Monday, November 28, 2011

Autumn for the Parrotts

There's nothing I loathe more than writing a blog entry after it's been dormant for a while. (obviously, this is an exaggeration because there are a lot of things I loathe more than this, but stay with me). I've been thinking about writing something for a couple weeks now, but every time I've moved to write, I freeze up. Do I just ignore the past couple months of silence and pretend like it never happened? Or do I clumsily attempt to fill the reader in on what's been happening and then go ahead and write about what I originally wanted to write about?


Well, I guess the good thing is that I didn't have a specific topic in mind for today, so you get a little of everything!

This fall has been full of work, church, and school for us! Anthony is almost finished with his first semester of grad school. The homework thing has been an adjustment (for both of us), and it's been busy, but he has been doing well and is excited for the semester to be over. Here are some highlights from the past few months:

* In September, we had a wonderful 2 day visit from the Boards, who were in the process of moving back to the States from teaching in South Korea. It happened to fall over my birthday, which made it extra special! We reintroduced them to American culture with the Clay County Fair and lots of fried food :)

* The first weekend in October, I traveled to Michigan City, IN for a girls reunion weekend! There were 8 of us who got together over the course of the weekend, and words can't express how wonderful it was to see my lovely roomies from college.

* Also in October, Anthony I and traveled to Minneapolis with 10 other members of the worship team at Good News for a David Crowder* Band Concert. It was his last tour with the band, and it was a fantastic concert! And with Gungor opening the concert, it's hard to go wrong.

* We celebrated 1,000 days of marriage on October 7th! Gotta love reasons to celebrate!

* Towards the end of October, Anthony and I made a trip up to Minneapolis again. This time to visit with some family! Anthony's sister lives near Minneapolis and his other sister and bro-in-law were in town for a conference. We seized the opportunity to eat at Benihana's and talk the night away. It was a good, though brief, visit.

* This fall we also participated in a Spiritual Retreat in Sioux Falls, SD. This was part of a class that Anthony and I are taking at church. The retreat was just a day long, but oh-so-beneficial. To set aside a day to rest in the Lord was very refreshing and much needed.

* In November, we found our traveling once again to Minneapolis with about a dozen members of the worship team. This time, it was for a Hillsong LIVE concert. Yes, it was 2 concerts in 2 months, but can you really pass up the chance to see David Crowder or Hillsong? I think not. The Hillsong concert was a wonderful night of worship. As Anthony said, it was nice to go to a worship night and not be the one planning it or facilitating it. We both thoroughly enjoyed the concert.

* Sometime this fall, Anthony made the tough decision to change schools. Originally registered at Fuller Theological Seminary, he discovered that their distance program was not what he thought it would be. They offer limited classes online and are limited in the intensives he would need to take at the school. So in January, he will officially be a distance student at Asbury Theological Seminary (based in Kentucky). His classes will transfer, and at Asbury, he will be able to complete a Master's of Divinity in less time than it would have taken him to complete a Master's in Theology. They have a much better program for distance students and have been much better to work with.

* And that brings us to Thanksgiving! Holidays are difficult for us to get away, so this year my parents came here! They were able to make it in time for our Thanksgiving Eve service that we do with the Presbyterian Church. We had a great time of visiting and eating and relaxing. Luckily, the turkey and meal we made turned out well :) I also took advantage of the extra hands and we decorated for Christmas the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We cut down a tree at the local Christmas tree farm, and spent most of Saturday trying to fit it in the tree stand. Word to the wise, don't buy a tree with a crooked stump - it's not worth it!

Well if you've stuck with the blog this far, then BRAVO! You are now up-to-date on our lives! This next month looks to be just as busy: it's advent, we have a wedding in Michigan (yay Brett and Anne!), and Anthony will be taking finals. But we are excited about it all (except for maybe the school work). We will try to be better about writing (don't we always say that?). More to come later. We love you all... thank you for staying with us and supporting us!

Emily

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Living Out Your Giftedness

 A few days ago I got an email advertising a sermon resource website. For a monthly subscription you would be able to download sermon outlines, media, and even entire sermon texts for you to use on your congregation. Now, I understand the need for resource websites. They’re helpful, they spark ideas, and they can come through for you in a pinch.

But the idea of a monthly subscription to this website just made me sad. It made me think of the many pastors out there who feel obligated to use this website, finding themselves called to ministry and yet not gifted in teaching and preaching. It has to be a scary place to be. And I can’t imagine that it feels very good to head to a sermon resource website each week when you’re probably thinking to yourself, Why am I not able to do this on my own!

