Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hope's First Christmas Pageant Ever

Mary was very pregnant and Joseph needed to get her to a safe place. But when they got to the city of David, over and over again, they were told the same thing.
"There is NO ROOM at the inn."

Finally they were able to find somewhere to rest-- in a stable, a barn, of all places! Mary gave birth to their son, Jesus, and placed the babe in a bouncer... er, a MANGER:
Nearby while shepherds were taking care of their sheep, an angel appeared to them. They were AFRAID:
But the angel told them they had nothing to fear. For born this day was a Savior to all people, Jesus Christ the Lord! They should follow the star to find this young king.

Meanwhile, wise men followed the same star to find where Jesus lay. Once they saw Him they knew He was the Christ Child, so they fell down to WORSHIP Him just like the shepherds had done:

They found out the bad king Herod had plans to hurt the baby ("Oh, no!") so they departed, basically RAN, into their own country another way. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus also RAN to "Bees-shup" (Egypt) until it was safe again.

You see, Jesus had many special things to do while He was on this earth.

Celebrating the HOPE, on this first Sunday of Advent, that this story brings to us all!


Friday, November 28, 2008

Fall's Final Fling

A little bit of this:

And a little bit of that: (My friend Becki and I felt pretty grown up cooking the whole Thanksgiving meal on our own, but you'll see we "chickened" out on the turkey this time! These were the Martins' contributions-- let us know if you need a new spin on sweet potatoes because this turned out to be pretty yummy.)

Just a little of this:

And a little bit more of that: (Stay tuned for directions on this EASY mandarin orange cake, which I'll put in the sidebar later on in the week-- since lots of you seem to like trying new recipes too!)

All of this and that to say, farewell fall! Thanksgiving marked the end of our first autumn as a family of four. We're sure to never forget you, so don't be jealous BUT...

******* is the time for seeing visions of sugarplums and decking the halls!
Starting today with a little of this:

Check back throughout December for a whole lot of THAT!

(Can't wait to see yours too!)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Last Minute Thanksgiving

After the following conversation, I really had to remember this verse. Give thanks in ALL things, right?


Apparently Hope thinks all celebrations are somehow linked to her favorite one of all... birthdays. Birtdays, actually.

Then she continued with glee, "And PopPop and Nana and Uncle Biwee and Andweea (Uncle Biwee's girlfriend) and..."

And, well, not exactly.

When Nana had to leave after her last visit we consoled Hope with the idea that Thanksgiving would bring a reunion with all of the above people and more. But, unfortunately, Nana is super sick right now. She's been put on restrictions from overdoing it and being too close to her grandkids. For those who know my mom, you can imagine that it would be easier to fit a camel through the eye of a needle. Please help us pray she gets better SOON!

After being really, really bummed about this visit now delayed we decided to stop wallowing in it and send out the word in case anyone else needed a table to gather around too. You'll never guess who the turkey drug in.

The Hightowers. Some extended family, after all.

"Gobble, gobble," as Hope says.

We're hoping maybe we'll find someone else on our way over there who needs a warm meal and sweet fellowship. Either way, some last minute projects have kept us busy. Hope has even had a little creativity up her sleeve-- technically, up her arm, as you'll see below. The conversations I had with her to make these were the best part! Here's a peek:

(She and Joe love to dance in the moonlight... all to see their shadows wiggle!)

(Always a few casualties in a project like this...)

(But, always worth 'em!)

We're praying your Thanksgiving is FULL of good food, special memories, and a table that welcomes you to join it! As we've been reminded, don't forget to tell those you love how thankful you are for them in your own way. We took these pictures last night and realized all our kids could tell you who are reading this with their little, and sometimes furry, faces (and necks and heads too now that we look at the pictures again):

As an important side note-- Help us wish GOOD LUCK to Uncle Biwee, who's coaching his Varsity Rockets in the PLAY-OFFS tomorrow in those luminous, Friday night lights. Wish we could be there, but we're hoping you go ALL THE WAY (then when you finally have time again, get your whistle-blowing self out here for a long overdue visit!)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Beginnings and Endings

(I promised my friend, Amy, this post... but hopefully it'll be enjoyable for everyone to read as well. We always love hearing how people, friends and couples alike, meet!)

Five years ago yesterday, on a surprisingly warm fall evening in the mountains, Joe and I got hitched. Said, "I do." Became "Team Martins." We pledged before God, family, and friends to be by one another's side until death do us part.

But it all began, two years before that, with a little Tennessee orange.

Through circumstances only He could arrange, Joe and I ended up at the University of Tennessee doing our grad work at the same time. Not only that, but we both paid for our degrees through assistantships with the Department of Housing. Since Joe had been with the program one year longer he was assigned to be my buddy. You know, to show me the ropes. Some have said he took his job very seriously. A lifetime of seriously, in fact.

