Saturday, December 28, 2013


With 14 days to go until the wedding day, I thought it would be an appropriate time to post about some of the lessons I learned throughout my single years. I spent a long time trying to figure out the path God had placed me on, and here are some of the key points I’ve been able to take away from it…

1) Don’t Wish Away Your Single Years

I spent many years wishing I wasn’t single. First it was in high school when not many of my peers were dating, but I was concerned with the fact that I didn’t have a boyfriend and worried that something might be wrong with me. You can take a moment and laugh – I do. I’ll chalk those years up to teen paranoia.

But more seriously, I found myself wishing away my single years during my late teens and early twenties, when friends around me began to get engaged and married. I thought I was ready – and because there wasn’t a man in my life I began to worry again about whether there ever would be.

Are you beginning to see a trend?

I spent so much time worrying that I almost missed a lot of what God was trying to show me during those years.

First and most importantly I learned patience and to grow in my personal relationship with the Lord. While my faith had always been strong, I learned what it meant to lean on God – to trust in him to direct my future. That might sound like a simple thing, but for me, when to be a wife and mother was something that I wanted so badly, it was a journey to learn!

I learned to be joyful for others. There were many moments when I struggled with some intense jealousy as I watched friends become engaged, married, and start families of their own. It was a truly humbling experience to learn to be joyful for those friends (and not just slap on a happy face). Some friends were more understanding than others while I was on this journey, and to be fair, I pushed away some friends because at the time it hurt to much to try and be happy for them.

I was also able to use my single years to engage in some wonderful opportunities. I had the chance to travel – both with my family and friends, and later school trips to the east coast and Kenya. I was able to volunteer at church with music, women’s ministries, and with high schoolers. I went to law school, which was rigorous journey of immense academic and spiritual growth, and had the chance to work for local and state government offices. Most importantly, I’ve had the chance to spend some extra time with my family, including brushing up on some important skills – cooking, sewing, budgeting, etc.

Don’t make the mistake I did and spend time wishing away your single years. Realize that they are a precious time that can be vitally important to preparing you for what God has planned for your future. And also remember that it’s not the most attractive thing for a guy to come across an overly clingy girl whose been sitting around just waiting for any old man to come make her a wife! The skills and experiences I’ve had make up many of the things Brandon loves about me J

2) God’s Timing is the Best Timing

I’ve always felt like I was at the end of the list.

Youngest person in my family.

One of the youngest people in my high school/college class. (making me one of the last ones to get my license and turn 21).

Last of my friends to get engaged.

Last of my friends to get married.

Likely last of my friends to have kids.

For a long time this really bugged me! Couldn’t I ever be FIRST at something? Or even hit the middle of the curve?

During the craze of wedding seasons (i.e. 3 summers ago I was a part of 4 weddings and invited to 11) I was mostly okay with being behind the curve. I was dating someone at the time and figured my day would come (which it has!). The benefit of getting married this January is that a lot of my friends haven’t had a wedding in awhile (since they are all old married folks now) and there is a renewed excitement about the event!

Recently the craze has been babies! When Brandon and I wrote out our guest list we could immediately count 26 people off the list because they couldn’t travel due to pregnancy/new baby! In the last few weeks I have watched friends and family welcome Sophia, Ellis, Everett, William, Jackson, Brandon, Elliott, Henry, Caroline, Landon, and Mary Evelyn into their families. And that is not counting the numerous babies on their way, including a new niece/nephew! :) I might have been struggling with a little bit of baby fever….

But the truth is that I have learned over and over again that while God’s timing is often different than mine, and it is always better.

Don’t listen to pressure from family or friends who tell you that you’re destined for failure if you don’t have a career chosen by the time you’re 17, or that you’re an old maid if you don’t have a mate in sight by 21, or that you’re behind schedule if you haven’t had a child by 25. On the same hand, don’t listen to family or friends who tell you you’re crazy for getting married at 20, or having a child by 21, etc.

The world’s timing is not God’s timing.

