One Word

One word as a theme.   So many to choose from, and yet, the answer was there before I even realized what the question was.   The answer, Embrace.   The challenge, to come up with one word that would be the theme of the upcoming year. 

"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, 
ordinary life-your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, 
and walking-around life-and place it before God as an offering.  
Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him."  
Romans 12:1  Message

This verse was given to me during the December devotional I was reading this month.   A gift, it gave the answer to my pondering what the new year would look like for me.   My everyday, the ordinary,  the day in and day out events of my life, that is the offering that I am to give.   I do not have to take on something bold, something new, something daring, rather enjoy what he has already brought into my life that makes it so rich already.    "Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him." 

My instinct is to always be looking for the new, the better, the interesting, the different.   Always looking ahead to the next event or goal, my challenge this year is to be fully present, to be open, to avail myself, and to accept what is already here.  

I first heard about this idea of a one word theme a couple of years ago from Chris Giovagnoni when I was a new sponsor with Compassion.   The idea intrigued me, but I had not really put anymore thought into it.   I was reminded again this year of Chris's journey with choosing one word to guide you through the year.   I am intrigued and excited to see what the new year brings with a new and different focus for me.


Possibility in the New Year

The Christmas celebrations are over and the New Year celebrations are just around the corner.  This week finds me in reflection of the year that is coming to a close.   There are highlight years in my life, ones that stand out as being "life changing" or those in which significant events have happened.   This happens to be a highlight year with a lot of changes, events, and much learning.

In no particular order, here is a list of eleven significant things from my 2011:

1.  I had the opportunity to begin working in an office environment for a couple hours a day while the kids are in school.  This has been a wonderful opportunity and the people I work for are great.   It has also been an adjustment for me as I have not worked in an office environment or been accountable to a "boss" for over ten years.

2.  I ran a half marathon.   It was something I never thought I could do as I never considered myself athletic.   The sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that I have completed this made a huge change in my view of myself.

3.  For five years, I have tried to teach my own children how to play piano.  As it is my profession, I thought it would be easier than it was.   This year I began a search for a different piano teacher for them and we ended up with a wonderful teacher who understood where I was coming from and helped me to not feel like a failure in looking for a piano teacher for my own children.

4.  Hard work and determination pay off.  Part of this discovery was in training for the half marathon, the other part was in coaching the LEGO robotics team.   The marathon was an event that I was excited to participate in and something that I wanted to do, the end result was exhilarating  as I crossed the finish line.    When we looked into the LEGO robotics, both Mark and I agreed that we did not have the time to coach the team, but we were both excited about the possibility for E.   Two weeks later, through events beyond our control, we found ourselves coaching the team.   The time commitment was demanding, and the work beyond my comprehension.   Determined to provide the experience for E, we took on the huge learning curve, set aside some things, and ended up competing really well at the tournament.   Whether it is something you want to do in life or whether it is something that life hands you, hard work and determination pay off. 

5.  With a new addition to our family this year, I have five nieces and a nephew to love in addition to my children.  With age ranges from newborn to ten, there are many stages of life going on.   The cuddly newborn stage when they are totally dependent on you for everything to the three year old trying desperately to find her way to express her thoughts to the five year old beginning school to the eight year old navigating though friendships and the ten year old preparing for middle school, each stage in childhood is one to be celebrated and enjoyed.   

6.  It has been a great year for Mark and I as we continue to make new friends and develop the friendships that we already have.  Each friendship that we have has enriched our lives in ways that we may not even know yet, but we know that each friendship is a gift from God and one that we are grateful for.

7.  Investing in myself is important.   This year was the second time that I have taken the time to invest in myself.  The first time was seven years ago this New Year's Day, when I made a commitment to myself to loose weight and lost almost 50 pounds.  This year was a year dedicated to exercise and fitness.   In January the thoughts of going to the gym were purely weight loss focused and also training for the half marathon.   As the year progressed the gym became a way that I was taking care of myself.   I have found that when I take the time to invest in myself, my outlook on life is so much better.

8.  You can't take life for granted.   In November, I was reminded that each and every day is precious and a gift.   In a moments notice, you can find that a dearly loved one is no longer by your side.   Each day is a day to love hard and cherish those around you because there is no guarantee for tomorrow.

9.  I am His.   Something I was taught from a very young age, that God loves us and there is nothing we can do to change that.   My head knew the words, yet deep in my heart was a different story.   I would listen to the whispers of the world and the opinions of others, letting that affect my self esteem rather than resting and absorbing in His love.  This year I am learning to rest in His presence and His love and let that be the foundation of who I am.   (Still working on this.)

10.  Despite the busyness of our schedules leading up to the holidays, I was able to spend time each day through the month of December remembering the reason that we celebrate Christmas.   The stress of preparing for the holidays took a back seat this year for the first time, while I spent the month celebrating the birth and love of my God.

