Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Thing

Last January I wrote a blog and talked about a verse we had claimed for the year. Here is what I wrote: "Josh has claimed Isaiah 43 for our church this year and I am claiming it for myself. Isaiah 43:18 says, "Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing." I love that! Don't you? In this chapter God goes on and on about the things He will do for His people, the things only He can do. So, I've decided this year I want to forget the former things and get ready for the new! The things only God can do. I think losing weight and keeping my house organized seem like the most impossible tasks known to mankind. But God said, "I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:19 So, I've decided not only can I keep my resolutions with God's help, I'm going to expect more. Weight loss and clean floors will pale in comparison with the changes that I'm expecting God to make in my heart and mind. He can do that!"

I had NO idea the new things in store for 2009. My Mamaw lost her house (the house she had lived in for over 40 years, the house I grew up visiting every summer and for holidays) and everything she owned to a fire. Josh lost his hospice job in April and we spent 6 months learning to live on half our income. And then, yesterday, I buried my Daddy. He passed away on Christmas day very unexpectedly. As I read that post from last year I couldn't help but tell God, "This was not what I thought you meant by new things! These were not the new things I was anticipating!" I'm not gonna lie. I would like to say GOOD RIDDANCE to 2009. See ya! Good-bye! Adios! Don't let the door hit you on the butt on the way out!!! That's how I feel right now. My grief is so fresh and so raw that I completely lack the ability to even pretend I'm okay. One moment I experience a peace I have never known and the next my heart hurts so bad I feel like I could just crawl in a ditch and stay there forever.

I wish I could say that because I'm a believer, or even better, the preacher's wife, that I am immune to pain and suffering. That I have been a rock of strength and faith over the last few weeks (and really, the last year)handling the trouble that has come our way with grace and dignity. Maybe I have at times. But there have also been many tears, fits and times when I've told God, "I don't get it." I still don't get a lot of things. There are certain situations and experiences that have happened over the last year that I can look back on and see a purpose. And there are still a lot of unknowns.

As much as I wish I could pretend much of 2009 never happened, I know that to erase this last year from existence would also mean erasing so many of the precious memories it holds. My sister in law's wedding. My nephew's first birthday party. T-ball season. Sarah's first dance recital. Going with my mom and dad to get ice cream for our birthdays. Making Eli's rocket cake. Taking the kids to the battleship in Mobile. Mine and Josh's honeymoon in the mountains. In addition to the memories, I know the most important part of 2009 are the lessons learned and the changes in my heart. This was one of those years that changes you. For better or worse it changes you. How I pray that it has changed me for the better. I asked God to do new things in my heart, I just didn't know how painful some of those changes would be.

I didn't know that Josh would have to lose his job for me to learn a greater dependence on His provision. I didn't know that my Mamaw would have to lose her house for Him to teach me that there is NOTHING on this earth that is secure or will always be there. I didn't know that I would have to experience so much heartache for Him to teach me how to minister to others through the way that they ministered to me. I didn't know I would have to lose my Daddy to appreciate my family and be bonded with them in a way I never knew was possible.

I want to wish you a Happy 2010. I want to hope for you happiness, love and health. But, I have come to learn that those things mean nothing when we don't really appreciate them. I also know it is unrealistic to expect a year free of trouble. We are promised troubles on this earth. So, it is my prayer that whatever you face this year, good and bad, you will allow God to use it to do a new thing in your heart. Even if it hurts...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Daddy

My Daddy was a gentle giant.

People always commented on what a big guy he was. I was always quick to point out that he was just “Daddy sized”.

The perfect size for a good bear hug. The perfect size to hold me up to see things little girls were too small to see. The perfect size to open jars. The perfect size to make me feel safe.

My Daddy was loyal. He had been a Saints fan since 1967. Need I say more? :)

My Daddy spent his free time holding onto the back of bikes, making runs to the skating rink and shopping for Ninja Turtles.

My Daddy coached basketball when I was six. He didn’t know anything about basketball, but I wanted to play and they needed a coach. So he coached basketball.

My Daddy sat through SIXTEEN dance recitals. Not because he was a lover of ballet, but because it was important to me.

My Daddy took me to work with him at his nursing home every single day the summer I was eleven. I learned to love “the least of these” and learned that my Daddy was adored by his staff. I was so proud to be “Mr. Strickland’s daughter”.

My Daddy chauffeured hormonal teenage girls to the mall in a minivan and tried to help us understand boys.
My Daddy listened to the same music I did. He was cool. :)

My Daddy taught me to keep my head on a swivel, wear my seatbelt, lock the doors and not pick up hitchhikers.

My Daddy was a great listener. He entertained many deep discussions with a daughter who thinks too much.

My Daddy told my sister and me that we could wear anything and look good. We make clothes look pretty, he said.

My Daddy encouraged me to follow my dreams and spread my wings, but made sure I knew I could always come back home.

My brother once said that we could pump gas and my Daddy would be proud of that. It’s true. He was proud of anything we did, but mostly just that we existed. Not everyone has someone like that in their lives.

My Daddy was funny. Hilarious. Hysterical. He could make me laugh until I cried, and usually about something that nobody else would understand.

My Daddy was a provider. Even after I got married I would often get envelopes marked “hamburger money”.

My Daddy could not stand to see anyone suffer. He was caring and compassionate.
I will never forget my husband coming to report back to me after announcing to a waiting room full of family and friends that our first baby had arrived. He told me everyone was anxious to see her. But he also told me that the first thing my Daddy asked was how I was. In a time when all of the attention shifted to the new baby, my Daddy wanted to make sure I was okay.

A few months later when I had to have a procedure done, my Daddy was the first one I saw when I woke up.

My Daddy was there through the good and the bad.

My Daddy was the best Daddy.

I am still proud to be Mr. Strickland’s daughter.

Friday, December 18, 2009

At the Feet of Jesus

I have no idea where this post may go. I have so much on my mind. Cleaning, decorating, cantatas, cooking, shopping, how to make a little drummer boy outfit out of a sheet. I'm feeling a little stressed out these days. Are any of you? I've known for a while that this would be "the" week. The week of parties, recitals, and cantatas. I have tried my darndest to prepare myself mentally and to also get as organized as possible. I'm really bad at organizing. You know how some people love to plan, organize and do? I continually stand amazed and in awe of those people. They just know what they are doing. They set a goal and they get it done. I've come a long way, but I am still very lacking. I don't think that it helps that the progress I've made in that area is often refuted by the fact that I have 3 children, one of whom is 2. Need I say more?

Yesterday was rather climatic for me. I headed over to the church to help our music minister set up the family life building for our cantata. He had asked me to be in charge of the drama and I knew that meant I would end up helping with the decorations too. I am so bad at that kind of stuff. Luckily we have a lady who is phenomenally talented and artistic and she is doing some of the decorations. As I stood there with our music minister I felt like such a let down. I gave my opinion about a couple of things, but alas I am not one of those people who can fly in, perform a miraculous makeover and make those around me glad I am there to do such things. I began putting out the "snow" and had most of it done when I went to the nursery to check on my children. Sarah and Eli were sitting at the table coloring some pictures. Kate was nowhere in sight. She was in the girl's bathroom with two toilet bowl brushes FLOODING the bathroom. I am not kidding. She was almost up to her knees in water.

I lost it and we headed home where I could keep my children in familiar territory. I really wasn't feeling good and that was even more frustrating because this was really the worst week ever to be feeling bad. I kept telling myself I was just stressed out. Finally by the time Josh got home I decided I needed to go to the dr. I've shared that I actually enjoy the quiet time in the waiting room but I assure you that is not why I went. We have insurance but our co-pay is not good enough for me to just go and hang out! As I sat on the couch reading "The Smithsonian" (I couldn't pick up "Southern Living". I just could not take the pressure of looking at people's perfectly decorated homes and perfectly baked cookies. Just couldn't handle it) I noticed that the music was a little loud. Now, I am a music person. I usually don't know what to do with silence. Not that I get the chance to experience that much at my house, but I am bad about always having the TV on or something to have background noise. But yesterday, I CRAVED silence. I wanted to just stand up and say "For the love of Pete can you turn that music down!!!!!!!!"

