Monday, December 28, 2009

And so comes the New Year... An Update

There's been lots of decision making in the past few weeks. The new year is right around the corner and it's looking like along with it are going to come some changes. With news that Aaron's blood pressure is high, we'll be making some changes to our diets and amount of exercise. With the decision to look into finishing our basement, we'll find ourselves on a much more strict budget...
The hopes are that we may have a finished basement by early summer at the latest... and my hopes are that we may have another Gregg added to our family somewhere in the late spring or summer of 2011 ;) That's been news I wondered if I'd ever get to share, but it seems if a man gets a mancave, a wife gets a baby :) Of course, God changes plans and sometimes cancels them, so we'll see what happens on both of those fronts as the coming months unfold.
I'm excited to see all of the new things that Bryton will be doing this year. It seems like a week goes by and he's a different kid... I'll be sure to keep you posted, and if we so finish the basement, I'll make sure you have pictures to watch the process happen!
Love you all, and happy new year!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Peace in Response to Chaos

It's Christmas Eve. All of Scripture had led up to this morning. All of Creation had led and pointed to this time. The Savior of the world coming to Earth, the answer, the solution, to our sin problem.
And so the song says, "Silent night, Holy night, all is calm, all is bright... sleep in heavenly peace."
All of us who have had children know that nights, especially birthing nights, aren't silent, aren't calm, and aren't always peaceful. But with this birth came the prince of peace. With Jesus came the peace that surpasses understanding. Jesus was the peace that exists in response to chaos. A real baby, he had real baby characteristics. It had to be ironic to Mary when Jesus had a fussy night that He came as the Prince of Peace. That's incredible.
Christmas has never held the wonderment and emotion that it has this year. Christmas songs have, this year, brought tears. The Christmas story, brought joy and appreciation. I've found myself more in awe of God, more in awe of this baby Jesus, than I ever have before. Thank you, God for Christmas, for everything that it entails. For loving us with your strength, for guiding us with your light, and for accepting us in your grace. Oh precious baby Jesus.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Gospel

It’s the Gospel... God becomes man as a baby, through a woman who is a virgin. He lives a sinless life on this sinful Earth, teaches great truth, heals the sick, feeds the people, walks on water and is crucified for the sins of the world. Three days later this God-man raises from the dead, spends 40 days teaching and appearing to His people, and makes His way back to Heaven with a promise to one day come again. It’s amazing. It’s unbelievable. It isn’t everyday a 33 year old sinless male is hung on the cross, the supernatural happens, he’s put in a grave and he enters back among the living three days later. But somehow, we still manage to live our Christian lives like this is a hum-drum event, like it happens everyday, like there isn’t much special about it.
The power of God can’t transform us because we don’t allow the power of His message change us. We say we believe, but do we really? If we did, would we be hum-drum in our excitement about Christ? Wouldn’t we tell everyone we knew? Wouldn’t we be ecstatic that we aren’t doomed to Hell forever? Wouldn’t there be more joy and anticipation in our lives?
What would happen if we really believed? Would our towns be revolutionized? Would our country forever be changed? Would the world be introduced to a living God? What would happen if we believed the gospel to be exactly what it claims to be, the Good News of Jesus Christ?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mary Like Me

At the time when we celebrate Christ’s birth, I think sometimes we overlook it’s significance. As a parent now, I experience the amazingness (haha my own made up word) of raising a son myself. Every day is a new joy and a new challenge. Every day I’m reminded how fortunate I am. I realize this year what a miracle a child is... and even moreso, what a miracle a virgin birth is, and just as much, the everyday life of Mary and Joseph raising a son as a child, but having the unique challenge of raising the Son of God.
Here’s a little of my reflection:

It’s 7:00 a.m.
The alarm has not gone
And I hear a hand beating
Like the sound of a drum,
And some babbling coming
From the end of the hall,
And I know my days started at the sound of your call.
And up from the crib you reach up to me,
And I’m no longer concerned about the little lost sleep,
With your beautiful smile you light up my day.
And I look forward to watching you learn as you play.

And I wonder if Mary felt the same way.

And your little soft feet now pitter my floor
From hallway to table, from window to door,
And on an occasion you’ll slip and you’ll fall,
And my little heart breaks though there are no tears at all.
And I want to protect you from all of life’s pain,
From every scraped knee to every mean name,

And I wonder if Mary thought the same thing.

And I’ll watch as you grow and experience life,
All of the joy and all of the strife,
And I’ll pray you find Jesus and follow Him close,
That you’ll follow His path for you, wherever it goes
Because His hand will guide you better than I,

I wonder if Mary knew her Son could save mine.

And it’s 2000 years ago in the mid of the night,
Man and a woman in midst of a fright,
Have no bed to rest on, No room in the inn,
And the little boy’s coming, His life would begin.
The only birth that gave birth to light,
As a star appeared in the midst of the sky,

And I wonder if Mary had any clue why.

And her baby like mine, he learned to sit up,
Said his first word, drank out of a cup,
Took his first steps and then learned to read,
And I’m sure she’s as proud as any mother would be.
Is it possible she loved him the same kind of way,
That I love and cherish my son everyday?
I wonder how Mary and Jesus would play.

I’d imagine Mary was like you and like me,
Raising a baby to be what God wants them to be,
Yes, I’d imagine we could talk of our sons,
Of the joy they gave with little things done,
The bedtime routines and the silly games played,
The bedtime kisses and little prayers prayed.
I wonder if Mary knew of the lives that’d be saved.

