Thursday, December 23, 2010

What a Month!!

It's been quite a busy month for the Loughrys, as I am sure it has been for you and your family too.  I hope that you all have had time to remember why we celebrate Christmas...that God gave us the biggest gift ever and that without Jesus' birth everything else wouldn't matter.  His birth led to our salvation, our hope, and our reason for living
Merry Christmas!

We spent 2 quick nights in KY on our way from TX to WV. We got to have breakfast and open gifts with Matt and Rachel...

...spend a bit of time with forever friends Riley (pictured) and his family...

 ...Palmer and her family...

...Lauren (pictured) and her family...and MANY more!!

 After 20 hours of driving, we ended up in snowy West Virginia.
We have had fun playing games, wrapping last minute presents, going to CandyLand, and playing in the snow!

 Before we left for WV, Donny and I went to his company Christmas party.  We enjoyed our first date out since Donny left in May, dancing, eating yummy food, and winning $75 in gift cards!  :)

 We also had fun decorating our new house (our first mantle ever!) and putting up a new tree, in 80 degree weather!

 We baked and decorated gluten-free sugar cookies and reindeer brownies with our g-free friends Gillian and Luke.  All the kids loved that everyone could eat all the cookies!

 I spent time this month reading Mary Beth Chapman's book Choosing to See.  It has been an amazing and tough read about the loss of their precious Maria.  It is a story of grief, tragedy, and hope.  When I finished reading her account of her daughter's death, I was just had to go and pray over our the kids and take their pictures as they slept.  I know our kids are God's and we have dedicated them to Him but the thought of really sending them to Heaven before we go is tough.

 Oliva had a Literacy Night at her school last week.  The kids all wore their pajamas, had milk and cookies with Santa (the art teacher) and Mrs. Claus (the gym teacher), read books with flashlights in the darkened library, played a memory game, and listened to Mrs. Miller, Liv's principal, read a book.  (Boston refused to have his picture with Santa...)

It's been a great month spending time with new and forever friends, having Donny and the kids on vacation, and seeing family.  We hope that you all have a very Merry Christmas and wish we could have seen ALL of you this month!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Miscellaneous Junk

Well, I've been mulling around that phrase "miscellaneous junk" for over a week now.  You see, last week during Bible study at church, I saw a box at the front of the room labeled "MISC JUNK."  I leaned over to Ruthann and asked, "Did you see that box?  Why are they keeping miscellaneous junk??!!"  The idea seemed ludicrous. 

At the top of my Bible study, I wrote, "MISC JUNK-Why keep it?" and have spent this week "blogging in my head" about how we all keep things that we just don't need - college textbooks that we barely even opened while we were IN college, a single sock just in case we ever find the other, broken items that we plan to fix "some day", empty cardboard boxes in case we ever have something to fill them with, fifty of the same pictures our kids drew-when one would suffice, junk mail that we "may go back to sometime"...  You get it, the list can go on and on.  I didn't even include all the "extras" that we keep around that we don't really need that could benefit others.  I, like my mom, am a "thrower/giver awayer."  I like neat and orderly spaces, shelves that are not too cluttered, and empty space on the closet floors.  Junk stresses me out.

I don't think that Jesus intends for us to keep miscellaneous junk either.  I'm sure he doesn't want us to hoard when we could be offering our "extras" to others.  However, I also think he doesn't want us to carry around all the miscellaneous emotional junk that burdens us either - what someone years ago said about how you dress, how someone yelled at you and put you down, our regrets from the far past or even yesterday.  He wants to clean us and carry our burdens.  Why do we insist on carrying all our junk around instead of just laying it at his feet?

You know what?  I think we like it.  In a distorted and somewhat sick way, I think we like having some "pity me" things to fall back on.  Things that we can use as excuses for not finishing a job or for saying/treating others unkindly or to reason our way out of serving others.  Is that too harsh?  I don't think so.  Stop and think about it.  What junk are you carrying around that you should have "donated to Jesus" a long time ago? Is your junk harming someone else?  Could Jesus use you more if you weren't carrying around such a load?  Probably so.


All that said, however, something happened on Sunday that made me think about miscellaneous junk a different way.

