As I look back on the last year, I am amazed at what God has done in our lives. Too many blessings to list actually. But here’s a start:
Moving into our own home, our little family’s first place of our own. Love and kindness reign here. We have loved creating our haven and making it our own, from the pink walls for the kiddo to the sunshine yellow walls for me. Everywhere you look, it’s clear that this is OUR home.
Taking a wonderful trip with my mom. Seeing mountains, swimming in the pool every day. Taking time to just be.
I took a weekend and had a great adventure with a dear friend of mine, photographing all over Chicago, sharing a little pizza in a cafe with a great view, ducking into stores to warm up before heading back out in the bitter January weather to take more pictures.
Having an amazing opportunity to serve God and work at the same time, photographing my first magazine cover.
Then there are the everyday blessings of spending time with our family, people at church, studying the Bible, praying and learning to listen. And watching God walk through every day with us.
Can’t wait to see what He does in 2013.
I saw this article about people doing 26 random acts of kindness in honor of the children and adults lost in Newtown. What a wonderful idea. There are so many amazing articles and posts being written in the aftermath of the shootings. One of the best I have seen talked about love. How the only way to overcome senseless evil and violence like this is to love. Show love and kindness anywhere you can. So we are taking the 26 Random Acts to heart.
My daughter is too young to learn of what exactly happened in Newtown. But you can never be too young to serve and love others.
We can’t afford to bless people financially, so we are going to get creative. Here’s my idea list so far…
1. Take cookies to our local firehouse and the men and women there who protect us.
2. Take a small treat in a pretty package with notes to my daughter’s teachers, thanking them for all they do.
3. Send a card to a soldier serving overseas.
4. Take a treat to the guys building the house on our street.
5. Clean snow off a stranger’s car at Target. (preferably without setting off any alarms!)
What ideas are you going to try?
I love Christmas. I love the baking and candy-making and carol-singing and present-giving. I love spending time with my family. But Christmas is also a time when my heart is heavy. Heavy with loss. Heavy with what might have been. Heavy with wishes for the future. I am sure many of you have heavy hearts for your own reasons. As much as the celebration is wonderful, there can be a sting to it when life hasn’t turned out as we wanted or expected.
So for all of you burdened with a heavy heart, I offer this, from It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.
And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!
Christmas isn’t going to be the end of weary hearts and earthly trouble. But Christ came so we would have peace in the midst of weary hearts and earthly trouble. So we could know the peace that passes all understanding.
I urge you. Set down your load for a few days. Enjoy the celebration of Christ’s birth and all that it meant for mankind. A new teacher, with a new way. Miracles the poured forth from Him then, and still do today. A daring rescue plan to bring His people back to Him.
Hear the angels sing.
I look forward to seeing the Salvation Army bell ringers every year. Really. This year, they were much more creative by us. At our local grocery store, we saw 3 girls from the high school singing Christmas carols and having a grand time. Another trip gave us the joy of hearing a man who had brought his electric guitar and a small amp, and was playing music by the bucket.
Most of the bell ringers smile at us and one even let my daughter ring the bell. I have coins with me all during the holiday season, so we can put money in every bucket we pass.
I remember when I was in high school and I was sort of embarrassed by the bell ringing. I felt bad if I didn’t put anything in and it was always awkward for me. But what wasn’t awkward when I was 17?
Then my dad started ringing the bell. I think I was in college at the time. I remember him telling me when he was going off to ring it, but I wasn’t in town and couldn’t go. For several years, I wanted to surprise him with hot chocolate and company during his shift. I think I managed to once. It’s a very vague memory, but I hope it’s real and not just the illusion of what I wanted. I hope I showed up for him and let him know how proud I was of him.
I think of him every time I see a bell ringer. One of these days, I am not going to be able to contain myself and I am finally going to tell a complete stranger ringing that bell, that the quarter I am putting in is for my dad.
Being grateful is so good for us. It can help pull us out of our sadness and change our perspective. But some days, it’s really hard to remember what I am grateful for.
This is one of those days.
As we watched the events unfold on Friday, the facade of safety was stripped away once again. We do everything we can to protect our children. We feed them well, pray for good teachers, surround them with loving people. But in the end, there is so much that is out of our control. Almost everything, actually. And when we are suddenly faced with how quickly our circumstances could drastically change, it scares us. And we grieve with those who know the pain much more intimately than we do.
Like so many moms across the country, I am still in tears over Friday’s massacre. And I know that I have so little control over what will happen in my daughter’s life. But I know the One who controls it all. I know the One who loves her even more than I do and can actually do something about it.
I know the One who can take any circumstance and turn it for good.
As I pray for her safety and for healing for all those in Newton, I am grateful to the One who can heal, protect, redeem, and make all things new.
Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!
Most of us have been deeply moved by Friday’s massacre. Countless tears have been shed in this country since the moment we heard. So many moms struggled to wait until the end of the school day to retrieve their kids that day. I was one of them. Days like Friday make me want to just sit and hold my daughter. And hug her and play with her and hear her beautiful, infectious laughter. And I grieve with the moms who can’t do that anymore.
Since Friday, I find myself crying a lot. Too many of these things have happened. Colorado movie theatre, Wisconsin temple, Connecticut school. And so many more.
But Christmas is coming.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.
The world is weary. WE are weary. Weary of struggle and grief and pain and brokenness. BUT, this is not where the story ends.
We have a Thrill of Hope.
