Christmas & New Year’s 2016

13 Jan

I better get posting about Christmas before it’s February, huh?

We celebrated Christmas first just the four of us on the Thursday before Christmas. I made chicken cordon bleu (from the deli), green beans, red potatoes, and rolls, and we drank “bubbly” (which Emma loved). Then the girls opened their presents from us, and their present from Papa Dave since it was a big box that we didn’t have room to transport from Rochester. We got them some art supplies, a few books, a bouncy buddy, and a Little People nativity set. Papa Dave bought them this treehouse with the camping buddies from The Land of Nod. Within 15 seconds of opening it, both girls were drawing on it with crayon. (Seriously…) Luckily, I was able to scrub most of it off. Their favorite present by far, though, was the box that the treehouse came in. Of course.15741131_1332807960082856_4438754616654293238_n15781037_1332807950082857_3583310463122747060_n15727286_1332807923416193_7831163184979449209_nThe next day, we headed up to Travis’ parents’ house in Nevis, arriving in time for dinner. Travis’ sister and nephew, and brother and sister-in-law were also there almost the whole time we were, so we were able to spend some nice time together. Emma and Annabelle were in heaven. They love their Nana and Papa, and Aunties and Uncle, and have a lot of fun with them. Their cousin Drew isn’t so much of a kid person at age 16. 😉

Christmas Eve (Saturday), we headed into Park Rapids to have breakfast with some friends. That night, we dressed up all fancy and attended the Christmas Eve service at Travis’ parents’ Catholic church, Our Lady of the Pines. The girls actually did fairly well, all things considering! And they were adorable in their Christmas dresses.15726473_1332807670082885_2760584912961896007_n15672976_1332807490082903_846264537335391369_n15726223_1332807436749575_6890398017756359744_n15697791_1332807883416197_1671014031762530795_n15780738_1332807703416215_2116758220268045907_n

Cousins

Christmas morning, we ate the traditional breakfast of egg bake and monkey bread, and then it was time to open presents—the time that Emma had been asking about for the entire month of December. It started off well. Emma helped divvy up the presents, and was even tasked with the job of deciding who should open a present. But eventually that petered out, and both girls ended up throwing a tantrum in the middle of opening presents. Emma wanted to do something besides open presents, and Annabelle was apparently ready for an early nap, because I ended up putting her down around 11. By the time I got back downstairs, Emma was entertained with some of her new art supplies, and the adults were able to continue our gift opening in peace. Kids!

15726344_1332807373416248_4862802626677382042_n15726258_1332807200082932_8528536388724082939_nNote that Emma is wearing a tank top and shorts, despite the several weather-appropriate, cute Christmas outfits I had for her.15697526_1332807043416281_5419901375432218552_nSo tired15672964_1332807230082929_3678291493226962891_nMmmm… chocolate15697834_1332806786749640_3627580145260719665_nEmma went “Christmas shopping” at daycare this year for Nana Beth and Papa Al, and she chose a measuring cup for Nana and a fishing sinker for Papa without our help!15672680_1332806713416314_6249755915390785047_nTravis’ gift from his sister… perfect for him15780887_1332806673416318_9097940835346127866_nMy gift from Travis’ sister… love it15747611_1332807103416275_4427022023995455069_nEmma loves all thing art

The rest of our time up in Nevis was pretty lowkey. We ate a lot of yummy food and Christmas cookies, played outside sledding and snowmobiling, the guys cut down a tree and burned some brush, the adults played some games (including Speak Out, where you put that big plastic mouthpiece in—that’s quite the game!). There was only one political (civilized) discussion that we non-debaters had to break up, for fear that the discussion would last the whole night.

We stayed up in Nevis until Tuesday morning. The plan had been to head back home Monday night but the ice storm on Christmas Day made the roads pretty nasty, so we decided to at least drive home in the daylight.

We spent the rest of Tuesday and all day Wednesday at home. Travis had work off, but wanted to work on some projects (including cutting down a tree in our front yard, which almost ended up falling on our cars, due to a little miscommunication and lack of thought on my part…whoops—but all was well in the end, praise God). The girls and I went to 321 Bounce with our neighbor friends.

