Reading round-up (4.11.14)

Yesterday I shared a little bit of the everyday beauty of this last week, and today I’ve got some of the bigger, more extravagant graces of the season along with some weekend reading for you!

[One] For as “boring” as Iowa sounded when we first moved there, I always felt it worked out well for us to connect with traveling friends while we lived there. Our house became a common stopping point for many friends and acquaintances traveling between the Midwest and the “Real West,” usually Montana or Colorado. With a comfy couch in the back room, easy quiche and baked oatmeal recipes, and a fabulous patio to enjoy in the warmer seasons, we had a pretty decent bed&breakfast going on. I worried that moving to Minnesota would mean an end to some of that flurry, but I’m pretty sure that is not going to be the case. We have had an amazing influx of visitors in the past little bit! There was our first official hosted dinner with some Hillsdale friends, a few nights hosting my dearest Jenny (also on Hillsdale business), and now my parents are here for an impromptu birthday-and-DIY-weekend. (We really know how to party around here.) Another uncle is likely to arrive a few days after my parents leave, as well. We were gifted with a bed for our guest room, and we’re putting it to great use! Max is not at the greatest stage for hospitality, but he likes people so much that he laid at the door in despair when Jenny’s flight was delayed.

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[Two] I usually read a lot in the summer, maybe because it’s too hot to do many crafts. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to do this year, but I know the first place I’ll look for recommendations is Bethany’s blog. (Again — the blogs of real life friends are always the best!)

[Three] I have a funny relationship with controversial religious topics, so I don’t generally mention them on my blog as often as I think about them. I’ve really enjoyed a few articles about the intersection of the church and homosexuality lately. While I would hope and pray this is not a sorrow my daughter has to bear, I hope that she will hear this same truth growing up in our home: “Although I have found the experience difficult, it has never been difficult to reconcile with my faith. One of the best things my parents gave me was an understanding that the Christian life is often difficult, and that God takes and uses our sufferings to make us more like Him.” (From A New Kind of Coming Out in Christianity Magazine, UK.) Additionally, I appreciated Jen Hatmaker’s blog “Where I Stand,” because I think there is a huge need for people who stand for the clear teaching of God’s word on marriage and sexuality AND good neighboring, wound-binding, and loving kindness. These values are not mutually exclusive!

[Four] I thought these two articles were a great balance for each other — one talking about appreciating what we can from polarizing teachers and another on the importance of naming and speaking against false teachers. (For the record, I don’t even agree with a lot of the stuff in the first article because I am so bothered by some of the personalities mentioned! But maybe I need to rethink some of that? Right now I don’t even want to appreciate anything about the influence of Donald Miller, for example.)

[Five] Is Christianity just about pragmatism?Here are some wonderful thoughts on the wild work of a backwards God in our Oprah-driven hearts from Emily at Weak and Loved.

[Six] If you, like most people, get the majority of your information about Genetically Modified crop controversy from links posted on Facebook by people who are not scientists, this article about the true cost of labeling GMO’s would be a good read for you!

[Seven] And on the topic of even more significantly important and controversial advances in science and genetics, this article describing 10 Things You Need To Know About IVF is well worth a read. It’s one of my many soapboxes in life, but really… It’s much better to read and pray about this before you’re possibly in a position to make decisions clouded by years of heartache.

So… Maybe more controversy than I originally intended to mention here? (May as well get it all out there: I use an e-collar for training my dog and plan to both regularly vaccinate and possibly occasionally spank my child if it is the most effective way to keep her safe while she grows up.) You can read other Friday quick-takes over at Conversion Diary, if you’re interested.

Have a great weekend, friends. We are celebrating my 28th birthday with the installation of a dishwasher. This is even better than the year I got a circular saw!

{contentment} morning has broken

{pretty} Spring Wreath, on my door at last!
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{happy}
I’ve discussed “favorite seasons” with several people lately. I usually say Fall is my favorite, but that I love special things about each one, too. I love the turning leaves, hot tea with sweaters, bonfires; and plaid flannel; then I love the fat, fluffy snowflakes in winter, with peppermint cocoa and warm blankets on the couch; when the crocus begin popping up, I love the warmer breezes, the tree buds, the way the whole earth is a manifold witness to the Easter story; and then summer comes, when I love the strong green stalks for juicy home-grown tomatoes, swimming outside, and glasses of ice water that leave rings of condensation all over the patio table.

