A new tradition

I'm really big on traditions. There's just something about doing the same thing, year after year, that is so comforting. And there's a part of me that is always on the hunt for a new family tradition.

There are a few traditions we have implemented over the years that I love, like the birthday letters Mark and I write to our children, and our Thanksgiving journal.

The holidays bring along a whole other set of traditions amongst ourselves, family, and friends. To name a few:

A number of years ago my sister-in-law had the idea to skip the traditional Christmas dinner and make homemade pizza instead for our Christmas Eve gathering. At first I balked at this idea (I like tradition, after all- and the ham and potatoes were hard for me to give up, since "that's the way it's always been!"); but oh, how I enjoy this new tradition. Each year everyone brings meat, 2 lbs of mozerella cheese, and two additional toppings for pizzas, and all of the girls (my husband's only sister and all of his brothers' wives) gather in the kitchen to make homemade pizza. (This year we tried a Thai pizza and a cream cheese/pesto/chicken pizza-- both huge hits.) And this year my mother-in-law surprised us with matching aprons to don for the annual event.

Early Christmas morning you'll find our entire family, in pajamas, gathered on our bed to open our stockings. That has become a tradition.

Later Christmas morning, we all head to my parents' house and my dad makes us a huge Christmas breakfast. Another tradition.

This year I read about something, we planned for it and tried it, and loved it. It is something we now plan to do every year when our family gathers to celebrate Christmas.

I first read of it here. Ann from Holy Experience was a guest blogger at javadawn's towards the end of October. Ann wrote:

Um…..do you ever think we sort of horn in on Jesus’ birthday? I mean–whose birthday is it anyways? How can we give gifts to Jesus? There are, gloriously, a multitude of ways. We reflect on his own words; Jesus says when we give to the “least of these” we give to Him. So, one option, is to give gifts to our blessed Saviour by giving to those who are needy through charity gift catalogues.

Ann's suggestion was to collect gift catalogs from organizations like World Vision and Samaritan's Purse, and to give.

When our catalogs arrived, we explained to our children that one of the things we were going to do for Christmas was to get gifts for those who have so little when we have so much. Then throughout the advent season, we had the catalogs available for our children to peruse. Many of Ella's quiet time hours were spent with her little blonde head bent low over the Samaritan's Purse catalog. She would say, "Mommy, this picture has a sweet little baby and someone is feeding her some milk. And it says nine next to it." (As in $9). Or, "Mommy, what's this one? It shows a little boy. He looks sad. Let's help him."

Mark and I had decided to give each of our children a dollar amount to spend. A gift for them to in turn spend on others. So one of my errands prior to Christmas brought me to the bank, where I withdrew a bunch of one-dollar bills. Then, when our family gathered, our final gifts of the day were those bundles of one-dollar bills for our children. We brought the catalog out, and encouraged them to spend their money. Having the dollar bills was great. They were able to see an item's dollar amount, and then count out the necessary money for that item. We made a list of all the things they'd chosen. When they each got down to their last few dollars, we encouraged them to pool their money to get something together.

Here are some of the gifts they chose to give:

warm blankets ($6)
food for a hungry baby for a week ($9)
one month's tuition for a child to go to school ($15)
gospel storybooks ($5 for 20 books)
milk; a week's worth ($4)
a dozen baby chicks ($10)
Bible lessons for children ($10)
clothing ($15)
hot meals; a week's worth ($7)

*all of these items were from the Samaritan's Purse Christmas gift catalog.

Can you believe all you can give, for so little?

Then we all bowed our heads and Mark led our family in prayer. He asked God to multiply the gifts we'd given (that those baby chicks would grow to be good egg-layers and may end up being a source of income for that family, etc). We asked for His favor upon the needy ones who would be the recipients of our gifts.

So, there it is. Our new tradition. And it is one of the things I will most look forward to each year.

The after-Christmas lull

I love it. The lull, I mean.

Don't get me wrong. I love big family gatherings-- everyone crowded around tables or packed onto the couches and chairs, filling living rooms.

Our festivities began Friday night. We headed to my grandpas church. We outgrew his living room years ago. 92 people, I think, this year. This dear man, his eight children. Many grandchildren. More great-grandchildren. Generations. Tears slipped down his precious cheeks as his family gathered around. Children's children are a crown to the aged.

Saturday morning my mom, my sister and I joined my aunts and their daughters for tea and scones. Two hours of chatting and laughing and remembering. The young women around that table I have played with since I was a little girl. So many childhood memories. Playing "house" in grandma's basement. Board games with grandma- Uncle Wiggly was a favorite. Playing kick-the-can in grandpa and grandma's yard.

Saturday evening, same family. Game night. With aunts and uncles and cousins and children. A noisy game of Taboo. Some Twister with the little ones. Watching my daughter place her left foot when she should be using her right foot. Should I correct her? Nope. Let her play. Then the guys gathered around the table to play some poker. I took our children home and tucked them into bed. Wrote names on stockings for my mom's stairwell. She got new ones this year; wanted me to do the names. I showed her how to add tassels to her prayer shawl. Mom left, Mark returned home. We finished wrapping some gifts, I made some cinnamon rolls and stitched around the edges of some fleece scarves for the boys. Late night. Crawled into bed at 1:30.

Sunday morning. Christmas Eve. Church. Candlelight service. Voices raised to God. Alleluia! Jesus is born! After church we gathered with Mark's family. We began the day with cinnamon rolls and a tasty egg dish. A full day with my husband's family. I love them. Such a boisterous bunch of MEN. Mark has five brothers. And six nephews. I can't count the number of times someone was suddenly 'taken down' in the middle of the living room. Or on the stairs. And then every other brother and nearby nephew would climb on, too. A pile of raucous boys. Lots of laughter. Games. We played Settlers. And I joined my neice for a couple games of Sequence-- we'd gotten it for her for Christmas. Eleven hours in that house on Christmas Eve. But oh-so-much fun.

Monday morning. Christmas Day. Our oldest two climbed into bed with us, dispensing kisses and groggy "I love you's". I love mornings like this. We got up our youngest to join us in bed. We took the stockings down from the mantel and open them, one by one. On our bed, in our jammies, exclaiming over gifts to each other.

After getting ready, we bundled up and walked to my mom's house for breakfast and most-of-the-day there. My parents, my sister and her family. My two brothers. Us. Food, reading from Luke, songs, prayers, gifts. My parents head off to another family event, we stayed to eat a late lunch, then headed home for quick naps. After naps, we headed out to join my parents for a bit, then came home for dinner. And games. My sister taught us a new card game- Nerts. Nertz? Not sure how to spell it but now I know how to play. And another game: Apples to Apples. Mom's consistent choice. Another late night.

Tuesday morning, home. The kids slept until 8:45, which is unheard of at our house. Then Mark got up with them while I slept a bit more. Chocolate-chip bran muffins for breakfast, and then... our Christmas. Ella, then Isaac- "read" about Jesus' birth from their Bibles, and then Mark read while they moved around the Nativity figurines, acting out the story. Then we opened gifts, one by one. And then- my new favorite part of our family Christmas... I'll share all about it in a couple of days. The boys went down for naps, the rest of us rested. My dad took all the guys out to a movie late-afternoon. My sister brought her kids up to play while I happily took down our now-dying Christmas tree. We gathered at mom's for dinner-- tacos-- and talked and laughed and took family pictures by the tree. Then, home.

And today, Wednesday. We are home. It's a lull from our last few days of getting up, heading out for the day, coming home late just to dump everything down and fall into bed. Only to get up again the next morning and go again. Not today. We're home. Getting settled back into our routine. Of sleep, chores (my washing machine is humming as I type), and quiet. Ahhh... I love it.

There's nothing on our agenda until 5:00 tonight, when we get to go hang out with our best friends-- Mike, Amy and their boys-- for dinner. We're ordering Thai food, and we'll put the kids down there and stay up later to eat snacks and play a game or two of Settlers. So fun.

How was your Christmas?

Our Christmas letter

I thought I'd post the Christmas letter we sent out this year....

