Friday, December 30, 2011

A Year of Peace & One Thousand Gifts

"Peace. It does not mean to be in a place with no noise, trouble, or hard work.  It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart."

In 2011 my word of the year was "Peace."  In the past {almost} 365 days, I have learned that peace is:

  • The umpire of my life.  I try not to choose to do or think something unless it brings me peace
  • Always there.  God's peace is there for the taking 100% of the time.
  • A decision.  We must decide to accept it in all of life's situations.
  • A cozy, quiet night at home alone with a good book. But it is also...
  • A crazy hectic day when I just want to cry and give up.  
I guess the main thing I'm taking away from this year is that peace is not circumstantial.  Yes, it is very easy to feel God's peace during a quiet time in a good day.  But it's also possible to feel it while you're stuck in a traffic jam.  We can feel it when all feels right with the world, and we can feel it when our worlds are crumbling.  We can feel it when the harvest is plentiful, and in times when we don't know where we'll get our next meal.

If we choose peace in a situation that is not peaceful, that is where real discipline can be found.  And real victory, and real closeness with God.  It doesn't come naturally.  But those are the times in which we need peace the most.  Because life isn't always quiet mornings and beautiful sunsets.  Life is traffic jams, running late, deadlines, arguments, pain, disease, divorce, infertility, loss, depression, poverty, and even death. 

But God is peace.  So when we choose peace in those difficult situations, we are ultimately choosing God.  We are choosing to let Him take over and have control.  Because we know that "all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)

I praise God for all He has taught me about peace this year, and I hope this is a discipline I can carry on throughout my life.


I have chosen  my word for 2012 as well. It is a word that lends itself to peace.  It is peace graduated: being so peaceful about something that we praise God for it.  My word for 2012 is:

I am just finishing reading Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts

Ann has some beautiful things to say about thanksgiving:

"...thanksgiving always precedes the miracle."

"Thanks is what multiplies the joys and makes any life large, and I hunger for it."

"God gives gifts, and I give thanks, and I unwrap a gift: joy." 

"Thanksgiving creates abundance; and the miracle of multiplying happens."

"Take the pain that is given, give thanks for it, and transform it into a joy that fulfills all emptiness."

"Is this the paradox - that giving thanks for what is, creates an appetite for more - not more things, but for seeking more of God to give more glory?"

This book has inspired me.  As you can see, it is beautifully written but also full of wisdom.  A must-read.  

It has inspired me to make "Thanksgiving" my word of the year.  I want to take peace a step further.  I don't want to only let God rain down His peace on me like He has for the past year; I want to also feel thankful for his peace and all of his other gifts: the good and the bad.

Ann also has a blog.  Although I'm pretty sure you're probably already following it ;-)  Anyway, every Monday, she does a link up where people can post the gifts from God that they are thankful for, counting up to a thousand and beyond.  

So that's my resolution this year: to count one thousand (and beyond) of God's beautiful gifts.  And not just the ones that are easy to be thankful for, but the difficult ones too.  

I'm so excited for 2012!  I hope I can change my perspective and start appreciating all the gifts that God gives me daily.  Then maybe I can turn my focus away from myself, my, me, me.


(I know I sound like a commercial, but seriously: read One Thousand Gifts if you haven't! And join in on Mondays :-)  There's even a "One Thousand Gifts" app where you can record your gifts and pictures!  I'm so excited to begin!) 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Two Cents

I mentioned the other day that my friend Sarah (AKA Robbie) started a brand new blog.  My favorite blogs are the type that are deep, and not just "fluff" blogs.  If that makes sense.  Anyway, Sarah's is about as far from a "fluff" blog as you can get, so I absolutely love reading it!  She has a unique perspective on things, and I love reading her thoughts :-)  So go on over and read, comment, and follow!

The other day, Sarah asked if I would share my experiences in a guest post in the area of physical boundaries before marriage and sexual purity.  I know this is not the most comfortable issue to talk about, but I felt honored that she asked me!  So I'm over there today, guest posting.  Check it out...I'm sure Sarah would love to hear your thoughts, and so would I.

