Friday, December 20, 2013

Memories, Parties and Homecomings

A random Holiday blogpost.....

First, one year ago YESTERDAY, Dave proposed to me.  Such a happy day for us, and personally for me, such a day of God's redemption and grace.  Saying yes and marrying him was the best decision I have ever made! I bet that as years go on, I won't always remember this date (as its not our real anniversary), but I sure hope I do-- it's a good reminder that life can change in a year. On December 20, 2011, I was heading home for the holidays and had gone through a few different failed dating relationships in the past 18 months....and I was thinking I will never meet the right guy.  I met him a couple weeks later.  On December 20, 2012, we get engaged.  And on December 20, 2013, we are happilly married and living in DC (getting ready to go home for Christmas!) How much life can change in a year!!! (always a thought I hope to remember when discouraged -- things usually get easier or better with time!)  You can read our love story HERE.


I thought I'd share a few Christmas and non-Christmas articles that I've recently read that were encouraging or fun.

Also, along the way, we've had a few Christmas parties and I thought I'd share pictures :)  One night, Dave was sick so we skipped a couple parties and spend the night in, watching a holiday flick and decorating a gingerbread house.  I tend to get mopey as the holidays come to an end-- there is always a whole lot more that I wanted to accomplish compared to what I did accomplish.  I wanted to see the lights at the zoo, go to a Christmas play, walk around Old Town Alexandria and see the decorations, go ice skating in Georgetown, etc. But, there were really only 3 weeks of Christmas before we flew home...and one was spent on our weekend getaway. Not too much time to get things done.  However, I am grateful for the fun things we did do....curling up on a snowy day to watch Christmas movies by the tree, managing to send out our holiday cards on time, enjoying the lights that we did get to see, celebrating with friends, listening to Holiday music and making a few Christmas sugary treats, doing our advent devo daily.  It's been a good year -- and things I have failed to do this year will just be done next year....many more Christmases to start many new traditions (and keep old traditions as well!)

Dave's Office Party in Middleburg at Red Fox Inn

My office party in Georgetown at the Ritz Carlton

Our Community Group party at our apt.

 The architect at work (My side is very planned out, his is very artsy and free form -- typical!)
Final Product!!

Finally, I saved the best news for last...we are going to home sweet Mississippi TODAY.  We've been counting down -- it's been 5 months for me and 6 for Dave. It is my belief that Mississippi is one of America's best kept secrets.  We know that some of our history is bad, but at the same time, many many people (of all races) in Mississippi will love you, welcome you and talk your ear off! I sure miss the South and am eager for a week at home.  We have a busy busy week ahead with the annual game night (with my family and 2 other families), caroling, Tacky Christmas at the deer camp, family Christmas and Christmas Eve traditions, seeing friends and a wedding of 2 sweet friends! I'm so excited to go home tomorrow, but I am almost a little sad to be going because I know we've been looking forward to this week and the week will go too quickly, ha! 

How special to go home at Christmas. My friend Emily posted these words on Facebook the other day (from the advent readings by John Piper which are wonderful!).

"Do you feel restless for home? [Coming home for the holidays] feels good. I think the bottom line reason why it feels good is that [we] are destined in the depths for an ultimate Homecoming. All other homecomings are foretaste. And foretastes are good. Unless they become substitutes. O, don't let all the sweet things of this season become substitutes of the final, great all-satisfying Sweet...ness. Let every loss and every delight send your hearts a-homing after heaven. Christmas. What is it but this: I came that they might have LIFE? ... That you & I might have LIFE, now and forever. Make your Now the richer and deeper this Christmas by drinking at the fountain of FOREVER. It is so near." 
 I've been reflecting on this all week. Other than coming home from college, I've never had a holiday "homecoming". All of my post school life until now, I have lived an hour away from my parents - and have celebrated with them all season, so this year I have tried to reflect on how my eagerness to go home (including our countdown!) reveals my even greater need and desire for an ultimate homecoming!! Isn't it wonderful how all the sweet and wonderful feelings and experiences during the holidays are good in and of themselves AND good because they point us to eternal everlasting concepts?

He Came.

We spend a good amount of time during advent discussing that Jesus came, died, rose and will come again!! What wonderful joyful news! Certainly Christmas and Easter tie in together so perfectly! But, sometimes I think we focus so much on what He came to do that we miss one of the biggest blessings of Christmas -- the fact that He simply CAME.

Don't get me wrong, Jesus accomplished a lot in his 33 years of life, death and resurrection, the gospel should be celebrated -- at Easter, year round and of course at Christmas, but let's not only look to what all He later accomplished and overlook the simple (yet not so simple) fact that he came.

