Friday, December 22, 2006

A blessed Christmas to you all

There is so much more I wanted to say this Christmas . But my kids have been sick, and I've been getting ready for our trip (which is what I'm supposed to be doing now, too). And I want to say something beautiful, and Christmassy, and full of the hope and wonder that Christmas is...but I'm too tired to think deep thoughts. I can only be still. And know. And worship. And thank Him for coming. Because of all the things I don't understand about God, this is the largest. What made that dirty stable and the death He was headed toward worth it? Maybe this is why I've cried this year every time I see a baby in a manger, or heard a single verse regarding His coming. Maybe it's because He didn't have to, but he chose to. Because His love is so great. Because I am so undeserving. Because He came to bring us hope.

Please jump over to my husband, Brian's, blog to read his Christmas sign- off. I told him I wanted to steal it, so I'm claiming it for all of us. Merry Christmas from our family to yours.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

New Kid Pics

I was having technical difficulties with pictures lately, so I'm playing "catch-up."
The Three Munchkins
Two cuties at the Nutcracker

"Mommy," he said today, "will we get to light the Christ candle? Because we'll be at Gramma's." I assured him that the beloved advent wreath and much-anticipated Christ candle were coming with us.

I asked her,"what is the best thing about Christmas?" She replied, "going to Gramma's!" Yep, they're excited too.

Quotes from The Greatest Story Ever Told

Somehow He [Joseph] knew that this newborn baby, whose face was not red and crinkled but smooth and white, and whose expression was of such potent innocence and affection, had come into the world to get nothing and to give everything.

"The oddest thing about it," he told himself, in the absence of any companion, "was the feeling I had when I looked into that little fellow's eyes. I seemed to have known him all my life. He wasn't a stranger!"

"But what makes them brave now?" asked Annas sternly. "How is it a man can die so willingly? All the others, preaching today on the streets of Jerusalem, know that their ultimate fate is violent death. They know what they stand for and what you stand for, Caiphas, and they know this world will always be a place of fear, of want, of war, of all kinds of suffering, as long as two conflicting points of view exist. The world will be a better place, Caiphas, only when their side wins. And they will win. We can only kill them; but they can conquer us."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Favorite Christmas Books

I know before I even start that I'm going to want to constantly change this. I'm always finding new "favorites," but right now...

  1. The Greatest Story Ever Told by Fulton Oursler - very beautifully written, thought provoking
  2. Two From Galilee by Marjorie Holmes - Mary and Joseph's sweet story
  3. The Bird's Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin - this book from 1886 is a favorite from my girlhood
  4. The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans
  5. Who Is Coming To Our House? by Joseph Slate and Ashley Wolffe - the best board book for toddlers
  6. 'Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore - I have at least four versions and love them all
  7. Here Comes Santa Claus by Gene Autrey and Bruce Whatley - Rosie's favorite book this year, and the older kids loved/love it too.
  8. Bright Christmas: An Angel Remembers by Andrew Clemens and Kate Kiesler - a storybook that I love more than my children do
  9. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski and P.J. Lynch
  10. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg - when I gave the girls Christmas bell necklaces on Sunday, Ethan said,"See, do you hear it? That means that you believe.."

Disney On Ice - Princess Wishes

I went through a great debate about buying tickets to take Anna Kate to this event recently. It suddenly occured to me that I could use the birthday money I've been hoarding since March, so I went to the box office and bought tickets 2 hrs. before the performance. I drove home and surprised Anna Kate, who decked herself out in her pink Sleeping Beauty dress and a pink crown. We were out late the night before, so she was tired, and therefore sucked her thumb the whole time, making it hard to gauge her response. But her intent gaze and sometimes very enthusiastic clapping (with her thumb still in her mouth, no less), led me to believe that she enjoyed it almost as much as I did. But we had to wait to ask her until the next day, because as soon as the show ended, she turned incredibly cranky. I picked her up in my arms and within ten steps, she was fast asleep. Everyone we passed was pointing and smiling at my pink Sleeping Beauty slumbering in my arms on the way to the parking garage. She definitely chose the right dress.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Favorite Christmas Traditions

