Our Journey Home

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday funny: apology?!?

Bella walked into the kitchen with her eyebrows furrowed. She was deep in thought and her arms were crossed, as though she was a little mad. "Baby, what are you thinking?" I asked.
"Wubs never apologized, mommy! She never even said sorry she gave me the stomach bug!!!"
Nearly two weeks since our terrible stomach bug virus, and Bella is still thinking about it! wink! I explained to Bella that a.n.y.o.n.e could have given her the stomach bug- someone in our family, someone at church, even someone at the grocery store! But, she was still pretty certain it was Wubs. ha ha!
ps- And, from our family to yours- Merry, Merry Christmas!!! I'll be taking a little blogging break until the new year.

"Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you."- James 4:7

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Photojournal: Cheerios!

 JJ has discovered a new food sensation...Cheerios in milk! (a.k.a chee ahs,wink!) Here is our little man in action, gobbling up his new favorite breakfast!

JJ's little friend, Seth, celebrated his 1st birthday this past weekend. I have the priveledge of making Seth's smash cake and cupcakes for his big party! He had a Winter One-derland theme, so everything was decorated with penguins!

"A man's wisdom give him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense."- Proverbs 19:11

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Happy Birthday, Nana!

Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday, dear Nana! Happy birthday to YOU!

"The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them."- Psalm 25:14

Monday, December 17, 2012

December 17, six years ago...

We serve an amazing, loving, merciful God. This side of heaven, I don't think I'll ever truly grasp His greatness. However, six years ago, the Lord did redeem our marriage in such a way that I got a glimpse of His immeasurable glory like I had never imagained. You see, on December 17, six years ago... I decided I was going to walk out on my marriage. Emma Grace was only a toddler when I scooped her up, grabbed the diaper bag, and ... I left.
Some of you know our marraige testimony, and some of you know pieces of it. But today, I want to share our testimony.  (And I have to admit, I'm a little nervous! But God has laid it on my heart for some time now to write this story as a record God's work in our lives.) It is a story of two imperfect people, sinful and selfish, who are deeply loved by a perfect Father. It is only by His grace that this story has a beautiful ending. wink.
When we got married, I was very early in my Christian walk. I accepted Christ only six months before I became Mrs. David McNeill. We had a small income (David was finishing college and I was a school teacher) so money was tight. I was not being mentored and we were not attending church regularly. Basically, our marriage was brewing the perfect storm.
I can't even tell you what we were fighting about on December 17, 2006. I don't have the slightest recollection. But what I do remember is that I felt like our marriage was hopeless and I wanted out. I wasn't walking closely with the Lord; I hadn't been studying His Word. I wasn't praying and I wasn't seeking Godly counsel. Instead, I was relying on the influences of the world and I was listening to Satan's lies. Because the Truth is this: God wants us to seek holiness, not happiness. God wants us to experience true joy, not temporary satisfaction in things that do not last. I wasn't being the wife that God had intended me to be; in fact, I don't know that I was being much of a friend to David, either. I wasn't honoring my husband, I wasn't encouraging him, and I certainly wasn't being a blessing to him. I think that deep down, I knew I was failing as a wife and I didn't know any other way out.
Our separation lasted only a few weeks, and in that time, my husband fought for our marriage. He went to talk to a marriage counselor (without me because, isn't this awful- I refused to go!) and he prayed and prayed for our marriage. Then, he truly dazzled me with the love of Christ. David blessed me so much during this time, even though I was being very unloving to him and even though I was seeking a divorce. The state of North Carolina requires a one year separation before a divorce is granted, so I was scouting out apartments that I could rent. When moving day arrived, I was completely set on my decision to have my own place with Wubs. I was staying in South Carolina with my parents but I decided my apartment should be in Raleigh so that David and I could share custody of Emma Grace. David had come to South Carolina that weekend and we were all caravaning back to Raleigh for the moving day. David was driving his Jeep, my dad was following in his truck, and then I was driving in our family car with my mom and Wubs.
We had been driving for nearly two hours when the Holy Spirit absolutely gripped my heart and God very clearly spoke to me. And, for the first time in a long long time... I listened. I heard His voice and I clung to every word. He told me to go home. I remember driving became so difficult because I began to sob. My heart broke and I was filled with an overwhelming desire to truly trust God, even when I didn't understand and even when it was hard. I knew that I needed to go home, to my husband. I called David's cell phone and I asked him to please take the next exit. That's all, no explaination, just a request to pull over our caravan. We pulled over and I was crying so hard that I don't remember if I even told my mom (who was sitting in the passenger seat of my vehicle) why I needed to pull over. I jumped out of the car and I ran to hug my husband. And he knew. I didn't even need to tell him, he just knew. My parents drove back to their house in my dad's truck, and David, me, and Wubs went home! We went home and together, we sought Christian marriage counseling. (And interestingly enough, our marriage counselor and his wife are some of our very dearest friends to this day! ) David and I committed to becoming part of a church body and we joined Faith. We were mentored by Godly men and women that the Lord put into our lives. And we began to pray!  God blessed our marriage immensely and He healed our hurts and His word gave us the tools we needed to have a Biblical marriage. We still make mistakes and we are always learning, but God is back where He should be- at the center of our marriage. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
 "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy; it does not boast, it is not proud."- 1 Corinthians 13:4