* * *

Dear Family and Friends,

I love this time of year. First comes Fall, with it's blustery days and the beautiful hues of leaves on the trees. And then Winter. With Winter comes the smell of pine from our tree, twinkling white lights, the occasional snowfall, glowing candles, and a sense of anticipation in the air as Christmas approaches.

It's also a time of gift-giving. There are a few gifts-- wrapped and ready-- that I am most eager to give. Those are gifts I know will be a delight to the ones opening them. I can't wait for those gifts to be unwrapped.

Can you imagine the joy of God the Father as He waited for His Gift to be unveiled to mankind? I'll bet the air in heaven was pregnant with anticipation. And as the baby Jesus was ushered into the world, surely there was great rejoicing in heaven. And probably a flurry of activity as hosts of angels were dispached to make the birth announcement.

In the midst of our own flurry of activity this time of year, our family delights in the most treasured gift ofall: Jesus. Jesus-- our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Bear with me, if you will, as I share a little about some of the other gifts God has lavished upon us.

There's Mark-- wonderful husband, daddy, and an incredibly hard worker. One of my favorite perks of Mark's job is that he gets to be home every day for lunch! :) I am daily grateful to have married a man who loves Jesus first, and his family second. (Oh, and coming in at a close third: the Pittsburgh Steelers! :))

Ella, just five- is our responsible, thoughtful, compassionate, nurturing one. She brightens our lives with her chatter and her sweet spirit. She brightens our home-- quite literally-- with the dozens of cards she writes every day. She sounds out and writes many words. Soon she'll learn to read, and we're excited about that! She is a wonderful helper around the house, and always does her chores with a joyful heart.

Isaac, now three- is our laughing, singing, affectionate boy. When we asked him at Thanksgiving what he was most thankful for, he promptly said, "You guys!" (And here we thought it was milk!) He is learning to be a gentleman to his big sister, and delights us as he serves her and looks out for her. I'll bet not ten full minutes ever go by without him bursting into a worship song; his favorite is "God of Wonders."

Isaac and Ella have both learned many Bible verses this year, and it is one of our greatest joys that they are hiding His word in their little hearts.

Isaias, 21 months, has been a wonderful addition to our family this year. And it has been a full year. Today, as I write this-- December 14th-- is the day, one year ago, that we walked Isaias into our home for the first time, and placed him into the arms of his big sister, who had tirelessly prayed for his arrival.

Mark said the other day that Isaias has a "rough and tumble zeal for life", and I thought that was such an appropriate description for our little boy! Isaias has strong feelings about everything. He loves to eat, play with trains and cars, and to follow Ella around wherever she goes. He's also beginning to have hourly wrestling matches with Isaac on the living room floor, and we love to see that interaction! :)

Isaias is beginning to use more words, and we are excited for the day that he'll take off and begin chatting with us! (IF he can get a word in edgewise with his older two siblings, that is! :))

And me, well... I get the incredible privilege of taking care of these God has entrusted to me. So I spend my days cooking, cleaning, and trying to keep up with the laundry. And I pray that these children will grow to love God with all their heart, soul and strength.

Mark bought me a sewing machine this year, so I'm busy learning how to sew, and love it. I also read and write and knit, when time allows. In the fall I'll begin homeschooling Ella, and I look forward to that!

We pray daily that God would add to our family, and we are in the process of adopting again! We hope to adopt a little girl or a sibling group through the state's foster-to-adopt program, and so we wait to see whom God will set into our family within the coming year.

We wish you, our family and our friends, a wonderful Christmas as you celebrate the Gift of Jesus!

~Stacy for Mark, Ella, Isaac and Isaias

* * *

The letter was tucked into our homemade cards. (Remember? All colored by the kids? They turned out great! :))

And with those, our family photo.

I figure if four out of five of us were smiling, it was a good shot. (I think our youngest was busy sucking on the M&M I'd given him in-between takes! :)

Blessings to all of you for a wonderful Christmas!

Psalm 119:140

This verse, I found this morning:

Your promises have been thoroughly tested,
and your servant loves them.

Indeed. I do love them.

Odds and ends...

For those of you reading, you may or may not be aware that HomeschoolBlogger has recently done an upgrade. For some reason, that upgrade has made it so that the things that I used to do with ease (edit a post, read or leave comments, read others' blogs, add a link, etc) are no longer possible-- at least for the time being. And doing anything at all is reaaaaalllly slow. I know some of you have tried to leave comments and have been unable to do so. Sorry! I'm sure they're busy ironing out the kinks.

I probably won't be around much in the next couple weeks. In a few days my wonderful husband will be home for TWO WHOLE WEEKS (!!!) Yippeee!!

In the meantime I'm busy trying to get our Christmas cards out, but first-- we have to get our family photo taken. [Aaack!] And some baking, we'll do that, too. The shopping is all done, the wrapping is not.

So if I don't post again in the near future, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas as you celebrate the gift of Jesus!

Blessings to you and yours!


... one year ago today. We were on an airplane, on our way to Guatemala to pick up our son. And that plane couldn't get me there fast enough. I longed to take him into my arms and hold him-- finally.

As we traveled, I journaled.

God, You are so good! I can hardly contain my elation and joy and anticipation and giddiness. The thrill of picking up this precious gift you have given us! Thank you, gracious heavenly Father!

I love You.
I thank You.
I praise You.
My heart is singing.

And then, this:

One year. My heart nearly aches with gratitude. He knew-- long before we knew-- that this boy would be a part of our family.

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families
.... Psalm 68:5

Our son. What a delight!

So, today I add this to my One Thousand Gifts list:

736. One year with our Isaias.

On childish mistakes

Of the many things that happened at our house this morning, this was one of them: My littlest (20 mo) found a stick, came into the kitchen where I was washing dishes, and poked me, HARD, with it.

I wish I could say that I handled it well. But I can't because I didn't. I reacted in anger and disciplined my son.

Immediately afterward, I regretted my response as I remembered this from Elisabeth Elliot's devotional recently:

A word of caution: spanking, in my opinion, should be for deliberate disobedience only. When a child spills his milk or stuffs peanuts up his nose or pours your talcum powder all over the carpet, he is not being disobedient. He is only acting his age. You have not forbidden him to stuff peanuts up his nose. If you have, and he does it anyway, spank him. If, in defiance, he dumps his milk on the floor, spank him. But childish mistakes and messes must be pointed out, and by all means he should be made to rectify them or clean them up as best he can. Think of punishments that will fit the "crimes," but reserve the stick or the switch for deliberate disobedience. He will soon learn that when he defies you, a spanking follows as sure as the dawn follows the night--even if you are in church or the supermarket. Take him out to the car and spank him. Explain the whole system to him again (after the spanking), if necessary. Put your arms around him, assure him of your love, and change the subject.

I believe this wholeheartedly.

In fact, when people have asked me how to know when to administer the rod of correction, I would say this: "If you've told them NO and they do it anyway, they are defying you and need to be disciplined."

As for the stick, it may be arguable that my son knew better than to poke someone with a stick. But in hindsight, I know that he was not trying to be naughty. He was curious about this stick he'd found (if you're wondering what a stick was doing inside the house, it was actually a dowel I had lying around for some project). He picked it up and was experimenting with how to play with it. I had not told him not to touch it, not to poke me with it, etc. And yet, I reacted. As if he was willfully disobeying me. Which he wasn't.

Don't these childish mistakes happen often at your house? They do mine. My son plays with the toothpaste and ends up getting it all over himself and the entire bathroom. Because he's curious. He's seen mommy squeeze out the toothpaste; he's imitating me. Or when he's trying to "help" unload the dishwasher, like he sees me do. But the dishes are dirty, and now they're all over the place.

What a wonderful reminder to allow our children to act their age-- unless we've told them not to.

The title of this devotional is A Child's Obedience. To read it in it's entirety (and I recommend that you do!), go here. And if you're not already getting Elisabeth Elliot's daily devotionals emailed to you, I cannot emphasize enough that you should.

