Monday, January 19, 2015

Monday Morning Encouragement: Psalm 103:11-12

{Monday Morning Encouragement}

Psalm 103:11-12
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

What an amazing thought that our sins are removed from us
"as far as the east is from the west" I needed that reminder today.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Blessing in Disguise

Last week I had one of those mornings.  You know the ones.  Mine started off with me taking a half day off from work to go the doctor.  I showed up and was told that I had come to the appointment on the wrong day.  Big oops!  I didn't have to be back to work for several hours.  I didn't need to go to the store to buy groceries.  I'd already eaten breakfast.  I really wasn't in the mood to spend $5 for coffee at Starbucks.  What could I do with the time I had before I returned to work?  As I pulled out of the parking lot I thought I should go visit my grandma in the nursing home.  She's just right around the corner from my doctor's office.  I don't visit as often as I should.  The last few times I've tried to visit her, she's been asleep and I didn't want to disturb her.  I was hoping she'd be awake since this wasn't my usual time to stop by.  I showed up at the nursing home, which was on partial lock down because of the flu.  I decided to go in anyway.  (I mean, come on,  I work at a school and I've been to Walmart in the last week so I've been exposed.)  

I'm glad that I made the decision to visit! 

Mama Winnie was awake and she was having a good day.  Since her Alzheimer's has progressed she has moments where she is very agitated and confused.  It's been over a year since she's known us.  In the last few visits we've had with her she mumbles a lot and looks very disoriented.  So when I say she was having a good day, it means that she wasn't showing the signs that I just mentioned.  Mama Winnie still doesn't know who I am, and I don't expect her to ever recognize me again.  That's a sad thing, but I've learned to adjust my expectations and I don't have to have her recognize me for it to be a positive visit.  This day was so special because she was calm and she seemed happy.  There was a light in her eyes that's sometimes not there.  She was relaxed and pleasant and even laughed.  I sat in her room and talked to her.  She likes us to pat her hair and rub her arms.  I tried to hold her hand but her fingers have arthritis and I didn't want to make her uncomfortable.  I showed her photos on my phone of Will and Ben.  I also told her stories that I've heard her tell me over and over when I was growing up.  One I remembered to tell her was about the time she fell off a wagon as a girl and broke her arm and the doctor set it straighter than the arm she hadn't broken. I talked about her big garden and all of the fruits and vegetables she used to raise in it.  I also talked about cooking, baking, and sewing.  All things she loved.  The nurse brought her mid-morning snack of ice cream.  She usually eats it on her own, but since I was there I fed it to her.  It was a nice moment.
After I'd stayed awhile, it was time for me to go back to work.  I hugged Mama Winnie and told her I love you and she said I love you back. 

I asked the nurses aide to take our photo.  I shared it on Instagram and Facebook, and the comments people left were incredibly sweet.  With the photo I included an explanation of how I ended up at the nursing home after making the mistake of taking off the wrong day for my appointment.

Most of the comments were along the lines of...
God works in mysterious ways
Things happen for a reason
It was meant to be

And, I couldn't help but think it was a blessing in disguise.  

I'll treasure that visit for many years to come.

Friday, January 9, 2015

First Road Trip of 2015

Last week at this time we left in the cold rain and headed to Austin for a friend's wedding. 
Here's our itinerary for the trip.
First stop West, Texas for kolaches
New Year's day we ate at The Salt Lick 
January 2nd we were at Texas Old Town for the wedding
Pics of wedding {here}
On the way home we stopped in Waco, Texas to see Magnolia Market.  I was hoping we might run into Joanna and Chip Gaines from Fixer Upper.  We didn't see JoJo and Chipper, but we did get to see their cute store.

Anytime we drive south down I-35 we stop in West, Texas at the Czech Stop to get kolaches.  I put this photo on Instagram and people recommended the pepperoni kolaches. We didn't get them the first time we stopped but we made sure to buy some on the way home.  They were so good!  Hot and fresh out of the oven--oh my goodness!  We also managed to eat a dozen fruit kolaches without Will getting any and he wasn't very happy with us.  Oops!  Next time we'll make sure to save some for him.

BBQ and good friends
I couldn't think of a better way to start the new year!

