Monday, December 20, 2010

No Oven?

Our oven has been out for several weeks. No Christmas baking at home this year. Once our oven quit working, I began preparing everything on the stove-top. Soups became my specialty!

A repairman came out and informed us that it was not the igniter. The most probable cause a circuit board issue which he didn't think was repairable. After a few baking excursions to a friend's house in order to use an oven, I realized I would really like to have one in my home that works. :-)

However, this recent life without an oven reminded me of my time in Ghana. In the pictures below I am making some food for Overcomer. I'm cooking over a fire on the back porch of the home where he lives. The dish called 'fufu' reminds me of wet play-dough, but Overcomer loves it! I'm sure I'll be making more here when he comes home.

Cooking in my oven is a daily task that I've overlooked as a simple blessing from God. A stove is a blessing as well. I'm not having to start a fire in order to cook my food. Thank you, God!

Reid started the task of price-comparison for a new gas oven/stove. When we realized most were priced over $1000+, we were in sticker-shock. With our looming travel costs ahead, we were concerned about this additional unexpected expenditure. Parting with the cash would hurt, but somehow we prayed God would replace it. Reid found one for $800, so we took a deep breath and placed the order.

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

Why do I not believe this verse?

And my God WILL meet ALL your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus!

Reid and I were astounded by the outpouring of love through some friends. Can I tell you that we received enough money for our new stove within 24 hours of placing the order? Incredible! We were blown away by the Lord's goodness to us! God provided miraculously through the generosity of friends living out scripture found in Acts 4. What a testimony to God's faithfulness. We praise Him!

And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.

And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.

For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales

and lay them at the apostles' feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.

Acts 4:32-34

Oh, I pray we live like that daily! Giving abundantly without hesitation. What a gift! Thank you, gracious Lord! Thank you, generous friends! We are truly blessed.
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Christmas Decor!

One of my favorite things about Christmas is the new decorations we add each year. Usually very simple ornaments are placed on the tree as reminders of events throughout the previous 12 months. Here are my Top Four new additions for 2010:

Our Africa Ornament: A heart in Ghana and Sudan. I'm ordering two more hearts to place over Ethiopia for our two nephews! (Amy, our long-johns are still on the tree! Love 'em!)
Our "Beanie Baby Manger" - made by Heather Bales. Who knew something so adorable could be made from toothpicks, lima beans, and black eyed peas? (I admit to stealing this design and making a few with our boys for gifts.)
Our new family ornament from Jess! The ornament exchange tradition continues! This came in the mail on the day we were decorating the tree. Our new family ornament was the first one placed on the branches! Our full family! Precious!
Last but not least, one more stocking hung by the chimney with care! We still need to add one more nail, and have Overcomer's stocking monogrammed, but we are ready! Reid insists on hanging the one I cross-stitched for him when we were engaged so he and Overcomer will have stockings different from the rest. Eight hanging on our mantle this year! Wow!
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you...
1 Peter 1:3-4

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Better Late Than Never

Finally, our home will have a central Christmas decoration - a Christmas tree! I seem to be running behind on everything this year, so we are at least a week later than I would prefer, but, hey, it's done! Chosen, loaded onto the van, and now standing in our living room! Yeah!
The tree we chose was marked down by $20 because the bottom branches were dead. Reid's very happy about his new titanium clippers he received for his birthday. Today, he broke them in!

Praising God for his gift of Jesus, the Messiah, this Christmas -

“When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”” - Matthew 2:4-6

My mother has said that she is planning to leave her tree up until Overcomer comes home. Even if it's next October! Who knows? We may do the same thing!

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Ideas to Share

I posted this three years ago after a church event in which women shared their favorite Christmas traditions. I decided to share it again to inspire myself! I'm buying marshmallows tonight for a surprise "Indoor Snowball Fight!"

Here's a few I' d like to share. I thought perhaps someone out there could use some new ideas! These are all VERY EASY to implement - most have very little expense and very little up-front planning! Two things I love when it comes to making something fun and memorable! Some ideas are from our family and some were shared this morning...

1.) Have Christmas Cookie Nights with friends. Invite some friends to come over after dinner and share Christmas cookies, play games, and enjoy one another!

2.) Buy a couple of bags of marshmallows and SURPRISE your family with an indoor snowball fight! I'm already planning an ambush to take place within the next 24 hours! Watch out!