He came into a messy broken world that he didn't have to enter, a world full of harsh words, hurt feelings, rejection, sin, illness, temptation, physical pain. He went from being God to being a helpless baby dependent on others for food and shelter. He went through all the hard things we go through - except He went through that pain willingly (we don't exactly have a choice like He did) and He walked through earthly trials perfectly and without sin.

Knowing how broken the earth was, He still came. That is just so amazing to me. Life is full of many blessings, but it is also full of trials and the choice to enter into the mess and filth of the people He loved is incredibly sacrificial.

Modern day evangelicals focus so much on the "God" aspect of Jesus that we might overlook the "man" aspect. Fully God, fully man. The combination of the two is so extremely comforting -- as we walk through life, we serve a God who overcame sin and death by entering into (and experiencing) our world of sin and death.

Each broken heart, each moment of rejection, each day that seems full of frustrating moments, each betrayal, each sickness, He knows and understands. He knows because he experienced this messy broken world. He experienced it because HE CAME.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Impossible

I've read a few articles recently about not romanticizing Christmas and not getting our hopes up just because it's the holiday season. Some say that we have some hallmark view of miracles, changes, MAGIC!!  Instead of hoping for a magical holiday (full or surprises, provisions, etc) , we should focus on the real meaning for Christmas -- Advent - and rejoice in our REAL hope, not our earthly view of hope (that something magical or IMPOSSIBLE will happen at Christmas, just as it does on every Holiday movie you watch!)

Although I 100% agree with placing our HOPE in the Lord, not other people, situations or circumstances, I think this viewpoint of not believing in miraculous or impossible at Christmas is a bit sad. It's sad not because I want "holiday magic" over the hope that comes through Christ, but because in a way, this view encourages the concept that we as Christians can't want or pray for the impossible- because what if God can't or won't accomplish these impossible requests?

Advent should actually ENCOURAGE us to bring our IMPOSSIBLE hopes to our Savior...after all, ADVENT is all about the Impossible. GOD BECAME MAN! A VIRGIN BIRTHED A BABY!  ANGELS ANNOUNCED THE CHILD'S BIRTH!  AN ELDERLY WOMAN CONCEIVED A BABY (John the Baptist)!  A HUMAN BEING LIVED A PERFECT LIFE WITH NO BAD ATTITUDES, NO SINS, NO HURTFUL WORDS! And, later, this same man, DIED AND THEN ROSE FROM THE DEAD!! This is all impossible. Very very impossible.

Advent gives us HOPE eternally and HOPE now.  Christmas can be quite hard on many -- partly because it's a time of family and friends, so if you have struggles or loss in those areas, you feel the loss even moreso during the Holidays.  For me, personally, Christmas has be difficult in the past because its a milestone (alongside New Yearks) representing another year has passed - yet another Holiday season and this prayer hasn't been answered or this goal hasn't been met. And yet, I always find hope at Christmas through the realization the Christ came and died and rose again, but also in the realization that Christmas is full of miracles.  Advent always reminds me that our Savior is capable of THE IMPOSSIBLE.

So, as you pray for those hard situations in your life this holiday season, know that God is capable of handling even the most impossible situations. He brings healing, babies, husbands, jobs, answers, salvation - even when it seems that those answers could never happen.  This doesn't mean that He will answer every  request (sometimes His plans our different than ours), but HE CAN DO THE IMPOSSIBLE - and CHRISTMAS displays His love of doing impossible things!! That, alone, should give us hope that no situation is trully hopeless or impossible.

I loved this article on God doing impossible things at Christmas. He stated...

“For nothing will be impossible with God.”Are you facing an impossible situation? Do you look at it and see no earthly way it could change? Maybe you look at a family member who seems to have no interest in God at all, and it seems like he or she is just too far gone to save. Nothing will be impossible with God! Maybe you can see no way for God to provide financially for you – remember Jesus fed crowds of 5000 and 7000 from a few fish and loaves of bread. He spoke to typhoons and calmed the winds and waves. When he needed money for the temple tax he told Peter to go fishing and he’d catch a fish with a coin in its mouth.

Nothing will be impossible with God. Maybe you feel like you can’t break out of a sin you are ensnared in. You’ve tried to quit and you can’t. Nothing will be impossible with God. Whatever you are praying for, unless God has made it absolutely clear that the answer is no, then keep asking, keep knocking, keep seeking. Maybe it’s a sickness you’ve had for years. Keep asking, knocking seeking. Yes, God is sovereign and he takes us through afflictions and he promises to work them all for our good. Sometimes he doesn’t answer in the way we would like, but don’t quit asking! "

The author ended his post by stating, "Don’t give up! Nothing is too hard for our God. Nothing is impossible to him. Who knows, this may be the Christmas he answers your prayers."

I sure relate to that last sentence. I spent a few years and a few Christmases praying that I'd meet a godly husband (and preferably soon) -- and two years ago, right after Christmas, God answered my prayers :) And this year, I have a couple situations that seem impossible to me, but I am reminded through Advent that NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD. 

