Christmas Joy

Each Christmas the verses of "Joy to the world, the Lord has come!  Let earth receive her King!" fill my mind because this always reminds me of fun Christmas past.  Us siblings, with a lot of shushing each other, would rummage around the kitchen early Christmas morning, preparing breakfast in bed for Mom and Dad.  We would wear white tape covered cardboard St. Lucia crowns and sing "Joy to the World" (probably off tune!) as we marched up the stairs to their room.  These memories always make me smile!  And this year's celebrations gave me reason to smile as well!  I hope you all enjoyed a very joy-filled Christmas, giving thanks for the precious gift of Baby Jesus.

Here's some photo snippets from our first Christmas in Singapore!

There are beautifully decorated Christmas trees all over Singapore.  If the weather can't inspire the Christmas spirit, the Christmas trees can!  

Luminous lights on Orchard - all just for Christmas.  This picture is taken very close to where we're temporarily living.

The day before Christmas Eve we went to East Coast Park with friends.  We had a lazy lunch, rented bikes and explored the area.  Unfortunately no pictures of the biking because it started to rain.  

A picture of one of the many beaches along East Coast Park.  
Enjoying beverages at lunch . . . I am obsessed with fresh, chilled coconuts!

Grandma passed away at 99 years.  While I grieve her loss, I'm sure she and Dad had the merriest Christmas EVER in heaven with Jesus.  
For Christmas Eve we had Peking Duck...  Very good, family style Chinese dining.

Gracious friends who invited us into their home for Christmas.  Thank you!  Christmas wouldn't have been nearly as joyful without your invite.    
Christmas Eve service.  "Joy to the world, the Lord is born!"

And then we cranked down the "aircon"  to 60 degrees, watched Christmas movies and drank hot cocoa from Starbucks.

Christmas morning we even had a 'family' Christmas!  Thank God for modern technology.  

A little football before Christmas dinner...

A lot of yummy food!
A few presents among friends... (we will do our own gift exchange over New Years).

...and some baby lovin'!  Braley Elizabeth is such a sweet babe.  
Merry Christmas from Singapore!


Moving to . . .

I have long been silent on this blog but trust me, it has not been due to laziness!  As many of you know, I started blogging to keep myself accountable to my Big Goals: acing the GRE and enrolling in a graduate program.  But alas, the Lord had other plans that I did not expect.  Enter Singapore, my new home . . .


. . . and here's how it happened.  For those shell-shocked readers, I am aware I just moved 15 months prior to this post.  :)  However, God did say "my plans are not your plans" and I suppose he meant it.  For approximately the past 6-8 months, Cody's superiors have been mentioning possible expat assignments.  The possibilities ranged from Scotland, Germany, Norway to even Singapore.  We were uncertain about whether his company was serious in their occasional chatter (or whether this was truly even an opportunity we were interested in), so we proceeded with our own plans and goals, hoping to begin graduate school in August 2012.  Oh, were we in for a surprise!

Mid-September Cody's company issued a formal offer for a position in Stavanger, Norway.   I won't bore you with the details but it did not work out.  While we would have *loved* to live closer to our dear friends, Jean and Lucas, the Lord still had other plans unbeknownst to us.  On October 3rd, my husband received an unexpected call from headquarters about a "dire situation" in Singapore.  The head honchos had already decided Cody would be the best candidate.  Cody and I had a formal meeting with vice president of engineering on October 10th to discuss whether we could happily live in Singapore for a few years.  After a great deal of prayer, we accepted that God's plans are not necessarily our plans.  So, we moved on November 28th.

But!   Before I start sharing stories along our adventure here, I have to tell you how this experience has taught me that God is with me and will never entrust me with more than I can handle:

1)  I worry about how others will react to my decisions.  My co-workers and superiors in Kansas are by far the most understanding, caring group of people I have ever met.  They were excited for us, willing to work around my schedule, accommodated my needs and even threw me a sweet going away party complete with a "survival kit" for the long 22 hours aboard plane.  On top of this, our families were supportive and always lended a listening ear to my worries and frustrations (despite their own sad feelings over our departure).

