Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent Challenge

Over the weekend, we began preparations for the Christmas Season. I decided this would be the year that I learn to sew and went and got fabric to make stockings for each of us. A broken needle, a bloody finger, countless removal of seams, and many tears later, I emerged from my room to find my husband sitting at the table painting wooden blocks.

We had been talking about Advent calendars and how we just had never really found the "right" one. I mean there are Lego Advent Calendars, Playmobil Advent Calendars, Barbie Advent Calendars, etc. Of course commercialism at its' finest. The thing is, that all of these calendars focused on the kids receiving. We are trying SO hard to teach our kids that it is FAR more rewarding to GIVE. We buy each kids three or four gifts for Christmas and try to focus on the JOY in giving to and loving others. In a world that is obsessed with give me NOW, we wanted to focus on the opposite.

My amazing husband came up with this Advent Calendar and I am THRILLED to see how it turns out. Seriously, he is awesome like this. This Advent calendar focuses on GIVING and the TRUE meaning of Christmas. Preparing our hearts for the birth of Jesus. So here is what he came up with:


So, how it works is that each day we turn over one of the blocks...(you could definitely make this out of paper). Whatever symbol is on it, is what you do for that day.

Hand = give someone a helping hand, shovel a driveway, help someone load groceries, etc.

Pencil = Write someone a letter, could be someone you've lost touch with, a soldier, grandma, etc.

Apple = Donate food, buy someone's groceries or dinner, donate money to the food pantry, etc.

Christmas Tree = Decorate and prepare your home for the season

Table = have dinner with someone else, at a restaurant or in your home. Just have a meal and fellowship.

Dollar Sign = Donate money. Hand someone a ten dollar bill unexpectedly, give to the needy, send someone you know is struggling a few dollars.

Cross = pray. Set aside time and pray. Pray for your family, for others, for the hurting, for the lost, etc.

Smiley Face = Do something to make someone smile. Visit a nursing home, take a meal to someone who is hurting, deliver blankets to a NICU.

Don't Sign = Try NOT to do something all day. Don't swear, yell, pick your nose, jump on the couch, speed, or even fast.

Book = Read the Christmas Story from the Bible

Wreath = Help someone else decorate their home. Take them a wreath, stockings, help hang lights, spread the Christmas cheer!

Lips = (no don't go kissing random people, it is cold and flu season people) :) Say a kind word. Use your words wisely and wish people a Merry Christmas.

Bird = Do something for nature. Make a bird feeder, pick up trash, recycle.

Music Note = Sing Christmas Carols with your family

So, there you have it, an Advent of GIVING. Let's take some time and prepare our hearts for what Christmas is REALLY about. Let's get out and act like Christ...not just Christians. Who's in!? We'd love to have you join us and share your stories and pictures, I can share them here or you are welcome to link to your own blog. Let me know! I know we are already four days in, but the first whole week is decorating...most of you have already started that...right? ;)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Luke and Ben on Thanksgiving

Tuesday at our house was tough. I was sick. I cannot remember the last time I had a fever but I had a fever, was achy, sore throat...awful. I even called my "Daddy" to come to my rescue with Ramen Noodles, Popsicles, and Ginger Ale. (And I think he will come to my rescue whenever he can for as long as he lives, and he will do it happily) Anyway, I was sick. It was maybe the sickest I had been since having kids and taking care of Ben and Hope was proving to be a challenge all day when I just wanted to lie down. Once dinner was over I went to the couch to crash and let Howard take over when Luke came up to me. We had THIS conversation:

Luke: Mom, tomorrow is my Thanksgiving skit at school and I need to wear Dad's socks.

Me: Why on earth would you wear your Dad's socks?

Luke: To pull them up over my pants, of course. You know, I am going to be a pilgrim.

Me: Right. Okay. Well will your tball tube socks work?

Luke: Yes. And Mom? I was also thinking, don't you think that if I just wear socks up over my jeans and a regular shirt, that is being disrespectful to the pilgrims?

