24 December 2008

can anyone tell me what Christmas is all about~

This has just about got to be my favorite scene from any movie ever. Ever. I love it.

And there were shepherds living in out in the fields nearby, keeping watching over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. But the angel said to them,

"Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign unto you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethelehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

The shepherd returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

And on the eighth day...

Simeon took Him in his arms and praised God saying:

"Sovereign Lord, as You have promised,

You now dismiss your servant in peace.

For my eyes have seen your salvation,

which You have prepared in the sight of all people,

a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."

And that, Charlie Brown, is what Christmas is all about.

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18 December 2008

the s word~

**I've recently realized that some of my friends read these notes on Facebook. I just wanted to say really quick, that I'm not sure if you can tell through the format on Facebook, but I actually write these notes on my blog, and they post on FB as well. Sometimes the formatting comes through differently on FB, so if something looks funny, or if you just want to see the blog, the link is somewhere under my wall, or profile, or somewhere :o)

So anyway, back to the s word. Not stupid, or shutup, or especially not that other one. Those are all no, nos around here. I'm talking about him. About Santa. Now, before you remember my "halloween is evil" post and choose to read no further, hear me out. In the interest of full disclosure, I will say up front that we do not "do" Santa. But I'm not going to go completely all "Santa is evil and you're not a real Christian if you tell your kids about him" on you, so give me a few minutes. And of course I would love to hear your thoughts, so leave me a comment.

This is one of the questions I was recently asked, and I actually get asked a couple of times every year.

"Quick question. What's your take on Santa? Do y'all "do" Santa? I know you had strong feeling about halloween (understandably) so I just wondered what you thought about Santa. Just curious :)"

Good question, I'm so glad you asked ;o)

So no, we do not tell our children that Santa is real. There are really a lot of reasons why we made this decision, and this was actually one of the things we discussed before we had children. Both of us agreed we would not teach our children that Santa was real and there were basically two reasons.

First of all, Glen grew up in a home where they didn't "do" Santa. I've never actually asked his Mom why, so I'm not sure if it was because of religious/spiritual convictions, or if it was because his father was seriously ill throughout much of his childhood, causing finances to be very tight. His Dad then died when he was seven, and many years, their only Christmas came through church or friends.

My experience had been the opposite. Santa was HUGE in our house. Huge. We also lived next door to my grandmother, two great aunts, and my aunt, none of whom were married and all of whom worked. They all lived together so had lots of disposable income, as well as lots of credit cards. So we had family gifts on Christmas Eve, and Santa gifts on Christmas morning. Both times the living room was so full of presents for me and my two sisters that there was just enough room to sit and that was it. It was ridiculous. My family went out of their way to convince us he was real. We had be asleep by midnight, or (gasp!) he might not come! I was the last kid I knew to still believe in Santa. I vividly remember thinking surely my parents would not lie to me, so even though all my friends said he wasn't real, I still believed. Of course my parents always said Christmas was about Jesus, but that's not what it looked like it was about to me. It was all about him. And then, once we were older, my parents tried to incorporate Advent and actually make Jesus' coming to earth for us an integral part of our celebration, my sisters and I wanted no part of it. Advent devotionals were boring when you could be looking through catalogs and making Christmas lists.

So that's where we started. Of course, my family was not happy. They still think we've gone off the deep end, but that really comes from our lifestyle choices in general, the Santa thing just being one of many ways we are weird. And now that my sister has a baby, we are under strict orders that no one is to tell her the truth. The truth? Saying it that way sounds almost convicting, doesn't it? I'm not picking on my sister or anyone else.
We are one of very few families we know that don't do Santa, and I completely understand and respect her and her husband's desire to make Santa a fun part of Christmas for their family, so I have no intention of undermining them, or anyone else's children either. Our kids know that they are pretty much the only ones that know that know the truth, and have done a pretty good job and just keeping their lips sealed when the Santa topic comes up.

As we've grown and learned and read, we've come to a much deeper conviction regarding Santa than we started out with. My experience with Santa worship fun in Christmas would probably not have been enough to leave us with a lasting conviction to leave him out. After all, we could choose to not make receiving gifts such a huge part of Christmas, we could do it smaller. So why make the decision to yet another thing different from everyone around us? I mean, it's so much fun. Shouldn't we just lighten up? Is it really necessary to deprive our children of this childhood right? It's not a big deal. Really.

Humor me while I share a few thoughts.

First of all, what is our ultimate goal in raising our children? That they would love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, right? That they would trust Jesus to be their Savior. So every decision we make should really be viewed in light of this goal.

So how does Santa fit in?
He's just a fun tradition that really only comes up for a month or two out of each year.

In order for us to teach and disciple our children, we need to have their hearts. They need to trust us. Completely. I've never been one to put a lot of stock in the argument that our children will not trust us that Jesus is real if they find out we've lied about Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, etc. but I've heard enough reports from other parents to know that for some kids this is a real issue. I would think that if you are raising your children in an environment that makes Jesus the center of life in general, where it really is all about Him, that your children would see the difference. But it is something to think about.

So what next? I'm not going to get into the arguments Christmas being a pagan holiday. Truthfully, I've not researched it a lot, but I have done enough investigating that you can pretty much find persuasive arguments to support both sides of the controversy. I'm not discussing Christmas, just Santa. So here is some of what I've learned.

Have you ever taken the time to consider the similarities between Jesus and Santa, yet the different messages each story sends?

1. We teach our children that Santa is always watching, to see if they are bad or good. Do you want your children living to please the Lord, or being good so they can get presents? Do you want your children to be taught that Santa is all seeing, and all knowing, just like God, but later have to tell them, "Well, you know, Santa doesn't really do those things, but you should still believe that God does?"

