Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas to You!

The Christmas card I would send to make you think my children are adorable, loving and always well-behaved...

And, the Christmas card I would send if I wanted to tell the truth...

Merry Christmas to you all!!!

The Brick Birthday Cake

We celebrated my birthday this weekend and there's just nothing that says, "I love you, Mom!" like your very own brick-shaped birthday cake! They used two of my bread pans to make the cake and iced it right out of the oven...a cake only a mama could love!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Another Mother's Son

As I watch you sleep, sweet boy, my heart cannot help but ache for another mother's son. He was a sweet boy, too, I'm sure, taken to heaven this week, only three months older than you. I think of her grief, her sorrow, the overwhelming emptiness that must be her companion today. My heart breaks for her. I see so much possibility in you. I wonder what plans God has for you, and if you will allow God to fulfill them through you. Will you be strong? Will you be yielding? Will you be faithful? Will you be like you father...and our Father? I think about the thoughts and dreams the other mother must have had for her son. Surely this was not a thought in her mind. How could a mother conceive of such a startling end to her son's life?

And then I think of yet another mother, who long ago held her sweet boy in her arms. The Bible says she pondered many things in her heart. How she must have adored His baby soft skin and sweet little toes. She, too, must have had thoughts about His life. But, she knew her Son would also have a startling end to His life. How hard it must have been to watch His agony, the rejection by others, His suffering. And yet, she needed Him to accomplish God's will. He was not just her Son, but her Savior. I wonder how she spent those three days between His crucifixion and resurrection. Was it in despair and grief? Quiet expectation? Joyful hope? Reflective? Contemplative?

And, so I look at you anew, sweet boy. I still wonder what kind of life God will gift to you. No matter the outcome, there is the promise of eternal life in Christ Jesus--another mother's son and every mother's Savior--and I cling to the promise that He holds every detail of your life in the palm of His hand.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Great Cookie Caper '08

Saturday, the kids and I hosted our first annual Great Cookie Caper. Ten (count 'em T-E-N!) children and their mamas (plus one grandmama!) gathered at our home to decorate and exchange cookies. Each mom/grandma prepared one dozen of two different kinds of cookies for each of the other moms/grandmas. Basically, we all brought four dozen cookies and went home with four dozen cookies. It was an easy way for all of us to accomplish our holiday baking as some of us are new mamas and some of us are working mamas.

Since we were gathering to exchange our cookies anyway, we decided that the kids should get in on the fun, too. I prepared in advance cut-out sugar cookies--eight cookies of eight varying Christmas shapes. Before the families arrived, I measured out a piece of wax paper for each child and wrote their name on. I also placed a baggie with their cookies on top...

(Sorry, I have about five free minutes and I don't know how to rotate the picture, so just exercise your neck and turn your head...)

Next, I prepared six little cups of icing for each of the two tables set up for decorating (one table for big kids, one for small).

My friend, Ann, had the brilliant idea to cut egg cartons apart and put sprinkles in the divided cup sections. Worked like a charm.

We learned as we went and ended up putting a dollop of each color of icing on each child's piece of wax paper to the keep the cross-contamination to a minimum. Olivia's ended up looking like tie-dye cookies...very cool!

I also prepared some extra cut outs for the kids to decorate and eat while their "take home" cookies were drying. Here's the end result:

It was really just an awesome morning, despite one moment of sheer panic the night before as I imagined icing dripping from the ceiling. The kids all had a great time and the moms and grandma had fun fellowshipping, too. Even the babies had fun...

Friday, December 12, 2008

...for nine (yes, NINE!) hours!

And it was the best night's sleep in almost a year!!! This time, I only woke up twice: once because I heard him rustling around and assumed he was waking up at 3:30 AM, and again at 5:30 AM because I had to go to the bathroom:) I feel like a new, happier, rested, healthful, invigorated mama today!

Thank You, again, Lord, for the rest. Rest for my body and rest for my spirit. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

And He Slept...

