Archive for Holidays

Still, Still, Still: The Missing Key to Adoration.

There’s no shame in listening to Christmas carols before Thanksgiving in my book. They somehow bring all of the sentiments we hold dear–home, family, faith, hope, love– and tie them all together in one musical, merry package. {And who can lift your spirits like Bing Crosby or Perry Como?}

One of my favorites Christmas hymns, “O Come, All Ye Faithful” says,

“Come and behold Him, born the King of angels,

O Come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.”

I love it because it beckons you and me to worship.

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Isn’t that exactly the call we need when we have over-burdened ourselves with mammoth to-do lists?

Before we pull a Black Friday all-nighter, coordinate/dress/photograph a Pinterest worthy family Christmas card, bake ourselves into oblivion,

before we run to do one more thing,

we need to bow.

Worship is our first priority. 

And we need to worship rightly,

because worship can so easily shift and drift into false worship of anything and everything. 

As conservative Christian women, we’d confess that we do, in fact, worship. Oh, yes. We document our quiet time on Instagram, yes we do. #soblessed

When talking about our quiet time, we can produce lists, plans, schedules, and studies. We trot out our favorite commentary and think we’ve done okay. That’s all good,

but have we worshiped?

Have we quieted our heart at all before the Lord?

Have we taken the time to recognize His presence and ascribe Him the worth He is due, or are we so busy talking to Him and telling Him all that needs to be blessed and done and fixed?

Come, let us adore Him. Let those words do their work on your tired soul.

When was the last time you were still in the presence of God? Still, as in, quieted, weaned, submissive, yielding-– nothing to say or dictate, no agenda but to know Him, see Him in His beauty, acknowledge and adore His presence?

And if it has been a while, have you replaced worship for service? Let’s be honest, service is safe. You can control it. Yes, I’ll do this. No, I’ll not do that.

Worship requires submission and admission that God is greater and worthy of anything and everything, and that’s a little scarier than service.

Some have spent their entire life in ministry and service and have never surrendered to the Lord. We’ve given parts, sure. But we cling and hoard those secret loves that we refuse to part with. We still fight and demand self-adoration. We say, “No, Lord. That’s too much. I can’t release that.”

I like this quote from Joseph Carroll:

“The first essential condition for true worship is total submission. The second essential is that Christ alone should be glorified. We must meet these conditions, submitting ourselves absolutely, without reserve, to Jesus Christ.

In Revelation 4:11, we find the worshipers ascribing worth to the One on the throne, telling Him he is worthy.

“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.”

What have they done? They have abdicated and cast their crowns before the throne, divesting themselves of their glory and saying, “You are worthy to receive glory, and You alone.” Honor and power follow. These three things are what men seek: to be glorified, to be exalted, to be honored.

Therefore to worship Jesus Christ, we must divest ourselves of all desire for glory and honor and power; for He and He alone is worthy of such.”

“O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.”

So much clamors for our attention this season.

The world promises we can have it all.

Advertisers tell us that if we do more, buy more, we’ll be happier, more glamorous, more, more, more.

God says to be still. Adore. Come unto me.

“One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to meditate in His temple.”

Let’s take a few minutes today to do this: be still, truly adore, and go forward mindful of God, aware of His presence, submitted to His will, and active in His service to love others and exalt Him. This is the worship-ful life.

 

A Newsy, Political-free Post

This is going to be newsy because I haven’t had much time to blog in a while. I’m staying off-line for the most part because of the drama/hate/turmoil of the election. It breaks my heart to see the lows of humanity and the fact that #rapeMelania is trending on Twitter makes me realize just how broken we are and how much people need the Lord.

So if I’ve been quiet and slow with answering email and messages, that’s the reason.

On the home front, the cranberry harvest is over and I’m in full holiday mode.

img_4561 In the span of one week, we’ll celebrate three birthdays (Peter, Holly, and Little B) and host Thanksgiving. Matt is flying home and I’m so thankful to have a few days with him. Plus we started construction on our home to repair the water damage from a few winters ago.

What I’ve been up to:

Crafts::

I’ve been decorating (frugally) for fall. I wanted a few little accents for Thanksgiving. I painted this old picture frame and gave it a chalk board insert for fall. (I used Olde Century Paint in Pearwood.)