We’ve reached that beautiful part of the year where the snow is melting here -not quite to the quintessential spring state- but I do not even care any more. This week, with these 50, 60, 70 degree temperatures, with gray ice stacks leftover in shady neighborhood yards, with brown yards and bare trees, with muddy puppy prints all over my house? This week is easily my favorite season this year!

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I walk Max every day after breakfast and while he trots along, I hum my favorite spring hymn:

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird.
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning!
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word!

…Praise with elation, praise every morning,
Praise for creation of the new day!”
-Morning Has Broken, text by Eleanor Farjeon.

{funny}
Spring brings bunnies. Or, in Max’s case: Bunny legs. Ew. He tried to drag a poor rabbit’s hind quarter into the house and I called Aaron in a panic, one of those distressed “YOUR DOG is …!” sort of discussions. When I got Max to come in without his bunny leg, he sat at the door and cried for it. As if I care.

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{real}
We had the come-to-Jesus moment about furniture in the new house. With current and projected future budgets in our extended vow of intense frugality, a doggie and a little one on the way… Couch discussions had to be, well, couched for a long time. I have really been looking forward to getting a new living room couch sometime. My night time dreams have included shopping at furniture stores. We have looked at shapes and swatches, talking about them and getting excited for how cool it would be to have something we really like. We called these white floral couches “The Grad School Beasts,” and sometimes I tease Aaron by telling him, “today I am pretending this is a nubby gray sectional.”

Last night, my parents arrived for a birthday visit with a few more free hand-me-downs — an unmerited blessing all it’s own. We settled on keeping the grad school beasts, much worse for the wear after surviving the intense puppy stage from which we are now emerging, in the living room without making big plans to get new ones soon, since my meager domestic bliss-and-beauty fund has a LOT to accomplish elsewhere in the house. and I announced: “I am choosing to be really, really, really happy about this furniture!” Maybe it will turn into happiness if I keep saying that? This is real life at the Hummel’s!

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Don’t you think capturing the beauty of real life is important? I love seeing “the context of contentment” at Like Mother Like Daughter every week, so I thought I’d share mine today. Happy Spring!

Advent, Interrupted. (advent 2013)

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. – Matthew 8:20

Instead of following any of our usual traditions, this Advent kicks off an intense season of unsettling. While I am listening to Handel’s Messiah, because that’s just what you do before Christmas (also, it is less annoying than the radio), there is a decided focus on projects like this…

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…instead of usual things we might do at this time of the year. Instead of covering little boxes with ornamental paper, I’m covering big boxes with Sharpie-d words like, “KITCHEN/OFFICE/ETC/FRAGILE/HEAVY” (sometimes all on the same box… uh…) and covering oddly shaped packages with shrink wrap, which is like a giant roll of Saran Wrap. Instead of buying candycanes to stir my hot cocoa and preparing favorite traditional dishes, I’m creatively mixing random foods from the freezer into “adventurous meals” in an effort to move it empty.  I miss setting up a Christmas tree, placing a wreath on the front door, making snowflakes, hanging stockings, sitting by the fire with our special Christmas mugs. (Aaron’s is a Grinch.) I’m missing church Christmas events, special times with friends, surprise gifts for people I love, familiarity, routines, and control. Instead, I’m saying “good-bye” to much of this and will have to start all over in the new year.

It’s funny that this season is entrenched in tradition and patterns, and that those annoying radio songs focus on things that stay the same (chestnuts, mistletoe, snow and lights, etc.), because the beauty of the real story is that it isn’t about what stayed the same. The history of captivity, wandering, rigid moral and civil codes, receiving and ignoring confusing prophecies, war, tumult, siege, exile, and silence culminates in an unplanned pregnancy, a sub-par birth situation, an emergency move to Egypt, an entire town bereft of little boys. This does not speak to maintaining long-standing magical-feeling traditions. The beauty of this all is that these interrupted circumstances pointed to what was superior and everlasting, and it wasn’t customs or feelings or family gatherings – it was the faithfulness of God and the fulfillment of His promise.

