Friday, December 21, 2012

Readying and a Room Reveal

We tend to specialize in Christmas crazy around here. We say yes to people, parties, and trips and no to keeping up on laundry, dishes, and sleep. We are slowly learning how to balance the rushing with the resting, to pause the crazy for the Christ-centered. But we once again find ourselves scrambling.

Our tidying goals are unmet, presents are yet unwrapped, exhaustion is creeping close. And yet, in the midst of falling short once again, I find comfort in knowing we haven't completely missed the point. We've spent hours preparing a room for guests. We've cleaned the house top to bottom to invite in friends. We've shopped intentionally in anticipation of seeing loved ones. Yes, we're tired and yes, schedules are overbooked, but advent isn't missing.

We take time to focus on our loved ones, seeking to give gifts to make them smile. We take time to focus on Love, seeking to use gifts that glorify. We anxiously count down the minutes before company arrives. We ready our home to welcome them. We anxiously count down the days until His arrival. We ready our hearts to welcome Him.

We have room to grow but are thankful for grace. Praying you're finding joy during this Christmas season. Happy Advent, dear ones.

*               *               *

Here's a peek at our first fully completed room in our home! So thankful for the many opportunities to host friends and family.

Guest Room: Before
Perfect for its previous teenage tenant, though not as much for our guests.
Guest Room: After
And if you've read this far with me, can I whisper happy a moment? This happened a few days ago....surreal moments full of anticipation. Can't wait to see God show up!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Our Story: Part VI

If you'd like to catch up on our story, click here and scroll to the bottom.

Anticipation
Early December was filled with little steps toward becoming a couple, including this gem of an evening.

Northwestern Winter Formal 2007...all with our future spouses.
Krystal and Emily...the best picture posers I know
We shared our first slow dance to the song "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing." We laughed. We kept talking. The following weekend we went ice skating with a group of friends, and I glared at him as he paid for my skates. (This dependence/submission thing does not come easily for me. :-) I looked at other couples in the rink holding hands while they skated and wondered about our path. Though it was well into a Friday evening, he asked me to be sure to not check my mailbox until the following day. My mind kicked into high gear at his odd request, but I tried not to push the matter any further.

The Search
My excitement, however, didn't stop me from sleeping late into the morning and walking to the cafeteria unshowered and dressed in sweats with my roommate. We ate quickly and dashed over to the RSC to see what Nate was hinting at the night before.

I opened the envelope with the block handwriting I was growing to love and found a scavenger hunt clue.


My roommate wished me well and returned to our room, while my friend Krystal and I ran across campus. We quickly found the clues at the at the Bultman's Center's potted plant, the library, and my RD's apartment. The last clue directed me to call his best friend Michael, an intimidating feat to say the least.

I bolstered my courage and made the call at about 2 in the afternoon and heard the following message: "Hey, this is Mike. Leave a message." I attempted to leave a sensible message, waited what I thought was an appropriate amount of time, and called again only to hear the same message. I learned later that I went through the clues faster than Nate had anticipated, so he asked me to wait.

Snowing and Swooning
I spent the afternoon and evening trying to accomplish something, as it was the Saturday before finals week. I kept checking my phone, hoping I had missed a call. Finally at 7:30 pm, Michael called.
"Hi Anne. This is Michael."
"Hi."
"So...do you have plans for tonight?"
"Uh...no." What else would I have planned?
"Ok, good. Keep that way, and I'll call you back soon."

To pass the time I dug through my closet trying to figure out what to wear. I settled on a plain black t-shirt thinking it would look nice enough without trying too hard and would keep me cool enough to counter my nervousness. Finally at 8:30 pm, Michael called again and said he was coming by to pick me up.

As focused as I had been on what Nate would do next, I was completely distracted as Michael and I left my dorm and headed toward their beloved Colenbrander Hall. There was no wind to speak of, a true oddity for northwest Iowa, and the silent snow was breath-taking.

As we made it to the green, Michael's tone turned slightly more serious.
"Anne, you may know that Nate and I are in a relationship...it's complicated."
"Yes, I know." Their facebook friendship is something else...
"But I think it's time to end it."
"Oh really?" Is this going where I think it is?
"Yep, it's time for him to move on."
"Oh...I see."

I smirked as we kept walking, wondering how our little campus suddenly seemed so big. After Michael almost fell on the ice, we finally made it to the back of Coly. And there stood Nate, alone in the parking lot as the snow gently drifted down. Michael stopped and said something, but I didn't hear. I just kept walking straight to him. After a swooping hug, he said, "Anne, I've really enjoyed getting to know you, and I wanted to know if you would honor me by being my girlfriend."
"Yes, of course!"
"Look behind you."

As I turned back toward the building, I say the phrase "Will you?" spelled out in Christmas lights, one letter per dorm room window. I laughed and hugged him tighter. "Do you mind waving at the window between the words?" he asked. As I waved, the blinds of the window went up revealing a group of faces, those who had helped with Nate's plan.

Ending the Night
Despite the impending finals, we extended our night together by watching The Lake House, Nate's favorite chick flick, and trying to read each other's body language to figure out if holding hands was ok. (Nate decided we weren't there yet... ;-) He walked me home, we prayed in the lobby, and I went upstairs replaying the perfect day.

Pulling two all-nighters during the following finals week was totally worth it.

*               *               *

Nate, it may not have snowed last night, but waking up to the snow 
this morning reminds me again of God's goodness in giving me you. 
Happy five years, sweet man!


Monday, December 3, 2012

A Quiet Yes

A shelf in my childhood bedroom is lined with journals filled with the daily prayers of a little girl. A drawer in my desk holds notebooks of poetry and short stories. On those pages is a record of handwriting improvements and sentence structure sophistication; confusion, resolution and pieces of truth that sometimes resonate fresh once again.

While I've written for as long as my memory reaches, something holds me back from writing for others to see. Even my quiet, little corner of the blogosphere, I wrestle with what is worth writing for my sake and what is worth others reading.

But a few weeks ago I read about a writing opportunity, and I felt that little gut-push, the one that squeezes the heart and says, "You know you need to do this." You know what the crazy thing is? They thought so, too. So for the next six months, I'll be teaming up with Holley Gerth and her God-sized Dream Team.

