On Death and Dying

I don't know what it is about today, but everywhere I turn, there's death. There's loss and suffering. There's pain and sadness. There's hope and life.

Many friends on Facebook are posting about lost loved ones within these past few days - at least three. And ironically, I happen to watch the Army Wives episode that is the post trying to rebuild after the bombing at the Hump Bar (season 2, episode 1). And boy is it terribly sad. 4 killed and 15 injured, 3 critical. I know it's just a TV show, but it draws real emotions. It shows how, in such a short time, life can change. Death is obviously a part of life, but that doesn't mean it's easy. Of course it's not easy. It's hard. Heart-in-a-blender-pulsed-on-high hard. How do you deal with it? There is no answer. There is no easy button. There's only ways to help cope. And sometimes that's not even enough. But we've got to remember that those lost loved ones, no matter how old, are in the glorified presence of God, at peace. They are watching over us and smiling upon us. And in the case of all of my lost loved ones, they are looking down on me, shaking their heads at me for being so utterly sad. They are in Heaven. At peace. With no worries. But sometimes it doesn't make it any easier.

So, take the time to tell your loved ones that you love them. Kiss them and hold them tight. Every day is a gift; don't take it for granted. I know I don't. And I pray. Lots and lots of prayer. And hope. Hope, no matter how bleak, will get you through the mightiest storms.

But sometimes the scariest times are thinking of losing your loved ones. That fear and anxiety. Not knowing when the last day will be their last day. And my own last day. I know that my time here on earth is also short-lived. My last day will come when it's my time. And that still scares me. I know that I will bask in His glory once I'm no longer in my physical body, but it's also the unknown. And I fear the unknown. But in increasing my faith, I know that God has His plan for me and that I will be eternally at peace in Heaven with everyone I've ever lost, and then some. But for now, right now, it scares me. So, I pray that my education in my faith increases and I will reach a point where I am no longer afraid. I am confidant I will get to that point before my time on earth is up. I just have to keep working on it. And I will. I just have to keep up my hope. And pray :).


Wow... Christmas has come and gone, once again!  I can't believe it goes by soooo fast!  It feels like just yesterday was Friday, December 21st, in which Christmas was highly anticipated coming the next week.  And now, it's already December 27th!  It definitely doesn't feel like 6 days later...

But, regardless of this all-too-fast-time-lapse, here we are, on December 27, 2012, anticipating the New Year - 2013!  It feels so weird to see that number.... But again, anyway, I will recap my 2012 Christmas holiDAZE that was absolutely fantastic! 

On December 15, 2012, we celebrated Christmas on my mom's side of the family.  I'll be honest here and say that I really do wish we had it on Christmas Eve again like we used to when my Granny was still alive.  It's just that 2 weeks into December is too soon to celebrate Christmas - we were all in shorts and t-shirts because it was pretty much 85 degrees outside, and it felt nothing like Christmas at the time.  However, we ate, and ate, and ate (as we always do) and played Train dominoes and had a blast as always. 

On December 21, 2012 (only 6 short days ago), Hilary, Josh, Colten, and I decided to trek over to the trail of lights in Austin to marvel in all of its spectacularness.  Yes, I know 'spectacularness' is not a word - but it is now! :)  Besides the freezing cold temperatures, it was amazing!  In the five years I've lived in Austin, I've never been to it - although, it didn't happen the last two years due to monetary problems with the City.  But this year, we wanted to get in the spirit and check out what had Austinites talking for months.  Ok, let's start by saying that to get there (and back), we had to travel on a BIG YELLOW BUS!  Wow - I haven't been on one of those in AGES!  Ok, maybe only for five years, but they are definitely a lot smaller than I remember them ... or maybe it's because I'm bigger than my high school years...who's counting anyway?!  Ha.  Once we got there, we had to walk for what seemed like a bazillion miles to the end of the line to get into the trail - which ended up being an hour wait time, and we began at Mo-Pac...we got our exercise, that's for sure!  Once inside, we were in the trail for an hour and a half, in amazement at all of the exquisite light displays - they were gorgeous!  I've always been a fan of Christmas lights, so it was definitely amazing to witness - and a night I'll never forget! 

