Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas Decorations

Welcome! (I made the wreath myself =D)

Some of you may recognize our somewhat scary cactus: now it's a Christmas Cactus!

Our "real" tree: Ryan surprised me by bringing it home and setting it up with tinsel & lights one night. The tree itself is stolen. Sort of... ask Peter or Jen Sieg. ;D

Our "gift tree--" the one you saw snowed-under gifts before ...on loan from Christy Fullerton.

Yay for Christmas Poinsettias!!

Another of my wreaths... that tulle from the wedding came in handy!

Our "Advent Line" (hehe, no wreath...)

Before they come down, I have to chronicle them... I wanted to do so much more, but have contented myself with and enjoyed these:

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Very Thompson Christmas

the traditional Christmas pose: in front of the poinsettias...

Most of the Crew (minus my Mom, taking the picture) after enjoying National Treasure 2

Andrew playing with Ross (currently the youngest Thompson cousin)

Me singing with my Dad-- haven't gotten to do that in SO long (we sang Bob Kauflin's "In the First Light")

Daddy Ron feeding his "pippy" (puppy) Lucy

Riley pulling a Ryan (wearing the cool new watch from Uncle Bart!)

Conner in Daddy Ron's glasses-- he put them on and said "hey! these microphone everything!"

Thursday, December 27, 2007

One More Day...

My friends Ashley & Craig are getting married tomorrow night! I tried calling Ashley, but the phone was off... made me think of the night before my wedding, NOT that long ago, when I tried to go to bed at a decent hour, and, try as I might, sleep would not come. I wasn't nervous or really even excited... I guess just happy. So, Ashley, I pray that you are happy right now... and also resting. :) (and I've heard that you've been sick, so I pray you're TOTALLY HEALED by tomorrow!) I know where Craig is-- in the hot tub at my Uncle's house, 5 houses down. If my family hadn't been so wrapped up in a HILARIOUS game of "Outburst," I would likely have gone down to crash it... ok, just to say hi to Craig. I tutored him through high school English & Spanish, come on! And he returned the favor in college, and got me through Physics.... ok, so that still isn't enough to motivate me to crash a hot-tub full of boys. Actually, i don't know what WOULD...

God give you both health and clarity of mind tomorrow. Ashley, if you're reading this at any time tomorrow (I know, not likely), then please, make up your mind to NOT stress, and to ENJOY IT! Craig, same to you. :) And don't do anything stupid that might ruin the pictures.

I love "Nights Before," don't you? One of the reasons is because they are inevitably followed by "Days of;" I mean, you couldn't have one without the other. But part of their glory is the delicious (or torturous) knowledge that this night WILL end, and then something will change; it's the Last Night, and then tomorrow will be the First Night. We love security, as humans; we like to be comfortable, even boring. But we crave change, too, calling it progress, improvement, fun. On the Night Before, we're looking at both, smacking our lips on the sweetness of the last of the known, and already anticipating the new taste to come. It's like a kid alternating between finishing one doughnut and smelling another. Smiling at both. The Day Of may pass quickly, but the Nights Before hardly ever do. They are endless, for all intents & purposes, until you look back on them.

I think... hmmm... I think I want to live my life here as a "Night Before:" enjoying every bit of it, even the stuff I naturally, uh, don't enjoy... and all the while whetting my appetite for Heaven. What was it those more sophisticated than I called it? The already-and-the-not-yet?


Because "Today is the Day of Salvation." Christ "for once saved those who are being saved." We're living in the Kingdom, and waiting for the Kingdom. We're groaning for redeption, and fully redeemed. We're longing for His presence, and enjoying it already. Like a Bride trying to sleep for the last night in her old bed...

Ok, so I was going to post a picture of Ash & I together, and wound up taking quite the pictoral stroll down Memory Lane. Here are a few for you to enjoy. :)

October 2002-- Ashley & I in front of Miabi's, Eastside's Homecoming (both freshly graduated from h/s)
Summer 2003- Craig, Me, & David Sapp, rock climbing in Kings Mt, NC. Attractive harnesses, don't you think? (that was back when Craig worked for Rocks & Ropes!)

June 2002-- Craig switching bathroom signs on our Mission Trip to Mezquital (he was supposed to do that...)
Ashley with her Daddy & Kristen Hatfield, same mission trip

Nov 2002- Ashley with me, right after I cut 18" off my hair (she was my moral support for that, and for the 2nd hole I had pierced in my ear for my 21st birthday... ahh, good times)

March 2005- Ashley talking with kids in the Acapulco Orphanage- a mission trip we took through Furman's RUF... hehehe I have lots of pictures of Ashley, it would seem...

