“I Knew She’d Love it!”

Linnea knew she’d love it!

The middle of January is drawing near, and I am supposed to be writing my Christmas thank-you notes. Actually, by now I think I am supposed to have already mailed my thank-you notes. 

To be exact, I’ve only put off writing my thank yous on paper until now. I’ve written them in my head over and over! I keep pondering the lovely, heartfelt gifts my family and I received this Christmas, and I feel so loved. Of course, I don’t usually write a note for every single gift I receive, especially if I’ve already thanked the gift-giver in person. But you know how it is. Some gifts are given with such love, thoughtfulness and effort, that you simply must express your gratitude thoroughly in writing! 

Anyone who knows me well knows that gift giving is one of my love languages. It’s how I show loved ones that I know them and care for them and treasure them dearly. 

I knew she'd love it!


I knew she'd love it!


I knew she'd love it!
I knew she'd love it!

 So I suppose the reverse is true to some degree; receiving good gifts is one way I feel loved because it shows that I am known and someone cares for and treasures me, too.

My oldest daughter, Linnea, shares this love language as well. She is constantly giving gifts to me, her father, her sister, and nearly anyone else within reach. She loves to give! And she often gives good gifts: a baby toy for a friend with a new baby, a toy cell phone for her little sister who loves talk and pretend, and a sweet song for her daddy who loves anything musical.  

This Christmas Linnea gave me a beautiful silver bracelet with three shiny silver charms; one says “joy,” which is Linnea’s middle name, another says “hope,” which is Laurel’s middle name, and the third one says, “Mom.” She picked out the charms all by herself, and according to my husband, the store clerk nearly broke down and bawled when Linnea told her the significance of the charms she selected. What a sweetie! 

Also, in her Friday art class, Linnea made me the cutest, most colorful little “pinch pot” with a lid. 

Linnea knew I'd love it!


What a treasure! I store my bracelet and earrings in it every night. 

Did you know that giving good gifts is related to the Golden Rule? In fact, Matthew 7:9-12 says, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” 

Ultimately, the greatest Gift-Giver is God. As James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift if from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” 

So in light of that verse, this is my thank-you note to God for some of the good, perfect and memorable gifts He has graciously given me and for which I am ever so thankful. 

Thank You, Father, for these gifts You knew I’d love. Thank You for… 

1. a smile that reveals what she didn’t for Christmas – teeth 

thank You


2. Christmas doodling by a 4-year-old who just rediscovered markers 

thank You


3. hot tea in a tiny teacup prepared just for me by a very lady-like 7-year-old 

thank You


4. groggy hugs just after naptime from a cuddly 4-year-old 

5. cozy storytimes together with a favorite book and two favorite bears 

thank You


6. warm, delicious home-cooked meals and uplifting conversations shared with very dear friends in Minnesota and in Iowa 

7. gleeful cries near the Advent Calendar day after day 

8. the feel and fragrance of a carefully selected Balsam Fir 

thank You


9. delicate little fingers plinking out “Away in a Manager” on the piano 

thank You


1o. little secrets that slip innocently from the lips of a 4-year-old overjoyed about buying a gift for her daddy 

11. little secrets that are broadcast loudly, yet innocently, from the observant lips of a 4-year-old who likes when packages arrive at the door 

thank You


12. carefully crafted gifts from the creative hands of a 7-year-old 

thank You


13. a deeply heartfelt “Oh, thank you, Mommy!” from a 4-year-old receiving her own copy of a treasured book 

14. the sweet little exchange of gifts between to very loving sisters on Christmas Eve 

thank You


15. the giddy, child-like excitement in a grown man receiving the latest accessory for his guitar  

16. the giddy, child-like excitement of a grown man heading off to pull an ice house onto a frozen lake 

17. the sweet creamy taste of homemade chocolate fudge 

18. the glow of Christmas lights crusted over with snow 

thank You


19. finding and catching up with very dear old friends who live far, far away 

20. and snow falling on snow falling on snow falling on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and many days thereafter 

thank You


I think I hear God saying, “I knew she’d love it!”

The Christmas Story

Our whole family participated in the children’s Christmas program at our church last Sunday. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun, but we are all glad it is over! Whew!

Linnea played the part of the youngest daughter in the family. She had seven lines, and she was quite a convincing little actress! I played the part of the mom. A real stretch, I know. I was glad I only had three lines!

Laurel performed several songs as part of the children’s choir.

And Michael performed three songs as a caroler and as part of a trio.

You can check out more photos of the dress rehearsal simply by hopping over to our church’s blog. Enjoy!

Home for Christmas

Home. They say it’s where your story begins. And they say there’s really no place like it.

