Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Joy Is Boundless


My word for 2014 was devotion: a year of sinking in a little deeper, taking more time, slowing down, simplifying, becoming more comfortable with myself, falling deeper in love with my family, surrendering my heart and soul to the Lord and His plan for me.  Devotion.

I feel like this year was a giant one for me. I let go of a lot of insecurities and self doubts. I stripped away a lot of excess in my life and spent more time fine tuning the things (and people) that really matter. I fully committed myself and my family to living a healthy and active lifestyle. And I allowed myself the space to mess up, to fail every now and then, to be vulnerable.  I tried new things and really put myself out there.  I worked really hard but took the time to play as well.

This year, I set lots of goals and challenged myself to conquer new frontiers.  I learned how to run again. I cleaned out our kitchen and turned us into a clean eating family. I delved deeper into my yoga practice and made time for weekly meditation. And I lost 20 pounds as a result. I feel strong and proud of where my body has been and how far it has come today. I took that photography class I've been dreaming about for years and didn't even get mad at myself when I got busy and barely had time to use my real camera. I have plenty of time to practice in 2015. I started journaling again, doing lots of mind mapping and dream boarding and soul searching.

As a family, we got out and moved together: exploring, learning, experiencing everything we could. Together. We met new people, took on new traditions and ideas, and became a lot closer as a result. Spiritually, we have grown in ways I have hoped and dreamed of for years now. I devoted a lot of time and attention to my prayer life and experienced a sense of peace and serenity that I never knew existed. My spiritual growth resulted in less stress and anxiety and more thankfulness for the everyday. I am hoping for more and more of this growth in the new year.

Shawn and I fell very short of our goal for a monthly date night but we did go on LOTS of runs together, trading in dinner dates for late night back road adventures. We challenged each other in new ways and I am more in love with him than ever. He's always there for me, cheering me on, pushing me to go further, even when we're mad at each other. He's my person, my constant waiting at the finish line. It feels good to know that, to be able to trust in him, to trust in us.


This song defined 2014 for me, it was part of our family soundtrack, the background song to so many milestones and memories:

My joy is boundless
My soul knows its worth
In arms stretching wider
Than my heart could ever fall

Your word is final
Your name above all
The cross my reminder
Your love is forever
Cause here I am
Your love has got me up in arms again
And this hope won't let me go

Happy New Year!!  Cheers to new possibilities, fresh starts, putting ourselves out there and getting shit done!

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Merry Christmas Indeed

Christmas 2014 was quite possibly my most favorite Christmas ever.  Of course, I say that every year.

After our big family party on Saturday night, we welcomed a slow and quiet Christmas holiday. Or as slow and quiet as things can be around these parts. We got all gussied up and went to Christmas Eve Mass as a family. The candles, the frankincense incense, the children's choir singing "Silent Night": it was all so beautiful and uplifting. We got to church almost an hour early just so that we could sit and pray and listen to the choir. It was important to Shawn and I to spend time in prayer, opening our hearts and allowing the spirit of the season to fill our souls. 


My brother and his family drove in from Texas on Wednesday and we were so excited to have a Christmas sleepover!  The kids were so excited to all be together, we've missed them dearly since their big move to Texas.  First on our Christmas Eve agenda: cookie baking and decorating!  


Brees was SUPER annoyed when we asked her to smile for the camera.  "I have baking to do!  No time for pictures!".

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The kids set aside their best cookies for Santa to eat. We also made reindeer food with healthy ingredients safe enough for the many pets and wild animals that roam around our yard at night to eat: rolled oats, granola, raisins, brown sugar, cinnamon, and carrots.  The kids sprinkled their reindeer food in front of our house and were thrilled in the morning when they found animal footprints in the rocks by the front porch!! Reindeer prints, of course.


My brother played our favorite Christmas carols on his guitar while the kids sang along.  This was definitely River's favorite part of the night.

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We opened a few gifts in front of the fire, the kids trading in their church clothes for Christmas jammies.  Belle and Brees exchanged the gifts they bought for each other: gifts they picked out and wrapped by themselves and paid for with their own money. Belle said "Sissy, you know me so well! This was exactly what I wanted!".

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For supper, we had my mom's yummy chicken and sausage gumbo: a long standing Christmas Eve tradition.


