Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

Our exciting New Year's Eve festivities include using the fondue pot to deep fry our dinner.

Then after baths, there will be board games. Starting with Apples to Apples, whether another game will follow will depend partly on time.

After that will be a movie - the children picked Evan Almighty, which we meant to see in the movie theater, but never did. Then we'll watch some of Dick Clark's Rockin' Christmas Eve - flipping through the channels, I'm sure, until right before midnight when we make sure we're focused on the big ball.

The ball will drop. We'll all cheer. Then it will be off to bed.

A very simple and ordinary New Year's celebration - but that's what we're all about here after all!

Happy New Year!

Ice Skating with Dad

That's where the kids are.

I'm home nursing a sore foot and enjoying the quiet.

The kids need some one-on-one Daddy time now and then. I'm glad they're getting it today!

Auld Acquaintance

Yesterday we had our annual New Year's Day party. Yes, I did look at a calendar. And, yes, I know that yesterday was not New Year's Day. But yesterday was the day the majority of people could make the party.

You see - about 40 years ago our family made the acquaintance of another family with children of similar ages (okay, at the time I was the only child - but there were two on the way). As my mother puts it for the next several years we grew up in each others houses. Another family moved in next door at one point and the families became like one.

Then our family moved. And instead of being next door and across the street from these people who had become family, we lived an hour away.

That first New Year's after we moved (New Year's day 1976 if anyone is keeping track) we were invited back for dinner. All three families got together and a wonderful time was had by all.

The next year we got together again - at someone else's house.

And since that time we have gotten together every New Year's day (or sometime close). As many people as can make it show up.

When we started that tradition there were six grown-ups and nine children. Now if everyone were to gather there would be six seniors (as they've dubbed themselves), 15 in the intermediate (or middle aged) generation - included spouses, and 15 in the youngest generation. Not everyone was able to make it last night - but we still had 24 people there (including 10 children aged 10 and under).

As one of our friends kidded around with one of my brothers, she said "it's okay, it's like he's my brother". And she is the closest I ever had to a sister while growing up.

Officially the three families aren't related. But we're more family than a lot of people who share genetics are.

And these Auld Acquaintances will never be forgot!

Happy New Year

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

May you all have a very blessed and wonderful Christmas.
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Jesse Tree - Day 23 - The Birth of Christ

Today's symbol was naturally Baby Jesus. There was only one reading - from Isaiah - the prophecy that a virgin would have a son and he would be called Emmanuel. I can't give the exact citation because while cleaning up in anticipation of visitors this afternoon, I put the paper with the readings on it someplace out of the way - and now don't remember where that was. (Don't tell me that's never happened to you). And it's too late and there is too much to do to worry about trying to find it.
We also read the nativity story from Luke - because we go to Mass on Christmas morning and always get the Gospel reading from John - which while poetic and interesting is not the story that captures a child's imagination.

So we made it through the whole Jesse Tree sequence. It was very rewarding, because although we didn't always have the opportunity to give it as much attention as I would like - we did get Bible readings related to the coming of the Savior every day during Advent. It truly helped keep us focused on what is important.
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Family and Friends

I love the way my refrigerator looks at Christmas time!
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Some Christmas Thoughts from Harry

Harry wrote the following this morning. I have his permission to share it:

Merry Christmas And A Happy New Year!

Tomorrow is Christmas (Christ Mass) And no one is Excited not even a mouse...........Except me. I am so excited for the birth of Jesus Christ. Now we know why Christmas is called Christmas. It is because of the birth of Christ and that we go to church to know about it.

Before you open your presents in the morn, sing Happy Birthday to your King, The kind of all kings. Your God, The God of all gods, and most of all, Your Friend, The friend of all your friends and all of my friends.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Jesse Tree - Day 22 - The Angel

Angels Proclaim the Miraculous Birth.

The symbol for today is an angel. Our angel was already atop the Jesse Tree. The tree just didn't seem right without an angel atop it.

