Saturday, December 17, 2011

A new family tradition

There are some things we love about Christmas:

Looking at Christmas lights
Homemade gifts
Friends and family

This year we are starting a new tradition. In effort to save time, create great memories and put a focus on sharing with others, we decided to combine all these things we enjoy about Christmas together.

For the last couple weeks, the kids and I have been making small tokens of love and appreciation to our friends here in the cities. We like doing this because it isn't the size or price of the gift, but it is a small piece of our time, effort, and heart.

Yesterday at about 3:30 in the afternoon we loaded up our gifts, packed a snack and set out on our family Christmas adventure.

Here are the warm and fuzzies from yesterday:
* All three of my kids wearing their Nana's homemade knitted owl hats lined up in the back seat like sitting ducks.

* Listening to great Christmas music in the car and hearing the kids sing a long while we drive from house to house.

* Teaching the kids new vocabulary words and hearing them trying to use it in a sentence. "Our house is abturt." I think he meant absurd.

* Singing songs on the steps of our friends houses, of which some we surprised and they didn't know we were coming. Those were the best!

* Visiting with a whole different assortment of friends that warm the heart and remind you that God lives fully in so many people.

* Watching my kids Christmas Carol in their Batman and Iron man costume. I don't know if they are confused about Holidays or just really hate their clothes, but more than one person commented on our parental lack of ability to dress our kids.

* The treat from the advent calendar yesterday was glow sticks, which worked out perfect for our adventure. Once it grew dark outside, we were impressed by the light show outside with Christmas lights, and the lighsaber battles inside the car. I don't know which lighting show won.

* Hearing my kids yell, "This song is my favorite!" to EVERY Christmas song on the radio.

* Holding my husbands hand while our kids laugh, sing, yell, squeal, tell stories three octaves louder than all other normal humans. They get that from me, and Paul doesn't find it endearing.

* While going to deliver presents, we ended up being surprised ourselves with homemade crochet earrings, (seriously amazing and so jealous I didn't think of it first!), Captain America toys, (for the boys, not me), and two heavenly bottles of wine. Who knew we would come home with goodies? That was a super fun surprise.

* My husband and I looking at each other at one point in the evening and without using words, we both understood that this was the best tradition to start and we will be keeping this idea for the future.

These are my reality moments from the evening:

* The fact that my kids have slept and still worn the same costumes for about a week, even under their uniform at school, says something about their general smell when you get close and hug.

* Little having a 101 temp and we still dragged her all around town. That girl had sad, sleepy and sick eyes all at the same time. We should have been reprimanded for taking her out, but somewhere deep down, I think she still liked it.

* Driving around and amongst the Christmas lights, we still live in the ghetto damaged by a tornado, so the boards on houses, the debris, the random crap in people's yards were still very evident. We were going for a hallmark moment/evening with our kids, and I think we got the knockoff version, but we still liked it.

* The fact that my kids had a cup of water and half a piece of squash bread for dinner. Do I need to say more about my lack of attention to my children's welfare? In my defense, they never complained or said they were hungry.

* The boys got two different Captain America toys, and of course, there was one very special coveted CA who both the kids needed to have. Thus, ensuring the constant nagging and debating on who's turn it was to play with it, and the constant reminder to share was on all of our lips for the reminder of the evening.

This evening was really special to us. It was a family adventure sprinkled and scattered with amazing people thrown in. We got to sing carols, (at one point we even did the Jingle Bells, Batman smells. yea I let them do that.) and we are not very good at singing. That became very clear to me, but it was super fun. One time Paul and I tried to throw a cookie exchange/caroling party in our hood, and when we went out to carol, NO ONE came to the door. We even had people turn their lights off and pretend they weren't home. It was really sad, so we hadn't tried since. Going to people's homes you know worked much better. We got to deliver small tokens of love that we made which satisfied our longing to love others and respect our income and means. We made memories as a family. We dreamed about where we could put up lights next year when we have gutters, maybe a tree and a fence or a bush. Right now we got nothing. A whole lot of nothing, but that's OK, we are claiming to be energy efficient. And hopefully somewhere along the way, we brought joy to our friends homes and lives even just for a moment. We shared in love and joy and celebration of Christ's birth and celebrated what the holiday is really about.

It is my new favorite tradition.

Merry Christmas.

Oh, and to those of you whom we love in the cities and didn't get to come visit, I am deeply sorry, we couldn't hit everybody, and I made a promise to stop making presents so I could enjoy the season, so we will have to share the joy sometime soon.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Squash Bread

Rarely can I find a recipe that fits all of our requirements, dietary restrictions and personal taste included, so I often look at something and think, how can I make this that fits our needs? I am also always looking for ways to use up ingredients that I only partially used in another recipe.

On Thanksgiving I made this delicious Gluten-Free Zucchini Bread. We all loved it. Well, I don't have zucchini in my house right now, but I do have half a steamed butternut squash.

Last week we had butternut squash risotto, one of my favorite meals of all time. I only use half the squash to make it last longer, and my kids are more prone to eat it if the ratio is half risotto to half or less squash. Instead of baking the other half of the squash, my really smart friend Kristy Grannis recommended cutting it into bite size pieces, adding just a thin layer of water on the bottom of the sauce pan and steaming the squash. The water in the bottom of the pan can be the liquid to mash the squash and you throw no water away. No vitamins or minerals wasted. How smart is she? I like her. Thank you Kristy.

So I took this great recipe from The Gluten Free Goddess and adapted to my needs and to the ingredients on hand. Here is our recipe:

Squash Bread

Mix dry ingredients together
1 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
2 tablespoons cinnamon (I always increase this in my recipes.)

Add in the following and mix together
3/4 cup honey (or maple syrup or agave)
1/3 cup light olive oil or coconut oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon or lime juice
2 egg whites
1/4 cup rice/almond/coconut/soy milk (I use whatever I have on hand)

1/3 cup walnuts (I like them for their nutritional value) Omit if you can't have them, or add raisns.
small handful of Enjoy Life chocolate chips to sprinkle on top (incentive for my kids to eat it, though they liked the flavor anyway.)

Put in a bread pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes.

Here's our new version of an old favorite that is Gluten/dairy/sugar free. It tastes great and my kids love it. I doubled the recipe to use up all the squash and we are freezing some for after the holidays.

So here is another way to use up your squash from your garden. My kids won't eat squash soup yet, so I'm trying to be creative. Here they get squash and walnuts plus no sugar. Bonus on lots of levels.


I hope your little helper is as cute as this one.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Talking about sex

So I was asked to speak about Self Image and Sex tonight at a church.

Just to let you in a little secret, I don't talk about these things. Not in a "it makes me uncomfortable, and I have 12 year old's sense of humor so I can't talk about it", but in a "I haven't found an appropriate stage for this conversation, so I don't want to talk about it" kind of way.

People joke that as a woman speaker, this is what I should be speaking about, but it's never been my thing. I don't promote this talk in any of my PR, but I also won't say no if someone really wants to me to do it.

Until now. I think I found my limit and I will say no from here on out.

This is what I realized tonight.

The church shouldn't address the issue of sex with a wide audience of students. I just believe that each of those students are coming from such a different place and the topic is so broad that it is impossible to communicate what you want and address the actual topics the students want and need to know about. Then you are left with a broad and general response to something so deeply personal. Thus the church really hasn't addressed any issue.

Students are ranging from not even being interested, to maybe working up the courage to talk to the person they aren't even sure how they are feeling about. You might even have students who have committed their first kiss being on their wedding day. Then you have the students that want to hold hands and sit on each other's lap and they get excited when the person they like is around. Beyond that you have students who are feeling pressured into intimate touching, or oral sex and sex. On the even darker side you have STD's, rape of all kinds, sex parties, abuse, abortion, teen pregnancy, porn, masturbation, and sex trafficking.

That's just the physical stuff. What about guilt, shame, abandonment, low self esteem, excitement, fear, joy, fulfillment, adoration, love, lust... the list goes on.

Now what about the media, social pressure, peer pressure, movies, music, TV, magazines, and all the things they have to say, persuade, or lead you to believe about the issue. Shouldn't we shed some light on those issues?

All these issues are wrapped up on in just one word... sex. I didn't even touch body image.

So how in our right mind can we as adults in the church expect to communicate effectively about this issue to a large audience of students (and maybe their parents) on this very intense, deeply complicated issue?

We do it one on one or in very small groups that are made up of same sex and age or experience, which seems kind of unlikely.

