December 29, 2011

I Resolve to ...

As a child, we had a family tradition of making new year's resolutions together.  Perhaps it seems strange to you, but these are great memories to me.  My siblings and I would build "resolution booths" out of couch cushions and throw pillows and my father would record our goals for the coming year (seriously, he still has them in a file in his office); I shared a little about this tradition in this post last year.  I wonder if I ever achieved any of my goals?  Probably not, but that doesn't make the memories any less sweet.

Since this is part of my heritage, every year about this time I start thinking about what I should do or not do, what new habits to develop or stop, in the coming year.  This year feels different, because one and a half months into 2012, we will be having a baby.  I've been wondering how I should let this influence the loftiness of my goals.

Babies take a lot of your time, your sleep, ... and your love.  And there are the two others to love and care for, as well.  Not to mention that Colin and I would also like to maintain our relationship!

I guess what I've really been asking myself is, what/who do I hope to be one year from now?  What do I need to do or let go of to move in that direction?

This has led to some major generalities and reminded me of my need to trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding.  Of course, I can think of some specifics for 2012 - projects, life changes, etc.  But this year I'm leaning more toward a short list of things I hang in the kitchen and/or on the dashboard of the car that move me in the direction of  being transformed by the renewing of my mind.  I wanna let God have His way with me in new ways this year more than I did last year; I want to love Him more at the end of 2012 than I do now.

Here are a few things that have popped into my mind:
Remember God's mercies are new every morning - do not live by shame or guilt; I belong body and soul to my loving Father. 
Extend to others the mercy I've been given - this will take a lifetime, but will get at the hard places in my heart for sure! 
Read God's Word - one cannot live by bread alone (though I do really like bread!), I need the life-giving bread of God's Word.
I think that my "theme verse" this new year will be Micah 6:8 -
He has showed you, O man, what is good.
   And what does the LORD require of you? 
To act justly and to love mercy 
   and to walk humbly with your God.
Yeah, that should keep me busy this year ... and for the rest of my life!  What would it look like to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God in my marriage, in relationship to my children, with my neighbors, in the church, in my writing, in my personal thoughts that He alone knows?  I wonder....

So, that's what this lady is thinking for 2012.  I think it's fun to think about a new beginning and what the future holds!  Ultimately, it's in the Lord's hands of course, so I encourage you to ask Him what He's thinking for YOU in 2012.  Are there things you need to do?  New ways to step out in faith?  Things to release to Him?  Do you need to choose to follow Him for the first time?  Oh, it'll be a year of transformation if we step into it and walk through it with our God!

I pray today you can look back on 2011 with thanksgiving and ahead to 2012 with hope.


PS  I'm taking January off from blogging.  At some point I'll likely make the blog private until I get some things set up that I'd like to change.  One more post tomorrow and then I'll "see" you in February!

A Tale of Three Christmases

This year we celebrated Christmas for three consecutive days.  It was very fun AND wore us all out!  What the days had in common:
  • family
  • food
  • stockings & gifts
  • food
  • napping
  • food
  • playing
  • food
Do you notice any trends?

Christmas Eve we celebrated Christmas amongst ourselves;
Santa obliged and came one night early


If you like Christmas cards, pretend you got this in the mail.
Merry Christmas from our family to yours!
 After dinner we headed to the Christmas Eve service at church.  Elizabeth wanted to sing with the choir, so she and I did that this year (very fun!)  We spent the night at Colin's parent's house.

Christmas Day we celebrated with Colin's family.

We have some family photos that Colin took with his camera, but this is the best that I have of the group.
 These paper crowns come from Christmas Crackers, a fun British tradition.

Boxing Day (the 26th) we celebrated with my family, as is the custom.

 We let the children open presents first ... all at once!
Then we put on what my dad calls "the electric pacifier" (tv) and we adults exchanged gifts.  This worked out quite well; I sure love the electric pacifier!

My dad is leaving soon for Rwanda for work, where he and my mom will live for 1-1/2 years.
He likes Grey Poupon and I think my mom got a kick out of getting him this large supply.

I love holiday-set tables!
That thing on the left in the front is a pre-popped Christmas Cracker.

This is the next generation ages 7.5, 6, 5.5, 3.5, 3.5, almost 2, and 6 months - book-ended by the girls!

I hope you had a Merry Christmas and that you have a peaceful beginning to the new year!

December 27, 2011


The shower is a great thinking space, is it not?