Last month we visited the only place that I called “home” the first 22 years of my life. It’s the red-brick house my parents brought me home to as a newborn. In the pink bedroom, I shared a bed with all my dolls and listened to the whippoorwills and lonesome train whistles crying in the distance. In the cozy den, I listened to Mama play John Denver songs on the piano. In the backyard, I learned to swing and ride a bike and dig in the dirt. In the front yard, I played cars and trucks and cowboys and Indians with my brother. On the front porch, Daddy let me sit on the bucket as he cranked homemade ice cream on hot summer evenings. In the paved car port, I roller-skated with my headphones blaring Madonna tunes. In the kitchen, Mama let me lick the chocolate icing off the beaters, and Daddy shared his Dr. Pepper breaks with me. And through the big picture window, I often gazed dreamily, wondering about the future and waiting for the next package or the next visitor or the next season or just the next bus ride to school.

So last week, as we drove slowly down West 27th Street, I gazed dreamily at that red-brick house perched on two-and-a-half wooded acres bordering Lake Keystone. It had changed. In the front yard, many of the blackjack oak trees my brother and I played under were gone. Only their stumps remained. In the backyard, someone else’s swing set was placed closer to the patio than mine had been. And all around the house, new windows with white trim had replaced the old ones with brown trim. Even the big picture window overlooking the front yard was new and improved.

All those alterations seem subtle, though, when I consider how my view of home has changed since moving away from Oklahoma 12 years ago. Often, I’ve been confused. Is home where I grew up? Is home where my family is? Is home where I live now? Is home where my children grow up? Is home where everyone knows my name? Is home where I celebrate Christmas? Where is home exactly?

As a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, I spend a lot of time at our home here in Minnesota. Linnea and Laurel do, too. For us, home is more than a house to sleep in. It’s a comfortable place to grow and learn and worship and play and eat and rest and entertain. And I love it here; I really do. I love the memories we are making as our daughters twirl around these rooms on their tiptoes, making music with piano keys, guitar strings, made-up songs and girly giggles. I am so blessed to be home with them, teaching them and making this a soft place for Michael to land when his work day ends.

Yet my heart still longs for home. I am still wondering about the future and waiting for what’s next. These days the Bible is the big picture window through which I gaze heavenward. The Bible says none of us are truly home anywhere on this earth because God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…” -Philippians 3:20

Heaven is home. Jesus is from there, and He’s back there now preparing a place for us, just as He says in John 14:1-3:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

Home is where Jesus is. And He’s busy preparing a place for me because my citizenship is in heaven. I’m just passing through Minnesota. How should I respond to that truth? Shouldn’t I set my mind on things above? Shouldn’t I prepare room in my heart for Jesus? Shouldn’t I trust Him with all of my heart?

Someday we’ll be together in heaven. But in the meantime, if Jesus is in my heart, then my heart is at home no matter where this earthly body roams. And no matter where you roam, we pray your heart may also be home in Christ Jesus this Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

No Ho-Ho-Ho

This is probably going to really offend some folks, but I have a confession to make. I’m not a fan of Santa Claus. 

I know. I know. Please don’t get me wrong; I like the true story of Saint Nicholas. But the whole jolly ole’ man in a red suit, North Pole toy factory, elf thing, I just don’t care for it much. And it’s not because I didn’t grow up with Santa. My parents did Santa. It was a serious tradition in our house. They even jingled bells on Christmas Eve to convince my brother and me it was time for bed because Santa was landing on the roof!  

I remember believing in the magical ideas and feeling very excited about Santa as a small child, so much so that I didn’t understand the true, miraculous Christmas story. I sang “Away in a Manger” with my Kindergarten class at school, and I had no idea who or what I was singing about. Sad, isn’t it?

But that is just why I don’t like Santa. The Santa tradition can completely distract us from the true meaning of Christmas — Jesus’s miraculous birth. Plus, Santa himself takes on some creepy characteristics, sneaking into homes, watching to see whether you’re naughty or nice, judging you on your behavior, and encouraging greediness. (My kids don’t need any help with that!)

This piece on Santa Claus, written by Noel Piper, articulates my thoughts almost exactly, plus some aspects of Santa I’d never before considered.


What do you think? Are you a die-hard Santa fan? Or do you think he’s a distraction from the true meaning of Christmas?

Getting in the Christmas Spirit

We’ve been getting in the Christmas spirit around here. Since returning from our action-packed trip south in November (which I promise to post about later), we have:

played outside in the lightly falling snow,

rode a tractor-drawn wagon to hunt for a tree,

found the perfect tree,

smiled about finding the perfect tree,

lighted the perfect tree,

trimmed the perfect tree,

posed for a photo in front of the tree despite questionable nap hair,

hunted for candy canes,

sipped hot chocolate,

guzzled hot chocolate,

served hot chocolate,

taken a horse-drawn wagon ride, which would have been a sleigh ride if it had been AFTER the blizzard,

gotten all dressed up  to go see Cinderella live at the Children’s Theatre in Minneapolis,

endured our first blizzard of the season (sorry, it was way too cold to document with a photograph)

performed “Away in a Manger” on piano at the local nursing home,

and sung “Away in a Manger” for the local nursing home residents.

