What I am reading this December and ideas you can use this Christmas season to refocus on Jesus

As a child, my idea of Advent or an advent calendar was the daily chocolate candy that you found behind door number 1 (or 4, or 23.) It helped us count the days until Christmas arrived but there wasn't much focus on the why and it left us with a gross chocolate to eat.

But, you know, we loved it! Just the process of having something to look forward to and celebrate was fun and exciting.

 I grew up in a home with parents who, themselves, grew up Mormon, turned Baptist, and landed in the "non-denominational" church that itself also "grew up baptist." Advent was not a regular part of our community's traditions. I can remember only one friend from church whose family celebrated Advent - colorful candles and all - so my knowledge on the subject was sparse.

Twenty years later, as an adult, I was introduced to Advent in a whole new way. I had a few friends who regularly read daily devotionals meant just for Advent. I followed Ann Voskamp's Blog before she had written her Advent books, and she mentioned their Advent wreath and family traditions. I also read a book by Noel Piper called Treasuring God in Our Traditions which she spends a chapter or two walking through their family's Advent practices. After a season of research, I was ready to dive into Advent the next year.

For a year or two, I read a daily devotional in the month of December. It really did help me prepare my heart for Christmas and focus on the reality of Christ leaving heaven to come down to earth as an infant born to save the world. For a few years, we focused on the "Jesse Tree" aspect of Advent which uses the Old Testament stories of Jesus' family tree to point to His birth.

Over the past eight years or so, I've tried many different Advent traditions. Some worked well and I loved it and some were too much work or I simply couldn't keep up. This year I combined my favorites and added one new idea.

A book I am reading for the third time is by John Piper, offered as a free PDF from desiring God website:  The Dawning of Indestructible Joy  or the kindle version is on sale today! (there are a few affiliate links to amazon throughout this post if you want to buy there directly)

I am also reading a new devotional this year by She Reads Truth. It can be found online for free: She Reads Truth: Advent Plan 2016 They also have a men's version at He Reads Truth Advent 2016. The theme of their advent plans is "Christ was born for this." Focusing on His role as Prophet, Priest, and King. I am learning a lot about the role of Prophets and Priests in the Bible and how Jesus is the perfect Prophet, Priest, and King.

The last book I'm using this year has a version for adults and one meant for families. The version I am reading is on the kindle. They also have printable ornaments available to use for the Jesse Tree. Click on the picture for the link to amazon:

This is an ornament I printed and have used more than one year and this year the Jesse Tree is right in our dining room in my "Christmas decor zone." The Greatest Christmas printables

I am also reading Ann Voskamp's family Advent book: Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

It's out of stock on amazon till Dec. 14th but you can find it online other places. It has been our go-to book for the kids every night during advent. There are also ornaments you can print for that book that the kids can color and hang on the tree. This year I wasn't going to do that book with the kids but my five-year-old son asked me, "Mom when are we going to do the reading and coloring stories like last year?" So I started reading the stories at night - but we're not coloring the ornaments this year.

I have a new display for the Christmas cards we receive this year and we are trying a new Advent prayer calendar that I found through Mercy House Global. I love the simplicity of it but also my geography-loving heart is thrilled that my children can learn a little bit about a new country each day.

Each of the featured countries works with Mercy House in some way. The cards have a prompt with the country to give guidance for what to pray. Day nine, for today, is Ethiopia and pray for Abundance. So we use our Smart Globe to learn about the country and then we pray for them as we walk to the bus or drive to school. The website doesn't list the cards for sale anymore but they have other Christmas ideas and presents: Mercy House collections: Christmas.

Advent is a time to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus both looking back to the past of his birth in Bethlehem and looking forward to His coming again as King of Kings. As Christians, it is important to be reading the Bible and learning about our Lord who came to save us from sin. So whatever you do for Bible study and prayer, think about shifting the focus for Advent season and focusing on God sending His Son to earth for us!

Let me know what Advent traditions you have enjoyed, I'm always looking for great ideas or books. And, because I grew up with the daily chocolate treat. During Advent we also have a calendar box with a Hershey candy cane kiss for each of us to enjoy after dinner.

"And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:10-11

Sometimes getting a song stuck in your head isn't all bad

I attend church pretty much every Sunday. It's not because we have to, but we enjoy church and the people God brings through the doors each week. I also lead a worship team at our church once a month. I choose the songs and lead the congregation in singing. I really enjoy it as a ministry and also as one of my favorite parts of the church service.

