Tuesday, December 30, 2008

One of Those Days....

Have you ever stopped to notice the "balance" of circumstances and events in your life? You know the old adage, there is good for every bad and yin for every yang.

I may be the odd man out here, but when I was younger, I struggled more with circumstances outside of myself. The random chaos of events that seemed to occur in my life. I focused more on the "WHY" -"Why is this happening to me?" But, the older I get the more the struggle is internal. I guess what I mean is that I can deal with that fact that my perspective is only one small aspect in the grand scheme of things. I don't have the advantage of seeing or having knowledge into the "Big Picture." But, I rest secure in the assurance that God does. And I trust Him.

Internally I am still struggling with the things I can't control. Things I desperately want control of in my life. I try and try, but still end up feeling like a failure, in so many areas. I feel like if I focus on developing my spiritual life through bible study or serving in our church, I seem to neglect my home. And if I spend time culling out, reorganizing and cleaning my home, I should be spending more time with my children. If I focus on spending one on one time playing with each of the babies everyday -reading to them or giving them a social outlet through play group outings and events, well then, I seem to be neglecting my husband and marriage. And heaven forbid when I start to look at the part of my life I can really get depressed. I'm not the home maker and wife I want to be. And my insecurities can so get the best of me in this area. I love my husband. I mean I am really in love with him. And I know he loves me, but I also know he probably gets tired of having to reassure me of his love. I'm not the sweet petite thing I used to be. And I so desperately want to be, for him -for us. I know as a doctor, he is around other doctors and nurses who would gladly take him from me if they could. My insecurity whispers....What if someone comes along who is prettier, more interesting, more intelligent, or fun to be with. It scares the heck out of me sometimes. And it hurts him that I would give serious consideration to such thoughts. But, I can't help it, some days I just don't feel good enough. And I'm secretly scared he may someday feel that way too. Yes, even happy go lucky me can get down in the dumps sometimes. (And, I can imagine the devil is laughing hysterically as I lie face down i the mud right about now.)

I left work where I at least felt accomplished and successful some of the time. And while I would Never, EVER trade this time of my raising my children at home, it's just so hard sometimes. I was just telling a friend over the holidays that when it comes to being a stay at home mom, or wife AND mother in general.......Nothing has ever given me greater joy, and at the same time nothing has ever made me feel so inadequate. I wish I could just get things to stand still, and stay clean, for a moment while I catch up. Or can my children just not need me long enough for me to have a few minutes alone with my husband every night. Too much to ask -I know.

No really, I know it's not all that bad. This is just me being vulnerable and sharing insight into my insecurities, just in case some of you foolishly thought I had it all together. I woke up on the wrong side of the bed feeling like a big, fat failure today. Ever have those days? Be Blessed my friends! Love Y'all!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Thinking in 3's

Happy Holidays! And Good morning! Christmas is almost here!

I haven't had the chance to get around to visiting everyone, but I hope y'all are having a wonderful holiday. I have come across a few of you with great ideas for the Advent holiday. 1. Brittani at Holding Little Hands had a great post on how her family is incorporating the" Jesse Tree "into their holiday celebration. A couple of posts below, I mentioned how some families use the Jesse Tree in place of an Advent calendar. I love Brittani's idea of making ornaments with her son that correlate with the scriptures.
Also, 2. June at A Wise Woman Builds Her Home had two wonderful posts, "It's Here!" and "The Perfect Christmas Gift." Her post on "It's Here," has three different links to other posts, where she shares some of her families Christmas traditions. It is very inspiring.
3. And my bloggy friend, Jana at Mustard Seeds has a series of posts on Advent, as well as, on the 3 gifts, "Gold," "Frankincense," and "Myrrh" that the Wise Men gave to the baby Jesus. These are all posts that have blessed my heart and helped to inspire me to keep my focus this Christmas season. They are well worth the read, and I highly recommend them. This also started me thinking about things in 3s.

