Miss Sunday’s Birthday Adventure

Our firecracker of a second child, Rebekah Sunday, turned 4 years old on Saturday…

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I honestly can’t believe it.

It is incomprehensible that the baby girl that completely stole my heart in 2009 has been in our possession for as many years as I was in high school. It doesn’t seem possible! And so, with much sighing and sulking, I continue to be convinced that the more ironically cruel twist in all of nature is that time seems to speed up just when you start wishing it would slow down a little…

But, as usual, I digress.

We had that killer tea party for both of our girls last week, which left us free to relax and enjoy Rebekah’s actual birthday to the fullest. Her entire day was jammed full of special family togetherness, so that, by the time we returned home, my husband and I literally fell on the floor into exhausted heaps of unusefulness. We turned on a movie, ate popcorn for supper, and I think it was a couple of hours before I realized that Betsie was still wearing a swim diaper and had probably been peeing and leaking all over the house…

But, in the midst of all the splash-parking and restauranting and bike-riding, there was definitely one part of our day that stood apart from the rest, and I am so excited to share it with you today.

A couple of months ago, our good friend and brother, Brian, shared a blog post with us. Brian is the music expert in our world and has introduced us to so many richly theological worship songs that have become foundational in our family’s life. One of his favorite artists is JJ Heller, and before you go any further, you really need to go and visit the blog post that he sent for us to read that day (click here).

Have you read it yet?

Shoo! Go read it! Spit spot.

Okay. Welcome back. I missed you.

So that blog and video blew me away.

Especially this part:

“When one woman asked Lucy why she was giving daisies away, Lucy replied, ‘Because you are special.’ I can’t tell you what a proud mama I am. The name Lucy means bringer of light, and from the moment she came into the world, she has lived up to her name. 

 I’m often tempted to stay in the safety of my minivan; to stay tucked away in my seemingly safe, non-confrontational life. I’m realizing that lives are changed when I have the courage to step into the unknown. The more I know that I am loved, REALLY loved by the Creator of the universe, the more I can share that love with others. Thank you, four-year-old Lucy Love, for showing me how to be brave. By God’s grace, I hope to be a bringer of light too. All it takes is getting out of the minivan.”

Not only did I identify so completely with JJ’s own anxieties and practices (I ALWAYS stay in the minivan), my heart absolutely mirrors her own in the way I feel about my own 4-year old daughter…

I am in awe of my little girl. Everything that I am, she is not, everything I am not, she is, and every area where I am weak, she is strong. Brave, unblinking, unafraid, uninhibited. She can go tinkle in the pasture standing up without getting a drop on her. She is the best wrestling buddy her big brother could ever ask for. And she doesn’t think twice about flagging down the waiter at a restaurant to ask for “more ketchup” or “some more Sprite”. I marvel over this aspect of her personhood, and thank God with all my heart for giving her a less timorous spirit than my own.

And I seriously cannot wait to see how He uses her gifts to bring light into to this dark world.

And this is why Brian sent us JJ’s blog post in the first place: “Saw this blog post and video and immediately thought of Miss Sunday in Lucy’s roll. She would have loved that!”

Which got me thinking, after I sopped up my tears from watching the beautiful video that JJ shared in her blog…

Why don’t we do this with Rebekah?

How about, on her birthday, we allow her to bring a little of her 4-year old light onto someone else’s path?

And that’s exactly what we did. On the way to her favorite store (“the baby store”, also known as Pottery Barn Kids), we stopped at Wal-Mart, bought two dozen roses, trimmed them, and placed them in her Easter basket. And once we arrived at Utica Square in Tulsa, we followed behind Rebekah as she passed out flowers to complete strangers, surprising them and blessing them in ways that we would probably never know…

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She did experience one moment of shyness when we were about to walk by a sidewalk restaurant. “We can stop now and go to the baby store…” we told her, wanting this to be a good experience for her and not something we pushed her into.

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But she squared those little shoulders back and carried on, giving out every last rose in her basket…

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Did Rebekah change the world with her roses and kind greetings?

Probably not. But as we walked around the corner on our way back to Pottery Barn Kids, I saw a woman at an outdoor Starbucks table looking at her pink rose, smelling it, deep in thought…

did she feel loved that morning? I hope so.

And when we returned to our van after playing at PBK, the security guard you saw pictured above was waiting for us on the sidewalk (our van was covered with shoe-polish birthday messages – hard to miss!). Rebekah’s light had reached his soul that morning, and he had been so deeply touched by her birthday flower that he wanted to treat her to some cotton candy ice cream at the Russell Stover store!

We drove to meet him across the Square, and after he purchased treats for our children, we conversed with him at a little seating area outside. “I’ve been working as a security guard for 5 years here,” he said, “and nothing like this has ever happened to me…”

Did he feel loved that morning? I know so.

And as I watched my beloved daughter lap up that pretty pink-and-blue ice cream, my heart swelled with love and pride and gratitude, and I prayed that, on her 4th birthday, she not only got a taste of how great it is to be loved and showered with gifts and attention and special treats and outings, but to love others and to bring the light of Christ into their world.

I’m pretty sure the ice cream helped seal the deal…

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Happy Birthday, Rebekah Sunday!

