Showing posts with label Christian Living. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christian Living. Show all posts

Creative Contentment | A 100 Days Project


One of my unspoken goals for the year has been to get better at budgeting.

Recently I was reminded of why I need this so much when a friend mentioned a deal she found on some new clothing items.  Did I need new clothing?  No, but it didn't stop me from browsing the internet in search of a similar deal.  I have three new garments to show for it, and though I stayed within my budget to buy them, and they were good buys that will fit into my wardrobe nicely, it still makes me a little unnerved each time I look at them.  Because I know they were bought from an ugly place.  A place of discontent.

2018 so far has brought to light my personal discontent in ways I didn't expect.  The budgeting and finance issues are just one aspect - at various times over the last few years I have felt discontent with my schedule, discontent with our food, discontent with our house.  I have felt discontent with how ordinary my days are, how little I accomplish in a day, the quality of the books I'm crossing off my to-be-read list, the number on the scale.  I've felt discontent with my homeschool community (or rather lack thereof), and discontent with my walk with the Lord (because I wish I had more time and was better at making it a priority!).  

Basically, I'm tired of being discontent.

I recently saw that the #100daysproject is starting up on Instagram, and I mulled over the idea of joining in.  I did 31 Days Of Writing last October and loved being able to focus my posts around a certain theme on this blog, and I liked the idea of doing it again.  

As I was sitting there, running through different topics or activities that wouldn't be too burdensome in my current stage of life (and also wondering if it's cheating somehow to write about the project on my blog instead of Instagram), I remembered my blog friend Cassidy doing a 31 Days project on contentment a few years back.  Many blog friends have participated in these challenges over the years, but for some reason Cassidy's series stuck with me.  Perhaps because contentment is something I struggle with off and on too.  

Then it came to me: creative contentment.  If I was going to do a 100 Days Project, that's what I'd like it to be on.  Thinking outside the box when it comes to practicing contentment - figuring out strategies to help myself rest in contentment, and improving my circumstances and attitude where I am right now, with what I have right now.

I think I'm just going to go for it.  Will I write every day about this on the blog?  No, but I am hoping to seriously think about and practice contentment in different areas of my life every day for the next 100 days, and write something related to this topic at least once a week right here (and maybe occasionally on Instagram too).  That counts right?  That's my plan.

So consider this the first installment, and expect more on Thursdays or Fridays for the next few months!




Reunions




This time last year, my belly was just starting to round with a new little life (Georgie!) when we made the difficult decision to search for a new church.  I remember crying.  We had been going to our previous church for seven years, and it took a significant amount of that time to really start to feel involved there, like we belonged.  Though we had been praying about it and felt like this was the right decision, I wasn't looking forward to starting over.

I didn't write about it during that time, but it was a long, hard search until we found somewhere that met our standards and felt right.  Maybe I'll write more about the process of looking for a new church someday, but let's just say I'm relieved to have it behind us.  There is a sense in which any body of believers feels like family, but every time you start attending a new church it takes some time to feel like you belong.  We've been pleasantly surprised and blessed to feel at home here quickly, and that has helped ease the transition, helped us know that it was right.  

A couple of weeks ago after the church service, I pushed open the door to the ladies' room, and looked up and into the face of a dear lady from our former church.  She stared at me for a second, and I stared at her, and then we burst out with each other's names and rushed to give each other a hug.  We laughed about meeting again in a restroom of all places.  My family visited with their group in the hall well after most of the regular attenders had cleared out.  It was a reunion of sorts, and I couldn't stop grinning for the rest of the day.  Reunions, when they are sweet, will do that.

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March has been a month of reunions overall.  We also went out to visit my dear childhood friends on their ranch.  They can't get away that often, but once a year we make the trek out to see them.  I want to make it happen more often.  

We visited, caught up on each other's lives, introduced the baby.  We ate lunch, and remembered back to when we were kids, growing up in a little white church in the mountains.  Every summer there was an ice cream social, with real ice cream churned in vintage buckets, packed with snow from the nearest mountain pass.  There would be peach, and banana, and pralines and cream - the row of ice cream makers on the shelf above our heads brought it all back.  

























We will keep making this trip out to the ranch as long they will have us, because we love our friends so dearly, and our reunions make it seem as if we live much nearer than we do.  It always feels like we saw them last week instead of last year.

