Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The 12 Days of Christmas

This year we had a secret santa delivering presents to our house! For the past 12 days they have bought us gifts. They've knocked on the front door and before I could get there, they disappeared! They started a twitter account and on the third day tweeted to us "On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me... go check your mailbox!" On twitter they follow Buddy the Elf, Rudolph, Santa Claus and me and Jack! They saw us playing in the backyard so they dressed in black with masks and got the boys' attention with a bird call then took off running as they delivered the 7th day of Christmas gift. Caleb exclaimed, "I saw our secret santa! He's a ninja!! I think we should call him our secret ninja!!" They called Jack's cell phone with a blocked number and left a cryptic message about a package in the driveway. We've come home after being out and found gifts waiting on the back steps.

This has been the most fun event in our house this year! The boys have been beyond excited each day to get a gift from our secret santa! And today, our secret santa knocked on our door and revealed themselves as they sang the song listing off all of our gifts and giving us 12 krispy kreme donuts!! So much fun!!!!

The secret santas were a very sweet couple from our church- Carson and Kelsey Smith. What a blessing they were to us this year. We can't wait to try our own 12 days of Christmas surprise with someone else one day. Carson said that when he was a boy, a co-worker of his father and his family did the secret santa 12 days of Christmas with them. Now they are passing it on to us.

I didn't get a picture of the fourth day!! It was four slinky's. 

Secret Ninja Santas Revealed!!
Thank you, Carson and Kelsey!!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mourning, the Gospel and Joy

There is much to mourn these days. Tears. Pain. Prayers. Groanings.

And as I mourn, I am seeking the heart of God. Knowing He is still good. Knowing He is still God. Knowing that even as we struggle with evil acts, sin, pain, suffering, we are about to celebrate the moment our Savior clothed himself in flesh and felt what we feel. He felt what we feel. He wept. He hurt. And Christmas is about that- the moment He became our High Priest who can identify with us. This is the Gospel.

"When we consider all that Scripture teaches about God and evil, we are led inextricably to the gospel: the good news that God has taken the very worst thing that has ever happened in the history of the world (the death of His Son) and He has turned it into the very best thing that has ever happened in the history of the world (the salvation of sinners). Evil is tragically real, God is supremely great, God is absolutely good, and the gospel is shockingly glorious." ~David Platt

And because God is supremely great, absolutely good and the Gospel glorious, then even when we mourn, we can have joy and proclaim His goodness, even as we cry, through the avenue of thanks.

"Giving thanks is that: making the canyon of pain into a megaphone to proclaim the ultimate goodness of God when Satan and all the world would sneer at us to recant... Never doubt it, wondering world: Even if the tail still rampages, the snake’s head is crushed...
To solely spend our attention on evil pays homage to Satan... In the face – no, the tail – of evil, in spite of everything, there are bold songs still, still." ~Ann Voskamp

This weekend, even as I've mourned, I've also given thanks.

On Saturday night, I went on a date with my oldest son. We've had it planned for a while now, but what a joy it was on that day of all days. He is 6 years old and in 1st grade. And we had a very sweet night together. We've been learning about Tchaikovsky in school. We read the story of the Nutcracker and listened to selections of the music. And our curriculum suggested going to see it, if we could. So, I got tickets for Caleb and I to see the York County Ballet's production of the Nutcracker on Saturday night. We went out to dinner, got hot chocolate and coffee from Starbucks and then enjoyed the ballet. I loved every minute. He is a joy. I am so grateful

601. date night with caleb

 On Saturday morning I woke up and found this on the back porch.

We have a secret pal giving us gifts this Christmas! I have no idea who it is. The boys are thrilled! They have loved the anticipation each day. On Saturday evening I heard a loud sound at the front door and found this

Then last night I got this tweet: "On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me.... go check your mailbox! @carriesfamily @jacklikescoffee." That's right, our secret santa has a twitter account! I checked to see who they are following to see if I might discover who it is (the mystery is killing me even though I love it!). They are following Santa, Rudolph, Buddy the Elf and me and Jack. Ha! Here's what I found in the mailbox

What a joy-filled, anticipation filled, fun weekend we've had thanks to our mystery friend.

602. secret blessings filled with laughter and anticipation

On Sunday we went to church and then out to lunch at Cookout, as we always do. After I got our food and got our crew settled with our lunch, an older gentleman in the booth behind me asked me if they were all mine. I told him with a smile, that yes, they are all mine. And he told me they were precious, and I heartily agreed. As we were finishing our lunch, that kind stranger and his wife came over and handed me a $20 bill and told me to take my kids out for a treat. The boys showered him with thanks and I cried. What kindness. I was so very touched.

603. the kind heart of a stranger

A sweet friend gave me a very thoughtful gift at church on Sunday. She made me a mug with a list of some of my 600 gifts that I have recorded thus far on it. It is beautiful. And so personal. And I cried.

