My Graduation Surprise

 I mentioned in my last post that there was more I could add, since I meant to publish that post Saturday, but because of one of the things I’m thankful for, I didn’t get it finished until Monday. 
That will make sense in a second…
631. My lovely Gardenia! I snipped this bloom from the bush in front of our house, and it’s perfume has filled my entire office.  But wait, what’s that in the background? 
Yep! I’m now a Mac!
And that’s why Monday’s post took so long, because I’m still figuring out how to use it!
Here’s the story of how this baby came to be mine, starting with my graduation. 

Leading up to my graduation, I was preoccupied with planning a graduation open house and getting the house ready for guests, including Brian’s parents and my younger sister, who would be staying with us at the house. 
On Friday, my mother-in-law helped me decorate by buying me some plants and potting soil. I wanted to do mixed pots, as shown often in Better Homes and Gardens magazine. We picked variously shaped flowers in purple, yellow, red, and pink. 

I also got three little succulents! The’re like cacti, but without the needles!

Friday afternoon, my little sister arrived. She would be staying an entire week. My family arrived that evening, and I made Southwest Meatball Chili for everyone. We stayed up too late talking, and after I went to bed, my father-in-law late that night. 
Saturday was the big day!

The ceremony was wonderful. I didn’t expect to get emotional, but I definitely was fighting back tears as we walked in. My name was read, and I walked across the platform and shook hands with the dean, and I became an alumni!

Graduation party time! 
I had asked a baker and web design client of mine to make the cake, but I really didn’t know what I wanted. I had a BHG recipe for pink lemonade cake, and the graduation party invites had one of my favorite quotes by Eleanor Roosevelt and butterflies on it, and with that information, she created the most perfect cake! I almost cried when she lifted the lid of the box.

The picture doesn’t do it justice. The butterfly wings are molded gelatin. The frosting is lightly lemon flavored, and the cake has raspberry mouse filling! The pink, purple, and blue matched our mismatched paper products perfectly, and the pink roses my parents gave me! The cake also matched the bowls I used for the mints and nuts! 

I so enjoyed the reception. I’m so glad that many of our church friends could make it, even though it was on short notice. It was nice for them to meet my family, and my family to meet them.  I felt like both halves of my family finally got to meet each other, because some of my church family are truly family. 
After everyone had left and we’d cleaned up, it was time to open presents! 
Brian had let slip that he was planning a big surprise for me a week before, but I honestly had no idea what it could be. Deep down, I was hoping against hope for one thing in particular, but I knew it was impossibly expensive. A Macbook Pro cost $1,999, and there was no way we could afford that. But, my HP had been on the fritz for some time, and the blue screens of death, squeaking noises from the harddrive, and issues with Microsoft products on it kept getting worse. I casually let Brian know each time it did something strange, in hopes that after he got a job, he’d be persuaded to get me one. I even mentioned that you can sometimes buy them on ebay for much less, and they might even have software with them. 
After opening the other presents – several types of gourmet coffee, a delicate necklace, and handmade pottery, Brian brought out his gift.My heart leaped when I saw the package. It was large, heavy, and rectangular. It can’t be…Brian hovered next to the couch as I opened it.
I partly tore off the paper, and saw that it was our Wii fit box. But a piece of printer paper was attached to it, and I read: “Emily, your MacBook Pro is on the way…” and then my eyes were too full of tears to make out anything else. I hugged Brian for a long time before I could stop crying enough to say thank you, and read the rest of his note. He explained that he had planned to get it for me all along, and had asked his mom and grandma to contribute to it, and he had bought it off of ebay even before I had casually dropped that hint weeks before! 

I’m still getting used to it, but I LOVE it! Everything looks so sharp, it’s so fast, and really easy to use, once you figure out what the differences are. Yesterday I realized that I didn’t know how to copy and paste or download pictures, but with Brian and Google, I figured it out! ‘

I’m so thankful for this gift, especially because it represents Brian’s love for me! And if that’s not enough good news, I have more good news to share that I’m saving for my next blog post!

