Monday, April 23, 2012

Asher laughing

When Sonny got home tonight he took a video of me and Asher having a staring contest. Obviously this turned into more of a laughing contest. We love this little guy! He sure fits his name well! I sure love seeing his "serious" face. Priceless!

The Story of God in Our Lives... going back 12 years

Yesterday at church they played a song that brought back so many memories for me and I think it's time to revisit how Sonny and I got to where we are today. Where do I begin? This may be a super LONG post so I am sorry in advance.

When I was in 8th grade, I started thinking more about attending the youth group at my church. My mom said that I would probably enjoy going to the youth service that was held on Sunday nights (our service was called Truth). Our youth pastor was so different from the typical ones you hear about. We never had shaving cream fights or blender challenges. He came to us with the one thing he knew could change our lives- Jesus. He taught us the Word of God with power and full conviction. He had seen God's Word change his life and believed that knowing Jesus through His Word was the absolute best thing for us. Sonny and I are so thankful for the ministry of Paul and Krystal in our lives. Here is a previous post we wrote about them with a picture of all of us our to dinner:
They both had (and still have) a passion for Jesus that was unlike anything we had seen. It was captivating and made us both want to know more about the Savior that Paul was preaching about.

I started to attend Truth regularly as a 9th grader but was still living a double life. I liked being a semi-popular kid in public school but I was also drawn to something present on Sunday nights. For about a year, I tried to live in both worlds. I had my friends at school and outside of church that were involved in things of the world and I had my church friends that were encouraging me to follow Jesus.

My sophomore year began and things were just getting exhausting. I knew that the life I was leading was not right. I was lukewarm (see Revelation 3:16)... a fence-sitter trying to love this world and still be okay with Jesus. The weekend of October 31st of my sophomore year (1999) our student ministry went to a retreat in Pineywoods, Texas. Paul went through the crucifixion with us and described in detail what our Savior had experienced so that we could be forgiven. This was back before The Passion, I even remember him using an overhead projector to display images of a Roman flogging and crucifixion. The Lord broke me. I remember Him gently but firmly telling me- "You cannot love me and the world. You have to decide. I went through this for you, is it enough? Follow Me." That was it. By grace I was going to follow Jesus.

I went home and knew that I could not hang out with the friends I had been hanging with. I talked with them and let them know that I was going to try to pursue Jesus and that if any of them wanted to do it too, He was there. They gave me that "oh- that's good for you" talk and that was it. I knew that I needed to be around people that were going to encourage me to know and love Jesus. I broke up with the guy that I was dating because the Lord told me to (even though it was incredibly hard for me at the time) and I started to be faithful every Sunday night and Wednesday night (Wednesday nights were our small groups). Though I was getting involved in the student ministry, it was a little bit of a lonely season for me. I had left everything that was dear to me to follow this Jesus that I was just coming to know. It was scary at times I felt like I had nothing but Jesus. I know that was exactly where He wanted me, though. It was a time where I learned to trust and depend on Him for everything. I had no idea if I would make new friends or if I would fit in or what would happen in my future. My hope was completely in Christ.

Then, just a little bit later, we all went to camp at Camp Mitchell in Arkansas. There was this guy named Sonny there and I saw something different in him. I remember telling my friend Kelly, "I really like that Sonny guy. I hope to get to know him better." The time in Arkansas was wonderful. It honestly was not about me getting to know this new guy. Though I thought he was great, I knew I was there to grow with Jesus. It was refreshing to be away from the ploys of the world and to enjoy fellowship, great teaching and worship in such a beautiful environment. I could just feel the Lord continuing to tell me that He loved me and wanted me to trust Him. Sonny and I became friends (played lots of volleyball together on our team named the "Tadpoles") and were both able to deal with the Lord on different issues that He was taking us through.

(Here we are in Arkansas in 2000)

After coming back home, our student ministry had a lock-in. Sonny came but he had invited this girl from the Woodlands (she only stayed for a little bit). I was honestly a little sad but knew that Jesus was in control.  This is where the song from the first paragraph come into play... At midnight of the lock-in, we had a worship time and the song, "I'm trading my sorrows" was being played. I remember looking over at that handsome guy and seeing him worship Jesus with his whole heart. He was in the very back of the room and seemed so abandoned to the Lord when singing the "yes, Lord!" part. I said in my heart, "I hope to marry a man who loves Jesus like that."

Time went by and my youth pastor would often check up on me to see how I was doing. He asked how I was doing in the "guy" department because that was a struggle that I had had in the past. I remember telling him that I had a crush on Sonny. I remember his face, "Really? He is going to bounce of the walls when he finds that out!" I was a little worried. What did that mean, "bounce of the walls?" Was that bad? He encouraged me to pray about it for a while and we would talk again. About 3 weeks later he asked how I was doing. I said I still really felt attracted to him and his love for Jesus. Paul told me that it was okay for me to let Sonny know how I was feeling. That night, after Truth, I asked Sonny "Can I have your number? I need to talk with you about something." He gave it to me and that night I called to tell him that I found his love for the Lord very attractive and wanted to know him better. It took a while for him to say anything back (he says that he thought I was going to say I was joking and hang up on him). Finally he said, okay, and that was about all. We had our first unofficial date at Boston Market and then went to Starbucks to share the gospel with people. I loved being around him and seeing his passion for Jesus!

