Looking Back

Thursday, December 31, 2009 3 Comments A+ a-

Wow! The decade is almost over. Seriously, where did the time go?

Ten years ago, I was a young coed living in a house full of other girls, living a life that was… well… hmmm… not so pure or Christian-like. No excuses, that’s just where I was in life. And thank goodness He can meet us anywhere, right?

What’s happened in these last ten years?

I’ve lived in five different homes/apartments, not including moving into and out of my parents’ house three times.

I’ve had three different cars: a gray station wagon, a blue Honda Civic, and now a bluish-greenish Kia Sedona.

I said “yes”, and then I said “I do”.

Numerous health issues, including finally getting a diagnosis of fibromyalgia after living for years with symptoms and no answers. And I can’t forget having a lump removed from my breast mere months after our wedding.

We’ve owned three dogs; losing two of them to a tragic accident.

The excitement of seeing two pink lines for the first time, scratch that, the excitement of seeing two pink lines any time. And the beautiful, healthy children we were blessed with.

We became the proud owners of a new house.

We’ve been to Mexico, Wyoming, North Carolina, Florida, and California.

This list doesn’t even include all the lessons learned, experiences shared, fights fought, compromises sought , make-ups enjoyed, friends lost, friends made, deaths of loved ones, births rejoiced over, tears shed, memories created, laughter shared, achievements celebrated, fears suppressed, or prayers answered.

My God has been good to me!

I can’t even begin to imagine the journey God has in store for us in the year and decade ahead. I’ll tell you this much though, I’m excited. And looking forward to 2010!

Have a safe and blessed New Year.

Land of Denial

Thursday, December 31, 2009 3 Comments A+ a-

I like living in a state of denial. Hey, it works for me.

Truth be told, if I let my thoughts wander where they will when my husband is at work, I’d get little to no sleep. He’s the supervisor of his shop, yet pulls his weight when it comes to snow removal. His work entails working 12-hour shifts during winter months, in the middle of the night, in a canyon that is incredibly steep in places. He has to turn that huge snow plow around somewhere, and I don’t consider a canyon a great place to do that, but he doesn’t have a choice.

I can’t even take into account human error, such as inexperienced drivers or hurried drivers. I can’t think about the semis that cross his highway, or of the semi that hit another state truck last week, sending the state driver to the hospital. I can’t think about drunk drivers, or distracted drivers. I just can’t.

But every so often, I’m slapped in the face with reality and I’m brought to my knees in gratitude that our father and husband is brought home to us every night, safely.

Yesterday was such a moment. I was awake most of the night, reaching over for Jon’s side of the bed. A touch on his back, or his arm, or his hair; a touch to reassure myself that he was indeed sleeping next to me.

He and his guys were clearing snow from a shoulder; Jon was the one in the Loader. He felt his back wheels slide off the road, in the direction of the drop-off, towards the river. He tried digging the bucket into the side of the mountain to keep from sliding, but it was no use. So as the rest of this 30,000lb+ machine slid down, Jon turned the loader into the turn and went for a ride down the mountain. He aimed for a tree, not wanting to go into the river, and took the tree out.

He told me that he never wanted to bail out of a machine as bad as he did yesterday, but he managed to hang on and did everything right. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my husband so shook up; he’s usually the calm, cool, and laidback one. So when my husband is scared, then you can imagine what that does for my state of mind.

Last night, I let myself go to that place of “what-ifs”; it wasn’t pretty and my dreams reflected my mindset. This morning I’m saying another prayer of gratitude for God’s hand in keeping my husband safe. But now I’m going back into denial mode.

Happy 1st Baby Girl!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 7 Comments A+ a-


My dearest Reagan,

Today you turn one and I’m awed at how fast time has flown. With each child, I feel l have a grasp on how to make time slow down… stopping to cherish each and every moment… And yet somehow, each time, the one year milestone creeps up on this mommy and I’m forced to swallow the lump in my throat as we say good-bye to your babyhood.

Reagan, I will never forget the day your daddy and I found out that you were on your way. Such a surprise, little one! And now, so many months after that morning, I’m shamed to admit I questioned His timing. I felt that we weren’t ready, that the timing couldn’t have been more wrong, that we were being inconvenienced in the worst way. Oh, how very, very wrong I was.

You have enriched our lives more than we could have possibly imagined. And His timing is always perfect. Always.

You, my child, have been determined to do everything your way, on your schedule. Your refuse to follow the steps that your siblings laid out for you; instead you are determined to find your own way. I thought I had this mommy-thing figured out until you came; you’ve taken every preconception I’ve had and blown it to shreds. I am sure that this past year is a small glimpse of the adventures you’re going to take our family on.

Reagan, my love, you are so very sweet and have such a laid-back spirit. You’re content to let Hudson tease you and wrestle you, up to a point. But when that point has been reached, you let go and let the whole house know you’ve had enough. There’s been more than one occasion when Hudson has looked at you in surprise, unaware such a big voice lived in such a small body. I’m just waiting for the first time you give him a taste of his own medicine. And I’m sure that time is not far around the corner.

You are small, in fact, the smallest of our children. You have just now moved into size 6-9 month clothes and I smile when strangers are surprised when I tell them your age.

And again, dear one, what you lack in size, you make up for in personality. No one believes us when we mention your big and comical personality, for in strange surroundings you prefer to sit quietly and contentedly in our laps. But when we are at home, where you are most comfortable, your personality lets loose and we are in stitches over your faces and antics. You don’t do the things you do by accident, you’re looking for a reaction and we’re so ready to give you what you want.

