12.01.2014

Christmas Advent






I wanted to make a post about the Christmas Advent Calendar I created for our family last year. Even though it's already the first, it's never too late to start one. We started about 5-6 days late last year, and just did a couple a day until we caught up - and it is now my favorite part about Christmas. I start looking forward to it months before!

Most of the materials I have I bought the day after Christmas back in 2012 on clearance at either World Market (here are the clips) or Target (a lot of links for material ideas are at the bottom of the post). I then constructed the Advent out of the materials the following Christmas season. You don't have to use the tags, etc. - use whatever you have. You can cut out stars from paper bags, or squares out of construction paper.

Each morning Amos unties the next verse and we read it together. I read the original passage, and then paraphrase it for him and Lucia to fully understand. Then Lucia and Amos take turns opening the small envelope and we then have an activity for the day or a small gift!




THE TOP TWO ROWS:

The top two rows are an envelope for every day. I just took a rectangle cut out of a trader joe's back, stapled two sides shut and left a slit open. Inside I had cut out circles of construction paper that had either a Christmas Activity or an "Open A" - a letter that corresponded with a small gift.










THE BOTTOM ROW:

The bottom row was tags left to right, that had the day of December as well as a verse or passage that was unveiling the story of Jesus' Birth! You can get a calendar to download here.






These are the presents from last year. I bought a lot of small stuff from World Market and kept them on the table.







This year I often had two small gifts for each child on a given day so they were put under the tree.  (Lucia insisted she posed with the presents.)

As I organize the gifts/activities I make a calendar of what is going on for the month, and when is the best time for certain crafts or activities. I leave a larger gift ($10) for Christmas Eve, and try to coincide free days with the more involved activities such as taking a photograph with Santa. I also like to remember what will be happening because once they are inside the envelopes I forget! There is also the corresponding letter of gift in the bottom right hand corner. The red texts are gifts to open and the green texts are activities to do! Here is a blank calendar you can print out and fill out!

This year's calendar looks like this:




Some of the activities we included this year are on the above calendar, but here they are for reference:

  • Make Christmas Cookies
  • Make a Birthday Card for Jesus (the real reason for the celebration!)
  • Shop for the gifts we give away annually to a refugee family within our community
  • Visit Santa and get a photograph (we aren't big on santa, but I still like to do this every year)
  • Give our presents to the refugee family at our church Christmas Experience 
  • Build a Christmas Fort and Watch a Christmas Movie in our Christmas Pajamas (opened on third)
  • Make Presents/Cards for dad, sibling, and other family members (opened markers that day)
  • Wrap Presents from previous day and do a Nativity Craft
  • Write a Letter and Draw a Picture for a missionary from out of our church
  • Pick one of our favorite toys to wrap and give to Jesus - we wrap it and lay it under the tree and then we will give it away (I tell the story of the 3 Magi bringing their gifts)  
  • Bake a Birthday cake for Jesus 
Some present ideas:
  • Dollar Bins from Target
  • Prepackaged Christmas crafts from Target/Craft Stores
  • Stickers, Tattoos, Puzzles
  • Christmas Socks
  • Christmas Pajamas
  • Christmas Ornament they hang out tree
  • Travel Activity if you will be traveling for Christmas 
  • Coloring Books
  • Christmas Candy 






Another tradition we have is to save all our Christmas Cards from previous years, and pick one out sometime throughout the day (usually dinner) and pray for that family and ask God if there is anything He is asking us to do to bless them (write them a letter, make them a small gift, pray for a prophetic encouragement, etc.). 







Hope you enjoy!!! Merry Christmas!


idea links for: string to hang here here and here /// clips to hang here /// tags for verses here here here here & here /// gift ideas here here here and here ///

8.24.2014

Let's talk about Ferguson, and how we can improve.




I have been glued to the Ferguson situation since it's onset. It's miles from my hometown, and pulls a web of strings woven within me that I can't seem to untangle. Inter-racial relations, the current story of the black population within America, and what it means to eradicate racist thoughts and subconscious actions/language from my white, female, midwestern mouth.