Thursday morning, we packed up and hit the road down to Rochester. Since we weren’t trying to get there by any certain time, we decided we could stop every hour on the 3.5-hour drive. Well, Travis wasn’t completely a fan of our many stops, but it was nice to take our time. We stopped for gas right by our house (#1), for lunch in St. Cloud (#2), at Cabela’s in Rogers (#3), and at a gas station just south of the Cities for a potty break (#4).

We arrived in Rochester just in time for dinner. My oldest brother Jeremy and sister-in-law Jen, and their two sons had arrived the day before, and my other brothers would arrive later, so it was just us, them, and my dad that night.

The four kids—Emma and Annabelle, and Jensen and Jackson—had a blast playing together. One of the cutest sights was seeing the four of them run around in circles together. Another favorite activity of theirs was jumping on the couch and building forts out of couch cushions (much to Papa’s dismay). They were also pretty wild and crazy with one of those Fisher Price ride-on toys and a little dog that you pull along behind you. Four kids is a little crazy at times!15781534_1338920992804886_5472908077247000943_n15823490_1338920989471553_969281655933574630_n15823680_1338921229471529_3041714289093367911_nOn Friday, Brian and Jill arrived around lunchtime. Chris and Meg arrived Saturday. We spent our time drinking lots of coffee, eating delicious food (frequently topped by grated Asiago), and watching animated movies that we turned on for the kids but that they didn’t end up watching. 😉 We also played outside in the ice-encrusted snow, which was great for sledding but not much else. I pulled Emma and Jensen on a sled all the way around the house, and it was a workout!15732661_10103166680174752_2259524021720836268_o15800359_10103166677405302_1021290843782300839_o15800498_10103166678178752_6830543933580665853_o15844768_10103166677744622_7747851522964179194_o15825795_1338921386138180_1443544932537754384_nThanks to my sister-in-law Jen for these great photos!

On New Year’s Eve, we opened presents in our now-traditional way (we draw names, and then try to go around and try to guess who had us), and then ate our special Christmas dinner. Everyone pitched in with various sides and dishes, and it was great! Though the orange sherbet jello salad that I attempted to make was an epic fail. Jello: a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

We apparently had a little bit of trouble getting the girls down on time that night, because I was downstairs getting Emma to sleep until 11:55… though I might’ve fallen asleep, it’s really hard to say at that hour of the day. I actually made it back upstairs for the ball drop, though, and stayed up until 2 am watching bad New Year’s entertainment on TV and chatting with those who were still up. It was the first time I’ve stayed up for New Year’s since having kids I think, and it was nice! Thankfully the girls slept in the next day, and we were still able to make it to church at 10:30.

There was another snowstorm predicted to hit Rochester and the Brainerd area on Monday, so we ended up leaving Sunday night instead of the next morning. We got home around 11, got the girls to bed, and hit the hay ourselves.

Though I always love spending time with family, it was a hard holiday season without my mom (and the first). We miss her dearly, and talk about her often. My dad, as usual, bears the brunt of her absence, and through a series of miscommunications, ended up spending Christmas Day alone, which I feel badly about. A loss like this continues to reveal situations and circumstances that have been forever altered, and the best way forward is not always readily apparent.

Merry Christmas 2016!

25 Dec

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

I wish you and your families a Christmas season full of hope and joy, all because of the God-man who came to earth as a baby born in a stable.

Thanksgiving 2016

1 Dec

For Thanksgiving this year, we both traveled and stayed home, which is a new thing for us. We went up to Travis’ parents’ house in Nevis on Thursday morning. My dad and brother Brian met us up there a little later, and the whole gang on Travis’ side was there. We ate Thanksgiving dinner around 4, hoping to time it for when the girls were napping so we could actually eat and enjoy it. Things were looking good but as we were going around the table saying what we were thankful for, I heard Emma yell, “Mommy!” from upstairs, and Annabelle was standing right beside her. But it all worked out (for me anyway, as both girls wanted to sit with a grandparent instead of me). 

After dinner, we talked, played a little Catch Phrase, and ate pie. I made two pumpkin pies, both of which bore the marks of being tasted by a certain little girl. We headed back to our house around 8:30 with my dad and brother. 

Friday, we bummed around in our pajamas the whole morning, doing some online shopping and eating French toast and sausage. Travis went out to set deer blinds during naptime. Annabelle took an early nap and was up before 2, so we had Emma skip her nap. Once Travis got back, we headed up to Nisswa for their City of Lights festival. I had never been since we’ve been out of town on Black Friday since moving back. 

