At Christmastime more than any other time of year people reflect on the gift of Jesus. Recently I was able to jot down a brief synopsis of what Jesus has done in my life. I have been able to share my story with several people in person and wanted to share it with you also, my blogging world friend.
So, here it goes.
I was born and raised outside of Richmond, Virginia. My dad worked and my mom stayed at home. I was the oldest of four children and my mom often babysat so we always had a house full of fun--I mean kids. As a little girl I loved to play outdoors. I remember doing cartwheels out in the yard, swinging as high as I could go, playing kickball with the neighborhood kids, and catching critters in the creek. The many scars on my knees and elbows attest to my tomboyish play! I loved animals and always seemed to be caring for some furry friend. As a child I aspired to become a veterinarian one day. Baby dolls were my other hobby. Perhaps this is why we now have five children! I have many fond memories from my childhood. I had parents that loved me and life was very good.
My parents took me to church on a regular basis and taught me from the Bible. I had heard that Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment for sin and that he came back to life on the third day. One evening when I was six years old I was sitting on my bed looking at a Bible story book when I realized that I needed forgiveness for the wrong things Ihad done. Even though I was only six years old I knew that I had sinned. I had never robbed a bank, done drugs, or committed murder, but I had chosen to do the wrong thing many, many times. I needed forgiveness. Jesus had died on the cross for me. I called my mom into the room and we prayed together. And that changed my life forever. I made the most important decision I would ever make: to accept Christ's offer of forgiveness and to commit my life to Him.
Since that day the Lord has been present in my life, but my transformation into a person who emulates Christ has been more like a work in progress. I still mess up and have done things of which I am ashamed, however, I desire to please God with my life. As I grow in my love for and obedience to Christ my heart becomes more sensitive to His leading and I yearn more and more to please Him. I have assurance of salvation through Jesus' payment for my wrongs on the cross. His blood was the currency required to pay the punishment for my sin. I could never be good enough to earn my way to heaven because no matter how many good things I do I will never be perfect.
Jesus is real in my life. There have been countless ways each and every day that he shows Himself to me. In times of financial need, He has provided. When my mom was critically ill in the ICU, I had a peace that can come only from God. Through personal struggles He is always there, reminding me of His presence in the most amazing ways. As a mother now, I can't imagine allowing my children to die for anyone. It is incomprehensible to me that God loved me so much that He allowed His son to die on the cross so that I might be free from the consequences of my own sin.
So, this Christmas I remember Jesus not only as a baby in a manger. He came with a mission to provide the compensation for sin. He did that by living a sinless life, dying on the cross, and coming to life again on the third day.
On November thirteenth we celebrated Bryce's sixth birthday with a military themed birthday party. Bryce is a big fan of camouflage and since his Uncle Eric became a Marine, Bryce has taken a keen interest in all things military. For the party we decorated with military posters I got at our local recruiting office along with green and black balloons. The kids received dog tags as they arrived and then competed in training drills. We had an Air Force flying competition with paper airplanes, an Army Airborne drop with parachute men, a Marine obstacle course for the recruits to conquer, and a battle of tug of war. At the end Bryce got to blow out the candles on his Army tank birthday cake. It was a fun event and a special way to celebrate our now six-year-old. We are so blessed to be your parents, Bryce Daniel. We are amazed at your many talents and appreciate the zest for life that God has given you, sweet boy.
While he can be a handful at times, my little kindergartener has quite the way with words. Multiple times a week lately I come across these sweet notes left for me around the house.
When I find one of these notes I smile and realize that these days of wiping noses, changing diapers, settling squabbles, interrupted sleep, and battling table manners (or lack thereof) will be gone before I know it. Savor the moment, I remind myself. What a treasure I have in my five little ones and what a blessing it is to be their mom.
October ended with lots of fun. We enjoyed carving a pumpkin with the older boys on Halloween afternoon. We've found pumpkin carving to be a really fun way to demonstrate in a tangible way the transformation of salvation. Cleaning out the yucky, slimy insides = God cleansing us from our sin (Rom. 3:23, 2 Cor. 5:17) and the light we put inside the pumpkin = the Holy Spirit coming into our hearts when we accept the free gift of salvation (2 Cor. 4:6, Matt. 5:16). When we have the Holy Spirit living in us it should brighten our lives and our faces just like it does the jack-o-lantern!
Later that evening we went to the annual Fall Festival at our church. It was a blast! The kids enjoyed wearing their costumes, playing games, pony rides, eating cotton candy and getting lots and lots of candy.
Claire was a butterfly
Davis the monkey
All five in their costumes.
Gramma and Davis
Claire with Aunt Jessica. Jake and Jessica were able to join us at the Fall Festival.
We appreciated the help corralling the kids!
Grant going up the inflatable rock climbing wall.
