Tuesday, July 15, 2014

No Other Name

The last few days have been very reflective. Losing a close friend really makes you rethink a lot of things and ponder deeply the things you believe and build your life upon. I have had times in my life where I've had to think deeply about my faith because it was profoundly shaken. I am thankful for those times because now I stand on a firm foundation of faith and I haven't had to wrestle so much with God. Though I have wrestled some, God has made many of the truths of the gospel and His character more vivid and real and have given me great comfort - like His grace and love to send a Savior so that our sin doesn't make death a finality but rather is a transition to eternal life face to face with our dear Jesus if we have made Him Lord over our life. Like His sovereignty that has control over all things even when it seems like the effects (like disease and suffering and famine, etc)  of sin are victorious - His purposes are higher than all things and are for our good and His glory. Sin isn't victorious in the end. Jesus Christ wins! It has made me long for heaven more, to be free of sin and sorrow and the mess of this world but also to see a greater purpose for myself on this earth and to recognize that life is super short. I don't want to waste it. I hold the good news of the gospel much more dear now. And I am comfortingly confronted with the bigness and grandness and glory of God.

There is so much more I can say but I'll end there for now. I bought a couple of cds the day after Kelsey's celebration service. One of them is Hillsong's No Other Name. I've listened to it over and over and over because every song exalts the name of Jesus. Here are two songs that I've had on repeat a lot because of their comforting message of who God is and the work that Christ has done on the cross.

No Other Name

One Name holds weight above them all
His Fame outlasts the earth He formed
His praise resounds beyond the stars
And echoes in our hearts
The Greatest One of all

His Face shines brighter than the sun
His Grace as boundless as His love
He Reigns with healing in His wings
The Kind above all kings.
The Greatest One of all

Lift up your eyes see the King has come
Light of the world
Reaching out for us
There is no other Name
There is no other Name
Jesus Christ our God

Seated on high the undefeated One
Mountains bow down as we lift Him up
There is no other Name
There is no other Name
Jesus Christ our God

Find hope when all the world seems lost
Behold the triumph of the cross
His power has trampled death and grave
Our life found in His name
The Greatest Name of all

The earth will shake and tremble before Him
Chains will break as heaven and earth sing
Holy is the Name
Holy is the Name of Jesus, Jesus, Jesus


This I Believe (The Creed)

Our Father everlasting
The all creating One
God Almighty
Through Your Holy Spirit
Conceiving Christ the Son
Jesus our Savior

Our Judge and our Defender
Suffered and crucified
Forgiveness is in You
Descended into Darkness
You rose in glorious light
Forever seated high.

I believe in God our Father
I believe in Christ the Son
I believe in the Holy Spirit
Our God is three in One
I believe in the resurrection
That we will rise again
For I believe in the Name of Jesus
I believe in You.
I believe You rose again
I believe that Jesus Christ is Lord

I believe in life eternal
I believe in the virgin birth
I believe in the saints' communion
And in Your holy Church
I believe in the resurrection
When Jesus comes again
For I believe in the Name of Jesus.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A dear friend with Jesus

(If you read this a few days ago, I apologize for the many typos. I had to write it on my iPhone in a tiny space on the screen. I would have taken a very long time to correct everything! I have my computer back online now so hopefully all the typos are corrected. This still isn't my best writing though. It's hard to write when your heart is so full of emotion.)


This is going to be long but hopefully worth it.

A dear, much beloved friend of mine, Kelsey Kennedy, from our Norman, OK days is no longer walking this earth. She's dancing with Jesus.  Last April she was diagnosed with a rare form of sarcoma. Her doctors told her it was a nasty cancer but Kelsey was young and strong and healthy and we know god can anything. I felt confident that she would be all right and would walk many more years on this earth. Well, she is more than all right now!! She is completely healed for all eternity. All her pain is gone. She's no longer worrying or fearful or wrestling with sin. The burdens of this world are no more. On Saturday, July 5,  at around 4:00pm Kelsey went home to Jesus.

