Friday, December 31, 2010

Good-Bye 2010! Hello 2011!

[pic via]
While I'm in no way glad to see Christmastime come to an end, I am very happy to say good-bye to 2010. This past year has been a pretty rough one for me, and for Brad, and for me and Brad. A lot has been going on behind the scenes of this blog that I've never really gotten into publicly. And even though we've always been Beyond Blessed and God has never once, not for even a second, left us hanging, it's still been a pretty rough one for us.

Maybe it's because we're getting older. Maybe it's because we've been married longer. Maybe it's because we have to be more grown-up and responsible now. Maybe it's because our choices are having more drastic and lasting consequences. Maybe it's because the  more you love, the more it hurts when it hurts. Whatever the reason, we've definitely had to reach out and cling to the Lord, His Word, His promises, His forgiveness, His grace, His mercy, His comfort, and His hope more than either of us have ever had to at any other point in our lives.

The hard times make the good times considerably better. The redemption from mistakes and failures easily make salvation that much sweeter (if that's even possible). The dependence on Someone much bigger and better than ourselves helps keep life in perspective. It all leads to much needed growth, albeit painful growth. I'm not one for asking why "bad things happen to good people," because I don't believe any person is truly good, let alone myself. Besides, who am I to expect an easy life when the Son of God Himself was persecuted and executed?

But, just because I make every attempt to be continually positive and thankful for His stability and to not throw myself a pity party when life turns out harder than I had ever envisioned, that doesn't mean I'm not more than ready to holler "Adios!" to a year that has been full of challenges, hurt and pain.

So, while I generally enjoy the "fresh start" of every new year, I revel in saying good-bye to 2010 and hello to 2011 even more than usual. Sometimes a new beginning is exactly what the soul needs. And that's what 2011 is; a new beginning. I'm just glad I'm not walking it alone.

Are you excited to start again? Has 2010 been a year full of both blessings and difficulties for you? It's never to late to make any changes you've been needing to ("New Years Resolutions," if you will). You and I can both take comfort in knowing that as we enter into the new year, God will never, ever leave our side.

Praise God, for He is good!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jigsaw casualties

In accordance with my new Christmas Puzzle Tradition, I was anxious to whip out an old favorite of mine. It's a collection of Norman Rockwell's famous Christmas paintings.

I love doing this particular puzzle for many reasons: I love Norman Rockwell's style, and especially the nostalgia these paintings bring to Christmastime; it's like doing four puzzles in one; and this was my very first "Christmas Puzzle," which I've been putting together annually for years.

However, throughout it's lifespan, my favorite puzzle has sustained a couple minor injuries. For instance, it's completely missing a piece. Lost. Gone. Kaput. Nowhere to be found. And it's even an important edge piece, at that! Sad day.

Another piece is all but destroyed thanks to Chester's youthful puppy days when he would gnaw on anything dropped on the floor. The chewed up piece is nearly unrecognizable, rendering it only placeable based on its shape alone without being able to consider the picture it holds. Furthermore, it barely even stays in place after his puppy spit made it all soggy, swelled up and deformed. Sad day, indeed! But I suppose it still gets the job done.

This year, my friend, Pam, helped me assemble it, which means she gets to sign the back of it once I get it all glued together. Oh yeah, and Brad did manage to put in one single piece just so he could autograph it, too. I guess I have to stay true to my word.

Did you start any new traditions this Christmas?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Card Decor

Throughout Christmastime, I've thoroughly enjoyed receiving bunches of Christmas cards from people I love. Each day I'd check the mail, get all excited to see a non-bill waiting for me, then immediately cram tape it onto the the door leading to our garage where it could be prominently displayed in our dining room. Every time Brad came home from work, he automatically checked the door for any new additions to the card-shrine-of-friends.

I have loved the extra card decor warming our home, and am not at all anxious to view a lifeless, bare door again (not to mention getting boring ol' mail, either). Each of the cards is a little message of love from many of our favorite people in the world blessings from Above. They're all so cute, sweet, funny, personalized, and creative that I wish I could provide you with a close up shot of each one of them in detail. But that would be crazy.

