Saturday, December 31, 2011

'He will quiet you with his love'

{On the way from Queenstown to Milford Sound in New Zealand in 2009.}

The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.

--Zephaniah 3:17

The year has flown by. It's been good. And it's been a journey. We've been on all kinds of road trips, established priorities for our family, and grown closer to friends. We're not the same. We're changed and challenged and encouraged and blessed and motivated by what's happened in our ordinary, everyday lives this year.

The year 2011 ends today, but this journey doesn't end here. It continues. We still have kids to raise, family and friends to love, meals to share, places to go, things to learn, games to play, and stories to create.

Knowing that, I wanted to pick a promise to hold onto. Because some days are hard. Being a mom requires energy and patience that I don't always have. But I want to have it. And I know if I trust God and cling to his truths, I can come out better than I went in.

And that's my hope. I hope my stubborn, controlling tendencies are quieted with God's faithfulness. I hope my opinions and reactions are quieted with God's truth. I hope my impatient, hurried ways are quieted with God's everlasting love. I hope my plans are quieted with God's promises to continue his work in me.

Because God is with me.

He is mighty to save. Over and over again.

He delights in me. And my husband. And my kids. And you.

He will quiet me with his love.

And he will rejoice over me with singing.

Inspired by Ali Edwards and a Compassion International blogging prompt, I want to choose a word for 2012: QUIET. Don't misunderstand me. I'm not going to sit down and let the year pass me by. But I do want my words and actions to speak clearly and not be cluttered by unnecessary jumbled distractions. My hope is I will know when I need to speak up, when I need to shut my mouth, and when I need to listen and learn. For all of that to happen, God has to quiet some of me and make himself known in my life.

With that, may 2012 begin ...

I'm not good with resolutions, but new years are good times to start fresh. You can look back on what was on my mind to start 2011 and 2010. Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Undefeated Racers

You've probably heard: Our Murray State Racers are undefeated at 13-0. The best part is how fun this team is to watch. First-year head coach Steve Prohm has so much energy and confidence. And it seems to flow over on down the bench and onto the court.

The Racers play at Eastern Illinois tonight at 7 central time. It's on ESPN3, if you have access to that.

We're loving all the attention that comes with being ranked {#20 in the AP poll and #21 in the ESPN poll this week} and undefeated. And we even made it on SportsCenter last week after the Racers opened Ohio Valley Conference play with a win over UT-Martin. And, no, I'm not wearing a Kentucky shirt. It's a Murray State shirt with an old-school look. Promise.

{Although, admittedly, I do love the Wildcats too. But that's another story for another time.}

Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Party of nine ...

That's us with some of our dearest, closest friends. And together we had five kids in five years. They've known each other all their little lives, which means their interactions are sometimes more like siblings than friends. They love and pester and hug and nag each other.

We cherish this family.

I'm blessed in my friendship with Jaclyn. And have been since we met in 1998. We've been through many seasons of life in those 13 years. We've fallen in love with our spouses, stood up at each other's weddings, started careers, struggled to have babies, quit jobs, become mothers, and now we're raising kids.

That's alone is worth a meal at Outback. With the 40-minute wait. With the kids. Because life wouldn't be the same with out her and her family. And this is Christmas.

Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Catching up with Christmas

I'm back. And I'm in my pajamas still this morning. None of our usual morning commitments {exercise class and Cate's preschool} are happening this week, so I get to snuggle with my kids and stay in my pajamas longer than usual. It's wonderful.

And so was our Christmas.

I love how Christmas covers the calendar in December, but there's still something special about the days leading up to the actual day. We spent a few days in Louisville, where we had our annual get-together with a couple of my high school friends, Bekah and Shelley, and their families.

We started the tradition in 2007, when our girls were little, and have done it every year but one since. Last year's post captures some of the history, in pictures, of course! It's become one of my favorite Christmas traditions. We share a delicious breakfast and then the kids have a book exchange.

Rhett and Ben are only two months apart, so it was fun to watch them together. The similarities are certainly there.

You'd think as the kids get older it would be easier to get a picture. Yeah, well, that didn't seem to be the case. But we tried anyway ...

