December 31, 2010

TODAY: MomHeart Conference Early Registration Deadline

If you want to join me (and many other women) in North Carolina for the MomHeart conference with Sally Clarkson March 4-5, click here to register.  It's $20 off the registration fee through today!  $10 off before February 18!

I've never been, but have heard wonderful things about these conferences.  Here's more info:



I'm still looking for at least one more person to share a room.  I'd love to take someone from Pittsburgh along!  Could it be you?!  (I already have a commitment from a friend in Boston; oh yeah!!!!)

My hope is that we can get Sally to come closer to Pittsburgh in the coming years or even teleconference to keep down costs.  Who knows what the future holds?

December 30, 2010

Why We Need Christmas

Throughout the Christmas season I have been thinking a lot about the Trainer family.  I met Mark at camp in high school and he went to my senior prom with me.  We recently reconnected on Facebook where I learned that his youngest child, only about six months older than our Brian, was battling a serious form of cancer.  I started following her/their story, written mostly by Mark's wife, Shauna, on caringbridge.org.

Sweet Hailey died in November.

My heart broke for them.

I have kept reading Shauna's posts at CaringBridge and it has been a blessing to me this Advent and Christmastime.  (Thanks, Shauna!)  Reading about their joys and sorrows during and since Hailey's death has reminded me why we celebrate at Christmas.

This world is a mess and God entered in!  He took on flesh; He walked our roads; He endured the sins of others; He showed us what God is like; He bore the penalty for the sins of man.  Christmas brought good tidings of GREAT JOY because the Savior was born.  All of the waiting was worth it.  The faithful looked upon the face of their Savior and rejoiced.  Mary pondered all of these things in her heart.

Christmas reminds us that God has not abandoned His world or His people.  He knew and knows our deepest need - to be rescued from sin - and He made it possible by the only means, becoming the sacrifice Himself.

In grief, though we feel we cannot go on, Christmas reminds us that God is near; He has a plan; He fulfills His promises; He will come again.  We may not know why God allows things to happen or does not answer our fervently prayed prayers.  But He is still God, and as our Loving Father, he can tenderly bear us through our griefs and trials.


I've never been as thankful for Christmas as this year.



Last night we learned that the father of a high school friend of Colin's died of a heart attack a few days ago.

More grief.  More death.  More pain.  More sorrow.

As we pray for this friend and his family (they lost their mom as well, not too many years ago) I have to think about heaven.  I have to think about my God, His promises, and  lean not on my own understanding, but trust in the LORD with all my heart.


He is no "grab yourself a cup of cheer" God.  There's no need to feign happiness when your heart is aching.  The pain in this world is real as real can be.  But the Christian knows he has a God who suffered, even unto death on the cross.  He knows our pain; He grieves with us; He holds us close and never lets go.  THIS is the hope of Christmas.  God entered in, and then He promised to come again, once and for all one day.  It is good news.

Come, Lord Jesus.

COME, LORD JESUS!!

December 26, 2010

Christmas Day 2010

We celebrate Christmas day with Colin's family.  Here are some photo highlights from our day together.

From Grammy and Grampy:
a bed for Molly!

My first toaster oven!

Colin got slippers!

From Grammy and Grampy:
a digger that you can take apart with a battery operated screwdriver

Toy Blending: putting the screwdriver to sleep in Molly's new bed

We got a good deal on a used guitar for Elizabeth!

We had fresh snow on the ground Christmas morning, but didn't get to it until the afternoon!
My husband is a excellent snowball maker.





Christmas dinner was DELICIOUS!

a crown from a Christmas cracker

Merry Christmas.

December 23, 2010

Angel Chicken

This recipe is delicious!


ANGEL CHICKEN


Place 6 frozen, boneless chicken breast halves into a crock pot.

In a separate bowl, mix these ingredients together and microwave them to blend.
4oz Cream cheese
2-4 Tbs butter
1/3 c  white wine
1 packet Italian dressing seasoning
1 can golden mushroom soup

After those are reasonably blended together, pour them over the chicken.
Cook on high 6-8 hours or low for longer.
Serve over Angel Hair pasta.