3.) Have a PAJAMA RIDE with your kids! Tuck them in bed in their PJs then within 5 minutes run in their room and grab them for a spontaneous PAJAMA RIDE around town to look at Christmas lights! The only rule is that the parents MUST be dressed in their pajamas also! Reid and I actually had to stop at a friend house to use their restroom a few years ago. Embarrassing, but that's what memories are made of! The kids love it!

4.) Let the children be children at Christmas. If you have a clump of ornaments on the tree, who cares?! If you can only see the backs of everyone in your nativity b/c they are all looking very closely at Baby Jesus, see it as beautiful! Let their Christmas cookies be lumpy with frosting and covered in sprinkles!

5.) Place the Wise Men some where far away in your house. Each day have the children move them closer to Baby Jesus. This helps the children understand that these men traveled from afar to see the newborn King! (We're trying this one this year!)

6.) Wrap up the Baby Jesus out of your nativity as a Christmas package and open this "special gift" on Christmas morning! One family places this gift in the middle of their breakfast table and opens it before anything else - the first gift of Christmas. Another family is going to have him wrapped up and under a special tree in their front yard. The children will find him Christmas morning. Last year, we wrapped him up and placed him under our Christmas tree. The tag read "To Everyone." When we opened it, we had a time of prayer of thanksgiving for God's goodness. This is a way to keep your focus on Christ amidst all the gift opening!

7.) Have a "Happy Birthday Jesus" party. Invite your friends and neighbors and share the gospel with them.

8.) Have a homemade ornament tree. Last year, we simply had too many ornaments to go on our tree. With four boys all making new ornaments every year, we have a lot! I turned our silk fig tree into our special homemade ornament tree. It has white Christmas lights and lots of ornaments like this one that Braden painted last night...
9.) Have a "parable" tree. Make ornaments for your tree that represent different parables from scripture. Here is a link to tell you how to do this. It also has several more fun ideas for Christmas.

10.) Have an advent wreath. Light each candle as a family at dinner and celebrate all of the wonderful things about Christ's birth. There's lots of information on the Internet, but I liked this site b/c it tells you how to make one with your children and gives you daily scripture readings to incorporate. Here's the link.

11.) Open your Christmas cards as a family at dinner time. Each night as you open them, pray for these friends and loved ones that have remembered you this special season. Pray specifically for the people you have opened cards from this evening!

12.) Read children's Christmas books together as a family. I remember my mother doing this while we were growing up. I enjoyed it through my college years! One mom today had a terrific idea. (Collins, you'll love it too!) This mother has young children and she has wrapped up 25 books for her children to open. They get to open one each day from now until Dec. 25th! She purchased many of the books at McKays which saved her lots of money too!

13.) Have your children perform the nativity together. You can get lots of children together from your neighborhood and call it, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" or perform it with cousins and family. Incorporate everyone, one of my favorite memories from Christmas past is seeing my Papaw dressed as the Innkeeper. He was wearing my floral housecoat! Hilarious!

14.) Have a Christmas Cookie Day or Christmas Craft Day with your children. Make Christmas cookies or make Christmas crafts. Invite friends over to join in the fun! Here are a few of Weston's masterpieces from our family Christmas Craft Day yesterday!
15.) Wrap of 25 gifts for someone and give it to them on Dec. 1st. One idea is to do a "Scripture basket" and wrap up things that are symbolic of different verses. (Debbye gave us a hand-out this morning, but I don't have time to type it all now. Perhaps I'll try to add it if anyone is interested. Leave a comment if you would like it.) Another idea that is great for elderly people is to wrap up 25 small gifts. Notecards, a small picture frame, a magnet, a pen, gum, etc... I gave this to my Mamaw one year on Dec. 1st. She called me on December 3rd to tell me she "couldn't wait" and she had opened them all!

16.) Remember missionaries and those serving in ministry! Please pray for them and think of ways to encourage them! At our event this morning, the ladies took cards to send as encouragement to local and international missionaries.
Our family is doing a care package with our card. The package will be fun for the missionary family to open! Each package has a label on top with a clue of what is inside. I'm going to suggest that the members of the family guess what is inside before opening it. Here are a few of the things I sent and what I wrote on the label. (Once again, my BLOG is serving as my record keeper b/c this is an idea I'll probably want again in the future.)
Our missionary family is from America and serving in Africa, so many of these will be simple pleasures from the States. However, these things are not accessible in Africa. All of the mixes simply mix with water. Here's some of the gifts we sent and the clues:

