A Life Stirred

2014 in Review

So, it’s almost 2015.  Doesn’t that sound surreal?

Where’s my flying car?

Maybe it’s because I love to plan.  Or because I love lists.  But a new year stirs in me a level of excitement and anticipation that I just can’t explain.

Eeeeeee!

Really, I think it’s because a new year feels so fresh.  All those I-wish-I-had’s of 2014 can be fulfilled in 2015.  I really can lose weight/mature spiritually/be more hospitable/exercise more/develop deep friendships/floss daily/pray more…

But the truth is:  I can’t do all those things.  Not in my own strength.  I will always fall short of my goals.  UNLESS it is God who gives me the goals and the ability to pursue them.

So, let’s talk about 2014 for a minute, shall we?  I didn’t make any resolutions or goals, but I did have a word of the year: listen.  Obviously, I didn’t know how it would play out, but I felt that the Lord gave me that word as a focus for the year.

Last January, I had all kinds of ideas about what that word would mean in the coming year.  But as only God can do, He took that word (and all my ideas) and did something even better!  He showed me the joy that comes when I listen to and obey His voice.

In May, God asked me to let go of facebook.  I really didn’t want to; it just seemed too hard, too lonely, too weird.  But I did it.  And it was seriously one of the best decisions I made in 2014!  Facebook had a hold on me that I didn’t quite realize until I shut it off.  That’s not to say it’s been all easy and sunshine and rainbows.  (But I’ll write more about that later.  Lucky you.)

Then in August, God showed me that I had been a gossiper.  I had been far too casual with my words for far too long.  God spoke to me about my sin, and I listened and allowed Him to work in my heart.  And by His grace, He transformed me, and I am not the same!  I even spent a whole month writing about Taming my Tongue, which actually had more to do with listening that I realized!

So, as I look at the fresh start of a new year, I can’t wait to see how 2015 unfolds.  Sure, I will probably make a few lists and pick a word for the year and write some goals.  But really, I want 2015 to be year marked by more listening.  Listening and obeying God.  Because that is always worth it!

Yes!

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Christmas and Control

Well, then.  Christmas.  It’s here.  It’s over.

Somehow I’m always surprised how quickly Christmas is here and then gone.  It shouldn’t surprise me.  We spend a 24 days (or more) preparing and getting excited for Christmas.  And then, like any other day of the year, it’s over in 24 hours.

To me, Christmas is really a balance of eagerly anticipating the birth of our Savior and enjoying the season and all the festivities associated with it AND keeping my expectations in check.

Not an easy task, really.  But I thought I was nailing it this year.  I purposefully kept things simple and avoided over-commitment.  We did a nightly Advent reading as a family.  It was all going well.

And then about a week before Christmas, I looked at the 10 day weather forecast.  Christmas day was going to be 45° and rainy.

I hate to even admit this…but that forecast bothered me for days.

For crying out loud, we’ve had snow on the ground since November 1st!!  If anyone deserves a white Christmas, we do!  Rain?!?!  45°?!  That’s ridiculous!

A few days later (after a lot of pouting weather in my head…and out loud a little), I realized that the forecast was shining a spotlight on my need for control.  I was mad because I couldn’t control the weather.  How silly is that!

But then I started to realize that the weather wasn’t the only thing I was trying to control.  In my head, I had a list of things I wanted to be just-so before Christmas Day.  And those things (or the absence of them) determined my joy (or lack of it).

I didn’t really figure out how to release my desire for control on everything.  This longing to control my environment runs deep and extends to more than just Christmas.  Yet, I think I made progress this week…by recognizing the problem (that’s the first step, right?).

In any case, it was 45° and rainy today, and it didn’t ruin my day.  So there’s that.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

PS I know this isn’t the kind of post you’d expect on Christmas day, but it’s been on my mind lately.  And I wondered if I’m the only one to struggle with Christmas Control.  I suspect that I’m not…

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Sharing Christmas :: The Theory and The Real

This is part of the Sharing Christmas link-up.  If you are new to my blog, welcome.  I hope you will stick around.  If you are one of my 7 regular readers, I love each and every one of you.

Ever since Ben and I got married in 2008, I’ve been dying to create some family Christmas traditions.  I’m pretty sure I remember hounding Ben during our first Christmas together (a month after our wedding) about what traditions we could create:  “Think!  What do you want to do year after year with our kids?  Choose a meaningful tradition NOW!”

But the funny thing about traditions is that you can’t force them.  For the most part, traditions are something that you do one year; it goes well (and a majority of your family enjoys it); so you do it again next year and the year after that…until it’s a tradition.

Christmas Tradition Fail: Make a tree topper that reflects the past year.   We played a lot of games in 2010.  We did it for 4 years and then ran out of ideas.