You’re Already Amazing by Holley Gerth

Well friends, it seems that my technical issues have passed, for the time being. While I’m still mourning the loss of all your lovely comments from the past year and a half, I’m very excited that this new commenting system will make it much easier to leave comments! 
Now, onto today’s post. InCourage sent me this brand new book to read and review: 
Holley Gerth - You're Already Amazing image 

About the Book

In “You’re Already Amazing,” Holley Gerth seeks to encourage and equip Christian women to embrace who God made them, and discover how they can best live out His purpose for their lives. Each chapter is packed with practical self-assessments, checklists, and graphs to help you determine your strengths, skills, the who and how your skills enable you to serve, your approach to emotions, your emotional style, determining “safe people” in our lives, your social strengths, and so much more. Holley blends scriptural encouragement with practical application in every chapter.

What I liked

Holley Gerth - You're Already Amazing image 
First of all, this book is beautiful. The cover design, page design, font choices, layouts, everything is beautifully detailed. 
I LOVE self-assessment quizzes, whether it’s determining which Disney princess I am or categorizing my personality traits, so I enjoyed the five minute assessment sections scattered throughout the chapters. Being able to stop and apply each section was very helpful. Also, these assessments weren’t the popular spiritual gift tests that I’d taken before; they were definitely unique. 
When reading the “How Do I Connect?” chapter, I felt like I was discovering the missing puzzle pieces that made sense of how I respond to different people and social situations. The chapter, “Who’s With Me?” brought to light some of the reasons I struggle with making and maintaining friendships. Chapter 3 illuminated some of the lies I’ve long believed about myself, but the exercise of writing them out and then actually writing out the scripture to counter them was powerful. Chapter 4 encouraged me to stop stressing out so much about certain areas of my life, and realize that just like God took the Israelites on a 40 year detour, He has a reason for keeping me “encamped.” 
I think chapter 10, “Is It Okay to Take Care of Myself?” will hit home with many women. Here’s a quote I highlighted in the book: 

When you give to a charity or another organization, it’s a good choice. But it’s still a withdrawal from your bank account. If you endlessly gave without replacing those funds, you’d end up banrupt. You wouldn’t be able to to give to the charity any longer or cover the needs in your life. That’s a lot like how our hearts work too. Even Jesus took time away to be renewed. It’s not selfish to make a deposit in your emotional bank account. It’s an investment that you’ll be able to use to bless someone later.

I also appreciated the “Do What You Can Plan” idea from chapter 9. Instead of feeling like we need to work out an hour every day, Holley encourages doing what you can every day, even if some days it’s only 10 minutes. Exercise is just one example of how creating a “Do What You Can Plan” could work. 

What I Didn’t Like So Much

The title. It sounds very self-esteem focused and self-help-y. But in the book, Holley makes it clear that we’re not amazing in and of ourselves: 

We’re amazing not because of who we are but because of who lives within us (pg. 127).  

You’re already amazing because God made you, formed you , and lives within you. You’re amazing because you belong to him, because he has a plan for your life, because with him there’s nothing you can’t do (pg. 192). 

I think the title could put off some people, and that’s unfortunate. I wish the subtitle said something like, “You’re Already Amazing- But It’s Not You, It’s Him,” or something to that effect.

In chapter 8, Holley talks about the law and grace. Her overall points are good, but I felt like she took some liberties by claiming that the expectations we feel are the same as the OT law. And when she decided to study scripture to see what God required of her, “I pulled out my journal again, ready for a long list, But a quick look at my concordance and trip over to Micah 6:8 stunned me with it’s simplicity: “The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Period. End of story. No long list of rules. No endless expectations. It’s all there in one verse. And it’s all about relationships.”

Well, while using a concordance to search for the exact phrase “what God requires of you” will take you to one verse, Micah 6:8, that’s really not very accurate. While it’s nice to say that the Old Testament is full of laws, and now we’re not under the old law but under grace so all we have to do is love, there are actually a lot of commands in the New Testament. Yes, there are still rules. And it is a pretty long list, somewhere between 613 and 1,500, depending on who you quote. It’s true that many of those commands deal with relationships and HOW to love others, but nevertheless, God definitely still holds his people to a standard.

My Verdict

Holley Gerth - You're Already Amazing image 

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. I don’t know that I would recommend it to my highschooler girls or a new believer, but I think mature believers, especially women in the ministry, will really benefit from it. The issues I had were really minor compared to the blessing I received from reading the book.

Want to find out more? Read the reviews over at the incourage deals page.

And just so you know, the book is on sale for $9.00 (regularly $13.99) from DaySpring. While you’re there, check out the rest of Holley’s collection. As added incentive: 25% off Holley Gerth Collection with code HOLLEYG25!

