Tuesday, December 31, 2013

{God-sized Dreams} Something good coming true

This has been a good year, mostly, even though it's nothing like I expected. I really thought I'd get farther on my dream to write a book and be building my freelance writing resume. I figured out family would include another child through adoption. I also hoped my blog would be bigger by now.

As I type those dreams of mine that haven't turned out like I saw them in my own mind, I am reminded they are self-centered wishes. I outlined some dreams at the beginning of 2013. And I spent the first half of the year blogging my way through what God was doing there.

Throughout the years, I've been part of this God-sized Dream Team that Holley Gerth assembled. It's affected us in ways we didn't expect. We have a Facebook group full of prayers and hopes and dreams and disappointments. But God is there too. And he's built relationships as we chased after the dreams God called us to pursue.

I had dreams I was pursuing. And then as I chased God with them, he called me to lay down some. And now that I'm sitting down to try and digest some of it, I believe he's called me to pick up other ones.

The relationships. The prayers. The dreams. The writing. The family. The freelance job that came my way and lasted seven months before I knew I needed to lay it down. The book idea that is still brewing and the new book idea on my heart. The adoption process that has been confusing and hard and really isn't even a process anymore.

God has been using every single thing to draw me to him. And, really, shouldn't that be my dream anyway?

People all through the Bible had dreams. And when God fulfilled them in his way, he was glorified. People were changed miraculously. And God was glorified. People made hard choices. And God was glorified. People left and followed and walked and waited. And God was glorified.

During advent, my kids and I read from "The Jesus Storybook Bible" most days. One day early in December, Joseph's story struck my heart, especially this part ...

"God had a magnificent dream for Joseph's life and even when it looked like everything had gone wrong, God would use it all to help make the dream come true. God would use everything that was happening to Joseph to do something good."

My dreams, at least as I outlined them to fit in this calendar year, weren't going to glorify God. I'm not entirely sure why. But I'm certain God has a plan.

He's got a plan for my family, whether or not we get to adopt again. He's got a plan for me, as wife, mom and a writer, even if it all doesn't unfold like I scripted. And like my dear friend told me recently: I know His plans for you are good. Not just in the future but in this very moment.

I know God was working this year. And I know he's still working as the dreams in my heart shift and change. He promises to work everything together for the good when we love him and are called to his purpose. His purpose. Not mine.

God calls us to make him known. The way that happens is unique to each person. For me, I believe in this mission God helped me word through the God-sized Dream Team: I believe God has created and called me to communicate stories from my own life and others' lives for families to know God as the author and creator of every detail through writing, promoting and serving.

The details of these dreams change as I seek the Creator of every detail. But I'm willing to keep going. I'm ready to see where he leads my family in this new year and experience the stories he's scripting for us because we believe he's doing something good.

Do you want help seeking God in your dreams? My friend Holley Gerth wrote some books that do just that. "You're Made for a God-sized Dream" has been a blessing to me this year and I want to pass along some of the goodness. So one person will win a copy of this book. 

Yes, this God-sized Dream Team was created as a launch team for this book, but the message truly is one that continues to speak to my heart. And this is an extra copy of the book I had in my gift closet. I'm thankful for the way friends, both in my everyday life and here on the Internet, have encouraged me this year.

Use the Rafflecopter below for multiple ways to enter the giveaway. A winner will randomly be chosen on Saturday, Jan. 4. The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents.

{UPDATED 1.4.14} CONGRATULATIONS, Mindy! Your copy of "You're Made for a God-sized Dream" is heading your way. Thanks, everyone, for sharing on this post. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can read all this year's God-sized Dreams related posts here. Today I'm joining many other dreamers at the newly launched God-sized Dreams website my dreamer friend Christine Wright created. The rest of the crew there is inspiring too.  

And then I joined Jennifer Dukes Lee's weekly #TellHisStory with this 2013 recap. 

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry & Bright

Merry Christmas, friends!

I have some stories to tell you. And updates to give you. And pictures to show you. We've been loving the Christmas season with family and friends. Until I get around to that, I did want to pop in and wish you a merry Christmas.

"So Mary trusted God more than what her eyes could see. And she believed."