You can breathe easy. I did not do that. I convinced myself I was just being a scrooge because I didn't feel good. I tried to continue my reading even though I couldn't think straight. I felt a little better when the nurse was writing down my vitals and put his finger in his ear when one singer hit a particular note. He thought the music was a little too loud too. When I say that I was craving silence I mean I felt like I could not take another sound. No music, no voices, no squeaky shoes on the floor. Have you ever been at that point? I realized right in that moment that I desperately needed some time at the feet of Jesus. I had been running non-stop trying to do all of these things to celebrate Him and worship Him, but the truth is, I was really, really missing Him. I was a Mary living in a Martha's world.

In case you are not familiar with it, the story of Mary and Martha is the story of two sisters who are dear friends to Jesus. They were also the sisters of Lazarus, the man Jesus raised from the dead. There was a certain day we are told about when Jesus was at their home and Martha got a little peeved that Mary was just sitting around listening to Jesus talk and not helping Martha in the kitchen. Have you been there? You start put the dishes away as loudly as dramatically sweep through to gather leftover dishes making a scene. And yet, nobody seems to get the hint. Well, Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen the greater thing by spending time with Him. As you can imagine that didn't go over well with Martha. Not only was she doing all of the work, but now she is being told Mary is the one doing what is right!!

I've been guilty of judging Martha harshly. Of saying, "Why couldn't she just chill out about all of the housework until Jesus left?" It made me think of times when I still lived at home and we would sit down to watch a movie and my Mama could not sit down until she had picked up the whole room. I didn't get it. I was content to sit in the messy room and watch the movie. Of course, that was before I became the Mama and the one responsible for the state our house is found in. It just happens. One day before you know it, you are the Mama. You're the one saying "I don't know how you can relax in a room that looks like this!" Even as laid back, non-organized and lazy as I am, even I worry over it. I've had to take back all of my judgments on Martha this holiday season as I have found myself worked into a frenzy about all of the details that (to me) just have to be taken care of. Just tonight Josh was laying down for bed and he asked why I was staying up. I, of course, did not understand why he doesn't understand that there are 850 billion things to do. It's not important to him that I bake homemade peanut butter blossom cookies, that I scrub the hood over the stove or that I wash the rugs. And now, I realize, is that really important to God either?

I'm a slow learner, have I ever told you that? This morning Josh had to make a 2 hour drive to get sound equipment for the cantata. He took the kids with him. Yes, I nominate him for sainthood. Finally, my house was quiet. I was so tempted to get to the cleaning. Mop the floors, clean the fridge. But I couldn't. The urge was so strong I couldn't stand it. Jesus was beckoning. I had to spend time with Him. It was more important than the floors. More important than cantata decorations. I just needed Him. The Mary part of my heart couldn't take the busyness or the running anymore.

I went to the book of Luke and began reading about the birth of Jesus. For some reason the very first part of that story we always hear, "And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Ceasar Augustus that all the world should be registered." (Luke 2:1) was on my heart. As I began to read that story one verse really stood out to me. Verse 19 tells us, "But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." Can you even imagine? Can you even begin to consider the things on Mary's heart that she was pondering? In the midst of shepherds and angels, Mary was taking in this miraculous child, the Messiah who had been prayed about for so many years. She was working things out in her heart.

Every year I feel like God has to reteach me this lesson. He has to remind me that this season is not about all of the trappings and traditions. It is about pondering in our hearts the gift God gave us when He allowed Jesus to be "God with us". It takes my breath away. When I think of the silly things I get stressed out about I either want to dissolve into a fit of hysterical laughter or weep that I am so easily misled. Ultimately, I just stand in awe that the gift this season represents means that I get to sit at the feet of Jesus.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It's the Thought That Counts?

*Yesterday was Sarah's Christmas party with her dance class. She reminded me of this little Christmas memory from last year. This is one thing I hope you DON'T get this Christmas season. :)

I know that I've been talking about Sarah a lot, but she continues to provide stories for me on a daily basis.

Yesterday was her Christmas party with her dance class and her teacher was so sweet. She gave all of the girls a present. They practiced for their upcoming Christmas recital and then pigged out and opened their presents. I went over to take Sarah her plate and reminded her to thank her teacher for her gift. Ms.Dana had given all the girls a Hannah Montana diary. Sarah smiled and nodded and said excitedly, "I got a diarrhea!"

Oh dear. I guess it's the thought that counts? :)

Monday, December 14, 2009

On the First Day of Christmas

So are all of you full swing into the season? We are! I am excited today to be able to say that I am finally "feeling it". A lot of that has to do with something that happened last night. Well, first I started cooking for the fellowship we had after the children's program at church last night. It was designated a finger food fellowship and usually those make me happy because I just buy some chips and cookies and viola! Well except for the time I made a key lime pie at another church and totally got in trouble because it was not technically finger food and they wouldn't serve it. But that's a whole other story. :)

Anyway, after doing the post on our Christmas traditions and realizing that I have been pretty terrible in the past about baking and creating favorites for my family to look forward to every year I got motivated. I pulled out my arsenal of cookbooks, dusted them off and set to scavenging for recipes destined to become annual must haves. Yesterday I made a mandarin orange slice cake, Tex Mex dip, tea cookies, chocolate fudge cookies (cookies from scratch y'all!) and my crowning achievement- mushroom puffs. I am in love. I don't know if any of my family members actually ate any of that appetizer last night or if they will like it, but if they don't I will totally make it for myself and I will totally eat every last bite of it by myself! Sauteed mushrooms mixed with green onions and cream cheese spread on crescent rolls. Yum. One day I'm going to make a cook book of all crescent roll recipes. I could live off of them. They are not very Atkins friendly, but thankfully my scale is broken and currently says I weigh 80 pounds. I'm keeping that scale through the holidays. :)

We had lots of fun watching the kids sing Christmas songs in their Christmas pj's. Sooo cute! I must share a step of progress in my silly little life. My kids pajamas didn't match. And they weren't red and green. There, the truth is out. I know, only I would have such weird issues that my children have matching or at least coordinating RED AND GREEN pajamas. What can I say? I'm just weird. But on this last rainy, very cold Saturday and a trip to Wal-Mart for all things baking, I then shuttled around several different stores on a very time and money limited journey for matching pj's. Didn't happen. Just couldn't find any. I got Kate the cutest red footed pj's from Dirt Cheap for $2.00! But, couldn't find any for my big kids. As I got soaking wet running into the last store it occurred to me that perhaps I had a problem. My kids had just gotten 2 new pair of pj's each, but I was out in the rain because those pj's weren't red and green. God had a little intervention with me and I headed home feeling set free and okay with the fact that Eli would be wearing Buzz Lightyear instead of Rudolf. What a relief! :)

Friday night is what really set the tone for getting me in the spirit. At one point we had five kids in this house. I was pretty sure I would be singing Hannah Montana songs in my sleep for a week, but the good news was that the extra kiddos entertained my kiddos and I started wrapping presents. I set up shop in my kitchen on the bar and got to work. Does wrapping presents make anybody else feel like they are going to lose their religion? Well, I like wrapping presents, they just never look as pretty as I envision. On this night I was wrapping presents for my two sisters and their families. They are living in Italy and Georgia and I have really got to get those boxes shipped! I also HAD to wrap my nephew's present before I lost Kate to a fit of hysterics that only a forbidden toy could cause. I did my wrapping and even felt pretty satisfied with my bow making. Then, I realized I did not have any name tags. That was because I wanted some fancy looking tags I had seen but couldn't find. Well, this situation called for some creativity which is always bad when I'm involved. :)

