Christmas Candlelight Service
Each year, the Sunday before Christmas, we put together a unique worship gathering at The Grove. There are several things that are different about this service. For starters, it is a family worship gathering, meaning that all of the kids (above the age of 1 year old) join us in worship. In addition to that, we arrange the room in "the round", with the musicians in the middle of the room instead of on the stage. That leads to a really intimate feel since lots of people can see each other as they are worshipping. We structure the flow of the gathering quite differently also: all christmas carols, several videos (one of which is a Veggie Tales clip), scripture reading (by 6 year old Jordan Maass), advent reading (by the Harper family), shortened, kid-friendly teaching, children's time led by Drew, etc.
One of my favorite parts of the service is the ending. After the teaching, we sang What Child is This, O Come All Ye Faithful and Silent Night while we passed candlelight around the room. After a few minutes, the lights were off and everyone was holding a small candle as they sang. During O Come All Ye Faithful, I took one of my ear monitors out of my ear so that I could really hear the crowd well as they sang. When we got to one of the last choruses and sang "for He alone is worthy", I immediately developed a lump in my throat and I had to stop singing. Why? Well, it just hit me that everyone in the room was singing these lines declaring that this baby who would be the Savior is the ONLY one who is worthy. Not Santa, not Buddha, not anyone in the room... NO ONE ELSE. Wow. Sometimes God just opens up your heart and mind and really shows you how great He is. That was one of those times. I think the sense that Jesus is the ONLY important aspect of Christmas was very tangible as we all joined together to worship Him.
On a related note, this has been our goal as a family for the past few years. To make Jesus the focus of Christmas. That's not always easy with the commercialism that saturates the season (Wal-Mart started putting out Christmas decorations like life-sized Santas on October 1st this year). If there is any single memory that I want our girls to have years from now it is that Christmas is about Jesus. There's nothing wrong with Christmas trees, cookies, lights, Christmas songs. I love all of those things... they really are a part of the beauty of the Christmas season to me. But the focus, the crux, the most important thing is Jesus.
The $20 Restaurant Search
Brett and I are trying to do better at living within our means. That means for us that the vast majority of date nights need to be at $20 Restaurants. A $20 is one in which we can both eat an entree and get a soda for $20 or less (sometimes we stretch it to $25). Oh, and that $20 has to include the tip, too if it's a tipping place. I know there are some of you who do really well by splitting entrees with your sweetie, but that doesn't work for us. If we go to a restaurant, we end up ordering completely different things because we have different tastes, so splitting cannot be a factor in staying under $20. Also, the $20 Restaurant must be in Fayetteville because if you have to drive very far, the cost goes up with gas and babysitting time.
Here's our list so far: The Flying Burrito, Penguin Eds, Tim's Pizza, Hugo's, Fuddrucker's (added tonight) and WIng Stop. Do you have more suggestions for us?
Also, we want to hear reviews of the new Restaurants in Fayetteville, so blog about your eating adventures.
A Worshipful Experience
So, I really enjoyed worship on Sunday at The Grove. I admit, I am a bit biased, but I was really caught up in the experience of singing those worshipful carols in new ways. I was moved by the intense beauty of it all--the music, the art, and the video. . .Did you happen to catch the very end of the video that was shown after Kent's talk? There was a baby in a manger, but because of the camera angle, all you could see was this chubby little baby foot sticking out. God reminded me that that little baby's foot, my little Savior's foot, was pierced for my sins. The horror of it overwhelmed me. The beautiful baby that we worship at Christmastime became a disfigured man, beaten until he was unrecognizable. For me and mostly for His glory. What more can I say?
Just a random list of stuff
I don't have anything really deep, amusing or interesting to say today. But in the spirit of posting to my blog regularly, I'll give you a random list of stuff that's been going on lately...
1. Community Group Christmas Party. We all gathered last night for our last Community Group before Christmas. Typically, we've always gone caroling to our neighbors, but after several years of people being scrooges and not coming to their doors, we decided to do something different. Everybody brought some Christmas cookies (some to share and some to put in a little cookie tin for delivery to our neighbors) and a white elephant gift. All the kiddos were there also, so there were a total of 39 people in our house! We did the white elephant gift exchange (you know, you have a number and you can pick a gift from the tree or steal someone else's gift...). It was lots of fun and really insane because there were so many people in our little living room! I ended up with a bag full of nutshells(!), Elise had some random political bobbleheads, Maitlyn had 2 puzzles and Elspeth got some play-doh (yes, that's actually how you spell it - like Homer Simpson). Then I got the guitar out and we sang a bunch of Christmas Carols. Much fun was had by all.
2. Carpet Cleaning. As I type, Chem-Dry is here cleaning our carpets. We had our carpet installed a couple of years ago and have never had them cleaned. We figured it was about time and with family coming here for Christmas, it seemed like a good idea. After 2.5 years of entertaining large numbers of people in our home, it needs to be cleaned!
3. Orange Bowl/Heisman Trophy/BCS. As many of you know, my beloved OU Sooners are going to the Orange Bowl to play for the National Championship for the 3rd time in 5 years! The word dynasty is coming to mind. Of course, for that to be the case, we need to win the game against USC. From what all of the experts say, this should be a pretty evenly matched game. Of course, I'd like to see OU stick it to USC! Sorry for any of you Auburn fans out there (not that I would give up OU's spot to let you play in the game). Personally, I am very much in favor of a 4 or 8 team playoff. Then we'd have this BCS problem solved once and for all. I mean, really... when are the BCS powers-that-be going to get their act together and devise a system that REALLY works. An interesting twist to the OU/USC game is that 4 of the 5 Heisman candidates are playing in the game. Jason White (OU), Adrian Peterson (OU), Matt Leinart (USC), Reggie Bush (USC). Tomorrow night is the Heisman trophy ceremony and I'm hoping it goes OU's way. Of course, lately it seems like when the Heisman Trophy winner plays in the National Championship game, his team tends to lose. Maybe we can break that streak. I don't care which OU player wins... Jason White would be cool because he would be a back-to-back winner, and Adrian Peterson would be cool because he'd be the first Freshman to ever win it.
