Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry CHRISTmas!

Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:6-8 

Reveling in the God Who bent low and humbled himself,

Ricky, Aidan, Aolani (almost 6), and Micaiah (4) DiMartino

On Top and Full

  • Brief overview: last week was normal, but we went to over to eat and visit with friends one night and invited another friend over to enjoy pizza/movie night with us and stay for games. Yesterday was a bit of a challenge (a lot going on), but we got to attend another book launch for our friend's book at the library. Ricky's mom flew all day yesterday from WA and took a shuttle here arriving late last night. Today was filled with packing and kitchen preparations. We are ready to leave for Ohio tomorrow morn!

Our completed Advent tree (all 24 ornaments were made by Aolani)
  • Verse to memorize this week and next: Psalm 100:4-5 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Holy-days {Advent 2015}

[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. 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 candles after moving the traveling one forward. This year, we are using the same book we did two years ago -- Christmas Carols for a Kid's Heart (this is our third time using this devotional!). We sing a hymn, read a verse, say a little prayer, and let our kids blow out the candle. Occasionally, we read an accompanying story from The Jesus Storybook Bible (not pictured) after the singing.

Activities: Our days have been so nice, special, and fun. I love having this time to change up our routine for the month. Our days consist of: 
  1. Unwrapping a Christmas book and reading it together. I wrapped all of the Christmas books we owned, plus two new ones from us and three more from family. I ordered the books according to our schedule. Each day, they alternate opening the book. After we are done reading, we put it in a "Christmas book basket". [Maybe I'll be on top of my game next year and can list all of the books we have collected thus far.]
  2. Our biggest activity every day has been following Truth in the Tinsel Advent (made for toddlers but Aolani and I so enjoy it!). We flip a clue (printed on paper which I numbered and hung on string), read a Scripture passage, talk about it and maybe do an activity about it, and then we make a simple/fun/easy ornament to hang (they focus on the story about Jesus' birth versus Jesse Tree ornaments that encompass the story of God's redemption plan for the world beginning with Creation.)
  3. We also added in a few other activities that we all enjoy -- like making snowflakes, baking treats for neighbors, snow and ice trays, candlelight baths, hide-n-seek in the tree lot, watching Christmas movies, picking out presents for Jesus...
  4. Schooling: I'm taking six weeks off from schooling the kids (Thanksgiving week until after the new year), so we have more time for Advent stuff and traveling.  The kids are loving this winter break! [And, Aolani is reading like crazy ;)]
  5. However, I am taking advantage of time alone with the kids (most days) by focusing on obedience training -- stories, games, crafts, reading... We are seeing fruit in Aolani as she is already applying it (not all the time of course); and then, I cry for joy for her.
  6. Our Advent devotional in the evening with Daddy
  7. Reading Christmas Around the World at bedtime
Decorations: Most noticeably, we do not have a Christmas tree. We are not against them; we just choose (for several reasons) not to erect one at this time. We have other items (ornaments, stockings, nativity sets...) and the things we are making on display and hanging around. We have a Christmas book basket and keep the Christmas music playing. Also, we simply hang the Christmas cards we receive on ribbon with clothespins. For the past two years, we have kept them up the whole year!

Treats: Our treats are sporadic this year again -- apple cobbler, ginger cookies, pumpkin pie, apple cake, ice cream, vanilla drinks, coffee cake, etc.

Presents: This year we have begun to do it a bit differently. Whereas we use to not exchange presents amongst just ourselves, we asked our extended families to work in "Christmas presents" with other events -- like new year's or increase birthday or summer or a new school year or a visit or other holidays. We want to teach our kids that just as they get presents on their birthday, Jesus gets the gifts on His birthday (see Matthew 25:45) -- just keeping it simple (and imitating St. Nicholas!). This year, we started my new favorite family tradition! I had collected like a dozen gift catalogs over the past month or so. One evening, we spread them out on the floor, allotted each person an equal amount of money, and had a Picking Party! So fun and wonderful! Yet, 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) for 2016. [Yes, our kids get gifts from us throughout the year as does Jesus, but we all know that birthdays are special for the birthday person ;)]

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

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Wishing Birthday Wishes

  • Last week included inviting friends over for dinner two nights, guys' night, all the normal activities and company, and Ricky working out of county for two days. Then, the grandparents came for a visit and to celebrate Micaiah's fourth birthday. Over the weekend, we went to a park (great weather), had pizza/movie night, played a game, went to church, and took the kids to see The Good Dinosaur at the theater. On his actual birthday, he got a haircut (from a friend), the kids went to art class, and then we had a family party with dinner (homemade beef tacos), dessert, balloons, presents... they both loved it all! Ricky and I then went on a date to see a late-night movie :) One of the many perks of having grandparents staying at your house!

