Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Week Before Christmas (and a wassail recipe}

Our days are spent so differently these weeks or days before Christmas. We make time for things we don’t even consider the other 11 months of the year.  I spent most of the morning wrapping presents, shopping on Amazon {a few things I couldn’t find in stores} and unpacking books from the “Move List".  I enjoyed the book part the most.  So glad to have all our books back out after being packed up for more than a year.  Since I started filling the shelves, the kids have had books in their beds every night.  I can smell them when I walk up the stairs.  Yes, I said smell.  : )  And that makes me very happy.

Julia made these trees-- just pinned circles to styrofoam trees with pearl pins.  I think they turned out great.  We ran out of pins  so we didn’t finish the third smallest tree.  Yet.  Why does a quick run to Hobby Lobby seem like climbing Mount Everest right now?

Jeff and I took our annual shopping trip this past weekend. {Thanks, Remey and Kollin-- 6 years strong!  You guys are too good to be true.}  I love this tradition because it allows us to shorten the time span we focus on gifts-- and our kids have a BLAST. We started each morning with coffee and time to check our lists.   Then we got after it.  We got to see Gravity before it left the theatre.  Crazy scenario, but glad I saw it.  Here was the highlight of my movie going experience-- NOT Mr. Clooney.

Starbucks AT the theatre- been wishing for this for, like, 10 years.  Way to go, Cinemark.  It was yummy AND hot.  However, Gravity is not the kind of movie you can sit back and really savor the coffee.  I think I may have guzzled it because of the nervous energy.  It would have suited The Book Thief better or something like that.

For all of you bakers-- loved this idea.  A new friend of mine blessed me with these Sunday night.  Just wanted you to see.  And I can’t go without saying-- she has a 6 week old….. Yeah.

Well, it’s basketball season so we are trying that out too.  It’s all about the teamwork and the friendships in my opinion, but it sure is fun.

Gingerbread house and train….. added the train this year and that took a little more effort-- or maybe forethought.  They need to lighten up a bit, don’t you think?  It’s supposed to be fun, right?
Em hung in there for a while-- despite Jeff antagonizing her.

We park on the shady side of our house so we dealt with ice an entire week later.  Here is Julia trying to make it to the side door.  She finally cut out a path with a shovel on Sunday.

And since this post has NO point whatsoever, I am including one of my favorite recipes and tastes for this time of year- to redeem the waste of your time, possibly?  I named it Wisconsin Wassail after my sweet neighbors’ home state our first few years of marriage.  It makes your whole house smell wonderful when you make it.

Wisconsin Wassail

1/2 gallon apple cider 6oz can frozen orange juice
2 T lemon juice 1/2 c brown sugar
1 T whole cloves 1 T whole allspice
1-2 cinnamon sticks

Secure cloves, cinnamon sticks and allspice in spice bag or cheese cloth.  Mix together and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 20 minutes.

Don’t dare throw the spices away once the wassail has brewed.  Put them in a small pot of water along with some orange peel and simmer on the stove top.  You will love it.  Promise.

And to sign off with a car load of smiling kids…...  They only have ONE more day of finals.  Happy.  But not happier than me.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas by Julia {plus a little Piper} and Our Icy Weekend

We are all in full anticipation mode.  It’s hard to beat this time of year.  All of life’s best things come together for a season and most everyone takes the time to enjoy it, if not for just a day.  Family, food delights, anticipation, a meal around the table, hopeful children, familiar and special music, surprises, beauty, time with loved ones, worship, a birthday....

All of our experiences of Christmas are different even as we are celebrating the same thing.  That must bring joy to God’s heart seeing all of the ways His children decide to anticipate and celebrate Him.  Ever since the children were really young, I have enjoyed all of the pictures drawn of Christmas and what they had been taught.  I have a small collection that I just can’t seem to let go of and I place them around the house each Christmas.  I don’t get the pictures from them anymore but last year, Julia brought me these words that were an overflow of her heart Christmas night.  And I got a peek into how she was pondering and experiencing Christmas as a ten year old.

