Tuesday, December 30, 2008

No Place Like Home

Yesterday was a tough day for me. Yesterday was December 29. Yesterday marked fifteen years since my mother died. Even though my spiritual journey over the past 15 years has brought me peace and taught me acceptance for the most part; I still hate the reality that my mother is not here with me.

Yesterday was also a tough day for another family. Bro. Bobby Renfro, one of my former pastors, lost his battle with cancer but won the prize of a race well run. Bobby affected so many people in so many ways, that his presence will be strongly missed.

In the MercyMe song Homesick, Bart writes:
"You're in a better place, I've heard a thousand times
And at least a thousand times I've rejoiced for you
But the reason why I'm broken, the reason why I cry
Is how long must I wait to be with you

I close my eyes and I see your face
If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place
Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow
I've never been more homesick than now

Help me Lord cause I don't understand your ways
The reason why I wonder if I'll ever know
But, even if you showed me, the hurt would be the same
Cause I'm still here so far away from home"
And so today, I am homesick. Homesick for a place I've never been, but I know I belong. I know I belong because my mother is waiting for me. But even more important, because the Father is waiting for me. And there's no place like Home.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The 1st Ever QuirkyBee Christmas Bazaar

I'm a glutton for punishment. Always have been. Back in November, I mentioned to Paige and Elizabeth that I was thinking about maybe, possibly having an open house to try to move along some of my excess jewelry inventory and take custom orders for Christmas. I asked if they would like to provide refreshments since they were also thinking about maybe, possibly starting a cupcake business. But, the more I thought about it, the more I talked myself out of it. What if nobody comes? Would they be disappointed once they got there? It's a very busy weekend. I have to clean my house...and so on. So a few days later, when I casually mentioned to Paige and Elizabeth that I'd decided against the open house, Elizabeth informed me that they had already planned the menu and started advertising. (Eager-beaver, over-achiever) And so The 1st Ever QuirkyBee Christmas Bazaar was in the works for the first Saturday in December.

We didn't do a lot of publicity, just a Facebook invite and a few flyers. We had no idea what to expect. But all in all, it was a lot of fun. There was a pretty steady stream of visitors the entire time. I got several jewelry orders (which is one reason I haven't blogged much lately, because I was working feverishly like one of Santa's elves trying to get them finished in time for Christmas). Gert & Lillie's cupcakes were a tremendous success. Paige and Elizabeth made their first sale, took holiday orders and booked at least one event. It also turned out that our new friend Robyn was in town seeking support for the orphanage in Peru, so she set up an information table as well. I didn't get a single picture of my table display...I was a little frazzled. But I did get these great pics of the other gals that helped make the Bazaar a tremendous success. Be sure to check out their links! And mark your calendars for the 2nd Annual QuirkyBee Christmas Bazaar next December...

Gert & Lillie's Cupcakery (aka) Paige & Elizabeth

Robyn from Hogar de Esperanza

So being a glutton for punishment isn't always bad...especially when good friends are involved! And cupcakes. Yes...good friends and cupcakes!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Deck the Halls--Froo-Froo Tree and Hometown Friends

This icicle angel is part of an icicle nativity ornament set of 12 pieces that was made by my high school pal, Tina. I took about 142 pictures trying to capture its beauty, but just couldn't get one that completely does it justice. I'm not sure how many years ago she gave it to me, but it was shortly after my mother passed away. I loved it so much, I purchased it its own tree which we now call the "Froo-Froo Tree"--all matchy-matchy with gold, red and white ornaments. But the nativity pieces are definitely the focal point of the tree.

Last night we celebrated our annual "Hometown High School Gang" Christmas with Tina and company. This group is made up of three guys and three girls that grew up in church youth group together and their spouses. Four couples in all because two of us married within "the group". We get together every year. One couple has relocated to another state. Three of us are somewhat local, but still don't see each other much during the year. I'm sure there were many times in the beginning where C & T, the two spouses not born and raised in Hometown, felt uncomfortable because we would re-tell and re-live the days of our youth each time we got together. But it has been interesting to me, that as time goes on we are less about the "good ol' days" and more about making new memories.

Over the past 20 years we have been to weddings, celebrated the addition of 9 children, mourned the loss of parents and even survived a bout with cancer. These are the people that I may not see from one Christmas to the next, but I know would be there in a heartbeat if I needed them. These are the people who pick up right where we left off last year as if it was only last week. And these are the people who, like my icicle nativity ornaments have their own tree, have their own special place in my heart.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's Big Joel's Birthday!

Isn't that a hunky man? Today is his birthday. He says he doesn't feel 28...that's because he isn't. He's finally as old as me, but I'm still smarter. After all, I married him, didn't I? Happy Birthday, Baby. Just remember that 41 is the new 31 and you don't look a day over 50!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Oh, the Irony!

I've been terribly delinquent in blogging lately. To be honest, I've been terribly delinquent in lots of things...laundry, housework, filling jewelry orders, Christmas shopping, showering...I could go on, but it depresses me. So, I just had to post this quick funny about Hallie and then I MUST get to work! I. simply. must.

This morning on our way to school, I was "strongly encouraging" Hallie to be more responsible with correspondence from school. I'm forever finding notes about things that have already passed. To her credit, most of the time she tells me about these events and gets most of the details. But things can get a little dodgy if you rely solely on an 8 year old for information. I was trying to explain this to her. She stood firm on the grounds that "we haven't missed out on anything." She was adamant that we are completely, totally informed on all the happenings at Hometown Elementary School.

