"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

12 November 2013

Celebrating Intentionality and Sacrifices

If anyone had told me a decade ago that I would have strong opinions and feelings regarding Veterans Day or Memorial Day, I probably would have scoffed. I don't have any passionate allegiance to any country, mostly because of the way I grew up. I was born in Asia, grew up in Africa, and have lived in Europe and North America. All that to say, I have loved various aspects of living in different nations and cultures and having a diverse exposure to friends from all over the world.

But then I fell in love with a wonderful, kind-hearted, gentle-spirited, compassionate, God-believing man.

He also happened to have just gotten out of serving six years in the U.S. Navy.
N went into the military for a myriad of reasons, and I want to share a little bit of his story. He was adopted by his maternal grandparents as a toddler, and his biological grandfather (who he called "Dad") died when he was in high school. His grandmother/mom was on disability and living in an assisted living residence, and no one had ever talked to him about the possibility of going to college. So out of high school, having just lost a parent, with no real prospects ahead of him, he joined the Navy so that he could earn benefits to continue his education down the line.

He gave six years of his twenties -- a time when most of us are naively and blissfully making friends, being pretentious and acting like (and often being told) that we are incredibly intelligent and creative, and goofing off in our undergraduate years -- in service to his country, not because he was gun-happy, supportive of war, especially patriotic, or violence-prone. In fact, anyone who has met N will know without a doubt that he is one of the calmest, even-tempered, steady people you'll ever meet.

It is hard to get my husband riled up. Trust me. I live with him.

He went on two deployments, spending long months away from his friends and family, missing birthdays and holidays, faithfully writing letters home to his mom.

But you know what meant the most to him in that time, what changed his life?

Building schoolhouses and cleaning up dumps in poverty-stricken North Africa, where the only thing they have plenty of is sun.

Hot, scorching sun.

Rescuing malnourished Somalian refugees, running away from the only home and people that they had ever known, often leaving loved ones behind, with the glimmer of hope that there was a better life for them somewhere else.

Receiving a book of beautiful letters and drawings from his friend's second graders, thanking him for his service and asking him the most innocent and hilarious of questions.

You see, the military isn't just about gun-blazing, bomb-throwing, land-mine-exploding war. Yes, those things happen, and I don't want to diminish the sacrifices made by those soldiers who faithfully go into battle. But it is also about global service, about getting in the muck and rubble to help those who are much less fortunate and have only a smidgen of what we have in our daily lives here in America.

It's also about having a godly chaplain on your ship speak words of Truth into your life at a time when everything seems like it's falling apart ... and seeing God in that.

Because my husband met Jesus while he was in the Navy.

And there is no amount of arguing and accusing from so-called pacifists who just love to be hateful on days like Veterans Day and Memorial Day that can diminish the joy of that fact.

Jesus meant for my husband to be on that specific ship, on that exact deployment, with that particular chaplain.

Nobody in their right mind wants war.

Nobody in their right mind likes violence.

But we live in a broken world, and our soldiers and veterans have played an enormous part in ensuring that we are able to go about our days, fairly ignorant of the deep cost of the freedom with which we are able to live.

So really, for those who claim that those days are for mourning and grieving, I beg to differ. There are days for that, and for some families who have lost precious fathers, brothers, sons, mothers, sisters, daughters ... those days are every day.

But for those of us who love and cherish our veterans and soldiers, let us have our day to celebrate the sacrifices they have made without poisoning the day with your ideologies, bitterness and resentment.

Let us be grateful, and let us show them the appreciation they have earned and fully deserve.

I'll just be upfront and say that I cried through most of this post. Because I did a lot of internal struggling yesterday, trying not to be angry at things people were posting online regarding Veterans Day, and instead focusing on letting my husband know how much he is appreciated and respected.

Because you know what? My husband? He continues to make sacrifices. Five years ago, when he proposed and I said yes, it became apparent that I either had to leave the country and apply for a fiancee visa or we could get married and he could sponsor me on a permanent residency visa (based on marriage), he did not hesitate. Even though it meant that he had to delay his dream of finishing college and get a full-time job (a stipulation of being a visa sponsor). To this day, he continues to faithfully provide for our family, so that I can stay home with our children. He is never resentful of that fact, even though this is not his dream job that he goes to every day, putting in long hours, even though he would still like to finish those last few classes, even though college is exactly the primary reason he served those six years.