2. With Santa, we teach them that through their behavior, they can "earn" rewards. But they better not cry, or pout, or too bad for them. I want my children to know they can never earn the reward of eternal life, they can never be good enough on their own. I want them to know that every good gift comes from the Father of Lights, and it is his gift of grace to us. We cannot be "good" enough. And again, do I want them to learn to choose obedience (goodness) because they are trying to earn a reward, or do I want it to come out of love for what Jesus did for them?

3. Did you know that Kriss Kringle is German for "little Christ Child?" Hmmm. Which leads me to make another point.

4. In teaching our children about Santa, we are essentially teaching the a gospel entirely different than the true gospel. What is the gospel? The Good News! That Jesus died that we might receive the ultimate gift, the undeserved gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal life. When we teach our children about Santa, are we not teaching an opposite gospel? That we will receive good gifts based on *our* ability to be good? We are teaching them that they can earn their gifts and that when they receive them, it must be because they have earned them and that they deserve them.

Galatians 1: 6-11...

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - which is really no gospel at all. Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally comdemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up."

It is no secret that Satan has taken hold of so many things that were meant for good and perverted them to draw attention away from the Father and draw men's hearts away from the Lord. Not to get too "conspiracy theory" on you, but it is a valid point. I really believe Satan has found much pleasure in making the focus of Christmas on self, stuff, consumerism, you name it. And I believe that He takes particular delight when the foundational years of our children are spent teaching them a myth, causing the focus to be on gimme, gimme, gimme, when we could instill in them a thankfulness and awe toward what it really meant for God to become man and dwell among us. Even in our home, where our children don't believe in Santa but gifts are still given, from us and extended family, it is nearly impossible to really give the Lord the honor and thankfulness He deserves. I am not blaming children for being excited, it is certainly normal for them to be excited over presents, but long term, we feel that any spotlight that could have been given to Jesus is overwhelming stolen by Santa.

Our God is a jealous God. In Exodus 34:14 , God calls Himself by the actual name "Jealous." He does not want His glory usurped by another. If I teach my children to believe in Santa and all his magic, in all of his god-like qualities, am I not giving my God, my Savior's glory to another?

I truly believe Satan, in his efforts to "become like the Most High" (Isaiah 14:12-14) he has created Santa and caused the majority of the world to celebrate him, in one form or another. Whether it be St Nick (yes, I know the history of this and have taught it to the children), Kriss Kringle, or good ol Santa Claus.

If you don't believe Satan has set himself (in the idol of Santa) to be like the Most High, this numerous list of similarities will surprise you...

God the Father has hair like white wool (Revelation 1:14)

God the Father has a beard (Isaiah 50:6)

Jesus will come in a red garment (Isaiah 63:1-2)

The hour of His coming is a mystery

God comes from the North where He lives (Ezekiel 1:4, Psalm 48:2)

Jesus was a carpenter, Santa is a toy carpenter

Jesus will come just like a thief in the night, Santa comes like a thief in the night

God is omnipotent (all powerful - Revelation 19:6), Santa is all powerful, He can fly around the world and visit every single home in one night, delivering gifts to every single child (as long as their parents can afford it)

God is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-10, Ephesians 4:6, John 3:13), Santa can see and hear everything as well.

God is omniscient (knows all - Hebrews 4:13, I John 3:20), Santa knows if you've been bad or good

God is ageless and eternal (Revelation 1:8, 21:6), Santa lives forever

God is a Giver of Gifts (Ephesians 4:8)

God sits on a throne, Santa sits on a throne when our children come before him

We are to boldly go before the throne of grace for our requests (Hebrews 4:16), children are told to boldly approach Santa on his throne to present their requests.

God commands children to obey their parents, so does Santa

Jesus wants the little children to come to him (Mark 10:14), Santa (and parents) tell the little children to come to him.

God judges, Santa judges whether children have been good or bad.

God is the Everlasting Father, Santa calls himself Father Christmas

Jesus is the Christ Child, Santa calls himself Kriss Kringle (Christ child)

God is worthy of our prayers and worship, in some countries, children are taught to pray to St. Nick/Nicholas

God is the Lord of Hosts, Santa is lord over a host of elves (and in Druidic religion, elves are demons)

God says, "Ho, ho" (Zechariah 2:6, really, look it upin the KJV)

Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and the Image of God, Santa is a symbol of world peace and the image of the Christmas holiday.

Jesus said, "Ask, and it shall be given to you." Does Santa not say the same thing?

(credit goes to Hampshire View Baptist Deaf Church for most of this list.)

Amazing, huh? I can't help but read these and be amazed at how blatantly Satan has tried to masquerade as an angel of light, to pull the wool over our eyes, to set himself up as God in the hearts of our children. All while convincing the Church, God's people, that it's all in good fun. I know it's unpopular to not teach your children to believe in Santa, but as Christians we are expressly called to be in the world but not of it. That means doing unpopular things and taking unpopular stances sometimes. I don't want to take away fun from my children, I just view it in light of teaching them to always, always, set Christ up in their hearts as Lord. For Him to be first. For there to be no other, and for all competition to be recognized and dealt with.

Think about your experience with Santa vs your experience with God as a child. For most of us, Santa was jolly good fun, a great alternative to God, who was very powerful and kind of scary. And not only were they both watching to see if you are bad or good, but God might squash you if you are bad. (Do you not think Satan takes great delight in this?)

For a really good, in depth study, check out Santa Claus: The Great Imposter.

Another thing I think about, unrelated to faith, is the disparity between what children receive. How does little Johnny feel when his friend gets everything on his list, but all his Mom can afford Santa gives him is one or two small toys and a sweater?

