the gift of Advent

advent devo candle

as the calendar flips to november & flurries begin to fly, i find myself in what i realize is a familiar state of mind. the one where the anticipation of the upcoming holidays meets an intense desire to be present to the people & moments around me. i know all too well that if i’m not careful, time will steamroll right through Thanksgiving & Christmas, and we’ll find ourselves crashing into the new year, dizzy from busy-ness.

as my mind swirls with thoughts of what fun things we’ll do to mark the holidays this year (especially now that charlie loves to help with & gets SO excited about things), i’m equally excited to create space for stopping to rest, relax, and enjoy the heart & gift of the celebrations.

maybe you’ve been in a similar place before? maybe even now?

for me, the feeling applies pretty universally november through january. however, as as a creative person who loves to make gifts, bake, and decorate, the weeks between Thanksgiving & Christmas can be a blur if i’m not intentional. a few years ago, i stumbled upon an Advent devotional, and it really influenced how i felt & prepared for Christmas. it has looked a little different from year to year (a series of daily emails, a set of cards with an image or verse, a journaling activity, a daily illustration aligned with portions of the Christmas Story), but the rhythm of pausing each day of Advent to reflect on Jesus changed me that year and has become a practice i continue to prioritize and treasure.

looking back, i noticed that the most meaningful, transformational aspects of each of those various Advent experiences that kept me pointed towards Jesus as i entered into Advent were been Scripture, questions, and reflection. i need Scripture – sometimes just a verse, and sometimes a story – to keep me grounded in the character of God…the bare beginnings of Jesus’ story…the tenderness of it all. i need questions to help me connect those ancient words to my everyday life. the combination of those two things serve as points of reflection that i come back to throughout the day.

when laura & i were dreaming this summer about our next set of devotional cards, Advent was #1 on our list. having a visual reminder with the devotional cards adds a whole new depth of engagement for me with the Scripture, questions, and reflection, and we pray that they are helpful in the same way for you, too. we’ve been working away on these little beauties for the past few months – praying over the verses & questions, praying for the people that will hold them. praying for you, sitting with Jesus as you slow your hustle & rest more deeply in to Him.

the Advent devotional card set is 23 simple, pretty cards with a verse on the front and a Scripture reference & questions/prompts to reflect on on the back. on days that you’re short on time, you can easily tuck a card into your bag or purse to take out later in the day while you’re waiting at an appointment, for the bus, or in the carpool line. you can read the full Scripture reference on your phone app, if  you’d like, & simply reflect on the question/prompt or jot down your thoughts in the blank space on the back of the card.

on days that you have a little extra time, you could sit down with a warm cup of coffee or tea, your bible, and a card. after reading the verse on the front of the card and the Scripture reference(s) on the back, you could take more time to reflect on your thoughts about the question/prompts and sit in a few moments of quiet to pray about them, rest with your wonderings, jot down some notes on the back of the card, or write them in your journal.

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those are just two ideas of ways we envision the devotional cards could be used as you look at, listen to, and talk with Jesus this Advent season. our heart for these cards is that they can be part of your day no matter what your routine looks like. we hope you love them so much that you display them on your desk to help you reflect on verses in between emails & to-dos…maybe on your fridge as you try to memorize a verse…as a garland on your mantle… we think they would also be great to discuss as a family around the dinner table. however you choose, we pray that they enrich your Advent!

the full set is $20 (sales tax and shipping are included), and you can order yours online here. for purchases of 3 or more sets, we will contact you to adjust shipping costs. the Advent devotional cards are also available at Pathway Bookstore at Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina.

* we’d love to see your posts about the devo cards as you use them!
Use #shareAdventdevo, and we can cheer each other on :o) *

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2014 in pictures & squash ginger soup.

i’ve never been one to be all that short-winded, so if a picture is worth a thousand words, it’s probably fitting that the pictures below are what i could “cut down” to as a summary of 2014. the majority showed up along the social media path, so they aren’t new, but here, together, in chronological order they remind me of the story of our year. a little year in review is after the recipe, if you’d like.

