Sunday, December 28, 2008

Photos!

Wow, it is so hard to believe Christmas has passed and the New Year is just a few short days away!

Here are a few photo recaps of some of our adventures! We had a wonderful Christmas Eve & Day and have been out exploring and playing as a family. There are more adventures yet to come before our return home.








Blessings & Peace to each of you as we approach this new year!

Shanda

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I hope each of you is having a wonderful Christmas today! I hope to post a few photos soon...

Last night at the Christmas Eve service that we attended the pastor spoke about how Jesus had existed all the way back at the time of creation...that man had been created and living on the earth for years; but Christ was not "with us" until that amazing moment so many years ago at His birth. We both existed - Christ & man, but it was not until Christ's birth that we were "with" God in the flesh and then shortly after in Spirit. A simple but profound truth. I am choosing to be "with" my Savior today; I pray that you will as well!

Blessings & Peace to each of you!

Shanda

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Titus 2 Tuesday - Power of a Praying Spouse


We have arrived safely at my in-laws after stopping along the way to see some precious friends from college...so tough to keep that visit short; but hopefully we can visit again soon. Thank you all who have been praying for our safe travels. The kids are doing amazing!

Today's Titus 2 Tuesday post is dedicated to my Mother in Law, RoseMarie. I knew I would have a little time alone this morning to write and I had just began to pray about who the Lord would have me to write about and something happened that truly brought tears of joy to my eyes...my father in law rushed back into the house to rinse and put eight small communion glasses into the dishwasher...

Why would that cause me to be moved to tears? Because several years ago I remember sitting at the kitchen table with RoseMarie and she was sharing her heart for her husband with me...that God would bless him with a wonderful group of men who he could do Bible study with and call true friends. We agreed in prayer then and I know she has faithfully prayed for those deep soul friends for her husband over the years.

A few years ago my father in law was blessed to join a mens early morning Bible study (5am!) I believe at the time all of the men attended the same church. Since that time there have been many changes. Churches have changed, jobs, lives, etc. And yet these 8 men have formed a bond that few men are blessed to expereince. They are able to be real with one another. Rejoice with each other over the good in life as grandchildren were birthed, businesses were flourishing, and loved ones came to know the Lord. They shed tears and have prayed with one another as parents left this earth, wives had surgeries and health issues, children struggled with poor choices and illness, and businesses struggled. These men have grown in their faith alongside of one another and have been able to openly share when they questioned their faith and walked dark paths.

And yesterday, as they shared their lives in the wee hours of the morning; they celebrated communion together...which makes those small glasses that my father in law was rinsing and putting into the dishwasher this morning so meaningful to me.

It was a reminder to me to follow the lead of RoseMarie. To pray for my own husband to develop those kinds of bonds between men. There is amazing power and healing in deep and true fellowship with brothers (and sisters) in the Lord.

So RoseMarie, I honor your influence upon my life today!

Click on the "Titus 2 Tuesday" link at the top of this post to read more posts about:

"What have you learned from another woman this week (or ever)?"

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Let the Adventures Begin!


We will begin traveling today. I will have access to the internet most of the time and am hoping to continue posting off and on and catching up with many of you; just wanted to let you know in case I go a few days without posting at all. I am anticipating lots of fun stories and adventures to blog about!

I will leave you with a funny story that my son's (Gentle Strength) teacher told me yesterday...She had mentioned to me the other day in passing at school that she had a REALLY funny story to tell me; but that it would have to wait until another time. We ran into each other while out doing errands yesterday so I finally had a chance to hear it. She is a teacher through and through who LOVES her students and also LOVES the funny and odd things that happen while teaching young children. Having been a teacher myself; I completely understand the humor and I hope you will too!

It was Bible time and she had the children all seated in a semi-circle around her on the floor - I believe she usually sits on a low stool during this time. They were singing songs and she noticed my son distracted, looking down and clearly playing with something. So as any good teacher would do, she walked over to him (still singing) and held out her hand and gave him the "teacher look" that says, "You've been busted...give me what you are playing with." So my very respectful and obedient son, did. She said she glanced down at her hand to see what it was that he had been playing with. It looked like a fuzzy; however it was wet...still singing... she realized it was a....booger! She had to have a couple students take over the next song so she could run to the sink to wash it off...ahh; the joys of teaching!

Go read more "True Story Tuesday" Posts here:


Shanda

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Note to Self



While running errands yesterday we just missed the Post Office hours...there was NO grace to be had for the weary lady with the huge box...I'm sure they were just as weary from a long day of boxes. My daughter was with me so I decided that we should do something fun while out together (without anyone else.) I looked up after maneuvering the huge box back into the van and saw a pet store. There was a big sign that read, "We Have Puppies!"

I thought, "How fun! She will love it!" I said nothing. Just drove the very short distance and parked again. "What are we doing here?" She looked up from her book a little irritated to have just begun only to be interrupted again. Then she too saw the sign. "Oh! Let's go see them!" She exclaimed!

During the few steps into the store I explained that we would NOT be buying one; just looking. Evidently those words were lost-crowded out by her own thoughts of puppy bliss. She was admiring an adorable white Chihuahua when the owner spotted her and being the gifted sales person that she was immediately swept up puppy and child into a play room.

The puppy LOVED my daughter and my daughter LOVED the puppy. She had it named in less than a minute and then the petitions began..."Oh, Mommy! He NEEDS a home before Christmas!" "He could stay in my room and I would feed him and walk him and even clean up his messes!" "He couldn't possibly eat very much!" At which time the miniature dog managed to find a small piece of paper on the floor that he tried to eat. I picked him up and took the paper out of his mouth and he snuggled up against my neck so sweetly. "No honey, WE can't have him, I am sorry!" I said. She played with him and held him one last time before we had to give him back.

