Blessings in the Interruptions

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My husband snapped this picture in the morning before he left for a special assignment… said it was too cute to miss.  Recently, our beautiful girl has decided waking up VERY early is just the thing to do 😉 and I’ve been letting her stay up with me so I can continue with some time to read the Bible and pray.

What I would have considered an interruption has become such a beautiful blessing of extra time to cuddle with her and enjoy alone time with her.  I usually get her some chocolate milk, and coffee for myself, and sit back down where she stays quietly reading one of her books or her little Christmas story Bible (sooo cute!!!) and gives me another 30 minutes to an hour to read and pray.  Our boys were a little too rough and rowdy to have done this (and I tried LOL) so having a sweet, gentle girl is a nice change 😀 !  I love how different they are.

In the book, The Mission of Motherhood, this quote recently stood out,

“How do we make the commitment to give the area of motherhood over to God as a sacrifice of worship to him?

We yield our personal rights into his hands.  We give up our time and expectations to him – and also our fears and worries about how we will manage.  We trust him to take care of us and our family.  We let him redirect our thinking and expectations and adjust our dreams.  And we wait in faith to see the fruit of our hard labor in the lives of our children, knowing that he will be faithful to honor our commitment to him.”

I consider that early morning time – a time of peace and a rare stillness that falls over the house when everyone else is asleep – my time to replenish and really focus on God and His Word.  I can see how it could be called my “Me-Time,” or be something a friend would say I have a “right” to.  And I get it – having that time not go as I planned due to a fussy baby means mentally or emotionally giving up this “right.”

We’re all about “rights” as women in this day and age.  Whether it’s the “right” to some alone time, the “right” to some pampering, or even the “right” to complain (yes, I’ve heard this!), it seems we live a chronic state of feeling we deserve certain circumstances or treatment.  Since mothers usually do spend a lot of time serving, I think we have this expectation that we should receive a form of “payment” in return for all our efforts.  But that’s just it – a real sacrificial love doesn’t demand (or even expect) payment or retribution for things lost like time and energy.  Is alone time or being pampered inherently bad?  Of course not 🙂 but it can be if we view them as though they’re owed to us because we “sacrifice so much.”

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Loving our children in such a way that we try to re-frame these interruptions, or messes… or accidents… into opportunities for blessings or “divine appointments,” as Clarkson calls them, is such a dramatic difference in perspective.  I admit this is something I have to routinely call myself back to in keeping in focus.

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“Greater love has no one than this,

that one lay down his life for his friends.”

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Clarkson goes on to describe God’s design for motherhood as comparable to what Jesus described in John 15:13.  Mother’s in many ways, are called to figuratively “lay down their lives” for their children.

This means that even when we don’t feel like it, we choose to “serve” them by getting up with them or helping them get back to sleep. ❤

It means that even when it’s the millionth time that week that we’re cleaning the kitchen floors because babies and toddlers eat so messy, that we choose to do it anyway.  ❤

It may mean SO many different changes and sacrifices made toward goals, careers, dreams, or life plans in ensuring they’re getting what they all need from us.

Something I’ve been thinking about, and something that has been brought to the forefront as we’ve had more children, is the “cost” of motherhood.  How deep is that cost I don’t know.  I’m sure it differs for each family, and certainly when considering how many children a mother has, but it is a topic very interesting to me when thinking about how much a woman gives up (yet also gains) when living out the role of a mother?

If anyone has any ideas on this topic I’d love to hear them!

Stephanie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Feeling Like We Live in a Barn!

This past few weeks have flown by so fast!  So much has happened and it’s felt like a whirlwind.  Between my husband achieving a huge goal he’s set his sights on for a few years ❤ and then going to one of our beloved Lieutenant’s retirement parties *tear*, and going to a Fourth of July wedding, and making a road trip to see family… it’s been a little crazy.

And… we’ve added two new furry members of our family!

On top of that, a few weeks ago a baby dove fell out of it’s nest and onto my husband’s car.  He luckily saw it before work, came back inside to tell me to get it, and we managed to take care of it for a few weeks until it could fly.  We’ve had over TWENTY animals come through our house, obviously almost 100% we’ve rehabilitated and found homes for… but this time I wondered “how do they find us?!?!”

