Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Cousin Christmas

Our cousins came to visit.
It's become a tradition to play Minute-to-Win-It games.
It was hilarious!

Throw the marshmallows through the wreath.
Some serious competitors.

Fun Saturday

Sometimes it's good to spend a day being purposeful about saying "yes." I feel like I say "no" all the time. So that's what we did! 
The mall at Christmas time is fun!

She is always right behind him looking out for him.

Oh Christmas Tree

He was pretty proud of this tree he made at preschool!
We still have the tree but the candy is long gone!

The Christmas Light Express

Free, family fun is the best. Each year one of our favorite family traditions is surprising the kids with The Christmas Light Express. The kids think they're about to go to bed and then I hand them a ticket.
They have to find daddy (who is usually in the garage) and get their ticket punched before they get in the car.
They were excited.
Christian got to bring his buddy, Carter because he's starting to out grow this tradition, so we're trying to keep it fun.
Will thought this was the best night ever.
We added a scavenger hunt this year where they had to find certain things like white icicle lights, the grinch, a nativity, a disney character, etc.
Wonderful memories.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Why We're celebrating Hanukkah.

We are doing something new this year! We are celebrating Hanukkah! I know, I know we're not Jewish, but last year I saw a menorah on clearance at Target and something prompted me to buy it. I thought about what on earth I was going to do with that Menorah all year.

As I started studying Hanukkah (a holiday I knew very little about), I actually started wondering why I haven't been celebrating this holiday my entire life. The history of this holiday is an amazing testament to the work God was doing during those silent years in the Bible. There is a 400 year gap in between the Old Testament and the New Testament. I'm not a Bible scholar, so I just always assumed there wasn't anything important happening in those years...oh but there was.

You know what the Jewish faith has done well for centuries?? They have festivals and celebrations to remember what God has done for them. Even in Old Testament times they would have feasts that would last for days to remind themselves of the miracles that God did in their midst. They were able to pass down their faith from generation to generation because they were purposeful in celebrating and remembering God's work. As followers of Jesus we could do much better at remembering and celebrating the things God has done in our lives. And that's the purpose behind our own Hanukkah celebration (more on that in a minute).
Quick History Lesson:
Disclaimer: This is not a perfect recap of the history of Hanukkah. I should spend a lot more time studying this, but this is the basic gist of the story that I shared with my kids. This is from some books and internet sources. I'm just a mom, not a Jewish historian.

A Syrian/Greek King named Antichus decided that he didn't want the Jews to worship their God. So he kicked them out of their temple and desecrated the temple by slaughtering a pig on the alter and by putting a statue of Zeus in the temple.
A group of people said to their fellow Jews, “Hey, enough here! We cannot accept this impurity of putting a pagan god into the Temple, of eating non-kosher, of disobeying the Bible, of being immodest. That’s not the culture in which we were brought up. We’re not going to take this anymore — we’re going to stand up for the Jewish values and the Bible that brought us to this place.” A group called the Maccabees, led by a man named Mattathias and his brothers, revolted against King Antichus. There were five brother (just five) who stood up to a Kind and an entire army. Five guys got together, stood up for righteousness and against all odds changed history! (Whoa..there's some huge lessons there).
The first miracle is that the Maccabees were victorious over King Antichus' much stronger and bigger army! The second miracle took place when they reclaimed the temple and they started to clean the temple out. In the Temple, an eternal flame had to stay lit all the time. Walk into any synagogue today and you will see something commemorating that eternal flame, though now it’s usually a light bulb. This signifies that God’s presence is there all the time, in the same way that we light an eternal flame in memory of a president or great person to signify that their spirit never dies. But when they came into the Temple to light the eternal flame, there was only one flask of clean, pure olive oil to use, just enough to keep the flame burning for one day. Only pure oil could be used — not oil that had been touched by the pagans and used for sacrifices to the pagan gods. There would not be enough oil, as it would take eight days to go out and get more.
But they went ahead and lit the flame anyway, which sends a beautiful message of trusting in God. Some might have said, “Why bother? It will go out anyway after a day, and then we’ll have to wait for the oil.” But they trusted in God, and a miracle occurred — the lamp that was only to last for one day stayed lit for eight days until the new oil arrived. This is how Hanukkah became the “Festival of Lights.”

