Advent, Advent, a little light burns

I just got back from a lovely trip along the Milky Way/I stopped off at the North Pole to spend the holiday!

Actually, it was the Hendersonville Armstrongs. And it was Thanksgiving. But it was just as magical as a trip to the North Pole via the Milky Way, I'm sure of it. We arrived on Wednesday at noon and I dropped Andrew off at FBC to shoot some hoops with the dudes. I GPSed my way to the Armstrong homestead and just made myself at home, watching Private Practice on ABC.com (couldn't work their new-fangled television) and --still--coughing and sputtering my head off. The next four days were a blurry--albeit relaxing--fury of family and friends and food, food, food and decorating and shopping and churching and hanging out. A highly successful Thanksgiving weekend, if I do say so m'self. We piled our loot in Stella's spacious backseat and zipped--well, crawled--our way back to Durham. We saw Christmas trees coming and going, strapped on the tops of cars, rolled up and squeezed on trailers to get to the tree vendor, and precariously dangling out of truck beds--and we saw about twice as many cops. Po-Po. Coppers. Officers of the Law. Interesting how cops are supposed to make you feel safe, like the good guys are gettin' the bad guys, when all they do for me is conjure up feelings of anxiety. When I see cops on the road, I just want to slow my vehicle to a walking pace and smile demurely like I've never done anything wrong in my life. If I spot a five-O anywhere near the vicinity of my automobile, I usually panic for a split second like I might be doing something wrong and I just don't know it--what's up with that, America?? Geez. I'm just drivin'. Anyyyyhow. We saw a bunch of fender-benders as well. And a lot of idiot drivers swerving in and out of traffic like getting to their destination 1.5 minutes quicker was all that mattered in the universe. Newsflash: you're an idiot and you make me want to ram the back of your vehicle, but I would never do that because I love Stella too much and that would not help the situation at large, but in another life, I would. I would. Ahem. Let me get a hold of myself. Pardon moi.

Onward: I would like to make note that today is the first Sunday in Advent. Advent is the period of each of the four Sundays before Christmas, honoring the coming of the Christ child into the world. Usually, we light advent wreaths, which have four candles around the outside and then a candle in the middle. Each candle is lit every Sunday prior to Christmas, and then on Christmas Day the middle candle is lit. The Latin word adventus means "coming", or the coming of Jesus. The time is supposed to be used in preparation and "expectant waiting" for the nativity. It is also meant to show the relationship between the waiting endured by the Hebrews for the coming of the Messiah, but also to mirror our own waiting on the second coming of Christ; to commemorate the first coming, whilst preparing for the second coming. One more of the wonderful things about Christmas. I love how God continually points to the past, present and future. Just lovely.

Advent, Advent, a little light burns. First one. Then two. Then three, then four. And then the Christ child at the door.


A list

Being sick is the pits. Being sick on a holiday weekend is an even bigger pit. Being sick during possibly the most important interview of your career is multiple humongous pits. The Boggy Dingle of pits (if you know what I'm talking about, kudos to you. You paid attention in Lit class in high school). I've got a nasty cold, and it just so happens that my number was called in the middle of a bronchial spasm.

This morning I interviewed at Duke Healthcare's Durham Regional Hospital for a nursing position in the Emergency Department. I almost couldn't believe my ears yesterday when the nurse recruiter called and said--and I quote--"are you ready to rock n' roll?" Andrew and I spent last evening strategizing and mock-interviewing. I would consider Andrew and interview expert--from Moorehead to Med school, he knows how to work a crowd. It was definitely a whirlwind, but in a way it was almost better to have less than 24 hours between the phone call and the interview--that way I didn't really have time to get super nervous. I was nervous, though, there's no arguing that. I was sweating like a dog and trying not to cough, or sneeze or gross them out anymore than I probably already was. I'm sure there was a mad-dash for the hand sanitizer as soon as I quit the premises. Anyhow, I should find out soon about the job. You'll be reading about it, I can promise you that.