It was fun, but chaotic with a child as young as Annabelle who won’t ride in a stroller. The main area of the event is on Main Street and it was still open to traffic so we couldn’t just let Annabelle walk around. Even Emma we had to keep close tabs on (it would just be less stressful if you didn’t have to watch for cars).  

We bought some hot chocolate (not knowing they were giving it out for free at the other end of town) and walked around a bit. We pet reindeer, walked through the luminary path and the Polar Express train car, watched a live nativity, and learned some history about the area in Pioneer Village. And we finally found the free cider and mini donuts. After that, we were out of things to do and cold, so my dad and brother went to pick up pizza while we headed home. Emma crashed and went straight to bed. Annabelle wasn’t far behind. The pizza was delicious after being outside. 

Brian headed to the MSP airport that night to pick up his wife, Jill, but my dad stayed the whole weekend until Sunday afternoon. 

Saturday, Travis went hunting in the morning, and my dad and I took the girls to 321 Bounce (a bouncy house place for kids) to burn off some energy. Then it was home for lunch and naps. Travis came home briefly for lunch, then headed back out hunting for a few hours. I made chili for dinner, and we had a relaxed (at least, as relaxed as it gets with young kids) evening at home. 

Sunday, we went to the early church service (Annabelle made it through without a meltdown in the nursery!), attempted to hang up Travis’ second elk head mount (but the hanger we bought from the taxidermist was awful), ate lunch, the girls napped, and then it was time for my dad to head home. 

Both Emma and Annabelle have really grown to love my dad, and that is so fun to see. Emma asked to have Papa put her down for a nap or bed several times, and Annabelle often prefers to cuddle with Papa instead of with me. Melts my heart. 

Thankful Even When It’s Hard

24 Nov

“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” – Psalm 50:23

All your feeds today will be full of messages of thanksgiving–how blessed we are, how much we’ve been given, etc. All of which is true. But a lot of people are also weeping this Thanksgiving, dealing with hard things, and don’t feel like giving thanks. Maybe they’re dealing with something big, like a loved one’s death; with chronic frustrations, like their child’s consistent willful defiance; or their own suffering, emotional or physical. 

That’s me. This is the first Thanksgiving without my mom. And my day today began with Emma unleashing some of her biggest tantrums to date for a good 45 minutes. 

As we drive to my in-laws’ house, I don’t feel thankful. I feel down-trodden, discouraged, and just plain sad. But then Psalm 50:23 came to mind: “Offer God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.” And that reminds me: we don’t offer God thanks simply because we look around at our life and agree that it’s everything we’ve asked for. We don’t primarily give thanks because we’ve been blessed with family or food or a home. Rather, we give thanks to God because HE IS WORTHY of our thanks. And because no matter what we have or don’t have, no matter what we’re going through here on earth, we have a Savior and a guaranteed future in heaven with Jesus. That is why we can give thanks in all circumstances: because wherever we are, we always get God. 

So let’s glorify Him with thanksgiving, today and every day, for the good and the hard. 

Loved in Christ: A Response to Two Bestsellers

22 Nov

wintersceneI’ve  been on reading kick lately. Whether it’s because I’ve watched all the episodes of my favorite shows on Netflix (single tear) or because I’ve serendipitously chosen books that have been absolutely fascinating to me, I’ve been spending almost all my free time during naps and before bed reading.

Two of the books I’ve read are Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton and Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. I found both books to be well-written and page-turners. I finished Love Warrior in less than a week and Present Over Perfect in just two days.

My reasons for choosing each book were different. Several years ago, I was following Glennon’s blog when her and her husband separated due to issues she was not discussing at the time. There was talk of divorce, so I stopped following her blog because it made me uncomfortable. A year or so later, I heard that they had actually not gotten divorced—they were going to counseling and working through things. Which intrigued me because reconciliation seems to be so rare in our culture. I started reading her blog again, which is where I heard about her forthcoming book Love Warrior. I preordered an autographed edition.

This book has gone on to become a New York Times bestseller and was chosen by Oprah for her book club. To that, I say: Of course it did, both seriously and sarcastically. I’ll explain my sarcastic response in a bit, but I seriously think that Glennon is an awesome writer and I truly LOVED her book. She perceives the world in a completely different way than I do, so I’ve always found her writing and perspective refreshing and challenging.

