Monday, 27 December 2010

Pursuit of Discernment

The year before last I read through the entire Bible in a year for the first time in my life. Which was really rather pathetic considering I've been a Christian as long as I can remember.

Last year in December I posted about how I was feeling convicted to dig deeper in the Bible and to pursue discernment. Yes, I had read through the Bible, but many days it was simply to be able to say that I had done it. And I wanted to change that. So I started a new blog called The Bible in a Year...and Beyond! because the title captured my vision perfectly - reading through the Bible, yes, but going beyond simply reading it, to studying it, to questioning, to researching, to digging deeper, to pursuing discernment.

I was joined by several other ladies who had felt similarly convicted and together we experienced a year of tremendous growth and insight unlike any year previously. This also was a year where I needed discernment in order to walk through a dark valley alongside a very close friend. Coincidence? I think not!

Because this was such a rich and rewarding experience, and because our need for accountability and motivation has not waned (still human, after all!), we are starting up again and are inviting you to join us!

Last year we did the One Year Chronological Reading Plan. Some parts of the plan I really enjoyed: I loved reading the Psalms as they coincided with the lives of King David and the other Psalmists; it helped to understand some of the books of prophecy better as well to have things in their proper historical perspective. The part of the plan I did not like as much was that it was extremely chronological to the point of flipping between several different books numerous times on certain days.

This year we have decided to do a Chronological plan again. But this one has very little jumping around, and starts in both the Old Testament and the New Testament at the same time - which can be a big pro for those who have found the OT hard to get through. This past year was the first time I, and some other blog participants, have really appreciated the OT and found that we learned so incredibly much - I am very interested to see what new insights we glean this year as we do it again!

So, we decided on this Chronological OT/NT plan. Unfortunately, it still had the 2010 dates it in, so I created a PDF file with the corrected dates and uploaded it to the internet - you can access it here. It contains all the links to the Bible passages, and is printable if you download the file to your computer.

One thing I'd like to mention...
So often we (especially first-borns, perfectionists, etc) tend to have an all or nothing mentality. If I can't do it perfectly, if I can't succeed 100%, if I can't be the best, then I'm just not going to even try. Ladies (or any men that read this!), that's not from the Lord. If you didn't have a regular Bible reading/devotional habit before - then any commitment is better than nothing. You have to start somewhere, and who cares if you start small? So long as you start! Your efforts will be rewarded. You will draw closer to Him. You will reflect Him to those around you. And you will be able to be more discerning. There is no downside here!

So, if you choose to read along with us (or choose a different plan to follow on your own, or whatever you decide to do), and if you fall behind - do not quit! You have a few options: you can read a ton to catch up; you can circle the passages you missed and skip them for now and catch up throughout the year as you have time; you can circle the passages you missed and catch up on them after the year is over; or you can simply miss them; or you can pick a different reading plan that goes through the Bible more slowly. Any of those options are entirely acceptable, the only option that is not a good one is quitting entirely. Do not quit!!

So, why read through the Bible in a year?

Well, it doesn't have to be in a year. But the need to be in the Word daily as a Christian, is really not something that we should consider to be optional.

This website answers the question so much better than I ever could.

Why Is It So Important to Do Devotions Every Day?

What would the people in your church look like if they snacked on meager food morsels during the week and ate only one good meal on the weekend? You know the answer, don't you? You'd find yourself surrounded by emaciated, gaunt people in desperate need of nutrition.

And how would these undernourished believers fare against a demonic adversary? Can you imagine how this army would look? You'd see threadbare skeletons with hollow cheeks and sunken eye-sockets, lined up like phantoms. Weakened by famine, that shriveled militia could barely stand at attention; each would struggle to find the strength to keep his or her bony frame upright.

Could this "army" conquer an opposing force?

No way. No earthly general would send them out to fight.

Well, then, how about the army of the Lord? What of those who gather on Sunday mornings? Are they spiritually nourished to fight the battles ahead? Considering what most members of God's army subsist on—an occasional tidy snack from a devotional book and perhaps an average-sized meal on Sundays to satiate conscience—you'd have to conclude that God's fighting force has some serious training to do.

Have you ever wondered why marriages seemingly crumble overnight, and—out of the blue—Christians leaders fall to luring temptations?

The truth is, no marriage instantly disintegrates, and no one suddenly falls away from Christ. For that matter, no one dies from an eating disorder after missing a day or two of meals.

It could better be described as a slow decline—gradual spiritual starvation, barely even discernible to the outside observer. The malnourishment of God's sons and daughters happens over time, as they eat less and less. Then, in their weakness, they do something that shocks everyone, finally revealing what was really going on in their spiritual lives.

Did you know that more than 80 percent of those who call themselves Christians read their Bibles only once a week? And that's usually on Sundays, at church. They come to church to get their spiritual fill, and then snack on devotional tidbits for the rest of the week (if even that).

