Category Archives: Family

Our Adoption Journey : Part 1

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I would say that our adoption journey officially started on May 7, 2014, but really, I believe it began long before then.  I can look back and see so many ways that our lives had been touched by adoption and I realized it was in all those little ways that He was leading and guiding us to this journey.  Adam and I have always talked about adoption. Early in our marriage, when we weren’t sure how God would choose to grow our family, we knew that adoption was something we both felt very strongly about. The Lord has been very gracious to us, by way of children, and we do not take that for granted. We understand fully how blessed we are that God so graciously and swiftly answered our prayers for children. Even so, we have always felt the “tug” of adoption in our hearts. This decision was not made lightly, it was discussed and prayed about for years. Taking that first step was huge for us and when we finally began the process, we truly felt it was what God was calling us to do. We decided that we would only tell our immediate family (Parents and Siblings) and a small handful of close friends, of our call to adopt.  We could count the number of people who knew on our hands. We made this decision mostly to guard the hearts of our kids. Honestly, we didn’t know how it was all going to play out, we didn’t know how long it would take, and we didn’t want our kids to walk through the disappointing, hard side of the process if they didn’t have to. We knew we’d be asked a lot of “well meant” questions like, “Have you been matched yet?” “How long has it been?” “Do you want a boy or girl?” “Why adopt, you already have kids?” “How much longer?” “Any word yet?” “How much does it cost?” …etc.  We didn’t want the kids to get caught in the middle of those conversations.  In the end, it was the best decision for us.

We talked with our kids openly about adoption. We told them it was something we were praying about and trusting God with, waiting on Him to open the door.  Our oldest two were very excited and open to bringing another child into the family. Our younger two where still quite young, and didn’t fully understand the process, even so, they were excited at the idea of a new baby.

So, on May 7, 2014 we started the paperwork process.  It was a lot of paper and a lot of work…it’s intense.  There’s a lot of self-examination, we had to answer a lot of deep, personal questions about ourselves and each other.  We were interviewed both together and separately.  We had to get fingerprinted and have background checks done.  We needed physicals and had to be cleared by a physician as both mentally and physically healthy and capable of caring for a child.  Our 4 biological children each had to be seen by their pediatrician and be deemed healthy, normal functioning children.  Our social worker had a very informal interview with our oldest two kids.  We had to fill out extensive financial reports. Adam had to have a letter written from his employer.  We had to have 3 to 5 letters of reference written. We had to have a couple home visits, and then there was the home study, which honestly, wasn’t that bad.  We had to purchase a few fire extinguishers, get a few child safety locks for some cabinets, and make sure all of Adams guns and things were locked up securely. But, for the most part, it wasn’t as scary as I was expecting.  We also had to create a family book to be shown to potential birth moms. This was a way to give the birth moms a little insight into our lives.  A way for them to, sort of get to know us, without actually meeting us.   The paperwork process took a little longer than we expected.  We got sidetracked a few times, so it was November by the time everything was finished, and the home study was complete.  Now the adoption agency could officially start showing our book to potential birth moms.  We were told it could take anywhere from 6 to 12 months to be matched.  The Holiday season was in full force and that kept our minds occupied.  So, in early January, when we got our first call about a potential birth mom, we were surprised.

Our book was shown a few times to a mom and she had finally narrowed it down to us and one other couple.  For several different reasons, the odds seemed to be greatly in our favor and we were ecstatic.  In our minds this really was the best timing.  All our kids are two years or less apart in age, and our youngest had just turned two.  If we were matched to this mom and baby, it would flow right in with the ages of our other children.  It seemed it would be a perfect fit! In the end, the birth mom decided to go with the other couple.  We were so disappointed.  Just two months into the showing process, we got our first taste of the heartbreak and disappointment that comes along with the adoption journey.  That day we entered into a very long season of “No”.

