Friday, 31 December 2010

Out With the Old, In With the New

I suppose this is my "obligatory" New Year's Eve blog post. On Facebook, my news feed began to flood with NYE well wishes and plans. And I hadn't really been thinking much about the New Year at all before that. But here it is, right in front of me!

2010 was an eventful year to say the least. I got engaged and married to the most wonderful man on the planet. We went on a dream honeymoon - a cruise to the Caribbean Islands! Some of our dear friends got married, as well. And my best friend revealed to me that I will be an aunt early next summer! But there was also much sorrow this year. Family emergencies and friends who lost their daughter after 36 precious hours with her. Friends with failed marriages. Losing our jobs and home. A death of a close family friend after a long battle with cancer. Not being able to attend her memorial service because we had to finish moving out of our home.

So many things have changed this year. I won't place a "good" or a "bad" label on 2010. But I am most certainly not sad to see it go. And although I know there is nothing magical about the changing of the calendar year, I am looking forward to 2011, hoping it bears more good news than bad; more laughter than tears.

I can tell you one thing, though. Tonight I will get my first ever New Year's kiss :)

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

23

Today is my brother's birthday!

My brother is an incredible person, inside and out. He is extremely compassionate, an excellent listener, and a fiercely loyal friend. He is a very talented artist and is incredibly creative and original. He excels at anything he puts his mind to. He is intelligent and is intrigued by all things military - he can cite facts to you like an encyclopedia. He listens to artists like Aphex Twin but will often surprise you by jamming out to Lil Wayne. And he is so much fun to be around! I am so thankful for my brother, and I love him very much!

Happy birthday brother! :)

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

First Married Christmas

This past Christmas was so different from any other Christmas I've ever had, and in many ways it was exactly the same.

It was different because it was our first married Christmas. Because we couldn't really afford to get people gifts. Because we didn't ask for anything (after all, it would just get packed into a box in the garage). Because my extended family were all out of town so we didn't have a huge Christmas lunch to look forward to the day of.

But it was the same because we had a steak dinner on Christmas Eve. We ate sausage cheeseballs on Christmas morning. We did our Lord of the Rings extended editions marathon.

We also went to go see a movie on Christmas day - "The King's Speech". I wasn't entirely sure I would like it, but I loved it. It was really, really good! I would definitely recommend it. There was a lot more humor than I anticipated and it was a very captivating story (based on a true story, even!). You will also recognize many of the actors as those who played Dumbledore, Captain Barbosa, Wormtail, and Bellatrix Lestrange (but let's be honest, Helena Bonham Carter is known for a lot more than just that role...she's brilliant!). Colin Firth is extremely convincing as the Duke of York (aka King George VI), and has mastered a speech impediment to make it entirely believable.

And tomorrow my little brother turns 23! My, how time flies.

Anyway, I hope your Christmas was absolutely wonderful and full of joy, memories, and laughter.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Was Losing Our Jobs a Blessing? - Part 2

So why did God see fit to remove the blessings of good jobs and a lovely home from my husband and I? I think it would probably be ridiculous for me to authoritatively answer this question, as I am not God and can never begin to fathom His reasons for doing or allowing things (although I can say that I do know that He ultimately works everything for good and for His glory). Perhaps in time the reasons will be more clear, but for now I can only speculate a few things that God wanted to reveal to us.

As I have chronicled our experience on my blog, so many people have come forward to say they are praying for us. People that I haven't seen in years are rallying around Matt and I and are lifting us up in prayer and surrounding us with encouragement. Many also offered suggestions and their expertise - whether it be a job opportunity they knew about or sharing how to improve our resumes, people were willing to offer anything they could. Talk about a blessing! To know that so many people care and that so many people are pleading with God on our behalf is overwhelming (but the good kind of overwhelming).

