When your Advent season is kinda messy….

I’ve been super excited to add to our Christmas activities this year as our daughter is old enough to understand it’s Jesus’ birthday, loves books, knows presents are coming, loves any sort of craft/baking/etc that we can do. We made an advent ‘Names of Jesus’ countdown paper chain, and we are reading tons of books from the library.  The library has so many Christmas books, that I seriously think we’ll be reading Christmas books all through January.

But Advent can be kinda messy.  It’s spent reading through one of our Christmas books, while simultaneously feeding the baby, giving more bread to the toddler, and trying to sneak in my own breakfast. It’s spent reading our nightly ‘Jesse Tree’ story while trying to keep the book out of a snotty toddlers hands. It’s spent explaining to a bawling preschooler that the reason you aren’t putting the shepherd out with the nativity set yet, is that she gets to look for him each morning along with our book/activity for the day. (yes, she really did have a come apart when she saw he was missing).  At times, I wonder if it’s worth the work put in to celebrate Advent.

This Advent season is messy.

I spent this morning at a memorial service for a beloved mom of five, who lost her life to cancer. She lived her life fully to the end, and was not afraid to die because she knew Jesus was waiting for her.  But she left behind her heartbroken husband of over 25 years. five children, and family and friends.  Everyone was brought to tears by the touching eulogy her husband wrote and shared for her.

This Advent season is messy.

But, wasn’t Jesus’ “Advent season” messy too? He spent it in a cow’s feeding trough, with animals all around. Born in an animal shelter because no one had space for him. His party guests included the shepherds fresh from the field (like they probably smelled of sheep and field). In less than 2 years, he would have to flee for his life from the king right after receiving grand gifts from foreign travelers.  Jesus knows all about ‘messy advents’.  He came to earth to be in our mess. Jesus came to set people free from the mess of sin, and to restore all the broken messes of the past. He came to bring new life, and a hope that surpasses all the messes of this world.  Jesus specializes in messes, and restoring messed up people.

So this advent season, whether you are in the middle of diaper changes, puke clean ups, and potty training, or whether you are reeling with difficult news that you never expected…remember that messes are Jesus’ specialty. He restores us from the messes of our past, and he walks us through the messes of our present. Advent is a season of waiting and anticipation. Anticipating Christmas with all its festivities, laughter, food and gifts.  But an even greater anticipation of Jesus’ return to rescue us from our mess and take us to be with Him forever.

Advent can be messy……but Jesus specializes in redeeming broken messes.

“Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” Rev. 22:20

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Savor

This last weekend we celebrated “Thanksmas”, our Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday joined together since not everyone will be able to travel back for Christmas.  The kids are enjoying their new toys and we are thankful for the new memories made as our family grows. Our holidays used to be quieter without the younger 5 grandchildren, but we are so thankful for them. Holidays are now spent differently, with kids constantly interrupting conversations, and diapers needing to be changed. Meals are a lot more “active” with five little ones around the table. Thankfully, we were able to simultaneously nap at least 3 of the 5 younger kiddos so the guys could squeeze a board game into our magical “quiet hour”. 🙂

As we are still cleaning up from Thanksgiving and preparing to take down the fall decor and make way for Advent starting this weekend, the word that comes to mind is ‘savor’. Too easily, I get busy with all that needs to be done and I forget to simply savor that moment. This last weekend, I was thankful to have many moments with my sister in-law while our children played together. We only see them twice a year, so I ‘savored’ those conversations.

(my mom’s beautiful pantry)

I also savored the moments with my mom and sister spent in the kitchen preparing food for all of us, or cleaning up the never ending pile of dishes. Those moments are what make the depth of relationship.  My brother, in commenting on some changes we’ve made since adding in more kiddos, said something worth remembering. He said it’s not the place we meet, but the people that are the main thing. It’s easy to focus on the activities or space around us and miss the people.

