Sunday, December 30, 2007

Without An Umbrella...AGAIN!

I don't know if you know this about me, but I am a SAP!!! Anytime that I am driving to and fro, and it starts to pour down rain, I ALWAYS (REALLY, an unusually high percentage of the time!!), see someone having to walk without an umbrella. They are looking miserable and getting SOAKING WET. I can't HELP but to stop. If I try NOT to, because we are in a hurry or something, I always end up turning around. My chest starts to hurt and my eyes well up with tears. I can't handle it. There is just something that seems so awful to me about having to walk in the pouring down rain. It seems so degrading too. So, I ALWAYS pull over and give them our umbrella.

I have done this for years. I even remember getting laughed at by my soon-to-be (at the time) in-laws, because Nathan and I got soaked going into a restaurant to meet them. I made Nathan pull over and offer our umbrella to this man who looked like he still had a very long way to go. After all, we were going from the car to the restaurant and it wasn't raining too hard. You guessed it. The bottom fell out as we opened our doors and we got soaked to the bone.

I keep our umbrella(s) behind the driver seat and I just reach down behind me and offer it out of the window. Never has anyone turned it down and I always find the person grateful.

So, this morning we were all ready for church early for once. Nathan went to load the kids in the car while I fed Annagail. It was pouring down rain and you know what? We had no umbrella. Nathan laughed and told the kids that we didn't have one, but that he knew several people between here and our old home in GA that did.

The moral of this story is that I am resolving to do something this year that I have always thought about doing. I mean it. I am really going to put an end to this.

In 2008, I resolve to...


Have a Blessed and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Joy Hides In Chaos...

...but guess where it shines? IN PEACE!!!!!

Nathan's company surprised everyone with the entire week of Christmas (and two days next week) OFF with pay!! It has been so great to have him here. He is in a break from school too, so there hasn't been any leaving for more than and hour or so. I have read books to each of my children. I have done LAUNDRY!!! My bedroom is actually a sanctuary again where I can WALK now, not to mention sleep.

I had brain space available to actually teach my 6 yr old how to make scrambled eggs yesterday. We have been able to get back to our relaxing, staggered bedtimes for the kids, so that we get quiet time with each one of them. Also, we decided that the candles for Advent worked such wonders towards calming the little ones each night, that we would light a candle on our coffee table every night for family devotions. It has been very nice. Did I say that already? My son has climbed into my lap on two different occasions, for o other good reason than to tell me how beautiful I am :) today. He is four and I am his Mama, so I am still the most beautiful woman in his life, gratefully, no matter what I look like.

It is nice to have these breaks to just get focus back and relax. We have had errands to run and things to do, but OH how much easier it is to go GROCERY SHOPPING with my five babes here at home having fun with Daddy!!!! (Yes, I do actually leave the house with them without Nathan.)

It is good to have such peace while we are trying to make such hard decisions regarding education. It gives me free space in my brain to think about it and it helps me to not make any decisions based on panic or desperation. God knows my heart and He knew JUST what I needed. He is so good to me.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I am sure that it is of no surprise to any of the readers of this blog that I struggle with homeschooling. I struggle with what to do, when to do it, and IF WE SHOULD be even DOING it. This year, so far, has taught me a few things.

-I am a creative person. (Who knew?)
-I CAN plan ahead (again WHO KNEW?!?!?!)
-I CAN teach!!
-The kids actually LIKE me as a teacher!!!

Still, I am stuck wondering whether or not this is God's plan for us. I hate over-thinking things, but this is such a big deal!!! As much as I love teaching the children, I fear that I am missing the Forest for the trees. I had a great conversation with my Sister-in-law the other day about desire vs. conviction. I have a long list of great reasons to homeschool the children, but still my heart is unsettled and I don't have peace with it. I struggle with my girls and with whether or not this is GOD'S desire for them or mine.

