Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Beginning Advent

Our fondest Christmas memories began to take place ten years ago, 
when a few odd circumstances set into motion a new tradition for our family, 
one which we would come to anticipate with great joy, 
relish its duration, 
and look forward to next year. 
The tradition of Advent.

The first thing that happened, was that we moved away from family
into a very small parsonage with our (then 5) children.  
Christmas time came, and we had absolutely no room for a Christmas tree.
  Secondly, we would not have family to celebrate with, 
and thirdly, we had very little means to purchase our chilren gifts. 
But alas, Brian found a wonderful book that inspired us to new beginnings. 
That would be The Advent Book, by Jack and Kathy Stockman. 
I think back on that year as a providential "accident"
that led the way for our family to let go of what we thought Christmas should be like 
and simply embrace celebrating the coming of Christ.

The way in which that formulated for us, was each evening for family devotion and reading time, 
we let the children take turns opening a door in the new book.  
All the children would eagerly gather together at daddy's feet to see what came next. 
We opened the last door Christmas day, and celebrated with a nice brunch, 
in which I made a new found recipe which would become another part of the tradition, 
Christmas Bread.
Our celebration that year looked so different from years before, 
and was so vastly more Christ centered,
that everyone agreed we should do the same thing next year.

Ten years later, we have added to the splendor of our Advent celebration,
and deterred from "Christmas" as our culture celebrates. 
We have found it to be a wonderful, simple, serene, focused season. 
Our children love it. 
I love it.  
We all cherish the rituals that hallmark this season.
The festivities include adorning the lodge with the natural beauty of evergreens 
and the capitvating and alluring glow of candles, 
a  Child friendly nativity,
an Advent wreath on the coffee table , 
and 25 handmade cards with some of the prophecies of the coming Christ.

To this we have the daily ritual, which we partake of in the crisp winter evening;
lighting  the wreath,
opening of doors in the Advent book, 
and the reading of a fictional book, such as Jotham's Journey,
while we gather by the fireside in the living room sipping a relaxing tea that will ready the children for bed.  Thus, each evening is oppulant with the warm companionship of family and meaningful readings.

Each Sunday night, the table is set lavishly for tea
as a way of emphasizing a new candle to light in the wreath, 
another virtue to learn and embrace. 

So many of our holiday memories have found their beginnings around the  family table, 
where family ties, discipleship, and home cooked fare join our hearts to one another. 
In our home, someone almost always spills their water. 
It would hardly be a Providence Lodge dinner without it,
but these are the very things that endear us to each other, and cause us to smile. 

Around our home, you will see the Wise Men, 
having set off on their journey to the Christ Child with a long way to go in the next 5 weeks.  
They are currently in the dining room window.

Mary and Joseph await their firstborn son on the newly fashioned mantle,
where a shepherd boy watches his sheep nearby.

The words of Advent,
Faith, Hope, Love and Joy
that teach us and instill in us a profound sense of the history,
the longing of so many,  
the full story and meaning of Emanuel, God with us.

This first week of Advent, we recall the Faith of so many over thousands of years,
looking for the promised one.  
As we sing O come O Come Emanuel, 
I cannot help but envision the multitudes whose souls longed to see the Messiah come. 
They had faith, they knew it would be, and they waited expectantly.
These people of Faith  held the 450 some prophecies of the Messiah close in their hearts, 
waiting and watching. 
They had Faith to believe God's Word and live by it, 
no matter what the rest of the world was doing.  
Inspiring faith. 
Oh to have such steadfast faith! 

When Christmas Day comes, 
and the last door is opened, 
the last candle lit,
the Christmas Bread made and enjoyed, 
we will make a little journey ourselves to visit family not so far away.
Our prayer then, is that through this focused season of Advent,
we will have embraced the Savior so thoroughly 
that the aroma of Christ is very present on us
as we live each day of the next year
for Him.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

ThanksGiving Feast

The table was set.
Tthe children wriggled and paced impatiently for the guests to arrive 
for a midday feast.

