Friday, December 30, 2005
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Stephen said his most favorite present was the Stronghold Crusader game Santa left in his stocking. He also loves his new digital camera (ughh! The photos are awful-but what did I expect for $20?), and his new BIG Nerf gun (the thing actually has a bazooka on it that hurts when you get popped with it!).
AJ is of course excited about everything! He played with Play Doh, making animals, and shot his own Nerf Gun (No, I did not give him the one with the bazooka! What kind of crazy do you think I am?)Tonight he is excited about sleeping under his new Batman comforter. He is driving me crazy wanting to make McFlurry's with his McD's shake maker!
We haven't seen Josh all day. He has played his Playstation game, and Stephen's Stronghold game. I think he's really taking advantage of the liberal game times I'm allowing right now. He did work on a monstous Lego T-Rex that he got, and I think he's watched a movie or two today. I keep finding Reese's cups wrappers everywhere, and I think he's the culprit!
I didn't have many toys to play with. I got an under-the-counter CD player that I installed yesterday (after many tears and frustrated words-using the drill is a new skill for me). So today I pulled out my scrapbooking stuff and worked on catching up my Christmas album with my photos from last year. Please be praying for me. I am experiencing all kinds of quirky little health problems. I think most of them are anxiety and stress, and possibly my imagination, but it makes me very anxious because I have no health insurance and am not sure what I would do if I had a serious problem. I need to learn to surrender my health to the Lord and trust Him to take care of me. Of course, I need to improve my diet and exercise too! (But we're not talking about New Year's Resolutions yet, are we?)
Anyway that was our day. We will continue to play tonight until we pass out. I have already begged permission to sleep in my own bed tonight. The boys were gracious in granting that to me. (Good thing, 'cause I'd have done it anyway.) Tomorrow I get to start cleaning up the after-Christmas-mess. I can hardly wait!
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Well, another year and it's over. Here are the highlights of our Christmas celebration. Last night for Christmas Eve we started with church. All three boys were in the Christmas Eve service. AJ sang in the Pre-K/Kindergarten choir and was his usual animated self. Stephen sang a couple of songs with the children's choir, and Josh narrated part of the Christmas story. Then we came home, ate a quick snack and took photos in front of the tree. The boys were so keyed up I thought we'd never get pictures done, but they did finally get to open their Christmas Eve present-new pajamas, a tradition from my side. We finished up the evening with breakfast for dinner, one of our favorite traditions, and catching up our reading in our Christmas advent book called Jotham's Journey. Oh, and Mom IS weak! I did let them open their presents to each other.
This morning as I think I've already mentioned, I had to wake them when I could no longer sleep. We got up, had our Christmas morning reading, prayed then headed downstairs. The boys checked out their stockings, which of course had our customary BIG apple. Although Josh and Stephen had planned to wait and open presents after Christmas service at church, none of us could stand it, so by 7:00am everything was opened. Then we had breakfast, played, and finally got ready for church. We went to church, then came home to play some more. I had warmed a ham in the oven while we were at church, so I spread out a "feast" of ham, rolls, fruit salad, veggies, and other stuff. The boys loved being able to graze.
Later in the day we went to my aunt and uncle's house for dinner, stayed a while, then went over to a friend's to watch a movie. The boys have had a great day. It has been a bit unusual for us without Gaga and without much family to visit, but we did enjoy all the play time, and I actuall got a couple of naps. I am quite irritated with myself for not taking many digital photos, and for not thinking to buy video tapes (I got waking them up and them coming downstairs, and a few minutes of stockings before I ran out.) Tomorrow is play day so I will try to make up for it by taking more photos.
Tonight our Christmas message focused on the cross of Christ. Odd for a Christmas message, but it was so amazing to be brought to the remembrance of why THE Baby was born in the first place. One of the things our pastor shared was the impression of Jerusalem that visitors received when they arrived in ancient times. As they arrived, the glory of the temple dazzled them. It was created to reflect the light of the sun, glistning and gleaming with a bright light. The sight would have awed visitors. But as they entered the city, the tremendous numbers of livestock being slaughtered daily for sacrifices would have filled the air with the stench of blood, an awful, revolting odor. Two senses in one city, with very different messages. Glory and disgust. Righteousness and sin.
