What's in a Name?

Ecstasy (n)- 2. Excessive joy; rapture; a degree of delight that arrests the whole mind; joy may rise to ecstasy. (Websters 1828 Dictionary)
Doldrums (n)- A sate of inactivity or stagnation.(Dictionary.com)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top Books

The books we read during our life will impact us in some shape or form. This being said, it is important to choose wisely! Out of the 40 books I read in 2011 I wanted to share the top 6 that had the greatest effect on my life:
This has got to be one of my favorite books, ever. It's so encouraging for my season of life and current walk! If you're a daughter still at home or you want to know more about what it's like to live fruitfully at home before marriage, this is a must read!
This book is a necessity for every Christian woman- I think one of our biggest problems is an ungrateful heart toward the Lord!
Our purpose is to glorify the Lord AND enjoy Him forever. This book is about how to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever!
Most people, in some form or other, have a fear of man. This is directly the opposite of what we are commanded to do in fearing God, rather than man. A much-needed change for this girls' heart!
Surrender to the will of God- it's the best thing we can do!
Just the title of this book convicts me! I think I may make it an annual or bi-annual read. It's worth being reminded of what our lives are all about! (Plus, it's a John Piper book!)

So, what were your top reads for this past year? What's on your reading list for 2012??

Monday, December 26, 2011

Monday Musings: Resolutions

In consideration of two things (one, being my last post on examining things and two being the upcoming start of a new year), my mind tends to dwell on that of goals and resolutions.

Annually, during the last week of December, I reflect on the year past and think about the year to come. I often read through my journal of the past year, look through my notes from my morning devotions and browse through photos. This helps recall to my memory all of the events and the lessons I've experienced and learned over the last 365 days. I've wrestled with this a little bit recently, wondering if it's a waste of time or too much self-focus.

Goals and resolutions can get out of hand. We can become so fixated on our own sanctification that we neglect those around us. This is pride and self-worship. But, this kind of reflection and resolution is not the type I have in mind. My aim in musing over the past year is three-fold:

1. To see the hand of the providence of God in my life and to give Him praise and thanksgiving for it.
2. To seal in my heart the lessons that the Lord has taught me.
3. To seek to walk in the ways that the Lord would have me to walk in for the upcoming year.

So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
~ Psalm 90:12

John Piper says that at the end of each year, he looks upon it as if it were his last. He ponders which things were a blessing and which things were not done well. He reflects on his satisfactions and his regrets. And then, he thinks about the upcoming year as a gift from God; another opportunity to live with less regrets. I think that this year, I'll do the same. I'll prayerfully muse on this past year and seek the Lord's counsel on how He'd wish me to live in 2012. I want to set goals that will glorify the Lord, each with a scriptural reason as to why this is a goal.

Therefore He says, "Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light." See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil.
~ Ephesians 5:14-16

So with that being said, what are your thoughts on goals and resolutions? Will you be making any for 2012?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Nollaig Shona Duit!

11:30 pm. I sit in front of the Christmas tree sipping chamomile tea and listening to the dark silence of the house. Everyone is sleeping and the lights on the tree are the sole illuminate of the room. They cast shadows and incite thoughts.

Gifts. What's the purpose? We spend profuse amounts of time and money buying things, making sure we get the right ones and cover everyone who needs to be given something. If this stood alone and had no significance behind it, it would be wasted time and energy indeed. But, it isn't. It is a symbolic gesture. A gesture of love that reflects the adoration of the Magi for the new Baby King and a reminder to us of the best gift we will ever receive. The gift that extends to eternity and never fades, from the God who is love and gave us His most precious thing, though we aren't worthy. It reminds me of a story by O. Henry about a young couple who both sold their most precious possessions to buy a gift for each other, but was done with joy and out of great love:

The Magi, as you know, were wise men- wonderfully wise men- who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts, these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

To differ with Mr. Henry, the inventor of the Christmas gift was the Lord God, Himself. If we think of this when giving presents to those we care about, then maybe we will:

...on Christmas day.... remember Who made lame beggars walk and blind men see. (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)

If giving a gift doesn't mean this to us, then maybe we should re-think the tradition. Or, better yet, change our attitudes about giving....

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store."
"Maybe Christmas... perhaps.... means a little bit more!"

Jesus. Jesus is the reason we give gifts. God's pure love is the reason we sing carols and bake cookies to give to friends. Our total depravity, transcended by God's unfathomable and indelible mercy is why we celebrate this season. The shadow of the cross and the joy of the tomb should cast itself on the manger and in our hearts.

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
~ Isaiah 9:6

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmastime Festivities

We had an early, Thanksgiving snow this year- Marshall forgot to put away his tractor!
The cookie-consuming table at the Shivelys
(Tiersa-R, Ethan and Jo-Jo-L)
Jo-Jo got a little ambitious with the sprinkles!!
Brielle making gingerbread snowmen...
... and taking a self-portrait. My, is she talented! : )
The Bartons' scrumptious peanut butter blossoms.

