Friday, December 30, 2016

Vacation 8: Zumie zumie

It's always sad to wake up on the last day of vacation. It's like you know that it is almost over, so you want to make the most of it, yet you're not sure exactly how to do that.

Nate still wasn't feeling well, so we decided to take it pretty easy.

That meant making our way back down to the pier to relax in the sun and read for a few hours before a quiet lunch and some time in the pool.

The playmakers in the pool were always thinking up crazy games to play with people, and we were grabbing some frozen beverages when one of them invited us to play Zumie Zumie.

We shrugged our shoulders, having no idea what the game was.


It turned out to be a rhythm game. Everyone was given a number, and you had to tap the table twice and then clap twice in rhythm. If someone called your number, you said your number on the taps, "8-8" and then someone else's number on the claps, "2-2."

Someone was out when they messed up the rhythm or forgot their number or did anything like that wrong.

We played a number of practice rounds and then turned it into a winner-take-all tournament. Nate was out after a couple of rounds, and I stayed in as the numbers dwindled.

As people in front of me were out, my number changed, and the playmaker would change them up every once in a while to make it harder.

Finally, it was down to three. Me, another guest and the playmaker.

I was 1. The other guy was 2. The playmaker was Zumie.

My goal: Don't ever say Zumie.

I knew that if I just kept it consistent and didn't have to think, I could pull out on top.

"1-1, 2-2."

"2-2, 1-1."

"1-1, 2-2."

It went back and forth, back and forth. Then it happened. My competitor tried to switch it up.

"2-2, Zumie --- Zumie."

He kept going like he didn't break the rhythm for that split second.

"No, no, no," the playmaker shook his head. "You know what you did."

I raised my hands in victory.

We capped the day off with a dinner at the French restaurant on the resort --- mussels au gratin - yum, scallops - yum, and artichoke and cheese crepes - yum.

An early night for sicky boy, and that was it. It was over.

Good-bye tomorrow Jamaica. It was nice to see you again.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Vacation 7: Sick day

Thursday morning was the day I had been looking forward to --- spa day.

I had never had a massage before, and our booking came with a spa credit, enough for me to get a 90-minute massage. We had the spa credit before and I had forgotten to use it, so this time I was determined not to forget and made my appointment within minutes of being on the resort.

Nate walked me to the resort spa, located next to the gym and across from tennis courts, where I forgot to mention I whooped Nate the day before. Finally, a win for me. And he went back to relax in our room while I enjoyed some relaxation behind these doors.

After checking in, I was led into a darkened room and told to get underneath the sheet. I did as instructed and laid there, feeling quite awkward and a little bit nervous before the masseuse came back.

Then, there was 90 minutes of glorious. A full body massage that after tip and "service charge" only cost $40. I'll take it.

I came back to the room and we relaxed a little bit before venturing out for lunch, and it was at that point that Nate admitted he was sick. He had a head cold that was absolutely exhausting him, so following our meal I headed out the pier to sunbathe while he took a nap.

About an hour later, I realized that Nate wasn't going to be making our snorkeling reservation, so I walked down to the Aqua Center to cancel our spots.

Three hours of sitting in the sun, having people bring me drinks, reading my book and enjoying pure relaxation, the sun started to dip behind the tall building our room was in. I could see our balcony from where I was seated, and there had been no movement at the closed doors or the curtains that were drawn inside.

I decided to sneak back in, and Nate was still out, so I tried as quietly as I could to head to the porch.

I laid my head down on the wicker table to continue reading my book and was soon out as well.

I woke to a foot that was completely numb, because I had been sitting on while I dozed, and tried to get some feeling back into it.

Nate appeared and instead of going to play beach volleyball as we had planned. We played a little cribbage and then snuggled in bed while we watched TV. We ate a quick meal at the Italian restaurant where we had reservations --- I found I love arroncini --- and then back to the room.

Being sick on vacation is no fun, but luckily I still felt fine. I hadn't planned to spend half the day alone or watching TV, but honestly it was quite an enjoyable day. Like I said yesterday, if you just appreciate what comes your way instead of complaining about something going wrong, you can make the best of even a sick day.

At least when you're not the one who's sick.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Vacation 6: An ocean rainbow

The calendar turned over one more day, and we were already halfway through our vacation.

We signed up at the Aqua Sports desk for the glass-bottom boat tour and headed out with a few other couples. We saw corals, some bright-blue fish darting to and fro, black and white sea urchins and a few other things below the surface.

The tour guide then told us about some of the sights on shore, including the Sandals Plantation resort that was next door. Apparently the all-butler resort costs about $15,000 per week, which is about incomprehensible to me, and has noise strictly forbidden on the beach. The servers there respond to you when you raise a flag and need to order something.

"And they just upgraded," the tour guide said. "If you have to go to the bathroom, you just raise your flag and someone will pee for you."

When we arrived back on shore, we decided what else we were going to do that day, and Nate saw that there was beach volleyball that afternoon.

I kind of scrunched up my face.

"OK, I'm not a huge volleyball fan but that's fine if you want to do it," I said.

"You don't want to?"

"I played volleyball in seventh grade and spent the entire season with bruises on my forearms. It hurts."

We made our way over to the sand volleyball courts that afternoon and hit the ball around a few times while waiting for others to show up.

It still hurt.

Some avid beach volleyball players came over, chatting about the other games they had played that week, and I ended up joining a team to even out the numbers. Blessedly, the staff person that was playing went to get a different ball that was softer, and that made me happy.

I stood back a little, on a team with all males, and tried to hit it when it came near me, but they seemed to want to hit it more so I just let them. In turn, that made them think that I couldn't do it, and soon they ran to get it even when it was directly at me. It was one of those frustrating sports moments when you just want to say, "Just because I'm a girl doesn't mean I can't hit it, back off," but I didn't.

I did the splits a few times, hit some nice serves in my opinion and got completely sandy. And Nate had a blast. That was really all that mattered, this wasn't for me anyway.

The thing that I will always remember about that Wednesday though wasn't anything that we did. In fact, it was something that many people complained about.

When we were in Jamaica, it rained every day. And I was flabbergasted that people were complaining to the staff about it. Honestly, what on earth were they supposed to do about the weather?

Well on Wednesday, it started raining right after our glass bottom boat ride. We waded out into the water a little bit, because we're certainly not afraid of a little rain, but it was colder than we thought it would be, so we headed up to our room to sit on the balcony.

We played cards and watched as the pretty good winter storm rolled in and laughed as the rain started to go sideways and hit us on the balcony.

About an hour later, the storm cleared. And then, there it was --- a gorgeous rainbow that started on the turquoise blue waters of the ocean and ended on a forested peninsula.

I was just in awe. The colors were vibrant. The arch perfection. I could actually see where it came out of the water, something that I had never seen before.

As we were oggling and taking photos, we started to notice that it was not just one rainbow but two. A double ocean rainbow.

It was an unexpected blessing and a reminder that we should appreciate all the little things. Had it not rained on vacation, we would not have experienced this epic moment.

Even rain brings blessings.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Vacation 5: Sushi and oxtail

We slept in a little later on Tuesday morning but still had plenty of time to grab the shuttle to the other side of the resort so we could have breakfast at the French restaurant we have loved at other Sandals resorts we've been to.

I slipped on the gray dress I had worn for an hour or so the morning before, hoping that no one would notice the repeat wear, and we headed out.

Nate ordered the official Jamaican breakfast of ackee and saltfish, and I went with salmon eggs benedict. We also both tried the "Local Juice of the Day."

A glass filled with a vibrant pink liquid showed up on the table, and we sipped it trying to place what fruit would create such a color. Watermelon? Some kind of a passion fruit? Something mixed with mango?

We kept sipping trying to figure it out until I finally asked the waitress.

"What is this?"

She looked nervous. "Do you like it?"

"I do. I just can't figure out what it is!"

"I'll go ask."

Nate and I looked at each other and laughed that she didn't even know what she had served. She came back momentarily.

"It's a mixture of all our fresh fruits."

Well no wonder we couldn't place what type of fruit it was. It was a menagerie.

I stared out the window to the large pool outside, and a group of middle-aged adults were starting a fitness class. I smiled and laughed softly to myself as they bobbed and squated and flailed their arms during the water aerobics course, figuring they probably didn't think people were getting breakfast entertainment while they worked.

I took another sip of the juice.


That's what I was tasting.


We just enjoyed that day outside. While walking along, I once again spotted a black and white lawn chess set and challenged Nate to a game.

I knew his strategy at this point. He will leave his pawns protecting his king and queen and he will bring out the big guns, immediately on the offensive.

So I played just as offensive.

Turns out, Nate is a little smarter than I realized and knew that I would know his strategy and completely changed up his game plan.

At one point, the smoke was starting to come out of my ears.

"That's moves you into check," he said when I was moving a piece.

"I know."

He smiled his coy little smile that he gets when he knows I'm mad.

"Don't talk."

I calmed down by the time the game ended because I at least caught up and made him work for it a little more. I gave him a high five. That was the best sportsmanship I could muster.


