Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012...Year in Review

If you've been a visitor of this blog very long, you know I'm a fan of recaps.  I've done a YIR since beginning this blog and, if nothing else, it's fun for me to take a walk down memory lane.  Here's hoping you find some enJOYment too...

January - Our first day of the year began a frantic search for sauerkraut!  I was surprised with a lovely trip to Birmingham for work.  Noah had an epic birthday-palooza.  We purchased our first camper.  And Tim and I discovered impromptu date nights.  We visited a new church, which little did we know at the time, would become our new home.

February - The creation of "Tech Free Family Time" was invented, thanks to two tweens in the house.  My new year's resolution to read the Bible daily spilled over onto Noah and family devotion time.  I kicked Tim out of the bed, but not how you might think.  Kale became my favorite veggie.  We spent our Leap Day doing acts of kindness and surprised the kids with a picnic supper.

March - My first taste of guest posting.  Noah's love of baseball returned.  We tested out the camper in our culdesac.  The kids enjoyed their first church sleepover w/a weekend retreat.  In preparation for our upcoming spring break trip, I developed Camp Rules.  Our first experience of a Lifegroup.

April - The camping trip was everything we'd hoped for and more.  We said good-bye to our dear family cat, Tux.  Selecting our scholarship winner for Austin's Legacy was a goosebump moment.  Noah and I took in our annual Indian Breakfast.  Baseball Season in full swing.

May - Honored to be offered another guest post.  Noah broke his finger playing ball at church.  We didn't think it was broke and basically told him to suck it up.  Needless to say he still hasn't let us live that down! Tim and I were simply blessed with a simple day together.  We were held by loving prayers of friends, family and our Lifegroup to see us through the difficult month of what would've been Austin's graduation...  And it was an unexpected blessing to attend.  We ended the month by sharing our testimony to our new church family.

June - Noah's big game.  Tina's foot surgery.  Which led to a month of accidents...  We planted more tomatoes than ever and loved every juicy bite.  Fishing trips and homemade ice cream.

July - Austin's heavenly birthday was celebrated with a tree of hope.  Staycations.  Noah discovers Andy Griffith.  Tina's mission trip with Ky Changers.  Tim continued the accident curse with a scare in the midst of VBS.  We juggled and still joyfully served at VBS, with downtime at the hospital. 

August - First day of school.  I attempted couponing again...and failed.  Tim had back surgery.  We quickly remembered how much he does not like to Be Still.   

September - I treated Tim to his annual fried chicken birthday dinner.  Tim continued to learn to be still...I learned to be silent.  The beginning of fall festivals and our first pulled pork nachos!

October - Yellow mums...pumpkins (pies, lattes, candles, cookies, carving, painting, oh my word!)...caramel apples...autumn leaves...crisp mornings...bonfires...hayrides...scary movies...candy corn...soups, stews and on the deck, under a cider...Halloween parties...perfect hot tub weather...sweatshirts and hoodies...God's breathtaking landscape in the fall...Plan B Fall Break Fun.

November - a month of Thanksgiving.  Upward Basketball.  Operation Shoebox.  Noah's first deer - and he got 2 for 1!   A new Thanksgiving tradition - delivering meals to those without.  Another blessed RAK in memory of Austin...all month long.  Our first real Christmas tree.

December - Tina's baptism.  Joy Dare.  Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.  Lifegroup party.  Lots of lovely Family Time.  Lord of the Rings marathon.  A month of #23s...hugs from Heaven.  This Christmas.

The highlight of 2012 for me though wasn't from one moment or event, it was from a single choice.  Choosing to try "one more church" changed our lives.  God has blessed us beyond measure through our new family at EHBC and I'm hopeful for what 2013 has in store. 

What was your favorite moment or memory of 2012?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Faithful Friday: Selflessness

My husband is a doer. 

He most certainly is not a sitter.  Doing so drives him crazy.  About the only time he willing does nothing is when he takes a nap.

You might recall this little tidbit of information from my posts this past summer, when dear hubby had to endure weeks of nothing but sitting due to back surgery.  That was certainly a learning experience - for us both.

