December 28, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I still can't stop listening to Christmas music. I'm listening to it as I write this post. It's inspiring me.

This Christmas was special--as they all are--and most of my traditions remained intact. The low point was forgetting to leave cookies for Santa--he left Josh and me a note: "Merry Christmas 2010. But where were my cookies? - Santa"

He still left us loads of gifts though, so I don't think he was that upset. What Santa didn't know is that my mom has started using a new Christmas cookie recipe that is out of this world! Here are some samples of the cookies we made this year. So, sorry Santa, next year you get extra!

We had lime green and pink trees, "natural" evergreen trees, chocolate reindeer with red noses, angels, and stars with crushed peppermints. DIVINE.

When I travel somewhere, I like to purchase an ornament. Some people collect spoons, t-shirts, huggies...I like to collect ornaments. Above is the latest addition to my collection: a glass blown ornament of Rockefellar Center from my birthday trip to New York. You can even see the tree in front!

My mom is always implementing creative decorative ideas around the house. This year, she bought a tomato plant holder, spray painted it gold, put a cute church ornament on the top and tied various glittery ornaments all over it. the Christmas cards began to pour in, she would hole punch each card and tie it to the CARD TREE with a pretty ribbon--so we could enjoy looking at our Christmas cards instead of having them all stacked up in a basket.

Christmas Eve table at Gran Fran's--lovely as always!

Christmas morning! My dad is in his pajamas with a his new pocket square from Santa. Dad gave us all themed gifts this year to match his nicknames for us. I got a mechanical kitty. Ask me about it.

Christmas joy! Gran Fran relaxing by the fire.

The one time a year I enjoy seeing a mess!

Kern and me exchanging gifts

Santa brought Mama and me matching loungewear!

December 21, 2010

December 21st- Jesus Calling

"My plan for your life is unfolding before you. Sometimes the road you are traveling seems closed, or it opens up so painfully slowly that you must hold yourself back. Then, when the time is right, the way before you suddenly clears--through no effort of your own. What you have longed for and worked for I present to you freely, as pure gift. You feel awed by the ease in which I operate in the world, and you glimpse My Power and My Glory.

Do not fear your weakness, for it is the stage on which My Power and Glory perform most brilliantly. As you persevere along the path I have prepared for you, depending on My strength to sustain you, expect to see miracles--and you will. Miracles are not always visible to the naked eye, but those who live by faith can see them clearly. Living by faith, rather than sight, enables you to see My Glory." -Sarah Young

Funny how we often feel so out of control--then we realize--"Oh! We aren't in control! God is." Honestly, that is the most comforting realization I can think of. If I was in charge of my future I would be making decision based on what I could see in front of me--the one dimensional world that I am restricted to seeing--not based on what would happen 10, 20, 30 or more years from now. As we all enter a New Year, let us pray that we will be satisfied to say to God "Thy will be done" in whatever comes our way.

If you aren't familiar with Jesus Calling, take a moment to check out my post from January of 2009. January is a great time to start with a new devotional!

December 19, 2010

Christmas time is here...

This past week brought an overload of Christmas parties and celebrating--in a good way! Thursday night, we gathered for the 3rd annual reading of The Polar Express at Buck and Jordan's house. Friday night was the 2nd annual TACKY CHRISTMAS party at The A Street House!

Buck welcomed the group to his home clad in pajamas.
He won the prize--a Christmas sink strainer--for being best dressed.
I thought he looked like the little boy in the book!

Let the reading begin!

It was hot by the roaring fire...

Laine, Carolyn, Holly, me, Katie and Mary Ellis

Laura and Katie had homemade puff paint outfits, and yes, they are holding Little Debbie Christmas tree cakes!

Laine bought me reindeer ears so we could match!

Bob's full on-pj's and Jordan's classy green blazer, red shirt, and yellow tie

Bob and Meg MATCHED!

December 17, 2010

A twist on the holiday mindset

“Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels he's finding his place in it, while really it is finding its place in him.”

C.S. Lewis

For some reason, the holidays always seem to create this pressure that everything needs to be perfect. The gifts, the decorations, the parties—and that brings on a feeling that all other areas of our lives must follow suite immediately, or else we cannot be happy and enjoy the season.

This brings me to another C.S. Lewis quote: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

Mr. Lewis hits the nail on the head: we are not supposed to be completely happy on earth, because earth is not our home. Paul tells us in II Corinthians 5:1-8:

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

Let us be thankful when we do not feel 100% happy here because it points us to heaven. It gives us something to truly anticipate and look forward to. We have this hope because Jesus (not giving up his deity) gained humanity and came to earth. He made the ultimate sacrifice for our sakes so that we might one day live forever in heaven with Him. This is what we should revel in and meditate on this season. Come, Lord Jesus, come!

December 15, 2010

Thought for the Season

I have not been able to stop thinking about the message from my daily devotional last week: "God doesn't comfort us to make us comfortable; He comforts us to make us comforters."

