Sunday, November 24, 2013


I haven't participated in the whole daily facebook thankfulness post.  I think it's awesome.  I just don't want one more "to do".  The truth is every year we write what we are thankful for in our Thankfulness journal, but this year?  This year there are THREE days entered.  It isn't that we aren't thankful, it's just that I am forgetful, life is chaotic at dinner time, and we are still in transition even though I don't always realize it.  This year, the Thanksgiving kids books are out on the coffee table and we read them periodically, but it has definitely been a minor part of November.  The Charlie Brown Thanksgiving movie sparked the biggest discussion this month.  Life is good, but days are busy.  We still do a lot of limit setting with Christian and when I say a lot, I mean ALL DAY LONG.  He's 2 1/2 and testing boundaries left and right.  Some days are great, others are exhausting.  Even among the craziness though, the beauty of our new family is so evident.  Some days I am so tired as I fall into bed, I do little reflecting, but other, I lie awake amazed.

I am thankful for each day.  I am thankful for the mandatory cocooning we've had to do.  We can't go out a lot at all, we see people weekly, but not much more and it's been a really sweet time for us.

I am thankful for my husband.  He works really hard.  He is a man of so much integrity but most of all he loves Jesus with every fiber of his being.  We fight from time to time, but mostly as I reflect on the past 13 years, I am just amazed at the depth of our communication, at the way we work together, at the often effortless way we flow through life together.  I really do feel like we function as one so much of the time.  I just look and see this godly, loving, selfless man and while not perfect, I am so amazed that he is mine.

I am thankful for Ava.  Ava is seven.  She talks endlessly.  I am thankful for the way she stretches me to let go of my need for order and stillness and let this little artist take shape.  I am thankful for the way she is forging the trail, the things she is teaching me about parenting that will undoubtedly help her siblings- things like, letting her be a silly, loud, crazy seven year old, cuz it may be piercing to my ears, but it is harmless.  She is teaching me to embrace her joyous spirit and learn to wear ear plugs;0  She has an amazing heart.  She LOVES Jesus and her family.  She care deeply for others and prays for her classmates regularly.  She is creative.  This age has stretched me, but it also give me such joy.  Our conversations are often deep and meaningful and the bond we have is strong.  She is special.  My first born precious daughter- my rule following Dreamer.  What a complex, fascinating, and talented little woman she is becoming!

I am thankful for Phin- Silly Phin.  He is our resident Photobomber.  Our "go against the flow little guy."  He enters through exits and exits through entrance doors, he eats hot dogs without buns, and if everyone else says something is scary, it is his favorite thing.  I am thankful for reverse psychology, it works wonders with this guy.  He sees right through it, but finds it hilarious anyway.  He is sweet.  He gives and gives to others.  He takes such delights in seeing his sisters and brother have good things.  He LOVE collecting things, especially money and counts it endlessly.  I am so thankful that he is my cleaner, my orderly kid.  Everything has its place, it's color bin.  He can whip a room into shape like none other and it helps this order liking mama immensely.  Phin's energy is boundless and I am thankful that he keeps me from sitting on facebook too needs to be expended after all;)  His name means face of compassion and this kid's laugh and smile daily bless my soul.

I am thankful for Chloe.  This little girl has more spirit in her pinky finger than most people do in their entire body.  When she experiences joy, my heart soars.  When she is having angst, well...she is exposing things in me that I didn't know were so deep- impatience, anger, frustration.  I am thankful because parenting her requires me to depend on Jesus.  The rewards are so sweet, she is precious, but she also stretches me in countless way, She is teaching me patience, compassion, to not listen to my sin nature for a reaction, but to pray and ask the Spirit to show me what she needs.  She is my girly girl.  She loves to dance and dance and sing.  She is obsessed with her puppies and time is her love language.  Time...she is teaching me to slow down and savor time, a lesson that is a gift.  Her crazy curls are the external warning of her crazy personality.  This girl will never let anyone push her around and I love to dream about how she is going to take this world by storm!

