Christmas Break

Just a note….

I am thoroughly enjoying the leisurely pace of this week and not doing many of the things I normally do…

So, I am going to take the rest of this week off from posting….

Unless I get really “itchy” and have to share something.  (That doesn’t sound good at all, but oh well).  😉

I will plan on seeing you all Monday when we count the blessings and rejoice in the gift of a new year!

~ Sara

Reflecting

It’s Monday morning.  Life is moving at a slower pace today.  It is 8:45 a.m. and (thankfully) the house is still so quiet.

As I sit here this morning I cannot help reflecting and praying.

I think of a friend who’s son is in routine surgery right now and even though it is perhaps mundane for the doctors, a mother’s heart breaks to see her child in pain.

I think of another friend, a couple from our Sunday school, who will today – and perhaps already have – deliver(ed) their child, their third.  A child who has been washed in prayer by countless saints for healing, for miracles.  But most of all, for God’s will.  I pray for them as they begin an uncertain journey.  I know they would appreciate your prayers as well.

I think this morning of my husband who today celebrates nearly three and a half decades on this earth.  I think of how thankful I am for him, how he is my steady rock and my soft place to fall.  I think of how I don’t ever want to do this life without him and how my life is changed because he was born 34 years ago today.

And I think today of my Savior, whose birth we celebrated with much fanfare and joy and anticipation just two days ago.  I  think of what it might have been like for Mary two thousand years ago.  A two day old son.  Was she just starting to come out of the exhausted fog of birth?  Or was she just entering it?  As she “treasured up all these things and pondered them”, surely she had no idea what lay ahead.  I think of my Lord as a tiny infant.  God, who took on skin and sin, so I might be clothed in righteousness.  Him, who bound up all glory in an earthly tent, to show His faithfulness unto death.

Christmas is past.  As we walk toward the new year, may we keep the heart of Christmas – the wonder, the delight, the thankfulness – at all that He has done, all that He has given.

0977.  fifty degrees on the last day of autumn

0978.  desperate, overwhelming exhaustion

0979.  losing “the list”


0980.  running buddy back on her feet

0981.  Mahner-time for the girls

0982.  client gifts delivered

0983.  shopping DONE!


0984.  geese in flight

0985.  surprise email encouragement


0986.  oreo cookie gifts

0987.  an unexpected gift from a friend

0988.  new blender

0989.  gps that makes 34 deliveries so much easier

0990.  days that will now get longer

0991.  the freedom to sleep in


0992.  Beloved home on Christmas Eve

0993.  family celebrations

0994.  anticipation

0995.  singing Happy Birthday to Jesus


0996.  slow Christmas morning

0997.  leisurely days

0998.  birthday of my best friend


Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Look to the LORD and his strength;
seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,
his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.

~ Psalm 105:1-6

~ Sara

When The Best Gifts Come at a Cost

I am privileged today to have a very special guest post.  Matt shared this with me last week.  He said he woke up one morning and started writing and just couldn’t stop and before he knew it, this had been poured out on his keyboard, filling the screen with words, memories.

May you be blessed by his reflections on Christmas, sacrifice, and what it means to give.  And may you enjoy a wonderful Christmas weekend, sharing love and hope and joy with all those you meet.

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

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

My Favorite Christmas Gift Ever

 

I still remember the night. I was sitting, playing with my brother Patrick on a green, indoor-outdoor carpet in the unfinished area of our basement.  At the time, that basement seemed huge.  I’m sure if I were to visit it again, it would feel much smaller.  Next to us were some storage racks, one of them holding a green, well-used baby walker and a pea-green, well-used baby-backpack carrier.

On the other side of the furnace and water heater was a room filled with all sorts of enticing treasures.  Most of them were of the old military variety.  A large cabinet with doors was packed full of dark green pouches and thin cardboard boxes – both of them filled with musty smelling “c-rations”.  One of my best childhood memories involves the theft of these items. I don’t ever remember being given permission to eat the seemingly endless supply of this treasure-trove of snacks.  Yet, on a fairly regular basis we would indulge ourselves on these forbidden treats.

