Friday, December 17, 2010

Advent Wreath



Our church has an advent wreath at Christmastime. The wreath consists of 4 taper candles (3 purple and 1 pink) and a white Christ candle in the center. (Our wreath is missing the white candle right now.)

The word "advent" means "coming". The during Advent, the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, we stop to remember that we are looking forward to the coming of Jesus to earth.
Over the years we have used several different Advent Devotionals, some kid-friendly, others a little challenging. One devotional that I have used the past several Christmases is Looking Forward to the Nativity. It isn't an "Advent" devotional that speaks directly to the meaning of each candle, but it is a great devotional that begins with creation, speaks of sin entering the world, and our need for a savior throughout the generations. Another book we have used is Christ in the Carols. It is a great devotional too that tells the meaning and the history of the various Christmas carols. I usually just read one devotional, and then use the other to sing carols with the family. (Courtney and I made the wreath many years ago from a wreath, picks, candle holders and ribbon. She picked out all the pieces as a 2 year old and we've been using it ever since!)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Stockings

Growing up we always opened Christmas stockings and gifts from Santa on Christmas morning. It was always something I looked forward in and as a child I believed in Santa.

When I got married and started having children I began to wonder how the whole "Santa" thing would be handled. I wanted Christmas to celebrate the birth of Christ and I wanted everything we did to point our children to the true meaning of Christmas. I loved the idea of hanging stockings by the fireplace and the fun of opening them on Christmas morning so we decided to do "Santa" a little differently.

I made stockings for each of the children reflecting some aspect of the birth of Christ, or his ministry here on earth. The stockings all held practical gifts (a new toothbrush, toothpaste, chap stick, a small toy, or a small Bible, or a Christmas book). The first stocking I made had a nativity scene with an angel and the word "noel". I stitched the patches on and then went around the fabric pieces with paint to keep them securely in place.
For the next stocking, I made it in blue (since it was for a boy) and put a star on it for the star the wise men followed and put a lion and a lamb on it. The lion and the lamb both point to Christ as Jesus is the "Lion of the Tribe of Judah" and the "Lamb of God".
For the third stocking I put on a cross to represent the reason for Christ coming to earth...to die on the cross for our sins. I also added a shepherd because Jesus is our "Good Shepherd".
For the fourth stocking I put a crown on it because Jesus is the "Prince of Peace". The patch on the bottom of the stocking has Jesus as a babe in the manger.
For the fifth stocking I put the three wise men at the top of the stocking and pictures to represent the gifts they brought to Jesus.
For the sixth stocking I put a cross with the lamb on the top patch, to once again represent Jesus as our sacrifice. At the bottom I put a picture of the cup and the bread to represent the Last Supper and Communion.
Now, the question is what will I put on the last stocking? Yes, my youngest has celebrated two Christmases without a stocking (well, at least one that is homemade). I'm not sure what to put on the stocking to continue to tell the story of Christ. Any ideas?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Ornaments



I love Christmas ornaments and decorating the tree! It is something I look forward to as soon as the tree emerges from the downstairs storage room.

When I was growing up our tree was adorned with wooden ornaments my mom had painted. We also hung the metal icicles that twirled and caught the lights from the tree. Our first Christmas we didn't have a tree, so we hung ornaments that Tom's mom had handed down to us from the railing in the hallway. It didn't quite meet my need to decorate!Once our children were born they each received a "baby's 1st Christmas ornament". After that, we continued with the "Hallmark" collection up to 5 years old. Once our children reached their 6th Christmas we let them choose their own ornaments...that is, until some very unusual ornaments were chosen.

I knew that I wanted their ornaments to go with them once they left the house...something for them to take with them to adorn their first Christmas tree, but I also wanted their ornaments to reflect what Christmas really means.
From then on, I began shopping for ornaments to give to my children at Christmas time (usually I would shop for ornaments the day after Christmas and find some great deals for the next year!) As I searched I would look for ornaments that would have a symbol of Christmas...a star, a nativity scene, a cross, etc).
I also bought them each a small Rubbermaid storage box to keep their ornaments in. Each year there is much anticipation once the boxes are in sight. It is such a delight to hear their excitement as they open up their box and dive into their ornaments. They love it and I enjoy hearing their memories from one Christmas to the next.

I also love that once they leave home, they will take the story of the true meaning of Christmas with them. Perhaps they will be able to share with a neighbor or a friend what their ornaments mean. And I hope that they will be able to begin to influence the next generation for Christ with something as simple as a Christmas ornament.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Jammies

One gift on Christmas Eve...

When Tom and I first got married we discovered that our ideas about Christmas and gift giving were different (big surprise!). My family always went to my Grandma's house on Christmas Eve. We always had potato soup for dinner, Grandma's special pies for dessert, and after all the dishes were washed, dry, and put away we would open Christmas presents. The only thing left on Christmas morning were stockings to open.

