What If?

Over the past months I have often drifted back in thought to the day Elijah was born and the events that surrounded his birth.

(Daniel wrote a blog post talking about those events Here.)

I have played the “what if?” game. What if we had both died? What would that have meant for the family left behind?

The week leading up to his birth J-Term was going on. J-Term is a week where they bring in special speakers to the seminary and many of the Lutheran Brethren pastors, as well as some lay people and of course the students from the school attend, and receive further training. I was able to attend this past one because my mother and father-in-law were staying with us and my mother-in-law was able to watch the kids.

It was really nice to go and sit and just listen and soak up the training and speakers. Mostly it was wonderful to not have a child hanging on me begging for more gummies while I try and listen to the sermon. Ha!

At J-Term I had so many people come up to me and tell me that they would be praying for me and my baby and the delivery. In fact, so many people came up to me to tell me they were praying, I said “Daniel I’m starting to get worried that something is wrong or going to go wrong! Everyone is praying for me!” Then I proceeded to laugh my worry off and go about my day.

But God was at work long before Elijah’s delivery day.

Shortly after I found out I was pregnant I had a dream. And in my dream, I knew that something bad was going to happen to Silas so I was doing everything in my power to protect him. He still fell and got a nasty cut on his head. But I was relieved, I thought to myself. Ok that was it! I saved it from being worse. But then I realized that event was an illusion and what was actually happening was Silas was in the bathtub by himself and it was filling up with water. And I watched as if from a distance helpless to do anything about it. Then I saw Daniel go in pick him up out of the bath and “save him”.  When I thought on the dream the next day I knew God was just telling me to entrust my children to Him. He knows all, He loves them more than I possibly can and He is in control, not me.

Flash forward to Elijah’s birth. As I was bleeding and they were prepping me for surgery I knew something was very wrong. Before I knew it, I was on oxygen and they were running, literally running at points to the operating room. Panic was overtaking me. But there was nothing within my power that I could do about my situation. As I felt the blood leaving my body and the panic overtaking, it wasn’t an audible voice but it felt audible in my head. “Do not fear, I am with you.” And then there was an overwhelming peace that descended on me. Whether I lived or died I had nothing to fear. God has me. I am His child.

God reached down His hand of intervention and saved Elijah and I that day. There was nothing I could do to save me, or him.

Pondering these events this afternoon brought me to think about our state as human beings. We think we have it under control. We have the illusion that we can save ourselves. There are so many religions that say you can earn your spot in heaven. Or that the path to peace is through ourselves or that we simply just need to be good. As long as we are a decent human being we are in the clear. We think that our view of the world dictates how the world actually is. We think we got it. I have it under control.

But the fact is, we don’t have it under control and our view of who we are doesn’t change reality. The illusion is just that: an illusion, a mirage in the distance that never comes.

The reality is, I am a helpless human being that has no ability to save myself. I am bleeding out in my sin, and there is nothing I can do about it. I can try to staunch the blood, but that is not fixing my inner problem. I’m still dying.

But God in His ever-loving mercy reached down His hand of grace and divinely saved me. Jesus came and did what I could not do. He did only what He can do. He lived a perfect life, and then He died on that cross, He shed his blood on my behalf, He covered me in is grace so that God the Father no longer sees my black heart, but sees His Son. He healed my inner problem. It is finished.

Now I still deal with sin. I won’t be perfected until God actually does call me home.

But I am right before the Father. There is no longer sin that separates us. Because of my faith in Jesus I am now a child of God.

I can’t explain the inner spiritual workings of how God makes this all possible. Just like I can’t explain the inner workings God did to physically save me and my son. Elijah was the most physically healthy baby that I have ever delivered. The doctor pronounced him a 10 and said, “I can’t find anything wrong with this baby.”

God has made me whole and complete in Jesus.

But Jesus didn’t just die for me, He died for all of humanity. And He longs for all to come to Him.

God brought glory to Himself that day. God showed His mercy and love to us. Just like He showed the world when He sent His son.

I will just share one last thing.

A few days before Elijah was born we finally settled on his name.

Elijah – Meaning: My God is YAHWEH

God brings Glory to Himself throughout all of it.

Praise be to God.

John 3:16-17

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

In the Quiet

Having quiet time with Jesus.

I used to think “once I have kids and I am a stay at home mom I will have time. Then it will be easy….”

Then I had kids. Wow. Was I wrong! hahahahahah!!!

Oh kids. I mean, I am at home often, but the schedule… Ummm….. did I say schedule? Wait what is that again?? Wait… what was I just saying?… hold on I need to take care of the spilled milk and the screaming baby and the toddler eating the cereal off the floor.

Yep, quiet time with Jesus got even harder! How am I supposed to spend time with the Lord when everything changes and everybody needs me and “I’ll get to it later” turns into, well the day is over… I need to go to bed so I will have the energy to do this all over again.

Every day I’m bombarded with how important my children are. And don’t I know it! They mean the world to me. But between social media and well-intentioned comments, I start believing that I need to make every moment count. They’re only young once after all. Besides, they all need to grow up to be astronauts and if they aren’t it’s because I didn’t spend an hour with them each individually every day nurturing confidence and expelling fears, or they weren’t in every sport, or I looked at my phone one too many times during the day.

I can reach near panic mode when I feel like I’m missing the boat here or there with things I haven’t been living up to for my children.

Often, I felt that I needed to fill all of the moments in the day with meaningful experiences, and always put my kids first. Because after all, they will grow up and this time is precious. And when they are gone I will miss these years. All of this is the truth.

So, when they ask if I will read to them I say yes, I take them to the library, to the park, to play dates, to the bakery, we make cookies, we finger paint, I teach them their numbers and ABC’s, and chores. And then somewhere in there I need to find time to keep up the house, exercise, do my job and love my Husband.

But all these things, while they are well intentioned and good. And not at all bad on their own, pushed God to a lower rank in my life.

Sometimes they push my husband to a lower rank.

Putting my kids first was never on the forefront of my mind. It happens in all well-intentioned ways. It just creeps in and takes over without my knowledge.

It is very prevalent in our society today. We feel so much pressure to be everything to our kids. And being a mom can become my sole, or main, identity without my really even realizing it.

Even though all of the things I was doing, with and for my kids, are good on their own, they are not good when they come at the cost of not having time for my marriage.

And they become especially not good when they come at the cost of not having time for the Lord.

They are not good, when they become my idol.

