Merry Christmas Readers!

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Phew!!!!  I’m typing this as I’m making 2 tarts at the moment.  One traditional chocolate (very simplistic, with just a few ingredients that create the most decadent, yet simple taste), and a white chocolate swirled with butterscotch sauce for my husband.

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I guess it’s a let’s write between stirring the chocolate kind of night.  I am tired. 🙂  December flew by for us, and to be honest, it was a little too fast and crazy for our normal style.  Lots of things we went to, formal Christmas stuff, family outings, a few birthday parties, two that celebrated our Christmas baby.  And lots and lots of baking.

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When we needed to go to a Christmas formal, I thought it’d be fun to set up the kids and my mom (who was going to watch them that night) with a table ready for decorating Christmas cookies if they wanted to.

So the night before the formal, while doing some home-primping girly things, I was also cutting out and baking sugar cookies.  It was so much fun to do this and set up all the sprinkles (we have quite a collection!) and frostings for them to do the next day.

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I have such fond memories of doing these kinds of things with my mom, and how wonderful that she gets to repeat it with my children.  And with the exact same cookie cutters she always used with us!

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We also set the kids up like this another time when we went out to do some Christmas shopping together.  If any readers have any other ideas for what kids can do when you’re out at parties or dances and such, I’d love to hear them.  Hopefully next year’s December will calm down some, and we intend to make more so, for good measure.

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Seeing reindeer was one of the highlights!  And camels, although we didn’t get a picture of the camels 😀

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Fascinated faces… lol

Lots of fun things…

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And mesmerizing sights…

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I think we all drank our weight in hot chocolate 😉

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Our mornings have often been spent cuddling together, and squished, as all our children just have to all sit on the same couch at the same time with me LOL 🙂 it’s just one of those things where you have to take a moment.  We may go to fancy things sometimes… but on the whole, this is our reality.  And we are very, very full.

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And don’t worry, if you feel overwhelmed or stressed out this season, always remember… you’re not alone 😉

Somewhere, there is a baby being forced to see Santa…

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Merry Christmas!!!!

Stephanie

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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

Praying Over Our Children

With the school year about to start, and so many little ones (and big ones) returning to school for another year, I found a list our church gave us for praying over our children when we dedicate them – our baby’s dedication was about a month ago.

Our oldest is going to school for the first time, and with all the evil in the world, with all the strange things he may encounter, I feel like its our responsibility to pray over our children.

I’m praying specifically for my sons’:

Salvation –

Lord, let salvation spring up within my children, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.  Isaiah 45:8; 2 Timothy 2:10

Growth in Grace –

I pray that my children may grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  2 Peter 3:18

Love –

Grant, Lord, that my children may learn to live a life of love, through the Spirit who dwells in them.  Galations 5:25; Ephesians 5:2

Honesty & Integrity –

May integrity and honest be my children’s virtue and their protection.  Psalm 25:21

Self-Control –

Father, help my children not to be like many others around them, but let them be alert and self-controlled in all they do.  Psalm 19:10

Justice –

God, help my children to love justice as You do and act justly in all they do.  Psalm 11:7; Micah 6:8

Mercy –

May my children always be merciful, just as their Father is merciful.  Luke 6:36

Respect –

Father, grant that my children may show proper respect for their selves, others, and for authority figures, as Your Word commands.  1 Peter 2:17

Biblical Self Esteem –

Help my children to develop a strong self-esteem that is rooted in the realization that they are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.  Ephesians 2:10

Faithfulness –

Let love and faithfulness never leave my children, but bind these two virtues around their necks like necklaces and write them on the tablet of their hearts.  Proverbs 3:3

Courage –

May my children always be strong and courageous in their character and in their actions at school.  Deut. 31:6

Purity –

Create in my children a pure heart, O God, and let that purity of heart be shown through their actions.  Psalm 51:10

Kindness –

Lord, may my children always try to be kind to each other and to other children at school, as well as show kindness to their teachers.  1 Thessalonians 5:15

Generosity –

Grant that my children may be generous and willing to share, and so lay-up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age.  1 Timothy 6:18-19

Peace-loving

Father, let my children make every effort to do what leads to peace, and to live a life of peace with others, as much as it depends on them.  Romans 14:19

Joy –

May my children be filled with the joy given by the Holy Spirit, may their joyfulness be catching, and may I as their mother create a home where joy abounds.  1 Thessalonians 1:6

