As I reflect on the past 2 years of marriage, I have thought often of the word “Ebenezer.”  I first heard it in one of my favorite hymns and wondered what the heck it meant:

“Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I come”

(from “Come Thou Fount“, lyrics by Robert Robinson)

(Disclaimer: I struggle with how forward to be about faith in this blog with readers from many different backgrounds, but I cannot help but mention these things today.)  I found out “Ebenezer” was a reference to Samuel in the Old Testament, who had called out to God, and God heard his prayer and protected the Israelites from the Philistines.  He placed a large stone there, called an Ebenezer, and it meant “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”  Here God has been faithful.

I am so thankful I can look back across the past 2 years of marriage and read through my journals or think of situations where God has been faithful.  Over and over He protects us and reminds us who He is and who we are.  Some examples:

– Several people in the same week encouraged us out of the blue by telling us they’d been praying for us and thinking of us.

– In our worries of our chaotic schedules and life decisions, we were reminded that God is in control and will take care of us.

– We were able to look at ourselves and name ways we have grown because of the others’ influence.

– We each had similar prayers answered that we didn’t even know the other was praying about.

– God repeatedly opened our eyes to remember that only He can truly fulfill our every need, and because of that we can enjoy each other all the more without feeling inadequate when we don’t always perform perfectly.

Now, most of these things we have to be reminded of quite often, but God never fails to reveal Himself to us in new ways, even if it takes humbling us by seeing how selfish we are or how often we chase after everything else to fulfill us besides Him.

Since I cannot erect a large boulder in our tiny back yard, maybe I’ll start a little rock pile somewhere or a jar of note cards with the date and a note about God’s faithfulness that day.  It’ll be great to look back years from now and count those blessings!

I made it through all of college without ever being addicted to caffeine.  Occasionally I’d have some hot tea on a late study night, and it would do the trick.  I was so caffeine averse that on sleepy car trips (seriously, I could doze at the wheel so easily on my 2.5hr drive home for holidays) I would drink half a cup of gas-station-cappuccino and be honking my horn to the music without even realizing it.

Here I am in Corporate America, and my caffeine intake is slowly but surely creeping up.  At first it was hot chocolate before long meetings.  Then hot tea every day.  Then ¼ a cup of coffee.  Now a little more than half a cup, and when it wears off after lunch I am a goner!

Must caffeine drinkers constantly increase the dosage?  This is a drug!  A nice high, but then the lows are lower…

I will say (though I’m against this dependency and want to break it), my quality of life commute is much better with some caffeine streaming through my veins.  I toss an ice cube in my cup and gulp it down before leaving home.
I say “goodbye” to Jon when leaving without being angry at him for getting more sleep than me.
I notice the pretty farm and neighborhood lake (often still as glass in the morning) as I drive to my bus stop.
I read without falling asleep and actually remember the book when I’m finished.
I don’t fall asleep on the shoulder of the commuter next to me (and believe me, that definitely brings on some bad looks and audible sighs from the person I keep falling over on).
I can say “good morning” to my coworkers, and sound actually comes out of my mouth.
I don’t feel angry at the world for taking my time with buses, lines, escalators a mile long, and crowded metros.  I can enjoy the time I wouldn’t otherwise take to read/think/meet a stranger.

Could I ever be this way naturally?  Who else struggles with this?  And is there a secret to getting off caffeine, or will you tell me the typical things like “get more sleep and exercise?”…because sometimes I don’t have time for that.  Open to suggestions. 🙂

(My orange cup is pretty cute, though!)

Title – Lyrics from “Java Jive” – best song we ever sang in high school choir!

Little did I know when joining Corporate America that I would gain so many skills:  data analytics and excel formulas, project management, corporate event planning, process improvement, change management, margarita making, Halloween costuming, arts and crafts…

It is hilarious some of the skills I’ve discovered in the past several years – haha!  I didn’t even realize I liked costuming and crafts until my first week on the job when the annual Halloween costume contest was announced, and my boss (head of sales for our division) informed me in a very serious/competitive manner that we had to win.  “OK then!”  At first I scoffed that somehow I was put in charge of our team’s costumes…and now I’m a bit of a control freak taking charge and get really excited about it!

