Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Ordinary Circumstances and Mighty Plans

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus 
that all the world should be registered.
...And all went to be registered, each to his own town.  
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, 
to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, 
because he was of the house and lineage of David, 
to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
- Luke 2:1, 3-5


How many of us have this iconic Christmas passage from Luke memorized?  Don't feel bad if you don't, my point is simply how this passage is among the most quoted from the historical story on the account of Jesus' birth.  It is easy to take for granted and begin to quote as rote.

My passion each Christmas is to not take this life-changing TRUE story for granted and this year, my angle is to see the extraordinary inside the ordinary....

A call had gone out for all to report to their "own" towns, where lineage lied, to be counted.  If God is a God over ALL, including governments, it could be reasonably stated that this call was inspired by God in order to have Jesus born right.where.He.wanted.  And so there they were... in the town of Bethlehem, the city of David.  What is so significant about that?

The Lord said to Samuel, "How long will you grieve over Saul, 
since I have rejected him from being king over Israel?  
Fill your horn with oil, and go.  I will send you to Jesse 
the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons."  
And Samuel said, "How can I go?  If Saul hears it, he will kill me."  
And the Lord said, "Take a heifer with you and say, 'I have come 
to sacrifice to the Lord.' And invite Jesse to the sacrifice, 
and I will show you what you shall do.  
And you shall anoint for me him whom I declare to you."
Samuel did what the Lord commanded and came to Bethlehem....
- 1 Samuel 16:1-4a (emphasis added)

Every single detail of Jesus' birth was prophesied about: when, WHERE, how and so on, another fact which can quickly become rote if we are not careful.  Aside from prophesy, what grabs me about this narrative today is how Jesus' birth; a consecrated event of the Lord; mirrors that of another consecrated event centuries before in DAVID's city. 

Samuel was greatly upset at King Saul's waywardness.  But God says, 'pull yourself up by your bootstraps man, I got this...'  God has a plan, he never didn't have a plan, and HE knows what he is doing.  Samuel is scared though... if Saul learns of his excursion it could be death, so God says, you know what, let's go into this under the auspice of a sacrificial ceremony and we will make it happen that way.  No one is the wiser, Samuel lives to pray another day.  From there, a child, David, is whom God says YES to. 

Fast forward and the ruse is a Census, the 'child' is a baby born, and the work to be done... will be the greatest, most profound in all of history.  They walked the streets Samuel and David walked.  They revelled in hope and mighty God as Samuel and David did.  This trip to Bethlehem was no ordinary trip... no.  It was wrapped in something much more extraordinary.

Wonderful.
Powerful.

You may be in awe right now.... or, you may be thinking, 'Yeah, that's cool and all, but....' other than the 'awe' is there a take-away?

I think there is.

Where are we right now?  Physically, emotionally, spiritually.... God has us in a specific place, at THIS time, in particular circumstances, for a specific reason.  Mary traveled heavy with babe.  Google maps tells me their trek took, at minimum 4 hours and was just over 9 miles.  That may not seem like a lot but OVER four hours, 9+ miles on sandaled foot over harsh terrain....pregnant.  Circumstances weren't peachy-keen.

They may have traveled simply thinking on responding to Cesar's order, however, we have the benefit of a historical lens, able to see how it wasn't really Cesar commanding their presence, but rather, God called them there using Cesar.  God knew Mary's condition.  God knew the inns would be full.  One could have mourned the situation, as Samuel did with the Saul dilemma, or they could see God's hand, and go.

Do we see God's hand right now?  Are we prepared to trust Him?  To be used by Him in what appears to be the ordinary in order for Him to perform the extraordinary?  It could be as big as a ministry response He is calling you to.  It could be as simple and ordinary as letting a frazzled mom cut in front of you at the grocery store.  Whether you are having a good day or a bad day... whether your finances or marriage or relationships are in good shape or not... GOD SAYS GO and we can trust Him to take care of it all.

We know the rest of the story here.  Long journey, tiered body, no room, baby is coming.  They were put up in a dirty, germ-infested, animal filled stable and there, in the middle of ordinary filth and darkness, something extraordinary and pure took place.

I pray your heart would find go at Christmas.  To respond to God, even in the form of ordinary duty, and welcome opportunities to be part of extraordinary blessings which breathe hope to those in vicinity.  

Merry Christmas Blessings,







Looking for an Advent Bible Study?  It's not too late to jump in. 
Option 1: Follow me on Instagram (link in text) where I have posted a link to my FREE Advent Bible study
... OR... 
Option 2:Subscribe to my newsletter by December 20th and I will send you December's issue which contains the Advent Study along with other great articles and FREE printables!  Info below... 



