Saturday, December 27, 2008

Our Very First Christmas

As I have been in the slow process of straightening up my livingroom today, I've also been trying to think of a concise way to wrap up into words my first Christmas as a wife. Sweet, simple, precious, fun - such words don't really seem to do justice to such a memorable occasion. Similar to my experience at Thanksgiving, there was a thrill in the process of preparing and decorating our townhome for Christmas and first Christmas to share with my first Christmas to share with his family whom I can now call my own. I'm still trying to wrap my brain around how blessed I truly am.
My husband's family arrived an entire day early last weekend, so we were frantic trying to get the house ready for their arrival. They arrived well after midnight, and their favorite granddog was waiting at the door to greet them:

We spent most of the week shopping and cooking in preparation for Christmas day. There are some simple traditions in his family that I've enjoyed adopting, including making homemade soup on a night when the low was 9 degrees! (That was just five days ago - it's 70 degrees here today!)

Even when I was younger and spent Christmas with my mom's family, I have always enjoyed being "Santa" when it comes to distributing the gifts. As not to break from my favorite task, my husband and I woke up well before everyone else in the house to prepare the stockings, brew the coffee, and turn on the tree lights (I also made sure to adorn my dogs with their favorite attire - Nali's "I Believe in Santa" bandana and Maia's Christmas plaid collar with the jingle bells so that she jingles from room to room). While I was busy getting everything ready before the family awoke, my very own Santa secretly placed his gift for me in the corner of the sofa:

A scrapbook bag at last! Since getting back into the hobby of scrapbooking, my shoulder bag has been on its last leg. I've been hinting at wanting this bag for quite some time now, so I was elated to see it Christmas morning! Now the fun begins with filling it with all of my scrapbooking goodies!
As you can see in the picture above, the presents around the tree were nothing short of ridiculous. Some of the highlights for me aside from the scrapbook bag were clothes and a digital camera from my mother-in-law, new house slippers and fun bath stuff from my handsome husband, and a gorgeous windchime from my aunt that I'm almost afraid to hang! My husband also got clothes from his parents, the long-anticipated bathrobe from me that he had been hinting at for months, and I also managed to get us tickets to a performance of "White Christmas" at the Derby Dinner Theater (I hope it's fun - he's not quite as wild about that particular musical as I am!).

I think we've started a tradition with the KY ballcap for my father-in-law. We got one for him three years ago, and we were asked to get him another one this year because liked and wore the first one so much!

Christmas morning isn't complete without presents for the girls! They can now sport their Southern roots with their John Deere tractor and frisbee~

Another tradition - at least one picture of a dog stuffing her face in her stocking~

And as not to break with tradition, the firstborn tends to hoard all the toys for herself - we watched as she made her way around the room in order to collect all of the toys into a pile (I argue with those who think that dogs aren't knowingly willful - if you think that, you've never met mine!)

I absolutely love this picture of my husband with his loving, patient, honorable, admirable mother. She is the kind of woman and mother I only hope to emulate when my time comes, and I truly could not ask for a better mother-in-law~

One of my oldest and dearest friends told me around this time last year, the time when my husband and I were nearing the end of our season of engagement, that she was thrilled for me to be a wife. She told me that I was going to love being a wife, and that she could see married life suiting me well. I pondered her words for quite some time, particularly what she said about marriage suiting me. What did she mean by that? Well, it's taken me almost a year to make more sense of her words. Those women whom marriage does not suit are those who I think perpetually insist, whether in word or deed or both, on putting their own selfish desires ahead of needs and sincere understanding of their husbands. I have already learned so much, and definitely still have more to go, in regard to patterns of behaviors that cultivate a marriage doomed for failure. I have learned from my own family history about how secretly bitterness, resentment, and self-righteousness can creep in, quietly yet inevitably eating away at the relationship between husband and wife. I love being around my husband's family because I'm continually mindful and thankful for the families from which he and I both have come. The Lord has been good and more than gracious in blessing us with families from whom we can learn from. Influence is inevitable, and we have together been able to put into practice words and deeds that are hopefully fruitful and beneficial for our relationship. We will never fully arrive, we will always be learning and maturing in this marriage relationship, and I was shown in very specific ways this Christmas how much our love and honor for one another have already deepened. I'm so thankful for the gift of family and for the memories we have already made during this our very first Christmas together~

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thankful for the Large Amount of Sugar Consumed!