Perseverance –

Lord, teach my children perseverance in all they do, and help them especially to run with perseverance the race You have marked out for them, without giving up, and with confidence that they can do all things through Your strength.  Hebrews 12:1; Philippians 4:13

Humility –

God, please cultivate in my children the ability to show true humility toward all by displaying a gentle, peace-loving attitude.  Titus 3:2

Compassion –

Lord, please clothe my children with the virtue of compassion.  Colossians 3:12

Responsibility –

Grant that my children may learn responsibility, for each one should carry his own load.  Help them to become mature adults.  Galatians 6:5

Contentment –

Father, teach my children the secret of being content in any and every situation, through You who gives them strength.  Philippians 4:12-13

Faith

I pray that faith will find root and grow in my children’s hearts, that by faith they may gain what has been promised to them. Luke 17:5-6; Hebrews 11:1-40

A Servant’s Heart –

God, please help my children develop servant’s hearts, that they may serve wholeheartedly, as if they were serving the Lord, not men.  Ephesians 6:7

Hope –

May the God of hope grant that my children may overflow with hope and hopefulness by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

Willingness & Ability to Work –

Teach my children, Lord, to value work and to work at it with all their heart, as they are working for You and not just for men or their teacher.  Colossians 3:23

Passion for God

Lord, please instill in my children a soul that “followeth hard after thee,” one that clings passionately to You.  Psalm 63:8

Self-Discipline –

Father, I pray that my children may acquire a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right, just, and fair.  Proverbs 1:3

Prayerfulness –

Grant, Lord, that my children’s lives may be marked by prayerfulness that they may learn to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers.  1 Thessalonians 5:17

Gratitude –

Help my children to live lives that are always overflowing with thankfulness and always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 2:7

A Heart for Reaching Out to Others –

Lord, please help my children to develop a desire to see Your glory declared among the nations, Your marvelous deeds among the peoples.  Psalm 96:3

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Yesterday we went out as a family… it was a nice break from being cooped up inside for weeks from the rain and flooding, Texas has been in a vicious cycle of floods and thunderstorms now for weeks, with even a tornado that almost touched down in our city, only a few miles from us.

Getting out to experience the sunshine and water was a welcome change!  Finally some Summer!

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Turkey, Cheese, Tomato Lettuce Wrap… cold and fresh tasting in the hot sun

We always pack lunches and snacks… cold sandwiches, or wraps, salads, cups of cold applesauce, pudding or yogurt.  Anything really cold… it tastes even better in the heat & humidity.

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One tuckered out little guy!

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Where we usually eat lunch and snacks… over the lake water

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Someone loved the lake breeze when he woke up!

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Spring Bliss 2015

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Yesterday was blissful – the sky, the warm sun with the cool breeze, we ventured out as a family to find some fun… and we did!  I had to leave my camera at home to charge so the pictures came out not as clear with a phone camera.  It was just too beautiful to not take photos!

Spring & Summer clothing, for me at least, is lightweight and comfortable.

Striped dress for Spring

Striped dress for Spring

Victoria's Secret Nail Polish in Flirt Away

Victoria’s Secret Nail Polish in Flirt Away

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Blue-eyed Cutie

Blue-eyed Cutie

Haha his expression!

Haha his expression!

Our view looking up

Our view looking up

Love being with him!

Love being with him!

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Breathe – Seeing Tranquility, Serenity, Peace, & Repose in the Overwhelmed Areas of Your Life

We view the story of creation in the Bible as being done in six days… on the seventh day, God rested.  I’ve always viewed the seventh day as being a day where nothing happened, a passive example of how we should take a break once a week in order to avoid burn-out.

Priscilla Shirer, author, speaker, and co-leader with her husband of Going Beyond Ministries, has released a Bible study called Breathe, Making Room for Sabbath.  One phrase that truly stuck out to me this week was the “Tranquility, Serenity, Peace, and Repose” that we are supposed to have in our life – not in just one area, but in particularly the areas that overwhelm or enslave us.  I’m one week in and already feeling the peace and serenity from the gems of truths it’s revealing.  This first week, we’ve been looking critically at what specific areas are causing us to have less tranquility, serenity, peace, and repose.  It can be anything, even certain people, for me, I’ve realized it is Social Media & my Mothering my children.

