Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve & Christmas Day: To Church or NOT to Church??

I feel sort of a soapbox coming on about mind was just spinning a million miles an hour about midnight thinking about this - who knows why, and I wanted to get up right then and write stuff down, but I didn't.  I had a very wise lady at my last job tell me that she thought I'd be a great pastor's wife, except for my mouth.  She said I was really going to have to watch my mouth or it was going to get me in trouble.  I appreciate her telling me that, and she is right, sometimes I have a hard time controlling my tongue.  I've learned over our past 8 years of marriage how to mix grace and truth better - because we've been through some difficult things - but it's still a process for me, and sometimes I feel so passionately about something, that I just want to railroad over everyone else to MAKE THEM DO WHAT I THINK IS RIGHT.  Because clearly, I am meant to be the Holy Spirit in every one's life.  :)  I'm sure will read over this 100 times and try to make it less offensive - because I'm sure what I really want to write would offend even some in my own family.

I believe it's an honor to attend church on Christmas Day - this year when Christmas is on a Sunday.  I believe churches across America should be PACKED with people...lining up to get into the door to honor Jesus on His birthday.  What a privilege.  What a privilege for me that He came into the world, a baby, just for me, to grow up and then DIE, painfully and horribly, just for me.  What a privilege that I have the opportunity to know Him - that I have the opportunity to pray to Him, communicate with Him, feel His love (when I choose to), have someone to go to at any time and talk about any thing with.  I just am shaking my head because I can't believe there's someone out there that I can count on all the time, without fail, and I, in my crazy weakness, don't choose to access that power daily sometimes and take FULL ADVANTAGE of what His power can offer me.  I love Him.  I don't deserve Him.  I deserve hell.  I love church anyway, but the thought of going on Christmas Day (even though we all know that's not the day he was really born) and singing praises to Him and worshipping Him, seems like the least, the very least I could give Him.  Seems like we want to go on and on talking about how Jesus is the reason for the season....yada yada yada...but then we just keep busting around doing the same ole' thing.  Buying gifts, traveling to see family, stressing out, cooking, blah blah blah.  I've tried to think in my mind if because I think you should attend a Christmas Eve service or a Christmas service if Christmas is on a Sunday, am I being legalistic.  I mean, sure, you can worship Jesus any day of the year, not just Christmas, and you know, you don't really have to join with others to worship Him, do you????  I mean, I believe you can wear jeans to worship or you can wear the fanciest dress you own from your 1990's prom and Jesus will still hear you.  So, obviously then, I believe whether you attend a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service, Jesus will still love you.  He will still long for intimacy with you.  He will still accept you fully and completely and wholly.  But let me tell you what I'll be doing.

I'll be there tonight.  I'm bringing a seat for James, snacks for James, crayons and toys for James, so that he can try to sit in the Christmas Eve service.  I want him to learn that's the way we roll.  We do everything we can that's offered at Christmas to help remind us that Jesus came as a baby, to save our very souls.  I'll be there tonight.  Ready to worship - focusing on Him and Him alone, whether I'm the only one there or not.  And, I'll be there in the morning.  And I pray God will bring people who normally don't go to church - who cares?  I won't judge them - I'll be so thankful - beyond thankful - that someone woke up and just felt like worshipping the one true God who came down from Heaven to save us.  I'll be so excited to see families worshipping together.  I'll be there.  I'll be singing as loud as I can muster it up, playing the piano as hard as I can, praising His name because I once was lost, but now I'm found.  I was blind but now I see.  And if Jesus had not come, as a baby in a manger to this earth, I would be hellbound.  On the way there faster than any of you.  Thank God for freedom of worship.  Thank God for my own church.  Thank God for people who will get up tomorrow or on a whim come tonight to worship our King - all together - as a body of believers, united.  Relationship is the Father's intent for us - to worship together - to experience life together.  Oh praise him - I am so thankful my heart is just bursting with joy.  Thank you, Father, for one Silent Night - thank you that a Baby Changed EVERYTHING. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas with Nanda & Pop Pop

