Monday, November 30, 2009

Giving Thanks Challenge Wrap Up

I'm finding it hard to believe that another November has come and gone, but here we are. The leftovers are gone and the Christmas decorations are up. I am eagerly anticipating the Christmas season this year, because we are going home to see family and there is nothing better than family during this time of year. But before I wrap up another Thanksgiving season, I want to reflect on all the things that I recorded daily in the Giving Thanks Challenge that was hosted by Leah at South Breeze Farm.

This was my third year to participate, and it served as a reminder of all the ways that God has blessed me. I so often cry out to Him in pain, frustration and fear, on my knees begging for mercy and for the things I think I need. I'm quick to intercede for my family and friends, praying for healing, grace and comfort but I all too often forget to thank Him for His daily mercies. The rising of the sun. The health of my children. The roof over my head.

If my prayer life was what it should be, I would spend my days in joyful thanksgiving for the pleasure and the pain in my life. Thankfulness would not be an afterthought, but the focus of my conversations with Him. So here is my list from this November, and I hope that seeing all that I have to be thankful for will inspire you to count your blessings as well.

1. New beginnings
2. The opportunity to work
3. The ability to play the piano
4. My job interview
5. Quiet days off
6. A pantry full of food.
7. My brother-in-law David
8. Readily available cold medicine
9. My church family
10. Bedtime stories
11. Our veterans
12. Thursday night television
13. My Kindle
14. Weekends
15. Our warm, dry house
16. Guitar Hero
17. Impromptu dinner with friends
18. Pumpkin bread
19. Beef stew
20. My family
21. A clean house
22. Frequent flyer miles
23. Joy in death
24. Homecomings
25. Cooking with my mom
26. Christmas decorations
27. Singing around the piano
28. Fresh garland
29. My Sunday school class
30. My salvation in Christ

Saturday, November 28, 2009

It Was Totally Worth All the Prep

The worst thing about moving so far away from family, is moving so far away from family. Every milestone, birthday and holiday leaves us wishing that we lived closer to them, in spite of the fact that we have made such good friends here. So when I discovered that Mama and Daddy were planning to drive up for Thanksgiving this year I was understandably excited. It just got better when she called a few days later to tell me that they were bringing Granny Traylor with them.

Since we had to leave town unexpectedly for the funeral in the days preceding their visit, I made sure that the refrigerator was stocked and the house was spotless before I flew down to Texas. There are few things that I love more than coming home to a perfectly clean house, and I knew that I would have enough to do without cleaning when I got home. We flew home Tuesday, and I hit the ground running when we landed. I rushed to get all the clothes from the trip washed, dried and put away and I made a last minute trip to the grocery store for things like eggs, ice cream and additional drinks. My good friend Tracy kept the kids for us while we were out of town, and went the extra mile and left a delicious meal in the crock pot for us, so we were greeted with an appetizing aroma when we arrived home and I didn't have to cook dinner.

I made sure that my dad had plenty of his favorite snacks and that we had a surplus of k-cups for the coffee maker. Having a one cup at a time maker is really handy when guests are in the house, because essentially there is always a fresh pot of coffee available, as well as instant hot water for tea and hot chocolate. I did a last minute check of the bedrooms, turned on the porch light and then we waited. When the headlights finally turned into our driveway, the kids bolted out to the car to bestow hugs and kisses. There was a flurry of greetings and laughter as they made their way into the house, and then we spent the evening catching up and watching Star Trek.
The next day was spent preparing for the Thanksgiving meal and making food for the get together we were planning for Friday. By the time Wednesday evening rolled around, I was exhausted from standing in the kitchen, but it was well worth the time spent when we sat down Thursday to a beautiful meal and gave thanks for our many blessings. As I watched the faces of my family around the table, I gave silent thanks for each one of them. As we say in the South, these are my people. The ones for which I would give up my very life. The ones that I love.

As soon as the dishes were washed and put away, Mama and I began decorating for Christmas. We got the tree up and the kids decorated most of it, while we hung garland and draped lights. After the decorating was completed and the leftovers had been pulled out, we went for a drive to see the Christmas lights in Tulsa. They were really beautiful and well worth the drive.

I had to work Friday, but as soon as got home I began preparing for the arrival of our friends Paul and Tracy with their family for an evening of food and singing. I baked a quick loaf of banana nut bread, and began pulling out all of the snacks and food I had prepared beforehand. Mama and I set the buffet and put the finishing touches on everything just as they arrived. We invited Paul's mom Ann as well, and enjoyed our time together as we ate and my family got to know our new friends.
After we were finished with the first round of eating, we all grabbed hymnals and began calling out songs that we wanted to sing. Mama played the piano, and we sang until our voices needed and break and we began round two of eating and drinking. After we were rested, we sang again and finished up the evening with Christmas carols. It was a blessing to hear the voices of my family and my friends blending together in praise to God and in thanksgiving for all with which we have been blessed.

