Thursday, April 9, 2015

Happy Eight

I remember that day, 8 years ago, like it was yesterday. When they put her on my chest for the first time and I saw her, brand new, oh how I fell in love.

My Abigail.

She's always been my wild one.
My adventure seeking beauty.
She's not afraid of anything and teaches me so much about embracing life.

She's the one I found on top of the fridge at age 2, happily waving down to me while I nearly had a heart attack.

She's the one who, while played hide and seek with her sister at her brother's hockey practice, found the "perfect spot" at the swimming pool on the other side of the complex. Nearly gave this mama a heart attack when we couldn't find her.

She's the one who just didn't understand the meaning of  "inside voice".

She's the first to try a new food. The last one out of the pool. The first to get up in the morning. The last to leave the party.

She truly squeezes out every bit of joy she can- in ALL things. In fact she can turn an ordinary day into one filled with imagination and fun. Sometimes I find myself asking her to stop her silliness, and sometimes Wisdom tells me to just be quiet and let her be.

I could stand to be a little more like her.

Lately, I see a new maturity in her.... it's a beautiful thing. There's a new softness. A gentleness that wasn't there before. She's quick to obey and I see a sweet leadership quality being developed. It's fun to see this change begin to take shape.

Her spark though, it's still there. And I pray, with everything that is in me, that it will never leave.

Happy Birthday my beautiful Abby.
Oh how I adore you.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Just because...

It was a typical day.

The morning flew by with math lessons, reading practice, writing prompts and morning chores. A few groans were heard here and there and even more giggles as books were opened, worked on and then put away once again.

We had just finished lunch and the girls and I were stepping out to meet some friends at the library when I found it.
A surprise gift on our doorstep.

We brought it inside. Opened it, and found this:

Just because....
just because you are worth it.
just because you are loved.
just because you are special.
just because you are you.

I let the words wash over me. And then I cried. Haha. You need to know something- my husband calls me the "ice queen" because I don't cry in movies (like a certain someone. Ahem) but this card, well, it made me tear up.

Why is it so easy to believe these words about someone else, but hard to believe them about myself?

If you know me, you know I'm a words person. I devour books. Fiction. Non Fiction. Biographies. Studies. I love getting lost in imaginary worlds as well as finding myself lost in the wisdom and advice of others. 

So when I opened this gift and saw books *squeal* I knew that not only did this person bless me with this unexpected gift. Not only did their beautiful words encourage me. But this gift of books was also from someone who truly "gets" me.

The card, as you can see, wasn't signed. 

This became it's own treasure hunt. The girls quickly got to work guessing who could have left it. They excitedly began naming people. Just then Evan casually walked by, took one look at it and said "I know who it's from." He guessed and I agreed. It had to be from her.

I debated back and forth as to whether or not I should thank her. On the one hand I thought maybe she'd wanted to remain anonymous and wouldn't want any credit. After all, she didn't leave her name on the card for a reason. 

But on the other hand my heart leaped with excitement. I just had to tell her. I had to tell her that her love was recognizable. That the intentional, authentic way she lived and loved was so obvious that even my 11 year old son knew right away that it was her.

What joy! To know a friend who loves in this way!

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take that responsibility seriously. And if you have the gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
Romans 12:6-8 (NLT)

This friend of mine was given the gift of encouraging others. And she does. She radically encourages. She can see beauty in others and calls it out. She knows how to speak life. She is authentic and just so very lovely with her words.

Which got me to thinking.... what do others recognize about the way I live. The way I love? 
How can I use my gifts to bring Him glory? 

It's so easy to get distracted by the busyness of life. To allow ourselves to get so bombarded that we don't even have the time to use the gifts we are given. Life, indeed, can get messy.

But can I challenge you? And at the same time- myself? 

Let's take a few moments- right now, to recognize how we are gifted
Ask Him. He'll show you.

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take that responsibility seriously. And if you have the gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
Romans 12:6-8 (NLT)

So, what is your gift?

