them they came.
The W is for Worship -
Praise His Name.
So as you eat these candies,
Or share them with a friend.
Remember the meaning of Christmas,
It's a Love story that never ends.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The art museum

"Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better." Andre Gide

Lydie loved this imaginative folk art
I got an email the other day stating that today was "Homeschool Day" at the art museum. Without a second thought I ordered my discounted tickets on-line. This morning when I got out my daily planner, I saw that today was museum day. I thought to myself how excited Jaybird would be to see Renoir paintings after a year-long artist/picture study of his "favorite painter". And Toot, I thought about how five was a wonderful age to see the beauty and inspiration in great artwork. And Lydie....Lydie! Oh no! I got ahead of myself again. What about the baby? She certainly is NOT at an age to appreciate anything that requires being still, patient and quiet. It was too late for a sitter. So with a shrug and a prayer we packed up the juice boxes, granola bars and camera and headed to town.

Toot loved this painting...I guess he thought it looked like a silly face

Jaybird did not disappoint. He was mesmerized. The exhibits were marvelous. He enjoyed reading the artist and title for each piece of art. You could almost see his photographic memory processing each piece and putting it in a file for later. Toot was most impressed with the folk art. Each piece created a mini-cartoon in his imagination. And Lydie did pretty well! She was the ONLY baby in the museum, but overall she was content to sit in her stroller and absorb the assortments of beautiful colors and patterns.

Jaybird pretended to whisper into the statue's ear...see her listening?
Looking back, I can see that I was a little crazy to schedule a trip in town to an art museum with three young children, particularly a week before Christmas. But at the same time, I love these spontaneous trips. I think many times it is better as a Mom to not over think our time with our children. Being well prepared is one thing, and it is good. But over-analyzing is another. (I am preaching to myself here!) Today was a wonderful day!

Monday, December 17, 2007

OH NO!! I forgot again!

Oh well, maybe next year. In case you want a new idea for advent as well, here's a good one.

1. Quarter2. Grape gum (or candy)3. Smiley sticker4. Gummy fish5. Birthday candle6. Bell7. Fish crackers8. Cotton balls9. Piece of a map10. Soap11. Heart sticker12. Cross13. Packet of salt14. Sand15. Flowers(silk)16. Raisins17. Seeds18. Christmas carol19. Small rock20. Crumpled foil21. Mustard seed22. Dove23. Small scrap of woolly material24. Blue marble25. Picture of a baby.
December 1 - A quarter! That equals 25 cents. But 25 also stands for the number of days till Christmas, when God gave us His best present. Jesus told about one woman's gift and the way she gave it. Read: Mark 12:41-44
December 2 - Grape Gum! Grapes make jelly and juice, raisins and wine. But Jesus didn't need grapes to perform His first miracle. Read: John 2:1-10
December 3 - Here's a smile! A smile usually expresses happiness. Jesus gave us many instructions to keep us happy. Read: Matthew 5:1-12.
December 4 - Fish! Well, if you were surprised to find these fish, wait till you read the story today! Others were surprised to find fish, too. Read: Luke 5:4-7
December 5 - A birthday candle? As you know, we are getting ready to celebrate Jesus' birthday. However, Jesus talked about something else that is related to this candle. Light! Read: Matthew 5:14-16
December 6 - You could make some noise with this. But it would not have bothered a certain man--until he met Jesus. Read: Mark 7:31-37
December 7 - These would not go very far if you were really hungry! But Jesus could make much out of little. Surely He knew how to multiply! Read: Matthew 14:13-21
December 8 - These cotton balls would be helpful in a thunder storm, wouldn't they? We could use them for ear plugs to muffle the loud noises that thunder makes. But we know someone who doesn't need cotton. Jesus can control the weather. Read: Matthew 8:23-27
December 9 - People needing to use the other parts of this map are in trouble! Don't you get lost today! Read: John 14:1-6
December 10 - It's soap. Do you like to wash? Behind your ears? Washing turned out to be a happy time for a man who met Jesus. Read: John 9:1-7
December 11 - Hearts. Wordlessly, they speak of love, don't they? Jesus spoke some commands about love. Read: Matthew 25:17-41
December 12 - We use the cross as a symbol, representing Jesus. Do you know why? Read: Phillipians 2:1-11
December 13 - Ordinary salt. Yes, Jesus related salt to us and our behavior. He also gave us some advice. Read: Matthew 5:14 and Colossians 4:6. (Notice that He doesn't recommend pepper!).
December 14 - Don't try to eat this! It's sand. It reminds us that Jesus knows something about architecture, about buildings--and building lives. See His instructions: Matthew 7:24-29.
December 15 - Flowers are pretty, aren't they? Jesus used flowers to teach us a reassuring lesson. Read: Matthew 6:28-34.
December 16 - Raisins! Many children are given raisins instead of candy for a snack. That's because they are a health-promoting and delicious fruit. Jesus told us how we can produce good fruit. Read: John 15:1-5.
December 17 - Jesus told a story about seeds that man planted. Then He explained it, revealing its deep meaning. Read: Matthew 13:3-8 and Matthew 13:18-23.
December 18 -Christmas is just about a week away. And here is an appropriate song. Sing it loudly! Read: Psalms 100.
December 19 - A hard stone! Can you change this stone into a piece of bread? Do you think Jesus could? Jesus was asked to do just that. Do know how He handled it? Read: Matthew 4:1-4.
December 20 - Try to smooth out this piece of aluminum foil and use it as a mirror. It's hard to see your reflection plainly, isn't it? Many circumstances are hard to understand, but someday everything will be clear. Read: 1 Corinthians 13:12.
December 21 - The mustard seed is the smallest there is! When it sprouts, it grows into one of the largest plants! See what Jesus said. Read: Matthew 17:20.
December 22 - We've learned that the cross represents Christ, but do you know what the dove stands for? Read: Matthew 3:13-17.
December 23 - The threads that compose this fabric came from the wool of a sheep. Jesus called Himself the good shepherd. Do you know who His sheep are? Read: John 10:7-18.
December 24 - A marble! Do you know what is sometimes called the "Big Blue Marble"? The world. God made the world for us. What does God continue doing to the world? And who is the world? Read: John 3:16.
December 25 - Isn't this baby cute? When he was born, he made a whole family happy. Jesus was born a baby, too. He came to make the whole world happy. Read: Luke 2:1-20. Enjoy your celebration today. Continue to learn about Jesus--and love Him forever!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas cards 2007