My husband loves to tease me that I’m like some disney character who calls to the animals and they all come to her!  I swear I’m not doing this!!!!

It was so sweet hand-feeding a baby bird, having it practice flying to all of our heads 😀 and watching it grow up so much!  The boys named him “Walle,” from the robot movie LOL, and wow did he ever have a big, funny personality.

This past week we gave it to a Wildlife Rescue Center in our city where they introduced it to other birds and allowed it to fly in an aviary until it was able to be re-released.  White winged doves usually find a mate and stick with them for life, so hopefully our little Walle finds his lifetime partner. ❤

First picture above was when we first found him, he was mostly all pin-feathers!  He was SO tiny, and seemed very fragile.  Second picture is when he’s a little older and more fluffed out.

He loved to be close and cuddle with us!  Everything I read about these birds when we were figuring out how to care for him said that they belong in the wild and not with people, but he seemed to love living the life of domestication!  Honestly, it was so much fun taking care of him.  He was sweet, bossy, funny, and affectionate 🙂 just a very cute baby dove.

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The wedding we went to was very intimate and beautiful, we felt honored to be invited.  They are both on the more introverted side, and this sweet wedding was probably the most romantic wedding I’ve ever been to.

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Then we went on a short road trip to visit family and let the boys do fireworks at night.  I never thought I’d be one of those women who carry little dogs in their purse, but this was SO much fun lol!!

I carried them around in this over-sized purse as much as I could to get them used to it, and they really seemed to like it as they were able to be close and go everywhere I went.  It was so cute, too, definitely had to get some pictures!!!

They’re cute, even if they’re blurry lol!

It was a fun trip, and the boys got to do fireworks for the first time.

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It was so exciting!!!  I loved watching their dad and Grandpa teach them how to do this.

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The sparklers were the easiest.  Our toddler did try to grab the hot end after it went out, but Grandpa managed to catch his hand before the little one grabbed it.  He did barely swipe it though and had a little pain on one tip of his finger (thank God!), but no burn or anything serious.

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It was some serious fire-power though!

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The big ones were legit scary for me!!  My husband handled those by himself and they were amazing!

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My husband shooting one of the Roman Candles (I think?) into the sky.

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It’s been a fun few weeks!  We’ve had lots of things going on, lots of animals in and out it seems… kind of feeling like we live in a barn 🙂  And that’s ok.

Stephanie

Adventure into Beauty

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We went on an adventure yesterday… and found a beautiful place to fall in love with.  The beauty and serenity of this place was breathtaking.

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We’re big nature lovers.  Even when we were just dating 12 years ago, my husband and I loved going for hikes and seeking out new outdoorsey adventures to embark on together.

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And now these little ones get to do that!  I have to add… this wagon is a GREAT investment for little ones who can’t walk yet or just get tired and need to sit awhile.  We’ve been having so much fun taking it everywhere.

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It’s like a little baby bus or something… just too cute!

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More baby bus… 😀

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She knows she’s emptying out that bottle upside down!!! LOL

We got to see lots of wildlife yesterday.

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We even got our ducks in a row.

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1… 2… 3…   ❤

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But again, it was just so breathtakingly beautiful.

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I think I’m going to have some of these photographs blown up and printed out for our oldest’s room.  He really loved taking it all in.

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A family of ducks learning to fish.

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So serene.

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We packed our lunches and snacks so we were actually able to picnic there.

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Well… this one picnic’d right inside her baby bus!  LOL

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Pretty little lady. ❤

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Overall it was a great adventure.

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I’m sure we’ll be back again.

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Stephanie

Look Who Just Turned 1 Year Old!!!

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This past weekend was definitely a crazy one.  With Father’s Day and celebrating our little one’s first birthday, there was just A LOT to be happy and joyful about!!!  ❤

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I went to our local grocery bakery and found her the perfect little cake.  It was white cake with fresh strawberry creamed icing (soooo delicious since it was naturally flavored!).

My mom did the honor of creating this little spread for photographing it.