And I wonder the memories that flooded her thoughts,
Of his first word, or the first fish he caught,
As she witnessed Him hung up on a tree,
I can’t imagine any solace that He was there to save me,
When her baby boy, the one that she loved,
Was grieving in pain and covered with blood.

Yes, to imagine our Savior born into this world,
Like you and like me, born of a girl,
Who would do her best to raise her Son right,
Often up in the midst of the night,
And I wonder what stories Mary would name
of her Son’s favorite color and His eternal reign.


I’m a mom this year at Christmas. Well, I guess I was last year too, but this year, I really feel like a mom. I have a little boy who runs to me with open arms, who I really believe knows who I am, and, I must admit, I know a little bit more this year about being a parent than I did last year. So I realllly feel like a mom this year.
Christmas is a weird thing to “figure” out when you have a ‘family’ and you aren’t just a ‘couple’ anymore. I’m working on trying to find family traditions for us for holidays, you know, not just for Christmas but for the 4th of July, and New Years, and Halloween, you know... holidays. So obviously, now, I’m talking about Christmas.
I have some simple things I’ve already instilled... like buying a new tree ornament every year, symbolizing something that has happened in our family. I want it to be something we can do together. And baking cookies. And of course, we’re trying to figure the Santa thing out. We do stockings for each other... and I want to read the Christmas story together on Christmas Eve as a family.
So in thinking about all of these things and finding the balance between overwhelming ourselves with traditions that we tolerate and being excited about traditions we enjoy, I started thinking back to my own childhood and what I remembered about Christmas, in general. Here’s a little of my recollection:
- We always opened presents together, as a family, on Christmas morning. I liked that. I enjoyed having that time, even if it was early because we were gone the rest of the day.
- My mom and I ALWAYS baked cookies together. Especially her Snowballs. This tradition is so important to me that I’ll try to do it exactly with Bryton, if he enjoys it. Snowballs and all. I loved this!
- We watched The Grinch, the original Grinch, every year together as a family, as well as National Lampoon’s family vacation. I foresee lots of those traditions in my family as well.
- As I got older we all opened one present early. Kids choices. I’ll never forget my last Christmas as a ‘kid’ in my parent’s house... I chose an awesome present for me and my mom. My dad, on the other hand, opened socks. bahahahaha!
- We always decorated the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Would love to say I may carry on this tradition, but I may be too early for that ;)
- We went at least one night out driving and looking at Christmas lights.
- I got an apple and an orange in every Christmas stocking I ever received... all the way through age 20! I’ll repeat that one! Sure beats a whole stocking of candy!!!
And here are some I’d like to add to my family:
- The ornament thing listed above.
- The Christmas story, listed above.
- Giving as a family. More specifically, allowing Bryton to “buy” for an Angel child every year.
- Secret Santa stockings. (This may be how we touch on the story of St. Nick in our Christmas celebration... it still points back to Jesus’ gift.)
- The possibility of ‘gold, frankincense, myrrh gifts.’
- Of course, Christmas cookies, movies, and hot chocolate.
- And, as children get older, skiing, if only in St. Louis.

But I'm open to suggestions! What are the family traditions YOU love?

Friday, December 18, 2009

An Updating Blog

It's not often that I just talk about us... so that's what I'm doing.
It's the Friday before Christmas... and all through the house, husband and baby are sleeping,
well, that's what's going on at this very moment mind you. And I'm blogging, and watching Ellen.
And Aaron and I both have headaches. I'm praying for relief for mine, he's been to the chiropractor and is headed to the doctor this afternoon. Apparently he's had a headache for, oh, about 2 months straight now. So, the sleeping is in an effort to help a headache.
I LOVE this time of year. I love the decorations and all of it. (I'm sure you all know this if you read my blogs at all :) But as much as I LOVE this time of year, I hate it all the same on December 26th. There's almost this post holiday funk we all get into. It's almost... depressing. So I'm mentally trying to prepare myself for that this year, and giving myself things to look forward to.
We have Christmas with my 'rents on Sunday. We are leaving for Aaron's rents on Tuesday, and will be back for my grandparents Christmas on Christmas day, doing our Christmas together on Christmas night. Busy Busy, but I'm definitely looking forward to it.
Tonight Aaron and I are supposed to be doing Fujiamas for a much needed date night. Praying the headaches get better before then!
In new new news :) it's looking like we may be taking on a huge project for 2010... finishing our basement. I'm praying that the basement project may eventually lead to the project of bringing another Gregg into the world ;) We'll see how that goes. For this year I'll enjoy the two that I have ;)
So that's basically the update on us. Please be praying for the headaches in our family... what's this all about anyway? Ugh.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Good Friends...

(Some mentioned are not pictured!) :)

Are hard to come by. It's true. As a member of the female gender, I had good friends growing up, but there were always those females who were all out for the drama. Girls were constantly backstabbing one another, and the Lord knows how difficult it was to be 'just' friends with guys. Then, my senior year of high school I was certain I'd never have a friend again. The friends I had known all my life no longer showed much interest in me, and I felt for sure no one would ever want to befriend the girl who'd been labeled 'Jesus' as a derogatory term.

