a new year + a new beginning

Happy 2018! We made it!

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On New Years Eve, we have a funny family tradition to take a family selfie lying down on the hotel bed (since 2011 we have been traveling with Tyler + MPB the last week of December) -this is from 2015!

So there’s this thing people do around this time of year that unless you’ve been stuck under a rock, you have heard about it – and probably been a person who has done it, too.

Everyone hits December 27th… I’ll give y’all a day or two.. and starts in on making resolutions. Whether you journal it out or joke about it, everyone is working on their New Year resolutions.

When I asked google about the history of New Years resolutions, I skimmed over some information that showed how it was the Babylonians some 4,000 years ago who initiated both celebrating the New Year and making new year resolutions.

So apparently we’ve all been doing this for quite some time. Even though, by … what?, February 10th, to be generous, we have either forgotten, abandoned, or messed it all up … our list is in the trash. Sometimes we do take it out, uncrumple it, and even make it to the end of the year, but in an unwittingly common manner, we make them, and we end up breaking them.

Still, I always find it so fascinating to hear others’ New Year’s resolutions, even though I realize they tend to be about the same thing every year. I like to listen to friends as they share from their past, from what they’re learning, and to the practical ways they hope to change and grow as a person. And even though everyone’s resolutions are so personal, it seems to me that we could sum up resolutions something like this…

reading – books. magazines. journals. articles. the Bible.

running – or whatever form of exercise one has decided upon

arithmetic – all of the numbers… your weight, your budget, and what time you wake up in the morning

These are the three R’s of New Year’s resolutions. 

And though I want to talk a bit more about these three R’s, and while sincerely I cannot wait to share with you my resolutions for this year, let’s start with this question:

What is the WHY of resolutions?

Well, to begin considering this question, and I am just thinking aloud here, not even asking google, and I have yet to talk this over with Tyler, I think we love a good start-again. We love love love a fresh page, a blank slate, a new beginning. And we imagine that we surely will do better with this lovely new. Surely we will be kinder, be thinner, be healthier, smarter with our money, and definitely check off all of our business – home – friendship – plans.

I mean, I love a fresh beginning.

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Happy New Year, 2016!

This love for new is intrinsic in us – it might manifest itself in different ways, in different personalities, generations, and values, – but the thrill of a white page ready for purpose and pen is all around loved by all.

So, you, me, we all love a fresh beginning and it’s intrinsic in us. Think about it with me – we are made in the image of God and it is God who loves a fresh beginning more than any of us…  We are displaying Him in this love.

Here’s the thing though – if we love it, and if it’s the image of God in us, then why do we have to uncrumple our paper so many times >> Why did we crumple it up in the first place?

Well,… We are made by Him in His image. And… we all have sinned and fallen short of His glory.

So, here we are in love with new and fresh but we have sinned and cannot cannot cannot climb back up on our own. Glory cannot be ascertained through New Year’s Resolutions no matter how much we want it – love it – write it down – desire it – try to make it happen.

So Glory came to us. 

And this is what we packed up into boxes, shoved back into our attic, back into December… remember? We celebrated that Glory came to us. “And His name shall be called Immanuel, which means, God with us.”…. “And His name shall be called Jesus, for He will save us from our sins.”

Jesus’ birthday – the Incarnation – God wrapped in the soft skin of a brand new baby – brings new life, brings glory to us.

So often, though, we miss out on Glory because Glory is so small. and we want to be so BIG.

We tend to run right past this grand reality every Christmastime, since, for heaven’s sakes, the advertisements and articles are already ramming resolutions down our throats, and into our longing hearts. As if this is the savior… as if we could save ourselves…. with a list.

But this reality – the Incarnation – Glory to us – Good News – a Real. New. Beginning – will completely and utterly transform our resolutions.

Going back to the question at hand – what is the why of resolutions? – we must realize:  because of sin, our why… the reason we make resolutions… get’s awfully thwarted.

Our why comes out of selfishness, out of sin, and perhaps even from Satan himself.

Remembering the three R’s I mentioned, we read books for all of the wrong reasons; we run and exercise to bring whatever glory anybody – and I do mean any.body. – will give us; we count our pounds, and our dollars, and our minutes because we feel like we have just.got.to.save.ourselves.

and we are out of breath.

