Happy New Year! Can I get a Resolution? (wooh wooh!)

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves. – Bill Vaughn, American columnist

Ahh yes the season of resolving to change.

Change.

Aren’t you grateful we have opportunities to do just that?  Aren’t you in fact, like I am, relieved that we don’t HAVE to continue in patterns and habits that are unbecoming, unlovely…even unholy? Isn’t it wonderful to have fresh starts now and again?  And I’m not just referring to the annual calendar turn on January 1st.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22-23

Every morning is a fresh start. And each day is filled with opportunities to change for the better. The Lord IS so merciful to give us these, and He is so patient as we mess up again and again, but oh the joy He feels when we come back to Him and ask His forgiveness and He has the opportunity to show us His love again and again.

So…what does 2012 have in store for you?  Still thinking about what you want to commit to for this year?  Or maybe even whether it is worth making commitments, or challenges for yourself, only to likely not follow through with them?  Been there, done that. More years than not, in fact!  But this year I decided, let’s get bold.  Or, to borrow a line from the Black Eyed Peas…”let’s get excited!” 🙂  So here is what is on my list so far…

*Just finished reading through the book Radical (by David Platt) with our small group at church and felt compelled to commit to “The Radical Experiment” at the end of the book.  This is super exciting to me, especially since Brad and I are in it together (as well as some of the other couples in our group).  If you are a Christian and you have not read this book, I cannot encourage you enough to do so!  Wow, talk about a challenge to change! So without going into lengthy detail, we are committing to do the following in the next year: (1) pray for the entire world – we are doing this using the book Operation World and the prayer calendar included – very excited about this! (2) read through the entire Bible – started our new reading plan today, we picked the M’Cheyne One Year Plan from YouVersion (3) sacrifice our money for a specific purpose  – TBD! (4) spend our time in another context (i.e. missions) – TBD! (5) commit our lives to a growing community of believers – words cannot describe how grateful we are for the close-knit community we have with our Sunday School class at FBD, praise God for such encouraging and inspiring friends and partners in the Gospel!

*Run a Half Marathon to benefit World Vision. There…I said it. Seeing as how I have never run more than 2.5 miles in one stretch, this is a bit daunting for me to even consider running 13.1 miles, and even worse…TRAINING for the actual race!  What?!!  But I have always admired those who can do it, and I know if I commit to do it just for myself, or for my personal “bucket list” so to speak, I won’t do it.  I will train for a few weeks, and decide I’m not strong enough, I’m too tired, blah blah blah blah…I can talk myself out of anything!  But when I came across the World Vision runs, and learned that all the money raised through fundraising goes to providing clean water for villages in Africa, I felt exhilarated! And now I feel accountable to something so much greater than little ol’ me:) So, here I go…training starts…TOMORROW.  whew!

*Complete at least 1 Painting each month.  This is really just a way to discipline myself to stay in the studio and not lose the technique of oil painting or to forget my love for doing it! I thought when I became a SAH mom this would come more easily…but was I ever wrong!  It is more difficult than ever to make the time to get in there and paint!  It really disappoints me that I haven’t done more of it, but that is what NY resolutions are for…picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and getting back in the saddle again! 🙂

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2012. Let’s do this!

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Hiding It in Our Hearts

I remember as a kid memorizing Bible verses at Vacation Bible school, G.A.’s (oh I can sing the song for you if you don’t believe me;), etc.  One of my earliest memories of this is when my childhood pastor Dr. Redmond shared with me the importance of God’s Word and encouraged me to memorize Proverbs 3:5-7.  I think he tried to motivate me with a prize of some sort:)  I did in fact memorize it and still can recite it today…Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.  Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.  (KJV of course, this was the mid 80’s!)