And just like that, I'm off to play with my Kindle Fire some more ;-)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 - Year in Review

2011 - what a crazy year.  Sometimes crazy-good, and sometimes crazy-bad.  A lot of life-changes happened, but the important things stayed the same.  My expectations for the year were so far off from reality.  

What can I say?  It was a roller coaster of a year, and at least it wasn't boring!

2011 was definitely the most exciting and crazy year since 2008 (the year I got married, moved into Luke's apartment, bought a house, renovated the house, and got our first pet.  Something tells me that nothing will ever beat 2008!)

Some BIG things happened in 2011.  Including:

~Ringing in the New Year without my hubby because he was playing in a band at a big youth conference in Colorado.

~Completely skipping town, leaving our jobs, cold weather, and everyday life behind, forgetting about our fertility struggles, and spending a week in Arizona with Luke's grandparents!  We saw it all: Green Valley, Tucson, Kartchner Caverns, Tombstone, Sedona, Flagstaff, and The Grand Canyon.  After a stressful, frustrating few months, we really needed that week.  I loved every minute of our trip. 

~During the winter, both of my cousins had babies: Hudson and Elin.  These were the first babies born into our family since we were all little, so it was very exciting.

~In the beginning of February I got an iPhone!  I hate to be so shallow as to say that it was a highlight of my year, but it really was.  I don't know how I functioned before, and it has really made life a lot easier!

~In February I also went to the doctor about my fertility issues and was prescribed Clomid.  I thought this was the answer to all my problems, but it turned out that the medication did not fix my problems.  This was a big turning point, but I'll get to that in a moment :-)

~Sometime in the early spring, Luke and I started a new endeavor: a Bible study for young marrieds.  We loved our group, learned some great things, and made some great friends!

~In April I got 10 inches of my hair cut off for Locks of Love...this was a big change!

~Also in April, our church building project was complete and Luke played his drums in the first worship service in our new sanctuary.  This was an exciting time!  This was also around the time when I started working on the library committee at the church.  this has turned out to be the perfect place for me to serve!

~ Sometime in the spring when I realized the Clomid wasn't helping my fertility problems, something snapped in me and I realized there was a reason we were having all this trouble.  Obviously it wasn't in God's plan yet for us to get pregnant, and I was done putting my life on hold.  So that's when I decided to apply to the University of Akron's SLP program.  God has blessed me through the whole process, and I am so excited to be in the middle of His plan.  Children will come in time.

~In May I got to do three exciting things regarding my sister: attend her senior showcase for interior design, watch her graduate, and throw her a bridal shower

~In June I got to be the maid of honor in my sister's wedding!  That was a whirlwind of a month with all the last minute preparations, but such a fun time!

~In July, Luke and I celebrated three years of marriage.  He surprised me with a weekend spent at Cedar Point.  We stayed at Hotel Breakers.  And I guess the weekend spent riding roller coasters is a great way to represent our roller coaster of a year :-)

~In August I started back to school at Akron!  I loved all of my classes, and really enjoyed the semester.

~Sometime in the fall I shared my fertility struggles on the blog.  It has been great to find other people to relate to, and it was a weight lifted off my chest when I finally shared everything with the world.  I'm really glad I made that decision.

~I celebrated my 27th birthday in November.  It was a great birthday, but a little bittersweet as another year had gone by without a baby.

~In December I fully embraced the Christmas season!  Finals were very early at Akron, and I had almost the entire month off.  I spent the month celebrating, substitute teaching, finalizing graduate school applications, and enjoying a busy Christmas with my family!

...And that brings us to the present.  See?  Lots of things happened in 2011.  We went through a tough time with our fertility struggles, we watched my sister get married, took a big vacation and a little weekend trip...oh, and I completely changed my career path and went back to school.  