Her tears began the moment we reached the car. "But, I love him...please?" I proceeded to explain the logical reasons behind why we could not get him. He would cost us almost $1000 dollars; we already have a cat (who hates dogs by the way); if mommy bought him it would make mommy & daddy fight...etc (not that he doesn't like dogs; just the spontaneous $1000 purchase). I told her that it was just meant to be a sweet and fun moment and maybe someday we could get a puppy. She calmed down.

We went inside the house and she took her Christmas list off of the refrigerator crossed out everything else and wrote, "Chocolate the white Chihuahua from Pets Plus." She saw me looking at her and she said, "I know we can't afford him; but Santa could...." Oh dear...

Note to self, "NEVER bring an 8 year old girl to the pet store less than 10 days before Christmas!!!" What in the world was I thinking?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Titus 2 Tuesday - Praying in the Moment


It is that time again! I truly am so blessed to have so many wonderful Titus 2 women who have been and continue to influence my life that each week I pray that God would show me who it is that I am supposed to write about.

This week it is my friend Wendy.

I met Wendy when I was in junior high. I was attending a Christian summer camp and she (being a few years older than I) was my camp counselor. We hit it off during the week of camp and she faithfully wrote letters back to me the entire year after camp. After about a year (she went off to college and I was busy with high school) our letters dwindled off and we lost touch. A few years later while standing in line for a Wayne Watson concert we ran into each other again. She had graduated college and was working with youth at the time. She invited me to youth functions as her "aide" and I ended up going along as a chaperon with her group to a missions convention. I went off to college and we lost touch once again. I haven't seen or heard from her since...however, her impact on my life is still evident.

You see, when you were talking with Wendy, if something you were struggling with or concerned about came up; she would stop what she was doing and say, "Let's pray right now for that!"

She taught me so much about casting my cares on the Lord
and not wallowing in them or carrying them around with me for days before I finally realized that I should probably be praying about them.

She was also one of my largest influences in praying out loud with and for others. The first time that she stopped and prayed for me out loud I remember being slightly uncomfortable and then tearing up and being so blessed that someone cared enough about me to stop and pray out loud with me, in agreement with me, over my requests and burdens.

By giving me the opportunity to work alongside of her with the youth that she led; I had my first experience of ministering to others in a direct way. The missions conference that we attended was powerful. Lives were changed. I had members of the group coming to me with real and big issues - looking to me to pray with them, leading them to the Word, and following up with them after the conference to encourage them along in their walk with the Lord. It stirred something within my heart that continues on today.

So Wendy, wherever you are, I honor your influence up my life today! If we never cross paths again here on this earth; I know that we will have sweet fellowship in the presence of the Lord one day. Thank you for trusting me enough to bring me alongside of you with your youth group. I am forever changed.

Click on the "Titus 2 Tuesday" link at the top of this post to read more posts about:

"What have you learned from another woman this week (or ever)?"

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Marital Moments Issue 17 - Perfect Love

My mom was only 16 when she married my dad. I'm sure she had visions of a "happily ever after" floating through her mind as she said, "I do." She came from a broken home. A physically abusive home-with an alcoholic for a father. I believe marriage was a bit of an escape from her dark and lonely world. She placed a lot of hope and responsibility upon her new husband to fill all of the areas that had gone empty for so long. My father was a wonderful man. Although he was a "man's man," he also had a lot of tenderness to him. Yet he was human and not perfect. Who is?

Growing up I saw my mother's need for love - almost an insatiable need for acceptance, completion, and a fairy tale ending of her prince singing songs to her and about her. Oh, you can bet she tried not to need those things. Tried to ignore the longings of her heart. Tried not to be so "emotional."

I vowed in my heart early on that I would not marry. Would not make myself so vulnerable to another person to fill my needs. Although somewhat lonely; I managed to be rather independent and self sufficient. There was never a shortage of people to date when I was lonely. But the moment they became too committed; too serious about having a future with me - I broke it off. My dad teased me in high school for having a "new boyfriend" every three months or so.

God was teaching me a lot even back in those days. Showing me that no person could ever fill me. Never complete me in the way that we humans hope that they will. He allowed me foresight to see what kinds of long term relationships would develop with each person that I dated. I was searching for the answers and He was gradually showing me the truth:

God alone is the only one who can fill us, complete us, and love us unconditionally.

I thought in college that I had found it. That "perfect love" that would be the fairy tale ending for me. I let my guard down in ways I had hoped I never would. I was prepared to become this man's wife. We dated for several years. He asked my father for my hand in marriage. Then he felt the Lord asking him to give me up; to break up with me-and he did. To say I was crushed, devastated, broken...no words could do justice for the state of my heart or mind.

I believed it was a test at first. An Abraham offering up Isaac kind of thing. I literally did not date for almost a full year because I was certain that this man was going to return to me and tell me that God had finally released him to marry me-I wanted to be able to tell him that I had waited for him. He did not return. I was crushed all over again.

I was confused. I questioned everything about myself - was I not good enough, not attractive enough, not Spiritual enough. Did God feel that way about me too??? I struggled for the next couple of years; wrestled with God about the loss of my mom to cancer and the loss of this man that I had felt certain would be my husband.

I found myself trying to be everything else that everyone else was. I dated a lot of individuals that I knew were not right for me; but I reasoned, "maybe this is the best that I can do....maybe my hopes for a true "soul mate" were just some fairy tale wish." It wasn't until I fell asleep on the couch (after watching a movie at my current boyfriend's parents house) and woke up to him practicing his proposal to me that I knew I couldn't do this. I couldn't compromise my heart just so I could be "married."