Holley Gerth - Perfectly Loved - Christian Mug image 
I received this book free of charge, and my opinion is my own. This post contains affiliate links: for more information see the disclosure at the bottom of this site. 

Have you ever wondered how your strengths, skills, personality, and passions could work together for a specific purpose? What has God used in your life to teach you about the way He made you? I’d love to read your story in the comments!

Across the Border: Days 7,8

This post contains my best pictures from the week. For more about what I did in Mexico, see Days 1-4 and Days 5,6.

Day Seven-Friday

Today was our fun day! After a pancake breakfast, we went downtown to shop.

This guy paints tiny scenes on sea shells. We bought one for a unique souvenir.

Scores of little children followed us everywhere, chanting “One dollar, un dolar,” asking us to buy their bracelets. They targeted me especially, because I have a nice-lady look about me. They also asked me to buy them food, and no matter how many times I told them “No, gracias,” they never left me alone. But before we left, we gave them all tracts and they hugged me good-bye!  

Look at that mega bag of cheetos!

After shopping we played volleyball before heading to the beach. It was breathtakingly beautiful.


Me and Brian

The water was freezing cold, and after getting in, I couldn’t get warm again. I didn’t stay until dark like everyone else as a result, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the time I was there.

We ended the week with a bonfire, singing, and testimonies. It was a pleasure to hear the stories from the week and hear how God worked in everyone’s lives.

Day Eight- Trip Home
4 a.m. Rise and shine! We dressed, finished packing, ate breakfast, and loaded up.
5:30 a.m. We officially started the drive home.
Around 11, we reached the border.

Aside from a long wait, crossing the border was uneventful for our van. The van with our translator and his son was momentarily delayed while they questioned the two of them, but soon we were all safely back in the U.S.

We stopped at McDonald’s in Yuma for lunch. Normally, I’m not a big fan, but I was seriously craving an all-American Big Mac!

We ended up camping out in the parking lot for awhile, since the starter on one of the vans went out. Thankfully, we weren’t far from a parts store, and the timing couldn’t have been better. 
6:45 pm. We pulled into the church parking lot. As darkness settled and we gathered for prayer, it felt eerily like the previous Saturday morning before we left. The week went by so fast, and yet it felt like an eternity since we’d been home.

Speaking of which, I really struggled during the missions trip with feeling like I didn’t do anything. I was sick all day Monday, and didn’t really get back to mostly normal until Friday. I helped with VBS, but the teens and missionary had it all down to a science. I didn’t do much there except help the kids put together their crafts for ten minutes. They really didn’t need me.

As far as the work projects went, on Tuesday morning, I tried to work really hard clearing the empty lot next to the church. But since I hadn’t eaten much, I got dizzy and had to sit inside. On Wednesday, I was excited about getting to work more, but the leaders decided I would go hand out flyers and tracts instead. Ultimately, I’m thankful for that, because it was a very neat experience. Then Thursday I got to go on visitation, but I didn’t say a single word the whole time other than hello and good-bye. I thought my contribution could be singing, but I couldn’t even remember the words to well-known hymns. 
Sitting around the campfire on Friday night, I wondered if it was really worth it. I felt discouraged that I didn’t have wonderful stories to share like the others. But as I thought about it later that night and Saturday night, maybe what God wanted me to learn was that I wasn’t as needed, as important, as I thought. That it’s a blessing just to be used by God, and that maybe He was using me in ways that I wasn’t aware of. 
I like to look strong and capable. And there was nothing strong or capable about puking my guts out at the beginning of the week. Maybe God wanted me to give up that facade and teach me to accept help from others. It wasn’t easy for me.
And there’s no doubt that I have a renewed sense of total gratitude for God’s blessings to us, like this rental house, our vehicles, our clothes, our food, toilets, everything God continues to provide even while Brian is unemployed. It solidifies my trust that He will also provide Brian with a new job in His timing. 
So what about you? Has God ever had to humble you?

A penny for your thoughts? To leave a comment, click on “Links to this Post” below.

Seeing the Big Picture

In my drawing class, I’m learning a lot…. about myself. I’ve learned that I want to do everything perfectly, and the first time too. Anything less is frustrating to me. One day in particular two weeks ago, I was was so sick of trying to get the shading just right, I just wanted to quit and go home. I was using charcoal pencils for the first time, and for some reason my eye and hand were not communicating. I was drawing, erasing, and re-drawing, and fuming at myself on the inside.