I waited longer than I thought I would to meet the man God had in store for me, and let me tell you – it was WORTH THE WAIT! In the same sense, Brandon and I would welcome any blessing God sends our way after marriage. We know when we think would be our ideal time to start our family, but let’s face it. I think I’ve finally learned to let go of the planning and let God lead. It’s better that way!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Minnesotan Thanksgiving

I figured since we are only 11 days from Christmas and 4 weeks from the wedding, now was a good time to post about our Thanksgiving in Minnesota before the pictures got lost in the dust. Given that we will most likely always be living away from one set of family (or maybe both) Brandon and I decided earlier this year that we'd like to get on a schedule that allows us to spend Thanksgiving with one side of the family and Christmas with the other. While we know this might become more difficult as our family grows, or depending on where we live, we thought it would be a good place to start!

So the day before Thanksgiving we both worked a 1/2 day and set off for the 11-ish hour drive to Minnesota. The drive ended up being more like 13 hours thanks to 3 pretty nasty accidents, but we pulled into Brandon's parents driveway right around midnight.

Thanksgiving day was so relaxing. Unfortunately Brandon's sister and her family weren't able to join us, but his Grandma and aunt did. Being my first Thanksgiving ever away from my immediate family, I was a little nervous about how I would feel....thankfully I have been blessed with a wonderful man and in-laws and I quickly realized how Minnesota and my Minnesotan family have become my second home.

Neither Brandon or I have ever participated in black Friday shopping. Neither of us are big shoppers, but I do love a good deal. About 7:30 p.m. I was online and noticed that Target had a great deal on a camera. We've talked recently about wanting to have something other than our phones to take pictures on as we start our married life, but hadn't made any movement to purchase one yet. After some quick research we realized it was a great deal and thought we could order the camera online (and thus avoid actually participate in any Christmas-day shopping)....but after a few minutes of trying, we realized if we wanted to actually get the deal, we needed to go to the store - which at that point opened in 15 minutes. Since there is literally a Target in my in-laws neighborhood we relented and jumped in the car to head over. It was craziness! A line literally wrapped around the store and when the doors opened it was maddness! We got the camera, but decided shopping on Thanksgiving wasn't something we'd probably participate in in the future. To calm his guilt, Brandon made sure to check with several employees and make sure they'd had Thanksgiving dinner and were getting overtime :)

Friday was a day full of visiting friends. Our first stop was to see Brooke, Josiah, and Jonah. Josiah is a friend of ours who has been fighting an incredible battle with cancer for the last 10 years. Most recently graft vs. host disease has been raging his body. Thankfully he was doing a little better when we saw them and only a week later we heard that he got the report that his cancer had shrunk 40%! Praise God! While we were there Jonah, our ring bearer, modeled his wedding clothes for us (minus the Christmas plaid bow tie!).

After a quick stop at the new Chic-fil-et (which we might have visited multiple times during our 3-day stay...) we headed over to our friends Jess and Rob to meet their new blessing Henry! Henry is an absolute doll, and at 9 lb. 11 oz. doesn't exactly feel like a newborn! It was great to spend some time catching up with some of our closest friends.

On Saturday we spent time with Brandon's parents, went to church, and had a little family Christmas celebration. Sunday morning we were up bright and early and headed back to Michigan with a car stuffed with presents, wedding supplies, and Brandon's collection of childhood baseball cards that he found in his parent's attic...

Every year at some holiday my sister-in-law Allison tells me the spray whipped cream smells funny and asks me what I think. Every year I fall for it and end up with a face full of whipped cream. NOT THIS YEAR! She was back in MI so I carried on the tradition with Brandon!

My in-laws blessed me with this manger scene as a late birthday present. I was ecstatic! Then Brandon accidentally broke the shepherd's hand....and I started laughing. While he stared at me looking horrified I explained that my grandparents have given my mom a nativity scene when she got married - and the poor wisemen seemed to loose hands every year. I told him that it wouldn't really feel like Christmas if someone in the manger didn't have a hand superglued on!

Brandon held Henry for about 30 seconds, and then graciously gave him back to me for the next 4 hours! This man knows I love my baby time!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Whose to Blame?

Recently I saw a news show broadcasting a panel discussion. The panel featured a variety of ages, but seemed to heavily feature twenty-somethings. What really caught my attention was when a young man mentioned that he was upset with the government for allowing universities to encourage and permit students to graduate with useless degrees that left them with a whole lot of debt and without a job. The other panelists quickly affirmed the young man’s statement.

