Monday, December 27, 2010

Our First Christmas

I can't believe Christmas is over already. Some years it seems like I wait forever and ever for Christmas to come. This year, I feel like it was here before I had hardly waited at all. Nevertheless, Christmas week was special and fun. I've had a blast with my kids, since they've been out of school since the 20th. We built gingerbread houses, went ice skating, watched cartoons (the real ones, like Mickey Mouse and Betty Boop) and the family even had Daniel and I over for dinner one evening. I'll blog about them later, but I am so glad to have such a wonderful family to work with this year.

Tuesday we went to a live nativity with Michael, Maura and their parents, and then came home and watched The Nativity. I love watching that movie, because it realizes the humanity of Christ. It was a good reminder as we prepared for our holiday.

Thursday was our designated "Christmas" day. I woke up and couldn't wait for the end of the day to come, so we could open our presents and enjoy an evening together. After work was done, the house was clean, and the packing finished I lit some candles, spread a blanket on the family room floor, and we nestled down to open our presents.

Stuffed stockings were our first and favorite part!

300+ page encyclopedia to help us solve all the mysteries
He wanted a scarf for Christmas

Most men drink beer in frosted mugs, my man uses his for milk :)
Daniel surprised me with an ESV study Bible-- "So you don't have to ask me so many questions anymore." Psh, yeah right. :)
Tim Keller -- Yes!
Friday morning we got out of the house by 6:00AM, and had a non-stop flight up to Michigan. Before 11:00AM I was covered in hugs and kisses. It was so wonderful to see my family again, after four whole months apart. The little girls have matured so much, and all the boys are growing up. Sunday my mom's mom and her husband, Paul arrived, as well-- and we haven't seen them since the wedding, so the whole weekend was a great reunion!

Making a gingerbread village Friday afternoon

Aliza and Anna working on a puzzle with Danny
pretty girl <3
"Here, let me hold my baby sister."

Christmas Eve my parents hosted a Christmas Eve party for their neighborhood friends. It was quiet a success. The last of the guests left way after bedtime, and by the time we got the house cleaned up we were all more than ready to fall into bed. Aliza, who was my sleeping buddy before the wedding, was so excited to go to bed with me again, and refused to be tucked in by anyone else -- despite drooping, heavy eyes. She snuggled into a nook in the kitchen while I washed dishes, and tried her best to stay awake.

Aliza and I snuggled into a twin bed, with our pillowpets under our heads and fell fast asleep. Around 8AM we both started to stir, and then Aliza sat straight up in bed, "IT'S CHRISTMAS!!!" I scooped her up and we ran downstairs to a lit Christmas tree, and smiling parents.

With the scent of hot cinnamon rolls filling the house it didn't take long for the rest of the group to wake up and gather 'round the tree. Then, we began the process of opening presents-- which takes quite a while in our house!

Christmas Morning
The last little detail of our weekend is Angela and Peter's Loxley. Half rottweiler, half coon dog, he is quiet the character. We all love him. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Our Wedding Album from Blurb

As wedding gifts to our parents we (ok, I... Daniel just watched sometimes) made wedding albums from We were very happy with the finished product, so I've been working on a larger album for us. I've finally finished! And Blurb has this neat feature that allows you to "share" your album with whomever you wish. I'm not trying to sell it, but it is a complete collection of our favorite wedding pictures, so maybe someone wants to look at it. :-P

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On Assurance of Faith unto Salvation

"It is ever the Holy Spirit's work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan's work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you'll never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of His children; you have such a wavering hold on Jesus.” All these are thoughts about self, and we will never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.” Remember, therefore, it is not your hold on Christ that saves you — it is Christ; it is not your joy in Christ that saves you — it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument — it is Christ's blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to your hand with which you are grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to your hope, but Jesus, the source of your hope — look not to your faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. We will never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “looking unto Jesus.” Keep your eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh on your mind; when you wake in the morning look to Him; when you lie down at night look to Him. Oh! let not your hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail you."
 -C.H. Spurgeon

Monday, December 13, 2010

Our First Christmas Tree

Saturday morning we slept in way late, had homemade waffles, fresh blueberries and oranges. We watched a movie in bed, and simply enjoyed a lazy morning. But! Then we headed out and bought our Christmas tree!

