Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Family Worship

Some time ago, Andy and I were contemplating how to implement a time of family devotions for the three of us.  It's really overwhelming to think about roping down an almost 3 year old to sit still and talk about God for any amount of time.  Let's be honest, getting through a mealtime prayer is often challenging enough!  

During the Advent season, our family has what we call an "advent tree" in which we put up a new ornament each day, in addition to reading a Bible story or passage of Scripture.  We also usually sang a Christmas song and always ended our time in prayer.  Jadon grew to love this time and would often ask multiple times throughout the day to put up a new ornament on the advent tree.  After Christmas was done and I took down the advent tree Jadon was a little upset.  Andy and I realized that this was a great opportunity to begin an actual family devotion time that we call "family worship".  Here's what it typically looks like:

What It Is 

  • 10-12 minutes of time together as a family in the evening (after supper), usually on the couch
  • Reading a story from the Jesus Storybook Bible
  • Talking about the story and what we learn about God in this story
  • Sing a song
  • Close in prayer

Source: amazon.com via Carrie on Pinterest

This is an awesome time for our family to refocus and spend quality time together.  It doesn't happen every night, but I'd say we usually have family worship 4-5 times a week.  The funny thing is that when it slips our mind, Jadon always remembers.  He looks forward to it!  That's not to say that this time always goes smoothly and that our precious little toddler always cooperates.  There are some evenings when it would definitely be easier to throw in the towel and be done with it, but we press on because we see the time as being so beneficial!  

What It Isn't

Our family worship time is not a time for extreme structure, even though we pretty much follow the same routine each time.  Changing up the location, who reads, who prays, and what songs we sing make each time unique.  

This isn't a time for reinforcing good behavior or giving moralistic lessons.  It's an intentional time of sharing our love for Christ with our son and teaching him about all that God has done for us.

Why We Do It

For some parents out there, a time like this may seem impossible to achieve.  Our lives are so busy, schedules are filled, and people are tired all the time. 

It may even seem overwhelming if you don't see yourself as being gifted as a teacher.  Honestly, by using the Jesus Storybook Bible you are given a lot of direction for application.  In fact, I often find myself challenged by the readings in this Bible.  The writer of the Jesus Storybook Bible recently contributed an article on a well-known blog that addresses the challenges of teaching and applying the Bible for young children.  You can read the blog post here.  It's a very insightful article that really makes you think twice about how to apply the Bible to a life of any age.   

Our church is great (and getting even better) at instructing children through God's Word from a very early age.  We are so appreciative of that, and yet are very cautious that this is not the only or even the primary means of Jadon's biblical education.  Andy and I desire to express our love for Christ and all that He's done for us to our son, and not just on Sundays but everyday.  Our time of family worship is a great, intentional way to do that. 

I would totally encourage you to not wait until you think your child is "old enough" to understand everything or sit completely still for the whole time.  The sooner you start, the sooner both your child and you will begin reaping the benefits of this time spent in God's Word and in prayer.  

~ Carrie ~

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Valentine's Day in a Nut Shell

Some of you may remember my woes about Valentine's Day that I shared last year.  I'm very anti both the commercialism of the day and the whole social pressures of having a special "Valentine" and on Valentine's Day.  I think it's absolutely ridiculous.  (I apologize to any of you who are very into Valentine's Day.  This is simply my personal opinion.)

At the same time, my heart has some strings attached to this particular "holiday" (I cringe to even refer to it as that).  As I also mentioned last year, my dad (having 3 daughters) always made it a priority to show his daughters (and our mom/his wife, of course) just how much he loves us.  (Click here to read how he did this.)  I'm so appreciative of the way that my dad taught us what a true gentleman is like, in every sense of the word.

So for our family, my husband and I really wanted to pass on some of the same ideas of love and being a gentleman/lady, but also emphasis where love comes from and the only example of true love that we have - Christ.  

Last year I worked hard to do this.  Valentine's Day celebration consisted of a breakfast made by my hubby (and son), dinner out with just Andy (pre- Valentine's Day)a surprise visit to the church to deliver a special gift of love to my husband, cupcakes given to our neighbors, packed gift baskets to homebound/sick individuals from our church (done with our church), and a special dinner at home for the three of us with special dishes, homemade cards, and a few yummy homemade treats.  All of this was mixed in with lots of prayer and Scripture reading, which made our whole celebration much more... redemptive.  I wrapped up Valentine's Day 2011 with the feeling of not be able to wait until next year - to make it even better!

This year was very different, and in some ways I felt like I failed (compared to last year).  Life happened a little more than it did last year around this time and, well... we adjusted and did things a little different.  And in the end, it ended up being a really fun day.  

