"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace
that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding." Ephesians 1:7-8

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Happy

"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, 
because he will save his people from their sins." Matthew 1:21

The kids enjoyed singing to Jesus. (And yes, Aaron changed into jammies as soon as we got home from church!)
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

75 days complete!!!

On Thursday (12/22) we completed day 75 of school! Even though most public school kids were on break this week, we decided to keep on working with a shortened schedule so that we'd have some structure to our days. I have to say, it was probably the most delightful week we've had so far. I mostly think God is at work in my heart, giving me extra patience with the boys and the ability to love them well. However, I also think that I was more relaxed because we didn't have as much to complete and that certainly affects how the boys behave. When I'm stressed and uptight, the boys are usually on edge. Darin called when he was traveling to check in and I'm not sure he believed me when I said day after day that we'd had a great day! Praise the Lord for a good school week.

On Monday, we had a fun home school Christmas party so we did a little work before going and a little work when we returned. (A very light school day!) Then the rest of the week we had a relaxed schedule of starting around 8:30ish and completing our work around 10:30, depending on when we started. We didn't have any art classes, Bible studies, or PE classes to rush to and that was just wonderful.  This week was an early Christmas present! A reminder that this is where God wants us now and encouragement that He can give me strength to love my boys even when I'm tired. (And I've been burning the midnight oil working on my sewing project!)

Here is what we worked on during our short days:
Luke - Bible, spelling, reading and reading comprehension, math, My Father's World United States study, and a little science too. (We omitted grammar, phonics and music this week since we're ahead in those topics.)
Ethan - Bible, phonics, math and reading aloud practice
Aaron - puzzles, duplos, magneatos, lincoln logs, and having fun!

So tomorrow starts our first official day of Christmas break and I'm praying that when we start up again in January we will all be rested and ready to start the second semester as well as we finished up the first. We read this passage Thursday during our Bible time. It's a passage that we've all read many times but oh how it pierced my heart this time around. We had some good discussions about it and I have some ideas of how I want to continue those discussions over our break. So thankful for what He is teaching me!!!

"And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." 1 Corinthians 12:31b - 13: 1-7

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Virginia Family Christmas

This Saturday we had our annual Virginia family Christmas get together with Darin's sister and family. It's a fun yearly tradition! The kids are all very close in age... (8, 7, 6, 5, 4, and 3 years old!) and enjoy running around and making noise together. :) Here are a few photos from our get together. 
I wish I thought to get an entire group shot! 
 The smiley grandparent shot!
 The silly photo. The girls were not interested in being silly. :)
 These two are so sweet together. Here they are having a running race. 
You'd think it was summer the way they are dressed. I guess all the running made them hot!
My niece is such a calm presence for Aaron's more competitive side. Adorable!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Painting Extravaganza

What do you do if your "to do" list keeps growing and the days keep getting fewer?

Of course, you decide to decorate your own wrapping paper!!!! Why make it easy and buy Christmas wrapping paper?? I was kicking myself as I scrambled to wrap all our extended family presents in brown packing paper, because I knew that once I wrapped them I was not done. This year, I've cut back on making lots of Christmas presents for extended family and I am going through some crafting withdrawal. [I am sewing one special gift which I'll share on here after the intended recipient receives it. :)]

Thankfully, decorating the packages today with the boys turned out to be a really enjoyable activity (as long as I remembered that it was going to be messy no matter what!) I have to add that I rarely have my own creative ideas, but I love to borrow ideas from friends and from online. I got this idea from my friend Carla a couple years ago.

Here is what we did:
1) After wrapping the gifts in brown packing paper, I cut a potato in half. Then I drew a picture of a holly leaf and carved it out to make a stamp. We then used a paintbrush to cover the stamp in green.

2) Then I put Luke to work stamping the holly leaves in groups of two or three on the brown packages. Occasionally,  I had to fill in the leaf if it didn't get covered adequately. 