Friday, December 14, 2012

Joyful news!

I am SO so very excited to share that Wubs is my new sister in Christ!! Emma Grace asked Jesus into her heart last week, and we couldn't be more overjoyed! We have been praising God for Emma Grace's salvation and her new life in Christ!
While we do study the Bible in our homeschool curriculum, and Emma Grace has a quiet time as part of our daily routine, the Lord really burdened my heart with a desire to set aside a time each week to have a Mommy and Me Bible study. When I asked Wubs if she would like that idea, she was thrilled! We decided that Tuesday nights would work for our Bible study and it started this week!
We put all three children to bed and then I got everything ready for our Bible study. I set the table with a few things we would need...
I made a little journal for our Bible study time, so we could record what we learn together. I also wanted to make our time extra special so I decided we needed to drink out of goblets! wink.
 After Emma Grace had rested in her bed for about 15 minutes (just long enough to unwind from the day) I cracked her bedroom door and smiled at her. She jumped up and ran out of her bedroom to give me a big hug! She knew it was time for our very first Mommy and Me Bible study!

We started our time together with prayer. I prayed and then we took some time talking about how we would be using our new journal. We decided we would date our journal entry and then we would take turns, each writing one or two sentences. We left space a the bottom of the page so that Emma Grace could draw a picture about what we learned in our Bible lesson.
Next, I talked to Wubs about my Bible. Although she has seen my Bible hundreds of times, I really showed it to her. I showed her all my little notes I've written on the edge of the pages, and the many many places where I've underlined verses. I even showed her little marks where both Wubs and Bella have scribbled in my Bible over the years! wink. We talked about God's Word, and how we can read the same scripture many times and yet learn something new every time. We started our Bible study at the Christmas story in Luke 2. We read about Joseph and Mary's travels to Bethlehem and about the birth of Jesus. We read about the angels that appeared to the shepherds. We had a wonderful discussion about these verses and God really blessed our time together! Here is Wubs with our completed journal entry...

Wubs prayed to close our Bible study time and we sipped our water and chatted for a few more minutes. Wubs really, really liked the opportunity to stay up later than her sister and brother, and it was so precious to have that time to pour into our oldest child! Wubs told me that she can't wait until next Tuesday night, and you know what? I can't wait, either! wink.

"This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."- Luke 2:12

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bella's custom order... wink!