So as I dropped her off this morning via "rolling stop" in the car lane, I was not paying much attention to others around me. I was hoping if I didn't notice them, they wouldn't notice that I was wearing flamingo PJ pants, a sweatshirt and Big Joel's toboggan. (I was also praying that I wouldn't have car trouble or be involved in a traffic accident that would require me to get out of my vehicle.) As I pulled out of the school parking lot, I saw three children in "plain clothes" (not plain as in Amish, but plain as in not the standardized dress required by our district) Then I stopped at the crosswalk to allow an entire herd of children to pass...in non-standardized dress. Finally, I knew something was up when I saw my friend's kids running gaily into school wearing jeans and regular shirts. I quickly used my "Phone-a-Friend" lifeline to find out what was going on. Yes, you guessed it. Today is Free Dress day at school and my well-informed, know-it-all, "don't-worry-mom-we're-not-missing-anything" daughter who despises standardized dress MISSED it!

While this would have been a valuable life lesson for Hallie about responsibility (and arrogance), it is party day. When her normally strict, you're-in-3rd-grade-now-so-suck-it-up teacher called me, her exact words were, "Its up to you: you can teach her a lesson or you can bring her some clothes to change into since its Christmas and she's sobbing uncontrollably. I'll support whatever you decide."

Needless to say, Big Joel is on his way to school with some "plain" clothes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Deck the Halls--Feliz Navidad

A little turtle ornament and nativity set from our trip to Mexico this past January.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Deck the Halls--White Christmas

Two more of my favorites...given to me by my in-laws.
Karen Lawrence is the artist.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Deck the Halls--Joy to the World! The Gourd Has Come

I know. Such a corny play on words. I just couldn't resist. Elizabeth brought me this nativity from her first trip to Peru. It is inside a gourd, hence the horrible pun.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Deck the Halls--I <3 Christmas

I don't really know where this ornament originally came from, but it belonged to my mother. IYit.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

If at First You Don't Succeed...

I mentioned that Hallie is trying desperately to convince us that she deserves a pet. Unbeknownst to me, she struck a deal with her daddy that if she didn't whine until Christmas, she could have a hamster. However, now there seems to be some discrepancy over the terms of the agreement.

Overheard yesterday between Hallie and Big Joel...
H: Daddy, what will I do with my guinea pig until we get its cage?
BJ: What guinea pig? (Yes, its supposed to be a hamster, but she's trying to convince us that it was either a hamster OR a guinea pig...Have I mentioned that Hallie likes to make up her own rules as she goes?)
H: The one you said I could get if I didn't whine between now and Christmas.
BJ: I don't think you've really kept up your end of the bargain. Remember how you acted on Saturday?
...long pause...
H: Well, what about lying? I haven't done that in a while. Can I get a guinea pig if I don't lie between now and Christmas?


So since she doesn't seem to be getting very far with her daddy, now she's going over his head. She brought this letter home from school today:

Dear Santa,
For Christmas this year, I want only 3 or 4 things. It sounds glorious that I only want 3 gifts, but listen now, these are priceless to me. This year I want...a camera, a phone and a DS game. BUT the thing I want the most is a furry guinea pig friend. A brown one, a black one, a pink one even. All I want is a furry friend. If I can prove to my parents that I'm responsible, they will approve of my furry friend. I will feed, bathe, love and cherish it. I will love you and believe in you FOREVER. I've never not believed in you, but I always will if you bring me a guinea pig. Thank you SO much!
PLEASE bring me a guinea pig!

Deck the Halls--Brought to You By the Letter U

I have a circle of girlfriends that get together once a month for "Girls' Night Out". Each December, we have an ornament exchange. Last year, we decided our theme for 2008 would be "colors and letters". So we passed around 2 baskets and each person drew a letter of the alphbet from one and a color from the other. For example, I drew "U" and "purple"; so I had to find an ornament that fit that description. We had the whole year to find our ornament. I kept it in the back of my mind, but, a purple U ornament proved harder to find than I first thought. The obvious choice was an umbrella, but not only did I not want to be obvious, I never came across a purple umbrella. I considered painting a horseshoe with glittery purple paint, but decided that a U shape is not the same as the letter U. I was tempted to go with purple underwear, but who wants lingerie on their Christmas tree? (Unless maybe you're a Victoria's Secret model or Playboy bunny...which my friends are not.) So...after much deliberation and brainstorming...I settled on...are you ready...purple sea urchins! The internet is such a wonderful thing. I went online, found a company in Florida, and purchased two real-life purple sea urchins. I embellished them with a tassle, some ribbon and glitter spray. The end result was...interesting. It will probably end up on the back side of someone's tree hidden from view, but that's okay...at least its not underwear!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Deck the Halls--Where It All Began

This is our very first nativity. Joel and I bought it on our first anniversary. Sixteen years and forty+ nativities later, it is still my favorite. One of my most cherished memories is from HannahKate's first Christmas. She was 4 months old and we had her in the baby bouncy seat while we put up the tree and decorations. Joel showed her each piece of this nativity as he placed them on the coffee table. I remember him saying, "And see this? This is Little Baby Jesus. He came to earth and laid in the hay...just for you." Priceless.

Weekly Pic--Trip the Light Fantastic

Abstract artistic photography? or An amateur trying to photograph in the dark without a tripod? Either way, it's the Christmas lights on our house

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Deck the Halls--Mele Kalikimaka

Not that anyone has really noticed, but I've been out of the blog-loop (could I say "bloop"?) for a couple days now and I've missed you all. I'll have to fill you in later on everything I've been doing. Let me just say, I've been having a wonderful time, thoroughly enjoying myself but staying up way too late at night and getting up way too early in the morning. I'm exhausted, and somewhat afraid I will say things I'll regret later if I try to write too much now. So, I'll just share another ornament from my tree. We got this one in Hawaii a few years ago. It mimicks one of the famous Hawaiin quilt patterns.
Mele Kalikimaka! (Merry Christmas)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Deck the Halls--Sweet Little Jesus Boy

My friend Kristi gave me this nativity several years ago when she lived in Colorado Springs. It was made by a local artist from terra cotta clay and coated with a milky white glaze. There are also 2 little lambs, but they seem to be out to pasture in this picture. Something about this set reminds me of a sugary confection. It is one of my favorites.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Deck the Halls--Miss Poinsettia

My mom and I picked out this little porcelein ornament as a Christmas present for my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Burns. She wrote us the sweetest thank-you note in her oh-so-perfect handwriting. Mrs. Burns is one of the reasons I chose education as my profession.