An application of orange face paint, about 20 styrofoam lollipops constructed, a toy gun set and a few golden tickets later, we had a winning team of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Bad photo – but that’s a chocolate waterfall in the background; some people thought it looked like a large gravestone or a woman’s behind, but thankfully the decorations weren’t the main judging points! (And some of the teammates here weren’t really dressed up but just joined the pic.)

Though our costumes year 2 were much better, I think the judges didn’t want the same team to win every year.

We made that entire UP! house out of cardboard, fabric, paper, and LOTS of hot glue gun sticks.  All the clothes were things we owned, and the only things we bought were the cane, doggie ears, collars (and other pieces to make them look like those in the movie), some white hairspray, bird feathers, and our little boyscout’s supplies.   Then I got to wear my bird costume again last year in return for a free burrito at Chipotle!  (dress like a farm animal –> win a free burrito)  Maybe sometime I’ll be the bird again, and Jon can be the boyscout.  (notice the background – that’s the house at Paradise Falls!)

This past year the theme was Rock ‘N Roll, so we took a twist on that and dressed up as the cast from The Sound of Music.  All costumes except the nun robes, knee socks, boy’s hat and suspenders (we made those by cutting apart a winter scarf and turning it into lederhosen straps) were from GoodWill.  I also scored on that GoodWill trip – the skirt I wore for Sound of Music is actually a Banana Republic seersucker skirt that I wore for real to work yesterday, and I also found another summer skirt and cardigan (not pictured here) from J.Crew that I wore last week.  Awesome!

Maybe one day this will turn into my quasi-dream of being the stage and music director, choreographer, makeup designer AND costumer for a musical…maybe just for my kids’ middle school production, but that would still be so fun!

Does your work do crazy things like this?  Surely it’s not just us…

1)  Reading Unfashionable, by Tullian Tchividjian – Great summary of how the church should exist in and for our culture – to be different, not because we’re weird fundamentalist separatists, but because of our love, our service, our ability to engage the world around us (all the while being very different from the world) with compelling purpose because of our identity in Christ.  I still think too much about these things and struggle to do them, but I’ll hope for at least more baby steps of change.

2)  Old Office episodes with Michael Scott – I had forgotten what I was missing and then watched this – it’s just not the same without him!  Booze Cruise Dance

3)  5 Year Thankfulness Journal – I got this idea from a friend to write one line of thankfulness each day for 5 years.  Each January 1st, for example, falls on the same page, so in 5 years I’ll be able to see what I was thankful for that same day all the previous years.  This has been especially good for those bad days when I don’t feel very thankful at all; There’s always something to be thankful for.

What are you thankful for this week?

Jon and I went to Charlottesville last weekend for somewhat of a pre-anniversary getaway.  We had a nice weekend with a lot of tasty food, some secluded hiking (thank you, rain, for giving us a peaceful hike without a thousand tourists), some antique store browsing, some wine tasting, a visit with a dear friend, and of course nice time with Jon.  Overall a sweet weekend, even though it probably wasn’t Jon’s ideal getaway; he’d rather be a bit more active, see things we can’t typically see at home – understandable.  There are so many things in marriage we’re still figuring out after 2 years, like how to take a vacation that rejuvenates and is enjoyable to both of us.

Another thing we’re learning is how to learn from one another.

I have always been awkwardly afraid to walk down steep slopes and climb on rocks.  I love hiking and being out in nature, and I even like the adventure of little rock scrambles at the top of hikes, but then when I have to walk around up there, I’m usually awkwardly bending over to steady myself because I am sure that I will totally bite it if I don’t hold onto something.

(makes for a nice view for whoever is following me)

On our hike last weekend, Jon tried to help me out by explaining that I could practice walking on rocks on the side of the flat path and realize that I’d totally be fine. (but it’s not the same! why are you telling me what to do? why do you care? you think i’m so high maintenance! – and the insecurity mixed with pride rambled on.)  Maybe he had some mixed motives and a bit of frustration with my hyper paranoia at some little rocks (seriously, I have a video of another hike where it took 4 minutes of group therapy and many outstretched hands to convince me to leap step across a crevasse that was like 14 inches wide); either way, he was trying to help, but I was too prideful to hear it.

