Dec 31, 2012

The Year in Review

As I sat waiting for the oven to heat up so I can throw in the breakfast casserole, my mind started heading on a little trip down memory lane.  2012 was such a busy, full, year!  I tried, and cannot think of a year that has been loaded up more than this past year has been for our family.
We took two long weekend trips skiing the first two months of the year, the boys and I headed to Dublin, Matt went to the States for an Army school followed by his brother's wedding,  and then in May our family started a jam packed final tour of Europe!  We squeezed in Cyprus, Budapest, The Normandy Beaches, an Eastern Mediterranean cruise, and finally a long weekend at Bodensee (the lake bordered by Germany, Austria, and Switzerland).  Days after returning from the lake the boys and I began our journey back to the US in mid-July.
Our first leg took us to Baltimore where we were greeted by a team of 30+ USO volunteers who cheered on the Soldiers and family members returning to the US after deployments and serving at European duty stations.  When the customs officer reviewed our paperwork he said "welcome home".  I was overwhelmed with emotion.  I wasn't sure if it was joy or panic.
We spent the next few weeks in California visiting family and friends whom we hadn't seen in years.  Matt and I made our way to our first baseball game in 3 years and all four of us spent a few days camping near Mendocino.  Eli went fishing on the ocean for the first time and we all enjoyed the dirty, lazy camping lifestyle.
By mid-August it was time to get down to business.  The boys stayed in California for 2+ weeks with my family while Matt and I loaded up the little Pretty Pretty Princess and headed to Washington.  We checked in to our hotel that would be our home for the next 30 days, and immediately started our home search.  Two days later we put an offer on the house, a week later the kids joined us in Washington and we spend the next few weeks waiting.
Matt was getting settled in his new job, we got the kids enrolled in school and we started looking for a church.
We moved in the first week of September and are still settling in.  Over the coarse of the past few months we have been blessed with some visitors to our new home, we spent a few weekends here and there with family up in the Blaine area, we found a church home, got plugged in to a few different activities and things are starting to feel a wee bit like we belong here.
I know that 2013 will have much, much less travel going on and I don't foresee a transcontinental move, new job, new house, and new schools in the near future so I think it is safe to say, next year should be pretty quiet by comparison!

Dec 26, 2012

My Favorite Things

I'm all wrapped up in enjoying Christmas but I wanted to take a few moments to be thankful for a few of my very favorite gifts this season.

A few weeks ago I asked an Italian friend of mine if she could email me her Tiramisu recipe.  Matt is not a big dessert fan but loves Tiramisu.  She asked when I needed it, I told her for Christmas, and she said she would get back to me.  A few days later I received an email telling me to check out a video on my Facebook page.
My friend's husband filmed her making Tiramisu.  She explained each step and even gave me a few Italian lessons and her grandmother's secret cooking techniques as well.  My heart was so full as I watched her video.  I probably could have logged on to one of a million cooking websites and found a recipe, but I knew Monica's would be authentic and I figured passing on a recipe wasn't too much to ask.  What I got in return was the sweetest gift and far more than I hoped for.  She showed me the exact consistency I needed to achieve with each of the different mixtures and offered some optional ideas for flavor and adjustments to the recipe for serving sizes.
As a bonus, the Tiramisu she was making was then passed on to another friend of mine as a gift.  Truly a sweet (pun intended) blessing!  Don't bother checking out my Facebook page for the video.  She set it as private so that only I could see it and made me promise never to show anyone!
This is my Tiramisu.  Monica assessed my photo and agreed that my lady fingers needed more soaking and I needed more of the Marscapone mixture.  However it was tasty and we were so blessed!


The second awesome gift I received was actually a birthday gift intended to be worn for Christmas.  Another friend of mine whipped up an awesome up-cycled sweater skirt for me.  She took old sweaters in Christmas colors and finery and surged them to make the most adorable Christmas skirt ever in the history of all time.  I wore it a few times this season and fully intend to get one more wear in before the clock strikes 2013! For some reason this is the only picture of myself in my adorable skirt.  Its all blurry and lame, so I have to wear it again in order to properly document the cute factor.
What I love about the skirt is: it is soft, warm, and it has a story.  The grey and cream sweater that you see on my left quarter shank there is a sweater my friend Darlene gave to my friend Angela a few years ago at one of our bible study breakfasts.  Not only do I have an adorable, warm, comfortable skirt made by a dear friend, but I carry with me memories of times past.  It is totally funky and I LOVE that about it.  And I love that my friend knew I was balsy enough to wear it!

