Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 - A Year to Abide

It is the end of 2012 and I must say it was a good year.  I was so ready to say adios to 2011 that I started off with high hopes & 2012 did not disappoint.  I only made two resolutions for 2012 and I can't believe that they both have been constant!

The first was my little 365 project of taking a picture everyday.  I'll try my best to post the wrap up to this tomorrow...and although I do think I missed 10-12 days I definitely captured our year and I'm looking forward to making a book with only these pictures to remember our year by.

My second resolution was not really a resolution at all, but rather I was inspired by other bloggers and chose a word for 2012.  You can read all about how I started off this year focusing on the word ABIDE here.  And as I close 2012 I can honestly say that I've learned so much about abiding in Him.

I thought I'd blog much more about this journey, but was often silenced as I realized abiding is something that is worked within rather than something that I was able to articulate with lengthy blogs and beautifully scripted words.

In fact, in that original blog I wrote:
this is what I long for – an ability to shut off my to-do lists and agendas – a serenity and yet also strength that resonates from simply being with Him.

It is as if He took me at my words and abiding has not been something that I've strived to achieve but rather it has gradually manifested the more that I became quiet and listened and in turn responded to His promptings.

He prompted in January as Josh and I toured a vineyard in Sonoma.  As I walked amongst those vines...and I stared at the piles of branches that had been pruned by the vintner...and I wondered if that pile was an omen of what awaited...  It was that day in which I knew that this year would require some pruning and yet He was gracious to remind me that I could submit to the pruning and it would be much easier. 

He prompted me one day as Selah brought home a painting of monkeys swinging on a vine with John 15:5 written along the margins...and I realized it would be hard to abide so long as my margins were cluttered with anything other than Him.

He prompted me in the middle of many nights as I fed and rocked my new baby.  It was there that He showed me - THIS - THIS is a picture of abiding...she needing me for wanting to just be with her.  Choosing to stay up past the feeding simply because it was so precious to be with her & she with me.

He prompted me when I really let go of my desires to do more and chose instead to be more by going part-time at the church and spending more time with my girls.

He prompted me through His Word and in conversations with friends.  He prompted me as I've walked with friends through trials and heartache.  He prompted me in laughter and joy.  And I'm learning that to truly ABIDE one never fully "gets it" but just tries to keep in step with step with His love.

"As my Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Abide in my love."  - John 15:9

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Will You Be Reading Over the Holidays? 3 Books I've Read & 3 Books I'm Reading

Since I was a teenager, one thing I've always looked forward to about the Christmas holidays is getting wondrously lost in a good book.  I remember discovering my love for Jane Austen as a senior in high school wrapped up in a blanket sipping hot chocolate during those cold long days. And just a few years ago I was so enraptured with Francine Rivers' Mark of the Lion series that I was forever won over by Kelsey's new beau who nonchalantly "ran an errand" the day after Christmas only to return to our house with the final book of the series for yours truly.  I cast my vote that day that she should marry Heath - so glad she listened to me!

So I thought I'd write a quick blog to make a few book recommendations for those looking for a good read over the holidays as well as to share what I'll be reading over the next couple of weeks.  And if you are a book lover please let me & others know what we shouldn't miss.


In the last few months I've read 3 books that have "stuck" with me.  I mentioned Love Does by Bob Goff in a blog about Selah's impromptu parties and small nuggets of truth from that book have transformed my heart.  I see love a bit differently and try to share it more freely.

While on maternity leave I read 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker and again I've been altered by it's contents.  I've noticed the change in the way I've shopped this Christmas and in how I reconsider priorities.  And yet, I didn't feel like I was beaten over the head with guilt trips about my consumption of media and frivilous spending.  Jen was honest and far from holier-than-thou...and if we are honest we probably all need to reexamine the many areas where excess reign supreme in our I'm sure I'll be revisiting 7...oh, and I'm planning to have a huge clothes swap party in the new year (I was inspired by the book to do so - would love for any of you Lubbock readers to join me)!