So it was not much of a surprise to me when our hot water heater ceased working last weekend that he rolled up his sleeves and attempted to fix it himself.  It happened on a Sunday.  The Sunday before Christmas, which was scheduled to be a rather busy day.

Noah was showering and, as he always does, took nearly an hour.  Halfway through it, he began to holler, "there's no hot water!"  I assumed it was due to the length of his shower, not any household snafu.  As I began washing my hair in the sink a short while later though, I realized he wasn't exaggerating.  A quick and brisk rinse later, I was consulting Tim. 

By this point the kids were late for Sunday school and growing restless, so he ran them over, coming back to do a quick check.  A few peeks, tweaks and fingers crossed, we slipped into the pew just 10 minutes late to worship.  Tim hoped it was fixed. 

Knowing we were leaving directly from there to my Grandma's house, I whispered a silent prayer that we'd return to hot water.  To our dismay, late that evening, we did not. 

Tim awoke at sunrise the next morning, a Monday, but Christmas Eve nonetheless.  He needed to start early so that he could visit whatever store happened to remain open for the holidays in our little town.  It wasn't quite the way I'd planned for us to celebrate or him to spend his sole vacation day.

Several hours and a few trips later, Tim hit his easy chair just in time for dinner.  Grateful for such a selfless and loving husband, we ate our meal while watching a holiday movie, and ended the evening at church for a candlelight service.

There were no homemade donuts for breakfast.  No lazy PJ day full of board games and Christmas shows.  No baking cookies for Santa.  My kitchen was still a mess though, only tools and contents from the closet which holds the water heater replaced mixing bowls and a dusting of powder sugar.

It wasn't the Christmas Eve I had envisioned but it was still very much a gift.  I counted my blessings.  My husband was making sure on his only "free" day off that his family would have hot water all week.  He knew he'd return to work on Wednesday and didn't want us waiting until this weekend when he'd have time again to fix it. 

I realized the sacrifices Tim makes for us every day - without hesitation - and tears filled my eyes, watching my tired hubby settle in for a long winter's nap.  His selflessness is a quality I both admire and strive to have a percentage of.  It's one of the many reasons I love him so.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
- Philippians 2:4 ESV

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

This Christmas...

After the confetti of wrapping paper scraps and pine needles are cleared away, what's remembered of this Christmas?

Fireworks at the parade.  Tina's Baptism.  Hosting our first Lifegroup Christmas get-together. 
Baking cookies with the kids.  #23.  Youth Progressive Dinner.  Christmas movies.  
Impromptu McGuffin pizza party.  Volunteering at the Community Christmas Celebration. 
Our annual No-presents presents day.    Holiday snacks at Grandma's and the annual reading of Luke 2.  Early morning, 9 am Hobbit movie, which led to a Lord of the Rings marathon.   Viewing Christmas lights, while singing carols.  Eggnog shakes.  Hiding presents, then forgetting where they are. 
Noah not yet outgrowing leaving cookies for Santa.  Silly string fight at Mom's Christmas breakfast. 
Joy Dare - #1000gifts.  A surprise sitting for our great nephew Liam.

But, for me, the highlight of the holidays in 2012 will be the way we shared a simple Christ-centered Christmas Eve night. 

Breaking tradition, as is how most of the day was spent, we attended our first candlelight service.

It is something I'd always wanted to do, but when the boys were young, 10:00 pm just seemed too late to venture out.  Calming two excited and hyper-ready to see Santa-kiddos at that hour of the night, didn't seem possible.  Someday we thought...

Time passes.  Lives change.  Children grow.

And we decided this was the year to start something new. 

In the dark sanctuary, one by one, four candles were lit, representing the love, hope, peace and Joy of Christ, and then, from the center, the Christ candle began to radiate light. 

One by one, each member of the church took in prayerful communion, lighting their small candle from the center.  Watching the darkness slowly fade, as a soft glow filled the room, tears found their way down my cheeks.  I was overcome with emotions. 

