Monday, December 30, 2013

2014 Intentions and Goals

So, I kindof love a new year.  A fresh beginning.  A new slate.  A jumping off point for things.

I think I like New Year's more now as an adult since I don't have the beginning of a school year to serve as my jumping off point.  I used to not really think about the new year in January, because to me, the new year started in August when school did.  It's amazing really how long it has taken me to adjust into not having a school year be the starting point of things.

Anyways, I've been giving a lot of thought to what I want 2014 to look like.  2013 was a pretty stellar year, and I don't think I realized it until I started reflecting back on it.  But more happened than what I first thought.   And while we can't predict what will happen in a year, and while I always want to give God lots of margin to totally blow my socks off, there are some specific things I want to aspire to and be intentional about.  So here they are, my plans and hopes for 2014.
  • Have people over at our house. I haven't done this mostly because we just moved in five months ago and have been renovating.  But I can already tell that I have this idea that my house as to be put together and perfect, which is a total lie.  I am going to have people over in the midst of our mess, and stop apologizing for the mess.  People are worth having over despite the state of my household cleanliness.
  • Find systems that work.  I am an organizer by nature and am constantly changing how I do things.  Life changes, and so my systems need to change.  I have a few areas that are just lacking in how I do them.  I need to find better ways to organize time and things that works for me.  The more organized I am, the better I feel and the more energy I have.
  • Simplify.  I want to get rid of excess, both in terms of material possessions and things that waste time.  Some of this is going to involve setting limits on things like the internet.  Some of this is going to involve me praying through and figuring what God wants ME to do.  Because He does not intend for me to do everything.  I want to narrow down and focus so that I can do what God wants me to, and do it well.
  • Go deeper with God.  Amazingly (because I know it does wonders for and to me) I do not seek Him out as much or as well as I should.  This year I want this to be different.  I need to be intentional.  I need to read his word and pray. And then repeat daily.  I think I am having a hard time knowing where and how to fit this in.   Mornings don't work for me to have an intentional time with Him because I go straight to the gym and then to work and my brain does not function well enough at that time anyways.  Evenings are pretty much my only option at this point in life.  So my goal (and I want to start this NOW) is to set aside time each day to retreat into our bedroom (because I cannot commune with Jesus while my husband or a TV-or both-are in the room) and spend some minutes alone and quiet.  This is a must do, because regardless of what else happens or what else I do, if I don't be with Jesus, I have wasted my time.
  • Focus on my relationship with Dave.  This goes without saying because he is my husband and is my priority human relationship.  And because I love him to pieces and it if were possible to make a full time job out of hanging out with him, that's what I would want to do :)  I don't want lists or ideas of how to "be there for my husband" (sorry Pinterest), I just want to continue to be present and be intentional.  To listen and encourage and talk to him.
  • Write, write, write.  God has unleashed an obsession with writing in me this past year.  And I must say, I am a little paranoid that I'm going to lose that momentum and passion.  I want to make writing a habit.  I want to be disciplined because even on days when I am scared to write or just feel like I can't do it, somehow those words make it to the page if I just sit and make myself.
  • Invest in who God has given me.  I need to stop comparing friendship in my 30's to what it was when I was in my 20's.  I am not going to have big groups of friends anymore.  And I am OK with that.  I need to focus on those God has given me and love them well.
  • Finish things on my house to do list.  The first on this list is the Dining Room, which I have an unnatural and totally surprising motivation to tackle right now.  (That blasted wallpaper fiasco really did me in I think and the past month I haven't cared one iota about the dining room).  Closets need to be organized.  Pictures need to be put on walls.  Etc. Etc. Etc. (Did you read that with Yul Briner in mind?  If so, cool points for you)
  • Catch up on my scrapbook and stay more current with it.  I am woefully behind.  I've started switching over from regular scrapbooking to Project Life.  Have you heard of it?  If not, go and google it and be amazed.  I love to scrapbook and love this approach because it's easier and not as daunting.  I want scrapbooking to be something I enjoy and not a chore I dread, or else why do it?  I want to get caught up with this year and stay on it.  I also (at some point) want to go back and redo all of my college scrapbooks in Project Life style so that hopefully those years of memories fit in 1 (maybe 2) albums and not the four they are in now, which are falling apart.
  • Pay down debt.  We have four little areas of debt.  Three of those four will be paid off by July of this year.  Hallelujah!  Then all we'll have left is the hubs' student loans, but putting the payments from the 3 towards that one when they are paid off will help.  My loans will be paid off in May, and sweetness, it will be good to have only one payment and not two going to the good old department of education.
  • Take care of myself physically.  This is an ongoing one.  I finally feel back to normal (mostly) after my horrible years long bout with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  Praises to Jesus!  I want to continue hitting the gym and improving my nutrition.  I also have a few areas of natural and holistic care that I want to research and start incorporating into my normal routine.



