Monday, December 31, 2007

Random Updates

Hey everyone! I'm still here! It's been a crazy week, and I had hoped to post some pictures of our Christmas celebration, but I don't think it's going to happen any time soon. Just wanted to update you all on our Christmas week:

We had a lovely, restful Christmas Eve day. We played games with the kids, and then attended a nearly local church for their Christmas Eve service, since our pastor was gone and our church didn't have a service. It was nice and I was happy to be at home this year. We returned home from the service, with plans to put the kids to bed and watch my FAVORITE Christmas movie, Irving Berlin's White Christmas. I had DVR'd it from the weekend and we settled in to enjoy the music and the storyline. However, the cable station, in an attempt to squeeze it into a 2 hour time slot and still allow for ample commercials, cut an embarrassingly large amount of the storyline and the musical numbers! I was so disappointed! I guess you know what I will be asking for next year . . . my own DVD copy of the original movie.

Christmas day was nice also, but I felt like I was in the kitchen most of the time. We had a lovely family meal, though, and enjoyed some quiet time that evening also. The kids loved their presents, with Elijah's favorite being his new wooden train set and Alli really enjoying the food for her kitchen and the shopping cart to carry it all in.

The next 2 days were a crazy mix of laundry, packing for another trip, and a sick 3 year old. It made for a stressful stretch for me, and so I relished some quiet time that Dan and I got together in MN on Friday, when we went to IKEA by the Mall of America. I love the store, and it was Dan's first visit, but he was inspired also. Sooner or later we will finish our basement and we have a thousand ideas of how to decorate now!

The rest of Dan's family joined us all at his parent's house that evening and we enjoyed our tradition of soup for supper, opening presents and then appetizers and cookies afterwards.

One highlight was being able to finally meet face-to-face, my fellow blogging friend, Karen. Her husband grew up in the same church as my husband and we both were at the church on Sunday morning. Although our plan to get coffee together didn't work out, it was great to talk to her in person and we have plans to meet again. I didn't have my camera (we were in church, after all) so I don't have any great pics of our smiling faces together. We'll plan for that next time!

We left Sunday night to return home. About an hour and a half into our trip we witnessed a car from the northbound lane flip end over end and land in our lane about a half a mile in front of us. We were the first on the scene and I called 911 while Dan jumped out to help. The car landed on the hood and slid across traffic, but amazingly, no other cars were involved. By my estimation, since the hood of the driver's side was crushed to the steering wheel, he should have been seriously hurt, but both passengers emerged from the car and seemed alright, only a few cuts and the look of utter shock on their faces. After the police arrived, Dan hopped back into the car and we went on our way. Snow started falling an hour or so later, and we saw many more vehicles in the ditch, so it was another reminder to take our time and to drive slowly. It was also another reminder that life is short, and it can be over in an instant.

We made it home safely, obviously, and are working today to get ready for a little New Year's Eve get-together that we are hosting tonight. Hopefully I will be on top of things and be able to post pictures sooner than later!

Hope you all have a great New Year and I'll be back here regularly soon!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Savoring Christ's Death at Christmas

Elijah and I have been leisurely reading through The Jesus Storybook Bible since we received it in the mail. Sometimes we read faithfully every day, at other times weeks go by between the stories. These past few weeks I have been trying to read more consistently, hoping to finish before the New Year, when we can start our other book, The Big Picture Story Bible.

So as I sat down to read a few days ago, I realized that we had come to the stories surrounding Christ's death - the last supper, the prayer in the garden, etc . . . I debated stopping there and backtracking to the advent story, it being the Christmas season and all, but decided that Elijah was getting enough nativity stories from other sources that we would continue on in the correct order of the book.

This afternoon, as I laid on his bed, reading "just one more story" before naptime, I was struck by the simple retelling of the story about Christ's prayer in the garden:

"Papa! Father!" Jesus cried. And he fell to the ground. "is there any other way to get your chldren back? To heal their hearts? To get rid of the poison?"
But Jesus knew - there was no other way. All the poison of sin was going to have to go into his own heart.
God was going to pour into Jesus' heart all the sadness and brokenness in people's hearts. He was going to pour into Jesus' body all the sickness in people's bodies. God was going to have to blame his son for everything that had gone wrong. It would crush Jesus.
But there was something else, something even more horrible. When people ran away from God, they lost God - it was what happened when they ran away. Not being close to God was like a punishment. Jesus was going to take that punishment.
Jesus knew what that meant. He was going to lose his Father - and that, Jesus knew, would break his heart in two.
Violent sobs shook Jesus' whole body.
Then Jesus was quiet. Like a lamb. "I trust you, Papa," he said. "Whatever you say, I will do."

