Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, friends.

This is our prayer for you: 
May you believe and let Him fill you with joy and peace.

He is the greatest gift and the gift is free.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. ~ John 3:16

Much love to you all. 

This prayer and Christmas greeting comes from me and my husband. We are both grateful for how you have been wrapping your loving arms around us in prayer these past months. My husband has safely reached his destination and so far we've been able to connect daily...a blessing from God.

See you in the New Year!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Christmas Home Tour ~ 2013

Over at The Nester many blogger's are sharing a tour of their Christmas home. Two dear friends, Kristin and Barbie, inspired me to join in. I'm not sure if I will link up but I thought I would still share with you a bit of my Christmas. My simple Christmas that is.

The wreath has significance as I purchased it to lay at the grave site of a friend of my dad's who was killed in the Vietnam War. We were unable to get to his grave site this year so instead I have hung the wreath in his memory.

{A quick side note: last weekend I joined Wreaths Across America by placing wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery to remember our fallen heroes. You can see my photos here.}

If you happen to be visiting my place for the first time, this will be a difficult Christmas for my family as my husband is currently deployed. I ask you to please pray for our service members and their families who will spend Christmas apart. Thank you.

You will quickly discover I have a thing for snowmen. I'm not sure why. There are not many winters I recall being outdoors building snowmen as I dislike being out in the cold. Nonetheless, my Christmas theme is primarily snowmen.

I also keep things very simply in my home so decorations are kept rather simple.

These three snowmen sit above the refrigerator. They find a home somewhere within the house every year no matter what since they were painted by my mother-in-law. She is missed dearly.

I love this cute guy. Years ago he had a string of ornaments hanging from one hand to the next but the string broke. It wasn't in me to part ways with him just because he didn't have his string of ornaments anymore. None of us are perfect. Maybe it's his imperfection that I love.

The carrot-nose snowman was once broken too. A bit of wood glue to re-attach his legs made it possible for him to still have a home every year. The window over the kitchen sink has been his favorite spot. Please ignore the dirty window!

Fancy Santa has a story. (Once again, ignore the overly obvious cup stains on our piano.) He was a gift from a former boss and his wife. They happen to be billionaire's and I'm sure Santa has quite the value associated with him. Their generous Christmas gifts every year made me smile as they never seemed to quite fit our simple home. I don't find Santa overly appealing but he makes an appearance every Christmas.

Now this Santa I adore. He is usually the first to find a home. He too was painted by my mother-in-law. She was one talented lady. I miss her. She would be so proud of her son right now.

And the snowman...I have about five of these but only put out two this year.

There is no good place in our home to hang stockings. Once they are stuffed they will need to go somewhere else or the table will fall over. Yes, I know they are rather plain. I'm all about simple! I do plan to have names embroidered on them. However, I've said that the past couple years and they still remain blank. Next year! In the background are a few of my favorite family photos.

I love my helpers. These two are two of my greatest blessings. Trying to survive this deployment without them would not be pretty. They take care of me in so many ways. Primarily, they keep me smiling. By the way, my son really needs a hair cut. :)

You can laugh at our tree. Really, go ahead. I have no clue what is up with the shape. Seriously, did we put it up wrong? I don't care though. The two blessings in the previous picture make me LOVE this tree. {Kristin: I have an odd shaped tree and you have a crazy tree!}

The tree looks better lit up don't you think? It's still oddly shaped. The "Merry Christmas" I added to the photo is covering up the coffee cup I forgot to move before taking the picture. :)

Before you compliment me on the nativity scene, it's not mine nor does it reside in my home. I stopped by to say hello to my parent's (they live right down the street from me) and seeing this always reminds me of childhood Christmases. My mother made each piece and they would be placed under the tree every Christmas. The picture doesn't come close to revealing their true beauty.

I hung these ornaments a few years back. It was decided they could have a year round presence in our home after being hung as they go perfectly with our patriotic decor. I love our Red, White and Blue.

Taking a picture of the hallway did not prove to be easy. This was the best I could do.

Our small bathroom actually has four snowmen in it even though you are only seeing two (up and down). While I'm not giving you a full view, I so love the way my husband did our bathroom. It's rather awesome. It took him a LONG time but it was worth the wait.

