Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 - Review

I was looking back at my blog post from the end of 2007. It was interesting to see how many of the things I stated at that time are still on my heart today. Let's review - (the italicized words were written last year.)

1) No one knows what a year holds in store for them, but thankfully I know Who holds and takes care of my years! At first glance, it would appear that 2008 will hold several BIG changes for our family, the first of which occurred last night. Brad resigned as pastor of our church, and it was so much harder than I ever dreamed it would be........We're still not sure exactly what God has in store, but we do know that He was not going to reveal it until we took that step of faith and were obedient to what He asked us to do. Hopefully it will be something that will take us further down the road of simplicity.

After visiting several churches in our area, we just could not find what we were looking for. Amazingly, God brought us together with other like-minded families, and we have truly been blessed this past year to get to know these families and worship with them in a home church setting. Did this take us further down the road of simplicity? I can emphatically say "YES!" So much of the stress that we had been under previously was done away with. Less stress definitely equals more simplicity.

2) Also along this path we’re taking, we feel like God has finally given us the liberty to try and sell our home....... The housing market is rather slow right now with lots of foreclosures in the area, so it may take a while to sell. We’re just trusting God’s timing on that one.

We're still trusting God's timing on this one as it's still for sale. One lesson I've learned in all this is the need to be content with where I am and not stay focused on what may or may not happen in the future.

3) Our other plans for this year involve continuing to move towards being debt free.

Still moving towards that goal. We were able to implement a budget and pretty much stick with it for the whole year. Our only debt is our house and one vehicle. This is amazing considering the extra income we lost when Brad resigned as pastor last year. God has continued to provide, and we really haven't noticed much difference. It's one of those things that doesn't really work out on paper, but nonetheless it does work out.

4) Another goal is to continue to clear our home of the clutter that can take away our peace and cause more work than is necessary.

It was a blessing to be able to keep up with this goal throughout the year. Sometimes I feel like I'm constantly cleaning out (although I'm really not). But I do clean out and try to maintain at least every month or two. If I only did it once or twice a year, it would take forever! In fact, we had a cleaning out day this past Monday. With all the wonderful new Christmas presents, I didn't want to put them away without first removing some things and making more room (i.e. Emilie Barnes - if you get something new, get rid of something old to avoid too much clutter). We cleaned out all of our closets and were able to do this in one day. Too much stuff can definitely equal stress, and although we probably do still have too much, the periodic cleaning out surely helps.

5) Of more importance, I also want to read the entire Bible this year and continue to study God's Word and be discipled by others (hopefully in person but also by reading books, blogs, etc.) in the areas of being a better wife, mother, and keeper at home.

As of yesterday, I completed my goal of reading the entire Bible this year! I also feel I've been blessed to be discipled by others this year (in person!). I've also read some good books but not as many as I wanted as it seems most of my reading was regarding child birth (but this time last year I had no idea I'd be doing that!).

6) My husband and I have a strong desire to truly implement family worship in our home.

It's been implemented! We're still working on the "when" and the "what," but it has been occurring this past year and is a blessing to our family. How do we do it? Sometimes we'll sing and we always have prayer. For our Bible study, we've tried several different things. Right now we're using Balancing the Sword. It's very straightforward with no fluff. You read the Bible text and answer questions about what you read. Very simple.

7) I want to commit to discipling my children more and spending time with them and teaching them things that are worthwhile like instilling in them what it means to be a keeper at home and how to love others (and each other), bless others, and to truly love God and have a desire to do His will.

Overall, I just want to love God more and seek to be more Christ-like in every area of my life. I want to be pleasing to Him, and I know that if I ask Him what I need to work on, He'll show me - day by day.

This is a continuing process and takes time and effort - definitely a repeat for 2009.

8) I hope to look back this time next year and see that we were able to make our lives simpler in 2008, but only with God's grace, provision, and help will we be able to accomplish these goals. I certainly trust Him for that!

And I'm trusting Him again for 2009!

I hope your 2009 is filled with wonderful blessings from above! Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

It Truly is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I start feeling the excitement and anticipation of Thanksgiving and Christmas sometime around September, and by December 26th, I'm still not quite ready for it all to go away. Then I remind myself how quickly it returns, and then I'm okay with it. I started removing the ornaments from the tree on Friday afternoon, and by Saturday afternoon all the Christmas decorations were packed away. Now it's time to start thinking about the New Year and goals that I have in mind, but I'll save that for another time. For now, I'll share what's been going on around here for the past couple of weeks.

It's been a flurry of enjoyable activities but nothing overwhelming. It was all supposed to start on Tuesday the 19th with an afternoon party at our home for our homeschool group, but when Amelia woke up with what was probably a stomach virus, I decided I better alert everyone and cancel the party. My girls were definitely sad about that, but it turned out to be the best decision as by the time we went to bed, everyone except for me and Matthew had developed some symptoms.

The next day everyone felt much better, and we attended a nice Christmas party that evening at the beautiful home of my friend Kathy.

Thursday was a free day, and on Friday evening, I went to my friend Terri's home for our annual Christmas party. I blogged about that last year. It's the one with my close childhood friends, and we had a great time as usual.

Saturday morning, we were at the gym as the basketball team that Madison is playing with made it to the final game of the Christmas tournament. They lost by one point! (Cari is playing basketball this year, too, but unfortunately her team didn't make it past their first game.)

On Saturday evening, we had our church family over to our home for a Christmas service. We had such a wonderful time singing Christmas hymns followed by prayer and a Christmas message. Afterwards we enjoyed a delicious traditional Christmas meal that everyone contributed to. Before everyone headed home, we ended the evening with more Christmas hymns. Even the younger folks were skimming through the hymn book making their requests. It was really a lot of fun.