Listening: no longer to Christmas music.  Boo!  I am back to my normal Pandora mix of things.  Though I am getting a little bored with some of my stations.  I need a fresh change I think.
Eating: too much.  Good gravy, I did so good not overdoing it too much at Thanksgiving but I did not succeed at Christmas.  I need to detox and eat only raw kale and water for about two weeks.  I go through periods like this where I swear I am not going to eat for two weeks because I feel so gross but then 45 minutes later am chowing down on fruit snacks like I don't know where my next meal will come from.  I need to stop baking for a while and let my body mellow out.

Drinking: Water and coffee.  And it's scary how well I can survive on just those two alone.

Wearing: too many doggone layers.  And they all are infused with static and so cling in odd ways to me and to each other.  I detest winter.  Oh spring, please hurry!

Feeling: Tired and overwhelmed.  I had a horrid cold a couple weeks ago and it has left my body all out of whack.  And my to do list for January is huge.  I mean, big enough to come alive and swallow small children whole.  So, I am trying to break things down into manageable chunks.  I don't think it helps that I am still coming down from a sugar high.

Weather: Cold and rainy.  I console myself with the fact that in six weeks I will be in (hopefully) sunny (please oh Jesus make it so) warm Florida.

Wanting: To have the motivation to plow through this upcoming week, getting lots done so that it fuels me and gives me energy.

Needing: My energy levels back (darn cold!), and to vacuum my house because it has been way, way, way too long since I have done that.

Thinking: About this upcoming year and all that Dave and I hope to get done.  And how I don't want to reduce an entire year to a list of things to get done or accomplish.  I want it to unfold and I want to seek out good things and live.  I want to know Jesus in knew ways and get lost in his words.

Enjoying: All the time we have had with friends lately.  Dinners, breakfasts, coffee.  Some with people I see a lot, others with people I rarely see.  I have loved it.  And am going to miss it like crazy.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Preparing for a New Year

I don't do resolutions but I do like doing goals and thinking about what I want life to look like in the year ahead.  Before I came up with my goals for 2014, I thought it would be helpful to look back on 2013.  To think about what worked and what I'm grateful for.  So here we go:

  • Our house:  this came about through a lot of prayer, a lot of tenacity, and a lot of organization.  (all things I want to continue)  After we actually owned the sucker, it transformed through a lot of sheer will and hard work.  This will continue in 2014 because there are a lot of small projects I would like to get done.
  • We paid down some debt in 2013.  A fair amount considering what we make and that we also bought a house.  We're still playing around with our budget since living in the new house changes things.  But I'm being diligent about recording specifics and hope that we can continue to be frugal and wise with our money.
  • I felt invested in relationships, which I love.  My community doesn't look like what it once did.  A lot of it exists outside of my physical address.  But maintaining those long distance relationships is working.  I need to stay on top of that.  Letters, phone calls, emails, and lots of coffee and get togethers with those that live close by.
  • I wrote!!  2 books and started a 3rd which has been so much fun.  I want to continue this in 2014.  To write and rewrite.  
  • Dave and I grew in our relationship, which is something I will always want.
  • My relationship with God broadened, some in ways I was seeking and some in ways that took me by surprise. I do however need to be more intentional about this, which is really a double edged sword for me.  Because I need to be disciplined but that can turn really quickly into rendering God to something on my to-do list.  Still looking to find balance on that one.
  • I have started to learn more about not having to do everything.  About simplifying and focusing on certain things and not everything.  I am a bit spastic and generally want to add everything imaginable to my to do list.  I have learned a little about cutting back this year but it is something I definitely need to be intentional about this coming year.
  • Similarly, in 2013 I started to discern what I should not attempt because it's an "ought to".  To leave things off my list.  Simplify, simplify, simplify.
  • Got back into working out hard-finally!
So what didn't work in 2013?
  • worry
  • stress
  • letting things pile up too much
  • not looking out for myself
  • being cautious
  • not doing
  • excuses
I'm trying to put together a list of goals for 2014, but really, maybe I should label them "intentions" and not "goals".  I don't want things I can just cross off a list.  I want to develop behaviors and habits and new ways of thinking.  Which means that I'll need to shed a bunch of old behaviors and habits and ways of thinking.  Which is the best (and only, really) way to do it.  So, for now, I'll mull over what worked and what didn't.  And go from there.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas come and gone again

