22 February 2012

why ashes?

Ashes are messy; sin is messy. These words have been unforgettable since I heard them this morning. They were spoken, with love and conviction, by a beloved, retired Episcopal bishop who took time to explain the significance of ashes. He didn't assume that we knew, although many did.

This was my first time to participate in an Ash Wednesday service. To be honest, I really didn't have a desire to participate. I didn't know what to expect. I feel like I've embraced other parts of the Episcopal worship service during my time at a school of the denomination. I love the liturgy, the act of corporate worship. I love the act of coming forward for communion and using real wine to intinct (dip) the bread. I love reciting the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed. But ashes seemed to take it a step past my comfort zone.

When I sat down with my program in hand, I didn't intend to go forward to receive a cross of ashes, or even a blessing. I decided that listening to and reciting Psalms of confession would be good enough to prepare my heart for the Lenten season. (I've participated in Lent for about a decade, sometimes I'm more successful at my sacrifice or added discipline than others.) But then the bishop read a passage about the significance of ashes. And I felt a stir in my heart...the stirring that only the Holy Spirit can accomplish.

As I sat and waited for 200+ students to receive ashes, I thought and had a sweet time with the Lord. I wanted to search my heart and determine why I didn't want to receive a cross of ashes: Was it just because it took me out of my comfort zone? Was it just a little "too Episcopalian" for me? Sadly, it wasn't either of these. I didn't want to participate in this tradition because I didn't want ashes on my forehead all day. I was worried about what others would think. I didn't want to have to explain the mark on my forehead to those unfamiliar with the tradition. This is where the Holy Spirit softly whispered in my heart that the way I deal with sin is all too similar. I don't like confession. I don't want others to know the rotten parts of my life.

So, I went forward and my first cross of ashes was placed on my forehead. The service ended shortly thereafter, and I went to back to my office. My day was busy. Within just a few hours, I'd completely forgotten about the cross of ashes on my brow. Again, conviction of the Holy Spirit stirred within my heart. All too often, I disregard the sin in my life. The messy parts. I get busy and move in the hurried pace of life, ignoring the glaring blackness in my life.

This day has been a day of reflection and repentance. My heart has broken from my own selfishness and pride a few times. I hope that these days of Lent will prepare my heart for the celebration of our King.

15 February 2012

current faves

1. I am a coffee snob. Seriously. Don't offer me a cup of Starbucks plain coffee. I won't drink it. I prefer a local roaster. So it comes as a HUGE surprise that I am on the verge of addiction to Nescafe instant coffee.

Before our nephew was born, we took dinner and cupcakes to my BIL and SIL, who was on bed rest. My BIL offered to make coffee. I decided that I would drink the caffeinated coffee (followed by a melatonin), rather than a cup of the fake stuff. Husby wanted the decaf instant coffee. After it came out of the microwave, I tasted it. Oh my, it was good! The trick? Make it with milk. It's creamy and rich and yummy. I purchased both the decaf and regular variety for our house.

2. In December, I hosted a wedding shower for my new SIL. As a hostess gift, I received my first Voluspa candle in Santiago Huckleberry. It is fruity and rich and divine. I carry it from room to room, and I only use it when I'm at home for an extended time. I want to enjoy it. I've mostly transitioned to Scentsy products, but I feel certain that once this candle has reached it's end, I'll purchase another.

3. I love to order hot tea when I eat at Asian restaurants. No matter the type of food, there's a similar flavor of hot tea. It took years and a visit to Teavana, but I finally discovered the flavor the I love so much: jasmine. I purchased a cute tea tin with a couple of ounces of jasmine dragon phoenix pearls tea. I love it with just a bit of honey.

4. These No-Bake Energy Bites are so, so good. Husby and I are attempting to eat real food, meaning that we're cutting down on the sugar we consume. I realize that the chocolate chips have refined sugar, and so does some peanut butter, but for now, we're okay with those things.  I made these yesterday, and we love them! It's something a little sweet for snacks and dessert.

