Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas with Nana and Poppy

Happy birthday, Uncle Rick! (from your FAVORITE niece :) )

These pictures capture pretty well how over-the-top excited the kids were!
Andy and Lydie with Aunt Chelle, Greyce, and Anna.
Rick and Chelle gave Mom a beautiful Pandora necklace with her children and grand children's birthstones. So sweet!American Girl stuff was all the rage this year with the little girls.

And the hilarious expressions continue...

It was so fun to see the kids have so much fun! My Mom was so sweet to host us, even though she was having a rough day. We love all of our family!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Brave girl

Dear sweet Annie,
You are so brave. Did you know when I first met you I could see it? Andy and I were touring your school and you volunteered to read and narrate for your fifth grade class. I watched and listened, and you looked over at us- strangers watching your class- and smiled so sweetly. I thought that day and a thousand times since, "I hope one day I have a daughter like that sweet girl!" (This memory happened before Lydie was even a twinkle in our eyes.)

You are so brave. I know you must be so sad and distressed that you are having to leave the house you grew up in all these years. I know you, and I suspect you are being so supportive and compliant for your Mom and Dad whom you love so much! But it must be hard to know this is your last week after a whole life time of memories have happened in your home. I want you to know, sweet friend, I understand and I am praying for you.

I became a Christian when I was 17, going on 18. I was your exact age! Just finishing high school and looking ahead to college. I remember that age so vividly (I also met Andy that fall just before I turned 18...crazy!) It must be a hard time, with all the events of your senior year, to be moving. Please know I am praying for you and I love you!

I think I know a lot of what you must be feeling. I moved at the request of someone else, too. It is hard to give up so much for someone else, even if you love that person so much. It is hard to spend those last months thinking, "This will be the last...". And I am not going to lie, it hurts for a while. I am glad you will be going to college next fall and starting that AWESOME adventure. ( But please know, if you feel sad or angry or moody, I think I can relate and I want to hear from you. I would love to talk to you and pray for you. Because I LOVE YOU!! And if I haven't mentioned it before, I think you are very brave (and beautiful and kind and super lovely!!)

And I can promise you that God will sustain you as you put your trust in Him. Don't let yourself look to the "right or to the left, but fix your eyes on Jesus". When Satan whispers, "Your friends aren't going through this. Why should you?" , just remind yourself that God is giving you the very best thing for your sanctification. He loves you and wants you right in the shadow of His wing, so to speak. Stay right there and don't let the temptation to feel sorry for yourself overshadow all that Christ has done and will do for you! That would be a real shame. (I know because I learned the hard way that self pity is the enemy of the gospel.) When you feel angry, give it to Jesus. He will replace all those terrible feelings with love, I promise. But it might take time. Just keep praying and being honest and don't feel guilty. You can't help how you feel. Listen to beautiful music, pray, and read His Word (the Psalms, in particular) and He will replace "your mourning with songs of praise" really soon, I promise. You are about to embark on a really great adventure of laying aside yourself and finding a whole new level of trust and joy in Jesus. And that joy will be contagious, just wait and see. I know He has great plans for you!

With love,


Monday, December 19, 2011

Trophy wife

I will never be a trophy wife. My precious pregnancies did a number on my body that only a skilled surgeon could erase. And I do not plan on investing my time and money in plastic surgery. Sometimes I find myself thinking about external beauty like a woman who doesn't know the living God, and I feel shame. I do not add up to earthly standards.But I can take care of my body for the glory of the One who created it, and not for the praise of mankind. I fully believe that I need to be a good steward in this area, a better steward. But I will not let my appearance define my worth. I will remember that "charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears that Lord is to be praised." (Proverbs 31) And if I believe this verse, I will invest the majority of my time in those things that I can take to heaven and not in the things that will be left behind. (If I spend the majority of my time thinking about exercise, dieting, or what I want to buy for myself then I have an idol in my heart.) And I will encourage my children to hold the same values because they believe what they see me live. I am so sick of seeing greed and vanity ringing in our eyes and ears at every corner! I do not want to be a part of delivering that message. Life is so much more fulfilling and, ironically, so much more beautiful when we quit focusing on our looks and bank accounts!