From left, that's Ila (5), Rhett (23 months), Lizzy (4), Case (3), Cate (4), Ben (2), Nate (6), and Evan (8). Seeing my kids play with my long-time friends' kids is one of my favorite things about motherhood.

And then was more celebrating with my family. We are so glad Cassie and Zac are back in the United States. After their almost three years in New Zealand, I'm glad my sister has a U.S. cell phone and is living in the same time zone as me.

Mom even gave me a jacket that matches Cassie's. We wore them together on a walk around the neighborhood.

That's the four Hill cousins. They always have a good time together.

Greg was excited about his new game. And then Cassie, Mom and I beat him and Zac. Twice. First game we dominated. Second game we had a masterful come-from-behind victory.

We came home Christmas Eve so we could be at home Christmas morning for a little celebration with just the four of us. We read the Christmas story, exchanged gifts, and ate cinnamon rolls before going to church.

And then it was next door to Nana and Papaw's house for some time with the Taylor cousins. We ate a good meal, played some games, and exchanged presents. Again, not all the kids were exactly on board for the photo shoot with Nana. But we tried ...

And, admittedly, us adults laughed. Evelyn was mad Elijah pulled off her tiara. Ben didn't want to wear the reindeer antlers or sit. Immediately following the brief photo shoot, he took a nap.

These back scratchers from Uncle David were quite a hit too, as you can see. Funny thing is, earlier in the morning Cate had given me a back scratcher and fly swatter she had picked out from Gran-Gran's bag of random gifts. It was sweet she found me something practical.

There are photos on Facebook, of course, but that's was our Christmas in a nutshell. I hope yours was merry and bright and memorable.

Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Meet Jean

This is Jean Carlos Pacheco Mota. He's 10 and lives in Ecuador. And he's our second Compassion child. This sweet picture of him is hanging on our fridge next to Roselyn.

I was feeling led to sponsor a second child as God constantly reminded me how blessed my family is. Our kids live good lives. And we want to help other kids be blessed.

We picked Jean specifically because he shares a birthdate with Ben. Sponsoring these children through Compassion International changes us here in the rich United States. Roselyn's letters bring joy to my own 4-year-old girl's heart and I love seeming them hang on the fridge in the days after they arrive. I'm hoping to learn more about Jean soon.

Christmastime has reminded me to slow down and soak in the meaning of the season and, really, life. And that has absolutely nothing to do with ourselves but the people around us, even those we haven't met in person who live in countries much different than our own. I'm thankful God has provided {more than} enough for us here so we can help them there.

In the 15 months we've sponsored Roselyn, she's made a difference in my faith. I trust that will continue and I pray we make the kind of difference in the lives of Roselyn and Jean that point their hearts to God. And they can tell others, God did this for me.

Speaking of Roselyn, she started signing her letters to us "Mishell," which is her middle name, so although we're a bit confused about what to call her, we're happy to hear from her. She recently turned 5 and looks so grown up in the this new picture.

Cate -- who is just six months younger than her Guatemalan friend -- loves the pictures Roselyn draws on her letters to us and often answers with pictures of her own. Preschool aged girls definitely have similarities regardless of where they live.

Perhaps I can learn a little something about boys from Jean, whose profile says he likes group games, storytelling and bicycling. In my mind, he's a grown up version of my 2-year-old boy who is always on the move and plotting what to get into next.

May God bless you greatly so you can bless someone else -- this Christmas season and into the new year. Merry Christmas!

Plenty of children in other countries still need sponsors if you're able and willing to help. Compassion International also has ways to buy gifts to help families help themselves.

Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Here in community

We started attending Christian Community Church in January 2004, about five months after we moved back to Murray. We'd only been going there a few weeks when I was diagnosed with diabetes. The church that barely knew me sent flowers and a couple visitors.

That spoke more than any sermon to me about community.

Like the name says, our congregation values community -- the group of people we choose to surround ourselves with, the place we live, the people we know who live in other towns, the world in general. And we believe that God changes people, including ourselves, through relationships.

That's what I love about our church. There are other things that I like: It's small. It's non-denominational. There are lots of kids my kids' ages. It's connected the campus ministry with which I was involved in college. The foundation of the congregation is small groups {called cell groups} that meet during the week. But all of those things go back to community.