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She really upped the elegance with her table settings ❤

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Le sigh… will they let me eat it? ❤

And in other news… Baby Girl is pulling up and starting to walk a little when assisted!

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That concentrating face though 😀 ❤  Aww sweet little one!!!

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We also had the incredible opportunity to dedicate our daughter to God on Father’s Day (how cool is that?!?!)!

Ugh just so much love here!

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My husband took these pics before church started Sunday… it was a sweet, tender moment

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There were more than a few tears shed this past Sunday when I heard our pastor praying over my husband and blessing him as the good, godly father he is.

I know I’ve posted before how we’ve dedicated each of our children to the Lord, but this one happening to fall on Father’s Day was just extra sweet and special.  Again… I had tears!

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Can’t resist ONE more picture of this delicious cake!!

Hope your weekend was just as beautiful and splendid!

We’re over the moon with love ❤

Stephanie

Make a Weapons Wall for Your Boys!

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For at least a year (maybe two… it honestly runs together with the babies and pregnancies), I’ve wanted to create a Weapons Wall for our boys and all their weapons.  We just have so many, and storing them in a “Weapons Box” is great and all, but we’d rather actually see them and get to admire them everyday 😀 .

Can you tell we live in Texas? LOL ❤

Anyway… this was a very easy project.  Just gather all your weapon toys, lay them out so you can see them, categorize them, plan where they should go on a wall (or several walls if you have enough), and the put them up!

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It’s a little dark because I had to do this at night when they were sleeping.

First, I planned out where the suit of armor would go…

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This is actually the pieces from the Armor of God.  The Helmet of Salvation, the Breastplate of Righteousness, the Belt of Truth, the Gospel of Peace leg armor, the Shield of Faith, and the Sword of the Spirit – which is the Word of God.

Also… there’s Thor’s hammer, for our Little Viking 😉

And we have a bigger size (and more realistic) ancient looking helmet for our oldest.

Everything is hanging, that way it’s easy to pull off and put back on.  If anyone has any ideas to use something other than tacks, I’d love to know!

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Something I really love is all the knives they have… especially the Bowie knife, from James Bowie, one of the wild and crazy heroes of the Alamo battle and Texas Revolution.  What an amazing man he was!  He’s remembered as one of the fiercest fighting men of Texas history.

Doing this also helped us realize they need more guns.  And I haven’t figured out how to hang the nerf guns the oldest has 🙂 so they’re still in his room.  He also has really awesome laser guns that help him better his aim (to near perfection)!  But those would need more heavy duty stuff to figure out how to hang.

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What’s missing also is their swords and light sabers… we may move the alphabet and start more on that side going down.

The bow, arrows, and quiver toys are so much fun!  They really work!  And my oldest told me he and my mom made that quiver together ❤ .  How cool is that?!

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Apparently recently in the UK, time has stopped over the young Prince George playing like a normal boy would… with a weapon.  LOL

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“Completely tone deaf of Kate… to give Prince George a toy gun. Doesn’t she read the papers in her own country with all the gun deaths? If the Duchess of Sussex had done this, she would be excoriated in the media! Lucky George isn’t black or police would have shot him,” one user wrote.

Another chimed in, “#PrinceGeorge playing with a toy gun! Unelievable! #KensingtonPalace shame!

“This isn’t okay anymore…  My American side here, biased maybe b/c of everyday #gunviolence in USA, but my British side agrees.  No child in this day and age should look at any gun as a fun toy. This looks far too real,” someone else wrote.

And that… is why they’re losing their country to Muslims.

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Anyway, I’m sure there are much better weapons walls out there, but this is just our version and it was definitely a fun project!

If anyone has ideas for how to hang nerf guns… that may just be our next thing!

Stephanie

Related Reading –

Lake Break!

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Yesterday we spent some time out at the lake.  The water and the drive through the hill country was just breathtakingly beautiful!  Such a nice change of scenery!

And very peaceful ❤

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What is it about toddlers and throwing rocks into water? It’s so cute and adorable how they love to see them plunk and splash!  He had a blast!

