Friday, January 31, 2014

It's Time

What do you do when you're a blog writer and you feel led to write about something?  Well, you write about it of course.  But what if it's something straightforward and bold?  What if not everyone wants to read it?  What if it's offensive to some, blown off by others, or heard too many times before?

I think you say it anyway.

You see I had an incredible, breathtaking privilege this week.  As I was putting two of my younger children to bed one night I just felt strongly that I needed to tell them about Jesus.  Now, growing up in a house where daddy is a pastor, you hear about Jesus quite a bit so they already knew about Him.  But this night, I just felt very strongly that I was supposed to tell them again about what it means to give your heart to Jesus- and so I did.  Let me tell you, my 5 year old daughter and my 4 year old son were captivated- I mean their hearts were truly engaged and when I was done, they asked me if they could pray and ask Jesus into their hearts.  I called my husband up into the room and with him I did the greatest thing I could ever do- I led my children to Jesus.

Me praying with Natalie, my 5 year old daughter
Me praying with Johnny, my 4 year old son

The next day we talked to them about what they did when they gave their hearts to Jesus and my children were truly joyous.  It was incredible to see that they not only were aware of the decision that they had made, but that in their spirits they were truly happy and they could feel the difference it made inside to be reconciled with the Lord.  I could not be more happy.

In church this Sunday the preacher took us back to Matthew chapter 28:17.  Back to the mountain where Jesus met His disciples AFTER He had been crucified.  The verse says that Jesus' disciples saw Him on a mountain after He had already been killed and it was there that some worshipped, and some doubted.  They stood face to face with the risen Jesus- and still some chose to doubt.  When it comes right down to it these are the two fundamental choices that people make even today- believe, or doubt.

Because here's the thing, both are a choice.  Doubt is a choice, and belief is a choice.  The reason I say doubt is a choice is because you have to see it through- you have to take that small piece of questioning inside you and you have to cling to it; you have to cling to it and you have to choose to make it what you believe in.  When a person chooses a life apart from God he honestly thinks he is walking farther and farther away from God.  The drinking, the swearing, the life living solely for yourself- you really think that you are getting away from God.  But let me tell you something about God...before you were born God loved you with a love so fierce and a love so strong that there is nothing you could ever do to get away from Him.  "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels, nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither, height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35, 38-39)  The further you walk into the depths of your sin the closer you walk into His arms because even "if you make your bed in hell, there He is" (Ps.139:8)  He just loves you that much.

I have been talking about this for weeks, and finally it is time for me to be completely forthright with you.  Don't get me wrong, I have no intention of changing this blog- things will go back to normal.  I will update you on my illness, I will talk about my life and take you with me as I walk through it- I will laugh with you and cry with you just as we have been for over a year.  But today- today I will say what needs to be said...what I feel I am being asked to say.  Because God has told me to lay aside my own plans so He can speak to someone.  So He can to speak to you.

Friends, you have a choice to make today.  It is no accident.  Heaven does not come to those who are good, to those who attend church, or whose friends are good- there is no such thing as entering on cruise control.  "Jesus answered him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.'" (John 3:3)  We all die and we all will come face to face with God Almighty- and you will give an account to what you did with the choice that was given to you.  It is a deliberate choice that you yourself will make about Him.  About Jesus.

Friend you are a sinner.  Just like me.  Just like us all- everyone who ever graced this earth and who ever will is a sinner, thus not worthy of heaven "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).  If you think for one moment that you are a decent person you might want to take a second to read the Bible and then try and line yourself up with those standards- since those are the ones that God will be using.  God knew that none of us would ever, ever be able to live up to those standards and that's why He did the most insane thing known to any god or man.  You ask me why THIS God- why not buddah?  Why not allah?  No other god ever did what my God did...because you see, my God took His very son- Jesus- and He put Him on the altar and shed His blood.  His pure and perfect son paid the price once and for all for my sins and for your sins.  His red blood continually washes my slate white as snow.  When I ask, I am forgiven- and I can now come before God wholly and purely.  Because, and only because, of JESUS.  "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

It is not just a religion.  It is not just service on Sunday morning.  It is not just reciting of prayers.  It is about giving your heart and soul to the one who can set it free.  It is about asking forgiveness to the very one who died so that you could live.  Jesus died on the cross because it had to be either Him or you- and He didn't want it to be you.  And you know what?  On the third day he rose again.  He not only provided a way for your sins to be forgiven, but He also conquered death.  My God lives.  He lives then, He lives now, He speaks, He moves, He hears my prayers, He guides my steps, He has a plan and purpose for my life, He has a plan for your life, and He is speaking to you even now.

