Isaac got his first "mommy haircut" with the clippers tonight. He hated every second of it and cried his eyes out, but he's a very handsome little dude. He keeps rubbing his head and looking confused, "Where's all my hair?!"
He keeps rubbing his head and looking confused, "Where's all my hair?!"
One year when Christian and Abbie were very small it was the week before Christmas and I burst into tears telling Greg that I was a horrible mother because we hadn't done any "Christmasy" things that month. I then proceeded to try to cram every Christmas tradition we had into one week and it was a disaster. I was exhausted by the end and everyone was cranky from being forced to do a dozen things in one week. I realized I needed a better system.
So now our family has an advent calendar. I started this tradition to SIMPLIFY our lives. Some people may view an advent calendar as one more thing to do, but for me it's a way of making sure we do all of our special traditions with ease over the 24 days before Christmas.
The way an advent calendar works is that each day December 1-24 the kids pull a slip of paper out of the designated box that reveals the special Christmas activity that we will be doing that day. It's the first thing they ask to do bright and early every December morning. :)
Below are our advent calendar ideas for 2014. Feel free to adapt these ideas for your own family because every family's advent calendar will look a little different based on their values, traditions, children's ages, and location.
Be intentional about you celebrate Christmas! :)
Monday, December 1 – Attend “Grinch Day” at 4pm at the Woodland Mall Barnes & Noble, make green Rice Krispie Christmas wreaths, watch “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," & receive Christmas pajamas
Tuesday, December 2 – Attend “Christmas Around the World” at Frederic Meijer Gardens & learn about and sing the carol Joy to the World
Wednesday, December 3 – Make paper snowflakes for the windows, & learn about and sing the carol Angels We Have Heard on High
Thursday, December 4 – Prepare Christmas coffee gifts for friends and neighbors & learn about and sing the carol Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Friday, December 5 – Put on Christmas pajamas and attend “Polar Express” story time at 7pm the Woodland Mall Barnes & Noble, watch “Polar Express” movie, & learn about and sing the carol O Little Town of Bethlehem
Saturday, December 6 – Attend LifeGroup Christmas Party, go ice skating and Rosa Parks Circle, & learn about and sing the carol The First Noel
Sunday, December 7 – Read The Story of St. Nicholas & watch “Veggie Tales St. Nicholas”
Monday, December 8 – Purchase and wrap Christmas gift for Daddy & learn about and sing the carol Away in a Manger
Tuesday, December 9 – Attend “Homestead Holiday” with Friday Addition & learn about and sing the carol While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks and Silent Night! Holy Night!
Wednesday, December 10 - Prepare candy cane Christmas cards for friends
Thursday, December 11 – Decorate sugar cookies while watching while watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” & learn about and sing the carol Once in Royal David’s City
Friday, December 12 – Welcome Uncle David & Aunt Karin, make reindeer treats while watching “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” & learn about and sing the carol How Great Our Joy!
Saturday, December 13 – Go to Frankenmeuth, attend the living nativity show at 7pm at Brookside Christian Reformed Church (3600 Kalamazoo Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49508) & learn about and sing the carol God Rest You Merry Gentlemen
Sunday, December 14 – Attend Grandma Biddinger’s Christmas potluck & our church’s family Christmas program
Monday, December 15 – Act out the Christmas story with our family’s nativity set & learn about and sing the carol O Come, All Ye Faithful
Tuesday, December 16 – Purchase and wrap Christmas gift for Mommy & read Luke 1:26-38 - Birth of Jesus Foretold to Mary
Wednesday, December 17 – Eat candy canes and read J is for Jesus: The Sweetest Story Ever Told
Thursday, December 18 – Deliver Christmas treats to neighbors & read Luke 1:39-46 - Mary Visits Elizabeth
Friday, December 19 – Deliver Christmas gifts and sing Christmas carols at a nursing home, watch “The Santa Clause,” & read Matthew 1:18-25 - Birth of Jesus Foretold to Joseph
Saturday, December 20 – Have Christmas peppermint pancakes, decorate gingerbread men cookies with friends & attend Christmas concert at church
Sunday, December 21 – Make popcorn balls and attend candlelight service at church
Monday, December 22 – Make chocolate peanut butter kiss cookies, watch “A Nativity Story,” & read Luke 2:1-7 - Birth of Jesus Christ
Tuesday, December 23 – Welcome Grandpa Marley, attend “Wintertime Walk” at the Frederic Meijer Gardens, drive around the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights, & read Luke 2:8-21 - Shepherds Visit Jesus
Wednesday, December 24 – Attend Vruggink family Christmas party, make a birthday cake for Jesus, read My Birthday, Jesus’ Birthday, & read Matthew 2:1-12 - Wisemen Visit Jesus
Thursday, December 25 – Have a Merry Christmas!
