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Saturday, December 29, 2012

DIY Bananagrams

I first must confess, I've never played this game before. But my sister has and she really enjoyed it. Every year for Christmas my family draws names around Thanksgiving time for our Secret Santas. We all have to make a gift for the person we draw. We can purchase supplies for it, but it must be homemade.

DIY bananagrams

I love doing this each year! It's so much fun to see what everyone comes up with. This year I drew my sister's name and thought I would surprise her with a game, Bananagrams. The game is a little pricey at the store, around $15. I made mine for around $5. It could have been much cheaper if I already had everything I needed. Still...Five dollars isn't much!

If you've never played or even heard of Bananagrams, it's a lot like Scrabble. Except this game isn't played on a board and everyone is making their own crossword simultaneously.

My first step was assembling a bag to hold all the tiles, or pebbles that I made my game with.

DIY bananagrams

You start with the top of the bag. I had to buy a zipper, but the banana uses so little fabric you might be able to dig through your scraps if you have a lot. Next time, I would probably make my top a little skinnier. It made the banana a little misshapen with the wider top piece. My original top was almost the same size as the banana sides.

The bag was three pieces. The top with a zipper, and two banana shaped sides. You could make a liner, but I didn't.

After your zipper is sewn into the top piece, you pin your first side on, right sides together.

DIY bananagrams

You pin your next side onto the top piece, right sides together and sew along the edge. You can see from my picture below how the middle zipper piece is almost the same size. I would adjust that and make it smaller.

DIY bananagrams

Before you sew your banana shut, you want to make a small strap which resembles the banana stem. I folded mine in half, and then folded the sizes in a 1/4 inch.

Sew along one side, or both if you want it to look more professional. It is not necessary to sew along the width side. It will be sewn into the side of your banana bag.

You want to fold your strap in half, leaving both ends poking out a little bit. Make sure to place the stem in between the banana layers. I sewed my strap on the side where the zipper closes at. Before you sew the bag shut, make sure to unzip it enough so you can flip it right sides back out.

Now your bag is completed! You should have a banana ready to be filled with tiles. I thought about purchasing some Scrabble tiles to use, but decided it would be just as expensive as buying the Bananagrams game. I wanted to make my own.

For this part, you need a bag of clear pebbles. You can usually find these in the floral department at the craft store. I think they are commonly put at the bottom of flower vases for decoration. I know Hobby Lobby sells a bag for $2.99 and with a 40% off coupon that's only $1.80.

You also need mod podge, a 5/8" circle punch, and yellow paper. I used two sheets of paper to print off my letters.

Once you have printed out your letters, cut them into strips to make it easier to punch out the letters. You can cut these out by hand, but I would HIGHLY recommend getting the 5/8" paper punch. It makes it so much easier, and the circles are all uniform. I found the paper punch at Michaels for $2.40.

DIY bananagrams

The next part is very tedious and time consuming. I put on a few Christmas movies and didn't get off the couch for almost the entire school day. My son colored in a coloring book on the floor and we had a good time having a lazy but productive day together.

You can use a paint brush to apply the mod podge to the bottom, flat side of the clear pebbles. You put the letter face down, so it is magnified when you turn it over. Depending on the type of paper you chose to print your letters on, you may or may not want a coat of mod podge on top of the paper, yet. (See later note)

If you notice in the picture below, my paper was a little thin and you can see the letters showing through the back. I didn't want this. I figured it might be a temptation to cheat during the game and try to pick what letter you need. I glued the paper to the pebble, but I didn't finish them off with a clear topcoat yet.

I painted a design on the back of the pebbles to hide the letters, and to make them more fun and professional looking. Once I had my design painted on, I then added a couple coats of mod podge to seal the papers onto the pebble.

DIY bananagrams

Your game is all set and ready to be played with! Have fun!

DIY bananagrams

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas to You

"Rejoice, O people of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem!
Look, your king is coming to you.
He is righteous and victorious,
yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—
riding on a donkey’s colt."
Zechariah 9:9

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this." Isaiah 9:6-7

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Roman 15:13

"Now this is eternal life that they may know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent." John 13:3

“And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.” Luke 2:6-7

"When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy." Matthew 2:10

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." John 16:33

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12

"I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you." John 15:11-12

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him." John 3:16-17

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen."
1 Timothy 1:15-17

Merry Christmas from Mexico!! I pray your day is blessed by God, and that you remember how much we truly have been given when He sent His son. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas filled with Joy, Peace, Hope, and most of all Love.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Keep On Asking

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you." Matthew 7:7

I was texted this verse earlier in the week. I could not stop the tears from flowing. God is so amazing. I knew He was going to prove to me how big of a God He really is.

I want to start out by saying, as I sit and type this; it's the beginning of November. Because of the nature of the post, I will not be clicking publish until the week of Christmas. In fact, I will possibly be in Mexico when it's published. Even as I write this, I'm nervous. What happens if my secret is found out? What if the time comes sooner than I desire?

I have made known in an earlier post that I will be traveling to Mexico for Christmas. There will be no traditional family Christmas this year. I'm not saying I won't be celebrating Christmas. I'm saying things will be rather unconventional.

Our church has taken the initiative of "adopting" six families in Mexico this Christmas season. We will be purchasing gifts, and several ladies will have the privilege of flying those gifts to Mexico on Christmas Eve, and hand delivering them later that week. I am so excited to be one of the few.

I am even more excited that my daughter is also going to be joining me. This will be her first time flying on an airplane, and she will be flying to another country. This promises to be an experience we will never forget.

A blog is hardly the place to keep a big secret, hence the delay in posting. But I could not refrain from sharing with everyone the way God came through for me.

I told you my daughter has never flown before. What you may not have understood or thought of, she does not have a passport. You are not permitted to leave the country without one, and if you've never flown, you have no need for one.

This trip to Mexico is my daughter's Christmas gift. She will learn this season about giving to others and see it first hand in a very real way. I am certain there will be stories to tell when we return.

Right now, I wanted to share with you the miracle of my daughter's passport. It was a special dance we did to keep the secret alive. I had to very deceptively, in an honest fashion, get the picture of my daughter. I refuse to lie even when it's about something good. I will however, not offer up certain information if it means protecting the secret of the gift.