I wish for just one day God would change the way our eyes work, so we would see ourselves spiritually. We'd see most American churches filled with skeletal, hollow-eyed saints, looking as if a gust of wind would blow them away like tumbleweeds.

Which is why, when some new trend floods America and pushes our nation further away from God, further away from our spiritual roots, the church is unable to withstand the tide. We simply don't have the strength.

So what's the solution? ....

If we eat only once a week, it's no wonder the church is weak and struggling. But daily fresh bread can change all of that. Regularly dining on fresh bread makes for a stalwart, strong, developed army—the only kind of force that will always make a difference in this world.

So, will you join us? We already have several new people joining in, and all but one member is returning again this year. You can participate as much or as little as you are able to commit to. You can read along with us, read the daily posts and comment as you have time. Or you can commit to writing some of the posts as well. It's up to you!

It doesn't have to be my blog.

But choose something.

Choose a plan to get into the Word. Daily. And see what God will do!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Christmas Birth Story

What was the birth of Jesus like? Probably a lot like the birth of every other baby on the planet - messy, violent and with lots of blood everywhere. Definitely not the sanitized vision we have in our heads as we sing Silent Night.

Missy, from It's Almost Naptime, wrote a beautiful post describing the birth of our Saviour. Here is an excerpt from her post....

We have this image in our mind of what that first Christmas was like. Yours is perhaps similar to mine: under a great big twinkling star sits a stable. Silent Night tinkles in the background as snow softly falls. Inside are two or three calm, fragrant, and softly lowing animals. Mary, dressed in blue, reclines peacefully, smiling as though she had just received the most divine epidural. She grimaces slightly, and then, voila, a beautiful clean baby appears with a halo floating above his soft curls. Mary wraps Jesus in swaddling clothes, taking care not to muss the halo, and lies him in a manger.

This is the image that we receive from the snowglobes we're given in Sunday School. But we're grown up now, aren't we?

As a result of the sinful, violent world that we live in, because of the curse upon us since the beginning of time, there is pain - violence - in childbirth. Even the easiest childbirth is never easy, never without suffering. Mary fell under that curse as surely as I do. So I believe it is safe to assume that on the night that Jesus was born into this cursed world, she suffered.

The bible doesn't give many details about Jesus's actual delivery. I think the lack of details lends credence to the theory that Mary's labor and birth was ordinary for its time. Unremarkable in its similarity to every other woman's birth, then and even now. Drawing on my own four births, the births of my friends, and some ancient history, I can imagine our Savior's first birthday.

There was a young, frightened girl in a dirty, stinky cave in an overcrowded, noisy town, trying not to think of her friends and relatives who had died in childbirth. She was probably surrounded by women who had also made the trek to Bethlehem, some of whom she knew, some she might not have. Some who loved her, some who judged her and the suspicious circumstances of her pregnancy. Most who traded their own birth stories as her labor progressed and offered their advice. All of whom were witnessing her at her most vulnerable. But as her contractions came closer and closer together, the only thing Mary knew was that she had never experienced pain like this in all her life.

There was no whirlpool bath. There was no birthing ball. There was probably not even a birthing stool. There was probably a woman, perhaps even her mother, seated behind her to hold her still, rub her back, press on the top of her abdomen, and say repeatedly in her ear, "Miriam, you're doing great, good job, good girl, you're doing great."

There was no background music of a children's choir singing Away in a Manger. Instead there were probably grunts, and tears, and desperate prayers, and terrified cries of "Get him out! Please get him out!" and "I can't do this!" while the women soothed, firmly, "Yes you can, sweetheart, you can. Push!"

And then there were a few minutes when Mary thought her body was on fire, and she closed her eyes, and she panted, and she moaned, perhaps she screamed, and then he was out. And the women said, "He's here! He's beautiful! Look at him, Miriam, look at your son!" And he cried. And Mary opened her eyes, and she cried, and tried to move her exhausted body to see her baby. He was red, he was wrinkly, he was screaming, he was covered in vernix, but he was alive, and, at least to his mother, he was beautiful.

And there was blood everywhere.

He came into this world in violence.

He lived a violent life. As an infant, he screamed from gas pains. As a toddler he was covered in bruises from learning to walk. He skinned his knees. He caught viruses. He experienced the pain of losing his earthly father. His brothers scoffed at him. He wept when his friend died too young. His best friend rejected him when he needed him most. He suffered, both physically and emotionally. He empathized with others on a level we will never know. He knew the pain of being a human. He knew what it was like to be us, to be well acquainted with sorrow and sin and curses.

And he died a most violent death. He was arrested, accused of a crime he did not commit. He was flogged with a whip until his body was unrecognizable from the cuts and the bruises and the swelling. His beard was probably ripped out. He was stripped naked, and then his body was tied to a cross. A crown of thorns was pressed into his already mutilated head. Nails were pounded into the flesh of his wrists and his ankles and he was raised up. And as he slowly suffocated to death, he watched the anguish and horror on the face of the woman who had bore him, all those years ago, in that stable in Bethlehem.