Sometimes there are songs from the church service that follow me into my week. I'm usually glad about it but I know there are people who don't like having songs stuck in their head. All you want to do is move on and think about something else but that campy worship song from the 1960s is right there with you when dropping the kids off at school or as you type or put the dishes away. So you turn on some other music and for a time the song is replaced by your current tunes. But, later that night as you try to fall asleep, or maybe in your morning shower, there it is again! It's back and often it's only two or three lines of the song because you don't have all four verses memorized, just bits and pieces. I get it. It happens to me all the time. But, I've learned that the song I am remembering is often the song that helped better tie in the message of the sermon. Or it's the song that tugged a bit too tightly at my "heart strings" and I need to work on that area of my life. So now, when that song just won't go away, I try to embrace what the lyrics are saying and apply it to my life.

There is a song recently that we sang at church about two months ago and it has been off and on in my brain ever since. I can remember singing it at the previous church we attended when I was a kid and I also remember singing it - maybe once a year - since I've attended our current church. The song is named "They'll know we are Christians by our love." It was written by Peter Scholtes in 1966 or '68 (and yes, it sounds exactly how I imagine Christianity in the 60s to sound.) Admit it, you are probably humming it right now after reading the title. Well, I chose this song for our church service today because I think the words are so powerful. As I was reading the words and preparing to lead worship this week, I realized that the words are exactly how we, if you are a Christian, should treat others. However, it is written in such a way that by the second or third verse it is so easy to get lost in the sound of the song and miss the lyrics. Now, I'm not sure if that happened to some people at our church this morning; but, hopefully, they will have it stuck in their head this week and God will use those words in spite of the "swaying melody" of the song. 

Pastor Terry is preaching a sermon series on the book of Philippians. Today he spoke on chapter 1:27-30. I chose most of the worship songs based on verse twenty-seven. 

"Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel," Philippians 1:27 

Unity of the believers and one mind is what Paul prayed the church in Philippi would have. He wanted to see it with his own eyes, or at least hear about their unity from others who visited him in prison. I pray the same for our church in Ogden Valley and the greater Church in the world. I desire to be a people who walk with each other and guard each other's dignity. I want us to praise the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And I want other people - inside the church and outside - to know that we are Christians because of our love. The way we love is important!

In the sermon today, Pastor Terry used an illustration of a waiter's relationship to a restaurant. If you have a waiter at a restaurant that gives you terrible service, you don't say, "I'm never having that waiter again!" Some people would say, "We are never coming to this restaurant again!" It is important how believers in Christ behave because it could lead to people being "turned off" to Christ and the church by one single person. Now, honestly, you cannot control how other people feel. And their actions as a result of an encounter with you may not be justified. I am not saying we should be perfect because that is impossible for us to do because of sin. (Romans 3:23) Plus, it is Christ who draws a person to His love. I am a part of their story but I'm not the one who saves them. Christ has (atoned) paid for our sins and we are a new creation in Him. Because of His death on the cross, all the work has been done and we are able to give out His love to others. We are also able to apologize when we've wronged someone and hopefully reconcile the relationship. The gospel truly is good news! 

Look at the lyrics of the song with the main message stated more as a poem or verse. It helps me to see the lyrics and not the "campy 60s feel" of the song. May we strive for unity this week and may we be known by our love and may the praises be given to God alone. 

"We are one in the Spirit. We are one in the Lord. And we pray that all unity may one day be restored.
 And they'll know we are Christians by our love. 
We will walk with each other. We will walk hand in hand. And together we'll spread the news that God is in our land. 
And they'll know we are Christians by our love. 
We will work with each other. We will work side by side. And we'll guard each man's dignity and save each man's pride. 
And they'll know we are Christians by our love. 
All praise to the Father from whom all things come, and all praise to Christ Jesus his only son, and all praise to the Spirit who makes us one. 
And they'll know we are Christians by our love. Yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love."

Ogden Valley Community Church

I am thrilled to report, a few weeks ago, we finally held our first worship service in our new church building! The process has been long (over two years of actively going through the building process) and filled with many unknowns and waiting but the Lord has provided a wonderful place for us to gather as a church and worship His name! 

"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps."

