Friday, September 30, 2011

First Gift for Baby

Mom's just know, don't they? They know how to brighten your day, say I love you in a thousand different ways, and show you over and over again how special you are.

A little nerve-racking to think of what I have to live up to, sometimes. ;)

"Grandma" sent a present to Baby recently. Baby can't enjoy it yet, but this mama sure does. It made me giggle out loud, and sigh and "aw" and smile all evening. Really, to come home to a package addressed to "Baby Wells c/o Ashlee Wells" - how could it not make my evening all the brighter?

Thanks Mom Grandma!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Salvation Mathematics

About the only thing I like about math is that you can always count on there being only one right answer. 2+2 = 4, not 5, not 3, not 10. That works well for me, a mostly black-and-white kind of person.

Have you ever thought about salvation in mathematical terms? what + what = salvation?

It's simple right? Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us

God's grace + NOTHING = Salvation

But we humans are really good at second-guessing, aren't we? Sometimes, from a human perspective, that equation just doesn't seem equal on both sides. So, in our hearts, or minds we start to rearrange things - no, we start to add in things that we think will help balance this equation a little better.

How about this one (maybe it'll make you chuckle a bit):

God's grace + homeschooling = salvation

Ever thought a certain lifestyle was essential to your Christianity. Kill that now. It's a lie.

Or how about:

God's grace + my holiness = salvation
God's grace + conservatism = salvation
God's grace + my family's history/position = salvation

Some of my favorites are:

God's grace + my denominational affiliation = salvation


God's grace + my orthodoxy = salvation

It's O, so easy for our hearts and minds to complicate the simplicity of God's immeasurable grace. It's nothing new, either. Paul wrote a whole letter to yell at Galatian Christians who were trying to live by this equation:

God's grace + upholding the law = salvation

He yells, "What!? Have you so quickly abandoned what you were taught for another gospel!?... O, Foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?" (Galatians 1:6 and 3:1, paraphrased)

I am so much like those Galatians some days. How often I must chase away those lies that how I live effects my salvation. How often I must repent, not just of my actions, but of my entire attitude and heart, realizing that what I have done is only caused by the false equation I'd been believing.

The Word of God tells us, that it's only when

God's grace + NOTHING = Salvation

rings true, that there is ever any purpose for Christ's crucifixion. "If righteousness were through the law, the Christ died for no purpose." (Gal 2:21) 

So, we call ourselves by His name, but live as if His death had no purpose? O, foolish Christians! Let us not forget Him who called us in the grace of Christ!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

16 Weeks and New Little Sweaters

I can hardly believe we've reached 16 weeks. Really, between the nausea and exhaustion I felt like the second trimester would never come - but here it is, rolling right along! Still queasy every now and again - even had a couple of "awful" days this past week. But I'm just so thankful that Baby is healthy, and that we've gotten this far safely.

I went with a friend to my first consignment sale here in Charlotte and poked around for some gender neutral pieces, and any other hidden treasures I might find. The two little sweaters I found for $5 total made my day.

This one will be perfect for Spring. It's just so teeny. The pictures don't represent the size accurately. Plus, who doesn't love yellow? O, I love yellow.

This one I'm picturing with a cute pair of baby jeans and a little hat for a boy, or with some colorful leggings on a lil girl, a year or so from now, when we take stroller rides on the Greenway. :)

Ain't they cute? Can't wait to put Baby in them!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rearranged Master Bedroom - in progress

About a month ago Daniel and I went to IKEA. We decided then that sometime in the near future we wanted to buy some of their inexpensive, but sturdy bookshelves so that we could get a large majority of Daniel's library out of the soon-to-be-nursery. We decided the most practical place to put the new shelves would be our bedroom, since we still had a good amount of wall space, and wouldn't have to rearrange too much furniture (unlike the project our family room would have been).

Labor Day we went out and made our purchase, and since then it's been a gradual work in progress to get everything assembled and secured. We finally finished that first part of the project Saturday afternoon, and boy am I happy!

We're both so pleased with the final result, and cannot believe the improvement it made to put such a large number of books altogether. They look much neater now, instead of scattered across assorted shelves misplaced all over the house!

Putting these shelves together, and securing them, and especially hanging that wall shelf were HARD WORK. We are not a "handy" couple. Honestly, it was a struggle. Everything that could go wrong, seemed to go wrong. I laughed a lot. Tried not to laugh too much, and Daniel learned patience and perseverance. Next time - we'll be pros!

