Monday, December 31, 2007

Children's Books

I love to read to my kids. Some of our favorite books of 2007:

1. Mercer Mayer's Little Critter Books
2. Mo Williams - Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, and Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late
3. Jane Yolen - How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight, How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Rooms, et.
4. Little Quack's Bedtime
5. The Giving Tree
6. Goodnight Moon
7. Sandra Boynton - The Going to Bed Book
8. Guess How Much I Love You
9. Love You Forever
10. The Polar Express
11. Curious George
12. Clifford the Big Red Dog
13. Winnie the Pooh books
14. If You Give a Moose a Muffin & If You Give a Pig a Pancake
15. Where the Wild Things Are
16. Arthur's Birthday
17. Fairy Tales in Rhyme

Christmas - the anticipation!

The kids came up with some very interesting things to pretend prior to Christmas. After we took the kids to a live nativity scene, they loved playing "baby Jesus." They had a doll, which was baby Jesus. They took the doll to birthday parties (Jesus was usually turning 2), and then after Jesus, Pooh, Tigger and friends had eaten lots of cake and played games, they took Baby Jesus trick or treating. One night, J pretended to be at a house and knocked on the door. He said, "give baby Jesus some candy too! He gets hungry too!" I asked what Baby Jesus was dressed as and J said a goat. J would also always tell M the proper way to hold baby Jesus like Mary.

The kids also LOVED playing Santa. J generally wore a Santa hat and M wore reindeer antlers. J would fill the laundry basket with toys, and then he would try to tie a jump rope around M so that she could pull him in his "sleigh". M always informed me that she was "Donner" the reindeer. One night, J asked M and me to sit on his lap to tell him what we wanted for Christmas.

I am posting some pictures of these fun games. The kids were also convinced it would snow on Christmas because it "always snows on Christmas" and we were instructed that we could NOT have a fire in the fire place so that Santa could get down the chimney.

We also had our first advent calendar filled with candy. The kids fought over who could get the candy out of the slot, but they were always willing to break the candy into two pieces and share.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

I'm Rich!

Isn't it amazing that it is so easy to focus on the negative? I am amazed at how easily I fall into the habit of focusing on all of the things I do NOT have - such as more money, more things (cars, cloths, jewelry), ability to travel, etc. When I focus on the things that I am missing, I generally end up comparing myself to others. I become envious of the many "things" that they have that I am lacking - sometimes it is money, sometimes it is a situation, and sometimes it is a relationship. This always leaves me feeling angry, sad, and hopeless. So why would ANYONE focus on what is lacking if it makes him or her feel so bad? I do not know the answer; however, I do know that many people, including myself, spend more time complaining than we spend praising.

As most of you know, I am NOT a fan of New Years Day. I think it is a fairly worthless holiday that leads people to make commitments and resolutions that they never keep. However, this year, I want to make a resolution that I will keep, and that I am convinced will have a positive impact on my life. I want to focus on the positive, happy things that are happening in my life - specifically, I want to focus on the rich blessings that God has poured upon me. When I focus on the blessings of my life, I am filled with joy, gratitude, and hope. Why would anyone chose to focus on anything else?

