Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas at home

It's Christmas morning. I've been up early every day since i got here (colorado - HOME!!!) I'm used to being up early and i just don't want to waste any moments of sleep when i could be enjoying myself and enjoying my family. so i'm the only one awake right now again. i really should be sleeping because i got a cold a few days ago. that always happens when i get home. i think it's because i finally let down my adrenaline and my worries and busyness which keep me going steady and just relax - and somehow when my body and heart and mind relax, my immune system takes a vaca also. oh well. i don't really care - i'm home.

landon and i always try to cram colorado adventures into our family time here. we've been rock climbing and cross-country skiing so far. i've mostly just been testing my ankle to see if it'll stay together - it did.

my parents house looks like a Christmas catalog inside and out - not kidding. they have an attic that my father built in the garage JUST for Christmas decorations. it takes them 2 entire, complete 8 hour days to put up all decorations. it is just amazing. the whole house is transformed. it is beautiful.

we went to see "Jersey Boys" in downtown Denver which was wonderful. landon wore a bow-tie - LOVE THAT! and i wore my sister's clothes - really love that!

I just heard santa slide down the chimney, so i'm gonna go get him some coffee and see if i can go grab a peak. don't tell!

love you. miss you. hoping that your Christmas is so joyful - how else can we respond to the gift of God-made-flesh for our sakes with his great love? We will be celebrating with much joy! I hope you will too!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Our Christmas

Landon and I enjoyed our own Christmas evening McBrayer style. We opened gifts from McBrayers and each other and enjoyed some cheese fondue and sparkling wine. Wonderful.

silence, but not neglect

i have tried to post numerous times this week - i want you coming back and i want us to stay connected so i try to post AT LEAST every other day, hopefully more. but this week i just couldn't. it was a rough week. and i know that one of the reasons for my rough week is the same reason for some of your rough weeks, and i'm so so sorry. I've tried to post on light topics like my desire for another nose piercing and silly things like that, but it just seems so much of a lie right now with all else that's going on in my heart/mind. so i just opted for silence - but not neglect.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A good start to a crappy morning

I know it's been bad when I come home and see the dirty bowl reminiscent of breakfast sitting in my kitchen sink and when i remember eating oatmeal i think it was yesterday.

Landon's still asleep right now so i had to get this off my chest somehow.

I woke this morning early. Like i usually do for my mornings at Starbucks. Only today i woke up 20 minutes early - naturally (no alarm - hooray!). Landon was still awake from his late night and he fixed me oatmeal for breakfast and kept me company while i ate in a zombie fashion. he even started my car for me in hopes of a warm ride to work. after his kiss goodbye and "thank you for working so early" i felt empowered.

I shouldn't let ONE little thing ruin my day. but i did. and it did. around, hm... 6am i had a customer treat me like utter dirt. scum, even. I actually deal with many rude, impatient, cruel customers daily, but this lady takes the cake. She ordered her drink curtly (but i get it - it's cold out there in the drive-thru) and asked for a "piece of sausage". hm... did i hear that correctly? do we sell "a piece of sausage"? I told her that i would be happy to warm up the sausage from one of our sandwiches, but i would have to charge her for the entire sandwich. After this she proceeded to scream and scream at me and tell me that she is here EVERY DAY (except she isn't because I am here every day and i have never seen her in my life)and my manager better be at the window when she gets there.

we made her drink perfectly and provided her with excellent customer service. when she pulled up to the window i went to greet her. she was awful and asked for the manager. i told her that i was the supervisor (which threw her in an even bigger fit). she proceeded to scream at me calling me obscene names and began to ramble off four letter words in eloquence and speed i've only heard in movies like "snatch". at this point i am actually physically shaking from adrenaline and fright. she asked me a thousand questions but actually didn't want any answers - she would not let me speak to her one bit. i even wrote down the phone number to starbuck's headquarters with our manager's name and my name as well. i apologized. she told me that we just lost a customer - from now on she will go across the street to mcdonalds. i seriously doubt she will....but i hope she does.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

she smelled like trees

(photo by Philipp Klinger)

She smelled like trees. In the corner it was dark, but I could see the window. I squatted there, holding the slipper. I couldn't see it, but my hands saw it, and I could hear it getting night, and my hands saw the slipper but I couldn't see myself, but my hands could see the slipper, and I squatted there, hearing it getting dark.
William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Every once in awhile i write a post and save it only as a draft - for a couple of reasons. Sometimes, just not sure if i want all eyes on my thoughts on a certain issue (you notice the typical lightness of my topics), sometimes re-evaluating my motives for a post, and other reasons. This is one such post.