2014 in pictures

:: squash ginger soup ::

squash ginger soup

per usual, this recipe is highly adaptable. if you don’t have a leek, you can throw in another ¼ cup of diced onion. we didn’t have a full 4 cups of butternut squash, so i used buttercup squash, too. for the ginger & curry, i recommend starting on the lower side of the measurements, unless you have strong feelings about either ingredient. use more or less depending on your preference. for example, we do 3 teaspoons of ginger because we like the kicked-up flavor it offers, and we do about 1 ½ teaspoons of curry. the orange juice may seem to be an unusual addition, but it blends all of the flavors really well.

ingredients

2 thick cut slices of bacon, optional (if not, 1 tablespoon olive oil)
2 cups carrots, sliced
1 medium leek, sliced
½ cup onion, diced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2-3 teaspoons ginger, peeled & minced
4 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded, & cubed (1 – 1½” is good)
1 medium celeriac, peeled, trimmed, & cubed (1 – 1½” cubes is good; approx 1½ cups)
1 medium apple, cored & diced (you can keep the peel on)
4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves (not powder)
4-6 cups stock (vegetable or chicken) or water
1-2 teaspoons curry powder
½ cup orange juice
½ cup milk, milk alternative, or cream, optional
salt & pepper, to taste

instructions

  1. in a large stock pot over medium heat:
    if you’re using bacon, cook it until crispy. place on a paper towel to drain until cool, then crumble into small pieces. if there is more than a tablespoon of bacon fat, pour it off & discard.
    if you’re not using bacon, heat one tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. add carrots, leek, onion, garlic, & ginger to pan. sauté 2-3 minutes (your kitchen will smell dreamy!).
  3. add squash, celeriac, apple, & thyme to pan; stir to combine.
  4. add stock to cover vegetables, depending on how you want your soup: 4 cups will result in a thicker soup; 6 cups will be less thick. even 6 cups will not result in a runny soup, though.
  5. increase heat to medium high & bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. simmer until squash & celeriac are fork tender – 15-20 minutes.
  6. remove pot from heat & stir in curry powder & orange juice. if you have an immersion blender, you can purée the soup until smooth in the pot. if not, wait until the soup is cool & blend it in batches in a blender or food processor.
  7. serve warm; we love it in any number of ways – plain, with a dollop of plain yogurt, bacon, & croutons, or with a little hunk of crusty bread.

yield: approximately 10 cups (depending on amount of liquid used)

– – – – – – –

2014 was a pretty quiet year. i struggled for the first few weeks of last january to settle on a word to focus on for the year and was actually just fine with not having one. the point of having one was if something came to mind & felt fitting, so there was no need to force one…and then one day it hit me: abide. if it’s even possible, i think my soul sighed in sweet relief – “abide” felt perfect looking ahead to 2014.

i am the vine; you are the branches. if you remain in me and i in you,
you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
john 15:5  

this year has been one of deep, deep thankfulness for my incredible husband &, fittingly, having wonderful things to celebrate him for throughout the year. we’ve tried new things [knitting socks (me), calligraphy (both), homemade bitters (him), a fantastic class at the kitchen window (both), & lots of new recipes (both)], explored our city, traveled well-worn paths at our favorite farmer’s markets, & got outta dodge for a week-long, wonderful road trip to see friends (in chicago) & family (in ann arbor) this summer. the cherry on top of our summer was a visit  from nieces cuter than you could fathom, full of adventures & fun.

i got a few more stamps in my passport, soaked up encouraging words & quotes that resonated truth, and was attuned to growth all around me. part of that was in the patio garden we had – i was mildly obsessed with having my hands in the dirt & watching everything sprout & blossom. the rest seemed to purely be nature’s gift. our house plants grew like crazy, our wedding lemon tree continued to be a rockstar, & even our christmas tree sprouted! have you ever heard of that?! it’s for sure a first for us! they were the simplest, often tiniest little things, but seeing the sprouts & buds kept reminding me in quiet, consistent ways of the new things always waiting just around the corner.

the unrivaled highlight of this year, however, was celebrating our first wedding anniversary. we looked back on our first year full of deep love, true heartache, & the sweetest comfort in knowing that we are richly blessed to do this life together. in the same way, looking back on 2014, we see a year full of those very same things. i cannot imagine going through this past year with anyone other than dustin by my side. this year was filled with more joy & more laughter-until-i-cried thanks to him.

here’s to deep, abiding love, hope, & the new things in store for 2015!

gratitude, day 30.

gratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we gratitude_xshave into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for creativity.

christmas ornament wreathi am so, so grateful that i have an arsenal of creative outlets. the one that gets most of my time is cooking, purely because eating is a daily need, and also because it is fits naturally into our day. however, there are lots of other crafts & diy projects that i love to do, too. i’ve had this christmas ornament wreath in mind for years & had slowly bought enough ornaments during after christmas clearance sales to finally make it…two years ago. i even started it in that fall (2012) in the hopes of having it ready that year. and then i let wedding planning trump the wreath (a very ok trump in my opinion).

