Friday, December 31, 2010

The Last Day of the Year

The last morning of 2010 found me waking before the rest of my family feeling rested.  I plugged in the Christmas tree to enjoy its light one more morning (okay, I'll probably still have it up for a couple  more days) and sat down to read in quiet.  How often does that happen?  Not often.  But I have just been thinking that it is time to resume the old habit and discipline of waking early before I have to start my day to spend time with the Lord reading His Word.  

I never thought that would be a discipline I would have to reteach myself.  It was a habit all through college and the first two years of marriage.  Then what happened?  I had a baby.  The time I used to organize according to my wishes only became the property of Ella's needs, and she needed me a lot.  She needed me most of the time between the hours of 10 p.m. to 5 in the morning.  My habits changed completely then.  There would be the occasional morning of waking before her and having a quiet time but nothing regular.  Young mothers everywhere can attest to the fact that when your baby is sleeping you are sleeping.  KJ and I haven't used an alarm clock in 4  years.  We simply wake when the children wake.  

Reading the Bible became more regular when Ella got older and became a more dependable sleeper, but I did my reading during Sesame Street.  My quiet times have been done to the tune of preschool programming for a while now.  And then of course, last year, with the advent of James, I resumed the old habit of sleeping until I heard a baby's cry.  But this is a new year.  Both of my children sleep reliably.  It is now 8:05, and they are still asleep.  James is stirring, but I have already had over an hour in the living room by myself.  

I read in Leviticus (very exciting) and then opened up two books my brother and sister-in-law gave me for Christmas.  One book is filled with prayers for my husband, and the other contains prayers for children.  They are all based on passages from God's Word, and I had such a sweet time remembering the purpose for which I have been created and my sacred duties as a wife and mother.  It is such a sweet thing to care for and love the family God has so graciously given me.  The sweetness of it is not often in the forefront of my mind.  Most recently, my days are spent just trying to keep James from accidentally killing himself.  It's really quite a stressful experience.  My boy hardly ever sits still and loves to climb on beds, chairs, stools, and stairs and under tables.  His escapades keep my heart pumping and my feet moving.  But it is so nice to start my day in the quiet, centering my heart and mind on truth.  

"Children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward."  I'm so thankful for my two precious children.  "There's no work more complex, more important, or more exalted than that of caring for children.  After all, it's what God Himself has chosen, above all else, to do with His time." 

I want to be a good steward of the time I have with my children this year.  I'm so thankful for the opportunity I've had to be with them every day.  I don't want to squander that privilege but teach truth to them as we "sit in the house" and when we "walk by the way," and "when we lie down, and when we rise."  Ella will turn 5 towards the end of 2011.  The early, formative years with her are almost at an end.  Babyhood is gone, the toddler stage is over, her preschool years are almost behind her.  I want to be so purposeful with her in the coming year.  

In order to be purposeful, I think it's time I re-discipline myself to go to bed earlier so that I can "rise while it is yet night" and prepare for the day.  I like new beginnings, don't you?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy Holidays

I can't believe it has been almost a week since I last posted!  Life has been far too eventful to write about, and most likely, your lives have been too eventful to read about someone else's.  

We had a wonderful Christmas celebration with my family and the surprise of a white Christmas.  It was not just the usual Alabama dusting but a really beautiful 4-inches of snow.  The kids and I were all pretty sick throughout Christmas weekend, but hopefully the worst is over now.  The holidays continue as we look forward to the New Year and KJ's birthday.  He is a January 1 baby.  Since his birthday comes at the tail end of all our Christmas travel and celebration I always feel like I'm scrambling to find some way to celebrate.  I wanted to be intentional about doing something special for him this year and toyed with the idea of throwing a huge party with lots of people.  After thinking about it and praying for ideas I finally settled on trying to think of something I knew KJ would really enjoy.  Last night I surprised him with having a few guys over to play Lord of the Rings Risk and eat Cici's Barbecue Chicken Pizza (his favorite).  He was very surprised and definitely pleased to begin his birthday celebration with some of his favorite things.  I had a good time decorating.  We've accumulated quite a bit of Middle Earth memorabilia, including Lord of the Rings Monopoly, Chess, and Trivial Pursuit.