Reagan, 20 months ago when we saw those pink lines, we couldn’t imagine having another so soon after Hudson. And now… we can’t imagine our lives without you in it. You have brought so much fullness to our lives, I can hardly stand it.

You and your daddy share more than the same shade of blue eyes, you share such a special connection. It warms my heart to see the smiles spread across both your faces when the other walks into a room.

Devyn has adored being your big sister and she is so great in anticipating and meeting your needs, be it a drink, a toy, a pacifier, or play time. And your gratitude in return, which you give in spades, is all she desires.

Your relationship with Hudson, oh my, this is going to be the most volatile of all your relationships I fear. You two can be the best of buds, when he’s making you laugh so hard I wonder if your face will break. Or you can be the worst of enemies when he’s taken a toy you wanted, and vice versa. But you adore each other, of that I’m certain.

Reagan, I have so many desires and wishes for these years I have with you. And thankfully, we have time. But most importantly, you should know how very honored I am to be called your mother. You are one of my biggest, and best, reminders that God is always in control. Always.

Happy Birthday, my youngest little!

All my love,
Mama

Counting My Blessings

Sunday, December 27, 2009 1 Comments A+ a-



As the year comes to a close, I’m stopping to reflect and take note of the blessings I’ve been given. I count these four at the very top of my list. He has been so very good to me!

“Every good and perfect gift comes from above…” James 1:17


Welcome Holy Child

Friday, December 25, 2009 4 Comments A+ a-

My sister, Christine, sang this in the Christmas Eve service last night. Let me brag a moment, she did a phenomenal job! And its a beautifully written song.

I pray that you'll let the words sink into your soul this Christmas morning.

WELCOME TO OUR WORLD
Written by: Chris Rice

Tears are falling,
hearts are breaking
How we need
to hear from God

You've been promised,
we've been waiting
Welcome Holy Child
Welcome Holy Child

Hope that you don't
mind our manger
How I wish
we would have known

But long awaited
Holy Stranger
Make yourself at home
Please make yourself at home

Bring your peace
into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled

World now breaking
Heaven's silence
Welcome to our world
Welcome to our world

Fragile finger
sent to heal us
Tender brow
prepared for thorn

Tiny heart
whose blood will save us
Unto us is born
Unto us is born

So wrap our injured
flesh around You
Breathe our air
and walk our sod

Rob our sin
and make us holy
Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God

Welcome to our world

"For unto YOU is born this day in... a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:11

Merry Christmas!
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Our Christmas Card

Monday, December 21, 2009 4 Comments A+ a-

Merry Christmas, from our house to yours!

Designed by: Yours Truly

The Shepherds Kept Watch

Sunday, December 20, 2009 1 Comments A+ a-

This was originally posted in December of 2007.

It was a dark night; there were fewer stars out tonight, hence less light to do his job. He looked out among the herd, mentally calculating the number of sheep. He smiled to himself, they were all there; he could relax once again. The glow of the fire highlighted the faces of the other men with him; some were dozing, trying to rest as they awaited their next rotation; others were warming their hands, rubbing them over and over as they chatted amongst themselves; and still others were keeping a wary eye over the herd. They had sent Cephas out to walk the perimeter, to ensure that a predator wasn't hiding among the hills or bushes, ready to snatch a wayward lamb.

He was a man of few words; conversation was rarely needed for the job he did. He bent down to scratch dirt-encrusted calves, wincing with each movement. He was tired, that was certain; they'd been out here for weeks and he'd almost reached his patience threshold. He was ready for a warm bath, a good night's sleep, and freshly-laundered clothes, but these would have to wait. Instead he turned his attention back to the herd and the black night. Again, he smiled. His might not be the most coveted of jobs but he enjoyed the stillness, the quiet the job brought. Not to mention the beauty of the night landscape. Off in the distance, the town of Bethlehem stood on a hill; various lamps and lights dotting the horizon. It was beautiful out here and he'd learned to enjoy such simple views.

Suddenly, in the distance, he heard a horn; a sound unlike anything he'd ever heard before. He glanced around the men, to see if they had heard it too, or to see if he really was losing his mind. Even the men that had been sleeping had risen to their feet, looking around to find what had woken them. There! The horn sounded off again. He searched the dark sky to see what was giving such melodious music. And then before his very eyes, there shone a bright light. He shielded his eyes, wondering how day had arrived so suddenly, where moments ago night still covered them. He could hear some of the men cowering on the ground, begging for their lives, asking Yahweh to save them. He was half-tempted to join them, this was unlike anything he'd ever experienced before. Then the sky was filled beautiful music, the words drifted over him.


"Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King!"


He fell to his knees as the sky filled with a heavenly choir. Angels, dozens of them, spread across the horizon; their light so bright he could barely look at them without his eyes burning. To the left and the right, angels stood with horns; their long, drawn-out notes punctuating each word.


"Joy to the earth; the Savior reigns!"


Who were these beings?! It was obvious that God had send this heavenly host, but why to sheep herders? What had he done to deserve such news, or to see such sights? He was humbled to his very core. An angel stepped forward, away from the others and came close to the men.

"Don’t be afraid!" he said. "I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger."

And with a final verse, a final truimphant blast of the horn, day returned to night and the men were left to talk amongst themselves. As the rest of them debated about what what they had seen and what they should do; he found himself too awed, too thunderstruck to join in. What had just happened here was nothing short of miracle. He heard a shout in the distance and turned to watch Cephas tripping over himself to reach the others.

"Did you see that?" he asked of the other herders. "Did you see that beautiful choir?"

