Friday, January 30, 2009

Pretty Pink Punch

This frothy pink ice cream punch was a refreshing accompaniment to birthday cake at Mary Ashley's recent Fancy Nancy party. To make this party favorite, add 1/2 gallon ice cream or sherbet by scoopfuls to a punch bowl and pour 2 liters of clear soda over. Stir gently and serve. Or make pretty floats for a fizzy taste of fancy anytime!

For this party we paired strawberry ice cream and Diet 7-Up, but I have also used sherbet and ginger ale with delicious results. For my fanciest day ever, we made this punch with raspberry sherbet and Diet Rite White Grape. (Our wedding guests loved it!)

Who knew being fancy could be so easy yet taste so good?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fancy Faces

My 4-month-old niece Kadence proves that you're never too young to be fancy!

I wonder what a fancy girl wishes for on her birthday? Here the little girls from Mary Ashley's preschool class gather for cake.

Some of the fancy faces my dad, Bob Prichard, captured with his camera. I love the corner photo where Mary Ashley is opening her presents from Meme and D-Dad. What must Emma be thinking?

Favorite party images from by brother, Nathan Prichard.

Finding accessories for the girls at our Fancy Nancy party was easy. I collected boas, wings, candy necklaces and lip gloss rings to send home with the girls, but I drew a blank thinking of equivalent favors for my two boys and didn't want them to feel left out. So one night I explained the party to Carson, 9, and Christian, 7, and asked them what boys could wear to be fancy. "Well, I wouldn't mind getting a blue scarf," Christian began thoughtfully. OK, I thought, I'll ask Joe if boys wear scarves. Then Christian continued, "And, well, I wouldn't mind wearing Mary Ashley's blue Cinderella dress for the party."

This response caught me so off-guard I had to leave the room to keep him from seeing the tears streaming down my face because I was laughing so hard. In the distance I heard Carson's voice calling, "Christian! Boys wouldn't have to wear a dress. We could wear a suit!" I ran into our bedroom and could hardly tell Joe the story between giggles. Joe didn't think it was that funny.

On the morning of the party, Christian woke me early to ask if I had seen his tuxedo. I'm not even sure what he was referring to, but both the boys ultimately decided that blue jeans and monogrammed shirts would be perfect party attire. I chose sunglasses, glow sticks and candy for the boys' treat bags, and all the brothers seemed pleased to be remembered at the party. So our party proved that anyone can find joy in being fancy!

Stop in tomorrow for an easy and refreshing party treat!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fancy Finds and Fabulous Fun

Darling, you know I'm eager to let you in on all the treasures that made our recent Fancy Nancy party fabulous.

Sources (clockwise from top left corner): Green boa, Dollar Tree; glittery butterflies, Michael's; scrapbook papers and stickers, Hobby Lobby; Gerber daisies, Fresh Market, Montgomery, Ala.; cupcake and ice cream cone ornaments, Caffco Floral Outlet, Montgomery, Ala.; ribbon, Michael's; Raney's fairy wings and boa, Dollar Tree; silver platter and goblet, Dollar Tree; ribbon, Michael's; butterfly sucker, Oriental Trading Company; napkins, Wal-Mart; favor boxes, K&Company, AC Moore; candy necklaces and lip gloss rings inside favor boxes (not shown), Dollar Tree; pink tissue pom-pom, Martha Stewart craft kit

Fancy Nancy inspired a festive afternoon for celebrating Mary Ashley's 5th birthday. Since Fancy Nancy is "little girl fancy" and not "mommy fancy," our fun began when I let Emma and Mary Ashley choose their own party outfits. I wanted them to feel completely confident and beautiful at the party, and they were certainly fancy! Mary Ashley's ensemble included her spring recital costume, a pink cape with fur collar, lots of bracelets and a tiara. Emma preferred the layered look, choosing a Kentucky cheerleader top, purple Barbie dress-up shirt, sequined dress-up skirt, sheer black ballet skirt and tiara. I even played along, choosing sparkly earrings and a favorite pink cardigan with a ruffled collar.