It is so much not my heart to condemn, criticize, or point fingers. I hope you know that. It is my heart that we as mothers teach our children to love the Lord first of all, and most of all, and that you would be encouraged to follow the Lord even when it's hard, even when it goes against culture. Especially when it goes against the world, for that is when it is usually vital. When it really matters.

In closing, let me ask you, are you resisting this idea? Justifying it? Rationalizing it? Calling it "condemnation" so that's a good enough reason to say it's not from God? Did it make you mad? Frustrated? Do you feel judged? (Please don't feel like I'm judging you!) But if you have felt any of these things, take a minute to ask yourself why. Actually stop for a minute, and figure out why. Now, is that a good reason to throw it out without even considering it, praying about it, and talking with your husband about it? Are you willing to really listen to what God might want you to do, should He possibly be asking you to reconsider the idea of teaching your children about Santa? All I ask is that you be willing to listen to Him if He is trying to tell you something. That's all.

Here are a few Scripture to give you something to consider the Santa thing in light of...

"You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men." Mark 7:8

And He said to them, "You have a fine way of setting aside the command of God in order to observe your own traditions." Mark 7:9

Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that. Mark 7:13

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human traditions and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:8

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form..." Colossians 2:9

So in our house, this is what Christmas looks like. We do a Jesse Tree. This teaches our kids a different Name of God, attribute of God, or sometimes a Bible story that points to Jesus a the Savior every day from 1 Dec to Christmas Day. They learn that Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, that God using Noah was a picture of how He would one day send Jesus, why Jesus is said to come from the root of Jesse, and lots of other things. That link can explain it and they even sell the supplies if you're interested.

We keep December simple. We don't do lots of parties or outside activities. We want to be able to enjoy the Advent season, and when we are overwhelmed and consumed by outside things, the month becomes overloaded, frantic, and just plain too busy to be able to focus on Emmanuel, God With Us. God With Us. Wow.

On Christmas Eve, we get together with my family and exchange gifts. Until this year, our children were the only children on my side of the family, with lots of aunts, uncles, and grandparents waiting eagerly to lavish our deprived precious children with junk gifts. This year they have a new little cousin, and really, I would be thrilled if maybe all the gifts could go to her instead ;o) Keep in mind, these are the same family members that overloaded my sisters and me, Two, even three gifts per child would make me happy. Absolutely thrilled. We're talking at least twenty gifts per child, no joke. Times six kids. Times however many parts and pieces each gift has. If you don't hear from me until February, someone come rescue me because I am probably suffocating under a large pile of toys. I am thankful, but this is excessive. Now you know what we're up against.

Anyway, at some point, we get together with Glen's family, and we will also go to Kentucky where all my Dad's family lives. Christmas morning is just us, and each one of our kids gets a couple of small, fun gifts in their stocking, and we usually try and get to be the ones that give them the one thing they are *really* wanting.

So as you can see, they are anything but deprived. Even without Santa, it is an uphill battle to keep the focus on Jesus. I am just trusting the Lord to see our hearts and that He is big enough to work out the rest. His grace. Always.

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17 December 2008

sad news, but not the end of the world
(in case you were worried)~

I've written lots before about Glen and Anna being diagnosed with Celiac Disease last winter. It costs us $400 to have each person tested, and while Samaritan Ministries does reimburse us a couple of months out, we have to front the money. So the plan has been to test one person at a time as we can. None of the other kids have obvious issues, the only one the was somewhat on my radar was Ethan.

Ethan is my stocky, funny guy. His personality brings me indescribable joy and laughter every. single. day. Of course all my children hold a special, unique place in my heart, but Ethan's is different. I've always felt the need to protect him a little more for some reason. Although he does get over things very quickly, little things, when they happen, are just the absolute end of the world in his mind. Missing shark? Well, he might as well die and go to Heaven right now because life on earth is just not worth living without his great white shark.

On the other hand, he finds the greatest joy in little things. He loves to read, just like his mother. You cannot find him sitting down, or often even standing up for that matter, without a book in his hand. I don't know how many times he's read the back of the same cereal box. Too bad I can't just put his schoolwork on there :o)

Anyway, he was the next one I wanted to have tested for Celiac. I wasn't really worried about him, he wasn't having digestive issues like Glen and Anna, but I've learned over the last year that since Celiac affects absorption of nutrients in the small intestine, that it can manifest in countless ways.

There were a couple of things that caused me to choose Ethan next. First of all, he is very small for his age. He is somewhat solid, but short. The guy is seven in a couple of weeks but still wears a 4/5 shirt and 5t pants. T...as in toddler. He can't wear regular 5s, it has to be 5t. The doctor has never been worried as Glen and some of the other guys in his family are on the short side. He also always seems to be in a bit of a brain fog. That seems somewhat of a contradiction as he is very smart, loves school, and love reading, but as his mother who is with him virtually all the time, I can just tell he seems a little cloudy sometimes.

So anyway, I chose him next. I was so hoping, and praying that his test would be negative. Unfortunately, it wasn't. He, like Anna, carries two Celiac disposing genes. Normal antibody levels are supposed to be under 7, his came back at 41 and 34. As a reference, Anna's were only 14 and 12. Numbers aren't a real clear picture, but it does tell us that his body is fighting the effects of gluten more strongly than Anna's. And not only that, but his body is also producing a strong antibody reaction to dairy. I've been able to deal with the gluten issue fairly easily, but the dairy really throws a wrench in the picture. Thankfully, the little bit of research I've done has said that if I can get the gluten response under control, the dairy may resolve itself.

