Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pumpkin Carving Parties

 I know lots of Christians don't celebrate Halloween.  We don't celebrate the dark and scary side of things, but do take part in the fun and festive things about this time of year.
Last night we went to a pumpkin carving party.  It was a family affair and one that my kids wholeheartedly were into this year. 
 It was the first time that my eight-year-old son designed and carved his own pumpkin completely on his own, and the first year my five-year-old drew her own designs.  The three-year-old very intently worked on scooping out the insides for everyone.
And I had fun helping the girls cut out their cute little faces.  This is another one of those ways that creativity brings joy and bonding for families and friends.   Sometimes I put it off because it feels like it's going to be messy and a lot of work.  But once you're in the middle of it, you realize you're having so much fun, and making a party out of it is even better. 
At the end of the night many of the pumpkins were lined up and lit inside to see the beautiful designs.  Pretty cool aren't they?  The kids then played and the parents chatted.  It was a fun way to kick off this weekend of celebrations.
Here is our little collection at home, with our dog Bella making a cameo appearance.  :)  She's actually wondering what it is I'm doing out here.

To bring this activity back to our faith and to make it a teachable moment, a friend gave me this pumpkin carving devotional.  In case anyone else would like to do this, I'll copy it here.

You Are God's Pumpkin 
This devotional was written by Kelly McFadden 

God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, "If you boast, boast only about the Lord." —1 Corinthians 1:30-31 (NLT) 

For most of the country, the crisp cool air of autumn is upon us. A sure sign of autumn is that Christmas decorations are popping up everywhere in retail stores. Halloween costumes and disguises are selling out in stores as trick-or-treaters are ready to take over the streets. A popular symbol of both harvest time and Halloween is the pumpkin. I was thinking recently that being a Christian is a lot like being a pumpkin. Perhaps you are visualizing this orange, round vegetable and wondering how you could ever be compared to one of these squashes! Simply put, like a child chooses a pumpkin to carve and mold an image upon, so God carves and molds His own unique design in you.

The Scriptures tell us that the Lord chooses us. He lifts us up and washes the dirt from our skin. Then he opens us, connecting deep inside to scoop out all the slimy, yucky stuff, including seeds of doubt, spite, lies, and fear. Then He carves a new creation, and makes our faces shine by putting His light inside for all to see.

Sometimes I feel like I don't want my light to shine because I am ashamed of a thought or action or pattern in my life. I try to hide the light Christ has put in me, and blend in with the crowd. What I forget is that when God carved me, created me, and gave me His Son, I no longer had to count on my own strength. I can count on the Lord's. It is He who washes me clean; it is He who gives me a spirit of strength and perseverance; it is He who makes me pure; it is He who frees me from sin; and it is He who gives me hope. When I realize that my part of the equation is to rely on His strength and power, then I can do as Scriptures say, and shine His light through the power of the Holy Spirit.

What starts as an everyday squash turns into a lantern of light. What starts as an everyday person turns into a beacon of hope for all to see. Through our union with Christ, we are given the light and wisdom of the Holy Spirit who enters and dwells in our lives. It is He who picked you out and carved you just the way He wants you. So make sure you keep your lantern lit for all to see.


1. What sins are in your life that you need to release and allow the Lord to scoop out for you?
2. Each time you see a pumpkin this autumn, think through why it is so important for you to be a vessel of light representing our Lord.

FURTHER READING: Psalm 19:7-10; Colossians 2:3

May you have a blessed weekend with your family, celebrating and enjoying this harvest season.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Three-Year-Old Theologian

The things my three-year-old talks about in the car, at the table, playing with her little people.  They amaze me.  This morning in the car on the way to preschool it went something like this:

"You know mom, Adam and Eve ate the apple."

It always comes out of nowhere like this.  We aren't talking about God or the bible, but it's stirring in her mind and whatever is in her mind comes out of her mouth.  Really.  Six hours to Santa Cruz and six hours back, the last two summer trips, this child has talked the entire time. 

Every day is like this with her.  Sometimes I ask her to pause, but most of the time I'm quite enthralled with the thoughts coming out of her mind.

So back to Adam and Eve.

She says, "God told them not to, but they did."
"Yes and do you know what that meant?" I asked her.
"No" she replies.

I tell her about how there was no evil or bad things and the world was perfect.  But because they ate the apple and went against what God said, now there was sin in the world.

"People call it the Fall."  I tell her.  "Kind of like making a really bad choice." 