Everyday, I read bedtime stories at least once or twice, but today I noted the soft hand of my toddler resting on mine while I read. Everyday, I feed my baby multiple times, but today I worked on making her smile afterwards. This weekend is the beginning of Advent, and I’m super excited to start reading our huge pile of Christmas books from the library, read our “Names of Jesus” countdown chain each day, put up our Jesse Tree ornaments, and our try out our DIY Shepherd on the Search.  My goal is to ‘savor’ this season with the excitement of a three year old.  Which, if you know a three year old, is pretty intense.

How do you plan to ‘savor’ this season or the time spent with people around you?

Thanks!

This time of year remind us of something that we should be doing all year round. Eating pumpkin pie? Yes, I firmly believe everyone needs more pie!  But actually I’m referring to something much more important.

Giving thanks.

So here’s my thanks…

T- timeslow times.  Times where you sip tea and relish a good book. Times where you watch the children’s excitement as they build a tower together. Time where you light a candle, pull out a thrift store tea pot decoration and a picture book….and suddenly it becomes a magical “tea time” with your preschooler. Time where you go for a simple walk to the mailbox, but you walk slow enough to pick up walnut shells to add to our nature treasure box.

H-home…It doesn’t matter if it’s a house, apartment, dorm room, rental or your own. Home is where your heart finds a place to rest.  It’s the ambiance you create to welcome in weary people, and send them off refreshed. It’s where your loved ones gather in.

A-acceptance…Accepted by my family in-spite of my grumpy days, forgetful mom brain, or  tiredness. Accepted by my friends in-spite of my quirks, and forgetfulness to check in with them.  Accepted by my Savior in-spite of my sin, selfishness, and pride.

N- Need…My needs are met. We have a warm house and plenty of food. I have a huge stack of books to read, and library if I ever run out. And plenty of pumpkin spice food to enjoy for the season! (priorities, you gotta’ have them)

K-Kindness…Honestly, I’m never ‘enough’.  But in these last couple months where I’ve been ‘super not enough’ (if that’s such a thing), I’ve been so thankful for the kindness of others.  Prayers sent, text messages to check in, and words of support. Friends who will wear one of your kids for the 1.5 hour hike through the state park, so you don’t have to do a front and back carry with your youngest two. Friends who will come rake leaves with you for hours. Friends who spend their lunch breaks visiting you, because that’s way easier than traveling with all the littles. Friends who weave words of affirmation into a conversation that help you see God is making progress in your life. I pray that I may show the same kindness back to them.

S-SnugglesBecause they grow too fast and you can never get enough.  Apparently this is the new way we are going to blog…with help from the little one.

Happy Thanksgiving!  May your plate be full of pumpkin pie….lots of pumpkin pie!

~Felicia

Pumpkin Spice Muffins…and why I think baking (and life) is an art not a science.

There are bakers who have to follow the recipe exactly and then there are those who see the directions as suggestions. Either way, you place it in the oven or on the stove and hope for the desired results……yummy food.

This last month, we made pumpkin muffins and many loaves of pumpkin bread.  This should not come as a surprise to those who know my pumpkin addiction and growing collection of fall memorabilia.  Yes, I do have pumpkin earrings, and yes, people did give me pumpkin snacks and pumpkin baby clothes when my little one was born.  If I had known that would happen, I would have planned all my littles to be born in fall just for the treats and cute clothes. Just kidding…

I make my bread with pumpkin from a real pumpkin (meaning not from a can) so I have to puree it first using my Oyster immersion blender  and drain out the water. Then next is where the art part comes in.  I love my pumpkin spice treats, but my desire to have the energy to raise my kiddos makes me eat healthier.   I substitute coconut oil in most of my baking, cut the sugar by half or a third (or substitute coconut sugar), and use whole wheat flour for part or all of it. Flax seed or chia seed may also be snuck in there.

For me, baking is an art form.  Dumping a little of this or that in the recipe and tailoring it how I like it. There’s no guarantee it will turn out perfect (my husband has vetoed using coconut oil in his chicken pot pie crust) but it’s always edible and healthier than the original recipe.

