November 28, 2011

If These Walls Could Speak

I love change.  I just love change for the sake of change itself.  New places, new looks, new arrangements, new scenery, a new project, a new system.  Sometimes I change my systems just because I get bored with what I've been doing.  I sort of sabotage myself that way.  Often.  So I try to resist.

But when it comes to furniture, houses and decorations, change harms no one, and it's super super fun!  So last weekend, Alejandro and I decided to rearrange not one, but two of the rooms in our house, upon the arrival of a new-to-us couch for our living room.

Then, I decided I wanted to capture the look of those rooms, and remember the things about them that I love.  Sometimes, our homes hold memories that are lost in remodeling or rearranging, and unlike people, we don't typically photograph homes and remember how they change through the years.

There used to be a set of couches that sat in the living room of my childhood home.  They were brown and 80's and sort of striped, and they faced each other.  I used to lie on one and watch TV.  That was my spot.  I remember many movies in my teen years that I watched from that couch.  Remember Beaches?  Yeah.  That couch. And me blubbering like a whale with my junior high best friend. And before that couch and the TV were there, it was that couch and the fish tank and us small-sized girls with our noses pressed against the glass watching gold fish.  Aaah...  But anyway, before I get lost down Memory Lane, here's what I want to remember about this couch and living room:

It's the way the light spills in and warms your feet as you sit on the recliner during the day, and the way you can stare at the fire at night.  It's the fireplace with our engagement picture over it signed by our wedding guests, the candles from our wedding, and the Believe sign that was a gift from one of my Mary Kay heroes.  It's the rocking chair that my step-brothers were rocked in as babies. The Bienvenidos frame that I cross-stitched as I sat in language school every morning in Costa Rica in January of 2002.  The rug that we wrestle on and play Legos on with my son.  These are the things I want to remember about my living room.

In our bedroom...

It's the sunlight through the window that acts as our headboard.  It's the early morning shadows cast on the walls.  It's the hope chest and dresser drawers I got as a high school graduation present.  It's the fact that not a single solitary piece of furniture matches in that room.  

It's the rockers that we sit in to talk.  Or that we it in to not talk, but just to be together.  

It's the coffee pot that we put in between those chairs.  Because there are days when it takes a little something extra to get me out of bed, and a coffee pot in my bedroom, making me feel like I'm in a fancy hotel, is sometimes just the trick.  And who says you can't have a coffee pot in your room?  Not me.  

It's the extra floor space to play on, the picture that I can't believe was taken ten years ago.  Surely I have not been getting older, have I?  

It's movie nights in our room.  Because the only place you really want to watch a movie from is bed, right?  And it's Cars or Bob the Builder during Mommy's shower time.  Because, for the love of all that is fresh and clean, sometimes I just need to shower.  

It's this picture, taken the day I earned my teaching credential, three months before we were engaged.  It's these pieces of jewelry, which are now my favorite, and which seem to live piled up on the little table between the closet and bathroom doors.  

It's the secret space hiding behind our pillows that acts like a shelf and hides things that Danny won't find.  Like the clown doll that sucks its thumb that was mine when I was young enough to suck my thumb.  

It's the night stand that holds the lamp that's older than dirt and that I can't believe is still working.  My journal, given to me by a dear friend.  My Bible.  

These are the things that hold precious memories and restful times and romantic evenings and soft (and sometimes loud) mornings.  These are the things I don't want to forget.

November 25, 2011


Well, we did it! We cooked our first Thanksgiving dinner!  It was scrumptious, and it was SO MUCH FUN!  I really enjoy making a great meal.  I don't like the cooking part, so much, but I do love to put it on the table and call it mine.  

So around 2 p.m. (I know, a teensy bit late) I gathered all the ingredients for the five recipes I would be responsible for, and set to work.

My Mom hung out on the couch and entertained Danny by drinking 
wine from his straw cup, which was so thoughtfully served to her.

My family really needs to loosen up.  

Alejandro went to work preparing and baking the ham.

Meanwhile, I made the candied carrots.

My mom and step-dad brought home-made pumpkin pie

and the drinks.

