Monday, December 23, 2013

Deck the Halls

We made these great ornaments tonight! I love my girls' creativity and I enjoy opportunities to be creative myself. 

 The most challenging part of this was obtaining the supplies. I learned that there must be a lot of people making ornaments, because only Hobby Lobby had any left. (And the ones I ordered from Amazon were late. They came today and were also not what I expected. They come in two parts with a seam in the middle. Those will be returned!) And the floor wax that all the tutorials recommended was not to be found. I risked a different one from the dollar store, and it worked!

Then we got creative with the rest of our sugar cookie dough. We had a Harry Potter snowman, a gingerbread man who was morphed into Legolas, a wreath that I decorated like a cat face, and several abstract cookies. 

Now it's time for some wrapping!

Important Obilgations

I didn't post last night because I was doing something very important: watching Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince with my girls. And drinking butterbeer (not pictured). 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Sweets

Tonight the girls and I made Pioneer Woman's Christmas cookies from her new cookbook.  We really like how the food colored egg yolks made them have a stained glass effect.  We had fun being creative, and we had fun eating them, too!

Songs of Hope

Today was a day of wrapping up. Not presents, at least not yet. But wrapping up of school semesters and piano lessons for the year. Finishing tests and doing final assignments.

And we capped it off with Rebecca's piano recital. She told us she expected not to do well. She knew she could have practiced more. But when her turn finally came, she played beautifully. Her songs were lovely, and any mistakes went virtually unnoticed. 

Sometimes I feel like Rebecca when it comes to life, to walking with God. I come to my relationship with Him feeling unprepared. I know I could have spent more time with Him. Reading His Word. Communing with Him in prayer. Dwelling on Who He is. And if I let my feelings of unpreparedness prevent me from moving forward, no one will be able to hear the song He is giving me. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Because Smiling's My Favorite

We watched one of our favorite Christmas movies tonight. I love the silly sweetness of this movie!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Seeing by the Light of Christ

After supper this evening, our family went on our annual "Christmas Light Seeing" excursion. Every year the girls dress in pajamas and we drive around our area looking at the beautiful lights while listening to Christmas music. At some point during our evening we will stop and pick up ice cream. 

My favorite moment of this evening was looking at some of the lights our city put up downtown. We were so confused by the lighted giant bottle of milk and a goose laying golden eggs. And then there was the Eiffel Tower. We thought these things had nothing to do with Christmas!  Until we saw the final piece of this display - a partridge in a pear tree! Now it made sense. Eight maids a-milking. Seven geese a-laying. Three French hens. We had to drive by again now that we knew what we were looking at. 

That partridge in the pear tree helped me make sense of what had seemed to be silly. Jesus is like that, too. All the seemingly random and unrelated things in my life make sense in light of Jesus. I may not be able to see it now. I may not see it this side of Heaven. But one day, I can review all of my life in light of Jesus and see how He fits everything together. Even a giant lighted bottle of milk!

The Nutcracker

Today my three ballerinas and I went to see The Royal Ballet performance of The Nutcracker at our local movie theater. Although the performance was beautiful, I know I will enjoy their performance next week even more!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Although Patches still has a LONG way to go to truly accept Nora, this gave me hope! They did this on their own, and we didn't hear any growling or hissing.  Until later. When the girls began trying to push them closer together, Patches made some awful sounds. And Patches also makes terrible noises when Nora comes on too strong. But they seem to be adjusting at least a little.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

All Dolled Up


Today became an informal American Girl day in our house. This afternoon the girls all brought out their dolls to dress them for Christmas. Even though Hannah and Rebecca are too old to play with the dolls, they still enjoy dressing them and styling their hair. I'm so glad for that!

Then this evening we watched Felicity: An American Girl.  And afterward we dressed more dolls. The girls even let me get in on the fun! 

