Today. Ah, today. It was a hard day.
Okay, hard doesn't really even do justice to the true emotions of the day. And really, I don't think I have it in me to even try to put it into words. Saying goodbye is never easy.
I had the honor of riding to the airport to see my sister, Jessica, and her family off to Macedonia today. They go to spread the message of true Joy - Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection.
And that's what I have to remain focused on, because that's the only reason that justifies this pain in my book. I wanted to be strong for her and ended up being much more weepy than I anticipated. There were so many things I wanted to say and...just couldn't.
Couldn't get past the lump in my throat. Couldn't form the words that were pressing on my heart.
I am so thankful that God allowed us to have Christmas together. Thankful that we were able to have our kids bond more before they left. Thankful that I could have those last minutes with her during the car ride the airport. Thankful that they love the Lord enough to be obedient to His calling despite the pain of leaving their families and all that they know.
I would appreciate your prayers for them. For safe travel and protection. That they would have an easy transition and acclimation to their new home and country. That they would find favor. That their family would be knit closer together. That the Light would shine forth!
To God be the glory.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Today. Ah, today. It was a hard day.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Over the mountain and through the woods. To grandmother's house we go.
Ready or not, we leave today. So, all those cookies I wanted to hand deliver these past two days now become something I didn't get to check off the list. I'm definitely learning to let go, but I always have such big ambitions. Just apparently not very realistic for me.
So, no Christmas cards - which I happily released myself from in November. But, no Christmas cookies either. *Sigh* I keep thinking I'm going to start a new tradition and seriously do "Christmas" in July. Don't be surprised if we show up with cookies this summer...
Please consider yourself hugged, loved, and wished a Merry Christmas!
Now to try to fit all this stuff in the car! One more kid and I think we'll be housebound for the next 18 years of holidays... ;)
Sunday, December 21, 2008
1. I missed church twice in the past month and a half and didn't feel guilty.
2. I can use the words magical and luck without feeling like I've committed a sin. Okay, maybe a small twinge, but watch this...Christmas is a magical time of year. See?! *big grin*
3. I don't think my church is THE church. In other words, if you are part of a church, I will not try to convince you that you should be at my church.
4. People (read: relationships) will always come before attending "church-y" activities.
5. I wrote the title of this post without flinching about being misunderstood.
Thank you, Lord, for freedom!
Lie back daughter, let your head
Labels: Following Christ
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I truly want my kids to have fond memories of holidays and traditions, whether we are celebrating Christmas or just turning an ordinary day into something special. That being said, I do not have very many Christmas decorations and am unwilling to spend a lot of money on them.
There are so many great ideas out there (or should I say here?) on the web. And for some of them, all it will take is some paper, scissors, and ribbon. My favorite so far this year is a name of Jesus garland I found from Monica at The Homespun Heart. I plan on making it this weekend and I'll try to post a picture because I can't link to it from her blog.
I've been talking with my sister, Jaclyn, about it and I asked her to share a couple easy and cheap ideas on Christmas decorating. So, without further ado, I introduce Jaclyn: my youngest sister, chef extraordinaire, and first guest poster.
There’s something magical to me about driving around in December and seeing all the houses lit up with thousands of Christmas lights. It brings back childhood memories of being jammed in a van with 5 siblings and my parents and everyone saying, “Oooooooohhhhhhh...aaaaahhhhh,” in unison as we drove down the rode. And I’ll never forget the ever so sweet memory I have from almost 14 years ago of my brother, Jordan, coming home one evening so excited after Jo Ann had picked him up from basketball practice. The thrill? She took a different way home so they could see the different houses lit up. You could tell by his face it meant so much to him.
Now as an adult, I want to be one of those houses. I want to make little kids smile. I want to have someone drive by my house really slowly enjoying my holiday spirit and hard work. I want to pull in my driveway after a hard day of work and be smiling so hard at my decorations that my cheeks hurt.
