Friday, December 30, 2011

photo journal: 2011 in pictures

The older I get, the faster time flies and the more I forget much of what happened in the previous 365 days. Which makes it all the more fun to go back and pick one picture from each month to capture "what we were doing when..." I did this last year on my other, now-private-rarely-updated family blog and found it gave me pause for reflection and a second chance to celebrate what God gifted us in one year.


epic sled hill

happened 2 minutes after getting to my parents house on Super Bowl Sunday
courtesy of Reese...I often find these types of pictures on my camera ;)

someone turned 6 and celebrated by trying out his new stomp rocket

I became a citizen AND registered voter :)


Ben turned two and got some new wheels with a handy push handle for D & I

getting ready to march in the 4th of July parade - a first for us

Isaac & Luke at Goderich - so hard to pick a favorite from this vacation!
our traditional trip to a county fair

my favorite picture of Brie with my sister and nephew at a new park we discovered

our hike where Luke lost his shoe in the mud

the family tree and a Christmas Eve-day walk

Farewell 2011!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

3 gifts on thursday

The gifts for today's post are themed around making New Year's resolutions, though, typically, I don't make them myself. At least, not all at the beginning of the year for the entire year. My resolutions take the shape of dreams and goals - some long held, some just born - and grow through the annual dance of days. A few of these goals I will seek hard after, while others I'm more patient to achieve.

Here are three gifts which reflect my not-resolutions ;) for this year and the ones to come. And, if you'd like to share, I'd love to hear a few of your resolutions, dreams or goals for 2012.

For previous 3 Gifts installments, click here. If you would like to have a "gift" featured in this series, please see the bottom of this post for details.

1. the gift of guidance

A couple of years ago, I felt God nudging me to ask Him for an "annual verse" - a specific Word from the Bible to encourage and guide me through the upcoming year. If you've heard about asking Him for a life verse, this is the same idea only for a much shorter span of time. Last year I again prayed He would give me a word to sustain me through 2011 and I'm asking Him again this year for this gift. Since beginning this practice, it's helped hold me fast to His promises and keep trusting Him for the future. I know He will be faithful for you too if you ask Him for this gift.

2. the gift of keeping up with the kids (a.k.a. staying in shape)
With four exuberant children, my energy level for chasing after them hovers often around the "boy, that couch looks inviting" level. However, when Dave and I were training for a triathlon earlier this year, I learned the difference between working out and working out. The latter being an amped up version of what I used to do which lead to an increase in my energy levels.

This year, Dave wants to add something new to the usual workout routine...something which increases agility, foot speed and reduces proneness to injury - three important attributes when outnumbered by children 2:1. Something called "plyometrics." You Tube has many videos on plyometric routines and you can google it for more information. Here's one video we watched and one we tried - so much harder than it looks.

3. the gift of not misplacing ideas
Here's something I'm going to try this year ...using my online calendar and other technology to capture ideas and remind me of them at the right time. Perhaps you'll find this useful too, if, like me you constantly get ideas for things you'd like to try out, especially ideas centered around holidays or special occasions, but forget about them or start on them too late. My idea is to capture the idea somewhere, whether in MS Word, through bookmarks or even low tech pen and paper, then create a reminder in my online calendar referencing the idea and where I stashed it. (I don't "pin" so I'm not sure if Pinterest has a built in reminder for working on pinned ideas - but if it does, please let me know and I may be convinced to finally sign up for it.)

If you have a "gift" you'd like me to consider wrapping into a 3 Gifts on Thursday package, please email me the details. It can be anything you are hosting or have heard about: from a giveaways to service projects, household/parenting tips, resources, promotions/coupon codes, items such as books, music, movies, etc (ones available for purchase online). If I choose to incorporate your gift suggestion into a 3 Gifts post, I will email you to let you know when it will be featured.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas in song

One of the things I love best about the Christmas season is the music. Maybe it's because they are songs saved for this particular month or maybe it's all tied up with my memories and experiences of the other parts of Christmas.

And while I love many of the Christmas/seasonal songs I hear on the radio, I wanted a mix which reflects the changes within me - knowing we celebrate the God-birth, made all the more poignant by His death and resurrection we remember and celebrate a few short months from now.

I created the following play list this week and am sharing it with you in case, like me, you're always on the hunt for a good song to capture a moment.

The progression of this mix reflects the days we expect the advent of Jesus' birth through the telling to the shepherds of the miracle, contemplating that holy night, then rejoicing and telling the whole world what God has done for us. And I threw "The Holly and the Ivy" in there because I love this arrangement by George Winston.

