Serving the Lord with Gladness


Psalm 100 has always been a favorite of mine. 

This Psalm starts with a wonderful call to worship.

"Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness. Come before Him with joyful singing." 

Notice the words joyfully, gladness and joyful. This is not a call to serve God begrudgingly or with bitterness. They have absolutely no place. Instead, we serve our God with joyful hearts, with gladness and with happy singing. I love that! 

For whatever reason, I almost always have a song in my heart. Usually it's an upbeat, joyful praise song. Sometimes I remember the words, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I make up songs and make up words to go with them. To me, a joyful heart equates to a happy, singing heart. 

The Psalm continues. "Know that the Lord Himself is God. It is He who made us and not we ourselves. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture." 

This section is a great reminder of God's bigness, how He is wholly other than us. He is the Creator God. He is the Sustaining God. He alone is God. 

Then the Psalm concludes, back where it began - with praise! 

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to the Lord, bless His name. For the Lord is good. His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations."

What a beautiful Psalm. What a beautiful reminder of God's part in this world - faithfulness, lovingkindness, goodness- and our part - thankfulness to Him, serving Him with gladness. He is so worthy! 

Serve Him with gladness today in whatever you do! 

Girls Getaway Weekend


My 11-year-old daughter and I just enjoyed a great girls getaway weekend together! 

This was part Christmas gift and part educational opportunity. At Christmas, I gave her a paper that explained that in January, she and I would enjoy a girls getaway weekend. We would stay at a hotel with a pool. We would get manicures and pedicures. We would eat out. We would relax and just hang out together. 

And that is what we did. 

However, I also had a bit of a hidden agenda. I had purchased Passport to Purity - a boxed kit that contains CDs, a parent guide and a "travel guide" for your preteen, all published by Family Life Today / Dennis and Barbara Rainey. This is a wonderful resource to begin a discussion with your preteen about the birds and the bees, all the changes they can expect the next few years, and to set some standards about dating. 

I admit that 11 seems young, as my girl isn't even thinking anything about boys or dating or the like. And yet, that is kind of the point - to give her a heads up before the changes take place, before her emotions are out of control and before her sexual drive awakens.

So we stayed at a nearby hotel with a pool, while Dad played Mr. Mom with the other two kids at home. We ate at her favorite restaurants. We enjoys manis / pedis for the first time ever (for her). We relaxed and listened to the CD sessions, did the object lessons / projects that they suggest and had some good discussions on this topic. 

I think she is 100% more prepared for her teen years now. And we are able to have open dialog about a sensitive topic, which I hope can continue. 

Thank you, Passport to Purity, for providing the resources we needed to make this a success in every way. 

Antique Barbie Kitchen Set


My mom is in her early 60s. When she was young, she received a Barbie Kitchen Set as a gift. She has kept it through the years and brings it out on occasion.

It is so neat! There is nothing like it on the market even today, which makes it all that much more special as it was made 50+ years ago. There are four pieces - a refrigerator (that opens and has play food inside), an oven (with a door that opens, and a turkey on a turning spit), a dishwasher (with real water that runs through it), and a sink (also with real water that runs out the faucet).  

While we visited over Christmas, she showed this set to my children for the first time. So fun to play with toys that Grandma played with those many years ago. 

Baby Girl Fun


Here are a few random fun shots of baby girl. 

Oh, how she loved playing with a vacuum popper at Grandma's house. She's taking her first shaky steps now, going a little further and gaining confidence each day.

She eats everything offered her, which is wonderful. 
Peppers, onions, meats...she's not picky at all. 
Here she was greatly enjoying some mashed potatoes.

When packing for our trip to Wisconsin for Christmas, 
this little one fit right in the luggage. 

Babies always love to play in big empty boxes. 
She is no exception.

She was feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the Christmas gifts at this celebration. 

We all are loving having this little lady in our family. She stole our hearts long ago, but we continue to delight her presence each day. Watching her giggle as she discovers new things, seeing her understanding develop as she learns more words, experiencing her first unsteady steps around the house, playing peek a boo... all bring us joy and remind us of that innocent wonderment of childhood. What a delight! 

