"If the God you believe in as an idea doesn’t start showing up in what happens to you in your own life, you have as much cause for concern as if the God you don’t believe in as an idea does start showing up. It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling." ~ Frederick Buechner

27 December 2011

A Few Special Things

Today, as I was playing on the floor with Brennan, I noticed this on the door to the deck.
Sentimentality = Not washing your baby's hand prints off the glass door
One last Christmas package came in the mail for Brennan from Mimi, Pepa, Uncle Joey, and Uncle Jonny
Brennan has been stocked with Saints and Longhorns clothing since birth, thanks to family members from Louisiana and Texas.
A beautiful surprise: Nich picked out these beads three years ago while he was in Texas, while his mom was in the hospital. His birth mom made them into this lovely set and sent them with Brennan's Christmas gifts.
Every year, we get a new ornament for our tree.
May we always remember the true reason we celebrate Christmas.

Baby's First Christmas in Pictures

Having Daddy home meant lots of extra rides in the laundry hamper. Note his excellent posture. What you don't see: soon after this picture was taken, Brennan decided that merely riding around in the hamper was for sissies. From there on out, he stood up in the hamper, looking for all the world like a funny little water-skier.
Helping Mama take photos of Baby Sophie's quilt and pillow
After Baby went to bed, the elves came to do their work.
A Christmas morning walk
"Ooooh, what's up there?"
His first pony :~)
But this "light saber" is better
Nich and I unwrapped our gifts to one another while Brennan took his morning nap.
Nich puts his Han Solo Carbonite Ice Trays to use right away.
We had Christmas dinner with Chris and Keri.
We made Baby Sophie a quilt/play mat and a pillow.
MERRY CHRISTMAS from our family to yours!

Lots of Snuggly Naps

Brennan has his first ear infection to accompany the cold he currently has. Between the antibiotic and the Benadryl, he has been a sleepy little guy.

23 December 2011

Our Little Elf

Wearing Mama's hat and playing with Daddy's phone

Will Cuddle When Sick

Brennan is NOT a cuddler by any means. He's too busy.

But yesterday, he was running a fever, and he spent part of the afternoon and most of the evening drowsy. Although it was sad that he wasn't feeling well, a part of me really relished this.

I also liked being able to watch an entire Christmas movie.

After a good night's sleep, he had a much better day today.

13 December 2011

An Update in Pictures

We just got these from Dayspring. They are a beautiful reminder of the real Christmas story.
Brennan likes to look at the flickering candlelight.
He also likes to take rides in the laundry hamper.
The joy of wrapping paper has been discovered! Thanks for the fun book, Aunt Kristy!
Lately, when I try to take a photo, he comes right up to the camera ... and tries to grab it. Gone are the easy-picture days!
I got this book for Nich a couple Christmases ago. It's a fun read.
It also has terrific illustrations. I think it'll be a Christmas favorite for years to come. Speaking of Christmas favorites, I'd really like to add this book and this book to our Christmas collection someday. If you haven't read either, go to your library and check them out!

06 December 2011

A "Labor of Love"

Point of Grace has been an absolute favorite of mine since my earliest days of walking with the Lord. This song has been going through my head often this week as I've been reflecting on how amazing it was to be pregnant at Christmastime last year. There was something incredible about feeling my little boy kicking and doing somersaults in my womb while dwelling on the precious gift of Jesus. 

I can understand why the Catholics revere Mary so highly. For a young Jewish girl, betrothed, a virgin, with only an angel's word that she was carrying the Messiah, she sure had more grace, faithfulness, and humility than I could ever dream of possessing (and I KNOW how the story ends!).

Akiane Kramarik, "A Mother's Love"

It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David's town

And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother's hand to hold

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love

Noble Joseph at her side
Callused hands and weary eyes
There were no midwives to be found
On the streets of David's town
In the middle of the night

So he held her and he prayed
Shafts of moonlight on his face
For the baby in her womb
He was the maker of the moon
He was the author of the faith
That could make the mountains move

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love

For little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
It was a labor of love

It was not a silent night
On the streets of David's town

He Said, "Yes."

The Advent season is my favorite time of the year, as it is for many. The soft glow of candles and Christmas trees, the cheerful twinkle of icicle lights hanging from rooftops, the glory of traditional Christmas carols, the myriad of opportunities to give to "the least of these," and foremost, the reminder of the precious gift of Christ.

And the festivities! I just love Christmas parties, and the women's ministry at our church does a good job of providing a couple opportunities for celebration each Christmas season. There's the annual Ladies' Christmas Gathering to kick off the holiday season on the right foot, with plenty of reminders of why it is that we're celebrating (hint: it's not about the presents). I went to that for the first time this year, and it was a blessed evening of fellowship, contemplation, and worship with my sisters in Christ.