1. My husband - we will be married 10 years this year, and he is still my best friend. He makes me laugh, and he reminds me that it is ok to have fun. In fact, he shows me that God designed us to laugh and enjoy the beauty of life. He supports me, comforts me, and has enabled me to be the person that I am. He has given me a glimpse of what unconditional love should be - he has helped me feel the love of God.
2. My kids - they are the light of my life. They make me smile daily. Being a mother is the most challenging job I could ever have, but nothing in my life gives me the satisfaction that I get when my kids hug me and kiss me and tell me they love me. I am so proud of them, and I am so blessed and thankful that they are healthy, beautiful, wonderful kids.
3. My family - my mom and dad are the best. Of course they are not perfect, but they are beautiful, loving people. They loved me enough to give me the courage to try new things and be the best that I could be. They love me so much, and they have sacrificed to give me opportunities that they never dreamed of having. They have always believed in me, even when I did not believe in myself. They enabled me to have all that I have. My in laws also rock - my mother in law keeps my kids when I work. I never have to worry about the care that they are getting. I know that she loves them as much as me. My father in law adores my kids and is so good to us. My extended family - aunts and cousins, inlaws, etc. adore my kids and show generosity to my family that cannot be measured.
4. My friends - God has richly blessed me with friends all over the world. I have friends from high school that have loved me through many stages. I have Salem sisters that love and support me and are heart sick when I suffer. I have my legal gal pals and my guy friends from law school that understand the many challenges that lawyers face in our profession. My church is full of wonderful Christians that are willing to love me, despite my many, many shortcomings. I have friends at work that bring joy to my day. I have a spiritual mentor that listens to my ponderings and never judges me. I have friends that love my family and my kids as their own. I cannot begin to describe how rich my life is with friends.
5. My job - I prayed for years for a position that would allow me to support my family financially while giving me some flexibility to be with my kids. I have found that position, and I have been blessed with an outstanding, ethical boss.
6. My church - the Refinery, and now Main Street, have been powerful influences in my life. I've met so many people that are struggling to be the followers of Christ that I long to be. My church is filled with people that want to change the world and bring restoration to the brokenness of this world. These people seek to do this for unselfish reasons, and they seek to do this through serving others. I admire so many of these people and look forward to learning more from them in the future.
7. A big, big world - I am so thankful that God designed such a beautiful world full of mysteries to be explored. Nothing makes me happier than reading a new book, discovering a new piece of art, learning something new, or enjoying music that helps me feel a specific emotion. I love to travel and see the way that others live, and I love to explore nature - I can find God in the smallest tidal pool or on the top of the highest mountain. I am so thankful that God designed a beautiful big world that is full of things to learn and to explore. I hope that I never take this forgranted.
8. I am thankful for my faith. I am thankful for the hope that I have in Christ. I am thankful for a God that gave me free will to seek him. I am thankful for a God that allows me to work out my faith. I am thankful that God gives me the privilege of serving him by serving others, and that I can be a small part of his purpose for the world. I am thankful to live in a country and be surrounded by people that allow me to ask the difficult questions.

I wish you all a blessed 2008. I hope that 2008 will be a time of joy - a time that you and I can focus on the many blessings that have been poured upon us.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

Easier Said Than Done

I hesitate to even post this blog for fear that anyone that reads it will worry that I am having a crisis of faith. Let me begin by saying, I am not! However, I feel very sad and reflective today.

While I was in the hall at work, a small child, that may have been Maria's age, was wheeled by on a bed. The child had numerous tubes inserted and appeared to be resting. At that moment, I felt completely overcome with emotion. As I looked at that child in bed, I realized that it is only by the grace of God that one of my children is not in that bed.

As most of you know, I've had terrifying experiences with both of my kids. When I was only 24 weeks pregnant with Jacob, I had a placental abruption. I was told that he would not live if he was born, and was placed on bed rest for 12 weeks. During that time on bed rest, Jacob's well being was constantly monitored and every contraction or change in my health was cause for concern. Then, this November, Maria had a febrile seizure and stopped breathing. Although her condition was not life threatening, I thought my daughter had died in my arms, and all that I could do was watch as her lips turned blue and she lay limp in my arms.

As I reflect on these two events, I feel powerless. I HATE knowing that no matter how hard I try, I cannot control some things in life. I can't control whether my kids are healthy, and I can't control whether they live or die. Of course decisions that I make can help keep them safe, but in the end, their life and well being is not within my control.

When I am overwhelmed with these feelings, I often pray. I pray that God will keep my kids safe and healthy. However, I don't know how I feel about prayer and what its impact actually is in my life. For every prayer that I have prayed that has been answered the way that I want it to be (my son was born and is now healthy, my daughter has recovered), there is a parent somewhere in the world that has prayed just as desperately for their child to be healthy or to live and that prayer has not been answered the way that parent desires. Beyond the obvious reasons that this disturbs me (such as I don't understand why God answers some prayers the way we want and not others), I am disturbed most because it makes me realize that I am not in control. In my past, I have often prayed desperately for God to heal my kids or to take care of them. I pray these prayers because I want a very specific answer and outcome. I, in essence, want control. I think, "if I pray for the outcome that I want and if I have enough faith, I will get what I want." God is teaching me that this is not always the case.

