Thursday, December 29, 2011

Favorite Posts From 2011

I can't believe that this year is so quickly coming to a close. It has been a good year and a tough year. One filled with challenges and changes and unexpected blessings.

Last night I was looking through some of the blog posts that I wrote last year and it was fun to walk down "memory lane" a little. So I have composed a list of 10(11 if you count the link above) of my favorite posts/memories and am sharing them with you! Just click on each of the titles and it should open up a link to the original post!

What are some of your favorite memories from 2011 and what do you do to keep a record of them??

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

In Which I Give Up Control

In a few very short hours (3am to be exact) Isaac will be getting up and getting ready for his second trip to Haiti.  I am so very excited for this opportunity for him and so proud of him that he has a heart to go in the first place.

But this mama's heart is also feeling scared.

If you haven't guessed it yet I am kind of one of those people who likes to have control of their environment. (Just a little) ;)

When my kids are close, I have the illusion of being able to control what happens to them. But when they get on a plane and fly to 3 airports, across a body of water and into a foreign country(even if he is with family)...well my ability to control goes out the window.

And so I must offer him back to the One who gave him to me in the first place.

And trust....

I truly hope this is an amazing experience for Isaac. I want God to reach in and move his heart in a BIG way. Trips like these can provide such perspective and I hope that he comes back changed.

Just come back safely....there I said it.

That is probably the biggest fear that I have - even when I travel away myself....

But I know that I can't be living in fear - not for me or for Isaac. That isn't what God calls me to do.

Matthew 6:27 "Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"

So tonight I physically open my hands...and once again give up control.  The act of actually holding open my hands reminds me that I don't have the reins anymore. That I am offering them up to God and asking that He take control.

So tonight and for the next week I covet your prayers. Prayers for Isaac and my dad and the rest of the team travelling together. Prayers for the people of Haiti that they will have an opportunity to spend time with. Prayers that their hearts will be open to God's leading and that they all may feel His presence in all they have before them. And prayers for safe travels during their entire trip.

Communication will be sparce througout the week but as I get updates I will share them here.  Thank you for loving my family and supporting them in prayer. It means so much to me!!

Karlena's Birthday Bash

Or smash may be a better description! On Monday we celebrated Karlena's birthday with my family. I didn't want anything real big - but my mom went and got this little cake and a cupcake so she could have one of her own!

It didn't take her long to realize what she had in front of her...

She started out a little lady-like but I promise you that didn't last long!

Oh yeah - that's my girl! :)

So she started with the frosting first - of course, she is her mama's daughter!! 

I LOVE this picture because she almost looks "clownish" with her big red mouth!

Then it was time to tackle the cupcake...I didn't think she would eat much of that but again I was wrong!! 

She went right ahead and attacked that with the same fervor she did the frosting.

It was, if I must say, the cutest thing I have ever seen!

And when it was all said and done she ate the whole thing! I don't know where she puts it because she is our smallest child yet!

Happy Birthday again Karlena! It was so much fun celebrating with you and I can't wait to see what this next year brings you!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy 1st Birthday Karlena!

I almost can't believe that my girl turned 1 on Tuesday! How is it that this year has gone by so quickly?! I wrote about her birth here last year.

Karlena you are a delight to have in our family. I can't imagine not having you here and how we went so long without some girl sweetness in our midst!

You are loving the decorations all over and find many things that you like to get into and play with!

You learned how to walk earlier than your brothers did - probably because you have to keep up with them!! :) But you have been walking strong for almost a month now.

You have such a funny personality -you are sweet and loving but also have a twinkle in your eye when you are doing something you know is naughty! 

You weighed only 20.2lbs at your appointment this morning and were 30 inches long! You are in the 35% for weight and 79% for height. But you are perfectly healthy and we are so thankful for that! 

I found this child's rocker at a garage sale this summer for $2 and Karlena loves it. She is just starting to try and climb on it herself...such a brave girl!

It is so cute because you will rock yourself once you are on and just smile away! 

If you can reach it - it will go in your mouth!!

You have 8 teeth now - 4 tops and 4 bottoms. And you love to show off your smile! 

You LOVE to eat and especially love feeding yourself. You make quite a mess each day but it is fun watching you enjoy the new things you try! 

