Only 6 weeks left

Here we are on the other side of spring break with only six weeks left in the semester. The year has gone by so fast (even though it felt sooooo slow at times). I can’t believe we have been married eight months and in Texas for seven. It feels like it has been so much longer than that. We are adjusting to life in Texas and I am finally starting to feel at home here. It is really nice to be able to get places without using a gps and have favorite spots to recommend to visitors. I am making friends outside of work and finding things to do that are relaxing and restful. I have my classes that I go to at the gym, my knitting class that I go to on Thursday afternoons, and my favorite coffee shops to visit when I need to get work done or need motivation on a sleepy morning. It’s amazing to think that at this time last year, Ben and I didn’t know that we would be leaving New Jersey and coming to Texas. It’s amazing how much can happen in a year!

We have a lot going on this spring. Here are a few things that are coming up:

Visitors

March and April are our months for visitors this year! We have 7 people staying with us  and 5 people visiting but not staying with us at different times throughout these two months. We are so excited to show everyone Texas. Three women that I worked with last year in New Jersey were here a few weeks ago and I got to show them around San Marcos, take them out for authentic tacos, go hiking at Enchanted Rock, and visit Zilker Park in Austin. We also had them over for dinner and we are excited to have them over to our apartment.

Ben’s parents came last week and my sister is coming next week. We are so excited to show our families around the places that we have come to love over the past seven months!

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Our Patio

Over the past month, I have been working on making our patio a place that we can enjoy and love. Since we got here, we’ve used our patio only for storing our bikes, but as it has started warming up and feeling like spring, I decided to spruce it up. We found a place to lock the bikes outside the patio and then I was left with a six-foot by seven-foot concrete space with four-foot high walls surrounding it to use as a blank canvas. I started with plants because I’ve been wanting a place where I can grow vegetables to cook with. I bought big pots, filled them with soil, and chose plants to plant in them. We are now growing tomatoes, peppers, kale, spinach, onions, eggplant, strawberries, lavender, dill, sage, mint, and rosemary. There are no fruits or vegetables yet, but the plants are definitely getting bigger! We also bought two chairs and a little table so that we could eat meals out there. I hung up the lights we bought for Christmas. Now we have a little outdoor oasis to enjoy as the weather gets nicer. 🙂

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Backpacking

Last week Ben and I headed on a short little vacation together. We went backpacking in Big Thicket National Preserve. We’ll be hiking for five days and four nights. We had fun planning meals, gathering our gear, and planning our route. It was good for us to have something that we love doing together to look forward to because it’s been hard to leave work at work when we work for the same place. Preparing for the trip has helped us to get excited about something we are doing together that is not related to work. Here are some photos!IMG_1251IMG_1256IMG_1266

 

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We begin again…

We are starting up a new semester at Texas State. (Actually, I’m a little bit behind–we are on week 3 of the new semester.) There’s a lot going on as we start up again. This weekend we are putting on a retreat. It has been awesome to watch this retreat come together. It is almost entirely led by students. We have 12 students giving talks and testimonies and many other students leading teams to run small groups, transportation, registration, snacks, and many other things. It has been a different experience guiding students through the necessary tasks to prepare for the retreat (rather than doing them myself). But, it has been awesome to see the ownership and responsibility that students have by doing it this way.

 

Another thing I am excited for this semester is renewed focus on preparing students for the Christian life beyond college. This semester we are scaling back some of our big events so that we can focus on guiding students in learning how to build habits of prayer and community that they can take in the rest of their life. By focusing our resources and energy on the Household program and Formation program, we are seeking to build up a group of students that know and live a radical life for the Lord. We still want to invite new students into the things we are doing, but that will be primarily through building friendships rather than huge events.

 

Finally, Ben and I are looking forward to settling into life in Texas. We’ve been here almost six months and I am just starting to feel settled in. Our apartment is set up, I can drive most places I need to go without a GPS, and I am getting more used to the weather. I think the next six months of living here will be much more comfortable and calm, now that we have the transition of moving and getting married behind us. Last year I felt a lot more calm in the spring because I was used to living in New Jersey and I hope it’s the same this year in Texas.

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written here, but thanks for reading my little updates. We can always use your prayers because we continued to be challenged and tested (both in our work and in marriage), but God has been faithful and good, even in challenging times. God Bless!

And, because a post without pictures is not as fun, here are some pictures from our last Lord’s Day Celebration of last semester:

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While we wait…

As of Sunday, a new liturgical season is here. Advent, one of the two penitential seasons, has begun leading us closer to the holiday we’re all waiting for: Christmas. I think Advent is a tricky season because there are so many other things going on at the same time. The competing attentions of finishing semesters, Christmas preparations, and other winter preoccupations make this liturgical season a hard one to focus on. Lent, on the other hand, happens during a time of year that has little else to offer. It is a dreary time of year and we are not focusing on baking cookies and purchasing gifts because we don’t celebrate Easter with the same vigor as Christmas. Although fasting, almsgiving, and prayer can challenge us (and particularly test our self-control), there is a certain ease of focusing on the season of Lent because we are not being pulled in a thousand directions.

