how we vacation

We don't attempt to "see all the sites." We utilize the "included activities" everyday - this place had a couple of nice pools that we alternated between, a putt-putt course, arcade, board games, and two nice playgrounds. We don't eat out very much. In fact, this time, we cooked every meal in our condo except for when mom came in town and bought our lunch and dinner and then one meal when we met a friend for lunch. We relax as often as we can. We play board games together. We cuddle a lot. We go to bed early and wake up early. Keith and I had long quiet times with the Lord every morning - that's unheard of during regular life - but it's what makes a good vacation great for us. We did go to an indoor water park that was on the property a couple of days with the kids this time. But, even in the water park, you could find all of us taking time to rest on the lounge chairs. We just move slow during our vacations - which is a beautiful thing. We didn't come back feeling like we needed to "recover" from vacation. We actually felt rested and ready to tackle normal life again.

How do you vacation? Or, a better question is, do you vacation at all? I'm thankful for my husband's leading in this area, which he inherited from his parents. Vacations are important. You don't have to spend lots of money. The main thing is that you get away from all the normal demands of life to focus on your immediate family. We find this especially important for our family because the kids have to share us so much of the time. And they do so with giving hearts. But, they need to be reminded that they are special to us and vacation gives us the time to speak that into their hearts without any other interruptions.


visits with the extended fam

We had so much fun on this vacation spending time with some of our extended family. We started off our vacation at Nanny's house, which I blogged about earlier. Brynlee wanted Nanny to do everything with her...I think she asked Nanny to play "matches" with her at least ten times in the 24 hours we were with her.

She sat with Nanny as long as she could before bedtime and then joined her in her recliner first thing when she woke up the next morning.

I often find that life is more fun in the "unplanned" moments. We happened upon one of those unplanned moments when we got to Nanny's house. Keith's cousin, Becky, had also come to visit Nanny with her two little girls, Lily and Lucy. Usually, we only get to see each other when the whole extended family gets together which makes it a little harder to enjoy laid-back time together. We loved getting time with them - and Keith definitely needed Becky to help him with his crossword puzzle attempts :-). Both of them together still didn't hold a candle to their Nanny though.

I asked Bryn what her favorite part of vacation was when we got back home, and she quickly said, "seeing E." She so loves her E. We were glad to see her too and thankful that the Lord brought them back safe from their spring break trip to Italy.

Karen and Evan were able to come with E. to visit us. I'm really enjoying this season of our relationship. Even though we live pretty far apart, we are doing better about either Skyping or talking on the phone on a more regular basis. She is our only sister, which also means that our kids' only cousin is her son, Evan. It is so fun to see how much our kids love Evan and how much he loves them. I'm thinking his system probably goes into shock after leaving the chaos that accompanies our family to a quiet home! I sure wish they lived closer to us so that we could hang out more often than we get to now. I'm hoping that Alan will get a job at a hospital in the Austin area when he finishes his residency ;-) It is the best place to live in Texas, right?

I was thankful for a chance to visit one of my oldest (in terms of years of friendship) friends during our trip. Her husband just accepted a pastor position in Ponca City, OK, so I knew I needed to catch a couple of hours with her before her move or it might be awhile. This is her youngest son, Elijah, who I was finally able to meet. Isn't he adorable? She is such a precious wife, mom and friend. I hate that we don't get to live closer to each other, but I love that it's as if no time has passed when we are able to get together. She is like a sister to me and I know that God used her and her family during my formative teenage years to teach me what a godly family is supposed to look like.
We stopped by the farm to check-in on Horace and Retta on our way home. I can't even describe how spiritually refreshing it is to spend time with these two heroes of the faith. I'm so thankful for their example of what it looks like to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, as you age (gracefully, I might add ;-).

We also got to see Keith's Uncle Jay and Aunt Elane and his cousin, Bryan, while we were in Gladewater. Brynlee was pretty taken with Uncle Jay - she even asked to see him the next two days after we left Gladewater, so he must have left a pretty big impression.

In a perfect world, we would get to live close to all of these precious relatives and friends so that we could see them more often. They all have played a major role in shaping who Keith and I are today. But, the distance makes the times we do get to spend with them really special. We're so thankful to the Lord for last week and the opportunity to do a little "catching up" with our loved ones.


a special lady

We chose to spend our vacation this year in East Texas mainly because we wanted to spend time with this special lady...

