Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Opening a Gift {Tuesdays Unwrapped}

Today I'm linking up with Emily at Chatting at the Sky here for Tuesdays Unwrapped.  It's a place to choose and celebrate one gift from an ordinary day.

Today I chose this... 


A rare moment.
These are boys who are very physical and full of energy.
  When they are together it's Legos, wrestling, star wars, climbing...anything action related.

  And loud.
 Always loud.

So when I popped my head out of the kitchen the other night to find out why there wasn't any noise, I was delighted to see them huddled together on the couch as big brother read one of the newly borrowed library books aloud.

I smiled and turned to head back to the kitchen and my dinner preparations when I thought of the camera.  I took the picture to capture a gift in my ordinary day.  Finding 3 brothers sharing an impromptu story together was a gift that needed to be embraced and celebrated.  I especially needed this on this particularly challenging day of 3 wired boys, lots of tattling, time outs and a minor injury.  It was a welcoming bit of space in between the loud and rambunctious norm.

It helped this mommy. 
And I'm thankful for it.

What gift in your ordinary day can you unwrap today?


Monday, November 28, 2011

Adding this to all of our days...

Last week I shared with you about our jar of thanksgiving.

If you missed it, you can read about it here.

  We began on Sunday to fill it up with our thanks and by Monday we needed a 2nd, bigger jar. Then, on Thanksgiving morning, as we gathered around the breakfast table, just the 5 of us, Daddy emptied the jars and shared each thanks-filled drawing and read each note out loud.


Here's a sampling of the gifts counted by 3 boys: 
My school
A place to live
Technology
Books
Wii
Food to eat
Friends and cousins
Fifi and Monsie (our cats)
My Mom
All of God's creations
My brothers
Peace
Jesus
American soldiers
Health
Good rules to keep my heart away from the devil
Daddy 

We were blessed!  I loved hearing what they are thankful for.  They excitedly yelled "That's mine," as Daddy read each entry.  My 5-year-old's drawings were precious.  He wrote "I am" (2 of his school vocab words) on each note and then drew a picture of what he was thankful for.  Did it all on his own. 
Precious. 


The boys loved that activity so much that we've decided to continue with the jar of thanks.  It'll remain in our kitchen and will collect our thanks each day.  Then, we'll sit together at week's end to count our gifts and give thanks together.


  Thanksgiving...not just a holiday, but a way of life; a daily practice that uncovers hope and turns eyes set on ho-hum or challenging circumstances outward and upward.
Plus, it's also good for you.
Turns out science is proving that grateful kids (and adults) are happier, healthier, and more satisfied with their lives.
  You can read about those studies here.

So give it a try and weave thanks into your day.  Get the kids involved and make it fun by filling a jar or a journal...whatever.
  You'll be blessed in the sharing and you'll all be happier and healthier for the counting.


This post is linked up with AnnVoskamp and others who are giving thanks and counting gifts at...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Little Weekend Reading

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Hello friends!
Hope you've been enjoying your holiday weekend.
Here are some of the best reads, ideas, and even a freebie I found around the blogosphere this week.


1.  Christmas DIY projects...28 of them from the Inspired Room.

2.  Be an encouragement in season and out from (in)courage.

3.  Do less be more and a dayspring special sale from The Nester.

4.  I'm loving this free app to count one thousand gifts and beyond from A Holy Experience.

5.  Here's a super easy and yummy crockpot recipe I tried this past week...only 3 ingredients (I didn't use the brands she suggested...I just used what I had on hand and it was so good) from the Mommy Diaries.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Jesse Tree: An Advent Tradition

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I just heard about Jesse Trees last Christmas.  The boys and I did one last year and really enjoyed it.  It's on our Holiday Fun List this year and we'll be starting it on Nov. 29th.  Last year we used this devotional and printed out these ornaments.  The boys had fun coloring the ornaments before they went on the tree.


Why a Jesse Tree?
Well, Jesse was the father of King David.  Many, many years later came Mary and Joseph; Joseph being of the same family line as King David.  Therefore, Jesus is a shoot from the stump, and a branch from the roots of Jesse.