I feel like the Lord has given me so much. Little things lately that I know could only be from Him. 1.First of all, I have been so touched by the children I've been teaching every week in our church's Master's Club. To see them grow in the Lord, reciting scriptures... And, the questions they ask. The very best part is hearing their sweet little prayers. It has brought me to tears several times. I have grown, watching them grow. They in turn have taught me, and made me question my faithfulness. Not my faith, but my faithfulness to my Lord. They've made me hungry for more. It has led me in turn to seek more after Him. And I am grateful for that.
2. You know how there is always that one person in your life (some how through work, church or so on,) that always tries to get the best of you. No matter how nice you are, or how hard you try, they always think they need to bring you down a peg. You know, put you in your place. I know we all have at least one~somewhere in our lives. Well this week, mine decided to give me a compliment- a real one. You know when the sincerity is there. And it really meant a lot to me. It was like Wow, God-Thanks! I know that could only happen with your help.
3. I think that my goal for this year was to just grow closer to God. Not to accomplish some great spiritual feat, but just love Him more and know Him better. And you know what, that in itself has brought about all kinds of changes in me. Most of which, may not even be noticeable to others around me. But, I know. The biggest change has been in my attitude and perspective on things. I've been more content, and peaceful. A little more flexible, patient, and kind. And I thank God for that gift.

There is so much on my mind, so I also have three prayer requests to ask of you, my bloggy friends. I believe in the power of prayer.
1. My beautiful, wonderful sister, Mary Clair is recovering from surgery. I am praying for her to get the rest she needs, and for a quick recovery.
2. My mother-in-law, Donna also needs prayer. We flew back here to Ohio on Saturday. On Sunday night, when we got home from our church's CHRISTmas tribute concert, we received a phone call that she had been in a head on collision. She has been in the hospital the last few days with Demetria (my other sister,) right by her side. She is badly bruised and beaten up from the accident, with both cardiac and pulmonary contusions, but thankfully no broken bones or internal injuries. Her car is completely gone, and she is going to be out of work for a while. She had just applied for short term disability insurance before the holidays, but that won't take effect until after the new year. I'm praying for the Lord's provisions for her in this area specifically. I know He has ways beyond our knowing and only He can make something good from nothing. She is a widow, and she takes care of her mother, who is in a nursing home, when she is not working herself as an RN. She is a kindhearted, good Christian woman. And she needs a break. We are also praying for the safety and recovery for the lady who was in the other car as well. Ms. Donna is going to be staying with Demetria for a while, as she recovers, bless her heart. So, Demetria needs prayers as well, for God's strength, patience and extra compassion as she cares for her mom and her own family of four.
3. My childhood friend Emily. Her husband, Michael, was killed last week, in a horrible auto accident on I-20 back home in Brandon, Mississippi. Emily, who is a strong, Christian woman is just lost and broken hearted right now. She has lost her husband and best friend. They have three young children; Elizabeth-13, Benjamin-7, and Gracie-5. Emily is an RN, who works 12 hour shifts, and her son is a special needs child. Michael was always the one to get the children off to school and help keep Benjamin in the structured schedule he needed to function comfortably. So, even though Emily has a good job that can provide for them, she isn't sure how she is going to make it work. I know how hard it is to function and make important decisions when you are in the midst of a cloud of grief. Please, please pray for her heart to be comforted. Pray that she will know how to help comfort her children as well. And that the Lord will make clear her path. GOD BLESS THEM! My heart just breaks for them. When I got the news early last Thursday, I crawled back in bed and hugged my husband and just cried for her, thanking God for every moment I have with my precious family. There are no words. This is a hurt only God can heal. But, we can pray. So, please remember them, all in your prayers!
Thanks for your visit and spending a little time with me. I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday, and the Merriest of Christmases! ~Blessings to all!

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Little Christmas Cheer!

Ok, I know I'm cutting it close here, with only three days left, but I had to add a little Christmas music to my blog! So, my Merry Christmas play list will probably be up till the new year. I've been working on it for a couple days now. It just makes me happy listening to it. I've already had such a wonderful holiday. I feel like all of the rest is just extra!

