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


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


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?" just sounded like your mom...
" 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?"

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.