She is Keith's Nanny - his dad's mom, and the kid's only great-grandparent still living. We sure do wish we could see her more often than two or three times a year. We got to go to church with her this past Sunday. Bryn sat in her lap and Nanny doodled for her throughout the service. Needless to say, I am going to try to preserve those drawings because I didn't feel it was appropriate to whip out my camera to capture the moment during the middle of the church service :-).
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valentines at chuck e cheese

My dear friend, Laura, puts on a fun Valentine's party every year at Chuck E Cheese. We keep growing every year - I think there at least 15 families there from our church and neighborhood, if not more. All of the kids bring Valentine's boxes and line them on a table. Then, the chaotic part takes place. We all walk our kids around to put their valentines in each of the boxes. These valentines from their friends become treasured possessions around our home for at least a week afterward. We all print out the free 5 tokens coupons off their website and share pizzas. It ends up being a pretty cheap way to celebrate and gives us special memories with the friends that God has so graciously put in our lives.

I love this pic for two reasons: 1) It shows Bryn's fun personality as she runs over to see her friends and 2) I just think that my man looks hot in this pic ;-)
Mary and I weren't able to get a good group pic of our kids while we were at Fiesta Texas for New Year's Eve, so this was the make-up shot.
I ran into one of my college roommates while we were partying it up at Chuck E Cheese. We have only gotten to see each other a couple of times since we graduated in 2001 - our lives are definitely busier than they were 10 years ago! Misty is still just as beautiful as I remember her during our Baylor days and her kids got her pretty genes passed down to them :-)
These two are the sweetest friends. They have been friends since they were born - I don't know if they had any choice in the matter since their mom's are such close friends - but they are tight. I had to calm Bryn down today at church because another kid was moving Lincoln's backpack and she was determined to "protect" it.
These two (the older siblings) are also best buds. Kale and Landon met right before Kale's 1st birthday party and have been having playdates ever since.
Our family shots are becoming a rarity - much to my sadness. It is sooooo tiring to try to get us all to be still and look at the camera at the same time. It doesn't matter to me though that they all have funny faces in this pic - their faces just remind me of how much joy and laughter they bring to our lives daily.

This is a really late Happy Valentine's Day from our family.

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sabbath rest

We just finished a great Real Life Group tonight with our neighbors. We were discussing the sermon notes from this past weeks sermon at our church, found here. Not that I haven't been challenged and reminded of my need for Jesus with all of the Ten Commandments that we've studied so far, but this one has really gotten to me.

I'm just going to go ahead and be real from the get go - I struggle to rest. Sure, I sleep at night because I would be a lunatic if I didn't. But, as far as the hours during the day go, it is hard for me to ever feel the freedom to sit down and rest. I've always equated it with laziness. And, there is always more work to be done, right?

So, that gives you my mental background as I was confronted with what God has to say about Sabbath rest this past Sunday. He modeled it from the beginning (Gen 2.3). If you look back at creation, it is unbelievable how much God can accomplish so quickly. I don't want to get into whether we are talking about literal days here because honestly, I have no idea. What I do know from reading about creation, though, is that God is the Creator and He can do a lot of work quickly. So, I'm thinking it took much self control to not go ahead and put lots of buildings and city structures up on the seventh day. You know He could have knocked it out much quicker than it took man to figure it out. But instead, He rested. Six days of work, one day of rest. It seems like such a healthy pattern for our life, doesn't it? It is a gift wrapped up in a command.

What was really different about this sermon on the Sabbath is that it was taught in a way that showed how the Sabbath really is about pointing us to Christ. Jesus says in Matthew 11.28-30, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." It is only in Jesus that we find true rest for our souls. Jesus was constantly having to address the Pharisees because of their "religious" view of the Sabbath. They were so good at externally following all the "rules" of the Sabbath. But it is pretty evident that their souls weren't peaceful because they were always upset at how others, including Jesus, weren't following "the rules." Jesus tells them in Luke 6.5 that he is the Lord of the Sabbath. He's like, "Listen fellows, are you really trying to tell the Maker of the Sabbath how he should act on the Sabbath?"

So, this is my conclusion after a week of quiet times studying the Sabbath spurred on by some really great teaching at church on the subject:

1) I won't find Sabbath rest from putting strict rules on what I can/can't do on a specific day of the week.
2) The Sabbath is really about Jesus - apart from which I wouldn't ever know true rest for my soul. I could choose to do nothing on Saturday except sit on the couch and talk to my family, but if I am not at peace with my standing before God because of what Jesus did (not what I've done), then I'll still have strife and unrest in my spirit as I seek to perform better to win God and man's favor.
3) My quiet times with the Lord every morning are vital to my spiritual health. I've known this for awhile, but I've really understood more this week how they are like my daily Sabbath time. For those of you who are morning people, you know how easy and exhilarating it is to wake up and start checking "to-do's" off your to-do list. The early morning time is so peaceful with no distractions in our home because all the kids are still sleeping. Therefore, I could knock tons of to-do's off the list in a short amount of time. But, when I choose instead to use that precious time to spend time with the Lord, it is an active way I can show the Lord that I ultimately believe He is in control and that I trust Him with all of my life, including my to-do list. I am reminded of Psalm 143.8 where the psalmist says, "Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul." That is my prayer every morning as I sit down in my comfy chair with my Bible, journal and coffee. And I can honestly say that I get more important stuff accomplished on the days that I choose to start my time off with the Lord instead of the computer, dishwasher or washer.