i pulled it out this morning determined to finish it. as i worked & worked on it i got discouraged along the way thinking it wasn’t turning out very good, but i kept working at it anyway. when i hung it up to see if it was even worth finishing, i was pleasantly surprised – it looked better than i thought it would. i finished it up and although my eye still sees things i’d like to fix, it actually turned out pretty close to how i had imagined it.

i’ve never had a wreath before, and as we drove away from the house this afternoon, it was fun to see a little splash of christmas color & some sparkle (ugh – the glittery ones got glitter everywhere. i should have been apologizing all night long to anyone who got near me…if you did, you for sure got inadvertently glittered!) dressing up our front door.

gratitude, day 1.  ::  gratitude, day 2.  ::  gratitude, day 3.  ::  gratitude, day 4.  ::  gratitude, day 5.
gratitude, day 6.  ::  gratitude, day 7.  ::  gratitude, day 8.  ::  gratitude, day 9.  ::  gratitude, day 10.
gratitude, day 11. :: gratitude, day 12. :: gratitude, day 13. :: gratitude, day 14. :: gratitude, day 15.
gratitude, day 16. :: gratitude, day 17. :: gratitude, day 18. :: gratitude, day 19. :: gratitude, day 20.
gratitude, day 21. :: gratitude, day 22. :: gratitude, day 23. :: gratitude, day 24. :: gratitude, day 25.
gratitude, day 26. :: gratitude, day 27. :: gratitude, day 28. :: gratitude, day 29.

 

gratitude, day 29.

gratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what wegratitude_xs have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for traditions.

christmas tree 2014i would go out on a limb to say that in our family, i’m probably the biggest sucker for traditions. i’m ok with them changing a little in some ways – like our thanksgiving being just mom, jerry, dustin, & i since alli & jeff are in michigan, but other ones i seem to have a much stronger allegiance to.

take thanksgiving this year as an example: jerry wanted to spoil all of us a bit with tenderloin for thanksgiving dinner. my response: “that sounds delicious! the traditionalist in me would like there to be a turkey breast or something, but i’ll get over that.” (i really was 100% joking, but they really did have some turkey, too, and i didn’t waste a second before getting a slice on my plate, haha.) another example is being with aforementioned sister & brother-in-law for christmas, preferably at home. we’re super lucky they have always been able to get home, but if that wasn’t possible, you could bet your bottom dollar that you’d see the four of us high-tailing it to the mitten state.

a die-hard tradition we had growing up was decorating our christmas tree the weekend after thanksgiving. even in college & in the years that i’ve lived on my own, it’s a tradition i carried on. for the last three years, i’ve been blessed beyond measure to be able to decorate the christmas tree with my handsome fella. each year we’ve gotten a wonky tree from the discounted section of the lot, and although each tree has had it’s own idiosyncrasies, this year’s tree may take the cake. we both laughed when we got it home & in the stand. it is undoubtedly a dr. seuss tree!

we’ve added a few things to make our decorating tradition our own, and it’s become a bit of an evening-long event as we watch elf AND christmas vacation while decorating and sipping on hot toddies :o) last year was indescribably special as we got to decorate the tree for the first time as husband & wife, and i’m happy to say that the excitement didn’t wear off at all for us in the past year. tonight was full of movie watching, echoing our favorite lines from both movies, blackjack snuggling, light checking, decorating, vacuuming (those needles can really fly across the room!), & laughing.

welcome, christmas 2014…we are so thankful to settle in & soak in the goodness of this season.

gratitude, day 1.  ::  gratitude, day 2.  ::  gratitude, day 3.  ::  gratitude, day 4.  ::  gratitude, day 5.
gratitude, day 6.  ::  gratitude, day 7.  ::  gratitude, day 8.  ::  gratitude, day 9.  ::  gratitude, day 10.
gratitude, day 11. :: gratitude, day 12. :: gratitude, day 13. :: gratitude, day 14. :: gratitude, day 15.
gratitude, day 16. :: gratitude, day 17. :: gratitude, day 18. :: gratitude, day 19. :: gratitude, day 20.
gratitude, day 21. :: gratitude, day 22. :: gratitude, day 23. :: gratitude, day 24. :: gratitude, day 25.
gratitude, day 26. :: gratitude, day 27. :: gratitude, day 28.

gratitude, day 27.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for two empty chairs at the table.

thanksgiving table

well, i’m not actually grateful that the chairs were empty today, but i’m thankful that our table isn’t truly complete for a holiday gathering unless those two chairs are full. my sister & brother-in-law live in michigan which makes getting home often more challenging. so, although holidays apart are less fun, the times we are together are way more fun. most notably: christmas eve*. it’s the big holiday in our family, so as hard as it is today to be without them, it’s also a good day because today marks the countdown to christmas eve when we’ll all be together under one roof for the day. t minus 27 days!

