Our Jesse Tree

Today I posted a picture of our Jesse Tree on social media which led to a number of  text messages and comments asking about the tree. The process is so completely simple and underwhelming that I decided to snap a few pictures and throw together a quick how to.

My amazing husband has a list of talents and abilities that could quite possibly shut down the world wide web but handy man is nowhere on the list. Taking that into consideration, I try and choose projects that do not solicit his assistance. Make sense?

If you happen to have a handy husband then don’t let him read this post because he will balk at the elementary way I’ve gone about this little project and rightfully so. Not to mention, he can probably come up with something way better.

But for those of you that just want a simple task you can finish by yourself in a single afternoon…I’m your girl.

Supply List: two boards, 25 upholstery tacks, paint/stain, nails, hammer, Plaster of Paris, bucket, cloth, ribbon, ornaments

You’ll need to make a quick trip to Lowe’s for two pieces of wood. Our Jesse tree comes up to my hip and to have one approximately that height you will need two boards, one 17 inches long and the other 33. Not to mention, if you’re super kind to the guy in the wood section at Lowe’s he will totally cut the pieces to the dimensions you request.

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Paint or stain the boards to your liking and nail them together in the shape of a cross.

Of all the steps, this next one is the most tedious. You’ll need to figure out the spacing of your upholstery tacks so that all 25 of them will fit nicely on your cross. It’s up to you how you place them so just go with whatever works.

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Pour the liquid plaster into the bucket and stand the cross up in the center of the plaster. I secured ours to our back porch deck with a rope so it would dry without me standing out there holding it for 8 hours.

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Your cross will more than likely be secure in the bucket once the plaster has dried but over the years ours has worked it’s way out so I just slide it back into the hole.

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Use the cloth to wrap around the bucket and secure it with the ribbon.

We are currently using this book to guide our family worship times but there are several more options out there. Before you order anything just make sure whatever you order lines up with what you believe because there are variations in the material based on the author.

I ordered our wooden ornaments many years ago from Etsy and couldn’t find the exact set but this one seems to be the same thing and even comes with a booklet explaining each ornament and the story that goes along with it.

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We go through one story each day during the month of December with the hopes of our boys being able to recall the story, using the pictures on the ornaments as reminders. It has grown to be my favorite Christmas tradition and a great accountability tool for slowing down each day in December to retrace the genealogy of Jesus and behold the beauty of the Gospel.

Categories: Holidays and Traditions | Leave a comment

Wondering Why Wednesday

Another installment of “Wondering Why Wednesday!”

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Why does my 5 year old continue to tell me this is not his baby brother’s sock. In case you were wondering, I gave up and just let him wear the stinkin’ sock.

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Wondering Why Wednesday

Another installment of “Wondering Why Wednesday!”

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Why is the baby sitting in the kitchen sink?

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Beauty from Ashes

 ”And provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

-Isaiah 61:3

We aren’t always given the privilege of seeing our ashes exchanged for a crown of beauty in the nitty gritty details of life. Often times we go through mourning or seasons of despair and we must just walk by faith and trust that despite our current circumstances, the Lord is working all things for our good and His great glory.

Those seasons of despair, when we are not given the privilege of seeing the restoration, make me that much more grateful for the times the Lord graciously allows me to experience the exchange of mourning  for dancing. This week was one of those times.

Early last week our family journeyed a few states over for a conference.

The afore mentioned sentence is as lackluster as it gets to the everyday blog reader, but for me it’s my crown of beauty to replace the ashes.

Because I have never mentioned it here on the blog, most people don’t know that four years ago, in the last couple of weeks leading up to our family moving overseas, I had a miscarriage. I was eleven weeks pregnant at the time and ecstatic about adding to our family. Unfortunately, despite the desperate prayers of a mama’s heart, rising HCG levels and multiple grueling attempts to find a heartbeat the baby did not live and I had to have a D&C.

I remember lying in the bed, clutching my stomach and praying that the cramps would stop. In that moment the only thing that felt worse than the intense cramping and the constant bleeding was the heartache of knowing I would not be holding that baby in my arms.

