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The Lent Tree {Bringing the Beauty and Passion of Christ to Your Home}

Lent.

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It is one of the most JOYOUS and SACRED times for our family–and we use the Lent tree to make it come to life.

For those of you wanting to join me in creating a Lent tradition, I have created 5 word documents for you to download and print so that you can walk your children through Lent growing in the knowledge and understanding of God and the Passion of Christ. This activity requires you to find 41 treasures for the 40 days of Lent (a few after to celebrate the resurrections!). EACH day you will have a scripture reading and an ornament that accompanies it. PRIOR to beginning this journey–you will need to go on a mommy scavenger hunt all over town (dollar stores, craft stores, etc) to locate an item for each day. This will be not only an amazing journey for your children BUT ALSO FOR YOU!

OR you can just draw them or let your children draw them! Keep it simple! You can make the ornament together after the reading too! I just gather old sticks to use for our tree–some years we spray paint them some year’s we just use plain old sticks…bringing new life to what is no longer.

If you don’t want to find ornaments or draw them–you can use my friend Laura Kirkland’s drawings–all downloadable for just $10. Just print and laminate! You can reuse them every year and the proceeds go toward their adoption fundraiser! These coordinate with the verses by day PDFs below!http://www.adoptionornaments.bigcartel.com/product/lent-ornaments-artwork-and-devotional-digital-downloads3

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When your children are little–I encourage you to read the scripture before hand and then retell it so they can grasp it according to their age level. As they grow older, they will be able to sit through the entire chapter (or chapters) of reading, and each year you will be amazed at the nuggets the Holy Spirit gives them through each day’s reading.

The list that I used is in each document download. I found these 41 treasures (one day is a “nothing day” as you wait on the resurrection) at Dollar Trees, Hobby Lobby, ebay and some I made myself out of felt when I couldn’t find the ornament recommended. These word documents were created to be printed on shipping labels—so you can easily print them on 2″x4″ labels and stick each label on a ziplock bag to store your ornaments in to remind you the story and verse—as well as to store safely from year to year.

All the work has been done FOR YOU as far as the labels go! Now…you just need to run to the store and buy white shipping labels – 10 per sheet 2 in x 4 in. (I bought Office Max’s offbrand and it matches the download template of Avery 8163). But as long as you purchase the 2″x4″ with 10 on a sheet—this should work!

DOWNLOAD EACH SET HERE BY CLICKING ON AND OPENING THE FILE. Then…just print!
Lent Days 1-10
Lent Days 11-20
Lent Days 21-30
Lent Days 31-40
He Is Risen Days 41-42

I followed the instructions found in Carol Brazo’s book “No Ordinary Home: The Uncommon Art of Christ-Centered Homemaking” which by the way is a must have in any mommy’s library! Carol Brazo walks you through how to beautifully celebrate the final week of Lent, Holy Week, with your children—and this is SURE to be a memory they will forever hold dear in their hearts as they encounter the Savior this powerful week in an amazing way. My favorite is one of her explanations of how she celebrates Sunday…

“Every Easter Sunday I am the first one up. Mark, like the disciples before him, hears those magical words, “He is risen” from the mouth of a woman. The little girls are awakened by their mama’s cries of joy, “He is risen!” and they in turn wake up their brother. Those first words belong to women. They are our gift and our heritage. And every year, as I hear women cry out their joy, a place deep inside me, inside the female part of me, is resurrected and brought to nerve-tingling life. He is risen! He is risen! Wake up and rejoice!”
On the FIRST day of Lent–you will read the Bible story to your children and your littles will take turns putting the ornaments up on the tree each night. The first ornament: a teeny, tiny mustard seed. Your first scripture reading is short–Matthew 17:20. Short, but not simple. It is about faith. And faith we will need on this journey to the cross.

