Friday, January 30, 2015

Wonderful Winter Catch Up

Those aren't two words I would normally use together ~ "wonderful" and "winter" ~ but there's no denying that winter has brought many wonderful things so far.

It was -1 degree here yesterday.  (Not so wonderful.) Betsy stopped by at 7:45am to pick us up for our weekly ski trip to Mt. Snow, Vermont, and as we were standing in my driveway loading up gear and lunches, she said, "It's cold."

Ha!

I think we were both of the mindset that the negative temps were over (we already had a week or so of those), but we live in New England, and it's still January, and that sort of thinking will only set you up for disappointment.
Icicles on your eyelashes isn't all that wonderful either ~ but laughing over it with a friend is!
We survived this week's blizzard just fine, and truly enjoyed a day off together ~ though the pastor wrote a sermon, paid bills, and had a conference call. Even so, we managed to make our way through four episodes of the Gilmore Girls, which is the whole family's latest addiction. (Ahhhh...Lorelai, Rory, Suki, Dean, Luke, and Lane... now we all want to move to wonderful Stars Hollow and be your best friends!) We only got about 10 inches of snow, whereas our Boston and Worcester neighbors had more like 34 and are still shoveling out today!
 Thankfully, it was not -1 in Vermont yesterday.  It actually got to be 28 degrees there and that temp plus sunshine is just perfect for skiing!

We really still can't get over the fact that we get to ski in Vermont every Thursday for six weeks in the winter.  It is something we look forward to each week.  An hour and a half of ski school (yesterday we did a black diamond and learned how to spin!) and then a couple of hours of free skiing.  So much fun! So wonderful.

 The pics above and below are pretty standard poses for these kiddos.  For some reason, the guy below is always sitting or lying on the snow ~ when he's not in motion, of course.  He loves his (well, his brother's) trick blades very much.


When we're not on the slopes, we're often at the gym for one of Coop's basketball games ~ his last year to play...
 ...or we are hanging out at some indoor track facility (Smith College in Northampton or Reggie Lewis in Boston) watching Kayla run various winter track events.  Her favorite event by far is the 55m sprint, and tonight is her last night to qualify for further meets.  She needs to go from an 8.17 to and 8.12.  I told her to just go for the 8 seconds flat.  I mean, what's so difficult about that?

Turns out it is fairly difficult, and we're so proud of her hard work and great times as a freshman.
I never got around to telling you how wonderful our Christmas was, so here are a few (lots of, actually) photos to fill you in on just how wonderful it was.

Part of the recipe for "Wonderful Christmas" was having Kory home from college.

And not only did Kory travel from Texas, but my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew came from California, and my youngest sister traveled from Colorado ~ their presence bringing together even more wonderful ingredients to the holiday.
Day after Christmas shopping at West Farms Mall in Connecticut.
Christmas Eve Chili and Queso dinner before and after a Candlelight Christmas Eve service at Mercyhouse.
Probably THE most wonderful moment for me was being gathered at the dining room table on Christmas Eve, taking turns reading an Advent devotion, and then ALL praying together, thanking God for the gift of Jesus at Christmas.  Hearing everyone's heart for Christ through their prayers and coming together as a family to worship him was just so wonderful.  Really.  I can't think of anything more wonderful.
At the Candlelight Service
 And second only to those precious moments of worship, and making Christmas extra-extra-wonderful was having THE CUTEST TODDLER IN THE WHOLE WORLD at my house for Christmas.

Just see for yourself...


He liked his blocks, Aunt Melissa!





See what I mean?

CUTEST THING EVER.

Okay ~ I think we're all caught up now. Well, except for telling you about Robert's two week trip to Texas and Oklahoma in January.  It was wonderfully exhausting.  And I started back to seminary.  I'm only taking one class again, and I still really love it.  Learning tons.

And I'm leaving out all of our church happenings, too.  We're getting started on small groups this week, and are also in the middle of planning a women's retreat.  Lots of meetings and preparations.  Again, wonderfully exhausting.

A trip to California for a church planting conference is just around the corner for Robert and me.  Pretty sure we're the old fogies they are bringing in to participate in discussions about collegiate church planting which wasn't even a "thing" when we accidentally did it 15 years ago. (It was highly discouraged, in fact. Ha!)  Anyway, we look forward to being with young church planters and seeing a new part of the country for us ~ the Bay Area.  I get to see one of my very best friends from high school while we're there and can hardly wait.