Terri, Cory and I all attended Texas A&M together. 
I have so many good memories with these girls.  I love that we've all remained friends throughout the years.  Continuing on the fun times in 2015!

Now we're just passing along the tradition to our boys.
Starting them young teaching them to love BBQ

Wow!  Really, just wow!

The gorgeous wedding at Texas Old Town.

The first time I watched Fixer Upper on HGTV I was hooked.  It took my awhile to figure out the show was filmed in Texas.  I instantly related to the show because I live in a small town in Texas and seeing them interact with the community reminded me of the people who live around me.  It's really cool that their show has been such a success.  

Like I mentioned at the beginning of the blog post, Joanna and Chip weren't at the store, but they had really sweet ladies running it.  They were very friendly and asked us where we were from.  Also, we talked about the show and how I'm such a big fan.  One of the ladies said she thought it was cool how they have made little ol' Waco a big deal now and it's great how they are fixing up their town.  I agree!

I only took a few photos in the shop.  I wasn't planning on sharing them on the blog but I thought you might like to see one of inside.  I love the "Magnolia Farms" sign.

After our short road trip it was back to reality.  We've been back to school a week and now we're looking forward to the weekend.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

I Love Weddings!

I love weddings!  

Don't you?  

The older I get the more sentimental I become.  I couldn't help but cry numerous times at this sweet wedding.  It's a precious thing to watch two people take marriage vows in front of family and friends.  Hearing two people who love each other make those promises never gets old.  I can't help but remember my wedding and think about the promises Mark and I made to each other that day.  I wish that happiness for others and to see my friends make the same commitment to someone they love fills my heart with joy.  My longtime friend Cory got married this weekend.  Travis and Cory's wedding was perfect.  The venue was beautiful and the attention to detail made it really special.  Plus, it was a lot of fun!

Here are some of my favorite photos of the special evening.  There were some amazing photos that others took of the good food, fireworks, dancing, the Aggie War Hymn, and many other things, but instead of being glued to my phone taking photos, I stayed in the moment and enjoyed it all.

 We had a moment before the wedding when Terri made us cry when she said we've been there for each other for a lot of things.   We've all stood beside each other through all of our weddings.  It's a blessing to have good people to go through life with who stand by your side. I'm lucky to have these two for friends!

Congratulations, Cory and Travis!
We wish you happily ever after!

They even had a very rainy wedding day so their marriage will be blessed by the downpour that happened.  It rained on mine and Mark's wedding day and it's worked out well for us!

I'll have more photos from our road trip to Austin up on the blog soon.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Being More Like Christ

I try my best to stay positive.  I like this blog to be a place of encouragement, but sometimes life is difficult and I get discouraged.  Lately I've been struggling in my Christian walk and my faith is weak.  I'm sure more of you can relate than I can imagine.  We all know that life is a series of ups and downs.  We go through difficult times and many of us carry burdens that no one ever knows about.  Since I know I'm not alone in this struggle, I decided to let you know what I'm trying to do to get out of this spiritual depression.  Even if you are in a good place with your spiritual life, this could still be an encouragement.

Mark and I have had some long talks about it and we both know what we need to help us in the challenges we are facing.  We need to focus more on prayer and Bible study. One thing that stuck with me in one of the long discussions that I've had with Mark is that we need to focus on being more like Christ. 

 When I read the following verses in Philippians, Ephesians, 1 Peter, 1 Corinthians, and 1 John it reminded me to look to Christ as the ultimate example of what God desires from us.  We must strive to follow his example even at the times in our lives when it's most difficult.  Look at all of the suffering Christ endured for us because he loved us.  Mark and I have decided to start this Bible study about the life of Christ in the new year.  We felt like focusing on Christ and his example would help us overcome the challenges we are facing.  
Here's a link to the study

A Chronological Study of the Life of Jesus 

These Bible verses are some that we have read through that helped us.

Philippians 2: 1-18  Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.17 But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. 18 You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.

Ephesians 5:1-2 
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

1 Peter 2:18-25 18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

1 Corinthians 11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

1 John 2:5-6 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:  whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

May God bless you in this new year!
I look forward to all that the future holds in 2015.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

More Christmas 2014

More Christmas photos from the month of December.

