Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas Reflections

I had every intention of posting Christmas videos sooner. The files were too large, so it's taken me longer than I had hoped.

Our family had a wonderful time celebrating Jesus throughout the month of December. The kids talked about Jesus' birthday for weeks on end.

It all started with Asa seeing the Little People nativity in a child-locked cabinet. He kept saying "I want the angel." Once I figured out what he meant, we took out the nativity set and they began their month-long fascination with baby Jesus, the shepherds, wise men, and angels. I love having a nativity they can play with.

Since Rylee was born, I have hoped we could establish some Christmas traditions that firmly placed Jesus at the center of it all. It was fun to see some of that fruit this year as the kids are all talking and interacting now. They talked often of Jesus and why He was born.

Rylee has even begun to ask more questions about Jesus' death and His dying on the cross for our sins. It is an incredible honor to lead these little ones to the Lord.

There will be more videos to come in the upcoming week, I hope. But, for now, please enjoy our fun Christmas morning hunt for baby Jesus. (We hid the Jesus figurines from the 5 nativity sets we have.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Craft Analysis

So, I've tried my hand at a bunch of little craft projects this month.

My conclusion: If you cook it or bake it or it involves food, I should try it. If it involves using scissors, I should remember my kids can't do that yet. If it involves drawing something, I should remember my kids are very amateur artists. If it involves painting, I should remember I have to let go of my control in order to let my kids enjoy it.

Not all our projects were a bomb, but I think I found some we'll try in another 5 years. I need to find more toddler friendly projects in the future.

Making the reindeer cookies was a great project! The kids can smear peanut butter and stick M&Ms on with the best of them. Go back and look at the previous post to see the little buggers in all their red-nosed cuteness.

We haven't made our gingerbread houses yet. Maybe today, tomorrow, or in the next few days.

I have been working on another little crafty project. It's for Jenna for Christmas.
Rylee has had her name hanging in their room since we moved into our house. A friend made it and gave it to her for her birthday in April.

The girls share a room, so Jenna needs her name somewhere in there too. Plus, the girl is all about the letter J. She notices it on every sign and says "look, it's J for Jenna." So cute! I'm excited to see her reaction tomorrow morning.
I was up late painting the letters and today I'll "decorate" them. Check back for a future post with a final picture.'s the finished product. I can handle this kind of craft project! It was fun, pretty easy, and turned out beautiful. Plus, Jenna really loves it!
As I promised in an earlier post, here are some pictures of our GFA Christmas party. The girls were dressed alike and even sort of matched my dress. We were so busy trying to get things ready for the children's skit that we didn't take a family photo. We're hoping to snap one tonight at our Christmas Eve service. But, we got some other cute photos.
The kids did a great job in the skit. We would have changed a few things if we could have practiced on the stage at least once, but it worked out great anyway. Jenna and her friend, Emma, wore our chicken costumes and were the hit in many hearts. Just last night I had several more comments on how cute they were.
After the last two weeks full of parties and Christmas preparations, we decided to head to Austin for the weekend to visit family and friends. Joel took Friday off, so we left in the morning and drove the 3 hours south. We met my cousin, his wife, and their precious 6 month old daughter for a late lunch (made later by us taking wrong turns en route).

Later we had dinner with friends (C. Beth & her family). The wife and I were in youth group together and have kept in touch all these years. We're actually more in touch addition to loving Jesus, we both blog and are moms of toddlers! They are partners with us in ministry, which is a great blessing.

Then, we headed to the home of more friends, Erin & Jose, to spend the night and the rest of the weekend. Erin and I were friends in high school, as well. They have also been a blessing to us as we serve at GFA. Their son, Lucas, is as precious as they come and our kids loved hime to pieces!
Unfortunately, I was a dud at taking pictures and only pulled out the camera when we were having lunch on Sunday. Lame mama! I was just enjoying our fellowship and never thought of 'documenting' it.

Our house is abuzz this morning with excitement for "baby Jesus' birthday" tomorrow! The kids are ready to go to church tonight and then celebrate tomorrow. All the stress of having toddlers is overshadowed greatly at this time of year. Their sheer delight at seeing the sights and sounds of Christmas blesses my heart. The best part is that they keep talking about Jesus and how it's his birthday. I just love it! They really can be focused on what Christmas is all about and still enjoy the fun things, like presents and cookies!

