All Cora wanted for her 4th birthday was a princess tea party. Originally I planned on having it inside as it is usually unbearably hot in August. However, we have been having a mild summer so two days before the party I changed all my plans. I asked Justin’s dad if I could borrow his tent he uses at outdoor art shows. It didn’t look quite princessy enough. I found some old mesh Ikea curtains that I had never used. I cut them in half and tied them to the four corners of the tent. The night before the party Justin drove to our church and borrowed a bunch of chairs.
A few weeks prior to her party I had ordered two inexpensive tea sets from ebay (highly recommend if you want a pretty tea set for your girl ). I had gathered bits and pieces of decoration all over the place and somehow it all went together. I strung Cora’s princess dresses on a line so the little girls could dress up in costume. I borrowed my cousin Jo’s cupcake recipe and as she promised…they were delicious!
It was a fun little tea party.
My friend Sara was able to take almost all of these beautiful photos.
We’ve been doing a lot of celebrating around here. August 11th we were able to celebrate our 6 year anniversary. What can I say but that marriage keeps getting better and I am thankful for that. I know it is God’s grace that keeps this marriage…or any marriage together! We give him the glory. He knows what Justin and I are like and He knows our individual needs, struggles, quirks and sins. He sees and he knows all the depth of ugliness but somehow he keeps these two sinners together…not just together but loving each other more and more. Another reminder of what a good God we serve. He faithfully works in us both to sanctify us and draw us closer to himself. Marriage has been a painful reminder of how short I fall of anything close to perfect. How what we both “need” will never be found in its fullness in another human being. But we press on remembering the covenant we made. I remember on our wedding day being both excited and terrified as I committed “until death do us part” to another fallen human being. But God’s covenants are good. They are true. They stand firm. There is such security and beauty to be found in a promise made before Him and sometimes we are reminded that is all we have to fall back on. And what a good reminder to have. That we need more of Him in our lives. The more I grow, the more i realize, there is no wisdom, no truth, there is nothing outside of what He has ordained because what he has ordained is wisdom. And he made marriage a forever (on this earth) thing. Because he is forever with us, his people.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
Not just until the end of our life here, but for eternity. Not just while he can tolerate us, but forever. Not just until we screw up one too many times, but for always. And so our marriage vows are not simply pretty little poetic promises. They are promises made to and before a holy God and a group of witnesses. In our very shabby and imperfect way we represent his perfect relationship to us. A bridegroom to his bride. As he keeps his relationship with his church until the end, may he keep our marriage until the end.
We also celebrated Cora’s fourth birthday. My big girl. My little one who has almost driven me to despair and serious prayer. My spunky, fireball. Happy then very sad, excited then very angry. A mixture of emotion and excitement. Creative to the core of her being. Oh, I love her. I ache for her naughty and stubborn heart but I delight in the love and joy she has for life. Sometimes we feel we don’t understand her at all. But she is ours. She is our firstborn. I love her with such fierceness and I pray that God will keep her forever in his care. I pray that all this stubbornness, all this passion will one day be used for Him.
I decided to take pictures of her and Elinor to commemorate her fourth birthday. This is Cora…four years frozen in time. Her sister and friend by her side.
We recently made a trip to Canada, the place I was born and spent my childhood. Years of memories flooding back. Stretches of highway and suddenly we are passing my old town. I can see the back of my best friend’s house. Hours, days, years spent in that house. Back and forth…up and down the road we would go to spend our days together. After a few days with my brother and his wife we drove further north. Beautiful and familiar country roads…fields stretching forever against a perfect blue sky. Fluffy white clouds that look like they are almost touching the ground. The wild beauty of lakes, marshes, weather-beaten trees. Years of time, the most precious memories I have all centered around this part of Ontario-cottage country. This is beauty to me. Perfect beauty. I praise God that I had those years. They are gone, life has only become sweeter but I treasure those times and am thankful that I can “go back” and remember all that was me and my life for many years.
We spent quite a few days with my brother and his family. They are such generous and gracious hosts…especially when two very loud toddlers invade their home! It’s hard to leave as we know it will be a long time before we see them again.
I took very few pictures while we were with them because I was simply enjoying family time and making memories…now I regret my lack of pictures!
The day before we left, we decided to visit a nearby town and show the girls Lake Ontario.
It took Cora a while to get over the stinky smell.
From Tim and Aileen’s home we went to stay with my aunt and uncle. We spent two nights there. Visiting them in always pure relaxation and beauty. They live in an old farmhouse, on about 100 acres of land…a water hole and river. It is so lovely.
