Advent – that glorious time of year where everything sparkles and shines and smells of cinnamon and spruce. That time of year when we hustle around, surviving on coffee and spurts of shopping-frenzied adrenaline and perhaps a sticky bun or two, and squooshing and squeezing in one more thing before we have to be at that next one. When, now more than ever, we are beckoned, courted, and teased by all manner of delightful, stuck-in-your-head-forever Target ads, provoking us to empty our wallets for all those lovely, sparkling trinkets that our beloved little people simply cannot be without.  Advent – the time of waiting, seems to be the time when we are never still, but instead, constantly juggling the added responsibilities of pageant practice, and children’s choirs, and school programs, and Christmas parties and all of the fun and all of the mundane that takes up our every spare second. Advent – the time of year when we stuff our homes to the brim with hidden gifts, waiting for the opportune moment to be given.

This season of Advent is also the time when the church lays aside it’s typical worship music for something of a more traditional fare, carols steeped in nostalgia and restyled for the new styles. Where typical Advent sermons, I find, are heavily laden with sincere, heart-warming, stories, practical advice, and Scriptural helps to keep us keeping Christ first  and in the forefront at Christmas. And we need this!  More than ever our hearts long to be tugged by anecdotes, like the often recounted account of the widow who surprisingly received a puppy for Christmas from her late husband, giving her a reason to celebrate the season when she thought she had none. The time of year when we are taught and groomed and reasoned into putting our focus on the Christ-child, the baby born in a manger. Emmanuel, God with us. And it never, ever gets old, no matter how old we get, because the baby in the manger was born for each and every one of us. And we who believe will never forget the joy of the earth in that moment. We can’t forget, we shouldn’t forget the moment that Peace came to earth to be our Emmanuel. But as I reflect on the Christmas story, I think maybe we did forget something. Or at least, maybe I did.

At Christmas, we seem to forget that baby isn’t in the manger anymore. That tiny baby, God with Us, that gave up the glories of heaven to be with us in a whole new way isn’t just a baby all wrapped up and tucked in the hay. That God who became flesh isn’t helpless, or frail, or even new. The baby that we celebrate grew into the God-Man that walked among us. That healed us. That forgave our sins. That baby was crucified and rose again – not as a baby, but as our Savior and King. And He did it all to restore a broken world – to restore a broken me and a broken you – to redeem every mess we ever made, to reshape our bottomed out hearts and breathe new life into our tired, weary existence. He became a baby because He loved us. But He didn’t stay in the manger.

This Advent, don’t forget God with Us. The baby doesn’t lay still as a tiny wooden idol beneath our sparkling trees, or tucked neatly into manger scenes dressing up our altar tables. He’s not just the God with us, He is the God who is STILL with us. He is the God who is with us when we are hustling and bustling, and shopping and serving, and cooking and cleaning. He is our Emmanuel our God with us when we feel Grinchy or giving. He is the God who is always with us when we are singing Christmas carols and sweeping up Christmas cookie crumbs and when we are weeping for Christmases and souls gone on.

Don’t just put the baby first this Christmas. Put the baby who became our Savior first this Christmas. Jesus Christ, our Messiah, our Healer, our Hope. Our Friend, our King, and our Savior is with us. And we need Him.

I might have a bone to pick with Thanksgiving.

I mean, I love a sleep-inducing, kitchen-trashing, dirty-every-pot-in-the-house, gain-five-pounds-in-one-day, deliciously decadent traditional Thanksgiving dinner just as much as the next person. Even when it means scrubbing mashed potatos off the radiator (courtesy of the 1 year old), sweet potatos off the fish tank (courtesy of the 3 year old with a really good arm), and fishing pie crumbs out from under the stove (that wouldn’t be my fault would it?). It’s like the ultimate in comfort food feasting shared with family and friends. And I’m not even sure I mind the added expenditures – a turkey dinner with all the trimmings adds up fast, especially for a family of 8 plus relatives. (My grocery budget is bleeding out, but that’s ok, the leftovers will sustain us for quite some time).

