Varvel Christmas Letter 2014

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“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

~Job 1:21

As usual before I sit down to write out the yearly Christmas letter, I read the previous year’s letter. The 2013 year was a very exciting year with the completion and premiere of The War Within. This year would only be better with the release of the DVD.  We were ecstatic with the news of a baby boy to arrive in May. At the beginning of 2014, I never would have imagined what this year would bring forth. It still had unknowns, but it looked like it would be another accomplished year.  However, God had a completely different plan than what we had in mind. He had to take away some things to teach us the cost of following Him. He gives AND he takes away.

We started the 2014 year without a consistent income. Due to insufficient funds, House of Grace Films could no longer support Brett financially. However, Brett’s freelance wedding business, Timeless Pictures, was still thriving by God’s grace. Throughout the year, Brett filmed and edited several weddings and corporate videos to meet our financial needs.  The first half of the year I continued to work for Peru Community Schools as their Wellness Advisor/Nutritionist.  However, they lost their wellness grant for the 2014-15 school year and had to let me go.   The last few months of the year we started to become desperate and pulled money from our 6-month emergency fund that we had saved away when Brett and I were both working full-time before Kherington was born.  The Lord provided this money for us 3 years ago for such a time as this!  Even though the Lord took away Brett’s steady paycheck and my supplemental income, He provided the exact amount of money we needed to live by the end of the year.

The Lord revealed our pride in our comfortable living and dependance on money to sustain us. I hated using the emergency fund because it was our “security blanket.” We were prideful that we had that money saved away, and now that it is almost gone we have learned that money does not provide any security. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; He alone is Jehovah-Jireh! “The Lord will provide!”

Even though Brett was not receiving a paycheck from House of Grace Films, it did not mean he could drop all responsibilities. He juggled working to provide through freelance and to continue the work of The War Within.  Brett and I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Christian Worldview Film Festival in San Antonio.  This was The War Within’s first national appearance, and by the grace of God, we came home with 4 awards: Best Feature Film, Best Trailer, Best Gospel Presentation, and the Audience Choice Award.

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Then the day finally came on August 19th: The War Within was released on DVD!  After 5 years, we had a copy in our hands. So many lessons were learned through this process. You can read more on my perspective of a filmmaker’s wife here and here.  We continue to pray that more people will purchase The War Within so that the gospel of Jesus Christ will be spread in a society of unchurched homes.

Shortly after our visit to San Antonio for the film festival, we received the news that Damon had duodenal atresia. When you have a perfectly healthy pregnancy, delivery, and newborn for your first pregnancy, you desire nothing else for all subsequent pregnancies. However, here the Lord took away our sense of control. If you have not already, you can read the rest of Damon’s story here.  May 9th is when the Lord gave us our sweet Damon Emanuel. Even though he had a rough start to life, he is a very happy and healthy baby as if he never had surgery. He is eating solid foods, and of course he decided to learn to crawl while the Christmas tree is up! He has been our reminder this year of Emanuel: “God is with us.”

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Kherington turned 3 in October, and has loved being a big sister. Even before we brought Damon home, she was always excited to go to the “hostible,” even though she only saw him once his entire 3 week stay. She plays with him and is constantly making him laugh. Sometimes she loves him a little too much though!  To add to the stressful year, Kherington definitely pulled out all the “terrible-two” toddler tricks!  The Lord has been humbling us as parents; we cannot raise our children as God commanded apart from His grace on a daily basis.  She is a smart and strong-willed little girl, but we are praying that God will someday use her strong-willed personality to stand up for Truth in this immoral world.

Stress can definitely take a toll on marriages. Brett and I had our moments of disagreement, but again, by God’s grace, we have grown stronger in our marriage because of the trials we faced this year. Brett and I celebrated our 6th year anniversary in July.