Happy Friday ~ and have a WONDERFUL weekend!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Running in the New Year (With the Forerunner)


Yesterday I made my third airport run (in a car, not on foot) in six days.  We said goodbye to family over the weekend, dropping them at airports in New York City and Boston.  Then we had to say goodbye to Robert who headed to Texas and Oklahoma out of Hartford yesterday for two weeks of preaching, reporting on the ministry here, appointments with friends, family, and supporters, and probably several Mexican food dinners, too.

Thankfully, Robert and I got to have an overnight getaway before he left.  During the holidays, and especially when the house is full of guests, there's not much time to "be married."  It was so nice to be away from the house, eat two meals out at nice restaurants (via his birthday gift cards!), stay in a hotel, and to talk and reflect on the past year. Over dinner on Tuesday night, we went through a set of questions designed to help with the reflecting...

What was the best moment or time of the last year?
What were the biggest obstacles?
What were the greatest joys?
What were the unexpected difficulties?
List three words to describe the past year? etc.

The answers to each one are blog posts within themselves!

After two days together, it wasn't easy to drop Robert off at the Hartford airport and say goodbye for 12 days.

Driving his red truck, we pulled into Starbucks on our way out of town.  I had been fighting with the sun visor which has a CD storage thing-y dangling from it.  It's full of CDs, so it swings heavily if you pull the visor down to shade your eyes and becomes only a source of injury and frustration beyond any shielding it may do at that point.  I had taken the thing off a few weeks back (no one listens to the CDs anymore), but my hubby had returned them to the visor fearing they would be stepped on by some teenager riding in the cab jump seats.

Since I was driving at sunset and really needed the shade, we pulled the CDs off the visor again.  Jokingly, Robert pulled out a CD and popped it in. I rolled my eyes expecting to hear Sting's "In Your Eyes," but to my strange delight it was Twila Paris instead.  Maybe that will give you an idea of just how long that CD holder has been dangling there.

I had forgotten how much I love the music of Twila Paris.  After I dropped Robert off, I put this particular song on repeat all the way back home.

Courier valiant, bearing the flame
Messenger noble, sent in His name
Faster and harder, run through the night
Desperate relay, carry the light
Carry the light

Obstacle ancient, chilling the way
Enemy wakened, stoking the fray
Still be determined, fearless and true
Lift high the standard, carry it through
Carry it through

Mindful of many, waiting to run
Destined to finish what you've begun
Millions before you, cheering you on
Godspeed dear runner, carry it home
Carry it home

Runner, when the road is long
Feel like giving in, but you're hanging on
Oh runner, when the race is won
You will run into His arms

"Runner" by Twila Paris, 1986
(The music is so great, too.  You should really take a listen here. But don't watch the video.  Just close your eyes and listen.)

I have been in love with this song since I was a sophomore in high school, and may have even scripted a few lines of it on a photo collage for my boyfriend at the time, but I really had no idea back then exactly what those poetic words meant.

 Before we left for the airport yesterday, I read some of Hebrews.  Somehow, it just didn't seem the right time to start back at Genesis even though I just finished reading cover-to-cover.  I was greatly affected, overwhelmed by this:

God...in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.
Hebrews 1: 1-2

He speaks to me, to us. In Jesus. Jesus is the near and bodily form of His Word.  His voice. Himself.

In Jesus coming as a baby...He speaks compassion to me.
In Jesus living humbly and purely...He speaks encouragement to me.
In Jesus being nailed to a Cross...He speaks sacrificial love to me.
In Jesus forgiving the undeserved...He speaks grace to me.
In Jesus dying...He speaks forgiveness and love to me.
In Jesus rising...He speaks hope and victory to me.
And now by His Spirit inside...He speaks help and wisdom to me.

Truly amazing grace.
But this race is so long and hard that it's easy to become deaf to His speaking.

And then this morning I kept reading (which I've learned really is the key to hearing)...

For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.  And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Hebrews 6: 10-12

He has taken note of previous work and ministry. Nothing I have sacrificed has escaped His notice, but He wants me to keep going.  He knows it's the only path to hope.

2015, as far as I can tell, will be full of pretty much the same things that previous years have been...motherhood, homeschooling, church ministry, ministry to women, lots and lots of grocery shopping, even more cooking, cleaning bathrooms, doing dishes, scheduling, driving to activities and events, returning lots of emails...

