Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - A Year of Joy

This was a year of big smiles and a lot of joy for the Bell family.
I cannot wait to see what the Lord has in store for us in 2014.
Looking back, my word for the year 2013 was joy.
Finding joy in celebrations.
Finding joy in heartaches.
Finding joy on the weekdays.
Finding joy on the weekends.
Finding joy in my marriage.
Finding joy in parenthood.
Finding joy in my job.
Finding joy in the unknown.
Finding joy in the unplanned.
Finding joy in every day.

In all things, I was challenged to find joy.
Sometimes, on some days, it was more difficult.
But the Lord was always faithful.
Baker would plaster that infectious smile,
or Brian would engulf me in an embrace so big and so tight,
or a friend would call at the just right time,
or a perfectly timed text would arrive,
or my parents would do that wonderfully encouraging thing that parents do,
and the Lord reminded me of joy in the midst.
 I learned, when I truly look for joy in all circumstances,
there is joy to be found in all circumstances.
"Rejoice always."
1 Thessalonians 5:16
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again - Rejoice!"
Philippians 4:4
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."
James 2:4
I have contemplated my word for 2014.
I have decided, without hesitation, it will be intentional.
Being intentional as a believer and in my quest to point people to my Lord and Savior.
Being intentional as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter, as a sister, as a friend.
Being intentional in hospitality.
Being intentional in servanthood.
Being intentional in conversations.
Being intentional in relationships.
Being intentional in my everyday.
Praying intentionally.
Loving intentionally.
Living intentionally.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Conquering Chattanooga

Brian and I did something super spontaneous and totally uncharacteristic on Sunday.
We transferred Baker from his crib to his car seat and hit the road.
We were minus an agenda and itinerary.
We had no plans for lunch or dinner.
I hadn't even filled up with gas or washed my car.
Tsk. Tsk.
We had taken care of the important stuff.
We had charged the camera battery and rid our stockings of all our Christmas candy and off we went!
We were ready to conquer one of my favorite cities in one day.
Chattanooga, you will never be the same!
We started with lunch at Big River Grille.
My sister, Jessie, introduced us to this restaurant while she was interning in Chattanooga.
We love it!
I have tried something new each time and have not been disappointed.

I figured a selfie was totally appropriate.
I was already way out of my comfort with the spontaneity of the trip,
may as well take an awkward family photo!
Baker is learning to walk and wants to show off his independence every chance he gets!
Without a carefully planned schedule, we were able to let him take baby steps without fear of being slowed down and missing a stop.
We wore out the pavement on Broad Street letting Baker walk back and forth and forth and back.
It was kind of neat.
Even the people with carefully planned schedules, slowed down for a brief minute to share in our joy and celebrate our little one's milestone.
From this moment on, I was okay with nowhere to go and nowhere to be.
I was with the two I love the most and if all we did was walk up and down the streets of Downtown Chattanooga, well that was all right with me.

I mean, look at that face.
Pure joy.
Walk on, Baker Bell!

We made it to the aquarium and it was so much fun!
Baker is at such an incredible age for exploring.
His curiosity and interest in everything around him made this an adventure we will never forget.

We was not really interested in petting the stingrays and sharks,
what he really wanted to do was go swimming with them!

The butterfly exhibit was beautiful!
The colors of each creature were exquisite and breathtakingly beautiful!

One of our favorites were the penguins.

There were fish and other sea animals everywhere!
I hummed Little Mermaid's "Under the Sea" the entire time.
And may or may not have pretended to be Ariel once or twice.

We even got to sneak in the middle of the starfish!

He had the best time!

We also visited the River Journey - featuring all of the creatures in the rivers around the world.
Baker, however, did not see much of it.
Playing with the penguins and swimming with the sharks wore my baby boy out!
Brian and I enjoyed looking at all of the fish and alligators and turtles and frogs and I vowed right then and there, at 3:30 in the afternoon, smack dab in Downtown Chattanooga, never again to swim in a river.
I'll stick with waters where I can see my feet.
We walked, with a sleeping Baker to a Starbucks where we rested and recharged.

Some of our best friends, Mallory and Chad, recently relocated to Chattanooga.
We got to see their lovely new home before we left.
On the way home, we stopped at Cracker Barrel in Fort Payne.
I figured we were more likely to see Randy Owens there than the Western Sizzler down the street.
No such luck.
I am over my fears of surprises and spontaneous adventures!
This was the best day and I am already planning excited about where we will go next!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Birthday Bucket List - One Month In

I am a month into this being twenty-nine thing.
It's neither here nor there that I am also eleven months away from being thirty.

In true Type A form, I am revisiting my list to see where I stand.
I will cross out and add links to anything I have checked off, italicize anything in progress, and leave undone those not yet addressed.

I am having way too much fun with this!

This is the original post from November 29.
In honor of my twenty-ninth birthday, my very last year as a twenty-something, before hitting the big 3-0, I am making a birthday bucket list.
A list of things I want to accomplish in what God promises to be a year full of even more than I could ever ask or imagine.
So, why not?

One. Spend an entire weekend free of social media - no blogging, no Facebook, no Instagram, no Twitter, no messaging, not even any Googling. Just me and my boys. We live in a world that says, "If you don't _______ (fill in the blank - tweet about it, take a picture of it, post about it), then it never happened." Well, shucks. I'm proving that way wrong.
Two. Take off a day of work to volunteer at Baker's school. Here's to shucking my teacher badge for a whole day and wearing my mommy hat. Yippee skippy.
Three. Buy a stranger's lunch.
 It was actually dinner. See here. While this one is technically accomplished, I will strive to do this over and over. Because it is way fun!
Four. Watch a sunrise. Watch a sunset.
Five. Read a just for fun book. Read a devotional. Read a how-to book.