I think the guys had a good time lining up their armies and battling for Middle Earth.  KJ enjoyed explaining the game to the newbies, and we were really glad our brother-in-law, David, was able to come.  It was a special treat, as he and Katie and the kids are loading up to move to North Carolina today.  We're going to miss them so much.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Night Before Christmas

The children are nestled all snug in their beds, and I am sitting down for the first bit of quiet I've had in a couple of weeks.  Here's a few pictures from the past few days.  Wednesday night we had a candlelight service at church.  It was Ella's first time to attend one and be allowed to hold a lit candle.  She was thrilled.  John David also got in on the big-kid action.

We celebrated Christmas with KJ's family last night and this morning.  The adults enjoyed a good time of sharing about God's grace and goodness in 2010 while the kids enjoyed a movie on their air mattresses.  Presents were exchanged, and laughter shared.  It was a peaceful and good day with family.  Here's just a few sights from last night and this morning.

Babies on the Move



It was a very happy day, and I am sure we will enjoy tomorrow, too.  We are all in various stages of sickness, though.  KJ is finishing up an antibiotic for a sinus infection, I can't breathe out of my nose, Ella has a horrible cough, and James' nose started running again today.  But I am thankful that so far we have nothing worse.  So many others we know have the flu right now, and I certainly hope to avoid that.  

Until tomorrow, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Christmas Carol

I've been wanting to share this quote all December because it makes me laugh.

The curtains of his bed were drawn aside;
and Scrooge, starting up into a half-
recumbent attitude, found himself face
to face with the unearthly visitor who
drew them--as close to  it as I am
now to you, and I am standing in the spirit
at your elbow.
- A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Film Education

Last night we had a friend over, a film student at the University who Hillary felt was lacking in his exposure to some pretty essential Christmas movies.  We were happy to watch some of our favorites again.  We started late in the afternoon with White Christmas.

That was pretty much the way every musical number went down.  I'm happy to report that David enjoyed the movie very much.  It's always fun exposing people to classics for the first time.  You're giving them the gift of a lifetime of enjoyment.

In between performances, Ella colored, and before we put the kids to bed we enjoyed a presentation of Good Night Moon, courtesy of HBO Family.  I had to take a picture of James watching.  I always want to remember his big, blonde head tilted back looking intently at the television.

Next up...

Before last night, I had not watched this movie this Christmas season.  Oh, how I love it.  It is so good.  Some movies are so great because no matter how many times you've seen them, you notice and appreciate new things each and every time.  Jeffrey made it in time for this one; he said it was much better than he was expecting.  This is high praise coming from him.  Another convert.

Will he ever realize how wonderful his life really is?

Might be my favorite picture from the night.
Each expression is so unique.

And though David might have been lacking in his exposure to some classic Christmas movies, he has done an excellent job on the promotional video for the documentary of Christian Schmidt's life.  I am really looking forward to his finished work, and I'm so thankful to Christian and his parents for allowing everyone a look into their private pain so that others might glorify God.  You should definitely take the time to watch it.

Power Outage

Our electricity was out for several hours on Wednesday.  I'm glad it was during the day, and I am thankful we have a fireplace that runs on natural gas.  We would have been quite cold without it.  Here are a few things you can and cannot do when your power is out.  

You can't boil water for oatmeal (and everyone knows how
 gross cold oatmeal is),but you can steal Froot Loops 
out of the pantry and help yourself.

You can't watch television, but you can watch movies on the 
portable dvd player...until the battery charge runs out of course.

You can't play the Wii, but you can 
play a couple of rounds of Chutes and Ladders.

You can't vacuum, but you can sweep and mop.

You can gaze into the flickering flames...
even if you can't touch them.

Most of all, you make memories.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cutest Part of My Day

We got a little playtime with the cousins this morning, and I wanted to share this video of my niece, Claire. She's quite the performer. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Bustle

Our family is right in the middle of the Christmas bustle:  parties, church events, having friends over, etc.  We've been doing a little bit of it all.  I'm really grateful to have Hillary staying with us this week.  She finished school a week early so she could have time in Tuscaloosa before going home for Christmas.  At Wal-Mart today she grabbed a fussy James out of the buggy while I swiped that debit card and asked, "How do you do this without me?"  I'm not really sure.  Somehow I survive.  You do what you have to do, I guess.  But for the past weekend it was a blessing to have her here not only for the fun and laughter, but she offered her babysitting services while KJ and I attended a myriad of social engagements.  

Saturday we had a few friends over to watch a movie.

Sunday we held a Lottie Moon banquet at church.
Imagine James being let loose in a gym.
Good thing we had friends who didn't mind chasing him all over the place.

