Monday, December 31, 2007

More Christmas Pics

Like I said, Carolyn took much cuter pictures than we did. Here's a few more pics to close out the season.
Braelyn and me on Christmas morning.
Braelyn in her sweet Christmas dress.
To get her to smile I was giving her little bites of snickers.
Cease girls smile for chocolate!
Braelyn, lovin' on her new baby.
The three of us. I LOVE my family!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Decisions, Decisions

Okay, ya'll, I know this is silly, but I just can't decide. My parents got me the amazing Kitchenaid Mixer for Christmas this year. They got me a white one, which I love clean and classic...but man, the red one is so cute too! The only problem is that I have been to two LinensN'Things and no red ones.

So bloggies, do I stick with clean and classic, or hunt down a red one?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Oh Yeah...Christmas!

I wanted to send out some warm Christmas wishes before the big day, but it just didn't happen, so...I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! The Cease family enjoyed a fabulous Christmas, indeed! The season was pretty short for us. We didn't actually acknowledge its presence until around the 22nd, but you know, I think that's about all the Christmas I need (or want :).

We kicked off our celebrations with a classic white elephant gift exchange with the gang here in Brenham. I don't have any pictures, but it was a great night. I do have to say that the Cease's, were responsible for bringing the best gift - a singing and dancing (a little inappropriately, I might add) African American Santa Clause. I will look forward to seeing it year after year, displayed victoriously at the Hyde's beautiful home! :)

Party #2: The C Squad! A year or two ago, the Coffman's, the Cutshall's and the Cease's started doing a Christmas dinner together. This year, it was in Brenham, so Casey and I introduced them to one of the few acceptable restaurants here in town, Volare's. Back at the house we enjoyed our own individual, rose-shaped, red velvet cakes with chocolate sauce that Erin made...with a partridge in a pear tree. DELICIOUS! It was all great fun. Here's a picture of just the girls. Love you guys!
Party #3: A super fun, laid back night with the Haskew's and the Brient's. Pizza, gifts (well actually, Catherine was the only sweet one who gave gifts) and games. We decided to make this little party a yearly Christmas tradition, however, a strict dress code will be enforced...comfy PJs only!

The next phase of the holiday was the frantic, last minute shopping phase. Yes, I was among the thousands of crazy people purchasing the majority of their Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve. The one benefit to this is that there is no time for second guessing my gift choices. Normally, I like to buy and return gifts several times before I actually commit to one. I know...ridiculous!

Once that was done, well, it was Christmas Eve and so the family gatherings were upon me. My family and Casey's family celebrated Christmas Eve together. A wonderful blessing, and very fun. On Christmas, we spent the morning with the Cease's and the evening with the Jett's (my family). It was a big day. Here are just a few of my favorite moments.

Braelyn in her cute Christmas overalls!
While everyone was busy opening presents, Braelyn and I had our own sweet moment of snugglin' and smoochin'. A definite Christmas highlight!
This last picture needs some explaining. This also happened while everyone else was opening presents. During the chaos, I looked up and caught Casey's eye, then all of a sudden he starts posing for me, George Costanza style. For a long time, only Casey and I were in on the joke. I call this picture Christmas Sass!
Carolyn took much better pictures then we did, so hopefully I'll get some of those and post a few more. I just have to show you Braelyn in her precious Christmas dress! :) Besides that...I'm done with Christmas!

Mom, Dad, Carolyn, Allan-thanks for an amazing Christmas. We are so blessed to have such a generous and loving family! We love you!

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Thank You Note

Before I say anything else, I want to say thank you for all your prayers and sweet words . My family and I were so blessed and encouraged by them. I had the D&C on the 21st. All things considered, everything went fine. They put me under general anesthesia, so I didn't have to experience the process, which was probably best. Afterwards, there was no pain, no cramping at all. The craziest thing was that up until the surgery, I was still feeling so tired and sluggish, but almost as soon as I got home, I started feeling back to my old self again...physically anyway. I was so thankful to once again be able to give my full, whole-hearted attention to Braelyn. Our time together has been so sweet.

Some sadness still lingers. With the first miscarriage, it sort of hit me right away and all at once. This time, the hurt is taking its time to disperse itself. It comes in short waves and each time I'm a little surprised by its reappearance. I think Casey is experiencing the same thing. But really, we are doing very well. We had a wonderful Christmas, a wonderful time with friends and family, and now we are enjoying some (much needed) quiet, family time before real life begins again. The blessing of all this is that I am reminded of the Lord and His goodness, and Casey and I are forced to re-acknowledge how much we need each other.

