Search This Blog

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Photo Card
View the entire collection of cards.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Jesse Tree--A New Tradition in Our Home

This year we are starting a new tradition for advent--a Jesse Tree.  Each day, we will put an ornament on  our Jesse Tree and read the scripture and devotional that accompanies it.  We will follow God's story of creation to the fulfillment of His promise, Christ Jesus, and see how His fingerprint is on every story; making it a long narrative--His great plan--to offer us His grace and salvation.  It is my hope that this tool will help prepare our hearts as we wait, to celebrate the birth of Jesus;  that my daughter will see Him as the focus of this joyous season.

The name, Jesse Tree comes from Jesus' lineage starting with David, son of Jesse.  
Isaiah 11  (New Living Translation)

A Branch from David’s Line
 1 Out of the stump of David’s family [the tree of Jesse] will grow a shoot—
      yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.
2 And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
      the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
   the Spirit of counsel and might,
      the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the L

 10 In that day the heir to David’s throne[b]
      will be a banner of salvation to all the world.
   The nations will rally to him,
      and the land where he lives will be a glorious place.

To get Ann Voskamp's free devotional book (downloaded) for The Jesse Tree Advent, click here.  It is beautifully illustrated and includes ornaments you can print off and use.  We decided to make our own, coming up with our own designs cut from felt.  My almost 8 year old had a ball and came up with some beautiful designs.  Thus far, we have done the first 8 ornaments (see pictures below).  I have looked up various information online for the Jesse tree and found MANY variations as to which Bible stories are highlighted in the devotionals, and which symbol is used on the ornament.  Also, some start with December 1, some start with the first Sunday in Advent.  I have included a list of websites at the end of this blog entry.

However you choose to celebrate this Christmas, I pray that you will prepare your heart to receive the amazing gift of love God offered mankind so many years ago.  Instead of "counting down" the days, wait with anxious anticipation.  Imagine the thoughts that ran through Mary's mind...the wonder of the shepherds as an army of angels appeared before their eyes on a dark night...the sight of the brightest star in the sky you have ever seen...and the humble beginnings of a baby born amidst cattle and sheep in a barn, laid on a bed of straw.  


Joseph's coat  &  Moses/the burning bush (Anne AshLee did the burning bush)

Issac--Ram (Anne AshLee did this one)  &  Jacob--ladder

Noah's ark &  Abraham--stars in the sky

Creation of the earth (by Anne AshLee)  &  Adam & Eve and the fall of man

Here are some other websites I found with Jesse Tree devotionals/patterns/etc:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Happy Thanksgiving!

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful that I have...
  • a family who loves me
  • an amazing little girl that I am able to home school and spend my days with on the adventure of a lifetime!
  • parents who gave me a solid foundation for life & faith, and a great deal of love, patience and support
  • a Savior who offers grace
  • friends to laugh and share life with
  • a home where our basic needs are met, and then some
  • a job I enjoy
  • a husband who loves me despite my many faults, and is a great dad to our daughter
  • the privilege to live in a country where I can speak & worship freely
May your blessings be in abundance this Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

So, What's Your Story?

Every life has a story.  Whether it is a story worth telling and talking about, though, is up to you.  --Donald Miller A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

Last summer I read Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.  The book basically has you analyze your life as though you are writing a script, and asks, are you telling a good story?  That's a lot to think about!  Look at what you do in a week-- do your actions support your values?  Like it or not, how we spend our time (and money) reveals a lot about what we value--  is it doing what we think is expected of us?  what we feel obligated to do?  Sometimes I stop and try to think, based on what our life has looked like this week, what am I telling my daughter that I value?  Like it or not, a lot of what is taught is "caught".

The book also goes on to talk about what makes a good story--and it's not talking about the drama you see on reality television, or a list of accomplishments you could put on a resume.  For me, the heart of a good story is good relationships.  It's the time invested with people-- doing life together.  It's following the path God leads you down--and you can bet He will send you on an adventure!  Does my life always reflect my values?  No, but it's important that I keep track of the story I'm writing.  I hope that I am handing that pen over to God more often than I am wielding it myself.  In the words of Ga-linda, I hope people can say "Because I knew you, I have been changed for good."

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book-- things that will really make you think!  Enjoy!  And tell me, what story are you trying to write?

The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won't make a story meaningful, it won't make a life meaningful either.
People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen.
Fear isn't only a guide to keep us safe;  it's also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into a boring life.
I began to realize the stuff I spent money on was, in many ways, the sum of my ambitions.  And those ambitions weren't the stuff of good stories.
[people] come out of college wanting to change the world...get married...have kids...But they get into the middle [of their story] and discover it was harder than they thought...they take it out on their spouses and go looking for an easier story.
[from his friend Josh Shipp]:  "When something hard happens to you, you have two choices in how to deal with it.  You can either get bitter or better.  I chose to get better.  It's made all the difference."
Half the commercials on television are selling us something that will make life easier.  Part of me wonders if our stories aren't being stolen by the easy life.
We believe we will be made whole by our accomplishments, our possessions or our social status.
I realized that for years I'd thought of love as something that would complete me, make all my troubles go away.
When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.
A good movie has memorable scenes.  So does a good life...I like those scenes in the Bible where God stops people and asks them to build an altar...I don't think God really gets much from looking at a pile of rocks.  Instead, I think God wanted His people to build altars for their sake, something that would help them remember...remember the time they were rescued or given grace...We have to force ourselves to create these scenes.  We have to get up off the couch, and turn the tv off, and blow up inner tubes and head to the river, write the poem and deliver it in person...[stop] the car and hike to the top of the at weddings.  We have to make altars.
We don't know how much we are capable of loving until the people we love are being taken away, until a beautiful story is ending.
A good storyteller doesn't just tell a better story, though.  He invites other people into the story with him, giving them a better story too.
In Ecclesiastes, the only practical advice given about living a meaningful life is to find a job you like, enjoy your marriage, and obey God.  It's as though God is saying write a good story, take somebody with you, and let me help.
If you aren't telling a good story, nobody thinks you died too soon;  they just think you died.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Long time, no blog!