May the Love of the Lord fill your hearts, may His peace be yours as you trust in Him regardless of the trials you're facing, and may you have hope, knowing the Christ child in the manger has done everything to secure your present and future.

Monday, December 22, 2008

More Christmas Craftiness

I can probably hardly stand it!

If I were someone else and kept seeing posts about a mom doing crafts with her toddlers, I'd be frustrated. Heck, I usually DO get frustrated by seeing posts about moms doing crafts with their kids. I'm so not a craft person!
But, alas...I find myself doing more crafty things because it's Christmas-time!

Tonight we have the pleasure of having friends over to eat and hang out. We are hoping to make some gingerbread houses. Our LIFE Group from church had a house-making competition yesterday. We didn't join in, but we caught the excitement. So, tonight we're going to try our hand at our own building. I didn't go overboard in the supply area, so our creations might be lame. But, we'll see.

*update: we didn't make them that night b/c I was out of icing!
We are also going to make some reindeer cookies (using Nutter Butters, mini pretzel twists, chocolate chips, and red M&Ms). I'll be sure to post a picture tonight (or tomorrow...depending on how late our night goes).
Finally...I had to try an idea I saw in a magazine. Make your own window clings! How cool is that? So, today I had the kids trace some simple drawings with silver glittery puffy paints. We have to wait 24 hours for them to dry. Then, we'll peel them off the wax paper and see if they stick to the windows. Sounds too fun to pass up. I really like sparkly things, and I especially like snowflakes. So, I couldn't miss the chance to make some that can stay in my windows for another month!

*forget the clings. i didn't photograph them. they came out okay, but they're a pain to peel off the wax paper. if you try the project, make "full" designs, not outlines.
These will all be photographed later today, so check back tomorrow to see what we did!

But, I can't put a post with no pictures. How boring!
So....I'll go back and add some random pics that have nothing to do with what I'm writing!

Photo 1: Jenna being covered up with a "blanket of toys". Oh, the creativity of a 4 year old who convinces her sister to go along with her plans!

Photo 2: Rylee as a pig for the children's Christmas skit. I sewed the ears and attached them to a pink winter hat she had. The nose is an egg carton piece covered with tissue paper. All the little piggys were adorable!

Photo 3: Rylee's preschool class after their Christmas Gala on Thursday. They were all so precious. I had to swallow my pride and watch as Rylee proceeded to goof off the entire performance by playing with the Santa hat of the boy next to her. At one point, she even chucked it over her shoulder making him go get it. True to form, though, she would pick right back up and sing along when she got tired of messing around!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Crafts & Parties

I know, I know...I am not a "crafty" mom. I have said it on here several times. I try to be as real as possible and let you all know that while I love my kids, I am not into some of the typical preschooler activities. My poor children never painted until this year. Rylee's greatest excitement with starting preschool was the opportunity to paint! It had never occurred to me to let her paint before. My kids have never used scissors (well, Rylee has now that she goes to her fabulous preschool at The Ridge!).

So, this next photo may take you by surprise. It sort of surprised me!
Yep, it's my kids doing a home!

I saw this cute little "country" looking ornament when I went to a women's event last week and thought "we could make those"! While I'm not a "crafty" person any other time of year, I really like doing crafts around Christmas. There are so many fun things to do.

Plus, it's cold outside and I'd rather stay inside with my kids all day in my jammies, doing fun crafts, baking something, and cuddling up to read books.
So, if you'd like to know how it's made, here it is:
a large cinnamon stick, strips of fabric cut it varying lengths (mine were about 1" by 10", 8 1/2", 7" get the picture), ribbon for making a loop to hang, a star, some paint if you want to paint the star, and glue (I used hot glue) to attach the ribbon and star.

I used a giant star because it's all I had. I could not find those cute, little stars like I saw on the ornament of inspiration.
If you're in the Dallas area and want to try your hand at making them, I have lots of leftover cinnamon sticks and fabric. I bought 1/2 a yard and still have about 1/2 of it left! You're welcome to have some materials and get busy with your own kiddo (or by yourself, if you just want to do a craft!).

Aside from our craftiness and baking (we made about 12 dozen cookies on Monday to give away...yum-o!), we have been partying!