Even though I love Mr. Snowman, ending with a picture from the bathroom doesn't feel appropriate so...

I'm sending you Christmas greetings from my beautiful family. The picture above is from a few Christmases back but happens to be one of my favorites. I'm grateful my Navy son and his wife will soon by home for Christmas.

And again, your prayers are appreciated for my family, and the many others who are celebrating Christmas apart. I miss this man something fierce right now.

Merry Christmas dear friends. Wishing you peace, love and joy.

Come, let us adore Him...

It's decided...I'm sharing with The Nester where you can tour the homes of many.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Three Word Wednesday: Community Heals Us

Last Wednesday I wrote Something Will Break and promised you a Part 2 to the story. If you missed last week's post you may want to read first. Otherwise...

My son dropped me off at the emergency room ("ER") on his way to work the morning after my clumsy fall. He had to be at work way too early so the ER had little activity when I arrived. My son takes good care of me so as he dropped me off he asked, "How are you getting home. Mom." Oh I felt rather certain someone would come get me. My father is an early riser and I live right down the street from him.

It didn't take the ER long to whisk me through X-ray and determine I had a small break on the top of my foot. They gave me an ugly black boot and sent me on my way.

{Enter the feeling stranded portion of my story.}

My dad did not respond to my text message asking for a ride as I had hoped. (He has been dealing with a bad hip and slept in that morning later than his norm.) As I sat in the waiting room trying to figure out how I'd get home I began to get a little antsy for a cup of coffee.

{Enter the part of my story where I probably shouldn't have done what I did but I now laugh about it.}

You understand the drastic measures we will go to for a cup of coffee don't you? Sure, I probably could have found one at the hospital but YUK! There's a Starbucks right down the street!! Yes, I walked to the Starbucks with that ugly black boot on my left foot and my gym shoe in hand. It's winter here in Chicago so I bundled up as much as I could. Thankfully, Starbucks opens at an early hour; I arrived there about 6:15 am.

{Back to the feeling stranded part of the story.}

Still no response from my dad.

As I sat there in the corner of Starbucks with my cup of coffee and bagel I moved on to feeling sorry for myself. If my husband was home none of this would be happening. How will I survive these next ten months?

{Enter emotional breakdown.}

Oh did I cry. The tears would not stop. Please God, bring him back home NOW!

Between the tears I began reaching out to neighbors. No response. Agh! More tears. Finally, I heard from one but she happened to be out of town. She said she would send her husband right over. No, I quickly declared, I'm an emotional wreck. I do not need a man right now. Good thing that friend did not listen to me and sent him anyways! :)

I returned home and my phone began buzzing. My dad called! Those fabulous neighbors also began responding too.

{Here's the important part of the story.}

Community heal us! Community healed my weary heart that day. My neighbors, friends and family did not abandon me. They simply were not available at that wee hours of the morning. As I continue to find blessings in this deployment, God blesses me daily through community.

I read a post today that asked Who is your "Elizabeth"? God gave Mary the gift of Elizabeth. I am grateful for the many "Elizabeth's" He has placed in my life for this season.

He has given me you and oh how I love you! I believe He brought us to our church specifically for this season. I am grateful for my neighbors who are helping me survive the winter season. My driveway and sidewalks have been shoveled twice. I'm blessed by a high school friend who checks in with me every Monday. And there are the other military spouses who understand the ups and downs of a deployment more than anyone else can.

Don't you love how He gives us just what we need? So yes, Community does heal us. Thank you, God, for this special gift.

"For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” ~ Matthew 18:20

How has community healed you? Who is your "Elizabeth"?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday Randomness (Vol. 8)

I was going to skip Friday Randomness today because the great thing about my weekly randomness post ... I can randomly decide not to do. :) But here I am sharing a few quick favorites from my week.

Scripture speaking to my heart

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." ~ Hebrews 11:1

Devotional love

"Every little thing is going to be okay because God is working good through every little thing." ~ Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift (12/12)

More from Anything, by Jennie Allen

"If God is really real and we are going to live with him forever, shouldn't he be the only thing? Shouldn't he be the controlling force of our lives? If we really believe this..."

Favorite blog post

I do not recall who led me to Shauna but her post was the reminder I needed to focus on being present this Christmas season over being perfect. Present Over Perfect.