...all for the good of those who love Him! Amen! Thanks again for visiting and reading and sharing and praying.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

He Gives and Takes Away

I have some sad news to share tonight. I had my first doctors appointment today. Casey, Braelyn and I drove all the way out to Bryan to meet our doctor for the first time and get that anticipated first sonogram. I went through all the questions and the very intrusive and embarrassing examinations, so far, so good. Then, by the time Braelyn was reaching her limit, we were escorted to the sonogram room. Right away the lady knew, and she quietly and respectfully told us that although I was 9 weeks along, the baby stopped developing around six weeks. Another miscarriage. (I had one before I had Braelyn. It was very early in the pregnancy.)

Casey and I are doing okay. We're sad. A miscarriage is just a sad thing. I have a D&C scheduled for Friday afternoon. (I did not have this last time.) I am hoping that this will give doctors an opportunity to look at the tissue and find out why this is happening, but I understand if there are no answers.

We trust the Lord. We thank Him and worship Him for His blessings and protection.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Austin In A Nutshell

Ahhh...We're back. I had really good intentions of posting little vacation updates as we went along, but with all the sleeping and eating...there was just no time! :) We had such a great time! It was so nice for the two of us to get away. I'm glad I didn't give in to my weak mommy moment. (On Tuesday night before we left, I could not stop crying about being away from Braelyn. You would of thought I was sending her away to college or something. Anyways, I was flirting with the idea of taking her with us, but I knew how much it would disappoint the grandparents, and I knew that this may be the last opportunity for quite a while to make this kind of investment in our marriage. So, she stayed, we went. And I was very brave while we were gone too...I didn't even cry once!)

If I had blogged each day, I could of given you a few more details with pictures and all that, but I didn't, and actually we didn't really take any pictures. So, now all you get is our vacation in a nutshell. Here it goes:

*Slept in, room service, breakfast in bed...yum!
*Walked up and down Congress and up and down 6th Street
*Ate lunch at P.D. Riley's...charming little Irish pub. Food was okay, but the live musician made of for it.
*Walked around the Capital and went to the Texas History Museum. (After we watched the short film they have, all the walking we had done started to catch up to us. Not wanting to waste the money we spent to see the museum, we pressed through, but let's just say we took the abbreviated tour. I kept thinking, "Cynthia, would be so ashamed!")
*2 hour nap
*Dinner at the Iron Cactus...very cool. I highly recommend it!
*Watched 3:10 to Yuma in our hotel...great flick!

*Slept in, room service, breakfast in bed...that never gets old!
*Met our great friend, and new Austin local Phil Coffman for lunch (see, lots of eating). We ate at Threadgill's. Excellent...they have sweet potato fries!
*Got some Christmas shopping done at Barton Creek Mall. Before then, I hadn't bought a single gift. This was the highlight of the vacation for Casey.
*Watched an episode of 24 back at the hotel
*Dinner at the FireBowl Pei Wei, but better!
*Saw No Country for Old Men at the, don't so much recommend this movie...Casey loved it though.

*Slept in
*Ate the most delicious pancakes we have ever had at Kerbey Lane Cafe...excellent suggestion!
*Went to the Book People Book Store...amazing place. I love all the staff reviews.
*Walked around South Congress. Fun place to browse, and even better with a yummy, warm cup of coffee.
*2 hour nap (See, lots of sleeping!)
*Went to have dinner at a super cute Italian cafe we found in SoCo, but the wait was over an hour... :( This mama would've been dry heavin' all over the place...and then I would have been too embarrassed to sit down and, Freebirds.
*Grabbed some coffee/dessert at Mozart's Coffee Roasters...Fabulous atmosphere and desserts! Oh my gosh, the mousse!
*Saw Atonement at the theater...AMAZING!!! It's a good one, girls! (I had to make up for the blood and guts monstrosity we saw the night before!)

*Race home to see my baby girl! She did great the whole time, but when she saw me for the first time, you could see her process the fact that she had been away from me, as if this was the first time it struck her, and whoa mama! She threw her passy out of her mouth and looked at me like, "Where the h*%# have you been!?!" She started crying and wouldn't let go of me for quite some time...which was just fine by me.