Whew! It’s no wonder we’re tired!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year


This year’s Christmas card photo was taken in November on a scenic old railroad bridge over the Dungeoness River in Sequim, Washington. Gramma Martin was riding in the rental car with us and told us we ought to stop and check out the bridge. Heavy rains earlier that week made the Dungeoness River rush rapidly below the bridge. It was a beautiful spot, especially with the fall foliage. Here are some other favorite shots from the bridge.



“Is It Christmas, Mommy?”

Every day this month, my youngest has asked at least once, sometimes more frequently, “Is it Christmas, Mommy?” I keep saying over and over, “Not yet! It’s Advent.”

For some reason, my answer isn’t getting through to her 3-year-old brain.

This afternoon I wrapped all of my gifts for the girls and my hubby while the girls were playing in their rooms. When my youngest came downstairs, I told her to look under the tree. She noticed the gifts but didn’t seem too excited. Then I explained that all the gifts in the red wrapping paper with gold stars belonged to her. Her eyes bugged out and she put the most shocked expression on her face. “For me! What did you put in them?” As if I would tell her!

I explained that the gifts would be a surprise that she would unwrap on Christmas Day. She started jumping up and down with the child-like Christmas excitement you’d expect from a 3-year-old.

Later the girls wrapped a gift for their daddy. They almost used all the Scotch tape in the process. When he arrived home from work, my 6-year-old met him at the door reporting excitedly that she had wrapped a present for him and it was waiting under the tree. Not to be out-done in the reporting, my 3-year-old said, “Yes, Daddy! We wrapped you a present! It’s pajamas!”

As you can imagine, big sister was pretty upset with little sister for ruining the surprise. Tears were shed. But I’m sure they both will be telling this story over and over again for Christmases to come; someday it will be funny to them.

Christmas Favorites

One week until Christmas, and everything is feeling quite festive here. We’ve set aside the school books for now and are focusing on reading our Christmas favorites and doing ornament crafts. Michael even helped the girls build a ginger bread house a couple nights ago!

Snow globes are Laurel’s Christmas favorite this year, along with candy canes. She just can’t get enough candy canes!

Linnea’s Christmas favorites are my homemade hot rolls and the Nutcracker. Actually both girls are quite fond of anything related to the Nutcracker. It all started last winter when Macy’s Department Store in Minneapolis had a special Christmas display of the Nutcracker. They make a pretty big deal out of their Christmas displays, and it certainly captured the girls’ imaginations. For the longest time, Laurel associated any trip to Minneapolis with the Nutcracker. Even in July, she’d ask if we were going to see the Nutcracker while downtown. It sounded so ridiculous but made perfect sense to her.

Last spring when we signed up with the homeschooling group, I saw that tickets were available for the “Swinging Nutcracker” at Orchestra Hall, so I had to buy them! On Dec. 5 the three of us girls attended the much-anticipated performance with a big homeschooler crowd. We sat in the second row, and the girls were awestruck by the ballerinas and the 95-piece symphony orchestra. It was a lovely production. It felt like it ended entirely too soon. (I’ve seen the full-length ballet twice, so this hour-long performance left me wanting more!) Afterward we met Michael for lunch at Macaroni Grill and then the girls each picked out a Nutcracker at Michael’s craft store.

The next morning we made a frigid trek to get the Christmas tree. It was a bitter cold and windy morning to be outside so long. The temperature was about 15, so we all layered on the snowpants and snow gear. We found a nice tree rather quickly and loaded back onto the tractor-drawn wagon to return to the warm-up area. 

The warm-up area at Z’s Trees (http://www.Zstrees.com) offers free hot apple cider and free peanuts in the shell. Laurel was so hungry and excited that she popped a whole peanut — shell and all — into her mouth and started chewing. I don’t know how long she’d been chewing it when I noticed the puzzled look in her eyes and figured out what was going on in that little mouth of hers. She didn’t need too much prompting to spit the mess out and eat one of the nuts I had cracked for her. Linnea right away made the connection with her new Nutcracker at home and stashed some peanuts to bring home and crack.

Once we recovered from the cold and got the tree home, decorating was a hoot. Both girls totally got in on the action. This was a first for Laurel because last year she was completed distracted by playing with a calculator and somehow missed most of the tree decorating!

After the tree, we set up the nativity, and then Linnea and Laurel spent all their free time playing with it. You can’t imagine all the unconventional visitors baby Jesus has had! Princesses, snowmen, you name it. And all of them evidently have to take naps during their visit. One evening I noticed all the people in the nativity set (plus unconventional visitors) lying down and covered up with little tissue paper blankets. I should have taken a picture! It was priceless.

