Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Snow

It's snowing tonight.

There's nothing profound about that statement except that I can tell you it has snowed on at least 4 out of the last 5 December 8ths, and the snow four years ago still takes my breath away.

Four years ago I spent the entire day thinking about a certain guy and wondering, hoping, waiting to see what would happen next. The entire story is for another day. Tonight is about the snow.

Four years ago, the night sky was more white than black, more in motion than static. It was a day of excitement and anticipation, yet what I remember most is the silence. 

Big, wet snowflakes swayed and danced to their coy rhythm is they fell, stuck, stacked. No wind to speak of, no people on the sidewalks, no cars sliding by. Just snow, stillness, and his best friend as an escort.

We chatted on our short walk across campus, the one that took an eternity, but our words seemed to violate the snow's soundless serenade.

As we rounded the corner of that beloved building, I saw him, standing in the snow, waiting for me as I had been waiting for him. I had no idea what the next four years of snow and sunshine would bring, but I knew I got to be his girl, and that was enough for that night. And now as the snow falls again, as I remember the beauty of the last four years, I'm that giddy girl in the parking lot again, just happy to be his.

Tonight's Snow & Tired Eyes

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

For Good

One year. I remember signing my AmeriCorps contract exactly one year ago tomorrow, and I thought that one year of working with kids would probably be enough for me. Don't get me wrong, I love kids. But I never thought I'd be working with them full time. Now, after completing my 1700+ hours, most of them with crowds of kids, I've grown, changed and learned more than ever thought possible. Want to take a little tour of what I learned at Club? Yes? Sweet.

  1. Laughing is so much better than yelling
  2. I still am crazy bad at craft time
  3. Yes, I can hear that boom, badoom, boom, boom, badoom, boom, bass. Thanks, Nicki Minaj.
  4. Leading choir is HARD!
  5. Hearing children sing is a blessing
  6. Seeing that light bulb moment is worth all the hours of frustration every time
  7. Beating a 5th grade boy in a swimming race is also worth it every time
  8. Making a fool of myself is always effective
  9. A certain pair of twins spells trouble
  10. I'm a pushover
  11. But I also expect a lot
  12. Some parents make me frustrated, some make me sick, and some inspire me
  13. I am brought to tears by the fact that I can drop off a child in a house laced with poverty, drive 10 miles and see wealth oozing in the streets
  14. Sharing a 10' x 10' office with 2 coworkers leads to tension but it can also lead to incredible friendship
  15. My coworkers are some of the most caring people I've ever met
  16. My kids' brutal honesty is typically right on
  17. Simple gifts at the right time add up to serious excitement and gratitude
  18. If something is fire or crackin', it's a good thing
  19. 4th and 5th graders are really bad at volleyball but so fun to coach!
  20. I'm not made for saying goodbye

I've been snotted on, hugged, talked back to, and sought after. I've asked kids to shape up, to sing out, to be nice, to believe they're beautiful. I've seen furrowed brows, chlorine-reddened eyes, tears, and the light of surprise. And the thing is, I can't see this, feel this, learn this and go back to the way things were. So, as we've sung so many times in the small confines of our office, I have been changed for good.

This one's for you, Patty!
I do believe I have been changed for the better.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

24. Hope

Deteriorating sicknesses, difficult diagnoses, and family heartbreak. November has been a month full of tough days. Days where the temptation toward bitterness has loomed large, lingered in my peripheral vision even when I turn my head. And yet there is a promise that covers all the hurt, frustration, confusion and lure of hostility: the promise of hope.

No matter what you're facing today, I pray that you are able to cling to the power of hope rooted in God's grace and love. Taking note of God's gifts throughout my days has helped me focus on His goodness in the midst of pain and reminded me that He has never left me. Today His hope is allowing me to rest in His sovereignty. It's a beautiful place to be.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! I pray you are sharing in His hope and grace today. Thanks for joining me as we counted down by counting up our blessings. I'm thankful for you!

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, 
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."
Romans 15:13 (ESV)

Today's blessings:
  • Sunshine
  • The smells of holidays
  • Anticipating time with family
  • Relaxation
  • The party potatoes are ready!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

23. History

I'm guessing you either know or have picked up on the fact that I am an unashamed,  full-fledged nerd. I love information, conversation, and anything that I perceive will help me think better or become more knowledgeable. It should be no surprise to you when I say that I have always been intrigued by history.

Tonight we went to this movie, and while it had some content of which I was unaware previous to viewing, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's good storytelling of a man who may have been one of the most difficult people to truly know, and yet his life work had a direct effect on shaping twentieth century history. Mind-blowing. Amazing.

As we discussed the film on the way home, I was reminded of how much I enjoy analyzing historical events and people. This analysis, if properly heeded, has a way of teaching us about the present society, who we are as individuals, and advice as to how to proceed in future situations. (If you've seen the film and would like to discuss it, let me know! I'm always up for a good conversation. :-)

Tonight I'm thankful for the lessons of history and the astounding people God has created.