If this really is the end, the end of this turbid, uncomfortable, stretching, pulling, fertilizing portion of my life, I really can say that I have learned. so. much. A hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12. I have experienced the aching frustration over not having a nursing job. But is has it really been not having a job? Or has it been not being in control, or not having everything work out for me on my time table? Or has it been letting my pride fall down? When we are told to wait by the God of the Universe, some of us have a hard time sitting still and not crossing our eyes and sticking our tongues out at him when he turns his back to his pupils and begins to scrawl on the chalkboard--Yours Truly included. And waiting is one thing, patiently waiting is a whole different ball of wax. Something I heard in a sermon recently really put things in perspective. I truly believe that God is constantly working on our hearts, our attitudes, our spiritual fruit--not our bank accounts, our calendars, etc. Not to say that he doesn't care--just stay with me. If you're not okay before _______, you won't be okay after ________. (Obviously you can fill in the blank as needed). In my case, God was prompting me that if I wasn't okay before being hired, I would not be okay after being hired. If my identity is not in Him, I will always feel inadequate. If my joy doesn't come from Him, I will never feel truly happy. If my security doesn't come from Jehovah Jireh, the Lord our Provider, I will always want more and be scared of being without.

So that's what I've learned. That, and a thousand other things. So, Thanksgiving is in a few days, and we're going to Hendersonville. My parents are meeting us there on Thursday to carve the turkey and stuff ourselves silly. Hopefully, I won't cough all over everyone, and it will be a cheerful affair. I'm pretty excited about the culinary delights on the horizon. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Turkey and stuffing and cranberry chutney. Sweet potato anything. Pumpkin bars. Mmmmmm. It will be different than having the five Smiths crammed in the kitchen cooking and baking all together, only to flop down at the table and devour the feast before us in less than half an hour. I have great memories of Thanksgiving during my childhood. Delicious food--with leftovers, playing games or watching Little Women with the fam, getting our Christmas tree and getting all of the decorations out of the attic. That, and my mom forcing us to go around the table saying what we're thankful for. And all of us trying to be honest without feeling cheesy. So, in light of that, I will go ahead and divulge my list of thanks:

First and foremost, and the most obvious and important circumstance to give thanks for: Jesus, sweet Jesus who gave his life that I may have eternal life

My incredible husband who has committed his life to mine and who is a prayer warrior, a people-lover, and a Christ-follower. For his love for me that is only surpassed by his love for Jesus.

My family and dear friends who have held up my arms in battle, who have taught me to love, laugh, try, try again, sing, dance, dream, and pray.

My college education and the beautiful campus that I roamed for four years. For Lever 9A4, The 'Houn and its drama, the Ridge and its beautiful residents. For purple and white scrubs that were completely see-through when it rained. For the 1-2-3-4 and cadence count. For the most exciting 25 seconds of college football. For the Pleez-u and Palms. For tea time. For FCA and doing two loads of laundry in hopes of a spectacular outfit. For Hilton Head and the bridge run. For bunk beds and cake cookies. For monthly CDs of the soundtrack of our lives. For Ancheaux and lying on the floor to recover. For Target runs. For giant paper mache eggs. For purple and orange being dominant colors in my wardrobe.

Christmas and everything in that sparkly, jolly package.

Jeans. Because I don't know anyone who looks bad in them.

My sweet little Muffin doggie and the 20 years she spent with us.


Chocolate. 'Nuff said.

Sweatpants. You know you love 'em.

Good books that make you forget time and space and just melt into their pages.

Marriage. Mine, and yours.

Ice water. every day. everywhere. It comes with me.

Stella Dijon the Avalon.

St. Andrews and Catch the Fire. Because God has used them both instrumentally in my life.

For Martha. :) (Guilty pleasure.)

I know there's more than this on my list, but I'm getting a little crispy around the edges, so I think it's time to wrap it up. I'm thankful. For you, and you, and you, and you.

For Thanksgiving dinner! Hooray!


Can't stop a movin' train

Today is Noah's birthday. He's 25. Yup, we're all two-ish years apart, with Jessica being almost-but-not-quite five years older than me and Noah being one year, 363 days older than me. I came home from the hospital on Noah's birthday. Not sure if a kid sister stealing the limelight of cute, squishy babyhood is the best birthday present, but I don't think he really had a choice. So today marks the anniversary of Noah's arrival on this planet (well, you know what I mean) 25 years ago. He is the best brother I've ever had and he is hilarious and very smart, always talking politics and history (sounds like someone else I know, mmmDaddy-o??). One of the reasons why I think he's the best. The hilarity never stops. We always peek at each other during the blessing at supper time. And then, in true big-brother form, Noah tells on me. I think Jesus is okay with it. I think He thinks it's funny, too. ;) Noah and Melody are fa', fa' away in New York City, fighting the good fight of crowds and tourists and subway trains and H1N1. I miss them very much. Three cheers for Noah, on his birthday!

