Thursday, December 11, 2008

The More Things Change...

Sometimes raising these two boys is like deja vu! Noah looks so much like Caleb did that it can sometimes feel like I'm two years behind! But Noah is also his own little person, with his own little personality and he is getting his own little look. But he still looks a lot like his big brother.

When Caleb was 11 months old he loved the dishwasher and I took this picture of him after he climbed in it all by himself. And yesterday, as I was unloading the dishwasher, Noah climbed up in it too and I snapped this shot. What can I say? The more things change, the more they stay the same!

Lessons from a Christmas Tree

Get ready... this post is a little deeper than usual. And don't worry there will be pictures at the end since I know most of you only read this blog to see new pics of the boys!

This year was different when we chose our Christmas tree. Jack can tell you that getting a tree with me can be quite an adventure. I am very picky and we usually don't end up getting a tree until I have looked at at least 10 or so. But this year, because Caleb is older and understands what is going on, he was very much a part of our tree choosing mission. And because he is 2 1/2 and has the attention of a 2 1/2 year old, we didn't look at 10 trees. We didn't even look at 5. In fact, the third tree we looked at was the one Caleb liked and so it was the one we bought.

We got the tree home and put the boys down for their naps. While they were napping, Jack got it all trimmed up and into the tree stand and into the house. And as Jack was getting it placed into the corner of our living room, I thought to myself, "This is the ugliest tree we have ever gotten." And after a few minutes, Jack saw the look on my face and I said my thoughts outloud. So, my sweet husband said, "Maybe this just isn't the front." Then he laid down under the tree and slowly rotated it while I looked on trying to see if there was a better side. And as he turned, well, it only got worse! I really am not kidding- this was one ugly tree. It had lots of weird branches that bent and curved and stuck out all over. And we realized the trunk was crooked so the top wasn't centered which gave it the appearance of leaning. But oh well, it was the tree we bought. So we rotated it to what was the lesser of all bad sides, Jack strung the lights and I put on the bow and ribbons and we waited for the boys to wake up.

When the boys woke up, Caleb was so excited and we all worked together to hang the ornaments (or as Caleb kept calling them, "instruments") on the tree. Caleb literally hung all of his on the same branch and when he turned around to get another one, Jack moved the one he just hung to another spot. It was quite funny, because Caleb didn't even realize Jack was moving his ornaments until about 10 ornaments in he caught him doing it! We had a wonderful time together decorating our hideous tree.

And then last night, I was sitting in the living room after we put the boys to bed, looking at our tree and I thought, "I think this might be the prettiest tree we've ever had." I know I sound crazy, but it really does look great. Somehow, putting lights and ribbon and ornaments on this weird looking Christmas tree made it beautiful.

And as I pondered these thoughts, I realized that this is exactly what God does to us. Nothing about that Christmas tree changed- we didn't go get a new one and we didn't work real hard to fix it- all we did was dress it up and instantly it was changed into a beautiful tree. And we are all pretty ugly in our sin. We can try to clean it up- like trying to find a better side of the tree- but we are truly ugly all over. There is nothing we can do to be beautiful in the sight of God. But then, God did something amazing. He sent His Son to be our ransom. Christ died in our place for our sins. And when we come to realize that and accept this amazing gift, something miraculous happens. Instantly, we go from ugly to beautiful in the sight of God. And it isn't because we get traded in, or because we worked so hard to fix ourselves, it is because God dresses us up in the Righteousness of Christ. We are clothed in His Righteousness and able to be in God's presence. Isn't that amazing? Because of what Jesus did on the cross, God has proclaimed us beautiful and righteous in His sight. These ugly trees are clothed in His beautiful decoration and instantly transformed.

And then I thought about what's been going on in our lives lately. I have been going through a great trial of late and it has not been easy. I won't go into all the details because that is not necessary. But what I realized last night, thinking about the lesson of my Christmas tree, is that God doesn't just dress us up in Christ's Righteousness and leave it at that. He works continually in our lives so that we become in practice what He has already proclaimed us to be. You see, underneath all the decorations, our tree is still pretty ugly. We've been able to cover that ugliness and proclaim our tree as beautiful, but nothing about the tree has actually changed. But when God clothes us, and transforms us, and calls us righteous, he doesn't just leave us there. He uses the good times and even more so, the trials, to teach us, and mold us and change us so that we become more and more beautiful, more and more righteous. And so I can be joyful in the midst of these trials- because God took an ugly tree like me and he called me beautiful because of Christ and because He is using this trial to make me as beautiful in reality as He already has proclaimed me to be.

