Thursday, December 21, 2006

Favorite Christmas Books

I love reading to my children. Christmas is a wonderful time to snuggle up and read together. Here are some of our favorites that we bring out during the Christmas season. Just click on the title to access the Amazon link and learn more about the book.

1) The Story of Holly and Ivy - A wonderful story about a little girl and doll finding a home and each other at Christmas.

2) Peter Spier's Christmas! - One of my absolute favorites! Peter Spier's illustrations are amazing and the books are wordless-you and your kids tell the story. My children love his books-other include Noah's Ark, Jonah, Rain, People, & Circus. Like Christmas!, many are out of print, but can be found from sellers on Amazon. So worth it. Christmas! walks throught he Christmas season with a family-shopping, decorating, playing in the snow, feasting, celebrating, and worshipping! Can you tell that I like this book?

3) The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey - This beautiful book tells the story of a grieving carpenter whose heart is touched through carving a nativity scene for a widow and her son. The illustrations are more like paintings. I have the old version-a newer, smaller version is now in print.

4) The Story of Christmas - This board book of the Nativity story is still a favorite with with 8 and 5-year olds.

5) The Night Before Christmas - What's Christmas eve without this classic book? We love the version illustrated by Will Moses, his detailed folk art-inspired pictures are so fun to look at!

6) The Apple Tree Christmas - Charming story of a simple farm family and their apple tree. Watercolor pictures makes this a beautiful and sweet read highlightling the love of a father for his daughters.

7) Christmas Day in the Morning - A heart-warming story of a very special gift that a boy gives his father for Christmas.

8) The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree - Like The Story of Holly and Ivy, this book is illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Barbara Cooney-wonderful illustrations and story. We get teary-eyed at the end.

9) The Pine Tree Parable - Sweet story about a family of Christmas tree growers and their gift to a poor family that parallels the sacrifice made for us.

10) The Nutcracker - Our favorite version of this classic story.

11) The Twelve Days of Christmas - Favorite version of this book and carol that we read and sing together.

12) The Alcott Family Christmas - Fans of Little Women will love this sweet Christmas story about the more important things that money can't buy.

13) Silent Night - Another book illustrated by Will Moses that tells the story of the Miller family with the lyrics of the famous song as inspiration.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Charlotte's Web

If you are looking for a sweet family movie for the holidays that everyone can enjoy (G-rated), then look no further. Charlotte's Web, the live action version, came out today. After our children's recitation day at school, we splurged for an afternoon at the movies--popcorn, too!

Charlotte's Web is a favorite around our house-one of our first read-alouds and one of my son's first chapter books completed on his own. Since I grew up on the cartoon version of the movie, I was not too sure about the new live action version. Gone are the song and dance numbers, which I read E.B. White (the author) was not a fan of when the first movie came out. What you do get in this movie is amazing, life-like effects and great acting and voice talent--Dakota Fanning, Julia Roberts, Robert Redford, Oprah Winfrey, and many more. It really is a quality production put together by Walden Media, the group that has brought The Chronicles of Narnia to the big screen.

Overall, I think this was a very endearing movie with a lot of positive messages. Hopefully, families will show great support for movies such as these so that studios will try to make more clean family movies to meet the demand. For more details, check out my favorite movie review source--Plugged In at Focus on the Family's website.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Broken Places

A farmer had some puppies he needed to sell. He painted a sign advertising the pups and set about nailing it to a post on the edge of his yard. As he was driving the last nail into the post, he felt a tug on his overalls. He looked down into the eyes of a little boy. "Mister," he said, "I want to buy one of your puppies." "Well," said the farmer, as he rubbed the sweat off the back of his neck, "these puppies come from fine parents and cost a good deal of
money." The boy dropped his head for a moment. Then reaching deep into his pocket, he pulled out a handful of change and held it up to the farmer. "I've got thirty-nine cents. Is that enough to take a look?" "Sure," said the farmer. And with that he let out a whistle, "Here, Dolly!" he called. Out from the doghouse and down the ramp ran Dolly followed by four little balls of fur. The little boy pressed his face against the chain link fence. His eyes danced with delight. As the dogs made their way to the fence the little boy noticed something else stirring inside the doghouse. Slowly another little ball appeared; this one noticeably smaller. Down the ramp it slid. Then in a somewhat awkward manner the little pup began hobbling toward the others, doing its best to catch up...."I want that one," the little boy said, pointing to the runt. The farmer knelt down at the boy's side and said, "Son, you don't want that puppy. He will never be able to run and play with you like these other dogs would." With that the little boy stepped back from the fence, reached down, and began rolling up one leg of his trousers. In doing so he revealed a steel brace running down both sides of his leg attaching itself to a specially made shoe. Looking back up at the farmer, he said, "You see sir, I don't run too well myself, and he will need someone who understands."