Me: Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Luke: Well, I think it is. I think we can do better. Can't we mom? Shouldn't we dress me like a real pilgrim to show respect for them?

Me: Uh.Um.Well. I guess. What do you mean?

Luke: I know you will come up with something mom, but I need black and buckles and a collar.

Me: Sigh

I got up off the couch turned on the sewing machine, dug through outgrown sweatpants, turned a Spiderman Tshirt inside out, and the above picture is what we got. Not perfect, but for thrown together right before bedime...not too bad either. I mean, we wouldn't want to disrespect pilgrims. :)

NOW for a Ben Story:

This morning, Howard took Luke to do man things and Ben, Hope and I snuggled, ate chocolate cake (don't judge. Bill Cosby says it is okay. Eggs, milk, flour...all breakfast stuff) and watched the Thanksgiving Parade. Ben put Luke's Pilgrim hat on and this was OUR conversation:

Ben: Mom, I don't get Thanksgiving, we should ALWAYS be thankful right?

Me: Yes, What don't you get?

Ben: Well, did Pilgrims really wear hats like this?

Me: Yes

Ben: How do you know? Have you ever SEEN a Pilgrim. I have not seen a Pilgrim and I think if I saw someone wearing a hat like this I would remember. Are they extinct or what?

Me: Um, well, I guess you could say that.

Ben: AND another thing...why are we watching boys wearing tutus on TV? (during a performance on ABC during the parade, it was strange) Thanksgiving is weird. When are we having turkey?

As for Hope...she could have eaten her weight in Pumpkin Pie today...she IS her mother's daughter.

AND in other exciting news, Luke lost his third tooth today! He was SO excited. He went to bed concerned that the Tooth Fairy might now work holidays! :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Yesterday was a rough day for me. Sometimes it still, even years later catches me completely off guard. I woke up kind of in a fog and couldn't snap out so I sat down to blog and decided to go back and reread stuff I had written years ago and then it hit me. November 20th, was the date in 2007 that we got Asher's prognosis. It was the day that we knew something was terribly wrong. It was the day that we were counseled to end his life. It was the day that my broken heart, once again shattered into a million pieces.

I think back to those days and though I have never been more broken in my life, I have also never felt the hand of God in a more tangible way. The body of Christ did come alongside us and we were loved and supported like never before. As hard as those days were, I sometimes miss those days. Though it hurt terribly, things were crystal clear. I am so very thankful that God gave us Asher. I am so grateful for the grace and strength the gave us as we walked a journey we never could have fathomed. I miss my boys, but some days I have to be honest, it makes my heart happy that they will never know the pains and heartache of this world. They are rejoicing at the side of our Father and have NO worries. They are worshiping and joyful. My heart physically aches, but I am grateful.

The day got harder still when we went to have a family photo taken for our Church Directory. For some reason I always think I can get through a family photo without losing my mind and the fact remains that I cannot. When two someones are missing, it just doesn't feel right. I did ok, and held myself together but am not proud to say that I was anxious, irritable and snippy with my family all afternoon.

This time of year is so tough. So many reminders and so much wondering what might have been. The holidays especially make my heart hurt. I write today asking that as we approach the holiday season that you would join me in praying for families who are missing special someones. I pray that we can all choose joy and find peace in knowing He is sovereign over it all.

I want to leave you with a few pictures of my three earthly kiddos from before our family pictures yesterday. The photographer got a great shot of the three cuties, but at 32.00 for ONE picture, we just couldn't go there. So here is what I got! :)

I am pretty sure this wasn't the finger she wanted to show me at this point. :)

She is just getting too big!

Sibling Love

CUTE! Of course I could be biased. :)


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Child's Heart

Two weeks ago, Luke had some issues on the bus. Two boys he sits with were teasing him and then he ended up getting punched by each of them. Luke is a shy kid. He told them to stop, and then just sat and cried. Thankfully we have a wonderful bus driver and she saw everything and took care of things. I had contacted the school, but they were already in the process of taking care of the issue...have I told you how much I LOVE our little community school? It is the best.

