Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Advent at the Farmer's

Brad & I try to be very intentional on how we raise the kids. To be honest, more often than not we fail miserably. I could make a list a mile long of all the things that we need to improve on as parents. (Please don't ask me to do that 'cause I'll be buried in a mountain of guilt that will take me until this time next year to dig out of). Just trust me when I say that this is not a false humility.

But, during Advent/Christmas we have tried extra, extra hard to keep the focus on Christ. My parents did a great job of teaching us what the real meaning of Christmas is, but we were Baptists and the word advent was not in our vocabulary. When Brad & I started going to our current church (some 10-11 years ago) we began to learn that Advent just means waiting. And when we celebrate advent we are waiting for our Saviour, just like thousands of years ago, the world waited for Him.

I mentioned last year, that our church hosts an Advent festival each year, where families come an make their own advent wreath together as a church. Then, in our homes each night, we light the candle/candles and read a devotion that corresponds with the day. My children just absolutely fell in love with this. So, it became a tradition in our family too (and luckily at church too). I love how lighting the candles helps them count down and anticipate getting to finally light the white candle in the middle on Christmas. And, how our waiting on Christmas represents the world awaiting a Savior so many years ago.

But, I wanted to share something new that we started this year as well. I got the idea from a blog that I read quite a bit, but several of you may already know about it. This year, we started our own Jesse Tree. You start the First Day of Advent, and each night you read a devotion. The devotions are meant to sort of take you through the Old Testament and lead up to or end with The Savior's birth on Christmas Day. Several of the devotions are from Old Testament prophecies predicting Christ's birth. But they all kind of show God's ultimate plan and provision for us through Christ. In fact, the first devotion is about the stump of Jesse (hence the name Jesse Tree), and the first sentence of our particular devotions is, "God has a plan for everything."

The element that I like the most about the Jesse tree concept is that you get a small tree (it can be cut out of felt or paper, or an actual small Christmas tree or whatever) and each day of devotion has a corresponding ornament to represent the lesson of the day. So, for instance, the devotion that teaches about creation has an ornament of the world (or something representative). Again, the kids love this. And, I love that they are getting such a great foundation of the Old Testament and eventually (maybe their too young right now) getting that the events of the Old Testament happened exactly the way they did to provide the world with a Savior.

This was not a hard tradition to start. I used these devotions and used the symbols as guides when looking for ornaments. If I couldn't find one that was exactly like what was listed, I improvised. Or, I actually enlarged what was shown, printed it, cut it out and then colored it. Easy Peasy!! If you google Jesse Tree, you will find other books or resources, but I've been really happy with the content of the devotions that I'm using.

If you are interested, and have an questions, give me a holler and I'll send you some links that will help get you started. Or, start here

But, along these same lines, I must share with you what was said during our Jesse Tree/Advent devotion tonight. It is just too priceless not to.

Our devotion tonight was about Joseph, and how God sent an angel to talk to Joseph in a dream and tell him that Mary was going to have Jesus. At the end of each short devotion it has a 'talk about' section. Tonight's 'talk about' section said, "Name some ways that God speaks to us.". So, I asked the kids to tell us some ways that God speaks to us. Bryce immediately popped in and said this:

"The other night, when Daddy sent me to my room, when I really didn't do anything [mom interjects that he obviously DID do something]..... God told me that I was right."

Now tell me, how are we supposed to argue with God???? I have a smart, smart boy on my hands. But that's not all, when Sara Kate heard this she said (and I quote) "Wait a minute, my brain is telling me something here." - It was like she was processing the fact that what she just heard might help her get out of some things in the future. However, she's pretty good at dodging the bullet, she just blames her brain on everything, especially when she is getting in trouble.

We really do wish you all a very blessed Christmas! Celebrate guys, Christ's coming means Hope for the Nations. Take hold of it today!

Much love to all!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

It's better late than Never, and I totally made up for my tardiness.

Brace yourself folks, this is gonna be one heckuva catch up post. So much has gone on since my last post, but I haven't been able to blog about it. The Thanksgiving/Christmas season is one of my favorite times of the year, but it is also, by far the busiest. In case you're wondering, the formula for a non-updated blog is: Busy season + little one with pneumonia and a then a stomach bug + babysitting a toddler. I can think of a few other variables that will give you the same result; but don't worry, I'm throwing in another one that will give us the desired outcome. It is called shear determination.

Ok, enough with the math analogy, I've just exhausted all my knowledge in that department. So let's see, where did I leave off. Oh, yes, just before Sara Kate turned 4. I guess I'll start with her fourth birthday party. It had to be a little smaller this year, because we had it at the Creative Discovery Museum.

Here, Sara Kate is taking her place of honor as her party guests sing Happy Birthday.

And, here she is about to dive in to that yummy birthday cake.

Here's what it looked like before.

After that celebration, it was time for Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for. But, every year, without fail, I am most thankful for family. One of our Thanksgiving traditions is a massive leaf jumping extravaganza. Every year, G-Daddy blows up a ginormous pile of leaves and the kids go wild jumping in them. This year, I actually got pictures of the leaf pile assembly and Bryce & Sara Kate got in on the action too. I don't know exact measurements, but let me stress, this thing is huge. And the kids LOVE it! Check 'em out.

Now, on to cookie weekend 2008. Every year my sister and I get to bake cookies with my mom, 2 aunts, and 2 cousins. It is probably ranks up there in the top 5 traditions. We start on a Friday morning, and work until supper time. Then we break and go out to eat and shop. Most of us spend the night at mom's house and we get started early Saturday morning. We always have the most fun, cutting up and being crazy. And, I must say we have a mac-daddy set up. Mom & Dad broke the glass top on their stove a few years ago, and they got a new oven/stove. But the old oven still works (they just can't use the glass top), so daddy always brings it in too. So, we have 2 ovens and 2 mixers. Not to mention, my dad always gets wrangled, wrestled, or sweet talked into helping us. This year he made an appearance in the accounting room, but we mostly used him for his chocolate melting skills and his mixing abilities. We won't mention the great "ball drop of '08) because he is just too valuable of a member to hold that against him. (see daddy, I told you your secret was safe with me). I can't tell you how much I love this weekend. This year we made over 2,716 cookies; all equally divided among the 7 of us. Most people don't believe me when I say we bake that many cookies, so here's proof.

That is my moms entry hallway, lined with bags and tins and tubs of cookies.....and that's not all.

I would have included some pictures of the actual bakers, but I have a large love of life and I fear that said life would be snuffed right out of me if my relatives pulled up the blog and found a picture of themselves [on the internet].

One last thing, the Farmer's have been helping a family friend out by babysitting a few times. And, I would just be remiss if I didn't show you this cut-E-pie. He & SK are kindred spirits in their love of dance

I think that pretty much gets us into the Christmas season. I have a couple of thoughts about Advent I want to share, but my compartmentalizing brain wouldn't let me post about advent before catching up Thanksgiving. And, you just can't put two major holidays in the same post......just wouldn't be right. So, when I get the next free minute, be watching for another post soon.