Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Tomorrow begins the tradition of doing an advent (Advent means arrival) calendar in our family.  My Mom hand-made us a felt Advent calendar that resembles the one I grew up with and it's all set to go.  I love pulling out the little felt pieces and sharing the readings that point us to the Christmas story in the Bible.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon an ebook called Truth in Tinsel which gives you ideas of crafts, Bible verses and discussion questions to complete with your kids (specifically ages 2-5) for each day of Advent.  The book was a great deal and I took the boys out to invest in our craft supplies yesterday so that Big Brother and I can spend some time bonding around the Christmas story in a way that (hopefully) touches his heart over the next 24 days.

Our church is an advent acknowledging place (thankfully!) so we started our series this past weekend.  Pastor Bob reminded us that Jesus didn't ever instruct us to remember his birth, but to remember his death and resurrection - so to be mindful of his birth this season, but also to keep our eyes fixed on the truth that Jesus WILL come again.  As a community, we have been really challenged by our pastors to be sharing the gospel truth with the people in our lives.  I was telling Ross how I often feel convicted by the fact that I don't have many people in my life who don't know Jesus.  Even in my growing piano studio, every family attends a church and has talked with me about Jesus/church/etc. to some extent!  That's over 15 families and 21 kids - amazing!!

Yesterday, as I was reflecting on the sermon and preparing to do these Advent activities with BB it hit me in the face that right now, two of the most important people I need to be telling about Jesus are my boys. Needless to say, I'm really excited to dig into this season of Advent, sharing the truth about the importance of Jesus' arrival with Big Brother and developing some 'new normal' traditions!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tis the Season

A few 'new' normals from my family over the Thanksgiving week ...

We celebrated and offered thanks to God with our church family on Wednesday night.  Since Big Brother is almost 3.5 we invited him to participate if he felt up to it and he decided he wanted to come back into 'big church' for the sharing time.  We talked about what he would share and when the time came, he stuck up his little hand, Pastor Bob brought over the microphone and Big Brother let everyone know he is thankful for his puppy.  His puppy is 'the' stuffed animal he has to have at night.  My sister gave it to him when he was a wee-thing and it is still a cozy favorite.

Thanksgiving was different this year with my parents being in NJ.  However, this is a holiday I have not always spent with them, so it was okay and I am very thankful to have an in-law family only minutes away who we spent most of the day with ... my sister-in-law outdid herself preparing an absolutely delicious feast (thank you Food Network Magazine for inspiring her dishes!) and we shared the meal with 4 Chinese exchange students which reminded me of back in the day when Mom and Dad would often host 'extras' - International students from NYC, etc.  It was also incredibly gorgeous here in MN, so after we ate, Ross, Chad, me and all the kids walked over to my in-laws (a little over 2 miles?)  and we enjoyed playing in their front yard, eating pie and being together as a family.

We purchased our live Frasier Fir Christmas tree on Black Friday (that was really the only shopping we did) and we decorated it on Saturday.  It was fun to have Big Brother say 'wow' to just about every ornament we showed him.  Everything was 'wow' or 'that is beautiful'!  It was adorable and it was fun to see the decorations through his eyes.  This year the 'new' thing is turning the tree lights on and off, off and on - he really paid little attention to any of that last Christmas so we'll see how it goes.  Little Brother was present through it all - he fixed his eyes on the tree, starring at the pretty lights.  It definitely took quite awhile to get everything on the tree this year since my little helper was involved - in fact - I still have to finish the ribbon.  Having 2 kids is definitely different (and fun) when it comes to getting things done in a timely manner.  I'm trying to just take a deep breath and enjoy the process because I know this is the only Christmas Big Brother will be 3.5 and Little Brother will be 3 months old, so I'm reminding myself to just enjoy it and hug them a little tighter.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Counting Down at the Beach House

Yesterday morning, Big Brother's first words to greet me were, "Mama, can I ask you something?"  He proceeded to ask me if it was Thanksgiving yet and I told him it was Thanksgiving week and we were scheduled to have a fun play date to celebrate Thanksgiving with our friends.  After contemplating this, he held up his little hand and clarified while counting on his fingers, 'so this is Halloween (on his pinky finger), this is Thanksgiving (ring finger), this is Christmas (middle finger) and THIS is Grandma Ridder's in NJ (pointer finger)?'  It was so completely adorable.  Apparently we've entered into the 'count down' phase of life with Big Brother.  He is very much looking forward to Thanksgiving in MN spent with his Manders' cousins and family, Christmas - not so much because of Santa, gifts, or any of that, but because he can't wait to be with our family and see his Grandparents and aunts and uncles that live far away (especially Grandpa Dave!) and I'm pretty sure he's pumped about NJ because he'll get to see all of his "Grandma's house" toys again and he's very curious about NJ house.  I only hope we can continue to develop the importance of being with family on the holidays versus the crazy materialism of certain events.  It will be fun to count down in special ways with him to our big celebrations and fun adventures.

