Monday, December 19, 2011

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care....

My goal was to have Addison's stocking finished by Christmas.

I am very excited to say that it proudly filled the empty third of our mantle 7 days before Christmas!




Our little family.  
Three special stockings.
One tradition continued to the next generation.


(Thank you, mom, for turning the finished piece of canvas into an actual stocking!)


641. Each member of my little family represented by one special stocking.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Carrying on a Family Tradition, One Stitch at a Time

Growing up, I loved to hear the story of my mom's birth...

My Grandma, who was 40 years old at the time, was stationed in Germany since my Grandpa was a pilot in the Air Force during World War II.  She arrived at the hospital, 12 pounds heavier than she was when she got pregnant and delivered a healthy 4 pound baby girl (my mom).  I can only imagine how relieved she was at this point (as I now know what it feels like to be in labor and give birth!), and I cannot imagine what went through her mind when the doctor looked at her and said, "Mrs., you have one more baby you need to deliver."  TWINS!  TWINS?  Sure enough, she gave birth to another 4 pound baby girl!  I wonder what my Grandpa's reaction was when he was allowed into the room to see his wife and his new baby girlS.  What a moment of shock, excitement, fear, and an over abundance of joy they most likely felt!  Apparently my uncle, 11 years old at the time, had wanted a brother, but he decided that two girls made up for one boy!






















My other favorite story highlights my Grandma's love and devotion for my Grandpa as well as her determination and courage...qualities I hope depict my life as well.  After falling in love in Ohio, my Grandpa was stationed in California.  They couldn't stand the distance so she flew to Reno while my Grandpa took a very quick leave of absence so they could get married.  My Grandpa was deployed 2 weeks later.  Grandma was left alone in a base housing apartment with 1 can of tomato soup, 1 lb of hamburger, no job, and a car that she couldn't drive.  At this point I have to stop and think about what I would have done.  After a few good tears, I hope I would have followed in my Grandma's footsteps...she made the most of her situation and got a job as a secretary for the base commanding officer.  When she earned enough money she hired a driving instructor to teach her how to drive the car parked in her driveway.  By the time my Grandpa returned, 18 months later, she had opened a savings account with several thousand dollars saved.  I can imagine that he was proud of his new bride!


Sadly, my Grandma passed away in the early 90s, but she started a tradition that has been continued for several generations and her legacy will never be forgotten.

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While reading the October 1973 edition of Family Circle, Grandma came across a needlepoint stocking pattern.  She was an excellent seamstress and she decided to buy the pattern and make a stocking for each of her three children. 

 
 
the original Family Circle article

My mom, my aunt, and my uncle's wife made a stocking for their spouse as well as each of their children...13 new stockings at this point!




























When I got married, my mom made a stocking for My Hero.  My mom also made a stocking for my sister's husband and she plans to make one for my brother's future wife.  In our immediate family, Addison is the first child in the next generation and with my mom's guidance (as I am not a seamstress, needlepointer, etc) I decided to carry on the tradition.

My mom teaching me the intricacies of needlepoint























As I have been working on Addison's stocking I've learned many things.

First, needlepoint takes a LONG time!  I cannot believe the amount of time each pattern and row takes.  I have a whole new respect for my Grandma who made the very first one from a simple, simple pattern.  I am positive I could not have completed one section if I didn't have my already-made stocking to look at and count each stitch! 

Secondly, since it has taken me so long, I have had many hours to think.  My Grandma has come to mind often.  If she was still alive, I can imagine she would be very proud to see another stocking being made for her great granddaughter in her honor.  I wish I would have been older before she passed away so I could have gotten to know her better.  She was a remarkable woman.  Also, thoughts of my mom always come without any effort.  Not everyone can say this, but my mom is my best friend.  I pray that Addison and I will have a relationship like my mom and I do.  My mom's devotion to the Lord, care and service to others, and ability to see God in the good areas as well as the challenging aspects of life have molded me into the woman I am today.  Her kind heart and soft spirit are qualities that people would use to describe both of us.  I never fully understood the sacrifices a mother makes until I had a daughter of my own.  I owe my life to my mom and I hope she never questions my love for her.  Maybe one day Addison will ask me to help her start a stocking for her child.  What an exciting day that would be for me as I think back and tell her about all the great mothers who made stocking prior to her.

Finally, with each stitch, I prayed for my daughter.  How I long for her to grow up and live an abundant life in Christ.  My prayer is that this stocking will represent her heritage, the love I have for her, and ultimately, God's desire for her heart and life. 



