Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking Back at 2013

I don't know where I found this little end-of-the-year questionnaire, but for the past few years I have been using it to look back at the year gone by, so I thought I would just keep up the tradition this year!  2013 was a good year in so many ways.  It had a few bumps in the road, like all years do.  But when I look back on it, I can see so many blessings and it makes me really thankful for the good things in my life and just another year to be alive!

1-What did you do in 2013 that you had never done before?

1-I visited Seattle, Washington and went to Canada twice!  I had never been to any of those places.
2-Switched from iTunes to Spotify.  Such a good decision!
3-Started wearing reading glasses.  I know.  It's sad.  Just call me Ma-maw.

2-Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes...Ashley had Caroline-the sweetest and prettiest baby girl ever-in February.  She is so precious to me and I am so thankful God gave her to us!

3-Did anyone close to you die?

No one in my family died this year, thankfully.  But we lost several good friends at church.  One of them was Marie Sieber, one of the sweetest ladies I know.  Her husband was on the pulpit committee that called my dad to be pastor of Carmel Baptist in Charlotte back in 1976, so I have known her since I was 12 years old!  She loved the Lord so much and was always such a good friend and hostess. She opened her home to us many times for Christmas parties and dinners and overnight stays.  I loved her and I still love her whole family and think the world of them.  We will miss her, but I know she is with the Lord and is healed!

4-What dates from 2013 will remain etched in your memory and why?

I will always remember February 20th, the day Caroline was born.  Having grandchildren has been one of the biggest joys of my life.  I am so blessed.

Plus Laura and Lindy graduated from college this year!!  We had kids in college for eight straight years, so that was a big deal for all of us.  I was so proud of Laura and Lindy!

I will also remember taking Mark to law school in Washington, DC, back in August.  That was the start of an important journey in his life!

5-Did you suffer any illness or injury?

No.  I was so blessed to be very healthy this year!!

6-What was the best thing you bought?

I think the best thing we bought this year was our Smart TV.  We have used it so much to watch movies on demand and also TV shows.  I love it!!

7-Where did most of your money go?

Most of our money went to finishing up paying for college tuitions and a little bit of travel, too!

8-What songs will always remind you of 2013?

Well, y'all know I love country music, so some of my favorite country songs this year were:

*Highway Don't Care by Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift (and Keith Urban on the guitar!)  Who wouldn't love it??  They are so talented!  Steve and Lindy do a good duet on this one!

*Downtown by Lady Antebellum
*Anywhere With You by Jake Owen-(this is the one Steve sings to me all the time!)    :)

And, I'm a lyrics girl.  I listen closely to lyrics and if they speak to my heart, I am sold.  All these songs have words that I wish I could have written myself and that's what I love about them!

*Kings and Queens by Audio Adrenaline
The first time I heard this song was when I saw our video from Joy Prom (a prom we host at our church each year for people with special needs.)  I fell in love with it and added it to my playlist and listen to it all the time.  And I know David loves it, too, so I think about him when I'm listening!  Sweet boy!  :)

*Live Like That by Sidewalk Prophets.  These words are exactly how I feel!

*When The Saints by Sara Groves.  The words of this song inspire me so much.  I want to live a life that means something.  I want to live a life of courage.  I want to live a life that matters to God.  When the saints go marching in, I want to be one of them!!

Lord I have a heavy burden of all I've seen and know
It's more than I can handle
But your word is burning like a fire shut up in my bones
and I can't let it go

And when I'm weary and overwrought
with so many battles left unfought
I think of Paul and Silas in the prison yard
I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars

And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them

Lord it's all that I can't carry and cannot leave behind
It all can overwhelm me
But when I think of all who've gone before and lived a faithful life
Their courage compels me

I see the shepherd Moses in the Pharaoh's court
I hear his call for freedom for the people of the Lord

I see the long quiet walk along the Underground Railroad
I see the slave awakening to the value of her soul

I see the young missionary and the angry spear
I see his family returning with no trace of fear

I see the long hard shadows of Calcutta nights
I see the sister standing by the dying man's side

I see the young girl huddled on the brothel floor
I see the man with a passion come in kicking down that door

I see the man of sorrow and his long troubled road
I see the world on his shoulders and my easy load

And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them

*Sweet Caroline-obviously!! :)
*Mirrors-Justin Timberlake
*When I Was Your Man-Bruno Mars

I love all kinds of music, so it is hard to choose! :)

9-What do you wish you would have done more/less of?

