Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Can't believe we're only two days away from Christmas! And I think I've finished up all my shopping too! Yes, I'm pretty sure that all the presents have been de-pricetagged, wrapped, and placed beneath the tree. This year I decided to go with a wrapping paper theme (inspired by my friend Faith.) I found this really cool craft paper at Hobby Lobby that has excerpts of "Jingle Bells" all over it. I was kind of surprised to find something I liked since all of their gift wrap was already marked down 50%. But then when I started looking for ribbon, I was somewhat out of luck. I couldn't find ANY cranberry or even gold ribbon to match. I think (hope) the red pre-made bows I bought will be close enough to at least complement my paper. Maybe this will encourage me to buy my wrapping supplies a bit earlier next year. Maybe.

We also had some Christmas pictures taken by our friend Michael who did an amazing job. I wasn't sure how successful we would be with a toddler...especially our toddler who is Miss BusyBody right now. But, Lily gave us about a 10 minute window to get some "acceptable" shots, and thankfully, that was all Michael needed. (In Lily's defense, it was dinnertime and her friend Evan was enticing her with his ability to walk freely around the house while she was confined to Momma's lap. ;) ) Here's a few that capture the experience:
(p.s. I'm loving black and white this year)

Lily and Evan waiting for the adults to get set up

Josh looking like The Godfather

Lily enjoying her last few moments of freedom

probably my favorite shot

Lily got herself in this pose

lots of wiggling and giggling (look closely in my right hand and you can see the chocolate that I was using to bribe Lily)

enough is enough

This last picture is a lighthearted portrayal of our reality...imperfection. Sometimes there's tears in this broken world. On Thursday night, our church staff got together for our annual Christmas party. It was a night filled with good food, good conversation, laughter, prayer, and worship. Josh and I both left with an overwhelming sense of praise and gratititude to be part of such a special group. One of the things that resonated with me Thursday night was when Matt acknowledged that we are all broken people. That even as we strive to know Christ and make Him known, we are still incomplete. And we don't have to pretend that we're something other than works in progress. It was so refreshing to hear our pastor tell the staff that they are not expected to have it all together or to pretend they're something they are not. We are free to pursue Christ in a fresh, authentic way, realizing that He loves us in our incompleteness.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

psalm 23

If you've been reading our blog for awhile you may remember me mentioning an organization called the Voice of the Martyrs. Each week I receive a prayer update informing me how I can pray specifically for persecuted Christians around the world. It's really rather humbling when I haven't even heard of half of the countries where these pastors and churches are located. Today as I was praying through the update, my heart was again stirred. The final entry was about a pastor ordered to leave his native town in Turkmenistan:
'According to Forum 18 News, "Pastor Kakataevsky's visa application to remain with his wife and family was rejected by the Migration Service and he will have to leave the country. He is due to leave on a flight to Moscow on December 11." Officials have refused to explain the reason for denying the visa, Pastor Kalataevsky explained to Forum, "But of course it is linked to my activity as a believer. Everything that has happened to me since 2001 is related to that." Pastor Kalataevsky was released in November after eight months in prison. Pray for his family during this difficult time. Pray for his church as they have no pastor, Ask God to protect them.'

The scripture passage included at the end of the paragraph was Psalm 23. One that most of us have heard over and over again. I think I even started memorizing it as a child in Sunday school and have sung it in countless songs over the years. But today as I read it, I felt like the Spirit wanted me to see it through a different lens. Through the eyes of these Christians who are risking their lives to attend church or share their faith. Now I know that we all face trials and endure struggles of many kinds, and those are not to be discounted or dismissed. But many of us will never have to fear death or imprisonment because of our relationship with Christ. I feel like we have some responsibility to lift up our brothers and sisters who will face that fear. We must remember that the Church is not limited to American Christians but includes fellow believers in Laos, Azerbaijan, India, Turkmenistan, etc.

I hope this isn't coming off too "preachy", but I felt like I should continue to make known the cause of the persecuted church in my own small way. So, may I invite you to check out their website (see link above). My hope is that you will be encouraged to see how God is working and compelled to take part through prayer or however else the Spirit leads.

