That Week After Christmas

My 3 month old laptop crashed without warning right before Christmas. You know the brand new expensive one I bought to replace my 4 year old one that had been dropped twice. There was some serious distress, which is code for MAMA HAD A MELTDOWN.

I had to go to the mall twice the week before Christmas. I was only able to recover about half the data from backup. Nothing says Merry Christmas like a sobbing woman/writer at the mall. Two days in a row.

But I know the true meaning of Christmas, so I pulled up my big girl stretchy pants and ate a lot of Chinese food and self-medicated with 3 hours of The Carol Burnett Show.

I also didn’t open my computer (with a new hard drive) for 5 days in a row. Some might call it denial. I’m gonna call it a vacation.

We had a lovely Christmas (vacation) out of town. Imagine a little National Lampoon Christmas Vacation with a dab of I Love Lucy. I’m a realist (maybe that’s why you’re here), so I made a list for the week after Christmas:

  • I have a pile of money and gift card Christmas gifts for my children from well-meaning relatives.
  • I believe this is also an un-gift for parents.
  • I’m not a fan of giant candy canes the size of a child’s leg-thank you Santa. (I have two nasty ones in a ziplock bag right now. The third met a timely death by way of Schnauzer.)
  • Also not a fan of peppermint candy stuck in dog’s furry beard
  • I can’t shake that crazy feeling to purge THE ENTIRE HOUSE. Nothing is safe.
  • The pile ‘o Christmas cards I still haven’t addressed won’t stop staring at me.
  • Why isn’t taking down Christmas decor as fun as putting it up?
  • I’m just going to say it: I hope the Elf on the Shelf fad fades quickly
  • Feeling the pressure to stay up to ring in the New Year (yawn)
  • Realizing your youngest photobombed most of the blurry Christmas pictures of you and your hubby

What’s on your list?

Happy New Year!


Your Best of 2012

It’s hard to believe we are at the end of another year. They come faster now, don’t they? Sort of like birthdays over 30.

I love my friend Ann’s idea for celebrating the end of the year and wanted to ask you, dear friends… What’s your best of 2012?

Share it in the comments! Your best memory of the year, your greatest lesson, your best project, your best fashion tip, the best advice, the best food you made or ate, the best laughter?

I’ll go first.

Best home project

Best picture (hanging a huge one on my wall)

Best eye makeup

Best family decision of the year

Best jeans (for petites)

Best parenting lesson

Best book I couldn’t put down (hard to choose, but I loved this series)

Best laugh of the year

Okay, your turn! Share your best links in the comments for all of us to enjoy.

Happy Year Ending and Year Beginning to you!

{Merry Christmas} from all of us

Many of you supported Mercy House before it existed. Your faith and support has rescued 18 lives and many more to come. Deep gratitude and Christmas blessings to each of you–from our family here in the USA and in Kenya.

I’m taking the rest of the week to enjoy time away with my family. Merry Christmas!

Never Once Has He Left Me Alone or On My Own

We drove in traffic across town to meet my twin sister and parents for the best Mexican food in Texas. You can only turn 40 years old with fajitas and a mariachi band.

I clutched a tattered Kleenex and felt the tears well up again. Just an hour before, while standing in my kitchen, handing out after-school snacks to my kids, an email came and with it a gift from God and I am still reeling from it.

He is continuing to bless Mercy House, the crazy dream we said yes to two years ago. The blessings keep coming in waves. And 2013 is going to be amazing. We will be able to help more pregnant girls and continue to work towards a permanent home in Kenya for our present girls and babies and many others.

This past week has been hard for our world. We feel the kind of sadness that we can’t shake with Christmas shopping or birthdays. My soul yearns for His Kingdom.

I have scars from this struggle.

There are wounded, dark places in my heart where I’m tempted to believe I’m alone.

But standing there in my kitchen, I felt His presence. Emmanuel, God with me, us-in joy and sorrow. The gift He gave wasn’t so much about a tangible present (although it was), it was His Presence. He reminded me (again) that He is with me.

I closed the door to my bedroom and knelt beside my bed and I sobbed. On my birthday.  Happy, hard tears. I wept for good news in an email and bad news in our world, joy and sorrow mixed and mostly, I cried because He was right there with me in both.

And I’m learning more the true meaning of Christmas: He is God on the mountaintop and God in the valley. The heartbeat of Christmas is God with us. All the time.

My husband held my hand as he navigated traffic, kids in the backseat, all hungry for refried beans and celebration and he played this song on the radio:

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

-10,000 Reasons

The road blurred and tears dripped off my chin, overwhelmed with His abounding faithfulness, even when I don’t understand, carry unanswered questions, He is here. Never once has He left me alone or on my own.

I don’t know if you’re on the mountaintop this holy season or struggling on the battlefield, I waffle between both. But wherever you are, He is there. That is the essence of Christmas, unwrapping Jesus, God with us.

