Remembering the Gifts on a Saturday Morning

The past three weeks have been a veritable whirlwind of activity and for differing reasons, I have not been able to get my Week in Review posts up for three! Fridays now.  So I got up early this morning, before another wonderful days slips by, to stop and recall and reflect upon all that has been going on here since just before Thanksgiving.

*I have not used the camera much in the past three weeks.  Too busy living the moments to record them, I guess.  I am swiping a few off the camera this morning, but they are unedited, and since I have not been able to get my camera to cooperate with me lately, they are also blurry.  😦

Ellie had her birthday the day before Thanksgiving.  I was sad on Wednesday morning, when I realized that I had been so busy preparing things all day Tuesday, that I really didn’t take them time to soak in the fact that it was possibly my last day to ever have a four year old.  And I love four year olds.  They are so funny and will say such unexpected things.  I may have to start borrowing them from people in a few years.  😉  But Ellie delighted in her birthday and I am starting to think that, quite possibly, her love language is receiving gifts.  She thinks every gift is the best gift ever.

Wednesday night we enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner with Matt’s family.  We are so thankful for this tradition, as it frees up our Thanksgiving day to relax and spend time together.  We enjoyed wonderful food and fellowship and celebrated birthdays with the “fourth quarter people”.

Thanksgiving Day we enjoyed a day at home eating non-traditional foods like sweet potato waffles prepared by Chef Matt and then veggie sushi for dinner.  We watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and went to the “double dollar theater” to see Despicable Me and just tried to take time to be relaxed together.

Friday morning we got up early and went out (all of us!) for a little Black Friday observing.  Matt thinks those kinds of things are fun and has gone out many times in years past.  I have always been afraid to, as agitated crowds tend to get me agitated.  But he assured me that, really, people were all in a pretty good mood.  Most of the girls also wanted to go, so we dragged them all out of bed at some horrific hour, promising pastries and hot chocolate and headed out to see the madness.  It was entertaining, to say the least.

Friday night (I promise, I won’t go into this much detail on all the weeks!) was dinner with my family and my mother shocked me by not serving baked corn.  I’m not sure I’ve fully recovered from that one yet.  😉

Saturday night Grace and Emma and I all ran in a 5k to benefit our local rescue mission.  Grace had decided early in the week that she wanted to, and she had done one once before, so I knew she was at least able to do it.  Emma decided at lunch that day that she would also like to run.  I wasn’t quite sure how to respond, because Emma is a lot like her mama and is prone to giving up when the going gets tough.  And since she had never run that far before, this sounded like a bad plan.  However, we let her go for it.  The first .8 mile she and her Uncle Ben were going strong, racing ahead of myself and Grace, whom I was trying to help pace.  And then those two started hitting a little wall.  I pushed/pulled/encouraged them to the halfway point where there would be water and a chance to walk.  I sent Grace and Ben on ahead and then stayed with Emma the rest of the way.  She was having side stitches and the distance seemed never-ending to her, but she never gave up.  I offered to leave her with Matt who was watching with the other two, and she insisted that No, she wanted to finish.  And she did.  I was so amazingly proud of her for pushing through all of that and I told her that about every five steps for the last mile.  These are the things I want her to learn now, that I didn’t learn until adulthood.  Things like perseverance and pushing yourself.  I am so proud of her.

Sunday the girls and my mom and I went and watched the girls’ ballet school perform the Nutcracker.  We sat out this year, as it was being held on Thanksgiving weekend and we were just still tired from the year before.  The performance was wonderful and we are going to need to pray about our plans for next year, in the event that it is held on Thanksgiving weekend again next year.  The girls enjoy doing it, and it’s so much fun once the performances actually  arrive.  Definitely good memories!