I don’t really know what to think. My first thought was to be automatically frustrated with the young man. Hadn’t he ever heard of a thing called personal responsibility? No one forced him to choose his major - he made the decision and he should have to accept the consequences that often accompany a more liberal arts degree.

On the other hand, I can see where he is coming from. I attended a wonderful liberal arts college and studied psychology. One of the benefits of a liberal arts college is that you have an opportunity to study a variety of subjects at a more in-dept level, regardless of what your degree might be. Consequently, I had the chance to take some interesting Religion classes, study French, and hone my writing skills with some higher level English classes. The downside to a liberal arts education is that you arguably "waste" a lot of time studying things that will have no relevance to your future career...and you might even end up majoring in one of them.

For example, take my psych degree. Had I not pursued law school, I’m not really sure what I would have done with a psychology degree. Almost all of my fellow psych majors have gone onto get their masters degree or phd. Of those that didn’t, I know one friend who managed to find a psychology related job - all of the others are unemployed or working in a non-related field. The same is true for many others I know who received liberal arts degrees in English, History, Spanish, Art History, etc. Brandon once said that when he decided he didn’t want to be a History professor (during his senior year of college), he did the only other thing a History major could logically do - go to law school.

But isn’t it still a question of personal responsibility? We chose our majors and the paths they took us on.


I’m going to put it out there....I think career services can be deceiving and purely unhelpful. I have ultimately been fortunate to find work through extensive networking and internships, but I have many college friends and acquaintances who spent years seemingly wandering. I’ve often caught myself thinking....what did they expect? A job to just land in their lap after graduation?

Sadly, I think the answer is frequently "yes." Today’s society and the modern education system seems to operate on a reward system and a sense of entitlement. They preach the message that if you work hard, make it through high school/college/graduate school, things will fall together for you. You’ll make good money, buy your dream home, start a family, etc. That is not reality. Sadly, working hard and getting an education isn’t always enough.
Instead, I would argue that you have to be smart - smart in your choices, smart in your timeline, and smart in your networking and relationships. The stressed economy of the last several years and the increase in graduate degrees has made pursing a career a different ballgame. Maybe in the past you used to be able to graduate with a college degree in English and fairly easily find a job simply because you held a college degree, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

So what’s the answer?

Option 1

Play the game. Career services, professors, mentors, and other career counselors told me (a college student during some of our roughest economic years) that I should just wait it out....go to law school because for sure the economy would be better by the time I got out and jobs would be flowing like milk and honey - hah! But seriously, graduate degrees are becoming more the norm, even in professions like education and nursing. If you are pursuing a college degree, plan for this additional time and perhaps think of alternatives for your undergraduate years to save time and money (i.e. choose a major early on, save money by going to a community college for a few years, earn college credits early through AP classes or other alternatives, shadow someone in a career you think you might be interested in pursuing before you waste time and money on a degree you won’t use).

Option 2:

Take an alternative route. You don’t have to go to college to be successful. While I loved my college years and learned a ton from them, I also realize that pursuing a traditional undergraduate degree is not always possible, or the best idea, for everyone. Consider trade school or apprenticeships. Don’t necessarily listen to what modern society is telling you you have to do!

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
Thomas A. Edison

Monday, November 25, 2013

These People I Call Family

When I stopped by the library tonight I notice a flash of brown braids jumping into the elevator besides the entrance. While I was just thinking that those braids looked familiar, I caught a glimpse of my niece's smiling face and ran to catch some Monday night hugs. The rest of the night I kept thinking about how thankful I am to live near family right now - and to be ale to watch the sweet little people I love so much grow up way too fast!

My pastor spoke about thankfulness this past weekend (surprised?). What I appreciated about the sermon was that he emphasized the importance of making it a habit to reflect in thanksgiving on a daily basis. A simple concept, but I know that I tend to lump my thoughts and prayers of thanksgiving into more generalities rather than getting specific. Ann Voskamp suggests a similar philosophy in her book - One Thousand Gifts.

Truly this Thanksgiving I am most grateful for my family, and how it is growing!

