Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Our First Christmas at Home

In the nine (almost ten) years Kim and I have been married, this is the first Christmas we have spent at home. We have enjoyed creating some new family traditions, while keeping some old.

Christmas Eve at Church

We had a hard time doing Christmas Eve services at church in years past.  Often, it was just me who trekked out to church after the kids went to bed.  Last year we went with my sister's family in Pennsylvania, but now that we are home for Christmas, we were able to go to our home church, Reston Bible, and it was fantastic.  It was really more of a worship service than a traditional service, and our good friend did some teaching with the kids, and it is always a hoot to watch him.

Italian food for dinner?
You know what is awesome about Italian food, besides the taste? You can fix it ahead of time and pop it into the oven when you get home from church.  We had stuffed shells this year, but I think I will do lasagna next year. I didn't take pictures of the food, because I had a migraine and Julia was starting to feel unwell by then.

Surprise Balls

Surprise balls are my new thing.  It is a way to take a bunch of small items and really turn it into an event they will remember.  If I handed my kids a puzzle eraser, a tiny toy dinosaur, an itty bitty yoyo, other assorted tidbits and a Bible verse and that had been it, they wouldn't have been too thrilled.  But wrap it up with strips of crepe paper they have to unwind to find them all?  Priceless.  I think it will be a Christmas Eve tradition for sure.  Julia's scripture, which she unwrapped one verse at a time throughout the ball, was:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
(John 1:1-5 ESV)

This is my Julia unwrapping hers.

Hanging stockings

Hopefully I will be done by next year, but I want everyone to have their own handmade stocking.  We hang ours by the window, and open them after the rest of the presents on Christmas morning. Some of the items we put in are smaller, less expensive items, but we also put more expensive small items, like DVDs in there as well. I guess it will just depend on the year.

Overall, it was a very nice Christmas. I feel like the emphasis was on Jesus, the gift giving didn't get out of hand, the food was good and not stressful, and there is little I would change about it. Mostly, I would plan better for things like stocking stuffers throughout the year. I know I will be keeping my eyes peeled for surprise ball items, but not just for Christmas. I could do them for birthdays, and just plain surprise days too.

What are some of your Christmas traditions?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Well it finally happened.

You know when you talk to people who have lost a great deal of weight, and they say something like "I saw the pictures from my daughter's wedding and realized I needed to lose weight"? It was the hubbie's childhood friend's wedding, and the one picture I have seen shows me I need to lose weight.

When I was a kid, weight was never an issue. I was very active, and had a fast metabolism. I never stopped eating like I had a fast metabolism, though. If I want a brownie, and we have some I eat a brownie. As a teenager, I wasn't overweight, but I started to gain weight when I was 19. I think that was when my metabolism started to slow down. But I wasn't conscious enough of what the problem was to address it then. I really started to gain weight AFTER I had each kid. After Julia was born I put on about 30lbs, and never tried to lose them. After Joe, I put on 50lbs right away and just kept going. I've never been really successful with weight loss, to be honest. The concept of watching what I eat, or exercising over a long period of time in order to live a healthier lifestyle? Foreign to me. It's like Greek to me.

I was going to do a 5K in December with a few friends, but I didn't even bother signing up for it because I know I won't train for it. I can't even walk up to the bus stop with Joe. I always drive up. It feels like too much. I probably need to lose at least 90 pounds. Can't I just do a lose 10 pounds a week diet? Make smaller goals. I hear that all the time. But I've never been able to meet the small goals. I get discouraged and give up. I feel like I am getting discouraged and giving up before I even start.

You know what I would rather do? I'd rather just convince myself that the dress wasn't flattering, that I really don't look like that. Honestly, that is probably what I will end up doing.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Failure, repent, success, wash rinse repeat.

Today was a weird day. All day long, I felt like I was failing, then stopping to repent, then doing well. I was cranky with the kids, with Kim as he was packing for a trip (horrible, right?), but then I was just getting right back into things and doing great again. Then I would lose my temper again.


Lamentations 3:22-23
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Julia and I were doing a worksheet together this evening, and she asked me (randomly I might add) why we do not do any burnt offerings or sacrifices.

"Because Jesus lived the perfect life for us. He obeyed all the commands in Leviticus, he paid it all with his perfect human sacrifice."