A few other noteworthy gifts were a simple Christmas decoration that said "Joy" on it from Gabe.  He said he bought it for me because I was joyful.  
Eli's blessed me with such a sweet heart this year.  He wanted an iPod Touch so bad.  He is saving for one and at the costly rate that the iPod Touches run these days, it was going to be a long road!  We decided to give him my old iPhone without the sim card, so it is essentially an ipod touch.  He opened the box and saw the iPhone and we told him what it was.  There was not an ounce of disappointment in him.  He didn't care that it was an old, used, out of date, knock-off of what he really wanted.  He saw that it was essentially what he wanted and loved the case!  Within seconds of receiving the gift he looked at us and said "does that mean I can give Gabe my old iPod?" Yes!  Happiness all around.  
The last one I want to mention was a family gift from my cousins to us.  They gave us a fun-filled weekend this past weekend that was really just a plain old good time!  We went to Vancouver to a German-esque Christmas Market, looked at lights at the Botanical garden in the pouring rain, Gabe got to sit on Santa's lap after singing carols and listing to him read a Christmas Story, and a special bonus was Spencer's convincing conversation with Gabe that he also believed that Santa was real!  There was lots of laughter, great memories, and truly a fabulous weekend!  The gift of this little excursion was priceless.  
Here is a photo of the whole gang of us at the end of the night.

Here is Matt and the boys as elves.  Oh and "Jeves" Matt's English Butler protecting Matt from the rain by holding his umbrella. Jeves stayed in character the entire night and despite puddles, low branches and awkward moments where Matt and I were kissing....he never broke character nor let a drop of rain fall on Matt.  Good times!

Dec 25, 2012

The Christmas Story Revelation Style

Revelation 12:1-12

1And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:

2And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

3And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.

4And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

5And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

6And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

7And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

8And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

10And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

11And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

12Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

Dec 24, 2012

The Last Lesson of Advent

Christmas Eve.
I started off the day in the kitchen.  Matt is slaving over dinner on Christmas, so I slave over dinner on Christmas Eve.  By "slave over dinner" I actually mean prepare a whole bunch of appetizers.  That is our Christmas Eve tradition.  Well for now anyway.
I finished preparing all the appetizers and we headed off  to the 3pm Christmas Eve service at our church.  It wasn't a quiet "Silent Night" candle light service like we are used to.  It was a loud rowdy celebration....and we liked it!  We should be loud and rowdy.  Jesus was born!  400 years of silence forgotten, the Messiah came! If there is ever a day to celebrate it is today!
After service we came back home, stuffed ourselves with mini-wellingtons, southwestern egg rolls, baked brie, and a whole bunch of other stuff.  We made a quick video/Christmas greeting for my parents and sister's family and then settled in for reading the Christmas story.
This year Gabe read it.  He did so well.  He got really excited at "Don't be afraid for I bring you good news of great joy that will be for ALL people".  He memorized that and the following verse for AWANA last week so Gabe was ready to roll through that part with confidence.
After the story I started to speak on the last topic for Advent.  I loved this lesson.  I was so excited to talk about gifts.  Not the gifts the wise men brought, but the gifts the Drummer Boy brought.  A few months back I secretly listened to the Little Drummer Boy and felt moved by the words of the lad "I have no gift to bring thats fit to give a King".  It is so beautiful.
I decided to sing the song tonight before rolling out my lesson.
A few lines in and Gabe had already complained about being required to sing "a million songs tonight" and Eli was rolling all over the couch and protesting.  Gabe started being the class clown, Eli was laughing hysterically and everyone missed the best line of the song "come they told me".
I turned off the music, picked up the lyrics and marched upstairs.
This was the lesson I wanted the boys to hear this year.  Of all the lessons, of all the truths, this one was the one I wanted to be louder than any other.  Come.  Worship.  Play your best for him.
Gabe met me upstairs and apologized.  I said "thank you" and closed the door.
As I sat in the bathroom I felt my eyes filling with tears.  The message was lost in the sugar high, excitement of Christmas.
A quiet voice in my head said "I gave my best for him".  I did give my best.  Not just for my Children, but for my God and King.  My little listeners were not interested but I came and I played my best for Him.  
I came downstairs a bit later and gave my boys a lesson I had not planned for, studied for, and surely didn't have a coordinating song for.  It went something like this:

"Jesus humbled himself to become human, he died on the cross, rose on the third day and ascended into heaven with plans to return in the future so that people can be saved, sanctified, filled and spend eternity with Him.  Right now there are millions of people out there who are too busy to worship God, too busy to be bothered with obeying him, too busy to know Him better, and live for him.  They are too busy worrying about their own lives to even acknowledge that Jesus is their savior.
Tonight in here, you are too busy worrying about your presents, your movie, and your dessert to worship Him, to celebrate His birth, and listen to me share with you about what God desires of you.  
Tonight, you are no different than the others.  No different than Bethlehem.  No different than the people who had no room for Jesus to be born in their home."

The boys both looked to the floor.  Neither ventured to look into my face.  Neither attempted to offer some excuse.  They had just received their last Advent lesson of this year.  And it hurt a little.

I guess they get the Little Drummer Boy lesson another day.  

Dec 13, 2012

Basketball Practice

This is week three of the kids' basketball practice.  I signed them up to play with an organization called Upward Sports.  If you haven't heard of the organization and know a youngster...check them out, spread the word.
Upward Sports is a national organization managed on the local level by churches.  In my town, over a dozen local churches participate in the organization.  We use at least 6 church gyms for practices during the week and one gym is used for all the weekend games.  I found advertising for Upward at three or four churches that we were trying out.

Upward uses a different approach to youth sports.  Yes, the kids learn technique, game rules, and improve their skills but they learn much more.  A major focus is sportsmanship and teamwork.

Prior to the team assignments, the kids were required to attend an assessment.  They didn't need to prove how good they were to join, they just needed to show their skills so the managers could create the teams.  The goal was for each team to be equally matched.

Each practice is an opportunity to teach kids lessons on and off the court. This is a picture of Gabe's team on their break tonight.  Halfway through practice the team gathers around their coach for a little team meeting.  Today, the coach talked about each of the kids having different strengths on the court, and how that is what will make their team strong.  Not everyone needs to be good at the same thing!  In fact, if everyone is trying to be the same thing, that leaves places of weakness.  He also talked about how to act when a team member or person on the opposing team falls or is discouraged.

After they had their little meeting, the kids went on to get some water and then they were back on the court learning passing strategies and other things I know nothing about.

They won't always be on a Christian team but the lessons they are learning now will hopefully stick with them throughout any sports they do play and in life.

Dec 12, 2012

Schooled

It seems the politically correct way for public schools to deal with the issue of Christmas is to introduce a "holidays around the world"  curriculum for the days or weeks leading up to the Winter Break.  The lessons highlight different ways people of a variety of cultures celebrate a holiday.  Over the years the boys have learned about Christmas celebrations in many different countries as well as Kwanza, Hanukkah, and who knows what other holidays.
Today, Gabriel's teacher was showing pictures of holiday celebrations in Laos. I'm not really sure what the holiday was but the teacher showed the class a picture of a big idol.  She then asked a kid in the class, from Laos, to explain a little about the holiday and the idol.  Apparently, the kid explained how this idol is their god and they worship it.
After the explanation, Gabriel marched on up to his teacher and said "excuse me... the Bible says you are not supposed to worship any idols!"  
I have no idea if his teacher has had to deal with this before, but I can only imagine how tricky this situation could be.
She told Gabe that the other kid believed differently and sent him back to his desk.
He returned to his desk and asked the kids at his table "does anyone here know what John 3:16 says?"  One girl did, and they proceeded to quote the verse...
"For God so loved the world that He send his one and only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life".

The school, friends .... the world can try all they want to teach something different, but I try harder!  When the minds and hearts of children are filled with Truth, it doesn't matter what their friends believe, the Truth remains in them and will guide them and direct them through life as long as they continue to trust in the Lord and lean not on the world's understanding!



