Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dessert Gala

I participated in something really fun this Christmas season. Last year I was the guest at one of these, and this year I got to be a hostess. It’s a Dessert Gala, and the idea is for hostesses to decorate a table with their Christmas-themed tablescapes. The hostess provides a dessert for the evening, and the church provides a program with entertainment.

When I first heard about the Dessert Gala at a nearby church where I was taking a Bible study class, I asked my friend Michelle if she would host a table with me. She agreed, and we started discussing our theme and dessert ideas. I told Michelle I wanted to have a table that was kind of counter-cultural to the glitz and glamour of the holiday season, and that I’d like to focus it on the Advent Conspiracy movement. Here’s our table turned out._MDS2146
  • We kept the design of the table simplified and minimalistic, to remind us how our Savior arrived: not in the flash of glitter, crystal and china, but in the quiet, unobtrusive moments. It’s the same way He seeks us today. He reminds us to glow with His love instead of focusing on the glam and glitter of the world around us.
  • The single candle in the center of the table represents His one true light, and the solitary way we are invited to spend eternity with our Maker: by letting His light shine in our souls.
  • A small nativity set in the middle of the table represented His humble arrival in our world.
  • We chose plates made from palm leaves to remind us how Christmas and Easter are intertwined.
There were seven seats at our table. Two of the seats were for me and Michelle. Two more were reserved for women who were assigned to our table by the event planners. The remaining three seats were for guests Michelle and I could invite. We asked three women from our Bible study class. Each place setting had the guest’s name printed on a white paper bag that sat on top of the palm leaf plates. The lady’s name was imbedded in a line from scripture. Inside the gift bag was a mix of party favors for each woman. Here’s what we included:_MDS2147
  • A sampling of Advent Conspiracy gift ideas to encourage the ladies to “give presence, not presents this Christmas.”
  • A blank gift certificate that can be filled out for a loved one and given as a gift of  time and presence.
  • A CD of piano music by a friend who is pianist. Music is one of the best ways I know to worship God and praise His holiness.
  • A vial of water to represent clean water, something we take for granted. So many people in our world do not have clean water, but we can easily give it to them through supporting charities like Living Water International.
  • A Living Water bracelet that can be worn as the ladies finish Christmas shopping. Let it remind you to spend just a little less this year so you can give more to those who have nothing.
  • A booklet listing 25 different names of Jesus. “When the holiday season gets stressful and crazy, open this booklet and find one of Jesus’ names that speaks to you. Meditate on it.”
  • Yahweh Hebrew name cards: God is a personal god, and even goes as far as to invite us into a first-name basis relationship. In the book of Isaiah, God tells us His name is Yahweh. The name Yahweh is both holy and intimate – so holy that we aren’t even sure exactly how to pronounce it. It is as commonplace and revered as the sound it mimics: our very breaths. Scripture tells us that God breathed us into life, so we use that very breath to say His name. Cover your ears and listen to the sound your lungs make as you inhale and then exhale. That’s the closest we can come to knowing the true pronunciation of Yahweh.
  • The stone coasters under the coffee cups were hand-stamped with clocks. They were gifts to the ladies, and reminders to give gifts of time and self this Christmas.
The desserts we served were chosen to reflect delicacies from ancient times: a traditional honey cake made from a Jewish recipe, fig and goat cheese crostini to represent the Mediterranean diet, and chocolate covered strawberries to satisfy our modern sweet tooth._MDS2146 (2)
I’m sure you’re curious to see how some of the other tables were decorated, so here are some more photos to enjoy!_MDS2155 _MDS2160  _MDS2169 _MDS2176 _MDS2178

