Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

After a few hectic weeks, we just today got around to decorating the tree that we put up the day after Thanksgiving. I told the kids we were going German-style this year, where the tree does not get put up until Christmas Eve. Waiting this long may have for the better, anyway, as we already shattered four ornaments today. Totally worth the trade-off of not having hideous plastic ornaments (euphemistically called "shatterproof"), but there are not enough of them to make it through the whole Christmas season at that rate of breakage. 

We finished up a few last minute tasks, such as wrapping the last of the presents. I also made these gifts for the little kids while they were all playing outside and later, napping. I am still ***so*** enjoying the embroidery machine I received as a gift a year ago.


 Aprons for the girls in each of their colors. They love helping in the kitchen.

Sweater/shirt for the little boys. All designs courtesy of Planet Applique.



After dinner, we had a little Christmas sing-along, and baked cookies (the first of the season - like I said, it's been unusually busy).



  video


Boaz literally said "cheese" when he saw the camera pointed at him. Such a little ham!

 Cute cookie thief wanna-be

Tomorrow, we will be opening gifts in the morning. With any luck, I can get the breakfast made up tonight, so it will be leisurely. I'm thinking eggnogg, and a strata made with scrambled eggs, peppers, and bacon. Keeps well in the fridge overnight, and can be baked fresh while we celebrate. 

The five youngest kids are getting the joint gift of a new wooden playhouse, so I'm guessing most of the morning will be spent building that in the backyard while I cook in peace in the house. Muahaha!

Our big lunch will consist of brined, smoked pork loin baked in puff pastry, gravy, mashed potatoes, and steamed peas and carrots. Then, we traditionally spend the afternoon playing board games and watching a movie while the little kids nap, so I'm sure that's how it will play out again tomorrow.

Dinner will be hot cocoa and desserts, as has been our tradition. I'm thinking about making three different kinds of gelato (peppermint, cinnamon, and tiramisu). Not sure how well that goes with hot cocoa, though, so we'll see.

What a wonderful time of year this is, when we celebrate the birth of Christ with our loved ones! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!


Sunday, December 20, 2015

10-Year Church Anniversary

Our church, Faithful Word Baptist Church, was started on Sunday, December 25th, 2005, in our living room. We had just moved to the area days earlier, and didn't know a single soul. The video below was made by our good friend and filmmaker, Paul Wittenberger, as a way to commemorate the history of our church thus far, and to surprise my husband with all the things that we have been planning behind the scenes. 

 

This is such a moving video! The first time I saw it, I bawled like a baby. I still tear up every time I see it again.


Today, we celebrated our 10-year church anniversary, and what an exciting day it has been so far! When I look at our church now, it is much like when mothers look at their children - they just always see the little baby they once were. In much the same way, when I look around at our church members, I still feel like we are that same, close-knit, family-like, very small band of likeminded Christians. Only now, we are not that small any more, as I realized fully last night as I looked out across the empty, decorated building, ready to welcome a big crowd of people the next day.

Sure enough, our Sunday morning record attendance reached 217 today. It seems like I just blinked my eyes, and here were are, all "grown up." This work was not done by human hands, though much blood, sweat, and tears have gone into it (literally). Ultimately, it is the work of God and the Holy Spirit working in and through the lives of our church members.




That's my wittle baby Solomon on the right. Oh wait, he's not a baby anymore, either...




You can view the full service below:



One of the things that has been such a blessing to me throughout these years is that the family that came on the first Sunday, and is in many of the pictures in the video above, continues to be faithful to our church to this day. The husband and children got saved and baptized in our church (included in the anniversary video). Today, the wife gave me this beautiful handmade tree ornament, which will become one of our family keepsakes as it holds so much significance for us.
 

Another lady who started coming the second Sunday has likewise stuck with us through thick and thin all these years, and missed maybe a handful of services due to sickness in all that time. She has for many years now been one of my closest friends and confidantes, as she has seen us through many trials and triumphs. She is now married and about to welcome their first child, so Lord willing, there are many more blessed days ahead as she joins me on the journey of motherhood.