As I considered this message, I thought much about my own life. Some would like to have us believe that once you are a Christian, life is redeemed to the level that all the problems of sin are now surmountable-that in this life we can have pain-free, financially secure, always victorious lives. "But do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?" Like the original temple it is necessary that our bodies reveal to the world around us the dual message of the Gospel. They need to smell the stench of sin affecting our lives, the stench that Jesus faced as He went to the cross. At the same time, they need to see the glory of our God reflected off our lives. Both senses must be experienced by those around us to witness to them of the power of our God. So it is with my life. Battered and broken by sin-my own , that of others, and even by more general things like sin's consequences of death and decay-my life reveals how disgusting sin is to a holy God. Yet I hope that my life reflects not just a little of His glory, but reflects it brightly, blindingly. I hope others are drawn to His majesty in spite of the stench of sin and its effects.
Friday, December 23, 2005
This year some of our favorite things to do have included:
As early before Christmas as I can manage to remember we make a chain of green and red construction paper. Every day, we rip off one link and count the days until Christmas. This was a Newman tradition. The boys really love to watch the chain grow shorter and shorter, and I love not having to answer 25 times "How many more days?"
And the messier the better. This year everybody started out helping, but Stephen was the only one to stick with it. He helped me make the best peanut butter balls!
Drive and Spy They really love to go out and look at lights. We are planning on doing this tomorrow.
A Bethlehem Visit One of the churches about an hour away does a phenomenal recreation of Bethlehem at the time Jesus was born. Stephen really loves this, although we had to skip it this year. We were just getting over colds and had the first cold snap of the year, and I wanted everyone well for Christmas!
Angel Tree The kids amazed me this year when they initiated finding a kid to buy a present for this year. I'm glad they are learning that this is important.
Play Day If we are able with the visitation schedule for the kids, we reserve the day after Christmas Day as Play Day. Nothing gets put away before Play Day. We begin the day playing with our new stuff, and we do it all day, watching movies, playing games, whatever! We throw mattresses and sleeping bags on the floor and play until we fall asleep. The boys really love this day!
A new tradition I am trying to establish is to find someone to invite for Christmas Eve or Day, someone with no family or who doesn't have thier kids for the day. I have learned it is so hard to be alone, and you would be surprised the people who really do feel they are all alone as the Christmas decorations come out. Last year I invited a single parent whose kids were with the other parent. This year I invited a widow. In both cases they ended up at the last minute making other plans, but I still want to keep my heart tender to this need. There are few times more distressing for an orphan or a widow than at the holidays. (See James 1:27-this verse just resonates in my head now).
What are some of your traditons? Please post them so we have more ideas to chose from!
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Now you can see for yourself how well AJ is writing. He did his name from memory. He also learned to write FOX (from watching "You've Got Mail" with me-who says you can't learn from TV?) I showed him how to change the "F" to a "B" to make BOX, so he loves to write that word too. Tonight someone helped him to write BAT. Isn't it amazing how quickly they can pick things up?
Sunday, December 18, 2005
During the worship and entertainment, I heard the song "Breath of Heaven" sung. I had a new sense of Mary's experience wash over me. I realized that although we know what Mary's initial reaction was to the news that she was to give birth to the Messiah, we are given little else between the announcement by the angel Gabriel, and her delivery. And suddenly tonight I felt a little of a sense of wonder about whether she must have felt alone for a while. Her kind and gentle Joseph, walking away in disappointment. The concern over the shame her parents and family would face having an unwed pregnant daughter. Do you think there were moments there of doubt, lonliness, anxiousness. Perhaps that was part of the reason God chose a girl barely herself a child. Did her youth and innocence shield her somewhat from worry?
I noticed also how quickly God stepped in. He sent her to Elizabeth. Someone who would believe the whole preposterous thing. Someone who would love her, encourage her, be her friend. Someone who would point her to God
God has done this for me too. In moments when I feel alone, cut off . . . I can't help but feel a twinge of guilt for even indulging such thoughts of self-pity because of the women God has put in my life who love me, encourage me, point me to God. There may not be stacks of presents under the tree for me this year. No expensive surprises, but God in His wisdom has already given me a most precious gift-first His own presence, then that of other believers who love me. Tie that up with a bow!
