Sunday, November 25, 2012

Blessed to be a Blessing

This year, we have one EXTRA week to celebrate Christmas, so I'm excited!  The girls are at the perfect age (almost three) to really enjoy and get into all the holiday festivities.  We have set up our tree, set up our nativity set, hung the ornaments, and even wrapped a couple of presents.  We have our Christmas dresses ready to go, and we are ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior!
This year, I'm keeping it simple.  Growing up, we were showered with presents, and for some, that is fine, but I'm really liking one friend's tradition of giving three gifts, one to represent each wise man.  Some may say, "But wait? Only three gifts?"  Well, seeing as how it's not our birthday, and it is MUCH more blessed to give than to receive, I would say that three gifts is more than enough. 
It's all about balance.  There's nothing wrong with toys and giving gifts, but when it becomes expected and breeds discontent and ungratefulness, that is when we need to adjust our gift-giving and receiving focus.  I find that I buy used books quite often for the girls, and pick up puzzles here and there, so really, they don't need any more toys than they have now. 

This year, our church is challenging us to avoid that unnecessary toy or crazy sweater and give our resources to a ministry; that gift will last for eternity.  Although the girls don't quite understand that yet, I am beginning this year to adjust expectations and find ways to help them become givers and not takers.  It's a huge shift, and probably more difficult for me than for Paul or the girls, but I'm sure that is why God placed that on my heart; not theirs. 

Our pastor reminded us again today that Christ came to serve, and not to be served, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  I want that to be our family's focus for Christmas in this year and many years to come.  He is, after all, the reason for the season.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Vanilla or Rocky Road?

Flavors…doesn’t that word just conjure images of choice, freedom, variety, and opportunity?  Since I have a sweet tooth, the image of ice cream first entered my mind when I wrote that word.  Although I love having a choice and my favorite flavor of ice cream has about five different colors and textures in it, I feel that most of my life has been lived in the vanilla carton at the ice cream store.  Lately, I have been aware of many attitudes in my life that don’t match with the flavors of life, specifically of people, that God has surrounded me with. 

This semester in Bible study, we have been reminded of the picture that every man, woman, and child is created in God’s image.  Even if I don’t like the way they are rude, even if they cut me off in traffic, even if they don’t believe in God, even if they don’t give me what I want when I want it, even if they act in ways that I wouldn’t act, even if they have the opposite personality that I do, even if they have different skin color, even if they make more than I do, even if they make less than I do, even if they have a different culture, even if
Just to cement this realization, today in Bible study, we received a handout for our children that talked about knowing people from other cultures and races, and how important it is to introduce God’s “flavor-filled world” to our children.  My carton of vanilla ice cream is only one flavor out of hundreds that will be represented in Heaven one day, so I better start making some changes now to get to know all the flavors that God created and loves just as much as He loves my plain old vanilla flavor.  As a mother, now I realize that it’s not only my attitude that is important and affects my relationship with others and with God, but that attitude trickles down directly to my daughters and to how they perceive others.  Is my attitude teaching respect and love for others, even when we don’t agree or they don’t look like we do?  Jesus’ most common dinner guests were sinners and tax collectors, the two most hated groups of people in his day.  So, if I’m following Christ and leading my daughters by example, I probably need to work on opening my heart to knowing people who aren’t as vanilla as I am.

Over the years, I have met many people who have impacted me and I’m taking time to think about them and thank them for the impact they have had on my life.  These people aren’t just like me, but my life is so much better for having known or met them.  I want my girls to know the kindness and humor of my Indian friend, Krishna, with whom I taught for five years and was one of the best fathers I know;  I want my girls to know the love and incredible gift of a special student, Kendall, with Down's Syndrome, whom I once had the chance to help teach;  I want my girls to know the loyalty of my Jewish friend, Jessica, who drops everything to be at my side and sacrifices her time over and over; I want my girls to know the "realness" of my African-American friend, Sadie, who loves Jesus with her whole heart and even though she doesn’t have much money, possesses more joy, wisdom, and contentment than anyone I know;  I want my girls to know my Asian friend, Sandra, who strives for excellence and honors Christ daily with her music talents.  Some of these friends know Christ, and some don’t, but I want my girls to have a heart for all people, regardless of race, socioeconomic level, or cultural background. 
Vanilla?  Maybe.  Rocky Road?  Definitely.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