Are you one of those people that gets sad when Christmas is over?  I've always been that way.  Even though my type A-ness is usually itching to get back into a normal routine again, I always feel a little sad on Christmas night, when I know that once the day is over, the magic dies a little and it's a whole year until it comes again.

I love Christmas time.  Almost as much as I love summer, which is the next thing I am counting down to.

Christmas was really low key for us this year.  No traveling which was nice.  We got up early Christmas morning and skyped with family so we could watch our niece and nephew open gifts.  Then we were lazy bums and watched tv and I read a book.  For dinner we went and enjoyed food and good company with some dear friends of ours.  

I always think that Christmas is more fun when you have kids around, but I must say, I was really thankful for our quiet Christmas with just the two of us.  It was restful and comforting.  And it's not like we didn't have some childlikeness in our Christmas, as proven by these pics of various superheroes and villains which appeared all over in different positions.

Hulk was a great tree stand.  

He also wanted to proclaim the goodness of Jesus having come.

Why yes, those are ninjas fighting on a rope in front of our tree.  Because why wouldn't they be there?

I'm thankful for Christmas.  For a season to celebrate Jesus and decorate things and eat our weight in sugar cookies.   I love popping over to our neighbors with goodies and making cinnamon rolls for friends.  I love getting cards in the mail.  I love filling Dave's stocking with candy.  I love that we keep our tree up well after Christmas and let the memory of the season linger into the new year.  Because it only seems fitting to me that we start a new year with a visible reminder of Christ in our lives.

So now these little days between Christmas and January are here.  We're both back at work, and honestly, this week has been blissful.  I am the only one here and have gotten so much done with no one here to bother me that I could cry out of gratefulness.  My spirit is calm when things are done, which speaks to my spiritual immaturity as much as it does my type A personality.  Because I shouldn't let tasks and days and stresses flip my sin button on so easily.  But I do.  And instead of resolving to do better this year, I'll fall on my face in front of Jesus and ask Him to let me see Him.  As He truly is and not as I make him out to be.  He is not just a bigger, better version of me.  He is altogether different.  I crave that different right now.  To know that He is absolutely God.  To know that I am made in His image, but by no means do I look like Him.  He is made of that which I am not.  He thinks differently than I do.  He strung the cosmos together with a spoken word.  And dreamed me up on a whim I think.  I'm pretty crazy in love with Him.  Even the parts of Him that are so big and so holy that they scare me to pieces.

I hope this year, more than anything else, that He frightens me with His bigness.  Oh how great our wide and vast and doable God.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Oh Christmas Tree!

After a long search to find a live tree for a reasonable price (I swear, you could mark up something 300% in West Knox.  It's amazing how snobbery and perceived self importance can drive up prices), we finally ended up driving a couple counties over to find our tree.  It was still more than we wanted to pay, but it was our only option.  And it's a fir, not a pine (no thank you), and it's beautiful.  Very full and well proportioned and fresh from the mountains of NC.  Behold, the Ungleich Christmas tree!

I love real trees, but admittedly, we might end up going fake because with tree prices being what they are here, holy smokes, that's a lot of money over the years.  We could either have a live tree for the next 20 years or use that money to buy a used sedan.

We found this tree topper at Home Depot.  Luckily, the hubs found this star behind a stack of different stars.  And we like this one way better.  Score!  Hulk wanted to proclaim the coming of Christ with the angels.  We have converted him.  Let it be said, that no one is monster enough to not accept Jesus :)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Baking Extravaganza

So Friday, my counter top looked like this:

This doesn't include the 8 bars of cream cheese in my fridge.  Baking has happened all weekend.

