Saturday, November 30, 2013

How the Day's are Celebrating Christmas

A couple weeks ago, I was at a local store and needed something from the Christmas section. We walked up and down all 4 aisles of Christmas decor. Amidst TONS of wrapping and ribbons and singing Snowmen and Santa faces, sat a lonely nativity. One small thing reflecting the true meaning of Christmas amidst a plethora of junk representing what Christmas has become in our nation. It makes my heart sad. This is what my kids are growing up surrounded with. We are not okay with that.

Collin and I have discussed how we would celebrate Christmas as a family before we even married. I have always loved Christmas and put so much thought into decorations and activities. I love the lights and the traditions and's my favorite time of the year! A few years ago I read a book called Treasuring God in our Traditions by Noel Piper (John Piper's wife). It has shaped the way I long to worship God through our traditions and caused me to really think about what and why we celebrate. Since then, Collin and I have been discussing and tossing around ideas about how to "do" Christmas in our home. Above all, we want Christ to be honored. We want the real meaning of Christmas to come alive in the hearts of our children. We believe that the true magic of Christmas is exciting all on its own. So here's what that's going to look like lived out in our home.

The Santa Situation
Let me start off by tackling a doozy. It seems that so many people have such strong opinions regarding Santa Claus. Please hear me when I say that we have nothing against Santa. And that jolly fat man is everywhere so there's no point in trying to hide him from our kids. Nor do we want to! The truth is that the real person of Saint Nicholas was a wealthy boy who was raised to love and fear the Lord. At a young age his parents died leaving him an orphan. He used his inheritance to give to the poor and needy, offering hope and joy in the good name of Christ. He became well-known throughout the lands for his generosity. I love the true story of St. Nicholas. And that is what we tell our kids. Before you gasp and decide we are crazy and depriving our children, hear me out. We tell our kids who Santa was (the Veggie Tales St. Nicholas movie helps with that) and talk about how he gave to people in need because he loved the Lord. We don't focus on the big fat man with a beard who comes down the chimney to bring gifts. Instead, we focus on why St. Nicholas gave in the first place - because Christ has done so much for him that his heart was overflowing with thankfulness.

We explain that Santa is a character based on his life but that one is real and one is pretend. This isn't a strange concept for them as they are surrounded by Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, and Spider-Man. This is the first year that we have had to have that conversation with Cayden. In years past, we never set up the idea that Santa would be coming to our home. He had read books with Santa in them and seen movies with him in them but he never anticipated him coming to our home because we never prepared him for that. All year long - and especially in December - Jesus is the one that we are preparing for and choosing to focus on - not Santa. Most parents promote their children's belief in Santa or even prompt their children with things like, "Be good or Santa won't bring you anything for Christmas" which creates the expectation that Santa is coming to bring them gifts. Our kids have no idea that he was even "supposed" to come to our house. Kyla Brooke still doesn't really get it. She sees Santa around and talks about him but she just says that he is "a very nice man". We tell her who he really was but it's hard to know how much she is actually absorbing at this age. Cayden is in Pre-K this year so he is surrounded by kids at school who are excited about Santa and I'm sure over the next few weeks at school he will be inundated with "Santa" talk. We wanted him to be prepared and to make sure that he didn't spill the beans to any of his friends - you just never know what might come out of their mouths! We explain that some kids believe that Santa is real and that it's their mom and dad's job to discuss with them the truth about Santa. In other words - KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT!

I randomly happened upon a blog a couple of years ago (I cannot find it now!) and I loved it so much that I copied it and held onto it. Here is some of what she had to say about how they do Christmas relating to how they handle Santa.

There is so much about the Christmas many absolutely true things from many good, wondrous, mysterious, life-impacting, miraculous thoughts about Christmas right out of the Bible that we want to ingrain in the minds of our children during the holiday season that we simply don't have time to care about Santa, and quite frankly...the idea of Santa seems small and pales in comparison to everything else we want to bring to life for our children this Christmas.

We want their holiday season to be filled with longing...excitement and anticipation as we remember what it must have been like for the people of Israel to wait for the promised Messiah. We want to focus their hearts and minds on the fact that we are still waiting...right now, longing for the return of our King. He's coming back again!

We want the Christmas story and characters to come to life for them in all of its richness...the wise men, the shepherds...Mary, Joseph...the prophecies that were fulfilled, every last one of them and point them towards a faithful God who keeps His promises. He said He would come the first time and Christmas teaches us that God is faithful. Which means...He is going to come again.