This was the beginning of my "being real" before God. Not trying to be a "good Christian" and say all of the "right things" to Him; but to pour out my heart in ways that I had always felt (maybe had been taught) was inappropriate. I wrestled much like Jacob wrestled with the angel in the book of Genesis (Chapter 32 and also in Hosea chapter 12). I asked Him to show me who I really was. To show me what I was really worth. "Go ahead God, if I'm not worth much, just tell me already so I don't keep holding out hope that I am!" Here are some of the Scriptures that He gave me back then and even now speaks to my heart:

Isaiah 43:1 "...I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are mine." (NIV)

Isaiah 43:4 "...you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you..."

Deuteronomy 14:2 "...the Lord has chosen you to be His treasured possession."

Colossians 2:10 "And you have been given the fullness of Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.

Colossians 3:12 "...as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved..."

Psalms 139:17 "How precious are your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them."

I have only shared small portions of the Scriptures; some of which are from the Old Testiment and are words spoken by God to the children of Israel. Because we are descendants of Abraham we too are included in those promises.

To read more Scriptures about who God says you are, click here.

No man or woman can "complete" us. They simply cannot meet all of our physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual needs. It is a spot reserved for the creator of our souls. Perfect love comes from Him. We need to release our spouses from that responsibility and turn to God to fill us. If we invite Him to - He will. When we rest in His perfect love we are able to give and receive human love in much more fulfilling ways. Do you have longings in your heart that have been unmet by your spouse? Turn to the Lord. Tell Him everything - the good and the bad. Ask Him to answer the questions of your heart; and then be prepared to be still and listen. He will answer. It may not be an immediate audible response; but He will speak to you heart.

I John 4:17-19 "In this way, love is made complete among us...there is no fear in love because perfect love drives out fear..."

Thank you for reading this entire post (for those of you who have!) I kept going through ready to "edit" things out to make it shorter; but I felt the Lord prompting me to keep all that is here within this post. I pray that your heart will be touched by His love for you!

Sweet Blessings and Peace to you today!

Shanda

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Unwrap the Gifts That You Already Have

I heard the phrase of my title over and over again this week. "Unwrap The Gifts That You Already Have..." It is a call to remind us to take time in this busy season to not only see the "gifts" that are already ours; but also to take them out and enjoy what we have already blessed with. I love how Thanksgiving proceeds Christmas in that sense. We have all just sat and reflected on how we have been blessed before entering this season. Some have even purposed to try to focus on their blessings all year round instead of just once a year; and then the craziness of parties, shopping, planning, Christmas plays and musicals, etc. begin.


Every Christmas it hits me how my kids are so saturated with gifts that they cannot possibly play with all of them right away. We began somewhat of a "tradition" of letting them open up a few items each half hour on Christmas Day so they would actually take the time to play with the new items and be truly thankful to the person who had given the gifts. We communicated a few days in advance that we were going to do this pattern of opening so that everyone would be prepared to take things in stride in the actual moment.

We have a lot of out of town family so each child has small gifts from each of those relatives that we want for them to:
1) be able to remember who gave them what so they can write their thank you cards in a meaningful way and
2) appreciate each item.

Over all, it is a way to slow down the "frenzy" of unwrapping and keep the "give me more!" Spirit in check. It has also ended up being a lot of fun for the whole family to be involved in the "what do you think it is?" for those mystery items sent by Aunt Ruth. (names have been changed to protect the extended family! There is always one isn't there?)

Let's take a few minutes today to "unwrap" a gift of two that we already have...draw out one of our children or our spouse in conversation or play a game with them. There is still time to do the "Twelve Days of Christmas" with your spouse! For those of you who have left comments or e-mailed me that you are participating; I have been and will continue to pray over your marriages until Christmas Day. (and then as they come to mind following Christmas.)

The gift that I have been most drawn to is to spend the time with the Lord that I have been missing and longing for but have been "too busy" to spend it. It is a gift that keeps on giving! "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16

I'm off to wrap and unwrap gifts!!

Blessings & Peace to you all!

Shanda

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Meme

I have been tagged by Dana at From Chaos to Grace and then tagged again by Butterfly Flutter to do this Christmas Meme...so here goes!

CHRISTMAS MEME

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Most definitely hot cocoa!

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Santa is only responsible for one gift for each person in our house and "he" typically wraps those in some fun "Santa" type of paper. (different than all of the other presents) However, if the gift is too large or awkwardly shaped; Santa doesn't have "skills" so "he" simply puts a large bow on the object. ; )

3. Colored light on house/tree or white? We like the white lights-especially with garland

4. Do you hang mistletoe? Not usually; but that doesn't keep us from stopping under other people's mistletoe!

5. When do you put your decorations up? Usually the weekend after Thanksgiving. This year was a bit delayed due to illness.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Hmmm...do homemade rolls count?

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child? My sister and I would sometimes sleep in our sleeping bags under the Christmas tree. We always got a real tree. The combination of the glowing lights and fresh pine smell was the best.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? When a friend of the family dressed up like Santa and delivered our gifts one year on Christmas day...at first I think I bought it...and then I realized it was him.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? We always read the Christmas Story from the book of Matthew and then got to each open one gift from the small pile that accumulated from out of town relatives who mailed us gifts.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Usually white lights. (non-blinking) We have some beautiful hand blown ornaments from Czechoslovakia in deep reds and purples; and then we add some deep green, red and silver bulbs. Angel on top. Kids ornaments are mostly toward the bottom, but spread throughout.

11. Snow. Love it or dread it? LOVE it!! As long as I don't have to scrape my car and drive on black ice or on roads that are drifted half way across (grew up in MI - Lake effect snow!)

