Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas 2014

   We had a fun, family and friend-filled filled Christmas. I am so very happy that we now live closer in to town--it makes for lots of drop-in friends and random visitors--and I LOVE IT. As a young girl I always imagined my house one day being filled always with friends and neighbors, as a welcoming place for anyone who wanted to stop by! So that is a dream come true for me, and I am so thankful. 

My pretty mantle:

Sweet baby eating some Christmas treats: 

He melts my heart:

T.Mark and Gran in the teepee she and Pop lovingly made for him: 

My boys on Christmas morning:

Alligator wrestling, naturally:

Amos and Grandaddy:

Amos and his cousin Olivia. I couldn't survive without her! 


That belly! 

Baby cousin Sterling rockin out:

It takes a village:

Our friends Jimmy and James stopped by to see if T.Mark wanted to play! So off they went:

And, one of the best things about this Christmas--my best friend is home for a WHOLE WEEK! 

And here is a picture that somewhat sums up my Christmas this year. Jesus and the Christmas story. And a tiny little monster truck. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Hope for the Hurting

   It happened. Despite my best intentions, it still happened. I bought almost all my gifts early (thank you, online shopping). I made lists. I was intentional about doing seasonal and spiritual activities with my kids. I vowed to not stress about little things like my house being in perfect condition for guests. A little grace goes a long way, towards both others and myself. 

 And yet here I am, on Christmas Eve, and things have certainly been less than perfect. The day has been more stressful than not, and I am guilty of having a slightly shorter fuse with those I Iove in the last couple of days. I often wonder why an occasion like this lends itself to that. Something as joyous at its core and magical in appearance as Christmastime so often is accompanied by stress and heartache. And I know it's not just me! But I think I finally figured it out. For those who did years ago, y'all just nod and smile and bear with me. I am a little slow. 
     The reason it is like this is because of the tension we feel, deep down in the depths of our being, between What Is, and What Should Be. 

    I was reminded tonight that that is why Jesus came. To reconcile us to himself. To make it possible for a dirty, messy, unclean people to stand before him white as snow. I don't know about you, but I need that. My life is not perfect. It is a mess of tangled threads that I have confidence will one day be woven into something beautiful, at the Last Day. 

So, Merry Christmas--joyously. And with anticipation and longing for what is to come. 

Come Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in Thee

Israel's strength and consolation
Hope of all the earth Thou art
Dear desire of every nation
Joy of every longing heart

Joy to those who long to see thee
Day-spring from on high appear
Come thou promised Rod of Jesse
Of Thy birth we long to hear

O'er the hills the angels singing
News glad tidings of a birth
Go to him your praises bringing
Christ the Lord has come to earth

Come to earth to taste our sadness
He whose glories knew no end
By his life he brings us gladness
Our Redeemer Shepherd Friend

Leaving riches without number
Born within a cattle stall
This the everlasting wonder
Christ was born Lord of all

Born Thy people to deliver
Born a child and yet a King
Born to reign in us forever
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring

By Thine own eternal spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone
By Thine all sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Kentwood Christmas

This past Sunday we drove down to Kentwood, Louisiana, for some Christmas fun with Taylor's grandparents.  The tradition there is always gumbo, playing outside on their big spread of land (complete with a barn and donkeys), and opening presents. 

Caroline, me and Amos. Caroline and Travis found out last week that they are having a boy! I am looking forward to my boys having a fun boy cousin to grow up with! 

Amos wanted to be snuggled a lot that day due to all the noise and excitement. I happily obliged: 

T.Mark and the donkeys, Nubbin and Minnie:

T.Mark and his uncle Travis. We didn't have turkey, but is there tryptophan in gumbo? Because everyone looked kinda like this after the meal:

Granny and PawPaw with their great-grands, Amos, T.Mark, Trace, and Laiken:

The whole crew:

And home that night. T.Mark got to wear one of mama's t-shirts after his bath. He was so funny. 

I can't believe it is Christmas Eve. I hope you can savor these last couple days of this precious season, and I hope I can too! 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Merry Christmas, Darling

   Christmas music is some of my very favorite. I start sneaking it in shortly after Halloween. Just in snippets. I start with Mariah Carey, All I Want for Christmas is You. That one pervades the season. Great for warming up the vocal chords. Then comes Elvis. Various and sundry hand picked songs particularly meaningful to me creep in next. So as not to attract too much dispute. We're close to Thanksgiving by this point. After then, it's a free for all. I listen to little else but Christmas music then, til the end of the year. All kinds. Classical. Country. Pop. R&B.

One of my favorite things about Carols by Candlelight, our church's Christmas program, is that it gives me a free pass to start listening to Christmas music in my car in August. No one can object! It's wonderful.