Right now.

So make your choice.  There are no bells and whistles.  I have no fancy music and I am not even sure if my words were eloquent enough.  But I know that you know the choice you are faced with right now.  It is between you and Jesus right now.  God has had a gift with your name on since the day Jesus went to the cross- and it always will have your name on it.  Nobody but you can open it.  This was the uncomfortable part for me to write- because I need to urge you.  I need to tell you that I love you, heart and soul.  I need to tell you that I am not talking about saying a simple prayer asking Jesus into your heart, or asking Jesus to forgive your sins, or asking Jesus to be your God....oh don't get me wrong, I am talking about all of that.  But that's just the outward sign of the inward choice.  The choice to leave an old life behind in exchange of a new life.  The choice only you can make to give Jesus total control of the person you are now, and allow Him to give you a new life in Him.
A new man.  A new personhood.  A new path.  To go from being blind to finally being able to see.  It is not about saying a noun, it's about living an action.  "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the ones who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)

It is simple.  So, so simple.  Face your eternity, and the one who created you and loved you enough to bridge the gap your own choices have created between the two of you.

I could have given you reasons.  I could have told you about sin and it's effect on your life in many different ways.  Maybe used scare tactics on what sin does to you in the long run- maybe even told you all about hell.  I could have gone in the other direction and told you just how amazing it is to choose Jesus (because it really is).  About the precious security your soul will have.  How in a world where everyone is always looking to fill this endless void, your soul will have all that it needs.  About how one moment your life- regardless of how nice it looks on the outside- is in shambles, and then Jesus enters it and begins to pick up the pieces from the inside out.

But I didn't do that.  I felt led to give you the core- the straight-up heart of the matter.  Why?  Because today it is YOUR choice, and your choice alone.  You spend countless hours researching what phone you are going to get, or what kind of car you will buy.  And yet what do you do with this one life you have been given?  I want so badly to plead with you, because I know what is at stake and because if you know anything by now then you should know that the heart of mine is that I love you and I want more than anything for you to be closer to Him.  But I have to bring this post to an end, and leave it in your hands.  So now I give you this: the biggest choice of your life and death.

And I am leaving it all up to you to make.  You're a big kid now, and God told me to tell you about Him, and leave the rest up to you. Because it will always be up to you to make, and you to live.

This is between you and God.  It always has been.

I am praying for you.

Joshua 24:15 “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve...But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” 

Friday, January 24, 2014

For They Shall See God

I had a long talk with Jeff earlier this week.  I sat down and cried to him for a very long time- basically just unloading my heart to him about a lot of things I had going on inside of me.  About how sick I have been, about my emotions in all of this, fears about my role in his life, my relationship with God- just a whole bunch of things that had been burdening my heart lately and been building up to the point that I have actually been having a hard time bringing these things before God.  But Jeff just talked and ministered to me for a long time.  He listened to my fears and let me cry.  He let me be honest and did not judge me or laugh at me or condemn me.  And then he pastored me- he led me in the Bible and taught me how to bring these things before the Lord and how to repent where needed and how to lay the rest at God's feet.  He showed me where I was being corrected and where I need to reconnect with God.  Jeff acts as my compass when I don't know where north is- and it was a beautiful time where he just helped put my feet back where they needed to go so i could keep walking.  I am so grateful to him.

