Friday, December 30, 2011

Our Christmas house

I've had so much fun decorating our little home for Christmas this year! I'm reluctant to pack away the Christmas decor now - it's all so cheery! Here's a little peek at a few of the simple handmade items I incorporated into our decor this year:

I tatted a stack of delicate snowflakes for our tiny tree, each one also incorporating beads for a bit of sparkle. With some red and gold ribbons, this resulted in a simple, old-fashioned look for the tree.

This simple star was an absolutely free project, made from twigs in the yard, a little hot melt glue, and rafia tied over the joins. I actually made it last summer and had it out in our living room for several months. To me, the star has a patriotic/country feel to it, so it works well around the year, not just at Christmas time.

For our coffee table, I laid out a row of doilies - the different patterns and sizes remind me of snowflakes. :) A couple candles leftover from our wedding decor, a small dish of candy, fake cranberries and snow in a tall glass vase tied with all fit together perfectly.

When it came to Christmas cards, I used two simple ideas: First, I got a long strip of burlap, tacked it over our coat closet door, added a simple ribbon bow at the top, and then pinned cards to it all the way down, using clothespins. Some sparkly gold snowflakes (from last year's Christmas clearance) looped over the clothespins and added a fun, festive touch. Worked out perfectly!

We had too many cards to all fit on the door display, so I tied a length of twine along our short banister, under the poinsettia garland. More clothespins easily clipped cards here - though I unfortunately didn't have enough sparkly snowflakes for this area, too. Ended up being just about perfect for the number of cards we received this year (it filled up after I took this photo).

And finally, probably one of my most favorite parts of our holiday decor, though not homemade: the snowflakes on our patio doors. We got three from Hobby Lobby, and I have thoroughly enjoyed using them as suncatchers in our south-facing dining area. In the afternoons the sun comes through them beautifully, sending little rainbows bouncing all around the room. Even though I will be packing away the rest of the Christmas decor before too much longer, I plan to leave these up through the rest of the winter: they're just too pretty to put away. :)

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! Jesus - our Immanuel! - matters far more than these bits of temporary prettiness, fun as they are. May you come to know Him in new ways in the year ahead!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Immanuel: God with us

This morning I felt led to re-share a blog post from several years ago, wrung from my heart during a time when I was really struggling with trusting God at the end of a year full of confusion, disappointment, and heartbreak. I am now able to look back on that time and say with even greater assurance, "Yes, God was there." I still don't understand why He allowed everything to happen as it did, and likely I never will see all His reasons. But I do know that He used that time to draw me very close to Himself and to help me learn that nothing really matters besides knowing Him.

No matter where you are this Christmas, may you be encouraged as you remember our Immanuel: our God that is with us.

He knows.


Today I awoke to a world shrouded in misty whiteness, an unusual winter fog combining with last weekend's snowfall to create a pale and chilly monochrome universe. I pulled the rough warmth of my sweater closer and shivered a bit as I peered through the icy glass; yet a smile could not be restrained as one word tiptoed into my consciousness, then danced its way through my thoughts like a long-enduring autumn leaf skittering across fresh-fallen snow.


Throughout the pages of Scriptures, God reveals His presence in the visible form of a cloud: the cloud which led the children of Israel through their daytime wilderness wanderings; the cloud from which God spoke on Mount Sinai, enveloping Moses during those mysterious days of face-to-face communion; the cloud which descended upon the tabernacle and temple when they had been finished to perfection and prepared for the indwelling of the Most Holy; the glorious cloud which surrounded Jesus on the mount of transfiguration and dazzled Peter into stammering foolishness; and the cloud upon which Jesus will magnificently return to earth with trumpet sound as conquering King.

With this beautifully-woven backdrop of truth, I choose to accept this day -- this moment of nebulous uncertainty, this place where all seems to fade into indistinct confusion -- as a tangible reminder of the Almighty's presence in my life. My Father is here in this cloud, completely surrounding me with His love. The color and warmth may be drained out of my world, and I may not be able to see more than an arm's length into the future. But -- O truth incomprehensible! -- Jesus has come. He that is Wonderful, my Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace -- He is here.

God with us.

