A Christmas Love Story

Once upon a time in October, a boy and a girl moved to a foreign country with their two small babies and a handful of earthly possessions.

They lived in a borrowed apartment while they were learning to speak the language and navigate daily life.

As Christmas approached, the girl was homesick and sad that she did not have her own Christmas decorations and a Christmas tree to put up.

The boy loved the girl, and it made him sad that she was sad. So he did the only thing he could think of. He got her a tree. (And she liked big trees.)

He left the superstore with the giant boxed up Christmas tree. He waited patiently for the correct city bus to arrive (they had learned which bus to take in their two months abroad, thank goodness). Then, he heaved his cumbersome load up the bus steps and waited nonchalantly with the other passengers.

The bus driver was curious about his foreign guest and motioned to the box and asked what the boy was doing.

The boy knew his bus routes but didn’t have such a solid grasp on the language yet, so he wasn’t sure exactly what the bus driver was asking, but figured it had to do with the awkward box he was transporting around town. So he shrugged and said, “My wife.”

And the bus driver nodded knowingly and pulled away from the stop.

The girl was so happy when the boy presented her the tree. She was still homesick and she still didn’t know how to order at Burger King, but she knew there was no one else she would rather celebrate Christmas far away from home with.

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Advent for Mommies

from sheila ipod to feb 2015 3010We are quickly approaching my absolute favorite time of the year. Thursday morning, turkeys will begin roasting in ovens and filling houses with the smells of home. More than any place on earth, Thanksgiving smells like home to me. Even living far away, I was pleased to realize that I could fill my house with the fragrance of Thanksgiving if I baked a couple pies and stuck a brined turkey in the oven.

But the awesomeness doesn’t end there. I love that Thanksgiving ushers us into the season of Advent, which is derived from the Latin word for “coming”, and that is precisely what we do during December– we wait for Jesus to come.

fromipod 3439There are many things I’d love to say to mommies during this time of the year, and most of them were already typed out by Jen Hatmaker, so you can check out her thoughts on the Christmas Conundrum. I read this when I had a four-year-old, three-year-old, and one-year-old, and it felt like a breath of fresh air. I felt like she whispered to my soul, You can celebrate Christ without all the drama and stress, mama.

I encourage you to take time each day during the month of December to retreat into the depths of your heart and look at Jesus. I would argue that it is the most important thing you can do for your family– more important than cleaning the guest room or baking twelve different desserts. If we aren’t treasuring Christ during Christmas, how can we expect our children to?

There are some spectacular resources to help us get into the Word during Advent. If you’d prefer not to use another book, just start with the Christmas accounts in the Gospels. Read John and watch Jesus’ life on earth. Look at the Psalms and start praying as you see the heart cries of the psalmists. It doesn’t matter what you choose, just get yourself in the Word during Advent if you want to get the most our of your Christmas this year! Here are some other suggestions:

  • She Reads Truth does an Advent devotional. They post new material during the weekdays and then give you time to catch up and work on Scripture memory during the weekends. You can read the Scripture passages and devotionals free each day through email or on their webpage, or you can pay a small free to get the devotional on the She Reads Truth app. Bonus: they have beautiful free lock screen downloads of their weekly verses!
  • Make Room for Advent Naptime Diaries has put out an Advent calendar for five years now. This year they compiled devotionals from 25 different women into a beautiful devotional for December. You can still order, but it might not arrive until after December 1, which is perfectly fine because it’s not dated! 🙂 Their site at Make Room for Advent will also be full of extra videos and resources during the Advent season.
  • The Expected One by Scott James I picked this up at Lifeway the other day for $5. It’s a small book and looks like a great way to refocus my heart each day before Christmas.
  • The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp I read through this book last Advent season and I enjoyed it. I know some people don’t prefer her writing, but if you like her poetic style, I think you’ll enjoy reading The Greatest Gift during December.

If you start searching for Advent traditions for your family, you will find from sheila ipod to feb 2015 3031yourself on rabbit trail after rabbit trail on the interwebs, because ideas we lack not. There are a million things you could do to celebrate Jesus next month, and all of them seem like great ideas. Keeping that in mind, I would suggest you choose your way to watch for Jesus’ coming and stick with it. You don’t have to do all the great ideas you pin on Pinterest, I promise. Especially if you have many small children, kiss it simple, dear one, so you can enjoy this most enjoyable of seasons.

In years past, I have loved reading The Advent Book during our family worship each evening in December. Each day during the month, your little ones open a new door in this beautiful keepsake book. Each door reveals another part of the Christmas story (straight from the Bible), so by December 25, my kids can recite the Christmas story by heart. It’s easy and lovely and perfect for kids of all ages.