2)  I tend to get overwhelmed when stressed.  My loving Mama T (mother-in-law) took two weeks out of her schedule to drive 18 hours in order to help us organize, clean and pack up our house in Kansas.  I am so very grateful for all her kindness and help!  It was such a stress relief to have another person with which to share the load.  She even brought us enough food (prepared by Mama T, sister Hannah, Cody's Grandma and aunt) to last two entire weeks so we didn't have eat Subway and McDonalds.  Such a blessing not to have to worry over meals during the move.  God certainly has impeccable timing.  Had the move happened another time, who knows if she would have been able to help us out?

Mama T & Me last Christmas :)

3)  I wasn't ready to say goodbye to dear friends in Kansas.  Our co-workers and friends  kindly invited us over for fun suppers and celebrated our new adventure.  While we will miss each other, they kept a positive attitude about our move, which helped so very much!

4)  I worried that the movers would be careless and break our belongings.  The movers did a tremendous job!  They were efficient, solicitous and very careful with all our goods, finishing the job 1 1/2 days earlier than expected - with nothing broken (so far!).  Praying for successful shipments . . .

Movers and me in front of the truck . . .

5)  I can't move abroad - I'll miss my family too much.  God knew I needed to spend quality time with loved ones to sustain me until our return in June.  My amazing family in Illinois graciously put us up overnight, feeding us profusely and sharing in our excitement over this new adventure.  But not just my extended family,  we were able to spend time with siblings, aunts and uncles (including the great variety), parents, grandparents, cousins, nieces and nephews and even a few good friends.  Our Pennsylvania "Thanks - Christmas - New Years - appaloosa" was great fun and just what I needed!

6) I couldn't give up Asia for Singapore.  Cody's company recently changed their pet policy and agreed to pay over $4,000 to ship Asia Minor to Singapore!  Also,  my wonderful Mama agreed to care for Asia until she can be shipped mid-February.  I am so thankful for you, Mom.   God knew I couldn't handle leaving Asia.  

Asia Minor

7)  I worried about culture shock and isolation.  Our thoughtful friends, Alex and Ashley, have patiently answered a bazillion questions, showed us around our new city-country and kindly invited us into their home to share in their Christmas celebrations since we are so far from loved ones (all while having a newborn!).  We owe you big time.  In addition, my great uncle knew a really nice young woman, Sarah, who has lived here for 5 years.  She's graciously invited me to brunch as well as into her circle of friends.

. . . I could keep going, but I won't.  :)  There is still so many unknowns (permanent housing, my employment status, making friends, finding a home church, graduate school, etc.) but I will leave those for another post.  Suffice it to say, God had a plan and laid the groundwork to make it happen.

I am blessed!  [More to come shortly on life in Singapore!]


Not Accidental

Lately, I've taken to reading again and tonight I read a poem by Russell Kelfer that really uplifted my heart.  We all have those times when we feel like we're purposeless or we're stumbling about trying to find our way.  His poem assured me that nothing is accidental.  God has a plan.  And it's perfect.

You are who you are for a reason.
You're part of an intricate plan.
You're a precious and perfect unique design,
Called God's special woman or man.

You look like you look for a reason.
Our God made no mistake.
He knit you together within the womb,
You're just what he wanted to make.

The parents you had were the ones he chose,
And no matter how you may feel,
They were custom-designed with God's plan in mind,
And they bear the Master's seal.

No, that trauma you faced was not easy.
And God wept that it hurt you so;
But it was allowed to shape your heart
So that into his likeness you'd grow.

Your are who you are for a reason,
You've been formed by the Master's rod.
You are who you are beloved,
Because there is a God!


GRE Results!

Received my official GRE scores today.  [Insert drum roll please!]

Verbal - a little lower than my goal.  :-/
Quantitative - achieved my goal!
Writing - surpassed my goal!  

Overall, very satisfied.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!