How often do we do this about every little thing?  A trusted friend offers a suggestion, and even though we’re clearly flailing around in our own attempts, we are too prideful to listen. We were created for many things, but especially in marriage we are meant to help, encourage, and refine one another, and as “iron sharpens iron”, it’s not a soft and comfortable process.  We are supposed to challenge one another to grow.

A mentor I greatly respect once said to me, “if you and Jon were exactly alike, I cannot think of any reason God would have had you marry one another.  Eck – what good would that be?  You’d never have any reason to challenge one another and grow!”

Walking on rocks is such a tiny example of learning to listen and learn from one another.  I remember many times where we have reminded each other of what’s important…recognizing when we’re being totally selfish…pointing out that one of us is making up excuses instead of just admitting we were wrong (or ate the rest of the brownies..)…exposing double standards…I could go on.

Usually after we let down our guard (and our pride), we are thankful for one another and the ways we can help each other grow.

(Jon’s always been good at climbing on things.  Nate, too!)

(and he’s just really cute, so I wanted to show you this pic)

Friday Delights

1.  Looking back at my 2012 new year’s resolutions and seeing that I have actually done most of them!  We are running another 5k tomorrow morning, we went to the Newseum in DC when my parents visited, I’ve been resting/reading/reflecting more in the evenings, we’ve enjoyed our back deck and grill in this nice spring weather, and we finally had a neighbor over for some delicious mango ice cream the other night!  What can I say, I shot low with my resolutions this year because I rarely ever succeed.  The one I’m clearly missing the mark on, however, is “eat only one serving of dessert per day”….yikes!

2.  Making this awesome Indian butter chicken last night.  We used the boxed spices mix, reduced some of the butter (whoa, this is not a low fat meal), and probably used too few tomatoes, but it was still AMAZING.  I haven’t made that many sound effects while eating in a while.

3.  Enjoying a good, long story, and the sense of accomplishment with finishing such a massive book (and building arm muscles from holding the heavy thing on my commute).  I finished East of Eden this week (thanks to some friends for recommending) and thoroughly enjoyed this very dark story about sins of generations, what the lack of love will drive a person to do, the battle of good and evil, and human nature.  I’ve also loved using Good Reads to track my book list!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Despite the rain and chilly air the past several days, the past weeks have had more than a few glimpses of summer, and Jon and I have had a major hankerin’ for summery food.

My mom always made fresh strawberry pies in the summer, and with this easy recipe, I got some major “oohs” and “ahhs” from the boys who ate it. (Recipe below)

Jon surprised me last weekend with this delicious grilled meal of chicken and veggie kabobs.  Perfect weather, nice summery grill smell, good food, good company.

After 2 rounds of homemade vanilla ice cream with our fab garage sale find, we decided to branch out and try for mango ice cream.  You cannot go wrong with a can of mango pulp.  Ever.  My friend who loves to cook Indian food introduced me to mango lassis a few years ago (drink made basically of yogurt and mango pulp), and I thought – surely you can turn this into ice cream!  YES, YOU CAN.  AND IT IS AMAZING.  (Recipe below)

What are some of your favorite summer fares?

Fresh Strawberry Pie – recipe from my mom

Buy or make a deep dish pie crust.  Bake and cool.  (wayyy better homemade, even if it looks messy; here’s a good start)
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 T strawberry jello (1/2 small package)
3T cornstarch
1 quart fresh strawberries, hulled, washed & dried
1 cup water
whipping cream (as you can see above, I made almost equal parts pie and whipped cream – you can never have enough)

Mix sugar, water and cornstarch and boil until thick, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and add strawberry jello.  Stir.
When almost cool, add strawberries.  Stir well and pour into baked and cooled pie shell.  Serve with homemade whipped cream.  (Refrigerate)

Mango Ice Cream – adapted from here 

2 cups sweetened mango pulp (very cheap at our favorite Asian market)
2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar (can be less – just taste and see what you like)
1 T lime juice

Whip the cream with a hand mixer in a chilled bowl.  Fold in mango pulp, sugar, and lime juice.  Put in ice cream maker and make per directions.  Eat, and try to contain your excitement.