  1. Our cookie exchange party (coming up this Monday! - I'm making Russian tea cakes.)
  2. Going home to PA every other year - I feel like a little kid again. It sure is easier on Santa when we stay home, though.
  3. My Grandma's Christmas dinner. It's always exactly the same. A perfect ham (I mean it, I've never had ham that good anywhere else or at any other time), baked potatoes, green beans, corn, crescents, milk, and Christmas cookies from the Serbian church.
  4. Our shepherding group Christmas party and white elephant gift exchange.
  5. Filling the book basket, coffee table, and end tables with our Christmas books, getting even more from the library, and reading Christmas stories all month.
  6. Lighting the Advent wreath each evening, singing carols together, and reading about the Promised One. The children constantly calculate how far away Christmas is by the number of unlit candles and love to blow the candles out after our family time. Every Sunday of Advent is exciting because a new candle is added to the old ones. And the Christ candle remains white, unlit, waiting until Christmas Eve. Like the world was waiting, waiting, so long ago.
  7. Learning the Christmas verses for the year. We're working on Luke 2:1-16 and should have it perfected by Christmas. There are so many opportunities to say them as we see angels on street lamps, and nativities in front yards.
  8. The children also love to learn as many Christmas carols as possible. Rosie's favorite is "Away In a Manger," she does all of the motions. Anna Kate loves "Angels We Have Heard On High," and Ethan really likes "Silent Night," but "The First Noel" is starting to win out. "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is always a hit, we've really enjoyed Reliant K's version this year, and we love to sing along with Bruce Sprinsteen's "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." I wish you could all hear Ethan sing this; Brian always comments, "when can you start giving him voice lessons?!" It's hysterical. Okay. I obviously have a passion for Christmas music, I'm actually feeling guilty for not mentioning Bing Crosby, Gene Autry.....
  9. Wearing my Christmas sneakers.
  10. Christmas jewelry. I buy a new pair of Christmas earrings nearly every year (the $1-2 variety). My favorite pair is the gold jingle balls with a small red and green plaid bow at the top.
  11. Christmas movies - White Christmas(my Daddy and I love to sing "Snow"), Christmas in Connecticut, A Charlie Brown Christmas, How The Grinch Stole Christmas...
  12. Visiting a living nativity.
  13. Driving through a holiday lights display. We have one in our tow that takes about 10-15 minutes to drive through, and then gives you the option to loop back through before you leave. We usually have to go through at least three times - and then "hurry, hurry, buckle back in!"
  14. "Christmas Lights" runs (see below).

Friday, December 15, 2006

Five things to do this weekend

  1. Visit a living nativity. We have a really great one about 40 minutes away from us that's worth the drive.
  2. Bake Christmas cookies. Leave some for the mailman, and save a container for the UPS guy too.
  3. Check to be sure your camcorder batteries are charged, and be sure that you have enough memory or blank tapes. You could record all of the Christmas activities that you do this week along with songs, verses, and messages. This makes a wonderful great-grandparent gift. My Nanny said that she watched hers over and over again last year.
  4. Make plans to see the premiere of Love's Abiding Joy tonight at 9EST on the Hallmark Channel.
  5. Finish most of your Christmas shopping. Save your mall shopping for a weekday morning so that you don't get trampled.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Praying - and carolling in pajamas

Please pray for my brother's wife, Kristy. She just found out that she is pregnant. We are, of course, delighted to have a new baby, but with Nathanael in jail and four month old Brooklynn at home, this must be more than a little overwhelming.

We were busy today doing Christmas crafts. I hope to post pics soon. I'm also planning to post favorite Christmas books, and in response to Kim's request, Christmas traditions.

We enacted one of the kids favorite traditions tonight. After they're in bed, we call out "Christmas Lights" and they come running out to don robes and shoes and go look at the lights. We headed over to see a friend's house that is particularly lovely and started singing Christmas songs on the way there. Ethan decided that we should sing our songs to them, so our lights trip turned into Christmas carolling. In pajamas, no less. (Don't worry, Brian and I were fully clothed :^) Our pastor's family lives next door to our above-mentioned friend so we carolled there too (we love our pastor!). And they are off the beaten path, so it really wasn't too weird, and we sure did enjoy ourselves.

My mind is full of things to post, but my fingers are slow and my life, like yours I'm sure, is insanely busy right now. Just thought I'd let you know I'm still alive. :^)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Carol of the week

This is a different kind of carol. A newly written carol that makes you rethink your preconceived ideas of what Christ's birth was like, and leaves you with a fresh glimpse of His overwhelming love for us. It is from Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb.

Labor of Love
Listen here.

