Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Turkey Day!

Hahaha, only I would update my blog with our Thanksgiving celebration on Christmas night!

We had such a wonderful Thanksgiving in 2011. I think Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday. Although, it's hard to beat Christmas.

This year my brother generously opened up his new home and welcomed all of us over, including Jeremy's parents, over for dinner on Thursday and Friday. We had lots of good food and enjoyed our time together. This was my first Black Friday since returning to Texas and I enjoyed going out shopping the next day with my mom and niece. Noah even enjoyed his fist sleepover with his grandparents that wasn't at his house--even if it was at their hotel! It is so fun now that Noah really remembers each of them and gets excited about seeing all of his grandparents.

Playtime at the park!

Playing with uncle Scott.
Cousin love!

This was one of my favorite Thanksgivings of all time. Hope that yours was just as blessed! And please remind me next year not to spend December cramming in so many things that it takes me a month to post about this wonderful holiday! ;)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Grace

This past weekend marked our dear friend Stacie's 40th birthday and my sweet husband was so generous to send me to help celebrate while he did full-time daddy duty with Noah over a long weekend! We were busy shopping, getting manis and pedis, and celebrating with a birthday dinner. So fun and relaxing amidst the hustling and bustling I've been doing all month!

Besides the usual frantic shopping (I don't know why I always wait until after Thanksgiving to start. I guess I have to get in the mood first.), decorating, etc, things picked up at work again, so I picked up shifts almost every day of the week, and had a couple of Christmas parties to attend.

I also decided to start a new tradition this year. We invited everyone we knew to a party at our house and asked them all to bring donations for a great cause: Christmas gifts from Bath & Body Works to be donated to the teen moms who are a part of the Young Lives program, an off-shoot of Young Life. We needed to collect enough to serve an estimated 40-50 teen moms. We had some sweet friends who gave generously and were so kind as to grace our party. Kelly, of course, helped me do everything and I couldn't have pulled it off without her. I spent 3 days cleaning house and baking. It really never crossed my mind that we wouldn't collect at least most of the amount needed. Before the party on Sunday, I prayed that God would multiply lotion, shower gel, and lip gloss just as he once multiplied loaves and fish. :)

And you know what? He didn't. We came nowhere near my lofty goal. I was completely deflated. By the time I was on my way to my Moms group Christmas party, where the other ladies had generously offered to help me wrap these hoardes of gifts I was collecting, my attitude was flat out bad. I was done. I decided that nothing could possibly rectify my mess and that Young Lives would have to take my meager offering and just do some door prizes. But, the party was great anyway. And, as we were winding down at 10:00 that night, the other ladies gathered around me and divided up the work. They decided that one full size product per teen mom would be perfectly fine. Kate offered to make a few returns so we could squeeze out a few more tubes in matching sizes. Shelley offered to go purchase the amount of products still needed and deliver them all to the Young Lives party the following evening. Everyone wrapped. Katrina and Jackie spoke words of encouragement and soothed my wounded spirit. And, Jackie even laughed at my grandiose planning that got me into this mess in the first place. We also learned that we were only shooting to serve 35 girls, not 50.

The next night I learned that the teen moms were so excited just to receive a gift for Christmas this year. I honestly expected them to complain, be annoyed, be indifferent, anything but grateful. And, just like that, He did it. Just like the fish and loaves.

Forget the teen moms that I sought to "serve" this season. Because I was, hands down, the one who gained the most from this experience. His grace was so strong and deep and clearly evident. And I have been privileged to join the most beautiful, amazing group of women, who simply drew me in and wrapped their arms around my shoulder over the past 6 months.

However, next year, maybe we'll just stick to the Angel Tree! ;)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Weight of Advent

I don't know about you, but this December is the seemingly the most insane December of my recent memory. Which is odd (and maybe a bit of a stretch), considering that the last 2 Decembers were spent either moving in or preparing to move out of a house.

And how like the enemy to want to steal my joy and keep me frantically busy and anxious so that I cannot enjoy or focus on the Advent season. I don't know how, this year in particular, I let myself get so overwhelmed with things to do.