In the spring of 2004, only months after we started going to CCC, a large small group broke into two groups. We initially split based on who could meet in homes because they didn't have pet allergies and who would continue meeting at the church building. Various factors led a couple people to swap places, and the group that became our current small group was formed.

I've shared this before, but it's worth repeating:

When the Scripture talks about church, it means community. The little fellowships of the heart that are outposts of the kingdom. A shared life. They worship together, eat together, pray for one another, go on quests together. They hang out together, in each other's homes. ... I love this description of the early church: "All the believers were on in heart." (Acts. 4:32). There is a camaraderie being expressed there ... . It means they all love the same thing, they all want the same thing, and they are bonded together to find it come hell or high water. And hell and high water will come, friends, and this will be the test of whether or not your band will make it: If you are one in heart. ... Going to church with hundreds of other people to sit and hear a sermon doesn't ask much of you. It certainly will never expose you. That's why most folks prefer it. Because community will. It will reveal where you have yet to become holy. It will bring you close and you will be seen and you will be known and therein lies the power and therein lies the danger. ... Seriously, now, how often have you seen this sort of intimate community work? It is rare. Because it is hard, and it is fiercely opposed. The Enemy hates this sort of thing; he knows how powerful it can be, for God and his kingdom. For our hearts. ... We have settled for safety in numbers -- a comfortable, anonymous distance. An Army that keeps meeting for briefings, but never breaks into platoons and goes to war. Living in community is like camping together. For a month. In the desert. Without tents. All your stuff is scattered out there for everyone to see. C'mon -- anybody can look captured for Christ an hour a week, from a distance, in the Sunday best. But your life is open to those you live in community with. ... A true community is something you will have to fight for. You'll have to fight to get one, and you'll have to fight to keep it afloat. ... Suddenly all those "one another's" in Scripture make sense. Love one another. Bear one another's burdens. Forgive one another. ... But be careful about what you are looking for from community. Community is no substitute for God. ... We first go to God, alone, so that we have something to bring back to the community. ... God is calling together little communities of the heart, to fight for one another and for the hearts of those who have not yet been set free.

--John Eldredge in "Waking the Dead"

More than seven years ago, there were seven adults and one baby, I believe. We grew in numbers because other people joined and then those families multiplied as more babies were born. Families moved away while others joined. And then more babies were born, again. Last spring, when there were as many kids as adults {I believe it peaked at 14 each} our cell group split into two. It was a peaceful situation that was beneficial for everyone.

Recently, I was feeling as if it was time for another change. When I talked to Greg about it, he agreed. After thinking and praying about it, we decided to step back as cell group leaders {which happened sort of by default along the way!} and join a group that isn't full of people our age with small kids.

Don't misunderstand me, a couple of the families in our cell group {pictured above} are some of my dearest friends. They're the people I call {or perhaps text} when I have news of any kind. They're the people we hang out with and eat meals with and schedule playdates with. And I hope to spend time with the other families too. We're all in this parenthood thing together, swapping stories and tips and encouragement. Our kids are in Sunday school classes together. And we sit near each other on Sunday mornings.

They're our community.

And they will be.

But Greg and I believe God has something else to do. With our family. And with these families we love. So we're joining other families from our church in other groups. We're trusting God that he's leading us to where we need to be as our community grows.

Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Monday, December 19, 2011

{Giveaway Winners}

Hooray! Katy and Colleen, you are the winners of the board game giveaway. You both should have an email from me in your inbox with more details. A package from Wayfair will arrive on your doorstep soon!

Thanks, everyone, for entering the giveaway and for reading my blog. Hope you all enjoy this week leading up to Christmas. May your days be merry and bright.

Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Christmasy weekend

The Christmas celebrations continue ...

We spent Saturday morning and afternoon at Greg's mom's house with his brothers and their families. And then we went to the annual Taylor Christmas Party with Greg's grandpa and two great-uncles and all their descendants. I've told you before about the beauty of a large family: My daughter is able to befriend her second cousin once removed. We shared a delicious meal, caught up with each other and listened to kids play together.

That's Cate and Taylor -- second cousins once removed.

