"…And she smiles at the future." ~Proverbs 31:25

Posts tagged ‘joy’

What I learned when she sang my praises

We were in the car, heading off to her weekly swimming lesson, when my five-year-old daughter broke out in this joyous, made-up-on-the-spot song:

I love my mommy!

I love her so much.

She takes care of me.

She feeds me yummy food.

She takes me places I need to go.

She doesn’t leave me alone.

Remi's flower

She plays with me.

She teaches me.

She makes school so fun.

She is the best mom ever…

On and on and on she went, and I’ll admit it: With each line, my heart swelled a little more. Oh, I know I’m not “all that”…but in HER eyes, I am! And it was really nice to hear her singing my praises.

  • It reminded me how much she truly loves me.
  • It made me feel appreciated.
  • It thrilled me that she was so sincere in her thoughts that she just couldn’t help but sing them out.

And then it hit me.

How must our God feel when we sing praises to Him?

          When we can’t help but shout about all the great things He’s done for us?

          When we list off all the people and things we’re thankful for?

          When we tell Him everything we love about Him?

          When we acknowledge that He is the BEST?

In God’s case, He actually deserves all the praise we can give Him, and it must warm His heart to hear His thankful children giving glory and honor to His name.

So…when was the last time you just couldn’t stop telling your Father in heaven what you love about Him? How long has it been since the list of what you are thankful for was so long, that it far outweighed all the things you asked Him for? I know I need to do better about that, and this experience motivates me to try.

Let’s make it a point today–and every day–to let our hearts and mouths overflow with praises for the One who does everything right.

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;

Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.

(Psalm 98:4)

Thanks for stopping by!

Christmas tree quandary

Sometimes things just don’t go quite the way we planned, and that can make over-planners like me a little crazy. But, I’m working on just taking things as they come…the perfect with the imperfect; the chaos with the calm. I recently wrote here about my very typical, imperfect life, and this week has provided yet another example of how things go wrong in our family just like they sometimes do in yours.

Before I tell the story, you’ll want to know a little background on how we “do the tree” each year, so be sure to read this first.

Back to this year….

It actually did start out as one of those seemingly perfect evenings. It was a night we’d been waiting for: the big, tree-decorating event of 2012. Of course, the top priority for this, as well as most other events we enjoy, is the snacks, so Chandler got busy making the hot chocolate…

…while Remi helped make the special cookies she’d picked out for the evening.

Don’t you just love her placement?

The “kid cookies” were a hit with the girls…

…but we also needed some more adult-friendly ones, so we made peppermint sugar cookies, too.

Then we added some cocktail shrimp…

…some mini-crab cakes…

…and some random (but requested) garlic bread.

Once the snacks were all ready, we put out the cute Santa napkins, cranked up some holiday tunes, and got busy on the tree. This year the three older kids cut the tree down, set it up in the house, and did all the lights themselves. {Happy!}

One of my favorite parts of the season is our tradition of remembering where each ornament came from as we hang it on the tree. Usually I am the one who pulls each one out of the box, and we all chime in with, “Oh, remember when Connor made that back in second grade?” or “Hey, that’s the one Wes & April brought us from Hawaii!” This year, Addison decided she would help me with the handing out of the ornaments while the other kids hung them.

So, we reminisced about each one, and as usual I let the kids put them wherever they wanted. Remington was thrilled about helping this year…

…and added lots of charm to the tree with her special, three-year-old style. Most of the ornaments she hung were either right on top of each other…

…or completely backwards…

…or—often—both!

And yes, I left every single one of them right where they were!

I even left the ornament Chandler decided to run upstairs and make out of old baseball socks, T-shirts, and apparently his little sister’s hairbands. (But we were all a little bit scared of it. Aren’t you?)

He didn’t seem to think it was very funny (??) that when he came downstairs the next morning, he found pins sticking out of it. {insert giggle}

But, back to that evening…

We got every single light and ornament on the tree, and even put the topper in place…..and then it happened. The entire tree slowly started falling forward. Thankfully we were all still standing there and were able to catch it with only a few ornaments slipping off.