Thank you Jesus. Especially on days like today.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Today was a sad, tough day.

Today PopPop died. Kim's grandfather lived a wonderful life, with a pretty fantastic legacy: you can not find a person who did not like him. He was born in a time when most people still used a horse for daily travel. He lived through pandemics, two world wars, serving in one of them, the space age, and the dawn of the computer. He saw telephones go from a luxury to something people carry easily in their pocket. More importantly, he was married to Rose for over 65 years, and fathered two children. My father in law, Barry, and my childrens' unofficial third grandma, Aunt Frances. He was loving, intelligent, patient, thoughtful, and so proud of his family. If you knew PopPop for more than five minutes, you would likely hear a story about one of his grandchildren, or great grandchildren. I knew him longer than my own grandfather, and loved him like he was my grandfather too.

PopPop, we will all miss you. I will never forget you, and I am so glad we named Joe after you.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Messy house, happy family.

The first days of summer may look like total fail to outsiders, but we have had some good days. Julia is visiting with her uncle and aunt in Colorado, which was a generous 13th birthday gift from them. Joe and I have spent our days relaxing, watching movies, entertaining family, swimming, cooking, organizing, and doing laundry. His favorite days have been the ones that involved chores and play. I think that's a good formula for the summer.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I've got modesty on my mind.

As my daughter approaches her 13th birthday in June, I find myself thinking more about both modesty and purity (as well as how I'm getting old). Julia is growing up, and with that comes a gauntlet of subjects from clothes to heart attitude. I wonder how hard I should push on this subject, and what standards to put in place.

While my daughter and I are going through some growing pains in our relationship, she has generally been very good when it come to this subject. In fact, she really likes to know what is acceptable, and what isn't. I set off to do some searching with my trusty friend, Google. I found the Pure Freedom website, which had some very good guidelines:

This is the much requested list of creative tests to determine whether an outfit is modest or not. We developed them so a girl can go through the thinking process by herself and let her heart be molded into modesty rather than face a legalistic set of rules. These may work for you or you may want to develop your own tests. Try them out and send us new ideas!

"Is my shirt too tight?"
Take the tips of your fingers and press into your shirt right where your ribs come together in the "valley" in the middle of your chest. When you take your fingers away does your shirt immediately spring back like a small Smurf trampoline? If so, your shirt it too tight!
Solution: Get rid of the shirt. It's not going to get bigger overnight. Try a different bra first as sometimes that can make a huge difference.

"Am I showing too much belly?"
Stand and pretend you are totally going for it in worship and lift your hands up in the air with your arms fully extended to God. Is this exposing any belly skin? Even if you don't raise your hands to worship, just think of all the things you do every day that causes you to lift them up.
Solution: Go for layers and put a longer shirt under a shorter one. Our secret weapon: a ribbed t-shirt or tank from the men's department. They're nice and long and stay tucked in under a cool, trendy shirt.

"Can you see my underpants?"
Can you see a distinct outline of your panties through your pants, skirt or shorts? This can happen if your pants are too tight or because your undies are too bright! And while we're on the subject, can you see any straps from your bra? That's not A-O-K! The only straps showing on a girl of God should be the straps from her cute summer sandals!
Solution: Trash your tight pants. For lighter colored pants and skirts, keep a few pair of "Grannie Panties" (big plain white ones) on hand for a safe look. And as far as those bra straps...don't do it! Make sure your tank tops have nice wide straps to cover your bra.

"How short is too short?"
When you buy either shorts or a skirt, try this test. Sit in front of a full length mirror. Sit both "indian style" on the floor and with your legs crossed in a chair. What do you see? If you see too much thigh or your panties, guess what? So can everyone else. If you really want to up the ante, imagine that mirror is your dear ol' grandpa! (P.S. We stole this test from Susie Shellenberger at Susie Magazine.com! Thanks, Susie!)
Solution: Today's skirts are about extremes. Go for extremely long...extremely full...but pass on extremely short. As far as shorts go...they can be hard to find but keep looking! And check out the favorite places to shop on this blog. It'll help you find shorts with longer in-seams!

