Thursday, November 29, 2012

That Time I Gave My Testimony

This is a post that got "lost in the archives". I saved it as a draft sometime last fall, when I was enrolled in an evangelism and discipleship class at Moody. This was a class that challenged the way I looked at the Gospel and shared my own story. 

For one of my class assignments, I had to write out my testimony.

Now, I consider myself something of a pro in writing out my testimony. How I came to know Jesus, how I've grown, and what God's doing now. I've written this out a lot and had the assignment done in about five minutes.

Then I got to class.

"Who wants to be the first one?" the professor queries.

"The first for what?" we ask, checking our syllabus.

The first to give our testimonies in front of the class, of course. OF COURSE.

Anytime this happens in a class, be it give a speech, make a presentation or sometimes even answering a question out loud in class, I want to leave. Or throw up. Or quit school.

Unfortunately, I haven't gotten this far just to quit over a three minute testimony. Eventually I spoke (I was not the first, but I wasn't the last either - someone told me once that people always remember the first and the last so I try to go somewhere in the middle since I really stink at speaking). I took long awkward pauses to figure out what I would say, my face was hot and probably red. I giggled and said "um". I am every speech teacher's nightmare, but thankfully, I wasn't being graded on my presentation. I hope.

It occurred to me after I had finished that there has never been a time when I've been good at speaking. More often than not, I can write something in five minutes that sounds rather put together. In contrast, I could get up and say that very same thing and sound like a babbling idiot.

And that's when I realized that my days of speaking in public are not over the moment I receive my diploma. I will be enduring this humiliation until the day I die.

God has used this thing more than any other to make me trust Him. I nearly blacked out the first time I gave my testimony in Ukraine. I have read stories of other poor speakers in the Bible over and over for encouragement. I've memorized Philippians 4:6-7 unintentionally, just by reading it so many times in one day. God has used this thing in my life to do things that are small for others but huge for me - I've led crafts in Ukraine, shared in many churches, passed a speech class with an A, passed a preaching class with an A, led Bible studies, taught Sunday School, and given a toast at a wedding. Yes, these are normal things. Small things. To you.

To me, this is evidence that God has worked in this area. Kicking and screaming (figuratively), I have opened my mouth in front of others for my own edification if not for theirs. This thing is something that God continually uses to grow me and to remind me of how far I've come. Baby steps, if not leaps and bounds.

It's going to be in my life for quite some time. I don't think I'll be addressing the world or on live television... but who knows? All I know is that now I realize that this is something that God has used to remind me that He is Lord of my life. It has shown me that I need Him and that without Him, I'd be blacking out in classrooms everywhere. And failing speech. And most importantly not experiencing the growth that He can give when we rely on the Lord.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  
II Corinthians 12:9

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ornament Wreath How-To

You probably noticed my pride and joy, the ornament wreath, in a recent post. 
I've loved them for a long time, seeing similar ones in stores and such for years. However, I'd rather not waste most of a paycheck on something that will neither feed me nor give me warmth. 

This was an easy project, requiring almost zero talent and certainly zero wreath forms (saving money!), so I'll share what I did. 

Lots of round Christmas ornaments (mine are from the dollar store) - I used 80-90 between the medium and small sizes and would recommend a variety of sizes to fill the gaps
1 Wire hanger (thankfully Carson had one that I hijacked, otherwise this project wouldn't have happened)
Hot glue gun
Lots of glue sticks
Ribbon (for hanging)

I didn't really take pictures of all of my steps since this was simple, but here's what I did:

1. Untwist the wire hanger and bend it into a circle.

2. Glue the plastic tops to the rest of the ornaments (otherwise, I discovered, they fall off, ruining the wreath and trying your patience. This doesn't take long, but do it FIRST!)

3. Slip the ornaments on the hanger one by one. They'll sort of fall into place on the wreath. The little ones help to fill in the gaps.

4. Once it looks like you want it to, glue the balls to one another, so they stay put. I didn't glue every single one, just enough so it was more sturdy.

5. Re-twist the top of the hanger together so that it's a circle. This was difficult, so I enlisted Carson and some pliers
6. Admire your wreath!