We want to dive into scripture this month and learn about God's character...his love...his servant heart, and then ask the Lord to help us be more like Him.

A million incredible little time.

To be honest, we feel overwhelmed with how many truths we want to pass down to our kids (year round) but also every December. Trying to add in something like Santa seems silly to us. As a teacher, I find it harder to justify Santa. Our goal is to communicate to our kids during Christmas why we celebrate this holiday...what its true meaning is. As a teacher when I'm teaching anything else, I want my kids to learn. I would never try to teach them something complex and add in elements that were not true, or distracted them from the real things I wanted them to know. I wouldn't waste time teaching them things that I was claiming were "unimportant" when there are important things that do need to be taught and taught well in order for them to grasp what I'm trying to teach.

We don't "do the Santa thing" but what I hope we are doing is creating memories in our children's hearts. I pray December is a special time for them that is filled with truth, family, friends...sitting around the fire listening to true stories of mystery, wonder, goodness and grace. I pray they look back and remember our home filled with friends, families, neighbors...light and life.

I pray they remember times in front of the fire, or snuggled up on the couch as we listen to the very breath of God read in our living room.

In determining how Christmas would look in our home, we researched people older and wiser than us, who have older children and have been where we are now. Another blog that we came across was Jen Hatmaker's (have I ever mentioned how much I like her?!). She wrote a post titled The Christmas Conundrum where she writes much more eloquently (and hilariously I might add) about this very topic. You can read her entire post here (and I totally think you should) but here is an excerpt that I found especially meaningful.

There is no fake benefactor this year my kids can petition to get more stuff. Because honestly? For a five-year-old, how can Jesus compete with Santa? Our children don't have spiritual perspective; when faced with the choice of allegience, they have a baby in a manger, or they can get a jolly, twinkling, flying character who will bring them presents. This is going to be an easy choice for them. My friend Andrew, who identifies himself as a member of the "non-believer corner" put it this way: 

I always thought it was strange how Christians will tell me they have this giant and awesome truth they know is true deep in their soul and want to share with me, but when 12/25 comes around they lie to their own progeny because, apparently, that giant, liberating, and awesomely simple truth is somehow just not enough. It may be a good narrative, but it needs a little something to give it some panache.

As importantly, it sets this tone for Christmas: Be good and you'll get stuff, which becomes so deeply seeded, undoing that position is almost impossible. When we teach our children to understand Christmas through this lens, then tell them at nine-years-old: "Never mind! It's all fake! Oh, and stop being so selfish because Christmas is about Jesus"...we shouldn't be surprised when our kids stage a mutiny and ask to move in with Grandma. Young parents, this is so much easier to do right the first time rather than try to undo later. Give your kids the gift of a Christmas obsessed with Jesus - and no other - when they are little, and it will be their truth all their lives. 

Please do not take any of this to mean that we are judging you if you choose to do the Santa thing. This is just our personal decision for our family. By all means, put out your cookies and carrots and make your fake footprints around your fireplace - there is no judgment from us at all! Don't be afraid to invite us over for fear that we will frown at your Santa macrame hanging on the wall. It ain't gonna happen. We even have Santa in a few spots in our home. We aren't trying to avoid him - we are just choosing to focus on Jesus who we believe is the reason for Christmas. We are simply choosing to use Santa as another way to point back to Jesus. Every time we see Santa somewhere, we talk to the kids about who Saint Nicholas really was and why he gave to others. He's not what Christmas is about - he is a symbol of the season and that's how we view him.

Here is what we are doing in our home to celebrate Jesus this Season:

1- At dinner every night, we pray for the people who we received Christmas cards from that day.

2- We are celebrating Advent as a family. Advent is the four week period (starting tomorrow!) of expectant waiting and preparation of Christ's coming. It includes both His coming as a baby and His second glorious coming that we are anxiously awaiting! Here is what it looks like for our family with our 4 (almost 5) year old and our 2 year old. Every night, after bath time when the kids are in jammies and almost ready for bed, we will gather in the family room:

We start out with only the light of the Christmas tree, trying to shut out the chaos around us, and focus on what truly matters.

We pray asking God to prepare our hearts for worship and ask Him to give us hearts that truly long for His coming back to get us!

Next, we pull out our daily reading from our Advent calendar. My best friend Larissa and I saved up our toilet paper rolls a few years ago, got our craft supplies together, and made these babies. We found the idea online somewhere (sorry I don't remember where!).

