Saturday, December 24, 2011

Promises Kept

And Mary said:
"My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors." (Luke 1:46-55 NIV)

God keeps his promises. This is the truth of Christmas.

You will receive many gifts this Christmas season. Consider giving a gift back to God--your time, obedience, and love.

Have a blessed Christmas!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

2011: Year in Review Multimedia Extravaganza

It seems cliche to say, but this was a very busy year for the Krosts, full of changes big and small.

In January 2011, we lost Grandma Josie. Her passing came 32 days after the sudden death of my Uncle John, Grandma Josie's youngest son. Both losses were sad and painful in their own way, and the entire family is still adjusting. But as always, God had a plan.

We learned that we would need to leave our home in Sterling Heights in late winter. We were unsure of where to go and how to preserve some sense of normalcy for Madeline and Ava. Our family approached us about occupying Grandma Josie's house. We humbly and gratefully accepted and began preparing the house. We shared some special memories with my aunts, uncles, and cousins going through Grandma and Grandpa's personal items. It was a bittersweet time.

We officially moved in during Easter break. The backdrop of Christ's death and resurrection was a comfort and encouragement to us as we closed one chapter of our lives and began to write a new one.  But we also said goodbye to another family member: our dog, Gatsby.  We found him a new family through A New Leash on Life pet rescue.  He is missed daily, but we know he's with a family better suited to handle his health demands.

We settled in to the new house and began to weave together old and new memories. Madeline and Ava met some neighborhood kids and spent many pleasant hours in the backyard, playing in the warm springtime weather. We all remarked that Grandma and Grandpa would have loved to hear children's laughter in their home again.

We had Ava's 2nd birthday party and Maddie's 6th birthday party here at the house. Friends and family from far and near joined us to celebrate another blessed year of "firsts" for the girls. Ava's first include potty training and moving to a "big-girl bed"; Madeline's firsts include graduating to first-grade, learning how to ride a two-wheeler, and getting to perform in the school's spring concert.  That's her at 1:50 reciting Psalm 139:14 in front of several hundred people!

On Madeline's actual birthday, June 14, we were in Illinois visiting Oma and Opa.  Auntie Tasha, Todd's sister, gave birth to her third child, Abigail Esther, on Maddie's birthday!  Both girls were overjoyed to hold their precious new cousin.

Maddie played t-ball for Roseville parks and rec in July. She enjoyed it, and her little sister enjoyed watching and cheering, "Go, dee dee!".
We had a bit of a scare in August when Ava had a suspected allergic reaction to eating nuts.  After a trip to our pediatrician and a pediatric allergist we were given a tree nut allergy diagnosis. She is allergic to walnuts and pecans, but we're cautious about all other tree nuts, which include almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, and pistachios. We're all adjusting to learning how to read food ingredient labels and use an EpiPen.

Maddie is currently in first-grade.  She is doing very well and makes progress every day.  She has gifts in writing and art.  She most enjoys recess, music, and computer class.  More on that later....

Ava is at home with her daddy during the day.  The two are quite a pair and enjoy going on "missions" together.  She is definitely daddy's girl.  She most enjoys playing with her babies and Barbies.  She is also a fan of dressing up.

Todd is continuing his seminary classes at Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit. He is able to do this through an agreement with Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, where he is officially enrolled. He is seeking his Masters in Divinity on the path to becoming a full ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church.  He continues to serve as the Intergenerational Minister at our church, Warren First United Methodist, creating programs and events such as First Friday Film Festival, a beginner computer class, and confirmation preparation. He had the opportunity to preach several times this summer.  His class schedule fluctuates between day and evening classes, so sometimes we're "like ships passing in the night" when I'm just getting home from work and he is leaving for class. But we're excited to see where God will send our family and we invite you to keep us in your prayers.

Christina began a new position at St. Paul this year. After four years of being a third-grade home room teacher, she moved to teaching K-8 computer classes.  Click here to see her class blog.  She enjoys seeing all 500 St. Paul students, including Madeline! She mostly enjoys sharing her love of technology with her students and teaching what it means to be a good digital citizen.

One final picture...the annual Krost-Corace Family Christmas picture in front of Nana and Papa's tree, taken in early December when we celebrated Nana's birthday.