*any time we can be together for the 4th of july ends up being a riot, too. that’s jeff’s favorite holiday, and he’s a sucker for fireworks. he literally got a wheelbarrow full of them & made friends in their new neighborhood as he lit them up. who knew fireworks really would be a good thing & not immediately mark you as “those new neighbors”?

gratitude, day 1.  ::  gratitude, day 2.  ::  gratitude, day 3.  ::  gratitude, day 4.  ::  gratitude, day 5.
gratitude, day 6.  ::  gratitude, day 7.  ::  gratitude, day 8.  ::  gratitude, day 9.  ::  gratitude, day 10.
gratitude, day 11. :: gratitude, day 12. :: gratitude, day 13. :: gratitude, day 14. :: gratitude, day 15.
gratitude, day 16. :: gratitude, day 17. :: gratitude, day 18. :: gratitude, day 19. :: gratitude, day 20.
gratitude, day 21. :: gratitude, day 22. :: gratitude, day 23. :: gratitude, day 24. :: gratitude, day 25.
gratitude, day 26.

gratitude, day 25.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for my husband.

dustin move to mnthank goodness this day is finally here! i’ve been waiting all month to post this one.

just shy of two & a half years ago, my path crossed that of a handsome fella from oklahoma, and oh my stars did things get interesting :o) it was all a whirlwind, and if you had told me at any time before it actually started happening that the story of us meeting, getting engaged, and getting married would be our story, i would have laughed. hard. but lo & behold, our story is a wild & fun one, and i wouldn’t trade it for anything. except of course for meeting him sooner so i could spend more of my life with him.

a few months after we met & after trading trips to & from minnesota & oklahoma, we agreed that long distance relationships are for the birds. today marks the second anniversary of getting to do real life in person every day together. i laugh even as i type that since the first eight months were crazy & chaotic, full of driving across town to see each other & buying groceries for two houses, trying to figure out a rhythm for the transition season & planning a wedding, too. so it wasn’t our current real life – but it was as real as it gets. wonderful, hard, stressful, joyful – lots of memories are held in those eight months.

through all of it, my husband remained patient, steady, compassionate – the same as always. those are three characteristics that anyone that meets him would be able to sense within minutes. he is kind, tender, silly, wise, intentional, dependable, and loving. he makes me laugh until i have tears rolling down my face & my cheeks ache, encourages me, dreams with me, and calms my crazy. for this, he deserves an award. i would be lost without him & now that i know life with him, i can’t fathom how i ever did life without him.

4th of july 2014

gratitude, day 1.  ::  gratitude, day 2.  ::  gratitude, day 3.  ::  gratitude, day 4.  ::  gratitude, day 5.
gratitude, day 6.  ::  gratitude, day 7.  ::  gratitude, day 8.  ::  gratitude, day 9.  ::  gratitude, day 10.
gratitude, day 11. :: gratitude, day 12. :: gratitude, day 13. :: gratitude, day 14. :: gratitude, day 15.
gratitude, day 16. :: gratitude, day 17. :: gratitude, day 18. :: gratitude, day 19. :: gratitude, day 20.
gratitude, day 21. :: gratitude, day 22. :: gratitude, day 23. :: gratitude, day 24.

the story of us: our first anniversary.

our first anniversary_us

our first anniversarythe covenant of marriage is, first & foremost, sacred ground. i have experienced unconditional love throughout my life, however the love my husband – and God through my husband – has introduced me to this year is overwhelming.

when i first learned about covenants seven years ago or so, the term instantly, deeply resonated. a covenant is sort of like a promise, but so, so much more. like agape is sort of like love, but so, so much more. although the Greek word “agape” is often translated as similar to “unconditional love,” it is infinitely more than that. so much so that there aren’t adequate words in the English language to accurately describe all that “agape” truly means & encompasses. the same is true, for me, with “covenant” and “promise.” when you make a promise with someone, it is deeply important and meaningful. a covenant, though, takes everything to another level. entering into a covenant with someone is intrinsically more rich, transformative, and powerful than a promise. covenants require us to give more of ourselves; to truly be honored, we have to commit everything to them.

and then – then, there is the covenant of marriage. what. in. the. world! it is true that the covenant of marriage is sacred, above all. however, the first word that actually comes to mind when i think about the covenant of marriage is audacious. the two words play rather perfectly off of each other. after months of loving the word connection, i finally looked up the definition of “audacious,” and what i found matched strong, encouraging words to what i’d been feeling as the words rolled around in my thoughts. the definition of ‘audacious’ is, “showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks.” synonyms for “audacious” (ack! so incredible!) are: bold, daring, fearless, intrepid, brave, courageous, valiant, heroic, plucky.