Another 'new normal' occurring in our home has to do with 'sound'.  This past weekend, we moved Little Brother into his bedroom to sleep at night.  Up until then, he had been sleeping in a baby chair that kept him a little more upright to help with his spitty nature.  I was beginning to sense that Big Brother was waking up Little Brother too often during the day (since we were allowing Little B to sleep wherever as long as he was near us) and I was starting to feel the need to put him down for naps in a quieter place.  So, Ross and I looked at each other last weekend and decided it was time to try him in his room for naps and overnight.  Our 10.5 week old guy was a champ!  He fussed for his usual 2 or 3 minutes and fell right asleep, sleeping normally, getting up to nurse as usual and going right back to sleep.  So, Saturday, we took a family trip to Target and purchased (with gift cards - yay!) a Spa Sound Machine for his room.  The new normal sounds you now can hear in the middle of the night sound like a rain storm (Little B's room) at the ocean (Big B's room).  It's quite peaceful, calming and funny.  I kind of like our MN beach house! :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Unexpected Answer

I don't know why this answer to our prayer seems unexpected.  Perhaps because it's not the answer I was praying for or expecting. Hmph.  It just goes to show how little of the big picture I understand.

For some time, we have continued to ask for God to provide a class for Ross to teach at Bethel.  Until the department head changed last year, he had been graciously provided with one Introduction to the Bible class to teach each semester (and even one J-term).  This gift of a class made a big difference in our finances and the extra income was really helpful.  Add to that the joy he received from teaching this class and the opportunities he had to get to know students (many of whom became leaders working closely with him in Campus Ministries - one even marrying my brother ;)) and having that class to teach was a huge blessing in all of our lives.

For over a year now, Ross has not been invited to teach this class.  I'm not going to lie - I've been mad and harboring some slightly bitter feelings about this for several reasons which I won't go into but I will say, I believe in Ross, his teaching style, his impact on students lives and his desire for students to understand the whole story of God's redemptive plan.  I have continued to pray, in faith, for a class for him to teach.   It's been a long season of no teaching for Ross and there is no class in sight, but I still have prayed and asked others to pray.

Today I was feeling conflicted.  Last year I only taught 2 full nights on Monday and Tuesday, squeezing in two more lessons on Wednesdays before heading down to church to accompany the choir rehearsal.  So I basically worked three nights a week and Thursday night was our 'family' night.  As of today, I will be adding 5 students to my roster on Thursday nights (I was already planning on 3 of those students).  I was feeling guilty for not having a 'week' night dinner time with my family and I was talking with the Lord about this decision to open up Thursday nights for students when I believe the Holy Spirit  whispered to my soul - "Emily, do you not see?  Do you not understand?  I am providing for your family through these new students."  Hmm ... yep.  God sure is providing for us and this income will help make up some of the difference of Ross not having a class.  On top of that, our kids do not have to go to day care - one of their parents is with them at all times (during a normal week of work for Ross and me).  While I wish for dinners at home with my boys, for now, in this season, I am blessed to be employed by many wonderful families (hopefully) teaching kids the love of music through piano lessons.  It also makes me cherish our weekends together and it causes me to pay attention and be more present in the time we do have together as a family of four.  I believe our prayers have been answered through these new students and I believe God knows the desire of my heart to some day be at home with my family during the afternoon/dinner hour ... but until something major changes in our life, I am very satisfied in the work He has provided for my hands to do and I am thankful for answered prayers.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


I love how God's WORD can speak into our lives - even when we proof text verses (pulling one verse out of the original context and reading meaning into it that perhaps isn't there when you understand the full context of the passage).   I was finishing up a book before bed (House of Secrets by Tracie Peterson) when these verses jumped out at me. 

Isaiah 43:  

18 “Forget the former things; 
   do not dwell on the past. 
19 See, I am doing a new thing! 
   Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? 

It reminded me that God is in the business of doing 'new' things in our lives. In this season of change in our family, I need to keep my eyes fixed on him - not dwelling on what 'has been' in an unhealthy way - or wishing for things to be like they 'used to be'. Instead, I should be actively watching for and acknowledging what He is currently doing in my life.  I think the purpose of this blog will help me stay grounded in watching for the 'new thing' in this season of life.