Today was the day. I had thirty minutes to find a decent shot, and I was ready to lower my standards. Here is we used for our card, plus some individuals.

A trip to Bethlehem

After a hard weekend (see previous post) of not really "feeling" the Christmas spirit, the kids and I were blessed yesterday. We drove a while north to a precious church that hosts a walk through Bethlehem. It is the most accurate and detailed reenactment of Jesus' time that I have ever seen. What a way to be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas, and to be encouraged! This day was a blessing!
There were lots of animals, Toot's favorite part!

Modern meets ancient

The soldiers, my favorite part, reading Caesar's decree

The tax collector. All the children were given a sheckel before we entered

The priest in the temple. All the children received a scroll with a verse from Psalms announcing a Messiah.

Most animals were tame and the children got to feed them in the marketplace.

"Did you see that?"

Favorite quote from today: "Is Bethlehem in heaven?"

Monday, December 10, 2007

Fallen, indeed

As I mentioned before, I am thrilled to serve on our Women's Ministry Council at church. I love being in a position to give women the opportunities to connect with one another and with the Lord. This past Saturday we had our annual Christmas outreach. We were going to travel to an inner-city ministry and make lunch and crafts. Instead, the group wanted to come to our church. I have pined away for a month at the details. Which crafts would they want to give their parents? What wrapping paper is the most beautiful and economical? What lunch would they enjoy? What could we do to present the gospel? Etc., etc. Admittedly, in this season of life, it is no small feat to be involved in ministry out from under our own roof. But I feel called to "support the church in its worship and work", as I vowed when we joined. I love it, even when the demands cause chaos in my normally routine family life. It is quite a privilege to be an instrument of His grace in such a dark, tough world (and I am referring to our area of town, not the inner city).

Any way, the day did not go well. The "sound guy" forgot to come. Therefore, we had 125 people in a big gym with no microphones. And much more heart breaking for an aesthetics person like me, no Christmas music. In trying to find someone to help with sound, there was no time to bring the Christmas trees and wreaths to the gym from the sanctuary. Again, probably a bigger bummer to me than anyone else. The lunch tables were beautifully decorated and the food was yummy. The storyteller delivered the beautiful story of Christmas, along with the gospel. But the crafts...oh the crafts. That was the worst part. I chose a craft that was much too time consuming for the hour allotted. As a result, the many women that volunteered to help the children were feverishly making Christmas pillows. That's right...PILLOWS. I chose pillows. Seventy five pillows needed to be completed, if you include the children's from my church.
And worse than that was the grumbling and complaining that I overheard from the women. I won't mention the comments, but it was bad. This was the worst part to handle. I will admit to anyone that I am just a tired thirty-two year old Mom of three young children trying to remember to wash the sheets every now and then and give my children a vegetable or two a day. At church, I am a volunteer like everyone else! The criticism broke my heart. If you are a pastor's wife, I pray that you can truly see this position as an act of worship, all done for your Savior and not for anyone or anything else. (I think of that song "I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name...)

