Holly Jolly Christmas

Our Christmas was a great, low-key one filled with laughter and family and friends.

We joined our Irish neighbors and our South Korean friend for food, games, and some movie watching. Here’s a glance of what went on:


Eating her Christmas breakfast


Cooking the stuffing for the turkey

Christmas Turkey

The Christmas Turkey

Guys Playing Game

Playing Battle of the Sexes. The guys won!

Christmas Tree

Our hosts’ festive tree (yay for Christmas!)


Group Photo (After Tam went to sleep)


Trying to get everyone in the shot


Grocery Shoppin’

Shopping carts
Providential grocery shopping buddy. I think that’s what I’m going to call them.

It seems like whenever I’m feeling particularly homesick or culture-shocked, I run into a kind older woman at the grocery store. It’s never the same woman twice but they love to share their “secret” recipe for making their version of whatever I’m trying to cook.

Usually the conversation begins while I’m staring blankly at some food item (this last time it was canned beans) and wondering which to use (since the brands are a tad different here).

“You makin’ chili?” she says with smile on her face, eager for a conversation.
“Um. Yeah.” I’m not much of a conversationalist.
“Mmmm. I’m makin’ chili, too. I love chili. You put beef in yours?”
“This time, yeah. I don’t know which beans to use, though.”
“Oh! This one is great! It’s my favorite starter for chili. My kids loved it growing up and it’s what I always use. You should throw in diced tomatoes, too.”
“Do you put any other beans in?”
“Oh yeah. These red kidney beans and pinto beans are always tasty. Can’t go wrong with those. Do you use a spice packet? I always use this one.”

…and on the conversation goes until I’m outfitted with the exact ingredients to make her family’s favorite food. Lemme tell you, it’s the best chili I’ve ever made. And similar conversations have led to the best gumbo. And the best sausage gravy. And the best baked chicken.

But it’s not just the great food that I get excited about, it’s the conversation. These conversations feel like little gifts from God reminding me that he’s here and he loves us. They’re reminders that the world and his creation display his joy and that we all have an innate desire to connect with one another.

These providential shopping buddies don’t know that their conversations have become a highlight of my week and that they’ve displayed a bit of the character of Jesus to a sometimes wearied soul. I can’t help but reflect on Hebrews when it says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby¬†some have entertained angels unawares.”

…And a year has passed.

Tam's Bday Cake

When did she get so big?!

Yesterday we celebrated Tam’s first birthday and it was spectacular!

It was a pretty low-key day, as far as first birthday can go. We Skyped with both Grandparents, had dinner with some friends, and Tam enjoyed her first taste of cake (albeit a very healthy, whole-wheat one)! We also got to enjoy the experience of Frito pie with our friends and neighbors from Ireland. (Yum!) So, all-in-all, it was truly a great day in which we were reminded constantly of how God has not only preserved us through the last year but has blessed us abundantly.

Family with cake

P.S. I (Remley) wrote up a letter to Tam for her Bday that I’ll be posting a bit later.