Bryce's turn. He was perhaps the smallest and the fastest to make it to the top.
At the end of September we were able to join our friends Sandy and Juliana for a vacation in Hilton Head, South Carolina. This was a couples only trip and we truly enjoyed and appreciated the time of relaxation. We divided the kids between both sets of grandparents (a BIG thanks to Gramma and Grandpa and Grammy and Pappy!) and headed south for a four night get away.
Us with Sandy and Juliana
The Harbor Town Lighthouse--aren't the yacht's amazing?
We spotted several alligators while biking around.
This six-footer came a little too close for comfort!
Another gator on the golf course.
The golfers weren't even aware of the alligator until they saw us snapping photos. Yikes!
Bike riding on the beach. So much fun.
Our find of the week was this little local hole in the wall seafood restaurant called the Sea Shack. Below is a photo of their "shrimp burger." Yum!
We had fun biking, eating out, playing golf (the guys), outlet shopping (the girls), enjoying the beach, and being kid-free for a few days (although I did miss them!). Our "little ones" had just as much fun as we did during "grandparents week" and I don't think they missed us at all.
Pink sippy cups (and anything pink, for that matter) have been a long time coming in the Little household. Since welcoming Claire Elise into our family I have been introduced to a whole new world of pink. I've learned that for every baby item there is a neutral, non gender specific version and also a pink version. Pink strollers, pink car seats, pink rattles, pink socks, pink blankets, pink towels, pink pacifiers, pink, pink, pink.
"Too much pink," I've heard other mothers sigh, "I'm tired of all the pink."
But you won't hear this mama complain, oh no. I say bring on the pink! After all, it's been a long time coming...
As I was stepping out of the garage the other day I peeked down on "Bryce's shelf" and I couldn't help but smile a little. You see, Bryce has claimed a surface in our garage as his "treasure" shelf--a place where he stores his collection of random, interesting, boyish finds. It is a rotating array of various things and when I stop to look there is always something new that has been added to the shelf. Today there were rocks, a crab shell (which he ironically found on the shore of a nearby lake), a dragonfly carcass, and a teeny tiny skeleton from some creature.
Since this photo was taken a new find, a 'camouflage' stick, has now has found a place on the shelf.
Last night Grant had a homework assignment to make a map of his room. The map needed to include such things as a compass rose, a title, a legend and so forth. As he drew his bed, dresser, window and such on the map I noticed that the scale of the bookshelf was really off. I tried to communicate this to Grant.
Me: Grant, your bookshelf looks very small in comparison to the other items in your room.
Grant: But, mom it's a bird's-eye view and the bird flew really, really high on this side of my room!
A few weeks back I was able to visit two Virginia colleges in two days! My first stop was James Madison University where I was able to visit my sister, Susannah, a freshman at JMU. I had so much fun getting a tour of campus, eating at a dining hall, and seeing Susie's room. It was a beautiful fall day and I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon with my sister.
Here we are posing with "Duke"
The next stop was Virginia Tech. Brian and I took the older two boys to a football game. This was Bryce's first game and Grant's first in a really long time. They enjoyed the introduction to college football and the loud atmosphere in Lane Stadium. The Hokies pulled off a victory and we couldn't have asked for a better day!
I am immensely grateful for the freedom of school choice allowed in this country and particularly in the state of Virginia. I believe parents should be able to decide what setting is best for their child's schooling. I myself experienced various school settings throughout my education (private, public, and home education). I in no way think that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to schooling. In our many upcoming years of parenting school age children there is a high probability that we will utilize more than one means of education. But, (at least for the time being) our two school age children attend public school.
I would be misleading to say that there aren't challenges for those willing to step into the public school arena, but our experience has been that there are also many blessings as we mingle with those in our community and seek to be a light in a dark world. There seems to be a short supply of resources written specifically on the issues facing Christian families involved in the public school system. However, I have just finished re-reading Going Public (your child can thrive in public school) and I can't say enough good things about this book. The authors, David and Kelli Pritchard, write about their experiences raising eight children and sending them all to public school. They have some truly insightful things to say about involvement in public school and some inspiring stories of how the Lord has used their family through the public school system. The book actually says very little about test scores, report cards, gifted programs, or advanced placement classes but rather focuses on character development and how to use the experience of public school to stretch and strengthen your child's spiritual development and maturity.
Going Public is applicable to parents with children in any school setting. The Pritchards describe some very practical ways that they as parents have instilled Biblical values in the minds and hearts of their children and utilized the issues facing their children at school to guide and direct them in character development. One of the chapters that was particularly poignant to me was about training children in self-control. I have included some excerpts from the book in italics.
For the past few decades, our society seems to have become less concerned about cultivating self-control in kids and more interested in building their self-esteem. If we could just make kids feel good about themselves, they would perform better...right? At least that has been the theory....
