Wednesday, December 29, 2010


If, on the 12th of December, you found out that you had sold your house and needed to be out in just one month, what would your December look like? Well, there would be shopping, baking, and wrapping, right? There would also be packing, purging, and cleaning, right? Of course, because that’s what you do in December when you’ve sold your house.

UNLESS, you’re delusional, like me and instead you choose to “check out” using the following coping mechanisms...

A large laminated US map with dry erase marker, a Rand McNally Road Atlas, the book 1000 Place to See in the USA and Canada Before You Die, and a laptop with multiple windows open including the National Parks Service, the Homewood Suites website, and Mapquest.

That’s what I’ve been doing in my “spare” time. Or at least in my “I can’t take this anymore” time. Ryan and I had decided early in our process that we were going to take the kids to see a good bit of the US before we leave. So, for the month of April, we’re going to the West Coast and back with the young’uns and we’re very excited. We have had so much fun in just the planning phases. Figuring out which things we really want to see, what we want to see along the way, or what we think the kids would love to see has been quite a challenge. We were disappointed to find out that the northern sites like Yellowstone are not really accessible in April. However, we still have more than enough planned to fill our 27 day itinerary and we can’t wait to experience it as a family.

I am also excited about blogging the Campbell Circus Cross Country Tour!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Relating to the Shepherds

One thing that I love about the Bible is that it never changes, yet every time I read it, I gain a new understanding. Take the Christmas story, for example. I remember my first Christmas as a mom. That year, it was Mary's role that leapt off the page at me. I remember being overwhelmed by her youth and the fear and anxiety she must have experienced, along with the maturity and obedience she showed. Another year, I was totally struck by the idea that Jesus actually left the glory of heaven (as in HEAVEN) to be born in a manger. I always knew that, but I remember when I really KNEW that.

This year, it was something different. It was the shepherds. We don't get any background info on these guys, so I have imagined a bit. I imagine they were pretty ordinary shepherds, just trying to make a decent living. I am sure they were just doing the best they knew how to do with the task they'd been given, sometimes failing miserably.

I imagine that there were lots of other shepherds in the Bethlehem Metro Area that God could have chosen to send the angel messengers to that starry night. Some of those other shepherds were probably wiser, handsomer, more polished, we don't know. But, for some reason, God chose those particular shepherds and He opened up the heavens and He called them to come and worship their king. And they came, out of their obedience and their reverence, they came.

I wonder if for the rest of their lives, some people thought they were crazy? I am curious if there were those who doubted if they'd truly been called to worship? I am sure there were some who wish they'd had that same call.

I know those shepherds were never the same. I wonder if their wives, mothers, and daughters understood that they simply couldn't be who they were before. Life had changed for them, they had been called by God to do something extraordinary. I suspect there were times when they, themselves, wondered if it had really happened or was it simply a dream? I imagine they were comforted by talking to the other shepherds who had been there that night and reliving the amazing events they'd experienced.

This year, I could relate to the shepherds in a way I've never considered before. Their part of the story just leapt off the page at me. Over the last year, as part of our hiring process, Ryan and I have had to articulate our call to missions multiple times. And while it's nothing like worshipping at the manger in Bethlehem, it is the reality of my life. We've had to examine our motives and God's hand in our lives over and over. We have had to defend it to our company, our families, our friends, and many times, our own hearts. There have been moments when I've wondered if we're insane, and then, God's word rushes over me along with the reminders of the moments when God spoke to my heart and told me to go.

I am peppered with questions. Why me, I have 5 children? Why me, we have a good ministry HERE? Why us, our parents will be heartbroken? Aren't their others who are more qualified? more flexible? more adventurous? more gifted at sharing their faith? more __________? And on, and on, and on the list goes. But, I know I've been called.

Whether anyone else in our world can understand, Ryan and I know that God told us to go. And we know of no other acceptable response but to go. We can already see how we will never be the same- not because of anything we've done, but because of what God is doing in us. I have been humbled over and over again to realize that it's not for me to ask why. I also acknowledge that there are many others who are more qualified, equipped, and prepared. Yet, for some reason, knowing our many weaknesses, God has called our little family, and we have a choice to make. And, like the shepherds, Ryan and I have chosen to respond in obedience and we pray that our obedience will bring nothing but glory to God.

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Favoritist Gift

When I was young, I always remember thinking that it was weird that my parents expressed little interest in what they wanted for Christmas. How could they not “want” something? Or many somethings? I spent hours making multiple drafts of my Christmas lists complete with alternating lines of red and green crayon font with holly doodles in the corner. When people would say that Christmas wasn’t about the gifts, I would think, “What, are you crazy? It’s all about the gifts, oh yeah, and Jesus too.”

