Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas with Family

I made it home for a week(ish) around my mom's birthday, and we took advantage of having the whole family home for a day to go get the Christmas tree. I repeated the tree picking process a week later to kick off the Kentucky Christmas festivities, but that's an entirely different post. We went to the same tree farm we've gone to for the past decade or more, and, while I tried to rescind my opinion on "pokey" trees (more commonly known as Scotch Pines), we picked out a White Pine like we've done for the past twenty-five Christmases (and maybe longer…those are the only ones I can attest to).

While everyone else took the tree choosing seriously, I spent more time with my camera. The lighting that particular day was outstanding. The color I was getting made me want to just keep taking photos. So I did.

We finally just had to choose one so we could get home and make a birthday dinner for Mom. Try as we did, we couldn't get her to leave the kitchen and let us cook. What's the good of having grown (and mostly grown) daughters if you still have to cook your own birthday dinner?

We made her stuffed shells (which were amazing) and garlic bread and a salad and a german chocolate cake. And successfully managed to kick her out of the kitchen.

My family, for the most part, cancelled their weekly activities to be home, and we got some quality Bananagrams playing time. We also fit in a basketball game and I let Kaitlyn drive away in my car. By herself. That was weird.

While the trip seemed to fly by, it was great to get some time there. Due to being in a wedding the week after Christmas and working in retail, I couldn't squeeze in getting home for Christmas itself. I did get to spend some time with my family on Christmas day via Skype, though, and got to celebrate the day with my roommate and church family. While different, I definitely enjoyed the Christmas season (and got some fun kitchen things too!) I'll try to get some KY Christmas (and wedding) pictures up soon.

Friday, December 30, 2011


After much preparation and planning and anticipation, we finally get to marry Christy off today. The sweet part about the event is that she is marrying a great guy who is crazy about her and respects her and treats her like she deserves to be treated. The bitter part about the event is that he is whisking her off to Iowa, which, last I checked, is not exactly next door.

Having lived with her for pretty much the past 5 1/2 years, this will be a bit of an adjustment for me. We had one major in common and were on the same hall for three years. Our last year at school we technically lived in different dorms but realistically both lived in the library, and logged many hours side-by-side at our table on the main floor. The past year and half we've been housemates, which worked out incredibly well in spite of the fact that dishes are really important to me while not so much to Christy (and the fact that she originally did not like my cat. At all. Fortunately, their relationship improved as the months went on.)

Christy is an amazing girl who has always been there for me and challenged me in my faith when I've needed that accountability. I've held her when she's sobbed and she's done the same to me. She has always had an open ear and her presence alone would be an encouragement during times I was really struggling. We have signed contracts to hold each other accountable and spent hours praying for and over each other and anyone else the Lord laid on our hearts. Most of all, we have just been able to be real with each other.

Christy, thank you for your friendship and the amazing example you have been to me throughout the years. You have blessed my life more than I think you will ever be able to know. Kentucky's loss is Iowa's gain, and I have no doubt that any corn exported from there in the next few years will be that much sweeter because you are there.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

With a Thankful Heart…

I had intended to try to do a post a day this month with something I am thankful for, but suddenly it is Thanksgiving already and none of the aforementioned posts have actually happened. I will, therefore, consolidate them into a single, albeit epically long, post. 

(Note: these are not really in order of importance or how I would necessarily rank these blessings. I numbered them simply to match days in November leading up to Thanksgiving.)

I am thankful for…

1. My sisters. Sisters are built in friends with whom I share a bond that exists with no one else. They can drive me nuts sometimes, but I'm sure I drive them nuts sometimes too, so it's all fair. Also, no one else can truly nail a game of Spades like we can. But, then again, we've had a few years worth of practice in that area.

2. My church family. I have been exceedingly blessed with being a part of two wonderful fellowships of believers. I always viewed the people in the church I grew up in as my extended family, and really hated to miss a Sunday at church for any reason. Leaving them to go to college was as hard for me as leaving my family, and whenever I go back to visit I feel like I can pick up right where I left off to catch up with everyone—I guess distance cannot break that bond of love.