You cannot take away the love and respect I have for my husband, because I see his sacrifice every day.

I'm thankful for a church community that understands the sacrifices these men, women and their families have made and continue to make. I am thankful at least once a week that there are no 7-9 month long deployments in our family's foreseeable future, and my heart goes out to those families that ARE separated for those long, tiring months, often repeatedly.

It was incredibly special to look around the sanctuary this past Sunday morning as all the veterans were asked to stand and were applauded, especially because many of those who stood have seen more history being played out than most of us have.

Please keep all the active-duty military and their families in your prayers, as well as the families of those who have lost their lives in service to your country.

And please, as you sit behind the safety and anonymity of your computer screen, remember that these are people and souls, too.

08 November 2013

The Pioneer Woman's Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

This photo has absolutely nothing to do with my post. I just thought it was so funny that my toddler was trying to "jump on [his] shadow" at the playground yesterday.
Anyway, on to the serious business of a recent recipe by The Pioneer Woman.

Oh. my. word.

My entire house smells amazing right now with the wafting aroma of four pans of freshly baked, scrumptious, pumpkin cinnamon rolls topped with homemade cream cheese frosting and sprinkled with chopped pecans.

Doesn't just reading that make your mouth water?

I would tell you to come on over, because there is certainly plenty to go around, but seeing as most of you don't live anywhere near here, I'll share the recipe instead.

Head over to The Pioneer Woman and you can find her recipe HERE.

As a side note, this is one of my favorite parts to making rolls and bread:
There is just something so satisfying about peeking under that dish towel and seeing how puffy your dough is.

Am I alone in this?

Oh, and a trick to making sure that your dough rises in a draft-free, warm place? Stick it in the microwave with a Pyrex full of boiled water! It works perfectly for me!

This was also a great way to use the pumpkin puree I had made and frozen after we carved our pumpkins last week.

Anyway, here are my finished rolls:

Make them. Trust me. They will change your life.

Okay, maybe not.

But seriously, try them. They're incredible. 

P.S. My husband just walked into the house, sniffed, and said, "Wow, the house smells amazing." See? You HAVE to try these!

06 November 2013

A Gift in Word

Last week was a weird week emotionally for me. There was nothing major happening in my life, but I  just couldn't seem to shake the funk resulting from an accumulation of some minor issues and irritations.

Toward the end of the week, during a rare, unexpected-but-very-needed, quiet, early morning moment, I read this:

Wilderness and desert will sing joyously, 
the badlands will celebrate and flower
bursting into blossom, a symphony of song and color.
Mountain glories of Lebanon - a gift.
Awesome Carmel, stunning Sharon - gifts.
God's resplendent glory, fully on display.

God awesome,
God majestic.
Energize the limp hands, strengthen the rubbery knees.
Tell fearful souls, 
"Courage! Take heart!
God is here, right here, on His way to put things right and redress all wrongs.
He's on His way!
He'll save you!"

Blind eyes will be opened, deaf ears unstopped,
Lame men and women will leap like deer,
The voiceless break into song.
Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness,
streams flow in the desert.
Hot sands will become a cool oasis, 
thirsty ground a splashing fountain.
Even lowly jackals will have water to drink,
and barren grasslands flourish richly.

There will be a highway called the Holy Road.
No one rude or rebellious is permitted on this road.
It's for God's people exclusively - 
impossible to get lost on this road.
Not even fools can get lost on it. 
No lions on this road, no dangerous wild animals -
Nothing and no one dangerous or threatening.
Only the redeemed will walk on it.
The people God has ransomed will come back on this road.
They'll sing as they make their way home to Zion,
unfading halos of joy encircling their heads

Welcomed home with gifts of joy and gladness
as all sorrows and sighs scurry into the night.

Isaiah 35

It was just what I needed.

