Thursday, December 20, 2012

This Might Be as Winter Wonderland as We Get

Here in the South, we are just as likely to wear shorts at Christmas as we are to wear coats, maybe even more likely! So the younger two were thrilled with the cool temperatures and gusty wind today. They spent all afternoon playing outside with a their neighborhod friends. They even brought out blankets to keep our clubhouse warmer. But I think they spent more time out of the clubhouse than they spent in it. When I went outside to take this picture, they were all on top of the roof! 

I'm so thankful for seasons of fun and rest in the midst of the work of school and ballet classes. (Even though Hannah did have a ballet practice today. But she was glad to have a chance to work on her solo piece.) My allergies have wiped me out the last couple of days, so I also had a reason to just rest.  

We ended our evening watching White Christmas. It was a fun, restful, and Christmas-y time! 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Music of Christmas

So it's Wednesday night and I'm finally writing my Tuesdays Unwrapped post with Emily at Chatting at the Sky. I had so much to unwrap and experience yesterday that it's only today that I'm sitting down to write about it all.

Yesterday, Rebecca had her Christmas piano recital. I'm so proud of her. She had practiced her songs and she played well. I'm most proud of her attitude. Even though she did have a couple of mistakes, she kept going and wasn't discouraged. 

After the recital we ate out to celebrate. Then we came home in time to do some last minute cleaning before my sister and her family came for the night. Our house is about mid way between their house and my mom, so they stop over here to break up what would be a very long drive. Her daughter is only a couple of years younger than the twins, so some fun cousin time ensued. Her son enjoyed our Lincoln Logs and Paul's Hot Wheels collection. Her cat did NOT enjoy our cat! Patches is such a bad hostess! The cats woke everyone up with their growling at 5 AM!

This Christmas season has seemed so full already. I know I have allowed myself to skim over or skip so much. I want to slow down this next few days, to savor Jesus. To savor my family. To savor the joy and fun of the season. I did that yesterday by just enjoying Rebecca's performance and only taking a few photos. (The one above was taken after the recital.) I also enjoyed my sister and her family and didn't worry about the bits of clutter that were still visible. I want to learn how to fully live in and enjoy each moment! Christmas is a great time to do just that!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Some Days There Are No Pictures

Some days there are no words. But always there is Jesus.

Praying for those affected by the tragedy in Connecticut.

Friday, December 14, 2012

We Saw the Lights!

Today we made our traditional "Christmas Light Seeing" excursion. Every year we tour the best-lit houses in our area while listening to Christmas music. Over the years, we have added to the basic tradition. We now wear pajama pants (or full pajamas in the case of the twins). We also have added eating ice cream to the night. (Which some years makes sense because it's much warmer than it was tonight. It was 80 degrees just a few days ago!)

We began our journey a few streets over with a house that has a whole light show set to music. It's such a fun show! We then traveled out to the country to see a huge multi-family display. On our way there we saw the business in the picture. It was even more stunning in person. Then it was time for the Chick-Fil-A ice cream and (my favorite) milkshakes. We viewed the big houses by the lake and a couple of our other favorite neighborhoods.

We got home and I got to see a few meteors from the meteor shower. The first one was so huge and bright. It was too cold to stay out for long, but the stars and the meteors were beautiful. 


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Put One Foot in Front of the Other

Sometimes I find encouragement and inspiration in the most unlikely of places. Today it was in a Christmas cartoon I'm sure I've seen dozens of times.

Ballet class had run late, and my two younger girls had had a tough day, so I choose to stay home from BSF. To help take their minds off the tough ballet class (and the hard math lesson this morning and some general sisterly fussiness) we watched Santa Claus Is Coming to Town on TV. Which is kinda funny, since we don't do the Santa thing. 

I grew up watching this show every year, but it hit me tonight just how right the "Put One Foot in Front of the Other" song is. Before the song, the Wynter Wizard asks how he can make sure his decision to be good rather than evil will endure. He is afraid he will go back to his evil ways. That's when Kris Kringle advises him to "put one foot in front of the other" - to just worry about taking the next step in the right direction. What a terrific picture of repentance! And what great encouragement when we're faced with things that seem impossible.

My girls have seen that this week. When one was discouraged by really good but not perfect test scores, I encouraged her to begin a study plan to improve. When two of my ballerinas were discouraged by the difficulty of their recital piece, I encouraged them to keep practicing! I know in a few months those things that so discouraged them today will be things they have learned and become more confident in doing. 