As I was looking at Luke's wrapped present it came to me. I grabbed a catalog laying on the counter and cut out the different letters to spell his name. Looks totally like a ransom note. For some reason I decided it worked. So, I did that for everybody's and had the best time digging through magazines and old cards to find the perfect letters. Holidays making me delirious? Very possible. I showed them to Josh and he did the obligatory nod and smile. Bless his soul. I pitched my name tag solution by assuring him we wouldn't even have to put who it was from because honestly, who else would make name tags that look like ransom notes???? If I do decide to add who it is from I am considering "The Fidler 5", "The Fids", "The Crazy Aunt you will avoid telling people about" or my favorite, "Christmas greeting from your friendly neighborhood serial killer". What do you think? :)

Well, as if all of that baking and wrapping weren't enough to get me going, I have to tell you about something that we started last night. I really debated telling for two reasons. One, I don't want the secret to get out. Can you keep a secret? And two, I DO NOT want you to think that I am trying to brag about anything we are doing. It is just so much fun and it is the thing I am most excited about this year. I am only sharing it in case you might want to do it in the future. I meant to tell you about it early enough that you could do it this year but I just couldn't get it together. Imagine that...

For a few years now Karen has been telling me about this thing her family has done at Christmas called "The 12 Days of Christmas". You choose a family that you want to bless and then for 12 days leading up to Christmas Eve or Day you leave anonymous gifts for that person or family. I've been wanting to do it for a while and would always forget about it until it was too late to start. This year, I just knew I had to do it. We had a lady pull up in our driveway and when I went out to greet her she told me she had lost her dog and was wanting to know if we had seen it. Unfortunately we hadn't, but as we talked she introduced herself and I immediately recognized her name. I had heard her name mentioned in prayer requests and in the news. Just months ago she lost her son in Afghanistan. I can't even imagine how difficult this Christmas will be for her and I just thought maybe it would add a little bit of fun to a Christmas that I'm sure will be very lacking this year. Again, I only share this in case God might lead you to a person or family that you feel would benefit from some extra fun and attention at Christmas.

So, last night was the first night. Since it was the first day you just do one gift. And you just get little $1-$3 stuff. It's more about the thought than how much you spend. I got her a snowman mug, wrapped it and put a note that says, "On the first day of Christmas Santa gave to me, a snowman mug perfect for hot tea." Yes, my poetry book will be available next Spring. :) I also put her name and that it was from Santa so the mailman would not think it was for him. Yes, I know it is illegal to put stuff in people's mailboxes. I'm such a rebel.... Each day you come up with the number of gifts to match that day. I still need to get something for today and tomorrow, but I hit up the dollar rack at Target and got 4 magnetic clips, 5 cookie cutters, 7 santa chocolates, and a pack of 12 ornaments. Stuff like that. Each day you do the poems and then on the last day you do a long poem with your last name hidden in the poem to see if the person can figure it out. I haven't gotten that far, but if you're interested let me know and I will send you what I come up with or send you Karen's that she sent me.

This will probably bless me more than her. It's already made my Christmas. I felt like a teenager last night dropping off the gift. I will probably have to wait until later to go because there were still lights on when I went last night. I was just so tired after my day of church and baking and fellowshipping that I couldn't bear the thought of going back out again. Anyway, I didn't pull up close enough to the mailbox and I had to open the door. I'm sure they probably heard my door slam and me take off like a wild woman. Reminded me so much of nights out vandalizing people's yards and cars. Only with toilet paper of course. Okay, and maybe some shaving cream every now and then. :) I've always stunk at it. Subtle is not my word. Oh well. I can't wait to get the gift today and come up with my cheesy little poem.

I hope you are enjoying the season. And if this is a Christmas that holds more dread and sadness then joy, I pray that God will bless you during this time. And I pray that if I'm part of your holiday you will not live in fear of serial killers or strange noises in the night. It's just me. :)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Call Enterprise, We'll Pick You Up

I am sitting here on a lazy Saturday. And I'm enjoying it. I'm trying to get all of my laziness in before we embark on this next week which includes: city party (tonight), children's Christmas program, Sarah's dance class party, cantata practice, church Christmas party, Sarah's Christmas recital, cantata dress rehearsal, and then finally the big cantata Saturday. Josh's mom and grandma are also coming in next weekend and I'm hoping I will still be coherent enough to play hostess. Can't wait to see them!

The children's Christmas party at church always brings to mind the very first Christmas party here at Montrose Baptist Church. Josh had just accepted the call to be the pastor here the week before the scheduled party and I was so excited about my first activity as an official preacher's wife. I was going to make a birthday cake for Jesus and read "What God Wants for Christmas" to the kids. I was so excited. As you can probably guess, things did not go as smoothly as I had planned.

At that point I was still working full-time, a job that had me driving halfway around the free world. We had not yet moved into the "church manse" so we were also driving 45 minutes to and from church twice on Sundays. I'm not going to lie, it was a little exhausting. So, that particular Sunday after church I baked the cake for Jesus and then informed Sarah that we would all take a nap and let the cake cool while we slept. Well, apparently Sarah was not okay with that plan because while I slept, she decided she would frost the cake. The too hot cake that crumbled into a million pieces as she frosted it. :) This was also during the time that our Christmas tree kept falling over so by the time we put the Christmas tree back up and salvaged the cake, we were running a little late. Josh had a "shortcut" through the woods and that day it felt like a roller coaster ride as we twisted and turned and shot up in the air on those back country roads doing about 90.

We finally made it to the church and the second I stepped out of the jeep the Nutty Nurse (she is one of our church members who just happened to also work at hospice with me) came over and asked if I had gotten her page. I hadn't. We obviously had not had signal during our roller coaster ride through the woods. She informed that a patient had just died and we were the nurse and social worker on call. Two things crossed my mind. First, I was so upset that I would have to leave the birthday party for Jesus. Second, I was a little freaked out because the Nutty Nurse and I had both started our jobs about the same time and this was the first time either of us had been called out for a death visit. To top it off, neither of us had met the patient or the family.

I handed my children, the book and the crumb cake over to one of the church ladies and loaded up in the Nutty Nurse's SUV. We took off and immediately started discussing what we were supposed to do. She handed me the protocol book and I started reading the information. I couldn't help but comment that we really needed a "Death for Dummies" book. During the 45 minute drive to Meridian we went over the patient's information and I noted that Enterprise was the funeral home the patient had chosen. The NN decided we should wait until we spoke with the family to call the funeral home. We drove around lost for a little bit and then we finally figured out the directions. I don't know how to explain where we ended up without it sounding judgmental or negative. Let's just say, it was an apartment complex you would not want to go to by yourself at night. And yet, there we were...

We stuck out like sore thumbs and so people were quick to figure out who we were and point us in the direction of the right apartment. We walked in and there were several people gathered in the tiny space. The bed was stripped. No patient. No sheets. I assumed the family must have already called the funeral home. What a relief....we would just provide support to the family and help them with arrangements. As I was feeling relieved I noticed that everyone's attention was drawn to a pile of white sheets in the middle of the floor. Could it be? No, it couldn't. A person couldn't fit under those sheets......OH.MY.GOSH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The patient was on the floor under a pile of sheets!!!!!!!!!!!!! The NN pulled back the sheet to check her and they hadn't even closed her eyes! Do you remember the post where I talked about the things that school cannot prepare you for? Yes, this would count as one of those times.