You are loved, indeed.

~

Special thanks to the amazing and beautiful JJ Heller for this lovely idea, and for Brian Barnes for sharing it with us. We are so grateful!

~

Want to read more about Rebekah? Here are some of my favorites:

her birth story: Small Elephant Remembers Rebekah (Part One) and (Part Two)

My Sunshine at Night

Sunday, Sweet Sunday and (part 2) Wake Up, Little Sunday

My Clothesline Companion

The Wrath of Miss Sunday

A Betsie Kind of Day

IMG_0114Today our family will celebrate the 2nd birthday of that doe-eyed little baby girl, our beloved Betsie Fair…

The sweetest and most docile baby I’ve ever known, I had dubbed her my “cricket”, my Beth March, my pet. But the above picture is one of my most cherished because that tiny piece of clover in her mouth, right underneath those huge, shining, innocent eyes, represents a major shift in our life, one that we are still dealing with and feeling the aftershocks from these many, many months later…

That was the day that the real Betsie began to emerge, and the clover I dug out of her mouth after this picture was taken was the first of countless – and I do mean countless – items I retrieved from her grasp, whether from her teeth, or her tightly-clenched fist. And that’s when I wasn’t retrieving Betsie herself from the back row of the church van, from the kitchen counter, from the middle of the table, from the church’s soundbooth, from toilet stalls, and, most notably, from the window display at Pottery Barn Kids…

She has become a babbling, singing, nonsensical lightning bolt that streaks past me these days, usually inexplicably naked, and more often that not, I have no idea what to do with her.

You know why?

No matter what kind of mischief she is in, she still looks at me with the same expression that she is wearing in that picture. Naive. Mostly innocent with a hint of impishness. Full of love and joy and wonder…

She may be a lightning bolt, but she is also a ray of sunshine, constantly bringing light and laughter to our household.

As far as birthdays go, she doesn’t really get it, and I shared the following post on my personal facebook page last week:

Rebekah and Betsie are almost exactly 2 years apart (June 8th and May 30th), and so I can’t help but compare them sometimes. By this age, Rebekah was speaking full paragraphs and singing complete hymns, and I felt like we could communicate perfectly. On the other hand, here’s the conversation I had with Betsie today:
Me: Did you know your birthday is next week, Betsie?
Betsie: (blank stare, blink, blink)
Me: You’re going to be TWO!
Betsie: Huh-uh.
Me: Yes, you’re going to be two!
Betsie, shaking her head: No.
Me: Yes…
Betsie: Pancakes.
Me: (blank stare, blink, blink).

None of us ever really know what she is thinking, but as far as we can tell, she is in no way grasping that this grand day of May 30th belongs to her. But I know, and I will be spending the day drinking in the blessing and the quirkiness of my Betsie Fair, counting our memories together and praying for many, many more. Even as I follow along behind her, trying to keep her alive and out of the dishwasher…

Happy Birthday, Pinky!

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p.s. You can stop eating clover now. Seriously.

~

Here are some of my favorite Betsie stories from the archives. And I promise to write more about her in the weeks to come!

Gideon Meets Baby Betsie

I Will Trust in Thee (Betsie’s birth story)

The Birthday Girls (because today is ANOTHER precious girl’s birthday, too! Love you, Abba!)

Following Baby Betsie

A Storybook Halloween (because I still can’t get enough of Granny)

Gideon’s “War” Birthday Party – The Prequel

Warning: the following post might give you a startling glimpse inside the sickness that is in my head, and I hope you still love me after you read it. I am kind of a weirdo about birthday parties. Not yours – I never judge a party we attend, and am just happy to have free cake – but ours. It is how I show love and is one of the most utmost expressions of my heart toward my kids. We’ve all learned to deal with it, but I do always worry that my potential over-the-topness in this one area will discourage others who don’t “do” parties…

Therefore, it would make me so happy if you would read this post before continuing on. Thanks a million!

~

Oh boy…

I always think the party we just had was my favorite party ever…

until the next one.

And so I can safely say, a couple weeks past my son’s 6th birthday, that his World War II-inspired “army” or “war” party was my favorite party ever.

And I really mean it this time. For reals.

(I think).

It doesn’t even matter that the planning stages for this party were a little different than normal…

Usually, the day after Christmas is over, I start involuntarily daydreaming about his March birthday party. I can’t help it. I love birthdays!!! Love them. It’s what I do, yo.

Therefore, I usually have two really good months to get a handle on what we’ll be doing and to start finding ideas and recipes and so on and so forth.

This year, however, I was unknowingly pregnant on the day after Christmas, and the month of January and most of February became a black hole on the calendar. I know I was alive, and I know we continued to do stuff like go to church and I think I brushed my teeth a couple of times, but…that’s about all I remember. ‘Twas the worst first trimester I’ve ever endured.

And once I emerged from this twilight zone of sorts, I had other important things to do, like pluck my giant, untamed eyebrow, and make food for my family (they were almost emaciated), and so, really, Gid’s birthday party had been pushed to the furthest back burner on the stove…you know, the one no one ever wants to use with leftover oats and and dried-up rice and the singed bits of paper from the tea bag…

(apparently, no one ever wants to clean that burner, either)…

Thankfully, we had at least settled on a theme earlier in the year, although even that took a little work this time, mostly because I made the mistake of asking my son what kind of party he wanted. Silly me.

