The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. ~ Psalm 16:6 nasb

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Our 2015 Christmas

We anticipated a very simple Christmas again this year, with a quiet day spent with family at my brother's home.  Quiet = peaceful and calm, without any "rush of the season" or excessive gift-giving. 

At the beginning of the month, after we came home from California, I appreciated the simplicity of this year's Christmas season.  But, I really wanted a tree, simple yet beautiful to fill our home with a Christmas-y atmosphere.  And a few weeks before Christmas Day, Fernando surprised me.

"Let's go out and get a tree--right now!" he said one balmy afternoon.  We drove to a local farm which rents their space to a Michigan tree farm each year.  A friendly employee greeted us, and within literally two minutes we had found our tree--a little bigger than I wanted, but it had just been put out and was perfect.

Fernando and Joseph carried it in and got it set up.  This year, we located the tree stand first, before heading out to get our tree.  *Ahem*  It's much easier this way, than having to stand in the living room holding a tree while someone runs around searching for the stand, only to find it exactly where I thought I had put it (its logical resting place) the year before.

I collect ornaments, just one or two each year--snowflakes, leaves (my new obsession), and glass icicles.  I'm slowly adding beautiful pieces to my collection, until our tree will one day be covered with unique and memorable ornaments.

The weekend before Christmas, Fernando and I headed out in the car to see some local homes decorated for the holidays.  Here are are few of my favorites.

Christmas Day was spent at Jeff's; although he's a bachelor, he can certainly make his home look festive.

The day was spent playing together, eating (pretty much all day--brunch, snacks, more snacks, main meal, and dessert!), going for a walk, and lots of conversation and laughter.  Jake had to work, so he drove over mid-afternoon, and our little clan was complete.

My sister-in-law gave a goody bag, filled with sweet and salty treats, to the boys.  My parents gave each of the boys gift cards to their favorite restaurants, plus Andy's Custard (the lucky dogs!!).  I gave my Mom a Pampered Chef gadget she had wanted, and I gave Fernando tickets to see Brian Regan in concert next month!!  (Maybe that one was more for me than for him...)

After a fun- and food-filled day, everyone headed home.

We hope you had a beautiful, peaceful and calm Christmas Day with your loved ones!!

Back to life,

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Patching Things Up

Recently, Fernando had a stretch of free time, and decided to use some of it to patch the hole in our family room ceiling.  Yay!

After getting estimates in the $1,000+ range for a fix to our leaky drain, Fernando did some extensive research and found an innovative solution to repair the drain.  We wouldn't have to tear out the shower unit, replace the piping, re-install a new unit, re-tape, repaint, etc.

A little bit of drywall and some drywall screws were all that was needed.

Now that Fernando fixed the ceiling, it's up to me to get the ceiling taped, then mudded and repainted.  That'll probably take some time (says this expert procrastinator).


For now, the hole is gone, and my ceiling looks almost normal!

Back to life,

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

New Every Morning Part Eleven

The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23 NASB

Read previous segments here:

The Beginning
The Injury
The Furnace
The Waiting
The House
The Phone Call
The Truck
The Car
The Business


December 2, with eyes turned toward Christmas and the long winter ahead, I found myself at the beach, lying on a borrowed beach blanket, soaking in the 75-degree warmth of the sun, Fernando's caress on my arm reminding me I was not alone.  We came to California to be with family at the death of Fernando's aunt, and here we were absorbing the surreal summerlike scene before us.

It's hard to believe we're over two years into this strange, wonderful, confusing journey.  I've concluded that we're not simply on a detour; we're traveling an entirely new road, without a map.  And not just one twisty-turny road, but one marked with exit ramps on to new paths, through tangled forests and dry deserts, with rest stops and interminable stretches of just driving and driving, purposelessly but we know there's a purpose and an end...

But, for now we were at the beach, with a glorious view:  children searching for pretty shells, surfers seeking that big wave, and sandpipers skittering along the sand just out of the water's reach.  This day was made for rest, not only in the middle of a week spent with family, but rest from our waiting, and trusting, and wondering, and questioning.  Simply resting in Him.