Christmas by Julia

I love Christmas time with it's festive lights and colors.

It comes only once a year with trees and Santa Claus and reindeer and wishes of good cheer. 

People fill the stores.  Traffic jams and long, long lines are the stressful part of Christmas. 
But on Christmas Eve, the present becomes unwrapped and joy fills the air as you hear the story of the years gone by when the Story of the Savior fills the ears. 

And we remember the real and the true meaning of Christmas.  Not the presents or the tree not even the lights but how Jesus came to save the world and love us all the years.  

So please remember the beautiful story of that Midnight Clear.

It IS a beautiful story.  And I think, one of the most interesting and magical in all of history.  I struggle EVERY year as I think how we’ve almost buried it with stuff we don’t even need.  My kids have want lists and they can’t WAIT for the presents around Christmas.  I am the same way but at the same time, I am grieved.  We’ve done it to ourselves so therefore we have to PRACTICE making the story a big deal---to resurrect it from the sale papers and movies about elves and talking reindeer.

I am guilty.

So this wondrous story.... I’ve read it a few hundred times, so how much more to it can there be?  Why so wondrous?

I am determined to read the Advent book I ordered a couple of years ago.  Last year, I was able to read a few entries but Christmas after the move into the rental seemed a bit blurry.  This particular book, Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus edited by Nancy Guthrie has entries from many pastors and teachers from Martin Luther to George Whitefield to Tim Keller. I have been so blessed by it these first ten days of December.  Of all the ways I have been challenged and been given great thoughts to ponder about the Word, I will share this one with you.

John Piper slowed my reading down when he talked about when we pursue Holy Spirit's empowerment and filling, we must do it indirectly by pursuing the Son, Jesus, as the Spirit doesn't reveal Himself but the Spirit reveals Christ.  Maybe I could have figured this out but I have been very focused on being filled with the Spirit so I may manifest the fruit of the Spirit and have felt very defeated- especially in my parenting.  I have no idea if I have ignored Jesus in some way but I feel it's worth exploring and praying through.

Piper says, “If we look away from Jesus and seek the Spirit and His power directly, we will end up in the mire of our subjective emotions.”  Piper is highlighting the Spirit’s work in the Christmas story-- his quiet, unobtrusive work, his delicate and mysterious work--ALL to magnify Jesus, to put Jesus in the limelight, not Himself.

I love this.  And in my non-Piper way of thinking, I believe I understand it.  It’s always been about Jesus.  Every Old Testament story points to Jesus.  ALL of creation anticipated His birth and arrival.  I LOVE how Luke says in Chapter 2 Verse 6, ”While they were there, THE TIME came for the baby to be born.”  THE time EVERYTHING had been anticipating since the beginning. “Significant moment in history” falls short.  THE moment.  THE game changer.  Jesus.  Here.  Why would we focus on anything but the Son?  Why do I?

Here’s a last Piper thought to leave you with....

“Devote yourselves to seeing and feeling grandeur of the love of God in Jesus Christ and you will be so in harmony with the Holy Spirit that His power will flow mightily in your life.  Christian spiritual experience is not a vague religious emotion.  It is an emotion with objective content and the content is Jesus Christ.”


But on Christmas Eve, the present becomes unwrapped and joy fills the air as you hear the story of the years gone by when the Story of the Savior fills the ears. 

And we remember the real and the true meaning of Christmas.  Not the presents or the tree not even the lights but how Jesus came to save the world and love us all the years.  

So please remember the beautiful story of that Midnight Clear.

And for a few snow ice pictures…

It blew in Thursday night and we awakened to this.

And it was thick, hard ice.

Gabe was CRAZY out there.  He just LOVED it. 

SHEETS of ice and no sun or rising temperatures to thaw it out.

Plenty of time to make Christmas candy--- and eat it.