So what causes this situation, that we have people called to ministry doing things that they don’t feel equipped for? Have we forced our pastors - and ourselves - into doing things that they’ve never been equipped for (either by natural talent, education, or the gifting of the Holy Spirit) because the rest of us, as the church, are not living out the things that we are equipped for.

I think many of us, way too early on in our lives, get pigeon-holed into a certain role or position we believe we must play. Much of our education system is based on the premise that you must pick one thing to major in and then do that one thing as a career the rest of your life. Can that really be healthy? Should our complex personalities, talents, and gifts we whittled down to a word or two?

Sometimes we get pigeon-holed into things we’re not even good at (like the person called to pastoral counseling, but finds themselves having to preach - and hit up sermon resource websites - 52 times a year). Sometimes we are pigeon-holed into something we are good at (like playing piano) and use it as our safe-place, never venturing to discover whether or not we’re good at anything else.

Is it possible that we have churches filled with folks who are simply unaware of their own giftedness? Many times it’s easy to get frustrated because of a lack of volunteers in a particular ministry. But do we simply live in a culture that constantly affirms this lie that you’re good only at what you’re most familiar with?

Now, don’t get me wrong. We can’t be faux-idealists and sit around only doing what we feel “called” to do. As a good friend of mine has said, “Do something you’re not passionate about.” And he’s right. Too many of us are waiting around for the “perfect” opportunity to get involved in something, but - gee whiz - that perfect opportunity just never seems to find us. So, on the one hand, I want to affirm that it’s okay to be involved not only in things you’re good at, but also in things that are just simply good. You may be uncomfortable changing a baby’s diaper, but sometimes they just need to be changed. Everytime you hear an opportunity to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, or help the poor, you can’t just claim, “I just didn’t feel ‘led.’” In the words of James, “If you know the good you ought to do, and do not do it, to you it is sin” (James 4:17).

But, on the other hand, what would happen in our churches - in our lives - if all of us began to seek out the rest of our giftedness? Could the woman who really doesn’t like children (God forbid) be allowed to leave the nursery and start some coffeehouse evangelism? Or the man who really doesn’t like handywork be allowed to pursue photography?

Most recently, I have been struggling under the weight of feeling unequipped to plant a new congregation. I’m fairly introverted, I’ve only led one person to Christ (and that was because I told him I would let him be my friend if he became a Christian. It was sixth grade), and I’m pretty comfortable doing the whole lead worshiper thing.

And then our denomination had me take a personality/giftedness test based on the “five offices” of Ephesians 4 (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, Teacher). Go figure, it came back saying I was an apostolic evangelist (apostle meaning “sent out”).

Perhaps there’s more to me than I’ve ever considered.

Perhaps there’s more to you than you’ve ever considered.

And maybe - just maybe - if we began to live out all of our calling, we would stop forcing people to do things they were really never meant to do.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Spiritual Discipline of Worship

Yesterday, I ran slides for church. It’s one of the “perks” of being married to the Worship Director- I automatically get roped into volunteering in nearly every capacity. But I don’t mind this... it allows me to serve the church and be connected with Anthony’s ministry. However, yesterday was an early morning. The typical Wednesday evening rehearsal had been canceled, so the band was meeting extra early on Sunday morning to practice. As I sat behind the computer clicking sides, the sound man Chris made an observation. He said to me, “Do you think we really mean the words we sing about?” At that moment, the band was rehearsing a modern version of the hymn, “Take My Life.” Do we really want God to take control when we sing these lyrics? We mused for a few moments about what it means to truly desire God to take our lives, but then duty called and we were quickly pulled back to our respective jobs.

I found myself, however, mulling over this idea all afternoon. What does it mean to truly worship*? Why don’t more people actually bow down when we sing the lyrics “We fall down, we lay our crowns, at the feet of Jesus?” Why don’t more people lift their hands in worship when we sing “We come and lift up our hands, for the joy of the Lord is our strength?” I realize part of this is due to culture and comfort levels. But I found myself reflecting on my own history with worship. And it dawned on me that it takes me much longer to enter into authentic worship than it used to. So naturally I began to try and analyze why this is so. Back in college, it was easy for me to enter into worship without worrying about what people thought or without evaluating the band or my surroundings. But I think a large contributor to this fact was that I was attending chapel 3 times a week, church twice a week, and worshipping on a regular basis with wonderful communities and an amazing band. It was a constant part of my life.

