Friday, December 30, 2011

And so the beauty began

Today is my anniversary.  Eleven is the number and I think you all get the idea already, about how I love my husband and about how he's a really very good husband, it's true.  But there is something that you might not know about me, about the eleven years.  It was hard at first, still sometimes is.  But I'm talking about the hard where you go into the bathroom and turn on the shower so no one will hear you sobbing, hard.  I'm talking about the hard where you spend hours toying with the thought, maybe we made a mistake.  Where you cannot fathom your life with or without this supposed other half.

When Kyle and I got married, I had firmly turned my back on God, I had decided that I was going to live my life the way I wanted.  I had bought into the lies of the world and I wasn't going to allow God to talk me out of doing what it was I wanted to do, including marrying whomever I wanted to marry.  This life was meant to be enjoyed, the wisdom in the Bible, it didn't apply to me.

I never consulted God when it came to Kyle, nor him when it came to me.  We were young and in love and couldn't imagine that we would ever feel anyway else.  After we got married we reaped what we had sowed, the wages of our sin was death and we felt it in our marriage, death eating at the love we thought would be enough.

Yet there was never a moment when He wasn't there with us in our pit.  Our DaddyGod, always standing right there waiting, asking for us to turn, waiting to catch us when we fell, protecting us from ourselves.  No matter how much we had tried to turn away, we were still His children.  It wasn't long before the shine wore off from the world, living for ourselves left us empty, starving, we were alone and we had no idea how to fix what we had broken.

After nine months of marriage we walked into our church, and God began to make us whole again.  We showed up that day with our hands full of ashes and we traded them all in, every one, not sure what we would get in return but sick of holding on to that which burns.  And so the beauty began.  Just a little at first, a friendly smile, the promise of friendships to come.  But beauty multiples, blessing upon blessing.  Soon it was a flood, truth spoken over our lives, mentors to show us how to love, teach us what the Bible says about marriage, an example, a blue print, an understanding not just of how to be one flesh, but of how to walk with our God.  People who were not afraid to come into our pit in order to pull us out, friends who would become family, prayers and then more prayers.

Ten plus years later our church trusts us to do pre-marital counseling and I remind myself that it is a privilege.  To be able to go back in time and speak to those young lovers, to tell them the truth about marriage, to tell them just how hard it is, how much work it can be, to insist that they understand, a strand of two will break, it has to be a strand of three.  To let them in on the secret that while all of that is true, a marriage built on the Rock of Ages, is joy, is laughter, is finding out what you've been missing all these years.

Eleven years ago when my faith was so small, when I had decided that I no longer needed the One who saved me, I used to cry out to Him to please take away the pain, to please make it all better.  I never could have imagined that he would do this, I would have settled for mediocre, for just being happy.  But our Father longs to give good gifts to His children, He desires that my life be lived to the full.  And it was for His glory that He saw fit to turn my marriage into such beauty, to build a family here, a legacy, a place where He can dwell.

Happy Anniversary Kyle, you are the best part of the beauty, you are just one more gift I never deserved.  I'm pretty sure I would be boring and small minded and probably fat if I didn't have you :).  You make me happy!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

One family's story of finding joy in Christmas

*disclaimer: The Bible teaches clearly that we (children of God) are free in Christ, free of the law and of sin, we now live under grace.  God has made each of us unique and we will all have unique stories, I hate division between believers and have no desire to speak about Santa in general terms, if it works for you, awesome!  What God has laid on my heart may be different from what He lays on yours.

image credit

I have always loved Christmas, I loved everything about it, the music, the food, the parties and of course the gifts.  Santa Claus held an important part of my heart growing up and I remember trying so hard to believe in him even after I knew the truth, because a Christmas without Santa seemed like it had lost it's magic.  The fact that Jesus was born on Christmas was a passing thought in my mind, something to go through the motions about so that we could get on to the good stuff, presents!

When we had children I jumped right onto the Santa band wagon, so excited to celebrate Christmas through my children, by buying them as many gifts as I could afford, and placing them under the tree from Old St. Nick.  I spent hours during the holidays, making my house look perfectly decorated, planning parties, and meals.  I found the perfect family photo and mailed it out to all our friends.  I bought into everything the world told me was required to have a Merry Christmas.

The only problem was I wasn't merry, and every year it got worse.  I found that during the Christmas season I spent less time with God than during the other 11 months of the year.  I found myself wanting things, bowing down to worship money and new items, that I suddenly needed, craved.   Every Christmas Eve service was spent trying to keep my kids from messing up their nice outfits and trying to keep my eyes open after all the work I had been doing to make this season special.

Last year God began to work on my heart, to ask me what exactly it was that I was celebrating during the Christmas season.  He began to reveal the sins that were stealing my joy and ask me to choose Him over the world, to care about glorifying Him over glorifying myself.  It had been a long time coming and although I felt a little apprehensive about doing Christmas differently than the world around me I was ready, I was ready to not take a month off of worshiping my King, ready to not have a month filled with stress instead of joy.