Sometimes God gives us the opportunity to use the lessons we've learned and the comfort He's given us during difficult times to help others in special ways. II Corinthians 1:3-4 says: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."

Reading this places a sense of responsibility on my shoulders. I think of all that God has given me and the abundant resources he has provided me with and the natural question for me to ask myself is: "What am I giving back? Am I using my time, talents and resources for His glory--and to show others God's love?"

As we celebrate Christ's birth--the Christian's ultimate sense of comfort, I pray that the Lord will show me how to better comfort others. As we enter into a new year--full of anticipation, hope and good intentions--I pray that I will be able to tangibly show comfort and love to others--and not just people I consider friends, but in relationships outside of my comfort zone.

Take time to consider how you can be a comfort to others!

December 14, 2010

Christmas at the White House

The White House holiday theme is "Simple Gifts."

"This special time of year provides countless reasons large and small to be grateful for the blessings of time spent with loved ones, and for the richness of culture and natural surroundings we as Americans enjoy. As families gather across our country during this holiday season, even in trying times, we can reflect on the universal pleasures of cheer and goodwill, and can find reason to rejoice in the moments the holidays bring."
-excerpt from a letter from the Obamas

The military tree--representing all 5 branches

Cards were provided and we sent a note to a military service member

Even Bo had his own display!

The White House Library decorated. President Roosevelt (who converted this room to a library on 1935) maintained a family Christmas tradition each year of reading aloud from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol upstairs in the residence.

A tree in the East Room

The Green Room

The Blue Room: This year's official White House Christmas tree is a rich, green Douglas Fir from Pennsylvania that stands 19.5 feet tall.

President Lincoln muses over the decorations

The White House gingerbread house!
Look closely--can you see Bo?

Throughout the entire tour we were serenaded by voice from North Carolina singing Christmas carols!

December 13, 2010

Shrimp Boil!

Ever since Laine Evans and I met in the summer of 2007 and discovered our birthdays were a mere 2 weeks apart, we have been plotting a joint birthday party. Thanks to our dear friends (especially Katie) we finally had our joint shindig to celebrate our quarter century milestone!

"Kitty and Bug" cake decorated by pastry chef Chas Casino

Carolyn, Katie, Sarah and me
Chilly day but great company!

Kern and me
Note: I am wearing cowboy boots from previous post!

Love these four. Cooper needs a girlfriend, I've decided.
Coops sported his Christmas sweater at the party!

The delicious southern masterpiece--thanks PLarge!

Birthday girls!

Time to eat schrimps!

Kitty and Bug :)

Getting the candles ready! We had candles on a cake and cupcakes!

Make a wish

December 09, 2010

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I am a HUGE fan of all seven of The Chronicles of Narnia. I love each book, have cried through each book, and learned from each book. If you have not read the series (or have not read them since childhood) I recommend reading them. C.S. Lewis paints such a wonderful picture of God's love for his people and the sacrifices that he makes for us.

If you think you are too "old" to read these books, I present to you one of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes: "Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again." These books are wonderful for any Christian who desires to see God in a new and fresh light. After re-reading the series again in my early 20's, I felt my relationship with the Lord grow stronger because I began to understand that God is a God of mystery, but all of his ways are higher (and better) than ours. I began to see God as a fierce protector and lover of my soul. I reconfirmed my knowledge that he loved me like a daughter.

If you aren't ready to dive into the books (I promise they are quick, easy, fun, PERFECT holiday reads) go and see The Voyage of the Dawn Treader--it is coming out on December 10th. This is the fourth book in the series and if I had to pick my favorite, the Dawn Treader might be it!

December 07, 2010

A New York Birthday Party

I had been beggingbeggingbegging Kern to go to New York with me for months and we finally agreed to go to celebrate my 25th birthday. We left DC at 4am, drove to Princeton, New Jersey, caught the 7:45am train into Penn Station and arrived in the heart of the Big Apple at 8:52am. It was a wonderful day!

We started the day with breakfast at Sarabeth's. I had pumpkin waffles with sour cream, honey, raisins and pumpkins seeds--fantastic!

We went to Sarabeth's East, which is only a block from Central Park, we walked almost the entire length of the Park...and of course rode the carousel!
Quarter life crisis?

It was cold, but sunny!

Christmas tree at the Plaza Hotel

Experiencing the mania of Times Square

The tree at Rockefellar Center

The view from Top of the Rock at dusk

Empire state of mind

It felt like 10 degrees!

The tree at night!

We took the 7pm train back to Princeton and then drove 3 1/2 more hours home. At that point, I had been up almost 24 hours (since I woke up at 3am to shower) but it was so worth it. Experiencing New York at Christmas was magical--even though we had to wait in line to even get into FAO Schwartz! It was a perfect day--just walking, seeing and observing the city.

I can't wait to go back again!
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