Attention all ladies and your lady friends - if you're looking for a creative idea for a Christmas party, a cookie exchange is the way to go! The ladies from my church had a cookie and gift exchange party last night which ended up being tons of fun. Each of us was instructed to bring 2-4 dozen of the same cookie, and then at the party we got to mix and match from the cookies everyone else brought.
The result? An assortment of 36 cookies for me to take home!

We also had a gift exchange, and there was plenty of stealing going on since there were so many great ones to choose from. There were a lot of laughs at the gift I ended up with - one of the ladies actually forgot her gift, so when she arrived, she rummaged through her baby bag for something. Well, when I opened my gift, there was a $10 Target gift card with a note written in pencil that said, "Pretend like this card says Merry Christmas rather than New Baby!"

Me with our sweet pastor's wife, also my scarf buddy (aka, the cold-natured ones at the party)

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I love the ladies at my church and I'm so thankful for them!!! Whether engaging in a serious conversation or attending a get-together with enough cookies to last until March, I am continually grateful for how encouraging they are~

Monday, December 08, 2008

When decorating takes on a whole new meaning...

I am an extremely sentimental individual, so it should come as no surprise that I have been eager for my first Christmas with my husband - I've been anticipating the decorating process for weeks now! Most of my decorations aren't new, but even those that I have had for years are even more special to me this year. As I began putting things in their appropriate places yesterday and today, a candle here and an ornament there, my heart swelled as I soaked in what it was I was doing. This is my first Christmas to share with my husband as his wife. While this, as Thanksgiving was, will be our sixth Christmas to share together, it is the first since we said "I do" eleven months ago. I have to admit that I became pretty misty-eyed as I put the finishing touches on my simple Christmas treasures that are now displayed around our little townhome...

(Nali opted for watching "Reba" rather than assisting me with the decorations)

This ornament was so exciting, and along with the "Our First Christmas" ornament, my husband hung this one with me. We bought this ornament on our honeymoon in January. It's a miniature of the cozy, little cabin we stayed in at Big Cedar Lodge. I absolutely love it, and I hope it brings to mind for years to come just how perfect our honeymoon was.

The annual ornament for the girls~

This is something else I was thrilled about featuring with the rest of our Christmas decorations! My mom began buying this Precious Moments Christmas Village for me years ago, and I have never had a good place to display until this year. This was the very first thing I unpacked and displayed yesterday because I was so excited about finally having a place for it!

The Precious Moments village includes a train station, toy shop, schoolhouse, church, sweet shop, post office, and some cute little figurines~

And this is the little elf who supervised~

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Song for the Second Sunday of Advent

Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled
"Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"
Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"
Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Thursday, December 04, 2008

A Brief Request

I have been meaning to write this out all week, but with how fast the days have been, the week has really slipped by! There has also been so much great news to celebrate, between finishing final exams and hearing of more friends who are expecting babies, it's been a whirlwind of things to rejoice over!

Before I forget, I simply wanted to ask for prayer, particularly for tomorrow. Tomorrow is my 3-month followup appointment with the doctor here in Louisville. This is the doctor who performed the surgery to remove a tumor from my mouth this past summer. I've known for a long time that this appointment was approaching, but really didn't think much of it nor was I concerned. I had full confidence that I would hear from the TS doctor in Cincinnati in plenty of time to tell me that the tumor is related and that I don't have anything to be concerned about. Once I heard this news from him, I knew that I could at least rest easy that there was a connection, and that this connection would reduce the chances of this tumor being malignant. Well, weeks turned into a couple of months and I never heard from him.

About a week ago, I finally called the TS Clinic in Cincinnati and spoke with the nurse. There had simply been some miscommunication on both our parts, and she thought they had already gotten back to me with their lab results. My stomach did a little flip as she told me what I wasn't exactly hoping to hear. After running a second round of tests on the tumor, the pathologist at the TS Clinic confirmed that not only was the first diagnosis from the doctor here in Louisville correct, but that the tumor is not linked to Tuberous Sclerosis after all. Again, not the news I was hoping to receive...