But it wasn’t just the shading that was bothering me, Brian was miserable at work, again. After a year and half of almost constant misery, I had had it with this job. And I’d had it with Brian too. He’d been telling me for months that he would apply for other jobs, but somehow never got around to it. I’ve written about Brian’s work struggles before, here and here and here. I took my frustration out on my paper, scrubbing with the eraser and pushing so hard with my charcoal pencil that the lead snapped off. Finally, class ended.

Class meets twice a week, so after a few days, I was back in the studio, dreading working on that picture. Maybe I’ll just scrap it and start over, I thought. I flipped to that page in my sketch book, and gasped. Did little art fairies work on it after I’d put it in my locker? I expected to see a crude, rough, misshapen image, but this actually looked good. Really good. 

As I stood and stared at the page, I got it. I had been standing six inches away from the paper, obsessing over one tiny place, and totally missing everything that was going right. I was missing the big picture.

I had been doing the exact same thing with life. I was so fixated on one problem- Brian’s job, and trying to fix it myself, that I was missing the big picture of my life, and our life together, and all that God was doing.

Finally, I accepted what I’d known to be true all along. I can’t make Brian’s job better, and I can’t make him find a new one. I can’t control the situation at all. So, I let go. And in that moment, I felt peace flood me, a peace that I’d been missing for a long time.

A few days later, I’d just finished lunch when I heard the garage door opening. I looked out the window, and there was Brian’s car, pulling up outside. Why is he home so early?! And then I knew. His first words to me were, “We’re free!” His bosses let him go, saying that they didn’t think it was a good fit anymore and they didn’t think he was happy there.

I think I took it a lot harder than Brian. At first I was sad for him, and then I was angry at the company. Almost all of the employees there aren’t happy, but they didn’t get fired. Some of them are downright uncooperative, while Brian always worked hard. They recently offered one employee a raise, because they knew he was unhappy there and they wanted him to stay. But Brian, they let go.

I couldn’t be angry or even sad for long. It was such a relief to be done, and move on.

Brian has applied to five jobs since then, and given his resume to people we know at church who offered to take it to people at their companies. Yesterday, Brian attended the career fair at ASU, and one company set up an interview with him right away after seeing his resume. Several more seemed interested.

It’s an exciting and a little bit scary time for us. We know it was no accident that God led us to Arizona, and we know He’ll continue to lead us in the future. It’s all part of His big picture.

Now I want to hear from you: What has God been teaching you lately?
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Women of Faith Conference: Fun, Worship, and Overcoming Emotions

Last weekend, I attended the Women of Faith Conference, and brought a friend, for free. So before I divulge the details of the fun, worshipful, refreshing, and convicting weekend, I want to thank Booksneeze for partnering with Women of Faith to give bloggers the chance to go in exchange for at least two blog posts about it, one before and one after. I can tell you right now, I don’t think I can fit all I learned into one post, so today I’ll tell you about day one, sessions 1 and 2.

I’m here!
Tara and me, being very excited about the conference about to start
The stage 

The first session started at 10:00 am. After worship and some introductions to the speakers, Patsy Clairmont took the stage. She challenged us to start every day with three words. First, with “Yes.” Yes to whatever God has planned for us that day. Yes to His schedule and timing. Secondly, with “Thank you.” Thank you for another day. Thank you for all of His blessings. Thank you, even during the tough things that some days will bring, because they are opportunities to glorify Him. And thirdly, “No.” No to people and activities that divide our attentions from what is most important. No to Martha business, and Yes to Mary attentiveness.

She talked at length about our emotions. Sometimes as women, we feel enslaved to our feelings and we let them control us and dictate our behavior. Patsy said, “God has equipped us with a will that is stronger than our emotions.” We can choose to listen to truth over what our emotions are screaming at us. We can choose to believe the truth of God’s Word and what He says about us, and other people, regardless of how we might feel.