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Reunions don't always feel so sweet as all this, of course, but when I do have moments of happy reunions, it makes me think how beautiful Heaven will be.  I imagine we'll see everyone who we know here who has trusted in Jesus, and that will be one round of happy reunions.  Then we'll see all the people whose names we know but who we've never met - but it will seem as if we had known them all along.  Then we'll see all the people whom Jesus saved who we never met, and we never knew their names, but we're still all connected because we've all been adopted into this family, through the blood of Jesus.

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It's Good Friday today, when we remember Jesus's death on the cross.  My heart is heavy as I remember why He died - to pay the penalty for my crimes (and yours too), when He had no crimes of His own.  God became a man, lived without sin, and died in our place - covering our sin and reconciling us with Himself when we trust in Him to save us.

What kind of despair the disciples must have felt though, when He died.  I can't even imagine that feeling, because I've never had to feel it - we all have the benefit of knowing the rest of the story, after all.  Seeing Jesus on the third day, alive again, had to be an unimaginable joy!

And now, I'm just waiting for my turn.  Because someday I'll see Him too, either when I die and enter eternity, or when He comes back on the clouds to take us home.  And boy, that will be the best reunion of all.

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Happy Resurrection Day (on Sunday), friends!  I pray that you know Jesus as your Savior too, and may you get a small taste of the joy of that coming reunion as we celebrate that our Savior is alive, forevermore!

"But the angel answered and said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. "  

Matthew 28:5-6a

The Weird Thing About Small Towns (And Other Random Remarks)



I've been struggling the last couple weeks to get stuff done.  And I'm not talking about any amazing projects, I'm talking about so-called simple things - like making dinner, folding laundry, eating lunch (oops).  You'd be surprised how much more challenging things are when you are feeding a baby every two hours.  It's like having a newborn again.

So I've been wanting to write a regular old blog post for about a month now.  Ah!  Well, I'm finally doing it, so that's progress.

A Faithful Servant

In case you are living under a rock, Billy Graham passed away yesterday.  People have been sharing this quote all over social media (and that includes me):

"Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” 
-Billy Graham

That quote makes me want to cry every time I read it.  Are hormones involved?  Maybe, but mostly I just swell up inside when I think of such a faithful servant of Christ finally stepping into his reward.  What kind of joy he must be experiencing now, in the presence of our Savior!  I'm about to cry again, just typing this out.  I might also feel like crying a tiny bit because the Church has lost one of it's treasures, the second in recent weeks (remembering R.C. Sproul).

I'm also thinking about how I want to be more faithful to Jesus with my life, so that I'll hear those words that Graham has most certainly heard. "Well done, good and faithful servant."  I don't think I have to proclaim the gospel to stadiums of people to hear those words, but could I be more faithful in serving Christ in my roles as a wife and mother?  In proclaiming the gospel to those in my immediate circles? Yeah, you bet I could.  I've been convicted of that as I think about Billy Graham today, finally home.

The Weird Thing About Small Towns

If you missed it on the blog a few weeks ago, we recently started going to our local CBS (Community Bible Study).  I'm not totally new to this particular CBS - I went there from the ages of 10-15 with my mom.  I can't tell you how soul-filling it is to be back there now.  I thank the Lord for guiding my steps back to that church at this point in my life, because I don't think I realized how much I was missing this type of Christian fellowship right now.  The challenge to really study Scripture consistently, the older women who offer encouragement, the opportunity to connect with other moms - it's all exactly what I needed.

All that to say, going to CBS has brought up a weird realization about small towns for me.  Derek and I live in the same little rural community where I grew up, but it's an unusual situation in that we're less than an hour away from an actual city.  For most of my married life, I have gone into the city to meet friends, go to church, and attend a moms group.  I did this because I always felt like there was no one close by in my life stage to be friends with, and I'm an extrovert who likes to be around groups of people.  I was one of the few of my friends who grew up here and didn't leave, so I resigned myself to just having to travel a bit to hang out with friends in my same life stage.

But enter Community Bible Study, where there are actually two moms of young kids close to my own age at just my own table.  And there are many more in other discussion groups at my CBS!

