Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year coming...

... ready or not...

I haven't really decided if I am ready for the New Year yet. I didn't do a lot of things I thought I would have done this year. And yet I accomplished some things I never would have dreamed of last January. Through God's providence, I have continued to learn how to be flexible, try to be a good steward and make plans but hold them lightly so that when God changes them I can walk in faith.

Going into 2013 there are some areas I really need to be diligent in... time in the Word and prayer... exercise... drinking enough water... memorizing Scripture, and applying it... cultivating a gentle spirit... using kind and loving words and eliminating sarcasm...

The last few days I have been pondering... and organizing... and thinking... and praying... I feel like I am nesting, trying to get everything just right for when the New Year ushers in. But then I realize that I do not need to be fully prepared for the whole year all at once, instead I need to remember Lamentations 3:22-23:

    The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
        His mercies never come to an end;
    they are new every morning;
        great is Your faithfulness.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

On Christmas morn...

Earlier today, Elliott and I overheard a rather impassioned discussion between two of our children. As we investigated further, we learned that the point of debate was a rather serious theological matter. The question at hand was this, "Where did the animals in the stable eat after Jesus was born?"

One child asserted that the animals would still eat from the manger, it was, of course, their feeding trough. The other child's conscience was obviously shaken by this thought as everyone knew that baby Jesus was now using the manger as His bed.

After some discussing, we all came to accept that Joseph likely chose a neat little corner of the stable to move their hay and feed to until Jesus was no longer using the manger for His bed. Thankfully that was an acceptable answer for all parties.

Then later this evening, after putting children to bed and picking up in the dining room, I came across this little scene on the dining room table. Apparently the last child who played with the nativity scene was trying to be as accurate as Playmobil could allow.

Do you see the new happy parents?
Did you spot the angel?
Can you find the shepherd and his sheep?
How about the wise men traveling from afar?

Merry CHRISTmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Finding new traditions...

I have always enjoyed hearing from friends what they do for Christmas (and all other holidays too). I love hearing generations of the same family retell of their favorite traditions and laugh at all the "remember when" stories intertwined within them. And every year I feel a little sad as I can't much participate in the discussion much beyond, "the kids get a new pair of PJs every Christmas Eve night".

And every year I have these grand plans to change that...
And for many years I have given birth just weeks before Christmas...
And the last few years was having surgeries or dealing with ailing parents...

This year has been different. In many ways, I see it clearly as God's hand of grace, helping the children build some traditions seems to be carrying them through their first Christmas without their PawPaw. We started two little traditions that I hope will be a memory we will make and re-make every year. The one that I have enjoyed most has been a nightly devotional and activity throughout the Advent season. The children call out for it each night and hate missing it! We light a new candle every night, and now the candles are all ablaze as we come to the eve of Christ's birth, the excitement of the Savior's coming continues to mount...

The other thing we are doing is building a Winter Village out of Legos. Growing up I remember my mom having a small collection of porcelain houses that we would set up each Christmas. I remember the little guy and girl ice skater that we would set up on a hand mirror that was set under a white sheet with a hole cut out to be "more realistic". So, last year when a friend told me about the Lego Winter Village, and I thought of that little Christmas town growing up, and I had to decide between porcelain or plastic, I just knew I wanted to get it for this year. And Lego releases a new piece each year, so this year we had a few things to put together, but next year we will just have one. The kids and I sit around the table, taking turns on assembly, ooohing and aaahing at the intricate details and clever uses of specialty pieces.  

We still hope to make some cookies for neighbors...
We still want to do some caroling on our street...
We totally forgot to have the kids exchange names for each other and purposefully seek to do good for one another... but that is ok, they all made each other gifts out of duct tape...
We are planning to do something really cool with our Christmas tree to look forward to Easter... I will let you know how well we execute that...

What are your family's traditions?
How do you make the season shine for Christ?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Where are the gifts...

