Friday, December 31, 2010

{ Christmas Eve }

christmas eve was lovely.
we spent the evening with mike's parents and his sister amaryah
at his parents' house.
dinner was a glorious spread of appetizers, more than five people could possibly eat:
and that's just the main course hors d'oeuvres!
{i forgot to take a photo of the dessert spread--my oh my, it was delicious!}
my personal favorites were the bacon-wrapped little smokies, the caprese skewers, and the baked brie {below}.
amaryah, you rock at making hors d'oeuvres.
you are welcome to use us as guinea pigs any time.
we all went to the christmas eve service together. it was a lovely service: lots of Scripture reading, beautiful arrangements of carols, hot drinks and cookies for everyone.
afterward we went back to the family home and everyone opened a few gifts.
here is mandy giving dan some sugar after he gave her the china she really wanted {spode fairy dell}. both amaryah and her dog, diesel, look a little disturbed at this display of affection, don't you think?
it was a beautiful, mellow, happy christmas eve.
thank you Jesus.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

{ Christmastime is HERE! }

How is it already only three days till Christmas?

Really, where has December gone?

I spent Monday and Tuesday this week bundled up in bed and on the couch, fighting off a nasty cold/flu. It hit me on Sunday evening at work, and I barely did anything besides creep from one sleeping spot to another for the next two days. I'm much better now, though still very sniffly. Thank you Jesus that Mike hasn't gotten it!

Tonight I'm trying to wrap my head around the fact that Christmas is in three days! This month has flown by, I think largely because Mike has been working such long days. Our evenings together have been short and late. It's funny: Last Christmas, I pinned my hopes on 2010: "Next year, when I'm not in this stress/anxiety/illness cycle..." The past few days, I've caught myself doing the same thing for 2011: "Next year, when Mike isn't working two jobs and we have time to do XYZ..." I'm trying ardently to nip such thoughts in the bud; in the midst of all the daily life-ness of this year, this has been a really good Christmas season.


We're reading through Ann Voskamp's Jesse Tree Advent devotional--not every single day, but since the readings are relatively short it's easy to get caught up.

We've had fun with the Advent tin I made last year; about half the little prompts/notes are new this year. We haven't had time to actually carry out nearly as many of them, but I'm okay with that.

We've "given" Christmas presents to Jesus via the World Vision Gift Catalogue.

We've had a downtown Seattle Christmas date--something I've always wanted to do!

I haven't run out of hours with all the Pandora Christmas music listening I've been doing :-)

Christmas presents were a breeze this year--thank you, Amazon Marketplace! I did the majority of my shopping online this year, and it was so much less stressful than going to actual stores in hopes of finding a gift that would be at least somewhat appropriate. Even with paying for shipping, I'm sure that with the time I saved, it was worth it.

Last night we watched The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader with friends. {By the time it was over, I had a pile of wadded-up napkins I'd used to blow my nose. I hope the people around me didn't mind!} It was in 3D, too--my first time. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Much as I love the cinematic beauty of it, and think Aslan is absolutely spot-on, I will always have a special place in my heart for the old BBC version.

Advent candles lit, rosemary rolls fresh out of the oven, chicken barley soup simmering on the stove--I think it's time to close this post and enjoy some real-life Christmas cheer!

Monday, December 20, 2010

{ Daniel of the Year }

So humbled and encouraged by this article in WORLD magazine...what a difference one life dedicated to Jesus can make for so many thousands of people!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

{ Festive Weekend, Part Two }

Mike surprised me with an all-day date on Sunday. It began with breakfast from our favorite, delicious, two-minutes-from-home {and thus very dangerous} donut shop. The usual for Mike: An apple fritter. Plus an old-fashioned donut for good luck. {Or something.} The usual for Nikki: A maple bar. Divine!
Downtown Seattle, here we come!

Though a "Pineapple Express" was dumping torrential rains upon this lovely city, we were undeterred. We sloshed down puddle-filled sidewalks, pants soon soaked several inches up. We stopped to look at displays in department store windows. We grinned at the kids having their photos taken with Santa in the window at Nordstrom. My jaw dropped at the amazing display of hundreds of vintage sewing machines in the windows of All Saints Spitalfields, a new clothing store.

I've wanted to ride this carousel for years, but never have. It's only up at Christmastime, and
this morning there was no line, so we had our pick of brave steeds upon which to ride.
I love carousels {here's proof}. They make me think of Mary Poppins!

I think I giggled the whole time: A carousel playing Christmas music, with horses that really go up and down, a gingerbread latte in my hand, and Mike yelling "Yee-haw!" and pretending to slap his steed next to me.
And this was only our first stop!!