It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David's town

And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother's hand to hold

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love

Noble Joseph at her side
Callused hands and weary eyes
There were no midwives to be found
In the streets of David's town
In the middle of the night

So he held her and he prayed
Shafts of moonlight on his face
But the baby in her womb
He was the maker of the moon
He was the Author of the faith
That could make the mountains move

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love
For little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
It was a labor of love

Words and music by Andrew Peterson

I hope these colors are not horrible, and that the song is red and not orange. The color in our monitor went out this morning, so I'm giving my best guess. :^)

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Out of the bosom of the air,
Out of the cloud-folds
of her garments shaken,
Over the woodland brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent, and soft, and slow
Descends the snow.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Five Things to do this weekend

  1. Attend a seasonal choral concert such as the Messiah.
  2. Begin tracking Santa at NORAD. If you haven't seen their promotional video you must watch it right now - your kids will love it!
  3. Last chance to order photo gifts. If you still need grandparent gifts, check out the great options at Walmart's photo center.
  4. Make these wonderfully simple cinnamon ornaments.
  5. Light the second candle (for peace) on your advent wreath. We'll be following Lindsey's suggestion and saying "May God's peace dwell within us."

May God's peace surround all of you.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Please pray for our family

For those of you who don't already know, my brother Nathanael is back in jail for the third time. He is a thief and a liar, and other than that pretty much the nicest guy you'd want to meet. But he has really done it this time. Third felony, parole violation, federal offense - it's looking really bad. Not to mention that he has a wife and a four month old daughter now, too (and he's just 24 years old). And it gets much worse than that in terms of the legacy of destruction he's left in his wake, and the massive problems it is causing my parents. And it is promising to get even worse, before it gets better. Please, please, pray that he finally hits bottom hard, sees what he really is, and sincerely repents and turns to Christ. Then all of this misery would be worth it. Pray for his wife and innocent child. Pray for my parents. Pray that I can have wisdom to help my mother deal with this mess and encourage her from several states away.

I told my mother right after it happened that God will always get glory from whatever happens. He will. It's really just adjusting our thinking. In terms of eternal destinies of those we love most, it is not always easy to rest in that. My new prayer is, "God make my desire to see you be glorified more important than anything I feel, or anyone that I love." To God alone be glory. Every knee shall bow.

Redeeming Love

Okay, here's the question of the day. Have you read Francine Rivers' book Redeeming Love, and do you think it's appropriate for young (unmarried) ladies?

First of all, I love this book. It's one of my favorites. But I have seen it being recommended for teenagers, and I have serious qualms about that.
It is a Christian book. A retelling of the book of Hosea, set in California during the gold rush. A man led by God to marry a prostitute and show her Christ's love. A story of redemption.

There are no explicit scenes in this book, but it is definitely dealing with sex and prostitution and the intimate side of marriage throughout. It is not the least bit offensive to me, but I believe in guarding the purity of young minds and not leading them in directions they are not ready for. I run a sort of lending library to my young friends, and turned down a 16 year old's request for this book today. She told me that a pastor's daughter at her school had the book, had read it, and had a waiting list of friends eager to borrow and read it. That didn't change my mind, but it did make me wonder. I suggested to her mother that she read it first and decide if she found it appropriate for her daughter.

I grew up in a very sheltered home. I didn't date - wasn't allowed to. But I also chose innocence for myself. I chose to remain ignorant of many things until I had a reason to know them. And I am glad of that decision. On the other hand, I realize that most girls cannot be this sheltered from outside influences and it is far better to be taught things from the right perspective by your parents, than to learn things elsewhere. I will also say that while I had never read secular romances, I was (and still am) a serious romantic, and devoured any Christian love stories within reach. And I wonder what type of daydreams are really appropriate for a young lady that is wanting to keep her mind pure. I have never found any of these books to be a stumbling block since marriage, but I have often wondered how to make good judgments for my own girls as they grow older. I don't want to be ridiculously overboard with caution, but I'm just not sure that being "clean" and Christian automatically makes it appropriate.

So tell me what you think about this topic in general, as well as this book in particular.

And after all of that, I'll leave you with a favorite thought from Redeeming Love.

He watched Susanna pace back and forth, plans gushing forth like a fountain. Angel was laughing and tossing in her own ideas, one on top of the other. They were both so beautiful, it was hard to look at them. Light shining in the darkness.
Jonathan closed his eyes. Oh, God, it's not the way I had things planned.
But then, what of real, lasting value ever is?

