Merry Christmas!

It looks like it's been about a month since our last post from Thanksgiving vacation. WAY too long... sorry about that...

Anyways... As you know, I am a huge airline nerd and I follow quite a few corporate and personal airline blogs. The following post was on Southwest's blog today. It's nice to know that in the middle of all the political correctness of "Happy Holidays" and "Holiday Trees," there is someone out there who's not afraid to talk about their Christmas traditions. Enjoy! Oh, and by the way, with our family, there is no "bad." (See #1 below)


Top 10 Things About The Holiday Season
from Southwest Airlines Blog by Jill Howard-Allen - Manager Business Support Projects

Here are the top 10 things I enjoy most about the Holiday Season….

10. No traffic on my way to work. - OK, a little cheesy, but I can’t get to work any faster than the time right before the Holidays.

9. White Christmases - Yes, I know I live in Phoenix, but the snow still gets me on Christmas.

8. How The Grinch Stole Christmas - Best holiday movie ever. “Given the choice between the two of you, I’d take the uh…seasick crocodile!”

7. Christmas cookies - Sugar cookies and candy cane cookies. OK and just about any other Christmas treat.

6. Lighting a fire in the fireplace - In Phoenix, it sometimes requires you to leave the doors open, but I take it when I can get it.

5. The tree - I don’t think I ever stop and sit quietly unless I’m in front of the Christmas tree. How very cool. (This may be my husband’s favorite thing about the Holiday)

4. Taking a day off in December to go shopping with my three siblings.

3. Christmas music - The Waitresses ‘Christmas Wrapping‘ and Frank Sinatra’s rockin’ version of ‘Jingle Bells‘.

2. Hiding the baby Jesus in the nativity scene until December 25 - A tradition started when I was young at my grandmother’s house and now continued thanks to my sister, Danell, at my house.

1. Family - The good and the bad. They’re all still mine and here to enjoy.

Vacation '07 Day 4 the past few days have just flown vacation always does.

Sunday, we went to a church in Clayton, NC which is about 25 minutes south of Raleigh. We surprised an old high school friend of mine, Patience. You may remember her from recent prayer requests. Her and her husband lost their son in June. He was only 5 months old. It was good to see her and be able to give her a great big hug. I told her we were all still praying for her. She shared some cute stories about sweet little Isaac and we talked for a bit before heading back to Raleigh.

After a quick lunch, we headed to Iatria, a day spa, where we enjoyed a nice couple's massage.

On Monday, we drove through the neighborhoods in Wake Forest. It's a beautiful town and when we drove through the campus, we just fell in love.
This brings us to day 4, Tuesday. We had an "official" campus tour this morning and met with an admissions counselor. They did a good job b/c we're sold! There's a strong possibility that we'll be moving to Wake Forest, NC in about 7 months. We're still praying for God's guidance in our decision. Please pray with us as we begin a new chapter in our lives.

By the way, enjoy the slideshow!

Vacation '07: Day One

We are so excited that our vacation has finally arrived... we were so excited that we took off right from Mary's work in Bethesda Friday afternoon. After sitting in DC rush hour traffic for about 2 hours or so, we started making pretty good time around 8 pm. We arrived in downtown Raleigh around midnight.

I must say we were a little disappointed in the Days Inn downtown Raleigh. After they put the bed, dresser and TV in, there was hardly any room at all to walk around. Bu

t we were only there to sleep, so I suppose I can't complain too much.

We had a great first day yesterday! We checked in to the Cameron Park Inn Bed and Breakfast around 11:15am. They asked us to be there a bit early because they had somewhere to be. This place is BEAUTIFUL! I haven't seen a speck of dust yet. Our room last night was so cool! It's the only room on the third floor so it has its own little sitting room and even has a cool window seat where Mary sat and knitted. She made a cool little pouch thing for my MP3 player! In Steelers colors of course...

We went to Wal-Mart this afternoon after we checked in, the we ate at this little local pizza shop called the "Mellow Mushroom." It was pretty good. Then we strolled around the shopping center in Cameron Park that's right by our B&B. It was fun... I guess... after that we came back and chilled out in the room for awhile. Lat night we went to a place called Comedy Worx downtown Raleigh. It was a lot like the "Whose Line is it Anyway?" show with Drew Carey. We laughed pretty hard the whole time. We grabbed a quick bite afterward and by then it was time for bed.