*Is it to prophesy? Could you share your heart?
*Is it to serve? Could you make a meal for a friend? Volunteer to watch her kids? Fold your laundry with a smiling heart?
*Is it giving? Could you give what you have to someone who may be too afraid to ask for help? Your time? Money? Talents?
*Is it teaching? Could you share you wisdom with love- doesn't matter if you are "officially" a teacher or not. If God has gifted you in this way- teach what you know!
*Is it kindness? Could you offer that willingly to a stranger? A friend? A grumpy soul needing some extra love?
*Is it leadership? Could you recognize where you need to lead? And step out.

These are just a few ideas. There are so many unique and creative ways to use your gifts :)

And now, this week, let's allow some room in our hearts and our days to use our gifts..... just because.


Friday, February 27, 2015

This week I....

:: straight up yelled at my kids

:: cursed under my breath as my 11 year old stomped off to his room

:: cried in the bathroom, feeling like a complete failure

:: took the kids to an afternoon matinee, just because

:: snuggled in bed with my girl as she read to me

:: lost in a game of chess to my boy

:: haven't done a single load of laundry

:: started reading the Word one on one with my boy

:: have done 12 braids in little girl hair

:: put a movie on in the van for the kids to watch just so that I could have a little peace....and then drove through the McDonalds line, ordering a fountain pop and cookies all around

:: called for Chinese food, because I wanted to watch an episode of "Strong Medicine" on Netflix instead of making dinner

:: conspired with the kids to surprise daddy with a romantic candlelight dinner, promising to pay them each a dollar if they stayed downstairs the entire time we ate our dinner

:: played "I love you more than...." with my 4 year old

:: pressed the snooze button every morning choosing sleep over working out

From as far back as I can remember I have always wanted everyone to like me. I needed them to. I desperately craved acceptance. It didn't matter if I was being real or not, all that mattered was that they liked me. Enter people pleasing Sara.

Years and years of pretending.

But something is shifting in me. I am too tired to act anymore. I just don't have it in me. I need to be real. And the reality is- I am a mess. A messy mess. And I can't pretend that I'm not.

This week (and every week, for that matter) was a mix of joy and failure. Tears and high fives. We don't like to talk about the hard. The ugly. But what I'm realizing is that I am craving authenticity, and it has to start with me.

So.....who's with me?
What was your week like?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Elliot Joy

When I was pregnant with my Ellie I had a dream. In that dream I had a beautiful little girl named Elliot. I woke up excited and with so much joy! I actually woke Chris up to ask him if he liked the name and to my surprise (because we were having a hard time agreeing on names) he just smiled. We both loved her name. 

Later that morning I looked up the meaning of her name.

1. Close to God
2. Believes in God
3. The Lord is my God

noun a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated.

And I knew right then, in my heart of hearts, that it was really Jesus who named her. Her name is a promise to her, to us, from Him.

My dearest Elliot Joy,

Today you are four years old.

You have truly brought SO much joy to our family. You are silly and kind and teach us all how to have a little more fun in our day.

I can already see your sweet relationship with God deepen. You are always the first one to want to pray. Hearing your little voice speak to God is the sweetest sound.
Often I find you singing worship songs to yourself and you are always the first one to ask to turn up the worship music in the van!

My deepest prayer for you is to be close to God. To believe in him. To stand proudly and say "The Lord is my God" and to find joy in your everyday. If you seek Him in all things, I promise you will.

I adore you my sweet girl.
Happy birthday beautiful!


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Jesse Tree Advent Tradition

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
Isaiah 11:1

This year I am so excited to start a Jesse Tree Advent with the kids. Every day we will dive into God's word together and uncover God's all consuming, always faithful, never giving up love for His people. From creation to Jesus' birth each day we will see how God's plan was to always, always, always rescue His people.

As the kids put these ornaments on each day in December my prayer is that God's story of Salvation will truly come alive for them. 

A few weeks ago, a sweet mama in our church organized a Jesse Tree Ornament exchange. There were 11 of us and so each of us made 2 ornaments (and a couple made 3). Then we got together and exchanged our handmade goodies. 

Oh my. 
These ladies completely blew me away with their creativity. I would have never EVER dreamed up these ornaments on my own. What a gift they are to our family. Each day when we take them out I will be reminded of the love and care these women put into making them. What a blessing.

