Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How can you be in two places at once?

Do you have a bucket list?  I don't officially, but simply because I never thought to write one.  If I did though, I'm pretty sure that "being in two places at one time" would have been on it; that is until recently when I would have been able to cross it off. 

You see, my friend Erica Shubin introduced me to a few of her friends from church about a year or so ago (Mrs. B, Rachel Walser, Melissa Maser and Christy Waulk), and friendships started to forge.  We all love the Lord, which laid a mighty good foundation.  We all have a heart to see orphans grafted into Christian homes and are working and praying to that end in various capacities.  I didn't think I was short of friends, but God knew what a blessing these gals were going to be to me and gave me a few more to enjoy.  Thank you, Father!  I live in Oregon and they live in Florida...we've not YET met face to face (besides Erica who I knew here in Oregon before she moved to Florida), but that has not stopped us from communicating often.  Mrs. B and I are like the ra-ra squad, cheering the Shubins, the Walsers, the Masers, and the Waulks on as their families pursue adoption. Locally, my family is also currently cheering on more Shubins, and the Marls.  What a delight to get to be a part of each of these stories of love!  What an amazing God we serve who sets the solitary into families!  But I divert (due to excitement about such things).

Well, in two short days, the Walsers get to board a plane bound for Ethiopia where they will soon gather their Abby-girl into their arms and bring her home with them.  And recently there was a shower to celebrate little Abby, as we all anticipate her homecoming.  The morning of the shower, I was at home getting ready to go to my niece Leah's for a candle party we had planned to raise funds for the local Shubins and Marls when I got a phone call from Mrs. B.  She called to tell me she was printing out a picture of me so I could be at Abby's shower.  Very sweet!  I was giddy all day about being able to be there, at least in flat form.  Of course I had to ask the party gals later what kind of time I had (I reportedly had a blast! and I believe it). 

 Here is beautiful Abby!

Erica's oldest daughter Nichol made sure I had a good time 
(thanks Nichol, love you friend...
I think I'll need to be at Zahra's shower too...hint, hint)

Rachel, getting ready to open the present we sent

Mrs. B reading the story that went with the gift
(thanks Barbara)

When we learned from Rachel's trip to meet Abby 
that she loved purple,
my girls made a scarf and necklace for her.
How my girls bless my soul with their sweet spirits!

Can you find me?
I'm sitting on Christy's shoulders :-)

These gals know how to make someone feel special.  Please join me in praying for the Walsers as they make another trip to Ethiopia and for Abby's homecoming.  There will be great transitions to go through, but I believe with all my heart that the grace of our God will prove sufficient in them all.

The other really fun news is that while in Ethiopia, the Walsers will get to love on Zahra.  Who's Zahra?  She's a 4 year old princess in the same orphanage as Abby who will be grafted into Erica's family as soon as all the legal i's can be dotted and the t's crossed (oh, and the funds raised to complete the process).  How cool is it that these two four year old girls will be joining two families in the same church?  Way cool!  Please pray for the Shubins too as they wait upon the Lord to bring Zahra home.  

Thanks for stopping by and joining in the fun,

Friday, December 24, 2010

Almost 10

MJ's birthday is the day after Christmas and USUALLY we spend it together as a family in a mellow, day after Christmas, sort of fashion.  This year we opted to be a little different.  Our good friends, the Coombs, were blessed with the addition of an out-of-the-womb daughter Wednesday night.  We have an action-packed-plan for the next few days so the idea came up of going to see the new baby and then coming home to celebrate a very special girl's birthday idea that stuck.

 We were very thrilled to meet Silvia...isn't she beautiful? 

Getting to hold her and give her sweet kisses was worth the traffic issues of getting there...even with three kids in the backseat saying "are we there yet?; I've gotta go to the bathroom; I'm thirsty," etc.   

Congratulations dear friends...we continue to rejoice with you!  When we came home, we switched gears to celebrate OUR daughter (born 10 years and 4 days before little Sylvia).  

Happy almost birthday MJ...we love you more than words alone can express!

She'll be 10 on the 26th!  
Every year, our tradition is to give the kids presents 
equal in number to their age.
(That is until their 10th birthday, 
so this is the last round of that for this one!)

