Happy New Year!

our hope new year

Our family is starting 2016 off with a bang! Tomorrow we head out on our first adventure of the new year, a trip to New York City. Big plans have been made for our short vacation including a night tour of the city’s lights, Radio City Music Hall, and a visit to the American Museum of Natural History.

We will be traveling in the car for several hours. In between the “are-we-there-yets” and entertaining my two-year old, I plan to (try to) reflect on 2015 and start goal setting for 2016. Yes, I realize that this first goal of the new year might not work out the way that I plan and a car ride might not be the best place for quiet reflection. But I am a mom and I take what I can get. Besides, I choose to remain positive and optimistic that I will be able to get at least a few reflections scribbled down on paper.

Years ago, I gave up making resolutions. It was always the same thing- exercise more, eat healthier, save money. I always started out committed but by the second or third week of January I was back to the same old thing. I think part of the problem was that I never really reflected on the previous year or made any specific, attainable goals. The resolutions were vague and I never included a time line. I should of known better coming from a career in teaching where goals are part of daily instruction and success.

Last year, I focused on one word- LIGHT. Having a focus word was the best strategy for me. It was easy to remember and I was able to link a lot of daily life and prayer to it.  In 2015, I  wanted to be lighthearted (aka fun), a bright light of love, joy, and for Jesus, and I wanted to lighten up in weight. I think I did fairly well with the first two things but the last one was too similar to years past. Any “lightening up” in weight has been put back on by my terrible weakness for holiday sweets and treats.

Two resources to use in my car-office tomorrow:

To reflect on last year, 20 Questions for a New Year’s Eve Reflection from The Art of Simple is a great resource. You can find downloadable questions for adults and children.  The questions  can be used as conversation starters or for personal journaling. I love what the author, Tsh, says about reflecting on the past year, “Honor the past year by celebrating your joys, mourning your losses, and shaking your head at the wonder of it all.”

There are many free goal setting worksheets available to download. This year, I came across this cute printable. I like that it is one sheet of paper and it covers different areas and topics. It will be a great starting point for more detailed goals.

So there you have it! Here’s to reflecting, goal setting,  a new year of exciting adventures, opportunities to learn and grow, and relationships filled with love and peace.

Happy New Year!

 


In our house, Christmas is not over until January 2. Only then is the tree allowed to come down, decorations stored away, and the Christmas music turned off until the next year. Before we say goodbye to Christmas, here are two of my favorite Christmas (playdough) recipes. They smell good enough to eat!

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Candy Cane/Peppermint Playdough

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 2 teaspoons peppermint extract (more or less to your liking)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of water
  • red food coloring
  • white glitter

In a medium saucepan whisk together the dry ingredients. Next, mix in the water, oil, and the peppermint extract and stir until a thick batter is formed. Cook the mixture over a low/medium heat until a thick dough forms. Divide the playdough in half.  Turn out the halves on parchment paper. One half leave “white” and sprinkle clear glitter over the top. Knead until smooth. Add red food coloring (we use the gel type) to the other half. Knead until smooth. Makes about 2 cups of dough.

Candy Cane Playdough
Candy Cane Playdough

 

Gingerbread Playdough

Gingerbread Playdough

(originally from The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle )

Note: With three kids, I usually double the recipe so each one has more than enough to play with.

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • dash of orange

In a medium saucepan whisk together the dry ingredients. Next, mix in the water, oil, and the orange extract and stir until a thick batter is formed. Cook the mixture over a low/medium heat until a thick dough forms. Turn out on parchment paper and knead until smooth. Makes about 2 cups of dough.

PS  I think of the gingerbread recipe as more wintry than “Christmasy” and make it all winter long.

Gingerbread Playdough

 

Two of My Favorite Playdough Recipes


No Gifts Needed

No Gifts Needed

This year, I do not want anything for Christmas. And that is the truth! When I declared this to my husband, he looked at me as if I was leading him into some sort of trap or playing very cruel trick. He carefully calculated his response.

“Ooooo-kayyy…” he said doubtfully.

“No, I am serious,” I said. “I have everything I want and need.”

It is not surprising that my husband was skeptical. I have always loved receiving gifts, things, STUFF. At one point, receiving gifts was my primary love language. It wasn’t just the gift that I liked. It was the thought and effort behind the gift that I appreciated.

On my birthday and at Christmas, I would envision my husband walking through the aisles of  a store, loving thoughts of me on his mind, carefully considering all my likes, what colors looked best on me, how I prefer dark chocolate over white, diamonds over cubic zirconia. This of course, was a romanticized reality. My husband hates shopping. He really does not like “things” or “stuff.” And birthdays and holidays had never been a big deal for him.