When I was in fourth grade, there were two classes at my elementary school. Mrs. Meanie taught one class. She was old and grouchy; and she had purple(ish) hair and bright red lipstick. Mrs. Burns taught the other class. She was young and beautiful with long brunette hair that reminded me of Breck shampoo commercials. Her voice was sweet and sounded almost like singing even if she was just giving a spelling test. I could not believe my good fortune of being in her class when my best friend was suffering next door in the evil clutches of Mrs. Meanie. But my luck would soon change when Mrs. Burns explained to us that no, she had not swallowed a watermelon seed, but was in fact, going to have a baby and would not be finishing the school year with us. I was devastated.

About 10 years ago, or shortly after we moved back to Hometown, my father-in-law delivered a little gift bag to me and said it was from Mrs. Burns. Inside, was Miss Poinsettia and a letter. I immediately recognized the oh-so-perfect handwriting. Mrs. Burns told of how she had enjoyed Miss Poinsettia for many years. She said she thought of my mother and me each time she hung it on her tree. But she felt that perhaps now, I might enjoy Miss Poinsettia in my own home. And I have.

Wasn't that thoughtful of her? That's why Mrs. Burns was one of my favorite teachers and why Miss Poinsettia is one of my favorite ornaments.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Deck the Halls--Santa Gator

I enjoyed having a theme for November (Thirty Days of Thankfulness), so I was kind of at a loss when December rolled around. But as we were decorating our Christmas tree and trying to find places to display all my nativity sets, I had the most brilliant idea! One of the best parts of putting the ornaments on the tree is recalling when and where they came from. Every year I think to myself, "I should write all this down to pass on to the girls after BigJoel and I have ...well... 'passed' on." It may or may not be of much interest to anyone else, but I've decided to dedicate this month to sharing some of my favorite ornaments/nativities. So, don your gay apparel and fa-la-la-la-follow me down Memory Lane.

Joel and I bought this little gator guy on our honeymoon in New Orleans 17 years ago. It was one of our first purchases as husband and wife. We left the store with it and Joel promptly proceeded to swing the bag into a post causing the gator's tail to break off. Had I been a superstitious person, I might have been concerned that this was an omen. But fortunately, a little SuperGlue works wonders. The ornament survived and so has our marriage.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Weekly Pic--On Top of the World

Each year Hallie begs to put the angel on top of the tree. But, since she takes after her mother, she is somewhat "vertically challenged". This year, she was certain she'd be tall enough to reach the tippy-top...and she was...well, with a little boost from her daddy.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thankfulness--Day 30

Well, I made it. Thirty days of thankfulness. This has been a most interesting journey. Some days I couldn't wait to get to the computer to write and other days, honestly, I racked my brain right up until the last minute for a token gratitude. Somewhere about the middle of the month, we got so busy that we stopped writing down our blessings, but we still still made it a point to discuss them over dinner each night. So, how has Hallie progressed? Was this the antidote to cure her whining? Well, she is showing some improvement, but I'm not sure if it was due to this exercise or the fact that BigJoel promised her a hamster if she didn't whine between now and Christmas. (I don't think he believed she could actually pull it off and had absolutely no intention of getting her a hamster. But that's the thing about Hallie, she'll call your bluff when you least expect it.) Anyway, did she learn her lesson about being grateful? Its hard to say, but she taught me a tremendous truth. You see, we try to provide a good life for Hallie. She has a nice house, clothes to wear, toys to play with and food to eat. She has friends and family who love her. She doesn't get everything she asks for, but that's because we as parents know that not everything is beneficial for her, like say, a hamster. *ahem* We can see the big picture and despite what she believes, we really are smarter than we look. So it frustrates me to no end when she is ungrateful for all we do for her. Its maddening when she complains about wanting something I know full well will only bring disappointment or even danger. I'm saddened when she does not appreciate the sacrifices we make for her. Wait a minute... that sounds just like someone else I know...ugh, its me! My Heavenly Father has done so much for me, provided for me and even sacrificed His Only Son. Yet how many times do I whine about insignificant things? or bicker with my Christian brothers and sisters? or ask for things that really are not good for me in the long run? So is it possible that God gave me Hallie and her oh-so-unique personality to teach me about myself and the relationship He desires to have with me? I think it is not only possible, but probable.
For all of this and so very much more, I am exceedingly thankful...and humbled.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thankfulness--Day 29

Today I am thankful that Big Joel is home. He travels a LOT during the year, but he got home this past Monday and will be here for the entire month of December. One of the best things about me not working now, is that when he's home we get to goof off. We have had some really great days doing absolutely nothing. This week, the girls have been on Fall break. Yesterday, we drove to Hill Country to have Thanksgiving with my dad. Today, we put up one of the Christmas trees and took the girls to a movie. Tomorrow we will go to church together as a family. All of these things I would have done even if he were on the road, but I am so grateful that he is here. I love laughing with him and watching him pester/play with the girls. He is a lot of fun to have around. Yep, I think he's a keeper.
For this and so much more, I am very thankful.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thankfulness--Day 28

Today I'm thankful for the opportunity to travel. Most of the places we go are because of BigJoel's job. Probably the only perk to his being gone so much is when we get to meet up with him somewhere fun. Here are a few of my favorites:

For this and so much more, I am very thankful.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankfulness--Day 27

"Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 100

For His enduring goodness, love, faithfulness and so much more, I am very thankful.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thankfulness--Day 26

Today I am thankful for my family's health. In a way that seems so cliche, but I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that my husband, my children and I are incredibly blessed with good health.