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It requires a special focus and special attention to make Advent more important than material preparations for Christmas. I still struggle with trying to balance the quiet waiting and reflection that the season is made for with the tasks of making cookies, buying gifts, and getting ready to travel. But our hearts need this time to prepare. It is not Christmas yet. Christmas should (and does) carry with it a great joy–I’m not trying to minimize that. But, it has its own season. In fact, Christmas is not just one day, but twelve, and if we wait to celebrate Christ’s birth until the Christmas season, we won’t be so tempted to take down our Christmas trees on December 28th. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that I want to downplay Christmas. In fact, I think that if we focus on Advent when it is Advent and Christmas when it is Christmas we will be able to celebrate Christmas so much more! By preparing our hearts and then celebrating for 12 days, we can truly rejoice in the great gift of Christ.

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As Ben and I start our own family traditions, it has been challenging to match my actions to my words. I love everything to do with Christmas: the cookie baking, the decorating, the gift giving, the hot chocolate, the Christmas movies, and the general joy of the season. So, when we had to stay in Texas for Thanksgiving, I decided that we should put up our Christmas decorations to give our apartment a bit of winter cheer. I also wanted to start making Christmas cookies (and freezing them so we can take them to Christmas parties) and watch Christmas movies. It was weird pulling down the boxes because all my senses are telling me it’s not Christmas time yet (mostly because the high today is 80 degrees and I can’t wrap my head around December not being cold and snowy). But, beyond that, as we pulled out the ornaments, I started thinking about how our apartment could reflect the waiting that I want my heart to be doing in this season.

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So, we set up an Advent tree instead of a Christmas tree. We decorated our tree with white lights (really the only lights we had) and only our purple ornaments (luckily my favorite color is purple and my mom had bought us a whole set of purple ball ornaments). It looks sparse, but that is a reminder that the real celebration is still to come. When Christmas arrives, we will add all the rest of our ornaments and ribbons and a topper. We also set up an Advent wreath using 3 purple IKEA candles and one white candle with a pink ribbon around it on a plate with a sprig of greenery (make one with what you have). The advent wreath sits on the middle of our kitchen table as a reminder of where we are in our journey towards Christmas. I refrained from putting up any more of our Christmas decor. For now, our home is in Advent, and like us, it is waiting for the birth of the King.

Mission Update

I realized this morning that all of the posts I have written recently are about me. Hopefully that hasn’t come across as totally self-centered, but I thought I’d change it up today and give you a little update of how things are going with the mission at Texas State.

Small Groups

We’ve started small groups and they are going strong so far. The Lord has blessed us with a great vision for unifying the groups this year. We are really focusing on the question: “Who is Jesus to you?” The leaders are facilitating discussions about faith and Christ by using the Starting Point or Follow videos from Andy Stanley. I’ve been following along and watching the videos for the Follow Series and have found them very convicting for myself so I am excited to see how they continue to impact students. I’ll write another post specifically about this material (and share some of the ways it has been challenging me). Please pray for the small groups here as students explore the way they know and follow Jesus.

Formation Program

For those students who have committed their lives to Christ, we run a program we call the Formation Program. This program is a way to continue to help students grow in what it means to be a mature Christian. This semester we are doing a course called Christian Personal Relationships. So far, we’ve heard talks on prayer, relationships in our modern world,  and using our speech to build relationships. This week we’ll hear a talk on conflict resolution and asking for forgiveness. These talks are paired with small groups so that students have time to talk about what they are hearing. My small group had a great conversation about how speech can upbuild or tear down a community and each of them set a goal for a way they want to improve in the way they speak.

I lead a small group of junior and senior women. It is such an honor to be a part of their lives and to hear how the Lord is working in their lives and hearts. Leading formation small groups has been a blessing over the past couple years (even before I became a missionary) because I find it so beautiful to get to know the awesome women the Lord has placed in my life through these groups. This year is no exception. I can’t wait to continue walking with them throughout this year and see the way the Lord leads them this year.

Women’s Events

A key part of building a Christian community is offering dedicated time to build sisterhood and brother hood. A cornerstone of SPO’s programming is men’s and women’s nights. We have had some awesome women’s nights this year and it has been awesome to see the sisterhood growing among women who didn’t know each other only two months ago. We had a small group kick-off that featured a series of goofy Minute To Win It style games, which was definitely a hit! Two weeks ago we hosted a fall party that featured decorating mason jars and making trail mix.

