Friday, December 30, 2011

For My Husband. . . For My Pastor. . .

In 2012 and beyond. . .

. . . I pray that God will illuminate scripture to you daily in a way that dazzles your heart and captures your imagination.
. . . I pray for inexplicable amounts of energy when all factors indicate you should be tired--especially on Monday mornings. ;-)
. . . I pray that I will know how to encourage you every single day of the year, even if some days it's only in the smallest ways.
. . . I pray for beautifully refreshing rest when you need it most.
. . . I pray that God will show you fruit from your labor, but that you will not tire of the good work you're doing even if He chooses not to.
. . . I pray that your congregation will learn from you and you from them in a gorgeous picture of Acts 2 living.
. . . I pray that our children will grow and walk in faith throughout the year.
. . . I pray that your writing will inspire people to love Christ and the Gospel more.
. . . I pray that we will experience the kind of growth in our church that reflects more people having a deeper knowledge of Christ regardless of attendance.
. . . I pray for strong friendships with men of God who love you honestly and authentically.
. . . I pray for wisdom beyond your years and experience during counseling sessions with those who seem hopeless.
. . . I pray that you will get to see the rapturous freedom in someone's eyes the moment they realize who they are in Christ for the first time.
. . . I pray for protection over our family, especially when we are apart from each other.
. . . I pray that you will find joy and fulfillment in hard work, but also that you will have time to delight in play.
. . . I pray for quality alone time for us as a couple.
. . . I pray for quality together time for our family.
. . . I pray for safety in travel throughout the year.
. . . I pray that your words will be sure, confident, and Christ-honoring during conferences, radio interviews, and other similar experiences.
. . . I pray for your health--mental, physical, and emotional, but mostly spiritual.
. . . I pray that you will never stray from your stubborn desire to make the Gospel the center of all of your teaching.
. . . I pray for an uncanny ability to love difficult people.
. . . I pray for a multitude of encouragers (but not pride-builders) to surround you.
. . . I pray for moments that make you say/think "Look what Jesus did!" on a regular basis.
. . . I pray that the establishment of an elder board in our church will come to fruition with exactly the right men to lead us on toward the greater work God has for us here in Vermont/New England.
. . . I pray for lots of FUN throughout the year--in all different shapes and sizes and involving all kinds of people.
. . . I pray against doubt and fear.
. . . I pray against pride and self-absorption.
. . . I pray against anger and frustration.
. . . I pray for the fruits of the spirit to become more deeply rooted in you and more evident to others every single day.
. . . I pray that I will be worthy of my calling to walk beside you in this ministry (ONLY by the grace of God).
. . . I THANK GOD for giving you to me and me to you.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Good List 12-28-11

10. The crunch of leaves and branches underfoot during a winter hike.
9. Old school Concentration. We used to play this game all the time when my sisters and I were little. Jody found one online that she got my Mom for Christmas. It's amazing the memories it brought back. So fun!

8.  Mom's seafood gumbo and shrimp poboys. YUM!
7. The Help. I read the book several months ago, but just watched the movie during the holidays. Both were terrible and wonderful all at once.
6. Having Peyton and Leah here to fix/play with my hair over and over again. I strongly considered holding them hostage. ;-)
5. 10 cousins playing in the snow.

4. Late night giggles with my whoooole family!!!
3. Macy and Jared snuggling together to watch It's a Wonderful Life repeatedly. Macy has developed quite a crush on Jimmy Stewart. :-D
2. The family band is well underway. A green ukulele for Macy. A blue one for Grace. And a cajon each for Ty and Jack. Nice!

1. I just booked a plane ticket for my Mom to come back and see us in the spring. This softens the blow of the Christmas holidays ending a little bit. Love you so much, Mom!!! Can't wait for spring break!!!

Sound Bytes

On the off chance that there are actually 2 or 3 people outside of my immediate family who read this blog, I should go ahead and warn you to probably just skip this post. It won't make any sense to those who weren't present for the recent few days of shenanigans and tomfoolery. It might not even make sense to those who were present. You're welcome for the warning. :-D

Jody: "These questions are easy." Dad: "No, they're not easy. They're hard. I'm just smart."

Vickie: "Jody is the one who's always singing ridiculousness."

Mom: "Funk and Farkle." Becky: "MOM! That sounds dirty and inappropriate. It needs to wait until later."