Lastly, I read Praying Circles Around Your Kids by Mark Batterson.  It was such an easy read and gave me the direction I needed in praying for my two little girls.  He gives practical ideas as well as Biblical foundation for why praying matters and how praying matters.  This is definitely an easy read that can be done over the holidays!

This Christmas break I'm planning on finishing two books & beginning another.  I'm half-way through Looking for God: An Unexpected Journey through Tattoos, Tofu, and Pronouns by Nancy Ortberg and I'm enjoying these short essays on faith.  I also just started Gilead by Marilynne Robinson and OH MY GOODNESS - it's beautiful writing - the kind of writing where one minute I want to speed through because it is so good and the next I find myself reading very slowly because I don't want to miss anything.  It is a work of fiction and yet I find myself searching for a pen to underline not just sentences but entire pages.  I'm not even sure where this book is headed...but I feel like I may learn more from this work of fiction than I have in a very long time from many theological books.


And lastly, I've just decided to read something a bit unorthodox.  I'm trying to live a bit whimsical...and so I've decided that I'll start 2013 off by reading The Jesus Storybook Bible.  I bought in a couple of months ago for Selah.  I'd heard from several parents that I respect that it was the best Bible they had found for their kids & I immediately fell in love when I read the subtitle: "Every story whispers his name."  So we've tried reading it with Selah but I'm reminded she is two and her attention span is always up before I'm ready to put this beautiful Bible down.  And so today, I felt like the Lord asked me, "Why do you need to wait for her to read it?"  So I'm going to start off 2013 by reading His story from cover to cover through the eyes of a child.  I'm so looking forward to it (and to the pictures)!

Oh, and I must admit I won't ONLY be reading in my quiet moments during Christmas vacation.  I also have every intention of rewatching Season 2 of Downton Abbey to get me ready for Season 3 that starts in January (I just finished rewatching Season 1) - I do love me some Lady Mary & Matthew Crawley...

What will you be doing in your down time?  Any books or movies you think others should be aware of?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Little Moments with Big Memories - The Last Month of Project 365

The past month has been extremely full in our lives so I'm just now getting to post over a month's worth of pictures for Project 365.  BUT I've also realized that I've almost completed this project and I'm so happy that I stuck with it.

I started this project right after Thanksgiving last year because I wanted to be more thankful for the ordinary moments of each day...and I'm realizing that by taking a picture each day, I did in fact stop and give thanks for small moments each day.

So here is a glimpse into most of October and the first week of November in our lives!

Day 318 - My cute hubby preaching!!  I love to hear him share his heart & the Word of God.

Day 319 - Do you ever find random pictures on your phone?  I found this one & realized that Selah was busy taking pictures while I was trying to get some work done & sipping my coffee.  I find it so interesting to see life through her eyes.

Day 320 - We went to a gender reveal party for my cousin Lacey Arellano & they had stick-on mustaches for everyone who guessed they were having a boy.  Selah & her cousin Ava were quite entertaining with these mustaches.

Day 321 - Josh and Selah ran to the grocery store, and I was genuinely surprised when they returned with a gorgeous bouquet of sunflowers!  Selah & I put them in a vase together & she proudly let me know that the red ones were her very own!

Day 322 - My dad's 60th birthday was this week, and we had lots of celebrations as you will see!  We had a family celebration this evening and I had to snap a picture with Haven.

Day 323 - We've been doing lots of painting around our house & Selah not only enjoys being creative but she also loves to line up the paints in a straight line and calls it her rainbow.  This just makes me happy!

Day 324 - I love this picture.  This was on a Saturday and we were welcoming many of our international friends who were in Lubbock for a week to attend conferences.  This is before we went into the game & people were meeting each other & seeing one another after a year of being a part.  It was a quick picture I took, but I feel like the smiles, laughter, and joy being together is a good representation of what happened during this week.

Day 325 - This picture is actually from the next night, but I feel like it is fitting since day 325 is October 12th which is my dad's 60th birthday.  We threw him a big shindig & I love my family.