Random photos of family, friends, and Christmas festivities.
Get comfortable because there are A LOT of photos!

We've had such a good month celebrating Christmas with our family and friends.

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Three things I didn't get photos of but wanted to remember.

Will and Ben received special Christmas stockings from my sweet aunt and uncle.  They were thoughtfully filled with all sorts of candy and fun things that the boys loved.  In the stockings, the boys even got their first red egg of silly putty.  It's a classic toy that they've played with over and over.  I even showed them the old newspaper trick where you can copy the words onto the silly putty.

One other thing I didn't have photos of was Christmas day lunch with Mark's brother and family.  My sister-in-law has family out of state just like I do and it's really nice of them to invite us over.  We get to see what everyone got for Christmas and hang out for a little while and since they are close by then  we head home.

The boys had well-child checkups on December 23rd.  Both were healthy and right on target for growth.  That was probably the best Christmas present we could ever hope for.  I never take for granted our health, and I'm thankful for quality healthcare workers and doctors who take good care of us.  We are blessed!

Pre-Christmas Fun

I forgot to show you Will and Ben's photo with Santa this year.

We received the sweetest package in the mail all the way from Seattle.  Our dear friend Kayreen mailed us some very cool gifts.  The boys got these clever race cars made out of erasers and they were called "eracers", get it?  Witty!

Our "adopted big sister" Ashley came over and exchanged Christmas gifts with our family.  She even offered us a free night of babysitting as one of our gifts.  I can't wait to take her up on that offer.

Poor Will and Ben have a mom who loves to take photos of them. 
 If there's a Christmas tree, then they are posing by it for a photo, like it or not, ha!

Will's enthusiasm or lack thereof is obvious in this photo. 
He wasn't feeling the Christmas spirit as much as Ben and I were.

I mentioned that we had a magical elf , Bill, visit our house this year here.  These are a few of the places we found our elf.  He also managed to get in every Christmas tree in our house, he was in my Christmas stocking one morning, he spent some time hanging out in the winter village we had set up, and he played with Ben's Imaginext Batman toys.
In these photos Bill was asleep in the tissue box in the boys' bathroom, he's eating our gingerman cookies in the kitchen, he's reading our Christmas cards by the winter village, and drinking out of our new Starbucks cups.
Silly Bill!

Y'all this is my favorite!  I love all of the Christmas cards we received!
I keep all of the photo cards we get each year.  I just looked through all of the ones we've been given since we got married in 2002.  The first year we were married I also kept all of the traditional cards we received.  It's special to see the names and read the messages from our loved ones.  Several have passed away in the previous years, and it was sentimental and sweet to see their handwriting.

I wrote about our Christmas tradition of the boys exchanging books here.  We decided to let the boys trade books a little earlier than we normally do.  It ended up working out better.  I usually wait until Christmas Eve and everyone is tired.  I like spacing things out better and it's more enjoyable.
One other thing I did this year that was different with our Christmas traditions was not wrapping our Christmas books. We have enough books to read a different one each night of December before Christmas.  Instead of having them wrapped up and selecting one each night we just looked at the ones we wanted to read together and skipped over any that we  didn't.  I won't ever wrap the books again.  Too much work.

Christmas is time for baking!  I tried a new recipe this year for Christmas Eve breakfast/brunch with Mark's family.  I took Cranberry Bliss Bars (recipe here from SkinnyTaste).  If you like the Starbucks version (and we sure do!) you'll enjoy this healthier recipe.  My mother-in-law, nephew, and Will were all big fans. Will's already requested that I make some more.

Christmas Eve
 Christmas Eve with Mark's side of the family.
We are lucky to have everyone live close enough to get together for most major holidays.  The boys love having cousins to play with.  Some of my best childhood memories are from holidays with my family and playing with my cousins.  I hope the same for Will and Ben.  My sweet nieces and nephews are such fun and the kids always seem to have a blast together.  My mother-in-law is a terrific hostess and I really enjoy our time together with Mark's family.

 Back at our house doing all of the things necessary to get ready for Santa to come.
Will put out special reindeer food on the front sidewalk.
The boys left cookies and eggnog for Santa,
and they checked Santa's movements on the NORAD Santa tracker.

We have several copies of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and Will followed along as Mark read. 