And on top of all that, it was a super fun evening getting to know some sweet women in our new church. A night out for this homeschooling mama was worth it's weight in gold ;)

These ornaments were made to follow along with The Advent Jesse Tree Devotional, but you can also simply follow along with the scripture for each day.

Here's what we will be putting on our tree over the next month....

Day 1: Creation
Genesis 1:1, 26-31

Day 2: Sin 
Genesis 3:1-19

Day 3: The Ark
Genesis 6:11-14; 7:17; 8:3; 9:8-13

Day 4: Abraham
Genesis 12:1-7

Day 5: The Lamb
Genesis 22:1-14, John 1:29

Day 6: Jacob's Ladder
Genesis 28:10-22

Day 7: Joseph's Coat of Many Colors
Genesis 37:1-4

Day 8: The Ten Commandments
Exodus 20:1-17, Deuteronomy 5:1-22

Day 9: The Promised Land
Numbers 13:1-2, 17-23, 27

Day 10: Ruth and Boaz
Ruth 1:15- 2:3

Day 11: King David
1 Samuel 16:1-13

Day 12: The Law
II Kings 23:1-3, Psalm 119:105

Day 13: The Stump of Jesse
Isaiah 11:1-2

Day 14: The Lion and the Lamb
Isaiah 11:6-9

 Day 15: The Prince of Peace
Isaiah 9: 2-7, John 14:27

Day 16: The Gentle Shepherd
Isaiah 40:11, Psalm 23:1-2, John 10:27

Day 17: The Suffering Servant
Isaiah 53, Luke 2:8-18, John 19:11-18, John 10:15

Day 18: The New Covenant
Jeremiah 23:5-6 and 31:31-34

Day 19: Bethlehem Prophecy
Luke 2:6-21

Day 20: The Fiery Furnace
Daniel 3:19-29 and Jeremiah 1:8

Day 21: The Exile
Nehemiah 4:15-23, 6:15

Day 22: The Star
Matthew 2:1-12 and Revelation 22:16

Day 23: The Light of the World
Luke 1:26-38, 2:32 and John 8:12

Day 24: The Angel
Hebrews 1:14, Luke 2:8-14

Day 25: Baby Jesus!
Luke 2:1-10 and John 3:16-17

We bought a special little 3ft tree to put in our homeschool room. I love that it is in  place that we will see everyday and be reminded of His perfect plan and perfect LOVE for us.

I can not wait for tomorrow!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Elf on the Shelf- A month of ideas!

Last year we had our very first visit from an elf. I had been avoiding the whole "Elf on a Shelf" scenario for a few years.... it just looked like soooooo much work- sooooo much pressure, and just ONE.MORE.THING to add to the craziness of the season.

But I finally decided to try it out after a friend raved (and raved) about what fun they had with it the last couple of years. She made it sound so wonderful!

And wonderful it was. 

I soon discovered that it just brought a little extra Christmas magic to our month. The kids were excited to find him each morning, and I caught them on occasion just talking to him. They would guess where he would be the next day, and it was so awesome to see their reactions each morning. It was also really fun to have our oldest son help with some of the set-ups. 

They have also continued taking about him all year. Seriously. The conversations/memories the kids have of our elf "Candycane" have been so fun. I love that what started out as something that I was pretty reluctant to embrace has become such a wonderful addition to our Christmas. It's not taking away from the true meaning of Christmas for us, it just adds a little more fun and excitement.

Last year, we decided that we wanted the set ups to be cute and funny, so none of our ideas really required any clean-up (except for the sugar angel, but that one was too cute to pass up!)
Some ideas came to us so easily and some were found at 11pm the night before on Pinterest. eek!

So, I thought I'd put up a list of what we did and hopefully it will give some of you some new ideas for this year.... you know, in case you were planning on jumping off the fence into the land of elves too!

Dec 1- First Day, the kids found our elf hanging out on the top of our advent calendar. They named him Candycane.

Dec 2- Candycane brought the kids new Christmas jammies to open and wear all month.

