He fills the longing soul with good things. Ps. 107:9

Finally....My 2010 Blog book!


| Make Your Own Book

(You can click the 4-arrow icon in the bottom right corner to browse the book in full screen mode.)  I hope it doesn't lock up anyone's computer.  It's pretty image intensive.  I have a fast computer and it takes awhile to view, even on mine.

One thing that was keeping me from buying my 2010 blog book was perfectionism.  After Blurb slurps all of your blog post text and pictures into a book, you can rearrange things so that they look more attractive and take up more/less space.  You can of course change layouts, text options, picture sizes, etc.  I decided to quit being so worried about getting it all right and just finally get it done.  So it's not perfect.  But that's okay.  I was even brave and put it in my cart to checkout!  I'm currently waiting on a little customer support for a groupon coupon I purchased.  Can't wait to see the final copy!  This is currently the only format of photo albums or scrapbooking that I do.  We don't even usually print our pictures, but view them electronically.  So I ordered the big 12x12 hardback coffee table book.  I'm absolutely positive there are things that I want to change about it.  But I could change things until 2015 if I'd let myself.  So I just did it and I'm done.  Feels good.  Can't wait to see it!

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Finishing up May Pictures

Last year I decided to try "slurping" my blog into an annual blog book.  Well...I never did get 2010 ordered, but it is sitting in a file waiting for a few last changes and a click to be ordered. (Pretty sure the Christmas money I was going to use to buy it got spent on something else. : )  Now I'm thinking ahead to ordering my 2011 blog book.  I have been more purposeful this year about briefly but consistently journaling our life so that my 2011 blog book would be a good memory-keeper. I may decide to order 2010 as a "practice" book to see if I love the quality and the overall process with the company I'm using (Blurb.com).  If I'm not crazy about the product-for-price ratio, I may shop around. 

So it is quite possible that over the next couple of months you will see some additional random photos from months ago as I go through my digital folders and blog what I've missed.

I organize my photos into folders by year and month.  Then I go through each month and organize and label new folders according to each date, event or subject.  Then when I blog that folder, I mark the folder title with a "B."  That way, I can go into "May," for instance, and see at an easy glance that there are one or two folders that I haven't blogged yet. It also makes it easy for me to find a photo from way back that I might need for a project or whatever.  We also back up our photos on a 1-Terabyte external hard drive.  It's about the size of an 8-track and is easily portable in its little case.  We love it.

So now, without further ado:   some random May tidbits.

Caiden was my workin-buddy.  We put up my new under-the-cabinet ipod dock!



Caiden - with his cousin and bestie Kendrick.  They are climbing the walls. : )

More projects - the kids worked hard helping me put together some new organizational cabinets for the boys' room.
School's Out!  We celebrated the last day of school.  David and the kids played ball in the backyard.

Then we ate cake!

The extra  boy on the right  is our neighbor, Christopher.

Ah summer....lots of time for reading!!


This poor baby got a busted lip.  Can't even remember how now, but I didn't even scrub his mouth too hard. Just let him fall asleep with dirt and all.  It was a wowzer.  It's almost December and he still has a big scar on his upper lip.
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Some Thanksgiving Thoughts & Favorites

I've been reading a lot about how Thanksgiving gets lost in the early-Christmas-shuffle.  I think it's actually neat how the two holidays complement each other.  And we have found some small things that help our family to really honor and celebrate Thanksgiving. Familylife has some really wonderful resources.  They have a Thanksgiving bundle on sale right now.  Another fun thing we do (starting this year) is set up a "harvest tree," which is a second (craigslist) Christmas tree full of autumn harvest bounty. 

We have done different Thanksgiving dinner traditions for sharing our gratefulness.  But usually, we simply go around the table and share something for which we are grateful.  Each year in our family, it seems this time is made more poignant by the perspective gained by the losses and difficulties of the year.  This year my sister-in-law's (Garen's wife Crystal)  mother went to heaven on November 9.   Her father and family joined us for Thanksgiving.  There is something powerful about purposefully being thankful while looking full-faced at the painfulness of life.  One person said, "I'm thankful for God's answers to prayer that come...no matter what they are."  We reflected on the various painful changes that the past year has brought, but with such deep perspective that all 21 of us at the table want most of all to meet again in Heaven.
You can't wrap those memories up and put them under any tree.  Priceless.
Family Journal
This is one of our favorite traditions.  About 5 years ago we bought a big red blank journal.  We pass the book around at Thanksgiving (and other special gatherings) and let everyone sign it.  It is a treasure to look back and see a record of who was at our celebrations and their thoughts on family, gratefulness, and blessings.  Yesterday the kids and I read through the entrys from this year so far and the kids added their entrys.  I was in tears.  It is a priceless keepsake.  It even has an entry - shaky and beautiful - written by my Grandma Wolf before she went to heaven.
Thanksgiving Day Cards from Familylife





