A Quest for a Church

In my last post, I wrote about wanting to be on fire again, to feel that passion about going to church that I felt as a teen. I’ve been feeling this way for a while and trying to figure out what to do about it. As I thought over the past few month, maybe even the last year, I realized how lukewarm I felt about, not my faith or my God, but about attending church. It also occurred to me that I wasn’t the only one in my home feeling this way.

We have missed way more church services than we attending. No one was excited about going on Sundays to the point where most weeks we didn’t even bother to get out of bed or dressed until it was too late to make it on time.

I’ve been “regularly” attending the same church since I was 14 years old. If you asked me where I go to church, it’s the one I would have named. But it’s not working for us anymore. Something has to change. And I have prayed to feel differently to the point where I am starting to believe that God has answered that prayer with a firm “NO.” It’s time to do something different.

I did a Google search for churches in our town and found that there are over 80 churches here. Wow. I’m pretty sure we should be able to find a church that works for all of us with that many to try. Right away we can rule out all of the catholic churches, any that speak a language other than English, and a couple of denominations that we know we disagree with their doctrine. I figure that leaves us with about 40 churches IN OUR TOWN!

We started our search on Palm Sunday. I had such high hopes for it. I really enjoyed the service and the boys loved the children’s service. However, there were some really big downsides. As a visitor, I felt so out-of-place trying to figure out how to get the boys signed in. When I walked up to the “Welcome Center” and asked how to sign the boys into the children’s church, they acted like it was the strangest thing they had ever been asked.

We finally got the boys signed up and settled and headed into the service. I liked the service, but with a guest speaker they passed the offering plate twice. This is one of the biggest ways to get us to never come back. The second issue was that the closing song actually turned out to be five songs making the service last over an hour and a half. At one point my husband had finally had enough and actually walked out. We crossed this church off our list of possibilities and moved on.

For Easter Sunday, we attended our regular church. My thoughts on this were that for Easter I didn’t want to take a chance on a service where I wouldn’t know what to expect and that I might not enjoy. Plus, since it was Easter, I assumed they would be having communion. Well, you know what they say about assuming.

The service was enjoyable, but instead of communion it was a baptism service. I normally love a baptismal service, but on Easter I really needed communion. It just reinforced my feelings on needing a new church.

Over the week following Easter, as we talked about what church we would try that week, I continually said I wanted to go somewhere that I knew I could have communion. I grew up in a Church of Christ, so I knew that they do communion every Sunday. There are three of them in our town. I started Googling them to find starting times and addresses. One is a teeny tiny church, and we were concerned that because we weren’t members of that church that they might not let us take communion. One was a United Church of Christ so I wasn’t sure if they have communion every week. The third doesn’t actually have “Church of Christ” in its name so we couldn’t figure out which church it was.

Finally my husband decided that we would just drive the 30-45 minutes to the Church of Christ I grew up in. My parents decided to make the drive with us. It was kind of like going home again. Unlike the church a couple of weeks before, everyone was so friendly. We still knew a handful of people there, and the pastor was the same.

The bulletin scared my husband a bit with all the songs listed but singing out of a hymnal is much different from what he was used to and the songs don’t last nearly as long. The service was very enjoyable, and it was so nice to sit in a service where the pastor wasn’t afraid to talk about the Christian being persecuted around the world or say that abortion is wrong. And towards the end of the service, I could feel my husband tense up next to me when the preacher said he had 45 minutes worth of talking left. But he relaxed as everyone else laughed, and the service ended right at an hour.

There were definitely some downsides. The most obvious being the drive. It is just too far for us to attend regularly. The next would be that even though I want the boys to know the hymns that I grew up with, I have been attended contemporary services for too long to go back to such a traditional service. And the next issue we had is the size. With the six of us attending, we literally increased the attendance by ten percent. So this is just not a feasible option for us at this point.