Would you come along on this adventure with me? I don't know where we'll end up, but I'd love to have some familiar faces along the way!

Here's to ending 2012 saying a quiet yes with a hopeful heart for 2013!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving

Tonight there is a fresh turkey in our fridge and potatoes thawing in our dining room. Our dishwasher is humming and the table is covered, waiting to be set. We've counted silverware and glasses to be sure we have enough and unboxed gifts we haven't gotten to yet use. With much help from my mom, I think it's safe to say we're ready for Thanksgiving.

Tonight I'm thankful for our home, for the little ways we've made it ours, for the little reminders we have to give thanks.


Tonight I'm thankful to see my mom in her element, making dishes she's perfected, teaching me along the way. Tonight I'm thankful for Nate's eagerness in opening our home, for the way he minds the details, for his excitement.

Tonight I'm thankful our family and friends will be here soon, for the amazing people we have in our lives, for a day to intentionally focus on naming our blessings and saying, "Thank you."

May you be blessed in your celebrating tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thankful Tuesday

We are all a flutter over here, as we are preparing to host Thanksgiving for the first time! Nate has a huge heart for hospitality, and I love seeing him in his element. Plus I love having loved ones in our home, so it works out nicely. Here's today's list!

Grateful List
• Coworker Camaraderie
• Reading over lunch
• A fun workout
• Starting to find my decorating groove
• Nate's spatial brain and servant heart
• Being able to invite more to Thanksgiving dinner
• Dancing in the dining room
• Amazingly comfortable bed...sweet dreams!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Our Story: Part V

If you'd like to catch up on our story, click here and scroll to the bottom.

Going Public

We followed our first date with walks from Spanish to Chapel, a quieter game night with my roommate, and walks around town, the night making honesty a bit easier. A few weeks later, Nate invited me to go to NC/DC (think American Idol between Northwestern and Dordt) with some of his friends. While I quickly said yes, this one made me nervous.

First there was the issue of going to a campus event. Whether warranted or not, many assumptions are made when a girl and guy are seen together at Northwestern. I was concerned that others would wonder why in the world Nate was wasting his time with me. Such a rational moment! Then there were his friends...let's just say I was quite intimidated and knew if I messed up with these guys, I wouldn't last very long. (I'm quite a professional pressure creator.)

Nate and I walked over to the Bultman Center with the canned goods we needed to get into the event, and I tried my best to act much cooler/put together than I felt. Nate's friend was running behind, so Nate put Michael's canned good in a potted plant for safe keeping while we went in to get seats, laughing at the quirky things we could get away with at a small school.

Before long Michael and a few others joined us on the bleachers in the dark gym and listened to the performers. I made a timely Office joke, Michael laughed, Nate looked and me and smiled. I counted it as a win.

After the show we went back to the boys' dorm to play games and meet up with Ryan and Julia, two more people I knew Nate deeply valued. The group conveniently chose to play Like Minds, a partner game in which you score points by listing the same answers without communicating. Thankfully Nate and I thought similarly enough to hold our own, and I refrained from throwing anything (an accomplishment, if you've read Part IV).

As Nate walked me back to my dorm that evening, more than friends yet not quite dating, I had a much greater appreciation for Nate and his two best friends. I didn't know them well, but I wanted to. And I hoped they thought the same.

*               *               *

Five years ago to the day, we were with Ryan and Julia again and missing Michael and Jenny. God continues to do something wonderful with the friendship of these men and now their wives, and I feel so blessed to be a part of it! Ryan and Julia, Michael and Jenny, tonight we're thankful for you.

Missing Michael & Jenny

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Favorite Tradition

Despite my incredulousness and frequent protest, the Christmas season is coming with great speed. Nate and I haven't developed too many traditions to this point, but we have filled Operation Christmas Child boxes each year. I absolutely love it.

Today was another long day for both of us, but we were both looking forward to walking up and down the aisles dreaming up great things for the boys who will get our boxes. I am so thankful for this program, for the great work they do, for Nate's spatial, packing brain, and for great memories with my hubs.

So excited to share Christmas with this boy, whoever he may be!
Grateful List:
  • Nate's work ethic
  • Projects coming together
  • Quality, productive meetings
  • Hearing others' stories
  • Finishing my work week
  • Rest is in sight!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Crazy Day

I tend to thrive when I have a full schedule, but today's schedule was crazy, even by my standards. I started work early, ended late, and followed it with choir and high school small group. Needless to say, I'm pretty wiped right now, but still feeling blessed. Check out the quote that greeted us in choir rehearsal!

Grateful List:
• The start of a new adventure
• Learning and contributing to exciting things at Valley Church
• Pictures of my nieces
• Encouragement from staff members
• Singing together
• Hearing high schoolers pray
• Finally seeing Nate at the end of the day

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Screens and a Light Heart

I spent my entire evening video chatting with two sets of dear friends. Though screens and technology can often be my distraction downfall, tonight I'm very thankful for the means to connect with friends living in five different states and for encouraging people willing to take the time and effort for our friendship. My heart is light tonight.

Grateful List:
• Productivity!
• Our warm bed on a chilly morning
• Chicken Parmesan
• Good literature
• Laughter shared with people I love

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Nate's Take


Nate’s taking over tonight! I love the little ones, but they wipe me out. Enjoy!

Anne was out of town helping look after our two nieces this weekend while their parents were away, so I was left to fend for myself this weekend. Saturday was a great day for me, filled with the perfect combination of relaxation and productivity. I got to play 18 holes of golf on Saturday, likely for the last time this year, finished preparing our lawn for winter, did a few loads of laundry, and my University of Michigan Wolverines won a thriller in overtime.

Being a bit of an introvert, however, I was not particularly looking forward to attending church this morning without my wife. Since we’ve been married, I’ve not had to go to church alone, and I was a little unsure of myself. As my alarm went off at 7:00, I was tempted with the thought of sleeping in and skipping my 8:15 meeting with other Pledge (high school ministry) adult leaders and the 9:30 service in favor of listening to a John Piper sermon online. I’m grateful the Holy Spirit didn’t let that happen.