I am thankful for Christian, so thankful!  What a difference a year makes!  I am thankful for God's provision.  I am thankful for this little vulnerable boy.  He has added so much to our home...including more noise and chaos;)  I am thankful for the lessons I am learning daily.  I thought I had learned to lay down myself already, but I am realizing I still have much selfishness that needs to be cleansed.  Christian doesn't watch TV, I get little break during the day, it can be tough, but I am thankful because I know it is time with him that I lost the first two years.  I know that he is developing a deep love for his mama.  I am thankful for the relationship he has with Marc, for the way her RUNS to the door when Marc comes home.  I am thankful for the relationships he already has with his siblings.  He pesters Chloe to no often makes me laugh.  He is SUCH the kid brother;)  He and Phin and BROs!  They wrestle, they conspire, they conquer and destroy.  He deeply admires Ava.  The only time he DOES watch TV is with her, cuddled often upon her lap.  They have a sweet bond.  This kids smile is worth more than words.  He is intelligent and HILARIOUS.  He is going to do amazing things.  I am thankful for the joy he has added to to home, for the way this transition has made my dependence on God even deeper, for all he gives me, for what I am learning, for his strong cuddles, for the way he lets me comfort him in his grief and the joy he finds in little things.  We have a little game he initiated that I will forever cherish.  I say, "Vin ba lo!"  with means "come close".  When I whisper it, her runs to me and squeezes me tight.   Then he backs up further and says it to me and I run, then  we repeat, and move further apart and repeat.  I can't express how special this is between us...He's been here barely two months and we have "our thing"- LOVE IT.  He is my baby boy, the child of my heart...the completion of our family....our dream come true.

Most of all, I am thankful for Jesus.  I know lots of people say that and at times it seems token, but truly I mean it from the bottom of my heart.  My life is so not what I would have planned.  I totally cannot parent four children.  I am selfish.  I am impatient.  I don't pray as much as I ought.  I certainly don't spend as much time in the Word as I ought, but in his grace he leads me through each day.  I've loved Jesus for a long time, but the longer I know him the more I know I don't deserve Him.  He gives me the desires of my heart, he truly does.  I often am stunned cuz I didn't pray hard enough to get the answer, I didn't get up at four in the morning and pray for four hours, I just cried out in my heart, I just asked for help and he answered.  It is all his grace, not my merit.  He leads me daily.  I have so much to learn, so many more places to grow, but I know I used to dream of seamlessly walking through the day as he directs each step and I believe I am starting to live the answer.  I seem to have always deeply desired him in every detail and it isn't the outwardly miraculously journey I imagined, no it's much more mundane.  He is in my details, he does direct most of my steps, I have learned to abide.  I screw up, he draws me back.  He is helping me mother these blessings and  be a wife to my husband.  He is teaching me where to direct my energy.  No, It isn't quite as flashy as I imagined in my young twenties.  No one is writing a movie about me, I doubt many other people even notice my life, but the profond things he does in my heart blow my mind.  He is so real, so personal, so loving, so true.  When he uses me, it's all him, and I stand amazed.  His plans are good, He is good, He is faithful.

No, my thankfulness hasn't been recorded in facebook or in our Thankfulness journal this year, but it's written upon my heart and my heart is overflowing.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Advent is Approaching

If you know me, you undoubtedly are aware that my favorite time of year is rapidly approaching.  I have planned out our advent season and am eagerly anticipating the joy it brings to our family, the way it slows our life down and just allows us to savor each day, each moment, each little thing as we anticipate the coming of Christmas and are reminded of God's precious gift to us.

Yesterday, our pastor had me share some of our experiences re. Advent.  While it is a PLEASURE to share, it is also a risk.  Our Advent may not work for others and I think it is wonderful, but I never want others to feel theirs should look the same.  I am fully aware that the joy I get out of planning a "theme" every day would just ADD stress to other's season, simply because their personality is different.

Still, I feel strongly that Christmas needs to be reclaimed.  Christmas should not be about consumerism and getting our kids every little thing they are told they need through the gobs of comercials interupting their childish shows.  Christmas shoudln't be stressful and busy, it should reflect joy and peace.

Our church has decided to participate in The Advent Conspiracy.  AWESOMENESS.  But we need to be going against the grain in our homes too.  Our children learn most about God from watching us.  They learn about our belief systems through what we do and say.  We can deeply impact the way our children celebrate this season their entire lives, by showing them NOW what is should REALLY look like.

So I implore anyone reading this today, to take a minute NOW to really think about what God is calling your family too.  He is a personal God.  Our Advents should NOT all look the same.  He has crafted each of us differently for a purpose and he can use our gifts and talents in our homes in ways that glorify him.  The internet is FILLED with ideas on Advent.  Take a minute and be intentional about your season.  What will you do to refuse our culture's definition of consumer Christmas and make it about Jesus- about life, freedom and giving our ourselves?

Here are just a few of the resources out there that do the work for you;)  Use them, use them for inspiration, use them as a starting board to making Advent a time of expectation and joy for your family.  Be honest with yourself about what you can finish will, don't worry about what others are doing.  Think about who you are, what your family dynamic and schedule is and make choices- little or big, to make Advent about Jesus, Joy, Family, Togetherness not "give me, give me, give me".