So, after asking my husband if we could decorate the outside of the house for the Christmas season this year and getting, “As long as no money is being spent and the electric bill doesn’t go up any” answer, I began brainstorming…trying to make Clark Griswald proud.
I decided to ask older family members if they might have anything extra or might be donating any of their decorations this year and if I could have them instead. I received two very nice wreaths and wreath hangers for my two upstairs windows and also the offer to rummage through a passed away family member’s Chirstmas stuff. They would rather see it used than keep collecting dust. So lesson learned? It never hurts to ask.
Picture taken before completion. It is now topped with a bow that has long, curly ends hanging down.
Want to guess what the frame of this tree is? Time to pull the tomato cages back out from storage. We anchored down a tomato cage (upside down of course) to one of our patio pots whose flowers have died for the season. Utilizing ribbon that I had bought last year on clearance from Goodwill, I started wrapping. First the red ribbon, followed by the gold ribbon. I found some garland that I didn’t use and presto! A pretty cool, abstract tree.
If you have a lot of garland and only a little ribbon try it out. We have no outside power, so adding lights was not an option for us, but might be for you. You can also hang small ornaments from it if you want. Get creative with it. Utilize what you have.
This idea is my favorite. I’ve been saving the “right” boxes for weeks. Brian even came back from the recycling center with two trying to help me out. I wrapped 5 different shaped boxes in festive, loud paper and threw ribbon and bows on them. The wrapping paper was bought last year after our Goodwill clearanced all their Christmas items, as was the ribbon. I made all the bows myself after seeing that the large ones at Walmart would cost $5 a piece.
A few hints: Only wrap the sides of the box you will see. Don’t waste the paper. Same with the ribbon. Don’t wrap it all the way around, it just needs the illusion that it is. We put very heavy rocks in the top boxes before wrapping, so the wind doesn’t take them away. It would be sad to see one of your pretty boxes tumbling down the street.
If you don’t want to wrap the boxes, you could paint them. We have a lot of extra paint from moving into our house. Painting will last longer through the years and you can probably turn around and use those painted boxes to put other decorations in for storage.
Last year, I stopped at a small tree lot and asked if they had any scraps. The man said they normally charge for them, but he let me have them for free. I was able to use the small branches around the house to decorate with. You could make a wreath, use some on your table as part of a centerpiece, or on your mantel. Add pinecones or other pieces of nature that you can find for free. I also recommend checking at your local Goodwill. You never know what you'll find there! Merry Christmas and happy decorating!
I hope this encourages you and that you can celebrate and decorate without feeling like your busting your budget this year. Merry Christmas!
Labels: Finding Frugality
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I had a moment recently where God clearly showed me something about myself that rocked me to my core. And it ain't pretty.
It happened two Sundays ago. Caleb joined another family as they were walking into church. I still had to get the two little ones out of the van by myself as Richie had come to church earlier that morning. Needless to say, my oldest born left me in the dust when he saw some of his favorite little friends.
I was a bit put out, because in my head, my perfect son would have first asked my permission instead of yelling his goodbye and ditching me. In addition, he would have asked if there was anything that he could carry in for me. And since I used the word perfect, I might as well add that he would have told me how lovely I was and that he would have held open every door for me. But...he acted like an 8 year old instead.
I busily made my way into church, got Samuel and Abigail situated, and sat down. We were to go up front this morning as a family to be introduced as "new" members of our church (yes, we've been there for two years, it's a long story that perhaps I'll share some time). Richie was handling some other duties at church, but his job was to collect the boys and meet me so we could all go up together.
When it came time, Richie did not find Caleb in class. He brought Samuel and said that Caleb's teacher had not seen him that morning. Panic wanted to immediately take over. But thankfully, my brain does function well under pressure and I immediately began to process.
I knew he had to have made it into church because he was with the other family, friends I trust deeply. Where could he possibly be? Could he be skipping class? I began to get my lecture prepared and developing his discipline plan while panic nipped at my heels.