Tonight while I finished stuffing Christmas letters into envelopes, we watched the “Celtic Woman Christmas” DVD. The girls love the Celtic Women http://www.celticwoman.com/. Laurel watches a few songs and then dashes off to her room to grab a big, fancy dress-up gown of her own. She dances around the living room and tries to sing all the songs at the top of her lungs. Linnea, meanwhile, is fascinated with the violinist on Celtic Woman. She pretends to hold a violin and bow and fiddles along to the music. She sings, too.

This Sunday Linnea will be singing as a choir member in the Christmas production at our church. It is a children’s musical called “A Christmas Carol,” a modern version with some slight similarities to the classic production by Dickens. She is most excited because last night at practice she got to stand next to her newest friend, Lila Selam. Lila is 6 and is from Ethiopia. Lila and her little sister Ella Furtuna were adopted by our close friends Bob and Kate. What a memorable Christmas this will be for their family! You can follow their story at http://romans815.wordpress.com.

We’ve got about 4 inches of snow right now, and the weatherman just said there’s a blizzard warning. We’re supposed to get 8 inches by noon tomorrow, and more after that. The high is 20, so there’s almost no doubt we’ll have a white Christmas! My favorite kind!

Enjoy getting ready for Christmas with those you love!

The perfect tree!
The perfect tree!
The Nutcracker fans.
The Nutcracker fans.
Tree Love
Tree Love
Laurel with her special angel
Laurel with her special angel
Linnea with her special angel
Linnea with her special angel
Playing with the nativity set
Playing with the nativity set

New Favorite Board Game

Our family just played a new board game tonight that’s perfect for family fun at Christmas! It’s called “To Bethlehem” and it’s for ages 4 to 104. A couple families from our homeschool group spoke highly of it, so I ordered it and we all played (including 3-year-old Laurel). We had a great time making our way to Bethlehem with 5 sheckels in hand. You can order the game online from Family Man Ministries at http://www.familymanweb.com/ .

‘Tis the Season to Share the Joys of Christmas!

A close friend of mine e-mailed me this fun little Christmas survey, and I thought I’d share my answers here, too.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I use wrapping paper if the gift is rectangular or somehow boxed or being mailed. I use gift bags, too.

2. Real tree or artificial? Now that we have kids, it must be real! And certain body parts should become partially numb in the pursuit of selecting the perfect tree on the farm and cutting it down!

3. When do you put up the tree? the weekend following Thanksgiving

4. When do you take the tree down? shortly after Christmas when it becomes more of a fire hazard

5. Do you like eggnog? No! Give me hot chocolate instead!

6. Favorite gift received as a child? my “Mandy” doll because she came with a doll bed and lots of doll clothes that my mother made for her

7. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes – we have a Fontanini set that my aunt began for us about 10 years ago, and she still adds to it. The figures go in a stable that Michael and I built together several years ago. Also, this year I bought the Fischer Price Little People nativity set for my daughters. They love playing with it! It is fun to watch them bring all sorts of other little toys (cars, dolls, etc.) to “go see baby Jesus!”

8. Hardest person to buy for? It’s a different person every year.

9. Easiest person to buy for? Linnea – there’s so much girly stuff out there for her age, and she loves it all!

10. Worst Christmas gift ever received? concrete blocks wrapped up to look like a big, heavy gift (I think there was a check in the attached envelope, but it was still disappointing to unwrap!)

11. Mail or email Christmas card? mail it!

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? “It’s a Wonderful Life”

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? in the summer or while on vacation; I always try to do the bulk of my Christmas shopping BEFORE Thanksgiving because we end up mailing many gifts out of state

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? sure

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? home-made cinnamon rolls, fudge, chocolate desserts, hot rolls, ham, cranberry sauce, Chex mix, sugar cookies

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? red or clear but NOT multi-colored

17. Favorite Christmas song? I have two favorites: “The Holly and the Ivy” and “O’ Come, O’ Come, Emmanuel.”

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? stay home out of the snow or go to my aunt’s house nearby

19. Can you name Santa’s reindeer? Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph

20. Do you have an Angel on top or a star? a star on top but lots of angels elsewhere

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? morning, except maybe one gift Christmas Eve

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? greedy people and people who are uptight about calling it “Christmas”

23. Did you believe in Santa when you were little? I did. But it was always a little creepy thinking about some strange guy coming to our house in the middle of the night. We don’t “do” Santa at our house now because it’s confusing and distracting, especially with a December birthday girl in our family!

24. White Christmas or no snow? White Christmas, of course! Those of us who live in Minnesota deserve a white Christmas for all the cold and snow we deal with in fall/winter/spring!

25. What is your Christmas wish for this year? May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!