Decorating the little puppy tree we keep in our office

with Grandma and Papa (my parents)

Micaiah requested pumpkin pie AND vanilla ice cream with sweet chex mix

Aolani was so excited for his gift time ;)
the T-rex from The Good Dinosaur (Micaiah is really into dinosaurs right now!)
  • At the end of his day, Micaiah said to me on his way to bed, "May you have a birthday too." ;) 

My family's Christmas card photo
  • A girl from our church recorded the kids quoting John 3:16 --
  • Verse to memorize this week: Psalm 100:3 It is he who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of his pasture.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Getting Dirty Is Indeed Why

This is excerpted from my friends' blog post, dirty is why we are here. So good!

"I think about the many people Jesus--Jesus, the ONLY clean man--must have been told not to touch.  The lepers.  The Samaritans.  The children.  The outcasts.  The lame.  The demon-possessed.

the sinners

They were dirty.  They smelled.  They were covered in their own filth.  

They were unable to do anything for themselves.

Like me.

How many times Jesus must have been told not to do something.  Because it wasn't how it was done. Because culture wouldn't allow it.  Because it was embarrassing and shameful.  Because it would get him dirty.

Like leaving his heavenly throne of light and righteousness and becoming flesh.  Like holding the children and touching the crippled.  Like carrying the weight and burdens of billions.  Like being spat on and beaten and nailed to a rugged cross.  Like taking on the putrid sins of the world.  

I bet He wept, too.  I bet He cried at the world's broken reality so many times.

And then He touched.  Then He prayed.  Then He went.  Then He gave.

He was here to get dirty.  That is why He came.

If we think for a minute that we are here on this earth to get rich, to get blessed, to get beautified, to build up our own little kingdoms, to get presents, to get famous, to celebrate ourselves this Christmas...I don't know what to say except that you are following the wrong Jesus.  

Christmas : Jesus came to get dirty and to suffer and to die.  And by His scourging, we are healed.

Family, if we are following hard after this Jesus, wherever we are, we better be here to get dirty.  

For His glory."  


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Making and Decking

  • Advent started last week, which means no school (more about what we do all day in my upcoming Advent post). Aolani helped me decorate the house, which she enjoyed :) Apart from that, the week was mostly normal, fun, and relaxed: friends came to help, art class, dinner with friends and kids, dinner and late night game with another friend, pizza/movie night (Shaun the Sheep was such a hit with them), visited a friend's book launch, church, and small group dinner party! Simply, lots of crafts, art, fun, food, and friends!
    Displaying her people and produce double-decker train wagon
     New hiding place -- a tight squeeze
At their art exhibit station at their art program's show last month

at art class

  • Verse to memorize this week: Psalm 100:2 Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Feeling Victorious versus Being Victorious

I've been thinking on and off about being victorious for over a year now.

Revelation 21:7 says, "Those who are victorious will inherit all this..." After reading Revelation 21:1-6, it's a Yes, I want this!! The precondition to getting it -- being victorious. Oh no! I sure don't feel victorious.

How do I feel victorious? And suddenly, there's a ton of pressure to do, perform, work -- be victorious, through human effort. Which I can't do and stress out trying to. Enter depression and self-loathing at not being able to. Self always wedges in there to get me off track and off focus.

Worshipping one day, and the gentle reminder --
"Yes the blood, it is my victory"
Of course I don't feel victorious because on my own I'm not. He is. Because I am His I am victorious. I am covered by His blood. I am covered in victory. So, when God looks on me, He sees victory!

Forget getting hung up on feelings! What is truth? What does the Word tell me?

for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:4-5)

Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent." (John 6:29)

How am I victorious? By not giving up or losing heart, but by fighting the good fight of faith to keep on believing in Jesus and His blood! Yes!

Sweet victory!

Friday, December 4, 2015

A Thankful Sweep

  • The week before Thanksgiving was pretty normal, which still includes people coming over everyday :) Ricky did head up a flag football game for our church and a time of prayer for the persecuted church at our church. Then, we were off to visit my family for the week! We visited and played with my brother's family several days, visited with friends, had a game night with another friend, prepped for Advent, watched Jurassic World, got our car washed, celebrated Thanksgiving with yummy food and apple cake and cousins and reading and football and games, and went to Myrtle Beach one day to see a model train exhibit and dine and take the kids to play miniature golf for the first time (Micaiah would sweep the ball very determined to get it in the hole; Aolani was impatient with it at first but was wanting to play again when we were done).
  • The funniest thing was when Papa and Micaiah were watching a hunting show. Papa was telling him about different animals and Micaiah kept replying I know that. Then, he turned to Papa and very seriously told him, "I know everything." ;)

    • This month I'll learn Psalm 100. Verse to memorize this week: Psalm  100:1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2015

    Receiving the Miracle Today

    Resonating today --
    "The Gospel isn’t a one time message for the unbeliever but the constant miracle for the imperfect." ~Ann Voskamp