this man that i am still baffled & giddy that i get to call my husband & i are such rookies. in every way we are just beginning to figure out marriage & each other & how to love each other well. however, what i think we’ve gotten right so far are these: we laugh a lot. we hold hands. we enjoy time with family & friends and encourage time with the guys/girls…but prefer each other & being together. with very few exceptions, we go to bed at the same time. we share our passions. some we enjoy together, and some we like to learn about & talk to each other about. we pray together. we realize how easy it is to mis-communicate & try hard to learn how to communicate better for & with each other. and, most importantly, we choose audacious love.

i actually think that if we do this marriage thing well, we will be old, gray-haired, & wrinkled, still figuring out marriage & each other & how to love each other well. we’ll just have more years & experience & stories of taking surprisingly bold risks in loving each other well to build from & grown on.

our first anniversary group 1

10 things: 12.2013.

10things_witness

  1. i would love to have a “year of the sock” à la amanda.
  2. dear youtube, thank you for helping me determine that our washing machine was, in fact, broken and for showing me how to fix it so easily!
  3. and then there is this (unfortunately they re-did the video & added annoying extra commentary – skip that part. the little boy is incredible!): 
  4. it took everything in me to not put up our advent calendar the day we got it. this is the first time either one of us has done an advent calendar, and we for sure picked a stellar one – this beauty from naptime diaries. it was my favorite decoration, and it was my very favorite way to end each day.IMG_3747
  5. this month was full of great highs & hard lows…
  6. but through both, we learned deeper value in God’s vision of marriage. and we are so, so thankful.
  7. our little JulieAnne is still rockin’ through the winter, still giving us beautiful lemons. it’s, like, “infinity x ten” times better than a unity candle. and the flowers that are still blooming in december…in minnesota?! our house smells heavenly with the sweetest smelling perfume.
  8. our contribution to christmas eve dinner was, per usual, dessert. we ended up tweaking this gingerbread latte cake with this eggnog buttercream. YUM!
  9. my absolute favorite memory of our first married christmas was christmas morning with just us. it was more special than i imagined it could be.
  10. we got to have a fun new year’s eve night with just the girls while we sent michael & joy to the thunder game. it was our second annual celebration, kicked off with pan-a-cakes for dinner :o)

10 things: 09.2013.

10things_witness

  1. we kicked off this month a little differently than last month. this time, we kicked things off with a 21 day cleanse: smoothies for breakfast, salads for lunch, and a smoothie or raw/lightly cooked veggies for dinner.
  2. we got to meet the precious newest addition to some of our dearest friends’ family. miss lauren elizabeth, you are beautiful!
  3. as silly as it sounds, fall tv shows have kicked off, and we’re enjoying coming home to make dinner & watch a show.
  4. we are so blessed by mentors who are incredibly generous with their time, listening, & wisdom.
  5. it was so fun to get to meet a whole bunch of people in d’s program and from the various hospitals.
  6. saturday mornings at the mill city farmer’s market remains one of the highlights in my week. i love our farmers, i love that we have relationships with them, & i love that we benefit not only from knowing where our food comes from but also get to eat incredibly delicious meals!
  7. gazpacho!
  8. dustin has done a stellar job of helping me to wake up earlier. I could not do it on my own, but it’s so much more doable together :o) it’s also given me the gift of spectacular sunrise views as i drive in to work.
  9. i can’t help but end with a one-two youtube punch. first, the at&t commercials slay me. this one in particular: 
  10. this video made me cry: 

10 things: 08.2013.

10things_witness

  1. we kicked off this month’s dinners making quinoa-beet burgers. and we both liked them!
  2. a special bonus visit gave us the chance to spend more time with the nieces celebrating piper & gabi’s birthdays in minnesota, too :o) and i got to go with on a very special trip to the American Girl doll store.
  3. to celebrate our first wedding month-iversary, we made the most delicious treat: peach dumplings (thank you, smitten kitchen cookbook)!
  4. i felt so special to be able to video chat with miss piper after her first day of kindergarten!!
  5. we had a blast at the state fair – dustin’s first time :o)
  6. dustin started his residency.
  7. our little lemons have started to turn yellow!! i find myself googling “how to take care of a lemon tree” many times a week…
  8. we are slowly finding our new rhythm & routines now that we are both working.
  9. watching dustin & blackjack together every morning is just the sweetest thing.
  10. we have had an onslaught of delicious tomatoes from our produce CSA, so tried a new recipe – a cozy kitchen’s heirloom tomato jam. it’s insanely good. i pretty much wanna spread it on everything.