When the Trapping of Christmas Loom Large

Today as we were driving home from a youth luncheon we saw this Christmas display:

If you don't look too closely, it looks no different from many other yard decorations we see at Christmas. A couple of white wooden reindeer and some inflatables. Nothing out of the ordinary. The uncropped photo says otherwise:

The reindeer dwarf the car! They're huge! While this is certainly not the glitziest Christmas display I've ever seen, it is one of the most impressive.
And as much fun and pure happiness as these decorations brought me, they also made me think.  Sometimes I want to make the trappings of celebrating Christmas so big they dwarf the real parts of my life.  Celebrating Christ is another matter entirely. I can't celebrate Him enough, and He should completely overshadow everything else.) But the decorations, the traditions, the gifts, the parties should not become so large that they are all anyone sees about my celebration of Christmas.

Christmas should be a time of peace and joy, not stress and work. So I want to spend the rest of this season of celebrating Christ's birth celebrating Him. And I want to enjoy the trappings without allowing them to take over my life!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Happy Hobbit Day

If I were organized and on top of things I would have thought to take a photo or two of the fun and interesting parts of our day today. But, since I'm not, I'll have to paint a picture with words.

One of the fun things about homeschooling is flexibility. Today we finished our work early and went to see the 12:45 showing of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  The girls and I all loved it! Usually I am a book purist (bordering on a book snob) when it comes to the movie adaptation of a beloved book.  I want the film makers to stick as closely to the book as possible. The Hobbit added quite a bit of material, but it worked. I feel like this is the story Tolkien would have told had he had the whole Lord of the Rings saga already formed in his mind when he wrote The Hobbit

I really like how the beginnings of some of the plot lines in The Lord of the Rings saga are fleshed out in this movie.  And, of course, the elves are truly spectacular. I want to be that cool! And I want their amazing hair!

We did a little shopping after the movie so the girls could be a little more specific with their Christmas list items. After a short break at home, I brought the younger three girls to a birthday party, and Hannah and I had a girls night of supper at Panera and some more shopping. 

And now I feel like this:

Tired but content.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

My Favorite Veggies

This Christmas season seems to be flying by! We have so much going on that sometimes we feel like we haven't made time to stop and enjoy this season of Advent. So yesterday I decided to try to do at least one special Christmas activity each day until Christmas. 

So today I bought this: 

We already had some of the Veggie Tales Christmas DVDs, but we did not have the two newest ones. And even though my girls are now teens and tweens, they all enjoyed watching Merry Larry and the Christmas Lights together. Some of us may have even performed an impromptu dance routine to the Owl City song that ran during the closing credits. 

Christmas fun mission accomplished for today!


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Our Jesse Tree

This year I am reading Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift as an Advent devotional and sharing the verses and themes with my girls. Although it's a few days late, I put together our Jesse Tree today using sticks and pine cones I found in my yard. 

I love how she reminds us of the thread of Jesus that runs through every part of Scripture. Just how He should be the thread that runs through every part of my life. Not just on Sundays or during my devotional time, but all the time. He is with me when I am teaching my girls or buying presents or cleaning the kitchen. Even when I am unaware of His presence, He is there.  I want to learn to sense His presence more often in my life!

Messy Christmas

In the spirit of keeping it real, this is what my living room looks like this evening. When I look at others' blog or Facebook or Instagram posts, I sometimes think they have it all together: an orderly home, fun and creative traditions, super-well-behaved children, fabulous meals, and more.

I never want anyone to be intimidated by me or think I have it all together. This photo is proof of that. We still need to put away the boxes i;n which we store our Christmas decor. My girls have laundry I have not reminded them to fold. (I was hoping that they would remember to do it since the basket is in plain sight, but that hope was in vain.) 

I'm not proud of my messy living room, but it is a real part of my life today. And I think that we as Christians, particularly Christian women, benefit greatly when we don't hide the real behind a perfect facade.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Away in a Manger

When Paul and I met, his mother owned a Christmas tree store filled with trees and ornaments and a room filled with a beautiful Nativity scene. After we married, she gave us some pieces for our own Nativity scene. Each year we would collect more pieces until we had this set. 