We enjoyed a glass of wine on the balcony before getting ready for dinner and played some cribbage, which Nate also slaughtered me at. I guess I should just admit defeat before we even play.

On our way to dinner, we stopped on the patio where they just happened to be serving sushi since the sushi restaurant had closed for repairs.


I love sushi. I went up with the tiny plate they gave us and asked for one of everything. While talking to a couple from Ohio, I demolished the first plateful and went to get a second. Which I also demolished. I highly considered skipping dinner and just eating plate after plate of sushi, but I thought that would be frowned upon by the people serving.

So we did go to dinner.

I ordered braised oxtail, because I had seen it on various shows on the Food Network, and Guy Fieri always seemed to like it. Nate got the red snapper.

When our orders came out, I separated some of the beef from the star-like bone and tried it. Interesting. It was kind of like roast.

"Do you like it?" Nate asked.

"It's fine. It's beef."

"Here, try this," he said, giving me some of his fish.

"Yeah, that's way better."

"Want to trade?"


"Yes. I ordered this as a back-up for you."

"What were you going to order?" I asked.

"The oxtail, but I thought I should have a back-up."

We traded plates, and I just laughed.

"You're sweet."

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Vacation 4: Sunset and Mama

I'm not sure what it is about tropical vacations, but I always seem to wake up earlier than usual.

I don't know if it's the bright sun that starts streaming through the patio windows about 5:30 a.m. or the fact that I'm relaxed enough to not need as much sleep or that I'm excited to get started with the day. But as per usual, I woke up about 8 a.m. (7 a.m. our regular time) on Monday morning in Ocho Rios.

A haze was lifting off the turquoise ocean, and sunlight brightened the white coverlet on the bed. I closed my eyes and dozed off a bit more, waiting for my husband to wake up as well.

We were planning on attending a resort tour that morning, so instead of heading across the resort to the French restaurant we have liked to dine at during our other Sandals stays, we instead ordered room service.

I had a fresh fruit plate and a fruit-and-yogurt parfait, and Nate ordered the breakfast sandwich. I can't say that it was the best breakfast I've ever had, atypical from other Sandals resorts we've been to, but we ate it overlooking sparkling waters that reached to the edge of the horizon, so I don't think I'm allowed to complain.

We took a tour through the resort and then put on our bathing suits, and I was so excited to finally wear my new suit from Victoria's Secret. The perfect mix of leopard print and turquoise, I had oggled at this swimsuit for no joke two years. It was too expensive though, so it was always on the wish list in the back of my mind. Now that VS had decided to discontinue their swimwear line, *tear* I was able to get it on sale.

We rested on the beach for a little while and then grabbed a lunch of fried shrimp rolls, which were delicious, and then decided it was time for a little activity. We walked to the water sports area and signed out a kayak.

Rowing the yellow craft, I tried to remember the lessons I had learned in previous years --- Don't try to steer, that's the back person's job; don't work to hard, let the paddle do the work; don't dig in too deep with the paddle, it should skim the surface.

"Lily dipper," Nate said from behind.


"You're barely putting the paddle in the water."

"I thought that's what you were supposed to do."

"If you're racing. We're not, dig in."

So I did.

We rowed past the Sandals Plantation resort next door to our resort. This is a butler-only resort, with quiet rules and fewer restaurants. Being so much more expensive, the guests there have the option of using both Sandals Plantation and Sandals Ochi, so they could walk over to our resort to have more restaurant variety. We were not allowed at that resort though...

Next to that were brightly-colored houses and hotels, painted in pink and turquoise hues, almost matching the colors of the ocean and the ocean sunset.

We rowed out quite a ways, and then hung our legs over the side of the kayak, enjoying the slight coolness of the clear water. Waves crashed against an old tree log that had floated out to a bed of coral and gotten stuck.

We just floated.

The blue skies. The relaxing wind. The gentle roll of the waves.



That evening, we had somehow gotten last-minute reservations at the hardest-to-get-into restaurant on the resort, which meant we had to get there right when it opened.

We were exactly on time for dinner, dressed to the nines, with Nate in khakis and a crisp blue shirt and tie and me in a black lace backless dress.

We sat down, and the waitress came up to fill our water glasses.

"You look nice; where are you headed tonight?"

"Here," I said with a smile.

"Really? Wow."

I guess we were dressier than she had been used to seeing, but it's not very often that we get to dress up where we live so we take advantage of it on vacation.

As we ate the different courses for dinner, night began to fall on Ocho Rios. From sun when we started to pink and purple skies as evening arrived to darkness with dessert. Even in the dark, the place was absolutely gorgeous, with the sound of the waves beating against the rocks on the pier creating a soothing tone.

It was early when we finished our meal, and we wanted to go see the jazz singer's whole show that evening, so we went to the other side of the resort and waited at a bar before heading down to the Rabbit Hole.

"Jungle juice," we told the doorkeeper. (I think that was the password...)

We were allowed inside and headed right upstairs to claim the same overlook seat we had the night before. Unfortunately, the upstairs was booked by a private party from China --- we are assuming someone important since they allowed that --- and had to find a spot downstairs.

Most of the seats on the main level were already taken, except for one loveseat. That was right in front. Like three feet away from the singer.

Nate looked at me.

"That's really close."

"I know, but there's no where else."

"But that's really close."

"Oh well I guess."

He went to get a couple of drinks, while I sat down, trying to figure out how to not look awkward when the singer stood right in front of us.

Dressed in a tight black frock with white pearls, silk gloves and a 1920s floral headband, Mama started her show. Yes, it was a little awkward at times when she looked right at us and we could about feel the heat of her breath, but her powerful voice was so awesome that we looked past the uncomfortable part.

We would have paid a lot of money to see that show. But we didn't have to. Perks of an all-inclusive resort.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Vacation 3: Going down the rabbit hole

Both our eyes blinked open at 2:57 a.m., three minutes before the alarm was set to go off.

I reached under my pillow to grab my phone, and clicked the home button to light up the screen.

"Good morning sweetie," Nate said from the other side of the bed.

"Good morning."

I rolled out of bed and headed to the bathroom to take a shower, trying to be quiet enough to not wake our nieces asleep in the other guest room at my in-laws' house. I showered and got everything else packed up in minutes, and I could hear Nate talking to his mom downstairs.

It was only 3:35 a.m. and we were ready to head to the nearby airport. Nate had packed our bags into our car, and we set off for the short drive. At the airport, we said our good-byes, and Nate's mom headed back home with our car.

About an hour later, we were sitting and looking at our phones when we glanced out the big windows of the airport. It had started to snow.

This was one of the reasons that we had decided to vacation in December this year. We had gone to the Bahamas two years prior in January, and as nice as it was to get out of the Midwest during the winter, it was terrifying to know if we were really going to get to leave due to weather. The following year, we played it super safe and headed to Jamaica at the end of April, but the weather was so hot there we decided to change back to winter again. That put us with the safety of traveling at the beginning of December.

But our carefully laid plans weren't working out.

By the time we all boarded the plane, enough snow had built up that it needed de-iced. I dozed off as we waited for the de-icing truck and then was awakened with the captain telling us over the loudspeaker that the truck didn't have the right fluid for our aircraft.

I dozed again.

"I'm so sorry. The de-icing truck has the fluid now, but it needs to be warmed. We will be about another 15-20 minutes," the captain's voice floated through the cabin again.

Once the orange fluid was running down the windows, the time was creeping up to 7 a.m., an hour after our flight was supposed to depart.

Everyone around was starting to do calculations. Are we going to make our connection? Nate and I figured we would cut it close to boarding time but should be fine for take-off in Atlanta.

However, by the time we landed in Georgia, we were so late that the airport wasn't ready for us.

"We are waiting for a parking unit," the captain's voice said on the loudspeaker as we sat on the tarmac, the gate within easy walking distance. "We know most of you have connections to make. I don't know why they weren't ready for us." The frustration was obvious in his voice.

We piled off the plane, now 15 minutes past when our next flight started to board. We all rushed into the airport and searched for our next gates. We found the flight to Montego Bay, but no passengers were standing in line anymore. We were late.

But not too late. We got right on board, thankfully.

Now relaxed, we searched for our seats on the huge flight.


That wasn't me calling my husband. Nate turned to look at me and pointed ahead of us. I could see a hand waving, a few rows back.

It was his cousin's wife.

His cousin from Omaha just happened to be on the same flight! We almost couldn't believe the randomness of it all. They started messaging each other and we found out they were headed to Negril, while we were on our way to Ocho Rios. We promised to meet up when we disembarked to get a photo before we went our separate ways.

We landed in Montego Bay a few hours later, and with the help of Club Mobay made it through the airport, immigration and customs easily. Soon, we were on the bus heading toward Ocho Rios.

Ocean views. A potty break. Check-in. A room with a view.

It's always hard to know what to do when you first arrive on vacation. It's almost dinner time, and you're starving from having nothing but a granola bar and some airplane pretzels during the day. You want to eat, but you don't want to just snack and ruin your appetite. However, we were starving, so we decided to go grab a small wood-fire pizza that we've had on other resorts and shared the seafood special.