May your days be merry and bright and your life filled with the hope only the savior of the world can bring. Like Mary, may we believe.

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Friday, December 20, 2013

{Christmas Songs} Repeat the Sounding Joy

Regardless of our plans or what decorations I put out, Christmas songs are one of my all-time favorite parts of the season. And, yes, I broke my usual wait-until-after-Thanksgiving-to-listen tradition this year. Even so, here we are the weekend before Christmas. And I thought I'd share some of our current favorite Christmas songs.

No disrespect to Nat King Cole or Anne Murray, but these days I tend to like newer versions of old songs. That's just what does it for me, at least right now. Specifically, these are my current favorites:

"Joy to the World" by Bebo Norman
"What a Glorious Night" by Sidewalk Prophets
"Silent Night" by MercyMe
"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings" by Barenaked Ladies with Sarah McLachlan
"Go Tell It On the Mountain" by Needtobreathe
"Little Drummer Boy" by Jars of Clay
"O Come, O Come Emmanuel" by Jadon Lavik
"Manger Throne" by Third Day with Derri Daugherty and Julie Miller
"O Come All Ye Faithful" by Jeremy Camp
"We Three Kings" by Tenth Avenue North featuring Britt Nicole
"Gloria" by Pawnshop Kings
"Away in the Manger" by Third Day

And how about favorite whole albums? Yep. I have those too, but with iTunes and Amazon mp3s, I tend to buy specific songs and not whole albums.

"A Slugs & Bugs Christmas" by Slugs & Bugs
"Christmas Offerings" by Third Day
"Christmas" by Rebecca St. James

What are you listening to as Christmas comes?

This is an updated version of a similar post last year. I've included links to Amazon in case you're looking to expand your music library. This blog does earn a little money if you buy through my links, but the price doesn't change for you. 

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

One Perfect God

I'm a rule follower who sometimes loses sight of grace. This has been a struggle for me my entire life, mostly because of my perfectionist-driven personality. Motherhood has rocked this part of me. And six years, seven months, and 13 days in, this balance of rules and graces still rocks my world.

Lately I've felt trapped in the middle of rules that create healthy boundaries and develop responsible people and graces that frees and points directly to God. I want my kids to know Jesus and be generous and be responsible, independent people and obey immediately and ... so many other things.

But sometimes I mix up it all up and dwell on the "Obey now!" and "Come on, pick up your stuff!" and lose sight of Jesus. Sometimes I yell when I should whisper. And punish when I should forgive and teach. And lecture before I pray. And react before I realize the truth.

This week my kids have stained shirts and lost coats. They've picked on each other, invaded my personal space, and demanded things I didn't think were necessary. They've sang and talked loudly, often at inappropriate times.

I make those things the issues, but they're really not. My kids are imperfect people who need a Savior. And I'm an imperfect momma who needs her Savior.

"Perhaps it's time to offer some friendliness to the members of our own homes, to keep our tempers in check and our grumbling at bay, to let perfect love wash over a multitude of sins. Not the jelly-smeared, crumb-laden kind, but the hideous-word-hurling, mama-mouthed variety."

{From "Let. It. Go." by Karen Ehman}

I'm thankful for the grace to come to our Savior. And I'm thankful for that perfect love that does cover all our ugliness. I pray I let go more each day and my kids are drawn to Jesus each time. Perhaps that's the greatest illustration of faith, at least for a control-gripping soul like me.

It reminds me of my favorite quote from "One Way Love" by Tullian Tchividjian: "Grace generates panic, because it wrestles both control and glory out of our hands."

So, so true.

And, really, so, so freeing.

I try so hard to make decisions to please everyone. I make plans and raise my expectations. I rehearse conversations in my mind and replay them after the fact. I have opinions on nearly everything. And too often that all explodes out of my mouth, usually onto my husband and kids.

I need to control and glory wrestled right out of my hands. It's not mine to have anyway. But I have personal access to the One who does deserve the glory and has control of all the details.

"We can’t be perfect parents, but we can act in partnership with a perfect God. There is peace, hope, and expectancy in that statement."
{From "No More Perfect Moms" by Jill Savage}

What a relief! Perfection isn't possible here in this life. Not for my kids. And not for me. But God is here with us, perfecting and refining us as we go along.