"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever."
Dear Family & Friends,
Happy Thanksgiving! We are so thankful for God’s abundant goodness to our family over this past year filled with many changes. God has blessed our family in so many ways, and we praise Him for all the gifts He has given us!
We are thankful God has helped us transition from New York to Michigan! In the spring Greg finished his Master of Divinity degree through Columbia International Seminary, then over the summer he transitioned from having served for four years as the English Pastor at Long Island Abundant Life Church to becoming a full time Master of Theology student at Calvin Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Greg’s program should take him two years to complete, and this degree will give Greg the ability to teach seminary level courses in Southeast Asia. God has graciously provided for us during this time of transition.
We are thankful God provided us with a comfortable, three bedroom, affordable, on-campus apartment in seminary family housing. The kids have a huge backyard, playground, and are surrounded by dozens of others children. We love living in a close community with other likeminded families whose husbands/fathers are also going to seminary fulltime. We are so blessed to live on-campus at Calvin Seminary!
We are thankful God provided Greg with two, part-time, flexible jobs that combined give Greg fulltime work! Greg is working both as a researcher for Docent Research Group doing theological research for pastors and also as an online tutor for Pearson Tutoring helping students with their writing. Greg enjoys both jobs in different ways, and we are so grateful for the work God has given him to provide for our family during the next two years.
We are thankful God provided our family with health insurance! As everyone knows obtaining health insurance can be a stressful endeavor, but thankfully Rachel and the children are under Michigan Medicaid health insurance and Greg was able to purchase student health insurance through Calvin Seminary. We feel so blessed that God provided for our family in this important area.
Another new adventure to our family this year has been homeschooling. Monday-Thursday Rachel covers Bible, Math, English, Reading, Handwriting, Spelling, History, and Science with Abbie who is in Kindergarten and Christian who is now in 2nd grade. Rachel and the kids have been enjoying learning at home and the children are excelling in their studies. Every Friday from 8:30am-3:45pm the kids each join a class with 15-20 other homeschooled children in their grade and attend classes where their teachers cover Art, Music, Spanish, P.E., Chapel, Science, and Economics. We are so grateful they can participate in this special homeschool group every Friday!
Our biggest cause for thanksgiving this year is that we are expecting our fourth baby, another precious daughter, on January 11, 2015! Abbie prayed for a sister every day for a year and God answered her request. Evidently we tend to have babies in sets as Christian and Abbie are 18 months apart and then after a four year gap Isaac and our little girl will be 22 months apart. We are thankful that this pregnancy has gone smoothly thus far with no complications. Our fourth baby was a completely unexpected surprise so we had already given away all of our baby items, but God has been faithfully supplying all the things we need for her. We still have a few items things we need for her listed on our Amazon Baby Registry if you’re interested in blessing our sweet baby girl.
We are thankful for our littlest man, Isaac, who is now 20-months-old! He is a feisty explorer who loves to wrestle, open cabinets, and dance on top of the table. He continues to be built like a football player and is obsessed with balls, cars, and dinosaurs. He has a sweet heart and loves to laugh and wrestle with Daddy. He is such a blessing to our family!
We are thankful for our precious daughter, Abbie! Abbie will be six years old in February and began her Kindergarten studies this year. She started gymnastics lessons this fall and has been enjoying learning to tumble, flip, and balance. She is also excited to try cheerleading this winter. She has a wonderful imagination and loves playing with her dolls and making new friends. We are blessed to have such a sweet princess!
We are thankful for our wonderful son, Christian! Christian is seven years old and excelling in the 2nd grade. He loves reading, playing with friends, and telling jokes. He will be playing basketball again this winter and continues to love it telling us, “I want to be a basketball player when I grow up.” Christian is a huge help around the house whether he’s watching his siblings or drying the dishes. We are proud of the little man he is becoming!