As we walked into the sanctuary, I began scanning for our friends. I just knew if I could find them, I could find my answer. Or at least I would find help in locating him. Could he be sitting with them? No. My thoughts teeter totted between having a lost child and a rebellious child. And really, how could he be lost? So the explanation must mean a misfit child...
We walked on stage with the other new members and I continued to scan the faces. Holding back from grabbing the microphone and asking for help to find my child. Then, up he stands from the congregation to come join us.
Relief flooded over me. No lost child. No rebellious misfit. But amongst the relief, I was shaken. Shaken by my immediate reaction and how clearly God revealed a serious prejudice against my son in my heart.
Caleb (4) and me
I thought the worst of him. One of the first thoughts I had, and kept, was the worst about him. What kind of mother am I that I would just assume the worst about him? Sure, we've had plenty of discipline issues, but none that should have me assuming the worst. There's just no excuse for it.And I feel horrible. Knowing full well that our heavenly Father does not look at me and see the worst. Yet that is what I did to my own son. Ouch.
I try to make excersizing mercy part of my parenting. Keep realistic expectations. Try to start new after a discipline issue and restore the relationship. To exhibit the nature of God. Obviously, I still have a long way to go. Wow. I'm just thankful that God showed this to me before it went on any longer.
And it just makes me wonder what other areas in my life I do the same. 'Cause flat out, I don't want to walk this way. I want to be able to walk in His perfect love. And I certainly don't want to be in judgement, because I know what that will get me.
Lord, forgive me and Caleb, I hope you will too.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Abigail met her California uncle, Jordan, for the first time!
A cute treat I just had to make. My nephew, Brian, helped.
My boys getting a tractor ride from Papi (my step-dad).
Abigail playing with Mima (my mom).
It was a great weekend. And we got an extra surprise recently when we found out that my sister Jessica and her family will now not be leaving until a couple days after Christmas! (I've talked about the here and here, too.)
Monday, December 15, 2008
I can hardly believe it has been six months (on the 12th) since this beautiful, little girl officially joined our family. What a blessing and wonderful addition she has been to us!
I could never have anticipated the feelings that have accompanied having a daughter. I love dressing her. The color pink, ribbons, and shoes have never been so fun! I look forward to the day that her hair is long enough for bows. Or maybe it's a good thing it hasn't, because I could just become addicted to them! I now remember how frustrating tights can be though. Her first pair were snagged within 20 minutes. I've made a mental note of it so that I hopefully won't get upset with her as she gets older. Abigail, you can thank me later...
The boys continue to love on her, making me melt all the time. Caleb continues to be such a good big brother. He's protective of her and tries to anticipate her needs. Something that I hope continues as they grow. We've enjoyed seeing a side of Samuel that we would not have experienced if she was not a part of our family. He is so incredibly sweet (when he's not taking toys or trying ot step on her) with her. I love hearing him talk to her. "Good morning, Abi-dail!" He loves to kiss her and hug her. Nothing sweeter I tell ya!
Abigail is thriving. At least that's what everyone seems to want to always point out. I get many comments about her size. Me? I think she's just right. She holds up well under all the lovin' she gets around here. :)
She is beginning to interact with those around her and it has been such fun. Babies are so good for the soul! :) Abigail means "Joy of My Father" and I continue to enjoy seeing the joy she brings to others. Knowing she will carry the joy of the Lord. She has a wonderful disposition and is generally happy. While it is our hopes that she brings great joy to our heaveny Father, she brings her earthly parents joy exceeding all expectations!
Abigail also happens to be mobile now. She continues in the path of her brothers and will most likely be an early walker. I wouldn't be honest if I didn't admit that I had been hoping she would take things a little slower. But I am extremely thankful she is healthy and developing!
Thank you, Lord, for our sweet Abigail!