I put mine in my living room because I like it a lot and if the weather messed it up on the front door, I'd be sad. Isn't it lovely?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

In Which We Decorate

We were lazy after getting up early the day after Thanksgiving, so we postponed our decking the halls until the following day. 
First, we set the scene by putting on a Pandora Christmas radio station (I have six different Christmas stations and they're set to shuffle for the widest variety of Christmas tunes). 

Then we got the tree out, which was hilariously easy this year, since all we did was open the box and set it up. There were no needles on the ground, no sawing the bottom off to make it fit in the stand. I still prefer real trees for the experience, but it was a completely pain-free set up this year.

Next, we pulled the box of Christmas decor out from the basement and got to work. I'd forgotten the Christmas things I bought on clearance after Christmas last year, so it was a fun surprise to see those unused ornaments. As always, we pulled each one out with remarks like "Remember this?" and "Oh, I'd forgotten about that one!" One of our traditions is that we collect an ornament from places we visit, so we also got to revisit those fun times.

Doesn't everything look beautiful and glowy at night?

The mantle is one of my favorite things. I haven't figured out if this is how I'll leave it, but I love having my little Christmas trees up there, as well as the wreath we made this year (I'm incredibly proud of that wreath). My mom made the stockings the year that we were engaged.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

So this year, there was no Macy's Day Parade watching on Thanksgiving morning.
(that used to be one of my favorite starts to the morning)
Instead, I dragged myself out of bed to work at 6:30. Carson dropped me off and went to his office to grade papers. It didn't exactly feel like a holiday, except that there were many more customers than usual. We were very busy, and I was exhausted when I left at a quarter to 2. 

Carson picked me up and we rushed home so that I could get ready, which happened in record time. He'd made a pumpkin bread since I didn't have time (meaning that I didn't really want to get up before work to do it) and we grabbed that and headed over to our friends, the Wilsons for a Thanksgiving feast. It didn't occur to me to take pictures, but everything was so tasty! There was turkey, Cajun stuffing, a really yummy green bean casserole, bread, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy and more. After a little bit, we had dessert, which I couldn't finish. It was great!

We hung around and talked for a few hours, and then headed home. We flipped through the Black Friday sale papers and just hung around being still for a little bit, since we'd been around people all day.

Just a disclaimer here - the reason I like Black Friday is because my dad and I would get up really early the day after Thanksgiving to hit Staples, Radio Shack and Best Buy. We'd finish up the shopping trip by searching for gifts for my mom's birthday on December 1st (hint, hint... it's coming up!). The day after Thanksgiving is more of a sentimental thing than anything... it's fun to find cheap things but I'm mostly in it for the memories and the fun. 

Then we decided to go to Target, which was opening at 9pm. The line was wrapped around the building when we arrived, right at 9, but we were in the store less than ten minutes later. I took this terrible picture with my cell phone since I didn't bring my camera.

We went because I bullied Carson into going, just because I like the thrill of the lines and the people rushing around. We weren't there for a large TV, which is good because I'm pretty sure those sold out before we got in there (it was seriously less than 10 minutes!). We were there for the cheap fake Christmas trees. I felt a little bit like I was betraying my upbringing by purchasing an artificial tree but the deed is done and I'm now in the market for a good Christmas tree scented candle :)

After Target, we went to Michael's and got some on-sale Christmas decor. We'd considered going to Old Navy too, but they didn't open until midnight and we weren't really planning on buying anything, so we just went home.

The next morning, Carson left at 5am to get in line for a bookstore that was giving away gift cards to the first 100 people in line. He was seventh or something. I worked that morning, and then we went to dinner for date night, then a few other places to see if we could catch sales. We found the entire Harry Potter series on DVD for pretty cheap and came home with that as well as a few small Christmas gifts and an advent calendar.

All in all, a relaxing and fun weekend.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

It's tomorrow, but I don't think it's going to kill us to write a Thanksgiving post a day early.

This year, Thanksgiving falls on the day that we have been married for two and a half years. Since I'm one to note such days, it feels appropriate that the two "events" coincide.

As you know, this has been a crazy and long six months for us. It truly feels like the six months since our happy anniversary celebration in May have been dragged out. So much has happened in our lives since that time, and for quite awhile, we felt as if we were just trying to keep our heads above water. In many ways, we feel as if we lived a year in these past six months. An incredibly eventful time, to be sure!

