Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Jesse Tree - An Advent Activity

I am always on the lookout for ways to focus me and my family on what God really did at Christmas. A few years ago, I came across the Jesse Tree. Even though my kids are older, we still do this Advent activity, most of the time reading the scripture and decorating our Jesse Tree before or after one of our meals.

The Jesse Tree is unique for a couple of reasons. First, it's a daily devotion from November 30- December 25. Secondly, its purpose is to highlight the plan, purpose, and faithfulness of God in bringing Christ to earth that first Christmas beginning at creation and weaving its way through the Old Testament - always pointing to Jesus. And we always want to point to Jesus.

The main source I used is found at the Reformed Church of America's website. There, you'll find everything you need to make your tree. We still use the paper ones we colored and cut out that first year we did it, and tape them to a green tree we make out of construction paper.

But there are instructions/ideas on the site to make fancier ornaments and something more than a construction paper tree if you want.

I think you'll find this activity a beautiful, conversation starting activity. But just as an aside, let me say that my children aren't always excited about staying a little longer at the table to do this. They sometimes make it clear that they have places to go, and people to see. Let me encourage you to press on through any huffing and puffing or wiggly kids you have and put these truths before your kids. God promises in Isaiah 55:11 that his word will not return to him void.

so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

If you've done a Jesse Tree before, and have any thoughts or helps, I'd love to hear them and pass them along. As I finish, know that I publish this post with a prayer for you, my readers - that this Christmas will be more full of Christ than any you've known before.

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his  roots shall bear fruit. Isaiah 11:1

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Today is Thanksgiving 2011. As I was reading my Bible, praying, and thinking about this day and its meaning, I thought of Psalm 100.

When I was a child, I memorized two Psalms - Psalm 23 and Psalm 100. I have always heard Psalm 100 referred to as the "thankful" Psalm. So, this morning, at least 40 years past that first time of hearing Psalm 100 and memorizing it, I turn to it to re-read, to re-remind myself of the truth in those words. Truth, that someone, somewhere in my childhood, thought was so important that they encouraged me to memorize it. How thankful I am for that! Those words are in my heart and soul.

I want to share those words with you today. These are from the King James Version. It was what I read when I was young, and it's these beautiful, fancy words I hear today.

Psalm 100

 1Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
 2Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
 3Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
 4Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
 5For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Follow Through Friday - Adages

Two weeks and two days ago, I began a little water experiment. I stated that two of my reasons for doing it were 1) I needed to drink more water and 2) this seemed like a task with a high rate of success.

#1 is still true and #2 proves the adage, things are not always what they seem.

I was successfully waterlogged until the first Sunday of the month. I had figured out that if I downed 40 oz before noon, I had no problem finishing off the last 32 oz before bed. A morning at church messed with that, and I never caught up the rest of that day. Monday, with Classical Conversations all day, proved challenging, but 72 oz made it into my system.  Tuesday was also successful, but then, Wednesday, I attended the morning production of SBU's The Sound of Music. It lasted 3 hours. It was a Sunday morning deja vu. Two failures in 7 days. This was not a good sign. How could I not do something as easy as drink water?

It's now 18 days into the month and I have drunk more than I normally do, but I have not downed 72 oz every day. I'm feeling pretty lame about that, but there's nothing I can do about it now. Or said another way:

There's no use crying over spilled milk.
And when you're blogging on the world wide web about a failed experiment:
Bad news travels fast.
I know what most of you are thinking about now. "I could easily succeed at a similar H2O experiment."
Don't judge a man til you've walked a mile in his boots.
And, in my boots, I should have remembered:
Don't bite off more than you can chew. (or, Don't pour more than you can swallow:)
And as I type this, I know that:
Hindsight is better than foresight.
I also need to not let this sour me toward trying to drink the needed amounts of water for the rest of the month because:
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
If I try again, and I fail, I'll feel more lame.
Nothing hurts like the truth.
Rome wasn't built in a day,
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
And yet:
Old habits die hard, 
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. (Scary)

My good intentions are going to see fruition, because:
You're never too old to learn.

And I've learned something, possibly the most true adage in this situation:

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.

Note: If your interested, here's the link to 101 American English Proverbs.

Also, on another Follow Through Friday note, I actually did work on my sampler this week! Woohoo! Next week is Thanksgiving, so my focus will be on creating a beautiful, warm atmosphere in my home. I hope I can curl up close to the fire and sew a few more Xs.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Blog-less but Not Lifeless

I am finally sitting in my blogging chair for the first time in almost a week. Yes, there is a preferred chair where this body sits while these fingers type the words your eyes are reading. It's just been one of those weeks - not all bad, just busy. Here's a bit of a rundown of my week since my post on November 10th.

Thursdays are special days in our lives because it is officially "Grab Grandma and Grub" day. My 85 year old mom lives alone, and, as she would say, "does amazingly well for the shape she's in." However, her driving days are done. So on Thursday, I take her to Kay's Shady Nook to get her hair done. After that, we support a local restaurant for lunch. This week, after dropping her off at 1:45ish, I took a few breaths before I hit Spoiled Salon for my 2 hour stint of coiffed care that happens every 8 weeks or so. Check. Home for a bite of supper and to say "hello!" to Hannah, who buzzed in for the weekend, and then off to our church for 3 hrs of clothes' sorting in preparation for our church's clothing drive. Home. Bed. No blogging.

Friday dawned a normal school day, and Mary Grace and I hit it hard during the morning hours. But with Hannah home, we had to do something fun too, and we spent a couple of hours after noon wandering through the Christmas open houses here in Bolivar. We then made a quick run to the store to buy tofu (a first!) for a new dessert I was trying before heading home to make supper.
Chocolate Mousse Fudge Cake: (Mousse = tofu)
Supper for 8 was served before heading to SBU's most excellent production of The Sound of Music with the entire clan. Home. Bed. No blogging. (Follow through Friday deadline missed)

Saturday brought more fun opportunities. I had signed up a couple of months back to help with the first annual Polk County K-Life Peacock Tail Trail Run at Dunnegan Park. Two of the girls had signed up to run too, so we were up and at the park by 8 a.m.
Elizabeth has trouble waking up to run a 5K...and she was cold
Mary Grace, Elizabeth, Rachel Custer

Mary Grace - definitely a 2 thumbs up kind of girl

Feeling good!
After a successful couple of hours there, we hit another open house, which served complimentary white beans and corn bread (our lunch) - before heading home. Everybody went to the big soccer game at 1 p.m. that our high school boys played in but me. I was feeling a bit under the weather, so I crashed on the couch for 20 minutes or so before I tackled mail and laundry. At 3:15, Hannah and I left for Springfield to attend the district choir concert that Faith was singing in. We were leaving Springfield by 6ish, picked up some Papa Murphy's, and back to Bolivar for dinner. I was really dragging at this point, and fell asleep in the living room by 9. So, no blogging.

Sunday, up and at 'em for Sunday School and church. El Rodeo for lunch, then home to prepare my lessons for Classical Conversations on Monday. I worked on that for a couple of hours, and then we headed to church to help put the building back in order after the clothing drive. We went straight from there to small group. From there to the grocery for Faith's birthday cake fixins, and then home for Amazing Race with family. Lou and I then readied the house for Faith's birthday. Check. Bed. No blogging.

Monday, I made Faith's favorite breakfast, biscuits and gravy, to start our day. Then, it was off to work. Monday is my day to work...outside the home, at least for a couple of hours. From 9-12, I actually attend the Foundations class of Classical Conversations of Bolivar with Mary Grace. For more insight on the Classical model of education and Classical Conversations in particular, here's a helpful link. In the afternoon, I'm the tutor for the Essentials class at CC. That time and those students are a real joy to me. And I have learned far more than I've taught.
My Essentials class from last year
Jay, Will, Grace, Mary Grace
After class, I swung by my mom's to take care of a couple of things for her, then home to warm up food for the fam before I left for a friend's birthday supper before the big Drury- SBU game. (We are celebrating Faith's birthday Thanksgiving weekend). After the SBU game, we came home to sing Happy Birthday to Faith and devour some Chocolate Eclair Cake. Luke skyped us so he could wish Faith HB face to face. Then...bed. No blogging.
Happy 17th, Faith!
Which brings us to today - Tuesday. Another full day of school, volleyball details for a club team I'm trying to help start, Bible Study with some friends, a quick stop at the grocery, home for meal prep and a couple of loads of laundry. Right after supper, at 6, Lou and I attended Faith's induction into the National Honor Society. That was a brief ceremony, so unbelievably, I have an evening to breathe, catch up, and blog!

It's really crazy how much I enjoy blogging. My kids might throw the words obsessed or addicted if they were pushed to describe me and my blog. I'm very glad that I'm sitting in my blog chair typing away. But you know what I love even more than blogging? Living life with the ones I love. And even I know that's way more important.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gum and Parenting

I've witnessed my share of bad parenting over the years. More than once, I've turned a corner in a store to witness a parent and child interaction that makes me cringe. And I have my share of bad parenting moments - moments I wish I could take back, or moments I wish I could do over, not because I necessarily did anything bad, but because I was distracted or "too busy" to really pay attention.

Tonight, though, I happily witnessed the polar opposite. Walking down the hall at church with my friend, Jeremy Scowden, I was in earshot when his 3 year old daughter, Eisley, greeted him with the her big news, "I've got gum for you, Daddy!!"

He, just as excitedly, said, "You do!?! Cool! Thank you!
Kim, Jeremy's wife, was there to cheer the whole scene on too. We had one big gum party right then.

Jeremy and Kim were Exhibit A for excellent parenting. Years ago, Lou and I heard some parenting advice that resonated with us. Match your child's excitement. As soon I saw Kim and Jeremy act as they did, and after we finished rejoicing over Eisley's gum, I asked them if they knew what they just did had an official  title. They didn't, so I proceeded to verbally blog about what Lou and I had heard. Kim was very gracious and let me ramble on, all the while we were enjoying Eisley's completely unselfconscious romping around her parents' legs in complete trust and happiness.

This whole scene brought me joy. And I wanted to share my joy with you. Because joy, just like gum, is meant to be shared.
The sweet Scowden Family

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Note to My Sons...

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Mextaxas is a powerful book.
I've made notes in the flyleaf of the passages that have impacted me. One of those notes has the words, "for my funeral" beside it, guiding my family to the page and paragraph that makes my soul say "yes! yes!" Metaxas skillfully weaves a moving story of a beautiful life in a deeply ugly time.

I thought of my sons as I read this book. I wondered how God may use them as they begin to face the adult issues of their generation. After I read one paragraph in particular, I found myself praying for my boys, "Don't be that guy."

The paragraph I'm referring to is on page 348. To set the stage, Hitler has invaded Poland and now, the rest of Europe must decide how to respond. Up to this time, Neville Chamberlain, England's Prime Minister, had been known for his appeasement of the increasingly aggressive Hitler. Metaxas describes it like this.

It now only remained for Britain to declare war. But Hitler and von Ribbentrop doubted the British would do so. As with Austria and Czechoslovakia, they would probably prefer a "diplomatic" solution. Indeed, for two days the British engaged in diplomatic back and forth, but at some point someone lent Chamberlain a vertebra, for against Hitler's calculations, on Sunday, Great Britain declared war.

After I read this, I prayed that my boys would not be like Neville Chamberlain. That nobody would have to lend them a vertebra.

I have no idea what my sons are going to face tomorrow, let alone their adult future. But I know what I am praying for them today. I'm praying that they have the courage to do what's right even if they are up against a Hitler.
Luke and David

Friday, November 4, 2011

Follow Through Friday - A Poem

I feel like writing a poem for you
And I hear a forgotten theme.
It's Friday, and I should be following through
But I'm not, or so it would seem.

Truly I am, in one twist of the phrase,
I'm drinking my water on cue.
200+ ounces in the last 3 days
It's the best I've been able to do.

Gulp down, quaff, guzzle, sip.
My mouth does more than just drink.
Adam's ale frolics as it passes my lips
And down to my stomach sinks.

Liquid success! I hear some of you say,
But what of the sampler left lonely?
It patiently waits for the time and the day
When I turn to its stitches only.

Maybe this is the week, this is the time
When my hands touch that cloth yet again.
I hope, or the words of this short silly rhyme
Will mock, and I'll seek a new spin.

So welcome back, old Follow Through Friend.
We'll try this journey once more.
Of tasks small and large I'll try to attend
And my reader, I'll try not to bore.

If you are new to my blog, and have no idea what a Follow Through Friday is, click here. And, if you have no idea about my 200+ oz of water, click here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My H2O Experiment

My recent 31 Day blogging adventure is messing with me. It's got me thinking about other activities I can participate in for a month block. I really like the bookends that the beginning and the end of a month create. A month is long enough to be challenging but short enough to avoid tedium. As Goldilocks would say, "It's just right."

I don't plan on reporting everyday on my activity like I just did with my 31 day series. I'll report at will, but at least once a week. So, what do I plan on doing every day for a month?

Drink at least 9 cups of water per day.

I picked this for a couple of reasons. First, most nights, right before I go to bed, I find I am so thirsty. I start guzzling water at that point, trying to make up for all I didn't drink during the day. Secondly, drinking water seems like a highly achievable goal. At least I thought it was. I actually started writing this blog post before November 1. I am finishing it on the evening of November 1, and this is what is keeping me company - and mocking me.
My last 15 oz that I need to drink today
I settled on the 9 cup quota based on information off of the Mayo Clinic website. Here's the pertinent paragraph from their "How much water a day" page.

So how much fluid does the average, healthy adult living in a temperate climate need? The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day.

I realize the word water is not mentioned in that paragraph. The emphasis is on fluid. But I'm wanting to specifically increase my water consumption, so I'm tweaking their recommendation for my month long H2O experiment. I also googled the benefits of drinking water. You can check them out here.  Number 3 is my favorite.

I don't plan on altering in any major way my eating and exercising habits. And, I'll drink any other liquids that I want.  But after today, I realize there's not going to be a ton of room for any other liquids. Heck, the way I feel right now, there's not going to be a ton of room for anything, so maybe benefit #1 could make an appearance. That would be welcome.

So, here goes nothing, er, water - at least 72 oz of it for me every day this month.