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Confession: In researching other confessions, I was so relieved to see that I'm not the only "messie" mom on the planet. I sometimes feel like I am. It seems like every other house I go into is immaculate, while mine is carpeted in dog hair, covered in clutter, and furnished with laundry and half-read books. No matter how hard I try to keep it picked up and cleaned, it just doesn't like to stay that way. I'm really intimidated by single-dads who keep house better than me!
Confession: I love time-wasting activities. I love computer games like Minesweeper and Solitaire. I love historical novels. I love movies. It is easy for me to find ways to burn minutes, and hard for me to use them more wisely.
Confession: I actually almost think I have men figured out . . . and I like the way they think . . . sometimes. I do have to admit I love the Redwall books I read with the boys, I have a hard time now understanding why little girls whine and cry instead of just decking whoever upsets them, and I'm no longer the least bit surprised to find frogs or spiders or centipedes hiding in the 'fridge-even when they move! (The boys love the joke of hiding plastic ones everywhere to try to scare me, but it wouldn't surprise me anymore even if they were real.)
Confession: I am a complete night owl. I hate getting out of bed before 8 a.m., and, well . . . here it is 2 a.m. and I'm still up. (Or actually tonight, up again-I was in bed by 1:00, but my son woke me up.) While I cannot get the house cleaned all day, I can do it in an hour after 11 p.m. I have a hard time sleeping if I don't read before bed, even if it is midnight. Worse yet? I passed on the night owl gene to my oldest son!
Confession: I often feel like I am falling just short of my potential. I could manage my time better if I'd just stick to a schedule. I could train my children better if I was more consistent and followed up on what I tell them. I could be a successful writer, speaker, business woman . . . if I just had a few more hours in the day. Or is it that I've been on the computer playing Minesweeper for the last hour instead of breaking up the fight downstairs or writing? Hmmmm . . . .
Final Confession: Even though I have a counter on my blog site, and I love to check and see how many people have looked at it today and all that, I have no idea who is reading this! I would love to tag someone else, but the only ones I KNOW read this regularly have already been tagged! So if your reading this and you haven't been tagged by someone else----------> TAG! YOU'RE IT!
(Leave your name on the comment box and let me know your accepting the challenge!)
Monday, December 12, 2005
- So they have someone to try to beat in . . . (fill in the blank: chess, baseball, racing for the front seat of the car, whatever!)
- So they have someone to sword fight with.
- So they have someone to beat up.
- So they have someone to express those two burning sentences to.
- So they have someone by whom to be beat.
- So they have someone to wrestle with . . . and then beat up.
- So they have someone to be with who doesn't want to always talk.
- So they have someone by whom to be beat up.
- So they have someone with just the tool that they need.
- So they have someone to play "I'm the best . . ." with.
- So we have someone to complain to without being thought of as whiney.
- So we have a shopping buddy (especially at Walmart after midnight).
- So we have someone to share books with--twice the books at half the cost.
- So we have someone willing to sit with us at Starbuck's.
- So we have a shoulder to cry on who won't look at us like we're crazy!
- So we have someone who will be impressed with our latest kid story.
- So we have occasional free babysitting.
- So we have someone who knows when we just want a hug.
- So we have someone who will tell us when we're about to make a really big mistake.
- So we have someone to talk to on the phone.
- So we have someone to diet with, or to complain to that we need to diet.
- So we have someone who will tell us what the new outfit really looks like on us.
- So we have someone who will remind us that God really cares and He is really in control.
- So we have a scrapbooking buddy (or craft buddy, or whatever-other-hobby buddy).
- So we have someone who listens without trying to fix it.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
I dropped the boys with specific instructions--go inside, leave the Angel Tree present where it belongs, then find a family to sit with! I also added to Josh that he was to find one of my dear friends and ask if she could bring them home, then come out and let me know so I would know whether or not to pick them up. I sat. I waited. I waited some more. No Josh. What was I to do? Go into the church in my red striped pajama pants and scary bare face? No way! So I sat. Finally I saw a friend coming out and I asked if she could find Josh and send him out to me. A few minutes later, Josh remembered I was waiting (uuuggghhh! I see signs of him becoming a man all the time!) and he came out to let me know it was all arranged. Stephen was sitting with his best friend's family, and Josh with a friend of his.
