It's not quite a quiver full, but it's a start!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Start of a New Year!

Today is the end of 2011 and tomorrow begins 2012! God has been so good this year, not because everything in my life has always been good, but because God has always been there. To orchestrate every plan, to work it out for the good of His Kingdom even when it doesn't feel like it's for my own personal good, to bury me in His love and His grace even though it is the last thing I deserve and, sometimes, the last thing that I even want. To have a Heavenly Father who loves me enough to require greatness, who will bind my wounds no matter how painful and restore me to Him even when I try to turn away through my hurt. A God who became human to understand every single human emotion I face, and who did it all perfectly as an example to me. To have a God who sacrificed His very self to save me, a wretched sinner, because He still desires to be with me. For everything God has given me, even if I never received anything beyond my salvation, I owe Him my life.

I hope you were as encouraged in December as I was by the testimonies of others. The stories I was ale to share of trials, victory, and purpose. For the month of January I figured I would go the opposite direction and focus on myself. Although, I would never want to go back, and I'm definitely not one of those people who says "I wouldn't do anything differently" because, trust me, there's a lot that I would do differently if given the chance, I love taking the time to look back on my life. To see where I've been, and where I am now. To look back and have the opportunity to realize things that I never noticed before. So, in the month of January, the start of a new year, I will be taking a journey back. To remember where I was, so I can see where I am now. To look back on the good and the bad things that have brought me to where I am today. To take the time to examine the facric of my life and see exactly where it is that God has shown Himself. I hope you'll take this journey with me, and allow me some grace to talk a little (or a lot) about myself.

So here we go! Here is my story. A story of love, loss, mistakes, trials, and victories! Tomorrow is the first stop on my journey, my engagement story. As I celebrate the 5 year anniversary of the day I decided to spend the rest of my life with my husband I hope you will join me!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The average, every day life

If there's one thing my life is not, it's boring. Even beyond the hustle and bustle of having 3 kids under 4. It's not exciting as some would see it. I'm not a jet setter or a fashionista, I don't hold a position at a Fortune 500 company, I don't even have a life many would dream of, but my life is definitely full of excitement. In fact, I would bet if you looked back, if you began right now to keep track of your every day events, that you would realize just how un-boring you life really is. If you take the time, you will see the majesty in your mundane, everyday life.

Beyond even the majesty of the Universe. Its complexity, its beauty, its mystery. Beyond even the human body. Its design, its perfection, its strength. Looking into the human condition. Our desires, our needs, our hurts. Every single aspect of our lives points to a Creator who not only masterfully designed us, but who points us to Him at every opportunity. What did God do today to reveal Himself to you? Did you see it, did you miss it, did you ignore it? Have you finally realized that there is a power beyond yourself just waiting for you, drawing you in, desperate for you to find it?

I think the excitement of my life begins when I think back to my childhood, how I'm even still alive today. As a parent, don't you find yourself wondering that on a daily basis? You see your children doing something and you wonder how they didn't break their neck, you catch them at the precise moment they are about to put something in their mouth, you walk in to find your baby has just covered their face with a blanket and couldn't breathe. Why was I able throughout my childhood, throughout rebellious teenage years, throughout all of my irresponsible choices, able to make it? Why me, when so many others did not? Luck, chance, fate? GOD. As I became an adult, my life filled with "failures". Failed relationships, failed dreams, failed opportunities. Failure? Or GOD leading me in the direction He wanted me to go so that I could truly succeed? As I go through trials, seeing the beauty in the hard times, being thankful in all situations, seeing the change that comes through the hard times. Power of self, my own strength? Or GOD carrying me through? There is only one thing in common in all of these scenarios. GOD. It is not because of luck that I have survived, that I failed when I did and succeeded when I did, that I can survive the hardest moments of my life and come out better. It is not because of anything that I have done personally that I can stand here before you today, with the life that I have, with this attitude. There is no explanation for the blessings I have been given, overcoming certain diagnoses in my own life, seeing my son's journey through autism. There is nothing that can explain who I am today, what I have been through, where I am in my life, when everything has happened in it's perfect and glorious timing, and why it is the way that it is...nothing, other than God.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Year's Revolutions

Every year we make our resolutions. {Resolution: Determining upon an action or a course of action.} We think about what needs to change. Our diet, our weight, spending more time relaxing, growing spiritually. Those areas that we wish we could do something about, but feel helpless to do anything with...until the new year comes around and we gather up the resolve to do something about it. The problem is, we determine the course of action such as going to the gym, taking more vacation time, getting up early to spend time in the Word, and we might (maybe, if we're really determined) stick with it for a little while until our resolve runs out. But that's okay because there's always next year right? This year, I am making a Resolution for Revolution! {Revolution: A sudden, complete, or marked change in something} I will not just plan what actions need to be taken and try to follow through. The areas in my life that need work, well, those areas will be marked by actual change rather than wishful thinking. 

As Christians we understand a little bit about revolution. When we made the decision to follow Christ it was a turning point in our lives. It marked a change in us. If we truly made the decision to follow Christ there was a sudden change in us, complete, and one that others took notice of. But, as Christians, we understand the #1 secret to true revolution...that it had absolutely nothing to do with us. So this year I Resolve to Revolve! Because I understand that these changes I want to make cannot come about through my own planning, my own desires. These changes can only come about through the power of God, through His purpose for my life. If I follow His will, indulge in The Word, listen for His voice, let Him direct my path, trust Him completely with my life, then I can accomplish all of these things I see as failures in my life. If I rely on His powers then I can become perfect in Him. So I will revolve around Him.

The greatest thing about the resolution for revolution is that it will end this cycle of regret, of worthlessness, of failed resolve. Revolution means there will be no more need for resolutions! I will no longer look at myself through my own eyes, the eyes of criticism, the eyes that see only failure. I will look at myself through God's eyes, through eyes that see purpose, through eyes that see me perfectly restored to Him. When I see myself through His eyes, when I live His life for me, there will be no more feelings of worthlessness because in Him I am worth everything. I am worth enough for Him to sacrifice His precious Son, the flesh of Himself, that I could be restored to Him. I am worth enough for Him to indwell inside of me as Spirit. And for every day that He provides me breath to continue, if my day is dedicated to His purpose for me, I have the greatest purpose of all. I can change the World. But not just change the World for the World's sake, change the World for all eternity. Can you imagine what would happen if this year, as Christians, we all made the resolution for revolution? Can you even begin to perceive the changes this next year would bring? I know I can't. I can't even begin to imagine what God can do with a nation filled with people completely, totally dedicated to Him. Completely and totally changed. Just the evidence of change in our lives would be enough to lead hundreds to Christ, not even counting those who would be saved by our actions, by our love, by our correctly carrying out the message. Now that would be a revolution!

NOW ON FACEBOOK!

The Mommy Calling is now on Facebook!!! I can't get the html code to work for my "like" box, so please forgive me as I work on it. But if you're on Facebook look me up and like the page! You will get updates, info, and some special things you won't get here on the blog. And, hopefully, we can all connect with eachother and interact in a way we can't here on the blog!

