Thursday, December 26, 2013

Making Magical Memories

Great things come in small packages!
I think that the most vivid memories of Christmases past are usually not about the gifts that were received or even given, but of the spirit of love, the special warmth of Christmas worship, the cherished traditions of home and the results of just being Jesus to one another.

Yesterday was amazing. We were pretty sure that our boys wouldn't mind not opening too many gifts on Christmas. After all, we only ever do 3 gifts per child, but those gifts are treasured. This year we decided that we just wanted to focus on making memories. As our boys get older, they desire to spend time with friends (which is understandable and acceptable), but we know that before we know it, a girl just might steal their heart...and then our lives will change dramatically!

So my husband and I figured out a way that we could afford annual passes to Disney World this year. We were going to surprise them good! We had to wake them up at youngest was VERY tired.
I had packed a Bible in each of these boxes (for weight). On top of that I laid their annual pass to Disney and then on top of that was a Disney World rain poncho!

You can tell by the looks on their faces...they were in total shock. It has been several years since we visited Disney World. We were going to Disney on Christmas Day! Last Christmas Mr. Incredible had to work...we waited around until he got home, then he had to go to bed shortly after that. This Christmas he had off! It just happened to be on his day off! That alone was a gift!

So, there wasn't a whole lot of unwrapping to do. As we arrived at Disney, we were very aware of those men and women having to work on Christmas day...and doing so with a smile. We thanked every Disney worker we could for giving their time. We wore our "We Are Family" shirts that our church had made for our Pastor's sermon series...on Family Values. We represented our new church (Family Worship Center was on the back of the shirt) as well as Jesus!

 It really is a very magical place! You can't help but smile!
Let the memory making year begin! We made sure we let others go before us in line if they were struggling to get there first. We moved back so smaller children could see things. We really tried to think of others today! That is what made the day so special. We knew we could keep going back to Disney and we had no problem showing people the love of Christ on His special day!

 It's a small world is one of my favorites. It never gets old!
Italy - my heritage!

You know, because he wants to be president someday!

We explored Tom Sawyer Island. That was fun...going over on the raft and then exploring trails, mines and crooked bridges! We even explored a hidden escape hatch!!
Exploring Tom Sawyer Island!
After Tom Sawyer Island, we went to our Fastpass destination...Space Mountain. This ride just about did me in. Maybe I'm getting to old, but my brain felt like it was jostling around just a little too much! So as the other boys and Dad went on Pirates of the Caribbean, Shane and I went to a show and got a great spot for the Christmas Parade!
Waiting for Mickey and friends to do their Christmas Celebration Show!

 Parades are my favorite! Especially at Christmas! The songs, the smiles, the snow!! Really you can't beat it!

We survived Disney on Christmas Day. It really wasn't as bad as everyone was telling us it would be. We ended in up in a restaurant off Disney grounds (not easy to find on Christmas day) and we blessed the socks of our waiter Gus. He was amazing, did everything with a smile, but would have much preferred being home with his family!

I love that my boys enjoy being with us! I love that they enjoy serving with us and we are in fact still their favorite people! They couldn't stop thanking us and hugging us and dreaming of what to do next! This will get them away from their electronic devices a bit, help them use their imagination, and keep us all walking around Disney GREAT exercise!

Looking forward to spending some quality time with each other this coming year - building magical memories that will last a lifetime! It was a different Christmas...not a traditional one by any means...but it was quite magical to say the least!

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Resurrected Tradition

As promised I will post the outcome of tonight's adventure. This was my status update on Facebook this morning (Saturday, December 21, 2013) :

Tonight I will be doing the unthinkable. I will be allowing my children, to once again, create a gingerbread house. Now, for those that do not understand...I may be great with cookies, but gingerbread houses have been my undoing. Our last experience was, for lack of a better word, tragic. (so much so that I swore...NEVER EVER to attempt one EVER again) I will NOT however be doing this alone. We have enlisted a couple who are highly trained and apparently very successful to assist. If you would just pray, my children are, as you can imagine, suffering from PTGBHBS (Post traumatic gingerbread house building syndrome). Pray that tonight's experience will redeem this Christmas tradition for the Engel boys. lol!! Off to purchase some supplies! (After this evening I promise to update in a blog - that will explain any of the gaps in this status update). ;P