I don't think I've ever bought a Christmas tree in 55 degree weather before, but there is a first time for everything. As far as the weather goes, it has been getting cooler, and even cold the past couple of weeks. Every night it's below freezing, and several days last week it was in the high twenties. No snow yet, though. We'll probably get our inch in January, and the whole city will shut down for 2 days.

I wanted to get a locally grown tree, to support the local farmers, and because I think they're just healthier in the long run. (Two Christmases my family got a tree from Home Depot and it was dead in a couple of weeks.)

I laughed when I read the sign more closely. Charlotte is so not hillbilly territory.

We had already decided we wanted a short, small Christmas tree. We don't have a lot of space for anything else in our apartment, and we didn't want to put a lot of money into anything, especially since we'll be visiting family on Christmas day anyway. This little thing was the first one we saw: it was love at first sight. (My husband would give me a look if he knew I was equating our Christmas tree with love) But it looked so cute in the back of our Hyundai, and Daniel even had fun carrying it into the house. :)

I must confess I did most of the decorating. He helped put the lights on, and then lost interest. We're trying to keep things simple and cheap this year, so I only bought a package of bulbs from the dollar section at Target, and strung some popcorn. Someday I want a big, gorgeous tree with red ribbon and bulbs and a shining star on top. For this year, I am more than delighted with our little tree.

Daniel's parents gave us this ornament last year for Christmas
Simple, traditional stockings.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Me? A Pastor's Wife?

Ok. Most everyone knows by now I had two silly preferences for my future husband. I say silly because they most certainly were not necessary, and I don't think I ever counted on them too much. In fact, I'm pretty sure it was my sister and a close friend who reminded me I'd hoped for them for longer than we could remember. I don't know when I "decided" these, but the fact that I ended up getting both of them in one man is at least worth a laugh.

I wanted to marry a redhead.


(And who would have thought a redhead with brown eyes? Ah! They're the best.)

And I wanted to marry a preacher.


But now as this reality grows closer and closer every day I confess I feel ill-prepared at times. Me? A pastor's wife? This year of preparation has been a blessing! The Holy Spirit has certainly been convicting and refining me in my ways, and helping me to grow and mature. I know, you read my blog and you can't tell-- He's not finished yet!

Daniel has been applying to churches and different ministries. He has a list of churches to apply to every couple of weeks. Some we've gotten excited about, some we've even prayed for a door to open. Most though, are just opportunities. Daniel is an ARP at heart. He always will be, I think. But several godly men have advised him to consider bigger branches of the Presbyterian church, just for starters. I may end up back in the PCA after all! But quite honestly, we just don't know. How could we? Even the next six months are a toss up for us. Graduation is in May. We're bound to be here until then, but we could have plans to move to a whole new city, a whole new state the week after graduation. Or, we could end up working in Charlotte another 12 months before being placed anywhere. It's so unsure we don't even know what to do about our renter's agreement that will be up in February.

So now, as I look towards the new role I'll be taking on, some day, in God's timing, I realize He is teaching me (again) the importance of waiting on Him. Waiting with palms up, as someone once told me. Palms up so that we are ready to receive whatever God gives us, whenever He chooses to give it.

Daniel has been the intern at a local Presbyterian church since the beginning of seminary. The men that he has been surrounded by have shaped and influenced him in incredible ways. He even told me a couple months ago that if it weren't for those men the first couple months of our marriage would have been nasty! But the entire church has been an instrument of sanctification in both of our lives. I came from a very mixed congregation in Ohio. Young and old and youth were evenly dispersed for the most part. Unfortunately, I did not use that opportunity to mingle with different age groups, but stayed safely aside with the kids (who are not kids now) my age and the little ones. At All Saints' I don't have an option-- the majority of our congregation is over 50. This has stretched me more than I wanted at times. It is incredibly awkward and rude to stand in the middle of the foyer, surrounded by people, yet not say a word! I've had to learn to break out of my comfortable shell and converse with real, live grown ups-- and without a baby on my hip as an easy distraction. Genuinely conversing with people, I am learning, is a long process. There are a handful a people I immediately connected with. Some who took a little more work. There are still a large majority whom I know I do not know enough about. 

