March 28, 2010

Dayenu

Passover begins at sundown tomorrow. I've written about this topic a few times before, but I haven't ever gone into a lot of detail about it. So here are a few of my thoughts.

I am fascinated by cultures and customs. America definitely has its own culture, but as a people, as a nation, we don't have mannerisms and such like other ethnicities and countries do. Please know--I think we live in the greatest country in the world, but we just don't have things like Greek weddings, Italian family loyalty, etc. We have apple pie, baseball, and the founding fathers, but you understand what I'm saying.

My granfather (my mom's dad) passed along his love for heritage and tradition to me. Thanksgiving of 2008, he gave me his Seder plate:


It's so special to me! Even though our family isn't Jewish, I believe that Christians can honor and recognize what Passover means. It's really where our story began. The Lord delivered the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt, and each year the Jewish people still commemorate His faithfulness. If you're not familiar with the story, Moses was the leader called by God to lead His people out of Egypt. Pharaoh refused, and the Lord sent horrible plagues over Egypt. The final plague was killing the firstborn male in every family--animals included. Even Pharaoh's son was killed, but the Angel of Death passed over every Hebrew household that had the blood of an unblemished lamb on the doorpost. This was also a sign of prophecy, which was fulfilled with Jesus Christ--an unblemished lamb--was sacrificed so that we might be saved from our sin. Although the Jews (as a whole) don't recognize Jesus as their Messiah, Christian families can still celebrate God's deliverance and faithfulness in our lives.

Along with his Seder plate, my grandfather gave me all of his research on the Passover and its customs, which is truly priceless to me. I've been sorting through it, since Passover is upon us. I had originally planned to have a Passover dinner, but I'm not quite ready. I want to really have everything prepared and my thoughts collected, and most importantly--I want family present. So I've dedicated this Passover to research, and next year when we're all moved in and settled, we'll have a full family Passover celebration!

I've already learned so much. I love the fact that the Jewish people pass on their story in a tangible, traditional, and tactile way. You experience the retelling of the story by seeing, hearing, smelling, and tasting. If I can get everything organized, I'll try to share what I've learned. At the very least, I'll point you to some resources.

The most important thing I've taken away is this: In the Passover Seder service (which takes place at the table), there is a section where the word Dayenu is used--- "It would have been enough." The leader goes through everything that the Lord did for the Hebrew people, and everyone says "Dayenu"---if He had only done this, it would have been more than enough. But God, in His infinite mercy and love, keeps giving blessing after blessing. This is reflected well in John 1:16: "From His abundance, we have all received one gracious blessing after another." Dayenu. It would have been enough for You to save me. It would have been enough for You to give the Holy Spirit to me. It would have been enough for You to bless me with a godly husband and precious daughter. It would have been enough for You to continually love and forgive me daily for my sins. But You still keep bestowing blessing.

Humbly, with a full heart and teary eyes, this Passover I celebrate and commemorate by saying Dayenu.

Shalom!

March 25, 2010

Boston Help, Please!

I'm in the process of planning our trip to Boston in a few weeks (!!) to see my Dad run in the Boston Marathon! However, I've never been to this city or anywhere near it, so if ANYONE is from around there or has visited, please let me know your tips! Restaurants, tips for navigating, etc. We definitely plan on doing the Freedom Trail, and Kurt and I are going to see Orchard House (Louisa May Alcott's home), but that's all I have right now. Our time will be limited, but I want to know your thoughts if you have any! :)

March 24, 2010

The South Series: Pilgrimage & Bed and Breakfasts


First of all, some might be wondering what Pilgrimage even is. Here is a synopsis from the Natchez Pilgrimage website:

Visitors during Natchez' Spring Pilgrimage can step back into the mid-nineteenth century. The five week festival of pre-Civil War life offers antebellum home tours, gospel shows, light comedy and carriage rides amidst profuse multi-hued azaleas and fragrant trailing wisteria. In the 1840's Natchez claimed more millionaires per capita than any other city in America. The twenty-five late colonial and pre-Civil War townhouses, mansions and plantation homes open for touring during Spring Pilgrimage attest to the fortunes made in nineteenth century Natchez by cotton planters, bankers and other entrepreneurs. The present owners of these homes open their doors to local, national and international visitors for guided tours led by docents dressed in period costume.

Natchez survived the Civil War far better than did many southern towns and boasts more pre-1860 buildings than any other U.S. city of its size, plus thirteen National landmarks and more than 1000 buildings listed on the National Register - all rich in history, with finely crafted furnishings and traditions of genuine southern hospitality.


Today I'm highlighting the Bed and Breakfast where we stayed in Natchez, The Burn. I found this B&B simply by browsing the Pilgrimage website and clicking on the different sites. I liked how small and intimate The Burn looked (it only has 5 rooms), but I was also impressed by the professional website.


I believe the Inn was completely booked at the time we were there, and when I reserved my room online, I had two choices. I chose the Douglas Room, and it was BEAUTIFUL!