I am heartbroken. Like I mentioned earlier, little things are a big deal to him. He takes such simple, boyish delight in peanut butter sandwiches and milk. Not to mention things like ice cream, chicken tenders, the occasional donut, etc. He's my child that asks me in the morning what's for lunch and dinner. I haven't had the heart to tell him yet. He knows he was tested, but it's not something he's even thinking about. Glen and Anna are troopers, they like a wide variety of food, and what they can't have, for the most part, I've been able to cook alternatively. Everything else, they've just been able to deal with without too much frustration. Anna also kind of likes being "special" and getting special attention in group settings. She freely admits this ;o) Ethan is going to have a much harder time with it, I'm afraid. He doesn't so much care to be singled out because he's different, and he thrives on routine. He looks forward to little things so much and I hate to take away things that are so basic, but that are such a part of his normal, every day life. He would be perfectly happy to have a peanut butter and honey sandwich with milk for every meal for the rest of his life, I think. I am praying to be able to find a yummy bread that I can make that he will like. Sandwich bread has actually been one thing I've not made a priority as Glen and Anna were never really sandwich people.

So please pray for me, and for him. I'm going to deal with the gluten issue before the dairy one and we'll go from there. The gluten can cause physical damage to his body, that could eventually result in things such as diabetes, cancer, etc., not to mention that I'm now wondering if it has been affecting his growth, but the dairy isn't as serious. I am praying that the dairy becomes a non-issue. I am just so sad for him. I would so appreciate your prayers.

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14 December 2008

i'm coming, i'm coming~

Several people have asked me a few questions in the past few days. I am doing some thinking and praying about them, and I plan to get to them this coming week. I am honored and humbled that any of you would value my opinions and thoughts. As most Christian mothers are, I am continually before the Father asking Him for wisdom, guidance, insight, and understanding. I pray that everything I say here would honor Him, and cause all of us (myself included,) to reflect His heart toward our husbands and children. As a couple of them are a little more thought provoking, I am taking some time to think and pray through them, as well as just figuring out what I do believe and why.

I just wanted to say that I'm not ignoring anyone :o)

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10 December 2008

more on
surviving boys~

Warning: Photos of a happy, but somewhat bloody child ahead.

Fair warning.

We've been very blessed around here that we've had very few trips to the ER. And only two of those events involving stitches. For some reason we've had a pile of medical stuff this year, Moriah's eye, Anna had pneumonia, she injured her foot, Caleb jumped off the roof, I had the hemorrhage, Glen and Anna diagnosed with Celiac, but in ten years of parenting, only two sets of stitches. Involving boys, Caleb and Ethan, of course..

So, my Monday morning starts off pretty normal. We're doing a little more cleaning than usual since Susie, my midwife, was coming over. We were all helping clean up, with the kids taking turns playing with Haven while the rest of us worked. Well, someone, who shall remain nameless :o) got slightly sidetracked with his (or her) turn being responsible for the little guy, and next thing I know, Haven has slipped and hit bumped cut split his head wide open on the fireplace hearth.

Now, most of our kids have bumped their heads before with no major problems, but he must have hit it just right. Anna scooped him up as she usually does (she's a little Mommy when it comes to Haven), and I went about my cleaning. A few second later, I hear, "Mommy! Mommy! MOMMY! He's bleeding really bad!" So I rush over, and I can't even tell what is really wrong as his face is covered in blood, and is eye is completely filled with blood. You couldn't even see his eyeball. It's a good thing blood doesn't bother me or we all would've been in trouble..

So I rush him off to the bathroom, get a washcloth, and press it onto his wound the gaping hole in the middle of his head. Seriously. By this time I can tell that's the only injury, his eye is fine, but he has what is literally a hole in his head. All. the. way. to. the. bone. I can see it and the split itself is a good half inch wide. And it is really disturbing. I'm okay, like I said, blood doesn't bother me. When I was younger, anatomy was my one of my favorite subjects and there were several years I wanted to be a surgeon, so I was okay. My kids on the other hand were freaking out.

I sat down, called Glen and told him he needed to get home. He was only a half hour away, so I left the kids here with Caleb (yay, Caleb!) and took Anna with me to take care of Haven in the car. I found out later that Caleb had all the kids pray for Haven after we left. I think that is my favorite part of the story :o)

By this time, Haven is fine. Completely fine. Except that you can practically see his brain. But you know, other than that. He's laughing, talking, playing, and climbing in and out of chairs despite the fact that every time he smiles blood continues to run down his face. No problem, he just wipes it away. Seriously, the kid has blood smeared all over the place, but he thinks he's on a grand adventure. We get to the ER, sign in, and here is this happy, curious little boy investigating everything in the place while sporting a hole between his eyebrows. He seems to have no pain whatsoever. In all seriousness, I completely give all glory to the Father who I know caused the bleeding to stop quickly, alleviated his pain, and was watching over the little guy the entire time.

Here are a couple of the pictures that aren't too bad.

Let's go guys!
Where's the party?

This is after the triage nurse cleaned him up a little.

So, three hours later, and some stitches that weren't exactly the highlight of the day, he taps out in the car before we even pull out of the parking lot. He took a good nap, but went on to play completely normally the rest of the day. He didn't even need Tylenol. What a trooper.

I knew I shouldn't have put off taking Christmas card photos. That's okay, I was kind of looking for an excuse to not worry about them this year.

Now, if we can just figure out how to convince Moriah that he really is her brother and not a monster baby, we'll be just fine.

(And in all fairness to the un-named responsible party, it really was one of those things that probably would have happened anyway. Don't worry, no children were spanked, disciplined, or yelled at in the unfolding of this story. ;o)


Parenting Tip #12

Although not pleasing to the eye,

fireplace hearth guards are a good alternative to stitches.

