Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Year in Review

     I am approaching the final hour of 2011. I'm in a place with passed out people and balloons strewn around (translation: my kids are asleep and the remnants of Julia's birthday party are all about the floor). I choose to quietly ring in the new year as I sit in "Chaz," our chair and a half... Yes, I named a piece of furniture because I got tired of writing in my journal, "As I sit here in our chair and a half..." It was a quieter year for the Couch's, thank God, but there are still some monuments worth revisiting...

  • Marty became an adjunct professor at Western Seminary, her alma mater. My amazing wife is teaching graduate level courses. She's incredible.
  • I became a substitute teacher and passed my CBEST test, quite a personal accomplishment for me since math was involved.
  • Marty and I presented our ministry through seminars, sermons, speaking engagements and break out sessions throughout the year and continued our counseling seeing couples in need. 
  • Both Julia and Ella had pieces of artwork selected by their teachers to be displayed in the city's art museum. Only two kids were chosen per class, so to have both of my daughters in different grades selected made me right proud. 
  • Both Julia and Ella were given the President's Silver award at the end of the school year for academic excellence. Again, only two students per class are given these awards and, again, both my girls scored one (Julia's third to date). How did this Oakie get such smart yungins? 
  • Max graduated from Village Little Pre-school and became a model for the school when they blew up a banner with his picture on it and hung it on the front of our former church. He is literally larger than life. 
  • I became a US missionary with our denomination, specialized chaplaincy department, further defining our ministry and giving it more structure. 
  • With God's help, I was able to complete seven graduate courses going towards my Master's in Pastoral Counseling. Four more to go and I'll be done in May. So excited.
  • God has faithfully and miraculously provided for us as we have continued to walk by faith. I've heard others say "I don't know how we made it financially..." and that is our testimony as well. He is truly our provider. All thanks and glory to Him. 
Best Quotes of 2011
     Here are some nuggets I heard or heard myself saying through the year...

     "Don't be yourself, be better than that." - Jenny Conlee

     "You did what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better." - Maya Angelou

     "The enablement derived from the experience of suffering permits us to minister to other people more effectively than the most powerful sermon." - Ronald Hawkins

     "The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do." - Mark Twain

     "I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble." - Helen Keller

     "Be profound, be funny, or be quiet." - Unknown

     "I can blame no one for what I do with (my life). I can blame them for what they do to me, but I cannot blame them for what I do with what they do to me. I am responsible for how I respond." 
 - Dr. Henry Cloud

     "Honest doubt may be a truer religious attitude than superficial belief." - taken from Old Testament Survey

     "Don't waste a perfectly awful circumstance that can push you into God's presence." - T.S.C.

     "Own only what is true about you, the good and the bad, and not what people merely think about you, the good and the bad." - T.S.C. 

     I don't believe in the sentiment "Happy New Year." The truth of the matter is there will be happy times, and there will be tears. So make it a joyful New Year no matter what it brings. God be with us.

Monday, December 26, 2011


     Julia's life didn't start out very smoothly. Marty had already suffered two miscarriages before Julia's conception, and anything that was out of the ordinary in that first tri-mester made us nervous. We had some tests done during the pregnancy and the results took us to see a genetics specialist. She told us our baby was missing something important and the result could be this or that and later on in life this could happen, or at the very least she could be a carrier of this.  That being said, she gave us the option to terminate the pregnancy. Of course we didn't even consider it, yet we prayed that Julia's life would be in God's hands.
     When she was born, she was beautiful, but doctors and interns kept coming in and checking her legs and it was soon determined that she had congenital hip dysplasia (the ball and socket in her hip wasn't done cooking since she was three weeks early). This meant she would have to be fitted for a brace to keep her legs in a position that imitated the womb so her joint could develop properly. Marty had this same condition when she was a baby and it led to her being in a half body cast for a good part of her toddling years, so we were a little uneasy about Julia's condition.
     At the age of two months, Julia couldn't hold anything down and started losing weight when babies are supposed to be gaining. After a trip to the doctor, they admitted her to Stanford Hospital because she was diagnosed with pyloric stenosis. A surgery was scheduled to fix the problem and then she was fitted for her brace.
     There were several follow up appointments for her hip and also for the original concerns when she was still in Marty's tummy. We were told to watch her at certain stages of her life, and if she was advancing normally, then no need to worry.
     Julia has grown into a beautiful and active young lady. When she was in kindergarten and turned out to be the tallest girl in the class, I remembered her backstory and the genetics counselors "offer," and it made me shudder. When she does cartwheels and backbends I recall the brace that held her legs in captivity when most babies that age are kicking their feet just because.
     Two years ago I was asked to speak at a High School Christian Club's event The gym was full of public school students and I was asked to share something about God that would possibly speak into these students' lives. I decided to tell Julia's story, from genetics counselor's office to that day, and I had brought a special guest with me. I pulled my daughter out of school to be my sermon illustration, and after the kids heard about her rough beginnings, I had Julia walk up and join me in that gym. As she did, the high school students started applauding and some were wiping their eyes.
     Afterwards, one of the leaders of the Christian Club told me that a friend had said he didn't really believe in God, but after hearing Julia's story and seeing her walk up there, he was starting to believe. She was already ministering as a 7 year old (and even before that).