As my children and I worked on folding the laundry this morning, one of the youngers innocently asked why there were no gifts under our tree. We have been visiting friends whose homes are decorated quite sweetly, including beautifully wrapped gifts tucked under the tree.

I sheepishly admitted that there were no gifts because I had not bought any gifts for them. At this comment, the two oldest children began informing the younger children that the real reason for Christmas is not about receiving gifts likes toys, but that God sent His son as a gift to us. It was a sweet, totally unscripted moment and it was encouraging because sometimes in the midst of living life together and the squabbling over who gets the last piece of cake, I wonder if they will ever "get it".

In all seriousness, there is nothing under our tree. I have been obliviously walking through this Christmas season, the busyness of teaching the kids, and co-op and choir concerts were distracting me. I almost forgot to get gifts for my two December birthed children last week and Christmas seemed way far off. However, the dates on the calendar prove otherwise, and thanks to a dear husband (who watched the kids), a shopping buddy (my mom) and, I was able to rectify the presentlessness that was our current state of affairs.

We are keeping things simple... and practical... and I am excited. I can't wait to tell you what we got everyone, and show you the fruits of their labors as they employ themselves with their gifts... but I can't just yet because sometimes my kids read my blog. :)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Finding a balance between...

creativity and order...
productivity and fun...
living life and cleaning...
goofing off and being serious...
drinking coffee and consuming water...
waking up early and going to bed at night...
schedules and flexibility...
humility and accomplishment...
quiet and loud...
talking and listening...

Can you tell that I am pondering things?!?!?! Feel free to add... or offer ideas... 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

As birthdays go...

Today was a relatively normal day... Grocery store, homeschooling, piano lessons, dirty dishes, kids fighting and making up... Our flock went out to dinner, a rare treat but one that was greatly enjoyed by all!

Earlier, I had a grand surprise... around noon my phone started receiving text messages non-stop for like five minutes. I couldn't even respond without another text coming in... A dear friend of mine had arranged for some of my closest friends to all text me birthday wishes as the noon hour approached. My grocery shopping buddy was still hanging out and was laughing at me, which is how I figured out it was a conspiracy! That was a highlight of my day!

And one friend put it so well in her birthday greeting, "I pray that you will discover more of your loving Savior's care and faithfulness this year and you will be inspired to graceful obedience." Me too.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Some wait and see...

I have come to know and understand that God does much of His sanctifying work in my life when I am having to wait... we have some waiting and seeing in the coming days... job possibilities, medical uncertainty, housing changes... and in all of it, when I am tempted to despair or worry, I remember how the Lord has promised to do good to me and not harm (Jeremiah 29:11)... and that is enough.

It is Well with My Soul

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.


My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!


For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.


But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!


And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Our last two sips...

As we continue to enjoy this encouraging cup of COFFEE, we need to be reminded to…

E – Enjoy every moment…

I remembered being annoyed as a young mom at being constantly told to “enjoy every moment, before you know it they’ll be gone”. I would look at my baby and knew I would have to nearly live my whole life over again before she would even leave for college, I had SO MUCH TIME! But in the blink of an eye, my baby is half-grown and only shorter than me by two inches. Dear friend, you know even better than me at how fast the time goes, your first will be graduating from High School this year.

We have talked about experiencing the joy of the Lord through the days and moments of a mother’s life and as we now consider how to enjoy every moment, I want to share with you one of my favorite mommy verses for when I am struggling with the decision between sitting down to play that game of Candyland with the pleading 4 year old or whether to mop the kitchen floor.

Proverbs 14:4 says, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.”

I am not advocating that you neglect the care and cleaning your manger, but even here, a proper perspective will help us maintain the joy of the Lord as we are stretched to sacrifice our plans for the needs of others.  Considering the strength of your many oxen, and remembering that oxen as a whole are not the neatest animals ever created will help you maintain an attitude of praise and thanksgiving even after that jar full of sticky jam spills right in the middle of the newly mopped kitchen floor. And it will also help you remember that your oxen will only be in your manger for a short while, and you will have a lifetime after to clean up the hay.

