Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Favorite Ornaments - Maple Grove

Wow! This is my final "My Favorite Ornaments" blog post!

When I started this series, I had no idea how fast it would pass or that I would even have enough to say for all 31 days. (I know you are all shocked by that revelation!) ;D

But I did it. And I am ending it with my all-time second favorite ornament, after The Nail!

Maple Grove…

Built in 1883 by Adolphus Lafayette Shuford, this house holds a rich heritage for us, as Adolphus was Scott's great, great, great grandfather on his mother's side. 

Below are a few pictures and a short history of the house and its occupants. 
Maple Grove
Maple Grove
542 2nd Street, NE
Maple Grove (1875-1883) was the home of Adolphus Lafayette Shuford and his family, and is one of the oldest remaining houses in Hickory. It is a simple but handsome representation of the Italianate style. A.L. Shuford was a prominent early citizen of Hickory. When in 1863 the first attempt was made to incorporate the village of Hickory Tavern, Shuford was one of the six founding commissioners. He was also the first agent in Hickory of the Western North Carolina Railroad, and he played an important role in the founding of Claremont College. Shuford is credited with having imported the first Jersey cattle to Catawba County. In the early 1870s Shuford began acquiring acreage near the town of Hickory in order to begin a dairy. On the farm Shuford began building the nucleus of his Jersey herd and a house large enough to accommodate his wife and children. With the growth of Hickory, Shuford's house became part of an increasingly urban area. (It is now part of the Claremont High School District.) After A.L. Shuford's death in 1885, members of his immediate family occupied the house until 1912, when it was sold to D.H. Boyd. Around 1970 Mrs. Wade H. Shuford, widow of one of Adolphus Shuford's sons, donated the house to the Hickory Landmarks Society, ensuring its preservation.
Maple Grove is a two-story frame house with weather-board siding, a pedimented-gable roof, gable-end brick chimneys, a three-bay fa├žade, and a two-story rear ell. One of the most distinctive features of the house is its two-tier front porch with paired chamfered posts, bracketed cornices, and decorative sawnwork balustrades. The main body of the house has a center-hall plan with simple detailing. One of the most striking interior features is the closed-string stair with its heavy chamfered and molded newel and unusual sawnwork balustrade reminiscent of the front porch balustrades.

The house is beautiful, both inside and out. I even had my wedding portraits taken there. It is truly a amazing piece of history that we cherish.

What makes it even more special is that we received this ornament as a wedding gift from Scott's Aunt Jean and Uncle Don, his father's sister. 

Enclosed in the beautiful red box was this note. It reads…

Thought this might be something of your past 
to help you start your future. 
May God bless and keep you.
Aunt Jean and Uncle Don

Aunt Jean went to be with Jesus in 2013, while we have been here in Venezuela. And although we miss her greatly, we know that one day, we will see her again. We know she is enjoying her time with Jesus because she loved him dearly.

She could never have known how special Christmas ornaments would be in our family, or maybe it is because of this ornament that the tradition was started in our home.

Either way, she gave us something tangible to remember the past while looking toward the future.

As this year ends today, and we move into 2015, we have plenty of memories of the past, both good and bad. But I think we should allow the past to spur us on toward the future and all the plans that God has in store for us there.

My prayer is this:

Jesus, please help me to use what I have learned from the past to make me a better servant for you. May I continue to grow and mature as I spend time with you in prayer, in Your Word and with my brothers and sisters in Christ. Lead me daily and guide me with your Holy Spirit. May living in Your Presence and knowing You be my first priority. Help me to see others through Your eyes and love my neighbors, the Venezuelan people, as myself! In Your precious name, Amen.

I pray that God will bless your 2015 with His richest blessings and use you for His glory!

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Favorite Ornaments - Oh Course, There's Sports!

In this house of soccer lovers, our tree would not be complete without soccer ornaments!

These two ornaments are, of course, Micah's.

And there would be more if they made more soccer-related ornaments!

But unfortunately, American football, basketball and baseball tend to rule the day when it comes to sports ornaments.
That's okay! We celebrate our love of soccer just by being in a soccer-saturated nation. ;D

Although Venezuela ranks second (behind the DR) in Latin America for sending baseball players to the Major Leagues, soccer is still beloved here.

One of the greatest thrills for our family was watching the World Cup this past summer while living in VZ. Every TV in every house and every store and every mall was tuned to the World Cup. Wherever we went people were wearing the jerseys of their favorite country's team. We saw mainly Germany, Brazil and Argentina jerseys being worn here.

We happened to be at a local mall one day when one of the Brazil games was being played. The jumbo screen in the food court was tuned to the game and it was standing room only with a sea of yellow and green jerseys filling the entire foot court.

If any of you have watched a soccer game in Spanish, you knew that when a goal is scored, the commentators, and of course, the fans yell, Gooooooooooooooooooool! forever!!
So, you can imagine the roar that went up with each goal Brazil scored.

When we were at home, we could hear that same roar from our neighbors' houses as their favorite teams played, as I am sure they heard the same roar from our house.

We had neighbors, both adults and kids, come to watch the games with us, and even if we couldn't communicate well, our love of soccer and our common teams brought us closer together.

It is like the body of Christ.

We don't have to look alike, or speak the same language, our common love for Jesus and our commitment to the same goals as Christians brings us closer together.

It makes us family!

And even when we are miles upon miles away from one another, we are still one in the Spirit.

We serve the same Creator, whether we live in Venezuela, or the US, or somewhere in Africa or Asia.

And each time we hear about another brother or sister joining the family, we should all yell, Gooooooooooooooooooool! :D

We must not forget to encourage or cheer on our brothers and sisters in the faith as we all serve Jesus and win others to Christ!