In that moment I did what any good preacher's wife would do. I said, "Let's pray." As I was leading this group of people I had never met in my life in prayer, literally over a dead body, someone started trying to open the door behind me. More relief. I just knew it had to be our chaplain and he would know how to handle all of this. No. It was just some drunk guy who had stumbled on the wrong apartment. I gently shoved him out and joined the NN in the kitchen as she was trying to calm down a hyperventilating neighbor. I really wanted to move the patient out of the floor, but I guess I've seen too much CSI and I felt like we shouldn't touch the body until she had been examined. We learned that the coroner had already been out. I still just could not figure out why they left her on the floor. The NN and I decided we would try to move her. Have you ever heard the expression "dead weight". Well, me and the little NN decided against that course of action because all I could think was that as if this was not traumatic enough for everyone could you imagine us dropping her in front of her family?!?!

So, I accompanied the NN to the bathroom as she performed the ritual flushing of the meds. By the time she finished that the funeral home got there. Praise the Lord!!!!!!!!!! As they were placing her on the stretcher I noticed that the name on the stretcher was not Enterprise. This tells you how clueless I was about these things. I thought maybe they had bought out another funeral home and were still using the old stuff. Y'know, like when Sara Lee took over Colonial Bread, but they still used some of the old trucks. I know, I know. Give me some credit y'all I had just seen my first dead body not already prepared in a casket. The NN also noticed this and questioned the family about it. They were not aware of the arrangements already made and CALLED THE WRONG FUNERAL HOME. Seriously. We talked to the men from the funeral home and explained the situation. They already had her in the hearse. I called the right funeral home to tell them what was going on and they agreed to drive to the wrong funeral home and pick her up.

It was some kind of night. It definitely guaranteed that I would never forget my first death call. Just so you know the NN and I actually became pretty competent at handling death calls. But, we became famous in our office for that particular visit. In fact, just last week when I went to the Memorial Service one of the nurses introduced me to a new employee and immediately had to tell her that story. I think it is my number one story archived in the "I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried" category of my life.

After all was said and done I couldn't help but laugh a few weeks after that visit when a commercial came on and said, "Call Enterprise. We'll pick you up." Yes, they really will.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Year Ago Today

Sarah Beth, this is what you looked like on December 11, 2008, the day you asked Jesus into your heart. You were six years old and had been asking us questions since you were three about Jesus and baptism. We felt you were too young and just kept talking to you and praying for you. Finally, on this day last year as we sat around the dining room table you told us you wanted Jesus in your heart and daddy explained to you what that means. He explained that meant asking Jesus to forgive you of your sins and to be your Savior. You said, "Well can I pray now?" We knew that Jesus was knocking at the door of your heart. You prayed with daddy right there at the table. Two months later you were baptized and you showed your first step of faith. You had been telling us for years that you would get baptized when you were six. You had been scared of going under the water, but God gave you the faith to do it (and daddy promised he wouldn't hold you under long. :)

This is what you look like this year and my, how you have grown! You've changed from a chubby cheeked first grader into a tall, beautiful 2nd grader. You have grown in so many other ways too. You've learned all of the books of the New Testament and several in the Old Testament. You've learned several verses as well. You learned to play "Kum Ba Ya" on the piano and you played it last year when we visited some elderly members of the community. My little toddler that used to be too scared to get on stage even with a group of other people has become so brave and independent. You have been so excited about Christmas this year and make sure to remind us and everyone else that it is Jesus' birthday! I left you with one of our Methodist neighbors for just 10 minutes one day and when I got back you had asked her if she and her daughters had been baptized. :)

I know God has such big plans for you. You are so thoughtful and compassionate. You are also determined and "strong-willed". I thought that strong-will was going to do me in when you were younger, but I have watched God mold that will into one that wants to please Him. He needs people who are determined to serve Him and share Him and that is you! I am so excited to see what God has in store for you. You have already grown so much in just a year. Can't wait to celebrate lots more of these "birthdays" with you!

My prayer for you~ Father, I thank you for the opportunity to be Sarah Beth's mama. It is the most important and significant job you have ever given me. I pray that Sarah will continue to grow in grace and in her knowledge of You. I pray that you will fill her with an unquenchable thirst for You and a hunger for Your Word. I pray for teachable moments in her life that will draw her closer to You. I ask that You would fill her with strength and boldness that in the days to come she would remain strong in her faith. Lord, I pray that you will surround her with family and friends who love You and encourage her and support her in her love for You. I pray that she will learn to seek her security from You, and You alone. Thank you Father, for giving Your only Son, so that my baby girl can have a relationship with You.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rewind and Remind: Adventures in Decorating the Fidler Church Manse

First, I would like to start by telling you that when we did the Preacher's Wife's Scavenger Hunt one of the ladies overseas referred to their parsonage as the "church manse". Don't you love that? I do. So, we are now officially living in the church manse. Today, I am joining in again at The Preacher's Wife for This Is How We Christmas Thursday. You can still link up there if you would like, but I am winning the drawing this time because it is jewelry from The Vintage Lane and I picked out a necklace I want to give someone weeks ago. So, I'm just sayin'. :) (The truth is that it's a random drawing and the only random drawings I get chosen for are surveys. I'm not kidding. I get randomly picked for every census and survey known to mankind. My opinion is highly valued. :)

Anyway, I wasn't sure if I was going to join in on this particular day because to be honest, I have been struggling with the Christmas decorations. I started out the month feeling pretty under the weather and having no energy for normal life much less the strenuous rigor of decorating. But, I had a moment with my 4 year old that inspired me. You will most definitely not be inspired by any great decorating ideas I have, but God used the curiosity of my preschooler to help me chill out and focus on what this time is about. You see, I so much want to have a Better Homes and Garden house. A home that is perfectly clean, decorated and classy. And it looks like grown ups live there. But alas, it is not meant to be.We have this little problem. We have to live here... *sigh*

This year I was feeling kind of frustrated because I wanted new stuff, fancy stuff, stuff that goes together. All of my Christmas stuff is a mismatch of things that have been given to me. Well, Eli was laying on the couch one day and asked, "What does remind mean?" I thought he meant rewind, because he was waiting on a movie to rewind. He said, "No, what does remind mean?" I told him it is something that helps us remember.

Then, referring to this ornament he said, "That dog reminds me of Abby." Abby was our cocker spaniel that passed away 2 years ago. It was like a light bulb came on in my head. As I had been putting out different decorations they would remind me of certain people or places or events. God began to show me how much love fills my house every Christmas with decorations and ornaments that were chosen especially for me by people who care for me. I needed to rewind and be reminded of that.

This is the first year EVER that I've had a real tree!! I'm so excited I about can't stand it. We had so much fun going to pick it out. I've shared before that we had a seven foot tree I got on clearance before Josh and I were married. Before we had furniture or a place to live. I also shared that it never did fit anywhere we lived. We often had to leave the back of it off or the top. Finally, the year we moved to Mississippi it went up one last time. It actually went up several times because again we could only put half of it up and it was very front heavy. I can't tell you how many times it fell down and we had to put it back up. Then, we got called to Montrose and moved the week before Christmas. We finally just said good-bye to that tree and bought a very petite pre-lit tree that I named Peggy Sue. I noticed in the pics from last year that Peggy Sue was looking pretty pitiful. So, now we have a real tree!

I don't have a pic with the lights, but I have to tell you that my husband and children convinced me to get colored lights. We had colored lights when I was growing up but since we've been married we've always had white. It just feels so peaceful and calming to sit by a lit Christmas tree doesn't it? It used to. Until Josh decided we needed moving lights. Mercy. They were really stressing me out during the decorating phase, but now they are growing on me. You can even put on Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and they move right on beat with the song. Just thought you should know that. :)

The lights remind me a lot of this little girl who is making Christmas quite the activity this year. Here is Kate with one of her daddy's ornaments. Isn't she cute? Let me tell you though, she moves quicker than those lights! We just decorated Tuesday night and we've already re-decorated 3 or 4 times.