I pray we all find the HOPE that comes at Christmas -  the hope that our Savior came to save us and the hope that He can fix impossible situations. While we may not need to believe or hope for magical, as Christians, we should always believe in the accomplishment of the impossible!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Just the Icing on the Cake

Yesterday I shared about our little Holiday getaway that Dave surprised me with and how, although I loved his romantic gesture, it was just the icing on the cake.
I was excited when Dave told me his first surprise -- that he bought me a massage (because I have been complaining of tension in back and neck for months and always saying that I was going to get a massage with money from Christmas and my birthday). I said "You are too good to me" and he responded by telling me the massage was just icing on the cake. What he meant was that he had also booked a night at Founder's Inn for a getaway and I was going to find out this surprise soon.
But, when I heard that, my thought was "yep, his romantic gestures are just icing on the cake"
You see, most days aren't romance....although I suppose they are a bit more romantice when you have only been married 5.5 months....even cooking together seems romantic early on! But even for newlyweds, most days are bills, chores, dinners, tv shows, work, sickness, movies, laundry, grocery shopping, etc. You want to be married to a good kind person who you respect and love and can be loyal to when life is rough and difficult - or just boring and typical.

It's easy to say "You are too good to me" when there's a surprise, flowers, nice dinner out. But Dave is just as good to me when he does the dishes, works hard to pay bills, offers to make his sick wife soup, chases my nephew around, picks something up from the store on the way home.  He is goot to me when he is patient with me and forgiving. He's good to me when he swallows his pride and apologizes and he's good to me when he carefully calls me out on my flaws and sin. He's good to me when he reads our morning devo or reaches for my hand in church or cooks Saturday breakfast.
I always hesitate to ONLY show the exciting moments of life on this blog (although I don't exactly take random tuesday night pics of us cleaning the apartment ha) - because I don't want to portray that this is always what life or marriage is like, atleast not for me. I thought that alongside the fun exciting moments it life, the boring moments are good too, although not as exciting. I enjoy the exciting moments and surprises - and Dave's romantic gestures sure make me FEEL loved, but I KNOW my husband loves me based on his actions on a random monday night. The rest is just icing on the cake :)
Along the lines of this post, check out this article on BORING MEN. I have been wanting to post it but don't have much to add to it -- I've only been married a short while so I don't have too many of these "boring" stories yet, but I do hope years from now, when its easy to lack appreciation for eachother, I respond the same way and remember that boring isn't always bad. The author states....
"Who am I willing to take the reeking garbage out for and clean out the gross muck ponding at the bottom of the fridge? Who am I willing to listen to instead of talk at? Who am I willing to hold as they grow older and realer? Who am I willing to die a bit more for every day? Who am I willing to make heart-boring years with? Who am I willing to let bore a hole into my heart?

...Life isn't not about one-upmanship -- it's about one-downmanship. It's about the heart-boring years of sacrifice and going lower and serving. It's not about how well you perform your proposal. It's about how well you let Christ perform your life."

Oh, I hope I have a boring marriage like that -- with the occasional icing on top!! Seriously, read her whole article, it will make you long to have a boring committed spouse like that and hopefully, it will make you long to be that type of spouse as well!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Holiday weekend getaway

Life is so full of JOY these days, but the past month or so has also been frustrating as we soon hit the 6 month mark on marriage and time in DC and I feel like I'm not as established here as I long to be....with job, lots of friends, church home, etc. Things certainly aren't awful but I had idealistic hopes for where life would be by now. And...I'm tired and need a rest from always being "on" (a week of vacation will do me good I think!)

And I guess Dave sensed my frustrations needed a little cheering up because this past weekend, my precious husband surprised me with an overnight getaway as an early Christmas gift. Nothing extravagant or ornate, just much needed time away from the city, enjoying the holidays and time together. He sent me emailed clues all week (and email reassurances that he wasn't spending a ton of money, that he got bargains and I need not “fret” over prices--he knows me well!) It was our first married getaway together (minus the honeymoon) and we had a great time!!

We left early Saturday and stopped at Fredericksburg to walk around the shops, then stopped for lunch and a massage (for me) in Richmond, and then arrived at our hotel in Virginia Beach, Founders Inn. We enjoyed dinner at a pizzeria on the Boardwalk then drive through the 34 blocks of Christmas lights decorating the boardwalk. We spent a lazy Sunday morning in the hot tub before going to see my childhood home (you may not have known that about me -- I spent part of elementary school living in Chesapeake/Virginia Beach) and then heading to Colonial Williamsburg to walk around and enjoy the carolers, decorations and history.