A later memory I have is from college, I was riding with Eric Godwin somewhere…I don’t remember…but we were in the car for awhile, so we decided to memorize a passage of Scripture (what a blessing to have godly friends at a young age who challenged and encouraged me!).  So we settled on the first half of Colossians 3.  I don’t remember this group of verses quite as well now, but each time I open to that chapter it has a special place in my heart because I remember spending that time committing it to memory and the words truly came to life for me then!

Recently our pastor shared a story about the South Korean missionaries who were taken hostage in Afghanistan in 2007.  I don’t remember the specific details, but they knew they were about to be separated and placed in isolation, so they tore the single Bible they had in their possession into segments so each person could read and memorize passages to be able to recall them during their confinement and be strengthened and encouraged.

It suddenly became terrifying to me…the thought of NOT having my Bible and the luxury of reading it whenever I want.  I know there are Christians throughout the world that don’t have their own Bibles – this is definitely a great privilege taken for granted by many of us in the Western world. How lost and desperate it would feel to not have His Word hidden in my heart to bring me comfort, strength, wisdom, compassion, love, peace, and so many more gifts It promises to provide in times of despair! So I mentioned to Brad that I wanted us to start regularly memorizing Scripture together and he of course had a small binder he got from Desiring God Ministries years ago called “Fighter Verses” that he has kept in a drawer.  It is great because when trying to determine what verse(s) to memorize it can be daunting as there are so many to choose from! This at least gives us a great starting point and yesterday we memorized our first verse together: Know, therefore, the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands. Deuteronomy 7:9 (NIV)

I went to bed with it running through my head and it was honestly the first thing I thought about this morning:)  What an awesome way to start the day!

What about you?  Do you memorize Scripture regularly?  Do you have some favorites that you reflect on often?  Do you have any techniques or tips for memorizing longer passages?

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Celebrating 30!

In an attempt to run away from turning 30 years old, I left the country!  I guess I didn’t think it through because I went to London, which means 30 came about 6 hours sooner than it would have if I had just stayed put:)

OK, all kidding aside, my incredible husband surprised me with a trip to London to celebrate my big 3-0 and also our wedding anniversary…and let’s face it…Christmas for the next 6 years – London ain’t cheap! BUT it is a wonderful city and I enjoyed the fun getaway with my man!

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London vocabulary lesson:

  1. “mind the gap” = watch your step getting on and off the train
  2. “tube” = subway
  3. “fish n chips” = battered fish and chunky french fries
  4. “crisps” = chips
  5. “aubergine” = eggplant
  6. “pants” = underwear
  7. “trousers” = pants
  8. “lift” – elevator
  9. “queue” = line
  10. “bangers” = sausages
  11. “mash” – mashed potatoes
  12. “biscuit” = cookie
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Miracles are to be Unexpected

I am still on cloud nine from some exciting, but unexpected news I received Saturday morning from a friend:)  She isn’t too secretive about stuff in her life, but it’s not my news to share with the world, so I will refer to her as…hmmm….Sue:)

So…my good friend Sue is pregnant.  My friend Sue who up until this point, did not make babies.  Could not, in fact make babies.  Never expected to make a baby:) The Lord blessed Sue and her husband…ummm…we will call him Smatt…with a beautiful, and I mean, stunningly beautiful baby girl through the gift of adoption. Their daughter is now about 3.5 months old, and their 2nd child will be born just a few weeks before her first birthday – so, yes folks, that means 2 kids under the age of one.  But that is not even the coolest part of the story.  The best part of the story, and what I couldn’t stop thinking about all weekend, was how this MIRACLE came about.