And a drawback of this kind of homeschooling-- there really aren’t snow days since most assignments are completed at home.  
Check out the pile of snow outside the window.  It measured about 3 1/2 feet high.  Our own little snow drift in Texas. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Rambling through Thanksgiving to Perspective

Just a little update that won’t make a hill of beans to anyone but me-- the therapy it is for me just to type it all out!  I saved too much for today...the-day-the-kids-are-at-school.  I pulled my head out of the sand and spent until now going through emails from, oh, before B’s birthday week.  Fighting shame and with every click hoping there was nothing super urgent.  Who was I kidding?  All I know is that I have some patient and gracious friends AND family. Now, Walgreens may not be as gracious about the HOURS of CE I was to do by 11/29.  {Not for my license-- just in case that worries you if you are a loyal Walgreens customer.}  I’ll get right on that.
So, to regain some perspective, here I sit with a cup of coffee and my new favorite morning food-- even though it’s 11:55-- buttered 9 grain toast.  I gave up Zone Bars {for reasons you don’t want to know} last fall and buttered toast was my replacement.  Makes perfect sense, right?   Right.  We took the week off of house to do’s for the week of Thanksgiving and had a good ol’ time.  We enjoyed sleeping late, staying up late, cooking, anticipating time with friends, first batch of wassail and caramel apples and all the stuff that comes with holidays.  Pulling out Christmas and filling the house of reminders of Christ’s birth was a highlight for me because Julia took so much initiative and we were finished in just a few hours.  Oh, and Georgia beat Georgia Tech in two overtimes Saturday.  Blissful.  I tell Jeff, it’s tradition-- that we win.  {He’s a GT fan.}

So I will start with that.  In a moment of what’s-best-for-my-daughter, we said yes to her babysitting during the game.  Well, B’s texts to me let’s you know what was going on while I was picking up Julia.    I made it back for the overtimes and for the sweet victory.

He said I could not put this on Instagram but he said nothing about the blog.  We went to the Curious George exhibit at our children’s museum.  That little monkey has been one of B’s favorites-- the books especially.  When he got there, he SORT of figured out that it was really for younger kids but he didn’t want to miss a thing.  Hey-- I am hanging on to innocent boy as long as I can.

Both kids feeling a bit out of place here but B really wanted the picture.

So on to the craft room before the IMAX- Rocky Mountain Express.

What else is a  mom supposed to do sitting there surrounded by markers, clean, unwrinkled paper, glue sticks and tissue paper?

And the cooking begins--- I promise she did NOT put that spatula back in the bowl.

Ready for the neighbors-- all four of them. 

Jeff figuring out his new turkey recipe-- new EVERY year!

Dear friend’s mom’s recipe

Sultan’s wife Kandice always makes Jeff greens on Thanksgiving so we always get him for a visit during the Thanksgiving parade.

Loved having Em’s friend Casey for Thanksgiving.  Our Em sure knows how to pick friends.  She’s also got GREAT taste in housemates.  Just saying.

Julia’s little pilgrims

Thanksgiving!  Em-- thanks for filling up the table with such special people!

And to keep the fun going, my cousin texted me and said they were in Grapevine-- the beach cousins.  So we met them for burgers yesterday on the square.  I love it how we all just pick up where we left off in St. George.

I share two-- one, Julia’s eyes were closed in one of them ; ) and two, it only took us 15 shots to get them all looking and no one doing something silly.  We felt like there were all 3 again at the beach trying to get the family shot!

We missed Jeff-- he had to work.  I don’t think Bill ever works. 

But today is reality.  I started Christmas lists last night-- more like a spreadsheet, actually.  Not that we buy that much but we buy for our kids for other people or send ideas to other family members.  So to secure that Julia doesn’t get 3 smash book kits or Brighton doesn’t get 4 LEGO Star Wars Jek 14 Stealth Starfighter sets, I’ve got to keep track of all this.  It takes time to find all of Julia’s little circles in the magazines, find them on the website and then send the links on to generous family members.  {Even though it’s time consuming, I gladly do it to avoid getting “what in the world are we going to do with this?” kinds of things.} I could write a whole post on the $700 worth of stuff she wanted from the Land of Nod and Chasing Fireflies {the catalogs she knows that are only Christmas options.}  From the girl that wants to be a fashion designer or a missionary to India, it was quite the mix of stuff.