I had to get to a place where I could accept that. If I never had a "best friend" again... or even a boyfriend again... that had to be okay. Jesus had to be enough. It wasn't comfortable, in fact, it hurt. The sting of attending school every day and feeling alone was deep. But I constantly had to remind myself and proclaim to God that He was enough in my life.
Fast forward, well, apparently about 7 years since I'm 25 now, and I realize the blessings I have in my life. I've obviously had a boyfriend, as I now have a husband and a beautiful baby boy. Together they give me great joy! I read some lyrics to a song yesterday that echoed in my heart all day:
"He loves your old guitar
Yeah he's taught himself to play
He melts my heart
Tells me he loves me everyday
And cracks a joke at the prefect time
Makes me laugh when I wanna cry
That boy is everything to me
He gets that from you
He gets that from you "
I cry just reading them. Aaron and Bryton are such blessings in my life. Every perfect gift is from above.
And then there are the friends. Wonderful, beautiful, amazing friends. A group of women in my life, that, to be honest, I never would have put together. A wonderful working mom of 3, almost 4 children, with a great deal of wisdom to share, a compassionate stay at home mom of 2 who adds joy and constant fun in my life, a beautiful mother to be who I can always count on to be honest and to help me carry my burdens, 2 other trying-to-be-mom-to-bes ;) who are encouragers and always make me laugh. And the list continues.
It was such an incredibly hard stint in my life to feel so very alone, but two amazing victories came out of it. First, Jesus and I became very very close. He really was enough for me. Second, I realized that the friends worth having are worth the wait. I don't feel the pressure of drama or worry about anyone being mad at anyone. We all recognize that we all have faults, but love each other regardless.
To all of you friends and family in my life: Thank you... and know that I thank God for you daily!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dear Tiger

Dear Tiger,
We’ve never met. You’ve never passed me on the street. Your eyes have never caught a glimpse of me. But I know much of you.
Odd isn’t it. You don’t know my name or face, but I know both about you, and so so much more.
Well, anyway. I wanted to tell you that I’m a sinner. Maybe I feel an obligation to do so. I mean, if we’re going to communicate on an even playing field, and I have been exposed to so much of your... lifestyle... I need to tell you, and remind myself, that we’re in this thing together. We’re both living life and fighting a common enemy... sin. I can be more specific with you regarding my sin at a... well... at a less public writing.
But you know... in saying that I realize how fortunate I am that I can make that decision, to be less public about my personal life, because you, Tiger, obviously don’t have that advantage. And to you, I’m sorry. When you’ve made poor decisions, it isn’t just your immediate family, or your employers, or even the media, it’s millions of people all over the world casting judgment and picking up stones. And you know, Tiger, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t bend over to pick one up myself.
I mean, seriously, I’m a female, so can obviously relate to your, may I mention, beautiful wife. And I’m married to a huge golf fan, and I work with youth who think you are made of gold. To say that the recent allegations are a let down is an understatement. I’m not going to condone your sin. What you have done is wrong. (And so is what I have done.)
But, on the same hand, I have sympathy for your situation. Sympathy for whatever has led you to this point in your life. Sympathy for the loss of your father. Sympathy that your family has fallen apart. But mostly, sympathy that your chances of reconciliation are much less than the average person. You have many more people in which to reconcile with. You have fans, and employers, and yourself. Not to mention your family, and most importantly, God. I have sympathy that the task at hand, even if you are repentant, is so large and so difficult.
Granted, sin always has consequences.
I’m not sure why I have sympathy. If my husband behaved as you have, I’d have more than stones in my hand... I’m sure I’d have divorce papers. Maybe it is because our eyes have never met, that our hands have never shook, that our paths have never crossed. Maybe it is because, to me, our only common ground is that of a spiritual concern, that we are both heading to the same place (despite our beliefs), and that, at death, we’ll both be judged accordingly. Maybe it is because I know in the big scheme of things, if you are, in your heart, repentant and saved, that we are both one in the same... Christians, saved by God’s dear grace. Your sin no greater than mine, both debtors, forgiven.
So Tiger, I just wanted to say this, I bent down to pick up those stones, and as these thoughts flooded my mind, I grabbed them quickly and hid them. I have no desire to be stoned today for my wrong-doings, and you’re catching enough off the cheek as it is, you don’t need anymore from my direction.
My prayers for you are repentance, healing, and salvation.

Alicia Gregg

Thursday, December 10, 2009

So I Was Watching TCT

Mark this day on your calendar, folks, you may never see a title like this ever again!
So let me clarify, I was flipping through our 20 channels tonight and noticed that TCT didn't look like TCT normally does (you know, preacher hair, a bluegrass band, and lots of happy congregants). Nope, this time it was a woman standing in a kitchen talking about the practical side of Christmas stuff. You know, how to throw a good, easy, informal party, how to pack and ship perishable items (I actually found that to be good information, though I've never packed and shipped Banana Bread before), and how to shop for baskets through the year, wash them out, and use them to make great Christmas baskets as inexpensive gifts.
After my shock that TCT was actually addressing practical life occurences wore off, I began thinking about what she was saying about her basket thing. And it started a whole train of thoughts... it went kind of like this...
She said: "And you don't just have to do this at Christmas time either, if you have a sick friend pack the basket full of soup, cough drops, medicines and hot herbal teas. Maybe even a crossword for laying in bed."
And here is my train of thoughts:
Why didn't I think of that?
Why do we just do things like that at Christmas?
I'm sick, and that totally would have made my day!
It would have been so convenient to have things delivered to my door.
Practical things!
But it would have been even better to know that someone cared and thought that much of me!
That, in and of itself, would have made me feel better!
Why don't I ever do this for anyone else?
Why is this not part of our Christian experiences?
I mean, it makes us feel good too!
And it shows people that we really do love them!
Maybe I should start doing this... really trying to heed my opportunities!
And not just for my "good friends", but for people I just kind of know, and for people I don't really know, and maybe, yes maybe, I can even do it for my enemies.
Like the book Enemy Pie Mrs. Dublo read.
Maybe I should blog about that book. I was inspired.
Anyway, baskets.
They don't have to be baskets.
They can be gift bags.
Or flowers when someone is down.
Or a card in the mail.
You know, all depending on the circumstances.
Yep, I smell another new december's resolution.
Where's the laptop, I gotta blog...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Become What You Believe

