Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas from us!

 We are continuing to celebrate this season making memories, talking about the true meaning of Christmas, and doing fun things.  Last night...our annual trip to Yonkers, GA to see the house that's decorated with lots of Christmas lights.  You can get out, walk around, visit Santa, and even sign a guest book.  It's short, but so worth it!  Then we drove around town and looked at more Christmas lights.  It's become one of my favorite things to do during the holidays. 
I think this is my kids' first picture with Santa Claus.  Crazy, huh?!  We have nothing against Santa, but I just want to make sure that Sophie knows the true meaning of Christmas.  It is so hard to make our teaching of Jesus being the focus of Christmas more important that the constant message of Christmas being about Santa. The kids see this on tv, the computer, and talking to friends and family.  Last night I kind of laughed as we were walking up to the lights and Sophie saw lit up Santa Clauses and she said, loudly, "I know Santa isn't real, Mom." I was like, "Sophie, that's our family secret.  Some other kids don't know the secret yet and we wouldn't want to spoil anything for them." A few minutes later she was explaining to Isaac that Santa had a toy machine and they could go tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas and they could get it.  Too funny.  There's a lot of mixed messages that kids get over this holiday.  The one I want to be most important is that the reason we celebrate is because of Jesus.  Just Him.  He is worthy of our celebrating this time of year for Him.  Our gifts are given to honor Him and His birth.  All the other stuff is fun and we enjoy that, too.  Here's a song that I really enjoy that reminds us of what this holiday is about.  Merry Christmas to all of you!  God bless!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

*Christmas fun*

 I absolutely love this time of year.  The weather is nice, we can do fun things together, and celebrate Jesus' birth.  Last week we invited one of Sophie's friends over to play.  Notice the short sleeves...that's south GA for you : ).
 We made some tree ornaments out of popsicle sticks, buttons, beads, and ribbon.  It was so much fun.  I love making ornments with the kids...and their friends.
 I saw something on Pinterest that I wanted to try.  We have "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and I thought making some "Grinch punch" would be fun after reading the story.  So that's what we did! 
Grinch punch: lime sherbert and Sprite
 Here's our story and there are the punch eaters.  My favorite line: "Mom, I wuv Grinch punch!" from my little guy : ).
 On Sunday Isaac made his church singing debut.  He did such a great job! 
My sweet Sophie did a great job, too! 
Next week...I hope we'll be able to make some homemade salt dough ornaments!  I have big plans to have some handprints of my babies on the tree : ). 
Merry Christmas and God bless!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Shakespeare meets Lancaster County in "Courting Cate"

*I received this book for free from Bethany House publishers to give an unbiased review"
I had a spark of interest when I read that this book was kind of a play on Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew".  I've seen the movie with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and really enjoyed it.  So I kind of had an idea of what the story line of this book might be...with an Amish twist.  What I didn't expect was the way that I could relate to the story and how real and understandable Cate's shrewishness was.

Cate is the oldest daughter of the family and has been responsible for raising her baby sister since she was a little girl herself.  Her mother passed away after giving birth and at 5 years old, Cate shouldered a lot of the burden of mothering.  Flash forward several years later.  Cate has given up her desire of having a husband and family, which is very traditional in the Amish community, and instead hopes to run her own business and provide for herself.  Her sister, now 17, is beautiful and the perfect little wife to be.  She can cook, garden, and charm...all the things that Cate feels she is lacking.  Then Cate meets Pete.  He's traveling through, but instantly Cate knows he's different.  She enjoys spending time with him until she is caught in a situation that brings up all of her old feelings from the past...humiliation and betrayal.  When her father states that Cate's younger sister can't court until Cate does, the story takes a lot of interesting turns. 

The story of Cate and Pete definitely intertwined with "The Taming of the Shrew"...but I thought it offered even more.  Cate's feelings of betrayal...stemming from being openly humiliated by some boys in her so relatable.  It was easy to understand why she struggled with trust.  I honestly felt sorry for her in some ways as she had to bear the burden of raising her younger sister at such a young age, and feeling like a failure when her sister didn't act the way she should.  Cate's sister was also very manipulative, and it was hard at times to see Cate cater to her.  Love and forgiveness were also a theme through the story.  As Cate drew nearer to the Lord, her callous attitude towards those who had wronged her smoothed out.  The Lord helped change her and soothe those deep wounds.  There is one very interesting part in the story (I would spoil it if I told you what happened) that causes Cate to be humbled, but in the process she learns and grows in the areas that she is weakest in.  I know that's kind of vague, but if you read the story you'll know what I'm talking about ; ).  I found myself feeling angry towards those who had hurt Cate but it was a good lesson for me about forgiveness through these fictional characters.  Forgiveness is something that is difficult sometimes to give, but when we do we can experience a wealth of love and freedom.  I would definitely recommend "Courting Cate".

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Our Jesse Tree

In true Stacey style, I decided yesterday that I wanted to do something for advent.  I definitely felt the need for our family to take Christmas back to its roots...Christ.  It's not that we haven't been talking about Jesus' birth every year at Christmas time, but I've noticed that the kids are very influenced by everything around, movies, other kids, etc.  So much so that I've asked Sophie several times what the meaning of Christmas was and she said, "Santa Claus."  Please, friends, don't go up in arms because I'm not anti-Santa.  In fact, I have a book I bought at the Christian bookstore that about the real Saint Nicolas and how he ministered to families way back when.  I grew up with Santa.  I watch movies that include Santa.  But I do personally think that Christmas has become too Santa focused.  What is Christmas all about?  Christ.  I am constantly reminding Sophie that we give gifts at Christmas because we're celebrating the birth of Jesus, just like we would celebrate their birthday.  But Jesus came to the earth, was the son of God and he died for us...and we celebrate that with gifts...not because of how good or bad they were or if they wrote a list to Santa.  This year I put the word out on facebook that I was looking for some advent ideas...semi-crafty, Christ-centered, cheap.  I got several great ideas, but I decided to go with this one:
 The Jesse tree.  I had heard of this before, but had no idea what it was.  Honestly, I thought someone named Jesse (probably a kid) came up with the idea to put some special ornaments on a tree.  Now I know...the Jesse tree is a way to take the focus of Christmas back to the lineage of Jesus...from the beginning at creation on up in time.  Here's our little Jesse tree.  Since I waited til the last minute and didn't want to buy stuff....I went and got a tomato cage from our shed, tied the prongs together at the top, wrapped it with a small piece of garland and extra Christmas lights, and put a bow on top.  I also added one of our old tree and white gingham the bottom. 
 Ann Voskamp, known for her book "One Thousand Gifts", has offered her blog readers/subscribers a free copy of her advent reading plan and free printables for the Jesse tree ornaments...color and black and white.  I looked at some other advent reading plans, but this one just seemed special to me.  I really like Ann's style.  I've never read "One Thousand Gifts"...I've heard of it and heard good things about it...but just never read it.  But I peeked into her blog today and was really drawn to it.  She has a lot of neat freebies on there.  I subscribed to her blog and later in the day got an email that included the link to the advent packet.  Above are all the Jesse tree ornaments...printed, glued to construction paper, hole punched, and strung.  A few still needed to dry, but I've got most of them done.
Here's a close-up of a few of them.  Aren't the pictures beautiful?!  I love some of the things she encourages you to do as a family after each day.  I really hope that we can do all of it even though we'll be pretty busy over the next couple of weeks.  I think this will not only draw us closer to each other, but closer to our Savior...who is worthy to be praised this holiday season!
God bless you...and Merry Christmas!  : )