Those first months in Fergus when Daniel started seminary were hard. The summer started out hard. (You can read about that in this blog post) And then there were other circumstances that made it really hard, and I wondered if things would work out, are we going to be able to make it here. We have no jobs, and 4 little kids.

Nothing like hardship to remind you how much you need Jesus.

At this point in time I knew I needed to spend some quality time in prayer and in the Word. But I was having trouble because I didn’t know when to spend time with the Lord. I didn’t know when or how I was going to pour out my heart to Him like I needed to and be fed by the Word. I tried getting up early in the mornings. I hear wonderful things about the dark quiet before your kids get up, you can get a bit of time before the crazy of the day starts. So, one morning I tried it. I set my alarm for the wee hours of the morning. When that puppy went off I was so tired (I also had a newborn at this point: Silas). But I did it! I actually succeeded in getting up early! My plan was working!!

And then you can guess what happened… My kids must have got the memo…It’s like their internal clocks were set to my body motion. They got up with me… yeah….

Then I tried again the next morning…. Yep… same thing….

So, the next morning after everyone was fed, changed and Daniel had left for school. I decided to try a new tactic.

I said “Boys, I need to spend some time with the Lord. You are going down stairs and play until this timer goes off. And I don’t want you to come up unless it’s a dire emergency!” They looked at me with their surprised little faces. “Ok, Mom.” Then they headed down stairs. Two minutes later, “Mom! Mom!” Me “Nope, timer isn’t done.” A few minutes later. “MOM!”  Me “Did you hear the timer? Go back downstairs.” This happened a few more times. And then they finally started playing. And I got my time with the Lord.

I started doing this somewhat regularly, maybe not every day, but often. And it became part of our routine for that time in my life. It was a wonderful time, where I wasn’t incredibly distracted and I could actually pray and read in some “quiet”. It breathed new life into my relationship with the Lord. It reminded me that He is my friend and my Father. That He is close to me and I am the one who wanders far.

It also reminded me that He comes first.

Taking time away from my kids, and spending that time with the Lord, told my children that He comes first and not them. It is not ignoring my children. It is modeling truth for them.

That alone time is something that I forget is so important to live out and be an example in. I want them to put God first in their lives. What we put first trickles down into the rest of our lives. When God is first they will have the courage to say “no” when they need to, to stand up for someone when its important, to put others before themselves, to shine in the dark places. Not every time. Not all the time. As humans, my children will struggle in this as well. But giving them a firm foundation will help them to recover from their mistakes, from their shame. As the Word trains their hearts and minds the understanding, reasoning, courage and forgiveness of the Lord will grow inside them.

I want them to know that God’s Word will feed their soul. I want them to know that prayer is a life line, and God really does meet you there. I want them to know that you need to plug into church, the body of Christ, even though you may be bored there, or feel disconnected, or even when they hurt you. I want them to know that the church is for them, that it is their community.

I want them to know that the most important thing is not ourselves, but glorifying God.

If God is first the other things will fall into place.

If I teach them to put themselves first, I am setting them up for failure. I am teaching them that they matter more than anything else or maybe even anyone else.

I am a firm believer that God should come first, then your husband/marriage and then the kids.

Ultimately when I am filled up from spending time with the Lord, it gives me what I need to pour out to the other incredibly important things in my life. My husband, and my children.

And when I’m putting my husband and my marriage first, when we are a team, we are able to love and pour into our children so much more. We have more fun, more patience, and ultimately more love all around.

Now it’s a few years since this time, and each year it has looked a little different, with boys starting school, work and schedule changes here and there. Believe me it’s always a work in progress. I don’t do it perfect, I slide back and still wrestle with my sin in this area. But I know that the Lord needs to come first. And being aware of that has made all the difference.

Psalm 42

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One[d]
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God

These Tired & Weary Bones

 

I am Tired with a capital “T”. For the past few weeks I feel like I am walking around like a zombie. It’s been hard to get moving, hard to be patient, hard to be creative, and hard to keep on top of anything.

There are a few reasons for this. One of the big ones would be the puppy. I know it’s crazy, I knew it would be crazy when we got her. It’s not the first time I’ve been to this rodeo. But I figure the reward will outweigh the crazy of the first few months… I’m hoping!! And just let me digress a little here. She really is a good puppy, she is catching onto training fairly quickly, and already walking on a leash nicely. The boys (in particularly Silas) love her. Silas just plays and plays with her, usually there is a lot of giggles and squeals while they are playing.
That warms this mama’s heart. But she is a puppy and there is a lot of work, so much training to do and keeping an eye on what she is up to all the time. Thank goodness for crates!!

Another reason is Elijah, he has been teething. This has caused him to be up two sometimes three times at night. Which in turn is making my nights feel like a series of short naps. Leaving me feeling like an empty shell of myself in the mornings. I can sometimes grab a nap here and there during the week, but not many and they are not long enough. Having the other little boys running around complicates the whole, ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ advice. Haha!

I have been feeling very encouraged with all the moving paperwork finally behind me. The vehicles are licensed, our health care is pretty much figured out, and we have our New Jersey divers licenses. The list has been long but I think it’s finally coming to an end. Now I’m settling into our new normal. Which to my dismay doesn’t happen overnight! Ha! I’m realizing it will just take some time for me to adjust to new patterns in life. And this whole not sleeping thing… well I think it’s safe to assume it will not speed up the process.

I have been wrestling through what it means when I read through scripture, and it talks about how ‘the Lord will renew our strength’, ‘He will lift us on eagles wings’, ‘He is our refuge’, and ‘cast your cares on the Lord’. (Verses listed in the bottom.) There are so many encouraging verses for us in God’s word. My go to book for encouragement is the Psalms.

But what about those times when I don’t feel like it? What about those times when He feels far? How does this help me here right now in my tired weary state?

One of the things that happens to me when I’m running on empty, is everything seems harder than it actually is and I feel more emotional about things than I usually do. Which in turn makes it harder to be the mom I want to be, the wife I want to be, and in general the woman I want to be. I try in vain to stay on top of everything and it’s just not enough. I’m not enough

This morning after I got everyone fed and the boys off to school, I grabbed my coffee, I brought my breakfast into the living room and sat. The sun was streaming through the windows and I forgot about my checklist and the laundry. I opened up my bible, to focus on the truths that the Lord has for me. And then I prayed. (Caleb and Silas were having so much fun down stairs that I was able to pray and be in the Word for most of the morning.)