It really was a fun weekend away-- with all the holiday decorations, Christmas music and time spent discussing our favorite family holiday traditions, I feel very MERRY now!! . It was good to get away and remember my blessings (Dave, having work, family, etc)  instead of thinking about what I am still waiting on.

Also, this holiday surplice was also particularly special because Dave is not Mr. Romantic on a daily basis. That's not a complaint, it's an observation and he would tell you the same thing. He’s kind and good and serves and works hard. I like that better than tons of Romance…but when he does do something romantic a few times a year, it’s always sweet and “icing on the cake”, but more on that tomorrow!! :)
Here are some pics from our weekend getaway....
Window Shopping in Fredericksburg
Dinner on the Boardwalk
Boardwalk Drive Through Light Show

Hotel Decorations

Childhood Home


What a fun weekend with a sweet guy - now all we have to do is make it through 4 more work days, enjoy another Holiday party, pack and head home Saturday morning. I've been humming "Christmas in Dixie" all day!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

ADVENT: Peace when life has "loose ends"

This week, Advent focuses on peace.

Therefore, by default, I think Advent focuses on trust...because the only way to have peace in life is by trusting the Lord even when the situation seems unsolvable, unmanageable, uncontrollable. Funny how we (and by we, I mean me!) often think peace and calmness and stability comes through very controlled, manageable circumstances.

We want answers and certainty and all of our loose ends tied up.  I hate unresolved friendships, relationships, work situations. (It's true, although happily married, if I were to think too long on any exes, I would probably became anxious- not because I "lost" them, but because many breakups never have closure or answers and I hate feeling like the whole issue will always remain unmanaged and unresolved).  One of my life mottos is that I'd rather know the answer, even if it's not an answer I want to hear. (The truth is I'd rather never know bad news at all, but if I know there is news, circumstances, etc that someone is withholding, I just feel I'd rather know than guess!)

Life has been fairly pleasant this year, but even so, there are "loose ends" I wish could be tied up: friendships that have suffered this past year and may never be the same, a job hunt I wish would go ahead and end with some certainty of where I will be for the next year, clarity on which church should be our church home, an established group of friends like I had in Mississippi.  Nothing major, just tiny little annoyances that I want to fix and solve and manage....but I can't.

Many people go into "manage" mode during crisis or tragedy.  "Ok, the circumstances didn't turn out as hoped, but here's what I've got, how do I make the best of this?"  I actually think this is a great way to be - to try to assess hurts in a way where we salvage good from bad, but this tendency to manage and fix should only come after prayer and deep trust in the one who controls and manages all circumstances!

I'm pretty bad at trusting.  Ironically enough, I don't struggle with trusting the Jesus came, died, rose again and will come back again for me.  I don't doubt that the Gospel is true.  I don't ever question that Christmas occurs because of the birth of our Savior or that in the grand scheme of things, God is who says he is....So, when it comes to eternal perspective, I have a lot of peace and comfort that my God loved me so much he came to this world and that he has saved and redeemed me.

BUT I do (like most humans) want to control my life, and by default, I don't always feel peace in regards to my daily life.  I feel worry and stress and anxiety.  We often fail to trust God to tie up the loose ends even when we don't see them being tied up, to control the situation even when it seems out of control.

Advent may be a month long preparation for Christmas, but the concepts should apply all year long....after all, we are in constant waiting for His second coming. When struggling to trust, perhaps its best to look back to Christmas and see how God was in control of the little details.

Seriously, how many tiny details did the Lord have to carefully work out - there were lots of prophecies about the Lord's coming.  God worked out a census to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem in order to fulfill one prophecy.  He knew an inn would be full so He provided a stable.  The Lord was in the details.  He managed what seemed a little unmanagable.  Until that point, it probably felt to many of God's people like there were a lot of little loose ends that had yet to be tied up - prophecies yet to be fulfilled, a Savior that had not yet come.  The Lord is trustworthy with the details -- be at peace!

Finally, Advent should direct us to peace in our daily lives because we know that Christ has come and overcome the world.  We can have eternal peace and we can have daily peace - trusting that God can overcome and redeem whatever problems and hurts caused by our sins and the sins of others, caused by the harsh disappointments and realities of life, etc.

Peace is hard to obtain.  I doubt anyone has it all the time. It comes from trusting - and trusting comes from remembering -- remembering God's faithfulness, remembering God's promises.  Advent is all about remembering and gives us the perfect time to reflect on God's goodness and perfect control of situations. So, seek peace this advent -- seek it by choosing to remember the Savior's birth and be remembering the Lord's provision.  Remembering the Lord's goodness and sovereign control over biblical history and our own lives will make it easier to trust Him for our daily peace.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...a WHITE Christmas!

Well, here in DC, we've had a few days of snow.  Sunday-Monday, we enjoyed a few inches covering our yard -- it wasn't much, but it was pretty to see snow falling from the window with the Christmas tree lit and a holiday movie playing on the TV.

