Friday, December 20, 2013

Day 21- Where Expectations Meet Reality

So in my mind at the end of November, I had grandiose plans of crafts and joy around the table and hearts full of focus and love for Jesus and His birth.  I thought to myself, "This is going to be awesome!  Exactly what I want our focus to be for the Christmas season."  Well somewhere around King David, I realized that my expectations and desire for, I don't know, the perfect advent study got in the way of truly enjoying each other and our study of Christ's history and why we celebrate Christmas.  It became more about the perfect craft, and getting all the 'work' done became more important than enjoying the craft or lesson or whatever we were doing.

Reality = not so beautiful and certainly not something I am proud of.  I became so stressed with trying to come up with some great ornament to make or do whatever cute activity I ran across on the internet that I was more concerned about the work and not the reason for the work.  I became frustrated with the boys and their lack of enthusiasm at the great 'whatever' I was forcing them to do that day.  One day I literally broke into tears and had to send myself to my room to get a hold of my emotions all because I was crushed that the boys were not as thrilled as I about what we were doing.  I mean, didn't they understand all the hard work and sacrifice I was doing giving them the perfect Christmas study!  And as I laid on my bed feeling extremely sorry for myself, it hit me like a wrecking ball.  When had this become about me?  I had taken something beautiful and turned it into something selfish.  Wow!  Talk about getting down before the Lord and begging for forgiveness!

So I put the brakes on and slowed down.  The boys were obviously not having fun or learning with Mom's Militant Christmas.  We've been reading the Jesse Tree, but I haven't made them make any more ornaments...and they haven't asked to, which kind of shows me how far I went in the wrong direction. Of course, we've had life come up, travels to Fairbanks and sickness, however instead of stressing that the perfect Christmas advent isn't getting done or that we are falling behind schedule, I've decided that it doesn't matter if we finish before Christmas.  I mean the wise men didn't show up until after Jesus' birth, so why can't we just continue after His birth too?

Our attitude since the brakes came on?  Well, not perfect, but then who is?  But we've definitely been enjoying each other and our activities more.  I still like the idea of studying the Jesse tree during December, but I've realized that I need to be better planned.  Doing things last minute just doesn't work for me, since I want better than last minute results.  So next year, I'm going to be planning way ahead so I know exactly what we are going to do and hopefully the stress will not be and the focus will remain.

So for those that have been reading, thanks for following.  As difficult as this was to write, I hope it encourages you and pray your focus is on the Reason for Christmas and not following in my wayward footsteps!

Until next time, God Bless!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Day 10- Ruth

Ruth, the foreigner, the widow, the tenderhearted woman.  I love Ruth.  Every time I read her story, it breaks my heart a little then encourages me a lot.  This lady did not give up.  When she could’ve taken the easy road and gone back to her family, she chose to stay with Naomi, her mother-in-law, to take care of her, to travel to a world she’d never been before all because she had heard of the great I Am and believed.  Ruth did what a lot of us are unwilling to do, get uncomfortable.  I truly feel as if Ruth knew that even though it would be immensely hard, God’s way of life was better than the life she had come from.  Trust me, it was not easy on her. 

Ruth had to go in the fields and pick the grain from the ground that dropped as they were harvesting it just so her and Naomi could eat.  Can you imagine what hot, backbreaking work that must have been?  Then on top of it, you are surrounded by a bunch of ladies who don’t know you, don’t speak your language and are being the way a group of ladies can be sometimes: nasty.  Imagine high school and you are the one on the outside.  You’d think after a few thousand years us women would change for the better. sigh. Poor Ruth.

I don’t know, but for some reason I think she might have known that if she went back to her family, to the way she had lived before God, the easy way (because it truly would’ve been an easier life for her), she would have fallen back into the sins of her past.  We really should take a lesson from Ruth.  Sometimes, just maybe, we need to cut ties with people and situations that will pull us back into sin, into our life before God, even though we may be extremely uncomfortable.  Just a thought.

For our craft, we did something a little different.  We have 800 lbs of wheat berries (you know the thing that you grind to get wheat flour), and since Ruth gathered grain from the ground, I wanted to somehow use the wheat berries in our ornament.  Next year I’ll probably put a little more thought into this one, but on the fly it would do.

Blank index card
Wheat berries
Something to frame the card with (craft stick, feather, leaves, etc)

So what the boys did was cover the entire card with color.  Then for Big T, I wrote Ruth’s name in cursive with a pencil and he traced it with glue and for Lil t, I wrote Ruth’s name in print with glue.  They then put the wheat berries on the glue.  For a frame to fancy it up a bit, Big T glued craft feathers around the edge and Lil t glued craft sticks.  (If you haven’t realized, when you live in the bush you are limited to what you have on hand….we have a lot of craft sticks!)

God Bless!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Day ?