First God began to show me that I could not worship two people during Christmas time, I could either make my focus (and teach my children) about Santa Claus or I could focus on and turn my children towards the God who came down to save us.  Even after I knew without a doubt that was what God was asking of me, I delayed nervous of what others would think, till one afternoon Kylynn (who at the time was four) came to me and said, Mommy the tooth fairy and Santa Clause, they're just for pretend right?  And it sealed the deal for me I started to try and contradict her and the Spirit wouldn't let me, I could not lie to her.  So later that evening I told Kyle I think God would like us to give up Santa Claus and he turned to me and said, me too.  So that was that.

The problem with getting rid of old habits is you must have new habits to put in their place and so this year has definitely been a year of adjustment for us and I know that each year it will become easier and we will form new traditions.  We have been reading about the coming of Jesus and the events that surrounded it, throughout the Bible during this month each night after dinner and it is like the scales have been removed from my eyes.  I am seeing for the first time what really happened all those years ago.  It's not a story of a baby being born, but a story of love so deep that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords would bow low, would endure suffering we could never understand to enter the world He created.  It's a story of God fulfilling His word that prophets spoke long ago, it's a story of God doing for us what we couldn't do, in order to conquer sin and death.  It's a story of a God saving His people, no matter the cost.

So this Christmas I look at my children as we sit around the Christmas tree, drinking hot chocolate, reading His word (His word that is alive! is there anything more magical than that) and we write them on our heart, we talk about what we're thankful for, and finally I am understanding the meaning of Christmas.  This year, I have found my joy, and it is better than anything this world had to offer.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

the 80's, Christmas gifts, and the flu

*Kylynn has the flu.  I feel entirely guilty that I never got around to getting her and I the flu shot, so far the rest of us are well, but I'm fighting the urge to decide that we're all going to get sick Christmas morning.

*When fashion's throwback to the 80's began, I thought it was hilarious, I mean no way was I going to wear that stuff ever again!  Now a couple of years later I have cuffed my jeans, love my aviator sunglasses, rock my skinny jeans, and on Friday I took the ultimate plunge, I bought some leggings which I wore with a long shirt.  If I start crimping my hair please stage an intervention.

*My dog is 10, she pees in my house, I do love her, but it's really getting old, the end.

*Christmas time with 3 small children, is different than Christmas time with 2 small children.  I just can't keep up this year with any of it, and we scaled back Christmas big time this year.  I finished my Christmas cards last night at midnight and was wishing I didn't have any friends so I'd never have to do them again :).

*Are scarfs from the 80's because I wear one almost everyday when it's cold?

*Target makes me happy.  Last Thursday when I was supposed to be packing to leave for a trip, I ran to Target on my way home to get a gift I'd forgotten, and I spent 15 minutes just shopping for me.  I left feeling like I was totally hip now (and of course like I'd just stepped out of the 80's).

*I was so excited about the gifts I got for people this year (it's a long story), but I got lots of them either from thrift stores or from Etsy.  Then Kyle told me that about this article he read that stated a survey that found in regards to gift buying, neither how much thought went into them or how much money spent on them, were the greatest predictors of someone loving their gifts, instead it was whether or not it was on their list.  Uh-oh, I totally did not get a thing on anyone's list, I thought my gifts were so cool and unique but they may just be a big disappointment!

*I'm pretty sure Kyle hasn't gotten me anything yet...I'm kind of understanding the survey now :)

*When women come up to me in stores and compliment my children/remind me to enjoy them, it always makes me cry, I mean I'm not a total freak, I don't start weeping, but it makes me get teary eyed and choked up.  It's very embarrassing that people's kindnesses have such a large effect on me, last time it happened the woman talking to me responded to my emotional state by becoming teary eyed herself, it was all too much!

*I do love living in this town, I know it's not everywhere that people are so kind.

*My most favorite Christmas song right now is, "You're Here" by Francesca Battistelli.  Can you imagine being Mary, holding your baby who is also the Creator of the world.  He could have left us on our own, but He's here, oh it causes me to worship...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How to make Christmas cookies

from December 2010:

Step 1: Realize that all the days dishes are blocking the counter you plan on using, do the dishes.  Don't forget to listen to your daughter whine that you're supposed to be making cookies, while doing dishes.

Step 2: Hear that your son is up from his nap and you need to go get him before making cookies.  To appease daughter show her how to place a small amount of sprinkles in each of the 5 bowls, explain clearly that you put just one type of sprinkles in each bowl, also explain three times how little you need in each bowl.

Step 3: Come downstairs with son to find this, in. all. five. bowls.  Notice that all your sprinkles that should have lasted you a good three years are now gone.  Breathe in.  Pray.  Talk to daughter about disobeying.  Decide that Christmas cookies don't have to be perfect and move on.