I think sometimes we all just need those times of redirection.  Those times where things in our lives just build and build until we no longer know where our feet are standing anymore.  No, maybe you do not have the same struggles that I do.  Maybe you do not have the physical pain and limitations and constant trauma that I do- but I don't think you have to in order to understand what I am saying.  We all experience things that drive us to our breaking point.  And when that happens, the greater fear should be not that you are breaking but that you don't seek help for it.  I kept avoiding help because I was too afraid to confront the fact that I wasn't right inside- I was scared of what that meant; of what would happen when I confronted myself and where I was really at.  But when I did I realized it was a whole lot scarier to keep going separated from God and from myself.  Because when all was said and done I wasn't immediately fixed no…but I released a great burden and I was well on my way to reconnecting with the things that matter.  It was far worse to carry the stress of it all on my shoulders and to let that pull me from God then to admit my shortcomings and face them and begin the journey back to Him.  

Because life is a constant journey of finding our way ever closer to Him over and over again, deeper and deeper still.

You know, it was brought to my attention this week (and many times before, honestly) that I am a very intense person- at least when it comes to myself.  I have never really thought about it but I could see the point.  It is always on my mind constantly- the things I have done, the things I have not done, the things I should be doing, the things I need to do better.  I don't feel trapped in it, and I would't say it's an issue of self punishment.  So I decided to think about the matter- case-in-point I suppose, haha.  Why am I so intense?  I mean, I know the answer is that I want to be the best possible version of myself that I can be.  I know I want to serve the Lord to the best of my abilities and I know I want to end this life knowing I gave it all I had.  But I knew there was this other reason that I couldn't put my finger on- so I ended up going to the Bible with my thoughts.  I did not intend to, but I did.  And I would like to share with you the thoughts i came up with as I believe they come down to the heart of Jesus' message to us.  

Jeff gave me a book this week and told me to read two of the chapters because he thought I would be interested in them.  Something you should know: I LOVE to read.  I always have a book in my hands, on my nook, or on my iPhone just waiting for whenever I have a free second to pick it up and read.  However, Jeff's reading interests and my reading interests are vastly different so when he says he wants me to read something I cringe inside because I am afraid it will be something dreadfully boring- like some history of genealogies or a book filled with the longest sermons ever from really old preachers.  But this actually looked interesting and the chapters were really short- they were chapters on the spiritual gift of discernment.

This was a topic I happen to be very interested in, so I dove right into it and found myself in the book of Matthew, chapter 7 verses 1-3,5.  They are verses that talk about judging people- in fact, regardless of your beliefs I am willing to bet that you have probably heard these verses before, or at least heard this principle.  They read “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

Pretty harsh verses there.  These verses are basically telling us to be very, very careful about judging someone else.  Jesus is saying that the manner in which you judge another will be the manner in which God judges you and further more, before you go around trying to right the sins of another you might want to take care of the glaring sins in your own life first.  They are very hard, very direct words.  And I love them.  

There are a lot of ways to take these verses.  Well, I should't say that- there are a lot of ways people like to USE these verses.  In fact I would wager to say that some of you who may be reading this right now are probably fist-pumping while telling us "see! Jesus said to leave me alone and worry about your own sins first!"  Well, not quite, but I understand your hesitancy so I will leave it at that for now. :)  You see, when it talks about removing the "plank" out of our own eye- it means the process of true repentance.  Of checking ourselves at the end of the day.  Of searching our own hearts- our actions, our motives, our words.  And if we see a pattern of behavior, the goal is to repent of that behavior and try and change it; to truly turn away from it so that it no longer is a part of who we are.  To remove the plank from our eyes so that it doesn't obscure and taint the way we see people any more…it is the process of beginning to see clearly.

I am intense because I want to be the best version of myself, yes.  I want to please God, yes.  But the more I examined my heart and these verses the more I realized that the other part of it- the other Biblical part of it is that I want to truly be able to love others.  I want to be a plank remover, not a speck finder.  I truly want to help others- and I mean that.  I love people and I want to help them see Jesus and come to know Him but I can only do that if I have PURE motives which means worrying about myself and my own heart and not focusing on theirs.  We can only help others by truly seeing clearly and we can only see clearly if our own planks are removed.