Tonight I tanked as a speaker. I felt all over the board, I felt shallow and surface, two things I HATE being when I am on stage. But I looked out at the audience and saw little boys. Truly, little boys who just want to play cops and robbers, and grown up girls with makeup and pierced ears. I saw parents and little girls who still play with barbie, and the middle school jock who is too cool to care or listen. I looked out and thought, each of you needs something different. Each of you has different experiences and questions, and now I am going to be that chick who says, wait until your married, period without even digging deeper.

I heard that when I was younger, and when the cute boy looked my way, I didn't care what they said in church.

So how do you effectively talk about sex?

I don't know. That's why I'm not going to anymore. I'll leave it to the experts. Unless you want me to come to an intense personal low key weekend retreat where I get small group time with an other adult and students, then I'll do it. We'll get to the real stuff quick and bring Jesus along with us.

Man I really didn't do well tonight and that is hard for me to accept, but I know it's because this issue is too big for one session, and that's all I had.

Now that my rant is done, please understand that anytime we as believers can encourage young people to abstain from sex outside of marriage, I think we should. Do I believe that God works even in my weakness and my perceived failure, absolutely. If these are the only times that churches can orchestrate a time to talk about sex, then take what you can get. But might I suggest, pick one or two of these issues to pin point and dig deep. Group your kids to be with other kids their own age so the topic is relevant to them. Set this time up for success for them.

But why don't we all just embrace the fact that maybe we could talk about it more in our daily life with the young people who trust us. They have to get their information from somewhere. Be their source of information and trust and respect. Hear their issues and lift them up in prayer. Guide and counsel them in the way of the word. And love them even when they make mistakes. Or encourage them in wise choices.

Three days later: Its been interesting to see people's response to this post. Just to clarify, I am fine talking about sex, I just need to know what piece of this huge complicated puzzle you want me to address and to what specific group of people. I am not uncomfortable talking about sex or talking in front of large groups, this evening did reveal to me though how broad and wide the range of this issue is and how we can't communicate all the things the students need to know in one night. I was finally able to put words to my frustrations. I am thankful for that, but wish I had been in a better mental place when presenting and had already sorted all of this out. If you end up talking with students about sex, make sure you know where they are coming from first, and figure out what they are needing to know.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Presents with purpose

This is really funny that I am doing this now, considering my last post, but judge if will.

I had a friend request six of the Haitian bracelet I sell when I go and speak for Christmas gifts for her nieces and nephew's. I thought, what a great idea!

So I wanted to post some pictures and let you all know that if you are looking for a great gift idea for someone you love, someone you just need to buy for, or a white elephant gift, consider purchasing a bracelet from Haiti made by dear friend Tijean.

Tijean and I met when I was 22 years old, and he quickly found his way into my heart. Tijean is a dedicated student, working very hard to complete his education, and is a recent owner of a cyber cafe in Haiti where the money he makes helps support his family.

Here is Tijean this past January when I was in Haiti.

TiJean and I went into business together last year. He and the friends he employs makes bracelets for me by the hundreds, and I sell them wherever I am traveling and speaking. I purchase the bracelets from him a fair rate and split the profit. It has allowed me to participate in a continuing effort to supply income and work to one little family in Haiti.

TiJean is a tremendous young man and disciplined and faithful business partner. It is an honor to work with him, and a joy to call him my friend.

If you are interested in ordering, please go to my website, and email me how many you would like, where to mail them to, and color preference. Each bracelet is $5 and worth every penny.

Sorry they are a little fuzzy but you get the idea. Tijean also employs his friends to hrlp create an income for more families.

If you are looking for a way to give a gift with purpose, that is homemade and benefits the international community, this bracelet is the perfect gift.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Shopping

The last two weekends have been rough and full of cranky kids, cranky husband and cranky me. The last two weekends we have gone Christmas shopping.

One thing our family does is tries to encourage the kids to think about what they want to give for Christmas as well, so that the holiday always serves as a platform for them to think of others. We usually take two weeks out in Dec. to construct and create all of the kids gifts by hand, so we aren't spending more money, but they are still giving and reusing materials. It teaches them it isn't just about receiving, but also giving. And then truly it isn't even really about that is it? Its about remembering a birth. It's about Hope. It's about Love. Its about Immanuel, God with us.

For the last week, my kids have been melting crayons, we have been making T-shirt bags, painting canvases, gluing and writing Christmas cards, baking granola. It's been fun projects to do together and they are proud of the gifts to give, but it's still been all about presents, whether giving or receiving, whether earth friendly or not.

My husband and I, in an effort to actually mail out presents on time this year, (they aren't wrapped or mailed yet so we don't have a lot of hope) have shopped the last two weekends to get everything finished. We have dragged three cranky kids to malls and stores, we have issued threats, had time outs, bought presents we weren't even thrilled about that I know I'll need to return, we missed a meal, we prayed for help, we screamed our head off at the thought of being in a cart again,(no that wasn't me, but I did receive all the dirty looks at my freakshow of a daughter and her ability to hit only Maria Carey notes) and we turned an opportunity for family fun and productivity into a huge cranky mess. The last two Sunday's, we have sat around our table and looked at each other and have said, "Not our best day. What was our problem?" To which one of my kids would reply, "you made me mad today." And I would say, "yea I know. you made me mad today too." "yeah, I know" was the answer I got. We would chuckle a little at our mess of a day and say, "better tomorrow"!

See the stress for my husband and I is that we do one present for each person we buy for including our kids. Our kids get new PJ's on Christmas eve, one present from us and one from Santa, so officially they do get three presents, two being toys. When you limit yourself to only two presents, which I love by the way, it creates a new mental breakdown when you are trying to get something that you know your kid wants, yet, stays in your price range, while also trying to get them something that maybe they didn't know they wanted, but you know they will love. The match between desire, price, and time makes it extra hard to shop. My husband and I HATE spending money on presents, just to have a present, we want it to be a good, thoughtful, useful present. For aunts, uncle's, grandparents and kids, you only get one present so you want to make it count.

We've never had a lot of money, and this year with our new diet restrictions, money is even tighter, which makes Christmas feel extra hard. Our kids are older, and very aware and bright. I just wonder if this is the Christmas they discover, since they can compare notes with other kids at school, how lame their parents really are. That pressure gets to me. I hate that its there, I hate that I can see it and feel it and that I am tempted to buy into it.

This year, so many people helped my little family in such big ways. My heart is still overwhelmed by the generosity of our friends and neighbors and church. I have been trying to make Christmas presents, truly just small tokens of gratitude, to give to people this year for Christmas. I want to, but yet, now there is this pressure to keep crafting and making long into the evening to get it done.

My husband and I pulled out all of our presents tonight to take inventory and see where we were at, and we looked at each other, neither being overly excited about the "system" of presents. Unhappy at our lack of funds, remembering our own childhood and bringing our own expectations to the table, each having our own desire for what we want Christmas to be, and what we teach our children Christmas is. It was confusing and hard, and now I have a bunch of present to wrap. So even though, we made it through the buying and deciding, there is now wrapping.

That's when it creeped up on me. Even in our greatest effort, to reduce the gifts, reuse and make our own gifts, teach about giving to our children, presents have become a huge distraction. We've tried to make the distraction spiritual and holy, but its still a distraction. One that creeps up on you and takes precious time away from focusing on what Christmas really is. Today in the message at church we were looking at the slow and steady decline into sin. The picture of how to boil and cook a frog was used. The song with the line, "people don't crumble in a day" was used. We take baby steps away from God and towards something else, until we suddenly realize we are lost.

I have gotten lost. I have turned my good intention, my desire to thank those who mean so much to me, and my children away from what really matters. I have slipped into the dark side of Christmas. My only moment of peace today was when we were doing our devotion and singing "Away in the Manger" and "Silent Night". It was when we were focused on the sustaining love of God and His immense dedication to help us out of sin and hurt and pain.

So with my new found clarity, I want to spend the rest of my Christmas season focused on one thing. I will wrap the presents I have, and mail, hopefully the ones I have purchased, but the rest will wait till after Christmas.

My husband and I have found that after we do something together, whether it be a holiday, party, get together, or even seasons of our life, we look at one another and say, "OK, how did that go? What went well? What went bad? What won't do again next year?" Last year we stripped a lot out of our schedule with this evaluation process and have been much happier since.

I already know what my answer will be for next Christmas,

No more Christmas letter, but maybe an Easter letter.

Christmas will also not be the time when I thank people and want to give them a token of my love and appreciation. I will be a random day to be celebrated each year where I can take my time creating and crafting my thank you presents. I will have less stress and more time to focus on Christ at Christmas.

Downsize the amount of people we buy presents for.

I have to figure out where crafting with my kids for their presents comes in. Maybe we have have a crafting camp week some time in the summer and do it all then, that way we still have time to keep the focus on what really matters at Christmas.