I hung a white sheet in my backyard, and told my daughter I needed her assistance for a special photography project I was doing. She knew she was my guinea pig. I didn't give her any extra information, and she didn't ask. I did tell her she was chosen to help out because she could follow my directions perfectly. Face forward. No tilting your head. Eyes open. Neutral expression. No glare on the glasses. No shadows. Properly focused. This was a tall order!

To say it was easy to get would be a lie. While I didn't work much at taking the photo, I did work at sizing the photo correctly. I worked even harder to get a good print. We are strapped for time so the passport needed to start processing as soon as possible. I gave myself a few hours to get everything assembled.

After dropping Gabe at school, I went to Walgreen's to make my print. Machine was broken. I drove to another Walgreen's and waited 30 minutes to see the prints. HORRIBLE. The lighting was beautiful on their computer monitor, but was printed extremely yellow in one, and dark in another. There was no way these pictures would be accepted. I wanted to cry. I couldn't possibly keep it a secret if I had her picture taken by a professional for a passport photo. The camera is very obvious.

Normally, I get all my pictures printed at Wolfs. It's a 15 minute drive there, so I originally went close to home to save on time and gas. I knew I could trust them with the prints. I went home and uploaded my photos to their website.

While that was going on, I decided to call the post office and ask how much would be required for my daughter to get a passport. I explained it was a secret and was there any way they could work with me on this. NO. The lady I talked with was very rude. She told me in a condescending voice, "Your daughter will know. There will be no secret about it." She refused to tell me what they required of her beyond the fact that she must be there.

I told her I knew she was required to attend; my question was about how much she would have to do or say. Could they just look at her? The lady interrupted me and placed me on hold. When she got back on the line, she informed me again that my daughter must be present. That was never in question for me. I knew she had to be there. I wanted to know what else she had to do. Her father and I could sign all the documents. She isn't old enough to legally sign for herself anyways. I tried to ask my question again. "What is required of my daughter beyond showing up?" I was answered with a dial-tone. The lady angrily said, "thanks for calling" and hung up on me.

You can imagine my despair. She didn't even try to listen to me. After I laid down the phone on the couch, I cried. I didn't just whimper either. I wept. My heart was broken. I wanted this to be a huge surprise for my daughter. I wanted to see her face light up when she opened her Christmas gift containing the passport. I didn't want to tell her at the beginning of November. This trip will be her big gift, probably one of her only gifts. I wanted her to have the anticipation of the Christmas season, wondering and dreaming about what might be.

I was working so hard for this, and for a moment, I gave up. I resigned to the fate I knew to be true. I didn't dare to hope.

Wolfs was done with my photos by this time, so I drove across town to pick them up. I was very sad the whole way there, but I tried to convince myself it would be okay. It wasn't like the trip couldn't happen. I began to dream up ways of telling my daughter the news. Anything to make it more exciting than just standing in a line at the post office. I wanted pictures and video when she found out.

The photos cost less than the previous set I had purchased at Walgreen's. I took them to the privacy of my car where it wouldn't matter how I reacted to them. I didn't want to face more disappointment. The pictures were beautiful! You could actually see my daughter's face in them. Hope was renewed. I dared to believe.

I decided to claim Matthew 7:7. I shared with you about God coming through with a donation for this trip. What I didn't share was the email I had originally received from my friend. She talked of asking a cousin if he could get us a discount, and I quote her, "I remember the Bible says you don't have because you don't ask ;) I figured the worst they can say is no ..."

If you aren't familiar with the verse it says, "Ask and it will be given, seek and you will find..."

Yesterday my sister shared on her blog another story. I quote, "I prayed a crazy prayer. A Matthew 7:7-8 kind of prayer. I told God if He wanted me to go to Mexico that I needed Him to provide for me. To make it crazy I said 'Hey, you can pay for my trip through my tips if you want. Be creative!' ;)" The next day she received a $60 tip. (She works at a cupcake shop.) That is not a normal tip. That's a God tip.

It seemed like the theme for this trip. "Ask and it will be given to you." I wanted my turn. I wanted to ask God for something and see Him work a miracle. I decided to believe again. I was going to ask. I figured it couldn't hurt anything to ask again. I didn't count on seeing the lady I talked with on the phone. She was in an office somewhere.

The hours were going by so slowly. I wanted my time to come so I could have peace. Everything was all jumbled up inside of me. I was nervous and anxious. I set it up with my daughter that I would take her out for lunch that day and we would just happen to drop by the post office.

Before I left to get her, I saw that I had a text from my sister. She had responded to a cry for prayer from me. I knew that if I had God's favor, and the worker was willing, we could keep this a secret from my daughter.

The text read, "I agree... I'll be praying! Matthew 7:7 :)" I knew it was fresh in her mind but I still found it pretty amazing that she referenced the scripture I was trying to hold onto.

With minutes left to get my daughter from school, I decided to look it up in my bible. This version was different than what I had been quoting in my head. It didn't say "ask and it will be given to you," it said, "Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for."

I cried again. I had asked once and been rudely turned down. I was going to KEEP ON ASKING. This time I knew it was going to work. God didn't want me to give up so quickly. The enemy sure does like to mess up our path, maybe throwing a few branches over it so we can't see the way. But God comes in and clears away everything. He sweeps it all away so the road is visibly clear. We need to follow the one who carries the broom.

When we arrived at the post office, I was scanning the faces to see who looked friendly enough to help me. I didn't get much of a choice. There was a lady yelling at us to bring all our papers over. I hesitated and she yelled again about checking to see if we had everything we needed to even start the process.

It was very obvious why we were there. Signs were everywhere for passports. I went ahead by myself and got my husband to take the kids aside. I quickly shared my story with the woman and she was so friendly! "Of course we can do that. All I gotta do is look at her. She can't sign anything anyways."

As she began to dump the contents of my envelope out, I knew it was going to work out. She checked my photos and first claimed they wouldn't work because of the coloring, but soon found there was a third in the envelope. It was perfect she said. My husband and I signed our names and watched as the kids played over to the side of us. The time came for Ariel to be observed.

