Thursday, March 8, 2018

Lent

 

 
Lent is the season spanning from Ash Wednesday until Resurrection Sunday, or somewhere in Holy Week for some denominations. The focus of Lent is to prepare for the celebration for the beautiful celebration of the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of the World. In order to get a more in-depth sense of the gift that was given, the magnificent gift of Holy Week and power of our Savior, many believers focus on the mourning of sin and our constant nature to veer from our God in search of other things that gratify the flesh.
 
That was a mouthful, right? Fancy wording that is common in the Christian world but many times is nothing more than a bunch of gibberish to some that are not accustomed to this lingo. Lent is a time to focus on evil....sin. It is in all of us. And, many take this time to really focus on what our hearts would be like apart from a loving God who has redeemed. Lent looks different for different believers who worship in different ways and even hold different beliefs. On Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins, some believers actually wear ashes on there foreheads as a symbol of mourning as was done in Old Testament days, before Christ. During this season, Christians commonly focus more intently on prayer in an effort to draw closer to God. Some fast from certain foods and drinks, and a lot of people sacrifice certain other things that they can identify within themselves, personally, as taking their focus away from the Lord.
 

Jesus went into the wilderness or the desert, depending on what version of the Bible you are using. They mean the same here. He fasted for 40 days, completely relying on the Holy Spirit to lead Him. Staying close to His Father in heaven, when He was approached by Satan with three different temptations, He never fell. He used scripture each time to defeat the attempts of the devil to derail His mission. In likeness of our Savior, this is why we choose to fast. We want to join in the sufferings of the Lord. This is merely one way.
 
My particular experience this year has brought some surprising revelations. Last year I participated in a sort of guide during Lent, where those who were following it sacrificed different things throughout the season. Some of the things that we"fasted" from were certain food such a meat and sweets. We also fasted from social media, certain music and television. Sunday was set aside each week a fest days, where we could indulge. Taking part in last year's fast prepared me for a more intimate fast this year. I became aware of some things that I really longed for when I fasted from them.
 
This year I gave up refined sugar, but allow myself natural sweeteners such as fruit, honey and 100% maple syrup. I also gave up social media, Facebook and Instagram. I am still on the blog, which is my outlet. Going in to this fast, I knew I liked sweets and found myself scrolling through social media frequently; a little too often for my liking and I was always left with a gross feeling coming away. So, twenty-one days in my feelings are many!  I now have a much better awareness of my desire for sugar and when I desire it. I never knew I was a stress eater, but clearly I am. I have found myself craving sugar when I experience times of anxiety. Instead of praying first, I reach for something sweet. That sweet taste usually made me feel better, thus the urgency to pray dissipated. Instant gratification at its best, and my prayer life was suffering. I have been met with a number of challenging events, one most stressful is my dad's recent health concerns. Many of you know that my dad has Parkinson's disease. We are feeling the effects of this disease more and more as we witness his decline. My sister and I have had to make decisions that are hard ones and tensions are rising. We have dealt with numerous sicknesses, most recently the stomach virus that struck 7 kids total,  5 consecutively within 15 minutes of one another. These things added to having recently having a baby and not getting a full night's sleep and busy schedules drawing us in different directions. I have had a hard time with the sugar fast. being perfectly honest, I messed up my coffee. Those that know me know I love coffee. I feel like it is a saving grace for me. A functional necessity. Initially I tried to drink coffee without sweetener and no matter what I did, it always tasted like dirt water. I have tried honey in the past and it did not work. I have been leaning on my 100% maple syrup (not Mrs. Butterworth's) to get me through. I do not want artificial sweeteners. I just feel, FOR ME, that would be cheating the whole fast and they are not healthy. I have not missed social media, but I had to be careful not to get legalistic about it. Last year I deactivated my Facebook account so that it would not tempt me to click my app. This year my account has stayed open and I have gotten onto my account for messenger, to check times and addresses for events that I was attending, but no scrolling, no picture looking, no gross feelings. Facebook, FOR ME, is so very toxic. It is a place where bullying is overlooked and disguised as advocating for a cause. A platform for the party, the trend, the belief, the movement that we individually think is best. It is an apartment of division. It is a place where we only put our best face, best dressed kid, funniest joke, perfect everything, leaving some to think they are alone in this mess called life. Or, on the polar opposite end of the spectrum, we dish every single bit of dirt in our lives. Each extreme is for the almighty comment to their post. Everyone wants to know who and how many really notice them, all while the One who does notice them and loves them beyond compare, really goes unnoticed.
 
