Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Pictures & 2 Great Websites...

This was definitely a Christmas to remember. We are so blessed to have a Christmas that was filled with love, laughter, memories, traditions, family, and plenty of eating!

I thought I would share just a few snapshots from this Christmas thanks to a new website I found.... I also spent a little time (okay, it was a lot more than a little!) on designing the header for my blog. I had so much fun!

See you in 2009!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas...

I just wanted to drop in and wish all of you a very Merry Christmas. I'm going to be taking a little break until the first of the year so that I can regroup, refocus, and make all of those New Year's resolutions that perhaps this year I will be able to attain. I hope that this has been a season marked with celebrating everything from traditions and family to worshipping and celebrating the birth of our King. I know that for me personally, this last month has been such a wonderful season of drawing close to Jesus. I have known His presence in such a tender and sweet way this Christmas season. I'm thankful that I have been able to let go of expectations and really finding a peace and calmness that I've needed and have been searching for.

This Christmas has been a special one in our family. Our traditions have been celebrated as well as bringing some new traditions in that I know will continue in the years to come. This year our focus has been on Jesus in a way that hasn't been there in previous years. I'm not sure if it's because the children are older now and they have deeper level of understanding, or if it's the fact that we have really been intentional and purposeful on celebrating our Lord and Savior. Whatever it is, I am thankful.

This Christmas I have learned what really matters. What matters is that I am surrounded by a loving family. A family where grace and love live and where we are each accepted for who we are.

I continue to learn that God has a plan and purpose for not only me personally but our family. We are doing a lot of praying and seeking Him these days. I trust, believe and know deep within that He will make His will known.

It's all so simple and really there is so much that is going on my head right now that I don't even feel like I am even touching the surface with the my thoughts as I sit and type these words. With the coming of Christmas and the end of the year, it also seems to be a time of reflection for me. Looking back and seeing what God has done and yet looking forward to the days to come knowing that He knows exactly what is ahead and has since the beginning of time. This past year has definitely been marked with huge opportunities for my faith to be stretched, hearing Him say to me, "Do you really trust me?", loving discipline, learning how to be quiet and still, and a deep desire to know God and love Him more with each day that He gives me.

So, as I look forward to this upcoming year, I am excited and anxiously awaiting all of what He has in store. I think the biggest lesson I've learned this last year is that the unexpected and unplanned always happens. Obviously it's taken me quite some time to learn this simple fact of life. The planner, organizer, and sometimes too rigid and inflexible character qualities have often gotten the best of me. Once again, God has been ever so patient, loving, and full of more grace than I really can comprehend. He simply doesn't give up on me. He knows and believes in who I can become through Him. I am growing in my trust with Him on that as well as learning to be spontaneous and flexible. This has allowed me to really enjoy the everyday moments instead of being so focused on the details. Who God is never changes and that truth has been instilled in me deeper than ever before. I have clung to His promises even when I was going through times of feeling like He was so distant and over and over again He showed up and proved His faithfulness and love to me.

Worshipping and celebrating the Savior's birth shouldn't come to an end once December 25th comes and goes. I want all of my days to be ones that are bowing before Him, acknowledging Him as Lord of my life, surrendering to His ways, and loving Him and pursuing Him whatever the cost. Just to know and love Jesus with every ounce of my being. And when the days of discouragement and uncertainity come, I want to choose what I know to be true and Who I know to be true.

So, to all my friends, I wish you a very Merry Christmas. I hope that you too, will be drawn to Jesus and that you will allow Him to make Himself known to you in the deepest places of your heart.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
~ Isaiah 9:6

I've been asked to share the remaining activities that were inside our advent box for this year so here you go...

~ Make a gingerbread house
~ We talked about ways that our family could be the hands and feet of Jesus.
~ The children went Christmas shopping for one another.
~ We visited and the children each choose a gift to give a child in need.
~ God has given each of us the free gift of salvation. We have done nothing to earn it, He has given it simply because He loves us. Each of you have found $10 inside the door today. With it, you now have the opportunity to bless someone else. Share God's love!
~ We spent time praying for people who were coming to our Christmas events at our church.
~ Put on your jammies, grab a blanket to stay warm and cozy because we are going for a ride to look at Christmas lights. Don't forget your mug of hot cocoa!
~ Jesus came to this earth as a tiny baby to save us from all our sins. He also came so that we would have a place to spend eternity... heaven. Write a letter to God thanking Him for all that He has done for you and what you are looking forward to in Heaven.
~ Think of a family that we can serve either with our time, offering encouragement, making a meal, or any other way of serving them.
~ And then a few more surprises that I can't share yet!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Stockings Were Hung By The Chimney With Care...