September 2006- Triple-Play Date Night- Ryan & Lydia Donell had Craig & Ashley, and Ryan & I over for dinner & games. Ahhh, young love.

Can't wait to see that last dating couple be sealed!! :)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Clockwise from bottom: Bart (my Dad) w/ Karina (my Mom) on his lap; the Charlie Thompsons: Ross, Collin, Aunt Paige & Uncle Charlie (my Dad's youngest and tallest brother); Andrew (Rusty's oldest), Aunt Anne (Rusty's wife) & Nicole (my middle sister), standing; Mama Blanche (my grandma's Mom); the Szramas; Daddy Ron & Mama Peggy (reigning pair); Conner (Rusty's youngest), Anna (my youngest sis), and Riley. My Dad's younger brother Rusty was taking the picture, and their sister Robin & her family couldn't make it this year. She's quite pregnant with "Jack," their 3 child.

Most of "the Thompson Clan" is gathered here at my grandparents' house in Ruston, LA. Actually, their home (the one all the grandkids have always known as their house) is quite a bit OUT of town, set on its own 48-acres complete with woods, creeks, pond, and meadows. It's also equipped with 4-wheeler trails, a VW Thing, dirt bikes, a shooting range, lots of guns, a trampoline, and my Uncle Rusty's under-construction new GORGEOUS house & shop.

I'll post pictures of our ambles through the woods with the dogs & my grandpa later. I shot a shotgun for the first time in 4 years or so, and was relieved that I could still aim & shoot ok. I wouldn't have wanted to be shown up by my little cousins. Although, Riley (who was with us) is so sweet and encouraging that he wouldn't have rubbed it in if I hadn't been able to shoot the bottle out of the tree at all.

Most of us stayed up late last night, after letting the kids open one present each. We played Rummikub, the game Ryan bought Andrew, and just swapped stories. Charlie & his brothers kept us in stitches, mostly recounting all his childhood mishaps resulting in broken bones! Then this morning we had a big Christmas Dinner, a day earlier than usual, because my uncle Charlie had to leave in the afternoon.

The older set of boys (Dad, his brother Rusty, and Ryan) are making quite a ruckus trying to fly their new remote-controlled helicoptors inside... Aunt Anne, Nicole, Anna & I just finished several rounds of 'Blokus,' one of the games "the little boys" (Rusty's boys) got for Christmas. It was quite a lot of fun! After 15 years with Anne as my aunt, we're just now starting to see her competitive, jokester side. :) We opened all our presents tonight, after the Christmas Eve Candlelight service... I am still in shock from the Phantom of the Opera tickets Ryan got for me!!!

All right, I'd better go find my child and get him ready for bed... :) More pictures and thougts to come--

~Christina Maria

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Boys Singing, Boys Playing

A fun bit of Christmas Cheer...

[This is Indiana University's male a capella group, Straight No Chaser, check out their other songs on Youtube, such as "Africa"-- this will make the ending of "the 12 Days of Christmas" make sense.]

I want my boys to sing like this! Speaking of which, I played a clip of the Winchester Boys Choir singing Christmas hymns for my 5th and 6th graders...the looks of incredulity on those boys' faces was AMAZING! "Those are NOT boys, Mrs. Szrama!" "They've got girls in there, I hear them!" And then wen I smiled and said, "Listen- here they go up higher!," their eyes got even rounder, which I didn't think possible. I'm trying to teach them that, yes, boys really DO sing high before 8th grade!! They think they can't sing high, but if I don't tell them it's high, they can do it! So many boys are shy about singing, but I've never met any grown-up boy who was glad he'd never learned how. People go nuts when boys sing!!

Anyway, Ryan & I are safely in Ruston, LA, and Ryan's been introduced to the ranch, the Thing, my great-grandma, and all the Thompson Clan traditions. Tomorrow my Dad & I will sing at Temple Baptist Church here in town; I'm looking forward to singing with my Daddy again. Ryan's been a hit with the boys (my 3 cousins); he came dressed for breakfast in a Power Rangers mask, tennis arm band, cap, and carrying a huge Batman doll. They loved that, as you can imagine. They're such sweet boys that they'd have loved just about anybody. But Ryan is such a great fit for them-- I mean, they are so much like he & his brothers growing up: loving being outside, fantasy, Legos, video games, books, board games, trampolines, and being active in general. Just boys. Good boys-- polite, excitable, sweet, and full of energy. My Aunt Anne's done a wonderful job with them...and God has been so gracious. May He give Ryan & I such boys in a few years!!

