Over the past several years, I have noticed a trend of choosing a “word of the year.” This seems to be the new New Year’s Resolution. A mantra, of sorts, to inspire change, growth, or simplicity (all common words-of-the-year, by the way) in the upcoming year.

I have shied away from this particular blogging/social media trend, because it has always seemed to be just a little too close to “name it and claim it” territory for my comfort.

Until this year.

It was quite unintentional, I assure you. And, as I have actively, and quite intentionally avoided this particular blogging/social media trend, I figure it is only appropriate that I am also bucking the common practice of declaring my word at the beginning of the year…

Last Christmas, my husband gave me The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women. And, as the Lord often does, it was exactly what I needed to read…starting in the very first chapter!

The chapter was on Anger. And, while I do not typically think of myself as an angry person (oh, I have my moments!), maybe it would be better to say that I do not like to think of myself as an angry person. But, it wasn’t the specific topic of anger that resonated with me. It was the idea of listening.

John and Janie Street explained it this way:

“Listening is hard to do when you’re angry, because true listening involves submission. This requires a silent, inward confession that your demands and anger are not right and that you need the correction and help of another. This is not listening for some audible voice from God, because He has already communicated to you everything you need in His Word. When you try to hear an audible voice, you betray your lack of trust in the sufficiency of His Word (2 Peter 1:3, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Instead, listen to God through the truth of His Word – the Bible. … But, you must not stop with just listening. To listen carefully, you must not continue to speak.” (The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women, pgs. 31-32, bold mine)

My family talks…a lot. I think it was a bit unnerving for my husband when we started dating. Family dinners were loud. Words flew at a furious pace. Good-natured arguments and friendly debates were common. We interrupted, and talked over one another. Sentences often overlapped. Thoughts were often left incomplete. None of it was done maliciously, or with the intention of being rude or inconsiderate. That’s just how we communicated.

It was the polar opposite of his family’s way of doing things. His family was quiet. Conversations were slow and deliberate. They waited for someone to finish a thought (maybe a sentence, maybe an entire paragraph) before chiming in. And, the general pace of conversation was much slower.

So, early on in our marriage, my husband frequently pointed out my propensity to interrupt him. Honestly, I dismissed his observation, and his rebukes. I wasn’t doing it to be rude. I was doing it out of habit.

But, it bothered him.

And, the truth is, it was inconsiderate. It was rude. It was disrespectful.

And, if “true listening involves submission,” this was an obvious lack of submission on my part.

Instead of listening to him, to his perspective, and his opinions…I would cut him off, or talk over him, in order to share my opinions, and defend myself and my perspective…again. And, I am not only talking in the context of disagreements, although those types of conversations would definitely fall into this category. Sadly, I am mostly talking about normal, everyday communication.

“Speaking when you should be listening only interrupts the valuable insight that you are lacking.” (The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women, pg. 32)

To say I have been a slow learner in this area would be a gross understatement. I am embarrassed to say that we had been married almost 15 years…and I was only just beginning to recognize the enormity of my problem in this area. And, as I began to realize the years of wisdom and valuable insights I had missed out on (both from him, and from others), by insisting on speaking, when I should have been listening…I finally wanted to take his concern seriously.

Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” (ESV)

And, James 1:19-20 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (ESV)

There is no sugar-coating it. Scripture calls an over-abundance of words, and the speed with which we rush to verbalize them, sin.

So, I took those verses as my starting point for this past year. Even though I had read them numerous times, I began to meditate on them, daily. And, I made it my goal to prayerfully apply them in every single conversation and interaction that I had…with my husband, with my children, with the people in my church, and online.

To listen carefully, you must not continue to speak. This became my motto (not mantra!) for this last year.

Did I do it perfectly? No. I think, this side of Heaven, it will always be a struggle.

“For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” James 3:3 (ESV)

In his sermon on Taming the Tongue, John MacArthur says,

“if I want to focus my Christian life on one thing, if I want to get my act together, if I want to bring my whole spiritual life into control, I ought to work on my what?  My tongue.  Well, now we realize that it’s not fully possible to totally have a holy tongue, but to the extent that one controls his tongue, he will control his body.  Why?  Because whatever spiritual dynamics work to control your tongue will therefore work to control the rest of you. But it makes it so simple and so dynamic if we can just concentrate on the tongue.  Isn’t that practical?  I mean, just get it down to that. Focus on your mouth. And if the Holy Spirit gets control of the most volatile and the most potent member, the rest will be subdued.” (Taming the Tongue, part 1)

And, over the course of the year, I found that I could sum up my goal in one simple word:


“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” James 1:26 (ESV)

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Simply Having A Wonderful Christmastime!