One of the most special Christmas decorations we have is our stockings. I can have all the decorations placed about and if the stockings are not hung, then the decorating is not complete as far as everyone in my family is concerned. Jessica has told me over the years that her favorite part about Christmas is the stockings. I think because not only of the gifts that are stuffed inside, but because of the treasured keepsake these stockings are.

When my Mom was a little girl, Aunt Margie knitted a stocking for her and my uncle. I know that the first stockings were made for her own children, but with each niece or nephew that was born, a personalized stocking was made especially for them. Stockings were made for grandchildren and since Aunt Margie is now in her 80's, she is making them for great-grandchildren.  When my parents got married, Aunt Margie made a stocking for my Dad. Then when my sister and I were born, two more stockings were hung at Christmas. 

The story of the stockings certainly did end there. My husband received one after we were married and the gift that was given to each of my children when they were born was of course a stocking from Aunt Margie. When my sister Sarah and her husband come at Christmas, they will bring their stockings and they will be hung on the mantle along with our ours. 

I've seen all the stockings in the stores and magazines that perhaps might be a little more of my style or might coordinate more with the colors I decorate with. However, our mantle wouldn't be the same if there was anything other than these handmade stockings that have been hung year after year. And I suppose somehow, Christmas just wouldn't be the same either.

P.S. I also need the Nester to come to my house and decorate my mantle too:)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Our Week Of Celebrating Advent...

In this post, I shared that our family is doing an advent calendar. The activities or messages in each of these boxes was some way of giving a gift back to Jesus. Our week began with celebrating our family. As the children get older- 11, 12 and an almost 18 year - old daughter (who is in school, works, and most importantly, has a social life), it's often difficult for us to have time together as a family. My hope was that through some of these planned activities, we could be really intentional about celebrating the fact that we are family - that it was all part of God's perfect plan. I would like to think there is a smile on His face when we are truly delighting in one another.

Behind one door, the children found a note that said:

Tonight we are celebrating the gift of FAMILY. We are going to watch a movie - which will also include a trivia quiz of how well you know the movie, play cards and games. Pull out your sleeping bags because we are also going to sleep in front of the Christmas tree.

So, here we are. Jammies and all...

All I can say is that sometimes things don't go according to the plan. You've always got to leave room for the unexpected and the unplanned as was the case for this particular evening. Jessica got home late from work and was exhausted. Knowing that she had to wake up pretty early on Saturday morning, sleeping on the floor just wasn't sounding too appealing to her. If there is one thing that Steve and I have learned through the teenage years, it's that you pick your battles. So, Jessica snuggled into her bed, and the rest of us cozied up by the lights of the Christmas tree.

At about 2:30AM, Sam and I woke up at the same time... with the same stomach virus. At that point we were celebrating the fact that we now have more than one bathroom compared to our old house. Steve and Ben were the only ones who made it through that night in front of the tree. That's all I have to say about that.

What could have happened with all these unexpected events is that I could have completely flown off the handle with things not working out the way I had planned. I didn't though. I wanted my kids to see grace in action, flexibility, and understanding. The night didn't end without telling each of them how much I treasure them, love them, and thank God that He made us a family. It was a night that in spite of the circumstances, a memory was made and I know that we gave a gift to God by how we loved one another and enjoyed each other.

Here are a few of the other surprises that were tucked behind the doors from this week...

Following our evening of what was supposed to be sleeping in front of the tree, the kids woke up to find this note...

God has given us the gift of rest. When we take time to slow down and rest, we can focus on Him, worship Him, and enjoy being in His presence without distractions. Today you get to stay in your jammies all day long. You can do nothing at all, or you can do the things that you love. Whatever you do, worship Him!

How fun was it that it ended up snowing almost the whole day. As I was laying in bed because I was still sick, I could actually hear the boys laughing outside and just having a ball together. I know that God was smiling down on these boys of mine too.

Another day included this message:

Ephesians 6:2 says, "Honor your father and mother-which is the first commandment with a promise. Write a letter to Dad telling him what you love and respect most about him.

This reminder...

Behind another door was a note that encouraged them to do something thoughtful for someone today.