Here are some other areas that might apply to you – none of these things are “bad,” however, sometimes, depending on our personalities, they can start to overwhelm or take over our life and peace we are supposed to have:

  • Shopping
  • Eating
  • Home Decorating
  • Social Media
  • Working
  • Ministry
  • Opinions of my friends
  • Opinions of people I don’t like
  • Marriage
  • Children
  • Relaxing
  • Hobbies
  • Exercise
  • Weight
  • My appearance
  • Sleep
  • Obsessing over something I’ve lost
  • Other (anything you can think of)

Its quite a list!  And again, none of these things are individually bad or good, its simply when we use them incorrectly – without the boundaries that should be there – in order to fill the void in our life.

God wants us to have that “void” – He purposefully and intently created rest on that seventh day, so that we could fill it with spending time with Him.

When we let these things take over and start chipping away at our “tranquility, serenity, peace, and repose,” we “limit our Christlikeness and miss out on some of God’s greatest gifts.”  Priscilla even warns in the study that, in the words of Jeremiah 25:7, “we actually ‘provoke’ God to anger and bring ‘harm’ on ourselves (NASB).”

For me (and possibly not for you, this kind of thing is very personal), Social Media is an obvious pitfall.  I’ve had ruined relationships come from me pushing a debate or argument over topics when a person didn’t want to argue anymore, or in confronting people when I should’ve kept my mouth shut (it wasn’t my place to confront them) and given it over to God; and likewise, I’ve also had all these things happen to me (role-reversal anyone?).

Social media can be a mud-slinging jungle when you let it get out of control, and even though I’ve made a lot of progress in setting boundaries for myself in it, this study has made me realize I need to actually sit down, and write out a “plan” for its proper use.  I want to use it purposefully, not absent-mindedly or randomly when I’m bored; I want to have time limit boundaries of only allowing myself a short time period per week – I want to focus more on the relationships I have in person that are so much more fulfilling and deep.  And I want to establish a creed of exactly how I will act in certain circumstances that tempt me, I want to have it already planned out so that its easy to follow & not get sidetracked or drawn into pitfalls that diminish my tranquility, serenity, peace, and repose.

With my mothering, when I don’t purposefully stop and create tranquility in this area, there is only chaos, hurt, and bad bedtimes!  When I let this area get out of control, it is not the memories I want to be making!  I wrote about this way back at the beginning of my last pregnancy here, and the changes we worked on then were great!  It was a good perspective shifter to sit down and declare who I wanted to be as their mother, here is an excerpt:

To be truly attune to my son – interested in him and everything he is doing and telling me.  To really listen to him and his concerns, his adorable thoughts, and most importantly, his questions.  He asks the most interesting and deep questions about life for a child who just turned 4 years old this summer.  He’s so intelligent and understands things beyond I’m sure, what I understood at that age.

To make bedtime like it used to be – before I was lacking energy, moody, and pregnant.  I’ve always thought that bedtime was the best time to have one last impact on your child’s day – to get last words in of counsel, or assurance, and a last attempt at praying and leaving them with spiritual guidance.  Even reading to them (which has always been part of our bedtime routine) simply shows them how much you VALUE them as people in their own right.  Without my husband being there for support and literal “back-up,” bedtime has been rushed and stressful at best, and tumultuous at worst!  I’m amending this… bedtime is supposed to be peaceful, reassuring, and that last push for connection and love that can last a lifetime of remembrance for my son.

To be kind, even when tantrums are at their peak and I’m thoroughly exhausted from what seems like endless confrontations. 🙂  He is the most assertive little one I know – whereas my husband and I are both extremely easy going people, our son (at this age at least) is definitely more head strong, and takes more energy to constantly explain and discipline.  Even though he may be harder in this one way, I wouldn’t have him any different, he is so wonderful and is such a complex mixture of tender-hearted sweetness.

Here’s to this journey of finding freedom from chaos, disorder, and misunderstandings as a result, finding time to breathe even in our overwhelmed areas.

Lips of Kindness

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I was reminded this weekend the importance of being careful how you speak to people; having someone speak horribly to me, the wounds are still fresh and I’ve been given a sort of clarity about the situation.  When you put yourself out there, when you try to do anything worthwhile in this world, you will always receive some amount of criticism or even blind hatred & harsh judgment.  We live in a world that frankly doesn’t seem to value humanity – behind computer screens, people may believe they can speak whatever they want to another, regardless of the effects of their words on that person’s spirit.

Words are so powerful, and boy can they hurt.  Even the bible states that life and death are in the power of the tongue, and people will reap the consequences of what they say to another – for good and bad.  Whatever they are, words are not meaningless characters, they carry meaning and have the power to slash someone to ribbons. It was a beautiful reminder for me to continue in lifting others up, encouraging people, and loving people – even people who actively hate me and all that I represent.  