I've been perplexed lately, and I can't really pinpoint why for sure. But here is what I do know.
I know that this holiday season I have felt more joy and have offered more sincere prayers of "thanksgiving" than I have in years past. I know that, though not always easy, I've been blessed with an amazing husband and an amazing son, and I want nothing more than to grow our family and to grow together as a family. I know that this year I realize that these things in my life are gifts, given to me as a privilege from God in heaven, that I not only am not worthy of such blessings, but moreso, I do not deserve them.
I know that all of the talk I hear of 'Santa Claus' and 'presents' this year at school has made my skin crawl. Please don't misunderstand, I myself love buying and getting presents for Christmas every year. But the imbalance between what I hear about presents and what I hear about Christ is insane. In fact, it's safe to say that the only place I hear of Jesus at all is at church. Which urks me almost the same because I feel like there is no extra excitement this time of year.
For goodness sakes, we are celebrating the birth of a savior after what was 400 years of NOT hearing from God. That's pretty awesome! We don't have to go to hell.
I know that Christmas music, the hymnal type, is making me oh so wonderfully excited about celebrating our Savior's birth. For the first time I'm noticing that worship happens in that "everyday" Christmas music too!
On the same turn, I'm frustrated now that it's just everyday Christmas music.
All of that said to say this:
I've been reading my "message" every night before bed. (Ok, not every night, but I'm trying really really hard.) In Matthew 9:29 Jesus says (in the message paraphrase), "Become what you believe." Isn't that amazing? Become what you believe.
We talk a whole lot this time of year about 'believing.' To be frank about it, I'm confused when I see Christmas decor or items with this phrase on it if it's referring to Jesus or to Santa. The confusion frustrates me. Why should there be confusion? All in all, I think we do become what we believe. If we believe Jesus, and His words, and His life, we become more like Jesus. If we believe commercials and society who tell us we can't live without the next great thing, chances are we'll become extremely materialistic.
Again, please don't misunderstand me, I love presents like the next one... but I want Christ to be the center of our Christmas this year!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven

But nobody wants to die. It's my current read, and it's David Crowder, which of course = amazing. It's weird. I didn't expect the book to really be about death as much as it is. But, it is definitely about death. (Ok, and bluegrass.) (Who would have thought, a book really about what the title says its about. What a concept.)
Anyway, it's bringing to light a topic that I rarely choose to talk about and, well, rarely want to talk about. It's revealing the truth, the dirty truth, about the thoughts that come from such a topic. Even amongst Christians.
You'll have to wait for the complete synopsis until I get finished reading... but I'd encourage you to read it on your own. The vocabulary alone is impressive. (I mean, come on, it's Crowder.)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

AHHH date night!

I love having plans. I love going out. I love having an evening out with the man I love. Can you tell we are going on a date tonight? I'm pretty stoked about it too.
So our original plans fell through. We were supposed to be going to Patti's for one mean pork chop and their amazing Christmas lights, but, we called Wednesday and the only available reservation was at 9:15 p.m. Crazy. So, we are going to Giant City Lodge instead. Should be a good time!
Next weekend we go out for my birthday. Dinner, movie, birthday shopping, and Christmas shopping for B. I'm pretty stoked about it! We almost have all of our Christmas shopping finished! Yay!
This is a random, I'm gonna blog like a girl blog ;)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

You Ever Find it Funny

That we celebrate the birth of the Light of the world during the darkest time of the year...
That we celebrate the giver of life when everything in nature seems to be dead and cold...
Granted... it isn't that way for everyone in this world, but to me it seems fitting.
When we are in our darkest places, our lowest valleys, when life doesn't seem to be worth living... Jesus comes. He comes in a manger, in ways we'd never expect Him, but He comes.
He is faithful through all seasons, but during the darkness the light can lead us most effectively (think shepherds and wise men here), and during are hardships Jesus can comfort us more fully.
I absolutely love this time of the year. I love the bustle and the decorations, I love the food, and even lavish parties (though I don't believe I've ever been to one ;), I'll even admit that I love presents. The giving and the getting. Most importantly though, I love Jesus, and it is He that we celebrate during this time of year!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