“Ummmm…a Batman party!” he exclaimed.

“Well, Gid…we don’t really do parties like that…” I hedged, turning my nose up at the thought of all those paper party decorations I would probably have to buy – and then throw away – from Oriental Trading Company. If I’m going to buy party supplies I want to be able to use them again and again.

“How about a superhero party?” he asked.

“Well…Anna had a superhero party last year…” I said. I didn’t mind the idea of having the same theme as my niece, but Amy and I had already been there and done that, feverishly sewing capes and eyemasks in a Sunday School room at the church 24 hours before the party. I wanted to do something different.

“How about…a knight party?!” he said.

“Hmmm…a knight party…” I replied, as my mind started quickly cataloging all the things we could do with that. Lords and ladies. Big turkey legs for everyone to eat. Kid jousting?…

“We could maybe do that…” I said, the idea sort of intriguing me. But it wasn’t really hitting me in the heart like our birthday parties normally do. It wasn’t quite right…

and then I had a brain lightbulb, the really bright kind that turns my eyes all buggy and psychotic.

“How about a war party?!” I exclaimed. “We could have a REAL war with two teams, and you can wear camouflage and you can hide in the woods at Granddaddy and Grandmother’s house…

his face lit up, even more than my brain lightbulb, and I knew. This was our party. Winner winner, chicken dinner.

And right then and there, I determined that this would be our first full-out BOY party for my son since, you know, he is really and truly entering the realm of boyhood. No frills. No cutesy. No baby stuff. Just fun awesomeness for Gideon, in the hopes that he would feel like he was in paradise on the day of his birth.

But then I fell into that first trimester abyss I just told you about.

And when I came to in late February and realized that we only had a few weeks left until his party was here, I started that silly daydreaming process I usually start on December 26th.

And in the course of one of those daydreams, I accidentally injected some Mrs.-Gore-weirdness into his perfectly normal little-boy “war” party and turned it all vintage and whimsical, and before I knew it, his laid-back camo-heavy party had turned into a World War II-inspired affair, complete with a Red Cross station, a Mess Hall, a playlist full of nostalgic soldier songs, and lots of googling…

“What did soldiers eat during World War II?”…

“Vintage army recruiting posters”…

“Military songs from World War II”….

“Vintage mess hall plates”…

And I began to be truly grateful that I didn’t have much time to plan this party, because it became very obvious to me that I could have gone wayyyyy overboard with this one. I love me some 1940’s, and, if I had had my typical 2 1/2 months to plan this party, I am almost positive I would have had veterans from each of the armed forces there, and possibly a USO stage where I would have crooned song after song to the horror and embarrassment of my immediate family, especially my brothers.

As it was, thank God, we did a lot of “making do”, substituting the tin mess hall plates I found at Etsy with disposable cake pans from Wal-Mart, forgoing all the awesome WWII posters I could have purchased (again, at Etsy) by finding, printing, and matting free images online, and using our trusty ol’ Martinelli apple juice bottles for drinks rather than buying the canteens or enamel mugs I was dreaming off.

That first trimester saved us a LOT of money.

And when you are a collector of old things, and you have friends who are also collectors of old things, it is absolutely crazy how quickly you can throw a party together full of…old things.

That’s right, I’m talking about authentic WWII helmets, ammo boxes, and…wait for it…COTS that belonged to actual soldiers during the actual war (I think). I’m still over-the-moon about it, and I am so grateful, as always, to my friends and family for so generously pitching in and lending their hard work, their generosity, and mostly, their understanding; that I am surrounded by people who “get” me and love me, nonetheless, seriously humbles me to the core.

ALLLL that to say, I am pretty excited to share with you (if I haven’t already lost you with this blog post), in a 3-part series, Gideon’s “War” Birthday Party.

Here’s a sneak peek…

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Part 1…coming up tomorrow!!

Mrs. Gore’s Valentine Prep Page

A passerby might walk by my office window and think that I am being a lazy good-for-nothing this Monday morning, but what they wouldn’t know is that I am very busy, indeed, pinning away in preparation for Valentine’s Day.

Pinterest can admittedly be a playground for a girl like me, but it is also a work hub where I can brainstorm and plan and prepare for our biggest days of the year.

And one of the biggest of our big days is definitely Valentine’s Day.

I thought I’d take a minute to share with my fellow holiday-planners some of my favorite gifts and ideas for Valentine’s Day this year, just because I love you. Especially on Valentine’s Day…

~

A few months ago while perusing the cereal aisle at Wal-Mart I noticed something new: Quaker Hearts Cereal. And it claimed to taste even better than Cheerio’s! So I bought some. And yes, they are precious and delicious and we’ve gone through about twenty boxes since then.

I was thinking that a little clear pouch of Quaker hearts would make a fantastic Valentine for the tiniest loves in your life, and if they choke on them, they will be able to breathe through a heart-shaped hole. On Valentine’s Day! How appropriate!

