Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Blessings

We had a wonderful first Christmas with Gracie. It's so completely different to have a small person in your house! This was our fourth Christmas married, and I must say... the past couple years have really lost their sparkle. It's hard to get excited when it is just two adults buying each other "needs" since neither of us can think of any "toys" we actually want. Boring. And last year we were in the middle of our church transition, which added challenges in experiencing the spiritual side.

But then, Grace...

The fun started early. She affects every one of our decisions: Christmas cards instead of breakable ornaments, the hight of said cards on the tree, the location of said tree... She spent weeks petting that low branch and giggling. I guess fake pastic feels nice? (and yes, I did get a tree skirt made before the "big day.")

Our neighborhood has a fun tradition on Christmas Eve - the luminaria walk. Every house in the neighborhood - a 4 block by 6 block rectangle - is invited to place out luminaria at dusk on Christmas Eve. They line the sidewalk from about 4:30 until they burn out (most of ours were still going when we went to bed at 10). We bundled Grace up nice and warm and spent the evening wandering the streets while the nearby churches rang their bells and the Rees Carillion played out carols. This is the first year we participated, although we did go walking last year. I plan on this special time becoming a family tradition as long as we live here.

We enjoyed a modest but fun gift time before heading to church. And of course, I forgot to get a photograph of the super-exciting gown I made for Gracie. I'll dress her up again in the next day or two for pictures - once she's gotten over her tummy bug. I think we should have church on Christmas morning every year, not just the years it lands on Sunday. I can't think of anything more appropriate!

And thanks to Grace inspiring excitement in the season, I was even able to pull of a long-hoped-for surprise gift for Shaune. My husband is an excellent pianist and it has been a personal tragedy that he has not had access to a piano for years. Although a "real" piano is outside of our means right now, both by space and by cost, I succeeded in finding a sweet deal on a good quality keyboard. I even hid it and got it set up for Christmas without his suspecting a thing! It is such a blessing to have music (and Gracie's interpretation: slamming) spreading through our house at last.

Having a baby changes so much. There's many things I've lost - mainly, the ability to sleep through the night :D. But the things I've gained so outweigh the losses. Like the joy in remembering that long-ago happening where a young girl became a mom for the first time to the Son of God. I'm one step closer to understanding. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Family Photos!

I'm so excited to share these with you. Earlier in the month, we went to visit our friends up north - bloggers Jena of Organized Everyday and her daughter Joanna of Jo-with-it's Portfolio (and the rest of their family, of course :) ) Joanna is planning to start college next year to learn photography and volunteered to do photographs of us. They turned out delightful! I'd love to share (Click on the picture to go see!):

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Unity of Believers

I’ve been having a lot of long, deep talks with Christian friends lately. Time after time, I hear from people about divisiveness in the church. You know… those big issues that people can just get SO angry about. I’m sure you can think of some, but here’s a sample of what I’ve heard lately: stay-at-home vs working mom; breastfeeding vs formula; the definition of modesty; how we’re to respond to social activism causes; birth control; Santa Claus. The role of women in the church. The list goes on… and on… and on. People get SO angry about what are essentially little things. They aren’t salvation issues.

I’m sharing this with you in the hopes of pushing my friends to seek unity. There are some problems that are salvation issues, greatly worth fighting for. Others are more about sanctification – becoming more Christlike while we are still walking this earth. I believe in fighting for truth in salvation doctrine, while being much more forgiving in the issues of sanctification. Basically, it’s about being true to the Bible, while walking in grace. Need examples?

Salvation issue: Jesus tells us in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Anyone who speaks otherwise is telling a lie. It’s black and white, and very much worth standing up for the truth.

Sanctification issue: Modesty. Yes, it’s commanded in Scipture: “I want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety…” (1 Timothy 2:9). But Scripture doesn’t define modesty as only ankle length skirts… or knee length… or mid-back length hair… or never cut hair… or a specific amount of ease across the chest. Look all day, but I’ll tell you, it isn’t there. This is a gray area. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate grace to our sisters, encouraging and teaching them, but not something to beat over the head about. Where there is no clear Biblical teaching, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to guide. When in doubt, be truthful but loving.

Salvation issue: Christ is the sole sufficient sacrifice for sin; nothing else will do. “For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Also, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of truth, no sacrifice for sins is left” (Hebrews 10:26). Once again, very clear truth that we must defend.

Sanctification issue: Birth control. There’s so many issues rolled up into this that I truly believe there is no one right answer for each family. First we have the “control” issue – who should control births, God or us? Or is there ever a time when a particular family is called by God to either give birth or prevent it? There are some clear distinctions here (specifically, not murdering an unborn child), but also a ton of gray. And this whole issue rolls right into my belief in seasons of life and faith (which I’m writing a post about right now!). But my current point is this: where there is no clear teaching, there must be room for grace.

I guess this is just a sweet holiday reminder, as much to myself as to anyone else. Where the Bible draws a firm line we are to “stand firm and let nothing move you” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Where there is gray, let us “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

May God bless you and all your interactions with believers this season!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fashion Statement

Let's do a little math on inequalities.

Whatever is clean + Whatever fits + Whatever is warm + Whatever is on the top of the pile DOES NOT EQUAL Whatever matches.
Sigh. I try... really. But you'd never know by 5pm.