Friday, December 30, 2011

2011- It's a Wrap

I've been doing some serious wrapping over the past couple of weeks. Well, Mary Grace has been doing some serious wrapping over the last couple of weeks. She loves to wrap presents, and I love that she loves to wrap presents, so she handled the lion's share of that Christmas task. I did do a couple of hours worth myself - enough to make me really appreciate Mary Grace. With all this wrapping going on, it seems only fitting to wrap up 2011 here on the blog with a look back at the gift it was.

I'm always amazed at what we all experience in a year. And like I hear expressed in most all your cards and updates, I don't know where the time has gone and I can't believe it got to where it (and we) are right now- before I even blinked. I've decided to let our pictures speak this year since we've decided on a bit of a different format with our annual letter.

Black eyed pea soup and sparkling grape juice usher in 2011 (Hannah celebrated w/friends)

In January,  Lou & I heard Eric Mataxas speak about his powerful book, Bonhoeffer

Video and picture cannot accurately portray our February blizzard

Mary Grace & her friend, Grace, at Classical Conversations

Spring finally sprung and David hit the links for Bolivar High School

And Lou & I followed him there anything colder than spring sports?

Faith jumping her way to happiness in track

Elizabeth doing the soccer thing for BHS

Mary Grace kicking the ball around too

Mary Grace & I took her teenage mother/daughter trip to St. Louis. A must see: The City Museum

A visit to Squeeze Inn when my brother & family surprised my mom with a visit on Mother's Day

Never far from my mom - her iPad
Happy 85th!!

All dressed up and somewhere to go...the end of year Athletic Celebration

In June, we went to Hawaii!!!

One second after this was taken, Elizabeth made a "I hate coconut milk" face.

Lou and Faith enjoying a meal on Oahu
We serve an amazing God

Hiked to some movie sets behind our house with our dear friends, the Forristers.
When my brother, Andy & his family visit, we always have a party

Poor Hannah. She had to work in Aspen, Colorado, this summer. Poor me. I visited her.

Luke worked at The Potter's House in Fayetteville. What up.
David enjoyed Kanakuk for the last time as a camper....

Elizabeth on a mission trip to Toledo

Faith loved on those Toledo kids too!

Mary Grace is into tennis big time...and so are we!

We are a biking family. Hannah needs an Arkansas jersey too. Woo pig sooie!

David's a senior...and a nerd - at least on nerd day.

More nerds...spirit week is big at our house

A little '70s spirit. I told them this is exactly what I looked like back when

Dressing up on game day during volleyball
Game! We get double the fun in this sport!

Carving party...

After 23 yrs and over 1800 babies, Lou is hanging up his OB hat. Pictured here with John, Annie, and Josie Thomas

And then, it's basketball season. Elizabeth is tenacious!

Could you please jump a little higher, David? 

A festive holiday with my brother, Keith and family

That's a lot of pictures. That's a lot of living, and this represents just a snippet of our life. And before you think that we are all smiles all the time like it looks in all these pictures, let me set the record straight. We are not. We are just like everybody else. We can hurt each other's feelings with the best of them. But we are here for each other for the long haul, wrapping our arms and hearts around each other, loving no matter what. No matter how hard it is some days.

All is a gift from the hand of God. We are thankful to Him for the days that made up the gift of 2011. And we trust Him and look forward to unwrapping 2012.

Blessings to you and yours!

Thursday, December 22, 2011


I am blessed to have my brother, Keith, and three of his daughters, visiting this Christmas. God has blessed him with a quick, clever, witty brain, and so our house has been filled with lots of laughter since he arrived. Even though his comedic side does enjoy much exercise, his serious, thoughtful side is in just as good shape. Because words mean a lot to both of us, he'll often call me and share thoughts and ideas that are spawned from his Bible study or other readings.

About a month ago, he called with a just such a thought - one that I told him I wanted to share on my blog around Christmas because one of the words in his thought, Immanuel, is only typically heard around this time of the year. He was excited to convey the following with me.

Jesus traded manual labor for Immanuel labor.

This is the kind of statement that I can chew on all day. It reminds me that Jesus really did do manual labor for 30 years of his life. That everyday work was an integral part of preparing him for the work required of him during the last three years of his life.  I try to imagine what that looked like. A Google search yielded some artistic interpretations of that.

It also reminded me of one of my favorite scenes from The Passion of the Christ

He was a man. He did manual labor.

But that wasn't all he was, and that wasn't all he did. He was also God. God with us - Immanuel. And he was prepared to do what only Immanuel could do - die for our sins.

He became Immanuel on that very first Christmas.

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:23

God born one of us. God working among us. God dying for us.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Labor of Love

When Mary was a little girl, she undoubtedly anticipated getting married and having a baby someday. What she couldn't possibly have anticipated, was the way those events happened.

My niece, Joanna, introduced me to a song that speaks to some of the realities that may have been present when God drew his first mortal breath. I'm including the words and a you tube video of Jill Phillips singing Andrew Peterson's affecting Christmas song.

 Labor Of Love :
It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David's town

And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother's hand to hold

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love

Noble Joseph at her side
Callused hands and weary eyes
There were no midwives to be found
In the streets of David's town
In the middle of the night

So he held her and he prayed
Shafts of moonlight on his face
But the baby in her womb
He was the maker of the moon
He was the Author of the faith
That could make the mountains move

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love
For little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
It was a labor of love

As I've listened to this song this year, one line has stood out to me. 

Little Mary full of grace with the tears upon her face.

I've been pondering what being "full of grace" means and looks like. I'm heightened to this awareness since reading Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts. 
In it, she reminds us of what the Bible teaches - that everything we are, experience, feel, know, etc., is grace, straight from/through the hand of God. Even events that cause tears upon our face. Hard grace, as she puts it.  I do not pretend to grasp that, and I struggle to embrace it when tears are streaming down my face - or the faces of my children or friends.

I wonder if Mary struggled to embrace it? We are told that "Mary treasured up all these things pondering them in her heart."( Luke 2:19)   If you treasure something, you know there's something deep, even profound, going on. It's not casual or small. It's worth pondering or working toward to get to its core - to get to where the real meaning is buried. And since this pondering requires labor, often intense labor, we, by working toward it in the first place, are declaring that we trust the one who first let our spirit know that real, lasting treasure is to be had - even in this hard place. 

Such mystery. We can't understand it fully.  So, we ponder and trust, trust and ponder, longing to more fully embrace the treasure of all the grace of God - like Mary did. Little Mary, full of grace, with the tears upon her face.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gingerbread House!

Three years ago, Mary Grace asked if we could build a gingerbread house. Wanting to get the fun mom award for once, I agreed.  Never having attempted it, we googled how to do it. We found an amazing video that we've been known to watch just for fun because we love the gentle "you can do this and it is so much fun" manner of the lady, India Gaylean, - and we love her beautiful hair. She is thorough and convincing, and she makes an adorable house from scratch, all the while keeping her kitchen immaculate. It's irresistible.

We made a great house that first year, and we did enjoy it so much that we made one last year, and we built #3 this past week. A possible suggestion we might make to her instructions would be to keep your dough in the refrigerator as much as possible, even during the process. Cold dough is sooo much easier to work with. And we also baked ours on parchment paper, which made transferring to the cooling rack effortless.

In the video, India also describes royal icing, which is the "glue" that holds your house together. What amazing stuff it is. It works like a charm. This whole process is time consuming and messy, but it really is so much fun! And, I get to watch Mary Grace's creativity ooze from every pore as she brings her house to life.
Our house this year is our most structurally challenged.
Royal Icing saved the day.

Gummy orange slices make perfect shutters

Decorating was part of our Classical Conversations Christmas celebration

Mary Grace built a chimney out of round pretzels.
I thought this was so clever.

You HAVE to have gum drops on a gingerbread house

Annie, Mary Grace and Grace

Will vanHoornbeek used twizzlers and pretzels to make a sheep pen

Shaun Evans' frosted mini wheat roof! 

Another way to use the frosted mini wheats

A rice crispy treat molded into a Christmas tree
and trimmed. Mary Grace saw this technique
on a cooking show.

Pretzel rods = logs

Mary Grace's 2011 Gingerbread house

Classical Conversations of Bolivar

This tradition is only three years old at our house, but I think it's one we'll keep.