And so we have come to the end, our cup of coffee is nearly gone, our last sip is,

E – Encouragement in the Word…

I hope you have been encouraged by the Scriptures discussed this morning, our sips of COFFEE as we celebrate your sweet new baby's arrival. If there is one thing I remember clearly about the first days and weeks following the arrival of a new baby, it would be a lack of time in God’s Word. 

The sleeplessness of establishing a routine through the wee hours, the demands of other children still so full of energy and exuberance, the general day-to-day things like laundry and cooking and cleaning, can sometimes overwhelm the three minutes of quiet you find yourself with at 2:17 in the afternoon. 

So, I have a gift for you, inspired by Deuteronomy 6:6,9 which say, “And these words I command you today shall be on your heart. … You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” 

For those days when a quiet moment of solitude escapes you, I have made you a print with each of the main verses I have shared with you today, so you can post them in your most frequented locations, the bathroom, kitchen sink, laundry room, near the chair you will feed your little child in, etc. And in those moments, you will be able to look up and be encouraged by God’s Word.

(I will get the signs posted soon...)

Monday, November 26, 2012

The middle of our cup...

F – Follow Jesus…

Matthew 16:24 says, “Then Jesus told His disciples, ‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.’”

Do you ever feel like your cross as a mommy is covered with peanut butter and jelly, rice crispies, play dough and a few other unmentionables? We give so much of our time and energy to this missional task of mothering, that it is essential that we maintain our focus on the perfect example of truly sacrificial living, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sometimes I think about how Jesus dealt with the disciples and how it is not much different than the situations we face with our children. The disciples would bicker about who was better and more deserving of honor, and I don’t know about your house, but my children want to sit in their favorite seat in the car despite the tears and pleading of a sibling, not to mention that last or largest piece of cake!

Jesus would also have to remind the disciples repeatedly of things He had already told them, which is exactly what we do with our children when we have “the talk” before we get out of the car to go into the grocery store and remembering that one time we didn’t have “the talk” and how we regretted it because the children acted like they had never been in public before.

In the garden, Jesus asked his friends to do one thing for Him, stay awake and pray, but they did the opposite, just like our children as they “but I just (insert excuse here)” instead of doing whatever was requested of them. And yet, each time as Jesus corrected the disciples, exhorted them, or redirected them, Jesus did so with love and mercy, with a genuine concern for their souls.

I must admit that this is where I find myself falling short. Every time I forget that James tells me to “count it all joy”, when I stop “giving thanks in all circumstances” and when I take my eyes off of Jesus and lay down my cross, my concern shifts to that of my desires – for order, to be appreciated, or simply to go potty all by myself – my concern is no longer for the heart condition of those around me, but simply my own ease. But when I put my eyes back on Jesus, when I take up the cross He has chosen for me, and I reorient my thoughts to His will, the joy of my salvation returns.   

One thing that has blessed me significantly as I have been mommying these last 10+ years is also our next little sip… 

F – Fellowship with the Church…

Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds us, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

What I love about the Church is that God’s people come together to share life and hold each other accountable to the Word of God and righteous living. I am always so thankful when a friend is willing to lovingly come beside me and say, “Hey, friend, I noticed the tone you used with your child earlier, it seemed like you could have been more kind” or when I get that call with what seems like devastating news, I have sisters who will cry with me, but also who will remind me of the truth of God, and of His plans for me. Being together with our church family also provides opportunities for others to pour into the lives of our children and family.

Of course, there are seasons when we are kept from the assembling together in person. The weeks and weeks with children passing a cold, or fever or tummy bug. The exciting time ahead, as your new baby arrives and you spend some time recovering from the delivery. Those are times when you can remember the fellowship in your prayers and look eagerly towards future fellowship.

Our annual Thanksgiving trip...