Before I share the list, here's a youtube video of "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus." If you have a moment, press the play button, close your eyes and let your heart soar with the song to God's throne. I love the clear enunciation of each word, the way Christ Nockels takes the time with each note, not rushing, but praising.

1. Gabriel's Message - Jars of Clay
2. On Jordan's Banks the Baptist Cry - Choir of St. Edmundsbury Cathedral
3. Come Thou Long Expected Jesus - Chris Tomlin with Christy Nockels
4. Hark! A Thrilling Voice is Sounding - John Fenstermaker and Grace Cathedral Choir
5. Angels from the Realms of Glory - Massed Choir
6. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing - Amy Grant
7. This Must be the Place - The Marshalls
8. The Shepard's Gift - Mychael Danna
9. What Child is This? - Faith Hill
10. O Come Let Us Adore Him - Matt Redman
11. O Holy Night! Faith Hill
12. Song for the King - Michael W. Smith
13. All Through the Night - Lifescapes
14. Silent Night - Martina McBride
15. All is Well - Michael W. Smith
16. Messiah, Part the First For Unto Us a Child is Born - Robert Shaw Orchestra
17. Joy to the World - Casting Crowns
18. Do You Hear What I Hear? - Andy Williams
19. It's True - Sara Groves
20. Go Tell it on the Mountain - David Crowder Band
21. The Holly and the Ivy - George Winston

Thursday, December 22, 2011

3 gifts on Thursday

I prayed about this post today, wrestled over the gifts to give on this Thursday before we celebrate God's immortal-clothed-in-mortal entry into this world. After toying with a few ideas, I realized there are no gifts I can give which are greater than the ones He already has given...the gifts of His Word, telling the story of this God birth. (And isn't it funny, that though there are four gospels, perfectly three of them tell this natal story...perfect for a post which gives three gifts.)

So I invite you to take some time in the next few days to slowly unwrap what He has given. If these stories are well familiar, consider reading one or all in a new translation or ask God to give you one line to savor. If these straight-from-the-Bible stories are newer to you, take some time to read what He actually says, forgetting what you think you know happens from all those Nativity stories and plays told through the years - the experience is eye-opening.

The links within these gifts are to the NIV 1984 edition of the Bible (my favorite as it was my first encounter with God's Word) at if you like reading online and love checking out other translations. May God give you new revelation of Himself this Christmas...rejoice! 

 For previous 3 Gifts installments, click here. If you would like to have a "gift" featured in this series, please see the bottom of this post for details.

1. the Gift of Matthew

Reading for Chapters 1-2. Have you ever noticed how Matthew's genealogy names five woman? Reading their five stories is a blessing too.

2. the Gift of Luke
Reading for Chapters 1-2.

3. the Gift of John
Reading for Chapter 1:1-18.

If you have a "gift" you'd like me to consider wrapping into a 3 Gifts on Thursday package, please email me the details. It can be anything you are hosting or have heard about: from a giveaways to service projects, household/parenting tips, resources, promotions/coupon codes, items such as books, music, movies, etc (ones available for purchase online). If I choose to incorporate your gift suggestion into a 3 Gifts post, I will email you to let you know when it will be featured.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

on the wings of peace: a printable

In case you are looking for one last little something to give this Christmas and if, like me, the desire for peace within and without beats strong, then I hope you will enjoy this printable and craft idea.

To make the garland:
  • Visit my scribd page for the download and print. I suggest 2 copies.
  • Cut out the doves (the image was from the Microsoft Clip Gallery). Cut around the outer most edge - it will leave you with one side pure white as pictured above and one with the gray lines showing.
  • Punch two small holes in the doves' wings about 1" from the wing tip, or in the first ruffle of the wing
  • Thread the doves on the medium of your choice - I used raffia, but satin ribbon also would be pretty.

Individually, the doves also would make pretty gift tags or in a card and tucked in a small sack, they make a lovely gift...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

letting go

So we've decided to send Brianna and Reese to our local public school come January.

A big change and a tough decision and I'm all a mess with crushing weight of carrying a heavy burden for two years - the burden of trying to do it all and be all. Yet, I can see how God orchestrated these events for a time such as this... continued prayers to shower focused love attention on Luke and Ben - the attempts to incorporate them into our school day falling far short of what I envisioned.