Matthew 17:20 says, “And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” Oh Lord, will you give my little preschoolers faith for this journey with us. Oh that Your Holy Spirit would teach them and do a miracle in their great big hearts the Lent as we travel the Lent Tree journey together…

Now it sits empty…but in a few hours it will have a mustard seed. If we have faith the size of an itty, bitty mustard seed…then nothing will be impossible for us.

OUR LENT TREE
Simple twigs.

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Mine are artificial twigs from Hobby Lobby because I use this year round for different things. Some times we add twigs or just use a twig tree…and as we find twigs for our tree–we talk about how these twigs no longer have life–essentially they are dead. But throughout the season, we will add ornaments to them bringing life to our tree just as Jesus Christ offers life to us through the cross.

For those of you without little ones at home or with wee ones too young to understand, consider doing this with your spouse! This is a worshipful way to walk through Lent together, and what fun it could be to treasure hunt each day for that day’s ornament. At the end, you’ll have a precious set to keep in a Hope Chest for that baby you have hoped for or even as a gift to a grandchild. Either way, the Lent Tree isn’t just for families with children. I think adults enjoy it just as much…if not more!

IMPORTANT to read if you are doing the Lent Tree with us! DO NOT do an ornament on Sundays during Lent! There are 40 ornaments—and there are 40 days of fasting between Ash Wednesday and Lent *IF* you don’t count Sundays! SOOO—you will do ornaments Monday through Saturday only following Biblical Lent tradition. “When observing fasting or abstinence during Lent, regard must be paid to the fact that Sundays are Feast Days, so there is no fast or abstinence. The days from Ash Wednesday to the day before Easter Sunday, excluding the Sundays, are forty, corresponding to the number of days Christ spent in the wilderness.” So…technically you fast for 6 days and then Sunday is a Feast day where you get to have what you fasted. Did ya know that??? Lent is a custom not a Biblical requirement–and traditionally you fast for 6 days and on the 7th day you celebrate the resurrection with a Feast day.

Here are some examples of some of the ornaments we found and use year and after year:

The story of Adam and Eve…how sin was brought into the world and how Jesus would cover our sin

The story of Abraham and Sarah…Abraham having to work the land

The story of Isaac…God providing a new sacrifice

It will take some time to find all your ornaments but it will be a fun, interactive way for you to study God’s Word together! It is SO worth the mommy scavenger hunt! I am about to teach 17 sweet ladies in my Sunday school class how to do this–so we’re making it a PJ Party night and I’m dividing up the ornaments so each mom will only need to find 3 each. They will just buy 17 of 3 each and then we’ll come together and share the wealth…and have a really fun girls night that will bless our families for years to come!

Hope this inspires some of you in ways you can invest Eternity into the hearts of your children!!!

Blessings to you!

Andrea

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Removed {foster care}

Praying for foster children in our city, state and country. Sweet foster moms–we can’t WAIT to serve you this weekend. To bring YOU rest. So you may be refreshed. Praying for hope and healing in the hard in your homes. You challenge me…and I hope one day to be a foster mom…but this weekend–we are privileged to bring YOU rest and encouragement for your most sacred, sweet and high calling. Don’t give up!!! Foster moms joining us at C4C, we hope and pray you feel loved and cared for by our Created for Care team this weekend!

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Reflections from an adoption momma…

Reflections from this adoption momma today. Adoption has changed me far more than I ever imagined…maybe just as much as the lives of my children. Adoption has changed the way I see both my biological and adopted children–and it has changed the way I value, connect, cherish, discipline and parent all of them. Adoption has divinely ruined me as I have watched the orphan spirit dissolve and be replaced with the spirit of sonship…not all at once but bit by bit…and not just for my children but for me as well. Adoption has taught me that I have more to risk by remaining comfortable than taking risks and opening my hands to whatever the Lord wills for our family. Adoption has erased my logical decision making about college and retirement plans and helped me to live out that family really matters most and the belief that God will meet all of our needs according to His riches and glory. Adoption is a painful, beautiful, refining, redeeming, healing process-not just for my children but for all of us that step foot (willing or unwilling) on this path none of us might have chosen in a perfect world. I’m learning through adoption how much we really all need each other and how for every scrape–He has much more than a bandaid…He has healing in His hands. I can’t imagine my world without adoption–and I’m so blessed to be a mom through it.