Yes, they shook their heads; some still unbelieving what their eyes had seen. Cephas turned his head and with wide eyes asked, "What should we do?"

The herder came to his feet, grabbed his staff, and announced, "We go! We find this babe, the savior of the world and we rejoice!" With his announcement, he turned toward Bethlehem. As the men scrambled to join him on the trek, he smiled to himself. Never had his heart felt so light, so happy, so... so... so full of joy! A savior had been born! His Savior! What wonderful news for all the earth.


"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."


They Keep Me Laughing

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 13 Comments A+ a-

“Mommy, I don’t want our last name anymore.” Devyn declared last week.

“Oh really?” I asked. “What would you like to be called?”

“I like McKenna’s last name better. I want to be Devyn Paige ______,” she told me. (And its not Smith or Jones or Peterson, starts with Tru and ends in ex.)

“Hmmm,” I replied, biting the inside of my lip to keep from laughing out loud. “Well, Paige, if you want to have McKenna’s last name, then you’ll have to go live with them.”

She looked at me, startled, “Why?”

“Well, love, everyone with the same last name lives together. All of the [insert our last name here] live in this house, and all of the [insert McKenna’s last name here] live at her house.”

I could see the wheels in her head spinning. “Ok, then, I guess I’ll keep [insert our last name here].”

I smiled. “Good. I’m glad. I would’ve missed you!” And with a giggle and a hug, she went off to play.

***************

I tousled Hudson’s curls as we prayed good-night. Oh goodness, his cheeks are so soft and kissable.

“… and God bless Reagan,” I whispered beside his ear.

“And Gracie,” he whispered back.

“And God bless Gracie,” I finished.

“And Baby Jesus,” he whispered again.

My heart melted into a big puddle on the floor and I smiled in the dark. “Yes, and God bless Baby Jesus. Amen.”

I tucked the blankets around his body and leaned over for a kiss. As I started to pull away, he called my name and held up a baby doll. “Baby Jesus too?” he asked. I kissed “Baby Jesus” too, before tucking him in next to Hudson.

I shut the door behind me when I heard a soft, “Mama.” I opened the door to peer at my son. He had both arms in a bicep curl and said,

“I’m strong!”

“Yes, Hudson, you are strong. Now good night!” And the door was shut one final time.

***************

“Mommy, I’m going to draw a picture of you and Daddy on a date,” Devyn announced.

“Sounds great! I can’t wait to see it.”

When she came back a few minutes later, she explained her drawing.

“This is you in this chair and this is Daddy in this chair. You’re eating dinner and watching a movie. You’re watching The Princess and The Frog and Daddy’s watching an X rated movie.”

(I swear if I’d had anything in my mouth at the time, it would’ve been spit out across the room.)

“What do you mean by X rated, Paige?” I asked, my mind racing, wondering how on earth I was going to steer this conversation back to the right direction.

“Well,” she explained, pointing to the X on the piece of paper. “This is where pirates find the treasure, under the X.”

“Oh,” I sighed, relieved as all get out. “A pirate movie!”

“That’s what I said!” She was thoroughly put out by now. “An X rated movie!”

The Difference of a Year

Sunday, December 13, 2009 6 Comments A+ a-

We celebrated my niece, Elliana’s, birthday last night. Has it really been a year?!

Tomorrow is her actual birthday, but one year ago, on this Sunday, we’d gone home after welcoming Miss Elliana to this world. I remember the frantic call from Christine, saying her water had broken. I remember taking my time getting Devyn and Hudson ready and out the door; stopping to kiss my husband good-bye as he headed out the door for another snow shift. I remember driving on icy, snowy roads with the intention of dropping my children off at my aunt’s house before heading over to the hospital. I remember the frantic call from Courtney, asking if I was on my way to the hospital NOW, and I wondered at the rush. (Seriously, it was her first child; we were going to be waiting for hours. Um, no, not really because she was already at 9 ½ cm when they got there. ) I remember the quick change of plans as I turned our van around and headed to the hospital instead. There was a Broncos game in the waiting room, a quick visit once Christine had gotten her epidural to slow-her-labor-the-heck-down, pizza was ordered, aunt showed up and took the kids, the reports on progress, then pushing, then the news of emergency c-section, and then the much-awaited arrival of Elliana Faith. Wow! A year. It flew so fast!

I find myself in much contemplation this December; we’ve had numerous conversations as a family as we reminiscence about this time last year. A lot of conversations beginning with “Do you remember…” or “At this time last year…” I’m sure its to be expected after the December we had last year. Honestly? I get so very tired just thinking about it, but as stressful and overwhelming and heartbreaking as last December was, I can say with absolute confidence that we see God’s providential hand in every detail during that time.

Elliana arrived one week before Courtney’s wedding, thus allowing Christine to be at the wedding. Chris wasn’t able to sing the song that Courtney had asked her to sing and she had to sit in a chair up at the front of the church, but she was there to witness Jeremy and Courtney’s vows. And if she, Caleb, and their one-week-old baby had to leave the reception early, then so be it. A sister didn’t miss the wedding!

Only three days after Courtney and Jeremy said their “I do’s”, Mom’s paralysis moved even further up her body and she was forced to go to the emergency room on Christmas Eve. None of us imagined sitting in the hallway outside her hospital room as the neurologist consulted with her on Christmas Eve! It seemed like a bad movie. But again, God’s timing is everything. Courtney and Jeremy were set to leave the day after Christmas to go to Hawaii for their honeymoon and were able to spend some time with Mom in the hospital before they left. They weren’t ideal circumstances, but after a spinal tap, the neurologist was finally able to confirm that Mom had Guillian-Barre and we finally had answers!