Christ. Hope. Love. Redemption. Forgiveness.

Man I had lost myself this year. I didn't even realize it until I wrote this. Now all of my confusion and crankiness makes sense. It wasn't obvious to me at first because I thought we were being honorable in how we approached it, dealt with it, and didn't go into debt over it, but IT was still taking all our time, focus, and energy, and thus being our Christmas idol. We say NO MORE.

With clarity, I am now free.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

One of my deepest struggles

You haven't heard from me because the only thing consuming my time is reading the Hunger Games. I don't know what the purpose of the book is. If it was purely a book for pleasure or did the author have a reason for what she wrote about. Did it have to do with how you can't help whom you love, or does it have to do about social justice, government involvement, or moving a generation of younger readers to desire to fight for their own future. I don't know and I haven't spent anytime searching out interviews, because my own reaction is still hard enough to sift through.

If you haven't read the Hunger games, I don't know if I would give anything away really, but you may want to stop reading.

There is an onslaught of emotions in this book and it has stirred up long time feelings in me. I had just come to peace with my life. I had just resolved to be thankful and grateful for this time with my kids when they are young. That although I have a desire to do more, travel and participate in eliminating discrimination, war and hunger with the lack of schools, this is where I need to be right now. My children are only young once and they need our training to be prepared. I could finally accept that raising my children to be aware of these things and to give them a heart for all people is a gift in that fight as well. That in a few short years they will have their own lives to live and my influence and direction only lasts for so long.

As I look at this previous paragraph it makes me chuckle in sarcasm as I think how in the world have I done anything to communicate my heart for less war and selfishness and destruction on our planet. But then I realize it is at the source of why I become unhappy. Because my hidden desire to participate in the fight for the goodness of man is always put away on the back shelf loosing its place in my life to prepare meals, clean up after meals, shop for food for the meals, do laundry, picking up toys, cleaning up spills and trying to raise my kids and see my husband. It makes me feel like a fake saying I care about these things at all because I see no proof of it in my daily life. That statement alone brings me to tears. I feel like a sell out. I feel like a fake. I feel overwhelmed. I wonder where there is time to care about these things when my current life feels overwhelming. Food and the effects of food have overtaken my existence and has left me empty in my desire to help others.

This trilogy brought the injustice of the poor and the downright need to fight against the system slamming into the forefront of my thoughts and my heart. Thoughts I used to have and fights I wanted to fight before that are now covered in dust. It has unsettled me and left me wondering and questioning how I can go forward and which step I take to start participating again in the fight against injustice.

It then becomes my indecision that cripples me from doing anything. I become the thing I speak against and I almost don't know how to fix that. I speak all over the country encouraging students and adults alike to be not be overwhelmed with the whole of the world and its needs, but take it one step at a time, one need at a time, and in that we bring more love into our world truly allowing it to change the hearts of others. Taking my own advice of one small good deed, one need at a time seems small and trite, though I know with my whole soul it is not, I can not fend off the taunting little voice inside me that says I was made to do more.

Maybe it’s a dream or a wish, but I always connect to or want to be the person in the story who was turned into a leader. Who could rally hundreds and thousands of people to the fight against the one who causes the injustice. Or to be the person who could sacrifice everything to stand out and make a difference. I don’t know that I really am that person, but I want to be. I dream I could be. Maybe. Even saying that feels pompous and arrogant, but if I could have a dream, I would want to be the person who inspires others and advocates and fight for a real change that makes the world better for all who live in it.

Some would say it is a question of identity, but I know who I am. It becomes far less about who you are, but it does beg the question, what do I do with who I am? The question plagued Katniss, “What do I do?” How do I respond to all the selfish acts that are destroying people’s lives? Do you sit by or do you act in the rebellion and fight for what is right? How do I help against the systems that destroy people? Systems that keep the poor poor. Take small children and turn them into solders. Take young girls and sell them for sex. Allow women who speak out of turn to be burned as a lesson. Allow poisons to be put in our food and turn us all into cancer patients killing us off slowly. Systems where the rich get richer off the poor mans labor. Where people will lie, steal kill and destroy innocents than to admit they are wrong.

I heard a song yesterday and I just kept singing this one line over and over while I let the tears fall, “Is love alive. Is love alive. Is love. Alive.” Yes I believe that in small ways it is, but what I wept over was truly wondering if love was alive in the government, within the leaders of not only the country but the world. Those making the choices that directly affect us, living under their systems. I believe that answer is no.

My mind has not just been unsettled; it has been at war with itself. My thoughts are consumed around that question, “What do I do?” The hard thing about living in our time of technology is that we are all very well aware of the injustices going on around the world. No you won’t see it on your TV which is overwhelmed with reality television, which is another system I would love to fight, but its there, online, in magazines, and on certain news stations. We can’t claim ignorance anymore.

Can we just sit by or can we do something.

And what is that something.

And can we really pull it off.

I loved the hunger games, but I don’t know what to do with the effects it’s had on me.

DISCLAIMER*** If you know me than you know that I am a big believer in seeing a need and meeting a need and watching how that makes a difference. I support all sorts of local organizations that are feeding the poor, giving clothes to the homeless and counseling and basic needs to VETS, orphans, and single families as well as sick and mistreated people. I support and believe in what meeting people’s immediate needs means to them and to the system. What I want is a bigger fight. I want to see policies change. I want to see government make choices made that are right for people, not for themselves. Not just our country, but each country in his own right. I am coming from a place of being worn down by brokenness. The effects of sin and how it steals life from us has seemed overwhelming as of late.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bible based advent Calendar

So for the last two years I have wanted to have an advent calendar that looks at the Old Testament prophesies and how they are fulfilled by Christ the Messiah. I also saw this really fun idea of using lost mittens as a way to package small gifts, so I decided to marry the two ideas.

Here is what I came up with.

So I took some of my T-shirt yarn, (I have cut pieces of my old T-shirts and stretched it out to use for projects and Jewelry.) You can use whatever you have on hand, string, ribbon, yarn, whatever.

I then dug up a bunch of old mittens, lost mittens and mittens too small to be worn anymore.

After I had found 22 mittens, (We are leaving for Texas on the 22nd of December, so I only needed to do a calendar for that many days.) I went and gathered up 22 of our clothes pins from our clothes line.

I have all sorts of crafting paper in hopes that I could some day be a scrapbooker, (that day will never come), so I snagged three fun colors. A yellow, a red and green with stars and cut out 22 squares to label the days and glued them on the clothes pins. I am sure if someone else were doing this, they would cut beautiful shapes, or emboss or glitter or do something that Martha Stewart would approve of, but I'll stick to my kid scissors cut out with sharpie numbers. It took me five minutes and my time is needed else where.

Since we have our stockings by the fireplace, I needed to find a different location that the kids could reach each day. I picked our built in hutch, and added those pull away hooks to the side so I didn't have to ruin the woodwork with a nail. I hung my T-shirt string, then added the hooks with the mittens.

For the last few days I have been typing out a Prophecy for each day with a verse from the Old Testament and a confirmation verse to its fulfillment in the New Testament. My goal is that each day we can sit down with the kids, open our Bible and read what was foretold about the coming Messiah. Then we can look it up in the New Testament and discuss it. I don't have questions posted with this yet because I am going to do that this year while we are doing each day. That way, I know for next year which questions worked and which ones didn't.