I read so may heart wrenching blogs from people who are dealing with terminal illness. My soul aches for them. I know people whose children suffer from incurable diseases that have forever changed their lives. I can only imagine. Then there are those who are trying desperately to conceive, have endured miscarriages and stillbirths, or face the uphill battle of trying to help people understand their child's extreme special needs. I am moved beyond words, but I know I have no frame of reference because I have not walked in those shoes. I have never been one to look at other people's situations and say, "Wow, that really makes me thankful for what I have." To me that implies a mentality of "I'm-glad-its-them-and-not-me". I do not try to put myself in their place and think about if it were my child or my husband, because that takes the focus off of their pain and puts it on me. And its not about me. So I pray for these people, some I have never met, and some I've known my whole life. I pray for them, not because I imagine how they feel based on what I imagine I would feel in that situation; but because I know The One who does know exactly how they feel.

But last night our pastor said that thankfulness has three roles:
...it recognizes God's position as Creator and Sustainer.
...it provides a means for us to bless God.
...it is an instrument of remembering our place before Him.

So while I do not want to have a "thank-goodness-its-not-me" outlook, I also cannot take for granted the health our family enjoys. I don't know why He's blessed us, but I want to bless Him with my overflowing gratitude.

For our health and so much more, I am very thankful.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thankfulness--Day 25

Today I am thankful for Facebook. If you haven't joined the fun yet, you must get in on it right now! I originally started because my daughter wanted a page and I felt I should "investigate". Now I'm so much more hooked than she is! It has been such fun to get re-acquainted with friends from college that I haven't seen in 20 years, friends from high school, and former students that came through Joel's youth ministry or my classroom. (Some of my 1st graders have graduated from high school, and even college! Man, I'm old!) My favorite part of Facebook is the way people refer to themselves in the third person when posting their status. For example, right now my status is "Denyse is declaring martial law to get this house ready for the holidays!" when in fact it should read "Denyse is supposed to be cleaning house, but is blogging instead."
For this and so much more, Denyse is very thankful.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Weekly Pic--The Way We Were

Announcing our engagement--September 1991

Thankfulness--Day 24

Today I am thankful for forgiveness. I read a story about how, after 42 years, the Vatican has decided to forgive John Lennon for his infamous "The Beatles are more famous than Jesus" remark. Seriously? It took 42 years to realize that this was merely a "boast" by a young man grappling with sudden fame? Not to mention the fact that Lennon has been dead for over 20 years...will his soul now rest in peace? Forty two years. A boastful remark. No wonder the world sees the church as hyper-critical hypocrites.

However, this story also reminded me of the attention garnered by Pope John Paul II in 1984 when he met with, and offered forgiveness to the man who had tried to assassinate him only a few short years before. It made the cover of Time Magazine and inspired a song by Steve Taylor (whom I LOVED as a teenager).

To Forgive

I saw a man
He was holding the hand
That had fired a gun at his heart
Oh, will we live to forgive?
I saw the eyes
And the look of surprise
As he left an indelible mark
Oh, will we live to forgive?
Come.......find release
Go...........make your peace
Follow his lead, Let the madness recede
When we shatter the cycle of pain
Oh, will we live to forgive
I saw a man With a hole in His hand
Who could offer the miracle cure
Oh, He said live
I forgive
Oh, He said live
To forgive

And I'm convicted. What kind of person am I? The kind that holds a grudge over a foolish mistake for 40 years? Or the kind that could hold the hand of a man who had fired a gun at my heart? I am so very grateful that Jesus was the latter. And because I've been forgiven, I live.
For this and so much more, I am very thankful.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thankfulness--Day 23

Today I am thankful for my husband, Joel. You may be wondering why I waited so long to get around to him, but today is our 17th wedding anniversary. In some ways, I can't believe its only been 17 years because it seems so much longer (I mean that in the very best way). We dated for six and a half years before we got married and had been good friends before that. I can hardly remember a time where he wasn't a part of my life in one way or another. And yet in other ways, I can't believe its already been 17 years. It seems like just yesterday that he proposed to me on the stage at the very same youth camp where we'd decided to begin dating six years before. It doesn't seem so long ago that I walked down the aisle of the church where we'd both grown up and saw him, my groom, waiting for me, smiling.

In junior high and high school, I had a pretty serious, but on-again/off-again boyfriend. It was not a healthy relationship. I isolated myself from my girlfriends and allowed him to determine my self-worth. My senior year, I finally had a maturity growth spurt and realized that was not how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. This was due in large part to long conversations with Joel and his best friend, Jarrod. They helped me see that I deserved better. Yet, honestly, I never could have guessed what the Lord had in store.

When we first started dating, I'd just graduated from high school , but because I'm 5months smarter (ok, older) than Joel, he still had one year left. I assumed we'd go out through the summer, but that when I left for college, he'd want to be "free" to enjoy his senior year. Instead, he wrote me a letter every. single. day. of my freshman year. Seriously. That was back (in the Dark Ages) before cell phones, texting, or even email, and yet...a letter every day.

Joel is often described as a "big teddy bear." He truly is one of the most genuine people you could ever have the privilege of knowing. He is kind and gentle, yet strong at the same time. He is good at whatever he puts his hand to. He is an amazing father. He's smart and funny and handsome, too. His smile and warm brown eyes still melt my heart the same today as 23 years ago. I feel safe and loved and happy whenever he's around. And I still, after all these years, cannot believe that God blessed me with a soulmate like Joel. As a matter of fact, next to sending His Son to die for my sins, having Joel in my life is one of the most tangible ways I feel God's love demonstrated. I'm sorry. I know I'm being terribly sappy, but I honestly cannot say enough about the man I married on this day, 17 years ago.