3) Then Ethan dipped the eraser end of a pencil into red paint and dabbed on some red berries. 

4) Now we just need to add some raffia ribbon once it dries! I love how the boys did such a careful job. 

Since we already had the paint out and a big mess made, we decided to let the painting continue and paint the salt dough ornaments we made yesterday at a home school Christmas party. Aaron stuck with it for a while painting 2 stars, a gingerbread man and a bell. (And as you see, he had fun spreading the red paint on his plate!) Then he played so cooperatively while we finished the rest. This was a gift!

Above is our finished work. Now we'll add some ribbons and hang a few on the tree saving some special ornaments to add to the top of our packages. 
I was quite indulgent and had some fun painting and creating too! :)

Room Time Creations

All three boys have room time Monday through Friday for about an hour or more. It's a necessary part of our day to keep me sane! I also think it's good for them to have some focused play independently since they are together most of the time. Some days run smoother then others. The other day, I had to smile when I found this set up from Aaron. 

I love that he allowed such a variety of creatures to be spectators as the train went around the track!

Monday, December 19, 2011


I stumbled upon the blog "Practical Theology for Women" recently and began scouring the site. Lots of great thought provoking and encouraging posts about life as a mom, wife and believer in Jesus. Today's post really caught my attention.

I've found myself in a place recently of longing for heaven in a new way. Really longing for a time that will be tear free, pain free and without conflict. Longing for a place where all the things of the world will not get in the way of my communion with God. A place where I can fully rest in Him. And yet, He has placed me here "in the world but not of the world." So, how do I live where He has called me to live with joy and yet still rightfully long for the home I was truly intended for?? How to be content with where He has placed me now?

I loved these last couple paragraphs in her post today.

I long for true food and true drink, for true satisfaction and true rest. I long for true HOME. It's the already, but not yet aspect of the Kingdom of God. Jesus has come, and in this very moment, I can feast on Him and LIVE. I am already seated with Him in the heavenly places, my permanent, peaceful home. Yet, I still live here on earth in a tent. I don't see Him face-to-face as I type these words. 

The solution to my discontent is to embrace the tension. This world is not my home, and I am seated with Him in the heavenly realm. He is my manna in the wilderness, and I feast on Him through prayer and Bible study. I can then receive from this earthly home what it can provide and not look to it to provide what it can not. Only then do the seeds of peace and rest start to bloom in my heart. 

Guilt did nothing for me. Meditating on Christ did.

First Trail Bike Ride

Aaron has been riding his bike for a while now (with training wheels) in the driveway and around the neighborhood. Last week, we ventured out for his FIRST ride on trails with his brothers. 

I was a little nervous how he would do on the hilly terrain with many 
opportunities to use his brakes, but he wasn't phased by it at all. 

I was surprised to spend a good portion of the ride running to keep up with all three boys on 
their bikes! Too bad I couldn't fit my bike in the car too, so I could ride along with them. 
I was totally re-energized being outside with my guys getting exercise. These are the moments I 
treasure. How can my baby be getting so grown up?? I'm so proud of him. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011


     "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 
     Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4: 4-9

I'm enjoying this passage today. It is chock full words that encourage, convict and challenge me. I am definitely not a Bible scholar, but here is what my simple brain is grabbing hold of today.

* Our thoughts and minds are really powerful. They can build us up or tear us down. They either point us to God or tempt us to believe the father of lies (Satan).
* Our minds and our hearts are connected.
* In order to guard our hearts, we need to be aware of what we let our thought life linger on. God desires for us to think about true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable and praiseworthy things.
* God wants us to be in constant communication with Him (praising Him, thanking Him, making requests of Him). He promises that as we are in communion with Him he will give us peace. He will enable us to not be anxious.
* There is a battle going on! The evil one is trying to get us to listen to him, which is why we need to guard our hearts and our minds by studying the truth in God's word.