We browsed through Restoration Hardware, where I found many of my decorating dreams-come-true--and our budget entirely shattered. But it sure was fun to look and dream!

Is this chair not adorable? It's so Hobbit-y...English...or something I can't quite put my finger on. I l-o-v-e it!

Mike also found his new favorite chair. I could barely pry him out of it.

Every year, the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Seattle hosts a Gingerbread Village to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Northwest Chapter. {Am I the only person who sees the irony in a candy village display to benefit diabetes research?} The Sheraton's chefs team up with several well-known Seattle architectural firms to design and create gingerbread houses {there's a different theme each year} which are then displayed in the Sheraton's lobby. You can view the display, vote for your favorite, and make a donation to the JDRF.
This houseboat was pretty sweet. I loved that you can look through the sugary windows and see little candy people doing all sorts of things inside.

Skittles + M&Ms + imagination = a seaplane!

It was really fun to recognize the different types of candies and other foods that were used so creatively in each house.

This Rice Krispy treehouse is probably my favorite. The theme this year was "Home for the Holidays," and each branch of the military was represented here.

The attention to detail in each project was amazing. It's harder to appreciate through a camera lens, but you get the idea.

Mike really liked this interior scene. Rudolph konked out on the rug in front of the fire is pretty funny!

This one even had a representation of the troll that lives under the Fremont Bridge! Awesome!
We went to The Cheesecake Factory for a delicious lunch before heading to church. The only thing Mike had planned that we didn't have time for was going on a carriage ride through downtown and Pike's Place Market. I've done the carriage ride with friends several times before, but he hasn't. We decided it gives us something new to look forward to adding to our downtown Christmas date next year!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

{ Festive Weekend, Part One }

Our friends Dan and Christie invited us over to make gingerbread houses on Saturday evening. Designing and constructing a gingerbread {or, in our case, graham cracker} house from scratch is a marriage- and laughter-building exercise if ever there was one! We all had a blast. Christie had purchased a great assortment of "building supplies" {read: candy} at WinCo; it was really cool to see the creativity each person brought to the project.

Here's our finished house. That chimney, carved from graham crackers, is Mike's labor of love. The snowman, who has to be propped up with toothpicks because he is apparently top-heavy, is mine.

Dan and Christie and their psychedelic '70's A-frame complete with a back patio, fire pit with flames, rainbow sidewalk, snowman with a crown, and gummie bear keg party...they went all-out!

Monday, December 13, 2010

{ a theory }

if you fall asleep while getting your eyebrows waxed, you're either really tired or the beanbag-hand-warmer and heated foot pillow totally relaxed you. and if you've only been awake for six hours when you fall asleep while hot wax is ripping hair off your face, i'm going to have to choose option two.

if only they had done a better job shaping my eyebrows, i'd go back and test this theory...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

{ Thankful }

For a teenage brother who writes sweet, sincere, chatty thank-you notes
For crisp, sunny winter days
For Handel's Messiah

For eggnog-laced coffee and chot chocolate {why oh why isn't eggnog sold year-round?!}

For Christmas decorations up early and with minimal stress
For my husband--I think he loves eggnog even more than I do

For the frequent giveaways on A Cup of Jo, Rockstar Diaries, and The Pioneer Woman--though I haven't won anything, I love the anticipation and looking at the pretty things that someone is getting free!

For pomegranates
For an excuse to make soda cracker candy, Oreo truffles, butter toffee, and fudge

For secrets and planning and gifts to wrap
For a new Winco, minutes from home
For Yankee Candle Co.'s incredibly authentic-smelling Christmas tree candles

For a bachelorette party full of Apples to Apples, Twister, pedicures, Pride and Prejudice, and a chocolate fountain {did you know that Fritos dipped in chocolate are really tasty?}
For flash mobs singing the Hallelujah Chorus
For the opportunity to see the Nutcracker ballet with my mom- and sister-in-law
Yes, I am intimidated by my sister-in-law's runway-ready looks.
Lucky for me she's as sweet as she is gorgeous.
For Chelle's really easy chicken pot pie recipe
For a great library system and a library three minutes from home

For an excellent church
For plans to go to the Christmas Eve service at our church with Mike's family

For this Advent devotional
For a husband who is eager to do Advent
For a few activities that are starting to feel like "our" traditions, now that it's our second Christmas since getting married

For candy canes, cinnamon pinecones, and peppermint candles
What are you thankful for?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

{ Learning to be still }

One of my deepest needs is for alone time, for quiet and space to just be. To think, pray, journal, process, write, decompress. Ironically, choosing to use my time this way is one of the most difficult things for me to do nowadays, even though I have repeatedly reaped the disastrous consequences of not making this choice.