Within a month we went through an almost identical situation. We got the call that our book was being shown.  It had been narrowed down to us and one other couple.  The birth parents were leaning towards us, asking us lots of questions.  Again, the odds seemed to be in our favor, but in the end the answer was no.   Over the next few months we got several calls that our book was being shown to several different birth moms.  It seemed to always come down to us and one other couple, and in the end the answer was always no.  This scenario played well into the summer and we were trying not to lose heart.  June was the beginning of a very busy, stressful time.  Adam was trying to finish up a summer class for his PhD program. He was traveling a lot and I was home with our 4 kiddos.  In the midst of all that, we got a call from our social worker about a birth mom and baby that was a very unique situation.  The mom wanted to choose adoption by the father did not and he was causing a lot of problems in the process.  She had been previously released from another adoption agency due to the birth father causing too much of a legal risk for them.   Our agency wasn’t sure yet if they’d be able to take her on, but if so, would we be willing to take her on as well?  There were a lot of risks and worst-case scenarios to think through, and decide if we were prepared to face them, should they come.  This would definitely be a legal battle situation. Adam and I took several days to pray about it and eventually decided that, yes, we would do it.  Someone had to fight for this baby. Now we just had to wait and see what the agency would decide.  The following week I had a Doctor’s appointment scheduled for some health issues I’d been having.  I went in on a Thursday morning, they checked me out, ran a few tests and said they’d call me with the results.  I hadn’t made it home yet before they called me back.  “We have some of your test results…you are pregnant.  But, we need you to come back in because we have some concerns.  Can you come back now?”  Really? Was this for real?  Completely shocked, I didn’t know if I should be excited or terrified.  I called Adam to let him know what was happening, so he could pick up the kids, and I headed back to the doctor.  They did an ultrasound and I was told I had three possible outcomes. 1) This was a normal pregnancy that was just “off to a rocky start”.  My body would regulate itself and in 9 months we’d have a baby. 2) This is a failing pregnancy and within the next few days I would miscarry. 3) Worst case scenario, this is an Ectopic Pregnancy, I would need surgery and would likely lose my left ovary and fallopian tube.   I needed to come back on Monday for another ultrasound to see how things were progressing and if they could get a clearer picture of what we were dealing with. I was advised to stay close to home in case things took a turn for the worse and I needed emergency surgery. I remember leaving there completely emotionally drained.  Really?  Was this the plan, God? For us to walk through this long, hard adoption process to find out we are pregnant, just to find out we are likely to lose the baby? How can this possibly be part of the plan?  There was a lot of questioning and crying that day.  We already had plans to travel to Memphis that weekend.  My cousin was getting married and Adam was officiating the ceremony.  After a lot of thought and prayer, Adam and I decided I would still make the trip.  I let my doctor know, she wasn’t happy, but she reluctantly said ok.  We left on Friday afternoon, it was our 11th wedding anniversary.  We spent that evening and all of Saturday with family, celebrating my sweet cousins wedding.  It was a great weekend and a much-needed distraction from real life.  We drove home late Saturday night, to be home for church the next morning.

I lost our tiny baby on Sunday morning while getting ready for church. Adam had already left.  I finished getting the kids ready as usual and we went on to church. Before the service started I saw Adam in the hallway, I pulled him aside and told him what had happened.  He pulled me close and held me there as I cried, in a back hallway of our church, we mourned the loss of that little one…and just for a few minutes, time stood still.

Adam had to leave that afternoon to go to Virginia for the week for school.  Real life never slows down, it just keeps going, even when we don’t want to.  Monday morning I had another doctor’s appointment. I had all the kids with me, and I had to have an ultrasound, that was an interesting challenge.  My Doctor confirmed that I did, in fact have an ectopic pregnancy. My body was trying to clear things out on its own, but couldn’t accomplish it completely.  She wanted me to have the surgery, but that was not possible with 4 kids and my husband being in another state. We opted for another procedure that would hopefully finish what my body couldn’t do on its own.  After the appointment I went home, packed some things, and the kids and I drove to Virginia to be with Adam for the week.  I didn’t want to go through this at home alone with the kids, we needed to be together.  We rented a cute little cottage on a farm there in Lynchburg, Virginia.  I spent the days watching the kids play with the goats and chickens, exploring in the woods, and playing board games.   Adam was with us in the afternoons, after class and we made it through the week together. The procedure worked, it helped my body finish what needed to be done. While we were still in Virginia, we got a call from our social worker about the potentially high-risk birth mom we had previously talked about.  The agency had decided not to work with her, the legal risks were too great.  And so, that was another “No” for us. I was so glad I had made the decision to go to Virginia that week.  I was thankful for that little cottage and that we were all able to be together and just “check out” for a while.  We came home on Friday. I had a follow-up ultrasound on Monday and was told everything looked good, that things were returning to normal. That was a tough season, in the middle of a tough season.