...the reduction in out-of-home activities - outlets needed for them, for me, yet not seeming to fit into the first season of the school year

...the promise of joining a homeschool coop in January slipping through the cracks continued tinkering with the shape of our days leaving me feel fragmented and frazzled and frustrated why finding a rhythm eluded me

...seeing many of our days dissolve into lessons in discipline and it feels like sandpaper, smoothing the rough edges yet leaving us raw in the process

I see now I also was fighting two parts of myself - the part that wants to fully immerse myself in motherhood, focusing on bringing up our children in instruction of the Lord while imparting knowledge for navigating the ways of the world. Then there's the other part - the creative one where I want to write and sew and craft and give myself to the making of a home.

Though I see this and the promise school away from home brings, a part of me feels the bite of failure. Of not finishing out the school year. Of not being able to focus fully on the kids and lay my other interests down. Of feeling overwhelmed by the intensity this parenting stage. It's a serpent's bite to the flesh and a whispered lie but my spirit feels its sting nonetheless.

Writing helps. Tracking the lies and the Truth in black and white.

See God's goodness and answer to my prayers, though not in ways I expected.


I heard or read recently, though I forget where, that expectations kill relationships. Especially with God.

So I'm learning to let go. Of the homeschooling, of my expectations, of what I believe God expects of me. I feel unsteady, yet I know the ground is firm beneath me. It always is when we let go and let God.

And because He is faithful, He gave me glimpses of what was to come for it does feel like the images He gave me. If you need to be encouraged, perhaps reading what He spoke here and here, may bolster your faith that He never leaves you, He's always with you and is never surprised by that which may catch you off guard.

Linking with:

Monday, December 19, 2011

reap to sow: the end

Now we really have reached the end of Reap to Sow discussion for The Power of a Positive Mom: Revised Edition by Karol Ladd.

If you have a chance, and are not too overwhelmed with final Christmas preparations, we hope you have a chance to read the concluding chapter. It was so refreshing to read the seven principles Karol outlined on pg 265 as it quickly reminded me of the territory covered within these pages.

Which leads me to the gift I mentioned on Friday...If like me, you read a great book then life continues to happen and you forget much of the wisdom in the pages of your recent read, then I hope you find these two printables a blessing.

The first is a bookmark and the second a 4x6 notecard which can be tucked in a Bible, a journal, your purse, another book, or any nook or cranny which lends itself to these helpful tools. The front of each features a watercolor of a mother and child cradled in God's hands, encompassed in His love along with the words which recall the major points we learned within these pages. The back of both remain blank, to be filled by you with whatever needs spilling onto the canvas of white - be it a Bible verse, a prayer, a word from the Lord.

If you would like these printables, please leave a comment with your email address or email me and please tell me at least one point from these pages or our posts which most encouraged or challenged you in your journey to positive motherhood. I will then email you a PDF of file which you may print and trim for your own personal use.

Here are two ares which most challenged me ...
In the chapter on encouragement, it struck me how often our children hear negative messages and how we must work to pour positive words into them - not the surface "great job, honey," but words which speak to their spirits and deeply afirm who they are.

In the chapter on living lessons, I was convicted of the number of times I try to parent with words and without action.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

a badge of love and encouragement: liebster award

Earlier this week, I had a lovely surprise from Jenn at Little Homeschool on the Prairie - she wanted to pass along the Liebster Award to this blog. I always love reading Jenn's blog as it's a beautiful example of how learning can be as simple and natural as breathing and she's provided much encouragement to me through her comments here.

What is the Liebster Award? It is typically given to dear, favorite, or beloved small blogs (ones with less than 200 readers) as a way to recognize and encourage one another.

I admit to feeling awkward at receiving an award, because anything good found here is of God and so the honors go to Him. Yet, a warmth floods my heart at the same time, knowing He is using this space in some good way and because it is given by a new found friend.

But onto the fun I have the opportunity to pass along this award. I hope that you too will find them dear.

Here are four beloved to me for awhile:

A Work in Progress 

The Story of Us

 The Remodeled Life

The Stanfield Journey (since it's just a smidge over the "200 reader benchmark" I'm boldly including it)

And here's one which is newer to me, but equally delightful:

Our Nest in the City


Liebster is the German word for "love" which I chuckled over this morning because I believe God is having a little fun with me.