Sarah put the manger at the very top and said it should be up their "because it's Jesus' birthday". Right on babygirl! And how cool is it that her 1 year spiritual birthday is tomorrow!!

These are some ornaments that my friend and church member, Shelly, has made the past three years. I stand in awe y'all. Aren't they amazing? I'm planning one day to just have a "Shelly Tree" full of her ornaments. She assures me that one day when my kids are older I too can do things like this. Ummm, I'm not very hopeful...

This is my homemade ornament. The lighting is terrible. But this is what I can do with some wood glue and a kit from Oriental Trading. :) Speaking of wood glue I feel like I am running an infirmary for broken ornaments. As I write this I have a ballerina healing on my kitchen counter. Decapitation. Horrible. I thought I was gonna lose her. And I love ballerinas. Thank goodness for the wood glue...

And who doesn't love a clown? This is Josh's ornament that his great-grandma "Mo" made him.

This ornament was given to us at my friend Pao Ying's wedding which just happened to be November 27th. Unfortunately, I never get this ornament out in time to remember that. This was the favor from their wedding and I just love it because 1. It reminds me of their anniversary even if I am late and 2. It's neat to feel like they are part of our Christmas every year. And, they do have faces I promise. My camera obviously does not have a Christmas Tree setting on it. (Or more likely, I just don't know what I'm doing...)

This is my absolute favorite ornament. F.A.V.O.R.I.T.E. I have put this ornament on the tree every year of my life that I can remember. It's not Christmas for me until the red ballet shoes are hanging on the tree.

This is another favorite of mine. Again, I was having camera issues. My best friend Karen gave this to me a few Christmases back and do you see the "F" on their songbook? I just love it. I need to find another little snowgirl to add since we have added Kate. Nothing a little wood glue couldn't handle. :)

I had a picture of our mantle on here and it just disappeared. But that is okay because it is still a work in progress. I can't find our stocking y'all. Or mine and Josh's first year of marriage Christmas ornament. I am convinced that I packed them somewhere special so they would not get lost or broken. Now I just have to remember where....

This will be our third Christmas here and this is the first year it has occurred to me to put our stockings on the mantle. It's a mantle from a fireplace that was taken out of the den and when they asked if I wanted to keep the mantle I had them put it in the dining room for all of my pretty decorations. Or, for a bunch of random stuff that gets thrown up there to keep it out of Kate's reach. :) Anyway, I have no idea why I never thought to put our stockings there. I guess I was too busy looking for places to hide things like our very important ornaments...

I really wish I could show you that ornament. It is a very pretty glass ornament. My mama had bought me tons of ornaments and we had a dear family member (this will be the first Christmas since she went to be with the Lord and I am thankful for my tree full of "Liz" ornaments) who got us ornaments every year. So, I had plenty for our tree. And they all came with red yarn to tie them in bows to the tree because that is how we always decorated at mama's. Well, when it came time to hang our new ornament I didn't have any pretty ribbon or hooks to hang it with. Never fear, we had a bread tie. Josh had just started working as a breadman for Sara Lee and that was our life. It was only appropriate that the pretty glass ornament be hung by a bread tie. It still is. :) Or it will be as soon as I find it...:/

If anyone is still reading this, I hope I haven't bored you to tears. Thank you for letting me share a very small part of the decorating here at our church manse. :) I look forward to seeing everyone else's decorations and pray that we will all make the time this season to be reminded of why we celebrate!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I'll have a hot chocolate, a low interest loan and some spray 'n wash, please.

I used to hate when people would say that marriage took work. It just didn't sound romantic at all. Love shouldn't be work. It should be fun and easy and...romantic. Have I mentioned before that I am a hopeless romantic? Despite my hopeless romanticness (one day I will write my own dictionary) I have found that often, I do not feel romantic.

Yesterday while Josh was at school he was sending me messages telling me he loved me and he couldn't wait to see me and he wanted to give me a big smooch. That was sweet and all, but I have to tell you, after a day of homeschooling, driving in the rain to pick up Sarah, cantata practice that consisted of more child chasing than practice, and the wonderful surprise of a dirty pull-up that Diasy had pulled out of the trash awaiting me when I got home, I just wasn't feeling all that romantic. In fact, I was feeling more like I wanted to curl up in the fetal position and mumble for a little while. Poor Josh.

So, this morning I decided I would attempt some good old fashioned romance and surprise Josh at the office with a hot chocolate from Cups, this amazing coffee place my friend Amy introduced me too. Josh and I don't drink coffee, but we can tear up a hot chocolate and a Blondie (my new fave!) Well, this is when I realized what that whole "working" thing is talking about. It is seriously a major event to do things as simple as take a drink to my sweetie at work. First, we had to do school. Then, we had to get everybody ready. Thankfully Sarah and Eli get themselves dressed now. That is good because Kate is at that phase where it is like to trying to dress 8 people. She had to go to the "bafroom", she climbed in the bathtub while I was putting on my make-up, she had to brush her teeth, we had to find get the picture. We finally got on the road and made the 30 minute drive. (Have I ever mentioned we live at least 30 minutes from ANYTHING?)

I pulled up to the window (yes, they have a drive-thru, praise the Lord!) and the guy informed me that all of their prices had gone up and were not the same as what was listed on the menu outside. I didn't even ask. It didn't matter. I was committed. I had driven through a torrential rain (I love the word torrential) after getting myself and 3 kids dressed. There was no turning back. I was getting Josh that hot chocolate no matter what! I had even put on make-up for pete's sake!! Of course, I couldn't just get Josh the hot chocolate. Are you kidding? My children would be telling that story for years of how we drove millions of miles to get hot chocolate and I didn't let them get any. I could just hear it.

I placed my order and I could tell that the poor guy was not used to getting group orders. Kate got a chocolate milk which she promptly spilled all over her brand new shirt. A girl popped up at the window to tell me my total. $16.35 . Sixteen dollars and thirty five cents. Seriously? Yes, seriously. I started to tell my children that was their lunch. But I didn't. Because I didn't want to mention food or remind them that they require it. So far they haven't remembered. :)

We continued on in the torrential rain storm to Josh's office. We gave him his hot chocolate. He was happy. He said Cups is worth every penny. We smooched. I thought that was worth every penny. :)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Don't Push Me!

I interrupt this marathon of "Emily's Christmas Memories" to bring you an update from "The Ghost of Christmas Present also known as INSANITY!!" This week has just been something else. From what I remember Monday was pretty calm. I even got to the dance studio EARLY to pick up Sarah AND I remembered to pay her tuition. Punctuality and memory are not my strong suits so I feel the need to congratulate myself on those two things. :)

Tuesday night the kids and I accompanied Josh on a tour of some local funeral homes. Eli got so excited and said, "Yay, we're going to a new funeral home!" That is a moment you know you are a preacher's kid. But really, who needs Disneyworld when there are so many funeral homes to visit? One of our church members lost his father and so we decided to brave the cold and the rain and take 3 kids under the age of 7 to the funeral home since I wouldn't be able to attend the service. It went better than expected. I had the chance to have a very serious conversation with my 4 year old. He wanted to know why his body was still there if he was dead. We've talked so much about going to heaven that he didn't get why his body was still here. It may bother some of you that we take our kids to funeral homes or that we discuss such things, but I am a big believer in the fact that we teach our kids how to react to death and grief. With Josh being a preacher and both of us working for Hospice (and, oh yea, we live across the street from the cemetery) our kids have been very exposed to death and funerals. I'm just amazed at the faith they have and the way their little hearts and minds handle things. It blows my mind the questions they ask. I will always cherish that night sitting on the couch at the funeral home with Eli. I hope that he will always feel like he can talk to me and ask questions. (Although I have the feeling that in a few years I will be asking him questions and seeking his wisdom!)