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~

{In this section, you can arrive to the original links by clicking on the photographs}

Here are my favorite Valentine ideas for Miss Sunday to give to her friends:

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and for Gideon to give to his friends:

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and for me to make for my little friends (there is no individual page for these – you’ll have to scroll to the very last page of these crafts on the link):

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(on second thought, if you don’t want to go to the trouble of finding those instructions, here they are: Snip candy hearts for an entire class in a snap. To make, cut a heart from a strip of candy dots, and glue it to a piece of construction paper. With scalloping scissors, cut construction paper to create a border around the heart).

I like this color palette for our party this year ~ soft blues, red, white, and I’m sure I’ll throw some pink in there too:

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~

Goodie time!

Last year, my Mom purchased this little tin of Valentine cards and were they ever cute! I love anything by Cavallini and Co. and this set comes with 24 assorted cards and envelopes, 3 rubber stamps, a red stamp pad, and 100 assorted labels. If you are like my Mom and have learned to hate crafting, this is the Valentine set for you – easy, fast, and wayyyyyy cuter than even the craftiest could probably make. When my daughters get old enough to send these out without ruining them, I will be the first in line! Click here to find them. Or here.

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I, on the other hand, used these Valentines for my preschool-aged children last year. They had that precious vintage look like my Mom’s, but were super cheap and so easy. Just pop them out! I think the envelopes might have been a little tricky, but…I forgave them. These are published by Little Golden Books, after all, and they’ve done so much for me over the years…

Find them by clicking on the picture below.

Oh! And I have two gift ideas to share with you…

1. Have you seen the Little People lift-the-flap books? We have the Halloween and Christmas versions, and I noticed on yet another shopping excursion to Wal-Mart that there is a Valentine version! These books have occupied all of my kids for at least tens of minutes, and are so great for quiet church activity. Click on the picture to find it at Amazon!

2. And this tiny little book is quite possibly my favorite Valentine gift ever. My Mom bought it for me one year, and it is so quirky and delightful and somehow expresses the most lasting and loving relationships that you have, between lifelong friends, or moms and daughters, or sisters…anyone you really, really like and who really, really likes you. Find it by clicking on the picture.

Here is a little excerpt from the book:

I like you because when I tell you something special you know it’s special

and you remember it a long long time

You say remember when you told me something special

and both of us remember

When I think something is important you think it’s important too…

~

Ah...Valentine’s Day. What’s not to love?

~

p.s. you can find all of the links and products – and more! – on my Pinterest Valentine board. Happy planning!

A “Little Women” Breakfast

I so badly want to go into painstaking detail about my Mother’s invention of “the birthweek” and how she executes it year after year after year…

but I don’t have time! My 6th batch of granola is in the oven, a mountain of presents wait to be wrapped, and we have company coming to sup with us tomorrow night…

SO, I have to make this snappy, and just tell you, without going into specifics, that although my Mom and Mr. Gore had given me the birthweek of all birthweeks, my actual birthday was on the horizon and Mom wanted to know what kind of party I wanted.

Even though she had already given me a 12-12-12 party.

And even though she had already made me a cake.

And even though I had been opening presents throughout the entire week.

But people who are being spoiled rarely speak up about these things and decide, rather, to see how long the spoiling will continue before life goes back to unbirthday-like normality, and so, after much serious discussion (birthdays are obviously serious business around here, you guys), we settled upon a birthday BREAKFAST.

For, like my friend Leslie Knope, I heartily believe that breakfast is the very best meal of the day.

But…what kind of breakfast?

We had already had pancakes. We didn’t have time to pick up apple fritters from the bakery (we live far away from pretty much everything). Bacon and eggs didn’t seem very celebratory. We just couldn’t decide…

Then, suddenly, I gasped!

“What?” Mom asked, gasping in return.

“I want a ‘Little Women’ breakfast!!” I exclaimed.

Mom stared at me and blinked.

“You know…” I said, “popovers…oranges…sausage links…coffee!!…”

Mom stared at me and blinked.

“You know…” I said, “Colonial-like and beautiful and simple. That’s what I want!!!”

Then we both laughed, because I am a total nutcase who always does things like this to her while she blinks and tries to figure out how to create the weirdness that is in my head.

But boy…showing up at her house on the morning of my birthday, I was amazed to find that “Little Women” had been delivered with perfection. I honestly can’t imagine being more pleased with my (official) birthday meal. It was somehow a dream come true – the breakfast Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy sit down to on Christmas morning has always captured my fancy – and to have a near representation before my very eyes was just a real treat.

All that to say, I am most eager to share the following pictures with you so that, if you are wired like I am and like anything nostalgic or literary or whimsical, you can indulge in a “Little Women” Christmas breakfast of your own! There’s still time, yes?

Take a look…

~

I thought the table was just so beautiful and and simple and reminiscent of yesteryear. The bananas might have been a modern twist, but hey…we like bananas.

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on the menu: Pioneer Woman’s Orange Mini-Muffins with Brown Sugar Glaze. Make them. NOW!!

(I make these specifically around Christmastime because I think they taste like Christmas-morning-in-a-breakfast-bread, and they have become, without contestation, my favorite muffin. Obviously, you can make them in regular muffin tins as well as mini – I like both versions, and thought they were especially scrumptious when my Mom made them for me).