Dec 10, 2012

Peace

This year I worked pretty hard to prepare our home for Christmas.
I brought out all the boxes of Christmas decorations two days after Thanksgiving, I used every last decoration in those 10 boxes, and we put up the absolute tallest and widest tree in the family room to fill the room with the beauty and magic of Christmas.
I knew I wanted the season of Advent to be memorable this year as well, so I work hard every few days researching and preparing the lessons for our family.  I balanced the lessons with deep theological stuff like fulfillment of thousand year old prophesies about a "root" and "tender shoot" with fun exciting ones like learning the history and hidden Christian meaning behind "The 12 Days of Christmas".
I made my Christmas list back in October, planning how much I wanted to spend and ideas of what I could purchase for each person on my list.
It would seem I've got it all together.
But then December 10 flashes up on the calendar and I realize I have missed overseas shipping deadlines. I still have 5 packages to mail, two of which are waiting on something to get to me in order for me to send it on, I had to go buy boxes to ship items and as I was getting the last box ready to go, the tape ran out.
I move from shipper extraordinair to home-made treat creator.  Bad call.  Pecans taste wrong, I burn 3, yes 3 batches of chocolate that I was simply trying to melt.  Who knew that stuff was so flammable? The party mix went awry and I haven't even started on cookies.
As I feverishly worked in the kitchen to make some sense of this madness I swing by the island, knock over an OPEN box of cereal I left on the counter from breakfast and cereal went flying across the floor.  I dodged the rice chex all the way to the sink when that last one got underfoot and "crunch".  Now I have cereal powder on the floor.
I made a cup of coffee, retrieved the broom and a trash bag to dispose of all my messes and found myself on the floor thinking "this Christmas is going ALL WRONG!"
I just wanted to make some homemade treats for friends, send packages, buy gifts and now I'm in a pile of cereal on the floor.
Before the thoughts could go any further I was quickly and I mean quickly directed to a scene that played out last night in my family room under that giant, magical, tree.
The lesson of the second Sunday of Advent is peace.
One of the definitions of peace is "freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions."  We talked about God's promise that the world will have trouble, but not to worry because He has overcome the world.
My peace doesn't rest on the day going well, or everything lining up just right for my Christmas plans.  My peace comes from the Prince of Peace himself, especially when things go wrong.

Maybe some of my hopes for this season are not going as planned but my hopes, and the desire of my heart to learn from Advent lessons is going completely right!


Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
Isaiah 54:10



Dec 9, 2012

Praying through Advent


A few nights ago our Advent focus was on prayer.  We talked about how God desires us to pray in all times and for all reasons.  I told the boys that one thing they could do this Advent season is give the one gift to the people they love that is guaranteed to be a perfect fit...pray for them.  The boys each wrote out a list of people they wanted to "shop" for.  Then they wrote down what they would "buy".  We took the lists and made little prayer garlands.  On one side of the paper is a name and the other side is a reminder of what they are praying for.  This is Eli's prayer garland.


Our song for the night was Harry Connick Jr's funky tune called "I Pray on Christmas"

I pray on christmas
That the lord will see me through
I pray on christmas
He'll show me what to do

I pray on christmas
He'll help me understand
And I pray on christmas
He'll take me by the hand

I pray on christmas
That the sick will soon be strong
I pray on christmas
The lord will hear my song

I pray on christmas
That God will lead the way
And I pray on christmas
He'll get me through another day

I pray on christmas
I pray on christmas
I pray on christmas
He'll get me through another day

I pray on christmas
All our problems gonna be worked out
I pray on christmas
God'll show us what love's about

I pray on christmas
To do your will each day
And I pray on christmas
That I'll be with you in heaven some day

I pray on christmas
Oh, the sick will soon be strong
I pray on christmas
The lord will hear my song

I pray on christmas
That God will lead the way
And I pray I really pray on christmas
He'll get me through another day

Dec 5, 2012

I don't make this stuff up.

Eli:  Mom, what is masseuse?
Mom: Someone who gives you a massage.
Eli: So....then what does this mean "don't masseuse the Lord's name"?
Mom: misuse.  Don't misuse the Lord's name.
Eli: ooooh.

Dec 4, 2012


There are three major why we wanted to move to Washington.
1. It was the very best duty stations of all the choices we had before us.
2. After 14 years of being across the country (or world) we would finally be near family….I'm counting the ones in the state and the ones just down south.
3. We would have the opportunity to end our military career in a place that we actually would like to live for the long haul.