Good, important things. Necessary things. Things that God has not forgotten nor will forget. I used to be so excited about all of those things, but they've lost some of their luster.  Maybe you are chuckling at my naivety. Some folks start with a more realistic set of expectations than I did. Maybe it's easier for them, but I often feel pretty sluggish, not wanting to lace up the running shoes of life. Oh, the external diligence it still there, and the internal sluggishness is sort of a recent development. The pace of life has always felt too fast for me.

God knows all of this and yet still requires diligence ~ for my sake and His.  He knows that diligence will bring me full assurance of hope, and that is certainly not something I want to miss out on.

So Twila's words were so comforting to me. The music was inspiring, and I sang it loudly for the hour it takes to get back home from the Hartford airport.

And the encouragement came...

This is an important, noble, crucial calling.
There is an enemy and there will be obstacles.
Many have gone before me and they cheer.
Others will come behind me and they watch.
The arms of Jesus are my sure finish line.

That Twila knew and felt those things in 1986 (seems so long ago!) was so encouraging to me.  She's one who has gone before me (at least by 12 years) and she's cheering.

Truth is, folks knew these truths and realities in 1950 and in 1860 and even in 1620. They knew them in 1066 and in 586 and in 70AD.

More comforting than all of this is that Hebrews calls Jesus the "forerunner."

fore·run·ner
ˈfôrˌrənər/
noun
  1. a person or thing that precedes the coming or development of someone or something else.
    "the icebox was a forerunner of today's refrigerator"
    synonyms:predecessorprecursorantecedentancestorforebear
    "archosaurs were the forerunners of dinosaurs"
He ran this race way, way back in the day, and He did not become sluggish, but remained diligent though the obstacles were many ~ for my sake and for the joy set before Him.

So, if this post seems hopeless (I really hope not, though), let me assure you that I actually look forward to running the race in 2015. He's taught me so much in the last year, and though they have not all been enjoyable lessons, I feel stronger in Him because of them.  I trust Him more, because I've seen His faithfulness, though not usually in the way I desired it displayed.

Yesterday was my first run of the new year.  It was a Thursday, so I met Betsy for our usual 5 miles around UMass. I talked her into a 7:30am start time ~ an hour past our usual, but then I ended up being awake until about 3am (long story involving teenagers out on new year's eve), and it was 19 degrees outside.  I did not want to run.

But it was good...and necessary. Layered tights and ski mittens, hat and new thermal vest. (I wish I'd taken a picture. You might not have recognized us.) Cold air burning our eyes, we shared stories from Christmas, hopes and goals for the new year.  It was all warm hearts and bodies when we finished, and it felt so great. So hopeful.

And I'll be out there again tomorrow. And next week. And next month. (Lord willing, of course.)

And all by his grace, so as to experience the fullness of the hope that is in Him, and to enjoy the warmth of His embrace at the finish line.

Here's to running toward a growing hope in Christ in 2015 ~ in the midst of the best moments, the greatest challenges, the unexpected difficulties, and the great joys.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Baked Some Cookies, Had A Party, Read a Story, Made Some Gifts...


 This morning had me up early and in the shower for two purposes: getting myself clean and scrubbing the tile.  I learned this whole clean-the-shower-while-you-are-in-the-shower trick from my friend Tamyra in Oklahoma.  Always multi-tasking.  Always.

And the reason I want a super-clean bathroom is because in just a few short hours my littlest nephew will be here from California along with his mom and dad.  (Actually, now that I think of it, he's not my littlest nephew, because he has a little brother who's on his way in another 4-5 months!) My youngest sister will also be here today, and we'll all get to celebrate Christmas together.  I can hardly wait to see them, and it will be so fun to have a toddler in the house at Christmas!

Kayla had her annual Christmas tea party last Friday, but this year we called it a Cupcake and Cappuccino party like last year.  I think "tea party" was starting to sound too childish, and I understand, but we definitely didn't want to do away with the event altogether.  Kayla is blessed with wonderful friends, and I love seeing these girls all together.
It was also a pajama party!
Like every year, the girls decorated gingerbread (well...graham cracker) houses, and then we played some Christmas-themed games: Candy Cane Pass, A Nativity Passing game, and a Christmas version of charades/Pictionary.  On the menu for lunch was bagels and cream cheese, cheese and crackers, chocolate dipped strawberries, cookies, cupcakes, and a ham and egg casserole.  Tea, coffee, and hot cocoa were the drink choices.  (Pardon the details, but this is part of how I remember and plan from year to year!)

