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


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.

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)

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/
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
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.

To express oneself creatively
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


Ann Voskamp shares the impact Sara made in her life.

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.


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.


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.

Each day I am headed in some direction, picking up marble after marble of time spent...

 .....where am I choosing to go? 


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."

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.