12. Can you ice skate? Yes! I love it! I used to ice skate on the pond in the woods behind my house and on my driveway when we had freezing rain (did I mention I grew up in MI???) Now we do the "indoor" rink thing with the kids occasionally. My body hurts too much to go very often from holding them up and being pulled in EVERY direction humanly possible!

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? A guitar. I used to strum my guitar and make up all kinds of songs!

14. What is the most important thing about the holidays for you? Christ. Always. I want the kids to know 100% that gifts have nothing to do with it; they’re a bonus. I want them to learn to give MORE of themselves and expect LESS from everyone else.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? I don't know if I can pick just one. Seriously...

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? I really love Christmas Eve Candlelight Services

17. What tops your Christmas tree? An angel

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving? I think it was after we had our first child that my focus completely shifted to giving...I love watching people's faces when you get them something you know that they have really wanted but didn't think that they would get.

19. What is your favorite Christmas song? Of the "Traditional" Christmas Songs, I would say, "Joy to the World" or "Let it Snow"

20. Candy Canes. Yum or Yuck? Yum in small doses - especially if all crunched up;mixed into vanilla frosting and put in-between two double chocolate cookies! (Thanks a lot Caleb! Now I'm addicted! ; ) )

21. What do you want for Christmas? Fun, memorable moments with my family & children.

22. Do you attend an annual Christmas party? Yes! MOPS (Mother's of Preschoolers) We used to go to my husband's work parties, but now they just do a daytime one with workers only...budget cuts...

23. Do you dress up for Christmas Eve or wear PJ’s? If we are going to a Candlelit Church Service we dress up...otherwise casual.

24. Do you own a Santa hat? Yes

25. Who do you normally spend Christmas with? Either just our family at home or with my husband's family (both my parents are with the Lord already so that stress factor of deciding is gone!)

Now, I get to tag five others:

Eat at Home

Blessed by the Lord

Honey Mommy

Hyperactive Lu

The Fruits of the Spirit

If you want to join the fun; say who you were tagged by linking them to your blog and then copy and paste the above questions and tag 5 additional people then leave them a comment on their blog so they know that they have been tagged!






Tuesday, December 9, 2008

When Life Gives You Lemons...


Mikki over at "Here's What Let's Do," gave me this award for being "A down-to-earth, honest, woman of integrity who never fails to have some amazing wisdom to share. Also a friend from the real world who I have seen move through adversity with grace and strength." (Her words)

Wow Mikki! You TOTALLY made my week! I feel like having a glass of lemonade right now! Wait, maybe I should invite you over for a glass of lemonade seeing how we actually know each other in the "real" world! (She is our amazing children's pastor's wife...behind every good man is an amazing woman!)

The purpose of this award is to give it to someone who is:

"showing gratitude or a good attitude (from 'if life hands you lemons, make lemonade')! "

within their life or blog.

I am happy to have others who inspire me and show me the way when it comes to peace and contentment in a life made complete in Christ. Here are the rules:

* Put the logo on your blog or post.
* Nominate at least 10 blogs which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude!
* Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
* Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
* Share the love and link to this post and to the person from whom you received your award.

Here are my 10...I honestly could have done a few more...but I'll follow the rules!

Kathryn from "Pure Wells" has an inspiring love and knowledge of the Word of God and her posts are flowing over with Scripture. I have the priviledge of praying in person with this mighty woman of God most Mondays at our children's school. You can bet if she is handed lemons she has a beautiful Scripture on hand to show how God is at work making the best lemonade you have ever been refreshed with.

Jeneil from "RhemasHope" is an amazing mom who has embraced her daughter's autism. She shares her sweet lemonade from a heart surrendered of her expectations as she rejoices and celebrates each precious day with her family.

Daveda from "Grace Talk with Daveda" is a beautiful friend that the Lord blessed me with this past summer at a Proverbs 31 weekend. She has such an amazing perspective on the power and absolute gift of God's grace. I am blessed each time I hear her speak or read her writings. I believe God has big plans (ministry) for this daughter!

El from "Profoundly Seth" has experienced the loss of a perfect and beautiful baby boy (Eli -who was stillborn) and her 4th child was born deaf (Seth). Her ability to walk openly and transparently through the joys and struggles of life - keeping humor, grace and faith throughout- is inspiring. She is in the process right now of making lemonade as she raises money for Seth to receive ear implants so he can hear. Another awesome mom!

Dana at "From Chaos to Grace" has made me laugh and cry (sometimes in the same post!) She loves the Lord, keeps it real, and is an amazing photographer. She not only makes lemonade, but gives it away freely to anyone who is thirsty!

Stacey at "The Blessed Nest" is one who if given lemons would be able to whip them up into a lovely arrangement and you wouldn't even want to make lemonade with them! She can take the simplest of items and make them beautiful.

AndreaLeigh at "My Chihauhau bites" is a lot of fun! She would take her lemons and throw a party for everyone to make lemonade together. She is full of life and creativity. Her adorable dogs would join in the fun! I bet they would like lemonade...

Stacie at "Life to the Fullest"wrote a post awhile back titled, "Fresh Faith" that really blessed me. I believe it was her lemonade freshly squeezed at the time...she has a lot of great truths and beauty to offer the world and is another one who is willing to be real and transparent in her struggles. I raise my lemonade glass to you!

"Butterfly Flutter"
is a wonderful homeschooling mom that I feel a kindred spirit with. I can't say I know her really well yet; but I know she has a heart full of love for her family & for the Lord. I know she has had some lemons this past year and she and her family are drinking the lemonade even now as they celebrate God's goodness this Christmas season!