I've mentioned many times that I'm a glass half-empty kind of girl. Sounds kind of ridiculous if I am truly a believer in Jesus. However, I need to fight against believing the lies I hear running through my head. I am very tempted to hear one negative comment made about me and play that tape again and again until I believe the lie as truth. I am tempted to make up lies to tell myself when I perceive my own failure. I think that's why this scripture has been so good for me today. It's a great reminder of my need to fill my mind with the awesome truths about who I am in Christ and the love of Jesus who bled for me.

This advent and Christmas, my eyes are open to understand better why He had to come as a baby. I'm thankful for His GRACE!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fresh Air

I love being outside and so do the boys! Yet as winter draws near,  we can get into our routines of spending our afternoons creatively playing inside rather then making the effort to get bundled up 
and head outside. Yesterday, we had a simple but great outing that did us all a lot of good. 
We loaded up and went to Meadow Farm Museum and Crump Park. 
We parked as far as we could from Meadow Farm (near Crump park). Then we spent the next hour getting exercise and enjoying the fresh air. (It was only 48 degrees, so it was actually quite nice.) 
We didn't just walk across the field to the farm. The boys were game for my silly activity. Yeah! 
We would pick a tree and then all run there and run around it three times. 
Or, we would run to a telephone pole and then do 10 jumping jacks.  You get the idea. 
Even Aaron kept up as long as I held his hand and soon enough we made it to the farm. 
We searched around for the animals. In the past we have seen 
sheep, draft horses, bulls, a turkey, chickens, and pigs. 
This time we could only find some sheep and a pig that was gnawing on the fence. 
(A huge find since the pig is usually sleeping!)
I loved spending the afternoon playing with my three guys!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Spectacular Lights

One of the highlights of December every year is to drive around looking at Christmas lights. We eat an early supper and load in the car with a mapped out route of about 10 houses on the tacky light tour. Last night was our night to do that and we didn't even make it to all of them before the boys started falling asleep. We'll have to head out again next weekend. Here are a few of the spectacular lights we've seen this December.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Heart full of JOY

"The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy." Psalm 126:3

I must confess that I have been very tempted to adopt the three D's over the last week ... disappointment, despair, and discouragement. Okay... let's be honest maybe for longer then the past week. :) Not for any catastrophic reason. Just feeling the weight of some hard parenting/schooling days, a traveling husband, holiday hustle and bustle and perhaps an awareness my own selfishness and sin.

After receiving a friends Christmas card which included a verse and short paragraph, I was really challenged in a good way. My brain was swirling with thoughts. Last night before bed, it occurred to me that often times I'm going to have to look for joy in life. I think because of how I'm wired it's not going to be overly obvious to me. (I tend to be drawn to thinking of the little things that irk me or that I can whine about.) As I laid my head on my pillow and prayed, I prayed that God would help me to see blessings and experience joy the next day. When I awoke this morning, I prayed again for patience with the boys and eyes to see joy throughout the day.

"Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs." Psalm 100:1-2

The day was not perfect (and oh how I falsely worship the idea of perfect and smooth days), but in spite of that I was truly filled with joy at certain moments today. It almost makes it better that the day wasn't perfect and that God enabled me to see those special moments anyway!

Here are a few joy filled moments from today:
1) A happy 2nd grader
2) Dancing to Tchaikovsky Russian Dance from the Nutcracker with the boys. (10 times on repeat)
3) Listening to Ethan read me a book (all while he is wiggling all over the place). We ended up finishing the book both of us on our bellies under the coffee table with no interruption to the reading in between. Wish I had that on video camera!
4) One son nibbling his carrots at lunch until they resembled lincoln logs and then stacking them up. (We discourage playing with food at meals, but for some reason this really made me smile. It was quite inventive.)
5) Aaron calling Daddy on his trip and asking if they could wrestle when he returned.
6) Deep belly laughs.
7) Making plans for a special Christmas gift for Darin that I think he'll be really excited about. Shh...
8) Planning out one sewing project for this holiday season and buying the materials. I've had to really scale back on sewing projects this year and have missed it greatly. So excited for this one project.
9) Extended book reading time with the boys at bedtime followed by...
10) Singing Christmas hymns together and early lights out!

