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28 Days Until Christmas: {Wisdom of} The Wise Men

Today, we celebrate the wisdom of the Wise Men (or Magi as some Bible translations refer to them). Yes, I know this is seemingly a bit out-of-order in light of the Christmas story, but please bear with me here. I do have a point to telling it out-of-order. 😉

This morning, I was inspired to talk about the Wise Men when Chelsea looked at a craft pack of crowns and asked if she could make those while Theresa worked on her school work. I had originally planned to do a Santa or snowman craft with them, but I was humbled  by this simple request to make a crown instead. A voice told me to go with it – to take a moment and pause, considering the weight of the season, and the true value it has for our family. In all the hustle and bustle of preserving the season, I had forgotten one very important thing – Jesus.

I could make excuses, but I won’t. It hit me that my private devotions are done away from the girls. I began to consider what  I actually share with them about Jesus apart from Sunday mornings and family prayers in the car, and at the meal table as we break bread, and I realized that  it just wasn’t enough. Not now, not when we are celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Master and Creator. So I began to think about the Wise Men, search out their story, and consider their Wisdom in traveling thousands of miles to visit a tiny baby born in Bethlehem…

 

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Wise Men from the east came to Jerusalem, and asked, “Where is the One who has been born King of Jews? We saw His star in the east and came to worship Him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 

                   “’But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least    among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the  shepherd of my people Israel.’” 

Then Herod called the Wise Men secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find Him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship Him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Matthew 2:1-12 NIV

There are many aspects of this story that I’d never considered before. The Wise Men came to see a baby. A tiny baby. They came to see the God-child, born of a virgin. What a miracle! This affirms the fact that Jesus was born to save the world! He did not come simply for the Jews, but for all of man kind. Man kind who were so desperately in need of even just the hope of salvation, that they were willing to travel to worship at the feet of a tiny baby, in order to carry that seed of hope back to others in their homeland.

Take a moment and consider the weight of that thought right there. There was a time before people understood that God wanted to save man from himself, so they had tried in vain to earn their own salvation. Can you imagine the desperation of the people in that time in history?

There was immense wisdom in visiting the Christ child. They had proof that God had come to them in physical form. They had a real, tangible vision of hope to carry home. To the sick and down trodden, they had hope to give. To those rotting in their own sins, they had hope to give. God had come! God had heard their prayers! And not just the Jews, but the prayers of the world

There was never a time in the Gospel when Jesus’ story was not powerful and beautiful. There was a never time in His life when He was not duly loved and hated by the world and by His own people. We see Herod plotting to kill him in verse 16, if we read on in the story. Herod and his followers were disturbed by the mere mention of the Christ child’s birth in verse 3. No, for them a  Messiah could not come, for at that time, the Jews were expecting a mighty warrior to be raised up and avenge the Jews. After all, Jesus was in the line of David – the great and mighty war hero! Blood would be shed over the injustice done to the Jews, right? Herod would not lose his life. No, he would take one. And there the plot to kill Jesus begins.

I want to take a moment and pause here. I want us to consider this point, because I feel it’s a very crucial one to remember. People were hostile towards a tiny baby merely because of what He represented. Jesus had not yet done any miracles. He had not preached in the temple yet, He had not called anyone to Him through His own physical mouth (other than perhaps His mother, father, close family members, as a child does when He wants food, comfort, play). He was already sentenced to die – from birth.

The gifts of the Wise Men make sense now, don’t they? Gold, incense, myrrh. They knew Jesus had to die. They knew blood would be shed, but it would not be the blood of a people group necessarily, but of Jesus Himself. And at birth, Jesus’ posse of followers were formed. He was building an army, of sorts, without even having called anyone to Him through His own physical mouth. His Father in Heaven began weaving solutions into problems Jesus didn’t even know He had yet. The world began rallying behind this tiny baby – the Christ child, before He had uttered one word of hope to them.

That is the power of the Gospel. Life. Not words. Life.

As we enter into this Christmas season, I pray that our lives are lived like those of the Wise Men – that we would see the value in the Christ child and what He represents, taking more than just a snippet of  time to seek Him out and worship Him. I pray also that we would remember to carry the message of Hope to all in our path, through more than words – through the lives we live.