The readings for today were Genesis 18:1-4, 8b-10a - the story of the three heavenly visitors telling Abraham and Sarah that they were to become parents in their old age. (see, angels are proclaiming a miraculous birth way back then too). The second reading was: Luke 2:8-14 - when the angels came to the shepherds at night and told them the good news.
We stopped to think about what it would have been like for the shepherds out there in the field. It was dark. Way darker than it ever gets in our yard (we live a 1/4 mile from a huge mall and near many highways - there is a lot of light pollution). And it was quiet. The sheep were probably sleeping, the shepherds talking quietly among themselves or dozing a little.

And then - suddenly - there was an angel lighting up the sky. And speaking to them. And then there was a multitude of angels singing.

Imagine some of their first impressions. "Do you see what I see?" "What was in that flask you brought, anyway?" "Maybe I'm dreaming?"

But first impressions aside, they believed the angels were there and proclaiming a miracle to them - because they went. They went to see the baby they had been told about. They were the social outcasts of their day - but they were the ones the angels came to - and they were the first ones who got to see the Savior.
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Let's Just Check the Guidelines

That's what my husband, the engineer, says before he starts cooking or baking. The guidelines, of course, being what most people refer to as a recipe.

The other famous first line is "I just need to modify this a little."

He never follows a recipe.

And the thing is - anything he makes always turns out great. However he seldom keeps track of his modifications, so he can never duplicate his successes. Lately though he's enlisted Pippi as his note-taker. So maybe sometime we can make something again.

Though - chances are, if we do - he'll modify his modifications.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Dollhouse Christmas

Everyone is decorating for Christmas. Including the family that lives in the Dollhouse. The Dollhouse was made for me by my father for a Christmas many years ago. It's a true masterpiece. And it now resides in my daughter's room.
The outside is decorated and the mail carrier is leaving a package.

Inside the family gathers in the living room around the tree. There's a game of checkers in progress, and giant cookies for their enjoyment. Pardon the 70s clothes. The Dawn dolls were mine and their wardrobe is a bit dated. In the kitchen the father and grandfather are catching up on the latest news. There are some lovely handmade pies on the counter.

Upstairs Grandma settles the baby while visiting with one of her grandchildren and in another room, Mom is reading a book to baby.

The children are busy watching TV and writing in the play room.

I hope your holiday preparations are as far along as the Dollhouse Family.

Note: you can click on the images to see them larger (much larger).

Jesse Tree - Day 21 - Light of the World

The Light of the World. A light in the darkness. A candle flickering in the night. We are familiar with the symbolism. Jesus comes to bring light to a dark world.

Our readings today were Psalm 27:1-3; John 1:9; 8:12. The symbol is a candle or light.

And now we have a better understanding of why we decorate our houses with lights at Christmastime.
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Friday, December 21, 2007

They're Getting Closer

Mary, Joseph and their donkey are making progress on their way to the stable. They've made it to the side table of Santas. I'm sure the Santas are all admiring Joseph's hat. Oh, and those little blue things in the picture - that was an unauthorized addition to the side table of Santas. They are toys from their German Advent Calendar (thanks Eileen)

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Christmas Caroling

Today was our annual after-school Christmas caroling party. The children had a half-day of school and after that they came home with some of their friends for a little Christmas fun.

First the nine children (ranging in age from 7 to 11) practiced singing the songs from the song sheets I gave them. All pretty standard Christmas songs. We decided that their rendition needed too much work to be sung in public, and we'd leave that off the rotation when we were out.

After going through all the songs - they bundled up - and we headed into the dreary December afternoon. We sang at a total of six houses. We tried a few others - but people weren't home. And after that the kids were getting cold so we came back for hot chocolate.

The best part of this though - is the smiles it brings to people. When one of our neighbors opens their door on a busy afternoon to find a gaggle of kids standing out there singing to them - they smile. Big smiles. I like that.

Sometimes the people we sing for want to give the children something. Today they got some candy and some money. In the past they've also gotten Christmas cookies right out of the oven (it's all in the timing). With a little prompting the children have agreed that the money will go in the poor box at church - to help people who don't have as much as they do.

I guess you could say we did our part to spread some Christmas cheer today.