After getting back on the big yellow bus to head to the car, we all headed home, in three different vehicles.  Add the freezing temps, and exhaustion, and the fact that it was 10 o'clock at night, and we were in for a looooong trip home to mom and dad's.  But, we made it, after a driver switch or two.  The next morning, we celebrated Christmas with our immediate family - Mom, Dad, Hilary, Josh, Chelsea, Colten, and myself.  What a bunch!  Everyone got what they wanted gifts-wise, and then some!  And we had lots of laughs and memories to add to our holidays together.  Then, mom wanted to take family pictures, so we reluctantly got out of our PJ's - it's Christmas...of course I wanted to stay in my PJ's!  We took the picture and then headed to town to visit with Pops since we weren't able to spend his birthday with him.  He, of course, didn't mind and enjoyed the visit, as did we!  We then headed home, where I ended up taking a 3-4 hour nap!  Holy cow!  I didn't realize just how tired I was, but it was a glorious nap.  And all the while, Colten was glued to the bed in the spare bedroom playing on his Xbox.  What would he do without it?!  Haha. 

The next day was Sunday, so we all got ready, dressed in our Sunday best-ish, and headed to church, minus Josh, because he apparently 'celebrated' a little too much the night before with Chelsea's family!  After church, Hilary headed to Victoria to meet up with a friend and the rest of us hung around the house, playing cards, which is always great fun!  Then it was time to head to Yorktown to celebrate Christmas with Colten's mom and step-dad.  They loved the gifts we gave them: 'Bubba' made out of deer horns, a cross, ritz cracker kit, photo charm bracelet, fuzzy socks (who doesn't LOVE fuzzy socks?!), and a set of taco bowls.  It wasn't much, but it was what everyone wanted, so it was great!  Colten received his camoflauge coveralls that he's been dying to get, and I don't think he's gotten out of them once!  Well, maybe a few times, and to sleep possibly.  I got a vacuum food sealer, which I tried out yesterday and it's so cool!  I've always seen them advertised on TV, but I never thought I had to have one.  It's pretty neat.  I also got a cross with the state of Texas on it, from Heather, and from Ricky and Trenton, Colten and I each got a $25 Visa gift card.  We spent the night with every intention of heading back to Schulenburg around noon.  However, we were really enjoying the stay in Yorktown, and Colten's best friend, Kyle, ended up heading over, so we spent Christmas Eve in Yorktown with Colten's family - fireworks and four-wheelers included!  It was a pretty fun day!  We ended it with watching Fireproof on Netflix and staying up until at least 2:30 watching it...whose idea was that again?!  We had to be up the next morning by 5:30 to leave by 6 and head to Schulenburg for Christmas mass.  Boy, that sure was early!  But luckily, Colten drove the entire way, so I was able to nap for about an hour, which was glorious.  Then, to church!  Church sure was pretty empty for Christmas morning!  I was definitely shocked, but many could have gone the night before and to other churches with their families in other towns...it was just kind of weird!  After church, we headed up to Pops's house to celebrate Christmas with dad's side of the family.  We had soooo much to eat, as always!  Everything was so delicious.  We were able to take Pops out for a few hours to spend with us and open gifts - I really think he enjoyed it!  After lunch, we opened gifts.  For my dad's side, we still draw names and buy for one person, which is so fun!  I wish we did it still on mom's side, but traditions are changing I guess.  Sadly.  I got a bamboo dish drying rack that I've been wanting for forever and an iTunes gift card.  I was one happy girl!  Colten got the camoflauge duffel bag he's been dying for as well.  We cleaned up!  After gifts, Pops had to get back to the nursing home, and the rest of us hung around and played Apples to Apples.  If you've never played it before, especially with a crazy bunch of people, I'd highly recommend it!  After that, Colten was bored and headed home to play Xbox - surprise, surprise, right?!  Haha.  Then, Amber, Haley, Nolan, Josh, and I headed home to mom and dad's house as well to play Xbox - Fruit Ninja, FIFA, Angry Birds, and Grand Theft Auto.  We had both Xbox's set up in the living room - it was quite a sight!  And sooo many laughs.  Great cousin bonding time :). 

