Happy New Year! - Recap 2008

So much has happened this year, for myself and those in my family. When I think through this past year it's amazing to me how much has changed and how much I've grown.
I am not the type of person who makes New Year's resolutions, because things almost never turn out the way you think they're supposed to, then you just feel disappointed. But I do think that it's a good thing to reflect on what the Lord has done for you during the past year at this time. The following is a recap of my year and some of the things the Lord has taught me.

January/February 2008 - I started out this year as a newly engaged girl, a shining ring on my finger and a brand new Yorkshire puppy named Ralphie. I spent these first couple of months looking at wedding websites and magazines, trying to decide how I'd like to organize the wedding.
At the end of January I went back for my last semester of dental hygiene college. This was probably the most stressful semester of hygiene school that I had to endure, mainly because of preparing for and worrying about my National Board Exams.
My clinic at dental hygiene school started out rather well, and I was starting to feel more confident about becoming an official registered dental hygienist, and working in the "real world".
I also enjoyed my first Valentine's Day ever with anyone, and I felt extremely blessed that I got to spend it with my fiance, Derek! Derek brought flowers and a white teddy bear to my school for me on Valentine's Day (all my classmates were very impressed)!
January and February were very blessed months for me.

March/April 2008 - Clinic definitely became harder during this time. I failed one of my patients, and I think my confidence was somewhat shattered after that, and i struggled through Clinic for the rest of the semester. I think at this time the Lord was trying to teach me to rely on Him more. I didn't realize it at the time, but when things were going well in clinic, I think I was relying on myself too much, and not taking the time to continue to ask for the Lord's help and thank Him when things were going well. This was one of those hard lessons to learn.
I took my written National Dental Hygiene Board Exam in March. The Board Exam actually fell over spring break, and alas as soon as spring break started I was aflicted with a terrible cold. My nose was dripping constantly and I could barely breath - I was sniffing through the entire exam, and I hardly slept the night before because of my cold, and the stress of the exam. Adding to my stress was the fact that no one from our school had ever failed the exam (and I really didn't want to be the first)!
Clinic started to work out a little better by the end of the semester, and I finished all my patient requirements on time! I found out that I passed the written boards as well, which was a relief.
March and April were months of just trusting the Lord.

May/June 2008 - I graduted from dental hygiene college in May! Our program had a seperate pinning ceremony, and I also participated in my college graduation, where I was presented with my Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene (well, it was actually just the degree cover and my degree came in the mail in August, but it was still exciting)!
At the end of May I took my Clinical National Board Exam, in which I pick a qualifying patient and clean their teeth, and my work is checked by the board examiners. My patient was actually my dad, and it was rather fun to get to clean his teeth. After the exam we went to Arby's, and I ate a roast beef sandwich and curly fries, and a shake - I just went through a very stressful exam, so I indulged!
Jne was a flurry of packing, finishing wedding plans, dress fittings, and finding time to relax when I could. I found out that I passed the clinical boards, and I started gathering paperwork for my license to practice dental hygiene.
May and June were months when the Lord helped me through everything I needed to accomplish.

July/August 2008 - I received my dental hygiene license in the beginning of July and signed on with a temporary agency.
On July 12th Derek and I got married! The wedding went very well, it didn't rain, the guests enjoyed themselves, we got all the pictures taken; it turns out there was nothing to worry about! Except that I almost tripped on the runner on the way down the isle, but I didn't.
Derek and I took off to our honeymoon in Hawaii! We had a beautiful time on Kuai, and it was a wonderful start to our married life! I'm so blessed to have found my husband, he's one in a million! Derek and I are determined to go back to Hawaii some day, because we had such a relaxing time there.
In August I started work with the temp agency, which went well at first. However toward the end of the month I poked my hand with a dirty dental instrument, and I had to get my blood drawn and tested for any infections that I could have caught. I also learned how Workman's Compensation works. Unfortunately my employer was not helpful, and for some reason after the incident she wouldn't assign me any more jobs. I switched temp agencies shortly after.
Derek also resigned from his job at the end of August.
July was a month of blessings and love and thanking the Lord for everything He has done for us. August was a month in which our first tests were sent our way, but with the Lord's help they have helped strengthen us in our faith and in our marriage.