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Now, we look forward to the 2015 year.  I have stopped planning my life, because it usually doesn’t turn out as planned!  But we have hope, because God’s plans are always better than anything we could imagine for our lives.  We are praising the Lord for the recent news that Brett will be back on salary for House of Grace Films on January 1st for at least 6 months.  After much praying and raging his own war within the past few months, Brett knows without a doubt that his calling in life is to use the most powerful medium of this age, movies, to share the most powerful message, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Recently the Lord reminded Brett of this passage found in Luke 9: As they were going along the road, someone said to Jesus, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’… Yet another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ ” 

The Lord had to strip away our pride, sense of control, comfort, and security in the things of the world. We were willing to follow Him, BUT as long as we were comfortable and had a place to lay our heads. However, we cannot truly follow Jesus Christ unless we put everything down, don’t look back, and accept His call for us no matter the cost. And the call is to become missionaries. No, we are not physically going to Africa or China, but staying in America to visually tell the Truth of Christ through films, and praying that these films spread throughout the world.  Pray for us as we endeavor to ask individuals and churches to financially support us to accomplish this mission.

We have faith that the Lord will give and take away as He sees fit in the 2015 year.  We have seen God’s sovereignty on our family this 2014 year and how everything that has happened is setting the stage for a bigger plan.  Whatever happens this year, we will say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Brett, Christina, Kherington, and Damon

Kher’s Story 3

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Kherington has fallen in love with Toy Story this past year. Brett and I haven’t complained since we are Toy Story fans ourselves!  (And we definitely are excited about the recent news of Toy Story 4 coming in 2017!)   We asked Kherington if she wanted a Toy Story party or a Brave or Rapunzel party (since these have been her recent favorites).  Well, guess which she picked…

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Jumping for joy! So excited about her party!

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3 years old!

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Buzz!!!!!

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Notice how we have the same facial expression!

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And here again! LOL

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I was so excited about this gift from Aunt Ashley, Uncle Daron, Liam and Lily! Ashley found a classic working Woody and Jessie from Goodwill!

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Great Grandma Varvel bought her the What’s in the Bible? episode about David and Goliath –

Kherington’s current favorite Bible story because Daddy does an evil laugh and voice when imitating Goliath!

She’s running to show it to Daddy!

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Cousins!

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Showing Lily her Minnie necklace.

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Daddy and Damon match!

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On Kherington’s actual birthday, it’s tradition (starting last year!) to have Dunkin Donuts – one of Kherington’s favorite “junk food”!

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Mimi made her a #3 out of leftover pie dough.

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And we celebrated her special day with her first haircut!!!!

Before:

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During:

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After:

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Even though this past year Kherington has tested Mommy and Daddy’s patience with her strong-will and stubbornness, we love her more and more!  She is such a smart little girl and we are excited for this 3rd year of her life and all the new memories we will make.

To watch a recap of Kherington’s 2nd year of life, click here to see the video Daddy made.

Sneak Peek – 31 Weeks

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On March 12th, we were able to get a sneak peek at our Damon!   It was a belated birthday present for me!   Normally, a 3rd ultrasound is only required if there is a concern.  I have had a minor side effect that questioned the location of my placenta. My OB and I decided it would be best to do the 3rd ultrasound to ensure that the placenta is not blocking the cervix.

Fortunately, the placenta was not blocking the cervix and was in a good location. Most everything looked great! Damon is measuring in the 60th percentile right now in all his measurements. He’s 4 lbs 1 oz, and measuring a week early.

However, I am glad that we did the ultrasound because we found that Damon is breeched – butt down rather head down.  My OB said he has a 50/50 chance of turning at this point since I’m 31 weeks and he’s growing more.  Pray that he will turn!  My OB said that if she doesn’t have a good idea of his position at week 36, she’ll do a quick ultrasound to see his position. If he is still breech, we will schedule a C-section.

I’m not too worried. I know many people who have successful C-sections, yet I had such a great experience giving birth to Kherington and would love to do the same.  But, I know God is in control and the most important part is that I have a healthy baby boy in my arms when the procedure is finished!  I’ll keep you updated as we get closer.