This Nativity is one of my favorite Christmas decorations. We set it up on a shelf over our TV, so it is front and center in our living room, just where Jesus ought to be. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

O, Christmas Tree

We finally finished putting all of our ornaments on our tree! We put the non-breakable ones on last Sunday, but, since we had a brand new kitten who might want to mess with the tree, I decided to wait awhile before we put on any ornaments that might break. Since she has only batted at a couple of ornaments all week, I decided it was safe to put on the rest of our ornaments.

And, as I was getting a glass ornament ready to put on our tree, I dropped it, and it broke. I can salvage part of it, so it's not a total loss, but I am a little disappointed. 

I love that each of our ornaments tells a story. My grandmother began giving my sister and me ornaments each year when we were little girls. She continued doing that her whole life, even making some herself, and also gave ornaments to my girls. We have ornaments from my mom and ornaments from Paul's mother's Christmas tree store.After my Granny went to be with Jesus, I received some of the ornaments from her tree. (Sadly, many of the ornaments with the most memories attached had been stolen a few years before her passing.) We also have sweet ornaments made by my girls when they were little. 

My tree will never be featured in a decorating magazine, but it is one that is filled with reminders of people we love. No tree could be more beautiful to me.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Peaceful Saturday

Today has been a much-needed day of rest for me. After bringing my older girls to church for a retreat and spending my Kohl's Cash with my younger girls, I was able to stay home in pajama pants all day, covered with a plush blanket. 

We cheered the Baylor Bears to a victory over UT and the Big 12 Championship! Sic 'em Bears! My celebration was somewhat tempered by the sleeping kitten on my lap.  And then we had a victory dinner of steak cooked by my husband.

I savored being able to read a book without having to go anywhere or do anything. I've had so many things to do lately that I haven't been able to read as much, and I've missed it. My soul needs some quiet and restful days to recharge for the fuller and louder days. (And I know they are coming!)

The picture doesn't show it clearly, but our stocking holders spell out "PEACE." Isaiah said Jesus would be the Prince of Peace. This year I want my Christmas season to be full of His peace. Today was a good start. 

 Eating cookies by the fire.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Hobbit

Since the second Hobbit movie comes out in one week, we watched the first Hobbit movie tonight. We gathered around the television eating our supper of warm potato soup, chicken, and homemade biscuits. And the movie was long enough for the girls to enjoy some warm cookies at the end of the movie.  I'm about to enjoy my warm cookies right now. 

I love how my girls are drawn to the great stories of love and sacrifice, courage and hope and redemption. I think we are drawn to these stories written by humans because they reflect THE story written by God. Of His love for us. Of Jesus' sacrifice. Of the courage of Jesus going to the Cross. Of the hope and redemption we have because of Him.  


Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Joy of a Kitten

When we adopted Patches she was already a few months old and was already somewhat dignified. So I haven't shared my home with a little kitten since high school. I forgot how silly and lively and distracting kittens can be. 

Today Nora ran around the house and played with pieces of cereal, climbed onto the open dishwasher, climbed inside an open cabinet, and chased her tail for five minutes. She tried to put her head in a bag of crackers and also tried to eat some cheese I was snacking on. (I gave her a taste after I was through, and she loved it.)

She also decided to come help me type on my laptop. 


 In this season where we celebrate joy and peace, I love how kittens embody both. When she plays, Nora is the picture of joyful abandon. And when she sleeps, she is so peaceful and sweet. I want my life to exhibit such joy! And I want to rest peacefully when I rest.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Light of Christmas

We were all tired and hungry as we drove home from the girls' long ballet practice. It was 7:00 and we still had to pick up supper. And we had to drop off some library books that were due before we could get our supper. 

And then I noticed this:

So we did what any tired and hungry mom of tired and hungry girls would do: I turned down the side street this house is located on so we could see it better! And then I stopped in front of it and took pictures. Which totally don't do it justice. 

Even though we are more the understated white light kind of decorators, viewing houses like this makes me happy. I love the extravagance and the total unashamedness of displays like this one. These people love Christmas and are not afraid to let everyone know.