Many wondrous things were made.  A lot of them had cream cheese in them.  Or chocolate.  Most of them had both.

You should feel really disappointed this morning if you're not a coworker of mine or my husband.  Because the tasty little orbs and squares of happiness I made from these ingredients are destined for them

Though if you come by our house, it's possible I made or will be making extras for us.  So come on over ;)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Advent Thoughts

So I haven't been reading through an Advent devotional or anything this year.  Some years I've done that. This year I haven't.  Mostly because I didn't seek anything specific out and plan on it. But I have been thinking about things a lot.  Weirdly enough, I am reading through Genesis right now.  And I love how God always ties things together.

I have a borderline obsession with the Old Testament.  Well, parts of it anyways.  You get me in the prophets and my brain is what it was in college in my calculus class that was taught by someone who didn't speak a word of English:  very confused and muddled.  Mostly because I have such an ignorance of history and sequence of events and though I love the words, I lose the story itself in places in the OT because I just don't know where to place it.

But I adore other parts.  Genesis specifically.  There is so, so much in Genesis.  So many stories layered on top of each other.  And I love them.  I cannot wait to get to heaven and have Jesus fill in the gaps for me.  Because there's a lot we don't know and my little imagination just goes all crazy like it's on an acid trip or something, wanting to plug in the holes and imagining all the things we're not told.  I've started reading through Genesis again because I bought this little gem at the last Beth Moore conference I was at.  It is a great resource!

This week I've been in Genesis 3.  Where Adam and Eve have sinned and are ashamed of their nakedness and God is sending them away.  And I got caught up in the part where it says God gave them animal skins for clothing.  That is the first reference to death in the Bible.  God killed animals to give them clothing.  Already, a substitution.  Blood being shed for their benefit.  I think sometimes we forget that the Bible reads more like a dark fairy tale than a children's book.  These stories are not tame and gentle.  They are wild and filled with blood and death and horror.  And life and hope and redemption.

I've been thinking about that this week.  And about Emmanuel, God with us.  Both in the sense that we have his Spirit living inside of us, and in the fact that He came to earth.

We put up our nativity scenes and we think the story a lullaby, so sweet and soothing.  But it's theme is power.  Battle.

Imagine the scene in heaven:  They know the enemy is watching, tracking.  Wanting the Son to appear because in the enemy's pride he thinks he can defeat him.  It is not silent nights and sweet kisses that heaven is thinking of.  It is fury and war.  But in that, a plan, thought of so long ago.  The mighty God-Son Jesus will wrap his Godness in flesh and in an act of humility that should leave us stupified, will let himself start as a cell, and grow to be a baby.

Do you get it?  It is not Silent Night.  It is not the image on a Christmas card.  It reads more like a Bourne movie.  Enemies and chases and a wild desperation on the enemy's part.  Battles between good and bad being fought in a realm unseen over a manger in Bethlehem.  Jesus snuck in covertly.  He let his essence, his Godness, be put into the tiny, totally dependent form of a child.  All for the saving of a people who do not deserve it but for which he is prepared to offer himself anyways.  And in his making his way into this world (in a way that was painful and loud and not gentle and serene), things did not calm down.

I've gone from thinking of the story as a picture in a storybook Bible.  I think of it more with the intensity of 300 or Gladiator.  More gripping than reading through Hunger Games or being on the edge of my chair when Dave and I battle it out in Call of Duty.  I see it now from this perspective of intensity and battle.  It is epic.

And in thinking of Jesus I think of hope.  Expectancy. Of things wished for.  Prayed for.  All things fulfilled in Him.  Not by his answering the way we want but by He himself.  And always, always, hope.  Hope buoys me some days and betrays me others.  She is a merciless companion.  Always taunting you when you just want to throw her to the curb.  Sometimes we want to give up on hope.  But she sticks around, ever nagging me.  I think of Christmas.  Of this season where we celebrate hope fulfilled.  In ways the world wasn't expecting or waiting for.  But hope was fulfilled nonetheless.

