Nine years ago today Jeff and I had just had all of his family for Christmas while living in Dillon. I was due to have a baby girl on January 7, but apparently all of that hostessing got to me and brought us a precious gift two weeks early! Yay, tax break! :)
Naw...really, I knew Bailey before I ever knew McKenna! Yep, I did! I knew that one day, beyond any doubt, I would have a baby girl named Bailey. I had taught a little Bailey in preschool, and she was my favorite (teacher's pet) and the cutest little freckle-faced girl you ever saw. Well, as God would have it, my sweet Bailey Claire is the cutest, freckle-faced girl you ever saw! She has always looked like an all American girl to me. She has always been my cuddle bug and the one whose heart is tender to all things! She will cry at the drop of a hat, and I do mean cry. She will cry if she even remotely thinks that you don't like her, if you hurt her feelings, if she PERCEIVES she's been mistreated, and yes...she'll even cry for good reasons, too! She is ultra sensitive and has been dubbed our Drama Queen. If you ask her about school, the answer is always about the social scene at school, but she is really a very good student, too, but she is all about the people! Bailey was saved when she was six years old. I have to say that when God spoke to her heart, she answered emphatically, "YES," and has never looked back! She truly senses the Holy Spirit speaking to her heart, and has been such an outspoken witness to her friends. She is a prayer warrior and prays about things that I would never even think about. Her heart is tender and she truly cares about people.
On this day, I see Bailey as a little girl caught between wanting to stay young and wanting to grow up fast. I see someone that God is molding and shaping to be someone very unique for Him. I believe she'll be used greatly. I see a true friend...loyal to the end! She is beautiful both inside and out. She grew in my heart before she ever even grew in my tummy. She is a blessing to be around.
Bailey, as you grow up, always know your Mom and Dad love you with all of our hearts. There is nothing you can do to stop how proud we are of you. You keep reaching high for your goals and trusting God to take you places that will blow your mind. You are my sweet, sweet girl. Happy 9th Birthday to you!
I think that every year there's always something that brings the meaning of Christmas home to me. In years past it's been the traditions in my family. For instance, as a young girl, we would read the Christmas story before we open presents, or even before we would go downstairs to see Santa's loot. It's been the tradition of waiting for my grandparent's to come for Christmas breakfast because it meant spending time with those I loved. Or, the times of tradition of spending Christmas with those we came to love and call family while living in Venezuela -the meals shared of hallacas, pan de jamon or pabellon. These things symbolized Jesus to me because when you stop and see the faces of the people in the memories, they are who He died for. As the years have progressed some of these traditions have changed. We've tried to make our own with our girls, as well as add to those we already have. Jeff loves to leave all of the Christmas lights on in our house on the night of Christmas Eve. He loves the glow it puts off in the house and having the mood already set for Christmas morning. My sneaking suspicion is that this tradition may live or die this year according to if we are willing to take the risk of our girls waking up at 3 am this year or not. I think it might have been the lights that brought that on last year! :) We also love going to look at neighborhood lights once school is out for Christmas break. We listen to Christmas music in the car while usually clad in our PJs, and we even end up at Sonic sometimes for an ice cream! If you ask the girls, you would hear them say that "Sausage balls" are a family tradition. I was told by McKenna that, "if you don't make sausage balls, if just won't be Christmas." Well, OK then! We do have to have them though because word on the street is that Santa prefers sausage balls with his egg nog when he delivers presents to the Hickman home. Tonight we will carry out the annual tradition of gifting the girls with new Christmas jammies. They have been asking me all week for them. We began this tradition after we saw ourselves in our Christmas morning pictures years ago. After seeing how rough we looked, we thought new jammies were a yearly must!