And now the promised pictures:

Noah got to face forward riding in Daddy's truck!


Caleb checking out the tree

Hanging "instruments" on the tree

Playing with their nativity

Our beautiful tree

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Halloween

We had a great time this Halloween. Our town had a free festival, which our church was a part of, with games, candy and rides all for free! Caleb was Thomas the Train and Noah was a Lion. They were both adorable and we had lots of fun! Here are some pictures:Thomas the Train

Noah the Lion

Daddy and Caleb on a ride!

Mommy and Noah riding on a "train"

A New Playroom

This fall, we decided to redo the boys' playroom. It really has just been a storage room that we used as a place for them to play. Now it is truly a playroom and they LOVE it. I made curtains to cover all of the storage shelves, we painted the room a cheerful yellow, Jack built a toy bench which we upholstered to make seating, I made pillows and painted the boys' names on the wall, and we painted the toy bench with chalkboard paint so they can color on it. I must say, it really looks great! Check out the before and after shots:

Before

After

Before

After

Before

After- with the toy box Jack built


The Pumpkin Patch

It has been a very fun fall here at our house. And in the midst of it all, I turned the big 3-0! I know it's shocking..... you're probably thinking, "There is no way she is 30! She looks so young!" But yes, it is true, my twenties are over. And the truth is I haven't been happier in my life. My twenties were wonderful to me, but as I enter my thirties as a wife of an incredible man who is my best friend and the mother of two amazing little boys who bring me such joy, well I just can't wait to see what my thirties have in store for me!

This year for my birthday I wanted to spend the day with my family at the pumpkin patch. We had a picnic and then we enjoyed the pumpkin patch together. It was great. And afterward we did a little shopping at the outlets. And the best part of all- I bought a new pair of khakis that are TWO SIZES smaller that what I wore before I got pregnant with Noah! Yay for losing weight!

Here are some pictures from our day!

Happy Birthday Mommy!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Vacation Top 10 List

video

We hope you enjoy this video Jack made with the highlights of our amazing vacation in Panama City Beach, Florida. We went back to the same condo we went to last year and we had a great time. The video says it all, but here are our Top 10 Vacation moments:

10. Ice Cream and Cookies every night- hey if you can't on vacation when can you?!?

9. Noah's morning naps in the sun tent on the beach- so sweet!
















8. Eating at Reggae J's Island Grill- yummy!

7. Riding the 'train' at Pier Park.
















6. Daddy and Caleb digging (or destroying) tunnels on the beach!

5. Walking on the sandbar





















4. The pool!! The boys LOVED it!

3. Great family pictures on the beach!
















2. Quality family time and we didn't talk about church stuff one time!

And the number 1 vacation moment......

1. Naps for everyone every afternoon!!


Our Not So Calm and Quiet House


video

This video is a typical morning here in our household. Caleb talks from the moment he wakes up until he goes to sleep! And Noah is not far behind him! No more nice quiet mornings around here, but I love it. Just today, Caleb put his face close to the toilet to watch his toilet paper go down, and when he did he realized that his voice kinda echoed. So, he excitedly said, "Mommy watch this!" and he proceeded to yell "I love you Mommy!" into the toilet! And as you will see in the video, Noah has started crawling this week! So, yes, life as we know it is over. The day he started crawling he pulled on wires, got up on the fireplace, got my magazines on the coffee table and destroyed them and got into Caleb's crayons and ate them! I guess it's time to babyproof again. With the first one, you can't wait for them to reach each milestone. With the second well, let's just say that I looked at Noah one day this week and said, "Why did you have to start crawling?!?! It was much easier when you just sat there!" Ahh well, each stage brings its own joys and challenges I am discovering! Bring it on!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Happy Boys