As I read, tears fell down my cheeks. I don't think Elijah noticed. But the power of the story impacted me in a way that my emotions haven't been impacted in a while. What a powerful event to read about that perfectly coincides with the celebration of Christ's birth. Our excitement and awe at the wonder of the incarnation shouldn't end there. He came for a reason, and I thank you, God, for using my children's Bible to remind me of that reason today.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Merry Christmas!

The Christmas pictures and letters are all out in the mail, so now I can share it with you without a family member reading it here first!

Merry Christmas from the Zempel’s!

Another year has flown by, probably the quietest in recent history for our family! That’s not a bad thing, though, and we have had a wonderful year.

We’ll start the updates with the youngest of our bunch, Allison. What a delight she is to our family! By the beginning of the year she had really started to reveal her personality. She is quite social and loves being around other kids. She is a little more “rough and tumble” than her brother was at this age, partly due to his influence, I am sure. They both wrestle with Dan and giggle constantly. She is more independent, also, and will venture upstairs to her room to play without any encouragement. She began walking about a month after her first birthday in June and made up for lost time by taking to it immediately. She babbles constantly (not unlike her mother!) and never fails to make us all smile. We can’t imagine life without her and are universally smitten with her.

Elijah gets bigger and bigger every day. I can’t believe he is almost 4! We started “homeschool” this year, which basically means we make structured time for reading. We occasionally add some worksheets to the mix, which Elijah loves and repeatedly asks to do more. Elijah is getting braver as the year progresses, culminating in his achievement of “surfing” with an instructor at an indoor water park this fall. Dan will have him behind the boat before you know it! He is energetic and talkative, and enjoyed spending a week with each set of his grandparents this summer. He is doing great in Awana Cubbies and looks forward to spring when he can attempt to learn to ride a “tippy” bike. We’ll see how that goes! He is at such a fun age; I think I would keep him here if I could.

Dan immensely enjoyed having another team member at his State Farm office this year, allowing us to enjoy some family time without worrying about the office imploding without him around. Business has been active enough for him to add another employee this past fall and that has been working out well. Dan took over the leadership of a small group at our church this spring and we have immensely enjoyed getting to know some of the newer couples at our church. Believe it or not, we are the oldest in the group! This is a new experience since we have been comfortable being the youngest for sometime now! Even so, we are so grateful for this group and the growth we have seen and experienced ourselves.

As for me, Donette, life isn’t much different since our last letter. I reached a milestone birthday this year, but don’t question me when I say I am 29! Dan graciously watched the kids over Memorial Day weekend so that my friend Laura and I could go to a conference in Louisville, KY. We spent the weekend being blessed by the ministry of Josh Harris, Mark Dever, Al Mohler, CJ Mahaney and John Piper. It was a much-needed retreat and Dan and I hope to go together this coming year.

As quiet as this year has been, there are still ample opportunities to trust in God’s sovereignty and rely on His grace. Sometimes the quiet makes it easier to forget to do this. I pray that will never be your temptation. As I heard in a Christmas carol:
May the warmth of Heaven reach the coldest heart
with the gospel of His grace
For His heel will bruise the serpent’s head,
Rejoice, all the world, Rejoice!

I pray that you have the reason to do just that!

Dan and Donette, Elijah and Alli

Monday, December 10, 2007

Waterpark Retreat

After a grueling 5-day weekend over Thanksgiving, it was decided that we needed another vacation. OK, that's not true. Actually Dan had some meetings in the Dells, the company paid for the room, so we couldn't pass it up. Here are just a few pics of the fun: Elijah had a blast. We told him that we were going the night before we left, and he couldn't stop asking about it. See, there is a reason you wait to inform a 3 year old of your plans . . .
Yep. It happened again.

Even my parents enjoyed the water slides! I was quite impressed with my dad's willingness to try almost every slide. My mom stuck with the easy ones.

I hate to tell you this, sweetheart, but that's not a drinking fountain.