My goal this year was to find more balance and I have to say I think I have done a better job of that!  I always wish I would have spent more time in God's word and in prayer, but I don't think I can ever do enough of that and I am always just trying to get better.

10-What was your favorite TV program?

Lindy and I got hooked on Nashville this year and it was sooo good!!  Good music, good story line, and good acting.

And, of course, I still love Downton Abbey!!  Plus--I got so into Homeland.  We didn't watch it weekly because we don't have Showtime, but we got it on Amazon Prime and watched one episode after another!

11-What is the best book you read this year?

I reaallly liked Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist!  I had never read anything by her before and I loved her writing style and her stories from the heart.  (And I didn't know until recently that her dad is Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church right outside Chicago!)

But I think Love Does by Bob Goff was one of the best books I've read in a long time!

12-What was the best movie you saw this year?

I loved The Butler!  That was probably my favorite.

13-What did you do on your birthday?  How old were you?

Well, I know I turned 49, but I don't remember what I did!!  I know I got showered with all kinds of sweet gifts and flowers from my students and I think we went to dinner at Firebirds.

14-Did you travel anywhere this year?

Yes.  We went to Portland...

Cannon Beach



Myrtle Beach


West Palm Beach, Florida

and Boston!

15-What national/international event stirred you the most?

I was so sad to hear about the Boston Marathon bombing.  That was such a tragedy and I love Boston, so I hated hearing that terrorists were there and committing such awful acts!

But I loved the new Pope that was elected!  I think he is a wonderful man and I love what he stands for.

Plus it was fun to see Prince William and Kate's sweet baby boy, Prince George,  arrive!

I have to include some amazing sporting events this year, too.  First of all, the Panthers have had an AMAZING season!!!  I look so forward to watching them play every Sunday and we are so excited that they won the NFC South title!  Here are my two FAVORITE players!

And the Boston Red Sox won the World Series this year for the first time in 85 years!!  It was so fun to watch since we have a connection with Boston now that Laura lives there!

16-Tell us a valuable lesson you learned in 2013.

2013 was a good year in so many ways.  When I look back at this post and all the pictures of fun things that we did and good times we had, I am so grateful.  But you know that is just the "highlight reel", right?  Every year is full of its ups and downs and good times and bad.  I chose to focus on all the good things, but there were definitely struggles this year, too.  Every life has its disappointments and frustrations and heartbreak and mistakes.  There were lots of people this year walking through really hard things.  It just reinforced to me how important it is to walk closely with God.  He really is the giver of all good things...peace, joy, happiness, love.   And He mends broken hearts and gives us a new start.  What would I do without Him?  He eases my burdens and he multiplies my joys and blesses me in so many ways.  Not only that, staying close to Him makes my life full of things that have eternal significance and are so much better than the temporary things we have here on earth!

So, I am praying that He will keep me close this year and also that 2014 will be a new start for people who need one.  Just a year of mended hearts and brighter days and feeling Jesus close to them and feeling His peace and forgiveness and joy and whatever their heart needs.

I loved this by Ann Voskamp:

How in the world do you step hopeful into the next year when you tripped messy through the last year? How do you stand brave with all the smiling rest and ring in the new year when the old year still feels a bit like a millstone around the neck? What if everyone else is making New Year’s resolutions and you just want New You solutions?

You move forward.  And there’s the utter release of being more grateful for what is than feeling guilty for what isn’t —

Monday, December 30, 2013

R & R

This holiday has been so nice.  It has been a perfect balance of relaxation and fun and getting to see lots of friends and family.

Friday afternoon, Laura and Lindy and I went to see Saving Mr. Banks.  We had tried to see it the day after Christmas when apparently the whole wide world is at the movies.  It was sold out, so we had to wait until Friday.  It was worth the wait, though, because it was really good and such an interesting story about the making of Mary Poppins.  Now I want to watch Mary Poppins again to get all the little details I missed before.  Plus, I love Tom Hanks, so anything with him in it is a hit for me!

Saturday night we had our neighbors over for what we call Chili and Cheer.  If you've been reading my blog long, you know how much we love our neighbors.  We started Chili and Cheer about twelve years ago and we have kept up the tradition each year even though our kids are all grown up now.  It is always a fun night together!

Sunday morning we got up and went to church.

I am so thankful for my church.  I love my pastor and the people there so much.  If you don't have a church that you love, I hope you are able to find one in 2014.  I really don't know what I would do without my friends that feel like family and a place to get blessed every week by excellent preaching and worship.