I never even considered I might find another church body where I could love and be loved as much as I was at FBF, but God has shown me that His body is not limited to a single location and He blessed me with a church where I am accepted and loved, and am able to serve in such a way that the more I pour out the fuller I become. And while my family may live nine hours away, I feel as though I can actually reach them with a ten minute drive.

3. Uplifting songs. Those I have lived with know I can go through stages where I am stuck on one song and will play it on repeat for days on end (I will no longer admit to the play count that the Anne of Green Gables theme has in my iTunes…) Songs can usually touch me in a way that is difficult to communicate, sometimes on a more shallow level where I just marvel at the beauty of them (See The Light from Tangled, for example) and sometimes on a deeper level that opens my eyes to Truth (I Will Rise by Chris Tomlin, Better Than I from the Joseph: King of Dream soundtrack, This is My Destiny by Dennis Jernigan, and this list could go on and on…)

4. Joy. Joy goes deeper than happiness and can be present even in the midst of pain. What a precious and needed gift from God.

5. Friends, part 1. My friends from Virginia, to be more exact. No matter how long it has been since I've seen them, we can jump in and talk like we've never been apart. I greatly value the memories I have from my teen years, and I am so thankful for that time of my life. Even now just the mention of a name can bring a smile to my face. I was able to be myself in a larger group and was able to learn to love past differences. Now I am blessed by being able to see how God is leading and directing and blessing these same friends, even as great physical distances separate us.

(Way Back When…)

(Even Further Back…)

6. Friends, part 2. My friends from Asbury. While college was fun, being able to extend the social aspect of it and live with my closest friends for another year and a half has been a treasure. I am challenged and held accountable daily by them, and share so many inside jokes that we must appear at times to be speaking a different language. I am so thankful for the opportunity to share life with them and to be close enough to them to be able to see how God has changed and shaped and grown them over the past five years. Seeing God work in others' lives is as big of a blessing to me as looking back on my own and seen what He's done for me. I can honestly say I would not be anywhere near the person I am today without the presence of these friends in my life.

7. Love never dying. Until my junior year of college I could easily keep one hand on things at school and one on things at home and reach everyone dear to me. After that year, though, so many moves happened that I have people I love all across the country. I am so thankful that distance cannot dim love, and that one day we will all be in a place where distance is no longer a factor. I am so excited at the thought of what Heaven will be like!

8. The future. While unknown, it holds great promise. "For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

9. Lying in bed, listening to rain falling and a cat purring.

10. Beauty. Beauty in the world, and beauty in people. "There can never be a more beautiful you…you were meant to fill a purpose that only you could do…"

11. Enjoyable interests. I love that I can enjoy baseball and Psych and fun things in life. 

12. Children. I am so thankful for the number of children I have had in my life that I have been able to love and be loved by. I have probably learned more from them than from anyone else. (And I am thankful for the parents who have let me love their kids!)

13. God's perfection, and His grace for my imperfection. 

14. My years at Asbury. They transformed my life. It was there that my faith went from something I knew I ought to believe to something that I actually do. Through several influences there I began to understand exactly what my identity in Christ is. I wouldn't exchange those four years for anything.

15. The example my parents set for me. I never attended church because I had to, but because I could see my parents wanted to be there and so I wanted to as well. Being involved and giving time to the ministry of the church is just what you do. I also see another influence from them…I'm always one of the last people to leave on Sunday. Maybe that's why they want to get me a key :-)

16. Laughter. How empty life would be without it.

17. My education. While it is expected in the U.S. for everyone to have an education and we take that for granted, it is not something many people around the world are blessed to receive. 

18. How God has provided for me. I have never been lacking for anything, but have always had exactly what I need. Seeing His provision in the past gives me confidence that He will continue to provide, and that is one worry that I do not even have to consider. "My God will provide all my needs, according to His riches in glory…"

19. Baking. I love to bake. I love to bake more than I love eating what I have baked (and this goes back to being thankful for my friends: I'm thankful that they will eat what I bake, so that I can bake some more). Baking seems to be one of those activities that you can learn in a day, but have to work at it for a lifetime to master. I think that's why I love it so much.

20. Lessons I have learned. With each step of life's journey, I am able to look back and realize important lessons I learned through that experience. It also allows me to see how God is directing my steps, and I am humbled by how much greater His wisdom is than my own. 