We have also done a Jesse Tree a few times. A Jesse Tree comes from the verse in Isaiah about a branch coming from the stump of Jesse (spoiler alert: it’s Jesus). Each day you look at the family tree of Jesus, usually adding ornaments of symbols to a tree. You will find different resources using different sets of stories, but the point is the same– all the Old Testament stories are looking forward to Jesus coming. I love the chronological aspect here– seeing how all of the Bible is pointing to Jesus is an excellent way to read and examine Scripture with our kids. You can purchase beautiful hand-made Jesse Tree ornaments to use on Etsy, or Ann Voskamp has a set that you can get free if you purchase her book, The Greatest Gift. Her book for families is called Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, and although I’ve never used it, it seems like a very popular option for parents (as proven by its #1 rating on Amazon!) You can also download free printable Jesse Tree ornaments and hang them with twine, or if you are a handy sort of woman, you could make your own set of Jesse Tree ornaments using felt. A Jesse Tree can be used for any age, but is probably a little more suited to elementary aged children since some of the Bible passages can be lengthy!

I have not used Truth in the Tinsel, but it’s been around for a few years now and I’ve heard great things from parents who have used it with their preschoolers. The premise is that you read a passage from the Bible and then do a hands-on activity with your children to reinforce what they heard. Truth in the Tinsel is for families with pre-schoolers and early elementary ages.

I have also heard of using The Jesus Storybook Bible throughout Advent. You can download and print a free Advent calendar (with corresponding readings from The Jesus Storybook Bible) from FaithGateway. You could use The Jesus Storybook Bible for children (and adults) of all ages, it’s written in absolutely beautiful prose and the illustrations are impeccable.

Just the other day I came across this new Advent tradition called Star from Afar. It’s adorable. (Think Elf on the Shelf, but not creepy.) Each day you hide the star and your children search for it. When they find it, they place the Wisemen with the star until December 25 when the star lands at the nativity scene. Star from Afar seems suited to younger children, toddlers to early elementary ages.





My Baby Girl is Six Today

Dear Ladybug,

Happy Mother's Day+ Two Days

What in the world…?! I can hardly fathom that you were placed in my arms six years ago today! I have so much I want to tell you, so much my heart wants you to know.

I want to tell you how beautiful you are. You have your own sense of style that just knocks me out. I miss picking your clothes out for you, but I love watching you try out your own combinations of outfits, rock cowboy boots with everything, add jewelry and accessories as you see fit. I love it. Keep rocking it girl, don’t let anyone make you feel like you don’t have style.


I want you to know I know how smart you are. I have been amazed as I’ve heard the vocabulary you’ve chosen to use sometimes! Your diligent persistence at reading this year has paid off and you’re doing amazingly! I love hearing you talk about and explain the world to your brothers and your knowledge about spiritual things is stunning. You have a big beautiful brain and you’re doing a great job exercising it, stretching it, and learning all you can about the world– you go girl!

It's only cosmetic...I love your sensitive heart. You sense needs in others that I’m not sure they realize themselves. I appreciate your willingness to help and serve.

I adore your smile, your laugh, your quickness to make a joke.

I think you are an awesome friend. You are fiercely loyal and very generous with those you hold dear.

I love that you love our family. You enjoy every moment with your grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousin. You are quick to point out how lovely it is to all be together. You love game nights, movie nights, hiking and all sorts of adventures with your dad, your brothers and me.

There are so many things I cherish about you, Ladybug. Thanks for being my daughter, myDSC_0133 sweet first gift from the Lord.

Love always and forever,


But I am like a green olive tree
    in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
    forever and ever. (Psalm 52:8)

What Great Dads Do

Great dads teach their boys how to pee outside. They drink tea from little cups alongside stuffed animals and dolls. They take their daughters on witholiviadates and strap on backpacks to camp with their sons. They tear up when handed a fresh bundle of newborn baby, understanding the great magnitude and responsibility of this title, Daddy.atzoo

They read books until their voices are gone and have tough conversations with their children when necessary. They sit and eat dinner with their families, even if the game’s on, even if there’s a ton of unfinished work at the office, even if they have a better offer to be out with friends.

They give piggy backs and horsey rides and shoulder rides and any other torturous form of ride that their kids create. They hold the back of the bike and run behind until confidence soars and they can let go.

They are firm, gentle, loving, disciplined, strong, compassionate, playful,  and hardworking.

superheroThey are superheroes.

Great dads are seen at recitals, competitions, ceremonies, games of all kinds. They will be smiling big and sporting a video camera in their dominant hand. They cheer the loudest and clap the hardest.