We called her over and the lady took one look and said, "Yep, you look just like your picture." This confused Ariel a bit, but she didn't question us there. I stayed to finish up the paperwork while Titus took the kids to make a copy of his driver's license. Ariel asked him who was getting a passport and he responded, "Your mom needs a passport to get into Mexico."

It wasn't the answer to her question, but it satisfied her curiosity. When I made it out to the car I smoothed things over a little more. I apologized for taking so long to get the passport. I knew I had promised her lunch and I should have thought better than to take up her school time for my errands. She didn't mind a bit. You could tell the wheels were still spinning in her head when she asked me, "Why did that lady want to look at me?"

I told her the lady thought she was a pretty girl.

It was settled. The passport was purchased. The lunch began. We had a wonderful time together.

I am so thankful that God didn't let me give up. I pushed on when my heart was breaking and He fixed everything. Don't ever stop asking and seeking.

"For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened." Matthew 7:8

Ariel opened her passport today! She was very excited and didn't know a thing until this morning when she opened up one of her Christmas gifts, a new piece of luggage. Then the wheels started turning and she remembered the trip to the passport office. God is going to do great things on this trip!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Gift Exchange

Everyone loves a good game for exchanging Christmas gifts. Most people go for the traditional white elephant. Probably you've played the game but maybe you have no idea where it originated from.

The white elephant came from Asian countries where it is considered holy and rare. It is also very expensive to take care of. When a king was displeased with someone he would bestow a gift of a white elephant. It would usually end up causing the person to go bankrupt from trying to take care of the elephant; it's maintenance exceeded it's usefulness. And thus we have a white elephant gift exchange where we bestow our unwanted or useless items on our friends. Fortunately we are not doing this to financially ruin them. Typically it's done to get a good laugh or joke out of the gift.

In my circle of friends the game for the white elephant is started by all participants drawing a number. Number 1 goes first, and so on. You can choose any wrapped gift to open. On all subsequent turns the person may choose a previously opened gift, or a new gift. Once your gift is stolen from you, you may choose a previously opened gift or a new gift. The turn ends when a gift is unwrapped. I play with two rules for stealing; once a present has been stolen 3 times it is off limits and no longer open for play in the game. The other rule, you can't steal from someone who has just stolen from you, i.e. you can't take your stolen present directly back. The game continues until all presents have been unwrapped, and each person has a gift.

On Saturday I had a Christmas party with some friends of mine and we had an ornament gift exchange. This time we wanted to try something new! We had all done a white elephant exchange before, some of us the previous night.

cobweb gift exchange

We had a cobweb gift exchange, which was popular during the Victorian Era. You choose a room for the game and assign each person a different skein of yarn. We tried to stick with red and greens to make it festive. Before the party you zigzag all over the room. Under chairs, around the curtains, in the bookshelf, under couch cushions, a huge tangled web of yarn. One end of the yarn is tied to the gift and hidden somewhere you can't see it. The other end is given to the player of the game. Once you say, "Go" everyone untangles their strings.

cobweb gift exchange

It really was a fun idea! It took about 20 minutes for me and my mom to tangle the web, and only about 5 to 10 minutes for us to untangle it. The work was worth it. Next time you have a gift exchange, try something new!

Before the web was untangled we took a picture in the middle of it. Funny thing, we didn't pay much attention to whose gift was on the end of what string and all of us except for one got our own gifts. (You might want to work that out before you begin.) We did some quick thinking and read a left/right Christmas story.

To do this exchange, you simply sit in a circle and pass your present the direction that the story dictates. If you hear the word "left" you pass to the left. And if you hear the word "right" you pass your gift to the right.

This is such a wonderful group of ladies that I am privileged to call my friends. Every 3rd Saturday of the month we meet together to watch a movie and discuss a book we've read over the past month. These ladies brighten my days.

"Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble."
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Spreading Christmas Cheer

"Do you hear that? Those are sleigh bells and that means the holidays are here! I love this time of year because...I'm Mark the Moose and I'm on the loose -Spreading Christmas cheer- I want to wish you peace and happiness throughout the coming year. I love to skate and decorate with my Christmas lights aglow. I'm Mark the Moose the very merriest moose you'll ever know."

Mark the moose came to us several years ago as a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law. His batteries are still going and he's still singing... By the second year I had Mark's song memorized. And now, I'm convinced it's a song I will never be able to forget. I can sing it in my sleep. Talk about spreading Christmas cheer and I can break out into song that YOU will never forget.

I wanted to share some things my family has been up to. It's such a fun time of year.

Gabriel came home earlier this week from school with this "secret" note for our pastor. If you can't read the picture it says, "To my friend: Gordon. You are the best pastor and preacher. From your secret Santa." I thought it was a great idea for keeping the Christmas spirit alive. You can write a note of appreciation for someone you care about, and hide it somewhere they will find it. But make sure you don't get caught!

I almost want to go and share with Gordon that Gabe left him the note. What he probably won't understand is that this was a project from school, not church. It should be quite an honor to Gordon that Gabriel singled him out all by himself when he had the opportunity to choose anybody for this project. My son really admires our pastor.

Last week my daughter had the opportunity with her community group at church to adopt a 7 year old girl in foster care. This girl lost her mother two years ago, and is now in foster care due to her father's alcohol abuse.

While this is a great opportunity for Ariel, sometimes it doesn't always hit home with a kid when they aren't spending their own money on the gift. The community group leader challenged all the girls to find something special of their own to give this little girl.

I figured my daughter would choose a few of her own books she's outgrown and leave it at that. She knows this little girl enjoys reading.

She surprised me with her generosity. She prayed about what she should give and felt God told her to give her first American Girl doll, Annette, along with several clothes that I had sewn for the doll.

I've been especially proud of my daughter lately. She's learning what it means to give. God has so richly blessed us, it's hard not to want to share that blessing with others.