604. a mug of thanksgiving

And my two sweet college girls came over last night and we watched Pride & Prejudice and snuggled on the couch. And one gave me a sweet, sweet note of thanks.

605. girl time
606. kind words on a christmas card

And Sunday I dressed my little princess in a hot pink tu-tu and she found a necklace and put it on all on her own. I could have just eaten her up.

607. little fashionista

We've spent the past few days without Jack with lots of things to stay busy, help the time pass, and experience some joy. What fun we've had.

608. icing covered faces

609. children's  museum imaginations

610. cell phone photos from jack and to jack

611. early morning snuggles

612. starbucks and donuts

613. josiah reading words- the triumph in his eyes!

614. animal ornaments

615. christmas books

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Jack is gone on a mission trip to Staten Island, NY helping with SBC Disaster Relief's work with Hurricane Sandy victims for 6 days. I hate when he goes away. I miss him. And it's Christmas time. And we have 4 young kids for goodness sake! And then God gave my perspective. A friend- a boy I used to babysit actually- is serving a 9 month deployment in Afghanistan. He's married. He has two young kids. His wife is home with them. Without him. For 9 months. And at Christmas time, too.


It's ok that I miss Jack. In fact, I'd be concerned if I didn't miss him. He's my best friend, my partner in life, my partner in parenting. I should miss him. I do miss him.

But God has called him to go. And called me to stay. And He gives us the strength to do both. And being together is a gift. And being apart for only 6 days is a gift. And for the next six days, whenever I feel lonely or tired or overwhelmed, I've committed to pray for Jamie and her kids. Perspective.

And then today happened. 20 beautiful children. 20 moms without their child. It's been horrific. It's almost unbearable. And it gives perspective. As I sat watching the news, I cried. And then I had an overwhelming urge to hug my kids, to hold my kids. And I started thinking about all of the times I lose my patience. About the careless words I say. About the times I feel stressed or angry or overwhelmed or frustrated. I thought about those families in Connecticut. I thought about what their morning might have been like today. Were they stressed? Did they utter careless words at their kids? Did they think "I can't wait until these kids are in school and it is quiet around here?" Not knowing what their day was to hold. There's no judgment here. I've had those same thoughts. I've said to my kids "You are driving me crazy! Go play and stop coming in here!" I've said things I don't mean in the heat of a moment or in a frazzled instant. And today was a slap in the face with perspective.

And the hard truth is, there's no excuse for my careless words. My harsh attitude. We like to make excuses- "It's only natural." "Everyone loses their patience once in a while." "Don't beat yourself up." "You're just tired." And on and on and on. But the truth, the harsh reality, is there is no excuse. When I lose my patience- that's sinful. When I fuss- that's sinful. When I complain- that's sinful. It's all wrong. I need to repent. I need God to change me- to make me more like Christ. And as He does that, I need to work out my salvation. I need to choose better. I need to choose gratitude. I need to chose love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control. I need to choose holiness. 

Every day with my kids is a gift. EVERY day. The hard days. The good days. The "they're driving me crazy days." Every. Single. Moment. Poopy diapers. Vomit. Kids fighting. It's all grace. Undeserved blessing. There's no reason that tonight I am going to bed with four beautiful healthy children in my home. Nothing I've done to deserve this. It's just grace.

On my mirror in my bedroom are 10 Grace Prayers for Joyful Parenting by Ann Voskamp.

Number 4: "Just for today, I will ask for His grace, that when stress mounts, I'll dismount it with gratitude. My stress coping mechanism will be verbal intervention with verbal thanks. It's impossible to simultaneously feel stress and gratitude at the same time and I choose to give thanks at all times."

Number 5: "Just for today, I will ask for his grace to speak words that are only strong words, words that  make these children strong. Grace words. Grace is the only non-toxic air."

Sometimes a little change in perspective is all we need. Tonight I am praying for families hurting in Connecticut. Tonight I'm praying that God continue His work of sanctification in my life. Tonight I am praying for the strength to choose grace, gratitude, holiness. Tonight I am thanking God for four beautiful children and all of our messy, crazy, fun, hard, stressful, happy days together.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

So Much Grace...

576. a weekend in november with great friends

577. letterboxing.... first find with "The Night Owls"

578. finding caleb and ava's future wedding site

579. these two 

580. his tender heart and the letter he wrote her

581. silly faces

582. our tree of thanks

582. cutting down our christmas tree

583. helpers

584. riding the train together

585. my reindeer

586. and the carousel 

587. meeting the grinch

588. christmas lights

589. when caleb and noah make each other giggle in the back seat of the van

590. watching her first time on the chick-fil-a playground

591. thanksgiving with my favorite people

592. first krispy kreme

593. two knights and their princess

594. siah snuggles

595. a cute new student

596. date nights 

597. flowers from caleb

598. these girls

599. surprise picnic

600. this group