Sweet Amanda helping Jo-Jo decorate the cookies.
Lovely Ruthie hard at work!
Nabby on her first Christmas caroling adventure!
Judah- SO cute!
Titus could barely move in his snow outfit- everytime he bent over to get something, he couldn't get back up again!!! haha!
Ruthie looking very natural holding miss Abigail Rose.
Emmy-Lou in the process of decapitating a snowman....
Part of our caroling crew!
No caption necessary... oh,wait, I just created one.... ooops!
"God bless us, every one."
Making cookies with Pip and Ti
More dough was consumed than cookies created...
Marshall's creation

We'll just call these "artsy" sugar cookies!
I do hope you all have enjoyed your various Christmas festivities and traditions this year!

Monday, December 19, 2011

That's What I Like About You....

This is a guest post by my mom. It's for my father as part of the 12 days of Christmas she's giving him. Enjoy all, especially YOU Dad! : )

#1. I love your smiling eyes, even when I've annoyed you.
#2. I love the way you call me during the day just to hear a nice voice on the phone.
#3. I love your stories especially the "blueberry spitball" one.
#4. I love the way you always say thank you for the food I make for you.
#5. I love the way you look at me even when I'm not even "looking good"
#6. I love that you are a man of integrity and are respected by many especially me!
#7. I love that you read God's Word to us every day and try to live what it says.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Bring Back the Andrews Sisters!!

This is so much fun! My favorite version of Jingle Bells- reminiscent of Bing Crosby and the Andrews sisters!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Musings: Tradition

In the musical The Fiddler on the Roof, the show opens with a number called "traditions." The main character, talking to the audience asks the question, "And why do we do this? Let me tell you..... I don't know." It's a question I've been asking myself, as we fly through the holiday season.

These past few months the Lord has been challenging me on a deeper level, to examine the things I do on a daily basis; to think about my habits and tendencies in light of scripture. Along with this, He's been directing me to re-evaluate the traditions of men that I take for granted and do out of pattern and often without a thought. We have become so saturated in our culture and in humanism, that our traditions are often of men and of evil origin- which not only is displeasing to our great God, but a waste of the time He has given us. I would encourage you to join me in this and do as scripture says:

Test all things; hold fast what is good.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:21

What traditions have you been lackadaisically following that may not be honoring to the Lord or that are honoring to the Lord and you've just been ignorant of why you've done it?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Our Fall Trip: Mount Vernon

History is so interesting! I enjoy reading history and watching historical movies, listening to people tell stories about their experiences in the past and how different events shaped the life they they lead now. This being said, it was such a delight to visit our First President's estate, Mount Vernon, in Virginia.

Do you think Ethan will be as tall as Mr. President?
Mom and Dad on the front veranda of Mount Vernon.
It boasts a beautiful view of the Potomac River.
Ethan and I at the back of Mount Vernon- in our day, it would've been considered the front as it's the side with the "driveway".
This would be considered the front of the mansion- the side facing the river.
Huge tree!! Probably older than Washington himself!
Ethan racing to win the hay maze!
This was Washington's sixteen-sided barn. It acted as a sort of wheat grinder as he strapped his plow horses in and then walked around and around until the wheat was ground.

Isn't it a gorgeous house? We were able to tour the inside, but not able to take any photos. : ( I guess you'll have to visit it yourself to see!
I can't remember the number, but in Washington's day, they caught hundreds and hundreds of fish in the river! He had a booming home economy!
Lady Martha Washington. This lady was impersonating Mrs. Washington and she did such a nice job that we could've just sat there and listened to her sing-song story voice all day! I do remember her saying one thing:
"My mother always taught me never to hurry. A young lady ought never to be hurrying here or there, for it implies that she had been doing something she ought not to have."
Washington was a pioneering farmer- he was innovative and hard working, but loved farming. It was his main hobby.
Although our first President had many, many slaves, he was not a harsh master. And in his will he freed his slaves upon his death, but also made provision for them to stay on and work the farm as paid servants, if they so chose.
The tomb of George Washington
While we were standing outside the tomb, watching a service be performed, Ethan starts giggling, making all kinds of noise and fidgeting. I looked down at him to see him point to his shirt and say "a bird pooped on me!" Haha and ewww! We had to go wash it off. A little while later, still listening to the service, I felt something drop on my head and panicked!! Thankfully, it was just a leaf or nut of some sort. The man standing next to me thought it was rather entertaining....
The gardens at Mount Vernon are beautiful- something you'd think to see in England. He was in favor of using live fencing for his estate- that means he cultivated trees and shrubs to act as a fence for things- I'm sure he had to tie them certain ways to get them to grown in that manner.
There is much to be admired about the character of our first president: humble, hard working, persevering, giving to a fault.... the list could go on! I'd recommend a study of him for yourself!
Two tuckered men!
Thank you Lord, for Presidents like George Washington, for the chance to visit Mount Vernon and enjoy the beauty of Your creation!