When the little girls arrived, they were all giggles and glee as they took the stairs to explore Mary Ashley's room. They played in her room for a while, and many of the girls donned costumes from her toybox.

After free play, I gathered the children into the family room to read Fancy Nancy. I have never done story time during a birthday party before and wasn't sure the girls would sit long enough to enjoy it, but they all gathered around and listened with rapt attention. This was a great way to get the girls excited about our theme, as well as introduce Fancy Nancy to any who might not have read her books before.

After story time, I told the little girls they all looked beautiful for the party, but we were going to get even more fancy. I had Mary Ashley stand up and told the other girls to line up behind her. "Darlings," I announced, "we are going to visit Mary Ashley's Boutique, where you can each choose a boa and fairy wings to complete your ensemble." I had a friend stationed in our sitting room so she could help the little shoppers make their selections. It was so sweet to watch the girls light up as they chose their favorite colors.

When the girls were ready to model their wings and boas, Mary Ashley led a "fancy parade" through the hall and back to the family room, met with applause from all the mommies along the way.

Once they were all dressed up, they needed someplace to go, so we were off to the dining room to sing "Happy Birthday" and cut the cake. The guests found little surprises at each place to look at while the mothers helped me serve the cake. Since a Fancy Nancy can never have too many accessories, the girls discovered candy necklaces and lip gloss rings in their favor boxes. Brothers at the party discovered candy, sunglasses and glow sticks in their bags. The girls were perfect little ladies taking their seats at the table, and they looked so cute dressed up with boas and wings.

After cake, Mary Ashley opened presents and the girls played for the rest of the afternoon. It was a fun, fancy day -- one I hope the girls will never forget. And I think it reminded all of us girls --mothers and daughters alike -- that it is fun to be fancy!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Getting Fancy for Fancy Nancy

Our dining room got the royal treatment for Mary Ashley's recent Fancy Nancy birthday party.

Uncle Nathan's photos of our tablescapes are posh. (That's a fancy word for fancy.)

Even our chandelier got fancier for the party. (Don't you just love saying "chandelier"?)

The kitchen table was well dressed for the occasion too. Come back tomorrow for fancy fun and fabulous finds. (That's fancy for party activities and favors.)

Photos by Bob Prichard, Nathan Prichard and Melissa Lester

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fancy Nancy Birthday Party

The centerpiece of Mary Ashley's Fancy Nancy party was her pink strawberry birthday cake. A tiered cake seemed like the ideal choice for our theme, and petal pans gave the layers sweet scallops. Cascades of pink roses and white ribbons added sweet details, and of course no Fancy Nancy cake would be complete without a monogram!

The Invitation:


Fancy Nancy Is a Darling Friend of Mine

I Love to Read Books About Her All the Time

So for My Birthday I'm Getting Fancy Too

And It Would Be Simply Splendid to Spend It with You!


Please Join Us for a Soiree (That's Fancy for Party)

Celebrating the 5th Birthday of

Mary Ashley

At the Home of Joe and Melissa Lester

RSVP or Directions Call ...


(This is my invitation before I made it fancy.)


(This is my invitation after I made it fancy.)

The inside of each invitation was handcrafted with unique embellishments. Here a glittery bouquet of balloons and banner pop up from a background of soft polka dots, sparkly stars and tiny jewels.

I have so many images from the party, I'll be sharing reflections and ideas throughout the week!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Appointments to Keep

I love my 2009 Country Living Day Planner. Filled with beautiful images, recipes and project ideas, each week brings new inspiration. With such a lovely datebook, I feel like the year should be filled with happy celebrations and memorable moments. Today's entry reminds me that I need to put down my glue gun and clean my house because company is on the way. We're hosting Mary Ashley's birthday party tomorrow, so please come back Monday to see all the festivities! (And if you still need one, find a day planner for yourself like the one pictured above on sale here.)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Laugh, Cold and Flu Season

"A family is a unit composed not only of children but of men, women, an occasional animal and the common cold." -- Ogden Nash

Since we are in the midst of cold and flu season, I thought I would share a few funnies from some of our family's sick days. They do say that laughter is good medicine, after all.

