Friday, December 31, 2010

The Lover Who Changed My Life in 2010

The end of a year...a time for reflecting...

As I look back on the year 2010, I am first amazed by how quickly the year flew by! It seems as though it's only been a couple of months since my husband and I were celebrating NYE 2009 in Gatlinburg, TN. Yet here we are at the close of another year, looking back on how our lives have changed. I won't bore you with all my life changes of this past year. But I do want to tell you about one:

The biggest change that's taken place in my life is learning that God is my unwaivering Lover. I grew up thinking that God was watching me for two reasons: to punish me for wrong-doing, or to reward me for being good. I've learned, especially in the past year, that while God watches over me, He is also intimate with me. He wants to be the center of every detail of my life. His love for me is unending, unconditional and unwaivering. When my heart grasped that understanding, my life took a 180-degree turn. I learned that no matter what I do, God's love for me will not change.

I think every woman longs for a man who will love her...without condition. If you're married, think of your spouse. (If you're not married, imagine how you'd want your spouse to love you). Now imagine betraying that person in every possible way. Imagine slandering his name, lying to him, cheating him, abusing him, acting selfishly towards him. Would he still love you? Would he still whisper sweet-somethings in your ear? Would he walk away from you? Four years ago, when I betrayed my loved ones with my selfishness, I feared abandonment from them. And from God.

What happened in my life is quite possibly a different set of circumstances than what's happening (or happened) in yours. But one thing remains the same for all of us. No matter how far we walk away from God, no matter how much wrong we've done towards Him, no matter how far we've fallen (or jumped), no matter the heartache we've caused our friends and loved ones, God wants to lavish His love on us. His mercies are new EVERY morning. His lovingkindness is better than life. His grace is greater than our sin. He whispers to our hearts His unending devotion. Are you listening? Do you accept what He offers?

When I accepted His unending, unconditional, unwaivering love, my life changed. I've had a long relationship with Him, but on my part, it's been that of trying to please an acquaintance. In the past year I have learned that the relationship He offers me is that of lovers. He is the lover of my soul. He whispers sweet-somethings in my ear. He gently corrects me when I'm wrong. He allows me to mess us. He saves my tears. He loves me.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My 100 Joys: 87-100

The last of my 100 joys: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and beyond!

87 - Baking a birthday cake for Jesus

88 - Spending a few minutes with my best friend and her sister...received some much-needed encouragement

89 - Rushing up the street to Santa on the firetruck (he was actually close to being on-time this year! We weren't expecting him so early!)

90 - An evening with Mark's family...celebrating Christmas with Granny and Pop, then with mother-and-father-in-law (MIL like the gift I picked out for her...score!)

91 - Staying up until 1:30 am to make sure my children's faces were full of surprise the following morning

92 - My girls' faces on Christmas morning!

93 - Snow on Christmas day...a first-ever experience for the state of Alabama!

94 - Christmas with my family (although we missed my oldest sister and her family due to circumstances beyond their control)

95 - Christmas evening at home...ah!..relaxation!

96 - Staying in my pjs ALL day the day after Christmas! My bff and her kids came over and ate breakfast. We went to her house (with her sick husband, and all) and ate pizza for dinner. What a wonderfully lazy day! snowed ALL day!

97 - Sleeping til 10am on Monday morning...I haven't done that in about 10 years!

98 - Eating lots and lots of Christmas left-overs

99 - My hubby being off work ALL week!! RARE!!!

100 - Celebraing the season because a King humbly came to extend grace and mercy to all, including me!

Bonus - I found 100 joys to celebrate during this Christmas season!!!!!!

Friday, December 24, 2010

My 100 Joys: 81-86

My joys from Thursday...Christmas Eve-Eve:

81 - Cooking candy and cookies with the family

82 - Receiving last-minute Christmas cards from old friends

83 - Delivering a surprise

84 - A Christmas Eve-Eve tradition: going to the movies with the family. Saw Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn the story of being set free from our pasts!

85 - Spent the evening watching Home Alone of my favorite Christmas movies

86 - Mark didn't work today!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My 100 Joys: 71-80

My joys from Tuesday and Wednesday...agh! too close to Christmas! not ready!, not ready! Could someone please slow down time???

