Monday, December 23, 2013

not skilled. in the least.

I am not skilled to understand
What God hath willed, what God hath planned;
I only know that at His right hand
Is One Who is my Savior!

I take Him at His word indeed;
“Christ died for sinners”—this I read;
For in my heart I find a need
Of Him to be my Savior!

That He should leave His place on high
And come for sinful man to die,
You count it strange? So once did I,
Before I knew my Savior!

And oh, that He fulfilled may see
The travail of His soul in me,
And with His work contented be,
As I with my dear Savior!

Yea, living, dying, let me bring
My strength, my solace from this Spring;
That He Who lives to be my King
Once died to be my Savior!
Trinity Hymnal #429 - lyrics Dorothy Greenwell

There are days when it's easy to follow and rejoice in Christ. He's leading, guiding, and you can see His hand at work. Other days, it's silent. Completely quiet. And for some reason, those are the times when you need Him most. You feel abandoned, left alone, cold, frustrated.

But it's on those days that you have to look past your feelings. Look past their deception and see Truth. 

He hasn't left us. He hasn't forsaken us. He promised He never would, and His promises never fail. He is still working, still moving, still guiding - even if we in our flawed human minds cannot see it. 

We may not be skilled to understand. 
But we take Him at His Word, and know He will not fail.

Friday, December 20, 2013

sparkling moment of humanity // christmas lights

via pinterest
I saw a Sparkling Moment of Humanity today.

I'm always on the lookout for these - you know, those little candid moments you catch that make your heart smile and you eyes sparkle for a passing moment before they're gone.

At first glance, it didn't look like much. Just a Normal House in a Typical American Neighborhood. And some random older gentleman standing out in front of the House on a little white stool underneath an arbor over his sidewalk.

But then, looking again, it was more than that.

This gentleman is mostly likely well into his seventies. His hair was white, his hands were shaky, and his knees probably aren't as reliable as they used to be.

When I first drove by, he was holding onto the metal arch with one hand and stringing colored Christmas lights with the other. His wife, who looked to be in about the same stage of life as her spouse, was standing beside him, presumably giving directions. (somethings never change) I smiled to myself as I passed, wondering absentmindedly how many years she's stood there, hands on her hips, directing him as he put the decorations. "Yes, honey. Of course, dear."

When I drove back by a few minutes later, I looked over at their house again, to see if they were still at it. And I noticed immediately that Mrs. Christmas Lights wasn't giving instructions anymore.


She was still standing beside Mr. Christmas Lights, yes, but she had her arms wrapped tightly around his waist, holding him steady so he could string the bulbs with both hands without worrying about losing his balance.

So simple, yet so profound.

A happy sort of lump sprang up in my throat as I saw those two, and a little extra sparkle was added to my day. It was a such a beautiful picture - something I'll keep stored away in the back of mind for years to come. It spoke volumes, told a love story.

It made my heart smile.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Program: 0. Liza: 3.

For the past four years, I have been involved in our church's children's Christmas program.

For the past three years, I've been the director.
Christmas Program 2011

After my first year as director, I was ready to do it again since I had a lot of ideas and was ready to hit the ground running. Well, I procrastinated, and ended up scouring the internet at the last minute for a script. The program itself turned out really well, but the stress and craziness it cost me caused me to make the statement "I'm not doing this next year."
the unmatchable, unrepeatable, incredible Christmas Program 2012. *sniffles*

Guess who volunteered of their own free will to run the program this year?

Yup, yours truly.

If I thought last year was last minute, chaotic and stressful, I hadn't seen nuthin'. Most of my wonderful older actors from last year have moved away temporarily, as well as my assistant director. And we had new children who don't know the ropes. And there were over thirty children total this year. Well, well.

And, after ordering a script from Amazon, it didn't arrive until the second week of December. By that point, I'd had to scrap that idea and come up with a Plan B.

What was Plan B?

Liza writes a script.