Last night we had a family gathering at the newlyweds' house.
We watched Home Alone...
and played a little Duck Hunt.

(first time to use my self-timer)

Tonight we made a little candy...

...and some potato soup.

Bring on the celebrations.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Into the Wardrobe

KJ and I are both unashamed fans of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia.  We're looking forward to going to the theater on Wednesday night to see the newest movie installment.  KJ sat down last night to watch The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Ella sat down with him.  She, of course, has not yet seen the movie or heard the story.  After a while she ran to her room and brought back a book she had gotten in a kid's meal from Chick-Fil-A.  It was so sweet answering her questions.

"Who is Aslan?"

"He's a lion.  He's good."

Best of all was when she was pouring over the map of Narnia in her books.  For those of you who know KJ, he loves maps.  He studies them.  So it was perfectly precious last night for her to ask KJ, "How did they get into Narnia?  Which way did they go?"

"We might even ask, with C.S. Lewis, 'What then is the good of--what is even the defence for--occupying our hearts with stories of what never happened...?  Or of fixing our inner eye earnestly on things that can never exist...?'  Are our excursions into the imaginary world of the arts frivolous?  Or are they indispensable to our well-being?  Are they an escape, or a doorway to reality?"

Leland Ryken, The Liberated Imagination

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What a Difference a Year Makes

I was reading some books to Ella before bed last night and was remembering back to about 15 months ago (you can see my very pregnant stomach on the floor to Ella's left at one point). She used to love "reading" this book to us before bed. At that time she still confused her "b"s and "d"s, and now she's really learning to read on her own. I'm holding on to these quickly passing moments today.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Singing Christmas Tree, Round 3

The kids and I spent a relaxing day with my mom and then headed to the church tonight for the third performance of the singing Christmas tree.  I do think I have the prettiest children in the world.  

Sunday, December 5, 2010

It's A Wonderful Life

It has been nonstop activity for us the past couple of days, but it would be a very long and tedious process to write about it all.  I do want to keep a record, though because I'm planning on converting my blog to a book at the end of the year.  So, starting with Friday night...

KJ and I attended our college group's Christmas party and had a lot of fun.  We were supposed to wear a tacky Christmas sweater, and we played party games and ate great food.  Of course, I have to give a shout-out to my brother, Judson, who kept the kids so that I could go with KJ to the party.  I wanted to take a picture of he and Ella, but I forgot.  She asked him to wear a Ralph Lauren Polo shirt, because she had one (and she frequently sees him wearing one), and she wanted them to wear matching shirts "with the horse on it."  Judson was a good sport and wore his, and I think they had a good time.  Everything went smoothly; however, James did bust his lip after tripping over Judson's boot and falling on the chair.  So there was some blood, but they survived.  Thanks, Judson!

We didn't have any tacky Christmas sweaters, but I bought
some semi-tacky Christmas jewelry for myself and the lovely
shirt for KJ.  

Saturday afternoon the kids and I traveled to my parent's house for a visit so the kids could participate in the singing Christmas tree.  They were asked to stand on stage with my parents while my mom sings with the children's choir.  We had a really great trip home yesterday, and Ella and I went with my dad to Christmas in the Park to see the lights.  My dad has always loved to take Ella, and this year it has been so fun because she remembers all the things we did last year at Christmas.  She specifically asked to go see the lights at the park when we got to B.P.'s house. I'll have to post video of her dancing in the park to Santa Claus is Coming to Town later.

We have been going nonstop all day today.  I dropped James off in the nursery, and Ella also wanted to go to the Sunday School class for her age group.  I was so proud of her confidence going to a new place with people she didn't know and having a good time.  I enjoyed being in my mom's class and reading through Luke 1.  I mentioned before how much I love the beginning of Luke.  It is so beautifully written and told.

Church was oh-so-good this morning.  I sometimes forget how much I love the Christmas season.  I'm so glad that we take a month to really dwell on the incarnation.  Christmas hymns are so rich.  It's so soul-satisfying to meditate on the rich truths of Christ's coming to earth.  Dad is preaching a series of Christmas sermons from Hebrews this year, starting today with chapter one.  "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world" (Heb.1:1-2).  I think I'm going to put up a link to it when it goes online.  It was such a Christ-centered sermon, really causing me to marvel at the power of God, as Jesus "upholds all things by the word of His power."  