So far, I have read Love Does by Bob Goff.
Next up is A Simple Act of Gratitude by John Kralik. It is about a man who writes a thank you note every day for a year and then shares the significant impact an attitude of gratefulness has on his life.
 Six. Share the gospel with twelve people. Ten seems too predictable, thirteen seems way scary.
Seven. Send an I'm thinking about you happy note to at least one person every week.

I'm well on my way. And it's much easier now that I have some fancy schmancy stationery! Everything's better with a monogram on it!
Eight. Go on a fancy date with my husband once a month. Here's to high heels, and bright lipstick, and big hair, and dazzling, and wooing, and falling all over in love.

Brian took me to see Transiberian Orchestra in Birmingham for my birthday. I posted some pictures and a video here. It was a super fun date. I'm in charge of January's date. Yippee skippy! Stay tuned.
Nine. Do at least five spontaneous somethings - plan a vacation and leave in the same hour, eat something new off the menu at my favorite restaurant, make an unplanned purchase.

We did the first of these today! Brian and I transferred Baker from his crib to the car seat  first thing this morning for a day date to Chattanooga to the Tennessee Aquarium! It was a fabulous day! I will post picture tomorrow.
Ten. Train for and run a race. It's neither here nor there that I failed to acknowledge the length of the race. We'll see.

I bought a new pair of tennis shoes and running socks. They look really cute with my leggings. That's all I know for now. Baby steps, y'all.
Eleven. Adopt a child from World Vision. I have wanted to do this since Baker was born. While I think it would be perfectly fine to choose any child, I want a boy or girl who shares Baker's birthday. Each year, as we plan his party, we will also help this new friend celebrate the day of his or her birth. Birthdays are special, and should be celebrated as such.
Twelve. Get something waxed. Never have I ever, ever had any part of my body waxed. And as an almost thirty year old, I think it's a rite of passage.
Thirteen. Learn how to change a flat tire. Learn something new. Or at least how to pop my hood. Being married to a Mr. Fix It, I need to know none of these things. I think, as a woman of age, I should be educated.
Fourteen. Go to an Alabama football game outside of Bryant Denny Stadium. I have been to my fair share of home games, but it's high time I visit some of these non-championship winning SEC stadiums. Roll Tide, y'all.
Fifteen. Plant a garden with Baker. Grow fruits and vegetables. Eat them, cook with them, share them. Enjoy this. The dirt digging, and fingernail cleaning, and seed planting, and soil watering, and plant sprouting amazing process of things growing from the ground.
Sixteen. Go to a movie. Buy a huge drink and a big bucket of popcorn. With lots of butter and zero regrets.
Seventeen. Kiss my husband in four different states.

Tennessee. Boom.

Eighteen. Go to the beach. Build sandcastles, keep Baker up way past his bedtime to experience the thrill of hunting crabs by flashlight, go on a dolphin cruise, take cheesy beach pictures in coordinating outfits, get airbrushed t-shirts made to commemorate the event.

Nineteen. Go to a concert. Preferably one that involves the outdoors and cowboy boots.

Twenty. Sit down in chair at the salon, sans pictures, sans specific instructions with pointing and measuring, and all the details of how I want my hair cut and styled, and say only, "Go."

Eeeekkk. That one took a lot out of me.

Twenty-one. Buy a fancy bottle of wine. No fancy occasion required.

Twenty-two. Do a service project with Brian and Baker. I'm still praying about how this looks for us.

Twenty-three. Take a photography class.

Twenty-four. Join the Be the Match registry.

Twenty-five. Go on a girl's trip. Only friends. No children. No husbands. Tons of belly-aching laughter, inside joke sharing, memory making fun.

Twenty-six. Teach Baker the simple joy of cooking. Pancake batter head to toe, chocolate chips strewn haphazardly across the counter, syrup sticking to every surface. Yes, I think we will start with chocolate chip pancakes.

Twenty-seven. Test drive an impractical car. I envision something with only two doors, no top, great speakers, faster than law allows, music blaring.

Twenty-eight. Go to an amusement park. Ride roller coasters, eat funnel cakes, buy the expensive souvenir pictures.

Twenty-nine. Live intentionally. Love each day. Cherish those most dear. Be purposeful. Spread joy. Smell flowers. Read books. Hand write notes. Sing loudly. Skip in the street. Smile. Play board games. Walk barefooted in wet grass. Swing. Make homemade bread. Pick pecans.

I want this to be my purpose every single day. I am working on living a life with less clutter and more meaning.

Here's to a year of life loving, double dare taking, memory making, dreams coming true.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas - The merriest of days

I cannot think of a day I loved more.
A day I smiled more.
A day I longed to pinch myself more frequently, convinced it was all too good to be true.

It was the merriest of days.

There has not been a Christmas I have ever felt more filled with joy.
This Christmas, I got to experience the wonder of the day through the eyes of a child.
My child.

It was a perfect day.







But it wasn't a perfect day because of gifts, or glitter, or the glamour of Christmas,
but because of hope.
It is because we have the hope of Heaven that makes Christmas meaningful, and what makes Christmas a day we celebrate every single day of the year.

Thank you, Jesus, for Your gift that was too wonderful for words.

It is because of You we rejoice.