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Monday, December 31, 2012

A New Year's Prayer

Below is part of a devotional I received at the bottom of a forwarded e-mail.  I thought it summed things up nicely- a way to spiritually wrap up the past year and move forward.  Though the words were penned long ago, they are just as applicable today:

(James Smith, "Marvelous Mercy!" 1862)

The following is an excerpt from the diary of James Smith:

And now, Lord, I desire to confess before you the sins of this past year:

I have sinned with my tongue--and with my temper.

I have sinned in my heart--and in my life.

I have omitted duties.

I have committed sins.

My motives have often been impure.

My aims have not been sufficiently high and holy.

I have been impatient, fretful, irritable, rash, jealous, envious, discontented, and ungrateful.

O may the blood of Jesus wash out every stain!

I renounce all hope--but what centers in Jesus!

I have no refuge, no hiding-place, no strong tower, no place of safety--but Jesus.

Christ in His person,
Christ in His finished work,
Christ in His glorious intercession--
is all my hope, all my confidence, all my joy!

I am His servant--and wish to serve Him alone.
I am His subject--and wish to be ruled by Him alone.
I am His purchased property--and wish to be consecrated entirely, eternally, and altogether to Him
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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Scripture and a Snapshot

And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.  Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."   ----Luke 2:9-11

Scripture and Snapshot

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Luminescence 2012

In late November, the kids and I spent the day at Disney.  Then, the Hubs met up with us (he was working near there) and picked up the boys so that the girls and I could go see Luminescence at the Gaylord Palms.  They have several shows a night until January 1st,and it's totally free (well, except for the $15 to park your car there--oy!).  We got there in time for the tree lighting, which features a singing performance with the Edge Effect.  They actually light up the whole atrium area, and it's very impressive. Then we watched the actual show, which also features the Edge Effect and one of Mimi's teachers from Metro Movement and Aerial Arts doing a performance on the cube.  First let me say the Edge Effect is AMAZING.  And of course, Miss Christye was great (on nights when Miss Christye doesn't perform, Miss Stacy does, and she's great too).  The show was so good, we stayed to watch a second one, and Sari was begging to stay for the last one too! 

Here are some pictures:

 At one point, the drummer is clipped onto wires and raised up to an aerial drum set above the stage. He has no seat up there- just "sits" suspended in his harness.  Too cool!

Here's the drummer above the stage.

 Miss Christye's cutie-patootie husband Danny.  Yes, they're a very talented family.

 The girls with Miss Christye
The girls with Edge Effect
If you live in the Orlando area, you really should try to make it down there before the show ends for the season.  You won't regret it!

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.  "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.  "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end."  Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.
Join us as we celebrate the birth of a baby who would change the world.  A baby whose death 33 years later would mean eternal life for all who believe.  The baby whose blood would atone for our sins and reconcile us with God forever.  Jesus.

Happy Birthday to the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Alpha and the Omega, the Lion of Judah, the Lamb of God, our Savior, Redeemer, Healer, Provider, and most of all Emmanuel...Jesus.

God's love and peace to all of you,

Scott, the Hubs, TJ, One Blessed Mamma, Sari, and Mimi
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Friday, December 21, 2012

Ooka Island Discount Just in Time for Christmas

Wondering what to get the young reader on your list?  Want something fun, instructive, and totally different from any other reading program out there?  Well, here's your chance to check out Ooka Island for 30% off the normal price!  Ooka Island is geared toward children ages 3-7, and my daughter loved it when we reviewed it last year.  You can click this link to read my full Ooak Island review, and be sure to click here for your 30% off Ooka Island offer.
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Monday, December 17, 2012

Preparing Our Hearts for Christmas with a Jesse Tree

As I grew up, we marked the days until Christmas with this advent calendar that my mother made.  I have fond memories of my siblings and I competing to get to put up our favorite ornaments, and of course to put up Santa on the 24th.  But once my own children came along, I wanted a way to mark the days until Christmas that keep their focus on the reason for the celebration--the birth of our Savior Christ--and not just on the anticipation of presents to be opened as soon as they can coax us out of bed on Christmas morning.  And that desire to focus on the real reason for the season is what led us to the Jesse Tree.

So what is a Jesse Tree?  Well, the name comes from Isaiah 11:1-2, "Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse and a branch from his root will bear fruit.  And the Spirit of the Lord will rest upon Him"  That shoot from the stem of Jesse?  It was Jesus.  So in essence, a Jesse Tree traces the story of our Savior.  How the plan for our salvation was crafted before any of us were even a gleam in anyone's eye but God's.  And while Jesse Trees are somewhat new to modern Christmas tradition, they actually were in use in churches centuries ago.  Allow me to share with you this explanation from The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean:
Jesse trees were the Bible-storybooks of unlettered people.  A priest could point to the figures or symbols and tell the stories of the Old Testament kings, prophets, heroines, warriors.  And the tree itself served to show how the New Testament grew out of the Old; how, for Christians, the birth of Jesus was not just a beginning, but a completion.