This Thanksgiving, it's different.  After years of looking at things from one perspective for so much of my life, I have slowly begun changing and thinking about life, my world, my mission here on earth, my role as a mother and wife, just everything...differently.  Moving to Austin has been directly from God; I know that now after encountering some people who have changed me and my perspective.  This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for these people whom God has brought into my life:

Sadie Bell...a lady in my Bible study - her voice soothes me like a gently rocking chair; she loves God with a fierceness and honesty that brings most of our group to tears every time she opens her mouth.  She underwent surgery and lost her father in the span of a week, but still came with insights, a smile, and a listening ear.  She's more joyful, content, and wise than most people I know; she struggles to make ends meet, and get this...she rides the bus every week to class because she can't afford a car. 

Brad Thomas...the pastor of our church - he speaks with genuineness and deep wisdom, asking questions that pierce through all the trappings of our lives.  I've heard a lot of pastors, good ones too, but something about his messages and his heart really cause me to think in new ways about my faith and about God's love for me.  He has a special needs son and I know that he has a heart for helping and serving, and he inspires me to change and embrace Christ fully.

Garrett Luce...a young boy who recently died in a tragic accident.  I didn't know him, never met him, but the stories and the faith that he lived out, have inspired me to re-examine my priorities and my path in life.  I know this lesson well, having lived it with my own dad's death, but it can easily be forgotten as time goes by.  However, Garrett has left a legacy through the lives he impacted, and the contagion he spread has caused me to look at my life, be thankful for each morning I'm alive, and make my days count, instead of counting my days.

My sister's friend with a special son...she probably doesn't know I read her blog all the time and think of her and pray for her.  My girls know her son's name and we talk about him and I just am convicted time and again when I complain about anything in my life that she is walking a completely different path, yet she still chooses to fight and battle.  She, too, inspires me to love others and be accepting of people who maybe don't get things as easily as I do. 

Most of all, these above people are selfless - sure, they probably have moments of selfishness and are not perfect, but because of their situation and because of their love of Christ, they inspire me to change, too.  Selfishness is like cancer; it starts small, and before you know it, it spreads throughout your body until every part of your body is consumed with it and you no longer know your own self apart from the cancer.  Meeting these people and hearing about these people's stories this year has caused me to realize how easily I can slip into selfish thinking and spend time making sure my needs are met without considering others before myself.  May your Thanksgiving be different and may your heart be open to people around you who can impact you as these people have impacted me this year.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Full October

October was a very full and busy month for us; I think it's one of my favorite months of the year as it signals the upcoming holidays and brings cooler weather.  Not cold, just cooler.  I included some pictures from many of our outings this month as a collection of our fun-filled October.  The girls love storytime at our local library, and this day was our first real cold snap of the fall.
 We visited Cassie's new ranch one Saturday and enjoyed relaxing on the swing and playing outdoors.  Caroline took a load off while Claire finished napping.
 A pint-sized picnic table; come and join me!
 Relaxing with Emma and all bundled up to keep warm.
 Claire finally woke up just in time to take a ride on the Polaris.
 The girls:  Cassie, Baby Griffin, Emma, Caroline, Karie, and Claire! 
 We took a trip to Houston for Halloween and Grammy's birthday; getting ready together at Cassie's house before the big night.
 All girls again! 
 Hey, who needs candy when you have leaves?
 Our first house of the night!
 The next day, we took a trip to the Houston Zoo and enjoyed combing the goats.
 As October closes and November approaches, we are really into pigtails and puzzles and play-doh. 
 We just can't help being this cute!