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. …From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ … He has made him known.” – John 1

While I would rather be lighting candles, singing verses of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and reading Messianic prophecies over special dinners, I’m packing up my home, moving away from dear friends and students, spending weeks running around for family gatherings when I would rather be nesting into a new home, and not really doing much of my usual Christmas stuff. This is going to be an Advent with lots of practical reminders of Christ’s coming down to us — from timeless to temporary, from eternal life to a taste of death, from glory to a manger and then no place to lay his head, from the splendor of heaven to the unsettled mess of earth. (Which is more of a condescension than trying to function with the unsettled mess of my living room, though in my mind they seem pretty comparable.)

Dr. Leaf Blower

My friend had the following conversation with her children on the way over to our house this fall.
“You’re going to have so much fun at Mrs. Hummel’s house! Her husband is blowing their leaves into a pile so you can play in them.”
“What should we call Mrs. Hummel’s husband?” – 8 year old
“He’s Mrs. Hummel’s husband, so that would make him… what?”
“Umm… Mr. Leaf Blower?” – 4 year old
Well, that’s Dr. Leaf Blower to you now, kid. That’s right. There is a PhD in the house. We can cross this one off the 30-before-30 list. Aaron defended his dissertation so he’s officially all Philosophized, Doctorized, and formally recognized as being both outlandishly smart AND diligent.
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I’m pretty smart, but Aaron is smart in things I can’t wrap my brain around. It took me a few months to memorize his job title. (“Working in a Plant Pathology lab as part of an inter-disciplinary Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology program,” is a mouth full, in my defense.) And when I think about this PhD and the hard work it took to get here, I’m so grateful for Aaron’s work ethic and his courage in risky situations. This man has been perpetually stressed for about 10 years. I know this man started off this adventure five years ago by putting overtime beyond overtime in to ensure that his presence was a blessing to his lab mates, aware that his work would communicate to others that Christianity is supposed to make you a better scientist, not the opposite. In the first part of grad school he was still in the military, and this man would spend four or five days almost without sleeping when he had Drill weekends, and then get to the lab even earlier as soon as he got home. This man sat on the couch and read papers instead of attending sports games. (Breaks were more frequent in hockey season after we had a TV, of course.) This man never complained about the inconveniences of our tightwad budget, like eating sandwiches and leftovers for lunch every day, and using an old cell phone that barely texts – forget 3G network access! This man was cheerful about the added financial risk of my self-employment so we could both live out the dreams God gave us. This man who loves the outdoors spent many a beautiful weekend day (sometimes both of them) working on his projects in the lab. He has spent most of the last five years in a white room without windows, and hasn’t really even had coworkers to share the days with for quite a while. This man dutifully tackled many of his highest pressure assignments in the seasons where I have been most grief-stricken and needy instead of the encourager I wanted him to have, because grad school doesn’t wonder what would be most convenient for your personal life when setting up experiment deadlines.This man has been diligent even when he was definitely thinking things like this:
grad school[From #whatshouldwecallgradschool, which is not appropriate reading for minors or grandmothers, but is fall-on-the-floor hilarious to those who are in graduate school.]
I can’t say exactly where the credit goes for this successful presentation and defense of the dissertation. Was it the slave labor he has accomplished in the last five years at the laboratory bench? The good reputation of his peer-reviewed publications? The prayer warriors who have been lifting him up, especially during this last big push to wrap up everything? The decadent cheese trays I prepared as refreshments for his committee of judges? Some combination of all those, I bet.
After a great presentation and record-making short deliberations from his committee, we ate dinner out in a state of ecstasy before he came home and watched The Hobbit trailer several times over in a manner befitting his accomplishments.
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Then the sense of romance and adventure wore off, and we got back into courageously tackling all the other risky situations in life, because that’s what diligent people do.
(And if you want some thoughts about this holiday of Veteran’s Day, here’s a link to some reflections on Veteran’s Day itself, and all posts related to the military.)

ready, set, go!

Since moving to Iowa five years ago, a full day’s drive away from both sides of our immediate family, Aaron and I became the family outliers. We’re the furthest away from everyone else, and we’ve made that long journey back several times a year, sometimes in very inclement weather. (I still have bad dreams about the “New Years ’09 Road-Trip from Hell.” It involved fog, blizzard, icy roads, my first ticket, traffic delays, construction, an electric thunderstorm, more fog, mixing up the direction of the time change, all between the hours of 10:30p.m. and 9:30a.m. Never. Again.)