    Through the years, I've used three different resources and two different tree incarnations for our Jesse Tree.  The first resource I used was the book I mentioned above, The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughean, and it remains dear to my heart.  It's the story of an old wood carver carving a Jesse Tree for a church and a persistent boy who intrudes on the carver's quiet solitude and draws out of him the stories that go with each carving.  While the carver is quite gruff at first, both he and the boy are transformed by the end of the story--both changed for the better by their chance encounter with each other and their shared time remembering, sharing, and celebrating the stories of the lineage of Jesus.  It's a beautiful book, and has 24 stories--one for each day in December.  The only drawback was that it contains beautiful illustrations, but no templates for you to use for ornaments on your own Jesse Tree- so you have to either be creative and make your own, or find clip art to represent each one.
The completed Jesse Tree that the carver carves.
     Thinking I would just get around the ornament problem by ordering a booklet that contained templates, I ordered The Jesse Tree by Linda Lawrence and Donna Hubbard.  That features 20 days worth of Jesse Tree stories, each with a short scripture reading and meditation, suggestions for covering that story with young children, and a Bible study on related ideas.  Some also have suggested family activities.  They give instructions in the back of the booklet for making your own ornaments and the booklet also contains ornaments printed on card stock that you can just color and use. The reason this one has only 20 days is that there is no devotion for each of the 4 Sundays in Advent.  I'm not sure why that is, but maybe because church is meant to negate the need for a devotional on Sunday, or maybe because liturgical church folks typically mark the Sundays in Advent with an Advent wreath.
     Whatever the reason, did you catch that there are only 20 days in this second book, and the other book had 25?  Yes, that was my first introduction to this truth--no two Jesse Tree devotionals are alike!!!  Remember I said I have 3 resources?  Well, all three of them commemorate different stories on their Jesse Trees.  Sure, some of the stories are the same-- Creation, sin entering the world, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, etc.  But each also uses some unique stories. 
     Which brings me to my third resource, "A Jesse Tree Journey" by Ann Voskamp.  This is a free download if you sign up for her blog e-mails.  It is the most comprehensive and longest of all the Jesse Tree devotionals I have.  It is meant to begin on November 29th, and there is a devotional for each day including Christmas.  It is beautiful; just move-you-to-tears breath-taking in its focus on God and His love for us that would lead Him to reach out to a fallen world with a plan of redemption that involves the death of His only begotten Son.  It too includes color ornaments that you can print and use, or black and white ones that your own family can add the color to.  I chose to print the color ones and laminate them. Each day in Ann's devotional has the complete Scripture text printed for you to read, a devotional to go with it, a prayer, and one action step you can take to apply the lesson to your day that day.
     Finally, you may be thinking, this is all great, but WHAT exactly should a Jesse Tree look like?  The answers to that are as varied as the devotionals themselves.  Some people use a real tree branch, or tree branches, in a pot to hang their ornaments from.  Some simply hang the ornaments on the normal Christmas tree.  Others, including myself, use some sort of tree silhouette made from paper or fabric, or even painted on glass like a sliding glass door, to attach their ornaments to.  I've had two different paper trees.  The first one below was more of a true "Jesse Tree shape" in that it had a stump and then this long thin shoot growing out of it.  Because I taped it to the wall, I used it year round, and the only picture I have is the one below of our fall leaves on it!
     The most current tree I have is this more traditional tree shape.  It better suits the "year round tree" idea, but it not nearly as representative of the "shoot from Jesse".  It's working for us right now though, and that's what's important.  It doesn't look very impressive yet, but wait until it has all 27 ornaments on it!

    The bottom line is that it doesn't matter what your tree looks like.  And it doesn't matter how many days your devotional has or what stories it contains.  The purpose of the Jesse Tree is to point our hearts toward the heart of God.  To remind us of His love for us, and His plan for our salvation.  A plan whose roots go as deep as Creation itself, and whose growth can be clearly traced through the history of His people from the Old Testament right through the birth of Jesus.  No matter what method you choose for your own Jesse Tree, your family will be blessed by the time you spend reminding yourselves of the real reason to celebrate Christmas--God's promises fulfilled in the birth of our Savior.  Celebrate His faithfulness, His love, and His grace this holiday season!

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Merry Christmas-Scripture and a Snapshot

Luke 2:14:
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men."