As we drove up to the house this “little” white fluff ball came to meet us. And Beau quickly became the girls new best friend.
From their house we went an hour further North to visit my cousins. katie has four boys and Johannah has five children plus a foster child, their brother Daniel and his wife also have one so as you can imagine it was crazy with all the kiddos running around!
It is always a blessing to spend time with them. Wonderful women who love the Lord.
Some lovely photos Johannah took.
We have been back home for two weeks. It has taken me that long to get back into routine. Even though we drove and drove and drove…somehow we still were rested and relaxed. I guess it’s just having a break from real life. We enjoyed our time there and I am thankful for all the new memories made with my husband and children in the land that I love!
I have written about 5 blog posts over the past 4 months. None of which I have posted. I decided that today is the day. The day I jump back into blogging…maybe.
We have been enjoying our summer so far. Girls are busy as usual. Lots of time outdoors…
The girls play together all day long. This means frequent battles but also a lot of love and a lot of laughter.
They bring me so much joy and so much frustration.
Cora is as strong-willed as ever. A very devoted older sister who gives “Nora” kisses whenever she gets in trouble. I can be sure she will be the first to alert me if her sister is hurt. (we have a lot of fake injuries in this house with two drama queens) She plays all day long and often locks herself in her room to keep little sister from bothering her.
Our litte Elinor is just sweet. She is happy, happy, happy. Always buzzing about, following Cora…wanting cuddles throughout the day. We enjoy her. She is 17 months old which to me is when babies are their absolute cutest.
She is saying a lot of words now. She loves to follow me around saying, MOMMY!!!! What’s that? What is it? We go over and over every object in our house, on the side of the road…I can hardly drive trying to keep up with all her finger points and curiosity.
They make me happy.
Since it’s been a while since I posted last I thought I might recap a few big events in our lives.
First of all, I ran my first half marathon in February. So fun, so rewarding. I will be running another one in November…not looking forward to all the training but definitely excited about the race!
My sister had her fourth child, a baby boy. Josiah Luke.
We made our annual family trip to Savannah. Always fun. Always beautiful. Although this time, not very warm.
Cora performed in her first ballet recital. Melt me…we could not have been prouder!
We went on our first trip without the kiddos. Justin had a business trip in Chicago so I tagged along. It was so much fun. I pretty much spent the entire time shopping. I didn’t buy much but I wandered the stores and spent half a day in a 7 floor Macy’s. Shopping is therapeutic for me.
We went to Wrigley Field to see a Cubs game, we took an architectural tour of the city, we ate good food…and we walked a lot. We also took really terrible pictures with our cell phones.
Please note the woman in the background…
It was such a wonderful trip but we were both yearning for our girls by the time we got back. We are pretty lost without them…
And so life just keeps on happening. One day at a time. One moment at a time. Life. Not exactly the victory march I imagined it would be. It’s funny how before actually experiencing adult life I had so many preconceived notions. (forgive me as I reveal the ugliness of who I am) I was going to be super-wife and super-mom. I would have super-kids. I was going to do everything well, with a smile on my face….I would always be full of joy and wisdom. Every day would bring more sanctification than the next and I would conquer life….me in all my twenty years of awesomeness. Then real life happened. I am so not a super-wife or super-mom, I probably wear a frown a lot more than a smile, I am rarely full of joy and have very little wisdom. I know I am being sanctified only because God promises to sanctify his children. Can I measure it? No. Not a bit. Actually, sometimes I feel like who I was 10 years ago is a nicer person then who I am today. I am not awesome. Not a bit. Not at all.
I have learned to keep a clean house, do all the laundry, cook a healthy meal and run a million errands all in a day because doing that stuff, it’s actually the “easy” part. But still, I am not a super star. And there lies my problem. I am not supposed to be a super-anything because I am
God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.And these works in Christ are so that “no one can boast. (Eph. 2:10, 9)
I can do this and that all day long but what is it worth if I am not doing it for his glory but rather my own?
Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.“1 Cor. 10:31
I have been doing a lot of soul searching and I have to confess. I don’t like what I see. When I look inward I see a lot of me. A lot of thoughts of self-a lot of self-satisfaction or self-hatred…a crippling desire to prove self to others…needless to say, it’s all self. Self never did me any favors but separation from a holy God. When will I learn? This is why I took some time to take a break from this blog. I was tired of me. I am tired of me.