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04 December 2008

the story of my grace~

This, like every thing I try and say here, has quite a long story behind it. My husband teases me about this incessantly. The stories usually involve food, but this one actually does not. So anyway, if you want the point, skip down. I'm warning you, it's going to be long. Otherwise, read on...

Three years ago this fall a couple of godly, Titus 2 type women at our church began a small group aimed at studying what the Bible had to say about mothering and encouraging one another. It was a small group of us, but the Presence of the Lord was there, and it was so neat to see how the Father orchestrated the makeup of our group perfectly. Our church is full of young mothers, and astonishingly, there were only maybe eight of us that came regularly. A lot of our meetings ended up almost like mini counseling sessions. It was one of those milestones in my life. An ebenezer, if you will. The Lord showed up and changed my life.

When we first began meeting, we all took a week and kind of gave our testimony, how we grew up, how we got saved, things we had been through, and often concluded with what our life then looked like, struggles and all. We were very open, and we were able to pray for one another and speak into each others lives.

At this point, I had just had Noah, our fifth child. I was in my third year of homeschooling, and while I had daily life down pretty well (schedules, napping, meals, etc.) I was somewhat of a mess when it came to practically loving my children. Sure, I loved them, but I was perpetually frustrated and angry, and had been for a very long time. I knew that the majority of my "stuff" stemmed from my past, but had no clue how to get through it. Honestly, I am still learning and working through it, but just realizing where my struggles were coming from helped tremendously.

I don't think I've ever really told the story of my childhood here, but basically I had two very screwed up, former hippy parents that loved God, but were too busy dealing with their own stuff and with each other to really disciple me. My Mom had been into drugs and alcohol when I was very young, leaving me to carry a responsibility for my younger sisters that was grossly inappropriate. My Dad was a truck driver, so he was gone a lot. We lived next door to my grandmother, two great aunts, and aunt which was very good, but made for very codependent relationships. My Dad was never really able to be the spiritual leader and head of our home, and my Mom was never forced to grow up and be responsible. I had too many bosses, but no real authority. Someone was always there to take my side against whichever adult was trying to discipline me.

What really affected me long term, though, was that when I was fourteen, just getting into the intense part of my life when I desperately needed my parents to be parents, my Mom fell back into heavy drug and alcohol abuse, and unfortunately, my Dad just checked out. So I learned that moms and daughters hate each other and communicate through yelling, and while my Dad loved us, he was impossible for me to please. It was your classic situation of I made straight As in every subject, every time, but it was always, "Why not an A+?" Literally. I, being the oldest, was held to an unattainable expectation of perfection that left me with unrealistic standards for and expectations of myself, and unfortunately, my children as well.

So basically, I loved my children fiercely, but hadn't learned so great how to show it. I was trapped in patterns I had learned while growing up with no idea how to escape, but desperate to overcome.

Thankfully, when Anna was very young (and so was I) I was aware of enough of some off these things to know that my discipling her and my growing in the Lord was going to be intense, and I knew I could do nothing, nothing in my own strength, especially raise children that loved the Lord passionately. I talked to the Father about this A LOT, and he showed me very clearly, that His grace was sufficient, that His power would be made perfect in my weakness. That everything was about Himself, and nothing was about me. That He was covering me, and my mothering, in His grace. That He saw my heart, and my helplessness, and He was going to show Himself strong. I believe this was a big part of why He sheltered me in the early part of my marriage, so that I could hear from Him alone and be taught of Him. And this is also why this blog is called what it is. God's grace is what my life is about.

So I had always had this encouragement in my heart, but it didn't do much to change the fact that I was angry and my daughter's room was ridiculously clean for a six year old. The silverware in the play kitchen was always lined up just so. Always. My life growing up had been seriously out of control, with no one in control, so by golly, I was going to micro manage life now.

And there I sat, trusting God to do His good work in me, but feeling like I'm failing miserably. I'm tired of being depressed, tired of being mad and not even knowing why, and tired of yelling at my kids. At this point, I had not really made the connection between what I grew up under and how it was now coming out of my heart in a raging torrent of ugliness. Being in this group opened my eyes to that. It was the beginning of my redemption.

One day, soon after the group began, I was listening to a teaching series on raising/parenting your children in grace. I was very overwhelmed at this point in life, desperate and crying out to the Lord for change. I knew the way I was often treating Anna particularly was not fair, and not kind. But I didn't know how to get past it. I don't remember exactly what was said, but somehow through it, the Lord spoke to me, almost audibly, and said, "She is your grace. Her name means grace. I am covering her in grace, and I am covering you in grace. Despite your mistakes and your failings, I am covering both of you as you learn how to mother her. I gave you grace in her, through her, and you are both covered in it." I am not an overly emotional person by nature, but I lost it right then. I can get pretty emotional even now when I think about it. Learning how to love her and show it has been a process, and truthfully still is, but I have the assurance in my heart and in my spirit that it is all about Him. He is teaching me.

So at this point, I began longing to have another little girl, and knew her name was to be Grace. Those of you that have been reading for awhile know that our children's names all have significant importance and meaning, and are often a picture not only of who they are and who they are called to be, but also of what the Lord was doing in our life at that time. So I wanted another girl to name Grace and bring grace into our home even more fully. To set before our eyes daily a reminder of what He has done.