The message was challenging, I enjoyed great fellowship afterward, and I was blessed by seeing the entire crew of “workers” we are sending into the field (Matt. 9:35-38) to get Valley Southview, our first satellite campus, up and running. God is doing exciting things at Valley Church, and I’m thankful for those big (church plants) and small (encouragement of friends).

Also topping my thankful list this weekend:
  • One last breath of summer and playing golf with a great friend yesterday
  • Devin Gardner
  • The view of our leafless front yard out the picture window in the living room
  • Having my wife back at home

Friday, November 9, 2012

Bonded

About three years ago Nate and I began watching the first James Bond movies on a whim. Nate loves Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, and I always love a good action flick. Thus, we ended up buying Dr. No at a local gas station and watched it with my parents. Then we received the boxed set the following Christmas, and the quest to watch them all in order was born. Last weekend we finished the first 22 movies in preparation of Skyfall's release.


I'm not going to write my support for the best classic Bond (Nate: Pierce Brosnan, Me: Timothy Dalton) or for the best Bond film (I know this is where I'm supposed to say Goldfinger...I just can't). I'm not going to comment on the disjointed writing in the early films or the absurd portrayal of women and different cultures (...but seriously! Wow...). I'm not going to summarize and analyze the series as a whole (because let's be honest...I didn't watch with rapt attention at all times).

I will say that those boxes represent 22 movies I spent cuddling on the couch with my man. They remind me of the times we cheered for Bond's bravado, celebrated getting to a new decade of film making or a new actor, and laughed when the series went too far (a diamond laser? Jaws falling in love? Bond in space? genetic face changing?). They bring to mind Nate's smile of excitement when we had a Bond night and our voices shamelessly mimicking the classic lines ("Bond. James Bond." & "Oh James...").

Tonight we'll sit down in the theater, squeeze each others' hands when the lights go down, and finish watching all the Bond movies in order. And I'll be thankful. Thankful for good storytelling. Thankful for faster-paced action. Yes, even thankful for James Bond. But most of all, I'll be thankful for the guy sitting beside me his joy in the simple things.

Update: So many things! Suffice it to say, we loved it. Go see it. We'd love to talk about it with you. :-)



Grateful List:
  • A quiet day at the office
  • Going downtown for a lunch date
  • Feta & balsamic vinaigrette
  • Nate's pride in his work, seeing him thriving
  • Remembering the Club

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Timing

My brain is wired to connect. I have a slightly ridiculous memory that recalls little snapshots of conversations and events long past that connect with the here and now. Most of the time it ramps up into a vivid memory lane conversation or serves as a nice venue of self-amusement. But there are times when it stops me in my tracks and demands to be noticed.

Tonight was one of those times when God's timing and alignment were made to be made known. Do you know His plan is, and always has been, on purpose? Because He made sure I knew it tonight. And I'm thankful.

Grateful List
  • Remembering a professor's phrase with new freshness
  • Coworkers with integrity
  • Lunch with Mom
  • Another chance to open our home
  • The rich layers and connections in God's word
  • Powerful teaching paired with fellowship

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Today's List

Grateful List
• Productivity and progress at work
• Good communication
• Laughter with coworkers
• A quiet lunch
• Jeo-party!
• A beautiful sunset
• Comfort food made by Nate
• Reconnecting with my high schoolers over Scripture...may we be women of integrity!

What's on your list today?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Voting and Sovereignty

I'm a sucker for election day. I love greeting the election workers who have dedicated their whole day to the voting process, seeing my name on the registration sheet. I love filling out each circle, voting not just for the major races but also for judge retention and local initiatives. Such good stuff.


This year I was struck by the privilege of election. While I love the process and the traditions, I am thankful that I have the opportunity to quietly voice my opinion. Regardless of tonight's outcome, I am humbled that I had a part in it. While there are many ugly aspects of politics, at it's core, the peaceful transfer of leadership holds a beauty withheld from much of the world. 

Above all, votes cast will not, cannot alter God's ultimate sovereignty. Can there be anything more beautiful? I'm dwelling on that tonight, and I'm grateful.

Grateful List:
  • For this
  • Real conversation with a coworker
  • Opportunities to comfort
  • A schedule-free evening
  • Dreaming conversations

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Love of a Toddler

I love my nieces. I am 100% confident that they are the coolest little girls ever. Seriously captivated by their little loveliness. Usually Lydia, the two-year-old, cracks me up with her antics and witty observations, but this last visit, she about did me in with her sweetness.

You see, Lydia loves her two-month-old sister in a way that both makes my heart melt and punches me in the gut. When she comes home from daycare, she smothers Grace with hugs and kisses. When Grace is in a different room, she asks, "Where's Baby Grace?" When Grace fusses a little during dinner, she says, "It's ok, Baby Grace. It's ok." (Then stuffs her mouth full again. I told you she is awesome!)

During this last visit all the adults went upstairs for a quick minute. Grace was in her swing, and Lydia was playing quietly with some dolls. Lydia looked up, slightly concerned, but went right back to playing when Tara reassured her we'd be right back down. We snuck upstairs to take a look at a finishing touch for the nursery while keeping our ears perked. When I heard a little thunk downstairs, I came down and found this:

My Two Little Loves
Lydia was attempting to move the chair close to the swing. "I want to read to Baby Grace," she said. (Here's where the melted heart and punched gut come into play.) I helped her get situated and read a book called I Love You More while my eyes teared up.

I want to love like that. I want to love with the pureness of a toddler. When I see a need, I want to feebly pull up a chair and fill it the best way I know how. So tonight, I'm thankful for the way this big sister loves. I'm thankful for the lessons learned from babes. And I'm thankful for the Spirit who moves in the quiet places.

Grateful List
  • A sweet gesture from a coworker
  • Encouragement from a completed project
  • Unexpected lunch with Nate and friends
  • A healthy body capable of excercise
  • Laughing on the couch

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Counting Again

For the last two years I've blogged my gratitude through the month of November as a way to celebrate Thanksgiving. As much as I love this tradition, this year will look a little different. Some days may have a full post, some may not be on the subject thanksgiving, but most will likely just be a short list. I'd still love to have you join in the fun by listing your gratitude list in the comment section!

Tonight I'm thankful for fellowship. To be honest I didn't want to open our home tonight. I was physically tired from chasing our beautiful nieces around all weekend, emotionally spent from our season of hard eucharisteo, and I didn't want to see anyone.