Major stuff to teach your kids about Hanukkah:
 1. Jesus celebrated Hanukkah, which makes sense because Jesus was Jewish. John 10:22-23 mentions it being the "Feast of Dedication" which is what we now call Hanukkah and it says that Jesus was at the temple. Jews went to the temple to remember and celebrate the miracle that God did 200 years prior to Jesus' birth.
2. Jesus didn't celebrate Christmas (**Gasp** This was shocking to my kids). Okay, so maybe Mary and Joseph celebrated Jesus' birthday...I don't really know. But no one during the time that Jesus was alive actually celebrated Christmas. The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336AD, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (he was the first Christian Roman Emperor). A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th December.
Jesus didn't celebrate Christmas - Christmas celebrates Jesus!

How we are celebrating Hanukkah:
1. For the first night we made a craft (so they would have something to do while I told them the story of Hanukkah). There are also some decent youtube videos that we watched and NO they did not include Adam Sandler!

2. Each night (for 8 nights) we are lighting the Menorah.

3. When we light the Menorah we are choosing one story each night to tell about a miracle God has done for our family. We are celebrating and remembering the amazing things God has done for us. My kids don't have very many stories to tell. But I have stories that I can tell them of miracles that have taken place in my life and in their lives. Last night I asked them to tell me a miracle story... both Christian and McKenna were quick to tell the story of God healing Will's finger. That's the greatest miracle they've ever witnessed and it's something they both remember. The details of the night he got hurt are still fresh in their minds. Tonight I told them the miracle of Christian's birth. They had heard it before, but it's so good to remember and celebrate what God has done.

4. After we talk about the miracle God has done in our lives, we pray and thank God for working in our lives and we invite Him and ask Him to continue to work in our lives.

5. Then we open a small present! That's the celebration part!

I think I've got the Dreidel game figured out, so we're going to give that a try tomorrow!

Seriously...you should do this! It's so much fun to learn something new and try something different! Do you think you don't have any miracles to talk about or share about with your kids?? Every single time God answers a prayer, that's a miracle. It doesn't have to be some big parting of the Red Sea moment. It can be His whisper of Peace when you are going through a challenging time.

Tomorrow my story is going to be about the time a mechanic told me it was going to cost $2000 to fix my car. It turned out to be a $30 fix. I prayed and prayed that God would fix my car because I didn't have $2000. I was pregnant with Christian and I was about to quit my job and I remember second guessing my decision to be a stay-at-home mom because I was worried about how to pay that car repair bill and that was while I was working. What on earth would I do if something went wrong while I wasn't working? To this day, I think God fixed my car to increase my faith and give me the courage to quit my job.

And the next day, they're going to hear about the time I was in a head on collision and how I am CERTAIN that God protected Christian (he was a baby) and miraculously intervened in our lives so he wouldn't be in the car at that moment.

Happy Hanukkah!
"Shalom Aleikhem"

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Most Wonderful time of the year!

Everything is special at Christmas time, even the after school snacks!

The Nutcracker Ballet

McKenna's best friend from school was in a performance of the Nutcracker. I was planning on taking her to see her friend perform but we had a rough week of sickness, I had missed a ton of work and really needed to spend my Saturday night getting ready for Sunday morning! To my surprise Ryan offered to take her!
McKenna was thrilled! It was such a special time for them. They had balcony seats!
McKenna even got to go back stage to visit with Addyson!
It was a late night for our sweet girl but she loved having special time with her daddy!

Why I pray...

Yesterday I put an all-call out on Facebook asking everyone to pray for Christian. He had the worst migraine he's ever had in his life and he's had a couple dozen major migraines. I was in the throws of considering taking him to the ER when I posted on Facebook and asked people to pray.