71 - Started the Christmas cooking...haystacks....yum!

72 - Saw some friends I haven't seen in a while

73 - The reason I saw the friends in #72 - they were sharing their blessings with those who need to receive some blessings

74 - Started reading a new Karen Kingsbury book

75 - Long, hot, uninterrupted bath

76 - Chick-fil-A peppermint-chocolate milkshake...close to heaven!

77 - Shopping for a child I don't know...lots of fun!

78 - Getting a phone call from the store where I accidentally left my Blackberry!! (I admit it...I'm addicted to it!)

79 - Buying a play spy kit and gun for my 6-year-old DAUGHTER who likes to dress up like a spy (we watch way too much Chuck!)

80 - Finally crawling in my cozy bed at 1 am

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My 100 Joys:66-70

My joys from Monday...5 days before Christmas:

66 - I got the house almost clean! And almost clean is better than completely nasty!

67 - I enjoyed some crafting time while working on a Christmas project. It's been a really long time since I've "crafted."

68 - I went to a local church's ministry house and saw many people volunteering their time to help others during this busy Christmas week.

69 - I had the opportunity to meet a mom who has faced harder times than most people will ever know, and she gave me the sweetest gift I've ever been given...a letter she'd written to her daughter. I won't share details of her story, or the letter, but those few minutes brought me pure joy.

70 - I experienced first-hand the generosity of many people. I put out a call for a little girl's Christmas wish that I'd heard about, and people responded like crazy! It brings me such joy to know that on Christmas morning, a little girl will get to open a gift that she really wants; if not for the generosity of many people, it wouldn't be possible. I've seen and felt the spirit of giving through this experience.

Monday, December 20, 2010

My 100 Joys: 54-65

My joys, Friday - Sunday....the last weekend before Christmas:

54 - I had a much-needed girls' day! Coffee, shopping and lunch with two friends! Lots of story-telling, lots of laughter. We really weren't very productive at Christmas shopping. But we had a lot of fun!

55 - A new friend...who already feels like a long-time friend.

56 - Date night with my hubby...even if it was Christmas shopping! We had a late-night dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse...yum!

57 - Play time with our new dog, Maggie. She's very entertaining!

58 - Shopping for someone we don't know! I think I found more joy in buying for this person than I did in buying for anyone else.

59 - Picking up the girls from Grandma's house...I always love that first moment I see them after they've been away for a little while. (Granted...they were only gone one night, but it makes me happy when they're excited to come home!)

60 - Mark and I participated in a play in our children's worship. I loved hearing the kids' laughter. Some of them would get so excited that they'd shout out.

61 - Finished reading Gideon's Gift by Karen Kingsbury! A great Christmas book....I highly recommend it. (Have the kleenex handy!)

62 - My second-grade choir amazed me at our Candlelight service! They didn't talk, they sang their songs, no one fell off the stage...amazing! If you only knew what weekly rehearsals were like, you'd be amazed too! And they looked absolutely precious!

63 - I was able to sit in the audience during one song and watch my girls sing with their choirs. I love watching their little faces as they sing. Angelic!

64 - Grace, my oldest, sang her solo in front of a couple of thousand people. I was probably more nervous than she was. She sang absolutely beautifully!

65 - I was the Daily Guest on (in)courage. I loved getting comments from readers who shared their hearts. I am so thankful that what Satan meant to use for evil in my life, God uses for good.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Scar From My Something

We ALL have something. THE something. The one thing that defines a season (or seasons) in your life. On more than one occasion I have heard a lady give her testimony in which she says (I’m paraphrasing):

There WILL come a time in your life when it comes down to just you and God.

The first couple of times I heard her say that I couldn’t imagine what would bring me to a point where it came down to just God and me.

For the first 30 years of my life, God was my “spare tire.” When I needed Him, I’d find Him and use Him. Otherwise, I just tried (unsuccessfully) to be a “good girl” in order to make God happy. I’ve never had an immediate family member die. I never had to deal with my parents divorcing. Pretty much, life rolled along with somewhat normal ups and downs until I hit 30. I never realized I needed Him every second of every day.