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Also, I wanted a natural wood sign like you see everywhere, so I decided to make one. In the process I realized that if you stain the wood, then seal it with glossy spray sealer, you can write on it with chalk marker and make it erasable like a chalkboard. I’ve made several of these sizes for the Christmas season and for my mantle. :)

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We had a craft night with some of the kids’ friends and made these little yarn hats to hang on the Christmas tree.

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Ministry::

Hospitality continues to be one of the biggest blessings of this season and I’m always amazed at how often God opens the door when I’m sensitive to His leading. Sharing burdens, encouragement, and common grace over a hot mug of tea or coffee, all while fulfilling God’s commands and the Great Commission. What’s not to love?

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Hospitality can be intimidating, but don’t shy away from it. Don’t confuse “entertaining” and “hospitality.” One focuses on the meal, the food, your performance; the other on the person, their need, and nurturing a growing relationship. We need other people and without the input of other believers, we believe our own “press” and don’t benefit from the truth that others speak into our lives.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:13

If you are nervous about extending hospitality, start with having someone in for tea. Use what you have. Don’t stress over having the best of everything. Most of my dishes are mish-mash and many are things I’ve picked up at second hand shops. They aren’t there to see your things, but to spend time with you, and to get to know Christ a little better through you, and vice-versa.

Mentoring::

I’ve been helping a younger mom who is having some struggles with her kids. In the process, I’m reminded that we so often believe the lie that proper parenting guarantees that your kids won’t make mistakes. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I’m guilty of falling into this mindset as well. I can recall several times when our kids failed and instead of realizing that we are all sinners, I wondered where I went wrong. In my sleepless nights, I’d wondered if maybe I gave them too much leeway, or perhaps too many rules. Did I train them enough in righteousness or just give them all the dos and don’ts.

Friends, we are flawed parents who want to teach our kids the right way. But we can’t function from the mindset that our performance, wisdom, or righteousness is what “sures up” and sustains our family. We can’t measure success by an absence of sin because that is to deny what scripture teaches about all of us.

We are all sinners. You, me, everyone. So don’t be surprised when your kids mess up, and please, please, don’t shame them into thinking that they are in some special class of sinners because you are angry, embarrassed, or devastated by it.

We were never meant to parent as though it all depends on us or our performance. God is a God of grace: for you, me, and our kids.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do your job. Not at all. Do it with all your might. Heed Deuteronomy’s command to talk of God as you rise and sit and live and go your way with your kids. Teach them diligently. But don’t make perfection an idol. It’s an illusion. Make God the aim.

Meals::

I’ve been trying to save some money for Christmas, which means that I’ve been trying to do meals that are less expensive than normal. I’ve really enjoyed these frugal meals.

Quinoa Chili from Cooking Classy. My cousin, Susan, told me about this meatless chili that uses quinoa for protein. My kids even liked it. I served it topped with cheese, guacamole, and sour cream. YUM.

Shakshuska. I don’t even like eggs and I loved this. It’s inexpensive and so yummy. I served it with warm bread and lots of feta on top. Note: If you can’t eat eggs or just plain don’t like them, you could fry up some boneless skinless chicken breast slices in the oil (for protein) and then make the sauce as directed. It could be served over pasta, “fra diavalo” style.

Christmas:: My cards are almost done. Woot.

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Reading::

I’m currently reading through Colossians with Weirsbe’s Commentary and Dr. Constable’s notes , which are very helpful and free online.

Humble Roots is on sale right now for $7.73 (usually $12.99). If you haven’t read it, I’m going to be bossy and insist that you do. 😉 I’m giving it to a few friends for Christmas, it was THAT good.

Also, Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin is also on sale for $7.23 if you haven’t read that yet.

Articles I appreciated::

Steward the Gift God Has Assigned to You. “Our lives are not about pursuing our dreams. Many of our dreams are self-exalting pride fantasies and gratuitously selfish when we really examine them. And the truth is, we rarely know what’s best for us and what will really make us happy. But our Designer knows.

Mothering or Smothering our Adult Children Appreciated the wisdom of this older woman.

I hope you have a wonderful thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for and if we don’t praise the Lord, who will?

 

**This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

DIY Doctored-Up Dollar Tree Church Ornament

Wanted to share an easy craft I’ve been working on for Christmas.