I just have to rejoice a little bit. Last night, I put Samuel in his own bed at 9:30. I went to help a friend for a bit, fully expecting to come home to a hungry, wakeful child. He was still sleeping, so I got ready for bed and curled up to wait for him to wake up. I woke up at 1:30...still sleeping. 3:15...still sleeping. 4:00...still sleeping. He finally woke up to eat at 4:45 AM! That's almost 7 hours of blissful sleep!!!

Now, if I can figure out how to repeat that again tonight as well as get myself to stop checking the clock all through the night, we'll be golden!

Thank You, God, for a great night with Samuel! I'm looking forward to our day together in You! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Unexpected Provision

This Fall, as I was putting away my maternity clothes (hallelujah!) and getting out my "street clothes," I discovered that somehow in my attempts to organize my clothing and store it last Spring, the "charity" box and the "keeping" box were switched and I only owned clothing that was either horribly out fashion or about 3 sizes too small or big. Clothing is one item in our budget that is almost always sacrificed. The kids have generous grandparents who bless them with beautiful wardrobes, and Charlie and I try to make our clothes stretch and work for as long as possible.

I remember offering up this half-hearted prayer asking God to clothe me somehow, but thinking that I might be doomed to a winter of sweats and maternity clothes. For our anniversary, Charlie surprised me by taking me shopping for clothes. We didn't buy much, but it was such a treat to wake up the next morning and dress in new clothes, made to fit me! I was especially grateful for a new pair of running shoes.

A few weeks ago, my brother called to say that he and his wife were cleaning out closets to make room for my new niece and wondered if Charlie and I might be interested in some of the clothing they were getting rid of. I said we would be happy to do that and they delivered three GIANT boxes filled with clothing today. After our families left, Charlie and I sorted and tried on clothes for almost an hour! It was like Christmas for us! Beautiful, like-new clothing was strewn all across our living room. I now have a closet full of comfortable, non-maternity clothing waiting for me to wear. Oh, how will I choose tomorrow?

After we sorted through the clothing, I called a good friend and asked if she and her family might be interested in the clothing that wouldn't fit us or didn't want. She has these two teenage boys and I thought some of the pants and shirts would be perfect for them. It was so fun to see their eyes light up as they looked through the box.

God really does provide for all our needs and even some of our wants. And I can't help but think about my half-hearted prayers for God to clothe me in righteousness, too. He hears those prayers, too, and answers. Like the boxes of clothes in out living room today, His holy garments come free to me as well.

THANK YOU, Lord, for our new clothes! And, thank You for reminding me that You do hear, even the smallest and weakest of prayers. Help me to remember that You are, indeed, faithful and true and will take care of my every need...and even some of my wants. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Many Moods of Sammy D.

Though a lovable bloke, our little guy seems to have a bit of a temper. At three months old, he is a wailer, but also turning out to have a gorgeous, melt-your-heart sort of smile!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What Our Kids Are Giving For Christmas

First, we've been trying to emphasize the joy of giving at Christmas versus the thrill of getting at Christmas for their entire lives. It isn't about isn't about isn't about presents. That's my holiday mantra, I think. I knew they were starting to get it two years ago when they started their own little tradition of secretly wrapping gifts for the family. I lost my favorite kitchen spoon for a few days and then realized it was wrapped neatly under the tree with my name on it. I also intercepted a jingling package that was a set of keys. Last year, we told them they could wrap gifts, but they had to be items they themselves already owned. So, I was blessed with a stuffed animal, Charlie received a board book. You get the idea.

I love that they love giving, so this year I've been working with each of the girls to find appropriate things they can give to each other and to us. Emma is working on a song to play for me on the piano. She's also working on a secret writing project for her dad. Ruthie wants to make up a song for me and sing Samuel a lullaby. Olivia is going to practice writing her name. For our extended family, the girls are working on Christmas cards and cookies. Lastly, they have been saving spare change all year for our Compassion International child. We will take that change to the bank to be tallied and make a special donation to her. The girls are also working on a special letter and drawings for their "Uganda sister," as they have named her.