Tom's family did things quite different. They didn't open any presents on Christmas Eve. Everything was done on Christmas morning followed by a big Christmas dinner.

Well, we had to come to terms with our differences and to begin forming our own traditions. At first we celebrated with my family on Christmas Eve and his family on Christmas Day.

Once our daughter was born we started to do things a little differently. One family we knew told us they always opened one gift on Christmas Eve...a new pair of PJs. I loved the idea. We still could open up a gift, and everyone would have nice, clean jammies for pictures on Christmas morning.

The first several years all the jammies were very Christmas-looking. But as the years have progressed the PJs have started to be just new, not necessarily looking like Christmas. It is amazing how something so simple, is something that all the kids have looked forward to each year!

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Christmas Tradition? I Hope So...


A Wonderful Surprise


A year ago at Thanksgiving, we had a wonderful guest in our home. She was far away from family and couldn't make it home for the holiday, so we invited her to spend Thanksgiving with us. After a day full of fun, baking, and feasting, I went to bed tired but happy.

The next morning I awoke to a wonderful surprise. The Christmas tree was up in the living room. I assumed that my husband had taken it out and set out the kids' ornament boxes as a surprise. As I walked through the house however, I noticed things weren't just out...they were decorated! I knew that Tom wouldn't have done it...Christmas elves (in the form of three late night teenagers) had decorated as a gift. And what a wonderful gift it was!

This year I was hopeful that my elves would return. Our guest wasn't here this year, so I wasn't sure if two elves would do the job. As I walked out into the living room this morning I was thrilled to see that two elves had again visited...and this time, they made (and decorated Christmas cookies as well!)

The snow was falling outside too...so it feels like a white Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. What fun!

(I'm wondering whether once "elves" go to college if they still decorate, or if they pass on their decorating job to the younger "elves"!)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Puzzled

Have you ever tried to put something together without directions? I am usually pretty good at solving a puzzle. Today however, was a different story.

I went to church today to put together a puppet theater. It was constructed of PVC pipe, connectors, and a red & white tent top. I had seen the finished product, so I was confident I could easily reassemble the theater. I was so wrong!

I made a few critical mistakes:
  1. I didn't know that the theater was put together with 3 different sizes of PVC pipe. (They all looked the same at the start!)
  2. I didn't realize that when someone had taken it apart, some pieces were put back together with connectors that didn't belong to them.
  3. I didn't have the directions or blueprints.
  4. I didn't have the help from the one who put it together in the first place.
After working on it for quite awhile and becoming frustrated, a friend walked by and said, "You know, I think I saw the directions for that theater in another room. Would you like them?" Immediately I said, "YES!" She went and got the directions and I could easily see my mistakes. I now knew where the two longest pieces belonged. I saw that the structure for the tent top had been put together with the wrong length of pipe. I also saw where each of the connectors belonged. Within minutes the puppet theater was assembled and it looked exactly like I remembered it.

Isn't life so similar? We go through life knowing what we want or what we think life should be like. We try things on our own, determined we can figure it out and get the results we want. But it doesn't work that way. Trying to do life on our own is much like me trying to put together the puppet theater without the directions.

  1. God has designed each one of us uniquely. There is a purpose and a plan for your life and for mine. Trying to figure out life without understanding all the pieces is frustrating.
  2. There are some things in life that are not for my best. In trying to put my life together I may try to connect with some things that are not for my best. Just like the pieces that were put together by someone else, they don't belong.
  3. In order for life to be all that God intended, we need the blueprints or directions. God has given us His Word, the Bible. When we use that as a guide for our lives, it gives the direction we need to have a life with purpose and meaning.
  4. God is the designer and we need Him in our lives. Imagine how easy it would have been if the designer of the puppet stage had been with me. He could have shown me what each piece was meant for and put the stage together as it was designed. God wants to do that for you too. He designed you and knows you best. He wants to show you how much He loves you and wants to show you what is best for your life.
When my friend walked by and asked if I wanted the directions I could have said, "No thanks, I think I'll figure this out." But that would have been foolish. There were things I didn't understand about the design. The same is true about life. We need the One who designed life to be in our lives, giving us direction and the life that He has planned for us.

Are you tired of doing life your own way?

God designed you. He made you to be in relationship with Him. However, when we choose to do things our own way without God it is called sin and sin keeps us from God. In His plan, He made a way for us to be forgiven. That was through His Son Jesus, who came to earth to die in our place for all the wrong things we have done. Nothing we can do can get us to God. He made the one and only way through His Son.

Would you like God, who created you, to be in your life and give you the hope and help you need? It is really quite simple. It is seeing your need for God and asking Him to be a part of your life.