Back in college I decided, despite my lack of aptitude in foreign languages, to take German for the first time ever - I had a smattering of "survival" words stored up from a recent trip to Germany and Austria so I thought it would be great to expand my German vocabulary. Bad idea. In college, they seem to think I could learn a foreign language in the same amount of time it took me to learn a healthy dose of French between grades 4-9. Every time I needed to translate an English word into German, my French override button kicked in. I can't even remember the German alphabet. I can, however, remember the words for 1, 2, 3,...but I think that has more to do with hearing those words sung repeatedly during Oktoberfest celebrations. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

soaking and sowing

It appears we've arrived at the end of our Reap to Sow discussions. Sniffle.

I've so enjoyed the past couple of months, especially being able to work alongside Courtney in the harvesting and planting of what we learned from the book. Which is why I couldn't bear to just end it here...and because the concluding chapter of the book is just as rich as the previous 20.

Sooo...please come back here on Monday for a special wrap up post and because Courtney and I have a little gift for those of you who've have worked the fields of these pages with us.

Here's a sneak peek:

Now on to sowing from Chapters19 & 20. (To read what I reaped from these chapters, please see Monday's post. For a link to previous discussions, please click here.)

Chapter 19
I love the "Do" Power Point of this chapter - an invitation to soak in God's love. It's something I have a hard time receiving. In my head I know that God loves me, but often that knowledge gets stuck up there in my head and has a hard time trickling down into my heart. It's an area God's working on with me. And here's something He's using to help me get at that heart knowledge:

Chapter 20
I'm working on the "Choose" and "Do" Power Points - getting to the heart of the matter and helping them understand the "3 D's" (I thought of a fourth "D" too...Discontent).

Yesterday, the Lord provided a perfect opportunity for me to put the "Choose" point into practice. Brianna was complaining about the impending dentist's appointment that morning and resisted getting out of bed. Usually I take a no nonsense approach of "you're going and that's final," but the words of this chapter came back to me so instead I sat down and talked with her about why she didn't want to go. I'm not sure if it made a difference or not - she still did not want to go, but maybe it was a kernel of a beginning...something the size of a mustard seed...and you know what Jesus says we can do with something like that.

How about you? What Power Points are you working on? If you watched the above video, how did it speak to your heart?

(BTW...if you like the message on the video, it's from Jonathan David Helser's album, "Awakening," which also is available through itunes. Just listening to snippets from this CD ushered me into God's presence)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

3 gifts on thursday: cold edition

The sniffling, sneezing kind of cold. Because I have one right now. And its the season for them. For previous 3 Gifts installments, click here. If you would like to have a "gift" featured in this series, please see the bottom of this post for details.

1.Gift of Nourishment (a.k.a. Chicken Soup Secrets)
Old wives tale or medical fact aside, nothing comforts like a warm bowl of soup to a body run down by a cold. Here's my recipe along with a few secrets I've discovered to a good bowl of soup:

Secret #1: Make your own broth base. It's healthier and easy. All you do is buy a whole chicken (organic tastes best), making sure to remove any of the giblets or any other extras included in the chicken's cavity. Put it in a large stock pot, cover completely with water, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. I like to "cook the cackle" out of my chicken, i.e. cook it until the meat falls off the bones which takes about 2 hours. 

Secret #2: Skim the fat. The easier way to do this is to remove the chicken from the pot once it's cooked. Refrigerate the meat for later use. Then place the pot with the stock in the refrigerator over night. In the morning, you should see a nice layer of solid fat floating on top of the stock. Use a spoon to remove the chunks of fat - now you have an even healthier, lower fat stock.

Now you're ready to make the soup:
1. Bring the stock back up to a boil, then add a few drops of lemon juice (Secret #3) - it helps keep the liquid clear vs. cloudy.

2. Add your favorite ingredients once the stock in boiling, then turn back to a simmer. Here's what I add to mine: 1 diced onion, 1-2 garlic cloves (Secret #4), diced celery, chopped carrots, diced tomatoes, dried or fresh parley, salt and pepper. (The only "chicken" I have in my soup is what's in the broth - I like using the cooked chicken in other recipes - Secret #5) These are all to taste which is the great thing about soups. Experiment until you find your favorite combination. I've discovered it's wise to start with 1 tsp sea salt per 6 cups of water then add a little more salt as needed.

3. Here's the final and my best secret: wait until you are ready to eat the soup before adding peas and noodles.Until recently, I always added my noodles and peas along with the rest of the ingredients. This always resulted in sickly pea-green peas and mushy huge noodles if I ate the soup over several days or froze some for later use. By waiting until the day/meal when you're going to eat the soup to add these two ingredients, you will have lovely bright green peas bobbing in your bowl and firm noodles. So much more appealing.