NO wonder we are so prone to crumbled papers and despair. NO wonder we are so apt to end up feeling like we are amazing when we actually end the year and we have actually completed our resolution… or at least by swimsuit season we have lost enough weight, we have saved enough money, and we are making!it!happen! by going to the beach in our bikini!

and we are holding our breath, hoping it all stays put.

Bless our glory-stealing hearts. Bless our I-think-I-can-save-myself souls. Oh…. our sinful, selfish, satanic resolutions needs not be kept up but repented of.

Honey, it’s not that losing weight or budgeting your money or reading a book is a sin. The thing is though you are using that goal as an end to gain glory for yourself and when you go after glory for you you are stealing it from the only One to whom glory is due. 

(Remember, we have all sinned… you. and me. me me me me me. And it takes one to know one, and I know about glory-theives because I am one.)

So what do we do with this image of God love of new and this sin-thwarted heart?

What do we do with our shiny resolutions and sin-sick soul?

Well, we dig back out December once again and we unwrap the Gift of Christmas once again and we confess Jesus is Lord and Savior – not me, not you, not anyone else, or anything else, and not any list either.

We repent. You don’t have to cry, but you can. You don’t have to kneel, but feel free. When you and I repent, the only thing we must do is turn away from ourselves, our sin, and Satan, and turn towards Jesus.

So let’s start together – Let’s repent of our sin. Let’s breathe out prayer and breathe in freedom.

Here we go. :

Jesus, I turn myself in. I have been a glory-thief and I’m even been really good at it. I have been self-indulgent, I have been self-righteous, I have been full of myself. I made up this long list of resolutions… But I am over it. I am over myself. I confess my sin and I trust You, Faithful and Just, to forgive me and to cleanse me from all of my unrighteousness.  In Your precious, saving name, Amen.

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And from this year, Happy NYE 2017 and Happiest 2018!

merry christmas, every one

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Praise God from whom all blessings flow 

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Praise Him all creatures, here below! 

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Praise Him above, ye heavenly host! 

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Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! 
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Amen. 

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Not to us, O LORD, not to us – but to YOUR NAME we give GLORY, for the sake of Your steadfast love + Your faithfulness. 

O God we bend our knees, we bend our hearts, we bow our heads, we bow our worship before the Newborn King, come to us, the Gift of all gifts, and we praise the Savior and King, Jesus Christ our Lord. Glory Glory Glory to the Newborn King! Glory Glory Glory to the Savior of the World! Glory Glory Glory to Immanuel, God with us! Glory Glory Glory to Christ, who IS LIFE.

Friends and family, we wish you the merriest Christmas, we pray that you grow in the love and knowledge of Jesus Christ, and are filled with the fullness of Him, – filled to the very brim of your soul, even overflowing, – who fills all in all, so that you too with us can sing, Praise God from whom all blessings flow, from now and into all eternity.

Amen.

christmas . home

A few years ago, I walked around my house and took quick photos of each room to show to a friend who had moved far away. We both loved taking care of our home and particularly loved decorating them for Christmas – she would often decorate the day after Halloween! – and even though we couldn’t stop by each other’s homes, it was fun to share our festive spaces with each other through our ever-open text conversation.

I realized it was fun for me to see the progress we had made around our new home – to see that yes indeed we had painted the room I wanted to paint, and, oh!, what good-looking new bedding after feeling like we might just keep whatever we had before we got it. These quick photos acted as a reminder and even memorial stones for all the Lord had done in and through our little home. So, I since that time a few years ago, I have excitedly anticipated the day in December that I would walk around and snap photographs of each room in my home.

This year we spent more time and money and effort on the outside of our home – we got a new roof! and Tyler built a tree house – it’s so cool and I cannot wait to show you soon! But even at that, especially with having Haddon in our home, there have been so many changes – even changes that aren’t documented, because as you might know, things change so quickly with a baby in their first year. First it was his little baby swing, then the play floor mat, then an exersaucer, and now it’s a fun space ship tent that takes up the living room’s corner. (And that’s only one little space that’s happily affected by Haddon!)

I at least remember – if it wasn’t the case, oh well! – that there would be this one magical day when each room in my home would be clean at the same time and the weather would be sunny, with sunbeams streaming into my sparkling clean home, and that was the glorious day I would take the pictures.

