Saturday, December 29, 2012

Apres Christmas Journal

Join the Homeschool Mother's Journal meme!

In my life this week

So many blessings that came with Christmas.  Some lovely, thoughtful gifts, but lots of precious time with all five of us home.  Josh was on vacation and although he spent a lot of time working on projects, it was just wonderful having him here.

In our homeschool this week

The only thing I really did that was schoolish was read to the kiddos from George Mueller.  Otherwise they played contentedly with their new toys and watched probably a bit too much TV.

I am getting excited to attend a homeschool convention this spring.  It's always a shot in the arm to keep on keeping on.

Places we're going, people we're seeing

After our Christmas celebration with my husband's family was cancelled due to sickness, and having Christmas Day completely at home, we were ready to get out of the house and visit!  Today we were able to  have our time with Josh's family and tomorrow we head north to celebrate with my family.  We'll see friends and folks from our "home" church too.  

My favorite thing from this week

Spending the day at home on Christmas, staying in our pjs til noon (actually, the kids never got out of theirs!), taking our time opening gifts, and the peace and contentment everyone had.  Also, staying up later than usual because Josh didn't have to get up at 5 to go to work... so I didn't have to get up either!

The kids favorite thing from this week

Gifts, of course!  Mister said his favorite gifts were his Hero Factory and Lego Ideas book. Brown-Eyed-Girl said her Legos and globe of endangered species stuffed animals.  Petite didn't really say, but I'd guess her kangaroo and doll nursery (which is full of just about everything but dolls!).

Things I'm working on

Goals for the new year. Yes, I'm one of those people.  I love a clean slate, an empty calendar, a whole year of possibilities.  There is so much I want to do and I know that if I fail to plan, then I plan to fail. And yet... the Lord seems to be telling me not to focus so much on doing.  More on this later, I hope, as it becomes more clear to me.

I would love to blog more.
I would love to read more.
I would love to write more.
I would love to just be us more.

I'm reading

Another book in the Shaker series by Ann H. Gabhart, The Seeker.  I really love this series and Gabhart's writing.  Although I can't really compare the two, I enjoy her books as much as I do Beverly Lewis's... and that is saying a lot!

I'm also finishing up my One Year Bible for the year!  And reading commentary on Revelation and the Old Testament  prophets as I go through them.  Exciting stuff!

I'm cooking

Lots of dishes with some added ham have been prepared this past week.  I love Christmas leftovers.  I'm going to freeze the rest, though, and plan a fresh menu once we get home from the last of our holiday celebrations.  I made an amazing peppermint ice cream pie (found here) for Christmas and will definitely be making it again!  Ice cream pies are easy- who knew?

I'm grateful for

A food-filled pantry and freezer.  Thoughtful gifts.  Peace despite circumstances.  The steadiness of God.  The faithfulness of my husband.  The health of my children.  Hot coffee in the morning.

I'm praying for

Friends who just had a new baby.  Wisdom to choose the best over the good as I schedule things for the new year.  Blessings.

This year's picture of us with our best friends, who came for a surprise visit on Christmas Eve.
Well, because she's my best friend, she knew she couldn't really surprise me.
She called to ask if it was okay first :)  
She knows how I feel about surprises.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Stuff I Love: Project Life Review 2012

2012 was the first year that I used Becky Higgins wildly popular Project Life for all of my scrapbooking.  It was last Christmas at my in-laws that I discovered this product.  We ladies were perusing the Internet, looking at some nifty ideas for our albums, when we came across Project Life. At first glance, it didn't interest me. But after watching the video explaining the premise for it, I was hooked.

Becky Higgins is well known in the scrapbooking community from her days at Creating Keepsakes magazine.  She has more of a minimalist style compared to some, and I've always liked that about her.  She created Project Life to make scrapbooking easier, less time consuming, and to reflect the true stuff of every day life.  It can be used in many ways, but the goal is simple- to get your photos into albums.