On Precipitation

Precipitation is so consequential. I mean, really. Check it out, here are my thoughts (and opinions) on precipitation.
Rain is lousy, almost always. Unless it's a short summer shower in the middle of an extremely hot day and it cools things off as opposed to steaming them up. Oh, and of course to make the "unlousy" category there must, obviously, be a rainbow.
Snow is more complicated. It is acceptable, and even encouraged, if occurring after Thanksgiving Day and before New Year's day. It is prayed for on Christmas Eve. Snow with no accumulation is pretty, but somewhat purposeless, thus, snow should really be encouraged to fall in heavy amounts. THEN, snow should not prevent already planned events from occurring due to hazardous roadways and being snowed in, unless of course the being snowed in is alone with my husband in a cottage in the woods with a big fire in the fireplace, then we can take that into consideration. Snow should cancel exactly two school days in any given school year, and children should be encouraged to play in this snow by making wonderful jolly snowmen and by tubing down large glistening hills.
Of course, rain and wet snow are incredibly inappropriate during the timing of outdoor events.
Hail, or "icelated" rain (haha, it's a joke), is acceptable exactly one time in any given year for the exclusive purpose of "wowing" us with such a miracle. It should be exactly 3/4 of an inch in diameter, enough to 'wow', but not enough to cause any major damage. The size should be that between a pebble and a golfball. It must, of course, happen in late March or early April, and thus, be followed by a rainbow. It may only occur when every automobile is parked safely in shelter, and the temperature must be low enough that the remains may be played with and collected after the hail has ceased to fall.
Obviously, if I was in control of precipitation, not only would farmers be without jobs, we all would not exist as we would have died of dehydration eyons ago. However, you can see my perspective now, that precipitation is consequential. The circumstances dictate whether it is appreciated or loathed. Today, it was loathed.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Santa's in our Manger

When I was little my parent's had to leave the presents from Santa Claus out on our deck because I was terrified of a fat man in a red suit being in our house. And who's ever heard of reindeer who fly, anyway. So (spoiler warning), when I found out there was no Santa Claus I asked first, "Do I still get presents?", and second, "Then why did we do this?" If my parents had been giving me those presents all along, why would they put someone else's name on the "from" part of the tag?
And now I'm the parent. Bryton is one, still young enough that he'll have no recollection of this Christmas. I'm okay with that because we are now fighting the Santa battle. No, not where the presents should be left, but whether he should be included at all.
I should state before moving on that I don't dislike all things that are "Santa". I love the movie Elf, and The Grinch, I have a Santa statuey figurine thing that I really enjoy, I enjoy The Santa Clause, and even a few songs about Santa. I'm not saying that the story of Saint Nicholas isn't a story that should be mentioned to your children in lessons regarding the beauty of giving. I think that is important in a persons life. In fact, when we give gifts to our children and to each other at Christmastime, it would be a wise story to tell.
Here's my beef with Santa. And maybe it's not even with Santa, because if what I read about "Ole' St. Nick" is true, he was a Christian, and quite frankly, I think he would roll over in his grave if he knew that people were standing in lines at malls to spend lots of money they didn't have, standing in long lines to get pictures taken with him, and writing his name on the "from" part of the tag when Christmas is really about Jesus.
ANYHOW, Aaron and I are in this awkward time of our lives trying to figure out if Santa Claus is really the way to go. Honestly, the ONLY reason I would 'do' Santa Claus in our house is because it is the social norm (bad reason number 1), and so that my kid doesn't ruin it for all of the other kids (not a horrible bad reason but still not good). So, the question is, "Is it worth it to make Jesus share His season with Santa Claus for the sake of all of the other kids." I'm not sure.
But this is what I am sure of:
Today I subbed in a music class at the elementary school. Kindergarten - 4th grade. For the sake of this particular post we are going to concentrate mostly on K, 1st, and 3rd grades. Here is why:
The 3rd graders (mostly not Santa Claus followers anymore), were required to listen to very poor versions of old Christmas songs we'd all sing in church. You know, Away in a Manger, O Holy Night, Go Tell it On the Mountain, etc. They knew very few of the words. The language was difficult for them. They had no idea what the songs were saying, and to be honest, very few of these kids knew them. I had looked so forward to this part of my day, but it quickly became the part of the day that fell apart the quickest.
The kindergarten and 1st graders, well, they watched a Christmas Sing Along. Not a gospel story in site. Everything Santa and Reindeers you could possibly want. They not only knew the words but were elated at the sight of Santa. In fact, I stopped showing one part of the movie for fear they'd never let me sub again because of the volume level they were reaching when Santa came on the screen. It was sheer... joy. Over Santa. At Christmas. And my heart fell to pieces on the floor.
Supposedly a great deal of what we are going to 'know' in life comes before the age of 6. Everything else after that builds on the important things learned at 6. Ironically, 2nd and 3rd grades... say 7 -9 years old... are about the times most kids stop believing in Santa. What sticks with them after that about Christmas? Gifts. It's just like my question when I found out, "Well, am I still getting presents?" Yep, because that's what it was about to me at that point. That is what I knew about Christmas.
I want my son to know Christ about Christmas. I mean, what is Christmas without Christ? What would have been the reason for 'Ole St. Nick' to begin with? There would be none.
Have we completely ruled out doing 'Santa' in our house... not completely, we are still in the talking stages. Are we judging anyone who does it? Nope, you have to make that call for your family. But I can say this for ours, whether we 'do' Santa or not, He will not be residing in the manger.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Something a little Personal