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Here with Us

_MDS2889 It's still a mystery to me
That the hands of God could be so small,
How tiny fingers reaching in the night
Were the very hands that measured the sky
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Heaven's love reaching down to save the world
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Son of God, Servant King,
You're here with us
You're here with us
It's still a mystery to me, oh,
How His infant eyes have seen the dawn of time
How His ears have heard an angel's symphony,
But still Mary had to rock her Savior to sleep
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Heaven's love reaching down to save the world
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Son of God, Servant King
Here with us
You're here with us
Jesus the Christ, born in Bethlehem
A baby born to save, to save the souls of man
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Heaven's love reaching down to save the world
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Son of God, Servant King
You're here with us
You're here with us
(“Here with Us” by Joy Williams)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sweet Sixteen

_MDS9876 (2) Marriage has certain qualities of contract, in which two people take on the housekeeping tasks of living, together, to enhance life's joy.  However, marriage is more than a contract.  Marriage is commitment to take that joy deep, deeper than happiness, deep into the discovery of who you most truly are.  It is a commitment to a spiritual journey, to a life of becoming—in which joy can comprehend despair, running through rivers of pain into joy again. And thus marriage is even deeper than commitment.  It is a covenant—a covenant that says: I love you. I trust you. I will be there for you when you are hurting. And when I am hurting, I will not leave. It is a covenant, not to provide haven from pain or from anger and sorrow.  Life offers no such haven.  Instead, marriage is intended to provide a sanctuary safe enough to risk loving, to risk living and sharing from the center of oneself.  This is worth everything. (Margaret A. Keip)

It is certainly true that every man ought to love and cherish his wife, and every woman should love and cherish her husband: for he is her beginning. (A merchant of Paris “On Love and Marriage” c. 1393)

Marriage is somewhat like undertaking a Lego project without instructions. (Ammunni Bala Subramanian)

Marriage is like a 5,000-piece jigsaw puzzle--all sky. (Cathy Ladman)

One advantage of marriage, it seems to me, is that when you fall out of love with him, or he falls out of love with you, it keeps you together until you maybe fall in love again. (Judith Viorst)

Marriage resembles a pair of shears, so joined that they cannot be separated, often moving in opposite directions, yet always punishing anyone who comes between them. (Sydney Smith)

A great marriage is not when the "perfect couple" comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences. (Dave Meurer)

Happy 16th anniversary to my soul mate. I love you, Dan! You make me a better person and I still can’t believe that I get to be your wife._MDS2710

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Giving PresenCE – Personalized Devotional Book

Our family participates in the [Advent Conspiracy]. The four tenants of [AC] are Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All. For the past few years, we’ve been trying to find creative ways to give Christmas gifts that are gifts of presence, not just a present. In the days leading up to Christmas, I’ll be sharing some of these ideas with you.

Each morning, my alarm goes off and the sound of the city’s Christian radio station fills my room. I turn on my bedside lamp then I grab my phone. I read a scripture text that my neighbor sends me every morning, then I turn to my Jesus Calling app and read the day’s devotion from Jesus. The Jesus Calling book and phone app have changed my morning quiet times with God. I feel like He is with me, more tangibly that I’ve ever felt.

When I find something that works so well for me, I can’t help but pass it along to someone else. Recently, I bought a copy of Jesus Calling for a friend of mine. I flipped through the pages, found some of my favorite devotions, and wrote a note to my friend on that day’s page. I also looked up other important days in her life (like her birthday), and wrote a note about my love for her on those days as well. I’ve been doing the same thing for years as a Christmas gift for my sister. I buy her the coming year’s Daily Guideposts, and I write a letter inside the front cover and sometimes add notes on different days throughout the year.

Back to this Christmas… Some mornings, Katie crawls in to bed with me and lays beside me while I read my devotion. Once, she told me she wanted her own Jesus Calling. So for Christmas, guess what’s she getting?_MDS2497

I bought Katie a copy of Jesus Calling for Kids, and did the same thing for her that I did for my friend. I opened the book and wrote notes to my girl, in hopes of encouraging her on her own walk with God._MDS2496

This gift is a gift of presenCE because it lets Katie know she is thought of and cared for every single day – by me and the God who adores her.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Giving PresenCE – Voice Recordings

Our family participates in the [Advent Conspiracy]. The four tenants of [AC] are Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All. For the past few years, we’ve been trying to find creative ways to give Christmas gifts that are gifts of presence, not just a present. In the days leading up to Christmas, I’ll be sharing some of these ideas with you.