Friday, December 12, 2008
Whether you are a mom or a single woman. Whether you are a homemaker or employed outside your home. God knows right where you are. And He has a plan and purpose for it.
Isn't that exciting? Isn't it comforting? It's easy for me to drift into a mindset where I'm questioning God about the purpose of certain activities or situations. Thinking, "Surely Lord, there's more to this. You haven't forgotten about me...have You ? Cause remember that vision You gave me. Um, I'm not seeing anything here and well, it didn't exactly involve a toilet brush."
That's one thing I love about God, He let's me talk to Him. About anything. And then He gently guides me back to where I need to be. Which still involves the toilet brush, but includes a happy heart with it.
When I first began staying at home with my children (2 1/2 years ago), there were times I became frustrated with the inability to participate in "godly" pursuits outside the home. Prayer meetings, conferences, etc. I wanted to feel like I was making a difference for the Kingdom. I wanted to be operating in my giftings. I wanted. And because I wanted I was dissatisfied.
Instead of seeing the true opportunities within my home to use my giftings, I was focused on what I could not do. Some of it had to do with people telling me it wasn't my season - I do not like to be told that - and some of it had to do with people telling me how much I was "missing" when I wasn't a part of such and such. But a lot of it had to do with me. I did not see my family as my ministry. I want to do big things for God and I didn't see how I could do that "confined" at home.
Before I move on, let me be clear that I was (and still very much am!) glad for the opportunity to be home. And honestly, I went through a period similar to this when I worked full-time outside the home.
Of course it's not wrong to desire God to use me, but I was so caught up in what I could be doing out of my home, that I was neglecting what I could be doing in my home. I had a self-centered mentality about God using me and a warped view of what ministry really is. So, my focus began to change and I learned how to fully embrace my time as a housewife.
No matter what and where God has called us, it's for His purpose. Learning to rest in that is not always easy. Whether it be to change something in you or to change something or someone where you are, He always has a plan.
One of my favorite accounts in the Bible is the story of Jael found in Judges 4. Sisera was fleeing from the army of Israel and sought refuge at Jael's tent because her husband had made peace with his king, Jabin. Jael gave him refuge and then killed him as he slept.
Jael was right where she was supposed to be. She didn't even have to leave her home, God delivered the enemy right to her door. And she was ready.
One of her many responsibilties included putting up the tent. If she had not done this many times before, building the muscles in her arms, she would not have been able to physically drive that tent peg through his head. All the times she labored to set up her tent, she was right where she was supposed to be.
So as I find myself completing the mundane tasks of life, I know it's where God has me, preparing me. Because I know He uses the ordinary to accomplish His extraordinary work.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
is being able to burp so loud it shows on the Richter scale. Thankfully, that is not what this post is about. It's about another special talent of mine. Or maybe I should call it a fun quirk. Caleb, well, he just calls it torture.
I love to make up songs.
I love to get lost in worship with the Lord and sing to Him. Being led by Holy Spirit in abandoned adoration and praise to my King. I also like to challenge myself by making up songs about the every day and especially about my kids. (So much for the spirituality, right? *grin/wink*)
This would be the part that Caleb defines as torture. He doesn't understand the full gifting it takes to be able to make up a song about Abigail to the Star Spangled Banner on the fly. Okay, he did look a little impressed after he dealt that challenge to me one day, but most days he just wants me to be quiet.
Well, while little man is away soaking up the 85 degree weather, the mommy will play. (Yeah, it was 85 degrees when they called me today to rub it in...er, I mean, to let me know they safely arrived.) The best part is that Samuel loves it. I love to have an enthusiastic audience!
So, in light of this revelation and the fact that my sisters are threatening bodily harm if I don't post funny, happy stuff *evil grin*, here's an older video of Anita Renfroe doing her mom song to the William Tell overture. An artistic piece of work I happen to admire... And well, if you don't enjoy it, maybe you learned how to spell Richter scale like I did today.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
So, I sit and consider how many more times in my life I will feel this and without hesitation, I know many. *gentle smile* The calling on his life will take him many places. Many places without me. But always with God. And that's where I find myself resting.