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Hope for the Hopeless {Keeping Your Eyes Up…}

In a world filled with so much heartbreak, sin and disappointment…THIS…

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

The news.

Today.

Everything around us–sometimes–appears…broken.

Isaiah 40: 31…”but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Really?

Because with the news just today–I feel faint.

A precious Godly couple in Cobb County–whose lives were taken because of…who knows the heart of the one who thought this was an option to sustain him.  Grandparents. Parents. Friends. So much taken for petty change. Their lives were worth so much more. Yet–their children grieve and even say words of forgiveness in just hours of the terrible news.

I see pictures of thousands of orphaned children–and I take a deep breath. Oh my soul. I believe Jeremiah 29:11 is for me–but can I really trust it is for them too? For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

So much feels broken.

I rock my babies–some brought to me through adoption…with layers of things for us to work through. Some days it feels like it might take a lifetime to heal. Maybe it will.

I hop on Facebook to see fellow adoption moms fighting with one another. Yet they were given the call to be healers of the brokenhearted.

I remember back to our own adoption–and a family member of mine with a different calling maybe stirring up hurt on one of my adoption threads saying we (and our friends) shouldn’t be adopting internationally as their were so many waiting children in America. Yet He had led and spoken to our hearts and our response was to follow…HIM.

I drive just 25 miles South and it feels like I’m in Africa again…the poverty just miles away. Fear as I stop at the red-light and I’m met with stares for being in the wrong part of town in a van. I just needed gas. But maybe I’m needed here.

EYES UP.

Do not look to the right or the left. Listen to the Lord. In this world you will face many trials…you will see overwhelming sin. BUT–wait upon the Lord.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

2 Corinthians 5:7 “for we walk by faith, not by sight.”

The daughter…speaks forgiveness because Christ has overcome…even the greatest loss she will experience this side of heaven. The mom carrying burdens offers herself as a living sacrifice as she holds up her plate and just keeps her eyes on Jesus…loving with the strength He has given her and trusting HIM to be the healer. The moms and friends on social media–seeing hurtful words–choose to love anyway and keep their eyes on Jesus rather than becoming involved or choosing sides and becoming distracted…because looking to the right or left will do that. The mom closes her ears to the world and what the world thinks she should do–because she’s keeping her eyes up…and listening to Jesus and following Him. The girl at the red-light–she listens to that call…and even if she isn’t called to go right now in her life–she looks for who is and she sends and supports. HE IS WORKING AMONG THE SIN, THE PAIN, THE HEARTBREAK and THE BROKEN.

Galations 6:9 “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

1 Peter:6-9 “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Psalm 147:3 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

John 16:33” I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

And among all that–God’s light SHINES through.

Through Leighanne…I have found a friend on a blog across the country…who inspired her sister to adopt a little girl with Down’s Syndrome. You can’t help but giggle at Leighanne’s top Five. I follow her on Instagram and that little precious one inspires me. And she doesn’t even know it. God SHINES THROUGH.

I watch my precious friend Jennifer Armbruster–a fellow adoption and foster mom–fall in love with birth moms through foster care and love them as big as she does their children. She takes risks in the middle of the brokenness…she gives up much. God SHINES THROUGH.

I read my dear friend Lauren’s words who knows the pain of loss–yet she keeps taking risks and loving outside of herself. God SHINES THROUGH.

I met the Hensley’s through social media and Created for Care…and connected them to Wiphan…and now they sell their home and move their entire family to Zambia to work with Wiphan…with a house full of kids trailing behind them as they go. Sure malaria and other risks will be there waiting. But so will Jesus. God SHINES THROUGH.