I'm a theatre kid, this is what I love, so I stayed up till 3am writing a script one night. Cheers. I thought it was pretty good, good enough at least, and I gave the leads to my brother Michael and his partner-in-crime, Danny, who are both wonderful actors, improv-ers (if that's a word) and play off each other well. I figured they'd make whatever changes they wanted, and would carry the play well. I was right.

Then the rehearsals started - we had THREE. Just so you know, that's not a lot.

And one of them got snowed out.

Then the program itself got snowed out.

So then we moved the date forward three days, lost another rehearsal, and called a last minute practice one hour before the program. We still didn't get through everything. The result was the younger children (directed by my wonderful team of four fourteen-fifteen year olds) never got to practice their stuff on the stage at all, and my narrators (five nine-eleven year olds) never got to practice reading in front of the mic. Needless to say, I was a leetle skeptical about how in the world this show was going to get itself off the ground.

Christmas Program 2013

We pushed practice up until five minutes *after* the show was supposed to start, then finally cleared the stage. I turned to Kari and said, "at this point, whatever happens, happens!" And it did.

Surprisingly, hardly anyone forgot their lines, and the few that did were so funny it didn't matter. And the little kids were priceless in their nativity pageant. The narrators aced their readings, and the lights and sound team kept everything going.

For the first time, I got to see the little ones do their thing. I'd never watched them rehearse since I was always preoccupied with herding the older children around. I went up to Catherine and Kari afterwards and praised them, "That was so cute! Great job! I never got to see y'all practice, so that was fun." They just looked at each other, and Catherine replied, "Um, that's not what we practiced." Ha! Well, it was cute anyway.
notice the cowboy-shepherd to the far right *hehe* that kid makes me laugh.

I'm so very proud of the way Michael and Danny kept the show moving. They have incredible stage presence and maturity and I'm so glad they were on "my team." Caroline kept the girls' scenes running smoothly - she knew everyone's lines and was ready to cover anyone. Ethan and Daniel, my leaders of my amazing tech crew, knew their stuff inside and out and I didn't have to concern myself with anything in that regard. And I honestly don't know what I would've done without Kari, Catherine, Katherine and Rebekah leading and directing the 4 and 5 year olds part of the program. I was very blessed to have such a great "staff" during this super chaotic process!

So, I'm thankful it worked out - the audience was enthusiastic and very involved, which is always encouraging. And no matter how hard I am on them, I love these children like crazy and I think they're the cat's meow, so even if they're bouncing off the walls on a sugar high and making my hair stand on end, I'm in my element when I'm working with them.

Most of the time.

During our last rehearsal, I just about swore I was done with Christmas programs...but many times the past week I've caught mysef talking about "next year". *cough* Ahem.

All complications aside, I'll be the first to say it was definitely worth it. No strings attached.

If I've learned anything the past six months, it's that life isn't about me. Once you can get a grasp on that fact of life, it makes everything you do much less stressful because you aren't worried about how it will reflect on you, or whether you get something out it. Life becomes about others, and you get joy simply out of doing things you know will bless those around you. Easier said than done, yes, but it's a lesson worth learning and a lifestyle worth embracing. Even if it means becoming an amateur cat-herder for five weeks a year.

Who wants to bet that I'll be back at this again in twelve months?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

this is about my parents.

Today is my parents' wedding anniversary.

They've been married for twenty-three years. Which is almost - but not quite - half their lives. Half their lives! How crazy is that?!

They met as fourth-years in college, were married two years after graduation. If you had told them then that they would be the parents of eight children, they would've laughed.

I wouldn't trade them for the world. These two amazing people have raised, trained, protected and loved me for almost twenty years. And not only that, they are two of my dearest friends. I haven't met many others who are close to their parents as I am to mine.

I'll be honest - It hasn't been an easy road to get this kind of relationship, but their humility and gentleness is a powerful example of the Exchanged Life. Believe me, I see more and more everyday what a blessing it is to be able to look up to my parents as godly role models. And now, as an adult, walking life beside them is….amazing.

They are priceless, and it's a privilege to be their daughter.

I pray that when the Lord sees fit to give me a family of my own, that I will love them and nurture them half as well as my parents have done for me.