We then woke up this morning to a steady falling of snow which should last a good bit of the day.  I had delayed opening at work, so I had an extra hour to get ready, but my lucky duck husband got the day off! And apparently a good bit of the city is off too because the metro was empty and there weren't many cars on the road.  Even thought it wasn't a foot of snow or anything, I think people got the day off simply because it was still snowing, as opposed to snowing overnight, so the snow could cause driving problems....

My office is still fairly empty and slow today. I am enjoying the relaxing day but I wish I was sitting in front of our tree, looking out the window and drinking Hot Chocolate -- all while watching a full lineup of cheesy Christmas flicks....  Sounds perfect right??

Instead I am stuck at work, but on a  happier note -- we have our office Christmas Party tonight so we all get to leave a bit early. Fancy hotel, cocktail dresses, open bar and lovely meal-- all with my cute date and great coworkers -- should be a fun night! 
I loved seeing the snow, particularly since its Christmas and the wreaths and lights are up. Despite the cold wet walk to the metro this morning, I couldn't help but feel like I was a character in a Christmas movie!! Just living life and prepping for Christmas in the snow!  Until this week, I can only remember one or two other times in my life when it was very snowy in December -- and that was when I was in Jr High or High School.  In January or February, snow is nice, but in December, with the lights and decorations, it truly is magical!
I've enjoyed our "White Christmas" days but I am glad they hit in early/mid December -- I want nothing, not even a White Christmas, to prevent me from flying back to Mississippi next Saturday!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Christmas Gems

It's been crazy around here and I haven't had time to blog much this week --- but it doesn't mean I haven't had time to read some great Christmas and Advent articles!! 

It's no secret that I love the the holidays (especially Christmas!) and I love advent. Advent is to Christmas what Lent (for those who celebrate Lent) is to Easter -- time to reflect and prepare our hearts for the celebration of our Lord!! I've been encouraged by some of the wonderful articles I've seen so I thought I'd share these great articles!

1. I love this article on hope, work and waiting....particularly since the holidays/advent is so much about hoping and waiting and can also be a struggle to focus on work -- so much to accomplish, so much to get done, so easy to focus on that!

2. Don't you just love hymns? I enjoy praise music too, but there is something so beautiful about the wording in old hymns -- I guess we just can't phrase things as lovely as people in past times could! It doesn't mean our praise is any less worshipful, but I can't help but long for gorgeous old hymns, particularly Christmas carols.  I also LOVE knowing the story behind the music which is why I loved this article telling the history of 5 carols. I think my favorite two stories were the stories about "O come, O Come, Emmanuel" and "O Holy Night"

3. Who can't relate to hard times and holidays and mixing the two? Who hasn't struggled to believe in miracles? I love this article 'When it's hard to believe in Miracles at Christmas'  Her words are so beautiful...

You’d better believe there really is a Jesus and there is a God in heaven and there is an Emmanuel who came, Creator of the Cosmos who wore bones to touch our skin.

And our Christ, He can be hoped in, believed in, trusted in; He came and He is coming again and He cares.

When hearts are fragile, that’s when they may be most faith-filled — believing in miracles before life makes sense.

Believing in the miraculous coming – so there is real living in the moment now.

Believing in a God bigger than the burdens.

Believing — so there is living.

This is how the fragile are made strong.

4. I love this post clarifying that we are participants in the Christmas drama as we actively await his 2nd coming just like Isreal waited for their Savior.

5. Purely for fun - here are some holiday decorating ideas for small spaces.  And here are some more!! Since we will likely be a small space for awhile due to the fact that we live in a city where apartments are tiny and pricy, I plan on trying some of these decorations next Christmas! (This year, we have a skinny little tree, some wreaths, a few trinkets and a nativity)

how fun is this?

Simple Cheer
Hope you enjoy these articles as much as I did. The holiday season is so busy - and its always good to take time to reflect. Dave and I do our advent devotional every morning at breakfast and although its only a few minutes long, it, like these articles, helps focus me on the Lord's coming and our time each December (and hopefully other times as well) to prepare for Him! And, when life is busy (like during the holidays) I need all the remind I can get to focus and worship instead of stress! Thankful God gave us advent to help us prepare, worship, rest, wait and hope.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


This week, one of my favorite times of the year begins: Advent. The first candle of advent is the candle of hope.  Hope is one of my favorite themes of Christmas...and the following lyric from "O Holy Night" is one of my favorites:

"A Thrill of Hope, the Weary World Rejoices."

"The Weary World"

The words have always resonated with me - possibly because I, like every other human, have known what it's like to be weary....exhausted from daily reality; tired from the emotion it takes to deal with pain, longing, heartache, frustration, disappointment; worn out from temptation and sin and my attempt to overcome my own flaws.