When Joe went to the emergency room on a Sunday morning last spring with stomach pains, 6-year-old Christian told his Bible class that his daddy was in the hospital because he broke his back and bottom. When we got the diagnosis, Christian announced to his kindergarten class at school that his daddy was in the hospital because he had just had his dog bladder removed. (Joe has healed quite nicely from his gall bladder surgery.)

Five-year-old Mary Ashley was annoying younger sister, Emma, by repeating everything she said. Finally, 2-year-old Emma was sick of it and snapped back: "Mary, stop coughing me!"

I recently overheard 7-year-old Christian in the back seat of the van supposing that boys are healthier than girls because girls have those things that stick out from their stomachs and they must be full of germs. (Yes, my son, you are absolutely correct.)

Five-year-old Mary Ashley recently had the hiccups when she needed to take some medicine. "Oh, Mommy," she drawled, "I'm sorry. I just can't stop hicking!"

When Christian was 4, he was famished after a nasty stomach virus and begged for chocolate chip cookies. I wasn't sure his little tummy was ready for that, but we were discussing it when suddenly he burst out of the room. I found him in the bathroom, where he had thrown up all over the floor and walls. I stood there stunned at the site, and Christian turned around and asked sincerely, "Mom, can I still have cookies? I'm not sick."

A couple of years ago Joe and Mary Ashley were snuggled up together with the flu. Three-year-old Mary Ashley felt so bad that she didn't say a word for hours. When she could finally muster the energy to speak, she looked Joe over carefully and asked with disdain, "Daddy, what are you wearing?" He laughed at her critique of his fleece pull-over and told her she could dress him for his next sick day.

I hope you are happy and healthy today! If you have any lighter moments to share from your family's sick days, please share them in the comments section.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Party Hat Sundaes

This fun birthday treat will have you actually encouraging your children to make faces.

We spent last Friday evening at Joe's parents' house and needed something special to celebrate birthdays for three of the seven grandchildren. I thought party hat sundaes would be a fun dessert, and 7-year-old Christian suggested that we let the children create their own faces. The children counted down the hours to sharing this special treat and had a great time making and eating this happy-birthday snack.

As an alternative to birthday cake, consider making party hat sundaes. To get started, place easy-melting milk chocolate, white chocolate or colored candy melts in the top pan of a double boiler. I used 4 squares of baker's white chocolate for 12 sugar cones. Melt the candy according to package directions, stirring constantly.

Spread aluminum foil on the counter beside the stove to create a work space for assembling the cones. Place sugar cones on the aluminum foil, and top each one with a marshmallow. Dip the marshmallow end of a cone into the melted candy, careful not to get candy on the cone. Allow excess candy to drip from the marshmallow before turning it over. Hold the party hat right-side up and sprinkle colored sugar and sprinkles onto the marshmallow.

Next, dip the bottom edge of the party hat into the melted candy. Use a spoon if needed to spread candy and create a brim for the hat. Let excess candy drip from the cone, then place it over the aluminum foil to add sprinkles. Place the completed party hat on an aluminum-foil covered plate, and place it in the freezer for about 10 minutes to let the candy harden. Store party hats in an airtight container until you are ready to make the sundaes.

To assemble the sundaes, spread two cupcake liners on each dessert plate to make a party collar. Place a scoop of ice cream on each liner, and top with a party hat. To expedite the process of serving party hat sundaes to a group, pre-scoop the ice cream before the party and store the scoops in the freezer in an air-tight container until ready to serve.

Place little dishes of candy on the table, and let the children make faces on their sundaes. We used M&Ms and Sour Patch Straws to make eyes, mouths, eyebrows and moustaches. From oldest to youngest child, all the sundaes turned out so cute. And who knew that encouraging children to make faces during dinner would result in happy smiles all around the table?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Shopping the Pink Aisles

Although my husband thinks I fall short on gift buying for the boys (too "fundumacational," he would criticize), I think he would admit that buying for the girls comes naturally. Although we have our share of traditional baby dolls and Barbies filling the toy box, here are a few of my more unique finds discovered shopping the pink aisles.