Here's a link to some fun Christmas party games.  Thanks to Laura Machak for the recommendation!
 When there was a bit of downtime,  the girls ended up having a spontaneous beauty salon and everyone ended up with some form of a beautiful braid.  The most special part for me is watching the big girls and little girls hang out together and in such a sweet way.  The age range was from 6 to 15 years old, and yet there was a kind and sisterly spirit with gracious accommodation on everyone's part. What a blessing.
 I signed up for Advent devotions for women through Bible Gateway, and one of them included an incredible story about a child in Mexico who received a shoebox through Samaritan's Purse which contained only socks. Wanting to do some sort of devotion with the girls while they ate, the Lord prompted me to print it out and read it.  You can read it for yourself here.  Might want to have a tissue handy.  Proof that God knows and sees us and is able to provide for our needs.

And while I'm thinking of it, here is another link to a wonderful article about the "why" of Christmas.  Why did Jesus have to come and put on flesh?  Because it was "fitting" that's why!
Before the party a LOT of baking went on.  This served a triple purpose: the party with the girls, our staff and elders party later that night, and the rest were frozen for Christmas and my family's arrival.
 I'm getting better and the gluten free butter/sugar cookie thing.  Using xanthan gum and CHILLING the dough before cutting out the cookies AND again after they are cut and on the cookie sheets.  A bit more time consuming, but it really helped.

I love these new blue and green sprinkles, and the gingerbread-looking men have cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on them.  Don't know why I never thought to do that before!

And here's a pic of the gluten free version of the "Insanely Delicious Turtle Cookies."  Oh my....
These were NOT served at the girls' tea party due to several nut allergies!
 I mentioned in the last post how much I love to give gifts to my kids, but I also love to give a gift to our church staff and elders as well as a few friends who are near.  It's sometimes difficult to come up with a gift to give to about 10 or 12 folks that is the same.  I've done dish towels, bags of mulling spices, and baked treats before, but this year I came across another idea that seemed fun and practical and not too expensive ~ spice mixes. (And NO sugar ~ hurray!  Christmas often feels like the Plague of Sugar!)
 Collecting the spices was probably the hardest part.  It required standing at the bulk bins at Whole Foods for 15-20 minutes and dealing with their not-so-great system for pouring the spices out and labeling each bag.  Some of the spices I bought in jars at our regular grocery store.  I've kind of figured out which ones are the best deal and where after years of research, i.e. 20+ years of at least weekly trips to the grocery store. (sigh...)

I also saved lots of apple butter from the fall to give as well, so everyone got 2 different spice mixes and a jar of homemade apple butter.  Then I searched online for printable mason jar labels and found these cute ones for free. It was really fun to put all of this together, and I only wish I had more time for creative and kitchen-y things like this.  Even more fun to give them away!
In case you are in need of a last minute gift idea, here are a few links to the spice mix recipes and the labels.  There are tons of versions of labels and spice mixes out there, but this will get you started.


(I decreased the spices to 10)
(This can also be mixed with oil and vinegar for a steak or fajita marinade!)

(Same as above for a fajita marinade.)

(All of my favorite Indian spices here. Yum.)

Okay ~ off to do a bit more baking, cleaning, and errand running. 'Tis the season for going to the store A LOT ~ Ha!

I hope you are having a wonderful Christmas week!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Randomness

Seven years ago this month, I was "tagged" by a real and bloggy friend to write down 12 random Christmas facts about myself.  Kayla was browsing through my blog a few days ago and found the list.  She thought it was very funny and asked me to read it aloud.  When I refused, she started reading it to me and laughing the whole time.  Now, I don't really think it's THAT funny, but I thought I would just share it again ~ and maybe update a few things...


1. I used to think the words were, "Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer yoogled down in history." 

(Kinda like I thought it was "Starbucks Lovers" instead of "long list of ex-lovers" in Taylor's "Blank Space")


2. Two of my favorite and most memorable childhood gifts were "shoe skates"(you know, instead of the strap on metal kind of roller skate) and a matching Gloria Vanderbilt outfit - courdoroy pants/ matching sweater with large swan insignia on front.


(Just saw a pair of those retro "Shoe skates" at the mall the other day ~ next to a record player and a vinyl record selection!?  So weird to see things from your childhood become "cool" again.)