Have a wonderful day with your children!

Update: Or, for instance, when you're making Christmas cards and your boys discover a stamp pad and wipe it all over their hands, faces, pants, and the floor. Which is what happened about an hour after I posted this entry. And, yes... things like these-- definitely a regular occurence at our house. Good thing I'm working on my response!

The perfect tree: Part two

So. Last time I gave a bit of history about finding the perfect tree. This post will detail our adventure with this year's tree.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving arrived. It was get-our-tree day! We woke up to snow falling. It was coming down pretty good, but it was just beginning to stick. We drove to church, and as we worshiped it was snowing steadily.

After church, friends asked what we planned to do that day. When we said, "We're getting our Christmas tree", eyebrows were raised, and we got a few "be- careful" comments. My mom sent her cell phone along with us, as we are probably the only Americans who don't own one. Our plan was to go home, change into warmer clothes and then head out to the Christmas tree farm.

As we began driving out of town, a few things I noticed: The snow was very thick. It was windy. There weren't many cars out. But onward we went, driving towards the Christmas tree farm we've never been to before.

On the highway, we saw not one but many cars that had slid off the road. Everyone was driving about 10 mph. Hm. It was at this point that I began saying things to my husband like, "Honey. You know that I trust your best judgement, here. But I'm wondering if it wouldn't be best just to turn around and go home?" I tried this, too: "Don't you think maybe it would be wise for us to head home?" And this: "Sweetie. I'm just trusting you with this. And I know you are a very safe and careful driver. And I really would like a tree, but I don't really want to endanger our lives in order to get it." His response was, "We'll be fine. We're driving slow. We're fine." Now, my husband is very cautious, thoughtful and full of wisdom. I do trust him. So I pretended to rest in this particular decision and began some earnest praying. And I took some pictures out the window. Here's one of them:

By the time we were at our exit-- which was barely evident from the freeway; what with the blizzard that we were driving through and all-- we had passed 12 cars in ditches. And what would normally have taken us about 20 minutes to drive had taken us over an hour.

The kids were pretty oblivious to the fact that we were in any sort of danger. Our youngest was asleep. The other two were happily pointing out things like, "Mommy! Another car in the ditch!" Or, "Mommy! An accident!"

We neared-- to the best of our knowledge-- the Christmas tree farm. But, alas- a tree had fallen onto the road, blocking our pursuit of the perfect tree. (Unfortunately the fallen tree was far too large to strap onto our van and light up when we got home.) At this point I was sure we would treacherously attempt a U-turn and be on our way home. I repeat: a TREE fell down.

Mark put the van in park, got out, and promptly began to drag the tree off the road. Fortunately, another vehicle appeared- on the opposite side of the tree- and the driver and his two daughters went to assist Mark. I was not leaving my children. After all, if a tree could fall on the road, it could fall on us, and I surely wasn't leaving them to bear that trauma alone.

Ten minutes later, the tree aside, we pressed forward. At this point I'm really truly embarrassed at the thought of approaching the elderly couple who runs the tree farm to tell them that we are out in these elements for a Christmas tree.

Wait until you hear our lovely approach.

Finally we spotted the tree farm. We weren't sure where we were supposed to park. Certainly there were no other vehicles around to give us a heads-up. But we spotted the home, next to the trees. We saw the owners cars parked under a carport at the end of what was likely a driveway- it sloped gently down towards the house. Mark said, "I wonder where I should park?" (I'm still thinking, "We should NOT park.") But in an effort to be helpful, I said, "This looks like their driveway, doesn't it?" And he pulled in.

It became immediately clear that whether this was their driveway or not, we had made an unwise choice to pull off the road.

We were VERY stuck. And- upon inspection (whereupon I opened my door and as I did so, shoved snow along with my door- the snow was that deep), we were stuck in their front yard, not their driveway.

Mark was on a mission to get our van out. I was on a mission to hide. I was sure this couple was looking at us through their very-large-front-window. Just wait until they hear why we'd come. After a few minutes of trying to reverse up the hill, my wonderful- and very wet- husband indicated that we were going to have to dig out a path in front of our vehicle, so that we could move forward, not backwards. His words to me, "We're digging up their yard pretty bad, here."

I got out and helped him dig a path. Mark, being the resourceful guy that he is, disovered a political sign this couple had had in their yard that we had run over (the sign wasn't evevisible; the snow was covering it), and he was using that as a shovel.

We still had not made contact with the couple. By this time they were indeed peering out the front window; I'd seen them. I asked Mark to go talk with them (after all, maybe they had a real shovel?), but he said "I will in a minute." I figured we were in a race against time- the snow was still falling by the bucketful, and the conditions were pretty bad, and only getting worse. The wind was really picking up by now. So I began digging in earnest. As I dug, I was secretly hoping that when we did make contact with the tree-farm owners, we could sort of pretend that we just happened to be passing by, and kind of slipped into their yard. Nevermind our interest in their trees, for goodness sakes.

I popped in to tell the kids that we would not be getting our tree today; we were going to dig a path out and then drive home. It was too dangerous. When I headed back out to resume digging, I mentioned to Mark what I'd conveyed. Sort of a the-kids-have-been-prepared-and-they-won't-be-too-disappointed-when-we-head-for-home type of an FYI. Mark looked at me in astonishment. "What? We're not going home! We're getting our TREE!"

When my mouth dropped open, he finished with, "We're AT the tree farm, Stacy. We might as well get the tree." I couldn't really argue with the fact that we were indeed here, at the tree farm. Or more specifically, stuck.in.the.front.yard.very.close.to.the.farm, so we continued digging. After he was sure we'd cleared a nice path for our van to get out, he decided to head on over to the house of those whose yard we had just torn up. Nice. I ducked back into the van in utter embarrassment.

He knocked on the door and introduced himself to the woman. Their conversation follows:

Mark: "You'll never guess why we're here."
Woman: "Oh, I see you've slid off the road. Do you need anything?"
Mark: "No. We're actually here for our Christmas tree."
Woman: "Is there anything you need? Would you like to use our phone?"
Mark: "No, thank you. Like I said, you'll never believe it, but we're actually here to get our Christmas tree today."


Woman, (shocked): "You are?"

And then he explained about the yard, said we'd dug it up a bit in trying to reverse, and gave her our contact information and told her he would make a trip out to fix it if needed when the snow cleared. Then she went and got him a saw.

The plan was this: I was in charge of bundling up the kids for their brief trip outdoors. Mark went to scout out the Christmas tree farm.

Problem: Mark couldn't actually see much of any tree when he went out, as they were blanketed with snow.

Solution: He scurried through the the tree farm, shaking the snow off trees (so that I could have a better idea of what they looked like when I made it out there).

Then he came running back to retrieve us. He said he'd shaken the snow off 8 trees, and we'd go out and take a quick look at those ones; hopefully I'd find one I liked. He helped me get the kids out of the van.

Problem: The snow was so deep they couldn't move.

Solution: Again, kudos to my resourceful husband. The woman had given him some cardboard to use (so that he wouldn't get wet, presumably, as he cut down our tree. We were a little beyond the not-getting-wet point, but the cardboard did come in handy.) Mark quickly converted it into a sled for our two oldest, and pulled them into the Christmas tree farm. I admit, you really can't beat that.

I carried our youngest, and out we all traipsed to view the 8 newly-shaken trees. I didn't particularly see one that I liked. But it was cold. And our youngest had already lost his boot. And Mark was urging me to be quick. (The tree farm was surrounded by very tall, thin trees that were snapping like small twigs. And he'd just seen one fall completely down. And he'd heard others. And as we stood there, yes, I could hear these huge trees snapping. Wonderful.

I made a quick decision, and chose a tree for it's height. The snow was falling so heavily I could really barely tell anymore which trees he'd shaken off.

Mark kicked aside a few feet of snow and got down to cut our tree. I organized the kids and found the missing boot. And we made it back to the van. Where I wrote out a check for $20. Mark strapped the tree to the top of our van, returned the saw, and paid the dear woman. I was glad we could provide her and her husband with an entire afternoon of entertainment. Right in their front yard.