14 February 2012

a happy heart

  • Husby brought lunch to school today. He has class until late tonight, so it was a treat to eat with him during the day. I emailed him a disclaimer this morning that eating at a school means noise. I hoped that he didn't have hopes of gazing into each others eyes. Instead of a quiet lunch, recalling the reasons why we love each other, we sat at the teacher's table during middle school lunch, sharing sushi and fruit kebabs. Then he gave me a fun necklace. Note to Husby: I love my initials. :)
  • I love that my job means celebrating with students who receive acceptances from colleges. It's such an exciting time in a young life, and each acceptance is thrilling. But when it's the first acceptance, it's even sweeter. I love cheering and congratulating and hugging kids who hear the news while at school. They're on cloud nine for the rest of the day. Today was a day of celebrating...with my student aide, no less.
  • I attended a George Washington Tea today hosted by the Daughter's of the American Revolution. The ladies in attendance had classic Southern double-names like Mary-Ruth and Ann Leigh, and there was also Eugenia and Agnes. I obviously didn't receive the memo that these ladies wear red or black or white skirt suits with beige pantyhose and pumps to match the suit.
  • I'm not a member of DAR. A student competed in an essay contest, and I was invited to attend as her guest. After attending the event, she thought that maybe her essay didn't win since it focused on the American Indian take on the Revolutionary War. These ladies are very pro-Revolutionary War. I'm sure they didn't quite appreciate her different thoughts on this war. Oops.
  • Tonight, I'm sitting by the fire, watching a little Big Bang Theory and reading. Nothing says "Happy Valentine's Day" like Sheldon and Country Living.
  • My mother-in-law is the cooking baking queen. Seriously. All of her cookies are fabulous. A couple of years ago, she "messed up" a recipe. Well, it's turned out to be my favorite cookie. And they just happened to be in a box of cookies that she delivered earlier this evening. Along with reading, BBT and a fire, I'm enjoying these:
Top left: fluffy chocolate cookies with fluffy chocolate icing drizzled with white chocolate and topped with a cherry; Right: chocolate ganache cookies (My faves. I totally made up the name.)
Bottom left: Sugar cookies with icing and sprinkles 

13 February 2012

celebrating: a nephew & a wedding

Today is cold and drizzly. If it were just a bit cooler, I think the snow that fell on the western and northern parts of Texas would have reached us. Instead, the slow rain has made for a grey day. It's perfect, since I'll be inside all day. The administration at our school decided to implement a winter break this school year. I'm on day four of an extended weekend, which has been long enough to be somewhat productive, but mostly lazy. I've read, played a mindless game on my phone and spent time with friends and family. Heavenly and glorious are the words to describe these days.

Over the past month, we've welcomed an amazing sister-in-law, Brooke, (from my side) and a sweet nephew, Ethan, (from Husby's side). Celebrating family and life has made our hearts warm. Even though, in the Christian life, joy should shine in all circumstances, it is nice when happiness is a result of that joy.

Our nephew is the second baby born to Husby's brother and his wife. The first baby was born into the arms of Jesus. We held his little body for a bit, and whispered promises to hold him again in heaven. After nine months of anxiously awaiting the birth of this baby, Ethan made an appearance a day earlier than the doctor's had scheduled. The tiny bundle of a baby is just over a week old. He is a joy. (But he is a no-facebook baby, which I'm taking to mean that his mama and daddy don't want his picture on the blog.)

About 3 weeks ago, Paul and Brooke had the most enchanting wedding. (Read Christine's delightful post here.) The day was perfect. In Texas, winter isn't predictable. Last year, we had a week of ice. This year, in January, the weather warmed on the weekend of their wedding, for the second weekend in a row. Although there was a nip in the air, Brooke had the foresight to provide afghans and  blankets to her guests. The ceremony was perfect: meaningful vows, scripture, poetry, and music of voices, guitar and a harmonica. My guess is that all was done in about 12 minutes; sadly, no one kept the time. Paul's goal was to beat the time of our 14 minute ceremony. We are slightly competitive, so I'm going to call it a tie unless someone provides the exact time. :)

Brooke is so very creative. The vision she had for a vintage-y, quaint wedding day was carried out perfectly in the details. Brooke scoured all of First Monday to find vintage handkerchiefs with the intent of screen printing the order of ceremony on each. Only she discovered--after buying dozens--that handkerchiefs would be too thin for the screen-printing process. Back to First Monday, she spent hours bent over boxes, pulling out the more sturdy vintage napkins. 
vintage napkin program

Although I am proud of only using flowers for bouquets and boutonnieres, Brooke avoided this cost altogether and made each of these from antique buttons. Just perfect!
button bouquets

We moved from the outdoor chapel with chandeliers hanging from the trees to a rustic wedding barn. Earlier in the day, Brooke and her sweet friends and family decorated each table with antique buttons, lace, burlap, pearls, glittered branches, rounds cut from a tree, rosemary and lavender. I was also in attendance during said decorating, but these girls were fast. I provided the mimosas, which were just as important. Right? And when not all the champagne was gone before we left? I drank it. Straight out of the bottle. It reminds me of my wedding day. 

The reception was warm, comfortable and inviting. The sounds in the air were joyous: laughter, chatter, exclamation over the food and drink, convincing others to dance. It was a perfect night.

I'm proud to say that they use our photographer, Allen Arrick, who captured these fabulous images. [Here's the link to our wedding. I love my images even more. I mean, it was my wedding.]
the wagon, loaded with blankets for guests

table decor

the cake: ruffles with vintage buttons

a suitcase for cards

favors: handmade soap

I've shared with Brooke that her wedding was the vision I had, but couldn't figure out how to execute it. I loved every bit of it. She recommended that renewing our vows or throwing a party. The vows will stick for forever. But there's always an occasion to celebrate. A party it will be. With direction from a sister-in-law who has great vision.