For our fourth church in four weeks, we decided to try a missionary church that we had been to a couple of times years ago. Again, I Googled to find the starting times. (Do you remember when all churches used to start at 10:30?) Their website said they had a 9:15 and a 10:45 service. We headed out Sunday morning for the 10:45 service. When we got there, the sign at the road showed the service times as the same as we saw online. However, as we walked to the door, there was another sign saying the service times were 9:45 and 11.

We walked in the doors and were overwhelmed with the people and the noise. It was so loud in the entry that my husband and I couldn’t hear anything the other said. I finally spotted the area to sign the boys into the children’s church (since at this church there was no one working the welcome center.). We got them all signed in and were pointed down the hall to where the classrooms were. However, we were not told which classroom we were to take them to.

I finally found the one with a sign saying 5 & 6 year olds. The lights were off, but there were two adults in the room. They told us for the second service all the kids go into the same classroom, the one for the 1 & 2 year olds. I was so confused by everything that had happened up to this point, I said to the woman, “Church starts at 10:45, right?”

She responded with, “10:45 or 11. I don’t know. Don’t worry. You’re not too early.”

Are you kidding? Of course, I wasn’t too early. By this time it was 10:45 and I was wondering if anyone here knew what was going on or if they let you work in the kids area on your first Sunday.

I took the boys across the hall and found a teenager in charge of the room where there was nothing age appropriate for my boys. And while I certainly don’t mind a teenager working with the kids, I did want someone who appeared to care and/or know what was going on. I dropped the boys off and stepped back into the hall where my husband was waiting.

We just stood there a minute dumbfounded wondering what was going on. I noticed a back door with no alarm right behind us. I looked at him and said, “Want me to grab the boys and we’ll sneak out that door?”

We discussed it for a minute. What was the service going to be like if no one knew what was going on? What were the boys going to be doing during the service? Was the service ever going to start? We grabbed the boys and left. If it is this unorganized before hand, we weren’t hanging around to see what the service was going to be like.

For those of you keeping score, this means that in 4 churches in 4 weeks, my husband has walked out of half of them.

So what have we learned over the last four weeks?

1. The church we are looking for needs to be within a 30 minute drive from our house.

2. We want a contemporary service.

3. There must be only one time the offering plate is passed.

4. The service needs to be an hour long.

5. We would like there to be other people there around our age or at least other kids for the boys to make friends.

and most importantly to me at this point

6. The people in charge MUST know what is going on and what time the service starts.

 

We have laughed that we can attend a different church every Sunday for at least a year, and maybe that’s what we will do. As we’ve all learned, if it’s bad we will just walk out. I’ll keep you guys updated on our Quest for a Church.

What things do you look for in a church? What else should we be looking for?

 

Set Me On Fire

A while ago, I heard a song. It was Sanctus Real’s On Fire. It broke my heart and brought tears to my eyes. I’ve lived the life they sing out in the song.

Remember when you couldn’t wait
to show up early and find your place.
Cause you didn’t want to miss a thing.
And your heart was open and ready for change.
Oh, those were the days.
You were never afraid to sing,
never afraid to life your hands.
Didn’t care what people would think.

I remember what that was like. Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, we were there. We were there early. We got together before and after. We were a solid unit for Christ. We were a family. We worshiped together. We mourned together. If one of us was hurting, we all hurt together. We were a force for Christ that was not to be reckoned with. And it felt as if nothing and no one could drive us a part.

You were on fire,
and church was more than a place,
and people were more than faces.
and Jesus was more than a name.

We were on fire. We loved each other and Jesus. Church was more than a place. And Jesus was definitely more than a name. We were living for Him. We ministered to each other and strangers. We came from different places. We were a crazy range of ages from young teens to early twenties.

But our age differences and where we had come from didn’t matter. We loved each other and Jesus fiercely. Nothing could stand in our way.

Remember when you weren’t ashamed.
To tell your friends about your faith.
A time when you felt the pain
of just one lost soul that was slipping away.
Your heart was soft, you had radiant eyes,
but slowly the pressures and burdens of life
pulled you into the dark of night.
But when did you lose your sight?