I'll end with this passage in Hebrews 4. 9-10: "There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his."

It is a true gift wrapped up in a command. Don't we all want to have true rest for our souls? to not have to justify our worth by what we accomplish or how many rules we correctly followed? God is so good to us to give us a way to enter His rest. Through his Son, Jesus Christ, we can find true rest for our souls, which I believe what Keith said on Sunday, must precede rest for our physical bodies.

PS - I know this so isn't typical for me. I want it to be though. I would love to use the blog to share more of what God is teaching me thru His Word and not just about family life. It is just easier to post a picture and talk about the event behind the picture when you're tired at night than putting into words what God is teaching you. So, I'm not sure how regular I'll be at sharing my quiet time thoughts and you might just like the family stuff better, but I guess what I'm trying to say that I hope to change it up a little along the way. And, I would really love hearing what God is teaching all of you who are still reading this extremely long post ;-) We can spur each other on as we seek to live out a life that honors the Lord in the midst of our daily activities.

barie sue


new look for our buffet

I have no idea why I didn't take a before photo. I took one of the buffet after it was sanded (boring) and primed (even more boring), but not what it looked like before I started messing with it. I'm going to go back and try to find an old photo of my dining room with this piece in there. The transformation is pretty drastic. All of the hardware was falling off and there were scratches and sticker residue (that would be Brynlee's doing) everywhere. I loved the function of it though and it is a very sturdy piece, so I decided to make my first attempt at refinishing a piece of furniture. Though it took me a little longer than I would have liked (I tend to get distracted and am ready to move on to another project pretty quickly), I persevered and ended up with this pretty piece that now holds all of my crafty stuff. It really is incredible what a new coat of paint and new hardware can do for an older piece of furniture.
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bryn and emry: our little mini-me's

I imagine this is what Jada and I would have looked like at 2 yrs old if we had been friends then...

Brynlee and I took Emry out on a date a couple of weeks ago to celebrate that Emry was potty-trained. After a grand plan to go have ice cream with another little friend that failed due to one of the main roads in Round Rock being closed, we ended up at the Wal-Mart McDonald's - that's right. Are we high class or what? They did get to end it with a little shopping in the toy section though, so I think it all still worked to their advantage.

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always be ready

One of the things I have loved about homeschooling is the informal conversations that take place all day long. Today tops the cake though for my favorite of those conversations because during the middle of it, Kale asked if I would pray with him to trust in Jesus as his Savior. It was obviously a much longer conversation that led up to that point, but what was really cool is that it was Kade and Kamden who walked him through what it meant to be a Christian. All I got to do was step in at the end and pray with him. I found them in their room with the music blaring shortly after, and they said they were celebrating that all three of the boys were Christians now.
This is the third time we have had to wrestle thru our thoughts on the genuine conversion of our children at an early age (thankfully!) On one hand, we want to affirm that a 4 1/2 year old can understand the gospel and believe in Jesus. The Bible explicitly tells us to let the little children come to Jesus. At the same time, we won't be crushed as parents if our kids decide as young adults that they didn't really understand what they were doing at 4 or 5 and want to personally affirm their faith at that time. From our years in youth ministry, we understand that every adolescent has to go thru a time of searching and personalizing what they believed as a child. Some teens easily reaffirm what they learned as kids while others go thru a long searching process. Either way, we're still called to teach our children the gospel at an early age and pray everyday for their love for God to grip their heart.

We scrapped all school stuff after so that we could spend the rest of the day celebrating. First line of business, going to get dad and heading to Chick-fil-a...

And onto a random side-note...I am a big fan of the new "dip and squeeze" ketchup at Chick-fil-a. I'm guessing that a mom who has spent much of her life opening ketchup packets at fast food restaurants invented these babies...look..I just had to post a picture of my favorite find of the day!

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latest dessert find

I saw this recipe on two different blogs before giving in and trying it out myself. Double Stuffed Oreo Chocolate Chip Cookie. I think I'm only going to make these once a year because (a) they're ridiculously good, (b) my husband has diabetes and I don't want to tempt him too much and (c) though I'm working on self-control when it comes to really good sweet treats, I'm definitely still a work in progress and these would make me give in to my cravings every time. But, you should try them because they're amazing ;-)

Here is the blog I got the recipe from: Becky Bakes
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