This week, Bella had a Christmas party in her ballet class! She was supposed to bring a treat to share, and I was just sure she was going to ask me to buy fruit roll ups. But, our sweet youngest daughter looked up at me and said, "Mommy will you make me a cookie cake to bring to ballet? And it can say 'Thank you Miss Ana'?" (Such a precious little request. I knew I could whip that up for her!) "And mommy, will you make snow on my cookie?" (A few snowflakes, no problem! wink) Then Bella added, "Also, could you make four ballerinas, except one ballerina needs to be bigger because that will be Miss Ana and then three little ballerinas so they could be me, Gracie, and Miriam and also please make us dancing just like Miss Ana. Okay, mommy? Okay?" ha ha ha! I had to laugh at Bella's (many) requests! But, it did bless my heart that she wanted to take a homemade cookie instead of a perfectly wrapped store bought treat. I tried my very best to fulfill Bella's custom order...

And Bella loved it! She even helped me write on the box! Oh, I love our baby girl!!

ps- In other 'cake news', our friend Neely turned 8 and she celebrated with a party at the bowling alley! This was a super fun cake to make and I loved the sparkler candles that her mommy purchased for the final touch!
"Your statues are wonderful, therefore I obey them."- Psalm 119:129

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: homeschool activities

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."- Romans 8:28

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

a lovable little brother

 I honestly can't even count how many times I have heard both Emma Grace and Bella say, "I love having a little brother!" Bella and JJ are true playmates, and Wubs enjoys being mothering toward her brother. Now that JJ is talking, the girls enjoy trying to have conversations with him! The girls are quick to share and be a helper to JJ. He is a lovable little boy! We thank God for our sweet children and for the friendship they share together!
 JJ thought he was pretty funny when he found Daddy's hat! This picture makes me smile!
 JJ decided to try on Bella's boots with his jammies the other night!

"Look at the nations and watch- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told."- Habakkuk 1:5

Monday, December 10, 2012

Lesson learned

The stomach bug hit our house last week.
First JJ had it and he was so so sick. It started on Tuesday and bless his heart, he was sick for two days!
On Thursday (well, actually it was Friday morning at 2am) Wubs got it. We were up and down for hours, my poor little girl. Bella woke up that morning at about 6am, complaining of a tummy ache. Within the hour, our sweet girl was violently sick too.
David came home from class and, you guessed it... he had it too!  One by one, our whole family went down. Except for me! The Lord allowed me to stay well to take care of my precious family. I did get a bit prideful, though, telling my friends who called to check on us that "I never get the stomach bug".

Lesson learned- Never say never. I will never again say, "I never get the stomach bug." wink.
We are thankful to be on the mend, and we are grateful for all our friends who were praying for us and checking in on us!

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the prope time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."- Galatians 6:9

Friday, December 7, 2012

Bella's Christmas ballet recital

Last night, we got to watch our little ballerina perform in a Christmas recital! Bella was SO excited! Here are a few pictures from our special night:
Bella, Miriam, and Gracie, waited patiently for the show to begin!

We weren't supposed to use flash photography during the performance, so I don't have any pictures of the girls dancing. They were adorable!

After the show, the girls got all sorts of treats! Flowers from family and gifts from friends. It was very exciting for the ballerinas!

I love the picture above! Miss Bailey is a dear friend of our family. She is also Bella, Miriam, and Gracie's Sunday school teacher. I think the girls thought it was really, really neat to have Miss Bailey come to the recital!

 It was a wonderful night, filled with memories! Have a wonderful weekend!
"Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will recieve, and your joy will be complete."- John 16:24



Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: a little boy, a horse and a pickle

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obery everything I have commanded you, and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."- Matthew 28:19-20

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

special birthdays

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to bake for three special birthdays!
This cookie was for one of Wubs' dearest friends, Virginia. She is a sweetheart! Emma Grace and Virginia share a love of animals.

This cookie was for my friend Katrina's nephew. Austin is a 12 year old boy who is a big Carolina Panthers fan!

This cake was for Jack- he is the brother of one of Bella's best friends, Gracie. Jack loves Mario, so it was fun to make my first Mario cake! (If you are wondering, the mushroom on top is a giant rice krispie treat, covered in candy clay.) The girls had so much fun at this party because Ms. Amanda had made a treasure hunt for all the children! It was a wonderful weekend with friends!
"Humble yourselves, therfore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time."-1 Peter 5:6

Monday, December 3, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like...