Jody, in response to Leah's less-than-thrilledness at being up late: "Leah! Go to bed, Raincloud!"

Becky: "That's not Pi. That's Stone Henge."

Peyton: "I can't believe y'all are actually playing a game you have to *think* about."

After everyone told Jon his answer was a good guess, Dad said: "How is that a good answer? It was wrong!"

Jon: "Don't be surprised at my smartness."

In response to the following question, "What microsoft plug-in delivers high quality audio and video to web browsers?" Mom: "Extension cord."

Amy (somewhere in the neighborhood of 184 times, but I lost count): "I'm sorry. What was the question?"

"Ummmmm. . . . . are you new?"

Amy: "Guys, I hate to be needy here, but does anyone know where I can find a pillow?" Jared: "Wait. Is that like Methvin code for some kind of female problem?"

Vickie, to her two oldest children: "Why are y'all sitting so close together? It's weird."

Josh to Leah, while we were playing a game during which the object is to accumulate the fewest points: "Leah, you have more points than the combined total of everyone else playing this game."

Jody: "Daddy, you do you."

Becky: "Dad is quite the tidy-er."

Dylan (who just turned 3): "Out of my way, you!"

When Dad said he didn't know the answer to the question, "What playwright wrote Romeo and Juliet?" Amy verbally assaulted him and said, "And you have a college degree?!" To which Dad very calmly replied, "Yep. In petroleum engineering. Shakespeare never came up."

Leah: "Y'all are more fun with margaritas."

There you go, Vick. Remind me of the ones I forgot. . . . .

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Good List 12-21-11

10. Drew Brees on Sesame Street. Could there be anything more adorable?
9. Serving breakfast for dinner. There is something so very cozy about it. I don't really know why.
8. The brilliant moonlight reflecting off of a snowy landscape. It's CRAZY how bright it can be! So magical and romantic and sexy.
7. Patriot Place. The perfect little occasional getaway place.
6. Fleece sheets. These are to the outside of my body exactly what the perfect cup of coffee is to the inside of my body. Plus mine are the color of chocolate, so it's almost too much awesomeness for a single scenario. :-D
5. THIS! I cannot wait!!!

4. The homemade doggy biscuits Macy made for Indi and Charlie. She couldn't bear to leave them out. So sweet.

3. Some of my favorite people in the world welcome Grandbaby #3 in May 2012. Congratulations to Kim and Dale Carr and also their daughter Molly and her husband Bryan on the birth of their FIRST sweet baby! 
2. The Maywalds are almost here!!! Project Vermont Christmas is coming together quite nicely. Quite nicely indeed. :-D
1. A nice, long day of shopping and giggling with Mom and Jody yesterday. So much giggling. . . 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Beautiful Hands

I have a thing about hands. Always have. I remember as a relatively young child making a comment to my Memaw about how soft and pretty her hands were. She chuckled and assured me that her old, worn, hard-working hands were anything but soft and pretty, but I remember disagreeing with her. My limited vocabulary most likely intended words more like "tender" or "gentle" and "noble" or "gracefully strong," but what made sense to me at the time was "soft" and "pretty." My Memaw on the other hand saw rough, unpampered hands that had worked hard for decades with extremely limited resources and zero luxuries. Memaw raised 6 children. She cooked, sewed, cleaned, gardened, and did everything else a family of 6 children and a husband required of her. And I can almost guarantee she never got a manicure or owned any expensive lotion. But still there was something about her hands. They held love, care, tenderness, a certain kind of beauty. To me, even as a young child, they were "pretty" even though they were probably not attractive by worldly standards.

I was reminded of this a few days ago when I was reaching for lotion after washing my 4th or 5th sink full of dishes on one of my "cook all day" kind of days. It occurred to me that my hands really aren't much to look at. They were feeling awfully rough and dry after the work I had been doing that day. And even when that isn't happening, they're chubby and stubby and scarred and bearing the consequences of washing dishes 3 times a day most days. You'll never see them pictured in a lotion ad or featured on a poster in a nail salon. But I'm ok with that, because I'm finding that when I think of beautiful hands these days, I'm much more drawn to the ones that evidence their work and service much like my Memaw's did. The story written in experienced hands inspires and encourages me far more richly than a pretty picture of a smooth, manicured hand ever will. Not that there's anything wrong with having model hands. :-D But mine are not. So I'm just hoping that maybe one day they will tell a beautiful story.