Soon after all that, I told Adam I didn’t want to know anymore, if our book was being shown, it was just too hard.  If he got a call about it, I didn’t want him to tell me.  I only wanted to know if we had been matched. The kids started school and we were settling into the new routine.  By mid-fall we got an email that was sent out to several of the adoptive families associated with our agency.   It was about 3 young children from Taiwan that had been brought over to the states for an English program.  2 boys and 1 girl.  Both boys had been matched and were placed in homes, but the little girl had not been matched yet and had since gone back to Taiwan. They were wondering if anyone in their contacts list would be interested in this little girl.  Adam called me from work, “Did you get that email? What do you think?” Our hearts and minds began to shift.  Maybe we aren’t meant to get a baby, maybe we are meant to adopt an older child.  We called our social worker in response to the email and she had all the little girl’s information emailed to us.  Her full file, a complete background, health history, her full name and pictures! We had pictures of this adorable little 6-year-old girl.  We were in!  We were trying to come up with the money to have our domestic home study switched over to international.  We were trying to figure out how in the world we could travel to Taiwan with 4 kids.  We were excited! For the first time in a long time, we were excited!  They sent our domestic home study over to the social worker there in Taiwan to review while we waited to have it switched over to international.   Adam and I were sure, this was it, this was our girl.  I had plans to re-do Karis’ bedroom to make it the “Girls Room”.  I went out and bought matching bedding for them and imagined the best little sister-friends.  I was envisioning what our Christmas card would look like with her cute little face added to our family.  We were excited!  Days went by and we didn’t hear from the Taiwan office.  Days turned into weeks, the weeks turned into a month, before we finally heard something.  We were told it was highly unlikely that they would place her with us, since we already had kids so close to her age.  It’s hard to describe how crushing that news was. I couldn’t understand it…it just didn’t make sense.  Didn’t this little girl need a family?  Why does it matter that we already have kids? Who decides this stuff?  We mourned another loss that day.  I still see that sweet little girls face, I know her name, and I pray for her often, I hope and pray that she found her forever family.

After that we started really considering domestically adopting and older child.  We checked in to foster care, but was discouraged from it, considering the young ages of our children.  We inquired about a little girl from Second Chance Adoptions, but again was told it wouldn’t be a good fit, due largely to the ages of our children. This was so incredibly hard to hear over and over.  Yes, we have kids, but we want to help, love, and be a family for another kid, why does that have to be so hard?

We made it through the holidays again, without the extra stocking hanging from the mantel.  In January 2016 I went on a medical mission trip to Tierra Blanca Mexico, and I just wanted to bring all the kids back home with me!  In February I dealt with more health issues. I had two lumps removed from my breast that, praise God, were benign.  After that we walked through a pretty quiet season.  We just didn’t hear much.  We called our social worker often to check in.  She told us our book was being shown quite a bit, but for whatever reason, the answer was always “No”.

 

The month of May rolled around, and my birthday marked 2 years since we had started this whole process.  Two years of longing, hurt, disappointment, confusion, and “No”. Doubt began to weigh in heavily. We wondered if this was really Gods plan for us.  If maybe, we had somehow misunderstood Him. Our kids were all 2 years older now, than from when we started this process. Summer had begun and were settling into a routine.  We were moving into a different phase of life now, should we keep pursuing adoption or was it time to move on to the next chapter?

“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” Habakkuk 2:3

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Psalm 27:14

On Tuesday, July 26, 2016 we got a call from our social worker, she was meeting with a birth mom that following week and wanted to show our book to her.  Adam and talked it over and prayed about it.  We decided, this was either it, or this was it.  If it didn’t work out, we were done.  We were ready to close this chapter, and move on. So, we agreed to have our book shown, this one last time. On Thursday, August 4, we got another call. The birth mom needed more time to decide, she wanted to take the weekend to think it over. It was between us and one other family. It sounded all too familiar, and my heart braced itself for the “No”.
On Tuesday, August 9, we got another call, “She picked you!  YES! The answer is YES!”


“He has made everything beautiful in His time…” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Praise God from whom all blessings flow! This season had finally come to an end.  We had been matched to a birth mom that was expecting a baby girl and she was due in 15 days!

 

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A Stroll Through November

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A Stroll Through November

November is finally here and with it comes so many things that I love.  I mean, who doesn’t love sitting around a fire pit making s’mores, watching kids jump into huge piles of leaves, wearing warm sweaters and boots, making soups, sipping on hot chocolate, and occasionally enjoying a yummy slice of apple pie! Then, to top it all off, there’s Thanksgiving!  A holiday filled with family, food, more pie, and time to really reflect on all we have to be thankful for.  The month of November reminds me of taking a leisurely stroll through a beautiful park, filled with the colors of fall, feeling the crisp cool air, and taking in the beauty of Gods creation.  During such a stroll, how could you not want to express your thankfulness to Him?  He continually pours out His blessings on us and we should have humbled hearts filled with gratitude.