I have been a bad blogger!  Life seems to have gotten the better of me, and time has flown, and no blog has happened in the meantime!  SO, here are some updates!

I am still lovin' vinegar!  Vinegar is still my fabric softner, and dishwasher additive.  Works beautifully and is soooo economical!  Love it!

Fair Trade:
I am still trying to incorporate fair trade for Christmas this year as much as possible.  It's a win-win thing!

I have stretched out in homeschooling and delved into a direction I never imagined for myself--Classical Education.  So far, so good.  I will blog more in depth about this one soon!  My daughter is in second grade now and we are in our 4th year of homeschooling (started at 4yr old preschool).  I really do love homeschooling!

This year's birthday party:
Those who know me well know that I LOVE planning parties!  I think in themes, so it's just such fun for me!  We have finally settled on a theme for this year and I am soooo psyched about it!!!!  I'll give a full report with pics in the next month!

I've read a lot of really cool stuff this year, and can't wait to share some of that with you!  Look for blogs in the coming weeks about some great books I've read!

Stuff I Like
I will be adding a link to the blog "Stuff I Like"--  favorite products I've used, etc.  I look forward to hearing about stuff you like too!

See you at the next blog!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Vinegar--Who Knew?!?!

In my on-going effort to be more "green" I have recently discovered (ok, maybe re-discovered) vinegar.  Such a simple product and oh so CHEAP!

Vinegar has become my new fabric softener!  It is a natural water softener, cleanser, disinfectant, and brightener!  So, you can put 1/2 cup (or so) in the wash to help with a stain or odor, and 1/2 cup in the fabric softener dispenser.  It also helps keep lint from sticking to your clothes in the dryer (the fact that you used it in the washer--to clarify).  I find that it works really well!  I love that I am disinfecting things like towels, underwear, and socks AND neutralizing odors.  It is also great because I have respiratory allergies that scented fabric softeners can aggravate (a walk down the fabric softener aisle at the store can require the use of an inhaler!).  Now, you may be wondering about the smell--vinegar is not  so pleasant to the olfactory system.  You may smell it faintly as you take clothes out of the wash, but it dissipates as they dry--you do not smell it at all once clothes are dry (either in the dryer or line-dried).  Another bonus is that it cleans your washing machine and is good for your pipes!

Vinegar is also my new dishwasher aid.  I was having a hard time with spotty and sometimes not completely clean dishes coming out of my dishwasher.  Adding 1/2 cup of vinegar to the bottom of the dishwasher (in addition to my dishwasher detergent) has made a HUGE difference.  You can also put it in the rinse agent slot (like Jet-dry).

There are tons of other ways to use vinegar in cleaning your home.  An inexpensive, natural disinfectant that doesn't pollute our water ways or fill our homes with unsafe vapors to breathe!  What more could you ask for? (Okay--I admit, it could smell better coming out of the bottle, but we can't have it all, dear!  I will say, that in using it, it does not make my house smell like vinegar.)

For more ideas on how to save money AND green up your home, check out these websites on using vinegar for cleaning.  There are MANY more out there too!  Next, I will start experimenting with baking soda.  I'll let you know how it goes!
Frugal Fun
Vinegar Tips

Friday, January 7, 2011

Update on Fair Trade Christmas

So, how did the fair trade Christmas go?  I would say about 30% of the gifts we gave were fair trade.  I would like to have done better, but then I don't think it's a bad start either.  I tried to keep in mind who I was giving the gift to, and sometimes it didn't work out.  When possible, I went with made in the USA or by a local craftsman too.  Clothing and toys are the hardest areas I found to meet the criteria.

What DID I find?  The easiest areas by far were chocolate, coffee, jewelry and soap.  Green & Black Organic Chocolate, Newman's Own chocolates & coffee, Green Mountain coffee, Fair Trade Exchange Coffee and Dr. Bronner's soap were all easily found in major chain stores and grocery stores (I found them at Target, Hyvee, Schnucks, Fresh Market & Kroger in Peoria.)  Even more brands were at natural food stores and specialty grocery stores.  In Peoria, I easily found fair trade items at: Forest Park Nature Center (some beautiful Christmas ornaments, jewelry, fiber arts, decorative objects, chocolate, cleaners--really neat selection there!);  Global Village (a small store dedicated exclusively to fair trade and run by volunteers to keep prices down);  RE- (a new store at the Metro Centre where everything is made from recycled or environmentally sustainable goods);  Naturally Yours (lots of coffees, chocolate, soaps).  I am sure that this is not an exhaustive list, but it is what I've found.  If you know of others, please let me know!

Another really cool thing I should mention is that I actually received some fair trade gifts too, which was really neat.  I got a bread basket with cloth in it (both fair trade) and a loaf of homemade bread in it--very clever, I thought!  Please share any great gift ideas you have too!