11.  Possibility.   Each of the events above was an opportunity offered to me in this past year.   As the calendar page is about to turn and bring in the new year, new possibilities and opportunities will be knocking on our door.    This year promises to bring changes to our family and while those changes are already being anticipated, I look forward to the possibilities and opportunities that are not yet realized that we can embrace, wrestle with, grow through, and at the end, smile as they might just be one of the highlights of the year.

Today I am linking up with Julie, for Words, words, words.   Be sure to check out her beautiful writing here.  


Merry Christmas

Today as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, 
I want to wish you a very 
Merry Christmas 
from our family to yours!  


2 Years Old

Today we celebrate the birthday of two special family members who bring so much joy to our lives!

Happy 2nd Birthday 
Pixel and Mae! 




We Are the Reason

I first heard this song again last Christmas.   I wanted to share it with you because it was a song that I remembered from when I was a young girl.  The words mean so much to me.

Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday:  Pictures from our LEGO Event this past weekend.

First Performance (Everyone is excited and ready to go) 

First mission accomplished. 

 Switching out the arms to complete a new mission

Getting ready for second mission with new attachments. 

 Getting the score of the first run

 Getting ready for Second Performance

Research project being presented. 

A very patient supporter who stayed almost all day to cheer her brother on.

(I apologize that all of the images are clear.   There is a lot of speed that has to go on during these events and some pictures taken at a distance.   Hopefully you get a feel for the day though!) 


Sometimes Impromtu is Needed

I am a planner by nature.   I like to have things on the calendar and know when and where and what in order to maintain some sort of feeling of sanity.   However, sometimes, impromptu is called for and tonight, impromptu, called for a neighbor friend over to decorate cookies and play..... 

 This is what it is all about.  :) 


Weekend in Review

Our weekend flew by packed with events and fun.   Friday we had a Christmas celebration in which the kids enjoyed building a gingerbread house and of course there were gifts. 

Saturday found us at the local college for a LEGO Robotics regional competition.   The day started early with judging on the robot design and continued into early evening with performance competitions, research reports, and teamwork challenges.   Our team did really well especially since it was the first year of competition for everyone.    I will post more pictures as I get time. 

Today was a MUCH needed catch up day.   The kids staying in pajamas all day catching up on rest from the week while I spent the day in the kitchen making bread for the week and scones for our Christmas breakfast next weekend.  

The week ahead promises to be full and busy, but I am excited about the end of the week because not only is it Christmas, it begins our annual tradition of a week of family time over the holidays. 

Have a great week!


Five Minute Friday: Connected

The stress of the season threatened to spill into the calm that I have been so diligently protecting.   I am encouraged that I have made it this close to Christmas before the stress came knocking on my door.    Yesterday, it not only knocked on that door, it barged right in, taking the door off the hinges and settled right in the middle of my calm.    Gone, the connection to everything I had been holding to, was gone.   It felt like it was miles away, never to be seen again.  

I woke up this morning, the stress greeting me as my feet hit the floor.   As I sat with Mark this morning, he knew something was wrong.   Looking me in the eyes, he asked what was wrong.    The flood gates open and I told him the stress is here and I am frustrated that the calm has so easily disappeared.    As we share our cup of coffee and he listens, I feel the connection that we share when we start our day.    A time to touch base on the day ahead.  


Today's project, making cupcakes for the Christmas celebration with extended family tonight.   I put on Sara Grove's Christmas album, a friend has highly recommended it, and I listen to the words.   Words about our Savior.   Ah yes, I sing along as the calm seeps back in and again, I feel connected.  

Today, coffee and cupcakes, have connected me with two of the most important aspects of my life.

Linking up with Lisa-Jo at Gypsy Mama for Five Minute Fridays.  


A Christmas Carol Thought

As you know, I have been reading through the Christmas Carols devotions on You Version.   I have really enjoyed doing this through the season this year.   It has helped me to stay focused on Jesus amid the busyness of the season.    I wanted to share a reading with you from a couple of days ago because it meant so much to me and has given me a lot to think about since reading it:

The Little Drummer Boy

Come they told me, Pa rum pa pum pum
A newborn King to see, Pa rum pa pum pum

The night was silent, except for the beating of his heart. It seemed so loud to him, he wondered if his traveling companions could hear it too. He was nervous to see a king, but he kept walking, holding tightly to his drum.

His heart was about to beat out of his chest. The others were carrying beautiful boxes filled with precious gifts, gifts worthy of a king. He had nothing but his drum which suddenly seemed an inappropriate instrument to play for king, not to mention a newborn baby king. If only he had a more soothing instrument, like the harp the shepherd boys sometimes play.