Fernando has been filling out job applications--dozens of them--these past weeks, seeking an additional source of revenue since income from his business had slowed down.  He decided on this new course in order to secure steady work, while at the same time determined to work his business as a side job until it could become our main source of income.  And I determined to follow and support him, whatever it takes, in the words of my practically-a-sister and dear friend Tressey.

Fernando doesn't doesn't fret and worry about the future, how we'll make it, or what's going to happen.  That's what I do, deep inside, far away from the calm exterior.

I don't understand.  It seemed the Lord had opened all the doors for Fernando to start his business and begin earning a living.  Why did that end after just a few months?  What was the purpose of all that work?  A beautiful morning, a promising and bright blue day, and then so soon, nightfall.  I honestly don't know the next step from here.

As I sat there watching the sun go down, snapping an occasional picture and keeping an eye on waves encroaching on my camera and tripod, I felt the sun going down on this new road.  Was it already time for an unknown detour, another undetermined off-ramp to who knows where?

In the midst of all these questions, there was peace, and uncertainty, and hope, and a somewhat desperate trust.  I know the Lord holds my future.  I know His plans are sure.  I know He loves me with an everlasting love.  I know my future is certain in Him.  But I doubt nonetheless.  I am afraid.

But to Mary, to Zacharias, to Joseph, to the shepherds, to Jairus, over and over, He says,

Do not be afraid.

As the sun set, and the ocean waves grew softer through the lens of my camera, His Spirit stirred in me the same words that could calm a heart or a storm on the sea.

Do not be afraid.

Quietly, as the waves flowed in and ebbed, I breathed in, then out.  The night fell.  These words were enough.

And, just a few weeks later, the next segment is here for you to read!

Back to life,

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

When I First Met You

Dear Matt and Jenna,

I can't believe you're both already five (and a half!) and this was the first time I met you.  Matt, you gave me a ready hug, totally comfortable with your Aunt Christine and Uncle Fernando being there in your home.  Jenna, you ran and hid around the corner in the kitchen by the oven, peeking out to smile but not coming out until you were ready.  I was happy to wait for you to get comfortable, which you did fairly quickly.  You both quickly found treasured places in my heart!

The first pictures I took of you, Jenna, were of you and Uncle Fernando coloring.

He drew you a shark, and you both colored the picture together.  He gave you goofy looks every now and then to get you smiling.  He's such a goofy guy, and easy to like, isn't he?

I love how you smiled at the camera, while Uncle Fernando has the silliest expression on his face!  I wonder what he was thinking at that moment...

Thank you for posing with your uncle with your beautiful picture!  He drew a shark, and you decorated it.  Just lovely!

When I suggested we go outside--it was beautifully warm and almost the perfect time of day for portraits and wouldn't it be great to surprise your parents with some pictures--you both came, and I got some great pictures.

Although this portrait is a little out of focus, I love it, Matt!  You are a sweetheart, even if you have that crazy little-boy heart inside!

Jenna, your tender heart shines through your beautiful blue eyes.  You are truly a precious flower, love.

What better way to capture your personalities than on a swing??  The pure child-delight radiates from your faces, and I loved photographing that.

You two are precious blessings, you know that?  I hope I get to see you again soon, and I hope you remember me throughout the years, for you will always have a precious piece of my heart.

Love always,
Auntie Christine

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

La Familia

The day after Thanksgiving is usually a mellow, stay-at-home sort of day for us.  Some years, we've gone out to get our Christmas tree; usually, we hang out at home and relax together.  This year, Fernando and I woke up early--to shower, dress, pack, and drive to the airport.  We flew out to California to be with Fernando's family at the death of his Tia Dora.  After a day spent celebrating with my family, we would be spending a week making memories with Fernando's familia.

This trip was eight years from the last time I visited, and seven years for Fernando.  It was entirely too long.  Tony (Fernando's brother) and Kirsten provided room and board for us while we were there, and our first full day there, Saturday, was a time to get together with family.

Out in Tony's garage, the brothers played pool.  I'm so glad someone suggested getting a picture of them together!