If we know anything now, it’s how to road-trip well on a budget. So when it was time for the first of at least three summer drives back to Michigan, I was prepared. For best results, fill up on gas the day before leaving, then pack a cooler. Squeeze a little water out of  water bottles and freeze them for 4 hours prior to leaving; use flexible icepacks; bring a combination of good food like carrots and trash like Salt & Vinegar chips; and plan at least one real “treat,” like the Greek Gods brand honey yogurt, which tastes better than ice cream.  All of this is about the same price as stopping for lunch without risking that awful feeling of sodium overload.   roadtrip

Outdated technology necessitated a “hipster” GPS:

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The first part of the weekend included celebrations for Aaron’s brother, Jack and Caroline. While, of course, there was plenty of Bachelor partying, rehearsing, setting up, marrying, eating, and dancing, our main responsibilities are pictured here. I bossed the wedding party around before they made it down the aisle; Aaron’s responsibilities as a groomsman paled compared to his cherished role as Chief Niece Spoiler/Teaser. (The root beer is closed. She is probably contemplating at this very moment how silly it is that adults think it is a treat to suck on cold aluminum cylinders.)

wedding weekend

I also made a fabric banner to compliment the Hobbit-inspired tent reception, and I think it turned out well.
banner

Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the sweetest, happiest couple on their big day. It was an action-packed weekend full of setting up and driving around, and I only managed to get a few pictures … they are all of the toddler. Despite the lack of photographic evidence, this weekend was an answer to prayer. We had been hoping for this wedding since we first met Caroline, before they were dating!

We drove from the reception straight to my parents house and arrived well past midnight so I could host a bridal shower for my sister, Beth, the next day. I picked a “Lovebirds” theme, and it turned out very cute!beth's shower

And of course, we made it to Lake Michigan for a little while before driving back. I think you can tell which people pictured don’t have regular beach access. Ahem.

family beach

We are so thankful for a safe and happy trip. It was exciting to start celebrating this summer of love and family!

Vander Port preparations!

“I don’t think you should get your hopes up for this wedding dress trip, Mrs. Hummel, because I have two sisters just like you and I’ve gone shopping with them both before.  I don’t think there is anything fun about it. You’re probably going to be really disappointed.” – a nine-year-old boy in my piano studio.

My first Sabbath of Lent started off with a sudden burst of tears. While I scrambled eggs before church, Aaron showed me a meteorologist’s report indicating a big snowstorm for the end of the week, and said I should prepare myself to make a hard decision about my weekend plans: driving (solo) to Michigan for a special day of wedding dress shopping for my sister Bethany, who is getting married in July. I knew Midwestern road trips in February were never a sure thing when I put this on my calendar, but facing the reality of a predicted blizzard in an area not known for decent road conditions was entirely disheartening.

Almost everyone I know heard my tale of woe during the week, and many faithfully prayed this trip would work out for me. With three sibling weddings coming up this summer, extra time to visit and prepare for the big day(s) are a luxury, so it is likely this dress shopping trip would be my only time to celebrate with Beth before her nuptials. This was it! The trip HAD to happen! And then my prayers were mercifully answered with a very light snowstorm so I could travel safely. This probably came at the expense of children all over my county who hoped and prayed for a snow day from school. I hurried through the local library and grabbed some random audio CDs off the shelf to keep me company on the road.

I listened to Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua during my drive. I cried when she spoke of her sister’s cancer diagnosis, and it made me so glad I was going to spend this weekend with my own sisters. After I arrived and recovered from the car time, my mom and all three of us girls spent a long Saturday shopping for a wedding gown. We watched Beth start off nervous and quiet, (probably overwhelmed by thousands of yards of lace, satin, taffeta, ruffles, ruching, sparkles, and appliques)  transforming through the day into a confident, comfortable, well-spoken Bride – with the perfect dress to match! I wiped a few tears when she first wore it. Grandma had to stay home nursing an injured knee cap, so we took secret forbidden iPhone pictures for her.

