Wednesday, December 31, 2008

From Chaos to Order

I grew up in a home that was chaotic. Both my parents grew up in dorms, first at boarding school then at college. Neither learned how to keep a home, nor did they feel it that important to learn once they did get a house. There were many days when my mom considered it an accomplishment when the dishes made it into the dishwasher. It was a fair trade-off: both my parents worked outside the home, so evening time was better spent together playing games and conversing as a family than cleaning house. Things were very cluttered, but never per say “dirty” because there was not any mold, dirt, etc.

This is how my home with my husband has looked for the past five months. The wedding was the 2nd of August, school started the 18th, and I began my job right after the first of September. Winter Break has opened my eyes, and the cleaning rampage has begun! Organizing might be a better word than cleaning, because like my mom’s house, mine isn’t “dirty.” Just cluttered. And I’ve noticed that when I am home alone all day every day, clutter saps my energy and makes me want to sit on the couch like a bump. No one wants to sew or paint if it will take half an hour to clear the table to do so, if the supplies can even be found from the bottom of the spare closet.

So here’s my goals for the next 2 weeks before Spring Term begins:
1. Get rid of “duplicates”; things that both my husband and I had at our separate apartments and no longer need two of. Example: we have 13 standard sized bed pillows. There’s no excuse – about 10 are headed to the homeless shelter Shaune and I volunteer at.
2. Purge clothes we no longer wear, repair clothes that need it, and take the excesses to the homeless shelter.
3. Hang all the pictures, paintings, and mirrors currently stacked in various corners.
4. Restack dishes, pots, and pans so that those I use regularly can be retrieved without pulling everything out of the counter.
5. Create a cleaning list of 5-minute tasks I can do on a regular basis once school begins again and my time disappears.
6. Create a prayer corner in the spare room to be our quiet retreat.

I’ve never set up a home before and have little experience to go on, so wish me luck! I’m certain there will be many blunders and things I have to rearrange later on but I’ve decided that pressing on is better than waiting for the fairies to do it for me . Do any of my dear readers have any advice for a first-time homemaker? I’d be forever grateful!

Monday, December 29, 2008


It’s fascinating the conversations you can have while traveling, with strangers as well as those in your party. This honeymoon week provided many such opportunities to converse with those outside of my normal “safe” world. Some were fascinating, some were tearful, and some may be making drastic changes in my upcoming life. All relate to the bigger picture God’s been painting in my life – shaping me into a more aware, more compassionate woman seeking Him more every day.

Tuesday night after a cold afternoon of sledding (down real mountains! It was so exciting), Shaune and I went to a café in a little tiny mountain town for dinner. As we settled in, a German woman and her American husband sat in the table next to us. We struck up a fabulous conversation about the area, as well as about global travel. It was fascinating to hear her talk about the differences between home and here, as well as the struggles she went through to become an official U.S. resident (as opposed to a student visa) without losing her German citizenship.

Christmas Eve found us invited to join the B&B owner and her friends at a small country church, with h’or dourves beforehand. My heart broke when our host explained her life before purchasing the B&B. She had been the wife of a dignitary and had lived abroad for 17 years. She and her husband lived in Peru and London before their final stint in Germany, where her husband went crazy and left her. She moved back to the States to open the inn as a way of supporting herself and starting over. As sad as this conversation was, she cheered up when she showed us her collections from Peru. She had beautiful fabric, paintings, statues, and many more little bits of memories of her favorite home abroad. I was stirred as I always am when I see mementos from abroad.

We checked out of the inn on Friday morning and went to visit my relatives in the mountains of Tennessee. Our entire visit was a fascinating conversation. My relatives spent several years in Uganda as missionaries with Habitat for Humanity. This spring, they are participating in a fundraising campaigned for Habitat and returning to the village where my cousins grew up. In addition, my dearest cousin is spending the semester in Tanzania working with the World Health Organization. We talked and talked about the joys, sorrows, blessings, and struggles of their life and raising the kids abroad (they’re both in college now).

If this all were not enough, I spent four hours drinking coffee with two Bolivian sisters on the last night of our voyage while my husband and his best friend reconnected at another Martial Artist’s home.

