My Fab Fam

My Fab Fam
Photo by Thousand Hills Photography. Click on photo to visit their site.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Accidental Yumminess

So I made a pot roast yesterday and it was accidentally good.  My man started it and I finished it (and there's a whole other story behind that!), so there was no rhyme or reason to the recipe, but I really liked the flavor.  He rubbed it with steak seasoning; I covered it in flour and seared it in lots of butter.  Put it in a roasting pan, surrounded with potatoes, carrots, and onions, then doused it with Worcestershire sauce and topped it with a couple of pressed garlic cloves.  Baked at 350 for a couple of hours, till it temped at 160 degrees.

But that's not the accidental yumminess I wanted to write about.

Today I was going to make beef stew from the left-overs but I didn't have anymore onions (which is a critical ingredient in my opinion).  So, I was trying to figure out what I could do quickly (for lunch, after church) with my left-overs.  I had very little beef and even fewer onions in my left-overs, but I had a good thick broth--really gravy-- and lots of potatoes and carrots left-over.  And I had egg noodles.  Beef stroganoff?  I had never made it, but I figured I could use the noodles and gravy to come up with something close to stroganoff.  And I googled it.

Every recipe called for seasonings I didn't have, or a lot of onions, or...cream of mushroom soup.  BLAH!

So, as usual, I improvised...

3 Tbs butter into a hot pan...
about a cup of gravy and the few bits of meat and onions from the left-overs, thrown in...
a jar of mushrooms, drained and rinsed and thrown in...
since i was out of onions, i added onion powder and garlic powder...
brought to a boil then reduced...
added about a half cup of sour cream...
meanwhile, boiled the noodles...
drained noodles and added to the gravy/mushroom/cream sauce...
served up with a side of carrots...


Easy yumminess.  This is my new routine from now on:  pot roast, stroganoff, then soup/stew.  Seriously, who knew this stuff could be good?

Oh!  the background story on the roast?  well, i put the girls down for a nap yesterday at one.  at two, baby girl still was not asleep and big girl was already waking up.  sent big girl out to play in living room, lay down beside baby girl, thinking if she could play with my hair, she would drift off.  about two-thirty, sent text to my man telling him i was starting to stress.  we had company coming at three and i still had not showered, the girls needed baths, and the roast needed to go in the oven.

my man.  he cut short his task of organizing the garage to come in and help.  i asked him (via text from the bedroom) to cut the pots and onions.  he went above and beyond my request and seasoned the meat and added the carrots.  you know my control issues, right?  i was lying in that bed thinking i needed to get out of there before he did something crazy like season the meat.  because i had a new recipe i wanted to try.  well, i came out to find the meat seasoned and instead of being grateful for his help, i was like, "i had a new recipe i was going to try!!!!"  with attitude.

why in the world i didn't just let him do his thing, i don't know.  he's a better cook than i am and had i left him to his own devices, the roast prob would have been much better than it was.  but as it turned out, it was still good...our own creation produced by our collaborative, if not cooperative, effort.  

and i apologized later about my lack of gratitude.  and he was gracious, as he always is, to forgive me.  here's hoping next time i can just be grateful FIRST so no apologies are needed later.


Attitude of Gratitude:

139. forgiveness
140. a man who can cook
141. help with the dishes
142. God's gift of creativity--may our taste buds never be bored  =)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Again Soon...


My big girl asked me if it would be Christmas again soon.

"Well, it's kind of always Christmas."

She gasped, "It is?!"

"Yes.  What is Christmas?"

"Jesus' birthday!"  Everything was said with exclamation points.  She was feeling very animated and silly when we were having this conversation.  I don't want you to think these convos are always serious and calm.  Hardly ever.

"Yes, when Jesus came to be with us.  Do you know what Emmanuel means?"


"Well, means Jesus is with us.  God is with us.  And Jesus is God, so when Jesus was born, God came to be with us.  God with us."

She is doing somersaults on the couch, "Emmanuel!"

"And if we believe in Jesus, God is with us all the time; so, it's like Christmas all the time."

And she flipped into my lap with laughter.  And I wonder, as I always do, how much is she absorbing?  And I trust His promise that as the rains fall from heaven and do not return there without accomplishing the purpose for which they are sent, so is His Word.