I wish parenting and life in general was more science than art form.  I’d like guaranteed results and a five-step plan for raising amazing children.  Often I feel like I do all the right things, but still don’t get the desired results. Lately, we’ve been adjusting the consequences for certain behaviors for our toddler as the previous ones don’t seem to change things.  The new trick is putting all her stuffed animals in time out for a while when certain “naughty” choices are made.  It’s frustrating when you can list off the things you’ve tried….and don’t see the hoped for results.

This definitely has increased my prayer life!  I keep bringing these little ones to my Master Baker asking for help in choosing the right ingredients and methods.  Parenting, baking, and life all involve trying different ingredients and methods, then trusting/praying that it turns out.  I don’t always understand the ingredients He chooses to use in the recipe of my life, nor why he chooses certain methods, but I can trust Him for the end result.

So how did those pumpkin spice muffins with the altered ingredients turn out? Amazing! They are gone, along with many loaves of pumpkin bread since then. I’ll include the recipe (original version) below from the Pumpkin Lovers Cookbook in case you want to try it for yourself.

Enjoy and happy baking!

Pumpkin Nut Muffins

1/4 cup oil

1 Cup Pumpkin

2 Eggs

1/4 cup milk

1 1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. allspice

1 tsp. cinnamon

Blend above ingredients. Add:

1 3/4 cup flour

1/2 cup chopped nuts

Mix thoroughly.  Put in greased muffin tins. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Makes 1 dozen.

A life update

I’ve had good intentions of blogging again for a couple weeks….but I still often feel I’m in survival mode after the little one was born.  Having a baby is like dropping all the balls you are juggling, and slowly adding them back in. I feel successful if the kids are fed, and laundry/dishes are done.  The juggling balls that feed my soul (reading and blogging) have struggled to find their new home in our new rhythm.

Little Pumpkin surprised us by arriving 2 weeks 3 days early.  We spent the morning at the zoo and had her that evening.  It was a scramble to find friends to watch our other littles as some of our family was out of town. Needless to say, we weren’t totally ready to cozy in with our little bundle. So she got to tag along with us to clean out the garden the week we got home from the hospital.  I guess that’s what happens when you decide to come two weeks early! 🙂

 

It’s been a much bigger adjustment to having three than it was to having two.  It feels like there are often two crying or asking for something at the same time. Some days I feel I’m going crazy, while other days I marvel that I get the privilege of raising these three littles.

It’s taking me longer to get things in a rhythm for our house, and I don’t know when I’ll get my brain back.  I feel frustrated when I see the chores I haven’t gotten done yet, the books waiting by my chair, or think how long it’s been since I wrote anything. But I have to remind myself…..it’s only been 5 weeks and one of those weeks I was really sick.

The word I want to leave you with is ‘grace’.  Give yourself grace.  When you start to feel overwhelmed or frustrated, step back and evaluate if your goal is reasonable.  Are you asking too much too soon? What is the most important goal and what are secondary goals?  And…..don’t give up. Hey! I cleaned the bathrooms today! That’s a win! Keep taking steps.

Grace and perseverance
Growth takes time. Anything worth doing….takes time.  Creating and developing works of beauty take time.  Let’s give ourselves grace as we take slow and steady steps towards reasonable goals.
So, forgive me if somethings that I write during this season don’t make sense. I feel like one of those old computers where it gives you the percentage left until the program is fully loaded.  My percentage is slowly going up, but we’re not fully loaded yet. 🙂

My post about not posting 😊

Meet Eliza! She arrived as an early gift two weeks before her due date.

So this is my post…about not writing a post this week and we’ll see about next week. 😊

Right now, I’m just trying to function on our new sleep schedule.

Thanks for understanding!

Just Open The Door: a book review

Hospitality can sound like a big and scary word. Images of appetizers, a table set with matching cloth napkins, a fancy meal plan, and a freshly cleaned (like every square inch) house.  Jen Schmidt breaks apart our preconceived notions on what hospitality is, and deals with each of our personal roadblocks to welcoming people in. In her book, Just Open the Door, Jen deals with topics such as available space, financial limitations, getting to know neighbors, hospitality on the sports field, the impact of one person trickling down to others, creating a culture of hospitality for your children, and spontaneous vs. planned hospitality (the benefits of both).