So maybe instead of reading through a devotional this year, all wrapped up cozy in my house, I will instead watch a bloody war movie and think of the battles being fought in the spiritual realms.  I'll read the story online of the girl who at age 12 was sold into prostitution and I will think of Jesus and know that that's the reason why he put on our flesh and came here.  To give that girl life.  To buy us all back.  We don't have a nativity scene at our house.  But I will look at the Hulk and GI Joe figures in our living room right now (because we are goofballs and yes, we have them) and I will think those figures of war and intense battle more fitting.  And I will thank God once again for hope, for Jesus, for being the God-General of angel armies who will one day come and lay to waste the lies and horrors of the world in which we live.  And I will put my face to the floor begging him to show me how to show Christ to this hurting world.

Because he is more than a quiet child in a manger who coos and smells sweet and doesn't cry or make a fuss like we have deceived ourselves into thinking.  He is hope and life.  Everything we want.  And everything we still wait for.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A little advent poem

I was going through some old books of writing (some people have sketchbooks, I have books of words) and came across this poem that I wrote a few years ago.  It made me think of this time of year.  Of advent and Emmanuel, God is with us.  With us.  Maybe that should be the title.  Hope it reminds you of how extraordinary His coming to us was.  And is.

Sweetest glimpse of glory
Breath of holies all my own.
Spirit's no longer waiting;
Has now made his way home.

Heart made of the Master,
It's beat made of the Son,
Bittersweet blood of Calvary;
my sins since made undone.

I've stepped into his skin;
or has he stepped into mine?
Behaviors at once both of us;
are they yours or are they mine?

I used to walk beside you,
but now I walk within.
I'll share all your goodness;
you share all my sin.

Sweetest Savior Jesus, Spirit wholly mine,
Love extraordinary, and altogether thine.
Breath of life into my body, holy blood
bought for my veins;
Spirit of renewal
to blot out my crimson stains.

You and I move as one,
separate yet complete,
As I love through your own heart
and walk within your feet.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Toys of Christmas past

So, Christmas is upon us!  Are you excited?  Are you blaring Christmas music every chance you get?  Are you annoyed that B97.5 plays the same version of Christmas songs over and over and over instead of changing it up?  

So I thought I would harken back to my childhood days and highlight some of the best gifts I got for Christmas as a kid.  Get ready to flash back to the 80's and 90's.

1.  Baby Heather

I got this when I was 4 I think.  She was totally cool.  All electronic (which in 1986/87, was a big to do).  She talked.  She also broke a lot and I remember having to take her back a lot.  But she was totally awesome.  And about the same size as me.  

2.  Cabbage Patch Kids

You kids raised on Tickle me Elmos and Furbies have no idea how much you missed out having good toys as a kid.  I was little at the height of the Cabbage Patch Kids explosion.  I had several.

My favorite was one that had hair just like the one in this pic.  I saw her at the store (I think we were in Service Merchandise.  If you don't know that store, you are a youngun!)  Anyways, I thought she was ugly.  So I pointed to her and told my mom I didn't want that one.  Which somehow got misunderstood as "I want that one."  And she showed up under my tree that Christmas.  And, soft-hearted, uber compassionate child that I was, I was terrified that she would know I didn't like her and hadn't wanted her.  So I showed her extra love and attention.  And she became my favorite. I still have her.  Her name is Jenny and I cut her bangs when I was six and her silken curls look like rat's nests now.  But she is loved.  And practically a person to me.  If our house caught fire I would grab Dave and her and let the rest burn.

3.  Barbie House

Mine didn't look exactly like this, but it was similar.  Cardboard, cheap plastic, and that elevator.  Good, good times.  I made an addition for mine out of a cardboard box because the inhabitants had kids and do you see a bedroom in this sucker for children?  No.  The addition was pretty sweet.  It had wallpaper and carpet.  Oh yes.  Wanna know who lived in this sweet little house?

4.  Midge and Alan

I got the entire wedding party for Christmas one year.  I had every Barbie chair I owned out for the wedding, and all the guests were dressed up.  I used a big, white Ace bandage for the aisle runner and my mom played the Wedding March on the piano.  I am not making this up.

So Midge and Alan got married and then got busy.  'Cause they had a lot of kids.  Hence the addition mentioned in #3.  