I realize that not everyone considers prayer to be a genuine solution to a problem. Not everyone believes that prayer accomplishes much of anything. I am well aware of the fact that I have many Facebook friends who do not pray and some who are atheists who think prayer is a joke and something weak people lean upon to make themselves feel better.

I however believe 100% in the power of prayer. There is absolutely not one tiny doubt in my mind that the God of the universe hears me when I prayer. No doubt. And here's why.... I've lived it.

I can still remember the day in 1982. My dad was cutting up a tree with his chainsaw. We could hear yelling from the house and when I looked out the window I could see blood running through my dad's fingers as he screamed and gripped his face. The image is forever seared in my four year old mind. A chain had sliced through his face. What I remember next is a swarm of people coming to my house and I remember the praying. The out loud...really bold....praying. I remember hearing the stories of the praying people who showed up at the ER and I can remember the praying people taking care of my siblings and I. There was a lot of praying and there was a lot of praising and thanking God going on. My dad lived, quickly healed and today his face shows no evidence of his accident. Prayer answered.

I grew up with this idea that you can boldly present your requests to God because of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. Because Jesus died we can now "approach the throne," that means we can talk to God in any moment without all the pomp and circumstance. I don't need to go through a priest or do some ritual to get God to hear me. I can just pray. I can talk to Him. I can cry to Him. There have been times when I've begged and pleaded with Him.

I can still remember the blue baby boy that was born on June 14, 2005. He wasn't breathing and his heart beat was faint. No one would answer me when I asked what his Apgar score was. There was just grave seriousness in the faces of the people who came flooding into the room. I had spent my entire life dreaming of the moment I would become a mommy and when that moment finally arrived I felt helpless as I watched them breath into my baby and do chest compressions. I did the only thing I knew to do...pray. I said "Jesus" over and over and over again. And He heard me.

And then there was the summer that Will's finger got slammed in the door. It was a defining moment in my life when I held my screaming baby, who was writhing in pain, in the back of the ambulance. Part of his finger was gone and there was no pain medication they could give him in the ambulance because he was only 16 months old. I literally could not stand seeing him in such pain. I was begging them to give Will something to knock him out. They couldn't. And so I prayed like I've never prayed before. Out loud...in front of those paramedics... I begged God to take Will's pain away and knock him out. I think I was actually shouting and crying. I was a mess! There were some wide eyes in the back of that ambulance when Will fell asleep a moment after I prayed. I can remember my exact words.."God, right now in the name of Jesus Christ, I ask you to take Will's pain away. Send your ministering angels to touch him right now in Jesus name. Right now Lord. I need you to do it right now. Please Jesus heal him. Now." And he fell asleep and most of you know the story....under the watchful care of a plastic surgeon and with lots of people praying...that little finger grew back. I couldn't make this stuff up if I wanted to. Answered prayer.

That's why I pray. It works. I don't always get these dramatic answers to prayer. I spent countless hours on my knees begging God to heal my little cousin Olivia. She's in Heaven now and I prayed for her more than I've ever prayed for anyone in my life. Those prayers were not answered the way I wanted them to be answered. But I would never say that they weren't answered. She's well and whole and strong right now living it up with Jesus.

I could go on and on with story after story of times when I've seen miraculous answers to prayer and I'm so thankful. I am in awe that this omnipotent God who spoke a word and created oceans and galaxies loves me enough to listen to me pray about my son's migraines. This morning we prayed and gave God thanks and praise for taking Christian's headache away and for providing him with relief yesterday. He stayed in the hot shower for about 40 minutes until we ran out of hot water :)  Then he got in bed and I laid hands on his head and prayed that God would take the pain away. He fell asleep a few moments after that. Answered prayer.

This is the verse that has shaped the way I pray:
Hebrews 4:14-16  "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

This verse is clear that we are going to have times of "need." We live in an imperfect world. But in those hours of need we need to hold firm to the FAITH we profess to have. And we can have confidence when we pray.