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” ( Romans 11:36)

September is a busy birthday-filled month for us.  Then, October is full of fall festivities and school parties to prepare for. Personally, I need the month of November, to recover from the craziness, to reflect on God’s grace that has been continually extended to me, and to really prepare myself for December…the glorious Christmas season…and the anticipation of celebrating our Saviors birth!

All too often we tend to let the hustle and bustle of December creep into our November.  We want to make November our countdown, as we await the madness of the holiday season; when instead we should be letting it cause us slow down and settle into a heart of thankfulness. If we decide to stroll through November, instead of racing to December, and really think about all we have to be thankful for, maybe…just maybe, our hearts would be fuller and our December “wish-lists” would be shorter.

This month, as a family, we are going to take a stroll through November.  I want to encourage my kids, each day, to really think about what they are thankful for and to Whom they should be thankful for such great gifts.

My sister-in-law is always sharing new ideas and ways of building up an attitude of gratitude in our families, especially during the month of November.  She and I share a love for Pinterest, where there are endless ideas you can use to encourage your family to focus on thankfulness during the month of November.  The last few years she has used the same tablecloth for our Thanksgiving meal. Each year we have all of our kids trace their handprint and write on it things they are thankful for.  It’s fun to see what their little hearts are thankful for and it won’t be long before that tablecloth is covered in handprints and lists of the things they loved the most.

I wanted to put my own spin on this idea and have something we could write on each day during this month, but still be able to keep for years to come.  Since I can’t imagine a world were an actual, nice, pretty tablecloth is used at a table were 4 small children eat, I decided to go with a placemat!  Each night, when we sit down for dinner, everyone will say something they are thankful for and it will get written on the placemat.  At the end of the month our placemat will be covered in “Thankfulness” and after a few years we will have quite the collection of placemats to use at family dinners!

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This November we are also making a Thankful Tree.  I found this idea on Pinterest and loved it.  It can be done a couple different ways.  We actually made a cutout of a tree to put on the wall and then we add “Thankful Leaves” to it each day.  It can also be done by collecting a bunch of sticks, placing them in a large vase, and then hanging leaves or tags from it each day (sort of like ornaments). Here is a link to one of the ideas I found on pinterest that actually has leaf printables with bible verses on them for you to reflect on each day as a family.

Here is our “Thankful Tree” so far.  The kids love that it’s a hands on activity and are already excited to see how “full” our tree will be at the end of the month.

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These are just a couple of simple ways we can encourage our kids to be thankful for all that they have as we stroll through this month.  My prayer is that it really will fill their hearts with gratitude and push them closer to our God from whom all blessings flow.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” (1 Chronicles 16:34)

Above all else, guard your heart…

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Ok, I’m just going to be real here.  These passed few days my heart has been pretty heavy; burdened to the point of nausea, anxiousness, fatigue, and just plain feeling sick.  Even though several things have happened this week to attribute to my feeling this way, I have to admit that the main cause…really is – a movie.  Yes, a movie, that I will never see, based on some books, that I will never read and yet they have my heart weeping and broken.  I have gone back and forth in my mind on what to say, how to say it, or if I should say anything at all. I am well aware of the many opinions on this topic that have very openly been expressed by many people, and I have decided that my thoughts and words would just be inadequate, so I will use His Word.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. (Ephesians 5:3)

For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.  (1 Thessalonians 4:7)

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman (or man) with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her (or him) in his heart.   (Matthew 5:28)

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  (Psalm 51:10)

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23)

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. (Psalm 119:37)

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.  (2 Timothy 2:22)

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.  (1 John 2:16)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  (Romans 12:1-2)

To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,  and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.  (Ephesians 4:22-24)

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,  and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.  (Titus 2:3-5)

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22)

Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.  (Ephesians 5:25)

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight.  (Psalm 19:14)

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  (Psalm 37:4)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.   (Philippians 4:8)

 

This Valentines Day and every other day I will choose to honor my husband, to love and cherish him, that he and our life together will be my only desire apart from the love of my Savior.

Blessings

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Random Acts of Christmas Kindness 2014

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Four years ago we started a tradition with our kids were we do a daily act of kindness during the month of December to count down the days to Christmas.  It quickly became a hit!  The kids love doing the acts of kindness each day and always look forward to what the next days act will be.  When November rolls around they usually start asking me when they can start doing the “gifts for other people” countdown.

