Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Where is Your Treasure?

It is the week of Christmas and I'm finally ready for it! All the presents are wrapped and ready to go. Today I have to start on laundry so we can get packed for our trip to Graceville. We decided to take Abigail's gifts from us with us to open on Christmas morning. However, we won't be able to bring her "big" gift. I'm getting excited because Ryan is going to put it together Wednesday night or sometime Thursday and she is going to get it before we leave! I am so ready for her to see it. It's something I know she is going to love!

But there is something about gift-giving that I absolutely cannot stand. I despise competition when it comes to "out-doing" each other. I mean, I love a good friendly competition, in things like board games, sports, etc. I like to win. But the need to "win" when it comes to life, really gets on my last nerve. For someone like me, who has a healthy competitive streak, it can be hard at times, not to be drawn into it. There a people who are genuinely interested in what you "got" for Christmas or what you gave your children but there are other's who ask these kinds of questions just to gauge where they stand. Were they successful in "out-doing" you? How did they measure up? It's just completely irritating. I often wonder if these people are conscious of what they are doing. Or is it something they do subconsciously? Anyway, I have been drawn into this line of thinking and the need to compete on several occasions. But as soon as I realize what has happened, I quickly remember a passage of scripture, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21. It's not things that matter. Yes, they are nice to have. But they definitely aren't a measuring stick. Too often, "things" get in the way of our relationship with God. A few verses down, the Bible goes on to say that you cannot serve two masters. So this Christmas, we really need to find out who or what it is that we are serving. Are we laying up treasures on earth? Are we competing with our "neighbor"? Gifts are nice but what was the spirit behind the giving.

A friend of mine used to have a t-shirt that said, "He who dies with the most toys, still dies."

Where is your treasure?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The World Tastes Good 'Cause The Candy Man Thinks It Should

It is Saturday morning and my Abigail is watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I wish I knew how many times she has seen this movie over the last few months but I have lost count. She prefers Gene Wilder to Johnny Depp, although, she likes both movies. I have to admit that the original version is my favorite too, although, I love Johnny Depp's movies.

Abigail and I both have favorite lines in the movie. At the very end of the movie before Charlie returns the Everlasting Gobstopper, Mr. Wonka, gets impatient with Grandpa Joe and tells him, "Good day sir!" A few weeks ago, Abigail wasn't listening so I sent her to her room. About half way there she turned around, stomped her foot, and said, "Good day sir!" Oh boy! Can you say drama queen! My favorite line happens after Augustus Gloop falls into the chocolate river. His mother is yelling at Mr. Wonka to do something and he looks at her, void of expression, and says, "Help. Police. Murder." Ha ha. I just love dry, sarcastic humor!

We've had some bumps along the way this past week - literally! My days have all blended together, but I believe it was on Monday, that Abigail fell down, face first, in her room and busted her lip. There are some days that I think she should have been a boy. She's definitely not the most graceful child. Plus, she doesn't see danger in anything. Her lips swelled up pretty badly but she was tough and we didn't have to take a trip to the ER. She's back to normal now except for a small spot on her lip. She may end up with a scar but I'm not sure.

Otherwise, we had a normal week. Yesterday, I didn't have to babysit because the mother doesn't work every other Friday. So, thankfully, Ryan was off on Friday as well. I rarely get any free time to myself so I took advantage of the opportunity! I left Abigail at home with Ryan and headed out to finish Christmas shopping. Even on a Friday morning, it was crazy busy. I am usually through shopping by the first of December but this year has been different and I've had to buy along and along whenever I've had the money to do so. So, I was out in the madness on Friday by myself but I finished up all my Christmas shopping and I even did a little grocery shopping too! I was able to get everything wrapped up while Abigail was napping.

We are officially ready for Christmas. I have to work four days next week. In addition to keeping the baby, I will be watching his older siblings next week as well. The extra money will help since we will be out of town for Christmas and the few days afterwards. We are planning on heading to my parents on Thursday night after the children get picked up. The following Monday we will be headed to Fernandina to celebrate with Ryan's family. My wonderful husband will be turning 29 before we return to Louisiana! Man, we are getting old-ha!