Yesterday i was in a LONG line at the bank - i was there for 30 minutes! Our bank is in the lower-income part of town (i like to call it the "ghetto" but it isn't exactly a ghetto). Friday was pay day, and Christmas is in less than 2 weeks. People were frantic to deposit and withdraw cash. The couple in front of me wanted to withdraw cash even though they did not have the funds in their account - what is that, denae - a cash advance or something? They were desperate for the cash and the lady had to deny them because they had a cash advance (or whatever it is called) only two weeks prior.

When i got back to the store, there was a lady waiting at the bus stop outside of starbucks with a grocery cart full of groceries. I thought that if she was still there when i got off that i should offer to drive her and her groceries home.

Two weeks ago a man confronted me in the grocery store parking lot at night asking me for money. I made him come into the store with me before i would open my purse for him - but i gave him all the cash i had which was VERY little. He was discouraged.

The store next door was robbed a few weeks ago.

Starbucks is cutting hours majorly. Our partners aren't working enough to support themselves. They come to work with dirty aprons and are freezing in our drive-thru window - almost all of my partners have caught cold in the last 3 weeks since the temps have plummeted. I ask them to wash their aprons and think about buying some long-sleeve shirts to wear to work. They explain to me that they can't even afford money for Christmas gifts, let alone weekly laundry and new clothes.

I am surrounded by people in desperation living from pay check to pay check and on top of it all, are burdened by the desire (or pressure) to be buying gifts for loved ones. To have a "good" Christmas.

I think of them and their hurting and am so grateful for the steady income that provides Landon and i with the opportunity to pay our bills, eat, AND purchase gifts for those we love. perspective.

I also think about our Christmas in Africa. We were without the commercialism of Christmas in the States. We didn't have a Christmas tree. We decided not to buy gifts for each other. Instead, only bought chickens for friends so they could have a richer celebration with their families. And we spent Christmas morning with the orphans, and afternoon eating potatoes and pies with other missionaries. And we were surrounded by people in far greater poverty than those we live near here, yet they celebrated Christmas and anticipated it with amazing joy. They celebrated Christmas with praise to God for his greatest gift - for becoming man and joining us, loving us, and sacrificing his own life for us so that we could live in joy and wholeness despite what we have lost or are without in our lives. They knew that in having Christ, we have everything - there is nothing greater. And celebrating Christmas with that perspective was so refreshing and humbling and honest and joyous and beautiful.

Being in America and seeing the greed and despair of our culture during this most precious celebration is heartbreaking. But it is there, and there is only one Hope.

Friday, December 12, 2008

a light has dawned

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the
shadow of death
a light has dawned...
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:2,6

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Southern Thanksgiving

I am SO sorry. I should have had these pictures up a long time ago. Since Landon went to Georgia to see the fam and i was missing out i asked him to take lots of pictures of our nieces and nephew because i never get to see them and miss them dearly. He brought home about 5 pictures of the kiddies in the tub together - cute - but those are FAMILY pictures so they will stay on MY side of the computer screen. Otherwise, he brought home these shots of McBrayer family fun!

"The Lodge" Where the magic happens.
How old is Brookie these days? 9?
probably playing cards
That gun kicks just a bit, don't you think?
and that one kills
Merritt - mother of the year and queen multi-tasker.
Merritt, Nina and Griffin on Griffy's first 4-wheeler ride!
family style
Charleen's a proud grandmother with those beautiful toddlers: Addison and Griffin. "Roll Tide!"

just a disclaimer or 3:
-Brooke was under HEAVY supervision
-the deer was not tortured and will be feeding us for the next year (last time i posted a picture of Landon's hunting trip i received death threats in my comments section - no joke).
-the picture of mommy merritt with avery was staged. of course she shot the gun, but not with that treasure in her arms.
Every once in awhile (and far too often than i should admit) a battle duels within me:

Coffe or Sleep?

