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...)