I still remember the taste of the stale crackers.  If you spread a little of the copper tasting cheese or peanut-butter on them, they tasted a little better.  However, as anyone with experience in c-ration consumption surely knows, the real culinary ecstasy came from the chocolate covered coconut macaroon cookies.  I’m not sure if it was because no one knew I was sitting under the stairs eating these goodies or if it was because my mother was completely obsessed with the health of her family (which primarily meant NO sugar). Regardless I remember feeling as if I was in heaven.

Then, there were the packets of hot cocoa.  However, drinking hot cocoa would require using the kitchen and using the stove because microwaves hadn’t been invented.  Further, it would require coming out from under the stairs, which would surely lead to some sort of military-style inquisition.  After-all, these were covert-ops we were engaged in, and we were sworn to secrecy under threat of severe penalty.  So, we ate the hot coco mix straight out of the packets.  I believe I remember with the faintest of memories a time when either Patrick or Noah failed to completely clean up the evidence of a coco binger, usually left in the form of a chocolate-dust goatee.  I also seem to faintly remember quickly coming up with a story about them eating dirt or something along those lines.  The memory I have is that of being surprised at myself for thinking of that story so quickly and that my mom bought said story.  Looking back, I’m guessing she knew exactly what was going on.  Maybe she was willing to overlook our obvious transgressions because they meant the basement was slowly, but surely getting cleaned out.  Maybe we fooled her.  Maybe she realized in this instant that she was depriving her children of too much sugar.  Regardless, in hindsight, I appreciated her mercy.

On the other side of the knotty-pine door that had a j-shaped black iron clasp-style door handle, was a knotty-pine room taken straight out of Colorado.  In fact, we had a window with a mountain-view!  Even as a child, I remember thinking “that is really odd”.  Honestly, why would someone put a mountain view mural on the wall, then go to the trouble of building windows around it?  Did they honestly think they could fool someone into not thinking they were in a basement in Kansas?  Did they bring people back from far away, blindfolded and after a long drive sit them in front of that window and then expect them to absolutely love the view?  I just remember being confused by these questions as a child, among other things.

However, this side of the basement also holds many fond memories as well.  For this is where we first held class.  The beautiful Colorado mountain view was quickly obscured by a dark chalkboard.  Desks were set up facing the board.  I distinctly remember my father standing at the board with a dowel rod teaching us classes before going to work.  He would use the dowel rod to point out whatever it was that he was trying to teach us on the board.  Then, if we didn’t learn whatever it was (probably advanced logic, or an obscure foreign language) the dowel rod also doubled as the instrument of correction.  One of the things I appreciate about growing up in an unknown state of meager means is that it taught you to find multiple uses for objects.

I remember an old wooden table in the left-hand corner, with a homemade bookshelf above it.  I remember that regardless of how early I got up in the morning, my mother would be sitting at that desk preparing our schooling for the day.  I didn’t realize at the time that initially she didn’t really have any curriculum for us other than what she came up with.  Sure, math books and history books followed, but this was a different time before homeschooling became popular, before there were more curriculum possibilities than you could possibly count.  She poured her life into us in that room.  She made us create “life-notebooks” which I remember hating.  The lessons learned sitting there with a partially obscured view of the Colorado mountaintops are the lessons that shaped me into what and who I am today.

It was also at that table that I remember my father meeting with his first legal client.  I don’t know much about that meeting; not who it was, not what they were meeting about.  There was a feeling of confusion about why my dad was meeting some guy at our school table.  My mom quickly whisked us off after we came into the room to inquire what was going on – maybe we had hot cocoa goatees, I’m not sure.  One thing that I will always remember is the look on my dad’s face.  I’m not sure why this sticks with me to this day, but it was a look of absolute terror and absolute satisfaction at the same time.  It was not until I started my business that I understood that look.  Surely, he was scared to death of the future, yet relieved to be in the present and past his formal training.  He never said that, but I saw it.  It was at this old wooden table that I first saw what it took to run a business, to work diligently, to serve people through my occupation.  I also now know that he probably met with them there because of the incredible views, for surely they would think he was a high-powered city attorney with a view of the mountains in his office!