September/October 2008 - We got a new dog! Her name is Quincy, and she and Ralphie love playing together.
Derek started hunting for jobs before he left, and he was almost hired for an analyst position right after. However before he was hired the market took it's down-turn, and the company Derek was interviewing with put on a hiring freeze. We spent the next few months searching for jobs. It was very stressful not having any income, but once again the Lord was teaching us to trust Him. I think He was also trying to teach us not to worry so much, because we used to worry about money when Derek had a job, which we realized was silly now that we had no income! Another hard lesson to learn.
September and October were stressful months, and months in which we had to totally trust that the Lord would get us through.

November/December 2008 - Derek found a job and started in November! It's a job with the county, in the human resources department. It's not something Derek wants to do indefinitely, but it's a job, and it's helping us pay many of our bills. Eventually Derek wants a job back in finance, but the Lord gave us this job and we're very grateful for it.
I also got a temporary position filling in for a hygienist who was going on maternity leave, and I started that job in November. It was very helpful to have that job through Christmas; we were able to buy gifts for others and each other, and to pay some of the remaining bills for the month.
My brother got married on December 15th to a wonderful girl named Olivia. It's a blessing to have another member to our family!
Our first Thanksgiving and Christmas as a married couple were wonderful! We enjoyed being together and starting new traditions together.
Tonight is New Year's Eve, and we plan on ringing in the New Year with a movie marathon!
November and December have been months of enjoying being together and thanking the Lord for taking care of us.

Prayers for the New Year:
That the Lord would bring Derek and me good jobs that we enjoy, and that we'd be able to make all our bills and start saving money again.
That He would continue to bless us and take care of us and our families through this New Year.

Happy New Year's!

"The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace." Numbers 6:25

Happy Birthday Jesus!

This is a Christmas song by Alabama, and I think it's a good reminder of what exactly we're celebrating. I thought I'd share it here for those of you who may not have heard it.

Happy Birthday , Jesus

Happy birthday, Jesus,
It's that time of year.
All the lights on the trees
Say Christmas time is near.
Another year's behind us,
You helped us make it through.
So, happy birthday, Jesus,
This song is just for you

We all get so hung up
On material things
At times it seems like we forget
What Christmas really means.
It should be thanks we're givin',
That's why I wrote this tune.
Happy brithday, Jesus,
This song is just for you.

There's a gift for everyone but you
Underneath the tree.
No, it's not much, but I hope you like
This song to you from me.

Happy birthday Jesus,
That's why I wrote this tune.
So, happy birthday, Jesus,
My song is just for you.

This song has always been special to me, because it's one of those songs that really brings the entire purpose of Christmas back into focus.
Derek and I watched "The Nativity Story" last night. If you have not seen that movie, you should go out and buy it. It's definitely one worh having.
These days the Christmas season encompasses so much - lights, presents, parties, family, decorations, cookies, etc. There's nothing wrong with enjoying everything Christmas brings, it's a wonderful time of the year. But I think we need songs like this, or movies like "The Nativity Story" to get us to slow down and really think about Christmas, and what it's all about. To get us to think of what happened about two thousand years ago, and the beautiful gift and sacrifice that our Lord gave to us that day.

"Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world - stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death - and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love? Then you can keep Christmas."-- Henry Van Dyke

"Let us remember that the Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide open heart that thinks of others first. The birth of the baby Jesus stands as the most significant event in all history, because it has meant the pouring into a sick world of the healing medicine of love which has transformed all manner of hearts for almost two thousand years... Underneath all the bulging bundles is this beating Christmas heart." -- George Mathhew Adams

Weddings Anonymous

I have a confession to make. I am a wedding addict. The big cake, white dress, flowers, painted car, beautiful bride, nervous groom, crying mothers, the whole shebang.

I think it started when I started doing research for my own wedding. All at once I found myself looking at wedding magazines, searching for flowers and dresses on the internet, watching wedding shows on TV. And I enjoyed it.

I figured after I got married the interest in weddings would subside a little bit. But it was not to be; after I got married some of my friends started getting married (one of which is my little brother - he's getting married tomorrow). I found myself standing in line at the grocery store, wanting to buy the new Brides magazine, but somehow resisting.

I love looking at pictures of weddings. Since I've got to know some of my friends who are married, I find myself searching for pictures of their weddings whenever I can. It's amazing to me how a bride looks so different on her wedding day. She can be a beautiful girl anyway, but somehow at her wedding there's a little transforming something that makes her even more radiant.