What some do not know, is that last December, I was experiencing pre-menopausal symptoms. I didn't realize what was going on. This particular day, this day of gingerbread house disaster story was indeed my undoing and my reason for getting help. (You can read about some of this experience here: What Do You Call An Old Chicken)

It was December 10, 2012, I remember the day like it was yesterday. We had 3 kids and 5 gingerbread houses to build. I had every supply neatly organized, each boy was patiently waiting their turn to decorate. One bag of icing (which clearly is not enough) and several cute candies to place on each house. I put together one house, gave it to the Shane and started on Kyle's house. While I was trying to put Kyle house together Shane's house collapses! I put Kyle's house on hold and attempt to fix Shane's. In the meantime, Brendan sits patiently waiting. While trying to fix Shane's his candy that he meticulously placed starts falling off the roof of the house. I give him his back and attempt to fix Kyle's. This went on...way to long. Finally finished building Brendan's and Kyle's fell apart again..with almost all candy on them. I still promised two more houses, but after all the repairs. I had no icing! UGH!

At some point in all the chaos, I cry out..."I PROMISE YOU....WE WILL NEVER EVER BE DOING THESE EVER EVER AGAIN!" "I HATE GINGERBREAD HOUSES!" I had to walk away from the table a few times. Here was the result:

OK, I know it doesn't seem awful, but that is because my boys are adorable and I love them and they are amazing...but this was pure torture for me! I let my kids eat whatever they wanted immediately after this picture. I wanted nothing in my house to remind me of this. About an hour after all of this, as I was still cleaning up, I saw out of the corner of my eye, my son Brendan running away. I went to him and calmly asked..."What's the matter honey?" I noticed that he was crying. He said..."I'm so sorry Mom, I am so sorry!" What in the world! It is okay honey! No matter what it was....tell me what happened! I went real close to him and he hugged me. I was worried, I didn't know what happened. He finally walked out and showed me that one of my dining room chairs was broken. He said he was standing on the side of it and the leg snapped in half.  Calmly and lovingly I held him in my arms and said.."Hey, its ok! It's only a chair sweetheart! It's just stuff...don't worry about it!" It was that moment...that very important moment that caused me to call the Doctor the next day. I just flipped out like a mad woman over a gingerbread house that kept breaking...and now (like Jeckyl and Hyde) I was calm as a cucumber over real furniture! Something was desperately wrong with me. We laughed through tears...and I decided...promised...pledged NEVER to attempt these things again!

Tonight, I will be observing as some of the masters of Gingerbread House Building attempt to redeem this Christmas tradition that has tragically died in my house. I'll return to post pictures and write an update!

I'm back (Monday, December 23, 2013)! I had to wait until the competition was over. Our friends had people vote on their favorite...and posted all 8 of the gingerbread houses that were completed by their 5 children and my 3 children.

Well, I must confess...this year's gingerbread house building and decorating was amazing. I didn't have to do one thing except operate in my love language...words of affirmation. I can do that. I'm not gifted in the art of gingerbread house building, but I can encourage like nobody's business.

The Reynold's family were all prepared (you can tell they were experts). Long table with plenty room for 8 children, bowls filled to the rim with every candy you can imagine and graham crackers...lots of them. Both families contributed to the candy stash as well as the royal icing. (Although...we had WAY too much of both - better to be prepared!) Last year...I ran out of icing that was given to us in the kit...very frustrating.

So here are the results. I'm proud of my boys. They operate in a deficit because I don't really do much in the craft department with them. However, they were amazing! They went right to work...without any touch of adult hands...whatsoever! Not only am I proud, I'm also VERY THANKFUL!

Brendan's Gingerbread house and yard! 

This was Kyle's mobile outhouse. (one side of it) 

Here is the entrance to Kyle's mobile outhouse. That's a nice place to go potty I think!

And finally my Shane...A Christmas castle!
I'm pretty sure their favorite part was knowing they accomplished this tradition that we all thought was dead forever. They did it on their own and then they got to eat as much as they could when they were done! Besides the smiles on their faces, the joy in their hearts and the fellowship with some awesome friends...for me, I enjoyed watching them be creative and then eating I didn't have to bring it home!