As always, the lesson is really for me.  I've wondered all day, with a little sorrow, when we will take down our tree and Christmas decorations.  I love the extra light the tree gives and the cozy feeling of all the decorations.  When they come down, everything feels so empty.  But I know within the next couple of days they will be gone.

I've heard Christmas described recently as a time when all humanity seems to be generous and compassionate.  I think that is why I don't like taking the decorations down; it seems like the finale to the season of so much goodness.

But...Emmanuel!  God is with us!  So perhaps I should act like it all year, not just in December.

A friend of mine sent me a text this morning.  Her family, too, had been trying to do random acts of kindness for Christmas.  Here's what she said:

I am prayerful that we can keep up our random acts of kindness even thought Christmas is "over."  It just felt right.


God came to us.  Christmas.  Now He is with us.  Emmanuel.  We show Him to others by passing on what He's given to us.  Kindness.  Or that awesome grace cycle I've mentioned before.

I'm thankful the new year follows right on the heels of Christmas.  It is a great time to start new traditions.  How about incorporating regular acts of kindness into our routine?

I read this quote from Samaritan's Purse today:  "When you seek happiness for others you find it for yourself."

New Year's Resolution:  Seek to make others happy through random (and anonymous when possible) acts of kindness.

Here's hoping you have a very HAPPY new year as you celebrate Christmas all year long, remembering Emmanuel--God with us--and keeping the spirit of compassion and generosity alive through random acts of kindness!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, patience, KINDNESS, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  --Galatians 5:22-23  (emphasis mine)


Here are some random acts of kindness I've recently heard about to get your mind turning.  Have oh so much fun!

1.  piling up the shopping carts and pushing them inside the store; some employee will be grateful.
2.  filling the teller's box at the bank drive thru with goodies (such as candy canes for Christmas)
3.  leaving a surprise in your mailbox for the mail person (my friend left a hand scrub, which was very thoughtful since mail deliverers have to handle so much paper and their hands prob get very dry)
4.  leaving a surprise on your trash can for the men who pick up your trash
5.  put a stack of cards on your counter and try to think of one person every day who could use a note of encouragement
6.  pay the bill of the person behind you in a drive-thru
7.  deliver flowers to someone who's home-bound
8.  have your kiddos gather up some of their drawings/painting/crafts and take them to a local nursing home to give to the residents
9.  donate new or gently used items to a local distribution center; and by this, i mean give sacrificially, not just the old stuff you don't want or ever use, but items you may not use frequently and someone else could benefit from having them.
10.  volunteer at a local ministry or outreach
11.  help someone with yard work or other chore they aren't able to do, but you can!
12.  hold a door
13.  let someone go in front of you (at the grocery check-out, on the road, etc...)
14.  buy a pack of gum for the person at the register (don't do this at wal-mart; they can't accept anything from customers, as my friend recently discovered)
15.  leave a gift card with the barista at Starbucks for the next person that comes in (sorry, but this one just didn't give me the same warm fuzzy feeling if i didn't mention that it had to be Starbucks.)
16.  thank your police and fire men (desserts are always a hit!)
17.  pick up trash (this can be a simple as-you-go kind of habit, picking up whatever lies in your path from your car to the store, or as you're out on a walk in your neighborhood, or on the floor of a restaurant, or...
18.  visit your local animal shelter and walk a dog
19.  leave an extra-large tip and note of encouragement for your restaurant server
20.  give a bag of canned food to a food bank
21.  double a recipe and share with a neighbor
22.  introduce yourself to a neighbor you haven't met
23.  shovel snow for someone

And if you're able to dish out a bit of money...

24.  sponsor a child (i highly recommend Compassion)
25.  buy goats, chickens, blankets, or mosquito nets to help a family living in poverty (visit

And that's just 25 grains of sand on the vast beaches of humanity.

For more ideas...

Oh!  And I just thought of one more...a biggy...offer to babysit for a momma who desperately needs a day or night out.  Those sleepless infant nights wear on a body.