God doesn't always answer my prayers in obvious ways or in my timing, but today He did and I'm thankful. Joy to the world, the Lord is come! I pray that no matter what the circumstances, my eyes are opened to see His goodness all around me.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Enjoying the Now

Last week I excitedly brainstormed a list of ten family Christmas traditions. Although I still have my list and much more I could blog about them, I'm afraid I'm going to stop blogging at tradition number four. (Which pains me more then you may know... it irks me to not finish what I have started!) Here is why I've decided to curtail blogging about our traditions:

Somehow I need to stop focusing on "doing" and learn how to focus on "being present."

I have become really aware over the last several weeks that there are some big disadvantages to being a "forward thinker. " Now don't get me wrong... this is how God made me and there are many blessings that come along with this character trait. I know that and I am thankful. However, when I am so focused on what comes next (what's next on my to-do list, what's next on our schedule, what laundry to put in next, what meal I need to prep next, etc.) then I forget to enjoy the NOW. I miss the quality moments I could be having with my boys. Without realizing it, I think I have often put aside quality time with my family because I'm too focused on being productive and getting things done. I get stuck in a pattern of always being in a hurry and can easily become a slave to my schedule at the expense of the special people around me. Maybe sometimes I just need to leave things undone and engage?

I'm pretty sure I'll always be a forward thinker and planner. Yet, I am praying that God will balance me and help me to not miss out on the little blessings in the here and now because I'm too busy. Somehow blogging about these traditions and focusing on all we are going to "do" this advent season has distracted me from sitting at the feet of my Savior.  I'm not even sure if this all makes sense... I just know that it's only December 6th and I feel this great need to put on the breaks, stop and take a deep breath. Do I dare throw away my to-do list?

So, I leave you with the lyrics of my favorite Christmas song. I've sung it for years so automatically, but it's so refreshing to stop and think about the lyrics. "He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger. Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!" 

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

CHRISTmas Traditions

3) Bethlehem Walk
This year for the first time we attended the Bethlehem Walk
and will certainly make it a yearly tradition! 

"[The Bethlehem Walk] is an interactive outdoor drama where guests experience first 
century Bethlehem. This interactive Gospel drama takes visitors through scenes 
ranging from the entrance of the Savior into the world to an empty Jewish tomb." 

We were so impressed by how well this was done. The boys were a little scared at first by the darkness and Roman guards as we entered Bethlehem, but once they saw Mary and Joseph asking for a place to stay at the Inn, they were caught up in the story. The music, acting, set and scenes were excellent. Even arriving at 5:15pm we had to wait until 6:45 to travel through the set with our tour guide, but it was so worth the wait! It was so powerful that they didn't end the story at Jesus' birth, but continued through His death and resurrection. I can't say enough how much we all enjoyed this. 

4) Christmas on Wendhurst
This is definitely a kid favorite! A spectacular display of Christmas lights and decorations with over 172,000 lights! It's featured on the Richmond Tacky Light Tour and has been shown on TLC for several years. If you go see these lights, plan to get out of your car and walk around so you can catch all the details. Kids can't be in jammies! Or I suppose they could as long as they are wearing shoes. :) Read more about it here.  

These photos are from last year, as you can see by how little the boys look! 

Friday, December 2, 2011


In light of my previous post about what I desire my true focus to be at Christmas, I want to share ten of our special family traditions (some old and some new). Is there a way to make worldly traditions Christ centered and glorifying to Him? hmmm... I think so and I hope that we do. I'll try to post a couple traditions a day, if time permits.