My crisis came halfway through my 30th year. To read the rest, click here to visit my guest post on (in)courage.

Please Come Back on Saturday

I want to invite you to come back and visit my blog tomorrow. I'll be a Daily Guest on Incourage. I'm so excited! Please join me on this adventure!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My 100 Joys: 48-53

My joys from Wednesday and Thursday...too tired to count how many days til Christmas!

48 - The girls and I met my dad at the MacWane Science Center for a fun field-trip day. Santa's workshop occupied the top floor. And it was awesome! The girls had a great time playing in the fake snow, carpet sliding, and looking at all the toy trains. I love watching them play and experience new things. Joy!

49 - I had the opportunity to give away a surprise! I love surprises...whether I'm receiving or giving!!

50 - Joy! I've made it halfway!!

51 - I was able to see my sister's new salon location! After knowing how hard she's worked, I was happy to see the payoff. She has a beautiful new place, and I was glad to spend a little time with her. (And my hair looks great too!)

52 - We added a new member to our family...a Maltapoo named Maggie. We're so excited, and have already had a lot of fun with her. Many more joys to come, for sure!

53 - I heard Grace sing her solo on stage at Candlelight rehearsal. Oh my goodness! I am one proud mama! (Nothing like being a sweaty, nervous wreck in anticipation of your child singing!)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My 100 Joys: 43-48

My joys from Tuesday, 11 days before Christmas:

43 - We had friends over for a homeschool Christmas party. Some friends we've known a long time; some we've just met. We had a wonderful time! We ate pizza, decorated cookies, drank peppermint punch (joy!), decorated gingerbread houses, and swapped gifts. It was fun to celebrate Christmas this way!

44 - I overheard my friend's daughter sweetly telling my other friend's daughter: Christmas is about Jesus' birthday. It's not about Santa. That sweet moment put joy in my heart. Sherry, you're a great mom!

45 - I found a surprise in my purse after all our friends left today: a new coffee cup that says "chocolate" on the front. I love it! And I love surprises!

46 - Ah! A blissfully restful one-hour nap today!

47 - There's joy in watching Mark play with the girls. This evening he was dancing his silly dance, and the girls would run up to him and do what they call the booty bump. I'm sure you all are familiar with that!

48 - We went on our annual ride to find the house with the best Christmas lights. We loaded up in the van, armed with hot chocolate, and rode around to different neighborhoods while listening to Christmas music. We also visited our local firestation. They decorate their yard space with all kinds of fun toys and lights, and allow kids to play. We watched the girls play for about 15 minutes...too cold to stay any longer! brrrrr

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My 100 Joys: 38-42

The joys of Monday, 12 days before Christmas:

38 - On Mondays, I get an hour and a half to myself while the girls are at art class! It's the only time out of the entire week that my kids are not with me. Need I say more?!

39 - The girls brought home some plates they'd painted in art. Each had a snowman on it, and each was distinctly different. I love seeing what the girls learn and accomplish. Grace and Hannah's plates are on display in my kitchen. Emma wrapped her plate to give to Mark as a gift.

40 - I told the girls about the big Alabama snowstorm of 1993, and the ice storm of 1996. It brought back many happy memories. And the girls loved hearing all about what their dad and I did during those two storms.

41 - I taught the girls how to roll out cookie dough and use the cookie cutters. They cut out about 100 cookies. It was fun to watch them be so precise in their rolling and cutting methods.

42 - I also taught the girls how to properly wrap gifts. It's so wonderful to actually have helpers with that chore. They wrapped about 12 gifts last night. They were so excited to finally learn how to wrap! (And I find much joy in teaching them how to do small things like wrapping gifts that we never had time to do when they were in "real" school. Homeschooling at Christmas is the best!)

Monday, December 13, 2010

My 100 Joys: 29-36

Highlights of the weekend:

29 - The girls and I met some homeschool friends at our church on Friday morning to make crafts and color Christmas cards for folks at a local nursing home. It threatened to be an ugly experience. The girls were complaining about how the glue wouldn't hold the craft together. Then they complained about how the crayons didn't work so well on the cards. I encouraged them to keep trying, but I was getting frustrated as well. We finally completed our projects, but were a little too early to head over to the nursing home. We ran to CFA and had a quick lunch. That little excursion helped us regroup and put us in a better frame of mind.