After reading in Boice's The Christ of Christmas about the men who didn't miss Christmas - the shepherds and the wise men - I hopped in the shower to get cleaned up before the kids' tv-time was yesterday morning.  My thoughts were still on Boice's words about those men coming, from their very different backgrounds, to worship the King that was born in the manger.  The Lord had invited them to come, and they did, bowing their knees and hearts before the One that God had sent.  Then, after the account ends in the gospels, we never hear of them again.

I wonder how the encounter influenced the rest of their lives?

*     *     *

Perhaps, like me, you spent time with extended family this weekend in familiar places from years gone by: a childhood home or hometown, the place you moved when you were a teenager, the home where your children grew up.

As I showered in the bathroom that I used from age 14 through college, my heart was taken up into worship as I considered the remarkable ways that God has guided and directed my path and the paths of my family members to bring us where we are today.  We're a loud, opinionated, rambunctious bunch, too easily annoyed with one another and not all politically aligned.  But we do still love being together enjoying traditions and sharing hilarious stories of the past and present over large meals and noisy children.  My parents gave us a good foundation and great opportunities & experiences growing up (thanks!) and I think my siblings are two really cool human beings.  This bunch is pretty remarkable too:

The Next Generation!
When I think back, I remember how I made all kinds of poor decisions growing up that could have had a number of different results.  What hit me in the shower was just how good God was to protect me, carry me through, forgive my sin, give me second, third, forth chances, and (even more amazing) fill my life with blessings well beyond what I deserve.  What grace!  I'm sure each of my family members can testify to the work of that grace in their lives, as well.

Too often I lean toward being consumed by shame.  Yesterday, I was reminded that there is now no condemnation.  The Spirit lives in me, the law is no longer my master; shame, you have no place here because Jesus paid for my sin and gave me His righteousness!

At a time of year when we look back in reflection and forward with resolve, how can we worship the Lord for His work in our lives?  How can we seek Him as we look ahead to the new year?  How can we invite others, as God invited the shepherds and wise men (and us!), to take a look at His redemption plan and consider joining in the worship?

God, we are in awe at the forgiveness of sins and the extent to which you went to allow us to enter into your family as Your children.  Jesus, you took on flesh and you hung, cursed, on a tree.  Then you rose!  Spirit, continue to rescue us from cowering before shame because You now live in our hearts. Remind us as we leave Christmas, start a new year, and work our way toward Easter, of your full and complete redemption of our souls and cause our eyes to see how deeply and widely you have loved us.  Open our lips to tell the old, old story, of Jesus and His love that we may see your kingdom come in new hearts in 2012.  Amen.

December 23, 2011

Go For It!

Have you had an inkling over the last few weeks of something you could do for a family member, neighbor, friend, co-worker, or other person or group of people in your life?  For example: an invitation to a Christmas Eve service, giving an unexpected gift, taking cookies to a neighbor, calling up an old friend, inviting someone to join you for Christmas dinner, etc.

Encouragement for the day: DO IT!

I have had several things on my mind in the last weeks that I know have come from a Holy Spirit nudging.  I want to go for it, but quickly insecurities about how I'll be perceived or doubts about logistics threaten to keep me from action.


Why?  Because if you belong to Christ, His very Spirit lives in you.  And if He's spoken to your heart and mind, you can be sure that He's got something good up His sleeve.  Not to mention the fact that you, as a child of THE KING need not live by fear; you are loved beyond your wildest dreams.  Have you paused to consider this Christmas just how ridiculous it is that God should care to rescue us from sin and give us new life?  I think it's nuts.  It is the kindness of God that leads to repentance.  Nuts, but oh. so. wonderful!

So we rejoice!

And we can BE BOLD!!

I write this post pep-talk mostly for myself, as there are a couple of things I need to prioritize and attend to today to love God and love my neighbor as the Spirit is leading.  If this means anything to you, then join me in "rolling with the Spirit" and let's see what God will do in our lives and the lives of those to whom we minister.

For Christ's love compels us, because we are all convinced that the One died for all and therefore all died.  And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15

For God did not give us a Spirit of timidity, but a Spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7

December 19, 2011

Back from Beantown!

If this post does not get written today, it will never happen.  So here it goes; it might win a "longest post ever" award.  And I apologize for typos; I'm not editing this any more!

Last Monday we flew to Boston.
For the record: I love JetBlue and their tvs, free first bag, and free drink & snack.

We spent two nights with the Carters.  This is their daughter Addy below with Elizabeth.  Much fun was had; even the American Girl dolls enjoyed each other's company.  (Sadly, I did not get a single photo of their other two children, Jesse and Mary Ella, playing with Brian.  Nor did I get a photo with Lydia.  Fail.)