We read the verses from that day. We start out with just a few verses and every night we add to the story. The kids enjoy the repetition and it helps it to really sink in. As we read the story, the kids act it out with their Little People nativity set. The kids love this set and play with it all the time. Sometimes they even nicely share Baby Jesus. Small victories.

Then we sing some Christmas Carols and this year we plan to recite Luke 2:8-20, the passage that we're going to memorize, as a family. That's it. No wrestling squirmy kids and worrying about someone sticking their fingers in a candle. This is what we've done the past couple of years - minus the scripture memory - and it has worked well. This year I expect KB will get even more into it and I'm eager to see how she responds and how much she "gets" it. This is just what we do - I encourage you to find what works with your family! We will adapt this, of course, as the kids get older and are able to grasp more.

3. We are doing fun activities everyday in December to countdown the coming of our Savior!

I got this idea from someone online and I cannot remember who or I would give credit. Everyday in December, Cayden (and this year I'm sure sister will want to help) picks an ornament off the little tree in the playroom. I got the ornaments from here. There is one for each day leading up to the 25th. On the back, I have written a fun activity that we will be doing that day. Some days we do them in the evening as a family, some days we do them during the day. Some days we do very simple things - a small craft or a coloring page. Some days we do a bigger craft, we bake something, or we go somewhere. Here is what we have planned this year:

Day 1 - We are officially in the countdown to Jesus' Birthday! Celebrate with a yummy treat from La Madeleine's! (We will already be there for a friends birthday party so it worked out good)
Day 2 - Read When You Take a Mouse to the Movies and string popcorn to decorate the playroom tree.
Day 3 - Head on over to play with friends and celebrate your best bud's birthday!
Day 4 - Decorate a felt Christmas tree! (Pinterest)
Day 5 - Bake chocolate peanut clusters to take to friends at the nursing home
Day 6 - Go deliver goodies to Wanda (a family friend) at the nursing home. Be sure to wish her a Merry Christmas!
Day 7 - Get ready for a fun-filled day with friends! (We are going to a Christmas Tree farm that has tons of activities for kids and then we are going out to our local Christmas tree lighting ceremony where there will be fireworks)
Day 8 - Help mommy make peppermint bark and while it's hardening, read The Legend of the Candy Cane
Day 9 - Make peppermint play dough and create the nativity scene with nativity cookie cutters.
Day 10 - Paint nativity handprint animals (Pinterest)
Day 11 - Deliver your teachers their Christmas gifts at school - be sure to tell them Merry Christmas!
Day 12 - Color Ms. Jennifer a picture (a friend who is battling cancer) and then deliver her dinner tonight!
Day 13 - Head on over to Bethlehem Revisited - be sure to say hello to the camels, donkey, Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus!
Day 14 - Get ready for a fun date with DeeDee and Pawpaw! (My parents are taking the kids to see Frosty the Snowman at a local kids theatre)
Day 15 - Finish up our nativity handprint animals
Day 16 - Meet friends for a Christmas program!
Day 17 - It's time for a family game night! Mommy and Daddy have gathered some fun games and yummy treats for a SWEET night together!
Day 18 - S'mores after dinner tonight!
Day 19 - Get ready for a fun night with daddy! (AKA - mommy has a girls only work Christmas party!)
Day 20 - Get ready for a fun Christmas party at DeeDee and Pawpaw's!
Day 21 - Go look under your bed for the golden ticket to this activity (got the idea here)
Day 22 - Sing Christmas Carols as we travel to celebrate Christmas!
Day 23 - Enjoy a fun surprise with your cousins today! (We're taking them all to see Frozen)
Day 24 - Recite the Christmas story to GG and Papa and present your shepherds pouches before the King tonight!
Day 25 - Sing Happy Birthday to Jesus and remember Him as you celebrate today!

4. As far as gifts go, we have adopted the idea that each child gets 3 gifts - just like Jesus - and they get a stocking. One of those gifts will be a gift of time. We have also decided to incorporate Shepherd's Pouches this year into our worship. I first heard about the idea of Shepherd's Pouches in Treasuring God in our Traditions. Noel explains the Shepherd's Pouch way more elegantly than I ever could so I will let her fill you in from pages 86 in her book:

It may be easy for us to forget that this is Jesus’ birthday. That usually means gifts to the birthday person. Children especially will think it normal that Jesus should receive something for his birthday. We’ll need to talk with them about what it means to give a gift to Jesus since we can’t put it in his hand. One of the unusual things about Jesus is that when we give a gift to him, other people benefit. “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’” (Matthew 25:40)

If you decide early in the Advent season where your gift is going, you can be praying for the recipient throughout the season. Your prayer becomes an added gift to the family with special needs, the Christian relief agency, the local ministry, the missionary, or whomever you have chosen.