You will also be blessed if you read any one of the posts linked up for Three Word Wednesday this week. If you haven't joined in yet, would you prayerfully consider joining us soon? It has become a beautiful community of writing friends.

God with us

Jocelyn Green speaks to the hearts of military wives celebrating Christmas without their husbands and reminds us that God is with us. "You may feel alone right now, but God is with you."

You know I love Pastor Pete Wilson, right? He is the author of the book Let Hope In. I'm still giddy  over the fact that he liked a Facebook status update of mine on my blog page. The status was about his book but I still find it super cool that he actually paid me a visit. This morning I stopped over to pay him a visit and he too is talking about how the nature of God is to come along side of us.

Favorite Internet find(s)

Watch this touching video from parents of a child killed at Sandy Hook. Evil does not have to win.

This video of an airline surprising passengers will make you smile and cry. What a delight! Thank you, WestJet.

Favorite Facebook post

I love my fellow milspouse blogging friend Karin of Sunrise with a Six Pack. And I loved one of her most recent status updates. Thank you for sharing my friend.

Finding blessings in a deployment

~ Going to see a production of It's A Wonderful Life with another army wife.
~ Friends coming to your rescue when you felt stranded.
~ A broken bone in your foot not being quite as bad as you thought it would be.
~ Watching It's A Wonderful Life on TV with my son and his girlfriend
~ Decorating the Christmas tree with my son and his girlfriend.
~ A much needed getaway to my favorite city, Washington, DC.
~ A job that spoils you!
~ Meeting up with a blogging friend for dinner.
~ Face-time with my favorite time of the day.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Three Word Wednesday: Something Will Break


At a Yellow Ribbon event, an event held for the soldiers and family members to help prepare them for a deployment, an older lady stood up and said to the spouses of the soldiers, "Ladies, something will break." She had us laughing as she told stories of appliances secretly chatting with each other over who would be the first to go while the men of the house were away.

According to this kind lady, something will break. It's not a matter of if; it's a matter of when.

When doing my thing in the kitchen these days (I'm not really sure what my thing is since I don't cook.) I'd look at my various appliances, some older than others, and have visions of them talking among each other.

My money is on the washing machine. (My washer and dryer happen to be in the kitchen...not by choice.) The machines acts possessed. When the spin cycle comes along it bounces like a mad woman (I'm gonna say she's a she). By the time she completes her cycle, she sits much further out than when she started. After every load of laundry I need to give her several pushes to put her back in her appropriate place.

Surely she will be the first to go. All the bouncing and pushing must be having a negative impact on her longevity, don't you think?


I've been waiting to see who would win. In the meantime, I was ready to take the pending breakdown of an appliance in stride. It would not get to this God Strong army wife! There would not be an emotional breakdown over anyone's demise.

That would be anyone's but mine!

I spent the better part of Saturday Christmas shopping. There were a few tears here and there knowing my husband will not be with us. But I have many reasons to be thankful so I kept pressing on focusing on how neither of us will celebrate alone. My boys and their ladies will be with me and my husband will have his Army family.

After shopping, I returned home eager to start decorating our home and began pulling out boxes of decorations. The boxes had all been placed in the garage with easy access by my husband before he left. He's always taking care of me.

The decorations went up, including our fake tree (I did ponder getting a real one this year). My son and his girlfriend were going to help me decorate the tree once they returned home that evening because the tree must be decorated together. Last year we also realized my son does a much better job of putting the lights on the tree.

A little clean-up would not hurt while I waited so I went to return the tree box to the garage.

And then it happened. I found out who would be the first to break. As I tumbled down the one stair to the garage...yes, a bone in my poor little foot would be the first to break. I heard the crack as I fell.

I laid there for moment and then cried out, "No God. Not me. My money was on the washer. Pick her instead."

I eventually made my way to my bed with a bag of ice in hand. Thankfully, my son arrived not too long after and he tended to his mom. We ordered pizza for dinner, I plopped myself on our comfy living room chair and we ended our evening by watching It's A Wonderful Life (decorating the tree could wait). I was handling my clumsy fall rather well, minus the quick cry out to God.

Bedtime came and all I wanted was to curl up next to husband. I cried and cried. "God, please bring him back home!" Once again, I cried myself to sleep.