And there was blood everywhere.

And because his Father deemed his tortured, bleeding body to be a worthy sacrifice, you and I have access to the throne of Heaven. For by that very blood, we have been washed clean of the curse of death. By that blood we are made righteous, by that blood we are justified, by that blood we are redeemed. By that blood, the blood that was everywhere, we are each reborn a child not of the curse, but a child of the living, loving God!

O, holy night!

Here is a beautiful song portraying the same idea.....

Labor of Love by Andrew Peterson
It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David's town

And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother's hand to hold

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love

Noble Joseph at her side
Callused hands and weary eyes
There were no midwives to be found
In the streets of David's town
In the middle of the night

So he held her and he prayed
Shafts of moonlight on his face
But the baby in her womb
He was the maker of the moon
He was the Author of the faith
That could make the mountains move

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love
For little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
It was a labor of love

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Christmas isn't...

At Christmastime we celebrate by decorating the tree, putting up lights and giving gifts to those we love. But Christmas isn't just about being with our loved ones, enjoying the snow or singing Christmas carols.

As a Christian, I celebrate Christmas because it's the day we've set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus. But Christmas isn't just about the manger, the angels, the shepherds, the wise men or the star either.

Christmas is about the reason Jesus was born. It's about the reason He left the glory of heaven and exchanged it for 33 years on a planet full of people who had and still do reject Him. It's the reason He endured an agonizing death on the cross to pay the price that was mine to pay. What was the reason? You. Me. Love for you and me. He was the Rescuer sent by God to pay the penalty for my sin. He took on the full wrath of God in my place. In your place. Because He loves you that much! Someone needed to make a way back to God, and He was the only One who could do it. I can't do it, you can't do it. Only He can.

And so He came - born to die. But the story, thankfully, did not end there. Death did not defeat Him. God raised Him from the dead. And in the end, death will not defeat us either.

So celebrate Christmas - with one eye on the manger and the other on the cross and the empty grave! And remember the reason was love.

Note: If you're reading this and you're not a Christian, and you're wondering if you need this Rescuer, please click here to take a very simple test that will let you know (bet you didn't know such a quiz existed!). Of course, you may also feel free to ask me if you have any questions and I will do my best to answer them for you.

About The Cross by Go Fish

Verse 1:

It’s not just about the manger
Where the baby lay
It’s not all about the angels
Who sang for him that day

It’s not just about the shepherds
Or the bright and shining star
It’s not all about the wisemen
Who travelled from afar

It’s about the cross
It’s about my sin
It’s about how Jesus came to be born once
So that we could be born again

It’s about the stone
That was rolled away
So that you and I could have real life someday

It’s about the cross
It’s about the cross

Verse 2:

It’s not just about the presents
Underneath the tree
It’s not all about the feeling
That the season brings to me

It’s not just about coming home
To be with those you love
It’s not all about the beauty
In the snow I’m dreaming of

It’s about the cross
It’s about my sin
It’s about how Jesus came to be born once
So that we could be born again

It’s about the stone
That was rolled away
So that you and I could have real life someday

It’s about the cross
It’s about the cross


The beginning of the story is wonderful and great
But it’s the ending that can save you and that’s why we celebrate

It’s about the cross
It’s about my sin
It’s about how Jesus came to be born once
So that we could be born again

It’s about God’s love
Nailed to a tree
It’s about every drop of blood that flowed from Him
when it should have been me

It’s about the stone
That was rolled away
So that you and I could have real life someday
So that you and I could have real life someday

It’s about the cross
It’s about the cross

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from our home to yours!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Our Jesse Tree

So, true to my previous post just a couple of days ago, I have our Jesse Tree supplies set up and ready to go! I printed out Ann Voskamp's free devotional booklet (complete with ornament pictures!) at her blog, A Holy Experience. I printed the ornaments on white card stock, then I measured them all and created a Word document with backgrounds sized to match each ornament (I can email it to you if you like), printed that on green card stock and mounted the pictures onto the green backgrounds with double sided tape with red ribbon in between.

And I even let Sophia & Olivia help me! Anyone who knows me knows that I generally have little no patience for crafts as I feel the perfectionist need to fix everything they do and freak out a little lot when things don't go as planned. And let's be honest here, do they ever go as planned with kidlets? I think not. Despite a few moments with one certain daughter which shall remain nameless the younger one, I managed to stop myself from freaking out and we had a very enjoyable time completing the project to my perfectionist standards! ;) Sophia cut the ribbon to the right length and Olivia wrecked helped me with the tape. They turned out great!
Emma was not impressed when she got home from school and found out we had done it without her, so I let her put on extra ornaments. ;)

I'm finding the devotionals a little bit of a stretch for our kids, so I got out our Jesus Storybook Bible and The Big Picture Story Bible to supplement the material.

