Friday, December 31, 2010

Hey kids

It's that time of year again when mom and dad go out and you two take care of each other.

Samuel you did a great job last year when we left you in charge of your sister!

Here are a few simple directions to follow for an uneventful night:
                     

If Lauren gets hungry feed her prunes...
Please try to have fun and don't make a mess...
If you have time, throw in a load of laundry...
Keep each other happy...
Take a bath together and no coloring in the tub...
If anything happens, don't hesitate to call the fire department!
And put yourselves to bed at a decent time...
Happy New Year! We love you both. Be safe.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dear Samuel

I feel the need to write to you, my little man. 

My heart experiences so many different feels and emotions with you these days....amazement, frustration, amusement, encouragement and anticipation of what's to come.

The other day you amazed us when you walked up to the couch, asked to hold daddy's hand and then you walked him over to the Christmas tree and while holding your dad's hand you promptly started singing, "O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree......"

While changing your diaper this week I was amused when you told me the fireman you were holding was sad. When I asked why, you responded, "He's in a time out."

Yesterday you challenged mom and dad when you threw up on our bed. After changing the sheets, we gave you a bath and put on clean clothes. While sitting on the couch, you threw up again. And this time it was very blue and very minty. That's when I realized that you had eaten toothpaste. A lot of toothpaste.

Lately you having been asking us: "What time is it?" Not sure if you have lots of places to go and things to do, but we love hearing you ask.

You really enjoy putting on make-up with mommy. You stand next to the sink with some of mommy's old make-up and you put it all over your face.

When I dropped your cereal all over the floor, you said, "That's naughty." Which is what you tell Lauren when she drops her food on the floor. I guess mommy was careless so maybe that was naughty.

Samuel, with you around life is challenging, entertaining and so so sweet.

I don't want to forget these moments....the good moments and the hard moments. The moments when my heart almost explodes because I am so proud of you or in awe of you. And I don't want to forget the difficult moments of raising a one and two year old. Like when your sister pooped in the tub this morning and I had to clean it out, clean off both of you and clean the tub and toys. I was soaking wet by the end and I am sure we all had a little poop on us.

As the saying goes (and I hear it frequently in this season of life): the days are long but the years are short. Some days seem like they will never end. Some moments I don't ever want to end. 

These are the years I don't want to forget....but I might. So I'm writing it all down. For you Samuel, but mostly for me. 

I love you my little man. I love how you sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, My God is So Big and Away in the Manger all mixed together. I adore that you want to read If You Give a Moose a Muffin over and over again. I love most of all that I get to watch you grow, hear you sing and teach you to love Jesus more every single day of your life. What a privilege. What a blessing.

Who loves you Samuel? Mom loves you.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Samuel, Lauren & Santa

I couldn't be happier with how our visit to Santa went. I love these photos...

Merry Christmas everyone!

Love,
Samuel & Lauren




"I see Merry Christmas"

Yesterday I took Samuel with me to run a couple errands. As we were leaving the grocery store, he hollered out quite excitedly, "I see Merry Christmas!"

I looked around to find what it was that led to his excitement. He was looking at a woman wearing a Santa hat. She heard him and responded, "That's the way it should be, huh?"

I keep thinking about Samuel's statement and his enthusiasm for Christmas. He's choosing to see Merry Christmas...in Frosty the Snowman, the Christmas tree, the nativity scene, and Santa Claus.

So today we're off to the mall to go see Santa. I have low expectations that either Samuel or Lauren will sit in Santa's lap so I can snap a few photos, but a mama can always hope right?

Next year seeing Merry Christmas might not come so easily to Samue. So today I'm treasuring that my son sees Merry Christmas everywhere around him.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Simple says

I've had a few people ask me if this week is a busy one for our family.

My answer? No.

Ryan and I are both trying to get some work (or searching for work) done and I'm striving to get my Christmas cards in the mail. I love Christmas cards and that's just not something I was willing to pass up this year. 

We don't have lots of parties or commitments or to-do things to get done. I should wrap a couple presents and run a few errands. And I have a few more Christmas cookies I would like to bake.