But as I should have learned by now, God's timing has purpose. We hosted our small group, finished up a great lesson on taking initiative in leading Christian families, and had some great discussion, both on topic and otherwise.

And at the end of the night, I was again reminded that fellowship and true community is hard, but we are designed to need it. It takes intentionality, but it is worth it. I'm thankful we were scheduled to host tonight. I'm thankful my man has a heart for hospitality. I'm thankful for the many couples willing to share with each other. I'm thankful for God's perfect design.

My Catch-up List
1. Our Story
2. These beautiful faces
3. Family on the tough days
4. Fellowship, even when I don't think I want it.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Our Story: Part IV

The Call
I didn't spend enough time on the range to warrant going home, but the end of the season paired with a missed call from a fellow area code 319 number provided enough motivation to walk off the course. My heart rocked when he called again on my way to the car.

"Hello?" Ugh...you just sounded like your mom...
"Hi...is Anne there?" Great, now he thinks you sound like your mom, too!
"This is she," I said, half laughing at his question, half beating myself up for how Mom-like I continued to sound.
"Oh, yeah. Hi. This is Nate. Uh...I was thinking it might be nice to grab coffee with you sometime, get to know each other a little better. Would you want to go?
"Yeah! Uh...that would be great." I don't drink coffee, but he doesn't need to know that yet...right?
"How about Saturday? I'll pick you up at 8?"
"Perfect. See you then."

I flipped my phone shut, dropped it in the passenger seat, and began nervously laughing in an empty car. Did that really just happen?

I dashed into Stegenga Hall and thankfully found a friend in the computer lab. I burst in with a wild look on my face, which of course prompted several questions from her. I pushed my back to the wall, let myself slide to the floor, and recounted our conversation to Rachael.

"I mean, that's a date, right Rach? Like a real date?"
She rolled her eyes, smiled and said, "Sounds like it to me!"

Accidental Run-In
I spent most of Saturday afternoon fruitlessly attempting to finish something before allowing myself to start getting ready. While typical girls have a natural knack at beautifying, I do not. But I spent quite a bit of time trying to emulate them. Lindsey came by my room at supper time and suggested we go to Quizno's, to which I happily agreed. I didn't bother going beyond getting dressed and drying my hair, as I wasn't planning on seeing anyone besides Lindsey.

We chatted during the 3-minute drive and continued our conversation on the walk to the restaurant. I stopped mid-sentence in the doorway causing Lindsey to run into me. Directly ahead of me sat Nate, his back to me, his hathead revealing his afternoon activity. He sat at a table with five guys, including his boss/mentor and his best friend. I'm pretty sure I started sweating. Nate smiled but looked about as shocked/sick as I felt. Brandon and Ryan both looked giddy.

I attempted to save face by briefly stopping long enough to look each guy in the eye and say hi. I then walked briskly to the counter to order and not mess anything else up. Lindsey thought this was all hilarious but graciously sat at a table where I could keep my back to the boys' group.

The Date
A few minutes before 8 pm, there was a knock on my door. I looked at the mirror one last time, (making sure I looked sufficiently cute while looking like I hadn't tried too hard) and opened the door. He smiled shyly, wearing a button up shirt under a green-brown sweater that mimicked his hazel eyes. Enter: heart beating like a crazy person.

He opened the passenger door of his white Ford Taurus for me, and we drove to De Koffiehoek making nervous small talk. As we got in line at the coffee shop, I glanced at the menu, quickly spun around and said, "So...I don't drink coffee." So smooth.

We sat down at an out-of-the-way table, Nate with coffee, me with a smoothie. He confidently pulled out a deck of cards and explained the game he had planned.
"I thought we'd play Go Fish. Do you know how to play?" he said.
"Ok...of course I know how to play," I said, wondering where this was going.
"Great, but this game is special. Every time you have to go fish, you have to ask the other person a question. Sound good?"
"Perfect."

We started with questions like "What's your favorite color?" but soon began easily trading favorite things and the stories behind them. I think I officially stole his heart when he asked, "If you could play any golf course in the world, which would it be?" and I answered, "Hmm...probably St. Andrew's? But Augusta National is close behind."

We finally reached the end of the game of Go Fish, and I made a comment about starting another game. He smiled and said, "Sure." But he continued putting the cards back into the box. I sat there slightly confused until he launched into the speech he had obviously been rehearsing.

"Anne, I've really enjoyed spending time with you tonight. If it's ok with you, I'd like to start intentionally getting to know you better."
I tried to absorb his words and see if they meant what I thought and didn't realize he was waiting for an answer from me.
"Um, yes. That sounds good."
"Great! I thought, if things went well here, that maybe we could go back to Coly and play games with Brandon and Kelly. Has it gone well? Would you want to go?"

I didn't know Nate well, but I had seen enough on campus to know that going to play games with Brandon and Kelly was Nate's Northwestern equivalent to meeting the parents. I wasn't sure if I was up to that challenge, but I was intrigued enough to give it a try!

We made the short drive back to Coly and I entered the Coly RD apartment for the first of many times. As we walked in, Brandon and Kelly were quickly gathering blankets and tools and definitely didn't look like they were about to sit down for a game night. Nate looked panicked. Brandon and Kelly were smirking.

"It's nice to meet you, Anne," said Kelly.
"Sorry we have to run, buddy," said Brandon. "Tasha has a flat tire near Hawarden, so we need to go help her out. We'll see if we can get back in time to play a few games!"
They didn't.

I didn't mind the level playing field, but Nate took a little while to get his groove back. He showed me a few of his favorite games from their collection. We started with Pass the Pigs, which I won, then progressed to Ubongo, a tangram game sort of like Tetras. I am not spatially-minded in the least, but I am quite competitive. Let's just say, Nate won this game convincingly, and I may or may not have thrown a game card across the room.

Thankfully Nate was up for trying another game. We settled on Doodle Dice, which turned into an epic siege. After covering their coffee table with cards, I finally pulled off the win and recovered some of the dignity I lost during Ubongo.