The next week was filled with trying to get the house ready for our neighborhood holiday open house.  Once a year, at Christmastime, neighbors and other community members are invited to tour the historic homes in our neighborhood.  It’s our fundraiser for neighborhood projects, such as park equipment and such.  I was cleaning like a crazy person and trying to do school with the girls at the same time.  In hindsight, we should have just taken the week off.  But it’s over and done now and the open house was delightful.  Living in a older home like ours can be frustrating and can sort of suck the life out of you, especially if you’re my husband who gets to do the majority of the upkeep and repairs.  It’s always good to get the house all spiffed up and let fresh eyes walk through it.  It helps us remember that we really are blessed with a wonderful home.

I love my house - especially at Christmastime.

Somehow I didn't get a photo of the tree?!?! This will have to do for now. 😉

This week was a wonderful gift of life starting to slow down as we head into the holidays.  We resumed a normal school schedule, while fighting some stomach bugs (ok, those weren’t much of a gift). And reaped the benefits of all our hard work last week, by enjoying a clean house all this week!

Emma celebrated her 9th birthday on Tuesday.  I have noticed a marked change in Emma this week, and I’m hoping it is a sign of maturity and not a fluke related to a week of gifts.  😉  She has carried herself with a new grace and maturity and responsibility that I haven’t seen before.

 

Last night, we celebrated Ellie’s birthday with her first “friend” birthday party.  Seven girls, plus our four, flooded our home with squeals and silliness for two hours.  In what I think is a phenomenon fairly unique to home schooling, Ellie’s guest list was primarily girls her sisters’ ages.  One little girl younger than her was invited, but couldn’t make it.  Two her age were here, and everyone else was older, on up to 6th grade.  I’m especially thankful for those older girls coming, as Ellie simply adores them and it made her week.

She wanted a “puppy” party, so thanks to a much more creative friend and her wonderful list of ideas, Grace helped me throw a “paw-ty” for Ellie.  We made puppy ears out of foam visors, drew on noses and whiskers with eyebrow pencil, made a paper dog house, played hide and go seek and musical chairs, and decorated “pupcakes”.  Ellie had a great time, and hopefully the others did too!

Not sure what the surly expression is all about.

 

Well, that’s the past few weeks.  Today is a day I have been looking forward to since about Thanksgiving.  For a couple that has a reputation of a weekly date night, it seems like it’s been forever since we went out, just the two of us.  So, this morning I am dropping all the girls off at my parents’ after Emma’s riding lessons.  Then, Matt and I are heading over to Kansas City for the afternoon to finish Christmas shopping and just enjoy being together.  I’m so excited!!!  And then tonight, we will celebrate God’s amazing goodness over the past year at our company Christmas party on the Plaza.  He is so good.

Enjoy your weekend, Friends!  Praying that you will give thanks to the Lord and pause to reflect on His great goodness!

~ Sara

Nine Years

Nine years ago today, I am sure I was sitting in my bed, in our first home, nursing our second daughter, a mere twenty four hours old.  Yesterday we celebrated her birthday with gifts and singing and phone calls from family and friends.  Today we will finish the celebrations with foods of her choosing, as I have been under the weather for a couple of days and her foods just didn’t get made yesterday.  I am thankful for her grace and understanding.

Our second born daughter, Emma Joy, she can be a great mystery and offers her own challenges.  I, too, am a second born, so I understand what it is to live in the shadow of the first born child.  But I was also the youngest by many years, so really I had my own lime light.  Emma has to work for hers, striving to stand out from her steady, responsible older sister, and her wildly unpredictable younger sisters.

Emma is funny and smart.  She is sometimes quick witted and sometimes quite ditzy.  She is stubborn and has an inner passion that I pray God will use one day.  She is beautiful and sacrificial.  She rarely walks through the house, preferring instead to dance through in some nature of ballet movement.  She.loves.horses.  And while the driving to lessons can be inconvenient, it delights me to give her that one hour a week that is entirely hers.

She keeps me on my knees and on my face, revealing so many of my weaknesses.  But then she will blindside me with her generosity, like when she took all the money she had been saving for herself and decided to buy her sister a birthday gift.  Or the time she had saved up half the money she needed to buy an American Girl horse (this girl who does not like to work and so has a difficult time earning money) and came quietly to me one afternoon and said she could always save more money and would instead like to give this money to a missionary.  And I still tear up at the memory of it because that is not me, that was God doing His thing in her.

