Valentine’s Day Snapshots

An altogether lovely Valentine’s Day…

A couple of my beautiful valentines:

 

My son’s valentines for his classmates (idea and download found here):

Pop-tarts cut into heart shapes:

Easy Valentine Bookmarks (instructions here):

    

Fun and sweet crafts at MOPS:

Chocolate Lava Cakes for dessert – these were extra lava-y because I took them out of the oven too soon! (recipe here):

A Valentine’s treasure hunt for my husband and I, created by my two oldest children (this was a surprise, and was so cute and fun!):

Hope YOU had a Happy Valentine’s Day!!

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a letter to my newly married self

Our anniversary last week got me thinking about how we have changed as people over the last 14 years.  And that got me thinking how I have changed.  And that got me thinking about a blog post.  So here you go – a letter to myself with some things I know now that I wish I knew then…

Dear Stephanie,

I’ve been married now 14 years.  You’ve only been married a few days.  Along the way, I feel like I’ve learned a lot.  Marrying this guy was the best decision we’ve ever made.  I’ll admit, there have been moments when I wondered about that – but here we are now, still happily married.

I wanted to share a few things with you.  You’ll be better off if you learn these now.  Some will be hard to believe – and hard to swallow.  But listen and please try to take these words to heart!

  • Just open yourself to considering the fact that what you want out of life right now is probably much different than what you will want in a few years.  Step outside your box.
  • Jesus teaches self-denial.  This will be a hard concept to learn – it still is for me.  But when you practice it, life and your marriage will go more smoothly.  Trust me.
  • Getting your kids ready for school and out of the house on time can feel like an olympic sport sometimes – one we both know you aren’t prepared for.  So take these first few years of marriage and mentally prepare.  Please.  Keep telling yourself that being late is better than acting like a crazy woman, and tell yourself now that kids can’t be hurried without hurting and that no matter how hard you will try to control them – they are their own little people.  And then when you find yourself in the midst of it, take a deep breath, smile, and take it one day at a time.
  • Travel.  You’ve always wanted to do it, and now is the time.  It will be harder to do when you have kids.
  • Focus on keeping your marriage strong.  It will be important to continue that once the kids come along.  Kids need parents who love each other and make each other their first priority.
  • Get into the habit, now, of daily prayer and bible reading.  Again, it will be harder to do when you have kids.
  • Being a mom will stretch you in ways you don’t even understand or think are possible right now.  You will be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually drained at times.  But you will also be filled up by this God-gifted role.  Filled up, bubbling over, and poured out.  Cherish it.
  • Be a better saver.  You don’t need new clothes, shoes, stuff for the house.  You can find great stuff at thrift stores.  Learn now so it’ll be easier when you decide to stay home with the kids.
  • What????  Stay home with the kids???? Yes, I said it.  And you will do it.  And it will be the 2nd best decision you’ve ever made.  And you will love it.  I know it’s not even a consideration to you right now.  But see #1.
  • Be a better savor-er.  Learn how to enjoy each and every moment rather than skipping ahead to the future or being anxious over the past.  There is joy in God’s presence (and the present!).  Don’t take life so seriously and learn to laugh more.  Your kids will appreciate it!
  • God doesn’t want you to be perfect or strive to be better or improve, etc.  He loves you just the way you are.  Nothing you can do will make him love you more or less.  Let that sink in.  Let it shape the way you live.  Let it shape the way you love.  Remember not to keep trying to be like Jesus – just let him live through you.

Love,

The older (and hopefully better) version of you!

 

Shanghai

Two posts in one day.

I know, crazy, right??

Couldn’t help but post this song for my honey today…

Shanghai Breezes
John Denver

It’s funny how you sound as if you’re right next door
when you’re really half a world away
I just can’t seem to find the words I’m looking for
to say the things that I want to say
I can’t remember when I felt so close to you
it’s almost more than I can bear
And though I seem a half a million miles from you
you’re in my heart and living there

And the moon and the stars are the same ones you see
it’s the same old sun up in the sky
And your voice in my ear is like heaven to me
like the breezes here in old Shanghai

There are lovers who walk hand in hand in the park
and lovers who walk all alone
There are lovers who lie unafraid in the dark
and lovers who long for home
Oh, I couldn’t leave you even if I wanted to
you’re in my dreams and always near
And especially when I sing the songs I wrote for you
you’re in my heart and living there

And the moon and the stars are the same ones you see
it’s the same old sun up in the sky
And your face in my dreams is like heaven to me
like the breezes here in old Shanghai

Shanghai breezes cool and clearing
evening’s sweet caress
Shanghai breezes soft and gentle
remind me of your tenderness

And the moon and the stars are the same ones you see
it’s the same old sun up in the sky
And your love in my life is like heaven to me
like the breezes here in old Shanghai

And the moon and the stars are the same ones you see
it’s the same old sun up in the sky
And your love in my life is like heaven to me
like the breezes here in old Shanghai

a week in review and a new year of mothering…

This past week has been a crazy one!  It involved a certain fourth grader’s science fair, work on Wednesday, hosting a MOPs Coordinator’s Brunch on Thursday, playdates on Friday, and then, of course, Mother’s Day weekend.

I am blessed.

First off, the brunch.  What a privilege it is to know these women!  Our church has three existing MOPS groups and a fourth one starting in the fall.  These coordinators are women who love God, who desire to serve Him when and where He asks them to, and who have a heart for bringing other moms to a relationship with Jesus.  As a past MOPS coordinator, I know that at this time of year, you start getting a little burnt out – it’s hard work!!  So the brunch was just a time for them to connect with one another, relax, and feel appreciated for all their hard work!