Cate and Ethne are first cousins. And, yes, that's Ben crying in the background.

Evelyn is only seven months older than Ben. Yep, cousins who are both 2 is quite an adventure. But I think we wore them out because they both cuddled up with Greg during the basketball game that ended our family day. Oh, have you heard? Our Racers are 12-0 and ranked 24th in The Associated Press poll.

It was a great day of togetherness across the family tree.

And then Sunday we went a-caroling ...


There are more pictures of our celebrating this weekend and throughout December here. Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gifts of Compassion

Gifts of Compassion

I learn most things through repetition. Perhaps it's my stubbornness. Or my momma mind that sometimes seems mushy. Whatever the reason, I soak things in when I hear them and do them more than once.

That's my strategy for teaching my kids, well, right now, really my 4-year-old girl, about how to make the Christmas season meaningful. {My 2-year-old boy is learning other things right now, like how to eat yogurt cleanly with a spoon, how to hold my hand when we walk in a parking lot, and how to put words together to make sentences. Deeper things to come.} We don't do lots of gifts under the tree for each other, but oh do I love giving gifts. Of course, I buy for our family and friends. But it doesn't end there.

I tell Cate over and over how blessed we are. And, unfortunately, not every kids lives a life like ours. So God wants us to share our blessings with others. We try to show her ways to do this, not just this time of the year.

At our Jesus birthday party we collected money so we could help people we've never met in far away places. With that money, we bought kids {and their families} building materials ($20), garden seeds ($10), school supplies ($30) and blankets/tarps ($15). These gifts through Compassion International aren't expensive, but they'll make a difference in lives. If you want to do something even more lasting, you can sponsor a child. Your monthly $38 will continually change a child's life as he/she grows up, learns who Jesus is, and gives back to his/her community. And not only does that child's life change, but so does the entire family.

And that difference brings us back to the meaning of Christmas, where joy and compassion and generosity are abundant. All because that baby was born in a manger thousands of years ago. Oh come let us adore him.

Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

{Worth Repeating Wednesday} Emmanuel

... An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel" (which means "God with us"). --Matthew 1:20-23

O come, O come, Emmanuel. God with us.

That was brought to life for me this week when I read the following quote in another blog post:

He was baptized (Matt. 3:13) as man, but he destroyed sins (Matt. 9:6) as God; he himself was not in need of purifying rites, but [he was baptized/he came] that he might sanctify the waters.

He was tempted (Matt. 4:1) as man, but he conquered as God; not only this but he even encouraged [us] to be courageous, since he had conquered the world (John 16:33).

He was hungry, but he fed thousands (John 6:10); not only this but he is indeed life-giving and heavenly bread (John 6:51).

He was thirsty (John 4:7; 19:28), but he shouted, "If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink" (John 7:37); not only this but he also promised that those who believe would gush forth [with water] (John 7:38).

He was tired (John 4:6), but for those who are tired and heavy laden he is rest (Matt. 11:28).

He was heavy with sleep (Matt. 8:24), but he is light upon the sea; not only this but he even rebukes winds; not only this but he even makes Peter light when he is sinking (Matt. 14:25, 29; Matt. 8:26).

He pays tax, but [he does so] from a fish (Matt. 17:24-27); not only this but he is even king of those demanding [the tax].

He hears himself called a Samaritan and demon-possessed (John 8:48), but he saves the one who went down from Jerusalem and fell among robbers (Luke 10:30); not only this but he is even recognized by demons (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34) and drives out demons (Matt. 8:16), and he sinks a legion of spirits (Luke 8:33) and sees the ruler of demons falling like lightning (Luke 10:18).

He is stoned, but he is not caught (John 8:59).

He prays (Matt. 14:23; 26:36; Heb. 5:7), but he hears [prayers] (Acts 7:59). He weeps (John 11:35), but he causes tears to cease. He asks where Lazarus [is laid] (John 11:34), for he was man, but he raises Lazarus (John 11:43), for he was God.

He is sold, and very cheaply, for [it was] for thirty silver coins (Matt. 26:15), but he buys back the world, and [it was] for a great price, for [it was] for his own blood (1 Pet 1:18-19).