I've noticed this year that there are many Christmas songs out there with a tinge of sadness intertwined in their notes. Merry Christmas, Darling by the Carpenters. Blue Christmas by Elvis. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas--the original one, by Judy Garland. (Goodness that girl could sing, and make you truly feel something.) I guess it is only fitting, in this world anyway, that a season so full of joy and happiness has at its root a necessary sadness too. Sadness at unfulfilled dreams, lost loved ones, or other broken parts of this life. I am thankful to know that this world is not all there is. I'm thankful for the hope Christmas brings, and as this season ends, and buds into spring, and Easter, I am thankful for the cross and the hope it gives for the future.  To quote Tolkien, I know that in the end, "everything sad will come untrue". And I anxiously await.

But, for now, it's still Christmas. If you need me, I'll be in my car, blaring the speakers to Mariah Carey Christmas. 

I tried to upload our Christmas card but had trouble. So here is a picture of a picture. Merry Christmas yall!! 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Be Safe

  "Be safe."  Words uttered from my mouth fairly often.  Especially when someone I love is traveling.  Or going to a foreign country in particular.  My particular anxieties on this topic have been with me since childhood.  When I was a young girl and my parents would leave the house to go to dinner I would anxiously shout to them as they left, "Be safe!! Wear your seatbelt!!" I think even as I child I was painfully aware of the dangers in the world.

    But I have been convicted this week with this--am I holding those I love most in an open palm?  Will I have a willing heart, for example, if the Lord calls one of my babies, as a young man, to the foreign mission field?  Would I send him off with joy as the primary emotion in my heart for his answering the Lord's call, rather than fear or worry for his safety?  Those are hard questions, ones to wrestle with.  Obviously I know what the right answer is, and where my heart should be on it.  I know that if I have a heart level understanding that as Christians our citizenship is not in this world, my stance is clear.  But I must pray that when the rubber meets the road I would have that joyful heart.  God did not give his children a spirit of fear or timidity, but one of power and boldness.  That is truly exciting when you remember that and learn to tap into it through relationship with Jesus.

   This weekend is world missions week at our church.  I got to hear from several different missionaries this morning who have left much behind and made many personal sacrifices to take the gospel to people groups around the world.  As a child I never liked this particular week at church, for various reasons--but now it is one of my very favorites.  It is so eye opening to hear their stories.  It gets me outside of myself and my little bubble of existence.  It helps me to examine and affirm if I am doing what I'm called to do.  A scary question when one has invested many years and lots of money into an education for a specific vocation!  But the prayerful examining is important.  Reminds me of Socrates' famous quote, "The unexamined life is not worth living."

   It is probably not a coincidence that I am currently reading "Follow Me", a book by David Platt, who is our denomination's current International Mission Board president.  I don't necessarily agree with everything theologically in the book, but overall, I think the heart of the book (so far--I'm about halfway through) is spot on.  He talks about being compelled to share Jesus out of an overflow of our joy in relationship with him, rather than simply because we (if you are a Christian) are commanded to.

   And here, just for fun--is a little video of my sweet T.Mark reciting some scripture he learned recently. I will do a blog post about that soon.  He is only two--and yet his little mind and heart are so ripe and receptive to it.  I have seen lately how the Lord so obviously primes and prepares little hearts to be open and interested in Him.  In the last few days (as part of an advent book I'm going through with him) it has really been evident.  I've been blown away honestly by how inquisitive he is about it and how much he wants to learn.

In the Beginning from Carter | Sledge Family Dentistry on Vimeo.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

 I love thanksgiving. Especially when all my cousins come to town. Here was our small, quiet, intimate family gathering: 

 Ha! I think we were quite the opposite of all those adjectives I just listed. We are a loud, boisterous, motley crew! But hey it wouldn't be family without the oddballs and crazies, right? 

Or maybe that's just my family. 

A tradition was started in 1981 (three years before I was even around) in my family called "Roll Call", where we all line up according to age and everyone is videoed stating their name, age, and something about themselves. We do it only every few years, usually when as many people as possible are there. It has been a while, and all the cousins were present, so I took it upon myself to be a little bit of a nazi and make sure it happened this year. I think everyone was glad! I hope so anyway. I have been trying to upload the video here but have had some trouble. Hopefully I will figure it out and add it soon. 

Me and my sweet babies.

T.Mark and his cousin Sterling:

My little fam:

Kyle, Angie, and Amos chatting: 

Sweet potatoes....yum:

Okay so maybe that is mostly sugar and marshmallows, but there is a sweet potato or two somewhere in there, I promise. I should have taken a picture of my contribution to the meal this year--a deep dish chocolate chip Nutella cookie pie. Oh yes. You read that right. It. Was. Delicious. If I do say so myself. It was basically a ginormous cookie made out of homemade dough on top of another ginormous cookie, baked together with a thick layer of Nutella in between.

  My Christmas decorations are slowly but surely going up, most important of which is the tree:

It is so sweet to see T.Mark get so excited about the lights and the tree. He's at such a fun age. 

I hope your Thanksgiving was a good one!