We worked a bit more to clear a space, and after about 15-20 minutes-- me driving, Mark pushing-- we made it back to the road. What a relief!

As we very slowly drove back home-- with more fervant prayers for our safety-- we saw more cars off the road. I think on our way home I counted 20 in all. And we saw a fire truck and an ambulance. And lots of tow trucks.

I couldn't help but wonder what all these people (especially those in the ditches) were thinking as they saw our van drive by. Yup, that's us. Just out for a nice Sunday drive to get our Christmas tree.

* * *

Some additional pictures... (for anyone who's still reading. My, that was a long post!)

Here's the tree, thawing in our shower


My sweetest girl

Birthdays in our family have ushered in some traditions. Traditions aside from the cake/candles/gifts/party ones (although we do those, too). One thing we do is let whoever's birthday it is choose what we're having for dinner. Another tradition of ours- begun when our daughter was one- is that for each birthday, Mark and I both write a birthday letter. Those letters go into a binder that will someday- in some form- be given to our children.

Today is my daughter's birthday. On the menu tonight was meatloaf and mashed potatoes- her choice. And here is that birthday letter.

Dearest sweet girl of mine,

You are five years old today! This morning you said to me, "Now that I'm five I'm probably too heavy for you to carry me." Nope, sweet girl... I am thankful there is strength in my arms to hold you-- even with you at the big age of five!

Why does five seem such a landmark? Five whole years. That's half a decade. I get a little teary on these occasions. It truly is going so fast.

As I prayed this afternoon over lunch, I thanked God for blessing us with your little self five years ago. Who knew then you would be such the little woman you are now? I see so many qualities God is forming in you, and my heart overflows with gratitude for how He is growing you up.

You are very responsible. You take instructions very seriously, and follow them to the letter (most of the time ;)).

You have such a nurturing spirit, tending to others' needs so well. You have this wonderful ability- even at five- to see a need and move to meet it. When I began going to prayer meetings during our lunch hour this year, all of a sudden once a week it was just you, daddy and the boys. Daddy told me later how you would walk straight to the fridge, begin pulling out leftovers, and telling him what you'd be eating. And then you would sit at the table with him, and so grown-up, say: "Daddy, how is work going? Who did you talk to at work today?" You were filling in my role. I love this.

You have the gift of service to others. You delight very much in helping- especially with your little brothers. Or with me in the kitchen. "Mommy, is there anything I can help you with?" is something I hear often. This summer you helped so much with the harvesting of our garden- snipping beans, husking corn, gathering apples, pulling carrots. And if I give you a task, or if it's time for your chore, you do it joyfully.

Your spirit is sweet and compassionate. When someone gets hurt- daddy, mommy, or your brothers, you often burst into tears right along with them. You are so empathetic.

You have an incredible memory. It really does astound your daddy and me... you remember things spoken long ago that we've since forgotten.

You are so social- always chatting. Even when it's quiet time, you are chatting with your baby or Flopsy or your dollhouse guys...

This year you have taken to answering the phone every time it rings (which I don't mind, except for when you're chattering all about what's going on at our house and I'm still wondering who it is, (and hoping it's not a stranger!)). You also love getting the mail, and you know good and well which mail is the fun mail and you tear those things open first. (This, I do mind!) And you've also taken to telling daddy all the important news of our day.

You began doing chores regularly this year, and am I ever thankful for your help! Right now you make your bed, get yourself dressed (and my oh my, you do come up with the most interesting outfits!), unload the clean silverware from the dishwasher, clean up the toys (you're my best cleaner-upper), clear the table, put your dirty clothes away, and recently: sort and fold all your own laundry! In addition to all those things, you are often running to and fro for mommy- retrieving a diaper, helping your brothers turn on a light, assisting in finding something, etc. What I am especially thankful for is your happy heart as you help. Thank you, my sweet girl. May your hands never tire in loving and serving others.

This past year we went through the ABC Bible Verses book, and you learned all those verses with such ease, we have tagged on many new verses. We continue to marvel at your ability to remember God's Word, and are so thankful you are hiding these words of life in your heart. Oh, how I pray that you will love God's Word. And that you will not be just a hearer, (and a knower) but a doer, too.

You joined me many times for my quiet times this year. There are days that I head off with my Bible and my journal, and you come in moments later with your Bible, and your "journal". You have joined me, laying on your tummy on my bed, praying with me for others. Your prayers are earnest, and full of faith. Your prayers are also consistent, and I have learned much from you in this. While I tire of bringing the same requests before God, you never do. You pray for the same thing, over and over and over again. Many times a day. More than any other thing, I pray that your love for Jesus and your trust in Him will grow.

Some days you will crawl into bed with me and take a nap. Oh, how I love this. It reminds me of when you were a little baby and you'd nurse and then fall asleep beside me. And I look upon your dear face and am so, so thankful. You are a joy, my girl.

This year you began sitting with us through our church service. This was instigated by you, (yet as I ponder this I wonder that it wasn't God's idea, surfacing through you wanting to be near us.) What a delight it has been to have you worshiping beside us. I have learned from you in this, too. You come to church, ready to worship. You take your coat or sweater off, climb atop your chair, and immediately raise your hands in praise to God. No matter the song. Or if you know the words or tune. :) You belt it out, delighting me and surely your Father in heaven who hears your voice. You listen to the sermon, too- and mark in your journal your own "notes". You- always my shy girl in groups- have grown in this, too. At church you are confident beside us, and shake hands and smile and give hugs and run across the church to greet Grandpa and Grandma and Gary and Diana.

I love you so much, my Ella girl. Happy birthday to you. I am thankful for a year full of precious memories with you.

Happy to be your


On taking time

Yesterday was a difficult day. It wasn't that my children were especially difficult. I'd say it was a fairly average day as far as disobedience goes.

My oldest two (three and four years old) touched the little lights on our front window. They know not to touch them. And I spoke harshly to them. Okay, I yelled.

My youngest (19 months) climbed atop the toy chest for the umpteenth time that day. Not to mention the too-many-to-count other times he gets up there, every other day. And each time he is sternly told "No" and gets disciplined. He knows better! And I was angry at him for not getting it. Again.

And then there's my three-year old, who dawdles at every opportunity. How many times do I have to repeat myself? All without any movement whatsoever on his part. Sometimes I wonder if he's heard me at all.

There were other things, too. But it wasn't the issues themselves, it was my response to these things that was wrong. I knew that it was me.

I talked to my husband about my day late last night, and he listened. I told him about the times the children had disobeyed , and what my response had been. I told him- through regretful tears- of my impatience, my exasperation, my frustration with the kids.

He said something then about how it takes time to do it right. And time is difficult to come by as a mother who is pulled in three different directions every day. (Or more. After all, if it's not my children who need my attention, it's the laundry piling up, the ringing phone, the dishes filling up the sink, a meal that needs to be made... and a myriad of other things.)

But what he said about time was exactly what I needed to hear. That's what I've been missing of late: taking the time to discipline properly. Bibically.

Instead I have spun around from my duties in the kitchen, witnessed an offense, abruptly (and in frustration) administered discipline. I have reacted. I have sinned in my words, in my tone and in my anger. I have neglected to stop what I am doing, take my child aside, and take the time. To ask questions. Listen and understand. Consult God's Word together. Administer the rod of correction. Pray. Hug.

I am so thankful that His mercies are new every morning. Today I get to start afresh. And I purpose- with God's help- to do it right.


Ugh. I am blowing it today as a mama.

Lord, strengthen me. Fill me with Your love, grace, patience, compassion and kindness. May I be slow to anger. As You are.

But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. (Psalm 86:15)

Shape me, I pray.

May I choose a soft-spoken word over a harsh one.

Kindness instead of crabbiness.

A smile instead of a frown.

Patience in place of my impatience.

Thank you for entrusting me with these little ones. May I be faithful to honor you today in my calling as a mother.