If I were to give each year that we have been married a theme, I would say that the first year was a year of Fun and Firsts. It was far from perfect, but we really had a lot of fun, a more disposable income, made wonderful friends and became part of an amazing church Body. It was imperfect, but still very fun.
This is from our first and last backpacking trip. If it hadn't been so completely overwhelming (for me), there might have been more of those. Still a fun memory.  July 2010. 
I feel like the second year had a characteristic of Perseverance and Waiting. Shortly after we celebrated our first anniversary, Carson moved three hours away for work (read about that here) and it seemed like that separation would define the rest of the year. However, after he broke his foot (read here), his summer job came to a stop, and we were reunited a couple of months sooner than planned. It was certainly a summer of "just get through it". Then came waiting for the end of school for me (and I'm not patient so it felt horrible). Carson applied to grad schools over a year ago and didn't hear back from many of them until eight or so months later. Our second year was a comfortable year, but in terms of us personally, there seemed to be a lesson of patience that God was teaching us. I wouldn't say that we passed with flying colors, but we learned along the way.
Carson and I with his constant friends, the crutches, August 2011.
We're halfway through year three, and I've see-sawed back and forth about what this year should be called. It's been a great year still, full of experiences and new things. We've been blessed in so many ways just in these last six months. Even though there's been all that though, it's been full of the unexpected. It's been a sobering year in a lot of ways, but also so good. Ask me again in six months, so that there's a better picture of the whole year, but right now, I'd say that this has been a year of Trusting the Lord. With the miscarriage, with finding a place to live, to jobs, to finding a church, to trying to understand the why in a lot of things that have happened... we've realized that God has been teaching us to follow Him without question. We're really not great about that (maybe we'll be perfect by our third anniversary?) but we've finally recognized that He wants us to learn to trust.
It seems appropriate to include this picture, since it was on day two of the longest road trip ever. 

And now, the things that we are thankful for... a very incomplete list.

Number one, we are thankful for our relationship with the Lord Jesus. Over this past six months, we have wondered over and over again what our lives would look like if we did not stand on that firm foundation.

We are thankful for one another. Being the only people we know outside of co-workers here has brought more time together, which has brought more arguments (we aren't perfect) but also more clarity in our relationship. We've grown together through the more difficult things this year.

We are thankful for the Body of Christ, the Church. That has been one of the most encouraging and wonderful things this year. After my miscarriage, there were people who honestly surrounded us, brought flowers and brownies (you know who you are), shared stories, gave hugs, prayed for us, wrote letters and notes of encouragement. It was overwhelming in the best way possible and allowed us to appreciate the network God's people literally all over the globe.
And in that same vein, we're happy that we've joined a church here in record time.

We are thankful for our home, which was found on scary Craigslist but has been a huge blessing.

We are thankful for school... both that I am graduated and that Carson is loving and thriving in graduate school.

We are thankful for good jobs. We don't make a lot, but both of us love what we're doing right now.

We're thankful for our couch. Yes, that sounds ridiculous, but for us it means that we can entertain the few people we're meeting. We've had one couple over so far and have plans for others.

Flashback to Other Thanksgivings:
Thanksgiving 2011 - 2 Posts - The One with 10 Hours of Black Friday Shopping
Thanksgiving 2010 - 2 Posts - The One with the Food Poisoning
Thanksgiving 2009 - The One Where We Were Engaged
Thanksgiving 2008 - 2 Posts - The One Before Carson

Monday, November 19, 2012

Morgan's Wedding

The morning of October 20th dawned sunny - and surprisingly chilly for Florida. It was a beautiful day, no humidity in sight, warm but not too warm. Perfect, perfect wedding weather. 
We spent the morning doing our makeup and getting our hair done, watching music videos on YouTube and listening to wedding music on Pandora. 

We got to the church, put our dresses on and took bridesmaid pictures before the ceremony. 

Suddenly, we were marching down the aisle, then watching Morgan walk toward her groom. Then they were Mr and Mrs Colucci, husband and wife! The groom kissed the bride. 

We took pictures after the ceremony before heading out to the reception. 
After a few wrong turns, we made it to where the reception was held, a beautiful site, outside on a horse farm. 
We watched the first dance, the father/daughter dance, and then dinner was served, a tasty buffet meal. We enjoyed it with glass-bottled sodas. Cornhole and Badminton were provided and enjoyed by guests. There was much dancing after the yummy pumpkin cake was cut and enjoyed, and after the bouquet and garter were tossed. 