My goal is to be finished with the stocking in the next two weeks.  I have about four more sections to go.  I probably won't be around much until it is finished as it takes most of my spare time


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Counting gifts...

628.  Remembering my Grandma and the legacy that she left
629.  Praising God for my mom and the wonderful woman that she is
630.  The gift of recently becoming a mother myself
631.  The comfort that comes with knowing that God is pursuing Addison's heart as I pray that she will one day choose to run to His open arms

I Heart Faces Photo Challenge: Laughter

Just for fun I thought I'd enter a recent picture I took of my spunky daughter into the I Heart Faces weekly photo challenge. This week's theme is "Laughter."


This photo makes me smile every time I see it.  I can still her her giggle!



Click here
Be sure to check out other amazing photos on the I Heart Faces website!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Birthday Blessings

Today I turned 27.  



This year, on my birthday, I continued to count gifts, slowly unwrapping all 27 of them...

601. Waking up to cards and heartfelt notes left by My Hero before he headed to work
602. Growing even more in love with him each year and knowing that he feels the same towards me
603. Seeing an envelope with "Mommy" on the front.  I will never take for granted the gift of being the Mommy to my precious daughter.
604. Seeing her 22 month old scribbles across the card and her face of pride as she showed me her artwork
605. A quiet morning with no where to go
606.  A cold, blustery day reminding me of how grateful I am to have a warm, cozy house
607. The many calls, messages, texts, and cards from loved ones
608. My friend surprising me with a cookies 'n cream CFA milkshake (an extra-special treat!!)
609. Finally getting our brand new replacement computer in the mail after months of waiting!
610. A 3 hour stretch of time to myself as Little Miss napped...I am usually doing good if she sleeps for an hour and a half!  I don't remember the last time she slept almost 3 hours!
611. Her joyful mood after such a good rest
612. Going shopping for our Operation Christmas Child shoebox and involving Addison in this experience as I tried to tell her that we were buying gifts to help another little girl.  How I pray she will have a spirit of generosity and one that is not controlled by her own selfish desires.
613. Pushing her in the shopping cart, so proud of her and what a beautiful little girl she is
614. Feeling the welling excitement as I imagine a little girl opening up the shoebox and discovering many gifts that she would not otherwise have...all in the name of Jesus Christ
615. Praying and knowing God hears the pleas of my heart
616. Sharing an answered prayer with friends and family members
617. Getting tears in my eyes as I drove home and passed several daycares.  Words can never express how thankful I am to my husband for working and making it a priority for me to stay home with Addison.  Every sacrifice we have made and continue to make never even enters my mind.  Even on the long, hard days, I wouldn't change anything.  I am beyond blessed and I recognize that every single day.
618. Thinking about how my relationship with God has grown and deepened through my first year in BSF.
619. Hearing Addison sing "Holy, Holy, Holy," "Jesus Loves Me," and the ABCs.  :)
620. Ella's Kitchen baby food pouches...who knew eating vegetables could be so much fun!?
621. Peace that passes all understanding
622. Laughter
623. Snuggles, kisses, and hugs before bed (even though her baby dolls got way more kisses than I did!)
624. Fleece, footie pajamas on a freshly bathed little girl
625.  Calling Daddy before bed.  He asked Addison what she did today.  Her response, "Mommy's birthday."  Too sweet!
626. The way my hands linger the smell of baby wash long after Addison's bath
627. Getting in bed after a long, hot shower and ending the day with prayers of thanksgiving for an abundance of what really matters

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Teaching Toddlers - Learning Fun!!!

We had so much fun today with these simple, recycled learning activities that promote fine motor skills, learning the ABCs, counting, and an unexpectedly long time of fun for my little girl! 

Baby Food Lid Letters

Need:
26 baby food jar lids (more if you plan to make lowercase letters as well)
ABC foam letters (I found them at Michael's for about $5)
Empty plastic container with slit cut into the lid

Games to play: 
1)  Place 4-5 lids face-down on a table.  Ask your toddler to turn over each lid one at a time and tell you which letter was "hiding."
2)  Play a game of memory...match uppercase to uppercase letters or uppercase to lowercase letters.
3)  Place 3 lids letter-side-up on a table.  Point to each letter and say them with your child.  Cover 1 letter up.  Ask your child which letter is covered up.
4)  Arrange the letters in order of the alphabet while singing the ABC song.
5)  Encourage your toddler to stack the letters to make a tower.
6)  Practice saying the letter sounds as your child fits them into the slit in the container.










Beans in a Parmesan Cheese Container
(Thanks Dana for this great idea!)

