December 30, 2011

Several Drummers Leaping/Piping/Dancing?

When people sing The Twelve Days of Christmas, it gets old fast. People usually can't remember if the drummers drumming or Lords a-leaping or ladies milking are day 6, 7 or 8. By the time you get past FIVE GOLDEN RINGS people get silly and don't take it seriously anymore.  Consider that my excuse for the past few days. :)

Hard to believe that this is the 9th day of Emma. The past few days have gone by in a blur. I will try to recap just a little bit of it.

1. There was a lot of hiking. We just moved into a new neighborhood in Phoenix by the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, so we are getting out walking or hiking. About 3 minutes in the car and we are at trailheads that head off into the desert landscape and either up or through desert mountains. I prefer through, but Charles, Emma and Maggie have been up several of them this week too.

2.There have been a lot of friends coming, going and staying. We have this tradition....or lack of planning?....that Emma's friends just come, spending day and/or night and I just need to know how many to cook dinner for. It's been this way since Tuesday. We love it. A lot of them are the regulars who have been doing this for 5 years at our house and some are newer. It's amazing to see a group of friends from freshman in high school through sophomore in college ages. They change a LOT and I'm really pleased to see how they've grown and are getting independent and grown up!

3. Wii Just Dance. Just about all of the above mentioned friends have been coerced into playing Just Dance on the Wii game station. Last night there was a big group here and they were really squealing and shouting and laughing so loud that I had to come out and watch for a while too.

4. Netflix. We signed up for a free month and all the people who are hanging out here are watching or at least talking about old shows they used to love when they were little. It is funny to see the different personalities they have but all of them have some cultural iconishness in common from watching the same goofy television shows or movies.  They would mention an old show they remembered and there were several minutes of saying quotes from it or singing the theme songs. So I mentioned Andy Griffith as we scrolled past it on the menu. They all just kind of look at me. Weird people.

5. Eating. I purposely put out all my leftover wonderful Christmas baked goods that have made their way into my house and they have amazingly disappeared! Maisy, our dog, was heavily influenced by this grazing of anything within reach. In fact, we would call her opportunistic ways greedy and gluttonous. She ate a large sized chocolate bar that was in a Christmas stocking.....along with most of the foil wrapper. We worried about her for one day but she doesn't seem to be in distress from it.  She's just a little heavier to pick up.

6. Playing. There has been a little golfing, Settlers of Catan has been almost permanently on my dining room table, today there was  a little remote control helicopter flying around the house (very cool!), and the sounds of Plants vs. Zombies. (yuck) Of course, the best sound of all the games is the laughter and enjoyment from being together again.

7. My favorite thing of the week was tonight though. Maggie was gone to a youth lock in, Hannah was at work and Beth across town on a date, and it was just Charles and I in the living room. Emma and  Sara (the last extra left for the evening) were getting ready to go to the lock in for the worship service.  Then we heard Emma pick up her guitar and start strumming and singing. She sang Slow Fade, Big House, and How He Loves Us. She and Sara sang loud with harmony and passion.

It made my throat get a big lump in it and tears ready to squirt out with gratefulness at how they have taken their faith as their own and are serving God as young adults. The world is loudly beckoning at them to join in the ruckus and they are keeping their focus. After sending our Emma out into the world to be on her own for college last year or to be owned by the army this year, it was so refreshing to see how her faith and passion is becoming stronger than ever.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:30-31 (NLT)

December 26, 2011

Day 5 almost finishes us was fun!

Emma and Hannah

Christmas Day started out busy busy and ended just perfectly, with everyone quietly in their own nook of the house, enjoying new little gadgets or books.

Charles was up cooking bacon early, which rouses everyone from sleep even though there were no gifts to open. The frozen waffles were in the oven by 8am and were eating Christmas breakfast by 8:20. My waffle maker gave up on us after last Christmas but the frozen Belgian waffles were actually better than my old maker could ever make them. Bacon, waffles with berries, real maple syrup and lots of pffft (canned whipped cream) and you have a Christmas feast that was gobbled up quickly so everyone could primp for church.

Christmas on a Sunday always throws us off, but we were glad to be in the house of the Lord this morning and it was a really nice service. Charles, Emma and I took two people home afterwards and didn't get back until almost 1pm. But they are dear people and their joy at being with us and Emma on Christmas for a while made it worth the time.

By the time we got there, some of my sisters had already arrived and were setting out appetizers and cooking and generally taking over. I was glad of it too, after a busy morning. I had planned on using my grandmother's old china, then we settled on paper plates instead, to save on work for everyone. But having used all my nice Christmassy paper plates for various little parties, we had to use leftover plates from different patterned paper products....some red, some blue and some orange.

And NO ONE cared! They got covered with food anyway. :)

My niece Bobbie, and sisters Jodi, me, Becky, and Julie watching croquet.