2. Gift of No Coughing @ Night

Here's something to try that's weird but works. If you put vapo rub (I use Olbas Oil instead because I like using natural oils) on the bottoms of your feet at night, it helps suppress nighttime coughing. I don't know why it works, but most of the time, when my kids have had nighttime coughs and I've done this, they seem to make it through the night with no or very little coughing.

3. Gift of Scaring Away the Germs
The best gift of all is kicking a cold before it gets a foothold. At the first sign of a sore throat or cold symptoms and as symptoms persist, try gargling or drinking a diluted solution of apple cider vinegar (ACV). A brand like Bragg's is best and if you check out their website, you'll see a number of health benefits of ACV. It's an acquired taste, but I'll take it over a scratchy throat and foggy head any day.

If you have a "gift" you'd like me to consider wrapping into a 3 Gifts on Thursday package, please email me the details. It can be anything you are hosting or have heard about: from a giveaways to service projects, household/parenting tips, resources, promotions/coupon codes, items such as books, music, movies, etc (ones available for purchase online). If I choose to incorporate your gift suggestion into a 3 Gifts post, I will email you to let you know when it will be featured.

Linking with:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Normally this is something I'd share in a 3 Gifts post, but as I already had this weeks gifts planned out and I didn't want to let one more day go by, I'm sharing it now.

Please check out this page on Joy's Hope blog for the details on Project 320 - a fun initiative to raise enough money to build a water well for people who currently without access to safe, clean water.

I just learned this past Saturday at a church service that we use more water in a 5 minute shower than many people in the world use in one day. (This church was raising money for a water project in Haiti - God continues to drip drop awareness of this water issue into my life ;) ). Can you imagine?

So, if you can spare a few minutes, please check out the above links and may we all continue to hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Monday, December 12, 2011

reap to sow: gleaning from Chapters 19 & 20

If you're just joining us (and we're so glad to have you along!), we're taking two chapter per week from the book, The Power of a Positive Mom: Revised Edition by Karol Ladd. This week we are reading and discussing Chapters 19 & 20.

On Mondays we focus on reaping: What are we gleaning, discerning from the reading?
On Fridays we focus on sowing: What actions from the Power Points can we apply in our lives in order to become more positive mothers?

(For a link to previous discussions, please click here.)

"At first glance you might think you don't need to read this chapter," opens Karol in Chapter 19.

My thoughts exactly.

But every notice how the teeniest speck of pride gives God an invitation to turn things on their head and show you exactly how that speck has blinded you to reality? Kind of like being hit with a plank in your eye. ;)

Thus I reaped and gleaned and threshed from Chapter 19, perhaps more so than all the others.

The section on love, anger and forgiveness spoke most to my heart. I had always prided myself (ahem) on my ability to forgive, because the message that God gives us forgiveness and expects we extend this same mercy to others strikes deeply in my heart. It's always been a no brainer - you're wronged, you forgive, you move on.

But I think I skipped over an important step before the forgiveness part in many past situations...recognizing my anger and hurt over a situation and processing it. Recognition is the first of the 4 R's dealing with anger which Karol outlines on pgs. 247 and 248. After recognition comes releasing, then relying on God to aid in forgiveness and healing, and lastly is to replace anger with love. But it's hard to replace what you haven't acknowledged in the first place.

I need to pause for a moment to give praise to God. So often on this Reap to Sow journey, He has brought forth events or an awareness within me to coincide with the chapters I would be discussing. He let me experience the concepts of this book in my life and not just in my head. I know some people, including followers of Christ, question whether God really knows what is going to happen and what choices we are going to make. But He knows, people. He knows.

Before I go on to Chapter 20, if you love the passage from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 which Karol included in Chapter 19, here's a link to a post I did which includes a printable of that verse if you'd like to make your own Banner of Love to hang in your home.

Onto Chapter 20...

"Wouldn't it be great to have a flow chart that could lead us through the issues of parenting and discipline?" asks Karol on pg 252.

Yes, please! Sign me up.

Sadly (sigh) such a chart does not exist. Or rather, gladly, because we are not robots responding to commands. We are beings made in the image of God. And that is a fearful and wonderful thing.

In lieu of a flow chart however, Karol provided wonderful insight and food for thought when it comes to lovingly disciplining our children.

I especially reaped aplenty from the section on the 3D's where Karol discusses three areas of negative behavior which need addressing in our children, and in our own lives, too.  I love the simplicity of remembering them: Disobedience. Disrespect. Dishonesty. I'm prayerfully considering how to use these concepts in our home and I hope to share these glimmers of thoughts with you when we sow on Friday.