A reminder of gifts, of hope, of how He invites us to bring all our burdens, big or small, and leave them at His feet.

I have to admit, I am sometimes tempted to be cynical about the sudden abundance of publicly expressed gratitude that shows up on FB in the month of November, especially because most of them are focused on me, me, me. But today, my kind husband gently stated, "But honey, those are beautiful things to be thankful for."

And this. 

"Because really? 

Anybody can be a cynic. Cynicism is laziness in every way. 

The real heroes are the ones who never stop looking for the possibility of joy."


He invites us to leave our ashes with Him, to trust Him with our dirty, burnt out, stretched hearts and in turn, He gives us gifts, freely and abundantly.

04 November 2013

Cornerstone Ranch: GIVEAWAY!

B's first time carving pumpkins
We recently joined a Life Group through our church, and it has truly been a blessing to us as a family. The timing of our bi-monthly, Saturday night meetings are perfect; with N getting home so much later than he did when we were in NY, it just wasn't realistic for us to join a Life Group that met during the week. It also helps a lot that B was already familiar with the three children of our group leaders from Kindermusik. He still doesn't particularly like being left with a sitter and a bunch of kids, but he has talked about "our friends," and he is especially fond of Thomas, one of the "big boys."
A haunted house and Yoda's head
N even carved out all the little scribbles B had drawn onto his pumpkin.
It was particularly fun to trick-or-treat with our Life Group friends last Thursday. I felt a bit of nostalgia as I remembered B's first trick-or-treating experience last year, soon after we had moved to Texas. We only went to six houses, but he caught on after the first couple, and he loved it. We had given him a little bucket in which to collect his small amount of sugary loot. He had his first lollipop that night, and for days afterward, he would call out, "Tick-or-teet! Hao-een!" through the day.
A happy bunch of trick-or-treaters
This year, a much bigger and chattier Little B happily ran down the sidewalks to keep up with "our friends" (mostly the bigger boys), greeting each friendly homeowner with "Happy Halloween!"

One of my favorite moments was when a man didn't hear him say, "Thank you" because he was putting candy in another child's bucket. B waited a moment, then he leaned in so he was nice and close, and said louder, "THANK YOU!" When he was acknowledged, he came hopping back down the steps, satisfied. 

This past weekend, our Life Group had the unique opportunity to attend an art auction and dinner at Noah's of Fairview to support Cornerstone Ranch Ministries, an organization that provides a vibrant home for adults with special needs. Our group has had an on-going relationship with Cornerstone, making it a point to bring dinner and visit with the residents at least once a semester. When our church has our annual service day, our Life Group goes to Cornerstone to help out in whatever way needed.

I can't even begin to describe how special this place is, from the story of their founders to all the opportunities they provide to ensure a rich and active lifestyle for their residents and day programmers. Apparently, it is very much a one-of-a-kind ministry in this country. So much so that they have residents whose families brought them here from the east coast because there is no other place like it.

The silent auction was for art created by the residents and day program participants. All their works were vibrant and lovely, but the ones that caught my eye were of a single cardinal perched amongst snow-laden trees. How delighted I was when we were handed this little keepsake at the door as we left that night!

Until I find a better place for it, this is hanging in our kitchen window, where we will see it every day
(and, as N teased me, where I can pretend we're having a real winter).

Chuck Swindoll was the guest speaker for the evening, and there was also a live auction that took place following dinner. N and I looked at each other with increasingly wide eyes as bids went higher and higher for original artwork by Noah Elias and Michael McWillie, an all-expenses-paid trip for four (including first class airfare!) to Scotland, and a Dallas Mavericks VIP package. At some point during the bidding for the Scotland trip, we started jokingly whispering to one another, "Well, honey, there goes our children's college fund, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip!" 

It's a good thing they put our group in the back of the room.

The absolute best part of the night for me, though, was hearing the heartfelt testimonies given by the parents of Larsen, one of the day participants at Cornerstone. Her father shared her birth story, how a team of doctors entered the room after she had been whisked away out of sight, saying that they had "very bad news" for her parents. In a choked up voice, he said that Larsen is the joy of their lives and the "glue that holds our family together." He said that if he could see any of those doctors now, he would tell them that he would "take that kind of bad news any day." 

