My girl's gifts

I'm so proud of my big girls this year and the gifts they gave.

This journey of growing in thankfulness, it's had a way of making me so aware of God's extraordinary blessings and that we lack nothing in this life. God has abundantly provided for our family.

So, I talked to the girls about the numerous people around the world who do lack. Some in ways that we have never experienced and can't imagine. We talked to them about giving this year. It would be a sacrifice for them. It meant we would not give them any big gifts. They both wanted to do it.

I created a book for each of them to tangibly see what they gave to. We wrapped them up and gave it to them last Saturday, when we celebrated our Christmas here. They were not expecting anything, but we did give them some stocking gifts. While I don't think they fully understand what we did, I hope this book will remind them and help them to desire this heart more with each coming year.


Week 10, #200

Last week I hit #200 on my 1000 things list. I've been at this for 10 weeks. One would think I should be farther along, right? It's hard. Days go by and I realize I haven't even touched the list. I'm finding it a discipline of the mind. To be thankful is not natural for me. But I'm fighting and when grateful, there is joy! When I find myself angry, those are days I'm least aware of God's immense blessings.

Last Friday. It was a battle of my mind. I heard of the mass shootings in Connecticut. I thought of my list and I was a bundle of confusion and emotion over what had happened.

I could not give thanks.

My heart was hurting for the brokenness of this world. I've been there too. I've felt the deep pain and in, someway, I can understand. The utter shock of having a breathing healthy child one hour and the next moment that child is gone. But this somehow seems harder, to process evil in this way. These children were Selah's age. I found myself cringing at the thought. Somehow it's too much for the mind to bear.

What could I do?

I could mourn. I could pray. I was grateful. Grateful I could relate, even in a small way to these parents. I could understand. Yes, I could mourn with those who mourn and pray for the Lord to do what He did in my heart. He used it for good, as painful as it was and is. He carried us through. He drew my heart. I pray this for the loved ones left behind in Connecticut. I'm grateful for a redeeming Savior and grateful that He will make all things right one day and will wipe every tear away for those who know Him.

*Christmas cookies
*I love Lucy shows
*fresh grain, fresh flour
*another year of Dave's life
*friends who took Dave out
*Savanna, another year of life
*my dad
*birthday cherry pie, turned out.
*the ability to grieve with those who grieve
*hope in the midst of tragedy
*my girl's compassionate hearts
*the promise, "he will wipe away every tear."
*Dave's cousin, Andrew, a blessing
*sweet family Christmas
*Another year of Addie's life
*Mike + Jess, loved having them
*princess cake, perfect for Addie
*visits from family
*Laura + Marybeth, their friendships
*white lights on the tree
*watching little people open gifts
*a full day to get ready to leave


Happy Birthday, Addie!

You are a gift, an answer to a grieving mamma's prayer. Your presence has helped sooth the aching, deep hurt that death left in my heart. I will never forget the day I met you, with streams of tears on my face. The Lord had given me another girl, the longing of my heart. He had given me you. I cannot imagine life without you. Your cuteness and giggles brings us all so much joy. I love you and treasure your life, sweet girl.


Happy birthday, Dave {Daddy}!

We're celebrating your life today. You are such a gift to your family and we love you more than we have words for. Thanks for being an amazing dad, faithful husband, and example of love for Jesus to us. You mean to world to us all!

Happy birthday!


Week 9, new expectations

Expectations can be a trap for me. I want something to go a certain way. Then, it doesn't. And a struggle begins in my heart. It's usually not pretty! But why did I expect it in the first place? Because I've let the past dictate. Or because the Jones' do this or that. Or because I'm living outside my gifting or season I'm in. It can be for many reasons.

I could have had a lot of expectations for this Christmas season. I usually do. But this year I had to reset those expectations.  I'm so glad I did. Doing less, thinking more. It's been very good for me, for my family.

There still has been much to do. It's been busy. But I have to say it's been a much more peaceful season for me. I've actually been amazed at how much has gotten done for the little planning that was accomplished. And because of the the little thing we now have called the internet. It does help simplify at times. Most of the cookies are baked, shopping is done, tree is decorated, and we're gearing up for our trip back to Maryland next week.

In the next few posts or so, I can't wait to share what my girls did for Christmas this year {with a little help from mom and dad.} More to come on that!

For now, here are a few things I gave thanks for this past week.

*my sister's heroic service
*9 years of Mckenna's life
*watching my girls enjoy a horse ride
*ice cream, so sweet
*birthday candles that celebrate life
*puffy clouds
*70 degree day!
*the Lord who speaks
*God's sovereignty
*beef stock, simmering on stove
*energy for my day
*provision of food
*a developing grateful heart
*peace, amidst the Christmas season
*a to-do list, done
*the sounds of littles giggling
*mercy when I fall again
*friends for dinner
*joy of Addie
*good news of friend's engagement
*recovery + healing {stomach bug}



My favorite gingerbread recipe, we make almost every year. This year we made a batch to hang from the tree and of course a few to eat!

