Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 -- Year in Review

Good golly 2013 has flown by!  I looked back at this past year on the blog tonight & wow...I didn't post a whole lot this year.  (oops!)  I'm going to try to do better in 2014.  I miss blogging!

Here's what I found as I strolled down memory lane.

1.  The computer died on January 4th.  Right smack-dab in the middle of my job hunt.  Yikes!  Click HERE to read about that.

2.  I was reminded that I am NOT a morning person.  And reading about it after the fact is pretty darn funny!  Click HERE to read that post.

3.  Our February date for our Year of Dates is HERE.  (Yes, I realize I skipped the January date.  I didn't really post much for it.)

4.  I did a little soul baring HERE.

5.  I wrote about fun with heart palpitations HERE.

6.  Our March date for our Year of Dates is HERE.  Seriously, I married a comedian.

7.  Our April date is HERE.

8.  Our May date is HERE.

9.  I was reminded of just how OCD I am HERE.

10.  I went on a local mission trip & talked about it HERE.

11.  I had a sappy mama night when I wrote THIS one.

12.  Our June date is HERE.

13.  THIS ONE was very hard to write.

14.  Our July date is HERE.

15.  Our August date is HERE.

16.  End of summer post HERE.

17.  For Larry's 40th birthday I wrote 40 reasons why I love him HERE.

18.  Our September date is HERE.

19.  Our October date is HERE.

20.  Our November date is HERE.

21.  A little something about Larry's toothbrush...and my heart HERE.

22.  Our December date is HERE.

23.  And finally...all about our Christmas HERE.

Hmm...maybe I posted more than I realized this year.  I hope my handful of readers has enjoyed living this year with me.  Looking forward to 2014!!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Silent Night, indeed.

The sun has set on another Christmas.  The season of merriment has come to a close.  Tomorrow we begin looking toward the end of the year, deciding when to take down the tree and put away the decorations.  And just like that (blink!) it's over.

Don't worry.  I don't have the holiday blues.  I am not feeling down about the end of Christmas at all.  It has been wonderful, really.  Getting older has proven to me how quickly the years fly by and how soon it will be time to watch Elf, eat yummy Christmas foods, listen to carols and decorate with greens and reds all over again.

Last year, Christmas was very, very hard for me.  I was eyeball-deep in a job search, praying to find something before time ran out.  I was spending my days at a desk, in an office where I was surrounded by people who felt foreign and unfriendly.  I knew my days there were numbered and the fear of what was ahead made me shake in my sensible shoes.  Christmas was not a time of cheer for me.  I may have outwardly put on a happy face, but all I could think on the inside was that Christmas meant I only had 1 week worth of a paycheck left.  It was a deadline in my head, like an ominous siren sounding.

This year, Christmas has been different for me.  In a very, very good way.

I think it all began with not having to take out a Christmas loan.  Even having a very intentionally minimal Christmas for many years now, we've almost always had to take out a small loan to afford to do anything at all. There just isn't anything to spare in the budget, so a loan is the only way we could buy a few gifts.  Knowing that we would not be paying off a loan in the coming year took a little weight off, I guess.  Even though I never really sat and thought about that until tonight, I know on some level it's been a relief.  We don't have a hugely different income this year, and it will probably take a year to really see the difference on a month to month basis---we're still sort of catching up from being constantly 'behind' for several years-- but with my working full time vs. part time now, it does change the checkbook a little bit.

Last month, our church handed out Advent wreath kits to every family along with a booklet to work through as the season progressed.  Instructions were given about which candle to light on each night of Advent & which Scriptures to read along with a short devotional reading that applied to each night.  I never have been great at decorating, so our wreath remained just a metal ring with places for the candles, but it worked just as well as those that looked prettier.  There were weeks when I had to go stand in between the television & everyone's eyes and say "It is time to light the Advent candle!", but I am so glad we did it.  There was discussion, prayer, Scripture reading, candlelit moments of reflection and peace.  The quiet and calm may've only lasted a few minutes, but it happened.  And I loved it.

Last night, on Christmas Eve, we attended the candlelight service at church.  It was perfect.  Not because of the Scriptures we read or the atmosphere or the fact that the kids got to hold candles & flirt with fire.  (Although all of that was grand, too!)  What moved me most were the voices of little children in the room.  A baby near the back babbled.  When the pastor mentioned Advent a little girl nearby declared "He said Advent!  We've been doing Advent at our house!"  When we sang, a little boy sitting in front of us belted out the songs at the top of his lungs.  Oh what a treasure those little ones are!  I was reminded that Jesus came to us as a baby...that we should approach Him like a child...that we should worship Him unashamed and without inhibition.

