Thursday, February 28, 2013

To love is to serve.

Evie, over at Life in Grace, is writing once a month on living with intention. I'm joining her. 
And this month the focus is love.

I feel extremely blessed in that love has never been something I have not known.

For my thirty-three years, I have watched an amazing love between my parents. I have seen that their love is strong not because of each other but because of their own love for the Lord and His grace in their lives.

I have experienced their love for me and my brothers and sister...and now their love of the men and woman who love their own children. And their grandchildren.

In the years when many girls wanted as much distance from their mothers as possible, I did not.  She gained my love and my trust and my confidence. And as I grew older, I gained hers. I remember as I grew that my hope was to be MORE like my mother. Not less.

And in entering motherhood, this desire only strengthened.

I love this picture of my Mom and my firstborn, taken the morning after Hadleigh was born.

I found those early years of motherhood to be sweet ones. The balance of life was a learning curve, but oh, to have a day that was just me and one little baby and a small home. It was a blissful time...and in hindsight, I'd even say easy.

But babies grow and new ones are added and life continues. And I would find myself weary. Wondering how to do it all and still love well. Love my Lord. Love my husband. Love my children. Love my friends and neighbors.

In those young years, I think I spoke daily with my Mom. Asking her advice. Seeking her wisdom. Soaking in her encouragement.

One thing she said long ago (and more than once) has stuck with me these years.

She told me that she desired to be more like Jesus. And He was a Servant. So she would imitate Him, the Servant.

My mom, she isn't perfect. None are. But she is a servant.

A servant considers the needs of others to be more important than his own. A servant lays down his life for another. His time. His own pursuits.

Every night while I was growing up, Mom would say goodnight to each of us, beginning with the youngest and ending with me. She would tickle our backs, sing to us, talk with us, answer our questions, and quite often fall asleep while doing so. I don't ever remember this time being rushed...I never thought there was somewhere else she would rather be.

I have three who call me Mommy. And I also tuck them in each night. The days are long...and in all honesty, I look anxiously to the moment my three have been tucked in and the house is the stillest it's been all day. I admit that I am prone to accomplish "tuck in time" as quickly as possible.

I imagine that years ago there were also dishes and papers and bills and time with Dad and conversations with friends that were on her mind. I imagine she looked forward to putting her feet up after a day running after four kiddos. I now realize that all those evening moments Mom spent beside each of our beds were such a gift. A gift of her time. Her gift of service to us.

And I've realized that I want to mimic her attitude in that evening time. I want my children to remember and know that there was no movie or website or craft or household task that was more important at that time than those few moments alone together at the close of the day. I want to love like she loved. Serve like she served.

All those years, I have wanted to be like her. And she was just following His example, all the while, leading by example.

Desiring that we, too, would desire to be more like Jesus.

The Servant.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sometimes life gets crazy-busy

And that would describe the past 12 days!

Here's a little recap from last week with the highlights:

Last Monday, we met my brother-in-law Alex (pictured above) for lunch in DC at District of π. He was traveling with a college choral group, accompanying them on the viola...and we were so excited to get the visit with him, if only for a short while! (And the pizza was amazing!)

Afterwards, we drove to Mt. Vernon, which seemed a fitting (and free!) place to visit on President's Day. It was beautiful...and crazy crowded. We even ran into Brent's old roommate from the AF Academy...who I had never met! Such a fun surprise! It's truly a beautiful estate...and I loved imagining what it must have looked like while George Washington lived and walked there. 

We returned home that night to find...just before we went to bed...a leak in the room where our hot water heater is located. Needless to say, it was a very long night of phone calls back and forth between plumbers and our landlord...and waiting for a plumber that never came.

The next afternoon (after a belated Valentine's Day party at our home that morning) the above picture was our view. Leak contained. (It was a crack in the expansion tank.) Dryers and dehumidifiers in place and noisy. Thankfully, the areas affected were minor (the homeschool room & guest room avoided water damage) but it looks like all of the carpet will end up being replaced in the near future.

We brought some homeschool materials upstairs and have been working around our kitchen table until we can get back downstairs. (The playroom half of our basement is on top of the homeschool half! And all the carpet nails make me nervous!)

Thankfully, the week ended with a breath of much-needed fresh air, as a good friend and I drove to Raleigh, NC for the MomHeart Conference.