Nervous that it could happen again, I removed some of my more sentimental (and breakable) treasures from the branches and placed them on the piano nearby. Three nights and three days went by, and I decided that the tree’s early attempt to fall must have just been a fluke. So, I put those special ornaments back on, turned off the pretty white lights, and went to bed.

We didn’t hear the crash during the night last night. But we woke up to find that the tree had toppled completely over. Here is a portion of the mess we found:

Needles were everywhere, and the water had spilled out of the basin of the tree stand onto the carpet. The tree skirt was soaked, and newly decorated with the paint that ran from the now-wet shoes that were sitting on it. (I realize that sounds weird. But when we lived in Holland our boys painted shoes—both leather and wooden ones—to leave out for Sinter Klaas. I just can’t get rid of those tiny shoes, even now that their feet are so much bigger than mine!)

Things like this happen. They happen to everyone. And, they are disappointing, to say the least. But really, this is such a minor catastrophe compared to what so many people are going through. Hunger, the loss of loved ones, major financial setbacks….THOSE are things people are understandably sad about. A toppled tree doesn’t deserve to steal our joy. We cleaned it up, we’re letting the carpet (and at least one present) dry out, and we’ll try again. One day we’ll laugh at this relatively insignificant tragedy, and in the meantime we’ll still enjoy the season and all the fun and wonder to be had this time of year.

I know it’s a crazy, busy time of year, but I hope you’re still smiling. In case you need one more reason, I’ll leave you with the clue I found that let me know I had some decorating assistance from a tiny helper this year:

(Because there’s nothing quite like the sight of the aforementioned tree topper gazing lovingly into the eyes of what I affectionately call “the Christmas rat,” and vice versa!)

Thanks for stopping by.

My imperfect life

It’s hard to imagine anyone thinking I have “the perfect life.” (I giggled just typing that phrase!) But just in case I’ve given anyone that impression, I want to set the record straight. Right here. Right now.

This is a blog about why I smile. I share with you the happy parts, hoping they’ll make you happy, too.

But trust me: Things aren’t always all “sunshine and rainbows” around here!

I have bad hair days.

I  oversleep.

I  lose my temper.

I  let the laundry pile up.

Less than HALF of what is waiting in my laundry room at this very moment…..

I  miss deadlines.

I  lose things.

I  let the house get way too messy.

I eat junk.

I  run late.

I  spend foolishly.

I  get my feelings hurt.

I  make bad decisions.

I  waste time.

I have, on more than one occasion, found things growing in our fridge that I could not identify. I have been afraid to look under my child’s bed. I have lost things that weren’t even mine.

I get discouraged. I get overwhelmed. I get frustrated.

Many days I am surrounded by dirty dishes and sticky floors and overdue library books and at least one cranky kid.

But I am fully convinced that, even on those days, there is always something to smile about. ALWAYS. And that’s why I continue to post to this blog.

I love these words from Melissa Wiley, which perfectly explain the way I think and write:

“Every day is complicated, messy, and full of friction. And every day has glorious or cozy moments worth celebrating. I seldom bother to chronicle the friction and the mess because writing time is fleeting and precious—and childhood even more so. I’d rather capture the small joys that I might forget—or take for granted—if I don’t take time to set them down in words. I don’t want anyone to be under the impression that things are always perfect around here! Heaven knows we are anything but. Perfect, frictionless, orderly? Nope. Happy? Most of the time!”

My other reason for sharing “the good parts” with you? In Mark 5:19, Jesus said to a man He’d just healed, “…Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.”

My God has shown me great mercy, which I do not deserve, and He has done many great things for me. I want to share some of them here. He’s done much for you, too, and I want to remind you of that.

I want to daily look around me for blessings to acknowledge, for reasons to give thanks, and for excuses to smile. And I want to motivate you to do the same.