I love y'all. More than I could ever say.

morales family circa nineteen-ninety-four.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


"My faith rests not upon what I am, or shall be, or feel, or know, but in what Christ is, what He has done, and what He is now doing for me." - Charles Spurgeon

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

asking for miracles.

"You still give sight to the blind
Heal the broken and provide
Yes, I believe You're the Maker of Miracles
You still open ears to hear
Silence all our doubts and fears
Yes, I believe You're the Maker of Miracles.
You're the Maker of Miracles."

I was listening to this song this morning, and when the chorus rolled around, I was struck with a thought.

In this modern age, we are always asking God for miracles - frustrated because He seems silent, we want something impressive to "prove" that He's really there. And somehow, we think that's different than the unbelieving crowds in the Gospels, following Jesus around hoping He would do a miracle, just for kicks.

As I thought about that, especially when the line "You still open ears to hear" played, I realized that the actual Miracles stares us in the face every single day of our lives - well, every day since our hearts were opened to the Gospel.

Our family has a deep respect and love for the Jewish people. After all, we were grafted into THEIR tree, and their story is our story. The more I've studied the Old Testement, the more I see God's love for His chosen people, and His desire to reconcile them to Himself through Christ. The more I've studied the Old Testement, the more thankful I am that He chose to save the WHOLE WORLD, to include us in the amazing Inheritance He made for the Jews.

The Miracle is truly that, first, of all, that we Gentiles can share in the blessing. But there's something even more mind blowing than that. Just stop and think for a second.

This is God we're talking about. The One who *created* this entire world with a Word. The One who split the Red Sea down the middle. The One Who sent food down from heaven every day to feed over a million people for forty years. The One who knits babies together in their mothers' wombs (how incredible is that?!). The One Who *became a man*. That God.

And this God, this all-sufficient, all-powerful God, *wants* us to be with Him, so He made a Way to restore our broken relationship. He made a Way.

We did nothing. Absolutely nothing. Nothing to deserve it, nothing to bring it about, nothing. And yet, even two thousand years after He came to earth, this God Who lives outside of our universe is still actively pursuing His people.

And we ask for a miracle?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

one hundred and thirty days.

Over the course of the day today, I spent a total of three and a half hours on the phone or Skype with four ladies who I love very dearly. Three of them currently live in Colorado, one currently lives in Chicago. Right now I feel overwhelmingly blessed that the Lord has chosen, in His goodness, to cross our paths for this season of life.

One of those phone conversations was with Mama Sandi. And as a result, I am now officially counting down.

Counting down?

Oh yes. Because guess what?

There are exactly 
one hundred and thirty days 

…until this place is my home again.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

blow, blow thou winter wind...

Indulge me a moment….

Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

- from Act II, Scene 7, As You Like It by William Shakespeare

Nothing like our beloved Shakespeare to start off a post, right?

Currently, I'm sitting on my bed drinking Tazo Chai tea (which has been a guilty pleasure of mine since  my final gloriously bittersweet week at Ellerslie), snacking on kolo and taking a happy break from packing.

Packing? You ask. Where are you going?
I don't know, I say.
Then what are you packing for? you reply.
We're moving, I say.
MOVING?! you're speechless. Frankly, so am I.
Yes, we're moving. A week after Christmas.
Where? you have your voice back.
I don't know, remember? I reply.

Yes. The Morales family is mobile. We have a POD sitting in our driveway, our basement is full of boxes, our bookshelves are empty, and every room looks like a tornado went through it. We are moving. We don't know where yet - we'll still be here in the area, of course, we just haven't been able to line up a house yet. At this point, we may end up living with my cousins and grandparents for a couple weeks - we'll see. Moving day is tentatively set for January 4th or 5th - could be earlier.

It's a little crazy, moving over the holidays. Okay, more than a little crazy. But it's been an incredible lesson in dependence, and we are trusting God fully that He will show us the right place when the time is right.

So our days are full of packing boxes, purging through our rather extensive piles of unnecessary belongings, house hunting, house touring, long days and late nights, and lots of quality family time.