Jesse Tree - Day 20 - The Star

The Star. It's a Christmas symbol we are all familiar with. Today our Jesse Tree readings told us a little about that star. First we read from Number 24:17-19a - where the prediction of a star leading the way is made. And then we read the familiar story of the three magi following the star in Matthey 2:1-6, 9-11.
This star was placed at the top of the Jesse Tree - alongside the angel that already resides there. A star - the light of the world. It's all connected. And it's origins go back to before the beginning of time. It's all almost too much to grasp.

But I suppose it means we must follow the light - follow the one who said he was the light. And that is Jesus.
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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Jesse Tree - Day 19 - The Fiery Furnace

It's the twentieth day of December - and can you believe it - we're still doing the Jesse Tree. Yay! A new record!

Today's theme was Exile and Persecution and the symbol "the Fiery Furnace". I must say we didn't dwell too much on Exile and Persecution. But we did read the story of the Fiery Furnace from Daniel. The actual readings were (2 Kings 17:23; Daniel 3:19, 21, 28 and Matthew 5:11-12). We read the whole story of the three men being thrown into the fiery furnace. The children were somewhat familiar with this story from Veggie Tales. And it is a pretty amazing story.

When I was a kid I had an album by the Bill Gaither Trio called "The Sunday School Picnic" (who am I kidding, I still have it). It's full of great, lively Sunday School-type songs. One of the songs is about Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego. Whenever I hear the story - I think of that song.

Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego
by Hugh Mitchell

Three good men lived very long ago
Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego
To and idol they would never bow
Shadrach, Meschach andAbednego

Into a fiery furnace they were therefore cast
Nebuchadnezzar thought they'd never last
But God was there He'd never let them go
Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego.
Without that song, I never would have been able to pronounce those names.
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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Love Story

I should have posted this yesterday - but... I didn't.

Twenty years ago yesterday I came home from my semester in London. I had a wonderful time while I was there and made some great friends (one of whom I'm still in touch with - in fact I got her Christmas card today with a great picture of her two little boys - but I digress). But I was ready to come home. It was a week before Christmas and I was eager to see my family and friends again.

I particularly wanted to see my boyfriend again. You see, we'd been dating for six months (to the day) when I flew off to Europe. We hoped things would last between us - but together six months - and then separated for three - who could be sure.

We wrote lots of letters while we were apart. The postman delivered mail to our London home twice a day - and I always looked forward to mail time. I would get a letter from my boyfriend about every three or four days. And I wrote him just as frequently. We wrote about things that maybe we wouldn't have talked about if we were hanging out on campus together. In a lot of ways we grew even closer through our letters.

I called him a couple of times. He couldn't call me - we didn't have a phone - but my parents agreed to pay for a few transatlantic calls to him (I was using their calling card). I made the calls from one of those famous red phone booths one used to see all over England. A few of the windows in the booth were broken, and it was cold. The phone calls were necessarily short - and a little awkward. I always ended up missing him more when I got off the phone.

But then I came home. I had an enthusiastic reunion with my parents, brothers and grandmother. And I called him and I let him know I was back.

When he got to our house I literally ran into his arms. I never knew how good it would feel to be back with someone again. I hadn't realized how in love with him I was.

This Christmas we'll celebrate our 21st Christmas together. And in May we'll have been married for 14 years. Because once I was back with him, I never wanted to be separated again. And that's my Christmas love story.

Tuesday's Proverb

Yes, I know it's Wednesday. I just didn't realize yesterday was Tuesday (at least not in my blogging).

For each man's ways are plain to the LORD'S sight; all their paths he surveys (Proverbs 5:21)

Jesse Tree - Day 18 - Bethlehem

"But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel." (Micah 5:1)

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie;
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

Please don't laugh at my clay Bethlehem. This isn't like sculpting a shepherd's staff or a cross.

So the prophets foretold that the Saviour would come from Bethlehem. And - of course - the prophets were right. Even if it took some gyrations to get the Holy Family there. After all, they weren't living in Bethlehem, travel was difficult in those days - and more so for someone expecting a child. I'm sure the possibility of Mary remaining with her relatives in Nazareth while Joseph took care of the census business was discussed. But they went. They had to go. Because it was foretold.