Yesterday was a catch-up day...which meant I caught up on SLEEP!  I slept until NOON!  We spent the day just hanging out at mom and dad's and enjoying just relaxing with absolutely nothing to do. 

In all, we had a great Christmas holiday with lots of family!  And more importantly, Colten was blessed enough to get all five days off from work in order for us to spend every minute together.  I'm so unbelievably blessed!  And, with that, I'm very excited to jump-start the new year!  It's going to be an even better year, and I can't wait! 

Because It Still Hurts

Because it still hurts, not only me, but the entire nation, especially with the holidays days away... 

Because it still hurts, it's discussed.  It's talked about and commented on and prayed about by so many people.  

Because the Newtown, Connecticut mass murder on December 14, 2012 STILL HURTS, I can't not talk about it. 

It's everywhere.  It's in the media.  It's at work.  It's brought up by family, friends, & strangers.  It's mentioned in passing to that person you rode in the elevator with.  It's on the news.  It's online.  It's everywhere - because it still hurts.  And there continue to be many unanswered questions, many of which may remain unanswered forever.  It's just hard to say. 

But, on this subject, there have been many beautiful and glorifying tributes to the souls that were lost that day.  There is so much sadness to go around, it's sometimes hard to breathe.  Sadness for the 27 people whose lives were taken for some unknown reason.  Sadness for the families of those victims, both young and old, whom will most likely never be able to think of and experience the holidays the same.  Sadness for the survivors whom are now dealing with survivor's guilt and the trauma of witnessing such a tragedy. 

I don't watch The Voice, because, let's face it, I watch way too much TV already as it is, and I love my shows dearly, which means no room for new ones.  However, I heard about a tribute they did for the victims of the senseless shooting last week and looked for it.  How heartwrenching and truly touching is this! 

It definitely puts into perspective just how many people lost their lives that day, and just how many were young, innocent children.  This also goes to show how much of a big deal the situation is.  Like I said, it's everywhere.  And don't get me wrong, I'm definitely not complaining!  It needs to be broadcast.  It needs to touch the heart and souls of people everywhere!  Mass murders are a problem.  And those poor families... 

My heart goes out to everyone touched in some way or affected by this tragedy. 

And then you read something like this article from the Global Post, about a 6 year-old-girl who survived: 
'A brave six-year-old became the sole survivor of her first grade class at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. becasue she played dead as shooter Adam Lanza went on his rampage.  According to a pastor close to her family, the unnamed girl lay among the bodies of her 15 classmates until she thought it was safe to leave.  Pastor Jim Solomon told ABC News: "She ran out of the school building covered from head to toe with blood and the first thing she said to her mom was, 'Mommy, I'm OK but all my friends are dead."'
Just imagine what she saw in there.  Whenever she thinks back on her school memories, just imagine what her thoughts are going to be about first grade.  She was so brave and very smart to act as she was already deceased among the bodies of her friends.  The article goes on to say that the girl's family was suffering from survivor's guilt because many of their friends were not as lucky and had lost children in the tragedy.  Friendships frayed.  Tensions rising.  Although it is not the family's fault that their child survived and their friends' children didn't, but as a parent, how could you not be upset at them for being able to cling to their child when yours is dead?  Such a terrible event, of which these families will be facing the aftermath for years and years.  Read the entire article, here. 

I also read in a blog I follow of something her mother told her when she was struggling with her grief of loved ones lost, unexpectedly to a tragedy:

Life on this earth is hard, and the Heavenly Father knows that.  He loves us so much that He doesn't want us to stay here one single second longer than we have to.  When our time is up, He takes us home.  It's hard for the rest of us, but it's a gift of love and peace to those who die.  Just know that as long as you have a pulse, you have a purposeDon't take it for granted.