40 Things I’ve Learned in 40 Years

I celebrated my 18th wedding anniversary and 40th birthday this week while the world wept.  Sorrow still clings, but life goes on.

I hate that it does sometimes. It seems like time should stand still, school should be canceled, and jobs abandoned with the loss of such innocence. And women who are too young to turn 40, don’t.

Life continues, but we are never the same. Armed policemen frequent my kids’ schools, my children’s questions have gotten harder and my answers, fewer. With unprecedented tragedy that shakes a nation, we hold our babies closer, we beseech God more and sadness mingles with joy this sacred season.

I’ve learned a lot in my journey and I still have much more to grasp. 40 things I’ve learned in 40 years:

  1. Getting bangs makes you feel 35
  2. And makes you *think* you’ve lost 5 pounds
  3. Parenting gets harder
  4. Marriage gets hotter
  5. I will struggle until I die
  6. The sadness in our world makes me long for His Kingdom on earth
  7. The “baby” weight is just called weight after 40
  8. Going with your twin sister to get a nose ring on a Thursday night at 8pm will make you feel 40 years old
  9. Backing out, even older
  10. I will always be old to my kids
  11. But never too old to believe in things I can’t see
  12. I will always have a frequent shopper card to the emergency room (product of being in THAT family)
  13. It’s okay to pass up a good deal if you don’t need anything
  14. It’s good to break rules every once in awhile
  15. I will never catch up on laundry
  16. I’m okay with never catching up on laundry
  17. Life’s too short not to say I’m sorry
  18. The urge to have another baby will pass (hopefully)
  19. 40 is a good year to get a puppy (hint, hint, honey)
  20. Sweet tea catches up with you
  21. Asking your hubby for an exercise bike for your birthday will put him in a pickle (he got me sassy boots instead)
  22. I just don’t have time for everything (I’m looking at you Twitter)
  23. Age brings freedom: I just don’t care about some things any more
  24. Having a slew of 20 and 30-something moms ask you for parenting advice will humble you every day
  25. Related: I still don’t know what I’m doing
  26. I need God more today than I did yesterday
  27. And also chocolate
  28. Babies grow up too fast
  29. Then one day they are smarter than you and they know it
  30. Never let them in on this knowledge
  31. Write even when no one reads
  32. It’s okay to believe you are beautiful
  33. And It’s okay for your beauty to have nothing to do with the way you look
  34. There’s no shame in being yourself
  35. God is full of good surprises (yesterday I got one for Mercy House that floored me!)
  36. To be absent from the body, is to be present with Jesus
  37. Be happy–dream big, live scared, this is it
  38. Be kind to others.
  39. Be good to yourself.
  40. Evil will never win

WMFW: Because Laughter Wins

My kids make me laugh every day. It truly is the best medicine (and sometimes even gets them out of trouble). I want to tell you about a book for your family that is sure to produce gut-wrenching giggles we all need to hear. I just know this book will be a favorite for our family for a very long time.

I think it’s for little kids, but it will bring out the little kid in everyone. I had tucked it away for a day when I knew we would need laughter.

Y’all. Seriously.

The Tickle Monster Laughter Kit (5 stars and rave reviews on amazon) is about a “loveable monster with big puffy mitts who has just flown in from Planet Tickle. His mission is to bring joy and laughter to Planet Earth. How? By tickling any child who happens to follow along in this book. Parents read aloud and do the tickling while their children squirm and giggle with delight.”

It’s just that good. And I highly recommend laughing until it hurts.

And if you’re a Facebook friend, you know just what I’m talking about (see latest status)

Laughter works for us!

(Amazon affiliate link above)

Where I Find You {Giveaway}

Congrats to random winner Elizabeth!

The last few days have been hard. Family birthdays and my anniversary tinged with deep sadness. I feel helpless, don’t you? I have wondered where to find God in the middle of such suffocating sorrow for our nation.  He seems quiet.

But do not doubt, He was there in that school, no law could keep him out. And He is with us:

In fear.

In joy.

In darkness.

Everywhere we go, everything we do, He is there.

During this Holy season, we are reminded that hope came down from Heaven to a lowly stable.

Grammy-nominated Kari Jobe is a worship leader and a beautiful young lady who loves God. Her new Christmas Edition of Where I Find You is amazing. I love “When Hope Came Down.”

Her song“‘We Are” is a song of commission for us as believers,” says Kari, “to be reminded of what we’ve been called to; and that is to impact people’s lives in everything we do.”

So, do that this Christmas season. People are watching, looking for hope.

Today I’m giving away an autographed copy of Kari’s “Where I Find You” CD, a red cloth-covered edition of the “A Christmas Carol” book, and a copy of the brand new Wow Hits 2013 CD that she is featured on.

I’m mediating on these words and this blessed hope.

Leave a comment if you’d like to win. This giveaway is only 24 hours and will close Wednesday.