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p.s. These pictures are from last year because I don’t have many from this year yet!

 

Out and About

Ben and I have been exploring! And not just driving around aimlessly, but we have been on a quest. For this last week, we have been participating in the Hill Country Yarn Crawl.

For those of you who have never heard of a yarn crawl, I will give you a brief explanation of what it is. There were 19 yarn shops in central Texas that were part of the crawl and the goal was to visit all 19 shops in 10 days. I had a passport that I got stamped at each shop we visited and I put my name in a prize drawing each time. Also, each shop had a featured knitting pattern that they gave out and the yarn to knit that pattern was on sale.

I had heard about the crawl at the knitting class I was taking at a shop near Sam Marcos. The shop has been preparing for this week for a long time and so I heard quite a bit about it in the weeks before the crawl. I wasn’t planning on doing it because I thought it was a little crazy to drive around to 19 shops in such a short period of time. But, at the last minute I decided to buy a passport and see if I could go to a few.

When I came home from knitting class with a passport, I wasn’t sure what Ben would think of me setting out to visit as many yarn stores as possible in the next week. I’ll admit, you have to be a little crazy to try this. But, he was willing to come with me and explore Texas while we visited a few yarn shops. Ultimately, we decided we would try to go to as many as we could with the goal of seeing parts of Texas that we wouldn’t normally visit. The crawl turned out to be a great way to explore and we found several places we definitely want to go back to.

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This is a map of all the shops. Each color represents a different day of driving. We visited 14 of 19 shops and the ones we didn’t get to are marked in light grey.

I’ll spare you the play by play of all the shops we went to, but here are the highlights:

Independence Farmstead Fiber Mill

This was definitely my favorite stop of the yarn crawl. We got to tour a family-owned mill that makes yarn out of mostly-Texas-origin wool. The mill is run by the woman who gave the tour and we learned a ton about how yarn is made. She is passionate about local wool and was fascinating to listen to.

Finished yarn spun at the mill. (This is not my photo. I was so intrigued by the tour that I forgot to take photos. This is from the fiber mill's Facebook page.)

Finished yarn spun at the mill. (This is not my photo. I was so intrigued by the tour that I forgot to take photos. This is from the fiber mill’s Facebook page.)

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Wool ready to be carded before it is spun. (This photo is also from the fiber mill’s Facebook page.)

Hill Country Weavers

This was a very cool yarn shop in South Austin. They had a huge selection of yarns and patterns. They also had a trunk show of one of my favorite pattern designers. I found a sweater that I really want to knit. We’ll see if I get to it with all the other things I want to knit!

Rohan Meadery

The Rohan Meadery was a very special place to visit. It was so peaceful and calm to be out of San Marcos and be on a quiet farm. They make their own mead (honey wine), wine, and cider. They were the sponsor of the yarn crawl, so they were offering tastings in special wine crawl glasses to all those participating in the crawl. Ben and I are looking forward to taking some friends back there to have a peaceful and relaxing afternoon.

Round Top

We drove by this fun area of Texas and can’t wait to go back and check it out more. There were a ton of antique shops and flea markets that just kept going and going as we drove. This is definitely a place we’re heading back to.

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This yarn shop also had a trunk show that exhibited some beautiful sweaters from Quince and Co. After visiting, I had another thing to add to my knitting list!

Lucky Ewe

This is my “Local Yarn Shop.” It was fun to stop by during the crawl to see how things were going at the shop. They said it’d been a very busy week! I bought some sock yarn to make Ben a pair of socks to thank him for accompanying me for most of the crawl.

Yarnivore

This yarn shop was in San Antonio and was one of the best places we visited. I really wish it was a little bit closer to San Marcos. We were browsing the spinning wheels they had (I’m thinking about learning to spin) and one of the ladies there started telling us all about the wheels. Pretty soon, her husband was helping me spin yarn on a drop spindle and they were helping me try spinning on the wheels. It was so fun to hear the passion and excitement they both have about spinning and it made me even more excited to get my own equipment and try it. I’ll definitely be headed back whenever I’m in the area!

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    We planned to take pictures at each shop, but only remembered to at the first stop. This is a mural outside Hill Country Weavers in Austin.

October Goals

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Several other blogs that I have read lately have shared their monthly goals, both professionally and personally. To give you all a glimpse into what I’m trying to do on a daily basis, I’m going to do the same. Also, focusing on just a few goals will help me narrow down what I am working at this month. I just got married and moved across the country, so some days I feel like I am trying to do everything–from meal planning to event planning–better all at once. That’s hard! So, for October, this is what I want to focus on:

Professional Goals

Read The Joy of The Gospel by Pope Francis: Each of the missionaries on my team are reading at least one professional development book this semester. I have a couple on my list, so I want to finish one of them in October. Pope Francis’ book is up first!