Til later (And more sure to come!),

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Teacher Gifts and Christmas Cheer

Piled around and on our tiny tree: Most of the gifts I've received as a teacher! cards to Target, Wal-Mart, the Oxmoor Mall, LifeWay Christian stores, and our favorite restaurants (P.F. Chang's, Q'doba, Texas Roadhouse)... beautiful ornaments (I especially love the homemade ones!), pretty Christmas things (the goblet from the Kings is now the holder for our Christmas Day Advent Candle), and lots and lots and lots of yummy things to eat! We're sharing as much as we can, let me tell you!

I remain amazed by how lavishly I'm loved on by the parents at Dorothy Sayers!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

School Pics

I just got these pics of me with my sweet kids... They turned out remarkably well-- go Mr. Tomeny of Craig Paul Studios!!

The Monday/Wednesday class ("Jack" will tell you he's my favorite boy in the WHOLE class!)

Tuesday/Thursday's class... not as pretty a day.
Can you tell they're my more rambunctious/distractable group? =D

oh, and that's our class bear, Rhys Luther. Very important classmember. He had to stay home sick today, as I told the dissapointed kids. I told them he was full of germs-- which is true-- being washed right now, so I can have him there for the last day of school of 2007. They would NOT be happy without saying goodbye to him! :)

I'm off for much-needed recovery sleep
-- happy to be Mrs. Szrama

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Fed-Ex Delivery

Whoooohoo! We got our wedding album today!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Meet Three of our Pastors

I lifted these straight off of our new, being-built church website, because I found them so refreshing and honest. These are the kind of men God has sent to us to shepherd us here at Immanuel. Ryan & I have the privelege of knowing all of the 5 pastors surprisingly well, through various "coincidences." Ryan works with Ben, for instance... yes, he is the Ben who bought me the bubblegum-coated chocolate icecream way back when...

Marvel at the sort of men God's grace can make!:

Our Pastors.

Ryan Fullerton

Pastor Ryan was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and grew up all over Western Canada. Throughout his teen years he looked to political causes to make him feel righteous and drugs and sex to make him feel happy. Thankfully, by the time he was 21 he found his righteousness was a joke and his happiness had turned sour. Then, through the simple and intelligent witness of his step-mom he came to trust Jesus Christ late in the evening just before Good Friday in 1995. Following that Ryan began to grow, to tell people about Jesus, and to study his Bible. Shortly after his conversion he studied for a year at Prairie Bible College, in Three Hills Alberta, and then for two years at Tyndale College in Toronto, Ontario. In Toronto, Ryan had two life shaping experiences. First, he got to work in a downtown urban Church under the leadership of Dr. Stephen Beck. Second, he got invited to be in a ‘study group’ by the godliest and the prettiest girl in the college. A week after graduation the lovely Christy Joy Teal became Christy Joy Fullerton. The next eight years have been a whirlwind including drilling for oil, pastoring a Church in a town of 311, finding out he was naturally a bad husband, God giving miraculous and happy grace in his marriage, having four children (Jordana, Luke, James, and Christopher), starting Seminary, stopping Seminary, and becoming (somewhere in there) the Pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church. Since 2002 Ryan has been the Pastor of Immanuel. In that time God has blessed him with many trials, incredible Co-Pastors, and an amazingly loving Church. On top of all this he has had the privilege of seeing Immanuel Baptist Church take some small steps towards bringing the heartbeat of the Cross to the Streets of our city and the ends of the earth.
Right now at Immanuel Ryan has the primary responsible for preaching the Word of God Sunday Mornings, equipping others to preach God’s Word on Wednesday Nights, shaping our Sunday Morning ‘Discipleship Classes’, and leading our public services. He is also beginning to spearhead evangelism, and to cultivate and articulate the vision of the Church.