3. In second grade, Wendy Reardon told me that there was no Santa Claus at a Girl Scout/Brownies meeting, and when it was confirmed later that evening by my mom, I felt very grown up to have this secret knowledge that my siblings did not.


(My own children have always known there is no Santa, but Kayla still insists on believing and leaving out treats on Christmas Eve.  We just thank her for the late night snack.)

4. My sister and I were convinced that the red flashing radio tower light we could see from our bedroom window was Rudolph.


(And Cooper claims to have seen a couple of UFOs in recent years...)


5. I have never seen the Nutcracker Ballet. I really want to though, and hope to take my own little ballerina next year!


(I STILL haven't seen the Nutcracker, and NEITHER has Kayla!  Maybe someday...)

6. But I have seen the Rockette's Christmas Spectacular in New York City with my whole family thanks to the gift of my sister, Melissa and her husband! They went too, and it was spectacular!


(I really wish we could do this every year.  My brother and his wife from California are spending three nights in NYC this weekend before they come and spend Christmas with us, and I am SO excited for them.  Nothing like Christmas in New York!  I'm having a HARD time not being TOO much of a remote tour guide.)


7. I hate the thoughtless consumerism that goes on, but absolutely LOVE it when I can buy my kids something I know they really want. Stuffing their stockings is equally as enjoyable


(But it gets more and more difficult the older they get!  What do you get 17 and 19 year old boys???  I really don't trust myself to pick out clothes for them.  Kayla, on the other hand, provides me with a list via email ~ complete with links to the gifts.  And guess what she wants this year?  A record player and vinyl albums!  If she gets this heart's desire of hers, it will go very well with her vintage typewriter.)

8. As a child, I became an expert gift wrapper at Rowland's department store in Uvalde,TX during the season. (It was a family owned business)


(I still enjoy wrapping gifts, but my 75 year old father takes the gift-wrapping cake!  He is a loyal Container Store shopper and purchases only the very finest of boxes, wrap, and ribbons.  He then MAKES his own ribbons at home and attaches them to each gift.)

(And while I'm telling stories on my dad, I may as well tell you that he is known by NAME at Dillard's J. Crew, Ann Taylor, and more.  My sister texted me from Barton Creek Mall in Austin to tell me that she felt like a celebrity while helping him shop for the grandkids ~ all the sales clerks giving him a personal "welcome back.")


9. My grandmother, Memo, made something every Christmas that she called "Divinity." I HATED it, and for some time just the thought of it could make me gag. Now I think it was simply meringues, and I LOVE this gluten free treat! (Especially mint chocolate chip ones!)


(I don't make meringues for Christmas much, but I do make a lot of cut out butter cookies, peanut butter blossoms, and a new favorite is "Insanely Delicious Turtle Cookies."  Will be mass-producing cookies in just a while for Kayla's annual Christmas tea party.)

10. My two favorite Christmas albums are Carpenter's:An Old Fashioned Christmas (Karen Carpenter's voice always reminds me of Christmas) and Christmas with the Rat Pack. Consequently, my daughter's favorite "Christmas carol" is "Baby, it's Cold Outside."(which is NOT a carol. Sad.)


(I also never get tired of Amy Grant's Christmas albums, but Karen Carpenter is still hard to beat!)


11. When my sister and I didn't share a room, we used to "move in" together for the Christmas season, and decorate with extra tree lights, etc. Actually, now that I think of it, I don't think we ever lasted until Christmas Day - too much proximity.

(Kayla will be moving into her brothers' room next week, in order to give her room to her Aunt Melinda, who is coming in from Denver.  For some reason, none of the siblings are very excited to be "moving in" together, and I even bought them Christmas lights for their room!?)

12. I never watched It's a Wonderful Life in it's entirety until 2 years ago - but I'm so glad I finally did.


(And since then, I've watched it every year.  A few weeks ago, my seminary professor even used a clip from it in class. And Elf is my favorite Christmas movie from recent years.  It's a tradition now to watch it every year on the day we decorate our tree. I crack up every time.  Love it.)

(And speaking of Christmas movies, how come no one ever told me about the Hallmark Channel? I've been following Candace Cameron Bure (Kirk's sister, D.J. from Full House...) on Instagram, and she's in nearly every Hallmark movie ever made, I think. We watched her movie Christmas Under Wraps this year, and I tried to win the scarf she was wearing in the movie by responding to her "live tweeting." (yes, really) (I did not win) The movie was not at all predictable or sappy. I'm kidding. It was, but I didn't care.)