It reminds me of God's extravagant love that we celebrate at Christmas. He loves us like this. With a big, lit-up, no room for doubt kind of love. He displayed His love for us for all to see in the manger and on the Cross. 

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” ~ John 8:12 (ESV)

The people walking in darkness see a bright light; light shines on those who live in a land of deep darkness.  ~ Isaiah 9:2 (NET)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

'Tis the Season for Christmas China

One of things I enjoy during the Christmas season is using my Christmas china that my Granny gave me when Paul and I were first married.  Even though I have to wash it by hand, I use it as much as I can. It helps puts me in the Christmas spirit and reminds me of my Granny, who loved Christmas so much. 

The large plates and bowls just have the poinsettia design, but the dessert plates each have an illustration of one of the Twelve Days of Christmas. The cookies are obscuring the four colly birds on this plate. (Which I always thought was four calling birds. What is a colly bird, anyway?) 

Tonight I used it to eat Pioneer Woman's Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies. And because we like chocolate, we added chocolate chips.  Yum!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Resting in the Anticipation

This year I want to relax into this season of Advent, this season of remembrance of Jesus' first coming and anticipation for His second coming. 

Year after year I find myself stressed instead of resting in the weeks leading up to Christmas. I become distracted by the parties, the gifts, the travel, the decorating, the wrapping.  I turn these blessings into burdens that I bear in my own strength. I worry that our traditions aren't as good as others' traditions. That somehow our traditions are hurried or lacking.

This year I want to choose to be joyful. To be merry. To have peace. 

I want the miracle of Christ to overwhelm my heart. 

I know the events will still come. Ballet practice alone will keep us busy this month. But I want to walk through the parties, the ballet practice, the decorating, the travel, the wrapping with an awareness of Jesus. Not just baby Jesus in the manger, but my risen Lord who lives in me and empowers me to live out life. Christ came not just so we could have beautifully wrapped gifts or fun parties or lovely decorations; He came to save us and change us and take over our wayward hearts.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

We're Test Driving a Kitten!

The danger of having friends who find a litter of kittens in their boat is that you may be tempted to bring one home! 

One of our girlies has been wanting a pet of her very own for a while now. We'd been considering a bunny or a guinea pig, but she loves cats, and these are free! Our friends were kind enough to let us have this sweetie on a trial basis. If Patches can learn to live with another cat, my girl has an early Christmas gift. 

So far the new kitty has explored and purred and made herself at home. And Patches has only hissed twice. So things look promising. I'm praying that Patches accepts the new kitten and that they become friends. Because I think we're already in love with new kitty.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Giving Thanks for Thanksgiving Break

When I was a child, I couldn't wait for breaks from school. Now that I'm a homeschool teacher, I think that anticipation is even stronger. Finally, after week after consecutive week of school, Thanksgiving break is finally here! We celebrated by sleeping in. It was wonderful to sleep until we woke up and then to be able to just hang around our warm house and listen to the rain.

The introverted side of me would have loved to have been able to stay home all day, but we did have some things that had to be done, so we braved the rain to drop off the 10 Operation Christmas Child boxes our 4-H group donated! Then my dancers and I went to the dance store where we were pleased to discover that everything was on sale. That took a bit of the sting out of buying pointe shoes! Then my girls had Nutcracker practice.
After supper my older girls had Bible study.

We ended our evening with these amazing warm homemade brownies and The Blacklist for all but the youngest two. They enjoyed the privilege of brownies and milk in their room. 

Sometimes I can stress myself out by trying to put too much on my plate over school breaks. This break I am going to allow myself to rest and recharge, knowing that will serve my family more than organizing kitchen cabinets or even cleaning my room. 

Day one of resting was a success.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Everyday Joys

PThere are so many truly big and serious things in life. Big things that bring joy and sorrow. Big things that bring worry and peace. And when I look at those things from the daily smallness of my life, I can convince myself that the small things that bring me joy or frustration don't really count. But that's not what God tells us. Jesus said that God remembers the sparrows and counts the hairs on our heads. 