Money isn’t the only thing we can give, but for the moment, let’s think about financial gifts. How might you decide on the amount? One possibility is to determine what percentage of your total gift expenditures will be set aside for Jesus. Another is to give him your December coffee break money or some other regular expenditure.

What about our children? Some years I have offered “wages” for special jobs or even for regular chores during December, with the understanding that this money is being earned for Jesus’ gift.

Shepherd’s Pouch
The children at our house have had a simple drawstring bag—a shepherd’s pouch, we call it—in which to collect Jesus’ gift throughout December. On Christmas Eve, during a special family worship time, the children lay their pouches beside the manger of our special nativity scene. We speak to them then of giving their gifts to Jesus, as the shepherds came, giving Jesus worship and wonder.

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. . . . And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.    ( L u k e   2 :   1 5 - 2 0 )

I found these burlap pouches at Hobby Lobby for $1.99 each and I think they will work well as our shepherd's pouches. They're pretty plain jane but that's what I was looking for - I wanted these to represent how we thankfully, humbly, and servant heartedly should be giving back to Jesus what belongs to Him.

I'm excited to be incorporating this into our worship and celebration this year. I have been looking through the Compassion International Catalog and the Gospel for Asia Catalog, excited about what the kids might choose to buy to bless someone. Our prayer is that the Lord will grow in the hearts of our children a sense of giving back to others what He has so graciously blessed us with.

Just as Jen Hatmaker says in her blog, "I so want my kids to marvel that Jesus came, just like God said he would, and he split history in two, forever transforming the concepts of hope and peace and salvation." We want Christ to be honored in our home everyday, and especially at Christmas. I would LOVE to hear how you are choosing to celebrate our Savior's birth and bring the truth of Christmas to life in your home. I think we can grow and learn so much from one another so please feel free to shoot me an email and we can bounce ideas off one another!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 107:1

Collin ran the Turkey Trot this morning while I stayed at home with the kids and baked and had some quality this with my biggest turkey. He wanted to make silly faces at the camera.

Then we headed over to my parents where we have had a great day.  I spent the morning in the kitchen busy with my sweet mama. I purposely wore some fat pants stretchy leggings  and have eaten waaaay more that one person probably should in a day. 

My sweet Cayden wanted to help in the kitchen and has been such a joy today.

This stinker girl was in a bit of a sour mood this morning and refused to look at the camera but she thankfully snapped out of it.

I was pleasantly surprised that the kids ate really well this year! Last year, neither of them would eat stuffing or sweet potato casserole (which are the best parts of the Thanksgiving my opinion!) but this year they both ate both! There is hope for them yet :) Kyla Brooke DEVOURED the cranberries this year, which surprised us all. 

It's been a nice day relaxing as a family and focusing on all that we have to be thankful for. We recognize that everything good in our lives is from our Father and I hope we will have thankful hearts not only today but everyday!

 YouVerse came out with a free Bible app for kids today. Collin downloaded it on the iPad and they have enjoyed it. It says it's for ages 6-8 but Cayden has really gotten into it at the age of almost 5. If you have small kids, check it out!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Please pray with us...

I know I am behind on posting about what I'm thankful for. I am keeping up with it on my phone and will post it soon but for now, I have an urgent prayer request. Last year, my friend Ali approached me and asked me to be in prayer for her brother-in-law, Mark, who was diagnosed with brain cancer. We have been praying for "Jack's Uncle Mark" as my sweet Cayden calls him (he's friends with Ali's son Jack) and his wife and three children ever since. He has just started his sixth round of chemotherapy. Things have been progressively going downhill as he is loosing speech abilities and clarity of mind. They have been hoping that it was a side effect of the chemo. They went in today for the results of his latest brain scan and got bad news. Ali texted me today and said that there are new tumor masses that are growing FAST.

God is not surprised by this. We might be disheartened but God is not. Quite frankly, I am disheartened. I got Ali's text while I was in Target today with both kids in tow. I literally felt like my heart had dropped into my stomach and tears started rolling down my face. I have never met these people but after praying for them and carrying their burdens I feel connected to them and I am truly heartbroken.