A last photo with Annette

“The righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’"
Matthew 25:37-40 (The Message)

One of the ways that our family tries to keep Jesus the focus of our Christmas is by doing random acts of kindness. We have a special "Jesus stocking" that hangs in our window. Every day we are supposed to be asking Him what gift or act of kindness we can do for others. It can be as simple as writing a note, bringing someone a snack, or saying a kind word to a friend. When we're done, we write it down and slip it into the stocking. On Christmas morning, before we open any of our gifts to each other, we first open Jesus' stocking. We take turns reading the acts of kindness and gifts that we have given Jesus.

It's been very inspirational to our family, and I love to see how this has grown each year. We're not doing the same things we've always done. We're looking for new ways to reach out to others; to show God's love in a unique and special way.

And now, on a less serious, but still important funny note, in the words of Elf, "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear."

I want to send a little holiday cheer your way. Zechariah was singing Jingle Bells to me earlier and I thought it was priceless the words he sang.

♪ ♪ Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells
Jingle on the Way.
All is Fun
Is to Ride on a Selfish Sleigh.
Hey! ♪ ♪

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Lately Zech and I have been doing a lot of Christmas shopping in our free time. There are so many people I want to buy for.

This morning we were making a quick trip to Lifeway. I was looking for a specific book I wanted to give someone, but unfortunately they didn't have it anymore.

I told Zech it was time to leave. They didn't have the book I wanted.

He seemed rather confused. "We don't have to pay to get out today?"

Such a silly boy! Apparently, I never leave Lifeway without purchasing something...

Monday, December 10, 2012


Last year my pastor shared this story during the Christmas season. It was incredibly touching to me. I don't believe there were many dry eyes in the crowd. In honor of the holiday, I thought it would be appropriate to share now.

[Author Unknown] In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of education to teach morals and ethics (based on biblical principles) in the public schools. They were invited to teach at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments and a large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls, who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage.

They relate the following story in their own words: It was nearing the holiday season, 1994, time for our orphans to hear, for the first time, the traditional story of Christmas. We told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger. Throughout the story, the children and orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word.

Completing the story, we gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins I had brought with me. No colored paper was available in the city. Following instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel [cut from a worn-out nightgown an American lady was throwing away as she left Russia], were used for the baby's blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt we had brought from the United States.

The orphans were busy assembling their manger as I walked among them to see if they needed any help. All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about 6-years-old and had finished his project. As I looked at the little boy's manger, was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger. Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the manger.

Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger scene, the child began to repeat the story very seriously. For such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings accurately -- until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger. Then Misha started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending to the story as he said, "And when Mary laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay.

I told him I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don't have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with Him. But I told him I couldn't, because I didn't have a gift to give Him like everybody else did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept Him warm, that would be a good gift. "So I asked Jesus, 'If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?' And Jesus told me, 'If you keep Me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave Me.'

So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and He told me I could stay with Him -- for always." As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him -- for always!

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel which means “God with us”. Matthew 1:23

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Give When It Hurts

As a gift for entering middle school, we bought our daughter a cell phone. She is allowed to text her friends, but phone calls are prohibited to non-family members. The idea was for us to stay in better contact with her while she enjoys her new independence. She is away from us much more than ever before.

Earlier this month the youth group at our church participated in KU cleanup to raise money to buy Christmas gifts for some families in need. This required around 6 hours of picking up trash at a KU football game. Not the most glamorous way to earn money, but when you have a large amount of people it gets the job done quickly and has a huge payoff.

Of course, my daughter wanted to help. She is always willing to lend a hand, and the fact that it was done with her friends was a bonus. Unfortunately, while she was at the game, her cell phone mistakenly slipped from her pocket. After three months of freedom and a new social outlet, it was snatched from her.

We are under contract for two years for this phone of hers. Whether she has it or not, we pay for it. We gave the phone as a gift. It was sad that she lost the gift, but we wouldn't be replacing it for her. She would need to earn enough money to buy a new phone herself.

Responsibility. She earns a dollar a week for chores.

I grieved with her, but I also didn't want to take her problem upon myself. It was her negligence that caused the issue. We prayed for help from God.

The next day I was approached with an opportunity for babysitting, and agreed to help out a friend. I didn't need the money so I offered the work and money to my daughter. I told her she would be required to do absolutely everything, diapers included.

The terms were set, and she performed beautifully. By the end of the day I had one exhausted daughter. She had no idea taking care of a baby was so much work. I thought it was a good lesson for her to learn. She loved nap time! Now she knows why I push in the summer to have a rest period.

He fell asleep during her story. So sweet!

After over 9 hours of labor, the 25 dollars was hers. She was so close to getting a new cell phone... on EBay.

A week went by and it was proving difficult to find the phone for the price she had. You must understand she was not permitted to spend the entire 25 dollars, God was given some first.

We set up a Christmas tree in our commons area at church. On it hung some brightly colored ornaments with the names of children living in Mexico. Each ornament represented a present that needed to be purchased for a very deserving boy or girl. On Christmas Eve, myself and 4 other ladies will be traveling to Mexico to deliver the gifts.

My daughter was drawn to the tree. She has been very helpful in this entire endeavor. If you remember she lost her phone at a work day that was raising money to help out these families. At our church Thanksgiving dinner, she walked around and asked for donations for a Billy Vanilly cupcakes drawing we were having. (With her help we raised $95 for tickets!)

My daughter has a desire to serve. If I ever need help, my daughter is the first to jump in and work with me.

As we were closing down our Christmas tree for the day, I noticed on one of the signup sheets my daughter had signed her name. She chose a girl, Jazmin, who is the same age as her. Ariel agreed to buy her clothes. This touched me because right now clothes are very important to my middle school daughter. Just a couple weeks ago she made the comment to me while we were shopping, "I can't believe I want to spend my money on clothes instead of stuffed animals." She is growing up.

Once we left church I explained to my daughter that the present was supposed to cost $15. She didn't have any money; how was she going to afford that?

"I'm going to use my cell phone money."

What? Did I just hear her right? My daughter just said this to me? My son has always been known for his generosity with money. My daughter has not.

God has called us to give when it hurts. Sacrifice. The best gifts are the ones given when it costs us something. If it didn't hurt the giver a little, is the gift worth as much to the receiver? I know I always appreciate the gifts the most when you know the person had nothing left to give, and they gave their all for you.