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popovers!! (Here’s a good recipe from Paula Deen). Mom’s were especially “poppy” and we all ooohed and aahhhed when she pulled them out of the oven.

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And here they are all prettied up on the table…

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Along with bacon, sausage links, the orange muffins, scrambled eggs with ham and cheese, and breakfast potatoes (Mom’s budget isn’t as tight at the March’s).

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I think this will be my breakfast of choice every birthday (and/or Christmas) morning…

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And here is Mrs. Gore herself, happy, hungry and…happy. (I cropped out the back part of this picture, because muffin tops were not on the menu and are not welcome at my birthday party).

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I sincerely hope you plan your own “Little Women” breakfast, and as you partake of your meal, contemplate simpler times when a breakfast spread like the above was the stuff of dreams and very difficult to come by…

It really will make you count your blessings, especially when you realize that you don’t have to share your food with the Hummel’s.

As ever, special thanks to my Mama, who still strives to make my silly dreams come true, 31 years and counting.

31st Birthday Musings

~ written on December 15, 2012 ~

Here I sit, right smack in the middle of my birthday. I’m not 30 anymore, but I don’t really know if I’ve been born yet 31 years ago.

Still yet, by the end of today, I will most certainly be 31 years old.

An easy age.

Doesn’t hurt a bit to turn 31.

Which is kind of nice because, rather than spending any time bemoaning my ever-increasing age, I have had plenty of time to contemplate what has taken place this past year, as well as mull over any changes I might like to make in the year to come…

My 30th year has perhaps been the best year I’ve ever had, and not for the typical things one might be thankful for –  health, financial blessings, ease – on the contrary, looking back, I am surprised by how many challenges we have faced as a family.

But true to His Word, God has used each one of them for our good:

surgeries. My sweet Miss Sunday’s index finger saga was as hellish an ordeal as I’ve ever experienced, and I will never, ever forget holding her in my lap while the doctor manually reset her finger. Every cry she made (for a complete hour) reverberated through my body, slicing at my heart and leaving me more helpless than I’ve ever felt in my entire life.

Likewise, I grew up by dog-years when Mr. Gore had back surgery early in the Spring. I am still recovering from our drive home from the hospital, mentally cursing at car after car that zoomed past us on the interstate, but his recovery period was one of the most sanctifying times I’ve ever experienced, and strangely enough, I still find myself thanking God for that time of togetherness as a family and personal growth as an individual, for I don’t think I honestly understood until then what “hard work” meant. If you could have seen me dragging our garbage holders (I don’t even know what they are called!) out to the road that first Monday, you might have thought I was a duchess (wearing frumpy pajamas) who woke up to find that all of her servants had abandoned the manor during the night (I’m pretty sure my pinkies were sticking up in the air), but by the end of his long recovery, I was relishing my newfound strength and work ethic, one that continues to develop in this girl who was previously, to be frank, quite lazy.

financial changes. Oh, the paradox of Christianity, that causes you to see with ever-changing vision what is important, countering the lies of culture over and over and over again. God has been extremely faithful to this single-salary family in the past year, but He continues to wake us up to a new worldview where 10% is just the beginning of our giving and where consumerism grows less tasteful by the day. And while this has been extremely freeing, it has brought with it a share of difficulties, especially for me. Like a dog that returns to its vomit, I have a longtime love affair with the beautiful things this world has to offer; I might walk away from the lies one day only to return to them tenfold the next. But guess what? We drive 2 cars from the 90’s, we have one old-fashioned cell phone, we cut off our satellite, those metal springs are still poking me every night through my seat on the couch, and…we are as happy as clams (on most days). And as challenging as these denials have been for me (among others), I thirst for more. Like I said…paradox.

death. We have lost a great-grandparent, two grandparents, and too many beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord. With each passing, I realize afresh that we are not made for this world with all of its sadness and separation, for there is nothing more final and sobering than seeing the body of one you held so dear being lowered into the ground. But there is hope in this sadness, for if we were not made for this world, and if mortality brings so crushing a blow, then I am quite confident that I should start living more intentionally for the world to come. The forever world. Where the things that are real and life-giving last for eternity

Which leads me to my short list of wishes for the coming year.

~ Wish 1 ~

I long to continue returning to the things that we were created for. As I steadily grow in my faith, I am learning to discern the difference between those things that are fulfilling and those things that leave ashes in my mouth (I call them “ashy”).

Thus, my foremost goal in the year to come is to train myself to engage in the fulfilling rather than the ashy, even when everything within me is shouting “Choose the ashy!!”

What fulfills my redeemed heart? Studying the Bible. Spending time with my family. Biblically fellowshipping with the body of Christ (spurring each other on, confessing our sins to one another, praying together, discipling one another, submitting to one another). Giving my children my undivided attention. “Going forth and multiplying” with my husband. Making food with my hands. Digging in the dirt and growing things. Keeping a tidy and functional home for my family. Feeding my mind with good books. Being quiet and allowing the Spirit to talk to me.

Life, when lived in such a manner is a continual feast.

