Friday, November 30, 2012

Gospel Primer

For my birthday, I was given a book that I pinned to my wishlist a long time ago. I really have no idea which wonderful blogger recommended this book and led me to pinning it, but I am so thankful!


The book is A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God's Love and in my opinion it is a must-read for every growing Christian.
The premise is that we need to rehearse the Gospel to ourselves daily, moment-by-moment in order to live it. Our natural tendencies take us in the opposite direction, and only the Gospel can change our minds and hearts.
In the book, Vincent gives 31 reasons why we should rehearse the Gospel, the Gospel in simple prose form, the Gospel in poetic form and a short chapter on what led him to write this book. The whole book could be read in one sitting, but it is worth reading very slowly. I'm reading two or three of the 31 reasons each morning with my quiet time, but I know I'm going to want to go back and read them over and over again.
Just to whet your appetite...
Reason #17: The Gospel Gives Liberation from Self-Love
...His astonishing love for me renders self-absorption moot and frees me up to move on to causes and interests far greater than myself...the gospel reveals to me the breathtaking glory and loveliness of God, and in so doing, it lures my heart away from love of self and leaves me enthralled by Him instead. The more I behold God's glory in the gospel, the more lovely He appears to me. And the more lovely He appears, the more self fades into the background like a former love interest who can on longer compete for my affections.
Preaching the gospel to myself every day reminds me of God's astounding love for me and also of His infinite worthiness to be loved by me above all else. These reminders deliver a one-two punch to my innate self-absorption and leave me increasingly absorbed with Christ and with God's ultimate plan to gather together all heavenly and earthly things to Him. (see 2 Cor. 4:4, Phil. 3:7-8,  Eph. 1:9-10, 1 Cor. 15:28)






Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christmas Devotions


And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. 
Deut. 6:6-9

I'm sure you know these verses. They were used just yesterday in a charge to the parents of a new baby in our church. They are an example of what a brilliant curriculum planner God is. No one learns without "hooks": ways for them to hold onto the facts passed along. What better way to give a person a hook then to teach them through everyday life?
I'm sure you also know how difficult these verses can sometimes be to act upon. A whole van ride goes by without any discussion at all, much less working through life's issues Biblically. Or the kids get up, it's time for breakfast, they're off to school and you realize, "I didn't even hug them, much less pray with them."
And so God has given us these brilliant times in the year when these verses get just a bit easier because we are completely surrounded by pointers to the Word of God.
Christmas is one of those times. We decorate our houses, we buy and wrap presents, we put up a tree. Everyone is talking about the coming, exciting day! Here is a great way to teach our children the Words that the above verse talks about! Let's don't miss it. It's not about checking off devotions on a list. It's not about being holier than the next person on the pew. It's not even about having wonderful family time during the holidays. It's about Jesus! It's about giving our children the gospel in a way that hooks into their brains. And it's about getting closer to our God.
If you're still not sure that you know just how to pull the Word of God into your holiday in a daily, weekly kind of way, there are SO many helps just for you!

1. Unto Us A King is Born--this free downloadable devotional covers the Christmas story during the month of December (or any other month!) with daily Bible readings and points of reflection.

2. Nativity Advent Calendar--One of my friends has this calendar, and it is fun, meaningful and beautiful! Each day, you or your children can open a tiny door to find a magnet to attach to the nativity scene.
3. The Advent Wreath--This is a count down that could be done even the last week before Christmas. Light some candles in a circle and talk about the coming of Jesus--simple and effective! Even adults sometimes need to touch and see something (like a candle) for words to sink in. The link takes you to some suggested Advent readings, but if you don't like those, there are many more from which to choose! 

4. This advent devotional shows how to create and work through an advent wreath.

5. As I've mentioned before, the Jesse Tree is a great tool for teaching children (and ourselves) that the entire Bible is about Jesus and that Christmas is a story for the entire year. 
(If you're interested, hot glue will hold almost anything to almost any wall, and it peels right off when you are done.Test on a small area first, of course.)
6. What God Wants for Christmas presents and nativity. We will let our youngest open all of these presents over the next week, so that they have a nativity scene on the table that they can play with. The figures change positions at least 10 times a day!