That is why I spend so much time on myself.  I repent not just of "sins"…but of behaviors and of matters of the heart.  It is not about a right set of rules.  It is about a way of walking and a way of living that urges oneself upward not for myself- but for those around me.  So that when the time comes for me to bring up the speck in their eyes I can do so out of sincere love and without the tainted vision of my own plank being in the way.  That my desire would not be to simply point out the wrongs of another, but that my sole purpose would mirror Jesus' in that I would be used to lead that person to their true needs.  

The ultimate goal is always to be used as an instrument of Jesus.  That all men would see and know Him better because of my life.  That His light would shine unobstructed through me.  It is not enough to just be a good version of myself and to live for Him- but that even my very motives would be challenged so that those I come in contact with would feel and sense the purity of my love for them, and thus His love for them.  So yes, I am intense I guess.  At the end of most days I have thought about my actions and my heart and the things I have said and done.  But so much is at stake.  The minute I profess to be a Christian is the minute I adopt a whole bunch of labels so graciously given to me: hypocrite. conservative. right-wing. intolerant. judgmental.  That instinctively makes me angry because I feel do not deserve these labels that are so freely given to me.  

And so it seems there is quite a process to go through within if we are going to truly love people- and that takes a LOT of deep and continual repentance on our part because, at least for me, I know I do not always think kind thoughts about people.  I know I can take out my anger and hurt easily by judging people- and that is the very opposite of love.  
And so that is why we need to work out the planks we have right out in the open in front of our very eyes, and then some way down deep in our very hearts.  That is why daily we need to uproot our attitudes and our mindsets that keep us from properly helping and loving others- because the main goal of loving others is not to judge them, but to help bring them to restoration.  

Please don't ever forget that.  Jesus came to save, not condemn.  We are NOT here to condemn.  We are here to love…to love in such a way that our love shines light into a person's life and that light not only casts out darkness, but provides a beacon on which feet may follow steadily on a new and straight path.  

I clean up my own act so that I can better love others.  So that my own eyes can see clearly and without tainted vision.  So that my love will be pure and steady.  This world- they can spot a fake from a mile away.  And I don't want to be a fake…I want my love to be all the things that Jesus' love is because the real goal is simply be a reflection of Him.  This world has enough unsteady ground to stand on.  I want to show them something solid...and they will only be able to see it if they will be able to see past me to see God in me.  

Truth be told when it all comes down to it...I want to see God.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."  Matthew 5:8

Friday, January 17, 2014

In the Beginning

I have something very simple to share today.  Simple but beautiful.

I went to church this past Sunday, which I am not always physically able to do anymore.  And it was amazing- God really showed up in that service.  The worship was pure, there was an undeniable presence of God throughout the whole service, and there was just an atmosphere of strength and freedom- I was truly blessed and very happy to be there.  

We had a guest preacher with us and he read out of Matthew 28:16-20, which is known as the Great Commission- it is the part in the Bible after Jesus has been crucified where He meets His disciples and gives them a final charge- a commission to take the gospel to all people and a promise that He will always be with them.  The verses say that after Jesus' crucifixion His disciples go up to the mountain- like Jesus told them do to and BAM, there He was.  Risen.  Alive.  Standing Right There.  They worshipped Him of course, and some doubted of course.  And then Jesus gives them a command which is known as the Great Commission- the commission of every follower of Jesus from that moment until now.  It is why churches exist- to do this very thing.  He says: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

After reading these verses the preacher asked us to turn to the person next us and talk about which verses meant the most to us.  You could blindfold me, tie me up, spin me around and drop me in the middle of the Sahara and I would know exactly what verses people would say have the most meaning.  "Go and make disciples", "surely I am with you", "I am with you always", "to the very end."...And rightfully so.  Those are powerful, powerful verses- it's the Great Commission and those are words to cling to.

But when I read these verses that morning, I saw something entirely different.

I saw verse 16: "Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go."

Before seeing Jesus risen on the mountain.  Before worshipping Him.  Before doubting.  Before being given the Great Commission.  Before any of that could even have happened, they first had to get up to the mountain that Jesus was going to appear on- they had to take the very first step of obedience.