Patsy finished with three truths:

  • Life is messy. No one has it all together. We are all broken people with messy lives in need of grace.
  • People are textured. When we think we really know someone, we might be surprised. We need to realize that people may be hiding hurt or brokenness that we are unaware of, and they need our mercy and compassion. 
  • God’s ways are mysterious. His ways are so much higher than ours, we can’t understand why He does what He does a lot of the time. But we can trust His character, and believe that He does have a plan and no suffering is wasted. 
We took a break for lunch, and I was pleased to discover that we didn’t have to pay for lunch after all. Every one got a free boxed lunch, and the leftovers were donated to an area shelter. 
Notice the WOF label on the water bottle ๐Ÿ˜€

When we came back, Andy Andrews spoke, but I didn’t take any notes, because he was kinda all over the place… literally. The entire time he talked he paced all over the stage, running up and down the stage stairs, up and down the aisles, and back and forth in front of the stage. 
But basically, he told his life story. He lived a normal life until the age of 19, when his mom died of cancer and his dad died in a car crash. Soon he was homeless, and through the influence of a man named Jones, started reading autobiographies. Soon he was hooked, and while he was homeless, he read over 200 biographies. He determined a set of seven principles that guided the men and women he read about, and began implementing them in his own life. Now, he has written several novels in which the characters apply these principles, and he is a motivational speaker who encourages audiences to apply the principles to their lives.

He also talked about investing in yourself. I think it was one of his principles, but he talked about the importance of reading. Reading invests in our mind, because it increases our knowledge and wisdom. Investing in ourselves makes us a better contributor to society. 

I learned a lot from session three, so I’m going to save that for another post. But at some point during session three, there was a Q and A for Patsy and Andy. The questions and their answers were so enlightening, I wrote them all down. I’ll save some of them for another post, but the first question was related to the first session: “How can you make your will stronger than your emotions?” 

Patsy replied, “It already is!” She explained that many times we don’t realize it, because we haven’t exercised it. Our will is like a muscle, and the more we exercise it, the stronger it becomes. Whether we are refusing a fourth piece of cake or a self-deprecating thought, our will is already stronger than our emotions, and we need to choose to use it to say no.

That session ended at 3:30, and we had a break for dinner, until Session 4 started at 7:00. Tara and I walked down to TGI Fridays, not realizing that the Diamondbacks were playing the Giants that night. We had great seats to watch the warm up!

Tara and I had a great discussion during dinner, and since we still had plenty of time before the next session, we kept talking and walking. Tara was surprisingly energetic after eating, so we spent the rest of our time walking around the block and then doing laps around the concourse. I was SO full after my wonderful meal at TGIF,  I would have been perfectly content to sit in our seats for an hour and let my food turn to fat, but it was good for me to get in my exercise for the weekend!

If you go to the Women of Faith conference, I highly recommend going with a friend. Not just because they’ll encourage you to exercise, but because when you discuss the messages with someone else, you learn so much more!

I loved Friday night. Session 4 started with all of the speakers giving a short introduction. We’d already met Patsy Clairmont and Andy Andrews, and we were introduced to Mandisa, Marilyn Meburg, Sandi Patty, Lisa Whelchel, and Brenda Warner.

Lisa Whelchel
Marilyn Meburg
Sandi Patty

Lots of People!
We sang several fun songs about being women ๐Ÿ™‚

Deborah Joy Winans performed a hilarious skit about all the roles we play as women. She opened a suitcase and pulled out a prop for each character role we play, such as Wendy the Workaholic, Charlotte the Chauffeur, Linda the Love Slave, and a peppy exercise girl, accountant, soccer mom, and psychiatrist whose names I don’t remember.

We were also privileged to see Tim Hawkins, since the Phoenix event was the only one he could make. Both Tara and I laughed so hard that we almost threw up, that’s how funny he was! If you need a good laugh, look him up on you tube. My favorite parts of his thing were the thesaurus prayers, bedtime prayers, and his dance to “Party in the USA.” If you ever get a chance to see him live, do it!

The Women of Faith tour partners with World Vision, so we got to watch a video of a beautiful true story about an ordinary woman who decided to start sponsoring a little girl at a Women of Faith Event. This woman corresponded to this girl and then with her young mother. They were able to help this single mother start a business, send her children to school, and journey from hopelessness to hope. When World Vision gave this woman and her husband a surprise trip to visit the family, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place!

Probably my favorite part of Friday was worshiping with Mandisa. I loved her music before, and I’d been inspired by her weight loss journey and blog, but seeing her live was so much better. Her talent is mind-blowing, her joy contagious, her worshipful heart inspiring.


When I got home, I made a list of my “takeaways” for the day:
1. Say “Will you forgive me,” more often.
2. Plan to invest in my personal growth.
3. Face my fears to overcome them.
4. Realize that all my choices and actions matter.
5. Realize that Brian and I are both broken, and I must take responsibility for myself.
6. I need to build Brian up more, making a conscious effort.
7. I will pray about when God wants us to have children.
8. Write to sponsor child.