Sleep or Coffee?

One is necessary and so becomes the other.

I'm so tired right now...

Sleep or Coffee?

Coffee or sleep?

hm... coffee is easier.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Remembering Christ this Christmas

With Christmas approaching, I try to direct my reading toward what would cause reflection of Christ. During this season i want to keep Christ in his place. My thoughts often are and should not be on what i am buying whom and if there is snow and my eagerness to be back in Colorado.

Haha, the truth that God so clearly spoke to me over the Thanksgiving holiday is already easily forgotten 10 days later. Christmas is about him. It is about remembering and praising HIM.

Anything i can read/do/sing that will help me to keep this focus during the many distractions and commercial world that i live and work in, is something that i need. Maybe you are challenged in the same way. Here are some thing i've thought of that may encourage us both.

I've been reading Francine River's "Lineage of Grace" series. Francine Rivers is one of my favorite novelists of all time. There are 5 books in this series. Each book focuses on one of the 5 women in the lineage of Christ: Tamar, Bathsheba, Rahab, Ruth, and Mary. Of course, this is historical and biblical fiction, but fiction nontheless. Though in the back of each book, Rivers includes the scriptures that she used to weave her story and she challenges her readers to find the truth for themselves. Each of the novelas are very short - i've been able to complete one on a plane ride or within my lunch hour during a week of work.

One of the most meaningful guided Bible studies i've ever done is "Jesus the one and only" by Beth Moore. If any of you know anything about Beth Moore, you probably agree that she is an anointed teacher of scripture. I've done a few of her studies - they are so amazing. This one i've done a few times. The first time with a dear friend and accountability partner as we were anticipating Easter in 2004. The second time during our year in Kenya. This is a 10 week study with accompanying videos (which i never do because i can't afford - but maybe a local church's womens ministry would let you borrow them). The first 2 weeks are entitled "The Word Made Flesh" and "The Son of God". it would be worth it just to go through these 2 chapters in the next two weeks if you so desire.

I just really need some inspiration and something to encourage self-discipline (i certainly struggle with that) in keeping my heart and mind on Christ amidst all the other wonderful joys of Christmas. What do you do to "keep Christ in Christmas" in your hearts?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Lindsay tagged me a few months ago to fill out one of these cute little "About me" surveys on blogger. What was it? Quirky things about me? Well, after i read hers, which was so cute and made me like her even more, i couldn't for the life of me figure out how i am quirky. So even though she "tagged" me i neglected to respond.

Well, she's tagged me again, and this is one that i can answer. so, thanks, lindsay! it's always fun to be learning more about you - you're great.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? This is a rough one. Wrapping paper destroys a gazillion trees. but i hate to admit, that as someone who loves paper crafts and gift giving, the wrapping makes a statement. So i always wrap my gifts in paper. And i got 3 rolls of paper with coordinating colors so that our pile of gifts looks pretty sitting in the corner. I like to paint the paper, add glitter, etc... just to make each one unique. i know that you think i shouldn't have time for this, but i really don't do much else around here besides work, so taking a few hours to add special touches to gift wrapping is so fun for me!

2. Real tree or Artificial? Real tree is the way Landon and i like to go. When we lived in CO we would just spend 10 bucks on a permit and go into the national forest and cut down any tree that we wanted. Now that we are far far away from those kind of trees we need to buy them at the local supermarket. they're pretty expensive. and since we are going home for 2 weeks over christmas, i have a feeling we'll come home to a mess. this is our 5th Christmas together, and we've only had a tree the two Christmases we lived in Colorado. sad story.

3. When do you put up the tree? When i was a kid we did it on Thanksgiving or the day after. Now... who the heck knows.

4. When do you take the tree down? I would have to say right before Christmas break is over (yeah we still live semester-to-semester). But when i was in college, my roommates will tell you that i have been known to have a Valentine's tree. don't worry. never again.