On a bit of a different track, I have also been thinking a lot lately about spiritual formation and spiritual disciplines. I am working on choosing a book for our church’s women’s ministry small groups to study this fall, and the book I am looking seriously at is all about spiritual formation and discipline. It has been a great reminder that much of our faith is about training ourselves to become more like Christ. We don’t easily and naturally sit down and pray for 5 hours. Well, at least I don’t. But through discipline and training, this can become possible. In some ways, I think the same is true about worship. I believe in order to authentically and genuinely worship, it takes practice. It takes practice to shut out the nagging thoughts about the day’s schedule. It takes practice to turn your thoughts fully on God. And it takes practice to not think about how your voice sounds, how the band sounds, or how your neighbor sounds. Perhaps this is too harsh a way to think about worship. But I think we have to admit that there is a ring of truth to it. If our only time of worship is on Sunday mornings from 9:30-10:00am, then we don’t get much practice, do we? It’s difficult for your heart to be focused on worship. But if it’s a discipline that we focus on throughout the week, we learn to be better and more authentic worshippers. And not just alone, but together in church, in our small groups, at MOPS, wherever we gather. For me, I have been challenged to try and be more disciplined in my worship experiences throughout the week. I want worship to become a natural part of my life and who I am, and not just be a Sunday morning at 9:30 thing.

Do you ever feel out of practice with worship? What are some ways that you incorporate worship throughout the week?

*for the context of this post, worship is referring to singing worship songs. I realize that worship is so much more than song, but for simplicity’s sake I will use the term worship for music.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

When in Rome...

Well, we've been there and back again as Bilbo Baggins would say. We managed to journey to Europe and back, and we had an unbelievable time! We've put lots of pictures up on Anthony's facebook account, so be sure to check those out. But I thought it would be a good idea to give a brief recap on the blog for those who are interested :)


Zurich:
Our first destination was Zurich, Switzerland! Why, you ask? Well because Anthony and I wanted to see more than 1 country (and Italy was for sure). We looked at France, Spain, and Switzerland, and Switzerland won out with the cheapest plane tickets! We flew into Zurich and spent much of our two days there recovering from jet lag. We didn't let it slow us down too much, though! Our first day was spent exploring downtown Zurich. We toured some cathedrals, wandered the streets of Old Town, and took a ferry around Lake Zurich. We spent a good portion of our second day hiking Zurich's mountain, Uetliberg. It was a beautiful hike with fantastic views of the city! The best part? Taking a cable car down the mountain!

Corniglia (Cinque Terre):
We could not have asked for a more picturesque location! Corniglia is one of the 5 towns making up the Cinque Terre region of Italy. These small towns are built in the cliffs along the Mediterranean Sea. Words cannot express how beautiful they are or how clear the water was. Try Googling Cinque Terre and look at the images. You'll begin to see what I mean. One cool, but exhausting thing about Corniglia is that the actual town is up on the cliff. Which means a good 400 steps from the train station. And a good 400 steps to get to the water. Beauty comes at a price, I suppose. We enjoyed a relaxing couple of days exploring the towns and swimming. Our last day there, we hiked part of the trail between our town and the next town. What I thought would be a simple, easy hike turned out to be much more intense. But the views made it worth it. And we met some fun people along the way.

Florence:
Florence was beautiful! It's definitely a bigger town, but easily walkable. We were lucky enough to spend some time with Anne Messer who was finishing her month in Florence taking a literature class for college. It was so fun to meet up with someone we knew and who could show us around a little. We visited the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, and Piazza Signoria. We also made sure to walk through the Uffizi, one of the biggest museums in Florence. One special thing about Florence is that we happened to be visiting during Music Week. This, of course, meant that orchestra music filled the air every evening from the main square. We LOVED it! And spent some of each evening listening and taking in the sites.

Venice:
This was probably the most magical of the places we visited. Everything about Venice is beautiful. The canals, the bridges, the streets. It all looks just as you would picture old Italy. You just have to block out the thousands of tourists :) I had a love/hate relationship with the streets of Venice. No maps could help us, and we were lost most of our time there (they're just so winding!). This was fine most of the time and allowed us to explore the city. But when we're hauling luggage around trying to find out hotel, it's not so fun! We visited St. Mark's Basilica and the Realto Market (talk about fresh seafood!). Probably our favorite part of Venice was the most unexpected part.... we were there for the Redentore Festival which happens the 3rd Saturday of July. The fesitval celebrates the end of the Bubonic Plague (of course!). We joined the rest of the city on the grand canal to watch fireworks! It by far one of the coolest things I've ever experienced. We got to see how Venetians party, and the fireworks display was the best I've ever seen. Little One, you should put these on your list of firework shows to see in your lifetime.