Sarah at "Kingdom Mama" is someone I am just getting to know. She hosts the "Titus 2 Tuesdays" that I am a part of and she has a heart to minister to others. She can be seen collecting lemons from whoever may have them to offer; and then making wonderful lemonade - sharing it with those those who need a cold drink. I hope to get to know her more.

Titus 2 Tuesday - Creating a Welcoming Atmosphere


I am dedicating this post to one of my roommates in life before marriage~Diane.

Diane was from Kentucky and her family roots ran deep. She had this wonderful way of using several small lamps to create a warm atmosphere. She was dating her husband to be at the time that we lived together and she would dash around turning on lamps and turning off overhead lights just before he arrived. There would be this soft glow awaiting his presence. Even after they were married when I would stop by their house; she had several well placed antique lamps glowing. This girl knew how to make you want to come on in and stay awhile.

I have adapted her antique charm into my own style of decorating (I am not nearly so gifted when it comes to finding great antiques) with several small/medium lamps around the house. I have also discovered how awesome dimmer switches for overhead lights can be! I try to create this warm atmosphere when it is already dark when my husband comes home from work. My children even seem to calm and want to snuggle by the fireplace and read books.

There is one additional thing that I have to share about Diane and her wonderful Kentucky family. When she was preparing to get married, her family made her wedding dress! I believe her mom was the master seamstress behind the scenes and the one who either assembled the pieces or coordinated the person who did it. Her Grandmothers, Aunts, and I believe even her cousins each took a piece (arms, bodice, etc.) and they hand sequined (and I believe mini-pearled) each area. It was beautifully symbolic of her family coming alongside of her and demonstrating their love and support for her and her husband to be. Her dress was gorgeous. Truly heirloom quality. I wish I had a digital picture to share.

She also taught me how to line dance; but that is another story!!

Diane, I honor your influence upon my life! Thanks girl!

Click on the "Titus 2 Tuesday" link at the top of this post to read more posts about:

"What have you learned from another woman this week (or ever)?"

Monday, December 8, 2008

Marital Moments Isuue 16 - Christmas With the In Laws


If you are married, chances are you have them...In laws. I'm sure that every person who reads this post could tell a story or two about this topic without much hesitation. I believe that second to finances, most marital discord surrounding the holidays has to do with extended family in some way. I do have a few friends who actually say they prefer their in laws to spending time with their own families; but it is very few indeed.

My own in laws are wonderful, God loving, generous individuals who I love and am very appreciative for; but that doesn't mean we haven't had some communication or relational issues along this ten year path of marriage.

My father was a factory worker and foreman. He liked set schedules and we had a lot of order and structure to most things that we did in our household. My husband's father is an Interior Designer full of creativity, ideas, and change is what he does for a living. I am a planner, I like structure and love adventure. My husband has grown to enjoy schedules (in small doses) but is much more prone to fly by the seat of his pants - especially when on vacation. And vacation normally involves his parents...there were some adjustments to be made on both sides...especially after we had children.

Most families have some kind of in law related issues. However, as I have given this more thought, I am seeing that most of our own "issues" are compounded by outside factors:

*We are normally traveling to spend time with extended family or they are traveling to spend time with us.


*It is normally centered around a holiday, birthday, or other large event (recitals,performances, etc.)


*Both sides have usually put a lot of time and energy into work/volunteer activities in order to take time off to be able to get together so we enter the time frame worn and tired.


*There is a level of stress to get things all "set up" for people to travel or prepare for house guests regardless of how excited you might be to get together.


Now I know that you may live in the same town with one or both sides of the family so these issues may not look exactly the same as my own, but I encourage you to take a look at the stresses that tend to compound these relationships. Do what you can to reduce the stressful factors involved and offer grace for those that you cannot.

Some things that I have learned along the way...for both sides of the in law relationship:

1. Expect more noise than you are used to.
Some Examples may be: a family member listening to the TV loudly late at night, putting dishes away or cooking/cleaning at all hours, vacuuming while you are still asleep, excited children who have had more candy and cookies than normal, crying because they haven't slept well, or all out pitching a fit.

Why, Why, Why do they do that??? You might be asking? Again, because the circumstances are unusual. There are more people in the house to clean up after and cook for; the children have had sensory overload with lights, sounds, and smells of Christmas while being instructed to be on their best behavior (for days!) If noise is an issue, see what you can do to help in advance. Offer to vacuum, help with dishes or meal preparation (while you or your kids are awake). A friend of mine brings a white noise machine with her every time they travel - she says it helps no matter the noise.

2. Communicate Expectations & Needs BEFORE issues arise:
*At the first possible moment after all of the initial greetings and getting settled, TALK to your family members about what they are hoping to experience and do while you/they are there. (Going to look at lights, family portrait, making cookies with the kids, seeing a movie, Christmas Eve Church Service,etc.) If you know that they are going to need some time to think about it; tell them that you are going to ask them at dinner what they might be hoping to accomplish while you are with them. You could even ask them to tell you a specific number of things (tell us TWO things you are hoping to do...) If you can work together to meet goals and expectations, things will be much more peaceful.

*Surrender (to the Lord) and communicate (with your spouse) your own expectations. To read a previous post on expectations, click here.

*Communicate about sleeping arrangements BEFORE you arrive so there are not surprises in this area. We purchased some awesome inflatable sleeping bags for our kids when they were about 2yrs old. (from Walmart I believe) They LOVED to sleep in them and it eliminated a lot of hassle at hotels and when we spent the night away from home. We just put sheets or blankets underneath of them and the kids were set.

