FREE Subscription: Compassion Explorer Magazine for Kids


I’m excited to share Compassion Explorer, a free magazine for children published by Compassion International. For anyone unfamiliar with the organization, Compassion is a child advocacy and sponsorship ministry. Their mission statement is:

In response to the Great Commission, Compassion International exists as an advocate for children, to release them from their spiritual, economic, social, and physical poverty and enable them to become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults.

As part of their ministry, Compassion inspires children in our western culture to make a difference. In an engaging and age-appropriate way, Compassion Explorer helps kids to understand world poverty and inspires their hearts to compassion.

To sign up for a free, one-year subscription to Compassion Explorer, visit their website!

New Book Review Blog (by my daughters!)

I’m very excited to announce the start of my two eldest daughters’ new book review blog, A Great Reader!

In their own words,

Why “A Great Reader”?

To quote a scene from one of our favorite books, Pride and Prejudice:

“Miss Eliza Bennet,” said Miss Bingley, “despises cards. She is a great reader, and has no pleasure in anything else.”

“I deserve neither such praise nor such censure,” cried Elizabeth; “I am not a great reader, and I have pleasure in many things.”

Like Elizabeth, we are not “great readers” and we take pleasure in many things. However, we do have an unusual fondness for reading that has led to the devouring of many books. Here at A Great Reader, we would like to share some gems with other aspiring “Great Readers” who are searching for books worth reading.

Pop on over and visit Hannah and Grace at A Great Reader. While you are at it, be sure and wish Grace a Happy 13th Birthday!

The Last Day of November

Today was a unique day for us. Sad and special at the same time.

Sad, because today would have been Lily’s due date. I know that my sadness would seem little compared to others who have suffered losses of children.

First, I have the blessing of other children who are a comfort to me.

Second, Lily has been my only loss. I know some dear mommas who have lost as many as four sweet babies.

Third, as hard as it is to admit this, I am relieved that I never got to meet her. Losing her was so painful, but I think if I had actually seen her, held her in my arms… I can’t imagine that I could bear it.

Most importantly, as I wrote in Remembering Her Short Life, I have the promise that I WILL SEE HER, someday. She is in Heaven, and will greet me when I get there.

Even so, and though I don’t dwell on it daily, I do still think of her often. I feel strange sharing this because I know so many others experience losses, and I wonder if it’s ridiculous that I still grieve sometimes. Every month when I realize that my womb is still empty, when I should (or at least I feel I should) have had a gradually growing belly, that is hard. I get weepy.  As my due date crept up on me, I thought of her more. Today was the date that has been strong in my head for nine months straight.

I have no new, profound insights about this, but I feel that the date is worth remembering for us.

But now this date will also be remembered for another reason.

I was reading my Bible this morning, and came across a passage about baptism.

(Another passage about baptism.)

I always get alert when I read a passage about baptism, because for years I’ve questioned whether I should be baptized.

I was baptized when I was nine years old. I had some basic idea of Jesus dying on the cross for me, and as a child who had “asked Jesus into my heart,” I thought I was a Christian.

But looking back, I don’t believe I was. Following Christ doesn’t mean asking him into your heart; it means… Following Christ.  The way people loyal to a king would follow a king. Their loyalty is to their king. They identify themselves as members of His kingdom. They pledge their lives to serve their king.

As a child I had belief, but in most ways, I was living for myself, not for Jesus. He was not my king, and I was not part of his kingdom.

Early in my marriage, my heart slowly began to change. I don’t know exactly when I fully committed my life to Christ, as I took gradual baby steps, but it was likely around fourteen to sixteen years ago. Since that time, I’ve loved him, followed him as the King he is to me, and tried to live a life that is pleasing to him.

One thing was missing, though. I had never been baptized after my conversion. I debated with myself as to whether my first baptism “counted,” had lengthy discussions with my husband, went back and forth for some time. I could go on for pages about this, but I won’t. :)

Then I read that passage this morning. And I looked outside and saw that a beautiful, sunshiny day awaited… almost 80 degrees! I glanced over at my husband.

“How cold do you suppose that swimming pool is?” I asked.

Pretty cold! I wouldn’t want to jump in.” he answered.

I paused. I don’t like cold water, but I was willing.

“Do you think you could baptize me today?”

He paused. He knows I think about this from time to time and wasn’t surprised. I think the pause was in considering what to do about the cold water.

I continued.

“I don’t want to put this off anymore. I feel like I’m walking in disobedience by waiting so long. Can we do it today?”

He nodded.

“I could heat up the spa…”

So early this afternoon, we gathered all the kids outside. We are currently still on our church search, so this family of mine is our little church family for now. I shared my short testimony, which my children are already well familiar with. And there, at forty-two years old, in a spa, with our children all present, my husband baptized me.

But that’s not the end to our unique day!

After I was baptized, Happy (10) and Strawberry (9) both asked to be baptized. They have expressed a commitment to Christ and have asked before. We had planned to hold off until we found a church, but… why not? They shared their testimonies and together, my husband and I baptized each of them.