This has been the lesson I'm supposed to learn this year. I know it from every aspect of my life. And I'm learning. Slowly. Books that have helped me along the way are "No More Perfect Moms" by Jill Savage, "One Way Love" by Tullian Tchividjian and "Let. It. Go." by Karen Ehman. Those are Amazon affiliate links, but those are books that are helping me let go. 

Joining others at Jill Savage's blog for the Hearts at Home blog hop as they share how the One perfect God made himself known in their imperfections. And for the first time, I'm also linking up with Lyli Dunbar's Thought-Provoking Thursday.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Making a not-to-do holiday list

I love lists. I have an old-fashioned with lots of lists. Without it, I'd be a lost mess. But as much fun as it is marking off tasks I've conquered, I'm discovering it's almost as freeing to make a mental list of all the things I choose not to do.

So as Christmas Day nears and to-do lists are longer than actually need to be, let's take a deep breath together and share what we are not doing this {or possibly any!} holiday season.

I'll go first ...

  • I don't bake other times of the year, so I'm not baking in December either. Yes, please notice my kids decorating cookies and licking their fingers in the picture above. My saint of a mother-in-law organized that activity when we were at her house Sunday afternoon. I applied icing to a couple cookies and then ate a few, otherwise I was completely uninvolved. So, yes, take it from me, it's acceptable to help others you love incorporate traditions they're better at executing. 
  • We don't care about outside lights, so we've never hung them. And we aren't starting this year, right, Greg?
  • Every room of my house is not decorated. This year it's less than my normal few and they're contained to mantel, a tree overtaking the living room, and some Christmas cards hanging on the kitchen wall.
  • We don't cram it all into one day. In fact, we did Christmas with one side of the family before it was even December.
  • And I still don't have a Pinterest account. Less pressure, really. 
  • I don't make a big meal. We so something simple for Christmas morning when it's just the four of us. {This year, my girl is requesting pancakes, which can be arranged.} The other holiday meals are organized by my mom, mother-in-law or grandma-in-law, who I'm grateful still like to entertain us grown-up kids and our kids this way. 
  • I shop early and mostly online so I'm not waiting until the last minute and rushing in and out of stores. I love to buy gifts. But I do not love the pressure that comes with waiting until right before I see someone. I like to pick up things as I see them in the months leading up to Christmas. Doing it this ways seems to produce better gifts, allows me to take advantage of deals, and enjoy the days leading up to Christmas.

While I'm not doing these things, I will be listening to my favorite Christmas songs, reading "The Jesus Storybook Bible" with my kids, giving gifts to friends and family we love, sharing meals those dear to us, and trying to savor the anticipation of the world receiving her king.

What's on your not-to-do holiday list?

I'm linking up with Jen Ferguson's Soli Deo Gloria party, where letting go is embraced; Jennifer Dukes Lee's #TellHisStory, where others are anticipating the coming of the King; Beth Stiff's Three Word Wednesday, because NOT TO DO are important words to me right now; and We are THAT Family, where good tips abound.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Tour of the Christmas Mantel

I'm not much of a change-the-decorations-for-the-season person. I do have a couple Rubbermade containers of Christmas things. Even so, this year I put out less. I'm not sure why, except that I'm trying to embrace the realness that comes when I don't worry with perfection. So I put out some favorite things and let my wild Christmas tree take up half my living room.

It's just right for us right now. 

Come see a few of my favorites ...

I love stockings. And I love these stockings. I found them online somewhere before Ben was born and then found them again to order a fourth when Ben came about a month before Christmas 2009. And, yes, I love that we have a mantel for stockings display.

Speaking of Christmas 2009, this is one of the earliest pictures of us as a family of four. We'd just gotten back from the local Christmas parade, and I had my friend snap the moment. Ben was just 12 days old. It's become a favorite of mine that stays in that holiday frame and comes out each year.

We have two nativity sets. Both are kid friendly. This Melissa & Doug one is on our mantel, but it's still be moved around plenty of times by the little hands here.