Hugh had three interviews back home last week, and we got to have a little Christmas with our family, while we were there. It was soooo great! Watching the kids with their Mimi, Paw-paw, Nana, Granny, cousins, aunts and uncles was priceless. For some of you, it is a regular part of your everyday lives to have your families near. But, ours are half way across the country. So, getting to spend time with them is a real treat. It makes my heart want to burst. I would give anything to see my parents hold and play with my kids. So, when I get the chance to see them with any of their family, I drink it in, trying to memorize every moment. I'll post pictures soon.

So much of my best Christmas memories were centered around Christmas church activities. I love Christmas cantatas, concerts, candlelight and communion services. The Messiah's Hallelujahs chorus gives me chills. Last night our youth led our CHRISTmas Tribute Service, and some of my friends who are not members of our church came to see me sing. It meant a lot considering it was a balmy 5 degrees out with a wind chill of 12 below. Speaking of singing, I already got one of the best Christmas presents ever. My husband sang a duet with me two Sunday mornings ago. He hasn't sung publicly in some 14 years. All this time he has tried to tell me he is too embarrassed to sing in front of me, because I was the music major. Or that he couldn't really sing that well. Recently, I found a VHS of him playing the Pharaoh/Elvis part in Joseph, and it was all over but the crying, baby. I was no longer taking any of his excuses. He can sing! And I'm not just partial. You can ask anyone in my church. The boy can sing. It was great! And it meant the world to me. THANKS, Baby! Kisses~(Cause, I know you're going to read this.) I'm looking forward to our Wednesdays night Christmas Eve service. It just puts me in the Christmas-y mood thinking about it.

On a side note, I've been getting to do a lot of singing lately. I told y'all earlier that I'd elaborate on my night as a back up singer for Elvis....Well, mt friend Kristie planned a huge 60th birthday surprise party for her mother-in-law. She rented out the old opera house in Cortland for the occasion. It was wonderful. She had her sister-in-law plan the catering, and her father-in-law and husband take care of the music. Her husband grew up singing Elvis. His parents are huge fans. He is really really good. And this is coming from the female-Simon Cowell, speaking. Seriously it takes a lot to impress me. I'm kinda a music snob. I am considerate enough to keep my comments to myself, though. Well, and maybe my husband. Anywhooo, Glen had a whole concert set up. Seriously there were like 22 songs or something like that. There was a first and second set. He sang all her favorites, with Kristie and I on back up, and his father on guitar. We also had instrumental back ground music. His father actually took lessons for 3 or 4 months just to play for his wife's birthday. And at the end, he stepped out and had her dance with him on one song. It was so romantic, I couldn't help but tear up. I told him later to warn a girl, I almost couldn't sing on that song. I was trying hard to hold back the tears and crack in my voice. The party was a hit. Kristie and I even had matching outfits in different colors. We were a hoot.

Well, I had better get to a little house work. More later on our Christmas celebrations. Love in Christ Jesus! and Blessings to all!

Monday, December 8, 2008

More on Advent for Little Ones

I came across this idea last year, and although I'm not doing it with my children this year, (-they're still too young, maybe when they're 4 or 5,) I wanted to share it with y'all. I know today is the 8th, but I feel it is never too late to slow down and spend time sharing with our children the real meaning of Christmas. You could do 2 a day to catch up, if you want to incorporate it into your daily celebration. Or, take a couple days to gather all the items and start on the 12th. Sing the 12 days of Christmas and then open the first 12 boxes, explaining how these gifts relate to Jesus, God's most precious gift to us. Use the idea of your Advent calendar, and each day as you mark down the days, let your little ones open up a small wrapped present, with the following gifts inside. Or this year, I know Target is selling all different types of Advent/Christmas count down houses with a little door for each day. Like this one here.....

You could place the items in there for the children to discover everyday. I don't know about you, but I get excited about new ideas I can do with my lovies. Anyway I can share the deeper meaning of it all with them and put a little Jesus in their lives, I'm there. Anyway, here it is! Enjoy.....