Plan a manageable amount of things to do each day: I often plan WAY too many tasks for each day and then I end up moving many of them to the next day. I am trying to use my planner to only plan what I can actually complete in a day so that I don’t feel so overwhelmed at the end of each day.

Intentionally invest in relationships with students: Since I’ve been here I’ve been mainly focused on the administrative tasks and helping plan events and small groups. Those are important things, but I haven’t had (or made) much time for getting to know students. Building relationships with students is my favorite part of this job, so I can’t wait to make time for it.

Write 2 blog posts per week: I want to blog more regularly so I’m setting a goal of 2 times per week. One post will be regular length and the other will be really short, but I’m hoping you’ll get to hear from me a little more!

Personal Goals

Finish knitting Christmas stockings for Ben and I: Last month I took a class on knitting Christmas stockings at a local knitting class to meet new people. This month it’s my goal to finish the stockings and make name tags for them so that we’re ready for Christmas.

Figure out a routine for meal planning and grocery shopping: We need a plan so that we aren’t left hungry and frustrated at 5:30 pm when we get home and the chicken breasts are still in the freezer. This week I did meal prep on Sunday and planned 3 meals that will be made in the crockpot. It was magical to come home to chicken parmesan cooked and ready and it took us a record 18 minutes to heat spaghetti squash, boil green beans, set the table, and sit down to dinner. This is the first weeknight since we’ve been here that we were eating before 6pm. Now I have to figure out how to keep up the routine of planning and prepping ahead.

Start writing wedding thank you cards: This is something that I have been telling myself I can do after we get settled in Texas because it was too overwhelming to do with the move. Now we’re settled enough to start this project. It’ll take a while to write them all because I love writing notes and have a habit of writing a lot, but my goal for October is just to get them started.

Get a Texas drivers license with my new name on it: The state of Texas gives you 90 days to get a new license once you move here, so it’s about time to get started with the process. Plus, I just got my debit card with my new name on it, so my I.D. should probably match my bank cards.

So, that’s what I’m going to be up to for October. What are your goals?

Pray with me.

Hi. I am an imperfect blogger. But that’s ok. I wrote this post on Tuesday and then was interrupted before I could proof-read and publish it. So, whenever it says today, think Tuesday. Sorry about that!

The new academic year is in full swing and whether you are a student or not, this time of year is perfect for fresh starts and new habits. I am starting a new bible study and daily prayer habit today and I want to invite you to join me in diving deeper into scripture and developing or continuing reading the bible every day.

The study I’m using goes through John 1, 2, and 3 and is published by a website called She Reads Truth. She Reads Truth is an amazing ministry and resource that I have been following for a long time. They publish daily scripture verses and reflections that walk their readers through specific books of the bible or topics. I have done studies of theirs on the books of Ruth, Nehemiah, and Acts, Lent, Advent, and Hymns. Their wisdom, consistency, and boldness have changed my prayer life and experience of scripture. I encourage you to check out their website and see all they have to offer. They are even publishing a book soon and I am so excited to read it. Check them out at SheReadsTruth.com. (They also have a partner ministry called He Reads Truth, so if you are a man, check it out, or if you are a woman, send it to a man in your life.)

The study that I’m doing is titled: John 1, 2, and 3: A Love that Drives out Fear. I am really excited to dive in and grow in my conviction about Christ’s love for me. The study has a few scripture verses and a reflection to read each day. I started reading the first day this morning, so I’m already a day behind (the study started yesterday, on Monday), but they give a grace day on Sunday so that you can catch up if you get behind. There are two ways to read the study: on the SRT app or blog. I use the app because it checks off the days you have already read and it is a convenient place to keep all of the SRT studies I’ve done in one place. Most of the reading plans cost two or three dollars for two or three weeks of daily scripture selections and reflections. It’s not a bad deal in my mind and I want to keep supporting the ministry so that they are able to keep doing it.

So, before I send you off to go read the first day of the study, let me leave you with a few quotes I found convincing as I read today:

John begins by assuring us that his Gospel account (the book of John) is true. Then, he invites us down a path of holy concern to examine whether the message of the gospel has actually changed our lives.

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The Christian life—the life of salvation through the gospel of Christ Jesus—is a life that will constantly battle the darkness until Perfection comes.

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Lord, afflict us with your Truth, that we may be comforted. Shine light in our dark places. Let us never stop pursuing holiness.

Now, go read it yourself. Here’s the link again: http://shereadstruth.com/2016/09/26/light-and-darkness/

And, if you are a man: http://hereadstruth.com/plan/1-2-and-3-john/

I’m so excited to see who’s going to join me. Comment below if you’re going to read a long. I’d love to know who’s praying along with me!