Hearing from such wonderful women like Sally Clarkson, Ruth Schwenk, Sarah Clarkson, and Misty Krasawski speak on the topic of motherhood was such a blessing. I left the weekend feeling encouraged, inspired, and renewed.

I am still sifting through my thoughts...pondering all that I've learned and trying to apply it. I have added several books to my already-high pile of "to-reads"...and I'm excited about some ideas I have brewing that were sparked at this retreat!

Today, we are back to the usual grind...homeschool, meetings, contractor visits, and dinner with old friends. But it's good to be back...after quite an unusual week!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Vintage, Edible Valentine

If you're still looking for something sweet (and somewhat healthy) to surprise someone with tomorrow, may I suggest individual fruit pizzas?

My dear friend Jen made these for our Valentines Party last year & I think they were my favorite detail of the party.

Maybe it was the sweet vintage-style valentine picks she added...or how yummy fresh fruit is on top of a cookie...but regardless, these were a huge hit! Here's my recipe for this sweet treat!

 Valentine Individual Fruit Pizzas

Cookie Base:  (or use your favorite sugar cookie recipe)
1 cup butter, room temp
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cup sifted flour

8 oz. cream cheese, room temp
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

an assortment of fresh fruit, sliced

1. Cream together butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat in the egg. Add vanilla, salt, and flour and mix until all are well-blended.  Chill dough for 3-4 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. Roll out cookie dough on a floured surface and cut with desired cookie cutters. Place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and refrigerate for 5-10 minutes. Then bake for 8-10 minutes, until cookies are just barely colored. Allow to cool completely on wire rack.

4. Meanwhile, create filling by mixing together cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla in bowl of electric mixer.

5. When cookies are cool, spread each cookie with cream cheese filling and top with sliced fruit.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What's not captured...

(I'm linking up with Stephanie's Blog Your Heart challenge!)

I started blogging in 2006, just a few years after I began to both places, recording our stories through words and pictures.

And for a long time, I would think in terms of a scrapbook page (do I need a vertical or horizontal picture...what should Hadleigh wear to match this cute paper?) or a blog post. I composed thousands of blog posts in my head those first few years. 

I'll admit, I don't do that quite as much now. (Except with food. Brent lovingly joked with the kids the other night while I was making something: "Okay. Now here's the important part...before you bring the drink to the table, take a picture of it." Guilty as charged.)

In fact, it's almost the opposite. I now recognize moments where I'm so involved in the moment, that I don't want to pick up the camera...even if I know I might wish I had later.

The picture above reminds me of the precious grin & excited eyes of Madeleine when she handed me a thimble-sized winter bouquet of white. I'm thankful for the reminder...but also thankful that I fully engaged Madeleine with my eyes and didn't scramble to find a camera in the moment.

But I'm guilty of not recording as many of the stories if they don't have a picture.

So here are a few un-captured but not un-preserved moments from this last week that I love:

~We gathered in the library to watch Nathanael reenact a "show" with his mini Star Wars figures. The Hoth scene, built with white bathroom-sized Dixie cups, green rods and purple spheres from a tent-making set. His creativity never fails to amaze me.

~A conversation between my daughters: M: "Hadleigh, will you help me fix this, just this one time?" H: "Of course, Madeleine. I'll help you with it every time."

~Nathanael, putting on his brand new (and bright green) shoes and running back and forth through the kitchen to show me how fast he goes in them.

~Playing "I'm going on a camping trip" around the dinner table. "We're going on a camping trip and we're taking an apple, bike, Caroline, drinks, eggs , featherbed, grill, hamburgers, imagination, Jedi Jabba, a kite, Leia (as in princess), Mommy, napkins, an octopus..." (That's as far as we got...and can you tell we have some Star Wars fans?!?)

~Seeing thankful hearts respond properly to the kindness of strangers.

~Hadleigh choosing to wear her glasses more often...and seeing all the ways she is really growing up. (How can she be nine?)

~Three bright green tongues as Madeleine shared her "Fun Dip" valentines candy with her siblings. (I loved that stuff when I was little.)

~Every time we leave in the car, before we're completely out of the garage, Nathanael asks, "Can we listen?" He loves listening in the car (Adventures in Odyssey, Slugs and Bugs, Greathall Productions books on tape are some of our favorites.) and as much as this consistent question gets a little old, I don't want to forget it.

Don't get me wrong...I still plan to use my camera plenty...but I just want to remind myself (and you) to record these unphotographed moments too.