I am thankful for the family I have grown up with. For parents who provide never-ending support, encouragement, and love, and who in the midst of gutting their house and totaling a car still make time to help me keep wedding plans and projects on track. I am thankful for brothers who continue to amaze me by the incredible fathers and husbands they have become. Brothers who aren't afraid to challenge me or call me out. Brothers who have welcomed Brandon into the family with open arms. I am thankful for sisters-in-law. Sisters who are there to give me advice about becoming a wife and calm down some of my nerves. Sisters who come to the table from different backgrounds and bring to the table new thoughts, opinions, and perspectives that challenge our nuclear family - for the better. And I am thankful for my nieces and nephew. Little ones full of love and energy. Little hands eager to help and happy to hug. Little minds that ask sweet questions and watch everything!

I am thankful for the family I am becoming a part of. For a mother-in-law who has an incredible servants heart and unceasingly puts others needs before her own. For a father-in-law who has a compassionate heart and is such a loving husband, father, and "papa." For a new sister and brother-in-law who aren't afraid to talk about the tough questions or decisions they've made. For a new niece and nephew who melt my heart with their smiles. 

And I am so thankful for Brandon and the family we are about to become. Our own little family. We don't know where God is planning to take us or how he is going to use us, but we are ready to serve him together. I am so thankful for my man - the way he leads, loves, and serves. His perseverance and diligence, his wisdom and sensitivity. 

Thank you God - for these people I love.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Why my Daughters Won't Take Dance Class

I’m the youngest of three and the only girl in my family. Dragged from soccer game to soccer game from the time I was an infant, it was only natural that my parents put me on my own little pee-wee soccer team once I turned 5. A short period of gymnastics followed when I was 8, then a few years of softball, until I settled and stuck with volleyball until I graduated from high school. Sometime around middle school/early high school I started bugging my mom about why she had never put me in dance classes. One of my best friends was an incredible dancer and I was envious of her grace, poise, and talent. From that day on, I vowed that if God ever chose to bless me with a daughter, I would make sure she had at least some dance classes.

Think you read the title of this post wrong?


Brandon and I were talking the other night about how dance is one of the activities we are fairly set against any of our future daughters (or sons) participating in. Here are a few of our reasons.

1) The sexualization of little girls. This is probably our biggest reason. While neither of us has a problem with dancing per se, we do have a problem with much of the style of dancing that is increasingly being taught at a young age. We see no reason for our 5, 8, or 12 year old to be taught how to shake different parts of her body or move in a sensual manner. While we do realize not all styles of dance fall into this category, the sex factor seems to be becoming more and more pervasive. (i.e. consider how shows like Dancing with the Stars have impacted ballroom dancing). Additionally, even though our children might not be participating in a certain dance style, we see no need for her to be exposed to it at a studio.

2) The costumes. This ties in fairly close with #1. I would never put my little girl in a bikini or booty shorts - so why would it be okay for me to send her on stage to perform in such an outfit? Again, while there are some studios that are more conservative in this area, the general consensus seems to be that cute little tutus fade out once you hit 6.

3) The expense. Dance is expensive. The classes, the costumes, the all adds up fast! This past weekend I was talking to some friends who mentioned their parents paid upwards of $8,000 a year for their middle school daughter to be involved in dance (ironically the 7th grader had just quit). Brandon and I are open to our children trying new things, and both loved playing sports ourselves, but we are not willing to spend anywhere near that on an extracurricular activity. Even if you aren’t spending that much, costs still quickly add up.

4) The community. Ever see the Lifetime show Dance Moms? If you haven’t, don’t worry, you aren’t missing anything (although I have been known to watch the last few minutes of the show to see these incredibly talented 8-12 year olds perform). Essentially, the show centers around several clique, catty, and nasty women who bicker over their daughters dance careers. Like most reality TV shows, I figured the drama was an exaggeration. Then recently I sat down with 2 friends who had both spent their K-12 years dancing....and they assured me the show wasn’t far from the truth. Both also had siblings who had been involved in other sports, and while they agreed that there could be catty and aggressive parents in other activities, they also agreed that there was something about dance that seemed to breed negativity and jealousy.

5) The ED fear. The friend whose dancing skills I admired growing up shared something in common with me - anorexia. Obviously I didn’t dance and still ended up with an eating disorder, but if you hear her tell her story, she will tell you that her distorted body image developed after years of pressure from her dance friends and teachers to remain thin and spending hours dancing, examining, and criticizing herself in front of a mirror. While gymnasts and ice skaters are also known for being more susceptible to eating disorders, dancers are at the top of the list.