And that brings us to the present.  Thank you for all your prayers and encouragement...but keep 'em coming! We'd love to keep in touch with our friends and family near and far.  You can subscribe to this blog and get new posts through email, or you can follow Christina on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest by clicking the buttons on the left in the sidebar.  Hope to talk to you soon!  Have a blessed Christmas season and a happy, healthy New Year!

Repeat After Me...

Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him. (Psalm 127:3 NLT)

Children are a blessing from God. Even when they're whining. Even when they're fighting. Even when they're messy. They are a blessing from our Creator who loves us. Through them, we learn more about ourselves: how to be patient, how to be joyful, how to be loving. Even when they test us to the outer limits of our sanity, they are a blessing.

Repeat as necessary, as many times a day as it takes, until you begin to feel it in your heart.  I usually feel better by my hundredth repetition.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Martha Moments

But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”
But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:40-42 NLT)

I am totally a Martha.  It's one of the things I know about myself that I really want to change.  My Martha-tendencies tend to flare up most at the holidays, where there are lots of things to do and very little time to do them.  I get so distracted by the little details of party planning and food preparation that I forget what, or whom, I'm doing the work for.  I'm one of those, "Well, somebody has to do it!" kind of people.  Then I get resentful when I'm stuck doing the work and don't get to enjoy the party.

Maddie and I were listing to an Adventures in Odyssey CD about Mary, Martha, and Lazarus on the way to school the other day.  And I was humbled.  By a kids radio program.  This particular episode covered the events in 1st century Bethany from just before to just after Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus.  It gave a fictionalized account of Martha's frustration with preparing food for guests and disciples while Jesus stayed and taught at their home, her conflicted faith about Jesus' role as messiah, and in the end, her ultimate conviction that Jesus was the Savior of the World.

I could have easily inserted myself into the story in Martha's place.  I understood who she was and how she was feeling.  I was able to see the error in her attitude, but I saw her attitude in my heart.  The episode's lesson was, "Doing things for Jesus isn't the same as being with him." So I'm adding a change of attitude to my daily prayer intentions.

So, who are you more like?  Mary, who knew who Jesus was and put things in proper priority, or Martha, who couldn't see Jesus amidst the bustle of daily life?   Are we ever truly spending time with Jesus, or just working around Him?  In this Advent time of preparation, it's easy to get caught up in details.  Let's all try to not only prepare our hearts and homes, but also find time to spend time each day with Jesus.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Eleanor the Elf

We have a new family member!  Her name is Eleanor, and she's our Elf on the Shelf. An Elf on the Shelf is one of Santa's helpers who visits your home or school during the day and reports back to Santa every night.  Each morning, he/she is found in a different location.  The #1 rule about having an elf is that he/she cannot be touched, or else he/she loses his/her magic.

Follow along with Eleanor's adventures!  I'll post a picture of where she was found each morning.

Isn't Christmas a magical time?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Advent Traditions

     It's hard to believe that the season of Advent is already here.  I was caught a bit unprepared and had to rush to uncover the Christmas decoration boxes from the basement in time to light the Advent wreath on Sunday.  I have the one that I used growing up, since my brothers don't have families of their own yet.  Perhaps some day...

     Now that the girls are a bit older, I think it's time to start a few new Advent traditions. So each night of Advent this year, we will light the Advent wreath and follow along in this book, The Christmas Countdown: Creating 25 Days of New Advent Traditions for Families.  I purchased the book on Amazon and downloaded it to the Kindle app on my iPad.  It was quick, easy, and inexpensive.  So far, we've had some interesting dinner table discussions from the prompts given in the book. I love that we're repeating old traditions, like lighting the Advent wreath and setting up our nativity set, but also creating new ones as a family.  For example, one of the suggestions from yesterday is to have the girls "make" wrapping paper.  They love arts and crafts, and I love a great "green" Christmas idea. 
     What Advent traditions do you have in your family?  Did you have them growing up, or did you create them on your own?  I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Too Much

"Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you." (1 John 2:15 NLT)

Our family recently decided to get rid of our cable service. This was for a number of reasons. We could certainly use the extra $$$ in our bank account each month. We also found that having the TV on during family time = loud chaotic mess. But the following reason trumps all others: I hate commercials. I am especially intolerant of ads targeted at my kids, fueling a constant chorus of, "I want that, I need that, buy that for me!" And so on.