God prompted me the Monday before (June 30) to drive down to see her the next day. There was a great sense of urgency. I'm so glad I heeded His nudges. The last week has been one of the hardest of my life but also one if the most beautiful. It's one of those times in your life that change you forever. At the moment I'm having difficulty laying out all that God is doing but I am so thankful. He is so good.

I was able to see my friend Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. As I entered the room on Tuesday night it was filled with the beautiful faces of women who love the Lord and Kelsey, some of them great, old friends. One of them was reading something she wrote about how God told her Kelsey would be healed. Well, she is healed. I was only in there a few minutes when we had to leave for a little while. We came back later and sang songs and prayed for Kelsey. It was just beautiful. People in other rooms could hear and said they enjoyed our singing. Praise God! Kelsey was very weak but her spunky self. She wanted to know where Catherine was and said she wanted to see her. So on Wednesday night, I brought Catherine. Kelsey was even more weak but still coherent. Catherine was really tired and a wee bit fussy. Kelsey hunted on her phone for a lullaby and played it for her.

That night, God woke me up and prompted me to write the letter to Kelsey I had been wanting to write since before I arrived. The words flowed easily and I'm so thankful again that I listened to Him and wrote the letter instead of waiting till morning. Kelsey had gotten considerably weaker over night.  Eric had made it in town the night before. We were going to wait until the afternoon to go visit but again, God prompted us to make haste. When we got to the hospital the family wasn't hanging out in the waiting room anymore, they were in her room. They let us join them for almost 3 precious hours. It was really quiet and Kelsey was mostly asleep at first. I really wanted to read my letter to her but didn't think I would be able to. We sang hymns and worship songs for a while. Then she perked up some and I was able to read my letter to her. She spoke sweet words to Eric and I, like a blessing. Thank you Jesus for that sweet time. We all left to let her rest and get lunch. We thought we'd get to go back to see her but she spiked a fever and only wanted a few in there. I'm so glad we went in the morning or we would have missed that precious time with her hubby and his mom and dad, Kelsey's mom and dad and her sister and hubby and a couple of more friends. Chris, her hubby, read many letters that had been posted on Facebook about the blessing of Kelsey's life in theirs. Again, though there were lots of tears, it was just beautiful. That room was so full of peace and hope and even joy that can only come from the grace of God. Chris asked us to come again the next day. Eric prayed with them, read 2 Cor. 4 and they sang a song while I waited outside with our kids. Then I went in a prayed. She was asleep most of the time but raised up and looked me in the eyes when I kissed her on the cheek.

Through all of this Chris has been a pillar of strength. He shed tears, of course, but his perspective has been rock solid. Only God our rock and refuge can do this. I've often heard that God never gives you more than what you can handle but I think that's a false statement. I think God allows things in our life that we can't handle except by the full measure of grace He gives us for each moment we walk through it. If we could handle it then it wouldn't be a testimony of the work of Christ but of our own strength. Chris has clearly been walking and trusting in and relying on  a greater, super natural strength. And really this can be said of all the family and Kelsey and even little Alexa Hope.  Here's a poem Chris posted on their blog a few weeks back that speaks of this.
He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again. 
--Annie Flint

Kelsey was such a blessing to everyone she knew, full of spunk and overflowing with compassion and sacrificially loving people and Jesus and told others about Him and was a witness even in her last days. Many people, patients and nurses at the hospital were touched by her testimony. T- shirts were designed to raise money for her holistic treatments that say C>c - Christ is greater than cancer. And He is. He has won the victory over cancer and death for all eternity. Lots of people wore those t shirts at the hospital so naturally people asked about it. Just another way that Kelsey's life proclaimed the greatness of God.

I know I will have more to write about this as its affects ripple through my life. Below I've attached the letter I wrote and read to Kelsey on Thursday.