I have so many pictures of the building as it was being built and someday I'll make a link to an album instead of a blog post for those. These pictures are from our first Sunday service. I was able to sing on the worship team the first week and it was so amazing to see the many faces I know as well as the many who were visiting and curious. Whatever reason they chose to join us that morning, I pray they saw our desire to make God known and experienced His love and left our church encouraged. We serve a God of grace and truth and we want to give His grace and truth to others. 

  "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood."

So, let me take you on a tour - it's not of the whole building, simply the places of which I took pictures. There are also some unfinished areas of the church that you may notice - we're still working on some things. 

Chairs and stage set; ready to start the service
View from the stage. 
My dad, in the sound booth - a place he enjoys and has been serving for most of my life. 
Attempted panorama of people getting ready to worship
During the welcoming by Jen. Photo credit: Zach Campbell
So many cars! It let us know we need to be better prepared for winter snow. 
More cars and the beautiful benches that James made for his Eagle Scout project!
Nursery Room for our kids that are two years old and under
Preschool Class
Elementary Class
More elementary kids and helper

Not pictured: A photo of the youth group class. They meet at 9:30 am (while I was in music practice) 

Pastor Terry, I am so thankful that God brought his family to Utah and to our community. 

My prayer for our church, as we continue ministry in this valley where we are established, is that we will seek the Lord and His ways. May our hearts desire to follow His leading and seek out ways to show His glory to those inside our church and out. That we will be known for our love and desire to show God's greatness. I want to be used for God's kingdom and to be seen as a peaceful help in the body of Christ. I am praying that God brings us the lost and hurting and they can find rest and peace for their souls. May our light that comes from the Holy Spirit shine in the communities around us and may our gentleness be evident to all

"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good  for his steadfast love endures forever!"

Ogden Valley Community Church  for address and additional information

The Company We Keep

Every month, I attend a book club comprised of women from my church and a few other churches around our area. We meet for a few hours and discuss the book we chose for the month. I love meeting with these ladies. I have found that I learn best by verbally processing the information I've taken in. So if I read a book and walk away, never to discuss it with any one else, then I won't remember as much as if I told someone about what I liked and what I still didn't quite understand. Which is why I have loved the book club aspect of reading books. I get to discuss the book with ladies who also read it and may have a different perspective to offer.

I have been trying to read more books over the past few years. The kids and I finished two book series: Little House and Chronicles of Narnia. They were so good for me to read because I am drawn to books that are "self-help" in nature but focused on Christ - in that we don't "help ourselves," we trust in Jesus' work on the cross to do that. The books I read can be overwhelming, often taking me deep into my habits and relationships, attempting to draw out the best of Jesus in my life. I know some people don't enjoy or desire books like that, but I do. I want to live my best life in Christ, not merely "getting by" in life. My desire is for Him and for His name to be known.

The book we chose to read for October was refreshingly short but still extremely eye-opening. If I am spending a month to read through a book, I want it to be "worth it" however that is measured. The book is called The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship. It consists of six chapters - and I enjoyed it very much. I have always had friends but I have always desired for those friendships to be amazing! The "quality" of my friendships has been determined by differing scales throughout my life - all designed by me. I determined if the friendship was "good" or "enough" and that isn't necessarily wrong but it certainly isn't fair to myself or my friend. That is why I was excited to read this book. It gives a more Biblical perspective on friendship and what our friendships can look like with Christ as the center. Obviously, any book I read, outside of the Bible, isn't going to be the "be-all-end-all" of the issues in my life. This book is no exception but it does offer a good direction on the next step in many of my friendships.

This is a quote from the first chapter. It talks about the difference between friendships in the world and a friendship with Jesus at the center.

"For not only is he the center, he also gives us the power to follow his example and befriend others. This embodied friendship, centered on Jesus, flows out into every area of life. Friendship ceases to be primarily something we do, and instead it transforms into something we become as we follow Christ." - Holmes 

I am encouraged that my focus in friendships should be Christ and following His example and I watch Him do the work through me. What a great blessing to be reminded yet again that there is nothing I have to do to earn favor in this life. Jesus has already paid the price I was meant to pay and now I trust Him and obey. The gospel is good news.

So, to my friends who are reading this, thank you for your love and friendship and for you listening ear as I verbally process life! I am so thankful to be walking life with you.