Four shelves and a wall shelf. Still want to get some pictures and other decor items to pull it together. Love having the desk in our room too. We're hoping to make it the "permanent" place for the macbook, and a work place for me a my new business venture (you'll see soon enough).

Still need to find something for the printer. I'd like to keep the desk clear so I can set the sewing machine, or my scrapbooking stuff up without too much hassle, and have plenty of working space. However, keeping the printer on the floor isn't going to work, either. I'll keep my eyes open for one of those little shelves on wheels to roll underneath the desk...

Hoping to get that painting framed this month, too, and find a special vase for my wedding bouquet. The petals are getting crumpled from lying on its side.

This lamp needs to go, too. It's practical but not pretty... I try to find both. ;) For now, we need the lighting, but maybe something will show up at goodwill. Who knows!

Curtains or a valence are on the check-Goodwill-list, too. And someday we'll have our beautiful four poster bed... maybe in our next place. :)

So that's it! Of course I don't have "before" pictures. But, I think our room is slowly coming together and looking more settled than last year when I first moved in, or even the paint make-over the furniture got in the spring. With Daniel's position with the church seeming more permanent for the next couple of years I've been able to make more plans for decorating and arranging the house. Unless they jack our lease up again next year...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

15 Weeks

Still hardly have a bump... ok. I don't. Sure, it's a little rounder, my jeans are a little snugger, and when I pull my dress just so it kind of looks like I do, right? Right. :)

Pregnancy Update
How far along?: 15 weeks. Can hardly believe it!
Total weight gain/loss: 0
Maternity clothes? not yet... soon??
Stretch marks? nope
Sleep: I'm a trained back sleeper. Now I'm trying to make side sleeping possible, and it's not been as restful as past weeks. I dream a lot too... sometimes pleasantly, but sometimes awfully.
Best moment this week: Morning sickness is definitely easing up - I only had a couple "sick days" this week!
Movement: still not yet
Cravings: Potatoes and white cheddar cheez-nips (not so healthy as strawberries, huh?). Today I HAD TO HAVE homemade bread - it's baking now. Mmm! You should smell my house!
Gender Predictions: I have had "that feeling" for about a week now, that it is a boy. I think it's more than just wanting... but we'll see.
Labor Signs: no
Belly Button in or out? very in.
What I miss: nothing
What I am looking forward to: The Second Trimester Babymoon!
Weekly Wisdom: sorry ladies, I'm out.
Milestones: second trimester swing

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Loving Father

September 11th to a 2002, or 2004 baby, is just a piece of history, as the holocaust may be to you and me. But to so many, it's a very real fact of our lives. We all have our "9-11 story," about where we were and what we felt. Thousands, upon thousands, still ache with the loss of loved ones. Our eyes swell with tears when we hear stories of desperate phone calls home to wives and children, and of the heroism of firefighters who risked all to save. The pain burns at times.

 A conversation I had with Maura and Michael on Monday, 9-12, has stuck in my mind all week.

"Ashlee, how could someone's religion make them think it's OK to crash into buildings?" Michael wanted to know.

"They thought they would get special rewards in heaven, right?" Maura chimed in.

I had to explain that not every Muslim is as extreme as the terrorists on 9-11. These men were "special."

But ultimately, my kiddos didn't care about the Islamic Jihad, they wanted to know how those terrorists could think that killing thousands of people would make God happy... and did it make God happy?

"They don't think God is our loving Father, like you and I do. They don't know that God is really full of love and mercy."

Michael's response was typical Michael-ese. "Well that's dumb."

It's not dumb, buddy, it's horrible. Thousands of people died at the hands of men, because those men believed a lie about the character of God, that captures their soul, instead of frees it.

So that conversation set the stage for my heart's meditation this week. Do I believe the truth about God's character? Am I ever worshipping the supreme Creator, and loving Father, the Bible assures us we have? Am I living, out of gratefulness, a life to please Him?

I've been reading through Ephesians this week, and was struck again by the love of God, 

 "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us... made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved - and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith... it is a gift of God..." (Eph 2:4-9)

Monday, September 12, 2011


Friday night Daniel and I went to the annual Charlotte Greekfest. Daniel had been once before, but I hadn't. We thought it would make a nice Friday night date, especially since a friend gave us free entrance tickets! 