There are so many more traditions we have and are making. We have talked a lot about the meaning of the tree this year as Jeff took our church on a series entitled "Trees." As we worshiped together on that same theme in our Christmas presentation, our family shared how the tree has taken on a meaning of sharing life together for us this year. The memories I have of our Pastors and their wives around our tree sharing a meal. The laughter shared around the tree as the girls and I decorated...OK, there was a few tears shed after Avery broke a couple of sentimental ornaments of mine, but nonetheless we enjoyed ourselves so much the day we decorated. Once again, we saw faces familiar and faces anew as we hosted our drop-in this week. As people looked at our tree, I watched them and thanked God for them coming to our home and being part of our lives. The tree could stay up all year as far as I am concerned because maybe, just maybe it has meant more to me this year than in years past. The ornaments it holds from my Nanoo, the most Godly lady I knew, remind me of my most favorite tradition... You see, I have been pregnant with three of my four girls at Christmas time. I tell you, you cannot be pregnant at Christmas and not cherish the part of the Christmas story that says, "And Mary took all these things and pondered them in her heart," and it not mean something to you. You feel your baby kick and you feel it roll, and you imagine how Mary must have felt to be a mother to someone she could not have known at the time would impact and change the world. I guess I felt the same. The hopes and dreams you have as a mom are that your children would be change agents in a world that Jesus died for. Jesus did not come for us to ever be the same, and I pray that my children would never be the same either. I sit here and ponder today so many things. Grabbing a day like today and being able to sit back and ponder at all is a rare gift, so while I can, I want it to count. Today, already, I've really noticed Quinn's smile. She lights up a room! Avery's eyes were dancing when she raced into my room this morning to announce, "ONE MORE DAY." McKenna's good morning hug seemed a little bit tighter and a little bit longer. Bailey smiled a beautiful smile when we laughed that she'll be nine in just three days! And Jeff...well, he looked even more handsome and caused my heart to flutter a little more than usual. Most of all, I see Jesus today as the One who loved me so much that He gave me these things to ponder today in a brand new way.
I promised some of you I would post this recipe from our Drop-In last night. It's not so glamorous of a recipe, but it is yummy. I think the comment of the night was, "Yum...good football watching dip!" There ya go!
Combine all ingredients and mix well. I just eyeball the cheese and bacon part because you can never have too much bacon or cheese, right? Once mixed, serve with BIG Cheez-its or any other cracker you have on hand. Enjoy!
Today is kind of one of those "let out your breath and say 'Aaaaahhh'" kind of days. We had our last big "HOORAH" for the season...well, with the exception of family coming in soon. Last night was the beginning of what we hope will become a Hickman Family tradition. One thing we've seen occur at LifeSong is build your church by loving families, and while we see that done by focusing on ministering to children and youth, building relationships in general is huge! So, we did some fun relationship building last night. Our Christmas Drop-In A-L and M-Z style (you just have to know the story behind that, so read previous posts) was so much fun. Sometimes I feel like I just kind of see the same people everytime I'm at LifeSong, so last night was a great time to get to know some new people, as well as sit back and have time to relax with some great friends, too. We're not quite sure how many people came through, but there was a lot of running back and forth to the kitchen to refill appetizer plates, so that's a good sign, right? The kids headed out to the garage that we had tried to keep warm during the day so the night wouldn't feel so cold, but my girls left the door open to the outside, so it did get a little chilly for the kids out there while they decorated their Christmas trees and colored Christmas pictures. They had so much fun, though. We are very thankful for the people that took time out to come over. We say all the time, having people drop by is one of our favorite things, but hopefully this drives it home, people! We want you to come see us more often! We are also thankful to report that our neighbors did not call the po-po (that's police for you more dignified souls) on us. We had no incidents to put in our crazy memory book, thankfully! Thanks to my friend, Sheldon, for taking pics for me. She didn't come just to do that, but I never took the time to go get my camera out of my purse, and Sheldon bought herself the best camera recently, so yippee...we've got good pictures to share.
