Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Blessed Year

I was reminiscent this morning. I remember waking up on January 1, 2008 anticipating a hard year. One that would be filled with healing, but also wishing and hoping that it would hold more than we could imagine. Both statements are true. Although these pictures don't "show" you all that happened in our lives in 2008, they do share a story of happiness, opportunity, family and love.

Every spring break we head to the Smokey Mountains for a 4 day backpacking trip. This year we went to Abram's Creek trail head and hiked in for 3 nights and 4 days. The weather was perfect and the scenery beautiful! This picture was taken 3 days into the hike.

In April, Mike ran the Music City Marathon with his cousin, Chris. I took this picture when they had both just crossed the finished line, along with hundreds of other people. The tall guy in the middle of the picture with the black t-shirt on is Chris, Mike is behind him.

In mid-May we said goodbye to condo living and bought our first home. We have had a blast working on the "fixer-upper" that just needed a little TLC to bring the character and spirit back to a house that sat empty for over a year.

We went to Chicago for our summer vacation this year. We went in late May, so the weather was still a little chilly, but we both enjoyed the city, took in some Cubs baseball, ate some Chicago style pizza and decided it would be on our "to do again" list.

Jessica, our niece, came for a visit during the Country Music Festival. We surprised her with concert tickets to see Taylor Swift. To all our surprise, the special guests for the night were Rascall Flatts and Jessica Simpson.

Ben and Sam, our nephews, came for a weekend visit a few weeks later. Boys will be boys...they worked in the yard with Mike and then we took them to play miniature golf and go-carts.

Fall came and so did the anticipated anniversary of Allison and Emily's birth and death. September 4th was a huge milestone for both of us. This is the tree that is planted at the top of the row where their grave is.

In the midst of honoring our daughters, we found out we were expecting again!

Another girl!!! This was our Christmas card picture this year.

Christmas was so special this year. As we gathered together as family, we recognized all that the Lord has given us. The grace and mercy that He has shown us and the love that we share for Him and each other.

For me personally, I have been stretched and tested this past year. I was stripped bare of what I thought I needed and wanted in my life and I was forced, in a good way, to lay down my plans, my hopes and my needs and focus on what the Lord wanted for me. It has been hard, but oh so good. The sanctifying work of Christ in my life is just that...a work. It's daily and hourly, as I have readjusted my thinking and my priorities. Instead of "what do I want?" it's "what does the Lord want of me?"
Even though the majority of the time, I post about the day to day things going on in my life, "Nesting in Pleasant View" has provided the opportunity for me to read and be encouraged by so many amazing and godly women who share their wisdom so beautifully through words. I have learned from you and am privileged to know each of you, to know your stories and to share mine with you. We share a bond that is so unique. Although for most of us, we won't meet face to face until we are in heaven, I count you as friends.
I pray that each of you experiences the wonder of Jesus as we begin a new year together!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Guess Who's Birthday It Is?

Could he be any cuter?
Breaking in his new grill he got for Father's Day
Happy Birthday Mike! I pray that this next year is filled with wonder and excitement, new challenges and hopes and dreams being fulfilled.
Smokey Mountains backpacking trip during Spring Break
You are an amazing man and I celebrate you and your life today!
I love you!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas!

As we get closer to Christmas I wanted to take this opportunity to wish all of my new friends in blogland a very Merry Christmas!

May we all remember the birth of Jesus in a special way this year as we reflect on His love.

We are headed to Ohio to be with my family; so between Christy and me, you'll have a full show of what our Christmas was like! I think Christy has some surprises up her sleeve for us with her advent calendar.

Merry Christmas!

PS. Thank you for all of the "Happy Anniversary" wishes. We had a doctor's appointment yesterday morning and we were fortunate to have another ultrasound--little Baby Girl is growing right on pace and everything looks good for 26 weeks!

Unto Thee I Pledge My Love

Dear Mike,
2 years ago...some days it seems like we just got back from our honeymoon, others it seems like
we should be old and gray settling into retirement.

God was so sweet to bring you into my life. The day we married was the most beautiful and sacred days I have ever experienced. Our lives tell a story of waiting on the Lord's promises and being patient enough to sit back and wait for Him to orchestrate the events in our lives.

To call you my beloved means not only calling you my husband, but my confidant and best friend. It means calling you the father of my children, of our 3 daughters. It means being vulnerable with you even when it's uncomfortable for me and listening to you and following your lead. It means laughing at your math jokes and crying over the hurt in our lives. It means playing cards in bed at night and spending the night in 24 degree weather in the Smokey Mountains.