When my nieces were visiting for Thanksgiving this year, we pulled out old photos and home movies to watch together. The girls (who are now 13 and almost 17) got a HUGE kick out of watching themselves when they were toddlers, and listening to the silly things they used to say. As I watched the girls watch themselves, I remembered a box of cassette tapes I have in the basement. Somewhere in that box is a recording of conversations I had with my oldest niece, Hannah, when she was about two years old. Also in that box is a recording of my mom (her grandmother), teaching her to recite the poem Twas the Night Before Christmas. I dug the box out, found the cassettes, and spent some time listening to them. The  next time I was at Walmart, I did something I haven’t done in at least a decade: I bought a two-pack of cassettes! I transferred the recordings to a new tape, and I’m sending the cassette to my 17-year-old niece for Christmas. A recording of her talking with her deceased grandmother is a pretty priceless gift, and I hope she enjoys listening to it._MDS2270

Want some other ideas on how to use your voice to give someone love? Here’s one: in the December 2011 issue of Real Simple magazine, there was a column asking readers the best gift they’ve ever given. One woman wrote this: “I recorded 30 of  my favorite recipes onto an audio cassette so my mother, who suffered from macular degeneration, could try them. I included everything from chicken Marsala to cakes and cookies. She used it until her death, a decade later.” What a fantastic idea.

I’ve also used our cassette player to record messages to Dan from the kids. Periodically, we record some sort of silly song, personal interview, or greeting for Dan. We keep adding to this tape, so he has a record of their voices from very young to current times. Dan’s car still has a cassette player, and I leave the cassette on his dashboard sometimes before he leaves for work. He listens to the newest recording during his commute.

Oh, and while we’re talking cool ideas to do with recordings of your voice, how about leaving a voice mail for your loved one at work or on their cell phone? Call when you know they won’t answer, and leave a message about why you love them or what they mean to you. You could call on the day of an important meeting and record a prayer to encourage them. Or for a year-long Christmas gift, make a standing appointment on your calendar every Sunday night in the new year and leave a good morning message to greet your loved one first thing on Monday mornings.

Now back to my nieces and one of the other priceless gifts I’m sending them. They are at the age where they want cash or gift cards for Christmas. I’m sending them envelopes with some cash to satisfy their spending urges a little, but I’m not sending as much as I have in years past. I’m setting some aside so I can send the girls Living Water International gift cards._MDS2261

These gifts are pretty cool, because the recipient gets to go online and choose how the money is spent. The back of the card says, “When you redeem this gift card, you get to choose what part of the world it changes. Celebrate Christmas the way God did. Redeem!”_MDS2264

And THAT is a pretty awesome way to celebrate Christmas.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Giving PresenCE – Shadow Puppet Kit

Our family participates in the [Advent Conspiracy]. The four tenants of [AC] are Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All. For the past few years, we’ve been trying to find creative ways to give Christmas gifts that are gifts of presence, not just a present. In the days leading up to Christmas, I’ll be sharing some of these ideas with you.

I am so very excited to give this gift to my kids this Christmas!

They really love anything to do with lights: flashlights, glow sticks, night lights, and making shadow puppets on their walls. I decided to make the mega treasure trove of light for them: a shadow puppet kit. It has lots of different elements._MDS2062

First, it started with this link I saw for a shadow puppet kit. I knew I could make my own inexpensively, so I did. I used craft foam with adhesive on the back, and cut out the shapes I wanted. Two of the shapes are silhouettes of my kids’ heads. I sandwiched a wooden skewer (the kind you use for cooking kabobs) between the two sheets of foam, then stuck them together._MDS1532

I also found some cool flashlights that have attachments to create shadow projections. This Cars one was about $6 at Walgreens._MDS2051