Over the next few days, I’ll tell you more about how I came to those conclusions.

To end today’s post, what do you think about saying Yes, Thank you, and No every day? How would your life be different? 

Have you used the Refuse, Replace, and Repeat strategy before? Do you believe that your will is stronger than your emotions? Why is it hard to exercise our will and not obey our emotions? 

Do you invest in yourself? Why or why not? 

When I Don’t Feel Like Being Spiritual

My phone rang, and I knew it had to be my advisor. I’d emailed her twice, explaining that I was applying for residency at Arizona State University for the fall ’11 semester, and asking if there was anything else I could do to change from being an online ASU student to an on campus student.

I survived the last school year, but barely. When we moved to Arizona a year ago, I transferred to Arizona State University’s online program. It had it’s perks: we didn’t have to buy a second car right away, or pay out of state tuition, and I could do school in my pj’s, if I wanted. But after a semester, I felt like I couldn’t take any more. After being actively involved in campus ministry and campus life for two years, I felt almost completely isolated and cut off. It didn’t help that some of my teachers felt the need to burden us with heaps of busy-work, and some had no idea what they were teaching. Last semester, my classes had me in tears…every day. 

I resigned myself to another semester of online classes, with hopes of going on campus for my final semester of college. So when I found out that the deadline for applying for residency for the fall semester wasn’t until August 24th, I was over the moon with excitement that maybe, just maybe, I could go on campus for my entire senior year.

Hence, the frenzy of emailing advisors and pouring over stacks of residency paperwork. Then, my advisor called.

“I can switch you over to on campus right now, if you want!” She said. “But your tuition will look pretty ugly until your residency application is approved.”

“Well, can we see if the classes I need are open on-campus first?” I asked. She looked up my class numbers, and there just happened to be a handful of seats left open in every class!

“You’ll need to drop all of the online classes you’re registered for right now, and after I switch you to on-campus, we can register you for the on-campus classes….oh…that’s interesting,” her tone changed. “It seems that even the on-campus students are taking their classes online this semester. All those classes are being offered as what we call icourses…so that means you wouldn’t actually be on campus, even as an on-campus student.” 

All my built up hopes came tumbling down. The only reason to switch from being an online student to an on-campus student would be the lower price of in-state tuition versus paying per credit. But, we’d have to pay the out of state tuition price until our application was approved, if it was approved. It wasn’t worth that gamble when I’d still be taking classes at home. 

I had a good cry, but consoled myself with “well, there’s still next semester. At least there’s a chance that they’ll offer my classes on-campus next semester.” Then Brian got home.

As I folded clothes, he flopped on the bed. “Whatcha been doing babe?” I asked.

“Trying unsuccessfully to get your residency,” he said. “Unsuccessfully, because you’re not going to go on-campus next semester either.” 

I continued putting away the clothes in silence as he explained. Apparently, the paperwork that Brian’s parents have to fill out (yes, they have to fill out paperwork, that’s how crazy trying to get residency is!) stated that the information they provide needs to prove that Brian has been financially independent in 2009, 2010, and 2011. Well, Brian wasn’t financially independent until we got married in 2010. “So, for you to be approved as an Arizona resident, you have to be married to an Arizona resident, and one who has been financially independent for at least two years. There’s no way you’ll get approved.

I left the room for awhile. I didn’t feel like being spiritual about this. I felt like being angry. 

Angry at Brian for not understanding how important this was to me.
Angry at ASU for making it so difficult to classify as a resident.
And as it came out later, when Brian and I finally talked about it, angry at God.

Why did God make Brian get a job in Arizona? Why did He give Brian a job where he’s miserable 99% of the time? Why couldn’t He have given him the design engineering job that was close to Ames? I could have finished my last two years of college at Iowa State University. Why did He make us move far from our families and friends?  I thought I’d worked through all this and resolved to trust God about it a long time ago. I was wrong.

I know none of this was by accident. God could have given Brian that job in Iowa, I could have continued at Iowa State, we could have had a group of over half a dozen young married couples to spend time with.

Brian said “God has a plan,” and “He’s not concerned about our happiness, but our holiness,” which is all well and good, but when you’re feeling the pangs of disappointment and visualizing what life could have been like if God had had a different plan, pat answers fall flat.

I didn’t feel like being spiritual.

I was angry all Friday evening and Saturday morning. Then God had enough.