Then just five days after that, our little girl, Reagan Jacqueline, arrived two weeks early! In the same hospital where Mom was still receiving treatments for Guillian-Barre. I know Mom was up the whole night I was in labor, crying because she couldn’t be there to witness Reagan’s arrival. I can’t imagine how much it must’ve hurt her to know that just one floor below where she was staying, her girl was giving birth. Yet, months later, we look back at that time and know God’s had timed everything just so. If Reagan had arrived anywhere close to her due date (or after as her siblings were prone to do), Mom would’ve already been transferred to the rehab hospital and would not have met her newest granddaughter until she was weeks old. As it was, her nurses heard her weeping and arranged to wheel Mom down one floor into my delivery room and meet Reagan as she was just hours old. This picture means everything to me.
We often joke that the hospital should’ve given us a family discount as we had three family members in there within a two-week time frame. Oh, we can laugh and joke about it now. It’s almost comical how each circumstance piled on top of the other until none of us thought we could stand it any longer. I said almost. But our God is good. And gracious. And loving. And purposeful. He did not give us anything more than we could handle and it has made us, all of us, that much more appreciative of this Christmas season. We have all found ourselves slightly weepy at times as we reflect on the difference of last December and this one. We feel as though we walked through the fire and came out stronger on the other side.

A year has made all the difference between entitled and grateful.

Go Away Mr. Grinch!

Thursday, December 10, 2009 11 Comments A+ a-

I think I found my Christmas spirit again... in all the small things around our house...
In the tree we just bought, new to us via a classifieds ad. We are die-hard "real" Christmas tree fans but with little ones and a puppy, it just made sense to go "artificial" for the next few years. We'll be out chopping down our trees again soon... but in the mean time, this works for us.
In having the stockings hung by the chimney with care. I finished Reagan's stocking tonight and couldn't be more thrilled with how it turned out. Many of you have asked where I bought these stocking kits and I've bought them in two places, Amazon and Hobby Lobby. Amazon is way cheaper, but if you find yourself not wanting to wait, then head over to Hobby Lobby, they have them in stock. The brand is Bucilla. This one is next for my avid fisherman.

In one of the Nativity scenes that sits in our house. This is one of the only ones that hasn't yet been broken or chipped by little hands.
In the centerpiece that sits on our dinner table right now. I'd love to say that it always looks like this but Hudson loves digging into it and throwing the silver bells around like they were baseballs. Sigh. Such is life in a house with a two-year-old boy.
In the Christmas wreaths that hang on our outside lights. There are no Christmas lights that adorn our house, we don't have lighted reindeer, nor 8-foot inflatable snowglobes. Simply four wreaths with red bows, one for each light.
Have I mentioned how much I love Christmas?! Not so much for the gifts and over-indulgence (although, I'll admit, I already ate the first batch of Grammie's Chex Mix), but in the warm, cozy, and giving spirit that seems to permeate the air. There is nothing that says Christmas to me like turning on the fireplace and the twinkling Christmas lights and curling up with Jon and the kids. See? I told you it came back...


I'm drawing a blank...

Wednesday, December 09, 2009 3 Comments A+ a-

My brain is fried because…
  • I’ve been single mom these past four days due to snow and freezing temps.
  • I finished Reagan’s stocking in two weeks.
  • I have approximately 5-6 loads of laundry awaiting my attention.
  • I’ve been dealing with some bad attitudes, mainly mine, and I’m trying to get my heart back in the right place.
So, since I’ve got nothing, enjoy this little medley from Straight No Chaser. (I can’t believe I haven’t discovered these guys before now. Their 12 Days of Christmas is hysterical!) Hopefully I’ll have a real post up before the end of the week. (You'll want to pause my music player on the right.)

Enjoy.



I know what you're NOT getting for Christmas this year...

Thursday, December 03, 2009 5 Comments A+ a-

Devyn and I were chatting about some gift ideas for her Christmas list. This is the first year that Jon and I are giving a small amount to Devyn and Hudson to spend at the dollar store to buy gifts. Obviously it’s not about the quality of gifts, but that they start learning its better to give than receive, even at their young age.

In her sing-song voice, she rattled off a list to me as we sat together in front of the fireplace. Reagan and Hudson were both down for a nap after an incredibly rough morning; it was the first time all day that Devyn and I got to talk. I loved our chats like these, such a fun glimpse into who she really is.

“I’m going to get Hudson a play gun, so he can shoot bad guys. And I’m going to get Reagan a baby toy. And I’m going to get Elliana a toy she can chew on ‘cause her teeth hurt her…” Without pausing for a breath, she continued on. “I’m going to get Nana a doctor-thing, and maybe Papa something with a mail bag.”

Pause.

“But I’m not going to buy Daddy a real gun,” she informed me vehemently.

Surprised, I looked up. She knew Jon already had a few guns in his possession and I wondered where this newfound passion came from. “Why, honey?” I asked.

“Because," she said. “The Word of God says you shouldn’t kill people. It’s bad. And you can go to jail if you kill people. That would be bad. So I’m not buying Daddy a real gun for Christmas.”

There are so many different paths I could have further taken that conversation, but instead I said nothing. Because, well, it’s kind of hard to argue with logic like that.

Sorry, Babe, no real guns under the tree for you this year.

Glorious!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009 3 Comments A+ a-

From Beth Moore's study, Jesus - 90 Days with the One and Only. Beth Moore is very clear, "... this is stricly fiction. I just invite you to imagine with me what Mary's first moments might have been like..." Enjoy.