Thanksgiving is a great day to celebrate being together and being thankful for all that God has given us. Except that I think spending 1 day being thankful for 1 giant feast kind of defeats the purpose. Spending 1 day proclaiming our gratitude for our families, friends, jobs, food, warm homes, sports teams, toys, tech, and pets is just the tip of the iceberg. Hmm, maybe more like the size of an icecube. It just doesn’t cut the cranberry sauce, er, mustard.

Joy is born out of gratitude. Not just a one time, once a year spirit of thankfulness. Not just a once a day blessing on the dinner meal. But a life lived in constant gratittude to the Giver of all good gifts.  I can’t help but wonder if, when I’m unhappy, its because I’m not being grateful? Today, I caught myself getting cranky because – just when I wanted to show the tiny humans a video on letters and the sounds they make  – the computer decided to install 36 updates. 36! Tiny humans can’t wait that long. And apparently, grown up humans aren’t so good for 36 updates, either.  But then I realized what a ‘first world’ problem that is. I’m feeling a little bit entitled here – to a clean, warm home, with lots of food, cars that go, tech constantly at my finger tips, while some people are struggling to find a meal or to live in a home with heat and electricity. I am so routinely blessed by what we consider to be basic necessities that I fail to appreciate them.

Last night, I lay in bed, listening to the quiet crackle of the fire slowly dying in the wood stove and the gentle hum of the baby monitor reminding me that my children were cozied up peacefully in their quilts. A kitty purring happily at my feet. A house-full of filled up tummies, snuggled up and warm, resting sweetly.  The struggles of the day fading into the shadows of the night, as I try to pass them on to our God who never slumbers or sleeps.

This, I thought, is the real thanksgiving. It is beginning of contentment, the genesis of gratitude. Baby steps towards joy.

Hot coffee and apple cobbler in a cup
Hot coffee and apple cobbler in a cup

There is an udeniable connection between food and the soul. From tiny babies who comfort nurse in their mommy’s arms, to the little hands that grasp a lollipop in the doctor’s scary office, to would-be, wanna-be, hopefully-becoming grown ups seeking asylum in a steaming gingerbread latte. There is comfort in the rhythms of a morning cup of coffee or a glass of milk and a bowl of oatmeal, shared before the busy day begins.

We love food.

Food nourishes the body while gathering around the dinner table with our favorite people nourishes the soul. It is no wonder that Jesus asked us to remember Him with a glass of wine and a loaf of bread shared among believers.  A shared meal binds us together, delicious aromas remind us of happy times, and shared stories bring us hope, laughter, and joy. A family meal fosters love, and isn’t that just what we all need?

I am no Martha Steward, no culinary genius, no master chef. But I can whip up a mean grilled cheese sandwhich, simmer soups from scratch, and I know how to delight my little ones with Goldfish crakers, pretzels, veggies, and plenty of dip. I readily accepted ketchup as vegetable since my small people have forever devoured it on any number of side dishes like green beans, apples, and even, gag, strawberries. But then Baby number 5 came along and opened my eyes to the potential of ketchup as an entree. He can make a meal out of a plate of ketchup and a spoon. And again I say, gag.

Food doesn’t have to be fancy to fill up the soul. A hot meal, a cold meal, a simple dinner or a fancy fare, Jesus gave us the right idea – share it together among loved ones, remember Him, ask for His blessing.  My busy, big family doesn’t have it all together often, we’re too busy running here and there, cleaning up, picking up, dropping off, and taking naps. But if we do nothing else right, we eat together and often. It nourishes the soul and grows the family stronger with every bite.

This morning, while my kids snacked on Goldfish crackers and milk, I tested an idea that I had been dreaming up. And surprisingly, it actually worked! This might make a yummy, easy snack, a quick desert, or even a steaming hot breakfast for a cold day. Try this out…

Apple cobbler in a cup. Serves 1.