Today I celebrate some of the ordinary joys I've been experiencing:

* Fresh highlights! My last hair appointment I chose to do an all-over color, and it turned out darker than I realized it would. I lived with it until it was time to get my hair done again. I went with highlights again, and I'm loving them!

* Getting in to see a new hairdresser the same day I called! My usual hairdresser can fit me in pretty quickly, but, since she is not able to work right now, I had to call someone new. She happened to have a cancellation for that day and she did a great job!

* This sunset!

* A costume party with friends. Our theme was Awkward Family Photos. Our family dressed like hipsters with one goth child. Unbeknownst to us one the other families dressed up goth with a preppy child! 

* Baylor victories!

* Buying a wallet from women in Thailand who made them as an alternative to working in the s*x trade. I love being able to help people achieve freedom with dignity!

* Kittens! We got to visit a friend's little fluff-ball of a kitten last weekend. So cute!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Pinterest 31 Woman - Part 1

An excellent wife I find on Pinterest.
Her husband may not notice the many talents, skills, and recipes she has gleaned from the internet, but she really intimidates impresses her friends.

She pins prayer guides and encouragements she uses with her husband.

She makes beautiful clothes from patterns she pins.

She creates healthy gourmet recipes with exotic ingredients like quinoa and kale and shares her favorite recipes on Pinterest.

She wakes up early to serve her children homemade gluten-free pancakes in the shape of their favorite animals.

She buys heirloom seeds and plants an organic garden. She even pins about the method she uses for her compost pile.

Her arms can testify that she actually does the arm workouts she pins.

She perfects some of the crafts she has pinned and sets up her own Etsy shop.

She knits and crochets using free patterns she has shared.

She pins links to her favorite charities, and sets up ways to donate to them when she shops at her favorite on-line stores.

She makes her little girls dresses out of pillowcases and old shirts and knows how to do many intricate braids.

She never worries about where to find their family's stored winter items because she has used all the wonderful storage and organization tips she has discovered and repinned.

She shares the patterns to the pillows and curtains she has made for her home, and she always has wonderful decorating ideas.

She always knows the latest fashions and dresses well (on a budget), and she knows how to contour and highlight her face. 

Other women notice how she pins ways to encourage her husband.

She sells beautiful handmade scarves at her Etsy shop. And she knows 50 ways to tie them.

She pins wise quotes with beautiful background pictures and tastefully funny e-cards. (But never the tacky ones!)

She makes all her own household cleaners using formulas she has pinned. 

Her children bless her for teaching them fun and exciting things in their homeschool. And for throwing amazing themed birthday parties complete with beautifully decorated homemade cakes and homemade gift wrap.

Many women pin lots of things they never do, but she does them all.

Pins are deceptive and Facebook is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 

*Disclaimer: I am not against Pinterest. I have a Pinterest account that I use regularly and enjoy. Tonight's main dish was one I discovered on Pinterest. But I have realized that my life and the life of my friends isn't accurately reflected merely by the things we pin.  

*Disclaimer # 2: The things in my post are all wonderful things that really are to be admired. And if any one woman does all of them, she really does have my admiration. My point isn't to bash these things, but to help us see that few if any of us can do ALL of them at any given point in our lives!

In my next post, I'll share more about what God is showing me about these thoughts.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I Blogged for 31 Days in a Row and Then Took a Four Day Break

I blogged for 31 days in a row! Yay, me!! And I intend to continue blogging on a regular basis. Probably not every day, but certainly at least several times a week. I'm hoping the four day break will be a rare occurrence.

Here are some things I learned about myself through the 31 day journey:

*I CAN blog consistently.

*Having a goal and accountability is a good thing for me, especially good when I'm trying to insert a new rhythm into my life.

*I often think through writing. Some days I thought I would have little to say, but as I began typing, thoughts and feeling surfaced that I wanted to express.

*Not every blog post will be great or deep or thought-provoking or funny. And that's OK.

*My voice won't sound like the voices of others whose blogs I love to read. And that's OK, too. We already have their voices out there. My echo of their voices is less interesting and valuable than me speaking and writing like me.