Waiting is one of the worst kinds of weariness-- trying to hold on to faith when the daily routine points to no coming changes at all.  Waiting for a spouse, waiting for a job opportunity, waiting to make new friends, waiting to have a baby, waiting for defiant kids to come to their Savior, waiting for children to sleep through the night, waiting for relief to pain or grief.

Yes, I understand weariness and exhaustion and disappointment....and waiting.

I relate to this lyric because it refers to those that are weary, but I LOVE this lyric because it refers to the "thrill of hope" a weary world rejoices in! I know weariness, but thank you Jesus, I also know hope.

"A Thrill of Hope"

Hope encourages, even "earthly" hopes encourages. Hope grants reprieve from weariness, even if it doesn't end it completely. Small hopes give us moments of joy and renewed faith during long exhausting spells of waiting, pain or disappointment.

These small hopes can be being asked on a date after several months of no interest, a couple nights where your baby sleeps through the night, a girls night out where you laugh so hard you forget your problem, a medicine that seems to bring more comfort to chronic pain, an interview after months of job searching, a happy peaceful date night for a couple who has been struggling, an encouraging  sweet letter or email from a friend, etc.

We've all had times when some small event gave us hope during a tough time. Small hopes may not bring an end to weariness, but they do encourage us to keep going amidst the weariness.  That date might not be "the one" or the interview might not lead to a job, but the small thrill of hope encourages you to press on in belief that better times are ahead.

If these small earthly hopes grant us moments of respite, how much more so can our Savior provide his weary followers with a "thrill of hope"?

When Christ was born, the battle was not won yet. There had not been a death, resurrection or second coming. His birth was only the beginning and did not yet take away the weariness and pain of the world. BUT, His coming provided hope of what was to come, a glimmer of anticipation for good things ahead.

The battle is still not won.  We still live in a world that quite frankly, wears me out sometimes.  We still have to deal with sin, pain, illness, death, heartache. But Christmas serves as a yearly reminder of His first advent and more permanently, His future second advent! It is an annual "thrill of hope" for this weary world...encouraging us to press on amidst weariness and pain.

So, take it all in -- the carols, the lights, the gatherings, but most importantly the gospel truth -- and be encouraged and hopeful that our Lord loved this weary world so much that He came down to us to live, die, rise and return.  

The next line of the song states,

"For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn!"

You may be weary now...and you may remain weary for awhile, but be encouraged and HOPEFUL, better days are ahead! Because of the first and second advents of our Savior, there will be a new and glorious morn!

Monday, December 2, 2013

We Gather Together, Part 2: Thanksgiving Success!!

Thanksgiving was a great success...good company, good food, wine, laughter and no broken dishes (ok, one broken wine glass....)  It wasn't quite a Mississippi thanksgiving - with my mom's good cooking, a beautifully set table and our traditional dinner with siblings, but it was the next best thing.

Marley, Bech and Jack arrived on Wednesday evening and we stayed up talking, watching tv and drinking wine.  We then celebrated all thanksgiving with morning monkey bread, watching the parade and sending the boys to the store and park while we girls started cooking!  The boys then engineered the best way to move our furniture to accommodate our dinner for 11 people in our tiny apartment!  It took our dining room table, a folding table and 6 folding chairs.  We also didn't have enough buffet space (since our beautiful buffet/china cabinet is currently serving as a tv stand in the living room!) so we turned our desk into a buffet for the evening.

The dining room, cozy and snug with all 11 seats!

Dave and Bech moved the couches and chairs so that the dining room could have more room. I didn't like the layout, but to be fair, it gave us more room! (excuse the towel under our drink tin, I was scared it would leak!)

Yummy food, prepared by Marley, Me and many of our guests who kindly brought something!

We enjoyed having friends over and enjoying community, even while away from our families.  Dave and I both grew up in homes that were very open welcoming to others, especially on holidays, and we always hope that we can do the same. Most of the people at our dinner were people we know from Bible Study. They are new friends and we are still getting to know eachother, some people I have tons in common with and some of our guests are very opposite from me, but it made me smile to think about how different types of believers with different backgrounds and upbringings are brought into community and friendship simply because they worship the same God!

Sweet friend

Some of the dinner crew

 Robertsons and Evans
 My favorite little Turkey!
Stealing Kisses!

Also, indulge me a second while I share another thought.  Years ago (in college), someone told me that you should marry someone that you would be proud to sit across the dinner table at any events you two host together.  I always chuckled at that -- I somewhat understood what the saying meant, but not fully. I think I understand a little bit more now. I loved having Dave as the other "host" at our apartment. I'm proud of him and don't find myself worrying that he will be too shy, not friendly enough, short tempered, etc. I know that he won't require me to make all the conversation, that he will help get ready for company, that he will listen to others with sincere interest, that he will be welcoming and warm, etc. Let me be clear, I think marriage is so much more than who you think you could best host company with, but there is something to be said about marrying someone you respect and appreciate, someone who, flaws and all, has atleast some qualities that cause you to be proud. (This might be different for everyone -- I would probably have a hard time being married to a painfully shy person and someone who doesn't like large gatherings might have a hard time being married to me....but when I sit next to/across from Dave at events, I am quite proud he's the one hosting Thanksgiving (or whatever other event) with me and the one walking through life with me! (and I think he feels the same!)