Here are a few verses to encourage you this Christmas Season:
Romans 12:18 "If possible, so far as it depends on you; live peaceably with all men." NAS

John 14:27 "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you..." KJV

I Peter 3:9 "Not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but give a blessing instead; for you were called for this very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. NAS

Matthew 5:9 "Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God." KJV


Pastor Rich at our church just did an AWESOME message on dealing with difficult people. It is perfect for this time of year. A couple of his quotes from the message: "Avoid the reindeer game of arguing!" "A mark of maturity is controlled reaction." You can hear the whole message here: Choose "Traditions - Avoiding Strife."

I am going to open up this conversation to you - click on the comment section below and share your tips!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

New Guinea Update AND The Winner Is...

Things are progressing wonderfully in New Guinea. They have already taught 13 lessons (the Bible translated into their tribal tongue) to the Madak People. The missionaries have had many moments in the last week alone where they could feel that people were praying for them. The latest update will be under the "Cool Christmas Giveaway" announcement. Please be in prayer for this missionary team as they present God's word and truth to a people who is just beginning to hear it for the first time in their own native tongue! You can click here to get more background information.

AND THE WINNER IS...Marie from "Busy Mom!" We drew names the old fashioned way-my daughter picked the winner's name from the Christmas bucket and Marie will be the proud owner of the book, "The Shack" by William P. Young.

Thank you to all who entered my giveaway. I was sincerely blessed by reading your favorite Scriptures and the reasons that they had become your favorites. Our God is an awesome God! My own current favorite Scripture is: I Chronicles 16:11 "Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face always."

You are invited to join in on the conversation tomorrow as I post on "Christmas with the In laws!" I will be sharing what the Lord has been revealing to my heart & giving some practical tips and I invite you to share yours as well!

Here is the latest update letter. Thank you for praying for these missionaries!! It is making an eternal difference!
-------
"Hello Friends and Family,

This was a great week in the village. One of the guys, Robin, who helps
with lesson translation and lesson preparation has really been exposed to a
lot of Biblical truth in the time he has spent in the office helping. He
has helped prepare and proof many of the lessons which have not even been
taught yet. The 'lights' have really been coming on for him and he has been
asking a lot of very focused questions about God's 'plan' to redeem mankind.

This week he asked: "Abel brought an animal so that he could be accepted by
God. What do we need to bring today to be accepted by God?"

That's a pretty focused question. Karl went on to explain God's plan in
further detail. Robin could, very possibly, be the first Madak to be saved
through the teaching program here in the village. We have several other
people who are really tracking and focused as well. They just haven't been
exposed to the number of lessons that Robin has been. We are praying that
once they are, they will be asking similar questions as well.

On Tuesday, after teaching on Cain and Abel, we asked them the following
question:

"Did God accept Abel's offering because Abel was a good man and did God
reject Cain's offering because Cain was a bad man?"

There was silence at first followed by a lot of whispering between people.
No one would answer. They were really struggling with the false concept that
God accepts "good" people and He rejects "bad" people.
We went on to reinforce the truth that all people are sinners and that God
only accepts people who come before Him in the manner God Himself has
established... no other way is acceptable to God.

We then went on to teach on Noah and the ark. God instructed Noah to make
one ark with only one door. People could avoid destruction ONLY by entering
the one ark through the one door God designed into the ark. There was no
other way.

Pray this week as we cover more of Noah and the ark, the tower of Babel, God
choosing Abram and God renewing his promise to Abram....Genesis 7-17.

Please be praying with us that the Madak people will begin to put the pieces
together (as Robin is doing) as we teach these Biblical truths. Thanks for
being part of the team!

The Madak Team,

Karl, Maribeth, Laura, Matthew and Rachel Greeb
Chris, Peg, Leah, Micah and Levi Bittner
April Fish
Sharon Mihill
Beth DeLaat"

Friday, December 5, 2008

Cool Christmas Give Away - The Shack

I am joining in on Lysa TerKeurt's "Cool Christmas Give Away!" You can click onto the button above to enter Lysa's giveaway. She is giving away a CD and study guide book "This Crazy Little Thing Called Love" This is a "Give-Give" event; so each of us who are linking up are offering give aways as well. You can enter several give aways by going to Lysa's site.

I have decided to give away the book, "The Shack" by William P. Young. In order to win my give away; you simply need to leave a comment below sharing your favorite Scripture verse with me. I would love to hear why it is your favorite as well if you have a minute. I know it will bless me to read them and hope it will bless others who read as well. If you do not have a favorite Scripture verse; you are still welcome to enter!

I will be posting my winner on Sunday along with my New Guinea Update.

Many Blessings!!

Shanda

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Laundry is Calling...Again!


Of all of my "housewifely" duties; laundry is the one that never seems to be "done" all the way. I rejoice that there is not another piece of laundry in my laundry room to clean; and poof! More appears. I guess in a family of 5 that is to be expected, but lets just say it's not my favorite. (Can anyone relate?)

In an attempt to get this laundry thing a bit more structured (yes, I am type A...) we developed this system: My daughter brings her laundry down, sorts and helps me wash, fold and put it away on M/W. Gentle Strength brings his down and does his sorting, etc. on Tues/Thurs. It truly has helped because when you are doing all of one person's laundry at the same time it saves time and energy because you aren't having to make all kinds of piles for different people, there are smaller loads, etc. It has been going much better, until everyone got sick last week...now the mountains are again forming.

In the midst of our "laundry intervention," God gave me an analogy that really spoke to my heart. I was explaining to my daughter about the proper usage of stain stick (pre-spot, etc.) for stains. I heard myself telling her that the sooner we deal with the stain; the better the overall outcome will be. Profound I know. ; ) It dawned on me that the sooner we deal with our sins, our woundings, and our "stains," emotionally and Spiritually the better the outcome can be as well.