My husband and I have had an on-going conversation since long before the wedding about two topics: one, his love for the culture of Brazil, and two, our passionate desire to serve those less fortunate than ourselves. So far that passion has driven us to local missions such as Meals on Wheels and the homeless shelter down town. However, on the drive home through the glorious foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Shaune turned to me and asked if I’ve ever thought about serving Christ abroad as a long-term missionary. I have. I had been ready to go to Africa for a 3 month stint before I met him and other challenges blocked my path. After a pause, he once again turned to me and said, “Let’s go.” Within minutes of arriving at our home (last night) we were online searching for companies that need our skills in Brazil. We sent out an interest form and hope to hear back sometime in the next week or two.

And I thought I was just going on my honeymoon. Funny, that God we follow.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Adventures in Mountain-Land

Our honeymoon is absolutely amazing. I've never had so much fun in my entire life -- including the actual wedding (which to be honest, was stressful as can be imagined and I was thrilled when it was over). The primary characteristic of this vacation is... nothing. We're staying at a bed & breakfast where the sweet innkeeper prepares our meals and always has a snack on the table. There's a lovely fireplace. A cute little town. And my personal favorite... lots of rocks to climb! Since I was a little girl, I've always enjoyed going "up, up, up!" especially on rocks. I love to look at the world from a different angle.

Nothing can compare with rocks over water. When it's warm enough (sadly, it's not right now) I sit down and just stare as the water moves around me. Waterfalls are hypnotizing.

We check out on Friday then visit with relatives all over the country for the next three days. I'm sad and joyful at the same time -- this will be my first Christmas ever away from my family, which is hard to imagine, but at the same time I'm with my dear husband alone, making new traditions for our family-to-be.

Merry Christmas, blog-world! Don't forget to thank the Savior, who is the cause of all this celebration!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Tomorrow, at 5:00:00pm, my beloved and I leave on our honeymoon! We were married 4 1/2 months ago, on August 2nd, but were unable to take a trip at that time because my college classes resumed almost immediately after the wedding. That, and our wedding was originally scheduled for December 20th and we'd already booked the cabin. We moved the date up for a wide variety of reasons, and I am SO glad we did.

Why, in this culture, the first thing people assume with young marriage is that the girl is already pregnant? This belief is especially prevalent in the university culture I've been a part of for the last four years (the end is near...). It seems like the only reason people in the "intelligent" community marry is because of an "accident." I hate this mindset with a passion and am doing everything I know how to change it. Some of us marry because we love each other and God has placed us in each other's life with enough stability that staying apart only creates unnecessary tension. You don't have to be 30 to be "grown up."

Well... back to the honeymoon. We had planned on skiing but the weather doesn't look like it will cooperate. So we're packing up the guitar, hymn books, board games, sewing, and more to snuggle up in front of the cabin's fire place -- a luxury we don't have in our little apartment. And once we get back, every penny goes in the piggy so we can buy a house before we have too many littles running around.

See you after the first -- 2009!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I am a self-proclaimed perfectionist. This curse has haunted me over the years with body image, school work, how others perceive me… pretty much every aspect of my life. The search for perfection is my weakness and my pride. Now I know conceptually and in my heart that only Christ is perfect. I am a flawed, sinful woman whose self-made “perfection” is filthy in the sight of Him. How hard it is to let go of our idols, though!

One particular point of pride for me is my driving record. I have never been in an accident, hit a post, even ran a red light – until yesterday. Central Illinois got nailed with an ice storm that turned all the roads surrounding me into solid sheets of ice. Perfectionist that I am, I drove slowly and precisely as I went about my errands. Sure, people may have been blowing past me but I wanted to be exact. This lasted until I pulled into the parking lot of my apartment complex, not 100yd from my own front door. There, my car began a graceful, elegant, slow glide right into my neighbor’s Ford Focus. There was absolutely nothing I could do. In tears, I called my husband with the aching question, “What do I do now?”

It was quite a humbling experience. Right after I got a hold of my husband, my cell phone died (oh modern technology). My neighbor wasn’t home. I was on my own with the realization that I can not always control circumstances but I have to make the best of them anyway. I began to pick up the pieces of my car off the ice, praying desperately that someone would take pity and help me. One of the maintenance men for the complex was on the other side of the parking lot, so I begged use of his phone to call the police to come file a report (and my husband, who was panicking when my call dropped). I had to explain the situation to the officer. I had to stand there as other neighbors came and went, all staring, and none of them sliding on the ice. I had to walk over later in the evening to explain it all again once my neighbor was home. This is all so normal, and yet was so painful to me as I came to the realization: I am not perfect.