My family has been a huge blessing to us through this whole ordeal. My parents are allowing us to stay with them, eat their food, watch their tv, use their internet, and store all our belongings in half of their garage. They are gracious and understanding, and pray for us daily. My extended family and Matt's family have been praying and have been extremely supportive, as well. I am so thankful for the family that the Lord has blessed us with.

Matt and I are spending more time together than we have in a long, long time. When we got married, my job often required me to work 60 hours a week or more (during the busy seasons, which Fall most definitely was). Some days I went in to work at 7:30 and didn't get home until almost midnight. And Matt worked long hours, as well. We rarely had any days off together. It has been precious to spend so much quality time with my husband. And again, such a blessing!

I have spent precious quality time not only with my husband but with other dear people that I love. People that I never got to see while working in the middle of nowhere.

We are back in cell phone reception all the time now, and it is wonderful to be able to keep in touch with friends and family.

We are within 5 minutes of a grocery store. It is absolutely wonderful to be able to run to the store to pick up something if we need it. And it is wonderful to not have to take the entire day just to run to the grocery store!

We can go to church again! Working with retreats usually meant that I worked Sundays. In an entire year, I probably went to church less than 10 times. Because I was always working. It is wonderful to join a fellowship of believers in praise and worship of our Great God. It is wonderful to be continually spiritually fed and poured into.

We are forced to rely on God for everything at this point. We must trust that He will provide jobs. That He will provide a place to live. That He will take care of us. We must trust that He has a plan and even though we are confused and clueless, He is in control and is not worried in the least.

Those are all incredible blessings. Blessings we would not have received had we stayed at our jobs. Blessings we would not have received if we still had our own home. So while I don't know if it was a blessing to lose our jobs and our home, I know that we have received abundant blessings as a result.

So today is Christmas Eve, and tomorrow is Christmas. Remember your blessings. Even the small ones. Or the ones that often get on your nerves. The ones that you don't often think about (clean water, clean clothes, access to clean and healthy food, health care, etc.). And especially remember the greatest gift and blessing of all - reconciliation with the Almighty God through Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Was Losing Our Jobs a Blessing? - Part 1

That's a really hard question. We considered our jobs and our situation to be such a total and complete blessing. So to lose it all in one fell swoop...?

I've thought for a while that blessings don't usually look the way we think they do. As Americans, we live in the most free nation in the world! And while the American dream now has many versions, they all still involve wealth, comfort, and happiness. I am very thankful to live in America, and I am extremely grateful to those who fight for our many freedoms. I think we take so many things for granted. And it seems as if only the incredibly up front, obviously good things are called blessings. But is that really it?

Let's take a look back at who Jesus says is blessed (all from Matthew 5):
-Blessed are those who are poor and realize their need for Him.
-Blessed are those who mourn.
-Blessed are those who are humble.
-Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice.
-Blessed are those who are merciful.
-Blessed are those whose hearts are pure.
-Blessed are those who work for peace.
-Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing right.

None of those things mention anything about having wealth or excess. In fact, none of those things are about material possessions at all! All of them are about characteristics. Christ-like characteristics, to be exact.

I'm not trying to say that material things cannot be blessings. I just want to make sure that material things are not where our focus lies. Our Almighty God blesses us with so much more than material things. Things that mean so much more than the material things of this world!

And that's definitely something to remember around Christmas. This Christmas for us will not have many material gifts at all. But there are gifts that were given to us that cannot be taken away. Jesus Christ. Salvation. Grace. Mercy. Love. Forgiveness. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, my friends. I feel like our Christmas this year can be likened to the tree that Charlie Brown picks out. It doesn't look like much. It's small, different, and kinda wimpy. But with a little love and care, it transforms into so much more. Charlie Brown saw worth in that little tree. He knew that the meaning of Christmas had nothing to do with flashy commercialism at all (thanks to Linus). So this year, our Christmas is small, different, and kinda wimpy. But with a little love and care, it will transform into something so much more meaningful than a Christmas full of presents and boxes and bows. Choosing to still see worth in our Christmas, despite it's barren nature this time around; knowing the true meaning of Christmas, we are truly blessed.