With their bellies full of gumbo and Santa's cookies set out on the fireplace with a couple of hand written notes and a glass of milk, the kids settled down in the living room to read the story of Christ's birth.  We said our bedtime prayers and thanked God for bringing us together on such a special night. Belle, Brees, Daxx, and Trey all camped out in Belle's room with River next door in his crib. Just as we tucked them in and kissed them goodnight, Santa called my phone to let us know that he was in his sleigh and heading to Louisiana soon! I've never seen them so excited!  They couldn't believe that Santa was calling them and that he was really on his way! It was time for these sweet little cousins to get some rest and time for the mamas and daddies and my mama to get to work setting out all the magic. And share a few cookies and kisses under the mistletoe, of course.

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I woke up first, as usual, to get the coffee going, the monkey bread baking, the Christmas dinner started. I heard little feet upstairs begin to stir and gathered all of the grownups to watch them come down the stairs. Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read: keeping it simple and real.  They took their time opening their gifts, hugging us between each one and yelling out "Thank you, Santa!!!".

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The rest of the day was spent in our jammies, feasting on roast with all of the trimmings, playing with new toys, napping in front of the fire, watching movies, and enjoying each other. The greatest gift, to me, was being all together. To be a wife and mom, a daughter, sister, and aunt to these people: it is everything. I am so thankful for this family I get to call my own.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Family Is Where's It's At

Our family was so blessed to be able to host our big annual family Christmas party this past Saturday. Over the last few years, we've all agreed that celebrating with our very big extended family BEFORE the actual holiday works out really nice, leaving the big day more relaxed and quiet and meant for quality time with our little families.  With each passing year, our family just keeps growing and growing, more babies around every corner, my little cousins not so little anymore, girlfriends and boyfriends that will soon become official spouses.  But we still get together despite the growing guest list, knowing how special this time together is and appreciating each other and the gift that is family.

I think I counted 50 heads in our house that night.  Fifty LOUDLY talking heads full of life and love. The little kids serenaded us with Christmas carols, our cousin Daniel impressing us with his skills on the piano.  The women all chimed in for a heartfelt round of "Silent Night" and I was overcome with emotion as I took it all in.  The food was amazing, as usual, and I ate my weight in meatballs and honey baked ham and spinach dip.  The adults played a rowdy game of "Dirty Santa" and Shawn and I were stoked when we ended up with a hand painted lamp for the kitchen. There was a fire in the outdoor fireplace, mistletoe for stealing kisses, and girl talk around the dining room table. But the best part, by far, was the amazing fireworks show that Shawn and my uncles and cousins put together in our front yard.  We all gathered on the front porch and stood under the big country sky and watched in amazement as they lit up the night with color and sound.  It was magical.

We stayed up until the wee hours of the morning talking and catching up, laughing until we cried. And when I finally made it to bed, exhausted and deliriously happy, it occurred to me that this is Christmas as an adult.  Not looking forward to surprises and gifts and receiving, but instead enjoying the people, the gift giving, the time spent together. These are the moments that make me feel like the richest girl in the world.

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Monday, December 22, 2014

Keeping It Simple: Advent

I had the perfect family Advent all planned out: a beautiful calendar with scriptures, reflections, and activities, a devotional for Shawn and I to read together daily and map out our thoughts and hopes and dreams, and a calendar full of dates with friends and every single Christmas activity I could find within a 50 mile radius.

But December 1st came and went and I instantly knew that this year was just not going to be like that. This has been our year of devotion, our year of settling in, slowing down, and simplifying in every way.  This year will not be the year of the Pinterest worthy Advent.  This year will be the year of taking each day one step at a time, less activities and more prayers, family over hustle and bustle. We'll keep that pretty Advent calendar up just for inspiration but no stressing ourselves out over what day we're on or where we're supposed to be.  This year, we're going to spend more time focusing on the whole point of this magical time instead of getting overwhelmed by the energy that surrounds it.

This year, for Advent, we've been to the lighting of the Christmas tree in our little town's courthouse square.  We've been to the holiday light safari at the zoo with our friends, made gingerbread cookies, watched fireworks on a blanket by the bayou.  And we've prayed.  And spent a lot of time together as a family, reading about the birth of Jesus and what this holiday really means to us: Jesus is the light of the world and He was born so that we may live.  Our kids have enjoyed the simple nights in the kitchen, the fun trips out to see all of the twinkly lights, and the time that we are spending together all in the name of Christmas.  To me, this is the greatest gift that I could have received this holiday season: the gift of dying to myself and my unrealistic parental expectations, the gift of loving where I am right here and right now, of saying no to more and embracing the here and now.

This is our way of preparing Him room.

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