Monday, December 26, 2011

I hope you all had a very, very Merry Christmas! Filled with tons of family, friends, and love! I pray you were able to focus on the true meaning of Christmas this season, and not get too caught up in the hustle and bustle, allowing yourself a few moments to relax and enjoy. As a mom the holidays are filled with so much craziness. Whether it's a baby's first Christmas, trying to prepare the perfect meal for your family and friends, making sure decorations are top notch, buying and wrapping all those gifts, or the craziness that comes with holiday travels, there are a ton of things that can just get in the way isn't there. I know that after celebrations like these I feel like I've missed out on most of the fun and I'm just beyond exhausted! Luckily for me this Christmas I had a little help remembering the true reason of the season (wrapped up in strange packages).

With my recent bought with ongoing migraines the Christmas celebrations were moved from my home to my mom's this year. I'm not going to lie, it was disappointing not to do it at my home, not to cook the meal, to have to pack everything up in the car and travel for the festivities. It meant my in-laws stayed home (since we had already celebrated with them anyway) and that meant we never gave them their gift since we were saving it for when they came. And because I sang in church for both our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day service it was a weird schedule for me. I had to leave my kids after opening presents to head off to sing since we already attended the Christmas Eve service together. It was really hard to kiss them goodbye and not just stay home and cuddle up in front of the fire while they played with their toys. Not to mention my little present snafu where I completely mixed up what I bought our son for his "big" gift and it was missing the major component. He ended up with a useless camera attachment to a system he doesn't even have rather than an actual camera like I intended. I actually shed a few tears over the last one, even though he didn't even notice and was too busy playing boats with his daddy. I felt useless and like a Christmas failure.

Insert a big piece of "practice what you preach" pie here. As I was singing for the service this morning I realized something, my family was happy and together, we are blessed and loved, and, even if we didn't have any of those things, Jesus came to Earth all those years ago. He was born in a stable, surrounded by dirty animals and filth. Wrapped in strips of cloth and placed in a feeding trough. He humbly came and brought salvation, and that is more than enough blessing than I ever deserved. All the other blessings that we were given this year were beyond many will ever even imagine. These things that were driving me crazy, and even driving me to tears, meant nothing. And they honestly didn't even effect how wonderful our holidays were. Despite the "failures" we had a wonderful, blessed day. And now, as the day ends, I will curl up in bed and dream of all the wonderful memories we made this year. My newest son's first Christmas, the excitement of my other babies who are now old enough to really enjoy getting and giving gifts, and having my family together. Yes, I'd say we had a very, very merry Christmas indeed!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tis the Night Before Christmas (and I'm a little crazy)

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, seriously, one was moving and it was mama mouse!

The stockings were finally hung by chimney with care
In hopes Santa got his act together and soon would be there!

The children were finally wrestled, threatened and snug in their bed,
While visions of ipods and Xboxes danced in their heads.

Dad was laid up in his recliner taking a long winter’s nap,
And I just sat down facing 20 more presents to wrap.

When out on the porch I heard such a clatter,
My honey didn’t move so I pulled myself up to see what was the matter.


And what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But the fed ex man announcing my last minute gifts were finally here!

As I gathered my presents together and placed them under the tree,
The reality of my craziness of “to do lists” and “must do’s” hit me.

I faintly heard the playing of Joy to the World the Lord is come,
And quickly remembered the real meaning of Christmas and not what still had to done.

With all my mad dashing around and tying up loose ends,
I was missing celebrating the birth of our Savior with my precious family and friends. 

Our Savior was born on that first joyous Christmas day,
In a humble stable with only a cradle of hay.


It’s not about the decorations or my worrying about needless things,
It’s a wondrous time to celebrate the birth of the King of Kings


So I take my husband ‘s hand and over our children we prayed.
And gave Him thanks for our blessings of freedom, forgiveness and love we enjoy each day.

So as I lay down my head on that beautiful Christmas Eve Night
I rejoice and thank God for the greatest gift of Everlasting Life!

by Traci Lilley
(thank you, sweet friend, for sharing this with us...it is absolutely perfect!)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Heaux, Heaux, Heaux!!!

A little piece of my culture for you (well, my hubby's culture anyway, since I was born in Texas and my family is from Michigan and Oklahoma!) I know it's hard to understand...now you know how I feel at family reunions...but it's too cute for me not to share! And for those not from the bayou, yes, this is really how they talk!



Be on the lookout tomorrow for my favorite 'Twas the night before Christmas. Written by my sweet friend, Traci Lilley!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Soldier's Silent Night



This Christmas my bubba will spend the day with his beautiful daughter for the first time! Safe, warm, surrounded by family. We will have him home, but we will not forget those that will not be with their families for the holidays. We will remember those who have sacrificed it all. They are in our hearts and in our prayers.

OORAH!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

To Every Mom Everywhere!

"Just Pray That God Would Give or Take Bella"...

...These were the words that stopped my heart, that brought tears to my eyes, that made the world stop spinning just for a split second. As a mom I know the love it takes to say these words, I know the strength, and I'm definitely not there yet. It saddens me that some moms are forced to have to choose. To choose between desperately wanting your children to stay with you, selfishly wanting to love them, and giving them over to God knowing that He will probably take them from you. It reminds me of something my friend told me one day that really resonated with me a lot. She said, "Sometimes, I struggle with telling my children how much God loves them. I don't want them to think I love them any less. It's selfish, but I don't want them to think anyone loves them more than I do." On the surface how superficial does that sound, we want to say to eachother, but of course God loves them more...and OF COURSE He does...but do we really live it? When our children are suffering do we believe that God still loves them more than we do? We are here holding onto them as tightly as we can, protecting them, raising them, and He has "let" this happen. How could He do this if he truly loved them? Just typing out those words brings tears to my eyes and pain to my heart, but how true is it? I so often forget that God loves and does more for my children than I ever can and will.

His plan is perfect, while mine is selfish. If my children were suffering would I be able to ask others to pray for God to take them from me? I can answer at this moment that I doubt I could. On Criminal Minds the other day a father was told his son was dying of cancer. He wanted his son to know that it was ok, so he held his hand and told him it wasn't losing if he didn't make it, that giving up when you know you can't beat it means you've won. And then his son died. My gosh, my heart, just thinking about it, is about to stop beating it hurts so badly. As I watched this I almost ran to my children's rooms and cried out for them not to leave me. I pictured myself in this same scenario as my child is dying screaming out at God not to take them, yelling at the doctors to save them, grabbing onto my child as tightly as I could, never letting go, believing that just by holding them they would have to stay with me. I don't think I would react in a way that shows God's love, God's power, God's purpose.

But here is my friend, the perfect picture of strength and love and compassion, the exact opposite of everything I believe I would do in this situation, offerring her hurting child up to God. Realizing that God loves Bella more than she ever can and will, and knowing that He has the perfect plan. They only had a year with her since they found the tumor. A year filled with surgeries, treatments, hope, disappointment. In fact, at this time last year they had no idea what was about to happen to them. But today their daughter is lying in a bed while they try to make her comfortable and wait. And my friend and her family are telling others to pray that God would give or take. I am left breathless by them, by their situation, by their pain, by their testimony. I pray for this sweet little girl and her family. And I pray that, if I ever need, that I will be as loving and strong as her parents are. I pray that God would be able to use my testimony for good, and that I wouldn't screw it up with my own selfishness. I pray that even with my "healthy" children I can learn to give them completely to God. For Him to love perfectly, to hold completely, to use rightly.