And during that time something awesome happened. I felt spiritually refreshed and renewed.

You see the Psalms help me know that I have permission to complain. God already knows my feelings, my struggles. It’s no surprise to Him. My struggles may seem trivial in the light of what many others are going through. It may seem silly to complain about the sleepless nights, and whiny children, when I have friends going through cancer. And yet God cares about me, He wants me to give Him my burdens no matter how serious or trivial. To believe that I shouldn’t share these things with God because others have it so much worse than I, is just buying into Satan’s lies, that I don’t need to go to God over this, I can handle it on my own.

Then I read God’s word. The truth. And I just let the truth of who God is wash over me. He is God, He is Faithfull, He is in control, He is all knowing, He is sovereign, He is my Rock, a Fortress around me, He is compassionate, He is my Savior, He is my Father.

Sometimes the voice in my head is so loud, it drowns out what I know to be true. And then I go to the word and it washes over me and breathes life into these tired weary bones. Because I can rest in God’s grace. The grace that extends when I’m not being a nice mom, or a nice wife, or forgetting important tasks. The grace that is always waiting for me when I come to the cross in repentance, or when I’m weary.

Even though I may feel battered and bruised. Barely hanging onto my sanity, or walking around like a zombie. I still have the truth of who God is, who my Father is. I like to go to the psalms and read and pray through them. I can pour out my heart to the Lord, the good, the frustrations, the things that need repentance and my petitions.

Coming before my Heavenly Father may not be able to give me a full night’s rest, train my puppy or a visit with my family on the other side of the coast. My situation may not have changed. But my focus has. And when I have set my focus on Christ. It’s much easier to remember that this is a season, and I can rely on my God’s strength and power, not my own.

I just need to take it one day at a time, and set my eyes on Jesus.

And someday I will sleep again!!

Psalm 103

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;[a]
he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

 

Isaiah 40:31

Yet those who [a]wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will [b]mount up with [c]wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

 

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.

 

1 Peter 5:7

Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

 

 

A New Chapter

 

Here I am sitting at a blank computer screen, watching the line blink, waiting for me to write.

I have been a little scared to jump back into it again. Between my last post and now, so much life has happened. My brain toggles between wondering if I have too much to say or do I have anything to say? Where do I start?

So forgive me as I clear the cobwebs and sweep away the dust, and try to breath some life back into my writing.

Just three months ago we packed up all our belongings. We had many heart felt and tear stained goodbyes. We loaded up our van with our survival supplies for our road trip, and what we would need for the summer. And then we waved good bye to our sweet, little, quiet town, Fergus Falls.

The end of a chapter.

I spent the next two months in my home town, Olympia, where I grew up, where I spent many hours at church, where I learned to ride my horse, where I learned to love the rain and the mountains, where I fell in love with my husband. It’s the place I know the best. I know what to expect there and how to interact with the culture. It’s where some of our best friends and our family live. And summer… ahh summer. It’s my favorite time to be there.

Going there this summer gave me a good amount of time to spend with my family, to let the kids get loved on by their grandparents, and Aunts and Uncles. To let them run around with cousins. To just soak it all in.

But it’s not home anymore. I still love it there, and love the people. But it’s not home. It wasn’t a place I could settle. It was a time of transition. A time to wrestle, renew and find peace in the Lord and His calling.

Daniel finally returned from Alaska from being gone forever…. Ok maybe not forever… But 5 weeks felt like forever! And we again loaded up all of the things… And we said a few more hard goodbyes.

Then we had a chance to take our time and road trip to the other coast. Where we pulled into the fast paced, intense, busy world that is northern New Jersey.

The start of a new chapter.

The day we pulled into town and unloaded our belongings into our cute little house, there was a huge wave of relief that hit me. “We are here, I can settle, this is our new home”

It really has been a huge relief to finally be here. We have been anticipating it for quite a while. And now I can exhale.

One of the things I have definitely been feeling is: overwhelmed. Everything is new, different and finds me out of my comfort zone quite a bit. Switching all of the paperwork, learning the roads, learning how people drive on the road (praying that I chose the correct lane to get onto the correct highway), understanding this different culture around me.

Finding my new normal.

It is truly an adventure. When I think of the adventure, or at least the word ‘adventure’, I often just associate it with fun, and forget that it’s a journey. And while it is fun, the truth is an adventure churns up a lot of different emotions.

I have been really humbled to know God has called us to minister to the people here. To be a part of Christ’s mission here. Part of what is uncomfortable is knowing that on my own I can’t do it. I feel my inadequacy, my insecurity, and my ignorance. I have asked numerous times “Why me Lord? How can you use me? There has got to be someone better suited, someone who is more outgoing, who is more talented.” And the Lord reminds me who I am focusing on when I ask Him those questions, and I am reminded of where I’m putting my faith, versus where I should put my faith.

What I’m really doing when I ask, ‘why me?’ is putting my faith in myself, and that’s when I doubt and become anxious.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I haven’t had many moments of doubt and struggle. That when I looked up at the mountain of what needed to get done I wanted to turn around, throw in the towel, that when I looked at how many miles I needed to go I wanted to crawl back into my bed. (Side note: And let me tell you, when you haven’t slept in your own bed for over two months, it’s like a dream crawling back into your bed for the first time.) I once told Daniel “I am not moving, I do not want to have to find another doctor for the kids! I like this one.” He laughed at me… I laughed at me.

A picture that has been brought to my mind over and over these past few months, is a little girl that is holding her father’s hand as he walks with her and leads her. She is carefree, trusting and happy to be with her father.

I need to be that little girl.

She takes her heavenly fathers hand and lets Him lead. I have a perfect, good heavenly Father that I can trust with everything. I may be imperfect and inadequate, but my Father is not. And while I may be powerless, my Father is not. He has called us here, and all the ministry and growth that we pray comes, will be because of Christ. I can let the weight of my self-reliance fall off my shoulders and I place my hand in Christ’s. I can take steps forward, knowing that His plan will succeed regardless of my shortcomings.

So, here’s to my new chapter in life! Here’s to new experiences and growth! It will probably take me the year before I can put away the Garmin and stop being stressed at the intensity of the grocery shoppers at Trader Joes and Costco! But I’ll get there.