Before cooking it looks like this.
Yes, like vomit on chicken breasts.

After cooking it looks much more appetizing.
You will NOT be disappointed!

Give Him The Name Jesus

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.  Matthew 1:21

One can't ponder Christmas without looking ahead to Easter.  In the very first chapter of Matthew, the angel tells Joseph what he is to name this child he will raise; in His name we learn His mission.

Jesus came to save His people from their sins.

What does this mean for our celebration of Christmas?  For me, this year, it's meant some reflection on waiting.  There's a lot of waiting with God.  He foretold Jesus' coming through the pages of the Old Testament, hundreds (thousands?) of years of waiting.  Another several hundred years passed between the Old Testament prophesies and the beginning of the gospels.  Jesus is born and waits another thirty years or so to begin His ministry.  And finally, a few years later, He hangs on the cross, taking on the sin of the world, drinking the cup of God's wrath until ... it is finished.

Then, gloriously, He rises again on the third day, spends a little more time with His people, and returns to the Father.  After a short time, the promised Holy Spirit comes to His people, and continues to dwell in those who put their faith in the saving power of Jesus name and person. 

You are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.

Now we find ourselves in the period of history where we await His second coming, the full restoration of God's rule when all things will be made new and the dwelling place of God will again be with man.  Oh, Lord, haste the day!

Yet God has us waiting.  What do we do with all this waiting?!

I Peter 3:8-9 says this But do not forget this one thing, dear friends; With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Oh boy, the times I've told God the He's moving too slowly!  You too?

But who am I to tell the God of the Universe, the blessed Savior of my soul and Lord of my life, that He's not doing things right?

God doesn't see time as we do, and it's unlikely that we'll see things His way until we're with Him.  In the meantime, this can beautifully influence our celebration of Christmas (and Easter.)  Let's praise this God, the very God who made the time and space in which we live, and designed it so wonderfully and carefully!  Let us trust Him to know the right time and places to bring His purposes to pass, as He did with the manger and Calvary!  Let's repent of our sins and our unbelief and live lives free of condemnation, because Jesus saved His people from their sin!  Let us tell the story and extend the invitation, getting into our hearts the desire of the Father that none should perish but all come to repentance!

As you celebrate Christmas this year, may God assure you that He is the great keeper of promises and that the waiting is good, accomplishing His purposes.  May the name of Jesus be a word of praise on your lips as you celebrate the birth of the Light of the world who came to save His people from their sins.

December 20, 2010

Winter, Christmas, Joy ... But No Motivation!

It has been too long!


I'm still alive, taking care of the usual things of life and not getting to blogging.  With the arrival of cold weather and the Christmas season, I find myself unmotivated to do anything extra.  I'm not depressed, just ready to snuggle up and hunker down for Christmas vacation (though it's never really a "vacation" with small children) and ringing in the new year.  Does anyone else feel this way?  I want life to be quiet, reflective, and calm as we approach Christmas Eve and then Christmas morning (which will likely begin WAY too early, as if normal mornings don't already!)


In addition to the excitement of the season, we're also moving the first week of January!  We found our own place in the neighborhood where we attend Community Group.  For the last six months we have been living with my very patient and generous in-laws, reigning down chaos on their formerly peaceful home and lives.  They have been wonderful examples to us of hospitality (rearranging schedules and living spaces JUST for us to feel comfortable.)  It has kept us from going into the hole in the transition from graduate school to "real" life.  We are VERY grateful.  I can only hope we can return the favor, or at least do the same for our children when they're all "growed up."


I've thought very little about moving, other than to think that I should be thinking about it!  But these things always happen whether you're ready or not, right?  What I'm most excited about is living near other folks from church and ministering in that area of Pittsburgh.  I've been thinking about the verse Taste and see that the Lord is good.  (Psalm 34 and also in 1 Peter)  My prayer is that both neighbors that know Jesus an those who don't would taste and see that the Lord is good.