Please keep sweet Bella and her family in your prayers as they go through this difficult time. I know they appraciate such support and love!


UPDATE: AT 6:22 AM ON FRIDAY, DECEMBER 23, 2011 BELLA VERY PEACEFULLY WENT HOME TO JESUS. We know that Jesus is holding this sweet girl right now until her mommy and daddy can see her again. Please pray for her mom, dad, and sister as they go through this.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Trials through ADOPTION...one family's journey


I normally don't share things on facebook about raising money. If I don't know the  family, even if I know the person who posted it, I just don't know if it is genuine or not. When my former associate youth minister posted this on facebook I immediately felt called to share it, so I posted it on my wall. A friend then asked where the family was from, and after asking Danielle if the family was local she shared this with me...

"They live in Texas and go to Gateway church with us. The Jones family is amazing!!!! They have four biological children and adopted a beautiful little girl last year from China. The 12 year old, that they are trying to adopt, is about to age out of the orphanage. When this happens if the orphanage is crowded, the kids are put on the streets. Many times these are the girls that are picked up for sex trade. Thanks for sharing their story!!!"

Here is some of the story from their site...

"The 'place' where she lives never started paperwork for her to be able to be adopted because they didn't think anyone would want her. In this 'place' once a child turns 14 they can NEVER be adopted. Even if they have a family waiting for them if the family does not have their Gotcha day before the 14th birthday they will NEVER be adopted. This girl is turning 14 at the end of February. Because the 'place' she is at just started paperwork for her to be able to be adopted it has left a VERY short, almost impossible time frame for anyone to be able to get through all the necessary steps to get to her in time... The lady at our adoption agency said to me yesterday, 'You realize you're pretty much asking us to do the impossible, to move mountains.' My response was, 'Yes, I realize that. But that's not a problem for God. He's in the mountain moving business.'"

My heart is so full for this family. Full of hope, full of anxiety, full of wonder. I cannot wait to see how God works in this situation, but I have a feeling it's going to be amazing and I have to share it. Please consider donating to the family or at least place them on your prayer list and flood the throne room of Heaven with prayers for this beautiful girl and this sweet family. You can buy a shirt from the family (it's super cute) to help out, donate, or just read more of their story by clicking here. Thank you so much, friends! I can't wait to share the ending to this story with you!

Check out their 8 weeks to adoption and the ending to their story!

Monday, December 19, 2011

If I Could Have 100 Years

Last night while everyone was asleep I cuddled with my beautiful 5 month old baby boy. He was nestled up against my chest, little bubbles still on his pouty lips, and a tiny milk mustache. A perfect moment. I prayed something I have prayed so often over the past few years. Ever since my niece was diagnosed with leukemia, when my friend delivered a beautiful but stillborn baby boy, when I found out in my first trimester with Kason that I had placenta previa and was facing serious risks with delivery, when my friend's mom was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. When I began to realize just how short life really is, when I realized that no matter how we live our life there's just no guarantee. That was when I began to pray this simple prayer,
"God, there is nowhere I would rather be than in your presence. There is nothing I would cherish more than to view your perfect kingdom, to have no more sorrow, no more pain. But, Lord, I will have eternity with you. So please allow me just 100 years here on Earth. 100 years to face trials, but to watch my family grow. 100 years to witness pain and sorrow, but to be able to provide comfort and love. 100 years is but a breath compared to forever, so please grant me this one small request. I don't need wealth, I don't need fame, I don't need anything but time to be with my family."
I prayed this prayer, as I always do, when in the midst of a beautiful moment. With my baby's hand wrapped around my finger, with a heart full of love. In a beautiful moment when the fear strikes that I may not have many of these moments at all. When I realize that my family may make beautiful moments without me. And when I realize this, that is when I pray for 100 years. But as I prayed last night I felt that stirring in my spirit...you know the feeling when God is trying to tell you something that you might not want to hear. He said,
"Would you still want 100 years, if it was filled with persecution? Would you still want 100 years if your mind was foggy, if your body gave out, if you became a burden to those you love? Would you want 100 years no matter what, or only if it were to be filled with happiness and love and joy? What if I could do more with you in 1 year than I could in 100?"
 So now I guess I will add an addendum to my prayer. The "not my will, but Thine be done." Because, in all honesty, I don't know under what circumstances I would really want 100 years. If I could handle it come what may. So, Lord, I would love 100 years if it is your will for me. If not then give me as many wonderful years as I can have, and let me make the best of it!

I guess God decided now was a good time for me to learn this lesson. Since I have been praying this prayer for years and never heard a response. I mean, there is nothing about that prayer that is "sinful". Ok, if we split hairs it is a pretty selfish prayer, but there is nothing unbiblical about praying to live a long life. And I don't think God decided to reveal these things to me because He is against what I was praying. I have no idea if He will grant me a long life or a short one, but I do know that today I received some scary news that makes the idea of 100 years a little less appealing. After suffering with migraines for the past 2 weeks, several trips to the ER, and being completely unable to care for my own children I learned today that though the headaches can be treated (something I've suffered with for years and just need to get back on anti-seizure medication for) the weakness cannot. That permanent nerve damage is going to be a new part of my life. And now at the age of 26 I'm having to get used to the idea of having trouble holding my baby, not being able to use my hands the way I need to sometimes, the fear that it may get significantly worse. And, even though the diagnoses could have been much worse, and, honestly, I was preparing myself, it still may take me awhile to be able to get used to this reality and become comfortable with it. And although I will still gladly take 100 years, it does make me question how I would feel about 100 years sometime in the future.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Free E-Book Link to Time-Warp Wife

I love being able to share with my friends and help promote other women who are following their calling! Be sure to check out the Time-Warp Wife page for a copy of her free e-book "Messy Faces in Divine Places". It is really easy, just subscribe to her feed and in the next email you receive you will see a link for her book! I know I can't wait to get mine and start reading, so make sure to grab your copy and learn to "enjoy the blessed hilarity of everyday life". Then make sure to come back and tell me what you thought about the book! I'll be following right along with you!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sometimes There Are Just No Words...

No words to describe the blessings. No words to describe the pure love and joy that I feel whenever I look into the faces of my beautiful children. Yup, it's pretty much indescribable...






1 John 3:18 Dear Children, Let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and truth.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

CHECK OUT THE NEW ALL ABOUT YOU  PAGE!


Just like it says, it is all about you (for me). I would love to get to know you, to know what you think about the posts, and to be able to interact with you about what is posted on this site. Please take a minute to stop by and say hello!

The Gift of Testimony through Trials

This Thanksgiving I was led on a journey of learning how to worship through thanks and praise. During my 25 Days of Thanksgiving, when I made it halfway on my list of 1,000, when I learned to thank God for my family's experiences with Autism, and I finally reached the point where I could truly thank Him for the hardest things. This year, I was able to celebrate a truly gracious Thanksgiving. But the number one thing I took from this Journey of Thanksgiving was that this spirit of Thanksgiving is about a lifestyle, not just a season. It's all about recognizing that God is in control. Recognizing His hand wherever you are, in whatever may come, however He decides to work.