It's the first bad choice that allowed there to be a world where we make bad choices, where we're not listening to God.  That's called free-will.  I catch myself in trying not to use big "Christian-ese" lingo so that I can put it in words she'll understand.

But the great news is that one day when Jesus comes back all will be made better.  Evil will be gone forever and all will be good again. 

I say, "You know when you're in Heaven there will be no more sadness, no more pain, 

"Yes" she agrees, "And Jesus is there and he is big like you mommy."  "Even bigger," I tell her.

And you know what mom, "He'll play with me."  

"Yes, I love that idea Audrey.  He'll play with you and hug you and listen to you."

"Jesus likes it when we talk to him."  

"You're right.  He does.  He wants to hear from you, 
he wants you to tell him whatever is on your mind."

"And in Heaven will I have toys and a room?"  

"I know Jesus said he is preparing a place for you 
and that in His Father's house there are many rooms.  
Isn't that neat.  
I'm not sure about the toys, but maybe."

"I would like to have toys in Heaven" she adds.

"I do know the bible says we'll have jobs in Heaven." 

"Oh jobs are good right, just like here in the real world we have jobs."

Yes we do.  But I think maybe this is just the earth, the real world is Heaven.

"Yes, because we'll be in Heaven forever and ever with Jesus."

Do you know how long it has taken me to realize the joy of forever and ever in Heaven?  I've been a believer all my life and fell in love with Jesus at the age of six.  But until just a few years ago (and I was always really embarrassed to admit this) I was afraid of Heaven.  The thought of eternity floating around like a spirit just plain scared me.  I thought I'd have nothing to do.  That's why hearing I'd have a job comforted me.  Maybe for some that isn't a comfort, but I thought what if I get bored?  What will it feel like?  What if I want to have a change of scenery? I mean it's eternity after all?

But this is why I've learned it's so important to read the bible and study scripture.  I didn't start studying the scriptures until the year my son was born, eight-and-a-half years ago.  I actually didn't know I was supposed to, I had never learned that you read the bible other than in church.

Little by little I've come to realize I have a room there, I have a job there, the streets are golden and the walls covered with precious stones, there will be singing and music,  there will be feasts and celebrations.   All things will be made new, we will become like Jesus in a way we can't here on earth because of our sin nature.  All things past will not even be remembered.  That means all those things that cause earthly heartache, they won't even exist in our memories. But as we faithfully endure trials, we are receiving glory that far outweighs these troubles in Heaven.  Amen to that. 

This makes it feel like the magnificent home it is.  The place of comfort and solace it is.  But even better than the human mind can imagine.  I'm trying to wrap my finite images around something that isn't of this world.  I am still embarrassed that I spent years feeling afraid of it. 

But praise God all of my kids see it as the exciting, glorious, 'happily ever after' it is meant to be.  It is our forever home of perfect peace. This is also why Jesus tells us to live seeking the things of heaven, not of this earth while we're here.  Those will last forever, everything here is fleeting.

When these conversations happen I always want to remember the details.  I wish I had a recorder handy.  Today I thought hey, I do have that little record function on my phone. 

As I tried fumbling at a stop light to turn it on she says,

"Hey, do you think I have more silly bands than Jackson?  They're the best thing ever."  

How quickly the subject changes from the ponderings of Heaven to silly bands.  

That's what happens when you're with a three-year-old theologian. 

I'm just lucky to be along for the ride, learning from her as much as she is learning from me.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Keeping It Simple

I'm noticing in so many parts of my life it's about keeping it simple.  Not thinking too much.  Not looking at the big, huge, seemingly insurmountable mountain.  It's looking at what is right in front of me.  It's being obedient with this moment.  It's taking this thought captive, and not spiraling with wrong thinking because I didn't stop the enemy in his tracks.  

Or in day to day life, it's just taking ten minutes to tidy, fifteen minutes to start dinner, twenty minutes to draw.  It applies to the big spiritual things, it applies to the daily tasks.  Sometimes they feel out of control because I'm looking at everything all at once.    

When I break it down to the simple I'm trusting that God sees the mountain, yet it's not a mountain at all to Him.  It's a speck.  And even if it feels big right now, He sees the bigger picture and is working all things for good for those that love him. 