Four Years {Mr & Mrs}

It's hardly believable that four years have passed!  Marrying Cody is the single best life decision I have ever made.  God has incredibly blessed my life through him in uncountable ways - ways that often I overlook daily.  

I love you for {even though I often never say it}...
...daily going to work without complaint to support our tiny family.
...loving my family as your own.
...picking up my dirty breakfast bowls without mentioning how much it irritates you.
...holding my hand every day.
...your encouragement and strength when I'm worried and defeated.
...the little surprises like the "SMILE" card on bad days and moscato at midnight.
...giving me your trust and also your forgiveness each time I break it.
...not "keeping records of wrongs".  You are amazing at this!
...learning to cook so I don't have to do it each day!
...planning *all* of our adventures together {I especially loved our honeymoon and Hawaii!}.
...always giving a listening ear to my opinion even when we're at odds.
...being my running partner.
...your sense of humor AND singing skills.  
...being my best friend, lover and confidant.  

Happy Four Years, Mr!  I am still in love with you.  



Worry has become like a virus.  One of those nasty, clinging viruses where there is no medicine that alleviates it.  Worry is infecting the crannies of my mind, immobilizing decision making and turning ordinary daily tasks into overwhelming challenges.  I wake up with the sense of worry and dread.  I worry my way through the day, and find myself by six in the evening exhausted from all the ruminations.  It feels that meditating on God's Word has done nothing.  I can barely focus on His words before my mind wanders into worries yet again.  Reading God's Word is about the same.  My mind wanders and frets and will not be still.  Sleeping is next to impossible.  Each night I lay awake asking God to settle my mind and grant me the peace He promised.  And yet I still worry and cannot fall asleep until after one in the morning.  

Then I had a thought this morning.  I worry because it gives me control.  Right now nothing is for certain it seems.  I don't know what will happen with graduate school.  I must apply for admission, must apply for scholarships and then wait for some graduate review board somewhere out there, filled with people I've never met to decide whether I will or will not continue my education.  I don't know what will happen with our jobs right now.  I don't know when God will bless us with a family.  I don't know when I will ever live near family again.  I don't know if I'm really supposed to be doing any of this stuff.  So worrying has become my only control and certainty in life right now.  

Sigh.  Worry has become like a virus for me.

"Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."  ~ Matthew 6: 31-34


Running, Visits, Visitors, GRE and Warrior Dash

"On the Move for Cancer" 5K

Whew!  Time has flown since the last time I updated.  Cody and I trained hardcore and finally ran our second ever 5K in Ottawa, Kansas on June 11th.  What a sense of accomplishment to finish a race without stopping!  Now on to running a 10K...

Very tired runner!

Indianola, Iowa

So this summer God blessed us with only four hours between us and my older sister, Mary, her hubby and two kiddos.  Fun times were had by all in Indianola, Iowa!  Wine tastings, coffee shop hangouts, numerous trail walks/runs, lots of park time with my sweet niece and fun chats with siblings.  Here's a few pictures of the enjoyment (please forgive the quality).  

Tio Cody having a swing with Ana

Nothing like watching cartoons with your sis

Tio Cody, Ana and the big pig!

Loving time with my sweet nieces!

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Over the 4th of July, we were very blessed to spend 9 days with our two families.  We visited Frank Lloyd Wright's "Fallingwater", attended the Westmorland Arts and Heritage Festival, cooked out with siblings and nephews, met the newest canine member of the family "Mudge" and lit *tons* of fireworks. We even toured the very eclectic museum "The Mattress Factory" with my mom.  All and all a wonderful vacation with the fam!  Below are the very limited photos I took (please forgive the quality...iPhone specials).  

Meet Mudge 
Beautiful Pittsburgh

Just a wee few of my family members!


Hurray for Visitors!

...and once again we saw Mary, hubby and kiddos on their way home to Tennessee.  While there is definitely not an overabundance of things to do here in good ole' Iola, we had fun anyway!  Made some delicious food, stayed up to ungodly hours chatting and hit the park and swimming pool a few times.  "Tia Saaaawah" even got some quality "cozy cozy" time in with Ana.  :)  So blessed to have such a wonderful family!