Speechless from the simplicity and beauty.  Prayerful for the pain still felt in missing Austin, and pausing to think of so many other families hurting this season.  Thankful for the birth of our Saviour.  Grateful for this blessed memory and beloved tradition for Christmases to come...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Faithful Friday: Holding onto Heaven

I'll love you for forever, I'll like you for always,
as long as I'm living my baby you'll be.

Before Austin was even born, I whispered this to him.
Sitting in his nursery to be, hands on my belly, I gently rocked back and forth.

Months later I would repeat this same story, only now looking down on the tiny face
of the beautiful gift God had blessed us with.

Fourteen years later, gently stroking his jet black hair, I whispered those words,
but to only the shell of his broken body. 
My baby was gone.

How does a mother go from the joy of having a child
to the pain of losing one and survive?
Much less, to find joy again?

My joy comes from God.  In knowing Him.
My joy comes from believing my forever exists...someday. 
My joy comes from knowing one day I'll hold my son again
and can sing those words to him. 

This knowledge has me holding onto Heaven.  It is how I live each day.  Not for this world, but for Heaven.  And, it is how I survive.

I'm comforted in knowing the mother we remember this season
endured the same joy and pain. 
But that because of her son, we who know and love Him, will all enjoy forever...

Then Mary said,
“I praise the Lord with all my heart.
I am very happy because God is my Savior.
I am not important,
but he has shown his care for me, his lowly servant.
From now until the end of time,
people will remember how much God blessed me.
Luke 1:46-48

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 
and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger...
Luke 2:6-7

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother...
John 19:25

Jesus told her,
"I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.
John 11:25

For those families in Connecticut, I pray...
for strength...
for peace...
but mostly,
for salvation.
So they may know forever too.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It's Christmas when...

What signals the start of the Christmas season to you?

Putting up the tree?  Lighting the first Advent candle?  Decorating the house?  Baking cookies?  Hearing the first carol on the radio?  When your holiday vacation begins?  Snowflakes.?

Mine may seem strange, but it's almost Christmas when...I watch "Meet me in St Louis" on tv.

You can imagine my excitement when I noticed it recording last night.  Every November, I set it to auto record, never knowing exactly when they'll show it.  I keep telling myself to just go find it and buy it, but I haven't yet.  To me, part of the magic is the surprise of seeing it in my queue.

The family was startled when, remote in hand, I squealed with delight at the holiday find.  They did not share my jolly spirit, much like they do not share my love for old movies.  Tim will watch -and actually does enjoy many "old" shows- but if it's black and white or appears aged, the kids put on the brakes.

Last year, I began discovering Christmas Classics - all those movies I'd heard of, maybe seen a clip or two, but never truly watched, and I made it my mission to do so.  (You'll have to share your favorites with me below.)  But "Meet Me" wasn't part of that, because it has been a treasured favorite for a few years now.

One Christmas break, donning PJ's and beside a roaring fire, I happened upon the movie.  Not yet a full fan of the classics, I was hesitant, but seeing a familiar beautiful face from another favorite, The Wizard of Oz, Judy Garland sparked my interest.  One song in and I was hooked.

Taking place in early 1900s, for whatever reason, it reminded me of my Grandpa McGuffin.  The setting, scenes, clothing and music just reminded me of him and made we wonder if his young adulthood was anything similar.  Many of the songs were the same ones he'd sung to me as a child, some of which I'd imagined he just made up, until hearing them on the big screen. 

"Meet Me" isn't even truly a Christmas movie, just having a few scenes that take place during the holiday season, but it will forever be on my favorites list.  And, I'm eager to slip into some PJs with a steamy cup of cocoa and enJOY it very soon!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

It came without ribbons...

On Friday, I shared some of our past and expected group parties of the season.  The Lifegroup Christmas meeting was a blessing.  So nice to share our home with our new church family.  My walls soaked up the prayers, as we stood hand in hand, circled around our living room, to close the night.

Saturday, when my uncle Ronnie called, surprising us that he was in from Illinois, an impromptu party began to form.  His voicemail invited us to Pizza Hut the next day, a frequent spot for us to gather when he drops in, but I called back with another offer.

Why not just have it here?

Just like my Uncle, he didn't want to impose.  Or cause a mess.