5. Do you like eggnog? yes. don't like eggnog lattes, though. and i've never had boozy eggnog - i hear that is even better!

6. Favorite gift received as a child? hm....i always looked forward to getting soccer stuff or clothes from J.crew. i think my American Girl doll was my favorite toy though.

7. Hardest person to buy for? my mom.

8. Easiest person to buy for? Landon.

9. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes! Landon's extended family got us a really beautiful traditional nativity (with a blond mary and white angelic jesus)as a wedding gift. we look forward to setting it up every year.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? I prefer mail for sure! i like to display every one i receive.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? my first (and only so far) Christmas with the McBrayers i received an inflatable sex doll.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Can i choose just one!?! is "while you were sleeping" a Christmas movie? it really isn't, is it? too many to love to choose from. "The Santa Claus". there. but i feel bad choosing just one.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? only once. ever.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? pull-apart bread ("monkey bread") for breakfast. i've been craving that stuff for weeks now!

16. Lights on the tree? um... yes ?

17. Favorite Christmas song? "{O Holy Night" is always my favorite, but this year i am really loving "In the bleak mid-winter". if you don't know it, i have it on my playlist twice.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? well,i PREFER to NOT travel. but as long as i'm far from family and am child-less, we will be packin our bags!

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's? isn't the plural of reindeer, reindeer? I can name all of santa's reindeer - even the mythical rudolph. not like the others are actual, though.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? angel. it's just always been that way. but i hate it when she's crooked. that drives me crazy.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? landon's family opens all presents on Christmas eve except for those from baby Jesus. So now that WE are a family, we do both! but growing up we never opened presents on Christmas eve until the year of the Furby's - and from then on we could only open ONE.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? busy: streets, coffee shops, airports, parking lots, grocery stores, shopping centers. i actually hate the hustle and bustle - i even save my grocery shopping until monday morning because i think the least amount of people will be there.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color? well, when i was growing up, my parents purchased an ornament from every place we vacationed. i still love looking at their tree at Christmas time and remembering those fun family trips. As for our tree - we hung a few carabiners on there. that was cool. i like the ornaments that you can put lights into and they move or are illuminated.

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? oh man... i'll eat all of it! except for the "salad". why do we ever even call that salad?

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? hm, i'm always so bad at putting together a wish list. i really enjoy most everything. so, most anything. but mostly i want a french press. and a membership to the gym so i can do some rehab on this ankle. and anything off of my etsy list. sweaters. that's a good list.

26. Who is most likely to respond to this? oh, i dono.

27. Does Santa wrap your gift or leave them unwrapped? santa does not wrap. he's a man.

I tag....Em and Callie!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Our first time in the snow!

This was a big day. I woke for work and was the first person to drive through my neighborhood - i could tell because the roads were not plowed and they were covered with about 2 inches of snow. it's fun to make the first tracks - but i also felt a little sorry for myself - i beat the snow plows out of bed. ha!

the snow hasn't stopped today. and it's been a beautiful day! the sun has permeated the clouds to turn the snow golden for brief moments throughout the day. the snow is falling slowly and thin, so we aren't clobbered with tons of snow or anything. but finally enough to go skiing!

Landon racing the train through the woods!
i'm lovin' it!
this was a big day. we were wondering how the good 'ol ankle would hold up. i haven't done anything active since i broke my ankle in the middle of august. i can finally go through an 8 hour day at starbucks on my feet and come home without it completely swolen and throbbing. i am still healing and am so grateful! we are planning on doing a lot of skiing and i want to start running again in january (per my doctor's5 month restriction). so this was a test. it was great! i didn't fall at all - i think getting up from a fall would be difficult on my ankle on skis, but maybe not. the only thing that was difficult was that my ski boots put a lot of pressure on the most sensitive (to the touch) parts of my ankle. so after 2 miles i was definitely relieved to get them off. we'll see how i continue to heal in this next month. we are planning a 3 day cross country ski trip into the Colorado mountains in 28 days. hopefully by then i can go for multiple miles in high altitude with no problems.
Landon and the Duves skiing through the woods.