Time passed, and I got impatient, therefore turning all of the subsequent pictures into horrible specimens of I'm-impatient-so-I'll-just-set-my-camera-on-auto-thereby-giving-everything-a-barfy-yellow-tint. 

I made the sweet potato casserole, 

ham gravy,

(I know! I'd never heard of ham gravy either!  
'Till I decided to invent it.  It was SO good!!)

green bean casserole, 

and mashed potatoes.  

The company was divine!

And finally,

it was time

to eat!

Every single recipe came out fantastic, so you can click here to see them all, or you can click on each one for the individual recipes.  :)  Enjoy!

November 24, 2011

After Thanksgiving Thoughts

Here I am, thinking I've done a fairly good job at keeping up with posting all of my pictures, but a fairly poor job of taking many pictures this month.  As it turns out (and as I discovered when I opened my memory card tonight to post recipes and pictures from our Thanksgiving Dinner) I've just done a horrible job at emptying my memory card!  I haven't even posted pictures from Halloween!


This evening, as I sat down to dinner tonight, simultaneously overwhelmed and enraptured with the mountain of scrumptious FOOD

in front of me equaling more food than I usually cook in an entire week, I had a genius idea.  (If I do say so myself.  And I do.)  I decided that it would be fun to make a Thanksgiving dinner stretch a whole week and use that to replace my meal plan.  It would go something like this:

Monday - ham, gravy and mashed potatoes
Tuesday - grilled ham sandwiches with green bean casserole
Wednesday - rolls topped lightly with gravy and sweet potato casserole
Thursday - sweet glazed carrots, and mashed potatoes with diced ham and gravy on top
Friday - leftovers from everything that's still not eaten up

Doesn't that sound fantastic!?

So anywhooo, it seems I have some catching up to do in the picture-posting department.  I think I'll go in backwards order this time, and start with Thanksgiving.

Yummy recipes... coming right up!

P.S.  Don't forget about my Pink Friday sale!  It starts in two little hours!!  Yippee!

November 22, 2011

The Thanksgiving Preparation Going on at Our House

Did I mention it?  We're cooking Thanksgiving dinner at our house for the first time ever.  I'm REALLY excited!  ...granted, I'm sort of taking the easy way out to start off.  I omitted the dreaded turkey.  We decided on ham.  (I'm sorry, Shaun!)  But it will be ham with pineapple and cherries and home-made apple jam and all sorts of deliciousness.  I'm super excited.  Alejandro's cooking the ham.

Yeah, did I mention I'm taking the easy way out?

I am (as in yours truly) cooking most of the other sides including a handful of recipes from The Pioneer Woman's website, the homemade apple jam, and sweet potato casserole that ought to be named "marshmallow and brown sugar with a little bit of sweet potato" casserole.  But that's ok.  Thanksgiving dinner was never meant to be healthy, as I'm discovering.

We got the itch to rearrange furniture, so I've got pictures of our huge bedroom (my friend Melissa calls it a runway) and how the light falls through the window just perfectly.  I love it!  Mostly I love the light.  And lots of open floor space.  And the fact that we put the coffee maker in there.  Oh yes, we did.  Pictures to come soon.

Oh, and wanna know what else?!

Of course you do.

Tell your friends!! The day after Thanksgiving, I'm having a sale on everything Mary Kay! For those of you crazies who love the midnight deals and the after-Thanksgiving-shopping experience, but without the 2 a.m. waiting in line bit...  this one's for you.

Here's how it works:
{Friday, November 25th ONLY}
15% off everything from midnight till 5 a.m.
13% off from 5 a.m. - 9 a.m.
10% off 9 a.m. - 11a.m.
5% off 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Order online, text me (719-352-1052), email me (, facebook message me, tweet at me, call me and leave a message, send me a telegram, send me an SOS... Ok, you get the picture! Discounts will be based on the time I receive your order, complete with payment.  (I can accept all major credit cards, check or cash - although delivering check or cash at those hours may be challenging, and I might be snoring. Ha!)

Ordering online is the easiest, I think, so you can do that securely here:

Isn't that fun!?  I thought so.  :)  It's all because I'm just so stinkin' THANKFUL FOR YOU!!  

