Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Resolutions for 2014

Let me start by saying that just hearing the phrase New Year's resolutions rubs me wrong. I think that one reason is because weight loss is the first thing to come to mind because it is so common. Also, no one actually keeps them or remembers them after a few months. So they seem pointless and not very profitable.

But... it is hard for me to let such an opportunity to pass me by. I relish times of purpose to be still and reflect. [I sound like a Mary -- haha, but I really am a Martha-doer struggling to find (designate) time to be still and reflect.]

If God does not forbid it, and it strengthens your love-relationship with Christ, then I want to take advantage! Not that I cannot make "resolutions" other times of the year, but I have to be somewhat forced to sit back and reflect or it just does not happen because life is constantly demanding! Since this new year's time is already designated for making resolutions, then I'm going to let it "force" me :)

I find that I frequently need to evaluate my life in all areas to keep it going in the direction I want it to (towards glorifying God, of course). I hate regret and don't want to be on my death-bed, looking back on my life, and thinking, "If only I had done something with that part of my life back when I had the chance before it spiraled out of control."

The best way to change anything is to alter my spiritual life and let God have more access to my heart so He can bring true and lasting change to myself. Hopefully, these are somewhat feasible ways I can keep my spiritual life disciplined and on track this year:

  1. Pray every morning -- Nothing big, could be one line. Just say a quick little prayer before I get out of bed so I can start the day off with my mind rightly-focused. I usually wake up hurried and not-too-pleasant, already headed in the wrong direction. I want to start the day headed in the right direction.
  2. Recite memory verses -- I was quoting Scripture while I nurse, but I am nursing just once a day in the mornings now. And, I am much too groggy and half-asleep to think or talk then. So, I've been haphazard about it, reciting verses and chapters whenever I think about it. However, "whenever I think about it" is unreliable, and I do NOT want to forget any! I am thinking that I will quote one or two verses every time I go to the restroom -- sounds weird but at least it's reliable! And, I need to tackle one chapter a day; so, I'll divide its total number of verses by three (or two, depending) and quote that amount of verses around the meals of the day. [I.e., Romans 8 has 39 verses, divide by three equals 13 verses for each meal that day, so maybe quote six verses before I eat and seven verses after I eat.]
  3. Devotional times -- Bible-reading and prayer, mainly. While a good case could be made for having your "quiet time" in the morning, that just doesn't work best for me right now in my life. I am going to spend just 20 minutes a day (right after the kids go down for naps) doing this. I have been doing this about every other day, and I think this time is going to work out best. Although I desire consistency (a daily routine), I will admit that it is great to be able to quote Scripture and let the Word refine me that way on the days my physical Bible remains shut, which should be a rarity. 
  4. Giving thanks -- Ann Voskamp has the small, monthly calendars with suggestions of three gifts (things) that you can give thanks for each day. [She likens them to daily scavenger hunts of finding God at work in your life.] Anyway, we were naming our gifts during dinner every night, but we stopped once my mom came to stay with us (I don't know why). I really want to pick up this habit again -- it's easy, very beneficial, and there is no reason not to!

While this is a general desire and not something I can specifically do, I want to filter my circumstances through the lense of how this happening might help me to enjoy God. Just a way to focus my ponderings :)

These resolutions are a bit much now that I see them written out, but I think (hope) they're doable. I'm going to need a bunch of empowerment and grace from the Spirit! But, that's a good need ;)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Merry CHRISTmas!


The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
Hebrew 1:3

If anyone wants to read some highlights from this past year --

A spiritual breakthrough: The Greater Things

One of my personal favorite posts: The Immediate Hallelujah

Celebrating God's radiant Son,

Ricky, Aidan, Aolani (almost 4), and Micaiah (2) DiMartino

Note: We are going on vacation (to Ricky's parents' house), so I will not be posting the rest of this year ;)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Treasured Celebrations

  • Busyness has come... with gladness in tow. This past week has contained a date night at the movies (Thor), a court reporting dinner that Ricky went to (after working in other towns two days last week), a podiatrist visit (the doctor temporarily numbed my peroneal nerve in hopes of releasing the spasm, but it did indeed return after a day or so), Micaiah's second birthday (pictures below), a farewell party for some friends, Christmas gift-giving with my parents (while my mom was here, my dad was on Skype with us; he is unable to travel due to back trouble).
  • This week contains a lot of preparation and packing (we leave for Cincinnati at the end of the week), my mom left today to help my dad who has back surgery tomorrow, and dinner with friends tomorrow.
  • Our kitchen has seen an extra abundance of cooking this month! [Ricky has just discovered making pies from scratch and loves it! He is in the kitchen now preparing two crusts ;)]

Little Drummer Boy
Mary, Mary
Joseph finally relinquished the donkey so his pregnant wife Mary can ride!