This past weekend was Graham and Joanna Ashe's wedding--and a gorgeous wedding it was! They couldn't have asked for more perfect weather, 70 degrees and sunny, on the side of a mountain at sunset, no less. It really was a miracle--hurricane Ida cast a dark shadow on the week prior, so it was definitely good timing--God timing! Joanna was a beautiful bride and Graham a dashing groom--we can't wait 'til they get home so we can hang out! Side note, Andrew and I have been married for five months. FIVE. Count 'em. Where does the time go?

As you all know Monday was my birthday and I was showered with love and kisses and presents and cards and phone calls and texts all day and I got to buy Christmas decorations from Lowes and HomeGoods. It was almost too much joy and happiness for one poor soul to bear! Andrew and I went to the Melting Pot for a fondue birthday dinner--so. amazingly. drippy. and goooooood. We were stuffed like a coupla mushrooms. Apparently, the Swedes and the French have an on-going battle as to who "invented" fondue. They would. The Melting Pot is an interesting establishment--it's built like some kind of labyrinth with twists and turns and nooks and crannies, ("crannies??", says you), and private booths with privacy curtains. S-K-E-T-C-H-Y is all I have to say about that. Needless to say, Andrew and I did not pull the privacy curtain. We're not shy about eating fondue in public. All shady dealings aside, the food was quite delectable.

This weekend we'll be staying home, thank goodness, catching up on some QT, R&R, TLC and other acronyms. We've got a pig roast birthday party (not for me, for Michael and Grace) scheduled for Saturday evening with some friends from church and their UNC alumni pals. Sunday after church I'm going with some girls to see New Moon--don't knock it 'til you've tried it. I said the saaaame thing, "vampires? You're kidding, right?" But I read all of the books. All of 'em. In like three weeks, or as soon as I could beg, borrow, or steal the next book from my friends. Don't judge a book by its cover. Literally.

I would like to end this post with a joke that my cousin-in-law, Grant, told Barrett over the weekend: "Doctor, Doctor, can I have a new butt? Mine has a crack in it."

I don't write 'em, I just report the facts. That's it and that's all, folks. To bed, to bed.

The years go by/like stones under rushing water/ we only know/we only know when its gone.



I think I can safely say that my childhood has come softly and complacently to a close. Like a baby-sitter sneaking out of the room of a child they just ever so gently lulled to sleep, there it goes. Today on my 23rd birthday, I turned. Turned from 22 to 23. But really I think the moment you are one age, you begin to turn the next. So tomorrow, I will be turning 24. And the next day and the next until the day of my birth comes again. Not being a child doesn't mean I won't delight in Christmas, sleep in late, eat ice cream for dinner, love red skittles the best, or get excited about new tennis shoes--don't sign me up for shuffle board and the early-bird special just yet. Age is inevitable--maturity is optional; and youth is a state of mind, says my whipper-snapper of a father. And indeed it is.

One year, I think my five-year old birthday party, I had a "kitty-cat" birthday party. Cats. Everywhere. Cat cupcakes, cat plates, cat food (juuuust kidding), cat costumes. We had it all. Meeeeooowww. I think in 4th or 5th grade I had a princess birthday party, where everyone came in dress-up clothes and my dad made cut-out cardboard crowns and my friends and I colored in the "jewels". My mother served tea and crumpets and tiny sandwiches and other small, dainty, royal foods. At sweet 16 my mother threw me a huge surprise party with all of my friends from school and church--believe me I was surprised; I almost had a stroke when they all screamed from the dark. When I turned 18 I decided to have a Christmas themed birthday party, (you're shocked, aren't you?), and my parents dressed up as Santa and Mrs. Claus. Jessica and Melody were elves. Very cute elves, at that. At 19 I discovered designer jeans and when I turned 21 I discovered Budweiser Select. That, and my friends threw me a totally amazing surprise Christmas birthday party, (shocker again, right?), that I loved. Right down to the non-traditional "Christmas tree" (a small pine tree the boys chopped down in the woods) to the spray-on snow around the windows in our Ridge apartment (that we practically had to scrape off). At 10 you hit "double digits". At 13 you're a rotten teenager. At 15 you get your permit and your parents warn people to stay off the roads; at 16 your full license gives you freeeeedom--at least until your midnight curfew. Turn 18 and you're a voting adult. 20 you're in your "twenties". At 21 you're legal. At 23, apparently you get a husband. Yeeeehaw, I like 23!

