One of my greatest joys these days is watching and listening to my children play together. Here's a snapshot from this evening when they jumped out of the vehicle and onto the slide so they could slide down into the pile of leaves at the bottom.
If you're looking forward to the holidays, but dreading those thoughts of, "what am I to buy for the person who has it all," my friend Amy has put together a list of some gift options where the profit of the gift item goes to support things like adoption or food and education for those without. Check out her blog for some options. You just might be able to bless more than one person with your gifts this Christmas season. And, if you find yourself just loving something listed, consider adding it to your own list.
May you seek to change the world this Christmas, just as Christ did, that very first Christmas.
While going to pick-up Ashley from preschool today, I was stopped by one of the other moms. She told me that her daughter cut her hair to be like Ashley's. This sweet little girl, who had BEAUTIFUL, long, golden curly locks, cut her hair off (all on her own), so that she could have short hair "like Ashley's." Oh my...she still looks so cute, but I cannot believe her long hair is gone. Her poor mother cried for hours over it. Oh dear!
On the bright side, I guess these little ones are beginning to gain confidence in their own preferences.
I am amazed at how quickly my daughter can become incapable of doing anything when you ask her to pick up her books or her room or the living room, etc. It is as if she loses all sense of ability and forgets all she knows and she can just sit there, not knowing what to do or where to begin. She becomes helpless.
However, if Joe or I stop what we're doing and simply sit down and help her, she can accomplish anything.
Alone as a parenting tool, this is helpful. However, let's take this one step farther...
To me, this is a beautiful reminder of how God is our Father and our Helper.
Sometimes, life can seem overwhelming and we don't even know where to begin. However, we have access to the Great Helper at all times. His agenda is never too full to sit and help us sort things out and determine our next step or task.
There are also times when we begin thinking we need no help and we attempt life on our own. This approach isn't great either. Though we may not look like we're "falling apart" and incapable, we're missing out on the important things-relationships. We were not created to check things off our trusty to-do lists. We were created to be in RELATIONSHIP. First and foremost with God. And then also with people.
Too often, we find ourselves happy to do things alone, and we forget that we need the help of a Father or a God-sent friend. Our pride gets in the way, or perhaps our infatuation with perfection. And as a result, we get the task accomplished or the line item crossed off our list, but we feel empty at the end. And, after continuing on in such a way for some time, we finally realize that we've MISSED IT. We've missed the point of it all. We've missed the opportunity to trust, to care, to love, to let the Holy Spirit use us as part of something bigger than ourselves.
So, as you take a moment today to reflect, consider asking the Lord to help. Help to do the overwhelming things, and also help to do the things you've always done on your own. Ask Him to help you view common things with new eyes, so that you may depend upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
After all, don't they say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting to get different results. Let the Holy Spirit take you to a new place today with the Help of our Father. May your day yield different results because you dared to consider that perhaps you don't really know it all.
consider cloth diapering! We've used cloth diapers on both our kiddos and have definitely saved a ton of money, not to mention that we've prevented pounds of diapers from being tossed into the landfill.
I tell my friends who are interested in cloth diapering (CDing) that they can get all they need for the diapering life of their child for about $500. That includes about 24 diapers, a diaper sprayer (highly recommend) and the appropriate detergent for cloth diapering. That, compared to the average of $20/week in diapers x 2 years (usually a little longer), which is a total of $2080. And, the great thing about the cloth diapers is that you can usually use them for another child if you're willing to replace the elastic in them (which is easy), or you can often find a buyer on something like craigslist too. I've never heard of anyone wanting to buy used disposables...but you'll find many mommies looking to take advantage of a good deal on some used cloth diapers. Cotton Babies, has a program where you can get cash for your used cloth diapers, so this is another option to be considered.
My favorite site to purchase cloth diapers, and find out about how to use them, is cottonbabies.com. The staff there are super-helpful as well when you run into questions on your CDing journey. I have used the Bum Genius 2.0 and 3.0 diapers. They now have a 4.0, which I would recommend, as it comes with snaps rather than the velcro. The velcro is a quick and easy option, however, when your kiddos get a little larger, they like to try to de-robe themselves of their diapers...which is not cool. And so then, you've always got to have shorts/pants on them and you don't get to see their cute cloth-covered bum.