You might be thinking "Duh, Callie, obviously there will be some other moms at a community Bible study."  But I seriously didn't think about the fact that even though a lot of people I grew up with left my small town, a lot of other people have moved in since I became an adult.  And these people are even better than the childhood friends I had, in terms of practicality, because we're all here now because we want to be here!  It's like a whole new world has opened up to me!  There are people for me and my kids to be friends with in my own town!

Sorry, I feel really dumb typing that out and thinking something so obvious was revolutionary, but there you go.  An epiphany of sorts.  The weird thing about small towns is sometimes they change, even in good ways, right under your feet without you realizing it.

What Else Have We Been Up To

Let's see, what have we been up to?

1. Doing an awful lot of feeding the baby.

2. Crying over spilled (breast)milk.

3. Dealing with crazy weaning-like hormones because my body is giving up on producing milk.

4. Taking Fenugreek to try to combat my milk drying up.  Smelling like maple syrup, because that's what Fenugreek does.

5. Feeling like crying a lot (see #3).

6. Developing a good homeschooling rhythm.

7. Trying to get better at budgeting (trying a new method this month, I'll let you know how it works).



10. Typing out blog posts that may never actually get published.  I'm still mulling over the topics.  I've been in a serious mood lately and feel like I'm getting a little too intense in my writing when I'm not in a good place to handle those emotions or potential discussions (see #3 - hormones). 

11. Spending some nice days at home as a family, because Derek keeps getting minor holidays off work.

12. Trying, trying to develop a morning routine, which so far has been a big fat fail.  I enjoyed reading about Heather's morning routine though.  Do you all have a morning routine, or am I the only one lacking in discipline here?  Why am I so tired in the morning??

13. Reading a lot of books because I need an escape from all my crazy emotions sometimes.  See what I've been reading here.

I'm going to wrap this up, because it's 9:30 PM, and we've already established that I probably need more sleep (see #12).

Did any of you grow up in a small town and stay?  Am I totally being a weirdo for not realizing small towns change? 






Evangelism Is Scary



Confession: I've been a Christian for over 20 years, but I struggle with evangelism.  A lot.  I know I'm not alone in this, because I've recently heard a statistic that only 2% of the church shares their faith on a regular basis.  Yikes!  That's embarrassing.

I like to think that sharing the gospel in written form on this blog counts for something, but let's be honest, if I really are about those around me who are headed for Hell, I should be willing to speak up in person too.  But I get scared, and I don't know what to say.  It's a problem.  I've been feeling convicted about this for a couple years, but it's so hard to know where to start.

After praying about this for a while, I feel like the Lord brought a couple resources into my life in the last few months that are making me feel a lot less terrified of evangelizing.  I was going to share about all this in one of my life update posts, but then I thought, hey, evangelism is an important enough topic that it certainly deserves it's own post.  And I know some of you out there have the same struggles as me.  Speak up in the comments!


Resource #1 - Wretched Radio

In December we started listening to a podcast called Wretched Radio.  Derek and I are officially hooked now.  Todd Friel, the host, has a sarcastic sense of humor that is entertaining, but the meat of his ministry is all tied back to the importance of the gospel and evangelism.  We don't always agree with his style or word choice, but he's very grounded on God's word.  Each week he does a "Witness Wednesday" episode, where he gets random people on the radio and witnesses to them right there.  Just hearing how someone else witnesses to people, in real conversations, has made me feel so much more prepared for the moment when I might get a chance to witness to someone myself.  And feeling prepared is half the battle, right?

Resource #2 - Living Waters

On a related note, Friel started this part of the podcast with Ray Comfort, who has a whole Youtube channel where he witnesses to strangers.  His boldness in sharing the gospel is so inspiring, and makes the whole thing seem less scary and more doable.  Derek and I could sit for hours and watch his witnessing videos.  You can see all those here, but be prepared to get sucked in for a ridiculous amount of time.

Resource #3 - Successful Christian Parenting by John MacArthur

I've mentioned Successful Christian Parenting before, but this is my go-to book for refocusing on evangelizing my children - who are the people I want to point to the Lord the most, for obvious reasons!  That's really the whole point of Christian parenting.  I think this book would be great in particular for anyone who has children in their life that they want to lead to Jesus, even if you aren't a parent yet, and the approach he explains in this book would be helpful in witnessing to someone of any age.  I'm reading it again this year.