This morning was the Ladies' Bible Study brunch that marks the end of our fall semester of Bible study. Given the timing, it's usually a Christmas-themed event, and today was no exception. The food was scrumptious (somebody makes an amazing cranberry-citrus goodie), the company marvelous, but what stayed with me today was a little phrase that Lynn, our women's ministry director, shared: Jesus said, "Yes." She had just shared about her bride tree that she puts up every year, so marriage was freshly on my mind. I began to think of Christ's symbolic marital relationship with the church. He calls us His bride. He entered the world as a helpless baby, to woo us to His heart. 

When I said, "Yes" to Nich on our wedding day, I knew him well enough to be certain that this was the man God had chosen for me to serve alongside for the rest of my life. I had seen his compassion for the inner-city kids of Newport News as he led the Boys and Girls Club outreach program through the 20Something ministry at the church where we met. I witnessed his kindness for the poor when he bought strangers lunch and provided a listening ear. His tender love for his elderly mother when he took me to Texas to visit her for Christmas the first year we were dating spoke volumes about his gentle heart. His willingness to take off at a moment's notice to China if the Lord led showed me his missional spirit.

Of course, as a couple settles in to the day-to-day routine of life together, quirks surface. I often joke to Nich that seeing the piles of laundry next of which he slept during our courtship should have been a red flag for me of things to come. If we don't maintain healthy emotional boundaries, these little quirks can easily become a catalyst for bickering and over-the-top arguments. Marriage sharpens and refines like no other relationship.

Today, on my rainy drive home from Bible study, I thought about God's omniscience. Jesus knew all of our idiosyncracies. He knew we would disappoint him time and time again. He knew we would fail him and betray him for comparatively ridiculous things. He knew He would be neglected. He knew that sometimes, we would be ashamed to admit that we know Him, much less claim Him as our most intimate friend.

He said, "Yes" anyway.

Jason Jenicke, "St. Joseph and Baby Jesus"

*I absolutely ABHORE that ridiculous "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time" song. I want to throw something every time I hear that song. It probably didn't help that it was on the loop that played when I worked in retail last Christmas season.

My Husband Rocks

Go check out this blog for an entry to her "The Kind of Man I Married Giveaway", and while you're at it, tell her why your husband (or wife) rocks. :~)

This was my entry:

"My husband rocks because he put his dreams of finishing college on hold (which was the whole reason he served six years in the military) so that he could get a full-time job to sponsor my visa (so we could stay in the same country). He was willing to work a maintenance job at our church, something many young people these days would consider themselves “too good” for, and did it joyfully to provide for the two of us as newlyweds. He has faithfully and joyfully gone to work everyday at his current desk job for the past three years, even though he isn’t at all the cubicle type. We chat every day during his lunch hour. He calls me every day on his way home from work. He offers to get Chinese if he knows I’ve had a trying day. He is a wonderful father to our baby boy. One of the best things in my day is hearing our little guy giggle as he crawls at lightning speed to meet his daddy when my husband comes home from work. Those are just a few reasons why my husband rocks!"

05 December 2011

Decorating for Baby's First Christmas!

With a little boy who is now learning to climb and pull down anything and everything that catches his interest, we had to make a few modifications to our Christmas decorating this year.

And by the way, after decorating, we were wondering why our home didn't look as festive as last year, even though we have almost all the same decorations up. We came to the realization that a fireplace and a full-sized tree (we just put up the three-footer this year) sure adds a lot to creating a Christmas-y feel.

Our by-accident collection of Christmas moose (mooses? meese?) are scattered around the living room. I just forgot to take pictures of them, and as Little Man is probably due to wake up any time now, you'll just have to envision how cute they are!
Nich's souvenir pin stocking hanging on our bedroom door.
"Love Came Down": Days until Jesus' Birthday on Brennan's door
Our little manger scene: we think there's a shepherd or two missing on the left side.
Christmas card holder on the pantry door: Jess wins the First Card of the Year prize! :~)
Our little tree: Kind of reminds me of our newlywed Christmas! We decided that stockings will come out on Christmas Eve so little hands won't cause harm to a little head. A friend of mine saw our stocking holders and commented that we need another kid (since there are four holders). I think we'll just hang a tiny stocking for Didgeridoo for now. :~)
Hanging on the wall of our entryway
Entry way at the top of the stairs
Door! I had to write out our apartment number because the wreath hides the actual plaque.