Saturday, December 31, 2011

Florida's Little Mountain

For our 21st wedding anniversary, my precious friend took my children overnight (the first time we've ever been alone in our home..just the two of us). I volunteered to watch other people's children that night (I know what you're thinking..but it is the only way I can raise money for all 3 of my children to go to church camp...its gonna cost around $900 to send all three), so we decided to take advantage of the next day and have a day trip. I love Mt. Dora. I've been there with girlfriends, and it has been lovely, but really, I always have the best time with my best friend in the world...Mr. Incredible!
Ironically enough, Mike and I use to vacation in Vermont every year before we had children. We love the mountains. At an elevation of 184 feet above sea level, Mount Dora is Florida’s equivalent of a mountain top town. Isn't that just cute! We'll take what we can!
It is really one of the most relaxing day trips ever! Just walking around taking in all of God's beauty.
Looking in quaint little antique shops. Eating at our favorite restaurants. Taking time to sit on the grass and enjoy each other's company. We talked about our past 21 years together, what we've done right and how we can improve...not only our marriage, but our walk with the Lord. We encourage each other in the faith.
Taking time to really enjoy this man I married so long ago. I'm so grateful for our day away.
We totally would have taken a plane ride if we had money to spare...$50! lol! We've been in a helicopter before, over the Adirondacks, so we could pass.
I did manage to get a little gift for Shane for his stocking and I bought a cute little hat!
In the end we had one of the most special day's of the year. After not being able to do this at all for the past few years, we try to soak in every second of time spent together, away from home.

Friday, December 30, 2011

My Love Language

From my youngest superhero...who speaks my love language!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Goodwill Towards Men

Early this December I was riding down my street and noticed a new bench by the bus stop sign. (The little yellow note says, please leave this bench is for the comfort of those who ride the bus! It touched my heart to see that there are some wonderful people who are still showing that they care..that it is not all about what you are going to get or not get, but it is about what can I give.

It is important for me to instill this in my children's hearts. We have been so blessed by the Lord when it comes to provision. I'm not sure why..other than He says it in his word. Philippians 4:19 "And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus." or 2 Corinthians 9:8-11 "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: He has scattered abroad His gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever. Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us you generosity will result in thanksgiving to God!"

His Word is truth! For years I sat in my prayer spot and read these scriptures along with others back to the Lord. (Malachi 3:10-12, Habakkuk 3:17-19...)We have never ever gone without...because He says He takes care of His children. Anyway, back to the picture. Whenever there is an opportunity to give when we can..we will...and sometimes even when we can't we still will.

We don't have much, but the Lord has provided a way for me to stay home and homeschool my children, my husband to go to nursing school full time and we have food on our tables, a roof over our heads and we are even going on vacation next week. He is so good to us and we are so grateful for the blessings He has bestowed. I will be starting a small job when we return from our vacation as well as teaching beginner guitar lessons. So excited for the opportunities that the Lord has placed before me. In the meantime, we practice hospitality and generosity in any way we can.

My little boy with a big heart..made candy canes with little messages he printed out from the computer. He handed those out to all of the homeless people that we serve once a month. His idea completely!
 We made snowman soup and delivered these to special neighbors and family.
 Of course, we delivered lots of cookies...apparently next year my boy with the big heart says.."Mom, if we deliver cookies to all the people you love and care about we would be like Santa..can we do that next year!?"...I'm thinking I need to get started pretty soon in my planning.
 These are our precious neighbors Mr. Paul and Mrs. Helen. We love them so much! We made them a tray of cookies along with some snowman soup for each of them..left them smiling big!

 Some people stopped by for cookies..which I love!
But, the best part was delivering. We were able to sing Christmas carols instead of knocking on doors...delivered cookies with a smile and every single person was touched.
 We even received a gift...and we were serenaded too.
You know it isn't always about the gifts we give, most of the time, it is the love and hugs that are most meaningful. The genuine love of a child is one of our best examples of how to love another!

This is one of my favorite pictures. Kyle with our dear friends from Michigan...we call him Grandpa Jack. He and Grandma Carla are just so special to us. My boys absolutely love them from their core!

One of my all time favorite authors, Randy Alcorn says in his book The Treasure Principle.."Gaze upon Christ long enough, and you’ll become more of a giver. Give long enough, and you’ll become more like Christ." Oh how I love that quote!

You see, with Jesus living in us...we have Peace on Earth....and if we can remember to have a generous spirit and goodwill toward men..we will be more like Him!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Heritage Part II

I have to say, I learned a very valuable lesson this year, and I'm so thankful. Perhaps it is because I didn't grow up with a whole lot of tradition, we had some as I got older and enjoyed a stable home life, but my early childhood missed tradition. So, I try to make up for that every year with my children. This year I feel like I was packing in every last minute with things we've always done, which doesn't leave room for new things. Plus, I had to realize, as much as I don't like to admit it, my children are getting older, they may not always enjoy making paper chains filled with candy to rip off one each day of the advent.

So here is what we did, that we would try to normally keep up with tradition.

We always try to watch our favorite Christmas movies.
 Of course, hot chocolate is a must..even if it is 80 degrees outside.
 A trip to Downtown Disney always gets us in the mood for Christmas & its free!
For the past few years, we've sung carols around a fire..this time we actually had dinner over the pit! So much fun!
Ahh..a trip to Celebration! We did this a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. Said we've always wanted to go back. However, because Pop was advancing in his dementia we really couldn't go anywhere last year. This year we could we did!
It snows in Celebration. (well kind of). It is beautiful and we love the nostalgic feeling, walking around, hearing carolers and seeing the horse drawn carriages. Such a pretty place to visit!
 Love how the lights reflect on the water and of course..
We do a lot of window shopping!