Now that I’m older, I’m happy to say that I understand. While the gifts at Christmas are always fun and appreciated, they honestly aren’t important to me. I enjoy the Christmas season immensely, and I especially love the times of worship and reflection concerning Christ’s sacrifice. I really love all of the family time and baking for people that I love. Really, I love so many aspects of Christmas...the lights, the trees, the carols, and the parties. Fun times.

This year, I didn’t even know what to ask for concerning my gifts. When you’re getting ready to totally change your lifestyle, it’s hard to know what you need, much less what you “want.” Ryan and I struggled a lot with how to handle Christmas gifts for each other this year. But, like always, my sweet husband came up with a gift that was definitely my most favorite ever. In his usual, sensitive way, he chose something that I will treasure always and will surely travel with me to every continent I ever live on.

Are you ready to hear what this amazing gift was? He (with the help of my good friend Casey) had my blog made into a book. A beautiful, precious book.

I have been reading from it over the last couple days and it has been such a joy and comfort to me. Those first blog posts from the early days of our adoption process have helped me to see God’s faithfulness again. We humans tend to forget the details and the little provisions along the way.

I am so thankful that I chose to bare my soul for any and all to read. The chronicle of our journey has been worth all of the risk it takes to put your thoughts out there. I have so many opportunities to encourage other ladies because of my experiences and I am so thankful for that. In addition, re-reading those posts has also given me the courage to be a little more transparent about our current process, which I have been on the fence about sharing. Can’t wait to share a bit about our journey.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

On the Fourth Day of Christmas

Over the last few years, God has given us an increasing burden for loving our neighbors. We have been very convicted of our selfishness when it comes to pulling in the garage, hitting the button to close the door, and then heading into our house for some peace and quiet. We were content to live our lives, completely disinterested in what might be happening in the lives of those whom God had placed a few yards away.

When our next door neighbors first moved in, I have to confess I was downright cold hearted toward them. There were four children in the family and none of them had the same last name, much less first names that I could pronounce or spell. I am ashamed to admit this, but I was concerned about what sort of influence they would have on my children. What I should have worried about was how God would have us to serve them well.

My husband has led our family well in how we should treat others in this circumstance. He has set an excellent example of "loving your neighbor" as he has consistently sought opportunities to show kindness. This spring, when we were having a "perfectly planned" birthday party for my son, and they came to the door, I was trying to figure out how to get them to go home. Instead Ryan invited them in and then sent them home with the leftovers.

About 6 months ago, the husband moved to NY so that he could find work that had eluded him here. He has come back to visit a few times, but for the most part the Mama has been on her own. So, this summer, when their mower broke, Ryan took over the mowing of their lawn. While I was busy wondering how long that would take each week, he had all the kids weeding their flower beds.

The list of opportunities goes on and on. A few Sundays ago, we helped the oldest finish a Japan research project because her printer was out of ink. Last week, it was birthday party invitations that needed printing. Yesterday, it was a band-aid needed from a bike fall.

These neighbors have brought me to a realization of just how self-centered I am. I wish I could say that sacrificing my agenda for opportunities to serve them comes easily to me, but it doesn't. Yet. I pray that it will become more and more of my DNA. I pray that I get to the point that I am never comfortable putting my to-do list above relationships. I can say, that it has gotten easier. Instead of getting frustrated with the multiple doorbell ringings each day, I'm learning to be thankful for the opportunities to serve. Thankful that these girls trust me enough to come and ring my doorbell. Thankful that we've been able to share our pew at church with them for the last 3 weeks. Thankful that God is refining me with opportunities to die to myself.

We decided that we wanted to do something for our neighbors this year for Christmas. So, we're doing the 12 days of Christmas. I am sure that they probably suspect it's us. But, our kids are still having a blast dropping a gift and then ringing and running each night. They're telling us that they think it's an angel bringing the goodies. And from the stories the neighbors are telling our kids, they're having a good time finding the gifts. I pray that the Mama is feeling encouraged by these little tokens and that it will give me even more opportunities to share kindness and hope with her.

Tonight's drop-off:
4 calling birds are difficult to find,
but candy and a show went with our rhyme.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What a Miracle!

