Friday, December 31, 2010

A Prayer to End the Year

I tend to get all pensive and introspective this time of year. And my head is overflowing with blog posts...coming soon at Lavender *Sparkles*, in addition to Mega Memory Month, I'm hoping to post:
~Jude's birth story
~thoughts on homebirth
~reviews of the books I read in 2010, fiction and nonfiction
~the paragraph I almost left out of our Christmas letter, and why I kept it in because of the gospel
~our family Christmas pictures (waiting until friends and family have received the snail-mail version)
~outtakes from Elijah's Luke 2 recitation
~that follow-up post on anger I promised Jenny and Zoanna more than a month ago
~pictures and reviews of several handmade baby items I've bought or been given
So stay tuned!

In the meantime, after I got all reflective this morning, I was encouraged and moved by this prayer from Scotty Smith. I so needed his gospel-centered perspective on my introspection! If you subscribe to one new blog in 2011, make it his blog, Heavenward:
Heavenly Father, as I sit quietly before you on the eve of a New Year, I’ve got a healthy case of sad and glad going on inside of me. As I reflect over the past year, both of these emotions dance about, more like allies than enemies… for both are evidence the gospel is at work.
Read the rest of A Prayer About New Year's Eve here. And have a happy new year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Coming Soon: Mega Memory Month

It's that time of year again...Mega Memory Month!

Ann Kroeker is continuing the January tradition of hosting this memorization challenge. My first time participating was in 2009, when I took on the challenge of memorizing the prose gospel narrative from Milton Vincent's Gospel Primer for Christians. And what a wonderful experience that turned out to be! Ann hosted another round of MMM in July 2009, when I worked on the poetic version of the gospel narrative. I've since had the opportunity to serve my church by reciting these at last year's and this year's Christmas program--which has been such a blessing.

Last January, I took on a much more "mega" project: committing the book of Ephesians to memory. I got off to a great start, thanks to the encouragement and accountability of others participating in Mega Memory Month. It took me until October to finish, but I did finally accomplish my goal! I had Steve check me during our recent road trip and I've got all but the last couple of verses, which didn't get as much practice as the rest.

But don't feel intimidated if you're new to memorization or if "mega" for you is smaller. The ability to memorize easily is a gift of God's grace to me, so I feel challenged to steward it well. Do the best with what you've got! I can guarantee that He will bless your efforts to honor Him by hiding His Word in your heart, whether it's a handful of verses or a whole book.

I'm so glad for another round of Mega Memory Month. Though it's easy for me to memorize, I must confess that I don't take advantage of the ability as much as I could. Last year was a perfect example of the difference that memorizing alongside others can make: I memorized Ephesians 1:1-2:10 in a month, and then took nine more months to memorize the remaining four and a half chapters because I didn't have that accountability and motivation to persevere!

So I'm thinking about what to work on, and hoping you'll join me this month. What better way to start the new year than by working to hide God's Word in your heart?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Merry Christmas from Elijah

I'm late in getting this up because I kept trying to get a better video...I finally gave up. He's three, and not particularly cooperative when the camera is on :) So although this isn't his best performance by a long shot, here's Elijah reciting the Christmas story from Luke 2:1-14. The kid's memory is crazy.

This was a fun little Christmas project, as well as a sobering reminder that children are absolute sponges. After hearing this about five or six times, Elijah could supply missing words when I paused and left them out! It only took about two weeks of reading it once a day before he basically had the entire thing memorized. He is soaking up what he hears, whether good or bad--I am freshly challenged to keep filling his ears and mind with Scripture and with grace-filled, life-giving words.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Paid to Shop

I keep waiting for an opportunity to catch up You'd think that with my mom here all last week, I would have had all kinds of time to blog and get a thousand projects done...not so much. I find myself baffled as to how I ever managed to post every day in November! Same old story around here: so many post ideas, so little time...

In the meantime, I wanted to quickly pass along a free money tip. I basically started and finished my Christmas shopping yesterday. I had bought a couple of things earlier, and I still have one or two things to pick up, but the vast majority of it was accomplished with a fast-clicking mouse and a smoking credit card yesterday. I am soooooo thankful for online shopping--give me that over a crowded mall any day of the week.

This Christmas season's greatest shopping find has been Ebates. My friend Lydia tipped me off to this great little website: You sign up, and then if you're going to shop online, you hit this website first and see if your store is one that offers cash back. If it is (and hundreds of stores are), you click to the store's website via Ebates, and then you get a set percentage of cash back on your purchase.

Sounds too good to be true, but it's for real--I got my first check from them a few months ago. I can't wait until the next checks go out, because yesterday I earned:
10% cash back from Snapfish
8% cash back from Shutterfly
8% cash back from Barnes & Noble
3% cash back from iTunes
Nice, huh? I may be too late to help you out this Christmas shopping season, unless you're a crazy procrastinator like me, but go sign up for Ebates and you can reap the benefits next time you have some online shopping to do. And if you use the links in this post, I get a referral bonus, so that'd be great :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Multitude Monday, Take 186

Thanking God this week for...