And which activities persistently leave ashes in my mouth? Overindulgent internet consumption. Overindulgent television consumption. Choosing television or other selfish pursuits over “going forth and multiplying”. Ignoring my family to pursue my own ashy desires. Making nonstop wishlists of things I want rather than tending to the things I have (for instance, cleaning up our filthy yard would beautify our home WAY more than ordering the latest trinket from Anthropologie). Overspending. Overeating. Being lazy. Being ridiculous. People-pleasing. Whining. Being jealous of others. Getting uptight about politics.

All that to say, I so want to choose the fulfilling, even when I don’t want to, and I know this won’t happen by osmosis; therefore, I am praying for grace and power and wisdom and growth, the likes of which I have never known.

~ Wish 2 ~

I would love to have a robot or something that would floss my teeth for me.

But speaking of the world to come (remember? I mentioned it in the mile-long intro to this post?), I’m excited to go to a place where flossing is not required or probably even suggested.

~ Wish 3 ~

I want to better understand and employ the unfathomable tool of prayer. I just paused in this writing to tiptoe upstairs and check on my children (it is now almost midnight – I think I’m definitely 31 now!). Seeing first that each one was breathing, I took a moment to look at their little sleeping faces, my heart a painful mixture of love and gratitude and, in the light of yesterday’s horrible tragedy, overwhelming fear. A prayer that began as “Oh, God they are so precious…” quickly turned to one of desperation that they would never be faced with harm or terror. But even as I prayed, my spirit was quickly moved to have faith and to trust in God’s plan for us and to reevaluate what our purpose on this earth is, and as I tiptoed back downstairs, I had to marvel at the unspoken exchange that took place in my mind. Those outside of Christianity would call me crazy for actually believing that my progression of thought was anything more than a one-sided conversation, but…I know better. Mostly because I know that the natural Mrs. Gore would never find faith through her fear – that’s simply not how I roll; when left to myself, I can get to the worst-case scenario in less than a second. So if God can move me and teach me in a 1-minute random “conversation”, imagine what He would do if I would take those conversations more seriously. Set time aside for them. Start my day with them. Pursue Him, even a fraction of the way He pursues me.

~ Wish 4 ~

Nay, this is more than a wish; this is a soon-to-be reality. I shall write a children’s book about some teensy little mice and I can’t talk about the plot out loud without crying. Promise you’ll buy a copy when it is published? In the year 2032?

~ Wish 5 ~

Well, I really must be getting old, because the only wish I can come up with at this incredibly late hour is that I wish to go to bed and put an end to this terrifically wordy blog post! But before I stop, I do want to put in an extra plug for Wishes 1 and 3…I really, really want those to come true.

And Wish 2 would also be lovely, although…I am a bit afraid of robots. I don’t think I’d want one touching my teeth.

Guess that means I’ll never be a flosser.

What I am, however, until I close my eyes in sleep, is the Birthday Girl…

and a very happy one I am, at that.

A 12-12-12 to Remember

Wednesday morning we loaded up at 11:45 sharp and drove to Grandmother’s house for our very exciting 12-12-12 party at 12:12.

But when we walked in the door, I was immediately met by my 3-year old niece Katerbelle (that’s what we call her) excitedly saying “It’s your birthday!!!”

All of a sudden, several things that had happened in the past weeks started coming together in my mind: Gideon grinning slyly at me and saying things like “nothing!…we haven’t been talking about nothing.” And Rebekah repeatedly mentioning the “12-12-12 birthday party” (I just thought she was confused because we do have so many birthday parties in our life…).

But turns out, the little party with all the 12’s actually was for me! An early surprise birthday party, surrounded by the little people in my life that I adore…

I can honestly say it was one of the best birthday parties I’ve ever had.

Why?

I love these children. And they love me. And since 2004 when I first became an aunt to Abigail, my heart has persistently shifted toward the welfare of this next generation in our family, to the point that, yesterday, surrounded by little heads at the dinner table, opening their small trinkets of affection, I delighted more in their expressions than I did in my gifts. I opened my presents for them rather than for me. I was happy because they were so happy.

(And I almost melted into the floor at the handmade, crocheted bookmark Abigail made for me).

And so my best birthday gift this year was perhaps the realization that, through motherhood (and aunthood), God continues to  show Himself so faithful to me, stripping me more and more of my brattiness and entitlement (those of you who know me or follow me on facebook KNOW what I’m talking about…), while gently showing me the true joy of living for others. I still have a long road ahead, but to know that I am progressing is pretty exciting. I hardly recognize myself sometimes, and that, my friends, is a very, very good thing.

And so it is with an extra measure of happiness that I share some fun pictures from our 12-12-12 celebration…

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at 12:12 we released 12 (give or take a few) balloons…

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except for Gideon, who bailed at the last minute. We had to talk him into releasing his balloon like we were talking him down from a ledge. But finally, he released his treasure after making a wish for his Papa (I can’t tell you what it was or it might not come true, and I know how much Papa really wants that toy helicopter)…

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Anna dreamily watches the balloons fly off into the distance (but then, Anna does everything dreamily…)

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then it was time for some yummy lunch, my very favorite: Mama’s sub sandwiches, with lots of snacky goods on the side…

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and Mom surprised us with some delicious raspberry cream sodas – I could drink one of these every day!