If you would like to have God in your life you can pray right now. You can pray something like this...
"Dear God, I am tired of trying to do life my own way. I need you in my life. I realize that you have made me and have a purpose for my life. I know that I have done many things that have kept me away from you. Please forgive me for all the wrong things I have done in my life. Thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die in my place on the cross. I receive you now as Lord and Savior. Please come into my life and make me the kind of person you want me to be."

If you prayed that prayer congratulations. God is now in your life! I'd love for you to comment below and I'd love to give you some tools to help you on your new life with God.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Birthday Whitney



Happy 6th Birthday Whitney!



Your life is truly a gift from God. When I look back at your life and the incredibly tough beginning you had as a newborn, I am reminded of the grace of God. Everything seemed so normal after you were born. We held you, prayed over you, and just enjoyed new little you. Many hours later, things took a drastic change... We learned words like "respiratory distress" that soon moved into "respiratory failure". You were transported to Children's Hospital where you were monitored closely for several weeks.




We camped out in the NICU waiting room for a week, and then took turns going to the hospital to be with you, and pray over you. We wanted to hold you but you were too sick. We could touch you and talk to you, but we wanted to bring you home. It was such a joy when you started getting better and stronger. I remember seeing your eyes for the first time in weeks! Several weeks later we finally got to take you home (attached to oxygen of course!) We had to learn how to walk through the house without tripping on your oxygen tube (and how to carry you upstairs without the tube getting tangled or caught on anything. We also kept your oxygen level monitored with your "ET" light.

You were such a happy baby...Even with all the trips back to Children's Hospital to monitor your heart and lungs. What a joy when we finally got the okay to remove the oxygen tube! Looking at you today, no one would ever know the trials you experienced during your first year of life. You are indeed a blessing! We love you!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Hidden Places of the Heart

A nearby campground was recently closed due to a hidden danger. Root rot, a fungus, was attacking healthy-looking fir trees. Trees that had weathered many storms were now a danger from something that most people would never see. Trees that once gave protection could now pose a threat to those who camped nearby. To keep people safe the trees would have to be cut down. The diseased trees would be eliminated, and not only those trees but also trees that were nearby because their roots were also entwined with the diseased trees.

As I read the article in the newspaper it struck me that homes today are in a very similar state. From the outside a home may look stable, but inside there could be something eating away at the heart and soul of the family. I have seen families that look "perfect" and later see a spouse walk away from the family. Not only does the immediate family feel the impact, but also families that are close to the one that has crumbled.

What causes such disease in our homes today? Is it pornography? Bitterness? Disappointment? Distractions? There are so many things that can be the start of a disease, but nothing is impossible to treat...unless, we harbor it in our hearts and cling on to the sin. The hidden places of our hearts is where the "root rot" can form and grow in secret and silence. We might fool others, or even ourselves, but we can never hide from God. In 1 Samuel 16:7b it says, "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

How can a person prevent root rot from growing in his or her life?

  • Keep short accounts with God. Make a regular habit of confessing your sins and asking God to search your heart. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24
  • Have a godly person in your life that your are totally transparent with. (Men to men and women to women).
  • Stay in the Word. "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Guitar Praise

One year at Pine Cove Family Camp the theme night was "What you want to be when you grow up". Caleb chose "Astare". Here is a picture of a future Pine Cove staffer!

video

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Summer Camp

On Sunday I had the joy of dropping off two of my boys at a summer camp. We have attended family camp for the past seven years, but with our move family camp was impossible.

Benjamin & Josiah were thrilled to be able to attend camp and I was excited that they could be in the same cabin. They are not only great brothers they are also great friends.

I'm glad I gave all the instructions to them before we left home. Once we got there we were busy with registration and meeting new people. When it was time for the rest of us to leave I barely got a hug from them. They were ready for camp!

I have been praying for them a lot this week and I can't wait to hear all about their adventures when I pick them up on Friday. Camp is a great time for them to grow up a little bit and a great time for me to let go a little bit more and trust them to the Father's care.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Birthday Scavenger Hunt

For Josiah's 10th Birthday I decided to have him hunt for his present. All he wanted for his birthday was a drum set. I found one at a yard sale one Saturday morning several weeks ago and I had all the parts hidden in the storage room. This is how it went...

Clue #1
You are such fun, such a real treat. We thought you'd like to search and find for something real neat...be careful where you look so you don't ruin the surprise...for your first visit you must look outside.
Clue #2
What is this for? What good are these? To find out why you must search in games please.
Clue #3
Whooaah! The surprise is growing, what is next...to find out more please check your floor.
Clue #4
This is where it will be but there is stuff missing...where should you look now? How about a towel?

Clue #5
Put it in the room with the rest of your stuff. Now I am tired, but we're not done yet. Maybe I should go on a ride, but I'll need something first, always wear a helmet, so your head won't burst.