1116. my mother, who taught me last week that serving your kids never ends :)
1117. the countless ways she blessed me by staying with us for a week while Steve was gone on business
1118. opportunities to run errands by myself
1119. time in the kitchen again
1120. the gift of sleep

1121. never sleeping or slumbering, always being watchful and on the throne
1122. grace to exercise self-control
1123. a clean bathroom
1124. California Chicken Salads from O'Charley's
1125. the joy of finding the desk and the kitchen counter under loads of clutter

1126. Christmas music playing nonstop
1127. grace to persevere in breastfeeding
1128. the fat rolls on Jude's thighs
1129. good books
1130. the fact that Steve doesn't travel for work very often

1131. a date with him when he got home Friday night
1132. Elijah's delight in riding the train at the mall
1133. matching sweaters for the boys...cuteness overload :)
1134. opportunities to serve friends
1135. a date with Elijah to see Seussical at Nashville Children's Theatre

1136. Elijah wearing the Cat in the Hat's red and white hat
1137. Steve and Elijah making Grandma Kannel's cranberries
1138. Elijah loving them so much he uses his fingers to get every last taste out of the bowl
1139. our church's "Christmas Spectacular"
1140. the opportunity to serve my church family by reciting the poetic gospel narrative

1141. the way reciting it publicly moves me in a way practicing on my own often doesn't
1142. the ability to memorize
1143. Elijah's ability to memorize
1144. the feeling of changing into sweats after a long day
1145. snow!

1146. an awesome night of sleep last night
1147. quiet time early this morning to get my week off to a great start
1148. the helmet of salvation
1149. a Savior who took on flesh and humbled Himself to death
1150. a Savior who now reigns as Conquering King

1151. twinkly Christmas lights in the early-morning dark
1152. Elijah's simple, unprompted gratitude: "Fanks."
1153. Elijah's exuberant dancing to Christmas music
1154. an irresistible request: "Mama dance?"
1155. Jude's gummy smiles

Monday, December 06, 2010

Multitude Monday, Take 185

Thanking God this week for...

1086. tons of diapers to change = my boys' kidneys and bowels work
1087. discipline to blog every day in November
1088. the privilege of interceding for a friend
1089. hearing that God answered my prayers on her behalf
1090. prayer with friends, for the first Tuesday night in ages

1091. the bouncy seat gift from Uncle Josh that lets me eat a meal in peace
1092. grace to die to self in small ways, put my child first
1093. a note from a friend saying she missed me
1094. buttered bread
1095. the desire to practice hospitality

1096. chiropractic care
1097. our insurance deductible being met
1098. a package from friends with gifts for all of us
1099. the way Steve loves and applies the gospel
1100. freshly vacuumed floors

1101. our Christmas tree
1102. Christmas music playing nonstop
1103. play time with Elijah
1104. Jude's appetite
1105. crying children = their lungs work, they believe I care and will help, they trust me

1106. Mom's being here all week!
1107. the fact that Steve doesn't have to travel for work very often
1108. muffins from the freezer
1109. a Sunday back at church
1110. a church that feels like home, one I miss greatly when we're gone

1111. opportunities to testify to His gracious provision
1112. opportunity to lend a car to a friend
1113. five people baptized yesterday
1114. the way Grammy can get Jude to smile--however silly she sounds, it works :)
1115. hemming me in, behind and before

Friday, December 03, 2010

A Look Into My Day

Just for fun on a Friday, here's a twist on the Simple Woman's Daybook that a gal named Dea made up. I saved it more than a year ago (maybe two years ago?) and never have done it.

Today I am pondering...
Why the shape of my hair is best when the look and texture of it is worst (it desperately needs to be washed). It looks greasy but I like the way it is laying today. My short haircut is two months grown out and really needs reshaped. I'm also pondering when and where I should get that done...but not very seriously because there's too much else on my to-do list. Like Christmas shopping which I haven't even started...really, I have not purchased even one gift...

I am memorizing...
Needing to brush up on the poetic version of Milton Vincent's Gospel Primer--I'm set to recite it for our church's Christmas celebration next Sunday. I memorized it a year and a half ago, and I'm pretty sure I still have the vast majority of it. Because it's a metered, rhyming poem, it's a lot easier--so I just need to revisit it a little and make sure it's solid.

I am thankful for...
weekends, and a husband who doesn't have to work on them. TGIF.

I am studying...
the word "hem" in Psalm 139:5. Had some interesting thoughts about it yesterday and then went in a totally different direction when I looked up the Hebrew this morning. May be a blog post coming up.

Bible reading schedule for today...
I don't have much of a schedule. I'm in the Psalms--was in 139 yesterday and am lingering there--and am gearing up to start 2 Kings. I don't follow a read-through-in-a-year the past that has not been fruitful for me as much as lingering longer on shorter passages.