So so thankful for this guy! (yes I know that it looks like there is a star coming out of our head, its from the Christmas tree!)

I hope you had a wonderful holiday, celebrating and thanking God with loved ones - whether that be family or friends!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

We Gather Together: Thankful for OTHERS

I am a fairly extroverted person. I do enjoy my nights in and time alone, but on the whole, I love being around people...and I am pretty blessed that God gave me such good people to have in my life.

God told Adam that it was not good to be alone, so He created Eve.  I know that this passage is used a lot to discuss marriage and the goodness of not being alone (and rightfully so, since this is the first marriage!) But, in general, I think God was saying something about humans, in general. Adam was alone because he didn't have a companion, friend, family, spouse. And ironically enough, Adam went from being the only human - to being married - to having family and community.

I am thankful God recognizes our need for relationsips and places people into our lives to help encourage, discipline and grow us. Life could be lived completely alone, I suppose -- with little interaction with others, but it is so much better with companionship.

I am thankful for Dave. I am thankful for the JOY he brings my life -- not only as my husband, but also as my closest companion and room mate.

I am thankful for sisters that I talk to almost daily and a brother who always has our back. I am thankful for supportive parents.  I am thankful for great in laws. I have wonderful aunts and uncles, even the ones that yell "go dawgs" as you cut your wedding cake :) I have amazing giving grandparents who really invested in our lives growing up.

I am thankful for friendship and the little family of friends I have formed over the years.

I am thankful for church community. I loved my home church in Jackson. I loved having friends of all ages there.

And, I am thankful for the community we are developing here in DC and prayerful that God will develop sweet friendships where we can encourage and lift eachother up.

I am thankful that today when we could be stuck alone for the Holiday, we are able to open up our tiny home for friends and family (my sister, brother in law and nephew are coming) to come for a potluck thanksgiving. Work friends, friends from Bible study, friends of friends, friends from home.  Just a good mix of people, gathering together in community to be thankful and celebrate together.

...because we were meant to be in community. Every day life and more importantly, holidays, should be enjoyed and celebrated with others.

We gather together today -- in community and thankfulness, and I am very grateful for all that the Lord has given us -- marriage, friendship, family, material blessings, His daily presence and eternal hope. AND, I realize that today isn't easy for all -- those who are alone, have lost loved ones, are single or going through a divorce, etc.  My prayer is that those who are hurting find community, one of God's good gifts to us.  Life is better when lived with others.

Time to finish cooking, but I promise a post with pictures soon -- say a prayer that Marley and I pull this off! :) Happy thanksgiving to all, what a wonderful and good Lord we serve!!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thankful for the Giver

Today, I am thankful for the GIVER of good gifts. I’ve spent the past couple posts discussing the many many blessings in my life – and it is SO important to remind ourselves of how HE provides many good gifts, especially when circumstances are difficult and we need to remember.

But, it is EVEN MORE IMPORTANT to remember that He is good. This article by one of my favorite bloggers state that fact excellently, so I won’t add too much to the discussion....

“The grounds of our thanksgiving is that God is good; not that He gives good gifts”

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for this year – a job, a roof over my head, family, friends, health, Dave, a coat, food, the ability to travel home for the holidays, ordinary everyday blessings and some extras.

But, most importantly, I have a God that loves me, that is good, faithful, kind, perfect. If my thankfulness for my many blessings doesn’t make me thankful for the giver, then I am missing the point. I have a God who has held my hand through trials and who stands by me even though I don’t deserve His faithfulness.

Trials make it difficult to be thankful, but in the end, I think the person undergoing hardships generally finds it easier to develop a gratitude for the giver, not His gifts. Gratitude while suffering may be hard fought for, but it's root is in a belief that God is good! In times filled with gifts and blessings, it may be even more important to remind our hearts of the giver, not the gifts.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow, but mostly, just praise God. Even if blessings don’t come – but especially if they do, “He is reason enough for gratitude this season and every season.”

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thankful for Extras

I am thankful for the unnecessary "extras" in life. How boring life would be without these blessings!!

There is so much that makes me smile that isn't needed, that's purely pleasurable. I need food and shelter and enough warmth to live. I need water and medication when I am sick. I need enough money to pay my bills and put food on my table.

But, there is so much more that makes my life joyful.

