Holiday Happiness

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Jonah in front of our first ever family Christmas Tree!

So, here with are. The holiday season is upon us. I know this because Christmas trees are popping up (including ours), the black friday sales ads are out, and tv commercials consist of Christmas jingles that persuade parents to buy their little children all the toys of their dreams, Operation Christmas Child and Toys for Tots boxes are out, the little red buckets have stolen all our change, I am attempting to prepare my first ever Turkey for a family at church, and all anyone can talk about is what we want for Christmas. I hope this post finds you in the midst of all the holiday cheer and celebration (even if it is a tad bit early).

I will be the first to admit it. I LOVE the holiday season(hence why our tree is already up). Snow, twinkling lights, Christmas trees, family, and most of all, presents!

Snow is one of my favorite aspects of this world God has created for us. The miracle of precipitation solidifying at just the right temperature to turn, not into ice, but the soft, flaky, sparkling, fluffy wonderfulness that is a snowflake. I love when a blanket of snow covers the earth (or at least the part of it that I can see at the time). It brings a peace, serenity, and quietness to the hectic, stressful, crazy of my life. It is a time of sleeping for earth, when everything has a chance to let go of the past and prepare for spring, a time of rebirth and change. And, on top of it all, snow gets everyone into the Christmas spirit.

Lights are hung around doors, windows, and every eave of the house. Christmas trees are hunted, chopped down, and decorated (or brought out, fluffed, and decorated) with all sorts of bulbs, tinsel, and ornaments. It seems as if the whole world lights up. Families (typically consisting of dad working, watching football, and doing the manly duties of the house, mom cooking, cleaning, and performing all manners of motherly duties, sons playing video games and living in an alternate reality, and daughters non-stop texting, drooling over boys, and everyday drama…all very stereotypical, I know) join together, spending quality time and relishing memories of the past as each treasure and ornament is hung on their tree.

People always seem to be more generous around the holidays. Christmas has the power to connect the people of the world, opening their hearts (and pocket books) to help those in need. Stuffing shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, participating in the Angel Tree at work, loading up on Toys for Tots, and filling the red buckets hanging outside every store is the name of the game during the holiday season. Giving makes us all feel good. But, you know what we seem to think makes us feel even better?

Presents! I LOVE presents. Any kind of present. Birthday presents, christmas presents, anniversary presents, valentine’s day presents, surprise presents, you’re such a great wife presents, thanks for breathing presents, mail (it’s like a present…you don’t know it’s coming and it’s wrapped…who knows what could be inside!), I just LOVE presents! I also know that I am selfish. This character trait is one of my main sin struggles. It’s not that I only want presents for me, I love to give others presents too, but I mostly just love to get presents.

Now, I know it is not even close to Christmas, I know we haven’t even had Thanksgiving yet. So, why this topic now? Well…Brandon and I have been going over our budget to plan for Christmas and Thanksgiving this year. Once we decided how much we could spend on presents, I went straight into planning mode. I researched gifts for family and friends, we wrote up our Christmas lists, sent it out to everyone, planned our trip home, and I even started an amazon cart full of items I wanted to get Brandon(consisting of crazy survival gear because he has become a “Prepper” likes the Doomsday Preppers show on TV).

Throughout all the excitement, searching, and budgeting, God somehow broke through my holiday focus and and laid His message on my heart. He has given me a challenge this Christmas to finally look long and hard at myself and see, through His eyes, the qualities I need to work on in myself. He has called me to approach my selfishness head-on.

I know in my heart that this is God’s push for me to deal with one of my most sinful personality traits and make a change for the better. So, instead of being so selfish this holiday season, I have chosen to love. God calls us to love one another. Love is not just saying “I love you” but so much more than that. 1 John 3:18 says, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue but in deed and in truth”. Of course we should show love with our words, speaking with kindness, patience, tenderness, warmth, and affection but love gives these meaning. Love is a laborious and operative grace (you know, “labor of love”-it’s an action, not just a feeling or emotion). Our Lord wants us to LOVE one another; to serve each other, to bear one another’s burdens, forgive one another, pray for each other, build each other up, to restore, to minister, to labor. This is loving “in deed”; this is actual love, apparent and evident, and it is “in truth”, it is in reality, and not only in show. On top of it all, it is cordially and heartily done, with a cheerful heart, and without grudging, grumbling, or complaining.