My dearest Kelsey,

     You are one of those special friends that god has brought to my life that I can really only count just about on one hand. You are one of those friends I call my sister and you're closer to me even than my own sister. And the beauty of it is that we are so different. This is a testimony of how only god can work in people's lives to bring them together in the most unlikely places who might not have ever met or been friends.
     I'm thankful for that day we met the first time at Starbucks in Beirut. I was so intimidated by you from all that I heard of you and I so wanted to meet your approval and pass the test to possibly date Eric. And now my story of God's beautiful gracious gift of Eric is intertwined with you and isn't complete without you. And you were a friend to me during hard days in Beirut and when I got married and moved to Norman, because I already knew you, that transition was less difficult.
     You are a faithful and trustworthy friend. I've been able to share with you some of my darkest spiritual battles that really only you and Eric know and you didn't judge or reject me or laugh at me but went to battle for me. I can share with you the nastiest ugliness of my sin and know that you will speak truth to me in a way that my prideful heart receives it gladly. In fact the way you dig into your own heart to expose sin and rawness has allowed and taught me to do the same in a way that has helped my heart to understand the gospel more deeply and to be healed and renewed more fully. You have done this like no other friend has.
     You've been so faithful to pray for me when I didn't know how to pray or even want to pray. You've loved me and walked beside me at my worst and lowest. You prayed so faithfully for God to bring us children and so faithfully for my children. You didn't say silly, trite things to me through that trial. You encouraged and spoke sweet truth and prayed. The story of my family is not complete without your walk with me through those trials and your prayers. With your own sweet Alexa I've learned more ways how to love and pray for my children and to teach them about Jesus.
     When I moved away you kept in touch and seemed glad to receive my book length emails. And I've saved all of our email letters back and forth over the years I've been in Kansas City. These too are a precious gift.
     You've given of yourself and loved sacrificially in so many ways - like emails and texts you've sent over the last few months that have been such an encouragement to me when you were probably too tired or hurting too much to do so, and like last night searching for and playing a sweet lullaby for my very tired baby girl when you barely had strength to move. You've taught me how to be this kind of friend to others.
     You've shown me more deeply how to love and be a good friend, to persevere, to walk intimately with Jesus, to hate my sin, to fight, to have courage, to pray, to be dangerous for The Lord.
      Dear Kelsey, this nasty cancer doesn't define you. All that I've written above defines you. You are defined by the light of Jesus Christ that shines brightly through your life even now. Your identity is in Him alone. And yet your rough journey is not wasted. Even in it God has used you to deepen my walk with god, to deepen my perspective on eternity, to give me a greater understanding of Him as I wrestle with Him, to assure me again that wrestling with Him is ok, to be grateful and joy filled by the Spirit moment by moment for all the beautiful blessings in my life instead grumbling over stupid things that don't matter, to not be distracted by inconsequential things, to witness the beauty of the faithfulness and unity of the body of Christ, to better be able to pray and to desire the word afresh and more deeply. I pray with ferocity that i won't forget these things. These are precious gifts too. I don't know why you've had to suffer so much in this but I know it isn't wasted in my life or for eternity. god has a greater purpose for all things toward redeeming his people and advancing his kingdom. I relish and hope in the fact that god has conquered sin and disease and death and injustice by his work on the cross through his resurrection and in his coming again, soon I hope, when he will eradicate cancer and make all the wrong things right, to make all things new again.  And that we are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ. He has defeated death and this cancer. He and his promises and his already completed work is your victory. And you my dear sweet sister are a precious gift.

Thank you Jesus for the gift of this special friend. She was an answer to prayer for deep Godly friendships. I will miss her so much!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Knowing God

A few Sundays ago, we started a new Equipping Seminar at our church. That's a fancy name for a more in-depth study of things pertaining to the Christian life. We've had two so far and this is the third. The first one was about how to study the bible. It was so awesome - stuff I'd never heard before. The last one was on the doctrine of the bible. It just went through how we got the bible, it's inspiration, transmission, etc. And this one we've just started is on the doctrine of God, basically covering the attributes of God.