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It was hot… not over 100’F, but close though (97’F)!  Which is a big deal for us here that it didn’t go over, LOL!  It was nice and windy, especially with that lake breeze near the water.

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The little viking child!! ❤

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Just the colors of the water and the greenery were amazing to me.  When we were driving up on a hill, you could see the entire lake and how blue it was from that far away.

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Hope you readers are enjoying your summer to the fullest extent possible.  It is gorgeous out there, even if it is hot.  Enjoy the season and take it for what it is!  I know we are!

Stephanie

Teach Your Kids to Have a Spirit of Excellence

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The Spirit of Excellence Work Ethic

When studying the passage about what the virtuous wife does, it was clear that everything she has control over, she’s intentionally trying to achieve excellence in.  Obviously that is extremely hard to achieve, and I don’t think it happens overnight or even necessarily when one is just starting out in a marriage.  It takes work.  It takes brutal honesty about where we are in that struggle for achieving more discipline or excellence in the work we’re doing.  I don’t think we should feel intimidated by it, but instead inspired to do better in things we’re honestly failing in.

And if you’re a mom, your most important work right now is being an excellent wife to your husband and mother to your kids.  We have so much power over the lives of our children!  I was recently listening to a 6-sermon series by Doug Fields on that very topic of how important it is to make sure we’re being *good* mothers to our kids.  I’ll probably write more on that in other posts.

It’s just important to note that developing an attitude toward your life that inspires you to try to achieve excellence in all you do, is biblical and not to be dismissed as simply being some kind of Super Mom.

And it’s not about a suffocating existence of constantly striving.

It truly is a fine balance.  Striving, I believe, comes from the desire for perfection and perfectionism, even prideWhereas having a spirit of excellence is a totally different attitude!  When you intimately understand that you are NOT your own, that your body is God’s Temple, that you are only a STEWARD over the body and talents and gifts and money God has given you, then your work ethic is correctly lined up with wanting to please God – who is your Boss, since EVERYTHING you own or have control over, belongs to Him and you’re just the steward.  It comes from humility, but that doesn’t mean fighting off pride isn’t sometimes still a battle.

When you have this mindset of developing a spirit of excellence, everything about you changes.  You want to please God, your perfect Boss who loves you beyond imagination!  Whereas striving for perfection is about either pleasing other people or wanting to look good in their eyes – neither of which is a virtuous goal.

With developing a spirit of excellence, you WANT to make the best choices that will give Him back the best RETURN of His INVESTMENT in you as a person.  While striving is all about the desire to control, having a spirit of excellence toward what God’s given you is manifested in relinquishing control over your life and offering it up to Him – and making sure it is an excellent offering!

The Bible tells us that in everything we do, to do it as though we were working for God.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:17

A Spirit of Excellence Effects All of You –

We have a white board in our kitchen/dining area (it’s all kind of one space lol) and it’s convenient for teaching lessons or writing Scripture for the week to memorize, or even for him to practice sentence writing and spelling words.  It’s been a GREAT investment… just one little white board 🙂

I wrote the title Spirit of Excellence at the top, with the basic definition and words that were synonymous with it.  We talked about what excellence then meant – in a broad, general kind of way.

Then I drew 3 small circles and wrote over each one:

BODY       –>          MIND         –>        GOD

(Increasing in difficult)

It’s the physical element of yourself, your mental and emotional health, and then also your spiritual standing with God since we’re a Christian family.  In my opinion, it increases in difficulty when you view it in this order.  Your body can be difficult to master, but at least it’s physically right there with you – you can touch it, look at it, and more easily understand what may need to change to make it a pillar of excellence.

Your mind working as it should is a lot harder to see clearly – to understand if you are seeing clearly, since everything you view is filtered through it, for good and bad.  It’s basically your mental health and mental abilities (learning, relating, communicating or processing through problems), which for probably more people than we’d like to think, it’s a little harder to have excellence over something you can’t see, touch, and don’t know if you’re “feeling” through a faulty filter.

