Kicking New Year's Resolutions to the Curb

I'm not a New Year's resolution making person. Mostly because I'm a perfectionist and I know the realities of keeping New Year's resolutions, and perfectionists don't normally start something they know they will fail at. :) Sure, I'm working on that, and getting better at it by the day, but the stress of not "keeping my word" is just not worth it to me (or those around me for that matter)! I ran across a great article by Paul Tripp about "Trading One Dramatic Resolution for 10,000 Little Ones." I resonated so well with this article, as we have watched our little family transform in some great ways....sometimes those ways have come about in big, monumental steps, but more often than not, they came, and continue to come, in little steps of transformation. Sometimes, they are unseen by those outside Jon and me. Sometimes, they are seen and encouraged by those closest to us, and sometimes they are only seen by us individually having known where we were, and how far we've come. 
 But more often than not, change and transformation does not happen in big, huge, monumental resolutions and life changing, emotional, "ah-ha" moments. The launch of those little moments of true transformation sometimes happens in a monumental moment or incident, but the long-term change and work is almost always in small steps.

True transformation happens in the little moments every day, where God IS working, and working to continue his moment by moment transformation of us and our family. "Biblical Christianity- which has the gospel of Jesus Christ at its heart- simply doesn't rest its hope in big, dramatic moments of change" (Paul Tripp). We are ever thankful for the amazing Christians God has brought into our lives to walk beside us, and specifically for those who understand that very statement and stick beside us when life gets hard again, when more and bigger change is what our hearts desire and strive for, but the immediate results seem lacking. They are the ones who stay close in the raw, painful, messiness of God transforming His people. They are the ones who don't look at change only through a big, glorious, dramatic lens. They are the ones who say in the hard parts, "Keep moving. God is still here. God is still working." Sure, God can work in a big, all at once, dramatic change, but from what I can see of Biblical history, and God's people in general throughout time, that doesn't seem to be the way it normally works.
An incredibly helpful piece of advice from a fellow pastor and friend we have known for years was that "The majority of life is mundane and we learn to live in the mundane in a way that stays faithful to, and honors Jesus." Oh there is so much wisdom in that! You see, God works right smack in the middle of the mundane, and he re-creates and transforms us right smack in the middle of each of those 10,000 moments.
"The little moments of life are profoundly important precisely because they are the little moments that we live in and that form us. This is where I think "Big Drama Christianity" gets us into trouble. It can cause us to devalue the significance of the little moments of life and the "small-change" grace that meets us there. And because we devalue the little moments where we live, we don't tend to notice the sin that gets exposed there. We fail to seek the grace that is offered to us.
And what makes all of this possible? Relentless, transforming, little-moment grace. You see, Jesus is Immanuel, not just because he came to earth, but because he makes you the place where he dwells. This means he is present and active in all the mundane moments of your daily life.

And what is he doing? In these small moments, he is delivering every redemptive promise he has made to you. In these unremarkable moments, he is working to rescue you from you and transform you into his likeness. By sovereign grace, he places you in daily, little moments that are designed to take you beyond your character, wisdom, and grace so that you will seek the help and hope that can only be found in him (Paul Tripp).
So amid the social media statuses and blogs about the best things accomplished in 2013, or the best accomplishments yet to come in 2014, I look back on 2013 and see that the biggest thing in my year, in our year, was understanding that "God works in us through a lifelong process of change- undoing us, and rebuilding us again, individually, as a couple, and as a family. In 2013, I've begun to view the necessary life changes as a day-by-day, step-by-step process of insight, confession, repentance and faith" (as Tripp described so eloquently).
So as we start 2014 today, I pray that God continues to give me, and us, the grace to remember these things, especially when our moments of failure seem devastating, discouraging, and anything but life changing. So as we wake up each day in 2014, doing the mundane, and also enjoying the bigger moments to come for us this year (like a new baby this spring), may we be committed to live in the small moments of our daily lives with open eyes, and a gracious, humble, and repentant heart.

(Side note: I just caught up on all my holiday blogs posts, posted along with this one. So scroll down for more!) 

Merry Christmas!