So while our jobs and our home could definitely fall under the category of material blessings, God saw fit to remove them from our lives. And I think I'll explore that a bit in my post tomorrow.

I Told You So: My First Cavity

For a couple years now I have been complaining about a toothache on the top left side of my mouth. I've asked the dentist to check it numerous times, and each time they just say "I don't see anything. It's probably just a soft spot in your enamel."

Last week I went to get my teeth cleaned and they took xrays. Nothing unusual. Everything looked fine, apparently. But last night my mom (who, by the way, moonlights as my dental hygienist) said "Lauren, I have some bad news." At first I got nervous, but then I figured that since we were at a family Christmas gathering and were in the assembly line for food that it really couldn't be THAT bad. After all, who would break terrible news in front of the entire family? While piling food on our plates?!

Confirming my suspicions that it was not the worst news ever, she says "You have a cavity." She went on to explain that one of the dentists in her office took a closer look at the xrays from last week and lo! That problem tooth - the one that I have mentioned time and time again, the one that hurts, has a cavity.

But she didn't have to tell me which tooth it was. I already knew. And I said "I told you!"

Sunday, 19 December 2010

This is Very Real Indeed

Some days I feel like this is all a dream and that I will wake to find that nothing has changed. Being at my parents' house at Christmastime really enforces that feeling, I think. Because it seems as if I am simply taking off all the time I was supposed to take off this month.

But then I walk into the garage and see all of our belongings - everything we own, sitting in boxes. And then I remember that this is very real, indeed.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

It's like this: NCIS

As it turns out, some days are harder than others to think of something to say. However, I have so much spare time on my hands these days that I almost feel like I should blog. And that probably makes no sense.

However difficult it may have been to think of something to talk about, I eventually came up with something. It's like this: NCIS.

Ever since Matt and I started dating, we have loved sitting down and watching NCIS together. Since we lived somewhere with no television, we of course borrowed the show from some friends of ours, as they had all the seasons currently on DVD. We (I) were (was) devastated when Kate died (sad, I know; sorry if I ruined that for you NCIS probies) and it took forever for Ziva to grow on us (me).

Then I started finding the seasons on ebay for super cheap, and so began our quest to own and watch all NCIS episodes. Matt got some for Christmas last year. Then more ebay. We made it all the way up through season six, but then decided to wait on buying anymore because hey! Christmas was right around the corner!

So yesterday a beautiful brown envelope arrived in the mail containing our Christmas present from Matt's mom. I'm sure by now you have a pretty good guess as to what was in that envelope. If you guessed the next season of NCIS, you are correct! If you guessed anything else...really?

Anyway.

Last night we watched the entire first disc. Greg even joined in! We went to bed at 1 AM. Today we have watched 2 episodes off disc 2. At this rate, we're going to finish the entire season by Christmas.

I think it's safe to say that this Christmas present was a success.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

On Being a Mad Scientist and Master Chef

I have always loved baking and cooking. It's therapeutic to me. And it's fun. I think that my mad scientist side truly shows because I love to try new things and experiment. And I break the rules all the time. I love adding things that I think will add pizzaz and sparkle to something ordinary.

So yesterday for dinner I made Boeuf Bourguignon (for those of you who don't do French, that's Beef Burgundy). The recipe called for a bouquet garni (a special fresh herb arrangement that you can purchase in France), but since I don't live in the French countryside (*sigh*) I made my own blend of spices - fennel seed, marjoram, oregano, basil, rosemary, and a bay leaf. I would have done thyme, as well, but I couldn't find it. You know, because all of our spices are packed away somewhere.

Anyway, the recipe also calls for an entire bottle of red wine. Let's be honest - you really can't go wrong with that!! After it was done, I was a little nervous. I mean, I'd never made it before. Heck, I had never even EATEN it before. But it was wildly successful! We all loved it.