We weren’t ashamed. We wore our faith proudly. We wanted to reach more, do more, BE MORE. We started our own church services. We shared our mistakes, our pain, our triumphs, our hearts.

We didn’t all look the same. We covered a range of everything, from preppy to emo. We were a band of misfits with our crazy hair and piercings and our crazy love of God. And those of us who would scare strangers on the street with our looks were the most softhearted.

We took the phrase “Freedom From Religion” to heart. We didn’t need a bunch of rules and regulations. We loved God and each other.

Oh, you were on fire,
you let life put out the flame.

Oh, isn’t that the truth? Mistakes were made by people we trusted, people who should have been supporting what we were doing. And suddenly we were lost. We fell apart and away from each other. This breach of trust drove us away from each other, and some of us even away from God.

Some of us are still friends. Some of us are simply Facebook friends. There are some of us I haven’t seen in over 10 years. And while I haven’t lost my faith, I haven’t felt like I did back then since. These days church is just a place, and it breaks my heart. And there are times, even all these years later, sitting in that place, when all that hurt and anger comes back as if it just happened yesterday.

But He’s still calling out for you
cause He wants to light your heart again.
And set it on fire

Turn your eyes, turn your eyes
and don’t forget what it was like
Set me on fire, set me on fire
I wanna hold God’s people close
wanna feel the power of Jesus’ name

I don’t know how to get back there. I don’t know what I’m looking for. I pray for that fire to fill me again. I pray for that fire to fill us all again.

Set me on fire

You can find all the Worship Wednesday posts here.

Instead of the Bunny, Focus on the Lamb

courtesy of jonfletch via rbgstock.com

courtesy of jonfletch via rbgstock.com

Today is Good Friday and the start of Passover. Christians reflect on the day our Savior gave His life for ours on the cross, and the Jewish people remember the day God spared their lives and delivered them from slavery in Egypt.

As it happens every year at this time, I have found myself aggravated again on Good Friday. The boys were sitting down to watch some cartoons and became so excited. It was a new Wonder Pets! Connor comes running to find me, yelling, “Easter is coming! Record it, Mom!”

I went to see what was on and, sure enough, the Wonder Pets were talking about Easter coming. They were talking about collecting eggs and helping out the bunny. Oh, how I despise that bunny. I paused the show and told the boys we were going to have a talk before I turned it back on.

I asked, “Is the Easter bunny real?”

They both shouted, “NO!”

“What is Easter about?”

“Jesus!” Cameron answered.

Not to be outdone, Connor yelled, “Jesus is alive!”

We talked about it a little more and then I let them watch the show. As I walked away, I realized that we’re doing it right. It’s okay for them to watch the shows like that one as long as they understand what it’s all really about. And they knew what Easter is about with no prompting. They get it and understand it as much as kids that age can.

I let the aggravation roll off me. All the pictures of the bunny and Facebook post of Easter crafts and center pieces that are about nest and eggs and bunnies. I don’t have to let it bother me. I don’t have to let it affect the way we spend this weekend.

And then I thought back to the Jewish people and Passover. Last Sunday I attended a church where the message was given by a Jew for Jesus. It was amazing. I knew almost nothing about Passover, other than it was in remembrance of God freeing the Jews from slavery in Egypt. I learned so much.

I found it incredible how every part of the Passover meal relates directly to Jesus. The first time Christians had communion was at Jesus’s last Passover Seder. And as the Jewish people remember the sacrifice of a lamb to spare their firstborn sons, we remember the sacrifice of the Lamb who is the firstborn Son.

Last year on Good Friday, I took the boys on an adventure to find the cross. This year I’m focusing on the Lamb. When I see that bunny, I’ll remember the Lamb. And, when we are on our egg hunt, we will remember the Lamb.

Remember the Lamb who died so that we may live and rejoice that He is alive! The tomb is empty! Our Savior lives!

