12.22.2011

Jesus Prince of Peace


"The people who walk in darkness
      will see a great light.
   For those who live in a land of deep darkness,
      a light will shine...

 For a child is born to us,
      a son is given to us.
   The government will rest on his shoulders.
      And he will be called:
   Wonderful Counselor
Mighty God,
      Everlasting Father
Prince of Peace."

                           ~Isaiah 9: 2, 6

Dearest Jesus,

You offer me peace.

In the last minute hustle of christmas shopping.  
When clerks are rude and customers are rowdy.  
In the frantic holiday baking and the merry present making.  
When my house is a mess and my sinus is dripping. 

You offer me peace.

In my mad dash of wrapping and secretive stashing.
When my kids eat all the sugar cookies and are driving me batty.
Through stubborn winter colds and piles of dirty clothes.
When the husband works late and the babies stay awake.

You offer me peace.

Hands held out, Your gift to me.

And I receive you with joy.

My Prince.

My Peace.


*written and posted Dec. 2010

12.20.2011

just because God loves you

..::: this is a repost from last year, but I needed to remind myself to slow down and really see :::...



Her hair hung down in limp and dirty blonde strands and a little girl Astair's age clung to her leg.
 I noticed but I was distracted.  Astair tugged on my arm and twirled in the fast food line.  She danced in circles around me, darting in between my legs, just escaping my grasp.  It was our mother-daughter date night and we chose Arby's.  But my little pixie just couldn't stand still.  Through the corner of my eye I noticed again the pair in front of us and I couldn't help but make the comparison between this mother and her daughter and me and my own.  It was then my eyes landed on the child's bare feet.  And my heart lurched inside me.  No child should be barefoot even in a mild Louisiana December.  

 Astair skipped out of the line and I went to retrieve her, even while I peered more closely at the girl.  Her blonde  hair was pulled back from her face with an office clip and she stared back at me with eyes that looked much too old for her little face.  Eyes that had seen too much of this world.  I smiled and she frowned, her big blue eyes solemn and distrustful.  The lady with the child stepped to the side and glanced at me for a moment.  She wore a plain white t-shirt with nothing underneath and I knew in that instant what she was.  I knew and it hurt my heart.  Wrenched my soul for her and her little girl.  I wanted to help her.  But I didn't want to offend her.  Or hurt her pride.  What if she rejected my help? My mind scrambled for a loving way to reach out to her.  How much had she paid for her meal?  Five dollars? One combo meal?  And what would the child eat?  

 The cashier was staring at me, waiting for my order and I fumbled through it, still desperate not to let this lady leave.  I ordered an extra sandwich and an extra drink and then I approached the woman and the child.  I smiled at her shyly, trying desperately to cover up my discomfort, hoping she wouldn't read it wrong.  I told her I had ordered more food than we needed and I would be so happy if she would accept some.  Her face looked relieved and her humble nod shamed all my selfish fears.  I wished I had bought more, so much more.  I wished I had noticed her earlier, had forgotten about myself for a moment and not been so concerned about her rejecting me.  

 Our food came and I let Astair give the bag to the little girl.  Astair walked up to her so innocently and sweetly, only too happy to share.  But the little girl frowned deeper and hid scared behind her mother.  If my heart wasn't already broken, that would have crushed it.  I could only imagine what this poor child had lived through.  And I wanted to judge the woman for putting her through it.  But I couldn't.  I couldn't.  Not knowing that Christ died for her, that He loves her, that maybe she's never known it.  I gave her a hug and quietly slipped a card into her hand.   A card that read the words "JUST BECAUSE GOD LOVES YOU".  And I smiled at the little girl in the woman's eyes and I whispered "He does, you know."

.....................................................................................................................................................................

I haven't written this to toot my own horn, or to bring attention to myself, because to be honest, I'm ashamed that I didn't give more.  Ashamed that I didn't notice her sooner, that I hesitated in fear of rejection.  I can only pray God will help me take my eyes off myself and notice the needs around me.  And when I see the needs, to rush to meet them.  Arms wide open, bleeding love as my Savior does. 

 Isn't that what Christmas is all about?