Today was the Christmas Gala at Rylee's preschool. Tuesday night was the children's party at Gospel for Asia (for staff kids). Last Thursday we hosted a Christmas party for the department where I work at GFA. And, tonight is our GFA Christmas Party.
I've been coordinating a skit for the kids to perform tonight during the party, so I'll post some pics of the evening later (obviously not before it's happened!).

We have been enjoying Advent so much this year. All three kiddos are really absorbing what Christmas means. We've talked a lot about giving to others, as Jesus gave Himself to us. We've been talking about why Jesus was born. And, of course, we talk about all the decorations. They love the lights!
One thing we insist on around here is having nativity scenes the kids can touch and feel. I want my kids to grow up knowing Jesus is THEIRS! He came for them to know Him. He is not just to be stared at or gazed upon. The kids love to hold the baby Jesus, arrange the nativity in funny positions, and sing along with the song it plays. Asa likes to arrange the figurines more than the girls. He is HILARIOUS! After he dropped one of our ceramic donkeys, we told him to stick with his Little People figurines for now. We're hoping to find a few more sets after Christmas.

(by the way...that thing on Asa's face is a mesh bag that he likes to put things in and carry around. he put all the Little People figurines into it, walked around, brought them back to the mantle, took them out, put it over his head, and then set about arranging the People. crazy BOY!)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Win Some Yummy Nuts for FREE

My friend C. Beth is giving away some yummy nuts she made. Go visit her blog, leave a comment, and you might win some FREE nuts! Yum-o!

Your comments will actually help our family. So, go post away!!! Plus, if you win, I win too!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Absolutely Hilarious

Okay, so I was on someone else's blog and she finished it by saying "You can thank me with diapers." (she has a baby.) But, then she said "with this kind (linked to a pic of pampers), not this kind (with a link to the video below)." I laughed so hard I almost needed them myself!

Funny, funny, funny.

Sorry if this offends you. But, I think it's hilarious.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What Really Matters at Christmas

I Corinthians 13 – A Christmas Version

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.
If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a
myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus
on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can't.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.

Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of love will endure.

Merry Christmas and lots of love to you and yours!

Author Unknown

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Parade in Downtown Dallas

We went to the Dallas Christmas Parade this morning. We went early and met up with friends so we could get a good spot. After eating breakfast out on the curb, some of us headed back to the van to warm up. The kids watched part of a movie (thanks for the DVD player Uncle Paul & Aunt Heather!) until it was time to head back out.
We saw lots of neat clowns, elves, Santas, tv characters (like Curious George & Arthur), pageant queens, huge balloons, marching bands, and fire trucks (yeah for Asa).

We came home and began hanging lights outside on our freshly trimmed bushes (that was my job yesterday...and my hands/arms are incredibly sore). Our neighbors came outside to rake leaves so we got to chat a bit. It was an absolutely beautiful day to be outside...didn't even need a jacket by mid-day.
I also used this opportunity to play with our new digital camera. I've posted recently about our camcorder going kaput. And, our digital camera (purchased 4 years ago) has served us well but is only a 3.2 MP and has video but can't record sound. So, an early Christmas present arrived--a Canon PowerShot Elph 10MP that can record videos with sound. I would love to get a digital SLR or at least the new Canon G-10 at some point to work more on photography, but this new point and shoot will be a great addition to the Fletcher family. I've already shot a ton of videos because it's super easy to just pull it out and get a 30 second or one minute clip. I'll have to post the most hilarious video very soon. It stars none other than my queen of video...Jenna!
Practicing my bokeh skills with Asa as the subject (atop Joel's shoulders)
I love this shot of Jenna's profile. Not bad bokeh with a point and shoot!


There are several things on my mind and since I posted just to post earlier, I'll be a little more serious here.

I just perused through my list of frequented blogs and came across the LPM blog (Living Proof Ministries--Beth Moore). One topic really struck me. It's a survey about insecurity. All responses had to be anonymous, and women were really honest. Feel free to check it out here.

What amazed me about this survey is how much women feel insecure! The ages are across the range and they are single/married--doesn't seem to matter. I read quite a few of the comments and they really hit a nerve in me.

I'm curious to see what Beth and LPM will do with this material. I imagine there will be a study at some point dealing with insecurity. But, in the meantime, I think I have to ask myself what I'm doing to help the women around me not feel insecure.

I'm not saying I'm personally to blame, but when you read through the comments, it is obvious that women are most insecure around other women. I completely understand this!