A Family Tree.



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"A shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots.” 
– Isaiah 11:1


So each day, a scripture and devotion is read and an ornament placed on the tree representing someone in Jesus' lineage.  It's a great way to travel through the Bible from Genesis through Jesus' Birth over the next few weeks leading up to Christmas day.


I've seen lots of different versions of Jesse Trees on the web.  Last year ours was simple.  We just gathered a few empty branches in the woods and placed them in a large vase.  That served as our tree and the color came from the ornaments.  We'll do the same this year.


We learned so much together by doing this last year.  It was such a blessing each day to have that focus on Jesus and on the different people in the Bible who were a part of His story.


This year I'm excited to try a new devotional, complete with ornaments, from Ann Voskamp.  You can find out more about it here and how to download it for free.  


We'll be heading outdoors this weekend in search of a few branches and preparing our ornaments to get started on the Jesse Tree.  This is only our second year doing this, but I guess you could say it's a family tradition now.
It's a wonderful way to keep the focus on the Birth of the Savior.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Holiday Fun List


This year I'm starting early with my Christmas enjoyment.  Probably not early for some, but early for us.  Usually I'm running around last minute getting the decorations up and inevitably nixing lots because it's only a week til Christmas and let's face it those babies will be coming down soon.  But not this year.  This year I'm on it because I want to have more time to enjoy all that the season has to offer.  And I'm ready to begin now.  It all started with finally finishing up painting my living room {it only took a year to finish...can you say procrastination...but that's another post...anywho}.  So now I'm inspired to get to the Christmas decorating!

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That's not my house, but I sure thought it was pretty!

One other thing that I was ready for is putting together a Holiday Fun List.  In the summertime these were all over the web as a way to capture ideas of all the fun things you wanted to do over the summer.  We did one then and loved it.  So I decided, let's put one together with all the things we'd like to enjoy over this holiday season.  We came up with a long list of fun activities that we can't wait to get started on.
Here's just a little part of our list....


Bake cookies together
Visit Longwood Gardens Christmas Display
Drive around and look at Christmas lights
Get a live tree for Christmas
Do a Jesse Tree together 
Watch Christmas shows and movies
Make Christmas decorations together
Take lots of pics
Have fires in the fireplace
Make hot chocolate
Go to Grandmom & Papa's house
Have our 2nd annual New Year's Eve party together
Play Christmas music in the house


In order to do the things on our list we may need to say no to other things that come up.  We created this list together as a family because these things have been important to us in the past and they are things we'd like to do again.   Other things are new and we'd like to take the time to try them.  This list isn't a thing of compulsion, a thing we need to strictly stick to in order to check off every activity and give ourselves a "successful holiday" stamp of approval.  No, we may not even get to all of the activities and that's okay.  It's just simply a tool to get us to really figure out how we as a family would like to spend our time and celebrate the holidays.  This helps us to decide what's important to us and makes it easier to allot our precious time.
Because before you know it your schedule can be filled with commitments that may be fun, but just keep you busy and away from the times that mean the most to your family.  Like snuggling on the couch together over hot chocolate and Christmas cookies to watch Rudolph or Frosty.



So gather your family together and ask them how they'd like to spend the holidays.
Make it a specially-made holiday that reflects who you are and what's important to you as a family.

What's on your Holiday Fun List? 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

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 In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 


Happy Thanksgiving!
Wherever you are today in your celebration, enjoy yourself.
  Take in the moments and give thanks.

We'll be starting our day with a little sleeping in.
{woo-hoo}
The hubby has been working hard and long hours, so we're giving thanks for a no alarm clock morning and a little extra sleep.
Then a special breakfast with the boys as we dig out our jars of thanksgiving and count our blessings together.
We had to add a 2nd larger jar after the first day...those boys loved this activity.
Can't wait to read their thankful entries!
Then some lingering around the house just being and enjoying until we head out to share the big feast and lots of fun with my in-laws.
Good day.
Thankful for it.
And I'm thankful for this little space and you stopping by to visit.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!
 