I'm excited about my 23rd year of life. I'm thankful for it. I've got my health. I've got food, clothing, shelter. I've got family and friends that I love so much I just want to squeeze them all every time I see them. I've got a closer-than-a-brother, stickin'-like-glue, where-you-go-I-go relationship with JESUS, (woah, he's like totally famous). And I've got a song in my heart and a smile on my lips. And that, my friends, is more than a girl could ever ask for.

Amen, and amen.


Hurricane a-comin'

Ida has been sloshing over the middle of North Carolina for a few days now. The local meteorologist has been squawking about the wind and rain, and Rick Sanchez' "Fotos del Dia" showed a huge mudslide in Tennessee with boulders the size of pickup trucks. Yikes. Not to mention it's 48 degrees out. "Ida" sworn I left hurricanes behind when I left Charleston...sneaky storm. Raincoats and umbrellas are useless in weather like this: your lower half gets totally drenched by horizontal rain and your umbrella gets completely turned inside out by upward gusting wind. It's best just to call in sick. Stay in bed. or at least in your pajamas.

I cracked. I crumbled. I caved. I decorated. Well, I decorated as much as I could. No tree as of yet because, let's face it--it's still the beginning of November--but I put up a few strands of lights, busted out the green velvet lined table runner, threw down a red and white plaid kitchen rug and broke out the grey and red snowflake dishtowels. And I made some pine cone ornaments. All while Ida was hammering against my windows. First, I cleaned though. My mama didn't raise no fool--clean first, decorate second. That way when people are marveling at your clever, homemade, uniquely "you" decorations, they won't be totally grossed out and put off by a layer of grime stealing the show from the holly you hauled out. Clean the halls, then deck them.

The things that I love about Christmas are the things that, as a little kid, I looked forward to every year. Things eventually dubbed "traditions". Traditions are things that we hand down, from our parents to our children and their children. When we were kids we used to drive 45 minutes to McClellanville to the Saw-Dam Christmas Tree Farm, (which, of course, we thought was soooo risque because it almost had a curse word), to cut down our very own real live Christmas tree. We would get all bundled up, get old blankets, The Christmas music tape (yes, tape), and pile into the van, sometimes bringing our little Muffin girl with us. It was seriously the loooongessssst caaaaar rriiiiiiiide everrrrrrrr to get there and once we did, we still had to walk to where we'd pick out our saws before we could run (not with the saws, of course) through the rows upon rows of Christmas trees, measuring as only children can, the height, girth, fullness, and that special je ne sais quoi of our Christmas tree. And then, the three of us, Jessica, Noah and MaryGene, would skip around our tree singing "We want this one; yes we do! We want this one; how 'bout you!" It was less of a question to passersby, "Would you like this tree, or can we have it?", and more of a "THIS IS IT!" declaration to the world of Christmas tree buyers. Original, huh? Nevertheless, it became a tradition that we repeated every year. We hadn't really picked our tree if we hadn't sung the song. We would take turns sawing and then carry our tree to the front of the farm where they would put it on this jack-hammer-like machine that would shake all of the loose needles out of it, then send it through the netting loop and put it in the car. Those were the days. These are the days.

This weekend we're heading to Hendo for Graham and Joanna's wedding on Saturday! I can hardly believe it--it seems like a few days ago when we just moved here saying, "three and half months? Oh, that will fly by." And it has! We're praying for clear weather, not too cold, and beautiful fall leaves still on the trees. We're praying for peace, joy, and blessing upon blessing on their wedding day. It's amazing to me that whether or not God is invited into a wedding ceremony, he always shows--because marriage is something he designed and likened to himself. Whether you believe or not, there is a paradigm shift that every culture recognizes as spiritual. I really think that marriage is one of the "good things" that can happen to a person that will bring them closer to God, instead of having a crisis moment when they turn to God for a bail out. Sorry. Let me take off my Aristotle cap. So, annnnyway. We're excited about this weekend.