This poignantly beautiful song moves me to grateful tears:

A sign shall be given
A virgin will conceive
A human baby bearing
Undiminished deity
The glory of the nations
A light for all to see
That hope for all who will embrace
His warm reality

Our God is with us
And if God is with us
Who could stand against us
Our God is with us

For all those who live in the shadow of death
A glorious light has dawned
For all those who stumble in the darkness
Behold your light has come

Our God is with us
And if God is with us
Who could stand against us
Our God is with us

So what will be your answer?
Will you hear the call?
Of Him who did not spare His son
But gave Him for us all
On earth there is no power
There is no depth or height
That could ever separate us
From the love of God in Christ

Our God is with us
And if God is with us
Who could stand against us
Our God is with us
~Michael Card

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Settling" - or setting aside lists?

Thanks to a recommendation from a good friend, the book most recently on the top of my reading stack has been Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, by Lori Gottlieb.

Yes, yes - I'm married now. What am I doing still reading books by and for single women? ;) Well, I was single not all that long ago (two short years!), and I definitely haven't forgotten what it feels like to be on the doorstep of age 30 with no prospects in sight, wondering what God's plan holds for me. The months and years of waiting and wondering, struggling to balance hope with contentment, are still fresh in my memory. Besides, I have sisters and friends who are still waiting on God's timing, and I want to be available and prepared to encourage them however possible.

So anyway, back to the book! Ms. Gottlieb's basic premise is summed up in this statement: "It [isn't] about settling for less than what's going to make her [is] about learning how to value what's truly valuable" (page 313). As a single in her early 40s, she writes with a perspective of regret as she remembers several good men she turned down because they just didn't quite meet her long list of what she thought she was looking for. Talking with many single women in their thirties and forties and beyond, she's found out that she is not alone in these regrets. Age has brought with it a clearer realization of what really matters in a life partner - as well as, unfortunately, a rapidly shrinking number of available good men.

Lori puts forth the theory that almost all happy marriages involve some degree of compromise (a.k.a., "settling"), usually on both sides. He may not have a blond hair and she may not be a good cook, but they both have other qualities that qualify them to be a good life partner. In the long run, isn't patience or unselfishness what really counts, far more than "isn't a sports fanatic" or "likes opera music"? The book encourages singles not to give up all their ideals and accept the next person who is willing to be their spouse, but to really take an honest look at their "list" and narrow it down to only three dealbreaker qualities: three things you absolutely must have before you'd consider marrying a person. Just because they meet these three doesn't mean they're right for you, but it means they're worth giving a good chance.

I know I would have benefitted from this book before marriage. As it was, God used my sisters, several friends, and other sources to give me the courage to let Joe into my life and give God a chance to change my heart towards him - even though, in all honesty, he just didn't seem to be the type of guy I thought I was waiting for. I was terrified of "settling" and regretting it later. Now, after almost a year of marriage, I am more and more thankful all the time that I did give Joe a chance! No he's not perfect - but I'm sure not perfect either so why would I think a "perfect" guy would want me, even if such a creature existed? Our strengths and weaknesses fit together beautifully, and even the differences that seemed so big at the beginning - our widely divergent backgrounds, dissimilar interests, lack of mutual friends, and so on - are really not a huge deal.

So did I "settle"? In some definitions of the word, yes. I let go of a few things I always thought I'd have in a husband (i.e., someone taller than me, a musician, a homeschooler, etc.). But ultimately no, I did not, not at all: Joe has all the important qualities that make him a wonderful husband, and I'm pretty sure scarcely anyone else would have been able to put up with me as he does. ;) I would have missed out on something incredibly special if I had turned him down. That's one thing I kept thinking as I read this book: I am so thankful God brought me clarity in that confusion and gave me courage to step into this relationship, even if it didn't look (or even quite feel, at times) like what I'd expected.

Ms. Gottlieb sadly does not write from a Christian or Biblical perspective, but the book is quite clean and the vast majority of what she says is practical, down-to-earth wisdom that many singles need to hear. Granted, the advice applies only to those girls who have a suitor: not much use theorizing about lists and "settling" if there's no guy around to say yes or no to! Believe me, I well know what that's like, too. But rather than being depressing to girls in that situation, I think this book should be encouraging: it's a reminder that there really ARE good men out there, if one is willing to give them a chance...willing to look behind the few external things that don't quite fit your "list" and catch a glimpse of their heart...willing to let God write the script and choose the cast. Possibly that willingness must be in place before God brings the right guy along, so we don't turn down His gift?