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the grown-ups had ours served in her special Christmas glasses…

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After lunch, I was told to sit in a chair in the living room. The kids had a surprise for me, a special rendition of “The 12 Days of Christmas” that I taught them last year, this time with a 13th Day added…my birthday! It was so precious and I was so touched and proud of them. (By the way, that’s my Daddy in the background. We couldn’t move him – he just had back surgery).

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group hug!!

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cake time! I may be turning 31 this year, but birthday cake still brings out the 5-year old in me. (but then so do flowers and puppies and presents and new shoes and pretty pencils…for starters).

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Now I see what my husband means when he says “sometimes I feel like someone is going to come and arrest me for sleeping with you…” I get it now.

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maybe that’s why me and these kiddos get along so well! We are on the same mental level – I’ll be super sad when they outgrow me…

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present time!

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This day will go down in history as one of my favorites, full of pure sweetness and innocence….

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Birthdays should always be thus…

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and I can’t forget to show you who was smiling up at me most of the day – my newest (darling!) nephew, Abel Thomas. What a gift! And after the party, he cuddled up with me and napped on my shoulder. I think I liked his present the best.

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So the 12-12-12 party I was pushing on everyone turned out to be one of the best I’ve ever attended. Special thanks to my amazing Mama, Amy and the girls (and boy!) and our friend, Chrissy, for dreaming up…

well, the party of my dreams.

A happy belated 12-12-12 to you! And a happy birthday to me? (on Saturday. Write it in your calendar. Buy me a present…yep, still a brat).

December Party Ideas

I’m going to make this post pretty snappy, because time’s a’wastin’!

We had 2 kid parties last year that were so much fun, and there is still time for you to have one of your own before December zooms by:

1. On 11-11-11, my Mom had all the kids out for a weenie roast in the woods. The components: a) At 11:11 a.m., we threw confetti in the air. b) We took a group picture with printed off (and then framed) number 11’s, and c) Mom gave each child $11.11 to spend on someone else. (11-11-11 also happened to fall on Veteran’s Day, so this party had a patriotic theme to it).

All that to say, there is still time for you to plan a 12-12-12 party at 12:12!! It doesn’t have to be fancy, and could require very little thought, but don’t miss this VERY last opportunity to commemorate all those matching numbers. Why is this so important? I have no idea. It just feels super special.

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2. And about a week-and-a-half before Christmas, Mama had the kids back over for a baking party. I loved this party because she actually let the kids do almost all of the baking and decorating, and she used it to help them learn to serve others. As the cookies were cooling, the children were instructed to decorate paper sacks and write little cards for some of the members of our church. Then we all loaded up into a church van and made cookie deliveries. We also sang “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” at each house. Take a look:

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I won’t mention what happened about halfway through our deliveries, but…you can read about how Miss Sunday gruesomely smashed her finger and had to be rushed to the hospital (and later have surgery) here: Mrs. Gore has a DAY

Still…this was a truly special day and one of my favorite parties ever, no bells and whistles and very others-oriented. I want to do more of this with my kids.

Let me know if you decide to try either of these “parties” and how they turn out! And please forgive me if there were any typing or spelling errors in this post – I’m in THAT big of a hurry and had to get this published (without editing) so you would have time to plan your 12-12-12 party. Spit-spot!! Off you go!

Christmas Christmas Time is Here

I was going through pictures and videos the other day and came across a little nugget of Christmas cheer to help you get in the holiday spirit.

Here’s Miss Sunday (last Christmas, 2 1/2 years old), singing her rendition of The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late). Please don’t miss the “Alvin!!!” part at the end.

And please, don’t let the cuteness slay you like it did me. Just kidding. No, I’m not. This is really cute.

Even if this child was not my offspring and did not inherit my amazing singing voice.

Anyhow. Christmas Time is here!!! I, too, can hardly stand the wait.

Plenty To Be Thankful For

The week of Thanksgiving was…

awesome.

So awesome that I didn’t step foot on the internet for many, many days and so awesome that the only word I can think of to describe it is…awesome.

{Which is kind of sad. Not because it is not a wonderful word (though somewhat overused), but because I’m too lazy to look up a different word in the thesaurus. The one that is sitting right next to me. The one that is so big and full of words. Thesauruses make me tired. Or better yet, exhausted. Weary…}

Sorry.

So why was last week awesome?

Many reasons…

1. The entire family was not vomiting (and then some) like we were last year. Read “Thanksgiving or Bust” to hear more on that jolly good holiday.

2. Seeing the last “Twilight” movie with my Mom and my cousin’s wife, Amanda (who also doubles as my soulmate) in a theater full of teenagers. There was a teenage couple sitting behind us, and I kept imagining they were making out behind us in disgusting teenager fashion, with their long, gangly limbs and their retainer slobbers. Gross. But there is nothing better than getting a fit of the giggles during a melodramatic “Twilight” movie…

3. Little things…

Like coming across these Thanksgiving crafts I let the kids make while I was cleaning. I had to laugh at the obvious difference between boys and girls. Rebekah’s turkey is standing next to a flower. Gideon’s turkey is also standing next to a flower, but is being shot by a hunter.  Poor turkey.