Attitude of Gratitude

134.  three blankets and a fleece jacket when the sickies makes us cold
135.  hearing my girls say, "let's play nice."
136.  seeing them hug in penitence and forgiveness
137.  baby girl-isms, the latest being "compooter" ("oo" as in "boot")
138.  my 3 yr-old and 4 yr-old's performance of "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer," "Away in a Manger," "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," "Jingle Bells," and, "O, Christmas Tree" while ringing the reindeer door hanger like a tambourine, pretending to ride a sleigh, and (re)decorating the tree during the appropriate songs
138. for my man, who, knowing i am sick, slips his arms around my waist, hugs me, tells me to go sit down, and makes me some tea (otherwise, you wouldn't be reading this post)

For more on "Attitude of Gratitude," see this post.

Monday, December 24, 2012

On the Eve of The Birthday

I need Jesus to enter my world.

We have had a great advent.  Each day we have tried to find something we could do for someone.  Each day we have read a verse about one of the many names of Christ.  We have certainly had days we have forgotten to do one, or both, especially these last few days when we were out of town visiting my family.  But, all in all, the anticipation of the birthday of our Christ has been building all month.  I have never had a Christmas season quite like this one.  Slow, peaceful, focused.

And still, still I can trip so easily.  Five days of being out of our normal routine has left us all exhausted.  Amid me saying things like, "If I have to tell you again, you will be in trouble," and, "Girls, you will go straight to bed if I hear you scream at your sister again," we pull our last advent presents out to unwrap.

We sit down on the couch, open the gifts, and read the Name and the verse.  And in our frustration and our mad and our tired, He comes.  With each Name and each Scripture, the door of my heart is cracked open a bit more and He enters...


Light of the World...

I Am...

Prince of Peace.

And I need redemption and peace and light and the Great I Am for all that I am not.

We pray and we ask God to give us rest and prepare our hearts for the celebration of His birth.  And when we finish praying, my big girl squeals, "Tomorrow we get to open the star!"

We have been following our own star to the Christ child.  And tomorrow morning we arrive.  We get to open our last present.  And I know something she does not yet know.  I know the Name we will unwrap.  I know Who is waiting beneath our tree, inside the star we have been eyeing for 24 days.

Messiah (OT)

Christ (NT)

Anointed One (the meaning of both "Messiah" and "Christ")

This is the One the Old Testament prophesied.  This is the One the New Testament proclaimed.  This is the One Who was, and is, and is to come.  He came into our world as a babe.  He is in our world through His Holy Spirit.  And one day He will come again with a trumpet call for those of us who have made room in our hearts for Him.

I have thought about this all week or longer.  Why this advent has been so different.  I made room.  I usually forget what, or WHO, I am anticipating.  I get caught up in the parties and presents and decorations.  And forget the One they are for.

Happy birthday, Jesus.
I'm so glad it's Christmas.
All the tinsel and lights
And the presents are nice,
But the real gift is You.

Usually my advent days are so busy that I forget the real gift.  So busy that I leave little or no room for Him.  No room in the inn.

So, instead of peace I feel chaos.  Instead of joy I feel frustrated.

But this year we found some peace as we scratched things off our to-do list.  Not because they were done, but because we decided we wouldn't do them.  We found some joy in opening the real gift of Christmas as we unwrapped Christ.  We attempted to focus on the Prince of Peace.  Peace.  I missed it sometimes, but I felt it often.  And tomorrow I pray I will be looking for it, for Him, and hold onto that peace all day.  Because He came!  He is here!  And I'm so very thankful because I need Him.

As we celebrate the birth of our Messiah, the great Light who entered darkness about two thousand years ago, may we remember that He comes into our world even now.  He enters, even in the dark, the mad, the hurt, the sorrow, the shame.  And we behold a great Light!  He shatters the yoke that burdens...and we rejoice!  (Isaiah 9)

Joy to the world!  The Lord is come!  
Let earth receive her king!  
Let every heart prepare Him room...
And heaven and nature sing!
And heaven and nature sing!
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing!!!


For more on our advent activity, see this post.


126.  Christmas music that kept me awake on the drive to my family's
127.  safe drive to my family's
128.  game nights with the family
129.  heart-to-hearts with the family
130.  snow flurries
131.  turtle cookies
132.  my favorite present which is now hanging on the door handle of my oven...