This principle actually applies to many areas of life besides waiting for a spouse. Joe and I are learning it all over again right now as we continue to wait for the blessing of a child in our home. And it'd apply to other situations, too, like waiting for a job, a house, a good church, or other blessings. Our loving Father does desire to give us good gifts, He knows what we truly need and want most, and He also promises to give us the wisdom we need for each situation we face. In laying aside our "lists" of ideals, or the way we think our circumstances should play out, we're not throwing away common sense, good counsel, or prayerful caution. Instead, we are saying, "Okay, Lord - You know best what I need. Show me Your way. Give me wisdom to recognize Your gifts when they arrive - and courage to accept them."

Here's to the journey of growing in faith!

(Do read Marry Him if you get a chance: though I don't agree with or endorse everything in the book, especially because it is from a secular perspective, I think it's very much worth reading and is quite insightful.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Praise God for wives!

It's no secret--my wife is amazing.

No one else puts up with my bad moods, indecision, bad decisions, and crazy dreams like Abi. I don't know what I would do without her. God has truly blessed my life by putting her into it.

What amazes me further is how she's always so excited to see me when I get home from work, how she willingly puts food on the table every night, how she keeps the house so clean despite putting in several hours a day for her own work, and how she manages to keep a smile on her face.

I love my wife. I hope all of you husbands out there can say the same with gusto.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Smooification :)

I decided this morning that our blog was in dire need of a good dose of smoo...along with some fun trivia info about Joe and I. So, in honor of our one year and two month anniversary, here's a little peek into our lives. Enjoy! :)

What are your middle names?

Tyler and Miriam

How long have you been together?
We've known each other for 2 years, 2 months, and 13 days. ;)

Who asked who out?
He emailed me first, which I guess amounts to the same thing. ;)

How old were each of you when you met?
I was 29, he was 28.

How old are each of you now?
+2 :)

How tall are each of you?
I'm close to 5'11 and he's around a little less than an inch or so shorter. Being virtually the same height makes for easy kissing! ;)

Whose siblings do/did you see the most?
Definitely mine. They were always around during the time we were getting to know each other, and have continued to visit frequently. Whereas Joe's family isn't nearly as close, and we only see his siblings a couple times a year at most.

Do you have any children together?
Not yet...

What about pets?
Nope. Don't have much option for that at the apartments we've lived in, and neither of us is crazy about indoor pets anyway. Maybe if we get an acreage someday we'll get a dog...we'll see.

Did you go to the same school?
Hehe - nope. ;) I was homeschooled all the way, and he attended public school in SD and WI.

Are you from the same hometown?
Sort of, if you count the fact that he was born at the hospital in my hometown - the hospital where I would have been born if my parents hadn't opted for a home birth (my siblings, dad, grandma, and other relatives were all born there). But his family moved out of state when he was about 6 months old and he'd never been back to see his birthplace until he came to visit me for the first time. :)

Who is the smartest?
Joe is, no question about it. :) I know some things he doesn't, obviously, but he's far more intelligent and quick to figure things out.

Who is the most sensitive?
Not surprisingly, I am. But he is very sweet and sensitive in a guy-ish way. I love that about him. :)

Where do you eat out most as a couple?

Subway probably is top of the list, but we've also been to Pizza Hut several times (including our first in-person meeting!), as well as Taco John's and other favorites.

Where is the furthest you two have traveled together as a couple?
Colorado, for our honeymoon! The train ride out there and back was absolutely amazing, and we thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our all-too-short week out in the mountains.

Who has the worst temper?
We're probably about equal, hehe. Both of us are pretty laid back and don't find much worth getting upset over, and we also both have a tendency to react quietly to conflict...but we both have a strong stubborn streak, too. After all, we're firstborns! ;)

Who does/did the cooking?
I'm in charge of all the regular, day-to-day meal preparation. But if we're really rushed and I need help finishing, or if I'm busy with an urgent design job, or if I'm sick, Joe is really good about stepping in and helping out. He's a great cook and makes a number of dishes much better than I can. And his grilling is amazing!

Who is more social?
We're both introverts, and it just depends on the setting which of us is more social. We both need a good bit of recharge time, though thankfully we both can get it pretty well just being with each other.