We sold our house. Well, we have a contract from someone who has already secured a loan, so we're very close to selling our house. Considering we are in a market where things have totally tanked and it's December, we're delighted. Houses simply are not showing and definitely not selling. Our agent told us in no uncertain terms that if we hadn't sold our house by Thanksgiving, we could totally forget it until March.

The only problem is, March didn't really work with our timeline. So, we refused to believe that was true. Instead, we committed to praying and fasting for a period of time until the house sold. We invited others to pray and we waited in anticipation of what God was going to do. Well, we didn't have to wait long. Praise the Lord!

Now, comes the fun of purging. We have no new housing secured, and we have 32 days to be out of our current house. 32 days that include the weeks of Christmas and New Years. This oughta be an adventure! The thought of what an adventure it will be is exactly why I am bright-eyed at 5:30 in the morning. This adrenaline stuff is going to do me in soon! But in the meantime, I'll simply ride the energy wave.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

Have I mentioned that I LoVe snow? It's even easier to love when you only get it 2-3 times a year and then it melts and you can get by with just a scarf until the next snow. This year we got an early snow and here are a few pics of our children enjoying our brief but magical December storm.

We weren't expecting any accumulation, so at the sign of the first flakes, Lily ran out to catch some on her tongue before it went away.

By evening, it had piled up on the deck, nice surprise!

Abe just wanted to eat it.

Everyone back inside nice and toasty after putting up the tree. We are about to eat our annual Christmas tree "party foods" dinner which would be better named "Chocolate and cholesterol delights." This tradition started, quite by accident, about 8 years ago and now my children do not think that you can put up a tree without "party foods."

Reality and Goodness

A few of our "rejects"

Last Saturday afternoon was absolutely beautiful. It snowed all afternoon, and because I'm so terrible about following the weather, it was a surprise to me. Now, we don't get much snow in the Carolinas and definitely not in early December and it was a true delight. To top it off, we were decorating our tree and the snow made it sort of magical.
I know this sounds selfish, but I feel like the snow was just a little gift for me. Because last Saturday morning was not so beautiful. It started out fine, with all of us excited about getting out the tree and the ornaments and decorating for our favorite holiday. Of course, the reality of it is, there is always a lot of grunt work before the fun part can begin. So, innocently enough, Ryan asked me if I would come and tell him which of our fall decorations I would like to keep as he was taking them down. And that began a very emotional process for both of us.
You see, when you're moving to the other side of the world, you don't get to take much of your "stuff." We knew that, and we could have told you that pretty nonchalantly in a conversation. But when it came down to pulling out a plastic tub and saying, "If it doesn't fit in this tub, it doesn't go," well, that's reality. So, we began sorting, which wasn't too difficult. Then we had to agree on what to do with the abandoned stuff, again not too difficult. But then we began to talk about the fact that this was 3 little tubs of fall decorations. What about the 9 tubs of Christmas decorations? Or the garage full of tools? Or the attic full of toys? Or the closets full of way too many clothes? And the whole process became overwhelming.
The rest of the afternoon, as we unpacked the Christmas stuff I kept thinking through what might make the cut and what wouldn't. It was a long afternoon. I LOVE Christmas and I know that one of the hardest things about moving overseas for me will be the distance during the Christmas holidays. I will miss the decorations and traditions that I love so much. I kept reminding myself of how purposeful this move is and how thankful I am that it is becoming a reality. And it helped, mostly. But it is still hard and will continue to be hard.
In some ways, I think it would have been so much easier to do this 15 years ago when everything we owned was hand-me-downs or Big Lots purchases. But we have lots of memories, time, and money invested in this stuff and the truth is, it's harder than I thought it would be. So many of those things were gifts from people we love or purchases that we saved or searched for. But ultimately, I kept coming back to the fact that it is stuff. Stuff is not eternal. People don't need stuff, they need hope and I refuse to let my attachment to stuff keep me from sharing the hope that comes from knowing Christ. I had to tell myself the truth all day long, but I still went to bed tired and drained.
Sunday morning when I woke up, I took a minute of quiet time, like I usually do before waking the kids up. I picked up a book I've been reading from the last few months called Voices of the Faithful and opened it to the correct date. God, in his goodness, used that page to minister to my heart with this story from a missionary serving in the Caribbean. In the first paragraphs, she was sharing about her first Christmas on the field and how she struggled to get in the Christmas spirit without all of her normal decorations and friendships. Then she said this, "As I sought the Lord, I was shown the actual heart of Christmas, which in turn changed my own heart. It occurred to me that while all these things symbolize Christmas, all of these things are not Christmas. I learned that Jesus is enough, Jesus is Christmas. When all the stuff-the lights, gifts, trees, food, and even friends- was taken away, it came down to Jesus."
Wow, I look forward to knowing that in my heart the way that I know it in my head more and more as time goes by and I am so thankful that God is good to remind me of the truth when I most need to hear it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Brownies on Thursday?

