Tuesday, December 29, 2009
I think Christmas 2009 may be burned into the memory of my nine-year-old daughter. The year she got a horse for Christmas. That's an unbelievably extravagant gift, I know. And not one we made hastily, I assure you. This has been a decision, years in the making.
We've been riding at our beloved Carousel Acres since Emma's third birthday. I think it's unbelievably rare to find out what a child is passionate about and gifted at when they are that young. It sounds kind of strange to say she started riding when she was three, but we felt we could hardly keep her away from horses. She was born obsessed, literally, before she could talk. She had a way, as a toddler, with these huge animals, and she was this tiny little girl. She had no fear, only affection for them, and they seemed to feel the same for her. She started lessons with Mr. Brad at Carousel Acres where she rides Peruvian horses. (These horses are gaited horses, and have a very smooth movement for the rider.) We've been out there ever since.
Subsequently, we've been riding lesson horses for more than six years. Lesson horses are good for a season, but when she started showing at Peruvian shows a few years ago, I began to realize the difficulty with staying with a lesson horse. A lesson horse is used to being pulled, yanked, and basically abused by numerous little riders, learning to reign, ever NOT so gently. They become immune to proper reigning after a while, and I personally grew weary of my daughter on difficult horses, especially in the show arena, where she didn't have a chance on them.
We began to pray about purchasing our own horse to board at Carousel Acres. This is a big financial commitment, and responsibility. We leased several horses in search of the right one. We prayed for many months about the cost, if this was a wise use of our money. Ultimately, we felt that investing in Emma's gift and talent, as she continues to grow and mature, is a good investment. One Dad put it to us simply. He said "Let me tell you the best part; my daughter is fourteen and she doesn't give a second thought to boys." I think that may have sold Rusty! Girls and horses, they are something! A girl who loves her horse and spends her time on a horse, caring for a horse, being responsible for her animal, is time well-spent.
I am so glad that God has given Emma this gift with horses, and we seek to show her how to use all her gifts and talents for God's glory! We talk about this frequently. He's also given us a little "horse community" which is a sphere of influence within out community. I pray God uses us there! As for me, I'm learning more everyday about being a horse Mom. My friend Shannan is a natural horse Mom, me not so much. Everything I know, I've learned over six years time. I'm getting there! On Christmas day, we went out for Emma to ride her new horse, and she rode around the arena while Rusty and I mucked the arena. (Yes, scooping horse poop.) Rusty looked at me and said "Who ARE you!?" I looked at him very solemnly and said "I'm a horse Mom."
So meet Virrenya, the newest member of the family! She and Emma are precious together.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
The final lighting of the middle candle on Christmas Eve!
Our kids in their Christmas p.j.'s just before going to Santa's Wonderland.
Oh, how I love the holidays. For so many reasons. I feel like this year has been one of our best Christmases ever! Excluding one trip to Wal-Mart that will go down in history as one of the worst two hours of my life, this holiday has been restful and worshipful. That's a difficult combination to find in a house like ours.
If you're a student, Christmas BREAK is definitely a break! It's the sweetest time of year (unless you're one of those insane in the membrane people who take a mini-mester nightmare in December) where you have NO work hanging over your head. No paper looming, no tests, no reading, nothing. I remember that feeling. It's an unparalleled time of relaxation in your educational career. Enjoy it now, young friends!
When you're a grown-up, and you have a grown-up job, you might get time off. When I was a teacher, I vividly remember my break. It was pre-kids for me. So I recall staying home in my P.J.'s and baking Christmas goodies all day, watching Christmas movies, while Rusty was at work. It was so relaxing, and a blissful break from a fun but very stressful job.
When you're a Mom, there are not the same kind of holidays from our "work." My job as a domestic engineer is managing and cleaning my home while also trying to spend meaningful time with the kids. Does anyone else feel the tension in that challenge? I actually wrote "Do fun stuff with the kids" on my white board to-do list, because it's too easy to get caught up with laundry, cleaning, baking, cooking, and forget those little people who want to play games and do creative things. I want to do that too! As a homeschool Mom, any break we take from school is a time to clean. I don't have time to clean out my refrigerator or wash and scrub the walls on a daily school day basis. So that's what I've been trying to achieve. It's not the same as a Christmas break, you know what I mean? Christmas break can be awesome, or it can be chaos. I personally wither spiritually in the chaos. This year has been so good and here's a few reasons why.
So what do we break from?
This year, this was our question. Even though I have been cleaning, baking, cooking, I have also had restful, worshipful, fun time at home. Rusty and I have been thinking for weeks now about how to "holiday" without taking a holiday from things that matter most.