...even if you don't know the story behind this, it is funny.  And the story behind it is funny!  I was a waitress at Cracker Barrel in college.  I worked with a guy named Mike who was a drag queen.  He even served in thick-heeled shoes.  Ouch.  And he twisted when he walked.  When he would bring up hot biscuits from the back of the kitchen to the warming drawer at the front of the kitchen, he would balance the pan high above his skinny six-foot frame on one hand, pose his other hand out to the side, twist, and shout, "Hot stuff coming through!  ...and biscuits too!"  My sister and I have had MUCH fun with this over the years.  She thinks up the best gifts.  This is a permanent fixture in my kitchen now!

133.  laughter (even if it's slightly inappropriate) over good memories

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Recipes

My family of four will be celebrating Christmas with my family of 36.  My five siblings, their spouses & kids, my siblings' kids' spouses and their kids makes for a big gathering.  It's crazy chaotic coziness.  If that's possibly imaginable.  For those of you with a big fam, you know what I mean.

So, I will be at my momma's cooking up the dishes I'm contributing to our CCCCC (crazy chaotic cozy Christmas celebration).  Each sub family (my sibling's families) of the bigger family (my parents's family) brings a dish or two.  Since live away and I don't want to carry cookbooks with me, I thought I would just type up the recipes here and then use this wonderful gift of the internet to pull them up there.  And, some of you just might be looking for a new fam fave this Christmas. 

Green Bean Bundles
(Thank you to my church friend, Missy, for introducing me to these!)

3 cans whole green beans
strips of bacon, cut in half
1 medium onion, sliced and separated into rings
1/3 c. brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
pepper to taste
1/4 c. butter, melted

Drain beans.  
Wrap a handful of bean in an onion strip; wrap with bacon strip around onion; secure with toothpick.
Place bundles side by side on a baking dish.
Sprinkle with sugar, garlic, and pepper.  I don't measure, just have fun with it.
Drizzle with butter.
Bake for 35-45 mins at 350.

Very important sidenote...don't use colored toothpicks.  It is not pretty.  Yeah.

Apple Crunch Cake
(Thank you to my good friend, Jayme, for introducing me to this just in time for Christmas!)

(2) 20 oz cans of apple pie filling
(1) 18 oz yellow cake mix
ground cinnamon
2 sticks of butter, melted

Spread pie filling into the bottom of a 9x13 pan.  
Sprinkle cake mix over pie filling.  
Spread out with spoon.  It's semi-important that the cake mix is spread evenly.
Sprinkle cinnamon over cake mix.  
Pour butter over all.  
Bake at 350 for approximately 1 hr, or until brown and bubbly.
Serve warm with ice cream.  


Only slightly important side friend sprinkled chopped walnuts on hers before baking.  We all know how I feel about nuts in my she left them off my part!  Good friend.  Nuts by themselves, yum!  Nuts in food, blah!  So, if you want to make blah! apple crunch cake, be my guest.  As for me and my household, we will serve the yum! version.  =)


Attitude of Gratitude

116. rain drizzle
117. steam from my coffee
118. the way baby girl says, "cyclables" (recyclable)
119. anticipation of caroling
120. traced hands
121.smell of home-made bread
122. the look of surprise on gift recipients' faces
123. my man's wooden boxes
124. when we all sleep in
125. good doctor reports

For more on "Attitude of Gratitude," see this post:

Just Perpetually Tired

Monday, December 17, 2012

And Still There's Grace

The world hurts.  Parents grieving.  Homes left with large holes.  And I hold my babies tighter.  Kiss them more.  Hug them often.

I don't watch the news.  Ever.  My man comes home and friends come over.  They tell us their son called to tell them he loved them.  My man asks if I know.  I know.  A short stint on Facebook told me of parents' loss hundreds of miles away.  I cried and got up and went to the kitchen.  I busied myself with cooking.  Hours of cooking.  And now, the cooking is done and our friends are here and my man says what I've said so many times.  What kind of world will our girls live in?

Somehow we change the subject and eat.  And the girls only eat spinach dip, then beg for a lollipop.  Beg, and beg, and beg.  Our friends laugh and we give them the coveted lollipops as big as their heads.  And their heads and hands are covered in sticky.  I wash and smile.  Have I ever smiled at sticky?  And we move to the living room.  And the girls wrestle in the floor.  They scream and giggle and we can't hear our conversation.  I ask them to be quiet, but I'm glad they are here to make noise.  Our friends read them books and we drink coffee and eat pumpkin cupcakes.  The girls spread a blanket on the floor and cover it in pumpkin crumbles.  And I'm glad they make a mess for me to wash.