The Hickman house is taking on a new level of activity over the next few days. We are in a flurry (I'm using that "flurry" word right now because it's 75 degrees here today and a girl can dream, can't she?) of excitement all over the place! We have, just this week, attended Bailey's third grade Christmas play, celebrated our 14th anniversary, and participated in being a part of our church's Christmas "production" outreach by having our family videoed for something that will be shown during TREES at LifeSong. In the midst of that, we are enjoying time honored traditions in our home and having tons of fun making new ones. We started off the month by having our annual Pastors and Pastor's wives Dinner Party. If you know me at all, you know that I thrive on throwing this Dinner Party every year. I love it! I am usually planning it in August. Everything turned out so wonderfully, but as you also know if you know me at all, I am renowned for some kind of snafu occurring. In the past it's been burning bread, not preparing enough green beans, dropping food on the floor, etc. This year, I took one picture and my camera DIED! So, I only have this one, and there's NONE of everyone that came, or of the food, so I'll just share what I served. We began with appetizers of cheese fondue with bread cubes and apples. Thanks to my friend Resia for sharing her recipe. Our main meal consisted of Spinach Cranberry Salad in White Balsamic Vinaigrette, Filet Mignon with Madeira Sauce, Twice Baked Potato Casserole and Wheat Rolls. For dessert we enjoyed Turtle Pecan Cheesecake. It was one of the best Dinner parties we have ever done...not because of the food, but we just really love our other Pastors and their wives so much. We LOVE hanging out and the evening was spent talking about their family traditions and enjoying lots and lots of laughter, as well as a sweet time of praying for them at dinner.
One of our favorite traditions is enjoying our Christmas cards. I feel almost like a hypocrite bringing this one up because I have not done a Christmas card yet this year. There's really no good reason, other than I don't have a great picture of the girls. I refuse to send one out without a picture, so unless I get on the ball, our plan is to send out a New Year's greeting instead, which I heard a friend say her friend does. I like the kind of unexpected feel of that because I get kind of depressed after Christmas when my mailbox is suddenly empty! So, anyway, we used to take these cards and stick them in an extra Christmas tree we kept in the kitchen, but this year we're not using that tree, but we have, for as long as I can remember, put our cards in a basket and kept them out for the year and prayed over each family that sent it as we gather around the dinner table. It's a good way to make good use of your cards and look at them year around, and you have a great honor of lifting them up to the Father during the year. No, I didn't come up with that idea. I stole it from a book by Emilie Barnes years ago when Jeff was in seminary.
This year, we wanted to start a tradition for the girls that they would enjoy. We already do ornaments for them each year, but that came from my Nanoo giving us all one each year, so after she passed away, I wanted to continue that blessing on for my girls. Let me just get off on a tangent here briefly and say that putting up the ornaments from my Nanoo each year is not something I do in haste. I take my time and think about what this incredible woman did to enrich everyone's life that knew her. She instilled the love of family and this love for tradition in me, so what a great honor to pass it on to my girls. So, back to the new tradition. We are hosting a Celebrate Christmas Break party for the girls and their girlfriends. They each got to choose three friends apiece and invite them over. We are doing it tonight and setting up the bonfire in our backyard. They'll enjoy hot dogs, chips, s'mores, hot chocolate and lots of FUN! I'm excited for them to have their own thing, too.
Monday night, Jeff, the girls and I are opening our home to our LifeSong family. We've invited the entire church over for a drop-in and an opportunity to hug each person and love on them. I know you are sitting there wondering, "Where are they going to park when your neighbors call the police on you for too many cars all the time!" Well, call us crazy (most do) but we are stealing an idea from the voting process and asking that families with the last names A-L come from 6-7 and the families with M-Z come from 7-8! Hopefully this will help, but we are inviting our neighbors, so maybe if they come, they'll LET people park in their driveway....NOT! :) So, I'm planning away for light hors 'dourves and for a fun activity for any kids that might come. For the kids, I, once again, stole an idea from a new favorite blog I read and we're making these. Thanks to Vanessa for sharing! We can't wait to have our church family in our home. It's just our small way of saying, "Thanks for an incredible example you are to us of being missionaries where you live, work and play!" Anyway, if you are reading this and you know where we live, drop on by, but remember, if your last name starts with.... :)
We look forward to seeing many friends and family in the next few days. I'll be the first to admit that I don't enjoy traveling the least bit during the holidays, but I wouldn't replace the time spent with all of you in Slater/Marietta, Green Pond and Lyman for anything! I hope to be sharing pictures with you of our fun here at home and on our travels very soon. OH, did I mention that my sweet Bailey also has a birthday on the 27th, so that's our favorite tradition of all!!!!