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I love New England churches, so when I saw that Dollar Tree had these ornaments, I snatched up a bunch to doctor-up.

I simply added twine, plaid ribbon from Michael’s Craft Store, and mica glitter with a glue gun to add “snow” to the roof line and perimeter of the church. You could also add a silver bell in place of the pine cone that comes with it.

They’ll be really cute attached to brown paper packages.

Enjoy.

10 Ways To Refresh Your Soul

Looking for ways to refresh this winter? The common theme among my friends is that we are all looking for ways to rest our bodies and revive our hearts a bit after a hectic holiday season. We all know that doesn’t happen automatically. It needs to be planned, especially if you are responsible for the daily care of babies, toddlers, teens, or the elderly. These stages of constant giving can be draining.

I’ve learned from experience that when I am depleted, I’m not the wife, mother, or friend I want to be. The more I feed my own soul, the more I have to give out.

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I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favorite ways to refresh. I hope you’ll share yours as well. Maybe your list looks different from mine–that’s okay. But we all have this in common–we all need to rest. So, pour yourself a cup of tea and repeat after me: “Caring for yourself is wise and everybody needs to rest.” 😉

Here goes:

  1. Spend time alone. New research suggests that quiet time–literally solitude and silence–can be therapeutic in the noisy world we live in. If you have young children, try to find a few snatches of time in the early morning, late evening, or during afternoon naps to just sit and listen to the silence. This is a perfect time for a warm cup of coffee, your Bible, a journal, or to meditate on a daily verse. Bonus: A worshipful life gives us the added benefit of direction and strength to face each day, no matter what comes our way.
  2. De-clutter your soul. As you sit, listen to what’s going on in your heart. What recurring theme pops into your mind? What worry, disappointment, regret, or memory is disturbing your peace? Recognize it, acknowledge it, fix it if you can, repent of it if you must, and then give it to God and move on! Don’t let “mind noise” keep you from thinking on “things above.” Colossians 3:2
  3. Rest. We weren’t created to run, run, run. What comes up must come down. After the adrenaline of the holidays you must take a good nap or go to bed early. “You are only as spiritual as you are rested.” ~Jim Berg
  4. Pray. Did you know that simply talking to God and sharing your burdens, disappointments, frustrations, and ambitions with Him is more beneficial than telling them to a friend? Plus, God can actually intervene and do something about all you share…and He’ll never betray your confidence or reveal your inmost secrets. There aren’t too many friends that you can trust like that.
  5. Spend a moment reading for pleasure. Charlotte Mason was a huge proponent of reading quality material in small chunks, allowing the brain time to process and make connections with the material. I’ve found that over-reading can hinder comprehension and appreciation of the material.
  6. Plan time for friendship. Who are your 3 closest friends? If you haven’t told them how much you appreciate them lately, what are you waiting for? Text, write, phone, or visit your friend and make time to laugh, shop, and eat together. You’ll both benefit.
  7. Plan for beauty. When winter is blah, I know that arranging some small vase of flowers, a candle, a freshly pressed table cloth, or some other simple seasonal display does wonders for the atmosphere of my home. Simple creativity bring so much pleasure.
  8. Change of scenery. If you are a stay at home mom or a homeschooling mom, I KNOW it can be hard to load all the kids into the car and go somewhere but just do it. Head to the library, your favorite bagel shop, or to a friend’s house. Go somewhere where you can grab an inexpensive treat and the kids can play. This is a mood booster, especially during long New England winters.
  9. Plan for stimulating conversation. I’m not a small talk person. I love to talk about heart and life matters and I’m not afraid to ask the people I respect their views on difficult subjects. My happiest moments are over a cup of tea discussing philosophy of education, motherhood, and ministry life with a dear friend. If you are far from friends, listen to a pod cast or seminar online about topics that interest you. I loved this one from Sally Clarkson.
  10. Learn a new skill. Anything you ever wanted to learn is on YouTube. What a time to live! Right now in our home, we’re practicing calligraphy and hand lettering, and crocheting.

What refreshes you? Share in the comments.

Great Gift Ideas for your Teen {Christmas 2015}

Not sure what to buy your teen? I’ve done my homework and today I’m going to share a few favorite finds with you.