It is sometimes easier to "stuff" or hide sins, woundings and "stains" on our hearts initially. I am guilty of this. Thoughts like, "I just don't have the energy to deal with this right now." or even that if I ignore it maybe it will go away. But most of the time things don't just go away on their own. When issues that we have stuffed arise again; the task of dealing with the root of the "stain" gets more daunting, difficult, and time consuming.

My daughter got a little lesson on "stains" physical, emotional, and Spiritual ones right then and there in the laundry room. I'm not entirely sure how much she completely understood; but it is worth it to me to ramble on hoping that she can glean where I have struggled. That she could experience victory and healing in shorter time spans than I have in my life. That she could learn how to be free, whole, and stain free.

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Rev 1:5 To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father to him be glory and power for ever and ever!


She bopped out of the laundry room ready to stain stick the world. God dealt with my heart a little further on some stains that I have been letting "sit in the laundry basket" of my heart a little too long. My guess is, you might have a little stained laundry too...want to have a little laundry party? I'll bring the Shout wipes!

I'd love to hear if you have any awesome cleaning or laundry tips as well. As my friend Angela says, "There's no reason to re-invent the wheel!"

May you be stain free today!

Shanda


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Titus 2 Tuesday - The Effectiveness of Quiet Correction

Today I am choosing to honor a wonderful friend of mine who is truly blessed with a quiet and sweet spirit that is beautiful unto the Lord and also to those of us who are graced with her presence~Cheryl. Not being of the particularly "quiet" demeanor myself; I have been especially blessed to observe how she lives out her life.

One of the very first things I learned from her when we were in a weekly Bible study together was how she handled correction with her children. She would quietly and discretely call (or simply motion) one of her twins over and speak calmly and quietly to them about what they needed to correct or what they had done that was wrong. There was no drama. No raised voices. No public humiliation or embarrassment involved. I cannot tell you exactly what she said each time to them, but I decided to try the approach myself. Not that I was the type of mom who hollered across the room at my kids; but I wasn't going out of my way to somewhat discretely address a matter at hand.

My children are also of the non-quiet nature; so opportunities abound in this area. I wonder why... ;) I found that my strong willed oldest responded MUCH better to this quieter, non-embarrassing correction and was more prone to fixing her behavior when it was done discretely. She wanted others to like her so she especially didn't like being "called" on something in front of others. Now that she is older I still use this technique. If she does not choose to respond to the quiet request I simply ask her, "Do you need more drama from me for you to understand, or can these quiet words be enough?" It is usually enough to get her attention and make her stop and think about the alternative ways things could play out. My children have definitely experienced a variety of responses from me as I am not a perfect mom; but I am a loving mom who they know wants the best for them as well. They know they are wise to choose the quiet when it is offered.

I believe it was also Cheryl who recommended the book, "Creative Correction" by Lisa Welchel to me when she was reading it. I am a big believer in natural consequences or in making the "punishment fit the crime" so to speak; this book offered a lot of creative ideas on both of those as well as a bunch of positive reinforcements and helped me to remember that we cannot expect our kids to do things that we haven't taken the time to train them to do.

There is much more I could say about Cheryl; she is creative, talented and skilled in many ways. I appreciate how she gives of herself for her family and willingly works with her hands to make her home a soft and lovely place for her family to land and others to visit. Thank you for your influence upon my life!

Click on the "Titus 2 Tuesday" link at the top of this post to read more posts about:

"What have you learned from another woman this week (or ever)?"

A Fun Christmas Greeting!

video


A special shout out to my SITSta's at the Secret Is in The Sauce as we are having a fun Christmas Blog Day! Click here to read more: The Secret is in the Sauce: Merry SITSmas! Here are a couple (among SO MANY) of SITSters worth checking out:

Anyone looking for some great gluten free ideas or a little humor, check out Mikki's blog.

Need to read a bit from someone who "keeps it real" as they navigate their walk of faith while raising children? Oh...she is also a FABULOUS photographer! Check out Dana's blog!

Wanting some adorable photos and boy fun? Honey Mommy is the place to be!


The rest of this post is a funny Christmas story!
Can you believe Christmas is only 23 days away? My husband and I were reminiscing about fun Christmas memories that we have had over the years and I remembered how much fun my sister and I used to have sneeking into my parents bedroom and peeking at our gifts...VERY carefully un-wrapping and then wrapping them back up before our parents returned home...I'm sure we were the ONLY horrible children who ever did that right?! :)

A friend in college told me a story of when he and his brothers would do the same thing...only their parents caught onto what they had been doing. So they went out to Goodwill and bought some old beat up toys and books and wrapped them placing them where the kids had always gone to look for the gifts and storing the "real" presents over at a relatives house.

The boys, of course, snuck in and unwrapped their "Goodwill" gifts...completely bummed out, they very carefully re-wrapped them and wondered whether they had been that bad or if maybe they were poorer than they thought! He said they decided to step up their game and be EXTRA helpful and good until Christmas. However, their mom kept telling people how RELIEVED she was that she was ALL DONE with her Christmas shopping. There wasn't much hope that they would be getting anything else.

Christmas morning their parents had to wake them up to come down to open presents...there under the tree were the same re-wrapped Goodwill items that they had already found. They forced themselves to smile and try to genuinely thank their parents as they opened each gift. When they were finished, their dad said, "So, I guess we should mention that we KNOW about you guys sneaking in and unwrapping gifts before Christmas..." and then his parents burst out laughing and brought out all of the "real" gifts. It was a Christmas they will never forget!

May you have a wonderful and blessed Christmas season mixed with fun traditions and the celebration of Jesus's birth!

Shanda





Monday, December 1, 2008

Marital Moments Issue 15 - The Twelve Days of Christmas!