If I get these things done, great.

If not, oh well.

That's what is so freeing about a simple Christmas.

Simple allows us to make plans with family members at 4 p.m. for a fun night out.

Simple encourages us to take a 2-hour nap on a Saturday afternoon.

Simple dictates that we say, "no" even when the opportunity is good, fun or appealing.

Simple reminds us to turn away from the television or newspaper ads, and turn our eyes toward the nativity scene.

Simple can't help but see the joy in little faces as they discover the wonders of Christmas.

Simple recognizes the way God is answering prayers and records them in our Family Prayer Basket.

Simple says, "Come, read Luke 2 one more time. It's an unbelievable story about the miracle of a baby."

Simple might want to do it all, be it all, record it all, remember it all, and buy it all. But simple can't and neither can I.

Oh how I love simple.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Randomness

So many thoughts and feelings on my heart tonight...so here goes a little randomness:

Leaving the kids at our chiropractic office. They have a Christmas party for the kids every year. They watch the kids for a couple hours - for free! - while parents go do whatever it is they want to do while being kid-free.

Enjoying dinner with our good friends J&M. Talking about life, family, work, kids, parenting, our futures. Eating pizza (which I actually cut into small pieces on my plate before I realized what I was doing) and having full conversations without being interrupted.

Learning that M's friend (whom I know) was being taken into surgery this evening because she is 6 weeks pregnant and has an ectopic pregnancy. Nine days before Christmas she discovered the little life growing inside her cannot survive. Heartbreak.

Hearing my son sing to Jesus Loves Me in the car tonight almost melted my heart. So many children don't know that Jesus loves them. Samuel knows.

Feeling incredibly grateful for our house, a super-efficient furnace on a night when the thermostat says 12, milk for my daughter's bottle, fleece PJs for my kids, books to read before bedtime, food in their tummies, beds to sleep in, medicine and doctors when our little ones are sick, and insurance to pay our health care bills.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Blessings of a Simple Christmas Season

"Somewhere along the way Christmas became a Hollywood holiday. It became about gifts and gadgets instead of faith and family. Christmas lost its real meaning when we became enamored with the idea of presents. The day became about giving and getting the perfect present and counting our blessings based on the things we own. It has warped into a season of stress – both financial and emotional – and has brought billions of people around the world more strain and loneliness than any other day of the year. How sad that we have taken the greatest gift of all and either turned it into, or let it be turned into, a burden on ourselves, our faith, and our families." 

This insightful quote is from an article titled The Blessings of a Simple Christmas Season by Armstrong Williams. You can read the entire article here.

I love the last line that somehow we have allowed the celebration of the birth of Christ to become a burden. We become overwhelmed and stressed out about getting, doing, finding, purchasing, making, wrapping, mailing, cleaning, cooking, and attending. Instead of being consumed by reading, sharing, giving, enjoying, soaking, pondering, loving and celebrating.

I will read this article again - maybe even a few times - between now and Christmas. I need to be reminded, as this last quote suggests, that giving of myself can be a blessing far beyond any gift I can purchase in a store.

"Without the expectations and burden of giving the latest and greatest toys to our friends and family, we are free to give of ourselves. This may mean giving a handmade gift, a cup of coffee, or a long walk. Or it may entail reaching out to someone we’ve lost touch with, forgiving a foe, or lending a hand to someone in need. Whatever it means for you, I guarantee a gift given from the heart will be more fruitful for you and more valuable for them."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Stirring in Our Hearts

I discovered the following nuggets of wisdom by a pastor who was recently called to leave a church he helped start, to participate in a new ministry.

He presents three truths that he encourages readers to remember in times of uncertainty. I know that when I'm in a season of change, chaos, discontentment, or uncertainty, it can definitely be a struggle to see that season as an opportunity to seek God and listen to His voice. 

But that is exactly what we should do.

Every. Single. Day.

Oh Lord, stir our hearts for whatever it is that you have in store for our future and may these three truths be what guides us all in times of uncertainty.