I cannot believe I'm saying this, but I've decided, promised, pledged that I will allow my boys to do this again next year! Truth! They had a great time..from picking out the candy, to building and eating it!

Christmas! We have so many wonderful traditions around this time of year: our advent calendar, cookie backing, reading stories, hanging ornaments and retelling every story that goes with each one, seeing Christmas lights, watching movies and I'm sure there are some I'm forgetting to mention. So now, thanks to our friends who encouraged me to give it one more try - we celebrate a resurrected tradition! Merry Christmas to you and may you all enjoy the traditions of your family during your celebration of Christ's birth!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Priceless Treasure

Summer of 2013 After being gone from him for a month on vacation,
this was a much needed reunion!

This week is flooded with memories! I'm not sure I'll be able to post on the exact here is a conglomerate.

This will be one crazy busy weekend as Friday night I will be at my final set up for Bagels & Blessings and the Saturday my final B&B teaching (unless of course I'm invited to share again), right after that is my son's play at church and then Sunday is my 23rd Wedding Anniversary. Whew!

December 12th marks the 16th anniversary of the loss of our first son. You can read more about that in There is a Time For Everything. So I sometimes get a bit emotional at the memory of that, not that I'm still sad, but I just remember the time and how it really affected the rest of the month of December that particular year. I know I will meet with every single one of my babies again someday when we see Jesus face to face - and that actually brings me joy.

Then there is the closing of this chapter in my life. My final Bagels & Blessings at EAC. I will be stepping down as Women's Ministry Director after 5 years of serving, and actually announcing that my family and I have been worshiping someplace new. I've been very quiet about it. I guess I was thinking no one would actually notice that we've not been there on Sunday mornings. :) I have received several phone calls in the past 3 months...especially from the people that sat nearby. At any rate, this is a wonderful thing. While my heart is still not sure how to leave Bagels & Blessings, because in some ways I feel like it is my baby. I know it has grown up and it is fully functional and totally does not need me, but still, I liken it to when your child goes off to college. You've done well, you gave birth then you've watched your baby go through some growing pains, you've see it blossom and become its own thing...and then boom..its ready to stand on its own and doesn't need Mama anymore. :) I know it sounds silly. I have some friends who actually understand my silly heart - and I'm thankful. I've come to be very excited about what God is going to do...B&B is His...and so I know He's got the perfect plan for it! As for me and my family...well, we're His too and I know He has some amazing plans for us as well.

Still, I'm going to miss doing this - and I'm going to miss the women especially! I just have such an incredible love for the women who come to B&B. I know that is from the Lord...because even when women are new...I just love them so! EAC will always be a part of my family...we've been there 10 years and have walked through some very difficult storms personally and corporately, but we have rejoiced over many miraculous times as well. You know we bond through those times right?! So thankful for my relationships and friendships that will last for eternity! Such incredible gifts.

I'll be sharing on JOY! I think it is the perfect way to close this chapter!! I'm so very very excited and I think the Lord has big plans for Saturday!

Then there is Sunday. My 23rd wedding anniversary.

Last year I wrote a blog that talked about my wedding day it was called Holding His Hand. The year before that it was "I Still Do!" I've been blogging since 2007 how many ways can I express my joy of being married to my best friend?

Well every year it is just a little different. You reflect on the past year and so much happens. As we approach our 23rd anniversary we are both aware that we've been married for over half of my life.

The making of a great marriage is hard work. As we grow older together, there is a level of comfort, but this year I'm finding a new spark in the thought that we do this thing called life really well together. It isn't like everybody else..its the way the Engels do it and I really really LOVE it!

After 23 years, I still get butterflies when he holds my hand - it brings me right back to my college days. I love just sitting next to him. There is so much more behind a kiss after 23 is deeper, more meaningful. I couldn't be more proud of someone in my whole life! I mean I'm super proud of my children, but I have to admit, I supremely proud of my husband. He is such a sweet and loving soul. Even when he is going through difficult times in his life I want nothing more than to be his cheerleader! I'm not shy at all when it comes to bragging about him! I love the fact that we are most definitely best friends. There are NEVER any eggs shells, NEVER any worries, NEVER any doubts....ALWAYS REAL!