So there's our trip. We had an amazing time and we now have a warm, little place for Austin in our hearts! Thanks so much for all your great suggestions! They helped a lot and I was always reminded of my sweet blogger buddies. :)

And here's the one picture we took. I call it Texas History Eager Beavers. (We were the first folks in the Spirit Theater at the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum.)

Friday, December 7, 2007

My Life Since The Double Blue Lines

Good evening, it's 12:26 am, and I can't sleep. So, I thought I'd blog and jot down the thoughts and feelings I am experiencing in this second month of pregnancy. This is partly for you, but mostly for me, because I apparently can't remember a single thing from the first time I was pregnant, and if I am so bold as to try this a third time, I want to be able to refer to some notes - reminders that I am NOT going crazy, I'm just pregnant.

Ok, where should I start? The fatigue! That's what triggered our suspicion, in the first place. Over Thanksgiving I slept SO much. I think I mentioned that we stayed at my parent's and in the mornings my sweet mom would come get Braelyn so that Casey and I could keep sleeping. We would sleep till around 10-10:30 everyday. Then on Saturday (after Thanksgiving), it suddenly struck me how tired I was , which made no sense at all considering all the sleeping we had done. Hmmm? Something wasn't right. Adding this to the fact that I was "late," Casey and I scratched our movie plans and pulled into the Walgreen's for the home pregnancy test. We went back to Casey's parent's house, I took the test, and there they were...the double blue lines! "Um, Honey...haha, I think Jesus did some revising to our family plan. Surprise!" I am still in shock, by the way. Anyways, back to the fatigue. I am so tired all the time! Getting up in the morning is the most painful torture. This lasts until about 2:00pm, and then I slowly start speaking and acknowledging others in the house, but that's about it. Then around bed time, I get all wound up and fidgety, and I can't tonight...I didn't even nap today!

There's also my lack of motivation to do anything! Lately, I don't feel like doing a darn thing, even the things I usually love - playing with Braelyn, cooking, blogging, going out. And household chores...forget it! We got our Christmas tree on Wednesday, which I had been looking forward to, and then once we got it, I was like, "Oh Lord, now I have to decorate it...maybe I won't decorate the tree this year. Why do I need to decorate what God has already made so beautiful?" Luckily, some friends in our Community group got the lights up for me, so I managed to muster up the strength to hang the ornaments. Thanks Peter!

Those are my the biggest issues, I guess. The only other thing is keeping my thoughts and irrational fears in check, which honestly, I've given this job to Casey. Here are a few:
- Why don't I feel excited about the baby yet?
- I feel like I am already neglecting Braelyn because I never feel well.
- I don't feel ready for Braelyn to have to share my attention with another baby.
- I feel like I'm a pretty good mommy to one baby, but what if I can't manage two?
- What if my baby is a cyclopes?
- I am just now finding things that I enjoy doing by myself (blogging, cooking, sewing, reading). What if I can't do those things anymore once the baby comes?

I know, deep down, it's going to be great. I was equally afraid the first time, and God completely blew me away with His faithfulness. I love being a mom. I love Braelyn more than I could have possible imagined. I am still happily married. I didn't gain 400 pounds. God was good to me then...He will be good again. He always is. If I could just remember!

Good night, ya'll. Thanks for letting me lay it all out. :) And thanks Casey, for the way you are serving me, and blessing me, and showering me with patience. I love you!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Guess What, Ya'll...

Us too! :)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Christmas In Brenham

This weekend, Brenham had a sort of Christmas kick-off. Friday and Saturday evening, the square was blocked off to traffic, decorations went up, stores stayed open late and the sights and sounds of of Christmas made their debut. Last night, Casey, Braelyn, Nonnie, Bobby, our nephew Noah, and I went to the Brenham Christmas parade. It was definitely a moment for Brenham to show off its small-town charm. Downtown looked so beautiful all lit up and it was so fun to see the street curbs lined with families waving to their friends in the parade.

Downtown Brenham, before the parade.

Of course, Blue Bell got the party started!

We even had some friends in the parade!
There's Justin and Jonas Hyde!
I am guessing that the kiddos are little lambs,
but I'm not totally sure.
Cute, whatever they are.

Braelyn had a ball! She just loves to wave and say hi to strangers!