Instead, I'll just show you ours. If I failed to personally mail you our Christmas card this year, please accept my apologies and accept this digital one as your very own Christmas message specially from us.

What do you do with the Christmas cards you receive (in real life) at your house? Do you somehow display them throughout the Christmas season? Then what do you do with them afterwards? I just can't bear to throw them out.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Baking shenanigans

Bradley thinks he's just so funny. Sometimes it seems he truly can't help himself.

Warning: The upcoming image is entirely inappropriate to be posted on this blog. PG-13, if you will. Please proceed with caution. Consider yourself warned.


This is what happens when Brad and I bake together:

You would think a bit of flour on the nose, right? Or maybe a whole bunch of it dumped on one of our heads. Or possibly even a full-fledged flour fight resulting in a ghost couple in a destroyed kitchen. But no. With Brad Mehaffey, it has to be even more feisty.

He just thought he was so hilarious. While I was rolling out the Christmas cookie dough, I wondered why he was giggling to himself when I saw him grab the camera in order to "document the hand print for my blog."

Specifically. For my blog.

When I didn't include the picture or anecdote in my original Christmas post, he was thoroughly offended, saying I didn't appreciate his input, since he did snap the shot specifically for my blog, and all.

So, even though I'm completely embarrassed, this post is for my hubs. After all, he's right; it isn't every day that he takes a vested interest in the content of my blog and proactively "helps" me develop post ideas.

Gee. Thanks, honey, for your help. I really appreciate it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

White Christmas

God gave us SNOW for Christmas!

{I always feel like snow is such a wonderful blessing, as it is a reminder of exactly how God sees us as his forgiven and redeemed children. Really, Lord? You make me this clean, over and over again??}

Our Christmas Eve 2010 couldn't officially begin until we were in our Christmas Eve gear: the annual PJ's. This year, Brad surprised me with a onesie, and I love it!

Once were were dressed for the occasion, we kicked the holiday off with the necessary Christmas cookies for Santa. In the past, we have bought the tube of dough and just rolled it out, passing it off as our own. This year, however, Brad we decided to attempt to make a batch from scratch  using an online recipe. Yikes. Not only did I we forget to modify the recipe to a smaller amount, resulting in enough dough to bake five dozen cookies, but  they were also terrible! We ate one point of a star, and spit it right back out. They tasted just like playdough! Blegch!

But that didn't stop us for icing and setting some out for Santa! (I'm sure he's had some pretty horrible cookies in his day.) And, since we only decorated a few, Brad got the opportunity to drink some of the left over icing! (He has decided that he's part elf, because he loves sugar so much.) Besides, the experience together, even with the resulting gagging, is still a fun memory full of laughter with my Favorite. Wouldn't trade it for perfect cookies any day. (Well, maybe next year...)

We set a TV up in our generally TV-less living room so we could cuddle up and watch our favorite movies near the fireplace with a nice view of the tree. From our makeshift bed on the floor, we watched our traditional Christmas Eve movie, A Christmas Carol, and (I) fell asleep before making it to the end of A Miracle on 34th Street.

As soon as we woke up Christmas morning, (well, after I ran outside and jumped around a bit because of the White Christmas) we opened up our stockings.We both gifted each other more Christmas movies (Polar Express for me and A Christmas Story and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation for him). He got The Band Perry CD along with some "Mountain Adventure" Matchbox cars and a few other little kid toys, and I also got a scarf as well as an assortment of my favorite chocolate-and-caramel-combo candy.

That was supposed to be it, since Brad and I generally only exchange stockings. However, Brad didn't very much adhere to that rule this year, as you can see:

So, the gifts continued! He got me two complete outfits, another scarf, a sweater, a set of (nearly impossible to find, size 5) black heels, and some brown boots. Okay, okay. I was a little guilty of overgifting, too, but not quite as obviously so since I could cram most of his gifts inside the stocking. However, I couldn't resist getting him a pair of old man slippers so he could run to and from our friends' houses without getting his socks all yucky!

Also, TJ's family sent me a much needed new Christmas candle, a set of Chicago Cubs ornaments for Bradley (which is very generous, since they're St. Louis Cardinals fans) along with a greatly appreciated gift card, and a sweet Christmas card containing a beautifully colored picture from Rachel.

