Saturday, December 30, 2017

Christmas 2017

We spent Christmas Eve with my family and enjoyed our time spent togethers.
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We celebrated Jesus' birthday with a birthday cake where the ingredients all stood for different aspects of the Christmas Story.  This year, my Mom introduced us to this new tradition and I loved it!   The shape of the cake was round to represent the world into which Jesus was born.  The bottom layer was chocolate representing that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, which is why Jesus chose to come to earth.  The center layer was red symbolizing Jesus' blood that was shed for our sins and the top layer was green denoting the new life we can have in Jesus Christ after our sins have been washed away.  The frosting was pure white standing for the righteousness and purity of Jesus.  The border of red hearts stands for brothers and sisters united in Christ as his witnesses to this world.  And on top, was a gold or yellow star that heralded his birth and lit the way to where he was born.  In the very center was one large candle representing Jesus who came into the dark world to bring light and truth to us all.  We read the Christmas story out of the book of Luke and then sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus.  We then each lit a candle and sang "Silent Night".
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Christmas morning, Peyton and Ava Jane slept until almost 8:00!  Emerson and Lawson could hardly wait for them to get up so they could all finally come downstairs.
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This year Peyton started collecting football and basketball cards so he was thrilled to see all of these in his stocking.
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And Lawson LOVED his stocking stuffers, particularly the rubik's cube.
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Ava Jane was thrilled with her horse on a stick and her Melissa and Doug castle.
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We had our Christmas usual, breakfast casserole, muffins, fruit and mimosas.
blackberry muffinsBrunch Idea for the Weekend:  Bacon, Potato & Egg Breakfast Casserole
My three sons and the love of my life snuggled up close on that wonderful Christmas morning.
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And here's my girl and me.  We aren't picture perfect in these Christmas morning shots, but this was the way we spent our morning, in our pjs, opening gifts, eating our big breakfast casserole while enjoying just being together and playing with their new gifts.  It was a truly wonderful Christmas.
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And as a total surprise to me, my sweet husband had a fun treat set out for me.  I've been in need of a new set of cookware for a while now.  Adam got me this beautiful copper and stainless steel set that is as beautiful to look at as it is to cook with!  We were supposed to have just done stocking stuffers, these clearly didn't fit in my stocking but I was grateful he got them for me and thrilled to get to have used them the last few days!
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I do hope that your time with family was filled with wonderful memories made and time spent with those you love.   We have thoroughly enjoyed time out of our regular routine with the kids and time with our family playing ping pong, Gestures, Beat the Parents and Twister.  Enjoy the last few days or 2017 and may the New Year hold many blessings for you and yours.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas: December Recap

I can hardly believe that Christmas Day is tomorrow. The first few weeks of December were full of all kinds of fun events, memories to be made and moments to enjoy.  My fair warning, since I've yet to post at all in December, this one is packed full!