Before the festivities began, Casey, Braelyn and I put on our most coordinating outfits for our yearly family Christmas picture. For the short amount of time that Braelyn would cooperate, I think we got some great shots. Here are a couple of our favorites. Our #1 choice however, is reserved for the Christmas card! :)

Thanks Nonnie, for coming to Brenham and taking our picture! We had so much fun!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Book Review: Mansfield Park

If I haven't mentioned it by now, you should know that I love Jane Austen. I have not "known" her long (just since this past summer), but since then, I think of her and her books as dear friends. Mansfield Park is the fourth Austen book that I have read, and like the other three, I couldn't put it down.

Mansfield Park tells the story of Fanny Price. At the young and still impressionable age of ten, Fanny was invited to live in the country with her aunt and uncle Bertram. A mother, especially one so acquainted with the hardships of humble circumstances, could not deny, nor allow her daughter to reject the possibilities that would come available to her as a resident of Mansfield Park. And so, with fear and sorrow, Fanny went. Over time, however Fanny grew to love her new home and was not unaware of the generosity afforded to her, nor was she given opportunity to forget it. For much of her young life, she was not loved, she was not thought of or considered, except for when she might be found useful to a more legitimate member of the household. Her whole childhood would have been a terrible misery had not it been for the friendship she found in her dear cousin Edmund. He alone knew the tenderness and pureness of her heart. He alone was her defender in a home that distinguished no value in her except for what their resources had provided.

Austen's plot thickens as Fanny finds herself fervently pursued by a young and attractive Henry Crawford. Henry's affections would have been readily received by many a young lady out in society, but Fanny was not so easily won. She was a girl of strong convictions and her steady resolve made her suspect to the talents of charm and money. Not only did Mr. Crawford have the stronghold of Fanny's integrity to overcome, but also the fact that her heart was secretly reserved for another.

As I made my way through the novel, I grew to love Fanny Price. I confess she did annoy me at times, moments when she seemed ridiculously fragile or almost "to good to be true." But in the times that Fanny was alone with her true thoughts, I found her jealousy and judgment and suspiciousness refreshing, and I was all the more protective of her.

In fear of this review being all sugary goodness, I will say a couple things: One, I feel that the ending was rushed. The plot thickens and thickens, and then, practically in a chapter, it is resolved. Austen is so descriptive, so thorough in her assessment of the character's emotions, but in the last chapter, it would seem that there was paper enough for facts, and facts alone. I was a little taken back. And two, I think the ending of Mansfield Park leaves the modern reader a bit conflicted. One one hand you feel that all is as it should be, and on the other hand, you're wondering why you're delighted by the other hand.

My final word: Read It! Don't see the movie!
I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Braelyn's First Haircut

Braelyn got her very first real haircut today. As you can see in those two pictures on the side of my blog, her hair was getting so shaggy in front and starting to get in her eyes. It was definitely time. I took her to my stylist, Melissa, who's great! I really like her a lot. Anyways, Braelyn was AMAZING! She sat so quietly and so still the whole time. I was so proud!

And then, for being such a big girl, she got her first sucker. A chocolate tootsie roll pop. Once she figured out what to do, she was a happy and sticky girl.

Here she is! All trimmed up and so thirsty from that delicious tootsie roll pop! What a big day!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving and Back

I think, the hardest part about any holiday is the return to real life. When I was teaching first grade I remember thinking on those first days back from a holiday..."IT'S NOT WORTH IT!" You spend four or five days just lounging around, eating, sleeping, talking, shopping and eating some more, and then WHAM! Back to real life. Being a stay-at-home mom, I thought I would be exempt from this holiday such luck.

This Thanksgiving we stayed with my parents and had no shortage of help with Braelyn. I was able to shower with the bathroom door closed and I could get completely ready with no interruptions. We got to go out one night. We even got to sleep in a couple of mornings! GLORIOUS! Now we're back, and needless to say, I am having a hard time accepting the fact that I am solely responsible for all of Braelyn's physical and entertainment needs. But we're makin' it! :) It is by far, more enjoyable to return home with my sweet baby girl, than to return to a classroom of twenty well-rested, pumpkin pie stuffed first graders.

Grumbling aside, we had a great Thanksgiving. It was my family and Casey's family together. Casey and I feel quite fortunate that we don't have to do the double-stuff rush on these holidays. Our families are great friends and we enjoy spending these big-meal holidays together.

I learned on this Thanksgiving Day that I am horrible at taking pictures of meaningful events. I don't have pictures of everyone, the pictures I do have aren't real great, and the ones that are fairly decent, I didn't take. are just a few.

