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.

 

 

 

 

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For the Love (of Jen Hatmaker)

This post is part of Jen Hatmaker’s “For the Love” Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with many other inspiring bloggers.  To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE.

This spring I was able to read an advance copy of Jen Hatmaker’s book, For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards that releases TODAY! I had enjoyed Jen’s other books (7 and Interrupted), so I was excited to get my hands on her new book to preview it.

Oh my word, y’all. Jen is so funny. (You already know this I’m sure, because of her viral goodies like Worst End of School Year Mom Ever.) But Jen also has a serious side. She touches on a lot of topics in For the Love: turning forty, marriage, parenting, church, leggings and yoga pants, supper club. Really, this book is a gem. I laughed so hard sometimes, I’m sure the other Starbucks patrons thought I was a nut job. And I cried so hard I shook (and was thus glad to be in the safety of my own bed) at parts like teaching our kids what is really important (teaser: Be Kind. Be You. Love Jesus.)

So, go get you some Love today, For the Love that is. And then go look for my name listed in the acknowledgements section!

Too much? I’m sorry, not sorry. Happy Launch Day, Jen, my imaginary BFF! MUAH!

Let’s lay down our junk, our wonky junk that messes up relationships and community and togetherness. We won’t let our own crazy stop us from affirming each other and banging the drum for our sisters. -Jen Hatmaker

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31 Days of Letters

Well, it’s that time of year again! A whole bunch of bloggers are stretching their fingers and getting ready to blog for the whole month of October! Are you participating this year?

I am currently working on a special writing project in all my spare time (BAHAHAHAHAHA, I just can’t say that with a straight face… so.much.to.do.all.the.time.) and so I’ve gone back and forth about participating in 31 Days this go ’round. I have a soft spot for it though, since writing Soul Coffee last year launched me into publishing my first book– SQUEE. I am still not over the fact that MY BOOK is on the INTERWEBS for people to BUY which feels kinda LEGIT.

So… special project notwithstanding, I thought spending some time with the figurative pen to paper (fingers to keyboard just doesn’t sound as cool), would help me stay in a writing groove this month and hopefully even clear some cobwebs I’m experiencing in my writing right now.

I really have no clue what I want to write, but my sister (Hi Em!) does this cute feature on her blog sometimes that she calls “Letters”, so I’m kinda borrowing her idea and spending the month writing letters. They may be sappy messages to my kids, or random thoughts to the lady behind me in the grocery store, or complaints to the trees in my city for not changing their colors. I’m gonna play it fast and loose, mmk?

Will you join me this October as I write

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Soul Coffee for Moms… and a Giveaway!

Last fall, I joined in with the 30 days of blogging challenge that Emily Freeman hosts at Chatting at the Sky. I spent the month writing devotional snippets for moms and calling them Soul Coffee. I was so encouraged by some of the feedback from those posts and decided to edit the material, add some more to round out the content, and publish it all into a book.

I wrote a book. A BOOK Y’ALL. With a title page and an ISBN number and an adorable cover painted by my expat mommy friend, Priscila.

A lifelong dream was realized when I saw my book listed on Amazon last night!

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Squeeeeeeeeee! (And how awesome that you can save 7 cents if you buy now! Teeheehee! Can you tell I’m giddy and excited?)

Really it’s not a long or a fancy book. It’s simply some devotional meditations to get busy, tired mommies into the pages of Scripture. Coffee to wake up their souls to the treasure of the Gospel and the Savior waiting to spend time with them each day. I pray it will remind moms of the love their God has for them, and encourage them to read the Bible each day– even if they only have a few minutes to sit down at the jelly-sticky table while the toddlers watch a cartoon, and read a verse while drinking a cup of coffee that’s been re-heated twice between serving cereal and changing diapers. Yes, moms I know your life.

You can buy Soul Coffee for Moms on Amazon (paperback or e-book), or at CreateSpace. Yippy skippy!

Because I’m super stoked, I’d like to give two copies of my book away! I’m gonna pack them up with some of my favorite goodies (think earrings and scarves!) and send them to two friends! Enter using the Rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends September 4, good luck!

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31 Days of Soul Coffee for Moms

Last year I started October with a plan to blog for 31 days straight about grace. I made it four days before life took over and my blog went radio silent for the rest of the month.

I want to pick up where I left off because I think a month of exploring grace and faith would be like coffee for my soul.

It took me three children to appreciate the wonder that is a morning cup of coffee (or three) I have always loved the way coffee smelled, but never thought its taste was equivalent to the glorious scent.

Doddlebug changed all that.

I can’t do without my morning cuppa now. A little sugar and a splash (OK, OK, more like a tidal wave) of creamer and I am ready to face the day.

Coffee readies my physical body each morning; my soul also needs some spiritual coffee each day to get going. When I start the day with reading my Bible and praying, I feel more ready to handle whatever will come my way through the day. During the next 31 days, I want to give you a little Soul Coffee. Some days it may be a straight shot of espresso, other days it might be a foamy latte to linger over. But I want to give you a little jolt to get you thinking about things above–to get you ready to face the day.