Fast forward a few years to this past week and we find our family going back to the same conference, in the same city, staying in the same hotel. Amidst the flurry of activity that is involved with taking our little crew out of town, I did not think about the painful memories or scars from the past.

As the first day of the conference came to a close I bathed the boys and tucked them into bed before settling into my own bed to read. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a little blonde headed cutie in his Spider Man pajamas waddle into the room. Just like always, I told him to come give me a hug and go back to his bed but as he crawled in my bed for a hug, I was reminded that four years earlier I was in this same place grieving the loss of what would have been our fifth child.

Don’t miss the beauty of this moment. I was sitting in the exact same place where I grieved my miscarriage and holding my fifth born son.

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In that moment, my heart was overwhelmed with gratitude and my eyes were brimming with happy tears.

The next day as I watched Brax play on the playground I was reminded that just a few years earlier I sat numbly on the same bench, recovering from the D&C and watching my boys play as I brushed the warm tears away in the hopes that no one would see me crying. But today the ashes have been traded for a crown of beauty and I get to experience the sheer joy of watching this guy wreak havoc on the playground.

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I in no way want to pretend that every miscarriage is replaced with a healthy baby or that failed relationships always end with a happy marriage. The bad diagnosis isn’t always healed. We lose loved ones, children go astray, other couples are chosen for the adoption and our hearts break into a million tiny fragments. In our fallen world we don’t always get to experience the garment of despair exchanged for one of praise…at least not in this life. That’s the reality of living in our sin soaked world. But for today He alone has clothed me with joy and I’m choosing not to be silent.

You have turned my mourning into dancing for me;
You have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” -Psalm 30:11-12

Categories: Nomadic Living | 2 Comments

Prayer Words

I have a love–hate relationship with the beginning of a new school year. I hate saying goodbye to the lazy days of summer, learning new curricula and schedules, the rampageous tax free weekend back-to-school shopping and trying to determine how everything is going to get squeezed into the day.

At the same time, I love that our days are more routine, new packs of vibrantly colored crayons, little ones climbing in my lap to read  books and I especially love how the beginning of a school year is a natural time to reflect back on the previous year.

crayonsBefore we dive head first into a new school year, as their teacher, I set aside some time to think about each of our school aged boys. I ask God to show me areas of strength and maturity each child has displayed in the previous school year and then I thank Him for developing those traits in each of them.

I then spend time praying for God to show me areas that may be lacking or need further development. I choose one specific word that embodies what I’m asking Him to do in that particular child’s life and I make that their “prayer word” for the year. I usually choose a verse of Scripture to accompany each child’s word which makes it easy for me to pray that Scripture over them.

He shall remain nameless but I’m guessing if you’ve spent any time with our family you know who got the word “self-control.”  I’m praying Proverbs 25:28 over him and he’s working diligently to memorize it. “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self control.”

I found a cute little Etsy shop that makes adorable wooden signs. I had a personalized wooden sign made for each child to put on their desk and also to remind me to pray for them often.

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As a mom it’s so easy for me to get frustrated with characteristics (or the lack there of) in my children. Choosing a prayer word for the year allows me to temporarily step out of my role as mom and look at things from the perspective of a teacher. My hope is that when I’m wanting to bang my head against a wall because the b’s look like d’s, the paintbrush got sharpened in the pencil sharpener and the five year old is still reading “bed” as “bad” I can exhale and be reminded of the eternal value that can be accomplished with one heartfelt prayer to a Good, Good Heavenly Father.

Categories: Homeschooling, Marriage and Family | 1 Comment

Goodbye Summer… I love you!

For the first time in the history of our homeschool career we decided to take a full 3 month summer. Yep, you read that correctly. We took off the entire month of June, July and August and it was the best decision we’ve made in a long time.

There were no summer bridge activities, no reading programs, no math practice. Zip. Zero. Zilch. We did absolutely nothing that falls into the category of “educational.” I know some of you are sorely disappointed and have vowed to never ask me another homeschooling question again. No offense taken.

