Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thursday Thanks Tank #115

It's the last day of the year and it's Thursday. I am not feeling thankful today (at all) but I have decided that focusing on thankfulness will help me.

Why am I not feeling thankful? I was supposed to leave with the family to visit friends yesterday and instead woke up to one son throwing up. Since then the virus is running it's course through the family. I am feeling frustrated and sad not be with our friends. There. Glad I got that off my chest. Now on to my thanks tank list. I need it today more than ever.

2009 End of the Year Thanks Tank:

January -Pigtails: January brought me my first opportunity to put my daughter's hair in pigtails. I am thankful for those ouchless pigtail holders and getting to do my daughter's hair.

February- Cub Scouts: I am thankful for the cub scout program. It provides unique opportunities for my husband to do "guy things" with my son and fun activities for mom and son, too. Here's my son with his snake cake we made in February.

March- Recovered Money and a good allergist visit: We were victims of online banking theft (fraud) but we were fortunate to recover the money before it was gone. Also, in March, we confirmed that my 3rd son is not allergic to peanuts like his older brother.

April- Baptism: In April, my oldest son was baptized. This was a special milestone for his faith and our family.

oops!: I just realized I posted this picture on my family blog in April but the baptism really happened in March. Oh well, we were really thankful for it in April.:)

May- Allergic reaction wasn't worse: In May, my son David had an allergic reaction to a cake mix due to his peanut allergy. It could have been so much worse. I am thankful it wasn't. (You can read the story, here: Cake Wreck)

June- Visiting with Family: In June, we got to travel across the country (from Oregon to Tennessee) to visit our families. I am so thankful for the trip. Here's a family picture that was taken in the Smoky Mountain National Park.

July- 14 years: We celebrated 14 years of marriage in July. We went out to dinner at a wonderful local restaurant.

August- Family Camping Trip: We went camping this summer. I am thankful for the wonderment and excitement of the kids as they explored the outdoors. I am also thankful for the quiet moments around the campfire.

September- School: I am thankful for my kids' school. I am thankful for the teachers and staff at the school that have always cared for my oldest and are making special concessions for my second son's food allergies.

October- College Football: I am thankful for college football and the fun we have watching it and routing for our teams. Here's the Alabama/Tennessee halftime photo.

November- Friends: I am thankful for so many friends. We are blessed with friends near and far away and I am thankful for all of them. In November we had a special opportunity to have a weekend away to the Coast with some good friends of ours.

December- Family Time at the holidays: I am thankful for Christmas (and all of the fun holiday celebrations). I am thankful for my family because it is filled with so much love.

Lastly (and really how could I leave this out?), I am thankful for coffee.

Take time to think through 2009 and appreciate the good things in your life. This was a good exercise for me today and I am certain it will bless you, too.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ever Wondered Why...

Ever wondered why it isn't a good idea to make faces at a toddler in an effort to get them to smile?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Gifts Galore

I am wrapping up the Monday after Christmas. I spent the day cleaning, doing laundry, and managing my houseful of kids. I also kept finding myself thinking about gifts.

My Christmas was full of gifts. I received many wonderful store bought gifts. I also received gifts that moved my heart.

I was given the gift of Surprise. We had some friends surprise us with gifts for the last 12 days of Christmas. Each night our doorbell would ring or there would be a knock at the door. When we opened the door, no one was there. Instead, we were delighted each night by a present on our doormat. It was a pleasure to receive and my kids were really excited to see what the "Spirit of Christmas" would leave us.

I was given the gift of words. My 8 year old and my 6 year old bought gifts for the family from the school "Santa's closet". They both took time to wrap the gifts themselves. Then, motivated only by his own heart, my 8 year old wrote notes to each family member and attached it to the gifts. These notes are treasures to me.

I was given the gift of friendship. I wasn't gifted with new friendship but I was overwhelmed by the love I received from friends. In one case, I wish I had been more prepared. The gift giving was lopsided and did not reflect the value we have for the friendship. But, the Christmas gifts left me feeling thankful and loved.

I was given the gift of time. My husband and I have given each other big gifts and small gifts over the years. This year, we didn't. Honestly, we didn't plan well and shopped for the kids the week of Christmas. My husband took Christmas Eve off and we considered heading our separate ways to shop for each other. We opted to be together. Together, we played with the kids. After the kids went to bed, we enjoyed chocolate fondue on Christmas Eve and Christmas night. That time was precious. Christmas Eve was not stressful. The time together was a great gift.