I love going to weddings. I've informed my husband that whenever we are invited to a wedding, we're going. It doesn't even matter if I know the people who are getting married. I love seeing the different styles of different weddings, I love watching the bride walking down the isle, the groom's face when he sees her, the music, the style and cutting of the cake, the decorations, the choice of flowers, the bridesmaids dresses and the style of clothes the groomsmen wear, the kind of food, the throwing of the bouquet and garter, the rice throwing, what the groomsmen did to the car.

I recently discovered a scrapbooking site, and I've been having alot of fun making my pictures into digital scrapbooks. But I must confess, I've also had fun searching for scrapbooks of other people's weddings, and studying all the items listed above.

I think my favorite part of a wedding is the ceremony. It's a wonderful thing to see all of the guests who come together to watch a man and woman commit themselves to each other. I especially enjoy the vows. There's something beautiful about being a witness as a man and wife promise to be true to each other, to love each other, to always be there and take care of each other, until death seperates them.

Weddings are wonderful, and yes, can be addicting, but I think it's the marriage that is truely what makes weddings attractive to me. Marriage is the most beautiful thing, when it is taken seriously, as God intended it to be. Yes, I am a little obsessed with weddings, but I'm not entirely certain it's a bad thing, because it isn't just the wedding, it's everything the wedding represents to me - an unconditional kind of love and commitment to each other, that should never end; marriage between a man and a woman that the Lord has created and blessed. That's what the wedding means to me.

Maybe I should just be a wedding planner. But then I'd have to work on weekends. I'll think about it.
End note: I got the image above from brides.com.

"Carols Those Kids Used To Sing"

One of my favorite Christmas songs is "Carols Those Kids Used To Sing" by the Statler Brothers. I think I love it so much, because of the lyrics. I had a terrible time trying to find the lyrics to post on here, but if you would like to hear the song you can go to this link: http://www.cmt.com/artists/az/statler_brothers/800209/album.jhtml.

This song talks about kids who gather together before Christmas and go around their town singing Christmas carols to their neighbors. The second verse talks about how one year they decided to bring turkey and toys to a family who otherwise wouldn't have a Christmas. The chorus says:

"Joy to the World!

The Lord has come;

Let Earth recieve her King!

And at Christmas each year,

I still love to hear

The carols those kids used to sing!"

I think there are a few reasons why I love this song. One would be my own memories of Christmas caroling. I've been going to my church since I was ten years old, and every year our church gathers together in mid-December and goes caroling door to door. It was always such a joy to see people's faces light up when we came to sing at their house, and being able to carol with people I love made the experience fun and special. Most of my friends from those days have moved on; one by one they moved away, and they no longer come to our church. However, my wonderful memories of that time will always bring a smile to my face, and this song by the Statler Brothers reminds me of all the fun times we had caroling.

I think another reason why I appreciate this song so much is because I feel like it captures the spirit of the Christmas season. The phrase "The Christmas Spirit" is very over-used in most Christmas movies and cards today, but who actually stops to think about what that means? Christmas can only be meaningful in the true way to those of us who are Christians, and I think the Christmas Spirit can only be fully understood by Christians.

What is Christmas all about? Many people who do not believe in Christ would just say it was about being with family and friends, etc. But as we know, the true reason for Christmas is to celebrate the wonderful gift the Lord has given us by sending His Son. God Himself was born in a manger so that He could eventually die to save us from our sins. For Christians, that thought inspires us and makes the Christmas season something wonderful and special.

And if God did such a thing for us, should we not serve God by serving other people? Doesn't the Christmas Spirit have to do with our joy and gratefulness to God for the Gift He has given us? Because of our joy and gratefulness to God, we show special kindnesses to those around us, and that's the source of the Christmas Spirit, that is so often referred to at this time of year. "Carols Those Kids Used To Sing" is special to me because it captures that true spirit of joy and thanks in a beautiful way, and it reminds me not only of my childhood, but also of the Reason why we celebrate, and it inspires me to do more for others. And aren't those three things really what Christmas is all about?

Take some time to sing some carols this Christmas, and remember the source of the Christmas Spirit!

"Thanks be to God for His Indescribable gift!"

2 Corinthians 9:15
End note: I got the above image from www.ezthemes.com.

O Give Thanks to Him Who Made . . .

Since it's Thanksgiving tomorrow, I thought I'd post a hymn that I just found. I think it's a beautiful thanksgiving hymn. It's put to the music of "For the Beauty of the Earth" only the words are different, but beautiful just the same. The music was composed by Conrad Kocher, and the lyrics are by Josiah Conder.