So, God is teaching me in this preparation time how to connect and reach out to people-- in all ages and stages of life. This will be vital wherever God places us in ministry.
Setting aside time for a quiet Bible reading every day has not often been a struggle for me, but where my personal devotions most often fail is in my prayer time. The past six months as I've learned how to be a wife, live away from my parents and siblings, and friends, adjust to a new city, job and schedule, and still deal with the trials of every Christian's life, God has driven me over and over again to prayer. I have been convicted many times, What else can I possibly do buy pray? O, God knows I still fail daily. Yet, Daniel often reminds me that knowing you need to change is the first step to achieving it. A well-known pastor told someone once that when he visits a church the first thing he looks at in the Sunday bulletin is their weekly events. Is there at least one weekly prayer meeting? If there is, he trusts the unity and strength of the church. 

If prayer is then so important for a church, how much more important must it be for its leader and his family? I'm convicted I must be a woman of prayer if I am to be a Christian, but especially if I am to be a pastor's wife.

I didn't go to college. In fact, I spent more hours watching babies, and schooling kindergartners, than I did studying for my high school classes. I scored a 23 on the ACT because I didn't think to study for it until 11pm the night before. *laughs* And then I married a man who went to a private Christian college on nearly a full-ride with scholarships and a weighted GPA of 5.1. I married a man whose entire family has at least a bachelors degree, with several masters, and a PhD thrown in there too. I married a man who likes to spend time with his professors, and talk smart. 

The first time I met Paul Patrick, the pastor who gave the homily at our wedding, he sat us down in his living room and just asked questions. He asked me about my family, about my home church, about my conversion. And all I did was answer him. No pretenses, no thinking, really. Just simple, straight forward answers. Within an hour he somehow got to my heart, and with clear honesty he told me what he predicted to be a struggle of mine for the rest of my life. (Paraphrasing) "You are going to be married to a smart man. A man who went to college, and grad school, and whose colleagues and friends will have done the same thing. You are going to be tempted to feel like you're inadequate to be married to such a man. You're going to feel like you need to be more, or do more. But I want to tell you now, before any of those thoughts come, that when they do you need to chase them away, because from what I've heard you say tonight I know you are smart, and wise, and you love the Lord." Daniel and I had to sit through that little speech dumbfounded. He had hit the nail on the head. How many times had we talked about my feelings of inadequacy? We left his home later that evening and Daniel asked, "Has anyone ever told you what Paul told you tonight?" "No. Never." They are words of encouragement I will never forget.

The Lord is showing me how to find my definition, my meaning, in Christ alone. My life is not defined by my college degree, or the lack thereof. It's not going to be defined by how successful my husband's ministry is or isn't; or how many children we have. My life is not defined by how pretty I am, what I weigh, or what kind of clothes I wear. It's not defined by how much I exercise, how healthy I eat, or what I spend my time doing. It is certainly not defined by how religious I seem, how pious I appear, or how righteously I live my life. My life, the definition of my life, and the meaning I have in it is found only in Christ. "For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things." (Romans 11:36)

So, me? A pastor's wife? Yes! Absolutely. Whom God calls, he equips with the power of His spirit and the grace of His Son to see us to the end.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Unpacking Boxes of the Past

While going through some boxes of books that we have packed away I came across a box of my old journals. Among them was a poetry journal I kept for a very short time-- I am no poet! However, a certain poem stood out to me as I perused the pages of this book. I am sure the meter is all wrong, I have no idea how to grammatically write a poem-- so just read for amusement. The content was what was on my heart.

"Enough" by Ashlee Willeke
"A tale of old in the Garden of Edem
shows us the beautiful crown of creation.
It wasn't a flower, a star, or a dove--
God sent down for Adam a woman to love.
Helpmeet and lover, she was all he would need,
And through her beauty he'd cry
"You capitvate me!"

But Satan, the serpent, devised a plan.
He'd lie to the woman and destroy all her clan--
all the beautiful women who knew they were loved.
He'd lie to the crown, "You are never enough."
Broken and torn, shattered and sore,
Eve felt she would be forgotten.
Left out of place, alone, a disgrace
A failure to the one that she loved.
So, Eve made a choice to change all the world--
The serpent had won... or so it would seem.
But God had a planned He'd predestined to be.