My biggest takeaway from her book (among many) was that if I want to be truly known, I have to LET MYSELF BE KNOWN.

It seems so simple and DUH that as I read her book, I wondered, “Why is it so hard to just tell the truth about who we are, about what we’re thinking and feeling and needing? Why can’t we just let ourselves be known?”

Because we are complex beings and we live in a fallen world.

Because we’ve been told lies by Satan and our culture.

Because we’ve had experiences of people rejecting and misusing what they know about us.

So we hide. We lie. We misdirect. We pretend.

This insight has shed new light on conflict in my marriage. One Saturday, we were down at my dad’s cabin helping him do some yardwork—meaning I was watching the girls while Travis was helping my dad do yardwork. We had decided to buy my old Ford Focus back from Travis’ brother and Travis said he was thinking about driving down to a town halfway between the cabin and the Cities to meet up with Matthew and get the car. He asked me if that was ok, or if I wanted him to do it later.

Inside, I was screaming, “NOOOOO!!!! IT IS NOT OKAY!!!!! I am with the girls ALL ALONE every single day of the week and now you want to leave me all alone AGAIN to go get a stupid car that I don’t even want to buy? YOU CANNOT LEAVE ME HERE!”

But instead of telling the truth, I said in a disgusted tone, “Whatever, do what you want.”

I started walking away and then remembered the truth that if I want to be known, I have to let myself be known. So I turned back and said, “Actually, could you do it later instead of right now?” Travis was totally fine with that, and it actually ended up being better, because Matthew brought the car up to our house on deer hunting weekend instead.

Another similar instance happened more recently, though in my frazzled mommy brain I cannot for the life of me remember what it was. What I do know is, it reinforced that, similar to how Glennon talks about the expectations and lies women have been fed by culture about how we’re supposed to act and be, I had been believing the lie that I am not supposed to be needy, particular, or demanding. I am supposed to go along with whatever. Don’t cause a stir. Don’t be a b!tch.

But because I wasn’t honest, Travis didn’t know how I really felt. Because he didn’t know how I really felt, I was hurt and bitter. How many times have I lied (badly) about my feelings in a certain situation, Travis goes off to do what he thinks I’ve agreed to (though it was a lie), and I get mad at him because I didn’t really want him to do it? By not being honest, I was actually causing more drama and neediness in my marriage than if I had just told the truth at the outset! So this idea of letting myself be known is truly transforming my marriage.

I LOVE it when a book rocks my world.

That’s why I found Present Over Perfect to be just okay. Shauna is a good writer (though I find her essay-style chapters sometimes confusing) but her book echoed many thoughts I’ve already had about being who God created me to be and pursuing a slower pace of life focused on connecting with people, thoughts like: “The crucial journey, then, for me, has been from dependence on external expectations, down into my own self, deeper still into God’s view of me, his love for me that doesn’t change, that will not change, that defines and grounds everything.”

But then I read this: “It is only when you understand God’s truly unconditional love that you begin to understand the worth of your own soul—not because of anything you’ve done, but because every soul is worthy, every one of us is worthy of love, having been created by and in the image of the God of love.”

Reading that, my jaw dropped.

No. she. didn’t.

As I read the first part of that sentence, I was thinking, “Oh, here it comes—a mention of the gospel, finally. A mention of how God’s unconditional love for us was BOUGHT by Christ’s BLOOD on the CROSS.” And she was leading right into with “not because of anything you’ve done”, a completely perfect place to say “but because of what Jesus has done on your behalf.” But NO, instead she goes into some mumbo jumbo about every soul being worthy. Are you kidding me?!?!

Yes, we have all been created in the image of God, and for that reason, are all equally valuable humans. But without Christ, we’re all also equally going to hell, regardless of how worthy we see our souls. Maybe I had too high of expectations for Shauna’s book, or maybe I expected more out of her since she’s Bill Hybels’ daughter and her book was published by Zondervan. But I’m sorry… just. NO.

I have the same beef with Glennon’s book, but at least with her, I already knew that her beliefs are liberal to the point of maybe not being completely biblical, so I filter everything she says anyway. This was one of my favorite quotes: “Our only hope to be fully human together is to first insist upon our right to be fully human before God. And it will only be the acceptance that I am already loved perfectly by God that will let me forgive Craig and those women for loving so imperfectly.” But even that quote is not without issues.