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
And we are on our knees asking for it. The new and glorious morn where
…in His name all oppression shall cease.
We have a choice. We have the hope and our world has people who desperately need it. We have the choice to praise Him through the storms and reach out to those who don’t yet feel the thrill of hope.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
I am so glad Christmas is coming. I am so glad Christ came. So we can have the thrill of hope.
My daughter and I aren’t apart very much. We’re kind of stuck like glue. I drive her to school and walk her into the building. At the beginning of the year, I walked her all the way to her locker and then to her classroom. As the year has gone on, she has stopped needing me to go all the way with her. Now she just looks at me and says, “I’ve got it from here.” At that point, I remind her I love her and then watch her for a few seconds and one final wave, then I leave.
Until this morning. I got a new book from Angela Thomas. If you have been reading this blog a while, you know that she is one of my favorite mom cheerleaders. So when she ran a special on her book 52 Things Kids Need a Mom, I treated myself. It came yesterday and I am devouring it! This morning I read about watching until they are out of sight and the comfort it gave her as a kid, knowing that her dad was always watching until she couldn’t see him anymore. Now, if my daughter was boarding a bus for camp or getting on a plane, I would certainly watch until she was gone. But I wondered what would happen if I did that when I dropped her off at school. I imagined I would be left standing there staring at her back for a while.
WRONG. Today, I stood and watched her walk all the way across the lobby to the far hallway and turn the corner. I waved, smiled or blew her a kiss each time. She would take a few more steps and look back again. I wish I had counted how many times she turned to see if I was still there. My big girl, who doesn’t need me to walk her all the way to class anymore, sure wanted to see if I was still there. Watching, waiting, loving her.
Guess I know what I am doing tomorrow morning!
As I take a few moments to think over the past week, I am incredibly grateful for the encouragement I have been receiving in so many areas from so many sources.
1. I have a somewhat crazy idea in my head. I firmly believe it is from God and that His plans often look crazy to the world. I am so grateful to my sister for coming alongside me in this plan and NOT thinking I’m crazy! She encouraged me to take one tiny step and I have already seen it blossom from there. Can’t wait to see what God does next!
2. I co-lead a single mom’s ministry at our church to encourage and help single moms in any way we can. Our church has really stepped up and met needs all year. Last week, we received an email from a mom who is new to our group saying that in her 7 1/2 years of single momhood, she has never had anyone reach out to her and offer help. She was in tears because we offered free childcare for a few hours. I remember the first letter I got from church saying this ministry was beginning. I, too, sat on the floor in tears. Amazed that God was reaching out to me through this church.
3. I got home on Friday and found 2 gift cards stuck in my door. One for Target (our second home) and one for a local grocery store.
4. I got to witness my daughter’s compassionate and generous heart as she emptied her 3 piggy banks to buy water filters for kids who don’t have clean drinking water. I thought my heart was going to burst with joy.
5. PEACE. Peace that passes all understanding. We are in the middle of a storm in life. And I have never felt such peace in the face of something so hard. God is amazing.
Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!
I can’t sit still.
I am watching God provide and work in our lives and I can hardly stand the blessing of it.
There are the physical blessings of provision. Like the gift cards that appeared stuck in my door on Friday. And the Christmas gift from church to the single moms. And the extra work of babysitting. I get to watch God walk with us daily, and that, in itself, is an amazing gift.
But there’s something more happening here. God is moving in our lives. I don’t know exactly where He is taking us, but He is moving. Big time. And I am ready. I am ready to follow wherever He leads and do what He wants me to do.
As I sat in church yesterday, studying Pentecost and the Holy Spirit descending on the disciples, it was all I could do to stay in my seat. The disciples were being prepared for their incredible work for God and when He had prepared them, He sent them out. We didn’t get the unfathomable experience of the rushing wind and tongues of fire, but the same Spirit resides in all believers today. And it should be turning this world upside down.
I am fairly bouncing with anticipation. Actually my knees ARE bouncing. Even as I sit here, anticipating what God will do.
I can’t sit still.
I love spending time with people. I think we were all created to be in community, but some of us were created to just LOVE being around other people.
One of my aunts and I were recently talking and suddenly the idea of a sleepover came up. I have no idea who thought of it, but we both lit up. I can’t remember the last time I had a sleepover for fun, not because it was too far to drive home. So we jumped at the idea.
It was awesome. So very fun. We had dinner, made Christmas gift tags, talked, laughed, shared. Got some sleep so we could be up with the little one. Had a great breakfast. French toast, which I have never made before, but loved growing up. I mentioned it to my aunt and she delivered! Complete with powdered sugar on top.
Then we got to work. When my ex-husband’s grandmother died (the one who made me my quilt), my mother-in-law brought me a box of her craft things and told me to take whatever I wanted. I found these wonderful vintage ornament kits.
I love these ornaments and the sparkle they add to the tree. I remember similar ornaments from grandparents’ trees when I was growing up and always admired them.
Wow. They are a lot more work than I expected!
Separating all those pins, beads and sequins by color and shape took hours.
But the pieces were so much more manageable once they each had a compartment. I love using vitamin organizers for beads. The compartments are small enough that there isn’t a ton of wasted space and often the bottoms are curved a little, which makes retrieving tiny beads easier.
That day, we managed to finish 3. My daughter helped for about 45 minutes before losing interest entirely. She did keep checking our progress, though!
With just the ribbon and cording on.
One stack of beads at a time.