Here is a great testimony of a family's faith through the trying times. This is the story of our former Associate Minister of Music and his wife, Matt and Sheri Rouse. It's a little long since it was taken from their transcript of the Grain Game's Winter Ball speech, but I encourage you to read it when you have time. Their testimony and encouragement is truly a great reminder of the strength we have been given in Christ in every situation. A word from Matt before you read: Tonight is the first time I have spoken in public about this, for it has taken me months to become comfortable sharing what you are about to read. The story goes beyond my health into the greater purposes God has for our lives...for good and in the bad.

Matt: Sheri and I have some difficult things to share with you tonight, but also some exciting answers to prayer where God has showed Himself to be the One who sees the whole picture of our lives and has worked to turn the devastating into good. Last February, after many tests and consultations with specialists, I was diagnosed with what appears to be front temporal dementia at the age of 43. This rare disease is much more aggressive and different than Alzheimer’s. It affects the frontal lobe of the brain. At onset it is limited primarily to executive function problems and personality changes. The really bad news is that it is 100% fatal and untreatable. In March, my doctor told Sheri that my life expectancy was much shorter than we first thought, because with this disease the younger you are at diagnosis, the shorter your life expectancy. When it came time for my doctor to discuss my life expectancy, I asked to leave the room. I continued to believe I would make it at least 10 more years according to more optimistic research I had made. It took me until early June before I was willing to hear what my doctors had told Sheri regarding my life expectancy. The day I heard the words, “Two to three years, and make sure to spend the next year making family memories and taking lots of pictures,” - is a day that changed my life forever.

That night, after we cried and held each other, I asked Sheri to book a week long cruise for our family, one that would include Roatan, Honduras and other countries. I knew it was time to take a serious look at my “bucket list” and take action. I have always had a burden for missions. When Sheri and I were teenagers we had discussions about feeling God’s call for the foreign mission field. For several years we wrestled with whether to pursue church ministry work or foreign missions. We believe we pursued what God led us to do, but now that I have been diagnosed with dementia it is as though God is making my thoughts more clear and focused toward missions and that our burden for missions has only grown. As I come to consider that my time is likely much shorter on this earth than I had ever imagined, it makes me feel and believe the REALITY that NONE of us are promised tomorrow. I am now trying to live in that reality and pray daily for God’s power to show me the way.

In the early part of the year, unable to perform ministry as I have for over 2 decades, I looked deep inside and decided to become a serious prayer warrior for missions. After all, "active" ministry is not an option. Not trying to be boastful - for it is only because of God's mercy in showing me so many needs around the world and not of my own human effort - I now spend considerable time most every weekday praying for our lost world, and have come to find it addictive - to the point that Sheri recently lost her patience in waiting for us to go out together for lunch one day because I was still in my prayer "office" with maps, and books of the cities of the world, and the Grain Game email updates spread before me when it was well past lunch. God has allowed me to use my time off to do the real heavy lifting of the kingdom work in prayer support. And Chip has reminded me time and time again that nothing significant can happen through [the ministry of] Grain Game without intentional prayer. We are seeing God act.

I wish I could say that this disease is the only hardship we have experienced this year, it is but one of many. On top of a difficult and unexpected end to my career last January, I severed my Achilles tendon while standing still playing basketball with my son, Josh. This injury required surgery, no weight bearing for months, and various with plaster casts. Then, 3 days after going from a cast to a walking boot I ruptured the same tendon again and had to undergo a very involved and painful tendon transfer surgery. Essentially, I did not walk without the assistance of a wheelchair, scooter or crutches from the end of January until September. Sheri especially had a hard time with this injury on top of everything else and neither of us saw how any good could come out of going on our “bucket-list” cruise with a non-weight bearing leg following the second Achilles tear. This injury eliminated most of the snorkeling, cave tubing and beach walks we would normally enjoy.

Ironically, I severed the first tendon while out of town at a prayer and healing service for my dementia disease, so I came back home physically in worse shape despite intense prayers for healing. Then, I ruptured it the second time while at church! We still believe in God’s healing power and continue to seek God, humbly ask for complete healing, repent of any known sin, and have allowed prayer groups to anoint me with oil and join with us in prayer. But up to this moment we have not seen the reality of His divine healing. We do not know if He will completely heal me, but we can see where He has already used my health for what may bring about the salvation of many others. I am willing to be used as His vessel in this way if that is the path God has chosen for me. I will not ask, “Why me?” Instead, I ask, “Why not me?” He is God and I am not.

Sheri: Each year at Christmas, since 1995, I have asked God for a specific character trait or spiritual gift as His gift to me for the following year. Last December, I was convicted to ask for “self-less love” without knowing ahead what was coming in 2011. God has often responded to my yearly request through difficult circumstances that have helped mold me more to His character, but it has not been an easy road by any means. However, I am not the same since 1995, and I would not trade what God has done in our lives for these serious trials. As Job laments, “Shall I accept good from God, and not trouble?” (2:10 NIV).

One of the cruise’s four ports was Roatan, Honduras, and I really wanted to find a mission opportunity there but I did not have time to make any preparations due to my Bar exam study schedule. I had a strong burden for our family to participate in a mission activity in our one day stop on the island of Roatan. I thought about taking a taxi to a local orphanage or school to play with kids and pass out toys, clothes, candy and Bibles. But, alas, time was too short to make plans. I later learned, God had bigger plans and He is the One who sees even when our schedules are too full to pray long prayers like Matt has the time to bring on other’s behalf. But God responded to my desperate, frequent prayers spoken as I ran through those preceding months trying to keep everyone in our family on track and pass the Bar exam. I survived by posting copies of a single scripture verse of whatever God led me to in 7 locations around our house each week and praying that verse throughout the day regarding every heartache and obstacle we faced.

On the ship when disembarking at Roatan, we bought tickets to tour Gumbalimba Park to play with wild monkeys, zipline through the rain forest, and see one of the most beautiful places, Tabyana Beach. However, when our tour bus arrived at Gumbalimba Park the pathways were made of gravel, uneven and too rugged for Matt on his knee scooter or crutches. God promises to make the “rough places plain”, and I thought of this as our guide pointed to an older man on a golf cart who said he would be happy to drive us through the park. He dressed like the other tour guides but we noticed that whenever we rode into an area with him we had special attention and he knew quite a lot of detail about everything in the park. A few hours into our tour Matt mentioned he was a minister and tried to make an effort at ascertaining our guide’s spirituality. The man replied that he was a local pastor of an interdenominational, protestant church in Roatan. The conversation did not go much further and this man seemed to quietly contemplate things. So did I.

Matt mentioned how he regretted not being able to zip line with his foot injury. The man said he could arrange that and have a guide before him and another following after him who would safely transfer him on one leg on 17 tree stands through the one mile course. Although this was a popular excursion this man arranged it in a brief call from his radio. Next, this man asked if he could take us in his personal vehicle to see his church. Of course we accepted with delight. I knew I had underestimated this man when he pulled up in a new Harley Davidson edition Ford pickup truck valued at about $60k, for we had seen only old model vehicles in Roatan. We soon learned that this man, our humble guide for the day, Marco Galindo, owned the park & the beach, built the church himself, feeds 125 or more poor Roatans two meals daily, and loves to host mission groups.