Our prayer this month has been that this experience, instead of being stressful and worrisome, would be peaceful, full of joy, and that we would be drawn closer together as a family because of it. So far, that's been true. It's not an easy road to walk - we've put a lot into this house the past four years, especially the garden, and even though we all knew it was time to move, it'll be hard to leave. And, it's just a crazy time of year to be moving - no doubt about it.

In other news….Thankgiving was lovely. We spent it with my Dad's family here in town. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude to be sitting beside my Aunt Lisa - just the fact that she was there was enough, but that she is doing so very well in health and has her energy back and is doing what she loves again just added to the joy.

Of course, we made pies that she could eat (as dairy and sugar free as we could get - or as Grandpa would say, "Wild caught, free range and happy") , and I'll be the first to say that organic squash pie and corn-syrup-less pecan pie taste much better than they sound *hehe*

We also spent quite a bit of time playing pool. With so many people who want a turn, and just one table, we generally play "pill" - which makes for quite a lively, and sometimes rather long, game.

Friday, I took Catherine, Rebekah, Caroline and Noel to see the new Disney movie, Frozen. I originally agreed to take them just so I could hear Idina and Santino, but ended up thoroughly enjoying myself and being very glad I went.

The music was superb - had a very Broadway feel to it, most likely because they tailored the score to fit the voices of the incredibly talented mostly-from-Broadway cast. "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" nearly made me cry in the first five minutes, however, "Love is an Open Door" was probably my favorite - but I'm biased. (yay Santino!). And the latter kinda sounds it belongs in High School Musical…and that's not the only song that seems to hearken back to previous Disney productions….

 If you've seen Tangled, you'll find that "For the First Time in Forever" is subtly (or not so subtly) reminiscent of "When Will My Life Begin?", and non-Disney-related: if you know Wicked: The Musical, "Let it Go" is basically another version of "Defying Gravity" (yay Idina!).

The costumes (if you can call them that when it's animated *grin*) and hairstyles were beautifully done - now I want a cape. *hehe* I love anything remotely Scandinavian, so the countryside and the argyle and the reindeer were right up my alley.

Even the plot and character development, even though it wasn't quite Pixar (my standard :P), was well-defined and highlighted important character traits and life lessons that Disney normally glosses over. Elsa went "bad" trying to be good….without Love. It was only when she learned what Love truly meant, in the every self-sacrificing aspect of this grossly misunderstood and overused word, that she was able to do what she truly desired in her heart - and that was to be a good ruler, a good sister.

I was SO SO glad that Kristoff was a honest tradesman (yay Jonathan!)…as much as I love Flynn, I didn't want another Thieving Hero. Just because. Oh, and his reindeer sidekick, Sven, is basically Maximus With Antlers. "Reindeers are better than people…"

I still don't understand the Snowman in Summer song…or the Snowman character in general…but Catherine reminded me that the movie isn't exactly geared towards nineteen year olds anyway, so I'm moving on. "Winter's a good time to stay in and cuddle, but put me in summer and I'll be a….HAPPY SNOWMAN!!!" Okay… :) Once again, another throwback to a previous Disney - anyone else thinking "Jolly Holiday" from Mary Poppins?

The only slightly negative elements were some few and far-between instances of potty humor…typical, but unhelpful. And romantic elements, but how you view those depends on your personal standards. It's nothing out of the normal Disney romantic way - no surprises.

We don't like watching the previews before the movies (ahhh, the garbage on screen! don't get me started) so instead we roamed the hallways of the theatre and took pictures in front of random movie posters.

I have great sisters - admit it.

On Saturday, I hiked Old Rag Mountain with some friends from swim team - we had quite a jolly time on the icy, slightly-dangerous-in-places trail.

My friends, I am thankful. I am thankful for four years in this house. I am thankful for the way the Lord has provided for us, especially over the last six years. I am thankful for the assurance we have that He will continue to care for us, guide us, and watch over us in the months and years to come. I am thankful for this time we've been able to spend as a family. I'm thankful for SO MUCH.

Here's to the last month of 2013 - may there never be a dull moment!