Alright!  Time to catch up on all my Christmas posts...let's see if I can type quietly enough while James sleeps beside me on the couch.  Hmm.  Anyone who knows me really well knows I'm the loudest type-r on the face of the earth.  :(  A few days before Christmas, we went to Carolyn and Gerald's to celebrate Christmas with them.  While so many people have been extremely kind and generous to us, there is no one who has shown us love like Carolyn and Gerald have.  I'll never forget spending the night at their house after Landon began at Bethabra, but before we moved here, and it being winter time.  Gerald pulled their truck out of the garage that Saturday night because they wanted us to park in the garage that night.  Just one example of how incredible they've been to us.  Here are the desserts waiting on us when we arrived:

And, here's our dinner.  I can't quite remember now exactly what we had...turkey, salad, deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, broccoli, corn, mac n cheese, etc. etc...some delicious rolls...
James is big time into clicking the straps together on ANYTHING, so I just wanted to capture what he's into at the moment.
James opening a present!

Whoa!  A Ta-ti!!!

Love, love, love Nanda and Pop Pop!!

A Tricycle :)

Oh, oh, oh my.  Ms. Karen came to keep James last night and brought him a Christmas present. was a tricycle.  I didn't even know they made a tricycle for his age - I thought you couldn't ride a tricycle until you were 4 or so!  But this tricycle is made smaller...perfect for James' size!!  He walked himself around the house with it all evening.  Thank you Steve and Karen - he will get many, many, many (I cannot even count) hours of enjoyment from the tricycle - I can't wait until he can ride it OUTSIDE!!!!! 

 Also, on a funny note.  I look over at the Christmas card holder yesterday and see this: 
James must've found the envelope for the gas bill and put it up here like a Christmas card - haha.  Smart!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Animals & a New Outfit

James is getting big into the "cheese" face.  That is making it very difficult, even with a nice camera, to get a good picture of him.  It's like his eyes are always half shut!  A couple nights ago I grabbed the camera and took a picture of his bed - he is getting into a phase of wanting to sleep with every animal he sees on the way from the living room to his bed.  Winnie always makes the cut - Winnie is the tried and true - always the choice.  See how he is face down?  James lays his head down on Winnie, facing Winnie's bottom, and rubs the tag with his hand - between his fingers - until he falls asleep.  He can also say all the animals' names - Winnie, Elmo, Gingy, Monkey and Bear (I know...original), E.T., and Eeyore - I think I got them all.  It's pretty sweet.  Tonight he wanted me to put his blanket over him and with his head on Winnie, Elmo in his left arm and Eeyore in his right, he was happy to lay there and go to sleep.  Cracks me up.

Landon's mom sent the SWEETEST outfit for James - but it was too small!  I had to go exchange it, and since I couldn't find exact same outfit, I found this one instead.  People at church are going to start thinking all James has are sweater vests since that's all he ever wears (nearly).  They are just my favorite

Shirts & Cookies...a Crafty Morning!

Well...this little crafty outing turned out sort of like I thought it might.  James has never had any experience with paint situations.  We bought him some finger paints for Christmas because I want him to like makin stuff and painting and coloring....not to be boring like ME.  I was afraid he would not like how the paint felt on his hands, and sure enough, he didn't.  Can you tell?
We made a Christmas tree on his t-shirt, and I had to add the ornaments because he was FORGET it.  I forced Kelli to keep forcing his hand down on the shirt to make the tree, but I just didn't have the heart to make him o the ornaments too...I do have some mercy, you know :)
Kelli & Eric had icing and sprinkles left over from their cookie baking the day before, so they let us play with the icing and sprinkles to do a few of our own cookies.  Now, James was on board with that, let me tell you.  Even right now while I'm typing this, he is pointing at the screen and saying "cookie" over and over.
He was very good at the sprinkles after I iced the cookies!
Amy von Oven, if you read this, don't you think James looks just a little like Gabe in this picture.  I know they look nothing alike, but something about James' face below remind me so much of sweet GABE!