Sue has been one of the most godly people in my life, since I met her over 10 years ago.  But I would say during the past year in particular it has been so evident to me of how vulnerable she and Smatt have made themselves before the Lord.  Yes the infertility journey was heart-breaking, but it didn’t squelch their trust in God. Instead, they have become so passionate about seeking God’s will for their lives in the here and now – “what does the Lord ask of me TODAY?” and “where does He want me to go RIGHT NOW?” It wasn’t enough that they journeyed to Afghanistan and Kenya on separate trips to do mission work and seek God’s vision for where He will have them go in a few years or so. And it wasn’t enough that they have been foster parents to several children, giving their time, affection, and love to these kids who have been temporarily removed from their permanent homes and families. They left the posh part of the city to move to what is known as the rough part of town – it is rare for a day to go by without this part of town making the evening news due to criminal activity and events. But my friends could not ignore the burden the Lord had placed on their hearts to move into a house and minister to the community of people around them. Their neighbor who sits on the front porch smoking pot?  Well…they see it as just one more way they can pray for deliverance and joy to come into that person’s life through Christ.  It’s not likely that he or she is going to walk into a local church and say “hmmm I think I am ready to know Jesus and for Him to become my joy and salvation” instead of drugs or whatever else they cling to for a short-lived escape from the daily woes and stresses of poverty, sickness, marital strife, etc they live..  So God calls a family there to be a light in a VERY dark place, and instead of coming up with a laundry list of reasons why it isn’t sensible, safe, responsible, etc, they picked up their things and moved in next door to this lonely soul.

This is just ONE example of how my friends have truly prayed and sought after the Lord’s will for their lives. I could go on and on….

They were not dwelling on how the Lord had not answered their prayers to get pregnant in the past…no, instead they were moving forward and constantly looking and assessing opportunities He brought to them and whether they were the people He wanted to fill the roles He had in mind.

And so…in light of their obedience, it’s as if God looked down on them with a smile and said “you know what? I’m going to knock your socks off now and give you a gift, a reward….a blessing you do not even see coming!  You are finally pregnant.  Not because you are begging for it, or even expecting it, but because I am God and I can make it happen. So I want to remind you of that and affirm for you that you are right where I want you to be in your lives and I love you deeply and want to give you good things.  So…enjoy!” 🙂 Basically, God is just plain showing off now…cause He really IS that good.

I was processing through all of this over the weekend, feeling so in awe of God’s mercy and grace.  I recently started reading Francis Chan’s Forgotten God. And wouldn’t you know he writes about this phenomenon of unexpected miracles – I was so excited as I was reading and he was putting into words exactly what I was witnessing in the lives of my friends:) He writes:

A lot of people want to talk about supernatural things like miracles, healing, or prophecy.  But focusing inordinately on these things quickly becomes misguided. God calls us to pursue Him, not what He might do for us or even in our midst…The point of it all was never the miracles in and of themselves.  Those came when they were unexpected, when people were faithful and focused on serving and loving others.

God wants us to trust Him to provide miracles when He sees fit…Miracles are never an end in themselves; they are always a means to point to and accomplish something greater.

I’d love to witness more miracles.  But when we make miracles the focus of our energy and pursuit, we ignore the priorities God tells us to pursue and we impose our own desires upon God. Sometimes we even resemble Satan, who told Jesus to jump off of the temple and perform a miracle.  Of course God the Father could have saved Jesus from harm had He jumped, but Jesus refused to test His Father (Matt. 4:7) by ‘making’ Him perform a  miracle. (pg. 88, Forgotten God, Chan)

Is there a miracle you are hoping for in your own life? Is it all you think about every day? Or have you laid your request at the feet of Jesus, and turned your attention instead to serving and loving others with the love of Christ? Are you striving to be faithful and focused on God’s priorities for your life in the here and now instead of dwelling on what you were hoping to see happen, or the heartache of not experiencing an immediate answer to prayer?