Bullying is something that is taken very seriously today as it should be. To ensure Luke knew how to deal with things, Howard and I had a talk with him about how proud we were of him that he did not lash out back at the boys who hit him. We also reminded him that it was okay to stand up for himself, and to tell an adult if it doesn't stop. We then had a talk about loving your enemies. We dug out the Bible, Howard talked of Abraham Lincoln and the idea that to get rid of enemies you should make them your friend.

Which brings me to today. There was a book fair at Luke's school and it was the day he got to buy something. We have a TON of books since Howard and I are both teachers and we have great family and friends who have really taken care of our kids in this area...PLUS we visit our local library regularly. SO when he asked for money, of which we have VERY little, I was torn. After talking with Howard, we decided we would give Luke 10 dollars, with one stipulation. He was NOT allowed to spend it on himself, his family, or his best friends all of which we know have books a plenty.

I volunteer at his school on Wednesdays so while I was there today I asked if he had thought of how he would spend his money. He smiled and nodded. I asked if he wanted to share it with me...he did. He told me the names of the very two boys who had been mean to him on the bus. He beamed with pride as I hugged him and got teary. Today I am thanking God for that boy...he makes ME want to do better. He gets it.

Christmas Shopping

In light of the recent "Amazon" boycott, I have been forced to think outside the box with the smiley on it for my Christmas shopping as I have found shopping from my computer to be much easier than trying to find a sitter for three kids or trying to lug them along. I have written before but we don't buy A LOT for Christmas, we do three gifts per kid and one family gift and this year CSN Stores has become my go to for all of my holiday shopping. They have everything from extra tall bar stools to cloth diapers, to kitchen appliances.

Shipping is free on many items and also on all orders over 69 dollars! I have recently received my first order from CSN and could not be happier with the products! I highly recommend checking them out...they seriously carry just about EVERYTHING you could imagine.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Joy...It's A Choice

"you are to rejoice before the LORD your God in everything you put your hand to." Deuteronomy 12:18

Before you read this post and want to punch me in the face..."hear" me out...there was a time that the title of this post probably would have had me clicking that little "X" in the top right corner of the screen too.

I had a conversation once with someone close to me who confessed that he had not ever felt "joy". He was baffled by it as he is someone who prays fervently and reads his Bible regularly. I would even go so far as to say he has a great relationship with the Lord. This conversation has stuck in my head for a long time now and I just keep rehashing the conversation. I really feel that God is convicting me about joy, and choosing joy in ALL things."

First let's talk a minute about what joy is. Joy is much different from happiness...true joy is not dependent on circumstance or situation. It is a feeling of peace and rejoicing in the Lord EVEN in the face of some of the toughest stuff this life has to offer. Happiness is temporary, fleeting, it does depend on circumstance. Happiness is not bad, it is just not the same as joy.

After this conversation I thought long and hard about joy. I thought about times in my life when I felt the most "joyful" and here is what I have learned about joy. I believe that joy is a choice. Each day we can choose joy or we can choose to let the world around us determine the state of our heart. The times I have felt the most joy, have also been some of the hardest moments of my life. It is my experience that when we are experiencing hardship and the whole world is crashing down all around us, and we draw near to God, joy can be found even in the most heartbreaking of circumstances.

That is not to say that joy is easy to come by and that is not to say that joy means we put on a fake smile when things are hard and just pretend everything is fabulous. It means that we choose to believe that even when it all seems out of control, He is in control. It means that we choose to rejoice in knowing that NOTHING can separate us from the love of our savior. Times get tough, life is hard, but God is bigger than all of it and we can find peace in knowing that there is nothing in this world that happens that He cannot redeem for His glory. It is especially in these hard circumstances that we can be a testimony to His goodness by choosing joy.