After a couple hours at this church, Marco grinned at us and said, “Nothing makes me happier in this world than to host mission trips, would you like to come back and bring others?” Marco is now hosting us for Grain Game Roatan sometime in the future[...] He will gather as many kids we can handle - “100 or 1000” were his words. He is also open to any other type of mission trips we might feel led to do there[...] Our God who sees knew that unless we had a need for the “rough places to be made smooth” then this opportunity would likely have been missed. We now thank God for the severed Achilles tendon that made all of this possible.

I am so thankful for the Rouse's wonderful testimony. Praise God for every situation, for we never know how he will use it if we follow Him. Also check out The Grain Game website and prayerfully consider making a donation to this ministry.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Time for Me

As a mommy, this is my day: Wake up before the sun, make breakfast for my kids, after they eat that and are still hungry I also have to make them a small snack (they pretty much get a 4 course breakfast). Then I have to find an activity to keep my kids occupied so I can tackle the pile of dishes covering my counter from the day before. If I'm lucky and squeeze a load of laundry in before I start the dishes then I have to move it to the dryer as soon as I'm done with dishes and I can hopefully get another load in. By this point my kids are hungry again, especially the baby, so it's time for another snack. At this point I'm still trying to find something to keep the kids occupied (and my eyes open) and I realize I haven't even had breakfast. So I make a pot of coffee (because I figure that counts...well, it will keep my eyes open at least.) Play a little bit with the kids (or clean up after them while they play, depending on my mood) and make lunch. Now, I'm desperate to sit down, so I try to wrangle everyone down for a nap. They get in their beds and I decide to do at least one more load of laundry. As soon as I sit down with my remote control and a little snack (since I still have not eaten all day) the baby is hungry again. So I feed him and as soon as I'm done my oldest comes out of his room because he needs to go potty. Then I remember that, well, I haven't used the bathroom all day either (that's when you realize you're busy, when you realize you haven't even had time to pee!) I finally get everything taken care of and I'm ready to sit down, and my daughter wakes up. So I just stick her in front of the TV with a movie so I can at least eat lunch (since it's about 1:00 and I still have not eaten more than a granola bar) then I decide to put another load in the wash. Then I look over at my couch and realize there are 4 loads of laundry piled up on it that need to be folded and put away, but all I want to do is sit down. By now, I'm counting down the hours until my husband gets home (at this point it will be about 3 hours and I wish it was more like 3 minutes because I don't think I can make it that long). The rest of the day is me just trying to stay awake, trying to be a fun momma, trying to accomplish the things on my To-do lists. By the end of the day it's almost like I'm too tired to even breathe. I feel empty and worn out.

*sigh* My selfish side wants "me" time. I want to be able to just be by myself for a couple of hours. Then the egotistical side of me thinks "I can do this all by myself" *double sigh* Honestly, the days that I spend the most time in His Word (usually the days I get the least amount of sleep since I can't really have quiet time until the kids are in bed) are the days I feel the most energized, the most prepared, the most ready to take on the world. The days I incorporate my kids into my "me" time are the days I find myself the most fulfilled and happy in being a mother. The days that I give myself to others freely, without just thinking about what others are going to do for me, are the days I feel the most complete. It's true that as mothers we spend our lives giving to others, putting ourselves last, emptying ourselves completely. But deciding to put ourselves first isn't going to solve any of the "problems" we have as mothers. A day to myself, although nice, isn't going to help me get truly re-energized. A nap, no matter how heavenly it sounds, isn't going to cure me of a worn out spirit. I've heard so often since becoming a mother that I need to be a little "selfish" and I guess if we're splitting hairs we can say that, yes, every once and a while a little "selfishness" can be a good thing (although we need to seriously consider using a different word in this situation because there's a huge difference between getting a pedicure and being truly selfish and making the decision to get a pedicure while my children are in need of my help). Every once in a while I do need "me" time, but "me" time isn't going to make me a good mother. Plugging into God is going to make me a good mom. Relying on Him to continually fill the spirit that I am continually emptying out to others is going to help me keep my sanity. Leaning on His promises in those moments when I feel too weary to go on is going to keep me energized. Selfishness isn't what's going to help me at all, selflessness is (and that includes not being too prideful to allow others to "do" for me, but that's for another time.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Imperfect is the NEW Perfect

When I look at the women I surround myself with I am filled with awe, and sometimes a little bit of jealousy. I am so excited when they accomplish something new, then it makes me feel like maybe I'm not doing enough myself. How crazy is that! But we all do it. And it's time that we stop. It's time that we realize that we may be "imperfect" but since when is that a bad thing? How exciting would the world be if everyone was exactly the same? How great would our accomplishments truly be if everyone was doing the same thing?

At our Christmas party while we were bragging over my friends amazing athletic skills, she said, "but I'm not crafty..." We all laughed a little. We all know how that feels. I am making a handmade braided rug for my daughter, something everyone keeps fawning over, but all I think about is my friends who wake up at 5 every morning to go running. How they have completed marathons, triathlons, and have gym memberships. My husband and I build our own furniture, but I wish I had a sewing machine (and the desire to actually use it) when I see the beautiful clothes my friends make for their children. I can speak or sing in front of a room full of people without thinking twice, but I can't get past feeling like a bad mom when I give my kids fish sticks while my friends feed their children grass-fed beef with a side of organic fruits and veggies. I can't coupon, I can't crochet, and I get super cranky if I don't get 5 meals a day and at least 9 hours of sleep. I live my life to glorify God, to live according to His purpose for me, but sometimes I can't help but wonder "What if?" when I look through my friends' photos of their travel abroad. I can't help but wonder if my "ministry" is actually important when I have friends providing medical assistance to hundreds of hurting people all over the world. My life, when I compare these "failures" to my friends accomplishments, is pretty much going nowhere fast. At least, that's how it feels.

The problem with these comparisons are, they aren't comparisons at all. In fact, when my friends succeed it does not mean that I have failed just because I haven't done these things. Just because other moms do things a different way, it doesn't mean that I am doing it incorrectly. In fact, the way they do things really has nothing to do with me at all. I should be encouraging them to live up to their potential while realizing that it is completely separate from mine. I should not feel insignificant because of the significance in their lives. In fact, it should be encouraging to me, that my friends have done such great and wonderful things. Encouraging because it can be done, encouraging because they are doing it, encouraging because there is so much that I can learn from them. But I should never feel like these "imperfections" about me make me anything less than perfect. I should never feel like I have to be anything different than who I am just because they are not like me. We all have the power to do it, and that is enough! All of the other accomplishments along the way, are simply ways that God reminds us of our individual talents. Ways that God uses to further His Kingdom, to show off His  powers, to keep life interesting. He will show off just as much through a crafty stay-at-home mom as He will in a marathon runner. He will use the CEO the same as He will use the mom who has never held a corporate position a day in her life. He will use us all to change the world...but He can't use us if we're so caught up in what we "can't" do that we forget to do what we can. He can only use us when we realize that it is our imperfections that make us perfect to Him!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Today was one of those days...