Happy Birthday, Jesus!


Happy birthday, Jesus!

There is no other whose birth is celebrated worldwide 2000 years later. There is no other whose birth is celebrated by hundreds of songs written just for the occasion. 

This baby made the angels sing. 
This baby made a new star shine in the sky.
This baby is God's own Son. 
This baby is Jesus! 

Merry Christmas to one and all! 
And Happy Birthday, Jesus! 
How glad we are to celebrate YOU!

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Birthdays Galore


With my son turning 7 in early December and then my daughter turning 1 in mid-December, we've been celebrating a lot this month! 

Here is my boy waiting as patiently as a 7-year-old can to open his gifts! His main gift was a plasma car, which has been a huge hit! 

Even my 11-year-old girl can ride on it. She will hold baby girl on her "lap" and ride it. They both love it!

He also received a GI JOE action figure from Grandma in Wisconsin. Here we were skyping with Grandma so she could watch him open it.

Here is baby girl on her birthday, receiving some gifts from Grandma in Wisconsin and opening them via Skype. A light-up push toy, a beautiful dress and lots of smiles. We love Skype... use it regularly to talk with Grandma so she can actually see the kids too. 

Happy birthday to these special kiddos! 

My hubby, my oldest daughter and I all have summer birthdays, which we celebrate in one big birthday bash. So I'm glad that these two kids have close birthdays too. We put up the birthday banner in early December and just leave it up for the whole month, as we prepare for Jesus' birthday at Christmastime as the ultimate birthday celebration! 

Christmas Kids


Christmas pictures of my favorite gifts!

Great smiles all around!

Look at those adorable Christmas kids!

And of course we had the usual difficulty of photographing a toddler... hard to snap the picture while she's still. But we did get some great shots!

So fun to have new pictures taken with all 3 kids. 

Christmas Specials


 Here are a few photos from our church's Christmas specials this weekend. The last few years, my kids have not wanted to participate. This year, they did. They did not want a part (no angels or Mary or anything "showy") but they did participate. 

My oldest daughter photobombing "Mary and Jesus" as they lined up to head in to the sanctuary 

My girl on the bottom right as "Joseph" said a few words

My boy, on the right, in the vest.

And a shot of me and my baby girl as we watched from the back. 

All the children looks so great when they are dressed up for special occasions like this. So I always remind myself that it's not the outside that matters, but what's in the heart. Nonetheless... my simple eyes and these pictures can only show the outside. I pray that all will take time to ponder the true meaning of Christmas, of Emmanuel, of God making His dwelling with man. 
Incredible! What a gift! Definitely worth celebrating!

Christmas Cookies


It's that time of year again. 
Can you smell the sweet smell of sugar cookies baking in the oven, hear the giggles of the children as they decorate their cookies with favorite colors and sprinkles, hear the pride in their voice as they show off their creations, and then listen to the hearty "mmmmm" as they eat the favorite cookie of their choosing.

Daddy and our 7-year-old boy had some fun together cutting out the cookies.

We had some friends over one morning this week to help decorate all the cookies. Fun times together!

I admit that I sometimes dread the extra time and effort it takes to do special things like this with the kids. Yet, I find that it is getting easier as the kids get older. They are truly helpers now, in rolling out dough and making the cookies, in decorating the cookies *nice* enough that we can consider giving some away with being embarrassed :-) and  in cleaning up the mess left behind after the sprinkle-fest occurs. 

So this is my reminder to self: despite the extra work, keep doing these special things. They are worth it and are indeed making memories that will last a lifetime.

My Baby Girl Turns One


My baby girl turns one this week. 

This has been such a wonderful year, having a baby in the house again. Of course, we've had our share of sleepless nights and other challenges that come along with a newborn. But they are WAY overshadowed by the joy, the pure excitement and the delight this little lady has brought into our lives. 

Happy first birthday, Baby Girl! 

My Boy is 7

Hear ye, hear ye! This boy turns 7 this week! 