1)The Advent Book
Advent Book
This is simple and focus all on the Christmas story.  It is beautifully illustrated and my very favorite part of all is that it ends on Christmas day with John 3:16.  Jesus was born to be our Savior, to be our Sacrifice.

2)  The Jesse Tree
The Jesse Tree represents the family tree, or genealogy of Jesus Christ. It tells the story of God's salvation plan, beginning with creation and continuing through the Old Testament, to the coming of the Messiah. The name comes from Isaiah 11:1, "Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit." 
Each day of Advent a homemade ornament is added to a separate smaller tree designated the Jesse Tree or family Christmas tree. These symbolic ornaments can each represent a prophecy foretelling of Christ.
There are MANY variations of this both in book form and on the internet.  Some include ornaments, others just readings.  Here is one that is freeand gives you both

(Also, if you sign up, you can print Ann VosKamps for free.  She has now published her Jesse Tree devotional, but If you follow this link, you can still access her devotions free via old blog posts.

3) Truth in the Tinsel
-and ebook with a reading and ornament to make every day.  It is good for SMALL Children.

4)Thriving Family offers a free Advent Calendar every year.  This years is an Adventures in Odyssey Theme!

5) Jotham's Journey
-An amazing story that follows a ten year old boy through some exciting adventures on his way to find Jesus in Bethlehem.  The same author followed up this book with Bartholomew's Passage and Tabitha's Travels.  These books are great for elementary age kids.

6)  Wrap 24 Christmas Books and open one a day throughout Advent and read it as a family.  You can check our library books to make this free;) or borrow.  Here is a list from my friend Amy to get you started.

7)  Wrap a Birthday Present for Jesus
            Wrap and empty box and put a slit at the top.  Place it in the center of the table or another prominent location.  All month family members can put in change and dollars.  You could designate all change that month goes into the box or have children do extra chores to earn money to put in the box.  On Christmas you could give this special offering from your family either to the church, other ministry, or person(s) in need (remember Jesus said when we do things for others in need, it is like doing it to Him!).

9)  Give your kids a hand on nativity set and only get it out at Christmas.  Little People and Veggie Tales both them!

10) Make Christmas Cookies Symbolic!
-An ANGEL brought the glorious news to the shepherds that a Savior had been born.  Wise men followed a bright STAR to the manger where Jesus lay.  They brought precious gifts much like the gifts we put under our TREE.  The best gift of all that day was Jesus.  God sent his only son that whoever accepts Him and trusts him with their HEART will have everlasting life and go to heaven.  Let the BELLS ring out this holiday season as we celebrate Jesus’ birthday and God’s greatest gift to us!
(Poem Written by Summar Corrigan)

11)Simple Acts of Kindness Advent
-Just google that phrase.  There are many blogs with samples of how to do this with your family.  I have incorporated some into our Advent and will do more as time goes on!

12) Activity Advent- My thing;)  Feel free to peruse my archives from December 2011 and December 2012 .    Google this or enter it in pinterest- LOTS of ideas are our there!!!

Here is my plan for this year, for space reasons I have not included my write ups for each day.  If you would like to use any of this and want the write ups I will put in my box to tie in these activities to Advent/ Jesus, let me know.  Some days I have more creative write ups than other- it is always a work in progress.

1)  Advent Day ONE!  Open Advent Book and Nativity, Set out Manger and Decorate Christmas Tree
2)  Learn about Christmas in Haiti
3)  Get out our Christmas Books.
4)  Shop for and Mail packages to our World Vision Children.  Give Christian his World Vision child.
5)  Christmas Bath
6)  Saint Nicholas Day- (Blessing Bags for Homeless?)
7)  Polar Express Train in Elmhurst
8)  Gingerbread Day
9)  Window Cling Day
10)  Snowflake/Snow day (this year will include snowman lunch)
11)  Animal Day
12)  Candy Cane Day  (this year will be snowman play dough instead of candy canes at each mean as Chloe is now off Red Dye)
13)  Christmas Movie Night
14)  Christmas Cookie
15)  Bethlehem Dinner
16)  Paint our own wrapping paper
17)  Ava's Christmas Program
18)  Toy Purge
19)  Holiday Dance Party
20)  Pajama Ride
21)  Winter Solstice-  Zoo Lights
22)  Cuneo Lights Display in Vernon Hills
23)  Wisemen day/ Starry Night- look at stars, make stars
24)  Candlelight Night
25)  CHRISTMAS!!!!

Start thinking/dreaming/planning.  Make Advent special for your family.  Refuse to go to bed on Christmas day thinking, "do my kids even get that Christmas is about Jesus?  Do I?"  You still have time.  It doesn't have to be stressful.  Start small, but start!