Project Life is not page kits.  The basics to use this system are a core kit (with a variety of styles to choose from), page protectors that are divided into easy 6x4 and 4x3 slots, and a three ring 12x12 album.  The core kit includes 4x3 journaling and filler cards as well as 6x4 cards.  To begin scrapbooking with Project Life, you simply insert your pictures into the protector slots and fill it in with cards from the core kit.   You can also purchase coordinating paper and cardstock to cut to size for the protector slots.

I used the Clementine core kit for 2012.  At first I tried to simply use the Project Life protectors and the paper and supplies I already had in my collection... but I soon realized it wasn't going to be as quick and easy this way.  So I ordered the core kit.  Then the matching paper.  After doing this, documenting our year became much quicker and enjoyable.

Here's what I love about Project Life.

1.) I truly documented more of the "little stuff". Getting a new cell phone.  A lost tooth.  An impromptu nap on the deck.  I didn't need many photos of a big event to create a layout with Project Life. One picture could easily be inserted into a page with a journaling card to describe it.

2.) Everything coordinates.  I keep my core kit box, paper, protectors, and pictures in a tote bag and can easily pull it out to work on it with only a few basic tools.

3.)  I get a lot done in a little time.  Most recently I nearly completed 14 two-page layouts in a day.  I stay-up-to-date easier.

4.) I don't have to spend a lot of time coming up with a page design.  I simply choose the protector style that best suits my pictures, slide them in, then fill in the rest with paper.

5.) The pictures stand out.  It's not about the fancy paper or embellishments, it's about the photos.

6.) All products are available on for free super-saver shipping or with your Prime benefits.

7.) The pockets are easy to stick other memorabilia in, too.

There are some things I learned along the way, too.

1.) Yes, use the core kit and matching accessories for ease of use.

2.) It doesn't have to be perfect.  Sometimes I even insert pictures in the wrong direction to make a layout work.  I do the same with journaling cards.

3.)  A lot of people share their Project Life albums online. But they barely look like Project Life because they are so embellished with other things.  It was discouraging.  But then I let it go and realized the point was to document the life of my family.  Project Life will not be fancy unless you make it so. But it will be cohesive and simple while looking nice.

4.) I used one alphabet stamp set for the whole album.  I packed it in my tote with the other Project Life stuff. Again, easy and guess-free as far as designing pages and titles.  I did use some other lettering sources a few times, but for the most part I kept it simple.

5.) The easiest protector styles to use are A, C, and D.

There are a few things I didn't like about Project Life.  The journaling cards only have lines going in one direction.  The 4x3 cards are made to be inserted vertically, never horizontally because the journaling lines would then run up and down instead of across. This made it really challenging to use some of the styles of protectors and add journaling cards to them. That is why I recommend the styles above.  I also thought there was a lack of graphic cards, cards not for journaling but just for adding design to the page.  After looking at the latest video on how to use Project Life, it looks like this has been remedied. The new core kits have 4x3 cards with journaling lines on one side and graphics on the other.  Another frustrating thing is that many of the products quickly sell-out and stock can take a while to be replenished. Especially at the beginning of a new year when Project Life fans are stocking up for their new albums.  I plan to use the Olive kit this year.  The website says it will be available in late December.  It's the 28th and so far it is not in stock.  And I guarantee that as soon as it is, it will sell out.  So I'll have time to finish up my 2012 album before getting next year's started.

All in all, I really enjoyed making my Project Life album, and as I said, I plan to do it again for 2013.  I'm in a season of life when simple is what I need.  I'm not up for a lot of planning right now, whether it is for homeschooling or scrapbooking.  I feel like I've rediscovered why I began scrapbooking in the first place- to  preserve precious memories of my family in the form of photographs and simple words jotted on a page.  Scrapbooking has become such a huge industry.  Fancy tools and machines, expensive papers and embellishments, yes, they make for beautiful pages.  But while my life is beautiful, it's simple.  Project Life helps me reflect that in my pages.

If you have never scrapbooked but love the idea of starting, I think Project Life is perfect. You need very minimal supplies to get started. If you love to scrapbook, but are overwhelmed and way behind, I think 2013 is a great year to start Project Life.  If you love fancy and thrive on making your own creative pages, then it's not for you.  Whatever you feel about scrapbooking, I hope you make tons of wonderful memories in 2013!