Rome:
By the time we got to Rome, we were pretty exhausted. Walking all day, every day, in the hot sun really takes it out of you. But we were still determined to see what we could see. We stayed the longest in Rome - 4 days. Our first day (which was really a half day by the time our train arrived), we spent exploring the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, and Piazza Navona (one of the most beautiful squares!). Day 2 was spent at the Vatican. We toured the Vatican Museum and stared at the Sistine Chapel. We explored St. Peter's Basilica as well (so huge!). Day 3 was our historical day... we went to the Colosseum, Palentine Hill, and the Forum. It was one of the time when I wished we had a guide to tell us more about the history. But being there was certainly still amazing. We ended Day 3 with an evening at the theater. Movie theater, that is! We found a movie theater showing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 in English! This is a rare thing indeed (most movies are dubbed in Italy). We simply couldn't wait until we got home to see it, so we gladly watched it in Rome. It was fun to meet other Americans and Brits who came to see the movie. We enjoyed the movie, though left a little sad that it was over. Day 4 was a more relaxed day. Part of the day was spent exploring St. Angelo's Castle (so cool!). We then relaxed in the afternoon in the Borghese region of Rome. It's a big park area with a lagoon. We found a bench and read for a while. It was a much needed break before heading home!

If you've made it this far, you've gotten a brief summary of our trip. We had so much fun, and were so blessed to be able to do it. It was definitely an adventure for the 2 of us. We enjoyed the places we stayed and have already begun dreaming of our next Europe trip (maybe France and England....?). It's good to be home though, and we're ready to take on the fall!

Emily

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The March-y-ness of Time

 Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore
So do our moments hasten to their end.
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 60


Time is ever marching onward and there is nothing (short of experimental time travel) we can do to stop it. Which to some, I suppose, can sound entirely depressing. But when you're still 24 (or only a quarter-century old, such as my splendid wife) time moving quickly is still exciting and breathtaking. One moment you're dancing, the next you're receiving knee-surgery (that would be me); one moment you're office support, the next you're Office Manager (and that would be Emily); one day you're dreaming of traveling to Europe, and the next you're beginning to pack and do laundry for your trip which is only 8 days away (that would be both of us)!

And, of course, blogs have no respect for time. They will continue sitting there unentertainingly as your life moves forward and no one bother to update. But no longer! Today this blogging-strike ends! Today words shall flow like water cascading off of a cliff! Or at least like jello jiggling out of a Tupperware dish. Regardless, here is a brief update on just about everything. About Emily and I. In particular.

1) While dancing a jig in February, I somehow managed to tear my meniscus in my left knee. Many painful, limping weeks later, it was delightfully repaired by a surgeon who apparently I met, but I have no recollection. Ah, the delights of anesthesia.

2) My parents visited Emily and I and the Okoboji region last week (was it only last week?). They were here for 10 days--over two weekends--and we were thrilled. We showed them around town; they were able to hear me lead worship one week and preach the next; we spent a thoroughly therapeutic Thursday on the water (with many "thank yous" to the Steffens); we met up for dinner with my sister Jolee; and we conversed for endless hours, usually long, long after sunset. Emily and I both love to have guests as well as entertain, and it's always a special treat (if not a strange role-reversal) when it's our parents.

3) Some of the most exciting--though aforementioned--news is that Emily and I are heading to Europe! Since the primordial days of our friendship, we have always talked about wanting to go to Europe, and once we became lovers, it became clear to both of us that it was a dream that had to one day come true, or else we might each go crazy in our own little ways. Well, craziness will not overtake us. We came to the conclusion that while we don't have kids, before I start grad school, and while we don't yet have a house to take care of, we should grip this opportune time of our lives by the horns and ride it all the way to Zurich, Cinque Terre, Florence, Venice, and Rome. It will be a trip that will be romantic, adventurous, carefree, educational, and dream-come-true-ing all at once. In a word: stupendous.