Deck of Cards - Have a Family Game Night
Game of Sorry - Have a Family Game Night
Taco Seasoning Mix - Enjoy a Mexican Dinner - Ole!
Gravy Seasoning Mix - Enjoy a Southern Meal
2 Pkgs. of Pringles - Pringle Bells, Pringle Bells, Pringle all the way
Peppermint Tea - Enjoy a taste of Christmas
Cinnamon - Sending you a scent of Christmas
Blow Pops - You BLOW us away with your servant hearts!
Jello & Jello Pudding - "Jello" and Howdy from America
Bag of big marshmallows - Have a campfire
Nerds candy for the kids - Boys, be smart
Wall Calendar - Happy 2008
Watercolor Paints - Be creative - Make something pretty
Sour Extreme Candy - Boys, who makes the best sour pucker?
Individual books for each member of the family.

This family also has four boys. Their children are close in age to ours, so our boys wrote each child a letter! This has been a fun family project today, and I am glad we were all a part of it! What a great way to kick off this advent season! Today, Dec. 1st!

17.) Remember, in gift-giving it's the thought that counts. My "love language" is gifts. (I hope everyone reading this remembers that on December 25th!) Seriously, financially I can't purchase gifts for everyone I would like. However, this year I've asked some special people in my life if we could do an ornament exchange. The only rule is that the ornaments must be homemade! I'm so excited about making something meaningful! It will bring back wonderful memories as these special ornaments are hung on the tree every year. I'm also working on a few more special, but inexpensive gifts. I can't list them b/c that might ruin the surprise!

18.) Limit family gift-giving to three gifts per person. After all, Jesus only received three gifts from the Wise Men. Someone told me this when I was a young mother, and it has helped keep Christmas simple and it has made the gifts significant. The boys unwrap two that are under the tree. For their final gift, our tradition is to send them on a Scavenger Hunt. Last year we even sent them to neighbor's houses! :) They were running around the neighborhood in their pajamas on Christmas morning! Typically, I hide their first clue in the toe of their stocking!

This is the end of my list. Yes, this is my first list for Christmas! Yippee! What a wonderful list this is! I think I'll be looking back at it in the years to come!

So, how about you? Do you have any more GREAT ideas to share? Please post a comment and add to the list! I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Last Day of Timeline Travel

A few photos from our last day in Timeline Travel (12-9-10). The kids had a blast acting out varying event from history. Because of the large number of boys in this class, most of the skits had "battle scenes" complete with swords and shields. Are you surprised? Next semester promises to hold more surprises for this great group of kids!

Super students with their talented teacher! I love learning with you!

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Happy Birthday Honey!

What more could my hubby want for his birthday?
His favorite gingersnap cookie cake lit with few enough candles to blow out...

A new recliner, a.k.a. a new wheelbarrow! Ha-ha!
(Much needed!)

A sweet love note from his honey...

And Weston birthday note...

His "Title" in this house...
Another precious note and coupon book from Franklin...

And Braden's gift with notes all around it!

Mason's present of titanium hedge clippers. (Actually a replacement pair for the ones Mason broke while jumping on them. Oh, boys!)

I love you, my old hubby! As Heather said, "You don't look a day over 41." (Ha-ha!) Yes, you are still older than me. I love you, even with a bit of gray hair! Happy Birthday!

How sweet are your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth.
Psalm 119:103

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cross of HOPE

Merry Christmas Water Angels!
This year our precious friends, David and Cheryl Coleman created this lovely "Cross of HOPE" including artwork (hand-painted butterflies) our boys and some of their friends made. This gift of love was given to Stephanie on December 5th proclaiming, "We may be homeless, but we are not HOPEless."

The gift was wrapped up in a large garbage bag signifying how God takes us as we are, but His beauty is waiting to be released. All we need to do is come to Him. He loves us and accepts us exactly as we are.

The butterfly in the center is significant because it was painted on the day Braden chose to receive Christ. I have Braden's, but the one in the center was hand-painted by Weston in October of 2009. Isn't it a beautiful picture of being a new creation in Christ? The final touches to the cross were done on Thanksgiving Day this year with the strings being pressed into the foam-board with Bibles.

This cross now hangs in the front of the Water Angels reminding us the God's beauty indwells each of us and provides assurance and HOPE. "Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Lights." Thank you, Jesus!

"For unto us a child is born, to us a Son is given...
And He will be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace."
Isaiah 9:6

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