These Three

As my son says, we are blessed for three kids.  Meaning, of course, that we are blessed with three children. They are beautiful.  They are surprising.  They are so one-of-a-kind.

Let me honestly say that the first two are very intense.  Spirited.  But in completely different ways.  One is an extreme extrovert, the other is an introvert, though less extreme than in the past.  One is very sensitive to smells, the other to touch and texture.  One is a by-the-book rule follower.  The other is as free spirited as the wind.   They each have passionate and intense emotions and for different reasons.

Life with two highly spirited children has been a blessing in disguise.  Over the years I've learned to embrace how these kiddos, mingled with their two parents, have shaped our family dynamic in ways I wouldn't have guessed.  One of my catch-phrases for our family is "Just because it's supposed to be fun doesn't mean it is". Things like parades, amusement parks, hiking, board games,  party games and sports teams have all fallen into this category.  There have been many things that just didn't end up working for us because of the intensity and personality preferences of these two children.  I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me.  And there have been times that I wished away this intensity and wondered if I had done something to produce it in them.  Were we simply doing everything wrong as parents?  Other children didn't seem so extreme.

Then along came the baby of the family.  I call her Petite.  We had four years with just the two children, then Petite arrived.  She was born on a Tuesday and it's been true that Tuesdays' child is full of grace.  We marvel at how laid back she is.  How sweet and relaxed and decidedly less intense.  Surely she has a tantrum now and then.  But I see barely a hint of a strong will.  She's full of cheerfulness most days.  I never worry about a sudden explosion of emotion coming out of her. We can take her anywhere. She is full of positive energy.  Lately she often says to us "I'm so  proud of you.  I love you so much.  Thank you so much."  Yes, we marvel at this little girl and how just plain easy she has been to raise so far.

Yesterday when she was being and doing and saying something adorable, Josh said to me "Wow, can you imagine what it would be like if they were all like this?"

In an instant, I knew the answer.  "Yes." I said. "We'd be prideful and lean on our own understanding. We'd think we were doing everything right. We'd think everybody else's kids were awful and that their parents were doing everything wrong.  We wouldn't pray for our kids the way we do because they would seem just fine.  They could grow up as good kids and still be far from God."

God gave us a blessing when he gave us two intense children to begin with.  They have served to keep us humble and dependent on Him.  Nothing has been "easy" about raising them.  We have to constantly seek their Creator for wisdom and to refocus us on Him.  They remind us that our family is unique and that's how God wants us. When we have compared our family and what we can and can't do to other families, especially "good" families, we are miserable.  When we have embraced each personality and preference, we enjoy our family.  We have seen how deeply we, and our children, need the Lord.

We are thankful for our easy-going baby.  She has been a breath of fresh air and a complete joy to our family.  We are equally thankful for our spirited, intense son and daughter.  Life is never boring, it is rarely low-key.   We have no false sense of anyone's righteousness, especially our own.  We pray for our three children continually.  Because of that, we are encouraged that they all will turn out just fine.  Hopefully, as passionate, intense, extreme pursuers of God. With just a little bit of "easy" on the way.

Monday, December 24, 2012


The stockings are hung.  The presents are wrapped. As a mom, I can't wait for tonight, when the kids nestle in their beds and we fill the stockings and put the gifts under the tree.  It's just as hard for me to sleep on Christmas Eve as it is for them.  We've always had so much joy here on Christmas morning.

The anticipation will finally end in the fulfillment of many Christmas wishes.

The paper will get picked up off the floor.  The surprises will be made known.  There will be contentment and peace as everyone admires and plays with their gifts.  I'll sigh with happiness and something akin to relief.

I'll sit by the tree tomorrow night, watching the fire, and think "It's all over.  And so it begins again."  I can't deny that Christmas is so full of anticipation and excitement. But it's always a little anti-climatic at the end of the day.

For the past few years I've had a deepened sense of awe during the season of Advent.  It's the season of waiting, leading up to Christmas day. I focus my heart spiritually on the coming of Christ as a baby.  I ponder what the world was like for the ones awaiting the Messiah.  And I find it's not at all unlike my world as I wait for the Messiah to come... again.