Slugs have never been dear to my heart. I so enjoyed pouring salt on them as a kid. Yet within me, I find that I am a S.L.U.G at heart.
A selfish, lazy, ugly girl. Harsh words. Impatience. Anger. To name a few.
And only salt from Heaven can kill this thing.
Luke 6:44-45 says, Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
I'm not yielding the fruit I desire to see in my life, certainly not the quantity I'd like to see. I desire to be in a place where all my actions and words bring glory to God, regardless of circumstance. I desire to be a virtuous woman for Him. Where the fruit of my life reflects His goodness.
I realize that this inner conquest of my soul does not happen overnight. It is a steady battle to overcome my self, to establish His nature within me. All dependent upon my relationship with Him. There are times I become discouraged at the pace I proceed along. Much too like a slug's slow crawl. But I have hope, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in [me] will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).
Father God, let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight. That I may be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Let me be quick to cast down every thought that exalts itself against You. That I may be a vessel of Your love to this world.
Monday, December 8, 2008
My family loves games. No, really. We love them. We love the laughter they generate. The dark side they bring out...no, we won't mention any names, Jake *cough, cough*.
So this time around I thought I'd highlight a few of my favorite games.
We have several favorites by Cranium. Man, that company just knows how to do it right. Balloon Lagoon is fantastic for little ones and Whoonu is fun and doesn't involve a lot of strategic thinking for those laid back nights. But, the huge hit for us has been Jam Packed Jam.
Caleb received this game last Christmas and it has been a blast! Adults and children have all liked it. Straight off the Amazon website: The object of the game is simple -- to fit as many fun items as possible, of all shapes and sizes, into the trunk before time runs out. On each turn, players say the number of objects they think they can precariously pack. When time's up, the trunk shoots everything out the doors. The 14 items to be packed are random and include a tire, a birthday cake, a cactus, and more.
One of our most favorite card games is Dutch Blitz. A quick moving game, that some days just makes this tired momma dizzy!
It's a very fast paced game for up to 4 people and the competition is crazy. I'm not sure I could accurately describe the rules and Amazon didn't have the description up. Okay, I'm also too lazy to get my set out and look at what it says. I do know that it says it is a "Vonderful Goot Game" and yah, I agree!
Our current family must-have is Blokus and it's been at the top of our list for a year now.
This is a great strategy game and kids 5 and over can join in on the action. Caleb (8) holds himself really well in this game. It is fairly quick moving and "challenges spatial thinking". It's another game for up to 4 people. According to the Amazon description: Blokus is simple to understand, but the game's complexity is revealed shortly after everyone begins to play. It can be addictive, even for those not normally into abstract games... Children and adults can play together for hours of competitive family fun. Hours. No joke.
These are probably my familiy's top three favorite games right now. But really, we're usually up for anything. We just learned how to play Speed Scrabble and it has quickly won us over. We are looking forward to Christmas for many reasons, including a bit of trash talking game time.
Labels: Favorite Things
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Oscar Mayer that is. Because I'm a big, fat weenie.
Let me share a little bit about my current dilemma and what has this mommy shaking in her boots.
A spider. With two egg sacs. In. my. house.Di. sgu. sting.
I'm not sure when I became such a hot dog, but here I am. Grossed out and unwilling to relocate my house guests on my own. There's a part of me trying to reason it out and be the ultra-motivated homeschool mom and turn it into a learning opportunity, but my yuck factor is winning at this point.
And I always thought I was tough. Must be getting soft in my old age.
*Sigh* I don't like being a weenie. And that's no bologna...
Thursday, December 4, 2008
BigCrumbs is very similar to Ebates in that you earn cash back for your online purchases when you use their retailer links. Their percentages vary with each store, so you would want to check each one and see which offers the highest rebate return.