He walked me back to my room, both of us short on words but smiling. We said goodnight without a hug or handshake, but my goodness, Nate was smiling. I closed my door, and wondered what it all meant. I had a great time, but I was fully convinced that was our first and only date. No guy that wonderful would hang around with me, right?

Nate's Addendum: That night I told my roommate Jeff, "I think I just went on my first date with my wife."

*                       *                       *   

I'll start my full gratitude posts tomorrow.
Tonight I'm thankful for our story and for a great man with whom to keep writing.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Our Story: Part III

Couples that Swing Together, Stay Together?
My roommate Andrea's smirk told me something was up. Our room phone rang, she answered, and now stood there smirking and said, "It's for you." A myriad of possible scenarios sped through my mind in the three steps it took to cross our dorm room, but I didn't dare hope to hear his voice on the other end of the phone.

"Hello?" I said.
"Hi, Anne? This is Nate. I was wondering, since our seasons are over, if you'd want to go golfing with a group of us this week."
"Um...sure. That'd be great. What day are you thinking?"
"Does Wednesday sound ok?"
"Uh...that works for me! Should I just meet you at the course?"
"Yeah. I'll see you there!"

Andrea was still smirking when I hung up the phone. I promptly told her it was just a group thing, but she didn't look convinced. Apparently I should have paid more attention to her because Nate's "golfing with a group of us" really meant golfing with him and another couple. He splurged on carts for the four of us, and thankfully Kara, one of my golf teammates, made sure she and I were together.

We all stood on the first tee, Nate taking confident practice swings, seemingly relaxed and ready to go, me faking confident practice swings, praying I didn't make a fool out of myself. I went to take out a tee and realized I forgot to restock my bag. Nate saw me scrounging around my disheveled pockets and offered me a handful of tees. He took out a generous amount, showing me just how together he was, and promptly dropped them all over the ground while trying to hand them to me. "Perfect...I'm not the only nervous one," I thought.

He hit his drive straight and long down the first fairway. I pulled mine into the weeds. Every shot after that I tried proving to him that I knew what I was doing. (Apparently he was doing the same thing because neither of us remember much of how the other played.)

After a good amount of flirting, we ran out of course to play and headed to our separate cars. I was driving back to campus replaying the afternoon in my mind and wondering who I could find to eat dinner with once I returned. I was 3 blocks from my parking lot when I got a call from Kara: "Anne, turn around! There's a free meal at the fire station, and we're going!"

My heart rate increased while I thought about how much this felt like a date. Golf and a meal? With another couple? I couldn't push the thought out of my mind while I stood next to him eating a hamburger on a table made out of two 1x6s held up between barrels.

Heart Flutters by the Mailboxes
Midterm break had finally arrived! I was looking forward to driving down to Kansas City to visit my brother and sister-in-law. I was hoping my hours on the road would help me sort out the every-growing amount of thoughts about Nate. My friend Lindsey and I decided to check our mail one last time before leaving town. We were chatting, caught up in the excitement of leaving town, when I stopped suddenly.

"Oh no..." I said, seeing a crisply folded loose leaf paper in my mailbox.
"What's wrong? Who's that from?"
"I don't know, but we need to leave. We just...we just need to leave..."

Lindsey smiled and wrinkled her forehead at my irrational reaction, but she hurried to follow my long strides out of the building and into her Toyota 4Runner. I looked at the folded paper, taped shut with my name neatly printed in capital letters on the front.

The protection of the car combined with Lindsey's urging finally gave me the courage to open the letter. Would it be from the person I wanted? Or would it be another note I'd have to somehow politely decline? I carefully tore the tape and held my breath...
The Note
No. He. Didn't!

I freaked out while Lindsey laughed. We deciphered what each phrase could mean before we finally both got in our cars and went on our separate ways. Northwest Iowa can be a brisk, dreary place in mid-October, but thanks to a simple piece of paper, I stayed plenty warm, smiley, and mildly distracted for my entire five-hour drive.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What I Want to Remember About 25

A month ago I turned 25, and I couldn't help but notice several of the bloggers I follow recently posted about what they wished they could tell their younger selves. They spoke of learning to deal with conflict, putting aside pride, and trusting in an infallible God. They spoke of lessons learned that I want to soak up now instead of later, but they also got me thinking.

I'm sure in a few years there will be several pieces of advice to tell the 25-year-old me, but there are also things I want to remember about now. Things that are worth stating as truth, just in case time distorts my memory.

1. You are living with no regrets.
You've said yes to a lot of opportunities, and no to several others. Your hard decisions were covered in prayer, so don't second guess yourself. You've made mistakes but you're learning. And each of your years has made you who you are. Keep embracing it.

2. You are married to a good man.
Remember when boys were just the friends you played basketball with at recess? The ones who made you feel awkwardly tall but at least talked about things you liked? Remember how you could never picture yourself with any of them? That's because God had one picked out for you that fulfilled the qualities you knew you wanted and all the ones He knew you needed. Remember your story and keep writing it.

3. God has a purpose. He has a purpose for you.
You can see Him moving pieces, teaching, revealing passions, giving places for you to serve. You may not be able to see where He's leading, but how blessed are you to know He is? He has a purpose for the good days, a purpose for the painful ones. He has a purpose. Pursue it.

Here's to a quarter century, dear friends! Let the adventure continue.

What am I forgetting? What do you want to remember about your current season of life?


Monday, August 27, 2012

Someone did tell me life was gonna be this way... (Cue the Friends Theme Song)


During the last month I’ve gotten to spend time with my man’s favorite men and their beautiful wives, my dear college friends, and my favorite people from Des Moines. I’ve watched friends get married, I’ve celebrated brides-to-be, I’ve brought boxes to friends bravely, faithfully starting a new adventure across the country, and I’ve giggled and grown spiritually with a friend I haven’t seen since December. I’ve hugged my hellos, cried too many goodbyes, and I’ve remembered once again some of the wisest counsel I’ve ever received: God brings the right people into your life at the right time, but seasons inevitably change.

I’ve seen this to be true in college and again as we transitioned into married life here. I thank God for the people with whom He surrounded us with then, and I pray that despite my many failures, I’ve been that person for others in the season they’ve needed me.