Her body lay sapped of strength, her eyes were heavily closed, but her mind refused to give way to rest. She ached for her mother. She wondered if she yet believed her. She heard the labored breathing of the man sleeping a few feet from her. Only months before he was little more than a stranger to her. She knew only what she’d been told and what she could read in occasional shy glances. She had been told he was a good man. Over the last few days, she found out he was far more than a good man. No man, no matter how kind, could have done what he had done. She wondered how long it had been since he’s really rested.

A calf, only a few days old, awakened hungry and could not find its mother. The stir awakened the baby, who also squirmed to find His mother. Scarcely before she could move her tender frame toward the manger, He became to wail! She scooped Him in her arms, her long hair draping over His face, and she quietly slipped out of the gate. She gingerly sat down and leaned against the outside of the stable, propped the baby on her small lap, and taking a strip of linen and tying back her hair, she began to stare into His tiny face. She had not yet seen Him in the light.

She had never seen the moon so bright. The night was nearly as light as the day. Only hours old, His chin quivered, not from the cold, but from the sudden exposure of birth. His eyes were shaped like almonds and were as black as the deepest well. She held Him tightly and quietly hummed a song she’d learned as a child. She had been so frightened of this moment, so sure she would not know what to do. She had never held an infant so small, and He was God, wrapped in soft, infant flesh, with bones so fragile she felt like He could break. She had pictured this moment so many times. What would the Son of the Spirit look like? She never expected Him to look so normal, so common. Must have been the part He inherited from His mother. She was so sure she’d feel so terribly awkward. So afraid she’d drop Him – the Messiah – and God would be awfully sorry He had given Him to her! Instead, every fear, every doubt, every inadequacy was momentarily caught up in the indescribable rapture of a mother’s affection.

She remembered asking Elizabeth things she dared not ask her father and mother. Once when they were walking together at the end of the day, the wind blew her cousin’s robes against her, and like a curious teenager, Mary tried her hardest to catch a good glimpse of Elizabeth’s rounded middle. At the time she herself had no physical evidence that God’s promise was true. But she had enough faith to ask endless questions. What am I to do when He comes? Her cousin’s reply would remain forever etched upon Mary’s heart long after He had saved the world. He will tell you what He needs from you. Beyond what He needs, all He wants is for you to embrace Him and talk to Him.

She looked back into His delicate face and watched Him closely as He seemed to stare deeply into the moonlit sky. And she began to talk. “Sweet baby boy. Do You know who Your Daddy is? Do You know Your name? Do You know why You’re here? What do You see when You look out there? Can You see the stars? Do You remember their names? Do You think I’ll do ok? Will You love me too?” A tear dropped from her chin to His. He yawned and made such a funny expression she grinned, wiping her face on the yellowed rags she’d draped around Him. The fussing calf had obviously found its mother. Not a sound was coming from inside the stable. The earth stilled. The infant slept. She held the babe next to her face, and for just a moment, all the world was silent to the breath of God.

She closed her eyes and listened, stealing time like a hidden metronome, as high and as wide as she dared to think, but still she could not begin to comprehend. She, a common child of the most humble means who never read the Scriptures for herself, was embracing the incarnate Word. The fullness of the Godhead rested in her inexperienced arms, sleeping to the rhythm of her heart. This time she hummed a song she did not know, a song being sung by the choirs of angels hovering over her head but hidden from her carnal senses. The deafening hallelujahs of the heavenly hosts were silent to mortal ears except through the sounds of a young woman’s voice who had unknowingly given human notes to a Holy score. The glory of God filled the earth. Heaven hammered out a bridge, but one young woman sat completely unaware of all that swelled the atmosphere around her. The tiny baby boy had robbed her heart. “So, this is how it feels to be a mother,” she mused.

She crept back into the stable, wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in the manger. Just down the path, the sun peeked gently over the roof of an inn full of barren souls who had made Him no room.


Swirled Mint Cookies

Monday, November 30, 2009 2 Comments A+ a-

We made these a couple of years when we had our first Baking Day at our new house. They were a hit then and they were still a favorite this past weekend; courtesy of a Cookies Classics cookbook.

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
½ tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp peppermint extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
10 drops red food coloring
10 drops green food coloring
Sugar

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the 1 cup of sugar and the baking powder. Beat until fluffy. Beat in egg, vanilla, and peppermint. Beat is as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in remaining flour.

Divide dough into 3 equal portions. Stir red food coloring into one portion, green food coloring into the second portion, and leave the third portion alone. Cover each portion with foil or plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator about one hour, or until easy to handle.

Divide each color of dough into 3 or 4 equal portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion into a half-inch diameter rope. Place a red, a green, and a plain rope side-by-side. Twist together. Repeat with remaining portions. Chill twisted rope for 30 minutes.

Cut ropes into half-inch-thick slices. Carefully roll into balls, blending colors as little as possible. Place balls about 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. Using a glass dipped in sugar, gently flatten each ball to desired thickness.

Bake cookies at 375-degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are set. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool.

Chocolate-Peanut-Butter-Crackers

Monday, November 30, 2009 4 Comments A+ a-

Every year, as soon as we walk into Jon's grandparents' home on Christmas Day, he makes a beeline for the cupboard where he knows that Grandma has stored these delightful snacks. He was over-the-moon when I told him I was going to attempt to make them this year. In fact, I truly believe he may have fallen in love with me all over again. They are so yummy and very easy to make!

1 pkg of chocolate-flavored almond bark
1 box of Ritz crackers
1 jar of smooth peanut butter

Layer a generous helping of peanut butter on a Ritz cracker, then add another on top to create a sandwich. Repeat until all the crackers have been used.