God has been prodding me to trust him more and to not be as concerned with how others perceive me. It’s been a recurring theme for the past few weeks (or years…). Although I’ve grown greatly in my journey as a Christian, I still hold back many parts of my heart. I’m still more likely to trust my own skills and knowledge than lean on the One who knows more than I can even grasp. I’m trying to learn to live like this:

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

Sometimes I can’t see what God’s doing. I have to let go of my obsessions with how I look to outsiders here and now if I expect God to truly use me and change my world. Sometimes God asks His followers to look silly. See, everyone yesterday knew that my accident was just that – an accident. I had to move past my need to be perfect so that I could put a smile on my face and do everything I could to make it easier for the (very busy) police officer. I was forced to admit that even I can make mistakes. Yesterday was one of the hardest days I have experienced recently. Yet now, looking at the realizations I have made, I can almost say I’m grateful for the local ice skating rink also known as my parking lot. I am actually beginning to believe that,

all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Candy Creations

Yesterday I mentioned the Christmas party that my husband and I are throwing this evening. I'm very excited about this because we've only been married since August. We've had people stop in to visit, but haven't had an "event" yet. So I've been in a tizzy all week getting ready. I wanted to show off these adorable candies that we made this morning. The recipe is from the American Girl winter ideas book. When I was student teaching this semester, one of the girls brought it in and showed me this special treat. I finally got an opportunity to try it out:

Basically, the recipe makes a white sugar "play-doh" that you can shape and flavor however you want. These little snow men are cinnamon flavored (with pink scarves) and spearmint flavored (green scarves). The recipe is as follows:

1tbsp soft butter
1tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp candy oil flavoring
1/2 tsp salt
1c powdered sugar
Sprinkles to decorate
Food Coloring

Knead ingredients together and have fun! I colored with regular drop colors, but my mom the candy maker assures me that gel colors would work better. If the dough gets too try, add just a tiny bit of water but be careful! 1 drop goes a long way. Water also helps the little pieces stick onto the base shape.

This project was kind of a mess but it was so much fun! I think this would be great with kids -- especially if you don't mind crazy shapes and half of it getting eaten along the way. My husband and I couldn't stop laughing because the mint ones looked so much like round, white ducks instead of snowmen (before we reshaped them).

Good luck, and Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Very First....

I've never really blogged before; perhaps it will become a habit of mine. I was searching for a place to load pictures of my creations -- I sew, knit, cook, and craft on a daily basis. Forgive me as a begin, it may be jumpy at first.

This is a Regency gown I created using Mrs. Chancey's fabulous pattern from Sense and Sensibility Patterns. I've never had a gown so comfortable! I've rarely worn dresses in "regular" life but I think I'm sold on the idea. I hope to make more before school starts again in January.

For those interested in how I changed the pattern: I'm a tall girl (5'9") and long waisted so I had to add length pretty much everywhere except the sleeves. I added 2" to the bodice. I'm also narrow shouldered. Unfortunately, I didn't realize this until after I had sewn the sleeves in and was trying on the dress to play around. Since I'm too much of a perfectionist to leave them where they were, I pulled out all my stitches, trimmed each shoulder by about 3/4", tightened the side seams, and reinstalled the sleeves. If you can see in the above shoulders, the sleeves are still very far out on my shoulders; I'll have to play with this more on my next gown.

I redrafted the neckline on my own, then followed Mrs. Chancey's instructions on the "Alterations" page to make the dress button in the front. Unfortunately, you can't see them in the photographs (I covered buttons with scrap fabric to match) and they don't look so great up close. Lessons for next time. The placket in the skirt keeps popping open as well, so it looks like I'll be adding snaps.

I'm thinking about adding a sash out of the same fabric that is in my hair. Although that is scrap from another project, it matches the burgundy pattern perfectly! Better lucky than good, my mom says. I'm just afraid that as is, there is a little too much uninterrupted fabric for my tastes; a sash would break it up and add a bit of contrast.

Tomorrow is our Christmas party. I'm excited to wear my new dress! It's all good if you're having fun, right?!