There was our first meeting over lunch when I came for campus interviews; I later found out he had warned any of his RA's that if they so much as talked to me, he would get them fired. There was that first phone call after my arrival to campus where he sweetly stumbled through an invitation... if, uh... well, in case you're into it... you see, I go to this church. Then there was Camp Rocky Top (please click on "Rocky Top" from our music selection to get the full effect) where he lent me his favorite, to this day, gray camping shirt and we took a prophetic picture with our beloved Traci (She would be the one who insisted, after knowing us both, that we were indeed buddy material. Later she would be the one to direct our wedding!)
After that came housing training where it was all but written in the sky that a DTR (Define. The. Relationship.) talk was needed. So it happened, on all nights, after the UT tradition of Lip Sync. Twenty four hours of no sleep, "singing" and dancing like fools, and some bad stage make-up. What? You don't believe me:
All I can say is, it's a tragedy I don't have incriminating evidence of Joe in his broadway number. Tragic, I tell you. Someone out there surely must have video footage?

Anyway, following that performance I got a knock on my apartment door. This was something neither of us had expected, me on my fiercely independent kick and he ready to go back to Virginia at the end of the year, but it was something neither of us could deny. We stayed up the next twenty four hours really getting to know each other. Pictures and stories. Stories and pictures. When we heard the birds chirping outside we headed to a nearby battlefield monument overlooking a lake. Joe took my hand while we watched the rest of the sun rise and we both remember thinking, "This is the one." When my RA's spotted us holding hands in the University courtyard they broke into applause and many shouted, "Finally!" or "We knew it!"

The next months were full of memories and laughter. Full of praying together and pushing each other deeper in our faith. Full of adventure and romance. They were also full of spiritual warfare that attempted to break us apart. You can guess who had the last say on that matter. Hallelujah!

And so on a cool and windy Valentine's weekend Joe got on one knee surrounded by twinkling city lights, blown out candles he had relit about a hundred times, and a book he wrote me and wondered if I'd be his wife.


What we really wanted in a wedding above all else was to be in God's house with those we cherish. On November 22nd, 2003 we had our "Celebration of God's Faithfulness," as we called it. We'll never forget so many things. Like the way my Dad encouraged Joe as he gave me away, how my Mom saw to almost every detail with her own two hands, how so many from Joe's side traveled from as far away as Ireland to be with us. Like how, starting with our friends standing with us on that night, the church was lit by only candlelight while everyone sang, "Amazing Grace." How sweet was that sound.

Soon it was time to bring on the dancing, the skits, the food, and the fun. Late into the night we were off. Sparklers and dwindling luminaries to lead the way to, ah yes, the honeymoon! Now five years later we can say, bring on the rest of this our journey. Just please make sure it really is until side-by-side death do us part.

Thanks for sharing in our story as you read this. In this season of Thanksgiving, blessings to you and to everyone for whom your story is grateful!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Moments with Maddie- Month Four

After long days of Daddy being out of town, we're celebrating his soon coming return with an unbelievable truth... Maddie just turned four months old! Our rolling, googoo-gaagaaing, drooling, oh drooling, smiling, oh yes smiling Maddie-Cakes is growing right up. As Hope sits in my lap while I type, oohing and ahhing over these pictures, we hope you'll enjoy them just the same!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Comfort Food

Tonight I write as a praise. A shout it from the rooftops, throw out all the straws for the sensitivity is gone, give God a hand praise. This is the first time in a day short of exactly four months that I have been without mouth pain. And so to celebrate His faithfulness; here is a post on something I've grown to love over the years. Food. Mmm, food.

I come by it honest. This picture sits in my kitchen and has done so every year since that cold, February morning she went to be with Jesus. Let me introduce you to the beautiful woman sitting on the hood of that sweet, old classic. She was someone very special; my Mamaw, May Violet.

She loved food too. Sure, she enjoyed it for the taste of home grown tomatoes on made from scratch biscuits to be washed down by cold glasses of sweet tea. Yet, I also know it went so much deeper. She, like me and like so many of the women in my family and maybe yours, knew food made with love holds a secret. It invites people to gather around a table, to share about their days, and to suddenly be connected in a way they otherwise might not have been. In that way food is not really food for the stomach at all. It is for the soul.

And that is the best kind of meal.

I'll never forget those 2 am trips to the kitchen because she just knew I was craving a skillet full of real french fries made from actual potatoes and a game of Rummy or Slap Jack. I'll never forget heavy iron pans holding corn bread, with a big pot of stew simmering on the stove, while she shared stories about growing up in the Blue Ridge mountains. No, I'll never forget when she got so sick that she told Mom and I, as we decorated her Christmas tree for her, that she would give anything, anything if she could just get up and cook us a meal. I knew what she meant, and it had nothing to do with the food itself. It was the time she wanted back. The memories and the togetherness.

Yes, tonight my heart is full. Not just because that dull, and not so dull at times, mouth pain of mine is gone. But because that simple meal of grilled cheese and tomato soup you see is just what my own mother would make for me when days had been long or sickness had come my way. I can just imagine her as a little girl being served something similar from Mamaw's heart and stovetop. That picture I now know why I randomly took one night is what I gave to my little girl recently and heard her ask for, "More, Mommy. More!"

That is my prayer. For more memories and togetherness. For more meals shared around a table that is open to all those who want someone to listen. For countless more times to praise Him, whether the meals of life have been hard or easy to cook.

I simply long for more chances just to be in the kitchen.