The world is full of people who need someone who understands.

I love this story. Our broken places don't have to limit our ability to be used by God. He is the redeemer of broken things- "when we are weak, He is strong." One of the most powerful experiences I have had is when God used a painful, broken part of my life to minister to those around me. Before I had my son, I had a miscarriage. During the year after this loss, I had three friends go through the same experience. I was able to walk with them and encourage them in a way that someone who had never experienced a miscarriage could not. When we are willing to see our broken places as an opportunity to minister, He is faithful to redeem the pain and use it for His kingdom. I found so much healing in that.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Being Faithful

Sometimes when I hear comments like "we just need to be faithful," I think to myself "what does that mean??" Besides gleaning wisdom from scripture, I like to have word pictures to help me visualize concepts. Ann Kiemel, a favorite writer, explained faithfulness like this:

it is not: "Jesus, i will be deeply committed to You if You'll heal my brother . . . or increase my salary . . . or give me that new house . . . or make me famous."

it is rather: "Jesus, i will follow You to the end. no guarantees asked. no special rewards except that You will be at the end of the road to meet me when i get there . . .
and i will know that i have lived my life out in truth. whatever is along the road . . . during the race . . . "yes" to it. to anything You bring into my life."

I love this! Being faithful means saying "yes" to Christ along the road. Being faithful means that we follow Christ for the sole purpose that He will be at the end of our journey. Our reward is Him!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christmas Fun

This Playmobil nativity set has been a huge hit around our house. It has a lot of play pieces that the kids love arranging and re-arranging. We are big fans of Playmobil sets because of their quality, durability, and amazing detail. I bought this 3 years ago to have a nativity that they could play with and tell the story with. I would highly recommend this as an addition to your Christmas fun. I love watching my kids "act out" the story.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Valley of Vision

One of my favorite book discoveries over the past year has been "The Valley of Vision," a collection of puritan prayers and devotions edited by Arthur Bennett. It is a rich source of spiritual thought with depth not often seen today. The prayers and devotions are divided under sections such as, redemption & reconciliation, penitence, needs & devotions, gifts of grace, and service & ministry. The language is not "updated," but retains the original, more formal style in which the prayers were written. I really enjoyed and appreciated the beauty of their expression. This is a great book to add to your library or to give as a gift. I refer to this book often and always challenged to go deeper.

Following is the opening prayer and one of my favorites.

The Valley of Vision

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,

Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine.

Let me find thy light in my darkness, thy life in my death, thy joy in my sorrow, thy grace in my sin, thy ruches in my poverty, thy glory in my valley.

Friday, December 01, 2006

When You Thought I Wasn't Looking . . .

Those little eyes are always watching, and soaking it in. That certainly gives me pause!

"When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately wanted to paint another one.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you feed a stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind to animals.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you make my favorite cake for me and I learned that little things can be the special things in life.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I heard you say a prayer, and I knew there is a God I could always talk to and I learned to trust in God.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you make a meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I learned that we all have to help take care ofeach other.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you give of your time and money to help people who had nothing and I learned that those who have something should give to those who don't.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I felt you kiss me good night and I felt loved and safe.
When you though I wasn't looking, I saw you take care of our house and everyone in it and I learned we have to take care of what we are given.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw how you handled your responsibilities, even when you didn't feel good and I learned that Iwould have to be responsible when I grow up.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw tears come from your eyes and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but its all right to cry.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw that you cared and I wanted to be everything that I could be.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I learned most of life's lessons that I need to know to be good and productive person when I grow up.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I looked at you and wanted to say,Thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn't looking.'"
Each of us - parent, grandparent or friend - influence the life of a child.