As we have been asking friends for prayer, one of them said to us, "The greatest peace found is that no one loves Mark more than his Creator." So true. Won't you pray that with me over Mark? That he feels God's unending love and peace in a phenomenal, confusing-to-the-world, life-altering kind of way. I am so thankful that Mark knows the Lord. He and his wife are believers and I have been so encouraged reading their blog and seeing how they are choosing to praise the Lord through this. They want the Lord to be glorified. They know that He is good in all circumstances, whatever the outcome. Will you join us and hit your knees for this precious family? Please pray for a miraculous complete healing that only Jehovah Rapha can do. Please pray that Mark will be able to live a long life on earth - loving and leading his sweet wife and three young kids. Pray that he will get to see his kids grow up. Pray that he will continue to be a witness to so many that watch him walk this path and wonder how he has the strength and comfort that he does. Pray for salvation for his doctors, nurses, lab techs, extended family members or long-lost friends that may not know the life changing love of Christ. Pray for his wife. That she would have lots of love and support and encouragement rallied around her. Pray for the kids. That they would have supernatural understanding and grace over the days and weeks to come. Pray for rest for the family. Pray for God's will. Just please pray. Sweet Jesus, please be near.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thanks in 30 Challenge - Day 22

Today has been a rather rough day. There have been good parts, of course, things I am thankful for. Like sweet Cayden and my precious hub getting to go to the Mavericks game tonight. Cayden had a ball. I loved getting to have some sweet one-on-one time with my angel girl tonight too. She was so excited to ride in daddy's car for the first time ever (Collin took my car to the game).

We enjoyed hot chocolate and lots of giggles and we even went lingerie shopping (aka buying big girl panties at Carter's).

But the thing that I am most thankful for today is the Lord's overwhelming love for me. There is nothing that I can do, nothing I can say, nothing I can think that will change the way He feels about me. What blessed assurance! His love is not conditional. He delights in me. He will never leave me or forsake me. I needed to hear that today. And just maybe you did too.

The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

Thanks in 30 Challenge - Day 21

Today I am thankful for lots of things. That sweet Cayden had a great day at school and came home telling me all about the Scarlet Ibis. Bless that sweet child that loves animals so fiercely. It is raining tonight and he wanted me to lay in bed with him because he didn't like the thunder. We laid in his dark room and had the type of conversation that made me ache inside because I wanted to bottle it up and remember it forever. The way he looked at me. The sound of his voice. The smell of his watermelon shampoo. The way his soft skin felt as I stroked his face. We talked about all the people that don't have warm homes to be in and how thankful we are that we do. He laid there concerned for them getting wet and emphatically said that he would build them homes. Oh how I pray that his empathy for people continues to grow. I'm thankful for the shopping trip to Central Market with only my youngest. We don't get to spend a ton of time together just the two of us and I eat it up. She's such a joy and I have so much fun with her. I'm also thankful today that we took Christmas pics super early this year and that, thanks to Shutterfly, I have not only ordered my Christmas cards but have had them in hand for over a month. They offer such great deals and cute designs that I use them every year. This year I couldn't decide on just one design so I ordered a couple different ones but here is one of the designs that we'll be mailing out this year.

Christmas Card 2103
View the entire collection of cards.

They are having a 40% off promo code right now so if you haven't ordered your Christmas card, go check them out!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thanks in 30 Challenge - Days 19 & 20

Day 19

I missed yesterday. I thought about what I would write but the day slipped away from me and in an effort to go to bed before midnight, I didn't post. So, here is my #1 thing I was thankful for yesterday.

I spent a large part of yesterday baking for the kids Thanksgiving Feasts at school today. We signed up to bring pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for Cayden's class and he wanted to help me bake them for his friends. Since we were already in the kitchen, we decided to bake some pumpkin bread and some chocolate chip banana bread for his teachers (and KB's teachers too!) as a way to show them how thankful we are for them. I am very thankful that the kids have such great teachers at preschool. Our director is selective about who she hires and the wonderful ladies at our preschool truly are the best! I am so thankful for teachers that love on my kids and help prepare them for life outside of preschool. And here is sweet C this morning preparing to go give one of his loaves away. And because someone didn't want to be left out of the photo taking...

Day 20
Today I am thankful that we booked our 2014 Disney World Vacation! I am kind of ridiculously excited to take the kids to DW and I have been over the moon pumped all day that our trip is officially on the books! And in perfect timing, these arrived in the mail today.