The perfect tree

Yesterday after church we set out in search of the perfect Christmas tree. I want to be absolutely clear that the perfect Christmas tree, in my humble opinion, can not be an artificial one. And. One more thing: I don't think anyone should peruse the tied-up pre-cut varieties at any store or stand and purchase one of those. They are simply inferior. (Like I said, in my humble opinion.)

Without fail, for as long as I can remember, the weekend after Thanksgiving is when you would spot my family-- my dad, mom, my older sister, me, and my younger two brothers--traipsing through the cold Christmas tree farm, hunting for the perfect tree. Ahem. My mom's version of the perfect tree. For those of you new to this type of hunt: To find the perfect tree means that you have to rule out every other tree.

As it happens it was usually pouring down rain, and the tree farm we frequented had a valley in the middle of it, boasting some very evident drainage problems. So getting to the other side of the lake (which is where the perfect tree surely sat, according to my mom) was an adventure to say the least. Each one of us had our work cut out for us to try to convince mom that this one, here, was it. Right? The perfect tree. Before we got to the lake.

Really, as a young girl- any tree was sufficient as long as we could get back to the warmth of the car straightaway. But my mom had the deciding vote. And my mom is the most indecisive person on the planet. "Oh, I don't know. Do you think it's too sparse right there at the bottom of the tree? Maybe. I think so. Where was that other one...? No, not the first one, but the second one. Remember? The one I said I liked? Let's go look at that one again." And so off we'd go.

Over the years we developed a system. We'd get out and scour the lot, marking all the possibilities. (With leaves, rope, a twig, whatever we could find...) Then we'd go back to each one and finally, after about an hour or so had passed, my dad would say something like, "Okay, honey. Really. I think we've seen them all, now. Time to choose one." And so she'd narrow it down- to maybe the final two or three choices- and then on our way back to the one she'd decided we could cut down and take home, she'd spot a few other possibilities.

Somehow we always came home with a tree. The perfect tree.

Now, I don't know how this happened--it's not like I consciously decided that my husband and children should endure the same thing as I did growing up--but I do happen to have a very clear picture in my own mind of what the "perfect tree" is. And so the tradition continues.

I meant to detail our own hunt here in this post, but... this is far too long already so I'll do that next time.

[Photo courtesy of the stock.xchng]

Saturday gratitude

540. snow!

541. the exuberance of E & I upon peering outside this morning
542. snow nestled in the trees
543. a Creator who thought of snow
544. making a snowman. at 7:40 in the morning.
545. my children all bundled up
546. cold fingers and toes that are certain to be warmed
547. hot cocoa with marshmellows
548. the paper snowflakes we plan to make today. (Thank you, Ann!)

[Snowflake photo courtesy of the stock.xchng.]


A couple of months ago, on a Sunday afternoon, my husband said this: "Would it be a blessing to you if on my day off, I planned the menu, made the meal and you could have a break?"

I envisioned trying to take a break in our house while he was in the kitchen making dinner and watching all three children. The three children that would surely end up wherever I was taking my break. And the husband who may get exasperated in the kitchen. What I was envisioning wasn't much of a break.

Then he continued, "You'd have to leave the house. And you can't run errands. You could go to the fabric store, get some coffee and read a book, go shopping... "

Yes. He actually said those things. An offer like this is not a regular occurence at my house. I was nearly speechless.

"Well, YEAH. That would absolutely be a blessing. I would love that!"

And so I had two days to look forward to this break. (Which is part of the gift, in my opinion. The having-time-to-anticipate it.)

On Tuesday afternoon, Mark asked, "What time would you like to eat dinner?"

I said, "5:30". He said "It will be ready."

I left the house at around 3:45, heading for the fabric store.

At 5:20 I was home, and found Mark in the kitchen, dinner nearly ready, the table nearly set, and the children happily playing. We ate a delicious meal. As we ate, I tried to express my gratitude for such a gift (such a gift, by the way, that he is offering not once a year or once a month, even. But once a week!?!?!). I was searching for a word to describe how great it was but couldn't find it. So I said things like, "I feel like a queen..., this is just so huge..., such a luxury..." Mark smiled and was clearly delighted to have blessed me so much.

Later, he was cleaning up the kitchen (having instructed me not to even think of cleaning up; he would do it!!!), and again I tried to find the word. This time, I thought of it. Extravagant. I felt overwhelmed; this gift seemed so extravagant to a practical girl like me.

It was at that moment that I remembered something.

About a week prior to that I'd been reading about God's love for us. How full; how lavish His love is.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:17-19)

One of the questions in my Bible study was this:

If you can't think of an occasion when you felt lavished in the love of God, ask Him to make you more aware. God's love is demonstrative. Ask Him to widen your spiritual vision so that you can behold unexpected evidences of God's amazing love.

So I did that. I asked God to make me more aware of the magnitude of His love for me.

I'd forgotten I had asked Him. Until that moment.

Sitting at the kitchen table, expressing to Mark how grateful I was for the extravagance of his love for me, I remembered. It was then that I recognized that this was God's love for me, expressed through my husband. That extravagant, overwhelming-to-me, lavish gift was God's gift to a tired mama of three little ones. To me, Stacy. His child whom He loves so deeply.


Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! ~Matthew 7:7-11

Still thanking Him...

...sinking my bare feet into fluffy bath rugs...a newly mopped floor...Mark's clean-shaven face...our kitchen table...the shelter of our home on a cold day... that gust of warm air that greets me as I step in from the cold ...kids who crawl into bed with us on early mornings...whispering children in church...our porch swing...our oven...Christmas shopping almost done!...grocery carts with room for two children...our digital camera... naps/quiet time at our house...my boys' brown eyes...Mark's Bible stories with the kids at bedtime... very little debt...Mark's faithfulness...authenticity in others...hardwood floors...my wedding ring...Marks' wedding band...inside jokes within our family... the hope of heaven...the gift of rest on the Sabbath...Amy's pregnancy...board games with Mark...

Praying for the nations

When we were in the process of adopting our son from Guatemala, we bought a set of maps at Costco. We put the world map on top of our table and then covered it with a clear tablecloth. We spent a lot of time pointing to Guatemala on the map, and showing our children where it was in relation to where we live, and talking about how daddy and mommy would go there to pick up their new baby brother. In addition to all the attention Guatemala got, our map made for great conversation when we had guests over. Where have you been? Where would you most like to visit? Where do you not have a desire to travel, ever? Which country would you like to learn more about? Which country would you adopt from?

I soon tired of it covering our table, so I moved it. (Perhaps because my husband's favorite game was to quiz me on geography and countries, and I tell you, those are not my gifts. :))

It now hangs on the wall near our kitchen table. We're using it for something a little different these days...

We came home one night recently after hearing the Uganda Children's Choir sing. Our children were anxious to talk about the children from Uganda; what they looked like, how they sang and danced, and where was Uganda? I said we would find it on the map when we got home. And then I suggested that we should remember to pray for the country of Uganda, because so many of the children there are homeless and orphaned. The following night we pointed out Uganda on the map, and prayed after dinner for the people of Uganda.

This experience made me think: we should do this more often. So I ordered the book Operation World by Patrick Johnstone.

For those of you who aren't familiar with this book, Operation World is a global prayer guide. It is a wonderful resource that informs readers how to most effectively pray for each country.

We've begun using it in conjunction with our map, to pray for people around the world. My original idea was to have one of our children choose a country- by pointing on the map- each night as we sat down to dinner. Then after dinner, Mark or I would thumb through the pages for that country and choose one or two prayer requests, share them with our children, and go around the table, each of us taking our turn to pray for the needs of that particular country.

My original plan of every-night-after-dinner isn't happening. After all, we're still trying to get into the habit of having family devotions after dinner, too. And we often forget that. I suggested to my husband that we do it every other night (the night we're not doing family devotions, we'll pray). But so far we're averaging about once a week. (Which is more than what we were doing before!)

We have prayed for the countries of Uganda, Russia, Brazil, Japan, Madagascar and Canada-- each at the request of one of our children.

