Thursday, December 27, 2012

scenes from a christmas morning

Our Christmas morning started very early since we knew we would have a house full for breakfast by 9 AM. As I was rushing around trying to get breakfast casseroles in the oven, cut up fruit salad, and quickly wrap a few last gifts-- I looked out the window and was hit with this view. 

Long lay the world in sin and error pining / till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth / a thrill of hope the weary world rejoices / for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

And then I stopped. And thanked Jesus for coming. And thanked him for this New and Glorious Morn.
 And remembered that He had to come, so that I could live. 

It's not about the presents, it's not about the food, it's not even about being with family. All those things are great and such wonderful additions to the Christmas season, but the reason we celebrate, the reason that we are ALIVE to celebrate is because of Jesus. The giver of life. The only good and perfect gift the world will ever know. 

Being far away from home and from family this Christmas season has been hard, but it has totally brought me back to this truth. That Jesus came on Christmas day and lived a perfect life and died a horrible death. For me. For you. For this fallen world. So that we could live. And that is worth celebrating. 

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 

Isaiah 9:6

Brian started our morning off with a little family devotion from our favorite: His Utmost for My Highest.

Then: PRESENTS! Ya'll. I admit it. I feel LOVED through gifts. It's maybe not my first love language, but it's up there. Call me selfish, but I love a present. Actually, I love surprises even more than presents.
 So come visit me, and don't tell me you're coming. Okay?

(also, my husband surprised me with an AMAZING present. it deserves it's own post.)

The People: Hey Kenz, We really wanna see what you look like before coffee with 6:30 AM sleepy eyes. 

McKenzie: You people are lucky I love you. 

Facetime Gift Opening with the fam! This was technically Christmas Eve. But, who's really counting?

 My family is so generous! Awesome wooden chopping block from my sis, Apple TV, and a kindle fire!
Plus lots of other little treats. 
My mom is an awesome gift giver, and funny enough: 
I am an awesome gift receiver :)

And these are pre-Christmas Eve candle light service. We decided to get a little fancy. 

Hey Handsome.

We hope that your Christmas was restful and joyful and that you were reminded of 
all the ways the Lord has blessed you over the past year. 

From the Hardings in Okinawa, to you, wherever you are:
Merry, Merry Christmas and a wonderful, blessed New Year!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

weekend recap + a recipe.

Rainy days. 
Friends over for dinner.
Grilling out in December.
Christmas candles. 
Christmas lights.
Christmas socks. 
Christmas carols at church.
Enjoying our cozy home.
Chai Tea. 
Coffee. Lots of coffee. 
Naps. (yes, plural)
Sushi take out. 
Pumpkin, cranberry, chocolate bread. 
Movie watching. 
Couch laying. 
Low productivity.
No agenda. 

The kind of weekend I spend my weeks dreaming about. 
The kind of weekend that is full of the little things that make life sweet.
The kind of weekend we need every now and then.

This bread was moist and delicious and was born out of cleaning out Thanksgivingy foods from my fridge. I found 2 half cans of pumpkin and come fresh cranberries. Mix that with some pecans and dark chocolate and BOOM. This lovely little treat. I just used my favorite pumpkin bread recipe and then added some cranberries, some dark choco chips, and a handful of pecans. 

Cranberry/Pumpkin/Chocolate/Pecan Bread
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs, beaten well
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 cup fresh cranberries
how ever much chocolate makes your heart happy
a handful of nuts (pecans, walnut, etc.)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix the dry. Mix the wet. Mix them together. Add cranberries and chocolate and nuts. Pour in a buttered bread pan. Throw in the oven. Enjoy the smells coming from your oven. Bake for 5-60 mins. Take out of oven. Devour. 

Enjoy! I don't know why this is the first recipe I have ever posted. I love cooking (well, mostly baking) and want to start posting recipes more often. We will see what I come up with! Hope your weekends were wonderful.


Linking up with Lindsay!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

japanese kare-okay.

If you are ever in need of a boost of confidence, just ask Brian and I to go do karaoke with you. It's then that you will realize, that even though your life feels like it's falling apart-- at least you can find a pitch and a rhythm and maybe even a beat. But me and my husband? Not a chance. Separately, we are bad. Together, we are somewhere between terrible and atrocious. But man, do we LOVE to sing.

Oh, our children, our poor poor children. But hey, at least we're fun. 

Anyways, japanese karaoke is the bomb. You get your own sound proof room with just you and your homies. All you can drink fountain soda. And all the songs you could ever want to sing on your own display monitor. It's amazing. 

Now, remember, we've only lived in Japan for a month and a half. These people that we were karaokeing with we had only known for about 3 weeks. We were still in a make it or break it stage in our friendships. So Brian and I really tried to hold back and play it cool for the first few songs, but we can't help it-- we love to sing and we sing horribly. Luckily, we are still friends with all of these people so we are guessing that they saw through our voices and into our hearts.

There's Brian, warming up the vocal chords. 

