Saturday, December 31, 2005

Chips and Queso for Christmas!

This post goes out to my loyal reader and favorite aunt Judy, who got Steve and me a Q-cash card for Christmas! So last night we headed downtown and enjoyed burritos-as-big-as-your-head and chips & queso for free. What a great gift!

I tried to take a picture of us holding our burritos...but couldn't get both the tops of our heads and the burritos in the shot at the same time. After three tries we were tired of pictures and anxious to eat, so I gave up :)

You know the burrito is huge when it can stand on end by itself. YUM. Ahh, we love Qdoba.

THANKS Aunt Judy and Uncle Al!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Worshipping Relevance

Bob Kauflin at Worship Matters has another great post up, this one about the idol of relevance in our churches. A couple of key quotes:

"Our Lord attracted sinners because He was different. They drew near to Him because they felt that there was something different about Him. ...This idea that you are going to win people to the Christian faith by showing them that after all you are remarkably like them, is theologically and psychologically a profound blunder." (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers)

Jesus possessed an "essential difference" that people, both religious leaders and prostitutes, were aware of. That difference included a profound humility, an unshakeable joy, and a servant heart. Ultimately, it was a refusal to bow to the god of this world, and an unyielding commitment to love His Father and obey His will. (Jn. 2:24-25, 5:30)

“By our breathless chase after relevance without a matching commitment to faithfulness, we have become not only unfaithful but irrelevant...” (Os Guiness, Prophetic Untimeliness)
Go check out the whole post!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Explaining Myself

It's been over five months since Steve and I moved to Tennessee--and for me, it's been five months without a job (save for some freelance work I've been doing for Kingdom Building Ministries). After a long holiday weekend at home, I'm once again tired of trying to explain myself.

Lately, the question "How's the job search going?" has been as common as last year's "How's the wedding planning going?"--and equally un-fun to answer. The people who inquire--whether it's family members, friends I haven't seen in a while, or people at church--mean well, and I know they're just trying to show an interest in my life. Nevertheless, I really struggle to come up with an answer, and I often leave the conversation feeling frustrated, stupid, misunderstood or just plain doubting myself.

The truth is, I have not been aggressively searching for a job for the past couple of months. And though I'm far from "sure of myself," I think that this is where I am supposed to be for now.

When we first moved to Nashville, my dream was to work as an editor for a publishing company--something I would still very much like to do. I sent out resumes and applications and made some contacts, but nothing was available. I considered working in a bookstore, but was not appealing to retail employers since I wasn't interested in working much on evenings and weekends. (I'm not that desperate for a job--it wouldn't make sense since that's the time I available to spend with Steve.)

Throughout this whole process, I've struggled with wondering what this season of my life is all about. I've asked God why He created me a certain way and why He gave me a certain calling and why He placed me in certain circumstances. I've often questioned my own understanding and wondered what I am supposed to be doing right now.

I suppose I could be spending eight hours a day hitting the job market hard. I could be pounding doors down and cold-calling for interviews and such. Instead, I'm seeking to fill my time with other meaningful activities--ones that others don't see, and ones that I don't get paid for. And the truth is, I fail more than I succeed. I've always been someone who thrives off of deadlines, structure and schedules--so to be self-disciplined and diligent when I'm home alone all day is a huge struggle. But I'm trying.

*begin disclaimer* It's always at this point in the conversation that I feel the need to make a huge disclaimer, lest I come across the wrong way. Which is frustrating--the feeling of having to share details of your financial situation with people you aren't even particularly close to. In a sense, it's none of your business! But it seems unavoidable if I want my explanation to be correctly interpreted. The basic situation is, Steve and I decided before we got married that we would live off of his income alone. We're in agreement that I'll stay home once we have kids--and we've heard that many couples get burned by living off two incomes at first, then suddenly having half the income and twice the expenses when the wife quits her job to raise children. So to avoid that difficulty, we decided from the start that any income I brought home would not go toward our daily expenses. Therefore, for me to say, "I don't HAVE to work" isn't meant to say, "We're sitting pretty and Steve makes so much money that I can just live off of him." It means, "We've budgeted carefully so that we can get used to being a single-income family from the start , and that's possible only because of God's grace in blessing us with freedom from debt." *end disclaimer*

Some people are approving, or even a tiny bit envious, when they hear all this. They believe in the importance of homemaking, so they applaud my efforts to serve my husband and cultivate skills like cooking (and anyone who knew me last year would be blown away by the leaps and bounds of improvement I have in point, the fact that I made Cornish hens for Steve's and my Christmas dinner last week). They can clearly see the blessings of staying at home and so my current circumstances make sense to them.

