“Spring Break”- those are two beautiful words, don’t you think?

We had the privilege of traveling down to Florida again this year to visit Brian’s dad and step-mom in Venice, which is just south of Sarasota (Siesta Key, Longboat Key, Anna Maria Island, etc.). We had a great time! We decided to skip the theme park scene this year and just enjoyed the beaches, the weather and few outings.

We spent the most time at Manasota Beach. We hunted for shark teeth (which seem to be deposited in mysteriously high quantities on Venice’s shores), built sand castles, swam, sunned, and generally enjoyed being in the sunshine. We also caught a drum circle which is an eccentric sort of event complete with belly dancers and hula hoopers.

This child LOVES the ocean. He loves the sand, the waves, the animals, the atmosphere. He loves everything about it. I have a hunch that he always will.

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Brave grandpa swimming with Thomas and Zachary.

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Jonathan, though he loves to swim, preferred the shore.

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Selfie at sunset.

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Brian and I had the privilege of worshiping at Harvest Tampa Bay where Brian preached and we were able to visit with friends.

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On our way home we decided to try our hand at kayaking.

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Before we had kids, Brian and I took a vacation to Anna Maria Island and visited Mote Aquarium while we were there. We thought we would take the kids back for a visit.

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On the way home we stopped for orange ice cream at Nokomis Orange Grove. Yum. We had it last year and have been talking about it ever since. It didn’t disappoint.

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Thomas, who loves and appreciates food about as much as Zachary loves the beach (and Jonathan loves Legos) found a new favorite restaurant: Pops. All other restaurants will now have to measure up to the standard set by Pops.

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What a blessing it was to get away, enjoy some sunshine and take a break together as a family!

Confession: I have been extremely negligent in posting pictures from Brian’s trip to India in November. I have also been negligent in scrapbooking those same photos. 

 In my defense, it is kind of challenging to accurately represent a trip that I didn’t take. This week, I finally decided to tackle that project and lo and behold, it didn’t turn out to be that difficult. He took amazing pictures and his descriptions of his experiences there were very thorough. In fact, even though I wasn’t there, I kind of feel like I was!  

Without further ado, here are my scrapbook pages of Brian’s trip to India. You’ll notice that these pages represent a brief overview of what he did in India. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to sufficiently relay the amazing blessing Brian experienced in India. His heart for the people grew in ways he didn’t think possible. He loved going on this trip. It stretched, challenged, blessed, encouraged and grew him. It was a tremendous privilege.

India- the team web  India- ministry web India- mountain beauty webIndia- jaipur web

 

 

 

 

I love taking the boys to the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Each trip is full of discoveries.

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Becoming “living sculptures.”

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Discovering a record player and roasting marshmallows.

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Experimenting with rubbings and paper hats.

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Checking out African masks.

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It was a super fun day!

“To read or not to read? Now that’s a silly question.”

Here are some of my favorites from this year:

mitford

The Mitford and Father Tim books by Jan Karon

I love these books. All of them. They make me smile and laugh and pray for imaginary characters. Visiting Mitford is a dream of mine- alas if it only existed on an actual map!

overcoming fear

Overcoming Fear, Worry and Anxiety by Elyse Fitzpatrick

After several night lying awake with random worries running through my head I picked up this book. Elyse is one of my favorite authors and God used her ability to explain the Word to greatly minister to my anxious heart.

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The Good Earth by Pearl Buck

This book was another recommended resource for my trip to China. It helped me understand rural China in a newer and richer way. The Good Earth is superbly written and gives great insight and clarity into the time and culture.

one summer

One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a nonfiction book that reads like a novel, captivating the reader and drawing her into a different time. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Charles Lindbergh, Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, Henry Ford and Jack Dempsey are all star characters.

isaiah

Isaiah: God Saves Sinners by Raymond Ortlund

It has a super boring and academic looking cover, but don’t judge! This book helped me see the book of Isaiah through the lens of the gospel. It is rich, deep, challenging, and extremely gospel centered. A quote (I had a hard time picking just one):

If you are in Christ, whatever God is doing in your life right now is not an experiment that he might abandon if he gets fed up with you. You need to know that God would have to stop being God before he’d quit on you. And why is God devoted to you? It’s not because you risk looking like a failure. You already do. So do I. It’s because God will never let his purpose fail. The defeat of grace to sinners would be the defeat of God.

redeeming love

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Redeeming Love is a retelling of the Biblical Hosea story set in the gold rush days. It is a powerful story of grace, forgiveness and redemption. It will stick with me for a long time.