This year I have desired to get serious about Christmas. I really want my work, energy, and celebrations focused on preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ. I can only imagine what an American Christmas must look like from the vantage point of heaven. How ridiculous our pursuits. The trading in of the worship of of the greatest Gift ever given for the worship of the idols of Santa, toys, food, sparkly things, holiday parties, you name it. I will confess that for most of the Christmases of my life this has been me. In my adult years I have enjoyed attending candlelight services on Christmas Eve and am ashamed to admit that these one hour worship events were all of my heart and mind that I gave to Him during a season that it is meant to be all about Him. I offered Him these tiny "Happy Birthday" moments, and literally turned and went back to doing Christmas my way. And I will also tell you, that for every Christmas in my memory, I have always felt the sting of disappointment following a Christmas celebration. After a month of hustle and bustle (in my case, hustling and bustling in idolatry), leading up to one single day, has always left me cold and empty, this despondent feeling that begins to creep in as soon as the last gift is opened. In fact, as a child I distinctly remember always trying to stretch out the opening of my gifts for as many days as possible to avoid that very feeling! And, finally, 31 years in, I understand why the emptiness starts by nightfall on December 25. And I want to right my wrongs, be pleasing unto the Lord, and raise my son to do the same.

I have been reading blogs and articles, looking into both sides of the debate on how Christians should handle Santa Claus. Let me tell you, there are strong, valid, and convicting points on both sides. And I would like to preface this by saying that I am not going to judge or scorn anyone who wants to do Santa Claus for their children. I have no problem with that. My problem comes in my own convictions. Santa is just like chocolate cake. There is nothing in itself wrong with chocolate cake. The cake only becomes a problem when you have too much of it. This can be said for so many things in our world. The real problem occurs when the seemingly harmless object or idea becomes an idol for us. I don't know exactly what Santa is going to look like at house. Noah may help determine that himself. I read several great suggestions on how to include Santa in our celebrations while keeping him small and Christ large. We will definitely read the true story of St. Nicholas, a man who loved Jesus, and demonstrated this by his generosity to the poor. We will still give gifts, though a limit might be added in the future. We will still decorate and bake and gather with loved ones.

Mostly we will prepare to celebrate the birth of a Savior whose arrival signaled the defeat of death and sin. The service we attended at church last weekend was so beautiful and powerful. Our pastor really summed up what we are celebrating and how much easier and more quickly a child is able to grasp the concept of Christmas being all about toys before they are able to understand the birth of the Savior in a barn.

My intention for this post was to write about my wonderful Moms group and our Christmas celebration, which goes along these lines a bit, but it seems I digressed! :) I guess all of this has been swirling around my mind and needed to come out first!

I pray that all of you get more of Him than ever before this Christmas season. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Latest

Well, I managed to leave my laptop and my Nook at my brother's house following our Thanksgiving celebration. (Whenever I travel, it is not a question of whether I will forget something or not, rather how great the importance of the item I have left behind.) This means my blog from Thanksgiving will have to wait. Thankfully, my parents are picking up said electronics on their way down to our house tonight! You never realize what a dependent technology nerd you are until it's not available to you. Yes, I am working right now. Our data system just happens to be down. :)

Wow, things are getting super busy! I cannot believe December is here. Somehow I am still stuck at Halloween. Let's see, Noah recently got over his third illness in a month. Yes, that's THIRD. In a month. He had some type of viral thing with high fever and sore throat. We are so weary of sickness. When the third bug came along, we all became concerned (and Mommy flat out worried) so we were sent for xrays, blood draw, urine collection, strep test, the works! And, by the 5 day maximum the doctor gave us (5 days of fever lands you in the hospital), the fever ended. He is still battling a mild cough, but finally feeling better and not overtired from being sick and our Thanksgiving travels. This makes for a much happier boy and a happier mama!

Now, I have most of the shopping completed, the decorating started, Christmas cards ready to go as soon as I get my address list back, a house to clean, and tons of baking to do! :) We are hosting a Christmas party next weekend and asking the guests to donate to a local Christ-centered teen moms program. This party is a tradition I want to keep going every year. Anyway, I may need to call in reinforcements for the food prep! Getting a little nervous...

Thought I would share this neat prayer calendar a friend sent to me. It has 31 biblical virtues to pray into your child by day:

Happy Advent! Hoping to go out and buy some things that I can use to teach Noah about Advent throughout the month! I bought him his own Christmas tree yesterday and put it up in his room, complete with new ornaments: Thomas the Train, an airplane, and a light-up snowman with his name on it. Now, if I can just convince him to leave them on the tree....