Certainly there is value in upholding the worth of every human being. We certainly want our children to know that God made them in His image, and that they are intrinsically valuable to Him as well as to us. We tell them these things often. But in a very real sense, self-esteem is a by-product of self-control.
Anybody can claim their child has self-control as long as the environment is perfect and everybody's having a good day. But no one's environment is always ideal. School is not always going to run smoothly. Then what?
What a challenge! After reading this together, Brian and I have been more purposeful in training the boys in self-control. At this point it may be just waiting patiently in line at the water fountain after recess, not retaliating when the bully on the bus antagonizes them, dealing kindly with a brother who is being annoying, or doing homework before dinner when they'd rather have some free time. All of these things and a myriad of other everyday experiences are training opportunities in self-control. With four other siblings, there is always a healthy amount of patience needed in our home, but the classroom setting requires an even greater amount of restraint and self-discipline. We (and our children) have a lot to learn! But as we strive to grow in our knowledge and love of God our hope is that our lives will be abundant in all of the fruits of the Spirit, including self-control.
Another section of the book deals with parent/teacher conferences. I look forward to these meetings with my son's teachers. I appreciate hearing an objective assessment of how they are doing academically and socially in their class. Taking some tips from the book, I went in (last night, actually) to meet with one of my son's teachers with a list of questions. After she relayed to me how Bryce is doing academically I was able to move the conversation in a new direction. I asked her questions such as: How is he doing with you? How does he respond to correction? How is his tone of voice when answering you? Is Bryce patient with his classmates? Is he encouraging to the other children? Is Bryce a leader in the class? These questions seemed to surprise her a little, but she was helpful in pointing out specific ways that Bryce excels and areas that he needs some coaching in. The areas of character, attitude, response to authority, compassion, leadership are the real agenda. It's always easier to discover shortcomings sooner rather than later.
The Pritchards had many, many insightful things to say in this book. These are just a couple of things that resonated with me. God directs parents in different ways and there are many, many wonderful methods of education. I applaud all those that are obedient to God's leading to a different path for the education of their child[ren]. Going Public is an excellent resource for Christian parents who chose to send their kids to public school (actually, it's great for all parents!). Sometimes it seems that, especially in Christian circles, the negative things about public school get aired the loudest. But don't lose heart, there are neat things happening in public schools and God is at work through Christians willing to participate in this sector of the community. Public education can be a positive experience for your child and for your family and provide opportunities to impact your community that otherwise would not be possible.
This past weekend we were able to make our third annual trip to Carter Mountain Orchard to go apple picking. The boys had been looking forward with great anticipation to our trip and this year my brother, Eric, and his girlfriend, Mandie, were able to join us. It was a beautiful fall day and we enjoyed picnicking at the top of the mountain and taking in the scenic views before harvesting apples. There was a huge turnout at the orchard, but thankfully there were plenty of apples to go around!
Mommy and Claire.
In the above photo you may notice that Woody (from Toy Story) came with us to the orchard. What's funny is that this toy originally belonged to Uncle Eric when the first Toy Story movie came out. It's now been passed down four times and is still a much-loved toy.
Eric climbing to reach the apples at the top.
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Eric and Mandie (we couldn't find one of the tools to reach the apples up high).
Apple picking 2010
Besides munching on fresh-picked apples, we have enjoyed homemade apple pie and spicy apple cake. Yum!
It is so neat to witness God working even in the little things. As the apple pie baked I did my Bible reading for the day (I am reading through a plan set out as follow-up to the Radical study--prearranged, mind you), I came across this verse: "Make a tree good and it's fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and it's fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by it's fruit." Matthew 12:33 Wow! I was so excited at this "coincidence" and shared it with the boys later that evening. We were able to discuss as a family what it means to bear good fruit as we ate our apple pie.
That's not all! The next day I literally grabbed a handful of books from our church library in between services. I was just trying to pick up some easy reading material for the older two boys. Later that afternoon I was astounded when I realized that one of the books I grabbed, titled 3 in 1 (a picture of God), describes the Trinity (Father, Son, Spirit) as being similar to the three parts of an apple (peel, flesh, core). Grant was able to read the book to me that afternoon!
Thank you God for beautiful mountains, delicious apples, family to enjoy good times with, and for being REAL in my life! May the "fruit" of my life be glorifying to you...
Welcome to my world! I'm happily married to my best friend and high school sweetheart, Brian, and we are the parents of five "Little" ones. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a mom and relish in the humor that arises in everyday life with young children. Here you'll find out what it's like living in our lively house. My hope and prayer is that my husband and I may relay to our children the joy that comes from a real relationship with Jesus Christ as we seek to live a life glorifying to Him.