I loved this book! I had first heard about it from author and blogger, Crystal Paine, who had read the book, implemented the lifestyle/heart changes, and was so glad she did.  In her post, she shares that there is no one specific way to open your ‘door’.  It may involve inviting a single person for coffee, a group over for dinner, new people and old friends, play-dates for kids, and hosting birthday parties.

As you can tell from my picture, there were many pages I earmarked as ones I wanted to come back to later. Hospitality basically means welcoming people in as they are, and meeting them where they are at. For me, sometimes that even means meeting them at their house. As any mom of littles can attest to, sometimes it’s just easier to have the play-date at your house so you don’t have to pack everyone up to go visit someone.

Ideas mentioned in the book included:

  • having an extra blanket and snacks at sports practice
  • picnic at a park
  • neighborhood outdoor movie night
  • spontaneous ice cream sundae bar (bring a topping to share)
  • keeping extra pizzas in the freezer for impromptu guests
  • inviting a new person over for coffee
  • having a couch available for your kids’ friends to join your family for the weekend
  • using candles and favorite foods to welcome your own family in for supper (making them feel like special guests)
  • “Come as you are” nights where your friends come in their gym clothes or pj’s for snacks.
  • Walking alongside people in grief (meals, notes sent months later when everyone else has moved on except those who actually experienced the loss)

I received this book as part of the blogger review program with B&H Publishing Group/Lifeway . I was very thankful for the opportunity to review this book as it met all my expectations and will go on my recommended read list!

Longing for another home….

I have a list of characteristics on my “In my next home” list. Do you make those lists too? In my next home, I want room for a play room, space for chickens, space so the geckos don’t have to live in our room, room for a second dog to keep ours company, etc. The secret is in finding a balance between having goals, and being content in your place in life.

The dream gives you motivation to make the most of your season. But I have to remember that I still live in the present, that the dream is ‘not yet’.

When my dog goes crazy because of all the foot traffic on our street, or the neighbor kids ring the doorbell and leave, or I have to downsize the garden because I can’t keep hauling my littles to the community garden surrounded by busy roads, or I keep throwing away produce clippings instead of feeding my dream chickens, or I run out of space to keep the preschool materials organized, or I have to explain to my toddler that the people in the parked car right out side our front gate are making bad decisions, or our firewood is stolen……..then my dream calls me with a fierceness.

But I live in the now…..and how I live now will determine if I will be ready for the dream when it comes to pass. Or if I will look back with regrets at how I wished away the time.

It’s like waiting for this baby to come.   It takes forever!  The sickness, tiredness, emotions, and back pain make me feel like I will finish this marathon crawling the last 100 feet to cross the finish line.  I told my husband that I just wanted to be left alone so I could binge watch shows and eat ice cream for the next couple weeks…because I’m so weary.   That dream of holding our little one calls me with a fierceness.

But I live in the now……where toddlers still need to be raised, dishes washed, people invested in, and social events coordinated. And how I live now affects my life when that dream comes to pass. I don’t want to wish this time away nor have regrets.

Jesus is coming back! Each night I pray with earnestness for that to happen soon. As I see footage remembering 9/11, or hear weather reports for the hurricane hitting the coast line, or even just read the news…I long with a fierceness for Him to return. But I live in the now…where people still need to eat, be loved, encouraged, healed and given the good news of His return. He offers victory over bondage and sin today, and the promise of eternity with Him.

How I live now has an eternal impact. I don’t want to wish this time away.

Let your dream fuel your motivation to make the most of your current season. Do all you can to be faithful in the present moment, here and now….so when that moment comes you’ll have no regrets.  You can embrace that moment knowing you were faithful to complete all you were called to do in your present season.