Veggies like carrots and beans are 2 of your favorites and of course you enjoy potatoes too!

Karlena girl you are such a blessing. I look back at some of the posts I wrote about you and you were so small. Now you are growing and changing and I almost wish I could keep you at this stage it is so much fun!

But I can't wait to see what this next year will bring for you. I am so honored to be your mom!

Happy Happy Birthday!

Ugly Christmas Sweater and a "Praise Jesus"

Today at youth group the kids had an ugly sweater party and a white elephant exchange. I am sure Isaac thought he would get away with going in his "normal" clothes...but not when he has me as his mother! ;)

So I got a men's sweater from the thrift store and went to work!  I made the Christmas tree from another old sweater vest, used a saltine cracker for the trunk, added marshmallows as ornaments - topped with candy sprinkles, cotton balls for snow and made little presents! Gabriel even drew the star for me!!


Then I realized that it was missing just 1 thing....sound! :) So I went and got a bag of jingle bells and attached them so when he walked he jingled!!

And yes - he won first prize for ugliest sweater!! YAY!!


In other "news", Dominic has been making homemade crosses for each of the boys. They are all a little different and Elijah's is finished.


He calls it his "Praise Jesus"!!

Don't you love that?!

He was so excited that it was finished that he carried it around with him all night! I think he even took it to bed with him!

And it is perfect for this time of year because although we celebrate the birth of a Saviour - it inevitably points us to the cross, and the reason Jesus was sent here at Christmas in the first place. Hopefully as we all get busy these last few days we can stop and remember the sacrifice made for us so many years ago!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Heart Like Mary

Luke 1: 26-38 26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

I am the Lord's servant. Five amazing words from a young girl.

Do you ever sit and think about Mary during this Christmas season? Our focus - as it should be - is usually on the Christ-child. But today as I was driving to work I heard the song "Mary Did You Know"...and it got me thinking about this young mother and what it would be like to have a heart like hers.

We don't know for certain how old Mary was, but we do know that she was of "marrying age" - which could have been as young as 12-13 years old.  In addition to being very young she was a virgin - it was expected of her actually. In fact not being a virgin could mean that she wasn't "marriable" - is that a word?? And when her betrothed Joseph found out that she was pregnant he wasn't obligated to marry her.  But we know that God intervened in that part of the story as well.

Now I don't have a 12-13 year old girl (yet) but I know how selfish and immature I was at that age. Certainly not ready for marriage and definitely not ready to be the mother of the Son of God.

But let's look at Mary's response again.  "I am the Lord's servant."

Now knowing me I would have had a thousand questions. I probably would have protested and argued and asked that someone else be chosen instead. But not Mary. Yes she questions the angel a little, but not much and then gives herself over fully to the plan that God has for her.

"I am the Lord's servant."

Do you think she had any idea what was in store for her? That her husband Joseph would put her on a donkey when she was 9 months pregnant and travel with her many many miles, that she would have to give birth in a stable surrounded by animals because there wasn't any other place for her to be, and flee to Egypt to protect her child, and that she would have to stand in a crowd years later and watch her son be beaten and crucified.

Oh Mary did you know?.....

And yet somehow I think even if she did fully know she would have still answered the way that she did.

"I am the Lord's servant."

I feel challenged by this sweet girl from our Christmas story. Challenged to give myself fully to God as she did. To be the Lord's servant. Whatever that may cost me.

And yet I hold back a little at times because I am afraid of what I may be asked to do. I don't want to ride hundreds of miles on a donkey while 9 months pregnant (metaphorically speaking), I don't want to have to hide or flee for my safety and I don't want to be asked to make a difficult sacrifice - like losing a child.

But I want to be able to give myself to God - to live my faith life without regret, to be a servant. Really truly have a servant's heart. A heart like Mary's.

So that is my prayer during this season. That my heart may be a heart like Marys. That in all things I will say "I am the Lord's servant" - and then walk forward in complete faith of His plan for my life.

How about you? What is your focus this Christmas season? Will you join me in praying for a servant's heart....a heart like Mary's?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holiday Decorating

I am linking up with Gussy as a part of her {Inspiration Workshop - Holiday Decorating} today.  I shared here some of the decorating I had done, including our 2 big Christmas trees.