I should close with saying that I’m sure there are some wonderful, more conservative, Christian dance programs out there, and neither Brandon nor I have anything against appropriate dancing. While we are open to investigating the situation if we have a daughter who is particularly interested in taking a class, it certainly won’t be an extracurricular activity that we automatically place our daughter in, nor will we be easily convinced that it is something our family should participate in.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

November Wedding Progress

56 days.

It’s amazing we started out with 200-and-something. I am now ferverently convinced 9 months is too long of an engagement :) Honestly ladies, is it really worth it to have a multiple year engagement to get married at your "perfect place" or in the "best season." Many people were generous with their comments that our 9-month engagement was too short, but Brandon and I are both convinced it’s been too long!

But with 56 days to go there is still a lot of stuff to get done!

Here are some of the fun things that have been accomplished -

Flower girl dresses: Declared totally winners by these two.

Linens: Grey Pintuk. These linens are becoming one of my favorite things about the reception decor.


Mother of the bride dress: Check! One that she is very happy with.

Ceremony decisions: While it took awhile longer to decide on the wording of our vows, declaration of covenant, etc. the rest was a breeze. Here are some of the things I’m most excited.
1. The music - I am walking into Te Deum by Charpentier (organ, trumpet, and timpani), my brother is playing an arrangement of Come Thou Fount for congregational worship, and some dear friends are singing one of my favorite songs, Love Never Fails, by Brandon Heath at another part during the ceremony.

2. The pastor marrying us. We have had several blessed weeks of meeting with our pastor and his wife - an incredibly godly couple who has been such an inspiration of pursuing a Christ-centered marriage. Sadly (but exciting for them), they let us know last week that they have been called to another church on the other side of the state. Justin and Melissa came into my life when I was an incredibly vulnerable and insecure 13-year-old. Melissa met regularly throughout my high school years and she would calm my worries about how I was convinced I would neverget married. After 12 years with our church one of the last things Justin will do is marry Brandon and me!

3. The Scripture. We both wanted scripture verses that not only spoke about the context of marriage in the church, but also about our faith as a whole. In the end, we settled on:
  •  1 John 4:7-16, 19"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them...We love because he first loved us."
  • Genesis 2:18-24"The LORD God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.' Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wile animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleep, he took one of the man's ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said 'This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man.' That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh." 
Some ceremony questions we are still pondering:
1. Do we have the bridesmaids and groomsmen walk down the aisle together, or have the guys walk in and go straight up front with Brandon and the pastor at the beginning? (I like the guys up front already, Brandon is unsure)

2. Do we take communion? We talked from the beginning about wanting to take communion as our first act together as husband and wife, essentially substituting lighting a unity candle with the two of us partaking in communion. But there is some theological questions - since taking communion is something you are supposed to do in fellowship with other believers, rather than just the two of us taking while the rest of the congregation watches. On the other hand, we have several people attending the wedding who are either non-believers or practice a different religion, and so taking community as a body of believers isn’t really an option without likely making many of our guests feel uncomfortable.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Great Flood of 2013

I was woken up at about 5:45 a.m. Thursday morning to my mom flipping on the lights and yelling that the basement was underwater and we needed to get wedding stuff up and out now. I don't think I have ever moved so fast in my life. It had been raining when I went to bed the night before, so I assumed whatever "flood" she was talking about was really our sunk pump backing up (which my dad is constantly worrying about). I didn't expect to hit water when my feet hit the first floor of the house, nor did I expect to see water gushing from the ceiling of our basement....all directly on top of the piles of wedding gifts and projects that were being stored in one particular corner. 

After moving most of the wedding gifts and projects into the somewhat dry garage, I immediately began opening boxes and seeing what I could save, while my parents continued to empty out the basement. Thankfully we had caught things early enough that the only things Brandon and I lost in the process were several sets of towels, a bathmat, our guest book, and some large signs. Besides that, we really didn't have much of value in the basement, and our sentimental things like holiday decorations were spared.