However this year that magical day did not come to pass (well, at least it hasn’t yet, and I don’t think it’s gonna, girlfriend!). But so many magical in many other ways days have come along and they are filled with spread-out legos, strewn around toys, piled up dishes, folded laundry, construction paper and crayons everywhere, pirate hats and firemen costumes by the back door, and a stack of books by the couch.

I’ll take it! These are the magical days and they are not exactly sparkling clean but they are exactly sparkling.

SO without further ado, here is my home this year, this Christmas time, and I am so glad to share these photos with you, friend.

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I stuck this little cute guy (the flocked tree) right on top of all of Tyler’s books that decorate his desk, which is conveniently located in our foyer – welcome home! 
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This pinboard, a gift from a friend that I have totally appreciated, has been full all year of the boys’ church and school crafts, with Christmastime being no exception. I proudly hang their crafts, and then I privately decide which ones to keep and which ones… not to 😉 
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Ok, so admittedly not very Christmasy, but this is the view you get when you come into our home from the side door – and these are the $12/each chairs the Lord gave us before we got married, and we are still rocking them! 
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Our stocking are hung by the chimney with care…
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I have had this tiny nativity since I was a young girl, and I might have (stolen) it from my mom when we got married… Did you give it to me, mom?
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Our Tree!! This year we decorated with white lights, colored ornaments, and a new tree topper from Target’s Hearth and Hand with Magnolia – Thanks Chip and Joanna! I love this galvanized Moravian star! 
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Every morning I light the candle and softly play Christmas music. We enjoy both during breakfast and throughout the day. 
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Mom got me a new advent candle holder that I planned to wrap in fresh greenery… well as you can see that didn’t happen! But I did put those clipping that precious dish, which was a gift from Tyler’s grandmother to us that she received when she got married – it’s one of the two valuable things in our home and I naively place it in the middle of our kitchen table! 😉 – and those oranges… well, after reading An Orange for Frankie, we just had to have some on our table. 
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These lights are from my sister’s wedding a few years ago, and they have happily decorated my dresser all month long. I think they might stay out through the wintertime. 
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A Christmas gift from my mother-in-law last year, I got to set out this sweet nativity for the first time. Whenever Haddon is in our room, he points to the sheep, so we Baa! like one 😉 and it’s not only sweet and decorative, but also funny! which is fun fun fun.
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Both Tyler and I are reading this gem of a book for Christmas. 
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I bought the snowman Christmas felt garland the day after Christmas the Christmas before Tyler and I got married (tracking?) and I never thought that it would hang in our children’s room – how “more than I could have asked for or imagined” is that!? 

Merry Christmas from our home to yours!

a chocolate tasting party + a story

 

Peppermint Chocolate Ganache Cake with Peppermint Crunch Recipe 

 

“Jesus is Sweeter than Chocolate”

A couple of years ago during Advent season – which is the time before and leading up to Christmas – I filled a big glass jar with small silvery Hershey’s kisses. To participate in Advent, Tyler or I would read our little family a part of the Bible’s Christmas story after supper. When he was finished reading, we would pray, thanking God for Christmas, for sending His Son Jesus to save the world, and then I would pass out one kiss to each little boy and in a momma’s sing song voice say –

Jesus is sweeter than chocolate.

I come from a long line of chocolate lovers and grew up with grandmothers, great aunts, and mommas… mostly women 🙂 declaring their love for the delectable stuff.

And even at my great aunt’s funeral a few weeks ago, there was a glass dish full of her favorite, the silvery wrapped chocolate candy.

I have embraced this love, and many nights you can find me on the ouch, a square or three of dark chocolate in one hand and a sip of red wine in the other.
For a few years I was apart of a bible study where the teaching leader, Emily, often declared her personal affection for chocolate – chocolate anything! bars, cakes, ice cream, you name it – if it was chocolate, she loved it. I knew this was the group for me!

And as thought about what kind of Coventry Court Christmas Party I wanted to have, I considered – what do I like?

The answer was obvious – chocolate!