But you see, most people, they overlook that small obscure passage but without it, there would be no such commission.  That line- that simple, small step in the direction of rightness sets the stage for the greatest call known to mankind.   I am calling your attention to an unknown verse because the same principle that lead the disciples up the mountain to an encounter with Jesus that changed their lives is the same principle that calls into your life and into mine.  You will never get to the great without passing through the small.   The greatest things you will ever achieve in your life will only be decided in the moments preceding it- will you obey in the simple moments before any act of greatness has ever even been born yet?  Hearing God, knowing God, following God, and obeying God in the obscure is the only way you will ever encounter the great.   Your future is decided in the decisions you make today.   

I am passionate about you.  About you becoming who God intended you to be- who you really are.  Not who you want to be, not who your friends think you are, and not who you have been all this time.  I want you to BE.  

I just WANT so much.  And when I read that verse I realized that the best piece of advice I can implore you with, other than to give Jesus your whole heart and life, is to remember that the first, smallest steps is what will determine the course of rest of your path.  Righteousness is born when nobody is looking, and integrity done over and over again in the shadows of obscurity.   A small, unknown verse is the reason for one of the greatest verses in the Bible.  Such is your life.  

There would have been no Great Commission had there been no obedience to the first command.  We only know the great part, but we seem to forget to pay attention to the small start- and yet without the small there would have been no greatness.

It always begins today.

"For the person for whom small things do not exist, the great is not great."
Jose Ortega y Gasset 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Moments of Decision

I have had several parents talk to me lately.  I usually get parents asking me for advice on various topics- everything from potty training to homeschooling to discipline and everything in between.  I think that with being a mom of so many children born so close together there is an assumption that I know what I am doing.  That is only partially true!  I know what I am doing and I think I am executing it well- but really that's only because I have had so many kids to practice on, haha.  I am just another mom like you trying to do my best by my children- some days doing great, other days locking myself in the bathroom pretending I have a stomach ache just to get a few minutes of peace and quiet (which still wont get you any peace and quiet by the way in case you ever try it. They will find you!)

But with my illness and new way of living I sometimes "forget" that I am a mother.  Some days the main goal is keeping myself alive- medication, rest, awareness of symptoms, doctors appointments- and that means Jeff is the main one running the house.  But with time has come wisdom and with wisdom has come an understanding of how to make this all work, and I am getting better at balancing the two roles.  Not great, but better.  I am slowly getting to just be mommy again, even if only when I am able to.  And I missed it so much- how I ached to have the kids come to me with their questions and their tears.  How I want to freeze time for every single one if their hugs and kisses "just because".  But I am also reminded of just how crazy it can be at times.  It is an overwhelming feeling to be in the trenches of mommyhood- and I know many of you readers started reading this blog when it was mainly about raising kids.  And today I want to remind you that I am still with you.

With my new blend of medications I have several hours in the day that I am functioning- its a beautiful thing, really.  I am up on my feet and able to do a lot of my mommy stuff- dishes! laundry! diapers! Who would have thought this would be so exciting!  But I remember that feeling from long ago- that feeling of being lost in the everyday busyness yet feeling like I am getting nothing done.  The everyday mundane and the constant discipline and the wondering if what I am spending ALL my waking energy on is really amounting to anything when all I see is constant sticky-fingered short people who STILL don't say please or thank you, despite my reminding them in my oh-so-gentle voice for the thousandth time.

Well I am here to remind you that YES, it matters.  It matters so much more than you realize.