The Stirring in Our Hearts
At various points in our life we will all find ourselves asking the question, “What is this stirring or unsettledness in my heart?” The word stir is defined as “beginning to move slightly, agitation, a means of adding to…” Often when God is preparing us for something different or new, he begins with a gentle “stirring” in our hearts. It may mean that things in our life are getting ready to change.

My family and I have been in a season of stirring for several months now. We’ve wrestled with the questions, “what does this unsettledness mean and what are You doing Lord?” There were days and weeks when the answer seemed to be only silence and more questions. But the stirring continued.

Finally after months of waiting, listening, praying and seeking the counsel of others, it is evident that this stirring was God’s way of preparing us for a change. After 10 years of ministry with Hope, God is preparing us for a new Kingdom assignment. This clarity from the Lord came only after months of unsettledness in our hearts that kept us on our face and listening intently for His voice. When you find yourself in a season of stirring and uncertainty, and you will, it is helpful to remember a few truths:

1. His voice is all that matters.
…man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. Deuteronomy 8:3
There is always a sea of voices surrounding us with their best plans for our lives. But ultimately, the only voice that matters is the voice of your Heavenly Father. Seek His voice.

2. We are able to recognize His voice as an overflow of intimacy.
God’s voice and leading become clear when spending time with Him is a regular part of our lives. Times of uncertainty and change are not times to begin seeking Him, but times to enjoy the fruit of sitting at His feet on a regular basis.

3. He desires us to know Him more than know His will.
In times of uncertainty, we find ourselves wanting answers. But God is looking for so much more. He wants you. He desires your attention and affection. He is focused on the relationship more than the next step.

We will all experience times of stirring in our lives. God does not merely want to give you answers; He desires to reveal Himself to you. Welcome each of these times as opportunities to grow in your love relationship with Jesus and see the “stirring” as an invitation to seek Him and listen to His voice.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A simple Christmas

One of my absolute favorite things to do during the Christmas season, is to sit in the living room with all the lights off except for the lights on the Christmas tree. That's where I'm sitting now.

It's so....peaceful.

A couple nights ago Ryan and I sat here together and prayed.

A few times Samuel and I have crawled under the tree and we lay there together while we look at the lights and talk about important things like trains, the snow and what daddy's doing.

This year we have white lights on our tree and just a handful of ornaments. We had a handful plus three, but three came in contact with little hands and the result was not pretty.

In the spirit of a simple Christmas, I encourage you to take time before you go to bed some night to shut off the lights, the television or whatever keeps your mind preoccupied, and just sit in the presence of the lit Christmas tree.

Pray. Sing. Read. Blog. Relax. Sleep. Journal. Cuddle with a loved one. Ponder.

Just enjoy the simplistic beauty of the Christmas tree. Let your eyes travel to the star (because we should all have a star on our tree, right?) and ponder the wise men who saw the star in the East and followed it to Jesus.

We're two weeks out from Christmas. Don't let this season pass you by in a blur of activity. Choose simplicity....you'll be so glad you did.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Bittersweet


Recently, a number of friends have recommended the book Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way. I've been intrigued since the moment I heard about it.

Here are a few excerpts on the author's blog taken from the book:
Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands. Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity. Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, audacious, earthy. 

I've learned the hard way that change is one of God's greatest gifts, and most useful tools. Change can push us, pull us, rebuke and remake us. It can show us who we've become, in the worst ways, and also in the best ways. I've learned that it's not something to run away from, as though we could, and that in many cases, change is a function of God's graciousness, not life's cruelty.


When life is sweet, say thank you, and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you, and grow.

I am planning to kick off 2011 by reading this book. I've had some sweet times in life and some very bitter times. I want to grow, change, and become stronger through the bitter times...those I've already experienced, and the bitter times to come.

Will you join me in reading this book? Together let's learn how to celebrate when life is sweet and grow when life is bitter.

Friday, December 10, 2010

My God is so big

Sometimes Ryan and I forget, but it's in those moments that our son reminds us...




"My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there's nothing my God cannot do."