I am just like you, living with struggles, with sadness, and with sin. But together we can be on the lookout for the joy in everyday life…..the small victories…..the smiles and successes we might not notice if we aren’t actively looking.

So let’s keep looking!

“I told them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me…”   (Neh. 2:18)

Thanks for stopping by!

Swimmy Remi

Our little Remi took her very first swimming lesson this week! And as usual, I learned a few lessons of my own while watching.

Remington was more than happy to get into the pool…..

…..and felt very comfortable as long as she was on the steps.

But of course, the time came when she had to venture out into deeper waters. She was perfectly fine with that, as long as her teacher was holding on to her…..

…but once it was time to push off on her own, the fear set in. (Notice the changes in her facial expressions.)

As a mom, I had a really hard time watching her be afraid. Her teacher thought she was so cute because she chattered and giggled through the entire lesson, but I knew it was her nervous laughter we were hearing, and it put my stomach in knots.

How do I explain to a three year old that the hard parts are what really help you–when I struggle to remember that myself?

How do I teach her that the scariest things you go through are necessary to keep you safe in the long run–when I often forget that in my own life?

Back to her lesson…

The biggest challenge for Remi was having to put her face into the water. She was fine blowing bubbles, but putting her eyes under, even to grab the toys she was supposed to get, was pretty tough for her. (I’m sure this is typical for a three year old…but knowing that didn’t make it any easier to watch!)

Eventually she got it…

…and I loved seeing the joy on her face when she realized what she’d done!

While watching her struggle, I thought about how hard it is for us to trust completely. With her, it’s understandable. She’s only three! But I’m…well, older than three…and I still struggle with this at times. I truly believe that God is there for me, but when I can’t see what He’s doing it makes me nervous. So here’s the verse I’m going to try to focus on from here on out:

‘Do not fear, for I am with you;

Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,

Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

(Isaiah 41:10)

Here’s one more thing Remi taught me that day:

You can see on her face how much she likes her new teacher, right?

The thing is, until a few minutes before this photo was taken, she had never even met her. But as soon as her lesson was over, she enthused, “I like Ms. Meredith! She’s so nice, and she helps me swim. And that’s why I LOVE her!”

And for the bajillionth time, I said to myself, “I could learn a thing or two from this kid.”

How much happier would we be if we all just decided that we were going to love everyone around us…without waiting for them to prove themselves…without making them earn it?

Yeah…I think we’re going to get our money’s worth with these lessons.

Thanks for stopping by!

Even the spills

We were sitting around the table, ready to eat supper. As usual, our three-year-old daughter wanted to lead the prayer, and as usual, we couldn’t say no. She squeezed her eyes shut tightly, we all bowed our heads, and she began…

Dear God,

Thank you for the drink…

…the drink I keep spilling…

It was true. She had already spilled her drink two or three times before we’d even made it to the pre-meal prayer, and it had been frustrating. But then she prayed that prayer…and it immediately made me think—Thank you, Remi!—of a couple of different verses, both of which I evidently needed to be reminded:

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…”        (James 1:2)

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (I Thessalonians 5:18)

I am thankful for my walking, talking, Scripture illustration…

…and I’m so grateful for her earnest prayer of thanksgiving—another much-needed reminder to be thankful in all situations.

Are you thankful?

Thanks for stopping by!

Hooray for the big switch-up!

I’ve been thinking for some time now that I’d like to have a day where our school was less “school-y” and more fun. Well, today was the day, and I think it was a big success because I heard all three older kids say it was “the best school day ever.” Music to my ears…

Here’s what we had for lunch:

This was my adaptation of an idea I got here. I added the “fall leaves” he’s standing in after Chandler specifically requested some Cheez-Its. I thought that was pretty clever; I think Chan thought it was kind of hokey, but he gobbled it up with a smile, and the other kids all seemed duly impressed. (Good enough for me!)

