Sunday, December 27, 2009

One of us

One of us had the most amazing Christmas possible.

One of us is in a place where Christmas is celebrated everyday, not just on December 25th. One of us could hear the angels singing, instead of singing about angels. One of us has the complete peace, joy, and love that all the Christmas songs refer to.

That is because one of us is already with the One for whom Christmas is all about.

One day, we will all celebrate Christmas together as a family.

Forever and ever.


Merry 1st Christmas Olivia! You were loved and missed around our Christmas tree.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Free Gifts

These all came together in my mind and heart yesterday and I thought I'd share them with all of you. I've been thinking about things I can give that don't cost anything and this is what God brought to mind. So here are four gifts that can be given this holiday season (and beyond!) and you don't even need your debit card.

The Gift of Grace
For yourself. For others. I think I am hardest on myself and expect more out of myself than maybe I should sometimes. Maybe you are the other way around. Whichever is the case, we all could use a little more grace. Yelling less. Loving more. Encouraging your husband. Appreciating your wife. Focusing on your families good qualities instead of the annoyances. We all have been extended more grace than we deserve.

The Gift of Peace
Ya know that grudge that you've been holding onto for far too long? That fractured relationship that could use some mending? The seed of bitterness that has started to take root? This gift is so easy to imagine, but so difficult to execute. Maybe it can start with just a turn of the heart; going to that family gathering planning to be peaceful despite what comes your way. I am working on this gift myself. 

The Gift of Joy
There has been so much recent pain in the lives of people I know. Grief that I know all too well. One of my favorite verses has been Deuteronomy 30:19 where we are told to 'choose life' and I suppose I kind of equate that 'choosing joy' since the word life feels so arbitrary to me. This could be simply getting out of bed and getting dressed. It could be deciding to smile more. Dusting off His Word that has been laid aside for far too long. Choosing to focus on 'life' instead of on 'death' or whatever has been lost. Joy is a gift that we must choose to give ourselves and will overflow into the lives of others. (In other words, if Mama ain't happy, nobody ain't happy!)

And last but not least....

The Gift of Hope
Hope is such a powerful thing. I know I've said this before, but I just like to say it a lot: As long as there is life, there is hope. Don't give up, look up. Whatever it is you are facing: an unhappy marriage, a desperate job situation, the loss of the life you thought you'd have, a broken spirit, God is our hope and with Him all things are possible.

I don't say it often enough, but you are all gifts to me. Your friendships. Your comments. Your companionship along the road of life.

Thank you.

Which gift do you need the most? I think, for me, it's hope.

Monday, December 14, 2009

He Provides: Chinese Food

The Husband has a new seasonal job in the snow removal industry. Every time it snows, he will be out shoveling and salting walks. We are so thankful for this new opportunity that God has provided. I have been nervous and anxious to see how this position will pan out. We had our first BIG snow event last week and the Husband pretty much worked for 3 1/2 days straight. (50+ hours)! At the end of that time, I thought it would be nice to take the family out to a restaurant to reconnect and reward my hard-working Beloved for his endless hours of exhausting work. Sit-down restaurants are a luxury that we can no longer afford, so this definitely would be a treat. "The Voice" (aka The Holy Spirit) tells me that I should take us to a Chinese buffet in a nearby town. I even called ahead to see how much this meal would cost me. Twenty-five dollars for the five of us felt like a lot at the moment, but I really wanted to honor my Husband in this way. So, off we went!

Everyone found something tasty to enjoy. I relished watching my son inhale several servings of mozzarella cheese sticks, inches and inches of gooey cheese hanging from his mouth. All the kids enjoyed multiple servings of ice cream. After all, we were celebrating!! Towards the end of the meal, the natives were getting restless. Sebastian was screeching about something; Tatiana was wandering near the table; Sienna was antsy. I noticed a lady at a nearby table watching us and could feel the embarrassment heat my face. I was sure that we were being a nuisance to her quiet meal. As I stood to go pay our bill, this lady approached me.

"Excuse me, how much was your bill?"

*looking surprised* Thirty dollars.

"I have twenty-five dollars here  and my husband and I would like to pay your bill." [This the exact amount that I thought the bill would be based on my prior phone call.]

*gulp* Ok. Well....thank you. (I started crying at this point. I just couldn't believe this!)

"How about if I just take your bill and get the rest of the money for your check together? You just go along with your family and have a nice evening."

*choking out words* Thank you so much. Thank you so much! Have a....blessed holiday.

I was nearly dissolved into a puddle right there. As we left the restaurant, my kids just kept saying, "Mommy, why are you crying? WHY are you crying?" I tried to explain it to them, about how God provided for us through perfect strangers, but really, there are no words to do Him justice.