Dec 3- A little (and yummy) reminder to "BE GOOD"

Dec 4- A fun game of dominos

Dec 5- Candycane heard our girls singing "Away in a Manger" the night before. The kids found him playing that song in the morning

Dec 6- Reading a Christmas story to his buddies

Dec 7- A game of hide and seek

Dec 8- Candycane covered himself in Christmas stickers and tried to blend in as a ornament

Dec 9- A fun little surprise for the kids when they went to grab their cereal spoons

Dec 10- Eating from one of the four food groups

Dec 11- A Sugar Angel

Dec 12- He brought new Christmas coloring books

Dec 13- Hanging out in the freezer with a new snowfriend

Dec 14-A new family board game for us to unwrap and play- Jenga!

Dec 15- A little hunt. The note says "I hid 4 Candycanes in the room, can you find them in 4 minutes?"

Dec 16- Hot Chocolate for breakfast

Dec 17- Paper chain countdown. Only 8 sleeps left!

Dec 18- Another game of hide and seek. This time in the cupboard

Dec 19- A marshmallow bath in the barbie house

Dec 20- Let's bake sugar cookies!

Dec 21- Watching his favorite movie "Elf"

Dec 22- Candycane (red and white) balloons in the hallway upstairs (woke up to giggles that morning!)

Dec 23- Sugar cube ice castle building

Dec 24- Time to say goodbye. A note from Candycane to the kids telling them what fun he had all month and promising to be back next year. The note said that Santa would lift the Christmas magic for a few minutes so that the kids could hug and kiss him goodbye. Sweetness.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Out of control

"How's homeschooling?"

It's the question I am asked most often these days.
And to be totally honest it's a hard one to answer.
I usually say something like:

"Oh, you know, some days are good and some are hard."

And it's true.... but I wish I could explain it better. I just have a really hard time putting into words what these last two months have been like. Homeschooling has definitely changed our family. In so many ways.

I think what I love best is that we are experiencing life together. We have had some pretty rocking moments together that I know are God's little gifts to me. Little joys that would not have been mine if we weren't spending our days together in this way.

*The mid afternoon talks while strolling in Fish Creek.
*The many, many baking adventures.
*The quiet giggles as we listen to Ellie's elaborate morning prayers (man, God must have so much fun listening to his children!)
*The way his face lights up when he figures out that hard thing called Math.
*Listening to her reading... and getting it.
*Hearing them making up those imaginary games.
*Taking joy in learning all about God's creation together.
*Watching her breeze through her schoolwork and then desiring more.

So many wonderful moments.

The hardest thing though has been figuring out how to make it work for each of the kids in different ways. They each have their strengths and weaknesses and we are still figuring out new ways to both support and challenge them. It has been a lot of trial and error. A lot.  ;)

But even on those hard days I get to spend them with these lucky am I?!

Recently another homeschooling mom told me that the first year of homeschooling is like having your first baby. And I am here to say that that is probably the most accurate comparison.

When I think back to when I first had Evan I remember a messy mix of hard moments and moments where I wondered how on earth I could be so blessed.

My heart was so filled to the brim with unspeakable joy.
I just couldn't grasp the fact that this perfect little guy was mine to love!
I spent hours cuddling, swaying, singing.
I spent hours praying, laughing, loving.

I was also....

exhausted beyond words.
and worried that I was doing everything wrong.
and scattered.... where oh where did I put those car keys?
and stressed that maybe, just maybe I wasn't cut out for this....
and faced (daily!) with the fact that I didn't know what the heck I was doing.

All of this describes that crazy first year of being a Mama......and it also perfectly describes our last 8 weeks.

But God.

He has been gently teaching me that this is a good place to be.... out of control. Because it leaves room for Him. When I have my act together it's easy to go through the day without Him. But Lord have Mercy.... have I needed HIM! Daily. Hourly.

I need him.

And I want my kids to learn the same. That they need Him. That through it all, whether good or wonderful or hard or scary being out of control is the best place to be.... as long as we remember that He is always in control!

As we roll into our third month of homeschooling I feel like we are starting to find our way. 
We are making mistakes but we are picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves off.

And just like with parenting, I am holding onto the hope (the promise! the knowledge!).... that this indeed will get easier.



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