Here are the centerpieces that mom and I pulled together at the last minute.
Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

The head chef.
I think she looks cute as a button in that little apron!
(That's my mom, by the way.)

I liked this one of Casey and me.

And finally, the Punkin'.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Regarding Austin

Well, I'd like to start off by saying thanks to all those who left suggestions for the Cease Austin Getaway. Ya'll are amazing! I can't tell you how much we appreciate your tips. We will definitely get to as many spots as we can, and of course...I'll blog and let you know how it goes. It's gonna be great, I can already tell!

Our trip is December 12-16th. Casey's Board of Directors has a Christmas party the 12th, so we will say bye to baby, go to the party and then head to Austin. We'll be getting in late, but this way we have three full days. Oh, and yes, we had already booked our hotel before I blogged. Beautiful suggestions though. We'll keep those in mind, when we're, know...richer! :) And sad thing about the Paramount Theater! I saw online that they are showing White Christmas. I was so excited to see it on the big screen, but the last showing is at 7:00 on the 12th and we're not getting in till much later. Bummer! Casey was devastated by the news.

Question: Have you heard about or have an opinion about any of the following places/events?
*23rd Street Artist Market
*Live from the Plaza
*2nd Street District
These are just a couple of things I found online.
Ooh, and another question. I would like to maybe spend a little time in Fredricksburg. Does anyone know how far away it is from Austin?

Anyways, thanks again! If any other great ideas come to mind, don't hesitate to comment!
I don't think I'll get a chance to blog again before Turkey Day, so have a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving! God Bless!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Look What We Did Today, Ya'll!

Before: Around 11:00am

During: Around 2:00pm
After: Around 6:00pm

Ahhhh! What a relief to get that done! It was such a mess!
Special thanks to Nonnie (Casey's mom, Carolyn) who played with Braelyn ALL day so that we could tackle this huge project! Such a help!
And a special thanks to Blake who did lots of cleanin' and haulin' junk. As a token of our appreciation, we give you...Dickens. He is no piece of junk left behind by the previous owner, no sir! He is a treasure...and with love...we give him to you!
And to my Sweetheart, who worked so hard all day, and kept his promise to me that the garage would get cleaned...thank you. I love you!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Pump Cran Nasties

I just spent my Saturday evening making 2 batches of pumpkin cranberry muffins. On my first attempt, I got all the ingredients mixed, I got them into their little muffin cups and as soon as I closed the oven door, I realized that I had left out TWO ingredients! Grrrrr!

I went ahead a let these trash-destined muffins do their time in the oven, and in the mean time I proceeded onto batch #2. This time I triple-checked that all the ingredients made their way into the bowl.

I was just about done with batch #2, when the oven alerted me that batch #1 was ready. I was sure they would be delicious (Please note the sarcasm). Um...disgusting! No worries though, that was the baker's error. Batch #2 will be amazing!

So muffins #13-24 spent their 22 minutes in the oven. While I waited I did some blog surfing and was happy to find the blogs of two old friends. Now there's something to celebrate with a pumpkin cranberry muffin! Ah! They're ready!

I immediately placed them on the cooling rack as I was instructed. I placed one happy muffin on my plate and returned to the computer. Um...WHAT!? THEY"RE STILL DISGUSTING! They taste exactly the same as the first batch! Apparently it doesn't matter if you leave out a few of the ingredients. Gross is still gross, even with oil and salt!

These pumpkin cranberry nasties will not follow their brothers into the trash, however. I am out of cereal and milk, and so it's a pump cran nasty for me in the morning. I can hardly wait! (Please note the even more bitter's late!) :)

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Public Service Announcement

Someone I love very much is on her way to becoming a non-smoker. I am so excited and so proud of her. This fabulous news reminded me of a little public service announcement I felt compelled to make a few years back while waiting in a London train station.

Public, you have officially been served!
And to the one giving up lighting up, I love you and YOU CAN DO IT!!!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Giving Thanks: Part 3

It is good to give THANKS to the Lord
And to sing praises to Your Name,
O Most High;
To declare Your loving kindness in the morning
And Your faithfulness by night,
With the ten-stringed lute and with the harp,
With resounding music upon the lyre.
Psalm 93:6-7

Today I am thankful for the things that make me laugh, smile, think, try, create, and pay attention. Here's to the little, but wonderfully significant things that make life enjoyable!