Like I said, 2011 has been so crazy!  And I can't even imagine what 2012 will bring.  Will it bring a baby?  Or will it bring grad school?  Both?  Neither?  I can hardly wait to find out.  Either way, I am glad that I have God to lean on through all of it, and Luke, my family and friends beside me :-)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas '11 Festivities

We had a great and very busy Christmas!

Here are some (sorta) quick holiday highlights and lots of pictures:

~ On Sunday it snowed!! It didn't stick around, but it was nice for a day at least

~ We puppy-sat Max for the week of Christmas!  Having 3 animals in our house made for a lot of snuggling time

~Had a fun date night with Luke, driving around looking at Christmas lights

~ Had a big baking day on Wednesday...I made fudge and 4 other kinds of Christmas treats

~ On Friday I spent the afternoon with Sarah.  We baked zucchini bread and set up her new blog!!  Check it out!!  And follow her!  Her posts are deep and they really make you think.  And she's also super funny!

~ Later on Friday night, Mom invited the whole family over for a big turkey dinner.  It was a really nice evening in with the family, because I knew Christmas Eve and Christmas day were about to be crazy!  

~On Christmas Eve, Max was sportin' his adorable Christmas sweater!  Had to get a picture...even though he doesn't look too thrilled.

~Our first stop was the candlelight service on Christmas Eve.  It was beautiful!

~Second stop on Christmas Eve was my mom's side of the family's Christmas party where we had a delicious dinner and fun white elephant gift exchange

~Our final stop of the evening was Luke's parents house to exchange gifts.  It was a fun time!  And I got a Kindle Fire (from both sets of parents...Luke's and mine :-))  Totally unexpected, and it has barely left my hands in the past 48 hours. 
Luke got "The Bro Code" book from his sister.  SO funny!! 

~Christmas morning Luke and I exchanged gifts.  I got him a sweater and a blu-ray, and he got me a pink cover for my Kindle, and the Crazy Stupid Love of my favorite movies!

~Next stop was church on Christmas morning for a lovely service, and then to my parents' house to exchange presents with the family.  We felt so blessed and spoiled!

~Next up was Luke's grandparents' house where we had more delicious food, played board games, and exchanged gifts.  I must not have had my camera out much here because I didn't get any good pictures!  Oops

~Finally our last stop of the day was my Aunt Viv's house for my dad's side of the family.  We were barely functioning at this point, but we had a yummy dinner, caught up with family we hadn't seen in months, and had another white elephant gift exchange.  

~ I should have come home and immediately collapsed into the most restful sleep of my life. However, earlier last week I read The Hunger Games, and had started reading Catching Fire (the second book of the trilogy) on my Kindle.  And I just couldn't put it down!!  This is one of the best series I've ever read!! So I stayed up late reading by the light of the Christmas tree.  

What a wonderful, blessed Christmas!  It will take a few days of rest to fully recover, but that's what the week before New Years is for, right??

I hope you all had a wonderful, Merry Christmas as well!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Cookie Roundup

I thought I may not be making many Christmas cookies this year.  But I changed my mind a few days ago!  I have a few places I'm supposed to bring a dessert to on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, so I thought cookies were as good a dessert as any!  Especially for Christmas.

So I got out of bed bright and early this morning to venture out and get some supplies.  And then I spent almost six hours baking.  That was a lot even for me!  

I made some Scottish Shortbread:

Of course I made Peanut Butter Blossoms

Tried these Chocolate Crackle Cookies (although they didn't "crackle" much!)

Made Pretzel-Rolo Sandwiches (just like these Rolo Turtles, but without the pecans.  Pecans are expensive, so I just used two pretzels :-))

And then I made fudge in cute cookie cutters!  I found the idea on Pinterest a long time ago.  In the tutorial, it says to peel the fudge out of the cookie cutters, but I thought it would be cool to leave the cookie cutters on as an added gift  :-)  I'm going to wrap these in Christmasy bags with a few other cookies, and give them out as gifts.