What I love about this time of year though is that my decorating doesn't have to end with the standard tree. In fact I have collected so many things over the years that I have little bits of Christmas cheer sprinkled throughout the house!

Since 1996 when Dominic and I were married I have been collecting these Biedermann Ornaments. They are very delicate and beautiful and handmade and I have them all hanging on an ornament tree. I may have to find a larger tree though because I have run out of room! Suggestions?!

I read about making an ornament wreath online - one example can be found here. One of the sites specifically recommended that before you start stringing the ornaments that you hot glue the tops on. DO THIS!! It was a mess when I tried to skip that step with the first few. Also find the skinniest wire hanger you can - Dominic had to twist it together for me because I didn't have the strength!

One of my favorite "fun" decorations is our purple fiber optic tree. Although it doesn't "match" our red and gold theme on our other trees - it is beautiful just the same and sits in the corner by my work desk adding some sparkle to my day!

These homemade items I got at a craft fair a few years ago that my friend Leigh from our old church made. "O Holy Night" is my favorite Christmas hymn so the picture frame was a must-have. And I love having little signs/sayings to put out throughout this time reminding me that this is a season of JOY.

Years ago I watched a decorating episode on Martha and she talked about "layering" your tree. This starts with putting something in the center of the tree and working your way out. So I have some poinsettia flowers that I put in all the holes deep in my trees and work my way out from there!

I made a pair of these little trees to sit on either side of our mantle. Nothing fancy but so fun!

And finally just another look at one of our trees at night. I LOVE the look of the trees at night and will miss that most when it is time to take them down! :)

Do you have some decorations you want to share? Jump over to Gussy's site and join the fun!

Gussy Sews Inspiration Workshop!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Our Christmas Letter

Well the cards have been mailed - for the most part...still working on a few - but I thought I would share some of our families Christmas letter with you here!

Merry Christmas from the new Smith home in Marshall, Minnesota! 2011 has been a year of many changes including our big move. If you are ever in the area we would love to have you come for a visit!! We are so blessed to be here in a wonderful neighborhood and community and really feel God has led us here.

Isaac, fifteen, is in the 9th grade! Marshall has a much bigger High School than Beresford, so it has been an adjustment for him. He is settling in and becoming more at home here. Isaac is involved with the Knowledge Bowl at MHS and they won their first competition last week! He will be traveling with his Grandpa Johnson to Haiti again after Christmas and is very excited to go back.

Gabriel, now eight, is in Mrs. Deutz’s 2nd grade class at Parkside Elementary. He loves math, reading and spelling the most and is doing well in school. He has made several friends in our new neighborhood and it has been fun having kids his age living so close. He loves learning new magic tricks and wants to be a magician!

Elijah has matured so much this past year and we see it most in his vocabulary. He talks all the time and enjoys exploring the world around him. He loves playing with tools and helping his daddy with projects. He has adjusted well in his new daycare and Markel has become like a member of our family. We feel so blessed to have someone so wonderful to love on our kids while we work.

Karlena joined our family on December 20th, 2010, and has been such a wonderful addition to our home. She is happy, calm and content and every bit adorable. She is in a race to keep up with her brothers and has recently started walking. She has an irresistible smile and brings that much needed “pink” into our “blue” home!

We are very thankful this year for all of God’s blessings in our family even when the changes are scary and things haven’t gone as we hoped or expected. We continue to look for ways to be examples of His grace and love to others. We pray that you will also find comfort in His presence and draw to Him in all things.

God Bless and Merry Christmas!
Dominic, Kristin, Isaac, Gabriel, Elijah and Karlena

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Helping Others and Giving Back

I wanted to take a little time today and introduce (or re-introduce) you to a couple of organizations that I believe strongly in.

On December 29th Isaac will be travelling with his grandpa(my dad) and a group of people from dad's church on a mission trip to Haiti.  This isn't Isaac's first trip and you may remember that he was there 2 Christmas's ago a week before the earthquake that hit Haiti.

I will be honest - it is a little scary letting him go again. But I also know that we can't let fear stop us from doing what God has planned for us! So we trust and we pray and we let go at times.