And the last principle of excellence was GOD.  This is the hardest for mankind to sort out in general, hence why having a strong relationship with God is becoming a fairly rare thing in the world.  It means you have to be open to rebuke and discipline, that you have to be willing to be convicted when you’ve done something wrong or harmed someone else.  When you’re reporting to God everyday, you are held to the highest standard of conduct and responsibility for your choices, because you are His ambassador, His steward over your talents and gifts.  All that takes humility, in fact having a relationship with God at all, takes immense amounts of humility because you have to allow Him to mold you and change you overtime, and to let go of sinful things that are holding you back (but that you like!).

The amazing thing is that if you “master” this principle in gaining a good relationship with God where He is Lord over all of your life, the other principles of your body and mind tend to fall in place as well.

Flow when mastered:

GOD     –>    MIND    –>     BODY

First your mind, since you are allowing God to direct your steps, your mind is the first place He will go to make the necessary convictions and changes.  Then lastly it’s your body, because if you aren’t taking care of it as you should be, eventually you will start feeling ashamed (in your mind!) of laziness or the lack of discipline in that area of your life (when everything else is becoming more and more disciplined and orderly and beautiful), and your body will follow through with being healthily disciplined with working out and eating healthy.

Developing a spirit of excellence in all these things means you will probably stand out more than people around you, like Daniel and his friends did, or how Joseph or Esther or Ruth did.  Unless you specifically search out the people who are also pursuing excellence in everything as well, which is necessary to continued growth.

You can’t do this alone very well, we all need accountability and fellowship with like-minded believers who will hold you accountable to living with a spirit of excellence.  What better way than to surround yourself with people who are also trying to foster a spirit of excellence in their lives as well?

Our children need to be watching their parents living out having a spirit of excellence, and as their mom, what better way than to study the Scriptures, and in particular, the Proverbs 31 woman?

Stephanie

 

Parenting – Teaching Your Children to Use Their Gifts

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Our oldest is just amazing.  I know I’m his mom and so of course I’m biased… but oh my gosh, God has blessed him with many talents and gifts!  He’s kind… he’s gentle… he’s a strong leader and he’s only 7 years old!!!!!  Watching him is so inspiring to me to be a better mom – to be the mom he truly deserves in life (and yes, I feel like I fail constantly)!  We all deal with some amount of “Mom Guilt.”

Anyway… his school was having a city-wide art competition, and right away I was like, “You have to do this.”  He doesn’t believe in himself, just like I was growing up and still have issues with at times.  But his raw talent and gifts can’t just be shut up inside him and never used or developed!

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This is something I wish I had learned earlier in life myself – that my gifts, whatever they were, were supposed to be used and practiced and developed and strengthened!  It’s nice to have people loyally on your side, watching you with a gracious intent, gently encouraging you to use your gifts, but usually none of us really have people like that around, so we develop self-consciousnesses or neurotic beliefs that we’re always wrong or not very good.

And I see them reflected in my son.  His self-doubt, his belief that he’s actually NOT a good artist, or that he’s not funny, and not that smart (when he makes All A’s and B’s and excels in things like math!!).  It’s weird to me how we can have such a distorted view of ourselves when in reality, we are given so much more than we see.  This is what I imagine Paul was referring to when he was encouraging Timothy to not let anyone look down on him because he was young, but to set an example for other believers and to USE his gifts, and practice them and develop them.

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Practice.

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Develop

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It took him 3 days doing it a few hours at a time, and I had to keep reminding him that he probably wanted to work on it or it wouldn’t be finished in time for the contest, and he did want to finish it.  The more he painted, the more he enjoyed it, too!  As he and our other children grow older, I’m not going to be harping on them as much so that they can learn that if they don’t hustle and do their work on time – or be consistent in it – they will miss MANY opportunities in life and some that they won’t get a second chance at.

 

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But for now, I’m like the woman Jesus talked about who kept pestering a man to do what she wanted 😀  I will encourage him, remind him, love him, prod him, and “train him up in the way he should go,” according to his gifts I’ve seen God has given to him.

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His art teacher came up to me with excitement yesterday when I picked him up from school, and told me with wide eyes that he had placed in the competition… out of THOUSANDS of other kids who entered all over our city!  He won his school somewhere between $1,000-3,000 in art supplies!!!  Of course we were so proud of him!!!