Birthdays and holidays have always been a big deal for me and the gifts have always been one of the best parts. Store bought gifts are nice. But I love hand-made crafts and things found out on a nature walk or a walk on the beach that my children hand to me. Someone once gave me a candy wrapper with a saying about friendship that I treasured. I know, lame! But I can’t help attach meanings or a memory to the gifts I am given, its just who I am. Or who I used to be?

What has changed this year in my gift receiving needs?

Me. Life. The state of the world. The fact that I have so much stuff I do not know what to do with while others in the world have nothing and are suffering daily. Awareness that consumerism is taking over minds and the true meaning of life.

I am realizing more and more that memories are not stored in things. Memories are stored in hearts and minds and in your soul. Gifts are all around you, every day. You just have to change your perspective to find and receive them.

Like the gifts of staying in your pajamas on a rainy day and starting homeschooling late.  The gift of unexpectedly bumping into one of your best friends at the post office and receiving a huge, very needed hug. When your husband lets you sleep in late. Gift like laughter over a meal shared with friends. Gifts in the smiles on strangers faces in the long line at the grocery store. Gifts like seeing peace and joy permeate a heart.

Those are the kind of gifts that I want more of.  Unexpected gifts and gifts that money cannot buy. Gifts that make me want to be a better person, friend, wife, and mom.

So this year, it’s the truth! I am embracing the true meaning of Christmas, with less gifts from the store and with a happier heart. And if my husband hands me a store bought Christmas gift, I will throw a tantrum, give him a lecture about not wanting anything, and demand that he return it immediately!

No, just kidding! I will gracefully and gratefully accept the gift, attach a memory and meaning to it and probably treasure it way more than I should. After thirteen years of marriage, I have learned you should never discourage good and thoughtful deeds. And besides, I am a work in progress! And I am okay with that!

 

 

 

 

 


The Red Line

The Red Line

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

I bravely and joyfully walked up to my unknown neighbor’s walkway and stood ready to ring the doorbell. The feeling was a familiar one. I felt as if I was fifteen-years old again, carrying the tattered Romans Road prayer card in my hand, confidently uncertain I had the right words to lead anyone to the One who could save their soul from eternal damnation. Now much older and more confident, I held another tattered book in my hand and looked out over the beautiful faces of my group. It wasn’t the First Baptist Youth Group Evangelism Team that stood in front of me. It was twenty-five, enthusiastic, joyful church members holding matching tattered books-caroling books ready for adventure. They were my fellow companions on an adventure of song through the church neighborhood. Our mission, to spread Christmas cheer and joy to our neighbors.

Up until today, my caroling experience was limited to junior high choirs and visitations to nursing homes. I had never been caroling door to door before. We only had a loose plan. Walk, sing, and ring a doorbell here and there. It seemed easy enough and I was fairly confident it would be great fun. I was not prepared for what God had prepared for this day.

At each house, we sang a few songs, presented a kid-made Christmas card, and asked if there was anything we could pray for with them. No questions about knowing where they were going when they died, no judgments, and certainly no expectations. To our surprise, many people shared their stories of hurt, pain, and loneliness and so many people accepted the invitation for prayer. Humbly we prayed, lovingly we hugged, and joyfully we sang and smiled.

The world needs more HOPE, LOVE, and JOY.

I came back home on a Holy-Spirit high! I was so grateful and so humbled that God entrusted us with this type of “work.” In between my thinking and praising, I started to visualize a red line, like a ribbon, that stretched back to my childhood, trailing through present time, and continuing on through my unknown future.

Following the red ribbon back in time, I came to many different situations, opportunities, and experiences which seemed normal at the time. Everyday living, everyday interactions, everyday moments now seemed sacred and holy. Some of those encounters with people, places, and experiences specifically prepared me for the work God has for me to do now AND the work He has for me to do in the future.

My family, the church I grew up in, the correspondence Bible classes at age eight, prayer meetings that lasted long into the night, Christian friends/non-Christian friends, Southern Baptist summer camp, street evangelism with my youth group, college, separation from the Lord, teaching, and marrying my then teacher-now pastor husband. Some of these moments were fun, great, and exciting. Some of these moments were trying, painful, and paralyzing. But each of these moments stand as a marker, an ebenezer, of God’s help and faithfulness on the red line of my life. 

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. 

Jeremiah 29:12-14

I have no idea what’s in store for me next but God does. Some days, I am guilty of spending enormous, wasteful amounts of time feeling anxious, worried, and fearful about what the future will hold. I dwell on the next big thing the Lord is calling me to do, all the while almost missing out on what He has planned for me to do right at that moment. I can drive myself loopy with all that thinking. And while, it is good to think about future plans, dream, and prepare; it is wrong to be so caught up with worry and fear that you cannot seek the Lord with your whole heart.