Then we got ready for dinner and headed to the closest restaurant on the resort.



Nate ordered the surf and surf, yes, that's right. Who comes to Jamaica for steak? You don't. You come to the Caribbean for seafood, and when you don't have to pay anything extra for your meal, you substitute the grass-fed steak for another lobster tail.

For me, it was red snapper and clams.

Oh what a way to start vacation.

We were smiling and drinking pinot grigio and munching on our appetizers and bread with seafood spread, and then the entres arrived. Mine was served in a delicious broth with a hint of scotch bonnet peppers, and you can tell when I love food when I begin to dance.

After the first few bites, my hands went up to chest height and I started swaying back and forth in my chair.

A meal worth dancing for.

We decided to go down to the beach to a bar there, and met a really fun bartender. He served us his signature cocktail, called "Looks are Deceiving." He called it that because it's this dirty blue color, but it tastes delicious. Looks are Deceiving is kind of a long name, so we instead called it Dirty Water.

Nate had a ball talking to people while we sipped on our drinks and suggested the bartender's special to everyone. He was just a kid, and he lit up every time someone ordered his concoction. We chatted with people from Canada and Mexico, and Nate loved getting to talk Brexit with a couple from the U.K.

We also wanted to experience what the resort was known for, a bar called the Rabbit Hole. It's a 1920s speakeasy with a jazz singer that is supposed to knock your socks off. We got on the bus that would take us to the other half of the 100-acre resort.

We found a cozy spot in an upstairs alcove and watched as the singer and her band wrapped up their show, which had started an hour ago. The entertainment would have continued, but by 10 p.m. we were exhausted.

Time to go to bed after a full day.

Good-night Jamaica.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Vacation 2: Time with our nieces

The Saturday before we were to leave, we decided to follow through on an idea of my mother-in-law's and have some time with our nieces.

Home Depot was hosting a workshop where kids could make their own gingerbread man candy dishes, so we invited my sister-in-law with her three girls and took my brother's oldest while my other sister-in-law got her house ready for a showing.

We arrived at Home Depot with E, and signed her in. She received her package of supplies and her own little orange Home Depot apron, which she did not want to wear.

We started putting together her candy dish, but after about three taps of the hammer, I remembered how much E hates loud noises, and all the banging around her just made her cover her ears. Of course, it's hard to use a hammer when your hands are on your head, so after some unsuccessful coaxing for her participation, I nodded at Nate.

"Why don't you just finish it and then we can go paint?"

A couple taps here and there and he had whipped together the project, and I took her to the paint section as my sister-in-law entered with her little brood.

We went to say hello, and I smiled as I saw that her middle child, who had opened her birthday present from us the night before, had on her Frozen crown and braid, and her big smile was still on her face. Gotta love it when your gifts are successful, I smiled.

Nate got the other girls settled while I worked with E on painting her project. She lifted her hand with a dismayed expression on her face, showing me that she got some paint on one of her fingers. I wiped it off on her apron, and then almost immediately proceeded to sticking my finger in the paint as well. I smiled and held up my hand for her to see.

"See, I got paint on me too! No big deal," I said.

We finished up, and then watched as my sister-in-law's girls worked on their projects. E and I made a trip to the bathroom to wash her hands, and then when we got back my middle niece looked at me and held up her hand.

The entire thing was painted. The classic middle child, Em had decided that the best way to paint her project was to squirt paint on it and then rub it around using her hand instead of the paint brush. Her mom just shook her head and laughed.

Another trip to the bathroom for messy girls.

It made me smile as the oldest pair raced ahead, holding hands like they were best friends, and the middle child ran behind asking to join in. E just yanked her hand away, she didn't want to hold hands with the baby, she wanted to be with her friend.

"Hold my hand," I said to Em brightly, and she joined in. A line of four, we trotted down the hardware store aisle back to the rest of the group.

Not wanting the fun to end, we suggested going to a local garden center that has some fun stuff set up inside for kids.

"Do you want to go to Wallace's?" I asked E, and a smile lit up her face.

We all piled into our cars and then piled back out of them at the garden center, making another hand-holding line as we walked through the store portion and into greenhouse area. The girls had all been there before and knew just where to go, but we did have to stop along the way and get a picture of them all with a Santa statue.

Arriving at their favorite place, a giant square "sandbox" filled with corn, they stripped off their shoes and socks and hopped in. Tractors. Buckets. Hands were flying through the yellow kernels, and some stuck to their clothes.

They buried each other. They dumped corn all around. They found beads hidden in the corn. They smiled. They laughed. They had an absolute ball.

And so did we, just watching them.

There's something awfully sweet not only about spending time with your nieces, but about your nieces from different sides of the family coming together and having fun. It was an absolute treasure to behold.

We finished off our time together with a train ride, during which my sister-in-law was told "We don't need an adult, Mom," and then we parted ways.

That afternoon was filled with presents and the evening we met up again for a Christmas Walk downtown, but that morning is what sticks most in my mind. Those smiles. I'll cherish that for a long time.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Vacation 1: Stopping for the night

We were on our way back to the Quad Cities the first Thursday in December, our SUV filled to the absolute brim with Christmas presents, dog supplies, vacation baggage and bags of clothes for us to wear prior to and after vacation.

It started to mist a couple of hours away from home, but the temperatures hovered just above freezing so it wasn't any big deal until we turned on to the first major highway that would take us straight across the state.

At that point, Nate and I both could feel the tires starting to shake a little bit. We had put on our snow tires a few weeks prior and then had to take a tire off again to change the battery --- the stupid design by Dodge --- and I automatically started to think that maybe our lug nuts were loose.

We pulled off to the side of the road, with people flying past us, and Nate went out to check. He circled the vehicle twice, and I could feel him bang against the tires to see if they would budge, but everything seemed secure.

He slid back onto the black leather seat behind the steering wheel and told me everything looked fine, so we got back onto the road.

A little red Dodge Neon flew past us going at least 70 miles per hour, while we were cautiously driving around 55.

"You feel that don't you?" Nate asked me.

"Yes," I said, the tires were definitely shaking.

"But people are flying past us; are they really driving that stupid in this icy weather?" He asked if maybe we should stay the night somewhere.

I got onto his Orbitz app, where we luckily had about $40 in credits, and I found a Super 8 hotel about five miles in front of us, and thankfully it was dog friendly since our adorable Olde English Bulldog was laying in the backseat during this ordeal.

The right clicker turned on as Nate signaled we would be exiting at this small town, and when we reached the intersection at the bottom of the ramp, he got out of the car again. He looked at the tires, and then bent down to put his hand to the pavement.

"It's solid ice," he said when he got back in the car. "People are crazy to be driving like that in this weather."

We had left a night before we had to, so we had plenty of time to be cautious.

Times like this always remind us of the time that we braved roads that were not only slick but literally solid sheets of ice to get back to the Quad Cities for Christmas. From college students to adults, from foolish decisions to safety first, I guess we've grown up a little bit.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Studying poetry...

For Nate's Introduction to Literature class, he selected "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" to analyze for a poetry paper. He certainly has not been looking forward to reading poetry and trying to analyze it, and flipping through the poetry book I realized that I didn't think poetry was all the enjoyable either.

I read Robert Frost's poem, and we were talking about it when I realized we had read the same poem but weren't reading it in the same way.

When I saw, "The woods were lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep," I saw someone who couldn't stay in the beautiful snowy woods much longer because he had promised his family he'd be home and still had a ways to go.

Nate saw someone on his way to commit suicide.


Well, when he started explaining the way he was reading the poem, I totally understood his analyzation. And he saw how I was reading it.

We laughed and laughed about how I could see something so beautiful and positive while he could read the same thing and see something dark and negative.

I guess poetry can be a little more fun and interesting than we thought.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

I wasn't listening...

I texted my husband this morning and asked him if he wanted to participate at a prayer vigil at church.

He texted back that he had a funeral to attend that day. I looked at my phone, confused. I knew he had a funeral to attend on Monday. He must be mixing up the days, I thought. So I texted back, "Isn't that on Monday?"

"Really?" was the response.

Apparently he had explained everything to me but I was sitting on my phone when it happened, and I guess I wasn't really listening.

Ouch. My bad.

This isn't the first time this has happened, and I realized I really need to be more intentional about listening to what my husband is saying. That should be something that comes natural, but I do tend to nod my head and say "OK" when I'm not really paying that close of attention, and with my great memory (not) it makes it even worse.

However, as I started thinking about this problem, I started to think that maybe it's a blessing in disguise to mess up like this every once in a while, although I'm thankful that I have a husband who is forgiving and doesn't hold something like this against me. I'm thankful for mistakes like this because they do make me see some of my issues and become more intentional. I need reminders like that to make sure I'm on my game as a wife.

A lot of the time, women laugh when their husbands don't remember something they told them. "Men..." And I must admit I've had that conversation before about things I say to my husband when he's watching TV or looking at his phone. We have to make sure that we're not making fun of our spouses for things that we do right back though. Like the Bible says, we can't point out the speck in someone else's eye because of the plank in our own.