They will be traveling as a part of the Helping Hands for Haiti organization. I met the directors Dave and Tammy Oswald when Isaac travelled last time. They are wonderful, down-to-earth, giving people who have a passion for the people of Haiti.

photo credit: HH4H site

In their own words:
 "Welcome to Helping Hands for Haiti. We're a non-profit organization with a focus on three main areas of mission - Sharing the gospel of Jesus, loving His Children, and tangibly building strong communities. Because we are made up of everyday people just like you who understand it is our responsibility to give of ourselves, we encourage you to spend some time on our website to see how you can become more involved."

One way specifically you can help in supporting HH4H is by prayerfully considering a monthly $25 donation. 

"The Haitians realize that the best way for their children to have a chance is to give them an education. That’s why the Helping Hands for Haiti team is committed to the education of the Haitian children. In 2006 the construction of the new 6 room school in Jumelle was completed. This new school will help keep hope alive for this small community. We continue to support many children who's family is unable to afford their child's education expense thru our scholarship program ($25.00 per month or $300.00 per year per child). This program helps us pay for the teachers, provide school lunch, books, shoes, and uniforms."

When Isaac and the group goes at the end of this month they will be spending time at one of these schools helping with building improvements etc.

In addition HH4H has partnered with Kids Against Hunger SF to provide meals for the students attending their schools. Often times the meal provided at school is the only nutritious meal the kids get all day. (Can you imagine?)

via KAHSF site
Yep - that's my dad there with some kiddos who are getting their own bag of KAH food.

via KAHSF site

Look at that smile! And I love how he has a bag that has names signed all over it.  Often times when groups come in to pack they will sign the bags or the boxes so that the kids in Haiti can see that someone from South Dakota loved them.

In KAH's own words:
"Our revolutionary food package has been developed by some of the world's leading food scientists at Cargill, Pillsbury, General Mills and ADM. This one package provides six nutritionally-complete servings for only 25 cents per serving."

Isn't that amazing?! Please stop over at their site and read for yourself how this simple product is making HUGE changes in the lives of these children.

If you haven't ever been involved with a pack before consider getting a group together, raising the funds and doing it - it will be a blast I promise!!

I know that especially now in this economy it is difficult to give if you are in need yourself. I have been there…worried about how we will pay our bills and amazed when God provided…but my kids always went to school with warm clothes and fully bellies. I can’t think of the last time that I experienced true hunger and couldn’t do something about it.

Can you?

So even if you can’t give financially at this time please lift up these organizations and their volunteers in your prayers. Dave and Tammy…my parents – these are people that do the work as volunteers themselves - they are not paid "employees".
My parents doesn’t do it to get rich – they do it because God has provided for our family over the years and they wants to give back to others. They saw a need and they acted on it. The Sioux Falls KAH site is doing amazingly and it is thanks to the many, many people that volunteer their time and money to make sure that hungry kids are fed.

So whether it is for HH4H, KAH or some other organization consider taking sometime this Holiday season and give back. We have been given so much…haven't we?

** I was not asked by either organization to do this post...I just believe strongly in who they are and what they do that I had to share it here**

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas.....

Just a view of some of my favorite Christmas decorations...This is the artificial tree we have in our front room. I have always wanted a house where we could have a tree in the front window - so I am loving this!

I love my Willow Tree nativity set

And this nativity is one that my dad made - isn't it awesome?!

I got these Hurricane Nativity candle holders from Dayspring last year after Christmas - they are beautiful when it is dark and the candles are glowing. And today only (Dec 1st) Dayspring is offering a 40% off coupon code on this item - just use the code  INDAY1.

This is our real tree. We love the way it smells so fresh and piney, but dang those needles are SHARP! Dominic had on long sleeves and gloves when he helped me by finishing the lights.

A better view of the decorations. It is missing its topper - I haven't quite gotten to that yet!

Dominic built this amazing stocking holder for above our mantle. It turned out very beautiful and although I didn't see his vision when he started I am eating my words because I couldn't ask for anything nicer!

And of course Tinker - this morning he found a place in this bowl full of ornaments.

What are some of your favorite Christmas decorations?

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