There is such value in giving our children a heart for the nations; in taking their eyes off the world as they know it and praying for those who are orphaned, dying, living in tremendous poverty, and worshipping other gods. It has been a joy for us to hear the prayers offered up by our children on behalf of the people from these countries.


I have two friends I used to work with. One is single, never married, no children. One is married and has a little daughter (1), and works full-time. Occasionally I meet one or both of them for dinner. Always, they ask something like, "So... what do you DO during the day?" I smile, because their tone implies that what they're really asking is this: "Isn't it boring to be home all day?"

I thought of this again this morning as I finally sat down. Out of curiosity, I spent a couple minutes remembering-- than jotting down what we'd done so far:

-Alarm goes off at 6:20, I'm up.

-I leave to go walking with my mom.

-Back in the house, I hear that our youngest is awake in his crib.

-I see my husband off to work. I hop into the shower.

-Shower is interrupted a couple of minutes later by the pitter-patter of littlefeet. First, my daughter (4) , then my oldest son (3). I peek my head out to say good morning and give them wet kisses.

-They exit the bathroom to check on little brother (1), leave the door open. Steam from my hot shower sets off the smoke alarm.

-I scramble out of the shower, alarm is stopped, I get dressed.

-I get our youngest son out of bed.

-Change both boys' diapers.

-Oldest son's jammies are wet; we head downstairs to find some clothes. Find them in the hampers of clean laundry that are sitting in front of the dryer; waiting to be carried upstairs. (Laundry days at our house are Monday and Tuesday. It's Friday. None of our laundry has been folded or put away for the week. And I'm sure if I checked, there's a load that has been sitting in the washing machine for a couple of days.)

-Get oldest son dressed.

-Grab wrapping paper, tape and scissors and wrap gifts for a birthday party we're going to later in the morning.

-Send my daughter to get crayons, get the kids busy coloring on the wrapping paper while I try to load the dishwasher. (I like to start my day with a clean kitchen and we had a birthday party to go to last night so it didn't get done.)

-Phone rings. It's my mom. Her hairdryer broke, can she come over and use mine? Yes.

-I get the kids snuggled on the couch to watch Zoboomafu, mom comes in.

-Mom dries her hair, we chit-chat for a few minutes, she leaves, kids say goodbye from the couch.

-I head to finish loading up the dishwasher, hoping I'll have some time to check email, too... while the kids are watching TV.

-My daughter realizes grandma just left. And she wanted to wave goodbye from the window. I told her it was too late; grandma was already gone. She begins to cry. I ask her to stop. She's distracted by the TV. I turn the TV off, send her to my room for a time-out.

-I turn the TV back on for the boys, go to talk with my daughter.

-My daughter's time-out has now turned into a need to administer the rod of correction. I do that. I then ask her to sit on my bed quietly for a few minutes and think of her attitude.

-I go check email (3 min), bring clothes for my daughter on the way up the stairs (also found in hampers!)

-Go into our room to pray with her, remind her of this verse: "A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control" . I hug her. The boys interrupt us once, as Zoboo is now over. I tell them to wait in the living room for us. They obey, but then we hear some commotion while Ella is praying for wisdom and self-control. Both boys are crying and making their way back to us.

-We wrap up; I find out that my younger son had bitten my older son on the hand, so he retaliated by biting my younger son back- on the arm. I check both boys' arms; they're fine. I give a stern reprimand to crying younger son, and a swat. Send oldest son to the room to await discipline. Daughter is getting dressed.

-I talk to my older son about how he should not retaliate if he is bitten, hit, or pushed. I lead him in a prayer where he confesses that he made trouble with his brother by biting, and asks God to strengthen him in kindness and love. He is disciplined and goes to make things right with his brother.

-It is way past time for breakfast.

-I go to make pancakes.

-Oldest son is requesting a cup of milk, daughter would like a cup of water with ice. As I'm getting those (and making pancakes), I notice that the ice cube trays need to be refilled. I do that.

-While they eat, I finally get the dishwasher loaded.

-By the time I'm done, the kids are done and need to be cleaned up. I stall them so I can sit and eat.

-I look at the clock.

It is 9:30.

Boring? Nah. Our days are pretty eventful, actually!

Homemade bread

I've always wanted a really good bread recipe. Until recently, I was having trouble finding one. Either people rave about their recipe but won't share it with you because they're sworn to secrecy, or you're at a restaurant and they simply don't give out their recipes, or you find a recipe, make it, and the bread is too dense.

I've finally found a really good bread recipe, and I am happy to share it. It makes four round loaves, and this bread is delicious. Honey instead of sugar, white and whole wheat flour and oats. Mmmm. Try it. I guarantee it will be worth your time. And really, this is an easy recipe.

Honey-oat bread

3 cups milk
1/2 cup honey
4 T. butter or margarine
1 tsp. salt
2 T. yeast
1 cup oats
6 cups white flour, unbleached
2 cups whole wheat flour

Scald milk in a small pan. Pour hot milk into a large mixing bowl and add honey, butter and salt. Stir occasionally until lukewarm. Sprinkle yeast over milk. When dissolved (and slightly bubbly):

Add oats, whole wheat flour, and 2 cups of white flour. Beat until combined. Gradually add remaining 4 cups of white flour. Beat (I use my hands at the end) until the dough is smooth, elastic and non-sticky.

Turn dough onto a floured surface, knead till smooth.

Wash and lightly oil mixing bowl. Put dough in, cover. Let rise until double.

Punch dough, form into four loaves. Cover and let rise again.

Brush with beaten egg.

Bake @ 350 for 20 minutes (*I remove from the oven at 17 min, so check it early)

Our Thanksgiving journal

As I was growing up, my mom instituted a Thanksgiving tradition. One evening prior to Thanksgiving day, our family would gather around the table and make a family thanksgiving tree.

Basically, we drew a big tree on a poster-sized piece of paper, dated it, and then we'd each grab markers and write down things we were thankful for-- usually just a short phrase or even one word. When we were done, mom would hang it up near our table and there it would remain for the next month or two... a daily reminder of the things our family was grateful for.

I loved doing this, and wanted to have a tradition similar to that in our home. I wasn't quite sold on the tree-on-a-paper idea, although Mark and I tried that for a couple years when we were first married. What I didn't like about that format was that I wanted to save them from year to year, and I didn't want another stack of papers- least of all poster-sized papers.

When our daughter was born, I came up with the idea to make a family Thanksgiving journal. We basically do the same thing-- record the things we're thankful for-- we just do them in a spiral-bound book, and each family member gets a page.

It's really a sort of family scrapbook-- we use words and photos. Each year I begin the new section by using a page to mark the year, and then the following page is Mark's, the next page mine, and so on. We take an evening and work on it together. Our children get to color on their pages, too- and choose their own photos. We help them think of the things they are thankful for-- and obviously two of our three children can't write, yet-- we write for them.

Ella's pages, last year

Our Thanksgiving journal sits on an end table in our home during the month of November. Others have the opportunity to peruse it when they're in our home, and of course our children look through it frequently. And it is a delight to look back at the things God has done in our family through the years.

I'd love to hear some of your Thanksgiving traditions!

One Thousand Gifts

One of my favorite bloggers, Ann from Holy Experience, writes:

"As the moments slip down the hour glass of time, I am scratching down the gifts---just as they happen, as they arrive, as they are unwrapped---that He has given that make my life grace, the daily graces that He gives in an infinite number of ways, that stir me."

Head over to Holy Experience and read this post. And this one. And this one, too. Aren't you inspired? I was.

I've begun my own list of One Thousand Gifts. A couple times last week I grabbed my journal and took it with me to the kitchen. As I washed dishes or made dinner, I pondered the gifts God has lavished upon me. I'd get a running list in my head and then quickly dry off my soapy hands or pause in my meal-making, pick up my pen, and jot them down. I'm on number 236, and counting... up to one thousand.