We decided to call them RACKS (random acts of Christmas kindness).

It’s hard to believe it is already our fourth year of doing this and even though we redo a lot of our favorite RACKS each year I also try to add in a few new ideas each year as well.

As I was looking through our pictures trying to decide which ones to share with you, I quickly realized it was hard to just pick a few!  We have so much fun doing these each year and hope that it’s helping teach our kids selflessness, the importance of giving to others, and showing the love of Christ.

So here’s how our tradition goes:

On the last day in November we always decorate the envelopes that we put up for our “Kindness Wall”.  Each envelope has a card inside with a RACK listed on it.  So, each day one of the kids gets to pull the card out for that day and tell us what our kindness act will be.

 

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I also created a RACK tag that gives a little description on it along with some scripture that we

like to add with all of our little gifts.

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Day 1

Color pictures for our Granny in the Nursing Home

I have a grandmother in the nursing home that we don’t get to see that often so we always like to send her pretty colored pictures and a note each Christmas.

Day 2

Bake cookies for our Neighbors

We have great neighbors that live on both sides of us so we always like to take them treats at Christmas time.

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Day 3

Hand out Christmas Cards at the nursing Home

The kids always enjoy telling the residents Merry Christmas as they hand them their card

Day 4

Clean the nursery toys after church

Usually the nursery workers stay after church to clean all the toys so we like to give

them the night off and clean the toys for them.

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Day 5

Send Christmas cards to Soldiers

I found this great organization called Military Missions Inc. that will send your cards to Soldiers for you.

This is one that we do every year!

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Day 6

Leave popcorn on a Redbox machine

For someone to have”Popcorn and a Movie”

This was a new one we added this year.  It was especially neat because as we were leaving the kids were able to watch as a couple came up to the redbox machine to get a movie, read our note, and took the popcorn!

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Day 7

Donate canned goods to the Church food pantry

Our church keeps a food pantry and will donate food boxes to families in need

Day 8

Leave change on a Coke machine

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Day 9

Leave a gift for our Mail Carrier

This is another one we do each year.  Our mail carrier has always been very appreciative and leaves us a thank you card each year!

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Day 10

Buy a hot chocolate for the Salvation Army Bell Ringer

This was a new one for us this year and it worked out great that we knew the young lady ringing the bell that night!

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Day 11

Put candy canes on random cars

This was another new one for this year that we hope made a few people smile!

The little note on each candy cane reads:

You’ve been RACKED

Hoping this little treat brings you cheer! Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Day 12

Bake cookies for our other neighbors

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Day 13

Leave quarters in the candy machines at the Mall

The kids especially love this one because we always give them a quarter to use to get candy for themselves too!

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Day 14

Take soup to the homeless shelter

We do this one every year as well.

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Day 15

Leave a gift for our Server at a restaurant

We have a favorite Mexican Restaurant that we have become “regulars” at so we have a couple of servers that know us well enough to order for us!  They love our kids and are always so nice to us so we love being able to leave a little extra special treat behind for them after we’ve eaten!

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Day 16

Donate toys to the Goodwill

Day 17

Bake cookies for the Fire Department

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Day 18

Donate books to the library

Day 19

Leave a surprise in a book at the bookstore

This was another new one for us this year.  The kids picked out which book they wanted to put the “surprise” in and we left a little note with it too.

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Day 20

Make Christmas gifts for our Teachers

We always like to make yummy treats to give to our teachers for Christmas.

Day 21

Color a Smile

I found this fun website where you can print off some of their coloring pages, color them, mail them back in to them and they will hand them out to people who need a “Smile”;  like soldiers, veterans, hospital patients, and nursing home residents.

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Day 22

Take coloring books and crayons to the pediatric floor of the hospital

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Day 23

Donate to the Salvation Army

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 Day 24

Take a meal to a family in need

2014 was another great year for us and we always enjoy doing these very small things in hopes of being a blessing to someone else.  It’s been a great tradition for our family and I pray our kids will remember it for years to come.

 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,  you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40

Blessings

Her First Moments With Him: Behind The Stable Doors

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As a mother, when I read the Christmas story, I am always drawn to Mary.  I often wonder what those first few moments were like for her as a very young, new mother.  I try to imagine how it must have felt to hold the Son of God wrapped in tiny flesh, the thoughts that must have ran through her mind, the questions, the fears…the joy!