His heart beat was deafening as he stood before the king. And then Mary nodded. The King's mother nodded at him.. She actually wanted him to play. He raised his sticks and began to beat out of the first pattern that came into his head, the rhythm of his beating heart.

And so the Little Drummer Boy gave his heart to God. He played his best. He gave his best.

How often do we feel our gifts are not good enough? We compare ourselves to others, wondering why their gifts seem so much more ""useful" for the kingdom. We want to teach like our Pastor, or sing like our Worship Leader. Or maybe we want to share our blessings, but at times, we don't feel very blessed. We can't give what we don't have, but rather than lamenting our lack, we need to look for our ""drum", the one thing that only we can give.

The truth is God already has teaching like the Pastor's. He already has singing like the worship leader's. And what He wants, what He can really use, is your heart.

Think of ways that you can bless others this season and in turn bless God. You don't have to spend money. You just have to give of yourself, of your heart. Just like the little Drummer Boy. And Jesus smiled at him. Think of Jesus smiling at you. Kind of makes your heart race, doesn't it? Listen.

How can you bless God by blessing others this holiday season? Are you giving your best to God? If not, how could you give your best to him today?

Romans 12:1 --  So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life-your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life-and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

(From You Version Carols: A Christmas Devotional Day 16)

This means so much to me because I often wonder what my purpose in here.   I am a wife, mom, daughter, sister, aunt, piano teacher, administrative assistant, photographer, Compassion sponsor, mentor, and friend.   There are many roles in my life, but I do not know the "purpose" in my life.   I do not yet know what God has called me to do and be.    It is interesting to me as my children talk about what they want to be when they grow up, and you know what?  I still don't know.    What is my "drum"?   What is the best I can give Him?

As I take inventory of my roles and what I do each day, this is where Romans 12:1 touches me.   I can only step out in prayer and hope that from sunrise to sunset I do something to touch a life somehow, somewhere.   I hope that I know when to listen, when to love, when to help.    


Random Thoughts On Our Week

Here is what is going on in our family this week.... a little random, but that is how the week is going. 

First, E's LEGO robotics team competes this weekend. 

This whole event has been a journey of growing, stretching, and giving.   It has challenged our family in more ways than I will share at this point, but we are near the end and the excitement and stress of it is at an all time high in our home this week.  Here's hoping for Saturday! 

Second,  a story about our Advent house.

Last night while doing all of the tasks that need to be done before going to bed, I asked Mark to put the candy in the Advent house and that I would make sure the bible verse got in there as well.   This morning I woke up and realized that I had forgotten to put in the verse, but thought that missing one day would be OK as I didn't divide up the story right and I am short five days anyway (I know.... I am asking myself how that happens.)   Anyway, both kids get up and we move upstairs to begin our day and open the Advent house.    It is Addy's day.   The gasps and excitement are not there this morning, rather I  hear "Where is the bible verse?.... There is no bible verse!"   I look at my daughter, tears threatening to spill down her rosy cheeks, and explain that I forgot but that we read devotions this morning, so we still had a verse today.   She wraps her arms around me and buries her head into me.   My heart breaks.   I lift her eyes to mine and ask if she would like me to get the verse that was supposed to be in there this morning.   She nods.   After my explaining that I didn't get the verses right, and our story ends before Christmas, she insists that I need to find five more bible verses, even if not Christmas story, so that each day has a verse.  I am humbled and in awe.   What a gift God has given me in these children who are his first, but a part of my life.  

Third, we received two letters from our Compassion children.  

One from Citlali in Mexico who starts her letter as follows:

"Citlali, an apostle of Christ by the will of God, the saints faithful in 
Jesus Christ that are in the world.  Hi!"

She took the phrase from Ephesians 1:1 to begin her letter to us.   She says she started this way because she likes serving the Lord.  (It brings a smile as I read.)  Her family is in health and she has excellent grades in school and has just competed in a science and technology contest in which she won at the regional level!   She includes a drawing with the caption "I'm the luckiest person, I have God and I have you!"  

The other letter is from Ronoldo in Indonesia, telling us that he helps her parents after school getting water from the well and getting firewood.  He tells us again that they are in the dry season and sends his regards to our family.   


Anytime one of us turns around, this is what we see: 

And, if you are not looking, you can certainly hear the tap, tap of the ball on the hardwoods as he drops it at our feet, his signal that he wants to play.  Pix has always enjoyed playing ball, but this week, it has become his passion and his focus.   I ask Mark where Pix gets his one track mind from..... well, we both know the answer to that one, and that is why this little guy is such a great fit in our family of focused, obsessive, almost OCD people.   