What a long day!!  Baking is hard work when you do it for six hours!  Tonight Luke has band practice for the Christmas Eve service, so I think it's the perfect evening to grab a mug of coffee or hot chocolate, curl up under a blanket with my fur-babies (plus Max the dog!  We're puppy-sitting til the day after Christmas :-)) and watch It's a Wonderful Life.  I don't want to sound mean, but I sort of can't wait til Luke leaves so I can start my movie night! Ha!  Until then, I still have a big mess in the kitchen to clean up, and a few last presents to wrap!

Now it's starting to feel like Christmas!! :-)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Twinkling Lights

Obviously I've had a little trouble mustering my normal Christmas spirit this year (proof: here and here).

On top of everything else, I had been feeling sad that Christmas just isn't the way it used to be.  My sister won't be home until the last few days before Christmas, and then she's leaving for Ireland a few days afterwards.  Some family traditions have fallen to the wayside because there's just not time.  And Luke and I have seven places to visit between Christmas Eve and Christmas day.  SEVEN in the span of 24 hours.  I wish I were exaggerating.  

Anyway, feeling just a bit down that Christmas has become such a crazy, rushed day, I mentioned to Luke in passing that I was sad my family hadn't had time to go out looking at Christmas lights together the past two years.  

His response? "Well, let's go tomorrow night to Salem!"  

I think he understood that I just needed to do something special.  It made my heart happy :-)

I looked forward to our little date night all day.  And it was nothing fancy:  we drove around town a bit and went to the mansion where a magnificent light display can be found every year.  And then we stopped for fast food for dinner.  

But I just needed tonight so badly.  My love language is quality time, so little outings like this mean so much to me.  Especially when Luke is the one who suggests them.  

What a wonderful, quiet night out before the craziness begins!

And once again, I'm trying not to get caught up in the craziness.  Tonight definitely helped me boost my Christmas spirit, and kick my negativity out of the way!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

'Tis the Season

Christmas - "The most wonderful time of the year."

...or so they say. 

Monday was "one of those days" for me.  I worked all day, and hadn't been able to sleep the night before.  

Running on four hours of sleep, after work I decided to go to Walmart and grab a few things I needed.  Walmart is probably my least favorite place, and I try to avoid going there.  But sometimes it's just easy, especially for Christmas gifts, since they have pretty much everything. 

Anyway, I was finally almost finished with my shopping and looking for one last thing: chocolate syrup, per my husband's request.  

I could not find it.  I went through almost every aisle three times and looked for 15 minutes.  I was grumpy, not smiling at people I passed, and hovering annoyingly when people were in  my way, and even muttering under my breath.  I was so mad I couldn't see straight.  I just wanted to get home!  

Anyway, I finally found the chocolate syrup, across from the candy (no, it never occurred to me to look in the candy aisle for chocolate syrup :-P  This is why I hate Walmart). 

On the drive home, I was feeling a little silly for getting so worked up over something so petty. 

Then it happened. I was sitting in a line of cars behind a red light.  There was a big SUV in front of me, and I couldn't see around it. And I wasn't really paying attention to the cars in the other lane anyway.  Traffic started moving, and I started moving with it.

Well apparently a lady in a red car heading the other direction thought that I was going to let her turn in front of me.  My car started coasting forward as traffic started moving, and the lady in the red car just started turning into my car.  I slammed on my breaks and waved her on feeling apologetic and a little embarrassed that I hadn't noticed that she needed to turn, and hadn't stopped to let her.  

Apparently this lady was having a bad day like I was, because she. was. mad.  I saw her screaming at me as she turned her car in front of mine, and then she showed me a not-so-nice hand gesture.  

I was appalled.  Thinking back on it, I'm still angry.  She was the one who pulled her car in front of mine, causing me to slam my breaks, right??  She would have been the one at fault if our cars had collided.

I know we've all been there.  I was so mad and frustrated at what had happened!  And mostly at the lady in the red car.