It's heated. It's divisive. It's intrusive. Many want to shush the crowd - and tell them to settle down, deal with your internal issues first. It's full of a lot of imperfections - on all sides. Even so, it would be the failure of both the church, and the majority, to ignore the cries of its people. Because, yes, they are our people - as we are theirs.

John Piper, in his excellent book on the topic of racism in America Bloodlines says, "This deeply felt sense of race as a continuing, painful, and pervasive issue in America means that talking about race continues to be difficult. The feelings run very deep and very high. If your skin is thin... hold your tongue. But holding our tongues does not usually advance understanding, deepen respect, warm the affections, or motivate action."

To be honest, I feel entirely ill equipped, undereducated, and pretty far removed to speak on such things. It's risky, but I feel it's far riskier - long term - for the church, especially the white people of the church, to close our eyes and cover our ears as if nothing is happening. Of course, we must be grieved about the travesties in the Middle East, the injustices in Africa, but we should be careful to belittle or trivialize the voice of a group that has been discredited by so many for so long within our very own home.

I wanted to point on, specifically, where I see failure on the side of the white majority side. Let this be my kind, and gentle, confrontation.

1.) It has been quite a popular response to the black voice to "turn and deal with your own problems."
To have the mentality of us, vs them. I have heard many people point to crime rates, unemployment, and entitlements among black communities as a reason to enhance our stereotypes and further distance ourselves in our hearts towards people "not like us". I suppose that makes it easier for us to stomach the injustices of others and turn our heads to oppression like those towards the black communities. Having an "us vs them" heart response frees us from needing to probe deeper than stereotypical characteristics within communities.

For example, most people do not consider unfair legislation that disproportionately targets drug crimes most often perpetrated by people of color, thus contributing to prisons full of black and brown people. This, then leads to fathers being taken from their communities, leaving children fatherless, thus supporting a cycle of societal brokenness.

In addition, when these individuals are released back into their communities they lack skills and education needed to compete in todays workforce, and often times leaves them with little choice but to turn back to illegal activities just to survive.

These realities are hard and difficult to solve. But I believe one thing we could do to begin is acknowledge our own sin no matter how overt, or explicitly illegal and confess our need of a Savior.

Jesus said he who has been forgiven much, loves much.

What we must remember, that there is destruction and brokenness happening within all communities - of every socioeconomic facet and within every culture and race. We are all in need of a Savior.

Problems within the black community do not remove their right to a voice, nor their right to demand equality and a sense of honor.  We do not EARN a place to speak within our democracy by our successes, but it is an intrinsic right woven within us as Americans and, even more, as people created by God. Skin color does not make our opinion more or less important - nor where we feel mistreated more or less important.

Let them speak. Listen.

2.) It is a brutal police force that is the problem. It is a culture of crime that is the problem. It is a presumptive call for justice that is the problem. It is white oppression that is the problem. It is racial profiling that is the problem. It is a militarization of local enforcement that is the problem.

It seems everyone has stepped within a camp and has cast complete blame on the other side. Where I feel we go wrong is when we ignore the problems around us. There are problems, injustices, and things that are just plain "unfair" happening on all sides. Against policeman. Against politicians. Against the black community. Against the protestors of Ferguson.

To deny one to proclaim the defense of another is to remain partially blind. 

3.) "Racism is dead."

Piper says, "Since majority people don't think of themselves in terms of race, none of our dysfunctions is viewed as a racial dysfunction. When you are the majority ethnicity, nothing you do is ethnic. It's just the way it's done. When you are a minority, everything you do has color."

To say racism is dead is a pretty clear way of saying one does not know what racism is. To say it is a thing of the past, shows very clearly that one does not have their hands or their attentions within the minorities within our country. It means the life behind such words is not walking within low income neighborhoods, and even more, not talking to the people directly effected by racism. We are not asking our black brothers and sisters sitting within our churches, what can we do to make the change your hearts are longing for?