Tonight most of my family on my dad's side will be celebrating Christmas in Claxton. I have so many wonderful memories of Christmas with the Strickland's. The new tradition is going to eat at Cilantro's in Claxton before returning to my grandparents for dessert and presents. I hope everyone has a great time! I'm sad I'm gonna miss it.

New Christmas picture of Abigail (before the busted lip). This was Sunday morning before church. We attended FBC Slidell and listened to their Christmas cantata. I informed Abigail when it was time for congregational singing, saying it was our turn to sing. While everyone else was singing Joy to the World, Abigail was belting out, Itsy Bitsy Spider at the top of her lungs. We had a good laugh. I guess she thought that our turn to sing meant she could sing whatever she wanted to!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Baking and Decorating

I'm sure that the majority of my readers are my Facebook friends too, so you've probably already seen my recent pictures. But here is a look at what we did yesterday:
Ryan had the day off. So we decided to finally get in the Christmas spirit. While Abigail was napping I went out in search of Christmas lights and the ingredients for Peanut Butter Balls. I had to go to three stores before I could find three boxes of white Christmas lights on green strands! I've told you before how crazy the drivers are in Louisiana, so add in the holiday frenzy and it's utter chaos out there. When I returned, we woke Abigail up from her nap. At first she was not too happy about being so rudely awakened but when we told her she could "bake" with daddy and mommy had bought Christmas lights she jumped straight out of bed and started jumping up and down and clapping! She put on her new apron set from Uncle Jon and Aunt Mellissa. I snapped a picture of my two chefs before the fun began.

Here is a picture of the action. There is no picture of the finished product because well, they looked a little sad. While Peanut Butter Balls are easy to make and require only a few ingredients, someone, didn't read the instructions and we ended up with something that more or less resembled a bomb instead of a ball! They still taste good though! While they were busy "baking" I was busy putting the lights on the Christmas tree. I must confess that I became quite aggravated with my task and eventually put myself in time-out. After a little prayer and self-reflection, I came around. Abigail was so happy and ready to decorate.

This is the first year that she's really been interested in decorating and baking. Last year she helped put one ornament on and that was enough for her. She also helped make Christmas cookies last year but was more concerned about eating instead of baking. This year she was ready and excited for both. I have so many fond memories of decorating the tree and other family Christmas traditions and I pray when Abigail is older, she will feel the same.

The finished tree. She informed me that we needed a star for the top. Someone gave Ryan and I an angel topper several years ago but instead of staying lit, it constantly blinked on and off. It really gave me the creeps so we got rid of it. LOL! If you gave the angel to us and you're reading this...SORRY! :) One year, I purchased some branches and stuff to stick out of the top but it only lasted that year and ended up getting trashed. Maybe we'll get something to go on top eventually.

After we were done, Ryan gave Abigail a bath while I made supper. I tried my hand at gumbo. I think it turned out pretty good. It was a starter recipe. Next time I will be tweaking it and putting my own spin on it. Later after everything was cleaned up and we were finally ready to relax, Abigail decided she wanted to stay up all night. Somehow, she's gotten it into her head that because her daddy and I don't go to bed when she does, that we stay up all night. I decided to let her give it a try, knowing she wouldn't last all night. I think she finally gave it up about 11:30.

We slept in today and it was much needed. We have had a pretty busy week so we decided to just be lazy today. I did do a couple of things around the house and make lunch. I was able to finish a book I had been reading. Abigail watched some TV and played with her toys. We also played a game of UNO MOO that she got for her birthday from David and Lindsey. We were so busy being lazy though, that we forgot to take a nap. She fell asleep early. So now, I think I'm going to eat some supper and start a new book.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lessons I've Learned Since I've Become a Parent

I bet you figured that I was going to forget to blog today. Actually, I waited until the end of the day to post because I wasn't really sure what I wanted to write about. And because my child has been acting crazy all day and I just now have gotten the peace and quiet that I need!