One final thought, Nate is gone because he's attending two law enforcement funerals, for the two police officers that were murdered in the Des Moines area last week. I'm proud that he takes the time to attend these funerals, and we all have to pray for this horrific tragedy and the families and friends of these fallen heroes.

Lord, please reach this nation. Please help us to see our issues and to find ways to work them, to come back to you. Please be with these law enforcement families that have lost their loved ones. Give them peace and comfort in this horrible time of tragedy. Please protect our officers from the evil that is seeking them out every day. Give them strength and courage and bravery and awareness. Thank you for the heroism that these men and women supply every day. In Jesus' name, amen.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Your friend's money

I have a newfound love of podcasts, and one that I am especially inspired by is Dave Ramsey.

I'm not all gung-ho about every aspect of his financial peace plan, but we are super frugal and have plenty of financial goals, so I find it inspiring to listen to. Plus, his EveryDollar app is amazing.

That said, he said one thing on a podcast a couple of days ago that really hit home to me. He said if your friend gave you $1,000 to watch over, not to keep, and said "I want you to give away $100 immediately to my church," it wouldn't be hard at all. After all, it's not your money. Of course you're going to do with their money what they want done with it.

Well, the money in our bank account, that's not ours either. It's God's. He has simply given it to us to watch over for him while we're on this Earth. So, it shouldn't be hard to give that first 10 percent back to his church in a tithe should it?

Those are my, Dave's really, brief thoughts for the day.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Cinnamon Star Twist bread

Those who know me know that I love to bake. I enjoy cooking, but I LOVE to bake.

So when I was spending a weekend with my parents, I had an entire day free. That meant watching the Hawkeyes slaughter Purdue and baking.

My mom pulled out a recipe she had found in a magazine that she wanted me to make, so I went for it. It actually turned out quite perfectly! I posted it on Facebook and people asked for the recipe, so here is my tweaked version!

Cinnamon Star Twist
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup warm milk
1 egg, room temperature
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
Chopped walnuts, optional

1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Dissolve yeast in water until foamy, approximately 10 minutes. Combine milk, egg, 1/4 cup butter and sugar. Add to yeast mixture. Add 3 cups of flour (or a little more) until a soft dough forms.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead in enough to make it smooth and elastic. Knead for about seven minutes. Place in a bowl, cover with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and divide into four portions. Roll one portion into a 12-inch circle and place on a 14-inch greased pizza pan. Spread some of the melted butter on top and sprinkle with a mixture of the brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts. Repeat layers with the rest of the dough and topping.

Place a round glass or cutter (don't push down) on top of the dough in the center of the circle. With a sharp knife, make 16 evenly spaced cuts from round center to edge of dough. Remove center glass or cutter, grasp two strips and rotate twice outward. Pinch ends together. Repeat with remaining strips.

Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool.

Mix the glaze ingredients and use a spoon to swirl across the top.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Is unconditional love real?

I love you no matter what.

No matter what.

No matter what?

We were listening to Dennis Prager talk about that odd phrase, that we actually use quite often. We tell our spouses, our children, our parents that we will love them unconditionally. But think about what unconditional really means --- would we continue to love them if they beat us? What if they tried to kill you? What if they beat or tried to harm your children? What if they stole your life's savings and got you kicked out of your home? Would you really love your family members then?

Prager talked about how odd it was that we say we would love people unconditionally, when that probably isn't true. We might love them if even they did terrible things, but I'm sure there is an end to our love. There is something that would put us over the line to the point that we would no longer associate with our family member anymore.

Then in church today, the pastor talked about the fact that Jesus loves us unconditionally, and I started to think that this is really unconditional love. Jesus loves abusers. He loves rapists. He loves murderers. He wants people to repent and come to him, literally, no matter what they have done.

He loves us despite what we have done in the past, what we have done today, what we will do in the future.

While true unconditional love might not exist on earth, as much as we might like to think that it does, unconditional love from our heavenly father truly does exist. And that is amazing.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sermon notes --- Everything might not be OK

God has a plan for your life and everything will be OK.

Oh how many times I have heard that said to someone in trouble and oh how many times I have said a variation on that phrase.

But I know someone who doesn't like the plan for her life. She is just waiting for everything to be OK, and it's not. It has been years, her whole life, and nothing is as she wants. So what do you say to that?

Joseph experienced a lot of years like that. Through his teen years everything was great but then he was sold into slavery by his brothers and everything went downhill --- for 20+ years!

It says in Genesis that "God was with Joseph." Joseph couldn't see that. He couldn't feel it. He couldn't see God working. But God was there with his child. Just because life isn't going the way you want doesn't mean God is against you or has left you.

When Joseph was in Potiphar's house, Potiphar's wife wanted to sleep with Joseph. He could have figured that God had left him and not worried about sinning at that point. However, Joseph stayed true even though it didn't feel good. Potiphar's wife actually clawed the clothes off of him, but he shoved her off and literally ran away. That's what we are to do --- flee youthful passions, run from sexual immorality, get away from temptation. Literally move away from temptation. This isn't a figurative instruction to run/resist; we are to actually get up and get out of the tempting situation. Otherwise, we will talk ourselves right into what we don't want to do.

I love this example --- we don't put a fish on a hook. We tempt the fish to put itself on the hook. If it ran from the worm, it wouldn't get caught. However, the longer it floats and stares at the worm, it talks itself into taking a bite.

But even if we do the right thing, that doesn't guarantee everything will work out perfectly in that moment --- in that moment. Joseph was thrown into prison after running from Potiphar's wife. But that was a bad situation on the way to much better things later in his life. God did not leave him.

So the sentiment of "God has a plan for your life and everything will be OK" is partially true. God does have a plan for our lives, and often God does step in and make everything OK, but not always. Sometimes life is icky and we just have to honor God through it. Then in heaven we will receive our reward, and that eternity in heaven is so much better than the short time on Earth. So use this time of trial to build up the best rewards possible for you in heaven. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

People hear what they want to hear

People hear what they want to hear.

It's one of the reasons that I don't enjoy debating. For adults anyway, once someone has made up his or her mind, it is incredibly hard to change it because two people can take the exact same sentence and dependent on their views hear it in completely different ways.

That is incredibly apparent during this horrible political season. Hillary Clinton can make a statement, and Republicans will run with it, saying how absolutely ridiculous what she said is and how can anyone vote for someone who believes that? A Democrat will take that exact same statement, view it in a completely different way and say, "How can someone not stand for that?" The same goes for anything said by Donald Trump, if you like him you will view what he says in a completely different way than if you hate him.

We hear what we want to hear.

I think this was also apparent in the manhood/womanhood debate at church. What the pastor said didn't bother me, because the headship of a husband in a home and a man in a church is something I already believe in. I believe the Bible specifically calls for this.

Someone who doesn't believe this and thinks woman can and should lead just as much as men twisted the pastor's words and made them into something they weren't. That's because they heard something completely different because they heard what they wanted to hear. They wanted to hear something outrageous so they didn't have to follow the truth in the sermon, so they twisted the words into something else until it was outrageous enough for them.

It's like this at work, with your children, with your spouse --- if you are looking for something to fault, you can most likely twist words in your head enough to find fault with them. You can hear exactly what you want to hear.

We need to address situations with openness and try to see what people are really saying, not just what you think they are saying. It doesn't mean you'll agree with everything, but you might find much less fault with the people around you than you do right now.

Monday, August 22, 2016

He handed me a plate

We were at a wedding reception yesterday sitting with some friends, and one of them made a comment that she has made several times before when we've been together.

"You guys are cute," she said. "You really love each other."

Nate and I always look at each other with amused looks, because we're never quite sure what we've done that has made her say that. It's not like we are kissy or hand-holdy, because we really don't show public displays of affection.

"We do love each other," I said. That's really the only way I know how to react to that.

It came up later that night too, with a member of the groom's family.

"You guys were so cute at the food table," she said.

I laughed and questioned, the food table? I guess Nate had leaned over and given me a kiss when we were getting tacos, which is a little unusual for him. That must be what she meant.

"Yeah, you were so cute. He handed you a plate," she said.

He handed me a plate? It was adorable that he handed me a plate? I just laughed and thanked her.

Nate and I talked about it later. What must a typical marriage be like that my husband handing me a plate is adorable?

But those comments make me step back and take a good look at my husband and our marriage. The little things that I take for granted are absolutely huge and adorable to someone else. I have to make sure not to get caught up in the day-to-day and remember that it truly is those thoughtful little things that make our life together wonderful. Yes, my husband is a sweet man, and the fact that he thinks about my needs and hands me a plate is truly a blessing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A woman's place is behind her man

Wow, I can't believe it's been more than a month since I was last on here! Time flies so fast this time of year, and I don't intentionally lose touch but I just don't open the computer as often during the summer.

I have plenty of blog inspiration at the moment, but the biggest has come from a recent sermon at church. Our pastor started a series on current cultural issues, and the first one to tackle was the issue of manhood and womanhood, especially in their daily roles in life, work and the church.