The house on the other hand.....did not come out quite as well. It turns out that a pipe burst in our first floor laundry room. After the first floor was covered with about an inch of water the water started pouring into the airducts and filling the basement. Almost all the flooring on the first floor had to be torn up and our once finished basement is now gutted. In the meantime, my parents and I have had to move out of the house becuase the industrial sized heater/blowers that are drying out the walls and floors make the house unbearably hot and dry.

Taken about 8:30 a.m. Thursday morning - this corner of the basement and the storage area behind it was hit the hardest, and was where all the wedding stuff was stored :) Unfortunately, we weren't able to save any of the walls in the basement because the water spread under the flooring and down the walls from the first floor.

The current basement.

What a week!

Yet in the midst of it all, we still feel so blessed. None of us were harmed, and we really lost nothing of significant value (and even if we did, it is nothing that cannot be replaced). The invitations for the wedding were supposed to arrive last week, but didn't, and the plan was to work on them as well as all the other paper product projects (menus, escort cards, table numbers, programs, etc) this weekend,  in the basement. We are working with a great clean up team who has been incredibly helpful, and thank goodness it happened now, and not right before the wedding.

But it has taken an emotional toll on us all - my mom especially. A lot of decisions have to be made - fast, and with wedding planning and the holidays coming we can all feel our stress levels rising. 

The one room on the first floor that was spared. It now looks like a hazmat zone with a giant zip up wall in an attempt to save our piano that is sitting within.

But when the tension seems to run high, someone tends to make a joke and we all recall the ridiculousness of watching chunks of the basement ceiling fall in, or go enjoy using one of the wedding gifts (that I was adamant would not be opened before 1/11/14!)

God is good - ALL the time.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Michigan Shower Take 1

Our first Michigan shower was hosted by some dear family friends. Sue is a hostess extrodinaire and we were certainly spoiled by the beautiful decorations and delicious food. This shower was also a couples shower (are other people finding this to be more the norm as well?) and we were blessed that Brandon's parents were able to fly in to meet some of our Michigan friends.

I'm pretty sure Brandon's favorite part of the shower was the food though :) Sue found out that Brandon and I are big fans of Indian food (Brandon got me hooked) and she made a delicious meal of several of our favorite dishes!

We also had some very special servers at the shower - the Senior Pastor at my church and his wife! They did a great job!

Pastor Ken

Laurie (Pastor Ken's wife) and our hostess Sue
Listening to a beautiful devotion Sue gave based on Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts."

Some of my siblings - Heidi, Nathan, and Todd

The absolutely gorgeous cupcakes!

Opening presents (excuse the dark pictures, the raspberry walls made photos a little tricky) - once again we were abundantly blessed! I'm pretty sure Brandon got the most excited about the homemade oreos someone made us, but I fell in love with our rice cooker extrodinaire!

Sue is also an amazing quilter. For our gift she made us this gorgeous Christmas tree skirt! I told Brandon we might have to get a tree this year just so we can use this! (or put it around the plant he has in the apartment :))

My man

Part of the decocrations included these giant photos of Brandon and me! It is always strange to walk into someone else's house and see all these pictures of yourself....

So blessed that both sets of parents were able to join us for this day! The next time we will all be together again will be JANUARY!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Minnesota Shower

Brandon and I have been incredibly blessed as numerous friends and family have stepped forward and offered to host a bridal shower for us. The first on we had was a couples shower back in Minnesota in August that was thrown for us by my incredible future-mother-in-law.

Janet (soon to be Mom R) did a beautiful job and we had a wonderful time starting off our wedding season with our Minnesotan friends and family!

As part of the decorations Janet filled all the frames in the downstairs of their house with pictures of Brandon and me. It was really cute, but a little strange the week before the wedding when I was staying with them and yet was surrounded by pictures of myself.... :)

This shower was a couples shower. Basically it ended up being that we all ate together and then the ladies stayed upstairs to play a game and open presents while the guys gathered to play some games of pool and watch baseball.

Some of my favorite Minnesotans - (L to R) Brooke (whose husband is one of Brandon's groomsman and son is our ring bear), Sara (who is dating Terrence on the far right), Jamie (our Mistress of Ceremonies who amazingly ended up being in town from CO during the shower), me, Brandon, and Terrence (one of Brandon's groomsmen).

The incredible food spread! Janet told me we were just going to be having some snacks....

Welcoming balloons (sidenote - I love this giant mirror in the family room!)