I am thankful for verbs! The actions of my everyday.
* Watching::The Office
* Cooking::A new recipe::By myself
* Sewing::With a friend
* Writing::A blog
* Receiving::Comments :)
* Reading::A classic
* Walking::In the park::With Braelyn
* Drinking::A glass of wine::With a delicious meal
* Playing::Scrabble::With Casey
* Shopping::With my mom
* Sharing:: A meal::With friends
* Dancing::For Braelyn
* Talking::Over coffee

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Giving Thanks: Part 2

Be anxious for nothing,
but in everything by prayer and supplication
with THANKSGIVING let your request be known to God.
Philippians 4:6

Today I give thanks for God's faithful provision to our family.
I know that God provides in countless ways, but I guess today I am specifically talking about His financial provision. Although we have no source of guaranteed income, we have no reason to be anxious about the future. We always have our daily bread and so much more. He has astonished us with His generosity time and again.

Here are just a few ways that God has proven that He is our Provider.
* I am able to be a full-time mom.
* Casey has gone to speak at many events and received much more than he was promised.
* Faithful supporters of Transform continue to give generously.
* Four times Casey's car has needed repair, and four times it was repaired for free.
* We have no credit card debt.
* We have the privilege of sharing what God has entrusted to us.
* Our wonderful friends in Sugar Land remodeled our Brenham bathroom.

Speaking of the bathroom, I've been meaning to post pictures of the beautiful finished product. I am so grateful to our Crossbridge community group.

A Vacation! What a Capital Idea!

Casey and I are FINALLY going on a vacation! Our first one in almost 2 years! And, not only that, we are going alone. That's right folks...Braelyn is staying with the grandparents for 4 days! This will be the first time that I have left her over night. I am super excited, but also a little nervous to be away from my baby.

So, you may have guessed that we are going to Austin. Just a little getaway to rest, relax, walk, read, shop, eat, and SLEEP IN! Oh, my gosh! Honestly, my heart is all aflutter at the thought of sleeping (uninterrupted) until my body decides that it's time to get up. (This has not happened in 16, almost 17 months!)

Historically, Austin has not been our most successful vacation destination. Apparently, our state's capital does not bring out the best in Casey or me, because every time we've been there, we end up arguing, or we don't know what to do. We just don't end up having that much fun when we're there. "So why are you going back?" you ask. Well, thank you so much for asking! I'll tell you. We are redeeming Austin. We are bound and determined to make great memories there.

Everyone talks about how it's the greatest place ever, and if they could live anywhere in Texas, it would be Austin. Without a doubt, the people who have this opinion are cooler than we are. We are just not hip enough to know where to go and what to do. So all you Austin lovers out there...HELP! We're not planing on scheduling every moment of our trip. We are there to relax, but we would greatly appreciate any tips and inside scoop you have on experiencing Austin.

One thing I know for sure...we are going to the The Book People Book Store. I have never been, but I've heard amazing things! Besides that, clueless. Help us redeem Austin!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Giving Thanks: Part 1

I shall wash my hands in innocents,
And I will go about Your alter,
O Lord,
That I may proclaim with the voice of THANKSGIVING
And declare all Your wonders.
Psalm 26:6-7

Today I give thanks for the history that I have with the Lord.
Over the past few months, it seems that that the Lord has been bound and determined to make a permanent impression on my heart and mind. The brand: REMEMBER. Everywhere I turn lately, His Word, in prayer, at church, I am reminded to remember Him and the great things He has done. And so I give thanks today for His beautiful story, His poem of salvation that began in the garden and it still being written today.

Yesterday, I read this Scripture:

Today if you hear His Voice,
Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me,
As in the day of trial in the wilderness,
Where your fathers tried Me by testing Me,
And saw My works for forty years.
Therefore I was angry with this generation,
And said, "They always go astray in their heart,
And they did not know My ways."
As I swore in my wrath,
They shall not enter My rest.
Hebrews 3:7-11
{Originally from Psalm 95}

What sense! If I never remember what God has done for His people, or for me personally, any and every new challenge will be a shocking blow, and I will continually be gripped by fear and doubt and faithlessness. There is no rest for the forgetful. But...if I dwell and rejoice and give thanks for the works I know He has accomplished in the past, then it is with great confidence that I can endure the coming wilderness.