Morgan and Caleb left after being pelted with lavender. We stayed a little longer after the reception, and then went to get my things from Mark and Pam's, where we ran into the bride and groom grabbing her suitcase for the honeymoon. 

It was a lovely weekend, a lovely wedding, and I am so blessed and happy to have been able to be a part of it.

My brother, Scott, took most of these photos.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Cure for Hangovers

The title makes sense in a little bit... keep reading. 
Also, a disclaimer, there are a ton of little parenthetical notes here and I felt that editing them out left out part of my story. Sorry about that.

I feel like every single "house progress" post has involved some sort of "sorry, no furniture here!" disclaimer when we come to the living room and every update is like "it will be soon!" So here I am to tell you that those updates are over. 

But just in case you've forgotten, this was what we were working with before...
(taken the week we moved in, but the only thing that changed was the number of boxes) 

We have a couch! I'm not sure if either of us have ever been so excited about one piece of furniture, but we've been looking for this one for quite awhile so I think we're both just relieved that the hunt is over at last. Just as we were about to give up on Craigslist (we found great couches but people would not call us back!), Carson found this one on Tuesday, offered $20 less than the asking price with the promise to pick it up by Wednesday evening, and the seller responded right away. One of our pastors offered the use of his vehicle and between the two of them, they fit this huge sectional in both our car (which I'm beginning to think has powers like Mary Poppins' bag... you've seen the amount of things that can fit in that tiny Civic) and his van. 

Apparently the drive there was a little rough, thanks to road construction, but they made it there and back alive. The couch fit in the two cars which honestly surprised me. Carson reported that the seller boasted that the couch was "great for getting over hangovers". Well if that didn't sell us on it, I don't know what would.... 

The front door has always had problems opening, and since we never really open it, we didn't realize that all the rain a couple of weeks ago from Hurricane Sandy made the door swell and stick. It was impossible to open (I've always been able to open it even though it sticks, but the other day I tried and failed, so I thought my arms were getting weak and worked out - guess it wasn't just me). Long story short, to get it open, a piece of molding AND the door itself had to be taken off. Carson did it in about 2 minutes, as if he does this every day. Eventually, they got the sectional inside. 
(I grabbed my little camera to take these - old habits die hard and I keep it in my purse since it's more convenient than my nicer one)

We're used to seeing the room empty,

While I was making dinner, Carson set everything up inside. I'll probably rearrange the pillows (we have about a million throw pillows thanks to my strange obsession with making them last year) and put a lamp on the table on the right side of the room since there's no overhead lighting (I'm hoping for a tall lamp for that corner as a Christmas gift... something like this - nice and simple). Carson thinks another bookshelf would round things out in here. I had some better ideas for the walls than what's thereat the moment. Won't it look so cozy?

Here's my fall mantle which will very shortly become my Christmas mantle. I'm fighting the urge to decorate before Thanksgiving is over - surely I can hold out one little week. On the left you'll notice several little Christmas ornaments and on the right that pretty owl pitcher - my sweet mother-in-law thought of me and sent them the day that we got the couch. Loving them.

Perhaps I've shown this before, and perhaps I haven't, but one of my very favorite parts about this room (besides having a place to sit!) is this basket of children's books. I've added some childhood favorites and my sister and Carson have contributed a few. If anyone has trouble thinking of a gift for me, feel free to add to this collection. I love that I have books to read to visitors of the smaller set and to read one day to our children. Because of our love for reading, we're hoping that "Please read me a book" will be the first phrase our children say.

Naturally, I'll continue to post pictures of the living room now that it feels like a room and not a wasteland for cardboard boxes. Maybe I'll even take some during the day, but I was too excited to not have a photo shoot.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

An Autumn Adventure

Carson found this fruit farm online, so we decided to take a little drive. It was late in the day so we missed out on the apple cider donuts he wanted to try, but it was still a fun adventure. 

We roamed this fun store.

And bought this apple fritter. It may or may not have been the highlight of his day.

And then we went outside, past this little playground, and sat on some swings and talked. There was a wedding reception going on, so we watched the bridal party arrive and take some pictures.

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