So, some snippets from my ever-growing list:

....crisp fall leaves crunching beneath my feet....a fresh bouquet of flowers....flickering candles....grandma slippers....the rice bag that keeps my feet warm when I crawl into bed....seeing my children raise their hands in praise...and lift their voices to sing-- if too loud or off-key....how "I" puts his hands on my cheeks and pulls my face toward him to give me a kiss...beginning a good book.... little arms wrapped tightly around my neck.... a hot bubble bath....the patch of sunlight that falls on the floor from our front windows.... love notes on the bathroom mirror.... rearranged furniture.... praying with Mark.... obedient children.... pajamas.... hearing grandpa's prayers.... my daughter's handwriting-- big, mishapen capital letters.... binding that final stitch to clear the knitting needles.... photos of loved ones.... early morning walks with my mom.... our home.... memory.... stacks of folded laundry....
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!--Psalm 118:1

Got a shoe box?

I'm super excited about something we're going to be doing in the next week or two. We're participating in Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of Samaritan's Purse. Have any of you ever done this? It looks like so much fun. I know my children will love this. You, too, can do this. Here's how:

1. Find a shoe box.

2. Decide if your gift is going to be for a boy or a girl, and choose the age of the child. (This is fun because that way your children can choose children their ages!)

3. Fill the shoe box with gifts appropriate for the child. There is a list of ideas on the right-hand column of this page. You can even wrap the box, as long as you wrap the lid separately.

4. Donate $7 for shipping and project costs.

5. Drop off your filled shoe box(es) at a nearby location. To find the drop-off location nearest you, go here and type in your zip code.

The drop off dates are November 13th-20th, so now is the time to get moving on this!

So.... what are you waiting for? Got a shoe box? Like to shop?

Join our family as we wrap some Christmas gifts early this year... and bless some needy children in the process!

*Any additional questions about Samaritan's Purse or Operation Christmas Child can be answered by checking out their website.

As for blogging...

... I am back.

When I wrapped this up a little over a month ago, I really did think it was the end. I just re-read that post. My question then was this, "Is blogging a pursuit that God is pleased with in my life?"

You know what? It wasn't. Quite frankly, blogging had become too much in my life. I cared too much what people thought in the blogosphere. My thoughts resided here when they should have been elsewhere. One too many times, I was saying, "Just a minute" to one of my children who waited near my elbow as I blogged. By the time I got back to them, some 15 minutes later, they didn't have the same question. Or I was impatient or crabby at their interruption.

I'll be the first one to tell you that I lack discipline. It's a tough one for me. It's why my house is full of clutter. It's why I rarely get up early to pray even though I want to. It's why I begin projects but leave them unfinished for months (okay, sometimes years).

I knew that God was nudging me to lay blogging down, but I wasn't sure why. The day after I wrote my final post, my Bible study was on "Tearing Down the High Places." I puzzled then if I had any high places to tear down. By the end of the study, I knew the why of it. This whole blogging venture had become an idol in my life.

I hesitate to even use the word idol because my fear is that some of you will think, "Sheesh. That girl must have been on the computer ALL THE TIME." I wasn't, truly. I was not addicted to the computer, I was not neglecting my husband or my children. (Overall. There were moments. Check confessions three paragraphs up.)

I never would have used the word idol before in this context. It's not like I was worshipping my computer. And yet, this. From my study that day: "Our thoughts can be held captive to someone or something that builds up our egos or satisfies our fleshly appetites. Simply put, captivating thoughts are controlling thoughts-- things you find yourself meditating on too often." And this: "Satan fights dirty. He jumps on anything that could keep you from centering your thoughts on Christ." And the reminder that the object of our thoughts itself (in my case, blogging) is not necessarily sin. "The sin lies in the exaltation of it in our own minds." (all quotes are from Beth Moore)

So this blogging thing- a good thing- was captivating my thoughts. I recognized it as a high place and found comfort in this:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

A week or so later (after that final post) I realized that maybe it wasn't a permanent thing, this end to blogging. Maybe that nudging was soley for the purpose of removing that high place. And me being the task-oriented person I am, wanted to pick it right back up: High place removed, back to blogging. But I wanted to make sure God would bless that. So I set some parameters:

- I would not blog for an entire month..

- I would not move forward unless I had Mark's full support. And his encouragement to do so.

- I would move our computer from it's centrally-located place in our home (where it has proven to be a distraction) to another room. Downstairs, in the basement, as it resides now.

- I would email some women I respect in the blogosphere and seek their wisdom and insight. Women who blog regularly and have been doing so for some time. (Not regarding my situation, necessarily, but on blogging in general.) What were their guidelines, their time-restrictions, what have they learned? etc...

- I would continue to pray and seek God's wisdom on whether or not I should pick it back up.

A couple of weeks ago I told Mark, "I could take it or leave it, truthfully." I was no longer pining to get to the computer. Which was such a good place to be. And I was perfectly fine with the idea that I was done.

That gradually changed. I found that I wanted to continue writing here. I kept having more I wanted to share with you, dear readers. (If you're still there, that is.)

So, I begin again. I continue to pray that my time here (along with every other usage of my time) will be honoring to God, and that this small offering of my writing might bring encouragement to some of you.

Things are a little different. My computer is in a different spot. I have set some computer restrictions for myself. (No blogging (writing, reading, or checking comments) while the kids are awake, basically.) I will not be posting every day. I've removed the sitemeter.

I considered removing the comments function, too, but for now I've decided to keep it. Yesterday I stumbled across this quote, from C.S. Lewis:

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You, too? Thought I was the only one." That is one of the things I really appreciate-- hearing from you via the comments and finding out, "What! You, too?"

So...how are all of you? I've missed you.


Thank you for stopping by...

Whether you've come for the first time or have been here before, I'm glad you're here.

Thank you to all of you who wrote such encouraging comments on my last post. I'm not sure that I'm done blogging here. Still praying about that one. In the meantime, you can check out the archives or the links on the sidebar.

Blessings to each and every one of you!

The End

*2006 post*

I was flipping through my journal the other day and realized it has been nearly a year since I gave up watching TV. I say 'give up' because I was pretty sure God wanted me to stop watching TV, but I fought it. I sort of liked my shows. I spent some time trying to negotiate. You know- How about if I give up the shows I don't really care about as much? The ones I won't miss as much? Or I'll record them so I'm not a slave to the TV schedule. But I'll only record SOME. Or, Maybe just for a season. I wanted to hold onto it.

And yet, stronger than my desire to watch my shows was my desire to obey my God. Finally I relented and said, "Okay. If this is You, calling me to obedience in this, that's enough for me." And that was it. I haven't watched TV since. I mean, a few minutes here and there. And a Pittsburgh Steelers game with my husband from time to time. But, no more shows. And oh, has it been good. The absence of TV ushered in a hunger in me for more of Him. And that pursuit has been so much richer than any show ever. Obviously.

The TV screen no longer has a place in my life, but now there's another screen that beckons me. You know. The computer screen. Ours sits here in our living room (where we happen to do most of our living). And I like to pop in throughout the day. I really do like this blogging thing. I like writing. I like the comments. I like to read other blogs. I like to glean ideas and tips and recipes and resources from so many of you. I like the comraderie. The like-mindedness of so many of you in the blogosphere. All of these virtual friends I've made. :)

And yet. The question on my heart again and again has been this:

Is blogging a pursuit that God is pleased with in my life? I'm not sure what the answer is to that. And in all honesty, I think I've been afraid that if I really asked, I would find that yes, indeed, God would have me cease doing this (He's a jealous God, after all) and I don't want to give it up. And so I've kept blogging. And lately I find myself going into negotiating-mode once again. I'll just be more disciplined. I won't post every day. This is a good thing, right?

I have learned much here. Have I given much? I don't know. Is this activity in my life glorifying God? I don't know. I would hope and pray so. But I simply don't know.

And. The question remains. Is this pleasing to God? It gives me pause. Last night and today, I feel this nudging to lay it down, to set it aside. I'm not entirely sure that God is saying, "No, Stacy. No more blogging." I'm not nearly as convinced as I was about the TV-thing. That was kind of a no-brainer, but this? This is a good thing. But a good thing can also be a distraction from Him.