*I like to write, and I need to do so more often. 

*Lists are perfectly acceptable blog posts! 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Art of Being Present

Day 31! - The Art of Being Present

we will make art

 Reading Emily Freeman's A Million Little Ways has been such an inspiring and encouraging time for me.  I have never thought of myself as an artist. My drawing skills are not that great, I stopped playing the clarinet when I graduated high school, and, while my Play-Doh cats are recognizable, they will never appear in a gallery.

But Emily is helping me see that my art doesn't have to be painted on a canvas or played on a piano. My art can be words or photographs or loving my girls.

Today I practiced the art of being present. I comforted a daughter who was feeling discouraged, even when it meant skipping my workout. I enjoyed  Chick Fil-A ice cream with the girls, even though it meant getting out in the rain. I helped us make the best of our church's Trunk R Treat being rained out by eating pizza and watching Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with my girls. 

And as we were beginning the movie, when we noticed an amazing sunset, I took time to go outside and see God's splendor on display and take a picture to help myself and others remember that God does display His beauty after the rain. 

Of Photographs and Perspective

Day 30 - Of Photographs and Perspective

Some days God gives me a glimpse of grace before I even realize I need it. Today was one such day. While sitting in the doctor's office waiting for the doctor to perform my check-up, I was able to catch up on some social media blog reading. And, while I did not enjoy the hour-long wait in a paper gown, I am so thankful I had the time to read Angie Smith's beautiful blog post today. She wrote things I've thought but never put into words. Things I needed to hear today.

This evening my girls were looking through old pictures of themselves when they were younger. Pictures in boxes rather than albums, because I never made time to do it. We don't look at these old pictures as often as we should probably because looking at them makes me feel regret for all the things I think I should have done but didn't.

 But when my girls were looking at the pictures, they didn't comment about things I dropped the ball on while they were younger. They just enjoyed reminiscing.  They don't look at those snapshots of life and see all the things Mom could have done but did not. (OK, my oldest does ask why I let her wear ponytails all the time when she was in elementary school. One day she will see that I was giving her freedom by not being a mom who nagged her about her appearance!)

I'm so thankful for Angie's reminder that I am my girls' mom, not their God. It is not up to me to provide everything they need. It is not up to me to know everything they need. And when take off my lenses of guilt and regret, I am free to enjoy the present and free to enjoy our memories. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Quiet Grace

Day 29 - A Quiet Grace

 Right now I'm enjoying the grace of some time alone. I've spent so many years believing that wanting quiet time to read, to think, to just breathe was somehow selfish and un-Chritian. But over the past year I've come to realize that God created me to function best when I can have some "down time." 

And since my last few days have been filled more than normal, I am thankful for this time when all I can hear is the running of the dishwasher and everyone else in my house is asleep. I can step back from being on-call to answer questions and find things. I can relax with a blog or with a book. 

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15 (ESV)

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Day 28 - Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Yesterday was a busy day, so I didn't get to post until this morning.

One of the graces I experienced yesterday was seeing a beautiful rainbow on the way to the girls' ballet class. My younger two noticed it first, and it took me a while to see it, but when I did, it was lovely. We were able to see about two-thirds of the bright rainbow.  And as we continued to look at it, we saw another partial rainbow above the first one.

I tried to get a picture of it (which I could do since Hannah was driving), but power lines or the car antenna got in the way. 

It would have been easy to be annoyed by the dark clouds and unexpected rain, but instead we chose to focus on the beauty of the rainbow. In the same way, when I choose to focus on the beautiful even in the midst of less-than-ideal circumstances, I will be blessed. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pumpkin Carving

Day 27 - Pumpkin Carving



Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Grace of Celebrations

Day 26 - The Grace of Celebrations

Today I had the grace of being able to celebrate Paul's birthday with our girls. His actual birthday falls on a busy weekday, so we chose to celebrate it today.  Last year he bought me a doberge cake from a terrific bakery and has wanted us to make one at home. So I did. The recipe looked a little intimidating and rather time-consuming, but it wasn't hard. And, since I cooked the different parts over two days, I didn't have to spend all day in the kitchen. 