My dear, wonderful, servant husband awoke at 5 am to put the 25 lb. turkey in the oven.  
We have long prepared our turkey the old fashioned way.
  Remember the magazine "Crowned With Silver?" 
I found a turkey recipe in it years ago, and we all agree it is the best turkey ever. 
First,  rub the turkey with salt and pepper inside and out, then glaze it with olive oil. 
Then cook it slowly at 325 degrees for 8 hours, basting every hour.  
By 1 pm, all was ready, and our 6 college age guests were eyeing the dishes 
whilst small children climbed all over them.  
Such is the hospitality at  our home.

Finally all are seated at the two long tables pushed together to house all 16 of us. 
5 kernals of corn are given to each person to contemplate
as Brian reads to us of the first Thanksgiving. 
We took turns around the table giving thanks, 
and then,
the feasting!

Gabe liked desert the best.

Following a wonderful meal with delightful company,
we played "telephone pictionary" and other games until we could laugh no more.
  After tucking the little ones in bed, 
we all settled in around the living room to play the "question game" until the end of the day, 
which was quite late for us old folk, 
when some of the young ones were just getting started.

Brian and I agree that this was one of the most enjoyable Thanksgiving celebrations we remember.

My tummy muscles still hurt from laughing, 
and my heart if full of gratitude to many loved ones near and far, 
and for a great and mighty God who has blessed us indeed.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Speaking Life

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue."
  Proverbs 18:21

This verse is written on the white board. 
Under it, I also wrote, as much a reminder to myself as to the children,
"Choose your words carefully.  Think: am I speaking life?"

Words give life to our very souls.
We want to teach our children to understand that their speech can foster harm or health. 
Psalm 34:12-13, one of the three rules in our home says: 
"Whosoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies." 

Sarcasm and complaining are two negative habits that lead to death.
  The Greek word for sarcasm literally means, "tearing flesh."
If we use sarcasm in the home,
our caustic words 
rip at the hearts
of the one we speak to, 
shred apart
who they are. 
I know this well, having a fresh experience with it just the other day.
 I used a sarcasitc coment, thinking it would be funny, 
but to my horror, the person I spoke to sort of wilted, obviously not seeing any humor in it at all. 
I had already been contemplating this verse, and the lesson smarted. 
As it should. 
I was out of line, and I hope I can always recall how terrible I felt,
so that I can avoid such statements in the future.

For further contemplation, I have a list of verses to ponder...
perhaps to write out on 3 x 5 cards and place around the house to be reminders.
Prov. 16:23 "A wise man's heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction."
Prov. 16:24 " Pleasant words are a honey comb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."
Prov. 10:20 " The tongue of the righteous is choice silver..the lips of the righteous nurish many."
Prov. 13:2 "From the fruit of his lips a man enjoys good things."
Prov. 13:3 "He who guards his lips guards his soul, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin."
Prov. 13:14 "A gentle answer turns away rath, but harsh words stir up strife."
Prov. 25:11 "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver."

Practice words of life:

I love you.
I am proud of you. 
I accept you. 
God loves you.
  I am sorry.  
Please forgive me. 
Great job! 
I forgive you.
You are such a blessing.  
You are a treasure.
  I knew you could do it!
  You are beautiful. 
I am so thankful for  you.

"The good we could do in our homes with our tongues
if we would use them to the utmost limit of their capacity is simply impossible to compute.  
Especially why should we ever pervert these gifts and use our tongues to do evil,
to give pain, to scatter seeds of bitterness?" 
J.R. Miller, Homemaking pp 183

"Reckless words pierce like a sword,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing." 
Prov. 12:18
Am I speaking life, or death?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The First Snow

Last evening:

The first snow of the season is falling gently this evening, 
in great big thick flakes wafting down from heaven. 

Inside, the children are playing a game they made up titled "Finding Nemo"  
where they hide a plastic Nemo fish and everyone searches for it.  

Gabe has gotten tired of it and is putting all his dinosaurs to sleep.

The snow is supposed to continue, 
which means that tomorrow we will make paper snowflakes and sugar cookies, 
as is our tradition.