It is ignorance. Not by choice, I hope, but by distance. It is easy to avoid such realities. It is also easy to explain away certain legislations, and actions, as not racist but necessary. Necessary to preserve some type of "America" we believe we deserve.

I think, within every group of every skin color, we must turn and look at ourselves. Listen to what we speak. If you question if it is racist, ask yourselves, "Is this honoring to my black brothers? Does this shed blessing and a light of honor onto the black communities?" If you still wonder,  ask a person of another color. This is the best illuminator to a white culture that often has no idea what is or isn't offensive.

And even more, evaluate your heart. Are we "annoyed" by such "inconveniences" the Ferguson protests present. Do we choose to only focus on the negative aspects of the events - the looting, the accusation, the grouping - or can we see past hurt, and neglect, and truly hear what is being said.

Let's be honest and real. Let's repent of racism, even the tiniest of seeds within our hearts.




Ultimately, we are on a journey. As the church, the beautiful, multi-ethnic, rainbow of a people unified within the bloodline of Christ - we are being called to a deeper since of servanthood that steps into unfamiliar cultures and begins to truly listen. That looks at our politics and asks, "Is this the legislation that honors people?" That takes a stand, even if it feels awkward and vulnerable, against words and actions that do not love (truly love) the individuals within our minorities in our country.

It is presenting the gospel, the only thing that saves, to people - rather they are hurting with offense and neglect and oppression, or swelled with pride and self-sufficiency and idols of comfort.

It is making one significant change that will aid in racial harmony, and then making another, and another until we pass on a legacy of cultural honor to the next generation.





click here to read a previous post about hopes for racial harmony.


5.25.2014

to remember.

sit still, with eyes tied shut. breath in a moment.
chaos before and behind. whirling and twirling.
but if only for a moment, we stop. we remember.
life is more than that which fills the waking hours.

think upon that which kneads the heart into true beating.
the unison of heaven meeting earth within micro moments.
peering with the eyes of the heart, upon a God who is Holy.

it's not difficult. it's not for the intellectual or the spiritual.
it's for those who believe.

see him there, operating in human frame in absolute purity and perfection.
never missing a beat. never acting for self.
power in complete and utter righteousness.
love that protects, and promises, and cleanses.

even the dirtiest of soul, the wickedest of thought, the most selfish intent
can be washed in Him.

there is hope for pain, and crippled minds, and broken bones.
there is hope for isolation, loneliness, and failure.

sit still and peer.

He does not slumber nor sleep.
He does not turn his back even on the most frustrating of persons.
He only offers Himself.

over and over
and over again.

with fierceness and determination and fire.

the blood is ever flowing.

remember.

----

there are moments along our journey in life where we are confronted with truly devastating things. we watch those close and far to us suffer. ones get sick. lives are cut short. people are slaves to sin. we see it on a large scale, in war and abuse. we see it on a smaller scale with our brothers and sisters among us. why is victory seem so unattainable for some? why the landscape of deep sorrow, unescaping pain?

we cannot avoid these realities. and if we only think for but a moment we find hurt among us. within our cities. within our churches. within our very families.

lives littered with abandonment. orphans never tasting love and acceptance. abuse. evil thoughts. pornography and human trafficking in abundance. racism. abusive legalism. deep rooted rejection. they are our neighbors. our church members. even at times, ourselves.

i think it's an interesting journey to hold this pain, this tension within our hearts. to not forget. nor grow numb. but to offer them up within ourselves to the God who redeems. Yes, He redeems to the uttermost.

to live in a way that offers what we can. to preach good news. to serve others and not our own agendas. to offer what we have to the sick and the dying - both in body and spirit.

to sing the song of the cross. over and over and over and over again. to believe that is works for the fallen brother, the prideful sister, the wandering sheep. to not give up on people. to understand mercy and forgiveness work wonders.

to believe He is working it all for our good. not only ourselves, but for humanity as a whole.


save us, Oh Lord.







“Though You Slay Me” (featuring John Piper) from Desiring God on Vimeo.