video

I am so very blessed. My boys love each other so much! Noah's face lights up when he sees Caleb and Caleb loves to be with Noah. They bring me such joy. I love to watch them smile and laugh. I wonder if this is just a glimpse into the heart of God. When my boys are happy, I am filled with joy. I love to watch them love each other and care about one another. I will do just about anything to make them happy- don't we all? I sing songs and make faces that I wouldn't want any of you to see! But if it makes them smile, it is worth it! Is this how God feels when he lavishes us with His love, when He fills our lives with blessings? Does it fill Him with joy to see us love each other? And what about the times He blesses us and loves us, but it doesn't seem to make us happy? Is He as discouraged as we are when we try to make our children happy and it dosen't seem to work? Being a parent really has changed, challenged and expanded my understanding of God in a way that nothing else has. There was an entire part of His character- His fatherhood- that until I had my own children, I was unable to truly understand. And as I sit here and watch this video completely in love with these two precious boys, I am reminded that the Creator of the Universe sits in heaven and is completely in love with me. Wow!

So, I hope you enjoy this video of Caleb and Noah. It is a joy being their mother- more than I ever thought it could be! And I love that they love each other. I know one day they will be teenagers and will probably be completely annoyed by the other, and so I will save this video and remind them about how much they used to adore one another!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Another Trip to the Zoo

Jack left yesterday to go on a 10 day trip with the other pastors at the church. Believe it or not they are riding around the Midwest in an RV, telling people about Jesus and interviewing pastors and leaders who are making a difference for Christ where they are. And they took a cameraman with them and are recording a "documentary" of the trip! Levi is keeping a blog during the trip. If you want to keep up with them it is http://sendmetour.blogspot.com Keep them in your prayers (and us too! Of course now that Jack is gone, both boys have a stomach virus!!)

So, before Daddy left for 10 days, Friday we took another trip to the zoo! We had a great day. The weather was perfect, the lion cubs were out and the boys were in a great mood. The last time we went, the lions were not out as the babies were about to be born. And a week later they were! Now the cubs are 3 months old and we got to watch the whole pride interact. It was really neat. Caleb once again was in charge, directing us to the animal he wanted to see next. He was very excited about the panda again. This time we only saw one because the mommy Lun Lun just had another baby (a boy this time) last week. He loved the snakes, the "ephalant," and the tiger. And again, we had a picnic lunch and rode the train. It was a great day. Here are some pictures from our day:

The new lion family

Noah was in a great mood!

Daddy and Caleb Kangaroos

Riding the Train!


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Caleb's First Day of Preschool

Caleb started preschool today! He is going Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 9-12 at a local church preschool. He was very excited today and he did great. I wondered what might happen when we got to his room, but he gave me a kiss and walked right in! No tears, no fussing, just excited to be at school! When I picked him up, he was having a great time. He told me that they read a book, he glued a heart, and played with balls and with Max (a boy in his class). I can't believe how quickly the past 2 and a half years have gone by! Here are some pictures from his first day of school:

Wearing his backpack ready to go!


Isn't his backpack great? Thanks Nana!

"Mommy! I don't have time for pictures, I want to go to school!"

Trying a New Shopping Method

Thanks to my friend, Leslie, in Florida, I have decided to try a new way of shopping- namely clipping coupons, and using CVS and Walgreens to get things for free or nearly free. It has been an interesting few weeks as I try to figure out this new system. But, I think I have finally started to figure it out! Here is what I got last night:

From Publix-
Total before coupons: $31.18
Total Out of Pocket: $10.61

From Walgreens-
Total before Coupons: $12.37
Total Out of Pocket: $0.99!

From CVS-
Total before Coupons: $26.83
Total Out of Pocket: $3.59

I have also been reminded of an important lesson through all of this. In the first few weeks, I was very frustrated because I felt like even though I was saving money, it wasn't enough! I felt like I was doing something wrong. What God revealed to me was that I was putting the burden for saving money and providing for our family on myself. This is not my burden to bear! God is our provider- God is our portion. While He has given me the abilities to take care of our family, ultimately it is God who provides for us. What a relief! So, thanks Leslie for showing me a new way to save money and Thank You Lord for providing everything we need!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Our Crazy Life

Wow... so it has been several months since I have blogged. Maybe after you finish reading this one you will know why!

What a crazy summer we had! In June, Jack took our students on a World Changers mission trip to Biloxi, Mississippi. And because our bus driver backed out at the last minute, my dad, who has a bus license, went too. The boys and I went to spend the week with Grammy since Daddy and Pop-Pop were both gone. Caleb had a great time playing with Hayden all week- man those two really love each other! Here are some pictures from our week:
Hayden, Noah and Caleb in the backyard pool!