Our pastor asked, "Why Study God?" Here are a few quotes that answer that question that I wanted to share. I found them encouraging and challenging.

"Knowing God is the purpose for why were created and the greatest ambition in our lives"

"What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God. What is the 'eternal life' that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God. 'This is eternal lie: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent' (John17:3). What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight and contentment, than anything else? Knowledge of God. 'The is what the Lord says, 'Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me' (Jer. 9:23-24). What, of all the states God ever sees man in, give Him more pleasure? Knowledge of himself. 'I desired...the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings,' says God (Hosea 6:6)...Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life's problems fall into place of their own accord...What makes life worth while is having a big enough objective, something which catches our imagination and lays hold or allegiance; and this the Christian has, in a way that no other man has. For what higher, more exalted, and more compelling goal can there be that to know God.?" J.I. Packer Knowing God

"It is not a cheerful thought that millions of us live in a land of Bibles, who belong to churches and labor to promote Christian religion, may yet pass our whole life on this earth without once having thought or tried to think seriously about the being of God. Few of us have let our hearts gaze in wonder at the I AM, the self-existent self back of which no creature can think. Such thoughts are too painful for us. We prefer to think where it will do more good - about how to build a better mousetrap, for instance, or how to make two blades of grass grow where one grew before. For this we are now paying a too heavy price in the secularization of our religion and the decay of our inner lives. The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him - and of her. A.W. Tozer

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Curriculum Project - Preschool Philosophy


This is part of a series I want to continue over the next months - my curriculum project. I've been working on it for quite a while. How did this begin? Well, first, I love children, education, teaching children and teaching about education and developing curriculum! Also, I've been interested in homeschooling for quite a while so I started researching as much as I could. And,  a few different people asked me to give them ideas for what to do if they did want to homeschool their children. I don't think anyone who asked actually decided to homeschool their kids or to take my approach but I've had a blast anyway. Sometimes it consumes me, sometimes it sits on the back burner. I would love to hear your comments! 

So here goes! This first one is a long one! Hang in there! Hopefully the rest won't be that long.

Disclaimer: I know that many parents who read this have chosen not to homeschool their kids or have decided on a different avenue to do so. Please know that I deeply respect your decision and am in no way trying to say you made bad choice! We all have our reasons and convictions for doing what we do and we need to respect one another in those. This is just an avenue for me to share my thoughts and heart, not to judge, and  to help anyone along who might be considering "homeschooling" their preschooler or trying a different approach.

I have put together a home "course" for preschoolers and kindergartners based on Charlotte Mason’s early childhood educational philosophy, my own thoughts and observations as a mom and as a former elementary school teacher with further educational background in childhood and family development and as one passionately interested in the education and general well-being of all children. I have not read all of Charlotte Mason’s work so I am going by what I have gleaned from other books and summaries about her ideas. I also have an interest in and some knowledge of classical education which greatly influences the direction of my philosophy and curriculum but, in my opinion, classical education is not suitable for very young children as it seems to be too much, too early. I do however apply many aspects of the classical education model (the trivium - grammar stage, logic stage, rhetoric stage) to my curriculum when children enter 3rd or 4th grade. I also believe that Charlotte Mason's approach is very applicable and compatible with classical education and is a kind of classical model in itself though some things do differ. At first glance, many may assume that Charlotte Mason's approach is not rigorous enough and is perhaps watered-down but from my research that does not appear to be the case at all.  So without further ado, let me introduce you to this inspiring lady and her philosophy that gives the framework for my early childhood "curriculum." 