If the teen in your life has a serious hobby like skiing, skating, writing, or painting, then theme related shirts, accessories, mugs, and prints are great ideas.

2015 gift guide

I’m adding Amazon links below for all of you die hard shop-from-home types (me!) but you might be able to get better deals on some of these things on Black Friday.

 

Great Gift Ideas for your Teen

Mini Portable Projector to use with iPhone/laptop/iPad. Perfect for a dorm room!

North Face eTip Texting Gloves because you can’t text with normal mittens on. 😉

iPhone Camera Lens Kit (Make sure you choose the style that is compatible with your phone. Peter bought these for me for Mother’s Day and they were really cool.

Eno Eagle’s Nest Hammock These are big on college campuses as they go up pretty much anywhere. Emily has one and it’s pretty sweet.

ESV Journaling Bible in Blue Flora. I’m on my second Journaling Bible and it’s been so helpful!

Boot Socks Topper Cuff or Boot Socks or Lace Trimmed Knit Leg Warmers

Skullcandy Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds

Kindle Fire – Reasonably priced tablet ($49.99)

Amazon Echo– More expensive, but brilliant.  Just ask it anything and it searches the web for you. We had ours set up in the kitchen, and I don’t know how many times I asked it, “Alexa, what time is it in Berlin, Germany?” this summer while Emily was on her Missions Trip.

Jane-A-Day 5 Year Journal if your teen loves Jane Austen.

Puffin-in-Bloom Collection. Just go look. The most beautifully bound set of classics ever.

Of course, flannel pj’s, make up, gift cards, room decor, scarves, jewelry, chocolate, tickets to the symphony, etc…would all be great gifts for teen girls.

And guys might like tickets to a sports event, gift cards, dorm pants, outer wear, tools, and FOOD.

What do you think? What would you add to this list to make it complete? Share your ideas with me in the comments here or on FB. Happy shopping!

 

 

10 {Small} Gift Ideas to Give to Your Friends

I love giving little “friendship” gifts to some of my closest friends. Nothing expensive…tokens really, just to let them know how special they are to me, or how thankful I am for them.

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Ideally, I’d make a homemade ornament or hot drink mix (like this spicy chai tea mix!) in a cute mason jar, some baked goods like fudge or biscotti and then tuck a couple little extras into a small gift bag: notecards, journal, list paper, a favorite book, coffee, candle, or anything else that I found that reminds me of them during the year.

Since Christmas shopping is on my mind, I thought I’d share some of my favorite little gifts from around the web. :)

1. One-a-day calendar. I love these! Caveat: Be careful which one you choose because many times the messages are weak or unscriptural. For a younger mom at home with kids, Elizabeth George is a great encouragement.
A Woman after God’s Own Heart – Perpetual Calendar

A Woman after God's Own Heart - Perpetual CalendarOr, I’d also recommend
Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World – Perpetual Calendar
.  I found that Dayspring.com gives you free shipping on orders over $50 and one of the mugs I liked was marked down to $4.99.

2. Coffee Mug, because, COFFEE! :)
Love Came Down – Love Richly – Christian Mug

Love Came Down - Love Richly - Christian Mug
3. Bible Promises. What could be better than giving God’s word? Do you remember these one a day bible verse boxes that were shaped like a loaf of bread? You chose a tiny paper and read the verse for the daySomething like this: Promise Box – God’s Word

or you could DIY using this idea from Karen Ehman’s blog.

4. Books, books, books. Give your friend the best book you read all year.

My top picks are Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image and Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds. By the way,A Lifelong Love: What If Marriage Is about More Than Just Staying Together? is by far one of the best marriage books I’ve read in a long time!

5. Tea or Coffee. This is a great deal on my favorite tea. They are sold in 100 packs and each teabag is individually wrapped, so I put 20 or so in a cello bag and tie it up with plaid ribbon and add it to my gift bag.

7. Candles. Target sells Yankee Candle votives for around $1.99. Those are great to tuck into a bag. Home Sweet Home and Vanilla Buttercream are my all time favorites!

8. Note Cards.

9. Chocolate! :)

10. Framed photo of the two of you together. Target clearance often has marked down rustic frames for those of us who like primitive country.

Do you give little bags full of homemade treats or something small? What’s your favorite little gift to give at Christmas? Comment below and let’s make this a great resource for each other.