I've been kind of out of sorts lately. I feel kind of blah...not a sick blah, but a blah that looks like this -----------. I feel like I've let Satan attack me on every front and have kind of lost touch with myself and with others. I read Jeff's blog about our anniversary yesterday and where he talked about the life of a pastor's wife and the expectations that people put on you, you put on yourself, or thinking you've offended some one for good reason or no reason at all. I will tell you straight up that I'm not that Pastor's wife (anymore) that thinks she should be at everything, take on every job in the church, or take phone messages for her husband...OR know where the church key is and how you can get it. I have, over the last couple of years, asked God to show me who it is He wants me to be...for ME...and not because I have the title of pastor's wife. You may have heard me say before - at age 16 I knew God called me to be a Pastor's wife. I didn't know all that meant, even having grown up the child of a Pastor, but through a lot of trial and error, I'm trying to muddle my way through it. This is what I know so far. I'm not perfect! I DO, very much, love people though. I know God has shown me a desire to encourage and be encouraged. He has given us a home that we try to use for His glory, because He knows He's put a passion in my heart to minister to people through my home. But even there, I don't always do it, or if I do it, I feel I sometimes come under scrutiny. It's hard some times to feel like you let people down. I don't feel like I always understand it. It's hard to know that in all of our churches that we have served, the times we've eaten in someone's home I can count on two hands...that's three churches over 12 years. For a person that likes to surround herself with people, I some times feel people hold our family at arm's length because they think we would be appalled if we saw who they really are. Did you read the part here where I said, "I'm not perfect"? Being in the midst of people's junk is where we have been called to be. We want to serve you, but there's a little something I would like to ask of you..."would you pray for us?" We sure do need your prayers. I, at the same time every year, am like the average person that re-evaluates one's life as a new year approaches. I continue to see myself as that person that isn't quite over being hurt yet at the hands of people, and I'm finding it hard to trust people, myself and God! I don't want Satan bringing me down at the hands of petty stuff like knowing people might just be talking about us, or criticizing our every move, or knowing I fall short everyday and I could throw my hands up in the air and quit. I don't understand this calling placed on my life to be a Pastor's wife all the time, but I know that if I were sitting back not loving people, not getting my hands dirty or subjecting myself to some uncomfortable situations a lot of the time, would I really be serving the ones that Jesus died for? So, how do I see myself. Well, I can tell you that I feel free to no longer care what people think of me (OK, well I do care if I feel like you're trying to intentionally hurt me), but I don't want to fit some mold of what you may have grown up thinking a Pastor's wife should do. I want to fit that mold that is shaped by the Potter's hands. I just happen to think God allowed me to be a Pastor's wife because everyone is looking at everything you do, so they get to see you fail, but Praise God...they get to see you get picked up by the Potter as He keeps molding! I write all of this because as the New Year approaches, I am taking a lead from a Pastor's wife's blog I read and asking you to pray for our family, and for the families of the other Pastors and wives on staff. In doing so I hope you will see that when God makes us better people, that allows us to help make LifeSong a better place. I'm not only asking you to pray for our families, but I'm asking you to pray for our Church, for the rest of the staff, for each ministry that helps to shape LifeSong into what God intended. I write this as your Pastor's wife...a woman who madly loves a man who just happens to be a Pastor...but, I also write this to you as Amy, a woman that seeks to serve God and obey Him. He has put a burning love in my heart for you, and I cannot sit back and not share it. The only way I can ever get out of the funk I feel in now is to pick myself up and start picking up the pieces and being who it is God made me to be...AND, right there is where I find freedom. So, take time to read this blog today. She is encouraging you to pray for Christmas. What better place to start as we begin to go through specific ways to pray for the things I mentioned for the New Year.