This will be forever burned into my soul and is such an amazing lesson to take away from such a tragedy.  I pray that some questions are able to be answered and that the families affected will be able to rebuild their lives, while grieving for their loved ones.  Prayer does wonders.  Prayer heals.  Please, pray.  Pray for the families of the victims, pray for the survivors, for the children that saw something no human should ever witness.  Pray for the community, that they may continue to band together and help rebuild around such a horrific event.  Pray for the nation, that this tragedy does not cause spontaneous reactions that will have lifelong consequences, but that leaders will make the right decisions in assisting those affected by this tragedy and to figure out where and how to help prevent this in the future, if it's even a possibility.  Pray for humankind, as a race, that we will listen to our friends and family when they reach out to us for support, help, advice, or just a shoulder to lean on - that we will take the few minutes out of our lives to listen and help in any way we can.  Pray for peace - that although their loved were ripped from their lives, that the families of those lost souls will know that their loved ones are at peace with God in His kingdom.  Pray for patience, as the nation grieves.  Pray, because it still hurts. 

The Worst of Times

Sunday morning's sermon was very eye-opening, and quite honestly could not have come at a better time!  In life, we get so caught up in the hustle and bustle, and when things don't go our way, or in some or most instances, go completely awry, we are stressed and 'freak out'.  I admit, I've had so many of these 'freak outs' that I can't even begin to count them.  But, as discussed this past Sunday, we are so burdened with tunnel-vision, that we cannot see anything outside of the terrible things that are happening to us, in which we are so quick to place blame.  Instead, we need to turn to God and praise Him.  Philippians 4:4-8 is the go-to passage for these not-so-easy-to-be-thankful moments:

Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.

We are being told to always rejoice in the Lord.  No matter the situation, especially in the worst of times, turn to him, with thanksgiving (which, let's admit, it's hard to be thankful for what we have when we're faced with hardship) and give Him thanks!  Rejoice (it's so important that it's said TWICE) in what you have been blessed with and do not worry.  'Do not be anxious about anything.'  This is probably the hardest part for me.  For example, when burdened financially - let's say quite a bit more money was taken from my account for student loans than what we were told - I asked, how am I supposed to NOT be anxious?  Of course I was anxious!  It was our finances and it put us in quite the bind.  However, I did not let it seethe within myself.  As always, the good Lord provides, and he allowed us to be helped where help could be given.  And for that, I am eternally grateful.  When school wasn't quite going as well as I was wanting, I was completely anxious, but I wasn't supposed to have been.  Instead of only seeing the hardship that was my Kinesiology education, I had to be thankful for everything else that I had and know that God would get me through it.  And boy, did he ever?!  I took a complete 180 degree turn in life and pursued my paralegal degree, and now I'm at a job that I thoroughly enjoy!  It is true - do not be anxious about anything and rejoice!  I know that it's easier said than done, but it all happens for a reason.  So, I challenge you.  We all know that tragedy and hardship strikes nearly every day - but it's up to you how you take that and deal with it.  I challenge you to write this scripture verse down and put it somewhere that you can come back to.  And when things aren't looking your way, pull it out and remember to present your requests, with thanksgiving, to God, and always think about anything that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy in your life.  Think about all of the good that outweighs the bad.  I challenge you to not let the worst of times overwhelm you.  I challenge you to pray.  I challenge you to let go, and let God. 