Our men's group met earlier in December to talk about leading their families spiritually during the Advent season without taking a holiday from spiritual things.(I'm so thankful for these guys!!!) Sometimes, when we get out of our routines, we inadvertently holiday from things like prayer, time in the Word, spiritual disciplines. Not things done out of legalistic rules, but things we do to maintain a close relationship with the Lord. The fuel we need spiritually, that keeps me going, keeps me focused on Him and not me. How quickly the focus can shift back to me when I forget to feed myself spiritually! I don't know about you, but I need His Word, I need to pray, I need to be thankful to Him, I need HIM!
So we're learning, when we vacation or have a holiday of some kind, we have to intentionally take breaks from some things. Some kinds of work. School work, which is kind of hard for me, but honestly, I've enjoyed it. Rusty's work. He needs the break. Of course our home, house work is still here, but it can be a joy to do together! We can take a holiday from BLOGGING which I obviously have. A break from FACEBOOK, which I pretty much have as well. We've tried to break from things that take up our time and energy.
Adding Advent and 40 Days of Prayer
I love that our church is in the middle of our 40 days of prayer and fasting during this season. It may seem like an odd time to do this as a church, especially as more than half of our church just left town to go home for Christmas break! But I think it's helped me focus on what I need the most! I hope it has for our students as well.
We also have done Advent family worship this Advent season. If you're like me, and grew up Baptist, you maybe are not familiar with Advent. But in the past few years, our family has taken advantage of this time of preparation for Christmas. No longer will we walk into a Christmas Eve service, trying to focus for the first time that season on it's meaning and full purpose. But it can also be hard to be diligent during busy December to our Advent worship. I love that Rusty didn't allow us to break from Advent, even during a bad virus we passed around and when we travelled! (We found Advent will travel. Flashlights and nightlights make good makeshift Advent candles!) Rusty kept us focused on the reason for this holiday. This Advent season with the kids was awesome! Even little Treston knew the names of the candles, and could answer questions during our Advent family worship times. It didn't always go perfectly, mind you. Far from it. Rusty and I laughed about some of the "Advents gone wrong" moments. I wish I had clips from our Advent bloopers to show you. If our whole life was video taped and we could go back and watch the highlights and bloopers, the Bacak clips would be very entertaining. Things like "Hark the Herod angels sing"...Justus was slightly confused on that song. But I love singing Christmas songs for worship, and what group of little boys doesn't love family worship with FIRE! That's like the ultimate for them.
Rest and Fun
We've enjoyed some amazing rest time this past week. Rusty got two days off from work, which has been AMAZING! (He's been on call the whole time, but still home with us, which ROCKS!) It's been restful, having both of us home, enjoying the kids, working in the house together, and doing fun stuff as a family! We did some just-for-fun stuff, and stuff that was meaningful. It's my hope we're making snapshots of memories for our kids. This year, we watched the movie "The Nativity Story" together as a family, and I think that's our new Christmas tradition. That was really neat, and brought the story to life for all of us. Again this year, we went to the nursing home on Christmas Eve to visit our beloved Mr. Gruner and some other residents. That makes our Christmas hopefully as much as it makes theirs. On Christmas Eve night, we bathe the kids and then they come out all drippy in their towels, to find new Christmas p.j.'s that have magically appeared in their stockings. (Okay, they know it's me.) They put on their new p.j.'s and we actually make hot chocolate for everyone and brought along the hot drink dispenser for refills, take blankets, and get in the van for a drive-thru of Santa's Wonderlands lights. (This plan was great last year, but this year Emma, who didn't wear shoes, had to find a port-o-potty for an emergency potty break. She had to put on her Dad's size 12 shoes to go in, since the rest of us were barefoot or wearing house shoes. Yuck!) We came home for our Christmas meal, Advent, and sit by the fire time. We also like to go to the movies together on Christmas night. While we watched a painful kids movie for us parents this year, the kids so enjoyed it. We've hit the amazing long awaited stage with our kids where we can all sit in a movie together. That's fun for all of us! I made some yummy Christmas meals, that were pretty darn easy as well. I think I'll post those later this week. Oh, and we made gingerbread men, which were very fun and messy to make with the kids, and fun to decorate, but it was my first time to make them and I will definitely be tweaking the recipe. They were a little too "spicy." We got to visit with Rusty's family, and even Treston's birth family, and the Seay family gathering is coming this week. This is all fun family time for us.
"Fail to plan and we plan to fail"
I think that's become one of my life mottos. It's not the Bible or anything, but it just seems to ring true in my life. We've learned more this year about not "breaking" from spiritual things while we're out of our routine, and planning has definitely contributed to that. Rusty and I took a date night to discuss this early in the month, and I think the preparation for this has made a difference. In some previous years, I think we have done this all wrong, due to lack of preparation and intentionality. We would end up frustrated with the kids, irritated with the chaos, and our time off seemed fruitless. But we are learning, year by year, and this year has been so good, and I'm so amazingly thankful! Around this house, it's still Christmas until New Year's, so Merry Christmas friends!