By the time we drove over to the nursing home, we were getting excited about singing Christmas carols. When we walked into the dining area, the ladies and gentlemen were all smiles. The kids walked around, passing out cards. The ladies would tug on the kids, giving them hugs and kisses. I chatted with a gentleman who loved to talk about choir (right up my alley!). Then we sang carols, and everyone joined in. By the time we left, my girls were talking about how much fun that was, and that we should do it again some time! That made this momma's heart joyful!

30 - Friday evening was a threat to the weekend. I had choir dress rehearsal that night, and was already tired. It was the third straight night to be at church. I went, but admittedly, not with a great attitude. When I got home Friday evening, I took a little time for myself, and determined that the rest of the weekend was going to be filled with Christmas cheer for the family and me. I was going to make some joy!

31 - On Saturday the threats kept coming. We had plans to go see Santa at the Bass Pro Shop, eat lunch, and be back at the church (again) by 4:30 to watch our oldest daughter in a quick, little program. Our plans went awry. We left later than we planned. We had to stop to get gas, and discovered that we had an almost-flat tire. We had to take time to deal with getting the tire aired back up. Then we worried all the way to the BPS that it was going to go flat on us. And the scenic route entrance (my favorite part) was closed. What a morning!

But when we pulled into the parking lot, we forgot the troubles of the morning, and let our excitement take over. We love the BPS. We stayed for almost 3 hours. The girls played on the 4-wheelers. We ate ice cream and popcorn in the snack shop. We watched the fish in the fish tank. The girls colored a couple of wooden ornaments. They played games in the Santa shop. We had a great time. We decided to skip the hour-and-a-half-long line to see Santa. We'll go back this week while everybody else is in school! We even enjoyed the 30-minute wait to get out of the parking lot. Okay, well maybe not "enjoyed," but we were at least having some family time!

31 - On the way back from the BPS, we stopped to eat at Cracker Barrel. I've been craving their country ham and their coffee for about a month. That little detour brought me much joy! (And a couple of extra pounds!!)

32 - When we got to church (again), we were able to sit by and chat with some good friends. They always make us laugh.

33 - We did nothing Saturday night! That brought me much joy!

34 - Sunday began very early. I had to be at church by 7:20 to participate in all three services of our Christmas program. It was exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. Standing and singing for 4 hours is tiring, but it's energizing when you watch the transformations take place on the faces of the audience. The Christmas story told through music can't help but change one's cranky demeanor. I love watching those changes take place on a person's face.

35 - We spent the afternoon at a birthday party for our friends' daughter. We love those people dearly. We've seen each other through some difficult times, and they hold very special places in our hearts. There are friends who you know where they've been, and they know where you've been, and you hold a deep understanding for each other. They're those kind of friends. We were so glad to be able to spend some time with them.

36 - Last night was our Sunday School Christmas party. I made peppermint punch. Joy! We spent some time getting to know the people we usually only see for an hour on Sunday morning. We had a great time!

Friday, December 10, 2010

My 100 Joys: 26- 28

Yesterday's joys:

26 - The girls and I went to see my niece in the Birmingham Children's Theater's production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. It's always a delight to watch her perform. I cried through yesterday's production. I'm devoting an entire post to the reason why. Stay tuned...(I've gotta find some time to sit down and organize my thoughts).

27 - I went to the library and checked out some Christmas books to read! Nothing gets me in the mood for Christmas like reading a good book. (Granted, this joy came after paying $27 in late fees! How does that happen?!? I guess it has something to do with that whole procrastination-thing I suffer from!)