We experienced some authentic Greek culture, and weeded our way through the crowd of teeny-bops (aka 14-year-olds) who all think they're Greek even though half of them are probably not even half Greek. No offense. 

Below are some Greek soliders wearing fustanellas. These skirts have 400 pleats - one for every year that they were in slavery under Ottoman rule.

And here is my tough guy with a real tough guy. :P

The highlight for me was the food. Gosh, I love me a real, good gyro! I was anticipating it ALL week. It didn't disappoint, but it wasn't the best I've had (which was in a Turkish deli in Eastern Europe... so). Daniel got a cheese pizza... he didn't know what he was missing.

The Greek Orthodox "Timeline of Church History" had Daniel and I laughing a little. As you can see from the picture it's a red line, beginning with the time of the apostles where "One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church" began. That line continues straight through history, changing names to "The Orthodox Church" after the Great Schism in 1054. The part we got a good laugh out of was the "branching away" of the Roman Church, and the continual branching of followers of Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley and others throughout history, that formed Lutheran, Presbyterian and Methodist denominations. 

... maybe only we found it funny??

We finished up our evening with a Baklava sundae. Yummy, but so rich.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"The Pain Reminds Us This is Not Our Home"

"What if my greatest disappointments, or the aching of this life is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy."

Our pastor recently preached a killer sermon on the name of Jesus Christ. Did you know Jesus and Christ are only the worldly names given to the Son of Man in His humanity? It was the LORD Most High that was and is His title in heaven.

This name depicts supremacy, sovereignty, power.

It is because Jesus Christ is the LORD Most High that we can have any hope at all. As Christians our hope isn't only in a meek and mild man who taught us to love one another, it is in the King of Kings, Lord of Lords who has the government upon His shoulders (Isaiah 9:6) and is making His enemies a footstool for His feet! (Psalm 110:1) He is the LORD who is recreating, restoring, redeeming and renewing all the earth.

This is what gives us comfort in trials. Peace in turmoil. Blessings during storms.

Enjoy this song by Laura Story, and hear the longing for better things, knowing with hope the LORD Most High, Jesus ("God Saves"), is reigning to redeem.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Zoe Swims!

I still giggle when I watch these videos. She was just so funny! Grandma kept telling her "You're a retriever, Zoe, you need to learn to like the water," but it didn't help one bit. She would swim as fast as she could to the nearest wall. Notice how I sound like a ridiculously proud mama? :-P

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Potatoes and Meatloaf

Potatoes are one of the consistent cravings I have had since about week 7. Mostly just baked potatoes, but potato skins, mashed potatoes and french fries do the trick, too.

So I got two honkin' baked potatoes last week, and today made them up for dinner. I had a recipe in mind to try, so that made it even more fun. :)

Sliced Baked Potato Recipe

1. Carefully slice the potatoes, about an 1/8 of an inch in thickness, leaving 1/4 - 1/2 inch of potato unsliced at the bottom

2. Mince 4 cloves of garlic, and mix with 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tsp chives, 1 tsp dried oregano, and 1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese. Take pinches and stuff into the slots of the potato. Rub the excess oil over top and sprinkle generously with kosher salt, or sea salt.

3. Bake at 400F for about 45 minutes. Potatoes should be crispy on the outside, but soft on the inside. (I forgot to take a picture of them finished :-/)

The meatloaf was a last minute kick. I figured I couldn't feed my husband on potatoes alone, so I quickly looked for a picture of meatloaf that didn't make me queasy. These little mini loaves did the trick. (And we have enough for two more meals in the freezer!)

Mini Meatloaf Recipe

1. In a large bowl combine 1 lb ground beef with 1 egg, 1/2 c. milk, 1/2 c. quick oats, 1/2-1 cup chunked or shredded cheese (I used Parm and cheddar, mostly because it was all I had), 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp oregano,  2 cloves minced garlic, and 1 tsp salt. Gently, but thoroughly mix it with your (clean) hands.

2. Using your hands again, shape chunks of meat into slightly-larger-than-a-meatball balls. Place in lightly greased muffin tins. And top with a squirt of ketchup and a squirt of mustard (mix these before baking... I didn't, but should have). For more of a BBQ taste add a generous sprinkle of brown sugar. Lastly, leave two muffin tins empty and fill 1/3 full of water so that the meatloaf doesn't burn.