I dropped some of their usual subjects and replaced all the rest with still-somewhat-educational-but-WAY-more-fun assignments. For the teenagers, instead of the usual biology, history, Spanish, algebra, etc. they had these assignments:

1. Choose a plane in The World’s Greatest Paper Airplane Book and (both) make it. Have a contest to see whose flies farthest. Repeat with a different style of plane.

2. Create a centerpiece or other table decoration for Thursday’s feast using the medium of your choice.

Clay cornucopia with pumpkin and fall leaves

Origami turkey

3. Choose three Bible verses about thankfulness to share at our family devotional tonight.

4. Play Free Rice for 15 minutes.

5. Do a Sudoku puzzle.

6. Make a list of 20 things you’re thankful for. Illustrate at least one.

7. Play catch with your brother for 20 minutes.

8. Read your current lit book.

It was fun hearing their shouts of joy as they discovered their unusual assignments (and when they found the cashew brittle I’d put in their workboxes for a special snack.)

My fourth grader got to drop subjects like math, science, and creative writing, and do these assignments instead:

1. Make turkey crafts.

2. Do Mad Libs with me.

3. Make leaf people.

4. Choose any page in Super Bible Activities.

5. Put together the World Map Puzzle.

6. Draw something with the color-mixing markers.

7. Practice the piano.

8. Knit.

Addy shrieked when she saw her “schoolwork” for the day, and she totally got into the fall crafts. Here are some of the leaf people she made. Meet Leaf…

…and Little Alien…

…and the three Spikey siblings.

(Not pictured here is Melvin, who looks suspiciously like Joy but is supposedly unrelated.) I got the idea to do leaf people here and here.

Afterward, she asked to paint a good old, classic, hand-print turkey.

And what were the toddler’s “assignments” today?

1. Go outside and collect some fallen leaves in pretty colors. (She LOVED this, and in the middle of gathering them, she looked up and smiled at me and said, “We’re having a great day!”)

2. Make your own version of leaf people.

3. Trace your hands and add 3-D materials like dry beans & macaroni noodles and cut-up autumn leaves. (She loved playing with liquid glue, as she usually only uses a glue stick.) I love that she has totally missed the turkey concept and is giving both hands fingernails…

We did have to have a little talk about not gluing things to our own skin…

Here’s her finished product…We never did turn the hand prints into turkeys; instead, she added some “words” to the page. I’m not sure what those random eyes are all about, or whether all that glue will be dry any time in the next week or so.  (This idea was adapted from here.)

I think this fun break was good for all of us, and I see another switcheroo coming up before Christmas.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sweet creativity

I love the way kids are so naturally creative!  I especially love it when they use their creativity to encourage others. Our daughter, Addison, does this every day. If her little sister requests a puppet, Addy will drop everything to make her one. (Like this fly-catching felt frog…)

She made Remi this fishing game, too–complete with crab, seahorse, and paper clip hook–just to give her something fun to play with:

Sweet Addy never wants anyone to feel left out. When she got a new locket, she decided that Remi needed one, too, so she made her one of her very own (complete with love notes inside).

Once I told her how cool I thought her new diary was. The next day I found this sweet gift on my pillow…

…complete with paper-clip hooks and a combination lock. BEST. DIARY. EVER.

She saw her brothers playing Wii Tennis and decided they’d probably have more fun playing with rackets, instead of the plain old remotes. But, no need to go out and buy them…

I love that she even cut holes in all the right places (for the wrist strap, etc.)

One day she heard Remi crying and rushed off to design the cutest lion puppet ever to cheer her up.

And when Chandler was sick, she knew a puppet would make him feel better, too, so she went all out on this one. (You can imagine how long it took to glue on all those sequins!)

A while back a tiny kitten showed up at our back door. Addy fell in love with it and decided to nurse it until we found its mother, so she made a little cat basket from a plastic tote and a washcloth. Then she went to work creating clothes for it from an old sock.

kitty sweater = adorable

I hope Addy always gets joy out of using her creativity for the benefit of others.

I could learn a thing or two from this girl.

Thanks for stopping by!

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