The things my girls have are skill-based and, in the grand scheme of things,not that difficult to overcome.  I have been faced with an area of my life where I need to make some changes that will not come naturally to me.To me this seems so much harder than just improving a skill. Sometimes I look at how far I need to go and feel intimidated. But I don't need to focus on trying to run. I can begin by just standing. I can stand on God's Truth about myself and about His power in me. Then I can begin to take steps in the right direction. I know I won't arrive at once, but if I "put one foot in front of the other, " I will arrive someday!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Jolly Old Saint Nicholas

 Today was a good Sunday. After a good morning at church, the girls requested Popeye's for lunch. Afterward I went shopping with a friend and snagged a pair of skinny jeans for $10! I've spent some time looking for the right pair, and it was a double blessing to find it for such a good price. I even found a small gift for Paul!

After I got home we met with a sweet on really together couple that Paul is going to marry in January. (To clarify, he's going to officiate their wedding ceremony; he's not going to do some sort of bizarre polygamy thing!) I wish I had been that together and clear-headed about relationships and marriage when I was engaged! I had to learn so much the hard way.

With our crazy ballet schedule, I've decided that I should make something Sunday night that will have leftovers that we can reheat for a few nights. Tonight was Pioneer Woman's meatloaf. Paul said it was the best meatloaf he'd ever had! (I think the bacon added a lot.) 

After supper we watched the Veggie Tales Saint Nicholas movie. We still all love Veggie Tales! I'm so glad my older girls don't feel too grown up to enjoy the fun!  And what's a movie without a snack? I made some Ghirardelli  brownies for us to enjoy during the movie. The girls sat on the floor and enjoyed brownies and milk and ice cream. (We're still working on the cleaning up after eating!) The movie has such a sweet and needed message: We don't give in order to receive God's love. We give because we have already received God's love! The message of grace from silly talking vegetables. Gotta love it!

Joy to the World

The ornament in my photo is one my Granny made for us. Granny loved many people and things. Two of her favorite things were the Dallas Cowboys and Christmas. Even though she's with Jesus now, I remember her love of Christmas when we decorate the tree with the ornaments she gave us.  

When my sister and I were little girls, Granny began giving us an ornament each year before Christmas. She continued this even after I got married. Then, when my girls came along, she expanded the tradition to include each of them. We all have special ornaments from Granny. I also have some of the ornaments she used to decorate her own tree.

 Even though she had lived through some really hard times, Granny was one of the most joyful people I have known! This Christmas, and all year long, I want to share some of that joy!

Friday, December 7, 2012

O Christmas Tree!

After a busy day, sometimes posting a photo is all I can do. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Deck the Halls

Today was another full day. The girls are all working on speeches and posters for a 4-H contest on Saturday. The older two need little help, but the twins need me to help type and help them organize their thoughts. My girls all seemed to have inherited a love for public speaking, so this is a fun contest for them.

So even though our dining room chandelier is beautifully decorated, the table is full of school books and craft supplies. Maybe tomorrow...

But, since we still have to complete our contest preparation, maybe not...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Messy and the Mundane

It's easy to only show the good and the beautiful. And good and beautiful are certainly things I aspire to, even though I rarely achieve them. But it's real to show the messy parts of life, the mundane aspects of living. Because that's where I live most of the time - in the midst of the messy and the mundane.

Today our dining room floor is littered with painting supplies for a 4-H project. School books have jumped off the table onto the floor. And a discarded sweater acts as a rug. The living room is cluttered with the mostly empty boxes that store our decorations awaiting a final emptying and a trip back to the attic. And the kitchen floor is home to purchases from Target and the grocery store that have not been put away.

Tuesdays are crazy days here, and this Tuesday was crazier than most. School. 4-H. Shopping for 4-H projects and a charity party. Ballet. (Times three!) BSF. A trip to the grocery store for milk and a few more things.

But in the midst of the messy and mundane I see glimpses of joy and a different kind of beauty. The joy of creating. The beauty of hearing my girls see past the superficial. The fun of shopping with Hannah. And the rest of a quiet living room when the girls are in their rooms.

Sometimes I allow myself to think of God's blessings only as the "big" things. And in so doing I miss the simple but real blessings that God showers on me each day

Open my eyes, Lord, to see Your blessings every day, even in the midst of the messy and the mundane!  