Today's readings were Micah 5:2 (though I included 5:1 because that's the verse that mentions Bethlehem) and Luke 2:4-7. The symbol was Bethlehem (to which my initial reaction was 'how are we going to create a Bethlehem to hang on a tree?')
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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Good Reviews Welcome

Harry was showing off the story he started writing to his sister.

"You're allowed to say 'wow' when you get to the end," he told her.

Jesse Tree - Day 17 - The New Covenant

Today the theme for the Jesse Tree was "The New Covenant". The symbol is a heart with writing on it - because in the reading today, we hear that God will write the new covenant on our hearts. The readings are: Jeremiah 31:31-33 and Hebrews 9:13-15.
I needed to explain to the children what a covenant was. And we went over briefly that God had made covenants with his people before - with Abraham and Moses. And when God came to us as Jesus he was making another covenant with us.
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Monday, December 17, 2007

Jesse Tree - Day 16 - The Cross

Today we talk about the cross. The theme was "Suffering Servant" and the symbol; the cross. Harry was bothered by this - "He isn't even born yet," he protested. And fair enough - we're preparing for His birth, who wants to think about His death. But His death and subsequent resurrection are what it's all about. If it hadn't been for that, we'd have no particular reason to celebrate His birth.

I'm sorry my picture turned out a bit blurry.
The readings today are: Isaiah 53:4-7, 9, 12b - where a fairly accurate description of what Jesus is going to go through is foretold. And John 19:1, 15-18, where we get a glimpse of the crucifixion.

So today we learned that Jesus came into this world for a reason - a reason that had been predicted many years before. I like when the pieces of a story fit together nicely.
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They are on Their Way

Christmas is coming. And the Holy family is slowly making its way to the stable where the baby will be born. They've made it as far as the china cabinet. Mary finds it hard to travel while down on her knees like that. Do you like Joseph's hat?

The wise men are a little further off - which makes sense, they have farther to travel, and do get on the scene later.
So here are best wishes as you make your own journey toward Christmas.
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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Jesse Tree - Day15 - The Good Shepherd

A good shepherd is important for the sake of the flock. That was the message we read in Ezekiel today. And if the current shepherds can't cut it, then The Lord our God will take care of it.

And isn't that what happened. The Lord, Our God came to us and was our shepherd. And he was a Good Shepherd. He sought out the lost and the sick. He didn't lead anyone astray.

We don't live in an area where sheep are a common sight - and shepherds even less so - but it doesn't take much imagination to understand why a shepherd is important. And why that shepherd needs to be good.

Our symbol today was a shepherd's staff. The readings were: Ezekiel 34:2b, 4-5, 10-12, 15a, 16a, 23-24; Psalm 23:1 (The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want) and John 10:11, 16, 27

And apropos nothing, this is my 500th post!

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The Tooth Fairy Forgot

A sad little boy showed up next to my bed this morning. "The tooth fairy forgot," he said.

My first reaction was - no, I distinctly remember the tooth fairy coming - and then as I reflected, I realized I'd dreamed it.


"It was the ice storm," I assured him, "it was hard for her to fly with all that ice on her wings. She's running late."


"Sure, it happened to Pippi once. She thought the tooth fairy forgot - but she came when Pippi was in the bathroom."

A few minutes later I was able to say to Harry, "check now and see if the tooth fairy came yet."

And his eyes shown as he found a dollar bill in place of his tooth.

Whew. Another bullet dodged.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Jesse Tree - Day 14 - The Prince of Peace

Today's symbols for the Jesse Tree are a dove and a crown. A dove to symbolize peace and a crown for the prince. Because Jesus is the Prince of Peace. That was what the readings reminded us of today. (Isaiah 9:2, 6-7; John 14-27 and 18:33, 36a, 37b)
For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:5)

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Jesse Tree - Day 13 - The Lion and the Lamb

The Lion and the Lamb will lie down together. That was the theme for today's Jesse Tree readings. (Isaiah 11:6-10 and Revelation 21:4-5a).