I thought it was a wonderful sermon, but the pastor said he knew he was going to upset people and get flack for sharing what the Bible said about a man's place as leader and a woman's place as support. I completely agreed with what he said, and my sister-in-law, who was visiting with her family, came up to me afterward asking if I thought people actually had an issue with what the pastor talked about.

"I would hope in the Christian community there wouldn't be any issues, but I really don't know how people will react," I said.

So I asked the pastor what he had heard about the first in a two-part series on biblical manhood and womanhood, and he said many people were genuinely upset.

About what?

The Bible clearly states over and over again that men are to be the leaders. Men are supposed to take care of their families; they are supposed to work; they are supposed to be the spiritual leaders of their homes and of the church. Eve was created as a helper, a support, a companion for Adam, and the role of woman has not wavered since then. Women are to take care of their husbands and children, to support the mission of the family and the church.

I don't really understand what there is to argue about in that, theologically speaking. Culturally speaking, women are definitely on the rise. Women are leading companies, are running for governmental office and are "wearing the pants" in marriages and family relationships. Men have stopped standing up for themselves and have so worried about upsetting their wives that they just get run over.

It says in Genesis that after the fall women would yearn for their husbands, and that meant their husbands' positions. It means that sin made women want to be in charge, and sin is so obvious in so many relationships. Women are supposed to be the helper, but they are not, when it comes down to it, in charge.

That sounds horrible. But really, it is a joy to not have the responsibility of the final decision. A man is responsible for his entire family and their decisions. If his wife or children mess up, ultimately it is on him. That is what would really stink, so I'm glad I'm a woman. I want my man to lead me and set an example and be the one to rely on. I don't want that job.

A friend mentioned that one thing she didn't like in the sermon was that our pastor said women, seen in the example of Eve, are more easily tempted and that's one reason that they are not supposed to be in charge. That sounds harsh, but I have to say, I also agree with that. It's one reason that I don't think we should have a woman president --- hormones.

When it is a certain time of the month, or pretty much all the time once Aunt Flow stops showing up, women have crazy hormonal reactions. Even when it's not the once-a-month hormones, women are just more emotional in general. It causes us to react to situations quickly and with heart, but those initial reactions are often not rational. When I react off-the-cuff, I often look back and realize I should have taken more time to rationally think something through. In general, men look at things with a more rational eye. So yes, I do think that women's emotional and hormonal reactions get them into trouble, and we are more inclined to fall into sin in that way. I can't argue with that.

I'm super curious to see what the second in this series includes. How many more women will be upset when the truth is preached? Yet again, we need to listen and think, not just react on how our emotions are hurt when hearing that we might not be as important as we think we are.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Make wise choices, they will direct more than just your life

In Genesis 36, Moses wrote about Esau's lineage, and it showed how his life ended up different from Jacob.

First, Esau didn't marry godly women like Jacob waited to do. They ended up leading his family away from the Lord. It says in 2 Corinthians, "Do not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever." It doesn't seem as big of a deal to date someone that is not a Christian, but we marry the people we date.  And a good and healthy marriage is impossible without the center point of Christ.

There are so many points in life that I so do not want to hold my tongue, that I don't want to put my husband first, that I don't want to clean the house, that I don't want to wait until my husband and I can see the movie together --- the moments that my desires are selfish instead of selfless, that's when I have to turn to Jesus. And I know my husband has the same thing. Without God, I can guarantee our marriage would be much angrier, much unhappier and much less solid.

Esau also wasn't careful about where his family lived. He took his family outside of the Promised Land. It's important where we live. It's important the environment our children are in. Can I relate this to the black lives matter movement? The biggest point against what this movement seems to stand for is that the biggest violence against blacks is blacks, but they don't seem to make a big deal of this. "That's just the culture where we live. We have to deal with it. That's the only place we can afford." I bet that's true in big cities, but take your family to a small town and you will be amazed at what you can afford. Esau thought he had to leave the Promised Land to have enough room for all his stuff, but had he prioritized his family he would have chosen where to live on different parameters. We should all pick where we live based on what is best for our families.

Esau's family does become a ruling family where it settled down. His sons and grandsons became chiefs, which means rulers over 1,000 plus. One of Esau's wives was Oholibamah, who was a part of a ruling family, so many of the men in their family also became rulers. That looks good, but Esau was becoming assimilated into an ungodly culture. He was no different than anyone else.

The judgment on the Edomites, Esau's family, has lasted generation after generation. From Old Testament times to today in the Middle East, God's judgement has been on that land. We never think that what we do will affect our families for that long, but it can. From who we marry to where we live, it's these decisions that make up a life, a family and a future. Make wise choices.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Reminders to be thankful for everyday moments

I think the events of this week have really made me take pause and think about what's important in life, about treasuring everyday moments when, like the families of the officers in Dallas, those moments can be over so quickly and without notice.

So, what are you thankful for today? What are those little moments that you'll remember today?

1. When I'm cooking and my husband walks through the kitchen, wraps his arms around me and kisses me on the cheek.
2. When my dog has free reign outside and chooses to sit on the porch and watch the world go by, just like a little person.
3. A "Love you back" text.
4. A video of a friend's baby walking.
5. A picture of a friend enjoying her birthday and smiling with her husband.
6. A compliment on my newest cupcake experiment, Boston Creme Pie cupcakes.
7. A text from your mom telling you about a house for sale six hours from you just because she wishes you would move closer to home.

It's not about the washing machine that's not working, the house that needs painting, the cleaning on the to-do list --- it's about appreciating those everyday moments that make up a life.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The 5-foot root

It's been a busy few weeks and my blogging has lapsed unintentionally. As a welcome back, I'm not going to delve into the political climate or the events of this week that have brought me to tears and to unfriending a few people on Facebook who don't support law enforcement, instead I'm going to talk about a little lesson that I came across a week or so ago.

I decided it was time to buckle down and work on the house, and in order to scrape and paint, some weedy bushes needed to come out.

So I went to start cutting branches and digging at root systems, which turned out easier said than done. When I had gotten the largest branches out of the way, I had to get the rocky landscaping out of the way. A few rocks in a single layer I figured.


One layer of rock. Two layers of rock. Three layers of rock. A layer of black plastic, and wait more rock.

What? Two layers of rock and plastic? Who does this?

I dug down, and got one root out, and then saw that this root jutted out horizontally and another bush was coming from the same root a few feet away. The entire structure was actually one plant.

An hour later and plenty of sweat later, I couldn't go on. Literally. I was jumping on the shovel and it wasn't budging. I physically couldn't dig any deeper and I physically could not loosen this root, so I packed up and waited for my husband.

The next day, I was at work and he had a day off, and I get a video of him trying to pull this bush root out with a wire winched to the four-wheeler. It wasn't budging.

Then I got another video showing the 5-foot root that had finally come up, breaking the four-wheeler winch while it was at it.

Now, go with me here, because Nate said this is a stretch, but I think those bushes were a whole lot like sin. I could get the small bushes that were growing nearby out pretty easily, but I pulled them when they were little and young. But the longer we left these bushes, the more they grew and the deeper their roots were. By the time they were developed, it took more than the little bit of pruning that I could do. We needed help from some heavy machinery.

Sin is easy to get rid of when it is small. And you can probably do it yourself, of course with the forgiveness of God. But when sin starts to dig in, it's not only incredibly difficult to get out but it's also impossible to do on your own. You're going to need the help of others to eradicate sin from your life, the support of others, the strength of others.

Don't let sin become a 5-foot root that won't budge. Take notice of it when it's little and don't let it get a foothold.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Thank God for Miss U.S.A.

Nate came home on Sunday night to "Miss U.S.A. 2016" on the television.

So, I usually wouldn't watch this when he was home, but I haven't watched a beauty pageant in years and really did want to.

He picked up the remote and joked, "You enjoy Miss U.S.A.?" I'm sure he figured I would say, "It was just on, go ahead and change it." Because I normally would have. But this night, I said, "Yes, I am. I haven't watched one in years and really want to see this."

He looked at me with a "Really?" look on his face but didn't say anything else, and while dinner finished cooking we watched the beginning of "Miss U.S.A." together.

The part that most surprised me was when we brought our dinner into the living room and I muted the TV, Nate said our usual pre-dinner prayer. At the end, he thanked God that we could watch "Miss U.S.A." and thanked God that it made his wife happy.

Melts your heart doesn't it? Gosh, I am so thankful for this man and the fact that he treasures things that make me happy, even if they don't him.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sermon notes --- Jacob leaves Laban behind

It was 14 years after Jacob left home, when he was supposed to be gone just months while Esau's anger calmed, that Jacob finally decided to bring his family to his hometown.

However, his father-in-law, Laban, realizes that his successful flocks were due to Jacob, and he didn't want Jacob to leave. Laban had profited from Jacob's work, but he hadn't shared his wealth with anyone. Jacob's family was still poor, and he didn't like that he wasn't providing for his family the way he wants to.

So Laban decided to share with Jacob, and Jacob just asked for the spotted, speckled and dark sheep and goats. Laban agreed, but he went back on his word and took all the speckled and spotted animals out of the flocks himself and gave them to his sons instead of to Jacob.