I have had more time with my kids, more time to read, and not quiet as much time as I had liked to blog. I still have 37 unfinished drafts to complete. I am still not very good with balance. I am either too busy blogging to enjoy life or too busy living like to blog about it. I have a few personal posts that I have been working on for some time, but they are too hard to spend significant time on them. As God works of my heart through this season, and believe me, HE IS, I feel confident I will get to a place where completing them happens. In a recent conversation with my dear friend Ebony, and she asked the question "Why does God use the classroom of pain to teach us?" My reply was to sear the lesson into our memory. I tend to remember the painful lessons the most. In her wisdom she has shown me that He also uses pain to draw us to Him. He wants us in fellowship with Him, not just some times. He wants us all the time. He wants us to want Him all the time. And, if I can be candid, hopefully without judgment (because I loathe judgment, for those of you who want something personal), I do not always want time with the Lord, or fellowship with the Lord. I want the blessings, I want the healing, I want the revelation, the wisdom, the discernment. I want what He can bring. I do not want to be this way, but I fall into the trap of instant gratification. And, my pride can grow enormously before I know that is has happened and I am humbled on my knees. What a good God that keeps pursuing me and drawing me back to Him. And, while I am still in the midst of mourning and self examination, and God continues to reveal what is truly there, I have hope.....Sunday's coming! 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Jasper: 2 Months

 
Wow, a lot can change in a month! Mr. Big is two months old! He is tipping the scales at over 15 pounds now. He nurses every 2-2.5 hours, but sleeping longer stretches at night. He is smiling at all of us, which makes us fall even more in love with him. He has developed a little personality. He naps better during the day and travels well. He is still a cuddlebug and everyone's favorite baby at home. He loves to be talked to and is growing out of his size 2 diapers! He is perfect in every way! 
 
 






Friday, January 19, 2018

Dashing Through the Snow

If it has to be winter, if it has to be cold outside....we need a little snow to make it all better. I choose to look over the pile of wet snowsuits and muddy boots and embrace the fun and beauty of the blessed snow day. We had our first really good snow, which continued to fall for a couple of days. Temps remained low enough for the snow to stick around for many days. Lottie had the entire week of from school. There was a continuous supply of hot cocoa, the dryer was utilized to its fullest capacity daily and there was so much fun had by all! Look at all of those faces!
 















Monday, January 15, 2018

New Year, New Word, New Mercies...2018

 
Here we are again, embarking on a new year and all that will come with it. New victories, new challengers, new failures, new trials. Recalling the past year, I grew further in my relationship and knowledge of the Lord. I have been blessed with so many graces. Jasper was the most brilliant of those. My favorite grace that I never saw coming. We were able to go on our first family vacation in five years. We continued in our ministry of Faith Walk and we were even able to bless others through it. We continued renovating Nell, learning new skills and life lessons along the way. I hope we all became a bit wiser in addition to another year older. I watched my kids grow, kissed their boo boos, and celebrated their accomplishments. I read books more than I watched television. I invested more heavily into friendships, making time to meet regularly with some for spiritual accountability. I prayed more intentionally, specifically for others. Prayer for one of my closest friends made me a target of some powerful spiritual warfare. I new she was special! "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance." James 1:2-3. I made it through strains, wounds, stitches and contractions. I celebrated 15 years of marriage, which was the best year yet. Hoping that year 16 is even better. The secret? We got serious about placing our marriage second only to our relationship with God. Below our kids, below our careers, and below our own selfish desires.  We made time to talk regularly about what was going on in our lives; 8:30 pm bedtimes for the win! We got serious about date night. We made more time to make memories with our kids. We invested in things that would last instead of things that merely gratify momentarily. 2017 was good!

As 2017 was coming to a close, I knew the new year was dawning. Along with the new year, I began to anticipate what the new year could hold. I also began to envision what I would like the new year to be like. I began praying for God to reveal my word for 2018. I am not really sure how "successful" I was at embodying my word for 2017. It was balance. Balance is not easy for someone like me. My personality is quite black and white. It seems like the balance between the two would be gray. I am not a gray thinker. Although I feel like God has certainly shown me areas of responsibility, passions and convictions that I tend to favor over others. I am a work in progress just like anyone else. As I prayed for the word for 2018, I also found myself throwing out words to God. I know, pretty audacious right? Then He gave me the word New. New? New what? Adventure? Trial? Success? Heartache? Are you sending me somewhere new? Perhaps a new friend? Probably all and more. Part of me would love to just know ahead of time what this year will include, specifically the ugly parts so that I can prepare. Self preservation has been my go-to mode. Although, that part of me is growing smaller. I trust my God. He has never let me down, never failed me or shown up too late. That does not mean that I have always gotten my way. It means I bent to His will. I swallowed my pride. I surrendered. Surrender is not a one-time gig. It is a daily discipline. Luke 9:23 "And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."
 
