Friday, December 28, 2007

Little Suprises

We had a very sweet and full Christmas. My favorite gift this year was a letter from my sweet husband. He called it my Christmas letter and wrote in it all those things he wants to say, but often does not say. It made me cry and I felt very loved. My favorite gift that we are giving is some cobblestone pavers that have either the kids hand print or footprint on them. Their grandmother is an avid gardener and I think she will love them. The best gift for the kids was a trampoline that has already provided enough laughter to make it worth the price.
So after preparing for Christmas, doing holiday baking, and scurrying around getting thoroughly exhausted, we have said goodbye to my brother and his sweet family and I spent the day yesterday washing cloths and preparing to leave for New Mexico to see Trace's family. I think it was midnight last night when I commented to my husband that "with 3 kids we really needed to look into getting some extra luggage. I mean just look at all this stuff I have to pack". To which he replied "well, it is ten days". Panic set in...Did you just say 10 days? I thought we were coming back in one week, next Friday. Come to find out that the plan is to come back on that Sunday. I cannot blame my husband, that was the plan all along...and come to think of it I think I knew that at one point in time. However, I had gotten Friday stuck in my head. One week is a long time with 3 little kids (especially when the baby is just recovering from RSV...I did consult with the doctor about going on the trip and he gave an OK), but now we are adding 2 more full days. 2 days should really make little difference, but wow, I was overwhelmed. At that point, I decided to just go to bed and do the rest in the morning, after all we are going to be there for an eternity, why does it matter if we leave an hour or two late.
You know, I used to comment on how some couples communicated so poorly. I mean how could you not talk about certain things, well with baby number 3 our communication went out the window. Suddenly, life was too full to talk about everything and my memory was to fried to remember anything so why even bother talking about it. I guess God wanted to show me that I have no business concerning myself with how much other couples communicate and I will never judge people for forgetting to tell there spouses some details, no matter how much they may need to know them. Our vacation plans are pretty relevant to me and you see how much I knew. Well, I really should be packing right now so i better go. I very likely will not get a chance to post for the next 10 days so the few people who read this just know I will check in if I can and I will return in January...Happy New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

I had such a sweet time with the Lord this morning. I decided that I wanted to read the Christmas story and spend some time reflecting on the reason we celebrate Christmas...the birth of a baby that will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

God does not cease to amaze me. I read and was amazed once again by His goodness. I think the thing that keeps hitting me this year is that He did not have to do this. He did not have to come, but in His goodness He chose to come, to be mocked, to be tempted, to be hated, and to be murdered. I just can't separate these two events. He came so He could die. He came to redeem His people. He came to display His glory and His splendor!

Can you imagine being Mary? Have you ever really pondered this. She was obviously a young girl of great faith. We know this by the way she responded and believed that she would have the Lord's son. She experienced so many great things and people spoke great words about this baby who would be born to her. An Angel appeared to her and called her favored one
(Luke 1:28). The angel said this baby would be called great and the son of the Most High (Luke 1:32). Elizabeth saw her and said she is blessed among women and called her the mother of her Lord (Luke 1: 42 an 43). Mary was so overwhelmed by these experiences that she broke into song praising her God. A little later we hear Zacharias speaking of the Christ who will born and says the Lord has raised up a horn of salvation for us (Luke 1:69).

Then the day comes for Jesus to be born, to have His humble earthly beginning. He was born among the animals, He was worshipped by the lowly shepherds who reported to Mary and Joseph how the angel had appeared to them and said I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:10-14).

And how did Mary respond to these strangers who brought this news...she treasured these things in her heart, and pondered on them (Luke 2 :19). A few days later, Jesus is taken to the Temple to be circumcised when they met Simeon. The Holy spirit had revealed who Jesus was to Simeon and he spoke saying "my eyes have seen your salvation" ( Luke 2:30).

I don't know why all these things were said, but I wonder if part of the reason was not for Mary. Can you imagine hearing such a clear message from the Lord about your child? She must have felt overwhelmed by the presence of our Lord and the words that had been spoken to encourage her. She must have known deep connection with the Father at this time. She was just a simple girl and God had shown His favor on her. I wonder if much of this was not to prepare her for the suffering that she too would experience. After all this encouragement Simeon goes on to say that This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too. (Luke 2: 34-35).