So this weekend was crazy busy.  Two days of watching other peoples kiddos (super fun!), one day of Christmas bazaar, church and Christmas tree hunting, then another day of watching kids.  Whew…throw in all the homemade gifts I’m trying to finish up and the posting gets pushed to the back burner.  But, I’m back and will bring you all up to speed on what we’ve been doing with our Jesse Tree.

So, Thursday the 5th we learned about how Abraham was told to sacrifice his son Isaac to the Lord.  Now this was the son God had promised Abraham and delivered to him in his 90s.  This was the son his descendants that were to number more than the stars was to come from, and now God wanted Abraham to kill him as a sacrifice!  I’m not sure if I would have the faith or obedience to do it, but Abraham does.  He takes the bundle of fire starter, the torch and Isaac and heads up the mountain.  Of course, we all know the ending of the story, how God was testing Abraham’s love and provided a ram as the sacrifice the last minute.  Abraham didn’t know the end of that story, yet he trusted God and went forth into what for most would be a worst nightmare scenario! 

To put this into context on how this might apply to us, we told our friends that pent the day with us about the manger we are filling for Jesus.  How the little sacrifices we make, like playing a game the sibling wants instead of what we want or letting someone go first, get put in the manger as yarn.  On Christmas Eve, our small sacrifices and kindnesses will add up to a nice soft bed for Jesus.  Of course, in reality, this is nothing close to what Abraham thought he would have to sacrifice, but to a 4 and 7 year old, it makes sense. 

For our ornament, we made pom-pom sheep.  This was fun and all the kids enjoyed it.  You can find the tutorial here.  The tip I would give is that when you tie the loops before you cut them to have your little one hold the first half of the knot down with a pencil top or toothpick.  I couldn’t get the knot tight enough, so the poms are loose and may not make it past this season.
Tucker cutting his pom pom

Very shaggy sheep

Friday the 6th,  we learned about Jacob and how God would fulfill his promise through him, even though Jacob was a deceiver and some might say a thief (at least Esau would.)  Imagine, despite our sins and shortcomings, God can use us too.  How exciting is that!?!  So Jacob had this amazing dream of a ladder into heaven with angels coming up and down.  So we made a super simple ladder out of craft sticks and glue, put a little glitter glue on the top then strung it on the tree with a ribbon.

Jacob's Ladder

Saturday…well Saturday was so busy we didn’t get the ornament done.  So while we read the story about Joseph and his super cool coat of colors and his not so super cool brothers who sold him into slavery, we didn’t make the ornament until Sunday.  When we did make it, I cut two felt pieces into shirt shape and had Titus color each.  We then re-bent a paper clip to loosely resemble a hanger and glued it between the two shirts.

Joseph's Amazing Coat
Sunday the 8th, we continued to learn about Joseph and how God used him in an incredible way to not only save the entirety of Egypt, but also his brothers and family.  God can take our worst situations and make good out of them.  The ornament Tucker made was a fat cow on one side and a skinny cow on the other (though, in honesty, they look like cats or something) cut out of felt and glues.   The ornament symbolizes the dream that the pharaoh had that God allowed Joseph to interpret.

Fat cow
skinny cat...I mean cow
Which brings us to today.  Today we learned about Moses and the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery.  When we were done reading the Jesse Tree story and talking about what God did for the Israelite people, I asked the boys if they wanted to make a whip ornament like the old man in the book or make a doorway painted red for the Passover.  Titus immediately said he wanted to paint blood (boys) and Tucker wanted to do both, so for today we have two ornaments: the whip to symbolize captivity and the doorway to symbolize God’s deliverance.  For the whip, we took some hemp twine cut into strips; one cut twice as long to fold in half for a loop at the handle side and wrapped the handle end with yarn.  Easy peasy.  For the doorway, we took 2-1/2 craft sticks (our were wide ones), glued the short one to attach the 2 longer ones, then painted with red paint.  Double easy peasy!  Titus decided to paint the entire doorway, where Tucker painted what would be said as a more traditional symbol.  Tonight, the boys asked to watch The Prince of Egypt, which is a quite beautiful rendition of Moses, even if it's a cartoon.
Tucker's Passover Doorway
Titus' Doorway

There is something I wanted to touch on for a minute.  While we’ve been reading and enjoying The Jesse Tree and The Jesus Storybook, I want to state that these are not the Bible, merely representations of the Bible.  In reading the stories in The Jesus Storybook, we’ve found some seriously major divergences in the factual accounts of God’s history.  So much so that we are now pre-reading it to adjust the story where needed to be accurate.  The language is beautifully descriptive and vivid in most cases, but please, please, please read it as a storybook and go to the Bible for the truth and facts about our history.