5.22.2014

He is who He is who He is.


oh to the God who is forever open. arms outstretched.

as a little girl i remember thinking your feet touched down in front of the choir and you reached past the clouds. perhaps you held the sun. but you didn't burn. your hands were old and wise - wrinkles marked out like the countries of the earth. boundary lines within the creases around the eyes.

and then they said you lived within. my heart a little home, a hobbit hole for my miniature Jesus. setting the table, and speaking to my head through an olden horn phone.

you sang me songs and i became a grade school playwright and you were my audience. awake at night, eyes intoxicated by the spinning fan and the shadows that crept through the blinds. i wrote stories, and you always applauded. you'd whisper, "this is your best work as of yet."

soon you were my champion. my hiding place. a cove off the shore, with dry walls and sea shells.

you came out from within, and down from above. you stood among my comrades and whispered truth. "this is the way. walk in it."

the closer i came, your hands seemed less ethereal and more full of flesh. blood and bone underneath fingers that had seen labor. no longer bleeding, but still a home from which it poured forth. the river that offered perfection at no cost to me.

you roared. you swirled around me.
your jaw opened and from within you came the stars.
your eyes opened and i saw, truly, the beginning and the end.

pain was dwarfed in your presence. under your shadow emotion burst within.

we smelled the same. you and i. cut from the same cloth. yet within the tension of your being the world existed. within the tension of my frame was a clambering for more.

more of you. more of myself. myself understood as it was hidden within you.

my hair blew over my eyes in the tornado of your being. i peered through to a God who was bigger, braver, and much more sure than i ever could be.

and then you whispered, "i've only just begun."

and within me there is the deepest waters.


life is a sea of very simple things. my mind is often filled with the shallowest of tasks. practicality. efficiency. even my parenting is often like a very hot summer day, with sweet little moments of spiritual awareness, though only for a moment. a quick breeze blowing through. in these small pockets i feel deeply. my son shares a childlike strain of thoughts that blows open the caverns of my soul. my toddling daughter leans her little head deep in the warm indention between my shoulder and my collar bone. my husband finds a moment between dinner and dishes to make my frazzled mind erupt in laughter.

most of the time, MOST of it - i can only swim so deep within the waters of my self before my exhausted frame must come up for air. thoughts are very survival based. get groceries in enough time to get home to their naps to make an edit to wash my hair to paint a picture with the boy to be patient and remember to call my mom.

and so we don't know how much of us is slumbering, because frankly, we don't have the time to realize. it's as if we are running a race, and the scenery and the onlookers are like a roaring blur. we cannot take them in until we cross the final line, bending down deeply under the crush of our work, and then standing up tall with hands rested upon our head - breathing... really breathing we see. we see again. we see what we did, and who we've become... who we are becoming. we see what it was worth.

i'm eager to awaken. to see. to rise above the menial (though the glory it holds is great, this we must remember). to find the pieces of me covered with the web of urgencies that never have an end. because, is there EVER an end?

they don't tell you, do they? if they did, i don't remember. that somewhere in this madness you lose parts of yourself. like an animal shedding skin because it no longer fits.

old skin goes. and you grow.

and you wake up a new person. older. wiser. less self absorbed. more resilient. beautified by one year old kisses and the strength your three year old shows when he loves. you lose fresh eyes, and gain a perpetual tiredness that offers perspective.

even that which slumbers awakens with a pristine understanding of what matters. i mean what really matters.

i'm not sure when it slows down. when it lets up. when i can bend my body down to come up for air and spin around to see it all. to really see it.

is it in the restfulness of death. or the independence they'll one day put on - to open up the space.

and in both we mourn. and in both we celebrate. laying to rest the old me. that sits and feels and thinks and creates without limitation. celebrating the death of self, that never could die until i was given babies. and when the day comes, when i breathe again - i mourn children that no longer fit onto my hip or lie next to me in my bed and ask for stories and back scratches. and i celebrate that we did it. we made it through. and the journey busted open the deepest trenches within us, so we can feel, and create with depth that was never there before.