Here is my little guy in his cloth covered bum this morning.
In talking with several different friends this week, I've been reminded of the age-old scheme of the Enemy "the art of distraction." It is just like the "game" we play on little kiddos when we get them to turn their head, so we can either take something off, or put something on, their plate at the dinner table. They fall for it nearly every time, and thankfully since its a game, when they realize it, we can all laugh.
Well, unfortunately, the Enemy is playing this same game on us, and all too often we fall for it too-just as innocent little children. He plays like this...God burdens our heart with a clear calling. We get excited about it, start moving in that direction, and then the Enemy jumps out in front of us, waves his little carrot, and aims to distract us with some little thing that isn't what we just learned was God's clear calling/purpose for us. Often it is a "good" thing, and could even be considered noble or worthy, but it is NOT what God called US to. He may have called another person to it, but he did not call us. The Enemy tries to get us all worked up, frustrated and/or discouraged about it. Then, several days, months, weeks or years later, we finally realize that we just wasted a whole bunch of time being frustrated about something that wasn't the BIG thing God called us to. We realize we've fallen prey to deception once again.
James 4:7-10 says (emphasis mine),
"7Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.8Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.9Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."
In reading James 4 this week, I was encouraged by the reminder that if we resist the devil, he will flee from us. Sometimes I forget that each time we say "no" to him, it makes it harder for him to crack us and "win" in our lives. Each time we train ourselves in saying no to the Enemy and yes to God, we become stronger in the Holy Spirit.
Lord, help us to resist the schemes of the Enemy and to embrace the strength of your spirit. May we lay down our own crowns and humble ourselves at your feet, that YOU may lift us up and make us mighty in your sight.
While Ashley has been in preschool this week, I've been painting at our rental house. While this has been a very productive time, I have found myself a little paranoid while there, locking doors, easily startled, etc. I guess I'm doing this because I'm not very familiar with the neighborhood and we have been told that though the neighbors are kind, they seem to attract some shady guests. As I am painting, my mind rambles and I have found myself thinking through scenarios of people breaking in while I'm there, coming to steal our tools or money or to harm me. Yes, I know it is pretty irrational to think of this happening in broad daylight. However, I found myself having those thoughts a lot on the first day I was working over there.
Later in the week while painting again, I started down this same road of fearful thinking, and was then reminded of this book I've been reading called Safely Home, by Randy Alcorn. If you haven't read it, it is a gripping novel about Christians in China and the persecution they experience. Through the storyline, it paints a picture of the underground church, the ways believers are tracked, followed, harassed and hurt...all because of their faith. It talks about how they have to travel by bike or foot in the middle of the night, just to gather quietly in someone's home for a time of worship. This story tells us of one man's journey of living all out for God--desiring above all else to share the story of God's grace and love with other people. He lives in such a way that he asks himself daily, "Is this the day I will die." Authorities and others can take all his earthly possessions, but they cannot take his faith. And for this faith, he is willing to make any sacrifice, accept any punishment.
As I reflected upon this contrast in fears between Li Quan's and my own, I was humbled. Here I am, fearing someone will come in and hurt ME or take some of our "STUFF." Here is Li Quan, who would probably love to have a problem as simple as my conjured up problem-people following him and harassing him for something as simple as his money or possessions. That would be such an "easy" burden to bear and easy to resolve. For he is being persecuted for his faith, which no one will be able to "steal" from him, therefore his beatings and persecution will continue.
Praise Him that no person can take our living and active faith in Jesus. I pray that the Lord would work in my heart to consider and re-focus my priorities and treasures-that they would be eternal in nature. Lord, help me to see with the perspective of your eyes and the wisdom of your mind. Teach me what is important, and what is not. Help me to make wise decisions and grant me the confidence and boldness necessary to do so.
If you're still reading at this point...may the Lord also help you to re-focus your priorities and help you to focus on heavenly treasures, not those on earth, where moth and rust destroy.