Oh what it does for my heart to hear my son talk about our God...as being BIG and STRONG and MIGHTY.

We know He is BIG. We've experienced His STRENGTH. We've seen His MIGHT.

There are children who do not know these things. There are little ears that's haven't heard this truth. Little mouths that haven't sung these words.

But my son knows. And I wholeheartedly pray that someday he will believe in the God he sings about.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Prayer IS the work

One of the commenters in a previous post asked what she could be praying about for me. Considering her struggles this Christmas season, my heart was overwhelmed with the kindness of offering prayer for me in the midst of what she is facing.

We could definitely use a little prayer in the May household these days, so I'm going to respond to her question.

Things on the unemployment side have hit an all-time low this week. It's hard to describe, but my ever-positive husband is struggling more than I have seen him struggle up to this point. We are nearing the six-month mark of unemployment. That is half of a year of not having a job. Half a year of not being employed. Half of a year of not going to an office or having co-workers or feeling like he is a contributing member of society. Half a year of watching his friends and family members go to a job every day, while he sits in a coffee shop and searches online, networks with people and tries to make new contacts.

That is half a year of filling out online applications that can easily take 30 to 90 minutes for one application. Over and over and over again. He is really tired of filling out applications. He is really tired of looking and hoping and wondering.

If you follow the news, you know that Obama is trying to extend the Bush tax cuts which include an unemployment extension. We could really use that extension otherwise our unemployment will come to an end.

Friends, we could use prayer. Here are specific things you could pray for our family:

Of course, we covet prayer that God would lead Ryan to a job that will be a great fit for his skills and passions.

But in the wait, prayer is needed for:
  • Ryan's spirits to be lifted.
  • Determination to keep doing the daily mundane tasks of applying for jobs.
  • That truth would reign in Ryan's mind every day.
  • That I would know how to love and support my husband during this season.
  • That people would come around Ryan to encourage and affirm him. That he would find validation is other ways during this season of not working.
  • That God would remind Ryan in big or small ways, that He is still in control of this job search.
Recently I listened to an online sermon called Prayer is the Work. This quote challenged me and I haven't stopped thinking about it:

We don't pray before we work, prayer is the work. Then and only then, God works.

How does God work in the world? Through the prayers of his people.
How important is prayer? It is above everything else we do.
How should we pray? Urgently, desperately, passionately and expectantly.

Pastor Vance encouraged us to pray with gratefulness for what God has done and to pray with faith thanking God for what He is going to do.


Together let's remember that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (James 5). We cannot underestimate the power of our prayers. I am praying for you friends, and I would greatly appreciate your prayers for my family as well.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Natalie Grant - I Believe

My all-time favorite Christmas song....

I keep listening to the lyrics of this song and thinking about the Christmas 'story.' We read so many stories to Samuel and Lauren, my prayer is that God would help their little minds to grasp that this is so much more than just another story. And that one day, they too, will believe in the miracle of the Christmas story.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Praying for you this Christmas

Two years ago, shortly after having received the gift of Samuel into our lives, I wrote this post about the Christmas season.

I was all-too-familiar with the grief of shattered dreams and the longing for a child. While I am two years and two children beyond that post, I cannot forget 

My heart is still tender when I think about a Christmas when another family member was expecting and I was not. I hadn't seen her since the announcement had been made and my stomach  was churning.


I dreaded going to this event and had no idea how to acknowledge the news without breaking down in tears. I am pretty sure I mumbled a quiet, "Congratulations," and moved on my way.

I know my family member doesn't remember it, but I cannot forget it.

Because often times the holiday season magnifies what others have and what we do not. I think of my best friend's mother-in-law who faces this Christmas season without her husband for the first time. Oh how her heart must ache as she sees couples walking hand in hand as they shop, go out to eat and go to Christmas parties together.

I think of my sister-in-law's dear friend who faces her sixth Christmas with her husband but their arms ache for their two babies lost to miscarriage. They do not have a little one to hold again this Christmas.

