Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday photo bloghop

Cookies for Santa 2008

MckLinky Blog Hop

Monday, December 14, 2009

My new toy

I just downloaded a free trial of photoshop yesterday to go with the new camera. I must say that I am IN LOVE with photoshop. That's definitely not to say that I am any good at using it yet but I am having a blast playing around with all the cool things I can do with my pictures now. Here are some of my favorite creations so far.

If anyone is really good at photoshop and would like to give me some tips, I would love to hear them! I love to take pictures and would love it even more if I could take really good pictures, so let me know what you think!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The stockings are hung by the chimey with care...

I have FINALLY started decorating and baking for Christmas. Last night I made these super yummy cookies.

Don't be too proud of me though. I found the peanut butter cookie dough pre-made in the refrigerated section the other day. I did have to actually roll it into a ball and put the kisses in myself, so I consider it homemade anyway. I guess I did a pretty good job because when Daniel tasted the first one last night he said "this is the greatest thing ever!"

Today, we decorated the mantle and I played around trying to get used to the new camera. I think I've still got a ways to go, but a few of the shots turned out okay. (I also downloaded a free trial of Photoshop. I'm still playing around with it, but it is soooooooo cool! May be asking for the full version for my birthday!)

We also put up the tree. We will add the decorations tomorrow. For today, we just put the tinsel on and lit it up. I can't wait to see how pretty it will be once the kids get the decorations on.

We got a new ornament for my dad and I can't wait to get it on the tree.

I'm planning on making white pretzels with the kids tomorrow too. We will do one batch with crushed candy canes in the almond bark and one without. Yum! That's another of my favorite Christmas treats!

We'll also be reading this book tomorrow

Hope you all are having a great time preparing for Christmas! I know we are!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Five Question first one

My Little Life

I came across this on a new blog I've started following and thought it would be fun to join in. You can too! Check out Mama M.'s blog and see what everyone else has to say, then write a post of your own!

1. Does Santa wrap the presents he leaves at your house?
It really depends on how big the gift is. If it is something small, then he will wrap it. If it's big or has to be put together, then he just leaves it under the tree.

2. When is your "big" Christmas celebration...Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? Tell us about it...
Which one? We have several BIG Christmas celebrations. The six of us do our gifts early Christmas morning and for the last several years, I have made Christmas dinner and my parents have come up for that with their gifts (looks like we're going to change that up a bit this year since Christmas falls on a Friday). We also have a BIG celebration with my husbands family sometime before or after Christmas day and another with my mom's family. We usually end up with about 3-4 big celebrations.
Are you big on keeping tradition every year?
There are a few things that we do every year. The kids get new pjs, we go to Christmas Eve service at church, we always bake Santa's cookies from scratch (even though I use the premade stuff for everything else), we make reindeer food, and on Christmas Eve we always read "The Night Before Christmas". Sometime during the week or two before Christmas, we also read The Crippled Lamb (makes me cry everytime) and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (my all time favorite book-also makes me cry everytime).
Do colored lights or white lights tickle your fancy?
I like both.
Do you decorate outside your house for Christmas?

We haven't the last few years, but I have vowed to change that for next year. I remember all the years my dad used to put lights on our house and how much I loved it. I want our kids to have those memories too.

MckLinky Blog Hop

our first gymnastics meet

Cheyenne and Sierra had their first ever gymnastics meet last Sunday. It was an in-house meet so only the girls from our gym were there. Thank goodness! I don't think we could have crammed one more person into that gym. They each performed in four areas: beam, bars, floor, and vault (although they didn't actually use a vault, they just basically jumped on the springboard and landed on a mat.) Depending on the score, they could receive a blue, red, white, or yellow ribbon for each event.
They both did really well. Cheyenne received three red ribbons and one white. Sierra got two reds and two white. I was pretty impressed! The next meet is sometime in February. They are looking to get a blue or two then.