The most fabulous thing (in my opinion) about BigCrumbs is Ebay. If you follow their link for Ebay before placing your bid or choosing the buy it now option, you can earn 20% cash back on your purchases. Yeah, you read that right, 20% back! Updated: It states "on the seller's fees" on the BigCrumbs site. So, I'm not sure what would amount that would equal out to be (based on price of item purchased?), but I'll still be using it at this point because no one else offers cash back on Ebay purchases as far as I know. It's not a great deal, but I guess it's something. A CrumbSaver receives 36% of fee and a CrumbEarner receives the 20% of fee. Sorry it took me a while to update this portion. I did not mean to mislead anyone! Forgive me?
You also have the option of choosing between being a CrumbSaver or a CrumbEarner. A CrumbSaver earns the maximum rebates from retailers and also receives referral commissions from the shopping of the friends they refer. A CrumbEarner earns a lower rebate on their shopping, but they not only earn referral commissions on their direct referrals, they also earn off of the referrals of their referrals - up to five generations away. So you can see how this could multiply like crazy.
I am currently set up as a CrumbSaver, but am considering the CrumbEarner thing. Their payment comes to you through PayPal, so you will need to have an account set up for that. So if you shop on Ebay, this is a great opportunity. As far as I'm concerned, BigCrumbs rocks! :)
Updated: Yes, the irony of this post about shopping after the previous post makes me shake my head. No, I don't understand it myself...
And by the way, if you were wondering about my Swagbucks progress, I was able to order the Christmas present I had my eye on! Let's just hope the receiver likes it...
Labels: Finding Frugality
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Monday, December 1, 2008
It's an ocean. And I'm riding this wave as long as I can.
I cannot believe it is December. I cannot believe Thanksgiving is over. I am so in denial.
Denying that this was the last Thanksgiving I would see my sister, Jessica, and her husband, B.T., and my sweet nephew and niece for quite some time.
I cannot begin to tell you how incredibly hard this holiday was for me. That's why I'm delaying a Thanksgiving post. Even now as I am typing this I am crying.
I'm in denial that I said goodbye to one of my little sisters and am so wishing I had hugged her one more time. Just a little longer. Just a little bit tighter.
I love you, Jess.
Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, and brown paper packages have been on my mind lately. Not to mention a few other things, including Julie Andrews.
I remember as a little girl I always looked forward to the Christmas season because this movie would come on television and my mom would let me stay up and watch it. It's just one of those special childhood memories. Maybe that's when my love for musicals was born.
So...since I've had that song stuck in my head for several weeks now, I thought I'd do a couple of posts on some of my favorite things that I'll just pick randomly. And since it's that time of year I thought I would start things off by highlighting some of my favorite alternative Christmas gifts. These are all organizations with whom I have personal experience.
World Vision - As taken from their website, "World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice." World Vision has a gift catalog that has loads of different "gifts" that you can donate in honor of someone. We have done this several times for various family members and we love it.
They have their gift catalog conveniently online here. It's probably my most favorite thing to give. You can also sponsor a child. I hope to be able to sponsor a child with the same birthdate as each of my children one day.
For those of you who are local, my friend, Christina, is hoping to raise money to buy a well soon. Would you consider helping? Get in touch with her and let her know!
Kiva - As taken from their website, "Kiva lets you lend to a specific entrepreneur in the developing world - empowering them to lift themselves out of poverty." This is a really neat organization that raises funds to loan money to help people in developing countries start or expand their small businesses. Once the money is repaid by the entrepreneur, you can pick another entrepreneur to help or receive the money back. I think it's a great gift for small business owners, like my mom and my sister, Jaclyn.
Heifer International - Their approach is to help "people obtain a sustainable source of food and income." It is similar to World Vision. They are near and dear to me because we always raised money for animals through them when I was kid in vacation bible school. *grin*
There are so many different organizations out there to give a "gift" through. Do you have any favorites?
Labels: Favorite Things