After all this hoopla, we ended our Saturday with a party celebrating the engagement with both sides of the new family. Now that she’s engaged to Isaac, Beth is marrying into a family of our old home-school friends. (Aaron and I even went to college with the oldest brother and his wife.) During the past ten years of friendship we’ve all known we would somehow become related, since “they have boys and we have girls,” and we have called ourselves “The Vander Ports,” a combination of our last names, for years during our movie nights and beach parties. For a while it wasn’t clear where the romantic connection would eventually happen to bring brother-sister friendships into an official capacity, but Beth and Isaac are finally making good friends into a big extended family. We made plans for the wedding and swapped stories, laughing until we cried on more than one occasion.

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The Vander Ports (minus Caleb) — best wedding party ever! 

Then I cried a bit when I had to leave on Sunday morning. We chose to move forward with Aaron’s PhD knowing that this career was not ever going to bring us back to the same towns (or state, probably) as our families, but it’s really draining that the current distance requires such sacrifices to get back and forth. During that long trip back, I listened to A Mighty Heart by Mariane Pearl, and I sniffled along with her tale of love and sacrifice, losing her husband Danny at the hands of Islamic terrorists in Pakistan. My story isn’t the same as hers, but she hit me hard; I was very ready to be home and celebrate that my husband was alive. When I arrived, I found Aaron working on a project in the garage. He says it is an A-frame playhouse for our future kids. I think it looks suspiciously like a chicken coop, which he recently mentioned was legal in our neighborhood.

chicken coop Oh, my!

(It seems like there was altogether WAY too much crying over such a great weekend, no?)

chapters

There is exciting progress in life at our house lately! Mostly for Aaron – but it’s one of the benefits of marriage that you get to celebrate extra over your spouse’s blessings because of the whole one-flesh thing.

Finally! The book chapter he slaved over, the one that kept us home for Thanksgiving last year instead of celebrating with family, is published! It’s a technical reference publication, not exactly light reading for scientific laymen.

aaron book collage

Finally! The last day of his status as “inactive Reservist” with the Marines was Saturday, so the military chapter of life is completed.

desert "cammies" in the closet - proud to have them, but excited to pack these away !

desert “cammies” in the closet – proud to have them, but excited to pack them away, too!

Tomorrow begins the “chapter” of his life as a twenty-eight-year-old, too. Every birthday I think of the flat-rate box I proudly brought to the post office and sent to Iraq to mark his twenty-second year, decorated with stickers and markers, and it makes me ever grateful for the chance to share the special day together now. So tonight we celebrate with brownies and venison stew, enjoying the luxury of beating hearts, relative sanity, and four limbs attached to his torso, while marveling how old and young this feels all at once.

how many promises! (advent 2012)

The first candle from our advent wreath

The first candle from our advent wreath

My explanation of the first few weeks of Advent 2012 would probably be much like everyone else’s: I’m busy and I don’t feel like I’m “reflecting” or “waiting expectantly” for the Lord at all. This fall has required lots of time-management, work, and bravery, but it has been very good. I am still a little bit tired and worn out from all of that. (When you are in high school or college and work really hard all semester, you come home and your mommy makes you food and takes care of your home. Not so for grown-ups like me.) And now, after teaching, tests, sharing about hard things, countless piano lessons, four recitals, bible studies, book clubs, and packaging up lots of venison, I’m finally on Christmas break. By some miracle, Aaron has had half the normal amount of stuff to do this week. He’s waiting on results for something… I don’t totally get why this happened now, but it means we’re both home a lot, and we spend our time listening to carols, enjoying the fireplace, and drinking lots of hot cocoa stirred with candy canes. This is fun!

Receiving Christmas cards in the mail is one of my favorite parts of the holiday preparations. This year I found adorable mini-clothespins at a craft store, so we’re keeping a card-line. It’s so special to see these friends and family on our mantel! Mailing Christmas cards seems like a throw-back, a trend of days gone by, but we’re still hanging on to this tradition. Communication and relationships are so much more important than the technology we usually use to facilitate them. Sometimes sharing something tangible is a special way to express your well-wishes and encouragement to others – and I’m glad I’m not the only person who thinks this way!  (My friend Hannah said it well: “Luckily, I went to a college attended by many people (most of them ladies – let’s be real here) who still practice the art of letter writing.”)

christmas cardline

This week’s blizzard required some significant snow-removal efforts on our driveway. As I looked out the window from my cushy perch in the house, I snapped this shot, and it occurred to me that Aaron was not only clearing the snow from around my car, he was also sweeping it off the top. He is a good man. Also, I’m really excited about these winter-wonderland surroundings!