On the other side of that desk was an old kitchen.  When I was still quite young my mother ventured out into business.  From what I remember, she saved her birthday and Christmas money until she had enough to buy jars, various goods to sell and a receipt book.  She named her business “Chris-Teas-and-Spices”, an obvious play on her name.  I don’t remember how long this business was around.  But I do remember a few times a customer would come over and buy some of her spices or teas.  I remember how excited she was and how she would tell my father what she had been able to sell.  Personally, I remember how thrilled I was that she allowed me to help measure out, weigh and bag the spices she sold.  Again, some of the lessons I learned here I would not fully comprehend until I was embarking on my own entrepreneurial ventures.  But, I remember that I loved to be involved in this part of my mother’s life.

Memories.  If given some thought, sometimes they teach us just a little bit about why we are the people we become.

Going back through the knotty pine door to that night, sitting, playing with Patrick. I distinctly remember the scream.  A little boy isn’t supposed to hear his daddy scream in pain.  I never had before.    I knew I had been told not to go over into his workshop because he was working on something special.  My father, while never particularly gifted in woodworking, had always built us many of the things we used, the things we played with and the things we loved.  It was shortly before Christmas this particular year and I’m guessing I assumed he was making my mother another shelf or something of the sort.

When the yell went out, my mom ran down the stairs and ran over to my dad.  Then, she quickly ran over to our neighbor’s house and frantically pounded on the door.  The look of panic in her face said it all.  I knew something terrible had happened.  She asked for ice and a baggie and if our neighbors could watch my brothers and I while she took my dad to the hospital.  After an evening of watching television – something that was a rare treat indeed – my mom came back over and got us and took us back home.

It was there that I learned my father had cut off the end of his finger in a table saw.  They had tried to reattach it, but could not.  He had bandages on his finger, on his hand.  I remember feeling very sorry for him, wishing that I could do something to help.  But the memory that is even stronger is that he never complained.  Not even once.  In fact, he would joke about it and still does from time to time.  He said he had one less fingernail to cut now.

Christmas morning came.  We were always so excited for Christmas morning, enough that I could barely sleep the night before.  In those years, we would mostly get things that we needed: new socks and underwear, clothes, maybe a toy or two, some candy and for some odd reason, my mother always gave us an orange.  To this day, I’ve never asked her why she did that and still find it curiously strange.  This year, we had a large box to open that was tagged to “all of the boys” from “Dad”.  We opened a large box of various size wooden blocks to build whatever our imaginations demanded.  It even included castle turrets that my dad had cut out and routed so that they appeared as if they were from the Narnian castle Cair-Paravel.  They had a recessed area to put our army-men or lego figures.

I remember my mom getting a little choked up when she told us that this gift is what my dad had been laboring on when the accident happened.  Even at that young age, a sobering feeling came over me.  My father had sacrificed deeply for this gift.  He gave of his own flesh and blood.  He injured and gave a part of his hand away to create this child’s masterpiece, just for us.  He did it because he loved us.

To this day, I remember how touched I was by that gift.  While it probably lost its glamour relatively quickly,  it didn’t lose its meaning.  It was and is still one of my favorite Christmas gifts ever.

But these days I think more about what this experience – this gift, this sacrifice – taught me about the greatest gift I’ve ever received on Christmas.  Jesus came down to this earth as a baby and gave himself as a gift to me.  He didn’t complain about leaving the perfect environment of heaven.  He did it because He loved me.

Ultimately, this Gift was injured, just like my father.   However, He didn’t just have His finger severed.  He had His hands pierced for me.  He gave His life for me – for me!  Just as I remembered being sobered by my earthly father’s sacrifice for me, even now among the lights and the holiday parties, I’m sobered by my heavenly Father’s love.

So, this Christmas I’m reflecting on past Christmases and past times.  I am remembering a Christmas gift of wooden blocks under a tree, born out of a loving sacrifice.  But, I’m also remembering a Gift that came in a wooden manger and eventually died a sacrificial death on a tree because of His love for me.  Oh, and I also remember how good those packs of hot cocoa mix and military issued Chiclets were as well!

Merry Christmas!

