Monday, January 31, 2011

We Are the Church

We all know that we're in for some snow tomorrow. And with the snow, school's will close, places won't stay open as late as normal, activities are postponed, and churches cancel their services. You can always guarantee that whether there is rain, snow, ice, or sun, our church, Good News, will be meeting together. Even if there is a blizzard, with snow drifting across the roads making it impossible to see, there will be someone meeting at our church.

A couple weeks ago, when we had our last snow storm, the kids and I stayed home from church. Ariel was home sick from school that day, and Gabe had stayed home sick the day before, Zechariah was losing his voice, and I felt like they needed to be at home for the evening and not out in a big winter storm. It's a huge disappointment in our home when we're not able to attend church. My kids live for these moments when they get to meet together with their friends, learning about God.

I couldn't bear their disappointment, so I told them, even though it's a blizzard outside, and we're stuck at home sick, we are the church. We can have church right here in our home. The kids were so excited! They couldn't wait for dinner to end so we could be the church.

We all made sure our hair was brushed, our clothes looked nice, and Ariel applied her lipstick. We were ready! At 6:30pm we promptly began our service. In preparation, Ariel had made a list of all our favorite songs, and found videos on YouTube that we could worship along to.

As our hearts were ready, and the songs were on our lips, God showed up and met us in right there in the computer room of our home. I've never felt so peaceful in worship, yet so alive, and so free. It was simply amazing! It brings tears to my eyes, just remembering the awesomeness of the evening.

Get Up by Planetshakers

Awesome God

Oh, Happiness by David Crowder Band

The Desert Song by Hillsong

Can't Get Away by Rush of Fools
The worship was fantastic! Ariel is part of the worship team in KidZone at our church, so she is very experienced at showing and teaching the motions to the songs. Being my first time seeing most of these moves, it was at times hard to keep up. But both Gabe and Ariel knew how to dance to all of it.

As we were all laughing and dancing together, Gabe said to me, "see how fun it is to sing to these songs. The grown-ups at church don't know how to do these motions. They just stand there and clap. It's so boring!"

There is a time to have fun, and a time to be serious. Gabriel has not quite figured out how to enjoy the more serious songs. I know that the day is coming though. I have seen so much growth in my daughter the last few years during our worship time. I love to stand beside her, see her raising her hands, and hear the words coming out of her at full volume, and full of heart.

As our worship time came to a close, I had found a short object lesson for my kids. Before we began, I took several pictures of us hanging out. I wanted to teach them about how we are created in God's image, and therefore we should be reflecting that image as good as we possibly can.

We started out by reading a couple of scripture verses. The kids remembered to grab their Bibles and each of them took turns reading a different verse.

"So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." Genesis 1:27
"And all of us have had that veil removed so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more." 2 Corinthians 3:18

I asked each of my kids if they knew what an "image" was, and then I read them the definition.

"a physical likeness or representation of a person, animal, or thing, photographed, painted, sculptured, or otherwise made visible. "
After we discussed it for awhile, I brought out the digital pictures we had taken a little bit earlier. I showed each of them their photo on the camera and asked "is this picture actually you, or is it just a copy?" It's doesn't move, or think, or breathe, but it sure does look exactly like them.

In the same way that these pictures are just an "image" or copy of my children, we are created in the "image" of God. We are not meant to be Him, but we are created to be like Him and to reflect what He is like.

God created us to be like Him, but just like a picture can be edited and changed, sin comes into our lives and changes us, making us very different from God. But the great news is that Jesus came, and died on the cross for our sins, restoring us back to Him.

We spent a great deal of time discussing how we can reflect God. The kids both came up with several examples of how they could do this, and we prayed that they would be able to do it. We all made the decision together that we want to be that light on a hill, a person where people see a difference and want what we have. Every day I pray a prayer over my children before they leave for school, "God, show us how we can serve you. Show us who we can be your arms for, showing them your love."

The rest of our time we spent together, we read another devotion book, and then we closed our service with a few more songs. The kids found a YouTube video of a song I remember singing during children's church. "I am a C. I am a C - H. I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N. And I have C-H-R-I-S-T in my H-E-A-R-T and I will L-I-V-E E-T-E-R-N-A-L-L-Y." It brought back some happy times from when I was younger.

Whenever we are learning something new from God, I believe He always gives us an opportunity to test and use it. As our service ended, and after my daughter told me, "this is the best church service I've ever been to," the kids got their time of testing.

