Monday, December 31, 2012

The Last Word for 2012

It's time for the last words of the year to be written on fresh flowers.  It's been an interesting year and I thought I'd share some highlights with you...

Best trip: going to Allume in Harrisburg PA all by myself.  Stretched me and blessed me far beyond any reasonable expectations I had.  You can read that story here: One Thing

Mission trips:  I went with our church and my three oldest to Mexico on a building mission.  We also took our youth group to the inner city for a week.  Both of these experiences were very positive and we saw God working

Best book:  Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman.  This one has me pondering, praying and understanding myself more than any other book I've read to date!  Would you believe I bought it by 'accident'.

Other books worth mentioning:  7 by Jen Hatmaker and So Long Insecurity by Beth Moore

Favourite New Songs (for me anyway):  
10 000 Reasons by Matt Redmond
I Will Lift My Eyes by Bebo Norman
Keening for the Dawn (the whole CD) - by Steve Bell

Proud of me for:   Reading through the entire Bible this year!!!  Yes I did!
                            Completing the 31 day Challenge.  I wrote on Uncommon Creativity - check out those
                            posts under the tab with that title!

Life Changing Decision:  I went gluten-free.  My body seems to be liking that decision and has starting shedding weight that has been accumulating without me having to try really hard.  I am beginning to feel better, which is pretty amazing considering the last three years of bone-weary fatigue. (I am hoping to begin the new year in a new 'decade' which for me would be the lowest weight I've been in 10+ years...we'll find out if I made it tomorrow).

Biggest Milestone:  We celebrated our 20th anniversary this year!  WooHoo!!

Big Blessings:

Growing friendships on and off line!

I am grateful this year to have found some on-line buddies that bless my socks off.  Thankful to have met some of them in real life.  It is so life-giving to have peeps that have a heart that beats like yours...kindred spirits would be the Anne-ism!  Love you girls!!

And here at home I have been given the opportunity to begin a women's ministry and so far it's been great...but better than that is the group of women I get to hang out with to plan these things and bring it all together, what a great group of girls!!

In this next year:  I am part of a God-Sized Dream Team...kinda scary and exciting and yeah....HUGE!!!  I can't begin to imagine what I might be writing here at this time next year...guess we'll wait and see.

From our family to yours,

May the God of all comfort bless you with all you need,
 so that at all times and in all things 
you may be able to do all He has asked of you!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's All About Giving

It's been a different sort of morning around out kitchen table.  We are reading through Katharine Barrett's advent reader entitled, Walking to Bethlehem.  This morning we read a very touching tradition in one family of giving to others rather than buying into the rush of commercialism.  The White Envelope project was started in 1982 with one woman's desire to bless her husband.

After reading this it was very quiet at our table.  Our rambunctious eight year old asked about that Compassion Giving Catalogue that I was going to show him.  I had been looking through it again just recently so I could get it for him in seconds.  He quickly went through it and showed me the page that captured his heart.  "Mom, we should help moms and babies be healthy don't you think?" (He's been on a kick lately about me having another baby - that would be a miracle!)

Yes, I think we should.

I shared with my children that the Compassion project "It's All About Giving" has only reached just over $500 in their goal of $20000 to bless children in poverty this Christmas.

We commented on how so many calls have come to ask us to give.

We talked about families we've run across that have to take a break in their gift opening time because the kids are too tired to continue opening their multitude of gifts.  We had a little chuckle because that has never been our problem...

Our hearts were seared...

So that Compassion book went around the table and each of us marked the thing that was dearest to our heart.
* Our computer man wants to help other kids learn how to use one.
* The leather-crafter wants to help young men like him learn to make shoes.
* The girl who's bed just broke would like to see some built for other kids.
* The farmer wants solar lighting on our farm and would like to see someone else get some, too.
* Our little girl who just lost a tooth would like to see other kids brush their teeth!
* I would love to help women train to have their own income through tailoring and sewing.
* We have one more that needs to choose but he wasn't here this morning.

We are praying together that God would supply enough for us to give towards these things...

Would you consider helping today to make a child's Christmas a little brighter?  It doesn't take that much...
There are 2000 Compassion Bloggers, if even one of each of our reader's gave $100 they will have reached their goal.  Every amount counts and helps them reach their goal.

Go over here and see what you can do to help...please!

I love to see a child's eyes light up! Don't you?
Join the Compassion Blogger Network

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Contest...sort of...

I have a problem I need a little help with...

I can't seem to find even a small spark of creativity to craft a gift experience for my amazing husband.  He is an amazing gift giver and comes up with all kinds of wonderful gifts, ideas, experiences, thoughtful words and much more!