Just as all creation burst forth in song and exclamations of praise when Jesus Christ was born, now it groans as it waits for his glory to once again fill the earth.  This season of waiting for the wonders and joy of Christmas day only seeks to remind me that I am still waiting. And what I wait for will not find it's fulfillment in tomorrow.  It's only a shadow of what is to come when Jesus comes again.

Tomorrow night we begin the Christmas countdown all over again.  Another 365 days til next Christmas.  The waiting will begin again.

But when what I truly wait for comes, that will be it.  There will be nothing anti-climatic about it.  The hopes and fears of all the years... will be met in Him that night. That morning. Whenever it may be.  Nothing else will matter and the longing inside will cease once and for all.  The wait will be over.

May God's grace and peace and love be with us all as we wait.

"Glory to God in highest. And on earth, peace and good will toward all men."
Luke 2:14

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ask Him

Ever ask someone a question then walk away before you get the answer?  Or get distracted by something else, so you don't hear the answer?

I do it all the time.

Many of you are asking a serious question right now.  Why God?  

We ask this question and follow it up with How could you let this happen? Why didn't you stop it?  If you are good, why did you let something so evil happen?

People are attempting to answer this question for you.  Maybe they can help you.  But if you really want an answer, I think that answer should come from God.

He does speak.  Through his Word, the Bible.  Most people have a Bible somewhere in their home. It is God's letter to you about who He is and what He has done and what He will do.  He will answer your questions for you.  Maybe not the way you would expect.  But since you asked, don't walk away from getting the answers.  Don't get distracted by something else.

I know you are angry.  I know you are sad. I am too.  I asked these questions too.  I went to the One I was asking and He comforted me with  His Word.

You could read the Psalms.  You could read the gospels.  If you don't know what to read, may I suggest you read the book of John?  You don't even need a Bible.  You can read it online here.  Write down your questions.  Read the book.  See who God is through the person of Jesus Christ.  Find your answers in Him.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Falling Over the Cliff... Together

Isn't it rather depressing that this Christmas season, what we are hearing the most of is the impending fall over the fiscal cliff?  I mean, I hardly even understand what it means, but it sounds like doomsday whenever the term is used.  On my way to shop for gifts, I hear the warning on the radio- We're about to fall over the fiscal cliff- and I automatically want to turn the car around and go home and hoard my pennies. Tighten the belt.  Cut some corners.  Ward off my own personal financial doomsday.

I'm not an economist so I don't fully understand the repercussions of falling over this cliff.  In my limited understanding however, it seems like avoiding it is a band-aid to a much bigger problem; falling over it could hurt... but maybe allow us to get back up on our fiscal feet again in time.  I could be wrong on this.  What I hear is that falling over the cliff means $2000 more dollars in taxes a year for most families... but a deficit that is cut in half.  Avoiding the cliff means more deficit but immediate avoidance of a recession.

Why is recession such a bad word?  Why have we become so fearful of hard times?  Well, yes, maybe it's the word "hard" linked with "times". That doesn't sound pleasant; it's nothing you'd wish for.  But isn't it typically the true means of change in a life, and perhaps a nation?  It often becomes my personal pursuit to avoid all things "hard" and at any cost.  I believe most people are like this and we let our nation be run the same way.

Congress called for a "What does $2000 a year mean to you?" essay from as many taxpayers as possible.  I haven't read any one's responses.  I honestly don't even know if it was the Republicans or the Democrats asking for this.  I'm so confused by it all.  But here's my answer:

Two thousand dollars a year means $40 a week. For me that's Starbucks, a few Happy Meals, and the gas it takes to get to my nearest Walmart.  I can suffer that loss.  However, I know plenty of people who cannot suffer that loss. Forty dollars a week is their gas money to get to the job they feel lucky to have in light of the dooming economy.  It's the money they already scraped out of their personal budget to pay for their child's braces.  Or in my cold winter state, it's the money they need to keep themselves warm.

I get that $40 is chump change for me and make-or-break-it for some of my dearest friends.

