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.