My Community Bible Study is studying the book of Joshua right now under the year-long theme of God's servants.  I had a dawning today as I read and discussed with my group.  Actually I shouldn't say I had a dawning, but rather God opened my eyes to see that when we look at the challenges in our life and feel overwhelmed we're not being obedient like Joshua or Caleb.  And in doing so I'm actually sinning against him.  Caleb was sent out to look at the land and repeatedly the bible said he fully, wholly or wholeheartedly followed God.  He assessed the land and didn't come back saying, no it's insurmountable.  The land is large with armies, even giants, there are weapons and chariots.   And it's just too much, we can't do it.  No.  He knew that God was with him and God had commanded that they take the land.  He had wholehearted faith in God and His promises.

When I forget that God is faithful to all of His promises (and this applies to me, not just the Israelites), I'm not serving and loving Him with my whole heart.  I'm not believing He is who He says he is.  It's about taking every thought captive to Christ and putting on the full armor of God every day, every minute sometimes. 

Because those mountains aren't mountains to Him and He is with me always.  Keep it SIMPLE!  God is faithful and He keeps ALL of His promises!  

One more thing about His promises, we are to ask and we will receive.  Do you forget to ask for his promises sometimes?  I know I do.  He cares about all the details of our lives. 

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."  Luke 11:9-10 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pumpkin Patch

Most of this school week has really been dedicated to my kids.  Many of the days I've spent helping in their classrooms and today I got to chaperon the kindergarten field trip to the local pumpkin patch.

I released any expectations about getting my own things done and just enjoyed being with my child.  Today was Ava's turn.  I didn't get a single picture of me with her.  Boo.  I seem to forget so often.  But I'm the 'class photographer' so I have plenty of everyone else. :)  We did the giant corn maze with stations and clues to Halloween related questions they had to answer along the way.  There was an adorable "Spookley the Pumpkin" show and they got to each pick out of course, their own pumpkin.

I love this time of year and I love seeing the fun of these traditions through their eyes.

I overheard some lovely kid quotes this week. So many make me laugh or smile.  One was a bit shocking.  But my favorite was from my own kindergartner.  Seeing my legs she asked me, "Mommy do you have splinters all over your legs?"  "No dear, mommy just needs to shave."  I'm happy to report I got a shower in this morning and all is well.  Didn't mean to scare any little ones.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fall Fun

My sister was in town from New York visiting and my normally camera shy child was posing like crazy as we were getting ready to leave.  She caught these on her iphone.  They're some of my most favorite photos of my girls posing with our fall decorations.

Creative Deadlines

I work best when I have an assignment.  This was a project every family had to do for our child's preschool class.  We get this assignment every year and I actually love it.  I love to scrapbook, but sadly this creative outlet has found its way into my life only a few times in the last year.

I love to paper scrap, hybrid scrap and digital scrap.  I go in and out of doing them all.  One day I'll upload some of my work here, but if this link works you can see some of them on my flickr account.  But I stopped doing it for awhile last year while my joints were hurting so much from the lupus.  

I am feeling so much better now, praise God.  But I tend to 'let' myself scrapbook only once the dishes are clean, the lunches are made, the house is tidied, the laundry is done, and the closets are organized.  You know all of those daily necessities.  And honestly by the time that's all done, I generally want to just crash and read or spend time with my husband watching a movie or talking before going to sleep.

But I forget that when I don't create and don't have this kind of outlet I get kind of cranky.  I realize after the fact that something has been missing.

So assignments are good and this one came just at the right moment.  I had to sit down and go through pictures to find the people and things my daughter loves right now.  It was fun and therapeutic and just plain made me happy.  It's all digital using a kit I had purchased long ago from designer digitals.  (This link is to the accessories that went with the papers, but I don't actually see the papers there anymore.  It's a cute school days kit).

So with this knowledge about myself, I'm taking my little window of time while the kids are in school today to sit down and create... to draw and work on my dream.  Because the dishes and papers that need filing and the fridge that needs cleaning will still be there and in fact they'll need to be done again shortly after I've finished anyway.  So why not let them wait awhile and set aside time to create.  I really need to make this area of my life a part of my 'to do' list with a deadline. 

So with that said, this is brief because my pencils and my pandora are calling me. ;)  I hope you're finding time to create today too!

This is linking to gitzen girl's YOU:create so go check out the other entries for inspiration!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Apple Picking

We played hooky from life this weekend.  We told teachers and coaches we'd be out of town.  Because we needed some downtime as a family.  And it was really great.

As I had mentioned earlier, the pace of our schedule was beginning to steal the joy a bit.  But over the last two days the sweetness of our journey was just as good as those juicy apples of Julian.