Anyway...after church, we came home to watch the Carolina Panthers win the NFC South title and begin their road to the playoffs!!  Woo hoo!!

I was sad that my favorite player, Steve Smith, was sidelined with an injury, but I am praying he gets well before the playoffs.  At least our first week bye will give him an extra week to recover!

We are extremely excited about the awesome year we have had!  I am pulling so hard for them to make it to the Super Bowl!

And, one more thing....if you are looking for something delish for breakfast over the holidays (or any time!!),  you HAVE to get to Trader Joe's and get some of these...

It is like a mini trip to Paris.  I am not kidding!

I still can't believe I have another whole week off!  Yipee!  I am off to start enjoying it.  :)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas 2013 & A December Review

I hope you had a great Christmas!  Our Christmas was really good and full of family and friends.  We had lots of parties and fun but we also had time to focus on the real meaning of the season, too.  I loved it.

Since our December was super busy, I haven't been very good about blogging and keeping up to date on everything, but I don't want to forget all the fun things we did.  So.... I am just going to do a quick December review so I can remember what happened!

Every week on our calendar seemed like we had one event right after the another.  This is an example of one of our weeks....

*Monday-we had an Elder's party at our pastor's house.

*Tuesday-Steve took Nicholas, his "little brother" to a party where Cam Newton spoke.  They had a lot of fun together!  Nicholas also had a December birthday, so Steve took him to get wings.

*Wednesday-Steve had a company dinner.

*Thursday I took two little girls who were in my class last year to Barnes and Noble for hot chocolate and a book talk after school (since they won a silent auction we had),  but Steve and I did get to spend the evening at home.  Yay! :)

*Friday night we went to dinner with two of our life-long friends, Calvin and Connie.  We have been friends since high school and Calvin was in our wedding.  Every Christmas for the past 16 years, we have been getting together for dinner.  This year we went to Brio's Italian Restaurant and had so much fun hanging out with them. It's one of the things we look forward to the most.

*Saturday night we headed downtown for dinner with some other friends from work.  We went to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.  I had never been and it was really good.  Downtown Charlotte is so pretty at Christmas time!

Anyway...you get the idea!  I'm sure life at your house is the same.  Besides all that, some of the other highlights of this month were...

*Boston got hit with tons of snow, so we got lots of pictures of Laura and her friends in a winter wonderland!

*We did TONS of "Christmas-y" stuff in third grade--lots of stories and fun crafty things!  One of the stories I read each year is The Legend Of The Candy Cane.  It's such a sweet book and tells the story of the true meaning of Jesus' birth and His life.  

*We spent time with David and Caroline...

*Mark took his first semester of law school finals.  It was so stressful that the school brought in therapy dogs to help everyone relax!!

*Lindy was my little elf this year.  She helped me shop and wrap and cook!  I don't know what I would have done without her.  She also got some awesome potential job opportunities this month that she is waiting to hear back from and she has also been busy keeping up with her fashion blog.

*We decorated Christmas cookies...

*Mark and Laura came home and Laura brought her friend, Claudia.  We took them out to dinner at Cajun Yard Dog one night to celebrate everyone being home!!

*And we had our staff Christmas party at work where we got spoiled rotten!

On Christmas Eve, we went to our church's candlelight service, which was so beautiful.  We love our pastor so much and he speaks the truth every time he is in the pulpit.  He has been doing a December series on the Songs of Christmas and he continued it on Christmas Eve.  I am loving it.  Plus just hearing Christmas carols sung by candlelight is so beautiful to me.  That is definitely one of my favorite things every year!

We got a quick picture of our kids with some of their cousins after church...

And I grabbed a picture of my kids in front of the Christmas tree in our church's gathering space.  These are five of the biggest blessings in my life!

After the service we always go over to Steve's sister, Debbie's house for soup and chili.  She is always so sweet to host us and the food is always good! 

Christmas Day was a whirlwind of family and gifts and we had a full house all day.  Here are just a few of my favorite pictures.

My Aunt Francine is 90 years old and traveled all the way from Texas to spend Christmas with us!  I hope I am as healthy and spry as she is when I am 90!!

It was busy and loud and what family is all about.  I wouldn't want it any other way!

On Christmas night, we headed over to Steve's mom's house.  She is the sweetest and always makes a big meal for us.  Her house is so cozy and decorated so pretty.  This year we played a White Elephant game and it was really fun!

We had such a good Christmas and made lots of fun and special memories.  I am so thankful and blessed.