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Celebrating Christ’s Coming

Christmas is such a wonderful time of year! A celebratory time to reflect upon the arrival of Christ into our fallen human world. He came to establish His kingdom on this earth, and although He is not physically present, He continues His work of bringing about His kingdom and it will be completed at His return. It is interesting how humbly He came. Have you ever thought it funny that the kings came and brought gifts and the shepherds heard and welcomed the Messiah…but then we do not hear of these men any further. As far as we know, they did not go about and declare this good news! It is not until thirty years later that people finally start acknowledging the Savior. And even then He is put to death only three years later. Praise God that although He came and lived in such humility, He is now reigning in heaven as the Lamb that was slain for the sins of the world!

Here are a few resources and ideas that we have found helpful:

Advent Reading – This year we have been reading through Watch for the Light by a compilation of different authors (C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, etc.) on the advent and meaning of Christmas. It is very good and insightful. We have our advent wreath as our centerpiece at our table, but we don’t necessarily always read around it. We bring the book with us in the car to read while driving or in our bedroom before turning out the lights. I recommend it! It may be a little deep for little ones, but then it gives our hubby’s opportunity to truly teach and expand upon it. Aaron has had to do this for me many times already. ;) This is a picture of our advent wreath. I bought the wreath and a simple garland that I stuffed in it after Christmas last year when everything went on sale. I like the red and white candle theme, although many people do purple, pink and white.

Jesus Gift – I mentioned this a little while ago. This is a special way to minister to a specific need in your church body this Christmas!

Thankfulness Box – a few year back our family designated a basket throughout the month of December in which we would write down special memories that had transpired throughout the year. Every time a memory came to one of us we would write it on a slip of paper, fold it up, and put it in the basket. As we took turns opening gifts on Christmas morning, we would each read one of the memories and reflect on all the blessings that God had poured out on us throughout the year. It was a time to reminisce and remember times together as a family. It was wonderful!

Neighbor Gifts – Last year, a few close friends and I got together and made cookies for each of our neighbors. It was a fun event to do together and so much easier that way! In the past, my family has also made simple table arrangements with fresh greenery and decorations. A very nice gift for the neighbors and friends. It didn’t happen this year, but I was thinking today that I would still really like to do something, but I was discouraged because I thought it was too late. Never! Even if they arrive after Christmas, it is the thought and love of Christ that we are sharing. I am setting aside some time on Saturday to make some simple lemon bread in little loaves for our neighbors. It doesn’t have to be extravagant…I just want to communicate the true meaning of the season! True joy comes from giving and not receiving. Giving the gift of life!

Local Holiday Events – I love going to different holiday events! This year we went to a live journey through Bethlehem put on by a local church. Tomorrow evening we are going to the Grotto Festival of Lights, which is actually a catholic event, but they have a really neat retelling of the Christmas story as you walk through their beautifully decorated and lighted grounds and hear different groups sing in their large chapel (beautiful acoustics). Powerful! We have invited a neighbor couple to go with us. What events take place in your town? Maybe you can invite your neighbors to participate?

Christmas DayGingerbread Pancakes at our home for breakfast (I used a similar recipe, although I replace whole wheat flour for the white flour and I don’t use the cocoa powder or nuts). We started this special Christmas breakfast last year and the hubby loves them! Make a special family breakfast and read the Christmas story together. We kept our gifts simple this year: stockings only. I loved it and think we will keep this as a tradition for the future.

Ornaments – each year we are aiming to find a ornament that represents a significant event that happened in our life throughout the year (birth of a child, vacation, etc). My husband’s family did this while growing up. Each child would get a new ornament that represented the year or something they did together as a family, etc. to add to their own personal ornament collection. When they got married, they could take their collection with them. So this year we added “Karis’ First Christmas” to our collection.

Check out my friend Kimi’s blog for some other resources for Holiday Ideas.

Merry Christmas to you all!

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Buying into the Materialist Lifestyle

I have been struck recently by how easy it is to buy into the consumerist mentality that this world offers to make us happy. When I first became pregnant with my daughter, I was amazed at all the fancy gadgets that were available to satisfy every need that your child might have. Everything was so colorful, and fancy! Deluxe toys for your tiny baby…is that necessary? What is this encouraging? I thought to myself, why do we need all these fancy items for our children? Why do we feel like we have to entertain them? Do we not know that God has given them creative instincts to creative, think and develop their own entertainment without the need of computers, televisions, etc?