Day 326 - My favorite picture from my dad's party.  This was during his roast & I think he was thoroughly enjoying himself!

Day 327 - Breaking bread with friends who love the world & friends from around the world.  It was a good night.

Day 328 - My friends, Jason & Vanessa Brandiger, worked for hours setting up for our Pursue Missions Conference.  I love watching people use their creative gifts - these two outdo themselves every year!

Day 329 - LOVE this picture!  In this small space I see friends from Kenya, Czech Republic, Guatemala, and right here - the 806...and I love looking at everyone's faces.

Day 330 - Decorating for our banquet that evening & I had to take a picture with these two lovelies!  Kyla (the blonde) worked with me for the last several years to put on this conference & Annie is now my faithful assistant.  I just love these two - so very thankful for the way they serve & lead.

Day 331 - After a VERY busy week, we took a family outing to the Pumpkin Trail.  Selah has just recently been learning that her full name is Selah Hope, she was ecstatic when we showed her a pumpkin with her name painted on it!

Day 332 - CRAZY FACE!!! 

Day 333 - This was Haven's first bite of cereal.  She wasn't too sure about it...

Day 334 - I love these blue eyes

Day 335 - If I'm honest, this was a rather emotional day for me and after getting home from work I decided I needed to go for a long walk.  Josh and Selah ran an errand so this little sweet pea & I went a-walking...and the fresh air along with her bouncing legs was just the remedy I needed!

Day 336 - Good Morning!  Selah was introducing Haven to cartoons - Haven only paid attention for about 5 minutes...

Day 337 - Birthday dinner for my sweet sister!

Day 338 - Selah went to a Minnie Mouse Birthday party and she was quite the diva!

Day 339 - Josh's dad gave the girls matching North Caroline dresses & it was finally cold enough to ear them!  We are ready for college basketball season - go Tarheels!

Day 340 - Cheering for Taylor's volleyball game...or as Selah calls it: bolley bolley!

Day 341 - We voted!

Day 342 - I took lots of pictures at Trunk or Treat but this is my favorite!  How many men are confident enough to wear their daughter's tiara?  Oh, and check out Selah's slippers - we were most definitely not dressed to impress but we sure did have fun!

Day 343 - I traveled to Canton, TX to celebrate Kelsey's birthday!  This is the only picture I took that day, but we had amazing burgers in Mineola, TX!
Day 344 - Day 2 of shopping in Canton.  I had fun with these girls.

Day 345 - Selah & her friend Emma sporting some awesome hats!

Day 346 - Some days we just hang out and play with our toes

Day 347 - Election Day...Josh kept a close eye on the TV at the watch party we went to

Day 348 - Selah and I collaborated on this piece of art

Day 349 - Selah wanted to wear matching clothes so we both wore our Team Tomi t-shirts!

Day 350 - These are a few of the amazing people I work with - we were outside (in the cold wind) looking at foundation for our new building.

Day 351 - Haven has discovered the joy of jumping & Selah likes to make her laugh while she jumps.  Haven is starting to look so much like her big sister!

Day 352 - Our version of hot tubbing
And with that we are only 13 days away from completing project 365!  So excited to finish this and look back over the past year!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

An Ode to the Pumpkin

I must confess that I am discovering a new found love for all things pumpkin this fall.  It is surprising because up until this point I merely saw the pumpkin as an adversary. 

As a child I turned my nose up at any offer of pumpkin goods - no pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving or any other pumpkin treat for this girl...I just couldn’t seem to stomach that spicey sweetness even though my sister claimed it was the greatest thing ever to touch her taste buds.  And I was terrified of jack o’ lanterns as a child too - they seemed spooky and ominous, and the one time that I actually tried to carve one the knife slipped and the lantern’s eyes merged with the nose making for an unsightly mess that I was embarrassed to say was mine.

So for years I have kept my distance from the orange produce refusing to cook or decorate with fall’s bounty.  But something happened this year.  Selah and I were at the grocery store and we found ourselves walking through the pumpkins and it was as if I saw them through her eyes.  Some were large while others were dainty and my little girl begged and begged for a pumpkin of her very own.