We have a short time left in this year. This season comes so many emotions. If you are dealing with an anxious, hurting, fearful heart, I encourage you to ask God to replace the worry, fear, and weariness with peace, hope, love, and joy. If it is difficult to do, try following your red ribbon back in time, searching for markers of God’s faithfulness. You might be surprised what you find. Some markers will be easy to locate, wrapped in lots of red ribbon and right out in the open; but others might be hidden, tied with a simple bow waiting to be pulled out and discovered. Each marker is a gift from our Lord and our hope and assurance that our future rests in Him.

Live out each day for what it is. Embrace the people and interactions that come into your path. We may never know how God will use them in our future or in the future of another person. Lastly, enjoy! Enjoy this season for the hope that it brings and the peace that is offered. Embrace it all with the Lord’s help.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[for those who are called according to his purpose.” 

Romans 8:28  


Advent-“Unwrapping the Greatest Gift” Day 11-12-13-14-15 Craft Ideas

day1115

“Unwrapping the Greatest Gift” Ornament and Craft Ideas-Days 11-15

This is Part 4 in a series of ornament/craft ideas that I think correspond with the daily advent readings from Ann Voskamp’s book “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.”  Read about Day 1-2 here Day 3-4-5-6, and Days 7-10 here. You can find many ideas on the internet for Bible story crafts. Below are some of my original ideas and some that I modified from Pinterest. I gave credit for those craft ideas that I borrowed. If you decide to make and share one of my craft ideas, I would to love to see it. Tag me on Instagram or send me a link to your blog post.

adventday11rahabscarletcord

21 “Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.”

So she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.  Joshua 2:21

Materials Needed:

-Red Yarn

-Optional: small hair elastic

1.)Holding one end of the yarn in your hand, wrap the yarn around your elbow (bent 90 degrees) at least 25 times. You will end up with a loop.

2.) Still holding the loop of yarn. Cut the yarn vertically to open the loop. Tie yarn at one end (or in the middle of the yarn you are still holding.

3.) Braid yarn. Tie with another piece of yarn or a small hair elastic. Look an ornament hook through the top.

adventday12ruth

16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. Ruth 1: 16-18

22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning. Ruth 1:22

Materials Needed:

-mini gold tinsel (I found mine at Walmart)

-tape

-red satin ribbon

1.) Cut various lengths of tinsel.

2.) Bundle the tinsel to your liking and secure with tape.

3.) Wrap a satin ribbon around the middle and tie in a bow.

 

adventday13samueldavid

“7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

This idea came from Jesus Rolon’s blog “Crafting the Word of God.”

http://craftingthewordofgod.com/2013/08/02/god-searches-our-hearts/

Materials Needed:

-cardstock

-contact paper or a laminator

-scissors, tape, glue or glue dots.

To save some time:

1.) I printed the templates (found at the link above)  on card stock.

2.) Cut out all the pieces.

3.) Instead of using contact paper, I colored the heart and laminated it with my table top laminator. (Disclaimer: I tried using contact paper but t makes me all flustered. It wrinkles and bubbles and causes me undue stress! That is why I took the easy route with the laminator.)

4.) Trace the circle on the laminated paper, around the heart, and glue dotted all the pieces together.

 

adventday14lightindarkness

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone.” Isaiah 9:2

When my girls were little, I purchased a great advent resource called Truth in the Tinsel- An Advent Experience For Little Hands . Each day we read a scripture passage, created a simple craft ornament all while we talked about the scripture and the true meaning of Christmas. I loved pulling out the book and completing the activities. One year, my grandmother, mother, and sister made ornaments along with us. I still have some of the ornaments and they serve as good memories from that year. If you have little ones, this is a great resource for you. The ebook is only $7.99 and you could get started right away.  Day #11 ornament idea comes from the Truth in the Tinsel and goes along with December 11th’s reading of Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.

 

 

adventday15elijah

“38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”  I kings 18:38-39

Materials Needed: 

-red ball ornament

-heart shaped sticker

-acrylic paint (red, orange, yellows, metallic gold)

-sponges or sponge brush

1.) Stick a heart shaped sticker in the center of the ball.  Carefully press around the edges to make sure sticker is sealed.

2.) Sponge fiery colors on the ball and over the heart sticker.

3.) Let dry.

4.) Peel the heart sticker away. If the paint seeped under the sticker, you can use a small amount of nail polish remover on a q-tip to remove the paint. Be careful to test the area first so it does not strip the red color.