Five Minute Friday: Color

It has been awhile, but today I am joining Lisa-Jo in her Five  Minute Friday again.  If you care to join me check it out here

    1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
    2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
    3. Most importantly: leave a comment for the person who linked up before you – encouraging them in their writing!
OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes on:


I love color.  In fact I love color so much that the walls in my house are painted some pretty bold colors.   My dining room is green, as green as the summer grass or the top of a pool table.   Our living room and family room have robin egg blue.   Addy's room is "Racer pink" probably better described as fuschia.   E's room also done in color sports a bold blue, think of the blue painter's tape.   All bold colors and I love them all. 

I love spring, summer, and fall because of the colors that are displayed in my garden and the surround areas.   Bright reds, yellows, purples... any color of the rainbow, you name it, I love it.   A friend once told me that she had read that enjoying color is a way to celebrate God's creation!!   No wonder I love so many of the colors and in nature.   

I used to call winter the colorless season.   The trees now bare raise their brown branches to the gray sky.   The grass, now dormant, is under a white blanket of snow.     However, the other morning as I was coming home from the gym, it was the time when the sun is just about to come over the horizon, but is not there just yet.   As I looked at the sky, I noticed that the sky was not actually pitch black, rather there was a mix of dark blue and purple in it as well.   My God, the great artist of life, had painted the sky with some color, and I took that moment to stand in his presence, admire his work, and say thank you for color. 



A Perfect Beginning

They come shuffling down the stairs, eyes barely open and snuggle in next to me on the couch.   I lean over, kiss them each on their head, breathing them in.    After a big yawn, Addy asks me to read devotions.   We are on day 10 of the Christmas carols devotions.   I love that they are enjoying these readings as much as I am.   

Today's carol, Do You Hear What I Hear?  We talked about how the news of Jesus' birth was spread through the country, from one person to another, by word of mouth.  The questions for discussion ask what God has taught us lately.   If we share what we are learning with others, they will learn about God.    Their responses to what God is teaching them are touching.  

E has learned in Sunday school how little some people pray and how we can't build a relationship with God that way.   He states that if we only spend a minute in prayer each day, then that is half an hour of communication each month, that is not enough time to make a best friend. 

Addy mentions that God shows us where to go if we are listening, her example, being in a maze with a walkie talkie, someone tells us to go right, we choose to go left and come to a dead end.   We then have to walk back to where we were and go right like we were told.  

Fifteen minutes of talking about God, His love, and listing to our heavenly father.   These moments can not be manufactured or made, which makes them all the more sweet when they do happen.   I celebrate the young people that our children are becoming and the love they have for their creator and God.  

It was a perfect way to start our Wednesday. 


More Letters

I am sitting, for just a moment to catch my breath in what has been a crazy, busy, hectic, (you name it) week, and the week ahead does not hold any promise of slowing down.   But I am learning that it is just the pace of life I live... I guess.  

Anyway, since I have last written a post, we have received four letters!   What joy and excitement there was last Thursday when I opened my mailbox and found three letters from our children around the world.   The fourth arrived on Friday! 

We heard from Ronaldo in Indonesia in which he finally answered my question about his water source!   They have to draw the water from a distance that is very far from their house.   He says they are in the dry season where he lives.   He asks what season we are in now, and this is really neat because it is the first question he has asked about us in the two and a half years we have been writing letters.  School and studies are very important to Ronaldo, and we found out he is not in 7th grade in Middle school. 

 The other three letters are from Vivek in India, he says the weather is cold right now, he is in "class 10" and doing well in his studies.   He thanked us for the gift, which I can only imagine is his Christmas gift because his birthday is next month.  He purchased a Donga set, which if I am not mistaken is the  red dishes pictured, bed sheets, and a dinner set.  

photo found here

 He also purchased a tiffin box (pictured on the right).  When pulling up the tiffin box on google, this video came up.   I thought it was interesting, not sure how much of it relates to where Vivek lives since he lives in a small village, but I learned what a tiffin box is used for.  

He closes with this:  "I was really in need of all these things.  I am very thankful to you for your help."

Again, I am reminded of the blessings we have, and one of those blessings is the children in our lives with whom we can share not only sponsorships and Christmas gifts, but we can share love, encouragement, and prayers.   For that I am grateful because without Him, we would not have the connection with these children like we do.  


First of December

Today we turn the calendars 
to the month of December

The stockings are hung

The tree is decorated, 
presents wrapped surround the bottom

But this day is special because we begin 
one of my favorite traditions at our house

Our Advent House

I love this time of counting down the days to Christmas.   

The daily search for the door of the day, anxious to see what is behind.    Candy, toy, or money, they stumble out of bed every morning to see what the treasure for the day is.   This year, we are incorporating the Christmas story.  Each day will have a small treat and a couple of verses that at the end of the month will complete the story of the birth that we celebrate.