*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, I will send you December's newsletter which includes a FREE printable Advent Bible Study and bonus PDFs to help you organize and enjoy your holidays more!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Christmas Newsletters and Our 5 Faves

It's newsletter week.  No, not my Faith and Home Times edition (check the bottom of this post if you are interested in that one!)  No, the annual family Christmas newsletter writing week.  With ALL of our family and the majority of our friends living long distance, this is a critical part of catching up we all look forward to each year.  Print AND pictures help us 'see' each other grow and go♥️ (we don't all have/use Facebook or Instagram)

I know some of you may have already stamped and sent your yearly correspondences but I am a bit behind the game this year... and I suspect others might be as well!  So, to inspire my fellow stragglers out there and get our creative juices flowing  I thought I would share our top 5 favorite annual updates from years past!

17 Stats From 2017

... was an homage to my oldest's university graduation with double majors in business and economics.  We re-capped the ups and downs from the year, ranging between graduation travels, book publishing, formal dances, new jobs and my step-dad's cancer diagnosis along with various other in-betweens! It took one page, front + back, and family loved the details!

"The Jones Family 2008 In 150 Words or less!"
... was actually a time and money saver resulting from my husband's lay-off during the recession!!  I could fit TWO color copies on ONE page printed from my home computer!  Short, sweet and garnered many emails and phone calls from family I hadn't heard from in years.  They were desperate for more details and I loved the unexpected opportunity to catch-up!!  We broke the updates down by family member and included a favorite picture from the year of each of the kids.

Top 20 of... (year)
Inspired by popular Late-night T.V. lists of the time, we highlighted highs and lows from the year.  Similar to the 17 Stats from 2017, but different in that the top 20 list was more incremental; building to big praises from the year. It took one page, front + back and included updated pictures of the kids.

The 12 Months of Christmas
 
My personal favorite as we looked back at the year with the focus on pictures captioned with brief descriptions.  This letter took just ONE page (front only) and really helped all of our long distance family SEE life from the past year.  I ordered copies from the printers in quality gray scale (a small handful of color prints for grandparents, aunts and uncles) since the heavy picture load didn't print well at home (and likely cost less in ink from a printer!)

"The Jones Family By the Numbers..."
 This was an all-time extended family fave.  Years after it's issue I had relatives tell me how they STILL had their double-sided bookmark style family update tucked into favorite books/Bibles to this day!!  The idea was found in a Family Fun magazine article.  I don't remember if it was originally a 2-sided bookmark but that is what I went with (pictures on one side, stats on the other)!  I printed them on my home printer using card stock.  I think I fit 4 on a page and used a paper-cutter to separate them.  Each was mailed in regular letter envelopes with Christmas Greetings.

So now for 2018...

  • Another graduate (only one left now)
  • Adult "children" with not a ton of pictures or news to report on them.
  • Travels to highlight
  • Some interesting 'news'

Still not sure where to begin with this year's missive!!

How are you doing (or have you done) your newsletter this year?  What has been your favorite family Christmas newsletter from the years?

Merry Christmas Blessings,







In case you haven't heard, I put together a HUGE printable package for December's newsletter which I would still love to share with new subscribers!  It contains information and an array of helpful worksheets to get all the tidbits of your holiday season organized including pages for tracking names, addresses, and Christmas card correspondences by the year.

Anyone who signs up for my newsletter by December 20th will receive this month's issue which includes "The Homebody's Guide to the Christmas Season" and MORE!  Details below...


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, I will send you December's newsletter which includes a FREE printable Advent Bible Study and bonus PDFs to help you organize and enjoy your holidays more!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

HMJ: Christmastime meets Homeschool Schdule

It's time for a Homeschool Mother's confession... one which I feel I won't be alone in expressing... although, maybe alone in expressing OUT LOUD... here goes...

I don't like doing homeschool in December!!!  Unless every lesson is 'Christmassy' or tied into our current plans, it is just that ONE MORE THING to do.  Even with just one kiddo now, a Junior in high school, even her self-paced lessons are more for me to do because they still need grading and logging. 

Every year since we began homeschooling I have thought of just taking December off.  I've heard of other families who enjoy this type of reprieve, but we never have.  We change up lessons to coincide with holiday plans but otherwise seem to try to truck on as if life is still status-quo... but it's not.