God Bless!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Advent Day 3- Abraham

Would we have the faith to leave everything we’ve ever know in obedience to God?  Would we just have the faith to obey His will instead of ours, whether it took us to Timbuktu or the neighbor next door? 

So sorry this is a few hours late.  Wednesday’s have a tendency to be a little crazy with school, piano, Awana, Club training, then all the everyday things that have to get done.  But I wanted to get this out this morning, just in case any of you are doing it with us. 

Day 3 was about our willingness to follow God, wherever He leads.  So for the ornament, we made camel ones, the symbol of Abraham’s wanderings.  I had grandiose plans of the boys sewing the background onto a cardboard piece after they sewed stars into the sky.  I had enough sense to pre-sew the camel on for them. However, when I went to start the whole cardboard set-up for them, I couldn’t do it!  Yikes!  What was I to do with very little time to prepare it and finish it before our out-of-the-house activities started? 

Now most people would have been smart and printed off one of the millions of printable ornaments, but I like to make life as exciting as possible (i.e. difficult).  So I run upstairs with the camel adorned circle and a smaller felt circle, sew them together while folding the bigger black circle over the smaller circle, also attaching the ribbon to hang it.  Then back downstairs with needle and embroidery thread to teach the boys a completely new skill of sewing a border around the edge (you know so that the boys actually had SOME part in creating the ornament.)  Then when they were done sewing, they dotted glitter glue in the sky for stars.  The boys actually had fun.  In fact, this morning Tucker said it was the ‘funnest’ one yet to make.

So, supplies you will need:
Large black circle of felt (I used the outside of masking tape for template)
Smaller felt circle for back (used inside of masking tape)
Camel cut from felt
Embroidery thread
Glitter glue

Tonight, Lord willing, I’ll show you what we do for Day 4!

God Bless

***Pictures to come...the computer wouldn't load them!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Advent Day Three - Noah's Ark

Noah’s ark…a study of God’s promises.  So I have to be honest, we’ve read a lot of these already since we started reading daily in Genesis this school year as we work our way through the whole Bible.  So I’ve been trying to point out things that we may not have focused on the first time around so the boys aren’t like ‘enough already!’

So, today we talked about promises.  We discussed different promises God has given us, that He’ll never leave us, that He’ll always provide for us, that no one can snatch us out of His hands, and obviously that He’ll never flood the earth again.  Then we talked about the importance of the promises we make.  If we don’t follow through on promises we make, how does that effect how people see us.  Should we make promises we can’t fulfill?  I gave simple examples like if they promise a friend they can play with their lightsaber then don’t let them, is that showing God’s love or building trust?  Should we promise friends they can have as much candy as they want when they visit if mom might say otherwise?  As children of God, we need to take our promises as seriously as God does.

Today’s ornament has been my favorite by far (I may be purchasing additional clear glass ornaments to make others in different colors!!)  What you will need:

Clear glass ornaments
Blue and white paint in squeeze tubes
Colored permanent markers

1.     So we chose to just use blue and white after looking at photos of earth today and discussing what it might have looked like if there would have been a photo taken during the flood (all water, no land---science baby!).
2.     Next we took the tops off the ornaments and squeezed the paint into the ornaments.  For Sadie’s I put tape on top to hold the paint in, and the boys simply put their fingers over the hole.
3.     Shake the snot out of them.  Shake in all directions—left, right, circles, upside-down, right-side-up, etc.
4.     Check to see how the paint in swirling.  We had to add more paint and shake specifically concentrating in getting paint to a blank area.
5.     When it’s all covered on the inside, place them upside down somewhere so they can dry.
6.     Next we drew the outline of an ark with brown permanent marker and then dotted to fill in the ark.
7.     Finally, the boys drew a rainbow with the markers.

All day the boys did Noah things.  They built an ark with the MagnaTiles and put animals and people in it (until the animals rioted and busted the ark up).  They pretended to be Noah and animals.  Lots of fun. We read and the boys devoured this incredibly good book:

In the Advent bag I put an package of animals I got at the store for a couple bucks and a pack of building craft sticks I found at Walmart that has notches in them to better build with.  As a family, we tried to build an ark with them that could hold the animals.  We then put it and the animals in the tub to see if it would float!  Such a fun night!

Until tomorrow, God Bless!!!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Advent Day Two

The Temptation and the Fall...this morning we continued reading The Jesse Tree, and I'm going to tell you again, I am loving this book!!! Last night we read The Storybook of Jesus which is also incredibly beautiful.  Both are wonderful renditions of the story of Jesus in ways that children and adults enjoy.  My intro post has links to all the books and some of the websites that I'm using for this study.