Today's blessings:
  • Nate passing his last test!
  • An easy-paced day
  • Time with family
  • My personal history

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

22. Hugs

I haven't been looking forward to this day for almost a year now. Today was the day I told the kids I am leaving next week. I began my AmeriCorps position excited but not really knowing what to expect. I always have known I would work at the Club for a year, but I didn't realize until recently just how much I was dreading saying goodbye.

I am not naive enough to think that all the kids will miss me; in fact, I have a pretty good idea of who will be looking forward to next Tuesday! ;-) But there are those who I know I will miss in a big way. After I explained I was leaving to the kids, I got the beautiful experience of being completely surrounded with hugs from my favorite little people. Hugs just do good things for the soul, don't they?

I'm so thankful for the power of a hug and many people with whom to share the love (especially this guy... :-).

Today's blessings:
  • Cuddle time watching The Sing-Off
  • Singing voices that make me both swoon and giggle with glee
  • The end of the work week
  • A crazy comfy bed...goodnight!

Monday, November 21, 2011

21. Brothers

While I did not intend on concluding this list with all the people in my life for whom I'm thankful, (That list would be quite lengthy!) I would be remiss to skip over two of my favorite people in the world. Being the baby girl of the family definitely has its perks, but the real benefit to being the baby was getting have these two as big brothers.

Nathan and Andrew: Two great men to have at my side!
While they gave me the proper amount of grief during our childhood, I have always looked up to my brothers. They are my protectors and encouragers, wise counsel and dear friends. Nathan and I are wired so similarly that we can often speak in the same voice (figuratively, not literally...) He's full of wisdom and logic, and I know I will always get sound advice when I talk to him. He forces me to not only think, but to think better. Plus he is one of the best conversationalists I know.

Andrew and I have definitely had our moments. We don't think in the same way, and we have to purposely work to understand each other's perspective. He is emotional, strong, loyal, and hilarious. He truly believes I can do anything and makes sure I don't settle. He may have taught me how to fight, but he also taught me how to bring resolution.

I'm so thankful that I get to call these two godly men my brothers. They are such an encouragement and a joy to be around. They've also picked phenomenal women to be their wives, which is an entire blessing in and of itself.

Beautiful sisters! Women I prayed for, wondered and worried about long before I knew them.
I should have known they'd be wonderful!
I miss them fiercely, especially today.

Today's blessings:
  • Friends who care and love deeply
  • Cell phones
  • Lemon tea to end the night

Sunday, November 20, 2011

20. My Sweet Man

There are so many reasons I love him. Today I'm more grateful than ever.

Today's blessings:
  • Lydia kisses
  • Aged hands raised in worship
  • 505 days of marriage
  • Comfort

19. Our Niece

I'm completely convinced that there are few sounds more precious than a toddler's giggle. Somehow getting out of bed yesterday was a lot easier when I heard little girl squeals downstairs.

I've written about her several times before, but we're pretty convinced we've been blessed with (one of) the world's greatest niece! We got to spend the day with her yesterday and tried to soak up every minute of family time we could which is the reason this post is a day late. But seriously...would you just look at her?  They don't come any cuter, do they? :-)
She has photo-ops figured out!

Two cuties :-)
While she's adorable on the outside, it's really her spunky personality that gets me the most. She has been a go-getter for the majority of her life already, and she already has displayed that Eberline stubborn streak in full force. That girl knows what she wants, and my goodness I love her for it! I am so thankful for her curiosity, for her constantly growing vocabulary, for her increasingly frequent signs of affection. I'm thankful I get to her aunt!

Papa, thank you for this beautiful girl. Thank you for her the way she goes after her world. I pray that to her active spirit You add Your wisdom, to her observant eyes give her compassion, to her many words grant her kindness and self-control. Thank you for the precious gift who is Lydia Sue. Amen.

Friday, November 18, 2011

18. Today

I knew when I woke up this morning that it would be a crazy day. Sitting at the end of it, I'm exhausted but still can't wipe the smile off my face. As I've mentioned previously, today was the Club's first choir performance of the school year. While I've been involved with several choirs throughout the years, this was my first time facing the choir instead of the audience. And this time I got to face a choir comprised of 20 7- to 11-year-olds whom I've grown to cherish completely. Amazing.

I cannot say this performance went off without a hitch, but I can say that I am so grateful to have made these memories. I may not have been able to see my music due to the low lighting and glare off my slick page protectors. One of the girls may have started crying when we got on stage...and another girl may have called out to me (please read yelled) to tell me about it. The CD may have skipped several times, we may have had to finish a song a capella, and some of the kids may have gotten two words ahead of the rest of us for a while. I also may have laughed all the way home. :-) But you know what? They sang their little hearts out and they made me so proud!

The end of my AmeriCorps year is turning out to be bittersweet, but I'm so grateful that they've made it so hard for me to leave. I feel that may need to be a blog post for the future, but tonight I'm feeling immensely blessed.