So here is an even bigger confession... through the course of this week we filtered our lesson plans down to only 3 basic classes with the intention to start back into regulars in January.  I'm not even worried anymore if we get to EVERY.single.lesson by May.  I keep remembering that public school rarely ever finishes text books.

So what did we keep in the schedule?  Well, after pulling out her 2 main maths (Geometry and Pre-calc) and the bulk of her other book work and science we were left with:
  • Consumer Math (because we can wrap up this one semester course and be DONE with it by our official Christmas Break which will make her other math load easier after the new year)
  • Geography (only because we can't afford to miss any of this class but I am changing up some of the lessons)
  • Foundations (an online class which requires NO work on my part and Brooke has more disposable time than I!)

I am still requiring her to finish her assigned reading, A Christmas Carol, especially since we hope to see the play next weekend.  I also gave her a Christmas Themed writing project which is due this next Friday and I will have 2 weeks to grade it!  ha.  I'm really hoping to wrap up ALL schoolwork by Friday, giving us the ENTIRE week before Christmas off to cook and craft and generally hang out.

Brooke likes to keep busy, it is the only reason I left anything in.  But she also likes to join in on the errand running, baking, and general Christmas frivolity.  I think the new plans will work but next year, even though it is our LAST, I am hoping to remember to reconsider our December schedule.

One thing which prompted this schedule reassessment this week was how crazy distracted we were with:
Christmas concert at church.  We joined the choir to sing back up for Rush of Fools in our 3-night program which began last night.  It has been a BLAST, the guys are amazing, and we are all loving the experience.  We have done the choir for other holiday performances at church, but this is the first "rock concert" style experience working with a major band for an event like this.  I hope to share more pictures next week.  Last night we were mostly getting our bearings about our part. I do have some videos posted on Instagram and will be sharing more there this weekend.  If you are interested, come follow!

Other miscellany this week:
Went to a local mega-sporting goods store to Christmas shop.  The girls tagged along and thought they could pull a "twin" moment by donning the same hat and attempting to fool the camera on who was who... except mama is NOT fooled! 4.5 years difference in age aside, I know my girls!  I am glad they take pride in the similarities though.  Sister love always warms my heart!

Brooke went with a MAJOR change when she had her locks lopped off for this stylish do!  I was nervous at first but we all love the look, even hubby who typically hates short hair.  We won't talk in too much detail about the chop job I've had to endure.  Apparently my stylist though I wanted to revive the Mullet! *ugh* I did figure out a way to style it so my retro flare is hidden when in public!  Simply: thank you, Lord, for headbands!

 Her kitty was moping.  She took a homework break to show some compassion!

Another kitty moment!  Hubby's new cat still loves those naps, especially when studies are happening and he knows we aren't going to be on the move!  We are buckling down on the Rules of the Road since she tests for her permit a month from tomorrow.

I started sharing a sort of un-official pictorial series on Instagram with daily scripture and/or poems and thoughts from my Advent study and the Everything Christmas book I reviewed a few years ago.  It has been fun and inspiring even for myself!  The kids and I are walking out the Advent study together which I wrote (see the end of this post if you want a copy).  I love hearing their Biblical insight when we get together each Friday to discuss what we have studied.

Commin' down the pipe...
We look forward to a bit of a slow-down next week.  Hopefully we can focus better on the schoolwork we have remaining. I do need to write, print, address and mail our family newsletter!!  I guess that is sort of a big job, I will employ help!  I've waited because hubby interviews Monday for a new job and I don't know whether or not to include the results in our annual update.  The week after will really re-ramp up though, as we bake goodie gifts and prepare for Zach (and possibly my mother-in-law) to be in town for Christmas on the 21st.

It goes too fast!

How are you maneuvering the holidays in your homeschool?

Merry Christmas Blessings,







Looking for an Advent Bible Study?  It's not too late to jump in. 
Option 1: Follow me on Instagram (link in text) where I have posted a link to my FREE Advent Bible study
... OR... 
Option 2:Subscribe to my newsletter by December 20th and I will send you December's issue which contains the Advent Study along with other great articles and FREE printables!  

also... 

In case you haven't heard, I put together a HUGE printable package for December's newsletter which I would still love to share with new subscribers!  It contains information and an array of helpful worksheets to get all the tidbits of your holiday season organized. 

Anyone who signs up for my newsletter by December 20th will receive this month's issue which includes "The Homebody's Guide to the Christmas Season" and MORE!  Details below...


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, I will send you December's newsletter which includes a FREE printable Advent Bible Study and bonus PDFs to help you organize and enjoy your holidays more!