Side note: if you do not yet have the Jesus Storybook Bible, go get it right now.
I will wait for you.
Got it? OK, good.
But seriously, you really need to get it. It's the best children's Bible I've read, and we have more than several! You can read my review on it
here. My only complaint is that I wish it had more stories. The girls are particularly disappointed that the Queen Esther story is not included.

Both the Jesus Storybook Bible and the Big Picture Storybook Bible (the former even more than the latter) excel at showing you how the OT events point to the coming of our Messiah. Which is exactly what the Jesse Tree is all about!

So, I went through both Bibles and wrote in the page #'s that coincided with the Jesse Tree devotionals. There were very few days that did not have at least one supplementary children's Bible passage to go with it. So, depending on how much time we have, we will read the same passage up to 3 times! Talk about getting it to sink in - repetition is key, right? ;)

Like I said in my previous post, we are starting late, so we will usually be doing two per day until we catch up. I'm so glad we started late. It's not too late for you to start too! In fact, if you start on the 12th, you could do 2 per day (one in the morning, one at night) and still get them all in for Christmas time!

This is definitely going to be a yearly tradition at our house from now on!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Book Review: Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado

About the Book: These are difficult days in our world's history. 1.75 billion people are desperately poor, natural disasters are gouging entire nations, and economic uncertainty still reigns across the globe. But you and I have been given an opportunity to make a big difference. What if we did? What if we rocked the world with hope? Infiltrated all corners with God's love and life? We are created by a great God to do great works. He invites us to outlive our lives, not just in heaven, but here on earth. Let's live our lives in such a way that the world will be glad we did.

My Thoughts: I have enjoyed all of Max Lucado's books and this one was no exception. In fact, I think it may be my favourite of them all.

It gives practical inspiration for how we can really live out lives to make a difference, especially as we strive to be like the One in whom we profess to believe. It is a call for us to truly and practically be a light in a fallen world, as we have been commanded to do in the Word.

Based on the first twelve chapters of the Book of Acts, this book inspires us to live out our lives the way the first believers did.

Here's a quote from the book....

When your grandchildren discover you lived during a day in which 1.75 billion people were poor and 1 billion were hungry, how will they judge your response?

What if we rocked the world with hope?

Thank you to Booksneeze for providing me with my complimentary review copy of Max Lucado's Outlive Your Life.

Book Review: Immanuel's Veins by Ted Dekker

About the Book: In the 1700's a Russian soldier, Toma Nicolescu, is sent by the Queen of Russia to protect the Cantemir estate in Moldavia. While there, he and his partner are drawn into a battle of good vs evil. This books is for everyone, but not everyone is for this book.

My thoughts: I have to say that I was disappointed in this book. I have read several of Dekker's books and I have definitely liked some more than others. This was definitely my least favourite.

Part of it was probably the vampire storyline which rubbed me the wrong way as it just seemed to be a jumping on the Twilight phenomenon bandwagon move. Vampires are also not my favourite storyline to begin with.

I did not find the writing to be as good as his previous works. This felt redundant and frustrating to read.

For a Christian book, it is very sensual, and I would definitely not recommend it for younger readers.

That being said, there are numerous reviews out there by people that absolutely loved this book. In fact, my opinion seems to be in the minority. "This book is for everyone, but not everyone is for this book" probably sums it up very accurately.

Thank you to Booksneeze for providing me with my complimentary review copy of Ted Dekker's Immanuel's Veins.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Jesse Tree

If you're looking for a unique and meaningful way to celebrate advent and the reason for the season, you should consider making a Jesse Tree.

What is a Jesse Tree?

The Jesse Tree represents the family tree of Jesus and tells the entire story of God's salvation plan, beginning with creation and making it's way through the OT, showing how it all points to the coming of the Messiah.

Each day of Advent focuses on one story in the OT and a homemade ornament is added to the Jesse Tree. A Jesse Tree can be a small Christmas tree, it could be any tree-type plant in your home, it could be branches sticking out of a pot, or it could even simply be a hand-drawn tree shape.

This year, I came across a beautiful Jesse Tree Advent Devotional Book that is being given away for free, by Ann Voskamp at her blog A Holy Experience.

According to her site, each day's journey includes...