This may have been her first glimpse at the suffering the future would hold for Jesus, and as his mother, for Mary. She is told that a sword would pierce her soul also, but in the Fathers goodness He had prepared her. She was favored by God and the scriptures tell us so often that those who are favored, those who are chosen are called to suffer. And she would suffer...she would see her son murdered in a violent and awful way. She would be so torn and hurt in her flesh...but she had this experience this bold encounter with the Lord to fall back on! We can see how the Lord was Mary's Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). How has He been this for you this year? These are the things I will, like Mary, ponder in my heart today. Will you join me?

I will leave you with a few pictures from Aidan's Christmas play at school. He was Joseph and the play was so adorable! It brought tears to my eyes to see the way the Lord is writing His word on these kids hearts. I also put a couple before church yesterday. Enjoy and have a very Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Memories in the Making

We have been busy with the holidays for the last week or so. I have not had much time to post about our activities so I thought I would post our life in pictures. Here goes nothing...

Making chocolate covered pretzel sticks...Does anyone have a better tip on where to put these to let them dry?

Please note the sprinkles in the chair. This is just a small sample of what was on the floor. Is baking with kids really worth it? And please tell me why anyone would ever invent white tiles?

All Aboard! Before boarding the Polar Express Train. Such a good time!

Are they not adorable in their matching PJ's, even if they aren't Christmasie.

Getting our tickets stamped, just like the movie. They loved this part!

See how tightly he is grabbing his ticket. I really think that he thought he would have to go up front with the engineer if he lost it. They kept close watch on the tickets for us all.

Baby Love!

Santa is on the train, where?

This kid was nuts for Santa, He was madly screaming "Santa, Santa" over and over. I am not sure my kids knew what to think of him

Our bells! When we got home Aidan said this was his first gift this year, but Becca quickly corrected him and let him know it was not a present, it was just a bell.


The Boys and the bell

Our red train as Becca says.

We had such a good time singing Christmas carols and drinking hot chocolate on the train. If you get a chance to do this you should. It really was fun...just riding the train was neat. Merry Christmas. More pictures will be coming soon, you can count on that. What is there 5 days till Christmas...Crazy!

Much Love!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Rest...even in the Holiday Season

In our community group this past Sunday we studied Psalm 127 and I found a new favorite verse that I have been meditating on.
It is Psalm 127:2 and it reads in the NLT:
It is useless for you to work so hard
from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
for God gives rest to his loved ones.
And the NIV says:
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep

What a beautiful picture! God has been so good to teach me about rest lately. He has done this in so many ways, through books, and different verses in His word so it would make sense that this verse jumps off the page at me. Sense having baby number three, I so often feel exhausted. I love my kids and I would not desire my life to be any different, but I get tired. I get burdened by my daily tasks and it is hard to do them with a cheerful heart. I also feel sometimes like I spend all my time meeting the basic needs of my family and that I don't do anything of significance. And this is where the enemy attacks my thought life. I think what I am doing does not matter, that it is not significant in God's Kingdom, but then I remember that as Psalm 127:3 says, that children are a gift of the Lord. These 3 beautiful children are what God has given me on a daily basis to invest in for the glory of His kingdom. Sometimes I think that it would be so rewarding to have a specific "ministry". To have some people in my life that don't know Jesus, but really want to, and to get to spend time encouraging them and watching them grow in their faith. And then I remember...GOD HAS GIVEN ME THREE OF THOSE PEOPLE IN MY VERY OWN HOME. I don't have to go seek them out, they live with me, they are 3 of the most special people in the whole world, as far as I am concerned. When I have this perspective, my heart is more aligned with God's and I can serve them, love them, cuddle them, and even discipline them with a cheerful heart. I get to talk about Jesus with these 3 kids as much as I want and they are excited to have these conversations. They are excited to learn and like all human beings they have hearts bent towards worship. As I point their little hearts to Jesus we get to worship together. I have Aidan who loves to try to understand big concepts, like the Trinity and Satan. I have Rebecca who points out the wonder of God's creation by taking note of the pink sunsets and the stars in the sky. And I have Andrew whose precious smile and laughter can bring joy to any situation. We get to sing to God to our hearts content. God's good gifts provide me a place to serve Him, a place to worship Him, and with the right perspective give me a cheerful heart that is able to rest in Him.
Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30:
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
God has shown me lately that when I am feeling burdened it is because I am working hard, spinning my wheels so to speak, based on my own burden...For His burden is light and His yoke is easy. When I sit as His feet and let Him teach me He provides rest for my soul.
By the way...This post was supposed to be about the unexpected ways God gives us time and rest, but as I wrote this is what came out. I guess this was what I needed to blog about today.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Busy with Christmas