The Burn was constructed in 1834 by John Walworth. The Walworths lived in the home for three generations. The current and 8th owners are Glenn and Bridget Green (they also currently reside there). They gave us our tour of the home! The Burn gets its name from the brook that ran through the property originally. Walworth was of Scottish descent and the Scottish word for brook is "burn." From the front it only looks like a one and a half story home, but from the back you can see that it's three full stories.




John Walworth was from New York but came down to Natchez in the 1790's. He was a letter carrier, but then opened a mercantile. He eventually acquired three plantations, was a bank president, and was mayor of Natchez.

Even though he was from the North, both of his sons served in the Civil War fighting for the Confederacy. In 1863, after the fall of Vicksburg, Natchez was occupied by Union troops. The Walworth family was given 24 hours to vacate their home. The Union army took the Burn and used it for a hospital and headquarters.


Here's the view from right outside our room:

And here's where we had breakfast in the morning. Since the Inn is so small, we were able to meet and talk with everyone. At our table, there were three other couples: another young couple from Mississippi, and then a couple from Indiana and a couple from Manhattan, New York! Isn't that crazy!? We had a wonderful discussion during breakfast at our table. We all asked each other questions. They were very curious about things in this part of the country. They were just the sweetest, most kind people. Bonita from New York even gave me her email address for when Kurt and I visit in the fall! That's why I love Bed and Breakfasts; I doubt that would've happened at Chain Hotel USA!

One evening Kurt and I went walking on our street. Here I am with The Burn in the background:

Across the street we came upon the most quaint, beautiful Victorian home I've ever seen. Candles were in every window, and I literally wanted to go knock on the door and see the beautiful people that must live there.
Then, I saw a sign: it's a Bed and Breakfast! It's the Devereaux Shields House, circa 1893. Here's their website.
Isn't it quaint?! I do think we made an excellent choice in The Burn, though. The rooms are perfection: classy, elegant, and simple. I don't like flashy, "trying-too-hard" decor in Bed and Breakfasts. The Burn felt extremely authentic. And the rates were VERY reasonable, even during Pilgrimage!

Bed and Breakfasts feel very Southern to me, and that's something I really do love. For a moment, you feel like you're really living in this home, and you take a step back in time. It's simple, elegant, and time seems to stop. You're served a Southern breakfast (even though I always pass up the grits), while you talk to fellow guests. You connect with history and with people. I think that's a perfect way to travel!

Shop for Vanya!

Hi friends :)

I posted awhile back about little Vanya, a special needs angel from Eastern Europe that friends of ours, the Oberhausers, are adopting. Kurt and I have contributed to their adoption fund. This family already has 5 children of their own, and they are adopting little Vanya. Mark is a youth pastor, and their hearts are so pure in desiring to give this precious little boy a Christian home.


Now, an ADORABLE etsy site, Leah Larae Baby, is helping with their cause! From now until March 31st, she is donating 20% of her sales to the Oberhauser family. I'm telling you--this is adorable stuff. Just look at some examples:

ADORABLE!!!!!! And the prices are really reasonable! I urge you to pick something up for your kids or as a gift, or both! Help support this precious family and their soon-to-be family member, Vanya. It's a win-win situation!

Okay, there's one more thing! This is from the Oberhausers:

The owner of this on-line shop contacted us today and offered to donate $1 for each time someone tweets, blogs, or uses facebook to promote this sale (up to $100)! So, if you feel so led, please promote this sale by using this link on your facebook account, blog, or Twitter account:

http://www.etsy.com/shop/leahlaraebabyshop

Then, send a link of your "promotion" to the following e-mail addresses:

jen.christians@gmail.com
marknjoni@hotmail.com


Thank you for helping bring Vanya home! Adopted for Life, The Oberhausers

I am promoting this on Facebook, Twitter, and my blog, because it's SUCH an easy way to help this family! They truly understand that we are adopted in Christ (Galatians 4:4-6), and as Christians it is our responsibility to care for the orphans and widows (James 1:27).

To see the Oberhauser's Facebook group, CLICK HERE.

To visit their adoption blog, CLICK HERE.

So GO SHOPPING and don't forget to email the two addresses above if you advertise--it takes almost no time to advertise and it will help bring Vanya home!

Also, I'm just now catching this at the last minute, but we know another family, the Underwoods, who are also starting the adoption process. They are selling some really neat t-shirts! Check out her blog HERE. You have until Friday!

We love you, Vanya and Baby Underwood!

March 21, 2010

Week in Cape

I actually didn't take that many pictures while I was in Cape this time around (well, I did, but they were of the photoshoot kind). Here are the snapshots I did take!

Bitty and I were on the couch and she started leaning back and relaxing on me. It was the cutest thing!


Daddy and Bitty.

Uncle Will is always a hit.

My Dad, Mom, brother and I went to the Moscow Symphony. It was beautiful!