As Christmas approaches, whatever you have going on, I do pray that God's peace would reign in your heart and your homes, that joy would permeate your thoughts and prayers, and that the love that motivated Christ to come would envelop you.

December 14, 2010

Season of Giving!

 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.  2 Corinthians 8:9

There's an organization called Prison Fellowship that minsters to the incarcerated  and their families.  It was started by a fellow named Chuck Colson, who himself spent some time in jail related to the Watergate scandal (if I'm remembering correctly.)




They have a program at Christmas called Angel Tree, where prisoners sign up asking generous folks like you to buy a gift for their child.  Leading up to Christmas, many churches will have a tree with little paper angels on them, bearing the name and age of a child for whom a gift is needed.

The time for getting a gift yourself  has passed, but there's still time to participate.  On this map you can see how many children still need gifts in different states.  Pennsylvania, for example, still needs over 700; Illinois, over 1500!

God's gittin' to me this Christmas and was convicting me about not drawing my kids into thinking about giving in response to God's great gift to us.  And I was reminded of Angel Tree!

You can check out the site above to choose a child, even one of a specific age - maybe choose a child or more for the ages of your own kids!  It's a minimal amount, about $12/child, but it will make a profound difference in the life of that child and his or her parent who cannot be with them this Christmas.

Dare I say it again:  MERRY CHRISTMAS!

December 13, 2010

"Thou Skillest Not to Conceive of Things Divine"

Pastor Matt preached yesterday on Ephesians 3:20-21 which reads:
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Matt addressed both our inability to believe that God has such power and our unbelief in the depth, height, width, and breadth of Christ love described in the preceding verses.  He was right on.  How often we don't pray big, because we don't really believe God is able.  Yet Scripture attests again and again ... and again ... to God's wisdom, strength, and power.  He doesn't call us to a blind faith that hopes things will work out or that we'll get what we want if we behave enough - like a heavenly Santa Claus tallying up the naughty and nice lists.  No.  He calls us to believe in HIM and He proves Himself through the pages of the Bible and even the stories of our personal ancestors as faithful, just, trustworthy, and praiseworthy.

What better time to meditate on these things than in the Advent season!

Read these words of Saint Augustine from Homilies on the Gospel of John, included in Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, ed. Nancy Guthrie.
"But how," one will say, "can it be, that the Word of God, by whom the world is governed, by whom all things both were and are created, could contract himself into the womb of a virgin; should leave the angels, and be shut up in on woman's womb?"  Thou skillest not to conceive of things divine.  The Word of God could surely do all, seeing that the Word of God is omnipotent, at once remain with the Father, and come to us; at once in the flesh come forth to us, and lay concealed in him.  For he would not the less have been, if he had not been born of flesh.  He "was" before his own flesh; he created his own mother.  He chose her in whom he should be conceived, he created her of whom he should be created.  Why marvellest thou?  It is God of whom I am speaking to thee: "the Word was God."
Makes me think of this verse:  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.  (Psalm 139:6)  Too wonderful.


Too wonderful.


Pastor Matt concluded his sermon talking about God's sovereignty and guidance of our lives as He sees fit.  In this life, sometimes things simply don't make sense: intense pain, prolonged suffering, heartbreaking sorrow, unfulfilled longings.  God doesn't call us to understand, but rather to trust and seek Him.  We can leave the understanding to the God of all wisdom and understanding.  That is faith; and by faith the Lord will sustain us through all the trials and temptations life brings.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Here are the questions I was asking myself this morning:

  • How will you respond?
  • Will the nature and intensity of your prayers change in response to who God is?
  • Will you step out in faith where before you cowered in fear?

What better time to ponder these questions than in the Advent season!


Peace to you today my friends, not as the world gives, but as Christ gives.

December 12, 2010

A Friday to Remember

Thursday I learned that a friend had Nutcracker tickets for Friday she couldn't use.  I hemmed and hawed about what I should do; I didn't have anyone to watch Brian, but the tickets were free so if he acted up we could leave.  Finally I said to myself, This is silly.  It's free Nutcracker tickets (a show Elizabeth will love) for goodness sake.  Just go!