 

Chelsea and Mama  Theresa and Daddy

military life

Grateful for: A Strong Marriage

May 6, 2006 4pm

May 6, 2006 4:00 PM at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church

There are so many wonderful people in my life and the one I am most grateful for is my husband, Anthony. He’s been such a pillar of support, love and encouragement for me through all of life’s challenges. When I am least expecting it, he opens his heart and does something so kind and wonderful it renders me speechless. (I know…a big feat for sure, huh?)

As we approach the holidays and life gets a little more hectic, I want to take time to make sure my husband really knows how much I love him. Right now, he’s still establishing himself at a new job and for the past several months he’s had the added hardship of not having any Sundays off to worship corporately with us. We just found out last night that he’ll be working swing shift on Christmas Eve, making it impossible for him to attend a Christmas Eve service – something our family truly values and treasures. My heart broke for him when I heard that. It will be another month or two before he can even have the possibility of a Sunday off from work. I can already see the effects that this change has had on him, and I have been praying mightily for him.

First day on the new job

First day on the new job!

Anthony is a wonderful man and we’ve made so many wonderful memories together. As I pray for his needs to be fulfilled and met, I also am reminded to thank God for both the easy and the hard times we’ve had. Recently I rediscovered our wedding announcement that we’d clipped from the local paper seven years ago when it was published.

wedding announcement

How fun! So many changes have occurred since then. We are the same people, yet so different now.

 I’m grateful for the heartbreak of military life. It was tough to see any value in it during the six years he was enlisted, but there was a lot of growth in me and in us as a couple! I am stronger, he is stronger, we understand each better and we have learned to set limits and place each other first, behind God.

We learned the value of our marriage by not

always being able to be close to one another.

He was deployed 6-9 months of every year for the entire 6 years he was enlisted. We were only married for three months when he shipped out to boot camp. The day he hopped on the plane to fly to boot camp in Chicago, IL was the day I miscarried our twins during my first of 16+ pregnancies (we have two children to hold, 14+ in heaven).

military life

Anthony and I on board the USS FORD (FFG 54) shortly after it returned home from a long deployment. Anthony served as an Engineman on this ship for the entire 6 year enlistment (6 years enlisted, 2 years inactive ready reserve), finally being honorably discharged as a Petty Officer second class in August 2012.

Military life felt like death, but any time at all with Anthony felt like LIFE! And it still does.

happy together!

Happy Together

I am so grateful for my husband who is my best friend, lover, biggest supporter and a wonderful father to our two beautiful daughters. And I am most grateful that through all the heartache, challenges and pain…our marriage has not only survived, but grown and thrived!

We are back!

How fun! Back in the church we were married in, this time with our two beautiful daughters in tow.

A BIG thank you to angels everywhere who prayed for us, watched our kids when I was falling apart during long deployments, and who held us in their thoughts, prayers, arms and homes. I know many times it wasn’t easy, but wow – has it made a HUGE difference in our lives!

THANK YOU! 

And so now I turn the focus back to you, dear readers – who in your life are you most thankful for? Who is the person who has stood by you through thick and thin? What can you do this holiday season to stay close to them and thank them for all they’ve done for you? How can we be praying for this wonderful person in your life? Leave your answers in the comments below.

hugs and love from,

Mandy

29 Days Until Christmas: Santa Necklaces

Santa Necklace

My girls are absolutely nuts about Santa! They likely get it from me. One of my all-time favorite (modern) Christmas movies is Elf. I am absolutely like Will Ferrell in Elf.

Santa - Elf

This picture cracks me up EVERY time I see it!

Santa is going to be jet-skiing into the port of Brookings-Harbor soon, and I am so excited to see him! A couple years ago, I completely embarrassed my husband in the Seattle Macy’s store when I jumped up and down and screamed “Santa! He’s here!” as Santa walked on stage. My kids, mind you, were standing perfectly still and calm next to daddy. Yep. I love me some Santa Claus! I love the magic and the mystery, and the mythology. I even love the true story of the original Santa – St. Nicholas. I go nuts for Santa, I tell ya! My kids do too.