Of course I teared up.

Our Life Group bid on a beautiful painting of Joseph leading Mary on a donkey through a velvet night, hoping to secure it to donate to our church, but someone sneaked in a final bid at the very end, and we didn't get it. But two of our friends did win the paintings that they had had their hearts set on.

Anyway, I would love it if you would check out Cornerstone Ranch's website. Look around, and you can even donate to the beautiful kingdom work that they are doing there or buy some of the residents' artwork in the form of greeting cards ($10 for a pack of 5 cards!).

If you do end up making a donation to Cornerstone Ranch Ministries or purchasing a set or two of greeting cards, would you please leave me a note in the comments to tell me you did? You will be entered into a drawing to win your own beautiful little snowscape that I showed you earlier, signed by the artist herself!

Thanks for reading today! I look forward to sharing more about Cornerstone with you as our family joins the efforts of our Life Group to continue building relationships with this beautiful ministry and the residents that live at the Ranch.

This post linked with:
Messy Marriage

01 November 2013

Summer-Fall Hooky Update

The summer was relatively slow here in Texas. No one is thinking "yarn" when it's 100+ degrees out. That was probably not a bad thing, since I was spending a lot more time in our bathroom than I care to think about.

Anyway, now that the temperatures have finally descended to below 80 degrees and our grass is green again (living in Texas makes me feel a little confused ... I mean, flowers start blooming again in the fall!), lots of cream-paper-packages-tied-up-with-string have been going out in the mail!

An assortment of hair bows
Flocks of owls for lots of little owlets*
Two different styles of pumpkin hats
An adorable little pumpkin modeling her "punky" outfit
A "bug beanie" for a beautiful girl who dreams of becoming an entomologist someday
Froggy hats
A specially-requested panda hat for a beautiful Violet
Christmas stockings for four wonderful kiddos living in Thailand (they picked their favorite colors)
Birthday presents for four-year-old twin boys*
A "rainbow unicorn" for a unicorn-loving little girl*
A penguin hat for our own Little B*
A turkey beanie and a "Roll Over, Rover" beanie for a cutie-patootie
Did you know that baby turkeys are called "poults"? I didn't until today!
A girly newborn beanie**
A new winter hat for a much-awaited baby girl**
And yet another VHC newborn set (I think this one was used for a Halloween costume)
Note: All my work is custom-designed and made unless otherwise indicated below. Please do not distribute or re-publish any of my photos as your own. If you use any designers' patterns, please always credit their work honestly.

*Made either using patterns or adapted from patterns by Sarah Zimmerman of Repeat Crafter Me
**Made either using patterns or adapted from patterns by Alli from

Unplanned Hiatus

I know. I gave you no warning before I disappeared off of here for three months.

I'm sorry. I really am. I thought about coming here and writing, but all I wanted to do was make it to nap-time every day without throwing up.
You see, we are expecting Baby G 2.0 this coming March.

And the first trimester with this little one KICKED. MY. BUTT.

So much so that I swore to my husband that I was done having children after this one. That we could adopt however many other kids we wanted to have. That this baby-growing factory was closing.

I mean, there are easier ways to lose eight pounds, you know?
But I'm over that now, and now that I'm past the halfway mark (this is called Positive Thinking, by the way, because really, Little B came 11 days past his "due date," probably as yet another lesson on Waiting on God's Timing for his by-nature-impatient mama), and although I'm still much more tired than I've ever been in my entire life (this is including the ten months of no more than three hours of sleep in a row after B was born), I'm able to enjoy this pregnancy.

She's quite the active little one in there.

I think she'll be keeping up with her big brother just fine.

Their mother, however, may have a new bedtime of 8 o'clock once this little girl arrives.

Most of you have kept up with me via FB, so I won't do a giant catch-up session on here. Instead, I'll just be back to my semi-regular posting about our family, Compassion, and hooky things.

That said, I'll follow up shortly with a photo-post of all the fun items that have come off my hook since I was last here!

Thanks for sticking with me!