For Joel, and the godly husband and father he is, I am so very thankful.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thankfulness--Day 22

Today I am thankful for my husband's sense of humor...and text messaging. Yesterday I went to the craft store to get some supplies. As I was standing in the bead aisle, there was an elderly man and woman discussing beading wire. They were bickering. At first I thought it was just good-natured marital banter, but then I realized what horrible things the man was saying and that he was serious. "I should have known better than to bring you here...Why do you need someone who works here? They're going to tell you the same thing I just did...Read the package yourself if you don't believe me..." Finally, the woman said, "Don't make a fool of yourself here in public." I guess they realized how loud their discussion had become. At this point, he unleashed a string of profanity and words so harsh that I know the look of horror must have shown on my face even though I was trying desperately to busy myself with choosing a toggle clasp. "Just get it, and let's go!" he said gruffly and herded the poor old woman toward the front muttering even more ugly words under his breath. I stood there somewhat stunned for a moment...trying to decide whether to laugh because they were having such a silly argument over choosing between 24 gauge or 28 gauge wire; or cry because they had both spewed such foul and bitter words and treated each other so awfully. I was sorry for them. So I texted Joel and said, "Please promise me that when I'm old and can't decide what I need from the bead aisle, you won't cuss at me." As I typed, I realized that he's shopped with me enough and knows full well how indecisive I can be, especially when it comes to beading supplies. If he hasn't lost his temper yet, he's probably not going to. And since he never, ever uses foul language, it was a doubly moot point. However, in typical BigJoel style, he replied (and I quote) "F%*& that $#@+!" I laughed out loud. Right there in the store. I *effin* love that guy.

For this and so much more, I am very thankful.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thankfulness--Day 21

Today's guest blogger is Hallie. Just remember that she is 8.
I am most thankful for friends and family, because no matter where I am they are always by my side. I'm thankful for Miss Teacher, because she takes time out of her day to teach us. I'm thankful for the people I can trust, because they are trustworthy to me. I'm thankful for doctors, because they will help you when you are sick. I'm thakful for school,because without it we would not have good education. I'm thankful for love, because without love no one would be here except for Adam and Eve because they would not have loved and had kids. *ahem* Remember she is 8. I'm thankful for me, because I am unique and I'm the only

For a child-like heart and so much more, I am very thankful.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thankfulness--Day 20

Today I am thankful for my jewelry hobby/obsession. Until I started making jewelry three years ago, I had no idea that creating something could be a relaxing and rewarding hobby. You see, I'm what I like to call an impatient perfectionist. I want things to be perfect, but I also lose interest quickly. For example, I tried to learn to sew. I took sewing classes and even made a "formal" dress for a dance in high school. But I found that if I couldn't begin and finish a project in one day, it would never get done. And I also failed at mastering button-holes and zippers. There are only so many one-day-buttonless-zipperless project out there, so I gave up sewing.

I tried gardening, or working in the yard, to be exact. People always talk about how working the soil is cathartic. Well for me, no. It's dirty. It gets under my nails. And it's hot outside because I live in Texas. Plus I always manage to kill even the plants that are supposed to be "hearty and foolproof". So this is not a relaxing, rewarding hobby for me.

Quilting...I made one, very, very simple and very, very small quilt when I was expecting HannahKate. It was her favorite. She called it her "mommy blanket". But, alas, even though quilts don't have buttonholes or zippers, to do it right takes longer than just one day. (Please don't mention to Hallie that I made a blanket for Hannah...as the second child, she already feels mistreated.)

So, on to scrapbooking. Several of my friends are really into this. Some of them even have the luxury of a whole room dedicated to creating cherished works of art that would rival most scrapbooking stores. But I get overwhelmed when I think about having to photograph and journal about every event in our lives. I knew it was not for me when I saw the most precious picnic paper with watermelons and ants one day and found myself thinking, "Wouldn't that be adorable to take pictures of the girls eating watermelons outside this summer?" Seriously, I was planning a "photo shoot" inspired by a piece of paper. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

Let's see...what else? Oh, my friend Kristi tried to teach me to crochet. I actually found it very relaxing, but I cannot for the life of me master turning the corner at the end of a row. So for a while I was content with just making a shapeless blob of green yarn because I enjoyed it and felt sure that after just "one more row" I'd get the hang of it. But when BigJoel asked me if I was crocheting astroturf for a football field, I knew it was time to give it up.

But about three years ago, Joel wanted to know what I'd like for my birthday. I told him I'd always wanted to learn how to make bracelets. So he took me to the craft store and bought one of everything on the beading aisle...literally...well, almost literally. I was trying to envision what I would need to make just one bracelet and he was piling the cart full of tools and beads and books and all sorts of stuff. It was truly one of the best gifts ever because so many times I don't finish a project because I'm missing one important component and by the time I run to the store to get it, life has moved on and I'm left with a half-done mess. With that birthday shopping spree, I was set! I had lots of choices and plenty of materials and could just let my imagination run wild. Now I understand how a hobby can be relaxing, rewarding, cathartic, enjoyable and therapeutic! (Of course since my dining room has become the "jewelry studio" and the housework is frequently neglected when inspiration strikes, BigJoel probably regrets getting me started and wishes he had taken me on a shopping spree down the cleaning supplies aisle instead!) **sigh**
For a hobby that brings me untold joy and so much more, I am very thankful.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thankfulness--Day 19

Today I am thankful for my mother. This would have been her 75th birthday had she not succumbed to diabetes and heart disease fifteen years ago.

My mother was an amazing woman. She could play the piano by ear and had a beautiful soprano voice. Unfortunately for me, I did not inherit her musical abilities. After eight years of piano lessons, I still can't play in front of an audience (here an audience is defined as "anyone else in the room") and I have what can only be described as a "functional alto" voice. But she instilled in me a love for music, especially old hymns.

My mother taught me rules of etiquette. She used to take me and my friends to fancy restaurants in Dallas or to see The Nutcracker at Christmas time so we could "practice being ladies". "Polishing her diamonds in the rough" is what she called it. She taught me that young ladies do not call young men on the phone nor do they sit in their laps. Words of wisdom like, "If you'll do that in public, people wonder what more you will do in private" and "It only takes an instant to ruin a reputation," as well as "I will trust you until you prove you can't be trusted," reverberated in my teenage brain and kept me from making many foolish mistakes.