I've decided there will be a Part 2 to this story. It includes a visit to the ER, doing something I now laugh at, feeling stranded, another emotional breakdown and God's amazing grace. So come back next week for the rest of the story.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Coffee Talk With Jesus {Book Review and Giveaway}

Do you know my friend Barbie Swihart of My Freshly Brewed Life?

Because I love her so much I've talked about her here before. She also guest posted for Three Word Wednesday a couple months ago. You can read her guest post here.

I'm not known for having a very good memory but I'm pretty sure I met Barbie through the Five Minute Friday link-up. And I'm pretty sure we connected because she would always leave encouraging comments on my post. She's kind of like that—always encouraging. my past two Friday Randomness posts I've shared with you a quote from Barbie's new book Coffee Talk With Jesus: Intimate Chats with the Savior. I had the privilege of being a part of the launch team for her fabulous new book and I'm super excited to highlight what I loved most and to give away a copy. Doesn't her book look pretty? I have a feeling it is even prettier when holding in your hands.

I will be honest with you. I have not completely finished reading her book yet. How can I give a review of her book without finishing it first?

Oh dear friends let me share with you what it was like when I began reading...

I waited to begin reading as I knew exactly when her words would be needed. I know Barbie well enough to be certain her words would encourage. And I knew when I got on the plane to go see my husband one last time before he deployed that encouragement would be needed.

So I got on the plane, pulled out a printed copy of the PDF version she provided me with and began reading.

Barbie's book is a 31-Day Devotional that invites you to spend time with Jesus. She writes in a way that quickly makes you feels as though you are sitting across from Him with your cup of coffee (or a cup of tea possibly.)

Immediately I felt Him with me; which is why I have yet to finish her book. It's time you don't want to rush.

At the end of each devotional she provides space for reflection and prayer. My PDF copy has notes all over the place. As I look back at my notes, I can see how she truly did take me to a place of talking with Him.

What I really want you to know is how the first fifteen days of her book helped to get me through one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. She took me to the place I needed to be—with Jesus. Because the strength I needed to say good-bye to my husband could only be found in Him.

Have I told you her book also includes multiple recipes all including coffee as an ingredient? They sound so yummy.

Time with Jesus + coffee = JOYFULNESS!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday Randomness (Vol. 7)

Scripture speaking to my heart

"When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me." ~ Jeremiah 29:12-14 (MSG)

Let the truth of those words soak in. Call on Him. Pray to Him. Seek Him. He is waiting for you.

Devotional Love

"Choose to worship God. Choose to serve others. People will be encouraged. God will be glorified, and you will receive the most benefit as you grow in character and love for God." ~ Faith Deployed...Again (pg. 79)

Advent Season

I've been so incredibly blessed by Ann Voskamp and her Advent devotional The Greatest Gift.

"And the heart that makes time and space for Him to come will be a glorious place. A place of sheer, radiant defiance in the face of a world careening mad and stressed." ~ Ann Voskamp

I was also recently introduced to Christie Purifoy of There is a River by Shelly Miller of Redemptions Beauty. Come follow Christie as she writes through every day of Advent season.

What am I reading?

I'm back to the dilemma of trying to read too many books at once. I really need to focus on reading one book at a time. Maybe if people would stop writing such amazing books I'd have an easier time. (Giggling.) Seriously, have I ever told you as a young adult I hated to read? That surely is not the case anymore.

But what am I reading?

"We love our earth. We love our people. We love our stuff. We love our schedules. We love our short lives here. And God is saying, Look up. This is going fast. Your life here is barely a breath. There is more, way more." ~ Anything, by Jennie Allen

I know I'm way late to read Jennie's book but God's timing really is always perfect! I may need to give away a copy at some point too. Don't you love giveaways? It could become a habit of mine to giveaway a copy of the books I really, really love.

Be sure to come by on Monday (or Tuesday possibly) as I will be sharing a review of Barbie Swihart's new book Coffee Talk with Jesus. And well...there will be a giveaway too! To read what others have said about Barbie's book click here.

From Day 5 of her book, "You feel as if you don't belong. You could be in a room filled with people and still feel as if no one truly sees you. But I see you there, restless in your chair, cradling that cup of warm tea in your hands."

You honestly do begin to feel the presence of Jesus as you read this book.