In truth, I was never really worried. I know they are safe at church, and that someone would spot them and check into anything that is going on. It is a comfort and a blessing to have covenant family!
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Lord, I am so grateful for time with my kids, but please Lord, let this part be over soon!
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Want to know what an elementary aged boy loves about a book fair? The hot chocolate at the snack bar and the squishy rubber lizzards on the gift table. Go figure!
From the start of the movie we were hooked. It was very true to the book, which I have read a couple of times and Josh has consumed in one form or another more than a dozen times. I LOVED the casting . . . and the sets . . . I kept thinking this is better even than what I imagined! Tilda Swinton who portrayed Jadis, the White Witch was truly amazing. I cannot think of another actress who would have done a better job (in my vast knowledge of British actresses!). I was also intrigued by the way the children brought to life the extreme natures of the children in the book. The strengths and weaknesses of each character were really exagerated-a good move for a screen translation. And the CGI generated characters were amazing. I will never be satisfied watching the BBC versions again (although eternally grateful to them for attempting to bring such wonderful stories to life for us).
I have read and heard film people defending the need to make adaptations to the story when a book is translated to screen, and so there were some changes made to Narnia, but I did not find them to be distracting, and some were even enjoyable. The film did a wonderful job of exploring the emotional trauma of war on the children and the more normal tensions among family members that resulted in Edmund's treachery and each of the children's reticence in fighting the battle in Narnia. Although I had heard the battle scenes in Narnia compared to those in Lord of the Rings, I did not find them nearly as graphic or disturbing. My five-year-old watched all but the scene where Aslan is killed on the stone table, and even that contained much more implied than shown.
Best of all, the spiritual quality of the story was left intact, which delighted us. My pastor expressed his concern by telling me that he thought that Lewis in the hands of Disney was like letting the Philistines translate scripture. I had been relieved before the movie to find out that Disney's involvement in Narnia was more one of publicity and distribution, and that Walden Media, a very family friendly production company was responsible for the making of the film. In addition, Douglas Gresham, C.S. Lewis' stepson was one of the producers. They all did a fine job of transfering the heart of Narnia to the screen with integrity. One of my gauges of how well a story has been brought to the screen is whether I can find new things in the story that I didn't see when reading it (things that were really there, not things added by a producer or screenwriter with an agenda). Narnia did that. I suddenly got the idea that Aslan was able to breathe life into those of stone, just as Jesus breathes life into our stone hearts before we are saved. Duhhhh. . . don't ask me why I never got that one before.
So now we are home. The boys are asleep, hopefully dreaming that they are King Peter with his sword pointed into the coming onslaught. I'm sure tomorrow will be filled with chatter of "I loved that . . ." or "The best thing was . . . ." But I'm kind of sad now. Waiting for this movie to come out has built for us from the moment over a year ago that we heard it was coming. It has been our focus for days. What will we do now? Maybe it's a good thing Christmas is so close!
For more information or previews, go to this link: NarniaWeb.com
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Well after almost a week of "Mom, when are we going to decorate the treeeee?" today we did it. Everything about this year is new and different for me, yet we continue to blaze the trail and find new ways to do things, new ways to celebrate, and new ideas to make it through a very different place than we were in last year. This is the first Christmas we have been through without Daddy-"Gaga" to the boys. I would have expected it to be quite hard, and although we have each had some sad moments, it has been much easier so far than I expected. Of course, having a series of bugs has helped to keep us distracted, but keeping my spirits up under those conditions is quite a miracle in itself!
I really wanted tree trimming to be this cozy, comforting traditional event, but with Josh being sick, and me not being able to tame the house yet, tonight we just did it. Yes, I missed the "traditional" after-trimming cocoa, cookies, and a holiday movie, but we are trying to get well, and by the time we were done it was bedtime. So, we break up the "tradition" and do some of that other stuff tomorrow night. Who will ever know? (Except the hundreds of people who read it here?)
The one really fun thing I was able to do this year that was different was to totally release the decorating into the hands of the boys. Yep! I didn't open a single box of ornaments, and except for a few that I hung on the really high branches, the boys did all of the hanging. It was really fun watching them get excited over this ornament or that one. I even let Josh take some photos so we would actually have Mom in a few. I kind of wished afterward that I had put on a little makeup and such, but then again, there weren't too many face shots. (Typical boy, he had more fun trying to take shots of my back end!) So even though Josh was still not feeling well, and even though it is almost two weeks since Thanksgiving, we have gotten the tree done, and we had a fun time doing it. Now, for the rest of the house . . . .