Step 4: Decide that before you make the cookies you should wash son's blanket, after all he'll be having fun making cookies and shouldn't mind at all.  Start washing machine.  Comfort hysterical child, when that doesn't work bribe him with food.

Step 5: Read ingredients and directions, realize you are missing one ingredient and call hubby to pick up on way home from work.  After all it is now 5pm and you are yet to start actually making the cookies.  To appease rightly frustrated daughter, bribe her with food.

Step 6: Get missing ingredient from hubby and actually start mixing some cookies.  Since it is now so late you will need to get dinner going at the same time.  Place meat on the stove to cook.

Step 7: Take daughter's picture with cookie cutters in hand, even though this recipe doesn't call for cookie cutters, because daughter feels the need to accessorize in pictures.  Roll cookies into balls, and allow daughter to roll in sprinkles, continue to cook dinner while daughter takes forever rolling in sprinkles.  Place beans and corn on the stove top to cook.

Step 8: Place cookies on baking sheet covered with parchment paper, and flatten with the bottom of a glass, try a few glasses till you find one that actually flattens.  Allow daughter to lick the spoon, then stop her when you catch her eating the bowls of sprinkles with a spoon.  Throw away all but one bowl of sprinkles that did not get slobber on it, make a mental note to buy more sprinkles before next Christmas.

Step 9: Take cookies out of the oven, set on stove top next to meat, corn, and beans that are cooking on a gas stove.  Call husband when you turn around and see that the parchment paper is on fire, when husband thinks it's no big deal and goes up stairs, yell for him more franticly till he comes down and saves the day.  Make a mental note not to place cookie sheets with parchment paper on the stove top while the burners are on.

Step 10: Clean the ashes off of the cookies.  Scoop the ashes out of the corn.  Move the cookie sheet and turn back on all the burners so dinner can finish up.  Give up on ever having a clean kitchen again.

Step 11: Serve cookies for dessert after dinner is served at 7:30 that night.

Step 12: Have a glass of wine before you have to tackle cleaning that war zone that once was a kitchen.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Just in time for Christmas: an infomercial

Ok guys there is a lot I've been meaning to blog about, like our weekend (yes the one a whole week ago) and how we're trying to do Christmas differently this year, and how I'm afraid everyone will hate their gifts.  But I'm tired and I trying to keep up with all there is to keep up with this season.  So you'll have to settle for a gift idea.

One of my favorite things I own is the Prepara Herb Savor.  Apparently before it was one of my favorite things it was one of Oprah's favorite things, but amazingly it doesn't cost 500 hundred dollars.  And unlike Oprah I actually cook my own food, so you can believe what I have to say about it.

This thing does what it says it does, it saves your herbs.  Cilantro is probably my favorite food, just the smell of it makes my whole day better.  But you know how cilantro is, after one day that stuff is dead, and even I can't use a whole bunch in one day.  But with the Herb Savor my cilantro is still (just) useable after three weeks.  That's right THREE whole weeks!!

For the cook who has everything this year, check out the Prepara Herb Savor, cilantro lovers around the world will thank you (oh yeah it also works for other herbs).

End of infomercial, Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Foreverforever part two

Over Thanksgiving week we went to court to finalize Chloe's adoption.  I managed to be calm leading up to the big event and during since I knew this time that it was really just a formality.  Once again the judge asked us to swear that we would be Chloe's parents and she would be our child in perpetuum.  This time I knew the meaning of that big word, we were promising to love her in perpetuum, or foreverforever.

There are blessings in adoption that you never see coming.   Our family's relationship with our kids is one of those things.  They don't get a say in whether or not they would like to become an inter-racial family, whether or not they're okay with all the waiting.  When I get to spend time with them and I watch them love my children so completely, the way I do, without regard to the way they joined our family, it's one of the greatest gifts in my life.  They all came out to cheer us on, we had my entire family!, plus most of Kyle's.  It was really amazing to have so many people who love our children there to witness the day that Chloe officially became ours.

Afterwards we all went out for ice cream and then we took the kids to the San Antonio children's museum.  Let me tell you I had no idea a children's museum could be so big and have so much fun stuff to do!  They all had a blast and by the time we left it was almost dinner time and I thought my feet might fall off.

Chloe, sweet daughter of mine, here's the thing, the way I love you surprises me everyday.  For some reason I am always amazed by the love God gives us for our children, and that it doesn't decrease by the time you get to number three!  You're aware of your competition though and you still get mad when I try to hold or snuggle Kylynn or Jack.  But you have become a whole new person in these past eight months.  You feel secure, you trust that I will come back for you when you go to the nursery at church, you crack me up all day long.  And as of late you have decided that as of now you are able to do all things by yourself, any help from mommy is met with high pitched squealing.

I'm not sure how we were ever getting by in this world without you, but I am so glad that you are home now, that the courts agree with my heart, that you are mine.  That I get to love you foreverforever.