Cut up one apple, any kind will do, into bite size pieces in a microwave safe mug.

Cover with a layer of brown sugar (you can substitute maple syrup if you prefer).

Top with four small chunks of butter (a tablespoon or two will do)

In a small bowl, mix equal parts of instant oatmeal and whole wheat flour – just a couple of spoonfuls is plenty. Add a drizzle of olive oil and mix until crumbs form -you may need to add a bit more olive oil until you find that just right consistency. Dump your crumbs on top and microwave for 2 minutes.

The results? Delicious!  Just becareful, because the apples in the bottom are very hot!

Make one mug per person and enjoy!

 

 

It took me a week, an over-filled, sweaty, ripe, grimey, headachey week to find 42 minutes to plop myself on my plumped up sofa, prop my feet on the coffee table, and zone out for an episode of Bones on my laptop. Yes, it took a good 7 days to find that quality time to spend with Hulu. And do you know what happened?

I promptly fell asleep.

What’s going on here? Am I that old? I don’t even have enough energy to relax! Something is very wrong. How can I discover God’s hand in my life – how can I gaze in awe at Him – if I can’t stay awake? If I am so busy that I fall asleep the moment I sit down, then I need to make a change. When people talk about priorities, they usually mean putting family first, or making time to spend with God, or date nights with their spouse. But what about sleep? Where does rest fit in? Somewhere, I read that Rick Warren commented on this when he said that sometimes, the most spiritual thing that we can do is to take a nap.  Our human bodies need rest, and I am no exception. The problem is, how?

My life is so full that I get in the bad habit of thinking that the only thing that can give anymore is sleep. And with 6 small children in my house, uninterrupted sleep is impossible to find when babies need fed in the early morning hours, nightmares need soothed, and cups of water need to be dispersed. With all this nighttime activity, I need to spend more quality time with my pillow as well as weed out some of those energy sappers – scrolling Facebook on my phone is one of them. Oh, I’m not anti-facebook at all, it’s a great tool. But filling every second of each day with mindless scrolling and random information doesn’t give our brains the needed time to process the days events and emotions, and it distracts us from thinking about God. I’m not going to say I won’t scroll at all – but maybe I can give those spare minutes a good trim? To let my mind wander over God’s gifts rather than Facebook memes and status updates.

So there are 2 steps that I’m taking this week towards finding more awe and wonder in my life. The first is to keep tracking my sleep with my Fitbit, and keep trying to add a few minutes to my night time by doing little things like shortening my shower, enlisting the kids’ help in cleaning up toys, and heading to bed a few minutes sooner. 6 hours of sleeping is my goal, and last night I didn’t even clock 4 1/2. I can’t keep this up.

The second step I’m taking this week is to cut down on cell phone app usage, including Facebook. Whenever I have a few seconds to wait, such as in the parent pickup line, or while waiting for the spaghetti to cook, I want to pause, and think about God first before I pull up my favorite apps or check up on my FB friends. Less information for my brain to sort through means less brain power being used, and more energy being reserved for things that matter all the more.

2 small changes. Let’s hope for some big rewards. What lifestyle tweeks are you making this week? What small things can you prioritize to make big changes in your life?

Pray for me and I’ll pray for you as we seek out the awe and wonder of God.

 

Is this all there is to life? I am thirsty for something more.

Each day is more of the same. A never ending onslaught of bills and school lunches and scrambling to get there on time and trying to look like I’ve got it all together when all I really want is just to go back to my bed. Wishing this phase of life would go by more quickly; begging time to stand still. I need to be alone but I want more out of my relationships. I want something more, something different, something better. I want my life to be easier. I want more interesting challenges.

If I have everything I need, why do I crave something more?