It means sacrifice, love and tenderness. It means there is no one I would rather spend my time with and no one I would rather see when I close my eyes at night and when I open them in the morning. It means loving you with all that I have and all that I am.

I love you sweetie. Happy Anniversary!

Friday, December 19, 2008

It's Friday!

We had such a nice time with Brad and Nicole last night. Before they came over, I was able to take a few pictures of our Christmas decorations.

The red glassware that I have on our mantle was used in our wedding 2 years ago. Since we got married on the 22nd of December, we decided to use the colors of the season. It was so beautiful! My mom did all of the decorating and found tons of this glassware. As I was getting the pieces out to decorate I was reminded of how beautiful our wedding was. It will be nice to be able to use these vases and votives for years to come and to share the memories of them!

Notice the stockings...my sister, Christy, shared the story behind them here. I received a card from Aunt Margie and she has promised another stocking as soon as the baby girl inside of me arrives (if we could decide on a name now, I could have her make it, but being the indecisive one in the marriage, she goes by a different name every day. I just can't make up my mind!)

As a wedding present, my Aunt Beth started a Christmas dish collection for us. These are the Spode Christmas tree pattern. I love them so much and wish I could use them all year round!!!!

Clearly, the Cranberry Bog was a hit!

Enjoy your Friday!

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Look what came in the mail this week for me! Sarah Mae had a journal giveaway last week and I won!!! The journal is perfect. And it's pink. She sent a bookmark as well. What a fun thing to get in the mail!

We have a busy few days coming up. We are having friends over for dinner tonight. Nicole and Brad are expecting a baby girl in March too. We think they are going to BFF! I am going to make Creamy Slow-Cooker Chicken and Roasted Vegetables and Rice (November 2008 Southern Living). This chicken recipe is sooooo good. It's not your average Cream of Mushroom Soup with Chicken in a crock-pot recipe. The white wine and Italian dressing mix give it a special kick that makes it so good. For dessert I'm making Christy's Cranberry Bog Recipe. I've had it a billion times, but never made it. Just in case Brad and Nicole don't go crazy over cranberries like I do, I'm making some Chocolate Fudge Crinkles too.

Tomorrow night a recent graduate of the high school where Mike teaches and a former softball player (He coaches softball in the spring!) is coming to dinner. She goes to U of Tennesee and is in town for the holidays. We haven't seen her in a while and are so excited to spend some time with her catching up!

Saturday we will be finishing up the bathroom so hopefully there will be pictures to show you of the amazing tile and paint job Mike did. It looks amazing and is a HUGE improvement over the faux painted turquoise walls that were in there before.

Then Monday is our anniversary and another doctor's appointment (we are hoping for another ultrasound)! Tuesday we leave for Ohio for Christmas! Until then, I have a few more presents to wrap, a house to clean and a Cranberry Bog to make!

Hope you have a wonderful Thursday!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Taste of the North

It may not look to appetizing but let me tell you...it is! If you have ever visited and/or lived anywhere near Cincinnati, Ohio, you know exactly what this is. CINCINNATI CHILI! Can I get an Amen from all of those who know what this is?There are two restaurants that serve it, Skyline Chili (my favorite) and Gold Star Chili.

It is a combination of noodles, chili, beans, onions and cheese and some oh so good yumminess! Actually you can fix it anyway you like--the way I described it above is a "5-way"; that's northern talk for having it topped with all the extras. Sometimes people even order it "inverted" so that the cheese and beans are covered by the noodles and chili so that they melt. I've tried other recipes (Southern Living has one) but honestly the best one comes from a mix that you can only get in the OH/KY grocery stores or by ordering online.

Whenever someone comes to visit from home, I have them bring some packets and next week when we go to Ohio for Christmas, I'll be making a stop at Kroger to stock up!!!

Hope you are all having a wonderful week!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Kristen at Over the Backyard Fence is hosting a tree trimming party (blog style of course) and you are invited! I have my ornaments ready to go! Be sure to visit and let her know what you will be bringing!

Here are the ones I'm bringing...

My mom made this last year after our daughters were born. It is made from the same fabric that their baby quilt is made out of.

Every year we pick out a new ornament to represent that year. In May, we went to Chicago for vacation and we picked this up.

This Partridge in a Pear Tree ornament has hung on our tree since I was a baby. I think my parents got it when I turned one. It has survived everything from basement floods to moving!

The first year we were married (we celebrate 2 years on the 22nd!) we were in Mexico for Christmas on our honeymoon cruise!!! So in honor of 2006, I found this cruise ship!