Or walking into the schoolroom to see that Gideon had been inspired by the Thanksgiving chalk “art” I had “made” (i.e. copied off of Pinterest). Here’s mine:

Here’s his (so sweet!):

or receiving the pinecone turkey Gideon made in Sunday School, full of “feathers” stating what he was most thankful for…

Thankfully, “Mama and Papa” is also listed, right underneath “armor”. Food and armor and chicken. Little boys are the best.

4. The family. I could go on and on for DAYS, but you all know who you are and you know how much I love you. Bunch of weirdos.

5. The food. Oh, sweet Pete, the food…

6. Watching my Mom do her magic, hosting a houseful of people in the midst of a bedroom renovation (carpet was actually installed during the mayhem), and still managing to feed all of us 2 or 3 times a day without ever losing her cool. Amanda and I were shocked one night to see her pull a beautiful and perfectly cooked turkey out of the oven. NO ONE had seen her do any preparation. But it’s always like that at her house…a timer goes off, bottabing, bottaboom, a turkey. Amazing.

7. The Janie and Jack Black Friday internet sale that enabled me to buy a year’s worth of dress pants for my little vintage boy who wore woolen slacks (with silk lining) all summer long, because he “liked they way they feeled…like I’m not wearing any clothes!” Thank you, God, for 30% off sales, $25 reward cards, and free shipping.

8. And lastly, on a very serious note, I am most thankful for something that happened this Thanksgiving week that has caused my heart to soar in gratitude and wonder. Settle in, why don’t you? This might take a while…

One morning as we were preparing once more to load up and join the rest of my family at Mama and Daddy’s house in the country, Gideon and Rebekah got into a massive fight in the living room. I could hear their shouts clear in my bathroom on the other end of the house, quickly followed by Rebekah’s heavy footfall as she came to rat her brother out.

“Gideon hit me!!!” she wailed.

My heart sank. A most punishable offense, no matter what she had done to entice him. I followed her back into the living room where Gideon met us with tears of anger and frustration gathering in his eyes.

“Did you hit your sister?” I asked him, my own anger barely in check. We had been over this many a time before. Too many times.

He nodded meekly, before defending himself: “But she stomped her foot at me and she did her mouth like this (all twisted up) and said “grrrr!!” His temper began to boil over just thinking about what she had done to him.

I’ll spare you the details, but the discipline was swift and firm, followed by a sound scolding for Rebekah for enticing him to anger, and the two were told to apologize and “make up”. But you know how these things go…you can instruct a child in the way to go, you can present them with the Word of God, you can make them look each other in the eye and say the right words, but…you cannot make them feel conviction. It has all been rather rote and mechanical for us during these preschool years.

Thank God for His Spirit.

For ten minutes later, as I was sitting on my bed braiding Rebekah’s hair, the fight forgotten, Gideon quietly walked in and stood at my door. Our eyes met.

“I’m sorry…” he said quietly, his bottom lick puckering.

“For hitting Rebekah?” I asked, intrigued that he was bringing it up again.

And right before my eyes, his little spirit crumbled, shoulders drooping, despair cloaking his countenance, tears falling freely and sincerely. “I don’t want to hit!” he exclaimed through his tears. “I don’t like to hit people.”

I couldn’t breathe for a minute over the magnitude of what was taking place – this was different than any “remorse” he had ever shown. And then Gideon ran to me, crying, and I gathered him up with all the compassion and love I have for him in my heart.

“Gid, I know you’re upset,” I encouraged, “but this is a great thing!” I shook his shoulders a bit in my excitement. “Do you know who is helping you to not like your anger? The Holy Spirit! He is fixing your heart, just like we’ve prayed!!”

“But…” he whimpered, “I just don’t like how it feels!”

Can a heart rejoice and break at the same time? Because, while thrilled with this new development in his heart, I mourned for my baby to wake up to the horror that is the sin nature. There is no greater pain on earth than realizing our depravity, but…it is a pain that leads us to the Savior, who has a healing balm of redemption for our sin-sick souls.

And the reality that my son, whom I love more than anything, is beginning to feel the very same God-breathed pangs of conviction that I feel on a daily basis…well, it just nearly bowled me over. For nothing has humbled me or caused me to come to grips with my finitude and humanity more than realizing that I have no control over whether or not my children will ever have a love for their Creator or will ever hate their sin. In desperation, I cry out to God on their behalf as we look to His Word for the tools to lead our children, knowing that the only way to parent them well is to parent them biblically.

And all that remains after doing those things is faith that He will keep His promises.

But oh how weak my faith can be.

And so this random and unexpected moment during an otherwise busy week was a holy moment for us, earth-shattering for Gideon, but faith-bolstering for me, and became the highlight of my holiday as it assured me so deeply that God is with us. He is moving. He is working. He is hearing our prayers and causing the truths that we share to take root in our children, softening them, wooing them, making their dead hearts come to life before our very eyes.

This alone would give me every reason to be thankful this holiday season.

~

No vomiting, silly movies, family, food, and life-changing spiritual breakthroughs. It was a good Thanksgiving.

 ~

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Me and my sweet Mama, Thanksgiving 2012