"Are my pants just too low?"
It 'aint cute on the plumber and it 'aint so cute on girls either. The terrible...the awful....crack view! Sit "criss-cross applesauce" on the floor. Bend forward as if you're about to devour a great magazine. Now, reach behind you and get a feel of what might be the featured view if your jeans are too low. (Or ask a girlfriend to check it out!)
Solution: Some low riders are just too low. Find a pair that won't cause viewers to blush for you.

"Tell me now...is my shirt too tight?"
When wearing a button down shirt, stand sideways and look in the mirror. Is the space between the buttons gaping open, even just a little bit? If it's pulling enough to cause a gap you're in danger of exposing way too much and in danger of losing a button!
Solution: NO Brainer. Shirts that are too tight are a totally bad idea if you want to dress modestly. It's not JUST about how much of our beautiful epidermis is showing, but how much of our shape is showing! Try buying a size or two larger. (If that bugs you cut out the tag when you get home.) Or, try a t-shirt under the button down and leave it open for a layered look.

"Is it cold in here?"
OK, girls...hate to bring this one up but when we get cold or nervous sometimes we can "get nippy"...if you catch my drift. When this happens, it is visible to others IF our bras are not thick enough. There's no test for this really...at least not one that I want to take!
Solution: Keep in mind that when you're wearing thinner shirts, wear a thicker bra to avoid this problem. When you have on a sweater or a thicker shirt, go for a thin and cute bra if you want!

"Is my shirt too low?"
It's time for a secret weapon! A men's tank.
Solution: Slip this under a button down that exposes cleavage below your hand when placing your thumb on your collar bone. You can also try a trendy layering technique by putting a button down under a polo or rugby shirt that plunges too low.

If you click through to the website, they have all of this on a really cute pdf you can print out. Go to Tips and More and then Modesty Tests. Here are some other resources I have found helpful:

From Positively Feminine

ABC News story on modesty - My favorite part:

Still, Sharman's message resonates for some. "When a guy thinks about me, I don't want him to think about me in the bathing suit that I wore to our swim party," one teen said. "I want him to think of me as the girl that helped him out with something. Like the girl that he wants to marry."

Another set of guidelines from the Pure Warrior website, which is aimed at men who suffer from pornography addiction.

So I have one final question, what do you think about spaghetti straps on a sun dress or romper in a hot Virginia summer? Should I make Julia put on a tank underneath? Ok for everywhere but church? Put a shrug on for church?

Let me know! This is all baffling!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The post in which she tells you her testimony

For years people have asked me what my testimony is, and I didn't know what to tell them. I thought I didn't have that interesting of a story to tell. Here's my testimony, as I know it:

I used to be a mean person. I didn't beat people up, or tease them unmercifully, but I wasn't a terribly kind person. When I looked at others, I saw the worst in them. I was critical, unkind, and I masked all of this under a guise of "I am just brutally honest". But I wasn't honest. I wasn't honest with myself, or about myself. I felt like I had to lie about myself to make people like me. I felt like the life and story God had given me wasn't interesting enough. I had told so many lies about myself, that I was not sure what everyone even knew as the "truth" anymore.

I used to think I was saved almost all my life, but I realize now, that in reality, I only understood and accepted what Jesus did on the cross for me within the past five years.

I am the middle child of five in a Catholic family. We were religious, and went to church every week. I enjoyed being Catholic, and as I grew up, I knew others saw Catholics differently from other Christians. I adopted the attitude of "who needs to be born again, I was born right the first time.".

As much of a Christian as I thought I was, and as much as I could have explained that I was a wretch, and Jesus was perfect and came to die for me, I did not really get it. I liked the idea of it all. Jesus came to die for my sins, and I get to go to Heaven without too much effort on my part. Yay! I continued to do what I wanted to do, tempered for a while by my parents' expectations on how I should behave.

When I was 21 I got pregnant during a one night stand. I went to stay with friends while I was pregnant, but came home to live with my parents when Julia was born in June of 1998. Part of mom and dad agreeing to me coming home was a stipulation that I go to church every week. I jumped at the chance, because I felt like my life was incredibly out of whack with what God would want for me.

Having Julia helped settle me down, and caused me to mature. But I felt a void in my life. I knew the void I felt was a lack of God, but I did not know how to fill the hole. Church wasn't doing it, and I didn't know what else would.