While we were in town, my friend Erin that I grew up with was honored at a baby shower. All of my other childhood friends were helping to host, and we had a BLAST catching up! Here we are:


From left: Emily, who is expecting twin boys this summer, Me, Erin (the Honoree), Kristal with her new little prince Isaac, and Whitney. (Whitney, I know you're reading this. Get a blog.)

Here I am with Baby Isaac. What a beautiful baby!

This is Mrs. Sheila. She GAVE US BUN BUN! Boy, I couldn't thank her enough (Bitty too!):

When we met up with Kurt in Memphis, Evy had to stretch her legs. Obviously there was no better place than the back of the SUV!

Please look at this.

We love you, Papa and Gigi! xoxoxo!

Housekeeping: I added a link (in the left hand column) to my Library List. These are the books I love and recommend. Take a look if you're interested!

Bitty Lately

I am so swamped trying to get pictures onto this blog! I am uploading the pictures from our recent trip to Cape, so those are coming very soon! In the meantime, here are some recent pictures of our adorable, perfect Bitty:

This was my shirt way back in the day. Notice the pastel tones and Mickey and Minnie. Appropriate.


These were also my keys. Again, notice the pastel tones. What an homage to the 80's, right?



This was just too adorable. Kurt was leaving to go to work the other day for the whole night, and Bitty followed him out the door into the garage! She would've gone down the whole driveway if I hadn't stopped her! She adores her Daddy!



What would we do without this miracle? She is incredible.

The South Series : An Introduction


Where do I even begin?

I have such an interesting relationship with "The South." My roots are in Texas (which is Southwestern, not the traditional south), and I've lived in Florida, Oklahoma, Missouri (where I consider my home), and now I currently live in Mississippi. I'm about to move back to Missouri. Having lived in Mississippi for ten years, shouldn't I be super attached to the deep south? Shouldn't it have rubbed off on me? Shouldn't I be in love with it and not want to leave?

Let me back up.

I've always had a fondness for the South, in the sense that it's known to be genuine, hospitable, laid-back, and in the olden days, it was the scene of many a Gone-With-The-Wind barbeque. The dresses and homes didn't hurt either. All in all, when I wasn't living here, I related to the Southern way of life and had a fondness for it from afar.

Then we moved to Jackson in 2000. And to avoid sounding snarky, I'm going to keep this very brief: It wasn't the South I thought it would be. It just wasn't. And isn't. PLEASE do not get me wrong: I've met some of the sweetest people here. And I don't think they are fake or putting on a show! But Jackson as a whole is not where I feel at home.

I won't elaborate much more on this, because I don't want to sound insulting to the people that live here and love it. Everyone is entitled to love their city, and I understand that many Southerners couldn't imagine living anywhere else. It's just not for me. But that's okay! Missouri isn't for everyone, either!

I first figured this out when Kurt and I were dating. He was (and is) a Southern boy, having been born and raised here, but I couldn't figure out what was different about him. And then he said this to me : "Maybe you dislike the deep South because Jackson is all you've ever known." It dawned on me that he was right.

And that brings me to our Natchez trip. I won't save my big "epiphany post" for last. I'll share it right now. I confirmed on this trip that:

-The Civil War was about more than slavery. I believe slavery is an abomination, but I also believe in small government. Like anything today, conflicts are complex.
-The South, like any other part of the country, has its ups and downs and pros and cons.
-Nowhere else will you find women and men who still dress in antebellum attire to take you back to the romantic days of the past.
-Genuine people really do exist in the South.
-Jackson is an entity unto itself, and not all Southern towns are like it.
-There is an elegance in Southern nature that I admire.

Now.

In this series, I am going to share with you the pictures and stories of the homes we saw, some of which broke my heart and some of which made me proud that I can claim the South as my home for ten years. I'm also going to share how after seeing and experiencing Natchez, it made me buy Magnolia room spray and confirmed my desire to give a proper brunch.

I most realized on this trip that when it comes to the South, we should honor and learn from the past, and preserve the things we love for the future (be it the beautiful homes, the elegance in entertaining, or the easy-going nature).

For the record, I always knew that there were things about the South I loved. I just had a hard time reconciling that I wasn't "from" here, and didn't feel quite at home. And there have been things that I just don't agree with in this Southern culture. But I've realized the perfect combination : I'm taking the things I do like from the South "home" to Missouri! :) Best of both worlds!

Here's the celebrating and honoring the people who lived, worked, and stayed at all costs in the South, even when the conditions were horrible. Here's to celebrating manners, elegance, and class. Here's to celebrating beautiful homes, architecture, and style. I'm excited to share these things with you!

By the way, I'm going to put this button in my sidebar, so if you want to read all of the South Series posts, you can just click on it. Hopefully that should make it easy!

March 20, 2010

Andrea : Downtown

When I was home in Missouri recently, my sister and I decided to do a photo shoot just for fun. I styled her clothes, hair, and makeup, and we went downtown to the River (our town is literally right on the Mississippi River). I loved taking these pictures of her. It's kind of a hippie/urban/chic style of shoot. My other sis is next (Lis, if you're reading this, decide what style of shoot would be fun)!

Here they are!


































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