Thursday, December 31, 2015

Peace on Earth

'Twas a few days after Christmas,
The celebrating done.
Time to look back on days
Filled with family and fun.

There were onesies, and babies,
And selfies, and food,
And presents, and laughter,
And much gratitude.

For the young and the old,
The big and the small,
And for little Lord Jesus,
The best gift of all.

After our Christmas Eve service, we went to Nana and Boomie's for soup and birthday cake for Jesus, and then headed home for our long winter's nap in anticipation of Santa's arrival. Santa wasn't actually coming to our house until the day after Christmas, when all the kids arrived, but Adam and Courtney got into the Christmas Eve spirit by posing in their reindeer onesies again this year.
We had brunch on Christmas Day for those who woke up here, and those who came later, including Jim's dad, my parents, Adam and Courtney, Jon, Jennifer, Bryan, Noah, and Piper, and Andrew, Darci, Haleigh, and Ella. We had lots of good food, including Darci's homemade cinnamon rolls, peanut butter bark, and other goodies. I didn't take one picture, but someone took this selfie and shared it, thank goodness.
We had burgers and homemade mac and cheese for supper, with Becky's 'just add ice cream' treat for dessert. Yum!

Saturday was our day to have everyone together to open gifts and share our Christmas dinner. Before presents, Jim read the story of the birth of Jesus from the second chapter of Luke.
The kids opened a few things before dinner, and Haleigh was anxious to see what was in her box.

It was Julie, an American Girl doll.
Ella got an American Girl doll too, Grace.
Haleigh showed her doll to her mommy.
Piper got a stuffed dog named Piper, and the book that goes with it, called Piper Was Afraid.
Cayden opened (with some help) a little wooden dachshund, just like Mackey.
Noah, who loves cows, received a Hereford show steer he calls Cooper, after Matthew's 4-H steer.
As is often the case with Noah, he was a little unsure at first.
He let Uncle Andrew do a little taming before he got too close.
Granny helped, too, and soon he was leading Cooper around like a champ.

Matthew got some Star Wars gifts, including a robot he controls with his phone. This is the droid you're looking for. :)
 Jennifer took some pictures of Noah and Matthew.

 And some of all the little boys.
 Noah, Matthew, and Cayden.
We tried to get one of all six grandkids,
 which can be tricky. At least no one is crying!
 Granny even got in the picture! (Thanks to Jennifer, for the photos)

All that gift-opening and posing wears a guy out. Cayden took a little snooze in the chair, and Gumbo curled up beside him.
I tried to get a photo of everyone around the table, and it took several shots to get everyone in.
 Of course, pausing from their beef tenderloin was the real challenge.

The kids got new shades, in anticipation of our trip to the beach in March. Cayden was happy to model his for us.

As we ring in a new year, 
I pray that we are able to spend more time with the ones we love,
be grateful for what we have,
share kindness with others,
and be a reflection of God's love 
to a world in need of peace. Amen.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

For Hodgepodge Auld Lang Syne

It's the last Wednesday Hodgepodge of the year. I thank Joyce for faithfully hosting this meeting each week, and for keeping us thinking with her challenging and entertaining questions. (I guess the readers should be the judge of the entertaining part.) With 2016 upon us, I look forward to a new year, new hope, new habits. I'm not sure what that will look like yet, but I've shared some random thoughts below in  #8.
Now let's get started with her questions and my answers. Make sure to click over to visit Joyce and the others!

1. Share a favorite memory/moment from the week of Christmas.

I always love our Christmas Eve service. I have attended the same church for most of my life, and I remember singing as a child on Christmas Eve, and the excitement of the story, the songs, and the candlelight as we celebrated the birth of our Savior. Our sanctuary is always beautiful, and especially at Christmas.
This year, I was blessed to direct this adorable group of children as they sang (oh so enthusiastically) for the service. They sang Away in a Manger, and Angels We Have Heard on High. The great thing about directing children, is, that by the time they get on the risers, it's really out of my hands. :) At that point, they are making a joyful noise to the Lord. It's all good, and always appreciated by those in attendance. That's Haleigh and Ella Kate, front row on the right.
We sang the Glo-oo-ria song in honor of Gloria, my assistant director and friend, who passed away the day after Christmas. Gloria and I have attended church together since we were small children ourselves. She liked to tell the kids stories about our days in the children's choir, many years ago. We will miss her.
This is a photo of Gloria and one of our little guys who wanted to try out the piano (right before he took off out the door.) :) Rest in peace, Gloria.