I posted previously about reading others' blogs and struggling to not compare myself or feel inadequate (previous post here). I think those feelings of being inadequate come from an insecurity. I do it ALL the time. It's partly why I dislike Facebook and other such sites (including blogs sometimes) because everyone puts their pretty pictures on there and I just get jealous! I mean...I am not as thin and fit as I'd like to be, I don't take exciting trips very often, I don't have a lavish lifestyle, others' kids seem to be having more fun in life than mine are, .... I could go on, but there's no need. All you women already know it; you probably think the same things!

So, what can we do to help alleviate this some?

I think one way is to encourage others. Not cheesy encouragement, but real encouragement.

Yesterday I was bombarded with humbling encouragement by a dear sister of mine. She just poured God's soothing balm on me by telling me the sweetest encouraging words. They gave me courage to continue. They were unsolicited and overwhelming.

And, they were much needed.

What if we started telling the women in our life how incredible they are? Not a trite "I Love You" or "I appreciate you", but lengthy descriptions.

Another thing we need to regularly do is check ourselves to see if we have attitudes or thoughts about others that are ungodly. Am I always looking at others and measuring them up? Do I immediately find the good in others or the negative?

Finally, I want to try and reach out. I know we can't be friends with everyone. I don't want to spread myself thin and not be able to have deep friendships. But, sometimes we get so wrapped up in our established relationships that we don't even notice the sister who is lonely.

I want to help bridge that gap!

My heart is sad to hear that so many women struggle with insecurity. These are Christian women who know God and want to be known by Him. We should know our security in Christ and be confident in who we are in Him.

I still have lots of room to grow. At least I know I'm not alone in my struggle.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Posting for a Post Sake

Just thought I owed a new post to those who actually read. Hey...if you are reading, can you comment so I know who cares what I talk about on here?! (Thanks to those who regularly add your two cents to my rantings. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to know someone cares about what we do, think...or is just curious.)
Saying goodbye to Grandma and Papa
While they were here we went to Cabela's in Ft. Worth. They have tons of stuffed animals (dead ones that are stuffed, you know). Sorry, the twins just did not want to be cooperative.
Asa & Jenna got to hang out at preschool on the Thursday before Thanksgiving while I helped prepare food for the preschool's "feast" of celebration. They had a blast.
Isn't that just the cutest turkey made of fruit?
We are busy practicing with our team in preparation for our trip to India in January. We get to lead a trip with 6 GFA School of Discipleship students. We are learning some songs to sing when we are at Bridge of Hope centers (children centers) and then some to sing for the adults. We are learning the moves to "Every Move I Make" here.

We'd appreciate prayer as we prepare for our around the world adventure. Pray for me & Joel, Carly, Brenda, Pauline, Emily, Shawn, and Danny. Team unity, open hearts, safe travels, our kids while we're gone...those are good topics.

We will be putting up some outdoor Christmas lights soon. We got a box of used ones and are excited to get all lit up! I trimmed the hedges and raked the front yard today so we can decorate this weekend. Maybe I'll get some good shots this weekend.

We're getting ready to head to All Night Prayer. What an honor to go before the Lord and intercede for our missionaries and all the things that are a part of reaching the lost in Asia!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. We have a lot to be thankful for. A friend recently did a month of Thanks and posted 10 things (almost) daily. I'm not going to commit to a whole month because I doubt I'd keep it up. But, here's 10 things I'm thankful for...

1. salvation and God's grace--knowing the Lord intimately because He holds on to me
2. my husband--he's absolutely amazing. He just built the coolest play structure for our kids out of scrap lumber and it looks awesome! He loves me and does so much to express that love. He is an outstanding father--the best! He challenges me in my faith and is a great partner in life.
3. Rylee--she is so sweet. I love watching her grow. It always blesses me to see how her heart is absorbing the little things I try to teach her. Just yesterday she was telling Asa that the Bible says we shouldn't say "poopy" (a word they have picked up as funny, and we're trying to teach them it's not okay). She went on to explain that God says we should be loving and kind to one another.
4. Jenna--she is a hoot. Just scroll down below and you'll see a bit of her adorableness.
5. Asa--he is Joel as a mini-me. He looks like him and even acts like him in some ways. When he gives his adorable smile, my heart melts. Really, it melts inside me.
6. My family--they love me. They like to laugh and enjoy being together at the holidays. I miss them.
7. Joel's family--His parents taught him hard work and community. After 50 years of marriage they are still going strong. They pick and laugh and talk about old times.
8. the missionaries in Asia--their commitment to the Lord humbles me and challenges me
9. our church family here--God has blessed us with neat friends. some through GFA staff, others through our church. They encourage us, do life alongside us, love God, and make us laugh.
10. my house--I really like it. It's not anything spectacular, but it's ours. It's roomy and yet cozy. It's all one floor, which I love. We have a great backyard and our kitchen is now so great (goes back to my wonderful husband...he's so handy). I never imagined God letting us have such a great house for our family. We are so incredibly blessed!