--author unknown

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I Corinthians 13 for Moms

My precious Mom sent this to me and I thought I would pass it along.
1 Corinthians 13 for Moms

I can read bedtime stories till the cow jumps over the moon and sing "Ten Little Monkeys" until I want to call the doctor--but if I don't have love, I'm as annoying as a ringing phone.

I can chase a naked toddler through the house while cooking dinner and listening to voice mail, I can fix the best cookies and Kool-Aid in the neighborhood, and I can tell a sick child's temperature with one touch of my finger, but if I don't have love, I am nothing.

Love is patient while watching and praying by the front window when it's 30 minutes past curfew. Love is kind when my teen says, "I hate you!" It does not envy the neighbors'swimming pool or their brand-new mini van, but trusts the Lord to provide every need.

Love does not brag when other parents share their disappointments and insecurities, and love rejoices when other families succeed.

It doesn't boast, even when I've multi-tasked all day long and my husband can't do more than one thing at a time.

Love is not rude when my spouse innocently asks, "What have you done today?"

It does not immediately seek after glory when we see talent in our children, but encourages them to get training and make wise choices.

It is not easily angered, even when my 15-year-old acts like the world revolves around her.

It does not delight in evil (is not self-righteous) when I remind my 17-year-old that he's going 83 in a 55-mph zone, but rejoices in the truth.

Love does not give up hope. It always protects our children's self-esteem and spirit, even while doling out discipline.

It always trusts God to protect our children when we cannot.

It always perseveres, through blue nail polish, burps and other bodily functions, rolled eyes and crossed arms, messy rooms and sleep overs.

Love never fails. But where there are memories of thousands of diaper changes and painful labor(s), they will fade away. Where there is talking back, it will (eventually) cease. (Please, Lord?)

Where there is a teenager who thinks she knows everything, there will one day be an adult who knows you did your best.

For we know we fail our children, and we pray they don't end up in therapy, but when we get to heaven, our imperfect parenting will disappear. (Thank you, God!)

When we were children, we needed a parent to love and protect us. Now that we're parents ourselves, we have a heavenly Father who adores, shelters us and holds us when we need to cry.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Noise, hurry, & crowds

I am not a Black Friday shopper every year. I prefer hunting presents throughout the year to avoid the crazniess. I usually have a few things left in November and will join in the holiday shopping scene after Thanksgiving with my Mom. This year, there was a particular item my husband really wanted on sale at Target (love Target!) for half off. So, my Mom and I got up and headed there at 6am--only for my hubby! I could not believe the line--it was SO long. As I stood there for 15 minutes waiting for them to open, I was really disappointed to see the behavior of grown adults--some trying to rush in and cut line, and others yelling at the line cutters. It really made me sad to see how many people have distorted this season, and Satan scores a victory in distracting us from Christ.

As I was reflecting later in the day, I was reminded of a quote from one of my favorite books, Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. He wrote:

In contemporary society our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry, and crowds. If he can keep us engaged in "muchness" and "manyness," he will rest satisfied.

This applies to life at all times. Our society always seems rushed and busy, with devastating effects on our families, our children, and ourselves! If we are not careful, we Christians, can be swept away with the chaotic flow, as well. I believe that I must make a conscious decision to purpose to not go with that flow. It is hard many times, but so necessary.

I want to challenge myself during this season in particular to not get too distracted by "muchness" and "manyness," but to "be still and know He is God."

Thursday, November 23, 2006

My Brother

I am so blessed to have my brother. We are the best of friends--he is a great blessing in my life. It was just the two of us growing up (we are 2 years apart), so we are pretty close. We never really fussed like many siblings, and loved hanging out with each other (still do). The sibling relationship is so unique in that many times it spans a lifetime--sharing the "growing years" and on into adulthood.