Day 1 was spent hanging out with the Carters.  Taking it easy was a perfect start to our visit.

Day 2 we headed into Cambridge, played at the Museum of Science, visited the Cambridgeside Galleria because they have the funnest Christmas decorations, stopped by the library to see our previous librarians, strolled through MIT and stopped in to say hello to Colin's thesis advisor, had a snack at the Student Center Dunkin' Donuts, took pictures along the river, walked to Central Square, to the subway to Harvard Square, and got some new Christmas books at the Harvard COOP before returning to the Carters.  I was very satisfied with our "Cambridge Day."

The infinite corridor at MIT was thoroughly decorated with little green and grey army men
arranged in various shapes, designs, and equations.
Thanks MIT students, you seriously made our day!

Day 3 it was a little rainy, so we went to the Children's Museum and saved our "Boston Day" for Friday.  This worked out perfectly.  Really, the weather cooperated so well with our plans; God heard and answered our prayers.  He's so good.  Getting around town on the T was so much fun in itself.  Boston has the best public transportation, and area where Pittsburgh is greatly lacking.

After the museum, we headed to Westgate, where we lived for 5 years and still have a small handful of friends who are quickly approaching the end of their tenure at MIT.  Gyda hosted a little open house in the afternoon and had invited us for dinner as well.  Brian remembers nothing of his time in Boston, but not Elizabeth.  She jumped right back into playing with Bjarney (the blonde) and Martina (the dark-haired).  In fact, the first hour they were together was SO LOUD as their excitement at seeing each other burst out in joyous screams and noisy chatter.  Gyda, Maca, and I sat in the living room and talked calmly, as good adults should; though we were no less thankful to be together!

Brian's self-portrait

Day 4 began in the home of the Standridges, our second hosts of the trip.  Brian woke early most days and started with some Netflix while I got my act together.  Elizabeth got to see Lucy for just a short bit that morning, before the Standridge clan headed off to school & work and we began our "Boston Day."  On our way into town, we met with our friend Solange and her daughter in Porter Square (no pictures, boo!) before getting into town.  Did I mention how much I love the T?!  In town we started in the Public Garden with the "Make Way for Ducklings" ducks and walked the freedom trail from the State House to Mike's Pastry on the North End.  I marveled at how much parts of Boston had changed since we had first moved there and tried hard to "soak up" the city as much as I could.  I wanted to take it home in my inmost being!  We wrapped up the day at Westgate again; Elizabeth had a sleepover scheduled with Bjarney and Martina.  On the playground we found some old favorites; things don't change that much around there.  At this point I must also mention that Brian and I returned to the Standridges.  In addition to their Lucy, they have three older boys.  Brian called them "the big brothers" and LOVED them.  I think he might have moved in there and never missed our family.  Bummer I didn't get a picture of them together!

If you know how small my hands are, you'll appreciate how small  Brian's  little french fry box was.

what I wanted to get (in addition!)

what we got at Mike's

pre-dinner entertainment at the Standridges
Days 5 & 6, the weekend, were spent with the Mamedovs.  As you'll note, I took very few pictures.  The weekend was pretty calm, a good way to wrap up after several days of go-go-go.  The Mamedovs let me their car and we got to shoot up to Melrose to meet my new first-cousin-once-removed, Katelyn.  She's a beauty and one month old.  My cousin, Brian, married this lovely lady from the Boston area, Lori; it was such a treat to see them!  (And I got to hold that sweet, sleeping child the entire time we were there; lucky me!)  We returned to the Mamedovs to play with some other old friends from Westgate, the Bakers.  The girls all played together a lot when we were all living together there.  In the evening, Rick and T Downs, the pastor and his wife, joined us for a delicious dinner that Nara prepared for us. (no pictures!)  Sunday morning we went to church, saw many familiar faces, heard a fantastic sermon on Romans 14:17 reminding us of the Gospel and what we have in Christ, and then we had lunch at an old favorite post-church locale: the Central Sq Wendy's.  We met up with Colin's friend from high school, Adrian, and his lovely lady-friend, Margaret.

left to right around the circle: E, Farah, Leila, BRIAN!, Leilani, Alana

Our trip ended with a 5:30am cab to the airport on Monday morning.  Needless to say, Monday was a wash; we were all so tired all day!  But it was worth it.  I'm glad to be home with my husband and in Picksburgh again, with my Boston cup overflowing from having seen so many dear friends and places with so many memories.

If you read this whole post, eat an extra Christmas cookie; you deserve it!