We left the store that day with 5 small pumpkins, one large and an assortment of gords to boot.  I was unsure what was happening but it felt right and I started to remember the many cute pumpkin crafts I had seen on pinterest.

And so, may I present the many ways we are embracing all things pumpkin this fall - perhaps you should join in the fun!

Painting Pumpkins

The first craft we embraced with our little pumpkins was to simply paint them!  I had visions of making chevron patterns or polka dots on my pumpkin to be cute and crafty, but Selah took charge and I actually fell in love with her creative mess.  The colors melded together in the most lovely way...and we have since painted 5 pumpkins that lie around our house!

Pumpkin Trail

Our local garden and arts center had one weekend where the Pumpkin Trail was opened.  Over 2,000 carved pumpkins had been donated and they lined the pathways to our delight.

I loved seeing people’s creativity and was almost tempted to go home and carve my own pumpkin...almost is the key word.  Perhaps we will embrace that next year!

Pumpkin Treats
Two weeks ago I was still on the fence about using pumpkin in any type of sweet treat, but then I took a bite of Carol Gary’s dessert (I don’t know what it was called but I think it should be named "super delicious pumpkin goodness") and all of my preconceived ideas about pumpkin staying away from desserts left.  Her dessert was divine & I realized that my taste buds should be reintroduced to the option of pumpkin.

As a result I have tried Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte (I give it a thumbs up)...

And I’ve been eying a few pinterest recipes.  Here is one that I’m planning to make this fall.  It is called Pumpkin Lust Cake from SweetTreats

What about you?  How are you enjoying the illustrious pumpkin?  Any crafts or desserts that I should be aware of?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Shouting from My Rooftop Today!

When I was a little girl I dreamed of being an actress and a lawyer.  I sometimes thought I’d like to be a preacher and I even had a stint in which the President sounded like a pretty good gig.  And when I got older and started traveling the world with my dad I secretly asked God if I might be allowed to be a missionary.  I fell hard for beautiful brown skinned people in Guatemala - so much so that I took an extra year of Spanish in high school with the hopes that one day I could really share my heart with those I had met.

That question of being a missionary was something God and I talked about often in my twenties too.  I had fallen in love with a new people group - this time they were strong and silent - Czech atheists who were intrigued by my belief but still rather aloof.  I thought perhaps Josh and I could move and open a business for a season eating pastries and talking about Jesus with these brilliant minds(seriously, that is still a good idea)...and then I traveled to India.  I laughed and cried and my heart melted in the big brown eyes of women and children who had lost seemingly everything and yet still had hope in Him. 

I once again talked to God about being a missionary after meeting these precious souls, but He was redefining what missions should look like for me, and my heart found great joy and purpose in being one who who does her best to shout from the rooftops that we have a job to do out there.

And yet I often realize that my voice should be louder (it should be heard here on my blog) and so I am on this rooftop of my blog shouting about those who have inspired me to tears recently.  Will you listen to my shouts?

I’ve been inundated with emails and text messages and prayer chains for the last 20 days as a young man - just two years older than I - was detained in a North African country for questioning.  His lovely wife and three children were left with unanswered questions - maintaining joy and resolve even in the midst of tears.  My heart and my mouth prayed for him daily for the last 20 days.  I’ve reflected on the last conversation we had - as he shared with me about his calling to this people group - and knowing the great risk he was taking.

I’ve prayed with his precious mama over and over again.  Her passion to pray and her love for his captors has been astounding to watch.  And I’ve talked to friends who know him much better than I and I’ve seen how the reality of what he is doing has sunk into our hearts - leading us to an internal search...asking if we are really being obedient to what He has asked.

And my heart rejoices this morning as he was released last night and is now safe with his family in another country - but still praying for his recuperation and his children’s understanding and his wife - oh my Lord, the conversations she must be having with Him in this moment...