WHAT?! How can that be? I can't explain it, but it has indeed been 7 years since his birth. This big 11-pound baby was such a wonderful gift from the Lord to us. And of course he remains a bundle of energy and silliness and excitement today.

Having a son brings out a different side of me as a mom. I have to let him run, let him risk, let him live on the wild side... despite everything in me that wants to call him back to safety. But he is a boy. He must get out and explore, must end up with scraped knees and bloody knuckles in order to prove something to himself and to the world. I love him to death, but he certainly also scares me to death sometimes! 

Happy birthday to my not-so-little boy! 

November - a Month to Remember


November is coming to an end. Throughout this month, our family was doing a study on the character of God. Our focus was on REMEMBERING that our God is mighty. The Bible, especially in the early books, is constantly calling God's people back to remember what God had done for them, to not forget the Lord, to tell their children and pass on the stories of God's faithfulness to the next generations. 

I felt God impressing this study on my heart in October. I started jotting down notes and coming up with a plan for the 30 days of November. Admittedly, we didn't complete all 30 days, as we occasionally missed a day here and there. 

But I wanted to share these thoughts, to preserve so that I can use them again in the future, but also in case they would be helpful to anyone else. Some points contain multiple examples that could be discussed separately, one per day to go more in-depth, thus making the study last longer than 30 days.

Day 1 - Read these passages to emphasize the need to remember all that the Lord has done: Deut 6:12, 8:2, 8:11, 8:14, 8:18-19; 9:7; 11:2 and Psalm 136

Day 2 - God is mighty, as shown through his ability to create everything (Gen 1, Psalm 8, Rom 1:20, Psalm 136:4-9)

Day 3 - God is mighty, as seen through sending the 10 plagues (Deut 6:20-23, Deut 7:8, 8:18-19, Psalm 136:10-12)

Day 4 - God is mighty, as seen through his power in parting the Red Sea (Exodus 14, Deut 11:4, Psalm 136:13-15, Psalm 106:6-13)

Day 5 - God is mighty, as seen through His leading with the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day (Numbers 9:15-22, Ex 13:21, Psalm 136:16) 

Day 6 - God is mighty, as seen through his power over the sun (Joshua 10:13, Hab 3:11, Isa 38:5, Rev 8:12)

Day 7 - God is mighty, as seen through his power over lions (Daniel in lion's den)
Day 8 - God is mighty, as seen through his power over fish (Jonah, Matt 17:27)

Day 9 - God is mighty, as seen through water miracles (Noah's ark in Genesis, Jesus walking on water, water turned to wine by Jesus, water turned to blood by Moses) 

Day 10 - God is mighty, as seen through fire miracles (burning bush with Moses, fiery furnace in Daniel, lake of fire in Revelation)

Day 11 - God is mighty, as seen through his power over all animals (Balaam's talking donkey, Isa 11:6, Elijah's ravens doing God's bidding, God providing quail for food for the Israelites)

Day 12 - God is mighty, as seen through his power over weather (hail plague, cloud leading through desert, Elijah's prayer and ability to hold back rain for 3 years, the rains leading to Noah's flood)

Day 13 - God is mighty, as seen through his ability to provide food (manna, Elijah's ravens and ravine, Psalm 104:27, Matt 6:26)

Day 14 - God is mighty, as seen through his ability to multiply food (feeding of 5000, feeding the 4000, widow of Zarephath, 2 Kings 4:43 Elijah feeds 100, widow's oil in 2 Kings 4)

Day 15 - God is mighty, as seen through his ability to heal the human body (LOTS of examples in gospels of healing blind, lame, lepers, etc)

Day 16 - God is mighty, as seen through his ability to bring folks back from the dead (Lazarus, widow's son, Jairus' daughter; as the ultimate example of power discuss Jesus' resurrection from the dead as well) 

Day 17 - God is mighty, as seen through his power in unlikely victories (David and Goliath, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Joshua and Jericho, etc) 

Day 18 - God is mighty, as seen through his control over conception, children and life (Abraham and Sarah in Genesis, Zechariah and Elizabeth, Hannah with Samuel, Jer 1:5, others) 