And for just a couple other fun things; one year, Christy and I made these signs for friends and family.
This year, I found this pretty cardinal. I have it sitting on my mantle with my other birds.

I would love to see what you will be bringing to the party!!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Something sweet

***I want to first thank all of you for your comments regarding my last post. I am so blessed to have you as my blog friends. Your words have brought comfort to me the past few days when I have needed them the most. Our time at the cemetery was very peaceful. The luminaries were beautiful and we were able to connect with several other families who have lost babies over the last few years.

Now....Being on a budget gives you the opportunity to be creative with gifts. This year, for some of my gifts to neighbors, Mike's co-workers and friends, I wanted to make something homemade and yummy.

I started with Mercken chocolate. I buy it at speciality candy and cake stores. I melt it down to dipping consistency.When it was melted, I poured it into a drinking glass. I know what you are thinking...that is a strong pregnancy craving....melted chocolate straight out of the glass...

Then I took some of these.

And some of these oh so good toppings (I chopped the Reese's cups up).

And this is what you get! Don't they look so good?

I put them in cellophane bags, tied with a Christmas ribbon. I found some small ornaments at Hobby Lobby and added one for that special touch. They were so easy to make and budget friendly!
What homemade gifts are you making this year?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Between Remembering and Longing

This past fall I had the privilege of being a part of a Bible Study with Angie from Bring the Rain. A large group of women from the Nashville area gathered every Monday night to study and learn together. I had never done a Beth Moore study but really felt like this is what I needed to be spending my time on. You know how when you start a bible study, you usually say to yourself, "what am I going to get out of this, what am I supposed to get out of this?" Well, now that the study has been over for 2 months, I know.

If you haven't done Stepping Up, the entire premise is the time from when the Israelites were being led back to Jerusalem from being in captivity. This select group of Psalms (120-134) were the worship songs they sang on their journey. Specifically for me, Psalm 126 is why I was "supposed to be in the study." The people are praising and testifying to what God had done for them in the past (both the good and the bad), then they begin asking Him to do it again, preparing for what He has for them once they return home. They were singing about remembering and longing. They are caught in the "in between." I'm learning there is a A LOT of tension in this place.

As I laid in bed last night, restless and unable to go to sleep, tears began to fall as I thought about my daughters, Allison and Emily (for their story, go here and here). I was remembering them, thinking about what it would be like to be celebrating their first Christmas in just a few short weeks. They would have been 1 (had they gone full-term) around Christmas time. Twin girls...opening presents, walking, talking, giggling, being loved on by family...being embraced by their Mom and Dad.

You see, yesterday was the 4th. The girls were born on the 4th of September, so subconsciously, every month there is something that tears at my heart during the first week of the month. Some months it comes a little more subtly, but other times it hits me hard. I was also thinking about Saturday. This weekend we will be going to a candlelight vigil at the cemetery where the girls are buried. Every year they host this for families who have loved ones buried there. Our girls are buried together so they place 2 luminaries on their marker for us to light. We are one of only a couple families in the garden who have twins there. It is a sacred time for Mike and me, just the two of us, a time for us to be a family with our girls. Even with that said, I hate that one of our Christmas traditions is visiting a cemetery. I hate this category that we fit into. One that means that when the plots are "on special" at the cemetery, we get a phone call asking if we want to reserve space for the rest of our family.

I laid there in bed, in this awful place of fear for a while. Quite frankly it is the fear that God will choose to allow something to happen to this baby that I am carrying.

But then I remembered this Psalm and I made the decision to hope. I have learned over the course of the past year that hoping is the hardest thing to do. It's allowing yourself to be vulnerable when you are too scared to do anything else. It's about taking risks and believing, even when it doesn't make sense. We are all in this "in between" state. Remembering what Christ has done for us. Born in a manger and then crucified on a cross for our sins. Now...we wait. We wait for His return, for His glory to be revealed. It means patience in waiting on Him to do what only He can do in our lives, it means being submitted to His plan and not ours and that even when it's uncomfortable, it's remembering that EVERYTHING passes through His hands for our lives.

So I sit in the 'in between", the waiting....this place of being thankful for what He has done, even when it doesn't make sense. This place that is filled with anxiety and nervousness about the future. But also this place of great peace, the peace that says there is a hope and future for us; which includes this new little life that is growing inside of me. The arrival of another girl into our family.

She never fails to let me know she is there, especially when I need to feel it the most. Interestingly enough, last night, she couldn't stop moving. God showed up in her kicks last night. He's always there, but last night, He did something tangible for me. I cried out to Him and He heard me. I asked and He answered. I looked and He was there.