And finally, this:

The Bible is filled with promises from God. It is a gift to the Lord when we study His word. We grow closer to Him and it is a way for us to know that He is real. When we know His word and what the Bible says, we can also share it with others. Choose a Scripture to memorize and be ready to share it next week.

So, there are just a few highlights from our advent calendar this last week. I'll share again at the end of next week because I don't want to give away any surprises of what is behind the doors for this upcoming week. I hope that all of you are having a season filled with blessings. Knowing, celebrating and experiencing the reason we celebrate... Jesus.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Homework is no fun....

So, let's play music instead!

Little Things...

Here is a little peak into our family room. Please don't pay attention to the fact that even after a year, we have no curtains. I need to do some Nester window mistreatments desperately, but that task seems very overwhelming to me. Perhaps she could just make a personal visit to my house:) Anyway, fix your eyes on the Christmas tree...

I know what you are thinking. We have no star, angel, or any other decoration on top. The star we had broke last year and at this point the tree is practically touching the ceiling so I don't know if anything would even fit. Maybe a bow would work? Anyway, I'm just keeping it real here...

Yes, Mom and Sarah.... I moved the furniture around again. Wait until Steve gets home:)

Here are just a few of my favorite Christmas items placed throughout the house...

The Nutcracker that makes his appearance every year because according to my son, Sam, decorating would not be complete if he wasn't sitting upon a shelf somewhere. The funny thing is, my sister, Sarah, got this nutcracker for Jessica years ago when the two of them went to go see The Nutcracker.

Although most of our tree is decorated with ornaments that belong to the children, I have a few as well. This is one from when I was a little girl. Red hair and all...

What the season is really all about...

This year I gathered some of our favorite pictures from previous Christmases and put them in an album....

A snowman from my sister, a cup of garland, and don't forget the M&M's...

As far as Christmas cookies go, I always bake the same ones every year. Occasionally I've tried a new cookie, but there is just something special about having the same ones each Christmas. When I've tried new cookies or a new twist on an old familiar favorite, my children just want the original. That's fine with me. I like it that way too. My Christmas cookie list has everything from buckeyes to molasses crinkles and snickerdoodles to Christmas craisin cookies. I've already begun my baking, but I'm thinking there might be just one or two that I would like to try from this book from my mom...

I just added a pretty bow on this little pup...

Have you seen these books? This one has some favorite hymns for the Christmas season along with the history of the song. Love it!

A basket to hold the Christmas cards. The first few just arrived today...

And finally a little display...

Monday, December 08, 2008

Secret Things...


I've been reading and meditating on Psalm 25:14 for the last couple of weeks now. I read it, and I begin to ask some really big things from God.

The Lord confides in those who fear him, he makes His covenant known to them. (NIV)

When I looked up the word confide it said," trust someone enough to tell them of such a secret or private matter."

When I read this verse, I wonder what "secrets" God is wanting to make known to me.

Beth Moore says, "God uses every difficulty and every assignment to confide deep things to us, and that the lessons are not complete until their beauty has been revealed."

There are opportunities placed before me right now through which I am learning His secrets. Whether it is in my marriage and being the wife he has called me to be, how I am mothering my children's hearts, ministry, or just being His child, I am listening. Sometimes the hidden treasures aren't revealed in my asking, but in my pursuing. Going to Him over and over because I know and believe those secrets will be revealed. Choosing to tarry with him long enough to find there is beauty just around the corner.

For more about Motivate Me Mondays and to read Sarah Mae's post for today, head over to Like A Warm Cup Of Coffee.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

A Gift To Jesus...

When the children were younger I would make an advent calendar for them. Each day was filled with some kind of project, reading a portion of Scripture, or a fun activity for us to do as a family. I didn't do this every year, and for some reason as the children got older, the advent calendar stopped all together. I think I just got overwhelmed, too busy, and didn't always plan ahead and prioritize things I really wanted to do as a family at Christmas. I do have some regrets, but I also know that there have been many special memories that have been made during this season of celebrating the Savior's birth. JESUS has always been our focus and the reason for celebrating.

This year, the advent calendar has made a place into our home again. My children are ages 17,12, and 11 and I know it's never too late to start something new. I just knew that I needed to be pretty creative in coming up with ideas to fill each day of the calendar.  I didn't want this to be just a way to count down the days until Christmas, but to have an impact and be significant in the hearts of us as a family. 