I reflected back on 2017 as I looked forward into 2018. I thought about my successes an failures and set goals for the new year. I am not a fan of resolutions. They are too rigid; goals are more flexible. Goals for me allow for the Lord to change my plans. "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." Proverbs 16:9. Over the years I have more and more "okay" with that. I know that I know little. I am just a sheep, but I want to stick close to the Shepherd. I found a great tangible tool for my goal setting in Jennie Allen's Dream Guide. You can find it here. It categorizes your life goals into Spiritual, Relational, Personal and Work. So, here are a few of mine....
 
1. Spiritual: pray daily, read scripture daily, continue with my accountability group, mentor where led by the Spirit, lead bible studies with woman online and in home 
2. Relational: make time for outside relationships (female) regularly, regular date nights with the hubs, hug each child daily, read scripture as a family, get to know neighbors better, host other families
3. Personal: blog regularly with one personal post per month, get back into shape physically, eat cleaner, finish 12 books this year, allow indulgences for myself (new make-up, an outfit, a mani or pedi, a Starbucks etc.) 
4. Work: Allow graces in homeschool schedule, artistic ventures for school, plan and study for midwifery apprenticeship, keep up with family budget, pay off one large debt item, continue renovations on Nell, KITCHEN REMODEL.
 
This is a good idea of the direction I am heading. Where are you heading into 2018? Do you have a plan? Goals? I will share if you will!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Eva turns 9


Our incredibly beautiful, head full of curls, ever so quirky girl turned NINE!! We celebrated with the family and had a small party with friends and a piƱata. She was pampered and celebrated! We hope she knows how loved she is and how grateful God gave her to us. We are the blessed ones to get to watch her grown and transform before our eyes into the work of art God is creating. We see everyday just how special she is. She is artistic, funny and loves fiercely!

Happy Birthday, Eva Lou!!
 
 



 

 
 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Jasper: 1 Month


Jasper is one month old! We are celebrating our sweet baby, even as we celebrate the baby Savior. This gargantuan child is over 13 pounds now. He nurses every two hours, due in part to his massive appetite and in part to the sweet relief it brings his reflux. Poor guy! (And poor Mama!) He does sleep a 3-3.5 hour stretch at night, so I get a bit of good sleep. He is not smiling just yet, but we are working on getting him happy and pain-free, so we can enjoy those sought after smiles! He just catnaps during the day, but we are taking sleep when we can get it. He loves to cuddle and sleeps better when he is on his Mommy. We love our sweet, perfect 10! 
 
 

 
 

Merry Christmas 2017

We started singing Christmas Carols early this year. We just could not wait for December. Although we may not have known exactly how much, we really needed to get a jump on Christmas tree searching....and good thing we did! We had a baby the very next day!! I do not foresee this becoming a Christmas tradition for us, but one never knows. We went to Ward's again for our tree. Our growing family still fits in the mule-drawn wagon! After thoroughly inspecting several "not its" the kids choose the perfect tree. It was cut down, shook really good(in case any loose limbs or critters were hanging on) and wrapped up for us. We all piled in the cute little cabin for hot chocolate as Daddy paid. We loaded our tree into Daddy's truck and the big kids rode home with the tree and I drove the little home. After setting it up in water and letting it acclimate, it was time to decorate. We also bought a Christmas tree for the boys room and the girls room upstairs. This I year I got to decorate my beautiful mantle; something I had been longing to do!
 
We enjoyed our usual traditions of candy and ornament making. This  year we made some new things (peanut clusters and divinity) and some of our favorites (pretzel turtles and peanut butter fudge). All hands are on deck for this part of our holiday. Little fingers love adding, mixing, baking and especially tasting our sweet, yummy treats. They seem to disappear quicker than we make them, but they sure are delicious! The kids used popsicle sticks, hot glue and paint to make sleds, snowmen and a snowflake. The big kids also got together and helped the little ones make burlap reindeer. They are super cute on the kids will have so many ornaments on their tree next year!
 
We continued our nightly tradition through Advent, beginning December 1, of reading Ann Voskamp's family devotion, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. I have come to treasure our beautiful tree that Marcus crafted out of pallet wood. I especially love the downtime that we share snuggled together reading God's promises we each other. Christmas is such a busy season; we so need this time to refocus.
 
We broke our tradition of procrastination wrapping! Hallelujah! We had most of our gifts wrapped before Christmas Eve this year, so we wrapped a few things, stuffed stockings and enjoyed our new tradition....watching Die Hard....because its a Christmas movie!!! Christmas day was a sweet day! We always start the day with our final devotion, Christ's birth. Then we unwrapped gifts, ate our traditional Christmas breakfast of biscuits and gravy with Christmas tree cinnamon rolls and enjoyed our day. I cooked Christmas lunch for our family again, purchasing our smoked ham from Birth Choice. It has been such a blessing spending Christmas day together in our pajamas instead of rushing from here to there all day!  
 
 
 









 




 





 









 
 
 
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!
 
And the angel said to them,
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
Luke 2:10