Each one of us has a deep need, an inner desire, an insatiable hunger that we strive to fill. We sometimes ache with emptiness, and we try to fill it up with work, and school, and children or vacations, health and wellness and exercise. We search for significance on social media, sending snaps to show how well we’ve fulfilled ourselves, scrolling Facebook to see how others have satisfied their thirst for something more. But we never get enough because these things cannot fill us up. I find myself scrolling page after page, but it doesn’t fill any need. I’m not sure that it is even fun when everyone else looks like they are filling their lives more successfully than I. What if they’ve found it and I have not? That thing that I am searching for. I’ll look again, just to check. Are they winning at life and I am not?

Life wasn’t created to be despised.

We weren’t made to dread the day, detached and listless from the humdrum of each day’s routines and work. We weren’t purposed to numb our minds with  mobile tech, pushing out the pains and fears and hopes and joys of each moment with a constant influx of media posts, and excessive facts, and video clips. We were made for so much more.

We were created to glorify the Creator. To live with a sense of awe and wonder,  expectation, and joy.  Here I am, searching for more. Reminding myself that nothing can satisfy my thirst except for Jesus. Some days I feel like I’m racing to the finish line. Some days like I’m limping along the way. but here I am, chasing His heart, in hot pursuit of His holy, wholly loving grace, and finding awe and wonder along the way.

Want to come along for the ride?

 

PrettyCreative
This theme is insanely versatile, and loaded with function so you’re able to spend your time playing around and being creative! Some of the features include:

  • Home Page Widget Areas automatically adjust to accommodate whatever you place there.
  • Change the color of links and other areas to whatever color you like using the built in customizer!
  • Sticky Navigation Menu
  • Completely Mobile Responsive, but that should go without saying these days.
  • Retina Ready Header Uploader! No fuzzy logos here 🙂
  • Widget Area in your Navigation, optional, but handy!
  • Expanding search bar in your navigation menu
  • Portfolio page, with optional widget area above entries.
  • eCommerce ready! Choose to sell products if you like.
  • Custom Category page with dropdown to sort through subcategories.

Pencils-Creative-
This Creative WordPress Theme was designed by a creative, for creatives. Let’s see how many times I can type the word creative. Your text goes here. This blog post is simply an example, so you are able to preview typography, heading styles, images, blockquotes and so on.

cre·a·tiv·i·ty

the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.

Creativity Definitions

  1. the state or quality of being creative.
  2. the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.
  3. the process by which one utilizes creative ability.

Get Creative

This is an example of a button, these are easily added anywhere on your site. Grab the code for it in the setup area after purchase. It’s as simple as placing it wherever you would like this pretty little creative button to appear. You can even make the button say, and link to whatever and wherever you like. I made the button say “Get Creative” and linked it to the purchase page for this Pretty Creative WordPress Theme.

This is an example of a post that includes a recipe.

pretty-creative-wordpress-theme

A Recipe Post
Recipe Type: Dessert
Cuisine: Cuisine Type Here
Author: Lindsey
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 20
This is where you write a summary of your recipe.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • butter
  • milk
  • baking soda
  • cream cheese
Instructions
  1. This is how the instructions for your recipe will appear. This is how the instructions for your recipe will appear. This is how the instructions for your recipe will appear. This is how the instructions for your recipe will appear. This is how the instructions for your recipe will appear. This is how the instructions for your recipe will appear. This is how the instructions for your recipe will appear.
Serving size: 1 cupcake Calories: 0 🙂 Fat: 4g Saturated fat: 7g Unsaturated fat: 10g Trans fat: 11 Carbohydrates: 10g Sugar: lots Sodium: some Fiber: 0 Protein: 20g Cholesterol: ?

 

This is an example of a WordPress post, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many posts as you like in order to share with your readers what is on your mind.

This is an example of a WordPress post, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many posts as you like in order to share with your readers what is on your mind. This is an example of a WordPress post, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many posts as you like in order to share with your readers what is on your mind.

This is an example of a WordPress post, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many posts as you like in order to share with your readers what is on your mind.

This is an example of a WordPress post, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many posts as you like in order to share with your readers what is on your mind. This is an example of a WordPress post, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many posts as you like in order to share with your readers what is on your mind.