Friday, February 08, 2013


This past fall, I began to change some habits. (And in doing so, began some new ones!)

I have never described myself as a morning person. Night owl here, through and through. 

I love the quiet of the night...I find myself productive and creative at night. I love to be awake with the moon and the stars and the peace. 

But this night owl finds that with children, the morning comes too early and with much energy and noise, though not my own.

And so I realized that for me to be cheerful in the morning, I needed to begin my day before my children do. To enjoy a bit of peace. To wake up to the day with quiet, so that I can be ready for the energy that barrels down the stairs at 7 am. To embrace the day, I needed to embrace the morning. Earlier.

Each morning, I wake up around 6 (sometimes earlier, sometimes later). I shower, dress in something comfortable and my big cozy sweater, and head downstairs.

{Now, in all my adult days, I've never been a morning coffee drinker. I stumbled upon the mug in the picture above at Barnes & Noble and laughed, because it would have described me perfectly at this time last year.  I always loved fancy coffees for a treat or regular coffee with dessert in the evenings...but never NEVER in the morning. I've been a morning tea drinker since college.

But making tea in my teakettle is noisy first thing in the morning, and I don't like waking my kiddos any earlier by accident. So, when I noticed that there was a cup of coffee left in the coffeepot each morning after Brent left for work, I started pouring a cup. Enter new habit.}

So, I pour myself a cup of coffee, turn on the gas fireplace or light some candles, and wrap myself in a warm blanket. And then I spend time reading the Word.

I am using the Reading Plan app on my phone to read through the Bible in a year, using the thematic reading option. (I am liking this plan so far...recommended to me by Brent...and I have to admit, it's fun to check the little boxes as I read and see the progress of my reading, especially since this reading plan jumps from book to book around the Bible rather than going straight through it.)

Any extra time I have is spent in prayer, reading a book (right now, I'm finishing up Desperate by Sally Clarkson and Sarah Mae), or writing in my journal.

I am treasuring this time...

...although I'm still working on a compromise between my night-owl tendencies and new-found love for the morning hours.

How about you? Night owl or early bird? Coffee or tea?
What is your morning routine?

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Madeleine counts nine more days...

 ...until Valentines Day! 

My kiddos love this day...and I enjoy making it special! (Madeleine asked me once what the Valentines Day songs were...when I looked confused, she said "You know Mom, like Silent Night and Joy to the World at Christmas? What do we sing for Valentines Day?" Love that little girl.)

For the last few years, we have hosted a Valentines Day Party for a few friends around lunchtime...heart themed food, a craft, and a valentine exchange. We are looking forward to doing this again!

Here are a few ideas from my V-day Pinterest Board for this year to make this year's Valentines Day memorable:

To begin the kid's days...I think filling their closet with heart balloons would be a huge hit!

And for breakfast, either these strawberry-nutella homemade pop tarts or...

Strawberry Nutella French Toast. Obviously, I think breakfast, strawberries & nutella are a match made by Cupid!

I know a little guy that is going to flip when he sees these! The website these are from also have some other more girlish ideas using the glowsticks as well.

A healthy & cute lunchtime treat!

I think this would be a fun craft to interpret more simply for the girls...still trying to find a boy craft idea.  (Two years ago, we painted wooden snakes. Yep. But they were a hit!)


And as for a dessert to make for My Valentine...the Pastry Affair & I have such very similar tastes. I'm thinking either the above Pomegranate White Wine Panna Cotta or

The Chocolate Pomegranate Tart. I don't know how I'm going to make up my mind!

Do you have any fun Valentines Day ideas or projects planned? Please share!!!

Monday, February 04, 2013


The last few weeks have found us watching our weather apps and the sky, looking and hoping for snow.

We've had some a 95% chance turning out to be nothing. Humph.

And then we've had some happy moments...powdery soft snow that was only an inch or so deep...but enough to merit some snowy play days. Love my little snow angels...

And yesterday morning, after a Saturday evening snow stopped too soon, we were delighted to see the snow fall softly. Excited to drive to church while we drove through falling snow. Excited to catch snowflakes on our nose and eyelashes. Excited when it was still snowing on our way home.

It was too warm to accumulate...but watching snowfall is one of my favorite things. (Especially living in a place where the wind doesn't blow the snow sideways!)

I'm still hoping that February will bring us just a little bit more...because as much as I dislike the pile of snow clothes after a snow day...I adore seeing my children love the childhood magic of snow.

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