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Walking Across Egypt by Clyde Edgerton

I loved this book. It’s funny, entertaining, and well written. It’s a quick read, and well worth your time. Edgerton has a way of putting you right into the mind of his characters- quirks and all.

because he loves

Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life by Elyse Fitzpatrick

Absolutely one of my favorites of all time. Learning afresh about Christ’s love and the affect the gospel has on my everyday life has completely transformed me. I am privileged to be able to lead a group of ladies through a study of this book and feel so blessed to pass on these same life-changing truths to others.

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During the Christmas season nativity scenes abound with good reason. Even secular artists that don’t acknowledge God for the majority of the year sing of the amazing blessing of the miracle baby lying in the manger. We read the Christmas story again and again, marveling at the angels, the shepherds, the wise men, Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Has the story become so familiar that we fail to see the grace lying in the manger?

…Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. -Philippians 2:6-11

The Son of God, who resided in heaven “made himself nothing” and came to this fallen world to pay the unspeakable price for the weight of our sin. That is grace. Amazing, mind-blowing, out of the this world, undeserved grace. It is grace that had it’s beginnings in a humble manger, in a dirty stable, resting in the hands of an almighty God who used a young girl with an incredible faith and servant heart to usher in a brand new era, a new promise, and a new hope for all mankind.

It’s easy to feel good about ourselves, to pat ourselves on the back and say, “I’m a pretty good person. My good definitely outweighs the bad.” The truth is that the only hope that any of us have for true peace and true joy found it’s beginnings in that humble manger. The only hope we have for heaven rests on the sacrifice that the little baby made on our behalf years later. And the only way to access true hope is to take hold of that grace with a humble confession of our incapability to ever be “good enough” or to earn a place in heaven. We must turn away from our sin, our pride, and our confidence in ourselves and the place every hope on the grace that appeared in the manger.

Even at our best, doing our best can never be sufficient to earn a place in heaven. Only as we stand in Jesus may we feel the pleasure of God Most High upon us, his unworthy servants. – Iain Duguid

I used to think that essentially, I was a “good person.” I kept relatively well together, I volunteered, I had goals, didn’t drink or smoke or do drugs, my language was decent, I didn’t steal or murder…. You get the idea.

So, why is being “good” never good enough? In the years since my conversion, God has revealed that all of my good morals, good actions, and good intentions will never secure me a place in heaven.

There came a day that the gospel was presented to me. On that day, God opened my ears and heart to hear His message with a new understanding. God showed me that nothing I could ever do would secure a place for me in heaven. No amount of bible study, prayer, or reading of spiritual books would ever bring me into a precious relationship with our heavenly Father. Baptism and confirmation couldn’t do it. Going to church throughout my life couldn’t do it. Giving money and volunteering couldn’t do it either. I needed a rescuer.

Isaiah 64:6 says:

But we all are like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

The only thing that could make me right with God was surrendering. I needed to surrender my desires, my plans, my reputation for being good… my very life. I needed to turn away from my desire for perfection, approval and control and place my trust and faith in the crucified Savior Jesus. He is the rescuer that God has sent into our world to rescue not just me from sin and hell, but anyone who repents and believes.

God called me to Himself at a church camp named Lake Louise when I was 16 years old. I remember being overwhelmed by the realization that Christ died on a cross to pay for my sins. Even though I had this reputation for being “good,” I knew that the only One that was truly Good was Christ. He was Good and he died. I was not good, I deserved hell, and here I was faced with the reality of what my sin had cost. I knew that I did not deserve the blood that was spilled for me. I knew that I did not deserve the life that I was living.

But at that cross, I also knew that I was forgiven. I knew that Christ had paid my debt in full. I knew that I was His child- bought and paid for, forgiven and loved.

Jesus gave His life so that I could live. Twenty years ago, at the foot of a wooden cross next to a lake I decided to give my life to Him. To live for His glory rather than my own.

God, in His abundant grace, has shown me that there is nothing good in me apart from Him. Everything even remotely good is because of Christ’s death on a cross. His sacrifice paid for my sins. I was born a sinner, separated from God.

Today, I am a new creation. I still struggle with perfectionism and false labels. But I know who I really am. I am a sinner saved by amazing grace. Beautiful, undeserved, merciful grace. Romans 4:7-8 says:

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.

At Christmas, we don’t typically go around saying “Jesus is the reason for the season!” We also don’t usually have a birthday party for Jesus. Instead I give thanks for the rescuer that was sent on my behalf. The one who had the most humble beginnings and yet changed the world. We try to teach our kids that we give gifts because He was the greatest gift the world would ever receive. We give because we are grateful. We give because we are loved beyond belief and reason.

Because of Him, we can face the truth about ourselves and declare with confidence:

You’re more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe. You’re more loved and welcomed than you ever dared hope. – Elyse Fitzpatrick.

That, my friends is where we see the true magic of Christmas.

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