Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: The Cheeks at 10 Weeks

(Can't tell who's who? Here's a hint!)

Your cheeks are beautiful...
~ Song of Songs 1:10a

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Card 2011

(Click image to enlarge)

Dear friends and family,

It is hard to believe that another year has gone by already. As most of you know, we spent half of this year trying to sell our house and move to Arizona, but God had other plans for us. Don and Manda spent a long weekend there in July, checking out the incredibly cheap houses and loving the dry, sunny Phoenix weather. We had several showings of our house here, but in the current market, we were unable to sell for more than we owe. Then, two months after taking our house off the market, Don got an unexpected job interview at a local company. Several weeks later, the job was his. We do still hope to move to a newer home with more than one bathroom, but for now at least, it looks like we will be staying in New England.

While Don certainly had many benefits while working from home (including being a one-car family and working in his jammies), we are excited about his potential for professional growth as he moves into software development at the new company. And while it will be an adjustment to say goodbye to Daddy in the mornings after having him around all the time, it also means the children don't have to whisper and tiptoe whenever Daddy is on the phone. In addition, Don has recently started working part time at yet another local gym. His love for gymnastics keeps bringing him back to the sport, and we are hoping to sign the children up for gymnastics classes soon, too.

Besides the excitement of house shopping and a family vacation to Disney World and Clearwater Beach, FL in April, we also found out that we were expecting a new baby this year! On October 10, we welcomed sweet Abigail Joy to our family. She was born by repeat Cesarean section weighing 5 pounds and 9 ounces. Her siblings adore their baby sister and ask for a turn holding her throughout the day. At two months old now, she is smiling and cooing more, and her skinny newborn body is filling out with delightful baby plumpness. She is a great nurser and, for a newborn, a good sleeper. We are so thankful to have another beautiful, healthy baby!

Lydia is now two and a half years old. She wants to do whatever her brothers are doing, whether it's playing outside or doing schoolwork at the kitchen table. She often asks Mumma, "What can I do to help you?" and when she sees you for the first time, she'll tell you, "I have a sister Abby!" She is quite possessive of her "Baby Abby" and nearly smothers little Abigail with kisses, hugs, and (sometimes very loud) songs.

Hayden is five years old and has already finished first grade! When we started first grade homeschool in January with Donny, we decided to include Hayden as well, and he has kept up amazingly well given his young age. He has beautiful handwriting and often surprises us with his understanding of math concepts. He loves anything that Daddy does: guns, weapons, working out, video games, etc. He is often quiet in new situations, but if you give him a few minutes, he'll be happy to flex his muscles for you!

Donny just turned seven and continues to be our talkative, imaginative scientist. He is interested in everything science-related (animals, outer space, rocks) but also loves geography, history, and crafts. Because of his ongoing love of building Lego creations, we have been participating in a Junior Lego League this fall, where he works with a team of other young boys to solve a challenge using Lego pieces. After spending the summer being terrified of bugs, he has overcome his aversion to the outdoors and now loves playing outside in our yard. In their spare time, the boys have both enjoyed playing Angry Birds (a video game they play on Don's phone) and mastering the card game Uno.

Don has taken up bowhunting this fall, but so far, all the deer seem to be in people's backyards instead of the woods. Manda got a bow and arrows of her own (pink, of course) since she wasn't able to practice shooting her (also pink) handgun, due to being pregnant for ¾ of the year. We continue to host a College and Career Bible study for young adults, and Don has also been teaching the teen Sunday School class at church. Manda still loves being a full-time mom, homeschooling the boys, and spending these precious days with her little girls. We are both thankful for the ways God has been at work in our lives this year, and look forward to seeing what He has in store for us next!

We pray that you, too, will see the Lord's hand at work as we celebrate the Savior's birth this Christmas season. May He bless your family with a Merry Christmas and a joyful New Year!


Don, Manda, Donny, Hayden, Lydia, and Abby ~ 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011

And Most of All, For Him

Despite the festive lights glowing around our living room, today was a rather ugly day. The toddler was whiny and drippy-nosed, the baby fussed and hardly napped, the boys bickered, the mom got frustrated, and everyone cried. Screams of anger and pain punctuated the day when one boy hit his brother with a stick, and then when said boy received retribution from a ricocheting rock launched by said brother. We read devotionals, discussed verses, and added an ornament to our Jesse tree as we remembered the faith of Abraham, but my feeble attempts to bring focus seemed in vain. Even with Bible open on our laps, the children were kicking, sitting on each other, pulling my hair, and daydreaming.

As I wearily tucked them into bed, I was tempted toward discouragement, but remembered: this is a mission field. And walking into a room of rowdy, disobedient children to give the gospel - with gentleness and love - was my mission. It is easy, sometimes, to speak God's truth, but so much harder to demonstrate. This morning, we read, Let us love not with words or speech, but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:18). And then we all failed, at nearly every opportunity, to show love to each other. Hearts were hard and tears were many. If nothing else, ugly days reveal my shortcomings to remind me how much I need a Savior, and that nothing matters more in parenting than showing my little ones the Savior's love.

We have been busy lately, as most families are this time of year: celebrating the boys' birthdays, enjoying Thanksgiving feasts with aunts and uncles, baking gingerbread men with Grandma, and decorating for Christmas. In the coming weeks, our schedule will continue to be full of fun and festive activities as we skip through the merry month of December. Yet in the midst of tracing paper hand turkeys and leftover pumpkin pie, the Lord impressed this on my heart:

I am sinful. My husband and children are too. Not just in some vague, "I'm a sinner" way, but in dark, ugly specifics that we seldom admit and may not even realize. Pride, selfishness, the lust of the eyes and of the flesh - they lie dormant in our hearts, periodically manifesting in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Yet God, knowing every wicked thought of our wayward hearts, still sent His Son to die for us. I am so blessed with my family, my home, the opportunity to teach my children, the abundance of food and clothing and other material comforts - but this all pales in comparison to God's grace in forgiving my sin. Of all I have to be thankful for, nothing can compare to the love God poured out on me by sending Jesus.

Dear friends, if you have never heard this truth, or if you have heard it a thousand times, but the good news is drowned out by cheering football fans and red-nosed reindeer tunes, let me tell you this:

Christmas is for all of us, because we all need a Savior. Without Him, we are trapped in the wretched darkness of our own sin. It is only through His light that we can truly live. His blessings are abundant, and there are so many gifts for which to thank Him each day, but in the end, earthly treasures rust, and the world's festive pleasures pass away. Jesus himself is all that really matters, and our only hope for salvation.

For those who know Him, let the holidays remind us to share the light of the One who saved us. We can twinkle with joy through ugly days and dark hours like tiny bulbs on the strand that lights up the tree, emanating light to friends, to strangers, and to the little ones who dance around us in the living room. And as we delight in every meal and gift and yuletide merriment, let us give thanks, most of all, for the One called Jesus, who saves us from our sins.