Ladies, You Shine!!

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Then, Mother’s Day was really quite wonderful this year!  I got exactly what I wanted – ha! – to do “nothing”.  (which to me, means just spend time at home with my family!)

On Saturday I took my mom out to lunch and then we went shopping together for a few minutes at JC Penney’s.  It was nice to spend some time with her without the kids around!  She is really the best and I am so thankful for her.  She even offered to take the kids back to her house so Dave and I could go out for dinner together.  That was a lovely surprise, and much appreciated.

Mother's Day 2011

Sunday morning, I was awoken by kids with happy smiles and bright eyes.  Breakfast in bed, made by Dave and the oldest… who is becoming more and more proficient in the kitchen.  Won’t be long until she can do it herself!  Climbing up in bed, watching me patiently, but excitedly, eat the eggs, sausage and toast offered as a gift to mom.  Me wishing I could stop time and see those faces happy and smiling (…and not bickering…) all the time!  Presents made at school, now presented in paper gift bags laden with homemade drawings.  Handmade cards drawn by little hands.  So precious.  Church.  Sunny skies and warmer weather, a gift in itself after a spring dominated by snow, cold, and gloomy skies.  Time spent outdoors playing, working together, enjoying.  Steaks grilled and dishes done by the man who said “I do” so long ago!

I couldn’t have asked for a better Mother’s Day!  I am so thankful for this family that God has given me!

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I deal with some depression occasionally.  God has been making it clear to me that my thoughts / self-talk play a big part in that.  So I had gone into the weekend, determined to enjoy my family and enjoy where we’re at right now.  That is often difficult for my analytical mind that assesses, identifies flaws, and starts immediately to plan how we could improve.  But part of my enjoyment may simply have been because I had read these two posts last week, about humility in mothering and allowing God to lead, and then about always thinking there will be more time.  I am, if you couldn’t tell already by all my links to her blog, a huge fan of Ann Voskamp’s writing.  These posts just put me in the right frame of mind to go into this weekend, and I appreciate it so much.  Attitude is everything!!

And so we start another week, another year of mothering.  I simply want to allow myself to be led by God fully in my mothering this year.  To find peace and joy in Him.  To be fully invested in the present. 

Please, Father God, help me!

So what about you… have you any thoughts / goals for this “new year” of mothering?

they showed up

They showed up at my door with hands overflowing with food, overflowing with God’s love.

Meals delivered for nearly a week, me in tears as I answered the door.  A heart burdened with sadness due to the death of my Dad the weekend before. 

And their hearts burdened with the love of God, burdened with a desire to be the hands and feet, and heart, of God.

My mind thinking that we didn’t really need this, we could manage to make dinners for ourselves.  Brought up to think that self-sufficiency was the ideal.  To rely on others was weakness.  And even when I resisted, still they came.  People who we met with faithfully every Sunday, searching together to know God, to know His heart, to apply His words to our lives. 

We’d only been attending two years.  We were young.  We didn’t really know these people THAT well.  But never before had I felt God’s love being poured out through others like this.  At first feelings of guilt, again, we could make our own meals even in the midst of tears.  They knew that.  But they didn’t care. 

Caring for one another like this – it seemed so foreign to us.  Who would make a meal for another family like this?  Who would take the time to prepare and deliver it when we really didn’t need them to do so?

They would.  And the love showed through those acts of service overwhelmed me.

They knew something that we didn’t know at that time.  Being the hands and feet of Jesus, showing God’s love, is not a burden.  It’s a blessing.

We didn’t need the food.  But we needed the love that went into it.  We felt loved, and cared for, and we wanted to be part of it.  Part of a church whose members did this for each other.  We also needed to learn how to be humble.  Humility is opening the door and letting someone in.  Being part of the body of Christ requires that humility.  Not only opening the door to your home, but opening the doors to your heart and life.  This is what the body of Christ does for one another. 

Years have passed since then.  More meals delivered, by different people but with the same love.  When children were born, when my heart broke from a miscarriage, when a baby was in the ICU, when a gallbladder got removed, after an unexpected overnight in the hospital. 

That first meal, and all those meals, I remember.  Not for what I ate, but for the love that was shown. 

And we now make it a priority to be part of the blessing.  Making and delivering meals.  Praying over the receivers.  Being a blessing to others, but mostly God’s blessing poured out on us when we give.  We give food, but not food – love.  God’s love.

 So today I take a meal to a mom from MOPS with a new baby.  I hardly know her.  But it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that God’s love is felt through my being faithful to act on His behalf.

A New Look at Love

 

1 Corinthians 13 (from The Message)

The Way of Love
 1 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. 3-7If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.    
Love never gives up.   
Love cares more for others than for self.    
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.    
Love doesn’t strut,    
Doesn’t have a swelled head,    
Doesn’t force itself on others,    
Isn’t always “me first,”    
Doesn’t fly off the handle,    
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,    
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,    
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,    
Puts up with anything,    
Trusts God always,    
Always looks for the best,    
Never looks back,    
But keeps going to the end.

 8-10Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

We’ve all probably read this section of scripture before.  I know I have.  But I read it with a fresh understanding this week when I read this version of it from “The Message” bible.  I know that the love I have, particularly with some people in my life, falls far short of the love that is described in this scripture.  I am so challenged by these words, and by how I need to change to live up to this!  And to think that Jesus tells us to love our enemies as well in Luke 6:27!  It’s hard enough to love our “loved ones” in this way!!

As I am preparing for the Christmas holiday and preparing to spend time with friends and relatives, I want to focus on these verses.  How will my time spent with loved ones change if I live out these verses? 

How will your holidays change if YOU live out these verses?