I want to reiterate that I am not having a crisis of faith. I still believe that Jesus is my savior, and I still believe in prayer. However, my view of God is changing. Years ago, I viewed God as sitting in judgment, waiting to punish me for each mistake. I viewed problems in my life as punishment for past sins. As I grew in my faith, I began to see God as loving and full of grace. However, God became my "genie in a bottle" because I believed that God would grant my wishes and pour blessings upon me because he loved me so much. When some prayers were not answered, I believed that it must be my lack of faith. Thus, I believed that if I prayed enough, and believed enough, my prayers would be answered. Now, I don't know what I believe about God. I am in a stage of awe and wonder. I still believe God is just. I also still believe that God loves me unconditionally and that God is full of grace. However, I do not even pretend to understand the vast mysteries of God. I have no idea why God allows life to unfold as it is currently unfolding. I do not understand why some people suffer so much. I do not understand why some prayers seem to be answered and others do not.

Perhaps this is a natural progression in my relationship with God. Just as people are not one dimensional, neither is God. I've experienced God as a God of justice, grace, and love. Now I am experiencing the infinitely mysterious aspect of God. Deuteronomy 29:29 says:
"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law." (NIV)
"GOD, our God, will take care of the hidden things but the revealed things are our business. It's up to us and our children to attend to all the terms in this Revelation. " (The Message)

God is teaching me a lesson, but I don't know if I am ready to learn yet. God is trying to show me that I need to worry about what is revealed to me, and I need to let God be God. I guess some things are easier said than done.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Reason for the Season

We took the kids to a live nativity a few nights ago. They LOVED it. They were able to feed a donkey. They also loved seeing a live baby Jesus. Since that night, they have each carried around baby dolls. The doll is "baby Jesus." Last night they pulled out a Pooh bear that plays the Happy Birthday song and they had a birthday party for Jesus. We also adopted a foster child this year for Christmas. I wanted the kids to learn that not all kids are as fortunate as them. The kids had a blast shopping for the little girl. She is four years old and she wanted dolls, a jump rope and a cash register. I took pictures of the kids with the presents for the little girl. Now when we go shopping the kids ask if we are buying toys for little boys and girls that need them.

Visit with Santa!

Santa came to work today! The kids were so excited. They reminded me of Will Ferrell in the movie Elf - while other kids were sitting on Santa's lap, my kids were jumping up and down in line and yelling "SANTA" at the top of their lungs. They wanted to sit on Santa's lap alone. They were very thoughtful about what they would request.

Thanks for our Train Judy

The kids have a new Christmas train! It makes smoke and plays Christmas songs. It can go forward and in reverse. They love it! Thank you Judy!!!!!!!!


Our church was in the parade. Jacob enjoyed it. He kept yelling "Santa" and could not wait to see Santa and his reindeer. When Jacob saw the ambulance he said, "Maria got to ride in an ambulance."

Old Salem Candle Tea

When I was at Salem, I was introduced to one of my favorite Christmas traditions - the Moravian Candle Tea. When we started the Refinery, our first women's outing was to the Candle Tea. A trip to the Candle Tea has been a tradition each year since then.

I love the Candle Tea for so many reasons. Although standing in line in the cold does not sound exciting to many people, I love the fellowship that I am able to have with friends.

My favorite part of the Candle Tea is slowing down and feeling as if I am stepping back in time. Each year, I am reminded that Moravians had the foresight to believe in educating women. The Moravians started Salem Academy and College - one of the first institutions in the nation dedicated to educating women. I am reminded each year at the Candle Tea how proud I am to have been educated at a place that believes in the ability of women to change the world.

I also love sitting in a room and singing Christmas songs to the organ. For the short time that we sing, I feel connected to the generations before me that also sat in a similar room and sang by candle light.

I also love the smell of the bees wax candles. I've decided that if I were a Moravian responsible for making the candles, I would love to pull the candles from the mold.

Perhaps the best part of the Candle Tea is the time in the kitchen when we are served coffee and sugarcake. The coffee is specially brewed twice to give it a unique flavor. This takes me back to the time when I sat in Salem Square, sharing sugar cake with my friend Kacee during scholarship weekend. I knew then that Salem was a special place.

Then you go to the putz. This is a miniature reproduction of the town of Salem at the turn of the nineteenth century. The model is built to scale and is absolutely amazing. Each year something new is added.

The most meaningful part of the Candle Tea is saved for the end. In a small room, there is a Nativity scene. Someone reads the Christmas story from Luke. It was so nice to have time to sit quietly and reflect on the birth of our Lord.

We always finish the night with dinner!