Here are several pictures of our sweet boy.  Already, people think he looks like Kherington and Brett!!!!  Will I ever have a baby look like me? 🙂    I know I know…it’s too soon to tell.

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He is crossing his arms and has his hands on his cheeks. Too cute!

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Love this picture with his tongue hanging out!!  You can see his legs and feet up by his face.

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No more pictures please!!!  Paparazzi go away!

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Sweet little face.

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He has hair!

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His foot and long toes.

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30 week picture: Kherington is listening to Damon. Love it!

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Praying for Purity

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This tired Mama’s heart is heavy.   I have trapped my emotions the past few weeks until I could no longer contain them.

And tonight they came spilling out during a prayer group of 4 other women…

Immediately after I spoke to a group of 5th-6th grade girls on the topic of…

modesty…

and purity.

The past month I have been reading the books 6 Ways to Keep the “Little” in Your Girl and 6 Ways to Keep the “Good” in Your Boy by Dannah Gresh.  Most mornings after spending time reading God’s Word and praying, I would read a chapter or portion (depending on if Kherington had woken up yet or not).  I finished them this morning.

And my heart is heavy.

Then I had about 15 girls staring at me tonight with wide eyes and attentive hearts as I spoke to them what God’s Word says about glorifying Him with our bodies and keeping them pure and modest.

I left those girls to seek my fellow prayer warriors and wept in the presence of Jesus, asking Him to keep these next generations of boys and girls pure before Him and this world.

As I pray, I rub my belly in fear for my little Damon and Kherington, who is happily playing in the nursery.  I don’t want them to face what Satan is going to throw at them.  But he will. And they will face the dragon of s*xual immorality, p*rn*graphy, immodesty and have to make a choice.

So this Mama is on her knees.  Now. Even though my daughter is 2 1/2 and loves to run around in her diaper saying “I’m nakey!!”  And even though my son is 30 weeks in utero.

Because satan is starting young.  Not 13 years old anymore. Younger and younger. He wants their heart, their purity, their lust, their desires to be for him and the sin and death he stands for.

Oh, but my Savior wants their hearts more.  Because He loves them more. So much that He died for them so that they can be free. Free from the destruction that impurity brings.  The battle’s been won. The sins of impurity has been nailed to the cross.

I have had my share of mistakes and sins regarding purity and modesty.  But by God’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s constant conviction in Brett and my life, Brett was able to present me “without spot or wrinkle” on our wedding night.

I also had parents who prayed and set boundaries.  I remember the frustrations I felt trying on clothes in dressing rooms and my mom saying “No.”  Ugh.

And now all I can do is praise the Lord and say “Thank You Mom!!!!” over and over again.

I want to be that Mama.  That’s why I’m on my knees.  I’m giving my fears over to Him. I’m placing Kherington and Damon into his hands.  I’m asking Jesus for His strength to say, “No.”

So that someday in the not-so-distant future, Kherington and Damon can say, “Thank You Mom!!!”

From Where I Stand {Dinner and Taxes}

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Every year around this time, my brother-in-law, Robby, is quite the life saver.  You see, we have a yearly date, in which, I call “Dinner and Taxes.”  Robby and Laureann, as well as my nephews Carter and Caden, come over to our house to enjoy a homemade scrumptious dinner made by me.  In return, Robby does our taxes.   Seem like a fair trade?  I believe so. Yet, you’ll have to ask Robby if he thinks so! 🙂

Now, yes, some of you are thinking how hard can it be to do them yourself?  True. True.  Yet, when Brett and I were first married and he started his business Timeless Pictures, it was all quite confusing. Robby has is own business as a realtor, so he has the exact software from Turbo Tax we need, and he knows all the ends and outs of business write-offs.  Therefore, I slave away in the kitchen, we eat, and then the kids play away while Robby and I sit at the kitchen table.  Laureann and Brett are there for support of course. (I am the NERD when it comes to finances, hence, why I take care of it all. It works out great for Brett and me in our marriage!) So, it’s become quite the tradition and we make it a yearly date. (We try to beat our time goal every year of getting them done faster! Last night was our record! Just over 2 hours!)