We were sad to see the evening come to an end, but made promises to do it again the next time we were together. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Different Kind of Thanksgiving

Tonight, Trevor and I are preparing for a trip to Texas. The last time we made this trip together, we were newlyweds and it was our first Thanksgiving as a married couple. We drove down to the valley to a little town called Weslaco to spend the holiday with his paternal grandmother. I had never met her because at the time of our wedding, she was sick and unable to make the 7 hour trip, so I was excited about meeting the matriarch of his father's family. His grandfather passed away when he was a child, and Grandma was the one who was a pillar for the six men she called her sons.

I sat at her kitchen table and visited with her, still slightly in awe of this little Czech lady. We talked about quilting, and she showed me a pattern that in the coming months I worked on, hoping to complete the quilt and impress her with my sewing skills. I witnessed the freezer full of homemade kolaches she had on hand to serve to visitors and to send home with family. I walked under the beautiful pecan tree that dominated the backyard, and picked the nuts up off the ground to be shelled later.

Trevor and I were inducted into a very exclusive club on that trip. As the most recently married couple, we had the honor of sleeping in the "pink room", where one of Grandma's prized yo-yo quilts adorned the bed. His parents slept in a large room with Grandma, but we were afforded the privacy of our own room. Apparently this was a tradition that had been going on for many years, and I felt thrilled to be part of a family ritual.

On the trip down, I was introduced to a country store called Prasek's, and the heaven on earth that is their beef jerky. We went across the border to Mexico so we could shop and enjoy our time together. The entire trip was full of firsts for me, and I was made to feel like part of the family.

But this trip is for an entirely different reason as we make our way south one last time to pay our respects to a beautiful soul who lived a long and fulfilling life. She was married to the love of her life, had six sons who went on to provide her with the blessing of daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. When she passed away Friday morning, she left behind many who love her and who will never forget all the things that made her special to us. She was a player of Canasta, a drinker of highballs, and a lover of God. Our lives will not be the same without her, and although she is not with us this Thanksgiving, I'm giving thanks for her all the same.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I Then Shall Live

I heard this song today, and it really touched my heart. So many of the things that I hold dear about my salvation and my God are summed up in these verses. I am forgiven therefore I forgive; I obey the law of love through Christ; I will be compassionate and relational so that I can see beyond myself; I want to Christ to be glorified through me and to share Him with the world.

Even if you don't have time to watch the video of the Gaither Vocal Band and Ernie Haase and Signature Sound performing it, read the words with a prayer on your lips. I promise you will be blessed.

I then shall live as one who's been forgiven.
I'll walk with joy to know my debts are paid.
I know my name is clear before my Father;
I am His child and I am not afraid.
So, greatly pardoned, I'll forgive my brother;
The law of love I gladly will obey.

I then shall live as one who's learned compassion.
I've been so loved, that I'll risk loving too.
I know how fear builds walls instead of bridges;
I'll dare to see another's point of view.
And when relationships demand commitment,
Then I'll be there to care and follow through.

Your Kingdom come around and through and in me;
Your power and glory, let them shine through me.
Your Hallowed Name, O may I bear with honor,
And may Your living Kingdom come in me.
The Bread of Life, O may I share with honor,
And may You feed a hungry world through me.

Amen, Amen, Amen

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A New Way to Shop

I was driving Gracie to a birthday party Saturday morning, and I realized that she had no idea what I had purchased as a gift. I told her that I went shopping last week and bought a Play-Dough Magic Swirl Ice Cream Shoppe for her friend. Gracie loves hers, and I figured it would be a hit.

There was a short pause, and Gracie asked in a slightly suspicious tone:
"Did you go shopping at the store or in my room?"
Well, I never thought of just shopping in her room! I'll have to remember that next time we need a gift!

Monday, November 9, 2009


When you join a new community, the first year or so is spent discovering the traditions and activities that are specific to that area. This encompasses a wide variety of events, and it takes time to figure out which things are important (or interesting) enough to attend and which things are not. It's usually most apparent around major holidays when you begin to wonder, "Is there a fall festival/Easter egg hunt/Christmas tree lighting ceremony/(fill in the blank) around here?"

There have been several events that I have heard about just a little too late, but was assured that I would have an opportunity to attend next year. It's all a part of the learning curve in a new town, and by this time next year we will be part of all the festivities.

Our new church has so many opportunities for fellowship and outreach, and I've been blessed to be included in some of them. I've met some of the most amazing men and women who have hearts for Christ and who genuinely lead lives that strive to be pleasing to Him. It's a great encouragement to me as a wife, mother and as someone who is only saved by the grace of God. I am building relationships with like-minded Christians, but at the same time am encouraged to take that energy and love out into our community and share the gospel. It's a good balance of being accountable and relational with other believers without living in a bubble in our church.

Our church purpose statement is to "Follow Christ, Love God, Love Others and Serve the World" and we don't take that lightly. We get out nourishment from frequent contact with fellow believers, and solid Biblical teaching from the pulpit, but we understand that being a Christ-follower is more that just sitting in church on Sunday and Wednesday. It's a life filled with service to others, especially those who have not come to know Christ in a personal way. It's a life marked by making ourselves small so that God's glory can be seen more clearly. It's a life made of daily sacrifices so that we might bring glory and honor to Him. It's a life that truly believes that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

I want to live that life more fully, and I can't think of a better place to grow and be fed than at Bethel Baptist Church. I thank God daily that He led Trevor and me to this place of worship before we even moved to the area, because He already knew the plans He had for us. Plans to prosper us and not harm us. Plans to give us a hope and a future. Plans that are revealed daily to cause us to praise Him for His providence and grace towards us.