If you desire more direction in your friendships, please read this book. When you finish, contact me and we can talk.

Give What You Have

There are moments in my time as a mother where I have been teaching my children about God and His Word and have learned a great deal more about God than my children did. It happens most often when I am trying to talk about a sin issue with them and I have committed the same sin recently or when we are listening to songs or stories about the Bible.

 I want to fill my children's minds with good and uplifting songs and stories. Often when we are driving to town, as we say, I will turn on Bible stories or Songs for Saplings.  We live in a valley area that has no stoplights and one grocery store so most stores we may need are about a twenty minute drive away. Over the years, I have enjoyed listening to NPR for various reasons, but lately the content is too heavy for the little ears of my children. It's not that I don't want them exposed to those issues, it's just that I would like to better introduce it to them and be able to talk with them about it in an age appropriate way. So one such instance came about and I needed to change the listening we were doing. I asked Siri to play Jesus Storybook Bible and the story that came first, because shuffle, was called "Filled Full." The story is from Matthew 14, Mark 6, and Luke 9 when Jesus feeds the 5,000 with a young boy's lunch of five loaves of bread and two fish. I love the version in the Jesus Storybook Bible.

We purchased the "deluxe edition" of the Jesus Storybook Bible which is the hardcover storybook Bible with a set CD's that contain the stories as read to you by David Suchet. I love how he reads the stories. It brings the emotions to life so well that I have cried, while listening, multiple times. I have also cried while reading the stories to the kids because God's Word is amazing and Sally Lloyd Jones does an wonderful job of capturing the details.

The part of the story that grabbed me was this: after Jesus had asked them, "What do you have?" a little boy offered his small lunch - not because he knew it was enough, but because it is what he had.

"Jesus' friends laughed when they saw his little lunch. 'That's not nearly enough!' they said. But they were wrong. Jesus knew it didn't matter how much the little boy had. God would make it enough, more than enough. Jesus said, 'Bring me what you have.'"

As I was listening, it hit me: we need only to give what we have and God uses it for his glory.

I am often so concerned that I don't have enough skills or talents or money or kindness that I end up giving none. I shy away and think, "I can't fix this so I'll wait for someone else who can." I want my viewpoint to change, and I need to merely give what I have - because God has given it to me to be used by Him. I heard someone say once, regarding this story, that Jesus would probably have fed those people somehow. But how amazing for the boy who gave? He witnessed God's power in a direct way. I'm not sure if all the people there that day knew how the food was "made." But for certain, the boy knew. God had shown up and the boy simply gave what he could and God made it more than enough for His glory and fame.

May we be willing, like a little child, to give away what we have so Jesus can turn it into more than enough.

Mayo Family Reunion 2016

My grandpa Ab turned Ninety-two this year! Nearly every year we have a Mayo family reunion on or around his birthday. This year we partied at my parents' home. There was dinner, "minute-to-win-it" type games, face painting, birthday singing and a cake shaped like an airplane. 

Selfie with my grandpa. When I flipped the camera from back to the front camera on my iphone he said,
 "Well for heck sakes!" 

He wanted a Cat face so he could be like our Cat, Dot. I forgot to take an after photo until after it was all smeared. 

My kids and some of the other "cousins' kids" are getting older so there was noticeably less chaos this time around. For the most part, I was able to stand around and talk with my extended family without having to intervene too much in what my kids were playing. They even participated in most of the games! 

I love my family and it was great to see them and spend some time talking. My grandparents are creating a legacy of love and enjoyment of family and I love them for always showing up and making everyone feel loved. 

I forgot to take a "4 generations" photo this time around so three generations will have to do (sorry mom)
My grandpa was a mechanic on airplanes like this, at HillAFB, so my cousin made this amazing cake!
The sons, and son-in-law, with their dad
Crazy Cousins! We are missing Todd, Melissa, Scott, and Craig

Mayo Family Reunion - June 26, 2016


Ten years is a long time. Many phases of our childhood and young adult life are less than a decade: elementary, Jr. high, high school and usually college are all shorter than a decade. Even in those seasons of life it "feels" like such a long time. Then those phases are complete and we have Adulthood: decades, Lord willing, of our lives. We can spend decades at a job, in a home, in a marriage, raising children, building friendships, serving through church. So many aspects of our lives simply flow into decades; sometimes it happens without us even noticing.