But this is what I think, and I don't think I need to be an economist to get this right.  We were not created to live autonomously.  Nor were we created to live dependent on our government.  The very first institution that was made was a covenant between God and man.  He created us, therefore he is responsible for us.  In a similar, though imperfect, way, my husband and I created our three children together and we  are responsible for them.  We don't expect them to buy their own food, put oil in the tank, or gas in the car.  We don't expect them to pay their own medical bills.  We take care of those things.  God intended to take care of his creation when he made it.  That's you and me.

When I read the book of Acts, I am always profoundly touched by how the early Church lived.  They are described as having everything in common, "selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need" (Acts 2:44,45)  In Acts chapter 4 it is said "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had...There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles feet and it was distributed to anyone as he had need" (vs. 32,34, 35).

I get really bugged when people, especially Christians, explain away Scripture. The very first teaching I heard on these passages was why this was a bad thing and why it doesn't work.  It was called "communism".  Oh my, it was anything but!  This was a people so wholly wrapped up in the goodness of  God and so filled with his Spirit, that the love overflowed to others, their material possessions became insignificant, and it was their sheer delight to help those who were poor among them.  The result is that they won favor with all men. They had a good name as Christians among everyone but the religious Pharisees.  So was their generosity abused? Did some people get lazy?  Did it breed some hypocrisy? Sure.  But I don't believe for a second it was the wrong thing to do and I don't believe for a second that God isn't calling his Church today to do the same kind of things.

I get so much joy out of watching the family of  God take care of each other.  I see it and hear about it all the time.  Believers taking care of believers.  Food gets dropped off at some one's house.  Money is given in secret. Bills get paid anonymously.  Cars get given to people.  Everyday miracles happen and it's God using everyday people to do them.  It blows my mind, blesses my socks off. And so many people miss out on this because they are either not part of this family or.... maybe even worse... they are part of this family but are giving absolutely... nothing.

Giving has gotten a pretty bad reputation, especially when linked to the Church.  Yes, it's an awesome and Biblical thing that sinners have abused and used for their own glory and their own greed.   Even if you are not a Christian you could probably tell me the names of five famous "Christians" that have stolen from the house of God.  It's gross and it's wrong.  So now we're afraid to talk about giving, because we don't want to be one of those churches that is all about money. Giving and tithing, specifically, has such a nasty connotation that we've written it off as Old Testament, not New Testament theology. Whatever. I'm not a theologian just as much as I'm not an economist.  But I guess I think that what God says about giving is true no matter how much the world has changed.  Giving should be absolutely synonymous with being a Christian and if you are part of the family of God, you should be blown away by how much more God gives to you.

So when I think about falling over the fiscal cliff and heading into a recession, what I think is that this is the time for God's people to step it up.  To deny themselves the Starbucks, the Happy Meals, the $5 DVDs at Walmart, and start giving.  Taking care of their brothers and sisters and even people who are as far away from the family of God as can be.  It hurts for like two seconds and then you watch what God does with your $5 and you get blown away.  You learn that it's God's responsibility to take care of both you and the rest of his Creation and that he will- but you have the supreme privilege of being part of it.  People will see it.  The Church might actually gain favor with men again.  Yes, you'll have some people abuse it.  You'll have some thieves in the midst.  But you might see the Church added to daily just like they did in the book of  Acts. Because you're doing what God does best and that is give and give and give til it hurts.  He gave His Son.  We have a hard time giving anything that's going to require sacrifice.

You know, you may think I'm just ranting, but I have really been bothered by the autonomy of the Church for years.  By this explaining away of the "common-ism" in the book of Acts.  By how wrapped up we are in our own lives and gaining our own world of stuff and possessions, when our brothers and sisters need food and oil and love.  If we fall over that fiscal cliff,  God is going to take care of us.  And we need to be like him and take care of each other.  We're so afraid of hard times. We avoid it all cost.  As Hosea said, however, we "sow the wind but shall reap the whirlwind" (vs 8:7).  If we fall, we  remain the arms of a loving God. He'll provide for us and help us provide for others.  We were not meant to live alone in the body of Christ.  We won't fall over the cliff alone.