The birthday person in our family gets to pick their dessert...
she wanted Costco's cream puffs this year.

She was pretty excited about these shoes!

Isn't she beautiful too?
Our family continues to rejoice over her!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mixin' it up

What is one of the first things that happens when we have a family or two over to visit?  Typically, the kids gather together and begin to play, the ladies venture to the kitchen and the guys hang out in the living room or out on the patio.  At church, I witness something similar...groups form: pockets of women here, smatterings of men there, and kids chasing each other wherever there is floor space.  Often people gravitate towards others of their gender and age group.  And that isn't necessarily a bad thing (at least not all the time), but it is fun to mix it up sometimes.  Last night afforded such an opportunity.

One of the ministries of our church is to visit elderly people in a nearby Assisted Living Residence.  Our family has not been as involved in this as we would like to be due to schedule conflicts, but occasionally we are able to participate and it is always a joyful time.  Last night was particularly fun as we gathered together with gifts and music and the word of our God with the aim of blessing the residents and helping them enjoy the Christmas season.  Young and old, male and female, all laughing and singing and visiting together...all rejoicing that Jesus came to save us.
I took this before all the seats were filled, 
but the room ended up packed 
with young people sitting on the floor 
and some of us standing in the back.
I LOVED that so many of the residents came to join the party.

Interacting after the service:
 Mmmmm...yummy cookies and punch

Little ones who brought many smiles
with their antics through the evening:
Aunt Sharon even got a massage out of the deal :-)

My kiddos and I drove around town for awhile after we left, looking at lights and chatting together about the evening with our elderly friends.  God gave us all a delightful evening.  I hope our elderly friends had as good of a time as we did.  Thank you, Father.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Can a Christmas Tree Talk?

Last week we, like so many other people, decorated our Christmas tree.  Over the years, we have accumulated a diversity of ornaments that give the tree a rather eclectic appearance once they're hung.  Now if all I saw was how it looked to the eye, I admit it may bother my sense of symmetry and cohesion and order, but I see more...I see stories.  Beautiful stories!

Each year, the kids receive a special ornament from their grandparents, along with a note telling why that one was chosen.  They know these stories, and the love behind them, and it is so fun to watch them pull their ornaments out one by one and recount its particular memory as they hang it. 
 Paul "beating" our small family drum ornament

Each year we also add matching family ornaments, one for each of our stockings...a tradition that looks to the future when they'll have families of their own, Lord willing.  We wanted them to have some ornaments to take with them when they leave our home; ornaments that will remind them of the strong bonds of family and how God has worked in our lives.  These ornaments all have stories too.

MJ holding an ornament from England, 
a gift and reminder of relatives that live there.

A number of our ornaments have been hand-crafted by the kids or by friends, or given to us as gifts...these too represent stories of love and friendship and so many other wonderful things.  I used to think decorating the tree was just something to get done during the holiday season.  Add this arena to the list of things I've changed my mind on over the years. Now I am SO GLAD God gives us this time together, remembering, laughing, and sharing our lives.  We make special holiday drinks that usually involve chocolate and/or caramel and whipped cream and coffee.  Christmas music plays in the background, inviting us to sing along.  

"hmmm...what's this one?" - Bekah tells the story!

What a grace-filled morning!
Thank You, Father for giving us time,
for giving us stories of love and grace and friendship,
for giving us Your Son who made it possible for us to be reconciled to You!

From our family to yours,
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Even if you've never read Dr. Gary Chapman's book (like me, though maybe one day I will), you've likely heard of "The Five Love Languages."

Dr. Gary Chapman contends from his years of experience in counseling: "Of the countless ways we can show love to one another, five key categories, or five love languages, proved to be universal and comprehensive—everyone has a love language, and we all identify primarily with one of the five love languages: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch."