7. If you're into simple plans, this free Advent Christmas Prayer Guide is an exceptional tool! It gives a hymn for each week in Advent and a few verses to read each day to lead up to Christmas. And of course, with a bit of creativity (or just ask your kids to come up with something!) each day's reading could be symbolized with a picture and hung on a tree, just like with the Jesse Tree plan above.
8.Truth in the Tinsel looks like a creative addition to an Advent learning schedule. Each day includes a craft, a scripture, and a little discussion. It would be great for the crafty learners of all ages! (Download it now for $7.99)
9. If you're looking for something just for you or for older children, how about this book of quotes from guys like Augustine, Luther, Edwards, Spurgeon, Piper or John MacArthur? (edited by Nancy Guthrie)  Come Thou Long Expected Jesus 

And just in case all of that just wasn't enough, here's another list of Advent ideas to check out: Advent at Easy Fun School.
Happy Advent! 
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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sewing Party

It is a beautiful thing to see a group of girls gathered around a table with needles and thread, designing and sewing their own clothing!
I very much enjoyed hosting my daughter's nine year old sewing birthday yesterday.
She and her friends enjoyed sewing decorations onto their pre-made skirts.

The table was covered with butcher block paper (with a large "Sew Fun" written on it) and spread with buttons and ribbons. These same buttons were later put into our homemade sewing kit jars.
Our snacks table had a table runner stitched by the oldest on the sewing machine.
Our menu:
Pink Lemonade
Chicken Caesar sandwiches
Button Cookies
Grapes
Crackers and cheese
Cake
The cake was not exactly what I had in mind--but I decided not to overdo and just order one from a grocery store. It tasted yummy and it suited just fine.
For our last project, the girls helped me clean the needles and thread and buttons off the table by putting into their sewing jars. They sewed two round pieces of fabric together (right sides out so that there's a nice little edge of fabric to catch in the top of the jar) and stuffed them with cotton balls. The jar is your kit and the top is your pin cushion.
Even our wreath on the front door got a little sewing decoration.
Smart Ideas for a Sewing Party:
1. Use embroidery needles for small hands.
2. Thread all the needles first. When the girls used up their thread, they handed in their needle to my mom and she swapped it for another needle that was already threaded.
3. Leave plenty of time for creativity. We never made it to our layered felt flowers because the girls had so much fun decorating their skirts. It was no problem, we just sent the hats and the felt flowers home with the girls for a take-home project.
4. Have other sewing projects for younger sisters. There were a few younger girls at the party who had a great time choosing buttons to stitch onto felt flower. Although I didn't have skirts for them, they got to participate and enjoyed sewing.
5. Listen to your guests. We knew it was time for the food when one of the girls asked for the third time, "When do we get to have cake?" She was being funny about it, but I realized she was probably expressing what the other girls were thinking. We finished up the skirts quickly and moved on to the food!
6. Keep it simple and have fun!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Meal

This Thanksgiving our family is staying home. 
Home. 
I can hardly believe it myself. We are not having guests over that day, so I'll only be cooking for our five. I love the thought of cooking a special meal for these people I love so much, serving it on my fine china, lighting candles and sharing food and thankful memories together.
I'll cook a huge meal for lunch and I'm sure we'll eat on it for dinner as well. Here's what's on the menu:
1. Ham: It's the easiest holiday meat and the yummiest according to our family. We like ours hickory smoked and well cooked.
2. Mashed Potatoes: these are the hubby's request whenever I ask what he'd like for a big meal like this. I should really make them more! I chop my potatoes, boil them until they cut easily and then blend them with my hand-held while adding plenty of milk and butter. This is the way the hubby's mom makes them and as long as they are served right away, they are super yummy!
3. Macaroni and Cheese: this will make the kids so happy!
4. Green Beans: we like the frozen ones from Aldi. They are really great just steamed with butter and salt. We can all eat them like candy. : )
5. Squash Casserole: I kinda want to make corn casserole, but with potatoes and noodles, I think I'll make this squash one instead.
6. When I was a little girl, my granny would make everyones favorite dessert. This was part of what made the holidays so special. There would be pecan pie (for my dad) and chocolate drop cookies (for me) and chocolate cream pie (for my aunts) and banana pudding (for my cousin) and I can't remember what else. There was always so much dessert! I'm not going to go quite that far, but I am planning to make this cinnamon swirl cake 
which everyone in my family really loves.
7. The kids and I will also make cookies, and I think I'll let them choose which kind. (Snickerdoodles, chocolate chip, oatmeal with icing...)
8. The boy really likes those chocolate drop cookies, so I'll probably make a batch of those as well.