Last night we had brownies after dinner. Brownies that I bought on sale, with a coupon. The cost was minimal, but still, brownies on Thursday? We don't eat brownies on Thursday at our house. Dessert is for Friday nights. Okay, okay, I confess I do eat a fun size pack of our Halloween clearance M&Ms or an occasional popsicle on the average weeknight, but hot from the oven brownies, no way!

So why, you ask, did we have brownies on Thursday? It was a celebration at our house. Yesterday was what we now call "job match" day at our house. We got "the call" we've been waiting for and after a week of truly believing that we had come to the end of the road with our overseas possibilities, God "wowed" us again.

Now, I need to be careful here and point out that it is still tentative and it's only unofficially official. Two big things have to do down: we have to sell our house by mid-April and we have to pass the trustees vote in March (which should not be a problem, but is certainly not guaranteed). But, even with those things on the table, we are light years closer than we were a week ago.

Here are a few details about how it went down, if you're interested! Last week, before Thanksgiving, we got a couple of very discouraging e-mails from our consultant. He was being as loving and gentle as possible, but he wanted us to face the reality that things were not looking good and we might not make it through the process. The problem, from what we could tell, was that there are some budget restrictions in place and so there is a reassessment of needs taking place. However, the company's age limitations for teenagers already has us on a very strict timeline and this temporary hold was going to push us back just enough that our window of opportunity would likely close before we could get through. One of the few jobs that is actually available during this time was not available to us because of our peanut allergy. So, we were stuck.

We were devastated. We traveled to KY last week with such a heaviness. On the way, Ryan expressed a desire to communicate the certainty of our call to the company again, but we were unsure if that was appropriate. We did not want to be manipulative, but we did feel that we needed to do everything in our power to fight for our call. He said, "I wish that we could talk to someone on the field and ask them what we should do." We decided we would just wait and pray.

The next morning, we got up and found an e-mail in our inbox from a missionary serving in Africa. We had communicated with this man several weeks ago and he had heard about our peanut disqualification. He wrote simply to encourage us and he wanted us to know that we needed to strongly communicate our call to the company over and over again if we were certain that we were to go. So, Ryan and I looked at each other and quickly confirmed that we had our answer about writing the company. We sat down and drafted a very heartfelt and honest e-mail about what we felt God was telling us. Now, I don't know if that e-mail had anything to do with our progress this week, but it had everything to do with bringing peace to my heart. I knew that I had done everything in my power after sending that e-mail and I was able to rest and celebrate the remainder of the holiday in peace.

We returned home from KY and began to settle back in to our rhythm of waiting and praying and on Tuesday, we got a call from our consultant asking us if he could discuss our case with the Drs. again and see if they would reconsider our allergy disqualification. Now, according to him, this isn't something they do. But, having lived in the country for years himself, he felt very strongly that we would be able to thrive even with the allergy. We agreed and I then skyped with some folks in a similar environment on the field and they also assured me that there are people in their group that have peanut allergies and do well, with simple precautions.

Again we began praying, waiting, waiting, praying and just asking God to give the Drs. wisdom and to give us peace. Then, yesterday, we got the call that we had been waiting so many months to get. The Drs agreed to allow us to go, though they did issue several cautions. Fortunately, the things they expressed are modifications that I already practice after 8 years of being an allergy mom. The kids were crazy with joyous hysteria and all appearances of order quickly went out the window. Prayers of thanksgiving were issued, maps were being pulled out, phone calls were being made, tears were being shed, and very few thoughts were actually completed. It was a precious moment, much like the day of our referral with Abe.