It will be a beautiful sight to see Jazmin receive her gift from my daughter. She may never know how much the gift truly cost, but God does.

God loves it when we do this, especially when it's done with a cheerful attitude. "I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving."
2 Corinthians 9:7 (The Message)

I was so proud of my daughter; I couldn't contain the tears.

Earlier this week my daughter stayed home from school sick. She had thrown up the night before. I hate to say I enjoyed her being ill, but I really felt blessed to have her home with me. I don't get many days like that. By late morning she was feeling back to normal and we had a fun girl date baking caramel popcorn and watching a girly movie.

She was also able to have prayer journal time with us again. I miss having that with her. I wanted to share what she wrote.

    Please help everyone to have a good day. Help me to not throw up for the rest of the day and help me Gabe and Zech to have no cavities. (Dentist appointments) Help me tomorrow that I will not throw up.

    Thank you that I have a family and that Mom has the chance to go to Mexico. Help mom that she will have a safe flight to Mexico and help her to have fun at Christmas in Mexico.

    Thank you that Christmas is getting closer. Please help me to have enough time to make Christmas presents 4 everyone. Also help me to get enough money to buy a new cellphone (maybe a Samsung gravity).

    Please help me to not have very much make-up work at school. Thank you that I have the nicest teachers at school. Help Mrs. Singh to like my recipe for jello cookies. Thank you tomorrow's intramurals even if we play Mrs. Blakely's class again.

I believe God was very proud of Ariel too, and rewarded her for her sacrificial obedience. Last night she won the EBay auction for the Samsung gravity cell phone she really wanted, and I didn't have to pay a penny for it. We had to put a bid in before she went to bed, since the auction ended close to midnight. She prayed about the amount she was willing to spend. She won by 21 cents! Thank you, God, for answering my daughter's prayer and blessing her right back!

I challenge you to take a look at your giving this Christmas. Are you giving out of your surplus? Or are you giving to the point that it hurts? We cannot out give God; He loves to give it right back to us. I say this from experience. This Christmas let's try to be a blessing to others rather than expecting to be blessed ourselves.

“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Sense

Have you ever thought about which of your senses is most affected by Christmas?

Is it the sounds of Christmas?

Christmas carolers and Christmas music
The crinkle of wrapping paper
The bells of the street corner Santas collecting money
A Christmas greeting from strangers and loved ones
Christmas stories and books read aloud
Crunching of snow beneath your feet
Santa's Ho Ho Ho
Laughter of children

Or is it the smells of Christmas?

Fresh baked cookies and pies
Steaming hot apple cider
Homemade cinnamon ornaments
Scented candles burning
A freshly cut pine tree
Hot cups of creamy cocoa
Wet boots from playing in the snow
Fireplace burning

Maybe it's the sights of Christmas?

The colored blinking lights
The holly with bright red berries
Snowmen built with care
Christmas movies
Stars shining bright
Bows and ribbons
Gifts galore
Freshly fallen snow
A live nativity scene
Stores and streets decorated with red and green
Smiles on faces of those you love

Or is it the touch of Christmas?

A child sitting on Santa's lap
Soft Christmas stockings to reach into
Snuggling under a warm blanket
The heat of a fireplace burning
Snow to play in
Hugs from your loved ones
Sweaters that keep you warm and cozy
Opening that special gift or card

And last, we have the taste of Christmas

Marshmallows for toasting
A tall glass of eggnog
A fresh batch of fudge
Cookies hot from the oven
The best homemade pies
Turkey roasted to perfection
Snowflakes falling on your tongue
Feasting with your family and friends

Isn't it amazing how our senses work? With one smell, one touch, one sound, one sight, one taste, we can instantly be transported back in time to a place we knew and loved. God designed us so intricately and beautifully.

Can you choose just one sense you couldn't live without? Or do you need more than one to enjoy the Christmas season?

I found this to be a very intriguing question, if you could choose just one, what sense is most affected by the Christmas season? I shared it with my family and the results were varied. Everyone enjoys something different.

I couldn't decide between the smells and the sounds of Christmas. I feel that they all go together in one intricate package. You can't single out just one. I love the smell of hot apple cider, but I think it's because I know what it tastes like. They fit together. When you smell something, you can almost taste it and feel it.

God made us with five senses for a reason. They all fit together to make us experience life to the fullest. I can't imagine not having the use of one of my senses.

"I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?

The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance."

1 Corinthians 12: 19-24

"Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end."
1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

My prayer for this Christmas season, and every season for that matter, is that we love each other. We all matter equally. None of us are better or worse than another. We each have a different function and a different purpose. Together we make a beautiful tapestry, intricately and beautifully woven together. God designed us to be together, to work as one.

Let's function the way we were built to function. We were created to love. Let's share our love with each other and see how we can serve others as this Christmas season comes upon us. I pray that we use all of our senses so that we can experience life the way God meant for us to.

What is your favorite sense during the Christmas season? What things do you love about this time of year? How can you use it to love and serve others?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Advent with Books

If you know me at all, you know I LOVE books. I love to hold a book in my hand. I don't care much for these new electronic books, Kindle, Nook... It's just not the same.

I bought myself a Nook this summer. I had over $100 in reward certificates from Best Buy, and I thought I might like to have it for the portable factor. I've used my Nook a grand total of one time. I bought a couple books, but I just don't like reading off of it. I love the feel of pages turning. I'm old fashioned I guess.

I dream of bookshelves filled with books, old and new. I shop at Goodwill just so I can browse their book collection. Every week I invest a dollar a two in used books.

"Advent is a season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. The term is an Anglicized version of the Latin word adventus, meaning 'coming.'" - Wikipedia

We're having an Advent Calendar of Books. I love starting new family traditions! I'm excited! This has been done before and definitely not original to me. I visited various books stores around town for the past several months and got my collection completed just in time.

Tonight will be our third day for opening and reading our new Christmas books. I know most people will be starting their Advent celebration on December 1st. However, I will be in Mexico for Christmas this year, so our Christmas falls 3 days earlier than most.