Caleb loves the pool! He jumps in, puts his head under and already swims and kicks by himself! Maybe the next Michael Phelps?!?

Mr. Blue Eyes is growing up so fast!


When Jack got home it was time for Father's Day and Noah's Baby Dedication. We had a lovely day as we dedicated Noah and Grammy and Pop-Pop and Nana and Paw-Paw were here for the occasion!Everyone at Noah's Baby Dedication

Just a week or so later, Jack went to Savannah for another World Changers trip. This time he went as the Project Coordinator and Worship Speaker. He truly is a gifted preacher and we are so proud of him and opportunities God has given him to speak! The boys and I decided since he was still in state we would head down for his Wednesday off. We had a great time with Daddy and the summer staff team.The Fam in Savannah- notice that Jack has grown a beard and we have both lost weight thanks Weight Watchers!

While Jack was gone we celebrated the 4th. Caleb was absolutely terrified of the fireworks! I have never seen him so afraid. Poor little guy!

When Jack got home from all of this traveling, we were both convicted about the quality time we spent as a couple and as a family. While we have a very strong and healthy marriage, I told Jack that I realized why there is such a high divorce rate among empty nesters. It is so easy to spend all of your time focused on your kids- they are so precious and fun! But in the process, your marriage is neglected. And on top of everything, being in the ministry is very draining at times and we find that much of our together time is spent talking about church! So, we resolved to have date nights every week on Thursday nights. One Thursday we get a babysitter and Jack and I go out together and the next Thursday night is Family Date night and we do something just the 4 of us! It has been really great- a big thank you to everyone who gave us giftcards last Christmas! Jack and I just used the last restaurant one and we still have a few movie tickets- free dates! :) And have enjoyed family picnics at some area parks. God has provided us with such a precious gift- our marriage and our children. No matter what, we need to make these things a priority! Tonight Jack and I are going to a different church to enjoy a worship service together- not as pastor and wife but as husband and wife worshiping our Lord together! Yay! Here are some pictures from our family date nights:
A self-portrait

Playing at the park!

Also in July we seriously tackled potty training and I am THRILLED to say that Caleb is potty trained! No more diapers!! YAY! He is doing a great job and just this week is very interested in privacy. He pushes us out of the bathroom and shuts the door! He says "No Mommy, I do it by "myfels" " :) Let me just take a moment to brag on my oldest. He is not yet 2 1/2 but he is potty trained, knows his uppercase letters and lower case letters, can spell his name, knows his colors and numbers, and even knows some letter sounds! He is such a joy to be around. In two weeks he starts preschool just two mornings a week. And now to brag on my youngest... Noah is such a sweet baby. He is smiling and laughing all the time now and just recently has discovered his voice! He can get quite loud! He loves Caleb and reserves his biggest smiles for his big brother!

Last weekend our friend Eric's band played at Six Flags Christian Music Weekend. We took the opportunity to take Caleb to the new Thomas Town to ride on Thomas! We had a great time!
Ready to go to Six Flags!
Daddy and Caleb meet Thomas!

Caleb and Noah grow more and more each day and I fall more and more in love with them- which I didn't even know was possible I already love them so much! And Jack is the biggest blessing in my life. I am in awe of God's incredible blessings in my life. I have been reading a book called "The Bathtub is Overflowing,But I Feel Drained." It is a great book for moms. And yes, there are days when I am incredibly drained, and times when the circumstances at church are hard, even painful, but I am learning to rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS! Even in the midst of life's yuckies. Jack recently preached from Habakkuk and I want to share some of what God spoke to my heart through him. In the end of the book, Habakkuk was struggling with the circumstances in his life and struggling to understand God's answer to his prayers (something I am sure we can all identify with), but even in the midst of these struggles this is what Habakkuk says, "Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation." Habakkuk 3:17-18. Habakkuk says that even if everything he needed for survival, for life, was taken away, still he would rejoice in God. I am daily praying for God to make this true in my life. Rejoicing in is a choice. I can choose to wallow in my circumstances or I can choose to rejoice in all that God has done for me and will continue to do! And so I choose to rejoice, and here are two reasons why:
And so, we have reached the end of our summer adventures. If you have made it through this incredibly long post then more power to you! I promise to update the blog more often!