And we sleep and rise and play.  And more friends come.  The men and kids are in the living room, talking, playing.  She and I warm left-overs and make apple dessert.  And we nearly cry.  And I admit that I have tried not to think.  I've prayed.  I've cried, but not what I feel is enough tears.  I've asked God why.   I am certain He has given me peace.  Without it I'd do something rash, like home-school, I say.  Rash for me, because it would be pure reactionary.  Sure, it crossed my mind.  It was the very fist thought after the initial shock and grief.  But He sent peace.

And we sleep and rise and get ready for church.  And I join twelve fifth and sixth graders to study the one who cried, "Prepare the way of the Lord!"  We pray for those grieving families and friends.  And we pray for these kids, right here, who are scared.  Their faces show it.  No words.  Just blank stares.  We pray.  And now I feel the tears coming, but somehow I get the words out instead.  And I feel the burden of protecting these kids and being strong for them.  And we go through the lesson, quietly.  And they leave, me wishing them a good week, praying for them later as I fold laundry.

And we sleep and rise and read His Word.  My mom calls.  And she says something I have been feeling.  I'm not sad for the kids who are gone.  They are safe, comfortable, happy.  Face to face with pure Love.  Grace has spared them from anymore pain in this world.  Yes, still there's grace.

I'm sad for their friends, for the ones who witnessed such horror, for their families who wanted to run to their children, but were held back so others could investigate.  I'm sad for the children everywhere who are scared to go back to school.  I'm sad for the teachers that have been so harshly reminded of their grave responsibility.

And I'm sad for parents, like me; we have to let our children go.  To go out into a world that seems very dark.  But we don't release them into darkness.  We release them into the mighty, capable hands of Love.  We release them as we hang on tight to faith, faith that He Who Is Love will do what is best.  Always.  Even while He allows free-will, He is good.  We don't see the whole picture now, but we know it is good.  We don't understand because His ways are not our ways, but higher than our ways.  His thoughts are not our thoughts, but higher than our thoughts.  And we can trust.  Never will He leave us or forsake us.

And my prayer is two-fold.  For God to draw people close to Him, for people to turn to Him, to know Him for salvation, to know Him intimately, to know His Love, His peace, His Joy.  And for comfort to come to them as they realize the grace that comes through death.  The light that came from such darkness. The joy that came from such sorrow.  Because twenty children are dancing in the Light, on bright streets of gold.  And because, Jesus comes in the darkness, especially in the darkness.


Dear Jesus,

It’s a good thing you were born at night. This world sure seems dark. I have a good eye for silver linings. But they seem dimmer lately.

These killings, Lord. These children, Lord. Innocence violated. Raw evil demonstrated.

The whole world seems on edge. Trigger-happy. Ticked off. We hear threats of chemical weapons and nuclear bombs. Are we one
button-push away from annihilation?

Your world seems a bit darker this Christmas. But you were born in the dark, right? You came at night. The shepherds were nightshift workers. The Wise Men followed a star. Your first cries were heard in the shadows. To see your face, Mary and Joseph needed a candle flame. It was dark. Dark with Herod’s jealousy. Dark with Roman oppression. Dark with poverty. Dark with violence.

Herod went on a rampage, killing babies. Joseph took you and your mom into Egypt. You were an immigrant before you were a Nazarene.

Oh, Lord Jesus, you entered the dark world of your day. Won’t you enter ours? We are weary of bloodshed. We, like the wise men, are looking for a star. We, like the shepherds, are kneeling at a manger.

This Christmas, we ask you, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.


Your Children

© 2012 Max Lucado

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cascading Grace

This from Max Lucado:

"Cascading Grace"

"It was supposed to have been a day of dreams coming true! But across town, Jack Autry was in a hospital, struggling to stay alive. Chrysalis and the women in her family found the perfect bridal gown in Amy Wells’ shop. One Jack might never see. Because of his cancer, he couldn’t come to see his daughter try on her dress. And because of medical bills, the family couldn’t buy the dress yet for him to see.