  • The full Bible text of the day’s reading in either NCV or NIV (of course, feel free to read from your own Bible, if you’d prefer another translation.) Readings are selected to begin in Genesis and cover significant events throughout the Old Testament — each story pointing to the coming Messiah. It’s like an overview of the whole span of His Story — leading right up to the climax of the coming Christ!
  • A devotional that (humbly attempts!) to be a read-aloud for the whole family – engaging enough for young children and yet meaty enough for teens and adults. (Thank you for grace!) Each reflection endeavors to not only highlight an important scene from God’s epic in time, but to always unwrap more of Jesus, the gift hidden in every story.
  • a short, simple action point for the day — “Unwrapping more of His love in the World” — a way to do something together as a family that not only invites the coming Kingdom of God and Jesus’ love into your home and community, but is an opportunity to apply and live out the day’s devotional. It’s like an Advent Calendar that gives back – becoming more like the gift Himself!
  • a full color ornament, illustrated by Nancy Rodden and used with permission, to hang on your own Jesse Tree. The very last pages of the book include all of the ornaments in over several pages so you can easily cut each ornament out and creatively mount to your own preferences
You might be thinking that it's too late, because we're already part-way into advent. That would normally be my perfectionist excuse. But, apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks! I don't care that we're starting late, we're still doing it! I'm going to try to do 2 each day until we're caught up. If I find that too much, we'll just skip to the present and go from there. And, instead of trying to make the ornaments all fancy, as per my perfectionist tendencies, I'm printing them on cardstock, mounting them on red cardstock paper, punching holes in them and hanging them like that. Maybe next year I'll get more creative, but the kids won't care!

I think I'd like to do something like this - not much more complicated really, but I don't have any ribbon on hand!

I highly encourage you to take a look at Ann's book at this link. She includes sample pages so you can see what it's like - you won't be disappointed!

You can also buy ornaments to match the advent topics - check out this blog for some great inspiration.

And, of course, there are Jesse Tree books you can purchase such as Advent Jesse Tree Devotions which has separate devotions for children and adults so both parents and children can benefit from readings at their level, and The Jesse Tree which is in more of a storybook format. I'm tempted to get these both ;)

I think we've just found a new tradition!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Fall Decor

I figured I better post some pictures of our fall decor before I take it down tomorrow to decorate for Christmas!!

I found the above idea online somewhere and made it myself - all products from Dollarama! Vases, prayer candles and leaf & berry stems were all it took (that and a lot of elbow grease getting the huge stickers off the prayer candles!). I placed it on the sofa table in our living room.

I picked up a box of these fake pears and pumpkins at Superstore last year and put them in this cute fruit bowl (breathable) as a centerpiece for our dining table. My real bananas got bumped to a regular old glass bowl on the countertop.

This is the end of our hallway.

I also had a huge fake flower arrangement that I had made at our church ladies morning out program, but it fell apart in our storage room and I just never got around to fixing it in time to display it this year. Maybe next year!

Now, because I'm all about keeping it real - you see that picture at the very top? Yeah, that's not how that usually looks. See, Jacob loves to play with his cars and trucks while standing at a table. So, I've designated the sofa table as his spot to play (though I admit to occasionally letting him play on the dining table too - tsk, tsk). Our house is a home first. So......

This is how it usually looks! ;)

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Thankful Thursday - New Office!!

Last week we did a major room reshuffle in our house and as a result, I have a large office WITH A WINDOW! I am so excited and extremely thankful for being able to sit and work in such a bright, airy room, and view the great outdoors at the same time! This window looks out the rear of our house which means I can see our children's school - I can sometimes see them at recess time and I can see them walk home from school - perfect!!

At some point, I would like to get a new desk, but for now - this will definitely work! Here is my new office!

Now, what did this room used to be? It used to be Olivia's room. No, we didn't kick her out in the cold :) For the longest time, despite the fact that they each have their very own bedroom, all 3 girls have been sleeping together in the same bed - just a tad squished, but they loved it! And I was stuck in a cramped, windowless office in the basement. Hmmm, somethings not right here. I just can't believe it took me this long to think of this!!

Until now, Jacob and Olivia both had their own rooms upstairs, and Sophia and Emma both had their own rooms downstairs which were joined together by a Jill and Jill bathroom. So, we moved Sophia so that she now shares a room with Emma, we moved Olivia into Sophia's old room, we turned my old office into a play space for the girls and we moved my office upstairs into Olivia's old room. Perfect solution!

Here's Emma & Sophia's room - it is slightly cramped, but it's not bad. We had originally had them sharing this room when we moved in but we had it set up differently (click here to see pics). The original way looked nicer, but it didn't leave much room for playing. This isn't fabulous either, but it's better! Emma sleeps in the bed with the striped bedding (used to be Olivia's but they wanted to switch).

Sophia sleeps in the yellow bed on the right. We left a bit of a gap there on the far right corner (see Tigger?) because there's a small door to a little reading nook back there that they can still squeeze past the bed to get to.

This is Olivia's new room. She loves it!

This used to be my office and is now a cute little playroom. I'm going to move more of the girls craft stuff into here so they can work in here and close the door to keep Jacob from wrecking their works of art in progress.

To see what their rooms used to look like, click here.

And, of course, a huge Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!!

Click on the Thankful Thursday button to visit our host and other thankful bloggers.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Christmas Photo Cards - freebie!

Christmas photo cards have definitely become the norm these last several years, at least in our area it has. I love it! I love getting pictures of people and would love to incorporate that into a Christmas tradition somehow - maybe picking one each day to pray for or something like that.

This fall we had family pictures taken by an actual photographer and they turned out fabulous - I'm really looking forward to ordering our pictures.