Here are the verses that we will be looking at this advent.
1. Be of the offspring of the woman, shall bruise the serpent's head Gen. 3:14,15 and Galatians 4:4, Heb. 2:14
2. Be of the tribe of Judah gen. 49:8-10, Micah 5:2 and Heb. 7:14
3. Be born in the town of Bethlehem of Judea (Judah) Micah 5:2-5 and Matt. 2:1-6
4. Be born a king of the line of David Isaiah 9:7 and Matt. 1:1
5. A child to be born Isaiah 9:6 and Luke 2:11
6. Be born of a virgin Isaiah 7:13,14 and Matt. 1:18-23
7. Kings shall bring him gifts, fall down before him Psalm 72:10 and Matt. 2:1-11
8. Be a firstborn son, sanctified Exodus 13:2, Numbers 3:13; 8:17 and Luke 2:7, 23
9. Massacre of children Jeremiah 31:15 and Matt. 2:16-18
10. Be called out of Egypt Hosea 11:1 and Matt. 2:13-15, 19-21
11. Be rejected by his brethren Psalm 69:8 and John 7:3-5
12. Call those who were not his people Isaiah 55:4,5 and Romans 9:23-26
13. The King comes to Jerusalem riding on a donkey Zechariah 9:9 and Mark 11:1-10
14. Upon his coming, the deaf hear, the blind see Isaiah 29:18, Isaiah 35:5 and Matt. 11:5
15. Fulfill promises to Jews, be a light to the Gentiles Isaiah 42:6, 49:6 and Luke 2:25-32, Acts 26:23
16. A new everlasting covenant Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Luke 22: 15-20, Heb. 10:15-20
17. be hung upon a tree as a curse for us Deut. 21:23 and Galatians 3:13
18. Be struck on the head Micah 5:1 and Matt. 27:30
19. Have soldiers cast lots for his coat Psalm 22:18 and John 19:23,24
20. Be accused and afflicted, but didn't open his mouth Isaiah 43:7 and Matt. 27:12, Luke 23:9
21. Be Passover male lamb, without blemish, slain, with blood applied as protection from judgment Exodus 12:1-11 and John 1:29-36
22.The 30 pieces of silver buy the potter's field Zech. 11:12,13 and Matt. 27:3, 6-10

These verses I got from Rose Publishing in a small book called, "100 Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus". I have given you the key verse where they make the connection, but in most cases, we will read more of the text around each verse offered. For our family I tried to pick the verses that carried the most weight of connecting the prophecy with the fulfillment.

Also for each day, when we pull out the scroll to do our devotion, there will also be a little treat for each kid in the mitten. Treats will include stickers, straws, silly bands, new crayons, coins, suckers or something else small.

I am excited to finally have gotten this project this far. Maybe next year it will be complete with questions and all.

Have a wonderful Advent season preparing your hearts and homes for the coming king.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A homemade thanksgiving

I am a little surprised to report that my very first allergen free Thanksgiving was my easiest, and laid back. It was a near perfect day, with the exception of a few moments of miscommunication paired with tiredness, it was glorious.

Thanksgiving is a day to celebrate the harvest and the feast, and in MN there is usually snow on the ground which was always weird to me. Thanksgiving is still a fall holiday, but it rarely feels that way, with the exception of yesterday where we celebrated Thanksgiving with 62 degrees. It was glorious!

I want to start this blog by saying my parents are irreplaceable to making Thanksgiving happen in this house. My amazing mother puts up with me making everything from scratch and using every dish in the kitchen and she just faithfully and cheerfully washes all the dishes and gets me all my ingredients and allows to me to just create and cook and bake. It's this incredible gift that I get every year and it really is the ONLY way I can pull off the meal. My dad, cleans and moves tables and watches and plays with the kids. He takes out garbage and runs errands, they are just really the most incredible people. Thank you mom and dad, I couldn't do life without you! I love you!

So Wednesday evening, my mom and I head to the kitchen after we spent the afternoon and dinnertime downtown with Paul, and make five pie crusts, (two regular and three GF). We mix up three pumpkin pies, make GF waffles for the bread crumbs for the Mac and Cheese. After the waffles are done and drying out, I grate up the zucchini and make zucchini bread for lunch the next day. While the bread is baking, I mix up all the dry ingredients and mix up all the wet ingredients for pumpkin scones for breakfast. I put those away to be made fresh in the morning. I had found a recipe for coconut milk whipped topping and we tried it, but to no success. While I made my mom stand there whisking it for 15 minutes, Big came out of bed and came and gave me a big hug and said, "Thank you mommy for thinking of me and cooking all the things I can eat." Ahh... it melts my heart and makes it all worth it. At about 1130pm, we called it quits and got some rest.

Thanksgiving morning, the kids are up early with excitement for the day they have been waiting for. They got up and finished up their place mats for their friends coming over that day. I made a fresh pot of coffee and mixed up the scones. While they were still warm, we drizzled maple syrup over top and they were delicious!

After breakfast, we turned on the TV to watch all the prep for the big Thanksgiving day parade until it was time to leave for church.

I love going to church on Thanksgiving. It is a great reminder in the middle of all the prep to take a step back and remember the one who is responsible for all the blessings in our life. The music, the readings and the message pointed our hearts back toward our creator who I am most thankful for.

After church, we came home to a crazing lunch of zucchini bread, nuts, carrots, apple slices, carrots and snap peas, pickles and olives, chips and salsa while my dad cheered for the Lions and Big cheered for the packers. (not sure when or how that happened, but we all think its a little weird in this house.)

Probably the best part of the day for me came when Paul took the boys outside to play catch during the second half of the game. If you have followed our story at all, then you know a tornado hit our neighborhood back in May. About a week ago they just tore down our neighbor's house, and they won't rebuild for four years. So now we sit as the corner house on our block with this big empty lot next door. It's amazing and crazy weird at the same time. We aren't used to having space, having room to breath and run and play. We have a really small yard, but now there is all this space to play! They had space to play right at the house instead of needing to go down to the park! The window's were open, the game was on, my dad was resting on the couch, mom and I were cooking in the kitchen with great music playing and we were listening to the boys play outside. It was one of those perfect wonderful moments that I want to take with me for years to come.

We had friends join us in the afternoon and we gathered around the table to eat at 530pm.

Here are the kids at thier table.

Here is Little in her seat saying cheese!

Here is almost everyone gathered around our Thanksgiving feast.

We had two turkeys, stuffing and creamy mashed potatoes for my hubby and guests, a creek quinoa made by my lovely friend Inga, GF Vegan mac and cheese, green been casserole in a homemade cream of mushroom soup with pecans, sweet potato's and carrots baked in a drizzle of maple syrup, cinnamon and pecans, herb infused popovers, strawberries, apple slices and spirits.

It was so lovely and delicious. We ate our meal on the family plates my husband grew up with, on place mats that my kids made, with napkins I had made earlier this year. While we cooked we listened to music that my friend gave me to brighten my day. Our centerpiece was pumpkins my kids made with me earlier and we were surrounded by dear friends and family. I looked around and was so thankful for the depth of meaning that everything has here. It all has a story, it all has history and life and memories. The people, the surroundings, the food. Everything about this Thanksgiving was very rich and overflowing with blessings and thanksgiving. (I even pulled off an old carpet skirt that I wore in college that I haven't been able to fit into for years. That was a huge bonus!)

The kids were done in record time and went off to play which allowed the adults to sit and savor the meal and each others company. It may sound rehearsed and scripted, but I love going around the table and finding out what everyone is thankful for. It adds depth and allows for greater conversation and makes the meal special.

Afterwards, the furry of activity was miraculous! Everyone pitched in and cleaned until every dish was washed and dry, the table cleaned, garbage taken out, extra tables and chairs put away and we could rest. We turned on the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special for the kids and ate pumpkin and upside down apple pecan pie.

It was soon time for the kids to head off to bed, friends to head home and to turn on our traditional White Christmas movie. This is the way we say good buy to Thanksgiving and bring on the Christmas cheer! One of my dearest friends from college surprised me by stopping by, we make hot chocolate and ate a pumpkin scone and snuggled with the movie on while we chatted away. We didn't make it through the whole movie, but it was wonderful all the same.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. If you were with family or friends, or if you were volunteering somewhere, or on vacation. If you were surrounded by tradition or feeling out of sorts in a new place. Whether you were surrounded by people and feeling alone, or literally spent the day on your own, my hope is that you know you are loved by the one who created you, and that you can see, even in hard moments, days, or years, we can still search and find there is much to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am sure others took better pictures, but I was busy, so here is what I snagged to share with you. Mostly so my sister who join us could see and our other Nana and Papa down in TX. Enjoy!

***All recipes were gotten from Gluten Free Goddess, Simply Sugar and Gluten Free and Living Without websites. Enjoy!***

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Traveling with Little people

I don't have pictures for this blog because lets be honest, if we are road tripping or flying, I ain't got that kind of time.

But I did have a friend email me the other day and say, "Dani you travel a lot with your kids and I am taking mine for the first time on a plane for the holiday's, any tips or ideas?" I have a few, so I thought I would share them with you all.

Disclaimer, I am not an expert at this, however I have flown dozens of times with my kids alone and sometimes with my husband to help. There have a been a few things I learned by making mistakes along the way. Please learn from me and save yourself the grief, stress, meltdown, and judgement.

1. Understand that you can't judge other families traveling, whether they are behaving or misbehaving. You are only catching a glimpse of that family's story and if we are truly honest, each family in the world at one point or another is the family everyone wants to be, or no one wants to be. We all have great moments where we stand proud because somehow it all worked out, and we all have those moments where we want to scream at everyone, "Please don't judge me! They usually aren't like this! I'm usually not like this! We are better people I promise." SO...leave the judging at home. For others and yourselves.