Other people are clearly baffled when they hear my circumstances. To be honest, their reaction is probably one I would have if I were them. It's easy to imagine what keeps a stay-at-home mom busy all day, but a stay-at-home wife? "What do you do all day?!" is the question their faces ask, even if they don't articulate the query. They imagine I must be eating bonbons and watching Oprah all day--what a rough life. (For the record: the TV is never on at our apartment unless we are watching football or a rented video, or I am exercising...and I don't think I've ever had a bonbon, though I do probably eat too much chocolate :)

Staying at home all day has plenty of advantages and blessings, to be sure. It also can bring plenty of frustrations and struggles. I often doubt myself and wonder what I'm doing here at home. But for now, I sense that God has many, many character-building lessons for me to learn during this season--whether it ends next week or lasts indefinitely. Part of the length may depend on me; there are days when I am cooperative, patient and full of trust in God, but there are also (more) days when I am whiny, self-pitying, and rebellious.

I'm already seeing that one purpose staying at home serves is to mortify my pride. I am humbled every time I feel someone's pity when they find out that I "still haven't found a job"; every time the look on someone's face says critically, "What in the world do you do all day?"; every time I fail at using this time wisely and making the most of every opportunity; every time I do anything eternally significant that is seen only by God rather than in the spotlight.

Ultimately, I'm trusting that God in His sovereignty ordained this "time in obscurity" for me, and that it's His best for me, for His greatest glory. Tuesday night on the way back home after our Christmas in Ohio, He gave me a little confirmation and assurance through some lyrics on one of my favorite CDs. This is where I am right now:

Sitting in the waiting room of silence
Waiting for that still soft voice I know
Offering my words up to the rooftop to Your heart
Trusting that this closet's where You are
Lord, I know if I change my mind
You will change my heart in time
Sovereign Lord this time's from You
So I sit in the waiting room of silence
Cause it's all about You

--"Waiting Room," Shane & Shane

On Christians Crying "Persecution" in the U.S.

This blogger thinks our boycotts and protests of retail stores and TV shows are counterproductive at best. I tend to agree. Here in America, we have NO idea what persecution of Christians really is. It seems to me that our time, money and energy could be better spent.

(HT: Justin Taylor)


As I've built relationships in Ohio, Indiana, Colorado and Mongolia, and as people from each of those locations have scattered from California to New York, Texas to Japan, I've come to terms with the fact that some people are "friends for a season." Some people are lifetime friends, those people who remain a key part of your life and with whom you keep in touch somewhat regularly. But that just isn't possible with every friend who touches your life. If I tried to keep in close, regular contact with each one, I'd spend all my time writing emails and making phone calls, with no time to build new relationships and establish roots here and now. So I've realized that losing touch with an old friend doesn't diminish his or her importance in your life. Sometimes you just have to thank God for the blessing of knowing that person for a season, acknowledge that the season is over, and remember fondly.

That said, it's a wonderful and unexpected blessing when God chooses to bring one of those "for a season" friends back into your life. That's what happened to me last week: a reunion with a college classmate whom I hadn't talked with in two and a half years and never thought I would see again!

Rebekah and I had a couple of classes together at IWU when she was a senior and I was a junior; we got to know each other as we edited each other's essays and commiserated through the agony that was Nonfiction Writing. I liked her a lot, but we didn't spend much time together outside of class--as upperclassmen, we each just had other activities and friends. So we weren't quite close enough to keep in touch after college, and when she left in 2003, I never expected to see her again.

Fast forward two and a half years. When Steve and I moved to Tennessee this summer, I was thinking of her (knowing she was in Tennessee) and wondering what she was up to these days, and to make a long story short, I found her through the vast network of IWU alumni blogs :) We hoped to reconnect at some point in person, since her hometown is about an hour from Nashville, and last week it finally happened!

After a bit of an adventure trying to get downtown, I finally met Rebekah at Fido, this great coffeehouse near Vanderbilt. And we spent the next two hours going deep--filling each other in on the last couple of years, sharing our hearts, talking about where we're at now--and agreeing that we need to make this a regular thing.