I was rehashing again how miserable I felt and how much I dreaded school starting, and a familiar song began to play on the radio. It was familiar, because I sang it for special music at church a few months ago.

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel you near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if each promise from Your Word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win, we know
That pain reminds this hearts,
That this is not, this is not our home…..
It’s not our home

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

What if my greatest disappointments,
Or the aching of this life,
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy.
What if trials of this life,
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise?

The truth flooded my heart and mind.

  • The truth is, I don’t know that staying in Iowa would have been as wonderful as I imagine it to be. Living in Iowa and attending ISU would have had trials too.
  • The truth is, I would never have met some of the wonderful friends and mentors I have now if we hadn’t moved to Arizona.
  • The truth is, I might have never started blogging seriously if we hadn’t moved to Arizona, and I would have met all of you.
  • The truth is, if God hadn’t brought us to Arizona, we wouldn’t be leading or being blessed and challenged by the youth group.
  • The truth is, sometimes my greatest disappointments are blessings in disguise.

I’m still disappointed that I will miss out on half of my college experience. But, I know that I’m not missing out on the blessings God has planned for me this year, as I continue online.

It’s still hard to accept that God wants Brian to have this job. It’s still hard to be without friends our age and stage in life. But we have experienced God’s blessings.

534. Going to school online may mean that I can spend more time writing and blogging than I would otherwise.

535. Going to school online gives me the flexibility with my schedule to allow for working at my church one day a week.

536. Going to school online last year taught me a lot about writing, design, websites, and communication.

537. Going to school online gives me the opportunity to practice perseverance, patience, and endurance.

538. Going to school online reminds me that God has a plan, and is working everything out for my eventual good.

539. Living in Arizona has forced us to make friends by reaching out to other people instead of waiting to be reached out to.

540. Living in Arizona has made us appreciate the friendships we do have more.

541. Living in Arizona has helped us learn to deal with rejection.

542. Living in Arizona has given us the opportunity to make some wonderful relationships with couples who are more experienced in life.

543. Living in Arizona has provided us with opportunities to grow and stretch our faith.

544. Living in Arizona is where God wants us to be.

545. So many kind comments on my last post and prayers for me and this college situation. I appreciated it so much. I’m so grateful for you!

Introducing the Pet

Today I’d like to introduce you to the dog. This is Kopek, the dog we are taking care of indefinitely. He came with the house we’re renting. “Kopek” means “dog” in Turkish, so named because his real owners spent some time in Turkey, and that was one of the first words they learned. 

This is a rare quiet moment. 

In the mornings, he won’t leave me alone unless I take him for a walk. He whines, bumps my elbow, whines some more, and runs back and forth from me to the door. I can’t have any peace until I take him around a few blocks! 
He constantly loses his toys, especially his ball, which results in lots of whining. Most of the time it’s under a particularly large chair in the office. One day after I pulled it out from underneath it, he lost it under there again in five minutes, and wouldn’t stop whining until I got it back out. Of course, it rolled under there again in another five minutes, so being the good dog parent I am, I got it out for him again. When he lost it again, I was tired of being a good dog parent. When he resumed whining, I used a technique many parents recognize; ignoring.
See? The quiet moment ended already. 
Kopek is a VERY curious dog. He seems to think there’s something in my pocket, and won’t rest until he gets his whole snout in there. 
Case in point, about a week ago, we were all gathered in the living room, a picturesque setting with Brian and me on the couch, and the dog at our feet. 
Suddenly, he began making a strange noise. 
“He’s throwing up Brian!” I exclaimed. We had him sit on his blanket, figuring that would be easier to clean up than the rug. Of course he refused to throw up on the blanket, and threw up on the floor. 
“What IS that?!” His throw up was very odd…like one large mass, something off-white and long. Brian thought at first it was his rawhide bone. He sent the dog to his crate, and I followed him to give him some water and comfort the poor thing. Throwing up in never fun. 
Besides, I wasn’t touching whatever it was he threw up. 
Brian manfully cleaned it up. A little later, I heard him calling me from the master bedroom. “Did you make a mess in here?” He asked, and pointed to bits of trash all over the master bathroom floor. 
“No…” And then it hit me. 
You see, I’d been on my period a few days earlier. 
Yes, yes he did.
He dug my pads and liner out of the trash, and ate them. 
My first reaction was to start giggling and gagging alternately. After that passed, I did some research online. Apparently, it’s a pretty common occurrence, and as long as they throw it up or poop it out, they’re fine. Sometimes it can swell up and get stuck in there, and then they have to have surgery or an endoscopy to get it out, but Kopek didn’t show any symptoms at all, and was back to his perky self the next day.