Before the meet, all the gymnasts lined up for all the audience to see. Sierra is the third from the right.
Cheyenne is the third from the left in this one (sorry about the quality, that's what prompted us to buy a new camera):
Here's a picture of the big group-I can pick out Cheyenne, but not sure which is Sierra
Here is Sierra on the beam:
And the dismount:
Here's Cheyenne on the beam:
Here is Cheyenne's floor routine. I thought she did pretty well. She's working on handstands still. I think she'll have it down by the next meet.

This is Sierra's floor routine. If you listen closely, you can hear a voice on the tape cuing the moves. She was expecting just the music, so the cuing threw her off a little. She's also not really a performer, so she was a little nervous. I can't wait to see how she does in February.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chapter 2...

I'm still reading the book "He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not" by Wayne Jacobsen. I'd love to have you join me if you'd like.

Chapter 2 is all about the relationship that God wants to have with us. God created us to have an intimate relationship with him. In the beginning, He would walk in the garden with Adam. Adam and Eve were not afraid of God. The relationship was loving and genuine, the way a Father and Child relationship should be.

However, when sin entered the picture, everything changed. Adam and Eve sinned against God, therefore, they could no longer enjoy the closeness of a Holy God. They realized what they had done and tried to hide from God. If you are keeping secrets from someone, how close can your relationship truly ever be?

As our Father, how hurtful this must have been (and must be when we do the same) for God? He desires to be close to us. He wants us to come to Him for everything we need. He longs for us to be honest with him and allow him to comfort us. Yet, so often, we keep our distance. We want God's presence in our church service on Sunday morning and when we say our bedtime prayers at night.

We want him to swoop in and save us when things go wrong. But, because we know that there are parts of our lives where we don't measure up, we don't pursue that relationship with God during our everyday lives.

Think about the relationship that Jesus (who was God in flesh, even though they didn't realize it at the time) had with his disciples. The disciples shared every part of their lives with Jesus, and often fell short. But, Jesus wasn't there waiting to pounce on their shortcomings. He was there waiting to help them overcome their downfalls. He loved them in spite of the things they did (or didn't do). God wants that same kind of relationship with us, not just sitting in a pew or at kneeling by the bed. He wants to be with us every moment of every day.

Here is a quote from the book that I really like : "When Scripture talks about the relationship God wants with us, it borrows from the most tender images of our world. Scripture describes us as young children, beloved by a gracious Father,

the bride of an expectant bridesgroom,

friends dear enough to die for,

and little chicks rushing under the protective wings of a hen."

So, my goal is to make it a point to welcome God to walk with me in all areas of my life. I want to feel his presence with me not only in a church service on a Sunday morning but in my van as I drive my children to school and as I walk through the aisles buying groceries. And even when my 11 year old drops nacho cheese on the newly mopped dining room floor and succeeds only in smearing it all over while trying to wipe it up with a paper towel...yes, I definitely needed him then. :)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Started a new book this week...

I LOVE to read. Really, I do. And, I read a lot, like 3-4 books A DAY. The only problem is, I usually have about 20 pairs of eyes staring at me as I read. Which kind of limits what I get to read to things that have few words and lots of pictures. And that's okay with me, most of the time. I adore children's books. My very favorite book of all time, for children or adults, is How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss.

Sometimes, though, I like to read something for me. I don't really have a specific type of book I like or any particular author. I don't really care for romance novels, but other than that, I'm pretty open. It just depends on my mood at the time. Usually something just jumps out at me from the shelf and I take it home. That's kind of how I found the book I'm reading now, He Loves Me: Learning To Live In The Father's Affection by Wayne Jacobsen.

Actually, I read another of his books a few months ago and really enjoyed it. I plan on doing some posts about it sometime later because it had a pretty big affect on me. But, I wasn't really paying attention to author's when I picked up this book. The title caught my eye first, so I picked it up and started reading the back. Then, I read the first page and I was hooked. So far, I'm only on chapter 3, just because I don't have a lot of time for reading, but I'm finding it very interesting so far. In this post, I'm going to share some of my thoughts after reading the first chapter. I hope you can get something out of it as well. And, if you want, pick up your own copy and let me know what you think too.