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

sleeping beauty

Wednesday mornings are typically spent at our church for Bible study. I share my heart with nine other moms and enjoy authentic community while Lily shares toys (hopefully) and enjoys endless amounts of goldfish. Then we head home and have lunch with our friend Andrea. Soon Lily finished eating and began squirming, so, much to her delight, I plopped her on the couch to watch Elmo...her best friend right now. (sidenote: She can even sing along with me to the theme song "Elmo's World". Should I be worried? I promise I'm rationing her amount of TV time a day.) About 10 minutes go by before I realize how quiet it is in the living room. I peaked over the couch and found this:

Bless her heart. She must have been super tired to fall asleep during her favorite show.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

the tunnel

This morning Lily and I made her first tunnel. She was having so much fun going under my legs that I thought she'd get a kick out of a "real" tunnel. She got a little confused when I told her, "I've got an idea!" and proceeded to move the necessary furniture, get the bed sheet, etc. From then on she kept calling the "tunnel" the "idea" which I thought was so cute. Here is the finished product. I love that it's the simple things. I'm sure this is only the beginning of many more forts, hideaways, and tunnels to come.

oh, and this was too funny not to she is pretending to talk on her phone to Aunt ZaZa (that's what comes out for Missa)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

santa baby

Today, Lily and I visited Santa at Stonebriar Mall along with our friends Kristyn and Preston, Sarah, Crew, and Corban. As you can see, he's a great looking Santa. Lily was not quite sure what to think of him, but at least there were no tears. After pictures we hit the play area, had some great sandwiches at Rollerz, rode the carousel (of course), and even ventured into a few stores for some window shopping before any meltdowns. As we drove away, the kiddos crashed before we were out of the parking lot. Now, that's what I call a good outing.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sunday, November 25, 2007

one last post before i call it a night. here are some of the artists i'm enjoying this christmas:

james taylor: at christmas
josh groban: noel
michael buble: let it snow
vince guaraldi trio: charlie brown christmas
diana krall: christmas songs
ella fitzgerald: a swinging christmas
mercy me: the christmas sessions
sarah mclachlan: wintersong
amy grant: a christmas album

what are your favorites?

my heart is happy

Laptop in lap.
Slippers on feet.
Daughter asleep in crib.
Husband asleep in chair.
Christmas music playing.
Tree lights twinkling.
WoodWick burning.
Christmas coming.

Thanksgiving Feast

I know it's been FOREVER since I've posted. What can I say? At some point I knew that my lack of consistency would eventually creep into my blogging. But the streak is now over so here we go...

The week before Thanksgiving my mom, Lily, and I drove out to "wide awake" Wylie to Tibbals Elementary. This is a special school to our family because it's named after my grandparents Harry and Retha Tibbals. They have been outstanding citizens in the Wylie community for close to 50 years. This special Tuesday was the Thanksgiving Feast for the students and parents. It was so sweet to see Nanny interacting with the children. One mom told us her son asked if she was the President of the school. They love receiving her hugs and warm smiles.

This mural is painted in the school foyer with the school's motto: "If you love them, you can teach them." -The Tibbals

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Baylor Homecoming

Yesterday we took Lily down to the Baylor Homecoming parade. As you can see, the green and gold suits her well!

Nonni and Pappa Neal

Katelyn and Lily - future Baylor roomies?!?

cheering on her team

loving on CoCo

Jonathan and Missa

the wedding

Last Saturday we flew out to Ocean Springs, Mississippi for Josh's cousin's wedding. It was fun reconnecting with Josh's aunt and uncle and cousins. This was Lily's second plane ride and she did great...Lolli and I kept her occupied with crackers, picture cards, books, even the skymall magazine. She also enjoyed riding the escalator up and down as we waited to board. We flew into Mobile, AL which is about an hour's drive from Ocean Springs. I was sure that Lily would crash as soon as we pulled out of the parking lot. And she did for about 30 minutes (slightly shorter than her usual 2 hour afternoon nap).

We got to the hotel around 2pm and Lily and Lolli set out to explore. Auntie Kathy and Uncle Larry stopped by to say Hi before the evening's festivities got under way. After a short visit, we returned to the room to find the crib waiting outside our door. It was a sad little crib with an even sadder mattress that was probably two inches thick. I tried to improve its state with a couple of blankets. Now, Lily was able to take her nap. Or at least I thought she would be. But Lily had other ideas. Thirty minutes later it was obvious she was not going to sleep. This made me kinda nervous since we had a long night ahead of us. I was worried she would be super fussy at the wedding or have a major meltdown during the reception. As a last resort we stuck her in the car hoping she might fall asleep on the way to pick up dinner. No such luck. Oh well. Back to the hotel to get dressed up!