The bunny doesn’t matter.

From my family to yours, happy Easter.

You can learn more about Jews for Jesus here.

Oh, Indiana, You’ve Got Some Issues

For about the last week or so, I’ve been kicking this post around in my head. It’s been making me crazy. I am so disgusted with what is going on in Indiana right now. I kept hoping it would quiet down or that those who are ignorant would become informed. But instead of becoming informed on the issues, reading the laws, or even learning why it was written, hate has been spewed all over my state.

Of course, I’m talking about the Religious Freedom Reformation Act (RFRA) that was signed into law in Indiana last week. The headlines and loud voices are all yelling that it is permission to discriminate in our state. “Now you can refuse to sell a cupcake to all homosexuals in Indiana.” What a load of crap.

Personally, I think you should be able to discriminate against anyone and everyone you want to. Remember when all business had signs in their windows stating that they have the right to refuse service to anyone? Apparently those days are over. And, honestly, if a business is discriminating against someone or a group of people, word will get out, and the market will take care of it. If a business was discriminating, people would stop spending their money at that business and their doors would close. Look at what’s happening with the doctor in Michigan who refused to handle the care of a lesbian couple’s baby. That doctor is losing patients. People don’t want to see a doctor who would discriminate against this couple or their baby.

I’ve already shared my political views on marriage. I don’t want the government involved in any marriage. I don’t care who or what you want to marry as long as you don’t force me to be a part of it. I certainly don’t care who you love. It’s none of my business.

But back to Indiana. This law wasn’t written with the idea of any sort of marriage in mind. Although it should protect those businesses who have a DEEPLY HELD RELIGIOUS BELIEF against A SPECIFIC EVENT, it was actually written because of the Hobby Lobby v Obamacare court case.

And, guess what, South Bend’s Mayor Buttigieg? Notre Dame University was protected by the federal RFRA and is now protected in the state by the state’s RFRA. So while you are speaking out against our state as a whole, maybe you should be speaking out against Notre Dame as well. Maybe you should be banning all city business with the university? Except that would probably be pretty dicey as South Bend’s mayor.

And just when I thought that things couldn’t get any crazier around here, they did. On Tuesday, a local TV station sent a reporter out to talk to small town business owners. They went to a local pizzeria that publicly shares that they are a Christian business, and asked them if they would cater a gay wedding. The owners told the TV station that they have never refused service to anyone for ANY REASON, but that they would probably wouldn’t cater a gay wedding.

For some reason, it doesn’t matter to people that they said that they serve everyone or that they have NEVER been asked to cater a wedding, gay, straight or otherwise. All that seems to matter is that they said that they would probably not be a part of a hypothetical situation. And for all the talk about inclusion and respecting people’s rights, this pizzeria has been attacked all over the place. This small town business has become the face for what is wrong in Indiana. They have had to keep their business closed for the last two days because of all the threatening phone calls and internet messages, including a tweet from a local coach asking who would join her to burn the restaurant down.

The owners are being attacked as a business and as individuals. How on earth can you believe that it is okay to attack these people just because they don’t agree with you? How does this help anyone? If you believe that their statements and stance are hateful, how does it help to reply to them with more hate? And how in the world can you expect me to respect your beliefs, if you refuse to respect mine?

Now, I’m not saying we all have to agree and hold hands and sing camp songs. It is perfectly fine for us to disagree on things. The real issue should be how we disagree. Can we disagree with kindness instead of hate? Maybe I don’t agree with you on the issue, but I’m certainly not going to hack your website and put porn on it or try to gather a group to burn your business to the ground.

All I’m asking is that my rights and beliefs be as protected as yours. You don’t have to agree with me. You can think that I am wrong. You can think that I am a complete moron for my beliefs. All I’m asking is that you respect my right to have my own beliefs.

Because of the attacks on the pizzeria, Dana Loesch, host of the Blaze’s show Dana, and her staff created a go fund me page last night to help them cover the costs while they have to be closed and show them that they are not standing alone. You can check that out here.