What a beautiful day! The snow isn't deep enough for the snowmobilers to have access to the trail yet, so we really enjoyed skiing without dodging those crazy guys - and they really tear apart the trail. The snow was nice, the trail was nice, skiing was GREAT and it was a wonderful time together after a couple of crazy buys weeks.

Christmas around the house

enjoying the last of the home-made jalapeno jelly over cream cheese with snowflake Ritz.
My grandmother made these for me last year - my very own gingerbread men. She and my mother both hang them over a door frame in their homes. mine is over our sink.
my creation for this Christmas (see next picture).
I rented a book with tons of do-it-yourself-for-cheap ideas for Christmas decorating. some were pretty stupid or obsessive, but i like this one. I usually retire these flower boxes in the winter, but this year i created these great little boxes full of greenery, pinecones, pearl berries and red glitter twiggy things. i really like how they turned out. if only they had lights in them. i also wrapped our little pine trees with pearls.
our "hearth". landon's stocking from when he was born. mine is sort of lame. i'll make myself one someday when i know how to knit or sew or something. love the garland. and i'm still enjoying the weed bouquet from the wetlands.

Friday, December 5, 2008

missing kenya

Today on Facebook i joined a group called "Limuru Children Centre".

Here there are a few pictures of our sweet orphans at the orphanage. Though, they are all from the last few years. I am jealous of the many people who have spent days holding the sweet orphans and knowing them while i just missed them and cried over them. Though, i am grateful that God continues to send people there to love the children. Because so far, he has not enabled us to go back.
my little orphans

Last night i had a dream about the ophanage. In my dream i was in africa (it was more the size of a neighborhood than a continuent) with my friend Courtney, who was a missionary in South Africa for a few years. I just left her and ran and ran and ran for a long time until i can upon the orphanage. It was the middle of the night but i missed the children so desperately, i didn't care. I opened the door to the girl's dorm and turned on the light. I saw my beautiful orphans, but now they were so much older. but they did not forget me. In my dream they suffocated me with hugs and i just cried and kissed them. They had grown to know english more and were asking me questions and were so happy to have me back. And i woke happy, and then unsettled.

I miss them desperately. I wish i knew the older girls as teenagers now. I spent this evening reading our blog from our year there and i have been near to tears all night. i still feel a terrible guilt about living with them and loving them that year and then one day just leaving. i give myself too much credit, i doubt they remember me, i doubt they are still hurting from my abandonment of them. yet, i think that at the time, leaving was the worst thing i could have done. and i am still sorry that they are always being left behind.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I've been trying to find the audio for this segment for days and i never thought to look on youtube. My friend Lindsay posted this a few days ago on her wonderful blog. I just LOVE it. Thanks Lindsay!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

GRE me again

Landon takes the GRE today at 4:30p central time. This is SO important when it comes to getting into PhD programs. He has been studying tediously for months. Please pray for him today.


We have had our first snow! Monday morning i woke to a winter wonderland. Of course, if I had to work and wake at 3:30 Monday i wouldn't have enjoyed the snow nearly as much!! It's official - Christmas has my permission to come upon us. We have snow. And one thing i learned about Illinois winters last year - this snow will probably be here until the end of March at least. So now that we have this beautiful snow and the temps the last few days stay in the twenties, we're pretty sure to have a white Christmas. This snow isn't goin' anywhere. And possibly it will snow again today! yay!