Seeing God's faithfulness has been so precious this year.  From the first couple of months without a paycheck, to the provision of a job that lasted until May, to the gift of a new job in August, to the grandparents who selflessly payed for Samuel's orthodontist bill the first 8 months of this year....and on & on.  And this month has been no exception.  I've seen His hand fall on my family over and over in 2013.    Knowing He is faithful to care for our needs is not just good, but so very amazing.  His birth was the first 'proof' we saw of His faithfulness--His provision for everything we would ever need.  And my personal relationship with Him now provides me 'proof' over and over that He is still in control, still holding me firmly in His grasp, still loving me.

This morning we got up early and went to the girls' room for our annual Birthday Party for Jesus.  (All three kids slept in there.)  We ate cake, read the Bible story, sang the Happy Birthday song, prayed, figured out that we could use the noise maker things to blow out the candles on the cake and laughed together.  Perfect!  When we moved into the living room to open gifts, the mood was different than usual.  The kids are a little older and they "get it" better than they have in the past.  Each year brings new wisdom and I adore watching them mature and grow.  Seeing the kinds of gifts they gave to each other, reading the words Samuel wrote in a special scrapbook he made for Larry, watching their JOY as they opened the simple gifts they were was a wonderful time.  I am so blessed.

After a couple hours' break, we all loaded up & went to the theater to see Saving Mr. Banks.  It was such a great movie!  It is the story of Walt Disney wooing P.L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins, to allow him to make a movie of her story.  I realize that sounds like a documentary but it is so much more.  It is a wonderful story that we will probably buy once it comes out on DVD.  We all enjoyed it.

Because of some free movie passes we received as gifts this year (thank you, sweet friends!) the kids and Larry returned to the theater tonight to see a 2nd movie.  The kids are seeing the 2nd Hunger Games movie.  He is seeing the Nelson Mandela documentary movie.  I chose to stay home and enjoy the peace.  I made a run into town to grab a burger for dinner, but aside from that, I've just rested.

As I drove home tonight, and even after arriving home, I found myself humming...or singing...or whistling...or talking to my mom on the phone...or reading Facebook.  I was singing "Silent Night" to myself when something struck me.  It may be a quiet night at home for me, but I don't think any of us are even capable of a silent night these days.  Our minds are constantly moving, going, thinking, racing.  We have phones and computers and TVs and people constantly bombarding us with words, noises, text alerts, music and more.

{Side note:  I believe we all need to take 1 night a year and steal away to a hotel or a cabin in the woods (or wherever!) and just sit in the quiet and listen to God speak.  Maybe He needs to talk to you about something.  Maybe He needs to whisper into your ear about ministry or your family or your relationships.  Or maybe you just need time to be quiet and worship and pray.  It sounds heavenly doesn't it?}

On the night He was born, I have to believe it was NOT a silent night.  Have you ever been in a labor & delivery room?  It is anything but silent.  Doctors, nurses, midwives, the laboring mother, the crying is not a quiet place.  But there is such JOY in the noise & cacophony that accompanies a birth!

It hit me tonight that, while my life is anything but silent, there is great JOY in recognizing His presence in our home.
There is great PEACE in knowing He cares for my every need.
There is STRENGTH in feeling His embrace and hearing Him speak through the words of other believers, songs, teachers, friends.
There is GRACE, LOVE, and COMFORT in knowing Him personally.

And that JOY, PEACE, STRENGTH, GRACE, LOVE and COMFORT means I have HOPE in the one who came on that not-so-silent night so long ago.

"You are the light Bethlehem's son
Hope of the world the glorious one
The savior to all is with us tonight
You are the light.

Now the whole world will not be the same
Cause love has come down and grace has a name
The name of the child is Jesus Christ
You are the light." (from You Are the Light by David Hodges)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Year of Dates: December

Tonight we went on our last date night of the year.  I have had so much fun spending time with my sweetie this year on our date nights.  If you're coming in late to the party, this has been part of Larry's Christmas gift from last year.  All year long, we've had 1 date per month from a box of pre-planned dates that I gave him last year.  If you'd like to catch up on all of them & read how this all started, scroll to the bottom of this post & click on the "A Year of Dates" label.  It will take you to all of the posts on this subject from the past 12 months.