Now, let's go win the world for Him!

Monday, December 29, 2014

My Favorite Ornaments - Princesses & Barbie

If my tree has Super Heroes on it, then it must have Barbies and Princesses too.
There has to be some sort of balance in a house with 3 boys and 2 girls. :D

We have Cinderella, Belle, Aurora, Rapunzel, Ariel and Snow White in the princess category.

And we have Barbie in some of her famous movie roles like Three Musketeers, Island Princess and the Princess and the Pauper. We also have her decked out in several high fashion dresses.

That reminds me of all the times our girls played dress-up with their princess dresses, crowns and high heels. Moriah has long since left those days behind and Merci is not too far behind, although they both still like to wear heels.
I would love to keep them little forever, but at the same time, I am enjoying seeing them grow and mature into beautiful young ladies, both inside and out.

I want them to always remember that, not only are they “Daddy’s (and Mommy’s) Little Girls,” they are the daughters of the King of kings!

All those princesses and Barbies have nothing on my daughters and yours too!

We have girls that represent the greatest King of all time. 

Now, we must remember to teach them...along with about a million other things... keep their eyes on Him. allow Him to guide their lives. ask Him first about any decision. serve Him always.
...that they are to always remember that they are daughters of the King!

He loves them more than we could ever imagine.

Thank you Jesus for loving my babies, both my boys and my girls, more than I ever could!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

My Favorite Ornaments - Super Heroes, Villains and…Hoops & Yoyo

What tree would be complete without a few super heroes and villains?

With three boys, our tree has its fair share.

From Batman to Spiderman fighting Green Goblin to Tron to Lego Darth Vader and don't forget to add in Mr. Incredible and Iron Man, our tree is securely protected and defended. ;D

And every tree must have a couple of Veggie Tales ornaments…

...and a Hoops and Yoyo ornament! This one sings to us, classics like:

"Shake it shake it shake it shake it
Shake it shake it shake it shake it
Shake it shake it shake-a your Christmas gift
That ain't all we're gonna do,
We're gonna rip the wrapping too
Woohoo! Hahaha!"


"We got a present, shake shake shake
Its sorta fragile, break break break
What's inside, we don't know
Uh, uh-oh, we gotta go
Woah! Hurry! Sorry, Mom!
Uh-oh, Don't tell Santa!"
I know you are familiar with those two songs, especially if you have little ones! :D

Just like our lives…
...we have the villain, the devil, always lurking around waiting for an opportunity to bring us down,
...while we have our heroes; our Christian brothers and sisters, the Word, and most importantly, our Savior ready and able to protect and defend us,
…and we have the crazy fun moments of life where we can let ourselves be silly for a little while and recount the joys of life.

This past month has been a great time to recount the joys of Christmases past!

And while our lives aren't perfect by no means, the good far outweighs the bad and the glorious reason we celebrate Christmas remains the reason we live and serve!

Thank you Jesus for being our ultimate Super Hero!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

My Favorite Ornaments - Little Women & Teapots

Okay, I am a little late on Day 27 as well, but here it is!

I was so excited when Hallmark started the 
Little Women Series! 

One of my favorite classics was being made into a series of ornaments that I could buy for Moriah. 

We collected all four sisters 
over the next four Christmases.

Shortly after, Hallmark began the Miniature Teapot series and they were so cute that over the next three years we collected each one for Moriah as well.

And then, our last Christmas in the States, Hallmark created the Alice in the Teapot ornament from the Disney live-action Alice in Wonderland movie.

Over the years, we had collected these ornaments for Moriah never realizing how fitting they would be for her developing personality.

Now, at age 14, she is our avid book reader, who adores classics. Not only that, but she loves to sit and read while sipping on different flavors of hot tea.

We surely could not have known how perfectly these ornaments would reflect her personality when we purchased them.

And, of course, that reminds me of our Heavenly Father and how He creates and places gifts in our lives that we often wonder what they are for or about, at the time. Then, sometimes, years later, we look back at those gifts and are amazed at how perfect God’s choice was for us.

Now, I don’t believe in any way, that we bought those ornaments knowing how Moriah’s personality and hobbies would develop. I think that was just coincidence.

But I don’t believe that there are coincidences with God. I believe He knows us and gives us gifts, sometimes a little earlier than we expect them, to see how we will react and what we will do with those gifts.

My prayer is that I will take special care of the gifts that God has placed in my life. And that when the time comes to use them, I will have allowed Him to perfect  those gifts in me, so that I can use them for His glory.

My Favorite Ornaments - Fire Trucks & Comic Books

I missed a day! So pretend this is the 26th! :D

All of these ornaments are Malachi’s! Of all our kids, Malachi seemed to fall into this perfect timing where new ornament series were starting with Hallmark and so we could buy those for him each year. 

As you have seen already, he had the train series from birth to four. 
He had the Firetruck series with lights and sounds from five to nine.
Then he had the Comic book of Super Heroes series from ten to thirteen.

And his last three ornaments have been in Costa Rica and Venezuela.

I always loved the Series ornaments as it gave us something else to look forward to each Christmas season with the introduction of the next in the series.

You know, that makes me think about the fact that we should always be looking forward to the introduction of the “next in the series” of things God is continually teaching us in our lives. 

Sometimes the things He teaches us are hard lessons and so, we oftentimes, don’t look forward to what is next.

But, most of the time, if we are willing to be open and always learning, God will teach us amazing things that will grow us in faith and maturity.

As this year comes to a close and 2015 looms ahead, I am excited about the “next in the series” of what God is going to do in me and through me as I willingly (and that is hard for stubborn-old me), allow Him to work in my life.