Some funny things... when it snows, our drive-thru at Starbucks becomes a nightmare. Most customers don't roll their windows down all the way. Just some FYI for y'all - we have cameras and can see you. I watch our customers straining in their seats to position their mouths so that they can talk through a tiny crack in their window. Those are the nice ones. the others just crack it a bit and talk normally and we have to ask them to drive to the window to order because we can't hear them - and have to make their drink "on the fly" which puts everything out of order and slows us down considerably. jerks. and when we hand them their drink, they still won't roll the window down so they try to get a 6 in cup through the 4 inches of open window. there it is on the concrete - "i am so sorry, let me make you another one!" arrrr.

it's funny when windows are frozen. many of our customers have to open their doors to order and pay and receive their drinks. i hope that they are the ones who dropped their drinks last time. is that mean?

and we get car accidents in our drive-thru during the winter. How is the snow plow supposed to plow the drive-thru when there are people always sitting there since early in the morning? I always arrive to work before the snow plow so my car is usually boxed. by the time i'm done with work i have to shovel my car out of its parking spot. between getting my car out of the driveway in the morning and then shoveling it out of my parking spot at work, i'm grumbling at the snow by the time i get home, cold and wet.

but on those days where the snow is simply beautiful and enabling us to enjoy our winter sports and the slowing down of people and the world, i just love it.

landon's applying to a school in phoenix next year. i hear that phoenix is nice. but i just can not imagine starting our family there - how can my children understand the wonder of winter without snow? they just can't. you just can't. i don't think i could live somewhere without snow for more than a couple of years. i've spent two winters snow-less (Cali. and Kenya) and i definitely survived. but i really did miss the joy that the snow brings.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A perscription for Hope

Today i am especially thinking about a few young girls that i know in a tiny orphanage amidst the tea fields of Tigoni. For those of you who kept up with our blog and updates while we were in Kenya, you probably remember these precious girls as well.


Dianah suffers from AIDS. Her mother is dieing of AIDS and is a prostitute in the village. Her mother originally contracted AIDS from her husband, Dianah's father, as he was a successful business man. When he was discovered to be raping Dianah, he was sent to prison, leaving Dianah's family without any income. Dianah's mother found herself in a desperate situation, choosing to feed her family by selling herslef - who knows how many others have contacted the disease from her desperate source of income. Dianah and her younger brother came to the orphanage because her mother couldn't care for them within her dangerous lifestyle. Dianah often suffered in and out of tuberculosis. On one such occasion, my parents were visiting us in Kenya. We brought Dianah a chocolate milkshake and "chips" while she lay in bed sick and scared. I sat beside her, stroking her hair, praying for her, singing to her, holding her. She just cried and prayed, "God, why would you let my father do this to me?" This, is a question i have echoed for her in many prayers of anger and confusion to God since.


Grace lived with her parents in the village. They made their living by making and selling illegal and potant spirits. Desperate men were always in their home completely intoxicated with her parents and her younger sister. Who knows how many hopeless nights Grace spent helpless in the arms of one of her parents intoxicated patrons. When i met Grace, her parents were dieing of AIDS in jail, and she and her sister were at the orphanage. Grace is such a serious girl, with few smiles and a heavy burden. Yet she sings and dances to the Lord joyfully! When a teacher was telling her of the story of the woman who had been bleeding for years and reached to touch the robe of Jesus and was healed, she begged to know more. And i realized that I could never have an understanding of this story as she does.

Both Grace and Dianah are still living at the orphanage, taking medications regularly. They both are young girls of great faith in God. They both are dieing of AIDS. And these are just two. More than half of the children at the orphanage are orphaned by AIDS. This is what AIDS has done to a community, a country, a continent.

Is there still hope when death is inevitable? There is if the hope is Jesus Christ - for he is the only promise for a new life - for eternal life.

As Christians, what is our response to the global AIDS crisis? I have been unsure of how to blog today - world AIDS day. There are so many resources, so many ministries, so many movements against AIDS. Yet, how can we get involved?

You can go buy a latte - any drink you buy today and any holiday beverage you buy this season at Starbucks gives money to support the global fund through the (RED) campaign. but that's not quite enough, is it?

Look into ways you can help.

Here are some AIDS relief ministries we support:
Samaritan's Purse - Be the Virus
Compassion International International AIDS Vaccine Initiative
Blood Water Mission

Some other good ones:
World Vision - HIV and AIDS care
Agathos Foundation - ministry in SA
Buy a t-shirt to support children orphaned by AIDS

I would love to hear of more ministries that serve individuals and communities suffering from AIDS.