I had been feeling pretty bad for a couple of weeks and so Wednesday when Josh came home early after the funeral I dragged my pitiful self to the After Hours Clinic. It was full. Is it sad when you almost enjoy waiting at the dr.'s office because you actually get time to read through an entire magazine in peace and quiet? Probably. Well, I got a prescription and headed to Laurel to Wal-Mart. Apparently so did everybody else in central Mississippi. I was in line between two people who must have been blogging on their phones the way they were texting. Aren't y'all so glad I can't do that on my phone? Y'all would have been reading a blog that said, "I feel like crud, I'm in line at the pharmacy at Wal-Mart. The end." I prefer to sit down and give you detailed, chapter reviews of my week instead. :)

Thursday was a much anticipated day. Josh and I got a date! Well, it was to a memorial service, but still, we went without kids! Josh works for the same company I used to work for just out of a different office. Every year each office holds a memorial service to honor all of the patients who have passed away. Josh was asked to speak at the service for the office I used to work for. I have to confess, when we pulled into the parking lot I became a nervous wreck! I haven't gone back to the office or seen any of those people in over a year and a half. I am the type that I always assume people have forgotten me. Like, I'll call Josh and say, "Hey, this is Emily. Your wife." Okay, not really, but still I just feel like it is better to assume people have forgotten you than to go running across the building with arms outstretched, you know what I mean? Well, I had no need to fear. The chaplains who invited Josh to speak even said they did it because they knew it was the only way they would get me there. :) It was SO good to see the people I used to work with. It was also very emotional for me. I was only there 2 years, but y'all I can't explain those 2 years. They were so intense and really, I grew up in those 2 years. I figured out more about myself, my faith, and real life than I had in the previous 20 something years of my life. I'll go ahead and forewarn you that I may move from Christmas memories to work memories in the next week or so. What can I say, I've just become a sentimental, remembering fool. :) I also found out that several of those patients listed who had passed away were some of mine. See, I still consider them mine... Josh thought his message that night tied for his worst ever with the first sermon he preached in 6th grade. :) I assured him he was wonderful, and really he was.

We left there and had supper at LaPinata, the BEST Mexican restaurant. We had a real, uninterrupted conversation and cheese dip. That's all I ask for y'all. How did the kids do you ask? Oh, they cried. When we got there and they had to leave! Ha! Nothing like feeling loved and missed....... :)

Yesterday Sarah and I went shopping for some much needed winter wear (and by winter I mean if the temp drops below 74.5 I am breaking out the scarves). She is at an age now where it is fun to shop with her. She still picks out stuff that is the total opposite of what I like, but she is much easier to sway in my direction now. I so wish my computer would let me upload pics so I could show you the picture of her in a hat she picked out. All I can say is, obviously I have taken her to too many funeral homes! It was this huge black hat with feathers. And speaking of feathers, do you remember in this post when I talked about the feathered headdresses? Well, guess who bought a feathered headband yesterday? Oh yes I did. $2.99. I couldn't pass it up. I feel like a fashion icon I tell you. :)

Last night was the Christmas parade. Sarah rode on a float with her dance class. I walked through half of Bay Springs (seriously. For you local folks I walked from Hardees to the City Hall!!!) to find the float. But it's not like I was wearing high heeled boots, because who would do that? Okay so maybe I was. Anyway, we stood in the freezing cold for about 20 minutes, caught some candy, almost got run over by some crazy police officer showing off on his motorcycle, and then it was over. We totally didn't see Sarah at all. She was on the other side from where we standing. I tried to just get a pic of the float and do you know what my camera said? REPLACE BATTERY. It has become a Christmas parade tradition that my camera does that. (I think that Josh may sneak in and put old batteries in so I will stop embarrassing him by taking 40 million pictures, but that is just a theory.)

I guess today was the grande finale of the week. Just so you know, I decided to go for the real tree. Mostly because after looking at all of those pictures of our tree from last year I realized what a sad looking thing it was! I really wanted to go to a fancy tree farm and have that whole experience, but we just went to Lowe's. I'm glad. I don't think my kids were up for experiences today. Eli was having emotional breakdowns about wearing shoes and a coat and he couldn't keep the crayon box from falling out of his lap in the car. I thought we might have to sedate him for the ride. Once we got to Lowe's I really had no idea how to pick out a tree. Finally we saw one that was not all tied up and I said "That one looks good!" I think Josh was amazed I picked one so quick. I'm just too lazy to be picky, I really am. I think we did good though. I'm happy with it. I really don't know if I can ever have a fake tree again. Of course, this is day one. ..

After Lowe's we headed to Wal-Mart to get a tree stand that didn't cost more than the tree. Really, I think that some of the ones they sell must come with a full staff to water the tree everyday. Good grief! Kate did not want to get in the jeep and leave Lowe's. It was the first time she has ever fought me getting in her seat and I started having flashbacks of Sarah being that age because she fought me every.single.time we went anywhere. It was very traumatic. Well, I finally figured out that Kate was so unhappy because she had spotted one of those big swingset playthings they have outside and she wanted to play! I really hope that little battle of the wills was a one time thing. But now I'm not so sure. Once we got to Wal-Mart I started pushing the buggy while Josh looked at lights. Do you know what my 2 year old started saying to me? "DON'T PUSH ME! DON'T PUSH ME!" While it may not have been used in the same context, I am pretty sure she has heard those words from me!

It's been a week of funerals, parades, and Christmas trees. Oh yeah, it snowed here last night! Can you believe that? I'm going to go to bed now because our tree keeps making noise and I just know that at any moment a squirrel is going to jump out at me. If you think I'm joking you just don't understand my experiences with the rodent population. Knowing my luck there is a whole family of squirrels in that tree preparing for the holidays....

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Very Special Baby

*This was originally posted on this day in 2007. Here is what my baby Kate looked like then, and following is the lesson she taught me that Christmas....

Well, it's done. The Christmas decorations are up. I know, I should sound more excited, but I have to tell you, getting them up was not exactly the experience I had in mind. First of all, we moved the week before Christmas last year and apparently I was so sick of packing and unpacking that I just randomly threw my decorations into the laundry room in any crack or crevice they would fit in. This meant digging through those boxes and boxes of random stuff we never unpacked after our move.

Every year I have visions of holiday music playing, cookies baking, and my family dressed in Christmas sweaters as we decorate the tree. Isn't that sweet? Well, in reality Josh was drugged (legally) playing PS2 on the couch, the kids were running around half naked breaking every decoration I've been given in my entire life, supper was burning on the stove and I was in the laundry room screaming as I was attacked by wooden deer falling out of boxes onto my head. It was a special time.

However, before the chaos I had to rearrange the living room to make a place in front of a window for the tree. I had everything situated and then I looked at the place that was supposed to be for the tree. In the rearranging I had moved the bassinette and it was sitting where the tree would go. For some reason that moment struck me. I thought about putting the bassinette together all by myself at 8 months pregnant because I was so excited I just couldn't wait for Josh to come home. I remembered how for a few weeks it sat empty in the living room waiting for Baby Kate. And then, it made me think about this season we are celebrating and how it never really was about Christmas trees, cookies or spending too much money. It's about a baby.

I have to say that there is nothing in the world that compares with the excitement and anticipation of waiting for a baby. Having recently had Kate and finding out that I am an Aunt-to-be (just call me aunty em!) I know that no other event equals the anticipation of wondering what the baby will look like or the eagerness of dressing the baby in all of the clothes that have been waiting for months.

I thought how Mary didn't have any of those preparations done and I wonder if her nesting instinct was driving her crazy as she was stuck on a donkey traveling to another land. Did it bother her that she didn't have the perfect outfit for her baby boy? I doubt it. I'm sure her mind was filled with much more serious questions. How do you raise the Son of God? The messiah who has been anticipated not for 9 months, but since the beginning of time!