And even though it was only supposed to be 12 random facts, I added a 13th.  This one also holds true in 2014.

13. Aside from church on Christmas Eve for a candlelight service, and New York City's 5th Avenue and Rockefeller Center, my next favorite place to go at Christmastime (anytime really) is Starbucks. What is it about that place that charms me so?  The warm wall colors, the hard wood floors, chalkboards announcing the newest seasonal drink, the cool music selections, the chai lattes (with half and half, of course)  And during the holidays, the decor draws me in all the more.  What can I say?  The Mermaid mesmerizes me, and I am simply compelled to enter every Starbucks I walk (or drive) past. 

(We have a new one in town WITH a drive-thru which is particularly dangerous.  I use it as an incentive for my big 3-store grocery trips. Ugh.)

(Oh!  And Whole Foods!  THAT'S a fun place to browse at Christmastime!)

And now I'm off to make cookies and a whole bunch of these for a houseful of teen girls tomorrow. No one ever outgrows decorating a gingerbread house!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Overcome, But Overcoming

Christmas is nine days away.  There are menus and meals and cookies to make, groceries to be bought, and parties to be hosted and attended.  There is a track meet to attend and daily practices to travel to.  There are movie dates and skating dates to arrange with teen friends. There are beds to be made and guest rooms to prepare.  There is a pile of laundry. There are 225 Christmas cards sitting on my dining room table that need to be sealed, addressed, and stamped.  There is a long gift list with lots of blanks by lots of names.

And there are so many people and so many needs.  Some need to be taught how to add rational algebraic expressions and write essays for college applications.  Some need to be encouraged.  Some need healing.  Some need counsel and direction.  Some need to be listened too.  Some need apology. Some need forgiveness. Some need confrontation. Some need prayer. Some need referrals. Some need grace.  Some need truth.

And I needed freedom from the resentment that was resulting.

I wasn't coping too well and wanted to totally avoid my Bible and my prayer journal.  I especially wanted to neglect them, because I knew that Jude and Revelation were next up in my endeavor to read the thing cover to cover. What weird books. What could they possibly have to say to me in my weary and bitter state?

Deciding to read them anyway, I only felt worse.  The revelation to the churches had me completely depressed, because at the end of each message to each church, there is a promise "to him who overcomes." The promises are really incredible...

To him who overcomes...

  • the privilege of eating from the Tree of Life in Paradise
  • the crown of life
  • a portion of the hidden manna
  • authority over the nations and the morning star
  • clothed in white garments
  • Jesus will speak the overcomer's name to the Father
  • being made a pillar in the temple of God forever
  • knowledge of the name of God, city of God, and new name of Jesus
  • a seat with Jesus on the throne

The problem was that I was not overcoming.  Not the stress, not the bitterness, not the tears of sadness or frustration, not the fatigue, not the to-do list.  Those things were overcoming me, which clearly rendered me without any of these beautiful promises now or in the future. Those things are obviously only for those really special, strong, godly, always joyful, always energetic, always grateful folks.  After many years of trying, I know I will never be in that group.

Why did you want me to read this now, Lord? I thought. I was already feeling so inadequate and miserable and hopeless.

And then He gently reminded me of something I had JUST READ in Jude ~ and not only had I just read it, but I had written in down in my journal the day before. Sigh...

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, authority before all time and now and forever.
Jude 1:24


Why is it so easy to continually fall back into self-sufficiency and self-salvation mode despite the clear teaching of His Word?

He is the overcomer. 

He is the one who keeps me from stumbling.  

He will make me to stand in His glorious presence blameless.

He, not me.

He put on flesh to make this clear. May He also give me a heart of peace and worship this season.

He is able.




Friday, December 12, 2014

Final Exams And Other Festivities


Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure a final exam does not technically meet the definition of a festivity (the celebration of something in a  joyful and exuberant way), but maybe the completion of the final exam does. I took my final exam in Systematic Theology I (cosmological, moral, and teleological arguments, the Trinity, Providence, problem of evil, free will vs. determinism, etc.) on Wednesday morning and certainly felt more festive when it was over!  I felt especially festive when I discovered that I made a 90% on it.  Then I found out that I got a 91% on my research paper on the possible connections between the Trinity and gender roles (eternal functional subordination of Jesus? I Corinthians 11:3?), and a 100% on my last quiz.  