Although I desperately wanted Fort Lewis to be our last duty station, I have struggled with the thought that this may just be our permanent home.  
As I consider where I will hang pictures or what furniture I want in what room of the house, I'm tormented by the pressure of permanence.  I feel like I'm hanging that picture on the wall it will stay on forever, and ever, until I die.
I do realize that even if I stay in this house forever I am allowed to take down a picture and relocate it to another room or replace it.   However, I have never hung a picture before without thinking it would only be there for three years max.  I'm treading on new ground here.  And it is scary as hell.

I don't know what it is like to live in a house longer than 3 years.  I have never budgeted for healthcare insurance.  I don't know what it is like to worry about downsizing and job cuts.  I absolutely do not know what it is like not to be an Army wife.

I love the military and I truly, deeply, love the lifestyle God has allowed us to have while serving this country and I am scared, worried, and flat out dragging my feet and making trenches in the sand when it comes to moving on.  I don't want to leave.
Perhaps, I don't want to leave because it is simply all I've known.  Maybe it is because I'm afraid of what life is like on the outside.  Or it could really be because I like it so much.  It doesn't matter why, it just is.  And I have to let it all go.  I need to lift up my feet, surrender my will, and follow my husband to wherever he will lead our family.

Tonight I had a heart to heart with Matt.  On the surface I was just sharing how I feel, but deep inside I think I was trying to convince him that he too should love the Army and vow to stay forever.  But after I gave my compelling speech, Matt delivered his.  I must say, his was much shorter.  His was also far more compelling.  He said this
 "I have served my Country, I did my time, I don't own them any more and I am done risking my life".

I'm not 100% sure, but I think there is no rebuttal to that argument.  I truly feel ashamed to ask him to continue to do something that causes him discomfort so that I can live in plenty.

I've committed today to stop hoping that he'll change his mind and start dreaming about what our future holds.

I know it will be a tough transition for me, so I'm thankful that we are in a home we really wouldn't mind staying in, close to family, and we have three years to work on the details of separating from the Army.

I know that God will provide for us, that He has a plan for us, and that it will be a new blessed chapter of our lives.  But I also know that it is a dramatic change for us and it may be tough.  God has been so faithful in the past 17 years of Matt's career, I really should have no doubt that He will continue to lead us and provide for us in the next career.

Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.”

Dec 3, 2012

Not So Martha.

For the record.
You cannot just add orange zest and cranberries to a box scone mix and hope that they taste just like the ones you slave over from scratch.
I'm going out on a limb here and calling them inedible.
The box scone mix in itself may have been tasty but I didn't try them plain so I can't say for certain.
The error in judgement was less about the box mix and more about the additives.
Not that I will ever try this again, but I suppose the issue was ratio of sweetness to sour.  Perhaps I added too much sour, or maybe there just isn't any sweet in the "just add water" mix.
I don't know specifically what went wrong, but I know that the issue was me trying to cut corners. I have a tried and true cranberry orange scone recipe that is delicious and yet I decided at the last minute that rather than follow the recipe I would try to skip all the steps involved in actually making the recipe and just throw in some flare at the end.
This scene is repeated in other areas of my life.
I like to buy a gift that I truly think the recipient is going to love or will find amusing.  I like to think through gifts.  When I do, the gift turns out lovely.  The recipient knows my heart and receives my gift as specifically chosen for her or him for some reason.  When I don't take the time to really think about what I want to give someone, it is like those darn scones, they look pretty, but there was no effort involved and they were not made with love.  As Christmas shipping deadlines quickly approach I am faced with the challenge to actually take the time to shop for gifts, not cut corners and just grab the first thing I see on the shelf, wrap it pretty and call it good.
Last night I was racing through my bible study.  I didn't want to do it.  I'm fed up with the author, I don't like the study, but I was muddling through anyway.  As I was closing my book I noticed that I did indeed fill in all the answer blanks, but I didn't get a darn thing out of it.  I went through the motions but didn't really do the study.  I took a box mix and threw in some cranberries.  In the end, what do I have?

Some challenges are new and the way to go about them is learned through trial and error, but for others....there is a recipe that works and all I need to do is take the time to follow it.  My challenge for this season is to avoid cutting corners!  If I prioritize my tasks and use my time wisely, I will successfully accomplish the tasks I have chosen to take on.