This space flashlight was about $5 at Cracker Barrel._MDS2053

And this Halloween flashlight was $1 when holiday clearance prices were in effect._MDS2054

I found a pack of fingertip flashlights for $1 at the Dollar Tree. They are cool because the lights attach to your fingers, so you can have a whole light show going on with just one hand!_MDS2049

These flashlights were already in our stash from an event at our church a year or so ago. I corralled them into an empty peanut butter jar._MDS2050

I found these battery-powered “glow sticks” at my favorite store, Leftovers._MDS2052

And I found a pack of Celebration Lights at Michaels craft store. I think they are about $6 or more, but I used my 40% off coupon and got them at a discount. They are small enough to fit inside a balloon. I’m sure the kids will enjoy playing with illuminated balloons! (Who wouldn’t?!)_MDS2055

I put everything together in a wicker “treasure” trunk I inherited from my grandmother’s house after she died._MDS2059

The most exciting piece of this gift is something Santa is bringing the kids. (Yes, he told me this!) They are asking for a Doodle Dome, which is a tent that has glow material on the inside. The kids can get in the tent and draw with lights to make it glow.IMG_0075

I can’t wait to turn off the lights, hang out with the kids, and have some awesome shadow puppet shows. I hope Christmas Day is really dark!_MDS2045

P.S. I apologize for the poor lighting in these photos. I had to take them in the basement near the gift stash, while the kids were occupied somewhere else. It’s hard to be sneaky and hide gifts around Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Forty Years of Photos

_MDS2198 (2)Six months ago, I bought a Groupon to have 1,000 photos scanned. Actually, I bought TWO of those Groupons, for a total of 2,000 photos to scan. When Mom died in 2004, I inherited the albums she compiled of photos from 1963 to 2003. That’s forty years of photos, which means LOTS of images to scan and a job I didn’t really want to do myself.

It has taken me almost the entire six months to compile the photos I mailed last week for scanning. The 1,400 photos from Mom’s albums were easy to weed out, but the remaining 600 of my own photos were hard to corral from dusty boxes in the basement. The bulk of my time was spent putting them in chronological order, and guessing what year they were taken based on my hairstyle in photos.

When I shipped these two boxes off last week, I said a prayer that they wouldn’t get lost in the mail (perish the thought!) and a prayer of gratitude that my parents left a beautiful monument of memories for their children and grandchildren to enjoy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Giving PresenCE – Personalized Game Pieces

Our family participates in the [Advent Conspiracy]. The four tenants of [AC] are Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All. For the past few years, we’ve been trying to find creative ways to give Christmas gifts that are gifts of presence, not just a present. In the days leading up to Christmas, I’ll be sharing some of these ideas with you.

I have been wanting to make personalized game pieces since I saw this post at stitch/craft last year. It has taken me all year to do so, but I finally did it! Here are the ones I made with photos of my family members._MDS1474

I did another set of faces for the kids._MDS1480

It was really easy to make these. I printed photos onto cardstock and cut them into shapes, with a little bit extra at the bottom to use as a “post.” I glued another of the same photo on the back, to make them double-sided. I cut a slit into a bottle lid (like the kind you use for a water bottle or a plastic Coke bottle), then slid the photo into the slit. That’s it!_MDS1478

I made a second set of game pieces, using photos of LEGO people I found online by Googling LEGO images. I printed these, cut them into rectangular shapes, glued another on the back, then attached a binder clip to the bottom. I removed the binder clip prongs, and now the pieces stand on their own. I think these are good backup pieces in case we have a friend over who plays a board game and we don’t have a photo piece for him to use._MDS1468

These game pieces are gifts of presence because they encourage us to spend time as a family hanging out and playing board games.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Life in Quotes

There are some struggles I’ve been having lately… well, more than lately. Some have been going on for a few months, and others go back farther than that. I will never use my blog as a place to air dirty laundry, so I am not going into details. But I cannot gloss over the fact that these situations are changing me as a person, and I feel God calling me to respond in ways I would have never responded in the past. He is teaching me about a new life and about redemption, and mostly about trusting HIM and not the enemy.