What is there to mess I say? 
Pizza boxes are easy to throw away.
A home is meant for crumbs and dust. 
Meant to be shared.  That is a must.
Meant to be elbow thick with family piled into one room.
For that is how, with family, love grows and blooms.

And so we did...just because.
And what a beautiful Christmas gathering it was.

How could it be so?

It came without ribbons.

It came without tags.

It came without packages, boxes or bags.

And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.

 What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store?

What if Christmas,


 means a little bit more?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Faithful Friday: Crowd Pleaser

I spend more time in groups this month than probably the entire year.  And almost all of them involve food!

Within the past week, we've had Tim's annual fire department dinner, a youth progressive dinner, two company Christmas meals, and tonight, we'll host our monthly Lifegroup.  (Yes, I wear a lot of elastic!)

In a crowd, I'm an observer, a people watcher.  I'll talk quietly with whoever is around me, but for the most part, I'm a wallflower.  As such, I'm normally not one for crowds and will choose a quiet night at home any day, but when they're filled with dear friends, it's something I enjoy. 

Tim's fire dinner was a great time, as usual.  New members mixed with veterans, spouses, and tiny additions.  It was nice to see the next generation coming through, as I sat on the sidelines to support my hubby, salt and pepper hair among the young pups.  Watching him with his second family brings me joy.

Keep on loving each other as brothers. (Heb 13:1)

Sunday night the kids experienced their first progressive dinner.  I helped at the spaghetti house, so I was able to taste a portion of their fun.  They came home excitedly laughing about the dirty Santa game.  We are so blessed to have such a positive outlet for them to be in and spiritual friends to know.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Eccl 4:12)

Tim and I both had company meals this week, making our evening dinners very light to balance out the feasts.  I traveled to Bowling Green, an office I only get to see every month or so, but one that is always a joy to visit.  It was extra special this trip because both my current boss and my former were there.  I consider myself very fortunate to have two wonderful mentors in my career, who motivate and challenge me.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thes 5:11)

And last, but certainly not least, our Lifegroup.  Tim and I are thrilled to host this month's in our home tonight.  Lifegroup is such a new concept for us, even as simple as it is.  It's basically a small group from church that meets about once a month for fellowship, food and prayer.  I remember several months back, as we attended our first, and how hesitant we were.  Our fears were quickly relieved as the warmth, love and friendship we initially felt when visiting EHBC was present just the same in that group.  Over this year, we've shared recipes, tears, laughter, prayers, and grown closer.  We are so glad we stepped out of our comfort zones and into these people's lives, for they've made ours so much better.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.    (Gal 6:2)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Yes, God, I hear you!

Tim and I had goosebumps the moment we walked into church this morning.

We have been praying and talking ...and if I'm being honest, hesitating, with the answer God had given us.  So many times in our lives we've seen the good that God provides.  We've been the recipient of "God gifts" only He could know about and send to us.  We trust God and we know he always, always provides. 

Sometimes though, we doubt.  We wait.  We question.  We test. 
And even when He shouts, we still don't listen.

Today, we heard him loud and clear.

We walked in on mission and set out to complete a task God had laid on our hearts for many weeks.  It was something we should've been obedient in doing awhile back, but given the events life dealt us this past summer we just wanted to make sure we could handle the commitment.

Bending down to sign up on a list, I noticed a gap on the page.  An obvious line had been skipped.  At first, I was just going to drop to the bottom and write our names in the next slot, but I glanced back up and questioned why there was a hole.  Moving my finger, I noticed the number in front of the blank line.

#23.  _____________________________

We both just stood there for a moment in shock, awe, and thankfulness for God     (and Austin) smacking us upside the head with grace.

You see, #23 has always been a significant number for our family.  Even more so now that Austin is gone.  It was his favorite, his jersey number, and just a short sweet symbol that has always represented him.  Since losing Austin, we've been blessed with so many signs from him using that number.  Many times it is to let us know that he is ok or he is near, but we also get the number, almost as an Austin hug, to let us know he approves or is proud of whatever we're doing. 

I know God uses the number too, because it always gets our attention. 
And it certainly did today. 