And I realize that if Matthew can sit in a solitary cell for 20 days...then I can shout a bit louder.

Tony & Carrie
I put together a fundraising banquet this past Friday for missionaries to Guatemala, Tony & Carrie Taylor.  If I’m honest I was tempted to raise funds for something that I KNEW would pull the heartstrings of those in attendance.  But as I stopped and listened I knew that God was pointing to this precious couple.

Tony & Carrie are good soil.  I know no better way to describe them.  Faithful, humble, unassuming, obedient - they are the only missionaries in their region.  They have whispered to me that they are lonely and would love for God to send someone to join them...and yet they do not give up but rather give more.

And so I went into the banquet with the goal of raising $20,000 MAYBE $30,000 for their project...and yet people were generous and they GOT this vision of missions...and last I checked we had raised over $43,000!  I think God was wanting to let Tony & Carrie know that He is with them - He sees them (even on their lonely days) and He is so proud.

Internationals from Czech Republic, Poland, Kenya, Nicaragua, Belgium, Slovenia, & Israel
I wish I could list the names of the valiant men and women I rubbed shoulders with this past week - they were inspirational.  Each with their own stories of God’s love for their nations as well as tremendous obstacles that are ever present.  So much fire for their much much determination.  I was in awe.

My favorite moment with all of these guests was on Tuesday night (a week ago), over 20 of us gathered - more internationals than Americans and we broke bread together.  Some indoors many outside - we talked and laughed and listened to music...and it was...heavenly.  Truly I thought - one day all nations will be together - enjoying the music of heaven and praising our creator.

I glanced across the way and saw my baby, Haven, in the arms of a Czech mama.  I looked to my left and saw men from Poland and Belgium and the US in deep discussion about theology.  I looked to the right and saw children doing somersaults in the grass while voices from Kenya and Israel wafted in the air, discussing in detail tensions in their countries.  And in that moment I knew God was there.  I knew God was pleased.  Just a small gathering of the nations - but a little glimpse of seeing a few of His kids together...and yet, how many more of His kids just don’t know?  Don’t know His love...His justice...His compassion...His truth?

So many don’t know...but there is hope.  For men like Matthew and couples like Tony and Carrie and countless international pastors across the globe are on their own rooftops shouting...and loving...and being the hands of Jesus.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Pumpkins, Play-doh, Princesses, & Pauses...a picture every day for the last month (Project 365 Continues)

I'm thankful that Project 365 is coming to a close because it has become harder to capture a quality image everyday.  I'm realizing that you really have to be mindful and that I should also carry my good camera around if I want to capture a great picture each day.  BUT that just isn't happening right now so I'm going to share my best and favorite iPhone pics of each day and I guess that is really the true representation of our days.

So, here is a look into our lives for the last month!  Girls are growing, the weather is changing, and I am...becoming!

Day 292 - I started back teaching my Monday class - this quarter it is on the topic of leadership.  So here is my vantage point - binder full of notes & great students!

Day 293 - I finally got my hair cut & colored by the lovely Jayme.  I just got a "trim" but apparently my hair is so thick that a trim equates to a lot of hair!  And for the record I must say that sometimes a change in the simple things (like hair) can give you a burst of energy to really embrace the day!

Day 293 - My baby has been teething for the last month so this face has become very common...either fingers or fist are almost always in her mouth...poor baby.

Day 294 - I wrote in my last blog (I know it has been TOO LONG) about building a tent with Selah...and here she is proudly showing off our architectural feat!

Day 295 - All in a day's work...Selah was quite proud of herself as she talked on her daddy's office phone.

Day 296 - This is my favorite picture of this batch - I LOVE IT!

Day 297 - We had dinner with my parents & then my dad made a fire in his outdoor fire of course that called for Smores!  I just love how the crispness in fall weather always makes Smores a good eating choice!

Day 298 - And if her hand is not in her mouth...then there are slobber bubbles or drool...just keeping it real.