Fourteen years ago today, at precisely 2:00pm, I married the love of my life. I have always been one of these women that has her wedding day planned out by age 15 and dreamed at night of the man that would fulfill the plans of a "like none other" wedding day. Truth be told, I'm one of those that went to college for her Mrs. degree! :) Not really, but after getting my education, finding my soulmate was next in line. So, the day I met Jeffery Hickman, who knew my life would be all the better forever? This guy with a curly perm and snow white Duck Head Jeans, wearing a pink shirt, came into the room and right into my life. He befriended me instantly. He flirted instantly. He looked at me with those clear blue eyes and I was smitten...instantly! Within two months of meeting, we were "officially" dating, and a year and a half later, married.
Being married to Jeff has been the greatest gift I've been given, aside from my salvation. If you ask anyone that knows him, I know they would tell you he is the kind of man that you are all the better just for knowing. He loves people passionately. He is not afraid to take a risk. He doesn't feel the need to go with the flow. He's original and unique. Very intimidating....very tenderhearted. He is the same person behind closed doors that he is in public. He's a leader, but is willing to follow to give you a chance to soar, too. He's a visionary....he sees the big picture, says, "We CAN do this," and he goes after it! He LOVES God...he LOVES me....he LOVES his girls. He puts us as a priority, even when it means sacrificing more time working...an extra dollar...kicking his feet up. We go to bed at night knowing we are the loves of his life. Being married to Jeff, to me, means a lifelong journey of hope, promise, laughter and SO NOT the la-dee- dah! It means commitment and covenant. It means a promise that when he fails, he doesn't give up. It's a life of "we're in this together"...we're a team. He does not degrade me, but he makes me soar in all I do. He is truly the LOVE of my LIFE. Words cannot describe my life with Jeff adequately. I know I'm blessed. God has united us to touch lives, but not before we touch each other's life. We work together, live life together, hurt together, doing NOTHING together, and do EVERYTHING together. We are best friends. Today, my love, I commit more of me to you. I hope that next year, and the years to come, I will not be at the same place with you that I am now...it can ONLY get better. Walking hand in hand with you is the joy of my life. I am proud of you. I know you, and I want to know you more. I am in awe of who God created you to be. Today is a milestone in our lives, but everyday with you is a celebration. I love you. Happy Anniversary!
This past weekend Jeff and I celebrated our 14th anniversary a few days early by taking a trip to Savannah, GA and Hilton Head, SC. We dropped the girls off in the POND (Green Pond...we didn't drown them...don't worry!) and we hit the road for Savannah first. Although it took us literally an hour to get there from Green Pond, Jeff had really never been to Savannah enough to know much about it, so it was really a new experience for the both of us. We loved that old city charm mixed with the artsy flair from being near SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design). We ate downtown Savannah at Moon River. The atmosphere was great and we had a window seat view of the city. We chowed down on yummy Sundried Tomato dip with flatbread for an appetizer. I got crab cakes for my dinner and Jeff ate crab stuffed chicken. It was really a yummy place to eat and we got to eat there off a Restaurant.com certificate, so we saved money!!! We parked across the street from The Lady and Sons restaurant, aka Paula Deen's restaurant and we went in her store and looked around. Very cute and pretty inexpensive. It was pretty cold downtown that night, so we didn't walk around too much, but headed on back to our hotel and caught up on so much needed rest that having kids takes from ya! :) The next day we started off the morning with a great breakfast and then we walked around the main stretch of the city and shopped some local shops, ate some ice cream from the world famous Leopold's and we enjoyed some Christmas caroling in the Town Square from a local church. Visiting places with a lot of charm is right up our alley, so I feel certain Savannah will be on our list of places to go again. We headed on to Hilton Head, which was just a 25 mile ride. We stayed at the Westin, which is a place we have stayed before and we loved. We spent the afternoon resting a little before heading out to an early dinner at Red Fish. It was sooooooo good!!!! We started off with Blue Crab dip with flatbread and I had Shrimp Asiago over tortellini and Jeff had the best steak Quesadilla. It was so fresh. You HAVE to go there if you are ever in the area. After dinner we took in a movie and then we went to Outback for some dessert. Can you say, "Thunder from Down Under?" ;) We feel so blessed to be able to get away. It was, by far, one of the best trips we have taken. Our time together is priceless and I think we've come back better people and a better wife and husband. As always, though, it passes by too fast, so today I'm planning our NEXT trip! :) Where should I go.......