This sermon was such a great reminder - especially because I get so down on myself when things aren't going right.  I don't like for things to be out of my control, but that's part of life.  I logically know that I cannot be in control at all times, because only God is in control of my life.  It's hard to let go, but I'm trying more and more each and every day.  And lately, I see and know that it's working.  While I was sick these past few days, it was dreadful.  I felt miserable and had no energy whatsoever, but I was thankful for my family and my husband for helping to take care of me and provide for me in what I needed.  I was thankful for the shelter I was able to confine to and for the food I was able to eat.  There is so much good in my life, it helped my sickness be more bearable.  I have a post-it note on my computer monitor reminding me:
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is not think, not wonder, not imagine, not obsess.  Just breathe, and have faith that everything will work out for the best.  Let go and let God. 
I love seeing the reminder every single day.  There's also one particular song that comes into mind in helping deal with the worst of  times: Gary Allan's "Every Storm".

I saw you standing in the middle of the thunder and lightning
I know you're feeling like you just can't win, but you're trying
It's hard to keep on keepin' on, when you're being pushed around
Don't even know which way is up, just keep spinning down, 'round, down...

Every storm runs out of rain
Just like every dark night turns into day
Every heartache will fade away
Just like every storm runs, runs out of rain

So hold your head up and tell yourself that there's something more
Walk out that door
Go find a new rose, don't be afraid of the thorns
'Cause we all have thorns
Just put your feet up to the edge, put your face in the wind
And when you fall back down, keep on rememberin'

Every storm runs, runs out of rain
Just like every dark night turns into day
Every heartache will fade away
Just like every storm runs, runs out of rain

It's gonna run out of pain
It's gonna run out of sting
It's gonna leave you alone
It's gonna set you free
Set you free

Every storm runs, runs out of rain
Just like every dark night turns into day
Every heartache will fade away
Just like every storm runs, runs out of rain

It's gonna set you free,
It's gonna run out of pain,
It's gonna set you free

This is such a great reminder that it's going to happen - there's no way that we can go through life with no storms to weather.  But, every storm runs out of rain.  Every dark night turns into day.  It's going to run out of pain and sting.  If God puts you to it, He'll get you through it.  I personally know that the last thing you want to have lectured to you is that it'll get better, that things are going to look up.  But it's true.  It is going to get better.  You've got to keep on keepin' on and not let the 'thorns' of life keep you down.  Lean on your friends, family, and most importantly, God, and you'll get through the struggles of life.  Because part of living life is enduring the storms that are placed in our path.  You've got to enjoy life and make the most of what you're given, and this song is definitely motivation to do so.  Don't wait for your life to start, because in doing so, your life turns into waiting for reality to happen.  And what kind of life is that? 

So, in the worst of times, rejoice in God and give thanks for what you've been blessed with.  And remember, every storm runs out of rain. 

Newtown, Connecticut Shooting

Today is another sad day in American history, for lack of a better word. Hmm...here are a few more: senseless, stupid, disaster, selfishness, tragedy, devastation, horrific, terrifying, unnecessary. Need I continue?

And I thought I was having a rough day this morning. Little did anyone know that 26 lives would be taken, 20 of them children under the age of 10, by a monster. For the 13th time this year, a crazed human being has successfully ruined the lives of many families.  View the detailed list here.

This morning, a 20-year-old boy took it upon himself to murder 27 people. Of those, 20 were innocent, naive children who will not be celebrating Christmas with their families. As one young man put it, "Hey you. You. The Ones that left us today. The ones that experienced the worst that humanity can do. You little angels who closed your eyes in a living Hell this morning. I'm so, so very sorry that this world didn't give you a chance. Even though you didn't even have a chance to realize how big the world is, today, the sad end of your lives affected MILLIONS of people. It's probably of little comfort to you at all, but tonight in America, Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia...everywhere...mommies are holding their kids a little tighter and a little longer. Daddies are listening to their kids and showing them more love. You twenty little souls were set free this morning, and there is nothing good that can be said about that. But because you left, and the way you were taken, millions of kids still here on earth tonight will be shown more love than any other ordinary Friday night. Your short and precious lives had a value and a purpose. Godspeed."