We left Monday the 23rd to start our long trek to PA. Daddy had to work on this day and luckily they were accounts in Dayton and Columbus, Ohio which were on the way. The first stop, the kids were asleep since left around 5:30am so we hung out in the car until they woke up, then watched a movie, and went to get donuts while Daddy worked. During the second account visit we went to Chick-Fil-A, had lunch, and played. All in all the kids were in the car for about 17 hours and they were such troopers!!!!

There's something so special to me about going "home." There's much comfort in the sights and smells of where I grew up and I always get giddy excited to walk into my parents house. So thankful we could be there for Christmas.

Christmas Eve service. 

 My kids carrying on the tradition of opening Grandma Penny's gift on Christmas Eve (my Grandma, their great-grandma).
 All the crazy presents- and this wasn't even all of them!
 We did a few things in their stockings for this Christmas morning too since we weren't opening all the gifts until later in the day when my sister and family got there. My mom's tradition she has carried on from when we were kids is getting each kid their own special wrapping paper. This year, Evie had Winnie the Pooh and Mekonen had Planes. 
 They each got to open one present after their stockings since we weren't opening presents until later in the day and they were so excited they might've burst! 

Mekonen opening some super-heroes! He loved them! 
 This little nugget was overjoyed at her new baby jogging stroller! No more broken umbrella strollers! 
 Gotta love them. This only took about 15 shots. 
 Family Pic
 And can't forget Baby O!!! 25 weeks! 
 The rockin' new pipe I got for Jon for his birthday to add to his collection. It's an Erik Nording Pipe- made by a Danish guy who hand carves them and only makes one new kind a year. 
 Christmas Day kids table.

 Christmas night movie night! 
 My other sister Amy and her family didn't arrive until Friday the 27th, so we had another "Christmas" when they got there. All 8 of the crazy kiddos- and 2 more on the way (1 of those two was born the next day!)
 I was surprised at how organized the cousin gift giving and opening was. Too cute.
 It's so funny how they all hover and crowd around the person opening the gift. :)
 Action shot of the whole fam.
 These two love birds started it all, and now they have 8 (soon to be 10) grandkids. Crazy. 
 The things it took to get this picture- wow, stressful. 
 Their costumes from their Daniels cousins were a hit. 
 And the BEST part of the PA Christmas trip?!?!?! Getting to meet this little stud who was born on Mekonen's birthday!!!! He and his brand-new cousin get to share the same birthday! 

Arthur (Archie) Ford Daniels, joined the crazy crew on Saturday morning, December 28th.
 I was overjoyed to get to meet him before leaving for Indy the next day.  I wasn't sure I'd be able to make it back out to meet him before our baby is born, so to say I was excited was an understatement! 

 She insisted he be un-swaddled so she could see his jammies. 
 A portion of the cousins, Evie, Manny, Aderyn, and Archie.
 She said, "But I can't see his face," and did everything she could to stare at his cute little face. Can't blame her! 
 She's obsessed with babies having paci's and was very stoked that she got Archie to keep his paci in. I'm pretty sure it was the highlight of her visit. :) 
 This, made me wildly happy. There's not much better than this! 

Home for the Holidays- Part 2

It's always hard to live almost 12 hours from my family, but it's especially hard during Christmas. There's a longing to do Christmas in our house with our kids, but a deep longing to be with family too. That's not so easy when they don't live down the road. So this year, we decided to set aside an entire day as our own family Christmas before heading out to PA to spend the 25th with my family. I wasn't sure how it would be, would it "feel" like Christmas, would I end up in a puddle of tears because I couldn't have the best of both worlds? Christmas with our little family and then Christmas with my whole family, whom I don't see very much? Well, I am so thankful to say, everything turned out great!!! Overall, the Christmas season felt like a whirlwind, but I am so thankful we got a special day for our family and then got to spend time with my family whom I only see a few times a year (and really only one or two of those times is Jon able to be with us then too due to work).

The kids were well aware of our "Family Christmas" and were stoked! We made the classic red and green paper Christmas countdown chain with a white link marking our Family Christmas on Saturday the 21st, and another white link marking Christmas day, Christmas in PA at "Grandma Shell's and Grandpa Jack's." Every day, they excitedly tore off another link and counted down the days.