We took our time and stayed at what I'm now calling Mimi's bed and breakfast.  We drove to my parent's house in San Diego where my mom is the best at making omelets and eggs to order in the morning.  

The kids all shared a room.  And on Saturday we drove the winding roads to Julian.  It was a breath of fresh air for this city weary girl.
Oh and just before we left Friday night, my car work was finished.
26 days it took to put it back together.  But it looks all shiny and new now.

All of the stress of the last few weeks melted away.  The sky was clear, the clouds the most glorious white, the sun glistened through the leaves.

Walking through the rows of apples we looked up and praised God for this gift.  The gift of family, the gift of time, the gift of moving at a slower pace.

Eating lunch, browsing little shops, taking pictures (that may or may not wind up on our Christmas card).  All of it felt easy and relaxed.  

Except for the little bee incident.  But even that caused us all to laugh and have one more "remember when mom freaked out about the bees" story to tell.  Let's just say I don't like yellow jackets and when sitting outside with my kids the mama bear in me comes out.

I whacked that menu against the table it may have been a few more than a few times before the bees that dared come near us were dead.  Sorry 'bee activists'.  I know they're dwindling.  But really my mom is also allergic.  It was my duty to protect my family.

To spare any more needless bee deaths I went inside and said we just have to move in here.  So we split all six of us into a couple of two-top tables on different ends of the restaurant.  It was a squeeze, but I didn't care.  I may have made a bit of a scene.  A polite scene, but a scene none-the-less.  And praise God for my husband who is always one to turn things into a light-hearted joke and clear the air.  Once safely inside I could laugh at myself.  But I was keeping a keen eye for any wayward bees attempting to cross the line.

Rest, (did I mention we slept in till 8:30 while my mom got up with the kids), relaxation and laughter.  Feelings I had grown out of touch with lately.  I felt the weight of things to do lifted from my shoulders.  I was happy just to be there breathing the clean air, enjoying my kids, my husband and my mom. (Grandpa's on one of his fishing trips right now).

There were several moments where I felt like I was on a far away vacation.  Sitting outside by their little pond, listening to the fountain and splurging on pumpkin spice lattes.  Listening to my kids playing happily with none of the, 'that's not fair' banter 
that had become a little too frequent lately.

It was a quick little respite, but it was definitely needed.  Now I'm home refreshed and ready for the week, while praying for ways to find the little vacations in the every day a bit more frequently.

Here are a few more pictures from the trip.  We're in a rather long (like a couple of years - and she's only three) phase of Audrey not being too keen about photo-op's.  She especially doesn't like being told to pose too long for pictures, so most of the time she's strained at best.  

But more typically she's walking away in tears because she's just "too tired" (her words) to sit still.  We also forgot our good camera.  We only had the backup video camera that takes pictures too, so the delay wasn't working in our favor.

I still managed to get enough for a very nice scrapbook page and perhaps a collage Christmas card.  It all comes down to whether I have it in me to attempt another family photo. :)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Peace Beyond The Blur

It's returning.
I know I've been quiet here lately. 
That doesn't mean lots of things haven't crossed 
my mind to write about.

Sometimes finding the time to sit and actually do it, 
just doesn't happen.

But I'm happy to say that order feels like it is returning
And with it, a sense of calmness and peace.

But in the midst of that there are still conflicts and little annoyances and general 'fuzziness' which I'll explain a little later.

But I think I'm having to learn to just be OK with the blur. 
  In the midst of all of this, I'm hearing some life lessons God is whispering to me.

Because of the medication I'm on for the lupus I have to get my eyes checked twice a year.  One of the side effects is vision loss.  It sounds scary.  And in the beginning my doctor made me a bit freaked out at that thought.  But the vision loss hardly ever happens anymore and if it is going to happen they can detect it before the damage is done, which is why I get them checked twice a year.

That day was today.

So a bulk of my morning was spent in a blur.  I don't like that feeling.  I think it's something about how I wrestle with needing to be in control and feeling so fuzzy, 
it's definitely an out of control feeling. 

Once the whole procedure was over I returned to my car to discover I had a ticket on my windshield.  It's a fifty dollar ticket for being angled the wrong way.  But there were two sets of lines in the lot and I honestly wasn't sure which way to park.  I clearly made the wrong choice.

That's annoying.  I'm hoping I can fight it.

It's the little things like this that just keep cropping up.  
I've been thinking that the Lord is really giving me a chance to exercise staying focused on Him in the midst of the fuzziness.