This is especially challenging at the holidays. I admit that I haven't seen much TV lately, but I happened to turn on the Dancing With the Stars finale for maybe10 minutes last night and was horrified, not at the program (that's another blog post altogether), but at the commercials. The blonde lady on the Target commercials is a bit disturbing. She gets completely worked up about preparing herself for Black Friday shopping deals. Now, I like a deal as much as the next person, but nothing in this world is worth that kind of mania.  It also seems that we've lost the meaning of the holiday itself: giving thanks for what we have and for our many blessings, not for 20% off a purchase of $50 or more. 

The heart of my problem is this: how can I teach my children that happiness and holiness isn't found in things but in relationships, when the world at-large gives such a different message? Sure, my kids still want stuff, even without being bombarded with TV commercials.  When the American Girl Doll catalog comes to the house Maddie quickly circles the items she wants. Ava imitates her big sister, making wild crayon circles on every page.  Maddie has to do chores to earn money, which she divides among spending, saving, and giving jars.  One of our family rules is to "give thanks for everything", which we repeat and discuss when the children have a case of the "gimmies".  I feel that as a family, we do our best to think before we buy.  But it's a constant battle.

I want to teach the girls what the author of the above verse says: if you're focused on the things of the world, you take your eyes off what really matters: Jesus. But the message is deeper than that.  Our desire for stuff not only blocks out our clear view to Jesus, but it also has consequences for our environment and our world.  Check out the YouTube video below. It's just a further explanation about how consumerism imbalances our world's resources and wealth.

I don't mean to diminish the special family bonds that can form over Black Friday shopping.  But I hope we can all think twice about how we spend our money, and our time, over the holidays. Have a safe and blessed Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Running the Run

I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.(1 Corinthians 9:27 NLT)

I turned thirty-one this past September. I'm officially "in my thirties" now. The reality of my impending age wasn't sitting too well with me last spring. Here I was, a wife of nine years, a mother of two, a hardworking educator, and a bit chubbier than I wanted to be. I wasn't getting any younger, either.

That "baby weight" from Ava, then almost two years old, didn't melt off the way the books and pop culture said it would. I had no idea where I would find the time to exercise in my already too-overscheduled day.

And then my school did a Biggest Loser-type competition. I was all in! My competitive nature kicked in and I began to view my weight loss as a goal rather than a burden. All participants weighed in weekly and our percentage of weight lost was calculated. I wasn't the "biggest loser" in the end, but I did come away about 10 pounds lighter and a clothing size smaller. Somehow, I found the time to exercise and eat better.

I realized as I began committing to an exercise routine that if I wanted healthy, active children , I had to model healthy, active behavior.

Once the weather warmed up, I would take one or both kids with me in the jogging stroller. It started as a brisk walk. Then it built to a light jog. I began to go for longer and longer runs. And I got bored. Just like with the weight loss challenge, I knew that I needed something to work for. So I did something very unlike me, something impulsive: I signed up for the Detroit Free Press 5K.

I had never run before this past summer. I swam competitively in high school, but swimming is a totally different sport. What was I thinking!? But that competitive nature kicked in again and gave me something to work towards.

So three to four times a week, I got out for a run, sometimes in the still, early morning before the kiddos awoke, sometimes in the calm, early evening with a kiddo or two in the jogging stroller. Slowly, one foot in front of the other, I progressed.

I ran the 5K on a blustery October morning. And I didn't die. So, I signed up for the Big Bird 4K, which I completed this morning. I'm not fast. I'm not skilled in any way. But I'm giving it my best. And perhaps most importantly, I'm showing my girls how to reach for their goals.

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians referenced above, is telling his audience to "walk the walk" so that they might preach the gospel message to the world without feeling shame or inadequacy. I identify with that message. I have to model appropriate Christian behavior to my children, students, and coworkers everyday. I often feel like a hypocrite, asking others to do things that I have a hard time doing myself. But it's my goal to do my best.

Our world is moving way faster than Paul's was. Our world doesn't walk anymore. We often need to run to keep up. The lessons I've learned about myself, my body, my limitations, and my strengths, helps me maintain a steady pace. And keep running toward my goals.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanks

That I may make the voice of thanksgiving to be heard, And tell of all thy wondrous works. (Psalm 26:7 ASV)

November is here, and to me that means giving thanks. After thumbing through one of the many catalogs that comes in the mail this time of year trying to sell me "holiday cheer," I saw a cute opportunity for a family project.