Lastly, my mama sent us a bag of cash! When we removed the tissue paper, we found dollar bills folded into little Christmas bows! And she even put a few gold dollar coins in the bottom for some jingling in order to throw me off the trail when I inevitably shook it. (I always shake my presents before I open them. Sometimes days before. It's part of the fun, right?)

My dad is coming down later this week, and Brad's family will celebrate Christmas here this weekend, since we always celebrate with them the Saturday after the holiday. (Which means my Christmas gets to last at least  a-whole-nother week! Booyah!) But overall, Christmas was a great time spent enjoying the company of my husband.

We are very spoiled with many presents, but every year we step back to thank our Lord for the best gifts of all: Redemption and Salvation through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of His Son. And (to a much lesser extent, but still greater than any physical luxury), the gift of relationship with each other and our family and friends whom we love so much. God is so good.

I hope you all  had a Very Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Don't forget what today really represents:


Then, now, and forever. The story never gets old.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

The countdown on the side of my refrigerator says we only have ONE more day until Christmas!!

You know what that means! Christmas PJ's, Christmas cookies, special movies, snuggling up by the fire, sleeping under the Christmas tree, and the anticipation of the holiday finally coming to it's climax! (And last minute shopping for procrastinators everywhere!) I honestly love Christmas Eve almost more than Christmas Day, itself.

Hope you have a WONDERFUL holiday with those you love! (And that you've been able to enjoy Christmastime while it lasted!)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

True Meaning of Christmas

You know how nearly every good Christmas movie talks about getting back to the true meaning of Christmas? And you know how they all end up explaining that a big huge pile of presents isn't what Christmas is really all about?

Well, what if that massive pile of wrapped boxes actually consisted of many much needed gifts for a family that has found themselves very down on their luck? Now, isn't that what Christmas is really all about?

I believe that Christmas Spirit is just a festive disguise for Christian Spirit. This wonderful holiday provides God's children a unique opportunity to exemplify, share, and spread His unconditional love with the world around us.

This year, our life group sponsored a family that had lost literally everything in a house fire. Our Tacky Christmas Sweater Party also doubled as a gift-wrapping party! Everybody pitched in and "adopted" a member of the family. We provided each of the five children with a set of warm clothes, socks and underwear, a winter coat, and shoes. Oh, and of course some toys! The parents received the same sort of list, only their toys were a little more grownup; they got a set of dishes, pots and pans, a new microwave, a small TV, cleaning supplies, and other general  home necessities.

You can't imagine the happiness that filled our house as we all joyfully wrapped items for a family whom none of us had ever met.

The following day, a couple members of our life group got to be Santa Jesus as they delivered the gifts of love to the needy family.

The family was completely surprised and blown away. As soon as the group walked in, they were welcomed with smiling faces and open arms. Even though they didn't speak any English (well, some of the kids could, a little), they all spoke the common language of Love.

The kids were all wearing shorts and dresses, and they immediately bundled up in their new coats and shoes as soon as they were unwrapped. Since I was at work, I wasn't personally able to meet the family, but the pictures of their excitement alone make me so incredibly happy (and tear up).

We gladly shared this love under the pretense of "Christmas" and in the form of gifts, but I am confident that it is God, not Santa Claus, who truly shined through, and it was Love, not Things that was actually received. Even if our Father was never explicitly mentioned, all Good things and all Love come only from Him, for He is Good, and He is Love.

Now, this is the True Meaning of Christmas (and Christianity). Praise God for His everlasting Love and Provision! All of the glory goes to Him. What a real joy and blessing it has been to be used by Him to love on others of His children.

Jesus was so right. (Duh.)
"It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tacky Christmas

Hosting parties and random get-togethers with our friends is one of our favorite things to do. But no party is ever better than a Christmas party, because a Christmas party is at Christmastime! And what good is a Christmas party without tacky Christmas sweaters? No good at all, I tell you!

Monday night, our Life Group (which is basically our best friends) and a couple new friends (YEA for new friends!) showed up at the Mehaffey residence dressed to impress. Every last one of them was sportin' a superbly tacky Christmas sweater. New Andy and Emily (yes, another Emily) even made their own just for the occasion. Now, that's dedication!