I LOVE this book!  It is a little book full of big stories about people who were grateful in spite of very bad circumstances.  We read the stories aloud, then fill in the blanks provided with difficult or bad circumstances for which we are thankful.  It has been good for us to talk together about how we can be grateful for everything - even the hard things This book offers convicting and inspiring perspective.  (When we purchased this it was a softcover version. Now they offer a nice hardcover edition for $9.99!)


Let's Talk Turkey (Name cards & conversation starters from familylife)


We are crazy about audiobooks

Thanksgiving: A time to Remember - Book and Audiobook
I was a little confused before I ordered these a few years ago about what was what here, because the book comes with a CD and there's also a separate audiobook.  So here's the summary:  The book is full of Thanksgiving history, facts, stories and ideas. There is a CD of Thanksgiving music included in the back of the book.  The separate Audiobook has a dramatized version of the Thanksgiving story.  They are both awesome!  My kids even ask to listen to the audiobook throughout the year.  ("Mom, where is the CD with the pumpkin pie on it?")



Another favorite book:  One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  You have probably heard me mention this heart-and-mind-shaping book.  In short, living a life focused by thankfulness helps us to renew our mind, fight the enemy, worship in wonder.  It is a transformational way of living. Not easy, but life-changing.  This is one of those books that has been like a foundational building block for me. And God keeps confirming and adding to the message in my heart and mind over and over in some pretty exciting ways.


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Quiet Moments?

I have been watching a good library video little-by-little as I sort clothes and fold laundry.  It is called "Be Still."  I found it at our library.  It is just a conversation with several well-known Christian voices about the practice of being still before God - of the power and value of contemplative prayer.   Listening to Max Lucado, Beth Moore, Richard Foster, and Priscilla Shirer talk about being quiet has been good for me.  I have been hungry for some deep stillness in my days.  This video was just another "grace pocket" from God on the journey.  

Indiana Dunes - a place we love to visit

One of the things they talk about is why we are afraid of being still.  They talk about people not wanting to face themselves and the things that God wants to change in them.  This morning, I woke up before my alarm and as I tried to go back to sleep, I realized that I felt very awake and maybe this was a nudge from God to get up and talk to him in the dark, quiet house.  As I meditated on the thought of being quiet and still, I realized why I have a difficult time being quiet - even in my devotions.  I'm afraid I won't be productive.  

In this house we have a very high respect for sleep.  All six of us learn better, think better, love better and get into less trouble when we have let our bodies have the rest they need.   Our family gets up at 6:30 am and my body needs at least 8 hours of sleep to function at its best.  So unless a miracle happens and I get to bed right at 10:00, I usually choose to sleep until 6:30 and do "early morning" things like exercise and devotions later in the day.  I actually love the feeling of getting up early to exercise or get a head start on things but it's only a good feeling if I've had proper sleep.  So with all of that in mind, when I do get up before the family and have quiet time, I want it to be good!  I want to feel that done what I need to and disciplined my mind and entered into his presence and had productive prayer.  And I do believe that it helps to be disciplined and structured in our quiet time, but it is difficult for me to let go and just sit because my mind just w a n d e r s.  And I think...if I'm not going to accomplish something in this quiet time, I'd rather be in  bed! 

Obviously, there is a balance to this as in all of life.  I think having a short phrase of Scripture to lasso my mind when it wanders is a good thing.  And as my junior high teacher said years ago...."You never know, God might be in those mind wanderings!"  

One recent prayer time was the walk-the-floor-and-cry type, but this morning was the try-to-keep-focused type.  And it was good.  I had to trust that it was enough.  I put Scripture into my mind, prayed and met with Him.  No tears or fireworks.  Just quiet.

Over the last 10 years full of babies, I have learned to let go of legalism and worship in the everyday - to pray during dishes and worship at the sunset and memorize scripture along with my kids.  I accept the seasons  of life and embrace them.  But I'm not as good at being still as I want to be.  It seems that I especially crave stillness this time of year.  I found some good resources a few years ago that are good for really being quiet and helping the mind to be still.  

A couple of other things that have helped me a different times is to walk while I pray.  It helps me to stay more focused and has the added bonus of keeping me awake!  A prayer list has also helped to make my quiet time more effective...it helps with that feeling of not knowing quite where to begin and keeps prayer moving along.  I love to look back over the years in my prayer book.  
 