Smocking Hot Mamas (a boutique kids clothing resale page on Facebook) had a Disney themed group event last weekend and I snagged these for the kids. If anyone has any planning advice, I would love to hear it :) I'm like a kid in a candy shop!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Thanks in 30 Challenge - Day 18

We got to go to school today! This is especially exciting because we have missed the last two weeks of school (it was only 3 days but we only go to school twice a week and Veterans Day was a makes me feel better about myself to add that!). Everyone is healthy and it made me so happy to see the kids so excited to go to school and see their friends. So today I am thankful for good health and for a wonderful preschool where we can go to play and learn!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thanks in 30 Challenge - Day 17

Today has been full of ailments around our house. The one I feel most badly about is my poor Kyla Brooke. She is cutting a tooth and is crying in pain and telling me that it hurts. We can see it coming through so I'm hoping the pain will be gone soon. It's breaking my heart. So today I am especially thankful for medication. The fact that it's readily available to me, affordable, and it brings relief to my child.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thanks in 30 Challenge - Day 16

We had a lazy day. We slept late, ate random food at weird times, I stayed in my jammies all day, we ate lots of was awesome. It was a day where we had no plans. We got to relax and hang out as a family. We painted part of the guest bathroom.

It's a rarity that we have nothing on the agenda and I thoroughly enjoy it when it happens. There are a million things that we probably "should" have been doing but I am a firm believer in a lazy day every now and then. We busted out the wii and had a dinner picnic on blankets in the living room. I am super thankful for days like today.

*Side note - if you are thinking of buying Behr paint from Home forewarned that it stinks. At least the kind we bought does. I paid $32 for this gallon can of paint with such strong fumes we had to tag team painting. I wore a face mask. Collin got a headache. My eyes started stinging. It's bad. If you choose to ignore my advice and end up with a crazy headache, were warned.*

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thanks in 30 Challenge - Day 15

Day 15
Today I am thankful for friends. More specifically, our best friends. It's rare to have the same best friend your entire life. Even rarer for your husbands to become the best friends but it's happened folks. It's nothing short of the goodness of God and I do not take it for granted. I met Larissa as an 8 year old when I started taking piano lessons from her mom. Shortly after I turned 9, we began playing together and as they say...the rest is history. We have been the best of friends ever since. She is the closest thing to a sister I have ever known. I cannot remember one significant moment in my life that she wasn't around for. She knows everything about me and she still wants to be my friend! I won't bore you with all the ways she is wonderful - and there are lots - but suffice it to say, I am very thankful for her. And the fact that she married a great guy and he has become best buds with the great guy that I married...well, it's just almost too good to be true! They have a daughter, Maylee, that is a month older than Cayden and they are also the best of friends. My kids love Maylee like a sister and I'm pretty sure the feelings are mutual. There's a whole lot of laughter and sweet moments exchanged when we're all together. These people that God has blessed us cup truly runneth over.

Here are the kids playing tonight (minus their youngest, Emery, who is 1 month old and was being snuggled by her Uncle Collin) - too busy to look at the camera all at know how it is. I love that they're growing up together. I am super thankful for these precious faces and their friendships!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thanks in 30 Challenge; Days 3 - 14

Yikes...almost half of the months thankful posts will be written in this 1 post. I won't go into the details of explaining my lack of posting but suffice it to say that multiple sicknesses + daddy out of town + the normal bussyness of family life = no time for blogging (and one worn out and tired mama with cabin fever...). I have been keeping track of what I'm thankful for in the notes section of my phone each day, so here is what I have written from the last 12 days:

Day 3
I am thankful for community. We are involved in a community group at our church and while I was hesitant of joining, it has blessed me and stretched me. It is made up of other like-minded people who love Jesus and are striving to be more like Him. Some of the people are people that I feel confident in saying that I never would have met otherwise. Some are in different stages of life. We all have different personalities and it's nice to dive into the Word with people that bring differing viewpoints and life experiences. And I love that our kids are seeing and being a part of "doing life" with a group of people that are interested in investing in them and loving on all of us.

Day 4
I am thankful for our jobs. For Collin's job - a job that he enjoys and that provides for us. For my job as stay-at-home mom where I get to spend everyday with my babies. And today, for my job as preschool teacher. Kyla Brooke is running fever and we aren't able to be at school today. I'm thankful that I'm in a position where I can stay home with her and it's not the end of the world. I'm thankful for flexibility and a director that understands that family comes first.

Day 5

Today I am thankful for this little boy that made me a momma almost 5 years ago. He has such a precious, loving heart and sweet spirit about him. He is silly and easily excited. He is gentle and compassionate.