In spite of our inner turmoil about jobs, money and selling our house He is always steadfast and true. He is the rock that we cling to when the world seems to be spinning out of control.

He is always faithful.

AWANA Grand Prix 2009

We had such a wonderful time last night at our church's annual AWANA Grand Prix! We had never made pine wood cars before, and there were some really awesome designs at the event. After seeing all of the cars, Trevor had some really good ideas for how we can help the kids make their cars better next year.

When we first heard about the Grand Prix, we were sort of lukewarm about the whole thing. Then the kids started making and painting the cars, and I got a little more excited. When we arrived last night in the gym, I was not expecting the incredible turnout and energy in that place! It was so awesome to see the church turn out to support the kids and to just have a great time together.

Neither Nathan or Grace won any of the heats they were in, but still had a good time watching the races and gorging themselves on hot dogs, popcorn and lemonade. On the way home, we were already plotting car design and paint schemes for next year. This was just one more reason that I love our new church!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Halloween 2009

I know that this is a few days late, but here are the pictures of the kids this Halloween. We had their costumes all worked out weeks before the big day, and they were both excited about them. My mom bought Gracie's entire costume and brought it with her when she came to visit and Nathan has been talking all year about being a clone trooper from Star Wars. When we discovered that our church was doing a western themed fall festival, I knew that the kids would stick out like a sore thumb if they wore these costumes.

Our solution was to take them trick-or-treating in our neighborhood first, and then we came home for a costume change (basically plaid shirts, jeans and bandannas) before heading off to the festival. We were in such a hurry to get changed and out the door that I completely forgot to get pictures of them in their cowboy gear, but they were really cute.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I have been praying for a really long time to have the opportunity to be a stay at home mom, and be available for my children and my husband. Trevor and I have looked at the budget, discussed the topic ad nauseum and made some financial decisions that would point us down that road.

When we moved to the Tulsa area we knew that my staying home hinged on selling our house in Texas and paring back some of our debt. It also depended on my working full time hours through the summer and fall so that we could save most of my paycheck against the time when I would not be needed to work. We knew that the full time hours would come to an end once I was trained, but we planned for a huge chunk of savings to be built out of those hours worked.

Funny how things don't work out the way we plan them.

We still haven't sold the house in Dayton, and as a result, all of the money we would have saved has gone towards that mortgage and now we are in a bind because we still need my full time income to meet our bills. I have been living in a dream with my abbreviated hours at work and being able to be at home when the kids stepped off the school bus in the afternoons. I have been blessed with the ability to take time off when the kids are out of school and it's been wonderful.

But now, it seems the dream is over. Although I am keeping my ECB (emergency call back) position with my current employer, I am now in need of a full time position. The hospital where I work had a full time position available, but I kept hoping the house would sell and I kept delaying making a move to apply and the position was filled. I put my name in the hat at the last minute, but for whatever reason the staff did not want me to work full time and chose another candidate.

So here I am with no work until the hospital needs me again to cover vacations in a week or two. I'm not complaining because that's what I signed up for when I took this job, but I really need to be working. I found another full time position posted at another hospital and was contacted yesterday to come in for an interview tomorrow morning. Do I need this job? Absolutely. Do I want this job? Not really. What I really want is to stay home, but in this case the need outweighs the desire.

I'm torn, because I really feel like my current job was answered prayer in terms of being more available to my family. If I pursue this new job am I effectively telling God that I don't trust Him to handle our finances and provide for us, or am I pursuing an opportunity that God has opened up for me? It's times like this that I feel like I'm adrift in the sea of spiritual discernment and I don't have clue which way to go. What is the right decision when both make sense?

Monday, November 2, 2009

$4 Project for the IMB

I posted recently about the International Mission Board's $32 million deficit this year. The IMB is such an important part of modern day evangelism, and I am asking all of my blogger friends to grab this button from my sidebar and post it on your blog and/or Facebook wall so that we can reach as many people as possible by November 22.
Even if you are not affiliated with a church that supports the IMB, I would love it if you would post the button or a link to so that others who would like to participate will be aware of the special offering on November 22.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I'm Giving Thanks

Here we are again at the beginning of November, eagerly anticipating the holidays and looking with not a small amount of horror at how quickly the past year has flown by. For the past few years I have participated in a challenge hosted by Leah at South Breeze Farm that has been such a reality check for me. The idea is to create a list in your sidebar, and each day add a new thing that you thankful for throughout the month of November.

It's amazing how easy it is to see your blessings when you take a minute to think about it. From the small to the large, everyone has something for which they can be thankful. I posted my lists here and here from previous years if you are interested, and I hope that you will go to Leah's blog, grab the button and jump in feet first with a thankful heart!

For all of you Facebookers, this works for you too. Just update your status each day with something for which you are thankful. God has blessed me so richly that my heart overflows with thanksgiving for who He is, and for what He has done for me!