It sounds silly, but a few of you really encouraged me early on when you said things like "You're not a B student!" (Anne C., Matt B....) when there was that Moodle mishap with my first two quizzes.  (Thank you!) The problem is that for this particular school and program the lowest A is a 95%. So, I will be making a B, but I thank God for the strength to study and learn and make a grade that somewhat reflects the understanding that He gave me. (I say somewhat, because no grade could ever properly evaluate the growth and joy and privilege of learning the deep things of the Word and doctrine or the worship that it calls forth.  For these things I am even more grateful!)

Somehow, in spite of the schoolwork ~ both seminary and homeschool ~ and lots of other things, we managed to cut down a Christmas tree at our favorite tree farm and get the house decorated.
We had a snowstorm the day before Thanksgiving, so had to trudge through
about 10 inches of snow to find our tree!

We cut our tree down two days after Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is definitely a favorite holiday in our house. We always have a houseful for the meal, and even the kids love helping with the preparations the morning of while alternatively watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on TV. Some years we've sent the boys away from the house for a football game, but not this year.

Kayla really wanted to make the Turkey this year.  I always cook two turkeys, though.  One goes in at 6am and out at 9am.  The other goes in at 9am and comes out around noon.  I tried to talk her into preparing the 6am turkey and letting me off the hook this year, but she was not swayed.
 She did a great job, and used some tips and tricks she's picked up from various cooking shows ~ butter and lots of herbs and spices.  She was not too thrilled with removing the neck and giblets, but I made her do it anyway.  Hopefully, that way she will never make the same mistake I did the first time I cooked a turkey.

I left the bag of parts and the neck inside the whole time it cooked.

No one died or got sick, but still.

Here's a look at the crowd.  27 people which included a toddler and infant.  My house is very small, but people don't seem to mind too much...
The teen girls' table
Etienne, Tristan, Katie, and Dan
Kevin (our temporary live-in guest!), Steve, Mike, Kiah, Gwyneth, Logan, Cooper, and Mark 
Me, Theresa, Tony, Christie, Ryan, Izckra, Nicolette, Chris, and Michelle
On the Saturday of the following week, we had a church women's event called "Mug & Muffin." The name and idea were stolen from my college and Campus Crusade days at the University of Texas, but it was no less popular than it was back then ~ wow!  About 50 women gathered in the beautiful home of a woman from our church.  Think Pottery Barn + Mary Engelbreit + Williams Sonoma + Susan Branch. It was perfectly delightful in its decor and warmth.  The girls LOVED it.
 They were encouraged to come in their comfiest pi's and slippers or sweats and bring their favorite mug ~ and as you can see, they DID.  We ate muffins, drank coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, sang, prayed, and heard brief teaching or testimony from two women from our church.  We also used the gathering as a way to get everyone thinking about the women's retreat coming up in February.

A chocolate stirring spoon was the take-home favor that I had a lot of fun creating the day before. Super easy, cute, and yummy!
 The very next day we had a combined (early and late services) worship and baptism service. Talk about a festivity! We got to hear three beautiful testimonies, and there is really no better way to participate in the spirit of the season than this in my opinion.
And last but not least, I really enjoyed watching several of Cooper's debates and presentations for Challenge III.  It's been nice to have a break from tutoring this year, but I always enjoy seeing these teens display the skills and knowledge they have acquired over the last few years.  Cooper's philosophy presentation was on Humanism and it's origins and core beliefs.  His debates were on the issues of secession, states' rights, and the Civil War, specifically whether or not the southern states were justified in secession.  He had to argue both sides in two different debates. Ask him anything! I'm proud of his hard work in preparing.  He's constantly being stretched beyond what he thinks he is able to do.
Okay ~ that's about all for now. I only started to think about Christmas gifts yesterday, and have lots to prepare for still. In all honesty, I have been a complete mess (internally mostly, and externally only to my poor husband), but I felt another post about that struggle would not help the situation any. Betsy and I talked about the battleground of our thought life and constant negativity yesterday while running.  I've definitely been losing that battle, but as always the Lord meets me in His Word each day and I am sustained in hope ~ though tiny shreds they may seem.

I'll finish reading the Bible from cover to cover before the end of the year, and I really did not think that Jude and Revelation were going to be of any encouragement.  Silly me.  Maybe I'll tell you about that on Monday.

He is good, and He is returning! Now that will be a festivity! It will be THE FESTIVITY.

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and he will reign forever and ever.
Revelation 11:15