Christmas Day
You can read all about Christmas morning here.

Post Christmas Fun
Just because Christmas is over doesn't mean the fun has to stop.  It continued when our friends visited for the day. One of Mark's oldest friends has a son the age of Will.  The boys have exchanged books for Christmas since they were little.  We've managed to keep the tradition alive.  This year we gave Dade a Bible and Will got more books from the I Survived series and Ben got a superheroes book.

Love these boys!

One glimpse of our Christmas decorations.
This could possibly be the last Christmas we spend at this house.  I was all sorts of sentimental and nostalgic as I packed away the decorations we've collected over the years.  If things happen the way we think they will (Lord willing), then we will begin building our farmhouse this spring, which means that next year at Christmas we would be in a new home.  We will have the same decorations but it was still bittersweet to put them away for the last time here.

I wanted to share this quote I came across about Christmas from Caroline Kennedy,
"It's true, Christmas can feel like a lot of work, particularly for mothers, But when you look back on all the Christmases in your life, you'll find you've created family traditions and lasting memories.  Those memories, good and bad, are really what help to keep a family together over the long haul."

Interview here.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas 2014

Merry Christmas 2014

Christmas morning at our house was magical, special, and fun.  The boys woke up (around 7:30a.m.) excited and ready to tear into their gifts that Santa left them.  They had both wanted a Nintendo 3ds and games.  Other than that, they didn't have a lot on their Christmas lists.  The first thing I heard was "Santa left us a basketball!" and then they ran in our room to wake us up.  Each boy had two boxes, a basketball, a stocking, and one gift that was to both Ben and Will.  

They could barely stand it, but I made them pose for a photo before the madness began.

I only included these photos in the collage because I thought it was really funny and one day I think they will look back on them and laugh.  I made a collage of the gifts they opened before they got to the big gift, the Nintendo 3ds.  Their faces are priceless.  They are trying to look happy and be polite, but you can tell they really want to get to the box with the ds.  Just look at their faces!  I don't know how both boys ended up opening the boxes with the movies first, but I'm glad they did.  It made the photos even better!

The first photo is a pair of walkie talkies.  They didn't ask for them, but Santa knew they would be useful when we are out at the land working.  The design was almost so basic that they couldn't figure out how to use them.  Give them an iPhone and they can figure it out in a 2 seconds.  Give them simple walkie talkies and it took 10 minutes of me trying to explain how to use them.  Funny!  The walkie talkies ended up being a big hit later in the day once the new of the 3ds wore off.

The second and third photos are of Ben and Will opening boxes that had movies.  They had asked for all of the movies at some point, but they weren't on their Christmas lists.  Santa just remembered.  The only surprise that they didn't ask for was a set of Shrek movies.  The boys hadn't ever seen the movies, but we saw our cousin in Shrek the Musical last month.  Santa knew they would enjoy watching them.  You can tell they are trying to look happy, but it's a struggle. Their faces are pretty animated so no emotions are hidden.

Here's where the magic happens!  Ben opened the box with the new ds!  
That look of excitement is purely genuine.  
Ben said, "Santa brought the right color!"  Ben's is black and Will's is blue.

He's excited that he got the games he'd been wanting.  There's even a Lego Chima game in the box!

 Will knew once Ben opened his, that his 3ds would be in the next box.  
Will said he could tell because the box was heavier.  
Look at my big boy's face.  Sincere joy!

Checking out the games that Santa included. 

Our family looks at what's in our stockings after opening the gifts under the tree.  I wonder what other families do?  I can't remember what I did as a child.  I think maybe after.
The stockings were full of minion Peeps, baseball cards and football cards, cars, some small toys, and candy.  

This year Santa put the cars from the movie Cars in the boys' stockings.  Santa knew how much they loved the cars last year so he gave them a few new ones this year.

It didn't take long to open all the gifts, but it felt like less was more this year.

One last photo of Christmas 2014!

Each year Will says this, "Christmas is the best day of my life."

I don't know about that, but I agree that it's one of my favorite days as well.  We're thankful for so much.  I'm grateful to have Mark and my two healthy boys to celebrate it.  
Celebrating with them makes the joy that much greater.  

Everyday with them is the best day of my life!


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