Before Valentine's Day, we had the opportunity (for the second year in a row) to participate with our church in packing gift baskets for individuals who are elderly and unable to attend church, are sick, or have been away from our congregation for other reasons.  This was a wonderful time to lovingly serve and care for those in our congregation that not many of us see on a regular basis.  

Two days before Valentine's Day, Andy and I were able to go out for dinner (just the two of us!).  We're so thankful for wonderful friends from our church who love to watch Jadon!  We got some much needed time together, but didn't have the Valentine's Day craziness at the restaurant.  

Soooo... Valentine's Day.   My husband was incredibly thoughtful.  Getting up in the mornings has been so difficult for me lately (but I do it).  Tuesday morning, he let me sleep in (until 7:15... that's sleeping in around here).  He and Jadon had a breakfast of french toast and scrambled eggs prepared for all of us to have together.  We spent some time reading Scripture and praying together and then we ate and opened our cards to each other.  The morning was more leisurely than a normal Tuesday morning, but alas... life goes on.  Andy left for work, and Jadon and I headed out the door do run some errands.  
Jadon enjoying his french toast and eggs.
Loving his Valentine's Day balloon (from the dollar store).  This and one of those washcloths that you put in the water to expand were what we gave him for Valentine's Day... not a bit of candy - and he was thrilled!
Jadon's cards to "Mom" and "Dad"


Andy's sweet and thoughful gift to me
My little valentine and I ended up at the mall at lunch time and I opted for us to have our lunch together in the food court (something that he and I have done 2 or 3 times ever... so this was a very special treat for both of us).  Jadon took a very good afternoon nap, and then life really got busy.  No wonderfully prepared dinner for three with the nice dishes this year.  Instead, we had a frozen pizza (a little sentimental for Andy and I) along with a few other special sides for our dinner.  Then it was a quick clean-up and out the door we went to a college basketball game.  A wonderful young lady that we know plays on the team and this was our second time getting to see her play.  All three of us love going to see her play, and it was a wonderful way for us to lovingly encourage and support her in her last home game of the season.  It was such a privilege for us to be there!  
Making his Valentine's Day card to bring for our friend playing in the basketball game

So, all in all... not the Valentine's Day celebration that I would have meticulously planned out (if I had found time to meticulously plan the day out), but it ended up being a really fun day.  And this is just the point.  February 14th was not special because of the flowers and candy that were given in our house.  (Andy did not get me flowers, and I didn't give Andy a bit of candy.)  It wasn't special because we had a wonderfully prepared meal to enjoy.  It was special because we put in just a little bit more effort to enjoy one another, encourage others, and give Christ all the credit for the example he set for us to follow in life and in love. 

Sharing a "family kiss" right before our little valentine headed to bed
~ Carrie ~

Monday, February 13, 2012

What We Did with Valentine's Day 2011

It's hard to believe that just over a year ago I started blogging for the first time!  Here's my first repeat post that challenged me (again) as we look to Valentine's Day 2012.  I don't have my full game plan yet, but I'm working on it!  Our day is going to look a little different than last year, but I'm hoping to still have the same (or better) sentiments to take from it.   

from the archives

A couple of Mondays ago I challenged myself, and anyone else reading this, to make Valentine’s Day about more than just romance, flowers, and chocolate.  It was a challenge to anyone, with or without a spouse or romantic interest, to reflect on the example of true love that God has given us and come up with ideas of how to share that love with those around us – particularly those in our families, but also with others.

I’m going to share some of the highlights of our Valentine’s Day celebration and my assessment on how we did in our attempt to redeem this holiday

Pre-Valentine’s Day Events
  • Helping Jadon make a Valentine for Daddy with random crafty stuff I had (foam, stickers, googly eyes, etc.).  Very cute!
  • Making Valentine’s cupcakes for our friends at Bible study and for our neighbors next door (a single mom with 5 children)
  • The hubby planned an evening out for supper and a special dessert, babysitters included (a wonderful couple from our church).  What a wonderful evening out, just the two of us!