School lessons were scrapped for Friday and we went to the early-in-the-day show.  Thanks, Heather!

It was snowing as we left.

The scenes were beautiful!

This little guy made it through the whole 2 hour show!

Elizabeth seemed so grown up.


In the evening, my mom (who's a children's ministries director at a local church) had organized A Night in Bethlehem at the church.  So many volunteered to make the event happen.  The church multi-purpose building was turned into Bethlehem - complete with a stable with a real donkey and calf - and kids could be counted for the census, experience Shabbat prayers, see baby Jesus, Mary & Joseph in the stable, do crafts at different stations around the room, taste foods, etc.  Many times my children were told how much God loves them.  Over 500 attended the event that only spanned 2.5 hours.  I could imagine how crazy it must have been in the little town of Bethlehem, when there was no room at the inn.  (Though modern day folks sure smell better!)

griding up grains with stones to make flour

the goats!

drawing coins from the era

making flour

We crashed (late) after all of the excitement.  Surely a day to get into the Christmas spirit!

December 10, 2010

True Light

I've been trying to gather my thoughts on Christmas as we share Advent readings, I read this book,  and carols are sung in church, our home, and in the car.  I don't have the words to express what I feel when I'm alone, in the quiet, pondering the Truth of the season.


Each year, the Christmas story settles deeper into the depths of my soul, strengthening my joy, hope, and peace in my Savior.  I'm so thankful for Advent, a period set aside to consider the many prophesies fulfilled in and by Christ, when we take a long, hard look at the Christmas story, awing and wondering at the way God put it all together in time and space, and the people He chose to include in the story.


This year, I find myself focused on the waiting and longing.  God promised a savior as early as Genesis 3; in the midst of the curses placed on the serpent, we see a whisper of grace.  God promised to do something about sin.  And through the Old Testament the promises continued with increasing potency, intensifying the longing of God's people.


Then He came.


A baby.  In a manger.  Born among animals.


That's how God entered the world.  Life and Light entered the world from His mother's womb, through  her birth canal, just like us.  The word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)  He left heaven behind to enter the world.


A star and angels announced his coming.  Wise men and shepherds came to worship Him and departed to share the news.  A priest could finally rest, having seen the promised Savior.


Longings fulfilled in this babe, who would one day hang on a tree.  You are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.  (Matthew 1:21)


You see, at Christmas, God sets in motion His plan to rescue us from sin.   Looking around, we see so many problems, so much darkness.  But when we look to God, His Word, His very Son, we see that He knows and He's done something about it.  In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. (John 1:4)


This Christmas I invite you to take a look at the story.  Pause in the busyness of shopping, parties, and plans and take a good look.  No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.  (John 1:18)



Glory to God in the highest heaven, 
   and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.
Luke 2:14



May this be the merriest of Christmases you've ever known!

December 7, 2010

A Winter Tradition

It has snowed and that meant it was time for our annual snowflake cutting!  This is our second year doing this on the first snow of the year.  Colin and I weren't actually here for the first snow, but we did get to it within the week.  We cut snowflakes, drink hot chocolate, and use the flakes to decorate the house.

Creating!
Concentrating!
This is the only flake Brian made.
He drank all of his hot chocolate.
Colin only makes flakes with true-to-nature 6-fold symmetry;
he doesn't make many, but they are VERY high quality.

We hung them int he entry along the stairs
and a couple above the doorway.

Happy winter to you all!  For many of you, I know the thought of it almost brings you to tears.  Remember, the spring will come, it always does.

And it's just that much more glorious, because we've know the winter.

Redemption, hope, and new life, whispers of the gospel even in creation!

December 4, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

It snowed this week!
Not much, really, but enough to make my children happy.

first snowman of the season, short and sweet
snow t-ball!

more snow t-ball!
I love the berries on this tree.


This morning we attended a wreath making event with church ladies.
They kindly let E join in the fun!