We started dating in about September of that year. Our time of dating had its ups and downs to say the least. We struggled with purity and were constantly battling to stay focused on the Lord. Though it was hard, it was refining. We ended up getting engaged in January of 2002 and got married in January of 2004 (this post is getting a little long so that's the short version of our engagement). The main theme of our wedding was God's sweet provision. Though we were young and somewhat inexperienced, He always provided for us and never abandoned us.

(sorry that these are a little blurry, I was taking a picture of a picture and this is the result)

Honestly every year of marriage gets better for us. We have had great times of joy and times of horrible sorrow (we had 5 miscarriages before getting pregnant with Asher). We have had very difficult seasons of fighting and growing and very wonderful seasons of enjoying each other and our Savior. The times when we do fight, it all comes down to pride and not submitting to the Lord. Things are so much easier now than they were when we first started. We have seen that trying to live in the humility of Jesus makes our marriage work. When we try to love each other as we have been loved by Jesus (with an unconditional, sacrificial, overwhelming love), it just makes things so much easier. I enjoy every SINGLE day being the bride of Sonny. He is my absolute best friend. I enjoy being with him more than any other person on this earth. He makes me smile every day. Even though we do occasionally have disagreements now, we are able to handle them so much better than how we did in our early marriage. We try to never let the sun go down on our anger (Ephesians 4:26) and we pray often to live in humility with one another. The verse that I remember reading early on in our relationship is

Ephesians 3:20-21
"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more that we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever, Amen!"

I would always pray this verse for Sonny and I- that by His grace we would be able to see Him do more than we could ever ask or imagine. God is so incredibly faithful. He has fulfilled that verse in our lives. I am so humbled to have been able to see Him do more than I could ever have asked or imagined. I get to do ministry with my best friend. We have 2 children that are a joy to raise. We have wonderful friends that encourage us and that we get to do ministry with. We get to see students grow to know and love Jesus with their whole hearts. Though at times life has been tough, God has always, always sustained us and told us not to fear but to trust in Him. As we approach 9 years of marriage, I am continually humbled at the reality that I get to be married to such a wonderful, Jesus-loving man. His mercies really are over all of His works (Psalm 145)

Resurrection Day Part 2

As I mentioned before, this Resurrection Day we decided to try and keep it low key and not travel a lot. Most of our holidays, while they are lots of fun, involve hours in the car and running from place to place. We are so blessed to have lots of family within a few hours away but that can make it a little difficult to try and rest on holidays since we want to see everyone. For Easter this year we just went to church as a family, spent the afternoon at a Park in Tomball with friends and had dinner in Tomball with my parents, brother, sister in law and her parents. Overall it was great. We saw Sonny's parents and siblings on Friday and the weekend was pretty relaxed. The kids enjoyed the Easter egg hunt but more than that, Asher enjoyed playing in the pine needles at the park and hiding his cars in them. He got nice and dirty (that's why you can see smudges of dirt on his face if you look closely!) We came home, gave them a shower and took a nice Sunday nap!! The kids are seriously growing so fast! Here are some pictures from our time at the park...

Daddy hunting eggs with the kiddos...

Our two munchkins hunting eggs... Ash was showing off his serious side in most of these pictures...

Ash and Daddy..

Zoee and Mommy...

Attempting to get a family picture with two toddlers... almost!

Ya-ya and her two little girls...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Resurrection Day and More...

Even though we tried to keep Resurrection Day a little low key for our family this year, we ended up being exhausted after a day filled with egg hunting, playing at the park and visiting with family and friends. We ended up not even letting the kids open their Easter baskets until Monday because we wanted them to be able to enjoy the presents we gave them and not have to be whisked away to a full day of events. Sonny and I really love giving the kids gifts. It's so fun to see their excitement when they see the new toys. It was funny though because we were letting Asher watch Cars on Monday morning when he got up and he was very upset to have to leave the movie to come open presents. After we finally convinced him that he would enjoy the presents- he complied and really did enjoy his new stuff. Here are some pictures from Monday morning when they opened their baskets...

They got some new water toys to enjoy with their plastic pool in the back yard, some new markers and chalk and more goodies that we were able to find at the fabulous Target!

Here are some more random pictures from this month...

Sonny and I got to go on a date to our favorite place... Arturos Uptown Italian in Uptown Park and then we went to the Gallaria to walk off the wonderful Italian food... I still love every minute of my dates with Sonny! Date nights are simply incredible!!

Making Daddy be a horse has to be an all time kid favorite and it sure is with our kids. I think they would make him do this for hours if he could endure it. This age is so much fun- we love seeing their little personalities form and hearing them use their imaginations...