Charlotte Mason was an educator who lived in England in the late 1800's. She had a huge influence on British education for many years. She trained teachers and started her own school for teacher training. Her course of education, starting in elementary school, included many and varied subjects for all ages including all the basics plus art and music appreciation, handicrafts and foreign language as well as others. She highly stressed the use of "living" books - whole books and primary sources instead of textbooks and workbooks. High quality, whole picture and chapter books as well as nonfiction books add much more depth of knowledge than what she called the "twaddle" of textbooks that give stories in summaries or portions and information in tidbits without much intrinsic worth, beauty or literary value.

Using living books tends to eliminate the need for comprehension questions and other time-consuming aspects of modern language arts programs. Instead children are more likely to tell back to you what they've learned because of the interest and love of knowledge and imagination these books have generated.  Charlotte called this narration, the art of retelling a story orally or in written form and believed it "is the best way to acquire knowledge [and comprehension] from books. Narration also provides opportunities for a child to form an opinion or make a judgment, no matter how crude." It also gives the student practice in oral and written communication. "The child learns to call on the vocabulary and descriptive power of good writers as he 'tells' his own version of the passage or chapter." 

Mason also enforced the need for short lessons in order to train and focus attention, increase listening skills and discourage drifting thoughts. These lessons gradually increase in length as the child grows. This method also promotes self-education and a love of learning, thereby eliminating the need to give lectures and to continually lead lessons. She also stressed the need for children to be outside and to have free afternoons starting around 1:00 so children were not given homework until around 13 years of age. 
As for younger children (before age 6), she felt they needed to not be in school, but rather outside as much as possible exploring the natural world, being read to, and learning the discipline of habits that would form a foundation for later, more focused learning and responsibility. Why not school for preschoolers? Children learn the bulk of everything by free-playing and observing and discovering. By going to school early, much of that time for discovery and free-play which so greatly enhances the imagination and intellect is lost. A mother's chief responsibilities for the first six years is to secure for her children "Quiet growing time--and free growing time--the freedom of real play (not lessons that look like play) and of ordering one's own life. page 194

So my idea of preschool is very simple - basically to just read to your little ones a lot, teach them good habits and let them explore and learn from their world. Go on nature walks and talk about what you see, collect things along the way, make a nature notebook. Go to the library to pick out new books and to listen to story time, go to the zoo, to botanical gardens, visit museums of interest,  plant a garden, play with friends, enjoy many lazy afternoons outside, learn about and meet missionaries, listen to books on tape, do somersaults, catch butterflies and fireflies and caterpillars, lay in the grass and watch the leaves blowing in the wind and the clouds changing shape, listen to classical music, bluegrass and jazz, watch the Olympics, go to a concert, draw pictures, make crafts, play board games, make up stories and songs, say tongue twisters, teach finger plays, cook together, serve in the community, have teatime, memorize scripture, pray with them, sing nursery rhymes and hymns, read fairy tales and poems and bible stories, count everything. Most of all, take the time to train their habits and their heart, let them play outside as much as possible (CM recommended 4-6 hours a day!), turn off the tv and read to them. 

To further explain that last sentence - after spending much more time on the internet perusing what others post on blogs and pinterest for preschool (including myself!) and after much thought and prayer and experimentation and observation of my own children and others, I've also come to some more conclusions about homeschool preschool. First, my foremost responsibility as a mother is spiritual education. I see these early years of utmost importance in pouring the Word of God and major ideas about God in the their little souls and to train their hearts, not just their behavior.  Learning letters and numbers is good and I want to teach those things but I have plenty of time for that. I wanted to start as early as possible on the spiritual aspect and not let the other trump it. That is what I want to put the majority of my time and effort into - praying through, reading about and discovering how to do this. So lately I've let that become more of my focus.

And as Mason emphasizes, I want to concentrate on building habits into their lives - habits like obedience, responsibility, truthfulness, concentration, a job well done, etc. As I wrote above, these are the foundation for much learning and are real world skills. And much of them stem from the heart. These take lots of time and constant repetition and much patience (I need lots of help in this department!). I see the importance of focusing more on these things in the early years than on academics.