Ben Hedrick
baptism as people! Homeschooling took up most of Ben's K-12 education : as a result he is very close to his parents and sisters and is thankful for the the way the Lord used them to make him more like Jesus. Ben continued his education at Missouri Baptist University in St. Louis, where he graduated with a BA in Religion in 2003 . He came to Immanuel in 2004, and soon after met and married his wife Sarah, a gifted pianist and graduate of the University of Louisville School of Music. Together, Ben and Sarah have two children: Karis, and #2 due in May of 2008! Karis is still a toddler and is learning new phrases every day, of which Ben's favorite isBorn in Memphis, Tennessee but raised mostly in Kansas, Ben is one of Jim and Lee Ann Hedrick's three children. The Lord blessed Ben with faithful Christian parents who were continually modeling for him pastoral, cross-bearing Church service. The Lord drew nine-year old Ben to himself through the witness of his parents, and Ben considers it a great honor to have had his father baptize him in a Kansas creek. His father's congregation was the only Baptist church in the county, and as such there were as many cattle in attendance at the "yes sir, daddy"! Ben enjoys spending time outdoors with his family , watching St. Louis Cardinal baseball, roasting his own coffee, and plans on becoming a hobby beekeeper someday. Working full time in sales for a local family-owned commercial refrigeration company takes up most of his time, but Ben also longs to see local churches founded firmly on deep and rich theology that works itself out in believers doing good to all men, especially the household of faith.

Jeff King
Pastor Jeff King grew up in a suburb just outside of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida called Coral Springs. He is the son of two wonderful Christian parents. While in High School, he began courting Christy, whom he somehow persuaded to marry him halfway through his college years. Jeff attended Samford University where he obtained a BA in Religion. Jeff and Christy moved to Louisville in 1998, and joined IBC in January of 2002. He became a volunteer pastor in 03. He graduated from Southern Seminary in May ’04, and was hired in May of 07 to be the second staff pastor at IBC. Jeff oversees discipleship counseling, membership, missionary support, IBC staff, and care group ministries. Jeff and Christy have two daughters, Alexis and Rachel. Jeff recently “delivered” a spleen weighing more than either daughter weighed at their birth. Alexis attends pre-school at Dorothy Sayers and is learning that the letter “A” makes four sounds. Rachel has learned that she can aggravate her sister by making one of those sounds four times. [Edit: HAHAHAHA] Jeff enjoys being with his family, reading, playing sports, gardening, and watching Gator football. Jeff desires to lead a people to fight for joy, and sees every experience as a Divine call to joy—a shameless, unmitigated challenge to throw off all worries and complaints and to “enter into the joy of our Master.” (Matt. 25:21). Jeff’s happiest thought is that Christ shed His blood for sinners.

p.s. I just want to applaud my husband for the hours and ingenuity he's put into the code behind that new website. God be praised for the quiet good that you do! I love you!!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

By Grace

Yesterday, through the readings of the Scripture, the Spirit of God filled me with immense joy and full-hearted...amazement at His Love and His sovereignty! Studying the Sermon on the Mount, God brought sudden insight into the place of His Law, and Jesus' exaltation of it. The Law shows us God's holiness-- how could Jesus ever come to abolish it?? Jesus LOVES holiness; He's the guy in Psalm 119 who cries "Oh, how I LOVE Your Law; it is my Delight!" He came to show us how beautiful it is to keep the Law, and to purify a people for Himself who are ZEALOUS about law-keeping (Titus 2), and to make them able to do what they were never able to do before: keep the Law, because He livees in them and enables them to!! Anyway, it struck me how beautiful that was... and get this: God wrote things into His Law to ensure that He could bear its curse. He's the One who said "cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree," so that in 1500 years, when crucifixion was popular, He could endure it and "become accursed," to set His Beloved free from the Curse deserved by everyone who breaks His Law. I wanted to cry out with Paul "o the depth of the riches of His wisdom and knowledge!"

And I felt like Martin Luther, suddenly understanding, with proper amazement, that, though we CAN'T keep the Law, we can still be declared righteous! God loves His Law, and it is beautiful-- all His Laws protect beauty-- and He made a way for law-breakers to become righteous... and to love His Law as He does, as it was so gloriously kept in Christ! As I didn't have any nails, or any inside doors in our living quarters, for that matter, I contented myself with running into our dining room/bedroom and cuddled up in bed with Ryan, thanking God and rejoicing. When he woke up a little, I told him what the Lord was showing me, and he kissed my forehead and I curled up on his chest, happy in Jesus.