Sunday after church we went to my grandpa's to celebrate Christmas with him since we won't be here on the 25th.  We brought lunch, a filled stocking, baked good, and a few presents.  As we prepared to give him our gifts he said we needed to wait a minute and then shuffled down his hall to his room.  He came back with wrapped gifts for each of us.

Now, I need to stop for a minute here and explain.  If you haven't had the chance to hear about past Christmases involving my TX grandparents, you may have missed what I just wrote.  He had WRAPPED gifts.  While growing up, my grandma would send gifts either unwrapped and we would try to guess who they were for or wrapped in paper towels and tube socks.  No joke!  So, to see the crude way that my grandpa had wrapped these gifts in red and green paper, just made me choke up.

After he made it to "his chair" we gave him our gifts, excited that he was happy and really seemed to like or need each one.  Then he proceeded to give us our gifts.  I couldn't believe he had taken time, energy or emotion to think through gifts for each of us.  He gave Donny a worn fleece and a used screwdriver.  He wrapped up a blanket he was given on his recent DC trip and an apron that was given to my grandma years ago to me.  He gave Boston a train set that he had purchased at his friend's estate sale 20 years ago.  Boston ran and hugged grandpa - another site to make me tear up - and was overjoyed.  Grandpa was just thrilled at Boston's reaction.  For Olivia, he had a Dream Catcher and a small white bunny that he bought from Goodwill years ago to use in a magic show.  She was all smiles and immediately named Hunny Bunny and told grandpa bunnies were her favorite animal.  Again, on grandpa's was the image of pure satisfaction.

What does this have to do with miscellaneous junk?  Well, all of his gifts to us were things he just found in his house.  For many of us, most of those items would be packed up and given to Goodwill or stored in the corner of an attic.  However, on Sunday, Grandpa's miscellaneous junk turned into treasured gifts for our family of four.  The picture of him slowly moving through his home to find each of us the "perfect" gift and then struggling to cut and tape the wrapping paper around our gifts is priceless...a Christmas to hold dear.

Do you think that when the shepherds approached to the old "barn" that Jesus was born in, they wondered if they had made a mistake?  If they had just followed a star leading to miscellaneous junk?  I sure am glad they took the time to go inside and investigate.  What they found in that dirty manger was the most amazing, priceless, generous gift that anyone has ever been given.

Thank you, Jesus, for taking the miscellaneous junk we carry around and giving us new life and hope in you.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

JOY. Do You Have It?

I was working on the lesson for KidzView (our church's kids' program) last night and came across this "blurb" in the materials.  [It's not mine, it is from 252Basics.]

When you think of God’s character, does joyful come to mind? We may think of a powerful God, a stern God, even a loving God, but joyful? (1) Joy can be defined as finding a way to be happy, even when things don’t go your way. (2) Have you ever thought about what makes God joyful? His creation? (See Genesis 1:31.) Our regard and respect for Him? (Read Psalm 147:11.) Someone—just one person!—turning away from sin? (Check out Luke 15:10.) God, the Creator of joy, (3) wants us to have joy, even when times are tough: “Let us hold firmly to the hope we claim to have.” Why? Because “the One who promised us is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23, NIrV). In other words, we can expect God to keep His promises. In a sense, that’s what the birth of John was all about: God keeping His promises. (4) When you have joy in the middle of your struggles, people will notice. They’ll wonder why you’re happy, and you can tell them it’s because God keeps His promises. This week, help kids realize that even though waiting can be hard, like it was for Elizabeth and Zechariah, the perfection of God’s plan is always worth the wait.

So, do YOU have that kind of joy?  Do I? Made me stop and think.  I seem to have more joy in times of true, tough trial and then in the everyday humdrum of life I get caught up in trying to "fix things" or questioning "why."  Waiting is tough.  Whether we are waiting for the work week to end or for chores to be finished or for a cake to bake or for prayers to be answered--waiting is not fun.  But did you read what the above passage said?  "We can expect God to keep His promises!"  Let's have joy DURING the waiting and EXPECT God to do what He has promised.  Joy and expectation during the waiting...let's strive for that.