Since we didn't have our regular service on Sunday morning, we had the opportunity to go to Alabama and visit with our friends at the church where Brad used to pastor. It was great to see everyone again! One of the families invited us over for lunch afterwards, and we spent the afternoon with them. (This worked out well, as can you believe the real estate agent called and wanted to show our house on Sunday afternoon! Can you imagine what my home must have looked like after all of the activity from the previous week? We picked up as best as we could and didn't worry about the rest. I was very glad we weren't home when they came.)

Monday and Tuesday, the 22nd and 23rd, were pretty quiet around here, and on Christmas Eve, my mom, dad, and aunt came over for a Christmas Eve meal. I fixed lasagna, spaghetti, 7-layer salad, rolls, and sugar cookies. They stayed and visited for a while, and later that evening after they left, Brad and I, the girls, and Matthew opened our gifts for each other. Well, Matthew didn't actually open his gifts! I received (by request actually) a radio/CD player for the kitchen. It's one of those that attaches underneath a cabinet so it's out of the way. I love being able to listen to music or messages while I'm working in the kitchen - or anywhere else for that matter as it has very good sound and can be heard throughout the house. It also has an alarm clock, but I'm not sure why you would need an alarm clock in the kitchen - unless you turned it up real loud in order to wake up the whole family at the same time?

On Christmas Day, Madison and Cari woke us up around 5 a.m. to see what had been left out in the living room during the night. I had to wake Amelia up around 9 a.m. Among other things, Madison received a violin and a phone, Cari got a Leapfrog DIDJ and Little House on the Prairie DVDs, Amelia got a ladybug tent, and Matthew got some toys. I don't have time to list everything, but let's just say they were very blessed (and we're going to use this week to do some cleaning out before we do the putting away!).

I'm very thankful to have had a wonderful Christmas with my family and friends and most of all for the blessing of Jesus - the reason we celebrate!

*I can't believe I failed to mention the rest of Christmas Day! We spent the day at my mom and dad's with my aunt, sister, and brother-in-law. My mother goes crazy with Christmas and my children can hardly wait to get over there (me, too, if I'm being honest!). Here are a few pictures from the day at their home:

My mother holding Matthew.

Cari holding her American girl doll, Kirsten, that my mom and dad gave her.

Amelia wearing her new hat and holding her new doll she named Ellie.

Here's Cari, Madison, and Amelia modeling their new scarves that Aunt Angela knitted for them.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

Father Daughter Tea

On Sunday, November 30th, Brad and the girls attended a father daughter tea with other dads and daughters in our church fellowship. The place that hosted their tea was very nice and was decorated beautifully (from what I've heard and from the pictures I've seen). They heard messages on courtship, modest dress, and the blessings of a family. They also got to enjoy some tasty refreshments. The father and daughter that put this together did a great job, and my family had a wonderful time!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Our Christmas Tree

The day after Thanksgiving has officially become our day to decorate for Christmas. I used to do it a week or two before Thanksgiving, but in recent years I've decided that I prefer to not run the two holidays together. They are both special and deserve their own proper attention. :>)

This year we decided to get a REAL tree! It has been many years since we've done this. In fact, none of the children have ever really got to experience a real tree. Brad and I always had one when we first married, but then came Whiskers. She was an inside cat, and one Christmas she discovered that she enjoyed climbing to the top of the tree and riding whatever ornament she could find on her way down. That tree turned over a few times, we lost a few ornaments, and it was pretty much a disaster. The next year we went with an artificial tree - because of the cat and also so I could put the tree up earlier. (That was when my holidays ran together.) We gave Whiskers to a friend when Madison was born, but we continued with the artificial tree until this year.

I love our tree. Brad picked it up at Wal-Mart (we used to do the tree farm thing, but this seemed more reasonable cost wise and time wise), and it is really a nice tree.

He brought it home Friday afternoon, and we enjoyed hot chocolate and a little Christmas music while we brought in the many boxes of ornaments, lights, and decorations and started decorating and trimming. The house always looks like a disaster while we're doing this, and it was Sunday evening before I got all the boxes stowed away in the garage, but it's all finished now. Everything looks nice, and I didn't go too crazy this year. I tried to keep things simple so that the putting away after Christmas won't be such a big deal.

NOTE: Speaking of animals leaving when a child is born, Major (our Bichon Frise) recently found a new home. Once Matthew arrived, it was evident that Major was not going to be getting the attention he needed. He was a good dog but had become sort of a burden. Pets shouldn't be burdens, so we all decided it would be best to find him a more suitable home. It appears that he ended up where he needed to be as I received an email update this morning from the family that adopted him, and it sounds like he is fitting in wonderfully. He also has a female friend his own age who is also a Bichon Frise, so I'm sure that makes for good company for him also (in case you're wondering, there won't be any puppies in their future). It does feel like a burden has been lifted, and we're much happier with him living somewhere else and knowing that he's being well taken care of.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

I certainly did! My sister hosted the meal this year and insisted that I didn't have to bring anything, which was very nice. The meal was great, and even though I was feeling a little sleep deprived, I still enjoyed the day. I have way too much to be thankful for to not enjoy this day, and what's not to enjoy? Spending time with your family and eating delicious food that you didn't have to cook - it doesn't get much better than that!

Here's a few pictures from the day --

Here's Matthew celebrating in typical two-week-old style....

I actually caught him with his eyes open!