Friday, December 26, 2008

a different sort of Christmas...

In Christmases past, I would drive to my parents' home on Christmas Eve and begin the celebration by eating dinner (usually dad's yummy enchiladas) and all of us rushing off to the evening candlelight service. I would sing favorite Christmas hymns and hear the story of our Savior's birth and try not to drip candlewax on the floor. I would sing in harmony with my dad in the glow of the candlelight and greet faces I usually see only once a year. We then would run home, set out the cookies and eggnog and settle in for the opening of the gifts. Dad would wear bows on his head and yell "it's underwear!" when he opened his gifts. We would laugh and share our many thanks for the generous giving. Penny would sigh on the landing or try and sniff our heads through the railing because she, being the obstinate dog, was not allowed in the room where everyone was so merrily getting along. And we would stay up too late, usually one or two in the morning, before our laughter subsided and we all dragged ourselves to bed. Christmas morning found some rising for church and others welcoming the chance to sleep in. We would all gather again midday as other family began to arrive, and the laughter would again return. We would talk for hours and eat a wonderful meal of ham, mashed potatoes, and other nice trimmings. Those were the times of the past, wonderful memories and times to be had.

This year brought a different sort of Christmas. I found myself not able to go down to my parents' home this year, as an on-call phone kept me locked to this county. I was blessed to be invited to join a friend and her family in their Christmas festivities. We drove to her parents' home in time for dinner, and then helped wrap the gifts not yet wrapped. We watched a movie and settled into the trailer outside the house. It was an adventure. I woke somewhere around 5am between a random text from a friend and the rooster telling us it was time to wake up. I felt like the cows did in the commercial that "hit the snooze alarm" by kicking the rooster...but it was too cold to move and do anything about it. I snoozed off and on until about 7:30. The heater stopped working and my friend and I wondered if the power was off. It was pouring outside, a symphony of rain and wind pounding the trailer. Indeed, it had, and we could not awaken to Amy Grant's voice singing Christmas carols...but alas! Her father came out with falsetto and umbrella to rouse us out of bed. We rolled out of the trailer and into the house, where children were smiling and saying "Merry Christmas!" Bacon filled the air with its scent and we all settled around the tree. The lights came back on, and so followed Amy Grant, as we all passed around the gifts. My favorite was watching the excitement of the boys as they received their favorite gifts! Wall-e! Veggietales! Squeals of joy...I wanted to feel that kind of joy again. We finished opening gifts and devouring breakfast, and got ready for the day. We bounded off to the movies and back for a delicious dinner before returning back to home.

I have to admit despite the fun and blessing of sharing this family's Christmas, I missed my own. I quietly wanted to be somewhere else in the slower moments of the day even though I was enjoying myself. It was a feeling of being torn.

Today, the day after Christmas, my dad and little "big" brother drove up with food and presents in tow. I got my dad's enchiladas and leftover ham, and enough cookies to bring a smile to anyone's face. We opened up our gifts in front of our "O Henry tree", as we so lovingly call it. We went downtown for lunch and back to my house for a viewing of Wall-e, as I was so excited to get it! And they had not seen it yet either! I made yummy chili and cornbread for dinner and we enjoyed the day together. It was a different sort of Christmas indeed. I was amazingly blessed, not only by my family and their generosity, but by another family and their love. And in a way, maybe this Christmas is a preparation for the new Christmases I am going to forge as I eventually start my own family with my own traditions.

Here are a few candid shots of my family and I breaking tradition and making our own fun:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2008 update

2008 reflection

So much has happened this year! God has blessed me incredibly with amazing friendships, a new position within my organization, and many many words of life. This year was my year of love and discipline. I know that to some extent this is still being formed in my life, but I know that I am developing a deeper love for the Lord and for those He has placed in my life. And the trials I have faced this year has led to discipline and perseverance at a new level! As I am looking forward to the new year, here is a reflection of the past year and what I have been up to!