As her health began to decline, she always kept a positive attitude. When her leg had to be amputated due to an infection, she put us all at ease by saying, "That just means I have my foot in the door of Heaven." The picture above is my mom (seated) and Joel's mom at our reception. She had spent the entire week leading up to the wedding in the hospital with pneumonia. Through countless doctor visits and hospitalizations, she kept her cheerful disposition and wound up ministering to almost everyone she came in contact with--doctors, nurses, hospital roommates, therapists, and housekeeping personnel. That is not to say she didn't have bad days or bouts of depression; but even in those dark times, she sought refuge in her Saviour.

She took me to church and taught me about Jesus, as much in deed as in her words. She prayed for me. She prayed for the man I would marry. When Joel surrendered to the ministry, we were still just dating. As a gift, she gave him a beautiful blue Italian glass fish he'd admired on her ettigere many times. She told him, "So that you will always remember to be a fisher of men". I'd had my eye on that fish for years and made it quite clear that I would have it in my house someday. So I told Joel, "She gave you MY fish, that is more binding than an engagement ring!" I think Eunice knew what she was doing all along :)

She had a wonderful sense of humor; although nine times out of ten, she'd botch the punchline to a joke. She just loved to laugh. And it was infectious. When I was growing up and would have friends over, I think she giggled as much as we did...maybe more.

My mother also had a great sense of decorating style. I grew up in a house where the walls changed colors almost as often as the seasons. Sometimes, I get a little twinkle in my eye and Joel will sigh, "You're gonna make me paint something, aren't you?"

I could go on and on, but still not find the words to express all that my mother means to me. Losing her was the most difficult thing ever.ever.ever. Greg Laurie says, "[She's] not lost. I know exactly where [she] is." And that is so very true, but it doesn't make me miss her any less. It doesn't make me hate it any less that she will never know her grandchildren in this life or that they will never know how a hug from her could set the world right. But I take comfort in the fact that she is not lost, but found in Him...complete, whole and restored. For this and so much more, I am very thankful.

Wednesday Words of Wisdom

"You must practice growing old gracefully."
--Sarah Elizabeth Mae Glasscock Shields
(my precious grandmother)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thankfulness--Day 18

Today I am thankful for my fluffy, comfy, snuggly warm down comforter. And a Baked Apple Pie candle that smells good enough to eat. For this and so much more, I am very thankful.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thankfulness--Day 17

Today I am thankful for Hallie. Oh, what can I say about Hallie? She suffers from what I call "Second Child Syndrome", meaning she's outgoing, scary smart and terribly precocious. Actually, I don't think she's suffering at all. I believe she enjoys every minute of it. Yesterday, I "blog-erized" HannahKate's myspace profile, so today I'll share a bit about Hallie in her own words from a questionnaire she did at the beginning of the school year.

My name is Hallie Elizabeth
I was born on January 27, 2000.
My favorite subject at school is math.
If I could go anyplace in the world, it would be Africa.
When I grow up I want to be a veterinarian.
My favorite animal is turtles.
A hobby I enjoy is singing.
My favorite meal is chicken spaghetti.
The best thing about me is my humorous personality. [Yes, those were her exact words.]
The next best thing about me is my voice.
I think I am really good at piano.
I think I need to improve at tennis.

When Joel first began traveling, the girls were missing him one night at bedtime. I told them that when I'm sad, I always pray about it and that helps me feel better. We made a little circle of three in the middle of my bed, held hands and began praying. I prayed for Joel's safety and that God would watch over us while he was away. HannahKate prayed for Joel, but also thanked Jesus for coming into her heart. She prayed that Hallie would soon know Jesus, too and that God would bring good Christian men into their lives and that their children would also know Jesus. [At this point, I was bawling. She was only 6 years old, but she was praying for my future grandchildren.] Then it was Hallie's turn. She prayed, "I wish, I wish with all my heart, to fly with dragons in a land apart!" (If you haven't watched children's programming recently, this is the chant that Max and Emmy say to transport themselves to a magical land in the show "Dragontales".) Needless to say, our time of intercession dissolved into a giggling frenzy (once I assured HannahKate that Hallie would not go to hell for invoking the dragons during prayer.)

About two or three years ago, the girls and I were in the car going somewhere and got into a discussion about what they wanted to be when they grew up. Hannah said, "I want to be a teacher, and live in a house just like ours, and marry a man just like Daddy, and have two kids just like us." I was very touched by this sentiment. Then Hallie piped in, "I wouldn't want kids like us. I want kids that behave and don't whine!"

As you can see, Hallie keeps us on our toes. The other night at dinner, Joel was home and we were all laughing and having a good time. The laughter died down for a minute and there was a lull in the conversation. Hallie sighed and said, "Oh, our family is better than cable!" Yes it is, Hallie. Yes, it is. For this and so much more, I am very thankful.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thankfulness--Day 16

Today I am thankful for HannahKate. She's thirteen, but I think she's a remarkable young lady. Of course, I am her mother; but she's the kind of kid I'd like even if she wasn't mine. Here is what she has to say about herself. (This is probably as close to having a guest blogger as I'm going to get...and I stole it from her myspace profile)

Hey this is Hannah. Some people call me HannahKate. Some things you should know:
1st, and most important, I live for God. I strongly believe he is our savior. He died on the cross to save us from our sins and thought of you and me,actually pictured our faces while he hung in pain on the rugged cross. John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." I believe he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and BY HIS WOUNDS WE ARE HEALED. My parents don't MAKE me go to church, its my choice to go and I love it. I believe God put us on this earth to be examples of him. John 13:15 "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." I don't hold grudges. I follow the golden rule as closely as I can. Luke 6:31 "Do to others as you would have them do to you." I DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, CUSS!!! Cussing is for messed up people who aren't creative enough to find some other way to express themselves.
2nd: I love my friends and family soooo much. I have lots of friends. [sara(sbf)] lol. I’m always texting them and love talking to them. I’m always up to making new friends so send me a message and i'll give you my number.
3rd: I am taken. ♥♥♥♥♥
4th: I absolutely L-O-V-E music. I don’t know what I would do with out it.
5th: Say whatever you want about me cuz i don't care. God is the only one who can judge me. Yeah, I don't wear lots of makeup, i don't like to fix my hair or wear dresses but who cares? Good for you if you do care. Matthew 7:1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged." Luke 6:37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."
6th: I love sports. I played volley-ball, basket-ball, and was on the track team last year in 7th grade. (Hated track.) I love to be outside.
Well that’s me in a nutshell. Message me, IM me, text me, call me. I would love to talk to you!!!