Today's blessings:
  • Spending time with amazing kids
  • Realizing they just might have learned something during the last few months
  • Dancing to ridiculous pop music with those crazy kids
  • Recounting the many stories from tonight to my hubs and my mom
  • Nathan, Tara, and Lydia are on their way...can you guess what I'll be thankful for tomorrow?!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

17. Diversity & Lessons Learned

My Club kids teach me a lot. Surprise, surprise, huh? I've been spending quite a bit of time with our choir kids lately, and they sneak in little lessons on how I can be cooler. Or sometimes they just tell me I look stupid and should change the way I'm standing. They keep me humble and laughing!

We're getting ready for our first choir performance tomorrow, so I asked them to suggest some music for a CD we could play while we wait to perform. Who knew one simple question would bring out so many opinions? I quickly filled up my notebook page with their suggestions (and demands ;-). Let's just say very few of their requests were found in my iTunes.

As Nate and I put together the CD tonight, I just smiled at the songs that make my head pound slightly but that I know will bring a lot of smiling and dancing tomorrow. Worth it! I'm thankful for simple joys, for differences in tastes and preferences, for kids who keep me relevant, and the God who is creative enough to envision and create it all.

Today's blessings

  • Warm, tasty meals
  • Hanging out with Club kids
  • Cuddle time with Nate
  • A comfy bed in which to sleep...goodnight, everybody!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

16. The Hard Days

Many of you know Nate and I have been going through a challenging season of life for the last while. We've been learning so much about our faith and each other, and I'm thankful for the constant source of comfort we find in our Savior and His crazy beautiful grace.

Today we took another hit in the hurts category. My grandma received a difficult medical report, and we're trying to sort out what it all means. Part of me admittedly gets so frustrated when hard life events keep piling up, yet I'm thankful for the promises of Scripture that gives us the authority to hope.

Last Sunday our pastor urged us to fight getting lost in the "Why?" questions that have no answers, but instead focus on the "How?" questions. How is God using this? How is He calling you closer to Him through these circumstances? I believe God is using each and every tough day to further shape and refine our hearts into His image. I believe it because He promised. And He always makes good on His promises.

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

So tonight I'm thankful for the God who allows hurt for a purpose, for the God who never leaves or forsakes, for the promise of His blessed hope.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." Romans 15:13

Today's blessings:

  • A loving, supportive husband and family
  • Communication technology to bridge the miles
  • An unexpected hug from a girl who really meant it
  • Children's voices

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

15. Technology Experts & Last Laughs

My college computer officially died today. Or rather it's been taken off the life support of my ignorance and has been properly disposed. Sad day.

Since I was a writing major with a literature minor, I spent a lot of time writing papers during college...a LOT. While I was socializing when I should have been writing/studying, I would typically have my laptop with me just to make myself feel justified. At least I was getting something done, right? ;-)

By the end of my last writing marathon of my college career (which included writing a whopping 46 pages in 2 weeks), my computer had carried me through countless nights of research, early morning conclusions, hours and hours of procrastinating on social media, and many side stitches and tears from YouTube videos. One June afternoon, however, my dear companion went blank. Though there was still heat coursing through its circuits, I knew it was gone. I had been able to stay cool, calm, and collected through much of our wedding planning stress, but the day my computer left me, I broke. I just sat on my bed and cried.

I laughed at myself while recounting this story to my friend, but she rightly pointed out that I had spent more time with my computer than I had with any one person! What an odd but true statement. Those tears quickly dried and were replaced by the crazy excitement that comes from getting married, moving, and starting a new job. My poor, neglected shell of a computer has now sat in our closet for over a year. (Ignoring the loss means it hasn't happened, right?) This week we decided it was time to see if any of the data could be recovered and to get rid of my computer remains.

We brought it in, and the technician asked what was wrong with the machine and tried to power it on. As I recall, the screen would not turn on for me. However, I had to smile when my loyal, mechanical friend resurrected just enough to show us all the desktop picture:

Passion 2010
To God be the glory, eh?  :-)

Today's blessings:

  • Recovered data!
  • Slightly recovered voice
  • Unexpected meal with Nate
  • Good times with coworkers

Monday, November 14, 2011

14. Humbling Reminders

Today marked another step in the changing of the seasons process: I'm getting sick. Awesome.

Kids have been sulking in with colds for a while, but I've successfully avoided catching anything until now. With our first Club Choir performance just 4 days away, I have fully embraced my inner 14-year-old boy. The kids think it's hilarious, but trying to corral and instruct anywhere from 15 to 50 kids with a weak, crackly voice isn't the most pleasant of experiences. It has however, reminded me of a few things for which I am very grateful: being humbled is a good thing and my husband rocks at taking care of me.