Our tree is crazy. And I love that about it. I also love all the room underneath the branches. We've done Christmas with one side of family, so the gifts for the other side of the family and some friends are waiting. That's the kids' Geo Trax Christmas train and Little People nativity in the background. I like that they get to play with it so close to the crazy tree.

What's your favorite Christmas decoration? Do you put out the same things every year in the same places or mix it up?

Joining The Nester and others from all over the Internet who are giving tours of their homes at Christmas and reminding each other it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. And linking up with Crystal Stine's Behind the Scenes.

Take a peek at other previous Christmas posts. The Jesus Birthday Party. Easiest Ornament Craft Ever. Crafting Christmas Coasters. Memories Hang Here.

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

The 4th Annual Jesus Birthday Party

In the last couple years as my family has established traditions of our own, this birthday party of Jesus has become a favorite of mine. It's fun and simple, yet it drives home the message I want my kids to hold onto: Jesus came as a baby and our world hasn't been the same since his birth. He came to show us how to live our lives and ultimately take away the sins of the world.

{I wrote a guest post about this party recently at Seasons with Soul. And you can look back at past parties: 2010. 2011. 2012.}

We had postpone this year's party a week after we had some snow and ice that interrupted plans last weekend. Thankfully, most of the families were still able to come. We had 33 kids and their parents. Several families brought food to share and Courtney made another delicious cake. Cool detail: Her cake and my table cloths matched. Her cake was topped with the word "Joy," which was also on the plates I bought to serve cake. We didn't talk about any of this before hand, but it's a sweet reminder that God is in the details.

We collected money for Compassion International and canned good for Needline, our local food pantry. Another kid recently asked me how we could bring gifts to Jesus if he wasn't actually going to be at our party. After the reminder that Jesus lives in our hearts, I also explained how we live our lives and how we give to people who need help are gifts to Jesus. He tells us so.

Greg, who goes along so happily with my party planning ideas, played some Christmas carols on his guitar and then read "The Sparkle Box" and "The First Christmas Night." The kids also went home with a cup of goodies from Oriental Trading, which has a good selection of "Happy Birthday, Jesus" items, and an advent coloring book I found online.

The Jesus Birthday Party was a fun couple hours in the middle of a busy season and a chance to remember to come to Jesus like a child. Our savior's birthday is certainly worth celebrating!

Have you ever sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus? What's another tradition you love?

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

{Three Word Wednesday} At Least Today

I've been thinking about what I wanted to blog about today throughout the day. Not constantly, people. I have other things to do. 

Like volunteer at my kids' school. And eat lunch with a friend and her newly adopted baby. And email people related to my lake house management on-the-side job. And order my sister flowers because SHE HAD A BABY yesterday! And have dinner with our favorite college student we haven't seen enough of this semester. And have a dance party with my kids while listening to a new-to-me Train song while we wait for Greg to come out of the store.

This is my life. At least today.

I have some more meaningful thoughts brewing in my head. About dreams. And faith. And grace. But they're a little jumbled right now.

But for now I'm glad to be sitting on the couch while we watch another episode of "Bones." Thanks, Netflix. 

This is my mind. At least today.

I look around my living room. There are crumbs on the rug here in front of the couch. There is a wild Christmas tree just to my right. To my left are boxes of waffle blocks that haven't found a more permanent home since Ben's birthday party. There is a large plastic container with minimal Christmas wrapping supplies because most of the gifts are wrapped and tied and bagged under the tree.

I tell my husband often this couch isn't the most comfortable one in our house. It is the first piece of real, grown-up, not-hand-me-down furniture we bought. The one in the basement is far more comfortable. But I get sucked in down there and my brain goes to complete mush. Plus it's colder down there.

This is our living room. Some elements for today, others more permanent.

Three different walls in this living room have photo collages. One is 5-x-7 and 8-x10 pictures framed and clustered together. Another is much bigger pictures framing places we've been - Chicago, Mexico, Seattle, Greece. The third is a large picture frame with black-and-white photos mostly of the four of us but also with a couple of my kids with my late father-in-law who didn't get enough time with the grandkids he adored.

These are my memories. From other todays.

This room is far from perfect. But it's comfortable. And warm, especially when I use the blanket my friend made me.