Since I left you with such an air of negativity on my last post I wanted to update you real quick. In less that 48 hours I have decorated the mantel with my small Santa collection and put out our nativity set and a few other decorations ( now if I could only get the empty bins put away...ahh one thing at a time). I have gotten invitations out to our neighborhood cookie decorating party and brunch that we will host. I have baked some things for my husbands work holiday lunch and I did a craft with my kids and 2 other neighborhood kids. We made mini nativity sets (Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus). I think they came out really cute and it was so fun to get to share with these precious kids the meaning behind Christmas. Then, they got to take them home to their houses and proudly display them. They were excited about it and I pray that it brings many questions and godly conversations into those homes. I would say a lot can change in two days...thanks for letting be a grump for a day, I am feeling much better! Here a few pictures of our craft project.

Kids and their Nativity Sets

Busy Crafting

my little artists!

And how can I leave out the most adorable baby around?

Also, I have been meaning to share with you a post my friend, Hannah, did. If any of you are interested in some ideas of fun things to do with your kids she has lots of ideas. Go here and check it out. She also talks about how they have decided to celebrate Christmas...The whole, should we do Santa issue. I don't think there is a right or wrong on this issue, I think that is an individual family decision. She shares what they have decided and I will tell you where we are. Santa is part of our culture. Our kids will hear about him. There is just no getting around that so this is what we decided, we don't push Santa. We don't threaten with Santa and we don't make a big issue of Santa coming or not. We talk about Jesus and the reason for the Christmas and we answer questions or have conversations about other things as they present them. My husband has said it well by saying we want them to think of Santa much the way they think of Superman or Spider man. They are fun pretend characters and we see nothing wrong with that. We play along with Spider man conversations so why not play along with this. We just want our kids to really focus on Jesus and we have found so far that since we talk so much more about Jesus than Santa they are much more concerned with that as well. Kids see where our hearts are and they tend to follow suit. I am not sure what I would say if my kids flat out asked me if Santa is real, but I guess we will cross that bridge when we get there. My guess is I would pose the question right back to them and let them lead the conversation. I may not have described this well so if you have questions or comments I would love to hear them. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Bah Humbug

I have a confession to make...I am trying to muster up the Christmas spirit and it just is not happening! I don't know what my deal is, but I am finding myself extremely hormonal and tired lately (No, I am not pregnant!). I usually love Christmas! But this year, I just can't seem to get excited about baking, shopping, and wrapping presents. I think it will come, but right now I am more concerned with surviving the days. Lately it feels like survival takes all the energy I have. However nobody, including myself, likes a scrooge at Christmas so...I decided I will admit my feelings of defeat this holiday season and simply get over it! I am complaining right now for the next few minutes and then I will suck it up and have a good attitude! My kids are huge gifts in my life! HUGE!!! I cannot say that enough, but lately it has felt like they are trying to make me cry. Everything we do is hard. We have to make 10 thousand trips to the potty everywhere we go. We always forget something that mom has to go back inside to get or else choose to listen to much crying. Obedience is a once forgotten characteristic. The laundry is winning the battle at my house right now and I want nothing more than to curl up with a good book and hide from the world and my kids for a day or two. However, I do realize that this is not an option so this is what I have resolved to do...I will finish putting up my Christmas decorations today! I will listen to Christmas music and sing loudly. I will begin working on my Christmas letter very soon and I will pick out Christmas cards or try to get a good photo (not an easy feat as I have mentioned before). I will make some lists and plans. I will set aside several baking days, even though I do not want to bake and I will even invite the kids to help me. I will get busy with the holiday traditions and I will do it with a smile and a happy heart! I know that joy is contagious so if I simply fake it...maybe it will rub off on me as well! Off to turn on the Christmas music and decorate the house a little more...Merry Christmas, no more Bah Humbug for me!