Just finished baking Micaiah's birthday cake with Grandma
Washing her dishes

with my mom
Gingerbread cake
A book and a toy are our normal birthday gifts, but Skyping with Papa and playing with balloons were definitely the highlight for Micaiah ;)
Now, it's the Christmas gift-giving celebration with my parents. They got each child a book, a toy, and a puzzle.

It's a wooden piano

  • As this will be my last mosaic until next year, I'm going to work on memorizing Colossians 3:14-15 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Response to Choose

I've experienced four different responses to our own sin, and, truth be told, only one of them reaps the kind of harvest I want. In other words, there seem to be three wrong ways to handle the situation when our sin is exposed and rears its ugly head but only one right (good, true, and biblical) one.
  1. Blaming game: But, he... But, she... This happened... Pointing fingers... It's anybody's fault but your own that you are reacting this way... Actually, they may have shaken you up, but what spills out is your fault not theirs. You are responsible for what's inside you and thus what comes out of you. 
  2. Excuses, excuses: I reacted that way because... I'm tired or I'm hungry or I feel... While feelings (in general) are God-given, they still need to be submitted to the Lord continually. If we let our feelings dictate our words and behavior, sin would be rampant and we'd be in intense bondage to them. We must 'man up', take accountability, and learn self-control.
  3. On the defense: Well, s/he does such-and-such... Oldest trick in the book. Probably because it often does what it is meant to do -- divert. Something happens, your sin is revealed, Oh-no cover it up quick! Get the attention off of me and my problem and my sin, diversion tactic -- basically says, "I may do this, but what about this thing that you do or that they do..." And you are off course now, going in a different direction on a rabbit trail. Attack, attack, attack.
  4. Confession and forgiveness: The right way of handling our sin when it pops up and is seen by others :) Once our sin becomes public, should we hide? Naturally, we want to to avoid the temporary pain, embarrassment, and awkwardness. But the result? Your sin remains, and you continue to live in bondage. BUT, the way the LORD shows us is altogether different! Instead of our three natural (and wrong) responses, we should confess to it -- Yes, I do have a problem and that is indeed wrong of me -- and, the kicker, ask for forgiveness from the person you hurt (and God). 
Sin loves to hide and hates being exposed, brought to light (where sin can be addressed and taken care of). To avoid attention and let sin continue to thrive in the dark, you want all eyes off of you and redirected. And your own sin sighs in relief, goes back in hiding, and festers.

But, there is a better way -- a way of healing. You see, the first three ways lead to anger and continued bondage. Confessing and asking for forgiveness actually lead to empowerment and freedom (it's exhilarating)! While it's a rarity to see and do, I am just now trying to make this more of a practice myself -- and, it is thrilling and addictive!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Busy Bodies

  • Besides the normal activities, my mom treated Ricky, myself, herself and Aolani to her first movie theater experience (a dear friend babysat Micaiah; we left right after putting him down for a nap). We saw Disney's Frozen, and I highly recommend it for it's numerous Gospel analogies! I think she was mesmerized and really enjoyed it. [After a few commercials, she asked us, "Where's the movie?"]
  • While we are enjoying Advent and fun activities, we are preparing for a small celebration for Micaiah's second birthday this weekend :)
  • Update on the miscarriage: After I got the ultrasound taken five weeks ago revealing remaining baby body parts and the entire placenta, I ordered particulates to help with dissolving the biological remnants. After 7-10 days, the rest of her body came out. Then, I ordered particulates to help with a retained placenta. After 10 days, it started coming out (and still is). So, it has been a very slow, unusual process, but a natural one (no surgery, anesthesia, drugs, hospital, large bills...). [And, it is reassuring to watch the particulates work and do what they say!]

  • Verse to memorize this week: Colossians 3:12 ~ Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Holy-days {Advent 2013}

[edited version of last year's Advent post]

Simple. Focused. Intentional.

That is our motto for this time of year.