 "Cozy cozy"


July 22nd marked the day that we finally took the GRE in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Thankfully our scores were well above average... Still waiting on the essay score.  Say a little prayer!

After we checked off the GRE, we were free to explore and celebrate Cody's 27th birthday.  Loved the Tulsa Aquarium, found a very unique coffee shop (if you ever have a chance to try a Muddy Chai Latte, DOOOO IT!), visited a cigar store and found an awesome cafe where we both ordered Eggs Florentine.  

On our way out of town, we visited the largest free-standing statue in the world.  The Golden Driller.  

76-foot-tall and 43,500 lbs

Warrior Dash

Cody has always wanted to complete a Warrior Dash so this past weekend we did just that!  3.2 miles of running and 11 obstacles.  Needless to say, it was hot and dirty - 114 degrees in the sun!  While I had a blast and feel very proud to have finished in one piece, I'm not quite sure if I'm up for another Dash for a looooong time.  

We dashed.  We conquered.


Salad-Ness & More

My three favorite food groups are chocolate, margaritas and fresh-baked breads.  And yes, I did say 'food groups' because I love them that much!  However, when my food groups caused the scale to reach those oh-so-cringing numbers past 140, it was time for some salad-ness to accompany the running.  In my search for yummy salad recipes that won't cause me to take refuge in chocolate again, I stumbled across these healthy recipes.  I have tried not only their tasty salads, I have also made a few of their healthy dinner options.  Check it out!  They're quick, simple and as of now, I've lost approximately 10 pounds.

Maybe salad-ness and healthy eating habits really will melt the pounds (I suppose the running helps as well)!  But, oh, could I go for a chocolate blizzard with heath bar chunks just about now . . .



Here are a few pictures from our time in Joplin, MO this weekend.  There are no words to describe what we encountered there so maybe these few pictures will help.  Please forgive their poor quality (iPhone specials).  But amazingly, despite all the destruction, so many people I talked to were hopeful and thankful to the Lord for sparing their lives.  Truly uplifting!

"The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. 
 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; 
he hears their cry and saves them."  
Psalm 145: 18-19

The church that organized the work crews
Where to begin?

The men trying to remove fallen trees
Wooden debris from just one home...
The church kindly provided our work crew with lunches and water

Thankfully the family survived

A roof that blew off during the tornado



I have definitely been running low on the joyful juices lately - as well as the motivational ones.  I have only been able to get myself out of bed for one early morning run this week (goal: 4 mornings), which has left only evenings for quick runs before supper.  GRE studying . . . what's that?  I have only been able to study productively one evening this week due to storms, a migraine and laziness.  This week has also been especially difficult at work, dealing with neglectful parents, making Child Protective Service reports and trying to help foster children understand why it's not their fault that everything in their life has been turned upside down and all the people whom they love dearly have been ripped away from them.  I will not lie.  It's been a rough week.  On top of this, I have been having a lot of second thoughts about my graduate major choices.  Am I limiting God's almighty power by saying, "I can't do this job.  It's too hard."?  Just as I found teaching difficult, my job now has many of the same stressors and heartbreak as I work each day to help children deal with their problems and rise above their circumstances.  

So decision time came around for what to do during this wonderful 3-day weekend.  First I had thought of flying to the Caribbean, sitting under and umbrella and reading all sorts of feel-good-useless-books to drown out the many questions in my mind and the disturbing issues that I've face this week.  Then I thought of simply staying at home in my bed, watching movies and blocking out life for a bit.  But God had other plans.  God truly works in mysterious ways because today as I was shutting down my inbox at work, the last email I read was from a co-worker who plans to go to Joplin, MO this weekend to help out with the disaster relief effort.  I could feel God's still, small voice in my ear urging me to think of others instead of myself.  In fact, out of all my goals, helping others selflessly has received the greatest shaft.  I hesitated, almost walked down the stairs and out the door.  I was tired, irritated and felt on the verge of tears after my last fax to Child Protective Services.   But it is not written "my will be done" but rather "God's will be done."  