He has an amazing memory and a love for animals that makes me smile (and I hope he doesn't want to go live with the elephants when he grows up but I won't go into that...) He has the bluest of eyes and super cool hair. He has a forgiving heart and I love that about him. His name means fighter and I hope and pray that he grows up with a strong foundation in the Lord and fighting for what he believes in. He is an answer to prayer and a symbol of God's faithfulness to us. It took us 8 months to get pregnant with him and while I know that isn't very long, to me as a 25 year old, it felt like an eternity. I felt being a mom was my calling and I was shocked when it didn't happen in the first couple of months. I was concerned we would never be able to have kids. God taught me a lot in that time and Cayden always reminds me of God's faithfulness.

Day 6
Today, I am thankful that God's mercies are new every morning. Kyla Brooke is still sick and we are unable to go to school today. If I'm honest I'm going a bit nuts and ready to get out of the house. Collin is gone on business and I'm doing the single mom thing this week. I'm up every night with KB (usually giving her a breathing treatment or cleaning up vomit because she got into a coughing fit) and just tired and frustrated that we weren't able to go to school again today. But, I know that God is good and that His will is perfect. I know that I am in this season for a short time and I choose to enjoy it. And I know that His mercies are new every morning and that tomorrow is a new day. Preferably one that includes no vomit or fever...I'm just sayin'.

Day 7

I am thankful for this spunky angel. With her, everything has come easy. As to where it took us the better part of a year to get pregnant with Cayden, we got pregnant with her immediately. I kind of feel like we just had a conversation about having another and boom - she was on the way. I was terrified of her delivery because Cayden's was so difficult, but it was SO easy. I remember moments after she was born and the doctors and nurses were standing around, I looked at Collin and said, "Seriously, that's it?! I could do that again tomorrow!" She was an easy baby and so far has been an easy toddler. She is just such a joy.

She is as sharp as a tack and has a vocabulary well beyond her age. She is sweet and fun and laughs easily - I love that about her. I adore her curly hair and her blue eyes. She is freakishly strong...and strong-willed like me. Collin and I often find ourselves talking about how if we could be guaranteed another as easy as her we would have a third. I love watching her grow. I honestly wish I could bottle her little almost 26 month self up because I LOOOOVE this age. She has brought the most precious femininity into our home. Just as much as I hoped in my heart of hearts growing up that my first born would be a boy, I hoped my second born would be a girl. And sometimes I'm still shocked that God allowed that dream to be a reality. He's so so sweet.

Day 8

Today I am thankful for this handsome man that has been my husband for almost 8 years. He is most certainly my better half. He makes me laugh and enjoy my role as wife and mom so much. He loves the Lord. He loves people. He hardly complains about anything and isn't afraid of hard work. He is humble. He helps keep me grounded and positive. He is smart. He loves me. He's an amazing daddy. He isn't perfect by any means. He has gross toenails and leaves his little facial hairs all over the bathroom. But he's God's perfect match for me. He's more than I could have imagined in a husband and I am blessed beyond words to be his wife. And I'm SOOOO thankful that he is home from Pennsylvania!!

Day 9
I have slept 15 hours today. Mostly due to NyQuil and the fact that my body doesn't handle medication well...or maybe too well depending on how you look at it. I have a cold (thanks for sharing KB) that is making me feel like I want to crawl in a hole for 3 days. So today, I am thankful for rest. And a husband that has let me rest even though he's sick too. See - I told you he was a rockstar ;)

Day 10
I am thankful for my salvation. The fact that God saved a wretch like me and has adopted me into His family leaves me awestruck. I am so unworthy but so so thankful. Because of His great love for me, I have a constant help in this life and am guaranteed to be with Him for eternity. And He loves you just the same!

Day 11
Today I'm thankful for my freedom. I'm thankful for all the Veterans that have helped secure and maintain our freedom in America and the men and women that are still active in the military today. They, along with their families, are sacrificing so that others may have and for that, I am very thankful. Big shout out to my daddy and Collin's papaw who served in the Navy, my father-in-law that served in the National Guard, my grandpa that served in the Army, and my friend John, that is married to one of my oldest and dearest friends Kristin, who is serving over in Japan right now.

Day 12
It's freezing today. Literally. I think it's 31 right now and dropping. It's rare to get freezing temperatures in Texas in November but that's the case today. On days like this I cannot help but think about those that live in my city that do not have a warm home to be in. We lost power tonight for a little over an hour. We were making plans about what we would do if the power wasn't coming back on. It's going to be in the 20's tonight and we didn't want to stay here with no heater with 2 small children. Thankfully the power came back on at 8:00 PM and we were able to get the kids in bed and stay here. But my mind thinks about those that don't have warm homes to be in on cold nights. We are blessed. I'm overwhelmed with feelings of unworthiness that all our basic needs are met and thankfulness that they are.