One of the things I'm thrilled about is the fact that I now have dates on a calendar. I have a timeline for the next year, which is something I haven't had for a long time. Although anything is subject to change, these things are fairly firm, IF our house sells. It looks like we will be appointed in LA in May, travel to VA for 2 months of training in late July, probably go to Vancouver, BC for a 4 month Urban training n September, and finally deploy to Africa somewhere around the 22nd of January, 2012. Needless to say, we are thrilled, terrified, relieved, overwhelmed, and overwhelmingly grateful that we serve a big God whose amazing ways are so much higher than ours!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sock it to Lottie, Take Two

Last year the Kidztown staff at our church wanted to be sure that we were intentional about using the Lottie Moon Christmas emphasis time as an opportunity to teach the kiddos about international missions and challenge them to give out of their own abundance to be sure that others had a chance to hear the gospel. We used the name "Sock it to Lottie" and encouraged the kids to save money between Thanksgiving and Christmas to give to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering. The kids blew us away by more than doubling our goal of $1700 to bring in $3500.
This year, the kids have been challenged again, this time with a tougher goal of $3500. Once again they'll get the chance to slime Pastor Ryan, and we even have a few extra surprises in mind too.
Our own kids decided last year that they were going to make a few crafts to sell in Nana's garage during our large family feast. I am a good Southern Baptist girl who was raised to believe fundraising for the church was a no no, but I knew Ryan's aunts, uncles, and cousins would not be offended. So while I didn't encourage it, I did give them the okay. It was such a roaring success, that they decided to do it again and yesterday they opened up shop as soon as they had finished their yeast rolls and taters.
They were very excited to collect $62.75 cents for Lottie Moon and they're hoping that it will go a long way toward insuring that missionaries can go and daddy gets slimed!

Abby and Lizzy ready for business.

My favorite of their craftings. Ryan and Abby made these adorable tissue holders that Abby found on Martha Stewart's website.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons...

Make lemonade!

The "new" antique juicer

Lily gives it a go!

Abby flexes her juicing muscles.

Cousin Christopher takes his turn.


My mother-in-law has a thing for juicers. She has owned lots of them through the years, though I've never once enjoyed a glass of fresh squeezed juice at her house. Until today. She just received a really cool 1940 Juice King juicer as a gift and I was totally charmed by it as it sat on her counter. It is adorable and would look perfect in some Country Living vintage kitchen shoot. I am a sucker for kitchen goods, especially old ones.