Would you join me for:

soul coffee for momsFind more 31 Days at The Nester.

31 Days of Soul Coffee for Moms

Day 1: Gently Led

Day 2: Don’t Give Up

Day 3: Troubles = New Mercies

Day 4: Children are a Gift

Day 5: Got Wisdom?

Day 6: Yet I Will Rejoice

Day 7: God’s Nearness is my Good

Day 8: Be Glad

Day 9: The Importance of Kindness

Day 10: Drenched in Grief

Day 11: Resting in God

Day 12: Undeserving

Day 13: Come Weary

Day 14: How to Pray for Yourself

Day 15: Substitute Sacrifice

Day 16: I Corinthians 13 for Moms

Day 17: Suffering

Day 18: How to Begin to Pray

Day 19: We Serve a Powerful God

Day 20: Divine Support

Day 21: Our Hope

Day 22: True Joy

Day 23: Getting Clean

Day 24: The Heart of the Matter

Day 25: Contentment

Day 26: Be Still

Day 27: Psalm 145:8

Day 28: Count Your Blessings

Day 29: How to Get Fruit

Day 30: Pray about Everything

Day 31: Clothe Yourself Well

Birth Stories in Haiku

Ladybug ~ June 29, 2007

Nervous first time mom

Labor induced feeling scared

Nine pound baby girl 

Doodlebug ~ November 14, 2008

Very cold O.R.

Tugging– baby boy is born!

Yellow fuzzy hair

Stinkbug ~ October 7, 2012

Water breaks early

The nearness of God feels good

Precious dark-haired boy

Lovebug ~ Coming Soon!

Waiting is so hard

Wondering who, where you are

Praying you come soon

I saw this idea today– birth stories in Haiku (via Making Home via Conversion Diary) and I love writing Haiku poetry, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. Can you Haiku?

How’s Homeschool?

We are in the midst of our sixth week of first grade at home for Ladybug. I definitely have photo (42)moments of both What the heck are we doing? and This is amazing, I’m so glad we are doing this! 

One thing I have appreciated so much about home school is the flexibility. Last week I had a couple of funky days and a few things didn’t get done, but it was no problem to draw a little arrow on my calendar and get them done this week instead. This past Tuesday (the first day of public school for first graders here), we took off for the beach for the day and it was awesome to have the place to ourselves since everyone else was in school. One day a few weeks ago we packed up our school books and did our work at Starbucks– so we are definitely enjoying (and taking advantage of!) the flexibility!

photo (40)We started out with some poor attitude and eye-rolling from Ladybug, but we have worked through that (I hope…) and have pretty much established a good now-I-am-the-teacher and now-I-am-the-mom routine.

It has hit me more than once, that as soon as Stinkbug starts Kindergarten at home next year things will be much different than they are now with just one at home. It’s kinda like that panic you have when you’re pregnant with your second child and realize you have NO CLUE what to do with two kids at the same time. We’ll figure it out, but I am soaking in the calm before the multiple-kids-in-home-school storm.

The boys are attending a local preschool three mornings a week, so that is when the bulk of our home schooling takes place. On Monday mornings, Hubby hangs out with the boys while we do school. We are aiming for four days of home school a week, and the fifth day has been for any “spill over” work that we didn’t get to finish. I really like having this buffer day to finish things up.

Ladybug is taking private Turkish lessons once a week, and she will begin ballet (also once a week) in October. She would like to play soccer on a team, but we are still looking into photo (43)the possibility of this.

I have been pleased with all our curriculum choices so far this year. RightStart Math is very non-traditional, using manipulatives and games to teach and review concepts. I really like it and so does Ladybug. Our science choice, R.E.A.L Science Odyssey has also been very hands-on, and I am a fan. The boys usually do science with us, and they have also joined in for some of the history from Story of the World.

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I cannot say enough good things about Explode the Code, which I wasn’t sure about and bought on a whim. It has really strengthened Lady in phonics and carefully reading whole words (she was a big word-guesser before). It really shows the importance of every letter– stall and small are very different words with only one little difference! Our spelling curriculum, All About Spelling is also really helping her grow and I have been amazed at how involved it is. I just realized they also have a reading program, and I am planning to order it for after Christmas (when we should be done with Explode the Code and Beyond the Code.)

I see a definite interest forming in reading– it’s not as much of a chore anymore. She is really enjoying Cam Jansen books and we have family members on the hunt for them at secondhand book stores!

One of my favorite parts of our home school day is the time set aside for Bible reading andphoto (44) prayer at the beginning of the day. Ladybug is reading Jesus Calling for Kids (I read it to her usually, and then she looks up the verses in the Bible, journals, and prays for the people she has listed on prayer cards.) It is just sweet to see her finding things in the Bible, asking questions about what words and verses mean. Truly, it has been a blessing to start each school day with the emphasis in the right place.

Overall, our first grade home school experience is going really well. I am pleased with Ladybug’s progress and we are actually having a lot of fun together!

If you’re a home schooling mom in need of encouragement, check out my friend Jess’ post Letter to a Homeschool Mom.