Circles of Faith First Friday Books Favs

The first Friday of every month the contributors of Circles of Faith share what they are reading. Come take a look and discover books to add to your must read list. If you have recently written a review, you can also join in by linking up your post or share in the comments section of their post.

Favorite blog read from the week

I visited Jennifer of A Heart For the Home for the first time through a link-up at Woman to Woman Ministries and her post Embracing your Season felt as though it was written specifically for me. Thank you, Jennifer! I love the new people I meet through link-ups.

Favorite new song (I have two favorites this week!)

Jenn of Running This Thing Called Life shared on her Facebook page a link to a video that really does put you in the holiday spirit. Watch and listen here: Little Drummer Boy

You must listen to this new song just released by David Crowder called I Am off his Neon Steeple album. I heard it for the first time while working out this week and the lyrics blew me away.

"There's no space that His love can't reach
There's no place where we can't find peace
There's no end to amazing grace"

It's SO good!

Favorite Internet find

Looking for cute and meaningful stocking ideas or inexpensive gifts for a dear friends? Come see what you can purchase from Dayspring for under $5.00. Oh my! I had no clue.

Favorite Facebook post

I'm being selfish again! This is my son receiving a "Flag Letter" for a job well done on funeral detail. We are very proud of him for all he has done to honor and remember our fallen. Isn't he handsome too?

I'm finding blessings in a deployment

~ Books filled with encouragement for military wives. 
~ LHC responding quickly to my request for copies of sermons to send to my soldier.
~ Photographs. When I'm missing him I can stare at pictures of him.
~ An amazing few days in San Antonio together before our last good-bye.
~ A Thanksgiving brunch on the patio of a restaurant along the San Antonio River Walk.
~ My younger son now cooking dinner for us every evening. Super yummy!
~ Lots of phone calls from friends.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Three Word Wednesday: Just Enough Grace

A dear friend from church told me before I left to see my husband for the last time before he deployed that God would give us the grace needed to say good-bye right at the moment we needed.

My husband and I were truly blessed to have three full days together in San Antonio before saying goodbye. We took many walks along the River Walk holding hands and ate far too much. We enjoyed quiet evenings in our hotel room and slept in every morning holding each other. A glorious time indeed!

Then came the day neither of us wanted to come. We stopped many times while packing our bags that morning to take in another long hug.

We had a two hour drive back to the airport. Of course we had to eat another meal first before beginning our journey. After taking our seats for lunch my husband pulled my stool closer to him. This warmed my heart more than I can say...he simply wanted me right at his side.

"God, please slow down these next couple hours."

As we made our way to the airport we were both quiet in anticipation of what came next. We held hands lost in our own thoughts.

The moment I saw the airport those tears began to fall. I was ready for that grace my friend said God would give us because my heart hurt. Taking deep breaths did not stop the tears.

We walked in to that dreaded airport; my husband looked at me and said, "You can't cry yet."

"God, can I please have that grace now?"

I was flying out of a small airport in Texas primarily used by military since it's located near one of the largest military bases in the U.S. There were no lines to get through security and my gate was right on the other side of security. Because of this, we were able stay together almost right up until my departure time.

We found a table and instead of sitting on my own chair I sat on his lap. I wrapped my arms around him and we both sobbed.

"God, can we please have that grace now?"

In that moment, He gave us both just enough grace to calm our cries. Instead of crying we held each other tightly. I whispered to my husband, "You come home to me, Dear."

Tears came again when we had our final embrace. But God did give us everything we needed to let go. I crossed through security with one last look back at the man I love and knew God was with us.

The past couple days have been hard. My heart hurts deeply. I've debated whether or not to take a break from blogging. Calling it quits for the month has sounded somewhat appealing. Words said by my pastor on Sunday lead me to keep on writing.

"We can't make this without Him."

Why did those words from my pastor convince me to keep on writing? I know I can't make it without Him and I don't want you to try and make it without Him.

I have read many posts and devotionals these past couple days about Advent season and how this is the time when we wait expectantly and with hope for our promised Savior. I'm in a season of waiting as I now wait for my husband to return home. But I'm also waiting for Him.

Will you join me in waiting for His arrival? As we wait, I pray He reveals Himself to us in a way that increases our faith and trust in Him. And may we be reminded that we never wait alone. He is with us.