We are thankful for our new church family at Grace Community Church! We were thrilled to become members of Grace Community Church in October. Greg has been teaching an adult Sunday school class, helping with the youth group, and occasionally preaching on Sunday nights. Rachel has been helping with the 1st/2nd grade Sunday school class, watching the little ones in the nursery, and encouraging women serving as international missionaries. Christian and Abbie love everything from Sunday school to children’s choir to Sonlight Kids Club. We are grateful for our new church!
We are thankful God has provided clear direction for the next step in our family’s journey! This year we will be starting the process of joining a mission organization in hopes of eventually heading overseas so Greg will be able to teach seminary level courses in Southeast Asia. Please pray for us as we begin the journey of becoming full time missionaries. We will keep our blog updated with any important announcements.
We would be thrilled if you would visit our family’s blog regularly to keep up with us! Our family’s website is www.vrugginks.com Rachel frequently updates the blog with pictures and shares about family events.
We are so thankful for our amazing God who has blessed us with another incredible year! We are grateful for the gift of Jesus Christ who has forgiven our sins and gives us the grace and strength we need for each day. We hope you have a wonderful time of Thanksgiving with your family and friends this special week as we reflect on the many blessings He has given us and joyfully welcome the holiday season! Love Always,
Greg & Rachel Vruggink
Last night Greg and I had the privilege to join our friends in celebrating the life of little Kawika Hughes. The memorial service was such a testimony to God's faithfulness through the darkest of times. The most moving part of the service to me was when they played the below video. The lyrics are so powerful and John Piper's words are filled with truth.
"Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me (even a precious child)
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who's all I need"
The snow on the ground put us all in the Christmas mood, so we decorated a little early this year. :)
Where is God when a baby boy is hooked up to life support machines as his parents look on knowing they only have hours left with him?
This is the painful question I’ve been wrestling with the past few days. Our sweet friends, Keoni and Andrea, are going through an incredibly painful trial right now. A trial I cannot even imagine and far more excruciating than anything I have ever endured. I’ve been struggling with how to pray for this dear family, and God brought Romans 8:26 to mind “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Sometimes all I can do is get up in the middle of the night and cry and ache for this family. No words of prayer come, but in those moments I ask God to turn my tears into prayers from the Spirit as He intercedes lifting this family up to God’s throne.
In Psalm 56:8 we find that God “puts our tears in His bottle.” God sees each tear that falls. He notes every single one. He knows our pain. In Psalm 56:8 it also says that God “keeps count of our tossings.” On those sleepless nights when we are hurting so much that we don’t even have any tears left to cry, God sees each toss and turn we make in our bed. He knows the details of our aching hearts. This loving God is the One whom we trust (Psalm 56:11).
Trusting in God’s sovereignty and believing that He truly loves His chosen people is one of the hardest life lessons to embrace. As we experience the painful trials of this world it’s sometimes hard to believe the promises of God. But I cling with desperation to Romans 8:28-29 (just a few verses after God promises to help us in our weakness and intercede for us when our words fail). God works all things together for the good of His people because He wants us to be conformed to the image of His Son. Some days are harder than words can describe. Some days are mediocre. Some days are wonderful. Through all of these days and experiences God is seeking to make us more like Him.
On earth we will never have a justifiable understanding as to why God is calling this little baby boy home to heaven. We feel anger, fear, and deep sadness. But amidst this pain we know we have a God who can be trusted, who has a plan, and who knows each tear, tossing, and groan of our hearts.
Where is God when a baby boy is hooked up to life support machines as his parents look on knowing they only have hours left with him? God is right next to Kawika's parents, Keoni and Andrea. He knows each tear they cry and intercedes for them when they hurt too much to pray. God is right next to their family and friends. He knows each tear we cry and intercedes for us when we hurt too much too pray. God has not abandoned His people.
Our God is loving and can be trusted.
This year Christian was the Pokemon Pikachu, Abbie was Queen Elsa from Frozen, and Isaac was a monkey. It was freezing outside and had snowed earlier in the afternoon, so instead of doing the traditional door-to-door trick or treating we took the kids to Calvin College's "Light in the Night" event. The kids went through the different dorms and each was decorated a different theme - How to Train Your Dragon, Frozen, Candy Land, Harry Potter, etc., and the kiddos collected candy from each dorm room. They LOVED the themes, it was nice that they weren't out in the cold for hours, and they got TONS of candy. Christian and Abbie have already asked if we can go again next year. I think we have a new family tradition. :)