Brad created a coveted "Most Tacky" award by placing a classic Goodwill tie (adorned with a puff-painted "You're Tacky!") into a nice gold frame. After each person placed their anonymous vote into the elf hat, New Luke and Laura won the honor of being the tackiest guests of 2010. Don't you agree that they totally deserved it?

The night ended with a rousing game of Quelf. Seriously, this game is hilarious! We just can't get enough of it! Some highlights include Luke and Laura rapping about their appearance (how fitting), me dominating New Emily in a thumb war, Stacey and Laura patty-caking, Charles talking like a charismatic preacher, Brad and me jumping up and down like chickens (when we weren't being forced to point randomly into the air for an entire round without saying a word), Wes and Stacey cheering for people every round, then giving them a score after each turn, and Kris retrieving a stick while panting like a dog, to name a few. I mean, for real, you could not facilitate more random occurrences (or more laughs) than this game creates.

Pretty much, the First Annual Tacky Christmas Sweater Party was a complete success. I absolutely love making great memories with great friends, and I couldn't be happier with the people whom God has surrounded us with. So much fun!

Are you dressed for the holidays? You better get ready. It's sneakin' up on us fast!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Patiently awaiting Santa

My favorite family is all ready for Santa Claus! (Well, they're technically my family, but they're also their own family. So that's really not as conceited as it sounds...)

Okay, seriously. Could my sweet niece and nephew possibly be any more precious??? I really don't think so.

Every time I see them (or a picture of them) I fall even more in love!

This picture of Rachel is actually from Halloween, but I absolutely adore it and had to share it even though it's "out of season!"

Don't they both look just like their daddy, with that identical white hair?

And, fine, you got me. This sweet picture of them conked out in their carseats really has nothing to do with anything, but I just think they're so stinkin' cute, and I thought you might, too!

Hope you're getting ready for the Big Man in Red to visit! The countdown is really getting exciting!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Snug as a Christmas Bug

This weekend I had the privilege of enjoying one of my very favorite past times of the season:

Cuddling up on the couch in our Christmas house, wearing last year's Christmas PJ's and reading a good book by the glow of our Christmas tree. Ahh...

There was only one thing that could make it even better, and that was a steaming mug of hot chocolate hiding underneath a preposterous amount of marshmallows.


Merry Christmas Week! I hope you enjoy what's left of Christmastime! (Try not to just be sad that it's already coming to an end, like I am.)

Friday, December 17, 2010

A year later

Today marks the first anniversary of the car accident that steered me onto a long road of recovery from my sustained concussion. (Praise God it was only a concussion!!) It's kind of weird, really, being here again; seeing and writing December 17 as if that date doesn't carry with it an ominous sensation. But the fact is, it does. It's a strange feeling to know that starting now until the middle of January, everything that happens will be a day that I honestly don't remember from last year.

Since Christmas season began, I have been reminded over and over again that I truly have no recollection of this time from 2009.  When I unpacked our Christmas decor, it was as if it were Christmas morning all over again as I discovered gift after gift that I had "never seen before." In fact, there were so many items, ornaments, etc. that I texted Brad to ask him if he happened to add some things to our storage without me knowing it. He said he could "100% guarantee that didn't happen." And when I rejoiced over finding a copy of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, he laughed and said, "Yeah, that's just how you reacted when you opened it last year, too." (However, we all know that my finding of last year's Christmas candle didn't go quite so well.)

I was happily showing off my favorite "new" ornaments that are now prominently displayed on the front of our tree to Emily, when she laughed and revealed that it was actually she who had given them to me! Whew! That was close! Good thing I didn't talk any smack about them or anything!

While it was genuinely exciting to find all of these new things, it was equally creepy to know that I had lived a life including them in my past but simply could not remember it in the slightest. It was such a bizarre sensation to know that I had literally picked out and purchased after-Christmas specials, brought them home, touched them, held them in my hands, wrapped them up, and packed them away, but honestly did not know that they existed at all. I really can't even explain the feeling. Very surreal.