12.17.2011

He's making something beautiful out of my mess



I found this in my photo archives today and it always makes me smile!  A Christmas card I made of Legend at nine months...tooo cute for words.  It reminds me that it's the little moments that matter the most.  We were hanging out in the back of Joel's little red truck, the one with the Jesus sticker covering the cracked rear window.  The one that ran on prayers for nearly 300,000 miles.  Legend's belly laughs entertained us all, and we entertained each other with the antics we were willing to do just to hear that infectious giggle.

Today was a good day.  We rode the Christmas train and played on the swings in the dark with a million Christmas lights swirling and sparkling in the night.  I sang Christmas carols (all the ones about Jesus) at the top of my lungs because I was that happy and I wanted everyone to know that it's Jesus that brings that kind of happiness.

But the day didn't start out that way.  It began with some failed attempts to run errands and I felt myself desperately hanging onto the sweet moments Jesus held me last night as I cried into my laundry pile.  I literally just climbed on top of the mountain of clothes and cried.  It was late and my little Boston had been throwing up all night the night before and my dear man has been working seven days a week for thirteen hours a day and I've been angry with myself for not being able to "keep it all together" and "just be grateful".  But you know what?  Sometimes it's ok to be weak.  Because when I am weak, God's strength is made perfect in me.  And that's just what happened.  On my laundry pile.  While the prayer room streamed live worship anointed from heaven (I was listening to 2 PM Dec. 15, Thur in archives and 10 PM Dec 15) Jesus met me in my mess.  

Loved me in my mess.

Reminded me that messiness doesn't really bother him like it bothers us.  Like it bothers me.

Reminded me through that phone call from my dad, that amazing phone call where my dad read me scriptures my heart needed to hear.  Read me poems, the stanza of songs.  It is truly beautiful to have a dad that does that.  Truly.  To hear in his voice, that song I always loved by Ann Kiemel Anderson, the one she would sing in airport bathrooms to ladies crying into their purses...

Something beautiful
Something good
All my confusion
He understood
All I had to offer Him
Was brokenness and strife
But He's making something beautiful
Out of my life

Jesus isn't uncomfortable with messy.

He chose to be borne in a dirty, straw laden barn where the stench of animals was pungent and the only bed to lay him in was a manger where the animals had slobbered all over their food.

He chose this.

Humbled himself, so that He could lift us up.  Lived in our messy world (the very messiest parts), to bring us peace with God.  

Making something beautiful out of us all.

12.12.2011

make your own nativity sets


DIY Cardboard nativity set on Little Scout
I'm a big fan of nativity sets that my kids can play with.  I want them to play with them, to touch and explore and enact and imagine all the wonder of that miraculous and holy night.  But at the moment, our Joseph is headless, our angel lost its wings, and a poor shepherd boy has gone missing.  We kind of need  a more kid friendly version.  I absolutely love this wooden silhouette nativity from Arks and Animals on etsy.   A nativity the kids can put together and make themselves (with hardly a dent in the pocketbook) is even more appealing, though.   I just love the simplicity of these wooden doll nativity sets.

peg doll nativity by goosegrease
DIY peg doll nativity by Our Life


Just in case my hobby lobby doesn't carry peg dolls, I think toilet paper tubes will work just fine.  There's a fun printable nativity scene that kids can color and create HERE.


And I absolutely L.O.V.E this Gingerbread Nativity idea found on KatherineMaries photography blog (inspired by the one on AOK Corral) ! 

katherinemariesphotography.com

P.S.  Just in case you haven't been redirected to enough sites as it is, I found the Gingerbread Nativity on the happy money saver blog  (which is an awesome blog and totally deserved the shout out).

P.S. #2 My cinnamon apple home scent is making me hungAry!  Thank God I didn't buy the cookie scent--I'd probably gain ten pounds just from the smell of it.

P.S. #3  That was totally random and unrelated.

P.S. #4  Have fun with your nativity set!  Jesus is to be well loved!

12.08.2011

salt dough ornaments



Every year we break out the dough and roll us out some christmas ornaments.  We loooove this craft.  And they make great keepsakes, too.  I helped Legend and the twins paint theirs, but Thaddeus had fun making his own designs this year.  The kids love the whole process (it's kind of a lengthy one--plan on spending a half day at least on these).  Oh, and I whipped up some "real" cookies right before we started to curb the kids' appetites and keep them from taking a bite out of their ornaments (it happened anyway...Boston bit a chunk out of his heart shaped ornament...it just looked so yummy and of course he had to find out it didn't taste good for himself...pretty sure this happens every year).