The Divine Hours - Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime, A Manual for Prayer by Phyllis Tickle
"The Divine Hours is simply the best bood for people who want to work prayer into the fabric of their daily life."  ~ Bert Ghezzi, Author of Voices of the Saints.

This is a very "liturgical" book - meaning it is planned readings for certain times of the day.  It is called "A Manual for Prayer."  It includes loads of Scriptures, readings & prayers for each day throughout Autumn and Wintertime.  I love it.  Ann Voskamp suggests stopping at regular intervals throughout the day to pray.  This book is set up that way....a reading for early morning, mid morning, etc.  I simply use it as a great resource for good Scriptures, thoughts and prayers for the day.




Simply Wait - Cultivating Stillness in the Season of Advent by Pamela C. Hawkins
Organized into daily readings for the four weeks of advent:  Anticipation, Hope, Patience, Obedience.  With readings, reflections, hymns, prayers and room to journal and sort through your own quiet thoughts.  The author shares a story about attending a quiet prayer retreat at the beginning of Advent.  Her thoughts have got me thinking.

  



I love that God is okay with me finding my way through the balance of disciplined quantity and quality quiet time with Him.  I am accepting His grace and REAL RELATIONSHIP instead of an unhealthy preoccupation with rules.  But I am overwhelmingly grateful to Him for ever drawing me - for making me hungry for Himself. 
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a prayer when feeling smallish

moon over the hills of Kentucky

"Lord, the sea is so wide
and my boat is so small.
Be with me."
 

The coast of Northern Ireland

 
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Planning for Advent: Why?

The first Sunday of Advent is quickly approaching!  Sunday, November 27th marks the first of four Advent weeks leading up to Christmas.  Why celebrate Advent?    It's certainly not required or necessary for a meaningful Christmas season. So why take the time or energy to celebrate or recognize the Sundays of Advent?   For our family, I think it provides three things:  Purposefulness, Mindfulness and Fun.


Purposefulness: We plan to remember.  We plan to slow down, stop.  If even for a moment, once a week.  We plan to be together as a family and to see the deep meaning in the sparkle and activity of the month.  We plan to not wake up on the other side of Christmas and wonder where the season went.  Some years even this purposefulness gets lost in the hustle and bustle.  Other years we manage to
find pockets of purposeful time.


Mindfulness:  We light a candle.  We sing a song.  Sometimes more, sometimes not.  Just a little bit of time each week during December to focus on the most important things in life:
Hope (faith), Peace, Joy & Love.


Fun:  It's just plain fun.  Sometimes it's an evening of crafts and activities.  Sometimes just a quick, special snack.  Sometimes just a candle lit at Sunday dinner.  And sometimes the candle gets forgotten in the midst of all the travel and family gatherings.  But that's okay.  We don't get our bloomers in a bunch.  It is just one of those little traditions that creates a sort of glue for our family.  We are family on purpose.  We have fun.  And we celebrate a lot - the big things and the small.


One thing's for sure - planning for Advent (or any celebration/tradition/holiday) shouldn't become a stressful burden.  There are some years when we just simply don't get to it.  Many times we will just do something quick and simple, just to pause a minute and remember together.  Flexibility is essential or celebrating can become a burden instead of a blessing.

Some Advent Memories:
Advent 2007 Week 1  

Advent 2007 Week 2
Advent 2008 Week 3
Advent 2009 - Emmanuel

Time to plan!
Sunday, November 27:  Hope
Sunday, December 4:  Peace
Sunday, December 11:  Joy
Sunday, December 18:  Love

Sunday, December 25: Christmas Day!  Light the "Christ Candle" in your Advent Wreath!

Resources
A free Advent Jesse Tree Book from Ann Voskamp.
Christmas Game, Crafts, Books & Ideas from Familyman Ministries

Are you in the babies-and-toddlers stage?  Check out this kid-safe wreath! I'm pretty sure this would fit in a diaper bag as a quiet teaching toy during the services of the advent season.

We got our advent wreath at the Christian bookstore in Alabama years ago.  You can expect to pay at least $20.00 for a decorated advent wreath but there are cheaper versions.  Another  idea is to wait until they go on clearance after the season.  In the meantime, use a plain wreath of greenery and just place four candles in cheap candle holders from the dollar store around the inside of the wreath.