A few weeks ago, I listened to a podcast and they mentioned they had been blogging for a decade. I thought, "Wow, that's a long time!" Then I thought about it, and I have been blogging - granted off and on- for A DECADE! How did that happen? Well, the beginnings of my adult life happened during that time so I can see why the whole "blogging for a decade" wasn't as momentous as say: graduating college, my first teaching job, Pete finding a good job, buying and selling of homes, first child, second child, and said children entering school. Many, many "life events" have happened in the past ten years (with marriage being two years before I started my blog.) Through it all, I'm glad I was blogging (or attempting) because I have many of those moments recorded in written words.

My first blog post was an introduction and declaration that "I will now blog things!" So it began and has continued for ten years!  I have only changed the name of the url once and the name of the blog once. Considering how often I thought about changing it up, I will call that well balanced. There were years where I posted every other day or so and there are years with four or five posts TOTAL! But I never gave up and deleted everything. I have had probably a few loyal readers - mostly my family and a few friends - but also a few random strangers have read my blog. I love looking through the archive. I now view it as a sort of "monument of stones" to tell of all the ways God had been present in my life. I can look back and share with my kids of the prayers answered, the fun times, and the trying times too.

Though instagram now has provided an outlet for me to share moments more quickly; the blog will always be the place I write. I have tried journals over the years and other writing forms but I return to the blog every time. There have been many times I've wondered why I return to the blog. I mean, I don't have a huge readership. I don't even have a good purpose for this blog - ten years later. But I am learning and changing with every post I write and to me that is encouraging and freeing. The podcast I mentioned earlier is titled "Should you blog?" I have had that thought many times and have always, so far, come to the conclusion Yes! For me, blogging is not dead and still provides value. It may not provide an income for me as I hear happens for many women. But it provides a place for me to write and encourage others and also document the moments in the decades where God has provided and is always faithful.

Thank you for reading! If you have a blog, leave a comment with how long you have been blogging. Do you still blog or did you stop? What draws you to a blog over and over again or what do you hope brings others to your blog?

Parenting at the splash pad

The kids and I visited a splash pad the other day. The high was around 97 degrees and I needed to make another trip to the truck dealership in Morgan, a town twenty minutes from ours, so we also made time to play at the Morgan splash pad. Our town doesn't have a splash pad and this park is about the same distance from our house as the other two splash pads in the area.

I like splash pads better than pools at this stage in my kids' lives. 1- They are free! 2- My kids don't fully swim yet and at a splash pad, there is water to run through but zero chance of drowning. (Don't get me wrong, I - as the crazy mom I am - have already thought of the other safety hazards at splash pads: slipping and hitting your head on concrete, running into another child then falling and hitting your head, also running into a metal pole with your head. So basically head injuries.) But it's mostly like sending your kid to run through really fun sprinklers and you don't have to do any of the work of setting it up.

This trip I was hoping to let them play while I started a book I am reading for the monthly book club I attend. We weren't meeting any friends this time around and it was in a town we don't frequent often so I probably would be surrounded by strangers. It was a weekday and I was hoping for a smaller crowd so I could snag one of the four umbrella tables they have between the park and the splash pad.

The plan was set and off we went. The kids were already in their swim suits, I had snacks and sunscreen packed, and so we started our adventure. The trip to the dealership to pick up the parts took about three minutes. We also stopped at the Tractor Supply Store to buy chicken feed. Then it was time for the splash pad. We arrived and I parked in the shade. I slathered them in sunscreen, we made a trip to the bathrooms (before their suits were soaking wet) and I found an empty table with an umbrella so I could sit and watch from the shade.

They ran off, with squeals of glee, into the fenced area full of water features and children. My girl just ran from one place to the next, while holding her nose closed, trying to get as wet as possible. The boy, on the other hand, still has this thing with not wanting to get his face wet so he found his favorite, non-threatening sprinkler and hunkered down for the long haul. It was a tower of purple sphere things and little water spouts shot out from every direction. His favorite thing was to climb onto it and try to plug as many holes as possible with his chest, hands, and legs. It was hilarious to watch! Of course he chose to play on the other side of the pad, furthest from me. I noticed some girls younger than him were trying to fill some buckets they had with the water he was blocking. I was probably on page two of the book I brought and we had been there for a half hour already. Watching him and the girls, he reminded me of Gus Gus from the Disney Cinderella cartoon when he was clutching his hat after a run-in with Lucifer the cat and all he did was close his eyes and say, "nope, nope, nope, nope!" when the other mice tried to tell him to move. I sent big sister in to be a distraction and take him to play somewhere else. It worked for a while but soon he was back at the same spot and I read on for a while.