We've used this recipe for salt dough ornaments for several years now:

Ingredients:

4 c. flour
1 c. salt
1 1/2 c. warm water

Directions:

Mix flour and salt and gradually add warm water.  Mix until it forms a dough.  Knead with hands until the dough becomes soft and then roll it out on a floured surface till it's about 1/8 inch thick.  Use cookie cutters to make shapes or cut them out freehand with a pocket knife.  Poke holes near the top of the shape with a straw (much easier to thread your string through later--so don't forget this part!)  Bake 325 degrees for about 50 minutes to an hour, just until hard.

When they're cool, paint them with any paint you have on hand and add a little glitter for fun.  Tie a string or some Christmas ribbon through the hole for hanging and you're done.  I write my kid's names and the date on the back of their ornaments for a keepsake.  This recipe makes a ton of dough.  Our neighbor came over and made ornaments with us and we were still able to make about a dozen each.



This last pic makes me laugh.  You'd think we were freezing with Boston bundled up to his ears and Astair's hat on.  But really, we're only just emerging from our 80 degree weather and finally feeling some winter temperatures.  I guess we're overly anxious to wear all our woolies.

12.03.2011

mommy meltdowns, grace, and roses


I've had my fair share of mommy meltdowns recently.  Following a trail of cereal up the stairs and into a bedroom I just recently cleaned definitely set the stage for a melodrama.  Toddler tantrums, bed times that drag on and on and on, mediating between aggrieved brothers and sister, struggling to be consistent with disciplining, schooling, training, teaching, feeding, cleaning.  Battles of the will with a very strong willed three year old and one stubborn eighteen month old.  Second guessing my ability to give my oldest the best education possible.  My heart breaking every time my middle son struggles with stuttering. And all of their issues make me feel like I must be failing as a mother.  I've let their behavior become my report card.  I forget sometimes that we're born into this world as sinners.  I forget sometimes that God doesn't expect us to be perfect.  So I shouldn't either.  He only expects us to be pliable, to be clay in His hands.  To know when to repent and how to walk in His grace.

I had meltdowns.  I acted imperfectly.  I yelled at my kids.  And then I crawled into bed with them and held them close and asked their forgiveness and asked God's forgiveness and prayed for the fruit of the Holy Spirit to be abundant in my life.  And their little arms wrap around me, so quick to forgive, so free of judgement.  So like Jesus.

His grace comes.  Right where I am.

Delivered to my doorstep.  A package of red roses from a man who loves me, who didn't lecture me for losing it, didn't judge, didn't criticize.  Just sent me roses.

Grace is a beautiful thing.

Undeserved.  Unmerited.  God reaching down into my mess and loving me in the midst of it. 

Grace is God's ability to do within me what I cannot do for myself.

12.02.2011

our diy advent calendar and world vision



I've always loved advent calendars and this year I decided to make one for our family.  It's just another way for us to focus all our attention and expectation on Jesus' First Coming and what it means to us.  The word advent literally means 'arrival'.  Jesus' arrival on earth changed everything.  And I'm just as excited as my kids to spend the next 24 days (and everyday for eternity) unwrapping the greatest gift of all:  the love of our Saviour God.

 I've filled the boxes with little notes and some special treats.  Each note has an activity and devotion for us to do together as a family.  We'll read through the birth of Jesus in Luke 15 and we'll talk about the person and promises of Jesus revealed to us in Isaiah 9:6:  Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  

We're also reading through Sharing Christ's Love , an advent resource for children that I found on the World Vision website under their free seasonal resources (click those words to view it and download for free)  I really love the focus in this resource on global compassion and the words of Christ in Matthew 25:40: whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Him.  That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

You can also view the World Vision Gift Catalog online with your family and give the gift of a goat, chickens, clean water, or even medical supplies.  The options are endless, the needs are great, and giving has never been made so easy.