And now, I have to cook supper. See ya later, alligators.


I wear long sleeved shirts under short sleeved shirts under long sleeved shirts

Because lately I've been vacillating between depression over not having a place to hang my stethoscope and joy because God is, in fact, in control--after a quagmire of phone calls, emails, compulsively clicking "renew" on my job application accounts--I turn to Christmas to fill the void. Not in a sadly misguided eat-your-feelings kind of filling of the void, but when times get tough, tinsel can help.

So, I went to Barnes & Noble and Pottery Barn today. For four hours. Gasp! I read approximately nine children's Christmas books, Polar Express and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas included. Everything in me wanted to purchase a $4.95 Holiday tote bag and fill it chock full of books with titles boldly proclaiming that good always triumphs over evil and there is always a moral of the story and strangers will help pay for Christmas shoes for Mama. The bad news is that that's not possible. Bad things happen to good people. Hard work doesn't always return what you expect. But. I'm so thankful there's a but. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him...Romans 8:28. God is working. For me. For my good. His sleeves are rolled up and His brow is glistening with sweat. Good to know.

Pottery Barn miiiight possibly be my second favorite I-have-nothing-to-do-so-I'll-go-poke-around stores (Barnes & Noble being the first favorite). And they've recently turned over the floor to Christmas decor. That rhymes. Anyhow, right now their enchanting motifs make me want to turn klepto and line my pockets with hand blown ornaments, silvered wine stoppers, and cinnamon potpourri. Mmmm, five-finger discount. I've tamped down the urge, so you won't see my mug shot anytime soon, but I may have to decorate my apartment for Christmas before Thanksgiving. Would that be such a horrible thing? No. No, I don't think so. I did use a gift card from our June nuptials and I bought this (gorgeous green) and this (the smallest one) on sale! Both can be Christmas-y and both can be used during other seasons. Score! Thank you gift card giver!

IIIIII'm dreaming/of a [cheaaaaaaap] Christmas....that's why I'm going to use the leftover nuts from my nut wreath for ornaments. A little glue and a little twine and you've got a super cheap organic ornament! I'm thinking about pine cones as well. And glitter. I got all of my Christmas ornaments out today--all seven of them--and realized that this may not be the Christmas of a carefully collected, preciously ornamented tree. It might just have to be a graceful Fraser fur of nuts, pine cones, ribbon, crocheted snowflakes and white lights. Who knows, maybe I'll get sassy and throw in a red and green construction paper chain.

Wanna know a secret? (This is a non-noel bit of news.) Don't tell anyone, but I've started using vitamin and anti-oxidant rich, anti-aging Olay Total Effects face lotion plus SPF 15. I know--you're thinking, "anti-aging? What, are you trying to look like an infant?", but all we hear about these days is preventative medicine. Prevent: -verb- to keep from occurring, avert, hinder. to act ahead of; forestall. I'd rather layer on the lotion now than inject botulinum toxins into my crows feet later. Yeah! Other age interrupters? Sleep and exercise. Juuuust what you wanted to hear. ;)

As for the title of this posting, I have no excuse. It just popped into my head and came out through my finger tips.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow: Stephanie Ashmore and Ryan Lee = engaged!


My apologies for all of the nut jokes in this post

I wonder what Martha Stewart's middle name is. Maybe Nancy. Martha Nancy Stewart. Beatrice? Martha Beatrice Stewart. Yolanda? Martha Yolanda Stewart. Definitely Yolanda. I wonder why she didn't go by Martha-Yo (bahaha).

So, in Martha-Yo's November issue of M.[Y.]S. Living there were a few crafty craft ideas involving wreaths. Being as I'm still unemployed I thought, "I'd be nuts not to make this wreath!". And I think you would be, too. It's super simple and returns a very sweet, unexpected, home-made decoration that will quite easily float you from Thanksgiving to Christmas without having to lift a finely manicured finger. Here's how!