While we were in Branson for Thanksgiving, we let a couple we know from college stay here. They left us a nice note that mention how our home is comfortable and speaks "family" to those here. Even with the crumbs on the rug and the semi-comfortable couch.

This is our home. Many days before. Today. And many days to come.

Today has bits of yesterday, hope of tomorrow and many moments that are worth trying to remember. Like so many others, this day went a bit too fast.

I'm linking up with Beth's Three Word Wednesday because I've missed joining that crew. 

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Monday, December 9, 2013

'Round here something radiates

We had a two-hour delay this morning for school. Y'all. Every Monday should start with a two-hour delay. I know, I know. If it happened weekly, it wouldn't be such a treat. I certainly enjoyed it this morning.

I have this bad habit of staying up too late on Sunday nights. Usually because I don't want the weekend to end. It's funny, before I was a stay-at-home mom, I didn't understand how the weekends were different from the week days. But they're different. On weekends, the routine is gone and Greg is home. Now, I like routine, but I equally temporary breaks in routine. I also have a different mentality on the weekends. I don't do many chores. I don't cook much. And sometimes I can linger in my pajamas longer.

So Greg got home from playing basketball with his friends late last night. It was after 10 p.m., and yes that defines late around here. We prefer to go to bed at the same time, so even though I was tired and drained from of my own inner, emotional thoughts, I stayed up. And then we decided watching "The Good Wife" was a good idea. Yes, that meant bedtime was going to be after 11 p.m. But snuggling on the cough with my husband was how I wanted to end the weekend.

Well, turns out "The Good Wife" wasn't on last night. So we watched "Bones," courtesy Netflix. Good thing it was an excellent episode, or I probably would have been asleep on the couch.

Speaking of late nights, on Friday night, UK played Baylor. It wasn't schedule to tip until 9 p.m. Do I need to address I'm a late-night weenie these days? Well, in effort to hang out with my husband, I committed to watch it. And then the women's game before it went into FOUR OVERTIMES, so the game we wanted to watch didn't tip until after 10 p.m. At halftime I suggested we move the basketball-watching party to our bedroom, where there is a much smaller TV. I feel asleep before the second half started.

And speaking of Friday, the kids were out of school that day. We had some freezing rain. And then it snowed some. No, I don't have any pictures because it wasn't exactly a pretty winter wonderland. But it did keep us inside the house ALL DAY. I loved it.

The kids and I finished some Christmas ornaments. We stayed in our pajamas all day. Like we went to bed that night in the same pajamas we woke up wearing. The kids watched some movies and played mostly nicely together. I scrapbooked and blogged.

And now I want to create more scrapbook pages with every five minutes of free time I have.

I could have gone for another snow day today. But come May 16, I'll be glad we had minimal snow days.

My boys and their Racer stripes ... 
We did get out of the house to watch Murray State play basketball on Saturday afternoon. Then Sarah and Jaclyn's families came over for pizza and Settlers of Catan.

Our combined eight children who are 7 and younger were happy to see each other. And at one point in the night, they were all sleeping soundly while we finished a second game of Settlers. Sunday included our usual church and lunch and then our small group came over Sunday night for more pizza and our usual weekly meeting.

That's nothing like our weekend was planned to look like. We had a jam-packed Saturday. Now most of those plans have been shifted a week, when there are, thankfully, supposed to be warmer temperatures. But I do recommend a low-key weekend spent mostly in soft pants, as my girl calls them, especially so close to Christmas. Perhaps slowing down really is part of advent

Two more recommendations for you before I close this rambling update:

1. My blogging friend Whitney Cornelison has a new ebook about her family's journey through infertility. AND her book, "Infertility: A Silent Struggle and the God Who Hears," includes a small piece of my family's story from infertility to adoption. I've gotten to know Whitney the past few months and I'm so glad she's poured her heart into this book. It's one I wish I had in my hands before God led us to adoption in 2006.

Whitney is doing some giveaways this week as part of her book release. The ebook is just $3.99 and you can buy it here.

2. Hershey's Kisses with caramel. Enough said.

So, here's to a new week. One that should involve less freezing rain and no more pizza dinners!

Now, tell me, what have you been up to? Bonus points if you can identify the song that is now running through my head because of the post's title.