Joe, Tony, Fernando, Marc, Rick

A little later, the guys came in for another family picture with their sister.

Joe, Tony, Marc, Rick, Alma, Fernando

On Sunday morning (11/29), Fernando and I attended a service for Tia Dora, and the parlor was packed with family--many cousins, aunts, and uncles who were familiar, and others both of us were meeting for the first time.  It had been eight years since I had been out, and almost as long for Fernando.  It was so good to connect with la familia after so long an absence.

After the service, we ate with the family, then headed back to Tia's home to visit with family.  Toward the end of the afternoon, the group gathered for pictures on the front lawn.

The guys.

Below is the entire group, with Athena holding her grandmother's (Tia Dora's) portrait.  It's a beautiful testament to the enduring bond this family shares.

A few days later, we went back to visit with whoever remained at the house--one last time before we each returned to our own homes and who knows how long until the next visit.  Fernando's brother Tony shone his mobile phone flashlight on us so I could get a picture in the dark!  And Fernando made a super-goofy comment to get everyone laughing.

It was an entirely appropriate ending to our cherished time together:  laughter.

Back to life,

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Friday, November 27, 2015


Thanksgiving 2015.

First, I'm sharing this sweet picture of Joseph peeling potatoes the day before Thanksgiving--which is when I do most of my food prep work.  He peeled ten pounds' worth for me!!

Dad and mom hosted the holiday this year, with the entire family gathering together.

Relaxing while Mom, Char and I work in the kitchen.

I was so busy helping Mom get all the food ready that I didn't take a family photo, as I have done the past several years.  All I got was the table settings!

Fernando helped Mom pull the turkey out of the oven.  Mom had had a break last year--it was my first year preparing the bird and hosting Thanksgiving--so our 20-pound bird was a monster for her!  I think she's ready to give up Thanksgiving turkey-baking for good!

Mom didn't brine the turkey--purchased from our farmers Eric and Samantha over at Nature's Choice Farm--and it turned out delicious.  Yay for us!

After dinner, we cleaned up and spent the afternoon relaxing, playing, and sharing conversation.

I took the below for Dad and Mom to use in their Christmas cards this year.  :)

Thomas chillin' with his tablet.

Ping-Pong!  This brought back memories from my teen years, for sure.

Danny, with goofy face as usual.

Danny discussed computer monitors with Grandpa, with his Uncle Jeff looking on.

No one forgets dessert on Thanksgiving Day.  I had rolled out crusts for four pies, experimented with fashioning some creatively-edged crusts.  At the end, I had enough extra dough left over that I exclaimed, "Boy, there's enough dough here I could probably make another pie!"

Thirty seconds later, Joe appeared at my side with a pie tin.  "Here you go, Mom!"

"Um, I didn't mean..."

Then, "And I know just what to fill it with!"

Thirty more seconds, and he re-appeared with two cans of plums, gifted to us by my generous friend Heather.

He added, "And we already have crumble pie topping for it in the freezer!"

Hence, the 7th pie on the right in back--plum pie!  (Mom made two of these pies...)

The pies were enjoyed by all, with fresh whipped cream, and ice cream brought by Jeff.

The cherry on top of the day ended up being the Chicago Bears' victory over the Green Bay Packers--what a thrilling game down to the final seconds!!

Thanksgiving usually encompasses the four-day weekend, with leftovers lasting that whole time and me not having to cook, with pie being eaten at various times and for various meals, naturally.  This Thanksgiving, however, was tinted with sorrow at the passing of Fernando's Tia (Aunt) Dora.  Providentially, we were able to obtain last-minute free plane tickets to fly out to Los Angeles to be with his family, and what a Godsend it would be:  Fernando hadn't really visited his family in the seven years since his mom's death, and I hadn't been out in eight (when we visited with our boys).

We would miss a wedding over the weekend, but other than that our schedule was clear (more Providence!), our guys could take care of themselves (thank You for leftovers!!), and we had a ride to and from the airport.  Before we knew it, we were off and flying.

Back to life,

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