I was mad that she was the one who had almost caused the accident.  And I was really mad that she got so angry acting as if I was at fault.  Yes, it would have been kind of me to let her turn, and I definitely would have if I had seen that she needed to.  But for heaven's sake, I certainly hadn't done it on purpose because I'm just a mean-hearted person!  

Mostly I was mad that I had to put up with people like this during what should be the happiest time of the year.  Aren't we supposed to show more love this time of year?  Aren't we supposed to show compassion to our brothers and sisters?  Couldn't she have handled the situation with a little more grace? I was angry that that lady was taking her stress out on me.  

And then I realized that I needed to look in the mirror.  

No, I hadn't screamed at anybody that day or flipped anyone off, or to my knowledge, made anyone cry.

But my attitude while I was shopping was just the same as the lady in the red car's.  

I let the stress get to me, just as she had.  I wasn't being loving or even friendly to those around me. 

It was a hard lesson, and not a fun one to learn.  I was crying off and on for hours (not just because of that incident, but because of all the events of the day combined, plus my lack of sleep).  Anyway, I think God needed to show me something.  I need to stop getting caught up in the stress of this season!  And I need to be extra loving this time of year.  Especially to people like the lady in the red car.  

For the next five days, I will change my attitude.  We are celebrating the birth of The King!  In light of that, it seems silly to get so worked up over such little things.  

Merry Christmas!  

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Week in Review: Christmas Break Week 2


~ After a bit of begging, Luke agreed to go out for lunch after church on Sunday.  It is always a huge blessing when I don't have to worry about cooking!

~Sunday night our church hosted the Young and Alive, a show choir from the high school where I graduated.  I was in Y&A too, so it's always fun for me to watch them!

~On Tuesday I got my hair cut.  I just got a few inches taken off.  I'm still a little unsure of whether I like it or didn't turn out exactly how I was picturing (the layering in the back is kind of weird), but I'm sure it will look better when it grows out a bit.

~After I got my hair cut, I came home to find that my grades were posted!  I am so excited that all my hard work paid, off, and hopefully this will be a big help in getting into the graduate program!


~ Later Tuesday night I got a call from my mom, asking if I could fill in at their card club.  I did, and it was fun!  I was totally exhausted afterwards though because I had subbed all day and spent an hour or so at the salon.  I was ready to get in my warm, comfy bed after that evening!

~ On Wednesday I got to spend the whole afternoon shopping for library books for the church library.  Always fun to buy books with someone else's money ;-)  

~ Thursday evening I went out with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law to see Luke's cousin perform part of the Christmas show she was in.  It was so good!  She is very talented :-)

~ After a busy day of subbing on Friday, I went out with my parents and some family friends to go see the new Sherlock Holmes movie.  It was so good!  I thought it was even better than the first one.  Loved it! 

~We were busy all day Saturday with the Wallace Christmas party.  We spent a lot of time eating good food and catching up with family members we only see a few times a year.  At one point, somehow the "adult children" (aka the 20-somethings) ended up with this kids activity book where you had to find hidden objects in a picture (Where's Waldo style).  Umm, I think we enjoyed it a little too much.  Ha!  We spent a good 45 minutes huddled around, locating objects.  Because we're cool like that.

~Saturday night I hung out with Sarah.  we talked, watched Inception, (one of the best movies of all time) and admired her family's ginormous Christmas tree :-)  It was a fun night.  And it was snowing!!!  finally!  So that was great, too :-)


I can't believe Christmas is just a week away!  I have to be honest: I am nowhere near as ready as I would like to be.  But I refuse to panic.  My goal is to enjoy the season this year :-)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Home Tour

With all the busyness going on in our lives this year, I decided to keep it simple with our Christmas decorations.

I'm finding that less really is more.

Anyway, here are some pictures from our little home. It feels so cozy for Christmas. I would never leave if I didn't have to!

Our colorful tree

Christmas touches in the entry hallway

My homemade poinsettia wreath hanging on my homemade chalkboard

And a few more touches here and there
Merry Christmas!!