I have been surprised at how far I have slipped from this belief I held during my pregnancy. I bought or was given so many different little toys for my girl to play with. I thought since I was always buying the items used, we were being wise and frugal. What she really needs is relationship! She needs my love and attention. She is so happy to be doing what mommy’s doing in the ergo or just watching me from the laundry basket (thanks to Stephanie over at Keeper the Home for that idea!). The things I bought didn’t make her happy. She preferred just sitting up on her own with daddy’s water bottle, or my watch, or a little book. Wow! How eye opening!

I remember while growing up, my brothers would thrive in making up games of their own. They would build board games, etc. and be entertained for hours. They were so much fun! Building wise habits now in our entertainment decisions for my daughter will help greatly as she grows older.

My eyes have been opened to how easily these purchases have been increasing this worldly materialist idea in my head that we need an abundance of possessions in order to be happy or make our children happy. It’s a false hope! Only Christ Jesus can satisfy that deep desire for happiness. Not sucumming to this mindset also saves money and builds up the family life as we spend more time together!

Well, I am clearing things out today! That is my step for today in making my home a haven! I am returning to a simpler lifestyle!

And no, that picture does not come from my house, thank goodness!

What steps can you take to simplify your home? Here are a few ideas:

  1. We are only doing stockings for Christmas this year. So all the gifts will be small and practical. It has to fit in the stocking! This has really simplified my shopping and kept our focus on the true meaning of Christmas…we don’t need a lot of stuff that is going to take up room and come between us and the Savior whose birthday it really is!
  2. I have a friend with boys that only allows them to pick out 2-3 cars to play with for a certain period of time. The rest are stored away. When the end of the time comes they are excited to pick out 2-3 other cars to trade them in for. This keeps them with something new and fresh and yet not overloaded with too much toys at one time. Keeps the house more clean and organized as well. I was amazed at how content they were. I thought this was a great idea and can be used for any number of items in your home or your children’s toys!
  3. Clear out your stuff and donate to charity or another family. When we were first married another family gave us a collection of toys they were clearing out. It was definitely a random collection but it was very useful to have on hand for our hospitality.

God bless!

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Music & Marriage: Harmonizing the Roles

While teaching piano this past week I was prompted by a little analogy in our music session that really stood out to me. We were working on the importance of balance between the hands, as there are normally two distinct parts to music, melody and accompaniment. We are always searching the music and tones to discover which hand has the melody at any given time, as it should come out singing above the accompaniment in the other hand.

They are both very important parts to convey the full harmony of the song. Although the melody is often more prominent than the accompaniment, without the accompaniment and background harmonies the melody has no support or fullness. It does not sound as rich and beautiful without this proper balance.

Likewise, in comparison, in a marriage relationship we have two very equally important roles between a husband and a wife, but each has a completely different function. Without one or the other we do not have the full array of beauty and design that God created to be displayed in the marriage relationship, which is then a reflection of the Father and Son’s relationship in the Trinity. If the roles are reversed and the woman is showing disrespect in her attitude towards her husband to such an extend that he feels unworthy and unable to lead his family, we have a conflict of balance. It will sound more like a train wreck than sweet music.

Now every analogy has its falling point, but I do believe God has designed the husband to be the leader and protector of the family, a role that will be more prominent as the melody in music. He is the leader, he is the man of the house. He is to be known in the gates! But without the proper support of the accompaniment, his bride, serving to be his helpmate, encouraging him in his calling, and meeting his needs, he will not find such greatness. He must have a good woman behind him cheering him on.

The irony of this relationship is that being the accompaniment as a woman sounds like such a low position in the eyes of the world. But again, the symphony behind the solo instrument may appear small and insignificant on the recording but when you see it in live performance you couldn’t image the solo instrument sounding like anything without the background of all the different instruments and tones supporting it.The woman and any children that may spring from this relationship are called to a high position of supporting and believing in the man they are following. With this support, that man will go for.

It is only when I fully surrender to God’s beautiful design and harmony for marriage that I find the greatest delight in fulfilling my role as the accompaniment. It is there at Christ’s feet in submission to my husband that I find my greatest joy and purpose. There is no better place for me than to support and serve my husband!

When we work together in God’s design, our marriage will be as music to the world!

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Growing in My Role as a Mother – Surrender

Karis turned 7 months old yesterday and definitely has such a sweet personality! She loves people! Yesterday, while I was nursing her upstairs, the door bell rings. As soon as she heard other voices downstairs, she sprang off and started looking curiously around. She knew someone was here other than her mommy and daddy. From then on she was so distracted. You can just assume we didn’t get a good feeding in that time. It was hopeless! I put my nursing cover on and everything, but to no avail!