So, today we decided to put that juicer to use and make the best lemonade I have ever tasted. Honestly, Chick-Fil-A better watch out cause the Campbells have figured out the secret to some yummy lemonade. Not to mention, it was fun making it ourselves. So if I can just figure out how to sneak that juicer into my luggage, we may open one heck of a lemonade stand back at our house.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I have never struggled with infertility. In fact, by the time that I was 30 years old I had birthed 4 children after 4 healthy pregnancies. The fact that we adopted had nothing to do with wanting to grow our family and everything to do with wanting to obey God's mandate to care for orphans. Having a big family came pretty effortlessly to us and I know that I have been guilty of taking them for granted many, many times.
My heart has always been heavy for my friends who have had to struggle to have children. I can't imagine what it would be like to have empty arms and desperately want to fill them. Or to spend years pursuing treatment options or adoption possibilities to be able to become a mother. It is one of the things I'll never understand this side of heaven, why crack addicts who can't or won't care for their children are able to have them one after another while women who have dreamed their whole lives of becoming mothers must wait, year after year. Those are the times when I cling to verses like Isaiah 55:9 that assures us that God's ways are higher than our ways.
I know that God is good and that He is worthy of my trust. That is what I am clinging to now. Not to make light of infertility, but I have to say that the last few weeks have felt to me a bit like I imagine the wait for a baby would be. As I shared in this post I have dreamed of being a missionary since I was a little girl. I can not remember a time when I have heard a missions sermon, song, or Sunday School lesson when my spirit did not quicken or my eyes fill with tears because of my desire to tell the nations. I firmly believe that God has planted that desire there, just as he gives many women the desire to be mommies.
And now, just as I explained here we are waiting again. Quite honestly, I am struggling with a million different emotions. I am terrified that this is not going to happen. We got an e-mail yesterday letting us know that there is some re-evaluating of staffing needs happening with our company and it could be January before we hear anything about a job match. And then, quite honestly, there may not be one. This is hard for me to hear. We have until June 15th to get to the end of this process because of the ages of our children. That's not even 7 months away. After that, this opportunity goes away.
I struggle with anger. Wondering why God awakened this dream in us and prompted us to go through this process if we're only going to crash and burn after the hardest year of our life? Why did he prompt us to go public just a few days before we got this big fat stop sign? Why has He put this same burden on our children's hearts so that He could break them too? Why did He have to call us out of our comfort zone and put this passion for the nations in us if He wasn't going to make it happen? I'll be honest, these are all questions that I am wrestling with all the time.
Then there are the very practical questions that I have too. What do we buy our children for Christmas? If we're leaving the continent it's going to look very different than if we stay. Is this our last holiday in America for a few years or not? We need new pots and pans, but I don't want to buy new ones if we're not staying. Should we be aggressively trying to sell our house or not? If we do get a job match in January, we will need to get rid of it quickly, will we regret not pushing it during this waiting time? What if, after waiting and then getting a job match, it doesn't sell? Not to mention, there is all this stuff that fills this house that needs to go if we're going, but not necessarily if we're staying.
This, my friends, is what I am wrestling with. These questions, thoughts, and emotions are constantly flooding my mind. I know, I sound like a spoiled toddler who simply isn't getting my way. And I know, when it comes to things like pots and pans and stuff, I am. It's simply a matter of desiring to be in control and wanting things to go my way. But in many ways, it is more than that. You see, this dream has been a part of my "spiritual DNA" for as long as I can remember. For as long as I have known to collect my coins for Lottie Moon, I have dreamed of going. I can't imagine closing the door on this dream.
But, here is what I always come back to. God is not surprised by these delays. If budget cuts keep us from getting to go, my God still owns the cattle on a thousand hills. If peanut allergies prevent us from going, each of my children is still fearfully and wonderfully made. If our house doesn't sell, God still has plans to prosper and not to harm us. I know that I know that I know that God's way is perfect. I just have to remind myself that I know that.
I truly have to fight my desire to feel sorry for myself. I stepped down from my job at church because we thought it was time to begin getting ready. Our son didn't enroll in Upwards because we thought it was time to get ready. Our girls didn't participated in the Christmas recital this past weekend, because when it was time to commit to piano lessons in the fall, we thought we'd be in the packing phase.
Yet, I know that even in this "extra" waiting, I can choose to honor Him. In fact, yesterday the neighbors that we've been trying to serve and share with for the last 18 months agreed to go to church with us this weekend. They will need transportation and if I were still working at the church, this would not be an easy thing to provide. I have also had time to catch up on things that were overwhelming me before. I know that I have the power to choose from which angle I will view my circumstances. I want to take the high road in the midst of this unforeseen detour.
Lizzy asked me this weekend, in reference to our move, "So Mom, what's the plan?"
To which I responded in the only way I knew how, "Lizzy, for now the plan is to pray and wait, wait and pray, and trust that God is working it all together for good."
I would invite you to pray for us too as the Lord brings us to mind. We covet your prayers as we wait.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Okay, so everyone has their "things" that are offensive to them. Especially when it comes to the Christmas season. I get increasingly frustrated each year with the over the top consumerism of the season. I saw something the other day that absolutely disgusted me. I was in a TJ Maxx store looking for some odds and ends when I noticed a display of dishes on an endcap. The graphic on the plate was a woman in a bubble bath tub with cucumber on her eyes and a "spa" treatment sort of scene. Around the rim of the art were the words, "O Come Let Us Adore Me." Seriously!?! I wanted to vomit.

I don't know why I was surprised, but I was. And then I was saddened by the fact that there would actually be a market for something so blasphemous. I know, I'm sheltered. But my heart just ached for the hundreds of thousands of Americans who would read that and laugh and not realize that there is so much more to life than that. That there is joy and hope and purpose that comes from choosing to lay down your own desires and die to yourself and instead worship the only one who is worthy of our adoration.

I think that it is so hard to navigate the whole Christmas season in the midst of our American culture. Do we do Santa or not? Do we buy gifts or not? How much is enough? How much is too much? Yet each year I am thankful that God chooses to show me other ways that I can use this season to glorify Him and serve others and train my children to find their joy in service rather than stuff. It's a hard road to hoe and I feel confident that I often fail miserably, but I am so thankful for the lessons that I learn each year.

This year, we have decided to spend significantly less money on Christmas than we normally do. I'll be honest that the decision to do this was initially fueled by the fact that we thought we would be preparing to move out of the country at this point. However, even though all of that is in limbo, I am embracing the opportunity to keep it small. I am excited about looking for ways to serve others during the season rather than running around shopping and spending. My kids are also excited that we are going to be doing some handmade gifts and readily admit that they need nothing.

So, even though I don't look forward to the stores full of pink and purple christmas trees or the non stop commercials for toys and the lowest prices of the season, I do look forward to the season. I look forward to celebrating the birth of Christ and the family time that always comes during the holidays. I am excited about creating new memories with my children and embracing simplicity in the place of stuff. I am looking forward to singing Christmas carols, and this year, I think I will find even more meaning as I sing one of my very favorites... "Oh Come Let Us Adore Him."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Zoo Day

Hey NC Homeschoolers! Did you know that you can get into the NC zoo for free? I did not know this until a few weeks ago, but it's true. All NC registered home schools can go once each year by making reservations a minimum of 2 weeks ahead. It just took a quick phone call and all of our school age children and one "staff" member got in free. This is one of the reasons we traveled there last week.
Another homeschool friend thought it would be a good way to celebrate her son's birthday and let me in on the free entry tip. So we joined two other families for a day at the zoo. The kids had a great time and we have talked about it every day since. Among our favorites of the day were the flamingos, the otters, and the sea lion.