I hope chatting with one another has been fun – if there’s something I love to accompany my chocolate it’s a good conversation with a good friend! – and I hope you have been enjoying the variety of chocolate shared tonight (I have been delighted to sample your favorites!)…  aaaand

Just like my bible study teacher taught, and just like my Mama Bud knows, and just like we sing to the boys…

Jesus is sweeter than chocolate.

My bible study teacher – sure she spoke of her love for chocolate, but so much more she proclaimed her love for Jesus.

My Mama Bud always passed out Hershey’s kisses but even more so she offered the love, grace, and sweetness of Jesus to me and everyone who entered her home.

With our sons, we wanted to gift them with a small, delicious reminder as they tasted that Hershey kiss that yes indeed Jesus’ love is sweet, and even sweeter than that piece of candy!

Jesus is God’s Son, born to the virgin Mary and adoptive daddy Joseph, and Jesus came not to condemn sinners, but to save sinners. He kindly leads sinners to say sorry for their wrong doing an tenderly leads them to right living. Since we all are women who have done wrong – it’s you and me, girl, who He came to save – in His kindness, His love, His sweetness.

You and me – we are both known and loved by God. And this is proven at the Cross where Jesus, 32 years after He was born to his momma, dies to pay the penalty of our sin. Death is the penalty of sin against God, but instead of us dying for our own sin, Jesus died in our place. He knew you and me were sinners – He knows! and He loves you and me so much He died save us from sin and death.

Just like my bible study teacher, Emily, and my great aunt Mama Bud, you and me can know and savor His sweet love for us, too.

In the Bible John 3:16 declares, “For God so loved the world – so much, and in this way! – that He sent His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him – Jesus – will not perish, or experience soul death, but will have life eternally.”

In the Bible, 1 John 1:9 reads, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

John 3:17 continues, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”

and Psalm 37:4 reads, “Taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed are those who take refuge in Him!” 

 

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Leland’s 6th Birthday . the story of his psalm

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I don’t really remember how I thought to choose a psalm for him. But I do remember that once I did choose one – we have prayed it over him, read it over him, and so desire for him to live under the banner of psalm one.

The canvas hung in his nursery before he was even born – the words a prophecy and a prayer over and for him.

And now, after this past year of growing as a young boy and also coming under Christ in new life , our prayer was answered!!, this psalm is our charge and challenge to Leland.

Psalm 1 . The Way of the Righteous and the Wicked

Blessed is the man

who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

but his delight is in the lawof the LORD,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

 

He is like a tree

planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he doeshe prospers.

The wicked are not so,

but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

 

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked will perish.

Oh this psalm – the way we pray these holy words for Leland goes something like this – 

We pray Leland is a man who delights in the law of the Lord, day and night. This is the primary reason we teach him to read, to read the Word.

Be assiduous in reading the holy Scriptures. This is the fountain whence all knowledge in divinity must be derived. Therefore let not this treasure lie by you neglected. Every man of common understanding who can read, may, if he please, become well acquainted with the Scriptures. And what an excellent attainment would this be!” – Jonathan Edwards, “The Importance and Advantage of a Thorough Knowledge of Divine Truth,” in Sermons and Discources 1739-1742, 101.

We pray Leland walks in the Way, who is Jesus Christ (John 14:6). 

Oh, when I see a strong tree, a mighty oak… I think of my sons, I think of Leland. I pray deep roots in the banks of God’s life giving Word for his soul, mind, strength; I pray a strong trunk to withstand and stand firm; I pray for lots of long branches full of life, leaves, fruit, shade to provide rest and comfort for others. 

This idea that in all of his activity, his doings, he would prosper… an idea that’s been awfully thwarted by american-pragmatic-progress/health-wealth-and-prosperity-pseudo.gospel… Psalm 90 records a prayer for all of the work of Moses’ hands to prosper… the word connotes that the work would last into eternity and for all of eternity… that the work would be worth it work, work that goes through the fire and remains, pure work, good work, work for the glory of the Lord. work that prospers. This is the kind of, the real kind of, prosperity that we pray for Leland. 

The last part of the psalm reads “the Lord knows the way of the righteous” oh that Leland would be deeply, intimately, always known by the Lord… I pray Leland will be a righteous man. I pray that he will live forever in the presence of the Lord.