One of the ladies at our church made a "Baby Wall" of photos that have been sent in from families around the country and the world who had a(nother) baby as a direct result of the preaching against birth control. If you have a baby photo or photos you would like us to add this wall, please mail it to the church address. She also brought a box full of notes of thanks and encouragement that have come in the mail or by email.

Today, we also opened up the new extension to our current auditorium. This really is an answer to prayer, as the space became available a year or so ago, but the landlord was not able at that time to take down the necessary walls and do all the work to join that suite with our current building. It is a perfect space for our growing needs, as it will provide ample more seating, an additional office, more storage space, another restroom, and a third mother-baby room. It also gives us a lot of open space for food and fellowship such as weddings, baby showers, and other celebrations. Expanding our current building is infinitely easier than finding new space to rent somewhere else, and we trust that the Lord will keep opening doors for us as the need arises.



After the service, we enjoyed a wonderful hot lunch of barbecue pulled pork sandwiches, quiches, salads, coleslaw, chips, veggies, and a delicious spread of desserts. There was just the right amount of food for everyone to eat as much as they wanted, without too many leftovers (that's always a bit of a gamble).




Last, but certainly not least, a HUGE BIG THANK YOU to all those at our church and online who planned, organized, and raised money behind the scenes to surprise us with TWO vacations - one for the whole family to a cabin in the woods up north near Prescott for a week, and one for just my husband and myself for ten (!!) days in Maui. I was in on all these surprises, as it would not be possible to make such extensive travel plans for a family our size without an "insider," but it came as a surprise to the rest of the family. I will share more about these trips in another post, so that if you are one of the listeners who so generously gifted us with this, you can know what you had a part in.

Such an awesome day! All glory to God, who truly will build His church in His time, and by His grace, the gates of hell have not prevailed against it even when it seemed like they might. I am so proud of my husband and all our church members for the great work we are doing together for the Lord here at Faithful Word Baptist Church. By God's grace and mercy, the best is yet to come!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Advent Calendar

For the first time ever, it occurred to me this year to make one advent calendar for all the kids to share. As I was putting the finishing touches on it yesterday night, I was shaking my head at how in the world I had managed to pull off making one for each child for so long, without losing my sanity. Then I remembered that I had lost my sanity years ago, and it all finally made sense.

Besides saving me time and (theoretically) my sanity, there are other advantages to this new method: Since I only have to come up with 24 treats and not 192, I can put bigger/nicer things in for items that can be shared, such as this book that was in the calendar for today. This means that there are zero Dollar Tree-like trinkets in there, which goes well with my new "less is more" motto. If I'm going to give them a treat, it will be something of nice quality, practical, and not clutter/junk. About half of the days are filled with goodies that fit that bill, while the other half are filled with German candies (thank you, CostPlus World Market!).

Soooo, anyhow, I needed a design that could accommodate various size gifts, and enough for 8 kids each day. This means that advent calendars based on uniform containers like matchboxes or toilet paper rolls never work well for us. I also needed something that wouldn't cost an arm and a leg in craft supplies, was adorable and eye-catching while fairly easy to make, and that wouldn't break my heart to throw away after each day was opened because I'm not trying to store anything unless I absolutely must. If you have looked at my "Advent Calendars" board on Pinterest, you know this decision is serious business for me! 



I discovered the above idea for an advent calendar in just enough time to pull it off. It was originally sold as a craft kit on a German website. I created my own knock-off version by using paper lunch sacks for the body, creating a template for the antlers from this design (I scaled it down to fit 2 pairs of antlers per sheet of paper), and using white Avery brand self-sticking round labels in two sizes (#5294 for the larger eyes, and #5293 for the smaller eyes and noses). I designed the noses on the template maker on avery.com. Other than cutting out the antlers, this project really was pretty fast and easy. For items that were too large to fit into a lunch sack and leave enough room at the top to fold the bag over, I cut the bottom off a second lunch sack, and glued this "sleeve" to the first bag to make it taller. 

This calendar now adorns the top of our piano. Like most years, after I had stayed up too late finishing it, the kids were up bright and early today, excited to open the first bag. I forgot to give them the speech about if they get up too early, they don't get to open the calendar until lunch that day... So yes, I'm tired today! ;)

(To see design ideas from years past, please click here: 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2008, 2007. Evidently, 2009 and 2013 didn't get blogged about.)