And the easiest-peasiest way to celebrate Advent?  Each Sunday (or anytime during the week), light a candle at a meal, or drink hot chocolate in the evening and talk briefly about the theme or ask everyone in the family to give one thought about the theme of the week.  You don't even have to have a fancy advent wreath. And I have learned that we can certainly do without the special-colored candles.  We usually just pull out whatever is in the candle cabinet that will fit in our wreath.  I have also learned that celebrating these special days is much more do-able and enjoyable when we go with the flow and keep it simple.  If it has to happen on a certain day and in a certain way every single time, chances are it won't happen at all.

At the very least, we can talk about it with our kids on the way to church.  Explain that Advent simply means "coming."  Tell them the theme for the week and remember the reason for the season together.
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Using a Landline?! (10.5)



Since we moved to Indiana 4 1/2 years ago, David and I have chosen to use only our cell phones and fore-go the cost of a land line.  So our boys haven't had much experience with a phone that actually has a cord.  Grandma and Grandpa Fry also only use cell phones, and most of the phones at Grandma and Grandpa Wolf's place are cordless.  BUT!  Aunt Chelle has a delightful old rotary dial phone in her room.  It's red!  And it has a cord!  

It cracks me up that this was a new experience for our boys.  They even called each other using Aunt Chelle's cell phone (also RED) and room phone.     And then one of us had to go in the other room and get on the other phone to prove to them that several people can talk on a landline at once from the same house.  

It's a funny world these boys live in....Video chat across the Atlantic ocean with Aunt De in Ireland?  Everyday stuff.  Instantly text Aunt Debbie across the Pacific ocean in Hawaii?  No big deal.  But a phone with a cord was a big deal.  Makes me feel old.  My kids are certainly growing up in a different world than I did.
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Some great links and confessions and things...

My friend Lizzy posted a link yesterday to THIS article for women written by Grace Driscoll of Mars Hill.  Both parts are absolutely fantastic and full of scripture...a great starting place for my quiet time today, even!

The articles are written specifically for ministry wives, but the principles apply in many ways to all women.  I am thankful for the encouragement from other godly women.  (Liz is always finding good articles!  Stay tuned to her blog.)

Another favorite writer I have been feeding from lately is Rachel Jankovic. She has written three motherhood articles for the Desiring God website. They are excellent.

Motherhood is a Calling (And Where Your Children Rank)

Motherhood is a Mission Field

Motherhood is Application

Much of what we (and by we I mean I) read online is rather useless.  But these are some links to godly wisdom written by women after God's heart.  They are full of scripture and biblical principles.  They have encouraged me to be better. To think better.  To keep trucking, cuz I'm on the right track.  To fight back against the enemy's lies that try to get me to doubt my own focus.

I find great joy in keeping my home and love what happens when I am disciplined to keep my schedule and be diligent and persistent.  But frankly sometimes I find myself wasting precious time sitting in front of this screen following rabbit trails - some of them extremely valuable, some of them about as valuable as a marshmallow.  Many times I get up feeling defeated and insecure.  I think Facebook can be to my personal focus what going to the mall can be to my budget contentedness.  I hope you know me well enough to know that I am NOT against Facebook or malls.  But I confess that Satan uses little lovely things like facebooks and malls to suck my joy or lure me into comparison, wrong focus, and/or dis-contentedness.

Proverbs 29:25
“Fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”

One of the things I have been struggling deeply with lately is worrying about what perfect-and-critical people will think if I post honestly on my blog.  But they'll just have to criticize away this morning.  Because confession is a huge part of being holy.  I am not confessing that I am a slob of a mother/wife/housekeeper.  I have been enjoying an imperfect-but-peaceful, managed home and doing the things that matter with our family.  BUT.  I know for sure and for certain that I need a better system for keeping track of my screen time.  I'm thinking of using a timer (a priceless flylady trick.)  I'm thinking 15 minutes is enough time to check my email and peek at a few blogs.  How many 15 minute time segments in a day?  I don't really know.  Probably depends on the day. And whether the morning chores are done.

One of my favorite first-thing morning prayers lately is "God, I'm YOUR girl.  Help me to act like it today."

I am weary with people who seem to always have it together and get it all right and speak with haughty authority or edgy criticism.  Or perhaps I'm just weary with my own faulty perception and immature comparison!   So I have been hesitant to blog, afraid that I would feed into that viscous perception-and-comparison cycle.

This is where I am:  I certainly don't have it all together.  But I'm also not falling apart.  I am learning and growing and loving it immensely.   Quality articles like these and this confession & growth in the everyday nittygritty are part of being His girl.  And I need to be able to be on this journey with my sisters.  (I'm pretty sure I spoke that last paragraph to my fear. : )

So...I'm off to be His girl.