She also began sitting up on her own this week. It is so precious to see her learn how to balance herself. We have had a few minor accidents with her falling over, but she seems to be brave enough to handle the pain at this stage of the game.

She joined us at the table as well. Her high chair attaches to one of the table chairs, so she is at the same level as Daddy and I. Boy does she enjoy it! Bananas have been her first food and she is very petite and modest in her eating habits. No wide open mouth here, but she still daintily enjoys it. I tried adding squash, but she wasn’t too interested in that. Alas! We’ll stick to the banana for now.

God really has done a good work in me as of late. I am so thankful for this long process, 6 months in fact, of pruning me in regards to my overly passionate desire to have my baby on a perfect schedule. Being inclined to be more organized in my giftings, this has been a significant struggle for me. I have been frustrated, stressed, tearful and overwhelmed by my little one because she wouldn’t adjust to fitting into my schedule and when I wished for her to take a nap and for how long she would rest. I wasn’t too strick about it, but I wanted consistency!!!!! I wanted it too much. The perfect schedule for eating and naps was non-existent or only lasting a few days before it was thrown through a loop again.

I have come to realize that this approach was not strengthening my relationship with my girl, nor was I loving and meeting her needs the way I should. Thank God for His sustaining grace!

Flexibility is not my forte. God has been teaching me to let it go, lay down my desires at His feet, don’t worry about her naps, giving it up! She’ll take a nap when she needs it. If she wakes up earlier than I hoped, than she’ll probably take a longer nap later. Maybe I struggled with the belief that if I carried her in the front pack for her nap, she would get spoiled and never take a nap in her bed. I was believing a lie.

She is my daughter and my priority! She needs my nurturing love and affection. I may not have my hands in as many things as before, but at least I am not missing out on putting my baby before myself. It’s all a part of serving the Master by serving my child!

So I have come from being consumed with the scheduling approach to being more flexible and allowing the Lord to reign in our home. Some of those scheduling books put way to much pressure on the mommy that it has to be done a certain way or else. Praise God for freedom in Christ! I am so much more at peace and joyful now. It’s funny too…as soon as I started letting go, things started going more smoothly. It is amazing how much better we are both doing now than this whole last month. It allows my home to be more of a haven for my husband too since I am removing that gloomy and depressed attitude! Praise God!

There is so much more peace where God reigns and not me!

Is there an area of your life that you need to surrender to the Lord today?

Isn’t she a cutie? I guess I am a little biased. I think she is getting my curly hair! ;)

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Resources for the Holidays

Check out this great site for lots of creative ideas for celebrating the holidays. There are resources for purposeful holiday ideas that can be practiced throughout the year. I am bookmarking some of these ideas in a “traditions” folder so I can look back at them in years to come as my children (Lord willing!) grow older. Really enjoy this resource!

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Self-Denial in Motherhood

Lately, I have been going through a very challenging season with my little one. It seems my milk production has gone down significantly in the evening so as not to provide her with enough to make it through the night. I have had nights of waking up at 1 pm, 4 pm…etc. Some evenings it has taken over two hours to get her to bed. What a difficult feeling it is to not be able to supply her hunger needs. I won’t go into all the details…but I will tell you this.

I have learned that God’s mercies are new every morning and for every little trial I must face in motherhood. I have learned that motherhood is the tool through which God is pruning and refining my character during this season of my life. Why am I so quick to get frustrated and worked up when my baby does not comply with my schedule? Why do I focus on the problems instead of enjoying each moment to treasure and nurture my baby and meet her need? Why am I so quick to doubt God’s care and love for me? I so quickly analyze why in the world would she not go down at this time or with every little problem in her schedule, I want to figure out the reason why! I have been questioning God in this manner.

The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world. ~William Ross Wallace

Nurturing and caring for my little one is my second most important priority beyond serving my husband; therefore, I must not lose sight that with each day she grows older and my time invested today in her life with impact the tomorrow.

The Lord has changed my heart. He revealed to me my sin over this past week as I grew more and more frustrated with Karis and her inability of going to sleep when I wanted her to. I have gotten angry, tearful, frustrated. I realized I was only living according to my desire and missing out on the investment I could be making in my daughter’s life. He revealed my need for a heart and priority shift. My desire grew as I started to pray for a love to nurture her even in the midst of these trying times…when I am losing sleep over it.