When Jaybird and I got in the car he said, "Mama, why do you have to be in charge of everything at church?" As we drove home I had no desire to go back. Ever. I walked in the house and told my husband, "I am done! DONE!" The next day, Sunday, Lydie woke up with a runny nose. I was so thankful. For the first time in years I had no desire to be involved in "corporate worship". In defense and a feeling hurt as well, my husband said, "You stay home with the baby, honey. I think you've had enough church for the week."

So I pouted. All my sacrificial work and time away from family time and this is what I get in return? (Not to mention some other doubts.) God wouldn't let me stay in a funk too long. I think he is showing me the true meaning of grace...again. If I can't show love and kindness towards those who have hurt me without cause then do I REALLY grasp what He has done for me? I want to experience the gospel deeper and taste of its richness. Here is my opportunity. I prayed for those women. I know they are dearly loved by God, just like he loves me. I know that the church is not a "museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners." Slowly he is warming my heart with the power of His love and truth. I still hurt, but I believe in the power of Christ within me to set me free from anger and bitterness as I turn to Him. Being a part of the Body of Christ is not always a beautiful endeavor, even in the best of circumstances which is what I feel we have. But then again, I'm sure God could say the same thing about loving me. As C. S. Lewis says, "We are all fallen creatures and all very hard to live with."

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Nostalgia-inspired tooth

Can it possible be? Our littlest boy. My small, quiet, funny baby boy...has his first loose tooth. It is fine and well for my big guy to grow up a little. After all, deep theological talks and offers to help with the little ones are precious. But my little boy? I can't imagine him without his baby teeth. This does not fit into the preschool equation as I imagined it. He's growing up too fast. Beautiful, sweet, adorable Toot!

Three years old...

Four years old...

And now, at the ripe age of five!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...finally!

We have been out of town the past two weekends. And personally, without my Saturdays I only maintain during the week. Who has time for decorating, baking or shopping during the week when there is carpool, laundry, school work, yard work, cooking, cleaning, etc.? Needless to say, I am a little behind on my Christmas preparations. I have only bought two gifts. And it took me this long to decorate our house (we still have not finished the outside!). But I am pacing myself and trying to enjoy the season. We are celebrating advent in a sweet way. More about that later. So, if you enjoy seeing other ladies' houses as much as I, take a peek...

This is my dining room and my take on my friend Maryanne's twig tree. Go look at's much prettier, and actually has twigs.
In another corner, our Playmobil nativity set. Sorry, I didn't set it up for you all.

This is a corner on our countertop in the kitchen. I got the church at our neighborhood ornament swap...not really an ornament, but oh well. And our new advent calendar. The kids LOVE it!Another corner...these angels came from one of my wedding showers. My sorority sisters gave me a Christmas wedding shower over eleven years ago. The tall angel was my favorite gift from my dear friend, Anna. I still enjoy it every year.

And one more corner. That Christmas tree cookie jar came from the same shower.

In the family room...

My new stocking holders. Black wrought iron. I love them! ( We hang our stockings on our bookshelves because we use our fireplace often in the evening and who wants to pull them down all the time?

And out the back door! Thanks for touring our home! Post pictures of your house this season and let me know so I can enjoy. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Be encouraged

Since school began for Jaybird in the fall, I have been more than overwhelmed. Trying to balance the fine line between being honest and transparent with my struggles versus complaining has been hard for me. I tend to assume my problems are due to my attitude or my lack of faith or my sinfulness and I don't share my heart. But recently I have discovered that in this case, I just simply have too many responsibilities. I continue to plug along and pray (and request prayer from a few faithful friends) as I figure out what gives. But today was almost unbearable. I am completely overrun. As I drove the kids to Jaybird's school this morning (30 minutes late), I was numb with exhaustion and needed a good cry. Somehow, the tears didn't come.
On the way home, my husband called me to see how I was surviving. I know he has his own responsibilities and set of problems, who doesn't? But I outlined what I was juggling and how I absolutely could not do it all. Later I found a note from him on my pillow. His words uplifted me emotionally so much that I wanted to share his words with you all just in case you need to hear them, too. I hope you will be encouraged! Here are a few excerpts:
"You are not laying up many treasures here on this earth. This is the truth...but with every folded Spider-Man underwear, with every stir of a pot of green beans, with every spray of the water bottle on Jaybird's morning bedhead, and every foot that you drive to school you are dropping off treasure in your heavenly bucket. You are doing these things not because they are fun- but because God has called you to a life of motherhood- the hardest, most unrecognized, lifelong career in the world. This is a calling for the strong, the weak can't do it. This is a calling for people with integrity- because absolutely nothing is done where people are watching. Rather, it is done in the mundane, day to day funk that we call life. And you know what? You do it well! So rejoice! God is watching you. He is proud of you and He is taking notice. You are doing God's work and you are doing it well. I am just happy to be connected to you. Hang in there. I love you beyond everything visible. You make my day. Every day. Believe it!"