I want to be excited about Him and to be satisfied in him. I want to
grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forevermore. 2 Peter 3:18
I want to grow in love. We have been commanded to
love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Pet. 4:8
I don’t love like I am supposed to. I don’t even understand this love. That is why I have been studying and studying…what does it mean to love as a Christ-follower? I know that even an unbeliever can love those that are easy to love so what does it mean to love deeply? How do I love the unloveable? I pray I learn this love. A love that we are not capable of in our flesh and is only attainable in Him.
So every time I pray I find myself crying out- More of YOU Lord and less of me. Less of me Lord, and more of YOU.
I know one day I will be old and I will amazed at how little growth I have made as a Christian. (My brother wrote about this very thing. Definitely worth the read) I will have grown because I am His and He is mine. I am bought, I am paid for and his promises are true. I am his workmanship, I am created for His good works…so I will grow. But I now realize what my brother wrote is true.
Every Christian will die much more holy than he was when he first put his faith in Jesus Christ, but a lot less holy than he would like and probably a lot less holy than he would have imagined.
Sanctification. Not the “please be easy” road I hoped it would be. So I am left exactly where I should be. Clinging desperately to his word.
hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful…and faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
And I am certain. Certain that he is faithful and that I know
that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Rom. 8:28
Sorry for the soul dumping. I have always wanted to blog to be a true reflection of who I am and what do I have to hide? May I boast only in Him. Soli deo gloria.
And finally, my sister shared this song with me the other day. Oh it spoke to me!
Sometimes Cora likes to get in Elinor’s bed with her. They both think it’s hilarious. Who knows why. The last time they did this I took advantage of their “closeness” and took some pictures.
They are such girls…they just giggle and giggle together. (When they are in the giggling mood)
I’m truly loving the stage we are in right now. Cora is coming along so nicely. She is much less temperamental…she can communicate what she is feeling, needing, wanting. She loves to kiss and cuddle me. Sometimes she will cup my face in her hands, give me a big kiss on the lips and say “I love you mommy.” It melts me. Elinor is just silly and adorable. She is busy, she is fast, she is mischievous, she is spoiled.
She is very quick and seems to be a really capable little thing.
She’s tough and she’s a total daredevil. Right now her face is covered in ugly looking scrapes as she fell down some stone steps. She is scary like that.
I love being a mom. Their mom.
I love it more every day.
Cora is still obsessed with dancing. We are going to sign her up for her first ballet lessons. I know she will love it. As strong willed as Cora can be, she thrives in controlled and busy environments. Sending her to preschool one day a week has been the best thing for her. I am pretty sure dance will be the same.
I delight in how feminine and girly her interests are. I think it’s healthy and precious.
I often think about how this world tries to deny and belittle femininity. They would say we suppress girls through making them want to play princess, wear pink, love dolls, etc. Any mother of a girl knows…you don’t have to teach them any of this! It is their nature to love what is feminine because God designed them this way. I love it, I embrace it…and yes, I do promote it because she is a girl! I want her to develop into what I believe is a secure woman. Someone who is first and foremost secure in Christ but second, secure in who she is as a woman in Christ. That she will have a healthy understanding of the biblical fact that God designed her with a different role than a man and that is not just ok…but it is good! Why? Because God says it is good and necessary…so that’s a good enough reason for me.
Quite a tangent I know…but something I feel so strongly about.
And life has definitely slowed down since Christmas. We are enjoying 2013 so far but I must admit…I cannot wait for warmer weather. I find the cold and dreary days tedious. We spend so much time indoors, more time in front of the TV. I am not as productive as I would like to be. However, it looks like this week has been warmer. We were able to go the park yesterday…maybe we will fit a couple more trips in this week!
And I need to sign off and get this day going because the day is already getting away from me…happy Tuesday!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I hope yours was as peaceful, restful, and joyful as ours…I must say, it’s hard getting back to the reality of routine life but I am so thankful for an entire week of family time, no routine, no schedule. It was much needed.
Unfortunately I did not capture many pictures of Christmas this year. I kept forgetting my camera which actually wasn’t such a bad thing. It made me enjoy being in the moment as opposed to waiting for the right picture.
The few that we do have are from Christmas Eve with Justin’s family. Cooper and Cora were so excited to finally get to open all the gifts they had been eyeing under the tree.
There was a lot of excited shrieking as they opened gift after gift.