2. Take the week to prepare and include your kids help. Talk about the trip, let them pack their stuff, with your help of course, and give them a list to follow. Allowing your kids to help gives them ownership and makes them feel important and needed. When they help lead, they are better behaved.

3. During the preparing stage, I always use "team" language. We do this occasionally at home as well on normal days, but when you are going on an adventure, team language is important. We are a team. We stick together. Each person on the team has their job and we need each other. We even do a little prayer before we leave and stick our hands together and shout, go team! Lame? Absolutely! Cheesy? Totally! Works? YES!

4. If you have time, go to the library a couple days before the trip and pick out a couple books about flying if you are flying, road construction if you are driving, the city where you are going, the holiday you are celebrating. A couple special books that they aren't books they are used to, usually means they are more excited to read them, they get to learn something new and again, they are apart of the process. While you are there, make sure to pick a couple stories on CD or download them into your fancy Iwhatever so you have a story to listen to. Follow along books with Cd's are the best. They get to look at it, and you don't have to read it. (If you were wondering, we don't watch movies when we travel. I do bring one as a back up, you ALWAYS need back up, but as a rule, we just don't.)

5. This may sound silly and over the top, but because I live in the kitchen, my kids help me make/bake a special snack for the trip. We would make granola bars together, and what was great about these is they are super healthy and I only made them for road trips, so it made them extra special. I also include my kids in the list making for the trip, the grocery shopping, and the food packing. They help pick out their veggie, their fruit, and their different meals. We don't eat when we travel, even before diet restrictions, because it added extra time, was more expensive, packing our own food was healthier, and I could always then use it as leverage for a reward if I needed it. Now I would always pack a surprise food that they don't know about. (It's all about leverage!) And when they have been apart of the whole process, who doesn't like a surprise!

6. Another extra bonus item if you have time is making a new fun travel CD of music that the kids are into. I try to add a song or two from all the different music they love to listen to, or the theme song to their favorite show, or just plain old silly kid songs. On a road trip this works really well. In the airport when you are stranded, it also really works well. If I had an Ipod or phone or pad, I would mix up a great little something for kids and play that.

7. For you for traveling:
* Don't drink beverages. The less you need to go to the bathroom the better. It's hard to be patient when you've been holding it for an hour.

* When flying don't wear jewelry, wear comfy clothes and slip on shoes. Yes, the low maintenance of your outfit helps with getting through security.

* Pack a small bag that has ONLY what you need to survive the trip. Itinerary, money, licence, credit cards. All in one place so you know where it is, but KEEP IT PROTECTED.

* Pack empty water bottles to fill once you are through security so that you always have water when you need it. (Then you also don't have to worry about the spilling airplane cups if you have really little people. Keep a lid on it people!)

8. For your kids:
* If they can't tie shoes yet, don't put them in tie shoes no matter how cute they are. Save it for your destination. You don't need the hassle.

* They can carry their own little travel backpack with a change of clothes and some toys that you have approved. Their clothes should be low maitenance, even for the car.

* Their back pack can also contain their own water bottle and first snack.

* Give them each a job. If they are old enough, they can push a stroller in the airport or help haul a suitcase. If you are driving, someone can be in charge of managing the food, the toy clutter, looking for gas stations, helping get the smaller ones shoes back on. Be creative, just make sure everyone has a job on the team and is needed.

9. For the trip:
* Have a small bag with emergency items: band aids, neosporin, chap stick, lotion, nail clippers, thread and needle, Kleenex, head medicine, stomach medicine, wipes, tide pen, small pad of paper, pen. I might be missing something, but you get the idea.

* Have an emergency toy bag. For flying, it can be a very small bag with playing cards, uno cards, and pull out 10 matches from your memory game and you have a smaller travel version. I also like to always keep my eye on the dollar store or target dollar section and see what they might have. One year they had small etch a sketches for a $1. Perfect as a surprise. When you are driving, put a couple good car toys in a bag that your kids don't know about. This way when they are bored and done with the toys they brought, you have something new for them. Small chalk boards, special coloring books, a clip board with a bunch of dot or tick tack toe games drawn out already, sewing cardboard activity. It can be anything.

For Flying:
* If you are flying, pay the extra money for a direct flight if possible. Surviving a plane ride is harder once the novelty has worn off.

* If you are flying, if one person has to pee, make them all do it. If no one has to pee, make them do it before you get on the plane, and once you land. You don't need the hassle of dealing with it on the plane, or once you have all your luggage.

For Driving:
* If you are driving, you are not above peeing on the side of the road. Seriously, if you have more than one kid, it is not the worth the hassle of unloading everyone and putting on everyone's coats and shoes. Pull that one kid out, let them do their business, and get back on the road.

* If you are driving, it does pay off to start the trip extra earlier in the morning, say 4am. This way it is still dark, the kids will go back to sleep and you get a couple hours of quiet while driving.

* Make sure you have emergency car tools and a blanket, flashlight, and a triple AA phone number.

* If you can swing it, make sure when you stop, you pick a place that meets all of your needs at once. Gas, food, and bathroom.

And if you want to feel better about your parenting skills, listen to these stories.

Once when Paul and I were flying home from Haiti at 8pm, we just got Big back from my in-laws. He was about 13 months and I was 6 months pregnant, and it was past his bedtime. Big cried for the first 20 min. of the flight and then screamed on the floor at our feet for the rest of the plane ride, which was an hour and half long. Food, hugs, bottles, toys, walking, nothing worked. He was besides himself, probably from excitement, tiredness and wanting to be home. I have never gotten so many dirty looks from so many people leaving a plane before, it was bad.

Another time, I was going up the escalator with Big, middle, and little who was 2 months old and in the stroller. I know, you aren't supposed to go on the escalator with a stroller, but the elevator was so far away! My kids love the escalator, so I chanced it going up. Well, middle had a panic once we were on and started to try to get off, but trying to catch him, made part of the stroller slip. They had to turn off the escalator for the lady who was holding a 3yr old by the arm as he has fallen head first down the escalator, and holding the stroller with her other hand and hip as it's tipped slightly to the side. Big just stood up at the top looking terrified. And yes, I learned my lesson, and yes I got a lecture from the TSA agent.

So, remember to have fun and be patient with yourself and your kids. With little people, its always about the journey and not the destination.

Happy traveling! And if you have great helpful hints, don't forget to add them here!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving for kids

FYI, I am not a crafting blog. There aren't step by step instructions to anything I do. I am not a photographer, so the pictures are not top quality. But I am a gal who tries to engage her kids in the creative process, instill good values of reduce, reuse, recycle, and respect God's created, his earth and each other. I just try to share little lessons I learn along the way.

So I realized last year how much I allow Christmas to creep in on Thanksgiving. It stood out to me last year and I didn't like it.

I love holiday prep, and I found I would listen to Christmas music while preparing for Thanksgiving. Some may say there is nothing wrong with that, to others I have truly committed a crime. It doesn't matter, because the truth is, I wasn't allowing Thanksgiving to sink it. I wasn't letting it be what it is, a day of giving thanks, not something to skim over to get to Christmas.

No more this year. This year, Thanksgiving stands in the spot light and Christmas will have to wait.

Also new this year is my children's ability to truly make their own projects and have an opinion about it. In years previous, I would research great crafts and we would "do them together" meaning they would eventually get bored and I got to finish the project. That usually meant that it still looked Martha Stewartish with a little kid twist.

Not this year. It is all kid imagined and kid created, which means lots of construction paper, personal drawings that have nothing to do with Thanksgiving and lots of glue. I found myself wanting to direct them. Wanting to in a small way manipulate the project so it would look better or resemble at least a little of my idea.

And then I remembered. This is how they contribute. This is how we nurture their good ideas and praise them for their creativity. This is where original happens. Those things are the real things I want.

So, Paul was gone this weekend. It was just me and the kids and the house was a total disaster all weekend. The kids slept in a fort in the living room and I allowed all the toys to stay out for the weekend. We ate plain rice, a can of corn, bowls of cereal and sweet potato chips for meals. It was beautiful and easy and they were happy. The dining table was covered in paper, glue, feathers, markers, crayons, tape, pipe cleaners, and pom poms for two days straight. We just put our plates on top or laid a blanket in the kitchen and had a picnic. It was great.

I asked the kids what we could do to make celebrating Thanksgiving special. They suggested placemats, like they did at school. I loved it. So I asked the boys what verse in the Bible they wanted to put on the mats and they decided they liked our Thanksgiving verse, so I typed Col. 2:6-7. I let Big pick the font, I showed them how to multiply the verse to get more on one page and not waste our supplies. I let Middle print the verses, and both boys cut out the verses and glued them to the placemats. They picked the colors of the mats and I taught them how to make turkeys out of their hands. (They really thought I was the smartest person on the planet. It was great.) We made a list of everyone coming for Thanksgiving and they were able to recreate their names on the mats. They drew, colored and glued. We worked on math, colors, and art.