{This post contains my affiliate links at no cost to you. Thanks for reading here!}

 

Two Favorite DIY Holiday Cheese Spreads

I had a group of friends over this week for fellowship and food and one thing they all had in common was their love for these cheese spreads: Garlic and Herb, and Blue Cheese, Walnut, and Cranberry Spread.


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IMG_2577I love this recipe because it’s inexpensive and tastes as good, if not better, than the little tubs of Allouette Garlic and Herb cheese spread.

And the blue cheese cranberry goodness…you can’t get that one in the stores. :)

This is not as pricey as the little tubs, and makes twice as much. It’s a simple, quick treat when paired with crackers and grapes or sliced pears and apples. Enjoy!

To make both:

Combine 3 bricks (8 oz each) with one stick of butter until well blended.

Split mixture in half. You’ll use one half for each recipe below.

For the Garlic and Herb Pub Cheese,

Use one half of your cream cheese butter mixture, and add to it:

1 clove finely minced garlic, 1/2 tsp oregano, and 1/4 tsp each pepper, thyme and basil. Stir well. Let sit an hour to allow flavors to meld.

For the Blue Cheese spread

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

1/4 cup coarsely chopped Craisins

1/2 cups crumbled Blue Cheese

2T brown sugar

Process the nuts for about 10 seconds until finely chopped . (I use my Ninja for this. It’s my go-to kitchen tool. I hate lugging out the big food processor!)

Put the nuts aside.

Process the Craisins for 5 seconds–just a few pulses. (Or you can chop them with a knife.)

Use one half of your cream cheese mixture butter mixture and add the nuts, Craisins and blue cheese, sugar, stirring until smooth. Let sit for an hour to allow flavors to meld. (You can throw some extra chopped walnuts on the top to make it prettier.)

Serve with a variety of crackers.

 

Related Posts

Key Lime Cheeseball {Just Like Tastefully Simple’s}

Hospitality 101 {Quick and Easy No Cook Entertaining}

Keeping Traditions {Making Christmas Tags}

1 Min. Devo #7 {What Do Your Words Say About Your Heart?}

Would people be shocked if your thoughts were displayed on a billboard for all to see?

Would you be embarrassed? Would God be honored?

Are you known for blurting out whatever comes into your mind only to be embarrassed later by what you said? We’ve all said things we wished later we hadn’t, but instead of working hard to tame our tongues, maybe we should get to the heart of the matter. “The tongue is the tail of the heart” someone wisely quipped, so taming our sinful thoughts is where to begin. When your heart is full to the brim of anger, contempt, complaining, judgementalism, envy, pride, or entitlement, poor me self-pity, then your words are just a symptom of a greater cancer.

What was inside of Mary’s heart and mind came gushing out of her mouth, and in her case, what was inside was magnificent and praiseworthy. We now refer to it as “Mary’s Magnificat”–she couldn’t help but tell others of her thankfulness, trust, adoration and amazement for all that God had done.

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

On and on she goes, telling of God’s faithfulness and goodness to her. (You can find it in Luke 2:46-55) We should take a lesson from Mary and compare her words to the state of your heart right now.

Imagine if Mary had been full of fear, contempt or why me’s? How about pride and boasting? How about snarky remarks, judgementalism or entitlement? Just wouldn’t be the same story, would it?

Thinking affects our entire life: our words, our dealings with others, our actions. So thoughts are a really big deal.
Scripture tells us to put limits on our thoughts, not letting them run wild: Is it true, honest, just, pure, lovely? No? Then don’t dwell on it.
Maybe if our words and actions shock us, we should examine what we are dwelling on.

Some thoughtful quotes:

A corrupt and unholy heart eventually will be exposed by corrupt and unholy speech… If the tongue is not controlled by God, it is a sure indicator that the heart is not, either.
John MacArthur

Your communication will reveal the kind of [person] you really are, because what comes out of your mouth is usually what’s in your heart. If you truly desire to exemplify Christ you will seek to become a good communicator. Everything that Jesus Christ communicated was holy, clear, purposeful and timely.
Stuart Scott

Thoughts lead on to purposes; purposes go forth in action; actions form habits; habits decide character; and character fixes our destiny.
Tryon Edwards

Holiness begins in our minds and works out to our actions. That being true, what we allow to enter our minds is critically important. The television programs we watch, the movies we may attend, the books and magazines we read, the music we listen to, and the conversations we have all affect our minds. We need to evaluate the effects of these avenues honestly, using Philippians 4:8 as a standard. Are the thought stimulated by these various avenues true? Are they pure? Lovely? Admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy?
Jerry Bridges

You and I are commanded to “sing forth the praises” of the Lord as long as we have breath. But in order to do that authentically, we have to be adoring Him from a pure heart!

