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!