1) Decorating
It's our tradition to decorate our house the weekend after Thanksgiving. My husband loves this. I have grown to love it too. I particularly enjoy seeing the delight in the boys faces as it gets dark and the lights are shining bright. We've been blessed with help from my parents over the last several years. They are very hard workers and we really appreciate them. This year we added wreaths to our windows after I snagged them on sale. It's silly how much joy they have brought me. Decorating is one of those worldly traditions that I hope can somehow glorify Him.
We had wonderful warm decorating weather. 
Worth much more then his tag of $14.97! (The cutest tree on the racks!)

This cracked me up. The boys decided to wear the skirt intended for the tree.  
They twirled with pure delight. Each boy took a turn twirling in the tree skirt. 

I am so thankful for Luke's sincere joy in helping to decorate. 
He takes after his Daddy in his love of Christmas decorations. 

2. Jesse Tree
Last year was the first time I had heard about a Jesse Tree and we decided it was a great addition to our Christmas traditions. Basically, we read passages in the Bible each day that weave together the story of Christ and add an ornament to our tree that goes along with the theme of each passage. We decided to make our Jesse Tree from felt and re-use it yearly.  The boys colored the ornaments, which I then laminated and attached some velcro. However, you can keep it simple and use the templates and packet found here. It's a little different from my version but basically the same. We all look forward to this each evening. 

Burdened at Christmas?

Christmas is a glorious time. I love the decorations, music, and festivities. I love receiving Christmas pictures from friends and family. However, it can also feel overwhelming. The meaning of Christmas can get lost in the decorations and gift giving/receiving. This year I'm feeling burdened by all that I need to do. Every day life feels very full so to add the "to do's" surrounding Christmas seem impossible at times. Then I was directed by a friend to Ann Voskamp's blog last night.  I want to share an excerpt from her blog that struck me and has made me stop and think. I found the excerpt below here

Whenever Christmas begins to burden, it’s a sign that I’ve taken on something of the world and not of Christ. Any weight in Christmas has to be of this world.
Christ came into this world as grace to lift all the weighty burdens.
Christ the Babe comes to us in Christmas as Christ the Savior comes  to us on the Cross — seeking only our embrace.
The list on the counter looks long.
What if I laid down efforts and expectations, perfectionism and performance?
What if I breathed deep and simply waited with arms and heart and eyes wide open?
What if Christmas was the season to letting go of to-do lists adding up — to receivewhat’s coming down?
Love comes down.
Christmas, it isn’t a product to wrap but a Person to unfold into our lives. What can I say no to today — so I can say Yes to truly more of Him?
Love comes down.
Christmas, it can’t be bought. It cannot be created. It cannot be made by hand. Christmas can only be found. Found in the person of Christ.
How can I slow today… slow in the midst of the holiday hustle… and simply do what Christmas is all about — finding more of Christ? How could this Christmas be about quietly, lovingly, looking for Christ?
Love comes down — O Come Let Us Adore Him.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Turkey Traveling Continues

After one night visiting with my side of the family, we packed up our bags and headed to Darin's side of the family. I am so thankful for more beautiful weather and the opportunity to be outside playing. Darin's sister, her husband and their kids (1 boy, 2 girls) met us at his parents for Friday and Saturday. We spent quite a bit of time outside playing football, kickball, basketball and playing at the park. Perfect for my busy boys!
Our second baseman (Luke) and permanent pitcher (Darin). 

 My nephew has lots of sports experience but was very patient with our simple game. 
My niece had such a terrific attitude and determination!

After all our outside play, we enjoyed some games and puzzles. 

Grandma and Grandpa prepared a delicious traditional Thanksgiving meal for all of us. 
After more outside playtime on Saturday we had an uneventful drive home. Phew!

Here is a picture to conclude this thanksgiving season. 
May we continue to look for God's blessings throughout the year. 
(We're still plugging away with our thankful journal...almost up to number 200!) 
Now let's bring on the Christmas traditions!!