And so, with thanksgiving, I remember:
*He always provides::We are able to share
*I am surrounded by loving community::I am never alone
*He has bandaged and healed wounds in our marriage::He continues to make it stronger
*He is my Teacher::I am always learning
*He has blessed me with a daughter::I love being a mother
*He has rescued me::He has invited me to join The Cause

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Friday, November 2, 2007

A Book Review: Anna Karenina

Disclaimer: I am no expert on Russian Literature! Or literature in general, for that matter. I just like reading the classics!

I finally finished Anna Karenina. Wow! If you haven't read it, (and find yourself with an obscene amount of free time on your hands) I highly recommend it. The story probably won't go down as one of my favorites, however, it is probably the most beautifully crafted piece of writing I have ever read. What I love most about this book, or perhaps about Tolstoy himself, is how he put words to the most secret of feelings, the ones you don't even acknowledge to yourself. During an argument or an interior monologue, I would find the thoughts and emotions shockingly familiar, although I never could have articulated them with such precision. At times it was delightful, at others, devastating. He delicately brings the truth of our emotions into the light, and reveals how vulnerable and deceitful they are.

The story is about a woman, Anna, who trades her loveless marriage for a passionate affair, but in the deal loses her position in society, her freedom, her son, and eventually her mind. Equally significant to the story is a man named Levin. Although these two characters are connected by family and friends, they do not meet each other until the last chapters of the book, each being relatively inconsequential to the other. It is not until the last pages that you understand why Tolstoy has paralleled the lives of these two characters. Both were on a self-defining journey. Both in despair, both convinced of the meaninglessness of life, but the climax of their struggles brought them to very different conclusions. Redemption for one, death for the other.

There are layers upon layers to this novel: Russian politics, social structure, agricultural philosophies (particularly thrilling), love, adultery, motherhood, faith, hypocrisy, redemption. It was a difficult book. Not knowing anything about Russian history, politics or culture, I struggled to grasp the full significance of the complex setting. On top of that, it was a very emotionally hard, sad novel. Ironically, I would agonize over the pain the characters were feeling and causing, but I never loved the characters, as I loved...Elizabeth Bennet, for example. I found them to be awkward, selfish, silly, prideful, arrogant, or indifferent. Imagine my state if I did love them! Nonetheless, I'm glad I read it. I like that I experienced what history has marked as excellent. It is indeed. I am eager to read more of his work, but I think I'll go for something lighter this time. Mansfield Park, perhaps?!

If you have read Anna Karenina before, I'd love to hear what you thought!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A Brenham Halloween

Some pictures of our first Brenham Halloween.

Here, we are at the Brenham Library for Halloween Story Time. It was so fun to see our library friends all dressed up!

Braelyn havin' some juice. She's a thirsty flower!

Braelyn being sweet to our little German friend. :)

After a few stories, songs and Halloween cake, a few of us took our little ones to the Brenham Rest Home. Hopefully, seeing the kiddos in their costumes made the holiday a little brighter for the residence there.

Halloween night, back at home...

After we took our pictures, we went inside and got everything ready for all the trick-or-treaters. Guess how many came a knockin'? ZERO! Not a single trick-or-treater! I was kinda bummed about that, but the Cease family had a great Halloween together. Hope you did too.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Pillow Talk and Party Time: A Mom's Day Out

Yesterday was a fabulous day! Casey and I drove into Sugar Land early in the morning, only to drop Braelyn off at Nonnie's and then go our separate ways. He had work, work, work, but my agenda was cleared for super-fun, girlie, grown-ups only things all day long!

To start off my mom's day out, I got my very first sewing lesson from my super sweet friend, Erin. This summer, I picked up some beautiful fabric to make pillows for my very naked, white couch. The fabric has just been sitting in my closet, taunting me, until yesterday when Erin and I finally got together for a little Sewing 101. I brought my brand new machine (literally still in the box), so I could get familiar with all the bells and whistles. I started out the morning just practicing. Then we ate lunch, discussed my long-term pillow goals and made a plan. Since this was my first sewing attempt, I chose a simple, square pillow, with my least favorite, beautiful fabric.

I nervously squeaked and squealed the whole time, and Erin had to get my stripes back in line a couple of times, but all in all, I would say that my first sewing project was a success!

Erin, me and my pillow.
Thanks Cutshall! You're a great teacher!

At home. I love it!
She looks a little lonely, but she'll have some sisters...eventually. :)
Oh, and that's my silly dog, Tucker. :|

Once my project was complete, I raced to my in-laws, changed into my witchiest ensemble, and left for bunco. This once-a-month event is always a blast, and Julie's Halloween-themed party was no exception. The costumes were classic, and the best part...I won the door prize! I never win!