Something that I've been thinking a lot about lately is the lessons that I've learned since I've become a parent. Sometimes these lessons have spiritual applications that rock my world. No matter how many books you read or how many people give you advice, you're never fully prepared to be a parent until it happens. I remember thinking, even as a teenager, that there was a certain way I would raise my children, and there were certain things that I wouldn't do. And while, some of those things have held true, many haven't. The responsibility of being a parent is so great. You are no longer responsible for just yourself, you're responsible for a whole other human being. This little infant depends on you to make the right choices, to nourish her, clean her, provide for her, answer when she cries, know what to do, etc. It truly is a daunting task.

I remember the day that my parent's left to go home after Abigail was born. They had stayed an entire week with us. I had a C-section with Abigail and getting around was tough. My mom had been a huge help with Abigail, cooking meals, keeping the house clean and organized. I remember just crying after they left thinking about the huge repsonsibility that now rested completely on my shoulders (Ryan's too). I was this child's mother. Wow! At first, I was completely sure that I wouldn't be able to do it. That I would fail miserably. But somehow, I knew just what to do. An instinct that I didn't know I had kicked in and took over. I thank God for that maternal instinct.

Now, I can't say that I've gotten everything right over the last 3 years. I've probably actually gotten more wrong than right but thankfully kids are resilient! :) I've freaked out over little things, taken her the emergency room when it wasn't really an emergency, had to apologize to a small child because I lost my temper or handled a situation badly. I've had to clean up various bodily fluids that weren't my own. I have a very weak stomach. Who would have thought that my first instinct when my child started vomiting in a car was to cup my hands under her mouth to catch the said vomit. And I did it without gagging or vomiting myself. I could go on about becoming a parent and my observations but then I wouldnt' get to the point of my post...lesson's I've learned.

1. I have a better understanding of the sacrifice God the Father made in allowing His Son to become sin and die in my place. I seriously could not imagine allowing my child to die in someone else's place. I cannot fathom it. That God loves me that much, makes me weak in my knees, and produces sorrow in my heart over my own sin and failures that sent Jesus to the cross.

2. When Abigail is getting in trouble she will cry and say, "but mommy, I love you." To which I replied one day, "if you really love me then you'll do what I say and not disobey me!" As soon as the words escaped my lips, I was overcome by the spiritual implications of what I had just uttered. That pretty much sounded like Scripture to me, "If you love Me, you will keep my commandments." - John 14:5. How many times do we resist doing what we know God wants us to do? How many times do we read Scripture as if it doesn't apply to us? If we love God , we will keep His commandments. If Abigail loves me, she will be obedient to me.

3. I also have a better understanding of grace and mercy. As a parent we have to be capable of showing both. Especially as a child learns and grows, there are going to be bumps along the way. There will be times when you want to pour out your wrath but showing mercy is the best thing to do. There are times when maybe your child hasn't lived up to the expectations that you've had for them at that moment but you allow them that piece of chocolate or some other special treatment or privilige. But we must not forget that God cannot be just, if all He ever shows is grace and mercy. God's wrath is very real too. I see too many parent's who allow their children to run the home, who only ever extend grace and mercy and never discipline their children. Without discipline we raise up selfish, rude, disobedient, entitled children who grow into adults with those same traits. There is fine line, we have to know when to extend grace and mercy and when a strong hand of discipline is needed.

4. Children keep you accountable. Abigail is at that stage where she repeats everything. She is very observant of the world around her. And she doesn't forget much. It's hard when you are trying to teach your child something that you aren't very good at yourself. We hold our children to a different standard than we hold ourselves. I cannot stand to hear Abigail say words like, "stupid, hate, shut-up," etc. But I find my vocabulary filled with those very words. And you better believe she calls me out on it. I am saddened to see my child pick up on traits and habits that I have that I dislike about myself. I am not a very patient person. I'm easily agitated. It's something that I constantly have to work on and constantly fail at. I see this in her already. Parent's have more influence over their children than they realize.