Moving Into Spring

After what has felt like an endless winter here of record breaking cold temperatures, the sun is finally shining. And around here, upper 40s and sun shine is worth celebrating by being outside. And I know 2 crazy little boys who aren’t about to waste this weather.



Earlier this week, they were shocked to see that the snow was (finally!!!) melting. So they put on their snow pants (mostly to stay dry not warm) and enjoyed what is hopefully the last bit of snow until next winter. They ran and laughed and played their little hearts out in the snow until they decided to come inside. And even if it is 50 degrees out, after you play in the snow you obviously need hot chocolate.





Today we met with our homeschool play group. The boys have never noticed the playground before, but they sure spotted it today. The freedom to run and jump and slide and play outside is something that they can not get enough of, and they didn’t even notice that no one else wanted to play outside. Today is one of those days where they have each other and the sunshine and that is enough.

How amazing is this planet that God created for us? That in the same week we could play in the snow and enjoy a trip to the park? That after a long cold winter the sun would shine and the air warm up? That after being hidden by feet of snow the grass would pop back up and begin to turn green?

I try really hard to not wish time away. And although I am very much ready for spring, we have enjoyed this winter probably more than any other. We spent more time together, just the four of us. We played games and the boys learned how to play cards. We laughed and we loved. 

I may love the sunshine and the heat of summer, but this year I got a new appreciation of winter. And maybe God gave us winter, not just as a way to rest and recharge, but also as a way to reconnect with each other.  

Net Neutrality and Freedom Online

Sometimes there are things that happen in the world around us or in our communities or our country that I feel the need to talk about. Normally I leave politics at the door here. Mostly I talk about faith and my family or my life in general. This is one of those rare times that I feel the need to talk politics.

There is a lot of talk going on right now about the FCC and Net Neutrality. Those in favor of net neutrality are telling us how great it will, how free the internet will be with the government regulating it. Really? I would say that the internet is pretty free right now.

When I decided I wanted to start a blog, I googled hosting websites and came across a couple different ones that were free to get started. I checked them out and finally settled on wordpress.com to host my blog. I came up with a name, put in my email address and chose a password and *BAM* a website was born where I have the freedom to put anything I chose. I didn’t have to ask permission from anyone to start this. I can say anything I want to here. I am FREE to do with this area as I please.

If the FCC classifies the internet as a telecommunication service rather than an informational service, everything changes. No, it won’t change overnight. You won’t wake up the next morning and everything be different, but things will change. The government will suddenly be regulating the internet.

Let’s say you’ve got this great idea to make soaps and lotions. You start out making them just for yourself, but they are so great that you start making them to give as gifts to your friends and family. Your friends and family love your products and tell you that you should start selling them. You think about and decide to go ahead and give it a try. You decided to start a web-based business selling your soaps and lotions. Today you can do it. Find a hosting company to host your website and start selling your products.

When the government takes over the internet, what do you think they are going to want you to do before you start selling your products? Well, what does the government want (force) you to do if you want to start a business in your town? Well, you are definitely going to need a business license ($). There are going to be some fees ($). You’ll definitely need an inspection ($), and probably several of them ($). You did get a permit ($) to make those lotions and soaps here, right?

Let’s say you are a great baker. You love baking cakes and decorating them, and it turns out you are pretty good at it. Some friends ask you to bake a cake for their baby’s first birthday. They take a bunch of pictures at the party and post them to Facebook. “WOW! Great cake! Where’d you get it?” And suddenly, you’re getting asked to make cakes for birthdays and weddings and all sorts of special occasions. You decide to go ahead and give your cake business a name and a Facebook page so you can start taking orders regularly. Maybe you can even make a living out of doing something you love.