Follow the directions to melt the chocolate-flavored almond bark. (My package said 90 seconds in the microwave, but it was really more like a minute and 25 seconds.) Mix well until the chocolate is nice and smooth.

Grab a pair of tongs and start dipping the peanut-butter-Ritz-cracker sandwiches in the chocolate, until completely covered. Then set on wax paper to harden. Allow to cool 20-25 minutes until the chocolate is hard. I promise, one of the easiest recipes ever!!



Grammie's Scrabble Mix

Monday, November 30, 2009 0 Comments A+ a-

I’ve mentioned Grammie’s chex mix on this blog twice before; you can view them here and/or here. Seriously, every time I smell this baking, I’m instantaneously taken to Christmases past. This Scrabble-mix will last anywhere from 2-4 weeks in this house. I have had to make a second batch about halfway through the Christmas season. If you like salty things, then this is the Christmas snack for you!

6 cups of Wheat Chex
6 cups of Rice Chex
6 cups of Corn Chex
6 cups of Cheerioss
6 cups of pretzel sticks
2 ½ lbs of salted mixed nuts
1 lb of butter (yes, that’s 4 sticks of butter, I never said it was good for you)
1/3 cup of Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp of garlic salt
1 tbsp of onion salt
1 tbsp of celery salt
2 tsp of minced garlic
Dash of Tobasco sauce

In saucepan, melt butter. Once melted, add Worcestershire sauce, the salts, garlic, and Tobasco sauce. In large roasting pan, mix cereals, pretzels, and nuts.

Pour liquid mixture over dry mix and stir to coat the dry mix.

Bake at 250-degrees for two hours; the 1st hour covered and the 2nd hour uncovered. Stir every 20 minutes to distribute the sauce evenly…. six times total.

Let cool for 24 hours! Enjoy!


Yummy Deliciousness!

Saturday, November 28, 2009 1 Comments A+ a-

We had a busy day in the kitchen today... all of us! It was a blast trying out new recipes and getting sick from all the taste-testing. But what a way to go!

So excited to share the recipes for the Holiday Recipe Exchange; which takes place on Monday!



Christmas Stockings

Friday, November 27, 2009 2 Comments A+ a-

Wow. I shocked even myself with this one. Even with all of the extra details, I finished Hudson’s stocking in only three weeks! I love it! Hudson loves it! And I think it turned out great!

Every morning Hudson runs up to the stocking and points out all the different sports to me. “Soccer, Mama, soccer!” he screams. “Football, Mama, football!” It’s too cute for words and definitely assures me that I picked out the right stocking for him.

I so enjoyed working on this in the evenings and down times during my day that I trekked to our local Hobby Lobby store and picked up a kit to make Reagan’s stocking.

I fear that this kit may have even more detailing that Hudson’s, but I don’t care. They are SO much fun to do! And even my husband has said he wants one too. Thank goodness they have a Fishing Santa Claus kit. But ours will have to wait until next year.

Or at least until the stockings go on sale after Christmas.

So Very Thankful

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 3 Comments A+ a-

I know it seems that I skipped over the whole Thanksgiving holiday, especially with the Christmas design and Christmas music playing in the background. But I assure you, that is very much NOT the case.

When people start talking about the holidays, for me that encompasses the whole month of November and December, from Thanksgiving through Christmas. This is truly my favorite time of year! And if I want to delve into the decorations and music earlier than most, there is only one reason for it, to let the sights and sounds flood over me as I prepare my heart for the upcoming holiday season.

Thanksgiving is not the only day I give thanks; I try to be thankful throughout the year. However, in order for me to keep this whole season in perspective, I make a conscientious effort to be thankful for the things that are important and hope that it carries me throughout the holiday season. While I do enjoy the sights and sounds of a crazy-busy mall, while I do enjoy searching the stores for the perfect gift, Thanksgiving prepares my heart for what truly matters throughout this season.

Faith.

I live in a country where I am free to worship my Lord; a country where I do not have to worry about persecution. I am able to openly express my adoration for my God, without fear of death, without fear of jail, without fear of discrimination. There are many in my faith, throughout the world, who have to live with these fears every day. I am in awe of them. I pray for their safety and then I thank God for allowing me to live here. (There are times I wonder, though, how much stronger their faith is than mine. But another post for another day.)

Friends.

Jon and I are so very blessed and rich in this area. Truth be told, I was overcome with emotion last Saturday as I thought about the families and friends in our lives. To be able to call at a moment’s notice in need of a babysitter, or a cup of sugar, or a coffee date, and have others respond to that call is to be rich indeed. We are so very thankful for the men, women, and children we get to call friends. To be able to travel this journey of life with you is an honor and we pray that we are the kind of friends to you that you are to us.

Family.

If there is one thing that my mom instilled in us from the very beginning it was the importance of family. “Friends may come and go, but your family is forever,” she say. And how very right she was! I am who I am today because of my family; Jon is the kind of man he is because of his. I am so very thankful for my parents, knowing they’d be there without a moment’s hesitation. I am thankful for my sisters, who are also my best friends. The older I get, the more I realize how unique we are to be so close, but the thought of it being any other way, is too painful to comprehend. I’m thankful for Jon’s family, for his parents, for his brothers, and extended family. They all had a hand in shaping him, in growing him, in supporting him. Thank you!

And to you, babe, and our beautiful children, I am on my knees every day in thanksgiving for you. Jon, you have been such an example of unconditional love, I’m awed every time you love me when I’m at my most unlovable. I’m overcome at your example of forgiveness. And Devyn, Hudson, and Reagan, there are no words to express how blessed I feel to be your mother. I rarely do it right and I often need forgiveness which you are quick to offer. You three make me a better person and make my life so very full! I love you!