I fear that I am missing out on being their Mommy, plain and simply. I want to do more Mommy things with them, but with a family our size (and ages) I am constantly planning, teaching, house cleaning, finding time to nurture my little ones, etc. I don't seem to have that time available to just MOTHER them and nurture them. Sure, that gets done in the teaching some, but not enough I am afraid. I want to Mommy them. A friend on a homeschool board gave this example and it couldn't have painted a clearer picture of what I am feeling right now.

Picture my family sitting around the living room, each of us holding a basket. My oldest two girls have baskets overflowing with eggs. My baby has a fair amount, though much less than my oldest two girls. My 4 yr old and 3 yr old have one egg each and my poor husband has only a half of one. Then I realize that I have divided the eggs this way. I feel like I am failing if I am not investing more into ALL of my children, but especially my younger three right now. And if I am not giving time to my marriage then that could have lasting consequences that may not rear their ugly head until YEARS later. I just need balance and I don't know that homeschooling is where we will find that.

So now we are back to looking, researching, and praying, praying, praying. I am still teaching them this year. That won't change. We just both feel so unsettled about next year. We have always said that yearly evaluation is necessary to keep in check.

I WANT to homeschool. That is my desire. However, I learned through my fears during my last pregnancy that God's plan for my children is INFINTELY greater than anything that I have planned for them, EVEN if I am not a part of it. God's will is always what we want.

Homeschooling has so many benefits, but even the MOST BENEFICIAL plan is dangerous if it falls on a path that is outside of God's will. That-is what we are left to decide. It is our charge.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Can you say WEBCAM?!?!?!?!

Nathan got me a new laptop last month that he was able to purchase with a big discount from his work. It was discounted and bought on a tax-free payment plan, so it was a SUPER deal. It has a built-in webcam. I mentioned to my MIL that she should get my FIL a webcam, so he and the kids could talk. She did and let me tell you, I am amazed!!! Today was Christmas, but I am even MORE excited about tomorrow when we show all the kids that they can call Gran and Papa on the computer and SEE them. They are going to be so excited!!

Nathan and I just spent the last hour chatting with his parents and it was so much fun. During our video chat, our baby woke up and my in-laws were able to watch Nathan rock her back to sleep while he chatted. My almost-baby woke up with (another) fever and we gave her medicine of the Tylenol and the Grandparent variety. She went back to sleep peacefully after blowing kisses and telling them about her new baby doll she found under the tree today.

I consider myself a child of the computer age, but I just really am blown away by technology. Maybe I am older than I think.

So, if you have loved ones that live far away, I would STRONGLY recommend putting a webcam on your wish list. We spoke for free using a service called SKYPE. It was a lot of fun and I know will make the kids feel closer to them in the future.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

2007 Christmas Letter To YOU!

Greetings Friends & Family!

We hope that this letter finds you concluding a happy and healthy 2007. If it went as fast for you as it did for us, you are probably standing with your hands in the air wondering where the year went!

We began 2007 waiting for the arrival of our fifth and final addition, Annagail Fayth. She made an early appearance in March and is already crawling and pulling up on anything she can get a grip on now. She is a very happy baby despite being kissed, hugged, & squeezed at numerous points of the day (times FOUR), so I’d say she is off to a great start.

Ella keeps us on our toes. At 3 years old, she is the first one of our children that I have considered putting one of those leashes on in public places. She climbs on anything that will hold her and she proudly wears the bruises from trying to climb the things that WON’T! Her adventures this year have included making her own rain with a teacup when she didn’t get to try out her new raincoat for 2 days and coloring herself brown with a marker, because she wanted, “pretty, dark skin.” She is a JOY and is at her happiest standing in the middle of our living room, making everyone roll with laughter.