All of that being said, there are tons of ideas on pinterest and the internet for teaching preschoolers at home. You could spend months looking at all the resources and still not see it all! There are lap books and lap trays and do-a-dots and busy bags and work boxes, printables of all sorts, workbooks,  etc, etc, etc ad nauseum! At first I was really sucked into these because they looked like a lot of fun, albeit a lot of work to initially put together and potentially expensive. However, as time has passed, I am beginning to question the true value of these. Don't get me wrong. I do implement some of these from time to time just to add variety into our routine. However, much of these activities teach things that can be learned through the natural discovery and general growing process and veer away from Mason's philosophy that I so love. Take  learning colors and shapes and even letters for example. I didn't sit down with Wes to teach colors or shapes. Just in the process of reading, playing and his very curious mind he learned these things very early. To do a worksheet or a lap tray seems like unnecessary busy work for him and me! Sure he still gets a couple of colors mixed up but he's not quite 4 yet. He's got a lot of time to get that down and I'm not worried a bit. Those are just two examples. I see something that looks really fun online and am gung-ho to do it with Wes but then as I start to really analyze it, I see that most of what is being taught is something that can be learned in a more natural way. However, I do appreciate the ladies that have put so much creative thought and energy into creating these activities! They do spur on my thinking and creativity as well. 

Although this philosophy may seem haphazard and instructed, I have put a kind of relaxed, practical structure to it. What can I say? I'm a teacher! I can't help myself! I look forward to sharing that with you later. I also plan on posting ways to do nature study with children and will explain what that is (I"m just learning myself), a list of parent reading resources and have already posted age-appropriate book lists, although as time has passed, I see the need to revise these. 

Finally, just for your information. one aspect of Mason's philosophy that I do not heartily agree with is that I've heard it described as child-centered. I do not really believe in the child being the center of anything. I do agree with her ideas about children being individuals with their own gifts and abilities who should be greatly appreciated as humans, thoroughly loved as individuals and encouraged in their interests and pursuits. But to completely give children free reign over their lives as seems to be what much educational philosophy teaches these days promotes, is, I believe, detrimental to the child as an individual, to their families and to society as a whole in which these children are raised. However, I don't think this was Charlotte Mason's intent in her philosophy. I believe it was her desire in her era to bring children out of the "children should be seen and not heard" realm of childhood and parenting philosophy and as such called it a more child-centered education. I think would not have approved of our current child-centered educational and parenting philosophy. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Remembering Jesus


I have been reading through Revelation the last few weeks and the other day came across a great passage that I thought would be fitting for Christmas Eve. No, it is not the usual Christmas Eve passage but I think it is helpful in remembering just who Jesus, that tiny baby in a manger, really was.

"Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems (crowns), and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of Kings and Lord of Lords." Rev. 19:11-16 (ESV)

So this Christmas, keep in mind that Jesus, the seemingly helpless babe, was and is The Word of God and that He was and is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the mighty conqueror. He is from the beginning and will be for all eternity. His power is unending. Doesn't this make Christmas mean all that much more - this gives the reality of Jesus in all of his power and splendor, a reminder of his divine nature, God himself and yet, "[He] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Phil 2:6-8)This is why he came - for us. This great warrior, this King of Kings, humbled himself and became a servant for us, suffering the humiliation and death that we deserved, taking it upon himself so that we wouldn't have to, so that we can walk with him and be with God for eternity. Praise God! But it was not for us alone. Ultimately it was his worship and for God's glory. "Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil 2:9-11)

Merry Christmas! 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Lots of Pictures!

Here is a post of pictures capturing all the fun we've had the last several months or so. Enjoy!

The ZOO! We went to the zoo this summer with Wesley's birth mom and half sister, Annie. We really loved the bird house and the birds really loved us. They were hopping all over the stroller and on us!