Asher still cracks us up sometimes with how we find him sleeping. The other night I let him take TONS of cars to bed with him and this is how we found him when we were checking on him before we went to be. Gotta love our little man that LOVES his cars!!

It's been an eventful April to say the least but we are trying to enjoy every minute of it because time is sure flying by fast! Zoee is even able to count to 10 already!!! I cannot believe it!! She is only 18 months old. Before we know it she will be asking for the keys to the car!!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Asher reading...

Here is a small clip of our little joyful boy with quite an imagination! I heard him telling his imaginary friends last night that they needed to obey him and they would be happy. Listening to him talk to his sister and imaginary friends cracks me up. He also told Zoee this morning that she needed to tell him "sorry" and give him a hug. As the compliant sister, I heard her say "sorry" and go to give him a hug. I am not exactly sure what she "did" that deserved having to apologize to Asher but it sure did make me laugh!! Love them so much!!

Psalm 145 in real life...

Well, the Howard children have been through the ringer this year. I know that kids supposedly get sick quite often as they are building their immune systems, but it seems like our kids get sick even more though we feed them good food and try to make sure they rest a lot. This past Wednesday the kids were super fussy after going to Mother's Day Out and I just felt like the Lord was telling me to take them to the doctor. I honestly avoid the doctor as much as I can (though I think we have the BEST pediatrician around- we love Dr. Karr and his staff... they are always available to answer my endless questions and are all so great with the kids when we come in... Dr. Karr also has his office filled with old cars that he lets Asher look at- I use this a lot when prepping Ash for doctor visits) and usually let the kids' sicknesses "take their course" but when praying for the kids, I just felt like it was time to take them in. Neither had been sleeping well either, and that to me is a major sign of needing to see the doctor. With all that said, we made the trip to the doctor and found that the kids had "Hand, foot and mouth virus" where they have painful cold sores all in their mouth and throat and little bite-looking red spots on their hands and feet. Poor little babies. They have surprisingly done well dealing with this sickness (besides not sleeping that well). They have still wanted to play and have been pretty joyful for having mouths full of sores. They were not able to eat much until yesterday but they drank TONS of almond milk and smoothies.

So how does all of this relate to Psalm 145? I remember reading this Psalm last year when I was dealing with Zoee's spit up. One verse in particular stuck out to me:

Psalm 145:8-9
"The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works."

I read this just after coming home from the doctor on Wednesday. I read it and thought, "I know somehow that this event is part of God's mercy even though I don't really understand how." Later that day I got a call from Sonny. I had had trouble at the doctor accessing our insurance and Sonny told me that the automatic payment we had tried to set up had not gone through and that we had been unknowingly without insurance for about a month. If we had waited 2 more days to call and talk with the insurance company, we would not have been able to keep the current policy but would have had to start all over with the application process (which is simply AWFUL if you have ever had to apply for a personal insurance policy). I just knew that was my answer to how God's mercy was working through this. I would never have called the insurance company had this not happened. Now we are all set with the insurance and the kids are getting better. We have had some great times with just our little family (we are trying to keep them away from everyone so they do not give their little sickness to others) and we have had some really "low key" days trying to rest up. Overall, though I HATE the kids not feeling well, I can see that this is part of the refinement process of our family (I have learned again that I need God's grace to walk in patience and joy) and, in a small way, an instance where God was protecting us.

Be encouraged that both good and bad times are opportunities for us to see God's mercy. We just need to ask HIm for wisdom to know what He is doing and be still enough to listen. The Lord is so near and wants to be intimate with us. He is the Perfect Father!

Hope this encourages you a little today!!

Here are some pictures of us playing in the backyard... our "go-to" spot this week =)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Random March Happenings...

I have said this so many times but life is just flying by. Every time I feel like I get a handle on the season we are in, a new one springs up. The kids are doing great. They are growing up so fast! This morning I saw Asher trying to help his sister climb on the couch so they could dance on the couch together. She had asked me for help but I was just not fast enough for her so he came to the rescue. It's so fun to watch them enjoy playing together =). Here are some fun moments from this month...

Zoee got to get her first "sprinkles" doughnut at Doughnuts with Daddy last week. Obviously she didn't like it??!!

Soaking in the sugar and sprinkles!! Yummy!!

We go in to check on the kids every night before going to bed and this is what we found a few days ago while checking on Asher. He must have been wiped out, poor guy! He is so funny and always finds creative positions to sleep in. Not sure how comfy this one looks...

Asher and Daddy reading his bible before bed. His favorite stories are still the prodigal son (he loves looking at the pig and seeing the boy run back and hug his Daddy) and Noah (he loves looking at all of the animals and seeing the rainbow). Love this season!!

I really enjoy having a "girly-girl" and have already had a few days where we have matched (it also helps that her Mimi makes her the cutest clothes!!). Zoee and I decided to go for the red-and-black look for church =) Her Mimi made her outfit...