21. Books. From a good novel to a history book to historical fiction pieces, I can get lost in another world through reading and experience things I otherwise would not be able to. 

22. Giving. The more I give the more I am filled, because it really is more blessed to give than receive. 

23. My glory being all the cross. I don't have to prove myself to anyone or spend my life trying to make a name for myself. My glory is all in Christ. "May the love of Jesus fill me as the waters fill the sea. Him exalting, self abasing—this is victory! / May His beauty rest upon me as I seek the lost to win, and may they forget the channel, seeing only Him!"

24. Mashed potatoes. And turkey. And stuffing and gravy. And a day for the world to stop and to remember to be thankful. I really love the thanksgiving meal (which is fortunate for me, since I get two of them today!) , but, more importantly, I enjoy getting the hear and read what others are thankful for. Because that reminds me of other things I, too, have been blessed with.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Canning Adventure

I love Fall for two reasons. Beautiful leaves. And apples.

I bought 30 lbs of apples from a local orchard and went to work making apple butter. I ended up doing 5 crookpot batches over the course of a week. The house smelled good enough that I want to find an apple butter candle to burn all the time. 

After peeling and slicing the apples, I added the sugar (a TON of sugar) and the spices and let it cook for 10 hours. I mashed the apples with a potato masher and then blended them with a blender for good measure. The first batch I did I left the peeling on the apples. I won't be doing that again.

Once the apple butter was cooked, I prepared water to can it and sterilized the jars.

I don't own one of those funnels with a big opening for canning, so I used a gravy ladle. It worked amazingly well!

Once I filled the jars, I got the bubbles out and cleaned the rims and put the lids on. I boiled them for awhile and then took them out and let them sit for 24 hours to finish sealing. There were a few I ended up freezing because I wasn't entirely convinced they had sealed, but for the most part I'd say my first attempt at canning turned out rather well!

They are shiny and pretty :-)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

History in Corn

The weather in October was, for the most part, gorgeous. We took advantage of one particularly beautiful day and had a roommate outing in a cornfield.

The field was on an equestrian farm and lay adjacent to a pumpkin patch. More on that later.

I guess I've never spent any quality time in a cornfield before, because I was enamored with the roots of the stalks. They are strong enough to hold the plant off the ground and look like creepy spider legs. 

The day was good training time for Christy, whose future holds corn. A lot of corn. What else is there in Iowa?

This cornfield, however, was not your normal field. History was the topic of the day, and we traversed the entire southeastern portion of the U.S. that afternoon, following in the steps that Union and Confederate armies first took 150 years ago. At one point we lost Courtney, only to discover she had disappeared on the Underground Railroad and was making her way steadily north on unmarked trails we had not noticed.

We started the day in Florida and I insisted we follow the seacoast north to my home state. We left the coast in North Carolina and ended up in Richmond in no time. (Note that this picture includes history, Virginia, AND Apple all together. Throw in a piece of Psych paraphernalia and it would have summed me up perfectly.)

While the history aspect held my attention, Courtney turned hers to perfecting talents no one knew she had. Maybe one day I will understand where the planking phenomenon came from…but I highly doubt it.

Being stuck in the middle of a maze of corn brought up the inevitable references to Pocahontas. Being around each other brought up the inevitable references to Harry Potter. Christy carried around her wand for most of the journey, perfecting the "Expelliarmus!" spell.

Sam then got on the wrong side of the stupefy spell, but recovered quickly enough that we were only momentarily sidetracked from our journey.

After a long and desperate journey that took us from Florida to Maryland to Ohio to Louisiana and then to Kentucky, we celebrated our successful exit from the maze with much joy. Our excitement and relief could not be contained.

Shifting our attention from corn to pumpkins, we began the hunt for the perfect gourd. When we search for pumpkins, we are serious about it.

I was skeptical that our freezer would be able to hold puree from four pumpkins, but I was proven wrong. We are now in the market for any good recipes that contain pumpkin. Suggestions are appreciated and will be given serious consideration to be included in future cooking frenzies that seem to happen all the time around here.

Most people go to college for four years, but we decided that wasn't a long enough for us to spend together and went with extended college for our post-grad life. It's more fun that way.