Can you imagine how mad Jacob was when he went out to get his animals and they were gone?

"Seriously Laban? I'm trying to take care of your daughters and grandchildren. You won't let me?" Aaaah! I'm sure Jacob yelled in frustration.

Jacob tried to get more speckled and spotted lambs and kids by putting speckled and spotted sticks by the sheep and goats that were procreating. They thought it worked like that in those days --- we know that doesn't work today, but they didn't know how genes worked then.

In difficult situations, we have to figure out how to respond. That response should be trust God and work hard. One doesn't work without the other.

God saw how Laban was trying to take advantage of Jacob, and he decided to bless Jacob by providing him with more speckled and spotted lambs and kids than the perfect ones that went to Laban.

Laban's sons were jealous of Jacob's success. Laban was jealous. Jacob was uncomfortable and decided once again to leave. His wives had seen all their father had done to Jacob and how their father treated them badly and stole their inheritance, and they were fine with following their husband back to his hometown.

Just think, Rachel and Leah agreed on something. They bonded over the fact that their father treated them like dirt.

When they left, Rachel stole her dad's household gods, little gods of Laban's making. These gods were so powerless that Laban had to go after them and save them, while Jacob's God saved him. Jacob's God appeared to Laban and told him to leave Jacob alone.


1. Work for an audience of one. Work hard and trust God. Even if your situation is difficult, God is in charge and will treat us right even if it takes 20 years for us to see the rewards of our hard work.
2. Seek the God who can actually change your life. We may not have hand-crafted gods at home but we certainly have household gods that we pursue, places we pour out time that are not worth it. Seek the God that can make a difference.
3. God wants to set me free from slavery. Whether it's slavery at work, slavery to a certain sin, slavery to illness --- God can set free those who trust him.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A right heart versus right actions

You know what I wish, I wish it was easy to do the right thing.

I guess it says where I am in life that it's not always easy to do the right thing. If my heart was at the place it should be with God, it probably wouldn't take so much effort to do the right thing all the time. It should just be second nature, and I really shouldn't think anything about it.

When it comes to a choice between doing the easy thing and the right thing, I often think, "How do I want to be remembered?" Do I want to be remembered for me as a regular human, or do I want to be remembered for a woman who served, loved and gave without pause. Definitely the second.

But it's not always easy to make that decision. There have already been a couple of times this week that I've been faced with some situations that I didn't want to deal with. I've been so tempted to do what I wanted to do, what felt more comfortable, what didn't frustrate or disappoint me. But I knew what the right thing was, and I did it.

However, I haven't been super pleased with my reactions to doing it. I've thrown up my hands and growled in frustration, and I've cried in disappointment. What I really wish is that I got joy from doing what pleases God instead of getting upset about it inside while doing what's right on the outside.

I feel fake when I act right but my heart isn't in it. I guess it's not fake, it's obedient, but I want my heart to desire to do the right thing and for it to feel good instead of just acting in the right way.

I have to say, I think this is something I've dealt with my whole life. I remember when I went to college and made a few poor decisions that my mom told me she wished that her and my dad had instilled in my brother a heart that desired to do the right things and not just made us act right on the outside. I am in no way blaming my parents. I actually think they blame themselves way too much for this attitude. I think this is the attitude of sinful humankind, and I think it's my fault for not being in love enough with God to have a heart that just desires to do what he wants and finds joy in giving in difficult situations.

I'm not sure this is the most coherent blog. Sometimes when I write amidst emotion it doesn't always come out right, but I guess it does come out honestly. I honestly pray that God will give me a heart that desires to selflessly give and that it is not just me acting in the right way but it is me not even noticing that I'm doing the right thing because I'm so used to do it and so passionate about what God wants that it is just second nature.

Until then, here's to doing the right thing and not always enjoying it.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Look forward to something

I am a firm believer that you always need something to look forward to.

When life seems the same old, same old, day after day, we often start to get annoyed. The little chores start to pile up; family and work stresses don't have a release; the to-do list seems to take over weekends.

But when you have something to look forward to, the mundane everyday is bearable because it's leading up to something greater.

For me, the things I look forward to are trips. Last April, we took a trip to Jamaica, and I think it was over lunch at the resort that we started to think ahead to what our next trip would be. Would it be Ireland this time? What about Israel? Italy? Apparently we were in the "I" mood.

We started a few trips on paper and then changed our minds as to where we wanted to go. In January, I stumbled across a pretty good deal for a trip to Sandals Ochi in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and we decided that we would start planning a trip there.

And we planned ahead. About a year ahead.

Time drags on, and I am already incredibly excited to head out on our vacation, but it does give me something to look forward to each day. I ogle over Sandals resorts on Facebook, and I look up Ochi on Trip Advisor to read reviews and look at pictures. I have even started to count down the days.

We had some friends who planned an exotic vacation in only two weeks. That makes for instant gratification, but I do have to say, I think I like planning further ahead than that because I like the anticipation. It makes the vacation so much more special.

In the meantime, I had a trip to Colorado to look forward to, which is now over. There's a trip to Wrigley, some possible weekend excursions for weddings this fall, maybe a small anniversary getaway?

My trips make my everyday life more exciting. What do you look forward to?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

I'm perfectly content with life, or maybe I'm not...

My first job I stayed in for five years, and I have been at my second job for two years. I know many people have spent 10, 20, 30 years at the same job, but I also know many people have never stayed at the same job for more than a year or two.

I've been with the same man for 12 years, married for going on four years. Yet again, I know people have spent 10, 20, 50 years with the same person, but there are also people who haven't had a relationship more than six months.

Some people just have a temptation for discontentment. They see all the things wrong in their job --- their imperfect coworkers, the stress, the challenges. They see all the things wrong in their marriages --- their imperfect spouses, the stress, the challenges. And instead of just being content in where they are and dealing with what is truly just life, they give up and search for something else that will make them satisfied, but nothing will give them that contented feeling.

"What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You cover and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions." James 4:1-3

We look for contentment all around --- my marriage isn't making me content; my job isn't making me content; my money isn't making me content.

I have a pretty easy life. We are financially sound. We have a wonderful marriage and good jobs. We have a beautiful place to live and plenty of friends. I am pretty content. And so I should be.

But there are still places that I am discontented. I wish we could have new clothes, because we have realized our clothes are mostly about 10 years old. We get to travel to an exotic place about once each year and a half, but if I had what I wanted we would do it a couple times per year. I wish we could buy new windows, landscaping and could renovate our tiny kitchen. So maybe I'm a little more discontented than I think.

And that's not what I want. I am beyond blessed. Instead of so often focusing on what I wish we could buy, I have to look around and see everything we have. Because discontentment and unappreciation is sin. Paul Tripp says, "When we sin, we aren't just breaking God's law, we're actually breaking God's heart."

So I start off this blog by thinking how content I am compared to so many people. I have pride in my contentment. Then I start thinking about the places in my life where I am discontented, and I realize just how much I do desire and do sin in my longing for worldly goods.

Our deepest longings, which we think can be filled with material goods or good jobs or marriage, is really a longing for God that we fill with other stuff. And that other stuff is never enough.

"You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him is sin." James 4:13-17

We've been going through Genesis in church. And today the youth pastor preached from James, which just happens to exactly line up with what my Bible reading for the week was. Think God is trying to reiterate something to me? I'm thinking so...

Monday, May 16, 2016

Life is easy, or it can be

Life is easy.

It's easy to stay home and watch TV. It's easy to walk into church on Sunday morning, drink coffee, eat cookies and then leave after the service is over. It's easy to go home right after work and relax. It's easy to not talk to anyone else and to ignore the issues happening in the world. It's easy to not make phone calls, to not write cards, to not say "hello," to not make eye contact and smile. It's easy to not put your shopping cart back and to leave it in the parking lot.

But just because life can be easy, it doesn't mean that taking the easy way out is the best way out.

It was my third time giving blood today. I've been woozy before, and it was comical when halfway through donating this time the nurse walked up to me, "Are you OK?"


A minute later. "Are you OK?"


Then two nurses were standing in front of me.

"You sure you're OK?"

"Yes." They looked skeptical. "Well, I'm hot."

That confirmed their thoughts, so they nudged me over and had me lay down instead of sitting up. When completed, they made me sit up little by little, and then finally told me to swing my legs over and when I felt OK that I could go to the canteen.

The moment I swung my legs over the edge, I started seeing stars. So I waited for them to clear, but it got worse and worse. So I turned back around and sat with my legs on the bed again.

They came to check on me, and I said I was seeing stars. So I laid back down again. Comically, they needed the bed, so they brought over another cot, had me slide onto it and then wheeled me into the corner. For "privacy," they put up a partition around me, gave me a cold cloth for my head and put a fan on me.

Oh my gosh. I was laughing and about dying of embarrassment as I laid in my little corner hut.

It would be easy for me to give up. It would be easy to just say I can't give blood. It would be easy, but it wouldn't be worth it. I'll keep going back, because I think that God calls us to give. And if I can help save a life by giving of an hour of my time, a little discomfort and a little wooziness, then it's worth it.