I am already looking forward to next Christmas…
As 2013 begins I find myself wondering what my “goals” might be. I don’t really set goals for myself . I am not much of a resolution maker. I just don’t see the point because rarely do I stick to them. Like most people I feel driven for a few weeks and then quickly switch back into old habits. However, some goals are worth setting. Spiritual goals. Last year I made a serious commitment and decision to spend time with the Lord every day. Not just quickly reading my bible and rushing on to the next thing…but spending an allotted amount of private and focused time with Him. It is the best decision I have made…especially since being a mom. Rolling out of bed an hour earlier is hard but it’s worth it. I have learned to love and cherish that time. The Word of Life has truly become my life-line. But it’s amazing to me how although it is my fuel in the morning…I so quickly burn out and become the Grace that needs a whole lot of sanctifying work. And so this year I would really like to put into practice what I read. My greatest desire is that His words would penetrate my mind and my heart. That I would live what he commands that I do. It’s easy to read the Bible and love what it says but it’s hard to live what it says. I want to live it. I want to know it. I want to practice it. I want to exemplify it. I want to live every day as a Christ follower. I want to glorify Him with the things I think, the things I say, the things I do.
And it’s not going to be easy but I know it’s doable. It’s doable because it’s not a resolution I am going to do on my own. Actually, I can’t do it at all but can only through Him who strengthens me.
And so I look forward to the year 2013…with all its hope, all its joy and all its pain, all that He has ordained for me.
I cannot stop thinking about all those poor mothers (And fathers, grandfathers, grandmothers, siblings, etc) who lost loved ones yesterday. Their tiny babies swept from their arms. There are no words. It is unimaginable, indescribable. This fallen, fallen world. I realize again. He holds my children in the palm of his hand. They are his, not mine. They are his to take care of, not mine…not in the big picture. I clothe them, I feed them, I bathe them, I kiss them, I love them…but He holds them. He watches over them always. All their days are determined by Him and that is all part of his good and sovereign plan. I spent yesterday morning praying and praying for their protection. I felt so burdened for my girls safety. A few hours later I heard the news about the shooting in Connecticut and realized- that could have been Cora. That could have been any of my nieces or nephews. What if I had prayed for their safety (like many parents would have that morning) and then they were taken. Then I am reminded, that is all I can do. Pray and trust. Trust and pray.
That is why I thought I would share this song. A Mother’s Prayer by Kristyn Getty. The most beautiful song I have ever heard regarding motherhood and so true when she sings, “Father, hear my ceaseless prayer, keep her in your care.”
I thought I would share some of the crafts I’ve been working on lately. I always love a little Christmas inspiration and thought you might too!
Our Merry Christmas banner was easy to put together.
I used twine, little wooden clips, burlap pennants, doilies, and stamps. I bought everything at Hobby Lobby.
These burlap pennants are one of the best purchases I have made. I keep switching them out to make different banners like this one for Elinor’s party.
I love when I buy something that I recycle over and over again…makes my initial purchase (Which was inexpensive anyways) seem even more justified.
About a month I made a peppermint wreath with our niece Anna. I stole the idea from my Better Homes and Garden magazine. Easy to make and beautiful to look at. It’s definitely not something a little child could do because the glue is hot (I burned myself countless times) and it’s time consuming.
All you need is a wreath (foam, twig, straw), 2 bags of mints, a hot glue gun and any small, red candy (or nandina berries if you are like me) to fill the holes! You simply glue the peppermints row by row.
Fill in any empty space with something red and, voila! A fun and very festive wreath.
And my final little DIY project I though I would share are hair bows. (not really a Christmas craft but could be) If your daughters are like mine, they lose every single hair bow you buy. Hair bows are not cheap (Especially unique looking ones) and so it’s frustrating when they are lost. I stole this idea from my sister and have been making Cora’s hair clips since she first got some hair. All you need is any embellishment you find pretty- I love ones like this from Hobby Lobby
hair clips, and a glue gun. The hair clips come in two sizes. I find the tiny ones perfect for Elinor’s hair (they actually stay in) and the medium size suit Cora.
All you do is pick your embellishment, glue the clip to the bottom of the embellishment. It will be dry in a matter of seconds.
You are left with an assortment of one-of-a-kind hair bows that cost a lot less than those you buy in the store so it’s not quite so upsetting when your little one loses them plus you can match the bow to any outfit.
A blog I read happened to post the same idea this week but hers are slightly different and she recommends using super glue. You can read about what she does here.
When I was in high school I was part of all the Christian organizations. There is one thing I can say about them…they did me a lot of good but also a lot of harm. There was so much focus on emotional experiences or what they called, a mountain-top experience. In other words, some big and exciting experience between you and God. I always carried around this pressure…why wasn’t I having these exciting and phenomenal experiences with God? Was I just not good enough or holy enough? I quickly burned out and quit those groups. I found my church youth group much more steady, solid, feeding me good theology on consistant Christian living rather than pressuring me to have an experience that never seemed to come.