Mary Ashley will feel so grown-up dressing herself with this paper doll custom made by Anklebiters. Simply e-mail a photo of a little girl or boy to the artist for a unique personalized gift. The only dilemma is whether to frame the paper doll or let the child play with it.

This Kelly Rightsell embroidered pillow caught my eye at a local childrens shop. I bought a similar one for the boys' room several years ago, so it seemed only fitting to get one for the girls, too. You can find more Kelly Rightsell art prints and products on her web site.

Emma got this sweet Tea Party Game for Christmas, and we girls have loved playing it. To begin the game, you place a teapot spinner in the center of the cloth napkin included with the game. Players take turns spinning, and the first one to collect all the items needed for the tea party wins. This game is a delightful way to spend a civilized afternoon with preschoolers. I have seen this eeBoo game at boutique toy stores, but ours came from

My best girlfriend, Vonda, introduced me to Fancy Nancy a couple of years ago, and this series of books by Jane O'Connor has become a family favorite. Along with the story books, you can also find Fancy Nancy dolls, toys and games at a variety of retailers. We'll be getting fancy for Mary Ashley's 5th birthday party, so look for details on that in the days to come!

My girls will look forward to rainy days so they will have an opportunity carry these pretty polka dotted umbrellas purchased at Books-a-Million. I love the trim detail on the edge of the fabric, and the girls like the pretty green accents.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Smiles Needed

Little giggles fill the world with love.

Kristi tagged me to share the significance of the fourth photo in my fourth folder, and it happens to be this picture I took of Mary Ashley on her last Sunday as a 4-year-old. I love to see her giggle. She gets so tickled at 2-year-old sister, Emma's, antics that she can hardly contain herself sometimes. I look forward to hearing her laughter for many years to come!

I have some fun posts planned for the next few days, but wanted to begin the week on a more serious note asking for prayers for Joe's parents. Betty is mid-way through her recovery for a badly broken leg, and Louis just returned from the hospital due to heart problems. The past few days have been physically challenging for this sweet couple, but the most difficult aspect of their health issues has been each spouse's desire to care for the other. I know the Lester family would appreciate your prayers at this time.

The Lester grandchildren look forward to sharing lots more giggles with Nana and Pop in the future. And I have lots of smiles to share with you here this week, so please come back daily!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Favorite Gift for a Little Girl

I treasure the tea set my grandmother made for me as a little girl, so when Mary Ashley was an infant I knew I wanted to give her a tea set for her first birthday. I treasure the professional photographs I have of her at 12 months playing with the Mud Pie princess toile tea set I chose for her first birthday. So many of our special moments in the years since have happened at the tea table, so I love this photo I took of Mary Ashley enjoying her tea set at age 5.

Monday I'll share a few more of my favorite gifts for girls. But for now, I have a pot of invisible tea to brew for a little mother-daughter make-believe magic.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fairy Princess 1st Birthday Party

I don't have digital pictures from Mary Ashley's first birthday, but her birthday invitation and the favor boxes I made serve as mementos of her fairy princess coronation.

And what a princess Mary Ashley was at her party! She held court in our sitting room, opening gifts from each family member one by one. She sat like a little lady, smiling graciously and saying "day-doo" for each present. And when she ate her cake -- a strawberry cake covered in pink buttercream icing roses -- she nibbled so daintily that she didn't even get her party dress dirty! It was a magical night celebrating a precious little girl.

For directions on making fabric-covered boxes, see this post. For this party, I glued a picture of the birthday girl in the underside of the lid. Sweet little petit fours tucked inside the boxes made nice take-home treats.

Mary Ashley's birthday invitation -- embellished with tiny paper roses, ribbons and pearls -- is one of my all-time favorites. The poem I wrote for the occasion is reprinted here.