I just have to mention a few things I’m loving (in no particular order), the bagel place right up the street on Washington, it’s delicious. I’m loving the parks, Van Suan was so much fun with the kids. I’m loving that the library is right across the street. I’m loving that NYC is so close. I’m loving the diverse culture. And the last thing I’ll list but certainly not least, is the people, our church. They have been such a blessing to us already and we are so excited to partner with them in ministry.

God is good. All the time. Even in this new chapter.

Especially in this new chapter.

 

Psalm 25:4-7

Make me know Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths.

Lead me in Your truth and teach me,

For You are the God of my salvation;

For You I wait all the day.

Remember, O Lord, Your compassion and Your lovingkindnesses,

For they have been [a]from of old.

Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;

According to Your lovingkindness remember me,

For Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.

 

 

Spring, the Latest at the Stenberg’s


Wow a lot has happened since the last published blog post. I was often writing in the evenings. But recently my hands have been full with a wide awake, usually happy, baby at night. I have also been plagued with new baby brain fog! But he is sleeping more now and that is getting a bit better. Also, boy have the last few months been emotional for me, exaggerated by post baby hormones.

 

Well my husband wrote out Elijah’s amazing birth story. I am still so thankful and humbly amazed by our God. I still find myself staring at his beautiful face and being reminded that we serve a God of miracles and that nothing is impossible for God inside His will. It’s also a good reminder for me as we start a new phase in our journey.

 

I am excited to announce that we are moving to Bergenfield, New Jersey! After things had calmed down following Elijah’s birth and I had some weeks to heal we candidated at Calvary Lutheran in Bergenfield. We got a chance to see the church, the parsonage, the town, and meet the wonderful people in the church. A bit after we visisted they extended us a call and we have accepted it. The whole process has been covered in prayer by the church and us and quite a few others. We feel this is where God is calling us and we are excited about this new adventure and chance to serve the Lord there.

 

It’s very far from the immediate family, the opposite coast, actually. There will be a lot of things for me to get used to, like driving! I’m not the most assertive driver, but I have been told if you are not aggressive you will get nowhere! Hopefully you will not see me in my van stuck on the road getting nowhere! Ha! And honestly I’m sure there will be a lot of differences that I won’t even know about until I experience them. There always is when you move to a new area.

 

They boys are very excited. After all they will be living 15 min from New York City and that is where the Ninja Turtles live, so that is just the best. I have tried to convince them that the Ninja Turtles don’t actually exist, but Asher will just give me his half smile and say “Sure, mom…” with the knowing look on his face that I just don’t know what I’m talking about.

 

One of the hard things we had to do last month was say good bye to our dog Kiaser. He was our 12 year old Rat Terrier. Daniel and I got him right after we were first married, and he has been on a lot of journeys with us and little Silas was quite attached to him. But he was having too many health issues and we had to say good bye. I’m thankful for the humor that my boys bring into some of the hard times. We were sitting at the dinner table and the boys launched into pets and tried to leverage Kiaser’s death into getting a turtle. And then Caleb pleads “Or at least a fish!!”

 

Now we are in the throws of the end of the Seminary school year. Daniel has four more weeks of school and then he graduates! I can hardly believe we are almost done. I’m kind of in denial actually… I have a lot to do, and I don’t have enough hours in the day. It will be so bitter sweet being done here. We are excited to get into ministry and settle down for a while. But it will be hard to leave this time and the good friends we have made here.

 

We leave at the end of May for Washington. Where I will be till late July, Daniel will be there for about two weeks and then he flies to Alaska to do the commercial Salmon fishing with his dad and a few siblings. After Daniel gets back we will start making our trek across the country.

 

I am trying to just enjoy this last time here without getting overwhelmed by the things that need to get done. I am also looking forward to getting some down time in Washington and enjoying spending time with family and friends there.

 

I would appreciate all the prayers I can get as we prepare to move, Daniel goes to Alaska and then we will be getting started in a new place, also we will be logging countless hours in a van with 5 children under the age of 7!!

 

Psalm 67

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us—[b]
so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.

May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples with equity
and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.

The land yields its harvest;
God, our God, blesses us.
May God bless us still,
so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.

 

The Day Elijah Came Into the World

By Daniel Stenberg

Karen gave birth to Elijah Quentin at 9:06 am on February 3rd, 2017.

He didn’t come when we hoped, or how we had hoped. But if he had come according to our hopes, he wouldn’t be here at all.

It seemed like we had been waiting for Elijah forever. True, the nine-month incubation that is pregnancy can drag on seemingly ‘forever’, especially towards the end, but there was more to it this time.

Being in my 3rd year of Seminary it’s time to start interviewing, or ‘candidating’ at churches. We had to wait for Elijah to be born however, as Karen couldn’t travel at the end of pregnancy, and then of course there would be the recovery time after birth. It felt like our future was stalled, like it was just waiting on the baby. So the sooner he came the better.

At least, that’s how it felt.

Also, my parents were visiting in January. My dad would be here for a week, and my mom would be here for three. Being as we don’t live close to each other it would have been nice for dad to be able to hold his newest grandson before catching the plane back to the Pacific Northwest. So the sooner he came the better.

We did all that we knew how to try to convince our youngest that it was time to breathe the fresh Minnesota air. It was time to meet his grandpa. It was time to let mommy and daddy take steps towards the future.

We went for walks. Not easy to do during a frigid Midwest winter. Thankfully the YMCA in town is heated and has a nice walking track. Karen kept working at her cleaning job. She ate spicy food. Short of taking castor oil (no offense dad, but you weren’t quite THAT important) we did all that we knew of to get baby to come.

Nothing worked. There were many occasions of false labor that we hoped would lead to actual labor, but again, our hopes were not realized. The little guy could not be convinced.

Dad left, and the days went by. It was getting close to the time when mom was going to have to leave. Karen went to her Doctor’s appointment the day before her due date and everything looked great. Baby was looking really good, and Karen’s body was ready to have the baby. It wouldn’t take much to set the wheels in motion, and so the Doctor agreed to induce Karen a couple of days later, so that Grandma would have a chance to meet the little guy before she too had to take a plane home.

Karen was pretty excited about this. She had never been induced before, and this meant that maybe she could actually get the drugs! Previous labors had been so quick, that there hadn’t been time. She didn’t regret having children au naturale, but given that this would be the last one, the allure of it being relatively painless was strong. Karen was looking forward to experiencing this side of labor and delivery.