Saturday, December 12, 2009
That's right. Tomorrow (Sunday) Rusty and I will be running the White Rock half marathon. This is a race I've always wanted to do. I love to run in the cold, so a race in December is perfect for me. I'm running with Rusty, which I'm very much looking forward to. And thought this is our third half marathon, we are nervous!
We have been sick with a nasty cold for the last two weeks (downside to a December race, I've learned.) And if you are a runner, you know it only takes two weeks of not training to trash all of the endurance you have built up.
BUT- God is good about making sure this running thing keeps me dependent on Him. Because once again, even though this is my third half, I'm just as in need of Him as I was in our first race. Last spring, when I did the Nashville music city half marathon, my knees were about to explode and it was painful to even walk. And God was SO AMAZING to me! He gave me a great race I was able to do with my older brother Brian, and it was an unforgettable experience.
Here I am again, as needy as ever, for the Lord to help us do this. We are still coughing, haven't trained enough lately, and the list goes on. But we are going and I fully expect to make it and have a good time.
Let me remind you...I am not some super runner that has been built to run, former track star, natural athlete. Actually, it made me laugh outloud to type that sentence. Anyone who has known me for a long time would laugh too. This girl didn't run. EVER. In fact, exercise was just one of those things I tried to do, but felt like a big fat failure. After we got married, I definitely put on some pounds and was over weight and wanted to get it off, but felt so overwhelmed by it. I didn't know how to make exercise a real part of my life.
I never, ever thought it would be running. I didn't run. So I started with Jazzercise. Laugh if you must (and I understand, YOU MUST) but that's where I started after I had my first baby. And it was so hard, I would turn purple by the end and thought I would die. Every time. But I stuck with it. And something crazy happened. I was consistent for six to eight weeks, going about three times a week, and the pounds started to come off. And they kept coming. I was learning about how to be consistent and work hard for this, but the Lord had even more work to do in my heart.
And then, my husband was jogging, and I just decided I wanted to go with him. I like him. I wanted to share that with him, so I tried. And I started small, but I worked my way up to jogging with him, and I couldn't believe I was doing it. After a few years of Jazzercise, it was just too easy. I kind of graduated to something else. We also were adding children to our home rapidly and didn't have as much time as I used to. I found that running, while it was hard and not as fun as "shaking it" at Jazzercise, it was the most time efficient way to get a cardio work-out in.
God started doing in me what I thought I could never do. I found I could easily make exercise an idol, or make weight loss an idol. He had to show me how to keep my heart in check there. (How quickly I can go from one extreme to another!?) Finding that sweet spot of caring for my body, fighting against diseases like diabetes and other obesity related issues that were for sure looming in my future, needed to be part of it. But I think what I enjoyed most is seeing God do things in me that I never dreamed I would be doing. His dreams are always so much bigger than mine. What He has done in me or given to me by His grace, totally overshoots what I would have imagined.
I keep that in mind when I do any race. God is good. And He shows me spiritual truths everytime I do a long, hard run. I can't run uphill without thinking about perseverance as talked about in the New Testament. I pray as I struggle to breathe and keep my legs moving, 'show me how to persevere, Lord'. Endurance, discipline, these were all things missing from my physical and spiritual life once upon a time. God is such a good and loving Father to make me more like Him in these ways! He's NOT DONE. There is more work to do, I assure you. But it's all Him, and I am grateful.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Our first official fundraiser for Run For Compassion is here! Help us get started on Run for Compassion 2010. We have doubled our goal this year to $8,000 and we have every intention of making this year's run measure up to that goal. Here's the info...
Friday, December 11, 2009
12:00pm - 1:00pm
This profit share is to help us raise money for Run for Compassion, April 10, 2010. Run for Compassion is a 5K/10K/fun run to raise money for children in Ethiopia through Compassion International's Child Survival Program. The Child Survival Program works with expectant mothers and kids from babies to five year olds to combat the high rate of infant mortality.
Watch this video to learn more:
Students, please take a break from finals and come help us help babies in Ethiopia!
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
This picture is of my longtime friend Jeremy Jansen, and his beautiful wife. I can't stop laughing, like ab work-out laughing from this photo he put up on facebook. (I put the normal beautiful family pic up, too, so you could see how attractive they are normally.) Evidently, they went to an ugly sweater Christmas party, which I am now dying to have. From now on, that's the only kind of Christmas party I want to have! Seriously! I love this!
I haven't had time to write about real stuff lately. I want to write about Treston's recent "Gotcha' day!" But my little people could set the house on fire if I sit here too long. Maybe later.
Did you see the sweater on the dog?! Seriously, crying!