David hanging out in the stroller with Annie




The ARBORETUM - We went of a stroll and a hike through one of our favorite summer spots in Kansas - it's a beautiful place. It has a pond with lots of turtles, a huge, gorgeous perennial garden and  lots of hiking trails that skirt around hug trees and a creek. The park even has an outdoor miniature train set up that the boys love to watch. It has a life size caboose that Wes loves to climb.






The BEACH!! As part of a long journey to the deep south to visit my family, we spent several days at the beach in Florida with my sister and brother-in-love. 


David was petrified of the ocean at first but he soon warmed up to it. Here he's hanging out with Mamma, still getting more used to the water. 

David lounging with Aunt Elizabeth in his beloved sleep sack. 

David loved the sand and before he learned the true joy of playing in the water, he spent most of his time playing in the sand and walking the shore. 

Playing with Uncle Joey.

Hanging out with Papa.


Our first attempt at the beach resulted in a thundering downpour! 


GEORGIA! Another part of the trip down south was of course to stay with my parents in Georgia. It was a wonderfully relaxing vacation - once we actually made it there. We swam, did lots of swimming, the boys had lots of time outside and playing with Mamma's old Fisher Price toys.


David playing ball in my parent's backyard.

Watching a little tv with Grandma B. 

Wes is getting quite good of all types of sports. 

David found the patio furniture quite tasty!


Enjoying some yogurt on the deck. 


HALLOWEEN! This year, as usual for the last couple of years, we went to our church's neighborhood fall festival.

Wes has the same costume from last year. When it came time to buy one for him, he insisted on wearing the cow again. It still fit him so, why not? David, in keeping with the farm theme is a horse. 

Carving pumpkins. 
THANKSGIVING! We spent Thanksgiving with Eric's family in Arkansas.

Reading books with Grandma.

Wes monkeying around with Uncle Nathan and Aunt April


Hanging out with Grandpa in his big chair. 

Nabbing Grandpa's chair before he gets to it! 

Taking a lunch break at Firehouse subs in the middle of a LONG day of shopping. 

RANDOM & MISCELLANEOUS! 

Contagious smile

Enjoying another bowl of yogurt.

David loves to stack things, anything he can find! These are my spice jars. Yes, some of my spices are stored in old baby food jars. I had to find a solution for fitting them in the small drawer I keep them in. 

Don't you just want to squeeze those cheeks!

And these cheeks, too? 

Eric rode in a 35 mile bike ride with a couple of friends from work - the Tour de BBQ. So, Kansas City has over 100 BBQ joints from what we've heard. On this tour, which benefitted cancer research, the cyclist enjoyed BBQ from seven different establishments at stops along the way. What a tough ride! ;)

We refurbished our basement, trying to give it a facelift without finishing it completely. It is a nice little play place for the boys to exert lots of energy (Wes especially) during the bitter winters and rainy days, and even has a nice little area for grown ups and reading. 

Well, we found out that we are going to have a girl and after a week or two of trying to hold back, I gave in and bought some clothes. I've since bought another little shirt and a 3 piece outfit - all on sale. :) I had a hard enough time with the boys clothes. This is going to take much prayer and self-control! 

After each nap/quiet time every day, I never know what I'm going to find in Wesley's room. Most of the time though, he's come up with something creative with his cars, trains or blocks. Here he had his cars and trains in school. :)

This summer Eric and his dad built a play house/swing set for the boys. Wes has learned how to swing for himself and both boys love to climb up the ladder and go down the super fast slide. 

Wes loves to build different train track configurations. He's gotten quite good at doing them himself. 

David is often found with his nose in a book, right side up or not. 

Let's go outside!!!

After almost a year of hardly noticing the rocking horse, David finally wanted to ride it! 

Getting ready to venture out on the first 20 degree day. 

On one of our trips to Arkansas, Wes was surprised with a "new" bike! It is a little big but he LOVES it!
Happy boy in the tree house. 


Santa or Not?