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Our Christmas travel plans are probably augmented because of all this snow, but it’s hard to complain when we are inside and cozy by the fire.

It feels only fair to admit that I’ve had an outline for a post called “Advent is for those who fail” in my folder for almost three weeks. At this point, I’m pretty sure I won’t actually sit down and finish it before Christmas. The basic point is that  those who fail should use Advent to look forward in hope to Christ, who unfailingly fulfills all promises. This is great news, especially for people who have a hard time sitting down and finishing projects, even when they are on a break.

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. – 2 Corinthians 1:20, niv.

And in case we missed you in the “real mail” – Merry Christmas!

Mock_One

great things He hath done!

I recently asked if we could go on vacation all the time, and, as life would have it, this summer it was high time that some of our college friends got the knot tied. Since we drove twelve hours from Iowa to Kentucky, stayed in a room by ourselves and didn’t do much cooking, I think we can safely call this trip a vacation. The bride, Hannah, who was one of my room-mates at Hillsdale, is an artist and photographer so I tried to take lots of pictures in her honor. (It was the snap of the button that was in her honor, not the end quality of the shots.) After arriving back home, we realized we have lots more memories than photos! Of course!

Aaron and I had our fourth anniversary during the festivities, and it was a delight to commemorate the special day with such a joyful wedding weekend. We’ve been in separate countries for two of our anniversaries, so it seemed quite trivial to complain about the fact that we were spending our time at the bachelorette parties instead of celebrating a romantic evening alone. (Party preparations for the ladies were so frenzied that we kept calling the boys’ shooting-grilling-drinking-and-cigar gathering a “Bachelorette” as well.)

The hours the wedding support team spent preparing food trays for parties, wrapping shower gifts, running errands, cleaning the outdoor reception pavilion, dipping flower balls in tubs of water, practicing piano for the ceremony, wrapping twinkle lights around banisters, scrubbing chairs, and tying tulle after driving twelve hours to get there was a tangible witness of our commitment to support Hannah and James in their marriage as the months and years pass. We were entirely thrilled to see so many college friends and participate in this happy wedding!

Since there was a little bit of empty time on our agenda before the wedding, we explored the gorgeous area and went hiking by the Kentucky River. You can note my oh-so-appropriate foot attire. Kentucky hiking is a little more intense than Iowa hiking!

As slightly older friends, just barely ahead of Hannah and James in our own marriage, we have a little bit of sage advice to offer about their life together.
I played piano for most of the wedding music, but when I think back on the songs they selected I keep hearing the glorious organ hymn they played for the recessional. It’s the exact soundtrack I want to play in my mind when I remember this day.

image from Zach Stone

“…Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let the people rejoice.
Oh, come to the Father through Jesus the Son,
And give him the glory, great things He hath done!
– To God Be The Glory, lyrics by Fanny Crosby.

summer vacation 2012

After spending the 4th of July visiting family for a week, mostly on lakes in northern Michigan, I’m pretty sure that vacationing is one of my spiritual callings in life. And maybe photography is not part of that vocation because I tend to forget about taking pictures until it’s all over.

We spent most of our time on a lake like this one, swimming, tubing, kayaking, paddle-boating, raft-fighting, and splashing. Even the water was warm!
Aaron had a pinched nerve and his sister led some Physical Therapy sessions at the cottage:
The final picture lends itself to an appropriate quote from Uncle Don, “You can’t upstage a baby.”
The best quotes from the trip are constant references to the “Amber waves of grain,” and the past-tense version of you-snooze-you-lose: “You snost, you lost.” Aaron also discovered Sour Patch Kids for the first time and is now obsessed with them.

We also stopped to see my family for a bit on both ends of the trip – their house is right on the way to the in-laws, and, conveniently, 10 minutes away from Lake Michigan. They have lots of comfy beds and are happy to see us anytime. We’re very blessed! There are friends living with them now, so Aaron got in some early-morning tic-tac-toe before we left.
We also saw my little-boy cousins briefly. Aaron titles himself “Tall and Sassy” in this photo:
We are so grateful to have family living in vacation-y places! The most exciting part of our week back at home, so far, was celebrating Cow Appreciation Day at Chick-Fil-A.

Let’s go on vacation all the time!