Tomorrow we head to Jon’s grandparents’ house for a whole day of eating, visiting, and sleeping. I’ll bring along a stocking to work on, cuddle with Jon, watch Reagan toddle around, and Devyn and Hudson will race around the house, shrieking and laughing the entire time. I can’t wait!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Coffee, Anyone?

Sunday, November 22, 2009 3 Comments A+ a-

The winner will be announced shortly...but I wanted to remind you all of a few things first.
  1. The Christmas Ornament Exchange will be closing on Tuesday, November 24, in two days! Head over to Random Moms to read all the information and rules. And no, you don’t have to be a blogger to participate. Come on, you know you want to play! =)

  2. The Holiday Recipe Exchange will be taking place a week from tomorrow. Have you gone through your recipes yet? Have a “must have” recipe that you’d like to share? Don’t forget to check out What’s For Dinner on Monday on November 30 to participate. Personally I can’t wait for this coming Saturday because all the sisters (and our mom) are getting together for a whole day of baking and cooking in preparation of this event. I hope it’s a tradition that will carry on through the years!

  3. And last, but certainly not least, the winner of the $10 Starbucks gift card is…
    #12 – Paula from My Heart, My Life, My Journey! Paula, contact me at biggest_blessings (at) yahoo (dot) com with your address so I can send you the gift card.

Thanks to all who participated! I loved getting to know some of my readers and I hope to do this again in the future…


It's Friday!!

Friday, November 20, 2009 3 Comments A+ a-

I was just chatting with a nice representative from our insurance carrier, biding time until my coworker could come out and meet with her. I got the usual response when our conversation shifted to children and I told her how many children I have.

“But you’re so young!”

“Well, I am 30,” I countered.

“That’s young!”

And she’s right it is. Is it weird that I just don’t think of myself in those terms anymore? Not that I feel old, or ancient, or middle-aged. I just feel like “young” parents are in their early to mid-twenties. Not thirty. Besides, it’s hard to feel young with three children ages five and under; something about being responsible for three young lives will do that to a person.

It was a nice compliment! And gosh-darn-it! I am young!

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My mom, sisters, our friend, Laura, and I went to the midnight showing of New Moon last night. There we sat at the theater, with at least five different screens going and they were still sold out! We were surrounded by (mostly) women of all ages.

It was a good movie! My sisters and I couldn’t decide if it was so good because our expectations were so low (come on, admit it, Twilight wasn’t the greatest!) or if it really was a good movie. I’ve decided on the latter. At least this director was able to get Kristen Stewart to stop bobbling her head while she talked. Some quick thoughts on the movie:

The werewolves – A-MAZING! Seriously, I was blown away but what they can do nowadays. The wolves were so very realistic.

The Volturi – As scary as I’d imagined. And I thought Dakota Fanning did a great job as Jane. I can’t wait for the 4th movie to really see her acting chops in that role.

Vampires – My favorite is still Alice. She is so warm and endearing! Just love her!

Jacob – I will forever be Team Edward, but even in this move I started getting a little attached to him. He’s just so cute.

Favorite Quote: “Yeah, they seem great… can we go now?”

If you’ve read the books, definitely check out the movie! It was 100-times better than Twilight.

And by the way, I am definitely TOO old be going to any more midnight showings. I’ve had to work eight hours on only four hours of sleep. I haven’t done that since before I was pregnant with Devyn!

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If you’d still like to enter the Starbucks gift card giveaway, click on this post and enter by midnight tonight. I have SO enjoyed getting to know some new readers! If I haven’t stopped by your blog to say hi yet, I will this weekend!

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Now I get to finish out the work day, grab a Red Bull, and head to the bowling alley for Devyn’s official birthday party. See? I really don’t think I thought out the whole midnight movie idea, did I?

Oh, so bittersweet!

Thursday, November 19, 2009 5 Comments A+ a-


She turns five today... and despite all her excitement, my heart aches. My baby is five, and such a little girl now. So beautiful, so sensitive, so loving and kind.

Where did my baby go? When did she grow into such a beautiful little girl?

I ache because time marches on... I ache because her world is growing, a world that can, at times, be cruel, and I can no longer shelter her from it... I ache at the thought that she now skims my ribcage, when she used to fit in the crook of my arm... I ache the ache of mothers past, present, and future.

My Devyn Paige. You are such an amazing little girl; I delight in you! You are so very sweet, sensitive, kind, and loving. You make me smile, you make me laugh, and I cherish each passing moment. You, my daughter, are one of the biggest treasures I've ever received! Happy 5th Birthday, my love! May it be a year full of adventures!



Its late, but... (and a giveaway)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 30 Comments A+ a-

Yes, I realize it almost midnight.

Yes, my children have been sleeping for almost four hours now.

And yes, that is my husband sleeping soundly in bed next to me.

But there's a reason they call this a crackberry. And I'll be the first to admit I have a problem at our next support group meeting.

I've been poking around on the internet, checking out Google Reader and Site Meter and some sort of dossier-report thing. Its made me curious... and we all know what curiosity did to the cat.

I see the number of hits I get on my blog, I see the locations of the visits, I visit the websites of people who link to my blog, and I wonder. I wonder who is reading about my life; I wonder why they keep checking in; I wonder if I know them; I wonder if I've ever offended someone, or did I offer encouragement in some way.

And yes, I realize that was a lot of "I" statements. In short, I am completely narcissistic at midnight.