I will never be a trophy wife. But I can be a trophy of God's grace in my husband's life, and to the world! And that is beautiful!

Pictured above: Beautiful moments...Memory game with Lydie, picture study of Boticelli's Mother and Child with the boys. Seeking true beauty and finding it!

"My Mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my Mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual, and physical education I received from her." George Washington

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Loving it all

Saturday and Sunday we were with my husband's family. It was a nice couple of days. Lots of eating and playing. And after the kids went to bed, Andy, Papa, and I carried on with our usual tradition of "debating" philosophical and theological topics until someone insists that it is bed time. Andy and I had to stay up an extra hour to "talk it out" so that we wouldn't go to bed angry after our debate on women in the workplace. I won't elaborate, except to say it's all good now. :)

Lydie and I baked these Rudolph cupcakes together on Friday.

Mimi saving us from the usual mantel malfunction. One Thanksgiving there was a real, live fire on that mantel. Candle + greenery= fire extinguisher

"I promise these pictures will be fun to look at in 10 years, kids." Sighs, moans, fake smiles abound.Lydie's favorite seatAfter a beautiful church service with Mimi and Papa, we ate burgers and came home. Time for a movie and snuggles, then our advent devotion on the sofa. Is there any season more wonderful than Christmas? (I think not!)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sweet, lovely days before Christmas

I can be moody, I confess, feeling desperate and lonely one day and fully content the next. This can be very confusing for my husband, I am sure. But I am learning to recognize it and not give in to my emotions all the time. I am learning to realize that my heavenly Father never changes or shifts, and through the power of His Spirit I can be consistently joyful, despite how I feel. I think this ability boils down to maturity, and apparently I lack it. BUT, God is working within me!

With this in mind, my next words may need to be taken with a grain of salt...Today feels perfect.

The kids are excelling at school. Working very hard and the seeing the pay-offs. My house is full of laughter and music. The lights on the tree are illuminating a dark house from gray skies outside. On breaks, the kids are playing in the rain and finding creative ways to enjoy themselves. The smell of oranges and cloves and cinnamon make me feel alive. And we are learning so much together!

Some lessons are hard, but I am pressing against discouragement to see them through. (Like a math test with 20 long division problems! And a kindergartner that never can seem to remember her poetry memorization. And a little sweetheart who is struggling with comparing himself to others.) I feel so certain that God is going to bless their efforts as they dig in and believe God is at work. It's a beautiful thing! Thank you Lord that when we seek you, we find you, and sometimes that is demonstrated through these types of successes! What an encouragement! William and Nancie Carmichael's book Lord Bless My Child says, "This is how we develop fortitude, persistence, and the strength of heart that enables us to meet adversity, pain, and persecution...There is no greater challenge, no higher calling, than to persist in the things of God." (And sometimes the things of God for an 11 year old is simply to do 20 long division problems without complaining or arguing- for the glory of God! I think it boils down to trust! And we are experiencing a lot of lessons in it! It's a good thing!
And we are enjoying a lot of fun Christmas studies. We have been studying Christmas traditions around the world. We went to Turkey in the study of St. Nicholas

Then north to Germany and learned of the St. Martin parade with lanterns and music

Then across the ocean to Mexico and the tradition of Las Pasados

and today we are back home remembering American traditions from the 1800s as we read My Prairie Christmas and made pomanders.

We have easy, sweet days at home like this. But we are very busy away from home, too. We saw the Willy Wonka musical this week. Jackson's two best friends were there and we sat with them.

And Lydie's ballet class performed a Christmas dance for us. The little girls choreographed it themselves. It was DARLING and involved princesses and fairies, of course!

Life is completely full, but mostly balanced. And I am loving it. And today is a PERFECT day! Thank you, God, that you have slowly and most assuredly been healing the brokenness and grief I felt when we left Atlanta. Although I still have days that are hard, you are establishing us here in this place. And I know "the, boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, surely I have a delightful inheritance." (Psalm 16:6). These words of yours comfort me as much now as when you lead me to them in 2008 when I agreed to move to rural Alabama. Thank you!