Cooper is making his way in this family that he is so very out-numbered in. As I imagine most 4 year old brothers are, his favorite thing to do these days is to refuse the kisses of all of his sisters. He holds them hostage with the promise that he will grant them kisses, “Only on Sundays!!” Every now again, he slips up and forgets his own “rule” at bedtime which causes unending giggles that drive him nearly mad. As much as he scoffs at it, he is the first one to run in with a shoe to kill a spider or defend his sister on the playground, because he is “our protector” when Daddy is at work.

MaryEvelyn has become quite the artist, complete with the temperament, at the ripe old age of 5. She is taking private art classes with a local artist and is doing some really great work for her age. She has always been the one of our children that would sit at the table all day long with a stack of paper and a box of crayons if we let her. It is fun to see her interests and talents beginning to form. I look forward to seeing how God will use each of our children and their talents for His good.

Graycen is our little ballerina and seems to be maturing by the minute these days. At 6 years old now, there are times when her hair is hanging a certain way, & she is busy explaining something to me in her very diplomatic way, that I can almost see her standing before me all grown up. She is being baptized the Sunday before Christmas this year and we couldn’t be more proud of her efforts already to live her life for Christ. Having surrendered her life to Christ over a year ago, it has been wonderful to share in her growth and to disciple her. At the end of one of those long days we all have, Graycen noticed that I was a little frazzled and asked me what was wrong. I explained to her that I was just a bit overwhelmed and disappointed that I hadn’t gotten all my to-do’s done. She said to me, “Mama, if you were perfect, you wouldn’t need Jesus.” She may be six, but there are many days that I end up learning from her instead of the other way around.

If I had to sum up our 2007, I would have to call it “Seasons of Grace”. With five children under the age of seven, Nathan’s full-time work load, his part-time class load, and me homeschooling our oldest two in 1st grade this year; we are as busy as you may THINK we are and then some. Our home doesn’t look like Martha Stewart’s, but it sure isn’t Old Mother Hubbard’s either. We are blessed daily by God’s good and perfect Grace and we are, as Graycen so eloquently stated, made perfect by His love.

As the celebration of the birth of Jesus approaches this season, our prayer for you is that you will take time to reflect on not only Christ’s birth, but also His sinless life and His death for all of us. Our prayer for you in 2008 is that you will know the Lord’s mercy, His peace, and that you will grow deeper in your walk with Him than ever before.

Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!
In His Grace And Love,
Angela & Family

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

First Corinthians 13 (Christmas Version)

First Corinthians 13 (Christmas Version)

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows,
strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls,
but do not show love to my family,
I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen,
baking dozens of Christmas cookies,
preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime:
I'm just another cook.

If I work at a soup kitchen,
carol in the nursing home,
and give all that I have to charity;
but do not show love to my family,
it profits me nothing.
If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels
and crocheted snowflakes,
attend a myriad of holiday parties
and sing in the choir's cantata
but do not focus on Christ,
I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the spouse.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love does not envy another's home
that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love does not yell at the kids to get out of the way,
but is thankful they are there to be in the way.
Love does not give only to those who are able to give in return;
but rejoices in giving to those who cannot.
Love bears all things,believes all things,
hopes all things,
and endures all things.
Love never fails.

Video games will break,
pearl necklaces will be lost,
golf clubs will rust,
but giving the gift of love will endure.
--Author Unknown

Monday, December 17, 2007

Hearing From An Old Friend

My joy this morning walked right in and I didn't HAVE to look for it!!! My INBOX this morning held a great letter from an old friend. She is one of my friends from GA that is now living in another state too (I have several like that!) and it was FAB-U-LOUS to get her Christmas email. If you knew her, you would know why it is so funny that she sent out a Christmas Email this year.

We are in full-on prep mode. This weekend is a BIG celebration weekend here. My oldest, Graycen is being baptized on Sunday morning at a special service and we have MANY family members coming up. We will be having our extended family celebration of Christmas on Saturday evening and it will be the first time EVER that the kids have had all of the (available)Grandparents & 2 Great-Grandmothers here at one time to celebrate Christmas. We are cooking our big Christmas dinner that night and then we will all be front row to see Graycen take this walk of obedience and be baptized on Sunday morning.