Day 13

Today I am thankful for the fact that God has blessed me with 2 kids. As someone who grew up an only child, it is such a treasure watching the sibling relationship unfold. They are the others best friend - they play, they fight, they imagine, they hope, they get excited, they forgive, they empathize, they love.

Each is the best gift we could have ever given to the other. The Lord is so sweet in blessing me with these 2 and I'm living vicariously a bit through their relationship.

I snapped this photo at breakfast this morning. It was a typical morning and they were sitting at the table chatting. As I'm in the kitchen I hear Cayden say to Kyla Brooke who is covered in jelly, "You're a mess baby girl!" A minute later he is explaining to her who Spider-Man is and all of his "awesome" abilities. And she is enthralled and copying his hand motions. A few minutes after that, they begin telling one another how they are going to be brave and not "cry or scream" when getting eye drops (pink eye visited our times. And in case you were wondering...they're liars. Cayden's a small liar. Kind of like a white liar. Minimal crying. Kyla Brooke....huuuuge liar. Lots of screaming and crying and body convulsions. She's a gigantic liar. And freakishly strong.). It's everyday mundane conversations that I love. It's watching their relationship grow and blossom. It makes me happy. God is good. I am thankful.

Day 14
Today I am super thankful for my parents. They gave me a fabulous childhood - helped me discover who the Lord is and gave me a strong foundation early on. They consistently and unselfishly love and help me and so many others. I can always count on them. They are fun, wise, dependable, and quirky. I owe so much of who I am to the fact that the Lord blessed me with them as parents. They are amazing grandparents. My dad is the smartest person I have ever known and my mom is my best friend. They inspire me as they continue to live life to the fullest. My mom has more energy than the Energizer Bunny.  Here they are vacationing in Sedona. My dad sent me the below photo with the caption, "Mom pushed me into the Grand Canyon." I told you - quirky ;)

Here they are riding a hot air balloon in Sedona. My mom told me that it was amazing and not to wait as long as she did to do it.

 They are such an amazing example to us. I am so thankful for them.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Thanks in 30 challenge - Day 2

Day 2
Today was a big day in our house. Cayden has dealt with some digestive issues since he was a baby. We have worked with his pediatrician and tried all sorts of things - mainly natural, dietary changes - and have struggled for the past 4 years with finding a balance of things that work for him. When it came time to potty train him at 2.5, his "issues" made part of that process really difficult. Like extremely difficult. Like frequently bang my head against the wall and cry difficult. Like it has taken 2+ years to get where we are today difficult. It's been a long road BUT, I think I can safely say that we have finally found what works for him and have gotten to the point where I have longed to be with him over the past 2 years. In celebration, we took our lil' animal lover to the Rain Forrest Cafe tonight. He was over the moon excited to have a night that was all about him and not even his bday (although he did ask me if we were going to sing "Happy Birthday" to him...we sang "For He's A Jolly Good Fellow" instead). We are SSSOOOO thankful to be at this point. And I'm particularly thankful for this precious boy.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Thanks in 30 challenge - Day 1

I have never gotten on board with the whole post something you're thankful for everyday in November deal that has become popular in recent years. I saw someone post something on instagram today titled Thanks in 30 and I liked it. I cannot now remember who posted it and I'm too lazy to go look but I decided to embrace it. I want to be thankful in all circumstances and what better way than to consciously express it everyday?! So, here goes...

Day 1
Today I am thankful for my children who God uses to constantly point me to Him. They have taught me much about who I am and who I want to be. God uses them to show me my inadequacies and my overwhelming need for a Savior. They force me to rely on Him and to cling to Him with all my hopes and fears about the two little people that I love so fiercely. He uses them to remind me of what's important when I get distracted with life and things that don't really matter. They force me to my knees. Sometimes because I need to pray for sanity because they're driving me bonkers. Sometimes because I am so overwhelmed with doing the best job I can in training them up in righteousness and feel like a failure. Sometimes because I am so thankful that they slept for 13 uninterrupted hours. Ha! Since having kids, I have a deeper understanding of the depth of God's love for me. And for that, I am so so thankful.

And because you're supposed to take a photo with the daily post, here is my photo. My littlest this morning at breakfast. She took 1 bite and then reminded me that we hadn't prayed and thanked God for our food.

(Yes, she went to bed on Halloween night wearing Christmas pajamas...don't judge).