Sunday, December 4, 2011

I shelved the elf...and learned a lesson or two

Last Friday morning, I posted something on Facebook that has caused quite a stir. After receiving dozens of comments, texts and phone calls about the post, I feel compelled to share the whole story. For those of you that didn't see it, here you go...

Apparently the Elf on the Shelf didn't like what he saw around here and took a hike. Can't blame him! Instead of finding the elf this morning, the kids found a "Dear John" letter. Here's what it said...

Dear Joshua, Evan and Olivia...

I came to your house for some elf-ish Christmas fun.
But after just four days, my job here is done.

I’ve listened to you fight, whine and complain.
With your words and your fists, you cause each other such pain.

Rarely I heard a “please” or a “thank you”.
At the dinner table you wiggle, squirm and talk while you chew.

To your mom and your dad, you argue and talk back.
Good manners and respectfulness are two things you certainly lack!

Leaving is a hard, hard thing for this dedicated elf to do.
But, little ones, it’s time for you to learn a lesson or two.

Listen to your parents…every word that they say.
Your job is simple. It is just to obey!

And to one another…be kind, loving and nice.
Given the chance to share a toy or a hug, there’s no need to think twice.

Now don’t point fingers and blame! You’ve each done your part.
And chin up…maybe I’ll return when I’ve seen a change in your heart!

With love,
Bob Elfie

 ·  · Friday at 8:10am

Before I get started, let me say clearly that this is about our family and my own convictions. It's not about what anyone else should or should not do...just us.

Now here is what that Facebook post didn't share...

Last Thursday night out of utter frustration, I threw Bob Elfie...our Elf on the a drawer and penned that letter to our children. For five solid days, my children had fought and bickered and sassed me like never before. I was beat down and fed up. So I took action and, feeling very satisfied with myself, I thought "Ha! That'll teach them!"

Guess what happened when I read the letter to them? They fought and they whined and they complained and they screamed blame at one another. And me? I sat down at the kitchen table and cried in defeat. My plan had failed...miserably.

But in those tearful moments, God spoke Truth to my heart. The kind of truth that comforts and stings all at once. Truth that this mother desperately needed hear. This is what He said to me...

An elf will not make your children obey. And neither will his matter how clever. But training and discipline will. Do as I have commanded you.

But He didn't stop there. I had another lesson to learn, so He continued with this...

You have cluttered the manger. Why have you placed yet one more thing between your children and Jesus?

Ouch! OUCH! That hurt. always, God was right. 

For months, I have been lazy...ignoring behavior that needed correction and neglecting precious opportunities to train my children in righteousness. And let me tell you...I was starting to see the consequences of my actions (or lack of, rather)! 

So did I get it together and do what was right in order to correct the situation? No. Instead, I stood in front of my kids time after time, wagging my finger and reminding them that "the elf is watching" fully expecting them to become obedient, well-mannered, grateful little angels.

Ludicrous, isn't it? Uh-huh. I know.

And God was right on about that whole cluttering the manger thing too. Here's why...

Since my return from Ethiopia in July, I have felt a strong conviction to clean out, to purge, to declutter my life of everything that comes between me and my Savior. Through tearful confession, I have surrendered spiritual junk. Through hard work, a garage sale and boxes upon boxes of donations, I have emptied our closets and cabinets of excess and waste. Although it wasn't Thanksgiving, our house was rid of so much "stuff" that had previously stolen our time and our  attention from Jesus.

But then while at Target one afternoon, I stopped at The Elf on the Shelf display. It was such a cute tradition for so many families, I thought we'd give it a try at our house. I picked it up to put it in my basket and felt for the first time a pause...something inside me that said "Don't do it. Put it back." But I ignored it and brought the elf home. On the first night, I propped him up on the mantel with the book beside him. Again, a pause. Again, I ignored it. The next morning, the kids discovered the little red elf and, after much discussion, gave him the name Bob Elfie.

For the next few evenings, I Googled elf ideas and creatively staged him. Each morning, the kids woke up on a mission to find him.

{Bob the Cheerios}

Throughout the day we talked and talked and talked about the elf. But there wasn't much talk about the virgin birth, the heavenly host of angels, the wise men or the precious gift of Jesus...from any of us. After months of making room for Jesus, I had indeed cluttered the manger. We were distracted...focusing on something of no significance and ignoring the true reason we celebrate Christmas.

Where is Bob Elfie today? Still in that drawer. Is he coming back? Probably not.

As cute and fun as he may be, I've learned that he's not the best thing for our family right now.

Friday, October 7, 2011

I saw. I pinned. I conquered...the art supplies.

Yes, this is another post about Pinterest.

So...last week I saw (and pinned) this...

A vintage Dr. Pepper crate used to store art supplies.
(And cute.)