Need:
1 empty Parmesan cheese container
dry beans or other small objects

**Note- This game is only suitable for children who are past the stage of putting everything in their mouth.  Even then, do not allow your child to play this game unsupervised!! 

Games to play: 
1)  Allow your child to put the beans in the container while counting each bean.  Dump the beans out and start again.
2)  Have your child shake the container with beans in it to make "music."
3)  Give your child another container and practice pouring the beans from one container to another.


 


What are some of your favorite, inexpensive learning activities to do with your toddler??


Monday, October 31, 2011

I Can't Resist...

...sharing a few pictures of my sweet little bumblebee with you!





I hope your day was full of wonderful memories as well!!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

God's Promise to Abraham

God’s Promise to Abraham

18+ Months


Subject
Focus
Time
Activity

Bible
The story of God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 15, 18, 21)
During breakfast
Read the story of Abraham's desire for a son and God's promise to make him the father of many nations in a toddler’s Bible.  (One of our favorite children's Bibles.  It also comes in a toddler version which I'm sure is great too!)  If your child is a bit older, we highly recommend   The Jesus Storybook Bible.

Throughout this week, reinforce the truth that God keeps His promises just like He did with Abraham.  If your child is old enough, explain that often times we have to be patient as we wait and trust God to fulfill his promises.

Music
Reinforce Bible story through music.
 Soon after breakfast

Letter Awareness
To recognize the capital letters
Morning, before nap
ABC Driveway Game
In very large, capital or lowercase letters, write about 10 letters on your driveway with chalk.  Walk to all of the letters with your toddler.  Allow him or her to stand on each letter while you review the letter’s name.  Play the game as follows, “Run to B!  Great job!  Walk to F.  Yes!  Sit down on H.  Way to go!  Spin in a circle on Q.  Very good!  Stand on M.  Perfect!  Your turn!  Pick a letter and tell Mommy what it is.”  Child runs to U and says U!  “Great!  Now pick another one.”  Game continues until child show signs of becoming uninterested. (see picture below)

Math
To recognize basic shapes
Any time of the day
Play the driveway game listed above, but instead of writing letters, draw basic shapes such as a square, rectangle, circle, and triangle.  Draw each shape big enough so your child can walk along the outline of each shape as you are reviewing the names of the shapes.
Following Directions/
Obeying
To learn to recognize Mommy’s voice and obey what she says
Any time of the day
Coloring Letters
On a piece of paper, write 6-7 letters (in capital or lowercase).  Choose 6-7 different colored crayons (depending on how many letters you wrote).  Tell your child, “Color V red.  Great!  Color P purple.  Purple starts with a P and P says /p/.  Wonderful!  Now color Y green.  You did it!”  Game continues until all letters are colored the correct color.  (see picture below)

Since we are focusing on shapes this week, you can also play this game with shapes instead of letters.
Play time with a  purpose
To learn through play
Afternoon
Copy Cat
Tell your toddler to repeat what you do.  Clap once then have your child do the same.  Continue the game…some possible actions are to clap 2-3 times, jump, run to a specific location, stomp quietly, stomp loudly, touch nose, etc.

Art
To express oneself creatively
Afternoon
Go outside and look at the stars before bed one night.  Impress upon your child how huge the sky is and that it is impossible to count all of the stars.  Remind your toddler that God made the night and he made the stars (and the moon).  The next day focus on the following craft...


As you and your child make the stars craft, continue talking about the significance of the stars in relation to God's promise to Abraham.

Story time
To snuggle and read together in preparation for going to sleep
Before bed
Re-read the story of Abraham childhood (maybe from a different toddler Bible) and remind your child that God keeps His promises and we can always trust Him.

































































A few pictures from our week...

ABC Driveway Game

Coloring Letters

Monday, October 17, 2011

Choosing Marbles


I came across these beautiful words written by the well-loved and very much missed Sara Frankl.  I did not have the privilege of knowing her, but her words, her life, had an impact on me and I wanted to share...