I know God has great things planned for Miss Emma.  He will use her sweet spirit and the gifts He has given her for His glory.  I look forward to seeing His plan revealed in her life as the years go by.

Happy (belated) 9th Birthday, Emma Joy!

We love you!

A New Day

I wish I could say that I went on yesterday to live in victory and walk in peace with my children.  Apparently they didn’t get the memo that we were starting fresh, so when I left the computer and their attitudes were still as crummy as mine had been when I sat down, I confess that I fell into despair again.

Matt came home at one point during the day and pointed out that what he had read in yesterday’s post and what he was seeing dragging around the house with the long face were not the same person.  😦

Some days you lose the battle.  Yesterday I lost.  I was tired and gave up.  I appreciate the comments and encouragement that many of you shared with me; they were and are a blessing.  My rational side knew the truth yesterday, but my emotions got the better of me.

But this is the beauty of grace.  Today is new.  A good night of sleep, a cup of coffee, and time in the Word, and I feel stronger.  I still quiver a bit at facing today, still feeling the bruises and tender from yesterday’s struggles, but I am ready to start again.  I am encouraged.

I read this today in my quiet time:

Steel is the product of iron plus fire.  Soil is rock plus heat and the crushing of glaciers.  Linen is flax plus the water that cleans it, the comb that separates it, the flail that pounds it, and the shuttle that weaves it.  In the same way, the development of human character requires a plus attached to it, for great character is made not through luxurious living but through suffering.  And the world does not forget people of great character.

Some day God is going to reveal this fact to every Christian:  the very things they now rebel against are the instruments He has used to perfect their character and to mold them into perfection, so they may later be used as polished stones in His heaven yet to come.

~ Streams in the Desert, December 2

And this Scripture reading went along with it:

For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.

~ Hebrews 2:16

Lonely as I may feel some days, I am not alone.  And the struggles we face, the girls and I, are not without purpose.

Have a blessed Thursday, friends!

By His Grace ~

~ Sara

Doing the Hardest Thing

I once thought giving birth was the hardest thing I would ever do.  The months of discomfort, night after night of no sleep, the agony of waiting.  Then, the contractions, intense and unlike anything describable.  The pushing, the sweat and tears.

But then they are born, delivered from the womb, and sent out by God to be led by us.  This, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  Daily being faced with my own weaknesses.  Seeing my short-comings reflected back in my children’s lives.  Working through their failings and reliving my own.

The desire to give up, to throw in the towel, is intense.  The fact that I simply cannot is overwhelming, intimidating, and an incredible challenge.  My vision for our family and what I see within these four walls are painfully different from each other.

The past two weeks have been hectic.  My mind has been preoccupied with many things – birthday festivities, Thanksgiving foods, a neighborhood open house – none of these things are my children.  They have become a burden of sorts, and I have no doubt they can sense that.  And so their behavior reflects what their hearts feel and the clash continues between us.

I am reminded this morning that it is when I like them least that I must love on them most.  When I am distracted and burdened by the daily responsibilities, that is when I most need to put the house work aside and sit with them and read and reflect and most of all, slow.  Slow myself.  Slow them.  Slow this rushing time.

So, today we will do that.  The cleaning must still be done and so must some school work.  But surely there is a way to do that without losing them in the process?

This hardest thing, this raising of God’s children, can only be done on my knees, even on my face.  I do not know what to do, I cannot see the next step, but my God knows it and I must trust Him to lead me in it.  We face a mighty enemy that fights for their souls, and if he can’t have those, he will fight for their story, to make their story about him or about them, and not about the One who was born to die for them.  I stand today, overwhelmed and weary, and face the battle that lies ahead, knowing that I will remain on these front lines for years.  I stand, but I fall to my knees and cry out like Jehoshaphat as he faced the mighty army, , “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

My eyes are on you, O Lord, show me the way to lead them to you.