Here is the dinner that I made last night for “Dinner and Taxes:”

Vegetable Calzones, BBQ Chicken Calzones, Salad, and Homemade Appleasauce

Let’s start with the Vegetable Calzones.  Here is the recipe that I got from the magazine All You, which I HIGHLY recommend for their great money-saving tips and awesome recipes!

Vegetable Calzone 1Vegetable Calzone 2The ingredients…

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I set this aside and prepared the BBQ Chicken filling.  The recipe I modified is found Here.

The ingredients…while the chicken is boiling in the pot!

IMG_2206IMG_2207 IMG_2208I set that aside, and prepared the pizza dough.  My absolute favorite pizza dough recipe that I use for these calzones and to make good ole pizza is from Money Saving Mom! Check it out! It’s super easy and fast!

Here is the dough ready to go.

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I separated the dough into 8 circles and divided the vegetable and chicken mixtures.

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Folded them up, sealed, brushed egg whites on top, and vented with 3 slits.

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Put them in the oven for about 20 minutes and voila!

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Of course, we all had 1/2 of each kind!  Serve with salad and homemade applesauce (not pictured).

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And the best part….

KID APPROVED!

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Hope you give them a try! They are healthy, delicious, and pretty easy.  They also freeze very well.  They are on my freezer meal list to prepare before Damon arrives!

And lastly, THANK YOU, Robby, for always being willing to help with our taxes. I do hope you feel it’s a fair trade! 😉

To see what kind of cooking story my friend Stephanie’s blogged about, check it out here!

“I know how you feel.”

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Tears start streaming down my face as I close Kherington’s bedroom door. She’s screaming my name because I didn’t let her turn her fan and heater on (the usual procedure before bed). I’m emotionally exhausted. I go to my bedroom and start busying myself with something, trying to fight back a breakdown.  As a parent, you know this feeling all too well.  But the toddler stage is new to me.

I started reading a daily devotional called Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, recommended to me by a prayer mentor.  Two days ago, the writer says to start a new habit of saying, “I trust you, Jesus.”  So I say it over and over again in my head.  Then the familiar comments of other mothers, “this too shall pass,” comes and goes.  But it doesn’t make it much easier. Because I have to live with the toddler stage NOW, not to mention the raging pregnancy hormones.

Am I disciplining right? Am I not doing enough?  Are we showing grace?  Is she going to grow up and reject Christ because I didn’t discipline right?  Why is she acting this way? Is she teething?  Of course, I think of every possible behavior cause, yet Brett simply says, “she’s a sinner and needs to be disciplined.”  Yes, no matter what this author says or that expert says, the Word of God is my Lamp and lights my path, especially in child-raising.  So as Brett, the head of our home as instructed by God, disciplines Kherington, I fight against Satan’s arrows of doubts and questions going through my head regarding our attempt to do everything right to obey God and model Christ’s love.

“I trust you, Jesus.” “I trust you, Jesus.”

Then His voice responds back, “I know how you feel.”

“What was that Lord? “

Then the image comes into my mind of how we are no different than the toddler screaming in bed.  I can imagine my Father in Heaven, looking down at this earth with the same feelings and frustrations.

“I know what’s best for you!

Why do you fight me?

Why do you not trust me?

Why do you get angry with me and blame me?

Why do you selfishly turn to the world’s idols looking for comfort?

I’m here. I’m never leaving you or forsaking you!

I discipline because I love you.

I love you.

I love you.”

The same exact thoughts I have towards Kherington.  And now I can hear Jesus’ gentle yet strong voice saying the same thing to me.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” ~ Hebrews 4:14-16