I sit in this condo after these years of being homebound and I realize I have forgotten what fresh air smells like. I turn my ceiling fans on high so that my curtains rustle as if there is a breeze flowing through the windows. I watch them and try to imagine that the wind has picked up outside and the fresh air is blowing in.
.
But it isn’t. I can trick my brain and pretend, but I can’t capture that smell I’d taken for granted the majority of my life.
.
I don’t have a window that gets direct sunlight streaming in. I sit by a lamp and close my eyes and try to imagine the heat on my skin and the orange behind my eyelids as if the sun is beating down on me, but it’s not. The freckles that used to adorn my face are long since gone with the rays of sunlight that escape me.
.
I hear the lawn mower roar to life outside my walls as spring begins to bloom and I search back into my archive of memories to try to capture once again the smell of the fresh cut grass… even the pungent smell of blades ripping over unruly crab grass would be welcome to me now. I try so hard to find the smell that escapes me after too many years of having it gone missing.
'
I’m starting to lose the moments that mattered. The ones everyone rushes about their day not even realizing they exist.
.
Those are the things I want you to take away from looking at my life. I want you to not miss your own.
I’m not saying any of that so you’ll feel sorry for me. I don’t need that for my birthday. And I don’t need things for my birthday.
.
What I want is for my NOT getting to experience something to affect you in a way that you see what you might be missing.
.
For my birthday, I want you to do something for you.
.
I want you to STOP. I want you to FEEL and SMELL and ACKNOWLEDGE the gifts that God puts out for you every single day when He makes the sun rise from it’s slumber and beat down on your skin. I want you to look up in the dark of night and see and feel the magnitude of the heavens and the stars and the full moon that I can’t see out my windows.
.
I want you to be fully awake to the blessings in your life and not miss a moment. Take them in and savor them in your senses as if you might lose them tomorrow.
.
Savor your life and blessings. And thank our God for the gift of it all.
.
That’s the best gift I could receive this year. To know that my life taught you something about your own.
.
Will you come back here and tell me something you savored today that you might have otherwise missed?
.
I would love to share in those moments with you.
By Sara Frankl, Gitzen Girl

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Ann Voskamp shares the impact Sara made in her life.

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Which leads me to my thoughts for today (something I have been thinking a lot about recently).....

How am I spending my gift of time that God has so richly blessed me with?

Ever since Addison was born, I feel like my precious moments are vanishing right before my eyes.  I am finally at a place in my life where I feel as though I have reached a destination.  Not the destination, but a destination that I had been praying about and dreaming of my entire life.  I wish my time would be stuck in traffic at rush-hour - slowly creeping along, coming to a complete stop here and there.  But regardless of what I do, minutes melt into hours, and days into weeks, and weeks into months, and so on.

Was I a good steward of the time God entrusted to me?

Often times I feel like the majority of my fleeting 24 hours are filled to the brim with work or chores that I must complete.  A gigantic, never-ending to-do list being checked off one task at a time.  However, there are many moments scattered throughout each day where I do have the luxury of choosing how I spend my time.  And here is what I have come to realize more and more....I am often times choosing how to fill my time and I can always choose my attitude no matter how my time is being occupied at the current moment.

I want my moments, each and every precious one I am given, to matter, to make a difference in the lives of others in light of Christ.  I want my attitude and outlook to be one of thanksgiving and joy when times are wonderful and when circumstances leave me feeling stressed, overwhelmed, fearful, and anxious.

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."  -1 Thessalonians 5:18

In my mind, I can best picture this concept of time with a glass jar and marbles.  God has already picked out the size of my jar.  He knows my every breath, every moment, and how many or how few I have left.  Throughout my life, I have chosen and will continue to chose how to occupy my time and in doing so, pick up a marble and place it in my jar.  At the end of my life, my jar will be full of marbles.  Marbles representing ways I spent my precious gift of time (and what a gift time is!). 

photo found here

Each person's jar is different, no two are alike.  I am responsible for my jar only. 

What do each of those marbles represent in my own life?  How have I filled my time?  I hope and pray that my life is a beautiful, colorful sight - marbles representing the hours upon hours I have spent investing in my sweet daughter, prayer marbles, respecting, loving, and honoring my husband marbles, making dinner for a friend marbles, teaching children in Sunday school marbles, being a listening ear to a friend marbles, spending time with my parents, sister, and brother marbles, reading the Bible marbles, thinking of others before myself marbles, giving financially to those in need marbles, encouraging others marbles...I am so thankful for the times I have spent doing these things, but I am spurred onward with renewed strength to pick up even more of these marbles.

Some marbles come crashing in without any warning or my permission- miscarriage, loss of a friendship, cancer, sickness, feelings of despair, worry, inadequacy, and fear, which can turn into time spent complaining, worrying, and being bitter.

How do I handle everything - choosing which marbles to put in, handling the marbles that I wish I could throw back out?

The answer lies in this new realization that I have had....what is in the jar, surrounding, encompassing each marble, my every moment, is of utmost importance....

"Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." -John 4:13-14

The answer - eternal, everlasting water, life, offered from Jesus Christ alone.  Water that fills my jar to the brim - an abundant life.