He was led as a sheep to slaughter (Isa 53:7), but he shepherds Israel, and now, indeed, the whole inhabited world (John 10:11).

[He is] silent like a lamb (Isa 53:7; Matt. 26:63), but he is the Word (John 1:1), being proclaimed by a voice of one shouting in the desert (John 1:23). He has been weakened, wounded, but he heals every disease and every infirmity (Isa. 53:5).

He is lifted up upon the tree (John 12:32), he is fixed [to it] (Acts 2:23), but he restores by the tree of life (John 6:51); not only this but he saves even a robber crucified with [him] (Luke 23:43); not only this but he darkens everything that is seen (Luke 23:44).

He is given cheap wine to drink (Luke 23:36), he is fed bile (Matt. 27:34). Who? The one who changed the water into wine (John 2:1-11), the destroyer of the bitter taste (Heb. 2:9), the [one who is] sweetness and all desire (Song 5:16).

He hands over his life, but he has authority to take it again (John 10:18); not only this but the curtain is torn apart (Matt. 27:51); for the things above are exhibited (Cf. Rev. 11:19; 15:5) not only this but rocks are split; not only this but dead are raised beforehand (Matt. 27:51-52).

He dies, but he makes alive, and by death he destroys death.

He is buried, but he rises. He goes down into Hades (1 Peter 3:18-19), but he brings up souls; not only this but he goes up into heaven; not only this but he will come to judge the living and the dead ...

From "The Mystery of the Incarnation: A Scriptural Tapestry of Jesus as Man and God" by Gregory of Nazianzus, translation by Rodney A. Whitacre

Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I want to be a ...

That's part of the get-to-know-you poster Cate made earlier this school year.

If you ask Cate what she wants to be when she grows up, she'll tell you she wants to be a "flu shot doctor." And that's been her answer for an entire year. That's a long time for a girl who has been 3 and 4 years old.

It started after her flu shot at the local health department last year. Cate {and her 2-year-old brother} got their annual flu shots at the end of November.

While we were sitting in the waiting room for longer than seemed necessary, I started wondering if bringing both kids to get stuck with a needle was a good idea. Even though she decided beforehand to show Ben how it was done, Cate got nervous right as the nurse asked who was going first.

But she went first. And didn't shed a tear. She even told the nurse she wanted to be a "flu shot doctor" when she was bigger. Perhaps we'll talk in the future about expanding that to be a nurse practitioner or pediatrician. But for now I'll embrace a 4-year-old girl's dreams. They're sure to take her somewhere good.

Then Ben's turn came. He was insulted the friendly nurse would stick him like that in his leg, but the tears were short lived. He stopped crying before we left the room, reward stickers in hand.

We walked out holding hands. I was one proud momma. And thankful too. And smiling because my girl still wants to be a "flu shot doctor."

Then 11 days after getting her flu shot, Cate asked, "What's the flu?" while we were eating dinner. It seemed out of the blue. But my guess is she's been thinking about what she wants to be when she grows up.

Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Only joy, please ...

The holidays make me so anxious! How can I stay organized this year?

This question was posed by Blogher's Life Well Lived. And, honestly, for me, it's too late in the Christmas season to implement any new strategies. The fact I start early keeps the anxiety away from this first-born, stereotypical perfectionist.

I stay organized by starting early with a list of what I want to do, for whom I want to buy gifts, where Christmas photos and letters are going, food and gifts needs for various parties, babysitters required for adult-only dinners, and travel plans to visit my out-of-town family. If often also shop throughout the year and store up presents in a closet. And I remind myself of what's most important for our family {celebrating Jesus with people we love and teaching our kids about generosity and the savior of the world}.

I get it all on the calendar and on the grocery list and just dive in. With my camera, of course.

{Read more ideas at Blogher.}

We have something planned every evening from now until Dec. 27. And I'm not stressed. It's taking me awhile to get here. But I'm glad to be here, aiming to soak in everything I love about this season. The songs. The smells. The people. The places. The food. The meaning.

Starting early and making a plan keeps me from letting anxiety steal my joy.

Join in the conversation! How do you keep from getting anxious in December? Have you thought of something you'd like to implement next year?

Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Happy birthday, Jesus!