I wonder what language Dr. Chapman would say is the one I identify primarily with. And I wonder if his premise "we ALL identify primarily with one of the five" is correct.  Maybe we're all suppose to grow at expressing love in a myriad of ways.  Whenever the topic of 5 Love Languages comes up, I tell my husband he married the full package deal.  I want it all.  And I like to give it all.  So does he.  Maybe if I read the book I'd be able to identify my ONE language, but for now I am just plain thankful I am married to someone who is multilingual in the languages of love.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I am NOT an engineer

You can add "engineer" to the list of things I am not.  I am not an astronaut, check.  I am not a mechanic, check.  And this year confirmed it by way of double witness, I am not an engineer, check.

Last year we attempted to make a gingerbread house from scratch.  We had a jolly good time and you can read about it here if you like.  The fact is though, our house would have been condemned by an inspector immediately due to a more than saggy roof and other unstable conditions.  Our wee family decided on the spot to try making a village of smaller houses next year, which is now this year, and here is how it went:

Previous to pictures being taken, we made dough 
and designed our houses-to-be by creating cardboard cut-outs.
Then we began the two day adventure of making the pieces. 
Here is Paul showing us how to roll out the dough.

The three kiddos took turns rolling out dough and then cutting the various pieces.

The next day our friend Hannah came to be part of the fun.
More rolling and cutting
candles burning
Christmas music in the background
lots of laughter and visiting

After baking the pieces, they needed to be trimmed. 
We called these pieces our "crunchings and munchings."
Anyone who has read the Prydain Chronicles will understand.
If you haven't read them, they are a wonderful read-aloud series.

And because it has been brought to my attention recently 
that I NEVER 
post pictures of just me, 
here is one MJ took to remedy that situation.

Yesterday morning we constructed the houses and let them set in our cold garage to stiffen up. And last night, we set them up on the kitchen table...
Armed with many different kinds of candy for decorating,
we were ready to begin.

So far, so good.

Having a good time together.

Looking pretty...
we even had little snow men 
(made from yogurt covered peanuts and raisins)

The photos may be a little bit misleading.  Truth be known, we had saggy roof problems again this year on three out of five houses.  We rolled with the punches and got creative and just kept going.  The music still played.  The candles still burned. The laughter increased (which is way better than if tears would have started to be shed).  All in all we had a grand time.  But it is plain to us all that I am not an engineer.  At least not yet.  Hmmmm...what should we try differently next year?

Proverbs 24:16 "For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Sweet" jewelry giveaway

Susannah, over at Life is Too Short Not to Wear Red Shoes, is doing a fun giveaway.  She'll be giving away a couple pieces of  "sweet" jewelry.   This one is my favorite:
She'll be closing it next Monday, December 13th, at 11:59 PM so hop on over to her blog and check it out for more details asap. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

St. Nicholas Day

A few nights ago, a friend and I were driving home after a birthday party we had gone to together and we were chatting about how there are so many things we have changed our minds on over the years.  Santa fits in that category for me.  I used to be anti-Santa anything and everything.  It's true.  I thought he represented and could only represent materialism and that he was a distraction from any thoughts of Christ a person could have in a season when celebrating Christ's coming was what the season was all about. 

The friend Melodie, whose birthday we celebrated, was key in shifting my mind's view on good ole St. Nick.  My children were key also because it became very apparent after my oldest was about 2 years old that we had to do SOMETHING with Santa...what were we going to teach our kids?  They were being bombarded in the public arena with questions like "what do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas?"  We knew we abhorred the practice of telling children Santa lived in the North Pole and drove a sleigh and slid down chimneys to deliver gifts to good little boys and girls only to have them find out years later we'd been lying to them.  I haven't changed my mind on that point.

We stumbled upon a little book titled Santa Are You for Real? by Harold Myra that we've come to really enjoy and it is now tradition to read it together every year, as well as incorporating other resources we've come to find along the way.  About 6 or 7 years ago, Melodie invited us over for a gingerbread cookie decorating party and introduced us to the practice of celebrating St. Nicholas Day (which is Dec. 6th).   After some discussion and further thought, our family began to celebrate in a similar fashion the following year. 