In the hush of winter beneath glistening snow

Enchantment and merriment mingle below.

Deep within the garden under canopy of flowers

The fairy kingdom gathers to while away the hours.

With glittering costumes and delicate wings,

Gentle fairies frolic, make music and sing.

Cake made of roses? -- Don't mind if I do.

A butterfly kiss? -- Why, I think I'll have two!

Hearts are alight, and fairies take flight

For our sweet Mary Ashley is 1 tonight!

Wishes come true by the King's proclamation

As dancing fairies gather to make exclamation:

"There's nothing so magical, lovely and grand

As a royal celebration in Fairy Land!"

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mary Ashley!

"A daughter is the happy memories of the past, the joyful moments of the present, and the hope and promise of the future." -- Author Unknown

Happy Birthday, Mary Ashley! Oh, how I love you!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Inexpensive Birthday Party Idea

With Mary Ashley's 5th birthday fast approaching, I am busy making invitations and planning her celebration. But I wanted to share an easy and inexpensive birthday party idea. Last year for her "Strawmary Shortcake" party, I looked online for free downloadable Strawberry Shortcake color sheets and found this picture that was perfect for our tea party. I printed the color sheet on heavy paper and covered our kitchen table with a plastic tablecloth. A large vase filled with markers and Strawberry Shortcake figures added color to the table. Girls who wanted to take a break from playing outside colored pictures and had a berry good time.

Whatever your party theme, you can find a number of free color sheets, games and activities online. Print them out to use as cute placemats, fun party activities or extra take-home treats.

Photos by Nathan Prichard

Monday, January 12, 2009

Good Starts

"This is the day which the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24).

I am a night owl by nature, so usually morning's light has me wanting to bury my head under the covers pleading for a few more hours of sleep. But with children's schedules to manage and responsibilities to take care of, I can't always hit the snooze button.

Too often I begin the day in a mad rush, feeling behind and stressed, but what a difference it makes in my attitude when I start my day off right. This new year finds me yearning for balance of body, spirit and heart. And I realize that a good morning sets the tone for my whole day.

So I started thinking about some of my favorite ways to begin the day. As I began compiling my list, I thought about how I would photograph my perfect morning. Some of my breakfast favorites piled onto a breakfast tray would look so lovely, I thought. But then I laughed, thinking, why would I make myself breakfast in bed?

But then I stopped myself and wondered, why wouldn't I make myself breakfast in bed?

Like so many moms, I pour myself out daily for my family. Serving loved ones comes easily, and I enjoy investing time to create special memories for my husband and children. But too often it just doesn't seem worth the extra effort to put the same attention into my own experience.

But this year I'm determined to treat myself better: taking care of my body with nutritious food and exercise; growing in my relationship with God; and making my own life more beautiful. And in seeking balance in the areas of physical, spiritual and emotional health, I'm hoping to find myself a better wife, mother and friend in the process. And a happier me, even in the morning!

Here are some of the good starts that make a difference in my day:

  • Breakfast in Bed. Doesn't the thought sound so indulgent? This idea actually came to me in thinking about photographing some healthy breakfast favorites to share with you on the blog. But then I realized how pampered I would feel enjoying a leisurely breakfast in bed. So I hope to treat myself from time to time, perhaps as a reward for accomplishing household chores. In a way, you inspired me on this one. So I hope you will reward yourself with a pretty breakfast tray of your own!
  • Oh, My Darling. Joe's sister introduced us to clementines two years ago, and this refreshing winter fruit has been a family favorite ever since. Seedless and easy to peel, clementines are a sweet treat any time of day. We can find them in our area in December and January, so I buy them by the sackful and cluster them in bowls for healthy snacking. I recently read in Health magazine that the scent of citrus can brighten our moods, so maybe clementines will help us avoid the wintertime blues (without the guilt that might set in later if we reached for our normal sweet treats).
  • Going Green. I love the comforting warmth of a cup of tea, but also enjoy the health benefits of choosing green tea. Sources say it can strengthen the immune system, improve mental function and boost metabolism. Green tea takes less time to brew than other varieties -- only 1-3 minutes. If you are partial to a particular brand of green tea, I would love to know your favorite selection.
  • Wholesome Goodness. Although I haven't gotten my husband and children on board with this healthy breakfast option, a bowl of oatmeal is a great way to start my day. I enjoy the Weight Control selections of Quaker Instant Oatmeal. My favorite flavor is the banana bread; it's delicious served with a handful of frozen blueberries sprinkled on top! And maybe the girls are coming around. Although they have yet to ask for their own bowl, they do enjoy snuggling up to sample bites from mine.
  • Time with a Friend. I know that my day starts out better when I begin it with the Lord. Greeting the morning with prayer and Bible reading makes a difference in my attitude that helps me throughout the day, yet it is so easy to fall out of this daily habit. I am challenging myself to be more consistent about this in the new year!
  • A Little Easy Reading. What a treat it is to curl up with a magazine for a few minutes in the morning. The beauty that fills the pages of my favorite magazines can give me inspiration for adding loveliness to my day. I love to reach for TeaTime, Southern Lady, Christian Woman, Martha Stewart Living and Southern Living when I can spare a moment. And please tell me I'm not the only mommy who keeps childrens trunk show catalogs on her bedside table!
  • Blooming Joy. Some friends of mine were recently talking about how much we enjoy having fresh flowers. It is so nice to wake up to the sight of fresh blooms arranged in a pretty container. If nothing is blooming in the yard, an inexpensive bouquet picked up along with the groceries can make any day feel special. I picked up the above bouquet of pink carnations nearly a week ago, and they still look pretty clustered in a favorite teapot. Mary Ashley and Emma were asleep when I brought these flowers home, so I decided to surprise them with little bouquets of their own on their bedside tables. They were so excited to discover them in the morning, they ran around the house giggling and twirling. (I'm hoping their daddy took notice of how much we girls like flowers!)
  • Get the Day Moving. We all know the benefits of exercise: endorphins, energy, stamina, weight loss, stress management, toning, strengthening, and on an on. I wouldn't exactly say I like exercise, but I feel so proud of myself when I do workout. And it seems that accomplishing that first goal gets me moving toward other goals through the rest of my day. I recently discovered that I can pop a familiar exercise DVD into my laptop and exercise while I watch a TV program, and the chatter on TV helps me get through more intense segments of the workout. Do you have any tips for staying on track?
  • Add Bubbles. A morning shower is invigorating, but if I have extra time a bubble bath is such a relaxing way to ease into the day. And it's a great reward for checking exercise off the morning's to-do list!
  • Starting Early. I know that one of the secrets to a good morning is saying goodnight. Getting more rest is a definite priority for me this year, so I hope to get myself into an earlier bedtime routine. This one will require some serious adjustment, but I know it will bring tremendous benefits.

These are just a few of the ways I want to start my days off right this year. And I hope that being good to myself will make every morning a good morning. Even on a Monday like today.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

On the Hook to Organize

Handpainted butterflies flutter into my niece's bedroom, each one offering a peg to hold little-girl treasures.

I helped welcome my niece, Caitlin, into the world when she came home from the hospital as a newborn a year ago. I was eager to offer assistance in any way during my visit, and you can imagine how thrilled I was when my sister, Jennifer, told me she really needed help finding hooks to hang letters in her new daughter's room. So being the devoted sister I am, I selflessly roamed the aisles of Michael's to find unpainted wooden pegs. Sweet butterflies and softly-scalloped flowers seemed perfect for Caitlin's nursery, so I spent a leisurely afternoon during our visit bringing them to life. All in service to my sweet sister and new niece, of course!

I purchased inexpensive wooden pegs and several bottles of craft paint at Michael's. Back at Jennifer's house, I sanded rough edges on the wood. Then I painted the hooks with two coats of white craft paint. I covered the flower pegs with pink and green polka dots to coordinate with Caitlin's crib bedding, and added delicate ribbons and rose buds to the butterfly pegs. I left the pegs to dry, and later my brother and father hung them in the nursery over the crib. Each morning since Caitlin has been greeted by a garden full of butterflies and flowers welcoming her to a new day.