We were about to watch "Letter's to God" and they were in the kitchen preparing their wonderful cups of Chai Tea. An argument started where there was lots of name calling, and no WWJD happening. I gently spoke some words of reminder and asked if we really all took to heart our discussion from earlier. They were very repentant and said a loud, "yes!! We did." So we tried again. This time Gabriel let his sister finish heating the water for her tea, and then tried to make her feel better (stomach flu symptoms). He kindly sang a song he wrote just for her about birds flying. She very sweetly told him, "Thank you, Gabe. I really like the motions you even made for it."
It was then that it seemed to sink in for Gabe. He came back to where I was standing in the kitchen and said, "You know what? When I was trying to be nice to Ariel, I kinda got this warm feeling inside me. And I felt really good for being nice."

YES! He gets it! I was so proud to hear him say that.

God had our entire evening planned out. What we thought was going to be a big misfortune, turned into one of the most beautiful memories I have with my children. We spent the entire night focusing on God, and trying to hear what He would have us hear. It was our second time watching "Letter's to God," and it perfectly fit in with our night. Gabe couldn't believe that the movie was talking about the same thing we just had talked about. God orchestrated a perfect evening. I will always think of that snow storm fondly because I got those few precious moments alone with my children praising God.

I would encourage you if you haven't already, worship together as a family! It will change you, and I'm sure if will change your children. There is something unifying to sing and dance together, giving glory to God. I'm sure that Wednesday night He was up in heaven just smiling down on us, saying "They get it! They really do!"
"It is in the process of being worshipped that God communicates His presence to men." -C.S. Lewis

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Dad to Remember

After Gabriel took me out on a date, Ariel felt like she just had to have that same special time with her dad. For weeks we talked about where they would go, how pretty she would look in her dress, would we curl her hair, could I paint her nails. As the days were getting closer, Ariel's excitement was building!

Today after church, her dad finally got to take her out on the date. They dressed up in their fanciest of clothes, and spent the afternoon eating, playing games, and watching a movie.

The date started with a fancy lunch at Olive Garden. Ariel debated a long time on this decision, but in the end couldn't choose any place but there. Both of my children, when they're trying to go for the best, nothing seems to compare to the breadsticks, salad, and entrees of Olive Garden.

I got to hear all about the highlights of Titus and Ariel's date, and was wishing I could have been silently observing from a table near them. It seemed like it was a memorable day for them both.

They played the games from the menu, and worked on their concentration and listening skills. I was a little confused when I heard this, so they explained it to me. Over dinner they had a few staring contests, and then they each took turns seeing who could make the other one talk first, hence the listening skills. I never did hear who won, but it seemed like fun was had by both of them.

After their delicious lunch, that I'm very jealous over, they shopped at the mall for a few minutes at Ariel's favorite store, Justice. She doesn't shop there for the clothes as you might think, but the Webkinz that they sell! When they had their fill of shopping, they jogged over to the movie theater and caught a showing of Megamind. I think they enjoyed the movie.

The sweetest thing that I got to observe was when they walked in the front door to the house. Ariel came over to me with her head down, and showed me her beautiful blue dress covered in red. My date with Gabriel ended with him getting a high fever, so I was a little concerned what happened on their date. Unfortunately, our family has been suffering these past few weeks from a stomach flu. I immediately thought the worse.

That was not the case. Titus has purchased Ariel a cherry Arctic Blast for during the movie, and it spilled onto her dress.

The sweetest part was after I knew what really happened, I heard Titus tell Ariel, "Why don't you go run into your room and put on some different clothes. Then I can try to get the stain out and throw it in the wash."

What a great dad! After the date was over, he was still ready and willing to serve her, taking care of her fear that the dress was ruined.

I could tell they also, like Gabe and I, had A Day to Remember

I don't know how we time these things, but yesterday the weather outside was BEAUTIFUL. You didn't even need a jacket. Today the high was back in the 20's and the wind was unbearable! We weren't able to get as many pictures as I would have liked. Our fingers were freezing and our toes were numb.

Ariel has always been such a little model. She poses herself, and looks adorable doing it!

I think my favorite part of the outfit was the new tennis shoes. She is growing up so quickly, and I didn't want to buy a pair of dress shoes that would be outgrown in a few months. I love it!

So cold outside... their eyes were watering and their hair wouldn't sit still!

Titus is definitely a Dad to remember! I love to see how sweet he is taking care of his daughter. I know she will grow up feeling cherished!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Duct Tape

When I was a kid, I always enjoyed a roll of duct tape, or any type of tape for that matter. And now that duct tape comes in all colors and styles, I'm in heaven! I was constantly getting in trouble as a kid for using up all the tape. I just love it! I was blessed with a daughter who shares my love, and she received her first roll of tape for Christmas this year. I can now sympathize with my mom from years ago, as I go to look for MY ROLL of tape and find it hidden in my daughters room being used for her latest art project.

One of my newest hobbies has been making purses out of duct tape. I received my very first duct tape purse from my niece, Mikaela, a few years ago. She actually had made it with Ariel in mind, but my daughter thought it seemed silly to have a purse made out of tape. Little did she know that a couple years later she would be begging me to make one for herself.