My crazy bunco gals!

It was a great day! Although, I seem to be paying for it today. Braelyn cried for two hours before her nap, and then slept for a whopping 20 MINUTES! Oh well, it was worth it!

The Sherrill Story

Hello Friends,
I just wanted to take a second to let you know about our dear friends, John and Kelly Sherrill. Earlier this week, Kelly, at only 23 weeks pregnant, gave birth to her third son, Kyle. Kyle is 5 or 6 days old now, and they say he's really a fighter. But as you can image, family and friends are laboring in prayer over this sweet baby, and so I thought I would commission my blogger friends to join in.
The whole family is John, Kelly, Jadon, Jack and baby Kyle.

John and Kelly have a blog and are posting updates so that we can be praying for their needs as they arise. Please go to their sight. It hurts your heart to see that tiny baby, but it is also such a blessing to see the faith of this family.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Corner of This Christian Life

Since I've been in Brenham, I feel like the Lord and I have been working on a puzzle together. He, of course, knows what the final product looks like, and where all the pieces go, but I do not, and so I plug away, trying to fit pieces together, trying to make out some image of this Christian life.

Recently, I feel like He has helped me put some pretty important pieces together, through reading His Word, and praying His Word. He has been so gracious to me, continuously renewing my hunger for Scripture, making it come alive. Time and again, He has made me a feast when I expected some crumbs. He has saturated my heart with Truth, bringing It's taste to my tongue and It's feeling to my hands. I want to emphasize that I take no credit. DAILY, I am tempted to put our time aside, but DAILY, HE reminds me of His "ten thousand charms" and He is irresistible. And so, by His faithful beckoning, I have been wrestling with some difficult "pieces," and by His generous counsel, an image is becoming clearer.

Materialism has been an important piece through all of this. It has always been a struggle for me. And honestly, I don't know too many women who don't find it a struggle. Lately, my closest friends and I have been laying this sin out on the table, examining it, asking questions, searching for its root. Some of the questions that have been incubating in my heart are: Why do so many women I know struggle with always wanting more, especially when it comes to our homes? Is the desire to create a warm and inviting home a sin in and of itself? If not, when does it cease to be a godly desire placed in our hearts, and become dirty, lustful, greedy sin? So, as my husband says, I've been "sitting in the tension," waiting on God to share His wisdom.

While I've been waiting, God began to open my eyes to another area of sin in my life. In a nutshell: the community that I currently exist in, is perhaps, not completely reflective of God's Kingdom. I felt encouraged by His Word to enter into honest community with all walks of life, the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the white and the black, the full and the hungry, and so on. The point was driven home further as God reminded me of people I know and people I don't know that are hurting and suffering in ways I cannot imagine.

One night on the Internet, I was faced with some of these suffering people, children actually. My heart was so grieved. I was overwhelmed with shame, as earlier in the day I was pouting because I didn't get to work on my sewing project. What a silly thing! How ridiculously insignificant! I don't even sew! It was here in this tearful moment, that God, so tenderly, fit these "puzzle pieces" together for me.

This is what I have learned: If all I have to think about is pillows and picture arrangements and antique furniture, as a Christian, then something is dreadfully wrong. If the majority of my thoughts are spent conjuring up ways to make my home more magazine worthy, then I am not about the things of God. How can I obsess over such silliness, when there is such work to be done? I have made the hobby the full-time job and the full-time job the hobby, and I suspect that I am not alone. So as I look at this corner of the puzzle, of this Christian life, this is my prayer: That I would continue to drench myself in the Word of God and in prayer, begging for Christ to constantly make my soul aware that there is work to do. That I would obsess about the things above, and get to work. And then, I bet, that my thoughts and desires would come into a holier balance, and then what a joy it would be to sit and sew a pillow.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Saving Dowenksy

A few weeks ago I came across our friends, the Ivey's adoption blog. They are adopting a precious little boy named Amos Dowensky from a rescue center in Haiti. To help with the adoption costs, the Ivey's are selling "Saving Dowensky" t-shirts. We love the Ivey's and want to support the wonderful thing they are doing. So here's the Cease family, sportin' our cool, new shirts.

The photo shoot proved to be more of a challenge than I expected.

Well, this is the best we could do.

To learn more about the Ivey's adoption journey, and how you can help bring their baby boy home, go to