I can be very creative...for everyone else, but I seem to have a roadblock where he's concerned.  He manages to outgive me EVERY time!  I did bring forth five beautiful kids out of this bod so I think that counts for something!

Anyways, have you got some fabulous ideas for me?  The catch is, it has to cost next to nothing...I've got a grand total of $20 to spend on this.  We decided that we would be creative and imaginative instead since our budget is so tight.  He has spent a grand total of $6!!!

Soooo....spin out your ideas, if I use yours I will give you a prize!!!

Come on creative me to a marvelous idea for my deserving husband!!.  I will be forever in your debt...

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Perfect Gift

The flurry of giving is creating havoc with all varieties of systems at the moment.  Sites crash as they're overwhelmed with traffic. Nerves tangle and explode. Credit card machines spit back that your card is unaccepted and tempers flare.

Is this really what giving looks like?

Under my tree there is a duct-taped package with a card I made that is also duct-taped to the package.  It has my name on it and I can't wait to open it.

As I've pondered giving this year the Lord has been showing me a different angle on the whole thing.  This year my giving hasn't been without stress...I'll relate the punching bag story a little later *smile*.  However, we have determined to stay within a very limited budget.  We have determined that we will stay small this year and thoughtful of the spirit of the one to whom the gift is intended.

What do I mean by that?

We have a child who loves to dance, she dreams of being a dancer, she practices and has been given the gift of a lithe and flexible body built for dancing.  Our gifts to her this year will help her on her path toward that dream.  The same is true of our adventurous architect in the making, simple reminders that they can hold in their hands to remind them of where they are headed.

This is what God did for us.  He didn't need the internet to help him find the perfect gift.  He looked at our hearts, saw where we were going and knew what the perfect gift looked like.  A child born in a manger that would save us from ourselves and our greed and selfishness.  There is nothing like a baby to reveal the depth of our selfishness and to help us overcome it at 3:00 AM!

My parents never asked us for gift lists.  There is nothing wrong with asking what a person wants, however, there is something very right about praying into a person's life and asking the Creator of that person what the best gift could be for them.

This Christmas can I encourage you to give from your heart to the heart of another...not just stuff but something that will speak to their spirit, encouraging them in their dreams helping them along the way.

One of the things I love about Compassion is that my gifts go right to my sponsored child.  When I send extra money for Jordy's birthday or for Christmas, I know he gets it.  Our family was so excited to see the pictures sent back from Ecuador of Jordy sporting his new clothes that his mom bought him for his birthday!  One day I hope to get there and give him something in person.

This Christmas you can make a difference in a child's life and in their community by sponsoring through Compassion.  Click on this LINK to go to their giving catalogue and give a gift that keeps on giving!  Compassion has a goal of raising $20 000 for gifts for children in poverty.  Why not be part of something bigger this year...

What does the perfect gift look like to you?  I love seeing the look of delight on someone's face when they open a gift that I've given that I know is just right for them, you can't get that through PayPal!! :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A God-Sized Dream

Several weeks ago I got an e-mail inviting me to apply to a 'God-Sized Dream Team' with Holley Gerth.  I like Holley Gerth and a dream has been brewing and taking shape in my head so I applied.  However, because the dream was kind of vague all I put on my application was that I wanted to write a book.
Holley Gerth and the Dream Team

I didn't really think much more of it and life went on.  Then I got accepted to the team and I started reading what other people were thinking and saying and the dream in my head started to get a little less vague and a lot more crazy sounding.  I'm going to lay the whole thing out here for you so that I have something to look back on and if you are directed to, pray into it with us won't you?

My God-Sized Dream
(which is really, REALLY huge)

Note:  alot of this involves my husband and his dreams, cause we kinda go together and have been dreaming for 20 years now

1.  We want to be debt-free.  And we're farmers!!!  That in itself should be big enough.  Most of the farmers we know (including us) live mostly in our credit lines.  The cheques coming in look big, but the cheques going out are even bigger most of the time.  A repair on those machines has the potential to cost more than a small car.  Add to that the reality of living well below the poverty line while we were students.  Yup, we are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay down the hole.  BUT we believe that God is bigger than that.

2.  Our heart's desire is to be able to travel around encouraging people with the gifts God has given us.  We have written songs, we are both musicians and our kids are coming along nicely on that front, too.  We believe there is a message that God has given us to speak, even though we're not exactly sure what it is yet and we're obviously not ready for it, #1 being a big factor.  And my husband...well, the man can sing...his voice is a gift from God and needs to shared with the rest of the world. (like CDs and stuff)

3.  We would love to adopt internationally (Asia, India and South America are on our hearts).  Yes, we do have six kids already.  However, we have dreamed of having an international family within our walls for 20 years now.  We see that doing so has the potential to be a prophetic statement of how God sees us, no matter the color of our skin or where we come from.  We have one adopted son who is partly First Nations and 2 delightful German girls that we call our own even though they no longer live with us.  Again, #1 puts a bit of a damper on this.