And the next day and the next we'll be eating off all this food! One of the things I plan to do with our leftover ham is put ham and cheese and mustard in one of these yummy bread braids.



Monday, November 19, 2012

Encouragement


Waiting is hard.
No one expects it to be easy, but as the waiting stretches out, the mind games begin.
The hopefulness begins to wane.
The discouragement begins to grow.
The last few weeks have been just that kind of time. There is occasionally the thought of
"It could never happen."
"This might be a lot longer wait then I can even imagine."
So a couple of weeks ago found me almost praying (does anyone else do that?) for encouragement.
I complained to a few friends. I mentioned to my husband that I was fighting discouragement.
I whined to God.
And then a friend placed a box of tea and a bar of chocolate on my front steps with an encouraging verse.
And another friend gave me a purse (it's surprising how encouraging a purse can be!) just for teaching her daughter some ballet.
And someone who has walked this road before me sent me an email:


"Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.
For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; 
you shall weep no more. 
He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. 
As soon as he hears it, he answers you. 
And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, 
yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, 
but your eyes shall see your Teacher. 
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 
"This is the way, walk in it," 
when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left."
(Isaiah 30:18-21 ESV)

And then I smile because he heard. 
He knew the cry of my heart
even when I was too immature to utter it.

So whatever you wait for, whether it be a home or a husband or a child or 
(let's be honest; this is what our hearts really long for)
heaven,
may you know and then be reminded when your forget,
that
this is the way
and 
blessed are all those who wait for him.




Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Sewing Party


Many months ago, the oldest asked for a sewing party. Of course I began to search pinterest for ideas. I was not disappointed. First of all we found our inspiration for our invitations from two places--these very cute cards to purchase and this blogger's great idea of gift and card in one. Both of their cards were neater than ours, but I was pleased with the way ours turned out. The inside says what kind of party the girls should expect and the when and wheres. 
I also include this statement on my kids' invitations now:
"Small or hand made gifts only please." 
For a while I asked people to bring money for a good cause, and there were a few parties where I specified "no gifts" but I have come to a happy middle between an overwhelming amount of gifts and no gifts at all--I love it when guests know they don't have to spend much (or any) money on the gift. Often you get a much more meaningful and treasured gift this way.
For food for the party we will have small sandwiches and these cute as a button cookies. I'll do a tray of crackers and cheese and some veggies and fruits. The party will be at a snack/early dinner time.  The oldest can help me make the food the day of her party. We'll have a sewing cake as well, which I need to order. 
I like this one the best of the ones I've seen online (it doesn't need to be very big) but I need to talk to my friend who decorates cakes and find out what she could do. A smaller, simplified version of this cake would do well.
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And at a sewing party, of course we need to sew! We're going to make simple skirts before the party out of fleece (no need to hem) and the girls are going to embellish them with ribbon at the party. 
Our skirts will look something like this when we're finished with them.




A while back I bought some wool hats at Penney's a bit like this one. They were on sale for $1 a piece! They are plain, so we are going to make some stacked felt flowers like these.

And last, but not least, we're going to make these simple sewing kits, so the girls can take their enthusiasm with a needle home with them. 

So there you have our grand plans for the sewing party. The oldest will only turn nine once, right? We're going to have fun with it!



