Christmas Decorations

We LOVE a good party here at our house!

We LOVE a good party here at our house!

I think between us, Tim and I took some sort of picture every day in 2015. The one day I completely forgot, Rachel saved my bacon and sent me one she had taken. Whew.

Now, that doesn’t mean all the pictures are very good. Heh heh. One of the purposes of a Project 365 is to become a better photographer or improve general photography skills.

And sometimes it’s not about skill.

Sleigh Bells Ring

Sleigh Bells Ring

Sometimes you just need to take a picture. And check the Project 365 box.

Christmas Decorated by bathroom this year.

Christmas Decorated by bathroom this year.

I couldn’t just pack away all those pretty jewel toned Christmas decorations from the Christmas Brunch, but the rest of our Christmas things are in the traditional red and green colors. What to do? What do do? I couldn’t put them in the master bedroom because I had already hung a huge Christmas quilt in red and greens on the wall and put on our forest green down comforter.

Then it came to me, the bathroom would be perfect! We have a nice, big master bathroom in neutral colors. I couldn’t wait to try on the wonderful ideas I got off of unclutterer on the bathroom. Gleefully, giggling to myself, I hung the bright pink, purple and turquoise snowflakes across the long mirror. I draped the ornaments atop the light bulbs and tucked the colored glass bottles on the edges of the counter.

These pretty pieces make me laugh every time I see them in our master bathroom.

These pretty pieces make me laugh every time I see them in our master bathroom.

So much of life seems to be finding joy in the little things, appreciating that which makes you smile, and being thankful for treasures big and small.

Project 365 – Day 340 (Dec 6)

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Remembering the Christ Child

Sometimes, when we think about the Christmas story, we forget about the difficult parts. We focus on the awe and wonder that the shepherds felt, and the majesty of the King as the Magi bow before Him and offer their gifts, but we tend to gloss over some of the less palatable facts.

Rachel and Jenny oohing over some baby pajamas

Rachel and Jenny oohing over some baby pajamas

Truth is, the arrival of Jesus was a considerable difficulty for His parents. Joseph, a righteous man, likely lost his reputation (at least among those who did not believe) and may even have lost many of his customers as a carpenter. Mary would probably have been shunned by the other girls of small-town Nazareth, maybe called some pretty terrible names, especially if she was known to be particularly chaste or modest. I can imagine the glee among the unrighteous of Nazareth, to see ‘how the mighty have fallen’, to have Joseph and Mary knocked off their pedestal.

Daniel managed to find some very cute boy clothes ...

Daniel managed to find some very cute boy clothes …

For this reason, my heart turns toward pregnant moms during this season, particularly toward those who may be thinking about aborting their precious child. I think that abortion is the defining issue of our generation — the ultimate social injustice, when you think about it. As much as you might decry the oppression of the poor, or bleed for those who are mistreated because of race or ethnicity, surely the unborn have it worse. To be ripped from life by the one who should have been their loving protector, to have no friends or allies, no one to speak for them, to have no standing before the law — it doesn’t get much worse than that.

Babies and shopping -- both very dear to Sarah's heart.

Babies and shopping — both very dear to Sarah’s heart.

Yet many abort their babies in ignorance — as much as I think of abortion as morally equivalent to murder, I must admit that, when you consider our culture, it is more like manslaughter for some, since so many voices brazenly support and even revere it as a permissible ‘choice’. My heart fills with compassion for the high school girl who suddenly finds herself pregnant, without any support, because no one taught her to keep herself pure and chaste for marriage.

David found some very fun baby shirts with logos ...

David found some very fun baby shirts with logos …

This is where Care Net comes in. Situated directly across the street from one of the local high schools, Care Net offers hope for those who find themselves pregnant without support. Unlike the predatory, money-grubbing, tax-dollar-supported Planned Parenthood (which actively promotes abortion and has been so justly vilified in the news lately for the sale of baby parts), Care Net provides ultrasounds, counseling, parenting classes and material help and hope to these young women.