I don't want the truth of Christmas to get lost in the commercialized holiday. So we've been talking often about Jesus being born as a baby. Then he grew up and taught people about life with him and heaven. But the savior of the world was born in a manger. And that's why we celebrate.

So, yes, we've been proclaiming "Happy birthday, Jesus!" quite frequently around here. There's a great song {Thanks, Slugs & Bugs!} that helps drive home our point. Most recently, we had a birthday party for Jesus with some friends.

The party started with an idea last year. We had a party with two other families. And then we expanded this year. There were 12 families, which meant 21 adults and 24 kids. Celebrating with the families with whom we share our lives is an important part of Christmas for us.

They kids made advent chains that have Bible verses to read each day counting down to Christmas. They colored and played. We collected food for a local food bank and money to help kids through Compassion International. We sang carols and listened to the Christmas story.

And we had birthday cake, of course. Happy birthday, Jesus! We sure had fun celebrating your birth.

Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Memories hang here

A blogging friend inspired me to share about some of the ornaments on our tree. I like looking at other people's trees and figured this would be a good way to document ours. So, come along, on a virtual tour of what's hanging on the branches of our fat, unshaped real tree I love.

I love collecting ornaments while traveling.

My mother-in-law gave us this in 2009 as a memento from our trip to Texas that July.

That's made in New Zealand, where we went in August 2009.

Gran-Gran gave these to the kids in 2010. We had gone to Branson in October and part of our vacation was seeing "Noah" at the Sights and Sounds Theater.

Us adults got this one from the same Branson trip.

I love this ornament from Chicago. We went in September 2010, but it's a new addition to the tree this year because we only put up a small tree last year. I was worried that Ben would try to climb it last year. So far so good this year, although I keep a close eye on him.

Several ornaments came home with us from Maine this fall.

Cate picked out this lobster one and I love it. The store there personalized it for us.

This one is made out of Maine lobster, crab and mussel shells.

And, of course, we brought an ornament home from Boston this fall too.

The handmade ornaments from Cate are among my favorites too. She is 4 years old. And really into crafts. She's brought home four handmade ornaments from school already, and she still has a week and a half left before Christmas Break. And that's not even counting the ones she made last year.

We -- although mostly Cate -- made these last year for relatives.

That's our family, apparently.

And we can't leave out baby Jesus' family.

Ornaments that document moments in our lives are good too. We have one commemorating our first Christmas as a married couple. And then there are these, which I love ...

Peggy {my mother-in-law who is better known as Gran-Gran around here ...} is a great gift-giver. She had these ornaments made for us in 2002 {the only Christmas we lived in Lexington} and 2003 {our first year in our first Murray house}.

No worries, Ben has a couple "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments too. He was born a month before Christmas, so he actually has more baby ornaments than Cate. They were great gifts to get!

Isn't this sweet? {Again, courtesy Gran-Gran!} Cate became a big sister in November 2009.

I like dated picture ornaments too. I'm sure this doesn't surprise any of you. On my to-do list is finding ones for this year.

Our childhood ornaments are fun to have, especially now that Cate likes to hear stories about them.

That's me. And I think this specific ornament was in a box my grandpa gave me after my grandma passed away in 2001.

And, obviously, that's from Greg's first Christmas.

What's your favorite Christmas ornament? Do you have a themed tree or is it a hod-podge of memories like ours?

Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Never say never ...

I have a bad habit of making generalizations that end up not being true.

In college, I told Greg {and probably others} that I'd never live in Murray and work at the Murray Ledger & Times. But Greg proposed in 2002, and I accepted, knowing he wanted to practice law in his hometown when he got finished in law school. I started working at the Ledger & Times a month after moving to Murray in September 2002.

I worked there for four years, and I loved the job. It was challenging to work and live in the same small town. And I learned much about myself while doing it. Funny thing is, I had a great plan to be a working mom. That only lasted a short time, though, because I quit my reporting job to be a full-time momma when Cate was 4 months old.

Never say never, I know.

You'd think I would've learned by now.

I told Greg over and over for years that our kids were going to public schools. Hands down. No negotiating. My parents are public school educators. I had a good public school experience. We live in a town with two good public school systems. And on and on ...