Two years later, I really got to know this guy I met at DC United games named Kim. He was hilarious, but quiet, and strong. He was unlike any other man I had been involved with, and we began dating in September of 2000. Through the getting to know you process, it came out that Kim was a Christian, and we discussed my salvation as a Catholic. I probably said all the right things because we were engaged with both of us thinking I was a Christian.

While going through Catholic premarital counselling, the priest challenged me on whether we would attend the Catholic church after we were married. He insisted that we would, of course, raise the children in the Catholic church, and I instantly rebutted with "We WILL raise our children the way we think is best for our family." I think that is really the moment when I was no longer a Catholic, but now I was starting a new journey to fill the void I was feeling.

I worked in a small gallery while Kim and I were engaged and a lovely couple came in one day to look at paintings. The wife was so kind, and sweet, and friendly and found out through conversation that I was engaged and would be living in Reston after I was married. She asked if we had found a church there and told me about the church she attended there, called Reston Bible Church. She also gave me a tape of Lon Solomon's testimony, which I listened to as soon as I got home.

I can look back on all of this and see that God was doing a work in me. I began to prune things from my life, and sought to find a church community I belong to. I began attended a Lutheran church, in what Kim called my Catholic detox program, as soon as we were married. Soon we had a baby and our growing family was outgrowing this tiny church's programs, and I began to think of a new church to attend. I thought of the church the sweet lady had told me about, and thought it might be time for a visit.

The first time I came to RBC I walked out crying before the service began. It was big, I knew no one, and I was intimidated by the idea of attending a church so different from what I knew. A man who was greeting at the door, who I later knew was Dale Peak, lovingly chased me down, and coxed me back inside and to the welcome center. I was still really intimidated. They were going through the whole Bible, and I had clearly missed a few weeks, because they were already in the New Testament. I didn't bring my Bible with me, because I had never been to a church where you brought your Bible.

Week after week the pastor would give the gospel message at the close of teaching. Week after week, I didn't listen too hard, because that wasn't for me, right? But the gospel began to penetrate my mind every time I heard it. Sometime along the way, I awkwardly, silently, and timidly claimed Jesus as my Savior. But who could I tell? Wasn't I supposed to be saved already?

Gradually I became involved at church and joined a ministry called Birthmothers which sought to help women going through unwanted pregnancies. I met some ladies through this group, and coincidentally was invited to join their shepherd group at church. We had not had a chance to attend when Kim had a stroke on Mother's day 2008. I called one of my friends who was in both Birthmothers and the shepherd group, Bridget, with a prayer request.

Women I didn't know brought meals while my husband was in the ICU and hospital. The group reached out and supported me in a way I had not experienced before. Something was different about this "church" experience. We began to attend the shepherd group after Kim recovered, and we have been attending ever since.

I mention this because I had never experienced fellowship within a church. To me, growing up, fellowship hall was the place you went for donuts, after the service. But I began to have a church experience that looked a lot more like the early church then any experience I had before.

God has done a gradual work in me over my lifetime. I can not pinpoint when I was a believer. I can not know now why God did it so gradually. I think He knows the way I would like things to be done is with one huge grand gesture, so I could look back on a date and know it was the day I was saved. By doing a slow, drawn out transformation, I find I think about it all so much more. It has caused me to reflect more than I ever would if I had been saved in one big born again moment. I have epiphanies that bring me closer to God all the time. All the time, I have to pray “I believe! Help my unbelief.” And He does. I hear His still, small voice inside me, when I am quiet for a long enough period. Even though I did not have a big eureka moment where I accepted Christ, I know I have, and that he lives through me.

I am a nicer person now. I do not go out of my way to make fun of someone behind their back, I do not enjoy gossip like I used to. Because I mess up constantly, and God’s grace is infinite, I often hear myself saying “That’s not kind, I shouldn’t have said that”. God has and continues to chisel away at me to become more like Him. Things of the past, like promiscuity, swearing, over drinking, smoking, gossip, meanness... He is chipping them away, meanwhile blessing me beyond anything I deserve. Every day He molds me into a vessel for his good, all things I do through His power, grace and mercy alone. 2Corinthians 4:7 says:

We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.