This Christmas, Brandon and I have chosen to give the gift of love. To ask nothing in return. To JOYFULLY and with a heart full of CHEER serve a family, to bear some of their burden (one we know they would struggle with on their own), to pray for them, to work hard for them, to LOVE them. I also hope we have began a new family tradition. What that tradition will look like when we have our own children who we want desperately to shower with hundreds of dollars of toys they will grow bored with in a month or two, I’m not sure. God will help us figure it out though.

The birth of Christ (and His death as a payment for my sin) was an everlasting gift. I have received undeserved mercy and grace from an all loving God through this gift. My children will receive this same gift, if they so choose to believe. What other present could we possibly ask for? I am so thankful for the gift of Christ, for the changes He is making in me, for giving me a husband who believes, trusts, and has the faith to obey Him, and for the opportunity to follow His command and LOVE my fellow man.

I hope you find a way you too can spread a little love (and holiday cheer) this season!

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!

Until next time!

~Elizabeth

Privileges and Pleasures

As a new wife, I now have the responsibility of taking care of my own home (or apartment, in our current case). While I have grown up helping my mom do dishes, laundry, and clean windows (which I am sure she had to clean again) and, of course, keeping my dorm room and houses clean that I have lived in over the past four years while in college, I have found cleaning, upkeep, and running my own home is a whole different ball game. First off…guys are WAY messier than girls. At least, my man is. I mean, how many glasses do you honestly need to use in one day? Sometimes I wonder if he thinks our bed is the laundry basket or if he just likes our sheets smelling the same as his sweaty gym shorts. And HOLY COW, the kid drinks more coffee and eats more trail mix than a caffeine addict who is allergic to everything but chocolate, peanuts, and raisins.

I have always wanted to run my own home. I used to want to be a 40’s housewife. I THOUGHT I would like doing laundry, folding my husband’s clothes, and lovingly placing them in his drawers, vacuuming till the carpets are free of any dirt particles, having dinner ready for him when he arrived home from work, and having a Granny Smith Apple Pie with a homemade crisscross crust cooling on the windowsill (all while wearing a cute frilly apron and a Donna Reed hair-do). Boy, was I naïve.

I do laundry. Once a week I drag three loads of workout clothes, boxers, and holey socks over to the laundry mat and pile it all into the washers (and ALL of this…just Brandon’s clothes. I swear he changes more times throughout the day than a teenage girl figuring out what she is going to wear on the first day of school!), shove it into the dryers when it’s finished, lug it back to the apartment (up a flight of stairs) and throw it onto the bed, where I begin folding. Jonah, our puppy, meanwhile has been strangely silent this entire time. Once all of the clothes are folded perfectly and stacked in neat, tidy piles for Brandon to put away, Jonah decides to haul it down the hallway, jump, and slide to a stop on our bed. The piles are ruined, but at least the clothes are still folded. That is, until Jonah flings EVERY article of clothing on the ground. Needless to say, Brandon’s clothes are rather wrinkly and hairy.

Oh, and did I mention the bi-monthly load of permanent press only ABUs, that cannot be washed with softener (woops) and can only be air dried (woops) and must be hung, folded, creased, and flattened into perfection (yeah…never gonna happen).

Vacuuming…is a daily need in our house. If you have ever had a big fluffy husky in Texas heat, you’ll understand when I say I vacuum up enough of his hair to stuff a set of pillows daily. And that’s with brushing him twice a week! So, as for the spotlessly clean carpets, they are beautiful when I vacuum, and ten minutes later there are enough tuffs of hair scattered about to make it look as if our house got into a fight with a baby polar bear.

I make a homemade dinner every night. I am still learning to cook… and Brandon likes more variety than oatmeal for breakfast, PB&J for lunch, and cereal for dinner (the extent of my college cooking). So, typically I start cooking dinner around 5:30 to have it ready by 6:30, what I would consider a normal dinner time. Three hours later…Brandon and I, starving, are finally sitting down to enjoy a lovely Chick-Fil-A or Pizza Hut meal after sliced open fingers, burns from the oven, and crying over raw chicken that just won’t cook!

As for dessert, I am a pretty fair baker and I, humbly, admit that I make a mean apple pie. But, with Physical Fitness Tests coming up, Brandon’s want for a six pack, and the ridiculous lines at the commissary…it’s just not worth it.