Couldn't have said it better myself. These families have been affected to the bone, to their very core. These families (of all the victims) will never have another traditional and joyous holiday season. These families will be reminded every year at this time of what was ripped from their lives - their loved ones. I pray with all that I am, that the loved ones of the departed are touched by God's healing hand and know that the victims are now at peace in His presence. I pray for their heartache to be lessened to allow them to breathe and to focus on rebuilding their new lives. I pray for humanity - that those who are filled with hatred and the need to place torture upon others will be placed in the path of righteousness and not harm innocent individuals. I pray that, as a nation, we support those affected this year by such tragedies. I pray for healing. I pray for guidance. I pray for God to be implemented back into our society. I pray.

None of what has happened makes sense. It almost doesn't seem real. Is this actually happening?! Yes. It is. Sadly, it is impossible to feel safe anywhere anymore, not even the movie theater or an elementary school. Sadly, there are sick individuals who seek attention and to cause pain and suffering. Sadly, it's not quite as shocking, each time a mass shooting occurs.

And really?! Small children?! I'm angry. I'm angry that the shooter was willing to take his own life and harm so many innocent human beings. I'm angry that this is becoming a norm in our society. And I'm scared. I'm scared for our future as a nation. This definitely draws my heart and soul closer and closer to God. For with Him and through Him, all things are possible. Even the healing process for those whose lives will forever be tainted with the bloodshed of their loved ones. It's possible. My heart is broken tonight, but let the healing begin. As long as it may take.


I have lived through 1/1/1, 2/2/2, 3/3/3, 4/4/4, 5/5/5, 6/6/6, 7/7/7, 8/8/8, 9/9/9, 10/10/10, 11/11/11, and now 12/12/12.  I guess for some people, these dates are significant and mean that the day is extra special.  I don't know.  For me, it's just another day.  Just becasue it's the same repated number - it has no special meaning to me, for I know that God performs miracles on any day of the year, not only on these repeated number days.  It's 'cool' I guess, but other than that, there is no significance.  I admit, I was keen on my driver's license expiring on 10/11/12 (that's cool too, right?), but other than this so-called 'cool factor', it meant nothing.  I perceive these repeated dates the same way.  To me, it's just another day.  Today, I woke up late (as usual), hurriedly got ready for work, got to work on time (yipee!), and performed my duties at work as usual.  Then, I will be going to my second job, as usual for a Wednesday, and then I'll go home to my husband.  I don't take any of these things for granted - I know that I am blessed to be able to do each and every one of these things, but again, there's no significance that today brings, being 12/12/12.  I believe dates like these are played up by social media.  People also tend to pick dates like these for their wedding day, maybe they perceive it as a lucky day?  Colten and I married on 11/12/11, and I cannot even begin to count the number of times we were asked, "Don't you want to have your wedding one day sooner, so you can be married on 11/11/11?"  Umm, no, but thanks for asking!  The date we set was special to us, and we weren't about to change it just to jump on the 'cool' bandwagon.  Plus, I believe everything worked out the way it was supposed to that week.  If we had changed it (although there was absolutely, positively, no freakin' way we would've even thought about it), it would've burdened people, and that 'special' week (as I now call it) would not have played out as it did.  What's meant to be will be. 

Again, I admit it's 'cool' that it won't happen again for another 1,000 years, but I'll just simply smile about that and move on with my day. 

"Ladies and gentlemen, it's 12.12.12 and...... Nothing happened," Aazief Khalid of Malaysia tweeted Wednesday. 



Perusing Facebook (I know, I know...), I came across a friend's post she shared of her husband's blog  today focusing on Advent.  This completely merges with my recent studies during this Advent season, preparing my heart, mind, and spirit to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Please take the time to be inspired by The Good Rev. Mack's look into Advent.  It's most definitely an inspiration!

And today's prayer:

Jesus, you are the good Shepherd, caring for me and giving me rest, correcting me when I stray, tending my wounds and protecting me from my enemies.  I confess that I am weak-willed and prone to wander.  Yet you never give up on me.  You refuse to abandon me - even when I have brought calamity upon myself. 