I know, only my mind could wander that far from rearranging the living room. But I'm so glad God gave me that moment. I pray that this holiday season as the busyness takes over that He will continue to fill my heart with thoughts of the Baby Jesus who would grow up to be my Savior! I pray that we will all feel an even greater rush of excitement over the baby who the prophet said, "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,' which is translated, 'God is with us." (Matthew 1:23) That baby came to be God with us!!! To experience and feel everything that we feel and experience. To enable us to say, "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was at all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:14)

What a very special baby!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This Is How We Christmas

You would think it is December or something the way I've been posting these Christmas blogs. :) For someone who is having trouble getting in the holiday spirit this year I have posted a record number of Christmas pictures. I'm hoping that at least my Mom and Dad will still be reading my blog after I bore everyone else to tears with my Christmas memories. Just hang in there for 22 more days....:0)

Today, I am taking part in a fun little blog party Lisa is doing at The Preacher's Wife called This Is How We Christmas: Quirky Traditions. You can link up at her site if you want to join in. You don't even have to be a preacher's wife. It is so neat to learn all of the different traditions and celebrations people have for Christmas. Here is what she wants to know:

1. The Santa Thing- I believed in Santa until I was 16. Okay, not really, but I really wanted to. I LOVED the mystery and the excitement of Santa. My sister Jenny and I would lay in bed for hours waiting for him to come. She would often go looking for her presents early, but I never wanted mine until Christmas day. The surprise was the most exciting part to me.

My kids believe in Santa, but I really struggled with that. Not so much because I thought they would lose focus on the real reason for Christmas, but because they ask so many stinkin' questions!! I really stink at lying to them. And Josh stinks at keeping secrets. He gets excited about stuff we've talked about getting them and just talks about it in front of them! We're trying to get better though. Actually...can you keep a secret?

Josh was Santa. In the year 2000 at Winn-Dixie. You would think he would be better at this whole thing. :) This is the Christmas before we got married. I was away at school and he sent me this picture and I'm sure you can guess what was number one on my Christmas list that year!! So, now you know. Not only am I a preacher's wife, I'm also Mrs. Claus. It's a lot of pressure y'all....

Pictures with Santa are a must for us. Even if they cost more than our water bill. Even if my children are terrified and screaming in the picture. Why? Well, we've just always done it that way. :)
I will never forget the first Christmas that Sarah was old enough to really know what was going on. We wrote a note to Santa and he wrote back! Oh, if you could have seen her face! I'm not sure what was up with this plate from last year. Those cookies look pretty pitiful. I'm sure that is some traumatic baking experience I have blocked from my memory. Anyway, I'm not sure how long we will do the note thing. I think that is what gave it away for me. Santa's handwriting looked just like my dad's!

2.Christmas Eve Day- Lisa shared the best Christmas Eve tradition ever. Breakfast at Cracker Barrel and a day at the movie theater! Oh, that is so going to be one of our traditions as soon as my children can sit through a movie!

Honestly, since Josh and I have gotten married we have had so much change that we don't have many set traditions, especially on Christmas Eve as he had to work that day in the past. I wanted so much to carry on my family's tradition of driving around Christmas Eve looking at everyone's decorations. Bless Josh's heart. Our first Christmas together he had worked like a 14 hour day out delivering bread all over Tallahassee, FL and as soon as he got home I said, "Let's go ride around and look at lights!" I am pretty sure he was sleep driving. Thankfully no wooden deer or inflatable snow globes were injured in the making of that memory.

Coordinating Christmas clothes have always been a big deal in my family as evidenced by this very stylish picture which may cause my sister to never speak to me again. :) I just had to put it on here. Don't you love my Gilda Radner hair? You know, the "Gilda" came before the "Rachel". :) Those stockings hanging behind us were sewn by my Mama and my family has the exact same ones. I attempted to sew Josh's when we got married. My Mama was nice enough to sew one we could actually hang up in public and she has since made one for all 3 of my children and our dog Abby. You can't tell in the picture, but I have the biggest stocking and I still like to point that out every year. :)

My most memorable Christmas Eve EVER happened last year. It feels like it was last week! Anyway, it included pep rally skirts, hannah montana wigs and candlelight. :)
In keeping with the clothing tradition, our longest standing Christmas tradition is Christmas Eve pj's. You can see this one goes way back...........

3. Food and Parties- Our month of December is full of church specials, dance recitals, the downtown parade and the city party we always get invited to so Josh can bless the food.

Unfortunately I do not have much to share as far as food goes. The kids and I always make a birthday cake for Jesus and I buy a gingerbread house kit for them to put together. See this picture on here? Yea, that's not our gingerbread house. In fact, I may go to jail for using this picture. Will you visit me?
Isn't that pretty? We're working up to that. But let's face it, it's hard to make a gingerbread house when most of the candy gets eaten, y'know?

This year I am totally planning to make candy for our neighbors. Y'all hold me to it okay?

One of my favorite things to do with the kids is read a story called "What God Wants for Christmas". It has little boxes with different characters from the Christmas story and as you read along it asks you to open each box at the point that character enters the story. My kids love it.

Well, these are just a few of our memories and traditions. I am hoping to create some new traditions for my family this year and can't wait to read about how everyone else celebrates. Thanks for stopping by! Y'all come back now, ya hear!

All I Want for Christmas is a Few of My Brain Cells Back

On the second day of December this blogger gives to you...more pictures. From 2007. And I seriously wondered why I had no pictures from 2008... Yes, those would be the pictures I showed you yesterday. After figuring out that this will be Christmas 2009 I then went and wished Happy Birthday to someone whose birthday is actually tomorrow. There just hasn't been enough caffeine for this day. Now that I am back on track with what day and year this is let's get on with this post.

It is only appropriate that I would be having memory lapses as I bring you this Christmas blast from the past, because although I have pictures I don't know that I have a single memory from that Christmas. Oh yeah, it just came back to me. We stayed up til 3:00 in the morning putting together a trampoline in freezing weather. And by putting it together I mean putting it together, realizing something was wrong, reputting it together, still not being right, reading the directions, and putting it back together again. In between my trampoline assembly duties I was inside putting Kate's bouncy seat together. And doing it wrong. And taking it apart. And reputting (I just made that word up today) it together again. And reading the directions. And waiting for Josh to finish the trampoline so he could fix what I did. Get the picture? After that marathon night of repeatedly saying "We will never do this again" we then got up, tore through half a million presents, loaded up the kids and headed to Panama City. You don't even want to know the condition I left my house in. Everything after that is a blur. But here are some pictures.I love that in this picture I am laughing hysterically while my child is crying his eyes out. What kind of mother am I ?!?! I also love that Kate is looking at me like, "I hope you can get it together soon!"
Eli was the age then that Kate is now. Where in the world does time go?

Our little Christmas present, Baby Kate.

My Sweet Baby

I got new luggage. I'm pretty sure I was asking Josh, "So, where do you want to run away to?" :)

Eli on his motorcycle, may it rest in pieces. I backed over it just a couple of weeks ago. Oops...

Any event with presents makes Sarah happy!!

This is where you will find the boys

I have no idea how we ever get home from Panama City without leaving a child behind. Well, you don't think we would leave the presents do you?!? :)

I can look back on that Christmas and see it as one we learned a lot from. Like, if you stay up all night Christmas Eve and then your kids (or your husband) wake you up at the crack of dawn it may not be the best thing to try and make a six hour trip on Christmas Day. And, maybe you should read the directions first. Or at least after the first 3 times you mess something up. Just some lessons learned. :)

How about you? Do you have any Christmas experiences you can laugh about now, but DO NOT want to relive?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Blast From Christmas Past!

WARNING: Obnoxious amount of pictures.