So what did we do?

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We slept late, learned to knee board, climbed trees, visited four different countries, went to soccer camp, rode the inner tube, caught lightning bugs at dusk, saw the Crossfit Games, adopted a dog, swam until our fingers were wrinkly, took dinner to friends, broke a couple of bones, soaked up time with cousins…IMG_6002 and most importantly, we learned that we are able to see the goodness of a loving God much more clearly when our lives are simplified.

Unfortunately, no matter how much I kicked, screamed and pleaded with summer to stay around a little while longer the inevitable happened and September came knocking.

We are slowly dipping our toes into the shallow end of the school year and mourning the loss of lazy days and flip flops. And while every detail of “Back to School” didn’t go as planned, I did manage to snap a few pictures to document the year that I’m certain I’ll treasure for years to come.

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Categories: Homeschooling | 1 Comment

Sunday Morning Scramble

The last few years we have lived in a place where there was not necessarily a “Church,” like what we think of in the good ol’ South.

There was no building or gathering of believers on Sunday morning. Actually, there was nothing that necessitated getting your family ready and out the door. We still gathered with other believers, but it was in our homes and it was super low key. Not to mention a typical work week where we lived runs Sunday to Thursday. That means we would generally gather together with other believers on a Friday- which was the day of worship in our little corner of the world.

If that’s not enough, ya’ll know I’m a homeschool mom and we aren’t typically known for our ability to get several little people fed, dressed and out the door to a given location before mid-morning.

I’m guessing the combination of the aforementioned facts has resulted in me being off my game when it comes to the “Sunday Morning Scramble.”

No matter how hard I try or how much effort I put into it, I can’t seem to get all 7 of us to worship with our Church on time. And on the off chance we do manage to sit down in our seats before the service begins I’m completely unprepared.

If you see me wearing a full face of makeup it was applied in the car on the way to worship, meaning my mascara is “less than ideal” and my brows are quite possibly kattywampus. 

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I have no snacks for the 2 year old so he is crawling on my head and digging in my purse in the hopes of finding a piece of gum or a lonely lollipop.IMG_5656

I have failed to pack crayons or paper for the five year old so he is losing interest by the minute and working diligently to draw tattoos on his forearm with a random pen he found in the back of the pew.

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And when I’m really wanting to showcase my finest moments I look down and see that one or more of my kids have somehow made it into the service without shoes. True story.

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So the next time you see this disheveled Mama strolling into the Sunday morning worship service with a passel full of kids in tow, please don’t judge. In fact, a heart felt fist pump may be exactly what I need at the moment as we slowly but surely are getting into our Sunday morning rhythm here in the good ol’ South.

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Meet Snatch

On a scale of 1 to 10 I fall somewhere between a -2 and -3 in regards to how much I like dogs. I know some of you just unsubscribed from the blog because of that little known fact but stay with me here. I’m about to redeem my self.

When our oldest son was two years old we spent our life savings on a six week old, AKC registered Chocolate Lab named “Bauer.” He was absolutely beautiful and completely horrible all at the same time. We are pretty sure he was unleashed from the pits of….

Needless to say, Bauer put a bad taste in my mouth for dogs and it’s been a long, hard road to overcome the distaste.

For several years I’ve tried to appease our boys by letting them have several different fish, a sweet little turtle- we even allowed for a couple of baby ducks.

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And, my goodness, who will ever forget the fluorescent chickens.

Despite my efforts to curb their desire for a dog they kept asking, and asking, and asking. For the last 3 1/2 years our easy out has been that we were living in a non-dog friendly environment in the M.E. However, now that we are back for some time, that excuse no longer stood the test.

It’s a long, crazy story that involves a lake house, a huge pit bull, the Talledega Country animal shelter and a grumpy old man… but, at the end of the day, we got us a dog!

Quick recap.

Early one Saturday morning- Stray dog is hanging around my parents lake house and my mom notices him. She immediately liked him and tried to convince us we needed to take him home. I said, “NO!”