Valentine’s Day Happenings
  • Andy and Jadon made a special Valentine’s Day breakfast of heart-shaped pancakes for the three of us.  Before eating, as I mentioned on Monday, Andy read a few verses from 1 Corinthians 13.  It really helped both of us to go into the day with an attitude of serving and caring for one another in love.  This was also when Jadon “gave his cards” to Mommy and Daddy. 
  • Jadon (and I) surprised Daddy with a brief visit at the church and a monkey “I Love You” balloon – yes, he picked it out and it was hilarious! 
  • I made a special Valentine’s Day dinner for just the 3 of us – calzones (kind of a sentimental meal for us from our first couple years of marriage), caesar salad, and raspberry lemonade (gotta have something red!).  Originally I had hoped to make the calzones heart-shaped, but I quickly realized that due to the consistency of the dough… it just wasn’t going to happen… It was still a nice meal, though.  The meal was served with our nice china, good silverware, and crystal goblets – even Jadon’s place was set with a small plate of our china, a big boy fork, and a glass juice cup (which he was particularly excited about).  Andy read from 1 John 4 and we prayed together.  It was a nice time to be grateful of the love we can show to each other only as a result of the love that God showed us through the sacrifice of His Son. 
  • Also at dinner time, we exchanged cards for one another – which were not your “typical” Valentine’s Day cards.  Both my card to Andy and our card to Jadon were homemade.  Andy’s card to me was a store-bought card, but not explicitly Valentine’s Day.  It didn’t bother me in the least, as what he wrote to me in the card meant so much more than what was already printed on it. 
  • Dessert was also on each person’s dinner plate, but was held off until dinner was finished – chocolate dipped pretzels.  Easy, cheap, pretty, and yummy – does it get any better than that?
Valentine's Day Breakfast - sooo cute!

These are the letters from a Valentine's message my husband left for me in the stairwell of my dorm when we were in college.  The whole message included my name, too.  When trying to think of some simple decorating to do before our meal, I remembered I had tucked these away!  Clothes-pinned them to my curtain rod and they're still good to be used next year! 

Valentine's Day Dinner

Checking out his yummy dessert!
Didn't get a picture of the monkey balloon, but this is the frog one Jadon picked out for himself!

So, did our family accomplish what we set out to do this year for Valentine’s Day?  Yes and no. 

We purposely spent more time meditating on and discussing passages of God’s Word that talk about love – His love for us and our love for Him and others.  I think we could have done more of this, but honestly… with an almost 2 year old who just doesn’t get it yet, it was difficult.  I’d like to come up with some more creative ways to incorporate him (young children in general) in this portion of the celebration of Valentine’s Day.

We did find ways to show love to each other in special ways without having to spend lots of money.  I used supplies that I already had on hand to make our cards.  The entire meal I made, including dessert, was made up of ingredients that I almost always have on hand (pizza dough, red sauce, various cheese, and there are lots of other goodies that can be stuffed in a calzone… not to mention basic salad fixings, pretzels, and chocolate melted down for dipping).  Oh, and I put the chocolate-covered pretzels in regular ziplock bags and snipped some ribbon from the balloons we bought (I’ll get to that next) to tie a little boy on each bag.  We purchased 2 helium Valentine’s Day balloons (one for Daddy and one for Jadon) from our local dollar store for – you guessed it – a dollar each.  So, as far as showing love toward each other… I think we did a great job!

We also found opportunities to show love toward others. The cupcakes I made to give away I made from a mix and some canned frosting that were already in my pantry.  This is an area that we could probably have done more in, but during this time we were also helping our church do an outreach ministry to some of the elderly who have been shut-in this winter, so I think we can count that too. 

All in all, I think this was one of my favorite Valentine’s Days ever.  I’ve succeeded in changing my own perspective – at least a little – on this celebration.  In fact… I’m actually kind of looking forward to next year already!  We had a lot of fun together!  Even if you didn’t take my challenge this year, hopefully it will inspire you to start thinking about next year!  

Lots of love for our boy!

How did you redeem Valentine’s Day by showing love toward God in serving and loving others – family, friends, and even strangers?  Leave a comment below.  Maybe you can be an inspiration to me and others! 

Happy Valentine’s Week!

~ Carrie ~

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Checking in on the "To Do List"

It's been almost a month since I posted my 2012 to do list, so I thought it might be time for a little update.  The list was (and is) quite overwhelming to me... and even still, immediately after posting my list, I thought of at three or four additions to it.  So, not all of the things I'm going to mention that have been done are actually a part of my original to do list, but they are still big accomplishments.

My hubby reads my blog.  So, yes... he saw the list.  I'm not sure if he felt a sense of guilt about some of the things that needed to be done (I hope not!  It wasn't meant to be a gigantic honey-do list!) or challenged to see just how much he can get accomplished around the house before little girl arrives.  Either way, he has cranked out a few jobs in the last few weeks that may not be big projects, but nevertheless needed to be done.  

So, Andy accomplished 3 things that have been on the to do list since we moved into our home (two and half years ago...).  Come on... you all have projects like these, right?  A drawer in our kitchen has not worked right since we got here.  It was constantly falling off the track.  Andy tried to fix it a while back and realized it was going to be harder than he thought.  Well, it's fixed and we can finally open and close our "junk drawer" without fear that it's going to completely fall apart on the kitchen floor.  The other 2 projects he tackled were replacing the light fixtures in both bathrooms.  Both are older and, in my opinion, needed some updating, but the one in the full bath had never worked right.  So, for a grand total of $40, both fixtures were replaced and look awesome!  It's amazing how something little like a light can make a huge difference in a space!  