Are there steps you need to take to make your words and thoughts pure?

*Warning: sometimes we’ll let our guards down and feel free to complain, gossip, criticize, etc. with a “safe person”–a spouse, a best friend, a sister. Gushing out garbage from your mouth is never a godly thing to do. You may feel temporarily better, but you’ve harmed that person and joined them in your sin of corrupting speech.

If you are trying to root out this problem in your own life, don’t put yourself in a “familiar” position where you’re tempted to sin. Stay away from those who are too easily trapped by your own shortcomings until you have rooted them out. (The old, “If you struggle with drunkenness, don’t hang around inside the bar!” principle. )

**Obviously, counseling and telling your problems for the sake of guidance is a completely different matter all together.

Christmas Devotional Winner Announced and Lots of Pics of Our Pinterest Party

We’re announcing the two winners of the  Christmas Devotional “Rejoicing In Christ the Newborn King” today.

The winners are Becky(rcraven@) and Rebecca (becbud@)!!!

I’ll be emailing you both shortly! Congratulations!

Oh, and by far, you agreed that your favorite Christmas carol was “O Holy Night.”

And not to spoil it for you, but have you ever heard this rendition of O Holy Night? It cracks me up every time I hear it. At first I felt really, really bad for him, and thought, “Oh, that’s just so horrible, bless his heart! He has no idea how bad he sounds!” until he gets to the chorus and then I’m thinking, “Make it stop!!” lol

Also, today’s my husband’s birthday and I wanted to mention what a blessing Peter is to me. He’s totally easy going and funny and makes our lives so much fun. He encourages me as I write here, to all of you, and always jokes that JoyFilledDays is his “fave” blog. (He’s not online much, so, it’s probably the only blog he frequents.)

I love this pic because it's a common one. Daddy sitting by the light reading and the kids snuggling in to hear him. Melt!

I love this pic because it’s a common one. Daddy sitting by the light reading and the kids snuggling in to hear him. Melt!

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Anyways, I have to share something about him that really touches me every time I “happen” upon it. Very often, I’ll roll over in the middle of night, maybe 3 a.m., and Peter will be gone. I get up quietly, to check to make sure he’s okay. I tiptoe into the kitchen and through to the breezeway, and I’ll see a dim light on in the breezeway. I often see the back of him, kneeling, praying in the dark in front of our couch. I don’t want to disturb him so I tiptoe back to bed and fall asleep easily knowing that my husband is up praying for our family. You have no idea how this scene has impacted my walk with Christ! A guy who forsakes sleep to talk with his God during the night is the best in my book! I’m so thankful for him and his great testimony to me and the kids.

Also wanted to share a few pics from a “Pinterest Party” I had with my sisters and a couple of crafty friends. I don’ t usually post pics of parties I throw, because I can’t always invite everyone and it seems like talking about plans that you’ve made in front of someone who was not invited. {rude! I wish you all could have been here!} But, I wanted to share this event with you, because I was thinking as we were working away, that each of us in the room was smiling and having fun, but in reality, every one of us there has our secret pain, weaknesses, struggles and problems, yet when we join together to do something as simple as making something pretty for our home, we can encourage and strengthen each other just by being together. Just because someone is smiling on the outside doesn’t mean that all is well for them on the inside. We need each other!  Friendship is a good gift from the Lord!

So, We tried our hand at making fresh wreaths and they turned out so beautiful. We all brought greenery from our yards so we had quite the variety to choose from, and the results were so rich looking, when in fact, they only cost about $3-$5 to make. We had a great time eating, chatting, and crafting the night away to Bing Crosby Christmas music. :)

Blurry pic, but the finished product! Lovely!

Blurry pic, but the finished product! Lovely!