O Give Thanks To Him Who Made

O give thanks to Him Who made
Morning light and evening shade;
Source and Giver of all good,
Nightly sleep and daily food;
Quickener of our wearied powers,
Guard of our unconscious hours.

O give thanks to nature’s King,
Who made every breathing thing;
His, our warm and sentient frame,
His, the mind’s immortal flame.
O how close the ties that bind
Spirits to the Eternal Mind!

O give thanks with heart and lip,
For we are His workmanship;
And all creatures are His care:
Not a bird that cleaves the air
Falls unnoticed; but who can
Speak the Father’s love to man?

O give thanks to Him Who came
In a mortal, suffering frame-
Temple of the Deity—
Came for rebel man to die;
In the path Himself hath trod
Leading back His saints to God.

I found this on www.cyberhymnal.org. If you would like to hear the melody you can go to the following link: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/o/g/t/ogtthwma.htm. Listen to the music, read the lyrics, and remember to thank the Lord for all He has done for us - especially for giving His Son. I wish you all a joyful Thanksgiving!

"Let us come before Him with thanksgiving, and extol Him with music and song." Psalm 95:2

The Recent, Random Adventures of Me!

Adventures as a Hostess!

This past Saturday afternoon we had about fifteen people in our house. Derek has a very big family, and his sisters haven't seen the house since we've moved in, so we thought we'd have his whole side of the family up for lunch. Our house is pretty small and we don't have very many chairs either, so it was an adventure! Derek bought three pizzas and I made spaghetti and fudge for something sweet.
I've recently discovered that most fudge is not too hard to make; I've ben trying all kinds of different fudge, and it's all turned out pretty well. I've made white chocolate cherry-walnut fudge, carmel fudge, of course my mom's classic Christmas fudge, and today I'm trying out chocolate orange fudge. I should just open a little fudge shop and make some extra money on the side.
We just decorated our house for Christmas the other night, so our gathering on Friday was almost like a pre-Christmas/Thanksgiving celebration only with pizza instead of a turkey or ham. It turned out really well and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves! It was our first big gathering at our house (we've had his parents up before, but that's only two people, and my family is only five). It builds my hostess-ing confidence to have had that many people here at once successfully! I think we're going to have them up again soon!

Adventures as a Career Woman!

I recently started a temporary job filling in for a hygienist who's going on maternity leave until January. For those of you who don't know, I'm a dental hygienist and I jsut graduated in May. So far I've only been doing temporary work. It's nice to just be in one office for a while, instead of always going from office to office. This work experience also helps me figure out what I'd like when I actually do get a permanent job. I'd like to only work two days a week, maybe three; I'm not enjoying being gone from home so much with this job. You don't appreciate it sometimes, but it really is a blessing to have days at home just to be a wife and clean the house and make something good for dinner. Don't get me wrong, the Lord gave me this job to get us through the holidays, and I'm grateful for it, but I don't think I want to work so much forever. Thankfully we can do just fine with me working only two days a week, so that's what I want for the long run.
This job also is having me work past five every day so far. I've decided I definitely don't want to work evening hours in a permanent job. I don't like getting home so late and not being able to make Derek dinner, and then being so tired that I just want to go to bed. Evenings are my time with Derek, and I hate having to work into the evenings. I don't even want to do that in this job, and I think I'm going to have to ask if we can just keep my evening days to once a week. No job is perfect, and I'm definitely grateful for this one, but it has shown me that I should also be grateful for the time at home. I think it'll be good for me to get out of the house and work a couple days per week, but I'm also going to try to appreciate my time at home and use it to it's full advantage, and enjoy my house-keeping, wifely duties! Now that I don't have as much time for it I miss it.
Adventures as a Deal-Hunter!
As of late I've also been enjoying looking for good inexpensive Christmas gifts since we don't have much money for gifts this year. I'm pretty proud of myself - I've found some good stuff so far. The dollar store is a wonderful thing! Today I'm hoping to leave here early and go buy Derek a present before work. I know he bought me one last week, even though he denies it! So hopefully I can get a gift for him under our tree before the end of the week!
The other day I was shopping and I found these adorable little dog sweaters for only five dollars each (which is cheap for dog sweaters - don't you just love Walmart?). I couldn't resist, so I bought the dogs some Christmas sweaters! They look so cute in them! I'm pretty sure I have the cutest dogs ever. Everyone who was here on Saturday was fussing over the dogs; they thought they were pretty adorable. Quincy especially got alot of attention, I think because she was being more sociable than Ralphie. Ralphie gets nervous when there's so many people, and the whole time he just followed me around and hid between my feet. Either that or he was sitting on my lap. See, he knows he's a Mama's dog; I'm who he comes to for comfort!
Adventures as a Praying Wife (at least trying to be)!
I love that Derek let us put up our tree early! I love watching the lights twinkle. The other night I just turned off all the lights except the Christmas lights, and just sat on the couch and enjoyed them until Derek finished with his shower. It was very peaceful and relaxing, and it gave me a chance to spend some time in prayer - for those of you who read my previous post, I'm really trying! It's so much easier to pray when your relaxed and everything is peaceful, but I suppose I need to practice praying when things are hectic too. Christmas decorations and jsut the whole Christmas season tend to bring to my mind thoughts of the Lord, and so it's natural to pray then. Another reason I love Christmas. It really is the best time of the year, for so many reasons.
I'm posting some pictures of our decorations and dogs, etc. This post was rather random, but I guess it's just a general update of our life together and my thoughts . . . I'm allowed one of those kind of blog posts every now and then!
The Mighty Decorators!