My dear friend Krystal had the chance to visit me at Club a few months ago, and she laughed at the big voice I use with the kids which is a relatively significant shift from my typical tone. The big voice, the one I have thanks to two big brothers and years of lifeguarding experience, has helped me do my job effectively. Today, however, my throat felt like it was being pricked by nails whenever I spoke over a low speaking voice. I was quite humbled to not have the ability to speak over a small group of kids, let alone a crowd. Though I would normally handle certain situations by myself, today I had to lean on other staff members and some of the older kids to help me get my job done. I feel like I've learned this lesson a hundred times, but I again realized the blessing of working with others instead of doing life alone. I especially loved watching my fifth graders step up into leadership!

When I got home, my voice told of the beating it took during the day. Though my mom thinks it sounds a bit sultry, the mid-word cracks kind of ruin that effect. ;-) Nate blessed me by having tea, soup and jello ready to go! He has a beautiful servant's heart, and I'm so thankful for the way he blesses me.

Did you have any humble reminders today? What are you thankful for?

Today's blessings:

  • Being silenced in order to see others' growth
  • My kids' energy
  • Being able to laugh at myself
  • Soothing hot tea and cold jello
  • Tomato soup and grilled cheese

Sunday, November 13, 2011

13. Giving Traditions

Holidays seem incomplete without traditions, and Nate and I have enjoyed incorporating our families' traditions while creating a few of our own. For the last four years, we've participated in Operation Christmas Child, and we've loved every minute of it.

Each year we roam the aisles of our local discount supercenter laughing and playfully teasing each other about the coolest stuff we can get for our shoe box, and this year was no different. It may be the one time of the year when I get really excited about washcloths and soap, crayons and foam balls. Nate even agreed to include a Hawkeye t-shirt for the little guy. I love this organization!

Tonight our church gathered together to bring all the shoe boxes our congregation filled and have a celebration of thanks. It was a blessing to be a part of the service and an even greater joy to give a little Christmas love to a little boy somewhere in the world.

Today's Blessings:
  • Holding hands
  • Kids bursting with excitement in worship
  • An operating washing machine and dryer
  • Relaxed conversation with friends
  • Opportunities to serve

Saturday, November 12, 2011

12. Music

To those of you who normally tune-in to read my lovely wife's wonderfully crafted posts, you'll have to wait until tomorrow. I (Nate) will be writing tonight.

While music is not either of our number one hobby, Anne and I both find a lot of enjoyment in making and listening to music. It's amazing how music can add so much to something that would be otherwise ordinary. It can turn a play into a musical, help you remember an advertiser's product, add tradition to athletics, and emotion to words.

I dabble with acoustic guitar, and I normally enjoy taking time out of my day to try to play and learn new things and simply enjoy the music. Over the past month or so, however, we've been in a very busy stretch of life, so I haven't been able to play as much as usual. Today Anne was away for a few hours, so I took advantage of the alone time to prepare for our church's Celebration of Thanks tomorrow night. As I was playing, I came to the realization of how much I've been playing only to prepare for an event on Sunday and not enjoying it as a time of personal worship. I'm grateful to have been reminded this afternoon about the beauty and power of this medium that God has created for our enjoyment and His glory.

Friday, November 11, 2011

11. Legacy

While this is not a novel concept, I would be remiss to pass this day without sharing my thanks for the veterans who have served and are currently serving in the military.

Not only am I thankful for their selfless sacrifice, but I am so grateful for my family legacy of military service. My grandfather served in World War II, my uncle served in the Army, and my cousin served in the Air Force. It's a legacy that I feel so blessed to carry. The following is my grandfather's personal account of D-Day. Please click on the image to enlarge and read his story.

I'm so proud and thankful to have known this man, to have called him grandpa, and to be blessed by those who, like him, are willing to serve for the good of our country.

Today's blessings:

  • Recognizing a coworker and friend's service to our country...twice 
  • Light traffic
  • Laughing with coworkers
  • Reliving childhood thanks to arcade games
  • Trying to capture the moon and failing

Thursday, November 10, 2011

10. Difficult Conversations

I am a person who loves conversation. I wrote a bit about that love last year, but today I'm talking about that kind of conversation that isn't always so pleasant. The kind that's preceded by tension dancing in the air, chest muscles tightening, breath sticking in suddenly closed throats. The kind that seemingly comes with a blinking sign saying "CAUTION: Bridge closed ahead."

Words carry such an immense opportunity each time they're expressed. And in these difficult situations, when conflict seems to be an anxious visitor waiting for the door to be opened, the opportunity of words becomes even more critical. Will they be used to go around the issue or through it? Will you speak with a reined tongue or as uncontrolled fire (James 3)?

While these situations are not unique to marriage, this is the context in which I find myself dealing with difficult conversations most often. Nate and I don't communicate in the same ways, and each resolution conversation gives us an opportunity to serve each other with our words. Little by little that tension dance turns into a peaceful calm and breath comes a little easier. That bridge that was once out has been rebuilt, one word at a time. We're stronger for it, and I am thankful.