If you want bunches of ideas for celebrating Christmas, you should probably go to Pinterest. We are more about cutting out a lot of the hoopla -- going for special and memorable (yes) but simple. It is Jesus' birthday; so, we focus on Advent ("waiting with hope") and then throwing a birthday party for Jesus. Simple as that. However, we will be going to stay with extended family over the Christmas week this year, so we will not be hosting our own Christmas at our home. Yet, here is what we have been doing so far this month:

Devotions: Advent is where I put most of our emphasis, because what is this holy-day about if we do not prepare our hearts waiting for the Christ-child to come? You can see our Advent wreath (carved out of wood, with 24 candle holes, and there's a movable donkey carrying Mary). We light the candle after moving it forward. This year, we are using the same book we did two years ago -- Christmas Carols for a Kid's Heart. We read some verses, sing a hymn, say a little prayer, and let our kids blow out the candle.

Activities: This is our first year of doing an Advent Calendar. I came up with 25 things to do, one for each day leading up to Jesus' birthday. Each square (decorative cardstock paper) has a number on the front and an activity on the back. [I hung them on ribbons using clothespins.] I adjusted the calendar so that the daily activities suited our monthly plans (i.e., we listened to a new music album the day we had a long car ride home). I am taking the month off from schooling Aolani so we have more time for this and Advent in general. We are also adding in a few spontaneous activities :)
Here are the activities:
  1. Buy a new Christmas album and listen to it 
  2. Decorate our home 
  3. Open and read a new Christmas book 
  4. Color a Christmas picture 
  5. Make a paper plate wreath 
  6. Watch a new Christmas movie and snack 
  7. Make apple bread and give to the neighbors 
  8. Go to a Christmas party (this is today)
  9. Open and read a new Christmas book 
  10. Make handprint wrapping paper 
  11. Make paper snowflakes 
  12. Wrap Christmas gifts for family 
  13. Open and read a new Christmas book 
  14. Make a birthday cake for Micaiah 
  15. Dance to Christmas music 
  16. Watch The Nativity Story movie under blankets 
  17. Make play-dough candy canes 
  18. Make a paper plate angel 
  19. Wrap Jesus’ birthday gift 
  20. Call Grandma and Papa and sing a Christmas carol 
  21. Using the nativity set, act out the nativity story 
  22. Drive around and look at Christmas lights 
  23. Sing Christmas carols around the tree 
  24. Make a birthday cake for Jesus 
  25. Throw Jesus a birthday party!

Decorations: Most noticeably, we do not have a Christmas tree. We are not fully against them; we just choose (for several reasons) not to erect one. We have other items (ornaments, stockings, nativity sets...) hanging around. We have our Christmas books propped up on the bookshelf beside the kids' nativity set (they love playing with this Little People one) and keep the Christmas music playing. I usually make a winter spice aroma spray but am currently avoiding all scents. Also, we simply hang the Christmas cards we receive on ribbon with clothespins! Then, when the season is over and it comes time to take them down, we will pray for the person/family that sent each card as we remove it :)

Treats: Our treats are more sporadic this year and less planned -- our own Chex mix, mini cookies, apple pie, gingerbread cake, specialty breads, coffee cake, etc.

Presents: As a family, we are not going to exchange presents amongst ourselves, but we did get small presents for our extended families. We are not against gift-giving amongst friends and family, but we choose to give a gift as a family to Jesus (see Matthew 25:45) for His birthday -- just keeping it simple. This year, we bought some Christmas care packs for children in Nepal, through Voice of the Martyrs. We do buy a few New Year's gifts for ourselves as a family and some friends that are to encourage faith and witness (such as Voice of the Martyrs' prayer calendars) in 2014.

CHRISTmas joy to you in your celebrations and preparation for the coming of the King,

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Thanksgiving Well

  •  After a nice vacation (despite the kids catching a stomach bug from the church nursery and getting sick themselves and giving it away to everyone else -- minus me!), all is well and everyone here is well :)
  • Aolani's antic: while the adults were finishing up lunch one day, Aolani went and got Micaiah out of his high chair, took him in the bedroom, locked him in his crib, turned the light off and fan on, shut the door, walked over to us and announced, "I put Micaiah down for his nap; can I watch a book now?"
  • Micaiah's mishap: for some reason, he doesn't pronounce the first syllable of names -- i.e., 'ommy, 'addy, 'ani, 'andma...
They were "cutting" each other's hair with tongs :)

Playing shepherd

The girls... and the left-out loner
  • Verse to memorize this week: Colossians 3:12 ~ Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.