The cake was a big hit! I was impressed by how good it is. And my husband is worth the effort.

I also make the Pioneer Woman's Pork Roast with Apples and Onions and creamy homemade mashed potatoes. And I had Paul pick up a baguette from Panera.

We ate on my grandmother's china and used the beautiful serving ware that is part of the set. After dinner we gave him this knife, which he is excited to use.  (While I was preparing dinner, I was tempted to use it and put it back in the box!) 

We finished our celebration by playing a family game and eating our yummy cake. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Purrfect Service Project

Day 25 - A Purrfect Service Project

Over the summer my younger girls were excited to learn that our local cat shelter needs volunteers to pet and play with the kitties. Today we made our first trip to volunteer as cat petters. The girls and the cats loved it! 

If Patches hadn't made it abundantly clear that she wants to be an Only Cat, I would have been tempted to bring one home. The skinny little calico with the big purr was my favorite, and the girls also liked the black lap kitty. 

In addition to petting the cats, I also enjoyed watching my girls love on some of God's creatures that were hungry for affection. I am thankful for their sweet, loving, and tender hearts.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Graceful Pondering

Day 24 - Graceful Pondering

Some days my grace isn't in an event or a person but in a thought or an idea. The past few days I've had some thoughts circling in my head, and last night I had a great thought about how to tie them together. I want to get it right, so that may not happen for a few days, but I will share the basic idea of what I've been thinking.

As women we so often compare ourselves unfavorably with other women. And not only that, I take my friends' best qualities and combine them to form one totally unachievable ideal of a perfect woman, wife, and mother. Of course, no one can live up to this ideal, but somehow, I feel guilty if I do not. 

I want to get to the place where I am so secure in who God has created me to be that I gladly recognize and celebrate others' strengths and accomplishments without feeling like I need to live up to them. I want my standard not to be some imaginary super woman, but the only standard that matter, the standard of Jesus Christ. 

I know that I can never live up to His standard, but I don't have to! Jesus did it for me. And when I let Him live out His life in me, I will be exactly the woman God wants me to be.

Wednesday Graces

Day 23 - Wednesday Graces

* A daughter loading the dishwasher just to be helpful

* Watching one of my twins excel in the skit she was in for the youth worship service

* Good books

* Girls who love to read

* Renewing library books on-line

* Date night at Panera

* A purring cat 

* Answered prayer for a friend

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Fabulous Compliment

Day 22 - A Fabulous Compliment

 This afternoon as I was leaving Target, a woman in the parking lot told me she thought my sunglasses were fabulous. And it really was a moment of grace. I had been feeling bad for most of the day, and I had to bring the girls to ballet and run some errands even though I would have rather stayed home. In the midst of this, someone said a kind word, and that gave me a little extra energy to carry on.

Sometimes I'm reluctant to be bold like she was. But after today, I want to tell others when I notice something fabulous about them. Because it might be a much-needed grace spot in a rough day.

Quality Time

Day 21 - Quality Time

One of the things I enjoy about Mondays is getting to spend some time one on one with my middle daughter. The other girls all have ballet class, and Paul often works late, so she and I will eat our supper on the couch and watch an episode of Merlin together. I'm thankful that all my girls like to spend time with me.

And this Monday was also special because I started reading A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman with the Bloom Book Club. I've already highlighted so many good things in the first chapter, and I'm looking forward to the things God will teach me through this book. 

A couple of my favorite thoughts:

* "Have we exalted the will of God and the plans of God above God himself?" ~ A Million Little Ways page 17

*From the same page: "God doesn't give us a list. He invites us into the story."

I want to live my life fully in God's story, seeking Him, and not just a plan. And I want to teach my girls to do the same.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Another Post in Which I Find Deep Spritual Truths Via Yard Work

Day 20 - Another Post in Which I Find Deep Spiritual Truths Via Yard Work


When we bought our house over ten years ago, the previous owners had invested a lot of time and money on the landscaping. Which would have been great if we had had the time and knowledge to keep it up. But since my gardening skills are limited, and since I had a one year old and a three year old to care for, the landscaping went wild.