I was given the gift of an ordinary day. Unfortunately, on Christmas Eve, I went to bed with a small headache. I woke up about 4 a.m. with a pounding headache. I took medicine then and several more times throughout the day on Christmas. My 2nd son had a fever on Christmas Eve. Unlike for me, the excitement of Christmas morning outweighed his aches and pains. I made the best of enjoying my kids get excited about their gifts and then I went back to bed. My body did not care that I was supposed to be celebrating. I had to let go of my planned day. I was frustrated but I didn't have the energy to be mad. Later I realized my day was a gift. My headache kept my energy level, my expectations, and my emotions down. I still enjoyed the excitement of the kids. I just remembered that Christmas isn't promised to be perfect. The letdown I felt because I didn't feel good reminded me that Christmas is not about me (or that holiday happy feeling).

I came away from Christmas feeling loved and thankful.

It was a wonderful Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

An Authentic Christmas

I was encouraged last week to remember the realness of Christmas. I usually focus on the beauty, the holiness, the wonderment of Christ's birth. This week I have paused to remember the actual elements of the nativity.

When I was pregnant, I was often very uncomfortable riding in my car. The donkey that Mary rode was not a comfortable ride.

The countryside may have been beautiful but Mary and Joseph traveled a long way. Traveling is hard, especially walking or being pregnant riding on a donkey.

There were animals in the stable. They were probably goats or camels. They were not cows like in my picture. But they weren't any cleaner than these cows. The stable was dirty. The animals were dirty.

The stable might not have been a stable at all. It might have been a cave. Either way, it didn't look like this barn. But looking at the barn helped me imagine the coolness of the night. I can imagine the animal sounds and smells.

The shepherds that came to see Jesus had been tending sheep. They came just as they were. They smelled like sheep.

In the still of that "Silent Night" there was a newborn baby crying.

It is powerful to think about the dirt, the cold, the smells, and the noise. The raw elements of the nativity are beautiful because they are genuine.

I am thankful for the realness of the Christmas story. I am thankful for the humble origin of a Saviour. The simple beginning reminds me that God uses the small.

This is what I am thankful for this Thursday.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Favorites

Preschool Christmas Programs

School Christmas Parties

Surprises left by our door

The It's A Wonderful Life Village

Christmas Dishes and Hot Chocolate

Christmas Dresses

Picking out the Christmas Tree

Decorating the Tree

The Advent Calendar

Christmas Art

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Crazy

The fire is going. The lights on the tree are blinking. I am sipping coffee out of my Christmas mug. I watched It's A Wonderful life last night. With any luck, I'll get my Christmas village out today. The scene is peacefully set.

My mind is overloaded with an out of control to-do list and my heart is hurting with misplaced intentions.

I heard someone say recently that they couldn't wait for Christmas to be over.

It was startling. I cringed when I heard it. Yet, there was part of me that longed to scream "Yes, I know what you mean."

Every year I think I am going to do better. I will shop early. I will mail the presents right after Thanksgiving. The decorations will be up so I can enjoy my family and bask in the holiday spirit.

This year is the same as last year. I am scrambling to get gifts bought and mailed. I have not mailed a Christmas card. I haven't participated in any community Christmas events. I did not budget well enough to buy the gifts I wish I could. Instead, I am looking for impressive gifts for low cost.

I have read a few blogs that speak of a simple and focused Christmas. At first the words were refreshing and inspiring but as the days and weeks wore on, I felt a burden of failure. My Christmas isn't simple (again). Christmas is 10 days away. I cannot possibly do all that I want to do. It's isn't the missed parade that bothers me most. I am frustrated that I do not have an abundance of time to spend focused on others. Instead, my To Do list is never done.

Why, oh why, did I let Christmas get this Crazy?

I read something this morning that jolted me. The first words read as if I wrote them. The last part pointed me in the direction I needed to go.

I encourage you to take a few minutes to read this: A Backwards December

I allowed frustration to take hold in my heart. Disappointment reigned in my spirit as I desired to give relationally to others.

I missed the whole point.

"But unless I first receive from Him, I realize too late I have nothing to give."

Powerful. Changing. Purpose-giving.

It's crazy to celebrate Christmas and not spend time with God each day.

"The only reason Christmas means anything in the first place is because of who Jesus is to us everyday."