4.  We would like to see our adopted son freed from the things that hold him back and have a whole, trust-filled relationship with him.  He has a long list of issues that I will not get into at this time, I could write a book about that and I probably will, but we're not quite there yet.  When he's free and willing, maybe we'll do it together.

5.  We would love to home-school all of our children so that we can do #2.  This would take a huge amount of healing in our family before it could happen.

6.  We would love to be able to encourage other parents in situations like ours.  There is very little support for families in situations where they are trying to love/manage very damaged emotions/hearts.  There is very little understanding in the public sphere for what we go through every day.  I would like to get a lot more education on this particular topic and be able to advise, counsel and comfort others who need to know that there is a way out...we haven't found it yet but we believe there is one!

7.  I love to teach and write.  I have no fear of speaking in public.  I love women's ministry and would like to combine those things.

8.  I want to write books and have them published.  I write this blog and the odd book review right now.  I have written plays, songs, poems, short stories, curriculum, articles and have about five book ideas swimming in my head, most of them started in some form.  I dearly, dearly want to see my name on the cover of a book!!

9.  I am a very creative person and would love to create something that people would like to purchase.  I've made lots of things and some of them have sold, but most of the time I feel like what I make isn't good enough for anyone to want it.  I am a pathetic marketer!!  Recently God has given me designs for two different items and I would like to see if I could make a pattern for other people to make them!

10. I'd love to own my own little store where we could sell our honey, organic products and my crafted items.  I'd love it to be a little tea shop where we serve soup and bread and people can come and enjoy a welcome spot.  I'd like it to have a crafty area where people can do something creative while they enjoy a cup of tea.  (I love a good cup of tea!!)

11.  I dream of getting my WordPress site up and running.  I bought the basics, but I am technology stupid!! I dream of having a beautiful site for all of you to come to that would fill up your spirit and encourage you on your way...

12. And then there's our house.  We dream of turning our garage into a family room with a corner for crazy gymnastics kid, a place for my dancers to practice, an area for learning to happen and an expanded entry (if you've ever been to our house you know that the entry is a necessity)!  THEN, we want to add a new garage that fits our over-sized van with living space over top of that (to accommodate our expanded family).  This would also include taking out a wall in our kitchen and opening up the existing living space so that when we have lots of people over (which is mostly the youth group...which happens fairly often since we're the youth pastors) the flow of conversation and living works better.  Again, #1 makes this difficult to even dream about, but at least we'd like to get all the holes in the walls repaired.

13. We want our farm to be self-sustaining.  Meaning that we would like to get our power and heat sources off grid, be able to feed ourselves and others off what we produce and make a smaller impact on our natural resources.

and last on my list (for now)

14.  My husband and I would love to take a trip together, maybe a cruise, where we could just relax and not worry about a thing...

So there you have it...kinda crazy isn't it?  It's kinda of overwhelming to actually spell it all out like that...that's what my God-sized dream looks like.  Phew, feels good to get it all out there...hold it gently please.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I Believe Some Encouragement is a Good Thing

This hasn't been the most encouraging week for me.  Things have been hard in our tribe and I am trying hard to move from feelings of failure to receiving the grace that is mine.

Last night my farmer/shepherd planned a lovely 'in-home' date and played the following song for us to dance to.  What an amazing encouragement to my weary, deflated soul...
take a listen, I think you will be encouraged, too.

And then this one:
Blessings, have a beautiful day!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Jesse Tree Tradition (with links)

I wanted to post about the Jesse Tree long before now but it has eluded me!  It may be a little late in the season already to start at the very beginning but it's never too late for this story to be told and perhaps to prepare for next year.

I learned of this way of celebrating Advent through my pastor's wife at our former church (before I WAS the pastor's wife) many years ago.  I had never heard of it before and was fascinated.  She hauled a dead tree branch into the sanctuary and every Sunday the children read a series of scriptures that told the story of God throughout history. The prophecies of Christ's coming.  They are all there, woven throughout history so that there was no way that we could miss Him.  And yet we did, didn't we?  We miss Him looking at us through the eyes of the orphan, the incarcerated, the homeless.  Oh how we miss Him, but we don't have, too.

Especially at this time of year, we can look and find Him again and remind ourselves that He is coming, has come and will continue to come.  Because He said, "Whatever you have done for the least of these you have done it unto me."  So teach your children how to look for Him and remind them of the story of His coming, through the pages of scripture, so they don't miss Him.