And the whole time instead of listening to Christmas music, we listened to praise and worship instead. It created the perfect atmosphere to prepare our hearts for Thanksgiving. While the kids created, I tried my hand at pumpkin scones to capitalize on our fall day while the snow fell outside. What I love about my kids is that they knew this was a new recipe and it was a Thanksgiving training day in the kitchen so they gave me tips on how to make it better, but not before thanking me for a good try.

"It needs more Cinnamon, maybe a touch of honey or maple syrup to add sweetness." Oh my, what have I created in them!

Here are our placemats.

Now I will admit that they couldn't stick to the task for very long. They would cut and then go play. They would come back and glue and then go play. They would color a little and then play some more. It was a very laid back art project.

After the placemats were done, I brought out our remaining foam balls and feathers.

I need you to know that this year, it is our goal to make as many of our Christmas projects and presents as possible with supplies we have here at the house or at a reuse center or thrift store. We are trying to honor God and our family with not only our resources, but with our time and money. So I went to the craft bin to see what we had left over from years previous to decide what we would make our center pieces out of.

This was going to be perfect!

The boys made turkey's to add to our already homemade scrap fabric pumpkins that sit as our centerpiece. Now the pumpkins will be guarded by the two turkeys.

This is Big's. He colored the foam balls and only choose small feathers to make a baby turkey.

This is Middle's. This turkey is confused, but he's made with love. He started out as a snowman and then decided he was a turkey. He was probably confused because it was snowing outside.

So here is our homemade Thanksgiving decorations. I'll be honest, it felt really good to keep Christmas at bay. Listening to fun worship music kept our hearts full of remembering God's goodness and all we have to be thankful for.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Meal Plan

I believe in the healthy idea of meal planning. It allows you to take five or fifteen minutes at one point of your week, instead of more than an hour throughout the week trying to figure out to feed everyone.

Especially in a diet restricted home, I need to do this to ensure that my husband still gets meat, my children have no red meat, and I am trying to eliminate meat all together. On top of satisfying everyone with what they want.

We usually do this on Sunday and everyone can pick one meal they want that week, so that everyone knows they have a voice in the matter. Than I look at when Paul is gone, that's when I serve a meal I know he doesn't like. I look at what we are doing that week and when we need crock pot meals and when we can eat leftovers. I also try to pair that up with what's on sale and what is in our house and cupboards that I need to use up so it doesn't go bad. So many pieces to put together it seems, but in the end, I am much less stressed when it comes to meal time.

I love to cook, but the expectation of cooking three times a day gets tiring. This is my attempt to curve stress, reduce the trips to the grocery store, and limit the complaining. All these things I believe lead to a healthier life. Less gas being used, more time at home doing what we want, and less stress for my heart and soul, which also means probably less frustrated cries for help or yelling on my part. That's better for everyone.

Well, my folks get in on Tuesday night for Thanksgiving and I am so stoked! What I love about my parents is that even coming to have fun, they always want to help. But truth be told, I don't want to spend my time while they are here going to the grocery store and cooking the whole time or trying to figure out what to eat. That question stresses me out to a very severe level these days. I want all the groceries bought and the plan figured out before they get here so I can make what I can ahead of time, have less time in the kitchen and more time in relationship with them doing fun things with my kids.

So I made a plan. Wednesday is Thanksgiving prep day so I wanted limited time in the kitchen for meals for that day. Friday I will be tired of being in the kitchen the whole day before. Friday we will also have friends over for lunch, and then head to the light parade on Friday night. Saturday is get the tree day, decorate the tree and prep for Waller Christmas on Sunday. Putting all those things into consideration, this is what I came up with.

(I am not fancy yet enough to figure out how to add links to my blog, so most recipes I either adapted, or found with Gluten Free Goddess, Simply Sugar and Gluten Free or Living Without.) Enjoy!

Breakfast - Pumpkin oatmeal, banana's
Lunch - Lettuce wraps with egg salad, carrots, country style potato's
Dinner - Mushrooms/sun dried tomato's in a white wine sauce over GF noodles

Breakfast - Pumpkin scones, strawberries
Lunch - Chips/bean dip/guacamole/salsa, grapes, cucumbers
Dinner - Thanksgiving Feast - another blog!

Breakfast - Fruit and Spinach smoothies, hard boiled eggs
Lunch - Chicken, beans, salsa Mex dish over rice in crock pot
Dinner - Turkey sandwiches, veggies, hot cocoa at parade

Breakfast - Scrambled eggs with spinach, grapes
Lunch - chili in thermos' at tree farm with apple slices and almonds
Dinner - Leftovers and popcorn while we decorate tree

Breakfast - Granola with raisins, cucumbers, and country style potato's
Lunch - BBQ Chicken and baked root veggies
Dinner - Leftovers

Snacks: veggies, nuts, fruit, popcorn and LarBar's for the road.

I love that I don't have to think about this now and can just enjoy my parents visit. I hope you also feel inspired and ready to make your own weekly meal plan. It really is one of my greatest stress relievers.

Now if only I could start that great idea of once a month cooking. That would really save me time.

Happy T week.


So I realize now, a little late I guess, that this entire year will be a year of firsts. Mostly what that means for my traditional heavy heart is that for each season and holiday, I need to mourn what was, and replace it with what is.

Things continue to catch me off guard.

For example, Candy canes. I love having candy canes in the house to give to guests when they come over. My kids loved them! I won't have them in the house anymore because it feels a little cruel.

My husband grew up eating cream puffs on the morning of Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was fun to complain about how much work they were, but it also became our tradition.

Ginger bread houses. So fun to make and lick your fingers free of the icing that drizzles on your hands instead of staying on the house. Plus that candy that fell on the floor totally fall into the five second rule.

Christmas cookies, Christmas cookies, Christmas cookies. I know there are cookies we can eat, but there are special cookies that you grow up with, that when a cookie tray doesn't have them, you have a little void in your heart.

Then there are the Christmas cookie exchange parties. Why would I go and bring home a plate of cookies we can't eat?

We handled Halloween and for the first time, I didn't add five pounds to my healthy frame. I thought, we can do this. This is getting easier.

But the truth is, I have 32 years of history under my belt. I have 32 years of habits, patterns, traditions, expectations, and desires.

If I can acknowledge that each season will have a piece of mourning to it, I think it might be easier to handle. I need to allow myself the experience of letting it go so that I can embrace what it is now. And the truth is, the way it is now is SO much better for us.

Truth be told, almost none of the things listed above are good for you, and there are alternatives to almost each of them. But before I could just go to the store and buy whatever I needed. Now its a different story.

We have the opportunity to rewrite history. To create new habits and patterns and traditions, and hopefully the mourning will pass. And I will have less weight and guilt over food after these holidays which would be a first in forever!

Our new Boiler!

I have a thousand things I want to write about. Not really sure why it is that you read this blog, so not sure what to share.

I will say that a lot of things have been happening around here. Progress with Noah, progress with the house, progress in my faith, and all sorts of crafting progress and cooking progress. (I was able to bake fresh bread again for the first time in seven months! I was up to making bread at least once a week, and then nothing. It felt good, and I'll post more about that later.)

This month we have been focusing on what we are thankful for. Creating a heart of Thanksgiving in remembering that God is the giver of all good things.

Yes I have much to be thankful for, but I'm not gonna lie, there is a huge thing that I can't let go of.

Our new boiler.

My family has been on energy assistance for the last couple of years. We are a one income family where our income hasn't changed in four years but the size of our family has. Our home was built in 1920 and we still had the original boiler. In the last couple years we have had some issues with the pilot light going out and it having a hard time starting after the summer months, but all the boiler men said the same thing, "Steam boilers last forever."

Paul and I know that we don't want to live in this house forever. We still dream of our red brick farm house with land to run around on, a barn for art and music and a garden big enough to support us. We hope this isn't the place we end up, but try to find the contentment to survive without disappointment.

Understanding the way the economy is, we both kind of knew that replacing the boiler was going to be a must to sell the house. Why would someone buy our home looking at this beast knowing they would need to replace it, when they can find a house very similar to ours, or five, with better updates.

We had gotten an estimate before and knew that to replace the original boiler, it would cost over $7,000, and potentially $10,000. There was NO way we could do this, and yet, we knew we should start saving.