Alright, off I go to make some apple jam.  In T minus 42 hours, we're eatin'!  

November 19, 2011

November 18, 2011

To-Do Lists are from the Devil

Ok, that might be a little strong.  But in all seriousness, I really hate To-Do lists.  They drive me crazy and get mostly passed on from one day to the next without being done.  I don't think they actually help us very much.

One thing I've spent quite a bit of time getting good at, as a result of my Mary Kay business, is time management.  I am SO not the master I wish I were, but I do think I've developed some pretty good systems.  Therefore, today I thought I'd embrace irony, throw my schedule to the wind, and sit down to share with you a time management tip I've learned that has saved my sanity.

I quit using To-Do lists.  

Yup.  I did.  I decided never to have a To-Do list again.  I decided that if it was worth writing down to do, then it was worth putting it into my schedule and planning time to do it.  And that's how I got rid of my lists!  I have one calendar, which is detailed enough to plan in 15 minute increments. Not that I plan my whole day this way, but I could if I wanted to.  For a while I had a paper planner in which I used one page per day.  Now I use my Android to do this.  But whether you are a paper person or an electronic person, you can still use this system and get rid of your To-Do lists too!

Here's how it works.  Every time I think of something that needs to be done, rather than adding it to my ever-growing (now non-existent) list, instead I mentally assign a time in which I'm going to accomplish that task.  Then I open up my planner/schedule, and write it in.  Here's an example:  In the midst of cooking, I realized that I needed to return a key to someone who had loaned it to us, and I didn't want to forget.  Mentally I decided that a good time to do that would be the following day between two other errands.  Once my hands were free of the chicken, I washed them, quickly grabbed my phone, and added it into my schedule:  "Tuesday, 10:15 a.m.: drop off key."

At first, it took me longer (like three whole minutes) to decide when I was going to get a task done.  But as with any skill, the longer I used this system, the better I got, and now it takes me all of 20 seconds to go from realization that I need to do something, to scheduled and forgotten again.

Here's why I like this SOOOOO much better than lists.  First of all, my day is already planned and organized long before the sun rises, and I don't run out of time to do what I need to do nearly as often, because it's in my calendar so I don't schedule other things during that time.  Second of all, it's been assigned to a certain time, so I don't have to think about it again until it's time to do it.  Even when I kept organized, categorized lists of things to do, I still had to find time to review those lists and decide which tasks to complete.  This way, it's completely off my radar until I am getting the task done.  Lastly, no little pieces of paper floating all around!  It's great!

The one requirement to making this system work is that you must have a schedule/calendar that is easily accessible at all times.  Since I'm surgically attached to my Android, I found a scheduler/calendar that I like and downloaded the app for it.  I don't like the one that comes with the phone, so I downloaded the free version of the Touch Calendar.  If you're not an electronic person, you've gotta' be committed to keeping a paper calendar with you at all times...  But even when I did this, it was SO worth it!

There you go!  Welcome to a list-free life!  What sanity-saving techniques have you learned? Comment away...

November 14, 2011

Danny's First Painting

We really enjoy making homemade gifts at our house, so for Alejandro's birthday, I had a last-minute inspiration.  I decide to let Danny paint for the first time.  I pulled out a set of body paints (the only paint I happened to have in the house) and let Danny go to town.  I sort of expected a mess.

I should have known our neat-freak of a child would dirty no more than the tip of his finger.

And promptly ask me to clean it off between each color.

So I quickly gave in and let him paint with a spatula.

See the ferocious concentration?

Happy Birthday, Papa!  

Love, Danny


Primera Pintura de Danilo

Disfrutamos mucho de hacer regalos en casa, así que para el cumpleaños de Alejandro, me inspiré al último momento.  Decidí dejar a Danilo pintar por primera vez.  Saqué el juego de pinturas, y él empezó.  En parte esperé un desastre de color por todo el lado.

The "S" Word

My sister is getting married in February so she's doing all kinds of reflection and spiritual preparation these days.  I can't even begin to articulate how much her daily texts with scripture and questions regarding spiritual matters encourage me and bless me.  I am SOOOOOO proud of her.  (I love you, Lisa!)