But all kidding aside, I really would like to know more about you. Would you be willing to come out of lurking for a chance at a gift certificate?

Now before anyone gets too excited, its really not anything big. I have a $10 gift certificate to Starbuck's for one lucky reader that responds to this post.

And I'll keep this as simple as possible. No one has to become a follower; you don't need to have a blog; you don't even need a google account. And yes, you can even post anonymously if you'd like. I'd just like to know the following:



Your name
Your location (state or region is fine)
How you found my site
How long you've been reading
Your favorite drink (coffee-related or not)


It's that easy.

I'll close comments at 11:59pm on Friday, November 20th. (Heaven knows I'll be awake, probably even on my crackberry.) And then I'll announce the winner on Monday, the 23rd.

Come now. Doesn't the thought of drinking a Peppermint-Mocha-anything or a Gingerbread Latte while Christmas shopping make you want to participate? I sure hope so...





Image Building

Friday, November 13, 2009 3 Comments A+ a-

Image seems to be the theme of the week. Everywhere I turn, I’m faced with a new revelation, a new thought regarding images and the images we try to present to the world.

This week in Beth Moore’s Daniel study, we’re learning about the falsehoods and gods we create in trying to maintain our images. I love that she gets so deep, forcing us to ask the hard questions. Is the same person we present to the world, the one we deal with in the dark of night? I try, really I do, but even I know that I fall short of this goal.

As I continued reading in that day’s study, another Beth Moore thought jumped out and convicted me. She said, and I’m paraphrasing here, even those who pride themselves on being real, can learn how to fake being real.

Hmmmm. Yes. I can see how that could be true. And I probably fit into that category as well.

I consider myself real; I try to be real as often as possible. In fact, dare I say it, I may even be prideful when I talk about being real. But have I gotten to that point where I can fake being real? It depends. Yes, I feel as though the person you read about on here is the same person you’ll meet in person. (I hope that’s the case. I pray I’m not portraying myself to be someone I’m not.) However, there are still topics and areas in my life that I won’t discuss on the blog. Finances, marital, and family (both immediate and in-law) issues, anything that has been placed off-limits by my husband and/or family, are just a few examples. In not talking about them, am I portraying my life as perfected in those areas? I hope not. We have just as many issues behind the scenes, but some boundaries can’t be crossed.

Ok, I think I got off-topic there for a moment. Back to image-building. I didn’t have to look very far to find an example of image-building in my own life.

The highly-regarded, highly-anticipated Christmas photo. The photo that says to all our family and friends, look. Look at my beautiful children, my hunky husband, and see how blessed I am. I AM blessed and my children ARE beautiful and I AM so very in-love with my hunky husband; BUT let me assure you that our lives are not so squeaky clean and together as the picture portrays us to be.

Take for instance the morning of our photo-shoot.

I may, or may not have, scolded Devyn for the umpteenth time to “sit still and let me do your hair!” I may, or may not have, told Hudson, “Tough, Kid. I know you hate that outfit, but you’re wearing it!” I may, or may not have, whispered to Jon in angry undertones that it was his fault we were running late. There may have been fighting amongst siblings, a lost bow, and dirty clothes that I forgot to wash for this big day. In short, not one of my brighter moments as Mom and Wife.

And then, when we pulled up to the park and were assembled just right, of course we put on our happy smiles and were loving and affectionate with one another. Just in time to capture the perfect, loving family that we are.

If that’s not an image-building moment, I don’t know what it is.

Don’t get me wrong; I see nothing sinful in wanting the gorgeous picture. We are all proud of our families and want to show them off during this magical time of year. I just wanted to point out a moment that was crystal-clear to me; a moment in which I caught myself giving into the pressure of creating the perfect “image”. And I want more of that clarity! I want to be more aware of those moments when I’m about to step over that line of being real, into creating an image. I want to know that while I can put my best foot forward, that when it comes to the nitty-gritty dirt in my life that I’m not afraid to open up and allow God to use whatever He needs to clean the gunk out. I don’t want to present the fa├žade of who I am, but the real thing.

Making A List...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009 2 Comments A+ a-

Do you remember this post? Let see how I’m doing, shall we?

  • Create and send out birthday invitations for Devyn’s 5th birthday party. (5 years?! Already?!?) Yep, all done!
  • Host said birthday party.
  • Sew Hudson’s stocking. Still working on it, but it looks great so far!
  • Finish Christine and Courtney’s Christmas blog designs. One down, one to go.
  • Put together the details for a Holiday Recipe Exchange we’re doing on “What’s For Dinner”. Another one off the list, have you checked it out yet? We have some new recipes on there too!
  • Finish up the details for the holiday specials on Munchkin Land Designs. Just a reminder, 15% off people!
  • Celebrate Thanksgiving with Jon’s side of the family.  I have my dish all picked out and I'm ready to cook!!
  • Implement a huge project at my other job.
  • Get some family candid photos taken for Christmas cards and write our Christmas letter. With much appreciation for Sarah, here’s a sneak preview of our photo shoot. But I'm still working on the letter.
  • Send Christmas cards.
  • Decorate for the holidays.
  • Celebrate the one-year birthdays of our two precious babies, Elliana and Reagan. (I can’t believe it’s been a year already!)
  • Celebrate Christmas with my side of the family.
I’m getting there. As for the mustard-yellow kitchen, well, truth be told, its growing on me. We’ve decided to leave it alone until after the holidays and will tackle it at that point. (Unless I’ve convinced Jon to leave it alone by then.)

I have some far lengthier, meatier posts that are gnawing at me and begging to be written. Soon, I promise. Until then…