I just was reading the reviews at Amazon when I created the hyperlink and many people were recommending it as required reading for teen girls to see what a godly man and marriage should be. In contrast to what the average teen is bombarded with from Hollywood and attending their local high school, this might be true. But then, I'm not sure that I want to rear average teens. I'm pretty far from the teen phase, though, and if I've learned anything from being a parent, it's to never say that I or my child will never do something. Because you haven't been there yet, and your perspective is so different. So tell me what you think...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas."
- Irving Berlin

Assurance of Salvation

Kim at Lifesong has a post on assurance that resonated with me. I realized that my comment was getting too lengthy, and that I should write a post here instead.

Just before beginning my blog, I started a Bible study on this topic and found a fantastic article online,
"Assurance" by Arthur W. Pink. I would encourage anyone struggling with or seeking a better understanding in this area to read this article. I believe in the finished work of Christ on the cross, and have given my life to Him. Growing up as an Independent Baptist I was taught proof texts for assurance of salvation, and thought that if I just believed enough I would "feel" assured of the salvation that had already been purchased for me by Christ's blood. But it wasn't always so simple. And it seemed like it was simple to so many others. I thought I might go crazy. I wondered about things like the passage where the people said, "Lord, Lord" and He said, "I never knew you." I alternated between absolute certainty and outright terror. I needed better doctrine. While at first this article may make assurance seem less attainable, the author urges us to make our "calling and election sure;" and, for me, his historical and Scripture-saturated treatment of the topic resulted in the very opposite effect. Here are a few samplings from the article:

"Let the really concerned soul read slowly and thoughtfully through this first Epistle of John, and let him duly observe that not once in its five chapters are we told, “We know that we have passed from death unto life because we are resting on the finished work of Christ.” The total absence of such a statement ought, surely, to convince us that something must be radically wrong with so much of the popular teaching of the day on this subject. But not only is there no such declaration made in this Epistle, the very first passage which contains the familiar “we know” is quite the reverse of what is now being so widely advocated as the ground of Christian assurance. “And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3). Is not that plain enough? A godly life is the first proof that I am a child of God."

“For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in (or “by”) God” (John 3:20, 21). Here is one of the vital differences between the unregenerate and the regenerate, the unbelieving and the believing. Unbelief is far more than an error of judgment, or speculative mistake into which an honest mind may fall; it proceeds from heart-enmity against God. The natural man, while left to himself, hates the searching light of God (v. 19), fearful lest it should disquiet the conscience, expose the fallacy of his presumptuous confidence, and shatter his false peace. But it is the very reverse with him who has been given “an honest and good heart.” He who acts sincerely and conscientiously, desiring to know and do the whole will of God without reserve, welcomes the light."

Monday, December 04, 2006

Baptism Question - Feedback needed!!!

My son, Ethan, made a profession of faith over a year ago (he's five, now). He has always had a tender heart towards God, and did this completely on his own. We heard about it later, the next time salvation came up. I don't think he really remembers his three year old profession, even now, but he believes and knows what he believes.

Brian and I grew up in Christian homes with what seems to be the normal multiple professions of faith and baptisms that come from various doubts about having "done it right," etc. We have decided to specifically not remind our children that they are saved/have made a profession, but to leave that up to the Holy Spirit; so that whatever doubts they have will not be created by us, nor their assurance of salvation based on what they, or us, remember or forget. I also accepted Christ at the age of three, but have struggled with so many doubts, largely due to my limited memory. But having two children who have done the same thing, I can see genuine faith in them.

Now comes the question. Ethan has asked about being baptized a few times. It seems to me that we ought to encourage this as the next step of obedience. But we are still explaining salvation as he grows and is able to understand more and more about it. That he has an openness to God is unmistakeable, but we don't want to hinder him from making his "calling and election sure" because he has been baptized. Am I making any sense? How do you know when your children go from childlike faith that they've had since birth to a true personal relationship with God? And when do you have them get baptized?

Anna Kate has also made a profession of faith. She was not nearly as God-oriented as Ethan had been, but there has been a huge change in her since then. She went from not caring in the least when I told her that she was making Jesus sad or dsispleasing God, to singing spontaneous songs of praise and thanksgiving that she constantly makes up.

So what do you think?

Are you in need of encouragement this morning?