Monday, November 24, 2014

My Aunt Betty

Christian and I went to visit Aunt Betty. It was a great life experience for him and it was something I felt strongly that I needed to do. She didn't know who I was but I'm certain she understood that I was someone who loved her very much. She had moments of clarity when I talked about her sisters or her home. And she was happy. Christian and I prayed with her that the Lord would draw her close to him and be merciful to her. I think I'm going to take McKenna the next time we go.

Let the holidays begin!

It's officially the Christmas season! Our town held their annual tree lighting on Friday night!
It was the first time in 10 years that we didn't have a stroller with us! Yeah baby!
This little boy loved it!
Our favorite tradition!

All I Want For Christmas...

Thanksgiving at Preschool

Will had a special Thanksgiving meal at preschool. He was so excited that Nanny could come.
He was also excited about his special placemat that he made.
Such a big boy!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Wonder of Salvation

Oh this girl~ Bedtime is either a disaster with her or the best moment of my day!
And last night was pretty special. We were reading THIS book and we were making some connections to the characters in the story and how she is a princess because when she asked Jesus into her heart (at age 3) she became a daughter of The King of Kings. She sat up in bed and started to cry and here's how the conversation began to unfold.

McKenna: "Mommy I'm worried because I don't remember asking Jesus into my heart. What if I didn't say the right words?"

Me: "You don't have to say the perfect words, you just have to believe in your heart that Jesus is God's son and that God raised Him from the dead. And you believe that and you told God you believed that, so he wrote your name down in his book and he doesn't erase it."

McKenna: "I just want to pray again and use my words and I don't want you to help me. I want to make sure God knows I'm really serious. I don't want to have to worry about this anymore."

Me: "Remember, God's special book has your name in it so you don't have to pray again, but if you want to tell Jesus again that you believe in him, then I'm sure he would be very happy about that. He loves you so much and he wants you to know FOR SURE that you're going to Heaven one day."

And so, on November 3rd 2014 at 8:26pm, McKenna prayed the most sincere prayer. She told Jesus that she believed that He is God's son and the she believes that Jesus rose from the dead. She asked him to forgive her of her sins and prayed that his special "Holy Spirit" power would fill her heart. And when she was done, she felt so much better. Her lack of memory of the first time she prayed was causing doubt in her mind. Probably the most important thing that I told her last night was that "doubt is okay" and when you have doubts the best thing you can do is talk to mom or dad about it.

Reggie Joiner in his book Parenting Beyond Your Capacity talks about how the most important thing you can do as a parent is create a trusting relationship with your child, so that they feel comfortable sharing their fears, doubts and worries with you! We always think that our kids should be earning our trust when really we should be working hard to earn the trust of our children!

Parenting Take-Aways:
1. Create time for conversation with your kids. Whether it's bedtime, around the table or in the car. You will not know what's really going on in their hearts if you don't make time for conversation.
2. Work at building trust. You do this by not overreacting to situations. Be predictable and consistent in how you interact with your child. They won't trust you if you're mad at them one minute and want to snuggle with them the next minute.
3. Salvation is a moment and a process. This will not be the last time that McKenna wrestles with her salvation. It's a normal part of maturing. I want her to doubt and wrestle through her belief in God because that means her salvation is her own. She doesn't just believe in Jesus because I told her that's the right thing to do...she's believing in Jesus because that's what she really believes. She's developing her own faith and that is the goal!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

McKenna's Letters

"Tuesday's letter from McKenna To Mommy. I love you. Ciss. Hug. !Love! I can't wait to see you when I get off the bus. I love you."
I get these letters quite often. Such a sweet girl. So blessed to be her mom.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Community Helper Day at Preschool

This child does not like dressing up. So he wasn't too excited about dressing up for Community Helper day at school. But then I got him a flashlight to go with his outfit and all the sudden he loved it!

Will saves the day!!!

He loves preschool!