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Evangelism is one of those things that I think a lot of us put off because we don't think we have the "gift" of evangelism.  But the thing about spiritual gifts is that they are often things that we are supposed to do whether we have a "gift" for it or not.  We're all supposed to be practicing discernment, hospitality, mercy, etc.  And we're all supposed to be evangelizing.  Plus, this is purely a guess, but I imagine that since we know God is not willing that any should perish but all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), He probably has gifted more than 2% of the church with the gift of evangelism...and maybe a lot of us just don't realize it because we're too scared or lazy to give it a try.

That would be me. But I'm working on it, and I wanted to encourage my fellow sisters in Christ to work on it too.  Checking out these resources is an easy place to start.

Do you have a hard time with evangelism too?  Are you trying to work on it?  What resources have helped you?






When It's Right To "Judge" A Fellow Christian



We went back to our community Bible study group this week, and I am so grateful for this opportunity to get together with other believers and study from God's word.  It's been far too long since I've been involved in a Bible study like this, and I'm reminded of that verse about "iron sharpening iron" (Proverbs 27:17).  The discussion time challenges me to think a little more carefully about different biblical topics.

This week the theme that stood out to me was "judging".  We talked about it in Bible study, and then I read this article that brought it to mind again (written from a Catholic perspective, so I don't agree with some things he says, but the underlying point made me think).  

I have thoughts.


Why I Wear Makeup



The first time I wore makeup I was 13, and I was getting ready to go to an event with my Bible study group.  We had just gone shopping for some back-to-school clothes earlier in the day, and for some reason my mom decided I was old enough for a little mascara.  I remember feeling so grown-up and pretty, headed off the the event wearing makeup for the first time.  There have been many times since then that I was grateful to my mom for introducing makeup and teaching me how to apply it, especially as I grew and encountered people who didn't share my feelings about makeup.

I remember being bewildered the first time I heard someone say they felt makeup was akin to lying.  I also didn't know how to respond when a friend stopped wearing makeup after her daughter was born, saying she didn't want to show her daughter by example that she wouldn't be pretty without it.

Honestly, I'm still not sure what to say about those arguments.  I suppose everyone has their own reasons for wearing, or not wearing, makeup. All I can really speak to is why I, personally, like to wear makeup, so that's what this post is about.  It's not an argument for why you should or should not wear makeup, it's basically some philosophical (and some silly) thoughts from someone who actually likes makeup quite a lot! 

Arguments Against Makeup

First I thought I'd address my take on the two arguments against makeup that I mentioned above, because though those arguments made me stop and think, they didn't make me quit it.

"Makeup is lying.  You are trying to make someone think you look better than you do."  

This argument didn't really stick for me because it's not as if I'm putting on makeup and then trying to tell people I'm not wearing any, that I'm just naturally this beautiful (ha!).  I assume they'll notice that I'm wearing makeup, and I wouldn't really have it any other way. If we're going to use this argument, we might as well extend it to clothes and say that choosing a flattering cut is "lying", and you must wear clothing that shows all your lumps and bumps if you're going to be honest.  Don't brush your teeth with mint-flavored toothpaste, or you might be "lying" by giving someone the idea that your breath naturally smells that good.  Sorry, it just doesn't fly.

"If I wear makeup, my daughters will think they need makeup to be beautiful."  

I was honestly a little taken aback with this argument when I first heard it, and I didn't know what to think.  I can see why my friend started thinking this way, but I came at makeup from such a different perspective that I couldn't agree.  My own mom wore makeup, and she taught us girls how to wear makeup, and I honestly never thought I was less beautiful without it because of something my mom said when she introduced makeup to me.  I vividly remember her telling me that makeup done right doesn't "make you beautiful" but rather enhances the beauty that is already there.  I took that to heart and always approached makeup with that in mind.

Why I Wear Makeup

So without further ado, the reasons I personally wear makeup, and why I'll show my girls how to wear it too.

I think it's fun.  