And, here's the finished product!!!  Yeah!  We had a great time with Mandy and Isabelle and Kelli and Carolie.  Wish some of our other friends could have joined us!!!!

Bethabra Staff Christmas Party

What a great blessing to be finishing 2 years at Bethabra.  So many people talked about how scary first churches can be, and we feel so blessed to be a part of such a wonderful family.  Sure, there have been and still are some significant challenges, but on the whole, we could not be more thankful that this is the place God had for us.  We got together Sunday evening at Eric and Kelli's house to celebrate together with Tommy and Mallory, Steven and Amy, Carolyn and Gerald, Susan and M.J....I think that's it!  I had more pictures (since it looks like there were very few people there...) but I cannot post them because I am making the craziest ugliest faces...and I just can't handle it.

Here's James and me...(P.S. the red shirt is like his Christmas uniform)
Sweet James and Caroline
James and Caroline and Nanda and Pop Pop - so thankful for them!!!!

It was a great night...except for a really loud game that James nearly had a nervous breakdown during - you know, he doesn't like any loud noises or craziness happening.  We are praying for many, many more years at Bethabra - and we are praying that God will do something AMAZING there.  Something we could not even ask or imagine. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Too Tasty to wait til Tuesday

Boy, I hate staying home all day.  Landon got up with James this morning and took him to breakfast so that I could work.  I've been working on and off all day today - trying to finish up some things before I end my time with my department at the end of the year.  After lunch, Landon went to play golf for a few hours, James napped, and I worked.  I decided that even though I really wanted to go out to eat, we needed to spend less money, so I decided to try a recipe I found on Pinterest and had all the ingredients to make.  It's cream cheese spaghetti.  Looks good, huh?

It was delicious, and it even got rave reviews from Landon.  Here's the recipe:

Baked Cream Cheese Spaghetti Casserole

12 oz spaghetti
1 (28 ounce) jars prepared spaghetti sauce
1 lb lean ground beef
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 clove garlic, minced  ( just sprinkled some garlic powder in it...I don't even know what a clove of garlic looks like...clearly I am no chef)
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
In a skillet, brown the ground beef until cooked through; drain fat and stir in spaghetti sauce. Set aside.
Cook spaghetti according to directions on packet. Drain and place cooked spaghetti in bowl. Add cream cheese, Italian Seasoning and minced garlic. Stir until cream cheese is melted and the spaghetti is thoroughly coated. (I accidentally put the garlic powder and the Italian Seasoning in the sauce, and it was great anyway).
Lightly grease a 9x13" pan. Spread a small amount of meat sauce in the bottom of the dish. Put spaghetti on top of sauce and top with remaining meat sauce. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.

Bake for 30 minutes, until bubbly.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Flashy Festive Christmas Decor

Well, before I started taking pictures of our Christmas stuff, I was super excited about joining Kelly's Korner for her Christmas decor carnival today.  Then, once I started taking the pictures - even though we have a super nice camera - I got less excited.  It seems like it looks much more Christmas-y and festive in person.  Clearly I am not a professional photographer, so it is what it is.  After Katrina happened, we had to start from scratch to rebuild our Christmas stock of decorations.  I'll start our tour in the kitchen...

I got Chef Santa last year from my mom :)  Then, you can see Gator Santa on the left, given to Landon by his mom a few years ago (I think!).

The Mary and Joseph figurine is carved out of olive wood.  We got it while we were in Israel in 2007.  The faces aren't carved because the more intricate the design on the wood, the more expensive it is there.   Ours had to be faceless :)  BUT, still mean a great deal to me to get them out every year.  That was a once in a lifetime trip, and I have so many great memories of it.  Beside Mary and Joseph is my glass block light that my friend Terri made for me!  It is a glass shower block with lights stuffed inside and bow tied around the front.  I was so excited the year Terri made it for me for Christmas!!