I loved my first duct tape purse. As you can see, it's very special and was made with love. I'm certain I will keep it for always.

I've made a few purses since receiving that first one, and I thought I would share a short tutorial on how I did it. You can look on YouTube and find tons of videos to explain the process step by step.

First you have to determine how large you want your purse. I make mine about 8 inches tall. I start by cutting several 8 or 9 inch strips in 1 color, and then fold each of them in half lengthwise.

I choose an alternating color and cut the same amount of strips in the same length. This will end up making a square purse, but you can choose different lengths for different shapes.

After my strips are all folded in half, I lay down all of one color, and then start weaving the opposite color through them. It helps to tape one side down to the table to hold it in place, or go ahead and seal the side.

Finish weaving all of your strips until you end up with the dimensions of purse you want.

I trim all my edges, and seal them. You don't have to actually seal them yet, but I find it makes them much easier to work with later.

You have now finished the front piece of fabric for your purse. Go ahead and make an exact duplicate for the back of your purse.

Next you are going to work on the sides and bottom. Depending on how large you want it, will determine how many strips you need. I make my purses rather skinny, and only use 2 strips wide.

Seal all the edges. Make sure when you're making them you match the same dimensions as the front and back of your purse. If you don't make it tall enough, it will end up looking bad. You make three of these, one for each side, and then one for the bottom of the purse.

I lay all my pieces out on the table, and duct tape them all to the bottom of the purse.

After you've attached all the sides to the bottom, you can continue taping all the sides together to form your purse. When I've gotten all the insides of my purse taped, I go ahead and tape the outside edges too. I think it gives it a stronger hold, and it looks better.

Once all my sides have been taped, I work on the top lip of the purse. If my sides are not all even, I cut them down to the right size, then I finish it off by adding a long strip of duct tape all the way around. I normally tear the piece in half lengthwise before I attach it to the purse. Otherwise it covers too much of the checkered pattern.

The next step is working on the strap of your purse. I've done a couple different types. My daughter's favorite is a braided handle. On this purse, I made it simple and just cut two different color long strips of duct tape to make the handle. You want to make sure to secure your handle very tightly so it doesn't come lose.

With the larger checkered purse, I use a long piece of tape and attach it completely down the side of the purse. I've also seen it recommended, as you attach your handle, to use a long enough piece of tape that will stick all the way down the side and onto the bottom of the purse. I have used grommets on my purse handles too. They make a more professional look. However, it can be a little difficult to cut the hole when you're going through several layers of duct tape. Most of the purses I make are small enough that duct tape will hold the handle on. And I've often made the joke to the friends I've given these to, "If it breaks, just duct tape it back together. Duct tape fixes everything!"

The last step is adding your embellishments. My personal favorite is a small bow, placed off center on the top edge. Ariel really likes to add a duct tape rose to her purse. If you have an X-Acto knife you can cut different pictures out to add. I haven't quite mastered using my knife yet. Duct tape is so sticky, it's really tricky!

In order to make my simple bow, you cut two of the same size pieces of duct tape, and stick them back to back. If you want your bow to stand out, use two different colors!

You just gather it in the center, and tie it off with a small piece of duct tape. Then simply duct tape it where you want it to go.

Here is our completed purse!

I've made a couple of these purses to be used as gifts for Ariel's friends. I always like to add some more duct tape things for inside. For this purse, I made a matching pink and purple wallet and a pretty duct tape rose that we sprayed with perfume to make it appear even more real. Be creative!

I found tutorial videos for making wallets and roses out of duct tape on YouTube.

This was my very first duct tape purse I made myself. I put several hours into it, and a couple rolls of duct tape. I started making my purses smaller now.
This one I put pleats in to make it a little fancier, and I added a pocket.

A couple more samples of my purses!

This was my first "man-bag". Gabriel loves it and carries it to school every day. He's even offered my services to all the little girls in his class!

Be careful when you make your first purse. They can be very addicting!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Work of Art

For Christmas this year, we got Zech his first set of fingerpaints. I don't know why we waited so long. He loves them! Anytime he sees me working on a project, he drags out the paint himself, grabs his big oversized paper, and takes a paper plate from the cupboard. He is a little budding artist!

I was actually very hesitant to get fingerpaint for Zech because he takes after me and hates to get his hands dirty. Paint is different for him! He gets really into it and doesn't even care that his fingers are all slimy and wet.

I love to see the look of concentration on his face!

I'm amazed with all the color mixing, you can still see the red, blue, yellow and green. I figured it would all turn out brown.

When the paint runs out, the fun is all gone! It is then that Zech starts to freak out a little about the feeling on his hands. But if you just add more paint to the plate, the fun is back, and he doesn't care.

I think we all need a little bit of color in our life!