The book opens with the game children play with flower petals "He loves me, he loves me not."

I remember doing this as a little girl. If, as I was picking the petals off one by one, I noticed that it was going to end on "he loves me not" I would "forget" what I was on and change it to come out the way I wanted. The book talks about how sometimes as adults we still play that game with God and his love for us. When things are going well in our lives, we assume that we are in God's will and He is blessing us. When our circumstances change, we believe that it must be due to something we have done (or not done) to make Him angry, and so he is punishing us.

I have played that game with God often in my life. When things have been going well, I've felt very confident in God's love for me. But as soon as something went wrong, I was very quick to doubt God's love. I would think of all the things in my life that could have caused God to become angry with me or not care about me. I lived constantly in the uncertainty of whether or not what I was doing was going to be good enough to make God love me and what the punishment might be if it were not. I always felt like God had me on a yo-yo:
*We moved back to Stillwater, "bought" our first house, and I got a job as a teacher in Stillwater-He loves me...
*Job turns out not to be what I thought it would be. Landlord fails to give the money we are paying for the house to the bank and the bank takes the house-He loves me not.
*Are able to spend a couple of months in the house without paying rent to recover the deposit we made. Have plenty of money to cover moving expenses, etc. Transfer to a different school that I like much better.-He loves me.
*Van breaks down. Spend $400 just to find out that it can't be fixed. Have to break our commitment to being debt free and borrow money for a new van.-He loves me not.

You see, through all of these things, I was looking for God to solve my problems and take care of me in the way that I thought best. When HE chose not to, the only reason I could come up with was that He must not care for me or want what was best for me. I was defining God through my circumstances and not seeing the bigger picture. I do fully believe that God is completely in control. And sometimes, he does bring things into our lives or allow things to happen so that we can learn from our experiences. He wants to draw us closer to him and allow him to act in our best interests, even when we don't understand at the time. He CAN see the big picture. He knows what's coming and what will be best for us.

Looking back, I can see now, how all the steps in the journey to where I am today have been necessary. There were lessons I needed to learn that couldn't have come about any other way-mostly because I'm stubborn and have to learn things the hard way.

When we moved into the new house, we were sure that it was God's will for us because "He opened all the doors for us to be able to do it." Well, not exactly. We begged and borrowed and made some poor choices to get into that house. We fiddled with the numbers on paper to convince ourselves that we would be able to afford it. So, when it didn't work out, it wasn't God punishing us or not caring. God was working in our best interest to save us from the mistake we had made. He used our circumstances to teach us a lesson and bring us closer to Him.

Over the last few months, my heart has opened to see how God has been with me through all of these circumstances-good and bad. He has led me to the place where I no longer question His love when things go wrong, but instead lean on His love to get me through. I can see how God has been preparing my heart for what has been the hardest few weeks of my life. Through all the pain that has come into my life since losing my dad nearly three weeks ago, I have never once questioned God's love for me or wondered what I might have done to bring this about. I haven't felt abandoned by God as I would have before. In fact, I have never felt closer to Him. But, it's not because God is different or because He loves me more than before. It is I who have changed. I have run to God and asked him to carry me through this time and I have allowed Him to do it.
Each and every time in the last three weeks when I have asked Him to wrap me in his love and carry me through, He has. He held me up as I walked with my mom, grandpa, and uncle in the cemetary choosing a resting place for my dad. He stood beside me in a room filled with caskets and gave me peace in choosing the right one. He carried me when my feet couldn't walk up to see my dad in the funeral home for the first time and helped my heart to understand that what I was seeing there was not my dad, only a body. My dad was already at home with Him. He walked with me through the visitation the night before the service and gave me comfort in seeing how many lives my dad touched. He gave me a smile to share with those who came and precious memories to talk about. And, He wrapped his love around me during the funeral. He is the only reason that I have made it through this far and that I will continue to make it through.