Young ladies, one day you will likely look down and realize your hands aren't so young anymore. When that happens, don't be sad. Remember with joy every dish you washed, every tear you wiped away, every diaper you changed, and every scar you created while preparing a meal for someone. This is why God gave us hands. To love and serve. Use them well for that purpose and be proud of what they accomplish and the story they tell. This is true beauty. And if they happen to be attractive too, well then that's just a bonus.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Good List 12-14-11

10. Smoked salmon flatbread wrap with arugula, goat cheese and caramelized onions. Yes. Pretty sure I could eat this every day if I could afford to.
9. Shopping in my pajamas on my couch with a huge mug of coffee by my side and having everything delivered to my door. So excellent.
8. Disney's Prep and Landing. Fantastic.
7. The winter moon is typically framed right in the center of my kitchen window when I'm preparing and/or cleaning up after dinner. This makes me a special kind of happy and "settled" in my heart.

6. Will Arnett in "Up All Night." Brilliant.
5. Reading Christmas picture books with Jack and Dylan. It's fun to be reminded how much I love this.
4. The Barn restaurant. Jared and I have had a gift certificate to this place for over a year. We finally used it last weekend, and it was fantastic. Excellent food. Warm, cozy setting. Wonderful service. The only thing we'll do differently next time is make reservations to sit by the fireplace!
3. Scrumptious, chubby little toddler hands and feet. I simply adore them.

2. I happened upon Macy's favorite locket and opened it up to find my Memaw's picture. Stirred my heart to tears. Macy didn't know her very long, but somehow she has always felt a strong bond to her. Precious.

1. Getting to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" at the historic Paramount Theatre. An old, black and white, Christmas movie on a big screen in a theatre that was built in 1912. Kind of like a fairy tale for me. :-D

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Prayer Time 12-13-11

"Christ chargeth me to believe His daylight at midnight." --Samuel Rutherford

When I first read this, I read it to say, "Christ changeth me to believe His daylight at midnight." I think that's equally true, but not without a great deal of time at the feet of Jesus.

And with that in mind, what might I bring to Him on your behalf while I'm there today? Please feel free to leave prayer requests in the comments field. Comments on this post will not be published publicly for the sake of those concerned with privacy.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Simple Pleasures

He could have made every food taste the same. Simple manna. Just what we need to sustain us, but not necessarily anything to enjoy or savor. But He didn't. Thank you, Lord, for. . .
. . .tender, flavorful shrimp and scallops
. . .rich, luxurious chocolate
. . .fresh, fragrant breads
. . .plump, ripe, scrumptiously sweet strawberries
. . .oils and vinegars and spices that combine to create nothing short of a party for my palate

He could have made the moon look exactly the same every night. But He didn't. Thank you, Lord, for each of these:

He could have made the landscape purely functional. Big uniform square blocks of brown dirt suitable for providing the things we need to sustain life but completely uninteresting to look at. But he didn't. Thank you, Lord, for. . . 
. . .majestic green and snow-capped mountains
. . .sprawling corn fields
. . .lazy, winding rivers
. . .powerful, rushing waterfalls
. . .warm, sandy beaches
. . .rocky, lighthouse-clad coastlines

He sure didn't have to bother with all those seasons. But He did. Thank you, Lord, for. . .




And Winter.

He could have made flowers nothing more than pollen containers--all the same color, size and shape. Fuel for the bees; pointless for the humans. But He didn't. Thank you, Lord, for. . .

. . .yellow roses
. . .pink peonies
. . .purple petunias
. . .tiny forget-me-nots
. . .gigantic sunflowers
. . .clustered bunches of hydrangeas
. . .individual tulips in a vast array of vivid colors

Simple pleasures. None of them necessary to live. Gifts from God, who delights in our joy. Thank you, Lord, for the lavish and creative ways you love us!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Entitlement vs. Gratitude

"Gratitude is a beautiful thing. There is no Christianity without it. It is at the heart of worship. It should fill the heart of every believer."  --John Piper

Last week during Ladies' Bible Study, we touched on this topic just a bit as an extension of a "Vending Machine God" discussion. We agreed that pretty much every person has a tendency to treat God like a vending machine, expecting that if we do a, b and c, He should give us exactly what we want and deserve. This is flawed logic for so many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that none of us *really* want what we deserve. But on the other hand, God does give us amazing gifts every single day that we should enjoy. And this is just as difficult for some as avoiding entitlement mentality. Many struggle with feeling guilty over enjoying common graces like a nice meal out or a new pair of boots, etc. There is constant tension in the Christian life between these two extremes, and if we were to poll 10,000 people as to how often we should eat out, buy new things, etc, we would likely get 10,000 different opinions. The truth is that there are way too many factors to set hard and fast rules as to how this should look specifically for every single family. But certainly there are diagnostic concepts we can examine to figure out where we land on the spectrum.