28 - I said good-bye to a friend from choir I'd known for about two years. I found joy in that because I know he's in heaven, and I'll see him again one day. I never told him, but he's one of the people who gave me courage to write publicly. Mickey Walker was very creative, and writing was just one of his talents. Before I ever met him, I saw a poem he'd posted on a mutual friend's Facebook page. He also included a link to a website where he frequently posted his writings. I sent him a message, asking him more about the website and how to get involved. He kindly sent me an invitation to join the site, and I've been writing consistently ever since. I wish I'd taken the opportunity to tell him how he inspired me. Thank someone today who inspires you!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Color Outside the Lines

My friend recently lost a lot of weight and gave me a box of clothes. (That doesn't sound good for me. Hmmm. Moving on...) Anyway, one of the pj pants she gave me has cutesy little sayings on the trim. One of those quotes is "Color outside the lines." When I read that, I had an "aha!" moment!

My six year old is still learning to color inside the lines. She stays inside the lines when she's coloring slowly, and quite frankly, being a bit of a perfectionist. When she finishes, she criticizes herself if even one line has been crossed over. However, if she's in a hurry, or just having fun, she gets outside the lines frequently. And when she's finished, she's quite proud of her work of art.

As Christians in America, a lot of lines have been created for us to stay inside. It's a precarious life, trying to live inside the lines. So I was thinking about Jesus. He didn't always stay inside the lines that had been set by the religious leaders (think Pharisees). He quite frequently broke across them. In fact, He drew His own line. Remember the one He drew in the sand? Oooh, isn't that freeing?!

As a teenager I went to a school that drew a lot of lines, lots of boundaries. As an adult, I went to a church where lines (traditions, personal opinions) were thrown carelessly from the pulpit and instructor stands. I spent a lot of time trying to stay inside the lines that had been set for me. I finally got so sick of trying that I wrecklessly abandoned all lines. I made a quite an ugly mess!

I've had to figure out which lines are Biblical (the guidelines set forth for us by God) and which ones are steeped in religious tradition and legalism. The fun part of figuring it out has been crossing over and breaking the ones set forth by man. God hasn't called us to live inside a neatly drawn box. He hasn't called us to live in fear. He's called us to get live in live in truth. Think Noah. He looked like a crazy fool to society when he was building that ark. Think David. He danced naked in the street! Think Jesus. He was friends with all the social outcasts.

Try to imagine what Jesus would do and who He'd hang out with if He were walking upon Earth today! I'd bet He'd hang out with and offer love to drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes...and I'm quite sure He'd go to them, meet them where they are! That means He'd go inside the bars, down to the "rough" parts of town...all the places we stay away from. (Yikes! I'm stepping on my own toes!)

Break past the lines and barriers that have been set for you out of legalism. Learn to live in truth and freedom! Color outside the lines!

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My 100 Joys: 20-25

The joys of Wednesday, 17 days before Christmas:

20 - I think out of about 20 snapshots of the girls, I managed to get one good enough for a Christmas card. I got some really cute ones with silly faces...maybe I'll put one of those on our card this year.

21 - We bought gifts for our angel tree kids today. It was nice to have the girls tag along and help; I'm usually doing that alone since they have always been in school.

22 - Funny story: At our church's candlelight service, all the kids' choirs sing. All three of my girls will be singing with their choirs this year. The 5th and 6th grades' choir held auditions last Sunday evening for a solo to be sung at candlelight. My oldest daughter, a 5th grader, loves to make music, and has a pretty awesome voice. I kept encouraging her to audition since she's always saying she wants to be a singer when she grows up. She said she was too scared to audition. So I did what any good mom would do. I bribed her. I told her I'd give her $20 if she'd audition. It worked. She got into the car Sunday evening and said she thought she did well, but that 14 people auditioned. I was proud that she'd done it, and chalked it up to a good learning experience. Today we received an email detailing choir info for the next couple of weeks, and included was the soloist that had been chosen: Grace Gilbert!! Yay! We are so excited! I think it's hilarious that I had to bribe the child into auditioning!

23 - Christmas program rehearsals are always a joy! (If you have ever participated in one, you know I'm being sarcastic!) Even if it was a bit of a train wreck, it was still fun to wreck alongside choir friends. Choir people may be "crazy," as one person recently told me, but we're a fun bunch!

24 - I teach 2nd grade choir on Wednesday nights. Up until the last couple of weeks, it has been a disaster. There are 40-something kids in my class, and my helpers and I are frazzled by the end of class. But tonight and last week were somehow miraculously great. The kids have FINALLY learned their music. We even managed to have a little Christmas party tonight! Kudos to Andrea and Melinda, my helpers!! And, to the poor soul that has to clean that room after us...we're sorry!