I am grateful for good books, music and art that makes you think. I am thankful that words can be used in an encouraging, passionate and entertaining way, not just to get facts across.

I am grateful that we all don't look, dress or act the same, that God made people different and different personalities bring different blessings to my life as well as different skills and advancements to the world.

I am thankful for tasty food - the kind of food that is so yummy, you have to force yourself to put your fork down so you don't eat too much. I am thankful for seafood, hearty soups, rich desserts, warm pastries, ice cream and of course, juicy watermelon.

I am grateful for good wine and good conversations, often had at the same time.

I am thankful for curling up on the couch with a blanket and cocoa, particularly when it involves a good movie, good book or cute husband!

I am thankful for cold fountain drinks on hot Mississippi days. I am thankful for beaches and sunsets and pools and drinks with little umbrellas.

I am thankful for laughter and humor -- a child's first joke, told with a giggle before the punchline; inside jokes with friends and sisters; and clever comments from my husband which make me snicker.

I am thankful that all the parts of our world look different. It would be completely boring if traveling to Paris felt no differently than going to Montana.

I am thankful for female friendships. I sure love my husband, but life is better when I have the laughter, conversation and company of women.

I am thankful for college football, for football season, for football memories. I am thankful for other people's sports and hobbies and activities as well. I'm grateful life has aspects of it that are completely for entertainment value, nothing else.

I am thankful for travel, for the ability to live in one place and easily visit friends or family in another place- with only one day's travel.

I am thankful for color, texture and style and the ability to use those differently in how you dress yourselves and decorate your home.

I am thankful for Love. I assume God could have our species procreate and continue in a way that doesn't include marriage, family and feelings, but I am sure glad He blessed us with the ability to love each other and be loved in return.

I am grateful for holidays and celebrations and birthday parties and twinkle lights and wrapping paper and Christmas trees and wedding cakes and champagne. I am grateful we get to celebrate and enjoy life, rather than just live it.

God is so good to give us more than we need to live. He gives us all sorts of extras that just make life good!! I always laugh at that silly quote "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." But, as funny as that quote is, there is some truth to it. We don't deserve the basics, much less the extras in life -- how much must our God love us if He is willing to give us these little blessings that we don't deserve?

What "extras" are you thankful for?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thankful for Ordinary

I am so very thankful for ordinary.

We, as a culture, love adventure and excitement. We love exotic travel and extreme sports and strange foods.  We love new technology and up and coming restaurants.  We love overcoming challenges and reading articles about those who do. We love heroes, action movies and being scared.

And adventure is not bad.  Challenging our perspectives, taste buds, cultural beliefs and bodies can be good for us. But every day can’t be an adventure or new experience.   Some days are typical and normal…and still good.... :)

In some ways, life has been quite exciting recently – a wedding, a honeymoon to san fran/napa, being newlyweds, a big move, a new city. This was thrilling and scary all at once. So, it's nice to slow down. I am thankful for the boring typical moments, for establishing “our ordinary”.…watching tv, doing laundry, morning devotionals, goodbye kisses in the morning, making lunches, bible study, chasing my nephew around, texts from my sisters, happy hour with friends, Saturday morning pancakes, trips to the grocery store, gym time, girl nights.

I grew up with an "ordinary" childhood. School plays, weeknight meals, soccer games, sunday school. Our life was happy, but not exciting. We went on vacations, but we didn't live or travel abroad. We had challenges like any other family, but not the type of obstacles that make for good college admission essays.  We had what we needed and much of what we wanted, but we weren't given everything.  I was involved in academic clubs and sports, but I wasn't homecoming queen, valedictorian, star athlete.  We lived in suburbia - and then in small town Mississippi...not a busy exciting city full of tons to do.

My life growing up was ordinary, maybe even "boring" at times - but for the most part, fairly happy. I had 2 parents who were happy together and supported their kids,  siblings that I fought with but fiercely loved, a nice safe home, a good school, sweet friends, etc. Yes, ordinary was pretty good and I am grateful for my ordinary all-american childhood.  

Adventure and challenges aren't always fun and good. So many people aren’t currently living ordinary lives. They are sitting in hospitals receiving chemo. They are trying to make do while a spouse is at war. They are surviving on little in small villages in Africa. They are living in war torn countries. Many have awful family situations or are struggling to find employment. How many people would love to being living an ordinary boring life right now!!

So, ordinary may not be adventurous or exciting, but its good.  I've had some non-ordinary moments in life -- challenges and heartache, adventures and travel! While I love (most of) my moments of adventure, I am so grateful for my ordinary typical days....days like today where I went Christmas shopping with a friend, cooked enchiladas for dinner and am now curled up on the couch watching football. I've had more exciting Saturday evenings, but few that were happier.

There are many many blessings in my day to day life.  I am so thankful for the ordinary!