Assemble your supplies. You'll need a wreath form*, mixed nuts--from your local Nut-House (or Harris Teeter), a long ribbon (in the magazine Martha-Yo uses about a three inch sable brown satin ribbon, but I used a two inch cream grosgrain ribbon because I already had it), a hot glue gun, and spray matte lacquer. Make sure you put something down on whatever surface you're working on--you will have drips. *Note: Remember that your wreath will be quite weighty with all of the nuts on it, so don't be too ambitious with the diameter of the wreath form. I thought, "Aw, nuts, mine might be too small!", but it turned out to be just right.

Begin hot gluing the nuts to the wreath form. Use the larger nuts first, like pecans, walnuts, Brazil nuts, and use the smaller nuts (almonds and hazelnuts) to "fill in". Glue them every-which-way to get a really full look, making sure the wreath form can't been seen through the nuts. You can even use acorns if you've got oak trees in your area. Fo' Free!

Optional--you can spray a matte lacquer finish on to make sure that the nuts don't go bad--I'm not really sure if they would or if they do, but just to be on the safe side. Tie on your ribbon, and voila! A nut wreath. You can tie the ribbon in a sailor knot, a bow on the bottom, the top, or the side, or even just use the ribbon as the hanger for the wreath from the top. Here's the finished product: I'm just nutty for this nut wreath!


It's a topsy-turvy world, but somebody's got to write about it

I just got back from a jaunt around the neighborhood and it has occurred to me that there's this one nagging thing about taking walks outside that presents itself as a thorn in my be-Niked side: walkers passing walkers.

Bike riders and runners have an unspoken agreement that permits them to yell "LEFT!" whenever they're passing someone, but walkers--no. They've got nothing but an awkward, startling moment when they see someone walking directly beside them. I'm obviously not talking about walkers passing other walkers going in opposite directions--no, that's never a problem. The only issue there is when to make eye contact and how long to hold it, but that's a different blog post for a different day. When one is on a walking path, trying to power through the Reece's cups she ate the previous day (this happened to a friend of mine) and she spies another walker up ahead walking in the same direction, but slightly slower than her briskly stepping self, she is between a rock and a hard place: She can't yell out "LEFT!", completely startling her walking neighbor and then walk awkwardly right next to them for the longest half-second in history, if at a slightly quicker pace. Pretending to be a runner would be a complete farce, if only for the huffing and puffing and clutching her side as she cramps up. It's a lose-lose situation. So, what does she (I) do? Just try to walk as quickly as she possibly can without looking like she has some neurological problem past the other person, saying hello (which totally scares the bejeezus out of most people anyway) and pressing onward. Oh, the perils of suburbia.

Andrew and I have been wanting to start swimming together for exercise, just for a change of scenery and to get back into the greatest sport ever made. Both of UNC's pools are currently under construction, so they've contracted out with two of the local rec departments to allow students to use the pools for free. Yesterday morning, we went to "Homestead Aquatics" to dip our toes in the lap pool and see just how out of shape we really were. First of all, Homestead Aquatics sounds like a place that sells cattle and fish tanks. Secondly, I did not want to put on my cherry-red TYR unitard for everyone to stare at my undulating hind-quarters as I made my way from the locker room to the pool deck. I did make it to the pool alive and relatively unscathed, until I realized that my husband had traded places with Michael Phelps and left me in the dust--er, bubbles. Andrew had this whole plan of "sets" and "drills" and "warm-ups" and all these things that made me just want to sink underwater and have a tea party at the bottom of the pool. At the end of our workout, however, I did feel really good--swimming really is the best exercise there is. We're going to try, try, try to swim at least twice a week, if not three times. And maybe the unitard might not be such a scary thing. Best laid plans of mice and men. We shall see!

In my next blog post (or one coming up) I will be making a nut wreath. Chew on that.


Price tag: a thousand words

You can't see the blue tights, blue crocs and snow boots in this photo, but it's the best we've got. Moo. or Snort. Whatever oxes (oxenisn?) do.

Find a tree and put it in your house

November First. First November, then December! Today, is el Dia de los Muertos for Latin America--the Day of the Dead, literally--a day to remember and honor friends and loved ones that have passed away. You can find out more information about this holy day of our Hispanic neighbors to the south here. What a mosaic world we live in.