This is probably the most superficial reason why I choose to wear makeup, but nevertheless, it's true.  Over the years I've experimented with different makeup looks, found my favorite makeup products, and I honestly just find the whole thing pretty satisfying and fun.  For some women makeup is a an artistic expression, and while I wouldn't necessarily say the same thing about myself, I do appreciate the skill it takes to do it right.

I feel more ready for the day with makeup on.  

I got an email newsletter from Diana Kerr (a blogger I follow who is also a life coach) this week, and was reminded of this point.  I've heard it said many times that most people are more productive if they get dressed for the day instead of just staying in their pajamas.  Their brains takes getting dressed as the queue to get started with the rest of the day, and it's harder to get going without it.  Like it or not, makeup has become a similar queue for me.  On days where I don't do my makeup I typically am more tempted to be lazy.  When I wear makeup, I'm more ready to get on with my day and be productive.

I especially like the point Diana made about what effect our taking care with our appearance might have on how we serve the Lord.  Will we use our days to serve Him better when we feel more prepared to face the day?  And does makeup play a part in that?  Not for everyone perhaps, but for me, I think makeup might actually make a difference here too (as weird as it is to type that out).

We live in a sin-cursed world, and that does, unfortunately, affect our faces.  

We age.  We get wrinkles.  We experience sun-damage.  We get tired or dehydrated.  All things that wouldn't necessarily have happened pre-Fall, but things we have to deal with now.  I struggled a bit with this point when sitting down to write this point, because what exactly should we do about this anyway?  Is it just vanity, a "chasing after the wind" to try to counteract the effects of a fallen world on our faces?  It does feel vain in a way, but another part of me doesn't think it is necessarily wrong to try to bring out our natural, God-given beauty even while fighting against the impact of the effects of sin on our skin and hair.

As in so many things, a lot depends upon the attitude with which we use makeup.  Certainly makeup can be used in a vain, prideful way, but does it follow that makeup is always used that way?  I don't really think so.  I read something in Eve In Exile by Rebecca Merkle that made me think about this a little differently.  Running throughout that book is this theme that one area that God often gifts women is an ability to take something and improve it, make it beautiful. Overall, Merkle applied the idea to much more meaningful things, like bringing beauty and reflecting Christ into our homes and families.  But the idea really stuck with me, because I think it explains some of my (and many women's) love of beauty, and desire to take something less then attractive and bring some beauty to it.  That could show up in hobbies like photography or other art forms, in the way we decorate our houses, the way we cultivate gardens, or yeah, maybe even in the way we use makeup.  And I don't really think that's a bad thing, if we can avoid focusing on our own glory in the process of using makeup and rather try to bring glory to God by taking care with our appearance.  Something to think about. I'm still mulling it over.

When Makeup Goes Wrong

I started thinking about this post in the first place because I somehow found myself in a section of the library next to all the books about makeup.  Weirdly, I didn't know there was such a section, even being a fan of makeup myself.  "How fun!" I thought to myself, and grabbed a couple of the books to peruse at home.  

I read a few chapters, and I have to tell you, something just wasn't sitting quite right.  I wondered if I should really be spending all this time thinking about my outward appearance.  Not to be cliche or anything, but there is that whole verse: "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7

Now, I don't think that verse is necessarily saying that the way we present ourselves outwardly doesn't matter at all.  There is, after all, the Proverbs 31 woman who looks after the outward appearance of herself and her family, dressing them in "scarlet" and herself in "fine linen and purple", and she is commended for it.  We are representatives of our families and ultimately of Christ to a watching world, so being a slob is certainly not a virtue.  But the idea, talked about further in 1 Peter 3:3-4 is that we should take care to cultivate a good character above worrying about how we look.  

So I started thinking, how does the time allotment compares when it comes to caring for my outer appearance and taking care to cultivate "gentle and quiet spirit which is precious in God's sight"?  Do I spend more time doing my makeup (and fixing my hair and getting dressed) each day than I do reading God's Word?  Maybe that's a problem.  I think the most significant way I use makeup wrongly is by getting distracted by it and focusing too much on my physical appearance.  I often want to look good for other people, so that I will feel good about myself, and so I prioritize applying makeup.  

This is the one reason I wear makeup that I feel is the wrong, and even a sinful, reason.