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All of this for our six-year old son. All of this for our Leland, who made us parents, who already shows up and proves to be a lion-hearted leader. OH Jesus, all of You for all of our little man… this is our prayer, our gift, for our birthday boy, Leland.

 

{ photo credit – amy noon free photography }

 

 

Tyler’s Birthday . the celebration of our leader

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Praise God from whom all blessings flow – and you, Tyler, are one of my, one of our, deepest, most significant, eternal blessings. You are our fearless, loving, gracious, kind, patient, long-suffering, leader. You answer for us before the throne of God, in confidence of Christ, with wisdom and salvation. You protect, provide, and purpose for us God’s glory and good. So we thank the Lord for you, and we thank the Lord for sustaining your life, for gifting us with you for one more year, and we pray for many, many, many more years. Happy birthday, my love, my leader, my Tyler.

Haddon, Homeschool, and the Holidays 

Haddon –

Here we are baby. Here we are boys. Here we are husband. Six weeks in and it feels (most of the time) like we’ve always had you; like you have always been apart of the family. What did we do before?

Here I was – two Octobers ago, clinging to the whispers of God explicit in this scripture : “Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.”‭‭ Genesis‬ ‭30:22

And when we found out we were having another son, yes ma’am we did – we named him Joseph. The Lord added again.

“She conceived and bore a son and said, “God has taken away my reproach.” And she called his name Joseph, saying, “May the Lord add to me another son!””‭‭ Genesis‬ ‭30:23-24

As I hold little Joseph Haddon in my arms, he’s content and I’m listening to music and writing a bit, I think … not only does He remove reproach, but God also gives grace. Grace upon grace.

This third son – sure, I’ve had two others, sure, I may be a bit more seasoned, but this third son is a whole person. A new little. Someone we all have the privilege to steward well and love long.

Long suffering. Surely the most needed character trait of a mommy, of a daddy, of two bustling brothers. Of a husband and wife,.. for every person, from everyone else,

… suffer long.

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The Holidays –

I know it’s practically the middle of January but as we celebrated the holidays with Haddon in our arms,… two reflections kept rumbling around in my thoughts, 2 in the morning. 10 in the evening. At Christmas Eve service. Opening gifts for 3 days straight.

Mary on that donkey. Goodness gracious. Just imagine it! Then she finds herself in the leftover stable. Laboring Life Himself into the world. A hot sticky, stuck to mess of a new mom. Bloody. Bare. Only swaddled cloths to cover. Golly.

No matter the days I had to wait and the hours I spent in labor, it was nothing like bless her precious surrendered heart Mary. She suffered long, pondering all of these things in her heart.

Stinky shepherds crowded to worship; she sat, perhaps trembling, spent. Her life for His so He could give her His…

Nothing compares. And I can only say with Mary – bless the Lord.

And then look at him. Held like a prince. Dressed in fine clothes. Every need attended to. Clean and beautiful. Everyone washed their hands before they offered their praise – He’s beautiful! Worth the wait! Oh how healthy he is.

The stinky shepherds tripped over themselves to worship. Gotta love them.

But where were all of the other wait-ers to oooh and aaah?

Why didn’t anyone celebrate!? The dark days were over. Light had come!

Everyone happy to meet Haddon, the prince dressed and clean.

But for Jesus,… barely dressed. Dirty stable room. Nobodies were there. Not even Mary’s mother! Where was the proud grandpa!?

The world’s better Joseph had come! – a gift of grace to save not only from famine but from soul-starvation,…and the whole town crowded to count people didn’t visit the One who counted the most.

Haddon, our gift. Well received with open arms, laid in warm bed with a basketful of blankets beside. But Jesus THE GIFT + GIVER. Cows lowing,… Animal manger,…

O Jesus, I love you even more.

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Merry Christmas Morning

Homeschool –

What is school without Christmas and family and books, birthday parties and cozy movie nights? Sure,.. we took a break from curriculum, but only so we could press in to learning how to take care of a little, how to take care of our new family, together, and to celebrate. To sing Happy Birthday and to worship Jesus in a special way in this extraordinary season.

And here we are now. Snowed into rest. Six weeks into the rest of our lives. And ready for what King Jesus would have for us, for His glory, for 2017.

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first day of homeschool 2017

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