And I asked him in the car when we were driving back home, if he was glad that I pushed him to enter… because he never would have known if he could win if he hadn’t even tried.

I explained to him again that when God gives us special gifts like that, He expects us to USE them for Him, and that others are BLESSED through our gifts – but only if we have enough confidence in ourselves to decide to step out in faith act.  We are also blessed when we bless others!  As he found out when he won that much money for his art teacher!  It’s a blessing to be able to bless other people!

He’s heard about the parable of the talents, but it will probably be a deeper lesson saved for when he is a little older – that if we don’t use our gifts, that God may decide to take them away.  I know it sounds harsh, but we are stewards of the things God has given us, and that includes our giftings and talents.

May we all learn to be more confident in the gifts God has given us, and to use them, practice them, develop and strengthen them for His glory.

Stephanie

So. Much. Love.

So… our schedule has become topsy-turvy the last 2-3 weeks or so.  I just wrote not that long ago, about our Fall routine simplicity and how beautiful it was to serve my husband and son so early in the morning, even sacrificing sleep with an infant, and the reward of getting to know (and sometimes hear even though I try really hard not to listen lol) that they’re talking about things my husband thinks are important for our son.  It’s the only time of day (when he’s not off for the whole day that is) when our son gets to see his dad.  So their time is critically important and so beautiful to orchestrate and watch from a distance.

Go figure that once we’re nicely settled into a good routine, flowing beautifully, a yucky wrench gets thrown in that makes life a lot more difficult.  It’s starting to be funny to me how life is just like that; at least unforeseen things keep us on our toes and understand our place as mere humans ❤

So I’m sitting here in the morning, and in such awe of how much love I have when hearing them talk – hearing my husband gently but authoritatively guide our son in direction, answer his questions, listen to his problems or stories.  This time together is so precious!  I’m so grateful that even though our schedule (my husband’s schedule) has changed again, it still allows for this to happen every morning.

It’s just So. Much. Love.

Our Winter Wonderland Experience!

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Taking a break from writing the Proverbs 31 series, I wanted to take some time to finally upload our pics from our mini “Winter Vacation” a couple of weeks ago.  San Antonio never gets real snow.  Well, one time back in 1985, but even that was called a “100-year snow,” for us.  Soooooo  we decided that since we missed going to the beach/island this Summer due to so many car issues, that we’d instead drive up to the mountains in New Mexico for a little less than a week to see if we could catch some snow for the boys to see!

It was the best decision ever to do this – our oldest had so much fun!  I’ve never even seen snow like we saw on the last 2 days there (we planned it somehow just right)!  It was so exciting (and FREEZING COLD)!  It made me SO GRATEFUL that we live in South Texas.  I love the heat… yes, even the really extreme heat we get in the Summer.  We live very close to a great waterpark and have access to swimming all day if we want.  It’s bliss ❤  🙂

But as for New Mexico’s mountain chill – wow!  We had all the correct clothing and even snow boots for everyone, but mentally, I was so not prepared for that level of cold!

We stayed a little cozy cabin in the area of a ski resort (that wasn’t open for a few more days – we got the best price because of this, and yet we still got to see their ski slopes with “created” snow).

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This day wasn’t actually that cold, hence the hoodies (they had layers of clothes underneath though!).  These were some photos of the bottom of the slopes at the ski resort.  We weren’t sure we’d be able to play around there so I didn’t wear my snow boots, the boys did though.

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New Mexico with it’s deserts and mesas and mountains was incredibly beautiful!  I’m not posting a lot of our pics of exploring the town and the mountains because I tend to take too many anyway, but I wanted to show the most exciting parts for us: the snow!

I loved seeing all the thousands of fir trees, and we were lucky to get to see it before and then after the first snowfall of the season.  I thought it’s scenery was equally as beautiful – it was that stunning.

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Our big window in the cabin the morning after the big snowfall.

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Our patio showing just about how many inches we got overnight in the mountains!  Wow!!!

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Our adorable little cabin!  It was a great stay and experience we’ll never forget.

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So. Beautiful.

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Thanks for reading 😉