On Feb. 3rd, at 5 am they started Karen’s induction, and everything started out pretty normal. All the vitals were looking good. The Pitocin had begun to get things going and her body was responding well. The Doctor showed up around 8:30, saw that things were progressing well and decided it was time to break the water. The water looked good, and since contractions were going to start getting more intense it was time to get Karen her epidural.

Now I didn’t eat breakfast, we woke up a little too late for that (4:30 am comes WAY too early for me) and since I have an aversion to seeing people stick huge needles into my wife’s backbone I decided it was time to go grab breakfast. Since she was getting an epidural labor should slow down a little, and I should have the 15 minutes it would take to grab a bite to eat.

So I left.

I got down to the car and there, to my intense frustration, my windshield had frozen over. Again. I had scraped it that morning. Well, scraped might be generous. I had cleared sight lines that morning in the frigid cold, and was frustrated that I would have to do so again. It is not a fast process, and it hadn’t warmed up much in the few hours since my last attempts. I decided against it. Who needs breakfast anyway? I headed back up to Karen and the delivery room.

When I walked in the door I was greeted by bloody towels. Everywhere. Not what I wanted, or expected to see. Karen was bleeding, and I didn’t know why, or how, or what was going on.

While I had been down fuming at the cold, my frozen windshield and empty belly, Karen had decided that since the epidural would remove feeling from the lower half of her body that she should get up and use the bathroom.

When she stood up, a gush of blood hit the floor.

That is not supposed to happen.

The nurse had her get right back into bed and called the doctor. I returned seconds before the Doctor arrived. I will never forget sitting in that chair and watching his face. He looked at my wife, he looked at the towels and floor, and back to my wife. His brow was furrowed, with growing worry.

“I know this isn’t what we had planned, but we need to do an emergency C-section.”

Those words tore into me.

They also kicked over a beehive of commotion. Nurses just magically appeared out of nowhere. Suddenly there was another bed in the room and they were moving Karen onto it. Next thing I know we’re being whisked down the hall, and into an elevator. Out the elevator and down the hall, around corners, through doors with keycards. We’re practically running now. Our pace couldn’t match what was going on in my head however. What was going on? Was Karen in danger? Was the baby? Both? Why is this happening? The questions spilled over, filling my cup of panic.

“Swallow it Stenberg, swallow it and listen”, I told myself.

The Doctor was telling me how maybe I could still be in the room, maybe they would have time to give Karen an epidural in the Operating Room (OR), and then I could still be there, and she could be awake. We could go through this together. At least I could hold her hand.

Except when we got to the OR they pushed her into the room, and they left me outside. There was no time. They had to get the baby out as quickly as possible. There would be no epidural. They were going to put Karen under. It had to be quick. The bleeding had to stop. There was no time.

I was ushered into a room that resembled a large closet. There was a patched couch along one wall, some stacked chairs in the corner, an overused desk and a squeaky rolling chair. I slowly sank into the chair, rested my head on the desk and prayed. The rush of the last five minutes washed over me and I began to feel tears carve paths down my cheeks and then fall to the floor. I reached out to family and friends via text and asked for prayer.

“Pray for my wife. Pray for my child. Please, just pray.”

One friend asked if he could come and join me, to be there as a support for me. I laughed ironically to myself. I didn’t even know where I was. I didn’t know where this room was. I didn’t know how to get into, or out of, this part of the hospital. I told him that I didn’t know how to get to him, or how to get him to me, so thanks for the thought, but at this point, just pray.

What else could we do?

Soon, a nurse found me. I don’t know how, but she found me. Maybe they put all the dads in that little storage room? I dunno. Just glad I’m not still stuck in there. She brought me back up through the labyrinth and into the Labor and Delivery department. She took me to the room they had moved Karen’s stuff into and told me that it wouldn’t be too long now. It was probably only 8 minutes, but it felt like an hour. Suddenly she was back at the door, asking me if I wanted to hold my son.

My son. He had made it. Praise God. I was filled with joy, but in the back of my head I couldn’t help but wonder: how was Karen?

I was brought to a room where Elijah was undergoing the battery of tests that newborns are subjected to. They told me he was great. Beyond great. He was an incredibly and surprisingly healthy baby. The awe in the room was almost palpable. For those of you ‘in the know’, Elijah scored an 8 on his first APGAR test, and a 10 on his second. 10s are unheard of. They just don’t give those out. But they did to Elijah.

Soon I was holding my 5th son. This was the first time I had held one of my children before my wife had been able to. Which brought my mind back to Karen.

How is my wife doing?

It wasn’t too long before the Doctor came in. He came in and congratulated me on an amazingly healthy son. He told me Karen was doing really well. She was on her way to the room they called ‘recovery’ and that as soon as she was awake and coherent they would bring her up, and she could start feeding Elijah.

She was OK. It was a good thing that I was sitting down. As the relief flooded my body and the tension that had been building relaxed I felt my legs go weak. Thank God that my wife is OK, and thank God for whoever invented chairs.

So what happened? Why the bleeding? Why the emergency C-section?

The Doctor told me that it turned out that Karen had a condition called ‘Vasa Previa’. It is a rare occurrence, and it is hard to spot during Ultrasounds, unless one is looking for it specifically.

Vasa Previa is a condition where the blood vessels that attach the umbilical cord to the placenta run in between the baby and the birth canal. When Karen’s water broke, the blood vessels broke as well, and that is what caused the bleeding. That blood was supposed to be going to Elijah, and since he wasn’t getting it they had to perform the emergency C-section.

About an hour later, Karen was wheeled into the room that she would spend the next three days in. I brought her Elijah, and they began the mother-baby bonding process. We were both so relieved to have a safe and healthy baby and mother that it took a while for the emotions to settle. It wasn’t until Saturday night that we decided to do a bit more research on Vasa Previa.

I hopped on my laptop and took a stroll through vasaprevia.com.

What I found filled me with a humble thankfulness that I find hard to accurately describe.

Here are a few statistics from vasaprevia.com:

  1. 95% of vasa previa pregnancies that are not prenatally diagnosed end in the death of the child. (Any instance that I could find of a baby surviving a case where it was not prenatally diagnosed they did so through a blood transfusion.)
  2. If a pregnancy is diagnosed as vasa previa, the mother is recommended to be put on bed rest between weeks 30-32, and then Doctors perform a C-section as soon as the baby is deemed able to survive outside the womb, typically weeks 35-36.
  3. It is strongly discouraged to let the mother go into labor and have the baby naturally, but should she decide to anyway, it is necessary to be prepared for a blood transfusion for the child.