…this baby made the angels sing,
And this baby made a new star shine in the sky.
This baby had come to change the world.
This baby was God’s own son, this baby was like no other one.
This baby was God with us, this baby was Jesus.
~Steven Curtis Chapman, This Baby


It’s no secret. I love Christmas! I took hundreds of pictures in 48 hours! Even though I am already enjoying looking back on them, and reliving the special moments, don’t worry. I won’t subject you to all of them. But, here is just a little glimpse into our family Christmas Celebrations…

Yes, celebrations. Plural. We kind of like to celebrate.

We started with a lovely Christmas Eve service with our dear church family. (Yes. We consider them family…because, they are!)


Later, that afternoon, Jason’s parents (known to the kids as Grammy and Grampy) came over for dinner and presents! Although I spent a good portion of the 23rd cooking, in preparation for our meal, in the many pictures I took, not one is of our Christmas dinner. Oh well. Next year. Maybe.

Grammy and Grampy picked out some fun things for the Stockings that they gave the kids. Duck masks, finger lights, candy, stamps and stamp pads, stickers, light up tops, chapstick, and fun characters… I almost think the kids would have been perfectly satisfied to end the gift opening there… Almost.

2017-12-24There were Lots of Legos: Police, Lego Friends, and American Girl. Rebekah was so excited when she opened her very own American Girl “legos”. Rachel got a broom, mop, and duster. And, I am going to have the cleanest house in town if this little girl gets her way! Titus has been begging for a real watch for weeks. He couldn’t have been more excited to get a Spider-Man watch! (Unfortunately, the battery died shortly after he opened it…and he cannot wait until we can get it fixed so he can tell time.)  And, Hannah got a digital camera! You all think I take a lot of pictures? I have competition! I think she might have taken as many pictures as I did during our Christmas celebrations!


Christmas Morning is our family celebration.


{Christmas Morning}

Even though we don’t “do” the Santa thing, I always wait until after the kids go to bed on Christmas Eve to put any gifts under the tree. So, I always love seeing their faces light up when they come downstairs and see what “appeared” overnight!

IMG_7805wm IMG_7808wm

Stockings are always first… I had so much fun finding stocking stuffers this year. I may have gone a little overboard, as it was difficult to fit everything in. (And we do not have small stockings!!)


We took a break between the stockings and the presents for breakfast. For the past several years I’ve been looking for alternatives to the easy make-ahead, overnight casseroles that I used to make. (Titus is allergic to eggs, so anything egg-based is out.) Biscuits have become our standard “special occasion” breakfast. It isn’t fancy, but, since it isn’t something we have very often, the kids love them! Jason’s dad sent us a gift of cinnamon rolls, so I added those to our morning menu at the last minute, as a special treat!


I know that Christmas isn’t about the gifts. But, I love to find special items for my family…and I love to see the joy on my children’s (and husband’s) faces when they open up a fun surprise, or something that they have wanted…

2017-12-25One of the things I love most about our Christmas morning is how the kids take their time opening gifts. We take turns…watching each person. They pause, and look at each present…stopping to read books, carefully examining each toy, or even trying on clothing…before moving on to the next gift. And, there were many smiles, squeals, and hugs.

IMG_7272wmThis was my favorite moment of the day!
It just so perfectly captured what I imagine when I think of Christmas Morning.

Because we had enjoyed our “fancy” meal the day before, the rest of the day was very relaxed. Everyone got to enjoy their new toys and books. And, the dining room and coffee table were Lego construction zones!!


Later in the afternoon, Grandma and Boppy came over!


I had some very excited kids… Grandma and Boppy found some fun play food for the play kitchen. We enjoyed an assortment of sandwiches, hamburgers, fruit, and played “guess the ingredients” with our little chefs. In keeping with the cleaning theme, Rachel got a vacuum cleaner! I am not exaggerating when I say this girl loves doing housework with me. Titus got 2 3-in-1 Lego sets…one was a truck, a rocket, and an airplane. The other had a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Triceratops, and a Pterodactyl. He could not decide which dinosaur to build first! Hannah spent the time looking way too grown up…especially opening gifts from Bath and Body Works. But, I love that she still squealed like a little girl when she got a barn for her horses. And, Grandma and Boppy found some fun blankets for the kids. The girls each got a Mermaid-Tail, in their favorite color (pink for Rachel, Aqua for Hannah, and Purple for Rebekah). And Titus got a Shark-Tail!