Going forward, I am hoping to think about these things further and make sure that I am approaching makeup with the right attitude as a Christian woman - and especially making sure I am prioritizing time in God's Word over applying makeup in the morning.  Because a good thing to remember is that for those of us who put our trust in Jesus to save us from our sins, someday this old, sin-affected body will be replaced with a perfect, glorified body, with a glorified face, and there will be no reason to put makeup on.  I think it's fine to wear makeup while I'm here, but it's certainly not the most important thing.  It's infinitely more important to make sure I'm investing in things that will last when makeup no longer matters at all.

So what do you think about all this?  Do you wear makeup?  What role do things like makeup play in our walk with the Lord?







Finding Christmas Joy As A Grown-Up




The kids have been asking me every day how many days are left until Christmas.  I have to say, it brings back memories of my childhood, when it felt like Christmas would take so long to arrive.  The anticipation was almost too much!  Ah, childhood.  We made paper chains the other day for the countdown, so I haven't had to answer the questions as often.

I've mentioned before how Christmas is usually filled with more stress than joy for me as an adult, but this year feels different.  After six years of Christmas as a mom, nine years of Christmas as a married lady, this year I finally feel like I'm figuring it out.

Being due with our fifth baby so close to the Christmas season definitely has had something to do with it I think.  Not only did I get started on Christmas to-do's earlier, but I have overall put less pressure one myself to do everything this year, and I feel the difference.   So, I have to write down what is working for me, so hopefully repeating it next year will bring about the same results of less stress, more joy!  

Buy presents early.  

I bought all of the presents early this year because I wanted to finish all my shopping before Georgiana was born.  I don't think I realized how much stress present shopping causes me when I save it for December.  It has been so nice to not be out and about so much so far this year, and I feel less stressed about finances since most of the purchases are already made.

Do all the Christmasy things as soon as I feel like it.  

I used to feel like I had to save all the Christmas activities until December, and that they had to be made into a big production.  This year I am spacing things out a little more and doing all the Christmas things as the mood strikes.  Example: Christmas cookies.  If I feel like baking Christmas cookies with the kids early in December, we'll just bake whenever the mood strikes and freeze them for later.  If we feel like wrapping presents and listening to Christmas music in November, why not?  It's more fun to do Christmasy things when we feel like it, instead of "saving" the Christmas fun to the point of procrastination and then getting stressed out when we have to squeeze it all in.

Take the family picture early.  

I'm continuing my strategy of taking a family Christmas picture before our actual Christmas gatherings.  If I get everyone dressed up in their Christmas clothes and get some good pictures on a low-stress day, then I don't feel like I have to try to wrangle everyone together for a family picture on days when we are actually going somewhere.  I can just enjoy being present and not worry about it, since I know we already got a good picture of the family at Christmas.

Cut out the non-essentials.  

I don't know why it took me so long to realize that I don't have to do all the Christmas things.  I'm learning to be a little more particular about what we choose to participate in at Christmas time, because it's a lot easier for me to enjoy the Christmas season if we have more days when we aren't doing anything specific.  When we all have more room to breathe, the Christmas fun happens more naturally, and it's a lot less stressful on me.  

I also think one of the reasons I have had a hard time enjoying Christmas is because I rush around so much, trying to make everything perfect, and I don't allow myself to have time to just relax and reflect on why we are celebrating in the first place.  Having a newborn this year has given me the perfect excuse not to do things. I am enjoying Christmas so much more since deciding to say no and allowing myself enough mental rest to reflect on our Savior.  Which brings me to my last point.

Prioritize Advent.  

It's tragic really, how often I let this get overlooked in previous years in favor of all the more commercial aspects of Christmas.  I think having the shopping done before the season started has really given me the space I needed to focus less on things and more on our Savior.  He is the reason our family celebrates Christmas in the first place, after all.  

I am doing this advent devotional, and listening to my favorite Christ-focused Christmas songs, and I've been spending a lot of time reflecting on why He came (to seek and save sinners) and my part in that (the great commission).  Of course I did advent stuff in years past, but I think the fact that so much of my other Christmas prep is already done this year has left me more space to keep advent in the "because I want to category", instead of the "I have to do this or my kids won't remember that Christmas is about Jesus" category.  I am convicted that I even let the Lord get relegated to the "have to" category during Christmas.  If other things have to take a backseat for our family to have the time and space it takes to focus on Jesus, well, that's what we'll do!  It's as it should be, even especially at Christmas time.  