I love the group Switchfoot's song, "This Is Your Life." The chorus is what first grabbed my attention:

"This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be
When the world was younger and you had everything to lose"

A big part of why this song speaks to me is that it puts the responsibility back on me. Steps on my toes so to speak. The Lord often uses music to speak to my heart. The question for this segment is:

"This is your marriage, is it everything you dreamed that it would be when the world was younger and you had everything to lose?"

This is an idea that the Lord gave me awhile back when our marriage needed some "refreshing." Regardless of where you are at in your marriage, it is important that you pursue your spouse; that you are willing to take the initiative in making your marriage all that God intended for it to be. Which leads me back to the title, "The Twelve Days of Christmas!"

We have an opportunity to bless our spouses and deepen our marriages with a very small amount of effort and time.

Here is how it works. For 12 days -anytime between now and Christmas-you (we - I will be doing this along with you all!): commit to pray for your spouse and you try to give to them in ways that speak their love language. If you are not familiar with "The Five Love Languages" book by Gary Chapman check it out atwww.fivelovelanguages.com/learn.html

Each day you will "give" them something. This does not have to be material gifts. I will give more specific ideas in a moment. On the first day, you simply write a note (or wrap a note in a box) and place it somewhere that they will find it. I chose to tape my notes on the door of our garage where my husband walked in from work each day. This first note welcomes them to the "Twelve Days of Christmas!" and presents their first gift.

Do this (notes and/or gifts) each day for twelve days. It does NOT need to be extravagant or take a lot of effort on your part to make the notes/gift boxes. The idea that you are pursuing your spouse will speak volumes. It is alright to mix in some ideas from what you believe is your spouse's secondary love language.

For example, you may know that physical touch is their primary love language but you also know that words of affirmation are important to them. Mix both throughout your 12 days. Be as creative as you want!

The following examples (below) are ideas you can use as a starting point. Once you get started it will get easier and easier to see your spouses needs and how you can meet them. Your relationship to your spouse is second only to your relationship with the Lord. Let them know that they are a priority in your life.

Commit these 12 days to the Lord in prayer. Ask Him to reveal things to you that you would not have thought of on your own.

Feel free to leave comments with any great ideas that you have! I'd also love to pray for you as you invest in your marriage. Click on the "comments" section under this post (or send me a quick e-mail) and leave your name and the name of your spouse. I will commit to praying for your marriage for the next two weeks with you. I have seen how powerful these"Twelve Days of Christmas" can be firsthand. Impactful enough for me to be doing it a second time - I hope you will join me!

May God richly bless your marriage this Christmas Season!



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Examples litsted by Love Languages:

WORDS OF AFFIRMATION

1st Day "On the First Day of Christmas my true love gave to me..." 3 of the top reasons that I love you!

2nd Day "On the Second Day of Christmas my true love gave to me..." notes from your children telling what makes them special.

3rd Day "On the Third Day of Christmas my true love gave to me..." write out a verse and a note encouraging them with anything they may be pursuing or struggling with

*The main thing to keep in mind for words of affirmation is to be real. Speak compliments from your heart about who your spouse is and why you are thankful for them. What they teach you through their lives, etc. You could even e-mail some of their friends and get them to write out why your spouse is important to them.

QUALITY TIME

1st Day "On the First Day of Chrismtas my true love gave to me..." a warm drink and 20 minutes of uninterrupted conversation. *Be prepared with questions to draw them out in case they don't jump right into conversation. Such as, "Where do you see us in a yr, 5 yrs, etc." "What would you say is the most important activity in your life right now?"

2nd Day "On the Second Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me..." an invitation to play your spouses favorite game. (Checkers, chess, monopoly, on line game, x-box, etc)

3rd Day "On the Third Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me..." a walk after dinnertime. *If you have children, try to arrange for someone to watch them for 1/2 hr -an hr.

*If this is your spouse's love language, make certain that you are completely focused on them during the times that you are offering. Do not let you cell phone, etc interrupt your focus on engaging with them in conversations or activities. TRY to learn something new that you didn't know about your spouse. They are hoping you will draw them out. Picking up a devotional book for couples may be an excellent thing to introduce and carry on even after the 12 days are finished.

RECEIVING GIFTS

1st Day "On the First Day of Christmas my true love gave to me..." a single beautiful flower or rose (for wife) a new music cd by a group you know they love (husband or wife).

2nd Day "On the Second Day of Christmas my true love gave to me..." a candle to put at the dinner table.

3rd Day "On the Third Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me..." a favorite photo put into a frame.

*It is important to gradually build up to the 12th day-the last day should be the best or most special gift to your spouse. It can be as simple as picking up their favorite food from a restaurant on the way home or even their favorite drink or coffee, etc. Usually "gift" people communicate about things that they "want." Magazine subscriptions or fruit of the month clubs are great for these kinds of people. Gifts that keep on giving without a lot of continued thought or effort.

ACTS OF SERVICE

1st Day "On the First Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me..." cleaning up the dishes, table, and floor after dinner.

2nd Day "On the Second Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me..." vaccumming any three rooms of their choice

3rd Day "On the Third Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me..." Letting your spouse sleep in while you take the kids out for breakfast - like Chick-fil-A, Ihop, etc. Bringing home something for your spouse to eat after waking is an added bonus.

*It is important to give without expecting others to do for you later on. This becomes especially true with this love language. Look for things that mean the most to them for you to do. Remember to smile and have a great attitude even if it means you will be doing an undesirable task.

PHYSICAL TOUCH

1st Day "On the First Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me..." a neck massage.

2nd Day "On the Second Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me..." a foot rub.

3rd Day "On the First Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me..." you can be as intimate as you choose-this is your spouse! Get creative and put some thought into what they enjoy most.

*It is important to give in ways that your spouse is affirmed the most through. Maybe rubbing feet does nothing for you, but means the world to them.