I have no clue what is going on in this picture...

Grandma Dot! We were so thankful she could come to the shower. Her health won't permit her to travel to MI for the shower and so we were very grateful to have this chance to celebrate with her.

Sweet cutie-pie cousin Lily.

Game time with some aunts and cousins.

Brandon periodically left the guys to join me for some gift opening.

It was fun to open some of the things that we had been really excited to register for - these were some glass canisters I'd fallen in love with at Crate and Barrel.

An amazing spread of desserts to end the night (the salted caramel cupcakes were incredible!)

Our amazing mothers who do so much for us! Thank you Janet for this special day!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Just Around the Corner

Have I mentioned how much I love living in the same state as Brandon? In the same city? Off the same major street? Only a 10 minute drive away from one another rather than a 10 hour day?

While I know living together will be infinitely better, right now I'm just basking in the fact that I get to see him 6 days a week (minus Thursdays when I have orchestra practice after work on the other side of town...).

While wedding planning has taken up a lot of our time, it's been nice to get into more of a routine together - dinners together, church together, trying out some new hobbies, talking to each other face-to-face each day....

Poor Brandon works from his apartment everyday so we do try and get him out of the house at least once a day (i.e. I volunteer him for wedding errands :)), but other than that and missing his friends and family he has adjusted well and we've both enjoyed the chance to get to spend some more time with my family.

We get asked a lot about our future plans - what happens next year? Where will we be?

It's a hard question. 

Our general plan has always been to return to Minnesota. We both love the Twin Cities and think it is a great place to raise a family. We love the family and friends we have there and there are generally more legal opportunities there than in metro Detroit.

This is hard for me. I am very close to my family and I would love to live close to them. But I knew from the beginning that I was dating a Minnesota man, and as important as my family is to me, I realize that Brandon and I are our own family - and I will happily follow him to the ends of the Earth :)

Even more importantly we came to the realization early on in our relationship that we don't want to be the ones to lead our lives. We don't want to be irresponsible, but we want to live lives that are open to and actively seek God's direction. Do we plan on going back to Minneapolis next fall? Yes. Could we end up feeling called to stay in Detroit or move somewhere completely different? Absolutely.

And so we live day-by-day....or year-by-year for now! We know we will be in metro-Detroit until next September, and after that we are excited to see where God leads us!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

It's All in the Name

It's been a little over a month since I started my job. So far, so good! I am clerking for a great Judge who is a believer and my fellow co-clerks (one is a career clerk, meaning she will stay with the Judge indefinitely, and the other is a term clerk and will be around for just one year like me). It has taken awhile to get used to working full time - physically and mentally! But last weekend I was reminded about how blessed I am to have a job right out of law school when Brandon and I ran into a former classmate of mine who is working in a suit shop while awaiting his Bar results.

I think what has surprised me the most is the caliber of attorneys working at the courthouse for the other Judges. I'm not sure about other fields, but in the legal world where you went to law school is a big deal  (at least especially in the first few years post-law school when you are trying to get your first job). Law schools are ranked on a tier level - first tier, third tier, fourth tier. The school I attended was a good fit for me, has a good local reputation, and was a tier 1 school - but at the very bottom of tier 1 (like #100ish) vs. Brandon who went to University of MN which is much higher ranked (historically in the top 20).

During orientation I had a chance to meet the other new clerks in the building - many who are recent graduates like myself. That's when it hit me. Because the other new clerks aren't from middle of the road schools, they are from schools like University of Michigan, Vanderbilt, Georgetown, and Harvard. (all top 10-15 schools).

It was incredibly intimidating!

I started feeling embarrassed - like the little fish in a big pond. Thankfully my career clerk graduated from the same school I did and was a big help. She reminded me that although our school name might not be as recognizable, we have reached the point of an equal playing field. We are all doing the same job. Although I might not have a fancy certificate on my wall, it doesn't mean I can't perform just as well (if not better :) ).

But even more important is reminding myself that my school name doesn't define me. My job title doesn't define me. My degree doesn't define me. 

My faith defines me. 

And at the end of the day the fact that I'm not Julianne from Harvard doesn't really matter to me - as long as I've left an impression that I'm Julianne who serves the most high King!

"Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."
1 Corinthians 15:58

Friday, October 4, 2013

100 Days

In 100 days I get to say "I do."