The realization of what I was reading began to hit me.

My son was not only in the 5%, my son didn’t require a blood transfusion. Despite the incredible amount of blood that Karen lost he scored higher on the APGAR than any of our other children. He scored higher than children are supposed to score.

Added to that, we had TRIED to get Karen to go into labor. We had gone for walks, worked hard, eaten spicy food, and thankfully passed on the castor oil. If Karen had gone into labor, if her water had broken, anywhere else but in a delivery room, statistics and science say this story ends differently. If we hadn’t scheduled an induction so that Elijah could meet Grandma, if Karen hadn’t decided to get an epidural, resulting in the bleeding being caught right away, if…if….if…All the ‘ifs’ kept piling up.

It began to sink in.

Karen and I began to realize how God had provided for us. How God had blessed us. How miraculous the birth of our little Elijah was. Statistics and Science said that he shouldn’t be here with us. And yet here he was, in my arms. As I watched his chest move with each breath, I felt the tears begin to retrace their steps down my cheeks.

Thank you Jesus. Thank you for my son.

So how do we respond?

The initial reaction is to say, “God is good!” And He is good. But He would still be good even if He had decided to take Elijah that morning on Feb. 3rd, 2017.

Another reaction is to say, “God is faithful!” And He is faithful. But He is also faithful to those who lost their children to vasa previa, or any other complication that takes children too early from this world.

Another response is: ‘Man, God must have some plan for this little guy.” And He does. But it might not be what we would typically classify as ‘amazing’. You see, I believe that it’s similar to conversion, or testimonies. It’s similar to the understanding that those who go through a miraculous ‘Damasacus Road’ conversion experience are not more important to God than those who grow up in the Church, and have always had a relationship with Him. He just used some means that we would deem as ‘miraculous’ to bring them into the fold. I would argue that how he saves each of us is miraculous. In the same way, Elijah does not mean more to God than other babies, God just used means that we would deem as miraculous to bring him into the world.

How God chose to act in this instance doesn’t dictate His goodness, or His faithfulness, or Elijah’s future.

So, again, how do we respond?

With thankfulness that He acted. Karen and I are just so thankful that God chose to bless us with Elijah. We are overcome by humble gratitude. We know that it is not because of who we are as people, or as parents, but because of God’s grace and mercy.

We want to say thank you to all who prayed for us, and with us for the life of this precious little boy. Our God has answered your prayers. We humbly ask that you continue to pray for him as he grows. Pray that he would walk with the Lord all of his life.

It feels like in America, in Western Christianity, we don’t get to see what we would call ‘miracles’ very often. Well, a miracle happened on the morning of Feb 3rd, 2017 in the sleepy little city of Fergus Falls, MN. And if you need a reminder that our God is able to perform miracles, just take a look at this little face and be encouraged.

Praise be to God.

1 Chronicles 29:10-13

David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,

“Praise be to you, Lord,
the God of our father Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.
12 Wealth and honor come from you;
you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.
13 Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name.

Cinnamon Buns

I have made it to 37 weeks! Woo Hoo! I have started craving comfort food. One of those comfort foods for me is Cinnamon Buns (or Cinnamon Rolls).

Also as I anticipate the arrival of this baby. I toggle between being terribly uncomfortable(this just hit me this past weekend) which comes with the feeling of not ever wanting to get off the couch, to having bursts of energy and wanting to keep busy to pass the time. I haven’t had much of an in between speed the past few days… So of course in my burst of energy yesterday, making cinnamon buns that chilly afternoon sounded perfect.

In our house when , I don’t just make them as breakfast or a dessert. I make them for dinner, with bacon… So good… And since they are dinner there is no guilt in having as many as you want. 😉

I make the bun dough in my Bosch mixer, which is just the best for kneading bread. This recipe makes about two 9×13 inch pans. It’s quite a lot of dough, so if you are using a mixer with a smaller bowl it might not fit…

Cinnamon Buns

First add 3 Cups warm water, this is what you will be activating your yeast in. So you want to temp to be between 95 and 115 F. (I try to gage it by how hot I would make my bath water when checking the temp of the water.)

Then add 1/3 Cup Sugar, 1/3 Cup Canola oil and 2 Tablespoons yeast. Let sit for about 5 min.

Then add 3 Cups flour and 1 Tablespoon Salt. Mix together. It will be a watery dough consistency.

Add 2 eggs to the dough and mix with fork. (pic below)


Mix together.

Then you will slowly start adding flour. It will be about another 4 1/2 Cups. The dough should be coming clean off the sides once there is enough flour. (Pic below)

Knead in mixer for another 4 to 5 min. Then pull out of mixer and form into a ball.

Add about 2 Tablespoons of Canola oil to a bowl large enough for the dough to raise in. Place dough in bowl. Coat your dough in the oil, so that it would still as much to the sides of the bowl.


Let raise for an hour to an hour and a half, until it has doubled in size.

Lightly cover the surface that you will be rolling out your dough in oil. Roll out dough, fairly thin.


Soften half a cup of butter and spread all over rolled out dough.  I eyeball the brown sugar and cinnamon. I spread the brown sugar so it is evenly coated all over the dough, and then I sprinkle the cinnamon all over it.



Roll up and pinch the seam of the dough together. Then I pinch them apart with dental floss or string. And place them in 2 greased 9×13 inch pans.


Let rise another half an hour. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 min.

The reason there is only one pan in this last picture. Is because I got so excited when they came out of the oven, I immediately started serving them up and forgot all about taking the picture!

I serve them with frosting.

 Cinnamon Bun Dough

3 Cups water   1/3 Cup Sugar

1/3 Cups Canola Oil   2 Tablespoons Yeast

3 Cups Flour  1 Tablespoon Salt

2 Eggs    4 1/2 Cups additional Flour

Filling

1/2 Cup Butter

Brown sugar to cover dough and cinnamon to sprinkle on dough (eyeball it)

Vanilla Butter Frosting

1/3 Cup softened Butter

3 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar

1 teaspoon Vanilla

About 1/4 Cup Milk

Mix butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk together. You can use more or less milk depending on how thick you like your frosting.

When you put it over the hot cinnamon buns it will start melting in!