Then God got a hold of my heart with this subject. And he used Cate's preschool experience to do it. We've loved Cate's preschool classes at a local church. I started thinking about how the biblical foundation wouldn't be part of her learning to read, writing sentences, working math problems, and discovering how things work as a kindergartner. And I started thinking about how to close this gap.

I feel strongly about going to church, working, and going to school in the community in which you chose to live. I believe that's how community is intended to work. With that said, we live in a small town so our schooling options are limited.

The neighboring town {15 minutes away from my driveway} has a Christian school. In its second year, it's still pretty small. But the philosophy there aligns with what we believe to be true and important. And I could sense God urging me to give up my plan and trust his leading.

So that's what I'm doing. I turned in Cate's kindergarten registration papers Wednesday after we spent an hour in the K-1 classroom. I left the school sensing peace in this decision for our family and being thankful that God doesn't listen to my faulty generalizations.

Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gather near

When Ben isn't throwing or kicking a camel across the floor, this Little People Nativity is a great addition to our house during the Christmas season.

Seriously, listening to my 4-year-old girl talk about Baby Jesus and watching her re-arrange the manger scene is as sweet as it gets. Even if her 2-year-old brother is tempted to throw camels and wise men.

We moved the nativity from the floor, where it was easy to scatter, to a table near the Christmas tree. Not long after doing so yesterday, I noticed the above manger scene. And, truthfully, it made my heart melt. Every person and animal is huddled together facing Jesus.

And that's how it should be.

This story is real. The savior of the world was born in an ordinary barn. His momma was relieved to have him in her arms. Joseph was protecting his new family. And the animals probably wondered what was happening.

And the world was never the same again. The little baby grew up to be a man that people admired and feared and worshiped and crucified. The grave couldn't hold him. And hearts wouldn't be the same. All because that baby was born in a barn. And people gathered to see.

That little blue gift next to baby Jesus is from a train set Ben has. I asked Cate why she wanted the gift in the manger. She stared at me like I was asking a ridiculous question and then said, "It's Christmas. It's Jesus' birthday. People are bringing him presents."

Well, of course.

We're celebrating his birth. Just like all those people who came to see, we're rejoicing because he's here, just like God said he would be. Who wouldn't want to give a present to the savior of the world?

Just come and see. And, turns out, you'll be changed in ways that don't fit in a box tied up with a bow.

Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

{Worth Repeating Wednesday} Unclench ...

Stop trying to protect, to rescue, to judge, to manage the lives around you ... remember that the lives of others are not your business. They are their business. They are God’s business ... even your own life is not your business. It also is God’s business. Leave it to God. It is an astonishing thought. It can become a life-transforming thought ... unclench the fists of your spirit and take it easy ...

Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Small-town America

I love living in small-town America, where my favorite grocery store is near and parades are plentiful. Isn't having the local football team on the top of a fire truck the epitome of small-town America? Seems like it should be a scene right out "Friday Night Lights."

Of course, some things are definitely unique to Murray, Ky., my small town ...

'Tis the season for holiday greetings anyway they come. Even from a large cow.

Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Monday, December 5, 2011

{Approved for You} Song of the Stars

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
-Psalm 150:6

I'm not much of an animal person. But I love "Song of the Stars" by Sally Lloyd-Jones. The book features all kinds of animals and parts of nature celebrating the coming birth of Jesus.

I'm certain my kids and their friends will love it too. We're going to read it at a Jesus birthday party we're having with friends this coming weekend. The illustrations by Alison Jay are beautiful and draw readers into a story that is beautifully told. Jesus' birth changed the entire world, and this is a sweet perspective for little hearts.

The animals stood around his bed.
And the whole earth
and all the stars and sky
held its breath ...

"The One who made us
has come to live with us!"

I like the other ways Jesus is described in Sally Lloyd-Jones' pages: The Might King! The Prince of Peace! The Bright and Morning Star! The Good Shepherd! A Light to light up the whole world! Our Rescuer! God's greatest gift. A tiny little baby. Heaven's son sleeping under the stars that he made.

It's time! It's time! ... Get ready! Get ready! Be glad! Be glad!

Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.