I slept soundly last night for the first time this week.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My sister, Christy, tagged me! I just love a good tag! Especially one that is for Christmas!

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Hot Chocolate, but it has to be accompanied by a piece of peanut butter bread.

2.Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
It depends on who I am talking to about this and how old they are. I don't want to be the person that "lets the cat out of the bag."

3. Colored lights on house/tree or white?
Definitely white.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
Up until 2 years ago, there wasn't a reason to because there wasn't anybody to kiss! I think it would drive Mike crazy having it hanging in our house!

5.When do you put your decorations up?
The week after Thanksgiving. But in my mind they are up the beginning of October.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
Party Ryes. It is a family recipe. There isn't one Christmas memory that doesn't include them!

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child?
Being with my grandparents, Nana and Pa. They have both passed away. I wish my husband and children would have been able to spend just one Christmas with them.

8.When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I got up in the middle of the night when I was 4 or 5 and I walked in on my dad putting a gift under the tree. He was like a deer caught in the headlights!

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
No, but it is so tempting....

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
Every ornament has a memory. For this year, we were able to find one when we went to Chicago for vacation. My favorite one is a quilted heart my mom made in memory of my daughters.

11. Snow. Love it or dread it?
I love it...another benefit of being married to a teacher. When schools close, he is off of work!

12. Can you ice skate?
Yes. I took lessons when I was younger.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
I received a Strawberry Shortcake doll from "Santa" the year that I caught my dad in front of the Christmas tree. I still have it.

14. What is the most important thing about the holidays to you?
Being with family and making memories.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?
Buckeyes and all of the other cookies my mom makes every year.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Hanging our stockings. Each member of my family, beginning with my mom, has a handmade stocking with our names knitted into it. Each of them have been made by my great aunt.

17. What tops your Christmas tree?
A Star.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?
I like to see friends and families faces when they open gifts I have given them. I wouldn't be honest if I said I didn't like to receive too though! :)

19. What is your favorite Christmas song?
Last year, our church put out a Christmas worship album entitled "Ring the Bells." Christy Nockels from Watermark recorded a song that is on the album, it's called "Angel's Lullaby" It's about the angels singing when Jesus was born. This is shameless plug, but you can listen/buy the album by going to www.fbctn.org.

20. Candy Canes. Yum or Yuck?

21. What do you want for Christmas?
I have had the hardest time this year coming up with a list of things. I told my mom and sister the other day that I would like/need some maternity undies (to be honest I didn't even know they made them!). I thought about whether or not I would be embarrassed opening them up on Christmas but then I realized that I would be more embarrassed if the elastic in the ones I have now shot out in public.

22. Do you attend an annual Christmas party?

23. Do you dress up for Christmas Eve or wear PJ's?
We dress casual for the Christmas Eve service but then come straight home and get comfy in our jammies!

24. Do you own a Santa hat.
No, and don't plan on it.

25. Who do you normally spend Christmas with?
Usually with my family in Ohio. We stay at my sister's house and my parents come over for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Next year there will be someone else with us!

Now I get to tag 5 people:
Shell in Your Pocket
Like a Warm Cup of Coffee
Harrington House
Over the Backyard Fence
Carolina Mama

Here are the rules:
1. Post the rules on your blog.
2. Fill out the questions.
3. Tag 5-7 people at the end of your post.
4. Pass on the tag!

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Cold Winter Evening

It seems that some sort of cold bug is trying to make its way into our house. Stuffy noses, sore throats, and sneezing are evidence that we needed a cure all for our symptoms!

Chicken Noodle Soup

2 1/2 cups wide egg noodles

12 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 tablespoons salt

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup sliced carrots

1/3 cup corn starch

1/4 cup water

3 cups diced cooked chicken meat (I shred mine)

1. Cook noodles according to directions. Drain. Rinse under cold water.

2. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, combine broth, salt and poultry seasoning. Bring to a boil. Stir in celery, onion and carrots. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes.

3. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and water together until cornstarch is completely dissolved. Gradually add to soup, stirring constantly. Stir in noodles and chicken and heat through.

Savory Biscuit Bites

1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1 Tablespoon dried minced onion

1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes

1 (12 ounce) package refrigerated biscuits

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a bowl, combine butter, cheese, onion and parsley. Cut biscuits into quarters; roll in butter mixture. Place in a greased 15x10 baking pan, let stand 15 minutes. Bake for 8 minutes or until lightly browned.