I Timothy 3:1-7
1The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.


Smoky Mountains - taken in August of 2005 (obviously)


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Indy Monumental Half Marathon (Nov. 5)

 

I love the energy at the beginning of a race.  Everyone is pumped up, ready to go.....from the lean, mean, 3-hour marathoners (26.2 miles)  to the half marathon (13.1 miles) walkers.  About 12,000 runners.  I love watching groups of classy, grown men dressed in bright knee-length compression socks and acting like kids as they high five and hoot and holler with their running buddies.  And adorable little old ladies with their fanny packs dancing in place to the music.  It's cold and dark.  The music is blasting.  We've miles and miles to go and there's sure to be some pain somewhere along the way.  We all share the port-o-pots.  We're all in this together.  It's a great feeling. 

  
Got his game face on.


It just occurred to me from the nose-enhancing perspective of this picture that our children should have perfect noses.  Between his Roman ski-jump nose and my squashed-wide  pug, it seems like the medium result should be nose perfection.

This race had a great route through one of our favorit-est cities...and starting practically right under the ArtsGarden.



Wasn't it nice of the Colts cheerleaders to come out in their sparkly sweatsuits and watch us as we passed the stadium? I kinda cracked up when they gave my 5-year-old son signed picture cards at the running expo the night before.  I made him give them back. 

The first water station was right by the stadium. (See all the volunteers in their waterproof space suits as they hand out water? Cute.)
We hadn't trained very hard for this race, and only got up to 10 mile long run in recent weeks, so we took it extremely slow (over 30 minutes slower than our last half marathon) and took walk breaks.  We weren't after any PR this time - just getting out there and keeping our rears in gear.  It's actually nice to not be pushing for a time goal, just keep moving and enjoy the scenery.


Daylight finally breaks.
There was this totally wonderful older man who showed up like 6 or 7 times along our 13-mile route and cheered us on.  He was awesome.  He had shortcut routes planned so he could beat us to his next  spot and be there with his little bell when we ran by.  He was obviously a runner and in good shape.  We all wanted to hug him.  It's amazing how much a good cheering section helps.  You can actually feel a surge of physical energy when you hit a cheering section.  It's amazing. Makes me want to cheer more for my kids and husband on a daily basis.


Looks like we're gonna need those sunglasses after all!!

As we cruised through Mass Ave, I couldn't help but remember the awesome cupcake we shared at this notorious bakery "The Flying Cupcake" on a downtown date night.  I felt like a traitor or a hypocrite or something to even be thinking about a cupcake at a time like that.   But it was a really, really good cupcake.


At the finish!  Right after we finished, this intense, mysterious pain came suddenly out of nowhere and attacked my right foot.  I seriously could hardly walk.  But I hobbled over and got some of the free chili served by Steak & Shake.  Hit the spot.   In case you're wondering, the space blankets really are helpful.  As your body temp quickly cools down in your sweaty clothes it is easy to really start chilling.  It's a miserable feeling.  The space blanket holds your body heat in so that you can cool down without chilling.

It was really a great race.  It provided the inspiration we needed to keep on moving!  Good times.
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Love & Respect for Moms

I will admit again that sometimes I find myself re-struggling with the balance of love and respect for my career as a homekeeper/wife/mother.  I do love it.  I do respect it.  But I sometimes have to remind myself -- when more degrees and fulfilling opportunities blink temptingly at me -- that I have chosen this particular career/ministry ON PURPOSE.  Not because I'm stuck with a bunch of  "oops" children and can't afford childcare. (David and I both almost chose careers where paying for a full-time nanny could have been normal part of our world.)  But because we have planned and embraced and accepted family as our biggest ministry in life.  Period.  I really love the way this blogger communicates the balance we need as full-time moms. (This not a rant on mothers working or on using hired help...I say bring on the hired help if you can afford it. : )

I just simply needed to hear this today

I am also excited about the blog where I found it.  And the book this blogger wrote, which is on my rather-extensive-and-ever-growing book wishlist.

I love it when I find someone who elevates homekeeping to the place of honor and purpose that it deserves.  And so.....ONWARD! FORWARD!  I will put those groceries away and get on with today's list with fresh focus.

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Devil Beating You Up? Read This...

I really don't even have time this busy morning to be reading blogs, but I decided to zoom through the latest posts while I drank my Starbucks coffee sent to me by my wonderful, thoughtful friend...  But I'm oh-so-glad I did.....Maybe it will help you too.

Guilt or Motivation?
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