Great dads play games. Lots of games. And they never win. But cheer heartily when sparkling young eyes ask,


“Did I win daddy?” Great daddies change diapers and attempt pigtails. They accept hand-drawn scribbles as if they are worthy of a museum. Their desks are full of framed pictures of their families. They can fix anything with duct tape or super glue.

Great dads wrestle their boys and teach them how to strike out withbaseball honor. They help perfect techniques for jump shots and scoring goals and dribbling toward the end of the soccer field. They pitch, catch, pass, teach, coach, assist, and help with unmatched perseverance.

Great dads serve cupcakes at birthday parties, squirt ketchup on hot cupcakesdogs, and sometimes dress up to make the party more fun. They are  on ice cream cone duty, cleaning up the drips and finishing the soggy bites no one else will eat.

Great daddies carry the heaviest load, they drive in the darkest hours when everyone else is asleep. They keep the closets clean from monsters and the cars running with oil changes and steering fluids (and honestly I don’t know what else is involved with the upkeep of a vehicle…)

readingGreat dads read the Bible to their family. And lead them in worship songs and pray for them every day. They quote verses after scary dreams and they patiently teach and exhort their kids to love the Lord.

They hold hands and kiss boo boos and horse ridegive band aids and dry tears. They listen. They love. They pack diaper bags and push strollers and tell bedtime stories and build sand castles and wear babies.

They’re always there helping and serving and loving and enjoying their families in so many small and big ways.

Great dads do.going camping

Random Schmattering

  • Seminary: My husband has been taking some seminary classes this semester. Oh man, all his required reading and papers and book reviews remind me that I do not miss school at all. Most interesting thing he’s shared with me from his newly learned knowledge? Paul (author of most of the New Testament) probably had a uni-brow.

“A man small in size, balk-headed, crooked thighs [note: bow-legged], well-built, with eyebrows meeting, rather long-nosed, full of grace.” (The Acts of Paul and Thecla)

  • Fruit snacks: My kids ADORE them and we don’t have them in Turkey, so while we’ve been in the US, I maybe sorta kinda have let them eat fruit snacks to their hearts’ content even though they contain absolutely no nutritional value. Go ahead, slap my wrists. We have been eating boxed macaroni and cheese too– gasp!
  • Jillian Michaels: I have a love-hate relationship with my trainer, Jillian. I love how I feel when I am done with one of her workouts, but in the middle of the traumatizing pretty intense circuits of exercise she creates, I just want to curl into a ball and find my happy place. Currently I’m alternating between “No More Trouble Zones” and “Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism”. Let’s hope they deliver those exact results to this flabby mommy body!
  • Valentine’s Day: Do you celebrate with your love? I kinda find the day overrated, since I want to be wooed all the time, not just 1 or 2 days out of the year. BUT the hopeless romantic trapped inside of me loves the excuse to go out to dinner sans kids, hold hands on the way to the restaurant like giddy teenagers, and I secretly hope my valentine remembers that I love chocolate, flowers and sparkly jewelry…



There is a pile of dirty dishes beside the sink.

I’m thankful we have bellies that are full every day.

The smell of a stinky diaper fills my nostrils (again).

I’m thankful for the cute, funny, amazing, snuggly little boy who makes big stinkies.

The gray clouds swell dropping their loads of rain.

I’m thankful for rain watering the thirsty earth, and rain jackets and umbrellas to keep out some of the wet.

My head pounds, aching from a seeming fifty pounds of extra snot this week.

I’m thankful for the medicine and nose spray readily available to treat my cold and help me sleep.

Little sticky hands (times three!) stretch out for me to wipe at least ten times each day.

I’m thankful for all the snacks and activities, and the accompanying smiles and memories, that cause the stickiness.

Toys and clothes and books are strewn about the floor signaling the end of another day.

I’m thankful for a house full of things– a blessing many are without.

The laundry forms a mountain taller than I’d care to admit.

I’m thankful our bodies are covered with clothes each day– protecting us, sheltering us, keeping us warm.

The forgotten-homework is quickly finished ten minutes before school and causing oodles of stress for mom and dad.

I’m thankful my children have the opportunity to learn and socialize each morning at a sweet little neighborhood school.

My neglected Bible gently beckons me from the corner of my room.

I’m thankful His mercies are new every morning, and His grace is not dependent on me.

The table is covered with crayons and pencils and half-colored creations of paper.

I’m thankful for creativity in little minds and hearts.

The sound of unkind words between siblings reaches my ears.

I’m thankful for quick reconciliations and the special bond between brothers and sisters.

My inbox registers a plethora of emails that need responses.

I’m thankful for communication with loved ones near and far away.

Spilled milk seeps across the just-mopped kitchen floor.

I’m thankful for little hands that want to help.

…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you…

1 Thessalonians 5:18