We did get out more this year. We delivered cookies to lots of people (next blog post about that), we went to a homeschool Christmas party and we just enjoyed the outdoors together.

However, I found Christmas Eve quickly approaching. We didn't finish our Adornments, and we made plans to go to a friends house on Christmas Eve. This kind of rocked my little traditional world. Every (and I mean every) Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember, I've made homemade sweet bread, we've gone to church for our candlelight service, we've had my mother-in-law over for a nice dinner, we celebrated Jesus' birthday with cupcakes, did What God Wants For Christmas, watched the 1952 version of Scrooge and read The Night Before Christmas. Whew!

I was stressing out about not getting all of that in on one day...trying to figure how can I still do all of this and go to our friends house too. Standing in the middle of my living room my husband faces me and places his hands upon my shoulders...and says something that was so simple, but changed my whole attitude towards tradition...he simply said...
"Lisa, Jesus was born in a manger, it was a simple birth. Christmas can just be simple." That was really all I needed to be reminded of....the simplicity behind my Savior's birth. Okay, I enjoy Christmas in my children's eyes, but they know that Santa is not really delivering toys, they know that the reason we celebrate at all is because He came to give us life! I could actually breathe from that moment on. Here is how we changed/added to our traditions this year.

We went to church, then went to our friends' house! Which I hope becomes a new tradition...we love them so much and it was wonderful to spend the evening with all of them! We laughed and enjoyed all of our time together.

They decided to watch the 1952 Scrooge movie with us...that was ultra special! I never did read Twas the Night Before Christmas, we didn't do What God Wants for Christmas (well, we talked about it and Shane did open the box and put it together), we didn't sing Happy Birthday to Jesus Christmas Eve,  I never made sweet bread, but allowed Grands Cinnamon Rolls to make my house smell yummy. We went to church on Christmas morning (very special to be in His house that morning). However, I did keep this one...
Every year we give our children 3 gifts for Christmas. We usually try to get at least one or two of the things they ask for, and then we surprised them for one..usually the one we don't wrap. (last year it was a puppy) We have them close their eyes and then the big reveal. They loved their Star Wars posters. The best $5 gift EVER! (well then add $10 for the frame).

Ok, I still made cupcakes for Jesus' birthday, but we celebrated on Christmas day instead. We didn't end up having a fancy dinner at fact while many people were enjoying their standing rib roast, Mike smoked some ribs in the smoker and we had barbecue ribs, beans and salad! So messy and fun and not traditional at all!  Really, what I need to keep alive in my children's hearts is one thing...

Jesus...He came so we might find our heritage in Him. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Heritage Part I

Starting the day after Thanksgiving we begin our series of traditions for Christmas or the Advent. I'm not sure why this part is so important to me, perhaps it is because I lost my parents at a young age and it was challenging to hold onto traditions. Nonetheless, they are important, whether they are passed down from generation to generation or not, these are the memories I know my children will hold dear.

It starts with the trimming of the tree. Since Mike and I were married in December, for my bridal shower my friends and family showered me with a wishing well full of ornaments..special ornaments, and every year on our anniversary, we would purchase one as a memory. Our first tree was beautiful, it included all those ornaments, plus all the ones Mike had received every Christmas since the time he was born. His Mom made, or purchased an ornament every year for he had a box of 25 ornaments plus some special family heirlooms to hang on our first tree.
The point is, every ornament has a story and every year those stories are told. For example, I have always loved my mother-in-law hand made our wedding favors (like the one above) and included instruments. I loved being able to give an ornament as a wedding favor...every year I have a friend tell me she has hung her ornament on her tree and she prays for us each time...that was 21 years of hanging that one ornament and praying for my marriage. Pretty amazing.

Then throughout the years we've received some pretty special ornaments from friends and family, I can still tell you (even when they are not labeled with names) who gave each ornament to each person.

Some were from my students from when I was a teacher, so many of them now are ones that my children have made and it is so much fun remembering the stories behind each one.

Some brought tears to our eyes this year because of loved ones that have gone and won't be here to celebrate this year. But in the end, it is precious to recall the special people and moments in our lives..much like laying down of stones to remember our past and what God has done. Every year a different child get to place the angel on the top...this year as you can see from the first was Shane...they consider it such an honor. :)
Ahhh, the finished product. My favorite part is when we all come in from looking outside our window and we sit down in the peaceful room and there is always a hush of awe...I love that part. If I could capture that in a little time capsule I would. Quietly listening to the VonTrapp Family singers or Bing Crosby as we stare at the is beautiful.

 The other traditions that we have are just as fun...we try to read a Christmas book every day,

 Do a fun little Christmas devotion, and yes, there is the musical advent calendar. I think this might be on its last legs. A precious family gave this to us when it was the twins first Christmas. We have used it ever kind of drives my husband bonkers because the sound quality is really shot, but we love it!

We hang the this too. I wonder if my children will ever get too old for this stuff...I just wonder.

Finally, this is another tradition...baking cookies. This year I only made 2 cookies that I "traditionally" make...the rest were new recipes and I even created my own for one of the cookies. We delivered 8 trays of cookies and sang carols at every door. Next year...Shane really wants to deliver more..not sure how I'm going to accomplish that. We are all out of cookies...its a good thing we have a birthday party for Jesus on Christmas Eve...we make cupcakes for that.

There are more traditions that we try to hold onto, watching Christmas movies, having Starbucks and looking at Christmas lights and of course more to follow on Christmas Eve..which is why I had to bang out this blog before Christmas Eve...that is a whole blog of its own.