Shutterfly has a great holiday promotion going on where they're offering bloggers the opportunity to get 50 free holiday cards - click this link for details.

Of course, Shutterfly also has other cool photo ideas such as photo mugs, photo calendars and photo books (which I totally want to start creating for our kids!).

Shutterfly has numerous creative and innovative ideas for Christmas cards, whether you want to use one photo, two photos or three or more, and you can sort by those requirements which is really helpful in narrowing it down.

Check out this Christmas letter format...

I'm having a little trouble finding the perfect card for our family. I want one that has one large box for our family photo, 4 smaller boxes of equal size for each child, and then (optional) one medium one for all the kids together - plus I really want the words to be Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings - cause I'm crazy cool like that.

The designs/colours/words I liked the best didn't fit all the qualifications, but I have found a few that will work - now it's just to decide which one to get. And quickly, so we get them in time to hand them out!

Friday, 12 November 2010

Operation Christmas Child - pack it!

Operation Christmas Child - one of my favourite Christmas traditions to get us started in the true spirit of Christmas: celebrating the greatest gift of all, Baby Jesus born as God's gift of love to us. Operation Christmas Child gives us a chance to spread His love to those who may never have heard of God, and who may never have a received a gift of any kind.

The girls absolutely love packing the shoeboxes. We picked up the school supplies when they were on sale during a trip to the States in summer, and then Olivia and Jacob went with me to shop for the toiletries and fun stuff just the other day. One slight problem with that plan - when we bought school supplies in summer, I bought enough for all 4 kids. When I bought the stuff now, I thought we had only bought for 3 kids. So, we had enough for 3 1/2 boxes - I just brought the 1/2 box to church and let them finish it off during their packing project. (The Gr 5/6 girls and the Gr 5/6 boys packed well over 100 boxes!!).

This is the list of what we packed in our boxes....
box of pencil crayons with sharpener
two pens
box of crayons
two animal shaped erasers
first aid kit
bar of soap
two hair ties
stuffed animal
bouncy ball
mini tamborine

We also got the girls to make a card for the girl who would receive the gift box.

It's not too late to pack your own shoebox!! Collection week is Nov 15 - 20th.

If you prefer the virtual world - you can pack your shoebox online too! Just click on this link and you will be taken to Samaritan's Purse's secure website where you can order a shoebox custom built as per your specifications all from the comfort of your own home! You can select the age and gender of the recipient of your box and it will let you know what's all automatically included for $37 (which includes the $7 shipping fee). Here is what's included in the Girls box for Age 5-9....
1 Notebook
5 Pencils
1 Pencil sharpener
1 Eraser
2 Pens
1 Pack of pencil crayons
1 Toothbrush
1 Pair of Socks
1 Activity Book
1 Comb
1 Bar of soap
1 Wash cloth
1 Cup
1 Painting kit
1 Pack of Stickers
1 Ball
Assorted hair accessories
Assorted hard candy

You will then have the option to pick two more items for an extra cost - you can pick between shirts ($5), sunglasses for $4 (great idea - have to remember that one for next year!), hairbrush ($2), calculator ($2) or stuffed animal ($3).

You can then write a note to the child and even upload a photo to include as well!

This is a bit more expensive then doing it yourself but it's a very cool option for those who prefer to shop online, or who are simply to busy to go out and buy the supplies. Simply put - you have no excuse not to do it! ;)

If you're looking for a new tradition to start with your kids this Christmas - this is it!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Thankful Thursday - Lest We Forget

Today, on Remembrance Day, I am thankful for the countless soldiers who sacrificed themselves for the sake of freedom.

All sacrificed years of their life; all sacrificed being able to continue their lives as usual, to be with their families, to be there for births, first steps and more; all sacrificed the naivete of not knowing what war is truly like.

And some sacrificed through wounds - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

And some sacrificed through death.

I am thankful that they fought (and still fight!) for our freedom.

I am thankful when they fight for the freedom of other countries too weak to fight for themselves.

I am thankful they willingly fight so that I am not forced to.

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Which reminds me of another sacrifice I am thankful for.

Romans 5:7-8 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Jesus sacrificed the glory of heaven .... for us.

Jesus took on the sins of the world and endured the wrath of God and separation from His father - so that we could be free from the punishment of sin.

Jesus sacrificed - physically, mentally, emotionally, physically - for us. For you. For me. While we were sinners, because we were sinners, because He loves us - He offers the gift of eternal life.

I am thankful He died for me.

I am thankful because we are all incapable of paying the penalty for our sins and needed Him to do it for us.

Today, I am thankful for freedom - in all it's forms!

* Click on the Thankful Thursday button to visit our host and other thankful bloggers.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Girls weekend!