So, I think about everything. Most of you have realized that by now. So, I've started writing B letters here and there. I tell him daily how much I love him, how proud I am of him, that he is precious to me, and I realize that he can't understand that right now. He understands that I'm there for him, that I'll comfort him when he's hurt and feed him when he's hungry, but there's so much more I want him to know... even if he has to read it later. So, I've started writing him letters. If something were to happen to me, I'd want him to know what a joy he was in his mother's life. So, don't expect to see many of those, but I wanted to share this first one. Here it is:

To My Precious Baby Boy –

It’s just past your first birthday. I cannot believe how much you’ve grown! I feel like I’ve blinked since I could feel you moving around in my tummy, and now you are walking across the room! You have gotten big so quickly!
I want you to know, Bryton, how much you’ve changed mommy’s life. You have made me a better, less selfish person. You make me want to try new things, invest more in the people I love, and have more fun with life. I’m not as afraid of failure now, as I see the many things you are learning everyday, the many times you have failed, and I get to be there for your ultimate triumph. Had you not failed, you would not have succeeded. Please don’t ever be afraid of failure!
As your mother, I am so proud of you! Your little smile completely warms my heart, and I get so much joy from watching you learn, play, and live. You always make me laugh, and, to be honest, my life will never be the same now that you are a part of it.
B, I also pray for you everyday. I pray that you will find Jesus quickly, that you’ll obey Him and love Him in such a way that it will change the decisions you make in life. I can’t even begin to explain to you how much I love you. The depths of my love are deep, and the love is thick. But much deeper than my love for you is Jesus’ love for you. He will always love you better than I, or any other person, ever could. He’ll always guide you better than I ever could. And, B, as wonderful as I think you are, you need Him. Without Him you can’t do anything. Without Him you have no joy. My prayer for you, my precious child, is to have the joy that we can’t always understand, to have a Savior there for you during every trial and every triumph in your life, and to love God with all of your heart. God’s love never fails, He never grows weary, He does not get tired. Regardless how big or how small your problem, Jesus is enough.
No matter what, baby boy, never forget your mother’s love for you, always try to love the people God places in your life, make good decisions, don’t be afraid of failure, always put God first, and be sensitive to the needs of others. Embrace sacrifice, some of your greatest gifts come from sacrifice. Love those that appear to be unlovable, and pray, pray, pray, pray, pray. Especially when you don’t want to. When you think something nice about someone, say it. It’s better to compliment too much than not enough. Choose your battles wisely. Only the ones you’d be willing to die for need be fought.
You are sleeping as I write this. It’s rainy outside. We are two days away from Thanksgiving, and like usual, thoughts of you continually pop into my mind. In just a short year our lives have changed so very much, but dear Bryton, below Jesus it is your daddy and you that fall next on what I’m thankful for this year. God has given me great joy through you, and He has taught me a great deal about the love of the Father by allowing me the privilege of knowing and loving you.
I look forward to all He has in store for our lives together. I love you, precious.

Now until forever –

Sunday, November 29, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

As I write today Bryton is fussing in his crib. Naps don't come easily to teething babies, so I apologize in advance if my thoughts seem somewhat scattered.
I've never been a New Year's Resolution maker. Maybe it's because I'm afraid of failure. Maybe it's because I'm too lazy. Maybe it's because I'm a traditionalist who doesn't like change. More than likely, I'd say it is because it just seems like another trivial thing we do. It's like buying presents at Christmas or trick or treating on Halloween. It's what we do on New Year's Eve while contemplating how to make the next year better than the one before.
But not this year. This year I'm mixing it all up and I'm having December resolutions. Yep, you heard me. I started noticing some areas in my life where I could offer improvement to myself, and I heard myself think, "That would make a great new year's resolution." Then, I thought to myself, "Why do we wait until New Year's to improve? Why don't we do it now?" Well, I think part of that answer is that we don't really want to change anyway. No wonder our resolutions fail so often.
So I decided it's time. It's time for me to take these broad, yet attainable goals that I've set for myself and start on them. So, for all of you who care, here is my December Resolution List:
1. Take more pictures with just me and my husband. We used to take a LOT of pictures together. I treasured them greatly. Since Bryton was born, though, it's just been easier for one of us to be on the other side of the camera so I have some pictures with B, Aaron has some pictures with B, and we have a lot of pictures of B, but we have very few of all three of us and even fewer of just Aaron and I. So this year it's more pictures of me and the hubs!
2. Read my Bible daily. I'll be honest. I expect to fail in this department. I'm not setting myself up to fail, but it seems unattainable. Sicknesses and life just happen and this goal can be hard to achieve. But I know this, I can read it more than what I am. I'm making a good 4 days a week or so, on normal weeks, so you wouldn't think it would be hard for me to step it up another 3 days. If there's been a resolution I've had several times, this has been the one. I'm going to give it all I've got this time, and we'll see where I end up.
3. I'm going to write daily. In honesty, that's what this blog was about. This was that resolution that went through my head. As you can see, I've already 'failed', if you can so call it that, as B had a very rough night on Friday night. My intentions were to blog after he went to bed, and let's just say that never officially happened. But, you know what? I've succeeded in writing several days worth of blogs that would have never made way had I not decided to do this. So, kudos to me. It doesn't have to be 100% to be a success.
4. I want to consistently be reading a book at all times. I used to LOVE to read! For Christmas one year my entire family on my dad's side bought me Waldenbooks (there was no Barnes and Noble) gift certificates. It was almost $300 worth of gift cards. I bought and read a LOT of books. (I spent all $300 in one trip, and had the books read in less than 3 months.) I'm not sure if life happened or the internet happened or what, but I've stopped reading. I'm not setting out to read every day, but consisently enough that I'm finishing and remembering what I'm reading within a reasonable amount of time.
So there it is. I'm not making a bunch of them because, well, who has time for that? But this is what I'm setting out to accomplish. I'll let you know at New Years how I'm doing ;)
Oh, and a picture to show I'm already making strides ;)
Us at Youth Specialties, downtown Atlanta Christmas tree in Centennial Park
Us in front of the fountains (which you can't see, grrr) in Centennial Park.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Hope of the Nations