Then, after the tornado, I was chatting with a neighbor and we were talking about window's and government programs and the updates on our homes, etc. She mentioned they had just gotten their furnace replaced through energy assistance. Two weeks later, they had a repair man out, and she sent him to my house. After that it only took a few consultations, a couple months and due to a leak on the boiler, they replaced it!

We got our boiler replaced! It was this side conversation that happened because of the tornado and now Paul and I look at this HUGE gift. A $10,000 repair to our home. Our old boiler worked at 20% efficiency and our new one functions at 80%.

Here is our old boiler. Scary right?

Here is all the space we gained when they hauled it out! It was a very big exciting day.

Here is our new boiler doing amazing work to heat our house! Lots of piping coming out which kind of makes it look like its going to brew beer but, hey, it's new and shiny and new. Did I say new?

So, almost every day, my heart swells to full capacity. Something I only dreamed of happening has happened. Something that helps my little family right now, (our heating bills in the winter for an old house with drafty windows and antique boiler was reaching $400 per month!) and will help us drastically when we are ready to sell. (Maybe its a sign of being old that I dreamt of getting a new boiler!)

Anyway, I don't want to live on assistance, but this year we have needed it and I feel so blessed by the ways that is giving us a foot up in our situation. I know you aren't really supposed to talk about money, not in real figures, but I had to in truth so that the weight of this gift would be truly felt. It's huge!

Mmmmm....I am sitting on my comfy couch, snuggled up and drinking a warm beverage while my new boiler keeps my kids warm as they sleep.

We have been blessed indeed.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The telling truth of our ups and downs

Two weeks ago I shared with you some words that God had given to me in my prayer and journal time. I was thankful to see where my weakness was and where sin stilled remained that I didn’t see before. It may sound strange, but I felt so stagnant in my faith that even this was movement. I was finally reaching, searching, wanting, asking for more. Revealing these things allowed me to lay down more of my stuff and see into my bad habits and coping methods to stress and chaos.

This last year has been a tough one for me. Only now am I able to start dissecting all of it. All lot of wisdom can come from hindsight. After my incredible weekend a few weeks ago, I felt revived, and humbled at the moments God gave me. I came home and had an onslaught of tasks, cranky kids, schedules to be managed, commitments to be met, bills to be paid, contractors coming and not coming to work, a new boiler getting put in, and more weekend retreats to prepare for. I didn’t share all that I had experienced with my family because coming home felt like getting down to business.

In this I watched as I let my soul become the stomping grounds to a major spiritual war. Godly things were revealed to me. I could see and hear and understand and was willing to make these small changes in my life because I knew that they would be good for me. I was ready to trust God in the deeper places of my heart and relationships.

When we are poised for spiritual growth, when we are taking risks in our lives and hearts to trust God to be enough for us and we say yes to him, I do believe we need to be aware of the enemy who is striving for our soul. These moments of growth, these moments in our lives, relationships, and ministry where godly things are happening, set the stage for the enemy to attack. Satan does not want growth. The father of lies does not want truth in our ears and hearts. He has no hold on us when we trust the Father, and so he will fight to keep us locked in.

I allowed that to happen to myself for the couple weeks after my incredible weekend. I didn’t see it then, but I see it for what is was now.

This weekend surpassed my weekend previously. I am aware now though of what lies ahead of me when returning home, and instead of turning into my old bad habits of coping with life, I will choose as much as possible to pray, to fight, and to read scripture to pour into my heart the wisdom of God.

It’s hard to do that in the daily grind of life, so if you could, please offer a prayer for me and all those that were at the district gathering in Indy this weekend. My greatest desire is that those high school students would find the courage to fight off temptation and grab hold of all that God has for them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thankful Tree

So when you look around craft sites or pinterest you will discover dozens of beautiful, artsy, decorative, mature ways to help your children discover being thankful for the month of Nov.

Well, every year, we as a family usually just write what we are thankful for on a leaf that I previously cut out and then we hang them from our fireplace. On Dec. 1 we usually take them down and then I keep them in a box to look at the next year. We put them in a jar and then read them the next Nov.

I always liked this idea until I realized I had to not only cut out leaves but then also hang string, cut string and tie up each leaf. It seemed really high maintenance to me all of a sudden.

This year I decided to cut out a tree with branches and then we can just tape up the leaves after we discuss what we want to thank God for that day. I am trying to find ways to streamline my life more each day and only do the important things, whether they be big or small.

Well, here is our tree.

As you can see it's not just a tree anymore. What I love about my kids is how much they LOVE arts and crafts. When we were preparing for the Thankful leaves again this year, the kids decided they wanted to help "create the scene". So while I cut out the trunk of the tree, the kids were busy cutting out the grass, the sun, the clouds and moon and stars. Every tree should have have these things around them right?

I would like to point out the absolutely perfect star at the top. Yea, that is my best work. The boys called it our wishing star because it was pefect. Maybe I should make a career out of this.

After we cut everything out, Little just ripped a bunch of paper and threw it all over the floor, but she was trying to be helpful, we went to work tapping everything up. This is also part of the project that I let the boys do. It was their idea, so they can put the stuff wherever they wanted. In the meantime, I read about five different verses on being thankful and this is the one they choose.

"So then just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith you were taught and overflowing with Thankfulness." Col. 2:6-7

They told me the reason they picked this verse was because,

"It says rooted and trees have roots!"
"It says faith is taught and you teach us!"
"We are being thankful and the verse to be thankful."
"We have Jesus in our hearts."

It was fun to have this moment with my kids. I LOVE beautiful and artsy and creative projects. Martha Stewart even.

But my kids got to make this make project with me. It wasn't me who took time to do it in the evening and then presented to them. We did it as a family and got the chance to talk about our faith and giving thanks to God in the midst of family fun.

So, it's not very pretty to the outside world, but its beautiful to me. Our Thankful tree.

(What I love the most is that on the second day, Big was thankful that all our friends in Haiti were safe after the earthquake. That reached down and grabbed my heart.)

Cheers to all of us learning to give God thanks in all situations, good and bad.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Living in extreme's

It's funny, this weekend revealed to me how much my life is lived in extremes.

I left a house partly under construction, toys and laundry and dishes brimming. My kids were loudly playing batman and the regular chaos was well underway. I arrived to a pristine upper class hotel that was quiet, clean, and WAY too quiet.

I have over 100 hundred questions hurled at me a minute in my house. My daughter trying to keep up, just keeps yelling, "Mama, mama, mama! Um.... Mama, mama, mama! Um...." I sat in the car in complete silence for five hours while I drove to WI. (OK, I drove in silence for awhile, but then had hours of listening to a book on CD without engaging with anyone. I talked to no one and no one needed me for FIVE HOURS!)

I can't get my kids to listen to a word I say it feels most days. At the event I went to this weekend, I had a kid come up to me and tell me he wrote down one of my quotes and it still hangs on his wall to help inspire him. Crazy right!?

I wear my sweats most days dreaming of a shower. I put on jewelery and took a half hour shower while away each day.

There are bars on most of the window's of the stores and apartment building's where I live. Boards grace people's window's, mattress lie around in the alley, and there is graffiti scattered throughout. I arrived downtown Appleton to this gorgeous hotel that I could never afford on my own. Most of the time I don't feel I belong in either place.

It felt like whip lash this weekend. Everything about my time away this weekend was different than my normal life, but speaking is part of my life.

Loud to quiet.
Unappreciated to overly praised.
Unseen to the center of the spotlight.
Scrubby to dolled up.
Craving peace and quiet to needing noise.
Feeling claustrophobic to feeling lonely.

I wish there was some way to find a balance to these extremes of my life, but in the meantime, I will just try to cherish each place I find myself, knowing that it won't be there for long and will change again soon.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Things I love...

* Having family come and visit and deepening relationships
* Beautiful days full of sunshine, sunglasses, scarves, and flip flops
* Sharing experiences with my kids that involve pumpkins, racing, and picnics
* Shrimp stir fry
* Bonfires
* Someone doing my dishes
* Someone making my coffee
* Someone making me a drink
* Dates with my husband
* New adventures on my date
* Family snuggle time
* Watching my kids carve their first pumpkins
* Eating pumpkin seeds for the first time of the season
* Time with my Aunt Carol and Aunt Barb, two women who I grew up admiring and loving and watching them love my kids and my kids fall in love with them.
* Middles obsession with collections and small puppies
* Baking with my kids
* Finding recipes that work with our diet so we don't have to sacrifice tradition
* Sleep
* The warmth and smell of fresh clean sheets
* Watching my middle son's love of homeless people, experiencing his choice to introduce himself and find out who they are
* Special time with middle grocery shopping
* Holding hands with my husband
* Giggling with my kids
* Reading stories with my kids
* Praying with my kids
* Conversations with big when he is not under the influence
* Big's tender heart and compassion
* Little's silly dances
* Little's five dimples

This weekend, I was reminded of why I love my Aunt's so much.
This weekend, I fell in love with my kids a little bit more.
This weekend, my heart opened for my husband even more.