The inspiration (see left) came from Pottery Barn Kids.  Due to demand, they are sold out of the item and it's no longer on their website. But being crafty (and cheep!) I figured that I could do something similar for way less money and involve the entire family. So off I went to Michaels...

The materials I chose were:
-Scrap booking paper (a large book of monthly themed papers, on sale!), cut into fourths.
-Tiny clothespins ($3.00 for 50)
-Fall-themed tracers (I Googled "fall tracing patterns", saved the images I liked, put them in a Word document, adjusted their size, and printed them off. I may even laminate them for easier tracing...)
-Gold sparkly ribbon (on sale in the Christmas wrapping area!)

I used some Command hooks that I already had laying around the house and tied the ends of the ribbon to the hooks. I eyeballed the length and center of the wall and put up the hooks. Remarkably, it looks even.

Here's the fun part: building the project. Each day in November, one family member will add something he or she is thankful for to the ribbon-clothesline. He/she will trace the chosen shape onto the chosen paper, cut it out, and write the item for which he/she is thankful. It's a great activity for Maddie and Ava, who are very excited to trace and cut. I use a permanent marker to write the thankful sentiment, but Maddie can help me sound out the words.

This project has led to some tender family discussions around the dinner table. What are you doing to prepare your heart to give thanks this holiday season?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sweating the Small Stuff

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? (Matthew 6:27 NLT)

As I wrote last week, I've been going through a difficult season lately. All around me I see death, suffering, frustration, outright spiritual's a lot to take in at once. I'm feeling out of balance and utterly exhausted.  In short, it's been "one of those weeks". 

But our benevolent God spoke to me through my pastor's sermon on Sunday, and I was comforted. I have a love-hate relationship with the scripture selection that was read on Sunday: Matthew 6:25-34. I love it because God spoke it to me through my weekly Bible study last spring as my family was going through a very difficult financial situation. He spoke it to me again a week later when it was the subject of the Sunday school lesson I was assigned to teach that week. I've encountered it in personal prayer time. And it came up again this past weekend. Each time, I heard God's message loud and clear. But here comes the hate part: I still struggle with the application of His message. I sweat the small stuff.

I worry about the day-to-day things many people worry about: Did I remember to put eggs on the shopping list? Did I remind Todd to check the ingredient list for tree nuts before he buys cereal? Does Maddie have clean uniform shirts? Will I be able to make it to that meeting at school or church and still spend a few moments with Ava this evening?

Telling me NOT to worry will not help. But perhaps shifting my nervous energy to focus on "important worries" will: Am I raising my children in a way that honors God? Is my home a happy and healthy place? Am I paying attention to the needs of my husband, too? Focusing on these things will still not add a single moment to my life. But they might help enhance it. And that's no small stuff.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Rough Week

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

It's been an emotionally rough week.  A coworker's 19 year-old sister was killed in a horrible car accident last Saturday.  We've had serious bullying issues at my school for the past two weeks.  My nephew spent two nights in the hospital having his tonsils removed.  I've not seen my kids in what seems like days because of all the crazy things I have to do in my roles as wife and working mother.  The minute it seems like I can't take any more, I get one more text or see one more Facebook status update with bad news.  I am broken.  I am tired. And frankly, I haven't had time to process the volume of what's been going on this week.  Some weeks are like that.  But as I searched for a Bible verse to include in a condolence card to my coworker, God spoke the above verse to me.  It suddenly dawned on me that in my exhaustion, I haven't really been talking to God.  So I will.  Right now.  And take deep breaths.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Faithfully Following

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4 NIV)

Following is hard. I find myself always wanting to be the leader. I come by it honestly; I am a mother and K-8 teacher. Being the leader is what I do. But it's been a rough few years for the Krost family, and so a change is in order. It's time to get "back to basics".

That's where this blog comes in.This is my new attempt to organize the happenings of the Krost family. But it's also a place for me to try to put all the pieces together, step back, and see how God's hand is working in the life of my family. I desire to be a better follower: of God, of my husband, and of those placed in authority over me. I hope that through the trials and joys of daily life I can grow in maturity, until I am "not lacking anything", as James 1:4 so beautifully writes. Will you follow with me?