Unlike some couples, we had a good 10 years before we were able to conceive children. I think that has made our lives, in some ways, a bit easier. Well, I said in some ways. I think parenting when we were in our 20s would have been a bit easier (more energy) but ... oh well, so we're old parents! That is why I color my hair!

Is my marriage perfect! I laugh....NO! I love him...the best I can here on earth and I know he loves me the best he can - but if you're looking for perfection...then that would be Jesus! We both know I think that helps too!

Mike Engel - here's to eternity! May we continue to weather the storms together, walk on water together, share in victories together! May we continue to honor each other, look out for each other, love each other the best way we know how. May we never give up on learning new ways to show our love! May we raise our children to be mighty men of God! May we continue to make sure we have time together in the business of running a household of preteen boys. May we always remember to laugh! May we continue to lay each other at the throne of Grace...daily! May we cheer the loudest for one another! May we never stop praying WITH each other! May we never ever forget the priceless treasure God has given us in each other! May we hold each other's hand in the journeys ahead. I wouldn't want to do ANY of this life without you Mike Engel! I'm so eternally grateful that God loved me so much...he would have you choose me! Wow! May we continue to look at our stones and enjoy making new memories in the years to come!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Our Little Spot

"He is like the light of morning at sunrise" - 2 Sam.23:4
Good morning Lord,

Only 4 hours of sleep, my eyes can barely open, but I sense that you are there. Our little spot. The spot were we meet every morning. The house is quiet, the children and animals are still asleep, so I know this is the time. I love that you are the Creator of the known and unknown universe yet here you are waiting for me to come to our spot.

It never fails to amaze me that when we meet, you know exactly what I need. When I need a Father, you are ready with open arms to receive me, just as I am. When I'm confused, stressed, anxious, you remind me to give all of that to you and then you hold me tight. I feel so safe and secure no matter what is going on around me. There are those times too that I come and I'm ornery. Complain, complain, complain, you are so patient. You listen, then you gently instruct, reminding me that its not about me, you help me put things in perspective and show me how to die to myself. Only You can do that, because You died...and rose again. Even in the times where I'm needing instruction or discipline, you love me so much you always leave me with my dignity.

When I've needed a Savior, I would be running to get to you in the midst of tears, yet I could see that you were running to get to me too. Then you rescued me. Scooped me up, held me tight beneath the shadow of your wings and carried me. Those times are absolutely incredible because I've seen you gently place me in a safe spot while you unleash your mighty power and do battle on my behalf! Who does that but my Savior?!

Then sometimes, like this morning, I come to you as my King! I come to our spot and I cannot sit, I must lay with my face on the ground in utter worship. At these times, I am so immensely aware that I don't have a clue. Oh we meet everyday, I spend time in your Presence we are so intimate, yet I know that it will not be until the day I see you face to face that Your All will be revealed. Even then, it may take all of eternity to see your vastness and majesty. However, there I lie, before the King of Kings and You kneel down beside me and gently lift my head and whisper sweetly in my ear, "Rise my daughter and take your place, here on my lap." You remind me again that while you are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, you've adopted me, you've chosen me. I am a daughter of the King. A King whose reign will never end. A King who chose to pay a price for me. A King who created the known and unknown universe. A King to whom all creation bows down. A Father who loves gently and unconditionally. A Savior who rescues me and battles on my behalf. I'm Yours! You're mine! Why would I EVER want to miss this time? I love our little spot!  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Dark Place

Photo by tiverylucky @
This week we talked a lot about freedom. Freedom because of the men and women who fought and continue to fight on our country's behalf. What about our Freedom in Christ? Everywhere I look I'm seeing captivity.  My heart is so burdened for my friends who are believing lies today. That's what it boils down to, believing lies and choosing not to renounce the words that others have spoken over them.

A few years ago, my pastor came to my home, having heard what had been done to me before he even came to pastor our church. He came to renounce the lies spoken about me, and replace the curse with blessing. Around my dining room table he petitioned Heaven on my behalf and spoke words of blessing and truth! That spoke volumes to my soul. I hadn't realized up until that point the real power behind words.