With the disappointment of job applications being turned down and just not being able to find a job in this military town, I admit, I have become a little bit resentful about the work I have to do at home. When people find out I have a Bachelor of Science and ask where I work, their “oh’s” and looks of discomfort at the direction the conversation has taken when I admit I stay home all day is enough to hurt anyone’s pride. I know I have the education, skills, and potential to have my dream job. But, that’s not God’s plan for me right now. And, no matter how many applications and resumes I turn in, I know He sits up their smiling down at me with that mischievous twinkle in His eye, waiting for me to realize that, no matter what I do, how hard I try, kick, scream, and fight, His way is the only way. Whether He is giving me time to properly learn to run my own home before I have the added responsibility of a job (or a baby), answering my prayer of leading me to be the wife He calls me to be, or, most likely, something amazing that I can’t even imagine, I have resigned to let Him have the control. Along with that, God calls us to do EVERYTHING we do with a joyful heart and to bring Him glory. And, my mumbling and grumbling about all the house work I have to do and how nothing goes the way I thought it would (and those days where I just don’t feel like doing anything so I just lay around on the couch playing Candy Crush) doesn’t exactly scream “I am glorifying God”.

I love my husband, and truthfully, finding glasses with yesterday’s green tea still in the bottom shoved in between the couch cushions and walking down the hall to the bedroom picking up his flung socks, the ABU pants and blouse, and t-shirt along the way, brings a smile to my face. He’s quirky and cute and I love it. As for Jonah, he is wild and crazy and keeps me on my toes. I adore him and he is my constant friend (and probably good practice for having a baby).

Proverbs 31:27 tells us of the woman I hope to be- “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”

I have resolved to glorify God in all I do (or try my very hardest). Even if I feel that my daily tasks are unimportant and aren’t changing the world (like scrubbing the toilet), I will do them with a joyful heart. I praise God for all the blessings he has given me. I have the wonderful opportunity to spend all day with my dog, walking and playing with him, preparing a nourishing meal for my husband, and keeping the roof over our head a cozy, warm, and loving environment for my family. Doing these things….I can glorify God. It is my privilege and my pleasure to run the Stenger Household.

Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.”

How can you glorify God in your everyday life? What is your privilege and pleasure?

Love,

Elizabeth

Positive Thoughts

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I know I said my next post would be about my honeymoon, but I wanted to write about this instead haha.

As a married woman for over two and a half months now, I feel I have already learned a thing or two. From listening to the hearsay about men my whole life, my own experiences,  and observing the other married military wives around me, I realize that every man drives his woman crazy! And yes, my husband drives me absolutely mad some days. But, that’s not the point of this message. The point is, each morning, my husband and I have a chance to change our marriage for the better…or the worse.

Last night, as Brandon and I read through our daily devotional, I realized, like most experiences in life, marriage will be what you make of it. We can wake up each morning complaining and dwelling on all aspects of our marriage and our husbands that drive us crazy or disappoint us…and we will be driven crazy and disappointed in our marriages and husbands. OR we can listen to Philippians 4:8 (ESV).

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

For, if we focus on all the wonderful things our husbands do for us and how beautiful and blessed our marriages are…our husbands will be wonderful and our marriages will be beautiful and blessed.

Our attitudes affect our actions. If we concentrate on the negative and have a pessimistic, defeatist attitude, our words and actions will reflect that…our marriages will reflect that. Instead of finding a solution, we become part of the problem.

If we fix our thoughts on the positive…

My husband is so wonderful, he bought me a gorgeous bouquet of pink roses.

My husband is so kind, he did the dishes for me last night.

I am so appreciative of my husband waking up and taking the dog out this morning so I could sleep in a bit longer.

My husband made me coffee this morning…how thoughtful.

My husband cuddles with me at night…I know he wants to be next to me.

My husband encouraged me to push myself today during my workout and I am stronger because of it.

My marriage is sweet and sentimental.

My marriage grows better and stronger after each trial.

My marriage is fun.

My marriage is worth it.

I encourage each of you to focus on the positives of your marriage and your husband. Praise him when he is worthy of praise. Acknowledge when he does something you appreciated. Let him know when he has done a job well done. I bet you he will do it more often! If you’d like, comment about the wonderful things your husband (or wife) does for you!

Love,

Elizabeth

P.S. Yes, Brandon did get me that gorgeous bouquet of roses.