Today's blessings:

  • Bible study laughter
  • Children's voices
  • Sunshine
  • Prescription allergy relief for my hubs

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

9. Seasons

Can I really be thankful for waking up to heavy, cold, wet blanket of snow? Maybe that's part of the hard eucharisteo Ann Voskamp talks about. :-) While the cold air forced its way into our apartment, making getting out of bed even more difficult, I was reminded of how much I love living in a place with four seasons. Even if I have to wake up to this for a few months.

My car, Polly, and our tree clinging to fall
The cold temperatures, the early dark nights, and now the snow are signs of the coming of perhaps my least favorite season, but at least for now it was a nice change of pace and a great reminder of the One who created each season for a purpose.

Today's Blessings:
  • The goodness of seasons
  • The softness of my new scarf against my cheek
  • The happy and sadly funny memories of winters gone by

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

8. Warm Food on a Cold Night

We've had a gorgeous fall, and I've loved the days of weather that are absolutely everything autumn should be. Today was not one of those days.

It is cold, rainy and has been inky black dark since about 4:45 p.m. Great help for a grateful spirit, right? ;-) My drive home was dreary and soggy, but now I'm sitting in my dry, warm apartment with a blanket over my lap getting waiting to eat some hot, tasty goodness. As the smell of one of my favorite comfort dishes reaches me and my husband starts getting out the dishes, I realize the rain sounds nice and peaceful against the window. The dark seems to make our apartment more cozy. It's amazing what a little change in perspective (and location) can do!

Creamy, cheesy enchiladas are a little taste of Momma's kitchen!
I feel so blessed to have a place to call home, the means to create a hot meal, Mom's recipe and a pretty amazing person with whom to share it. What are you thankful for today?

7. Prayer Warriors

Yesterday started off unexpectedly. My aunt has been courageously battling cancer for quite some time now, and she was admitted into the ICU with a life-threatening infection. Being halfway across the country from her, I felt quite helpless to do much of anything aside from checking updates from my mom. Let's just say I wasn't the most productive person at work!

Though there are many miles between us, I was able to do something simple yet amazingly powerful. I asked for prayer.

I called on eight of my dearest prayer warriors, women who pray with fierce reverence and perseverance, to pray for my aunt's healing and comfort for our family. And I know this all sounds trite, but you know what? After not being sure if she would make it through the night, my aunt's breathing tube was removed today and she is fully conscious. We serve a good God, do we not? :-)

Today I am thankful for my dear sisters in Christ, for the ability to come before God in prayer, and for a God who both hears our prayers and has the power to heal what is broken. 

Aunt Sandy, you are being prayed for by women in at least 5 different states (and I have a hunch a few more) and are greatly loved!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

6. Rest

Happy Daylight Savings Day! While Nate and I were at church early to help out with music, it was still wonderful to have an extra hour of sleep. Overall it's been a relaxing weekend full of sleep, college football, good friends, and rest. It's been such a blessing after a somewhat stressful few weeks.

I hope you are able to enjoy the extra hour of sleep last night and are experiencing a restful Sabbath, as well! Feel free to leave a comment as to your day's blessings! I really do love hearing from people. :-)

A non-related tribute to Daylight Savings and my rap-loving husband

 Today's Blessings:
  • Worship
  • Inadvertently flirting with Nate in between services and getting called out by other choir members
  • Preparing for times of fellowship this week

Saturday, November 5, 2011

5. Rivalry

It's a big day in our house, one that could test our marriage as it has not been tested before. Michigan is playing Iowa.

Nate is a staunch Michigan fan. I grew up cheering for the Hawks. Things could be much worse, like if either of us was an Ohio State fan, and generally we accept and respect each other's athletic programs. The only exception to this rule, however, is when Michigan and Iowa face each other. Days like today.

Why yes, that is Adrian Clayborn's autograph on my shirt!
Though we do take our college football pretty seriously, this household rivalry is a lot of fun. (Though I am purposely writing this post before the end of the game as to not taint our thankfulness. :-) This mostly-friendly competition has led to a lot of bonding (and sarcastic comments) during the last 4 years.

I am thankful that a sport can bring us together even if when we're cheering for different teams. I am thankful that this year's game is at Kinnick so we at least have a chance. And I'm thankful I am the one writing this post so I can be the last one to say:

Friday, November 4, 2011

4. My Past

Pasts can be a tricky subject to navigate, as everyone has some kind of baggage or another. Inevitably there are hurts and moments that have a lingering Do-Over Buttons blinking in my memory, and I'm guessing you have those as well. But I pray these are accompanied by a surpassing number of moments of laughter, revelation, and joy.

The photo book posted below was the graduation gift I gave to a few of my closest friends from Northwestern, girls I did life with for 4 years and women I still treasure to this day. At the time I didn't purchase one for myself, but an online deal helped me finish my personal version of the book. It just came in the mail today. (More mail! Woo hoo!)

College was much more than the smiles on these pages, but this book has served as a great reminder of one small part of my past that has crafted me into the person I am today.