26026006_10215158027325221_1589805862387084074_owmMy cozy Mermaids and Shark Boy enjoying A Charlie Brown Christmas before bed.

We really did have a wonderful Christmas this year. I hope you all did too!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a Good Night!

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Christmas Jammies

Each year, we let the kids each open one gift on Christmas Eve. I think by now they have all realized that they are getting new pajamas. But, in my opinion, that is just part of the fun…and the tradition!

Here they are opening their “Christmas Jammies.”


Hannah got a Fox. Titus got Dinosaurs.
Rebekah got Ballerinas. And, Rachel got Kitties.

You might notice that their jammies are not particularly Christmas-y.
That’s intentional. I like to get something fun. Something that represents them…their likes, personality, or interests.
Plus, this way they can wear them beyond Christmas Day!
(Yes. Sometimes I am too practical for my own good.)

Aren’t they adorable?!

IMG_7029wmLooking cute and cozy in their new Christmas Jammies.

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Filed under Christmas, Hannah Elisabeth, Life, Mommyhood, Rachel Susannah, Rebekah Ann, Titus Ryle, Traditions & Celebrations

Christmas Eve Service

I love when Christmas, or Christmas Eve, falls on Sunday.

Here we are…all ready for church on Christmas Eve morning!


We have a wonderful church family!
It was a sweet blessing to spend the morning worshipping, and celebrating the birth of our Savior together.

2017_12_241 We have some very talented musicians in our church! And, they all did a wonderful job.
Hannah played her flute as part of an instrumental ensemble.
And, all three of the older kids sang in the children’s choir.


{Our Family – Christmas Eve 2017}

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Year in Review ~ 2017

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” ~Colossians 1:15-20

Dear Friends and Family,

This year has been full of the good, the ordinary, and, a few times, the not-so-ordinary.

January: Preaching, teaching, and counseling have continued to be Jason’s focus at church. He started the year with a series on “Biblical Communication.” Then, after 2 ½ years, he finished his series on the book of Acts. He is currently preaching through a series on the “Commitments and Distinctives of Our Local Church.” It has been a blessing to be reminded of what a special and unique place our church is, and how thankful we are to be a part of it. We had the privilege of having an intern from The Master’s Seminary with us this summer…but he decided to stay for a year! He has been such a big help in so many ways, and we will all miss him when he returns to school next year. We also began a new children’s program on Wednesday nights, which Hannah and Titus have both enjoyed. It has been a joy to watch our church grow in so many ways over the year.

IMG_7442February: Titus is now 5, and in 1st grade. This boy loves to learn! He is a great student, and genuinely seems to enjoy each of his subjects. (But, he says Math is his favorite.) He has memorized several Bible verses and passages, in addition to the books of the Bible in Generations of Grace (our church’s new children’s ministry), and is always ready with some great questions for his teachers! He has become a real bookworm, and reads anything and everything he can get his hands on. He got his very own library card this year, and checks out stacks of books each week…mostly on Dinosaurs, his newest passion. He loves teaching his little sisters how to correctly pronounce each of their names, and sharing random facts about them. He is a serious, thoughtful little boy who is growing up so quickly!

IMG_7421March: Rachel turned 2 this year! This is such a fun stage! She is a curious little girl, and loves to explore. And, she is constantly surprising us with her ever-expanding vocabulary and amazing memory! She tries so hard to keep up with her big brother and sisters, and loves do whatever they are doing. So, she has officially joined us for pre-school this year, and absolutely loves being included in our school days! She is still so young, so although she does a great job of listening, and participating in her lessons, we are leaving lots of time for play! This girl just loves life, and brings so much joy to our family. She has the best giggle, and loves to make people laugh! So far, she remains the baby of our family, but she is definitely not a baby anymore!