Monday, December 3, 2007

What do I hunger for?

I am relatively new to seeking God through bible study and really trying to discover what the bible says. I am relatively new to the idea of seeking to live a life that glorifies the Father. I am new to many spiritual disciplines. So let me begin this post by saying I do no fast. I have never fasted. I have never even been taught the purpose of fasting. I have never heard someone talk from personal experience about fasting. I never got it and I was OK with that. I mean if no one really talks about it they either must not be doing it or else it isn't that significant. I have heard people talk about fasting a few times, like when we were looking for a new Senior pastor for our church or when some missionaries where trying to decide if and where they should go. But for the average person, it just did not seem all that necessary to me. It must be something for the spiritually elite.
I just recently began reading the book, A Hunger For God by John Piper. God is really challenging me with what I am reading. It says on the front cover that the book is about desiring God through prayer and fasting.
I started reading this book at the recommendation of my husband. You see, I have problem with balance in my life, in many areas, but I am specifically referring to the balance between prayer and bible study. I tend to be either prayer heavy or bible heavy, but I usually am not doing both well at any given time. I am currently doing a scripture heavy bible study so I have been leaning on the bible heavy side. I decided that I needed to pick up a book on prayer so I picked up Priscilla Shriers book titled He speaks to Me. God did meet me through that book and the scriptures I was studying at that time and He worked to quiet my soul and to help me increase my understanding of resting in Him(but that is for another post). I knew when I was done with that book that I desired to continue to read on the spiritual discipline of prayer. When I mentioned this to my husband he recommended this book by John Piper. Even though I wasn't all that excited about the fasting stuff I decided to read it and figured I would learn something. I am a little over halfway through the book and God is challenging me. I thought I would share some of the quotes that I have been thinking on.
*** The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable and almost incurable. Page 14
***If you don't feel strong desires for the manifestations of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world, your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great. Page 23
***From time to time we need to test ourselves to see if we have begun to love his gifts in place of God. Page 45
***Fasting is a way of revealing to ourselves and confessing to God what is in our hearts. Where do we find our deepest satisfaction - in God or His gifts? Page 58
***The question is: having tasted the goodness of God in the gospel, how can I maximize my enjoyment of him, when every moment of my life I am tempted to make a god out of his good gifts? Page 62
***The absence of fasting is indicative of our comfort with the way things are. No one fasts to express how content they are. People only fast out of dissatisfaction...The absence of fasting is the measure of our contentment with he absence of Christ. Page 93
***Are we settled into this world so comfortably that the thought of fasting for the end of history is unthinkable? Page 95
***Do you love Jesus so much that His coming would be the greatest thing you can imagine?...How would you feel about being told that fasting for the King's coming may reflect how much you want he Bridegroom to come?...Do we want the appearance of Jesus more than we want to finish our career and family plans? Or our next meal? Page 96
I do not know if these strike you hard, but I must confess they do me. Especially the questions at the end, the ones about Christ's return. Just reading the question about His coming being the greatest thing I can imagine brought tears to my eyes and I must admit it is not because I can give a resounding yes! Yes, I do get discouraged by this world. The evil in this fallen place is often hard to look at and all to often I simply choose to look the other way rather than deal with it. I mean, rape, abortions, and the physical persecution of God's elect around the world are hard things to stomach. Sometimes, I truly ache for Christ's coming. I long (at times) to be in Christ's presence, where pain and sorrow will be no more, where sin will no longer reign in my life or those around me, and when God's glory will shine brighter than I can even fathom. I do eagerly await that time, but if I am honest, the truth is that I am stuffed by the gifts of this world. Good things, like my husband and kids, comfort of my home, and food in the pantry. So often this life satisfies me. Yes, part of this satisfaction is my relationship with Jesus Christ, but much of it is from the goodness of the gifts He has given me that all to often shift and become idols in my heart. Lord forgive me for not be able to pray often enough "Thy Kingdom Come" and really mean it!