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Injecting Thanks Into Your Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is tomorrow.


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Here's a thought...

 In all the rush to prepare, either to get where we're going for an out-of-town feast or maybe we're elbow deep in the details of hosting our own celebration, if we're not careful, Thanksgiving will represent the way our day to day lives look and feel sometimes...
stressed, rushed, on the run, barking at the kids, the perfectionism to make the perfect meal, have the perfect table setting and to-do lists a mile long.


Is this what the pilgrims had in mind on that 1st Thanksgiving in Plymouth?


Stress is addicting.
 And along with it's ugly sisters, anxiety and fear, brings harsh words and nastiness which can become automatic responses to every situation when you're living in a rushed world.
  Stress can wound bystanders and debilitate it's host.
I know, because I've wounded with words.
I've allowed the stress-induced debilitation.


But giving thanks and counting blessings calms, slows things down and counters stress with a powerful punch.
It's a daily walk, but thanks can renew a mind set on the stress auto-pilot.



Injecting thanks into Thanksgiving injects joy and stops the rush in order to focus on the moment.
  To take it all in and rejoice.
  Thanksgiving, if we let it, can just turn into the meal we have before we run out the door to catch all the early-bird Black Friday sales.
This is what the world promises...happiness in the form of a bargain basement, elbow-jabbing deal.
I'm all for a great deal, but when did Thursday become Friday, and when did we get sucked into the hype, and how could purchasing replace Thanks anyway?

  

So this Thanksgiving I've decided to focus on slowing down, enjoying, and remembering to give thanks...not just once, but throughout the day.
  I want to do it like breathing and let the thanks breathe new life into me.
I want to enjoy my family and be present.



Join me?
  Slow down and enjoy and count your blessings.
  It's not just something to say it's something to do.
  Be thankful that you even have this day to be thankful for.
  Take inventory of all you have that could never be bought or replaced.




Don't let Thanksgiving be a rush to get from a to b while you mow down the spirits of those you love.
Don't let it be just a precursor to the biggest, craziest, most chronicled shopping day of the year.
Let it be a day of thanks.



  So, before you pack up the car and head off to Grandma's house, or before you set the table and the guests arrive at your home, decide to be thankful and to focus on blessings.
  It's not about measuring up with your sparkling Thanksgiving cocktail hour conversation, your spectacular table setting with the painstakingly perfect place cards, or about your totally organic and gourmet feast.


  It's about taking measure of a life through thanks.
{I'm reminding myself and learning one step at a time.}



Continuing to count gifts and give thanks....


*This day, this life
*That all is made possible because of Him who loves and never stops
*That the crooked places in my heart and life are being made straight
*Boys off from school and full of ideas
*Talking to my Dad on the phone
*Jars of thanksgiving overflowing with the thanks of 3 boys
*A Thanksgiving day off with my hard-working husband
*His safety and protection


This post is linked up with Ann Voskamp at

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Give Thanks



It's Thanksgiving week!
  Time for turkeys, extended family and time off from school and work, but most of all, time to give thanks.  I came across this idea on the web and wish I had seen it at the beginning of November so my guys and I could have been doing it all month, but I figured it's never too late to give thanks and get the family involved.

  So, we're starting today with our jar of thanksgiving.



Here's the deal...
Grab a jar, basket, or empty vessel of some sort.
Cut up strips of paper and place them next to the jar with a pen.
Let your family in on the fun activity...during their days leading up to Thanksgiving, invite them to use the paper to write down at least 1 thing each day that they're thankful for, then fold and place into the jar.  Encourage your littlest ones to draw their thanks.  I look forward to my 5-year-old's pictures.

Then, on Thanksgiving Day, maybe around the dinner table, bring out the jar and read the thankful entries.

We'll be spending Thanksgiving dinner at a relative's home, so we'll probably pore over our jar of thanksgiving during a special breakfast that morning.