Saturday Mid-morning- My Mom takes *said* dog in and gives him a bath so he doesn’t stink like a pile of rotten garbage. He comes out crisp, clean and dropping some serious puppy eyes on me. I say, “Maybe.” Husband says, “Absolutely not.”

Noonish on the same Saturday- I decide I want the dog to come home with us and I need to convince the Husband, so I decide to give him a pretty legit CrossFit name- “Snatch”

Mid-afternoon- Kids are crying because they want the dog so badly. I’m giving Husband the full on pitch of why this is the coolest dog ever.

Early evening- Dog hops in our car and officially becomes part of the Fam.

The rest is history.

In a matter of hours we went from being completely anti-dog to head over heels smitten with an adorable little 8 lb. Jack-Chi named “Snatch.”

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And he’s going to kill me for posting this but I’m not the only one that is starry eyed over our little fur baby.

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Shrinking the Distance: Voxer

I purposely saved this post for last because it’s quite possibly the most wonderful app of all time. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic but you get the point. It’s really great.

If you don’t have the Voxer app on your phone already, stop reading this and download it now.

UnknownVoxer is a walkie talkie app for your smart phone. Swoon. I know, right?

It allows you to communicate with anyone who has the Voxer app anywhere in the world for free but the fun doesn’t stop there. Of course you can send text messages, videos and pictures but Voxer also allows you to hear live voices in walkie talkie style. You have the option of listening live at the exact moment someone is leaving you a vox or you can choose to listen when it’s convienent for you, which is great if you have a big time difference to consider. It also has a “tap to talk” option that makes it easier to use and military grade encryption/security if that kind of stuff matters to you. I’m just sayin’.

You all know I love a good text message and I’ve already declared my love for WhatsApp in a previous post but there is just something about being able to hear someone’s voice that makes this app so dear to my heart. I may or may not have gotten emotional a time or two when I first hear the voice of someone I miss dearly and haven’t seen in a while. The struggle is real.

However, Voxer should come with a warning label that reads:

WARNING: “It can be dangerous to give a mom who spends most of her time with small children fifteen minutes of uninterrupted time to talk.”

I can go on, an on, and on ….you’ve been warned. However, Voxer already thought of that and installed a 15 minute time cap. So if you’re still flapping your jaws after fifteen minutes it will cut you off. My mother and I have named this the “Voxer Walk of Shame.” Don’t worry, you can just push the button and start another vox. Ask me how I know?

Voxer also has a button that allows you to speed up the rate at which you listen to your messages which is great if you are crunched for time. The best part about that is if you are from the Deep South like most of my friends and family, I can speed your voxer messages up to x2 and it sounds normal. Now if I can only get my iPhone to stop auto correcting the word “voxer” to”boxer” I won’t have a single thing to complain about.

Categories: Life Overseas | 1 Comment

Shrinking the Distance: WhatsApp

I love how easy it is to have long conversations over the phone without ever dialing a number. Some folks would argue that texting is the demise of our ability to converse and have real relationships but those people probably don’t live 7,000 miles from their friends and family.

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Due to the work week in this part of the world running Sunday-Thursday, the difficult time difference and spotty internet, it can be next to impossible to talk with people back home.

Thankfully, WhatsApp takes care of that problem and allows us to keep in touch. WhatsApp is a cross-platform mobile messaging app that allows you to send text messages without having to pay SMS charges. And it’s available for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia. No matter who your carrier, what country you live in or what type of phone you have, you can send messages all over the world without a fee.

UnknownWhatsApp isn’t widely used in the United States but it has taken the rest of the world by storm. It has the look and feel of conventional text messages and is super easy to use. You can send pictures, videos, locations or voice recordings for free. Still not ready to download the app?

ATTENTION: You can text back and forth with me. Got it?

If the only reason you have the app on your phone is to keep a smile on the face of this Desert Diva, I wouldn’t mind at all. So, what are you waiting for? Send me a text already.

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