"Amy, the wedding shop owner said, 'God clearly spoke to me.' She told Chrysalis, 'Take the gown and veil right now to the hospital and wear it for your daddy.' Jack couldn’t believe how beautiful Chrysalis looked! Three days later Jack died.

"Amy’s generosity created a moment of cascading grace. God to Amy to Chrysalis to Jack. Isn’t this how God works? He doesn’t just love; he 'lavishes us with love!' His grace 'exceedingly abundant'—'indescribable!'

“'Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.' Ephesians 3:20-21″


I witnessed this phenomenon today...

Preschoolers singing songs for Jesus' birthday. Teachers pouring grace out on the kids as they teach them the songs. Kids pouring grace out on their families as they sing for us.

But the Grace cycle began long before the teachers. You see, the preschool is non-profit, supported by a church. Grace is poured out on the preschool staff by the congregation that supports them physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially... The congregation receives grace from family and friends, employment and gifts. Employers receive grace from their customers and clients and partners. And they receive it from...

On and on the grace flows. From you to me and me to you and us to others and others to us! We are all tributaries flowing along the dirt and rocks, splitting apart to reach dry lands, flowing back together to receive nourishment and energy, and running on until we all reunite in an ocean of Grace. Grace that runs deep. Grace that mysteriously moves through the depths of this earth and invisibly moves through the vaporous air to circulate right back to the heights of the mountains, from whence it flows down again. Pouring out from an invisible-yet-tangible Powerful Source, cascading down through innumerable recipients, and rising like incense back to the Source. Pouring, cascading, rising. This is the mysterious, wondrous, amazing cycle in which we find ourselves, recipients and givers (givers unaware) of lavish grace.

Isn't it wonderful to imagine that an all-powerful and capable God chooses to use us?  Even today!


Ephesians is one of my very favorite books of the Bible.  I particularly love the first chapter, a portion of which I memorized and, while doing so, God opened my eyes to some depths of His grace.

"In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that He lavished on us.  With all wisdom and understanding...."  (Eph 1:7)

Everything He's done for us has been done with all wisdom and understanding...of what we would be like, how we would fail Him, how we would forget Him and neglect Him.  Still, with full wisdom of what we would do and not do, He chose us.  With full understanding, He made us.  Knowing in advance how we would stumble, He lavished love and grace on us.  And lavishes still.  And then He does something miraculous; He pours His grace right through us like a sieve, pouring in us and splashing right out on everything around us.  All the while the sprinkles from others' sieves are splashing on us!  Oh, His unfathomable goodness.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Light Post in This Season of Light

Just a few warm, happy thoughts today...

My baby, ahem, I mean BIG girl is going to be in her first ever Christmas program tomorrow.  I'm smiling, laughing, and crying all at the same time!  How did she get so big so fast?  I can hardly wait to sit there and watch her and her little friends sing, "Happy Birthday, Jesus."  And, we are so extremely blessed to have some dear family and special friends who have promised to be there to watch her too.  A little sad that my own family lives too far away to be here.  And of course no one can take their place, but I can not tell you how much it means to me that friends love us enough to take time out of their day to come see our sweet girl sing for Jesus.  The wonder of the cross that draws people together into "family."

On a funny note, we were on our way to church yesterday morning and, as usual, were running late.  Ugh.  It does not matter how early I get up on Sunday morning--be it 5, 6, 7, or 8--we are always 5-10 minutes late. Why?!?!  Anyway, I stated the obvious, "We are going to be late AGAIN!"  And big girl says, "Have we ever been on time?"  My man and I laughed so hard.

Speaking of time, I sense I will not be spending much time on here for the next few weeks.  Our Christmas activities are gearing up...lots of bread-baking and breaking (meals with friends), caroling, preschool program and party, long-overdue play dates (which are hard to schedule while school is in session, so we're soaking up friend time during the break), some exciting volunteer activities, trips to see family, and...birthdays!

Yes, baby girl turns three in eleven days.  Three!  And, in less than a month, big girl turns 5!  Ack!  She will start kindergarten next year!