The otter was very friendly and was definitely one of the favorites.

I personally enjoyed this sunning sea lion named Abby.

Lily was concerned about the flamingos with the broken legs. I'm not sure how we had missed that lesson, but we were able to clarify that detail.

The whole gang sitting on the egg sculptures.

The Campbell kiddos finishing off a fun day!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanksgiving Celebration

When our kids were really young we started the tradition of having Thanksgiving dinner at our house the weekend before the actual event. We did this because we always go to Ryan's parents house for the week of Thanksgiving and we look forward to it every year. But because there are so many people there, it is a great time of fellowship, but not so much a time of reflection and bonding for our own little family. We find that from the time we hit Pap and Nana's door in KY, we sort of go our separate ways, having fun all the while... which we love. However we wanted to also be sure that we had a time to sit down at a table and give thanks together.
Our little family Thanksgiving is always a time that I enjoy. We take the time to iron the tablecloth and prepare a nice meal just to celebrate together, something we rarely do. Since Grammy and Pa moved down a few years ago, we have enjoyed their company too.

Each year we do some sort of fun activities like these fun turkey cookies. In case you were wondering, it took 7, yes that's SEVEN stores to find that candy corn. Apparently, after Halloween stores do away with their candy corn. I guess it's not profitable to cater to the Thanksgiving holiday when you can fill up those aisles with inflatable Santas?!?

This year we each wrote a list of things we are thankful for and shared them together. It was funny to see how each of their lists reflect their individual personalities. For example one of our daughters who we call the "accessory queen" listed jewelry and nice clothes followed immediately by clean water. I guess it's all about balance.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

While in Cincy

Our summer trip to Cincinnati doubled as our vacation this year. Vacation means three things.
1. We ate. A lot. Not only were we on vacation, but we were in the land of my familiar favorites. So, we ate a ridiculous amount of food. Between the Larosa's pizza, Skyline Chili, Frisch's hot fudge cake, Graeter's Ice Cream, Husman potato chips, and the White Castles fish sandwiches, we were pure gluttons. I probably ate enough to cover three years worth of my old favorites.
My favorite meal was shared with two old friends. We spent the day at a swimming pool with two of my best friends from college, both of whom were bridesmaids in our wedding. After a day of swimming, we went to eat at one of the restaurants I miss the most, Frisch's. It's not that the food is that great, it's just a familiar standard of my past. We had a great day together and laughed and shared stories just like the old days.

Note to self: take photos before spending the day in the swimming pool. Here we have the natural look.

Three families, a gazillion kiddos and one more in the oven. Fun, fun, fun!

2. We shopped. My favorite place to shop is the Cincinnati Gap distribution center. It is an amazing place to buy clothes, if you like to dig. And hey, I'm more than willing to dig when the end result is 25 cent swimsuits, 7 dollar Gap jeans for everyone, and all the toddler underwear I could possibly want for 25 cents a pair. So, we took not 1, but 2 trips to the outlet and spent a small percentage of the normal price for much of our fall wardrobe.

3. We wanted to do some vacationy things, like visit Kings Island which was a summer standard of my childhood. This is the place where I learned to love funnel cakes, roller coaters, and log flumes. I have more memories there than I could count and it was neat to share it with my kiddos. We opened and closed the park and had a great day.

When I was their age, the kiddie land was called Hannah Barbara Land and the characters were Yogi Bear, Scooby Doo, and then later the Smurfs. Now it is the Peanuts.

Driving the cars.

The boy showed no fear of the 7 foot tall characters and expected everyone of them to acknowledge his presence.

Though the theme has changed, I have basically been riding this kiddy coaster for as long as I can remember. It's located directly across from the stand that sells the blue ice cream which was called "smurf berry" when I was a kid.

Another fun day on our trip was our day at the Creation Museum. This opened just after my parents moved down here, so we hadn't been before. It was really, really amazing and very well done. We had fun, but I have to say it was too crowded for my liking. By the time we left, it was clearing out. So, unlike most touristy places, I think the strategy is NOT to get there when it opens, but rather later in the day.