It was water to my thirsty soul. Such a blessing to have real, honest, below-the-surface conversation with someone down here at last! I love it when God does cool stuff like this--and I'm so glad to have a friend from a different season suddenly back in my life.

I Am In Mourning

...because of this.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Epilogue: Wedding Drama

The original plan was that I was going to get to pick up our wedding album this weekend while we were home. The fact that I arrived home empty-handed was only a fitting ending to the drama that surrounded all wedding plans last year. I swear, it really was/is like Murphy's Law for Amy's Wedding: "If it's for the wedding, something will go wrong."

I got an email from our photographer late last week saying that she was extremely sorry, but that there had been some problems submitting the files to the lab and she doubted the album would be in by Tuesday. No problem--it happens. I wasn't upset or anything. So when she called Tuesday afternoon before we left and told me it was in, I was surprised and excited. She said she hadn't yet checked it for errors; she'd picked up the phone to call me as soon as the UPS shipment arrived, but she figured I'd want to see it anyway, even if there was some mistake in it.

When I arrived at the studio, I was greeted with a frown. She had discovered mistakes (the lab's, not hers) on at least 11 pages of the 32-page album. It was horrible. Apparently the lab has no quality control and does not even bother to do a surface inspection of the albums that they send out. Ridiculous! She said she had never had a wedding album have this many mistakes. Of course it would be mine. Murphy's Law for Amy's Wedding, remember?

Other than the mistakes, the album was beautiful overall. But it has to be sent back and the lab will have to redo the entire thing. I just had to laugh--after the constant drama of wedding planning (which I blogged about here, here, and here before finally getting some perspective and sharing it here), it would only seem fitting that the entire process would conclude with another minor snafu.

But I really can't complain. It all (at least most of it) worked out in the end. And now the stress is over and I'm happily married!

Twelve Things: Christmas Edition

I Love...

  • Bath and Body Works' new brown sugar & fig scent
  • sugared roasted almonds from those kiosks in the mall
  • snow on Christmas
  • seeing family and friends
  • getting to spoil and love on cute babies without the responsibility of being their parents :)
  • sugar cookies with lots of red hots
  • Christmas hymns in a candlelit church

I Hate...

  • feeling torn between Steve's family and mine
  • Christmas gifts that don't arrive before we leave for home
  • feeling miserable because I ate too much good food
  • packing and unpacking
  • not being able to squeeze in visits with everyone I want to see

Home for Christmas

Steve and I had a great time being home over Christmas. Unfortunately I have very few family pictures to share, though we did have lots of family time! I got my long-craved pizza sub from Pizza Oven on Friday for lunch (yay!) and then we had various Christmas celebrations all weekend with Steve's family and mine. One highlight of the weekend was playing Four on the Couch and Mafia with Steve's mom's family--including Granny, who was a hoot! We were blessed with a carful of gifts from our incredibly generous families and consumed much (okay, TOO much) yummy food. Then Monday was spent connecting with friends.

A few photos from our time at home:

My cousins Kali and Bekah--fun to see them after not having been together since May. Kali's now a doctor out in Colorado Springs, and Bekah is the proud mom of adorable little Matthew.

Of course I have to post a photo of our favorite nephew :) Steve had some manly-man time with Kaleb on Monday morning, then Denise, Dawson and I joined them. He is the happiest baby and I couldn't resist a picture with these adorable antlers!

After spending some time with Kaleb and Denise, I went to a new coffeehouse in town for lunch with some girls I went to high school with. A couple of them still live in the area and the rest of us try to get together at least once or twice a year. Interesting to see what we're all doing and how we've spread out. Left to right: Nicki (teaching in Texas), Jodi (substitute teaching at home), Michelle (year two of pharmacy school), Brooke (teaching in Savannah), Joy (teaching at home), and me. Michelle and I are the oddballs for not being educators, I guess!

Then on Monday night, I met Jill and Julie for dinner and some girl time. These two were my best friends in high school and despite many life changes and being separated by distance, we've remained best friends. Two hours of talking with them was just what I needed! Beautiful, godly women--I could not ask for better friends.