And, this morning, my noisy friend has been texting me about starting her Blurb book {blogs in book form} .... which I have usually finished by now and am waiting on it to arrive at my front door.  Not this year.  Not starting it today.  Oh, but how sad I will be not to have it at Christmas.  Due date for regular shipping is next Friday. Her last text to me a few minutes ago was not encouraging:


The program Blurb uses is not know for it’s speediness.

My reality is really good.  Truly.  And like yours, really full.  Putting the to do list on the back burner for Thanksgiving week was GREAT but it’s still back there- still hot.  Makes me wish for a fairy godmother’s magic wand.  I could “poof” a few things about now.  To help my perspective and my focus, I started my favorite Advent book this weekend, Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus edited by Nancy Guthrie and have been challenged in my thinking each day.

I’ll leave you with two thoughts that will take me straight to Christmas morning {and on to Lent} as I think on them:

Let us celebrate and keep this festival of our church with joy in our hearts:  let the birth of a Redeemer, which redeemed us from sin, from wrath, from death, from hell, be always remembered; may this Savior’s love never be forgotten! ……..This, is the history worth reading, this is worth employing our time about.  ~ George Whitefield

Only as a man could Jesus do what Adam failed to do and be the mediator between God and man.  Why?  Because only flesh can die.
From the creche to the cross is an inseparable line.  Christmas only points forward to Good Friday and Easter.  It can have no meaning apart from that, where the Son of God displayed His glory by His death. ~ Joseph “Skip” Ryan

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

B’s 10th birthday letter

Dear B,

While most people were fast asleep in the first few hours of October 24th, 2003, we were up cuddling with you.  Amazed.  Thrilled.  Relieved.  And completely in love with you, the “little peanut” as Daddy likes to call you.  Weighing in at a mere 5 pounds and 5 ounces, you looked lost against his broad chest held in his big arms.  He likes to tell you that you cried and cried when he held you that first time and that you quieted when he handed you to me but that’s not completely true.  You found your place in his arms pretty quickly and settled right in.  You surprised us that day, coming early, setting a pattern for the next ten years.

Birthday letters are for memories and life building words.  I think you will find the similarities in yourself over the years as you read them sequentially one day.  I am fascinated that even in those first few hours and first few months, I can look back now and say, that’s part of who God made you to be.  Some of your quirks will be your greatest strengths.  Some of the things we discipline you for now will be what makes you successful in what God calls you to do.  Some of your greatest qualities could cause you heartache.  {And that will be hard on this momma.}  And one day, just maybe, some of your least desirable foods will be be your favorite and you will realize that I am a very good cook. ; )  Moving on.

God went to a heap of trouble to get you to us.  I think about that often and have on repeat in my mind that God prepared me ALL MY LIFE to be Julia’s and your momma.  I was born to be your momma and you were born to be a Sanders’ boy.  And in this family of four, God will direct and train you for His life purposes for you.  Most every day, I feel inadequate and even confused.  And that can be a good thing but not a fun thing.  Up until about 5 years ago, I had your number and ever since then, it’s been one long lesson in dependency on the Lord.  That’s the good thing.  But He’s got all your numbers and I am just His conduit.