These are the questions I am asking myself this week….and ultimately, if I have to choose between what I want for my life and what God desires for my life….I’d be crazy to not seek after His plan! can I get an “amen”?! 🙂

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Baby love

Our dear friend Olga is having a baby boy later this month, so of course, we had to throw her a shower to celebrate! Several ladies in particular are always looking for an opportunity to entertain (present company not excluded, hehe) But in all seriousness, it was such a joy and honor to shower Olga with love and try to express to her how precious she is to all of us; such a sweet, sweet sister in Christ:)  We invited guests to come to Joanna’s lovely home ready for a “black tie experience” and we had a dinner party complete with “mocktails,” a 3-course-meal served tapas style, and we even had the girls “check” their purses when they arrived!  The colors were gray, yellow, and black.  Unfortunately, I was too busy eating  to remember to take photos of the appetizer and entree courses…but let me just tell you they were mouth-watering! For starts, we had shrimp cocktails, tomato-mozzarella-basil skewers, and individual fruit and cheese plates.  The main course included brisket-brie quesadillas, french onion soup, and bowtie pasta with veggies and Italian sausage in an alfredo sauce…mmmmmm good – kudos to the chefs extraordinaire Joanna and Lygia!

And dessert, you ask??  Oh girl…put on your elastic-waisted pants while you read about this spread: Nutella cupcakes, tuxedo-chocolate dipped strawberries, mini fried pies, lemon squares, and mini pumpkin pies.  After we ate, we shared a sweet time of prayer over Olga and her baby boy and as usual, when I get to experience this type of connection with these girls, my heart was so warm and encouraged…and I hope that Olga left feeling loved and bathed in prayers:)

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Birthday party for the little one

We celebrated Levi’s first birthday a few weeks ago and I’m finally getting around to blogging about it!  It was so much fun having our family and friends join us for his party.  There are so many great and creative party theme ideas out there, and I had fun planning his.  I kept coming back to just a simple elephant theme.  I had a lot of leftover orange ribbon and paper so I decided to run with orange and gray as the color palette. Here are photos from the fun event and sources for some of the supplies listed below:)

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Simple Pleasures

A few of my favorite things these days…

Pinterest. and if you don’t know what this is…shame on you.

ESV Bible reading plan I am going through with Brad this year

Ipad (a surprise from the hubs that made me both gleeful and also to feel like I true spoiled brat – did I need it…NO.  absolutely NOT.  but he knew I wanted one…so ta-da…he made it happen.  That’s what he does.  Makes things happen)

Cinnamon raisin bagel thin, toasted and with light butter for breakfast…mmmm good!

Weight Watchers (although I have become inconsistent the past couple of months, I still think it is the most fantastic weight loss endeavor worth diving into!)

The Hunger Games trilogy.  guilty pleasure, I’ll admit it.  It was awesome.

Skinnytaste.com for mouth watering, guilt-free recipes

Pencil skirts.  all of the sudden I’m obsessed with them.  Particularly salavating over this glorious collection at JCrew now:  http://www.jcrew.com/womens_category/skirts/pencil/PRDOVR~47314/47314.jsp

Cooler temperatures! Bring on Fall! This Texas girl is ready to walk to her car without breaking out into a sweat…so long, Summer.

All things L’occitane…I’m addicted and it does not have a good effect on my wallet, yikes! But everything from the face wash, to the shower gels, to the hand lotion, relaxes me with the calming, earthy scents of lavender, almond, verbena….ahhhhh

oh and this little guy…he’s got me wrapped around his little finger;)

 

 

 

 

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happy birthday, little one

It’s been one year and 3 days since I received that life-changing, exhilarating, and surprising phone call from our adoption agency….”he’s here. She delivered this morning, and you are a mom.  You have a son!” I love to replay that conversation over and over in  my head…it’s still so fresh and vivid in my memory…honestly, the most exciting moment of my life! And such a shock since we were not expecting him to be born for another month. Our sweet Levi, or “little one” as we like to call him around the house, has been such a delight:)

He is so cuddly and snugly and I just love holding and loving on him!  His laugh is infectious and his toothy grin makes my heart melt. Thank you God for this sweet, gracious blessing You have bestowed upon us.  May we glorify You and bring honor to Your Name as we strive to be parents reflecting Your love, Your character, and Your grace.