Christmas Tradition Fail: Make a tree topper that reflects the past year. I guess we played a lot of games in 2010. We held on to that for 4 years and then ran out of ideas.

So, I’ve been patiently (ok, ok, not patiently) waiting to have a chance to develop some Morse Family Christmas Traditions.  This year is our year!  Joanna is old enough to understand some of the concepts of Christmas, and Claire is old enough to participate without meltdowns (most of the time).

It’s been awesome!  I’ve been careful to try to keep our December simple and to hold my plans loosely (which, if you know me and my love of plans, is easier said than done).  But since I’m so excited and since it’s been going pretty well, I’d love to share some of what we’ve been doing.

Prepare Him Room…

To me, I’d like the preparation for Jesus’ arrival to be the biggest part of our Advent traditions.  I want to talk about Jesus all month long (really, all year long), not just a Christmas morning shout-out.  So, this is how we’ve approached that this year…

Our Family’s Advent Plan (in Theory):  Using the Jesus Storybook Bible, we’ve been reading one story a night (there are conveniently 24 stories from Creation to Jesus’ birth).  Since “every story whispers His name”, it’s a perfect way to work towards Jesus’ birth.  We also have brown paper bags that the girls open each night.  The bag contains an item that relates to the story in some way.  For example, during the story of Creation, the girls colored a picture of the world.  Simple stuff.

Our Advent bags

Our Advent bags.

Our Family’s Advent Plan (for real):  We have opened a bag and read from the Jesus Storybook Bible every night.  The girls love the bags (it’s an awesome real-life way to teach sharing and patience…ie there’s a lot of crying).  There was one perfect night–tree lit, “fire” crackling, living room clean, girls sitting quietly and still as Ben read.  Most nights, there’s a lot of squirming and crying and fussing.  It’s really ironic because the girls will sit through 27 consecutive readings of Curious George and the Police Station, but they can’t seem to handle 10 minutes of a Bible story.  Grrr…

This was the picture perfect moment.  Generally, there's a lot more chaos during our Advent activity.

This was the picture-perfect moment. Generally, there’s a lot more chaos.

My Advent Plan (in Theory):  I planned to participate in She Reads Truth Advent series.  It also walks you through the Old Testament, so it actually matches up with our family’s plan.

My Advent Plan (for real):  I’m still participating, but I didn’t start until December 9th.  So I’m really really far behind.  It’s still been good, and I’m still preparing my heart for Jesus’ arrival.  So that’s a win.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

December can be OVERwhelming as far as activities and expectations and stress goes.  I wanted to be very intentional about what we did this month.  I want to enjoy the season, but not get lost in all the activity.  You know?

This is really a balance.  And I think it varies for each person.  We’ve got to stop comparing our Decembers.  For real.

Our Family’s Festive Plan (in Theory):  At the beginning of the month, we picked four Christmas-y activities that we were going to deliberately do this month–the Christmas Light Parade, cookie decorating with friends, a PJ Christmas Light Drive, and the Christmas Eve service at church.

Light Parade family selfie.

Light Parade family selfie.

Todders and sugar.  What could go wrong?

Todders and sugar. What could go wrong?

Our Family’s Festive Plan (for real): For real, this has been even better than I expected!  We’ve added in other activities as they came up, but because there was no pressure to do it all, the extra stuff is just fun and stress-free.  [I might note that it’s been so helpful to be facebook-free this month.  It’s a lot harder to compare my December to yours when I have no idea what you’ve been doing.]

Our Christmas tree craft.  Pin worthy, right?

Our Christmas tree craft. Pin worthy, right?

Nativity scene playing....allll the time.

Nativity scene playing….allll the time.

We also spend a lot of time looking at (and touching) the tree.

We also spend a lot of time looking at (and touching) the tree.

So, what’s my point in all of this?  Well, it’s fun to share what we’ve been up to.  And I suspect this post will be helpful next year when I can’t quite remember what we did. But mostly, I want to encourage you to choose to do the things that will be enjoyable and beneficial for your family…and then let the rest go.  Yes.  Let it go.  Let it go.

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Ten on Ten: The Trapped Inside Edition

It was a very rainy/sleety/icy/snowy day.  So, we hunkered down inside.  On paper, that sounds so cozy and nice.  It was probably 60% cozy, 20% mundane, and 20% sassy and crabby (I’m not naming names or anything).

Checking out the snow situation.

Checking out the snow situation.

Laundry helpers.

Laundry helpers.

But this is what my laundry helpers really looked like:

Because she couldn't have all the clothes in her basket.  Trauma.

Because she couldn’t have all the clothes in her basket. Trauma.

Irresistible tree.

Irresistible tree.

Reading together.

Reading together.

"She Reads Truth" Advent reading.  I'm on Day 2.  Takin' it slooooow.