Friday, December 07, 2007

I found out last night that the youngest victim of the Omaha mall shooting, Maggie Webb, was a sister to an acquaintance of mine from my hometown and home church. So when you think to pray for the families of the victims, please remember Trish Abaca and her husband, Mike, by name.

Amazing how knowing someone who knows someone in a tragedy makes it feel so much closer to home . . .

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Christmas Edition of "Get to Know your Friends!"

I received this email from my missionary friend, Kim, and decided it would be fun to post here.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper. It's the only time of year that I don't use gift bags.
2 . Real tree or Artificial? To my husband's chagrin, we have an artificial tree. I was tired of waiting to decorate until we had time to shop for a tree! And I worried about the kiddos eating pine needles. Maybe in the future we will go back to a real one. But I'm not promising it!
3 . When do you put up the tree? As soon as possible after our annual Thanksgiving traveling schedule.
4. When do you take the tree down? Usually after we returen home from our annual New Year traveling schedule!
5. Do you like egg nog? I never have, until I tasted my friend Amy's homemade recipe. Now that was yummy!
6. Favorite gift received as a child? Wow, that's a hard one. My parent's probably remember better than I do!
7. Do you have a nativity scene? Just one. I hope to get more to make a collection someday.
8. Hardest person to buy for? By far, my father-in-law.
9. Easiest person to buy for? My mom or my daughter. Girl stuff is easy!
10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Old fashioned snail mail.
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I remember desperately wanting a "My Little Pony" and then being bored with it like 5 minutes after it was unwrapped. That's totally my fault, though. No blame to the parents who bought it!
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Without a doubt - White Christmas.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Sometime around September. My goal has been to be completely done BEFORE Thanksgiving, but it hasn't happened yet.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? I don't think I have ever recycled a Christmas present, but for the 19 weddings the year after we got married . . . yeah, most of those were re-gifts!
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Probably cookies
16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Clear lights on the tree inside the house, colored outside
17. Favorite Christmas song? Oh Holy Night; Joy, Joy by David Phelps; Here With Us by Joy Williams; Sleep, Jesus, Sleep by Sovereign Grace Music
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Usually we travel to my parent's house, but this year we are visiting them early and we are staying home for Christmas! Yeah!
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? I kinda doubt it.
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Angel
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Ongoing Christmas argument. I grew up opening on Christmas morning, Dan on Christmas eve. I'm still holding out for the AM . . .
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? the crowded stores. Even Walmart on a Monday night during football is crazy!
23. Favorite ornament theme or color? Most of my ornaments have special memories attached, but I am particularly fond of the car ornament that the cast of my senior recital gave me - in honor of the play we performed, "Driving Miss Daisy."
24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? I love the pizza treats that we eat on Christmas Eve.
25 . What do you want for Christmas this year? Well, I already got my camera, so I guess it's the list of home projects that I have! (I think a finished basement is at the top of the list right now)

Ok, now I tag all my readers who have a blog to answer the same questions . . .

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Wow. I am still recovering from a week of traveling, so blogging has been last on my "to-do" list. I have about a dozen things I would like to write about, but my brain is fuzzy from a head cold, so I will just give you a pictorial journey of our week away. Enjoy! Dan takes a pause from the annual Thanksgiving football game to pose with Alli. We travel to Dan's parent's house every Thanksgiving and enjoy a 4 day weekend with his brothers and their wives, and the one little cousin that we have so far.
Back into action.
Elijah is enjoying the play structure that his daddy grew up playing on.
Alli equally appreciates it, but shortly after this picture she fell and didn't appreciate it anymore. This was the only time the kids played outside, as the temperatures became much colder in the following days.Farkle was the game of choice this holiday, and we enjoyed many rounds. This is our sister-in-law blowing good luck (if you believe in such nonsense!) onto the dice as they fall.Alli is finally at the age to really enjoy her grandparents and didn't take any time in warming up to them. I love seeing her enjoy her grandpa! And she made their weekend by saying both "grandma" and "grandpa." At least that is what they claim she said . . .

And for my two favorite pictures of the weekend:
Dan took this one, creatively using the blocks the kids were playing with at the time.

I shot this one, of Dan's brother and his little boy, who needed some comforting from his daddy. Too cute!

Well, it was a fun weekend, as it usually is. We came home on Sunday and promptly left again Monday morning for a waterpark adventure with my parents while Dan attended some meetings. I'll post pics from that trip soon.