IMG_7426April: Hannah turned 12, and I am amazed by just how grown up she is. She is my right hand girl, and is a competent and reliable help each day. She loves to be in the kitchen…especially if it involves baking! But, she is also willing to help out with everyday meals, and clean up. She has continued playing the flute this year. She loves to practice, and has shown great ability and improvement over the last year, and has moved up to the Intermediate Band. She is currently busy getting ready for 2 concerts! School has been a big change for her this year. She is officially in junior high, and her classes have definitely become more challenging (for her, and her teacher!), but she is working hard, learning to manage her time, and continues to approach everything with her characteristic joy and sweetness.

IMG_1802May: May was a busy month for our family, and even involved a little bit of travel! At the beginning of the year, I became a consultant with HomeWorks by Precept, which represents BJU Press and other homeschooling resources. In May, I had the opportunity to travel to Arlington, Texas, to work at my first homeschool convention of the year, sharing about the curriculum that we use, and helping other homeschoolers find the best options for their family. Shortly after I returned, Jason left for Washington DC, and spent several days at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, for their “Weekender.” It was a much needed time of refreshment and encouragement. He came home so excited about all he had observed and learned, and ready to apply it in our church!

IMG_3577June: Hannah and Titus took 2 weeks of swimming lessons this summer. Titus went from a fear of getting his face wet, to putting his face in the water, swimming (somewhat) independently, and even willingly jumping off the diving board! Hannah, made a few new friends (of course!), and went from only being able to do the most basic “doggy-paddle” to diving in, and learning several new strokes!

July: Veronica’s parents, sister, and our nephew moved to Texas this summer! After spending our entire married life in a different state than one, or both, sides of our family, it is a special blessing to have all of our parents, siblings, nieces and nephews nearby! (Even if we still don’t get to see everyone as often as we would like.) The kids have greatly enjoyed having all of their grandparents close, and have loved playing with, and getting to know their cousin.

IMG_4179August: Although we weren’t in the path of totality, we enjoyed watching the (partial) solar eclipse from our front yard. We experimented with the supposed gravitational differences caused by the eclipse. And, a friend gave us some eclipse glasses so that we could all watch safely. That was on Monday. By Friday of that week, we were in the path of Hurricane Harvey. We were so thankful for the generosity of so many friends who offered us refuge, should we need it. Thousands of people were displaced due to flooding (including several of our own friends and family), and the state is still very much recovering. But, God was incredibly gracious to us, and our home and church buildings remained safe and dry.

2017-09-05_09-27-54_924wmSeptember: We started our 8th year of homeschooling this Fall. Our “one house schoolroom” is a busy place during the week. I teach 7th grade, 1st grade, Pre-K, and preschool. We rotate through a daily routine of lessons, play time, chores, errands, music practice, and general chaos. It can be exhausting at times, but it is definitely not boring. I think I say this every year, but this really might be my favorite school year yet! At the end of the month, Jason and I had the opportunity to attend his 20th High School Reunion. It was fun to spend some time wandering around his hometown, meeting/reconnecting with some of his high school classmates, and attending his high school’s Homecoming football game.

IMG_7416October: Rebekah turned 4, and started Pre-K this year! She is my high energy girl. She runs, skips, and twirls everywhere. Sitting still and being quiet is not one of her stronger skills. But, she has really surprised me by becoming an eager and enthusiastic student. She is usually the first one ready to start our school days, and often asks for more work when she has finished. She has one volume – loud. But, she has a surprisingly shy, timid side as well, especially when she is faced with new people or new situations. I often describe her as sweet and spunky. She has her own unique style, ideas, and opinions…about everything. But, she is the tender-hearted, encourager, and cheerleader of our family.

November: We became a house divided, as the Houston Astros played the Los Angeles Dodgers in the final game of the World Series! My son even called my hometown team “the bad guys!” And, I found myself alternately cheering for both sides. Ultimately, we were all happy with the outcome…and the victory was especially sweet after all that the city of Houston has been through this year.

December: And, this month already promises to be full. We are looking forward to Christmas concerts, band and choir practices, church fellowships, Bible Studies, and time with family…all celebrating the best, most extraordinary Gift ever given.

So many years ago, in the birth of a tiny baby in Bethlehem, we were given the “image of the invisible God,” in whom “the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” He was, and is, the promise of our hope and our salvation, “making peace by the blood of his cross.”

What an amazing thing to reflect on, and celebrate…this Christmas, and each day of the year to come.

By His Grace,

IMG_7478Jason, Veronica, Hannah, Titus, Rebekah, & Rachel

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