Chelsea has been drawing maps for Santa to find our new house and Theresa has been drawing pictures of Santa. We’ve kept the magic alive all year-long by calling Santa within earshot of the girls. Occasionally I’ll just pick up the telephone, pretend to press a few buttons and start talking to Santa, telling him what wonderful children I have and updating him on their Christmas lists. One time the girls’ room was really, really messy and so I called Santa and let him know all about it. The girls decided to make a deal with Santa – if they cleaned their room, Santa would leave a small gift for them. It worked! Santa left them the complete collection of Beethoven movies (which Mrs. Claus had found on clearance recently and was saving for a special moment).

To me, it’s important to keep the magic and mystery alive for my girls as long as possible. Childhood is over in a blink of an eye. It is such a short season in life that I want them to be able to enjoy it to the fullest. So far, it seems to be working. My girls are the happiest, most well-adjusted kids I’ve ever met, and I’m not just saying that because I’m their mother. It’s been told to me by countless people in our lives. It’s only by the grace of God that I can say this. If it weren’t for His angels coming and rescuing us throughout the six years of hell/Navy life, we would never be the happy, healthy family we are now. We would never be able to enjoy this season in our lives.

I am so grateful for my beautiful, sweet daughters. I look forward to them wearing these lovely necklaces throughout the Christmas season this year and for years to come.

And now…may you enjoy a couple of photos from last year’s Christmas (because my camera died, I couldn’t find the batteries and the kids are in bed already).

ChelseaElf

Chelsea House

Theresa House

Bug Bug and Rosie

Mistle Toes
Aside

30 Days Until Christmas: Mistle Toes

Mistletoes

Today we got a little bit messy in the bathroom, as we painted our Mistle Toes! I got the original idea from a Pinterest.com post.

mistletoes

The original Pinterest idea

First, I had the girls wash their feet in the tub. Then I had the good sense to ask them to get naked, so they could take a bath afterwards to clean up the paint. 🙂 I painted Chelsea’s feet a light green and had her step on several sheets of paper. The girls were all wound up and wiggly from a morning at church with grandma, so they had a hard time standing still. But it was still very fun! After Chelsea’s feet were painted and printed, I lifted her into the bath tub for a luxury foot soak, and it was Theresa’s turn. She wasn’t too keen on it until she realized that green feet are kind of cool. Then she realized she had Grinch feet, so it was on from there!

We tried to get a printing of the dog, but Rosie wasn’t too interested in taking part in that. (The dog still got a bath anyway. Poor Rosie!)

When the paint was (mostly) dry, I took a fine tipped paintbrush and dipped it into red paint and drew on the final details. The girls were amazed by how it all came together. I did print some on other colors, but they’re far too wet to complete now, so I’ll have to update this posting later.

All in all, this was a fun craft! I plan on framing them as soon as they’re dry, so I’ll of course update with that, too.

What do you think? Would you kiss beneath these Mistle Toes?

Christmas 2013 Fun

How many of you remember making the red and green construction paper chains in grade school? Usually there was some sort of cute cotton bearded Santa on top, with the chain hanging down and you were to tear off a link a day in order to count down to Christmas morning. Well, this seasonal blog series is a bit like that, only better! With the help of the two cutest elves in the pacific northwest, we’ll be making a craft a day to commemorate the season and count down to Christmas morning. Anthony and I looked at each other recently and realized that we were just as jazzed up about the season as the girls are, so why not have even more fun with it than we already are? We just moved and our walls are a little bare still, so why not fill them with precious memories?

Author’s Note (January 6, 2014): I had intended to do this and follow through every day, but I became very ill, as did my children. I miscarried a baby, my entire family got sick with RSV, and then I got sick with Influenza A. December was a very, very rough month for us. I’m sorry for not updating sooner, but my family and my health were my priority. We praise God for our trials because they create opportunities for endurance, for testing, and for increased faith. We are all on the upside of mending and healing and look forward to a prosperous 2014!