Other books I'm reading sporadically...
Just downloaded A.D. Chronicles #9: Ninth Witness for my Kindle yesterday...I have hard copies of the first eight and then didn't keep up with the series and now I'm three or so books behind. And then I discovered that Wrestling With an Angel by a blogger I really admire--Greg Lucas--was only $4.99 for I picked that up too. Can't wait to start it. Also, I'm dipping semi-regularly into Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening devotional. I found a version for only $0.99 for Kindle, which compensates for the fact that it's KJV and old-fashioned language. (Kindle addiction, anyone?)

Most recent online sermon I have listened to...
Not sure. Unfortunately our church hasn't been uploading our pastor's sermons the last couple of weeks, and since we were gone over Thanksgiving I'm two weeks behind on those. I haven't listened to any others recently; the last one might have been one from Kevin DeYoung's series on Leviticus. Which I am intrigued by and definitely plan to listen to more.

Song going through my head today...
Not really going through my head, but we've listened to it a lot lately: Straight No Chaser's "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Elijah asked for it upon waking up first thing this morning and again immediately after his nap: "Pear? Pear tree?" :) We've got Christmas music playing nonstop around here, but we have a LOT of it, so no particular song is lingering in my brain.

I am anticipating...
picking up my mom from the airport tomorrow night!! Steve's going to be out of town for work training for several days, so Mom is coming down to save my sanity. No way could I survive being alone with both boys 24 hours a day for a week at this point.

A few plans for the rest of the week...
We need to finish decorating our Christmas tree tonight, and then just looking forward to a low-key Saturday with Steve before he leaves. On Sunday our church is having a few baptisms, which I'm excited about.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year for Snail Mail

I absolutely love the tradition of sending Christmas cards. In the age of email and Facebook and blogging, I love walking out to the mailbox and finding something personal and fun among the bills and advertisements nearly every day in December! I love opening envelopes with familiar handwriting and seeing notes from faraway friends. And I really love seeing their smiling faces in a photo card.

All our Christmas cards go in a basket on the dining room table, and each night for dinner we select a card and pray for the family. We do all the photo cards first, because as soon as we get through all of those, I get to plaster them all over my refrigerator! For the rest of the year, you can hardly tell what color our fridge is, and that's just the way I like it: covered with photos of loved ones, whether it's friends we see every week at church, cousins who live far away, or friends I haven't seen in years.

This year, Shutterfly is making it even easier for you to bless me with a Christmas photo card :) They are giving away 50 FREE photo cards to bloggers! I was so excited to read about this promotion on Sarah's blog, because with stamps at 44 cents apiece these days, sending out cards can get pricey pretty quickly.

We haven't taken our family photo for this year's cards yet--I'm hoping to give it a try with the tripod and remote this weekend. The last few years, we've had friends or cousins do a little photo session; this year, I wasn't quite so on the ball. I'd really love to get professional portraits done, but the budget won't really allow that this year. Maybe the meantime, a little trip down memory lane to see how our family has grown through the last few years of Christmas cards:

My, how life changes...

I can't wait to get going on this year's cards--hopefully we'll be able to get a decent picture. Elijah isn't super cooperative about that these days (he apparently prefers to be on the other side of the camera) but we did discover over Thanksgiving break that bribing him with raisins at least convinces him to sit where you want him and look in the general direction of the photographer.

Anyway, Shutterfly has tons of great cards--I'm going to have a hard time choosing. They have some premium cards printed on cardstock instead of photo paper, which would be much nicer for writing personal notes on the back. And the traditional, basic 4x8 photo cards have come a long way in the last few years, I think! This tree design is really fun for those who have too many cute pictures and can't choose just one:

As relatively new parents, we've also found that photo gifts from sites like Shutterfly are joyfully received by new grandparents at Christmastime :) For Elijah's first Christmas, they received photo ornaments for their trees. We've also given playing cards and calendars. And as much as Elijah is into puzzles right now, I think he would really love a photo puzzle of some beloved family members! Too bad he's not *quite* ready for 252 pieces yet...

Head on over to Shutterfly to do some Christmas photo-shopping...and if you're a blogger, sign up to get some free cards! And then send me one so I can put you on my fridge :)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Photo Shoot

Most of the pictures I have of Jude to date are of him sleeping. Yesterday I decided to try and get some new ones of him awake--hoping to catch him smiling, even--so I set him up in our papasan chair by the window and started snapping.

No smiles, but oh my word do I need to compare these to similar photos I took of Elijah around this age in the same chair, with the same catchlights in his eyes...

Before long, Elijah noticed what I was doing. "Mama takes a picture!" Then, "Elijah take a picture." He went running and came back with his camera. I had to step back and take a picture of him taking a picture of Jude:
Notice how he holds the camera backwards, and puts the viewfinder up to the bridge of his nose :)

I got such a kick out of my little buddy taking pictures of his little brudder...had to share.