Our "Christmas Eve" on the 20th. These two were crazy hyper! We watched one of the classic Christmas cartoons together, did the Jesse Tree, and kissed these munchkins goodnight to dream of Christmas day wonder! 
 I stayed up super late to finish up gift wrapping and stuffing stockings, while watching one of our favorite Christmas movies, "Little Women." (It's actually Jon's favorite). I LOVE doing this stuff. This might be one of my all-time favorite pictures this Christmas. It DID "feel" like Christmas and I might've been more excited than my kids to watch them enjoy it. 
Family Christmas morning on the 21st. 
 Mekonen kept doing this silly face. He told me it was from the movie Frosty the Snowman. Haha. They were anxiously waiting to open their stockings! 
(I apologize for the many upcoming fuzzy photos. I have many of these on our camera, not just my phone, but haven't been able to get them onto my computer). 
 Time to dig in!

 As luck would have it, as soon as they were done with their stockings, our power went out, all down our road! So no Christmas lights, and no overhead lights!! It was early and it was a very gray and cloudy day, so our already darker living room had no light. Not enough light for pictures, video, or present opening. We were able to hold off the kids for a little bit with their stocking loot, and luckily our cinnamon rolls and breakfast was already done so we passed some of the time eating. We weren't sure when the power would come back on and didn't want to have to open the presents in the "dark" if possible. We watched a Christmas movie on the lapbook (until it ran out of power).....
....and finally, they couldn't take it any longer, and the sun was shining a little more in the dining room by this time, so we moved the table out of the way, sat the kids in the corner with some blankets and brought them their gifts! It wasn't by the Christmas tree and was in a very odd spot, but oh well!! It worked! 
 Doctor set to take care of her babies. She was all about this! 
 He asked for Lego sets this year. Here is "build a Buzz." He is really good at these things. It's his spatial giftedness that his Mommy just doesn't have! 
 The baby food that came with this toy was a huge hit. She is always feeding her babies any of her random play food that's not really "baby food," so she was very excited to get some actual baby food for her dollies. 

 He loves the die-cast planes from the movie Planes. He still plays with the "cars with eyes" (as he calls them) from the movie Cars, pretty much every day! He was excited to add these to the collection! 
 Newborn surprise Cabbage Patch Doll twins. These are the cutest little things ever. They come swaddled up in a cabbage leaf! It's pretty much like they are swaddled all the time, which Evie is obsessed with. She got a boy named Darius Kolby and a girl named Abigail Audrey (via the birth certificates it came with). The kids laughed and laughed about that. Haha. 
And of course, all the lights turned on within seconds of the last gift being opened! Classic.
 A few pictures of the Christmas decorations we put up this year.
Our fireplace mantel. I LOOOVE having a mantel to decorate! 
The kids cute little corner in the living room, although I didn't get around to putting a Christmas chalkboard writing on their chalkboard. Oh well! Maybe next year! 
 Dining room (and the hutch still undecorated inside. I don't know what to do with it).
 Dining room buffet table
 One of my favorite chalkboard writings I did this year.
 Front entranceway. I love this part of our house. 
 Christmas pictures in their Christmas outfits. Evie struck this pose and I laughed and said, "Evie, what are you doing?" And she replied, "Mom, this is what Cinderella does." I replied, "Oh really?" Maybe we need to nix Disney princesses now? She's only two!
 It is quite the chore getting a decent picture of these two together. 
 Later that afternoon, we did Christmas present with Jon's parents, Grandma Magz and Boppy. Evie kept sitting there, crossing her legs all dainty-like. It was hysterical.
 I love her little head peeking out over the top of the present.
 After we spent the afternoon with Jon's mom and dad, a crowd of our extended family on Jon's mom's side joined us for dinner. I absolutely love that we can do this in our house! So thankful! 
 The "kids table." Hahaha.
 Daddy's birthday is on Christmas Day and Grandma Magz brought him a cake. The kids loved helping Daddy blow out the candles.
 I wish these pictures weren't so fuzzy, but these are Jon's grandparents, so our kids great-grandparents.

So all in all, our second "Home for the Holidays" was a success. We enjoyed ourselves and our kids seemed to have a blast. Looking forward to the many years of our growing family! Merry Christmas!