Finally, I can't help myself--another picture of Dawson, only because he's wearing the outfit we got him for Christmas. Kaleb brought him over on Tuesday morning to show us. How cute is he?!

Hope you all had a merry Christmas as well! Besides the blessings of loving family and friends, I'm grateful for the incomparable gift of the Word made flesh. "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him" (1 John 4:9). Praise Him for stooping to our level and becoming one of us, that we might know Him and live forever reconciled to Him!

It was great to be home in Ohio, and yet it's also nice to be back home in Tennessee. And after my little posting-hiatus for the last couple of weeks, I've got many more posts coming, so stay tuned :)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Irony

For the last several days I've felt like I had nothing to write about. Now today I have something to write about...and no time to write. I've been scurrying around all morning getting ready to go home and have run out of time to blog as I intended. Perhaps I'll update from home this weekend...but no promises. For now, have a merry Christmas, all!

Friday, December 16, 2005

My Middle Name

Quote of the day (via AIM, from my dear friend Maria)
procrastination is SO your middle name. i don't know who even told you it was Nicole, but they are wrong. :-)

Guilty as charged. Exhibit A: The fact that other than some online shopping, I began my Christmas shopping yesterday. Exhibit B: The fact that I am writing this blog post right now rather than working on the magazine article that's due today.

Back to work...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

O Christmas Tree

Steve and I went to a "tree farm" (read: a grove of trees in someone's front yard) this weekend and cut down our Christmas tree. Now that we've got some decorations on it, it doesn't look too bad, but when we first put it up, it looked a little Charlie-Brown-esque. (It's actually about 7 feet tall, despite the fact that it looks tiny in this picture.)

I'm no horticulturist, but I think the problem is that the dear, sweet people of Tennessee think white pines make good Christmas trees. When my northern readers really know that you need a good spruce tree. On this silly tree, the branches are thin and sparse, and the needles are so long and soft that it's extremely difficult to hang any sort of ornament. Well, at least it's got a good shape.

It still needs a topper, but I haven't had a chance to look anywhere but Walmart--and the only ones they had were incredibly tacky. Alas--it is our first Christmas tree, and I think it's kind of cute.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Who ever said God isn't involved in the details of our lives?

Steve and I like to order from Papa John's because their pizza is clearly holier than all others.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Just Call Me Betty

...Crocker, that is. Or something like that :) Who'da thunk?

I got the cookie-baking bug this week--had several new recipes I wanted to try. I figured if I made up plates for our neighbors, it'd be an easy way to be a friendly neighbor over the holidays, and to get rid of them after I'd baked them (goodness knows I do not need all those cookies in the apartment for me to eat!)

Roughly sixteen dozen cookies later...the picture above shows most of the fruit of my labor :) I made Steve's family recipe for frosted sugar cookies; key lime white chocolate meltaways; peanut butter/Hershey's Kiss cookies; chocolate mint cookies; and my grandma's famous buttermilk cookies. Yum!

I'm learning, slowly, to try and let go of my perfectionism. I think part of the reason I've gotten so anxious and frustrated about cooking in the past is because I expect everything to turn out exactly right the first time. When in reality, cooking--especially trying new recipes--is often a process of trial and error.

So, when the first round of chocolate mint cookies were AWFUL (they spread all over the place, making them crispy, and they were disgustingly greasy), I tried to cut myself some slack. I looked for a different recipe online (I followed all the directions exactly, so I do think part of the problem was the recipe, not me) and bought new ingredients, telling myself "this is part of the learning process" rather than, "way to go, now you're spending more money on ingredients." And the second version turned out great!

The Best Sports Prank

I've heard of some good pranks that schools play on other schools. But I think this one takes the cake:
Yale Pranks Harvard: "At the game 20 Yale students donned custom made 'Harvard Pep Squad' t-shirts and went into the Harvard stands and passed out 1800 sheets of red and white construction paper. They told the Harvard fans that, on a predetermined signal, they were to raise their piece of paper over their heads and it would spell out 'Go Harvard.' However, when they did it, here's what the Harvard fans actually spelled out. "

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Fun Times with Friends

This weekend featured a long-anticipated visit from some of our dearest friends, Kaleb and Denise. Their three-year (so hard to believe!) anniversary was in November, and Denise decided that her gift to Kaleb would be a visit to see his best friends in Tennessee. What a great gift!