My jar is full of His water which frees me to have the attitude of thankfulness and joy regardless of my situation for I have hope and confidence in the Prince of Peace.  When those unwanted marbles are thrown in without warning, they have the potential to make a splash and for me to feel as though I've lost that joy and thankfulness.  When that happens, I must ask the Holy Spirit to re-fill me again with His water, life, as I trust His perfect plan.  And He is faithful.  He lavishes His joy when I ask.  I am once again full, full of His grace, mercy, and love.

"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."  -Jeremiah 29:13

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."  -Matthew 7:7-8


photo found here

Knowing all of that, I still wrestle with questions...

Which marbles do I pick up?  Which ones do I leave behind?  Which ones am I tempted to pick up but I need to leave outside the jar?

The answers are different for everyone, but for me it means leaving the things of this world behind and spending my moments immersed with those who have an eternal promise - my family, friends, neighbors, and strangers.  My attitude must change as I "savor [my] life and blessings,  And thank our God for the gift of it all." as Sara Frankl pleaded with her readers.  Despite her marbles that she did not choose for her life - an illness that prevented her from leaving the confines of her home, she chose the marbles of gratitude, joy, and happiness.  Her life, her jar, was overflowing with water, life to the fullest, freely given by Jesus Christ.

Yes, I still have to spend time cleaning the house, washing and then folding clean clothes, maintaining the budget, grocery shopping, cooking, tutoring, and ironing, but I am reminded of Colossians 3:23 which says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."  Sara Frankl's words are a clear picture of this for me.

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As I was writing this, My Hero called from work saying that a small child died this evening.  The pain and sadness in his voice was evident as he told me the events surrounding the death.  I was shaken up as well.  Why waste a moment??  What really matters in life???  We are not guaranteed another day, but oh how we lose sight of that amidst the busyness of the day.

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I get in bed at night, this new jar-filled-with-marbles image in my mind of my life.  As I get comfortable and think back over my day a thought hits me like a ton of bricks...what is my definition of a successful day?  What would a day look like where I could fully take a deep breath as the moon's soft glow slowly replaced the sun's brilliance feeling like it was a successful day?  I knew the answer.  For me a successful day is one in which 1) I spent the majority of my time with my husband (when he's not working) and my daughter, and 2) items were checked off my to-do list, one task after another leaving me feeling productive, accomplished, and the proud owner of a shorter to-do list (for the time being).  But I couldn't rest with that answer.

Soon after I read Psalm 39:6, "We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing."

Then I thought back to One Thousand Gifts and Ann's words...

 "Hurry always empties a soul."

"I don't really want more time; I just want enough time."
  "I just want time to do my one life well." 
"I only live a full life when I live fully in the moment."

"Giving thanks for one thousand things is ultimately an invitation to slow time down with weight of full attention."

"Wherever you are, be all there."

"When I am present, I meet I AM, the very presence of a present God.  In His embrace, time loses all sense of speed and stress and space and stands so still and...holy."


And finally I thought about the words I wrote... be still and wherever you are be all there



The answer became clear....the purpose of my life, my every moment, is to savor and glorify God. 

I am learning to apply this truth to every marble I choose to place in my jar as I ask myself, "Am I glorifying God at this very moment?  If not, what can I do to change my attitude or behavior?"  This is not easy and I pray that not a moment goes by without viewing everything through this lens.

Counting 1,000+ gifts has been moment-changing for me as I learn to see and thank God in all things - the good and the not-so-good.

The great news?  Today is a brand new day.  Almost all of the marbles are outside the jar.  Starting right now, I get to choose which ones to place in my jar as I spend each moment doing something.  Despite present circumstances, I choose joy, thankfulness, patience, peace, grace,and love.  I choose to slow down.  I choose to glorify God in my thoughts, words, and actions.  I choose life to the fullest, a gift from God.
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Each day I am headed in some direction, picking up marble after marble of time spent...


 .....where am I choosing to go? 

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Still counting gifts-

571. "Savoring my life and blessings" as I strive to glorify God in my thoughts, words, and actions each moment of every day

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Gift of the Present

Yesterday is history.
Tomorrow is a mystery.
Today is a gift.
That's why we call it "The Present."
-Anonymous



554. Learning how to ask and rely on the Holy Spirit to fill me so I can live each day with His help, not on my own strength.
555. A growing desire to continue to learn how to be still at the feet of Jesus in each and every present moment.

556. My first year in Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) and the incredible difference God is making in my life through this year's amazing study of Acts.