Until then...

If/when you have a chance to read these two chapters, I'd love to hear what you reaped from them (and on Friday, what you will be sowing in your knowledge). Please consider leaving a comment or emailing me - I always love a good book discussion. :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

photo of the week (and homeschool journal)

How Luke went dressed to church last Sunday...

(What a ham! Dave said people thought he looked ready for law school)


I think God might be having me in a season of readjusting my thoughts on what school "looks" like, i.e. more hands on, less seat work. Maybe. Either that, or He wants us to put the kids in public school because the struggles I've had lately are making the grass look a whole lot greener on that side of the fence. In the meantime, I'll continue to tweak until I feel a knowing and a peace about the path of education God desires for our children.

So in addition to our usual workbook activities, the highlights of the past couple of weeks:
  • went to a friends house for an alphabet scavenger hunt, snowman garland craft and to enjoy fellowship
  • constructed a gingerbread house for a contest (Brie read and helped make the recipe, cut the templates and dough shapes, iced together the house and decorated it. Since we wouldn't be eating this one - it would be on display for a few days leading up to the contest - I suggested making a birdhouse gingerbread construction and decorate with some items birds might like to eat and other dried beans and seeds.)
  • read books on snow and the beach
  • listened to a vintage Christmas tape which includes songs, stories and a guessing game
  • painted some wooden letters as part of the Christmas decorations on our house (and learned why we must thoroughly clean paint brushes after each use ;) )
  • listened to a children's story program on a Christian radio station
  • played veterinarian/animal rescue
  • played "Indians" - e.g. Brie was a squaw and Ben was her papoose
  • watched a DVD on African animals
  • explored outside to witness the changes winter brings (e.g. ice, snow on the ground, chipmunk holes)
  • went to church for a family night and to watch The Polar Express - discussed how the end of the movie is a good parable for how it might be when we get to see God for the first time
  • colored another picture from our Australian Color and Learn book - one which showed underground houses in a mining community - had the kids draw pictures of what their own underground house might look like. Both drew windows (the real underground homes don't have windows) and explained they could look out them to see the animals - the burrowing kind.
  • Reese drew more superhero pictures and storylined about them. He also made new words out of the words, "peace" and "candy cane"
Looking back, it's a real hodgepodge of activities - not one you could tie up in a nice theme-y bow as I tend to do, but I realize these were among the most enjoyable moments for the kids...and for me.

Friday, December 9, 2011

sowing @ Courtney's today

Please join me at Courtney's  for our continued discussion on Chapters 17 & 18.  If you love to read and share about books - especially the Book- this discussion is for you. :)

(For a link to previous discussions, please click here.)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

3 gifts on thursday: baby edition

Because we'll be celebrating the birth of a very special baby soon (Jesus). ;) For previous 3 Gifts installments, click here. If you would like to have a "gift" featured in this series, please see the bottom of this post for details.

1.Gift of Keeping a Diaper On
We often say Ben looks like Luke but acts like Reese. When Reese was Ben's age, he took his diaper off when it was dirty - an experience I'm sure most parents face unless their child miraculously is potty trained before the 18 month mark. Now Ben is at that stage. A decidedly messy and panic-inducing one (do you clean up the child or the mess first?!). The solution? Wrapping clear packing tape around the diaper to cover the tabs. With Reese, we had to make sure it was taped at the back so he couldn't pull at the tape ends. Ben requires less. You may need scissors to cut the diaper off your child - kind of disturbing to do at first, but for the sake of keeping everything in its place...

2. Gift of Natural Wooden Toys
I discovered Smiling Tree Toys while putting together this treasury list on etsy for items linked with charitable donations. I've always loved the idea of wooden toys for their durability and eco-friendliness and, as an extra bonus, Justin and Kathleen donate to youth development projects for every toy sold. In addition to their etsy shop, you also can check out their blog for a behind-the-scenes look of Smiling Tree: all about natural parenting, our journey towards rural sustainable living, the happenings in our woodshop, new toys, giveaways, and inspirational food for thought. As an extra bonus to you, they are offering you a 10% discount if you purchase from their shop between now through December 14, 2011. Just enter 10off4wits in the coupon code box. (They no longer are taking orders for Christmas, but you can read their shop announcements for what they can do for instead if you are intending this for December 25.) Here are some of my favorites from their shop:

3. Gift of Upcycling Baby Blankets

I saw this idea in Family Fun magazine a few years ago and tried it out for a St. Nicholas Day gift for Brianna. I can't remember the issue and couldn't find a link to it on their site - it was an idea submitted by one of their readers. Instead, here's a tutorial on making a pillow with a double sided blanket Or, as I did, take two coordinating baby blankets, trim as necessary to make them the same size, pin with right sides together and stitch leaving a 1-inch gap. Turn blankets right side out, stuff with fiber fill and stitch the opening closed. (I know these instructions are very brief - if you want more detailed instructions, please let me know and I'll do a more in-depth tutorial.) Granted, this is an idea to use after your baby has outgrown the blankets, but if, like me, you received a bazillion more blankets than you could ever use plus hate to part with fabric which contains so many fond memories, try it out.

If you have a "gift" you'd like me to consider wrapping into a 3 Gifts on Thursday package, please email me the details. It can be anything you are hosting or have heard about: from a giveaways to service projects, household/parenting tips, resources, promotions/coupon codes, items such as books, music, movies, etc (ones available for purchase online). If I choose to incorporate your gift suggestion into a 3 Gifts post, I will email you to let you know when it will be featured.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


I have been praying lately that I would see God in the little things of each day. It's a prayer born out of love for reading or hearing about the times when God shows up in the lives of others. It's also born out of a jealousy to have those same kinds of moments - but I think this might be the kind of jealousy God is okay with - the kind where we are as jealous for Him as He is for us.

I want to have a radical walk with God - one where I believe Him for the big things, but also know He cares about the incidentals - the details of my day. In the devotional I do with the kids most mornings, this verse struck me: "The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives" (Psalm 37:23 NLT, emphasis mine). I love that - God delighting in every detail.

And in inviting Him into every detail, I begin to see Him in every detail...

I stayed home from church on Sunday with under-the-weather Reese and Ben. It turned into a lovely two hours of reading to and napping with Ben. A gift.

Later that afternoon, I took Luke swimming after feeling a nudge from the Lord to do so (Dave usually is the one to do these kinds of Sunday-afternoon activities because I take my "day of rest" literally. ;) ). Another gift.

Both moments an answer to my prayer for having more one-on-one time with my two youngest as much of my time during the week is focused on school with Brianna and Reese.

The swimming also was confirmation about my choice not to shower earlier that morning. Silly, perhaps, to pray about that - but it's a detail and the Word tells me God delights in these.

So I will continue to pray for God to be in the details of my life and that I would see Him in the my day, in His creation and in the lives of others.

If you would like to share a moment of God in the detail of your life here, please do. :) I would love to rejoice with you over God revealing Himself to you in the details.

linking with Chatting at the Sky and with:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

thus ends an era

Last week I combined pulling out our Christmas decorations with purging unnecessaries from our basement. Among the cast offs - the car seat which cradled each of our children in the car for the first year of their life.

As Ben is 2 1/2 and the car seat almost 9 years old, you would be right in thinking I might have pitched this item long ago. But it was so. hard. to. do. Despite common sense glaring me in the face, in the back of my mind played the tape, "maybe it will come in useful someday." Wistful thinking.

Finally, I faced up to reality and decided to let it go. Into the discard pile it went at the bottom of the basement steps awaiting its date with the garbage truck.

As it waited, Ben wandered in and joyfully set about playing in it. It was a good way to keep him amused and out of my crazy sorting piles and Reese and I enjoyed telling him it was his seat when he was a baby.

Fast forward to yesterday - garbage day for us.

Ben in his seat circa 2009
The car seat was on the tree lawn and Ben was at the window watching the garbage truck activity on our street. I stood with him for a few moments then returned to the kitchen to finish the breakfast chores.

Minutes later, he entered the kitchen, crying and uttering something undecipherable. I could make out a few of the words - seat, huh-dah (his word for truck) - but could make no sense of what he was trying to tell me. It wasn't until I left the kitchen and saw the car seat gone from the lawn that I finally understood.

I stooped down, looked in his eyes and asked him, "Did the garbage truck take your car seat away?"

"Yeeeeaaaah," he wailed, starting a fresh wave in tears.

I chuckled and hugged him and we repeated the tragedy of seeing the garbage truck taking away his seat several times over in his language.

And God spoke to my heart about this episode...

In Ben, I see myself. I see myself at a window watching God cart away something I no longer need, but something I enjoyed. It could be something He gave me for a time to delight in. It could be something I never needed in the first place. It could be an object, a season of life, a sin. At first, I may be upset with Him for taking it away because leaving can hurt. But as He stoops to look in my eyes and kiss away my tears, He reassures me of His purpose in removing it. He may not tell me why but He asks me to trust that His purposes are always good, always right, always exactly what I need.