I have found some beautiful ways of understanding His will for me, by reading His words in all kinds of different places: in the Bible, in Christian authors’ writings, and in quotes of famous people. Here are some that have been speaking to my heart and hammering me over the head.

  • “So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper.” (James 4:7 MSG)
  • “Don't be afraid, I've redeemed you. I've called your name. You're mine.” (Isaiah 43:1 MSG)
  • “A flattering neighbor is up to no good; he's probably planning to take advantage of you.” (Proverbs 29:5 MSG)
  • “Do not be surprised by the fiery attacks on your mind. When you struggle to find Me and to live in My Peace, don’t let discouragement set in. You are engaged in massive warfare, spiritually speaking. The evil one abhors your closeness to Me, and his demonic underlings are determined to destroy our intimacy. When you find yourself in the thick of battle, call upon My Name: ‘Jesus, help me!’ At that instant, the battle becomes Mine; your role is simply to trust Me as I fight for you.” (Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, December 3)
  • “Be willing to go out on a limb with Me. If that is where I am leading you, it is the safest place to be. Your desire to live a risk-free life is a form of unbelief. Your longing to live close to Me is at odds with your attempts to minimize risk. You are approaching a crossroads in your journey. In order to follow Me wholeheartedly, you must relinquish your tendency to play it safe.” (Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, December 9)
  • My true brother and sister and mother are those who do what God wants. Mark 3:35 Does Jesus have anything to say about dealing with difficult relatives? You may not be aware that Jesus had brothers and sisters. And it may surprise you to know that his family was less than perfect. Yet he didn't try to control his family's behavior, nor did he let their behavior control his. He didn't demand that they agree with him. He didn't sulk when they insulted him. He didn't make it his mission to try to please them.” (Max Lucado)
  • “Instead of personalizing the things that happen to us we need to stop and ask a very important question: Is what the other person did a reflection on me or the other person? Etch the answer on your brain: people's actions are always a reflection of who they are. When someone treats you badly (or nicely), that is a statement about who he is as a human being, not a statement about you. People act the way they do because of who they are, not because of who we are.” (Dr. Chris Thurman)
  • “We can't control the way our family responds to us. When it comes to the behavior of others towards us, our hands are tied. We have to move beyond the naive expectation that if we do good, people will treat us right. The fact is they may and they may not... Let God give you what your family doesn't. If your earthly father doesn't affirm you, then let your heavenly Father take his place... And don't lose heart. God still changes families.” (Max Lucado)
  • “At some point, you have to realize that some people can stay in your heart but not in your life.”
  • “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” (Winston Churchill)
  • “I am thankful for the difficult people in my life. They have shown me exactly who I don’t want to be.”

And, lastly, this is a quote from a book I started reading with a Bible study group back in September. The quote STILL sticks with me, months later. “When people are not so easy to love, we depend on the Lord to love them through us. Sometimes God uses the ‘sandpaper people’ in our lives to smooth out some of our own blind spots and help us become a little less self-centered.” (Karol Ladd, A Woman’s Passionate Pursuit of God)

My hope is that these words will help you through some of your own tough times.

Monday, December 12, 2011

An Actual Six Golden Coins Book

When I come across something that’s really awesome, I really can’t wait to share it with other people. If you know me at all, you know I feel that way about a few things: Jesus, scripture texts, fantastic books, beautiful songs, deep relationships, and nail polish strips. Now I have something else I can’t wait to pass along to you. If you don’t write a blog, this might not excite you quite the way it excited me. Because, OH! It really excited me! Just a few days ago, I received this in the mail:_MDS2279