Sometimes in the busyness, I forget God made us to spur one another on in community. Sometimes in the midst of my own pain, I forget that true, deep friendship is worth being vulnerable. But sometimes, in the midst of the content silence of being known, I remember this:

“…there really is nothing like good friends, like the 
sounds of their laughter and the tones of their voices 
and the things they teach us in the quietest, smallest moments.”
Shauna Niequist in Bittersweet

Thanks, dear friends. 
No matter how many states may separate us, know you are loved.

Three strands are not easily broken. Six strands make it family.
My Fab Five...such sweet sisters!
Two of our favorites...NC doesn't know its awesome level just went through the roof!
A dear woman of faith came up to go to Women of Faith with me...
loved celebrating with her, too!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Our Story: Part II

Setting the Stage
At the end of my freshman year of college, I was nursing a bit of a wounded heart, missing friends I hadn't left yet, and looking forward to the fall when I could come back to campus. One May afternoon I was looking at my class load for the fall semester and browsing class lists to anticipate with whom I could sit/do projects/go to lunch. As I scanned names of of my future Spanish 201 classmates on the periwinkle Synapse background, my eyes lingered on one: Nate Summers.

Facebook Flirting
On June 14, 2007, my heart skipped a beat when I checked my email and saw this subject line: Nate Summers has written on your wall. What?! He had met one of my golf coaches during his summer internship and thought he'd let me know. Because that's the kind of guy he is, right? He'd tell that to anyone, right? My silly girl heart didn't quite know what to think. I tried making witty banter online without sounding like I was trying.

When his birthday came up five days later, I stared at the screen, typed, deleted, and reconsidered whether I should write anything, then retyped my message half a dozen times. I settled on the perfectly discreet but original phrase: "Happy birthday, Nate. Have a good day." 

Ok, you did it! Can he tell I stalk his page every once in a while? Was I too forward? He wrote back to me! Oh, he wrote back to everyone who told him happy birthday. Why am I thinking like this? Sometimes being a girl is kind of lame...

As the school year started, I had developed a full-blown crush on Nate and anxiously awaited our first interaction on campus. I didn't have to wait long, as I saw him during one of my first golf practices of the year. My hyped-up nerves translated into some epic golf that I still have yet to replicate.

While I was on the driving range, I noticed him walking behind me toward the chipping green. I gripped my new 3-wood with increased determination and cranked the ball. I slyly glanced back to see if Nate had seen my handiwork, and smirked when I saw him staring. That night I signed into Facebook and found the following post on my wall:
I was giddy. And in my giddiness, I once again responded in a way I thought seemed effortlessly cool:
Did you notice the lol and the wink? I told you I was clever! Needless to say, my friends called me out on our flirting. I tried to downplay it and rationalize that he was just a good encourager, but inside I was hoping against hope they were right.

Lost in Translation (aka The First Time We Were Husband & Wife)
While our time on the golf course was limited, I reveled in knowing I would see him every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8:50 am. Spanish 201 with Professor Elsa Schmidt proved to be a practice in class unity as we tried to figure out what was going on. Nate sat behind me and one seat to my left, making sneaky, sideways glances relatively easy.

After a few weeks I noticed that he and I were conveniently finishing our daily quizzes at the same time. While he thought he was being smooth, I thought he was being cute and loved the excuse to walk to Chapel together.

Prof. Schmidt assigned a group project that required us to write and act out a script using a certain set of vocabulary. Since Nate and I sat near one another, we ended up in the same group. Our group of five met in the upper room of the library and I nervously tried to anticipate Nate's reaction to my...ahem...assertiveness during group projects. As usual I soon had control of the pencil and wrote out our script, which depicted several travelers checking into a hotel.

After we completed the writing, we went through the character list to pick parts. I hesitated in claiming a spot until the end. So did Nate. With all the cliché of a chick flick, the last two characters to be claimed were the husband and wife.

Foreshadowing is integral to a great story, right?
(We also earned an A for our project. :-)

*          *          *

Happy anniversary, my senior stud! Thanks for being my husband, for real.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Our Story: Part I

I'm a story person. I love hearing people's stories. I love hearing them in their own words, even the little ones they don't feel are worth sharing. Those are sometimes the best ones. I've wanted to write down our story for quite some time, especially after being inspired by others who've chronicled how their love came to be. So here's my attempt to bottle up the pile of little sparks that forged the first volume of Nate and Anne. It's not too dramatic. It's quite ordinary. But it's ours. And I wouldn't change a thing.

*          *          *

Spark at First Sight
Our story starts with whispers. With me overhearing these little comments about this guy named Nate, who was a good friend of one of my childhood friends. I'd hear little anecdotes of the adventures of Nate and his best friend Clint as my friend smiled and rolled her eyes at their antics (and prompting several future "Oh you're THAT Clint" moments). When I was preparing to go to college, my friend mentioned Nate would be among the many students I'd be joining on campus.

When I arrived at Northwestern, we had a few run-ins of no particular significance. He played golf, I played golf. We worked in the concession stand together one afternoon. I avoided him. He recognized my last name on the sweatshirt I was wearing in the cafeteria one day. He said hi. I blushed.

He was an upperclassman and an RA, and one of my first college friends had a crush on him. He was clearly out of my league, and the thought of being anything more than acquaintances never crossed my mind.

That is, it never crossed my mind until I was watching That 70's Show with another guy's arm around me. My eyes couldn't help but wander over to this guy walking down the hallway, a guy with a confident yet easy-going stride, a quick smile, truth-telling eyes. Oh those eyes...

At the time I would've said I was just applauding God's creation, but now I think of that night as the first time I truly saw Nate. The night I felt that first little wow moment. That first little spark...

Happy birthday, sweet man. Thanks for making me a part of your story.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Two Purple Bottles

Sometimes a simple gift is all it takes for me to feel loved by my man.


The bottle on the right will soon be traveling with Nate and me to the Dominican Republic. To follow along with our group's antics, check out our team's blog. I'll be sure to give an update when we're back. Thanks for your prayers!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Birds & Remembering

This morning I woke up to gorgeous sunshine instead of an alarm clock, so I thought I'd start my day with a long walk while Nate golfed with the guys. I tried using the quiet time to sort out of some of the big life stuff we have going on right now, but eventually my mind wondered toward Memorial Day, toward the country in which we live, toward those who are serving or have served, toward those close to me who have served.