Ashley and I were invited to a Princess Party on Saturday evening. What a fun opportunity to embrace the beauty God has placed in each of our little girls and us as women. May we seek to honor the King.
The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord. Psalm 45:11
Well, even though it is not yet fall, apple harvest has arrived in Texas. Our 3 year old Granny Smith Apple tree has produced for us its first edible apples this year. I think she gave us 14 in all. Today we picked, peeled, sliced and froze them all. We're looking forward to some apple crisp or pie this year.
Thanks Aunt Sally for the our apple peeler, slicer, corer. We still love it! Ashley and Jacob were especially mezmerized by its wonders today.
Check out the blog excerpt linked up below from my friend Amy's daughter Addisyn. She and her mom recently traveled to Ethiopia to bring home their new baby girl. That experience touched and changed Addisyn's life.
As we prepare to send our little ones to school this next year, Addisyn is challenging us all to get involved in helping send kids to school in Ethiopia. $6.20 buys a school uniform and supplies for little boys and $5.83 does the same for little girls, which is what they need to be able to enroll. Then, it costs only $1.84/month to cover their enrollment in the school for the year. Consider doing something as simple as skipping one meal out and sending that money instead to help little ones have the opportunity to learn.
Click on the link below to read of her reflections and her encouragement for us all to get involved. It just takes a little bit to make a HUGE difference for these kids.
We just learned at the end of last week that we are going to get a new cousin.
Congratulations Tom and Jen!
We're praying for you, your little baby, and all the ways his or her life will mold and shape you. May he or she grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men. (1 Samuel 2:26)
Can you see Jacob and Ashley's excitement? I'm sure they'll be super cousins.
Here is a delicious, easy as pie recipe our family and friends we've dined with have enjoyed this week with the fresh bounty of blueberries from the blueberry farm.
Red, White and Blueberry Cream Pie
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1 Graham Cracker Pie Crust (I like the larger one because you can get more slices).
1 8 oz. package Cream Cheese
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 t. vanilla extract
Sliced fresh strawberries (optional)
1. Place 1 cup of blueberries in the bottom of the crust (cover bottom with one layer)
2. Beat cream cheese in a large blowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla. Spread into crust.
3. Top with remaining blueberries and sliced strawberries in a fun pattern/design.
4. Cover and chill 3 hours, or until set. I also froze one and it tasted great thawed tonight with guests. Refrigerate leftovers.
Our sweet Ashley is always coming up with 101 excuses as to why she shouldn't go to bed/sleep yet. Tonight's excuse has topped them all thus far. After being quiet in her room for about 20 minutes, she came out with a forlorn look and said, "Daddy, I was looking kind-of sad while I was sleeping." What will it be next?
Between downpours today, we ventured over to the local blueberry farm to pick some delicious blueberries. We were quite successful-all of us. Even Jacob kept busy. Of course, he had no bucket, but his tummy closely resembles that of a bucket full of berries tonight. The poor ladies in the church nursery tomorrow. My apologies in advance...I'll be sure to send him in disposables instead of cloth for your diaper changing convenience :)
In the 40 minutes we were there, we picked two full buckets (which I think is about 20 pints), ate a ton and even spilled some on accident. These berries were as large as grapes. Yummy!
Can you guess what we'll be having a lot of at our house this year? You guessed it, blueberry pancakes, blueberry muffins, blueberry pie, blueberry smoothies, frozen blueberries... Yes, yes, I know, I sound like the Bubba Gump Blueberry Factory.
One year ago today, our little Jakers was born into our family. What a fast, yet fun, year it has been.
This little guy's personality, expressions and curiosity make us smile and keep us on our toes daily. What a joy of a son he is. May he grow up to be a leader among men, for the purposes of the Lord. May he think of others first, and act in a way that is honorable, humble and full of grace. May he hone his ability to capture people's attention and bring a smile of joy to their face and warmth to their hearts.
Practicing his hammering skills, so he can soon use this on our dog Sugar and on Ashley. Watch out!
Savoring his yummy chocolate pie/pudding while using a spoon on his own for the first time.