Those who eat out more often than they prepare meals at home and then complain about more of the meals than they compliment might have an entitlement problem.

Those who "redecorate" their homes every 2 years and find that it is never quite what they want it to be might have an entitlement problem.

Those who find themselves angry with people who don't serve them perfectly might have an entitlement problem.

Those who exceed their budget each month or even find themselves going into debt for unnecessary items (but things that they *really* want!) might have an entitlement problem.

You see the pattern, I'm sure.

But don't misunderstand. I'm not condemning eating out, redecorating, or even enjoying good customer service. My point is that we should examine the condition of our hearts in regards to these things. If we see them as gifts, we are much more likely to be grateful for them, and gratitude and entitlement can't live in the same heart at the same time.

Since it's Christmastime, let's consider the following example:

Little Sammy gets up early Christmas morning to open up his gifts. None of these things are items he particularly "needs." They are gifts from people who love him and enjoy making him smile. When he opens the gifts, he is happy and thankful. He hugs all of the givers and tells them how much he appreciates their gifts. In the following weeks and months, he takes care of the items and uses them as they were intended, and each one brings him great joy. I'm guessing no one sees a problem with this scenario.

Now let's change it up a bit. Little Sammy gets the exact same gifts as mentioned in the above scenario, but rather than hug or thank anyone, he wants to know why there isn't more. He whines about one of the items being the wrong color and cries because another item isn't fun to play with unless he has 3 other items to go with it. He mentions to each of the givers that he gave them a list of everything he wanted and wonders why they didn't just follow the list. And in the following weeks and months, he doesn't take care of the items and doesn't even use them since they weren't exactly what he asked for. The givers are the same, and all of the items are the same. But this scenario is basically a disaster. Why? The only difference is the condition of the recipient's heart.

Certainly there are examples of excess all throughout our culture, and many of us are guilty of pursuing and expecting things that we shouldn't. But sometimes there are material things and experiences in our lives that I believe God intends for us to receive and enjoy as good gifts from Him with the kind of gratitude that expels any and all thoughts of entitlement. We don't deserve anything good. At all. So let's choose to be grateful when we get it anyway. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Movies

I'm sure we're not alone in our annual December tradition to make sure we watch a certain list of Christmas movies at least once each throughout the season, right? So I have a question-- What are your MUST see Christmas movies every year? Our list is pretty long, but I just want to make sure we aren't missing any. Tell me what you have to watch every year to make your Christmas season complete. Maybe I'll add a few to our list and start even earlier next year. :-D

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Good List 12-7-11

10. Rosemary and Olive Oil Triscuits. Y'all. Go to them. I promise they will not disappoint.
9. The Muppets. We tried to see it Thanksgiving weekend, but it was sold out. Just one week later, we shared the theatre with only 3 other people. So I guess Vermonters *only* see movies on Thanksgiving weekend. ;-) Either way, it was a great film.
8. A big ol' stack of Christmas cards, all addressed, stamped and ready to go.
7. The sense of humor of some of my "friends." Check out this little gem I got in the mail last week. No.

6. Overripe bananas and the role they play in baking various healthy and yet still fabulously delicious treats. (Pumpkins play a similar role.)
5. The lead character in the new Disney animated film Brave. I LOVE her crazy, wild, brilliantly red hair!
4. Homemade cookies. I would pretty much choose these over just about any dessert in the entire world. I guess I'll never be able to be a food snob. ;-) 

3. That feeling of being snuggled way down deep in my warm, comfy bed with no need to turn on the alarm clock. Sleep late Saturdays rule.
2. The fact that Jody and Jon recruited the entire Middletown Fire Department to help hang Christmas lights on our church. Gotta love small towns. ;-)
1. This guy.