While turning onto a tree-lined nature trail, I was frustrated by my lack of original thoughts toward Memorial Day and veterans. Though completely genuine, I feel slightly trite when I write a thank you post on the appropriate patriotic days. As I was thinking of this, I got attacked by a bird.

I'm not even kidding. A bird swooped down with the quintessential, "CAW!" and I felt talons dig into my hair. (This will, perhaps, be the last time I wear a bright pink hair tie on a walk by trees.) My heart rate went through  the roof, and I completely freaked out at any flapping of wings or shadows crossing my path from that point on.

As I calmed down, I realized that was the first physical "attack" I've ever experienced. And why is that? Because I live in a country that has defended it's freedoms since it began. Because I'm safe because others are willing to not be. Because I am blessed by others' sacrifice.

So no matter how repetitive or unoriginal my words my be, thank you, veterans. Thank you, families who have experienced the greatest sacrifice. Thank you, courageous men and women, for believing in something worth fighting for.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May Madness: Jersey Boys & My Favorite 19-month-old

Last week Nate and I took a deep breath and plunged into the craziness that is our May 2012. With three weekends of travel in three different states, I'm beginning to feel a bit like we're reliving this mess of awesomeness. But just as it was back then, each trip this May promises great celebrations and treasured time with family.

Part one of our travel trifecta consisted of celebrating Christmas once again and spending time with arguably the world's cutest toddler. I know I'm biased, but seriously...wait for the pictures. :-)

Nathan and Tara tried buying us tickets to West Side Story for Christmas, but that didn't work out. Fortunately, it did work out for all four of us to attend the musical Jersey Boys! I loved the energy of the show (despite the high level of profanity...very authentic Jersey. :-), and the music was fantastic.

Before the show Tara, Lydia, Nate, and I took a little trip to an entirely different cultural experience: Marble Day. Check out the lineup of fun-filled events!

Lydia seemed to approve of the schedule.
We started by watching the self-proclaimed Wacky Parade, which consisted of the Grand Marshall in a golf cart, a middle school band, two homemade floats made for kiddos, and a host of characters from the Renaissance Fair. Oh...and a guy on stilts. Quite the experience! Lydia seemed to like the bubbles much better.

Making bubbles means using your whole body for leverage!
We wandered to the town square to see a pet trick show, but Lydia wasn't quite able to grasp the intricacies  of watching a dog chase the treat that was in its owner's hand. Can't understand how she misunderstood that. ;-) She did understand how much fun can be had on a pile of hay.

I really love this girl. :-)
The animals were the real stars of the festival. Lydia got up close and personal to every animal cage that was on display, and every puppy we passed on the sidewalk got an air kiss. She is just the best!

Sorry, Mom. She even loves the kitties.
Most of the kids were freaked out by the monitor lizard. Lydia just smirked.
We couldn't leave until she had touched each of the lizards!
This weekend was a perfect blend of fun, adult time and delightful, giggle-filled toddler time. Thanks again for hosting us, Nathan and Tara! Can't wait for our next visit.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Little Acts of Legacy

It was nothing special--an impulse really. The dryer buzzed obnoxiously. Nate sat with a stack of work on his lap, brow furrowed intently. I opened the door, felt the warm cotton in my hands, and I was seven years old watching my mother shaking out freshly laundered towels. Her eyes danced as she draped one around me and the warmth of its hug drove out the basement chill and I smiled.

My eyes, the same blue as hers, sparkle as I take the Snuggle-fragranced t-shirt in my hands and drape it around his neck. His eyes close, his shoulders relax, and he smiles. A little act of legacy.

As I shake out the rest of our laundry, stacking the t-shirts over the back of the chair, smoothing them out as I go, smoothing them just like she does, I can't help but think about how much of her is in the little things I do each day. My mom loves through her details. She adds touches of beauty to her space in a way that seems effortless, and I keep thinking some of her magic will rub off on me as I start a home of my own.

I think of her as I find myself mindlessly mimicking her ways, and I think about what my legacy will be, what my children will remember when they're on their own. A legacy handed down through many generations of women, a legacy of warm cotton, a legacy of love built one little act at a time.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Refinement: A Sugar Update

We're one week into our little experiment in self-control! Honestly it's going pretty well. There are definitely times we'll run into one of our regular meals that we begrudgingly alter, but for now we have successfully laughed it off. Again, there's little chance I could be successful without partnering with Nate. He's a champ.

Just as a clarification, we completely acknowledge that cutting out sugar completely is unrealistic. We're just cutting out as much sugar as possible, especially refined sugar, while being smart about the sugar we do consume. For instance, I realize this recipe has a banana in it, and bananas have a high amount of fructose. But I also realize that we've consumed an entire bag of spinach since we started eating them last week! I consider that a win, eh? I'm also not giving up yogurt, as I've always disliked milk but I'm hesitant to remove any other source of calcium from my diet. (Right, Mom? :-) Other than that, we're just being far more intentional about sugar content in the food we eat.

As I mentioned earlier, Nate and I are in a season of making changes in our lives, and this is one of those changes. From the very beginning of our marriage, there have been several life circumstances that have been beyond my control to change. To be honest, I haven't coped with them all that well. I kept my exterior put together, but on bad days I was quick to self-medicate with indulgent treats (i.e. ice cream, etc.). And soon I was indulging myself with treats even on the better days. Without realizing it, I adopted the attitude that proclaimed, "I deserve to eat/do what I want because life is hard right now." Awesome reasoning, eh?

Slowly but surely I've woken up to my skewed thinking and am trying to, by the grace and strength of God, create an attitude overhaul. I cannot change those painful life circumstances, but I can change how I react. Thus, we're cutting back our sugar. We're spending more time outside. Watch out, we might just try to run a 5k! (But don't hold your breath on that one... :-)

How about you? Are you making some changes this spring? How are you going about it? Let me know!

Another List of Proud "Saying No" Moments:
  • Birthday cake
  • Donuts
  • Cinnamon Rolls
  • No soda! Including trips to the movie theater

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Not-So-Sweet Season

Yesterday Nate and I started a season that is definitely a change for us, but the verdict is still out as to how excited I am.

We're done eating sugar (for now).