A few of today's blessings:

  • A dozen hugs from my kids
  • Singing Christmas songs while dancing with our children's choir
  • Another relaxing night with my hubby

Thursday, November 3, 2011

3. Celebrations

I love coming up with reasons to celebrate whether it's something obvious like a birthday or something a little more obscure like "We've made it to the gym multiple times this week...let's celebrate with ice cream!" While some of my reasons get a little extreme, today the Summers household has a great reason to celebrate: Nate not only passed but dominated the Series 7 exam! We celebrated with a rare, weeknight date night.

I love dating this man. :-)
He has been diligently studying for the last several weeks, and I'm so proud that his hard work has garnered a successful result. Today I'm thankful for having so many reasons to celebrate, for good food to share and for time to laugh with my relaxed husband. My life is so very blessed.

Fall is so beautiful!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

2. Mail!

Today's dreariness combined with extra hours with extra wound up kiddos and a tight evening schedule led to a slightly stressed drive home in the rain. Ugh.

When I finally arrived home, not only did I have a generous hubby finishing up the cooking, I had 2 pieces of mail...I love getting mail! Though a typical day only brings junk mail and bills, today brought a special treat: a package that arrived a day early and an unexpected note from a dear friend.

To make matters even more fitting, the package was my gratitude journal I recently ordered. I can't wait to start filling up those lines, naming blessings as I go!

I love how letters are a physical representation of the weight of the words they carry. It's such a special gift. I'm thankful for the little surprises the mailman brings, the words of dear friends, and the way a simple act can turn around a draining day.

"To learn how to be grateful and happy, whether hands full or hands empty. 
That is a secret worth spending a life on learning. 
Even if it takes a Rosetta Stone of decades...
Thanks is what multiplies the joy and makes any life large, and I hunger for it.
Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

P.S. Andi, you're a treasure! I'm so glad we only have to wait a month to see each other again!!! :-)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Counting Down by Counting Up

Happy November! It's hard to believe we're already beginning the holiday months, but I think November is turning into one of my favorite writing months. Last year I took a friend's advice and posted something for which Nate and I were thankful each day from Nov. 1 until Thanksgiving Day. (If you're interested/bored, you can read those posts here.)  After reading this book recently, I'm taking steps to make gratitude a more intentional part of my life, so I'm going to again count down the days until Thanksgiving by counting up my days' blessings! Will you join me? I'd love to have you leave comments about what you're thankful for or write posts of your own if you're a blogger! Here we go!

The View from Our Balcony Tonight

1. Stillness

I work with with kids everyday. 200 of them. Nothing about my job is quiet, and I'm generally ok with that. I love loving these kids loud. But tonight I'm home alone in our apartment and everything is still. No music, no washing machine, nothing. And I'm soaking it in.

You may remember that stillness and I aren't always on the best of terms. There are definitely times I still fight it with the same stubborn vigor I see in my niece when she has to eat meat instead of her beloved fruit. But in the last year I've learned a lot about how much I need the stillness, how we are created to need it.

So despite the crazy volume in my life, the full schedules, the hundred things I'm behind on, I'm thankful God gives us moments of stillness. The sunset tonight was beautiful. And as always, silent. It slips by so quickly, changing by the minutes. There is nothing yelling, "Hey, I'm a beautiful reminder of God's creation! You should pay attention now!"

Instead it coyly calls for your eyes. It waits for you to be still and see. He waits for us to be still and know. How beautiful.

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live
your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith
as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."

Colossians 2:6-7

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Starting Something New

While I have followed Angie Smith's blog for over year and read her updates about her book club, I have only observed this community from a distance. I've often toyed with joining, but it's never quite worked out timing-wise. Since I had already purchased this fall's book before the book club started, I no longer had an excuse to not try it out. I go! 

I'm not exactly sure what it will look like, but I do know I'd love to have fellow companions. Would any of you like to join me? We can figure out this online book club together, and I'm guessing we'll learn more about each other and more about our God as we go. Both are positives in my opinion! :-) Since this week is only covering the introduction, you have plenty of time to catch up. Please leave a comment if you're interested and I'll be in contact. We're all in this together! (Yes, this is technically two High School Musical references in one post. Don't judge me. I work with kids. ;-)


Fear is not something to which I easily admit. I 'm able to go with the flow without too much effort and I don't usually have anxiety issues. Over time, however, I have seen a pattern of struggle that I have only recently labeled as fear. 

For much of my life, I've heard the phrase "strive to reach your potential" more times than I can count. In fact, I think I said it to myself as much as I heard it from others. There is nothing inherently wrong with this phrase; it spurred much motivation and action on my part. Yet wanting to reach that elusive potential caused  me to completely freeze up while I analyzed all of my options and the subsequent possible outcomes. My mom calls it being "paralyzed by indecision." My golf coach calls it "paralysis through analysis." But it's proper name is fear.