Oh, won't you read this and leave praising the Lord that it is NOT, as some cults subtly maintain, "by grace we are saved, after all we can do." It is SOLA GRATIA-- by Grace, GIVEN to us, all the way, the only way... and that is WORTH staking your life claim upon!

Awaiting the Day when I can hold the All-holy, and not be pushed away... because of Grace,

Saturday, December 01, 2007

What I Took to the Ladies' Fellowship Tonight...

As I left the house, Ryan & Rob were literally licking off the cookie tins, so I thought I'd post this recipie for more to enjoy. Every guy that's tried it has really liked it, including the notoriously non-cookie-fan David Shuey the Younger...and he wouldn't believe they were gluten-free, either! Heheh... I like to feed people, so I like to make these!

“Brer Rabbit” Molasses Cookies
2/3 c canola oil (3/4 softened butter ok too) yield: ~5 dozen
1 c sugar + extra to sprinkle on top (organic raw best) a Szrama favorite ☺
¼ c molasses
1 egg
2 c flour (GF: 1 c rice flour, ½ c oat or millet flour, ¼ c cornstarch, ¼ c sorghum flour)
2 t baking soda (GF: add ¼ t xanthan gum)
1 t cinnamon, ½ t salt, ½ allspice or ground cloves
1 t freshly grated ginger (or ½ t dried ground ginger ) Honestly, I think it's the fresh ginger that has made these such hits, so if you can help it, don't leave it out!!

• Beat the oil and sugar together.
• Add molasses and egg—beat until well-blended. Add ginger if using fresh.
• Sift (or mix together with a fork) flour, soda, salt & spices
• Fold flour mixture into molasses mixture, mix well. Cover and chill.
• Form into SMALL (1”) balls. Sprinkle sugar on top, space 2” apart on greased cookie sheet.
• Bake @ 375º for 8 min (‘til cracked and golden-brown)
• Let stand for 1 min. Remove to wire rack to cool. Great with milk laced with cinnamon & maple syrup!!

a favorite holiday song of mine...
"and the snow, it comes down, and it muffles the sound/ of dreams on their way to tomorrow..."

So Proud!!

Let me just say that Grandma P was right: "Dress rehearsals are terrible, and the concerts are great." And as Ryan's Mom said, "Dress rehearsals don't count!!" My kids-- ALL of them-- made me so proud.

I called my Mom right after the concert, and told her how things went; how, as one mom put it "it sounded like we'd practiced all night!", and she said-- "Isn't that an answer to prayer!? That God would get the glory and the praise for everything turning out all right?" Amen! Despite everything, the concert went well, and the Lord was lifted up.

Ryan bought me a beautiful purple-and-white rose bouquet in honor of my first concert to conduct. "They're Furman colors," he said. That made me smile. :)

My Pre-Schoolers coming in as lambs-- SO CUTE!!

"The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay..."

They said Luke 2:1-7 so adorably, Alexis particularly expressively, and then they sang "Away in a Manger right on key and all together." One of my girls was quite distraught, though, because I forgot to have them bow at the end, which we had rehearsed... Can you tell she keeps me on my toes? ;D

The 7th-8th Grade Choir, performing the song I was most concerned about... beautifully. Their Latin was understandable, they carried the tune (a Gregorian plainchant) well... the only thing they could have done better would be to sing OUT! They were hardly heard in the back row... May our success give them confidence, and breed more success! Next year, the lights will be dimmed so the candles can be better seen!

My 5th-6th graders, doing their best and doing it well, as usual. And don't my boys look SHARP with their ties!? (notice Nick as well, in the blue-- he accompanied us on one song with his guitar, as did the last boy on the row... and both of them are on my list of most-helpful students now!!! Way to go, Nick & Louis!)

My lovely accompanist, Kara W. (she goes to Immanuel, and helped us on our "Labor Day")

Our last song, performed as a large choir... it could have been disastrous, but it went ok. Not the best on the program, but not half bad, either. =D I was one happy teacher as I went home.

And I was thanking God for His mercy, and His strength.

I have no idea how I'm going to pick any 4 Choristers of the Concert (1 boy, 1 girl from each choir). So many of them just did outstanding jobs.

Off to bed with me; we've got a houseful of company coming over tomorrow... still not sure where everyone will fit, but you know, you just do the best you can with what you have! I'll be using my breadmaker and crock pot (think: vegetarian chili!) tomorrow morning. I love those appliances...
~ Christina
PS- updates on Thanksgiving are ...well... up! Enjoy!