We ended up walking away with three large bags of clothing ... quite a haul!

We ended up walking away with three large bags of clothing … quite a haul!

One of the cool things Care Net does is offer a ‘store’ where young moms can shop for baby clothes, using ‘dollars’ they earn through attending classes. As the young moms look at the baby clothes, and the images of the ultrasound, Care Net reveals a powerful truth: this fetus is not ’tissue’ as the world would have you believe, but is rather a living person, one who in just a few months might be giggling and cooing, wearing cute baby clothes. In each of their branches, Care Net has several racks of clothing, but sometimes the baby clothes are a little shabby, mostly hand-me-downs. So I like to buy new baby clothes on sale at OshKosh and Carters, and donate the clothes for their rack. I like the idea of a young girl, maybe the same age as Mary, choosing to keep her baby because she has hope, and because she has come to think of her baby as a precious person, not as something inconvenient to be discarded.

Lunch at Red Robin was warmly approved -- we built up quite an appetite while shopping.

Lunch at Red Robin was warmly approved — we built up quite an appetite while shopping.

So I gathered the kids (plus one honorary daughter) and took them to Care Net to look at the ‘store’. Then I drove them to the outlet mall, and gave them each some money to buy baby clothes (mostly newborn and 3-6 month, as directed by the staff at Care Net). Happily the OshKosh and Carter store was having a pretty good sale, and we snapped up some bargains. Then back to our home town to eat lunch and deliver the clothes.

Delivering the clothing to Care Net's store.

Delivering the clothing to Care Net’s store.

One day the men and women of our generation will be held to account for what we did to prevent the slaughter of more than 57 million babies in the United States since Roe vs. Wade. Most of us will hang our heads in shame, knowing that we did almost nothing to prevent the genocide. But we have to start somewhere. Nationally, Care Net claims to have saved almost 400,000 babies in the past six years, and I see them as offering a credible alternative to abortion. This is one way to make a beginning to stem the tide.

Project 365, Day 362

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My Favorite Christmas Present

One of the down-sides to being a starving college student is that, well, one tends not to have a lot of excess money for Christmas presents.

As Daniel was finishing his first semester at Calvary Chapel Bible College, I received an expected phone call.

Daniel: “So, Dad, I’m ready to come home. I seem to remember that you offered to pay my gas … ”

Me: “Yes, I pay for Joshua and Rachel to fly home for Christmas and the summer, I guess I might as well pay for you. You’re bringing your car home, right?”

Daniel: “Yeah. I have another guy sharing the ride with me, so he can help with the gas.”

Me: “No problem. I’ll put the money in your account.”

Daniel: “Along those lines … I don’t really have any money for Christmas presents. What should I do?”

Me: “Well, I can’t speak for the rest of the family, but I can tell you what I would really like for Christmas.”

Daniel: “What’s that?”

Me: “I’d like a framed copy of your grades.”

There was a long pause. Then Daniel cut the conversation short, and hung up soon thereafter. I wasn’t sure how to take that. “I wonder if his grades are not-so-good?” I worried.

Daniel and I have a deal. If he gets an A in a class, I’ll pay half the tuition for next semester for that many credits, and (if he gets all A’s) I’ll make sure he gets back to school, even if I have to loan him the other half of tuition. His school has very low tuition, but I want Daniel to have some ‘skin in the game’ in terms of ownership of his education.

I’ve been praying for Daniel to do well at Calvary Chapel, and I’ve enlisted the prayers of several others as well. It seemed such an obvious answer to prayer, back in the Spring; Daniel had been floundering, without vision or purpose, and I was rapidly running out of patience. Then, suddenly, he was accepted to CCBC, and everything changed for the better. As you can imagine, I’m eager for him to be able to go back for the Spring semester, when he has grown so much in the Fall.

Everything changed, but don't worry, Daniel is still able to be goofy on demand, as in this picture.

Everything changed, but don’t worry, Daniel is still able to be goofy on demand, as in this picture.