...Christmas! We put up our Christmas decorations last night and it was SO fun! David and Emma Grace went to pick out our Christmas tree and wow- they picked out the biggest, most beautiful tree we have ever had! (David found a great discount voucher online for a local Christmas tree lot and for the same price we paid last year, we got a tree that is twice as big!) The girls have a little tree in their bedroom that they enjoy decorating all by themselves:
Hard at work! They were busy putting on some s'more shaped decorations in this picture.

Ta da!
One of my friends taught me this really fun game to play with our children called Spot the Lie. It's an especially useful game for this time of year, when it is easy to become distracted by all the glitter and gifts from the real meaning of Christmas. Here is how we play- I make statements, some true and some false, and then the girls have to spot the lie. For example, one time I said," If you  are at the store and you really really want a candy, you can put one in your pocket if no one is looking." The girls exclaimed, "NOT TRUE! That is stealing!!" And I've said, "We are all sinners." to which the girls said, "That's true!" Now that Christmas is near, we are playing this same game with more of a focus on the commercialism of Christmas vs the birth of our Savior. It's a fun way to teach our children and help them develop the skills they need to discern the Truth from the lies of this world. Sometimes the girls like to reverse the roles and play the game by asking me to spot the lies. They make up statements and it is SO cute! Happy Monday, friends!
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."- Luke 2:14

Friday, November 30, 2012

Modesty: The Fashion Test

Wubs and Bella, holding some treats for our family movie night!
I have been reading a wonderfully practical, Truth-filled book about parenting girls. It is called Six Ways to Keep the "Little" in Your Girl by Dannah Gresh. I heard about this book one evening as I was listening to Focus on the Family on the radio, and I have been wanting to read it ever since! I have been encouraged and challenged in many ways. In the most recent chapter I have read, I learned about a Fashion Test. It is a great tool for all women, not just little girls! wink! Here it is:

The Raise and Praise Test
Target: Am I showing too much belly?
Action: Stand straight up, pretending you are in worship, and extend your arms in the air to God. Is this exposing your belly? Bellies are very beautiful, and they need to be saved for our husband.
Remedy: Layers are a great solution to short shirts. Tank tops can be a girl's secret weapon to keep that belly covered under a fun trendy shirt!

The mirror, mirror test
Target: How short is too short?
Action: Get in front of a full-length mirror. If you are in shorts, sit criss-cross applesauce style. If you are in a skirt, sit in a chair with your legs crossed. Now, what do you see in that mirror? If you can see your panties, your shorts or skirt are just too short.
Remedy: Buy longer shorts or skirts. Or, try pairing it up with some leggings.

The "I see London, I see France" test
Target: Can you see my underpants?
Action: Bend over and touch your knees. Have a friend look at you from behind. Can she see your underpants through your pants? Are your pants so low that she can see the top of your underwear over the waistline of your pants?
Remedy: Wear white underwear or again, use a tank top that will cover you up all the way past your pant's waistline.

The over & out test
Target: Is my shirt too low?
Action: No one really lives standing straight up all the time! We bend and stretch and move, and sometimes, our clothes do too! Lean over a little bit. If there is too much chest skin showing (or cleavage) your shirt is too low.
Remedy: Today's fashions thrive on low shirts. Layering them is often the only remedy.

The 'Spring Valley' test
Target: Is my shirt too tight?
Action: Place the tips of your fingers together and press into your shirt right in the valley in the middle of your chest. Count to three and take your fingers away. If your shirt springs back with force, it is probably too tight! Even if you aren't showing too much skin, too much shape is just as inappropriate.
Remedy: Buy bigger shirts. Don't buy shirts based on the size, but instead buy based on the fit.

I am really excited to continue reading this book! I am so thankful that the Lord has allowed me to be the mommy of two precious little girls. I am so very blessed!