Intentionality in the New Year

 

It’s a new year! We have just landed in one of my least favorite months. Christmas is over and the reality of how much winter we have left to go sets in. This winter has been a bit brutal so far. It’s been going from bearable temps, to below zero temps, blizzards, and there was even an ice storm on Christmas Day thrown in there. We have not had much of the picturesque 20 degrees with light snow falling. However I really can’t complain. I’m used to driving in the snow at this juncture in life and I don’t usually have to leave the house when it’s blizzarding, unless of course, I’m picking the boy’s up from school. And really Fergus is so small that this is not a big deal. Also (don’t hate me) but the kid in me loves watching storms. There is just something beautiful and captivating in them.

Starting the New Year, for a lot of people comes new years resolutions. Now traditionally I’m not a huge fan of new years resolutions, for myself. Not that I am against them, in fact I think they can be great and a good kick in areas we know need attention. But for myself I really gravitate toward the law side of them. In the past I have made these detailed resolutions, and then I drive myself crazy, because I want to stick to the letter of the law in them… I mean after all I made it! I love extending grace to others, but when it comes to myself I tend to have more of an issue. My type-A personality comes out in spades…at myself! So I have shied away from doing this the last few years.

But this year I have been pondering the “New Years Resolution” again. Not because I want to make some strict guidelines for myself like, -drink 64oz of water –workout 5 times a week –read to the kids at least 20 min everyday –meal plan on the weekend for the week. These are all great things, but I realize that right now in life this stuff is not going to happen every week. Especially the ‘workout 5 times a week’! Ha!

However I do want to be more intentional. I have a few things that I’m really excited about that I believe God has placed on my heart, which I will share with you all.

One of them is this blog. Believe it or not, starting this blog has been a huge stretch for me. It has pushed me out of my comfort zone and grown me. Mainly in writing about life and being honest and open in that. But also in technology! It took me forever to figure out how to get my site set up the way I wanted it! Thankfully I had my techie hubby around to help me trouble shoot! I want to be intentional in getting organized going into the New Year. This will also be a really useful device in helping me keep on top of things, and not letting this slip to the back burner as life gets busy.

Another thing that I’m excited about being more intentional in is Plexus. Not only is it a great company that makes top of the line health products, but all of the women (and a few men) who are ambassadors that I have worked with are so great and very encouraging. Their primary focus is to help people. I love that. I have talked a bit about how much it has impacted my life and Daniel’s. So I won’t go into the long details of that. (I will link below the blog post that goes into those details.) I have read and heard so many testimonies of how it is helping others as well. It helps with things like, Diabetes (types1 and 2), it provides energy, influences mood, helps in losing weight, and also gaining weight, skin issues, allergy issues, hormone imbalance and many more things. I’m not saying it will fix all these things for everyone. But because it gets to the root of the problem that a lot of these things stem from, it can have a big impact. And because of that I want to be more intentional with sharing about it, and in bringing some hope, tools and better health to others. One of the best parts is the routine is super simple! I mean, Daniel has no problem keeping up with it!

The last thing (but certainly not least) I plan on being more intentional in is relationships. This is a funny one for me to think about being more intentional in, because I crave relationship. I crave having deep friendships and conversation. It energizes and fills me up. But I get busy and forget to make it happen. I can tell when it’s not happening. I feel it. I start getting a bit stir crazy and won’t stop talking Daniel’s ear off. Poor guy… I need to be more intentional in setting up things like play dates, coffee dates, and having people over for dinner. The hope is that after Daniel graduates Seminary we will be taking a call at a church. And I really need to remember this one during that time. When I’m getting to know new people and a new area. I enjoy getting to know people and new areas, but it also puts me out of my comfort zone and I can let shyness and insecurities get the best of me in these situations, if I’m not being intentional.

As we start the New Year, I have been approaching these things in prayer. And I have only gotten more excited. However as I contemplate this, and start writing things down in my planner I realize I will have to write them down in pencil. And continue to commit my agenda and plans to the Lord. I believe that the Lord has given me these passions and hopes in my heart. But I also go into them realizing that I want to continue to seek His guidance in all the aspects of life. I want to be in a place where I’m sensitive and willing to change and adapt.

I don’t want to live them out through the law, but through God’s grace.

Blessings in the New Year!

Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Link to our Health Story- This is a Story All About How…

Expectations and the Guilt that Accompanies 

 

The second Christmas challenge…

Another big challenge that I have been thinking about, is the expectations that come with this time of year. I think that the expectations look different depending on the person and family. But there are cookie exchanges, gift exchanges, Christmas cards to write and mail. There are family gatherings, and gatherings with friends. And then of course you have to add all of this on top of your normal week/work/school schedule.

How do we do it all?

We can’t. Or at least I can’t!

Something somewhere has to give. And then if you are like me, you feel guilty about it.

I was listening to a woman tell this story on a podcast the other day, about how she grew up in a very unconventional family, she then ended up going to college in a completely different area of the country than what she was used to, and married a nice man from the south. In her early-married years, she signed up for the cookie exchange at church. And on the flier it said to bring your favorite cookie to exchange. So she showed up with her favorite cookie… Oreos. The other women were so confused as to why she would show up with Oreos, a store-bought cookie. She soon realized her mistake as she looked around at all the home made baked goods, and got the “oh honey, that’s ok” from multiple women. She had never really liked baking, and in her previous community of friends this wouldn’t have been a big deal. But obviously that was a different story here. The next few years she continued to sign up for the cookie exchange and this time bake her own cookies. But at some point along the line realized she still did not like baking. It did not bring her any joy. So she made the decision that she was not going to participate in things like cookie exchanges anymore, instead she was going to spend more time at Christmas doing the things she loved.

I really like the concept of spending more time doing what you love at Christmas and letting go of those things that you really don’t enjoy. This idea is really a freeing concept to me. Focusing more on my giftings and less on the checklist.

My mom loves writing Christmas cards. In fact she is just great at remembering and writing cards to people throughout the year. I love that about her. This is a gift that she enjoys, and through it she loves on others. I on the other hand really, really struggle with writing Christmas cards. It is not something that comes naturally to me, I struggle to remember to do it, and I don’t really enjoy the process. My poor mother really worked hard getting me to remember to write cards and thank you cards. But even with the repetition of doing it when I was younger, with her prodding, it is still a huge struggle for me today. So when it comes to the big task of Christmas cards…. Well I have pretty much given up on those.

And in previous years I have felt really guilty about this. But this year I have decided to let it go. I’m figuratively waving goodbye to that guilt! Maybe I will do it someday. But for right now I’m letting it go. I will grab on to some newfound freedom in changing my expectations. I will wish everyone a Merry Christmas from social media. And I will cheer on and be thankful for those that do love to send cards!