I know its a smart thing to do, a healthy thing to do, but I'm still a bit wary. Ugh...I really like sugar. :-)

I'm so thankful Nate is partnering with me on this one, as there's no way I'd follow through with it on my own. But here's the rub. Nate is a very disciplined person, and really his lifestyle hasn't changed all that much. We won't have any late night ice cream dates (though I'm the who asks for those...), and we won't purchase any more soda (that he doesn't like paying for anyway...), but overall, he'll just roll with the punches.

Me, on the other hand? I work at a church that has a constant stream of pastries and desserts out for the taking! Plus, I like to fudge on the rules. I sprinkle hints about what my tongue is craving for dessert. I've grown skilled in sweet talking my way to a treat.  (Any other sugary language I can use? I can't help myself. :-)

So here we are. 2 [long] days down with no sugar. I can definitely tell my body is dragging without its normal dose of simple carbs, but again, it's only been two [long] days.

In my last post I said I was going to highlight the positives, so to be sure I accomplish that goal, here is a list of things to which I've said, "No, thanks," in order of difficulty:
  • Hershey kisses
  • Chocolate cupcakes
  • One of my favorite desserts I made for a friend
  • Butter cake...with butter-cream frosting...and raspberry filling
Woo hoo! Anyone have any suggestions as to how to keep saying no? Here's to a beautiful, healthy spring!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Withered and Time for a Change

Nate was cleaning off our crowded counter the other night and forcing me to throw away some of the clutter. (Nate is much tidier/cleaner/better at this than me. :-) He held up a flower arrangement that was far past its prime and asked with pleading eyes, "Can these go away?" I gave a sideways smirk and conceded, but before he tossed them, we proceeded to have the following conversation:
"Do you want to take a picture first?" Nate asked.
"Why would I want to take a picture of dead flowers?" I asked, slightly surprised and mildly horrified.
"Well, it seems like every time something breaks or something, you take a picture and write about it."

Ouch.

He nailed it.

There should be a picture of dried up, droopy flowers right here because that's exactly how we've been feeling: withered.

But God sustains and renews and has been doing some great things despite, because of, through the hard stuff. So I'm going to be intentional about making things a little more positive around here. I won't lie or sugar coat anything (I'm quite bad at that anyway...), but I do want to highlight God's amazing work!

May this beautiful spring weather infuse your day with new life!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Searching for a Word

As 2012 begins, I've been searching for my word. Bloggers who are far more with it than me declared their word for 2012 at the beginning of January. But as you noticed, Christmas didn't finish around here until somewhat recently, so this delay should come as no surprise. Come, wander with me as I search.

From the time I was young, I have loved the peace of the night. I dutifully shut off my lamp when my dad told me it was time for sleep, but after hearing his heavy footsteps reach the bottom of our perfectly creaky stairs, I reached back up to my light switch and read long into the depths of the night. I loved the silence, the stillness only broken by the shifting sounds of my house stretching its nearly 100-year-old frame in the wind. In this place, wrapped up in the blankets of a dark home, reading by a single light, is where God grew my tender heart. I was taught about our Savior in the day, but I learned to know Him in the night.

Adopting normal adult working hours has effectively (though unwillingly) curbed my somewhat nocturnal habits, but I still find the dark hours to be sacred. A thread of holiness weaves through the night in a still home. A thread that sews together the fabrics of security, freedom, and courage--security to be at peace, freedom to be transparent, courage to grapple with today's heart issue. There is holy beauty in this time.

Yet not every night feels this way. There is darkness that is fear-inducing instead of courage-building, oppressive instead of liberating, troubling instead of secure. While the Lord has been gracious in often showing His presence, I feel as though much of the last year was shrouded in various degrees of this disorienting darkness, and I've grown to lose my love of the night.

I don't like it. 

As 2012 began the Lord started showing me that while a new year may not bring all the changes I desire to see, He can change the way I see. You remember why I loved the night when I was young? I read Scripture by a single light while surrounded in darkness and it is there that I grew to know Him. 
This year I'm not asking for all the dark things to be lifted, I'm asking for that single light to grow stronger while I grow closer to my God. Yes, I'm looking for resolution. Yes, I'm looking for clarity. Yes, I'm looking for miracles. But I want to receive these blessings by focusing on my single Light.

I'm excited to see what this year has in store, sweet friends. I have a feeling God is preparing great things for us! Let me know if you've chosen a word, or if you're like me, choose one now! Thanks for wandering with me. Be blessed.

For it is you who light my lamp;
the Lord my God lightens my darkness.
Psalm 18:28

Friday, January 20, 2012

When Christmas Comes Up Short


As usual Christmas lingered for quite a while in our home, but we finally took down our decorations tonight. As I nestled the wreath ornaments back into their prescribed homes, I was reminded that this Christmas was far from perfect. Still full of light-filled beauty and the comfort of home and those that make it, yet scattered with mistakes, slips of the hand and tongue, not without a little brokenness.

I didn't have the Christmas I should've had. All the makings were there: my brother with his new bride, my adorable niece now old enough to participate, Nate and I looking for a little redemption for our first Christmas. But it didn't happen. The should-bes, the wishes, the I-don't-understand-why-nots piled up, the pressure grew and it broke.

The shards fell, cut deep. Slivers caught just when I thought it was clean. Christmas isn't supposed to hurt, right?

And yet the first Christmas wasn't what it should've been either. Pain and unmet expectations define the majority of the Christmas story. Mary & Joseph should've been honored for their faithfulness instead of disgraced. Mary should've gotten to stay in the comfort of her home (or at least gotten the big room at the inn). And most of all, Our Lord and Savior, Eternal God, Author of Life should've been born some place other than a stable, some place warm and clean and free of animals.

Yet, He chose to enter into the lowly place. He chose to begin with the broken, to be the comfort to pain, even upon His entrance into this world.

It's January, a time for fresh starts and blank slates, a new opportunity to get our acts together. But may we all remember as we pack up Christmas, that Christ still seeks to meet us where we hurt. Our expectations, our should've beens, may fall short. But His presence will match our needs every time. And then He goes even further.

"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly 
than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 
to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus 
throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen"
Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)

Here's to a blessed 2012, dear friends. I can't wait to journey with you!