Church was followed by lunch and a busy afternoon preparing for the first performance of the Tree.  Both kids were so sweet and did amazing during their "part."  James especially looked so angelic with the spotlight shining on him.  His eyes shined, he smiled at everyone and waved his arms around to the music.  Ella did a great job, standing still and looking pleasant.  She earned her prizes (new markers, coloring book, and candy).  

I was so thankful tonight for the gift of music and the abilities people have in singing and playing.  Everyone involved in tonight's performance did an amazing job.  I didn't have my big video camera, but hopefully my little Nikon got some good footage.  It was kind of hard to see the kids, so I'm going to try to get a better angle tomorrow night.  All in all, I am so thankful for a great day, for the sweet ladies who took care of James in the nursery and rocked him to sleep this morning, for Ella's bravery and cooperation, for family and old friends, for God's Word, and to Jesus the Christ, for giving us so many reasons to celebrate.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Last night kicked off a series of Christmas parties for KJ and I.  We meet at his parents house with other couples in our church every other Thursday night for a Bible study, and last night was our Christmas party.  It was an especially fun time because old friends came home for the holidays.

It was so great to have Molly and Justin home and with us again.  They have been having many adventures for the past 6 months while Justin works as a travel nurse (that's probably not the technical term for what he's doing, but you get the idea.).  They are such precious, dear, and fun friends.  We have missed them so much.

Dear friend, and master story-teller, Justin

A year ago, Ella affectionately knew Molly as "Grandma."  We were never really sure why Molly got this name (maybe because she often brought presents?), but she wore the title with grace.  Ella was excited to see Molly again and friend Maggie.

There was much laughter amidst the opening of dirty Santa gifts, as we enjoyed the gift of each other and the fellowship we share in Christ.  

Many uses were suggested for this decorative bowl.

And we also welcomed a long-awaited addition to our gathering,
baby Bentley.

By this all people will know that you 
are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.
- John 13:35 -

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy Birthday to You

Even though we are not together today, my family is celebrating the birthday of my father.  I'm looking forward to celebrating with him in person this weekend.  There are a lot of things I could write about my dad, but what stands out the most, especially during the Christmas season, is his romance.  (I'm sure my brothers are laughing now.)  But it is true.  How is he romantic you might ask?  Let me explain.  

I use romance in a broad sense.  I use it in the sense of the fourth definition for the word  found in my dictionary:  "a quality suggestive of the adventure and idealized exploits found in such tales."  What kind of tales?  "Any long, fictitious tale of heroes and extraordinary or mysterious events."  Perhaps you could say he has "an inclination toward the romantic or adventurous."  

I'm not sure if my dad would describe himself in these ways, but this is the kind of life he has given to his children, and we are so grateful.  My father is one of the hardest working people I know, up early to run, to read, and pray.  Home late after visitation and church meetings.  Up all night on Saturday nights in preparation for Sundays.  But just as he is a hard worker, he is also really good about taking time for adventures.  A bike ride around town, a road trip across the United States, hiking, tubing, camping, jumping in the car to catch a sunset view from a mountaintop, waterfalls, a trip to the grocery store on foot in an ice storm, checking the kids out of school to drive to the mountains on a perfect fall day.  That's the kind of life we've had, and maybe those qualities are some of the ways I bear his imprint on my life.  Work hard, and play hard.  Make the simple pleasures an adventure.  

My father is also a lavish giver.  He loves Christmas, and he loves to make it magical for us.  Every year my brothers and I would awaken each other anywhere from midnight to 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve to creep into the living room and find what Santa had left for us.  I never remember having a discussion about not believing in Santa anymore.  My dad has never let the magic end.  We still wake one another up in the night to peek at our treasures by the light of the tree.  

Mom and Dad always stayed up late on Christmas Eve
to put out Santa's gifts and give gifts to each other.

Christmas is filled with memories for me made by my father:  trips to the pig farm for fresh sausage to make his Christmas morning breakfast casserole, keeping the VCR running with repeated showings of It's a Wonderful Life, and White Christmas, singing Away in a Manger a la Andy Griffith, and not forgetting the greatest gift of all LMCO.  Not "Lynn Murphy's Coming 'Ome" as I thought my freshman year of college, but the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.   My dad has given so generously to us and taught us to give generously of our time and money as well.  Tonight members of his church gathered to celebrate my dad's birthday and give to Lottie Moon so that the world can hear the gospel, something that has always been special to my dad's heart.  

I'm so glad I get to be his girl and so thankful for all the ways he has demonstrated the Father's love for us with such lavishness.  Happy birthday to you, Dad!  You are the best.