It’s a book of my blog!!! An old friend of mine sent me an invitation to a website called Blog2Print a while ago, and I decided to treat myself to an early Christmas present. I went to the website, entered my blog address, selected the dates of the posts I wanted to include, and tweaked a few more things. The website then made a document out of my blog posts, and I could choose how I wanted to print it (in full color or black and white, with a soft or hard cover). Then I finalized it all and ordered one for about $25. (The full color version was about $300. Yikes!)_MDS2281

It arrived and I was enthralled with how cool it turned out. I also got to put a photo on the back!_MDS2285

I’ve printed my blog before, but it was seriously labor-intensive. I had to cut and paste each separate blog entry into a Word document, which was printed and bound at Kinko’s. It was a major pain, and the books turned out just okay. These are the 2008 and 2009 books, printed the “old-fashioned” way._MDS2296

I am WAY more impressed with this new version. And here’s my awesome idea for the rest of you: if you know someone who writes a blog, give them the gift of seeing their blog in print. Or if you personally write your own blog, have your blog printed (or a selection of posts) to give to someone you love, so they can have a physical copy of your labor of love. (Talk about an Advent Conspiracy gift idea of presenCE!!!)_MDS2290

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Giving PresenCE – LEGO Necklaces

Our family participates in the [Advent Conspiracy]. The four tenants of [AC] are Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All. For the past few years, we’ve been trying to find creative ways to give Christmas gifts that are gifts of presence, not just a present. In the days leading up to Christmas, I’ll be sharing some of these ideas with you.

My kids *love* LEGOs, just like every other red-blooded American kid I know. When I saw these cute LEGO necklaces at The Long Thread, I couldn’t wait to make one for Katie. And then I decided to make matching mother-daughter LEGO necklaces! Here’s how they turned out._MDS1467

It really was very easy. I got some LEGOs from the kids’ stash, bought a pack of silver bails at Michaels craft store, and got some E6000 glue. I stuck those bails on the back, and strung them on a ball chain Katie already had, and voila! I’ll be giving the necklaces to Katie in the jewelry box pictured, along with some extra little LEGO pieces so she can change the “jewels” around on her pendant.

How exactly does this necklace set fit into the [Advent Conspiracy] way of gift-giving? First, it’s a gift of a shared interest. (I like playing LEGOs too, you know!) Secondly, it cost me less than $10 to make, so I have money I’ve saved that I can donate to Living Water International. Cheers all around!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Giving PresenCE – Mommy & Me Treats

Our family participates in the [Advent Conspiracy]. The four tenants of [AC] are Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All. For the past few years, we’ve been trying to find creative ways to give Christmas gifts that are gifts of presence, not just a present. In the days leading up to Christmas, I’ll be sharing some of these ideas with you.

One of the most well-known Advent Conspiracy gift ideas around our church involves a bag of coffee. An adult son bought his dad a bag of coffee (fair trade, of course) and gave it to his dad for Christmas. What makes this a gift of presence, you ask? The catch was this: the dad wasn’t allowed to drink the coffee unless it was with his son. The two men spent the next year having coffee regularly, and the son got to know his dad and discuss life with him in a relaxed way.

I’ve always loved that idea, but I couldn’t figure out a way to make it suitable for other ages or relationships. Then I saw this post about making personalized six packs. I decided to tweak it a bit, and came up with this._MDS1459

It’s an empty cardboard Starbuck’s Frappuccino bottle holder. I covered it with regular white typing paper and glued some strips of red paper on the outside, then added the words “Mommy and Me” and “Treats to eat with me only!” Then I took four empty jelly jars and filled them with four different types of candy (I used Skittles, Mike & Ike, gummy bears, and pretzel M&Ms) and made labels for each jar lid._MDS1463

I’m giving it to the kids for Christmas, and letting them know it’s only for eating together. Maybe we’ll have a regular game night or a special storytelling afternoon, and gobble up our treats together. The key word in that sentence is (say it with me now): TOGETHER!