Who is the neat-freak?
I am, lol - no doubt about that. ;) But he is really great about not leaving dirty clothes or wet towels around, cleaning up after his self-administered haircuts, etc. He nicely tolerates my urge to keep things less cluttered, and in turn I'm learning to not freak out TOO much if things aren't perfect. ;)

Who hogs the bed?
He tends to more often, though I get even by hogging the blankets. 0;-)

Who wakes up earlier?
In general I do, and I require less sleep overall. But he can wake up much faster and more coherently than I can. Makes for a good combo.

Who has the bigger family?
I do, for sure. He does have 3 siblings, but very few aunts/uncles/cousins. I have 5 siblings and a very large, close-knit extended family, especially on my mom's side.

How do you spend the holidays?
My family doesn't celebrate Christmas or Easter, so we've been spending those holidays with his family - and my family gets all the others. Keeps it simple. :)

Do you have little pet names for each other?
Sorta... ;)

How long did it take to get serious?

From Friends to Dating? Pretty much no time at all, since we were both very intentional about the relationship from the beginning.
From Dating to Seriously Dating? We made our courtship public and official (with my dad's blessing) after 6 months - but we were both very serious long before then.

Who eats more?
He does, hehe. And he eats literally twice as fast as I do. O_o

Who sings better?
I do, though he's not too bad and sings out strongly in group settings if it's a song he knows.

Who’s older?
I am, by one year and 27 days, I believe.

Who does the dishes?
I do, though he has pitched in a couple times when I've been quite sick for more than a few days. He's also great about helping clear the table and put dishes in the dishwasher.

Who snores?
He is quite proficient at it. ;) I've never been told that I snore, so I guess I lack that skill.

Who’s better with the computer?
Depends on what we're doing...we each know more about certain things, and I obviously know more about Macs than he does.

Who drives when you are together?
Joe always does, since I [still] can't drive our stick-shift car. But he's a good driver and we both prefer that he drive anyway.

Who is the first to admit when they're wrong?
Not sure...maybe me, though he's sweet about it, too.

Who kissed who first?
It was mutual. :)

Who eats more sweets?
Joe definitely has more of a sweet tooth, hehe. I do like some sweets, but the older I get the less I can handle at a time, and most don't appeal to me.

Who does the laundry?
He actually does it more often than I do, as far as getting the loads started and spreading out the laundry to dry (we lay it around our spare room, unless we're in a hurry and need to use the dryer). But I tend to fold the clean laundry more than he does.

Who pays the bills?
This is Joe's arena and he does a fabulous job with it. I never have to worry about him missing a payment or not keeping things straight. I'm so grateful for this, since math and money matters aren't my cup of tea.

Who pays when you go out to dinner?
Joe does, but we usually use coupons that I've tracked I think we're even. ;)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fill the world with books!

Well, the holiday season is in full-swing, and Christmas is less than three short weeks away. Still scrambling for a gift for your 7-15 year old? Then look no further! My friend Tim and I have written a trilogy of books for just that age range (well, technically, they're listed more for 10 or 11 through 14 or 15, but hey, who's counting?). Our series, The Truth Chronicles, seeks to provide a good story while also presenting sound biblical truths. One of the biggest topics we tackle is creation vs. evolution, but we also deal with the problem of evil (if God is good, why does evil exist?). Throw in a bit of time travel, and you have the makings of an exciting adventure the will help teach your children the importance of trusting God's Word.

A recent review from Margery: "I think they are well done. I finished reading them this morning--just laid aside my work and read with pleasure and interest. I'm guessing the kids will also enjoy them and be blessed and instructed in spite of themselves!"

Follow these links for more reviews:

Book 1:

Book 2:

Book 3:

Now, you're more than welcome to order these books through, but wouldn't you like to have an autographed set instead? To do that, simply e-mail me at with your contact info and I'll be glad to send you a set. Unfortunately, because of the physical distance between us, I don't have any copies with Tim's autograph, but if you make a stop at the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum, you may be able to track him down and get his signature there. If you decide to order a set from me, it will be $20 for all three books, plus $5 shipping. I will only charge you shipping once if you order multiple sets at the same time (five sets for $105, a great deal!).

God bless, and have a Merry Christmas!