See what I mean? She's a pretty neat kid. For this and so much more, I am very thankful.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thankfulness--Day 15

Today I am thankful that HannahKate plays indoor sports, instead of outdoor sports. It is the most blustery, chilly day outside. Even though the sun is shining, the wind is so cold it will take your breath away. As I was dropping Hannah off at the school this morning to leave for her volleyball tournament, there were people bundled up in coats, hats, blankets, etc. making their way to the football stands for area play-off games. So while I'm not exactly thrilled at the prospect of driving an hour and a half to watch the volleyball tournament, I am very, very, oh-so-very grateful that it will be indoors.
For this and so much more, I am very thankful.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thankfulness--Day 14

Today I am thankful for books. I love to read. It is my escape. There's really nothing I need to escape from, but I like to travel so maybe that's what I like about books. They take you somewhere else. I had a run of "bad books" earlier this year. Books that I read, but didn't love. I think I'm back on the right reading path now, though.
Here is what I'm currently reading:
because I loved:
This one, not so much, but still really good:

Two of my other favorites:

And two books that revolutionized my Christian walk (besides the Bible):

For this and so much more, I am very thankful.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thankfulness--Day 13

Today I am thankful for Godly women who have mentored me. First, of course, is my mother. (She gets a post of her own later this month.)
Next, is my youth minister from high school, Becky. She came to our church when I was in about the eighth grade. Once I got over the initial disappointment that she was not a really good-looking young single guy or older, but with a good-looking single son about my age (ok, so my priorities at 14 were a little messed up) I quickly attached myself to her. Or she attached to me, I'm not sure which. But she began to disciple and mentor me in ways that have shaped the person I am today. I know I am not the only person to have benefited from her legacy, but I am certainly one of the most grateful.
When I went to college, Robbi was the associate BSM director. She was/is one of the most intelligent and strongest women I know. She has such a heart for missions and international students. She has devoted her life to not only showing God's love to people who are far away from home, but also equipping those who are far away with their own resources for sharing God's love. I am blessed that my path crossed hers.
And finally, Sharon, is a precious lady who was my Bible study leader for several years when Joel first changed ministries and we were able to go to "grown up" Sunday school. I don't believe I've ever met another person who has such a commanding hold on Scripture. By trade, she is a dyslexia teacher, so she is able to present Biblical concepts in a way that even those of us who are "spiritually learning disabled" can understand and apply. She has a heart for children. She is on the frontline by choosing to minister in the public school setting. She is artistic and creative and I want to be just.like.her. when I grow up.
Mrs. Jettie, Mrs. Cheryl, Karla, Mary G, Ms. Sybil, Patti H, Paula Shaw and my sweet cousin, Debbie also come to mind as ladies who have supported me, encouraged me, challenged me and enriched my life for having known them. For this and so much more, I am very thankful.

Compassion in the Dominican Republic

Last week, Compassion International took a group of bloggers to the Dominican Republic to get their thoughts and perspectives and to increase awareness among those in the blogging community. What an amazing experience they had! I highly recommend taking the time to read their stories.

One post that stood out to me personally was from Mary. The last time we were in Peru, I remember one evening, being overcome by the great need of the people. To most of us, the solution would have been something simple: $30 a month for eye drops so that a bivocational pastor can prevent his eyesight from deteriorating any further or maybe just a bit more to buy hearing aids so that a child could attend school and not be thought of as the "village idiot". Mary talks about that overwhelming sense that no matter what we are able to do, its never enough. Yet God calls us to accountability. (1 John 3:16-20) I cannot save the world, but I can share the love of the One who did. I cannot meet all their physical needs, but I can partner with Compassion to help one child at a time. And I can trust God to be sovereign through it all.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thankfulness--Day 12

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.

1 Chronicles 16:8


Today I am thankful for the privilege of serving through missions. At the age of 12, I felt God speaking to me about mission work. I assumed that meant becoming a missionary and moving to Africa. As I grew and God placed Joel in my life, it was obvious that, while Joel loved the Lord and was called to ministry, he would not be moving to Africa anytime soon. I struggled with why God would direct me in these seemingly conflicting paths. Was He asking me to choose? During a period where Joel and I had decided to spend some time apart to seek God's Will, I took the opportunity to go to summer school in Mexico. I remember God working to reveal to me so clearly that we are all called to be missionaries...whether its on a foreign field, or here at home in our everyday lives. (And believe me, sometimes being a minister's wife is as much of a *foreign* mission field as the remote jungles of the Amazon.)

But God never removed that desire to go. And because of that I've had opportunities to participate in mission endeavors here in the States, as well as Mexico and Peru. And the thing I've learned is that no matter how much you give, you always receive more in return. And so I am grateful that God allows me the privilege of "making known among the nations what He has done". For this and so much more, I am very thankful.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Christmas Tag

Kimberly wanted to know if I have my Jingle on yet. Well, let me tell you.

Today I scheduled the people to put up our outdoor Christmas lights. (We pay someone to do this for us 1.) because Joel travels right up until December and by the time he's home its not worth the trouble; and 2.) because the first year we lived here he did it himself and I came home to find the truck backed up to the house with a ladder in the bed and Joel perched precariously on the roof of the second story. HannahKate was sitting in the driveway with the phone and said, "Daddy says if he falls, I'm supposed to get out of the way and then call 911".)