The Father started out my life as a mother by giving me grace and graciousness in Anna. Caleb is very brave and devoted to God. Ethan is strong and bold, makes up worship songs on his own, and is gaining much wisdom through his love of reading. (There are two Ethans in the Bible he was named after, one was appointed by King David to lead worship in the temple, and the other is described as being very wise, even being compared to Solomon.) Moriah is a picture of God's provision, the Lord being our teacher, and came early to be born on Rosh Hashanah, signifying a new season of life in our family. Noah has brought rest, peace, and comfort in a significant way to me (being an infant during this very intense time I was going through) and also to my grandmother and great aunt who were in the middle of losing their home when he was an infant. While we were moving them out, they were able to rock, hold, and sing hymns to him that I'm sure brought much comfort to their hearts. And Haven is Haven. Since his birth I have learned volumes about the Father being my haven, and I know Haven is also called to be that to many, and I particularly see that as his role when he is a husband and father.

So I have been waiting for Grace...

And she is coming.

I wanted to wait until my twenty week ultrasound to know for sure she was in fact a she, and yesterday, I got to see her sweet little face in a 3D ultrasound.

I am so excited to see what this tangible gift of Grace is going to look like in our family. I have longed for her for three years, and found out she was a girl almost to the day I first consciously realized my longing for another daughter to carry this name. The Father has even confirmed to us a few different ways that her name is from Him and not just my own fabrication or desire. I think it is significant that I had the hemorrhage with her. That the Lord promised His protection over her before it happened, and did not allow the enemy to steal her from us. And that the protection of His Grace came not through my action, but through my quietness and stillness, and knowing it was fully in His Hands. That it was up to Him and not me. The day I called my mother in law and told her the doctor said I was completely healed, she said I think you should think about naming her Grace since the Lord was gracious and preserved her life. Since His grace and His hand are on her. I was stunned. I asked her if I had told her before about the whole story and she had no idea.

So there you have it.
The story of my Grace.

"All thy children shall be taught of the Lord
and great shall be the peace of thy children."

Isaiah 54:13

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28 November 2008

arise and shine~

for your light has dawned;
The Presence of the Lord has shone upon you!

Darkness shall cover the earth,
And thick clouds the peoples;

But upon you the Lord will shine,
And His Presence be seen over you.
And nations shall walk by your light,
Kings, by your shining radiance.

Raise your eyes and look about:
They have all gathered and come to you.

~Isaiah 60:1-3

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26 November 2008

turkey and wild rice soup
aka the best leftover turkey recipe ever in the whole world ever~

I love chicken noodle soup. Love it. But since Glen and Anna are celiac, egg noodles are out, and rice noodles just don't really cut it that great for soup. So I've been looking for a good alternative.
Wa la! Chicken (or Turkey) and Wild Rice Soup

Last week I wanted to experiment with a turkey breast in the crockpot just because (yes, this was the day I forgot to turn it on. Obviously, I remembered later ;o) I had a couple of different things I wanted to experiment with, namely making broth in the crockpot over night and finding a good chicken noodle soup alternate.
So this is what I did. After we cut some of the meat off and had it for dinner (I recommend roasting your turkey the traditional way, the crockpot turkey was nothing to talk about.) I put the carcass, still containing quite a bit of meat on it, back in the crockpot, covered it all the way to the top with water, added two quartered onions and a bunch of garlic, and let it cook on low all night. I probably would have thrown in some celery if I'd had some, and if I'd remembered, I may have thrown in some carrots.
The next morning, my house smelled awesome.
Later on, when I got around to it, I took the carcass out, picked off the rest of the meat, and strained the broth. Straining the broth was the one thing that had always kept me from making broth more regularly as I never really knew how to do it well. Some people use cheesecloth, but that always sounded difficult and potentially messy. So I set my largest colandar/strainer inside my largest bowl, and just poured all the broth in there. A few stray pieces of garlic went through, but no big deal. I then stuck the bowl in the frig, let the fat and misc other stuff the strainer didn't catch, congeal at the top. Later on, I skimmed off the congealed part, and then I had my broth. Full of flavor, vitamins, nutrients, super yummy, and not very difficult.
Onto my soup experiment. I had a couple of recipes I wanted to experiment with and create my own. The result was the best chicken (turkey) soup I've ever had, and by far the best I've ever made. My family ALL ate it, and asked for more. We fought over licking the pot. Almost.
So, since you asked and all, and a lot of you are going to end up with some leftover turkey over the next few days, I'm happy to share :o)

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup or Chicken Noodle Soup (or turkey or duck or whatever... ;o)


1T butter
1/2 cup chopped onion (I think I used an entire small onion, we like onion)
1/2 cup chopped celery (I didn't have any so I left it out)

1c. sliced carrots (I used baby carrots cut in half and probably used closer to 2c.)
1/2tsp dried basil
1/2tsp dried oregano
salt, pepper, garlic to taste
1 bay leaf

10c. broth (if you're using canned broth, use about 8c. chicken or turkey and 2c. veggie)
1/2 pound chopped chicken or turkey (I just threw in what looked right, Glen likes a lot of meat in it.)
1 1/2 cups egg noodles (I used wild rice instead since we can't do egg noodles. I used about 2 1/2c. *cooked* wild rice and added it in at the end.)


Sautee garlic, onion, celery, and carrots in butter. I just sautee in the same pan I'm making the soup in.

Add broth, chicken, sauteed veggies, spices, and salt/pepper.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer 20 minutes or so.

While simmering, cook wild rice. When the rice is done, add it to the soup.

Sorry the recipe is kind of all over the place, I had a base recipe that I went off of, and then tweaked it for us. The rice absorbs a lot of the liquid, so even though it seems like a lot, it wasn't excessive. If you want to do it without real broth, the recipe called for 8c. chicken broth and 2c. vegetable broth.

Anyway, it was really easy and so, so yummy. I think I'm more excited about having more of it than I actually am about the main meal tomorrow :o) And while it is excellent the first day, it is even better in the following days.