It was a good weekend, filled with so many things I love.

(One thing I don't love? Teething. Colds. Buggers. Poop. Crying. There was a lot of that this weekend too.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I haven't been out speaking in about six months.

It's been a long time, and I have been able to tell. However, God knew exactly what my life would become and I believe it was intentional. There was no space in my life, my head, or my heart to be a leader to others. To inspire others. To even put normal clothes for others. It wasn't my time.

This past weekend I got to go away to MO to a camp and retreat I have spoken at before. I fly into KC and then drive for three hours down to camp. This not only provided an opportunity to do what I love, but to also reconnect, refresh, and unwind my soul.

I decided to only bring my bible, Thomas Merton's, "No man is an Island" and "The Shack" as reading material. I was hoping, planning, and expecting to get some good time talking and listening and reconnecting with God. My daily life provides a whirlwind of activity and constant cry's out to God, but this was going to be long winded and dedicated time. I was excited and nervous, as I always am when I try to listen as God speaks. He usually has love to pour on me, but I haven't ever come away from time listening to God where I haven't seen some place in my life that could change for the better.

This is what I learned this weekend.

I have noticed how often I pray for wisdom. I pray for myself, my Paul and I as parents and I especially pray it over my children. I want them to be wise in their choices and living. As I was reading scripture in my cabin, I realized while praying over what I was reading that as much as I ask God for wisdom, I am not searching his word for it. When I read scripture most often it is for praise or encouragement or just to read anything to get his word in my heart. I don't intentionally seek it and search it for wisdom. It seems kind of elementary, but God revealed to me that he wants to speak wisdom into my heart and into my parenting, but I need to be reading and searching for his wisdom.

Lesson learned. God was kind as he showed me my missing piece to this puzzle.

The second thing was how often I pray for myself or my issues. This came about in two parts. First, that it would be good to pray not only for myself and my family but for all of those who I love and even those I don't know. I need to be pulled out of my own little life and remember so many others who need to be lifted up in prayer.

The other piece of this is that I often struggle alone, talk to God alone and pray alone over my issues. This leaves out my partner and best friend. After I have struggled with an issue and God has helped point me to an answer, that is when I inform my husband. He usually gets taken off guard and it's hard for him to catch up. I want to remember and need to include in my struggles. But more than that, I want to invite him in the prayer process with me. When we pray, it is most often just for our children and daily strength. I want to pray over things that God is doing in my heart, open our conversation to see what he is doing in our marriage, and if one of us is being led in a specific way, that God would keep us united in that process.

I can't just assume that what God has told me, he has told my husband, unless we are talking and praying together.

Two fundamental foundational practices, but I had forgotten. Time away this weekend, provided the opportunity to reconnect with the basics, and fall in love with the Lord all over again. I mean this in a way of spending quality time with someone, not just frantic, crazed, cry out for help kind of way, even though that is still good, it's not the same.

God has a way of providing what we need to keep taking the next step. One step at a time.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Moments make a difference

Most days I can look around and you would have no idea what I had accomplished. OK, most days I look around and I don't even know what I accomplished. I think most of us can say that.

When we measure life by what we accomplish than we will forever be disappointed, depressed, and unsatisfied with life.

Does what I say really matter?
Is what I am doing really making a difference?
Am I contributing anything to the betterment of mankind and the earth that God created and entrusted us with?
What am I doing with my life?
Does anyone see me? Does anyone hear me?

Almost exactly one year ago my husband and I were on Mackinaw Island with my parents at an adult retreat. They host this retreat once every three years and we get to stay in the grand hotel, and it is MARVELOUS! I spend three days digging out all my fun clothes, accessories, and jewelry that doesn't fit in my normal life, and I let it live in the fantasy of fancy. It's lovely, and romantic, and refreshing. (Paul just looked at me today and said, do we get to go back next year? No honey, two more years, but I feel the same way!)

Last year we took a bike ride around the island. Here's my folks.

And here's Paul and I. Yes we are on a tandem bike, its the romantic thing to do. (And lazy thing to do for the person on the back. Yea, that's me. I'm no fool, but the view is nice.)

On our way around the island, which is an 8.2 mile ride, we were talking, laughing and enjoying each others company. Then each of us individually were noticing these rock statues.

I remember seeing my first one, and thinking, "that's fun. Someone created a fun statue and its still standing."

Then we saw another one.

Which lead to dozens more.

It was beautiful. We all felt the same thing and stopped to take it in. For more than two miles the statues just kept showing up. Then we saw some folks building their own. Paul decided to do one too.

Some folks built their own. Others were adding to what previous artists started. They were continuing the project.

I don't know who started the rock project, but here is a small look at where it went and where it is going.

The horizon is filled and scattered with one idea transformed into hundreds of interpretations. I don't know if one person or one group of people started the rock project, but in its idea and execution, it inspired others to participate.

To move.
To act.
To add.
To create.
To be apart of something.

Mile after mile we saw these rock creations. Dozens turned into hundreds and then we stopped counting. We built our own. We added to others. We watched others stop in awe, take photo's. We listened as others talked about it. We witnessed dozens of others be moved to create their own. To be apart of the project.

To be apart of the idea, with their own creativity put in.

I'm not sure that the original creator(S) thought this would catch on as it has. Rumor has it (according to the web) that the rock project also exists on the east coast and in other countries along their coast.

One idea.
One action.
One creative moment.

It's turned into island wide project, that went global.

I give and give and give. I pour out into my children and youth groups. I try my hardest to be there for friends in need. I talk and talk and talk, and wonder, truly if any of it matters.

I, like you, have no idea where my words and actions land. I can't control what memories of me my children will choose to hold onto. I have had people repeat my own words to me, and nothing is scarier to me than that. Hearing from them, what they gained of what I said or did.

We are creatures that pour out ourselves into others to strengthen life, but most often we have no idea about the effect of our pouring out. What result does it provide? Did it do anything?

A life is filled with small moments. The moments that make up the whole of our life. I think often times I am weighed down by the grand gestures, or looking at someones whole life instead of the moments that lead them there. This is how ridiculous it is. I saw the movie, "Social Network" and was struck by how one person changed the course of history. I thought, what I am doing with my life? I think of Mother Theresa whom I admire with the depth of my soul, and think, can I love and live like that? What about all my friends who travel the width of the world and are giving up everything to love and serve those in need. I see all these great and grand lives and I feel small. I wonder if what I do matters at all.

But I think of this huge art structure and how one person inspired hundreds by one moment.

This is the truth that we need to hold on to. It isn't in the grand scheme of life, but in the moments that make up our life. Those are the moments that inspire and change the course of history. When I pour out into the people around me, I will most likely never know what effect I had on their life. I will not know how God uses me to help, love, inspire, change others. Just as I can think of dozens of things others have said to me that have influenced my life, and they don't know that.

If I live for the grand idea of the whole of life, I will miss the moments I live in every day. The moments where I hold my kids tighter. When I can sit on my stoop and then neighbors start gathering and we start talking about life and faith. When my kids want to give money and pray for the homeless man on the street. When I pray over my children. When I talk to customer service and we have a nice chat and we both feel blessed by it. (not usually the case) When I can weep and share my burden with my mom and her encouragement and listening ear is when I can feel God sharing life with me.

I may not get to Haiti this year. Even putting that our there, I want to take it back. I am starting to cry already. Going to Haiti each year feels grand to me, and when I feel sad a little depressed about it, I have to remember, that I can serve, love, and pour into anyone and all people. They don't need to be half way around the world.

The important thing to remember is that we must pour out. To give. To love. To listen. To invest.

I believe compassion is mercy without judgement. Getting to know someone. Loving them for the sake of love and letting God take care of the rest.

Make your moments count.

You never know when loving someone catches on. When listening to someone becomes all the rage instead of giving advice, give your ear. Give your heart even if its scary. Give your honesty to yourself and be free from expectations that only you hold to yourself. Give your life to Christ and find the fulfillment of loosing yourself to one who loves you more than you thought possible.

To find this truth, one must pour out and live in the moment.

When we add up all the little things of life into the whole of life, that is when the picture becomes complete. We see all that our moments of our lives have made a difference.

Be encouraged today that God is working through you whether you believe in him or not, he believes in you.

God is in each moment.