 

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craft night sarah and danielle

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These two old ladies were in our youth group once upon a time ago. :)

These two old ladies were in our youth group once upon a time ago. :)

finished product

finished product

 

Three Free Printable Christmas Tags, Tasha Tudor Style

I have also been getting ready for our annual Doll’s Christmas Tea Party.  I finished up my invitations. Here is the Tasha Tudor inspired watercolor border I painted for the invitation. I inserted the words in the sky. Feel free to use it for your own personal use. Also, at the bottom of this post, you’ll find three sweet watercolor scenes that you can print and use as Christmas tags.

 

 

If you are like me, you are thinking about timeless gifts for your kids this year. The last thing any parent wants is to sink money into toys that a child doesn’t play with long-term. I decided to share with you the toys that our children enjoyed the most. Many of these sets are now packed away incase I have grandchildren someday.

Over the years I have learned that owning fewer toys, but higher quality pieces, has worked well for our home educating family. When kids are overrun with toys that only have one purpose, their natural creativity is stifled.

I purposefully chose open ended toys for my kiddos. These toys require the child to use their imagination, and can also be used in several play scenarios. Most of them are simple, without electrical sounds or capabilities. Toys today have the ability to do nearly everything from walking, talking, eating and interacting. I have found that the more the toy can do, the less the child has to do.  Sometimes the latest, greatest electro-gadget inadvertently limits the imagination of the child.

Open ended toys are simple and encourage the child to create their own fun. Unfortunately, sometimes these are more expensive, but in the long run, they last through several children and the amount of play you get out of them makes it worthwhile.

“Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is necessity.” Kay Jamison 

Here are some of our favorites: {If you click on the picture, it will take you to Amazon}
Building Toys

Lego Duplo Blocks for Toddlers

Lego Starter Set

Base Board for Lego Building. Kids love to make towns on these things. :)

This book is for older kids, but it allows them to make all kinds of cool cars and   gadgets with Legos they already own.

 

 

Dress Up

I can’t say enough about Play Silks. I bit the bullet and bought them after a friend of mine raved about them. They were used for years! They became aprons, wings, head covering, belts, etc. Very open ended, lightweight and versatile.

Bonnets Galore. What can I say? My kids love Little House on the Prairie like their mother. :)

“Miss Polly had a dolly who was sick, sick, sick, So she called to the doctor to come quick, quick, quick…” My kids played with this Haba set forever. They seemed obsessed with giving each other shots. Hmm…

 

Buy by the Piece Sets:

I honestly can’t say enough good things about Playmobil. Next to Legos, this was the indoor toy they used non-stop. The Playmobil 1-2-3 Line is for babies through age three and is a lovely way to introduce your child to this line.  It is a little expensive, but we bought one little pieces here and there and we have amassed an enormous collection today. (My youngest, Hope, is getting the Playmobil RV for Christmas. Shh…don’t tell!) I can’t even count how many days my living room was wall to wall Playmobil towns. In the winter, I would read aloud to my kids while they set up their Playmobil towns.

Toddler Train Set

First Doll House

Western Line


Hope is getting the RV this year. My sister and her husband just bought a real RV and my kids love sleeping over in it. I know Hope will love this toy! :)

 Busy Hands

Lauri puzzles were a favorite in our home. My kids used these puzzles (especially the kids jumping one below) until the arms and legs of these poor vinyl children fell off. :)




If you can get your hands on the old “Brio Mec” wooden building sets that are no longer being made, I would highly recommend those as well. They are great for boys who love to build. They come with a hammer, screwdriver, wooden planks and an crazy amount of nails and screws. It is little boy heaven.
I would check ebay or Amazon for used sets.
Our kids also loved the Brio Waterway sets, but I don’t believe they make them anymore. Again, this simple toy provided hours of fun as the kids manipulated the boats voyage using a current.

AND, I have a free gift for you! :)

I painted these little Tasha Tudor inspired Christmas tags, that you are free to print and use for your own Christmas wrapping. I would print them on card-stock and attach them to a pretty rectangle of deep red or green card-stock. They would also be sweet for digital scrap booking. Enjoy! {and let me know how you use them by providing a link back if you blog. Can’t wait to see how creative YOU are.} I wish I had these done before my book was completed!

Snow Day!

 

Silent Night

Click on each image to enlarge and to view the better quality jpg. ENJOY!!

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