The past two weekends Paul pulled out more of the bushes that came with the house. (We gotten rid of the hated holly bushes years ago!) From the original plantes, we now only have an azalea (which I like) and another bush/tree that looks decent. He pulled out scraggly overgrown bushes and a perfectly healthy sago palm that I had never really liked. We planted a few annuals and bought some camellias which we will plant this week. Then we'll order some small rose plants. We're even putting in an arch.

What struck me today as we worked on making our house beautiful was how we had lived with plants we didn't like for over ten years! We saw those plants as we drove into the driveway every day and didn't like them. But we just kept them there, hoping the Gardening Fairy (sister to the elusive Cleaning Fairy) would come and make our yard beautiful. I never pushed for changer because Paul already works so hard and because I didn't know what else we could do in that space.

Since we've cleared out those plants, our house already looks better! We have worked hard these past two weekends, but we are liking the results. When we finish I will have a home exterior that I love, not one I just tolerate. 

As I realized how much better I like my house now, I couldn't help but wonder which attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors I've been putting up with in my life. Things I don't even like, but seem too big to deal with. Things that I don't know how to change or remove. Sometimes I think that, like our landscaping, I just need to start the thing. Because when I look at my life I want to see the things that I WANT to be there, things that are beautiful and that complement who God has made me to be,  not just some out-of-control characteristics that I've put up with for too long because I was scared to tackle them.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Why I Can Trust God When Things Look Scary

Day 19 - Why I Can Trust God When Things Look Scary

I enjoy preparing for teaching our middle school Sunday School class because as I read and study the Scriptures, I learn so many things. 

This week we are studying Caleb, who, along with Joshua, kept his faith in God even in circumstances that looked scary. One of the points my commentary made was that God had already shown His faithfulness to Israel by essentially defeating the most powerful nation in the Middle East (and probably the most powerful nation on earth at the time). But even with the memory of that amazing display of God's love and power, the people doubted that God would enable them to defeat an assortment of cities and city/states. 

On this side of the Cross, it is easy for me to not trust God to do something that looks big or hard to me. But He has already done the biggest and hardest thing ever when Jesus died and rose again! I can have confidence that, like the Israelites, if God leads me somewhere, He will empower me to do it.

He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things. ~ Rom. 8:32

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Strength for the Weary

Day 18 - Strength for the Weary

After a very full week this is grace.

28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is an eternal God,
the Creator of the whole earth.
He does not get tired or weary;
there is no limit to his wisdom.
29 He gives strength to those who are tired;
to the ones who lack power, he gives renewed energy.
30 Even youths get tired and weary;
even strong young men clumsily stumble.
31 But those who wait for the Lord’s help find renewed strength;
they rise up as if they had eagles’ wings,
they run without growing weary,
they walk without getting tired.

Isaiah 40: 28-31 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Linky Graces

Day 17 - Linky Graces

Often I find grace in what others have to say. Here are some things that spoke grace to me today:

This powerful post by Jen Hatmaker. Yes! I want to get rid of "They" in my thinking.

This beautiful reminder of how to honor others by Emily Freeman. I loved the Mr. Rogers video!

And this, because there is grace in humor.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Cat's Meow

Day 16 - The Cat's Meow



Today I'm grateful for Patches, The World's Best Cat. My sister messaged today that her cat of 17 years is not doing well. Even though I like to joke that God is going to keep Patches alive until Jesus comes back, I know that if He tarries we will one day have to say good-bye to our sweet kitty. 

I really like how Patches spends time with all of my girls in each of their rooms. Just now she was meowing at my eldest daughter's door to be let in. But by morning, she will probably be sleeping in one of the other girls' beds. She tolerates the extra loving and cuddling the girls sometimes bestow with only some mild cat muttering. And she purrs often. She is a safe confidant for my introvert, and she makes us laugh. I'm so thankful God led me to pick this kitty!