Tonight's date was a simple one.  In this season of craziness, I felt like planning anything really elaborate wouldn't be wise.  So we found a table at Starbucks & drank warm cups of yumminess, nibbled some tasty pastries and just relaxed and talked.  (And thanks to a friend's sweet gesture a couple months ago, I had a $10 gift card, so our December date cost $3!!  Thank you Heather!!)

I don't drink coffee or tea (yuck!) so I had a hot chocolate while Larry drank some sort of fancy coffee drink.

Let me tell ya folks, the cranberry scones from Starbucks are to die for!  Yummmmmmmmmm!!

Larry posed our cups side by side & asked me to take a picture of that rather than taking a picture of us tonight.  I thought this was pretty cute, so I went for it.

For those of you who have joined us on our Year of Dates adventures this year, thanks for reading.  Larry is getting the same gift for Christmas this year, so starting in January 2014, there will be a whole new Year of Dates series of posts.  See you then!

Monday, November 18, 2013

The toothbrush

Over the past couple of years, I've come into the bathroom at night to find Larry's toothbrush like this over and over.

After brushing his teeth, without shaking off the excess water (at all), he balances it like this in his toothbrush holder.  I know that he is thinking it will drip-dry through the night so that it'll be ready for him again in the morning.  But it really bugs me.  Probably a lot more than it should.  It drips all over the counter & if I happen to bump into it, I get wet.  And then in the mornings, I have to clean up the counter where it's dripped all night.  And so, at least a million times I have taken it from the balanced position in the cup, shook off the excess water and put it back into the cup (ahem) the right way.  Like this.

Not too long ago, Larry pointed out to me one morning that he noticed I was doing this.  It bothered him.  To him, it felt like I was subtly correcting him, treating him like a child.  I pointed out that I really wasn't trying to do that, I just felt like it should be shook off & stood up in the cup so that it wouldn't drip everywhere.

But maybe on about the 417th time I did it, it was because I was irritated with him and WAS ever so subtly correcting his actions.

After a brief discussion about how much it bothered me to have to clean up the drippy toothbrush mess every day....and how much he was determined to leave it precariously propped every night (probably to spite me at that point), we dropped it and moved on with life.  After all, who has time for silly fights about dumb stuff like this when there are MUCH bigger fish to fry?

Oh wait.  I do!  After all, I was right.


Even though he specifically asked me to leave his toothbrush alone at night, I continued to adjust it.  I would go into the bathroom to brush my teeth, pick up his toothbrush, shake off the drippy water, and put it back in the cup.  Or if I was feeling particularly snarky, I'd balance it the way he'd left it.  He would think it dripped off as he planned and I would know that I kept it from dripping all over the place & making a mess.  {Plus I got the satisfaction of feeling like I got my way no matter what.}

Tonight, as I saw his toothbrush in the holder, balanced & dripping everywhere, I grabbed my phone to take the pictures above.  I really intended to send them to my BFF to gripe about my husband's irritating toothbrush habit.  But as I took the 2nd picture, I remembered a talk at a MOPS meeting 10 years ago.  

The speaker, a woman who I've adored for years, a precious Godly lady who is such a hero to me, talked about her husband's annoying habit of leaving his shoes in the living room every night.  Much like my feelings about the drippy toothbrush, she grew irritated that he left his shoes there day after day, no matter how many times she asked him to pick them up and take them to his closet.  She tried subtle reminders.  She tried nagging.  Nothing changed his behavior.  She learned, though, that he really wasn't doing it to bug her.  He just forgot.  That bugged her even more because, she felt, that she had a million things to take care of every day with their 3 young children, and somehow SHE could remember to pick up his shoes every day.  So why couldn't he?

And then her perspective changed.  She was convicted one day that her husband worked hard for their family.  She thought about how he got up early every morning and tip toed around the house, trying not to wake the children too early.  He spent hours every day doing a difficult job to make ends meet and to provide a few little luxuries along the way.  She thought about how her husband had chosen to work where he did at least partly to provide her a way to stay home with their children in their early years.  She considered how he always remembered her birthday and their anniversary and sent flowers now and then.  She thought about how tired he was at the end of every day, but he still came home and helped with their kids and allowed her a night off now & then to do something with her girlfriends.  And suddenly, she realized that if all she needed to do was pick up his shoes every day & carry them to his closet for him, it was the least she could do.  After all, it was such a small thing.  It took her less than a minute to walk them from the living room to their bedroom.  They weren't heavy.  She was going into the bedroom a dozen times each evening anyway, so why not carry his shoes with her on the way?  You see, she realized that it really was less of an issue that she "had to" carry his shoes to the closet...and more like she "got to" help her husband by doing this one small act of kindness.