I hope you've been enjoying these many photo posts.  As for substance, it's lacking these days.  I've been feeling pretty terrible (though off and on) all week, affecting my ability to beat my kids out of bed in the morning to be with the Lord before starting the day - the time during which I often find inspiration for blosts.  Thankfully He's with me the rest of the day, too!  We're never alone, right?  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  (John 1:14)


Hope your holiday season is of to a delightful and healthy start!

December 3, 2010

Dear Santa

While I was passed out on the other side of the bed during Elizabeth's rest time today, she wrote some letters.  One was to Santa Claus.


Here's the translation:  

To Santa Claus.
I like all your Christmas presents. 
Love, Elizabeth Ashe

I think that's one of the sweetest letters I've ever seen!  I was snooping to learn what she was hoping to get for Christmas and she just wrote something nice to jolly old St Nick.

Now, where do we mail this thing?!

December 2, 2010

Visiting Boston & Cambridge

Colin and I had the great treat of a couple of days away from kids AND a visit to friends in Boston and Cambridge.  Colin spent most of his time at a conference, but his talk was successful and he did get to enjoy some catching up with old friends.  There were so many to see in so few hours, but I think I managed to see a good chunk.  Sorry to those that I missed; I hope it's not too long before another visit.  Jenny, you up for it?!


We stayed with my dear friend Jenny who's one of the most hospitable people I know; I'm blessed to call her a friend!  Her daughter helped me to choose the winners of my first ever blog giveaway.


Later Tuesday morning we visited the Windsor House, a senior day-program with which our Tuesday morning Bible study has a now 5+ year relationship.  It was a treat to see those sweet people again - though I think I confused some of them by being there after so long and without my children!  We church ladies and children (those who were free) had lunch at the fine Wendy's in Central Square.


After a brief visit at Liz's house (she's above on the left) I shot over to Westgate for the afternoon.  Westgate is the married and family student housing complex on the west side of  MIT's campus, where we lived for 5 years.

Eun Kyung's baby girl, Megan, who was born just before we moved and I met her for the first time!

It felt just like old times!

Elizabeth's friends, who were sad she wasn't there.

Can you find pictures of Elizabeth in this poster?

Tuesday night we had dinner at John Harvards, arguably our favorite restaurant in Boston.  Their Colonial Gold is one of the best beers ever (for my taste buds) and they had it on tap!  The Downs' joined us and we enjoyed wonderful food and conversation.  I'd only emailed them the day before and they were free to join us!  I forgot to take a photo.

Wednesday was much less full.  Colin went conferencing and I enjoyed a leisurely morning with Jenny and her kids.  They live in this lovely neighborhood so after some time indoors we took a brief stroll before Colin called to say he was through for the day.  Parting is such sweet sorrow.  I'm so thankful we had those couple of days to catch up in person!

Dexter and Frances (Frankie), the little hosts of our stay.

We had to squeeze in one photo just before I left.

We still had some bank accounts that we needed to officially close.  So Colin and I took care of that, and then had lunch at Royal East, a cheap and quick (but not nasty) Chinese restaurant we used to go to a lot after my prenatal appointments when Elizabeth was on the way.  This yumminess was followed by coffee and dessert at Luna Cafe - some of the tastiest coffee in Cambridge.

our fortunes, Colin's then mine

Our final stop was with our friends who just became US citizens a couple of weeks ago!  We met them at Westgate several years back and attended church together.  At their house I tried Pomegranate for the first time; cool fruit!  We enjoyed conversation and laughs just as if we'd never left town.  (Though it was quieter without our two kids there to wind up theirs!)

We came home to this!

None of these cars are ours.
I'm too cool for a sedan; I'm a minivan driver!

 I'm now REALLY in the Christmas spirit with Advent, snow on the ground, crisp winds biting my cheeks outside.  Yes, it's December.

Many, many, many thanks to our parents who cared so well for our kids while we were away.  It was good to see those little kiddos this morning and hear about their adventures while we were away.