Teach me the joy of surrender and the blessings of obedience.  Help me to willingly submit to your lordship in every area of my life, to obey your teachings.  Guide me in doing the work you have set out for me to do.  I love you.  My hope is in you, my trust is in you.  May I learn to discern your voice so that I may live in obedience to your will right up to the day of your glorious return.  In your name I pray.  Amen.

Have a blessed day!

Welcome to the World of Photo Gifts

I just recently became more aware of just how awesome sites like snapfish.com and shutterfly.com are!  I know, I know...I'm way behind.  But, in my defense, I've only recently gotten married, and it would be a little silly to have Christmas cards with only my face on them, which is what got me into these sites this year.  Don't get me wrong...I love all of the different Christmas cards that are printed and ready for you to purchase - I know how much time and effort it takes to do.  However, this year, I wanted to be different.  I wanted to send out cards this year with pictures (originally, only one picture...) of Colten and I, one year being married!  So, I decided to buckle down and get serious about it, which really meant that we had to figure out a day that Colten could go home to Schulenburg with me so that we could get my mom to take the pictures.  However, this wasn't as difficult as I anticipated, as we decided early enough when we would be around anyway, at Thanksgiving.  That week(end) was so chaotic and crazy - with lots and LOTS of driving (over 250 miles), but the picture taking was a stress reliever and was so much fun!  But who am I kidding, my family is ALWAYS fun!  And who wouldn't have fun 'riding a haybale'?!?!  I mean, come on!  Haha. 

Anyway, we decided on which looked best and what we wanted the final product to sort-of look like...and voila!  Thanks to my amazing parents for loaning us the money since Cyber Monday provided great deals on Christmas photo cards online!  :)  They came in the mail a few weeks ago and we absolutely love them!  They turned out great, and they show us as a couple and our individual crazy personalities.  Yes, my friends, Colten is riding a haybale on our Christmas card.  How much more country can you get?!  Haha.  It was a blast, and definitely will be another memory added to our family fun. 

But, now back to the websites that provide such great products!  Although we ordered our cards on cyber Monday and got great deals, I've been getting coupons and discounts in my inbox since and it's out of control!  Luckily, my cousin found a fantastic app that lets you create different word pictures, and it's come in quite handy (let's just leave it at that at the off-chance the gift receivers read this entry!).  So, I've used these sites several more times since purchasing our Christmas cards (which will be going in the mail on Wednesday...only because I refuse to use Forever Stamps and want those pesky Christmas Baubles!), as recent as today!  50% off photo cards, site-wide, 30% off home decor, 50% off calendars, and FREEE SHIPPING.  Hello there, photo gifts!  So, I purchased another photo gift today and anticipate its arrival, as it uses a picture I created with the previously-mentioned app!  We'll see how it goes!  I see myself using these sites many, many more times throughout the year and during the Holidays!  What better gift than a personalized photo gift?!  Definitely sentimental and thoughtful, I must say! 

Happy Shopping! 

Advent Season

This time of year, we look forward to Christmas - to the celebration of the birth of Christ.  So, I will take this time to now bask in the presence of His glory. 

I recently purchased a devotional for this advent season, wishing and hoping to deepen my knowledge of this season and the true meaning of Christmas.  I'm not sure if it's just the way I'm perceiving and absorbing Scripture these days (it's definitely deeper than I used to!), but I was entranced with only the first entry! 

It is only in Him that we find our true dignity and purpose as people.  He is the author and finisher of our faith, the One who remains faithful even when we are faithless.

How true is this?!  This is just one of the many glorious things that I am very grateful to be a part of.  Just think of someone who remains faithful when we aren't.  Someone who will be there with open arms to receive you when you've been absent from the relationship for years and hasn't moved on.  That's right - no one comes to mind except our Savior.  Jesus Christ wants everyone.  He wants to accept you, me, my neighbor, your friends, the homeless, the non-believers - everyone!  No matter how long you've been away or haven't come to Him yet, he is waiting to welcome you into His loving arms.  I'm blessed beyond words. 