I remember listening to my friend talk that day, thinking of all the ways I could serve Larry graciously with small acts of kindness.  After all, he was working hard to provide for our family and deserved a little pampering in the evenings after work.  I took her message to heart that day and began looking for ways to help Larry out.

But I guess over the years with the kids growing and my returning to full time work and changing responsibilities and money and stress and well.....all the things that change over the years.....I suppose I forgot that lesson my friend spoke so eloquently about all those years ago.

So tonight, as I shook the water out of his toothbrush & stood it up with a bit more force than was probably required, I paused and remembered the lesson of walking shoes to the closet.

Is this drippy toothbrush thing really THAT big of a deal?  Does it take longer than 2 seconds to clean it up when it drips?  And so what if it drips?  Is it really so important to make my husband feel like I am treating him like a little kid?  If I do shake it off & return it to the cup, balanced on the edge, can I do it with a heart of service and as a way to help him out rather than with a snippy attitude and an eye roll?

Tonight, I choose to serve my sweetie.  I choose to love him and help him out without feeling obligated to tell him how I fixed it for him again.  I choose to quietly honor him and leave his toothbrush alone.  I choose to wait til morning & wipe up the drips without complaint.

Are there shoes you need to carry to the closet tonight?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Year of Dates: November 2013

Tonight Larry & I had our November date for the Year of Dates we've been doing.

I got a bag of chips earlier this week & 2 small jars of queso (so we could have a choice of varieties).  In the Fall of last year when I was creating our year of dates, I bought this couple's question book set on Amazon.  It was used, but all we had to do was use a different color ink to answer the questions for us.

Each book is like a notepad which pages of questions.  The books are made to be used like a game.  You're supposed to answer the questions about each other to determine which of you knows the other best.  Rather than playing it like a game, we just answered the questions & discussed our choices.  The questions were fun ones.  Questions about the personality of your spouse, their movie/TV choices, foods/drinks they like, hobbies and all sorts of things.  They were all PG rated fun questions.

This afternoon, I packed a bag with our queso, chips & books of questions and we headed to the lake for a while to spend some quiet time together.

The weather was so pretty and it was very peaceful.

Of course when the mosquitoes started attacking us, we decided it was time to pack things up & get out of there.  Yes, mosquitoes.  In the last half of November.  ha ha!  Remember, we live in Texas.  After one last quick picture, our usual date self portrait picture, it was time to go home.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Playing catch up!

(Sorry...I know.  It's cheesy.  But it makes me grin & this is my blog.)
For the handful of readers who are faithful here, I'm sorry that I've been neglecting the blog lately.  Like every year, the Fall is super crazy busy at our house.  I just forget about updating the blog when I get really busy.  It's when there is down time, when life slows down, that I remember to write.  I'm off work today so I wanted to take a few minutes to update you on us.

Savannah was accepted to a college we visited this summer.  She is really excited about what her school year will look like next year.  And so are we!  You know, except for all the financial aide paperwork & scholarship applications we will be filling out between now and then!  ha ha!  One way or the other, we'll make it work!  Aside from the promise of college next year, she is doing well.  She is working at Chick Fil A, working hard as the editor of the school newspaper, taking 2 AP classes this year, serving in the nursery and with a special needs elementary kiddo at the church and babysitting on the side.  She stays busy.

Samuel is in 8th grade this year. He is doing well in school (mostly).  He is in the debate team and regularly 'practices' his ahem...debating home.  He's really good at it.  (snicker, snicker)  He chose to take theater this year instead of being in athletics (football, basketball & track).  While I know he is really good at actually performing in theater, the class he ended up in is basically a Theater 101 type of class where they don't actually do plays.  They just learn about how the theater works, the technical side of things, etc.  He is bored stiff.  Fortunately this is just a 1 semester class, so he'll move onto something else in January.  He can't wait.  Even though he is not in athletics, he said that the coaches have told him that he can try out for track.  I'm not sure yet how all that will work, but he is planning to do that when the time comes.  Last year, he tried out for the school mascot & those try outs interfered with track season try outs, so he is really excited about doing track this time around.  Sam is helping out at church this year, too, and I am really proud of him.  On Sunday mornings, he often helps with the tech stuff in the children's church room or he assists the lady who works in the kitchen serving coffee & tea to everyone.  On Wednesday nights, he runs the sound board for the youth group.  It is great to see him have his own niche.