So, no longer do I need to play the "He loves me. He loves me not" game with God's love. I've reached the last petal and found the true answer. HE LOVES ME!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sweet, sweet conversation heard in my van this morning...(get your tissues now)

I can't believe that it's been a little over two weeks since my dad passed away. In some ways, it still doesn't feel like it really happened. Other times, though, I still feel the pain just as strongly as I did the moment Daniel told me what had happened. And then there are the times when I think of everything that has happened since and can't believe that it's only been two weeks. Sometimes I can take things one day at a time and sometimes I have to take it a moment at a time. It's really weird the things that get to me and the things that don't.
I have been really cautious about listening to the radio the last couple of weeks, but at the same time really drawn to it. I was so afraid of what I would feel the first time I heard a song that we had used in the service. It finally happened tonight on my way home from work. Just as I knew it would, the whole scene came back, right down to the smell of the flowers. But, surprisingly, it was not bad at all for me to hear. I just sang along in the car and remembered and tried to burn those images into my mind to keep forever.
This morning, though, was different. I went in to visit the doctor this morning and was filling out the new patient paperwork while I waited. When I got to the question where it asks for marital status, I saw the word "widowed". I thought about my mom who will now have to check that box and nearly lost it right there in the waiting room. Out of the blue.

My kids have each had their own way of dealing with their loss. Dakota, the oldest, initially took it the hardest. Since the day of the funeral, she hasn't really said a lot but I can tell she's still thinking about it sometimes. She gets real quiet when someone brings up his name or when she sees a picture of him. She has a stuffed alligator that he gave her when she was born that she has become really attached to.
Cheyenne has been sad off and on. She handled the viewing and the funeral pretty well and was really curious about things. She likes to talk about him and things that she remembers.
Sierra hasn't said much of anything at all. But, it's not in her nature to be sad. She has still been her smiley self through it all, which has been a blessing because I don't think any of us could have taken it to see her without that smile on her face.
Landon has been the most verbal of the four. At least once a day, he asks me "why did Pawpaw die?" I tell him that Pawpaw was just too sick or that his heart was sick and he says "but I want him". He crawls up in my lap for a minute or two and cries and hugs me and then he's ready to go. I've been kind of surprised by how much he really seems to understand what has happened.

Today when he brought it up, we were in the van driving the girls to school. He was in the back and I was driving, so I couldn't do much to help him. To my surprise, Cheyenne stepped in and they had the most beautiful conversation I've ever witnessed between two children:

Landon-Why did Pawpaw died?
Me-Well, honey, he was just very sick.
Landon-But, why? I want him!
Me-I know, so do I.
Landon-But I want to see him right now.
Cheyenne-Well, Buddy, I'm sorry but you can't see him right now. Pawpaw had a heart attack and he died so now he's gone to Heaven and you can't see him until you die and go to Heaven too.
Landon-But why?
Cheyenne-Because the Lord went there to prepare a place for us. And now Pawpaw's in a much beautifuler place than this and he's with Jesus. And if we are Christians and follow Jesus we will get to go there to the place he's preparing for us and be with him and see Pawpaw too.
Landon-But it's going to take a long time for me to go there.
Cheyenne-yep, buddy, I truly do hope it takes a long time before you go there. Did you know that Jesus is going to have a mansion for you when you get there? But you can only get there if you decide to be a Christian and follow Jesus. So, what do you think you'll want to do?
Landon-be a "tristian"
Cheyenne-okay, so when you get older you'll understand and you can pray to Jesus and be a Christian. And, you'll get to see the streets of gold there. I bet Pawpaw has seen them already. You know what I'm gonna do tomorrow? I'm gonna bring my Bible in the van so I can read it to you and Sierra on the way to school and you can learn about God and Jesus.

I know I'm leaving out some things they said, but you get the idea. It was such a blessing to hear. I was in awe of the maturity and knowledge that Cheyenne had when she was talking about heaven. If you look at things from her perspective, we have no reason to be sad. Heaven's going to be such a wonderful place! I am so thankful for the comfort that God has given Cheyenne in the knowledge of what He has waiting for us.

Lord, help me to learn from her example and to find comfort in knowing that I will see him again in that beautiful place that you have prepared for us!