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."- 1 Peter 3:3-4

Thursday, November 29, 2012

a scary mommy moment

I had just arrived home with our three children from a quick trip to the grocery store. I hadn't even taken off my jacket as I started to put away the food we had purchased. JJ was happily following me from the kitchen to the pantry, helping me unload the grocery bags. When I set a bag of flour on one of the pantry shelves, I heard a small sound. Kind of like a little cracking sound. I heard it again and I instictively reached both of my hands up and stood with one knee out. I grabbed onto the pantry shelving unit as it started to buckle and separate from the wall. It all happened so fast. Our pantry was about to possibly collapse. "Wubs! Wubs!" Wubs came to my aid quickly and I asked her to pick up JJ and carry him into the living room. Then I told her to bring me the telephone and close the pantry door. I knew that this could be dangerous if the shelving  fell down, and if someone was going to get hurt, I only wanted it to be me! wink. Wubs did great! She babysat her siblings while I was locked in the pantry, holding up the five shelves. I called the church and asked to speak to David. I tried hard not to sound panicked as I told my wonderful husband  about the current situation. He came right home (he was here in no time!) and  he found me in the pantry, doing my best to prevent the shelves from crashing down. David handled everything! He got all the food off the shelves and removed some of the boards,  so I was able to let go. I started crying with relief! I was so grateful that the Lord had orchestrated every detail in such a way that no one got hurt! Here are a few pictures from the excitement!
The boards were removed from the shelving unit, but you can see where one whole side had pulled away from the wall.

This is a picture of our kitchen counter, covered in pantry items! Our children have never requested so many snacks as they did yesterday afternoon. wink!
David is going to install a new shelving system and I'll be sure to post an update!
"May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perserverance."- 2 Thessalonions 3:5

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: cookie cookie!

Happy birthday to our favorite seven year old twins, Abigail and Avery! We love you!
"We love because he first loved us."- 1 John 4:19

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

18 months old!

JJ is 18 months old! I can't believe how fast he seems to be growing older! Our 'baby' has become a toddler and wow- he makes our life exciting! JJ is climbing everything these days, and if he can reach it, he will explore it. JJ loves to play ball, wrestle, play hide and seek, and go outside. He isn't just walking anymore; he is running! JJ talks a lot now, too! He surprises me sometimes because he seems to have new words every day. JJ continues to adore his sisters and he frequently runs up to them to give them bear hugs. We love our little boy oh so much!
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud."- 1 Corinthians 13:4

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Operation

"Do not merely listen to the wor,d and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."- James 1:22

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Busy in the kitchen!

This weekend our kitchen looked like a small bakery shop! wink. When we started Sweets by Sarah Jane, I never, ever thought I'd be at a point where I'd actually need to say no to cake orders. But, the Lord has blessed us abundantly with many baking opportunities, and we soon realized we needed to set a boundary for my little side job. David and I decided that I can really only handle two orders per weekend. This weekend, I only had two orders, but wow! They were BIG orders! wink.  I made one birthday cake, and four dozen cupcakes. That was really fun- I love making cupcakes!  Next, I needed to make four cookie cakes. The cookie cakes were for a family celebrating the birthday of their quadruplets! All the orders were due on Saturday, so it was funny to see all the boxes of goodies spread all over our kitchen table and countertops! Here are some pictures from this weekend's baking adventures...
Adorable Miss Morgan had a gymnastics party! It looked like a LOT of fun when I stopped at the gym to deliver her cake and cupcakes!

I honestly couldn't even fit all the cupcakes in the picture! Four dozen cupcakes is a LOT of cupcakes! wink.
Here are the cookie cakes for the sweet quadruplets! Kate likes puppy dogs...
and Ava likes kittens!
Will likes Mario..

and Jack likes John Deere tractors!

Thank you so much, VonCannon family and Farrell family, for allowing me to be a small part of your special celebrations!
"Jesus looked at them and said "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."- Matthew 19 :26