Won't it be something when all strife ceases in this world and something like that will come to pass? It's the world that we are promised - we just don't know when it will come.

As an aside, when Pippi was creating our Lion and Lamb ornament, she commented that it reminded her of their Lovies. You see, Pippi has a Lamb Lovie and Harry has a Lion Lovie. The Lion and the Lamb often lie together at our house - maybe it's a harbinger of things to come!
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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Jesse Tree - Day 12 - Root of Jesse

Today we find out why what we are doing is called a Jesse Tree. The first reading was Isaiah 11:1-5,10. The second reading is from Acts (and I just realized I read tomorrow's second reading today, instead of todays. Oops)Anyway, the one I was supposed to read was Acts 13:16, 22-23.

But we did hear the words of the prophet about a root from the stump of Jesse. And since we learned the other day that Jesus was descended from Jesse, we can see how He is the fulfillment of that prophecy.

And we're up to day 12 on the Jesse tree and still doing it (Even if I did read the wrong second reading today). We might actually make it all the way through. It helped that we made the ornaments ahead of time!
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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Okay - This is just Embarrassing

Often when I see little quizzes that people have taken that tell them something about themselves - and they post the results on their blog - I take the quiz - but don't post the results.

But when I got the results for this one, I just had to post them. I saw the quiz at Ellen's and Esther's places. They got nice results. Esther's Christmas is like "Miracle on 34th Street" (I love that movie) and Ellen's is like "A Charlie Brown Christmas". Both of those are heartwarming classics loved by millions.

And what did I get?

Your Christmas is Most Like: A Very Brady Christmas

For you, it's all about sharing times with family.
Even if you all get a bit cheesy at times.

That's what I got. A Very Brady Christmas!? Yikes.

The worst part is - I've seen the movie. I've even watched it on purpose once or twice.


Holiday Season in Full Swing Now

How is it that with decorations in the stores since October, I can suddenly be surprised that Christmas is less than two weeks away. How did we get from -- still a long way off - to almost here -- so quickly?

Ah well. Never mind. There's something else on my mind. A lot of people have big objections to the term "Happy Holidays" over "Merry Christmas". And I must say, when our newspapers last year put "Happy Holidays" as the banner headline on December 25, I found it annoying. It seems in a case like that (since it wasn't any other holiday) they could really have said Merry Christmas. And "Holiday Trees" is silly, as are "Holiday stockings". But those examples, while real ones, are extreme.

What people really object to is the way that the term "Christmas" is being shoved aside - pushed under the Politically Correct carpet as it were. We don't want our holiday marginalized. But I think we need to be careful what we wish for.

A Holiday Catalogue or a Christmas Catalogue? Well, they want us to buy Christmas gifts right? So shouldn't it be a Christmas Catalogue? Ah - but at the same time don't people fret that the meaning of Christmas is being shoved aside - being handed over to commercial interests? Do we really need more consumer goods and sales associated with Christmas?

Maybe we should let the sales and catalogues be for the "Holidays" - whatever they may be and let Christmas take on a meaning that is a little deeper. Maybe when people talk about Christmas it will evoke images of a stable in Bethlehem and angels and a star and a baby, instead of images of Santa and iPods and HDTVs and Wiis and whatever else people hope to find beneath their tree this year.

Yes - keep Christmas Christmas - by all means. But maybe if their are aspects of the season that don't seem to fit with the miraculous nature of the nativity - maybe we can turn those over to the "Holiday Season". Just a thought.

Jesse Tree - Day 11 - David and Goliath

Another story that the children were pretty familiar with. Davy and Goliath. The little boy with the sling shot who killed the giant. The little boy who would grow up to be king and who was the ancestor of Jesus. (the symbol is a slingshot)

And while they know the 'story'. They don't really know the whole story of King David (and some of that story is not exactly rated G - if you know what I mean) - but even that part aside, they don't really know about Saul and Jonathan and all of that. I'm going to have to remedy that.

The readings for today are: 1 Samuel 16:1, 13a; 17:3-4, 8-9, 45, 47-49; Revelation 22:16.
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It's His Birthday

He's eight years old today. The little boy that my brother and sister-in-law are hoping to adopt.