It’s usually pretty much impossible to get away from every difficult situation or time at Christmas (or life). But I have realized I can have boundaries and change my own expectations of myself.

This is a great season to love on people or let others love on you! Let your gifts and abilities shine. And don’t get bogged down by unrealistic expectations.

Our traditions and Christmas’ have looked pretty different throughout the years. Some years we have been close to family, and in the more recent years we have been away. But in all that, we have found some traditions that we love to do together as a family. So I will share a few with you!

We love to make “hot”(warm) cocoa, put it in the boys water bottles, load up in the van and drive around and look at (hunt for) Christmas lights.

Another one is making krumkake with Daniel. This is Daniel’s favorite Christmas cookie. It’s a Norwegian cookie that looks a lot like a mini ice cream cone, highlighted with the delicious spice, cardamom. You can fill them with cream, but for the most part, we just eat them plain.

On Christmas Eve we love going to the candlelight service at church. We are still in the process of figuring a favorite main course for Christmas Eve dinner. So if you have any favorites feel free to let me know!

We have been carrying on this tradition from Daniel’s side of the family. On Christmas Eve we eat dinner by candlelight, and then we serve rice pudding with a nut hidden in it, and whoever finds the nut gets a prize. The kids love this. Then we read the Christmas story and Daniel gets out his guitar and we sing a few Christmas carols.

Christmas morning, there is a lot of opening presents, playing, coffee and then cinnamon buns (In fact I will have to share my cinnamon bun recipe, it is so delicious!). Christmas day has been pretty low key for us, just enjoying each other’s company. Until the meltdowns start with the kids. For all the fun extreme highs of the day, it seems that they cannot go without the extreme meltdowns later on! But it’s all worth it!

For now I will stick to what I love and what works for this season of life, baking for others, baking with my kids. Parties, Christmas movies and curling up on the couch with a book while it dumps snow (which is actually what my day looked like today).

And to all of you, I wish you a very Merry Christmas. Filled with hope, and peace in the Lord.

 

Romans 15:12-13

And again, Isaiah says,

“The Root of Jesse will spring up,

one who will arise to rule over the nations;

in him the Gentiles will hope.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year! Why is it so Hard??

 

It’s that time of the year again! You know as the song goes, “The most wonderful time of the year!” Sort of… I do love this time of year though. I enjoy all the get-togethers and parties. I can be a bit shy but I have realized that I’m more of an extrovert than an introvert. So I really feed off of all of the business and activities. I also love baking cookies with the kids. Currently I am trying to get them each to think of their favorite Christmas cookie, that we can put on the ‘to bake’ list. So far this plan of mine is not working out to well… it’s hard for them to narrow it down to just one cookie, and then there is the issue that one of them thinks his favorite cookie is ginger bread men, and I know it’s not…I’m not even sure he’s had a ginger bread cookie. But he likes the story with the ginger bread boy in it; therefore his favorite cookie is gingerbread men. I’m thinking I will have to either rethink my plan a bit, or make more types of cookies than I currently want to. I also enjoy shopping, picking out the gifts, and brainstorming gift ideas for the boys with Daniel, as we get excited for what Christmas morning will look like.

But lets face it. Christmas is not without it’s challenges. Oh so many challenges… I have been pondering them this past week. I know that there are many, many different challenges for each different person at Christmas. I want to just write about a few of them that I have been working through this year. I am just going to start with the first one here. I started to write this all in one post, and it was getting long, so I will break it into two and put up the second next week. I think short and simple works a bit better during this season. So you’re welcome! 😉

Christmas is a time when we should be so filled with hope, joy and thankfulness. We look back and can be thankful for the birth of Jesus and his coming. In the present we can be thankful for all that He has done for us that leads to our salvation and forgiveness. And we look to the future where we can be thankful that He is coming again and that our eternity is sound and secure in Christ.

I personally have so much to be thankful for in my own life right now.

And yet, it’s this time of year that can also make it so hard to be thankful.

Our family started making Christmas lists for each other the past few years. Takes a little bit of the guess work out of Christmas shopping, and for those of us who will not make it home for Christmas, it also helps if those things are on amazon and can be easily shipped! At first it’s hard for me to think of what I want to put on my list… (Besides a new van! And that is not really a Christmas list item, ha!) But once I get the ball rolling and coming up with a few things, I realize, there are a whole lot of things I could put on this list. My kid’s start adding to their Christmas lists as soon as Christmas is over! All these toys ‘conveniently’ come with adds that show all the other toys they don’t have in a particular set. And the kids show us what they ‘need’ to get next from these little add booklets. Well played Lego… Well played…

It’s so easy to fall into discontentment during this time of year. It’s so easy to see all the things we don’t have. It’s so easy to compare our lives with others. Most of the time it creeps in without me even realizing it.

This year I have been more actively aware of this mental battle. For me just being more aware of it has helped, recognizing the lies before they can take root. It helps me actively redirect those thoughts, to where they should be.

Also it can be hard for me to set aside time to spend with God this time of year. I know it should be #1 priority right! Well, it sure can get hard when there is so much going on this time of year! But it has really helped me to keep this a priority. It does not look the same everyday. And that is one thing I love about the freedom we have as we rest in Gods grace. There are no set rules for when to do devotions, or what that should look like! Just seek the Lord. Do what He puts on your heart and what works for you.

I recently got an advent devotional from an app called “She Reads Truth”. It has been really good. Currently the devos have been tying the Old Testament prophecy about Jesus’ coming to the New Testament scripture where Jesus has come and fulfilled that prophecy. I have been enjoying it! It’s also right there on my phone, so if I miss out on my morning devotions, I have it right there when I have time later in the day.

As far as getting my kids to focus on the true reason for the season, we talk about it a lot. In our nightly prayers, we make a point to talk about it, to thank God for the birth of Jesus, for sending His Son. We do have some advent things to do with the kids as well. But it’s a work in progress (I mean who am I kidding! I just wrote about how I am still a work in progress!). I don’t have it all figured out. I just keep praying that God will give us wisdom and guidance. And of course the continued prayer for my boys and their relationships with Jesus…and it wouldn’t hurt if they could settle on a favorite Christmas cookie either…

So here are a few verses on why we celebrate Christmas!

 

Isaiah 9:6-7

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

John 1:14

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.