2.  If someone wrote a book about your life based on the past year, what genre would it fall under? What would the title be?

I think it would be a memoir. There are many, many memories from the year, but adding three new family members made it a year to remember.

Courtney has already come up with a working title, so I will use it to present:

The Stewart Recruiting Class of 2015.

Piper Jayne Davis, born to Bryan and Jennifer, March 9, 2015.

Courtney Stewart, married to Adam, March 21, 2015.

Cayden John Stewart, born to David and Shylah, September 8, 2015.

 3. What made you feel patriotic this year?

I have written about this before, but I always feel patriotic at Purdue games when I Am An American is read.

I am an American. That's the way most of us put it, just matter of factly. They are plain words, those four: you could write them on your thumbnail, or sweep them across this gray October sky. But remember too, that they are more than just words. They are a way of life. So whenever you speak them, speak them firmly, speak them proudly, speak them gratefully. I am an American.

4. What experience from this past year would you like to do all over again?

My whirlwind trip to NYC with this group to see Jimmy Fallon, seems like a dream, and I would love to do it all over again.

5. What song lyric sums up or is a reflection of your 2015?

I am a fan of Joey + Rory, and this song is one of my favorites. Joey is an Indiana girl, and  worked for the previous owner at the same vet clinic where Jennifer now works. She came to our farm years ago, with Dr. J, to treat our old mare, Teddy, who was suffering from laminitis. After taking care of the horse, we came into our kitchen to warm up, and share a bowl of soup. Joey commented on the school pictures of our kids on the kitchen wall, as she is also one of five children.

Today, she faces a cancer diagnosis, and is currently back home in Indiana in hospice care. Her husband Rory shares their life and their story in his blog This Life I Live. His beautiful words reflect their deep faith, their hope, and their love for God and one another.

Rory recently wrote:

And so as the New Year approaches, we will continue to believe and trust that what is waiting on the other side of the deep, dark wood is something even better and more beautiful than our minds can even imagine.

Please join me in praying for Joey and her family.

6. On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate 2015?  (10=stellar) Why?

I'm not great with numbers, so I'll just say, there were stellar moments, some not so stellar moments, and everything in between. Life is like that. And we try, as best we can, to give thanks. In all circumstances.

7. What part of the upcoming year are you most excited about?

I have a couple of trips planned, including another cruise with my besties, and a family trip to the beach.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I love this video by the talented (and adorable) JJ Heller. It made me start thinking about some things I want to do this year.

Eat less.
Move more.
Put down my phone.
Be present.
Clean a closet.
Or two.
Learn something new.
Make dinner.
Look around.
Close the computer.
Take a walk.
Pray some more.
Give thanks.
Show love.

That's 16 for 16. How about you?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Cradled Up in the Arms of the Lord

Sweet little Cayden John Stewart was baptized on Sunday. He wore an heirloom baptismal gown which was worn by his great-grandfather, his grandmother (me), and his dad (along with numerous uncles, cousins, and an aunt) before him. Look at that little smile.

He was one of several who were baptized at Fairborn United Methodist Church on Sunday.

His mommy and daddy presented him lovingly to the church, as the Body of Christ, for the sacrament of infant baptism. He didn't make a peep.

They listened to Pastor Aaron as he explained baptism as a gracious action of God.

Cayden was baptized first, and Pastor Aaron took him in his arms to the baptismal font.

Mommy Shylah and Daddy David joined them, and Pastor Aaron and Pastor Meghan spoke the words together...
"I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."
Such a special day, and a blessing to watch as the common element of water is used by God as a means of divine grace. Amazing grace! (And I must say that Pastor Aaron and Pastor Meghan were quite generous with the water in their baptisms. Covered in grace!)
After the service Cayden showed us that he was still wearing pants under that dress.
Sweet Mama Shylah and Baby Cayden.
Cayden is blessed to have a large family to surround him with love and to watch him grow in wisdom and stature as he learns of God's great love for him. There were great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins there for his special day. So loved.

May Cayden and his parents continue to know God's great love, to trust in Him, and to remember the covenant of our baptism and His provision of salvation in Jesus Christ. God is good. All the time. Amen.
"But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 
To Him be glory, both now and forever. Amen."
2 Peter 3:18