She Reads Truth” Advent reading. I’m on Day 1.  Takin’ it slooooow.

Christmas cookies and a Christmas episode of "West Wing."

Christmas cookies and a Christmas episode of “West Wing.”

Christmas cookies are a mess!

Christmas cookies are a mess!

"Mama, you need to do dishes!"  Thanks, Jo.

“Mama, you need to do dishes!” Thanks, Jo.

Independent play--a beautiful thing.

Independent play–a beautiful thing.

Joy to the world!!

Joy to the world!!

ten on ten button

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December Time Warp

It’s really no secret that I love time.  There’s just something about it that stirs my heart towards the Lord.

And there’s nothing like young-kiddo stage of life that makes time passage even more evident.  And depending on the day (and my mood), time either moves very, very slow (like 3:00 to 5:00 every. single. night) or very, very fast (like the last two years).

My current hobby is taking pictures that make me feel the ridiculousness of time-passage.

Two girls, one dress, and one tree:

blog 0900

Joanna (22 months)–December 2013

Claire, 17 months

Claire (17 months)–December 2014

Claire and the Christmas tree:

Claire checks out the Christmas tree last year.

December 2013

December 2014

December 2014

Joanna and her cousin:

December 2013 (Blurry  but awesome.)

December 2013 (Blurry but awesome.)

November 2014

November 2014

It’s just amazing how quickly my girls’ baby-hood/toddler-hood/childhood is flying by!  I want to be sure to enjoy it as much as I can…because it truly is so fleeting.  (To be clear, I don’t plan on enjoying the frustrations of these seasons…but I want to enjoy them in their current stage.  Because it’ll be gone before I know it!)

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The Secret of a Picture-Perfect December

I’ve figured it out.  I know how to have a picture-perfect December.  And because I’m so very kind, I’m going to share my secret with you.

Are you ready?  You should probably find a pen and notebook…because you’re going to want to take notes.  I’ll wait.

Ok, so the secret to a picture-perfect December….take perfect pictures.  Or rather take pictures of those perfect moments and then promptly forget all the not-as-perfect moments.

I’m not going to lie.  Seven days into December, and I feel like I’m nailing this Advent thing.  (Yes, I know.  Pride is not an attractive Advent attitude.  I’m sorry.)

We are using the Jesus Storybook Bible, and we’re working our way from creation to Jesus’ birth this month.  Every night, the girls open a bag to find some sort of tactile object related to the evening’s story.  (I’m channeling my inner-teacher.)

Nightly Advent activity.

Our Advent bags.

Not pictured:  The sobbing that occurs when a certain toddler finds out it’s not her turn to open the bag.  Or the sobbing that occurs when another certain toddler finds out she has to actually touch the bag.  Drama both ways.

Anyway, this whole family Advent thing has been going really well.  Like better than I even dared to hope.  Basically, this is the first year where we have kids who are actually almost old enough to get some of the meaning of Christmas.  And I’m so excited to start teaching them about it!  There is a special joy that comes from teaching your children about the Lord and watching them actually grasp some of the concepts.

There is also a certain amount of joy found in moments like the one pictured below…

Advent perfection.  We are nailing it.

A perfect Advent moment.

Of course, as with any “perfect” picture, there is chaos happening outside the frame.  I promise.  This perfect moment was just that:  a moment.  And yet, it is surely a moment worth remembering.  It is worth finding joy in those moments that go exactly like you wanted them to.

But the hang-up for so many of us (myself most definitely included) is that we jump right to comparison.  We compare our less-than-perfect moments to someone else’s (perceived) perfect moment.  Or we compare how we are nailing it to how others are falling short.  Or we take Pinterest pictures or facebook pictures at face-value and forget that there is almost certainly chaos just outside of the frame.

And then we stress out.  December seems to be the most compare-y month of all.  I can feel the stress we moms put on ourselves (and dude, I’m not even a feeler!).  We want to do it all.  We want to do every single, festive Christmas activity, and we find ourselves weary.  Oh so weary.

Yet, the weary world rejoices.  There is a thrill of hope.  Hope.  Hope for the weary.

falala_thrill_of_hopePREV

So, let’s enjoy this month.  Let’s allow the activities of December–the parties, the cookies, the decorations, the music–stir our affections for the Lord.  And let’s celebrate Him through it all.

And as those picture-perfect December moments start appearing everywhere we look (facebook, Instagram, blogs, Pinterest, and on and on), remember that a single picture is never the whole story.  Breathe.  And then go and capture your own “perfect” moments.

And post them on all the social media you can, and let the cycle continue.

And for a dose of real, here's Claire while we decorated the tree.  Not nailing it.

And for a dose of real, here’s Claire while we decorated the tree. Not nailing it.

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