I want to take you to a little known story in the Bible, yet one of my favorites.  It is the story of a woman named Abigail.  Now this is going to be told by me- it will be accurate to the Bible, but if you have a problem with the NIV version of the Bible then you are definitely going to have an issue with my storytelling format, lol.  But you can find the actual story in 1 Samuel 25.  Anyway there is this smart, beautiful woman named Abigail and she is married to a real piece of work named Nabal.  I mean, total loser- this guy is rich but he is a real jerk.  Anyway, the king of the land (King David) is passing through and asks Nabal for some food and water for him and his men after their long journey.  The king would be entitled to this anyway just by being king, but furthermore King David protected Nabal's shepherds while they were with them, so Nabal really should have been grateful and done the right thing.  But Nabal acted like the jerk that he was and refused.  This aroused King David's anger and King David gathered 400 of his men and prepared to go and basically slaughter Nabal and his household (yea I know- but that was how things were dealt with back then.)  So the servants of the household ran- and do you know who they ran to for help?  Abigail.  They went to her pleading for help.  They knew she was wise and they knew their master was a fool and they begged her to do something- and she did.  She gathered as much food, wine and meat that she could- and she rode out to meet the King.  While her husband was partying and getting drunk during the sheep-shearing festival party, she strengthened her arms and rode out to right the wrong of her household.

When she met the king she bowed down before him and begged for forgiveness for her husbands' rude behavior.  She could have given up.  She could have let her husband suffer his fate- get what he deserved.  But Abigail was a woman of honor- a woman not only of inner strength, but a woman whose decisions flowed out of the character within.  She did not let being married to an awful man turn her heart bitter- she did let her circumstances define her; change her on the inside, nor harden her heart.  And so she asked for mercy and presented the king with the gifts she had brought him.  And do you know what?  She received mercy that day.  For herself.  For her husband.  For her household.  And for her very personhood.

Now there is actually more to the story. Her husband ends up dying 10 days later- and when the king heard about it, he sent for Abigail to become his wife.  Married to the king.

The first part of the story is my main point and why I love this little forgotten story so much.  So often we feel like our role is so small, so obscure, and of such little consequence.  Yet you never know when that moment will meet you- that moment that will change the course of history.  That moment when you are not just a woman; a mother; a wife- but someone who can stand up and do right when a wrong has been done.  That moment when you must make a sacrificial choice for the benefit of another who may or may not deserve it- but you choose to do it because it is right.  And that action may alter the course of history.

Mothers every act of discipline, every loving word of encouragement, every prayer whispered over a sleeping baby is an act of bowing before the Lord begging for mercy- and one that He hears.  It shapes a person and thus a destiny.  Your role is not small nor forgotten- the door is always opening left and right for you to walk through and make a difference.  Abigail walked through that door.  Moms- daily, you walk through that door.  You stand daily before the King and plead.  Oh no, you are not small.  This world owes you a great debt.

This goes for all of us.  We all play a role in the lives around us or even in our own lives.  This role is never small- any time you choose to do the right thing whether it be a major decision or a small personal decision you are choosing to alter the course of forever.  Kings rule nations, but men rule moments.  Rule your every moment- strengthen your arms, and when you see that wrong being committed even if being committed by yourself, then gather yourself and beg for mercy.  Have the wisdom to right the wrong and not only spare yourself the immediate consequences, but understand that you never know when you are meeting your destiny.  Nabal met his- so did Abigail.

What of you?

Friday, January 3, 2014

And to Forever

I began my new year with the death of my grandfather- my Poppy.  He was an honorable Italian man who loved his wife, worked hard for his family, loved his Yankees and quietly lived a good life.  I want to be there to bury him- to give the earth back a man who made it a better place by being in it.  Only at certain moments do I truly get frustrated with my illness- this is one of those times.  I may not be well enough to make the trip down to honor his life and support my family.  And I would so like to see My grandmother- my Nanny.  Nanny was strong for him until his end- with a loneliness about to begin that I can only imagine.

It is a sad contrast.  Because today is my ten year anniversary.  Some of you have already said to things to me along the lines of how much can one person take...yes, I have been dealt quite a hand in my short life.  I have buried too many, suffered too much, and seen so little of the sun.  But if you know me then you also know this: none of that matters.  I take the bad and I take it with open arms because I know the One who gives it to me and I trust that He who sees fit to give me good also sees fit to give me bad.  And there are reasons for both- and I trust them.  And I will live and learn and love in and through it all.    I do not mourn Poppy's death- I celebrate his life.
With Poppy, there is quite a bit worth celebrating.
To all my DeLeos I say this: laugh.  Laugh well this weekend and in the days to come.  Talk loudly and hug fiercely.  Stand close to one another and give each other your love and my love.  I love you Nanny- please give Poppy my love as well.  And for goodness sake you're Italians, act like it- EAT.