Then Conductor (7) spoke up and asked if he could be baptized. We hesitated a moment, because we were not entirely sure that he really “gets it.” We asked him why he wanted to be baptized, and he answered, “Because I believe Jesus is the Savior of the world, and He is the King of me.”

While his answer was awesome, we still aren’t completely certain if his conversion is genuine, mainly due to him being so young and still immature. Yet, we both had on our hearts how Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

We decided to baptize him. We will, of course, watch for fruit in his life to see that his faith is genuine, and if he has any concerns in his future, he can choose to be baptized again when he is older, as I did today.

So this day, the last day of November, a day of sadness at missing our Lily, we also celebrated four souls who will be ushered into Heaven someday, where she is waiting for us. Four souls who have committed to living for Christ and his kingdom.





Decorating for Christmas


I love decorating for Christmas. Not as much as some of my neighbors do, I think. We don’t trim the exterior of our house with lights, or do anything very fancy, but our house has made a lovely transformation this weekend.

With our new house and new layout, we needed to do things a little different this year than years past. On the other hand, we did NOT want to spend a lot of money in the process. We managed to do decently well during Michael’s Black Friday sales. We bought simple, un-decorated greenery, lots of ribbon, and assorted sticks of berries, holly, etc., and dressed up the greenery ourselves.

I admit, the ability to pull something together that looks pulled-together doesn’t come naturally to me. Thankfully, we have the internet to give us lots of ideas! The girls and I loved browsing Houzz for inspiration. (I may just have a teensy addiction to Houzz.)

Want to have a look at the fruits of our labor? Let’s start in the dining room.


Simple ribbon hanging from the chandelier. (Did I mention I bought the ribbon at 70% off? I love decorating on the cheap!)


Here is a closeup of one of our four table centerpieces. A ($1) silver-colored plate and mason jar with white filler that looks like snow. Simple ribbon, intertwined garland, pine cones and cinnamon gave it a nice touch.


The little kids contributed to the decor with homemade garland, construction paper for the china cupboard, and popcorn for the mini tree.


We used some leftover berries and pine cones to dress up some of the china.


A closeup of our mini tree. It looks real, but is actually artificial. ($10 at Michael’s!)


Stair railing. We used plain garland and dressed it up with cheap ribbons and small sticks of pinecones and berries. A larger bow is at the bottom.


Small touches on the other side of the stairway.


Into the living room…


We probably put the most effort into this part of the room. Love those stockings! I smile every time I look at the sheer number.  If we have any more babies, we’ll need to look for a new spot to hold them!


My oldest daughter did the mantle by dressing up plain garland with red beads, holly, etc, and adding candles. I added a ribbon to our wall tree to give it a Christmas-y look.


We removed one or two items from the shelves and scrunched others together to make room for our Christmas decorations.

lrshelves We use an artificial tree. This one has been with us a while, probably close to ten years. It is still in great condition! The ornaments are special. When I was a little girl, my mom would buy me one dated ornament every year. By the time I married my hubby, I had a nice collection for our Christmas tree. We have continued the ornament tradition with our kids.

The only problem has been that with nine children,our ornaments are increasing exponentially! Wetypically do not put up all the ornaments every year, but at least our children will have their own when they begin families of their own someday.


We let the little kids put up as many of the ornaments as possible. This often results in odd-looking things like five angels all lined up on a single, drooping branch, but we are okay with that. Someday we’ll miss our odd-looking ornament placements.

We are also okay with the fact that our Little People Nativity set is rarely set up. I had it arranged perfectly before doing this little photo shoot, but my effort didn’t last very long. :)


A nighttime tree picture, all lit up.

Image00003The girls fell in love with the idea of dressing up the railing over our living room. By buying the plain stuff on sale and dressing it up ourselves, it was fairly inexpensive. I think it turned out really pretty and festive.

Image00010 Next, into the kitchen. Simple Christmas decor here. Ribbons from the chandelier, bows tied onto a few dishes, and a candle here or there. The look is simple but cheerful.
Image00012 Image00013

We only do a little decorating outside. I love the simple look here, and I love the fact that none of the men in my family need to get up on the roof setting up lights!


A festive bow on the outdoor light.


Two small wreaths around the entry.


A bow around the tree in our front yard. This same tree is the only place where we put outdoor Christmas lights.



Photographing Christmas lights at night is not easy, at least for me. It’s really so much prettier in person. :)

I think it’s so fun to drive around the community to see the Christmas decorating creativity among our neighbors. What a  beautiful time of year!

Best Deals of the Year at Lilla Rose!

Don’t miss this! Beautiful Lilla Rose flexi clips are the perfect stocking stuffer for the girls and ladies in your life, or pick one up for yourself!


This sale is also a unique opportunity to buy any of the Flexis of the Month from 2014! All are back for a limited time, including my personal favorite, the Peacock flexi.



So pretty! Who can help smiling at that?

Stop by my Lilla Rose store and have fun browsing all the beautiful designs!