The problem I have with these sentences, and the ideas they’re communicating, and the books they are from in general, is the same that I have with a lot of Christian thoughts and sermons these days: it’s not they’re wrong or unbiblical per se; it’s that they don’t go far enough. We have to go all the way to the cross, to the historical event that single-handedly procured our acceptance by God and intimate relationship with Him. Without the cross, we are cut off from God. Without the cross, it is not a good thing to be fully human before God. Because our fallen humanity is JUDGED by God, and our sin demands payment—an eternity in hell. Ephesians 2:1-9 says that before we were believers in Christ, we were by nature children of wrath. Whose wrath? GOD’S WRATH.

And THAT, ladies and gentleman, is why these books are so appealing to people across the board, Christians and non-Christians alike. We’d prefer to not hear about hell, sin, blood, crucifixion. We want God’s unconditional love, because we were created to want it, thrive in it, be transformed by it. But we want it without the messiness of Jesus, without the implications of our sinfulness that come from Jesus’ hands and feet being pierced with nails. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

God’s unconditional love is not good news because it allows us to look at ourselves and say, “I’m worthy. I’m lovable.” It’s good news because it allows us to honestly look at ourselves and say, “I’m not worthy of God’s love. I’m not lovable a lot of the time. BUT GOD LOVES ME ANYWAY. And He proved it, and procured it, through Jesus’ death and resurrection.”

Which love is greater: loving someone who is lovable and always lovely to you, or loving someone who is unlovely and shuns you? God’s love is greater. He loves the UNLOVABLE. He loves the UNWORTHY. The Unlovable and the Unworthy are YOU and ME. This is the GOOD NEWS! He takes the NOTHING we have to offer and turns it into ENOUGH in His infinite measure of sufficiency.

First Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The power of God is the word of the cross. Strip Christianity of the cross of Christ and the power of God goes with it. True Christianity is not moralism. It is not just a better way to live life on this earth. It is not just loving those around us. It is “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Christianity begins and ends at the Cross. God’s unconditional love for us is true ONLY BECAUSE Jesus died on the cross and rose again. Not because our souls are worthy, but because HE is worthy.

And that is why we can let ourselves be known, even in this harsh and cruel world: because we are already fully known by God and fully approved by Him. But let us not forget that that approval is only the result of our being clothed in Christ’s righteousness. He gets the glory; we get the joy.

Emma Grace: 3.5 Years

17 Nov

Emma was 3 ½ years old on October 7, so I’m a liiiiitttttle behind on this update. How is Thanksgiving only a week away?!?!

img_1821img_1811Since my last update on Emma, she has not slowed down one bit. In fact, now that Annabelle is cruising around and causing trouble, the two feed off of each other and create even more and bigger messes and disasters than either one would do on their own. Or Emma will do things that she knows she shouldn’t, just because Annabelle is doing them (and is too young to know better). Thankfully their shenanigans have not yet destroyed anything valuable or ended in serious injury.

We like to say that Emma is 3 going on 13 because she has taken to growling when she gets frustrated (gee… I wonder where she learned that, mom?), frequently stomping off to her room while yelling “Leave me alone!”, and slamming her bedroom door. {insert Facebook Wow emoji here}

img_20160824_104737-largeThis girl seriously gives me a run for my money, and pushes my buttons. Oh man, I could tell you stories… and maybe I will one day. I’ve been working on a post about dealing with anger—MY OWN—in motherhood for almost a whole year now, but I haven’t published it because there’s no conclusion. I’m STILL struggling with it, yo!

Emma is just an extremely strong-willed, particular, won’t-back-down-for-nothing child, who will defy me while looking me straight in the eye. I’ve come to understand, though, that she does this for the exact same reason I am often strong-willed and defiant: she thinks her ideas are better than mine, and that she’s right. A chip off the old block, right there. It’s extremely humbling (and scary) when you see that your child inherited your personality, and is also learning your bad habits of dealing with that personality.

img_20160801_125539-largeThank God for His grace and the truth that “Love covers a multitude of sins.” I’ve started praying that even if I don’t stop messing up and doing things I later regret in regards to relating to and disciplining Emma, that at least God will continue to give me a soft enough heart to repent and apologize to her. It’s a daily occurrence in this household. Man, parenting is haaaarrrddd.