And it will be easy next time to have an excuse to eat a candy bar next time before I go.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Genesis: The painful path of maturity

I'm back!

Since Grandma died, life has felt like a whirlwind and we've done nothing but go, go, go.

But this morning I'm back at church, and we're continuing with the book of Genesis, now getting to the story of Jacob, Laban and Laban's daughters.

Jacob returned to his mother's land, and he met his cousin, Rachel. She showed up with her father's sheep, and Jacob rolled away the stone from the well. He was showing off his muscles for the beautiful girl. And her watered her sheep, again, showing off for this beauty.

Jacob tells Rachel he is a relative, and she tells her father, and everyone is super excited. Jacob knew the story of his parents, how his grandfather sent a servant to this place and found Rebekah for Isaac. He wants the same thing to happen for himself and Rachel. However, most likely Laban just saw dollar signs. He had seen the huge dowry paid for his sister Rebekah, and he wanted the same thing for his daughter.

But Jacob didn't have anything. So he offered to work for his uncle for seven years in exchange for Rachel. Laban agreed, although it was twice the typical payment of a dowry. Laban took advantage of his family member; you can see where Jacob inherited his cheating persona. The seven years when pretty quickly for Jacob and Rachel as they waited for their wedding day.

Laban really wanted to get rid of his older daughter before Rachel, so on Jacob's wedding night he gave him Leah, whose name means cow, who was not very attractive, who was nothing compared to Rachel. Jacob didn't realize it because Leah was covered in a veil, and Jacob got drunk during the "drinking feast." By the time it was dark and no one could see, Jacob slept with Leah, but didn't realize it.

We know it was bad that Laban tried to exploit Jacob, but think about Leah. She had seen Jacob and Rachel's love blossom. She knew of their feelings for each other. However, she still went along with her dad's plan to steal her sister's groom. That side of it is not often thought about.

Jacob wakes up and freaks out. His uncle manipulates him once more to get more work out of him in exchange for Rachel. This creates havoc in the home as Leah now is trying to always outdo her sister to be the beloved wife.

This happened because Laban said that it was not customary to give the younger before the older. So they had snuck in and fooled Jacob. It was just like what he had done in his own family. His older brother was supposed to have his family's blessing, but Jacob had dressed as his brother and stolen it. Now his first wife had jumped in, dressed as her sister and stolen her sister's joy. Jacob could see what he had done to his brother.

God is committed to maturing us, but we all struggle with certain sins. Sometimes then we have to deal with someone else who struggles with the same sin so we can see what it's like to be on the receiving end of that sin. It will help break us of that sin when we get frustrated with it.

Oh how I have experienced that before. I've seen my own sin in others' lives, and it is always convicting. Galatians 6:7 says, "For whatever one sows, that he will also reap."

Your sin will come back to haunt you, not only in its consequences but also as God brings similar situations in your life as he tries to teach you a lesson.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Go against the crowd

Planning was underway for a large conference when it was brought to the board to use almost half of its budget for a keynote speaker.

The other keynote was less than one-fifth of that price, but one person on the board was for spending the extra thousands of dollars on this one man.

After a few minutes, a vote was taken, and it was almost unanimous ayes.

Until one person said nay. Asked why, the man said it was just too much money for one speaker.

Then another piped up, "I think so too."

And another.

And another.

Until the measure was voted down.

People are so afraid to go against the majority that they won't even speak their minds about an issue of thousands of dollars.

Or life and death.

My Bible reading this morning is the worst in the book --- Jesus' crucifixion. It isn't exactly how I want to start my day. But I found it interesting the part about the crowd that asked for Barabbas. I didn't really realize that it said that the chief priests had swayed the crowd. They didn't want Jesus to be released, so they talked people into asking for a hardened criminal instead.

And people went for it!

Can you imagine? People loved Jesus and knew all the wonderful things he did, and many, many knew that he was the son of God. But they still asked for a criminal, because their leaders had persuaded them.

It often seems like it is just a problem in today's culture that people have no background and are afraid of going against the crowd, but it is obviously just human nature, because that issue is thousands of years old.

Stand up for what's right. Stand up for truth. Stand up and be brave.

That's all for today.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Blessed assurance

I spent this weekend with my Grandma, who has been fighting colon cancer for more than a year. After getting put on hospice and given weeks to live, she took a turn and it was only going to be days.

I got to her house and bedded down on the living room floor with my mom, next to Grandma's hospital bed. It was like deja vu. Her face was sunken, her bony nose sticking out, her breath ragged. It was just like Grandpa had been only two years earlier when I had stayed the night on the floor, waiting for him to die.

Mom and I talked, her admitting some of the difficulties she had been through the last few days. Grandma told me and everyone else what a good job my mom was doing caring for her, but she wouldn't admit something emotional like that to my mom, and that is hard information to get secondhand.

But Mom still did what God and her heart told her, and she got up every two hours to give her mom the medicine that kept her out of pain. Between Grandma and my restless dog, we didn't get much sleep.

By 4 a.m. Grandma had become really unresponsive. With my uncle we decided to stop morphine dosage until it appeared she needed some. And then we sat down to wait.

Grandma's breathing had noticeably slowed, to 10 breaths per minute we counted, and we weren't sure how much longer she would last. So the family was called and siblings arrived.

And we waited. We sat by Grandma's side and waited. We counted breaths and waited. We held her hand and waited. We gave her medicine and waited. We flipped the cool washcloth on her head and waited.

I prayed not knowing what to pray for. I prayed God would take Grandma so she wouldn't be in pain, but here she was so there has to be some reason he wasn't done in this situation yet. And I looked around at the brokenness around us. In one little room there was so much brokenness --- broken marriages, addiction, broken relationships between parents and children, poverty, fear --- brokenness.

And I prayed that somehow God could come in and do work there.

Grandma held on.

We waited. We sat by Grandma's side and waited. We counted breaths and waited. We held her hand and waited. We gave her medicine and waited. We flipped the cool washcloth on her head and waited.

I went back to my parents' house to get a good night's sleep before the long drive home. We thought maybe peace and quiet would help Grandma relax enough to pass, because she was such an independent stubborn woman that she would have wanted to be alone when it happened.

My Grandma was far from perfect. She lived a rough life, and to be honest she was a coarse woman. We had talked to Grandma about God, about how Jesus came to Earth to die on the cross to take our sin on himself, how he rose again to beat death, how if we accept him as our Savior we are forgiven of our sins and get to spend eternity in heaven after death.

Grandma understood and said at the end she knew where she was going and had peace about death. But you never really know what is going on in someone's heart.

And then it happened.

I woke up at 3:15 when my mom called.

"Grandma went to be with Jesus."

Breath out.


"No, she really went to be with Jesus. She was struggling to breath and your dad and I started reading Scripture to her. We could tell she was scared and fighting it. We told her to call out to Jesus. She opened her eyes and moved her mouth and that's when she passed."

"Oh my gosh."

"I have no doubt. My mom is in heaven. This body that was laying like a corpse opened her eyes and called out to Jesus. She was scared because she had such a bad father and then she met Jesus!"

"Oh my gosh." Tears streaming. "I knew there was a reason God was having her hang on."

That was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. God gave everyone exactly what they needed. He gave my Grandma someone there to help her find him at the very end and he gave my mom blessed assurance of where her mom is.

What is even more beautiful is God overlooks our doubts. When we accept him, that's it. We're his. Grandma was scared to die. She was fighting it for days. She was unsure. Yet, Jesus called to her and opened his arms, and she got to run into them. No reservations. No punishment. Just acceptance.

And now she is alive. She is truly alive. And she is alive forever. She had eternal life with a perfect body in a place beyond all imagination.

Someone from my broken family. Someone from a harsh past. Someone full of problems. Instead of death being painful and ending in torment in hell, where we all deserve to go, Jesus took her plea for forgiveness on earth and wrote her name down. So when it came time, he didn't see any sin. He just saw his child. And he welcomed her home.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise him all creatures here below.
Praise him above, ye heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son and holy ghost.

Amen Lord. Thank you. Praise you.

I'll see my Grandma again someday. What blessed assurance.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Slow, slow, quick, quick

Nate and I started taking ballroom lessons this week. He is such a trooper. He has a horrible cold but sucked it up to go to the first class with me.

We weren't sure what to expect, because the class description didn't entail much, but we were told during class that we would learn three basic dances in the six-week course --- the foxtrot, swing and waltz.

We began with the foxtrot --- slow, slow, quick, quick.

So, I kind of figured that it would be simple enough for us to pick up on. I mean, I teach dance and Nate enjoys dancing. It shouldn't be hard for us to learn a few steps, right?

But it was a bit more difficult than I imagined for one major reason. Nate is completely in charge during the foxtrot, and I simply have to follow his silent directions.

If you haven't taken ballroom before, the basic foxtrot is the man guides the direction through hand pressure. The female is going backward the entire time, so the man uses pressure to tell her when they will turn at the end of the dance floor, to turn when he wants to promenade, to tighten up when they need to dance in place in order to not hit someone, to turn her. He does everything silently, and she is to follow his direction without knowing what is coming.