Kaleb and Denise are our first couple-friends--from back before Steve and I were even together. Kaleb, Steve and I were inseparable our senior year of high school, and then as he and Denise got more serious, the four of us often went out together (I always liked it because it felt sort of like a double date even though Steve and I weren't dating yet :) Denise is a very special, one-of-a-kind girl to put up with Kaleb!

Friday night we ventured downtown for the Nashville Gas Christmas Parade--which was not worth standing in the cold for, as far as I'm concerned. I thought there were supposed to be cool floats--but if there were, they were at the tail end and we didn't brave the cold long enough. All we saw were fourteen dozen shriners (what exactly do the shriners do anyway? I think it's something to do with children's hospitals...but it occurred to me as we watched that perhaps they'd have more money for the children if they didn't buy so many tiny cars and goofy hats...), a bazillion clowns, and several bands who never played while they were in front of us. So once we were all barely able to walk because we couldn't feel our toes, we headed to the warmth of our car and then home. Alas, it was fun being with friends, even if the parade was a disappointment.

We spent Saturday braving the crowds at Opry Mills mall--wow, wow, wow. Remind me next year to get all of my Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving. I really don't care to brave those kinds of mall crowds ever again. Thankfully since I'm still jobless I can shop during the day in the middle of the week and hope it won't be so bad then. Anyway, we took Kaleb and Denise to the Opryland Hotel, which was beautifully decorated for Christmas, and then, exhausted, we headed home and had steaks. (We finally used up the last slab-o-beef a few weeks ago, but Steve bought a new one on Friday in honor of their visit.)

We had originally planned to go line dancing at Wildhorse Saloon, but were glad we decided not to since we were all so pooped from shopping all day. So we had a fun evening in, playing cards and drinking homemade pina coladas and strawberry daiquiris :) Unfortunately the poor-quality picture of Kaleb and Denise at the Opryland Hotel was the only one I got all weekend. I had intended to get one of the four of us before church on Sunday morning--but my poor husband got sick and stayed in bed :( But just for fun, here's a picture of the four of us (and Dawson) from Steve's brother's wedding in August.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

(Excuse me while I preach to myself briefly. I'm struggling with this and I know I need to hear it. You can listen in if you like.)

"God chose these men and refined them through the crucible of time to prepare them for their tasks. ...God intends for the time we spend awaiting further enlightenment and fuller harvest to bulge with relationship."**

Abraham waited 25 years from the time God promised he would be the father of nations, to the time his son Isaac was finally born.

Joseph waited two years in prison until those he had helped remembered his dream-interpretation skills and brought him before Pharaoh.

Moses waited 40 years in the desert--keep in mind this was before he wandered with the Israelites for another 40 years--this was 40 years between when he killed an Egyptian and when God spoke to him in a burning bush, calling him back to Egypt.

Hannah waited years for God to answer her plea for a child.

David waited 15 years from the time the prophet Samuel anointed him as the Lord's chosen king until the time Saul died and he actually became king.

God's chosen people waited 400 years in silence from the time of the last prophet until God spoke again with the Word made flesh.

Jesus waited 30 years to begin His public ministry.

The disciples waited three long, dark days to see their Redeemer rise from the dead.

John waited years, even decades between the time he was prominent in the early church in Acts and the time he received inspiration from God to write his gospel and epistles and the Revelation of Jesus Christ. "John served in biblical obscurity for much longer than the other apostles served, period."** Peter and Paul had highly visible ministries. His fellow disciples were martyred one by one. Still he waited.

"In spite of others seeming more powerfully used by God and in the midst of decades hidden in the shadows, John remained faithful to his task. ...You have not been forgotten! You have no idea what may lie ahead! God spent this time testing and proving John's character so that he could be trusted with the greatest revelation. The answers God gives us in our tomorrows often flow from our faithful todays."**

"If I am never greatly used by God in a way that I deem significant, can I still believe that I am loved like the apple of His eye? ...[John] knew two things...He knew that he was called to be a disciple. And he knew that he was loved."**

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD (Psalm 27:14).

But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, "You are my God." My times are in your hands... (Psalm 31:14-15).

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him...Wait for the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land... (Psalm 37:7,34)

I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God (Psalm 38:15).

(**Quotes from Beth Moore, Beloved Disciple, LifeWay, 2002.)