After lounging around a bit after eating dinner, we got out one of the girls' gifts....Just Dance 2 for the Wii. Two at a time all of my sisters, then all of my daughters and nieces, got up and danced to the characters on the Wii screen. SO FUN! We laughed and laughed. There was croquet, sitting out in the sun watching croquet, monopoly, cards, naps were taken loudly...zzzzzzz.... and football was watched when the men could usurp the television after all that loud napping. They all watched Cars 2 also. Hannah's boyfriend Sam was here with us all day, as his family is in Oregon and he and my 5 year old nephew had a lot of fun playing together.
Best quote of the day....
Gabriel: Sam, you're on MY team
(light saber in hand)
Sam: Okay, who's on the other team?
Gabriel: The grown ups!
Around 8pm people were gathering up their things and saying their goodnights. It was a wonderful, relaxing, fun day with family. I came back into the house, our dog Maisy was trying to gulp something down and I noticed brown crumbs all over the dining room. Someone has stolen the last of the brownies, taking full advantage of the good-bying....naughty, not nice.

As people were settling into their own spaces, Emma left went out the door with her boyfriend Tim and his family to see the new Mission Impossible movie. I can't even imagine the kind of energy you have when you are college aged anymore.

Before going to bed though, I wanted to try out the new facial peel mask Hannah gave me. It's blackberry something from Bath and Body Works and smells lovely, but it is as black as black shoe polish! Very scary to put it on your face. And I guess it was pretty funny to others because when I came out to get a glass of water, people were falling down laughing. I looked like an ole time minstrel singer, which was apparently hilarious...... It did peel off nicely and felt good afterward, so that was a relief. It was so nice to get into bed, all clean and it was so warm.... the time Emma got home from the movie, there was no one awake, not even a mouse....or naughty dog.

The 4th Day of Emma

I wish I had taken some pictures, but I was too busy enjoying myself to think of it!

Christmas Eve found us bustling around getting the house ready for Christmas. Charles took us all to Olive Garden for a late lunch, then a third of our group went to music rehearsal for the evening service. I love Christmas Eve candlelight church service. It feels warm and people are all aglow, hugging and handing each other cards or little gifts.

We worshiped God in song and spirit. We got hot wax treatments on our hands. ;) Part of the fun of a candlelight service is the delicate balance of keeping the dripping wax on your little flat paper candle skirt. The candle won...

On the way home we stopped by a house in our old neighborhood. Every December they put up an elaborate light display and the man of the house, who is a very talented engineer of some kind, sets the lights to music and they are really the best I've ever seen! He puts together a half hour production with various types of Christmas music, from Mannheim Steamroller to Veggie Tales I Can't Believe It's Christmas and Bing Crosby. So fun!

Another tradition is to watch The Polar Express on Christmas Eve just before bed. We turn up the surround sound so it feels like the train is coming through our family room. When it was over I mentioned quietly how creepy that movie is and my daughters were all saying, "YES, it is! I wondered if I was the only one who was creeped out by it!" haha So after the creepy Christmas movie.....

For the first time....


...we opened gifts on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning! Very nontraditional and strange, but of course it was fun and this year it was necessary because the Preacher had to be at church at 9:30am. And we had to have waffles, so to save us from frantic chaos on Christmas morning, we opened gifts.

When your children start becoming young adults, the presents are not as exciting or fun to open, but we did have one exciting gift. When we were all done and about to clean up the debri the Christmas tree started to play music box type music. We all just stared at it for a few seconds and then we sent Maggie to find the music box.

And it wasn't a music box. It was a cell phone. Maggie's first cell phone.

And there has been rejoicing and texting ever since.

December 24, 2011

Three days of fun.....

Christmas shopping is done and the house is clean. Let Christmas weekend begin!

I know Christmas rushes by and the stress of having everything done and bought and baked is high this year...for me at least. But take a few minutes when you are walking through your decorated house or see a Christmas window display and take some time to enjoy it. Really see things and appreciate what you've go this Christmas.

Since I am taking pictures every day while Emma is here for the holidays, I am capturing some moments I've been enjoying. It's been good to not only live through these days, but also to enjoy them and capture them in my mind and heart.

And if these pictures aren't enough, I wish I had taken one just now as I went to turn off lights. I found Emma, all by herself, watching Winnie the Pooh in the family room. ;) That's my soldier.

Maggie and her Pooh Bear cookie.

Maggie, Emma, Tim
Bethany, Sam
Sam and Hannah

Minions, Charlie Brown cast, Sully from Monsters Inc, hula girl and streaker.

December 23, 2011

On the second day of Emma...

Last night was sister night. For the past 3 years my daughters have been going to see The Nutcracker ballet the week before Christmas together. They get all dressed up and for over an hour makeup, hairspray and shoes fly around while they get ready.