As I've guarded my time a little more this year, and given more of it to the Lord, I feel the joy that I've been missing in years past coming back a little.  It makes sense.  He is the only true source of Christmas joy, after all.  Everything else ends up being a disappointment eventually, but in the gift of Jesus's birth and sacrifice for us - that's where the joy is.  

And it only took me nine Christmases as an adult to figure that out.


















Do you do anything to guard your time at Christmas?  How do you make sure the focus stays on Jesus during Christmas season?

Marinating In Gratitude



Yesterday was one for the books, in the best possible way.

I feel like I should preface this post by saying that many of my days alone with the five kids so far have ended with Derek coming home right as I'm about to pull my hair out, and me escaping to wash my hair - even if it doesn't need washed - just to have a break.

But yesterday, it wasn't like that.  We had the most peaceful day that we've had, not just since adding our sweet Georgie, but in months.  I'm trying to go back over it in my head to figure out the "secret", so I can repeat it, if that were possible.

The morning went pretty normally, with the kids waking up before me.  Clarice climbed under the covers with me at some point, and I feel like I remember her reading a book in my sleepy haze.  After drifting in and out for a half hour, I finally got out of bed and got ready for the day.  The kids woke up Georgie because they went into her nursery to take care of her (which wasn't as tragic as it sounds, because I heard her stirring anyway).  I fed the kids oatmeal, I fed Georgie, and wrapped her into our Solly wrap.




She fell asleep, so I pulled out the play dough (which I've been meaning to do for the last two weeks), and read to the kids while they created things.  We read about Christopher Columbus.  We read two chapters of Dr. Doolittle.  We were on a roll, so I pulled out the next catechism question, and we worked on a memory verse, and we read the Christmas story from Luke (I figure if we read it every day for the next month, maybe they'll inadvertently memorize it).  And nobody cried (at least not until we were done with all our read-alouds).

I made lunch and got the kids down for a nap in the nick of time before Georgie got hungry.  I fed her and then practiced some reading with Wyatt while she slept on my lap.  I snuck her onto the couch and she stayed asleep, so I edited some of the pictures we had taken of her first two weeks.

Kids got up.  Pulled out the play dough again, and they entertained themselves for another hour while I chopped up potatoes for dinner.  I made dinner!  On my own!  Potato soup was bubbling on the stove by the time Derek walked through the door.

I still can't figure out what made it go right. But it's nice that it happened on Thanksgiving week, because I suspect it had more to do with my attitude than with the logistics of the day.  I watched this video, and while I'm mulling over some of it, what I do think is true is that gratitude makes all the difference in the level of happiness we feel.  When things start to feel overwhelming or frustrating, it is usually about the same time that I forget to feel grateful.  And when things go relatively smoothly it seems that it is usually because I decide to make the most of the day with my sweet children, from a heart of gratitude, instead of letting things just happen to us.

"Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever." Psalm 118:1

I had this verse on my chalkboard all last year, but it is sad that I didn't let it sink into my heart a little more.  There is a reason Scripture tells us to "in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:18)   

There is so much for which to give thanks - each day I have to spend with these sweet children, each day my wonderful husband comes home to me - it's such a blessing.  Somehow, having Georgie come at this time of year seems really appropriate, because having her here has reminded me that God didn't have to give me any of this.  But He did, and I am so grateful.  I think the Lord let today go so well to remind me what it looks like to slow down and give thanks, to marinate in that gratitude a little bit more. (Marinate - ha!  Because it's Thanksgiving week?  Turkey?  Oh, never mind.)

My hope is that I'll remember to be grateful on the rough days too, long after this Thanksgiving week is past.  

On Thursday I'll join the rest of the country in "giving thanks" - giving thanks to God for all the blessings He's given our family, and the way He has guided our nation so that we even celebrate this holiday in the first place, and for the greatest gift He gave by giving us His Son to save us.  But I want to carry that gratitude on into the craziness of December and through the New Year too.  And I wish the same for you, friends!  Because there is so much to be grateful for when we remember to slow down and look, and giving thanks "in everything" can change a lot.


Happy Thanksgiving Week!


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