He loves me so much, it doesn't even make sense. But I love him more, and somehow that makes perfect sense to me. ;-)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Prayer Time 12-6-11

It's a good day to pray. Let me know if there is anything I can lift up on your behalf. Comments on this post will not be published publicly for the sake of those concerned with privacy.

"But we will devoted ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." --Acts 6:4

Friday, December 2, 2011

Quick Reminder

What you and I *deserve* is eternal death and separation from God in the form of hell. Anything we get that is better than that (which is basically everything) is a blessing.

Let's adjust our perspective and expectations accordingly.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

More Than Just Photos on a Page. . . So Much More

Three years ago, my ever-growing family decided it was time to simplify our Christmas traditions. I am 1 of 4 daughters, and together we have 10 children, and we all LOVE Christmas in a way that could very easily turn to excess. So in an effort to guard against that, to be financially responsible, and to free a portion of our budget for giving outside of our families, we made some pretty big changes in 2008 which have proven to be huge blessings to us in every way we expected and even many we did not. I may talk more about the whole big picture of this a little later, but today I want to focus on just one of our new traditions.

As my Mom and sisters and I were talking through what our new practices should look like, one of the questions we had to ask is, "What is it that we really even *want* for Christmas? Do we really want to keep trading gift cards and sweaters and DVDs and soon-to-bo-obsolete electronics?" The answer was no. What we decided was most important to us was togetherness. Participating in each other's lives. Communicating. Sharing pictures and stories and adventures. Geographically, this can sometimes be difficult. When we first started this conversation, my family was living in Nashville, TN while everyone else was in Texas, so frequent physical proximity just wasn't an option. Now, my family AND my youngest sister's family live in Vermont (YAY!!!!!), so it's even more difficult to be physically together as an entire family on a regular basis. BUT--we are a creative bunch (or so we'd like to think), and some of us are stubborn :-D, so we were undeterred in our pursuit of this goal. And this is my favorite part of the solution:

Each year I and all of my sisters each create a digital scrapbook--a "yearbook" if you will--which offers a glimpse into what that year looked like for our family. Through this year, each book was 100 pages of kids growing up, family trips and adventures, holiday celebrations, etc. (but we recently discovered you can now add additional pages, so I'm guessing the books will get a little fatter next year. :-D) We work on them throughout the year (or some of us cram and frantically do the entire thing 2 days before ordering. . .), and then when they are all finished, my Mom orders 2 of each book--1 for each family and then a full set for her to keep. This is the only gift the adults receive, and it is a greater treasure to me than anything I can ever remember opening up on Christmas morning. And not just because of what it *is*, but much more because of what it *does.* 

For me, this practice has been a life-changer in so many ways. First, it changes the way I take pictures. Which might sound silly, but for one who is passionate about photography, this idea greatly impacts my thought processes and behavior with my camera (which I spend a LOT of time with, so that's a good thing.) I'm so much more deliberate now. Every picture bears the potential to tell a story, to draw my 2000-miles away parents and sisters and nieces and nephews into my life and the lives of my children. I love the way this shapes my thoughts toward the way we spend our time.

Additionally, this has become an incredibly fun way to spend time with my sisters even when we are across the country from each other. We can all log in at the same time and work on our books while chatting together online. We can copy from each other's books, share pictures, etc. Some of my favorite conversations with my oldest sister have happened in the middle of the night (or early morning to be more accurate) as we share pictures and stories and record life events together. One click of the mouse instantly shrinks the distance between us. So awesome. 

And finally, these books are becoming my love letters to my children. Certainly they are filled with all sorts of silly and fun and not necessarily deeply meaningful pictures (and hopefully they always will be), but as we strive to turn our lives more and more toward pursuing Christ, I am equally hopeful that it will be impossible not to see the thread of faith woven throughout the pages. I don't mean that the fun and silliness will decrease. I sure hope not! And I don't mean there will be scripture and really bad morose pictures of Jesus on every page (since that's about the only kind you can find ;-). I just mean that Christ would be evident in the patterns of our lives. The way we spend time together and with others. The activities we choose to participate in. The pursuits that capture our imaginations and draw our attention. You know. . . . Matthew 6:21 stuff. One of these days when my girls have a stack of 15 or 20 of these to flip through, I hope they will see that we treasure Christ. Very imperfectly for sure, but I hope in such a way that leads them to do the same.

And with that said, here is my 3rd installment in this library of legacy--