1. Quarter
2. Grape
3. Smiley sticker
4. gummy fish
5. birthday candle
6. Bell
7. fish crackers
8. Cotton balls
9. piece of a map
10. Soap
11. Heart sticker
12. Cross
13. Packet of salt
14. Sand
15. Flowers(silk)
16. Raisins
17. Seeds
18. Christmas carol
19. Small rock
20. Crumpled foil
21. Mustard seed
22. Dove
23. Small scrap of woolly material
24. Blue marble
25. Picture of a baby.

December 1 - A quarter! That equals 25 cents. But 25 also stands for the number of days till Christmas, when God gave us His best present. Jesus told about one woman's gift and the way she gave it. Read: Mark 12:41-44
December 2 - Grape Gum! Grapes make jelly and juice, raisins and wine. But Jesus didn't need grapes to perform His first miracle. Read: John 2:1-10
December 3 - Here's a smile! A smile usually expresses happiness. Jesus gave us many instructions to keep us happy. Read: Matthew 5:1-12.December
December 4 - Fish! Well, if you were surprised to find these fish, wait till you read the story today! Others were surprised to find fish, too. Read: Luke 5:4-7
December 5 - A birthday candle? As you know, we are getting ready to celebrate Jesus' birthday. However, Jesus talked about something else that is related to this candle. Light! Read: Matthew 5:14-16
December 6 - You could make some noise with this. But it would not have bothered a certain man--until he met Jesus. Read: Mark 7:31-37
December 7 - These would not go very far if you were really hungry! But Jesus could make much out of little. Surely He knew how to multiply! Read: Matthew 14:13-21December 8 - These cotton balls would be helpful in a thunder storm, wouldn't they? We could use them for ear plugs to muffle the loud noises that thunder makes. But we know someone who doesn't need cotton. Jesus can control the weather. Read: Matthew 8:23-27
December 9 - People needing to use the other parts of this map are in trouble! Don't you get lost today! Read: John 14:1-6
December 10 - It's soap. Do you like to wash? Behind your ears? Washing turned out to be a happy time for a man who met Jesus. Read: John 9:1-7
December 11 - Hearts. Wordlessly, they speak of love, don't they? Jesus spoke some commands about love. Read: Matthew 25:17-41
December 12 - We use the cross as a symbol, representing Jesus. Do you know why? Read: Phillipians 2:1-11
December 13 - Ordinary salt. Yes, Jesus related salt to us and our behavior. He also gave us some advice. Read: Matthew 5:14 and Colossians 4:6. (Notice that He doesn't recommend pepper!).
December 14 - Don't try to eat this! It's sand. It reminds us that Jesus knows something about architecture, about buildings--and building lives. See His instructions: Matthew 7:24-29.
December 15 - Flowers are pretty, aren't they? Jesus used flowers to teach us a reassuring lesson. Read: Matthew 6:28-34.
December 16 - Raisins! Many children are given raisins instead of candy for a snack. That's because they are a health-promoting and delicious fruit. Jesus told us how we can produce good fruit. Read: John 15:1-5.
December 17 - Jesus told a story about seeds that man planted. Then He explained it, revealing its deep meaning. Read: Matthew 13:3-8 and Matthew 13:18-23.
December 18 -Christmas is just about a week away. And here is an appropriate song. Sing it loudly! Read: Psalms 100.
December 19 - A hard stone! Can you change this stone into a piece of bread? Do you think Jesus could? Jesus was asked to do just that. Do know how He handled it? Read: Matthew 4:1-4.
December 20 - Try to smooth out this piece of aluminum foil and use it as a mirror. It's hard to see your reflection plainly, isn't it? Many circumstances are hard to understand, but someday everything will be clear. Read: 1 Corinthians 13:12.
December 21 - The mustard seed is the smallest there is! When it sprouts, it grows into one of the largest plants! See what Jesus said. Read: Matthew 17:20.
December 22 - We've learned that the cross represents Christ, but do you know what the dove stands for? Read: Matthew 3:13-17.
December 23 - The threads that compose this fabric came from the wool of a sheep. Jesus called Himself the good shepherd. Do you know who His sheep are? Read: John 10:7-18.
December 24 - A marble! Do you know what is sometimes called the "Big Blue Marble"? The world. God made the world for us. What does God continue doing to the world? And who is the world? Read: John 3:16.
December 25 - Isn't this baby cute? When he was born, he made a whole family happy. Jesus was born a baby, too. He came to make the whole world happy. Read: Luke 2:1-20. Enjoy your celebration today. Continue to learn about Jesus--and love Him forever!
Blessings my dear friends and I hope you're having a very Merry Christmas season!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Advent for Little Ones