Paul and Timothy wrote to the church in Colosse:

"We pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God."

That is my heart. To live a life worthy of the Lord. To please Him in every way. To bear fruit in every good work. To grow in the knowledge of Him. Oh, that is my fervant prayer. I want nothing to distract me from that pursuit.

That, more than this.

And so this will be my final post. Because if God is calling me away from this and closer to Him, I want to obey.

But I do plan to see what you're blogging about, Kendra. (And if I'm ever in California, I just may knock at your door. I mean, if I can find you. For a game of Settlers, you know. :)) And so many others... I will come and read and comment. Rebeca. Ann. Dana. Michelle. Linda. Joni. Jen. Stacy. Sandi. Ali. (Er, so I'm really not leaving, after all! Nah... I am. But I will check in- maybe just on a weekly basis, though.) You, and so many others, who have come here to read and to comment. And you have written things that have encouraged me in my pursuit as a wife, mother and homemaker. I thank you.

I plan to keep pursuing and loving Jesus. And my husband. And the little flock He has entrusted to me. Those things I KNOW are pleasing to Him.

ps- Can I just say that I feel a little choked up over this? (And a bit teary, even.)

On daddies

*2006 post*

This past week my daughter (4) and I were sitting on my bed. I was sorting socks. She had just finished 'nursing' her dolly quietly and was now tucking the baby into bed. She was telling me all about her baby and was being such a sweet, nurturing "mama".

I commented- as I often do, "Honey, you are going to be such a good mama someday." I then added, "I wonder if God will give you sons, daughters, or both?"

Then I said, "When you get married and want to go on a date with your husband (Mark and I had done this earlier in the week), you can bring your children to grandma's house and I can take care of them for you!"

She was pondering this all with a very serious expression. She finally said, "It's going to be hard to find someone to marry when I get bigger."

I asked, "Why do you think that?" And she said, "Because all the daddies are already married."

Can I get an instruction booklet, please?

*2006 post*

There is a household task I cannot seem to figure out. I have determined, over and over again, to complete this task. And yet no matter how many different ways I've tried it, no matter how many times I've done it, it evades me. My attempts to complete this task result in utter frustration on my part. And 9 times out of 10, I end up calling for my husband to come and take over.

Are you curious?

It is this: Putting The Duvet Cover On Our Down Comforter. The task itself sounds simple enough. I assure you, it is not. This task is not for the faint of heart. (Thus, not for me, apparently, since I always end up giving up in exasperation.)

And yet. I begin confidently, every time. I even give myself a little pep talk as I proceed. This is very simple, Stacy. What we're going to do is this: Hold onto the left-hand corner of the comforter, and reach into the duvet cover. When you get into the corresponding corner, grab both corners (comforter and duvet) and hold tightly. There. Now go for the other corner. Grab both of those corners. Hold very tightly. Now, shake it out.

It is at this point that I realize that while my first reaching for the corner attempt was successful, my second corner attempt was not. I always end up with the wrong corner of the duvet.

For a visual, imagine the diagram below as my duvet cover. I am standing at the foot of our bed, near the C and D corners. My goal is to reach for corners A and B. However, I invariably end up holding on (for dear life, I might add) to corners A and D. The B corner is the problem.



What is it about this seemingly simple task that I cannot seem to wrap my brain around? Is it the sheer size of these two items? Do I need longer arms? A map?

Don't even suggest the whole turn-it-inside-out approach. Do you think I haven't tried that? I saw those step-by-step directions in a Martha Stewart: Living magazine years ago. I pored over those directions. Probably even tore out the page and brought it into the bedroom with me, consulting it as I went along. IT DOES NOT WORK. Not for me, anyway.

If I weren't so attached to my down comforter, I would toss it out for a quilt in a heartbeat. But I happen to be very attached to my down comforter, so the problem persists.

Last night, I gave up again in exasperation. Mark dutifully came in to rescue me. I came back into the room as he was finishing The Awful Task. So I asked him, "What do you DO?" He began to carefully explain his procedure. He started by saying that he turns the cover inside out. I rolled my eyes. And then he said this, "..and then I climb inside with the comforter." I had just taken a drink of water and I literally spit it back into my cup I was laughing so hard. The image of my husband- all six feet, six inches of him- climbing inside our duvet cover has me shaking with laughter even now. How could I have missed this event so many times? Now I can't wait for the next installment of Putting The Duvet Cover On Our Down Comforter. I plan to snag a front row seat.

Christmas cards: cast your vote!

*2006 post*

In my last post, I invited you to vote on our family Christmas cards this year.

Before you view the options, please keep in mind that I kept them simple. (I just don't have it in me to tackle embossing powder with preschoolers. Or little eyelets, for that matter. Though I'm sure my son would have been mighty excited about the hammer I use for pounding those in.)

For our 2006 Christmas-card-making-venture, here's what we (me with my two-year old and four-year old) came up with:

#1 (This one I colored, but wouldn't for the actual cards)

#2 (The Merry Christmas is on the inside)

#3 (Obviously very similar to #1, just with deckled edge scissors on the red paper, and the Merry Christmas and snowman have changed places. And it was colored by my daughter).

#4 (Merry Christmas is on the inside)

#5 (I tried to limit the coloring pencils to the greens and reds, but my son got ahold of the orange pencil for this card! :))

Okay, cast your vote for card #1, #2, #3, #4 or #5. I'll give it one week, tally up the votes and proceed! :)

Have a wonderful day!

Making Christmas cards

*2006 post*

Once a year I let myself "splurge" at the stamp store. I go in for the sole purpose of purchasing a stamp (or two) to make Christmas cards with. Then I head to the paper store and get the paper and envelopes I need.

I really like making our Christmas cards, and it's a tradition I plan to keep. Making cards is something I used to do it a lot, but it's rare that I ever have the time anymore. I look forward to this time a year when I get to be creative and make cards.

When I get to our stamp store, I first walk around and look. There are many cards made and hanging up above the stamp displays, so I look for elements I like in those cards. I glean ideas, and try to get my own "vision" for what kind of card to make. Once I have a rough idea, I search for a stamp to use within the framework of that idea.

This year I decided that I wanted our children to help me make our Christmas cards. When I headed to the store, I was looking for something that would:

a) be appealing to them, and
b) be something they will be able to help me with

This is what I came home with:

I usually experiment a bit with the stamp(s), papers and colors in an effort to determine what I like best (or, what is easiest to mass-produce!) I generally make up a few cards and then ask my husband to choose the one he likes best.

Well, this year I thought I might open up the voting... to YOU! Tomorrow I'm going to post pictures of the five options I've come up with and let you vote on which one you like best. (Does this sound fun to anyone but me?) The card that gets the most votes is the one I'll make in bulk and send out for our Christmas cards this year.

Another craft idea

*2006 post*

Are you familiar with those bags of Chex Mix snacks? You know, the ones with the chex cereals and the bagel chips and all that yummy seasoning? And all the different flavors they come up with? They've got the Traditional flavor but then they also have Honey Nut and Peanut Butter and Caramel Crunch? Here. These:

Mmmm. I like those. I personally prefer the salty ones but I realize some of you may be prone to the sweet varieties. There's only one part of those party mixes that I don't like. The pretzels. I appreciate all the other stuff, but the pretzels I can do without. My children eat around them, too. My husband will eat the pretzels but only because he wants a snack and all the 'good stuff' is already gone.

Recently I was munching away and ended up staring at the remaining pretzels in the bowl. I tried to convince my brother-in-law to eat them, and he ate a few, and then I had this great idea so yanked the bowl away from him to rescue the pretzels. The next day we made these projects:

Now scroll back up and look at that Chex Mix bag pictured above. See the other type of pretzel offered? We didn't have those last time! Next time we're making houses. With windows.

*I realize some of you may not eat Chex Mix, or may even like the pretzels that are in these. But you can still get crafty. There are always cheerios. Or buttons. Or pennies. Or little pieces of paper cut out in the right shapes. And you can skip the cars and make trains! (What child wouldn't think that would be fun?)