I began thinking about how at Christmas we are celebrating the gift God has given us through His son Jesus. What if, in our celebrating, we were to give a gift back to Him. 

I don't want to reveal what is hidden behind each door because my daughter often reads my blog and I don't want to spoil the surprises. However, what I can share is that when those little doors are opened each day, there is a way of giving something back to God. I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I've Been Tagged....

My blog friend, Kim from My Journey has tagged me for this fun Christmas Meme...

1 ) Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Definitely hot chocolate. I love the idea of eggnog but I just can't seem to make myself like it.

2) Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Although I grew up believing in Santa, it's not something we have done with our children. We wrap the presents and place them under the tree. I try to wait until Christmas Eve but it doesn't work. I like how pretty it looks with presents under the tree.

3) Colored lights on tree/house or white?
Although my children beg for colored lights every year, I go with white. They will probably be in counseling over this when they are adults. 

4) Do you hang mistletoe?
No, but perhaps this year we will!

5) When do you put your decorations up?
A couple days after Thanksgiving.

6) What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
On Christmas Eve we have all hors' d oeuvres. Party Ryes, sausage balls, artichoke dip... oh my!

7) Favorite holiday memory as a child?
Just having Christmas at my Nana and Pa's house. I loved everything about it... the anticipation of waking up the next morning and wondering what gifts were going to be under the tree, the delicious food that was prepared, and just the memories that were made. There were a few years that Pa even decorated the tree with money!

8) When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I honestly don't remember. 

9) Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
We wait until Christmas morning.

10) How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
White lights and ornaments that have been given to the children each year. 

11) Snow! Love it or dread it?
I love it for Christmas but then I want it to go away. Here in Ohio, we have some beautiful snow falls, but then the next day it could be 50 degrees and then it's all gray and slushy. 

12) Can you ice skate?
I would like to think I can.

13) Do you remember your favorite gift?
As a child, it was definitely my Barbie Dreamhouse and Donny and Marie Osmond microphone. As an adult, I would have to say a lot of times it's just the simple things that are given with a lot of love. Other favorites have been the weekend trip some of our good friends gave to us to the Buckhorn Inn located in the Smokey Mountains. My parents have also taken the whole family to Sunset Beach as a Christmas gift. That one always tops the list!

14) What is the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
Being with my family as well as focusing and celebrating what the true meaning of Christmas really is. 

15) What is your favorite holiday dessert?
Buckeyes, Creme De Menthe Cake, Cranberry Bog Pie. Was I only supposed to mention one?

16) What is your favorite holiday tradition?
All of them! Everything from cutting out own Christmas tree to the children sleeping together on Christmas Eve. We have lots of traditions in our family and I love them all!

17) What tops your Christmas tree?
As of today, our tree is without a topper. The one we had broke last year and I haven't replaced it yet.  I would like to find a really neat star. 

18) Which do you prefer giving or receiving?
Giving. I love giving a gift and seeing the delight and happiness it has brought to the other person. I also enjoy the gifts that are unexpected but will mean a lot to the other person. Whether it's something tangible or perhaps just the gift of my time, a handwritten letter, or taking a meal. Would I sound shallow if I admitted I do like to receive? Receiving gifts is one of my love languages. Honestly. 

19) What is your favorite Christmas song?
O' Holy Night. I also love hearing Silent Night at church on Christmas Eve during the candlelight service. I cry every year.

20) Candy Canes? Yuck or Yum?
Pretty to look at, but I don't like to eat them. 

21) What do you want for Christmas?
On my list this year is a pasta pot, Kitchen Aid ice cream scoop, a lens for my camera, and always pajamas! I also want this to be a Christmas that is filled with lots and lots of memories, laughter, love, and celebrating the birth of our King.

22) Do you attend an annual Christmas party?
For the last six years or so, we have attended an Christmas dinner with close friends of ours. 

23) Do you dress up on Christmas or wear PJ's?
PJ's for sure! 

24) Do you own a Santa hat?

25) Who do you normally spend Christmas with?
Our family spends Christmas with my parents, and my sister and her husband. The day after Christmas is spent with Steve's family.

Now I am tagging the following people:
Sarah - Nesting In Pleasant View
Kim - Might As Well Dance
Lori - Welcome To My World
Stacy - The Blessed Nest
Debbie - Everyday Blessings of the Fivedees

Here are the rules:
1. Post the rules on your blog.
2. Fill out the questions.
3. Tag 5-7 people at the end of your post.
4. Pass on the tag.