I try to imagine…here are my thoughts…will you imagine it with me…

A baby calf, searching for it’s mother, stumbles around in one of the stables nearby and Mary awakes.  The smell of dirt and hay are thick in her nostrils and she fights back her nauseous feeling.  She struggles to sit up, her body aches from the long journey to Bethlehem and her energy is drained from the hours of labor she just endured.  She sees that Joseph is asleep beside her, “he is a good man”  she thinks to herself and she is thankful.  She is tired but unable to sleep; the night air is cool and crisp and she notices how brightly the stars are shining as their light creeps through the stable doors.  She looks around at all the animals as they sleep and then her eyes are drawn to Him.  Her heart skips a beat and she gathers the strength to lift Him out of the manger.  She pulls Him close to her and breathes him in, she gently runs her hand over his head to smooth his hair and softly traces the tiny features of his face with her fingers.  She can’t stop staring at him.  “You are beautiful”, she whispers, as tears roll down her cheeks. His little fingers clasp around hers and she is overcome with an unexplainable love.  Her mind begins to fill with so many questions as she cradles her precious baby boy.

“Is it really you?” she asks, “Are you really the One that has been promised to us all….the Messiah, the Savior of the world?  Why has God chosen me to be your mother, I am no one special?  What if I make a mistake, I am sure to fail.  How can I possibly be all that you need?”

Her body trembles as she holds her baby close and begins to pray.  She is reminded of the day the angel was sent to her from God and she remembers the words he spoke to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”  A calmness comes over her spirit and her heart is filled with peace.  It is quiet, all around her the town is silent, and she wonders how anyone can sleep when such a child has been born.  Does anyone know He is here?

She whispers to her son, “Our LORD will do great things through you, Jesus, but for now, sleep sweet little one…sleep.” She found herself humming a familiar tune, the song she sang during her visit with Elizabeth, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.” She wrapped her baby in swaddling clothes and placed him in the manger.  Joseph is awake now and is close by her side as she sings to Jesus.  Just outside the stable doors, down the beaten path, a group of shepherds are making their way into Bethlehem, they are coming to see a baby…the one the angels had told them about…

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Preparing Our Hearts For Christmas

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I love the Christmas season, it’s my favorite time of year.  I love the music, the decorations, the festivities, the food, the continuing on of family traditions, and the starting of new ones.  But, it’s so easy for the true meaning of Christmas to get lost in all the hustle and bustle of this busy season.  This is the time to anticipate and celebrate the arrival of our Rescuer; the coming of our King!  What a glorious day that first Christmas was some 2,000 years ago,  when Heaven came down to earth in the form of a tiny baby, our Savior had come to live…and to die for us all!  There is no greater reason to celebrate Christmas than this!

Through the years we have started some of our own family traditions to help our kids better understand the true meaning of Christmas.  We do a daily random act of kindness during the month of December to count down the days until Christmas.  We hope to teach our kids the importance of giving and learning selflessness, that Christmas is not about what they get, but about showing the love of Christ and finding ways to be a blessing to others.  We read the Christmas story every Christmas morning before we open gifts.  We bake a cake together on Christmas day for Jesus’ birthday; complete with candles and singing.  This year, we are adding a new tradition, we will be celebrating Advent (The coming of Christ). The scripture reading plan for Advent tells the story of God’s plan for salvation, starting with creation and continuing through the Old Testament to the birth of Jesus Christ.

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I have several friends that do this already with their families and I have always been intrigued by it.  As I have read and learned more about it myself, I think it is a wonderful way to prepare our hearts for Christmas.  In the midst of all the business of this season, it is a great way to have a quiet, reflective time each evening with our kids.  Along with our reading, each night we will be making an ornament for our Jesse Tree.  The name Jesse Tree represents the genealogy of Jesus.  Jesse is the father of David, an ancestor of Jesus.  It comes from the prophecy of the coming Messiah.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 

Isaiah 11:1

We will be doing our reading using the Jesus Storybook Bible (which we love and highly recommend!)  If you have the Jesus Storybook Bible already, here is the link  to a great blog where a sweet momma has made up a free printable of the reading plan that goes along with it.  I also pinned the idea for the Jesse Tree ornaments from another sweet mommas blog, you can click here to check out the free printables she has to offer.

Our first night went well, we enjoyed our reading time and we gave the 3 older kids each a different responsibility in making the Jesse Tree ornament.  One got to color it, one got to put it together, and one got to hang it on the tree.  Each night they will rotate these responsibilities.