It was one of those days that life didn't really make sense, when God's plan seemed "flawed", when I couldn't see the promise through the pain. When the tears flowed freely and the comfort didn't seem to come. Watching someone struggle, having absolutely nothing comforting to say, knowing that the fact that "God is in control" just doesn't really make the hurt go away. Knowing that it will take God's binding of these wounds in order for them to heal, and knowing that that takes a lot more than words. Knowing that the healing can only come through time, and that the knowledge may not come until we can ask our Creator face-to-face what His purpose was for our trials.

I'm reminded of those God loved in Scripture. Those He loved, yet turned over to trials. When, in Job 1:12, He gave Satan permission to do whatever he wanted to Job's possessions, just not to harm Job himself. Then after Satan had destroyed Job's riches, killed his children, again in Job 2:6 God turned Job's physical being over to Satan's hand with just the requirement that he not be killed (something that I'm sure would have actually come as a relief to Job while dealing with these trials). Job never turned from God. He cursed his own life, wishing he had never been born, he questioned why he was having to go through the trials that had been placed on him, Job even thought God had deserted him, but he still never turned from God. And in the end we learn that God had never deserted him either. For 37 chapters there is strife. Job is mocked, rebuked, humiliated by his "friends". God is questioned, made fun of, "tested" by those who had no understanding of Him. It wasn't until chapter 38 that God speaks. And we see in Job 42:10-17 that God blessed Job beyond his previous fortunes, and Job died an old man.

I can't imagine what the Scriptures would read about me if it were recording 37 chapters of my own personal trials. Trials in which I could not feel the warmth of God's love surrounding me. Trials in which there seems no good could ever come. To lose not only all of my possessions, but to lose my children to death, to have my spouse and my friends turn against me. To be turned over to a literal hell on earth, with Satan in control of what happens to me. It is these times when our understanding of God is lacking, when His plan is so beyond the realm of human reason, when we are forced to face our human limitations that it is hardest for our faith to be put into practice. These trials that force us to live the way God has called us, by faith, turning everything over to Him, dying to ourself daily, these trials that make us who God wants us to be. No matter how far we feel from Him at the time. No matter how desperately we cry out to be rescued, but instead feel like we have been abandoned. These chapters in our lives that reveal nothing but pain, sorrow, and desperation. Like the poem says, one day we will get to hear God utter the words, "I did not abandon you, it was then that I carried you." And, hopefully, He will celebrate with us how these trials have molded us. That we can here Him say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Friday, December 9, 2011

Heaven is for Real...for kids too!

I saw a post on The Better Mom today (make sure to check it out so you can enter their giveaway) about the new "Heaven is for Real for kids". It got me really excited! The book is based on the true story of a boy, Colton, who entered Heaven while undergoing surgery for a ruptured appendix. In the years that followed he began sharing some of his experience with his father, who is a pastor. He soon realized that their son had entered into Heaven. Colton shared experiences and details that coincided with scripture that he could not have possibly known at the tender young age of 4. This book was so profound to me, and I knew it would be a great tool to help teach my children about Heaven, so I am beyond excited that there is a version geared towards sharing this story with children! You can check out the book on Amazon to get a peek inside the pages of the book and to order your copy. This is a great gift for the holidays! In a world where our children are bombarded with the need to "prove" their beliefs, what greater encouragement of proof is there than a little boy who was able to experience Heaven. If you haven't read the adult's version make sure to order your copy as well!


For those of you who did read the book, I hope you shared with me the excitement of Colton's revelation of Jesus. When showed portraits of Jesus, he just kept saying, "It's not right." Then, after coming across the Prince of Peace portrait of Jesus he stated, "That one's right." The exciting thing about his revelation was not just that he provides us with a "visual picture" of what Jesus truly looks like, but that the portrait was drawn by 8 year old Akaine Kramarick. She is a child prodigy, literally amazing, but the great thing about her work is her testimony. She was growing up in a home with an atheist mother and a "lapsed" Catholic father when, at the age of 4, she began writing poetry and producing art based on "divinely inspired visions". The best thing was that this portrait also bore strong resemblance to the Shroud of Turin presented in the History Channel's production of "The Real Face of Jesus". This was a 3D representation of an image taken from what is believed to be the burial clothes of Jesus. Skeptical, intrigued, however you may feel about it, there is no denying that it's exciting.

Akiane's Portrait of Jesus
Colton said this one's "right."


On another blog discussing this topic I came across this comment I had to share. Thank you, Joe Campanini, for your wonderful testimony!


On July 23 2009 I broke my neck in a swimming accident of the coast of New Jersey, I was slammed to the sand by a wave and knocked unconcsience, my lungs were full of sand/water and debris…my 12 year old son who I was boogie boarding with noticed my board but did not realize I was attached to it, he acted quickly and pulled me out by my feet, the first responder was an orthapedic surgeon, I was in a coma for 6 days…the reason I’m writing this is I have described in great detail of a man coming in my room, I was on my left side but felt his presence as he entered, I turned to see him and he responded…I saved your life…I put out my hand to thank him but never felt it…I will never forget his face and have described it in great detail to many people….I have never seen Akiane’s portrait of Jesus, but when I opened it I fell to my knees and began to cry…………

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Where is Your God?


Psalm 42

1 As the deer longs for streams of water,
so I long for you, O God.
2 I thirst for God, the living God.
When can I go and stand before him?
3 Day and night I have only tears for food,
while my enemies continually taunt me, saying,
“Where is this God of yours?”
4 My heart is breaking
as I remember how it used to be:
I walked among the crowds of worshipers,
leading a great procession to the house of God,
singing for joy and giving thanks
amid the sound of a great celebration!
5 Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and 6 my God!
Now I am deeply discouraged,
but I will remember you—
even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan,
from the land of Mount Mizar.
7 I hear the tumult of the raging seas
as your waves and surging tides sweep over me.
8 But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me,
and through each night I sing his songs,
praying to God who gives me life.
9 “O God my rock,” I cry,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I wander around in grief,
oppressed by my enemies?”
10 Their taunts break my bones.
They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?”
11 Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

All I want for Christmas...

Is a kind word from a stranger. I don't think it's too much to ask. In fact, it's the comments of strangers that led to my first post. The attitude that I'm crazy for taking on parenting, for loving it, for feeling blessed to have three children under three. The comments were hurtful enough, but the sheer amount was what really hurts my heart. I never realized how widespread in our society the "parenting is so hard" mindset truly was. Am I saying parenting is a piece of cake? No. But like I stated in that first post, when did we get to the point that we figured only a few "supermoms" can actually enjoy parenting and do it well? When did we forget that God has called us and equipped us to handle every situation we face as mothers? Why are we so quick to complain about parenthood rather than to celebrate it?