Okay. Alright. Enough from me for now. Just as time is unceasing and stubborn, so does this pesky need to sleep at least once a day. I suppose I will succumb to it yet again. G'nite!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Book Review: One Thousand Gifts

Contrary to popular belief, Anthony and I have NOT fallen off the face of the earth. Just the face of the blogging sphere. And though I will try to make a real update come soon, this will have to do for now. A while back, Anthony signed up to receive a free book from Zondervan Publishing with the promise of blogging a review. The book came in the mail and sat there for a while unread (which happens when you have a husband who likes to order tons of books but then doesn't have time to read them.) So one day, with the urging of a friend who was already reading it (thanks Little One!), I decided to pick it up and read it myself. And therefore found myself with the job of reviewing it. So bear with me folks, I don't think I've done a book review since 5th grade. The book, which I'm sure you all are dying to know by now, is One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.


I will begin by saying it was very difficult for me to get into the book. Some books are able to pull you in right away, and other are so easy to skim through. But Ann uses such a unique voice in her writing that it was near impossible for me to use my well-honed skimming skills. Although this might sound like a negative to the book, I will say that it ended up being one of the most positive things I can say about it. What Ann was able to do was force me to sit and actually read the words she had written. I had to take time and actually think through what she was writing. Not skip ahead and assume that I knew what the author was trying to say. So kudos to Ann Voskamp for her unique writing style that eventually got me in the end. If you happen to pick up this book... give it a chance to get used to her voice and style. It will be well worth it in the end.

Overall, I would say One Thousand Gifts is a refreshing take on what it means to actually live out the Christian life. Ann challenges her readers to live fully and purposefully in everything you do. She shows practically how she moved from being a woman dissatisfied with the mundane to learning to see God working in and through her life. What I appreciated about this book is that it doesn't give the reader "5 easy steps to having more of God in your life." Nor does it sugar coat the growth process. Ann was very real and honest in her struggles with the transformation process, and she readily admits the years it took her to get where she is now. Through story and inner musings, Ann takes the reader on a journey exploring how to live out a life of continual thanks and in grace - a life of eucharisteo. And for her, it all started with a challenge to write a list of 1,000 things she loves. And from there, discovering that perhaps the Greek word eucharisteo really does hold the key to it all.

I won't go into much more detail. I encourage you to read it for yourself and be challenged to live differently. One final note that I will mention: many might see Ann's book as a women's book (especially by looking at the cover), but I would argue that story and lesson transcends gender. I believe men could get just as much out of this book as women. Yes, it's written by a woman and therefore includes details about her life as a wife and mom, but there is so much more depth that should be experience by men and women. I will end by saying that I definitely recommend the book. It was challenging, encouraging, and unlike any book I've read before.

If you're interested in buying it, here's a link to the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/One-Thousand-Gifts-Fully-Right/dp/0310321913/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1307732338&sr=8-1

Until next time,
Emily

Friday, March 11, 2011

It's Friday (Friday, Friday, Friiiday)

It's Friday!!! For some reason, whenever I say that (or think it or write it), I am always reminded of a song I sang my freshman year of high school in choir. I don't even remember what the name of the song is, but it was a cheesy song about students being excited for Friday. So it starts with "It's Friday! (and the other parts echo: Friday, Friday Friiiiday) Today is Friday-day." It never fails. After all these years, that silly song is still in my head. Just thought you all would enjoy that :)

The sun is shining today with temperatures in the 30's... it's about as warm as it's been since October! I am definitely getting antsy for spring. I thought a trip to Hawaii would cause us to be ok with the rest of winter, but not so! I am ready to be outside again, for people to come back to the area, and for flip flops. But March is here, so hopefully it won't be too much longer!

Nothing too exciting is going on in the Parrott household. Perhaps the most exciting this for us recently is that we got a new couch and chair set! My boss is in the process of building and moving into a new home, and was looking to get rid of her set. It's a million times nicer than our old set (may it rest in peace in the church's youth room) and so comfortable! We were happy. A big thank you to those who helped get it in! It's no easy task to get a huge couch up to a second floor condo unit with only a small winding staircase.

Anthony and I don't have a lot planned for this weekend. Which is a nice thing because this week has felt really long and really busy for some reason (it really wasn't much different than a normal week). Tomorrow (Saturday) night, we are hosting 2 students from St. Olaf College. Their band is coming to play at the Sami Center (our theater/auditorium) and then smaller ensembles will be playing at various churches. A flute ensemble will be at Good News, and 2 of them will be staying with us! It should be a fun adventure.