I just wanted to show my favorite Santa mug.  I bought Momma and me mugs like this a few years ago.  It's my FAVORITE.  BUT, you cannot microwave it because it has a jingle bell on it - trust me, you'll remember you can't microwave it after you do it once.

Here's our table centerpiece.

This is my favorite new addition this year.  A Christmas card holder!

Landon's mom gave this to me a few years ago - it's a BEAUTIFUL nativity.  I have a hard time fitting it on this table, so it may have to find a new home next year.  It's just gorgeous, so I love having it right inside the front door where anyone who visits can see it.

Landon's mom also gave me this angel last year.  I bought the angel for her the year before, and really liked it.  Then, she gave me one last year (I started actually wondering if she regifted hers to me because she didn't really like as much as she said...but I'm thinking that didn't happen :)). I love the angel.  Every morning when we wake up and come in the living room, James points at the angel, the mantel, and the tree - those are the three things we turn on right when we get up every day.

James loves playing with the nativity.  He also loves playing with the train - which I forgot about a picture of in this post, but it's a big, big deal at our house and we play with it about 10 times a day.  No kidding.

 So, I got this idea yesterday that I really want to put a tree in James' room.  This isn't the exact tree I'd like to put in here - I want to put one in the corner that actually has lights but is small.  BUT, you get what you can know what I mean? So, I got this tree that was half price at Hobby Lobby - it will do until we can get a better one for his room.  I took extra pictures I had of him since he was born and cut them out into different shapes as the ornaments. I think I probably could have done more creative stuff with this, but I'm not sure what, and I haven't had time to check out this idea on Pinterest to see what other people do that is better. 

And, here's the outside...

 Seriously??? Usually I can tell James to stand at the door while I step outside for a minute, but not today.  He bolted out the door with his socks on and started hiking it up the driveway.   Don't worry, I caught up before he reached the road.

So, that's it for me!  I enjoy decorating for Christmas, and I'd like to do more of it - just have to collect more and more each year.  Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 12, 2011

How Far is it to Bethlehem?

This past Sunday night was a great night at Bethabra.  Ms. Carolyn, after working TIRELESSLY all semester with the children, led them in a fantastic musical this past Sunday evening.  I am amazed at the talent God has placed in our church and pray He will continue to bring MORE and MORE!!!  James played Jesus when the Wise Men came to visit - and Landon and I played Mary and Joseph.  We had NO speaking parts (well, Landon did speak at the end, but that was because he was the pastor, not "Joseph").  Here's James eating his pre-musical dinner of a pbj sandwich and cheetos.

Ms. Carolyn's sweet family was there that night - her daughter Kendra (below) and sweet McKenna (not sure if I'm spelling that right!!!!), and Caroline :)
Don't the kids look GREAT??
James did a great job on his part.  The funniest thing about him is how much he talked backstage.  I mean, it was a super strange environment for him to be taken outside with a dress on a weird gold belt in the cold around to the back of the baptistry where we entered in the dark and stood as quietly as possible until it was our turn to go on stage.  James kept yelling "Da da" "Da da" over and over.  I told him to whisper and since we read an Elmo book that talks about whispering he actually then whispered "Da da" a few times before he went back to yelling it.  The most interesting part was when the entire cast came back on stage at the end while Landon was giving a serious talk to the guests - James was yelling "ball" and "Bi" (for Britleigh - who was taking pictures for us :)...I let him get the ball, but once I thought he was going to throw it at Landon, who was speaking SERIOUSLY, I just had to exit the stage with him...
 It's hard for me to imagine how Mary must have felt being Jesus' mom - not knowing exactly how it would all play out, but knowing that Jesus was not here for grow up and be a regular child...I would have been afraid, and honored, and maybe resentful that I was the one who had to sacrifice my child.  Christmas is such a special season.  We've been playing with our nativity and talking about da mama Mary, da da da Joseph, and da bay Jesus :) 
 Luke 2:13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.