I found some wonderful books that I'm so excited to read with my kids! I tried to get a couple fun Christmas stories; the traditional ones with Santa, Rudolph, and other fantasy characters. I worked especially hard to find the majority of the books to be centered on the true meaning of Christmas, Christ and His birth.

advent with books

Some of the books on our list are:

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
Come to the Cradle by Michael Card
Arthur's Perfect Christmas by Marc Brown
How the Grinch Stole Christmas Coloring Book by Dr. Seuss
The Star of Christmas by VeggieTales
The Legend of the Christmas Tree by Rick Osborne
The Very First Christmas by Paul L. Maier
All is Well by Frank Peretti
Merry Christmas Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
The King's Christmas List by Eldon Johnson
The Christmas Menorah's: How a Town Fought Hate by Janice Cohn
Jacob's Gift by Max Lucado
Ordinary Baby, Extraordinary Gift by Gloria Gaither
The Candle in the Window by Grace Johnson
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect by Richard Schneider

I have to share a couple books we will be doing that are nontraditional Christmas stories. For them there is more involvement then just reading a story.

This Christmas Keepsakes book is such a great idea! You could even make up your own book. I'm going to write in answers for each of my kids, and there are a few pages for Titus and me to do too. It will make for a fun evening!

It has different things to fill out like, Do you have a favorite aunt, uncle, cousin, or other relative who spends Christmas with you? What special gifts or traditions does he or she bring?

Does your family open gifts on Christmas Eve or do you wait till Christmas morning? How did your tradition get started?

Christmas Favorites: Christmas movie, Christmas food, Christmas carol, Childhood toy, Christmas tradition, and favorite thing to do on Christmas Day

Ever peek inside a present and ruin the surprise? Tell your story.

Write a short prayer for your family asking God to bless them during this Christmas season.

Holiday Origami! The kids opened this on our second night. We already made some Christmas candles out of paper. How fun!

When I was searching the books at Goodwill one day, I came upon this Christmas story. I thought it was really neat because it was written by someone living here and they even drew their own simple illustrations. It seems like a good Christmas story, Mr. and Mrs. Claus Celebrate Jesus' Birthday; I have yet to read the story. I wanted to save it for the day we are all snuggled up on the couch during the Christmas season.

Once you have all 24 or 25 of your Christmas books picked out and bought, you wrap them! This makes it a surprise every night. Nobody has any idea what kind of a story you will be reading. It's also really exciting because kids love to unwrap things. It doesn't matter what is inside, my kids love wrapping paper!

advent with books

For the next month we will be enjoying quiet evenings of relaxing with the family, all snuggled up under a big blanket reading Christmas stories. Titus and I will take turns reading, and he will rescue me when I get tearful and can't make my way through the words. The kids will each take turns choosing and unwrapping our Christmas book for the evening. It's going to be a wonderful Christmas season this year at our house!

Grandma read a book to the kids one night!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

After You Give Thanks


Ever wonder what you should do after you give thanks?

1. Treasure your treasures
"Tell me the things you truly value in life and I can tell you the worth of the life you live."

2. Be blessed by your blessings.

Luke 12:15 "Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot." (The Message)

3. Share your wealth!
What are you wealthy with? What are you doing to share it?

Matthew 10: 8 "You have been treated generously, so LIVE GENEROUSLY!" (The Message)

Every year on Thanksgiving my family and I sit around for a few hours and talk about what God has done in our lives over the past year. I probably say this about a lot of things, but it's really one of my favorite things we do each year. God is alive and very real. He's not a made up character to make us feel better about ourselves and life. He's very real. Even if you don't believe in Him, He believes in you.

  • I’m thankful for the grace God gives us. He is okay when we don’t get things right the first time; He expects it and takes care of it.
  • I am thankful for the challenging job God gave me.
  • I am thankful that God created music. I was thinking about the "what is your favorite sense at Christmas" question, and mine is hearing. I struggled with using music as a means of praising God until I got involved in making the music. I realized that He set it up in that fashion as something to participate in and not just observe.
  • I am thankful for Amanda’s hugs and kisses.
  • I am thankful for the creativity and ingenuity God has given people. He gave people the ability to create things that make our lives better, directly impacting our lives. Cars, and bojankety cars…even those are really really awesome…ice cream.

  • I’m thankful for what we are doing in Mexico; the opportunity to go and bring presents. God has been through every part of it. At first it didn’t seem like it would work out but God has helped all the way. The money has been coming in. I'm really excited for this Sunday. We're going to have a tree with ornaments with every "adopted" kid's name on it. The people can take the ornament home and hang it on their tree, hopefully as a reminder to pray for their child.
  • I am really thankful that I went to Kid's camp. I think God has wanted me to do something with kids for a while. It was extremely difficult but good and now I work with Kidzone which is very meaningful for me. I felt so bad for not getting scores in at camp, and felt like a failure. I prayed that God would allow Ariel to win the "Fruit of the Spirit" award to show that I had not failed in what was important. And she won!
  • I am thankful for our movie and book club that we go to every month. I love spending time with the dedicated people there. I also like that Ariel gets to come and I get to spend time with her. She is growing up. It is nice to have something every month to look forward to doing with my friends.
  • I am really thankful for prayer, especially the prayer journals I do with the kids. I have really enjoyed doing that with the boys in the morning. Gabriel has been drawing intricate crosses for prayer. Zech prays his own prayers and stops and thinks about what he prays. I have enjoyed the few times we went to the church prayer too. In the car we talk about someone and then take turns praying for them. We just stop and pray for people like if an ambulance goes by or someone's name comes up in conversations. It is too easy to say we should pray and not do it so we have been stopping right then and there to do it.
  • I am really thankful this Thanksgiving that for at least part of it we were all together. Daddy got to be here for this today. It has been 6 years since he's participated!... And I am thankful for Goodwill! God has shown me good will from that store. I have found so many different things. It really is a cool store. It is the only store that you can go in every other day and the stuff changes.

  • I am thankful for my community group, His Strength.
  • I am thankful for my family and Autobahn and Valentine.
  • I am thankful that I have $25 so far for a new cell phone.
  • I am thankful that I get to play the oboe this year and I am getting way better at it.
  • I am thankful for my school cause I can hang out with my friends. And also I get to learn at school.