I fear choosing the incorrect path, harming others with my decision, missing God's blessing, disappointing others, yes, but most of all disappointing God. And though I count it as blessing to be able to play out the variety of possibilities, when in my control, these possibilities turn into lingering doubts. Doubts morph into worry which transform into paralyzing fear that permeates the mind, prohibits action.

Yet this fear must dissolve when, and only when, I acknowledge I am not in control, do not have authorized control, will never have any semblance of control. Feigning control is simply my feeble, stubborn, ignorant, flailing attempt at being God when I stop trusting. But inexplicably, thankfully there is grace.
"All fear is but the notion that God's love ends...Fear thinks God is finite and fear believes that there is not going to be enough...In Me, blessings never end because My love for you never ends. If My goodnesses toward you end, I will cease to exist, child. As long as there is a God in heaven, there is grace on earth and I am the spilling God of the uncontainable, forever-overflowing-love-grace."
Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p. 161

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Refusing to Let Go

I'm sitting here in my softly-lit apartment, my Bible beside me, quiet with the exception of simple piano music gently playing and subtle taps of my fingers against the keyboard. It is a time of peace, a time of stillness. Yet all I can think about is wrestling.

I have long been fascinated by the account recorded in Genesis 32 in which Jacob wrestles with God. The New Testament is full of God physically interacting with humanity through Jesus, but as I too often forget, God doesn't change. The God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament. He has always sought relationship with His creation. He will always seek relationship with me, with you.

To set the scene for this story, remember that Jacob's twin Esau wasn't too happy with Jacob after due to some inheritance issues back in their younger years. (Read this for a full account) Now Jacob must pass through his brother's land and therefore face the past he had since avoided.

I feel it is important to note that before Jacob wrestles God, he is afraid, very afraid. But not of his God. He is afraid of the unknown, afraid of his perception of his wronged brother, afraid of facing the consequences of his actions. He is so afraid that he splits up his belongings and family so if one is attacked, the other will have more time to escape. He sends wave after wave of gifts to meet his brother in hopes of gaining favor before they actually meet face to face.

When he has sent everyone ahead of him, when he is finally alone, Jacob wrestles God who is on earth as a man. (Sound familiar?) This scuffle lasts through the night and ends with the Lord dislocating Jacob's hip after Jacob refuses to let Him go without a blessing. Refuses to let Him go. Can you imagine the audacity of this action? the courage? the seeming stupidity? And yet, the Lord blesses Jacob.

It appears so black and white, so straightforward when read on the page of scripture. This event is recorded without any hint of strangeness. Yet when you let your mind invade the page, there is nothing normal about it. Our perfect Lord and Savior walking on this earth, entangled with one He created, rolling in the dust, sweating while locked in an enduring struggle. Upon seeing the sun rise, He ends their match with a blessing Jacob doesn't seem to deserve, a name change. Israel. He strives with God.

I find such comfort in these odd 11 verses tucked in the Old Testament. I know that when I sit in a place of apparent peace and yet don't find any, when I lay awake on the night before a day I fear, that it's ok to wrestle with my God, that's it's worth it. In that struggle, I can't hold on to anything besides my God, the One I don't always understand. And eventually my resistant hands will give into His everlasting arms, my tense face will rest in His chest, and in that embrace I will stay, refusing to let go.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Simple Phrase

Two years ago Nate asked me to marry him. I remember the warm August night, the way we were cuddled together looking up at a perfectly clear sky. I remember laughing and flirting, reveling in simply being together. I remember feeling my heart rate spike when I finally understood what was happening, and yes, I remember the words he spoke to me. Yet there is one phrase I cherish over all the rest: the phrase that I had seen in his eyes, felt in his embrace, heard only through the silent squeeze of our clasped hands. He told me, "I love you, Anne."

A simple phrase that changed my world.

We have since learned a much deeper meaning of this simple phrase, and I know we have only begun to scratch the surface. No matter what type of circumstances come our way, Nate's love for me points me to the love of our Father. That has made all the difference. At times it is so difficult to actually believe that God loves and tenderly cares for me, but it is in those times of doubt and frustration that God uses Nate to remind me of Love. And I return to a warm, summer night, embraced by the arms that placed the stars in the sky above me. Though I know my Father, my Savior has told me many times before, He holds me close and says for what feels like the first time, "I love you, Anne."

A simple phrase that changes my world.

"For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast
love to all who call upon you."
Psalm 86:5 (ESV)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Deal Update

Today I received my Paper Coterie creation well before I had anticipated, and I'm very pleased to announce that it has easily lived up to my expectations! It's size (9.5"x13") doesn't quite fit in my bookshelf of my as I had been planning, but I'm still thrilled to have a place for our memories! If you're still interested in any Paper Coterie items, the code BEGINANYWHERE will still grant you a $40 credit until August 31.