It made me think about the importance of speaking kindness and love into our children.  If a child isn’t regarded with respect, love, and given grace and understanding when they’re growing up, they might have a hard time understanding these things when older, and choose to berate and assault anyone who disagrees with them.

Even in those rare occurrences where a parent may lose control with their child and spew something horrible they didn’t mean, it is so important to go back to your child and amend things!  It really doesn’t matter what circumstances led to the loss of control, you must seek to “dress the wound before infection sets in,” (Dr. James Dobson).

Speak love into others… speak with lips of kindness.

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat,

known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.

These people have an appreciation, a sensitivity,

and an understanding of life that fills them with

compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.

Beautiful people do not just happen.

~ Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Valuable

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There is no better and ultimately no other way to teach your children that they are valuable people than by valuing them. 

Second, the more children feel valuable, the more they will begin to say things of value.  They will rise to your expectation of them.

Third, the more you listen to your child, the more you will realize that in amongst the pauses, the stutterings, the seemingly innocent chatter, your child does indeed have valuable things to say.

 

I love this quote from one of my favorite books The Road Less Traveled.  If you have children, undoubtedly you understand the task it is sometimes to try to listen to them…  to filter out the endless (and sometimes mindless) talking to get what they are telling you.  I joke around a lot with my 3 1/2 year old, and enjoy teasing him and adding play to our days, but I love hearing what he has to say – it usually surprises me how much he already knows.

The thing is, if I don’t really try to understand what he’s thinking about things, how will I know what to teach him?  What if he’s got the wrong idea?  What if he’s confused about something, but thinks he’s right?  How would I be able to get him to listen to me, if I don’t give him the time and effort it takes to fully listen to him.

Teenagers are a completely different side of the same coin.  If you have a teenager, especially a teenage boy, it might take some work to draw them out to tell you what they are thinking – or to be able to put down everything you’re doing when you can tell they need to talk, but it is so worth it!

A couple of nights ago, when I was putting my little one to bed, he was praying and thanking God for all of his family.  Then he peeked up at me with laughter in his smile and said, “And thank you God for my silly Mommy!”  There is no greater treasure than getting to be that role for him.  I feel like I’ve been blessed with too much.

Our European Stay-cation

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“Cruelty & wrong are not the greatest forces in the world.
There is nothing eternal in them.
Only love is eternal.”

“Failure means nothing now, only that it taught me life.” -Elisabeth Elliot

These few weeks being home and getting to enjoy my son and be a woman who takes great care of her life and house and family – have been so beautiful! My son is learning more with me being the one to teach him – he was in an “advanced class” at his daycare, his wonderful teacher who loved him like a second mother urged me to let them bump him up – she was afraid he would be bored. But when I started to really work with him at home that first week, I could tell he was having major trouble recognizing numbers and letters (which would put him behind and not advanced right now, even though he is incredibly smart). He’s always been ahead mentally, I think he fooled his daycare teachers! He’s an incredible guesser, but with me tutoring him one-on-one, he is actually learning everything – and learning it incredibly fast!

I teach him Reading, Writing, Math, Music, Science, Art, Cooking, Geography, Languages, and World Culture. Sounds intense for a 3 year old? I only do 2 hours of “classes” a day, and usually one of those classes is a soft class like Music, Art, Culture, or Languages. I want him to have more of a European upbringing, they take raising their children very seriously. Women in Europe usually take 1 to 2 or 3 years of maternity leave just to be able to focus on this new change in their life and family, here you are lucky to get 2-3 months! Taking time for your family is valued in Europe. Being a wife and mom is valued in their society. The average work week (even for men) is 35 hours – not 40+… they know how to enjoy their life – and a major part of their enjoyment of life, is enjoying it together with their family. Not to mention they drink wine all day and eat carbs. 😉 That’s paradise right there.

Fridays are our field trip days with no classes – I want him to understand how important having fun is, which I believe, is just as important as academics. What use is having all the scientific knowledge in the world without the ability to enjoy your life? I take him anywhere and everywhere – downtown, Sea World, the Zoo, to beautiful gardens, to stunning museums, to parks – we have a blast together.

Here’s to living life simply, in beauty, with delicious home-made pizzas and frittatas, scones and pastries. Thank you Europe, I appreciate the impressions you’ve made on my life.