We drove down to my parents house for Christmas.  I am just beginning to sort through all the pictures.  The weather was beautiful.  I took advantage of all the sun and worked on sun flare photography.  (Here is the website that taught me how to manually set my camera.)  Being surrounded by family was so refreshing and it was lovely to include my nephew and niece in some of the photos.

my writing club

It all started when I volunteered to be a chaperone for my oldest son's kindergarten field trip.

Another mom and I sat near each other on the noisy bus as it bounced along slowly, giving us plenty of time to talk.

She told me she had written a novel. I liked her instantly.  It was fun to get to know her and she made chaperoning even more enjoyable.

Some days passed and the next time I saw my new novel-writing friend she said a mutual friend of ours had told her, "Cheryl is a really good writer too.  She has had two of her articles published in MomSense Magazine."  My new novel-writing friend asked why I didn't tell her this in our converstation about writing?

I don't know why I didn't.  I guess because since my initial publications, I have unsuccessfully tried to get other articles published.  Also, I was simply in awe of the fact that she wrote an entire novel!

I am glad she asked me about my writing because later when she decided to form a writing club, she asked me to join.

The idea of being a member of a writing club sounded fun and intriguing, but I honestly never thought our group, made up of busy moms, would last.  I thought it would be like the time my neighbor asked me to do P90X with her.  (Ninety for the ninety days it takes to complete the intense exercise program.)  It really became P10X for me, because that is how many days I lasted. 

But, this group has stood the test of time and I absolutely love being a member.  We meet once a month and our time together is always amazing and inspirational.  These ladies are so talented and I am a little bit in awe of how creative and artistic they are.  They are beautiful writers and I can get lost in their stories.  We all write different genres with various writing styles and we learn so much from each other.  We share our hearts and we continually encourage each other in the pursuit of publication.

These ladies enrich my life.

These ladies also remind me that it is okay to dream!

Though my days are filled with laundry, packing school lunches, helping my boys with homework, chasing my youngest around the house, reading stories, working my part time job, fixing dinner, cleaning, wiping away tears and snuggling my boys, in the back of my mind I can still dream big. 

Our writing club has been a gift.  I am blessed by these women.

decorating for Christmas

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace"  (Isaiah 9:6, KJV).

A pivotal moment in history.  A profound expression of God's love.

Every year decorating for Christmas feels a little magical.   We always feel the awe and majesty of the "Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."

We are so grateful for His presence in our lives.

first snow

This week was tough. 

It's not that anything really went wrong but in general time slipped through our fingers too fast, little things frustrated us easily and our week's full schedule suffocated our down time.  By Friday we were all exhausted. 

So when the snow gently begin to fall mid-week it was a much needed reprieve.  The first snow fall is a big deal to our boys.  They have been asking since August when it was going to snow.   They love snowy days filled with sledding, snowboarding, ice skating, snowmen and/or snowball fights.

It was a lovely moment.  I stopped what I was trying to get done and joined my boys outside.  I think for the first time all week I exhaled deeply.

One a Month - November

We just finished month two of our family mission to do a better job of sharing God's love to the world "out there" through giving.  (If you missed our introduction to this family journey read here.) 
Last month we prayed and gave financially to an organization that supports orphans.  This month, I wanted to give more tangible items. 
To kick off month two of giving we decided to participate in the food drive at our church.  I fully planned on taking my kids grocery shopping so we would have bags of food; however, the food drive snuck up on me and it seemed like in a blink of an eye the day was here and we had not shopped.  Ugh.   I thought about not worrying about it and letting others do the giving.  I can wrestle with the "give big or don't give at all" mentality.   But I promised myself I wasn't going to stress about this.  I want intentionally giving more to become gently integrated into our lives.  Then, hopefully thinking of others will become inherently ingrained in our hearts so that while we are shopping we think, "I'll just grab a couple more items for those in need," instead of not doing anything at all because we think we can't give enough to really make a significant difference.   So, I shook off my feelings of failure so early in this journey and told the kids to look through the pantry for food. 
It all went smoothly except for my kids trying to give already opened boxes and my youngest crying, screaming and chasing my middle son around the house demanding the chocolate chips because he wanted to eat them.  My middle son was running at high speed from his brother, the chocolate chips raised high above his head, shouting: "But...they are for the orphans!"   
I guess I didn't do a good enough job explaining who the food  was for
Also this month, we wanted our kids to feel giving a little deeper.  So we decided they were going give away some of their toys.  Can you feel their pain? 
Our church takes donation for kids items.  Twice a year, our church opens our doors to the community to come shop for free used kids clothes, toys, diapers, name it.   
We gave each kid a bag and told them to fill it with toys.
After some whining on their end and coaxing on our end, their bags were filled.  Then when my kids weren't looking my husband and I filled up quite a few more bags and we dropped them off at church. 
Giving seems to go hand-in-hand with also receiving.  We are all enjoying our gift of a de-cluttered home and less toys to pick up. 
Next month is Christmas, the season of giving...that should be an easy month.