Popping the Question

Yes, it's DECEMBER already!  And with that comes commercial after commercial regarding 'that special someone' and gift giving, etc. etc.  Most of these commercials are jewelers - of course!  This time of year also brings about the cliche of proposing during the holidays.  DON'T DO IT! 

I'm not saying I don't believe in proposing to your significant other when you feel it's right and you're ready, but I have a few reasons why proposing this time of year might not be the best idea.  I've done a little research into it, and I've come up with three main reasons why NOT to propose during the holidays.

1. Pressure

With the abovementioned commercials constantly hammering away at your subconscious, there is a lot of pressure to get your special someone something, well, SPECIAL!  And a special gift is important, as it will be memorable and she/he will be very grateful for your thoughfulness in taking the time to do something special or worthwhile instead of just something practical or impersonal.  With that said, the pressure of the commercials and retailers reminding you that the gift needs to be special, too many people give in and decide to make the holidays the time to pop the question to their loved one.  Don't give in to the pressure! 

2. Predictable

Proposing to your special someone during the holidays is also very predictable!  Yes, guys, she sees the same commercials that you have, and if you're at that point in your relationship, how is she NOT thinking about it?  That's true, she probably is, but that's not because of the commercials and pressure.  It's because she is at that point in your relationship in which she can picture spending the rest of her life with you!  I promise you, it's not because of the holiday season and the special 'air' about this time of year.  Don't be predictable!  Don't fall into the cliche that so many others do!  If she's the love of your life, make it a surprise!  You both deserve to have your own day.  Don't mask your engagement with the stress and bustle of the holiday season. 

3. Timing is Everything!

Don't just fall into the trap of being guilted into propsing this time of year.  Timing is everything, in that you both will have the story to tell your future children, grandchildren, and other relatives for years and years.  Make it a special day that otherwise is overlooked.  Show her that she means so much to you not only during the holiday season, but every other day throughout the year.  I'm all for giving her a special gift for Christmas, but proposing shouldn't be it.  Just think about it, how are you going to top that gift next year?!  Be creative and make it a surprise!  Don't be a cliche.  Don't give in to the retailers' tricks.  If you purchase that diamond ring during the holidays because it's on sale or you gave in, fine.  But don't propose until the new year.  You'll be grateful later! 

Thinking of this also surfaces memories of my proposal, which I absolutely cherish!  It was April 19, 2010, and I had gotten out of class early (Contracts with Duane Crowley - loved that class, hard as it was!).  I was very exhausted and had gotten home to Colten, looking forward to just relaxing.  But noooo...Colten told me to get dressed (wasn't I already?? yes..but not well enough apparently).  He then drove out to Mount Bonnell and had me climb ALL those stairs!  But it was all worth it!  We went to a quiet corner and then he gave his speach - he was nervous and kept stuttering - it was so cute!!  He brought me to tears immediately, as he is not usually so open with his emotions and feelings.  Then, he got down on one knee and pulled out the ring!  I said yes immediately and gave him the biggest hug ever!  It was amazing.  He later admitted that he was nervous because he wasn't sure of what my answer would be - sooo cute!  Then, fireworks went off across the lake (completely unplanned but very special nonetheless)!  It was dark by this time, as it was after 8:00, and it was so romantic just overlooking the water and not having any other care in the world.  I was so happy.  Then we headed to the car to make several phone calls.  My parents were very happy for me, as were my brother and sister and grandparents!  His family was happy as well.  It was amazing!  And luckily, it was still early enough to head over to our favorite restaurant (Olive Garden of COURSE!) for dinner.  It wasn't anything overly dramatic or super planned with lots of expensive gestures - it was just him expressing his love for me in a very intimate and romantic way on just some random day when he couldn't wait another day without knowing whether or not I'd spend the rest of my life with him.  And it was amazing.  And it was our day.  The hardest part was waiting a year and a half to become his wife!  But it was all worth it, and a story I will always cherish.  It's 'our' story.  <3>

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