This is Brian trying to play it cool.. slight smile, kicked back, relaxing. 
But just look at the tension in his fingers, he can't hold back much longer. 
Yep, there he is. There's our guy. So much commitment in the facial expression. 
On his feet. 
And maybe trying to rap? (third picture on the right) 
And so proud of his performance (bottom picture).

 This is me and my friend Jenni. She is a real life singer. You can tell by the way she holds her mouth.
 Jenni: natural.
 Yep, and then Joel really went for it with the squat and fist pump.
 I felt really good about this Celine "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" performance. 
But my nostrils and my mouth, 
I can't handle it. 
At least my teeths are straight. 
This was me saying like "hey, let's take a fun picture together!" but no, no no. 
Can't stop him once he's started. 

Well, rest assured that if you come visit us in Japan we WILL take you karaokeying. It's a fun, fun time for all. Except for those that have to listen to me and my man sing. Which would be you.... Oh well. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Although I truly believe thankfulness is a lifestyle, sometimes it's nice to have one whole day devoted to recognizing all the little blessings in life that call us to be thankful. The things that quickly become expected and deserved, rather than evidences of God's grace on our lives. This verse is one that I frequently have to call to mind, as thankfulness is not always free flowing from my heart. But yet, thankfulness is something God commands from us. And not just in the good times, but in ALL circumstances. If we believe, truly truly believe, that God works all things for the good-- then we are free to be thankful in all circumstances knowing with full confidence that He makes everything work together for our good. Is this how I always feel in my heart? No. Not at all. But I can decide in my mind to be thankful before my heart even feels it, and I can pray that God would soften my heart. And He is faithful, He always does. Thankfulness is not a feeling, it's a decision. 

And we have so, so much to be thankful for. 

I am thankful for God's grace on my life. That He chose to save me before I even knew Him. That because of Jesus my sinful nature was replaced with holiness, righteousness, purity, and grace. That He is all sufficient and more than I could ever need. That I could study His Word all day everyday and still not know all there is to know about His character. That I am constantly in amazement of His ways. That because of his full, perfect love and unconditional forgiveness that I never deserve, I am able to forgive freely and give love to others. 

I am thankful for my marriage, my husband. My best friend. My confidant. My fellow adventurer. The goofiest man in the world that follows hard after Jesus. The man that loves his family and desires to obey the Lord in all aspects of life. The one who works long days and comes home to serve me in any way that he can. The man who's life pushes me to Jesus as he desires to live a life fully dependent on Christ. The one that never complains and can find joy in even the darkest moments. The one full of corny jokes that everyone can't help but love. I am thankful for a man who is easy to love, and a man who finds it so easy to love others. 

I am thankful for our family. Parents and inlaws. Brothers and sisters. BILs and SILs. Grandparents. Girlfriends. Aunts. Uncles. Cousins. Nieces and nephews. And I'm not just saying this because I know they will all read this post. I'm saying it because it's true. They are loud and crazy and a little bit wild sometimes-- but Brian and I have never ever had to question whether or not our families loved us. We are thankful for 2 sets of parents that try hard to obey God, walk in righteousness, love each other well, and love their family well. We know for a fact that the reason we love marriage so much is because of God's grace and because of parents and grandparents who modeled healthy marriage to us for our first 22 years of life. And we kind of love how crazy our families are, wouldn't want it any other way.

I am thankful for technology and that even though it hurt our hearts to be away from our families physically, we got to see all their faces and feel like we were there in person. Facetime makes the distance from America to Japan feel a little bit smaller. That I can call my mom and see her face whenever I need to. That I can have coffee dates with friends back home. That I can watch my dear friend's pregnant belly grow. That we don't have to miss out on those things because of distance and a 14 hour time difference. 

I am thankful for community-- far and near. For how God has provided for Brian and I since day one in the Marine Corps. Since moving away from the only homes and families we had ever known, the Lord has never ceased to place people in our lives exactly when we needed them. People to do life with. People to pour into us and speak truth into our lives. We are thankful for our church here and our community group that has loved us like they have known us their whole lives. We are thankful for dear friends who are only an elevator ride away (or the stairs if I'm feeling sporty). That if we can't be with our family during the holidays, we get to be with friends who feel like family. 

I am thankful for this beautiful place we get to live. For our home that is more than we need. For this adventure that we will look back on nostalgically for the rest of our lives. For a time to be away from comfort and really find out who we are, how we do marriage, and be fully dependent on God. I am thankful for the turquoise water, the white sand, and the warm breeze. 


We had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend full with 2 whole Thanksgiving dinners, lots of time together, cooking and baking, Christmas tree putting uping, black friday shopping, board game playing, fresh flower picking, beach dinner eating, and so much more. Why can't every weekend be 4 days long?

Happy Thanksgiving friends. I'm thankful for you. 

Also: side note. It's ironic that after writing a whole post on thankfulness and then pressing publish, and then realizing that my entire post had been lost, I immediately began cursing my computer and blogger and anything in my direct line of vision. 
I would say the Lord still has a lot of work to do on my heart in this area :)