  • I am thankful for God’s miracles, like when I went to the book night they had a drawing to win The Diary of a Wimpy Kid. When I was at my third session with Mrs. Hedstrom, they did the drawing. Two other kids got a lower prize and for the highest prize they announced Gabriel won! Someone said I should play the Lottery because you are so lucky. It was not luck, it was God. So I am thankful for God to God.
  • I am thankful for another miracle… One day I was getting ready for soccer, but I lost my shin guards so I had to go without them. The coach took me out. I prayed to God that they would walk up to me. In the third quarter a man saw how sad I was, went to the store and spent almost $40 on me. The shin guards kind of did walk up to me!
  • I am thankful that God is teaching me about the Bible and I am learning to avoid trouble. I was in the bathroom at school and everybody was yelling and I got out. All that were in there got a DR. (Discipline Referral)
  • I am thankful for my family, God and my relatives…all the way to Adam and Eve. I am really thankful that someone invented crayons, markers, and colored pencils.
  • I am thankful that I have a lot better life than the people at school. I have looked at my family photos (the screensaver on the computer) and see that my family does a lot of fun things. The kids at school just come home and watch TV every day.

  • God helps everyone have a great day.
  • I am thankful for God. He helps me do stuff. He has a sword of help that smushes. That helps you.
  • I am thankful for Stefanie had a good day at Shaun’s house cause she is going to live there.
  • I am thankful I can write my name…zech! (he typed it himself!)
  • Games!! I want somebody else to play a game with me…the best game….Sequence!

  • I’m thankful for my wife, she always straightens me out. I need someone to keep me on the straight and narrow.
  • I am thankful that I am able to spend Thanksgiving with my family.
  • I want to thank the Lord for watching over me when I was driving down highway 50 going east to Emporia. I was following this truck hauling a bunch of stuff and suddenly all the stuff came flying out at me. I kept hold of the cell phone and didn’t even drop it. Thank God for paved shoulders, I swerved to the right and got out of the way. It didn’t hit me or impale me. Thank the Lord for watching over me!
  • I am thankful that I didn’t have to buy a new car and it only cost me $300 instead of $3000. Also that I got the shock absorber fixed and it is stable now.
  • I am thankful for going to Michigan and learning about all that happened when I was a kid and that someday it is going to stop. I am looking forward to going back there next year. It seems like it gets worse and worse but it just means I am getting closer to the end, digging up more crud. The devil is trying to discourage me but I am close to a breakthrough.

  • I am thankful for puzzle piece trust in God, a cool idea from God to help me with my faith. I trust Him one day at a time, not looking ahead for tomorrow or the future.
  • I'm thankful that through properties going vacant, and prayer with Mike, my faith has been stretching. God is always doing way more than we think. He is sovereign and has a bigger plan than just money.
  • I am so thankful for God watching over my mom when she passed out. Grandpa woke up and found her; he doesn't normally wake up in the middle of the night. Her blood sugar was so low if he hadn't found her she would have died. I'm not ready for that.
  • I am thankful for the road trip to Buffalo that I took with Stefanie. The whole thing was wonderful. We had a terrific adventure and saw so many interesting things along the way. And I'm thankful for the road trip with Ariel this summer. She is an awesome traveling companion.
  • I'm thankful that I've still had the opportunity to go to my sign language class. It's something I've always wanted to learn. I think ever since I saw Helen Keller. The sign language teacher even talked to me about a job opportunity this spring. Every job I've had since I've been married has fallen into my lap.

  • I am thankful for relationships that make you stronger.
  • I am thankful that God always provides what I need and sometimes what I don’t need too.
  • I am thankful that God provided some extra jobs for me to do so I could go to the soccer games with Mikaela and spend time with her. That is the only way I was able to do that.
  • I am thankful that I have a house and a car that doesn’t break down and is almost paid off. It's been almost 15 years for the house.
  • I am thankful for my accountability group that I am part of. Not just for the accountability but helping each other to move forward in our goals.

  • Food so I don’t starve to death.
  • For my parents that pay for my stuff.
  • Friends to spend time with.
  • Church family

  • I am thankful that God continues to tell me to wait, because I am learning that He has a lesson behind the waiting. It is His favorite word for me so I should like it.
  • I am thankful that sometimes God wants to bless us but sometimes He is waiting for us to ask so He makes it sure it is Him. Like praying about Mexico, praying that He would pay thru my tips. I got $60 the first day and now have over $125. He likes to do the unexpected or crazy things. He is not really boring at all or predictable except that He is awesome and great.
  • I am thankful that my car is still working. I have had several problems with it recently and thought I would have to get a new one. I still have my car and can still save for a new one. It is not perfect but gets me where I am going and I don’t have to walk. And I will be able to buy the car I really want to get and not take out a loan.
  • Like I was saying on the video Sunday, I am thankful for the opportunity to go to Colorado. God stretched me a lot and I learned a lot of new things. He was preparing me to do something here. If I hadn’t gone away I feel as if I wouldn’t be doing what I am now. I'm thankful for the mountains I got to live around.
  • I am thankful for prayer as well because I have realized how important and effective it is. I don’t think it was accidental that we read Piercing the Darkness. It was a reminder to me how we are in a spiritual battle. God shows me images while I am praying that things are changing. God is stretching me in prayer. Spiritual warfare is real. We are going to do more in church. Like Michelle sharing that her first instinct was worrying but instead she prayed first. I am excited for our day of prayer coming up. I am excited to hear more stories of how God is stirring up prayer in people’s hearts.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

"Give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 5:20

Last night, on Thanksgiving Eve, I went to church. It was a smaller crowd but still very meaningful to me. I wanted to share some things we discussed during the service.

Why does God command us to be thankful?

Being thankful cultivates humility in our lives. We shouldn't think we are more important than we really are.

Being thankful helps you to receive the gift given to you.

Being thankful changes your focus. You stop thinking about what you don't have and start thinking about what you do.

Being thankful allows you to overcome pride. Not the arrogant conceited kind, the admitting you can't do it yourself kind of pride.