So today is the first day of December and I must admit, I am not feeling it yet. I've packed up most of my living and dining room to make room for Christmas decorations, but I have yet to actually get those decorations out. Much of my hesitancy is that I really wanted a real, live tree this year. I've never had one. I had grand dreams of packing up the family and heading to the tree farm to pick out the perfect tree. Unfortunately my dreams are continually interrupted by visions of a more Griswold family experience. I've already experienced the tree being too big. The Christmas before Josh and I got married my friend Sabrina (who got married 2 weeks before me) were out at Micheal's looking for wedding stuff. I don't remember getting any wedding stuff, but we did find beautiful 7 ft. Christmas trees on clearance. Y'all, we did not have a place to live or a piece of furniture at that point, but we had a Christmas tree. :)

Turns out, 7 ft. Christmas trees are not really designed for 900 sq. ft. apartments. We actually only put up half of the tree our first year of marriage. If I'm lyin' I'm dyin'! We only had room for the front of the tree. But, it was our first Christmas and we were in love and we could have decorated a cactus and that would have been fine with me. I mean, not that we are not in love anymore, but now we have a family and I have visions of grandeur...

Again, those visions are interrupted by the idea of a dog and a two year old competing for the tree's water source. So, I will keep you updated about this tree drama. I know you will be waiting on pins and needles. :) Oh yeah, that's the other thing. I hear the pine needles are a pain to clean up...

I thought I would work myself into the spirit of the season by remembering some of my favorite Christmases from the past. And I have to say, it is probably because I have such a bad memory and can't remember much else, but last Christmas was one of my all time favorites. First, it was my first Christmas in 5 years that I was not in school or working full-time so I really felt like I got to enjoy the season a lot more. My sister and brother in law who were living in Alaska at the time also flew in a few weeks before Christmas and I got to meet my nephew, Luke, for the first time!
Here I am with Luke the Moose or Luke the Reindeer. :) I know one day he will join my children in discussing what a dork I am, but for now, he thinks I'm totally cool and funny! :)We had so much fun going out to Pier Park to see Santa and ride the train. As you can see, Kate was so thrilled with Santa.
This was the first Christmas my family got to spend together in, um I'm not sure. Jenny and Dillon moved a couple of weeks after Eli was born, so it was a while! Josh couldn't get off of work so he didn't get to go with me. :( Y'all, I got up at 3:00 am and loaded up 3 kids and drove six hours by myself! We even drove home to snow!!! I consider it one of my great achievements in life. :)
This is my "little" brother Philip and my sister Jenny.
This was Jenny's first time to meet Kate and my first time to meet Luke! So exciting!!

All of the cousins

Me and my babies. Kate cracks us all up!

Our family pic last year. It is just amazing how much kids change every year.

Ta-Da! You should see the 50 pictures I took of her trying to get one of her standing still!

Sarah and Eli ringing the bells in the Christmas program

Christmas pj's from Nana. I obviously promised Eli something really cool to get that smile. :)

You just can't have enough pics of screaming babies at Christmas time. :)

Cookies for Santa...I think we may have decided Santa might possibly already be full by the time he got to our house. :)

Well, I've had fun remembering this Christmas past. Do you have a favorite Christmas?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Worst You

I haven't been myself lately. At least not the self that I am okay being. You see, there is a me that not too many people actually know. Most people know about this me because I have shared stories, but very few people have actually witnessed it.

My first summer after college I was diagnosed with clinical depression. It's a really long story and it was a really long depression. Six years to be exact. I started out sleeping more, isolating myself socially. Then, I started gaining weight. Then I started having angry outbursts. Then, I started having thoughts that scared the mess out of me. I don't really want to talk about it. But, that is why I'm talking about it.

Just a couple of weeks ago I thought about how that time in my life seems like a dream (or nightmare) and how it didn't feel like it had even happened to me. God healed my depression after a six year battle and that was six years ago. I actually felt led to write my story and I did last spring. The whole thing. I shared it with my family which may have been the most difficult thing I've ever done. Even though they all knew about the depression there were lots of things I had never told anyone. Well, for a while I thought that maybe I should try to have it published or let other people read it. Then, that feeling just went away. Which is good because my computer with my story died. So, I decided that I didn't want to tell that story anymore. I wanted to go on with life and act like it had never happened.

No sooner had I decided that depression was no longer my story to tell, it happened. It came back. Please don't panic. I promise I am okay. The fact that I am writing this tells you I'm in a much better place than even just a few days ago. But, I became unbelievably moody, started withdrawing, started having irrational thoughts. I started asking God why. Not a thing had happened in life to trigger it. I've even been having good hair days y'all. :) The more I questioned the more I realized how ready I had been just days ago to forget that part of my life. To pretend that it never happened just because the memory was not so clear. And it was as if God said, "Lest you forget..." I realized that I needed to be reminded of just how far God has brought me. As much as I would like to pretend that depression has never played a role in my life, it has. In a big way.

I'm not gonna lie. I would rather not be telling you about this. I know it will make people who love me worry. I know this is not cute, funny, or fun to read. But there was a time when I felt such a calling to reach out to others who were also experiencing depression. I have said so many times that it is something that you just cannot understand unless you have experienced it. I let myself forget what that was like. I wanted to run as far away from the memories as possible. I could have totally picked up with a cute story about my kids or tell you funny things that happened at church. But this blog is called "Speaking the Truth in Love and Laughter" and so even when there hasn't been much laughter I feel like I owe you the truth. I feel like it would be very misleading to pretend that everything in my life has been peachy when it hasn't.

I do want to tell you a story that came to be from my first bout of depression. It was actually almost two years before I was officially diagnosed, but I was at a point that I was feeling much the same way I have felt this past week. Not like me. I was 18 and had lost my six year old cousin to a very tragic accident. That was the same summer that Josh had started asking me out. I say started because I did turn him down twice before I said yes. He always makes me sound so mean when he tells the story, but I was totally trying to give him an out. I knew I had issues and I was trying to spare him. I'll never forget the day we officially started "going out". It was my 18th birthday and Josh had taken me to the beach. I knew he was going to ask me out because we had planned it a month earlier. (Don't ask, it was all part of my issues. :) Anyway, we walked up and down the beach and talked for what felt like forever. And forever and ever Amen. And he still did not ask me out!

Finally, when we were in the car headed back to my house he asked. Even though I had been waiting for the question I still felt that I should try and talk him out of his fateful decision to pursue someone as messed up as me. You see, I had always been an extremely happy, outgoing, easygoing person. That was Emily. That was the Emily people liked. That was the Emily I wanted to be. When my cousin died it was really my first experience with grief. I didn't like that I wasn't always happy and that I didn't always feel up to entertaining the masses. I assumed no one else would like that Emily either. I explained to Josh how I felt like he was getting the worst me. And do you know what he said? He said, "Well I know if I can love the worst you that I can love the best you." Have I told you this story? Probably, because it is the best story of my life.

I say it is the best story of my life because not only did I get that moment in a camaro with my high school sweetheart on my 18th birthday, but because God spoke those same words to my heart. Unfortunately, Josh would end up going through much worse times with me and seeing versions of Emily I would prefer to not have had to experience myself. But the boy who spoke those beautiful words to me made God's Word come to life for me.

Romans 5:8 says, "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this, that while we were still sinners Christ died for us."

I don't know if you have someone in your life who has proven that they love the worst you. I pray that you do. I have learned that it is a rare and precious thing to have those people in your life. The ones who hear you say ugly things and don't bring them back up as blackmail. The ones who can handle what you really think. The ones who are okay to let you cry and understand that life is messy and isn't always a party.

I just want to encourage you that even if you think you are at your worst right now, there is Someone who loves you right there. It still blows my mind. It is still hard for me to accept. I still want desperately to become good enough to earn that love. But I can't. I don't have to. He loves the worst you and can't wait to love the best you.