The kids are all so excited. I am afraid our little family celebration on Christmas Day will be a downer in comparison, LOL! NO, we have actually decided to open our home, Christmas Day, to several friends from the seminary who are away from home too. We are having a huge birthday party for Jesus and it should be a lot of fun!

I should probably give my wishes for you all now, as I have so much to do this week that I SHOULDN'T be on the computer to blog at all!!! However, I am mailing my Christmas cards and letters today, so maybe I will post my card to you all in a few days. I can ALWAYS think of an excuse to blog if I try :)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

4 of my elves

Check it out! I could only make 4 elves, but I'm hoping that Annagail won't mind.

My Elves!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Welcoming Joy

Lately, I am finding myself in an all out battle to find joy. I am tired a lot of the time and I just don't seem to be applying the time needed to BE joyful.

This season of life for me brings with it a lot of physical and emotional work. Two of my five (ages 3 & 4) are right smack dab in the middle of "The NO Years", meaning that I feel like I say NO and am disciplining them 23 of the 24 hours in a day. My youngest babe is in a very physically demanding phase of life where she is held a lot to keep her out of things (like the Christmas tree!!). She is also still nursing, so I can't remember when the last time I slept a whole night was. My oldest two at nearly 7 & 6, have entered into a WHOLE OTHER REALM, where they have very tender feelings and it takes enormous amounts of time to rightly disciple them into self-control. Even though they require a good bit less disciplining, they require more explanation :)
All of this is doable with God right? I am getting through, but I am hiding my joy in it.

I did a short Bible study a few years ago on Thessalonians and there was one thing that stood out to me. In the letter to the Thessalonians, Paul comments on the fact that they "welcomed" joy despite the suffering they were enduring. That has always stuck with me that he used the word "welcome". He didn't say that they were bathed in joy or that the Lord showered them with joy as if it were a phenomenon of sorts. They welcomed the joy. It is an action that they did. They actively sought and invited in the joy that was theirs. The use of this word causes me to picture joy just standing at the door to the home and the people opening the door and saying, "Come on In!" (I realize that is a little elementary of an illustration, but bare with me as I have been planning 1st grade lesson plans all day). The Thessalonians didn't hide from their joy behind the persecution and hardships they were enduring.

The significance for me is that joy is part of our lives as Christians. Having been given the gift of forgiveness and redemption through the precious and sinless blood of Christ, we HAVE joy. Often times, I hide it away in the business or chaotic seasons of my life and I look upward with hands wringing, wondering when the Lord will rain upon me the joy that I "soooo deserve".(that word is a curse word in our home, BTW).) It is a pitiful thing. The Thessalonians were being persecuted for their faith (like many of my brothers and sisters in Christ are all over the world currently) and yet they welcomed the joy into their lives. I am having a hectic and busy life, chock-full of God's favored blessing and yet I am still looking for my joy. (?!?!?!?!?!)

This has to be my mission!!! I need to set out to welcome joy into my life again. It is there. I don't have to look farther than to my salvation to find a reason to be joyful. One step past that is the fact that I have a Godly husband and five great kids to care for. This sounds so easy, yet I struggle so much with this.

I think that part of it is that I have come to expect hardship. Instead of living free and being joyful for each new morning's oxygen, I have come to expect the trials that come into my life. I have taken on a practice of being "prepared" for the struggles, because somehow I have convinced myself that I am being proactive. Wanna know a secret? Anticipating hardship seems to have the opposite reaction than what one might think it would. Instead of being READY to handle them, it makes me hardened and burdened by them 100% of the time. I stop living in the joy that was given to me on the cross. This is what I have done and what I need to correct in my life.

So, I am off now to open the door of my heart to the joy that was given me. Pray for me if you think about me. Change is hard, but I know that it will have a ripple effect in my life and I will be surprised at how life will look from the other side.