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If you are looking for a quiet, reflective way to prepare your hearts and the hearts of your children for Christmas, I hope these ideas are helpful.

Blessings!

 

 

 

 

Operation Christmas Child

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The world’s largest Christmas project of its kind, Operation Christmas Child, uses gift-filled shoeboxes

to share God’s love in a tangible way with needy children around the world.

It’s one of our favorite things to do at Christmas time and we make it a family affair.  We take our kiddos to the store and let them each pick out 5 fun things for their shoebox while mommy and daddy pick out the basic necessity items like: soap, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, and hand towels.  We also always try to add pencils, paper, and a bible story book.  We have fun, we play, we fill our cart, and we all take part!

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When we get home we pour out all the bags on the table and let the kids pack there boxes full of all the goodies.  My kids also like to color pictures and write notes to add to their box for a personal touch.  Then, we sit around the table and pray over each box and for the child that will be receiving it.  This is my favorite part…I love hearing the sweet prayers of my little ones for a child they do not know.  My four year olds prayer was, “Thank you God, for this day and thank you for the boy that will get my box because he is the best!” Operation Christmas Child is just a small way we can teach our kids the importance of giving, showing the love of Christ and how it can impact another child’s life in a big way!

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In case you didn’t know:

Since 1993, Samaritan’s Purse has collected and delivered more than 113 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in over 150 countries through Operation Christmas Child.

In 2014, Samaritan’s Purse hopes to collect enough shoebox gifts to reach another 10 million children through the Operation Christmas Child project. They will deliver the gifts to children in more than 100 countries on six continents.

During National Collection Week, Nov. 17-24, Samaritan’s Purse will collect the gift-filled shoeboxes at more than 4,000 drop-off sites in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Operation Christmas Child also offers the opportunity year-round to pack personalized shoebox gifts online. Go to samaritanspurse.org and click on Operation Christmas Child to select toys and gift items, write a note of encouragement, and “pack” them in a shoebox.

Her First Date

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Because that dreaded time of “dating” will eventually come, whether I want it to or not, I can’t think of a better person for my daughter to go on her “first date” with other than her Daddy.  I mean, she’s already pretty smitten with him, right, and the way he treats her is setting the standard in her mind of how all guys should treat girls.  So, let’s set that standard pretty high!  No one’s going to love her, cherish her, treat her with gentleness, kindness, and respect like her Daddy.  I think a Daddy/Daughter date is a great way to model these things for her and make her feel extra special at the same time.

My daughter just celebrated her 8th birthday and, as a special surprise for her, she went on her first date.

When Daddy got home from work he sat down beside her on the couch and asked her if he could take her out on a date.  Of course she said yes, then she and I quickly ran to her room to get her ready for her special night.  She picked out her own outfit and told me just how she wanted me to fix her hair, she was so excited, and I was having a lot of fun helping her get ready.

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After she was all dressed up, had her hair fixed just right, and picked out the perfect accessory for her outfit, she went downstairs to wait for her date to “pick her up”. She was giddy with anticipation just waiting on her daddy to come downstairs!

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Her daddy had picked up some pretty pink flowers on his way home from work and presented them to her when he met her downstairs.

  Yes, it was totally sweet!

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 After all the sweet and mushy pictures, I can’t help myself, they hopped into Daddy’s truck and headed to

her favorite restaurant for a dinner for two.

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They both had a great time and this is just one small way that we can live out Deuteronomy 6:5-9

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Here are some other great ideas you can use for a Daddy/Daughter night:

It doesn’t have to be anything super fancy, just take the time to hang out with her and have fun!