My God, why do I give up my time with you so I can rush to celebrate you? There is nothing more crazy than that. Why do I stress that I am not giving others my time and love, when I have not given God my praise?

My Christmas is changing- today. I may not be able to devote the financial resources I wish I had to someone in need. I may not be able to participate in a charity effort in large fashion. I may not be able to powerfully display to my children the purpose of giving. I may not be able to do those things on my own. I can focus on God, pray and read the Bible. I can stop focusing on me. I can stop focusing on my failures. Who knows what God will show me when I do that.

With Him as my focus, Christmas won't be crazy.

"He is not in the business of overwhelming us. He is in the business of loving people, one at a time."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Flashback: Holiday Bows from 1983

I am so behind on so many things. One thing I haven't done yet is my Christmas card. I am determined to get it done this weekend.

Thought I'd share a smile from Christmas 1983. I was 10 at the time (1st on the left). Love the bows, don't you? Wonder if my kids will get a laugh out of our Christmas cards one day.

I'm linking up with Alicia today at
More Than Words. Join in the fun with her Friday Flashback meme.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday Thanks Tank #114

This Thursday, I am thankful for many, many things. It's late but I want to document my thankfulness anyway.

I am thankful for these things and so much more:

1. My dad coming home from the hospital. He had a 2 day stay. I am thankful he is doing well.
2. A bit of time to myself this morning (after 2 kids left for school and before the other 2 got up).
3. Teachers and school staff that care about the kids.
4. Asking for volunteers and getting them.
5. Friends, Friends, and Friends... Friends that prayed for my dad. Friends that help me with the school PTO. Friends that offer to watch my kids. Friends that make me feel loved.
6. Making time for exercise (it feels good and it feels painful).
7. Alabama (my alma mater) wining the SEC Championship and moving up to be the #1 ranked team in the nation. (That's right, ROLL TIDE!)
8. The Christmas Season- realizing that I can't do it all, knowing that Christmas is a time to focus on hope, and thinking about all of my loved ones
9. The Still of the Night... that time when I should be sleeping but I am still awake talking to my husband.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Go Alabama Beat Florida!!!

We are cheering for Alabama today during the big SEC Championship Game between #1 and #2 in the nation.



Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Building Roadblocks

I am putting up walls.
I am setting limits for myself.
I am asking myself if all of the activity is necessary.
I am stopping myself from participating.
I am guarding my relationships.
I am searching for the simple way.
I am putting up roadblocks.

On any given day after preschool, my four year old will ask me to drive over to "the dead end". It's a quick drive and it provides him with a little thrill, especially when I drive like I don't know it's there and then stop suddenly as if I am surprised. He loves this little game.

During the last few visits we have talked about figuring out how to get to the other side. The road ends but it backs right up to another road and another neighborhood. We want to explore and end up on the other side. We haven't done it yet but I am sure we will.

Last week when we made the short trek to the dead end I began to wonder the purpose of the road block. The road ends and a few feet later it begins again. In between, there is a large roadblock.

I usually think that roadblocks are negative. They stop progress.

But what if a roadblock is intended for good?

One neighborhood may have petitioned not to be connected to another neighborhood. The city could have decided it didn't want a road that would allow traffic to flow through the residential area.

I have decided roadblocks can be helpful- even good. I am considering where I need to construct roadblocks in my life.

I'd like to construct a roadblock for my tendency to over commit. Right now I am at my limit for activities. In truth, I think I am doing too much. I wish there had been a roadblock when I had reached my load limit.

There are other areas where I am sensing a need for roadblocks. I want to spend less and consume less -so I can give more. I need a wall to stop my extra spending and my indulgent appetite. And, even though I have fantastic friends, I want to set a limit on how much time I devote to relationships. I have to dedicate adequate time to myself and my family first. I need a roadblock to appear and block my way when I am not walking passionately in faith, spending time in prayer and reading scriptures. I need a train traffic stop roadblock for that area of my life.

I am not sure if I am burdened this way because this season often highlights consumerism and tempts me with longings to have more than I have. It may be because I have so many activities this month and a full to do list. I don't know the reason. I just know that I need more roadblocks.

So, I am focusing on:
- putting up walls.
- setting limits for myself.
- asking myself if all of the activity is necessary.
- stopping myself from participating.
- guarding my relationships.
- searching for the simple way.
- putting up roadblocks.