Somehow I have this "mom-sense" that helps me notice only my kids' movements in a crowd and I can usually spot them pretty quickly when needed. So I glanced to see if they were still having fun and "being good." Well, B was talking with a kid while on top of this purple sprinkler thing trying to plug all the holes. Seriously, the next second, the kid lunged at him and pulled him down off the tower. He proceeded to claw my boy on his face and neck! Oh man, was Mama Bear upset! This kid kept at it and I was so proud that B only pushed him in attempts to escape and not out of anger. He actually was so surprised that this was even happening and was able to get away as I walked over to the two. Well the boy was crying now and I sternly told him, "You need to be kind!" as he ran to his mom.

I found out what happened, from B's perspective. The boy had freaked out because B was blocking the water so the boy wouldn't drink it. I had told them not to drink the water - it's treated with chlorine - so B decided he should let other kids know they shouldn't drink it either. We talked about being the boss of only ourselves and not worrying about what the other kids drink or don't, that's their job. I also praised him for not getting angry at the boy and for staying calm, because that's not usually how it goes at home in conflicts with the sister.

Out he went again, after I suggested he should probably play by a different water toy. He found J and they ran around all crazy for another half hour before it was time to dry off. As B was sitting on his towel, the same kid came up to him, with his little punk friend for backup. The boy, who was probably four years old just pushed him and when I told him not to do that and it's not okay to push other kids, they simply stood there and stuck out their tongues at B until I told them to leave and to start being kind.

In the hour we were there, I was only able to read one chapter in my book. Though I had tried to be, this time I was not the inattentive mom who wasn't paying attention to what her kids were doing to other kids. That award went to the other gal. She did not say a thing to her son about what went down and I'm not sure she even knew. Well, my little guy - who can be a bully himself. Though I've never seen him as brash as these kids. He was so hurt inside that he talked to me about it for at least ten minutes in the car on the way home. He asked me why they were so mean to him when he hadn't done anything to them. He kept saying, "Mom, they were not nice kids." We were able to talk about how Jesus loves us all the time, even when we are mean to other people. Jesus loves that boy and we should too, even though it's tough. We also talked about our family and how we don't act that way, ever, because we know Jesus. It was a good discussion for me to have with them because I wanted to tell that mom what I thought about her "parenting skills." But then I remembered that it could have been B who pummeled her kid; he often loses his temper when he doesn't get his way. So I remained calm and strangely thanked God that my kid was picked on and not the bully.

I want to be a good example to my children of how we should behave in the world because we have the love of Christ. I know there will be much more parenting at splash pads in the future and hopefully we can show the love of Christ to others around us.

"In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:6 


There are so many many things that I love the "idea of," but in reality are not easy for me at all. Take being a morning person, for instance. I love the idea of waking up early to get in exercise, a shower, and coffee/Bible time all before anyone else in my home is awake. That feeling of the warm cup in my hands and the toast with butter, cinnamon, and honey waiting beside my Bible and devotional book is so enticing. But man, the night time television and my warm bed in the morning seem to overrule the fantasy about mornings that I have in my head. 

Another thing I love the idea of but doesn't flesh itself out in reality is correspondence. The act of writing letters or even emails with a friend to keep the relationship going when they are not someone you see often "in real life." Thankfully I have a friend who is great at correspondence and has stuck with it off and on for twenty years (though we probably had a ten year gap where we didn't talk much at all.)

She lived in Utah when we were younger and we both went to the same private elementary school and then were both home-schooled when the school closed down. She recently told me I was probably her first true friend (different than sisters or cousin friends we were born with) and I realized she was probably my first true friend too. We had sleepovers together and we even went away to camp for a week together when we were very young. We both wore awkward sweatshirts and stretchy pants. Her hair was dark and silky smooth and mine was dark but out of control most days. We were both "first borns" and acted that way; which seemed to only affect our relationships to our younger siblings instead of our relationship. 