Monday, November 12, 2012

Simplify

This is a busy season. It's a busy season of the year criss-crossing with a busy season of life and that gives you some pure busy-ness.
This can easily become overwhelming.
Lately I've been contemplating how to simplify my life. I've come up with a few ideas.
1. Be more thankful. Sometimes just taking a breath and realizing all I have to be thankful for can be extremely calming!
2. Say "No" more. Yes, we've missed some fun things lately (an adoption meeting and a horse show are two of them) but we've had some time at home--some time to jump in the piles of leaves and watch football and eat meals together at the table--or not at the table if we choose. It has been wonderful
3. Don't stress the dinner thing. Last night, everyone was gathered around an NFL game, so I decided to serve dips for dinner. And really, besides the chips, everything is pretty healthy. Guacamole (smashed avocado, lemon juice, and salsa), black bean dip (2 cans black beans, 1 can corn, salsa, chili powder, cumin, garlic, and a little olive oil and lemon juice), greek yogurt, and lemon-lime salsa and chips. The kids had some tortillas as well for dipping.
And you know what? Even the hubby was happy as a clam with the dinner. I heard no complaints about missing meat. : )
4. Make a list. As obvious as this is, I sometimes think, "The list is in my head; I don't want to waste the time writing it down." But it has helped (a lot) to make a list. That way I'm not jumping ahead to next week's project and leaving this week's project undone until the night before. For instance this weekend I was able to check these off my to-do list:
--make a flyer about winter ballet clinics
--make the oldest's birthday invitations (blog post to come on those!)
--advertise early for Nov. homeschool meeting at our church
--plan this week's history lessons (Henry II, Richard the Lionheart, Louis IX, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic)
--make Christmas lists for the grandparents
--plan and prepare for the Coral Reef class at the Aquarium this week
5. Go to bed early. This is a busy time. It really doesn't help me if I stay up late trying to get things done. I need to work during my peak hours 8am-1pm and 4pm-8pm. Other than that, I really just get myself worked up and then I don't rest well.
6. Multi-task. My birthday is next week. For my birthday, I asked the hubby to take me to a nearby city for Christmas shopping. And thus two birds are handled with one stone. We have a day together and a nice dinner out and the Christmas shopping will hopefully be mostly done when we get home. (Oh, and btw, my wonderful Mom is coming to keep the kids.)
7. Skip a holiday. Ok, don't go crazy on me here. The kids and I are deep into our Thankfulness Project and I'm going to bake a ham and make a nice dessert, but other than that we're just going to hang out here for Thanksgiving. The hubby is going to use his days off to do a few chores in the garage and the kids and I are going to go through their room to choose what to donate before Christmas. We will miss the family get-together, but it will be so nice to be home! (This will be the second major holiday for which we have stayed home together as a family since the hubby and I were married eleven years ago!)
Ok, in the interest of saving time and not stressing, I'm going to stop there, but please (please) feel free to offer de-stressing advice in the comments. 
Happy Season of Thankfulness! May it be a restful one!


Friday, November 9, 2012

Give Thanks! Thanksgiving Verses

This season is the perfect motivator for me to talk to my kiddos more about being thankful.
I don't know about you guys, but I get a lot of ungratefulness around here every day. My kids are (very) unintentionally spoiled rotten.
 My own heart is bleak with ungratefulness too--the true war is there!
When my kids are handed a piece of candy for a treat and they groan and say,
"Aw! I wanted the other kind!"
I am working hard to respond delicately with,
"That is not a right response. Let's try it again, and you choose some better words."
Usually I see it in their face that they are ashamed of their behavior and they quickly reply with thanks.
Sometimes they need prompting,
"How about, 'thank you, mom, for the candy.'?"
But there is a spirit of gratefulness in a family that definitely begins with the parents. That too is something I want to work on. 
So this morning I am thankful for early rising children.
I am thankful for an early sun shining on multi-colored trees.
Thank you, God, for this beauty!
I am thankful for the the blue sky and the crisp, cold weather.
I am thankful for some time to do thankfulness art projects in our schooling.
Faithful God, thank you for time!
I am thankful for a walk with a friend.
I am thankful for time to go shopping for things like toilet paper.
I am thankful for friends spread around our town.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for friends.
I am thankful for our home and our neighborhood and my hubby's job.
I am thankful that my to do list includes things like:
**getting rid of unused toys.
**preparing for a class at an aquarium.
**making invitations for a sewing party for the oldest.
**getting ready for a ballet recital.
**buying a present for a shower for my friend's 2yo Ugandan child.
**making a meal for another friend who just gave birth to her third.
**deciding what movie we'll watch for family movie night.
**preparing for Christmas shopping.
**preparing for Christmas. : )