1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup butter, melted
½ cup evaporated milk (Can use ½ cup regular milk)
1 cup unsulfered molasses
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ teaspoon lemon extract
6 cups stone-ground or unbleached flour, unsifted

Combine the sugar, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Mix well. Add the melted butter, milk, and molasses. Add the extracts if desired. Mix well. Add the flour one cup at a time, stirring constantly. The dough should be stiff enough to handle without sticking to fingers. Knead the dough for a smoother texture. Add up to 1/2 cup additional flour if necessary to prevent sticking. When the gough is smooth, roll it out ¼ inch thick on a floured surface and cut it into cookies. Bake on floured or greased cookie sheets in a preheated 375 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. The cookies are done if they spring back when touched. If using for decoration, it's good to cook an extra minute or two.


A birthday celebrated on horseback

This year all Mckenna wanted was to go horseback riding. So that's what we did as a family. It was her special gift. On Saturday we picked up her sweet friend, Anna Grace and headed to the stables.


Is Christmas different?

A thought has regularly been in my mind. It keeps coming back, as if to remind me of my weakness and the challenges of this past year. A first I'd fought it...

Christmas will be different this year.

God has graciously blessed me with gifts of administration and planning ahead. A love to do many things. Yet I've seen the pride in my heart over that. A desire for others to see, know and approve. Through a life altering event and the challenges after, God is slowly peeling back layers. He's brought me low. And I'm better for it. I don't have the capacity I used to. 

I don't quite understand it, but trials have a way of limiting the body and mind. They have done this for me. Yes, I've fought it. The two years after Alivia died, I hated that I couldn't do all that I'd been accustomed to. When I tried I was overwhelmed, and felt defeated. 

Then came this past year. With the health challenges, the move, medications that exhaust, and among other circumstances, God brought me to another level of lowliness. Those times that I initially called horrible, I now see as good. The ugly made beautiful. 

So, here I am. It's the season of Christmas. And the numerous birthdays for us this month. 

It will be different, right?

I haven't planned. I'm often very tired. I feel very behind and lacking the zeal for doing a lot this year. Back from Maryland a week now, I have a short 2 1/2 more weeks to get all things "Christmas" done before we leave again. As well as plow through with school, when I would normally take the month off. We won't be able to go cut down a tree as our tradition stands. Instead, we'll drive a mile up the road to Kroger's, our local grocery store, to buy a little precut one. The decorations and ornaments are packed somewhere in a mass of storage. All but a few will stay there. Instead, we'll string popcorn and make gingerbread for a little tree. I'll put a red berry wreath on our door and put just a few decorations up. I have new Christmas pillows in mind that I'd like to make, but they won't get done. Addie and Hailey still don't have stockings made, and they too, won't get done. We'll bake some cookies and play some Christmas music. There are a plethora of fun activities I'd love to enjoy, but we don't have the time or resources. Gifts will be simple. Not as many. Cards will not get mailed this year. And I won't be able to host all my family in the home I miss on Christmas day.

Different? Is Christmas different this year? Not really.

It's me who's different. Christmas hasn't changed. What I've made Christmas to be has changed. I love traditions, the many ways to celebrate. But it's not what Christmas is. Celebrating our Savior's birth, relishing in the fact that the Son of God came to save me. Me! A sinner who has scorned His name over and over. And this year I'm so much more aware than ever all He has done for me, how much I have that I don't deserve. He had me in mind when He came to earth, humble and meek, to die for me. That's what Christmas is. It hasn't changed.

The essence of Christmas, Christ's birth, has always been important to me. But this year, I feel like it's what I'm holding onto, gaining joy from, in a whole new way. With things changing in our lives, the Lord taking things away, adding new, limitations, I don't want my daily focus to be on what I used to do, have, or experience. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, if all is taken away, we have Christ. For all eternity, we will have Christ.

I'll tell my girls over and over this month about what He has done for me, for us. We'll sing songs about His birth. I'll tell my girls the many ways we are blessed and remind them all that we have and that so many don't have. We'll dance in the kitchen. We'll read books and recount the Christmas story. I will find the advent calendar I made last year and we'll go through that every day, remembering why we celebrate. We'll give gifts this year, gifts that will have more meaning for our girls. They want to give to others. Instead of us giving gifts to them, they want to use the money to bless others, those who won't otherwise have any. The Savior has given so much to us, we're learning to place the focus on giving too. 

What's amazing to me is I'm fine with the way things are this year. Instead of a Christmas season frantically trying to get done all that I think I'm supposed to, having days insanely busy with to-do's, I think it might just be a little more peaceful. Simple and more time to focus on why He came. Why He gave us Christmas. I can't do as much, I won't and it's okay. Different is good.


Happy Birthday, Mckenna!


You're 9 years old today. I'll never forget the cold December 2nd day you were born. One of the happiest days of my life. You have been a gift to this family and have brought all of us so much joy. You have grown up a lot this year, learning many new things. I love your heart for people and those in need. You're receptive to instruction and desire to please the Lord. That makes my heart glad. This year has been a hard one for you. You've left all that is familiar, all you know and love and have come to a new place, a "new land" as you would call it. You've been brave. It's been difficult, but I've loved seeing how you persevere and  are really trying to love this new home.

Happy Birthday, Mckenna! I'm so glad I get to call you, my daughter. I love you so much!


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