Gratitude for Memories Made

So many thanks from our visit to Papa & Mama in Florida and the E&R Byrds in North Carolina.
This week is so full with the wonder of His coming… I’ll let the pictures speak my gratitude for last week.
(Click to see larger pics)

holy experience

Gratitude from FL

We’re in Florida, enjoying time with my folks and other family. So much for which to be thankful!

Gifts #145-179
Traveling mercies
Friends who are caring for our home and animals while we are gone
Sunrise on the road

The Alphabet Game
A man who can drive 17 hours straight
Making good time (is that what is meant by Godspeed?)
Talks about the future with our son
The beauty of the progressive change in flora/fauna as we drove south
Snowy white cotton fields

Southern pines
Pecan Groves
Peach Orchards

Being with Papa and Mama
A home of their own

Seeing precious/common things of my Mama’s, some of which have been packed away for years
A living example of love and parent-honoring

Cousins together

An eight hour drive made for a 24 hour visit
Time with my beloved Bubba and family
Play time for young men with the older men in their lives

Cooking with Mama and Beka
Neck huggin’
Fine Florida sand and pine needles underfoot
Chinese Honey citrus trees

Sweet time with family at Papa’s bday party

70 years lived by grace


My grandma gettin’ and giving “sugar” with my youngest
The enlivening effect of sweet baby hands, kisses, and smiles

Meeting Papa and Mama’s church family
That church family, overflowing with the love of Christ

Errand running with Mama
A hoarse voice (and accompanying laughter)
Grace in my foolishness
Peace in God’s sovereignty

holy experience

The Grace of Gratitude

Yesterday was a rough mothering day.
My Blessings were human. I was human. We all fell down, and our human-ness scraped against each other.
It was not an epic fail, but neither was it full of His grace and love as it should have been.

In the midst of the scraping, it was time to feed the nursling.
I escaped to the still quiet of my room. Gave nourishment. Received grace.
As his chubby little body melted into mine, I breathed. I calmed. My heart filled with thankfulness to replace the frustration.

And I wondered…
When the youngest children left in the house are angst-ridden tweens and teens with a still unfinished mother,
how will He deliver grace to this scraping sinner?

I had no doubts about the giving, just curiousity as to the form.


This morning, I realized that in the busy-ness of yesterday, I had not posted thanks.

As I mentally continued the counting of gifts, I was reminded that the thanks are another vehicle by which He gives grace to this fallen woman.
I give thanks; He gives grace. No matter the season.
May I remember this in the scraping moments.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:4-8

Gifts #123 ~ 144

Grace through chubby cuddles
Grace through gratitude
Counting gifts with my Blessings
A gift counted by a young one – “People who are kind and gentle”

The joy and release of a handmade Christmas
Wallpaper samples
Mod Podge
Scheming good things
The amazing physical home with which we’ve been blessed
The more amazing eternal home that awaits

Laughter with my love

Advent anticipation that makes the whole month a season of wonder in the Saviour
God the Provider
The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world
God’s faithfulness to His promises
Christmas music

Growth in the lives of loved ones
Grace in the growing
The Marvelous and Wonderful love of the Father
Growing connected to new “family”

holy experience

I Corinthians 13 – Christmas Version

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling
lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies,
preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at
mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that
I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend
a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir’s cantata, but do not
focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and
table linens.
Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they
are there to be in the way.
Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices
in giving to those who can’t.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all
Love never fails.
Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust.
But giving the gift of love will endure.
Merry Christmas!

— Author Unknown

This was posted to our home school support group elist in late Dec. 09. I didn’t want to forget it, so I set it up to post in Dec. 2010. What a great reminder!

Advent – Anticipating the Coming

Jonathan and I come from a church tradition that does not not embrace the celebration of Advent. Yet, over the last several years, two Advent traditions in particular have deepened and enriched our savoring of the Christmas season, and of the grand story of Redemption itself.

You can get a glimpse of our little journey if you click on “Advent” in the category cloud. I also thought I would share a bit about the Advent traditions that have become so meaningful to our family.

The Advent Wreath:
The basic physical layout of the wreath is four smaller candles (one for each week of Advent) surrounding a central white candle (the Christ candle, to remain unlit until Christmas Day). The candles are usually entwined with greenery or placed in an actual wreath. Usually, three of the surrounding candles are purple, while one is pink (to express Joy, a traditional them for week 3). Blue seems to be easier to find than purple in taper candles, which is what we use, so ours are often blue and pink. Some use blue and red. More important is the focusing theme for each week.

Each of the four weeks of Advent has a theme, which differ according to varying church traditions. During the first week, one of the surrounding candles is lit as the theme for that week is highlighted. In each of the following weeks, another candle is lit, so that during week 4, all four candles are lit while the wreath is in use.

Our Advent themes are Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. In the evening after supper, we light the candle(s), read related Scripture, and sing related songs (carols, other hymns, Scripture songs, etc). Because we are not part of a church tradition that uses this tool, we have developed our own eclectic version. It is a time of quiet reflection (punctuated this year by little outbursts of energy from our darling three-year-old-in-need-of-training) that helps to ground us during a time of year when it is so easy to be distracted.

There are many websites that might be helpful if you are interested in learning more about Advent Wreaths. I’ve done a lot of searching as we’ve settled into our our family wreath tradition.

The Jesse Tree:
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. Isaiah 11:1-2

The Jesse Tree tradition is a tool that traces the Story of Redemption from Creation to the Coming of the Savior. Each day of Advent (or, in our house, as often as we can manage), the participants look at another piece of the tapestry that the Father wove in preparation for the coming of the Son. It is breathtaking to watch His plan unfold.

Each day, an ornament representing the day’s event is placed on the Jesse Tree. This can be a branch that you stick in a pot, an evergreen tree, or a tree formed on the wall by the ornaments themselves. One year we used a leftover giant campaign sign and painted our tree on the back side. The particulars are not a smidgen as important as the Story.

We are enjoying a new aid for our Jesse Tree this year, from Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience. There is a link on the righthand sidebar of her blog to a wonderful free ebook for the Jesse Tree. It gets right to the heart of the matter. So much so that I struggle to read through without tears of gratitude.

We have other “Christmas traditions,” but these two Advent tradtions have become a priceless part of the season for us. They are tools that we intentionally choose to use to calm and focus our hearts and minds. They make our anticipation and celebration richer and fuller.

What Advent/Christmas traditions aid you in focusing on the Grand Story?