To keep looking up through these little annoyances that seem to add up in small ways throughout the day.

I've been wrestling with wanting things to be smooth and calm.  I'm a person who likes peace.  But my kids fight or fall and there's screaming and crying.  The dog hurt her leg again and is limping.  The computer keeps freezing and eight hours of digital painting is 'corrupt'.  The document will no longer open and I have to start again.  There are doctor visits and tickets and decisions with directions that feel blurry.

 I think yearning for the smooth and calm is possibly not the point.   I think God is teaching me to create the calmness in the midst of the chaos.  To find ways to rest and relax in Him while these 'troubles' (which he said there would be*) continue to find me though I try 
my best to avoid them. 

*"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. 
In this world you will have trouble. 
But take heart! I have overcome the world."  
John 16:33

I know that all of these things are super minor so I'm not trying to sound like I'm complaining.  There are far bigger troubles in life.   I'm just writing about those little pesky things that can add up to try to steal your joy.  I'm finding I need to be careful not to let the enemy chip away at me.

We've created some more boundaries on our time and what we can and cannot do in order to put a hedge of protection around our family time and our sense of order at home.  

I made some good habit charts for the kids that seem to be working out well. I have my own 'mental' good habit chart, but perhaps a grown up one would be a good incentive too. ;)

And the crock pot is quickly becoming my best friend.

I start dinner somewhere between eleven and one o'clock and when we get home from school it's nearly ready.  It takes some planning ahead.  But it's that extra step of preparation that clears a path through a time that can be chaotic.

It creates time for me to sit with my kids and enjoy them and help with homework without feeling pulled in too many directions.

It really is about the little things, the small every day decisions, isn't it?  Little adjustments here and there that 
make all the difference.

It makes all the difference on our perspective and our legacy.  

I listen to KKLA when I'm in the car.  It's the Christian talk radio station here in Los Angeles.  I get to hear a lot of the programs about families.  This week Focus On The Family spoke about the legacy we're leaving our kids and future generations.  

It has made me think a lot about being intentional every day with my love and my time because I'm building a legacy for how my children will remember me and honor me.  

I want to be remembered for having loved them and poured into their lives.  I want them to be able to say they know what a godly woman, wife and mother looks like because of how I'm living my life.  And I want them to know Jesus better because of how they see Him glorified in my life.   

"She is clothed with strength and dignity:
she can laugh at the days to come. 
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed; 
her husband also, and he praises her:
'Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.'
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."
Proverbs 31:25-30

Friday, October 1, 2010

Feeling The Love

I got you a "pur-prise" my husband calls to say.
That's Audrey speak for surprise.
Ooohh surprises are fun.
I love surprises.
I love knowing he was thinking of me in the middle of his work day.
But this, truly was a surprise to me when he came walking in the house with it.

He was on a job in Santa Barbara waiting for their shoot to start.
It was delayed as they often are so they were told to go get lunch.

He found a little market and when he walked in said he knew I'd love it.

Everything was local, organic and just plain yummy and fun.

He decided to get me some tea.  There we go with tea again.  I'm not complaining at all.

Anyone who comes over sees I have quite a collection and truly love trying new kinds.

It makes me happy.

But then he said he couldn't stop there.
And then he saw that they made gift baskets.
So I got a gift basket just because.
I love that.
And I love my man.

For thinking of me and doing something like this just because.
Going through it, hidden in there are blue cheese stuffed olives, stress relief tea, chai tea, garlic pistachios, a fun vegetarian cookbook for entertaining and a pretty dish towel.

He picked it all out himself.  
There are a few things he wanted to try too. 

But my favorite, absolute favorite was this 'Mother's Little Helper.'
Before reading closely I was thinking it was some kind of gadget.

Nope.. just pure dark chocolate. 
Cute marketing right?
I loved it.

I mentioned a little earlier that I had been feeling stressed.

I know he's trying in every way he knows how to lessen the load.

Last night was back to school night at the preschool which coincided with soccer practice.

I gave him the choice of going to back to school night or taking all three kids to soccer, then coming home at 7 p.m. and feeding them, bathing them and putting them to bed.

Do you know what he picked?  
Choice B.  
I said, "Are you sure you know you're signing up for the harder deal?"
He did.  
But did it gladly and man I tell you when he does the routine he has it down like a well oiled machine. 
Sometimes I think he should be the mom.
And as the back to school night was winding down I got a text.

Kids are asleep.

Dishes are done.

I'm feeling the love. ;)