We just returned from our 3rd annual Thanksgiving camping trip. This year's destination was changed at the very last moment (like the day before), but I am so glad it was! We ended up spending five days and four nights at Choke Canyon State Park. We enjoyed the time together, away from our normal routine. God displayed His masterful handiwork all over the place and we enjoyed observing the works of His hands as we went on bird walks and nature hikes. Here are a few of the over 1,400 photos I took this trip...

The Green Jay, the bird to see at Choke Canyon State Park (and a year round resident). We spent days and days hearing these birds calling to one another, then observing them swoop past over head, only to disappear with no chance at a photo. The only time these birds would stay in view long enough for a photo, I didn't have my camera! This one Faith and I followed around for about twenty minutes as he flew between three trees in a parking lot while the rest of the kids played basketball.
This is a Blue Gray Gnatcatcher. He is a fast little bird who doesn't stay in one place very long... we followed him between three trees for a solid ten minutes before he finally stopped for a break and a photo shoot!

The Great Kiskadee - a new Life List bird for all of us, and an unusual find at Choke Canyon. At first we thought it was another Green Jay (from the bright yellow belly), but when we got it in the binoculars we knew it was something new!
True birders... last thing they wanted to do each day, first thing they wanted to do when they woke up, even skipping breakfast on the last day of the trip for an early morning hike (we ate when we got back).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Kids contemplating...

I helped Noah put together his comic strip earlier today, and he was elated. After I printed it out for him, I heard him discussing with his sister some big plans. Before long they shared their plans with me. They call it "The Tuesday Times". They are starting a newspaper. They are asking for their friends to contribute articles, artwork, stories, jokes, poems. They hope to publish every 1st and 3rd Tuesday (by 10am).

I am excited that they will be productively busy. I think it will be a wonderful exercise in diligence to meet (self-made) deadlines. And I am really excited to see how they pull it all together. (I plan on helping them on the computer end of things.) I think it will be a really fun endeavor that will unite them around a common goal. And I can't wait to see what kind of stories they tell!

I wonder if they will allow any parent submissions...

The adventure begins...

Noah and a couple of friends are building a LEGO adventure story, one brick at a time...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The "O"...

A key to cultivating the kind of joy that James (as well as Paul) encourages us to attain to, the joy that supersedes circumstances, is our attitude, and that is what we will consider now, the “O” in our little cup of COFFEE.

O – Offer thanksgiving and praise…

In 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18 we are reminded to, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Cultivating a joyful attitude is directly related to our understanding of how God works in our lives. We must be depending on God’s Sovereignty alone, trusting in His faithfulness and goodness towards us. 

Many of us can quote Romans 8:28 without batting an eye, but it is verse 29 which gives us the proper perspective for what “good” we are to be anticipating. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order than He might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:28-29)

What does this look like as a Mom? How does Romans 8:28-29 and 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18 shape my attitude in the mundaneness of everyday mommying? Well, let’s consider that mysterious hallway fluid. If I have learned anything in my decade of parenting, it is that the discovery of an odd or unknown substance never occurs during a point in my day that is convenient.

And if I have been dwelling on God’s Word, remembering that I am called to “rejoice always” and “give thanks in all circumstances” and remembering that “all things work together for good” my response looks quite different than when I have been neglecting to meditate on God’s Word.

In fact, when I am not being reminded of the goodness and grace of the Lord, my response will likely be sinful. But when I am content in my circumstances and resting in the joy of the Lord, and spending regular time in Bible study, I will be more gentle with my answer and more tender toward my children. I may even be able to laugh at the situation and consider that this may be a sign that I needed to mop my floor.

The joy of the Lord comes when we learn to look at each situation how God does. We can thank Him in the midst of the storm because we know who God is and we trust His Word when He says He will take care of us. We grow in joy when we allow all situations, whether trivial, like my puddle in the hallway, or more serious, to prompt us to prayer and thanksgiving instead of turning our hearts to grumbling and complaining.