We are planning to do something out of the ordinary for their birthdays this year...less gift-like and more like a memory-making activity.  For example, big girl has been asking to go ice skating, or design her own bear at Build-A-Bear girl always wants to ride a, we may just visit a mall and let them both build a bear and ride a carousel...or go ice skating...or do for each birthday.  I don't know!  We're still in the brainstorming/budgeting stage.  But whatever we do, it will be fun!

And, here's some more "fun" for you...

Making cookies with Granny!

She put on a "Bethlehem" show for me.

Picnic in December?  Well, yes; if it's 70, we disregard the month.

We finally had bread success!  We'll get this thing down yet!


Hope you're finding lots of joy in this season of expectation!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

As Much as You Want--For Advent and Ever

"We can always have as much of God as we want."
      --Ann Voskamp

It is dim.  Rain is falling.  Belly full of home-made bread and spiced cider.  A warm blanket.  Legs curled under.  Soft, warm tree lights remind me of the only Light.

And I know why we decorate for His birthday with light.  It's our reminder that there is never darkness where there is the tiniest bit of light.  Even on a winter's night, when the sun is gone by 4:30.  Even when the rain hides the remnants of sunlight.  Even when there isn't another light on in the house.  There is light here with this tree for His birthday, these little bulbs making the room cozy and warming my soul...causing my mind to wonder at their brightness and my eyes to fixate on their appeal.

And our advent activity reminds us that Jesus comes as the Light.

Light enters the darkness and swallows it up.  Majesty clothes itself in humanity and "humanity is overcome by Majesty."  Nails pierce Glory and Glory pierces a messy, hurting world.  "The hurt and the Healer collide."  The Healer dies, the hurt dies, and even I must die.  But the Healer rises...and I'm alive!  (1)

Still, there has been a slaying.  "And the part of me that died, as painful as it was, needed to."  Selfishness, pride, insecurity...the hurt remains in the grave.  "And when it tires to resurrect it's ugly, deformed, decayed head, I remind it that it is dead, lest it need another killing.  Because I don't want another killing."  (2)

A slaying.  And, in His not-as-it-seems world, a life redeemed.  A death.  And a life abundant!  All things new--that is life in the Light.  And He gets glory.  All the glory.

And it's no longer a tiny light from the tree piercing the darkness.  It is radiant, blinding light stamping out the darkness.  As the mountains surround a valley, so the Light surrounds His people, keeping back the darkness.

And we worship Him because He has done great things for us and we are filled with joy!

We want Him because His piercing presence fills our every longing.  So we turn to Him sooner, more often, with anticipation.  And we keep wanting more and He keeps filling more.  Poured out like a waterfall, filling our hearts, overflowing, and washing them clean.  Love poured out, falling down, drenching.  Forgiveness poured out.  Confidence.  Joy.  Strength.  Peace.  Ability to overcome.  What we need.  We want, we ask, we seek, we receive...until we come face to face with the Light.  And we want no more.

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel, our God with us.  And ransom captives that mourn in lonely exile here until our Light appears.  O come and free us from Satan's tyranny and give us victory over the grave.  Disperse the gloomy clouds of night and put death's dark shadows to flight...  (3)

Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel has come to us!


Attitude of Gratitude:

101.  covers
102.  apple juice
103.  cranberry juice
104.  cinnamon sticks
105.  cloves
106.  brown sugar
107.  mixing 102-106 together to get spiced cider!
108.  thankful to whomever thought up a Christmas tree as birthday decor
109.  tree lights
110.  Christmas movies that are about Christ
111.  comfy couch
112.  computer
113.  internet
114.  memory for all my memories (aka pictures)
115.  rain


(1)  Taken from "The Hurt and the Healer" by Mercy Me.  For more on Mercy Me, click here.

(2)  Taken from Beth Moore's post on Living Proof Ministries blog.  For more on Beth Moore, click here.  To visit the blog, click here.  To read Beth's post, quoted above, click here.

(3)  Adapted from "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

For the Least of These

This verse has been ringing in my head for a couple of days:

"Whatever you do for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you do for me" (--my paraphrase of Matthew 25:40).

I asked the girls yesterday if they would be willing to give gifts to Jesus this year instead of getting gifts on Christmas.  Their response was a resounding, "YES!"  Eyes lit up at the idea.  Oh, to be like a child.