25 - Yay! I've reached 25 joys! 75 more to go...

Stripping Away the Layers

We moved into our new house in May of this year. The trees in our backyard were in full bloom. Lots of leaves. Lots of bushes. Only recently have they lost their leaves. We can finally see glimpses of what's on the other side of those trees. A few houses we'd never seen until now.

I think sometimes we're like those trees. Much of the time we live with lots of layers, hiding. When we start stripping away the layers, we start allowing ourselves and others to see what's there. Most of my life has been spent with layers upon layers disguising what was there all the time. I've finally learned to strip away the layers and just be. Here are a few things I've found, learned and admitted about myself underneath the layers of disguise:

I'm tenderhearted

Being broken is okay

Honesty opens up a whole new world to freedom

I've gotten glimpses of what it means for Jesus to be the lover of my soul

I'm insecure with unfamiliar places and faces

Criticism, even if constructive, crushes me at first, then I rebound

Not everyone shares my love of sarcasm, and I'm learning to downplay it

Disagreeing with someone does not mean I don't like them

I don't particularly like to be alone

I'd rather have a heart-to-heart than chit-chat with someone

There are things I know God has called me to do, but I feel completely unequipped, so I don't do them

Those seem like silly things to have to learn about I should have already known those things. But it is what it is.

What about you? Are you hiding behind layers? Or have you stripped them off to find things you didn't know (or maybe you knew, but you hadn't admitted them)? Do you let other people see those things?

My 100 Joys: 17-19

Okay, so today's joys are few and far between. I had to look for them. It's been one of those days when the kids didn't mind, and there was more than enough to do around the house. And to top it off, my husband has been sitting in court for over two hours, and as I write this, he is still waiting to see the judge (all because he didn't have his proof of insurance in the truck when he got pulled over...I won't start on my soapbox about big government!!). So here I go:

17 - Emma's orthodontist told her today that she doesn't have to go back for a visit for six weeks. Yay! We've been going every week, and she dreads it. This will be a nice break for her (and me!).

18 - I took a one-hour nap today. Those are rare lately! I intended to fold laundry, but crawled into my bed and fell asleep instead. Good thing, considering I needed extra energy since I'm still taking care of these kids alone! ;-)

19 - I ran on pavement today instead of the treadmill. I needed that! I'm not a fan of the treadmill.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My 100 Joys: 9-16

9 - The girls and I got to stay in our warm beds instead of getting out in the cold to go to school. Homeschool has advantages!!

10 - The girls and I made it to get ready and be out the door in less than an hour yesterday morning. That is a record!

11 - The girls brought home several projects they've been working on in art class. I love to see what they've created, and how each one is different.

12 - I've been searching for an item on Emma's Christmas list for the past couple of weeks, but it's been sold out. I found it on the shelf at Target!!

13 - The checkbook balanced! Yay!

14 - I take my girls' happiness and laughter for granted. I am being intentional about listening to their laughter. It's a sweet sound.

15 - A cup of hot chocolate on a cold night with a side of peppermint ice cream. Yum...

16 - Last night, a sweet friend from choir who has been battling cancer went to be with Jesus. I find joy knowing that Mickey is now singing in the presence of God Himself. He left a wonderful testimony to those of us still dealing with pain and sorrow in this cruel world. Our prayers were not answered the way we had hoped, but he is now completely healed. I mentioned him in a post back in September. You can read it by clicking here: God is good!

Monday, December 6, 2010


I've heard so much sadness today. My heart breaks and pours forth:

So much pain and sadness
Too much in our own strength
We run to You, our shelter
Hide us under Your wings

Your promise sustains us
Hold us in Your palm
Good will be the end
Amidst the storm, calm

Songs of deliverance, near
Lovingkindness we seek
Your goodness preserves us
Soon to be no longer weak

Our tears, precious to You
Guide us with Your grace
Save us every moment
Restoration, on its way

My 100 Joys

Sarah Markley began posting 100 Joys on her blog a week or so ago. She invited bloggers to participate. I originally thought I wouldn't...mainly because it will require a lot of time and attention over the next few weeks. But after reading about so much sadness (death, trauma, broken relationships, etc) on Facebook, I have decided to look for the joy in my own life.