This is just an easy and free little activity to get the family's hearts turned toward thanks giving.
I'm looking forward to reading what my little guys are giving thanks for.



Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Little Weekend Reading

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I know, I did an owl for last week's weekend post, but I couldn't resist those big eyes...too cute.



I'm sorry I haven't been around here this week.
 I've been knocked out with sickness for part of the week and busy with the boys' schools for the other part.
  Starting to feel better and ready to get back to this little space.
  For now I just wanted to share some good reads for the weekend with you.
  But, I'll definitely be back tomorrow with a fun holiday idea.
See you then.


Click on the links in blue below and enjoy!


1. I love this mom advice from a veteran mom about making time to connect with your child's heart
 from Sally Clarkson at I Take Joy.

2. An imperfect, flexible, do-able meal blueprint and a yummy artisan bread recipe
  from The Nester.


3. 9 toxins to remove from your life
  from Keeper of the Home.


4. A cute, impromtu, romantic marriage moment in the middle of Trader Joe's
 from Jumping Tandem.

5. Word strengtheners: free printables
 from Ann Voskamp.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Little Weekend Reading

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Here are a few interesting things from around the blog world that I found this week.
Click on the links below and enjoy!  

1.  "How are you, really?" from from (in)courage.

2.  Keep your family healthy during the cold & flu season with these tips and all-natural remedies from Keeper of the Home.

3.  The pursuit of art in your everyday from Chatting at the Sky.

4.  Hope for the weary mom at the M.O.B. Society.

5.  A printable advent chain from Christmas Your Way.

6.  Pretty DIY glitter trees from Landee See Landee Do.

Enjoy your weekend friends!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Love That Doesn't Cost a Thing

Ever been the victim of conditional love?
Me too.
Because that's what this world offers.


Be the best.
Look the best.
Have the best.
Always be what they need you to be.


And then, you'll be loved.


Give them what they want.
Be available when they need.
Don't rock the boat.
Never make a mistake.


And then, you'll be loved.


But there's pain.
Because it's conditional.
Because your identity becomes wrapped in the expectations of others.
  The friend who expects you to read her mind and because you haven't, she's iced you out, built a wall and left you on the other side.
Punished and alone.
  The husband who expects you to look model-perfect and because you don't, his head turns for everyone else but you.
  Self-esteem squashed.
The parent who manipulates and expects you to be there for their every need, disregarding the fact that you've got a family of your own to tend.
Guilt trip grips.


And love becomes a barb that stabs, instead of a balm that soothes.


But there is a love that doesn't cost a thing.
A love that says,
Come as you are, because you are all that I want.
  A love that heals barb-torn hearts and try-hard impulses.
A love that only asks to be received.


The love of God through His Son Jesus.


A love that flows freely because you were made for it...because of it.
A love that no person can earn, but only need accept.
A love that promises no matter who you are, no matter what you've done, no matter what you have, no matter what you've lost...God loves you.


So, no matter where you are in a relationship with God, He's there and He loves.
Maybe you need to remember.
Some of us need to rediscover.
Others need to realize.
But all of us need to reach up and receive the love that's eternal.
The love that is unconditional.


The love that doesn't cost a thing. 


Continuing to count blessings over at A Holy Experience today.


*unconditional Love
*healed barb-torn heart
*discovering who I was made to be
*reaching out for prayers only to discover God
already laid me on her heart...prayers already
offered up
*discovering that He sees me in my pain and
cares
*an easy, come as you are Saturday with a friend
*learning to let go
*all 5 of us together on Sunday growing in prayer
*pieces of paper with 3 little boy's handwriting...lists to God of what's on their growing hearts
*amazed at their hearts and how He's at work



This post is linked up with...



Monday, November 7, 2011

Book {Love}

This has to be my all-time favorite book!

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"Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen.


If you haven't read it...go get it now! And if you have, you most likely love it as I do.  Even though it was written in 1813, it remains to this day in the top of the 'most loved book lists' out there and has sold over 20 million copies worldwide.