Because I was homeschooled and lived on a very rural farm till I was nearly 18, I did not realize the necessity of alone time to my mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health till I was an adult. Growing up, solitude was at my fingertips. I was surrounded by acres of empty land, thousands of opportunities to be alone with God and my thoughts. I could choose to spend hours by myself, recharging my batteries in the calm of the outdoors, whenever I wanted. Even after I moved to the city and began attending college, I still had plenty of space to be "me." Most of my free time was taken up with studying {a blessedly solitary task}, and the fact that I didn't have a car or many local friends meant that downtime was still relatively easy to come by.

Still I did not see how these margins of quiet fed my soul. Still I did not recognize how absolutely vital these times of solitude were to my well-being.

When I began volunteering at the new evening service at church and attending a community group {fancy lingo for Bible study} full of other singles, my social life blossomed. I made friends. I met Mike and swooned. My free time was suddenly full of girlfriends, movie nights, group swing dancing lessons, texting Mike, and after-church get-togethers. Alone time? Who needed that? I was surviving on five or six hours of sleep a night, thankyouverymuch! I certainly didn't need to take a few hours on Saturday to journal when I could be doing something much more exciting!

I crashed and burned last November. It was terrifying and so, so, so humbling. Perhaps the most embarrassing thing about it was realizing how poorly I know my own self. I was the last person to recognize the crippling physical symptoms and panic were the results of suffocating myself under busyness, endless tasks, and a lifestyle where literally every single minute was packed with something to do, to the point where even sleep seemed like a waste of time. I am the one who chose to make to-do lists and checking off boxes the highest priorities in my life. To be sure, there were stresses beyond the personal ones: Work was truly a nightmare, demanding every ounce of strength and long, long hours of overtime. Mike was restarting his business and I was the only one bringing home a paycheck. But on top of that, I wanted to be (A) in control, and (B) perfect. And I certainly couldn't afford to take long walks or journal when pursuing control and perfection!

You'd think I learned my lesson. I am realizing, however, that "every intention of the thoughts of [my] heart [are] only evil continually" {Genesis 6:5}. I cling to Jesus when I am at the end of my rope. I set boundaries and define margins when I have no other options. Gradually, as sanity and health and wholeness begin to feebly re-emerge in my heart and mind, I immediately fill newly-erected margins with "stuff:" the same stuff that broke me in the first place. How quickly I forget the pain of being my own god! How rapidly I turn from Jesus to the death from which He saved me!

Ours is a gracious and merciful God. I have learned that people {primarily my husband} are more important than tasks. I don't mean to scare you, but my standards of housekeeping have lowered considerably over the last year as I learn to choose nurturing relationships over cleaning the bathroom. But more often than not, I still cram activities, events, and people into places in my life where only quiet should be. I fill margins that ought to be left open, time for Jesus to speak into my heart. Time for me to process what's going on in my life. Time to pick up my scattered thoughts and weave them into wholeness...time to process, time to think, time to be.

I had a meltdown earlier this week. I refused to go to community group, snapped at my husband, chose to clean the kitchen and do laundry rather go on a date with him, and cried because for weeks there have been literally multiple trails of grey-green mold growing in the toilet bowl. I felt suffocated. And deep inside, I knew that what I really needed wasn't to make a list of tasks and accomplish them. What I needed was time.

In His mercy, the Lord gave me a gracious husband who forgives me when I sin against him. He also gave me another choice: A Saturday morning completely alone {Husband is out of town this weekend} and the opportunity to fill this space with either to-do list tasks or the things that feed my soul. Considering that I'm writing one of the longest blog posts in history, you can probably guess which I've chosen.

May the words of my mouth and the
meditation of my heart
be pleasing in Your sight,
O Lord, my Rock and my
Redeemer. ~ Psalm 19:14

Thursday, December 2, 2010

{ Now that's the Christmas spirit!!...I think }

Over the weekend, my husband and I went to a nursery that is famous (in the local sense, anyway) for its Christmas decorations: 32 themed Christmas trees, each in its own area, surrounded by dozens of dazzling, coordinating ornaments. We went last year as well, and had so much fun meandering through the Christmas glitz and glitter and picking out an ornament for our first Christmas as Mr. + Mrs.

This time, we'd browsed nearly the whole premises when we turned a corner and saw a most unexpected message, spelled out in alphabet blocks on a shelf just at eye level. I imagine some teenage boy, out of his mind with boredom, happened upon this display. It originally read, "JOY PEACE BELIEVE," but he realized that, with a little rearranging and a block or two from the neighboring shelf, a much more....ahem...lively message could be communicated:

Our mirth was uncontainable.

I'll remember that message every time I go ornament shopping for the rest of my life!