Soon it will be time for tea and a story before bed.  
The children will be all cozy in warm jammies,
nestled in a heap on the couch,
the littlest ones will fight sleep, but finally their blonde heads will flop over as weariness defeats them. 
I love watching this. 
Their eyes blink, 
opening less 
and less...
and finally not at all.

What am I thankful for at the end of this day, the first day of snow?

For the warmth of the fireside...
the new stove set in place with only the mantel left to finish.

For friends who know you and love you anyway.

For the acceptance of little children when you are feeling down.
For a God whom I can believe.
For quiet evenings with family.
For living in a place where we can enjoy 4 seasons.

For the beginning of winter and all it will bring.

There is no better lullaby than thoughts of gratitude to our heavenly Father.  
What better way to send children off to dreamland, under a sea of blankets, 
than with such thoughts on their mind.

"Come, cuddle your head on my shoulder dear,
your head like the golden-rod, 
and we will go sailing away from here to the beautiful land of Nod."
Ella Wilcox

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Change of Plans

"Thou art the God who does wonders; 
Thou hast declared thy strength among the people."
Psalm 77:14

God is who He says He is.
We need to trust in Him. 
He will provide.
He will watch over you.

  As is the case so often, 
my ideals for a "normal" schedule of just school, church, and hospitality 
have gotten reorganized into something altogether different. 
It is alright, we are used to being flexible.
I am getting the idea that NORMAL for us
means that every day is different
and I can expect that it will rarely be just school, church and hospitality.
I can expect that God has great things in store,
and so I may trust Him
even when things look different than what I thought should or would happen.

First, our old wood stove, given to us years ago as a hand me down, 
had some sort of catastrophe in its catalytic and began performing poorly,
burning through our hard earned wood rapidly and putting all the heat up the chimney. 
We could not go on like this, our large home was cold, and it is not even winter yet. 
To make a long story short, we searched for a new wood stove that would put out the maximum heat possible and came up with the Kuma Sequoya, made locally, which is convenient. 
This stove will produce 90,000 BTUs verses our old stove at 55,000 in good working condition,
which it was not.  
So, the Lord knows all these things, 
and he ordered it so that when we went to pick up the new stove, 
the owner, a believer and elder in his church, 
decided to 
us the stove. 
Oh MY!!!!! 

This is the very stove that we had originally intended on buying when we started building the lodge, 
but it wasn't feasible at that time so we just put in this other stove for the time being.  
The hearth had not been finished, and in fact, we needed to enlarge it 
so that there is room in front of the stove. 

So the last week has been spent with Brian and I working on enlarging the hearth, 
sheeting it, texturing, painting, laying granite (another free provision from a friend) 
and then installing the new stove. 
Well, we were having unusually cold weather until the day we had to take out the old stove,
when it warmed up over 15 degrees outside.  
We are able to borrow a kerosene heater from a  friend in the meantime, 
and although my nose is cold, we are making out OK until tonight, 
when the new stove can be set in. 
It is sooooo exciting!

 Here is the old stove and unfinished hearth.

Here I am working on the newly sized hearth.
After Brian added to the hearth and sheet rocked it, I layed in the stone with mortar mix.
Today I hope to texture and paint the outside walls.  
Yesterday, Ben painted the inside.

Well, to add to that change of plans, 
Joe broke his arm clean through both bones at wrestling practice, 
which means a big altering of how things work around here for both him and the rest of the family. 
It happens to be his right arm too, so no hand writing for a while,
no washing dishes, which was his chore after breakfast.  
No chopping wood, his afternoon chore, 
and no wrestling.  

He also is a big help with Olivia, but it will be more difficult for him to carry her now. 
Therefor, we need to rearrange the chores,
adjust his wardrobe to accommodate a cast up beyond his elbow,
reorganize his school work to more computer work that he can do with just his left hand, 
and assign him more reading/recitation.
He is thankful that he already shot his deer, 
just a few nights ago, his first buck.

It seems the lord was looking out for him and the family meat supply.
Both stories told, we are just amazed at the way God works all things out for our good. 
Things that look like a bad deal, 
He, and He only, 
can turn into blessings for those who put their trust in Him.

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