Today promises to be pretty eventful... more later tonight...

So busy...

Sorry I haven't posted anything in like FOREVER!... We have been so busy...

Praise God though, tonight we had 23 different kids at youth group! Our little trailer can't hold too many more than that... if we get much bigger, I'm honestly not sure what we're going to do. God never gives us more than we can fit in our space though, right?... or... wait a minute...

I've also been really busy keeping up with our new youth group blog site... If you want to check it out it's over at Lot of funny stuff there. I post funny videos and pictures and even some pictures from youth group. It's only been up a couple weeks, but right now the kids seem to love it.

Nights like tonight really wear me out though. We don't really have any adults there anymore except Mary and I and our senior high leader (who does a great job, but is herself only 17). I guess I would ask that you pray that God would bring leaders to us who are passionate about forming relationships with MIDDLE SCHOOLERS. I love them so much, but they are SO draining. On nights like tonight when there a ton of kids and not many leaders, I almost feel like I'm running a day care (or evening care) program and that I'm not much more than a babysitter. I know God has my best interest in mind.

On a totally different note, I've been asked to preach in church on Sunday October 14. Pray that I would come up with a relevant message. It will be good to be in front of the congregation again as I will soon be interrogated to receive my preaching license and be licensed by Elvaton. How cool, huh? Just three or four years ago I NEVER thought I would have a preaching license. Whoa. I'll leave you with this verse that has been my stronghold lately:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

-Isaiah 55:8-9

Boredom ensues...

Ok, I need to work on my titles... I'm starting to sound more and more like my dad every day... (love ya dad) anyway... Mary is in the computer room working on an online class thing for work that she has to have done by tomorrow, so I am out in the living room on the laptop watching Dave Letterman and being bored.

I suppose i should go to bed, but I'm really not tired. I'm also not looking forward to my two full days of teacher meetings before school starts on Monday.

Need something to read? There's a book out by a guy named Matthew Paul Turner called Beatitude. Mary and I started reading it together a couple weekends ago when we went away to the mountains of western Maryland. It's really easy to read and really gets you thinking.

The first chapter is on peace and draws on the beatitudes as laid out in Matthew 5. Jesus says "Blessed are the peacemakers." Have you ever noticed that our lives seem to have way more conflict than peace in them? If not, turn on the news. Or go to DC and witness a "peace" rally first-hand. From what I've heard, they're not always so peaceful. So is this the kind of peace that Jesus is telling us to make?

Before you answer that question let me tell you this. Many times in the New Testament, the word that is translated "peace" is synonymous with a word that is also translated "wholeness." Mary's going to bed so I'm going to cut this short, but think about this. Some of the most memorable things that Jesus did while on earth were peacemaking things. He cast demons out of people, He calmed the seas, He healed broken bodies and broken hearts. Think about the woman who poured perfume on Jesus' feet or the woman who had many husbands, and Jesus told her that she wasn't condemned and to "Go and sin no more." Imagine the peace that had to come over those women after their encounter with Jesus. To not be weighed down by guilt or rejection anymore. To have a totally new slate! What a relief!

Now I'm not Jesus, and I'm not one to bring wholeness to someone just by saying a couple words to them. But I know a guy who can. Maybe today when we meet someone who doesn't seem to be completely whole, we can introduce them to the "wholeness"-maker Jesus Christ. Maybe, just maybe, that's a little part of what Jesus had in mind when he said, "Blessed are the peacemakers."

Super Mario Brothers

Must See!

Complexity at it's Finest...

I love it when life happens the way it has over the last couple of weeks. There hasn't been too much going to and I've had a lot of time to think, mainly about the vast possibility of seminary in the fall of '08, but also about a lot of other things.