If there was a place I thought the National Youth Worker’s Convention lacked this year, it’d be in their Big Room worship sessions. They decided to, rather than expose us to different worship leaders from across the country, to have a consistent worship team for the entire event. That is, except for one evening, then they resorted to have a children’s choir lead us in worship. It was more than your average children’s choir though. These children were from Kenya and had been flown to engage us in an amazing worship experience with the Lord.
One of the things I’ve always looked forward to about heaven is the “every tribe, every tongue” verse. Though these children were leading us in our own language, their own language was prominent in their speaking and singing. You could see the zeal they felt towards the Lord. They were eager to share their favorite verses with the 3000 of us youth workers. We could only desire the same amount of zeal in our own children and youth and even ourselves. At the evenings end they skipped down the long aisle, through the arena, slapping high fives to all of us youth leaders who had crowded the aisle to get a better glimpse and even a touch of these blessed children who were so madly in love with Jesus.
I felt a great amount of emotion as they had led us through several songs. As they sang Mighty to Save (“Shine your light and let the whole world see”) I, possibly for the first time, could physically see and touch the importance of missions. And I’m not necessarily referring to our mission work towards them. That is, of course, important. But what they contributed to spiritually for me that night was unbelievable.
As they sang “God of this City, (“You’re the God of this city, You’re the King of these people, You’re the Lord of this nation, You are”), I felt a great deal of encouragement as I allowed these children, who had grown up in poverty and poorer circumstances, to sing over us. It’s amazing how often we, One Nation Under God, can forget about the fact that we are “under” anyone. To hear these children sing this over us was to hear, “He’s still in charge here, He’s still King.” It was encouraging and wonderful to know that though thousands and thousands of miles and cultural differences separate us, we have and worship the same King, and that, in and of itself, is all that matters. Christ is the common denominator... always.
I knew standing there that evening that I had received a little glimpse of heaven. I’m almost guaranteed to never be standing in the same state, not to mention the same room, with the same group of children this side of Heaven. I look forward to worshiping again with them someday, and I can only hope to have the same amount of zeal and passion that they had that evening.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Big Annoying Toys & Spider Veins

My biggest fear before becoming a parent and experiencing pregnancy was having large, annoying, brightly colored toys littering the adult space of my home. Honest. Pretty pathetic, isn’t it? Many, many months later, and slightly more intelligent, I don’t mind those toys now at all. I would be lying if I said that I don’t make sure they are hidden in “their spots” when Bryton is in bed for the evening, but I am definitely not paranoid about them being out.
Needless to say, however, when about six months of pregnancy had passed I was more concerned and worried about the large, annoying, not so brightly colored, in fact, rather pale, physique I was beginning to see staring back at me in the mirror every morning. I had a difficult time with self-esteem and confidence with the pre-pregnancy person I saw staring back at me in the mirror months prior, but this was an all new level of... wow.
On one hand I loved and appreciated pregnancy. I enjoyed, for awhile, how I looked and being the growing ground of this precious child who would one day be my son. Towards the last six weeks or so, when I swelled up like balloon from my face to my blocks of wood (also known as feet), I was standing in the mirror wondering who that person was, and if I’d ever see that other person I’d given such a hard time before.
My belly sat like a lopsided pumpkin on my legs while sitting. I had not only outgrown my wedding rings, which I cried about, I had now outgrown my own shoes too. In fact, I’d outgrown all of Aaron’s shoes besides his Crocs. When I touched the widest part of my belly, I couldn’t feel it because my skin was so stretched. Though I will admit I did make it through the entire pregnancy stretch mark free, the already hideous spider veins on my legs were creating an even larger web, and the linea negra (the brown line that goes down your stomach), was developing to be darker and darker. I had no idea how that body would ever become the one previous.
But it did. Kinda. Just one year later I have not only met, but beaten, my pre-pregnancy weight. I am no longer swollen, thank you, Jesus, and I have my energy back. I can successfully wear my own shoes, my old clothes (most of them), and require no belly band to feel comfortable in them.
In the same turn, a year later I still have my linea negra running down my stomach, my jeans don’t quite fit the same way as they used to, my hips are wider, the spider veins are there and worse, and though probably not noticed by others, I can still tell the change in my stomach. The changes don’t stop there either.
All of that said to say this... I have never been happier with my appearance. I’ve never felt more confidence, and I’ve never had greater self-esteem. I don’t completely understand it. I’m further away than I’ve ever been from that “super-model” look that we all strive to achieve. I have more “flaws” and “blemishes” than ever, but to look in the mirror I’m satisfied.
Maybe it’s God, and my being satisfied with what He has created me to be. Maybe it was the low expectations I sat for myself during my pregnancy, believing I’d never be able to move or look at myself in the mirror ever again. Maybe, just maybe, it is the respect and appreciation I have for my body for being part of the wonderful miracle (okay, not theologically, but seriously, experience it) of carrying a baby and childbirth. I loved being pregnant, thus, I appreciate my body for what it allowed me to experience and I appreciate the “flaws” for being my souvenir of such an opportunity.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