Day 299 - Our Norwegian friends came to visit & they brought Selah a gift - Play-Doh fun!  Selah LOVED the waffle maker that came with it and as you can tell - she perfected her waffle making skills.

Day 300 - I'm teaching Leadership on Monday nights for Prepare International Equipping Center & then I'm teaching Ephesians on Wednesday night for COTR...this has made for a lot studying lately...but I'm a nerd at heart & can get lost in studies for hours.  On this day I literally spent 4 hours just studying Ephesians 1 (love that Chapter) I took a quick picture of my little Bible...

Day 301 - Have you discovered the wonders of Skype?  I've used it for several years to talk to missionaries overseas that I work with...and then last year we started using it so our girls could talk to their grandparents in Dallas.  But this was our first time to use it to talk to Josh at his office.  Selah got her thumb smashed and all she wanted was her Skype came to the rescue.  Josh was able to inspect the thumb, pray over it and kiss Selah could move on with her day.

Day 301 - We were at the doctor's office & Selah LOVES the doctor because she always gets stickers!  She had them lined up while we waited for the doctor...she was trying to decide which was her favorite.

Day 302 - One last warm day?  Calls for the splash pad!

Day 303 - I preached this Sunday morning...and here are my preaching shoes...not sure how they became this, but they are comfortable, go with almost everything...and so I almost always preach in this lovelies.

Day 304 - Recording a video for our upcoming Pursue Mission Conference (if you are in Lubbock you should swing by next Wednesday - Friday)...this is the one and only Mark Murray using his gift of dry humor & Jacob - the camera man extraordinaire!

Day 305 - Selah has a dream...her dream is to become a dancer...blame it on Angelina Ballerina or the fact that our family dances around the house daily...but either way she tells people she takes ballet lessons (she doesn't)...and she begs for bedtime stories about dancing on stages & she even asks me to tell her Bravo for a job well done.  So, she found this leotard in a hand-me-down box...and she was in heaven...and ready for the stage!

Day 306 - It was a long day at I just had energy to sit and hold the baby and watch Selah draw on the sidewalk chalk.  Little moments like that really are priceless...

Day 307 - Painting Pumpkins!!!  I think I might write a blog about this later - so much fun!

Day 308 - This picture got quite the response when I posted it on facebook!  I cannot explain Selah's face...some thought she was mad and wanted her own corn dog, but I promise we feed our child & she did in fact get a corn dog.  Others just thought the overall fair was too much to bear, but the truth - the rides were not open!  They don't open them until late in the afternoon so she was sad - yes, very sad.  And she didn't want to take any more pictures - so there.

Day 309 - I was in Lamesa on this day but Selah had a dream day at a princess birthday party.  Belle from Beauty and the Beast even showed up!  I'm told she sang, danced, and taught the girls to properly wave like a princess.  Oh, inner "girls are so much more than a pretty face" beliefs are so conflicted with Selah's love of all things princess...but she also loves to jump and run and she does believe she can do anything so I'm just gonna let her enjoy being a beauty!

Day 310 - Josh's parents came to visit this weekend - they went to the Fair, Princess Party, and the park.  And I love this picture - it was a truly gorgeous day...and Selah was showing off her drumming skills to her Sabba.

Day 311 - Isn't she gorgeous!

Day 312 - More Play-doh fun!

Day 313 - I was going through some old pictures & Selah was amazed that these young kids are now her grandparents!

Day 314 - We ran by my parent's house at just the right time...because my mom had accidentally run over a paint can & there was quite a mess to clean up!  This is the picture of a GOOD son-in-law!

Day 315 - Love!

Day 316 - Driving to Carlsbad, NM to officiate a wedding this weekend.  My husband spent quite a bit of time on the phone on this I took annoying pictures of him.

Day 317 - And when you are in've got to go to the Caverns!  This was Josh's first time (and Haven's too)...and it really was a fascinating reminder of just how amazing this world is.
Less than 50 days to go!  I can't wait to see what final images capture this exciting year.  Until next time, I hope you enjoy each it, don't just capture it!
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