Though Eve made a choice and failed the Lord
He had a plan to send down His Word.
The Prophet, the Priest, the glorified King,
The Shepherd and Savior, the angels did sing
of His sacrifice once upon the cross
to restore the heart that the woman had lost.
"My Darling," he says, "You captivate me
"Washed in my blood, how perfect you'll be!
"Look to my wounds, my hands and my feet--
"My side that was pierced
"Your heart's what I seek."

I don't clearly remember writing this, but I do remember more the period of my life where God taught me this principle. I've struggled all my life to do well at something, to excel. Somewhere before I was able to make a conscious decision (perhaps when I was five or six) I began hiding from things I did not initially succeed at, and if I had a natural talent for something I would not try too hard, because I feared the attention that would bring-- the attention that would make me nervous and fail again. I would not try too hard, lest I fail, let I lose, lest I get hurt. I was content to sing softly, to wear a mixed match outfit, to run slowly, to complain about my knees in gymnastics class, to ride the difficult horse, and even, into high school, not to study too hard, all so that I could be "safe"-- safe from criticism, and safe from too much praise. By the time I could understand this tendency of mine, it had already rooted itself in my life.

I have begun to understand the deepness of this issue of mine only recently as I have watched my little sister, Aliza grow into the spitting image of the little girl I was. Her attitudes and responses so often remind me of myself, and I can finally understand the fear that motivated me as a child, and shaped, for better and worse who I am today.

This poem spoke to me today because the lie that I listened to much of my life, and the lie that I still have a tendency to give ear to, is the same lie that has been whispered to woman since the beginning of time. "Don't you want to be like God?" He asks "Don't you want to have more wisdom?" "Don't you want to be better?" These lies hiss"You're not enough as you are."

But woman was good, very good in fact. She was the last thing that God created-- the crown of His beautiful creation. She was designed especially as He wished her to be.

Now, in a post-fall world Satan still breathes those lies. To me, and to all women. They manifest themselves in different forms. For me it's an ungodly fear of man. However, what we as women need to remember, is that in Christ we are more than enough. We do not fall short in any way. We cannot fail with Christ on our side. Our heavenly Father, our Maker, our Husband delights in us as we are. He delights in us so much that as we understand the depth of that our beauty grows and grows. We only become more lovely with time!

"You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God... you shall be called My Delight Is in Her..." ~Isaiah 62:3-4

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thanksgiving in San Antonio

I'm torn between two internet social worlds here. On the one hand I have this blog, which I like to record all the doings and sayings of our life; on the other I have Facebook, which is a record of my doings and all of my friends and acquaintances too. I put pictures up there and I don't feel like putting them up here. But if I ever deactivate my Facebook account, I think it'd be nice for this little blog to have the record of our Thanksgiving weekend. So, here tis. In pictures, mostly. :)

Our Thanksgiving Feast
Peas with pancetta, cranberry jello, baked sweet potatoes, grilled corn
Rebecca and Nathan are both excellent cooks. Our meal was certainly Thanksgiving dinner, but it had a unique flair. We also discovered the secret to a perfectly moist turkey: Bake him upside down! :)

Red-headed siblings :)

at the Alamo
Friday afternoon Daniel and I got to babysit our niece. We took her for a walk, played with her, gave her lunch and put her down for her nap, so Mommy and Daddy could get some Christmas shopping done.
That evening we four adults left Savannah with a sitter and went out to Nathan and Rebecca's favorite Mexican restaurant. We had authentic chicken fajitas, fresh (spicy) salsa and the best guac I've ever tasted. Then we headed to the San Antonio River Walk where we watched the river boat parade, saw the lighted Christmas tree, and the Alamo. I thought about Davy Crocket-- a favorite with several of my brothers for quite awhile. I liked it too-- and even learned his theme song on the piano. :-P

Saturday we visited the little town of Gruene (say Green), where antique shops abound and all the men wear cowboy hats and over-sized belt buckles.

Bundlin' up for a day out
tryin' to pull-off the country look

Some of the shops weren't very man-friendly. So the guys chilled outside, using Savannah as their excuse. :)
Rebecca, Nathan and Savannah
I only like roasted marshmallows, but this sign made me happy.

On the way home we stopped at a cute little cupcake shop. Rebecca and Nathan got the S'mores cupcake, we got the Peppermint one.

Overall, it was a great trip! We got to spend lots of time all together, visiting and just relaxing.