Farewell Summer

Can you believe that summer is finishing and fall is beginning? It’s the transition stage where we still wear flip flops and paint our nails, yet we change our decor and dream of Pumpkin Spice everything (or at least I do!). August was spent trying to soak in as much summer as possible! My husband told me I needed to rest more, but I countered it with I would after summer ended. 🙂

Some of my friends are teachers, so we worked to squish in zoo trips, park dates, and lake trips before they headed back. At one point, we were making plans everyday so my daughter assumed that was the new normal, and started asking, “Where we going today, mama? Where we going tomorrow?” Needless to say, she’s had to adjust back to having “home days” too.

(our farewell trip to the spray park)

During August, my husband and I had the blessing of taking a weekend away while the littles stayed with grandparents. We read, talked, played board games, and (gasp!) slept in! It was some much needed time away to breathe, that probably won’t happen again for months to come. We specifically chose a farm place where we could enjoy the quiet time, but that also had state park hiking trails near by.

What I’ve loved about August:

~summer sunshine and time with friends at the zoo, spray park, etc.

~Garden produce!!!

~Watching my toddlers develop a love of reading, especially the two of them reading together. 🙂 Today, the oldest was retelling a familiar story to the younger and I was impressed with her recall of story details! It melts my heart to hear her reading/singing, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living, My baby you’ll be” from Love you forever by Robert Munsch.

~Working more on Preschool as the days get cooler and summer activities slow down.

~Reading: I’m currently reading Just Open the Door by Jen Schmidt, and loving it! One of the main points is how we make “hospitality” overtly complicated and think we need everything (house, meal, timing, activity, etc) just right to be able to have people over. And how people just want to feel welcomed….to your mess, your life, your blanket at the sports practice, your hotdog and potato chip picnic, etc. In her book, she shares how life changing simple invitations can be, which match her book tagline, “How One Invitation Can Change a Generation“.

~Watching: Nothing at the moment, but This is Us resumes shortly!

What are you enjoying about this transition from summer to fall? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Journeying with you,

Felicia

The Better Mom: A book review

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I ordered a copy of “The Better Mom: Growing in Grace between Perfection and the Mess” by Ruth Schwenk.  The title intrigued me and I respected many of the ladies who wrote endorsements in the book. Honestly, I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did! 🙂

(Proof of all the pages I loved!)

This book isn’t a ‘how-to’ manual for being a mom or tricks on how to perfect our motherhood. Rather, it deals with our hearts and points us to the One who has power to make us a “better mom”.  The chapter titles were rather fitting!  They included “I miss my friends!”, “No one appreciates all that I do!”, “I need some alone time”, and “I have no idea what I’m doing!”.  I totally understand those feelings! 🙂

One of the sections I love in the book talked about what we feel we are missing out on when we focus on our kids.

“I need the reminder, so well stated by Andy Stanley (cited in book), ‘Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God might not be something you do, but someone you raise.’  At different times and in different ways, God has reminded me of what kind of ambition matters most. Our greatest ambition is not getting the next promotion, the next sale, or another paycheck. Our greatest ambition is raising up another generation of children to live for God’s glory and the good of the world. As moms, we are not just getting by. We are fulfilling God’s mission and purpose by shaping kids today for the sake of the world tomorrow. ……..What we are doing counts both outside the home and inside the home, but who we are becoming is just as important.” ~ Ruth Schwenk

It’s not just being a mom, it’s about contributing to society’s future by investing in it’s future members. It’s the calling given each of us personally by God.

I also loved the chapter I finished yesterday called “I want to make a difference”. We each have gifting/talents that it feels like we are wasting when we are busy with the mundane everyday details of life. I have many dreams including writing books or courses, that simply don’t fit into my dishes, diapers and toddler season. In this chapter, Ruth emphasized that there are seasons to life. The key phrase is “not yet”.  Dreams that don’t fit in this season, simply are “not yet”. God has missions for us to complete today…but they aren’t the only missions God will give us. He has future plans for us as we move into different seasons.

I’m thankful to Zondervan and Booklook Bloggers for letting me receive a complementary copy of “The Better Mom” for review purposes. As you can tell by my folded corners, there were many loved pages! This book will definitively go on my recommended list, and in my collection to loan out to others!