He's in a children's home in Russia. My brother and sister-in-law are in New Jersey.

He doesn't know he's got a family waiting for him. They've been dealing with the paperwork as quickly as they can.

In the meantime a little boy turns eight and a family waits to let him know they want him to belong to them.

Happy Birthday, future nephew - I can't wait to meet you.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Jesse Tree - Day 10 - Ruth and Boaz

The story of Ruth. That was what the Jesse Tree readings brought us today. I've always liked the story of Ruth and Naomi and Boaz - but it's not a story my children are familiar with - and the selected readings only gave part of the story (Ruth 1:16; 2:2, 8, 10-12; 4:13-14). Unfortunately today was one of those days when circumstances collide to give us not much time - so instead of reading the story in full or giving them a complete explanation, I gave them a short version of who Ruth was.

The second reading (Matthew 1:5b-61) lets us know that Ruth and Boaz were the great-grandparents of King David and therefore Jesus' ancestors.

I like seeing the connection between the old and new testament and knowing that these stories are all connected - they're not just random stories from the past.

Our sheaf of wheat (today's symbol) looks a little like a stick bug. Oh well.
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Tuesday's Proverb

And have joy of the wife of your youth, your lovely hind, your graceful doe. Her love will invigorate you always, through her love you will flourish continually, When you lie down she will watch over you, and when you wake, she will share your concerns; wherever you turn, she will guide you. Why then, my son, should you go astray for another's wife and accept the embraces of an adulteress? (Proverbs 5:18-20)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Blogger Reflection Award


Way back on Thanksgiving Barb at SFO Mom was kind enough to award me with the Blogger Reflection Award. Wow! I was floored. The reason it took me so long to post about it is that I was reflecting on who else to nominate.

The details of this award are as follows:
The reason for the title of this award is because this award should make you reflect on five bloggers who have been an encouragement, a source of love, impacted you in some way, and have been a Godly example to you. Five Bloggers who when you reflect on them you get a sense of pride and joy… of knowing them and being blessed by them.

This award is for the best-of-the-best so consider who you pick, carefully. This award should not be given to just anyone. If you’re going to do the award don’t just write a few words and slap it on your blog. Write real thoughts about these bloggers and what they’ve been to you, and if the bloggers you pick have already been given the award, don’t be afraid to give to them again. They deserve it as many times as it’s given.

Rules of participating:
1. Copy this post.
2. Reflect on five bloggers.
3. Make sure you link this post so others can read it and the rules.
4. Go leave your chosen bloggers a comment and let them know they’ve been given the award.
5. Put the award icon on your site.

See, what held me up was figuring out five other bloggers. I'm sure some of the people who I'm going to reflect on have already received it. That's fine.

First I'd like to reflect that reading Lissa at Here in the Bonny Glen, Alice at Cottage Blessings and Karen Edmisten all make home-schooling look wonderfully rewarding and easy. Upon reflection, reading them doesn't make me want to home school, it makes me want to ship my kids off to them so they can teach my children. I'm sure my children would be the better for it.

Suzanne, at Adventures in Daily Living, has dealt with a lot of 'adventures' in her daily life lately, and she's posted about them with a faith-filled spirit that I find truly inspiring.

And reading the posts over at Ask Sister Mary Martha always brings a smile to my face and provides me with things to think about (and isn't that what reflecting is all about).

So, thanks again, Barb for this award. And I knew I'd get to it eventually!

Jesse Tree - Day 9 - The Law

Today our readings were the Ten Commandments (and that was the symbol as well) and the Beatitudes (I'm glad that wasn't the symbol!) Exodus 20:1-4a; 7a, 8, 12-17; Matthew 5:3-10.

Some days there seems to be an obvious connect between the old and new testament readings. I didn't get that today (I half expected the new testament reading to be the one where Jesus is asked "which is the most important commandment". But that wasn't it. It was the Beatitudes.

So the connect is... God gave us laws to live by; Jesus gave us another way to understand how we should live our lives.
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