On the inside, we have 4 trees: a big family tree (7 ft.), a frilly froo-froo tree (6 ft.), HannahKate's tree (4 ft.) and Hallie's tree (3 ft.). We usually put these up the day after Thanksgiving. I used to say there were only two days out of the year when BigJoel and I "fight". One was the day we'd leave for youth camp (He was a student minister, so there were always a bajillion details to deal with) and the other was the day we put lights on our big Christmas tree. Well, he's no longer a youth minister and he bought me a pre-lit tree. Now life is golden...

And then there's the Nativity sets. I collect them. Some stay on display year-round, but at Christmas, I have around 50 that I pull out. Some are inexpensive, some are quite costly. Some are hand-crafted by talented artists, some are made on a production line China. I have them from all over the globe--places I've traveled and places I hope to visit. That is my favorite part of decorating.

I must admit that I'm more excited about getting ready for Christmas now than I was when I started writing this post a few moments ago. I guess that's probably the point. Now that my "jingle is jangling", I'm supposed to tag three more friends to tell about their plans for the holidays. So I'm throwing a big 'ol yellow snowball at:



Elizabeth and/or Ms. Cheryl

Thankfulness--Day 11

Today I am thankful for our Armed Forces. It is Veteran's Day. A day to remember those who have fought for our freedom and served our country. I am especially thankful for the men and women who are currently serving. They put Party ties and political rhetoric aside to place their lives on the line every day. Regardless of whether we support the war, we must support them while they are away as well as when they return. I honestly believe, no matter how unpopular it may be, that if they weren't "over there", they'd be "right here" fighting this battle on our soil. Mark, my friend Paige's husband, is serving his third tour in Iraq. He has a beautiful wife and two of the most adorable kids you've ever seen. As difficult as it is to be away from them, I hope he realizes that his family, and mine, sleeps safely tonight because of his sacrifice. For this and so much more, I am very thankful.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Weekly Pic--We're No. 2!

In honor of my Texas Tech Red Raiders being ranked No.2 in the nation, this is a picture of the girls and I in front of the university back in 2005.

Thankfulness--Day 10

Today I am thankful for my in-laws. I've mentioned before that not only do I pray for my girls' future spouses, but also their future in-laws. This is why. My husband's parents have been such a blessing to me, that I pray the same for my girls. Poppy is a man of integrity if ever there was one. He is tall in stature and in presence. One word from him and my girls go from little devils to perfect angels. He is faithful and devoted to his church and his God. A man of prayer as well as a man of action. My mother-in-law is a small woman with a gigantic heart. She is always making a pie for someone or tending her little aged adopted widow. She loves her family fiercely. She spoils my girls to no end and loves every minute of it. She spends quality time with them doing art projects, painting fingernails and even playing tennis. She is the most organized pack-rat you'll ever find. She has every award ribbon, school project, newspaper article and keepsake from her boys' childhood. Yet her house is always in order and she knows right where to find things. (I can't even keep up with the girls' homework assignments from yesterday, much less things from 35 years ago!) They have welcomed me into their family in such a way that I don't feel like an "in-law", I just feel like a "daughter." For this and so much more, I am very thankful.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Thankfulness--Day 9

Today I am thankful for my church. It is flawed, imperfect and full of sinners. I fit right in. For this and so much more, I am very thankful.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Thankfulness--Day 8

Today I'm thankful for lazy Saturdays in the fall. The weather is absolutely beautiful today. The leaves are changing. The sky is brillant blue. There is just a feeling of peaceful, well-being that I can't explain. For this and so much more, I am very thankful.

I also wanted to share how the girls are doing with their thirty days of thankfulness. Last Saturday, I called them to the living room and told them we were going to start a project. They both groaned and HannahKate said, "Are you gonna make us clean something?" (You can see I have my work cut out for me with these people.) *sigh* I explained that each day in November, we would write down something we're thankful for and hang it on a make-shift string across our fireplace mantle so that we will all be more mindful of our blessings.
(I have seen one website suggest you take a tree branch, put it in a decorative pot and write your thankful thoughts on cute-sy scrapbook paper leaves. I decided I had to choose between doing it "cute" or doing it "this year", so I opted for paper circles on yarn.)

Some of the things Hallie has been thankful for, besides Pepto Bismol, include "friends & spare time, supper, the world, and life". Some of the things HannahKate's been thankful for are "books, a comfy bed, hot showers and Chicken Express sweet tea." And so, I hope the girls are learning that each day has its share of blessings not to be taken for granted. Big ones, like life itself; and small ones, like sweet tea. Umhmmmm...we do have so much to be thankful for.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Thankfulness--Day 7

Today I'm thankful for laughter. Johanna and I went to the Big City to go shopping today. We were having such a good time a lady in one store said, "I'm going to have to get away from you two. I think ya'll are trouble!" Since when is laughing a crime?
Then tonight Elizabeth, Paige, HannahKate, Hallie and I went to eat at a local restaurant. We laughed and laughed. It felt good. I didn't think we were being too loud, but the people at the table next to us kept turning around looking at us. They were celebrating a birthday. But they were not laughing. We were not celebrating anything and we couldn't stop laughing. I think they were just jealous because they were not having as much fun as us...
For laughter and so much more, I am very thankful.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Well, Mercy Me!

This is really cool. Did you know that MercyMe is touring right now with Bebo Norman? And, did you know that they are running a live feed of each show on their blog? For free! Yes! Yes, they are! They will be in Amarillo on Friday, November 7. Then Lubbock on Saturday and Abilene on Sunday. But I will be watching them from Hometown, and so can you. And the best part is, I'll be wearing my traveling gnome pajamas! Its great! You should check it out. You'll be glad you did.