Joining Jen Ferguson and others for this week's Soli Deo Gloria party

And then I joined Crystal Stine for her weekly Behind the Scenes. This isn't exactly behind the scenes of any photos, like usual, but it's a glimpse behind the scenes of my lack of photos. 

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Gifting good cheer - and deals!

Did you notice a Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas is missing? Yep. Only three Saturdays remain until Christmas. And one of those is today.

So, I thought I'd offer some help if you're still shoppin. Photo cards and stocking stuffers are two of my favorite ways to give good cheer this time of the year. I'm bringing you ideas based on what I've bought and used lately.

And, yes, I've shopped almost entirely online this year. Amazon Prime really is worth it. {You can try it for a month for free. Just think. Free two-day shipping on many, many items with no minimum purchase total and all kinds of streaming TV shows and movies.}

Sing the Bible
Did you hear Slugs & Bugs has a new CD? And, honestly, it's my favorite project yet. Only Randall Goodgame can get my kids memorizing scripture and talking about aliens at the same time. You can pre-order the CD now and have it in your hands soon after the projected Dec. 10 release date or download the 18 songs now.

Being a Kickstarter supporter, we've had this album for a week now. It's fabulous. We were listening to it on the way to school earlier this week and after the kids got out, I was tempted to keep listening. It's that good.

Author Sally Lloyd-Jones reads scripture and has a funny conversation with Randall about aliens. I could listen to her sweet British accent all day. And the African Children's Choir is the perfect addition.

There are links just to the left of that Rabbit Room store page where you can buy any of the other Slugs & Bugs CD too. If you're looking for "I'm Adopted," which is a favorite song around here, you'll find that on the "Under Where?" album. You can also download individual songs from the previous three Slugs & Bugs albums at Amazon.

Jesus Storybook Bible
Speaking of author Sally Lloyd-Jones, if you don't have "The Jesus Storybook Bible," you need to.

We've liked it for awhile now, but the advent readings we've been doing from it have reminded how every story truly does whisper Jesus' name and have a mighty purpose in God's master plan to rescue us. Her words tie it all together beautiful and the pictures take it to another level of goodness.

Yes, it's possible I like this Bible even more than my kids do. And right now Amazon has it for less than $10, which is a fabulous price for such a treasure. {Check prices before ordering as they change often!}

Trades of Hope
I recently received my first order from Trades of Hope, a company that sells beautiful handmade gifts that help empower women out of poverty. While I loved the three gifts I ordered, I'm especially fond of these star ornaments and these angel ornaments created by Haitian women.

My friend Becky Lile works with Trades of Hope and would be happy to assist you. {Read more about the company in a recent guest post she shared here.}

I've ordered so many Christmas presents from DaySpring. It's a good place to stock up on journals, cards, and gifts on sale to have throughout the year. It's nice to find lovely items with meaningful messages to give as gifts.

Right now, Christmas items are 25% off. Calendars are 25% off. Journals are 30% off. You can save 20% on cards when you use the code 20offCARDS or 20% off gifts with 20offGIFTS. Shipping is free when your purchase totals at least $50 or you can get free shipping with a $30+ order when you use shipping30.

And if you just need to browse, hoping to happen upon a random but perfect gift, I suggest zulily. I've gotten hooked the past few months and have found some fabulous gifts, including My Little Pony and Lego gifts. {Yes, that's what's popular around here!} I've also found home decor gifts, crafts for all ages, Crocs for my boy next summer, and various items with sports team logos on them. Deals come and go, so you never know what you'll happen upon!

Tyndale Books
If you haven't signed up for Tyndale's reward program, you should. Because it's free. And you earn free books. Um, hello, what a deal! I've ordered {for FREE!} a couple Bible that are nice. There are different gift-type books too.

Basically, you do various things that don't take much time to earn free points. Different Bibles and books can be ordered for certain amounts of points. Shipping has been quick too.

What's going in your stockings? Feel free to share other deals and ideas in the comments.

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Friday, December 6, 2013

{Crafting Christmas} Easiest ornament craft ever

Each Christmas season, I find one craft for my girl {and now my boy} to do in hopes of producing a few homemade gifts. This year's craft came courtesy the principal at Cate's school, where I was volunteering the day extra hands were needed as the students made these ornaments as a fund-raiser.