4.23.2014

blogging resurrection




This is, in fact, the longest I have ever went between blog posts since I was in junior high or before. (Yes, I had an angel fire page) It's actually quite depressing for me, as it has been over 6 months. 6 months lost (or found on instagram) - and the train has slowed to a pretty long stop.

There is one reason, and that is time. Time. September is about the time Lucia started moving, and I took on some work to bring in cash and any free time was sucked right out of me. I showered less. I read less. and I blogged less.

I also think I got burned along the way. I know it comes with the territory. Oversharing allows others to overshare their opinions on your life and how you portray it. You have to know that going in. I constantly felt pushed (mainly by myself) to address these issues within every post.

"Here's a picture of my living room. No, it doesn't always look like this. No, half the time my son is throwing toys at the cat and Lucia is only in a diaper and I literally never wash my hair."

It's exhausting. The truth is, I love beautiful things. I love taking pictures. I love when they look beautiful.

No, everything outside of that frame is probably UTTER CHAOS, only to get MORE CHAOTIC as MORE CHILDREN enter our family life. But, in that moment, in that frame, something was beautiful.

I also felt constant tension in how I wanted my voice to sound. My online voice. Especially in the arena of spiritually. This is so silly, but I started being super concerned with all my friends in different corners of the church.

I didn't want to be judged? Or... maybe more, misunderstood.

I didn't want to be misunderstood. (this happened a lot with my mom. I'd write a deep post, and my mother would text me, "are you depressed?!)

I suppose, in the midst of it all I have to write in my blog the way I have done for years before - as if LITERALLY NO ONE READS IT. And maybe they don't. Or won't. Or do. But regardless, that's has to be my motivation. I have to write with that bravery and guts. I have to be reckless and free.

If not, there is on point.

I blog to read my thoughts. I blog to create something. I blog to find the beauty in the mundane.

All of this is coming out of many conversations with Ricky about what it is I feel I was made to do: beyond be a wife, and a mom, and a designer. Even when I consider jumping back into some form of ministry, what always arises within me - and what I always settle on is this: "Ricky, I think I'm suppose to blog."

Honestly, even typing it something within my comes alive. It's almost slightly embarrassing. I just LOVE documenting life. I LOVE writing my heart. and I LOVE LOVE LOVE vulnerability. The brave, gutsy, reckless, free kind.

Anyways, here's to a commitment. A commitment to do what I love to do. To over sharing. To the hard comments that make you think. To the community blogging brings. To beautiful spaces. To portraits. And whatever else happens in the next couple years that ends up on here.

So to no one but myself, I think I'm back from the .com dead.



INSPIRED BY THIS DOCUMENTARY

9.26.2013

amos turned 2 (almost a year ago) and had a train birthday. yes, i'm a little behind.



I'm starting to plan my sweet boy's 3rd birthday. THIRD BIRTHDAY. As is standard in mom dialogue, this is absolutely insane to me. This train of "growing up" is happening way too fast - and it's thrilling and saddening all at the same time. 

His birthday party requests this year have already transformed multiple times from dinosaurs, to planes, to construction trucks, to helicopters, and now we have landed on Safari Animals - which I am super pumped about.

That being said, I realized I never blogged Amos' last birthday. I didn't get many good pictures... but it was such a joy to plan. His first birthday stressed me out, but I learned a lot and last years was much easier - with the addition of pinterest which makes planning anything and everything easier.

His party was trains and that was his current boy obsession. It was thrown at my in-laws home, as we were still cooped up in our tiny one bedroom city apartment. I am very excited to be throwing it on my own turf this year!


my little conductor. everyone got a bandana scarf [amazon], hat [amazon], and whistle [amazon] in their gift bag along with other treats.

banner made by me. find similar birthday party paper goods here.
part of the drink station. nothin' too fancy.
pom poms from martha stewart tutorial. wrapped wooden letters with yarn. made all the print outs. and my mom sewed the little gift bags. 

train tracks with electrical tape. sorta permanently stained their carpet, so try an inconspicuous area first!
he seems like such a small baby here...
so exhausted after his big event.