In Sunday school this week I taught a lesson on the complexity of God. One definition of complex is this: "so complicated or intricate as to be hard to understand or deal with." Does that describe our God or what? Well, maybe not the hard to deal with part, but definitely the rest of it. Even as far back as the act of Creation, God demonstrated to us His incredibly complex nature. On the first days of Creation, the Bible says that He simply spoke and the heavens and the earth and light and dark were all created. Just His Word, and He made something from nothing. Think about what that says about the power of our God. When you make something, you have materials that you work with. Chefs create meals using utensils and ingredients, artists use canvasses and paint. But God made the earth from nothing. Not that we should be surprised of course, because Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God "is sharper than any double-edged sword. His word can cut through our spirits and souls and through our joints and marrow, until it discovers the desires and thoughts of our hearts." (CEV) The transcendent and holy nature of God is awe-inspiring!

But then there's the personal and relational nature of God. God spoke the heavens and the earth into existence, but when He created man, this is how He did it:

"Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person." (Gen 2:7 - NLT)

God came down from heaven, scooped up some dirt, formed Adam from the dust (probably much like a sculptor or a potter shapes his masterpiece - see Isaiah 64:8), and breathes life into his nostrils. Kinda makes you think of CPR in a whole new light, huh? But unlike the deists, who believe that God created us and now ignores us, our God longs to have a personal relationship with us. He longs to walk with us on this road of life, which can sometimes be pretty rocky and hard to navigate on our own. His will is not for us to be miserable, but to live life to the fullest! (John 10:10) Just as He was with Adam in the garden, He wants to be with us. In fact, He wants to be with us so much, that He gave up His only Son in order to make that possible.

A friend of Mary's from high school had a baby seven or eight months ago. The baby boy (Isaac) had many health problems and it was soon determined that best option for him was a total heart transplant. Unfortunately with fragile status of his little body, he wasn't strong enough for the doctors to attempt the surgery. His condition improved for a time, but then things began to steadily go downhill. Isaac passed away last night. Please pray for his parents, Patience and Jordan, as they go through this incredibly difficult time. For more info, you can check out their blog at

Imagine the pain that God must have gone through when He chose to give up His only Son to the cross. The pain He must have felt goes beyond human comprehension. But that's how much God loves us. That's how much the God of Moses and Abraham, the same God who parted the Red Sea and saved Daniel from the hungry lions, that's how much He wants to be with you. That's how much he longs to have a personal relationship with you.

These things have been on my heart for the last couple of days and so I thought that I'd share them with you. Again, please pray for Patience and Jordan. You may not, but God DOES know what they're going through. Thanks to that, Isaac is with Jesus right now. Thanks to that, Patience and Jordan will one day be reunited with their son.

Precious Friends...and Babies

This past week, we've had the opportunity to visit with some old friends. The people God chooses to place in our lives always seems to make me realize how much He loves us. And the times He chooses to put them here is even more evidence of His ultimate wisdom. We got to meet Kaleena Paige Russell this weekend. This precious little baby is the product of two very special friends. Why so special? Well, b/c we never would have met had it not been for the wedding of Brian Russell and Sarah Ackerman 4 years ago. Wanna see the precious baby?

Kaleena, I hope you know how special you are. May you always trust in the fact that you are loved more than you will ever comprehend. You have great parents who care more about your happiness than their own. And a wonderful extended family, might I point out that your Grammy's eyes dance whenever she looks at you.

Brian, thank you for being such a true friend to Adam. Though distance makes it difficult, the firendship is always close. And Sarah, thank you for putting up with all my quirks...even enough to set me up with your husband's best friend...knowing that if and when it worked out, you would see more of me than you ever imagined after graduating from good old AACS. I know that you are a friend to count on as well.

Why am I being all mushy you ask? Well, I DON'T KNOW!!! But it was on my heart, so now it's on your screen. I'll leave you with another precious Kaleena pic...and NO that's not wine!!!

Pittsburgh Project

We returned a week ago from the Pittsburgh Project mission. It was such an amazing week!!! We had the opportunity to move dirt all week! We passed dirt, I mean mud, in buckets up stairs to build a more even path for this couple to get out their front door. A retaining wall had fallen and mud covered the front stairs leading to the house. Who knows how long it's been since they've used the front entrance to their home. We began work on Tuesday and by Wednesday night we had the stairs uncovered. It was awesome to visit with the homeowner and watch him walk up those stairs. On Thursday we moved parts of a tree that had fallen up against the home and got pretty muddy in the rain. We both came home covered in Poison Ivy, but it was totally worth it to be able to serve God along side of some pretty cool Middle Schoolers.

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