My friend just told me yesterday to be careful because she works at the ER and they had 3 copperhead snake bite cases the night before. I proceeded to tell her that we hadn't seen many snakes lately at all around our place and were very thankful about that. Well, I knew that in opening my very mouth, I would surely soon have opportunities to see snakes. Ugh!
So, today as Joe and Ashley are crouching down picking blueberries from our blueberry bushes, Joe jumps back and hollers "Snake!" Oh gosh. But, thankfully this one was tangled up in the bird netting, so it couldn't go far. He took care of it and it no longer poses any threat to us, if you get my drift.
This evening, after some fun times feeding the fish down at the pond we saw another, much larger snake crossing our path. Joe went to retrieve the proper implements to eradicate the snake, but by the time he returned, the snake was long gone, and I was not going to investigate to determine its location in my sandals. So, that snake is down there somewhere...hopefully just eating some mice and intending to mind his own pretty little business.
Jacob has developed an interest in balls. Balls of all shapes, sizes, textures and colors. But, his most favorite ball is the one we least like him to have-the little red ball for Joe's track-ball mouse.
Joe mentioned tonight that we need to consider getting him a ball that is similar to the track ball, but that is NOT the track ball from the mouse. Joe often comes home from work and goes to use his computer, only to find the track-ball missing from his mouse. And let me tell you-it rolls very well.
I was thinking about Joe's request and the fact that it seems that we already have GAZILLIONS of balls floating around our house. Then I was reminded of something we all know...there is no substitute for the real thing. Kids even know the difference. Jacob wants the real tools from the garage, not the plastic ones that sing to him. Ashley wants to use my real mixer and crack real eggs, not the cheap, plastic substitutes.
This is how we all so often find ourselves in life-trying out different substitutes for the real thing. You know what I'm talking about: the fat-free cream cheese; the Walmart (fall-apart) version of something trendy; every food item in the house but the chocolate chip cookie we really wanted in the first place; the 1/2 price Harbor Freight tool instead of the one that comes with a lifetime guarantee. We find ourselves reading good books with good thoughts, but not THE GOOD BOOK. All this to only to find ourselves dissatisfied and STILL wanting the REAL THING.
If you're finding yourself hungry or yearning for something, remember to just start with the REAL THING in the first place. He will guide your steps and direct your paths. It really is a lot less hassle when you do things HIS way and with HIS blessing.
We harvested peaches last night from one of our trees. Though the peaches were rather small, I was able to get 20 cups of peaches, which means we get to enjoy 5 peach cobblers this year with friends. Yummy! Perhaps you'll come visit and share one with us. We're now accepting reservations :)
Our bountiful basket of peaches:
Jacob, devouring peaches:
Ashley proud of all we picked...if only she knew how much was still left for mommy to do.
We were blessed this week to be able to have our niece and nephew stay with us. All the kiddos seemed to have a great time together. It was fun to see Zachary and Ashley at an age where they can truly play together as friends. Jacob is right behind them trying to get in on the fun.
All the kids at the park:
Zach inside a bubble at the NE Texas Children's Museum.
Madeline and Zach inside a very tall bubble.
Ashley inside a bubble.
And finally, Zach and Ashley playing "fall off the chair and pummel one another."
What a fun week indeed. It is so heartwarming to see the kiddos having fun, developing memories as cousins together. May they be friends and there to help one another out for many years to come.
Thank you to everyone for your prayers. Jacob's appointment with the ophthalmologist went really well. The doctor is hoping/thinking Jacob will outgrow his eye problem-perhaps even over the next two months. So, for two months we'll wait and watch, and unless things get worse, we'll go see him in August to check them out again. And, if he doesn't outgrow the problem (please Lord, please), the doctor is pretty sure they can fix the problem if need be.
We had a super time playing at the park with our friends Whittney and Drew yesterday. Surely Drew and Jacob (only 2 months apart) will grow to be good playmates and even better friends.
Ashley a swingin':
Jacob peeking through:
Sweet Drew boy:
Snack time for the understandably hungry kiddos:
On a different note, please pray for our visit to a Pediatric Ophthalmologist tomorrow morning for Jacob. He has one eye that doesn't seem to be tracking quite right. I suspect they'll just have us patch it, but I don't know. I'm not an M.D.