Before I start with my recap of events, I wanted to begin with a book that I absolutely and thoroughly enjoyed reading this month.  It's a daily advent devotional that was given to me after Thanksgiving and it enlightened and encouraged me each and every time I opened it.  The story of Jesus' birth is not new to me so in years past I feel like the wonder of the story has gotten lost on me in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, so this year I purposed to not arrive at our Christmas-morning birthday party for Jesus, without having prepared my heart to truly rejoice over the birth of Jesus.  So for those of you who didn't read this book, I highly suggest you get a copy for next year, but I'm certain it would be an encouragement anytime of the year!
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Now, onto some Christmas season fun.  The first grade at LRCA always visits a tree farm as one of their field trips and I got to tag along!  The family who owns the farm has done this for decades and has several hundred thousand trees on their property which was an amazing number to hear.  The man explained that the trees take about 7 years to get about 4-5 feet tall, he told lots of other interesting facts and explained that one difference in a pine tree and a fir tree is which way their needles point, pine tree needles point up while fir tree needles point down--I'd never made that distinction before.  The classes got to go out in the field and actually cut down their class tree; they had a great time!
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There were several Christmas parties with CARTI and I very much enjoyed getting to know more of the wonderful physicians, staff and their family members at each of the events.  CARTI is such an amazing organization that treats and cares for cancer patients across the state, we are excited to be apart of what is happening there!
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That week we had three evenings of Christmas parties, one of which was spent with our dearest friends.  We did dinner as couples then had dessert and exchanged gifts at our home.  Time spent  with these precious people leaves my heart full, laughter abounds and memories are made!
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Emerson and I had the chance to help prepare backpacks for youth who are currently living on the streets.  I was approached by a friend who works with an organization that is near and dear to our heart, called Immerse AR.  Angie asked me if I thought the Elementary Building at LRCA could help gather donations to put in backpacks, and help, they did! We gathered so many items that it far exceeded the expectations. The morning of stuffing the bags, our two oldest boys had basketball games so Adam and I divided and conquered so Emerson joined me and was quite the little helper.
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Adams dad gets annual tickets to the Razorback basketball game in Little Rock and it's always a hit with the boys.  I'm glad they could continue this tradition and carry on our families love of the Razorbacks!  Thanks Bill for this fun outing!
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Emerson with Uncle Johnny.
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We were able to celebrate Dad's birthday and enjoyed a delicious meal together then a fun Christmas carriage ride around Pleasant Valley to see Christmas lights. The kids really enjoyed it, the weather was crisp but not too cold.  Time with my family is always a good thing and getting to celebrate the man I call Dad, was something I don't take for granted.  Thank you Dad for always loving me, encouraging and supporting me--I love you!
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It was super dark so when the flash of the camera went off, Ava Jane and I had trouble holding our eyes normally.  After several attempts, this was the best we could do.
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(They didn't seem to have a problem with their flash, what was wrong with AJ and me?!)
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There were lots of Christmas parties at the school, all of which were really fun for the kids.
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At LRCA, those kids who are in fourth grade are paired up with a first grade buddy who throughout the year will read with or encourage their little buddy. This year, Emerson is paired with Drew Ezell, what a kind boy he is.  Emerson was thrilled to stand by him, hold his orange and of course watch the candle burn. This early morning ceremony, called Christingle, is a precious time of remembering how people celebrated Jesus' birth many years ago in England and passes the tradition on to our children. The orange represents the world, the four toothpicks stand for the four corners of the world, the gumdrops stand for the fruits from the harvest while the red ribbon reminds us of Jesus' love for us all.  After Mrs. Chami explained what everything was and all the candles representing the light that we can be were lit, we sang several Christmas carols together.  I honestly was thinking, "wow, this is fairly remarkable that this many 1st graders can hold their candles and not burn themselves or anyone else."  Well, before the last candle was blown out, a little girls hair caught on fire.  YIKES!  Other then that it was a precious ceremony full of meaning and truths we hold dear.
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There was Christmas cookie decorating and tasting of course!
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We were also able to visit Presbyterian Village with friends where our kids who take piano lessons played their Christmas pieces and then we sang carols with the residents and passed out candy canes.  It truly was fun, the kids did great and the residents seemed to enjoy hearing the songs that they all know by heart.
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There were family gatherings and times spent catching up with people we don't see as often as we'd like which is always a treat.
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We were able to do our annual trip to Garvan Gardens and enjoyed the company of good friends.  They'd added more sets of lights, the kids enjoyed it very much!
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This holiday tradition is always really fun for everyone, not to mention beautiful too!
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We attended the Christmas Eve (Eve) service and it was beautiful.  Singing the songs that declare who my Jesus is and what He came to do is always refreshing and invigorating for me.  The thing that keeps me "slightly" distracted during the sermon though is having my precious little people with me.  The lighting of the candles keeps me on my toes particularly after what happened in the Christingle service at school...this many hands holding melting wax with a flame on the end...lets just say I was glad when the last candle was blown out.
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So, since I didn't post at all in the midst of the holiday bustle, this post was quite lengthy but I wanted to document for posterity, all the blessings that I got to enjoy during this season.  I do hope that you and yours have a very Merry Christmas!  My encouragement to you would be to take some time to stop and consider why it is and who it is that we celebrate this time of year.  I'll end where I started, with a quote from Paul David Tripp's book "Come Let Us Adore Him"-- 

"The Incarnation of Jesus Christ is God's clear demonstration that he will always make good on all of his promises to us.  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  What sense would it make for God to go to the extent of sending his Son to be born for our sake, and then to abandon us along the way?  We need divine rescue, we need forgiveness, we need to be transformed and we need to be delivered.  We need God's faithfulness, we need his patience, we need his power, we need his mercy, we need his rule and we need his love.  None of these things are at stake.  None of these things will wear out.  None of these things will quit working.  God will never get tired of blessing us with these things.  God will never get impatient and decide to quit.  No matter what it takes or how long it takes, God will always do exactly what he's promised to do.  You see, the the Christmas story is the worlds best love story.  Its about a God of love sending the Son of his love to live a life of love and die a death of love, so that all who believe in him would be welcomed into the arms of his love forever and ever."


Valentine's Day - Great Wolf Lodge Trip Day 1

We decided to take the kids on a mini vacation to Great Wolf Lodge on Valentine's Day as it coincided near a four day holiday with their...