We talked about the verse above and big girl said, "So, if we give presents to people that need them, we are giving gifts to Jesus?"  Yep, baby girl, that's what He says.  It's almost impossible to wrap our brain around, but it's true.

We had this discussion in our car right before going into Kroger and we immediately got to test their sincerity.  As soon as we walked in the store, both girls headed for a display of Christmas Cacti and said, "Can we get one?"  I said, as a question, "We can get one to give to someone else?"  They each wanted to take one to some people in the nursing home; so, I let them pick one each.  They later decided to give them to two people that we know (that aren't in need but we just wanted to bless).

We also bought a bunch of cards that we talked about giving to people--not just our friends and family, but people we usually overlook, like our mail lady and the men who pick up our trash and recyclables, the preschool janitor and our librarian...and on and on as God reveals them to us.

After discussing this with my man, we have decided this is good for us this year.  We already have a couple of stocking stuffers and one gift that we were going to let the girls share, but we just aren't going to buy anymore.  They'll still get gifts on Christmas morning, but just not their usual 3 gifts each.

I'm excited.  I'm excited because the girls are excited.  They have already been brainstorming ways we can give, and my man and I are brainstorming too.  And a lot of it won't require spending any money.  We just want to be helpful and generous this Christmas season.  And always.  I'm hoping this is a jump-start to a lifestyle of thinking of others' needs before our own needs and wants.

Lord, let it be.  Amen.


27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]”  (Luke 10)

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  (Matthew 25)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent Beauty and Chaos

Last night we began our advent activity.  
Yesterday was chaos.  
My kitchen table looked like this all day...

All four of us were involved in this project.  
The girls did surprisingly well spreading the paint around so there aren't huge globs on these little boxes, which I found super-cheap at Hobby Lobby, by the way.  
By super-cheap I mean 99 cents and 30% off!  
The star was a bit more, but I wanted one big box to open on Christmas morn as the culmination of our advent journey to the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One.

After painting, there was still a lot to do.  
I had already looked up the various names of Christ.  
They filled up four journal pages!  
And I only had 25 boxes.  
How to choose!  
Here are the ones I chose, after MUCH deliberating...

Messiah/Christ/Anointed One
Mighty God
I Am
Bread of Life
Living Water
Wonderful Counselor
Prince of Peace
Lamb of God
Faithful and True
High Priest
Man of Sorrows


Light of the World
The Word
Alpha and Omega
True Vine
Physician (Healer)

I wrote each of the names on a little piece of card stock in my scrap-booking stash.  
Below each name I wrote the verse (or verses) where that particular name was found, along with any notes that helped explain the name.  
For example:

Matthew 1:21
Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua which means "the Lord saves."

Looking up the verses and choosing which ones to put on the cards was probably the most time-consuming part of this whole process.  
But it was by far the most rewarding.  
I told my man that I felt pretty sure God wanted me to do this project primarily for my benefit.  
I learned a lot and loved the reminders of all that Christ is to me.

These little name cards went in the boxes...

Then, just for fun, I tied on a little ribbon...

Here they are under the tree, waiting to be opened...


Now for the truth.

First of all, I just finished all of this tonight, day two of advent.
We opened our first box last night during our regular Bible story time.
But the presents weren't under the tree then.
They were sitting on my kitchen table.
And only about 5 of them had names in them.
We only got them all under the tree tonight, after the girls were in bed.

So far, this has fallen a bit short of the picturesque family time I had envisioned.
The girls fight over which present to open.
Then they fight over who gets to open it!
Then they jump on the couch and crawl under our legs as we're reading the Scriptures and trying to talk about them.
Tonight we asked them, "What was the name we just discussed?"
Neither could answer.

After sending them to get their toothbrushes, I admitted my disappointment to my man.
"This isn't going quite as well as I imagined.
But I just pray that something I say sticks."
And as my man said, that's all we can do.

At least we will have these boxes for years to come, and we can hope for a more captive audience as they get older.

And, as someone said this week, all of life is a little messy, a little chaotic.
But all of it has beauty too.
May we choose to see it.

96.  Christmas lights
97.  Season of advent
98.  Little girls' laughter and silliness and energy
99.  Air conditioning in December
100.  Jennie Allen's study, Stuck