Santa doesn't have to represent materialism and be a distraction after all.  Our Father really sent Jesus and He came (amazing!), and through His life and sacrifice we have been brought near, given new life in Christ, and been made true children of God (astounding!).  In heaven, a crowd of witnesses cheers us on in this life, rooting for us to run the race of faith with endurance, assuring us any price we are called to pay is worth seeing Jesus face to face.  And though Saint Nicholas isn't mentioned in the Scriptures like Abraham or Moses or David or the saints of the New Testament, he was still a man whose life was made new by God and as he cheers us on, we can learn from him.  He was orphaned early and instead of being bitter, he rejoiced in his Savior.  Instead of being self-absorbed with the wealth he was left with, he was a cheerful giver.  He lived a faith-filled life of service for the glory of our God. We can look to his life and see how Jesus was made known through the grace given to him...and we can be cheered on to make Him known in our lives through grace-empowered, faith-filled service for His glory. 

We have loved the fruit of this practice.  The joy of the season is spread out as we open stalkings on December 6th.  Our children are equipped to be winsome for Christ when asked about Santa in the stores.  We have found that the example of the real jolly ole St. Nicholas has not distracted, but aided our focus upon Christ.  And the contrast between the real man and how he is represented today helps us consider the fallen nature of mankind and our need for our Savior.

We hope you and yours had a lovely St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6th). 
We did.  
Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Fragrant Home

Music playing, candles burning, yummy snacks, lovely scents filling the room with people shopping and visiting and generally having a jolly good time working together to help two families get closer to being able to adopt...that has been largely what the last couple of days have been like.  My niece Leah is leaving her Party Lite business behind as she looks forward to welcoming her second child, and as a bon voyage of sorts we decided to throw a two day open house fund raising event.  What an amazing two days of tasting and seeing the goodness of our Lord in a fragrant home! Want to see some pictures?

The lovely hostess, my niece Leah (in the middle):
with my daughter MJ and niece Carrie 
The two soon-to-be Mommies
Amanda Marl on the left and Angie Shubin on the right
These are two beautiful, Jesus loving people and I'm honored to have them as friends.
Leah had a lot of stock to sell off at great prices:
We had some yummy least I was told they were yummy
 delicious cider...this I personally had more than one mug of
 and children to show the grown ups that food is as fun as candles
in case we didn't know :-)
Anyone ready for the "what scent is that" game?
Leah set up a raffle.  
Basket One was donated by Bob's Red Mill
Basket Two was a Party Lite assortment.
Also shown on this table were the donation jars my girls crafted.
A beautiful nativity scene just like this one came home with us...
thank you dear husband of mine :-).
All three of my sisters came to shop...yeah for sisters!
Linda on the left, my MJ in the middle, and Patti on the right.
and my sister Mary (on the left) with a friend she brought...yippee for friends!
Our dear friend Brenda,who just returned from living in Europe for the past few months, was hugged on by all when she showed good to have you home Brenda!  I LOVED getting to hang out and visit with everybody who came.
Leah also made up these party favors for each guest, filled with candles and candy and a note encouraging the receivers to fill it with change and return it to either the Marls or the Shubins.
Leah and her brother Josiah worked together to create these lovely yule logs to raise funds specifically for the Marls.  There is a limited number of these homemade goodies available still for sale at Exodus Books (which just happens to be owned by their brother Eli and is a wonderful resource...check out his store...I believe he also carries the advent books shown here that were written by our good friends Doug and Amy Hayes.)

Angie and Melita modeling "simply love" shirts 
which Angie is taking pre-orders for...
see her blog for more details

Those of us involved in putting this sale together are enjoying a day of rest and worship today, and our hearts are filled with gratitude to God.  The final totals are not calculated since any internet sales cannot be seen until tomorrow, but we already know from what we can count that our expectations were exceeded once again.  This is not always the case in fund raising, as anyone who has ever done it probably knows, but when it does, there is a grace-filled humbling that comes with it, not to mention excitement and general feelings of elation, and we're thanking the Lord who orchestrated this in its every detail.  

THANK YOU to everyone who came or played a part in this event...prayers, gifts, sales, everything was worked together by our mighty and gracious God to bring two more families closer to the place of being able to graft little ones into theirs.

I'm off to make pop corn and enjoy some time of reading a-loud to my kiddos...thanks for stopping by :-)