But of all the days in the year, January 3rd is my favorite.  It marks the beginning of...well, of everything.  I served Jesus before I met Jeff, yes of course I did.  But His plan for me came alive when we got married.  The trials, the sharpening of my character, the learning of lessons so deep it takes another person to really teach them to you- that all began ten years ago.  Yes I could talk about all the lovey-dovey stuff- and believe me, I could go on and on.  I married a great man.  From day one he was always a man of integrity whose sole priority was to serve and honor Jesus with his life.  And I think he is incredibly handsome, and quite simply put we are best friends.  We laugh every single day, have more inside jokes then anyone I know, and every single day you can catch us whispering to one other about how we can't wait until 7:30 when we can put the last of the kids to bed so we can curl up in our own bed and just hang out with each other.

We grew a lot together though- things did not start off as a fairy have to work for your happy ending.  Over and over and over.  Marriage is not give and take- it's always give.  There is never a moment when I think of it as my turn to take.  It is the principle of always giving to the other person and trusting in the Lord to be working in their heart- believing that your needs will be met but seeing the beauty there is in meeting the needs of another ahead of your own.  If everyone fights to hold on to what they believe they deserve then you create resentment and walls...walls.  No window.  No door.  No way in.  A marriage is supposed to be the most open relationship known to two people.  It takes everything you have in you and then some.

I do not recognize my marriage today from the young immature version it was in the beginning.  Two kids who thought loving each other was enough- then they realized it would take a lifetime of sacrifice, prayer, forgiving...and doing it over and over and over again in order to have what so many are searching for.

This year we were blessed by friends of ours with a one night stay in an incredible, historic mansion in Saratoga, NY.  So our wonderful family friend Jenn spent the night with the kids (and they were beyond excited to have her staying with them which as a mom was the only way I was able to leave them!) and off we went!  We stopped at the store, got a bunch of snack food and just enjoyed the evening relaxing while the outside world got slammed with a snowstorm.  It was nice because lets face it, when you have six kids laying in bed doing nothing NEVER happens!!

So here are some pictures- this place is so beautiful and has so much history I could not contain my excitement.  I don't know what I expected, but I certainly did not expect to walk into the movie Pride and Prejudice!  This mansion was the home of the Batcheller family and was built in the 1800's and was frequently visited by several presidents of old, including President Roosevelt.  It holds many artifacts from several museums and all-in-all was just a beautiful place to stay.

Nanny and Poppy

My Poppy- still handsome as ever.  May you rest in peace. 

Driving to the hotel! 

Beautiful staircase


The sitting room

Jeff being scandalous with Marie Antoinette! 

This is actually where breakfast is served!

This is ONE if the kitchens- there is another in the basement that the servants would use, then they would use the dumbwaiter to lift food up to this kitchen.

Amazing two story windows

Artifacts from a museum (I missed when he said which museum)

The library

Brochures of the Batcheller Mansion Inn

Jeffy and me- Ten years baby!!!

I wasn't sure if this was like a museum or not, but I decided it was ok for me to kick my shoes off and lay down to take a picture!  For all you ladies who love Pride and Prejudice and Little Women, you can appreciate just how excited I was to be here and lay all over the furniture!

Yeuh boys!

This is our room- we stayed in the "Kate" room!

The bathroom!!!!!

Yes, the next few pics are totally me acting like a dork and pretending I am Jane Bennet.
So sue me  ;)

This is her.  Kate Batcheller- only surviving child of the Batcheller's.  And this was her  room we stayed in.  So interesting!  And we had a wonderful time.

Here's to the rest of our lives.  I love you Jeff.

*Dedicated to and in loving memory of my grandfather who I will always and forever remember as my "Poppy"