In January, I started my cell group! I have two women in my group and a goal to increase that in the new year. There have been many bumps in this process but I have really discovered that I cannot look at the circumstances of situations. I have a lifelong goal to bring the light of Christ to others' lives and as long as I am working toward that goal, I am walking in my purpose. My heart is to see lives changed through Christ, and I am excited to keep walking this out.

In May, I changed positions within my company and began the journey of learning a new language (of sorts) and a whole new job description. One thing I have learned about myself is that if I don't feel confident about something, I hang back and don't take action. Interesting, eh? That is important for all areas of my life...not just in my job. I like my new position and the team of people I get to work with. It is refreshing and a challenge. I like challenges.

In July, I got new roommates! This was exciting because I felt like the house was united. We all are trying to accomplish similar things, and we all go to the same church. Our lives are similar, and so there is a greater understanding and support. I love these girls!

Throughout this year, God has brought some incredible friendships into my life or has deepened them. This has been my year for making healthy friendships with guys! I love the guys in my life! Some of them have helped me in more ways than I can begin to describe here. And they make me laugh! My joy has increased tenfold because of them. I am so grateful for them. Here are a couple of them...

It has been a rich and full year. And I feel like there have been some things that have begun this year that will really unfold in the year to come. I will keep you posted on those. I am looking forward to the continued blessings and fun in the next year!

Some more great snap shots of the year:

Where my girls at?

Murder mystery fun...

Ready to start a revolution for Jesus!


by your side

Tonight I was driving through town and this song came on the radio. I have heard it many times both on the radio and on my iPod. But tonight the words spoke to my heart. The Lord has been speaking to me about this for the past few striving, my independence, my fear. An insightful and wonderful friend asked me the following not long ago, "Why do you feel you need to be strong all the time?" There is a long answer, but I know that God was addressing that in the following lyrics:

Why are you striving these days
Why are you trying to earn grace
Why are you crying
Let me lift up your face
Just don't turn away

Why are you looking for love
Why are you still searching as if I'm not enough
To where will you go child
Tell me where will you run
To where will you run

And I'll be by your side
Wherever you fall
In the dead of night
Whenever you call
And please don't fight
These hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you

I know that God is stripping away all the arguments and even my capabilities so that I can return to the simple place of His love. I am not meant to strive or fight. I am meant to be in His hands, in His presence, in His love.

Monday, December 15, 2008

days go by...

Sometimes I am startled at the rate the days go by, and other times, I am grateful. It has been two years since my mom died, and I feel like I have not slowed down to process it all because time is flying by. It catches up to me, but only when I feel that time stops. In some ways, I am glad that I keep going so I don't have to feel the pain...but inevitably, I know it will overwhelm me at the next chance it gets. Two years ago, I got a phone call and knew I had to fly out that night. I slept poorly, praying I would get to see her one last time before she was gone. I had only seen her three weeks before when we celebrated her 50th birthday and Thanksgiving all in the same day. I had bought her a blue sweater to keep her warm at her appointments. As soon as we could the next morning, we (my brother, me, grandpa, and step-dad) drove out to the hospital she was in. I couldn't tell if she knew if I was there. Over the course of the day, I told her I loved her, that we were going to be okay, and that I was so sorry...

And I prayed that she heard me. My brother and I left only to get coffee and take a walk. We came back quickly and sat by her side. I began to notice a difference in her breathing. When the time came, her eyes got wide and she looked over at me. I spoke to her words of love, and she then looked to the other side of the bed where my brother sat. She knew we were there. She heard what we spoke. And then she was gone.

Two years have gone by in a blink, and I feel like it happened just a few days ago. And at the same time, it feels like a lifetime ago. I am trusting that the Lord will help me to process it all as the years go by at a more rapid pace. But today, I stop and remember her, and love her.

Monday, December 1, 2008

words that make me weep

Today as I was reading in God's word, I felt desperate to hear what He wanted to speak to me. I needed to shut everything else out and hear His voice. He led me to John 14. I read the following, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." As I did, my heart was captured and I knew this was what I needed to hear. And I began to weep. It never ceases to amaze me how powerful His word is, especially when it is rhema, a word for the moment, spoken, bringing His breath of life. They are life changing.