Then we take pictures just before they dash away.

Hannah, Emma, Maggie and Beth

With Samuel.

With Sam and Jessica.

These are the only Christmas gifts I'm needing these days....warm, happy hearts and lots of love and fun. We are blessed to have each other!

December 22, 2011

Twelve Days: Homecoming

After a 3 hour delay our dear girl came down the airport corridor and into our arms yesterday. She's been at basic and MP training in Missouri since September 6 and it was a long fall! Only one call per week on Sundays (if they got their privileges that week), sparse but wonderful letters and a Facebook fan page were the only form of information and communication with her for the past 4 months. And now she is on holiday leave for 12 days! With us!

We are calling it The Twelve Days of Emma. Bring it!

Day one was celebrated caroling with our church and reunions with friends of Emma who came caroling. Then we came home and finished decorating our Christmas tree. We put it up in early December, but it's only had lights and ribbon on it until last night. We had a little Christmas decorating party with Christmas punch, Fritos and Bean Dip® and little round wedding cake cookies.


Things we see in a city on a daily basis become invisible to us for most people. Our focus is on other things and our brain becomes a selective filtering device tailored to our own interests and causes.

Our church is large. It sits right on a very busy city street on a large, uncrowded lot. A huge sanctuary with a large swooping A frame roof and two large two story buildings behind and beside it. Yet people who travel that street daily do not know it's there. It doesn't interest is not their "cause".

We are always trying to think of ideas to let our neighborhood know we care about them as a church. The desire at the core of our church is to reach our neighborhood with Christ's love. So last night my husband (our pastor) organized a Christmas caroling outreach for our neighbors. He chose the streets right across the busy street from our church. The people who live on that street must look directly at our building as they drive west every day, out to the main road.

We went to each house on three streets, rang the doorbell and left a professional looking flier and candy cane on their porch while the group sang from the street. So as they took the prepared flier, wishing them a Merry Christmas and inviting them to our Christmas services, I wondered if they recognized the name of the church or had ever looked our direction.

Only a handful of people peeked out from darkened windows, not wanting to be seen or talked to. At most of the houses, the people came out onto the porch, smiling, enjoying the songs and the "spirit of Christmas". Young couples, older retired people, single adults and families with little children gathered at their open doors to smile and thank us as we sang. One woman couldn't get over the fact that we were caroling. She hadn't seen carolers in years and years and she was thrilled! She spent several minutes with a few of our people after we'd moved on to the next house asking about our group and church and thanking them.

I think it was so well received that we'll probably make it a yearly event. Mission accomplished with a very old fashioned holiday tradition.....we made personal contact with our neighbors in a loving, fun way and did something to show them we care.

And we do. And we're praying they will find out God cares deeply about them too.

December 8, 2011

Our finest gifts we bring pah rum pah pum pum

While you are making your list, include one for Jesus.
(It's His birthday)

Bring Him your best gift....something just for Him.....
and bless Him, make Him smile. 

 ...whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
(1 Cor 10:31)

I saw this video this morning
and was smiling all the way through!
So joyful. 

December 6, 2011

Scrambling up the holidays

We have moved and settled into a new house! Some friends of ours bought this house as an investment and they wanted us to rent it from them (for a great deal) so they'd have renters they knew and trusted. Having never lived in such a large, beautiful home before, we are loving it! Gradually we moved our things over during the last half of November. Then the last load came over the day before Thanksgiving. And we hosted Thanksgiving dinner here. My sisters helped me organize and put up my home decor, so it was well worth it.

I didn't realize how it would put my brain in a scramble to move during the holidays though. People cringed when I said we were doing this just before Thanksgiving, but I couldn't see it til it was upon me, scrambling my thoughts and natural rhythm of living. (not sure how to word that, but that is what I ended up with) So life right now is about catching up on all that lost time, when I should have been decorating my house for Christmas and making cookies and thinking of things to buy or make. eek!

To mess with my head just a little more, Maggie is in the Christmas play at school, which is now farther away from us. Yesterday I made the drive there and back four times...that makes 2 full hours I was driving in the car. TRAFFICKY ....that was what my theme word for yesterday. (also herds of white cars....I never realized they travel in packs but I kept seeing it) And this year I was going to really try to make the holidays more simplified....when will I learn how to do that?


Well, plays do end (this weekend), decorations eventually make it to their destinations and shopping makes me grouchy anyway. As I was typing this up, I just remembered that I spent a good portion of the past year studying a book inspired by the story of Mary and Martha with some fellow pastors' wives.....

Luke 10  38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”
 41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Jesus is so smart, isn't He? "Only one thing is worth being concerned about." I wish He followed me around and reminded me of things like that.....

...oh yeah! He does! (you can consider this your reminder too)