My co-worker was so helpful, providing me a number for a local church in Joplin that is organizing volunteers to help those in need.  Armed with a post-it note and a scribbled phone number, I headed home to call.  I still felt doubt.  The television and my comfy bed was calling for a long, relaxing weekend of doing absolutely n-o-t-h-i-n-g.  The woman who answered my call was so kind and amazingly positive given the devastation.  She promptly arranged accommodations for myself and Cody, offered us 3 meals a day and even took into account what we would like to do as volunteers.  Amazing. 
"Rejoice in the Lord always and again I'll say 'Rejoice!'."

So tomorrow, Sunday and Monday, I will put aside my wants, doubts, goals and thoughts and instead focus on others in much greater need.  I will rejoice that the Lord saved my home from destruction.  I will rejoice that I am physically capable of helping others.  I will rejoice that is using me to brings His joy to others.  Rejoice in the Lord always!


Lady O' Lists

I'm a "list girl" at heart.  I make lists for household tasks, work obligations, life dreams, groceries, areas of personal improvement versus weakness . . . and this is just to name a handful of my many list categories.  There's nothing more satisfying to me than making a long list and then systematically scratching off as many items as possible (often as quickly as possible!).  With each scratch-off, my confidence and motivation grows.  If I'm feeling especially unmotivated, I will even write items on my lists that are already completed!  So here is my  goal To-Do list for today:
Very helpful!

Goal To-Do's
1) Run at least 1 mile
     * Walked 1 mile, ran ~1 mile
2) Study at least 1 hour for GRE
     * Studied 1.75 hours
3) Consume 3 healthy meals
     * Breakfast: fruit smoothie w/ fresh fruit and yogurt, 2 T almonds
     * Lunch: 1 egg, 1/2 c. carrots and 1/2 apple
     * Supper: leafy green salad w/ cucumbers and dried cranberries; 1/2 boiled chicken breast
4) Drink only water
5) Selflessly help another

#5 definitely needs more focus.  While my daily job is all about helping others, is it really "selfless" if I am getting paid for it?   Thoughts?  I definitely have a long way to go to achieve my goals but I'm feeling positive and innervated.  


Setting Big Goals

Welcome dear friends!  I have steered away from blogging for many years but I've finally capitulated.  Since there never seems to be enough time in the day to keep in touch with all my wonderful friends and family, I'm hoping this blog will help to connect us.  Please do visit often and I will do my best to post often.  

However, I have to admit.  I do have a selfish reason for starting this blog as well.  Lately I've found myself falling into the trap of working, eating and sleeping with very little purpose in life and you, my dear friends and family, are going to keep me honest.  And with honesty, comes self-reflection.  Often I have inspired moments but more often than not, those inspirations never become reality.  So in order to counteract this character flaw, I have narrowed it down to four measurable, attainable goals.  

My Big Goals (ala TFA)
1) Take the GRE  on July 22nd and earn the following scores: Verbal Reasoning 700-800, Quantitative Reasoning 700-800 and Analytical Writing 4.5 or above
2) Run a marathon by August 2012
3) Maintain healthy cooking and eating habits at least 6 days a week
4) Selflessly help another at least once a week
* Disclaimer: I give you full permission to hassle me if I do not stick with these goals!

So.  In light of sticking with something and becoming accountable, yesterday I registered for the GRE (July 22nd...yipes!).   This morning I took a diagnostic GRE exam.  My benchmark percentile ranking was 56%.  Not good and a definite reality check.  Given that I need serious scholarships in order to afford graduate school, this means I need to get even more serious about studying.  

Time for some serious prep!

I have faith that I can do much better than my diagnostic score if I create a plan and stick with it.  I know that if it is God's will that Cody and I go to graduate school in Fall 2012, then He will work it all out according to His good and perfect will.  All I have to do is be diligent and have faith.  Off to plan and study!