Old fashioned Christmas chain

Old fashioned Christmas chain

Won’t you join us on this fun, magical adventure? Grab your kids, grandkids, cousins, neighbors, friends, students, heck even grandma and grandpa and join us for a sticky, ooey gooey, glitter filled adventure into Christmas time!Image

31 Days Until Christmas: Frosty Countdown Clock

Frosty Christmas Countdown

 

I had seen the cutest countdown clock on pinterest this morning and I was inspired to make something similar with my girls. Fortunately, my husband polished off a box of cereal this morning, and I had all the rest of the materials on hand. As soon as I told the girls that they get to paint, they were ecstatic and ready to go. 

Frosty Countdown from Pinterest

The original Frosty Countdown from Pinterest

The first thing I did was to unfold the box completely and cut out the largest two pieces (back and front) so that I could stencil them easier without all the extra in the way. Once that was done, I used a small salad plate to make the head. From there, I used a ruler to draw straight lines on the remainder of the cardboard to make a hat. Really, you just need a long, thin rectangle for the band, and short, fat rectangle centered on that for the hat. It’s supposed to look a little silly, so don’t worry about it being perfect. I eyeballed it and it all came out well! 

From there, I had the girls paint the head white with acrylic poster paint. They set that aside to dry, then I washed the paintbrushes out and we painted the hat black. Again, washed the brushes, and they painted the nose orange. From there, I painted the tiny black lines on the carrots, while they washed their hands. 

We watched a couple short Christmas movies while these dried, then we came back and used hot glue to attach Frosty’s hat.  I then was able to place the eyes where the girls wanted them, and glued them on with hot glue. Use what you have on hand for the eyes. If you have buttons, beads, construction paper, or something else you want to use for eyes, use them! It’ll still look adorable. 

From there, we figured out where we wanted the nose. I used sticky backed magnets for this, as I didn’t have any brass tabs. I hot glued one small square of a magnet to the white face, and one small square to the back of the carrot. This allowed the nose to move easily and I am very pleased with how it came out! 

The girls decided that since the “real” Frosty had a flower given to him by his wife Crystal, that their Frosty should also have a flower on his hat.

The "real" Frosty

The “real” Frosty

All I had on hand were autumn flowers, but the girls loved them, and so they were hot glued on! I think they give a lot of color to the piece, brightening it up. Feel free to use ribbon, holly, other leaves, or any momento you’d like. This is where you can really personalize it if you’d like. Let your child’s imagination flourish. Maybe Frosty has a beanie cap or a baseball cap instead of a stove pipe hat? I’ve learned a lot about my girls through their art work, so I try to let them have their say in their art work. 

Ok. Now you’ll need to decide how many days you want to countdown from. I didn’t think our Frosty could hold more than 24 numbers, so that’s what I did. Feel free to add more if you’d like. (And yes, I realize I’m posting this on Day 31 of the 31 Days of Christmas.) 

I hot glued a pop tab from a soda can on the back so this could be hung on the wall. I also ended up hot gluing two strips of magnets to the back so that we’d have options over the years as to where to hang this. I like options. And I like the idea of hanging this beauty year after year. 

Chelsea, my four year old on the left decided to give hers to her Grandma Grizzly for her fridge, so Theresa’s, my six year old, will be hanging hers at our house. My mom was pleased with her snowman, as she’s a nut for all things cute, sticky and made by my kids. (She’s also a nut for snow!) 

All in all, I think these came out really well! My girls absolutely love them and so do my Mom and I. What do you think? Will you give these a try? 

Hope

Walden U & Me {The Beginning of a Beautiful Journey}

It’s no secret to those who know me that I’ve been itching to get back to school. A few years ago, I tried out Seattle’s Art Institute, intending to earn a Bachelor degree in baking (yes, you can do that), but was cut short due to hardships in my life. At the time it seemed utterly devastating to me, but as time passed and the wound healed, I realized that baking is more of a hobby than anything.