I think of those I know who long to celebrate this season with a new love. Someone to share their heart and life with. And yet, for some unknown reason, they haven't yet met that person. And so they avoid the Christmas party because they don't have a date or they come home from Christmas to an empty house...and they wonder what it's like to share 'the most wonderful time of the year' with someone they love.

I think of a friend who lost her dad this year and another friend who will likely face the same loss of her father this coming year. In their families, beneath the joy and the Christmas celebrating, lies heartache and pain.

Looking back on that Christmas when my heart was ready to explode with grief and longing, here's what I would say to myself: 

Don't hide the pain. Don't pretend everything is OK if it's not. You might be someone who loves Jesus and yet your drowning in a sea of pain. It's hard to share, but it's even harder to hide it and just smile and pretend. Choose wisely who you share with. Or, if you decide not to share with others, go to the healer of hearts and pour out your pain to Him. That's why He came to earth. That's why we celebrate this season.

Don't look around, look up. Because if you look around you'll see the pregnant mom, you'll see the young engaged couple, you'll see the new baby, you'll see the elderly couple strolling hand in hand and you quickly suck in your breathe and think to yourself, "I got the short-end of the stick. Life wasn't suppose to turn out this way." And the tears cannot be stopped. But when you look up, you see the stars in the sky that led the Wise men to a manger. And in that manger lies the reason we celebrate.

Choose to praise God every day this month for the miraculous gift of His son. Choose to read the Christmas story in Luke 2 every day until Christmas. Ponder what it was like for Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, the Wise men, the angels. God could have brought his son into this world through an intellectual, wealthy, well-known family. Instead He chose an unwed, teenage girl who delivered her baby in a stable. God does not make mistakes. He didn't make a mistake choosing Mary and He's not making a mistake with you this Christmas. Choose to see the miracle of Christmas and praise God for it.

If this Christmas season is a hard one for you, I would consider it a privilege to pray for you every day until Christmas. You do not have to tell me your name or why this season is a difficult one. But I commit to praying and asking God to meet you in a very real way this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The season of...simplicity?

I really enjoyed focusing on the theme of gratitude last month.

So, I think I'm going to try another theme this month.

I've been reading a few articles and blogs on having a simple Christmas. Some of these I have chosen to read due to our current budget restraints, and others just because the ideas of a simple Christmas is so...appealing.

For the past few days, as I have pondered a theme for the month of December, I kept coming back to s i m p l i c i t y

Simplifying celebrations. 

Simplifying gift-giving.

Simplifying the calendar.

Simplifying the decorating.

Simplifying the traditions.

Take a few minutes to read Have Yourself a Very Simple Christmas: How to clear out the clutter and have a very meaningful holiday.

The opening sentence drew me in since the authors reference the year they were broke as one of their best Christmases ever. Wouldn't it be wonderful to look back at this Christmas season as one of the most simple, meaningful Christmas celebrations we've ever had?

Without money for endless shopping, holiday activities and decorating, we are forced to make different wiser choices in how we spend our time and our money this month.

I want our Christmas season to revolve around celebrating Jesus' birth. I want to follow in the footsteps of another young mom whose story is written in Luke 2: "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."

I have much to be thankful for, and so many things I can treasure and ponder throughout the month.

I love this idea from the article above and I have a basket sitting on my table so we can start recording answered prayers this month:
Create a Family Prayer Basket
Each time God answers a prayer during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, jot it down on a card and drop it in a prayer basket (any basket or bowl will do). Keep the prayer basket on the kitchen table or somewhere your family will see it often. Encourage everyone in the family to participate, helping young children who aren't able to write yet add their own discoveries. At dinner on Christmas Day, initiate your new tradition by taking turns reading the answered prayers.

And I love the idea of throwing a brown bag party! You'll have to read the article to learn exactly what that is :)

Tonight I laid under our Christmas Tree with Samuel (something I loved to do as a child). I talked to him about Jesus and how Christmas is about celebrating Jesus when he was a baby. He doesn't understand everything I'm saying...but it doesn't matter. 

The more I talk about it, the more my heart and mind focus on Jesus' birth.

And the easier it is to choose simplicity this season.