Let me know if you end up trying it and liking it. It is a 5 star, blue ribbon award winner in my book just because ALL of my kids ate it willingly. With smiles. AND asked for more. All of them! With no complaints. I also love it because I feel like it's super healthy being made with genuine stock :o) Plus...that means I'm not going to have to deal with the turkey mess until Friday...shh...

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24 November 2008

not me monday~

Confession time :o)

I don't know why, but I am loving the whole Not Me Monday thing. I actually have quite a bit less this week. I don't know if its because I have been busy taking care of a sick three year old, or if I've just been more responsible a better Mom or if my brain was possibly just working better, but regardless, the list is shorter.

So here goes...

No way did I discipline Anna for getting a little pre-teen "I'm way cooler than the rest of my family" attitude by telling her that for the rest of the week I would get to choose her clothes every day.

I did not forget to turn the crockpot on after putting all the food in.

I have not been keep a running of list of things to write for Not Me Monday. That would be embarassing.

I most certainly did not stay up until 1:45am listing things to sell on ebay. It was really good that I didn't do this, because the next morning, Haven woke up much earlier than usual and decided to pull one of his rare one nap only days.

And I am not currently ignoring the fact that Haven is running around with a bright red, super messy candy cane he found on the floor. Because, as you all know, I never let my kids have sugar. And food never gets dropped on my floor.

I did not decide spur of the moment that the nightstands from the boys' room should be moved to the girls' room. And in the process, I certainly surely didn not dump all their junk treasures all over the floor so I could move them quickly. And it's a really good thing I didn't run out of cleaning time and have to leave the boys' stuff all over the place until I could back to it on my next cleaning day, a full week later.

I did not make a gluten free coffee cake for Glen Sunday morning and then in the middle of our movie that night ask him to please get me a snack because you know, "I made you that coffee cake this morning." :o)

I have definitely not been letting Noah drink chocolate milk by the gallon so that I can hide his medicine in it since it's way easier to do that than hold him down and deal with him spitting it out and gagging so hard he throws up. And I've not let his eye stay stuck shut for four days now because he doesn't want anyone to touch it.

...and I'm surely not looking at having to drag all the kids out in the rain today to take Noah back to the doctor again since I'm pretty sure the antibiotic they gave me isn't working....*sigh*.

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21 November 2008

help for growing families
zone cleaning

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help for growing families
what helps me feed my family during morning sickness~

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praying for noah estes~

I just wanted to take a moment to tell you a little about the new link in my sidebar titled Join Us in Praying for Noah.

Noah Estes is the son of a lady on our MOMYS digest. He has been diagnosed with mitochondrial disease. Although I don't understand a lot about it, from what I understand, it is eventually terminal (save a healing from Our Healer.) I really wish I could explain it better.

As he is right at a year younger than my Noah, he and his family are especially close to my heart. I have been following their story for a very long time. His family is so sweet, and their faith and trust in the Father is nothing short of inspiring. I've been especially encouraged not only by their faith throughout Noah's disease process, but also in reading about Kate's (the mom) relationship with her oldest daughter. Just reading about their daily life, in the good times and bad, is such an encouragement to me.

For about the past week, Noah has steadily been getting sicker and sicker. He has been in and out of the hospital so many times, but he was admitted to the hospital again in an attempt to figure out what is causing this illness as he is very, very sick. Pretty much any illness is a huge deal for him and this time they are having a hard time figuring out what this is. He's going to be having surgery today and he is also possibly facing some procedures in the following days that are very risky for him.

Would you please join me in praying for him? If you click on the photo it will take you over to their blog where you can get the details. There is also a link over there that you can click on entitled Read This First, and from there you can either start at the first beginning, or you can scroll down to get a more updated version.

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19 November 2008

You know, there are just so many possible captions...

Choose your favorite:

"Aha! Finally...no one is looking!"

"I bribed Moriah to leave everything out."

"Mommy never sees ANYTHING when she's on the computer."

"Someone left out some toys for me to
play with get into."

"I'm needing a bath anyway."

"This finger paint sure is yummy!"

"Think I should grow a beard? I
think it looks nice!"

"I was making it for you....really!"

and my personal favorite...

"Mommy will be so proud. I can make my own lunch now!"

Parenting Tip #11

Never assume your five year old will clean up after herself.
Never. This is vitally important once your toddler learns how to climb into chairs.

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overheard at my house last night~

Caleb has been trying to gather supplies to make a volcano for the past few days. Tonight, he went to the basement to find something to put his creation on so that it wouldn't make a mess when it erupted :o)

He happened to find a very large piece of cardboard, one that Glen has just used as a dropcloth for something he was painting...

So he drags this cardboard upstairs, one side of it covered in paint, and promptly sets it down on the floor. A few minutes later, Glen is helping him with the volcano, and realizes that it's the cardboard he had just been using. Apparently, Caleb had just picked it up and neglected to notice the wet paint...

Glen: Caleb! Buddy, use your brain!

Ethan: Gee, Dad. He does use his brain. All the time. He just wasn't using very much of it right then.

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18 November 2008

help for growing families
one on one time & errands~

One of the favorite questions and criticisms often directed at large families is the question, "How do you give each child the attention he or she needs?" Valid question. A very valid question. One I don't mind answering if it's asked with a genuine spirit and not as a veiled criticism.