It's been a while since I've blogged, so I don't think I mentioned the wonderful surprise visit from friends last month. Anthony was in on it, but managed to keep it a secret from me for quite some time. 3 of our best friends from college came and surprised me, and we had such a good time! I was thinking it would be spring or summer before we would see faces from home, and it was a perfect pick-me-up for February (or any time of the year, really). Speaking of visitors, my parents are coming out in a couple of weeks to spend their spring break with us (they both work for the local high school)! I am really excited to see them and spend some time with them. Hopefully some of the restaurants start to open up by then :)

Welp, I think that might be it for today, folks. Sorry for the not-so-deep post, but like I said it's Friday and my mind is not running too deep today :)

Much Love,
Emily

Friday, February 4, 2011

Big Announcement (no, not a baby)

First off, our friends back in Indiana have this great (read: obnoxious) tendency to assume that whenever we have announcement, it must mean Emily and I are going to announce we're pregnant. Because of this, we will either have to announce any possible pregnancy in the future in some ultra-creative fashion...or just not tell anyone until we show up with a baby in our hands.

Anyway, I do have an announcement. And no, it has nothing to do about placentas, umbilical cords, or gestation.

Instead...I'm going to grad school!

Even before finishing college, I knew that I would soon want to return to school in order to further my studies in Scripture and theology. (Which, by the way, is hilarious to me now, because before college I swore that I would NEVER go to seminary). I just wasn't sure when that time would come. Well, in November I submitted a letter to the elders and pastor of Good News Church, asking if they would consider allowing me to become a distance student in order to achieve a Masters Degree. They said, yes! I applied to two schools, was accepted to both, and choose to attend Fuller Theological Seminary.

I will begin in the fall of this year, working towards a Master of Arts in Theology (MAT). A MAT is typically a two-year program that focuses on systematic and Biblical theology. Because I will doing half of the degree via correspondence and online courses (and the other half through on-campus, two-week intensive courses) it will probably take me closer to three. I will choose to do a Biblical Studies emphasis. This will prepare me for either a Master of Divinity (MDiv), which is a typical pastoral degree; or a PhD program, in order to go into academic work (writing, teaching, and research).

Emily and I both are excited about this next step in my life. I'm excited to continue to learn more about my God and His Scripture and to be able to still serve the church and share what I'm learning.

Please pray that 1) finances will come through; 2) I will able to give my best to my marriage, my role at church, and to my studies; and 3) that God would even now shape my heart into a the place of a humble learner at His feet.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Travelin' Fools

Merry Christmas to everyone! I hope you all had wonderful holidays :) We had a great, but unique Christmas. We spent Christmas here in Okoboji... Christmas Eve we had our service at the church. Afterwards, Anthony and I watched the Santa Clause and cuddled on the couch. Christmas Day, we traveled oh so far to Spirit Lake to join the Skalbeck and Messer family for Christmas dinner. It was so wonderful for them to include us in their family. For one thing, it gave us a chance to hang out with Ben and Jen who were home for Christmas. It was also nice to not be alone. We played games, ate TONS of food (Kathy, you're so good at cooking), and laughed a lot. It was quite enjoyable.

The day after Christmas, we drove a lovely 10 hours back to Indiana! It was a whirlwind of a week. 5 days doesn't give you a whole lot of time with anybody. But nonetheless, we loved the little time we had with everyone. I was so thankful that my parents had the week off work... we got to hang out all day with them. We also got time with a majority of Anthony's siblings and all NINE of our nieces and nephews! Let's just say it was a little more crazy at Anthony's parents than at mine :) Finally, we got to spend New Year's Eve with our dear friends. This was especially special because our friend Chris was in town from Japan where he has been teaching English for the past year and a half. It felt good to be back with the gang.

So now we're back in Okoboji catching up on work, laundry, broken cars, and more. But not for long because in 5 days we leave again for....

HAWAII! Yes, it's true. Be jealous because this time next week, Anthony and I will be living the good life on the island of Kauai. We will be visiting our good friends Matt and Jamie (and their son!), celebrating our anniversary (it will be 2 years on the 10th), and seeing some of Anthony's old haunts from when he lived on the island for an internship in college. Overall, I think it will be amazing. I've always wanted to go to Hawaii and to do it while seeing friends is going to be great! If you think about it, pray for good travel weather. We fly out of Minneapolis to Chicago to LA to Lihue. I really don't want bad weather to hold us up either on our way there or on our way back.

On a more humorous note, Anthony and I have gone tanning a couple times this week. We're trying to prevent complete shock as our pastey-white skin is exposed to the Hawaiian sun. I don't know if it will help or not, but it's actually kind of relaxing to lay in a tanning bed even if it is for only 5 minutes. We'll see how it goes.

Well, I have a lot to do before we leave, so this is probably my last post before we get back. Much love!

Emily