I wanted to make my list an even five but my brain is shutting down. Sometimes, I think my brain has become mush since becoming a parent. I think I need to buy a book of those brain teazer puzzles or something! Maybe I should ask Santa for one in my stocking! :) Well friends, there are officially 23 days until Christmas and that means at least 23 more posts from me before the year ends! I've enjoyed reading your comments and have felt greatly encouraged by you all. Feel free to leave your comments or lessons that you've learned from parenting!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

24 Days Until Christmas...What?

I cannot believe that it is December 01, 2010. This year had totally flown by. So many things have changed over this past year. However, there is one thing in particular that has not...my inconsistency in blogging. I always have the best intentions but let's face it, my life is mostly boring, and sometimes there is just nothing to blog about. I doubt many people read it anyway.

Writing, however, has always been a release for me. My thoughts always seem more clear and logical when I write them down. I will confess that there are several entries that haven't been posted for the cyber-world to read. Sometimes when I'm irritated or upset, I take to writing out my feelings about what has happened but once the writing stops and I take the time to read what I've actually written, I feel better and there is no reason to "air my dirty laundry" so to speak.

Is there really only 24 days left til Christmas? Normally, at this time of year, nostalgia kicks in and giddiness takes over. I'm like a kid all over again but this year, I'm feeling more like The Grinch instead of Cindy Lou Who. I'm really not sure why. I am usually itching to put up my Christmas tree the first of November. I hold off until after Abigail's birthday though. This year, not one single Christmas ornament can be found in our house. I really didn't have the chance to put the tree up after Abigail's birthday party and we were gone the whole week for Thanksgiving and then for Ryan's granddaddy's funeral. Now, I just can't seem to muster up any excitement for putting it up. I keep telling myself that I should at least do it for Abigail but I could really care less if we do it this year or not.

I know that gifts are not the true meaning of Christmas but if I'm being honest, it's one of my favorite parts of the Christmas celebration. Before Ryan and I got married, my parent's made me read, The Five Love Languages book. My top language was giving and receiving gifts. I absolutely love picking out and buying gifts for other people. Getting gifts isn't too bad either-ha! I spend a lot of time each year thinking about what the person likes and trying to pick out the perfect gift. But if I have the extra money throughout the year, I love to buy presents for others at random times, just to say I love you and I'm thinking about you. So, I guess I'm not The Grinch when it comes to gifts. I'm still excited about that part of Christmas.

I am also excited about having our first Christmas in Graceville. Ever since my family moved to Graceville, Florida, the summer of 2001, we have always spent Christmas in Georgia. We would have our family Christmas a couple days before heading out of town. And since Justin and I have both gotten married, the dynamics and traditions have changed. So this year, we decided that we didn't want to travel to Georgia, even though we will miss our family there, but we wanted to start our own traditions with our own children. Now, next year will be different because it will be our spouses turn to have Christmas with their families.

So maybe I shouldn't say I'm The Grinch after all. I truly am looking forward to many things about Christmas, most importantly, celebrating the birth of my Savior. One of my favorite Christmas songs is by a man named David Phelps. I can't remember the name of the song but my favorite part says, "He stepped from Heaven's hall to Bethlehem's stall, where a star lit His newborn face." Can you imagine Jesus leaving the splendor of Heaven to be born in a lowly manger? He gave up everything to become like us, so that he could be the propitiation for our sins. He truly was born in the shadow of the cross. Without Christmas we wouldn't have Easter or the promise of eternal life.

If I'm not The Grinch, who am I? Sometimes, I like to think I'm Buddy the Elf, so child-like and full of Christmas cheer. But not this year. Can you think of another fictional Christmas character who maybe, just wasn't in the Christmas spirit? One who didn't despise Christmas but just wasn't "feeling" it? If you do, let me know. Hopefully, I'll catch the Christmas spirit soon. I want Abigail to have the same fond memories of Christmas that I do.

I've also set a little blogging goal for myself. Since there is only 24 days until Christmas, I want to blog every day until then. We'll see how it goes.