Sarah is in 7th grade and growing up way too fast.  I see her developing into a more mature (and sassy) teenager all the time.  (Even though she won't actually be a teenager til February!)  It's funny how kids at this age can be so grown up, but so immature at the same time.  So needy, yet so adept at taking care of themselves.  That's sort of where Sarah is right now.  While it's trying, I love this age.  It's fun to see the kids work through this time of their lives and become stronger, wiser, more grown up.  This year is Sarah's 2nd year in the band.  She plays clarinet & really enjoys it.  She loves to watch the high school band & discuss how it will be when she gets there.  She is otherwise doing well in school and is looking forward to the Spring semester when she can try out and participate in UIL events again!

Larry is doing well.  I can't really say too much about his job online, but rest assured he enjoys his position in law enforcement investigations.  I am tickled to say that, as 2013 draws to a close, he's requested that I give him the same gift for Christmas that I gave him last year!  If you don't recall, last year I gave him a year of pre-planned dates.  We have had a lot of fun this year going on our monthly dates.  Some have cost us as little as $5 & others were a little more elaborate.  But they were all figured out ahead of time so that when the 1st of each month rolled around, all we had to do was pull out the envelope for that month & put it on the calendar.  I really enjoy being creative & coming up with fun gifts like this for him so it is a win-win for both of us!

I am doing great as well.  Since August, I have been working for a local junior high as a special education inclusion aide.  I move from 6th grade math to 6th grade english to 7th grade math to 8th grade history throughout the day, assisting different children with their work.  Some days I feel especially useful.  Other days I delight in seeing them doing well even without help!  It's a great job and the people I work with are precious!  I am content and happy to be there.  One day, at some point down the line I would still love to be able to work back in the town where we live--and one day the perfect job will come open, but for now I am happy and comfortable where I am.

It was one year ago this month that I was given the news I would be losing my job at the law office.  I think November 19 will always represent that day for me.  It was the most terrifying, scary day.  I have the greatest sympathy for people who are laid off now.  I will be spending extra time on my knees this holiday season for those facing the same fate.

This morning I had a doctor's appointment (just an annual check up).  I had planned to go on to work afterward if I could get done by lunchtime.  You never know with this doctor's office if you'll be in & out in under an hour or if you'll sit for 2-3 hours waiting.  I was done with the appointment by 9:45 this morning, but my tummy was a little upset this morning, so I opted to take the rest of the day off.  Savannah had a stomach bug yesterday, so I figured it was a good idea to stay home & not risk it.  It's 12:15.  Time for me to go watch a couple episodes of Big Bang Theory!  Have a great day!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Year of Dates: October

Our October date was today!  Yep, that's right...just a matter of HOURS after the September date!  Our date this month was mini golf & pizza.  We had so much fun!!

We went to our local Putt-Putt for our golf game.

If you know my husband at all, you know that it was just a matter of moments after our arrival when the inappropriate jokes began.  (Ok, I'll admit it.  If you know me well, you know I was actually the first one to make a joke.)

For you Texas folks in your mid 30s-mid 40s, you'll be happy to know that Putt-Putt still has this sticker on their door.  Man...I wish I still had my D-FY-IT card from 1989!  I could've saved some serious change today.  Ha Ha!

Our game was hilarious.  The wind was blowing like crazy so the balls kept blowing around.  I had a hair tie in my purse so I had yank my hair up into a ponytail to keep it out of my face.  Neither of us are any good at mini golf, so it was a blast to make up new rules as we went.  Did you know that if the ball is still moving, you can stop it with your foot whack it back in the opposite direction without losing a stroke?  And in case you didn't know, golf played like pool, pinball or hockey is way more fun than regular golf!  Try knocking your opponent's ball off course or away from the hole for extra points.

On the final hole, Larry climbed up on the platform, got down on his hands & knees and used his putter like a pool cue.  I love this crazy man!

The standard date picture....pardon the weird angle & windblown hair.  I couldn't delete this though....Larry is actually smiling!!!  He hates pictures, so this one was a winner!

Inside the golf place, there are a bunch of really OLD video games.  Half of them have out of order signs that have probably been there since 1993.  I wish I had a pocketful of quarters to waste on this one!
I was red & he was blue.  (Um, yeah...we covered that in the jokes mentioned above.)

My favorite hole at the course!

My attempt at an artsy golf picture with my cell phone.  ha ha!

 The butterflies on these flowers on the course were so pretty.

And of course, the standard concrete animals to watch our golf game!

 The sight of our romantic date night dinner

I can hardly believe our Year of Dates is almost over, but lucky for me, Larry has requested the same date again this year for Christmas!  I'm already planning next October's date!!