I realize now why God has been calling me to study our identity in Christ - so many people in my life are struggling right now. I just wrote "Who Am I?" a week ago...explaining the truth about how God sees us. 

Now, if we are in His Word, writing down the truth on index cards and on our hearts - repeating it to ourselves daily we will start to actually believe it. Then because thoughts become actions, our daily lives will testify what we really believe about ourselves.

Here is the truth - GOD cannot lie!! So if He says something about you....believe it!

I've been there before. I lived most of my youth believing things about me that were not true. I even believed lies as an adult, gosh....a few months ago. I probably still believe lies!! However, I have learned to renounce those words that don't line up with God's Word. I have asked God to give me the ability to recognize and believe the truth. My reality isn't necessarily God's reality! OK, so I'm most likely an optimistic person. I've been studying joy also, so I'm thinking that is helpful.

The number one enemy of JOY is FEAR/ANXIETY. Why do we believe lies about ourselves? Why do we dwell on the negative...FEAR. That is why we need to learn to pull the truth out of God's Word! I will set you FREE! 

In the past two days this is what I've heard from various people in my life: If any of this resonates with you...renounce the condemning words with truth!

I'm a failure. (Well, perhaps you have failed today at something, perhaps you got or done something wrong today, you've made a mistake)...THIS DOES NOT DEFINE YOU!   
You are actually God's workmanship (Eph. 2:10) (He doesn't EVER fail or make failures!)
You are free from condemnation (Romans 8:1)

I'm unlovable! (You think that no one wants you because you've been alone. Perhaps you think something must be wrong with you.)....THIS DOES NOT DEFINE YOU!  
You are actually tenderly loved by God (Jeremiah 31:3) and you are a sweet fragrance of Christ to God. (2 Corinth 2:15)

I have no friends! (You may not be going out every night. Maybe you don't get the phone calls you thought you'd be getting. Perhaps you've not been invited to hang out with "the others".) Investigate here...are you reaching out to others? ....regardless...THIS DOES NOT DEFINE YOU!  
You're a member of Christ's body (1 Corinth. 12:27) 
You're Christ's friend (John 15:5)...

I'm not being used by God! (Perhaps your time to operate your gifts has not happened yet. His timing is perfect by the way. Also, I've faithful in the little things)...either way...remember -  
You have been established, anointed, and sealed by God (2 Corinthians 1:21:22) and 
You are God's coworker (2 Corinthians 6:1, 1 Corinthians 3:9)

These are just a few things...but enough to bring some so far down to almost depression. Listen, the enemy loves to have a field day with our minds. If he can get you to doubt...he will be thrilled!

I implore you - READ THE WORD - and ask God to help with unbelief!! Of course my friends that have mentioned these things don't read my blog. That's ok, I've already said ALL of this to their faces.

Pray with one another. Call someone to pray for you. DO NOT get stuck in that dark place of self pity and anxiety/fear. If you're thinking too much of yourself and your life (what it is or isn't)..that is another thing that will rob you of your JOY.

God is faithful. Be confident in this, that the good work that God has begun in you WILL be perfected!

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Tribute to Our Favorite Veteran

As a tribute for Veteran's Day we wanted to honor the life of our favorite Veteran, Pop. Pop served in World War II stationed in Hawaii at the beginning of the war and ended up in Okinawa Japan at the end. He talked about the war...all the time! Grant it, Pop suffered from Alzheimer's and Dementia for 4 years. We cared for him during this terrible time in his life. He would often think he was still in the war..looking frantically for his uniform. Serving in the military and serving as a U.S. Postal delivery man were two of his most favored hats that he wore in his lifetime.

Below is a re-post of the blog I wrote back in March of 2012, when at 94 years old Pop went home to be with Jesus. I hope it gives my readers just a glimpse of the love we had for this man.