My MIL decided to celebrate her 60th birthday by taking her two daughters and her only favourite daughter-in-law on a girls shopping weekend to the City two hours South of us. She even flew out one of those daughters from out west - she paid for each of us to get to her house - I think she promised me a quarter, since we live in the same town. However, I have yet to see said quarter - LOL!
(apparently there was a bit of a belt theme going on)

In total, we left 8 children behind with their more than capable fathers (yes, we have half the grandchildren - for now!) and packed as light as we could, to leave room for all our purchases on the return trip.

(two more shirts and two pair of jeans)

We had an absolute blast!

It was also very successful from a shopping perspective. I think it's safe to say we've done our part to contribute to the US economy ;)

Last, but not least, a jacket and purse!
(Of course, I also bought stuff for my rockin' husband and precious children)

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Halloween 2010

Emma was a pirate (apparently $14 Walmart costumes don't come with eyepatches or anything), Sophia was Miss Morticia, Olivia was a good witch and Jacob was a pirate as well (he looks very enthusiastic, doesn't he?!). And no, we do not suddenly have 5 children. The little cow is my niece Taylor. The guys took the kids trick or treating while us ladies were driving home from our girls weekend away - shopping pics to come tomorrow!

And, of course, our trick-or-treaters were the polite ones who yelled "Trick or treat!" at every house and said thank you for the candy. We followed all of my sister's excellent Trick or Treat etiquette advice before she even posted it. Cuz we're cool like that.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Did YOU know? Important ethical information

Updated from a previous post from 3 years ago.

This is a sensitive area of discussion, but I'm willing to take the plunge! I hope I do not offend anyone - that is not my intent. My intent is to inform, to encourage your own research (don't just take my word for it!) and to decide what to do with this information (remember - doing nothing is also a decision). I have issued the challenge - are you prepared to take it?

Virtually everyone I have spoken to IRL has not been aware of this - for some reason this news is just not getting out. So, I'm doing my part to spread the word!

So, I'm going to start by providing facts, then I will provide links to some research I have done, and then I will state my opinions - I bet you can't wait for that part! :)

The fact - one of the ways the birth control pill works is to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. Assuming you believe that life begins at conception (as most Christians do) - this is a chemically induced abortion - a fertilized egg is a baby.

The pill works in 3 ways
1) The main way it works is by preventing ovulation. No ovulation = no possibility of pregnancy and therefore, no ethical dilemma. However, this is not 100% effective. Especially nowadays with the lower dosage pills being common, this is not anywhere close to 100% effective - which means the other 2 mechanisms often come in to play.
2) The second way it works is by changing the cervical mucous to prevent sperm from reaching an egg should ovulation occur. This too, is totally fine. Preventing fertilization is not wrong. However, this mechanism is also not always effective. This is when the other mechanism comes into play.
3) The 3rd way it works is by thinning the lining of the uterus so that should fertilization occur, it would make it much more difficult for the five to seven day old baby to attach to the lining in order to receive the nourishment needed to grow. If the baby cannot successful implant, the baby will die and be expelled from the body during menstruation - this is called a chemical abortion.

Assuming that life begins at conception, this is a serious ethical problem.

So, that's it in a nutshell. This is also true with IUDs, Depo-Provera and Norplant (in fact in some of those the abortifacient effect is it's main mechanism)

Here is some research...

The most comprehensive and detailed research I've found was done by Randy Alcorn who actually set out to prove that the pill did NOT work in this way. If you click on this link you can find Randy's article (I think it's broken down into 9 parts) as well as a host of other articles on the topic. Randy Alcorn interviewed everyone from the pill manufacturers, their pharmacists and physicians as well as numerous other medical texts and references.

Here's a few quotes from his article....

On March 24, 1997, I had a lengthy and enlightening talk with Richard Hill, a pharmacist who works for Ortho-McNeil's product information department. (Ortho-McNeil and Searle are the largest birth control pill manufacturers.)

I then asked Hill if he was certain the Pill made implantation less likely. "Oh, yes," he replied. I said, "So you don't think this is just a theoretical effect of the Pill?" He said the following, as I took detailed notes:

Oh, no, it's not theoretical. It's observable. We know what an endometrium looks like when it's richest and most receptive to the fertilized egg. When a woman is taking the Pill you can clearly see the difference, based both on gross appearance -- as seen with the naked eye -- and under a microscope. At the time when the endometrium would normally accept a fertilized egg, if a woman is taking the Pill it is much less likely to do so.

I asked Hill one more time, "So you're saying this is an actual effect that happens, not just a theoretical one?" He said, "Sure -- you can actually see what it does to the endometrium and it's obvious it makes implantation less likely. The only thing that's theoretical is the numbers, because we just don't know that." (emphasis mine)

And how often does this third mechanism come into play? IOW, how many chemical abortions are there every year from the pill? The answer will likely astound you. First to have something to compare to - there are approx 1.5 million abortions a year in the US. (not chemical abortions, "regular" surgical abortions where there is deliberate termination of a known pregnancy). It is impossible, of course, to give an exact number of how many chemical abortions happen due to taking the pill (it could be done, but the tests have not been performed) - however it is possible to scientifically predict the numbers. The numbers are shockingly high - between 834,000 and 4.17 million chemical abortions every year. See this article for details on how these numbers were calculated.