We’ve known it since you could talk but you delight in people.  Almost any person but you migrate to older people and possibly lonely people.  It warms my heart to see you in action and how other faces brighten as you interact with them and PURSUE them.  In our last two neighborhoods, you have kept us up on what was going on with the neighbors.  They know about your games, your school work and, of course, your birthdays!  We weren’t even at Clover for a year but you befriended our single neighbor and for you, it was perfect, because she couldn’t drive so she was ALWAYS at home to answer your faithful knock on the door or tap on the side window.  It didn’t hurt that she had a basketball goal AND that she would watch you shoot baskets AND that she would cheer for you.  I am not sure that she will ever have as fine a neighbor as you were to her.  And Mr. Adolf, “the nicest man I’ve ever met” as you call him .....   I won’t forget how he served our whole street by bringing the paper to our porches every morning.  You got into his heart too.  This will serve you well, B.  Love people.  Put the relationship over the to-do’s or the hurts and misunderstanding.  Love them as yourself.  And the next time you ask if we can go say hi to Ms. Vicki, I’ll say yes.

Let’s see.... you shared a room with your sister all year which whether you will admit it or not, YOU LOVED IT.  You loved never falling asleep alone and waking up knowing someone else was just an arm’s reach away.

You made new friends at your new school-- and learned the ropes of doing school for someone other than me.

You ice skated for the first time and proved your sense of balance to be just like your cousin, RJ’s....... not there. ; )

You played your second season of kid pitch baseball in the spring.

And you took yourself VERY seriously.

You got into old comic books and baseball cards of all generations.

You and Julia began staying home alone for short periods of time.

You were part of a core group to start Watermark’s children’s ministry-- wearing your On Your Mark t-shirt loud and proud.

You got your very own kitten.  Your dream come true-- a real live “stuffed animal” for your bed.

You spent gobs of time with your Daddy.  He began taking you to early morning breakfasts on Tuesday and you will NEVER let him forget it. {You begged the Senior Citizens to let you play Bingo... they relented... you won.  They weren’t happy.}

Thanks to this guy, you got to try golf for the very first time.

You made us laugh.  A lot.

You warmed my heart….. a few times.

You danced at your cousin’s wedding.

You built your first card house.  You learned from the best.  I am sure the mustache helped.

You began reading for Wii minutes.  You’ve never read so much in your 10 year life.

You enjoyed being a part of Thursday Boys.

You played your first year of tackle football.  You invited our neighbor friend and she cheered for you unashamedly for the entire stadium to hear.  We all had fun with that.  It didn’t hurt that your team made it to the championship and you got to play at Cowboy Stadium.

You are persistent, clever, tender-hearted, fun-loving, intense, competitive, handsome, forgiving, relentless, encouraging, inquisitive, bright, complicated and my favorite little boy on the planet.

Oh-- and you got a haircut.

We moved twice which was very hard on you, my let’s-never-change-anything-ever-not-even-just-a-little-bit child.  I’m very proud of you.  You made it through but not without rough patches.  Change does a number on {and me too} so together, maybe we weren’t such a great pair, but you did it. And it feels more like home every day you make a memory here.  You’ll be fine.  We’ve got lots of living to do in this home.  God willing.

So, at 10, there is much I could say, but here is what I am feeling is most important right now.  Stick with your Daddy.  Follow his lead.  His heart towards you is tender and his vision for your relationship is strong and clear.  His heart is the Lord’s and his relationship with Him is genuine.  He listens to Lord and, in turn, leads you to do the same.  Watch your Dad be a man.  A man who follows Christ.  A man who is a gentleman.  Watch how he treats me and tuck that away.  I promise it will come in handy one day.  But here’s maybe the most important.  Daddy LOVES you and just like in those wee hours of October 24th, 2003, you squirmed and cried in his arms, you finally settled and rested in his embrace.  You felt safe and I believe you felt loved.  Settle now.  Rest now in your daddy’s love.  LIVE your life out of that love.  It’s the same with your Heavenly Father.  Daddy is just the tangible practice of living this way.  LIVE your life rooted and grounded in God’s love.  Believe it.  Know it.  Live your life out of it.

I love you, Big B.  I love that I can say you are my favorite boy in the whole world.  Remember when I tell you..... if they lined up little boys all around the equator, I’d look and look and look until I found YOU.  No other little boy will do.  Don’t you forget it.

Goodbye 9!  Hello 10!