Today he’s with friends of ours since we’re flying to Iowa for a wedding for a few days. And, even though it’s only been a few hours, I already miss him! 

Do you have a pet with personality? Tell us about them in the comments!

#SITSpics Photo Challenge

The Gift of Getting Away

512. God knows that getting away from all the noise, the facebook notifications, the flagged emails, the twitter updates, is sometimes the perfect gift. 

513. And it’s even better with friends.

sidenote: these guys own the house we’re renting, and the dog belongs to them. 

 514. The gift of getting close up with nature.

 515. The gift of adventure. 

Two of the families on our trip are native Arizonians and grew up camping in this area. Because they knew some of us weren’t as experienced, they picked an easy trail for our hike.

Easy. Mmmhmm.

The views were breathtaking, but I didn’t get to look up often, I was too busy trying not to stumble and fall down the mountainside. 
the “easy” trail

It was grueling for me. Much of the trail going down was loose, sandy gravel. I was as slow as the 5 and 8 year old kids. God brought to mind several spiritual parallels, and I found that encouraging. For instance, the hike was difficult, but it was good for me. It was making me stronger physically. In the same way, God allows us to experience trials so that we grow stronger spiritually. 

516. He brings beauty from ashes.

 517. A strong partner
I depended on Brian to keep my balance much of the time, and to lead me in the best way down loose gravel slopes, around scorched fallen trees, and up rocky inclines. 

the “easy” path gets harder…

 518. A marked trail to follow.

When the path got rocky and hard to see, some hiker before us had marked the path with stones stacked on top of each other. When we feel like we’ve lost our way in life, God gives us reminders of His plan for us and His forgiveness and love. Sometimes, He uses people who’ve been there before.

519. Being held by His hands, seeing His glory revealed. 

We arrived at our destination, a cave that rail road makers had blasted out of the mountain, but never finished.  

Looking at the pictures now, it brings to mind when placed Moses in a cleft in the rock and covered him with His hand as He passed by, so that Moses could see the tail-end of His glory.

We were hidden in the rock, and beholding God’s glory revealed through nature. 

 And we were always in His hands.

518. The gift of stillness.

The water hurried past, but for a weekend, we didn’t hurry anywhere.

519. Light touching fallen things and making them golden and beautiful. 

520. The gift of growth. However painful it may be.

521. The gift of the small and the humble.

522. The gift of knowing that He knows what lies around the bend. So I don’t have to. 

523. The gift of peace, quiet, and rest. 

Are you taking time to “get away” this summer? Are you taking time to rest and renew? 

If Pictures Are Worth A Thousand Words…

Then these should make up for my lack of posts recently!
New Dining room + New  Dog

A lot of replacing outlet covers has been happening here lately

And replacing smoke detectors too

And two days of nothing but scrubbing walls caked with grime…

So that we could paint before moving in!

I’m very proud of my masking and draping around the shower!

We decided on the darker brown, and we love it!

I look gross, but I don’t even care. We were up late almost every night, and by late, I mean after midnight. And poor Brian has to get up at 5.

Kopec, the Turkish superdog, as I affectionately call him.

Room #3

Feverish packing on Friday. This is BRIAN’S massive stack of tee shirts. He admitted that most of them don’t fit him, but proceeded to tell me the story behind each one; where he got it, who he was with, and the significance of the occasion. 

Bedroom finished!

It’s going to be another late night…

Moving day! 
You can read more about that here!

What projects or exciting events have you been up to lately?

Lord of the Wind

“In fear and amazement they asked one another, โ€œWho is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.โ€  Luke 8:25

Speaking of wind…
Brian and I were driving home after working on the final cleaning of our apartment when we saw this dust storm looming in the distance. 

This is called a “haboob,” or massive dust storm. We raced it home, with not much time to spare. 

Pretty ominous…

About to descend…

We watched through the window. The dust blocked out the sun, making it even darker than these pictures show. 

We can barely see down the street!

 The storm was on national news. They say it might be one of the biggest ever recorded to hit Phoenix. 
It was an awe-inspiring event! 
But not much fun to clean up after. It left a thick layer of dust behind, and in areas hit with rain, lots of mud.