Clue #6
On Saturday mornings someone's a sleepy head...it is such fun to wake the parents instead.
Clue #7
Time is a wasting, tomorrow is the 4th, there will be fireworks and loud clashing of course. We can't set off our own, but we have a great view. Hopefully the trees won't mind bending a few.

Clue #8
We are almost done, but don't give up hope. You'll find the rest with not even a joke. Where would you look for someone so sleepy? If you are the Dwarfs her name is Sleepy.
Clue #9
I hope you've had fun, we've had a great time. Happy Birthday dear Josiah, we'll hear from you in time!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Joy of a Lost Tooth


For two weeks Whitney has endured a loose tooth. It has wiggled. It has hurt. It has changed her eating habits, until...it fell out when she was sitting on the couch. What a surprise and what a joy! Now she looks forward to drinking through a straw through the hole where her tooth once was!

I don't usually find joy in the things that I lose...car keys, a child's shoe, etc. Those items bring frustration, not joy when they are lost.

There are other things however, that would bring great joy to lose...anger, a word spoke too harshly, a critical spirit. I have noticed these things are not easily lost, they must be uprooted and the soil replanted with the qualities that come from time in the word and time with God.

In Colossians 3:5 God tells us to "put to death, whatever belongs to your earthly nature" and then later in the chapter He tells us what to "put on"...

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly love, clothe yourselves with
compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Colossians 3:12-14

It takes time and intention to make these changes...I'm ready for a few things to be lost! How about you?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Letters & Ribbon


While Tom & Courtney have been in Guatemala, I've been busy getting creative! A few months ago I spray painted letters to put in Whitney's & MaryElise's room, but I never hung them up. I knew I wouldn't be able to get them all straight without Tom's help...then I had a brainstorm. I glued polka-dotted ribbon to the backs of the letters and staggered them on the wall. They look adorable and the girls love them too.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Father's Day Craft Idea

Tile Coasters

I saw this idea for a Father's Day Gift on the Frugal Family Fun Blog. She made coasters using tiles and tissue paper. I thought it was a great idea but decided to add pictures...because I love decorating with photos. So here is how we did it...

First, we gathered all the supplies:
  • tiles
  • Mod Podge
  • foam paint brushes
  • assorted colors of tissue paper cut into squares
  • family snapshots (I used wallet-sized photos that can easily fit on a tile. I ordered my photos through Wal-Mart and got 2 wallet-sized photo on one sheet)
  • wax paper (to put down on the table underneath the tiles)
  • sealer or glaze
  • felt protective circles for the back of the tile (to keep the tile from scratching surfaces)
Next, the children chose the pictures they wanted to use.The next step was to place a layer of mod podge on the tile, followed by a layer of tissue paper.After the tissue paper was placed on the tile and covered with another layer of mod podge the picture was placed on the tile and another layer of mod podge was added.


The finished product was beautiful!
We made enough coasters for Dad and both Grandpas!

The kids had lots of fun too!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mom, Shouldn't You Ask Me to Forgive You?

It had been a rough day. One of my kids had been disobedient and in trouble all day long. Another bad choice by this child caused me to unleash words that were supposed to be of correction, but they were spoken in anger. I was furious. Didn't he get it? In exasperation I walked out of the room. I don't know how he found the courage to do it...but he followed me into the next room.

His next words cut through the hardness of my heart, "Mom, shouldn't you ask me to forgive you?" Ouch. He was right. The words I had spoken were not out of love but out of frustration. They may have been justified but they were not righteous. I wanted to say, "You deserved it" but I couldn't. I had been wrong and I had been teaching my children that when they made a mistake and hurt someone else they needed to ask for forgiveness.

God brought me back to the cross at that very moment. As Jesus hung on the cross, dying for my sins and for yours, He said, "Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." Luke 23:34

I immediately got down on my knees and asked my son to forgive me. He quickly said yes and we hugged and then prayed together, with me asking God to forgive me for my harshness and asking him to help me be gentle and kind.

I am not perfect, nor will I ever be. But God is a loving parent who is gently teaching me, and so often it is through the eyes of my children.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

CollegeReady

Since Courtney is a junior in high school we have begun to look seriously at colleges and financial aid. But as a mom, one of my major concerns is for her heart to be ready to withstand the pressures of college. After investing 17 years of love, teaching, and prayer in her life I want to see her succeed...not just academically but to see her stand firm in her faith and make decisions that will help her to be all that God has intended for her to be.

I am so excited by CollegeReady. College Ready is a new resource by FamilyLife. It is a six
part video series that covers the following:
  • Vision
  • Empowering Friendships
  • Excelling Academically
  • Dating Right
  • Having Fun
  • Growing Spiritually

Check out the CollegeReady site and you can see a sample video from each of the six areas listed above. If you use this tool let me know the impact it has on your college-bound student! CollegeReady-Home

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