And businesses aren’t the only changes that could be coming with government regulation of the internet. Maybe you think the internet could use some regulation. I’ll be the first to agree with you that, along with the many, many good things, there are many, many bad things as well. Although I’ve never looked for it, I am positive that you can find any type of porn you could ever want on the internet. There is probably a site for every type of hate and oppression imaginable. Let the government regulate that, you say. Let the government shut all of the hate down, you say.

Well, doesn’t that sound great in theory. But who gets to decide what stays and what goes? Who gets to pick what qualifies as hate? Right now a lot of people who have never listened to a word he has said would tell you that Glenn Beck spews hate, even though every day he says we should love each other regardless of our differences. But he spews hate, they say. Shut him down, they say. And if you don’t agree with him maybe you think that is a great idea.

But think about this. What happens when we have a different president? What happens when power changes hands? What if those in charge thought that everything on MSNBC is hate and start shutting those people down?

What if those in charge decide that talking about God is hate speech? Or if you write about being anti-vaccination? Or if you home school? Or if you just disagree with the things that are going on around you? Slowly you’ll start seeing the bloggers disappear. What about all those bloggers that share news and political opinions? What if the government decides that they aren’t real reporter, they aren’t real news sites? And then they disappear, too.

Right now you can go online and say whatever you want. You can take videos and millions of people can view them.

Right now the internet is free.

 

I would ask you all to please go to this website and sign the petition asking the FCC not to take over the internet.

Will you be my valentine?

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. How excited are you? It’s a day to force your spouse or significant other to buy you an overpriced card/flowers/candy/gift/dinner. It’s a day to say, “No, Honey. You don’t need to get me something.” and then be mad when you don’t get something.

Maybe that seems a little harsh. Maybe you and your loved ones truly love Valentine’s Day. That’s great for you. I know Hallmark/Hersey/ProFlowers loves it. (Hey, way to go! Yay for capitalism!) As for my family, tomorrow is just another Saturday. No big deal.

I can hear you now. Oh, sure. You say it’s no big deal, but we all know you’ll be upset if your husband doesn’t show up with a dozen roses. If my husband shows up with a dozen roses tomorrow, I’m going to ask him if he’s lost his mind. Don’t get me wrong. If he wants to get me flowers, I would love them. However, I don’t want them on a day that the world has told him he HAS to get them for me. I’d much rather have them on a random Tuesday when the boys have driven me to the edge and nothing has gone right and I have no idea what I’m going to fix for supper. A week old bouquet from the gas station on a random Thursday would mean so much more to me than the nicest, freshest bouquet of roses on Valentine’s Day.

We said years ago we weren’t “doing” Valentine’s Day. I told my husband not to get me anything. And you know what? I meant it. If you tell your significant other not to get you anything for Valentine’s Day and you don’t mean it, well, in my house, we call that a lie. And I don’t lie. A lie is a lie is a lie. I do not understand why someone would say they didn’t want anything for Valentine’s Day when they do. Why would you set up your significant other for failure?

Maybe instead of setting ourselves up to fail, we should celebrate love for what it is or is supposed to be. Randomly this week, Connor walked up to me and said, “You know Valentine’s isn’t about presents and candy. It’s about friendship.” Amen!

What if instead of expecting gifts, we offer kindness. “Love suffers long and is kind; love doesn’t envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) What if we love each other like that?

What if instead of walking down that red and pink aisle in Wal-Mart/Target/Kroger, we spend Valentine’s Day following Jesus? “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.'” (Matthew 22:37-38) Maybe February 14th should be about that.

Maybe we are just weird. Maybe it is strange that we don’t “do” Valentine’s Day, that birthdays aren’t that big of deal, that on Christmas morning I don’t need a gift under the tree. I don’t need a big dinner out or flowers or fancy words in a card. I would much rather have a nice (crazy) night at home with my husband and kids. A simple “I love you” is just as good (better) than the sweetest Hallmark card for me.

If you needed/want the dinner out, the flowers and gifts and fancy cards, that’s great for you. I hope you get them. I hope you’ve told your significant other that you need those things. And I hope you’ve found someone who will give them to you. I respect your decision.