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
The interesting thing to me is to see the same concept in the Christmas story. John the Baptist never belonged to anyone but the Lord. The Lord named him from the beginning. Jesus was also named directly by God. I have marvelled at the faith it took by the parents to follow through with the name given to them for their boys. John's name means "God is gracious," and Jesus of course means "salvation." Do you think maybe there is a connection between the names?
It is also my own personal belief that each of us was named by a sovereign God. Within each of our names is a glimpse of the purpose that God has already planned for us. We might not fully realize how God is working out that meaning in our life for a long time, but it is still there. This is just a personal belief of mine, but wouldn't it add an amazing dimension to God's character if He were that specific in our lives? Just something to think about.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
The life of faith sometimes seems a little backwards-a paradox of sorts. I know what it is to be alone. This year, I am living as an orphan. I am celebrating Christmas as an orphan, and I have barely gotten used to celebrating as a single-parent. I have never known what it is like to live without anyone-parents, husband, or other family-close enough to help get Christmas boxes out of the attic. I have only recently discovered the dilemma of being unable to just run to the store to pick up items for a sick kid. There are days that I realize I have forgotten what it is like to have someone with whom to share the load around the house. And I now know what it is to have something funny, or troublesome to share, but feel at a loss to know who to share it with. Oh it's not like I am totally isolated. There are many who are more alone than I, but I have had enough of a taste of what it is to be cut off from others that I could well imagine the desperation of that.
Oddly enough, this taste of alone gives me a new and unique understanding of belonging and a new gratitude of what Christmas means. Immanuel means God with us. Imagine! God came to be with us! In reality, what I see in day-to-day challenges as aloneness is something with which we all wrestle. Many people walk around with an illusion of connections-family, friends, spouses-yet feeling totally alone like captives in their own invisible prison. They feel unconnected, unloved, hopeless, even desperate. They try to ease this isolation by staying busy, accumulating things, amassing power or recognition. From the beginning, in His place of perfect community with the godhead, God saw that isolation and it disturbed Him. So He sent Immanuel and an eternal connection to Himself. Now we have the promise from Jesus that he "will never leave us or forsake us." Death cannot separate us from Him, nor can abandonment. Even our own sin only creates the sensation in those of us who believe in Him that we are separated. But He never leaves, He is just behind us, waiting for us to turn around.
One of my favorite additional benefits of having a Savior from the lonliness brought into this world by sin is that He not only comes to relieve our aloneness, but "he sets the lonely in families." As we are connected to Him, He becomes our connection to each other. Although I sometimes create in my mind walls that make me feel more alone, I know there are people around me that I can call to come help me pull Christmas boxes down. There are dear ones I can call at 1 a.m. to come stay with my kids so I can make a Walmart run to get emergency supplies for a sick kid. I might at times feel I am running into walls as the lives of these dear ones seem to spin to quickly for me to connect, but I know it takes little more than a desperate cry out to them, and they will stop to listen to me. And that is because of HIM! I don't have that kind of security with my neighbor, or even with some family members. But oh, how I trust in the physical extension of Christ's body, the church.
This is the paradox. I am alone, but not alone. I know lonliness, but know a connection like no other on which I can count. This year I will not have a new computer under the Christmas tree, no jewlery, or new outfits, or anything from a list I prepared. But I am grateful for more enduring gifts that will never end up in a garage sale. In a new place this year, I will have the gift of Immanuel. Once more, HE is the gift. And I have the gift of knowing more intimately what it means that Immanuel showed us that God is with us-FOREVER.
Friday, December 02, 2005
AJ is my snuggle-boy. He's the real affectionate one, and I love his hugs and kisses. We share the love language of touch. I wasn't surprised this afternoon when he ran up insisting on a kiss. I just kissed him like always. What cracked me up was when he came back and said," Hey mama, know what happened after you just kissed me?"
I thought a minute. "No, what?"
"My foot just popped!" he said as he kicked his little foot up behind him.
Don't worry. The Princess Diaries is already in the trash.