While I can't do anything about the commercialism that runs rampant outside my house, I certainly can try to contain it a bit within my own walls. The girls will still receive lots of presents--from family, friends and their own parents, even--but I think what they will enjoy the most is sharing with others the talents and gifts God has blessed them with this year.

So, how about you? What are your kids giving for Christmas this year?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Why We Don't Celebrate Santa

This was going to be this long and detailed explanation of the whys and wherefores that went into our decision to not celebrate Santa Claus with our children. But, I have four--one, two, three, four!--children under the age of seven and that sort of post will be left for someone with only one soundly sleeping child, or the mother whose children are at least somewhat grown.

Here's the simple, edited-for-time-allowed version: we don't celebrate Santa Claus because of Jesus. No, not just because Christmas is supposed to be the time we celebrate God coming to be with us. We still put up a tree and hang lights and sing carols and bake (too many) cookies and exchange gifts. We don't celebrate Santa because Santa is a fictional character our kids can't see to believe in. Jesus, on the other hand, is a real person our kids can't see, but need to believe in. When these little people started wandering into our lives, we wanted to only tell them the truth. Lying to them about the existence of a white-bearded gift-giver was wrong for us. I'm not judging other believing parents who do perpetuate Santa. (If you have prayed this out and have freedom to do so, go for it.) We know that this is how God would have us be obedient in this area.

So, that's the not-so-long scoop. Where does your family stand concerning Santa?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Intentional Christmas Traditions

We had Christmas traditions growing up. We always put the nativity set up first and put it away last. We always put the star or angel on the tree first and took it down last. My mom always made buckeyes (an entirely too delicious candy). We always had to search for the stockings because they were never put away where they were supposed to be. We always went to church on Christmas Eve. My mom always bought us an ornament or decoration--some of which adorn our tree today.

We have traditions in our family today, though we've just begun the process of creating them. We put our tree up Thanksgiving weekend. As we decorate the tree, we listen to Christmas music--our favorite is Bing Crosby. We don't celebrate Santa Claus (another post on that later). We always bake cookies together.

This year, wanting to be a little more intentional about our tradition-making, we borrowed some ideas from friends. My good friend Rachel and her husband shared with us how they made a list of people they wanted to pray for and chose a few names each night. I liked that idea and so this afternoon, Charlie and I asked Emma and Ruthie help us compile a list of names written on scraps of paper. After we finished, we placed the names in a box with a lid. Every night before we eat dinner, we will draw out a couple of slips and pray for those individuals or families. Also, we will spend some time talking about the things we appreciate about those people and ways that we are grateful they are in our lives. I love how enthusiastic our girls became for this project! Tonight, we prayed for my brother and my step-dad...two people I love very much and should pray for more often. It was good to spend time thinking about them as the evening wore on.

Another tradition we are creating this year is to attempt to eat as many dinners as possible by candlelight. We did this on Christmas Eve last year as we enjoyed our shepherd's stew and bread. I liked it so much that I wanted to do it more often this year. Tonight, we enjoyed our spaghetti and meatballs by the glow of candles. The magical part of the evening was that the girls didn't notice how many peas and carrots were on their plates, so they just kept eating them!!!

Lastly, a tradition we are beginning but will not complete until next year is our World Vision savings jar. World Vision is a Christian organization that uses resources to help impoverished families purchase animals and livestock to ease their suffering. The livestock are used to supplement the family budget, and often makes it possible for children to attend school instead of earning money. We started a jar for spare change and next Christmas we will use the money to purchase chickens or goats or a calf or whatever we can afford.

I'm sure that default traditions will Charlie spending at least an hour trying to get all the lights on the tree working. But it's these intentional Christmas traditions that give the Lord greater latitude to work His reasons for this season in us.

Thank You, Father, for Jesus. Amen.