Scripture and Snapshot

Scripture and a snapshot is hosted by my friend Jennifer at a  She says, "Welcome to Scripture and a Snapshot. Click through the shared posts, comment on a few others, and be encouraged. Grab the code if you would like to share it and join in each week with your own snapshot and Scripture."
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Monday, December 3, 2012

Kind of Jazzed and Feeling Blessed

One of my reviews from this past Crew season was selected to be published in the newest issue of The Old Schoolhouse magazine.  The magazine is free, and can be read online or on an e-reader.  Of course, if you are reading this on my blog, you could also just read the Speekee review here too, but just so I can remember, the direct link is below.

And, back in November, the Crew leaders were asking for people to write holiday related posts for the Crew blog.  I offered to write about the Jesse Tree, and they said yes, so that went live today at this link:

Last, I had a family photo shoot the other day, and I just have to share a few pictures of this one little angel (actually, they were all angels, but this one just looks like a little cherub):

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For those of you landing here because of The Old Schoolhouse magazine or the Schoolhouse Crew blog, hello, and welcome to One Blessed Mamma!  And for those of you who follow my humble (and lately not very exciting) blog, thanks for sticking around.  Here's a little bit of an introduction for anyone new, and a bit of catch up for anyone wondering if we were, in fact, still alive ;-).

This is Scott.  He's 15, and he has Asperger's...and a host of other disorders.  He's a freshman this year, and I've never been so challenged as a homeschool mom as I am right now trying to meet his needs where he is at but also give him an education that will equip him for his future.  He's quite decent at piano, and it's therapeutic for him, so after a 3 year hiatus, he recently began lessons again.  Here he is playing at a local nursing home this past Saturday.  He was so nervous he was shaking, but he did it.  If you watch the video, you can hear one of the residents taking (loudly) to one of the other girls who was playing.  I love how he's totally oblivious to the fact that Scott's playing until about half way into the song!

This is Mimi, my endlessly creative child.  She's 13 and her current passion is for aerial arts--silk and lyra.  There definitely have been days in our homeschool where I've wanted to run away and join the circus, but I never dreamed I'd have a child actually want to do it!  She has such amazing teachers, and they are great with the kids.  Mimi loves it, but she's at a distinct disadvantage since most aerialists were either dancers or gymnasts first.  She has done neither, but the director of her school is graciously allowing her to attend ballet classes there so that she can learn to carry herself like a dancer.  Below is one of her newest drops- the star drop.

This is TJ.  He's my soccer player.  He's also my "obedient child" and by far my strongest student.  He's easy going, and a delight to be around, and I could just gush on and on.  Soccer is finished up for the fall (his team did very well this season), but building Legos doesn't follow any sort of calendar, and that's what's currently occupying his time.  He loves Ninjago the best, although Star Wars Legos are a close second.  In fact, he just spend all his money to buy a Star Wars Lego Advent calendar, and he is truly delighting in it.  Besides that and school, he can usually be found outside where he disappears for hours just playing on his own. 

And last but not least, this is Sari.  She's 7, and I am thankful for all the delayed education studies that show that children really learn better later because with three older siblings (and one of them high needs) school for her is catch as catch can.  She just finished up level one of All About Reading (LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this program!!!) and we are starting level two.  We are doing Right Start Level B for math, although mostly she just wants to play the games, and mostly, I'm okay with that.  Her favorite subject is glitter.  Yes, I know, you had no idea glitter is a subject, but trust me, it is in our house.  She takes it to the level of alchemy--blending this color with that to create just the right combination.  She truly sparkles all the time, LOL.  She's definitely got a creative streak, and would be content to paint and color and glitter her days away.  She'd like to do ballet, but for right now, she has to settle for watching Angelina Ballerina.  Her chance will come though!
She just lost both her front teeth-my kids lose their teeth late!

Thanksgiving day with one of her favorite people in the world--my brother's friend Plum

Both girls with one of Sari's newest "favorites"--Miss Christye, one of Mimi's aerial teachers and the aerialist for the Luminescence show at the Gaylord.
And me?  Well, I'm just One Blessed Mamma.  Married to a wonderful man for 20 years, blessed to be able to stay home and homeschool my crew...And speaking of crew, I've decided to step down from the Schoolhouse Review Crew for now.  I've been on since the beginning, but the daily schooling demands on me are getting greater and greater, and for the sake of my oldest child especially, I had to step down.  It's bittersweet, as I've "known" some of those folks for years, but I'm confident it was a decision that God led me to. 

In addition to homeschooling and driving my kids all over the place, I am honored to sing and sign in a choir made up of people from over 30 churches.  We've been together for 10 years now, and these men and women are dear to me.  You can read more about United in Praise and see pictures from this fall's concerts on Facebook.  I also am a pseudo-professional photographer, and an avid reader, but most importantly, I'm a child of God, and I'm just a mess that God is still patiently working on daily.

So welcome, or welcome back!  Either way, I'm glad you stopped by :-).

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