  • Go to the movies – take her to see that new Disney princess movie she’s been dying to see.
  • Go fishing – All girls need to know how to bait a hook and their daddy’s ought to teach them! Plus fishing is fun!
  • Go out for ice cream – Who doesn’t like doing this?  Let her pick her own and pile on the toppings!
  • Go for a bike ride – it’s fun exercise and she’ll love just being with you.
  • Go to the Park – hit up the nearest playground or park with her and actually slide, swing, and do the monkey bars with her.
  • Have a Tea Party – There’s nothing more manly than sitting at a tiny table having tea with your little girl!
  • Play a sport – If she’s a sporty girl, go for it!  Shoot some hoops, throw a football, or hit up the batting cages.
  • Go bowling –  what girl doesn’t love picking out another pair of shoes and a little friendly competition?
  • Go shopping – Again, you can’t go wrong here.  Maybe let her help you pick out a gift for mommy 😉
  • Play a board game – my kids love the classics: Candyland, UNO, Jenga, Memory…add snacks and you’re her hero!
  • Go out for breakfast – it can be a simple as Krispie Crème or full on Cracker Barrel!
  • Go to the Zoo – If you live close to one, take her, get cotton candy, and see every animal…twice!
  • Go swimming – this is a perfect activity for the summer months.  Hang out and cool off!
  • Go fly a kite –  I feel like this is a dying passed time, but it’s so fun and kids love it! Have you seen Mary Poppins?
  • Go camping – teach her how to build a fire, roast weenies, make s’mores, and rough it!
  • Take a nature walk – you could even make a scavenger hunt out of it to see what kind of fun things can be found in nature.
  • Cook with her – If you’re a grill master, show her how its done!  If baking is your thing, whip up a batch of cookies together.
  • Color together – if your daughter is anything like mine, she loves to color, and she’ll love it even more if you do it with her!

The list can go on and on. Make up your own, have fun, and spend that special time with your girl.  It will mean the world to her!

Blessings

 

Remebering a Special Lady

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Today is my Granny’s birthday, she would have been 8o years old.

It’s hard to believe that it has been 20 years since she went to be with the Lord.  It’s no secret how much she meant to me.  I loved her dearly, miss her very much, and still talk about her often.  My kids love to hear the stories about her video game playing days and I love to tell them all about it.  In honor of her birthday I wanted to share a post I wrote about her last year on this day.

 

I had a hard time getting to sleep the other night and as I tossed and turned my mind began to turn as well.  This is not an uncommon occurrence for me; my brain often likes to go into overdrive long after my body has called it a night.  Every so often, on one of those restless, mind-wondering nights, my mind will turn to her.  On this particular night, that’s exactly what happened.  As I lay there, listening to the sound of the ceiling fan slowly spinning, Granny and I took a walk down memory lane.

These are my memories, some of them at least, and they are very near and dear to my heart.  And, even though I think about these things often, this time I felt compelled to write them down…as a reminder maybe, or to have something to share with my kids when they are older, or to just take the time to remember…

…spending the night with her on Saturday nights, so I could go to church with her on Sunday mornings.

…that small, gold ink pen she kept in her purse.  She would let me draw with it during the church service. I remember thinking how heavy it was for such a small pen, and so fancy!

…Misty…yes, I remember Misty!

…the time she took me shopping for that little peach colored pageant dress.  I remember walking through the store, running my hands over all those pretty, frilly dresses…I was young, but I remember it.

…going with her to work at Mr. Birchfield’s, with a backpack full of Barbie’s and my bicycle to ride around on the air base.

…her teaching me how to play solitaire (with an actual deck of cards)

…riding in that blue station wagon

…her always playing yahtzee!

…Nintendo marathons, watching how animated she would get while playing, because if she actually jumped, then Mario would jump even higher and how she would call the bad guys names like “Sapsucker”!  I had more fun watching her play than actually playing myself!

…how she wrote down all the codes to get to the higher levels, and knew where all the warp zones were!

…bragging that my Granny was the first person I ever knew to beat Mario Bros. 1, 2 and 3!

…wishing I could be half as good at Tetris as her!

…watching General Hospital with her, which started an addiction that lasted a little too long! I think I finally gave it up when I was about 21! Thanks Granny!

…when she got rid of the station wagon and got that white car, which had cruise control.  While riding with her one time she had me convinced that all she had to do was push the button and the car would just drive her home!

…that a visit to her house wasn’t complete without rag bologna, Velveeta cheese, and saltine crackers!

…sitting on those blue concrete front steps in the evening and watching the lightening bugs.

…how she always smelled like coffee.

…her thick, brown curls

…her sitting crossed legged in that corner chair at the kitchen table, with the cordless phone beside her and a cigarette in hand.

…the sound of those wind chimes that hung under the carport. Even now that sound always makes me think of her.

…watching The Lion King together, she laughed at me for being 14 and wanting to watch a kid movie, and I laughed at her when she was sitting right beside me, crying like a baby just like me when Mufasa died!

I quickly realize that the list could go on and on, but most of all, when I think of Granny I will always think:

~ Oh, what I would give to hear her say, “Lizzie” to me one more time!

~ How blessed I was to have her in my life for 14 years!

~ How the Angels must have sang the day she came home!

~ What a wonderful day it will be when I see her again!

 

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