But I do love this girl. She has a big heart, and just the other day, when we went and played with friends at the new mall play area, Emma asked for a snack, but then shared most of it with her friends. She’s also hilarious, and thinks of the craziest things to do and say. She has a great imagination, and has started to play by herself in her room quite often, because she knows that if she is anywhere Annabelle can reach her, it’s game over for playing with anything in a particular way (Annabelle is the new Destructobaby). I do often remind her that it’s more fun to play with other kids than by herself, even if they don’t play how she wants them to.

img_1757-largeOverall though, Emma and Annabelle get along really well, and most days they are like two peas in a pod. They both seem to have very similar personalities (in that they’re both CRAZY!) and can often be found running circles around our couches, giggling in the pitch-dark bathroom doing God-knows-what, and making disasters out of books, water, toilet paper, markers, you name it whenever Mommy has been distracted for too long.img_1811-largeimg_1785-largeimg_1835-large

img_1754-largeSpeaking of destruction, Emma has recently gone through a book/paper ripping phase. We were at a loss for how to handle this type of destruction (since I refuse to put all books away or out of her reach). But after several instances of surprisingly intentional destruction (meaning she ripped A LOT of pages), we explained to her that she was no longer allowed to rip anything, under any circumstances, ever again. And if she did rip something, she would get a spanking.

After we explained that, she did rip a few more things (and received a detailed explanation of her disobedience and resulting discipline), but she hasn’t ripped anything since then—and that was about 3 weeks ago. She has mentioned a few times, and I have seen her do so, that she exercised restraint in not ripping something, and I have praised her for going so long without ripping anything. Maybe after a month of no ripping, we’ll take her out to China Buffet (her favorite restaurant) to celebrate.

img_20160922_131613-largeSince the beginning of September, we have tried to do some preschool activities at home (testing out the waters of homeschooling) but so far, it’s been kind of a flop. Emma was excited the first couple weeks, and still asks to “do school” on a semi-regular basis, but never wants to do what I suggest. She mostly just wants to color and maybe trace some letters. I tried telling her about Christopher Columbus while she was coloring a picture on Columbus Day, but she just kept interrupting me and saying “Mommy, stop talking. Mommy, stop talking.” So, we’re leaning toward NO on the homeschooling.

img_20160907_091425-largeAnd I shouldn’t forget an update on potty training… Ugh, potty training. Emma is mostly potty trained during the day, though she has been having a few accidents lately because she just waits too long to head to the toilet. She’s still pooping in a diaper. She pooped on the toilet a handful of times a few months ago but then got constipated and it was downhill from there. And she still wears a diaper to bed. I was feeling pretty discouraged about the whole situation but recently we decided to have her wear undies during her nap, even if there was a chance she’d wet the bed. But she’s only wet the bed once in a couple of weeks. So that encourages me that she’ll get there. I just don’t want this to turn into a daily battle. She really dislikes me wiping her after a poopy diaper though, so hopefully that will convince her to start pooping on the potty again.

20160921_104042-largeSome of Emma’s other favorite things at 3.5 years are:

  • iPad and movies—Of course!
  • Candy and ice cream – This may be her nightly bedtime snack…20160911_115349-large
  • Rock-a-baby in the chair—I rock her to sleep in the glider in her room fairly often, mostly for naps, but we rock a little before bedtime too when I’m the one doing her bedtime routine.
  • Jesus on the cross—Emma has really started to understand stories about Jesus, and loves to point out when she sees something making the shape of the cross. She also loves to hear songs about Jesus, and has started to really enjoy being in the church service with us (and behaves pretty well now too).
  • Dresses and flip-flops—This poor girl is in denial that winter is coming (and frankly, should already be here by Minnesota standards). She frequently doesn’t want to wear pants or a jacket, and almost always doesn’t want to wear shoes. Then she complains about being cold.img_20160801_115416-large
  • Getting dirty and wet—Emma still has a thing for dirt and water. She has loved playing in the leaves this fall (and we had TONS of them!) and on a few of these above-average-temperature days, we’ve had the water table out because both Emma and Annabelle just can’t get enough. One time at the beach this summer, Emma literally army crawled through the sand to the water. She was covered head to toe in sand.img_1599-largeimg_1269-large20160803_113747-largeimg_20160731_194850-large
  • Baths—When we say it’s bath time, both girls make a beeline to the bathroom. Emma usually starts the water and plugs the drain before we even get in there—and she even gets it the right temperature and everything now! *sniff* She’s getting so old.
  • Dance class—We put Emma in a 30-minute ballet class this fall, and so far she really enjoys it. She’s not always the best listener, and sometimes is pouty and refuses to do the moves the teacher’s doing, but overall, she’s doing well. Funny story: her very first class, Emma showed up straight from the daycare playground wearing pants and a t-shirt, with dirty feet, woodchips stuck to her pants and a band-aid on her head, while all the other girls were wearing cute ballet outfits. The teacher said Emma could wear whatever she wanted and didn’t need shoes, but after that first class, we bought her a leotard and ballet shoes.
  • Popcorn—Since both Emma and Annabelle go to bed around 9 pm, one of our near-nightly rituals is making popcorn after bath time and watching a show together. The girls really love popcorn, and Emma loves to help with measuring out the kernels, pouring them in, and plugging the popper in (with supervision).img_1656-large
  • The Striped Dress—Emma’s favorite dress of all time, only to be rivaled by her white Christmas dress from 2014 that she wore for a whole year until it literally didn’t fit her anymore, is a striped maxi dress we bought from Target this summer. She almost always wants to wear that dress, and I think I’m going to have to hide it when it does get cold outside so that’s she forced to wear all her winter clothes, instead of the same old threadbare, faded summer dress. Kids, I tell ya!20160803_132448-large
  • Elsa—Emma got a 16” Elsa doll from her aunt and cousin last Christmas, and LOVES that thing. We ended up buying Annabelle the Anna doll because they had started fighting over Elsa. Emma had been completely attached to a baby doll but Elsa usurped the #1 spot. Emma still likes her baby doll, though, and also likes a small 6” doll we bought Annabelle for her 1st Annabelle doesn’t play with dolls much yet, so she doesn’t care that Emma plays with “her stuff” but there will come a day…img_1774-large
  • Coloring—For the past month or two, Emma has been on a coloring/writing kick. She has learned how to write her name and loves to practice writing other letters too, though she gets discouraged quickly by the ones she finds difficult. She also enjoys “coloring pictures” (usually she means drawing freehand) for other people, and we often color pictures together. Annabelle likes to be near the action, but mostly likes to throw the colored pencils on the floor and uncap the markers.20160820_121429-large
  • Sleeping in her closet—We bought Emma a bed canopy and have it hung up in her closet so she likes to sleep in there quite a bit. And not just that, but she closes the door! This girl is not afraid of the dark at all.img_20160824_164232-large

And that’s Emma at 3.5 years!img_20160829_121553-large20160913_111857-large20160911_112258-large

A Response to the 2016 Election

9 Nov

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” (Proverbs 21:1)

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” (Proverbs 31:25)

These are the verses that come to mind this post-election morning. God is BIG–BIGGER than this and He can use Trump to bless our country if He sees fit. So let’s pray hard that He would do just that. That Trump would rise to the occasion, put behind his childish and selfish ways, and that his presidency would be a surprise in a good way. 

If you say “HA, there’s no way he will!” I say “Well then what’s the alternative response? To seethe with anger and bitterness for the next 4 years? To wait hopefully for each blunder Trump will make in order to gloat ‘See, this is why I didn’t vote for him!'”

No, regardless of who you voted for, the way to respond to this election result is the same way we respond to anything that happens in life: we accept it from God’s hand. We humbly submit our lives, and in this case our country, to Him, with the knowledge that “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12)

And then we pray. We pray hard. We plead, beg God to help this nation change for the better, even perhaps despite who’s in charge. We CAN make America great again but it will be by being people sold out for God in Jesus’ name, full of love, compassion, and a willingness to work alongside those who do not share our beliefs or lifestyles. It will be by being bold in our proclamation of the gospel of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone. It will be by laying down our own agendas, conveniences, and desires, and taking up Christ’s. What does that practically mean? It’ll look different for everyone, but like I’ve said before, we will be all united under the banner of

SATISFIED IN GOD ALONE.

We cannot change reality, we can only respond to it. Let’s make our response one that shows how BIG God is and how much we are ultimately trusting in Him to guide and protect our nation.