So, Andrew and I have re-discovered a favorite family past time: Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Yep, Jane Seymour, Gerber baby extraordinaire, has found her way back to our TV screen and back into our hearts. Let me just say--although no one is quite as smokin' hot as my one and only--Sully. is. fiiiiiine. He lives with the Indians. Basically, if you've never let your imagination go with this family-friendly TV series, you're missing out. It's set in Colorado Springs in the 1800s (think General Custer, Civil War era, etc.) and Dr. Michaela Quinn is an unmarried, female physician that moves to this quaint little settlement to be the town doctor. Of course, the drama unfolds because she's a woman, she's alone, she's a high falutin Bostonian--you get the picture. In the pilot episode, she is bequeathed three children (Matthew, Colleen, and Brian) by a woman on her deathbed, and of course, Sully, the Indian outlaw, begins to notice her and romance blooms, unbeknownst to them. There's medical drama, cowboys and Indians drama, love drama--it's just great! Way better than the OC or One Tree Hill or any other mindless "drama" series today. All's I'm sayin'.

Saturday morning, we drove over to an area of Raleigh called South Park, a neighborhood rife with poverty, gang violence, prostitution, and heavy drug activity to participate in a "Love Feast", a name aptly given to this outpouring of our abundant resources--God's abundant resources--to the community there. We had hamburgers, hot dogs, cole slaw, potato salad, birthday cakes, chips, fruit, candy and more to serve up to the people who live in South Park. We took any extra winter clothes, blankets, shoes, etc. to give away to anyone who had need. We put our nerves behind us and prayed for anyone who would let us, and most were very willing to receive prayer. It was an interesting, awkward, fun, sad, uncomfortable, natural, heartbreaking, heavenly, faith-building experience, one that I hope, I pray will show up repeatedly in the timeline of my lifetime. It is the Church's responsibility to care for this poor, hurting, broken world. And we don't have to go to Africa to do it. It is my responsibility to feed, clothe, pray for the neighborhoods around me that are quite easily and readily (might I say, thankfully?) driven by, detoured around, shied away from. And in my limited, novice experience, I really believe that in these communities respect and trust come with consistency. A church cannot do a drive by at Christmas or Thanksgiving--these people are hungry and naked more than twice a year. Lord, put a burr under my saddle, that I may never feel okay not helping those who need it. Make me uncomfortable in my comfort, that I may be a laid down lover of Jesus Christ, and his little lost lambs.

Saturday evening was an entirely different scenario. It was Halloween, All Hallows Eve, (there's a connection to el Dia de los Muertos there), and Andrew and I went to a "costume optional" party at David Goodman's for mostly Summit Church people that had previously been helping out with their kids' Fall Festival type deal. So, anyway, some people were dressed up--and by dressed up I mean they wore jeans, a flannel shirt, and a cowboy hat--but Andrew and I were dressed up. In some languages, "dressed up" also translates to embarrassed, mortified, snickered at. We were Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Never mind that Babe, in fact, was male, let's just talk about the fact that I had viking horns glued to a blue kids' headband that made the clearance of my upper half about three times wider than it is naturally. Yeah, I stabbed a guy in the jugular with one of my horns trying to get something to drink. I also had a cowbell roughly the size of my head around my neck that actually made noise--lots of it. Eventually I took it off because, let's face it--it was hard to walk and could even be heard above the din of people playing NERTS or exclaiming over the hot cider. My poor, dear, sweetie-peetie-poo-poo Andrew was wearing a waffle shirt, a flannel shirt, Carhart pants, snow boots, and a beanie--not to mention the frying pan and hatchet! He was sweating like a dog, but totally looked the part. Hey, go big or go home, right? Do it right or don't do it at all, folks.

It just so happens that I pushed pause on this creative query into my weekend happenings and spent a moment in time with a precious sister and her lovely boyfriend: Lauren and Eric. They were just a-passing through, on their way back to Clemson, but wanted to stop for a quick hello and a bit of leftover Halloween candy. It is refreshing to see familiar faces--ones so dear, at that--in my neck of the woods. What a blessing.

A tree in my house: So, my tentative plan is to get a Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving, the first weekend in December. I will say that usually I would like to get a tree on Thanksgiving weekend, but we'll be out of town visiting the fam. I'm just lettin' y'all know so no one loses sleep. Don't worry.

A praise report: I am ecstatic to announce the long awaited and much prayed for engagement of Jamie Blackwell to Kent Orr!!