So I hopped on over to eBay and got one for myself!
Mr. Mailman delivered it this afternoon.
I got right to work.

Here it is all loaded up...

Now if I could just figure out a storage system for these dreadful little things. Uh...the Legos, not the kids!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On Pinterest...

While eating dinner the other night, my girlfriend cautiously advised me not to join Pinterest. Our little talk went something like this...

Have you joined Pinterest? 


Oh, don't! It is soooo addicting!

I don't really get what it's all about.

Here let me show you...I've got the app on my phone.

She told me not to do it. Said it would take all my time. That I'd find myself up in the wee hours of the night "pinning". But at the same time...she made it sound so good. 

So I went home, sat down at the computer and promptly joined Pinterest. I thought to myself...I just want to see it on my computer. That screen was so small on the phone. I'm a big girl. I'll just take a look. Check it out. I can handle it.  But I was wrong. So very wrong.

My name is Carrie.
I'm a Pinterest-aholic.

And...for now...I make no apologies! Because it's not like I'm just sitting around eating Bon Bons and "pinning". I'm being inspired and things are changing around here! 

For example, this picture inspired me to clean out and spruce up my laundry room.

Pretty, huh?

I found that rug at Urban Outfitters, but it's too wide for my laundry room. Booo!
So I found this beauty of a bargain at TJ Maxx. Yay!!

With my rug in place, I moved on to cleaning out the cabinets. I don't have a picture of what they looked like before...not that I'd share it if I did! But this is what they look like now.

Cabinet 1

Cabinet 2

And Cabinet 3

And then I remembered a post that Amy at Filled with Praise wrote a few months ago. She made really cute tags to label her bins. (You can check it out here.) Once again...inspired! So I made some for myself.

Much more to organizing the bottom cabinet and painting. I'll post pictures along the way. But can you believe it? All of this...because of Pinterest. It's a good thing. Not to mention...Pinterest is really helping me get over my Facebook addiction. Bonus.

For now, I'll leave you with another fabulous Pinterest find.

I need to frame this and read it every morning...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Words of Wisdom...for mamas of daughters

I stole borrowed the words of wisdom below from a friend's Facebook post. (Thanks, Julie!!) They were just too good not to share.

We need to teach our daughters to distinguish between...

a man who flatters her and a man who compliments her

a man who spends money on her and a man who invests in her

a man who views her as property and a man who views her properly

a man who lusts after her and a man who loves her

a man who believes he is God's gift to women and a man who remembers a woman was God's gift to man.

{Me and my sweet girl}

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My T/Th Smile...

You know how it is with certain don't see them or hear from them for like a month (or more) and then you bump into them while shopping or watching your son play football. Your time apart doesn't matter because you get gets crazy. No hard feelings. You jump right into conversation and the two of you never miss a beat. it goes with this blog. 

There was a family vacation to the beach. Then there was everything that goes along with getting ready for school to start while enjoying the last days of summer break. And then we actually went back to school and a routine...and a full calendar. And on top of all that...I can't stop thinking about my time in Ethiopia.

So the blog got neglected. (Again.) But there's no sense dwelling on it, my friend. I'm just going to get right back to it and we'll never miss a beat. 

So here goes...

Can I tell you how much I love Tuesdays and Thursdays? No. I can't. At least not with words. So see if you can tell by smile on my face...

Me and my T/Th smile!

I took that picture of myself right after dropping my younger kiddos off at preschool. (And right before a much needed haircut.) For the first time in three and a half years, I have a couple of days to myself each week. And, yes, that makes me smile from ear to ear. 


Because this mama can get a lot done without little ones in tow. Like doctor appointments and errands and meal planning and grocery shopping and vacuuming and cleaning out the fridge and making important phone calls and ironing and straightening up the house and going to the bathroom without an audience!

And all the while, my kids are playing and learning and being loved on by the sweet, gifted women who teach them. They love school!

Then 2:00 rolls around and I pick them up. Soon after that, the bus brings Joshua home from school. And my T/Th smile is gone...replaced by an even BIGGER smile. Because when I have some time to get all of that stuff done, there's more time for things like...coloring and reading and cuddling and playing and tickling and laughing and fun trips to the library and the park.

And that makes all of us smile.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


On our third day in Ethiopia, we visited an orphanage about two hours outside of Addis Ababa.

The views along the way were gorgeous. With each mile, I fell more and more in love with this beautiful country and its people.

While we were at the orphanage, we had the privilege of dressing the orphans in new clothes...head to toe. One of the orphanage employees brought his two young sons. He was so proud of how they looked in their clean, new outfits. Especially the shoes. 

What struck me most was this man's gratitude. He gave God the glory and offered up the sweetest song of praise. I don't understand all the words of the song, but I understand its message.