Being thankful cultivates interdependency. You must rely on others.

Being thankful makes it possible to practice contentment. It shows you that you can be happy with what you have.

Being thankful about the hard times gives your life meaning. You grow the most during trials.

Being thankful is the shortcut to satisfaction. If you didn't know the hard way there, you wouldn't be able to appreciate the shortcut.

Being thankful makes you generous. You realize how much you've been given and you want to do the same for others.

Being thankful opens you up to receive more. If you are thankful it increases your odds. Do you want to give anything to someone who feels entitled to it? Absolutely not. You look for ways to give to those who are humble and truly appreciate it.

When you get everything you want handed to you, does anything have meaning? It's the hunger pains in us that make the food taste really satisfying.

To: Mom and Dad
From: Gabe
I'm thankful for you taking care of me and preparing
me for when I move out.

Happy Thanksgiving! I pray you remember all that you have to be thankful for, but more importantly, WHO you should be thankful to!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Coloring Book

Have you ever wanted to make a coloring book? I think the most exciting coloring book you can have for your child is a personal one, where the pictures are full of people you know and love. Several years ago when my kids were still into coloring books, I put together a special keepsake for each of them. It's full of family photos turned into coloring pages with a fun prince/princess story written about the pictures.

I'll give you a short explanation on how to make your own coloring pages, and then I will share my complete book with you.

I use Adobe Photoshop for all my editing needs. I'm sure it is similar to other software out there.

Start by opening your picture file.

Make sure that you have the black square selected for your foreground color, and white for the background. If you have black for the background color your picture will be the inverse of what you want.

Drag your mouse over the drop down menu Filter, then find Sketch, and under that you will click on Photocopy.

You get to choose the detail that the picture will show, and how dark you want it. I usually stick with something in the middle. 12 for detail. 24 for darkness.

While this photo might be good for some; I like to clean it up a bit and give the kids more of an area to work with.

You now get to paint your picture. I use the brush tool with white foreground selected. This can be very time consuming, but the effect is well worth it. You will be giving your kid's more fun to color in! See the difference I'm talking about?

make your own coloring book
Your kids will love coloring these pages in!

I have always enjoyed writing and probably enjoyed writing the story just as much as I enjoyed fixing the photos. Feel free to use any part of my story and make it your own.

Happily Ever After

Once upon a time a king named Titus fell in love with a girl named Amanda. She loved him back just the same.

They decided to get married because God told them to. They had a beautiful wedding. Everyone said so.

King Titus and Amanda loved each other so much they wanted to have a baby to share their love with.

God gave King Titus and Amanda a beautiful baby girl. She was a princess! They named her Ariel, and she filled their lives with joy.

As the days went by Ariel grew bigger and bigger.

King Titus and Amanda enjoyed the days they spent together. They took Ariel for walks, and brought her to the park to play.

Both King Titus and Amanda were happier than they'd ever been before. They loved Ariel very much.

Ariel was so special, and they loved her so much they didn't want her to be alone. They thought it was time for her to have a brother.

As the days began to get colder, the time was coming for the new prince to be born. The whole kingdom was ready to welcome the new baby.

Princess Ariel could not wait to meet her baby brother. She began to practice for his arrival.

The day finally came. The handsome prince was given the name Gabriel. King Titus and Amanda were very pleased.

Ariel enjoyed watching the baby grow up. She was looking forward to the day when they could play together.

The prince and princess developed a very special friendship. They loved each other greatly. Jesus had brought them together as brother and sister.

King Titus and Amanda saw the prince growing into a wonderful toddler. They watched every move he made, knowing their time together would not last forever.

Just like the prince was growing, Ariel the princess was getting bigger every day. With each new day the king and queen's love grew stronger.

Over time they celebrated many special holidays together. But their favorite holiday of all was Christmas.

Pretty soon the family was growing too big for their castle. They were in search of the perfect new home. They needed a castle big enough to have rooms for everyone.

After a lot of praying and searching, God gave them their new castle. It was like a dream come true.

Sometimes on special occasions, King Titus would take his daughter, the princess, out dancing. It was a beautiful sight to see.

Life was very good for the king and queen. They loved every moment they spent with their son and daughter.

Ariel had much fun with her baby brother. He was finally big enough to be the perfect playmate. She could do whatever she wanted with him.

As the prince grew older, he began to build things. He always enjoyed building things with his hands. It was a gift that God had given him.

The time had come for the princess to find her wings. She was beginning kindergarten. So quickly had the king and queens little princess grown up. She was no longer just their baby.

King Titus and Amanda were so happy with their family. They had two of the most beautiful children. But they began to feel like something was missing, like maybe their family was not complete yet.

As they welcomed in the new year, King Titus and Amanda were very excited to share their good news with the entire kingdom. There would be a new prince who would soon be joining the royal family.

It seems it was the season for new life. After discovering her own wings, the princess, Ariel, adopted a baby bird. Valentine, the parakeet, was brought into the castle. The princess and bird were friends at once.

The day was quickly approaching when the new prince was to be born. The whole kingdom was waiting in suspense for a glimpse of him. They would not be disappointed.

Zechariah arrived in the late evening. King Titus and Amanda were amazed at this new little baby. He was beautiful.

It did not take long for the princess and prince to warm up to this new little baby. They were thrilled to have any special time with him.

It was on extra special days that the princess would exercise her new reading skills and cuddle up with the new prince. He was a good listener.

Everywhere that the new prince went, the loyal subjects would comment the same. Prince Zechariah was the most beautiful baby in all the land.

Never had anyone seen such a handsome face. He was loved by all the people.

The kingdom was flourishing under King Titus' reign. All of the royal family was living peacefully together. The children were growing up happy and well loved.

And King Titus, Amanda, Princess Ariel, Prince Gabriel, and Prince Zechariah all lived happily ever after.

The End

Unfortunately the original computer documents have been lost on this special publication. I had to scan in one of the children's coloring books which isn't quite the same as seeing it in its original form. It loses quite a bit of quality with a scan.

It was a very fun project to work on for my kids and I believe it will make a priceless keepsake to hold on to. It has been four years since I made the book, and my kids still love to have me read it to them.


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