3. Bake at 400F for about 30 minutes, or until meat is completely cooked.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Thirteen Weeks

My sister is 34 weeks pregnant with twins. She passed up the "bump" phase, but reminded me that though the changes may be ever so slight, looking back on them when I'm 34 weeks will be so fun. So, I asked Daniel to take a picture of my baby bump. His eyes twinkled, "What baby bump?" Maybe it's not much, but I'm starting to feel my tummy rounding, and can definitely not "hold it in" anymore. :)

Pregnancy Update
How far along?: 13 weeks - one more week of the 1st trimester!
Total weight gain/loss: nothing
Maternity clothes? not yet... soon??
Stretch marks? nope
Sleep:  O, I love it.
Best moment this week: Hearing our sweet little one's heart beat!
Movement: not that I can feel - but the midwife said Baby is very active! She had to chase him/her with the doppler to get the heartbeat.
Cravings: Before this week, anything strawberry was a hit. Now, I love fig newtons and raspberry lime seltzer water.
Gender Predictions: Daniel recently told friends, "If it's a girl, we're putting her up for adoption." It's not the first time he's said it, but of course he's joking! That said, some days I *hope* it's a girl, just to show him. I can never tell if I have mother's intuition or if I just want what I want.
Labor Signs: no
Belly Button in or out? no comment.
What I miss: being able to make dinner every night without wanting to gag.
What I am looking forward to: My "bump" emerging, getting to wear maternity clothes, and the ultrasound in six weeks!
Weekly Wisdom: My best bet for keeping the nausea at bay is to snack lightly and frequently. I skipped a snack yesterday afternoon because we were going out to eat with friends, and by time we got to the restaurant I was so nauseous I was probably no fun at all.
Milestones: almost out of the 1st trimester!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The South at the End of Summer...

... is just delicious

The scorcher days are nearly gone, the humidity has dropped significantly,and there's a warm breeze that blows almost every morning and evening. These days are delicious.
I'm so happy to be back to work part time, and have enjoyed letting my body take the rest it needs (no alarm clock!). Bedtime is usually between nine and ten for me, and morning sunshine wakes me up with a sigh and a smile around eight. Once I start feeling better I might force myself to get up earlier, but right now, I am just treasuring this rest. Most nights as I pray myself to sleep, the last words across my lips are, "and so He giveth his beloved rest." (Ps 127:2) Rest is so sweet when one's body is so exhausted.
When morning comes the days seem bright and fresh. Zoe and I have our little routine. I wake up, brush my teeth, splash my face, down a glass of water, and then we go for a little stroll through the backyard. We eat our breakfast together, and I do my quiet time while she devours sticks or crunchy leaves on the patio. Then we go for a nice long walk - usually about two or three miles. O, there is so much to smell and see in the world when you are a five-month old puppy! Zoe loves these walks.

Then the day really begins. I'm full of ideas for fall and winter projects, and as soon as I get myself organized I'm excited to begin them all.

Morning sickness is starting to lessen, and I've been able to cook dinner several nights in the last week! So excited to see the end of the first trimester in sight! We are so very thankful for a healthy pregnancy so far.
Baby girl names are a frequent topic around our dinner table these days. We just can't find any that we a) agree on or b)love. Of course Daniel's opinion is that we still have six to seven months to really think about it. He's right, of course, but I find it despairing to think that none of the names I have heard (and I've heard a lot) have that special ring. Are we just going to come up with a whole new name sometime in the next six months? Really? I guess I could always consider fruit names as a last resort. ;)

Daniel is doing well, too. He might not be romanticizing summer's end as much as his wife, but he's happy and busy these days. We're gearing up to begin a children's Sunday School class at our church, and he's in charge of advertising and canvassing for it. My pastor's wife and I are putting together the curriculum, which is very simple, basic Bible stories with a few main points. The children we are going to meet don't need chatecized. They just need to know God and His Word, and most importantly, His Son. That's our aim. Daniel's also looking for a part time job somewhere to bring a little extra money into the bank, and perhaps even meet some more people in our area.
O, and one more thing. Have I mentioned that Zoe knows how to "high five"? Yeah. It's pretty sweet. Come by and check it out sometime.

P.S "Bump" pictures coming soon! (There isn't anything to see... don't get too excited.)

P.P.S Remember when we went to Florida and Zoe learned to swim? Well, I'll post that soon, too.