Now onto some things that were actually on my to do list!  

A big thing on our minds has been to convert our guest bedroom into a nursery.  The first step toward doing this was to get new wall-to-wall carpeting.  When we moved in, the carpeting was in rough shape and so we made the decision to rip it out and put down a temporary area rug until the church was ready to replace the carpeting.  We don't use the room much, except when we have company, and even then it was still useable.  But, since we're changing everything all around to prepare for the baby, we felt like this was the right time to finally replace the carpet (and the church agreed).  It was even more exciting when - yup, you guessed it - we got a great deal on the carpet because we were able to select a remnant piece that they had leftover in the warehouse (resulting in just over 50% savings)!  Here are a few pics... unfortunately I must be a terrible blogger because I totally forgot to take before pictures... Oh well!

Jadon enjoyed testing out the new carpet, and insisted on having his picture taken in the "baby's new room"
The new carpet... so soft... and so clean!

 The nursery will still double as a guest room, when necessary, so we've kept the full bed in the room, but have it in a corner to make more space for the baby furniture and "stuff".  

Walking in the door, the bed is on the left and the closet is on the right. 

All the baby's furniture is straight ahead when you walk in.

I'm a little concerned that Jadon may love this bed so much that he wants to sleep there after his sister is home!  (FYI, the glider will be moved if ever we have guests sleeping in this room.)
So, the process is well underway.  There's still lots to be done and decisions to be made, but we've gotten a good jump on the process.  Over the next month or so I'll be shopping sales and looking for bargains to decorate the room.  I have so many ideas rolling around in my head, but have yet to come up with a clear concept of what the room will look like... 

In addition to figuring out the nursery, I've been doing some reorganizing, shopping on Craig's List, and compiling more yard sale items (yup, something else on the list!).  I've also finally begun scrapbooking Jadon (now that his 3rd birthday is less than 2 months away!).  I'll wrap up with a few pictures of what I've done so far...

"Special Delivery Due to arrive on April 2, 2009"... and that's when he arrived!

It's a BOY!
 And so... until the next to do list update!

~ Carrie ~

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Monday, February 6, 2012

It's Time for Something New

Two words - cabin fever.  Yup.  It has officially set in.  

My son keeps looking out onto the deck and asking to go play outside.  I can't blame him.  I keep finding myself gazing out the kitchen window at the blue skies and warm sun.  Then I look at the outdoor temperature, in my mind hoping that it will miraculously say it's in the 60s.  Yeah... that hasn't happened yet.  

When it's warm outside, it's all I can do to keep my boy in the house until 9:30 am (sometimes I let him out earlier...).  He's clearly an outdoors kid.  Now here we are in February, there's no snow on the ground (which is no different from the rest of the winter), appears to be beautiful outside, and it's still in the 30s (if that).  Oh, and might I add, Punxsutaney Phil saw his shadow.  I don't put any stock in Groundhog Day, but still... it's a downer.  

Yes, I'm complaining.  And for those of you fellow New Englanders who may argue that we've had a few seasonably warm days lately, you're right.  Unfortunately those few hours that the temperature dares to climb into the 40s (or higher) happen to be lunch and nap time here in toddlerland.  Yet another downer. 

What can be done about cabin fever?  

"Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord all the earth."
Psalm 96:1

This is a psalm that I have heard referenced several times over the last month, and it's what came to mind this morning during another late-morning toddler tantrum.  I find myself blaming the weather for my son's outbursts.  If only I could send him outside... he'd be a different person, much easier for me to handle!  The weather is only partly to blame.  Sin nature is the other part - both mine and my son's.  

So guess what?  It's time to start singing a new song.  It's time to change things up again.  Where do I look for inspiration?  None other than Pinterest.  Oh yes, my friends.  If you haven't joined, just do it.  Here are some ideas I've come across that I'm hoping will help change the tune at our house.  

"I love you this much!"  So fun!  

Change things up with a "new" game.  Seriously... would this take any more than 10 minutes? 

Once again... cute and easy!  Could be artwork to send to grandparents, too!

Definitely more time consuming initially, but I'm pretty sure my husband would have as much fun with this as my son!

Just a few ideas that we may be trying soon!  Whether you have a toddler or not, how are you going to "sing to the Lord a new song"?  Open the door long enough to let the grouchies out (and still keep the heat in) and rejoice in the Lord with each new day.  

~ Carrie ~