Praying He doesn't have to throw a brick at me to get it next time...

Friday, December 7, 2012

Faithful Friday: Christmas Lights

Driving my mom home this evening, she said something very wise, nestled between shopping bags from our successful outing.

Noah was asking me about our weekend and I was rattling off the packed agenda of the next 48 hours.  December is just a busy, busy month I reminded him.

"But it is also important to pause and enjoy it too," whispers Mom.

Yes, Mom, it is...

Even me, someone who pauses regularly in every day to find joy and give thanks, needs a reminder now and then. Although I'm cautious that what I put on my calendar is Christ-filled this month and focuses on family, it is also so very important to pause in the season and seek God.  To remember the reason and feel his very presence.  To let his light shine through us so that when we share the holiday with others, we show Christmas.

And so that is just what I did.  Shopping bags empty, pjs on, I sat in the stillness of the living room, with only the light from the tree and fireplace glowing.  No TV.  No phone.  No distractions.  Just me - and God. 
I soaked him up, breathed Christmas in...and it was beautiful.

May I be reminded to do this daily.  After all, a week of December has already come and gone...

"For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ."
 —2 Corinthians 4:6 (NIV)

my sweet nephew, Leeland, sleeping under the lights of our tree this December


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Holiday Hodgepodge

So, I'm not quite as organized this year to plan and write a series for Christmas, like the 12 days I shared with you last.  Funny though that the first 12 day post was about carols, which inspired today's writing.

If you're new and curious about last year's festive fare, feel free to browse by many of the handy links on the site, for posts such as "12 cookies, 12 decorations, and 12 memories" of Christmas.

Anyway, back to the point, if there really is one with this post...

I was perusing the internet this week, working on a project for our upcoming Children's party at church, when I found a beautiful video of my very favorite Christmas song.  Each time I hear it, I'm filled with a mixture of emotions and covered in goosebumps.  Seeing a visual portrayal along with it, just adds to the beauty.

"When you kiss your Little Baby, You kiss the Face of God!"

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you do know that I've been sharing 3 gifts each day.  Much like the November Thankfulness Challenge, I'm listing 3 gifts every day, following a project called the Joy Dare by Ann Voskamp.  Amazing writer...check her out.

Today's was 3 gifts silver –
 my baby spoon. 
the Tea kettle Austin bought me with his own money. 
 every cloud has one.

In a season where such a focus is on what's under the tree, prayerful projects like Ann's help us remember this is Christmas. 

It's not too late to join me.
Amazing what happens when you pause in thankfulness
for the many gifts God gives us
every. single. day.

Monday, December 3, 2012

One. Blessed. Day

Ever had one of those days that was just filled with greatness from start to finish? 
Yesterday was such a day!

I guess my body was in anticipation for it all weekend, as I slept little and busied myself getting the house ready for family.  Nothing makes me happier than cooking and hosting a get-together for those I love. 

The icing on this cupcake of a day was the reason we were gathering.

My niece Tina, who has been with us a little over a year now, was baptized this morning.  We are so proud of her decision and were thrilled to celebrate it with family.  In fact, we took up two rows in church today, having four generations snuggled together in worship.  There just isn't much better of a feeling than having both your church and biological family joined in the same room.
Tina can be somewhat shy and is nervous in front of crowds, but her sweet smile was contagious as she cautiously stepped into the waters.  Her posts on Facebook summed up her feelings before and after her dunk.  Before church she wrote, "This girl is getting baptized today and she is excited!!!" and I noticed practically the moment after she posted, "That was AMAZING!!" 
 ...Hope she didn't take her phone in the baptism with her. 

Because EHBC is just so cool, they even taped it.  You can see it on the YouTube link below. 
I never grow tired of seeing someone baptized.  Goosebumps!

The family joined us at our house afterwards for a smorgasboard of soup and snacks. We spent the afternoon eating, laughing, napping, listening to Christmas songs, laughing, eating and rejoicing. I can only imagine the excitement in Heaven, as I'm sure Austin was at the center of an eternal celebration up there too.

Ignore the napping.  They had fun too!  lol

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