Now with our ministry, the boys hear often and have a pretty good understanding about the definition of sin: anything you think, say or do that displeases God (although that doesn't include the sin of omission-things we should do but don't-but they are 7 and 4 so that will have to wait until later).  However I really wanted them, especially Tucker, since some of it is still a bit too complicated for Titus, to move past the rout knowledge they're learning from our Kids Clubs and journey into the application of sin.  After Tucker read Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." we broke the verse apart and I had them explain it to me.  They explained that 'all' means every single person on earth and the 'falling short' means that our sin forever separates us from God.  Titus even did the hand motions of explaining how God wants us to be intertwined like our hands holding each other but our sin pushes them apart so they can never get together simply by doing good things, no matter how good they are.  Now getting them to admit to sins they've done when I asked for examples was a bit harder.  Titus because he's still a bit young and doesn't quite get it, Tucker because he doesn't want to admit or is embarrassed by his sin.  I know it's not that he doesn't understand that he sins, because when he gets in trouble we don't just punish, we try to explain the sin, why it's a sin and give Biblical support for the explanation and when he gets in trouble he explains to us in ways that we know he understands.  So I'm not entirely sure why it was hard for him to give an example, maybe he was worried he'd get punished.

So we sat down and really talked about it.  I explained that we are learning about sin because it is part of our story and relationship with Jesus.  I talked about how we can try and try to do good, but our good is never enough, there will forever be sin in our lives. That doesn't mean we should stop doing good or growing so that we sin less and less, but the ONLY way we will ever get to heaven and the ONLY reason we can do good to begin with is because of Jesus dying on the cross so we can be forgiven of our sins.  We talked about when Tucker accepted Jesus as his Savior and he became a child of God that the vast of sin that separates us from God was erased.  Now when we do sin, we can ask for forgiveness and He will give it.  Needless to say, what I thought would be an breeze day give our ministry history turned into a morning full of wonderful insight and conversation.

cuties holding their snakes
Our ornament for today is an apple and snake made from Crayola Air-Dry Clay...which means it probably won't be ready for the tree until at least tomorrow.  The boys molded an apple, then a snake that they wrapped around the apple.  I put an ornament hook into the top, hoping the clay will harden around it and hold.  When it is dry (which they are on the wood stove so they will dry faster), we'll be painting it.  Super easy and fun!  The prize in the advent is a pack of Juicy Fruit gum for each, which I thought was clever and completely coincidental.
Unpainted apples with a snake..will post finished when done.

Tucker being silly with the clay

I wanted to show you how the newspaper article idea I posted in the intro is going.  We unwrapped the people and the children placed them in the building.  After Sadie wandered dangerously around with the shepherd, we moved the nativity to a higher level.  I placed the wise men on a bookshelf on the opposite side of the room, which confused the boys until I explained that the wise men weren't there when Jesus was born.  And of course, Jesus has not arrived yet, so the manager is empty.  I happened to have a stained glass coloring book for suns, planets and stars, so I colored the big star and glued it to a votive.  Now every night the wise men will get closer as the star shines brightly to guide them.
See the Wise Men on the shelf?
Empty manger

God Bless!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Advent Day One

Well, for being -40 degrees today and not being able to go cut our tree like planned, the day went wonderful. 

During lunch we read the first part and creation story of The Jesse Tree.  I already love this story with the old man and young boy.  Too cute.  We talked about creation and what the old man used as his ornament for when God created everything, the sun and moon.  We talked about how we are going to be making ornaments each day and hanging them on our very own Jesse tree.  Then the hubby, 2 sons and I (while baby girl slept) went to the garage and built a manger for Jesus and made our Jesse tree. 
Sanding the manger pieces
Screwing the manger together

Sanding and being cute

For the manger, we are going to be preparing our hearts for Jesus.  Each time we do something kind or above and beyond, we will cut a length of yarn and place it in the manger we built.  As we go through these 24 days, the manger will (hopefully) get full of yarn for a soft place for Jesus to lie.  I’ll be making a simple doll wrapped in swaddling to place in the manger Christmas Eve night.  I got the idea from this wonderful website: Small Things. I seriously came away from this website wanting to live there!

Preparing our hearts for the Prince of Peace

For the Jesse Tree ornament, I took glue and made an outline for the moon and sun.  After it dried, the boys used watercolor to paint the color.  When it was dry, they cut it out, added the faces, and you have our first official Jesse tree ornament.  Too fun and super simple.

Titus took 5 minutes deciding where to hang it!
The sun & the moon
For our advent ‘calendar’ of sorts, I hung paper sacks with numbers on the curtain rod of the living room window.  I liked this idea because I can put the activity or little present in the night before or that morning, and if need be, switch the surprise if something comes up.  Tonight, we got a card to read Christmas books.  I printed the activities from Only Passionate Curiosity.

To keeping the bickering down, we are doing Titus on the odd days Tucker on the even, meaning that whoever’s day it is gets to open the sack and their ornament will go on the Jesse tree (the other’s will go on the big tree).

I pray that your advent is off to a good start!

God Bless!