Here we are at Camp Utibica (1994?) - notice my pants mixed with short sleeve sweater! wow! 
One year, her dad's job moved and so did they - to Connecticut! She wrote me all kinds of letters and postcards - stationary must be part of her love language. I sometimes wrote back but not often enough because sometimes the end of her letters had the words, "please write back!" How sad, right? 
I found this postcard in a box of things my parents cleaned out of their home. P.S. write back!
We managed to stay friends for a while and I even flew out to visit her when I was twelve. I rode solo on a plane and her family took me to New York City, Statue of Liberty, (accidental side trip to New Jersey when we got on the wrong ferry), Plymouth Rock, Mark Twain's house, and maybe more? I cherished that trip. 

Well, a few weeks ago I received a letter in the mail....

When opened, I saw a very familiar cursive that brought back memories from twenty years ago. This girl has always had beautiful, flowing handwriting.

I am happy to report I have written back to her and am so glad our correspondence can begin again. She recently moved to Dallas and her and her husband are foster parents. Social media has helped us stay up to date on the happenings in each others' life but it is so nice to receive a real letter in the mail. I am grateful that God places people in our lives to minister to us and for us to minister to. I want to encourage deep and meaningful relationships in my life and I'm glad this relationship gets another chance.

One of my goals for 2016 is to write more often. This includes here on my blog but also in letters and cards. I'm glad I still have 2/3 of a year to foster this habit.

Ski time with kids

A couple weeks ago, in our area, a series of snow storms came through. Our house received about 8" in 48 hours and our ski resort, Snowbasin, received about 11" total from the storms. I'm sure Friday would have been an amazing powder day to ski. If you love skiing as much as my husband you would get it; but I don't have that level of love for the slopes (yet?) so I was fine staying home with the warmth of my coffee and listening to the kids playing downstairs. 

However, it was suggested to me that since the girl had a day off of school, I should take the kids skiing Friday. Well, I have never taken both kids skiing by myself so I was hesitant. Now as I type this, it sounds ridiculous to me. I mean, I birthed these children and have raised them up this far. They are my job and I take them everywhere with me. I have successfully managed the zoo, IKEA (without the smaland), many grocery trips, swimming pools, hiking, and other outings with just me and them. So skiing with the two should be something I am capable of too, right? But here's the deal, all the other activities I do with the kids are mostly me watching them do the activity or them helping me. Rarely do all three of us participate in the same activity at the same time - enter skiing, biking, "swimming" which I usually wade around and help them, and hiking too I guess, though it's just walking on a trail. I've only been back to skiing for three seasons now so I'm not what you would call an expert. So in my mind, the three of us going skiing is like three beginners skiing together. No guidance, no experts, no help. Last season, I also tore my ACL on our last run of the year so that is mentally messing me up too; though physically I am capable of skiing again. 

Imagine the scene: we start preparing at 1:30pm and leave the house at 1:55 (a record as far as I'm concerned even with most of their ski gear already loaded up in our "ski bin.") I thought that later in the day would be less busy and we could pull right in and park in lot A or B. Nope, we parked in lot E - Next time I'll park in the lower lot because it's the last stop of the shuttle before going back to the lodge. I got out of the car and put on my boots and helmet then helped the kids put on their helmets and gloves. I handed each kid their poles and skis - which they cradle in their arms sort of like a bundle of sticks. I grabbed my skis and poles and off we went. I didn't want to stand around waiting for the shuttle to stop by so I figured we could start walking and hop on when it came by. Well we were almost to lot C when the boy dropped all his gear right in the middle of the road. So there I am with a whiny kid in the middle of the parking lot trying to pick up his skis without dropping my own. Thankfully no one was around to see this mess but also that means no one was around to lend a hand either. We kept walking and by the time the shuttle came we were almost to lot A so I waved him on and we kept walking. After much whining from both kids and snapping from me, we arrived at Little Cat lift around 2:30 and proceeded to put on our skis. 

The rest of the time was okay, we only skied little cat because it was snowing a little at the base which sometimes that means more snow and less visibility up top. I tried to be kind and we did have some fun. Overall a good time with a lot of work for five quick runs. I will try to take them again sometime but it was definitely a lesson for me. Next time we will try to go earlier and have more fun snacks and incentives for good attitudes all around. 