I promise more thoughtful posts are on the way! Enjoy the beginning of your weekend.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Rockin' Awesome

Remember this post? My wonderful mother-in-law sent us this fun surprise for an anniversary present. :-)

Thanks so much, Scott & Cindy! Our Frozen Pizza Fridays will be back to their full grandness, and we're very excited about it. :-)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Jumpstarting and Deal Finding

Our schedule always seems to keep us busy, and this summer has been no exception. In fact, I feel like we've figured out a way to stuff even more activities into the nooks and crannies of our free time. Needless to say, this blog has suffered mightily because of it. But here is my attempt to jumpstart my writing once again! I know I'm a happier, more focused person when I'm writing, and perhaps I can provide you a few minutes of joy, as well.

Before I get into some of the weightier thoughts swirling in my mind, I wanted to share a great deal with you! I must confess I am a terrible scrapbooker. I tried it out when I was younger, and the whole thing puts my perfectionist tendencies into a complete tizzy. I do, however, hoard keepsakes from memorable occasions as if I were a scrapbooking fiend. The result, as you may guess, is a lot of stuff piled in a closet. My husband is just thrilled. ;-)

While perusing this blog (a great place to find photo deals, plus she's fun to read), I came across a a Paper Coterie product called Memory Keepers that may be my solution! It's a 9.75x13 box with a personalized cover. This translates into one easy-to-design cover and no pages to stress me out! Nate and I typically wrote each other letters once a month throughout our dating years, so this is the book I created to house these precious words.

This is one of the first pictures we took of just the two of us, and it still makes me laugh! And here's your reward for hanging in there with me through this rambly post: Paper Coterie is offering a $40 credit by using the code BEGINANYWHERE before August 31. If you order before August 8 (tomorrow), you can get another $40 credit by using the code STACYJULIAN in the promotions bar. I'm really excited to have a cute place to store our keepsakes and even more excited about not paying too much to get it. :-) I'll be back soon with some summer recaps and a few theological musings. Until then, have a great start to your week!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

One Year

To my dearest husband,

One year ago my lips were permanently parted in a smile as your eyes danced all day. One year ago we were surrounded by our dearest family and friends, but you were the person who mattered most. One year ago we promised to selflessly love and honor one another through the power of our Savior, and this is the best promise I have ever made.

This year has been one of the most difficult years of our lives, but our marriage has been one of the biggest blessings in my life, short of salvation. You affirm me yet refine me. You give me the confidence to go wherever God calls, yet you satisfy me by simply making me laugh while we cuddle on our couch. You are mine, and I am blessed.

To my husband,
my confidant,
my sweet man,
my best friend.
I love you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Thanks for the great response to my last post! Writing honestly to an unknown audience is an odd sensation, but your responses were a great encouragement! I've been intending to write earlier, but we've been getting ready for quite a few celebrations (including a surprise party, and I was paranoid about giving away the secret!). Here's a little recap of the festivities.

The Celebration of Two Beautiful Friends

A little over a week ago, two of my dear friends were married. Krystal is one my Fab Five, and she and I have journeyed down many roads together--from loving Northwestern as RAs to going through major surgery and recovery to seeking godly relationships with our men, we've done life together. I've known Jordan for the last 5 years, as well, so it was a very special weekend. I was so blessed by celebrating Krystal on Friday night and celebrating Jordan and Krystal as a couple on Saturday! Plus we got to see several of our Northwestern family which always has a way of refreshing my soul.

Not only is Hannah our friend, she is absolutely brilliant!
Please click on the link above to check out her work.

The Fab Five reunites at a wedding at last.

Steg RAs 2008-2009: An experience to bond us for a lifetime

Celebration of Nate

Since the wedding was nearby, we were able to host our friends Ryan and Julia overnight. Then on Sunday, Ryan, Julia and a host of wonderful friends helped me throw a surprise birthday party for Nate's 25th birthday! I found out in a hurry that surprising the person with whom you share both an apartment and a bank account is a little tricky. Thankfully Nate interpreted my secret-keeping as planning frenzy for Krystal's wedding, and it ended up working splendidly. It was a beautiful day to be outside, and I more than enjoyed surrounding Nate with people we love while he remained unaware! I neglected to get a group picture, but I do have these.

My birthday boy! Thanks for supplying this genius cake, Michael!

These two men mean so much to Nate, and
I'm thankful they were willing to be here to celebrate.

Celebration of Lydia

Last weekend was much more about getting together with my family than just Lydia, but since it was the first time we've seen her for a few months, she may have been our primary focus. :-) We had a great time enjoying our city with Nathan, Tara, Lydia, my parents, and family friends. My mom has the far better pictures, but here is a little sampling of our favorite 9 month old and the family that loves her dearly.

She may not be the first woman to fall for
James Bond, but she may be the cutest!

She's surrounded by toys, but Nate's
guitar playing has her completely enthralled.

My family out for dinner

Miss you so much, Andrew and Lisa!

This ended up being a bit of a marathon post, but thanks for hanging in there with me. I'm hoping to get on a more regular writing schedule now that these wonderful yet busy weekends are behind us. I hope you're finding celebrations in your summer, as well!