For those of us seeking organization in the new year, simple wooden pegs could provide a way to combine form and function in a child's room. Inexpensive and easy to embellish, pegs can keep scarves, jackets and other essentials in easy reach of little hands. So if you're looking for little ways to declutter a child's room, hang some wooden pegs, and perhaps you'll find your son or daughter hooked on organization this year.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Portrait of a Ballerina

Counting down the hours until her first ballet class yesterday, when 2-year-old Emma would realize her lifelong dream of becoming a real ballerina.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Our Southern Snow Day

Oh, the weather outside was mild,

But my restless children were wild.

So on our last day with no place to go,

We let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

For our Southern snow day brunch, I served pancakes and hot chocolate. One small and one large pancake made each snowman's body. Chocolate chips, berries and marshmallows filled in details to make eyes, buttons, a toboggan and snow drifts. And, of course, no snowman pancake would be complete without a bacon scarf to keep him warm! Cotton batting sprinkled with glitter made a soft covering of snow for our breakfast table, and snowman accessories completed the frosty look.

Soft snowman-covered fleece blankets monogrammed for each child were perfect for snuggling during story time, and we loved getting cozy with our new kittens Sonny and Sarah.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Living in the New Year

Friends of ours have been remodeling their home for the past few months. Most nights and weekends you will find them toiling away inside, ripping out faded carpet to install new hardwood flooring; updating neglected walls with a fresh coat of paint; and replacing old mismatched switch plates and outlets with new coordinating fixtures. Outside their pruning is taming an overgrown landscape; inside their labors are restoring beauty to a once-neglected house.

Our friends explained that the previous owners were so involved in the demands of work and family, they didn't devote much time to the upkeep of the house. And little by little, through the years the house fell into disrepair. The husband summed up the previous owners' care of the house this way: "They just lived in the house."

That statement has tumbled around in my mind for the past several weeks.

They just lived in the house.

And I realize that in many ways I have behaved in my own house like a negligent tenant and not an owner. Instead of investigating problems as they arise and following through on solutions, too often I have resigned myself to simply accept annoyances and maneuver around them. And with practice, I barely notice cabinets with missing knobs, sinks that clog and drawers that stick.

But with a new year comes new resolve.

With the turning of a calendar page, so many of us determine to do better on the home front. With fresh eyes, we see a cluttered closet as the oasis of organization it could be. Fabric still on the bolt unfurls with the promise of new home decorating projects. We resolutely open tool boxes, paint cans and decorating magazines, eager to invest in the place we call home.

But even as we reorganize, repair and redecorate, we must balance our desire to be better stewards of our material blessings with the knowledge that this earth is temporal. Matthew 6:19-21 reminds us, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

As I contemplate laying up treasures in heaven, that phrase comes back to me, and I think about the spiritual applications of just living in the house. When I approach my life with the cavalier attitude of a tenant just living for the pleasure of the moment, I squander the resources God has given me instead of living each day to His glory. When I am merely a tenant in my family, instead of working through conflict and pain, I resign myself to accepting feelings of hopelessness and isolation. And when I am content to just live in the world, with practice I barely notice the suffering and sin-sick people around me who need to know God's love.

But God doesn't want me to just live in the house, watching helplessly as it crumbles around me. Jesus says in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly." And Galatians 4:7 tells me that God accepts me not as a servant -- not as a tenant -- but as His child. In fact, as His heir.

And that totally changes the way I want to behave in the house.

So as we turn the calendar page and begin another year, we must decide whether we will live like tenants or heirs. And the questions before us are these:

  • This year, will you just live in your house? Or will you make it better?
  • Will you just live in your family? Or will you make it stronger?
  • And finally, will you just live in the world? Or will you change it?

The decisions -- and the blessings -- are yours.

Photo from Google Images

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

We look forward to sharing lots more smiles with you in 2009!

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