This picture represents the happy faces of a mom and her two kids who survived their first ski afternoon together, without dad's help. I guess you could call it a successful trip but that depends on your definition of success. Websters defines success as: 

Full Definition of success 

  1. 1obsolete :  outcomeresult
  2. 2a :  degree or measure of succeedingb :  favorable or desired outcome; also :  the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence
  3. 3:  one that succeeds
So the desired outcome I wanted was to take the kids skiing and A: be able to ski with both of them and make it down the mountain in one piece, B: still be friends afterward. So I think it was a success. 

And to all you parents out there trying to do fun things with your kids even though it is difficult and may not seem worth it at the time; it is worth it and the memories are being made. If skiing isn't your thing, get out and do something with your kids and hopefully, like my kids, they'll remember more of the good moments and less of the tired and stressed moments. 

Now when I start to "go to that place in my head" when I'm out with the kids, I try to remind myself of Colossians 3:17 "Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." 

This ski trip was not really an example of living for Christ in word or deed but hopefully, by God's grace and mercy, the next time is. 

Conversations with my four year old boy

Today, at lunch, he turned to me and said, "Mom, I think we should get some rabbits. The giant kind. And, I would like a whole herd of giant rabbits too."

I simply smiled at him and laughed too. See, Pete gets a magazine called "Farm Show" and this month's issue had a picture of a man with his Flemish Giant Rabbit - which is huge! So obviously that's the only rabbit that the boy wants. We often take trips to our local IFA store sometimes just so the kids can see the bunnies and chicks. The kids have wanted a bunny for a pet but then we got a kitten so I told them they'd have to wait a few years. But I think if we ever do get a rabbit, it will either be a mini-size (like I want) or a giant of a beast that the kids want. Maybe next year, instead of pigs, we can raise a herd of giant rabbits! 

This Year, twenty-sixteen

This year! I am so excited for this year, 2016. I have always loved fresh starts: first day of the year, month, job, school. The first day is energizing and life giving. It has a way of helping you say goodbye to the past and move on in hope. I am hopeful that twenty sixteen will be the year God has intended for me. I am looking forward to opportunities to take and not miss, to our family growing stronger together, and to the fact that our year, as of now, is uneventful and unplanned but I'm sure it will fill up quickly and I'm going to try to help those things be intentional and to glorify God through it all.

Review of last year: It was a good year, a "normal" ordinary year, yet I grew in my relationships with nearly everyone. I am thankful that God is showing me my sinful nature but with reminders that I am not controlled by sin but belong to God. I did indeed memorize Colossians 3:12-17 and also 3:18-4:1 though it's a bit rusty now but I am glad to have accomplished something I set out to do. I am still working on memorizing Romans chapter 8 and will continue that goal until it is completed - hopefully in 2016 but some how it will be done because it has brought me such joy in knowing that truths contained in that chapter and knowing them in my mind and heart.

My "arsenal" for this year: Bible, journal, parenting book to reread, devotional, counting gifts journal/thankful journal, Bible study on Romans, and academic planner. 

Along with continuing to memorize Romans eight, this year, I bought a book to help me in my Bible times and prayer. It's called The Songs of Jesus a yearly devotional in the Psalms written by Tim Keller and his wife Kathy. I am trying to use it to guide my prayer life in actually talking with God and understanding better how he cares for us. I know I will miss a day or two or fifteen but I will not guilt myself as if I've somehow failed myself or God but I will simply carry on and know that God has something for me to learn in His Word so I should seek Him there.

I have other goals, in other areas of my life, because it helps me to reset and make plans, but I'll not list them here, just yet. But one reminder I will be using is a printable from Ann Voskamp that I hope will help me focus my intentions and look to God for strength. You can find it here in her blog on looking forward this year and having purpose in resolutions.

I am ready for 2016 and very excited. I know that we will have hardships of some type or another but I am trusting God that whatever he sends our way will be for His glory and I pray he will sustain us through it and we will react in a way that points others around us to the love of Christ and his grace.

I love music and I am often encouraged by different songs throughout the year and this year I will listen to the song "This Year" by JJ Heller probably a million times! It sums up what I hope for myself this year. I pray you will listen to it too and be encouraged; plus she's just adorable and I love their music so go buy one of her albums, my favorites so far are "I Dream of You" and "Painted Red"

Happy New Year, may you experience all of life in the light of God's glory and grace.