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“Just another manic Monday”

What a weekend!  It was wonderful, but oh so busy! We had church friends over for dinner Saturday night and I think I’m still full from how much I ate! –Chicken & white bean Enchiladas, green salad with mango-avocado salsa andcreamy cilantro dressing, and to top it all off, Tres Leches cake of course !Delicioso! Now THAT is what I call sweet AND savory🙂

The sweetest part of the weekend though, had to be studying the Beatitudes Sunday morning…wow, I was overwhelmed by a fresh, meaningful look at the promises packed into Matthew 5:2-12

“And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: ’Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’ “

This passage described 8 character traits present in a person who is a member of the Kingdom of God. Poor in spirit – this person is spiritually bankrupt. One who mourns – this is referring to the person who sees the holiness and glory of God, and responds with a cry from the heart woe is me, such as the prophets response shown in Isaiah 6.  The meek person is humble and submissive as seen in the example of Christ when he made Himself man and came to earth.  Meekness is not to be confused with weakness; instead it has been described as controlled strength. The person who hungers and thirsts for righteousness, craves the word of the Gospel like an infant craves milk. The person who is merciful has extended the mercy God has shown him or her, to others. The pure in heart exhibits an undivided devotion similar to what the psalmist describes in Psalm 24: He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false. His heart and his soul are like-minded and both honor God wholly. The peacemaker is often confused for someone who simply brings peace between one man and another, but in fact this passage is more expressing the idea of making peace between man and God. Christ was the ultimate example and means of this occurring, and as followers of Christ, we are called to point men to Christ in an effort to help them find peace with God. And the Bible tells us that every follower of Christ will experience persecution in this life on earth – see John 15:20. So, the first 4 traits represent a follower’s clear understanding of who he or she is before God – wretched, helpless, and without hope. The next 2 traits are results of what Christ has done for His followers and are natural responses to His salvation. And the last 2 traits are what God wants us to become now – peacemakers showing others the way to eternal peace with God, and faithful followers even to the point of persecution, for the glory and honor of God.  The blessings are the found in the latter parts of each verse. Interestingly, almost all of them are fulfilled promises found in the Old Testament. And the promise that acts as a bookend to all the others istheirs is the kingdom of heaven. And if that isn’t good enough…in Ephesians 1:3 we are told that God has already blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places We can claim those blessings found in Matthew 5, here and now, while we are still on earth! Good stuff, right?!!

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Oh hello there.

Finally gave in and started a blog. There are so many things I would love to use this blog for, so I’m still trying to sift through those ideas and figure it out. For now, maybe I should further explain the blog title!

Now that I am a stay at home mom, my days are filled with a wide range of activities from the time my alarm clock sounds in the morning (Levi) to the moment my head hits the pillow and I am able to release a long sigh….

My hands are busy fixing bottles, changing poopy diapers, playing with toys, making the bed, giving a bath, mopping the floor, scrubbing down the dining table and china cabinet (crusty squash and cheerios caked on the edges from little hands), tucking in and giving a squeeze goodnight.

Meanwhile my mind is thinking about what I would rather be doing than cleaning out little nostrils, chasing down a hijacked cell phone, scrubbing milk drool off of the couch cushion….my thoughts drift to the dry paint brushes in my practically abandoned studio, what it would be like to design letterpress stationary, how hard would it be to learn how to upholster furniture, if it is worth the effort to paint a chevron pattern on my dining room wall, when I might be able take a super fast shower today, grieving the fact that I didn’t go to graduate school for design, wondering what time the husband will be home so I can have “a break”, how can my life glorify Christ today….

Yes, in the midst of my selfish, pitiful thoughts…I do actually consider how might the Lord be blessed by me today?

Suddenly I see the day’s seemingly monotonous tasks and duties as opportunities to share His love, His grace, and His joy. If only it hadn’t taken me most of the day before remembering and clinging to this mission! Life is in fact both sweet and savory…just as the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness are to me each and every day.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Psalm 24:8

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

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