Y'all. Seriously easy. All you need is some glass ornaments and acrylic paint. That's it.

Be sure the glass ornaments have the top hanger thing that can come out. Any shape or size will work. And you'll want a variety of paint colors because experimenting the combinations is fun.

So, here's the step-by-step process ...

  1. Take all the hangers out and set them aside. 
  2. Choose two or three colors of paint. Squirt some inside the ornament. 
  3. Twist and turn ornament so the paint coats the inside all over. The paint wants to settle in the bottom, so you'll need to twist the ornament like you're turning it upside down but stop just short of doing so. {It takes a couple times to figure out exactly how much paint you'll need. You can always add more if the initial squirts aren't enough.}
  4. Once the inside is painted, turn ornament slanted so its nearly upside down to dry. We just used the box the ornaments came in because there will be some excess paint spill out. They'll need a few days to dry. 
  5. Use a wet paper towel or Clorox wipe to wipe any excess paint from the top and then replace metal hanger thing. 
  6. If you're giving them as gifts, tying some ribbon or a tag on the ornaments makes for cute presentation. 

My kids are 6 and 4. My first-grader girl could do this by herself. My preschool boy needed some help because, surprisingly enough, he was worried about dumping out the paint as he twisted and turned it. He's also not the natural crafter my girl is.

Do you make homemade Christmas gifts? If so, I'd love to hear about them. 

Here are some past Christmas crafts: Coasters. Wreath. Christmas card wreath. Candy manger. Ornament wreath

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

{Guest Post} A birthday party for Jesus

My God-sized Dreamer friend Elizabeth and I were Voxing several weeks ago about making Christmas meaningful for our kids. I told her about the Jesus Birthday Party tradition my family began a few years ago with some friends. It's a tradition I've come to love, so I was sharing my thoughts about it with her. Elizabeth then invited me to share on her blog about this party for the King of Kings. So that's what I'm doing today. 

Each year, we sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus with our chorus of friends. And, honestly, it’s become one of my favorite traditions. The simple song is part of a regular birthday where we eat cake, make crafts and hang out with other families.

But the honoree is no regular man. He’s the savior of the world.

So, yes, goody bags are filled with treats to remind the kids who is worth celebrating – this day and every other day of the year. But we try to create a place where Jesus is made known to these. We offer some charitable collections, make crafts to share with neighbors who need something to brighten their days, and hear the Christmas story after singing some carols. This is fellowship with other families who want to dwell on this holiday truth.

Kids understand birthday parties. They look forward to their own and they like receiving invitations to others. I want my kids to grow up understanding that Christmas is a season full of sparkly lights, wrapped boxes and goodwill toward men only because of Jesus.

{Continue reading at Seasons with Soul ...}

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

{Behind the Scenes} In Branson

We celebrated Thanksgiving and even a little of Christmas in Branson with my husband's brothers and their families. Altogether, that's eight kids ages almost 10, 8, 6.5, 4.5, 4, 3.5, 2.5, and 7 months. And, yes, my mother-in-law, who is the best trip planner ever, got all the kids coordinating pajamas from Gymboree.

A big untraditional, but our Thanksgiving dinner was served by a tall elf at Dixie Stampede. And we didn't use utensils to eat our whole baked turkey, half of a roasted potato, corn on the cob, roll, creamy vegetable soup, and apple turnover. The food was delicious and the show was entertaining.

In a merging of the holidays, we went to a Christmas ornament store on Thanksgiving morning and each of the kids picked out two ornaments and each family picked out another. These were hung on a tree my mother-in-law put up in her condo for the weekend. The kids had the best time decorating it and showing off their new ornaments. Ben's choices of an airplane and dinosaur are predictable. He's all boy. Cate's horse ornament wasn't surprising, but I don't have any words about that bedazzled phone. Except, of course, I hope she knows that's the only phone she's going to get for awhile.

We also went to Silver Dollar City. And, let me tell you, we weren't the only ones who thought spending Black Friday at an amusement park was a good idea. We've been there in the earlier fall and now later fall near Thanksgiving twice. The earlier fall is definitely my favorite time of the year to be there. Either season has lovely decorations.