First of all, I think to some degree, on one level, "one on one" time is overrated. To some degree. I know of several Moms who had their first child several years before having more children, and even now, years later, that oldest child struggles with jealousy and the inability to entertain or otherwise occupy him or herself. We want to raise our children to be independent and self-motivated, not dependent on others to run their lives or provide entertainment. (I hesitated on even including this paragraph as I most definitely don't want anyone to think we don't value our relationship with our children as individuals. I only included it because one of the things I am most thankful for is that our children get along really well for the most part, are learning to be self motivated, and they are also able to entertain themselves. The Moms I mentioned above find it so, so frustrating when those siblings come along and their oldest child remains their neediest child. I have witnessed it firsthand many times, and honestly, it would drive me crazy! :o)

Another point to consider is that in a large family, the little ones are rarely, if ever, lacking attention. Now maybe it's not from Mom and Dad in the amount the first children might have had it, but even in smaller families a second and third child are going to miss out on that first child dynamic. Typically, large families enjoy one another, everyone always has a friend to play with, and I would think that as they grow older, they have built in friends (often of the same sex) to confide in, ones that carry the same values and beliefs :o) My experience, in my home and in observing the lives of my friends with large families, is that while there is often the typical sibling stuff among siblings the same age, the dynamics between the older ones and younger ones is vastly different. The little kids and babies are never lacking for attention, comforting arms, or someone willing to play. I wouldn't hesitate to say that I am confident my children get more "quality attention," whether it be from Mom, Dad, or siblings, than kids in a two or even three child family.

That said, it is vitally important, especially in light of keeping connected to our children's hearts, to make sure each one is getting his or her love tank filled. That they know we're available anytime to just listen or talk. And that if it's really, really important, we will stop what we're doing and make time for them. And this can be more challenging in a large family.

So, this is what works for us, at least at this stage in the game with six kids ten and under, with one on the way.

For the last several years, I have been blessed to have an "errand day." My husband stays home with all the children except one (unless I have an infant, then he or she tags along.) I do ALL my errands on that day, and one of the children goes with me. I let them choose where we eat lunch (I have one that chooses McDonalds, every time, and another that chooses Red Lobster, thankfully, their lunch menu is fairly reasonable!) We spend the entire day together. Since we live about 45 minutes from town, by the time we do all the driving, lunch, and all the errands, it takes up most of the day. That gives them plenty of time to really settle in and be able to share anything that's on their heart. Mostly it's just fun, but especially with the older kids, I'm beginning to see that they really value that time when they can just talk.

This has been an excellent way to get in some good quality, one on one time. The kids each actually have their own "week." They get to sit at the end of the table for the week, they get to have nap/quiet time in the living room which is right by where I usually am, they get to go out with me for errand day, and they get to play a game with Glen and me one night after the rest of the kids are in bed. They all eagerly anticipate "their" week. And I look forward to getting to spend time with each one of my sweeties, when I can be focused on them (well, and trying to find the green beans, but you get the point.)

As my oldest daughter is getting older, I am realizing she needs to talk way more often than once every few weeks. For her, I have let her know, and continue to remind her, that anytime she needs to talk, to let me know, and I will make time for just us. It may not be immediate, but it will be as soon as possible. I believe that this is vital. And she has asked me enough times and seen my commitment to her to be able to trust me. I'm also realizing that when she is "off," something is going on, and the longer she's "off" the bigger it is. That's when I have to step back from the behaviour and situation and outright ask her what's bugging her. Sometimes it takes her a few days to open up, but she knows I care about what's going on with her, so she eventually does.

I realize that this plan wouldn't work for everyone. Maybe you have twice as many kids as I do and that would only give each child four turns a year. Maybe your schedule isn't set up in such a way as to allow you an entire day out while the rest of the kids stay home with your husband. In that case, if you chose to click on my link from Help For Growing Families because you saw my topic and you see a need or just have a desire to spend more one on one time with your kids, then I would encourage you to take your heart and your desire to the Father, the one who created your family just as He saw fit, that knows your children's hearts and needs better than even you do, that loves each one of them beyond your comprehension, and ask Him what His answer for your family is. I don't know how this will work as our children and family grows. Right now, I only have four that are in the rotation, as the youngest two are still too young to realize or even care that much. Maybe I'll combine olders and youngers so the older ones still feel freedom to open up, and the little ones are just out having a good time :o)

One last point is something I just recently heard. I really wish I could remember where, it may have been the new The Old Schoolhouse magazine, but I'm not sure. Either way, a Mom was asked about one and one, individual quality time with her many children, and her answer was so true. She said something to the effect of she has many "moments" with each of her children every day. One on one time doesn't have to be this big, planned out thing where each child needs focused attention for at least thirty minutes. I'll be doing the laundry and one of the kids will come in and hang out for a few minutes. I'll be preparing dinner, and one of them will hop up on the counter, talk for awhile, then run off. A few minutes later, another one will pop in. We spend time together cleaning the kitchen. During free time, I am usually found either reading a book or on my computer. Frequently (sometimes more frequently than I would like!) someone will come sit with me to show me their picture, or sing me a song they made up, or read me a story they wrote. When I take time to stop what I'm doing and really listen to them, that speaks volumes. The point of quality time is to convey love and let your kids know they are valued and they are important to you. My kids get this even though I don't devote an exclusive half hour to each one of them every day. I am home with them all the time. I go out for errand day once a week, and to church on Saturday night. I would venture to say my kids spend significantly more time with me than kids whose moms work full time, are in school all day, and at sports on the weekends. And since we homeschool, we are literally together all day long.

So if you have a lot of kids and are worried, or you are thinking about having more but this is a concern, I just want to encourage you that quality time is easily doable in a large family. I have no concerns about my kids feeling like they don't get enough of me. I've let them know I'm available whenever they need me, and our days are filled with "moments." So be encouraged! And maybe, what works for us, is something that would work for you or you could adapt to fit your family.

Hop over to Ship Full O' Pirates for more Help For Growing Families!

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"How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about arithmetic, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness." ~GK Chesterton

2012 November

2012 November