Happiness Is a Purring Kitty

Today has been a rainy (but warm) day, a perfect day for napping, at least according to Patches!  She kept me company on the couch this afternoon as I read to the girls and sewed ribbons on pointe shoes.  As much money as they cost, I was initially surprised that I had to sew the elastic and ribbons on my girls' pointe shoes, but now that Hannah has been on pointe for 5 years, I can see the value of making sure the shoes fit the dancers the way they should. These are Abigail & Elisabeth's first pairs of pointe shoes, and they are super excited to dance in them! 

Patches is sitting next to me again and purring. I think she is hoping I will get up and feed her. Silly kitty! She has food in her bowl, if she would only go look. But I guess I do that, too. I try to get on God's good side so He will give me something I can already access. Sometimes it's easier to wish for the good than to actually do the work of taking hold of it.  I want to be so confident in Christ's love, that I do not feel the need to butter Him up to obtain the things I need!
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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Grace and Peace

Today while I made PW's chicken enchiladas, my girls added to our mantle display. I had put our stocking holders and a few candles up, and they added greenery and vases and ornaments. Later, I hung our stockings. I think this is the prettiest mantle display we've ever had!

PEACE. That's what our stocking holders spell. And that's something we need now! A few weeks ago we announced that our church plant would no longer be meeting on Sunday mornings.  Several things went into this decision, but the main one was that we saw that our girls needed some friends and connections at church, and our church just wasn't providing that after over two years. This process has been so hard, especially for Paul. We've visited another church for the past two Sundays, and, even though the first week was a bit of an adjustment, today went really well. Our most reserved girl was even texting someone she met at Sunday School today! We don't really know what this season will hold, but I do know we need God's peace in the midst of it.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Best Way to Spread Christmas Cheer ...

is by singing loud for all to hear! We only discovered Elf a couple of years ago, but it has become a Christmas tradition in our home. We love the silly antics of Buddy and the heartwarming story of lives changed by the joy of believing. 

This Advent, I want our home to be filled with joy, with singing, with the belief that Christmas is more than just the presents and the trappings. Not filled with stress and hurry and obligation.  Sometimes I look at blogs and magazines and wish I could have a home decorated like that or amazing family traditions like those. And I could probably do it if we suspended real life - no school, no ballet, no cleaning. But Jesus came to be Immanuel - God with us. God with us in the midst of school and ballet and even cleaning. Christmas cheer, like singing loud, happens while we live life, not only when we stop all other aspects of life. This year I want to have eyes to see God with me in the daily stuff of life. And, like Buddy the Elf, I want to be unashamed to express childlike joy and wonder at the beauty around me. (But, unlike Buddy, I plan on avoiding pre-chewed gum!)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Letter to My Teenage Self

Emily Freeman from Chatting at the Sky has asked for her readers to write letters to their teenaged selves in conjunction with her new book for teen girls, Graceful. I was so blessed and challenged by reading her first book, Grace for the Good Girl, and I bought each of my teen daughters a copy of Graceful.

Dear 16 year old April,

The most important thing I want you to know is that God loves you! Really loves you! And not because you've earned it. Because you can't earn it. Even though you began your relationship with Jesus two years ago, you still haven't let that sink in. So spend these years learning about God's love.

I know you're already thinking about who you will marry and viewing marriage as a panacea. It's not! Instead of worrying about guys, enjoy your girlfriends! When the right guy comes along, he will pursue you; you won't have to make sure he notices you! When you are married (in just 6 short years!) you will never regret not having a high school boyfriend! Trust that God has good things for your future, so you can enjoy the good things He is giving you right now.

Learn how to live a righteous life without being self-righteous! Love the people around you, even if they were cruel or indifferent to you in the past. You are making so many right and good choices. Please don't look down on those who aren't. They need your grace, not your judgment. Realize the depth of God's grace to you, and it will be so much easier to give grace to others.

I know you feel so insecure. What you don't know is that most of the people around you also feel that way. So instead of worrying about impressing others, focus on finding your security in Jesus. He wants good things for you. And don't be afraid to let others see your need. Because trying to pretend like everything is fine and hoping that others will see through that and reach out to help you (and feeling resentful when they don't) is counterproductive! So let some people into your life. You are worth it!

Spend time with Dad without resentment. He is learning how to love you, so don't make it harder for him. I know he needs a lot of help; be patient with him.

Don't cut your hair! It grows slowly, and you'll regret it. If you go to your junior prom, go with friends, not a set-up date! Trust me on this!

Most of all, enjoy the moments God is giving you right now! Soon enough you will be at Baylor! But all the great moments of high school will be over. No more flag corps or high school football games or eating lunch in the band hall. So be thankful for now. 


Your older (and I hope wiser) self