11.30.2011

decking the halls for these happy holy days




We are fa-la-la-la-la-ing our little hearts out as we deck these halls.  All to celebrate our King's birth.  All to joyfully proclaim Jesus is our Lord, the Saviour of mankind.  "It's Jesus' birthday!" little voices chime the morning after Thanksgiving, their eyes wide in wonder as the christmas boxes are unpacked and lights are strung in every corner of their room.  It's a tradition I want to preserve, every year on the day following Thanksgiving, we throw a decorating party for Jesus' birthday.  And this year it spilled into the weekend as well, and it hasn't stopped yet.  We'll probably be decorating, baking, crafting, and creating right up until Christmas morning.



I love the wonder in my children's eyes, the joy and anticipation.  
The awe of it all.  
The air alive with holiness and happiness and hymns of glad tidings.  
Sipping hot cocoa through peppermint candy canes.
Dancing in our slippers. 
Wandering hand in hand through acres of Christmas trees.

Astair asked Papa D. where Christmas trees came from, so this year Mimi and Papa D. took us to the Christmas tree farm.  I have many cherished childhood memories of my family searching the canyons for a Christmas tree and cutting it down.  We would drive off into the hills covered in white, often being greeted by deer and other wildlife, and attempt to find an evergreen that might suffice as a christmas tree.  It was always an adventure and the trees we would find were the sparse and crooked "charlie brown" kind.

Mimi and Papa D. with the kids at the Christmas Tree Farm

It's exciting to share these memories and to make our own, to pass down family traditions and to preserve the practice of our faith.  For some, Christmas trees may not be important or may even be controversial, but for me and my family, we've given them our own special meaning.  The evergreen is our reminder that Jesus brings eternal life, the strands of twinkling lights fill our home with a warm glow, just as Jesus brought light into the darkness.  And lastly, it's sturdy trunk alludes to the tree Christ died on at Calvary.

setting up the Christmas tree
This week I'll be sharing some Christmas traditions we have, as well as some new ones we'll be making.

What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?

11.23.2011

thanksliving




Thanksliving....

When every moment is unwrapped like a precious gift
and the rain is only a rainbow in the making.
Hearts are hushed by the sheer beauty of being alive
and souls bow to our generous God.

Thanksliving...

Can be heard in whispered prayers above the storm,
seen in the smile that refuses to be dimmed.
It's the faith that comes from a heart that's held on
to the hope that only Jesus brings.

Thanksliving...

Is having just a few apples left in the barrel
and baking an apple pie for a neighbor.
A life that is blessed and seeks to bless others.

Because giving thanks is good but living it is so much better.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I love Thanksgiving.  I love how it washes our hearts in awareness of our blessings.  And knowing just how blessed I am always makes me want to be a blessing to someone else.

Feeling the same way?

Here's some big ways to give this Thanksgiving:

>>>Join Flower Patch Farm Girl and help bring a well to a community in desperate need of the one thing we take for granted--water.



>>>Help my friend Lauren bring home their second adopted baby!!  For every $5 you give, you will be entered in her Baskets of Galore Giveaway worth over $350 dollars in prizes!!

Be blessed today friends!



Our fun filled day at a Pumpkin Patch birthday party

11.21.2011

{diy} paper lantern hot air balloons




Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I know our minds are cramming with recipes and fall centerpieces, crafts and meaningful family traditions, but I needed a little break from all the autumn awesomeness, is that ok?  When I get a craft inspiration I gotta go with it while I've got the itch or it's gone.  To say I love hot air balloons would only be the understatement of the year.  To say I love, love, loooovvve them is getting closer.  In grade school I wrote a short children's story about a sheep, a chicken, a pig, and a duck who all accidentally hijacked a hot air balloon.  It's still one of my favorite stories.  In fact, I think there's a book out now with that same story idea...they stole it.  Hahahaha, okay, I'm sorta kidding about that last part.  Oh if only I could travel around the world in a hot air ballon...one covered in vintage fabric of course.  It would probably look a lot like these.  I got this idea from my friend Abbey (the very same fabulous and creative gal who made me my picnic quilt).  Her hot air ballon is way more awesome than mine, she doesn't take short cuts like I do.  She sewed the little basket on the bottom out of burlap and added burlap patches to her balloon to make it more "boyish".  She even gave me these lanterns that she had left over from a business venture and they're the really good kind--the ones covered in fabric instead of paper.  Thanks, Abbey!