Tonight my bff Heather came over and we (I) made Christmas goodies and we visited. It was so good to get to spend that time with her. I've definitely missed her. And I love Christmas goodies. I missed those, too, but not as much. Also, I dared Heather to go see if she could fit through the doggy door. Matt has posted some photos of the hilarity that ensued, and will be posting the video soon. I was literally laying on the kitchen floor I was laughing so hard!

So even though our situation has not changed at all and things can still be really hard at times (still lots of tears), I am so thankful for the little things. For cooking and experimenting and enjoying delicious new foods. For best friends who have stuck with me through thick and thin through the years. And for laughing and being able to find joy in a time of pain and confusion.

Monday, 13 December 2010

We Just Don't Know

It's been a while since I've last posted. I think there are several reasons, but the main one is just that I haven't felt the strength or the freedom to speak. Last week we met with our former employers; it's hard to say how it went. I left that meeting feeling utterly defeated. I felt defenseless. It seemed as if so many things that I had said were taken completely out of context or twisted into something else.

I just haven't had the energy to say anything more than what was already said. But I also realize that I left you hanging. So where are we now? What are we doing?

Matt and I are faced with a decision that we didn't think we would have to face until years down the road: Where are we going to live now? Our hearts long for Colorado. We both want to return there. But what about when we have kids? We want them to have a strong family support base, and in Colorado, that's something they just won't have. So does that mean that we stay in TX or move to PA? We really just don't know. So we pray. And we wait. And we listen. But for how long? How long until the Lord reveals His will and His plan to us? We just don't know.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Now Let Me Make This Clear - Losing Our Jobs Part 3

I think this will be my last post with "losing our jobs" in the title, although I am positive that it will be a reoccurring theme for a while. After all, it's kind of a big deal.

Matt and I have been so touched and encouraged by all the prayer, support, and kind words of so many people. Thank you for loving us - it makes this difficult time somewhat easier.

I do want to make a few things clear, however. I want to make sure that I communicate openly and honestly so that there are no misunderstandings.

Matt and I are deeply hurt and saddened by the way things were handled. We are confused and in shock. And my desire in writing about it and making it public is simply to be real. We know it is not conventional to openly share that we lost our jobs and our home. We also realize that in keeping it a secret, we would not be getting so much prayer or encouragement, which we desperately need.

My desire is not (and never has been) to get even or smear Camp Eagle's image. I still believe that Camp Eagle is a wonderful ministry full of great people with beautiful hearts. People who love the Lord and desire to serve Him. And I still believe that about the staff members who made these decisions.

Yes, it sucks. Yes, it was handled very poorly. It was all just so wrong. But let's be honest. We are all human. We are all imperfect. In desperate need of a Savior. Praise God for His love, grace, and mercy! God chooses to use us - imperfect, flawed beings to do His work. And sometimes that means that things like this happen. I am in no way making excuses for what happened. But this is the truth. We all make poor decisions. We all have moments where we don't fully think things through before we act. We all hurt others. We all need Jesus.

We are still hurt. We are still confused, shocked, and sad. But we know God has a purpose in this.

I do not want to discourage anyone from going to Camp Eagle. I know God still does big things and works mightily there. And that is what matters.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

I Hope Every Night Won't Be Like That - Losing Our Jobs Part 2

Last night I remembered what insomnia is like. I also remembered that I hate it.

Tears streamed down my face all night long. I thought at some point they would run out and leave me be, but that was an empty hope.

I didn't want to be awake, but I didn't want to be asleep either. No matter...sleep evaded me most of the night.

I felt as if the darkness was so heavy. It just pressed down on me, crushing me until tears trickled out of my eyes, down my cheeks, into my hair, and onto my pillow. The silence was so loud. So much more obscene than someone shouting a string of profanities in my face.

I really hope every night won't be like that.
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