He is a youth pastor, fantastic uncle, and one amazing Christian guy. Just another part of my life to be truly grateful for during this time of year.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Celebration of Girlfriends

At Thanksgiving I am particularly reflective on the many blessings in my life. One of those blessings has been great friendships. God has used many women to teach me, challenge me, and encourage me, and I pray I have been able to be a similar instrument in the lives of the women in my life. Listed below are some quotes reflecting on the special and often fun characteristics of friendships. This post is dedicated to my best girlfriend and college buddy, Crystal. Although we are now hours apart, I still feel that our hearts are a beat away.

  • Have friends, will giggle.
  • Girlfriends help you make nonsense of the world.
  • A friends is quick to listen, slow to judge, and always ready to shop.
  • A friend can make you smile--even when she's not around.
  • A good friend . . . has your kids' birthdays marked on her calendar.
  • A good friend . . .will quietly destroy the photograph that makes you look like a beached whale.
  • A friend is--laughing at the same things, one dessert with two forks, really being understood, never running out of things to talk about, knowing someone by heart, picking up right where you left off.
  • A friend knows everything about you and loves you anyway.
  • Between friends, words are optional.
  • There's no problem friends can't solve with enough time and chocolate.
  • Friends are the family we didn't start out with who make us feel likable, funny, and clever.
  • The very best friends have the kind of relationship where each thinks she's getting the better part of the deal.

Have a great day my new bloggy friends! I am thankful for you!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Christmas 20 questions

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Without a doubt, hot chocolate.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Santa has them sitting under the tree, ready to play with. After all, he hand makes them--no need for packaging, right?

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? Definitely a white lights gal--becoming a white globe light fan over white icicle lights.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? Yes, we love to hug and kiss around our house.

5. When do you put your decorations up? The past few years, we have started putting them up the weekend after Thanksgiving. I love to enjoy them for the month of December.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? That's tough. Probably my sweet potatoe souffle with brown sugar and pecan topping.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
I just loved the whole holiday season filled with family trips to the mountains, church events, and fellowship. The music, the decorations, and special time of reflection during the advent season with my family.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I don't remember specifically, but I just recall sitting on the swings at a playground with my dad talking about it. I was very protective of keeping the magic up for my younger brother for the next couple of years.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? We let our kids pick out a small gift for one another, and open that on Christmas Eve. It's wonderful to see the care they take in picking out the perfect gift.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? I love ornaments with meaning behind them. We love to collect them over the years, so after being married for 11 years, we have built up the collection. We start with white lights and red beaded garlands. We then put on our ornaments, talking about each (who gave it to us, where we purchased it, what event it signified) . Then we add a few red, green and gold balls to bring it together. I love it--it reflects us as a family, not just matching decorations. We top it with a star.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Love it--play in it, sled down it, eat it (snowcream)!

12. Can you ice skate? Yes, I used to go quite a bit as a kid--I got the Dorothy Hamill haircut as a kid if that tells you anything. I think I could still make it around without falling down, but you never know.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Hands down, the barbie dollhouse "Santa" brought me when I was seven. Actually, my papaw built it from real wood, and my mamaw furnished it with real wallpaper, carpet, and handmade furniture. I still have it, and am going to update it for my daughter.

14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Cherishing time with family and reflecting on my Savior's birth, passing that on to my children.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? I think I have to go with homemade fudge. Simple, but wonderful.

16. What tops your tree? A star.

17. Which do you prefer giving or receiving? Giving--I think this shift happened in college. I enjoy more and more making gifts, as well.

18. What is your favorite Christmas Song? I love "O Holy Night." I also love Bing Crosby's "White Christmas."

19. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?? Yuck, not a huge peppermint fan. I like the smell and can eat them, but would rather not.

20. Favorite holiday movie? White Christmas and Holiday Inn.

Everyone join in, I'd love to hear your responses!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Lion King

I have had a weekend, jam-packed with activity. My dad came to visit, so he had the kids all day Saturday--doing whatever they wanted, of course. He says that's his job as Papaw. My husband used the free time to work on our house, and I was able to spend the day shopping. I haven't had a day to myself like that in a while. Such fun!

Then after church on Sunday, we all headed to Nashville to see "The Lion King," a traveling Broadway production. It was amazing! I've seen quite a few Broadway plays in New York, but never one quite like this one. I can't even begin to describe the incredible creativity that went into this production! If you ever have the chance to see it, don't pass!