Anyhow, she recently asked me a question about the "S" word.  No, not the four-letter word that I taught her to say when she was two years old.  The ten-letter word that has become totally taboo.  I'm talking about submission.  Biblical submission within marriage, to be specific.  (I'm talking to the wives today.) This is a SUPER hard topic to tackle, but let me give it a shot.

I think there are two main reasons we get so hung up and stuck on this passage and have so much trouble with it.  First is the fact that this passage is talking about an ideal situation, and we live in a fallen world.  The passage presents a scenario of how it's supposed to be, but we read it through the filter of "I'm supposed to do this even though my husband is failing me miserably."  We tend to read it imagining the times when our husband has failed us miserably, rather than reading it and imagining the moments of blissful romance when we would fall and worship the feet of our lover.

The second problem is semantics.  We read the words submit and respect (which reminds us of archaic female oppression) and love (which our culture equates with sex).  Therefore, we read this passage and we hear this: "Wives, allow yourselves to be walked on and oppressed by your selfish husbands, and husbands, have all the sex you want with your wives, occasionally throwing in a little romance if it suits you, and while you're at it, make all the decisions without taking in her opinion to account and go ahead and use Christianity as your scape-goat."

This interpretation could not be further from what was originally intended.  May I suggest something?  Let's take a look at the theoretical scenario that this passage presents as an ideal and let's take the semantics out of it.  What if we use the word serve?  Here's why I chose the word serve.  Serve makes me think of the words humility, sacrifice, help, and for the sake of the other.  These are all things that Christ modeled in his life on this earth (which is precisely the comparison that Paul is making in this passage).  Secondly, don't we all love to be served?  When someone serves us food, he does it for no gain of his own, but for the benefit of those he serves.  When I serve my son, I do what's best for him with gentle affection, firm consistency and a protective wisdom.  Service usually involves self-sacrifice but should never involve self-deprecation.

Alright, with those things in mind, let's read Ephesians 5:22 - 33 again.  (Emphases, parentheses and strike-throughs are mine.)
Wives, submit yourselves to serving your own husbands as you do to the Lord. (We serve the Lord because we love him and it brings us joy and Him glory, yes?) For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. (Here, Paul establishes the comparison between marriage and the Christ-Church relationship.) Now as the church (that's us believers) submits to serving Christ, so also wives should submit to serving their husbands in everything. (That sounds a little more like what I signed up to do on my wedding day... bless, love, give, support, encourage, help, and serve my husband in all he does. And of course, we signed up to do this, knowing that the man we agreed to marry is someone of integrity and character who we believed would choose to make Christ-honoring decisions.  We knew he wouldn't be perfect at this, but we figured he'd be good enough at it that we could commit to marrying him and it'd be a good deal.  Plus, we figured that since he has Christ in him, God would help keep him on the right path too.  In fact, we were depending on that.**)
(Now his part.) Husbands, love serve your wives, just as Christ loved served the church and gave himself up for her... In this same way, husbands ought to love serve their wives as their own bodies. He who loves serves his wife loves serves himself. (Hmm... so when he treats me right, it benefits him.  Makes sense.  It makes me want to love him back, bless him back, serve him back, yes?) After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason (what reason? to serve his wive as his own body!) a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery— (He means the mystery of the unity of Christ and the church) but I am talking about Christ and the church (see?). However, each one of you also must love serve his wife as he loves serves himself, and the wife must respect serve her husband.
So in theory, we have two people, united in Jesus' Love, who have endeavored to do all they can to serve the other.  Doesn't that sound like a wonderful situation!?  Sign me up!

In actuality, though, there are times when I really just want to throw a plate at his head.


Yeah, I know what you are thinking.  "Uh... what then, oh you so perfect and holy??"  That's when the rubber meets the road.  That's when it gets hard.  That's when we think back to our wedding day and realize we had no idea what we were getting into - and sometimes that's good, or we might not have signed up in the first place.  That's when we have to take a deep breath and trust in God's plan for our lives despite the fact that we cannot understand what in tar-nation has gotten into the thick skull of the man across the room.  That's when we have to choose to be the bigger man woman and serve him anyway.**

And that, my friends, is where my expertise ends (ha! If indeed it ever had begun).  That is the hardest thing of all.  That's when I realize that marriage truly was to make me holy, not happy.  In those moments of anger, it takes all my strength to set my pride aside and actually follow through with the promise to treat him as I would want to be treated. I fail often.  And then it takes all my strength to admit my wrong and ask forgiveness.