The season of Advent is upon us. Advent means coming or arrival. This is the season that we as Christians prepare our hearts and minds for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ in His first Advent, and anticipate with great expectancy the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent.

For the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Season of Advent has been a time of fasting and penitence for sins similar to the Season of Lent. However, a different emphasis for the season of Advent has gradually unfolded in much of the rest of the church. That emphasis has been more focused on a time of joy and happiness as we await the coming of the King.

The beginning of Advent is a time for the hanging of the green: evergreen wreaths, boughs, or trees that help to symbolize the new and everlasting life brought through Jesus the Christ. The Advent wreath is a circular evergreen wreath with five candles, four around the wreath and one in the center. The wreath is symbolic and a vehicle to tell the Christmas story. The circle of the wreath reminds us of God Himself, His eternity and endless mercy, which has no beginning or end. The green of the wreath speaks of the hope that we have in God, the hope of newness, of renewal, of eternal life. Candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through the birth of His son.

The first candle is traditionally the candle of Expectation or Hope. The remaining three candles of Advent are: Love, Joy, Peace. The center candle is white and is called the Christ Candle. It is traditionally lighted on Christmas Eve or Day.

This is just some of the information I've come across recently, via books and the Internet. Growing up in the church, I remember our church lighting and displaying an Advent wreath during the Christmas holidays. I even remember one year, my family got to light one of the candles and read the scripture for that Advent Sunday. But, it wasn't until last year that the season of Advent started to take on meaning in my personal life.

As I read through different blogs this time last year, I was touched by some of the ways different families were celebrating and trying to keep Christ as the center of their Christmas holidays. I came across several people who were using an Advent wreath at home at meal time, with scripture readings preceding the lighting of the candles, each Sunday. I also read how some families were using an Advent calendar with their children to count down the days to Christmas. I also have a wonderful friend who bakes a cake and celebrates Jesus' birthday each year with her children.

I decided I needed to start seriously thinking about how I was going to celebrate with my children each year. What are the family traditions that I'm going to hand down to my little ones?

Well, this year I started by decorating our home the first Sunday of Advent. We cleaned up our living room, rearranged the furniture, and brought up the Christmas tree. As soon as we plugged in the lights, our children were all oooos and ahhhhs. We hung our stockings and set out the nativity. I've been pointing out each of the characters, and telling them about how Christmas is when we celebrate Jesus' birthday.

I also hung up an old calendar from my days as a pre-school teacher. We're using numbered stars to count down the days on our calendar til Jesus' birthday. Both of my children are fascinated with stars, especially Trey. I also wanted to use stars to help me talk to the children each day about the star of Bethlehem, and how the shepherds and wise men followed the star to find Jesus, when he was born. So, we are following the stars to Jesus' birthday as well. My lovies are still very young, so I wanted to keep the calendar as simple as possible.

We are singing carols, and reading about the Christmas story as we light the candles on our little Advent wreath. They can already sing parts of Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and a couple of other songs, as well. I know many people may think they are too young to understand all of this, and that is true in some respect. But, if they take away just a small piece of the real reason we celebrate Christmas, I'll be happy.

In fact, Trey said his first un-prompted prayer tonight. He said, "Thank you Jesus for mommy and daddy, for our home and food, for our movies and food, in Jesus holy name -Amen." How precious! I couldn't help but tear up as I listened to him talk to Jesus. I thought my heart was going to melt into a big ole puddle on the floor.

God is soo good, people. God is so good. I will have to share some more later. For now, I'm off to peek in on them, as they sleep. Hugh and I do this every night. They look like angels sleeping. Sweet dreams and blessings to all.