Monday, November 13, 2006

In Christ Alone video

This is has been the song in my heart lately--here with video images from movies like "Passion of the Christ." I play this over and over on my ipod.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Favorite Smells

Five of my favorite things to smell
  1. Books--I love to open a book and stick my nose in for a big whiff!
  2. Ocean breezes--There's nothing quite like walking on the beach at sunset.
  3. Buttered popcorn--I am a huge fan of popcorn, especially at the movies.
  4. Baby lotion and shampoo--Brings up wonderful memories of my children as babies asleep in my arms.
  5. Honeysuckle--Fresh, clean, wonderful outdoors.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Evolution of Dance


Click below and enjoy--it' s hysterical!


Friday, November 03, 2006

Choosing Sacrifice

I am in the last week of the Beth Moore study on DANIEL. It has been one of my favorite studies and has challenged me in so many ways. I feel like I have been stretched.
In this past week's session, Beth stated that we must choose between the selfishness and sacrifice. This struck a chord with me, because I know that my selfishness is the root of other struggles--being impatient with my kids, being lazy, not serving with a joyful heart, etc. Satan does not always attack by using stuggles and tragedies in our lives, he tempts us to be selfish. He knows he will have victory if we are leading selfish lives.
Beth went on to talk about that choosing the sacrificial life will cost something, therein its worth. She used the beautiful story of Mary Magdalene pouring the costly oil on Jesus. Mary "got it." She was sacrificing, she realized His worth. Jesus responded in Mark 14:9 that she would be remembered for this act. The things that cost us much, that we sacrifice for, are what we will be remembered for in Christ's eyes.
Beth explained that if we miss the sacrificial life, we will miss our true purpose. We must be deliberate--the sacrificial life does not "just happen." I pray that I will count the cost of sacrifice each day and realize He is truly worthy of my sacrifice. I want to fulfill His purpose for me.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Our Gifts, His Glory

One of my favorite quotes is from Eric Liddell, the great Scottish Olympic champion and missionary to China portrayed in the movie, Chariots of Fire. He said, " When I run, I feel His pleasure." As an athlete, this always meant a lot. Playing volleyball was not directly serving the Lord, but the WAY played volleyball could bring honor to Him. By using the talent and ability He gave me to do my best and to play with joy and good sportsmanship, I could give Him the glory. I truly could feel His pleasure as I played.
God has created us all with many unique gifts and abilities. Just because you may not teach a Bible class or serve Him directly in Christian ministry, does not mean that you cannot use the abilities He gave you to bring glory to Himself. Think outside the box about ways to use your special talents to serve Him creatively.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Facing the Giants

I saw a GREAT movie over the weekend--Facing the Giants. Just wanted to recommend everyone to go see and support this movie. I wish we had more movies like this. My 8-year-old son said that it was his favorite movie, and it made me cry--more than once. Go check it out at A church in Georgia produced this movie, with two of its ministers writing and directing it. It's an amazing story.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


I love autumn! Simply walking out in the crisp, cool air brings a flood of memories for me--Tennessee football games at Neyland Stadium, traveling to volleyball tournaments in college, jumping in leaves, bonfires, back to school excitement. I feel that autumn more and more represents my time in life. To me, Spring represents the newness and growing time of childhood. Hot summer days full of activity and play remind me of youth and early adult years. At thirty-three, I feel that I still have the energy of summer, but am moving into a more peaceful, settled time of autumn. Peaceful and settled in a sense of being comfortable in my own skin, not having to search for who I am. I feel grounded in who I am, and that feels great. In many ways, this is the most exciting time of life!

Friday, October 20, 2006

A New Adventure

Over the past several months, I have been fascinated to discover blogging. What a creative way to build community long distance! I have been challenged and encouraged to read about the journey of other young Christian wives and mothers, both stay-at-home and working outside the home. This blog will be my attempt to share my experiences and what God has taught me through them in hopes of encouraging other women. I know, though, that through this process of self-reflection that God will grow and stretch me as well! Here we go . . .