Anyway, even though this post is already long enough to stand on its own, I wanted to redeem some of last Christmas season by blogging about it! I really hate that a year's worth of my favorite time as well as a pretty significant event in my life has thus far not been represented on my online scrapbook. So here is my version of December, 2009, consisting of what few pictures we did manage to take while I was loopy:

First of all, I couldn't even remember our house, let alone what time of the year it was, (Can you imagine me now knowing it's CHRISTMAS??)  and I simply could not understand why Brad would decorate for Christmas in "April." When he continually reassured me that it was, in fact, Christmastime and that I had been the one to decorate, I just got frustrated at him for "making things up" and at myself for not being able to understand. I must have eventually accepted what he said as truth, because I then fixated on our Christmas tree.

You see, somehow the top portion of our pre-lit tree had burned out. Apparently, every time I woke up (or just if it had been more than a few minutes' time) I would stare at the top of the tree with a very concerned look, then wonder aloud why it wasn't lit. Poor Brad had to keep replying, "I'm not sure, honey. I can't seem to get it to work." After a while, he grew exasperated, feeling terrible that he "couldn't even make his sick wife's Christmas tree work." (His words, not mine.) I ultimately learned that I wasn't supposed to ask about it anymore, even though I couldn't actually remember why or the answer to the question I was dying to ask. And I made sure to tell every person that came to visit, "Hey, don't ask about the tree. Brad doesn't like it when we ask about the tree..." (BTW, you should really feel most sorry for Bradley through all of this. He definitely had it way worse than I did.)

Christmas Eve was exactly a week after the accident, and by then I was at least able to stay awake for significant amounts of time and carry on a pretty legit conversation (even though I still wouldn't remember it later). Since I was finally "up and about," we were able to squeeze in a couple of our traditions. Oh, you better believe that I'm a stickler for traditions even when I'm concussed. Or, more like Brad was trying to make sure I didn't miss a year / trying to bring some familiarity back into my confused world. We opened our Christmas PJ's, made Santa cookies, and fell asleep next to the tree watching A Christmas Carol, just like every other Christmas Eve.

When we woke up Christmas morning, Brad made our annual cinnamon rolls, and we opened up our stockings. Speaking of, of course I hadn't done any Christmas shopping before December 17th (nor have I this year, either), so sweet Emily escorted a wobbly Mindy through Target to purchase his gifts. This year, I was pretty sure we didn't own Elf and was surprised to find it when we unpacked our Christmas stuff. When I saw that it was still in the plastic wrap, I concluded that it must have been given to us as a present. Ha! I still didn't realize that I had given it until I looked through the pictures. (Weird!) Also, take note that this is when my Taylor Swift love officially began. You have Brad Mehaffey to thank for that one! :)

After we had enjoyed our Christmas morning alone (which is a tradition that I absolutely love!), Brad and I joined the rest of the fam at Matthew and Heather's house for the family celebration. I don't really remember what all happened, but it looks like we had a really great time! At some point, not sure if it was Christmas day or another time during the weekend, the whole family participated in a huge Mexican Train, Dominoes tournament. I only mention it because I'm pretty sure it's the first thing / long period of time that I legitimately remember after the accident. The game was one of the gifts I had received, and we had so much fun playing it.

One good thing about having to take frequent naps was that I wasn't expected to have any responsibility in the big Christmas dinner. Luckily, Mrs. Mehaffey #3 was a perfect hostess and coordinated a terrific meal.

So, there ya have it. Christmas 2009 as I "remember" it. I always love taking pictures and documenting our lives, but I've never been so grateful for the visual reminders of an event as I am about this period of time. Quite literally, without some of these photographs, I might not even know that the holiday took place at all.

And you lucky readers get the privilege of having two holidays for the price of one this year! Which is actually the main argument I used for putting up our decorations before Thanksgiving; I had a whole lot of Christmas to make up for! Thanks for indulging me as I recapped an event that took place a year ago. I feel much better knowing that it has been sufficiently chronicled.

I can't recall this event and period of time without being reminded again of how good God really is. I am confident that it is His angels alone that kept me safe one year ago, and I am so very thankful for His grace and mercy. God Is So Good! 
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