With Sin Came... Clothes

I can remember a picture from my childhood of my neighbor friend, a boy, wearing an old pair of my mom’s high heels. The thought of it makes me smile. Apparently I won out in choosing what it was we’d play that day. (In his defense, he had a book on his head so it was more like a balance game and not completely just dress up.)
Those were the days, when little girls dressing up meant mom’s old clothes, jewelry, and shoes. Dressing up meant shiny fabrics and shoes that made noise when you walked in them. I loved dressing up. I’d walk in my high heels around the 4’ x 4’ square of hardwood we had in our house, just to hear the noise they made.
Dress up is different now, though. At the recent convention Aaron and I attended we were surprised to find that the convention center we were frequenting was also being frequented by many, many cheerleaders and dance group members for a competition they were having. (Short side note: I’m not against cheerleading or dancing. I think they are both sports in which a participant must be both athletic and talented to perform well. I just disagree with what it is teaching our daughters.) The attire of these specific cheerleaders, age 5 – 15, was extremely short, tight skirts, with a slit of course, a top that covered just slightly more than a sports bra, tennis shoes, a bow as big as their head, and a face layered with make-up. The attire was the same regardless of the age-group.
I was appalled.
When I was growing up, daddy’s still sat on the porch with shot-guns, they didn’t hold the hands of their half-naked five year old as they walked them around downtown Atlanta. In our day of age I would be terrified to walk around with my daughter dressed in such a way. You just don’t know what creeps are out there lurking around.
Just as importantly, though, it irritates me the message that we are sending to these little bitty girls about their bodies and what it takes to earn approval. Their value is not based on character or personality, unfortunately, it is not even based solely on performance. Their value is based on glittery make-up and showing lots and lots of skin. We wonder why girls lack in the self esteem category... well, parents, what are you doing to aid in your daughter’s struggle? Are you purchasing her more revealing clothing to help her self esteem, or are you taking the road less traveled and teaching her the value and wonder that comes with just being her.
God willing I ever have a daughter, I can be honest and say I’m already fearful of the arguments to come regarding clothing. However, I will say that I’ll lay down in front of the check out counter before I’ll let my daughter settle on clothing that devalues her as a human being and as a woman.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An Innocent Plea for a Solution to an Ironic Problem

We get a piece of paper at graduation. Seriously. In fact, we don’t even get the paper anymore. It is mailed to us after graduation just in case you don’t pay all of your fees to graduate. So, in reality, you get handed an empty glorified cardboard folder to walk across a stage after paying a University an amount of money that will take you an undisclosed amount of time to pay back. Fun.
We, as a church and as Christians in general, tend to send our graduating high school seniors out with Bibles. That is their graduation gift from us. I think it goes something like this:
“We’ve loved having you for the past six years in our youth ministry. We know you are getting ready to encounter possibly the hardest years in your life. We know that God’s Word will get you through. So study, study, study! You have three months before life gets rough. Sorry we didn’t give it to you sooner, but hey, you need to get used to cramming for tests, right?”
Seriously, we may as well just hand them the cardboard folder if they have survived in our youth group for six years and we give them a Bible when they graduate. One way or another it isn’t an amazing gift. If they already have a Bible, chances are they probably don’t need another one. If they don’t have a Bible, shame on us for waiting until graduation to give them one.
So here is my question... aside from the six years of preparation we should be providing for our youth students, what is it that we could physically give them on graduation to encourage them and help them grow in their relationships with Jesus.
(Though all answers are welcome, please don’t say the obvious: devotional or Christian cd. I’d like something that they may utilize to help them through college.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Start of a New Blog

My dad had a friend who died when a tree fell on him, literally. The man was in a forest and a tree fell on him. I didn't know that really happened outside of a poor attempt to get laughs during a really bad movie.
I had always heard the 'brain-teaser', "If a tree falls in the woods and there is no one around to hear it, was there any sound?" I hated that brain-teaser. Of course there was sound. How narcissistic are we, really, that we believe that sound doesn't exist apart from our hearing it?
What if a deaf man saw the tree fall and felt the vibrations of what was, indeed, sound? Was there sound? Of course there was, and the deaf man would probably agree, although he himself had not heard it.
I've recently been inspired to start a daily blog. (Yes, daily, hang with me, I'm going to make this work!) I need a place to air and vent stories and ideas of life, love, faith and frustration. As I began thinking about this particular blog, and praying about and pondering a name for it, I thought about this saying. The idea of the tree falling and no one hearing it is my analogy for writing and no one reading it. As much as I hate that saying, I understand how it can apply to my life. Writing is how I share my life and thoughts with the world. In arguments, I'd prefer write than talk. I do well getting my ideas and thoughts gathered and presented properly while writing, where I tend to ramble while talking. But writing without a reader, for me, is pointless. I want to know when I've been disagreed with or when someone completely concurs. I want to know if I'm alone in my thoughts or if my thoughts ever spur those thoughts of someone else. I want to share my life through writing!
So this is my feeble attempt to grow a reader following. I don't want to be that tree that falls and and is not heard. Thanks for joining me for what will be the first post of many many to come!