I was laughing to myself last night - which happened to be a wonderfully sweet night for my husband and I - as I thought about my sister's questions and my own wedding vows.  I decided that this might be the vows I say if we ever decide to renew them:
I, Renee, take you, Alejandro, to be my lawfully wedded husband.  I promise to serve you, help you and support you even when I don't like what you are doing.  I promise you will be mine and I will be yours, from this day forward, for better (when we are getting along great and all is peachy-keen), or for worse (when tragedy strikes, when I think you're being insensitive and selfish), for richer (when we have savings, a brand new house, two great cars and the ability to eat out every night), for poorer (when we have to decide between your new drill and my new touch phone), in sickness and in health (and energy and exhaustion and good moods and PMS and twenty-year-old-bodies-with-six-packs and saggy-post-breastfeeding-pudgy-overweight-bodies and smiles and tears and conquer-the-world-moments and totally-overwhelmed-dirty-hair-and-pimples-and-screaming-children-moments), until we're old and wrinkly and have white hair and dentures and we know each other so well we start to look like each other and death do us part.
Not exactly romantic.  But it made me laugh!

The mystery of marriage is this...  when we do endeavor to submit to serve our husbands, even if they don't come around right away, they usually do later.  And even if they don't, we find that in the process, Christ changes our hearts and teaches us more about how He loves us in our ugliness.  We get the whole plank-versus-speck thing and realize the magnitude of what Christ did on the cross for us.  And if for no other reason, understanding Christ's love better makes serving and submission to our imperfect husbands totally worth it.

**This of course, does NOT apply to situations in which the husband doesn't know Christ and/or the husband acts in a way that DOESN'T honor Christ.  Abuse and adultery are manifestations of this, and the Bible allows for Godly wives to be released from their vows in these situations.  See Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19.

November 13, 2011


Between the windstorm going on outside and the heart-storm going on inside, sleep is proving elusive tonight.

He has been speaking to my heart about His children.  I struggle much and often with materialism, yet recently, God's words of Grace have reminded me of so many out there who have so little and need so much spiritually.  While I am filled to overflowing, both materially and spiritually, children want and helpless mothers ache.  I get caught up in the entitled American dream game and find myself discontent with more than some will ever have.  Meanwhile, others sleep on dirt floors attempting to ignore hunger pains.

Who am I that I should have so much?

"The more He uses me in the lives of others... the more I share His wisdom... 
the more I understand how very little I understand about His great and mysterious ways.  
Me wretched.  Him magnificient.  Me He works through."

Wretched.  It's not a self-piteous statement.  It's a comparative statement.

After the company Alejandro worked for went under last year, and we struggled to pay bills, I wondered why God didn't bless us with more.  My plea for answers was met with silence.  But recently, an answer came.

Now you know how to live on less.  
Which means you can give more.

I've started to dream differently.  I've started to think about how much we could give away if we had more to give.  I've started to imagine using increased resources, not for new luxuries, but to spread His love to the most hurting.  It is starting to feel less like contemplating sacrifice and more like a deep longing in my heart.  

Do you love me?  
Feed my sheep. 

How I long to.  How I long to take you all with me.  To meet needs.  To hold hands.  To give bread.  To give Life.  To do so as His Church together.  To See more and deeper.  Into hearts and into Him. To shed Light.

Not so that they or you would look at me, but so that they and you would look at Him.  Deeper.  Longer.  Truer.  Sometimes for the first time.  

Do you know this all-consuming, gripping, obsessive, enveloping Love that keeps you awake at night?  

Come to me, you who are weary and heavy-burdened and you will find rest for your souls.

Be still.  KNOW - on a heart level - that I am God.

I have come so that the captives may be set free.  
So that the poor may be rich and blind may See.

Invite in the Greatest Lover of all time.  Catch the obsession.