We did ride some rides and eat a funnel cake. Possibly my favorite ride ever is at Silver Dollar City. And I got my 6-year-old girl on it with me.

The Giant Barn Swing takes riders swinging seven stories high on pendulums that go 230 degrees at 45 mph. It's intense. Cate said she felt like she was upside-down. Technically, she wasn't.

She wasn't sure at first if she liked it. But she's talked about the next time she rides it probably won't be as scary. I guess that means she liked it! As a roller coaster lover, I feel like I'm doing my part to raise my daughter to have an adventurous spirit! Ben wasn't tall enough to ride on The Giant Barn Swing, which he totally would have. But he did manage to photo bomb on our photo - on purpose!

We also saw "The Miracle of Christmas" at the Sights & Sounds Theater, "Frozen" at a local movie theater, ate at my favorite White River Fish House as well as other tasty restaurants. Oh, and we spent hours at the original Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Mo., on our road trip to Branson. {It's boy heaven, really, although I had some luck Christmas shopping!}

For the record, our family loves Branson. We came in September 2008, October 2010 and Thanksgiving 2011. There's so much to do that every trip has been a little different with some common sights, sounds and tastes.

Each family had its own condo, which was nice for regrouping each evening and allowing for good nights of sleep. Our days were packed with meals and outings together. Truly, this trip was a good balance of the best worlds of a vacation that bridged Thanksgiving and Christmas and gave us time with each other.

I'm joining other bloggers at Crystal Stine's Behind the Scenes, were stories behind the pictures are shared. Want more stories? Like 152 Insights on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram. Follow 152 Insights at Bloglovin'. Subscribe to receive "Insights in Your Inbox." Affiliate links included.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Hello, December ...

Honestly, I didn't have big plans to anticipate the celebration of Jesus' birth with any advent activities. This month of December is packed with traditions and gatherings and moments that point to Jesus being born in a manger.

I love the season. I love the parties and gifts and trips and stories and our real tree.

But I do not love the pressure from society to buy more and bake elaborate dinners with desserts and have Pinterest-perfect activities awaiting my kids each morning for the next 24 days. I was feeling a little overwhelmed with all the links of how I could incorporate advent in our daily December lives. I'm perfectly happy not to do it all, so I was tempted not to do anything about advent.

I want my kids to know Jesus.

I want my family and friends to know we love them dearly. And gift giving happens to be my love language.

I want to seize the opportunity to talk about Jesus' birth this time of the year because that event and that baby sent from heaven are talked about more openly this month.

'Tis the season. And that's what matters.

Everyone celebrates differently. Advent may be marked with tiny pieces of chocolate or homemade ornaments to illustrate a passage of scripture. Or maybe advent is an intentional mindset of anticipation and preparing our lives for the coming King.

Whether or however you mark advent doesn't matter as long as you seek the One we're celebrating. And don't just seek him in December. Seek him the other 334 days of the year too.

While looking online this afternoon, I happened upon an advent reading plan from The Jesus Storybook Bible on various websites. That's already a favorite book around here, so I'm intrigued to prepare my kids for Christmas with it. {Side note: If you don't know The Jesus Storybook Bible, you and the little ones in your life need to.} My mother-in-law also gave the kids an advent calendar that has a chocolate piece and Bible verse for the next 24 days.

So today on the first day of December, I decided that's what we'll do for advent. It seems doable yet meaningful. And that's just what we need right now. The kids ate their piece of chocolate this morning when I explained how the calendar worked, but we're going to have to double up today's reading with tomorrow's. Just keepin' it real around here.

What {if anything ...} are you doing anything for advent?

Apparently this year's theme of embracing imperfection is overflowing into the busy holiday season. God knows I need repetition to fully grasp truth. Here we are in the last month of the year, and he's still driving this point home. Other recent holiday-related posts that keep it real are right here about traditions and our tree.

I'm linking up with Jen Ferguson's Soli Deo Gloria party, where people gather with their real-life words. Edited on Wednesday to link up with Jennifer Dukes Lee's #TellHisStory because this is the story he's speaking to my heart in this season.

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