My instinct in dance is to take control. I anticipate where we are going and try to accommodate those changes. It's easy for me to pick up on the footwork, and then it makes me want to lead so that even if he messes up I can keep us going.

The teacher also explained that it is hard for the man to lead because men have a one-track mind. Women can multitask, and that means ballroom dancing is easier for them. Men have to learn to do multiple things at once --- keep their feet moving, guide their partner, anticipate, signal.

Ballroom dancing is so much like marriage. Nate and I have down pretty well that the man leads, but I know it is natural for women to slip into the leadership role when they don't see their man controlling the way things are heading. We anticipate, and men sometimes don't, so we take the lead when we anticipate more than they do. However, it is their God-given job to lead us. We need to allow that.

Yes, sometimes our feet might get twisted. We might bungle over each other. But that doesn't mean that the woman can just take control. She is to trust her husband and let him guide her, because she doesn't always see what's going on.

During ballroom, when I would try to take control, Nate had to regain that control, because I was going backward and even though I thought I knew what was best, he could see that we were about to bump into someone and had to steer me. He had to use that upperhand and bring us back in line as a couple.

We messed our feet up at one point and started cracking up. The teacher commented, "At least you are laughing about it."

I actually said to Nate later, "Do you think that he sees couples who don't laugh when they mess up?"

"Yeah, I'm sure that some people get mad at each other."

"Why would you get mad about it?"

"I don't know. Maybe they get frustrated that they're doing something wrong."

I think that is a huge issue in marriage as well. When you mess up together, sometimes you just have to laugh it off. You can't always fault the other person for a making a mistake. You take what happened and you start again. It only makes situations worse when you aren't sure you can count on your spouse to support you through failures. It makes things so much easier when you know you can mess up and move on together without a fight.

I'm excited to continue our dance lessons together. Slow, slow, quick, quick. That's the way life works. Some moves are slow, some are fast. But through it all, you're together. Just don't lose hold on each other and you can keep dancing through life with a smile on.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Good-bye cellulite?

The no-sugar diet has been quite successful. It hasn't been easy, and I'm amazed by what sounds good right now (pancakes, Oreos ---- I've never been huge on Oreos), but it has been successful.

The latest result I have noticed has been a lack of cellulite. Now, as I mentioned before, I didn't try this to lose weight. I had been noticing that my legs were taking on a bulgy appearance. Even though I was lifting and gaining muscle tone, that muscle seemed to be pushing out and tightening a layer of fat under my skin, and it was bumpy.

I was not happy to see that happen, and I was shocked at the places that it was. I mean, yes, my thighs and butt. That's not weird to have cellulite there. But my calves? If I moved just right, I could see that even my muscular calves were starting to take on a dented appearance when the skin was pulled tight, like when I would sit back on my heels.

Then, this week, I started to notice that my legs were looking smoother. I tried sitting a few ways that usually horrifically showed off the cellulite, and I tried squishing my calf skin, and the bulges were noticeably less than they had been just a few weeks ago.

I have always known sugar isn't good for me. I have quite an addiction to it when it is around though. In the past the way I have gotten over my addiction is not by eating "just a little bit," because that often turned into "just a little more," but to give it up completely. Giving it up gave me a reason to say "No."

When this experiment/sacrifice ends, I'm going to have to make some actual changes in life. I'm coming to the age that what I put inside my body really does affect me, and I guess this is as good a time as any to get into better habits.

So you'll probably be hearing more about this in the future!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Worry wart

Ugh. Leave it to Satan to torment you for no particular reason.

I have found in years past that the moment I look down on someone for doing something I would never do, I end up doing it. Or the moment I take pride in how far I have come, I fall off the wagon. I know it's Satan that is tempting me in my weak spots, even if I think those spots are strong.

Throughout my life, I've struggled with worry. I've worried about everything, from throwing away things I thought I might need in the future to what summer job to take to what college to go to. I've worried about the big things and the little things, to the point of making myself sick.

I was talking with someone the other day and seeing how much this person struggled with worry over things that I know shouldn't be worried about, and I vividly remember thinking, "I'm glad that I don't struggle with anxiety anymore."

It was like opening a door.

This past week or two, I have felt knots in my stomach over the most random things. I've stressed out entirely about my dance classes, worrying that I didn't hand out the right costumes months ago and that for picture day on Sunday that the kids would show up without costumes and it would be my fault.

I will admit, there are times that I haven't prioritized my classes like I should have, and when these worries come it's hard to combat them with "I've done my best, and I know everything will work out. If it doesn't, it won't be my fault." That's often how I combat my worried feelings. But when I don't have that, I don't know what to combat it with.

I've tried to become more organized this past week, and done my best to e-mail my students' parents to tell them to check all their stuff and let me know if something is missing, and I haven't received anything back. So I guess I just have to be content with that.

And then there's the next moment when I get a pit in my stomach for no reason. And then I start to worry that I shouldn't have that feeling, that I shouldn't get those pits in my stomach anymore.

So I'm worrying about worrying? I'm worrying about how to get rid of my worry?

It's a vicious cycle.

And it's somewhere I've been before. It's somewhere I used to live. And I got out of it, and I have loved my life without worry. I've gotten so much better at trusting God to take care of what is beyond my control, and I guess I have to trust him that even if I do mess up, and something truly is my fault, that he will help me work it out for the best.

I'm never going to be perfect, so if my only way to combat worry is to tell myself I've done my best, then that won't work. I can't always do my best. I will fail. I will falter. And those moments, I have to know that God is in control and he is bigger than my mistakes.

Plus, I know I have to live beyond my feelings. That's another thing I was talking to this same person about, that they can't just go by how they feel. Sometimes we feel crappy. When I feel worrisome and have those pits in my stomach for no reason, then I need to turn everything over to God and go about my day.

So, thank you Lord that you are in control. Forgive me for falling into a trap that I have many times in the future. I'm sorry for the areas that I have slacked, and I'm sorry for not always doing my best. Please use me, and even my failures, for good.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The no-sugar update

I would love some ice cream.

Or that coffee cake I saw on "Pioneer Woman."

The cupcakes they're eating on "Fixer Upper" look good too.

So, yeah, I miss sugar.

Only three more weeks though.

I have been doing alright with my Lenten decision, although it has taken down a lot of my food options. I've eaten a lot of homemade bread, natural peanut butter, peanuts, bananas and smoothies. But that has made me eat quite a bit healthier than I usually do which is a good thing.

I would normally think that this would help boost my immune system, but I did end up catching a pretty good cold from someone at work. Maybe my sugar intake doesn't impede my immune system as much as I thought it would have.

I have lost a couple of pounds. That is not super unusual for me. I'm not one of those people that stays at one set weight. I usually fluctuate within three-four pounds. We have also been consistently going to the gym, so that might have something to do with it.

I guess the biggest update with my sugar diet is I'm not dead. Who would have guessed you could give up all sugar and still live?

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Abraham doesn't quite look like a hero

Abraham was considered a hero of the faith, named as such in the book of Hebrews in the New Testament.

But that doesn't mean he was perfect.

Abraham had previously acted like his wife was his sister and let his wife be taken by the Egyptian king. God luckily protected her, and she was released back to her husband.

Wonderful things happened in life, and still Abraham struggled to trust God. He got scared again that someone would kill him to get his wife, who was now 90, and he again acted like she was his sister. Again, she was taken into the king's harem.

God went to the king in a dream and warned him what he had done. He was guilty of taking another man's wife, when though he didn't mean to do it. Sometimes we are guilty of sin when when we don't consciously choose to sin or feel bad about something. Unintentional sin is still sin. Honestly that's the most common kind; they are accidents but we still have to pay for those choices.

Sometimes though, God graciously protects us from sin and disaster. God had not let Abimilech sleep with Sarah yet. He protected the king from unintentional adultery. I often think when I encounter delays and setbacks, like getting stuck in traffic, that maybe it is because God is protecting me from something. It might be from danger. It might be from a situation that would get me involved in sin. Who knows? But if God is in charge, we have to believe he is in charge of every little thing.

Abraham actually admitted that he had claimed Sarah as his sister wherever they went. He was a coward over and over again, and he made his wife suffer because of his sin. Sin doesn't just affect us, it affects those around us, especially those we love.

I often struggle with laziness, wanting to watch TV and relax instead of doing chores at home. That in turn affects my husband, who either has to take on what I didn't do or has to live in a dirty home. It means we don't invite people over when we should because the house isn't ready to receive guests. My sin affects others.

Another point from Abraham's story --- truths intended to deceive are still a lie. Yes, Sarah was his sister, but saying she was his sister instead of his wife was a deception. It was a sin. We are supposed to let our yes be yes and no be no. Christians are supposed to be honest.

The story ends with Abimilech apologizing and giving Abraham 1,000 pieces of silver. He prayed for the king, and God answered by healing Abimilech and the curse that was on his household because of Sarah. God didn't give up on Abraham. God doesn't give up on us.