Do you find this too? Has there been something you've watched God take away, something you weren't ready to part with?

linking with Chatting at the Sky and with:

Monday, December 5, 2011

reap to sow: Chapters 17 & 18

I can't believe we're almost done with The Power of a Positive Mom: Revised Edition by Karol Ladd! How time does fly.

Please wander over to Courtney's  today...she's leading the discussion on one of our favorite topics - books (the theme of these chapters).

(For a link to previous discussions, please click here.)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

an oops corrected

If you tried to download the "Immanuel" letters, which I posted about on Thursday, only the first page appeared in my scribd page. Not sure what happened. Anyway, I re-uploaded the document and now all three pages appear to be there. Here's the link again. If you try and download it and it still isn't working, please email me and I can send you the document that way. Sorry for the glitch.

Friday, December 2, 2011

sowing: worn out knees and planting seeds of tradition

If you're just joining us (and we're so glad to have you along!), we're taking two chapter per week from the book, The Power of a Positive Mom: Revised Edition by Karol Ladd.

On Mondays we focus on reaping: What are we gleaning, discerning from the reading?
On Fridays we focus on sowing: What actions from the Power Points can we apply in our lives in order to become more positive mothers?

(For a link to previous discussions, please click here.)

To read what we reaped for Chapters 15 &16, please see Monday's post.

Reading Karol's stories about the two moms on pages 192 and 193 convicted me. I often do as the Mom-who-used-her-voice did - trying to get my words to do the work for me. But, oh, how much kinder, gentler and Jesus like it is to be the Mom-who-gets-on-her-knees.

I often feel my husband does a better job of this...I tell the kids to clean their room and then leave to go about other tasks. My husband will sit in the room with them and help direct their focus. A Martha/Mary (or in this case, maybe it's Martin?) story played out in our home.

Since reading this chapter, I have tried to be more intentional about getting on my knees and helping my children with their tasks, and in the reverse, to have them help me with mine. And God had me notice something in one of my on-my-knees jeans. Specifically, the knees. Almost thread bare. And I felt a whisper to my spirit that this is something He loves to see. Clothes worn out from loving and serving and giving and getting right in there to tough it out with the ones He loves. The knee on those jeans finally gave out yesterday. They were always my favorite pair - now even more so. While I'm now in the market for a pair of new jeans, I want to hang on to the old pair as a reminder of the message in the worn out knees.

Paging over to Chapter 16...
So far this week, I've written about a Christmas tradition that wasn't and shared yesterday about my favorite tradition we started with our own family...the seeds we began planting several years ago. It's only fitting today, especially given the title of this book, to share another day our children look forward to...St. Nicolas Day (December 6).

In a nutshell, it's the day when the kids get their "stockings." I put stockings in parenthesis because I don't really use them. Instead, depending on the gifts for the year, I set them up in different ways. One year I used my riding boots from bygone days. It mixes it up a little and keeps them guessing. :) Up until this year, the kids always were surprised by the day itself. Now that Brianna and Reese are learning about the concept of time, I don't think I can sneak it up on them.

Why St. Nicolas Day and not the traditional Christmas morning?

It's an attempt to share the joy of giving and receiving gifts while wanting to keep the focus on God's gift to us on Christmas.

You see, when I was growing up I loved the whole Santa and getting presents thing, especially the stockings - 99% of the time I was the first one to wake up every year. And, although we went to church and I knew about Jesus, I didn't know Him. Christmas never was about Jesus for me. So it wasn't too hard to justify celebrating Christmas as an atheist. Also, I was impacted a few years ago by the Christmas memories my brother-in-law shared. He grew up in a family who actively knew Jesus. His memories? Not one centered around the toys he received. Instead his family choose significant ways to help those in need.

This history and knowing all my fond Christmas memories revolve around the stuff I got, cause me to pull back from those childhood traditions and anything less than a focus on God. It's a big part of why I wrote this post.

For our children, my hope is that, as adults, they will look back on St. Nicolas Day as a time we rejoiced in giving gifts to one another and Christmas as a time we rejoiced in a baby in a manager who would grow up to die for us so we might live.

Now it's your have you sown seeds from the chapters this week? Any memory makers you'd like to share or ones you'd like to try? Please join us in this discussion by leaving a comment. If you blogged about it, please leave a link to your place so we can find you there.