It has been a lot of fun to hear Daniel quote from the book of James — to see that, through careful and diligent study, he has made that book his own in a special way. I am so excited to see his love for the Word of God grow, and to notice significant changes in his character.

On Christmas, I opened a number of presents, many of them very fun and interesting, but none quite so greatly enjoyed as this one:

I'm so proud of Daniel for getting A's in all his subjects!

I’m so proud of Daniel for getting A’s in all his subjects!

Project 365, Day 360

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Wedding Feast Rehearsal

On Thursday I had the opportunity to attend the rehearsal dinner for my oldest son’s wedding. I was taken aback a little when most of the ladies were dressed in their First Communion Dresses. I supposed that was the format. Joshua and Kelsie were married on Friday evening, to the general delight and satisfaction of their assembled friends and family. We greatly enjoyed witnessing this momentous occasion as the newlyweds embark on the adventure of their marriage.

It was such fun to celebrate with Joshua and Kelsie.

It was such fun to celebrate with Joshua and Kelsie.

Being the father of the groom is a pretty good gig. Kelsie’s family took care of the reception and nearly all of the details of the wedding itself — all I had to do was show up, wear a suit, and pay for the rehearsal dinner. But I must admit, I had some misgivings a few weeks ago, when Kathy told me that I’d be providing a blessing at the end of the dinner.

Getting the room ready for the rehearsal dinner ...

Getting the room ready for the rehearsal dinner …

“A blessing?” I pictured some saint of old like Jacob or Isaac, blessing his sons on his deathbed. “I’m not sure I can pull off the whole patriarch thing,” I told Kathy (although I do have a beard). Later, on the phone, Joshua assured me that I was expected to make some final remarks at the Rehearsal Dinner. I decided I would put some thought into what I would say, rather than trusting entirely in my ability to extemporize. “You might want to make a few notes,” Kathy wisely counseled.

Little did I know that the testimonies and speeches during this event would be one of the highlights of my life.

It began with some of Kelsie’s family reflecting on her character and their relationship with her. Several had notes to which they frequently referred as they related various amusing anecdotes — I began to wish I had followed Kathy’s advice.

Michelle's idea to put up Christmas lights was excellent -- it really transformed the room.

Michelle’s idea to put up Christmas lights was excellent — it really transformed the room.

But then several of the groomsmen stood to speak about Joshua, and several of the bridesmaids spoke about Kelsie, and I began to realize that this was much more than a rehearsal dinner. This was a sacred celebration of the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the students of Union University, and I was privileged with a front-row seat to the Christian community which had been built during the years that Joshua and Kelsie were in Tennessee.

We were blithe enough when we sent Joshua off to school at Union University. He had received a full tuition scholarship, and we really liked what we heard about the school from his cousin, Rebecca. Joshua’s faith in God was solid — we had little fear that he would fall away from the Lord as so many do, when they begin re-inventing themselves in college.

Rehearsal dinner preparation is always better with a coffee from Starbucks.

Rehearsal dinner preparation is always better with a coffee from Starbucks.

But I guess we didn’t really think through what would happen when Joshua got to school — how he would begin to intentionally surround himself with a cohort of other like-minded men of God, and what they would build through purposeful, obedient conviction, walking in faith together. As each of the young men and women stood and spoke about godliness, faithfulness and purity, I felt as though I was attending a rehearsal for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”

– for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” — Revelation 19:6-9

We walked through the ceremony twice, and then settled into a back room of the church, crammed wall-to-wall with tables and chairs. With a wedding party of two-dozen, plus family members, we were a snug group of fifty or so.

I was worried about how tight the seating was, but it actually turned out very well -- it gave the meal a very intimate feel.

I was worried about how tight the seating was, but it actually turned out very well — it gave the meal a very intimate feel.

It was my role to conclude the time with my blessing — so as people were finishing the meal, I stood and warned the assembled wedding party and families that when I next stood up, their opportunity to speak would end. Then I sat back and enjoyed the show.