Isaac and Lily in the Garden of Eden.

The many, many dinosaurs were a big hit.

Abe enjoyed feeding the goats at the petting zoo part of the museum.

Ryan and I with our kiddos and my nephew Jacob, who I used to take on that same kiddy coaster at King's Island.

Normally, for our travels, I love going to new places, but it sure was a treasure to go back to visit some of my familiar family, friends, and places instead this year.

Still catching up!

My mother is one of eleven children. ELEVEN. Do you know what that means? I have cousins. Lots and lots of cousins. One of the things I miss most about living 9 hours from my hometown is that my kiddos don't have the chance to know my extended family like I wish they did. We had not been there since my parents moved here 3 years ago. So, I was excited this summer when we got the opportunity to go "home" for a few days.

The reason for our visit was the wedding of one of my cousins. This particular cousin is one that my children know and love because she, her mother, her sister, and their families comes to spend Easter with us each year. This has been our tradition every year for as long as I can remember. My kids think that Nadia and her new husband, Steve, hung the moon. So, we were honored that Ryan was able to perform their wedding ceremony in Cincinnati in August.

Sweet cousin Nadia and Uncle Jim

Sister of the Bride, Charity. The cousins gave a butterfly release as a gift to the bride and groom, one of the butterflies decided to hang out on Charity's bouquet. The kids had a great time chasing them after the ceremony.

One of the traditions in our family is that brides get a quilt made by the 7 sisters of my mom's family. This is Nadia's quilt.

Lily made the evening especially exciting because she chose to eat 2 peanut butter M&Ms off of the candy bar at the reception before anyone caught it. After a little (or not so little) allergic reaction, we got to spend part of the reception in an ambulance where she got a nice injection of antihistamines. That's us, always making those special memories. The funny thing is, she now refers to the dress she wore to the wedding as her "peanut dress."

Isaac and Lily cooling off outside the reception. Lily is wearing her "peanut dress" and if you look closely, you can see her ambulance band-aid on her arm.

All in all, it was a very fun evening and it was such a treat for me to see loved ones I had not seen in far too long. My kids made fast friends with the cousins who fall into their generation and had a great time dancing the night away.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Girls

I am posting these pictures for no other reason than that they make me smile. The girls went fabric shopping with Grandma at least 6 months ago to buy apron fabric. I wasn't with them and had totally forgotten about the apron project. Then one day a couple of weeks ago they came home from a visit to Grandma's very excited that their long anticipated aprons were almost finished.

They ended up being adorable and what makes them even more fun is that their vintage cut matches up perfectly with the history era we're studying in the next little bit. This was a happy accident, but the kids are always role playing whatever we're studying, so this is one more prop we can add to the costume arsenal. Lily even wore hers for Halloween and carried a mixing bowl for candy collecting purposes. We're grateful for such a talented and generous Grammie!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Birthday Weekend

This past weekend was my birthday and I am finally beginning to understand why my mother never loved birthdays. They're just not as fun as the years roll by. Plus, when you are the "party planner" in the family, your own birthday can be a bit anti-climactic.

I did have a nice weekend though. Ryan and I spent Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at the beach and I did not cook at all, that alone was a gift. The most strenuous thing I did during the 48 hours we were gone was walk on the beach and decide which toppings I wanted on my half of the pizza. That is a good weekend!

I came home Saturday night and my sweet children had worked to prepare a party for me. My oldest confessed that she had wanted to throw a real party with friends but unfortunately, my mom wasn't sure how to work that sort of magic in 48 hours. So, after coaxing them past the disappointment, my mom convinced them that I would enjoy a family party just as much. They put lots of thought into little details and pooled their money and collaborated with Grandma to make it special. They had set the table complete with flowers and had purchased a cake for me. They made sausage balls and pizza dip (I guess they think since this is what I make for their parties, it must be my favorite party food too, right?!?) They had even purchased cute little cans of Coke, knowing it's my favorite beverage. It was very sweet and they were very proud to offer the gifts.

The birthday table.

My cake, complete with number candles, just in case I have forgotten how rapidly I'm approaching 40. The kids were tickled when we realized that daddy could use them in a few weeks for his birthday and then next year we can reverse them and use them for Pa's birthday. What a good value! Abby was quick to point out that the package says they have a 2 minute burn time, so we each get 40 seconds of flame before we have to blow them out. Too funny!

This picture is horrid, but it makes me laugh. We could not catch that expression on Lizzy's face again in a million years.