Instead of evaluating every possible reason for this mishap, I need to change my focus to treasuring those times of holding her close and rocking her. I need to re-evaluate my priorities and realign them according to God’s word. This is God’s perfect design for me at this time and season in my life.

How often do I lose sight of the moment and yearn for the future? I think…it will be so much easier when she is older…when teething is past, etc. Each season will have its own trials; I must not lose sight of rejoicing and delighting in the moment! Each day with my little girl is a presence gift! I must focus again with a spirit of thankfulness!

No more pity parties for me!

Psalm 121: I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come from?

“Precious Moments” at

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Purposeful Christmas Resources

Here is the start of ideas and resources for your purposeful holiday preparations (as I talked about here)!

This is an excellent site for learning some thoughts on different meanings of Christmas traditions and symbols that are displayed around us. I learned alot as I read through this. Consider how you might incorporate more purpose into your holiday symbols by learning the history behind it all. Should we not put more thought into what the world sees in how we celebrate and decorate for the holidays? One idea would be to frame notes around each decoration with its symbolism and meaning.

One such example is the use of bells in your holiday decorations. Here is what they said:

Bells both call us to worship (church bells) and remind us of the joyous angelic announcement of Christ’s birth to the lowly shepherds.The golden color of ones often seen is a Kingly one and reminds us of our Lord and Savior.

More resources and ideas to come….

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Blessing Our Husbands through Prayer

How else can we effectively seek to serve and bless our husbands if we are not first on our knees interceding on their behalf? “The Power of A Praying Wife” by Stormie Omartian has completely changed my perspective on this important calling for us as wives.

Throughout this book, Stormie gives 31 different focus prayer points to cover each day of the month. Such topics include praying for his: vision, health, protection against temptation, integrity, work, relationship with the Lord, role as husband, father, etc. For each topic she gives a detailed prayer to follow and verses to expand your prayers.

I am also planning on purchasing her prayer cards that are a companion to this book. They list the prayers out so you can post them around the house, or in your Bible, purse, car, etc. as reminders to lift your hubby up before the Lord.

Since beginning the discipline of praying daily for my husband, I have seen the Lord work in some unique ways. One simple example was my burden for my husband to be able to pursue getting physical exercise on a regular basis, as I was concerned for his health. Now as Stormie emphasizes the goal is not to continually remind my husband of this desire and turn into a nagging contentious wife, but to first take this desire before the Lord in prayer. This is what I did and within a few days the desire was his. I was thanking the Lord! In other areas I have had to be a little more persistent, but God is doing amazing things in my husband’s life as a result.

Prayer is effective in keeping my focus on laying my relationship with my husband before the Lord first and foremost, especially in the midst of conflict. I want my husband to be a mighty man of God! Where nagging doesn’t work…prayer is powerful! This is one of the best ways I can love and serve my family.

Prayer is a powerful tool! Praise God for the ability to enter into His courts freely by His grace and lay our burdens at His feet. He hears our cries and answers them in His perfect timing.

Blessings upon you as your pursue this high calling!

Next Friday Blessing Corner: The importance of thank you notes!

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Treasuring God in our Traditions

Treasuring God in our Traditions by Noel Piper is an excellent resource to refer to in planning and preparing for your holiday celebrations and not only that but also the meaning and purpose of it all. Why do we have traditions? Noel Piper believes that by our traditions we can help the next generation treasure God, and at the same time deepen our love for him. Only God can give our children a taste for his sweetness. He uses God-centered traditions and Bible-saturated family patterns and grace-laden heirlooms.

She talks about the importance of having every-day traditions such as family devotions together, worshiping Christ together, praying together over your meals, etc. Secondly, she dives into the “especially” traditions, that of the birthdays, weddings, and planning of the holiday traditions.

“The things we do regularly that help us in our deepest being to know and love and want God, the things that help our lives to be infiltrated with God–those things are tradition. And then if there are children in our lives, pass these God-focused activities to the next generation–that’s what tradition is for a Christian.”

Deuteronomy 11:19 says, “You shall teach [God's word] to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

God is the reason we have anything to celebrate. He is the ultimate source of any of our celebrations. As we read in James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

How will we seek to make Christ our treasure this holiday season? How will we strive to teach God’s word to the next generation through our traditions? How can we be purposeful during this busy and often overwhelming time of year? What are our children and the world around us seeing as the center most focus in our homes? Do others see why we celebrate?

May this time be a reflection of what our lives are–gratitude for the promises that were fulfilled when God gave us the gift of his Son and anticipation of and preparation for Christ’s coming again. ~ N. Piper

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