okay 11. I have thought about this a lot lately. I am really grateful that I was born in America. I'm grateful that God allowed me to live where freedom is valued and fought for. I'm grateful that I can worship God without hindrance. I'm grateful that I can write this blog--about all the little or big things I think. I'm thankful for all the men and women who sacrificed their lives, their time, their comforts for me. I am so grateful that I have so much to be grateful for!

I actually did a toddler project recently. I made turkeys and the kids added feathers for the last week or so with things they're thankful for.
Asa is thankful for cheese noodles (what we had for dinner that night), his friends, The Ridge Church, his sisters, his daddy, his mama, Jesus giving love to us (that was actually his second feather and completely NOT initiated by me), Bhutan (another on his own!), and Piccolo, Cassie, Luke, Case, Daniel.
Jenna is thankful for Scooby, her Rowell blanket, the Rowells, her mama, her daddy, food to eat, her brother and sister, and lunch and apples. (Actually Jenna said "food" --or a food item--almost every single time we asked her.)
Rylee is thankful for Pooja (our Bridge of Hope child), Ms. Amy (her preschool teacher), Asa, her mama, Jenna, her daddy, Grandma and Papa, friends (the interns who came to our house), our food, the Carnines, Jesus, and The Ridge Church.

It was precious to hear their thoughts of Thanksgiving throughout the week. Some nights we missed it and would do multiple feathers other nights. It was a great way to teach them what Thanksgiving is all about. I think they got the point that it's a day of giving thanks!

Okay, here's the clip about Jenna's cuteness I promised above.

I really do have so many reasons to be thankful. We want this season of thanksgiving to continue in our home. We want to continue remembering God's goodness to us and then respond to Him. I think that's really what a walk with God is all about. After all, He starts it in us. He creates us, we respond. He blesses us, we respond. He saves us, we respond. Our life is just a response to Him--His existence, His care for us, His love for us.

Our church is taking part in Advent Conspiracy. You can check it out here. The bottom line is that we want to choose compassion over consumption. Choose to give. Sure, I can give my kids more toys, but that's really giving to myself. They can give me a gift, but it's really me giving myself a gift. There are missionaries in Asia who need warm clothes and tools to share the Gospel. There are families in Asia who need a way to make a living and we can provide that through a gift via Gospel for Asia's Gift Catalog. (Click here to learn more.) So, we want to give.
We aren't entirely sure what God is telling us to do this year. Several thoughts are on the table and we're waiting on the Lord. Do we match what we give to "ourselves" and give the same to missions? Do we give a first fruits offering of everything we receive as a gift? We're praying.

But, I have to say that while we're waiting to see what the Lord wants us to do, we've been talking a lot about the GFA gift catalog. (I'm also coordinating the childrens skit for our GFA staff Christmas party and it's about, in part, the gift catalog.) So, we've been talking a lot about animals (one of the many things you can give). Yesterday, we went to Ft. Worth to the stockyards.
There was a petting zoo. My kids got to pet a pig, a goat, a lamb, see rabbits, ride horses.... How awesome! It was a perfect opportunity to talk to them about what they'd like to give to the people in Asia! God is so good! (We actually went inside the pen at one point, but we were too busy to snap pictures.)
In any event, we're talking about giving around here. It's always a challenge. I could make a long list of my wants. My kids can too. But, what will really matter in the long run? I know I won't be impacted for eternity by any gift I get this year. But, those in Asia might. We hear stories of precious people coming to know Jesus because they received a lamb. Oh, I want to know I did something that really counts! I want to know more people will be in heaven in a few months because of what I did to celebrate Jesus coming to earth this year. Jesus gave. So should we.