Resources for our Christmas Around the World studies so far:

St. Nicholas: Santa Who? (Gail Gibbons)

St. Martin's parade: article from

Las Posadas in Mexico: The Night of Las Posadas (Tomie DePaola)

Pioneer Christmas: My Prairie Christmas (Brett Harvey)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Our farmhouse at Christmas

Welcome to our little farmhouse. It is our first Christmas in this home, as we moved in March from the suburbs of Altanta to a farm in rural Alabama to fulfill my husband's dream of owning a working, organic farm. We have enjoyed this Christmas season so much! We are trying to embrace the peace and beauty of our farm, but also the bustling activities of a big city just an hour away. It has been wonderful this season!

Our friends enter the back door at the farm. They land in our kitchen. We tore out most of the kitchen cabinets and replaced them with open shelves. For Christmas, I removed most of my white china and added pops of greens and reds on the shelves. There is a lot of natural decor in the kitchen. Lentils for a splash of green, cuts of evergreen branches from our Christmas tree, and cranberries for a splash of red. I am certainly are not opposed to color! Here is our Christmas tassel (inspired by the Nester a few Christmases ago) hanging on our turquoise china cabinet. (Old farmhouses do not come with pantries!) Our family room is where we hang out most nights. Almost all of our decor was given to us or made. Like this paper garland from a decorating class I taught a few years ago. Simple and cheap!The Christmas village that my husband started for me when we were engaged and has added to over the years. It is a treasure and I love putting it out every year!

We hang a few simple berry wreaths on the front windows.
This little painting I bought last year is a favorite. My best friend gave me a gift card to an antique store. LOVED that gift and I appreciated how well she knows me. One of my favorite things to do on an afternoon alone is roam an antique store! We still buy a real Christmas tree each year. It has no "theme", just ornaments from the children, friends, and students from over the years. I just can't give in to a "themed" tree. There's artwork in little corners everywhere from years past. I especially love these paintings we made last year. The children each have simple little trees in their rooms, along with a strand of lights around their windows. Very simple and inexpensive. And dining room (current school room) has a big fireplace with the our stockings. My best friend from high school and her Mom started the tradition of having needlepoint stockings when they gave me these at a wedding shower. I can hardly remember the days of only two stockings on the mantle. Lots of reminders of who we are celebrating all around the house, too. I let the kids play with all of these nativities. Crazy, I know. But I hold these things loosely (literally). Over the years we have only broken one piece- a shepherd's head. It glued back nicely and all is well. Merry Christmas!
Hope you are enjoying this beautiful season!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Celebrating His constant care this Christmas

"Having laid down your life as the Lamb of God, you have risen and you are now the standing shepherd- relentlessly caring, vigilantly protecting, and faithfully providing for us..."
I took in a few things to make an ornament with the boys' class at their hybrid school. Clear ornaments, school name with paint pen, kids' signatures in black sharpie, and shredded book pages inside. It's an easy keepsake!

"You never sleep or slumber, ebb or flow in your affection for us. You are constantly caring for us. We praise and honor you, O compassionate and engaged Shepherd..."
I was in charge of the boys' class party. We had a minute-to-win-it themed party. How many marshmallows can you toss, cups can you stack, cookies can you get from head to mouth (no hands), and metal nuts can you stack off of a candy cane in a minute? Good fun. This class has been a HUGE answer to prayer for us in developing friendships this school year.
For you glory and your good, you guide us along paths of righteousness, goodness, truth, and grace. And even as that journey involves traversing places marked by decay and death, you are with us, and that's all we really need to know...Celebrating Papa's birthday with Andy's family. He's a good Papa and we all love him very much!
Even in the new heaven and the new earth, you will be our shepherd, leading us to springs of living water. (Revelation 7:17) Your greatness, Jesus, will reach to the ends of the earth, and we will live securely, for you are our peace, now and forever. Hallelujah!..."
Fun and games at my Mom's house with her grandchildren and her brother's grandchildren. She is looking so lovely (pictured in her red hat with Lydie). She is determined to continue on with her regular traditions, despite being in the middle of chemotherapy. I am so proud of her great attitude! God has had His hand on her this season and His Spirit is shining through!

(a pastor at Christ Community Church in Franklin, TN)