I'll begin by recapping the joys of this past weekend:

1 - My husband enters his business into our local Christmas parades. We spent Friday night decorating his trailer to look like the North Pole. The girls were so excited to help wrap empty boxes to look like gifts and apply fake snow to the little trees. It does my heart good to see them excited about little things.

2 - We participated as a family in the Alabaster parade on Saturday morning. It was so fun to throw candy to the crowds of people along the road. The best part was near the end. So many floats had run out of candy, so when we were able to throw some to the kids who didn't have any, their faces would light up! Isn't it great what one little piece of candy can do for a child?!

3 - I walked in the Helena parade with my youngest daughter's dance studio on Saturday afternoon. Even though I'd forgotten to try her shoes on her before the parade, and they were too tight, she still marched right along, keeping up with her routine. It was such a delight to watch her sweet little face. She was so proud of herself, and was determined to march all they way to the end, even though her little feet were hurting.

4 - I have to throw this one in: Auburn won the SEC championship game! I'm not a huge football fan, but I really like Cam Newton and Gene Chizik. I was glad to see them win!

5 - I normally don't sing in the 8 a.m. service at church, but I did yesterday. I found a lot of joy watching the faces of the congregation that I don't normally get to see. And...we sang Christmas music!! Yay!!

6 - My pastor announced that our church's theme for 2011 is going to be Grace. I am so excited. I can't wait to hear and see what all that will involve. I've learned more about grace in the past two years than I ever knew. I'm so looking forward to Grace in 2011!!

7 - I watched my sweet Emma in her first play, "You Can't Cancel Christmas." I held my breath, and was saying her lines in my head. She gave a beautiful performance. And I think she's now addicted...she wants to be in another play! I love it!

8 - Mark and I were able to have a mini-date last night. The girls were scattered, so we took advantage of the few hours to do some Christmas shopping and have a quick dinner. We don't get much time alone lately, so we took what we could get and had a good time.

Stay tuned for 9-100 over the next few weeks!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

You NEED To Read This Post

So I've mentioned Serena Woods' blog before. If you've visited it, you know what great insight she has into living a grace-filled life. If you've never heard of her or visited her blog, let me introduce you! She wrote a post that I think EVERY Christian should read! She so eloquently put into words some thoughts I've had over the past four years. She sums up quite accurately what our responses as Christians should be to an "exposed" sinner. And, she offers insight into the depths of the mind of the one who has been exposed. I'll say no more except that you NEED to click here and read the post! btw...if you want to know her story, click here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas Change

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. It's always held such excitement and expectation. Until four years ago. Now, for me, it's a mixed bag of emotions.

It's still my favorite time of year. I love to sit and watch the twinkling lights on my tree. Christmas music is the best music of all, in my opinion. I enjoy the challenge of finding gifts to suit the people on my list. I get a thrill out of watching the same Christmas movies repeatedly throughout the season. I treasure the time my family spends together reading our books from the Advent calendar. I love all the festivities that surround the season. None of that has changed.

But four years ago, some things did change. And I'm still processing the changes. And still filling the void. Mark and I used to host a Christmas party for our core group of friends. Those people are no longer in our lives. I used to be heavily involved in our church's Christmas program. It's a whole different scenario now. My kids used to spend one of the Christmas holidays with their friends (my core group of friends' children) making a Christmas craft. My kids don't even remember those kids now.

I'm processing loss and change. The past four Christmases have left me kind of wondering if I'll settle into a Christmas routine again. Each of the past four have been so different. It's like we're still trying to see what fits us. And where we fit. We have no real expectations for Christmas anymore. Our calendar is full of things to do, places to be...but there's still a sense of insecurity. It's like we're living in a bit of a Christmas limbo.

We're ready for routine. Expectation. Excitement. An unspoken knowing of what's to come. All of those...without the underlying sense of loss. It'll be interesting to see what this Christmas season holds, and to be able to look back in a few years. I wonder if this year will be the beginning of something new.