Go view this beautiful movie of Psalm 23. My sister Hannah sent me this link on my e-mail, and the verses in it (not just the psalm) are so beautiful.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Carol of the Week

Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung
Of Jesse’s lineage coming,as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to men a Savior,
When half spent was the night.

The shepherds heard the story proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of glory was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger found Him,
As angel heralds said.

This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True Man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

Words: 15th Cen­tu­ry car­ol (Es ist ein Ros ent­sprung­en);
vers­es 1-2 trans­lat­ed from Ger­man to Eng­lish by Theodore Baker, 1894.
verses 3-4, Fried­rich Lay­ritz, trans­lat­ed by Har­ri­et Rey­nolds Krauth, 1875.
verse 5, trans­lat­ed or writ­ten by John C. Mattes, 1914.
Music: Es Ist Ein Ros’, Alte Ca­thol­ische Geist­liche Kirch­en­ge­säng (Köln, Ger­ma­ ny: 1599); har­mo­ny by Michael Praetorius, 1609

Friday, December 01, 2006

Christmas 20 Questions

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? I love both, but I drink hot chocolate nearly every night.
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? He usually wraps them, but due to the size of the bike and the dollhouse, he may not this year.
3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? White, but I really have a soft spot for those old-fashioned large colored bulbs like my Pappy used to decorate with. And while I'm not fond of multicolored strings, I do like intelligent usage of solid red, green, or blue strands.
4. Do you hang mistletoe? We did until our artificial sprig went to pieces, and the only one I saw in a store this year had a purple ribbon!
5. When do you put your decorations up? The weekend after Thanksgiving.
6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? My Grandma's baked ham.
7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: Too many to choose just one - Christmas carolling and stopping in at Nanny's for cocoa and cookies,watching the Nutcracker, my Pap's elaborate electric train set that only came out the month of December, a candlelight Christmas Eve service, Candylane at Hersheypark,the heady anticipation riding in the car to my Nanny's on Christmas Eve....
8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I don't remember ever believing in him as a child (but I do now!)
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Sometimes. We don't have a hard and fast rule.
10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? We've done several different themes/color schemes, but I got stuck on the natural look. White lights, pinecones, plastic icicles, chrocheted snowflakes, homemade cinnamon cut-out ornaments, and raffia tucked in randomly. Topped with a straw angel or stick star.
11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Adore it!
12. Can you ice skate? Yes.
13. Do you remember your favorite gift? The teddy bear and perfume my future husband gave me a couple of weeks after I first met him. We were just recently "espoused"(and that is one story I shall have to tell sometime!)
14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Focusing my heart and the hearts that have been entrusted to me on the unspeakable love of the Father who gave us his only Son.
15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Christmas cookies- and anything chocolate.
16. What tops your tree? A star or an angel, depends.
17. Which do you prefer giving or receiving? Giving. Kids change everything.
18. What is your favorite Christmas Song? Just one??? Handel's Messiah
19. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?? Yum when used as stirrers in the hot chocolate
20. Favorite holiday movie? White Christmas

Encouraging Reads

Kelly at A Spacious Place has a wonderful post called I Corinthians 13 for Moms.

Kim at Lifesong has a great Thursday Thirteen list of books she's given as gifts.

A great quote posted by my sister Hannah at This May Be My Life.

Encouragment to study the Old Testament by my Brian at Growing Vertical.

Frugal Friday Double

Okay, two Christmas tricks for all of my frugal friends.

First, I discovered a few years ago that a round, plastic, felt bottom tablecloth makes a great tree skirt. If you have an open floor plan, you can match it to your tablecloth, and if you change your color scheme, you can find a very inexpensive replacement. Simply cut a line to the middle and wrap around the tree, no sewing required. It can be wiped clean and pine needles will be a snap to clean up.

The second I discovered this year. Our artificial Christmas tree warped where the screws go in and we had to replace it. I hate to throw away anything that could prove useful, and I quickly realized that I could use the branches as greenery anywhere that the metal ends could be hidden. And I stuck the top part (a perfect mini tree) in a planter and strung it with lights outside.

For more tips head to Biblical Womanhood.

Five things to do this weekend

  1. Attend a Christmas lighting and carol sing.
  2. Enjoy a local Christmas parade.
  3. The Nativity Story opens today. View the trailer here, and Focus on the Family's Plugged In review here.
  4. Take advantage of online shopping whil there's still time. The Lakeside Collection is a great place to find affordable gifts for almost anyone.
  5. Light the first candle on your advent wreath.