So I'm going tomorrow for my followup appointment with the doctor here. Just two weeks ago I didn't think I would be going in having something checked that was, in fact, cancerous. Although the doctors assured me it was rare and minor, that they weren't terribly concerned at the present time, that word still tends to have a haunting effect. I'm faced with questions I never thought I would be asking myself - is this really as isolated as they are saying it is? will something begin to spread without my even knowing until a certain point? what, if anything, should I be keeping an eye on?

I've learned in my short, yet eventful, medical history that questions can make you crazy. It's no wonder some individuals have the ability of making themselves stress to the point of being sick, losing sleep at night, and having such deep, psychological fears. I know what my own tendencies are when it comes to snowballing with questions and fearful thoughts, but I also know that I'm not captive to those fears. I can rest tonight knowing that the Lord holds my tomorrow and knows the very breaths I take before they occur. Rather than focusing on the unknown, there is such hope and comfort in dwelling on what I do know.
"For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ." ~2 Corinthians 10:4-5
"My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise You with joyful lips,
when I remember You upon my bed,
and meditate on You in the watches of the night;
for You have been my Help,
and in the shadow of Your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me." ~Psalm 63:5-8
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." ~Philippians 4:4-9

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Simple and Sweet

I told myself this week that I was going to steer clear of the blog until my final exam was over - well, I walked out of the lecture hall at 12:30pm, got off work at 5:30pm, treated me and my hubby to some yummy chicken queso burritos (thank you Q'doba), and now I'm sitting on the couch in my pjs with the laptop in front of me. The semester is officially over, and now the Christmas season can officially begin in our little home! My husband has one more exam on Thursday, and once that is over we are going to put up the tree and decorate - yay!

A very patient friend has been wondering about a particular Thanksgiving meal I was so worked up over this last week, so, as promised, the following are my pictures from the holiday fun:

My dad arrived on Tuesday afternoon for the Thanksgiving holiday (which meant that I got to scoot out of work early!). He had a certain buddy the entire time he was here - wherever he was, she was close by!

I set my alarm to wake up early on Thursday morning to ensure that all meal preparations were started at the appropriate time. I was so nervous that I hardly slept the night before! Ever since getting married, I've really been concerned and wanted to improve upon my domestic skills. I am partially joking when I say I was raised by wolves, and anything pertaining to the home often leads me to breaking out in a sweat. This was one such occasion when I told myself everything had to work out and the meal had to be spectacular! So upon waking up before the sun on Thursday morning, I had an entire laundry list of tasks on my mind from the turkey in the crockpot to lighting the pumpkin candle...

Oh, how relieved I was when my dad pulled the turkey from the crockpot onto the pan! After over six hours of waiting and wondering, my first turkey was beautiful! I breathed a huge sigh of relief as my dad cut the first slice to reveal a savory, moist piece of meat~

Along with the delectable turkey breast, I prepared just enough side items to satisfy a table of three: dressing (thank you StoveTop!), green bean bundles (one day I'm going to think of a much prettier name for these), sweet potatoes, and rolls. It was the perfect spread for us with plenty of leftovers for later~

And of course, a Thanksgiving meal is not complete without dessert! I admittedly purchased a pumpkin pie and then made the other one. Thanks dear friend for the cherry cheesecake pie recipe! The men fought over it down to the very last slice~

As is tradition, we settled down after the meal for sleep and the Dallas Cowboys. Maia agreed that preparing a meal is tough work!

I was especially glad that my dad was able to stay with us through Sunday and attend church. He had not been to our church yet since we just joined this year, so it was great having him there. He had the opportunity to meet several of the people my husband and I have talked about and gotten to know so well over these past several months. I actually sang a solo during the offering which is a rare element in our worship services at Grace. The worship leader is having someone prepare special music for each Sunday of the Advent season, and this week happened to be the week when he asked me to sing. Kate, my sweet friend and one of the pianists, played wonderfully, and it was just all the more meaningful for my dad to be there this Sunday~

I realized as I was reflecting on the Thanksgiving holiday that this is the sixth one for me and my husband, but our very first as husband and wife. It truly was perfect in my mind because sometimes rest and simple, sweet fellowship is so much more meaningful than being social. There is a time and place for having huge celebrations, but this was a good year for the simple. I enjoyed the rest, the freedom of staying in my pjs if we weren't out shopping or eating somewhere, and just spending quality time with my family. I am blessed beyond measure, and I am deeply humbled when I reflect on such gifts as these.