Lily looked soooo precious in her little dress, white tights, and pink shoes. She LOVED being all fancy! We headed to the church which was only a few minutes from the hotel. Lily and I explored outside while Josh and Lolli sat in the ceremony. So far she was holding up pretty well on 30 minutes of sleep. Just as she began fussing and squirming in my arms, the bride Amy and groom Clay came out the front doors. Lily immediately froze, pointed to Amy, and said "Ooohhh! Touch!" The rest of the night she was mesmorized by Amy in her beautiful white dress wanting to be close to her every chance she had. This came in handy during the big family picture...Lily actually sat still in my arms! (can't believe I didn't take any pictures of the happy couple.) :(

I could tell she was starting to come unglued so we made our way to the car. Not more than 5 minutes later, Lily was out! She slept in my arms the entire reception. Didn't even wake up when I changed her diaper and put on her pajamas in the car or as I carried her into the hotel. Thankfully she slept all night long on that sad little mattress.

The next morning we woke up relieved to have an extra hour due to daylight saving time (or so we thought.) We casually got dressed, packed up, and went to eat breakfast. Josh hoped to catch an earlier flight since we had so much extra time. (bet you know where this is going...) At breakfast, Josh noticed that the clock on Fox News said 10:30 central time which was when we needed to leave to make our flight. I decided to go double check at the front desk and sure enough, daylight saving time had been pushed back one week! We raced back to the room, loaded up the car, and sped all the way to the airport. Five minutes short of the cut off, we were all checked in, ready to board, and a bit out of breath. It was a quick trip, but a lot of fun. Congratulations, Clay and Amy!!!

getting a little restless on the flight home

Friday, November 2, 2007


our little flower

Josh as a college freshman

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Overdue Update

So, remember that blanket drive I did a while back? Well, we had a great response and collected 34 blankets! (beat my goal by 24!) The Voice of the Martyrs will deliver the blankets along with illustrated Bibles to the war-torn refugees in Sudan. (If you're not sure what I'm referring to, click here.) Thanks to all who contributed!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

New shoes

Lily got some new shoes for Josh's cousins's wedding next weekend. This morning before breakfast we tried them on. She was so thrilled at the loud "click-clack" they made on the wood floor that we paraded all over the house. She hasn't wanted to take them off yet, so she may be wearing patent leather pink shoes everyday from here on out!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


One year ago yesterday my Grandaddy passed away after 88 years of life. I'm not really sure what I could say to sum up his life other than he did it right. He loved Jesus. He loved his family. He loved others. He loved the church. I've never seen a better display of generosity and humility. He and Nanny were a living example of what Jesus describes in Matthew 25:

"I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me."

Grandaddy got it. He got that his days on this earth were numbered and that he wouldn't be able to take earthly treasures with him. He poured his time and resources into what will last for eternity: the souls of men and the Kingdom of God. After his death, I heard countless stories of how he and Nan blessed others. One of my favorites took place years ago involving his grocery store. Grandaddy was an independent grocer for several decades and saw this as his ministry. His church gave underprivileged community members vouchers with which they could "purchase" grocery items at the church's expense. But everytime the pastor came to reconcile the vouchers, Grandaddy refused reimbursement from the church saying it was covered.

I'm so thankful to have had him for twenty-six years of my life. He was present at my choir concerts, my voice and piano recitals, my graduations, our engagement party, our wedding, Josh's ordination and seminary graduation, the birth of his great-granddaughter, and so many more memories staggered in between.

The last several years of his life, Grandaddy became more outwardly emotional. It was rare that he could bless the food or kiss a grandchild goodbye without a tearful eye. I loved seeing this soft, tender side of him. The night that he passed away, all of his family surrounded his hospital bed, hand in hand, singing old hymns, telling funny stories, praying over him. Even as Grandaddy struggled to breath there was a peace over him as he waited to meet our Lord. And in those sweet moments, his eyes teared up once again reassuring us of his love for those in that room. What a beautiful picture of the gospel. That when the reality of death sets in, we're once again reminded that death has lost its power. God has given us victory.

Thank you, Lord, for my Grandaddy.