 Historically the Jesse Tree depicts the stories of the ancestors of Jesus. The tradition would be that every day you would read that portion of the story and then hang an ornament on the tree branch.  That part, the branch, is used to represent the prophecy that out of the stump of Jesse, father of King David, a branch would come - Jesus. (Isaiah 11:1)  Most of the Jesse Tree readers I've seen share the prophecies, showing the sweeping saga of God's finger through history pointing straight to His coming.

Here's a resource for a Jesse Tree using the genealogy of Jesus:  CLICK FOR LINK

This is another resource that has a fuller explanation of the tree including the scriptures and symbols that follow the prophetic story of Christ throughout the Bible:  CLICK FOR LINK

Here's another one with instructions on making your own tree:  CLICK FOR LINK

While I have not read this book, so cannot personally recommend it, it looks interesting and I may want to pick it up for future reference:  The Jesse Tree by Geraldine Mccaughrean

And here is a link to Ann Voskamp's free devotional and ornaments:  CLICK FOR LINK

We have done this as a family using Ann Voskamp's resource.  This is a beautifully done devotional reader, the ornaments are in full color and you can use them in a variety of ways.  While we are not using the Jesse Tree this year (we are using Katharine Barrett's Walking to Bethlehem reader which has been wonderful thus far), I made a Jesse Tree hanging for a friend who is using Ann's reader.  I printed the ornaments onto fabric and sewed them into ornaments.  I quite loved the result and so did my friend! (Since we both have the book I don't think we were breaking any copyright laws)

My friend said I should team up with Ann and provide the hangings with her devotional...I don't think I could provide these for free, because they take too much work.  I am, however, thinking of creating the pattern so people could make them themselves and perhaps writing my own Jesse Tree devotionals and crafting the ornaments so that I could present a complete package...what do you think?

How are you celebrating advent this year?  I'd love to hear from you here in the comments!!

Some pictures of the Jesse Tree wall hanging I designed.  You can see my materials list and get 'closer' over at Craftsy where I store my projects online CLICK HERE FOR LINK
The whole tree, including 'storage' for the ornaments.

Before anything goes on the tree.

A close-up of the button storage system.

With all the ornaments on!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

He Comes Anyway

My kitchen table is littered with the remains of breakfast, half decorated little Christmas trees, used tea bags and papers from backpacks that I needed to see before they rushed out the door.  My floor is decorated with cheerios and kitchen towels and the odd sock.
can you see him there, coming on the donkey?

 But He comes anyway, right into the middle of my mess. Just like He came into the mess of the stable.

He comes, bringing the promise of a little more mess.  Just like when He broke forth from the womb of that young woman...because birthing a promise is messy business.

Jesus didn't come to tidy up my life and make it look perfect.  He came to expose my mess so that I might turn to Him.

Jesus came to eradicate my mess and bring me all shiny and new and clean into His kingdom.

Jesus came so He could usher me into His Father's presence in the most beautiful sparkly gown you can imagine.

right in

right into my fears and worries He came

right into my failures as a mom and money-manager, He came

and He keeps coming, like a relentless tide, He comes and tumbles me under His waves of love and security and acceptance and polishes off the barnacles of greed and selfishness and pride...

He just keeps coming.

This season of His coming is for us to pause and celebrate that coming...when Love came down and walked among us and pursued us...

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Perfect Gift

There must have been such anticipation in heaven that night so long ago. God himself peering over heaven's edge waiting for that package to be opened. How He must have grinned at the shepherds trembling knees, maybe even laughed out loud at the look on their faces when those angels showed up!

I love watching someone open a gift I've given them. Especially if it's one that I made myself or put alot of thought into. I want to see the joy and delight etched across their features knowing that I hit the mark.

And I am crushed when that doesn't happen....when the intended recipient tosses the gift aside declaring it unworthy of their attention as they scorn the gift.

Or even worse, indifference. The receiver hasn't really received the gift, they've just looked at it, handled it and set it aside like a box of tissue or the magazine at the doctor's office, never giving it another thought.

I've been thinking about this even in terms of those packages I send far away. I don't get to see the expression of delight, dismay or indifference, I have no idea how the gift was truly received.

I wonder how I am receiving the Gift this Christmas. I know myself to have been indifferent before, neither acknowledging nor expressing gratitude for the exceptional planning and preparation that went into the presentation of the Gift.

I want to be filled with wonder and awe this year, reveling in the package details, the incredible care that was taken to get the setting perfect and most of all, delighting in the Gift Himself. I pray that I might bring a smile to the Father's face as I receive His gift to me.

How will you receive Him?