     Today is my baby girl's birthday. She is nine, and I love her with all my heart. And, you know, I look at her, and it makes me believe in God, too. Happy Birthday, Babe.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Stockings Were Hung...

     A few years ago, Marty wanted to get matching stockings for the whole family, but I'm very sentimental and nostalgic. Marty's stocking was made by her grandmother. It's a little tattered and worn but I love that about it. It keeps her grandma with us at Christmas. My mom made mine. Two pieces of felt sown together cut out in the shape of a stocking, my name written down the middle with a permanent marker and "God Bless You" at the top. Its a model no one would choose,  but it's the only stocking I've ever known and I cherish it. Mom also made all three of my kids' stockings. Julia and Ella have matching crocheted "slipper and sock" kind of style, totally made with love (I'm convinced that Mom used miles of yarn in her lifetime with all the things she crocheted).
     And then there is Max's. Kind of an updated version of mine. It probably wouldn't win any home-made stocking contests, but it's what's inside that counts, literally. Max was only a year and a half when mom passed, so he hadn't been in possession of his stocking for more than one year our first Christmas without her. When I went to hang his stocking, I felt something in the toe of it. I reached inside  and pulled out a note I had never read before.  It was from my just departed mom, to my son: "Dear Max, This did not turn out as good as I wanted it. I hope it's okay for now. I am still looking for my other pattern. I know you understand all this cause you are really smart. I love you. Nanny." My eyes welled up with tears as I looked at my mom's familiar handwriting. Knowing she wanted to make him a "better" stocking and that she didn't get the chance killed me. But knowing that the one she gave him was totally made with love makes it the best stocking he could ever have.
     That note remains in the toe of his stocking, and always will as long as I have something to say about it. Max didn't get a chance to know his Nanny, but I'm hoping that note will be a lasting indicator of how much she loved him while she was here.
     Needless to say, the Couch's won't be having matching stockings any time soon... unless there's a really big sale.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Cat

We have this cat.
He has a routine. Early in the morning he'll walk through the house and creak out his meow until someone feeds him. Once he's been served, he comes back in the house and yells at anyone who will listen to him.
Once the house is quiet (meaning kids have left for school), he settles in for his six hour nap.
Around 3PM, he gets up, stretches, and starts demanding to be fed again whether his bowl has food in it or not. If he is ignored, which he usually is because dinner isn't until 5, he'll take a few sprints in the hallway, the extent of his exercise regime, and end up in the living room, complaining about God knows what (probably about not being fed), as he looks out the sliding glass door.
From this point on, if anyone makes their way to the kitchen, he is right behind them, singing the same song.
Again, after being fed his dinner, he'll come back in and give us an earful as if he was starving.
Once the family has settled in for the night, he'll take any available lap and park it.
At bedtime, he'll either lay down with Marty as she unwinds with a movie or cuddle up with Julia in her bed.
Every night before I turn in I track him down and put him back in the garage where he sleeps for the evening.
I'd like to be the cat (except for the sleeping in the garage part).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

And the Winners Are...

Ronda and Cheri! Sorry it took so long for me to post this. Life's been crazy, but it's still free stuff! Ronda, you took first prize, so email me (, or message me on facebook your address and I'll get out to you your choice of the Rose soap of the manly man one. Cheri, you'll get whatever Ronda doesn't choose, but email or message me your address. Congratulations and Merry Christmas.