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The book deals with the issues of status, manners, upbringing, education and marriage in 19th century England.  The main female character, Elizabeth Bennett, is the 2nd of 5 daughters of a country gentleman. She's a strong, intelligent, lively, quick-witted young woman, who tends to judge people upon their first impressions.  This doesn't bode well when she meets Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, a man 8 years her senior.  He's tall, handsome, unmarried and the very wealthy owner of a famous family estate.  Although he's valued by those who know him well, his aloofness is often seen as pride and causes him to make horrible impressions upon strangers.  They are from two different worlds.

Jane Austen was an amazing writer.  Her characters are well fleshed out and the storyline is engaging and thorough.  She leaves you thinking about the book and longing to get back to find out what happens next.  It's very romantic and the writing is very visual.  You can just imagine the clothing, the landscape, the beautiful estates and parties.


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For those who have read it, how much do you love it when Elizabeth finds out who the real Mr. Darcy is?
  Ahhh...loved it...I cried!
(I know...i'm a geek)


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{sigh}

So, get the book...you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll dream and be taken away to 19th century England.  And if you can't wait to read the book you could always watch the latest P&P movie.  It's not as rich and good as the book, but it's fun to see the characters come to life. 


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 Love that scene!


Inspiring literature...well worth the time spent.


So, I want to know, any other fans of Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennett?



By the way, most of the pics for this post came from Pinterest.  I'm new to it and got a little giddy when I saw all of the photos! 
For those of you who don't already know, Pinterest is a virtual pinboard which allows you to organize and share all the beautiful pictures you find on the web.
It's very inspiring and lots of fun!

  
If you want to see more of my Pinterest boards, click the follow me on Pinterest button at the top of my side bar. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Little Weekend Reading

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I've been enjoying a few days of rest after posting everyday for the 31 Days challenge .
  Been doing a little more reading than writing and wanted to share a few things I came across on the web.
Click on the links below and enjoy!

1. This is a good one to print and give to your child's teacher from 100 Days of Real Food.

2.  Inspiring.  Ephesians 3:20 in action.  If you're believing for something, read this awesome story of provision for adoption from AshleyAnn Photography.

3.  Need some effective time management?  Try this from A Holy Experience.

4.  Want some tips for reducing holiday stress before it starts?  Read this from Finances Your Way.

5.  I love this Food Network show!  It's not just good cookin', but a fun family ranch experience with beautiful scenery and yummy food.  Check out The Pioneer Woman.

Enjoy your weekend friends!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Counting...


Counting blessings today.
Started when I came home from dropping my 3 boys to school.
  I stepped in the front door and the pictures on the wall of baby boys with round faces and chubby hands stopped me...grabbed my heart and the rush of the morning let go of it's hold on me.
These boys.
The best gifts given.
Gifts that have cheated death and diagnoses and have taught a mother with all of their living.


Things can get so busy and I can lose perspective, caught in the trap of the to-dos and the 4 walls of my mind.
But this moment...grace.
These pictures, a beckoning to remember love and give thanks.
Time is so short.

We make plans and look ahead with what-ifs, look behind with regrets.
And we miss this moment...the now that we have been given.
And it's the now that we will long for one day, if it wasn't embraced when we had it.
The now...it's a moment guaranteed.
It's a moment to be treasured.
A gift that has been given.
A blessing to count.


So, I release the hold I've had on the problems and all the "trying-to-figure-it-out."
I let go of that and make space.
Space for counting.
Because problems are safer in Jesus' hands anyway.
And it's in the counting and the giving thanks that He draws near.


So, I begin counting...
*round baby-faces and chubby hands
*growing boys
*a home filled with love
*living...a gift
*noise and rough-n-tumble boy rowdiness
*5-year-old handwriting
*7-year-old drawings
*8-year-old tales
*hard-working, dedicated husband
*learning to trust and seeing the fruit
*this moment...grace


Continuing to count the never-ending blessings.


I encourage you to release your grip and take a few moments to count...you'll be happy you did.

Won't you share in the comments one thing you've counted today?


This post is linked up with...




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