Have fun!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

O' Christmas Tree & A Give Away...

Usually within a day or two after Thanksgiving our family heads to Fulton Farms to search out and cut down the perfect Christmas tree. This time of year is filled with many traditions. This is the 9th year that we have gone to Fulton Farms. It is a family owned business, and just so happens that the owner was one of my husband's high school teachers. It's fun to pull up every year and catch up with what's being going on in each others families over the last year. It just somehow wouldn't be the same getting our tree from anywhere else.

Finding our Christmas tree really is an adventure. This is a job that is taken very seriously- by all of us. Because of having five very different opinions as to what we each think the "perfect" tree is, Steve and I decided a few years ago that each of the children would take turns choosing the tree. Whosever turn it is, also gets to choose what dog (we have three) goes with us to the farm. This year, it's Jessica's turn to choose the tree...

And Lily got to come along. We don't know if she had more fun chasing the little mice around...

Or when she went on a full out sprint to take these guys down...

After going back and forth and up and down the rows many times, Jessica finds the tree...

What the boys love most about this whole adventure is being able to carry the saw and cut down the tree. When they were younger, they needed a lot of Dad's help. They aren't needing so much help anymore though...

Thanks for the added muscle Jessica! She's always there to lend a hand...

Loading up and heading home...

Another tradition that our family has is that the children are given a new Christmas ornament each year. This started back with my grandparents when I was young, and now my parents do the same with our children. Steve and I also pick out an ornament for each of the kids and I know that it is something they really look forward to. In choosing the ornament, we always try to find one that has some significance to that child for that particular year. This year, Jessica received these beautiful Vera Bradley (she works part-time at a gift shop that sells these) ornaments...

Sam began playing the trumpet this year, so this it what he received... 

And finally, Ben received this ornament because as far as he's concerned, he is Indiana Jones...

What are some of your favorite traditions for this time of year?

Also, today at The Secret Is In The Sauce, you can enter to win a TARGET GIFT CARD for $200!!! 

All you have to do is post your Christmas picture for this year and leave a comment on their blog to enter. Oh Happy Day!!!

Monday, December 01, 2008


Sarah Mae from Like A Warm Cup of Coffee is hosting Motivate Me Mondays. When I was perusing my way through blogs last week I came across her 5:16 AM club that she has started. I began reading some of the posts written by other women who are a part of this. I was encouraged, motivated, and inspired. Actually, I think it was the kick in my rear that I was needing. One of the biggest struggles I have is spending time with the Lord FIRST thing in the morning.

As much as I want to spend time with the Lord first thing in the morning, I don't always make it happen. I allow my day to go on and pretty much fit Him in when I think that I have some moments to spare. I know this is wrong, and believe me, God has really, really been dealing with me about this for some time. There are some spiritual disciplines in my life that I need to be a lot more intentional about. Starting my day being in His presence being one of them.

Having this time with Jesus this last week has been nothing but a huge blessing for me. I only got up one morning at 5:00 AM because here at our house we were on Thanksgiving break. Since my kids slept in a little longer than usual, I was still able to have quiet time while everyone else was still sound asleep. There was something very special about it being just Jesus and me in the quiet of the morning. I wasn't thinking about the activities of the day, what I needed to be doing, and more than anything I wasn't distracted. This was time that I had purposed to set aside with the Lord.

I've been reading Beth Moore's John - 90 Days With The Beloved Disciple. One morning I was reading John 13:21-30. This portion of Scripture is about when Jesus was at the Passover meal, and in particular the part of Scripture that says, "One of His disciples, the one Jesus loved, was reclining close beside Jesus." (John 13:23) I learned that John's reclining on Jesus was completely against protocol. It wasn't in the proverbial Passover book of rules. There were probably some gathered there that day who were pretty uncomfortable with John's actions. John wasn't reclining (leaning) in close to Jesus so that he could be heard. Jesus could hear him loud and clear. John was leaning on Jesus simply because He wanted to.

This last week I have been leaning on Jesus. I've been a lot more aware of when I need to lean in a little bit closer, or I need to stay a little while longer. I know that I can lean into Him and say a lot or say nothing at all. I know that I can lean into Jesus because He is that approachable. I want to be close to Him and experience the deep love and affection that comes from the Lord I love. And just like John, I want to lean into Him simply because I want to.