The words "I will choose joy" are written in several places around my house. Throughout the day as I do some of the chores that are not my favorite, I look at those words and remind myself that joy is a choice. As I am wiping up the bathroom floor for the tenth time in a day, (seriously, we should do humanity a favor and teach boys to sit down to use the bathroom haha!)I am reminded to CHOOSE joy, as I pick up toys for the millionth time in a day I am reminded to CHOOSE joy, as I pick up dirty socks that somehow landed NEXT TO the hamper instead of inside, I am reminded to CHOOSE joy. We are to choose joy in the small things and in the big. This is all easier said than done. For me it is a constant battle.

I feel God constantly calling me to CHOOSE joy. I do feel joy. I just don't think joy is this magical thing that just takes over when you accept Christ. I think it is a choice. I think it is really hard sometimes, it is an act of obedience really. Choosing to let go of worry and choose joy even when you don't see a way out of your situation is hard, BUT if we truly trust Him at His word, it only makes sense. Rejoicing in Him in the good and the bad is what we are called to do.

So tell me, do you know what it is to feel joy? What are your thoughts on the topic?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Maximizing My Mornings

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about the "Maximize Your Morning Challenge" I set out determined to get up earlier to give myself a chance to start my day right and be a better servant to my family. I have gotten a few emails from some of you who have been wondering how that is going. SO...here is my experience thus far...

I started out gung ho. I was getting up an hour before Howard and an hour and a half before the kids. It was great to sit in the dark house and read and pray for each of my family members before they woke up. I then showered and got ready for the day and began chores, like laundry, mopping, etc, so that I had more time WITH the kids during the day. It made a difference. It made A HUGE difference. Each morning instead of greeting the kids as they woke me up feeling like they had "disturbed" me, I was able to greet them and tell them how happy I was to see them and how I had prayed for them in the morning. The mornings have been less rushed and there has been minimal barking of orders and frustration.

That said...we then fell into this germ infested cycle of sickness. Fevers, coughs, sore throats, headaches, and NO sleeping at night. The first week Luke had it, then Ben (who's turned into a double ear infection) and then Hope. Sometimes I was lucky to get an hour's sleep at night and I was running on empty. I did find that if I made myself get up anyway and get the day started it went better, but man it got hard.

We are finding ourselves on the upswing now (I think) and I am back to getting up early, for myself I have found that 6 am is my max. I just simply cannot function any earlier. I get up at 6 ish (sometimes 6:30 depending on the night and sometimes I just lie there and pray for the energy to get up for a good fifteen or twenty minutes.) and I sit down with my bible and coffee and read and then pray specifically for each of the kids and for Howard. Then Howard gets up and I get him coffee, greet him with coffee, a kiss and a pleasant attitude, and send him off having prayed for his day. Then Hope usually gets up shortly after and I go in and get her with a smile and she and I snuggle on the couch for a few minutes and then I get breakfast started for the kids. Ben typically wanders out shortly after hearing that Hope is up and I greet him with a hug, and kiss and tell him how happy I am to see him and I tell him how I prayed for him that morning. He grabs his blankie and curls up on the couch until breakfast is ready. Then I still have to go in and get Luke. He is just not a morning person. I go in and turn on the light and set his clothes out, then I climb into his bed and snuggle him and tell him how excited I am to see him this morning and I tell him how I prayed for him to have a wonderful day and to be a light to the world (or however I prayed that morning). It still takes a bit of prodding but he gets up, gets dressed and we all go have breakfast together. While the boys then read for a bit before Luke's bus comes I get dinner prepped and the dishwasher unloaded and reloaded and then I make sure to get a load of laundry going.

It HAS made a world of difference. AND while there are still mornings that I fail and things go back to chaotic, I remind myself that tomorrow is a new day and we
move on. Having morning time to yourself with little ones who occasionally wake up before they are supposed to has been the most difficult part for me. I would LOVE any tips you have on this! :)