Even now, I sit here shaking my head in disbelief, tears welling in my eyes. I am so unworthy of His blessings.

And yet, He pours them out.

P.S. Feel free to share in the comments how He has provided for you lately!

Friday, December 11, 2009

He Provides: Thanksgiving

Enter His gates with Thanksgiving. 
-Ps. 100:4a

I keep telling myself that I really should chronicle all the unique ways that God has been providing for us lately. So, that's just what I'm gonna do. He keeps blessing my socks off more times than I can remember. I thought you'd like to come along for the ride. I'm gonna have to back track a little, just so that I can pay special attention to all the creative ways that God has "shown up" in our lives recently.

Our Thanksgiving Meal
We really didn't have any 'extra' money to spare, but we are committed to practicing hospitality (Rom. 12:13). A few weeks before Thanksgiving, we get a phone call from a friend's husband who has passed our name along to a gal at a church we used to attend. I call her and she asks if we would like a Thanksgiving turkey from the Food Pantry. (We never turn down food!) I gratefully tell her that we would love to accept this. When the day arrives for the Husband to pick up said turkey, he returns with not only a turkey but several boxes full of groceries to complement our meal. Yukon gold potatoes? Yep. Sweet potatoes? Uh-huh. Cranberry sauce? You betcha. Loaves of french bread? Yes! And canned vegetables and cake mix and muffin mix and oatmeal and cereal and stuffing. I tried to creatively plan our menu around what we received. The Husband went to donate plasma a few days before Thanksgiving (his second time that week) and got paid $30. He picked up our Thanksgiving groceries and several things for 'the house', which ended up totaling $31.20. 

An entire Thanksgiving meal. For our family, friends, and bunches of leftovers.

All for an out-of-pocket total of $1.20.

He provides, indeed.

Monday, December 07, 2009

For the Love of Pumpkin

And here you thought that Thanksgiving was over.

I had 'the girls' over for dinner the other night and casually mentioned 'pumpkin milkshakes'. I guess I can't just casually mention something like that without sparking the curiosity of all the taste buds that were present.

I warned them that I only had enough ice cream to make ONE shake.

They were not deterred.

I scooped. I blended. I tasted. I served.

It was a measly 1/3 cup portion at best.

But I guess the loud  sssslllluuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrppppppssss that came when the straws hit the bottoms of the cups were evidence enough that 'the girls' approved. We all couldn't help but giggle. We waited until the last little drops of milkshake melted and then sluuurped some more. Delicious, indeed.

For the recipe that induced all this slurping, click here.

I served mine without the graham crackers and with dollops of whipped cream on top.

It's better than pumpkin pie and much faster too!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Another Year

Yesterday was a day of celebration. Several loved ones birthdays fall in the month of December and more than one decided to celebrate the occasion yesterday. I spent several hours (alone!) driving from party to party, but as I drove home late in the evening, only one person was on my mind.

Sebastian was born at 9:37 pm and I loved watching the clock and reflecting on where I was just 2 years ago. I thanked God for the blessing that he is and has been to our lives, especially this last year, when I clung to Sebastian as "my baby". It's not that having him to hold and snuggle made losing Olivia less painful, but it did soften the blow a little. I swear it was just the other day that I was posting about my little guy turning ONE. Remember when it seemed like I had blinked and he was already 18 months old? And the calendar pages have just flipped by so rapidly, that here I stand with a brand new 2-year old.

Happy Birthday to my sound effect making, truck loving, temper flaring, Blue's Clues watching, Daddy adoring, eczema suffering, slow talking, furniture climbing, Veggie Tale singing, little man. All these things (and more!) make you who you are. And we wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Just a Box

I'm sure it must've been a lovely sentiment at the time. In all honesty, it could've been I who bought the item to stash away until the appropriate season. Whoever it was is irrelevant, I suppose. It's just another insight into how something so seemingly harmless as unpacking Christmas decorations can reduce a fully-grown woman to tears.

What should've been Baby's 1st Christmas, as the ornament in the photo suggests, will be the first Christmas without our baby. People say that the first holiday is the hardest. I sure hope that is true.

It's difficult for other people, especially some that love us best, to understand why we are taking a different approach to this Christmas season. But it's because of things like unpacking a ornament or a family photo that doesn't quite feel complete or wondering if Olivia will even be remembered around the Christmas tree, that give us pause. And pause we should, if we are not to miss the true meaning of the holiday.

And as I sit here, blurry-eyed with tears, God gently reminded me that along with being heart-broken about a box, I can be heart-filled about a different box. The one that held a baby some two-thousand years ago. And so, I guess that is just what I'm gonna try to do.

Thinking about a box,