~ Matt

Week in Review – Thursday Edition

It’s been a good week, but a tiring one.  Finishing up school and last-minute holiday preparations coupled with not sleeping well several nights in a row left me completely worn out last night when I went to bed.  I woke up this morning feeling more rested than I have in days, but still utterly exhausted and overwhelmed. A little after 6 am, I was dressed in layers and ready to go meet my running buddy. I had five minutes before I needed to leave. I sat down with my Bible and my beloved Streams. The Lord gave me this…

“The journey is too much for you.” I Kings 19:7

What did God do with Elijah, His tired servant?  He allowed him to sleep and then gave him something good to eat.  Elijah had done tremendous work…but the run had been too much for him and had sapped his physical strength, ultimately causing him to become depressed.  Just as others in this condition need sleep and want their ailments treated, Elijah’s physical requirements needed to be met.

There are many wonderful people who end up where Elijah did – “under a juniper tree” (I Kings 19:4)!  When this happens, the words of the Master are very soothing:  “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”  In other words, “I am going to refresh you.”

And then, without even thinking of today’s date, I felt led to read the Psalm for today.  Psalm 23.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

Oh what a beautiful gift to help me refocus, to remind me once again to slow.  What a delightful reminder that God is with me and knows my deepest needs and that He is eager to meet me there.  He is a good and gracious God, gentle and tender, and loving in spite of our weakness.

As we lean into the final pre-Christmas hours, I’m praying that you also have been able to slow and to focus. May your heart be set on Him as we draw closer to the celebration of His birth.

 

Wishing you a blessed, Christ-centered Christmas! Be sure to come back tomorrow when I’ll have a very special guest post for Christmas.

By His Grace ~

~ Sara

Time and Balance – Keeping Our Eyes on Him

As we wind down into Christmas, I hope that you are exercising balance and finding time for those that you love most.  Today will be our last day of school and I know that I am looking forward to spending some time with the girls, baking Christmas treats, reading cherished Christmas stories, and watching favorite movies.

I pray that we will all be able to sift through our “to do’s” and postpone any that are not essential.  Let this week leading into Christmas be one filled with making memories and focusing on the Savior.

The Season of Gifts

It’s Monday….I get the daily reminder…FIVE days until Christmas.  My heart is happy.  Their joy and excitement bring light to the season and I am thankful that it is untainted by grief or stress or worry.  They know  only wonder.

As we head into a week that has the potential to be busy, distracting, and even chaotic, may we build in boundaries and margin and remember to slow down and remember the why and the wonder.  May we slow down from all the busy rushing and stop to marvel at the lights and the music and the magic.  May we see through the eyes of a child this week and stop in wonder over the gift that is Christmas.

And may we never stop counting the gifts and may we spend extra time at the manger this week, lost in wonder over this, the greatest gift, the Gift that gave us everything.

0962.  serving alongside my girls

0963.  Christmas presents wrapped

0964.  bedroom reclaimed

0965.  shopping done – more or less

0966.  water in the desk drawers

0967.  broken mama

0968.  hugging them

0969. a day full of girlfriends

0970.  ice skating at Crown Center

0971.  Sol Cantina

0972.  Plaza lights

0973.  two more days of school

0974.  K-Love on their radio

0975.  five year old’s unrestrained worship

0976.  eavesdropping on Ellie as she tells the Christmas story to her toys

May your week be filled with memories and moments of worship.

By His Grace ~

~ Sara

Change of Plans

Another night…another post that isn’t what I had planned.  But isn’t that life?  That some things just don’t go as planned?

I did not plan on having this day with my children.  I didn’t plan on my agitation increasing as the day wore on and finding them wriggling further and further under my sensitive skin.  I didn’t plan on attitude and outbursts and losing my own temper and behaving in ways I certainly would never allow from them. And rather than the hand of correction, I must bear the weight of my own guilt and shame and physical punishment seems it would be easier to bear.

I didn’t plan on having to keep my five year old home from ballet because she would refuse to do her school.  I didn’t plan on having to do school on Friday, a day we typically reserve for outside classes or other fun stuff.

But that’s the day I got.  From God or from Satan or just from our own sinful hearts, and we found ourselves at four o’clock worn out and wounded by the day and by each other.  And I found myself at the cross, asking forgiveness.  Again.