 


Advent-“Unwrapping the Greatest Gift” Day 7-8-9-10 Craft Ideas

Advent Crafts

“Unwrapping the Greatest Gift” Ornament and Craft Ideas

This is Part 3 in a series of ornament/craft ideas that I think correspond with the daily advent readings from Ann Voskamp’s book “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.”  Read about Day 1-2 here  and Day 3-4-5-6 here.You can find many ideas on the internet for Bible story crafts. Below are some of my original ideas and some that I modified from Pinterest. I gave credit for those craft ideas that I borrowed. If you decide to make and share one of my craft ideas, I would to love to see it. Tag me on Instagram or send me a link to your blog post. 🙂

day7altar

“After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” Genesis 22:1-2

Materials Needed

-mini wooden craft sticks

-colored tissue paper

-glue gun

1.) “Build” a fire with the tissue paper. Tape it in place, around the bottom, so it forms a flowery-bunch.

2.) Build the sticks around the fire, hot glue sticks in place.

 

Jacob's Ladder“12 And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!” Genesis 28:12

Materials Needed:

-Large Craft Sticks

-Mini Craft Stick

-Wood glue or hot glue

1.) Glue sticks together to resemble a ladder.

2.) Paint the sticks. (PS  I am sure when I do this craft with the kids, their ladders will be colorful, bedazzled, and might include a few angels on the steps.)

 

joseph's coat of many colors

 

“3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. ” Genesis 37:3

I cannot wait to do this craft with my kids. I had fun making it and the colors mixed together so beautifully.

Materials Needed:

-Coffee filter

-scissors

-paper towels

-food coloring  (liquid), water

-bulb pipettes  ( We have the Coloring Mixing Set from  The Homegrown Preschooler  The set comes with pipettes. Amazon has them too.)

1.) Fold the coffee filter in half. Cut out the shape of a long-sleeved coat.

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2.) Put the coffee filter on top of a few layers of paper towels. Mix food coloring with a few drops of water.  You want the colors concentrated and not watered down.

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3.) Squeeze some color in the pipette and drop onto the coffee filter in a polka dotted fashion. The colors will start to run and blend into each other.

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4.) When the filter is completed covered with color, allow to dry. No two coats will be the same.

 

day10tencommandments

“And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today” Deuteronomy 5:5

Materials Needed:

-dark colored cardstock

-gray and white crayons

-skewer

1.) Pressing heavily down on a gray crayon, color over the card-stock. Repeat with the white crayon. The colors should resemble stone.

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2.) Cut out the card stock to resemble two tablets.

3.) Use a skewer to write roman numerals.

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4.) Punch hole and hang on the tree.


Advent-“Unwrapping the Greatest Gift” Day 3-4-5-6 Craft Ideas

Advent Crafts

“Unwrapping the Greatest Gift”                  Ornament/Craft Ideas

This is Part 2 in a series of ornament/craft ideas that I think correspond with the daily advent readings from Ann Voskamp’s book “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.”  Read about Day 1 and Day 2 ideas here. You can find many ideas on the internet for Bible story crafts. Below are some of my original ideas and some that I modified from Pinterest. I gave credit for those craft ideas that I borrowed. If you decide to make and share one of my craft ideas, I would to love to see it. Tag me on Instagram or send me a link to your blog post. 🙂

day3beadedsnakeMaterials Needed:

-Pipe Cleaner

-Pony Beads

-Googly Eyes

-Small piece of ribbon or paper for the tongue

1.) Create the head of the snake by curving one end of the pipe cleaner around itself a few times.

2.) Hot glue the eyes and tongue in place. Note: First, we tried using regular glue but it would not hold so we went with the hot glue gun.

3.)Bead your snake. (LESSON IDEA- You could incorporate patterns  (AB, ABC. ABBA) into this part. This is a great fine motor activity. My 2- 1/2 year old beaded the green snake by himself.)

4.) Fold over the tail and then wrap on the tree.

My inspiration for this craft came from Frugal Fun for Boys. See below for link:

http://frugalfun4boys.com/2014/10/09/pattern-activities-preschool-kindergarten/

day4godstears

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And theLord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Genesis 6:5-8

 Materials Needed:

-Felt

-Rainbow Ribbon

This craft involved a lot of cutting but once all the cutting was done, it was easy for the kids to put the shapes together to make the ark. It can double as a shape lesson too.

day5starnightlight

And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Genesis 15:5

Materials Needed:

-empty baby food jar

-flicker light

-black paper cut so it can fit snugly inside jar

-hole punch

-fabric for the cover

Using a small hole punch, punch holes in the black paper. Roll and unroll the paper a few times so that it fits snugly to the inside of the glass. Put a flicker light inside the jar. Cut a circle of black fabric to go between the top of the jar and cover. Decorate the top of the jar. Turn it on at night.

Here is a picture in the light:

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day6abrahamsarah

The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac.[a] And Abrahamcircumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”  Genesis 21:1-7

Materials Needed:

-felt

This was another big cutting project but I think the ornaments turned out nicely.  Lots of hearts and layering of the fabric. The hair and beard were fun to make.