We observe this Veteran's Day and remember all of the men and women who have ever served to keep America's soil FREE! Thank you for the sacrifices that you and your families have made!
Tonight we wait for the phone call. We've said our goodbyes, we have amazing memories and know deep in our hearts that Heaven is where he will finally have his mind and health back and that too is where we will meet again. Above is Pop and Shane..when we first moved here.
I reflect on when we first moved here 8 years ago. Pop was one of the few people in my husband's family who loved and accepted me. Moving to Florida was incredibly difficult, yet Pop opened his home and heart to my family and loved us as much as we loved him.
 We celebrated life every single day together..not just birthdays and holidays..but every day.
We made tons of memories together. Not too many boys can say that they have made a lifetime of memories with their great grandfather.
Kyle prayed the most precious prayer tonight..."Jesus, please take him to Heaven soon, I don't want him to be in pain or suffer. When he gets there Jesus can you give him a message from Kyle? Tell him I love him and I miss him, but I couldn't come and say goodbye, it was too hard. Please would you tell him that, and when I want to say something to him, you can give him the messages until I see him in Heaven."  OH I love this child.

 On of my favorite pictures of Pop!!

 So many sits on his lap. My boys were really blessed.
 He had a thing for Shane. I think because he was a baby when he moved here, Pop just enjoyed this child very much. Ironically enough, Shane had a thing for Pop too. Tonight Shane was the one child who needed some special time saying goodbye. He went and said it was harder than he thought it would be. He told Pop he loved him and kissed his cheek. Then he looked at Mike and said..."I have to cry now Dad..where can I go to cry?" So hard...but their love is deep!

 This is the Pop that would drive me crazy. Trying to raise 3 boys and one! Please stop climbing up on the counters...all of you!

 Mike and Pop had many many many long nights together. Especially in the past 4 years while Pop struggled with Alzheimer's and Dementia. One night in particular Pop accepted Christ as his Savior..after 7 years of living and witnessing to him. Thank you Lord for that blessed assurance.

 What God wants for Christmas, is you Pop!

So glad that for the past 7 months Pop had on earth, he was in a facility that could really care for him. He always seemed happy and alert when we would visit.
 My sweet Brendan (who has Pop's last name as his middle name), who for so long felt as though he was responsible for Pop. Years of watching his great grandfather decline in his mental health, my sweet boy felt that he too was Pop's caregiver. He would stay up late at night listening for Pop to cry out for Mike...if we couldn't hear him..Brendan felt as though he had to tell us. Countless nights of not sleeping here in the Engel house. Such sacrifices, by all of us..including my children. I pray for my boy who's heart is so sensitive.
 Just look at how alert he is!
 Many friends from our church embraced doubt he felt well loved!

 Gotta love the man who would have to wear his winter coat on the April. I'm gonna miss this man!
 The Callahan jowls. :)

Dear Pop,

Why is this so hard for me. I didn't expect to cry a river, yet here I sit unable to stop the tears. You are 94, you have lived an amazing life, one to be proud of. You have taken care of your family and have welcomed me as one of them. Thank you for loving me..for thinking of me as "precious cargo". ;) I guess I'm sad because you were the last link I had to Mike's family. I pray that the Lord would heal this unit. I think that part of my grief is that I probably spent the most time with you out of everyone in the past 8 years...and I am not sure what to feel right now. My heart is raw. It was so challenging towards the end. I couldn't even sit in the same room for too long...I was completely and utterly worn out...and felt horrible about how I felt. I knew that I was unable to care for you, to give you what you needed. Thank God for Michael. Oh I am so grateful to have this man as my husband and the father of my children. He loves you so much Pop. He was such an amazing caregiver. Watching him with you these past few years...made me even more grateful for the man God placed in my life.

I will try to focus on the memories. Especially early on..the ones with my boys. They are indeed blessed to have spent so much amazing quality time with you. You've made an imprint on their hearts. They are grieving tonight...mostly because...the love they have for you is very deep. 

You are on your way to meet Jesus face to face. I'm so glad you gave your life to him, even if you didn't understand it 100%, Mike always says...he believes your spirit man did...and now you meet my Jesus. He will give you a new name Pop. It will be...amazing! Don't'll always be Vincent Donald Callahan...and yes we know that the "O" got dropped in the ocean when your family came over from Ireland. 

Until we meet on that side dear Pop....I love you!

 "Where sky and water meet, Where the waves grow sweet, Doubt not, Reepicheep, To find all you seek, There is the utter East." - The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, CS Lewis