And here are his handsome sons.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Ethiopia...Day 2

On Monday morning, we met these boys.  They're shoe shiners. You'll see dozens of them as you drive through the streets of Addis Ababa. But these boys were special. They showed up every morning...without fail. And if we told them to come back in the evening, they were there. Ready to clean the mud and dirt off our shoes.

We spent time at two different orphanages on Monday. 

The first was a Catholic orphanage. The children there touched our hearts. And so did the women that cared for could see how much they loved the children.

After visiting with the older children outside for a while, I went upstairs to see the younger children and babies. The first room I walked into broke my heart. They were babies...tiny. Some were sick and some were obviously premature. But I'll never, ever forget looking down into the first crib. It held a little boy who appeared to have hydrocephalus. His head was terribly swollen and he was unable to make eye contact. He just laid there. I guessed that he was around two-years-old, but later that night our team leader told me that he was six. 

Here are some pictures from my time there...
(I wish I could show you the beautiful faces of these little ones, but I have to cover them to comply with Ethiopian laws designed to protect the identity of orphans.)

In one of the rooms for younger children, I found this happy girl. She enjoyed hammin' it up for the camera.

These little ones are ages 3 to 4, I imagine. There were about a dozen cribs in this room alone.
They were so happy to see us. They loved the camera! As soon as I pulled it out of my bag, they started smiling and, photo, photo!
 Sweet dreams...this cute little boy asleep in his crib reminded me of how my Evan often slept in his own crib. Evan even had the same pajama pants!

Little stinker! 
This boy and I were fast friends, but when it was time for me to go...oh, he was mad! He arched his back and yelled and cried. It was so hard to walk away.

This sweet girl blew me away. She was so smart and so kind! Her English was excellent. During our visit, we talked about school, Ethiopia, church and...Justin Bieber! I learned that she's also a fan of Hannah Montana, Katy Perry and Usher. Too funny!

And these girls melted my heart. After taking their picture, I showed them pictures of my kids.
They then asked...Do you have a mother? A father? 
When I said yes, they responded...You are very, very lucky.

After we left that orphanage, we immediately visited another. 
Karen and I enjoyed watching these boys play tether ball. And I think they enjoyed having an audience.

Craft time was a big hit with these kids...they beaded necklaces, made butterflies out of clothes pins and coffee filters and got their nails painted. And, thanks to Kate, got some really cool face painting!

There were so many wonderful moments in this day...smiles and hugs, laughter and fun. Yet, my heart was heavy. For more than a year, I've read about the worldwide orphan crisis...I know all the information, all the statistics. But it wasn't until I was the orphanage, with orphans...that I really got it. And once I got it, once it became broke my heart.  

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Home...looking back at the first days of our journey

Late Monday afternoon, I was greeted by the sweetest homecoming party a girl could ever wish for.

Seeing the precious faces of my family and feeling their arms around me did my heart good.
It's good to be home.

But I must say...I can't wait to go back to Ethiopia!
Funny, huh?
This from a girl who once said about missions...I'm just not called to that.

You know what else?
This girl who said yes to adoption and yes to a mission trip but still feared what God may call her to next...well, she's no longer afraid.
Instead she's praying for and eagerly awaiting God's direction.

God has done such a work in me. 
I'm going to tell you all about it, you can be sure of that! 
But I'm still processing it all...trying to find words to do my experience justice.
So for now...I'm going to show you some pictures from the first days of my journey.

Saying goodbye to my little ones on Friday morning. 
Sniff. Sniff.

Saying goodbye to Dallas. Bound for Washington D.C.

From Washington D.C. to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

An empty seat on a crowded airplane...right between Karen and I.
We counted this as a blessing! 

My first Ethiopian meal. No comment.

Up in the air.

My first glimpse of Ethiopia.
Love at first sight.

Sunday morning in Ethiopia.
Loading up the vans outside the airport.

Along the streets of Addis Ababa.

The guest house.

Our bunk.
Poor Karen had to climb on top without a ladder.

The view outside our bedroom window.

Time to start sorting donations...

Making new friends already. 
This is Bira. LOVE HIM!

And then we were off to visit our first orphanage. 
They call it this and you'll understand why.

It wasn't long before my lap was full.

And there were no complaints from me...the more the merrier, right?

The children sang and danced for us. It was precious.

This little girl is adorable! Wish you could see her smile!

They loved craft time! We had lots of fun with crayons and stickers.

And they love to have their pictures taken.
What a handsome boy this was!

One wall of the baby/toddler room...

The other wall.
Can you imagine caring for all these little ones?
Take a moment right now and pray for the precious women that do.

And just like that...our first day was already behind us. 
Needless to say, we slept well that first night.

Stay tuned. 
I've got more to share tomorrow.