Day 19 - God is mighty, as seen through miraculous virgin birth (Jesus - Matt 1, Isa 7:14)

Day 20 - God is mighty, as seen through his power to live a sinless life (Jesus - 2 Cor 5:21, 1 Peter 2:22, Heb 4:15)

Day 21 - God is mighty, as seen through his forth-telling of the future through prophecies (Isa 41:21-23, Isa 46:9-10, Acts 3:24 and hundreds of examples of prophecies that were fulfilled in Bible times)

Day 22 - God is mighty, as seen through his power over the stars and heavenly bodies (Isa 40:26, Psalm 147:4, Amos 5:8, Job 38:31-33)

Day 23 - God is mighty, as seen through his power to re-create a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21, Isa 65:17)

Day 24 - God is mighty, as seen through the creation of His Bible (2 Peter 1:21, 2 Tim 3:16, Joshua 1:8)

Day 25 - God is mighty, as seen through his power over demons (Luke 8:30, Mark 1:34, Matthew 12:29)

Day 26 - God is mighty, as seen through his power over Satan (Luke 10:19, Luke 22:31, Job 1, end of Revelation)

Day 27 - God is mighty, as seen through his ability to turn evil into good (Gen 50:20, Romans 8:28, Acts 3:17-18)

Day 28 - God is mighty, as seen through His ability to judge the world (Acts 17:31, Psalm 9:8, 1 Cor 3:12-15, 1 Peter 4:5, 2 Tim 4:1)

Day 29 - God is mighty, as seen through his power over kings and kingdoms (Prov 21:1, Pharoah's heart was hardened by God multiple times in Exodus 4 though 14, Deut 2:30, 1 Sam 16:14-16, 1 Chronicles 29:12, Daniel 4, Psalm 2:1-4, John 19:10-11)

Day 30 - God is mighty, as seen through his power to save and redeem (Zeph 3:17, Heb 7:25, Dan 3:17, Psalm 136, John 3:16-17)

WOW! What a mighty God we serve! 
Let's remember and never forget!

Sunday Best


My three little ones in their Sunday best. 

And one of my oldest daughter, looking so grown-up and beautiful! She's been requesting that I braid her damp hair before bed, after she's showered. This way her hair has some body and wave to it in the morning. She's starting to care a little bit more about her appearance, hair and clothes. Inching her way closer to adulthood...

Love, love, love being a mom to these children!

Homeschool Co-op


Once again, we are at the end of our homeschool co-op fall semester. I think this was our 5th semester participating in Home Grown Hearts. In the above picture, most of the 125 children who participate in our co-op are on the stage reciting this semester's memory verses (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

What a blessing this group has been in our lives! My kids enjoy the friendships with other homeschooled kids, as well as learning through the great classes they offer. 

This semester, my 11-year-old daughter took Sewing, 3-Dimensional Crafts, Gym and Sign Language. In the above picture, she is showing off the 4 projects she sewed this semester: a pin cushion, a pillow, a bag, and a hat. 

And here she is showing off some of her 3-D crafts - paper mache, juggling balls, and more. What creative and fun ideas (right up her alley and WAY more than I can come up with and execute)! This is one of the many benefits of a co-op: my children can learn from others who excel in areas where I don't (like sewing or crafting). 

My 6-year-old son took Gym, A Trip Around the World (topic was cultures), Dr. Seuss and Music. 

While they were busy in their classes, I was helping in the nursery, along with my baby girl. For one hour, I also led a prayer group this semester, which is basically a small group with 3 other moms. We spent time praying for one another, for our children, for our nation. We saw one mom share about a battle with depression and anxiety. She was encouraged and admonished by the others in the group. She humbly received the council as from the Lord and then took numerous steps of obedience for His will. Within weeks, her health concerns were gone and her relationship with her husband was beautifully restored. Praise God!

There is something so amazing about living life with others who share your core believes and values, and then to see the Body of Christ truly functioning as a body... how blessed we are to be a part of it all!