When I go out with my children, it is for the most part an enjoyable experience. I mean, we have our days...missed nap times, bad attitudes, not feeling well...but 99% of the time we are laughing, smiling, truly enjoying each other. So to have our nice time together interrupted by strangers who feel the need to comment on "how full" my hands are, how I "need a hobby" (apparently if you have 3 children all you do is, well, you know...), "how crazy" people think I am. Based on the comments I receive it's apparent that people believe my decision to have my children (to have so many, and to have them close together) is selfish, I should be miserable, and I am just setting myself up for failure. And it's not just me. It's a common thing for my friends to be at the receiving end of these comments as well. A woman told me friend, in front of her children, "how sorry" she was that they were all hers (well, she whispered it so I guess she felt  that made it ok.) And do not get me started on comments made about my friends who have adopted or biracial children. All of us have anywhere from 2-4 children. Hardly a large number, in fact a pretty normal number in my opinion. Let's change this. Let's change this parenthood attitude. We obviously cannot change other people's opinions on how our family should look, but we can pass on to others how much we love our families. We can encourage each other, and hopefully one day these discouraging words will be the ones that are few and far between rather than the good ones. When we see a mother in the store with her children, to share an encouraging word with her, rather than to make these comments that imply she should be embarrassed or miserable in her current situation. Obviously, I know these judgemental comments and sideways glances aren't going to go away, but it would be nice if I would get a "You must have so much fun with your children" or "Your family is so blessed" while I'm out with my family more often than getting the negative comments. I don't ever want my children to believe that I feel the same way about them as these strangers. I want them to know that they are not a burden. That I don't just view them as hard work. I want them to know they are loved, cherished, and pretty darn great. It would be nice if they were made to think I'm not the only one who feels this way! How wonderful if my children could grow up in a society that valued them as much as I do.

Despite all of the negativity, I've had those special moments, when people have said something encouraging to me. When my children are screaming in line for candy and I tell them no. To have a fellow mother say, "You're doing a good job." Rather than giving me a pitiful look or telling me to "just give it to them." The time a lady who had 5 children purposefully came across the restaurant to tell me to "Enjoy them because they are such great blessings." Today, to have one of those horrible moments after my 3 and 2 year old held the door open for a lady with a walker. Her daughter (who was a fully grown woman) instead of making a comment about how sweet my children were, looked at my baby in the carrier then at my older two and says, "You finally got your boy. Congratulations on that one." The fact that my older son (who has long hair) was wearing all blue escaped her I guess. But even if Kason were my first boy, why would I be more grateful for him? And why was this the comment she felt was the most important thing to tell me at the time? After that, to be so discouraged yet again, only to have a sweet women tell me a little later on, how "precious my family was, how wonderful my kids are, and how blessed I am." That comment turned my yet again defeated attitude into one of hope and joy. Because I do hope that people see the love and happiness I feel for my family. I pray that we will look for opportunities to encourage other mothers, and I pray that we will never be a source of hurt or anger to them. I pray that, one day, a kind word from a stranger will be commonplace rather than the exception. And that is what I want for Christmas.

Monday, December 5, 2011

December 5-9 Link Up



This week my posts will be linked up with Hidden Treasures for her "Treasured Traditions" Christmas Blog Party! Fellow bloggers come join us and even if you don't have a blog you can still come read the awesome posts from other ladies about Recipes, Activities, Decorations, Traditions, and Gifts! Merry Blogging!

The Gift of Excess

While recently trying to think of activities for my families Advent, I had a strange revelation. I mean, I guess it's not strange to think about using the excess we've been blessed with to bless others, but it was the item that kind of took me off guard. It was a bag full of Halloween candy. I don't know if your family goes trick or treating or not, but this was our first year taking our kids. By the end of the night my daughter's bag was bigger than she was, my son had decided he didn't even want to get any more, and I was just trying to get us back home without adding any more to their huge stockpile! It was pretty hard since in our neighborhood we don't go door to door, but everyone has a table set up at the end of their driveway and we were constantly bombarded by friendly, well-meaning neighbors and their gifts of sweets. So we ended up with enough candy to hand out to the entire neighborhood next year and still have some left-over! This is excess that I know a lot of kids would love, so I decided to use it. My kids and I are going to fill little stockings with our excess candy bars and sweet tarts and bring it to the local children's shelter for the other kids to enjoy. I mean, what kid doesn't love candy? It's such an inexpensive way for my kids to learn how to give to others, and I'm all about cutting back on our waste.

We all have those things lying around our house that we really don't want to get rid so they just sit there. Or we just have too much of a good thing.  My husband and I build furniture, and in our recent arts and crafts fair had a bunch of stuff left over. It would be great to sell everything that we made, I mean with only one salary (and a teacher's salary at that) extra money is more of a necessity than actual "extra". But God has really been speaking to my heart about tithes and offerings. We give our tithe, but even that is sacrificial giving for us. There's just really not anything left over in the budget for offerings. But God has spoken to me that we are blessed with so many other things to offer up to Him. That the excess in our lives He has given us, even though not monetary gifts, can be used to bless others. The furniture from our arts and crafts show I've been wanting to sell, or the things I have around the house that I was planning on putting in a garage sale, or even the extra time I have during the day since I stay home with my children, all of these things are gifts of excess that God wants me to use for His Kingdom. So this year instead of storing our little left-over items from the fair they are being given out as gifts to friends. Our church has been working in our community with a large group of refugees from all over the world, so the furniture that we built or that we no longer need is going to be donated to the refugee families.

I know of 3 families in the past few months (one just right down the road) who have lost their homes to fire. This got me thinking about just how much I actually have and wondering what it is I can do to help them recover from such a profound loss. Instead of seeing my things of excess as "mine" or even as "dollar signs" for my family, I will start looking at them as ways to bless others. What are some things of excess that you have been blessed with, even if it's not monetary? What are some ways you can use these things to bless others and to impact the kingdom?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gift of Music



Today I got to cross something off of my bucket list...singing with a group that I have loved since middle school! OK, so it wasn't on my bucket list because A) I don't have a bucket list and B) I never really would have thought that I was going to sing with a Grammy nominated, 2 time Dove Award winning group. Amy Richardson was just too precious with her cute baby bump and her great sense of humor when she signed my cd (making sure she gave me "proof" that I actually sang with them). I think it was really my dream that came true today rather than hers! They are awesome, they are down to Earth, and they are changing the world with their music. Today I got to be a part of that, and that was one of the greatest gifts I have ever received!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Family of Traditions...The Start of our Advent

Traditions are one of the most important gifts we can give to our children. One thing that became important to me when I had kids was making family traditions with them. I don't know why it was important to me, I didn't really grow up in a family with many traditions of our own. In fact, the only tradition we had was going to the movies on Thanksgiving and Christmas day. I just desperately wanted my children to have full memories of our time together as a family. I want them to tell their children and grand children about us, I want to somehow knit our family into the fabric of our future lineage. I want my children to love the things we did as a family so much that they want to do the same with their own families someday. I selfishly want to be that family member that is talked about for generations. So in an effort to inspire our kids, to teach them that there is so much more to Christmas than just getting gifts, we started our newest tradition, the Advent. Here it is!

Like I said in my recent post, I have been looking into the Advent for a couple of years now. Trying to figure out how I wanted to do it. My hubby and I decided last year we wanted to build a house for the kids when we couldn't really find one we liked. Plus building for us is an act of love. To put the time and energy into making something just for them. I make a homemade birthday cake for them every year, and it's the only tradition I'm adamant about, so I guess making them a homemade Advent house is pretty typical for me. Also typical for me is going a little bit over board! Here's the proof...