Note: I got the jelly jars and cardboard carrier at my favorite place, Leftovers (of course). But it’s easy enough to do on your own with whatever empties you have on hand!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What I’ve Learned

_MDS2142 It’s been one week since my surgery to remove a Morton’s neuroma in my left foot. How am I doing? Much better now, but it was truly an awful week. When I wrote at the end of this post about Jackson barfing in the car, I had NO idea how bad the week was going to get. Jackson got sick at both ends, and I joined him with my own special mixture of medication-induced illness. His lasted much longer than mine: a good five days.

Now that we have come through that trial and on to “relative” health, I am sharing the priceless lessons I learned this week.

  • I have learned that Zofran (an anti-nausea medication) is a MUST when I take any sort of heavy duty pain medication. Of course, I didn’t learn that until more than 24 hours post surgery. (Ouch.)
  • Spending the last week off my feet, I learned how fast I speed normally through life. Lately, when I DO walk, I limp along slowly. I realize I need to slow down, although I’d like to walk a *tiny* bit faster than the old ladies at the store.
  • I learned a lot about friendship. I was homebound and lonely; desperate for companionship. I realized I don’t often give the gift of companionship to my friends when they are down and out. If I don’t give that to others, how can I expect it in return? But, OH! When it was given to me in return by some friends who came to visit, I cherished it and saw it for the true gift it was.
  • On the sidebar of friendship, I learned how humbling it is to be the receiver of something I can’t possibly pay back. I had three meals delivered, and got a lot of practice saying thank you. My close friends know me well enough to realize I will NOT be making a meal in return, so they know these meals are truly a gift from them. I felt so loved by their cooking!
  • I already knew this, but just got a refresher on this lesson: I need my husband! He has overextended himself for the last two weeks (Jackson’s surgery, Thanksgiving, and my surgery). He is the only person who will clean up puke with me at 2am, and I am grateful to him for battling in the trenches by my side.
  • I learned that it is okay to skip a few days of shaving my legs.
  • And in that same vein, I learned that regular baths don’t cut it for me. I haven’t showered in a week and have had to bathe instead. I can’t wait to shower again!
  • Watching the sun set on that first night after surgery, while curled up in the recliner, I realized how grateful I am for modern medicine. I am glad I live in a time when ailments can be removed and corrected, medicine can be administered to minimize pain, and sterile environments are available.
  • Walking around with one foot in a bandage and the other in a regular shoe, I finally have a use for solitary socks who lost their partners in the laundry. I can’t put a sock on the bandaged foot anyway, so matching doesn’t matter!
  • I know what it’s like to have people stare at me. When I limped through a store or the lobby of the doctor’s office, people broke eye contact as their gaze slid down to my foot. It was an odd feeling to know they were checking me out.
  • “Next” time I have foot surgery, I should not walk around the house without a shoe on the “healthy” foot. I need to wear a shoe of height equal to the post-surgical boot that’s on the injured foot. Walking crooked can really throw your body off kilter, which makes all kinds of other body parts hurt. My back has been thrown out of whack, and my left leg now has a sciatic ache constantly coursing through it.
  • I learned that I should polish my toes with a bright color when I have surgery on my foot. Flesh colored polish has a way of making your foot look dead when it’s covered in iodine.
  • Since this all happened the first week of December, I learned it’s OKAY to let go of some Christmas traditions without the world crashing to a halt. We have less decorations up this year, less daily rituals, and more focus on the traditions that are meaningful. That’s an unexpected byproduct of surgery!
  • Lastly, I was reminded that I can dig deep when stuff hits the fan. This hasn’t been the hardest struggle I’ve ever faced, but it has been a very trying week. I remembered that the human spirit is resilient, God’s presence never leaves us, and the sunrise can be a reason to rejoice.

Monday, December 5, 2011

All the Last Times

I have an old Reader’s Digest article on my refrigerator entitled “All the Last Times.” In it, author Sue Diaz writes about how we experience “lasts” without ever realizing it. Firsts are met with big fanfare, like first steps or first potty trips or first teeth. The reason we don’t have fanfare over the Lasts is because we don’t realize it was the last time until later.