I bet you thought I had died, didn't you? If you didn't then my feelings are hurt! Naw! We've been in a whirlwind of activity, but in keeping with my promise to not use the word - shhhhh - "busy" - I'll just say "whirlwind." :) We enjoyed a nice time in Green Pond for Thanksgiving. Jeff took the big girls fishing and Avery caught her very first fish. She was beside herself! She brought that fish back and carted it around in her hands, and then got a very fascinating lesson from her Daddy about guts and stuff as they cleaned the fish together. You can imagine, this was right up Avery's alley. Word has it Papa Hickman was gonna eat him for dinner one night. We'll have to let you know how he tasted next time we talk to Papa!We went into Charleston for our Thanksgiving lunch to Jeff's brother's, Cary's, house. There was WAY too much food, as usual, but everything I tasted was delicious. I'm pretty sure we could've fed an entire army with what was leftover, though. We didn't stay long after lunch because we had to get back for Jeff to get ready to call the big Byrnes/Dorman game, and my dear husband indulged me by getting me back in time to catch a few zzzzz's and go shopping at 3:30am with my mom and sisters. It is such a special tradition for us, and I didn't think I would get to go this year. We shopped until 3:30pm the next day! Yes, we did!! I got everything done except for about three presents. Can you say relief? I love giving gifts, but getting them on such a large scale can divert my focus from where it should be this time of year. I'm thankful to say I'm almost done and I'm looking on to entertaining our friends and family at our home over the next few weeks. That is where my love lies! I can't wait to spend time with all of them!
I read a great book over the Thanksgiving break - The Shack. Some differ with me on this, but I thought it captured how we, a fallen people are, how we view God as though He only sits in Judgement of us, and how we say relationship, but do we really know what that means? I recommend it, and though I don't buy many books, this book is something I hope to own.
We've decorated the tree. I haven't remembered to take pictures at night yet when things look a little more festive, but tonight I hope to get some good shots of it, and post them soon. I love this time of year, and the feeling in my home now is cozy and festive. I may just keep up the decorations year around!
We have now, ALL of us, caught the stomach virus! It ravaged through our home over a span of three weeks! I am personally sick of being sick! Hopefully Mr. Germy is out of our house and we can go a long time before he revisits!
Hope your season of celebrating our Savior's birth has started off in the right direction. What a gift we've been given, and yet we hardly celebrate it like we should. I pray this Christmas is life-altering for you! Knowing my Savior has surely been life-altering for me!
Enjoy these pictures of our adventures...The road leading to Green Pond!
Avery's first fish! She was soooo proud! This is where Quinn CHOSE to spend her time...Aunt Amber's and Uncle Benji's dog's cage. The tired shoppers...Amy and Katie My mom and Missy after a LONG day...my mom lost almost "angelic" in this picture with that halo effect...I tried and tried to take it off, but wouldn't you know...it wouldn't budge! :)