There are numerous other sites that state that this is how the pill works - everything from non-Christian organizations like Planned Parenthood (who recently revised their website to make it appear more theoretical), to Christian organizations like Crisis Pregnancy centre. All you have to do is google "abortifacient effect birth control pill" and tons of links will show up.

Here are a few more links for you....
Growing Debate About the Abortifacient Effect of the Birth Control Pill and the Principle of the Double Effect - written by Walter Larimore, MD (formerly on staff with Focus on the Family)
The Birth Control Pill Documentary: 28 Days on the Pill
Resources for 28 Days on the Pill - a huge list of resources used by the documentary
LifeSiteNews article - pro-abortion advocates confirm the pill prevents implantation of embryos
Review of Randy Alcorn's research book
"Birth Control" Pills Cause Early Abortions - article by Prolife America

In your own research, don't just ask you doctor and accept a quick "oh no, it's not an abortifacient" and think you've done your duty, even if your doctor is a Christian.

First of all, not all doctors are aware of this effect of the pill (Dr Walter Larimore was unaware of this effect, and it took a lot of his own time and research to convince him of it's reality). If they dismiss your concerns, tell them about this research and ask them to perform their own and that you'd like to discuss it again.

Secondly, not all doctors define life as beginning at fertilization (especially non-Christian doctors). Some define life as beginning at implantation in which case they obviously would not consider the pill abortifacient.

Frankly, I've been amazed and disappointed at the apathetic response I've gotten from many of the people I've talked to about this affect of the pill. The only reason I can think is that they feel like if they don't research it themselves they don't have to act on the information. After all, the pill is a super convenient method of birth control. Unfortunately it is birth control, and not conception control. Another reason for the "head in the sand" response is the desire for it not to be true. Believe me - I understand that desire. We used the pill for 5 yrs, completely unaware of this affect. And it grieves me to think that I may have unknowingly caused the death of a child. But, how much more wrong would it be to continue to use it blindly, after knowing about the possibility of chemical abortion?

One thing I want to mention. There are many women that need to take the pill for medical reasons - having nothing to do with conception. I don't see an ethical problem with this provided that an additional, alternative method of true conception control is used to negate the abortifacient effect of the pill.

So, what to use instead?

When done correctly, Natural Family Planning or NFP (NOT the rhythm method) is even more effective than the pill. It does take work, and you need to educate yourself in order to do it correctly, but it's effective - over 99% effective!

Other options include barrier methods, spermicide, etc. And of course, for the truly paranoid, more than one option can be used at the same time! :)

So, my encouragement to you (should you believe in life at conception), is to cease using the pill (or use it in combination with another method) and research it yourself. I'm sure you will find that the risk is simply too high - especially when alternative methods of conception control are available that work and that have NO risk of causing an abortion. I know some of the other methods are not as convenient, but is convenience a valid reason to risk a life?

I highly encourage you to read Randy Alcorn's book (available for free download in its entirety here).

If you have any questions, I'd be more than happy to answer any that I possibly can. Please feel free to forward this to everyone you know. The word needs to get out. As in any medical situation, people need to be informed - especially since lives are literally at stake.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

My Husband Rocks!

Those of you who know me on Facebook are already familiar with me bragging on my husband and then ending with "My husband rocks!". Yesterday, I blogged about a great company, Union28, that celebrates marriage and communicates this message positively in fun and stylish ways (also where I got that catch-phrase).

And my husband does rock! To be perfectly honest, I think he is a better husband than I am a wife. Here are just a few of the rockin' things he does for me and our kids.

He works very hard to support me and the children so that I can be a stay at home mom.

He is also blessed to work as his own boss, so he is able to determine his own work hours and he has made it a priority to be home at a decent time so that we are able to eat dinner together as a family virtually every evening, despite our rather busy schedule.

He is always thinking of me and trying to do things to make life easier for me. He does 99% of our grocery shopping, as well as most of our trips to Costco and Walmart - and he always asks me which of the kids I want him to take with him, so I can have a break while he's gone. He virtually never goes anywhere without taking one or all 4 kids with him.

He makes breakfast for the kids every Sunday morning so I don't have to get up earlier in order to get ready for church on time. He also makes breakfast for the kids on the Saturdays that he's home so that I can sleep in.

He reads Bible stories to the kids and prays with them every evening. If he has hockey in the evening, he usually makes sure to still do this before he leaves.

Before bed, he often takes the time to just chat with the kids, or tease them, or tell them made up stories (they love this!).

He takes the kids out for one on one dates.

If he's not going to come home for lunch on a workday, he phones me to see how my day is going.

He compliments me on my looks.... a lot!

He makes it a priority for us to go on dates regularly.

He initiates us reading devotions and praying together before bed.

My husband rocks!


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