DSC08336 I realize I have recently experienced one small Last: Jackson’s last time in the stroller. To understand this, you must realize how often I relied on that darn stroller to corral my son at the zoo, mall, park, and any other event. I buckled him in at ALL times, because he was such a force to be reckoned with. If I didn’t buckle him in, he’d zoom off somewhere before I could blink. The stroller saved my sanity and his life some days!

I haven’t been using the stroller so much lately. Partly because he’s getting a little too big for it, and also because he has gotten a tiny bit more trustworthy at staying by my side. But recently, I had a string of doctor’s appointments he had to attend with me. So I pulled out the stroller again, buckled him in, and contained him for the appointments.

And I think those are the Lasts of which I speak: the last time my son will be in a stroller. I’ve stopped carrying it in the back of my car, which has been soooo nice when I load up after grocery shopping! But it’s a bit weird, to finally have that space back after eight and a half years of being a stroller mama.

And if I’m being honest here, I have to admit I DO miss that darn stroller. Not because it corralled my monkey, but because it provided a place to stash all my odds and ends when we were out and about: the diaper bag, water bottles, lunch box, and snack containers. I can mark the passage of time by the amount of stuff my arms carry on our outings. These days, we’re finally paring back on the packs!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Visual Prayer List

I saw a link to this idea on Pinterest and was gung ho to make a brand new prayer board too! And then I realized I already have something that will work just fine. We have a framed chalkboard near the back door. Sometimes I write messages on it, or notes to my husband (or he writes to me), or sometimes I write scripture to memorize.

I decided to turn it into our prayer list. I grabbed a pad of Post-It notes, sat down with Katie, and asked her what she prays for. I told her what I pray for, and we added some items to our board. I put a date in the bottom corner of each Post-It note. When each item has answered prayer, I write the answered date on the back and save the Post-It as a visual reminder of how God answers our prayers._MDS7900

Friday, December 2, 2011

Shower Door into Dry Erase Board

After Dan took down the old glass shower doors (which I wrote about in this post), I decided to repurpose one of them in the kids’ craft room. I cleaned it really well, mounted it to the wall with some 3M Command Strips, and gave the kids dry erase markers to draw on it._MDS1411

One of the cool things about it is it isn’t mounted flush against the wall. Since it goes straight to the ground, it has a little gap behind it because of the baseboards at the bottom of our walls. This means there’s enough room between the wall and the glass to put a piece of paper behind it for tracing. In this photo, I used a binder clip to attach a photo of Mickey Mouse from a coloring book._MDS1425

I traced it, then removed the paper._MDS1426

The kids have enjoyed drawing on it, wiping it off, and starting over. And I’m glad I got to upcycle something that would have been headed to the dump!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas Countdown

Today is December 1, which means the start of some annual traditions in our family. Last year was the first time we bought a LEGO Advent calendar. The kids *loved* opening a door every day and putting together a new LEGO creation. When Christmas arrived and all the doors were opened, I had an empty plastic box and decided to hold onto it. I’m glad I did!_MDS2067

I gave it a second life this year by adding some toys to it and making it a new Advent countdown. Katie wrapped the sides and back for me._MDS2064

Then I took it into hiding and added the toys before covering the holes with two layers of tissue paper. The tissue paper is easy for poking holes in and receiving the countdown toy. I brought it to Katie so I could take a photo of it, and this was the photo I got:_MDS2068

This was the moment she realized (without ANY clues!) what exactly is in each little compartment. She knew just by the sound the box made when she wiggled it. HOW did she get so darn smart?

I’ll let you in on the secret too: each compartment holds a Squinky that I got from a gumball machine. I found a machine that sells the Squinkies (we also call them Squishies) for a quarter each. That means I spent a grand total of $6 for 25 days’ worth of fun. WAY cheaper than the 2011 LEGO Advent calendar! (But don’t worry, I bought the 2011 one as well. I’ll need an extra box for next year, right?!)


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