Derek and Me putting our "First Chrsitmas" ornament on the tree!

My sister Rachel holding Ralphie by the tree!


Enjoying some wassel after all the decorating!


Our Yorkie, Ralphie!
Our Cairn terrior, Quincy!

See? Pretty cute, huh!

"Poverty In Prayer"

Do you have failings? I suppose all of us do. A couple of my failings (and there are many) would be worrying, and being selfish.
I don't know why I have to get anxious when I know that the Lord is in control and I just need to trust in Him. Trusting in the Lord is almost always easier said than done for me. And I don't know why! He's certainly done enough for me and my family that I have every reason to let go of my cares. But part of me always wants to worry. That's pretty silly when worrying does absolutely no good, and most of my worries are unfounded anyway. I know that with my head, but something in me stresses and worries, and it's very hard to control sometimes. I try and try not to worry, but I almost always fail in that area.
Being selfish is the catagory that pretty much all of my other sins fall into. It's such a broad catagory that it's almost hard to write a paragraph about it - where do you start? But I guess to narrow it down, I don't do things for other people as often as I should. Just doing something helpful for someone else, or doing something yourself that someone else was supposed to do could be a great way to cultivate unselfishness. But once again I know it with my head; putting it into practice is alot more difficult.
My pastor said something interesting last Sunday that prompted this post on failings. He was quoting from Lenord Ravenhill who said "Poverty in prayer is the seedbed of all our failures." When I think about it, I think that statement is very true. I know if I prayed more I would certainly worry less. And the more a person prays the more the Lord molds him into the image of Jesus - it's unavoidable; and if a person becomes more like Jesus they would by default become less selfish, because Jesus is the opposite of selfish. I also read a recent article by Steve Brown entitled "Good For Goodness Sake" (http://www.keylife.org/magazine/christmas-magazine-good-for-goodness-sake-2.html). In this article he made the point that if someone trys to be good, just to be good he will probably not succeed. However if that person spends more time in prayer, that person will automatically begin to cultivate goodness, just by praying, because they will cultivate a better relationship with the Lord. And the more a person realizes the Lord's love for them, the more they want to please Him.
I think the Lord has been trying to prompt me to spend more time in prayer. All of my goals as far as goodness will be met much easier if I will just spend a few extra minutes in prayer. And not only that but I will develop my relationship with the Lord to a deeper level if I will devote more time in prayer.
Prayer is hard for me. It always has been. Somehow when I'm praying I get the most distracted, and it's hard to keep focused. Because of the distraction (which I suspect is Satan throwing other things into my mind) I don't get much accomplished in prayer.
I think I will try to make it my goal to change that. Once again, easier said than done; I've been trying for years to improve my praying habits. But I'm feeling convicted that I have not been focusing as much energy and attention to prayer as the Lord would want me to, and so changing in this area will be my goal. If you think of it you could pray for me!

P.S. I think I'll be able to focus better if I have specific things to pray for, at least to start, so if any of you have any prayer requests, let me know. I can give you my e-mail if you would like to send them to me.
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