Friday, November 18, 2011

Preparing for Christmas

What's on your Christmas to-do list this year?

I swore to myself that this year I would be on top of things for Christmas. I was going to buy presents all year long so that it didn't hit us all at once. I'd get our Christmas cards ordered early. I'd gather recipes that I want to try. Bake cookies and freeze them so that I'm not baking 5 different cookies in one day.

I can't say that I'm off to a bad start. It's not even Thanksgiving yet. But I definitely did not buy Christmas presents all year long. The problem with that is knowing exactly who you have to buy for (something that seems to change for us every year). And what they want. Or you have to know them well enough to be able to just buy something without suggestions. I have to be honest I am not confident enough to buy for at least half of the people on our list without some suggestions. Which usually means I can't shop until after Thanksgiving. I'm ordering our Christmas cards this weekend. A little bit later than I'd like, but not terrible. The problem is choosing ones that I like. I prefer to make our cards, but I also like them to be pictures. I just haven't seen anything that I'm in love with and want to copy. So, I'm stuck shuffling through all of the pictures sights choosing the one that looks the least like everyone else's while also not costing me an arm and a leg.

I have some recipes I want to try. And my plan is to start baking cookies next weekend. So, I'm not off to a terrible start.

What about you? What's on your to-do list for Christmas? How are you making progress on that list?

Monday, November 14, 2011

There's Something About Grand Rapids

Okay, before I get much further, I do have to give a little disclaimer here. I use the words "Grand Rapids" to refer to all of Western Michigan, really. Because none of my friends live in Grand Rapids anymore. I don't even go to Grand Rapids anymore. But I still call it Grand Rapids.

This past weekend I drove up to Grand Rapids for a friend's baby shower. I have made this drive probably 100 times and every time it makes me so excited. Once I hit a certain spot on the highway my stomach just fills with butterflies because I am so excited to be there. There's something about Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids is like my perfect place. Seriously. It represents so much to me. Hands down it is the place where I experience the most spiritual growth in my life. Not only did I learn how to dig deeper into the Bible, but I met people who had a deep love for Scripture. People who truly felt a burden to pray for me. People who you could tell just by looking at them that they loved to spend time with God. I am so encouraged by the culture in Grand Rapids. It is assumed that you go to church there, you're not looked down on for it. Families spend Sunday afternoons together, eating dinner, playing games, and just relaxing. Not running around with everyone separate.

I know I'm making sweeping generalizations, but this is what Grand Rapids is to me.

It's a family-oriented place. A place where I feel comfortable raising my children. A place where my children can be encouraged and grow in their faith, where they will see other people around them living the life that we tell them about. They can be surrounded by spiritual mentors.

Grand Rapids is where I met my life-long friends. Girls that I grew into friendship with. We were friends before we had husbands (even before we had boyfriends!). Before we had jobs. Before we had kids. We're not friends because we're in a mom's group together. Or because we go to the same Bible study. While I love all of my friends and I love having friends from those groups, these friends knew me before all of that. These are the friends that I can talk about my spiritual life with. We talk about the struggles of being a wife or a mother. We talk about our shortcomings. We encourage each other in our faith. We encourage each other to be better wives and mothers. We have serious conversations. Conversations that I long to have more often. When I leave Grand Rapids I feel stronger. Challenged. If Kathy can do this for Jon, I can do it for Brad. What Sarah said really made me think. Erica tried this so I can try it, too. While I do feel like we could go even further, I always walk away feeling like these are the kinds of friendships God wants me to have. The friendships I long for. And it makes me miss Grand Rapids even more.

Of course, it's not all serious. We have lots of fun, too. We go to the beach. We scrapbook. We shop. We have fun together. It's like the perfect mix of encouragement and support and fun. Sometimes I just want to pack up everything and move to Grand Rapids. Of course, I know the truth is if I were to move there it wouldn't always be like this. We do all have lives. Families to take care of. We couldn't get together every night and scrapbook. Or go out to dinner ever week. We might still go weeks without actually talking to each other. But I still like to dream. To think that if I moved there, life would be perfect. But the fact is it wouldn't be. And I can't move there. So, instead, I have to deal with my reality. And I think part of that is developing those friendships here. Finding what I love about Grand Rapids here where I live. It's hard to remember, but it took years to form the friendship that I have with those girls. And we saw each other every day. The only thing that stood in our way of growing our friendship was school work, and often we could do even that together. So, I'll still be encouraged by my friendships in Grand Rapids. And I will cherish them. But I will also continue to work on and grow the friendships that I have here at home, remembering that if this is where God wants me to be, he will provide all that I need.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Micah's Party

We had Micah's birthday party last Saturday at my parents' house. It turned out really nice. The weather was pretty decent until the sun went down and it started to get cool. But then we headed inside and all was well.

Grandpa was ready for a showdown at high noon.

Some decorations.

A couple of cowgirls.

Birthday boy eating his dinner (he had to trade his cowboy hat for a warmer one).

Opening his presents. In the middle of opening he stood up and started clapping as if to say, "Thanks, everyone! I'm done opening now."

Enjoying his cake. He was a little unsure at first and seemed afraid to touch it, but after some coaxing from Mom and Dad he was all about it!

And, last, our little one-year-old cowboy. :)