Originally I had wanted to post a little tutorial on how I made these because I couldn't find one on the web, but I know they must be out there somewhere.  Unfortunately, tutorials and toddlers don't always mix.  But we gave it a good try.  I must warn you, I am not a perfectionist.  I'm usually more concerned with how the overall finished piece will look than I am about the details leading up to that point.  So just a note to all the perfectionists out there:  a)  you are awesome  b) this tutorial will probably drive you crazy.















P.S.  I think I'm moving into Legend's room now.  I seriously love these.

P.S. #2  I'm making more for Boston and Astair's room.

Linking up to loveliness here:



11.15.2011

oh my oh my oh apple pie oh



Dear Betty Crocker,

Hi, I'm Joye and I'm culinarily challenged (if that word even exists).  But as slow of a learner in the kitchen as I am, I've always been a fan of your vintage cookbooks.  Mainly for the bright and happy 1950's illustrations of adorable mommies in poodle skirts and perfect loaves of bread magically flying out of ovens.

Oh yes.  I do love the illustrations (remind me to upload them on this here little blog of mine, will you Betty?)  I loved them so much I took pictures of them.  Lots of pictures, page by page.  Barely glanced at the recipes, I have to admit.  But the pictures of your cookbook turned out beautifully, by the way.  And then your lovely recipe books sat on my shelf collecting dust.  But you are a smart one, dear Betty.  You knew those darling illustrations would draw me in.  You knew the whole happy, homey, vintage warm and fuzzies would eventually inspire even a kitchen klutz like me.

It is a pity, Betty, that home economics was no longer taught the year I attended high school.  The one class I could have benefited the most from!  The majority of my day is not spent on calculating pythagorean theorems or on understanding the theory of relativity (although I may have that to look forward to).  No, Betty, I became the keeper of my home, a constant chef, without even the basic knowledge of how to boil an egg.  My fault, I am sure.  But it made the task of learning how to cook seem daunting and unattainable.  Slowly, though, I am taking more risks, venturing out and experimenting with recipes.   I have now successfully baked three finger lickin' good apple pies.  Along with sweet potato cupcakes with spiced buttercream frosting.

So, thank you, Betty, fabulous icon of retro housewives everywhere.

Thank you more for the inspiration than anything else.

-A happy homemaker and apple pie baker





Psssssttt.....don't tell Betty, but this apple pie recipe isn't one of hers.

It's super easy and I made it with pre-made pillsbury pie crust dough.
I followed the recipe on the box, only changing it slightly.

The Perfect Apple Pie Recipe  from Pillsbury (with a few tweeks)
For the filling: 
7 cups thinly sliced peeled apples (about 4 granny smith, 4 gala)
3/4 c. sugar
2 T.  all purpose flour
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/4 T. freshly squeezed juice of one lemon
Directions:
Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Press one pre-made pie crust into the pie plate.  Use a fork to poke several holes along sides and bottom.  Pour filling into pie plate and top with second pie crust.  Cut off any excess dough under the rim.  Flute the edges by pushing the dough along the rim toward the middle of the pie with your left forefinger while placing the forefinger and middle finger of your right hand on the opposite side of the rim.  Cut shapes or designs in the top crust.  Cover the edges of your pie with 2" strips of foil to keep them from burning.  Stick it in the oven for about 40 minutes.  Serve with ice cream.  Don't skip that last part.
 So there it is.  Grandma, this one's for you.  You tried to teach me, bless your heart.  And I remember more from your lessons than I thought.  You're the real Betty Crocker after all.

11.14.2011

we are the woods people

The Picture Story
of
our wonderful,
wild,
weekend woods adventure.

(because it took really long to upload and I felt too lazy to add words...just sayin')











>>>>>>> my camera runs out of juice at this point, so we switch to Joel's iphone <<<<<<<<










Back to civilization we go, though reluctant we are...

We could live in the woods very happily.

They remind me just how wildly beautiful our God really is.
I'm humbled that His Spirit lives in me.

You have to hear this song by Daniel Bashta (I've linked the David Crowder version but it was written by Daniel).

"My God's not dead
He's surely alive
And He's living on the inside
Roaring like a lion" 

-Like a Lion by Daniel Bastha

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