In return, I hope you’ll respect mine. If you ask my husband what he’s getting me for Valentine’s Day and he tells you I don’t want anything, don’t act like only an idiot would fall for that trick. If we say we’re staying in on Saturday, don’t feel sorry for us. It’s exactly what we want to do. This is who we are, and we like it this way.

It’s been a while

If you’re a regular around here, you’ve probably noticed I’ve been away. I hadn’t planned on being away. My original plan was just to be gone from Christmas to New Years as we enjoyed time together as a family. It seemed like a good plan as I wasn’t planning on writing a post of New Years. I felt the same way about it this year as I did last year.

And then life happened. We’d be in the middle of something and I’d think, I need to blog today. And night would fall and lying in bed I would remember that I hadn’t gotten around to blogging. I really have to blog tomorrow. That’s the thing about writing. If you do it often, you keep doing it. If you stop writing, it’s really hard to start again. Several times I would get around to charging the iPad and turn

ing the Internet on, only to look at the blank page, shut the iPad and Internet off and walk away. Maybe tomorrow, I’d think.

So tomorrow has finally come. After almost two months away, let’s catch back up.

Hope For the Holidays was an amazing success. I believe everyone who asked for help got some sort of help. I couldn’t have done it without you guys. Thank you to everyone who prayed, who shared, and who gave. I’m hoping we can do it again next year, and it be even bigger and better than it was this year.

Around our crazy little house, things have been really good, too. My baby turned 5 in January. That seems so hard to believe. He’s turning into a little man right before my eyes.

IMG_0373

We finally got enough snow that the boys could go out and really play in it.

Cameron

Cameron

Connor

Connor

I’ve been baking a lot. For several years, I’ve been baking bread and have tried my hand at pasta a couple of times. I really enjoy baking so we started thinking about what else I could make at home. It turns out that flour tortillas are fairly easy to make at home and use ingredients that we keep on hand. It took a couple tries to get them to roll out nice, but it only takes about an hour from start to finished product. You can find the recipe I used here. (if you try it I add a little extra salt and use shortening instead of lard)

Tortillas

Tortillas

After tortillas, I was feeling really adventurous. I googled bagel recipes and it turns out you can make those at home, too, and they are so much better than store bought. In fact, I have a batch rising right now. That recipe can be found here. (I use 4 cups of flour and mix the ingredients like I am making bread.) The hardest part of bagels is trying to hook the ends together so I stopped making them like that and instead make a disc and put a hole in the middle with my thumb. We love ours topped with shredded cheese.

Bagels

Bagels

And to be really wild and crazy, we booked a room at a local hotel last weekend so the boys could spend some time swimming. They loved it, but kept asking when their uncle Justin was going to get there. The only other time they’ve been to a hotel is when we went to uncle Justin’s wedding, and the boys really think if we’re going to be at a hotel, uncle Justin should be too.

Cameron

Cameron

Connor

Connor

So that’s what we’ve been up to. I’m back now. The first post is always the hardest. It’s just a matter of getting words, any words onto the page. I have thoughts, topics, opinions and songs so expect to start seeing them again.

Oh! Who could forget that after about seven months of refusing a haircut, Connor finally agreed to get one (only after I made the deal that I would take him to the zoo as soon as it opens if he agreed to the haircut. Yes, we do use bribery.)

Haircut!

Haircut!

Merry Christmas

The stockings are hung by the chimney with care. The presents are under the tree. There is a plate with cookie crumbs and a dirty milk cup next to it. And two sickly little boys are in bed, if they’d only stay asleep.

Merry Christmas from my crazy family to yours.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

Happy birthday, Jesus.

 

How they really felt about me taking pictures

How they really felt about me taking pictures

Angels Among Us

The version of Angels We Have Heard On High in the video above is amazing. It’s The Piano Guys with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The video also includes clips from the world record breaking live nativity with over 1000 angels. It is worth watching.