Trying to decide what to do for our Advent activities was the hardest part! My problem is seeing all of the wonderful ideas other people do with their families and I want to do it ALL. So I decided that I would do it all...at least a little bit of everything. My heart's desire is for my children to be well-rounded in all areas of their lives and that includes the holidays. I want them to have fun, but to know that the meaning of Christmas is not about what presents they receive but is instead about the ultimate gift. I want them to know that we cannot afford to get them everything they want, but that the amount of money we spend is not a reflection of how blessed you are or how much you are loved. And, finally, I want them to understand that compared to many others just how blessed we really are. That compared to society's standards we may be lacking, but compared to the world's standards our lives are overflowing with great abundance. But I don't want them to learn these things from a lecture, I want them to learn these things through example, through action, through seeing it first-hand. So that's why I decided to combine the 3 ways to reinvent the Advent (the fun of arts and crafts, the art of learning to serve, and learning the true meaning of Christmas) into one. Each day when they open the door they will see a little gift. A tiny ornament for their own little tree. On the door is also a note with something for us to do that day. It will either be a Bible verse to talk about the true meaning of Christmas, a craft for us to do that day, or a way for us to serve others. Just a little something that they can learn from and, most importantly, that we can do together!



The excitement about our Advent is already building! My 3 year old told me that he is going to sit here until his daddy comes home and we can do our house. I am so excited about getting my children excited about anything, but especially about spending some quality time with family. I know that all too soon they will rather spend their time with influences other that us, and when the time comes I want these little things to be ingrained into their hearts and minds. What are some traditons you enjoyed growing up? Even something as simple as my family's movie night. What are some traditions that you are beginning with your own family and hope your children love enough to carry on?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gift of Time

Three years ago, my precious niece was diagnosed with ALL (lukemia) right after Christmas. Although we almost lost her several times along the way, she managed to pull through and is now in remission, done with treatment, and trying to start her life as normally as possible for as long as she has. Even though she has a good outcome for now, many we met along the way were not as lucky. If there's one thing we learned, it's that you just make the best with what you have. It's something we should be doing anyway, but when you have a "limit" put on the time you have left it seems a lot easier to truly focus on the important things. No matter how little or how much time we have left, it's never too soon and it's never too late to live a fullfilling life. There's never too little time left to make a difference, to change a life, to live with purpose. And there's no such thing as too much time. Time is the greatest gift we have been given, what are we teaching our children to do with it?










St Jude

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Reinventing the Advent

The only thing I knew of the Advent (from the Latin word meaning "coming") growing up was that you get a little gift each day counting down to the really big gift you get on Christmas. Well, that's all really fun, but I think the last thing we need is another way to focus on what it is we are getting for Christmas. Now, don't get me wrong, my hubby and I just built our kids a wonderful advent house and we will be doing it with the kids every day. They will get a small ornament each day to decorate their tree to help them count down to Christmas. There is nothing wrong with giving gifts on Christmas. In fact giving is a very important thing to teach our children. And getting gifts is fun too. It makes us feel special, it makes us feel loved, it makes us feel appreciated. But what are we doing beyond that? Are we taking advantage of the holidays to make family memories, teach our kids about serving others, and remembering the true meaning of the holidays? Here are some great ideas I've found to incorporate into your holiday season to help focus on something other than just how many gifts we will get. For each of these you can use the traditional advent house or calendar or just make a paper chain with the information written on each link (one of my personal favorites). You can search Pinterest for some really fun and different ideas on how to make your own advent.

The Arts and Crafts Advent. This is a really fun way to make memories together (and is great for finding things to do while your kids are out of school). Pinterest, again, is a perfect resource for activities to do with your kids! Find my follow me on pinterest button on my left sidebar to check out my boards for ideas. Pick a craft to do each day leading up to Christmas. Your kids will love it, and you will enjoy the purposeful time spent together.

The Service Advent. Your kids are never too young to learn to put others before themselves. Whenever I think of families serving together, I picture them lined up in hair nets serving at a food kitchen. A great idea, but there are so many other options. And I'm sure there's some you can find that will be much more appealing to your children. It's not about forcing them to serve, it's about getting them to want to serve others and teaching them how to do it. Have them pick out a few of their own toys, books, or clothing to donate (Hint: make sure it's not just a throw-away they don't want anymore. Ask how they would feel if someone gave it to them.) and have them pick out a few new toys to bring to a children's shelter. Get them involved in canned food drives. Have them save up some change from their allowance or pay them to do little things around the house and have them drop it into the Salvation Army buckets in front of stores or into the offering plate at church. Help your kids make handmade cards and letters to deliver to a local nursing home or the elderly members of your church. Fill a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child. Once you start thinking of ideas, you'll realize just how much there really is you can do. Get your kids' friends involved too so your family can serve side-by-side with another family you have grown close to.

Jesus is the Reason for the Season Advent. We say that Jesus is the reason for the season, but are we really teaching it? Since Christmas is focused on Christ's birth it is an excellent time to teach your kids about things you maybe wouldn't know how to bring up during the year. Make a scripture chain with verses for your children to memorize. Do links with the story of Jesus's birth beginning when the angel told Mary she was pregnant. Put the Roman road on links. Or do a chain that studies the different names of God. There are tons of great ways to do this! This is a post I found a few years ago that has a great advent chain for learning the true meaning of the season through scripture. Or you can make advent ornaments as you study the names of God together like this mom did. And this is a great nativity story chain for your younger children (begins on Dec 11 rather than the first). There's not a lot of detail and it's very simplified so it's perfect for those first few years of teaching.

If you search you can find many, many, many other ideas! Way too many for me to post. Tomorrow is Dec 1! So get your Advent ready and begin a wonderful new tradition of playing, serving, and learning with your family. I, honestly, think the best advent is a combination of all 3 of these. I can't wait to begin this journey with my own family!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Beauty of Darkness

There's a reason evil lurks around in dark places. Pretending it's beautiful, masquerading as perfection, a promise of greener pastures. Wishful thinking, regret, what-ifs. Mocking, luring, destroying. We hold these secrets inside. Guarding them in the core of our being, protecting them as if our life depends on it. Reveling in the beauty, the seduction, the raw emotion. Oh, how beautiful these inner secrets seem. How precious to our sense of being. We become lured in and entangled, and we like it there. The way these secrets feel, the tingle up our spine, the promises they make. Oh, but these secrets, these beautiful, wonderful, glorious secrets that we curl ourselves up in, once exposed to the light are nothing but ugly, dirty, worthless lies. The way others feel about us that serve as our motivation. The secret pain in our hearts, the lust of the flesh, the burning anger. The wounds that we peel open, the desires that we seek, the flames that we fan. We keep them in the dark, because they are beautiful there. We hide them as far from the light as we can because we know, we fear, that once they are brought into the light they will be revealed for what they truly are. Brick walls built up around our hearts, chains enslaving us to another, a passionate fire destroying us from inside our own selves. Yes, it is beautiful, but only in darkness. Once exposed, we can try to pretend, but we know the truth. We can try to cover up, but it has been revealed. We can try to get the feelings back, but the excitement is lost. There is beauty is the dark, but only true beauty can survive when brought into the light. And the ugly is only uncovered once we recognize the darkness it's been hiding in. The truth that it hides behind. The true joy and pleasure that awaits us, rather than the un-fullfillment, the hunger that these secrets will bring. The ultimate lie that hides in the darkness so well, that there's really no beauty there at all.