One of the issues I’ve noticed in my community for the last dozen years or so is that slowly, the mental health programs are creeping away. Except now, it’s not such a slow decline as it is a rapid decline in education, in funding, and in the programs themselves. There is a lack in trained mental health employees (because there is no funding available to pay more than the bare bones essentials, and even then their salaries are minimal), and the issue has gotten so bad, that the state has had to step in and take over a lot of programs due to a lack of community funding.

Looking around from the middle of this crisis, it’s as if everyone wants to simply deny that problems exist at all in this beautiful utopia! You can’t simply place a band-aid over a deep gash and cross your fingers, hoping the situation will get better. No, that is how life-threatening infections begin, and we’re seeing that here in Curry County right now. Many life saving programs have been swept away, leaving thousands of people without treatment that they desperately need. This is very sad, especially since the epidemic not only affects those with inadequate care, but the tax payers, local/county/state government, children, families – the community at large. It affects each one of us! We’ve seen an increase in crime, in child abuse, in homelessness, in poverty and in frustration among the general population. Many people are  wondering who is going to stop the madness, yet what has been forgotten is that we are all responsible for what is happening. Each one of us has a responsibility to contribute to the solution. Are we willing to step up and do what we can to make a difference? I am.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

In my teenage years, I was severely depressed. At age 14 I was prescribed Prozac to manage symptoms of depression and PTSD. It was 1998 and medical professionals did not know then what they know now. The Prozac caused me to become almost immediately suicidal, and a few months later, I had my first suicide attempt. I was 15 years old, thinking I had nothing left to live for. Praise the good Lord that He has had other plans for me and I survived! My psychiatrists and other mental health professionals adjusted my medications for the next eight years, through two more suicide attempts, and psychotic behaviors I’d never exhibited before taking psychotropic medications (yet were now controlling my life and seriously depleting my quality of life). Finally, at age 22, I’d had enough and I begged my psychiatrist to remove me from all medications.

What I learned through my own journey to health and healing is priceless. For years I was angry with “the system” and I wanted to lash out and scream and yell at everyone who’d ever made a mistake, but now I realize that it wasn’t a mistake and screaming and yelling will not change anything for the better. Instead, I’m going to embrace who I am today. I’m going to stand up and thank those that worked so hard to help me, and I’m going to fight to get them what they need to do their job. I’m going to share my experiences, because they’re valuable! Most of all, I’m going to make sure that I’m in a position to extend compassion, empathy and healing to everyone in my path, because that is exactly what I have needed. I know firsthand how long the road can feel when overcoming the obstacle of poor mental health.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10

Recently, I was encouraged to embrace my dream of working within the mental health field, so I jumped on the chance to research the steps. I found that Walden University has a top-notch Psychology program, all the way up to Ph.D! I’m now enrolled and will begin school in just a few short weeks. I am really excited! One of the first assignments I was given prior to entering classes was to write a short committment statement about why I had enrolled in Walden U., what I hope to accomplish, and state my level of committment to completing the program. I’ve already shared my personal committment statement with my closest friends and family, but I want to share it here with all of you as well. My hope is that as I share my own journey into giving back to my community,  it will inspire and encourage you to do the same. If you’re already actively involved in community outreach, then my prayer is that this will encourage you to continue persevering through every obstacle.

Here it is, my personal committment statement:

I, Mandy T., am committed to improving the lives of my family, my community at large and myself by dedicating the next 8 years of my life to higher education at Walden University. It is my dream to see an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center in Curry County, Oregon. Currently, there is not one and many people with addictions are simply labeled as repeat offenders and locked away in jails and rare state hospital beds, as the local and state government is overwhelmed, understaffed, and low on funds to properly care for those who desperately need help.

With God’s help, I will complete a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and continue moving forward in my studies until I have completed a Ph.D in Psychology, earning the privilege of serving and giving back to the community that raised me into the woman I am today. I know that there will be struggles that I will have to overcome, but my God is bigger and I am not a quitter.

While I am in school, I will continue to pray for my community, and to support the efforts to bring in more money and awareness towards the needs of my community, especially in regards to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.

I start school on December 2nd and I will greatly benefit from your prayers! It is not in my strength, but in Christ’s that I move forward.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

2 Corinthians 12:9