Angels are so important to the Christmas story. They bring the news to Mary, to Joseph, and to the shepards. Each time it starts out the same. The angels tell them to not be afraid.

Imagine Mary standing there in her home and suddenly there is a man standing behind her. Imagine Joseph, his world collapsing around him as he learns his love is pregnant and he’s not the father. Imagine those shepards, watching over their flocks, settled down for the night and suddenly someone appears shining in the night’s sky.

Do not be afraid was probably the right way to begin. When I think about any of those situations, I know I definitely would have been afraid. In fact, afraid probably isn’t a strong enough word to describe how I would have felt.

These angels knew what to say. They were sent by God to give the best news. They knew there was no reason to to afraid. “You’re going to have a baby, and not just any baby but the Son of God.” “Marry your bride. Together you are going to raise the Savior.” “The Son of God has been born, and you get to be there!”

There was no need to be afraid. These angels were bring the best news ever. They brought cause for celebration. The Son of God was coming to earth!

“Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men!'” – Luke 2:10-14

In the song, it says that the mountains echoed the sound of the angels singing the praises of Jesus’s birth. I’m not sure it was just an echo. I can imagine it being such a joyous occasion that even the cries of the mountains could not be contained.

And those shepherds, dirty and tired from tending their sheep, from chasing down the ones that wondered off. They were sitting around thinking it was just another night when suddenly their whole world changed.

I’m not sure what angels look like. When I think of Gabriel appearing to Mary, I imagine him to look like a man you could pass on the street without a second thought. When I think of the shepherds, I picture the classic angel look, the white gowns and wings and light. I’m not sure what they look like, but I know God is still sending them to earth.

I saw one once

It was night, and I was driving a friend home. This involved a lot of county roads with woods and fields, also known as a deer’s best friend. We were just getting off of the main highway which was well lighted. Just as the street lights were coming to an end, I saw something move. It was dark and person shaped but more like a shadow of movement than an actual person.

It bothered me and stuck with me. My friend didn’t see it, I was sure. I didn’t say anything about it, but I kept thinking about what I had seen.

We kept driving and a couple minutes later turned onto a dark county road. Whatever I had seen was really bothering me so I asked my friend if they had seen it. Nope, he had no idea what I was talking about. So I started telling him about it, where it was and what it looked like.

We were driving up a hill, and what I didn’t realize at the time was, while I was telling my story, I had taken my foot off the gas petal. We had drastically slowed down. And as I finished my story we started down the hill. At the bottom of the hill, standing in the middle of the road was the biggest deer I have ever seen.

Had I not seen the figure by the side of the road, had I talked about it right away, had I not taken my foot off the gas, I would not have gotten stopped in time. I have no idea how my little car, my passenger and I would have faired had I hit that deer, but I know it wouldn’t have been good.

And no one will ever convince me that it was anything but someone sent by God that I saw by the road that night. Do not be afraid for God is with you.

Angels among us 

We’ve gone through hard times just like everyone else. Our hardest time felt never ending (although it did end just like everything does). We had to rely on our families a lot. We struggled individually and as a family.

During this hard time, I opened the front door of the house to let more light in through the screen door. I found a shocking surprise. Sitting on our front porch were boxes of food. I stepped out and looked around expecting to see someone.

There was no one there. There was no note included with the food. I have no idea how someone could have gotten those boxes to my front door without any of us seeing anything, especially considering the giant picture window in our living room.

I still don’t know how the food got there, and honestly, it doesn’t matter. Whether it was delivered by someone from earth or not, I believe it was sent by God. Do not be afraid for you are not alone.

I also believe we have angels working with us right on this site. Over on the post Hope For the Holidays, strangers are helping strangers. And maybe all of the givers live on earth or maybe they don’t. Either way, I believe every commenter over there found themselves there through God. Do not be afraid for you are not alone.

This Christmas season watch for the angels. Do not be afraid. They are bringing good tidings of great joy.