I get an invitation from my old roommate to hear about a vision the Lord has given them after they moved to inner city Atlanta. Aside from working full-time for Navigators, they will start a school in the 5th most dangerous neighborhood in the country with the hopes that Peace Prep and the children who attend it will transform this neighborhood in the name of Jesus. God SHINES THROUGH.

 John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

So today. I find myself where I should be…

On my knees for a broken world–but with my EYES UP…

Waiting.

Trusting.

Ready.

Ready to take the next step…whatever it might be.

Despite the tribulation–hopeful…because He always overcomes.

Hand in hand with my brothers and sisters in Christ not giving up–but ready to run…and worship…to shake my tambourine because I know and believe He is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do. HE WILL ALWAYS SHINE THROUGH THE DARKNESS. Even for that…He has a perfect plan. 

So rise up.

Look up.

He is there…He is moving.

Fill us Lord Jesus with your sweet power and Spirit. Move in us. Use us for Your glory and Your kingdom come…as on earth as it is in heaven.

I love this poem “Anyway” by Mother Teresa. Because He will shine ANYWAY…being His light bearers–may we do the same.

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

 

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The Desires of a Mother’s Heart

38–going on 39.

Spring cleaning last year just after we moved, he took bins of baby clothes to the Salvation Army. While some consider this a stamp of moving on to the next beautiful phase of motherhood, I did not. Instead I just thought after 10 years of motherhood, if we grow again baby clothes fashions have changed–we can use the clearing out for now–but the desires of this mother’s heart…and even my husband’s father’s heart…are to enjoy the next phase while keeping our hands completely open for more.

There are visions and experiences the Lord has given me…that haunt me–in such a holy way.

Five years ago, a few days after I held my son in Ethiopia I visited one of the first government orphanages he was in. There are two children in Bethzatha that I know the Lord spoke to me as I met them. One had been there 4 years and another 3 years. They were both handicapped and just lay there—day in and day out–being turned to keep bed sores at bay. I walked in the room and tried to sing Jesus Loves Me to them–but my voice cracked and I broke down in tears. The staff worker in the room came over and told me not to be sad and I just asked her, “Do they know they are loved? Do they know how much He loves them?”

She reassured me that they do–but do they??? I couldn’t stop asking myself that then…and now.

When you don’t know something–it can’t wreck your heart. But when you see her. And you know she’s real. When you have been given a mother’s heart. It isn’t within me to say, “I’m done. We’re good.”

But there’s more.

Because I’ve been given this beautiful thing called a mother’s heart. I have a different calling–to love His children. The children who already sleep in my home are His. But there’s more…and every little child–needs a mother’s heart to love them.

Healing is in His hands–and so often our hands are to be His. Help me Lord Jesus to open my hands to whatever you have for our family. Help us to trust you–not looking to the left or to the right…but simply UP…trusting the plans you have written for us.

Today we are studying about homeschool and weather. How you can be still–and observe what’s happening around you to understand and know what might happen next…so we are prepared. From the clouds, to the sky to even a caterpillar’s markings–all of these can foretell seasons and weather…so we are prepared. But you have to be still to know…to really know.

In Matthew 16 Jesus begins the chapter talking about how they tell the weather by looking at the sky–but some times we miss the clearest guidance of all. I love how He ends this chapter…

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?  For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.”

Lord help us to simply follow you…at all costs. You are good. We know that. We can trust you. And if it be your will for us to die to some of the comforts of this world so others may know and experience your love in deeper ways–may thy will be done. Help us to be still–to look for you…as the meteorologist looks to the clouds and slows down to carefully predict what the weather is doing…may we also slow down and look to you…to see what you might be doing and how you might be leading. We trust you Lord for your hand in our lives. Let us not look to the left or right or worry how family or friends might judge us–but rather live completely for you alone.

I wait with anticipation to see how the desires of this mother’s heart will line up with the desires of His heart. Trusting He is transforming our desires to line up with His good, pleasing and perfect will!

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot

 

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