4. Rockin' Christmas. This weekend at The Grove is what many of us affectionately call "Rockin' Christmas." This is the first weekend of the year when we do all Christmas songs at The Grove. Additionally, this week we do some really cool arrangements for the band instead of the traditional versions of the Christmas songs. This is one of my favorite services we do all year - it will be fun.
5. Snow. None is coming (at least in the 10 day forecast). I'd sure like some of the white stuff. I guess I'm just a kid at heart.
That's about it for now.
The Kitchen is the Heart of the Home
A tribute to my mom.
Every year at Christmas, I appreciate my mom a little more. I have such fond memories of Christmas growing up, and most of those memories were dreamed up and implemented by my mom. For the past couple of days, I have been working on the many step process of baking and decorating holiday sugar cookies. There is so much to do just to make one batch of good tasting and good looking cookies cut out like stars and angels and christmas bells and gingerbread men. My mom made these same cookies for us when I was growing up. For at least 10 years, she made batches and batches of them, and we kids covered them with homemade icing and every kind of sprinkle and decor imaginable. This is what kept us busy on Christmas Eve while we were waiting to open gifts.
As I have been rolling out, cutting and baking cookies today, I've thought a lot about my vocation in life right now. I'm a wife (hopefully a helper and support to Brett) and a stay-at-home mom and a homemaker. Being a homemaker is undervalued in our society right now, but I believe it is the most important thing that I could be doing at this season in my family's life. It's up to me to create a HOME for my family, and as Esther will remind you, home is an infinitely important thing. At any rate, during Christmastime, I am experiencing the truth of the saying, "The Kitchen is the Heart of the Home." So far today, I have spent about 5 hours in the kitchen with at least 3 more to come. Cookies; my first whole chicken I've ever cooked :); breakfast, lunch and dinner (chicken) for my family, the kids coloring in color books while they wait for their lunch, a couple of loads of dishes, a floor and a counter that are forever covered with crumbs. It's a lot of work, honestly, but so much of what happens in the kitchen makes home really home for my family and helps to create Christmas memories for my children.
Now, back to my mom. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. She made our home especially homey and fun at Christmastime. She sewed and decorated Christmas stockings for us. As an elementary school kid, I remember making NICE presents for my teachers, not just my homeroom teachers, mind you. . .also my music teacher, my PE teacher, the librarian, the principal, and so on. We not only made Christmas cookies but countless ornaments of varying complexities--Make It and Bake It will always have a special place in my heart. (That's a whole 'nother blog.) My brother and I even designed Christmas cards for our family, and my parents had them printed at a real printer because it was long before the days of Kinko's and desktop publishing. My mom is also always in search of the perfect gift for each person in the family. She really goes all out to find just the right thing. And every present is beautifully wrapped with coordinating ribbon, ornaments on top of the packages and gift tags that always match the paper. My mom didn't do this to be like Martha Stewart or to impress anyone. My mom did (and does) this, I believe, because she loved us and she wanted to make Christmas special.
But mom's homemaking didn't stop with Christmas. We always had homecooked meals, which was rare among my peers even when I was in high school. Mom made sure that we ate a good breakfast before we went to school and packed our favorites (not lunchables, homemade stuff) for lunch every day. I don't know if I'll ever log as many hours in the kitchen as my mom has, but now more than ever before I value what she did for us. As I try to think of creative ways to get Brett and the kids to eat vegetables, I know that my mom made the kitchen the heart of our home because she loved us. What an example to follow! The bar is set high.
Elspeth (sometimes we call her number 2) is at that stage where she surprises me by her development. You see, even though she is 1.69 years old (I just love putting it in decimal format instead of "20 months"), in many ways I still expect her to act like a baby. I mean, she still sleeps in a crib, she isn't potty trained yet, she still drinks a bottle of milk (the cow variety) before she goes to bed, etc. But she is really starting to progress in terms of her vocabulary, her understanding of language and her ability to get subtle communication.
This morning, I was working in the office at the house. Elspeth runs in and says "daddy!" I turn around to say "hi" and she proudly proclaims to me "hair", and starts patting her head which is coiffed neatly. I then say, "your hair looks very nice", and she says "mommy." So I say "did mommy fix your hair?" She responded by nodding her head to the affirmative, then she ran back out of the room.
Of course, to you folks who don't have kids yet, that might seem like extremely basic communication. However, as anyone with kids can attest, for the first couple of years, communication with a child usually is limited to crying, guttural noises, whimpers, and screams. When they finally gain the use of a couple of words in their vocabulary, they tend to take on a universal meaning. For instance, "mommy" can mean anything from "hello" to "I'm mad because my socks are all twisted up and I really like watching that kitty chase after those leaves."
So, needless to say, I am enjoying being able to actually converse with number 2. I'm fairly confident that we understand each other most of the time.
This morning, she was pointing to a magnet we have on our refrigerator that has a picture of Spencer & Jacqueline Presley on it. (The Presley's work for the U.S. Center for World Mission in Pasadena, CA) Elise proceeded to tell her Spencer & Jacqueline's names and then she perfectly pronounced "Jacqueline." Wow. I'm not sure I correctly pronounced Jacqueline's name for the first couple of years that I knew her.
So, anyway, I'm really enjoying the increased interaction and understanding that is beginning to happen as Elspeth grows up. Life sure is fun with 2 crazy girls running around the house...