5.  Quints. 

Did anyone else have these?  Five little kids, all numbered.  Which makes sense 'cause if I had quints I would give them numbers instead of names, too.  I jest.  I named mine (Jessica, Billy, Amy, Tommy, and Susan.  Holy crap, I still remember that.  That is insane. I couldn't tell you what I had for breakfast yesterday but I can tell you the names of my plastic dolls.  Craziness).  Anywho, these were fun.  I had the 5 little color coded dogs that went with them and their older triplet cousins.  Which now, sounds a little kinky, doesn't it?  

6.  American Girl

I was borderline too old for Samantha when I got her.  But I was a late bloomer and didn't grow up as quickly as my peers I think.  I used to pour over the American Girl catalog, just looking at all the pictures over and over.  My mom made all of Samantha's clothes, and I still have all of them, waiting for my daughter to inherit.

I still have Midge and Alan for any daughters we have.  It will be very sad if Dave and I have only boys.  Although, really, I would prefer boys to girls.

7.  The complete Little House on the Prairie Books

This is probably my most used gift of all time, and the books I have reread the most in my lifetime (which is saying a lot because I reread books the way some people reuse someone else's jokes as their own.  Don't deny it; you know you have that friend that does that).  I was obsessed with Laura Ingalls Wilder as a kid.  (Not the tv show either.  I grew up without cable.  If it wasn't on ABC, I never saw it).  These were wonderful. And my set looks more used than this because I read them so much.  My mom sewed me prairie dresses and sun bonnets and I would stalk in the woods in whatever little reality my head created.  Granted, we did not live on a prairie.  But my imagination is vast.  No real prairie needed.

8.  Christy Miller series

I read all 12 books in 3 days I think. These books are amazing.  And I know it sounds cheesy and over the top to say that they changed my life.  But they really did.  I wasn't involved in a church growing up and these books were like my youth group.  Full of wisdom and life lessons.  I read the Sierra Jensen series too, and all the other books that came out about Christy and Todd.  Swoon.  I want to visit Newport Beach and pretend that a fancy house I see is Bob and Marty's.  

9.  Band of Brothers

Ok, so technically this isn't a gift I got.  It was one I gave.  To my dad.  And I loved it as much as he did.  I grew up watching westerns and war movies.  And this series.  Oh man, the right words don't exist to give it justice.  Wonderful story.  True story.  I keep telling Dave and we need to buy these.  He's never seen them.  If you haven't, you need to.  Completely epic.  And I always cry or want to at the end.  

"Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?"  
"No, but I served in a company of heroes."  

10.  Chronicles of Narnia

I was in college before I read any of the Narnia stories.  Growing up I wasn't a huge fantasy genre person (which is funny because I love it now).  I read these and nearly came undone.  Oh CS Lewis.  The things we owe you.  These books combined the two things I love most:  stories and the gospel.  I got things from this about Jesus and the gospel that I never had seen or realized before.  The Silver Chair is my favorite story.  I want to read these stories aloud to my babies some day.  I hated that in the movies Lucy didn't have blond hair.  I think she is the character from literature I most identify with.  If God looks like Aslan in heaven, I will not think it unfitting.  Although, I imagine that God's voice is more James Earl Jones than Liam Neeson.  That's just me though.  

Monday, December 2, 2013

Picture This

Finally, there are things hanging on my walls!  There is something in my female nature that has been dying for this to happen.  So, I finally figured out some things, and hung our first two things in our entry way.

The "U" was a gift from my friend Lacy.  Sidenote:  Having your last name start with U means that either 1.  you can't find anything with U because some companies don't believe in wasting time on such an unused letter, or 2.  you get things half off because they can't sell them.  The "Home Sweet Home" printable was free.  Thanks Pinterest! :)

These are two poems I wrote that were on a background that didn't match our new bedroom color.  So, once I changed them out with some scrapbook paper I already had, these were ready to roll.

I couldn't get a good pic but you can kinda tell from this one that the blue in the paper matches the wall color so well.
I have a rough plan in mind for the Living Room, but some of the pics for that room are heavy and involve wall anchors, studs, and my husband (though he is a stud too, just different from the kind I need to hang heavy things on my walls).  For now, these 4 little guys are up, and I think they are a pretty wonderful start.