I get to call you mine forever.

It's hard to imagine that only a year ago we were just getting to know each other, and yet it feels so long ago.

What was my life like without you?  I certainly never knew how amazing life could be.

When I look at you I catch my breath - to think I'm blessed enough to have the honor of becoming your wife.

And do you know what the best part is?

I KNOW it's true....

The BEST is yet to come!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Here is the Church, Here is the Steeple.

I have been blessed to have grown up in a great church community. Don't misunderstand me, there have been plenty of times of unhappiness or frustration, but my church family is made up of some of the most caring, genuine, Christ-followers I know.

The reality is however, that Brandon and I have seriously questioned whether or not my childhood church is supposed to become our home church.

When we started dating, Brandon and I spent a lot of time talking about our faith, what we felt was important in a church, and how to grow together and support oneanother in our spiritual walk. While my childhood church has a lot of the elements we are looking for, we have also questioned whether or not we would like to start out married life in a new church setting - a fresh environment for both of us.

As we've talked and visited several churches, we've started to realize what elements are important to us in a church home.

Non-negotiable Dogma (as far as our beliefs)

1. Preaching and teaching of the Bible as the inspired Word of God, without error.
2. The Trinity - that the One True God exists in three persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
3. Jesus Christ is God's Son and his death on the cross provided the only perfect sacrifice for our sin.
4. Salvation is a gift of grace.

Elements we would like in a church

- Strong preaching - for us this is defined as teaching from the Word that keeps Scripture center. We also appreciate when the pastor incorporates exegesis. 

- An emphasis on fellowship and community - for us having a strong faith community is essential. Weaker preaching or a less favorable style of worship can be supplemented elsewhere, but a strong Christian community that practices accountability is irreplaceable.

- A multi-generational environment. While we don't have children now, we plan on having our children remain with us during congregational worship someday. While it isn't an essential, we appreciate churches that welcome and encourage this. In the same way, as fairly young (almost) newlyweds ourselves, we appreciate worshiping with a wide variety of ages and the influence that more mature members of the congregation can potentially have on us as we being our married life and look to grow in our faith :)

- Sticking to the basics. I am especially tired of visiting churches where the majority of the time ends up being spent on "special" music, dramas, videos, announcements, etc. I appreciate a church that sticks to the basics - prayer, worship, and teaching.

- Size. We would appreciate a smaller church, although I think Brandon is less adverse to a larger church than I am. While I have nothing against larger churches, I do think it is a bit more of a challenge to really develop community and accountability in a mega-church setting (although not impossible :) ).

What you won't see us stuck on....

1. Doctrinal preferences. While we certainly do have doctrinal preferences (some stronger than others), we don't tend to let a particular doctrine drive where we worship.  In fact, we have both been raised with quite a variety of denominational influences, which I think has made us both quite well rounded. Here is a synopsis:

- Brandon: Primarily raised in the Lutheran church, but also attended non-denominational, Baptist, and Evangelical Free churches while growing up, and attended a Baptist college.

- Julianne: I was born into a staunch Christian Reformed family, raised in the Evangelical Covenant church, attended Assembly of God and Baptist schools, and went to a Christian Reformed college.

We certainly know what we believe and what doctrine we plan on raising our children with and incorporating into our family, but we also believe that many Christians allow rifts and division to be created based off non-essential doctrinal differences.

2. Music snobbery. Maybe this is a little harsh of a description, but my dad is the Minister of Music at our church and I have grown up always hearing someone complain about the music! Brandon and I both appreciate hymns and more contemporary music, but our only strong preference is nothing uber contemporary (i.e. feeling like you're more at a rock concert than a church service).


What about you? Have you ever had to look for a new church? What drew you to the church you attend now? Do you live in the metro-Detroit area and have a church you would recommend? :)

The incredible thing about this whole journey is that last week I was asked to attend a conference at my childhood church. It ended up being an amazing experience where the church leadership met and discussed where our church was at and where we were heading, and it made me wonder if what Brandon and I had thought was a call to go elsewhere, was really a call to take a second look at where we were and how God could use us. So while we are continuing to visit other churches in the area, we are also spending some fervent time in prayer asking God to reveal where we can best be used to glorify his Kingdom.