Among Christian circles there is great opinion about whether to include Santa Claus in the celebration of Christmas. Eric and I have been pondering how to handle this with our own children. Do we say Santa is a myth with no redeeming qualities or do we include him in some way in the season? On the one hand Santa seems to embody the consumeristic hunger that secular Christmas has become. On the other hand, it might be possible to further explain the spirit of giving at Christmas. Hank Hanegraaf wrote, "far from being a dangerous fairy tale, Santa Clause in reality is an Anglicized form of the Dutch name Sinter Klaus, which in turn is a reference to Saint Nicholas, a Christian bishop from the fourth century. According to tradition, Saint Nick not only lavished gifts on needy children, but also valiantly supported the doctrine of the Trinity at the Council of Nicea in AD 325." The Heart of Christmas: A Devotional for the Season by Hank Hanegraaf. 

So, the real Santa Claus, not the embodiment of heresy and materialism, affirmed Christian beliefs about the divine nature of our Savior as expressed in the idea of the Trinity and was very generous. Hanegraaf concluded this devotional segment about Santa Claus and the Trinity, "In Sum, then, Christians may look back on the tradition of Saint Nick...as a legendary hero of the faith. Of course the notion that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole in a toy factory, that he sees children at all times and knows whether they've been bad or good, and that he travels in a sled pulled by flying reindeer, is clearly myth and should therefore be treated as such. This December 25 as you celebrate the coming of Christ with a Christmas tree surrounded by presents, may the story of selflessness on the part of Saint Nick remind you of the Savior who gave the greatest gift of all. Thus rather than supplant the Savior with Santa, we can use Saint Nick as a reminder to generously support God-ordained ministries so that the message of salvation can reach those who have not yet received salvation by God's grace alone, through faith alone - and on account of Christ alone. " And I add, giving generously to those in need around us and abroad.

So does all of this look like for our family? Our focus is Christ, his birth, the gift of salvation he offers to us, the Word became flesh. We've been reading several verses every day about the birth of Christ from the gospels and the prophecy of his coming from Isaiah and Malachi. We have a book called, J for Jesus by Crystal Bowman that expresses the legend of the candy cane but tells frankly the purpose of Christ's coming and death. We have another book that we are going to read to the boys a couple of days before Christmas and the day of called, My Christmas Gift also by Crystal Bowman that expresses the real gift of Christmas and not to miss it among the gift giving and receiving of Christmas Day. We have several books portraying the birth of Jesus that we've been reading. On Christmas Day we are going to give Wes a sticker book that once again explains the whole purpose of Christmas.

As far as Santa goes, we've read stories about him and explaining that there was a real Santa Claus who gave gifts to poor people and followed Jesus but we don't emphasize the flying reindeer and other myths associated with the jolly old man. We thought that we'd have the stockings be from Santa in the tradition of how Saint Nick would do it, but not focus on him actually coming down the chimney or watching over them to know if they've been naughty or nice.

Another thing we've incorporated this year into the festivities is a Jesse Tree. I had hoped to do it last year but couldn't get all the sewing done for it in time! A fellow worker in Lebanon introduced this idea to me years ago. Mine looks far different from hers but the concept is still the same. You start  on December 1, each day read until Christmas a  major story of the Bible that points to Christ's coming (creation, fall, flood, Abraham, Isaac, the 10 commandments, Ruth, Esther, Jonah, Daniel and the lion, Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist, the shepherds, etc) and then pick the ornament that goes along with the story and hang it on the tree. I don't think Wes would have appreciated it last year. This has been a lot of fun this year!


On Christmas Day, we plan to open a gift or two, or their stockings and then have a breakfast together with a breakfast cake for Jesus, sing Happy Birthday to Jesus, read the Christmas story again (we probably will have read it the night before as well for the Jesse Tree) from the Jesus Storybook Bible and sing some Christmas carols.  Then we can finish opening gifts.

We may rethink all of this next year, but for now, this is our plan. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas!