Friday, December 17, 2010
We have had some really great discussions around the Advent wreath, during family devotions, while gazing at the nativity, or near the Christmas tree. There is so much symbolism...so many reminders of why we believe what we believe, why we do what we do, why we hope.
And it inspires.
I mean, what other time of year would you peek into the bathroom and find this:
Or be sitting at the breakfast table and be treated to this:
I really love Advent!
In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Our God, heaven cannot hold him,
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When he comes to reign;
In the bleak midwinter
A stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him —
Give my heart.
--"In the Bleak Midwinter" by Christina Rosetti
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Today, we did the decorating together. (I admit that I did a bit of re-arranging after the younger helpers moved on to other activities!)
Later, in the afternoon while Jadon napped, I invited Andrew, Ethan, and Abby to help me at the grocery store. Look who I brought home!
Thursday, December 2, 2010
One year ago, Andrew was uncomfortable with most forms of physical affection (except hand-holding or kind of leaning into a person). He has come a long way in the last 14 months, but he still usually comes backwards or sideways into hugs and regularly shies away from kisses. When he receives a gift or is excited about something, he will sometimes give a very agressive squeeze around one's middle, but his head is usually ducked, and it's more like a tackle than a "normal" hug.
This morning I got a hug.
Not overly agressive.
A wonderfully affectionate, natural, just-because-we're-family, kind of hug.
What a great way to start a day!
Friday, November 26, 2010
Advent has the potential to be such a meaningful time. We are seeking to be intentional about how we approach this season of the year. Here are a few things that we have been doing to prepare...
1) Our family advent wreath is ready for mealtime lightings.
2) I created these banners to hang at the front of our church during the Advent and Christmas seasons.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
All of my children get excited about hard-boiled eggs. That makes me happy since eggs are a relatively easy and inexpensive source of protein. However, most of my children prefer to eat only the white part of the egg, leaving sticky yellow yolk balls behind while asking for more eggs. That isn't particularly pleasing, especially when they are coming home in lunch bags, smelling less than appealing. I tried regular deviled eggs, but the creamy yellow yolks were still not well-received. When searching online for a recipe for an international potluck, I came across instructions for making simple curried eggs. These basically add a little scoop of red curry paste and mayo to the smashed yolks of hard-boiled eggs. Then the mixture is reinserted into the hollow of the egg white. These, my kids get so excited about!
2) Screen-time Tickets
This idea was passed along from a neighbor friend. Basically, I printed off some "tickets" that the kids can earn. Each one is good for 15 minutes of screen-entertainment (TV, movie, computer games, wii, etc.). These tickets have been great. They have encouraged helpfulness around the house and have enabled what we feel to be very reasonable limits for screen-time activities. I say: "Hey, guys, it is time to turn it off--you used up your ticket time," after 15 minutes, and they actually do it without any complaining or badgering!
A while ago, I got a book from the library--something like 365 Rainy Day Activities for Preschoolers--and it had this ingenious idea in it. We've used it at our house before. It can literally provide hours of fun. All you need is some styrofoam blocks (in our case, left over from some packaging), a golf tee, and a small hammer. Over and over and over again, Jadon and Abby hammered in their "nail," pulled it back out, and started over again!
If you like these ideas as much as me, feel free to borrow them yourself!
Monday, November 15, 2010
Hope you've enjoyed some small blessing today.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to share a testimony about our family during a children's ministry event aimed to encourage parents as they seek to nurture their children in faith. The main focus of the event was "family blessings." Honestly, this ritual is something that we sort of fell into, rather than something we intentionally developed. Now, though, we are purposeful about keeping it up, because we believe it is planting small seeds of faith in our children and also keeps us as parents properly-oriented toward God as the True Author of our children's lives.
Our story goes like this:
The next week, I stood in a bathroom, staring with disbelief at TWO pink lines on a little stick!
Yes, Abby was on her way. So, while we waited for news about a Ukrainian orphan, we also prepared for the arrival of an unexpected blessing. Abby made her appearance on October 8, 2005.
In those first weeks after Abby’s birth, I remember being in awe of her. I specifically remember one night, rocking her in the darkness of her room and thinking about what a tremendous gift from God she was. But, I realized, there was a danger there, too. Do you see it? I recognized in myself a lurking temptation to “own” her too much. To mistake my love for her as the best love for her. As God’s Spirit spoke to mine in the quietness of that night, I was reminded that she was his first and foremost. So, as I tucked her back into her crib, I kissed her soft cheek and whispered, “Good night, beautiful treasure, made for God!”
It stuck. Every night…okay, more times per night than I might have preferred…I tucked baby Abby into bed with those same words: “Good night, beautiful treasure, made for God.” In my mind, those words reflect Deuteronomy 7:6, which says: “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.”
That winter, we received word that it was time to head to Ukraine. So we packed up 4-month-old Abby and headed over an ocean to find a son. On February 27, 2006, Ethan joined the Tapper family. I remember pondering potential bedtime ritual phrases for him. I wanted it to be something that resonated with his Ukrainian roots, was true to him as his own unique little person, and pointed him toward his future in Christ. We started calling him “Prince of the Kingdom.” Even years later, I believe that Ethan struggles to overcome patterns of thinking that he developed when he was a neglected infant and undernourished orphan in Ukraine. I continue to pray that he will internalize an understanding of himself as a true prince—prepared to do great things in God’s Kingdom! I often think of the verse from Romans 8:15—“For you, Ethan, did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.”
Fast forward a few years. We are now officially crazy. We chose to change jobs, move to a different country, pursue further education, renovate a home, and—just to make sure we weren’t bored—oh, yeah, let’s add two boys from Africa to our family mix.
Of course, there was a lot going on with getting those boys home and integrating them into our family life, but determining appropriate bedtime catch phrases was a family priority. It didn’t take long to figure out Jadon’s special blessing! He has joy, joy, joy, joy—down in his heart! We call our youngest: “Joy of the Father’s Heart!” He is a daily reminder to me of Zephaniah 3:17, which says, “For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”