Two hours later, I leaned over to Kathy. “Should I put an end to this? Surely people have sat in these chairs long enough?”

It took some effort to fit the wedding party across the front of the church, but we eventually managed.

It took some effort to fit the wedding party across the front of the church, but we eventually managed.

Kathy encouraged me to sit tight, and I settled back into my chair as two or three more people stood to testify. Each story contributed to the central theme: that Christ is glorified in Joshua and Kelsie, but also among the other students of that college in a rare and deeply-satisfying way.

What a lovely group of bridesmaids!  Kelsie is very blessed to have so many dear sisters and friends.

What a lovely group of bridesmaids! Kelsie is very blessed to have so many dear sisters and friends.

I realized that I wanted my younger sons and the other young men present to hear these testimonies — to catch a vision for what God can do when a few young people stand together in obedience to His Word and the Holy Spirit. As I later commented in my blessing, we were witnessing the joining of three families — Joshua and Kelsie’s natural families, plus the family of faith that they had built at Union.

If ever a father could have his dearest wish, it was granted to me, as I sat in that back room of the church: heart full of joy, tears brimming in my eyes, listening to the closest friends and relatives of my son and soon-to-be daugther-in-law speak of the work of Jesus in their lives. Truly John wrote: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” — 3 John 1:4

Thank you, Joshua and Kelsie, and thank you to all of your friends and relatives for so many kind and Christ-honoring words. Thank you, Debbie Le, Michelle Kuhlmann and Beckie Madson for slaving behind the scenes to make the rehearsal dinner a success. And thank you, Lord Jesus, for granting us new life and joy and making all this possible!

Project 365, Day 351

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When Family Meets Family

[Guest Blogger - College Sophomore, Rachel]

I had been talking about my family for weeks. They were coming to Jackson for Josh’s wedding which was going to be held a few minutes away from Union. I had to appropriately prep my friends for their arrival, so I passed around pictures, recited names and ages, and frantically waved my hands in excitement at any mention of parents or siblings. My friends soon learned my siblings’ names and their stories; they even knew the names of our two cats. (Who would not be present at the wedding, but were important nonetheless.)

In turn I couldn’t wait to introduce my family to all my friends attending the wedding and to show them Union, my home away from home.

Our first photo as friends!

Our first photo as friends!

In the weeks leading up to winter break, my roommate Karis and I discussed our post final/pre wedding plans. Her parents had generously volunteered to let me stay with them until I was able to move into the hotel with my family. It was so hard to believe that my best friend in college had never met my family. We had already been through so much together; it felt like we had known each other for most of our lives.

Trips with this girl are my favorite

Trips with this girl are my favorite

I got off the phone the night of the 13th, the night before my mom, Michelle (her bff), and Mamie were to arrive. “Was that mom?” Karis asked, sticking her head out of her room curiously. I loved that she was already accepting my family as hers.

I already adored her family after spending Spring break with them last semester, so of course I was thrilled for her to finally meet mine.

The second Karis got off of work, she rushed over to where my three “parents” and I were waiting. The first moments were filled with “hellos” and hugs and wide grins. The five of us then waltzed off to dinner where Karis made a hilarious first impression. We all laughed so hard I think they considered asking us to leave. A successful first night indeed!



(A few days later of course I also dragged my three jet lagged siblings out of their beds to meet her, but that’s a story for another day.)

Family! (Only missing Michelle)

Family! (Only missing Michelle)

Union has become my home away from home, and those there have become my family. I am so very grateful.

College is hard, and having someone alongside you to grow with is vital. Karis, thank you for being my roommate, thank you for standing beside me, for growing with me, and for being someone I can tell everything to. Thank you for understanding how much I love to yell, thank you for encouraging me, and thank you for always laughing at my jokes. Thank you for being forgiving and kind, thank you for accepting me for who I am, but still pushing me to be better. Thank you for being my best friend.
P.S. (I still love you more than coffee.)


Project 365 – Day 348 (Dec 14)

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