Thursday, December 25, 2014

Away in a Manger

We saw a live nativity performance when we celebrated Christmas a little early with our family in Pennsylvania. It was outside, at a dairy farm with (real) people and animals.  There were even angels on top of the barn roof, wise men with gifts and shepherds with sheep. I was trying to remember if I'd ever seen one like this, and I don't think I have. The message of Jesus Christ coming to earth was beautifully presented through Christmas songs and Bible readings.

One song in particular, I'd never heard before, was so beautiful I had to look it up when I got home. The lyrics speak about the night of Jesus' birth and the hopeless state our world was in before his arrival. The world would never be the same after that night. 

The Night Before Christmas
Brandon Heath

Empty manger, perfect stranger about to be born.
Into darkness, sadness, desperate madness, creation so torn.
We were so lost on earth, no peace, no worth, no way to escape.
In fear, no faith, no hope, no grace, and no light.
But that was the night before Christmas.

Warm hay, cold sweat, a mother, not yet, praying godspeed the dawn.
She looks to her man, holding her hand, they wonder how long. 
And the shepherds, wise men come to find them, and bow to a king.
One star above shining on love, so bright
it lit up the night before Christmas.

And the world didn't know, mercy was meek and so mild.
And the world didn't know that truth was as pure as a child.
The night before Christmas
The night before Christmas

And the world didn't know, redemption was sweet and so strong.
And the world didn't know salvation was writing a song.
The night before Christmas
The night before Christmas 
The night before Christmas

I can't help but identify with Mary, more than ever before in my life, as I'm 34 weeks pregnant, with my first son. I can't help but put myself in her place, anticipating giving birth, while traveling far from home. Only to arrive in Bethlehem and learn that there's no room in the inn. A barn meant for animals is the only place to take refuge in and this is where she will deliver a precious baby boy, the Son of God. Talk about the most unideal circumstances! No doctors, nurses, medical equipment or clean hospital bed. This would be an absolute nightmare for me. But it was all part of God's divine plan. 

"And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Luke 2:7-14

Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, sent to earth as a baby, born to die for our sins, so that we could be reconciled to God. This is what Christmas is really about.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Mini Gift Baskets

Usually for Christmas, I like to think of a DIY gift craft or something I can make to give to extended family and friends. In the past, I've made soy teacup candles, sugar scrub, goodie bags, cinnamon honey butter, and hot chocolate.

This year, I didn't give myself enough time to make something and I've been a little busy preparing for baby's arrival :) I did manage to assemble these mini gift baskets.

I was inspired to do something with these red produce-type baskets that I found at Michael's craft store. They're just like the ones you buy fruits and veggies in at the farmers market.

And they're just big enough to hold hand soap from Bath and Body Works (my favorite), a kitchen tea towel and a small candle. 

I got a pack of large cellophane treat bags to wrap them in and paper confetti to put in the bottom of the baskets. 

Once I figured out how to fold the tea towels to fit neatly in the baskets, I set to work assembling these cute little packages. 

I used the ribbon that Bath and Body Works included with each hand soap purchase (and some great coupons!), and I added these cute little Christmas tags that I picked up for $1. 

Aren't they fun and festive? Something that anyone would like to receive. These would also make great favors or prizes at a party, teacher gifts, or seasonal thank-you gifts. I could even see these with a Valentine's Day theme.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Baby Shower Favor Bags

For our baby shower in Pennsylvania, at the Lederach Tea House, I wanted to make party favors. Just a little something to say thank you to guests, many of whom I would be meeting for the first time. I was inspired by these adorable doily paper favor bags, and thought they would be perfect for a tea themed baby shower.

I found adorable little white paper bags, small color doily's, rubber stamps and mini wooden clothespins at Hobby Lobby and Michael's craft stores (always use a coupon). To go inside the bags, I got a few different boxes of individually wrapped tea bags (in holiday flavors) and three types of chocolate candies (the caramel filled ones were the best!).

I stamped each bag with tiny baby footprints (how cute is that?!) and "thank you" at the bottom. 

Assembling them was so much fun. I just love the folded doily on top! I should really figure out how to turn favor-making into a business because I love doing this type of stuff. 

They looked perfect on the tables - which also had doily's at each place setting. It was meant to be! 

This is such a cute idea that could work for a ladies luncheon, tea party, birthday party, or even a wedding.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Baby Shower Blessings

November has been a month of tremendous blessings! Andrew and I can't even begin to thank our family and friends for their generous outpouring of love, support and gifts for our baby boy on the way. We have been so very blessed by three (wow!) beautiful baby showers thrown for us by sweet friends, my sister Lisa, and Andrew's Mom Marilyn. Each one so thoughtful, special and memorable. 

I can't tell you how wonderful it felt to be surrounded by so many loved ones, hearing their words of encouragement, prayers, and heartfelt wishes for our family. God has truly blessed us so abundantly! This baby is already loved so much, by so many. Thank you, Lord! 

Looking at these photos of each group of women, family and friends makes my heart smile. Here's a glimpse into each special day. 

Christy, Kimi, Susan and their Mom Lucy, have become dear sisters to me. I am so thankful for their family. These ladies put together a beautiful baby shower at the home they grew up in. A warm, cozy fall theme with fresh flowers, delicious desserts, my favorite brunch foods, pretty decorations - it was absolutely lovely. So many sweet friends, some that I've known for years and years, all gathered together. Some even made food and helped put on the celebration as well. I love these girls so much! They sure know how to make me feel special. I'll be looking to many of these experienced moms for plenty of advice.

My sister, Lisa, her sweet Mother in Law, Mary, and my niece, Emma, put together a beautiful baby shower at a local restaurant for our family and dear friends (who basically are family to us). It was a perfect setting with breakfast and the most delicious cut-out cookies (yum)! I was so touched that so many drove from out of town to celebrate with us. It's been an exciting year for our family with engagements, graduations, weddings, bridal and baby showers. It's been so nice catching up with aunts and cousins. I'm so thankful for family! I only wish my Mom could have been there (she lives in Arizona). I know how much she wanted to be here and would have enjoyed it. I was truly blessed by the thoughtfulness, love and generosity in every detail. Lisa, Emma and Mary made it such a special day and showered us with so much love. 

We traveled to Pennsylvania to celebrate our annual early Thanksgiving with the Ohl's on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Marilyn threw us a baby shower Sunday afternoon at a darling tea room. It was so charming and the lunch menu was delicious - including a strawberry cream cake! I especially enjoyed my own pot of freshly brewed tea and drinking from an antique cup and saucer. It's the little things. We were so blessed to share this special day with our extended family and celebrate a new soon-to-be member of the Ohl family. I was overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness and generosity of Marilyn's sweet friends, many of whom I was meeting for the first time. Everyone was so kind. We truly are blessed, abundantly. 

I still can't get over the outpouring of love for us. I loved opening every gift and reading every card. I wish I could have spent more time talking with each guest. I like hearing everyone's words of advice and wisdom and memories. I know there is so much ahead of us on this journey into parenthood. It helps to know that there are so many women I can talk to and so many people that are excited for us and looking forward to meeting our baby boy, our gift from God.

I have been organizing all of the adorable clothes and tiny onesies and imaging dressing him in them. I love sitting in his room and daydreaming about holding him in my arms. It still seems surreal and I'm so excited to meet him! A little over 2 months to go! 

Andrew and I want to thank everyone, from the bottom of our hearts, for showering us with so much joy. We love you and thank God for placing each of you in our lives. Your love and support means so much to us. 

"Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever." 1 Chronicles 16:34 

We truly have so much to be thankful for.