I am thankful.
I am so thankful.



Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Camping with Young Children

This past weekend marked our family's third foray into the world of camping. This time and last year, the temperatures were near or below freezing at least one of the nights, so we not only trek into our campsite, we carry a household full of blankets too! We've definitely not worked out all of our kinks yet, but we can pass on a few things we've learned in case you'd like to take your kiddos camping as well.
**As for clothing, layers are a must. All the kids and I wore a legging/long underwear layer and then we just put more on as it got colder throughout the evening. The boy wore his long underwear with jeans during the day until he got hot and then he could ditch the long underwear. At night he wore the long underwear with a layer of fleece. The girls were much the same. Layer, layer, layer.
**Food: we love roasting hotdogs and marshmallows, so that usually constitutes one meal. We like to do hobo meals--just wrap some hamburger meat and potatoes and carrots in foil and toss them on the fire. Check them often; they don't take long to cook. (Personal experience talking...) Otherwise, just bring lots of easy food. And I do mean LOTS! Something about being outside 24 hours a day makes my crew very, very hungry. We went through a tub of hummus, a box of crackers, two loaves of homemade bread, a pound of sandwich meat, chips, homemade pumpkin snickerdoodles and loads of hot chocolate in our two (yes, only 2!) days of camping.
**Bring a book. Our favorite thing to do when it gets dark is snuggle up by the fire and read a book (with a flashlight). Last year it was Edward Tulane--the kids loved the adventures of that lovable rabbit as he learned humility. This year we're reading The Hobbit again and loving it, of course.
**Choose your camping area carefully. In warm weather, water is a definite plus. In colder weather, hiking and biking take the forefront with our crew. Playgrounds are a nice plus as well. As I've said, we love the walk-in campsites, which usually gives us a ton of "private" woods for the kids to explore.
**Buy your kiddos emergency flashlights. This year we got the ones with a lanyard for their necks and a whistle (which they got to try out and then were instructed that these were only for emergencies.) I felt much better about the exploring after dark when I knew each kid had their own flashlight and the ability to call for help. $3.50 a kid bought us some safety and peace of mind as well as made each kid a lot more excited about the darkness.
**If you're walking in, pack all your light stuff in one huge tub. Carry the heavier stuff one at a time. Throwing your back out is no way to start out a camping trip!
**Stay up late. Eat more sweets. Relax more. Say yes more. Worry less. (Remember in the midst of all that work: "You're having fun!!")









Friday, November 2, 2012

Romans 8

I'm reading Romans.
And again I am reminded of the riches of theology.
There is so much depth of knowledge in the Bible, and I love the way that every tiny particle of knowledge
is tied to something emotional and simple
that plays out in a Christian's daily life.
Better understanding of ourselves and our God
changes the way we live.
This morning was Romans 8 and oh, how beautiful!
Every word jumped off the page to me today.

"There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus..."
"has set you free..."
"By sending his own Son..."
"For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit."
"to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace."
"You...are in the Spirit."
"For you did not receive the spirit of slavery...but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father'"
"fellow heirs of Christ."
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us."
(--for I consider that the waiting now is not to be compared with the joy that is coming of raising our adopted child!)
"We wait eagerly for the adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies."
"But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."
"And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified."
(--He will finish His good work in us!)
"If God is for us, who can be against us?
(--!!)
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?...in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us."
"Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Amen.