I have since learned those “mountain top” experiences do very occasionally happen and I can count them on one hand. They also never happened when I was expecting them or pursuing them. Christianity is about magical little moments. It is about consistant living in holiness and worship of the one true God. But, every once and while it seems God reveals himself in a more specific, almost tactile way. Little precious glimpses of what is to come.
A couple of months ago we had the opportunity to go to a Fernando Ortega concert. Just me and Justin. It was only $10 a ticket and I was so worried we wouldn’t have good seats as it was first come, first serve. How I underestimated the love Christians show to each other. Everyone was moving over for strangers, not hogging seats, empty front row places all over the sanctuary. Needless to say, I was impressed with the selfless love people were showing to strangers. Very different from other concerts I have been to.
I cannot really put into words what this evening meant to me. All I can say is this, Fernando Ortega’s music has been a constant source of encouragement to me since having two little babies. Especially in the first months of having a newborn and an angry toddler who was adjusting to being dethroned. I did not know how much I was struggling during that time until now. Don’t get me wrong. I have enjoyed having my little Elinor. I have loved watching Cora become a big sister but the adjustment was not as easy as I thought. In retrospect I realize I was in survival mode for about 10 months or so. During that time Fernando Ortega and his music kept me sane, gave me joy…reminded me of how everything I do is for eternal purposes.
I sat in a beautiful sanctuary surrounded by hundreds of other believers and listened to his voice worship God and heard the cellist accompany him. I wept. I wept because I was overflowing with thankfulness. Thankfulness to a God who could gift a man with so much talent, that could gift people with the ability to sing, to make music, to sing joyfully to His name. He had us sing a few hymns together. I stood with my hand-in-hand with Justin and worshipped. That’s all we did, we spent a night worshipping. The loveliest worship experience I have ever had. When it was over I turned to Justin and I said, “I’ll be honest. Sometimes I have feared worshipping God for eternity will be boring but tonight I realized that isn’t so. It will be awesome…beyond words.” We sang as one, we worshipped as one…the bride loving her groom. A glimpse of eternity. A little peek into the perfection that we will one day obtain with Him. The perseverance of the saints in its completion.
Life happens. It’s busy, it’s hard, it’s distracting. I am so thankful for those times, those glimpses, those minutes, where for once I am focused completely and absolutely on my precious Savior. Where all I can think, breathe and feel is my love for Him. The reality of how big he is, how perfect he is and how whole I will be when I can stand in His presence and worship him forever. A true “mountain-top” experience. No audible words from him, nothing big, explosive, obvious…nothing anybody else could see. Just a very real and very personal time worshipping and praising my Father in heaven. Something I know I will remember as long as I live and something I look forward to doing in eternity.
“To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing; To God and to the Lamb I will sing; To God and to the Lamb, Who is the great I AM, While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing, While millions join the theme, I will sing.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on; And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on. And when from death I’m free I’ll sing His love for me, And through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on, And through eternity I’ll sing on.”
Last Saturday we went to cut down our tree. We found a new tree farm which was so much prettier than last years place and had a way better selection of trees. I’m loving this little family tradition we’ve started.
My favorite picture…Cora being told she couldn’t stand near the tree while daddy was cutting.
Looks like a picture perfect outing doesn’t it? I would be lying if I said that the Christmas festivities don’t start a lot of arguments and a bit of grumbling in our house. Selecting a tree, cutting down the tree (which also resulted in Justin cutting his hand), sorting through lights that don’t work…you know how it goes. Pandora is belting out “It’s the most wonderful time of the yearrrrrr!!!!” and we’re sitting in our living room arguing over where the tree should go and how it’s all crooked. Justin’s sick of hauling an itchy and prickly tree around and I’m trying to straighten the darn thing out which means turning it this way and that, putting books under the stand…tying a string to a branch. Whatever will make it not lean to the left but still it leans, and it sheds, and the lights don’t work….
But eventually we got it straight, we bought lights that worked…and it was time to begin decorating.
And it’s all so worth it to see baby’s delight.
And so Christmas has begun. We are enjoying a cozy, festive home…all the cutting, and straightening, and light-bulb fixing was worth it.
The girls have their own “tiny tree” but really, it’s a tiny shrub. More sustainable than buying an actual little tree…plus, we’re cheap.
For some strange reason, ’twas the year of the doilies. They kinda just seemed right and somewhat resemble a very round snowflake.
And that is what Christmas looks like for us this year…doilies, burlap, kraft paper and a whole lot of greenery.