I sat them down and repented.  I asked their forgiveness for my own sin and spoke to them about what theirs had been.  We agreed to start fresh now and work for a better day tomorrow.  And then I hugged them.  And all the stress and frustration and irritation started to melt away.

Why is it I never think to do that when I am angry and when their behavior cries out for it?  Lord, help me to draw them close when I want to push them away.  Help me to hug them as often as I feed them* and remind them often throughout the day of my love for them.  Only by your grace can I do this thing called parenting.

Tonight, the oldest is at ballet.  Matt and the middle two are Christmas shopping.  And I am home with Ellie, helping her wrap the gifts she has thoughtfully chosen for her sisters and her daddy.  And we have a very entertaining conversation….

Me: Ellie, what are you getting me for Christmas? 

Ellie: I’m getting you a dinosaur.

Me: A dinosaur? Really? What will I feed it?

Ellie: Well, if it’s a carnival, you’ll have to feed it plants.

Me: Oh yeah?

Ellie: Yeah. Like those ant-eater ones.

Me: You mean a Venus Fly Trap?

Ellie: Yeah. And you’ll have to train it to catch a ball and stuff.

Me: Yeah.  😛

And I laugh so hard on the inside that I want to cry.  No longer tears of self-pity or frustration, but tears of delight at the gift God has given me in these children, in this daily living alongside them.

May your evening be filled with laughter and joy tonight.

~ Sara

*another Ann Voskamp treasure @A Holy Experience

A Family Favorite

Well, this isn’t the post I had planned for today, and I know I’ve never posted a recipe before, but I’ve gotten requests for this on Facebook, and it’s just much easier for me to keep track of these things over here if I ever need to find it again, sooooo…..tonight I’m posting my recipe for Taco Soup.  It’s not fancy, it’s super easy, and it’s oh-so-delicious.  When what’s for dinner makes my husband’s Facebook status, I know I’m doing something right.  😉

Without further ado….

Taco Soup

2 lbs ground beef (we use ground turkey), browned and drained

1 package taco seasoning

2 cans Ranch style beans (Texas style)

1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles

3 cups water

1 package ranch dip seasoning

1 can white hominy

1 can yellow hominy

1 can diced tomatos

Mix all ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes.  Better yet, throw it all in the crock pot on low most of the day.  Serve with tortilla chips, sour cream and grated cheese (or queso for an even creamier texture).

We love this “pantry” recipe.  It’s a winter time staple at our house and I hope you enjoy it as well!

~ Sara

Time and Balance Tuesday

Today’s post really has nothing to do with either time or balance, but it has the potential to be really fun.  🙂

In the spirit of Christmas, and because I just spent an hour and a half locked in my bedroom wrapping gifts, my tip this week is to torment your children by not putting names on any of the gifts under the Christmas tree.  Bwahahaha!!!

Our kids are going nuts.  It’s going to be a fun ten days!

So, how are you keeping your sanity during this busy season?

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

 

A Simple List

Because sometimes the gifts are too precious for endless, rambling words and thank you is all that needs to be said…

0931.  the chance to help a friend

0932.  when supper provides lunch

0933.  husband’s patience, encouragement

934.  qdoba delivery

0935.  a new day tomorrow

0936.  little projects completed

0937.  house clean and ready for Christmas

0938.  holiday open house

0939.  laughing with neighbors and friends

0940.  clean, clutter-free house on Monday morning

0941.  husband’s help getting it all ready

0942.  long talks in the car

0943.  book lights

0944.  relaxing

0945.  delightful birthday girl

0946.  better school days

0947.  the dreadmill on 15 degree mornings

0948.  no Friday classes

0949.  finishing CS Lewis

0950.  a puppy “paw”ty

0951.  my kids’ friends

0952.  two pages of party ideas and a very creative friend

0953.  oldest child whose brain works more like her dad’s than like mine

0954.  Christmas light show at church

0955.  finally!  the day of the company Christmas party

0956.  seeing signs of maturity in the second born

0957.  an afternoon with my beloved

0958.  celebrating God’s abundant blessing

0959.  snow

0960.  finding the lost Mexico pictures

0961.  six more days of school

I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you!

~ Psalm 35:18