December 31, 2010

So Long, 2010--You've Been a Good Year to Us!

Here's our year in review!

January started the year off, and I wrote one of my favorite posts to date. It was a month where I really rededicated this blog to the Lord and the ministry that I'm praying it serves. Kurt also made his post-writing debut, and it was a hit. I think he'll do another soon!

February was a fun month, because we celebrated Evy Kate's 1st Birthday! It was especially memorable because I had the stomach flu! Kurt ended up getting it too. NOT FUN. But we celebrated our little girl's life with so much joy!

In March I took fun photos of my sister. Kurt and I traveled to Natchez, Mississippi for a little getaway. It was perfect!

April gave us a beautiful Easter! We had the absolute privilege of going to Boston to watch my Dad run the Boston Marathon! Watching the Marathon was a life changing experience for me.

In May, I started the process of saying goodbye to our first little home, and Mississippi in general. I had one last night out with Carrie and Sarah Denley (affectionately "SD" to me). They are precious and priceless to me!

June was a HUGE month for us. We moved into our new home! We celebrated my 25th birthday, Kurt's graduation from medical residency, and his 30th birthday! WHEW!

July was special, because I was asked to interview Lisa Whelchel from "The Facts of Life." She's a Christian author and speaker, and it was a HUGE honor! I also jumped into ministry at church by teaching Vacation Bible School. July 22nd was lifechanging--it was the day I was called to adopt internationally! Click here to go to my adoption blog to follow that timeline!

In August I did the 30 Day Blog Journal. We spent the month just settling in!

September brought falltime and family activities!

In October we took Evy to the fair for the first time! God continued to give us passion for adoption, and we continued the paperwork! Kurt and I traveled to Disney for a wonderful vacation! Even though my beloved camera was stolen, we had a great time!

November was difficult because we weren't chosen to parent a specific child we were trying to adopt. It was a huge loss, but we still praised our Lord! We created our family Christmas Card and had a great Thanksgiving!

December has been a beautiful Christmas season! We have celebrated family traditions and had so much fun. I will post full Christmas recaps very soon!

God has been so gracious to us this year. I know that some of you have had VERY hard times--some years are high, and some are low. We definitely had moments of sadness this year, and the Lord was faithful to us then, as He always is.

Thank you for another year of your friendship and encouragement! You all are so special! Here's to a wonderful, Jesus-filled 2011-- Let's enthrone Him this year!

December 30, 2010

Running Update!

I posted awhile back that I was starting the Couch to 5K program. I did about 3 weeks, and then sickness, travel, the holidays, etc. started to happen! I didn't get to the gym for a good while. I knew I wasn't going to quit, because I am really determined to make a go of this running thing!

So yesterday, I had the urge to go the gym. I think it was the post-holiday feelings of "I definitely ate too much" and just the need to release some energy, maybe? Kurt got home early from work, and while Evy napped I went to the gym.

On a whim, I decided to just get on the treadmill and see how far I could run without stopping. I had never done that (in my life), and I was more curious than anything. So I started listening to my music and started running.

I didn't look at the screen for as long as I could (again, I was curious!). I looked down and saw .38. I thought to myself, Oh, I can definitely go half a mile. But how awesome would it be if I made it to a mile!?

So I kept running.

I thought about our adoption, I prayed a good bit, I listened to great music, and the right songs seemed to come on at the right time. I got into a groove and somehow didn't feel uncomfortable. I finally looked down at the screen again.

.83! I'm going to make it to a mile!

I saw 1.00 hit the screen and did a silent little cheer for myself. ONE MILE! I did it! Then I really got ambitious. What if I did 1.5 miles? I would feel so awesome!

This went on bit by bit, and by the end of my workout:

I ran 1.93 miles without stopping! That's the farthest I've ever gone in my life!

I couldn't believe it, and I was so, so proud of myself. I don't give myself many pats on the back, but I did on this one! I think doing several weeks of C25K got my body used to the jogging motion, and when I began running yesterday, it went into autopilot.

Am I ready to run a 5K? No. Can I imagine running a 10K or half marathon right now? Heck to the NO. But I did something that was such a big deal FOR ME. As someone who had never jogged even at recess on the playground, this was a big step for me!

I think I'm going to try it again soon, once Evy is with Kurt or my mom. Kurt told me that running 2 miles isn't just a fluke, and that I'll be able to do it again, and again. I don't know that I'll use C25K anymore, simply because I can just add little bits of distance from here on out. I ran the entire time, so I'll only use walking when/if I need it from here on out.

I can't believe I RAN 2 MILES!

December 28, 2010

Evy's Play Kitchen Tutorial

Before I post all of our Christmas pictures, I wanted to show you my big project for Evy's Christmas gift! Enjoy!

As I was thinking about what to get Evy for Christmas, a play kitchen came to mind pretty quickly. I started researching and just couldn't find the right thing. I knew I wanted a wooden kitchen that was simple and would just encourage her imagination. The ones I DID find were around $200 or more (including shipping) and that just wasn't going to happen. I started looking on the internet and found a TON of DIY Play Kitchens! (Seriously, just Google "DIY Play Kitchen" and you'll see what I mean). I was so inspired and excited! Here's how I did it:

1. Find a piece of furniture to start with. I scoured all the Goodwill's, thrift stores, etc. in town and couldn't find just a basic nightstand (which is what most people start with)! I couldn't find ANYTHING that I could imagine as a kitchen. Sidenote: you need to keep your child's height in mind while hunting for a starting piece. Finally, I went into my go-to craft/antique mall and saw a display shelf in a corner. It wasn't even for sale, and the booth owner seems a bit irritated with me (??), but I insisted that it was perfect. She charged me way too much--$50, but I knew I needed it. That's the only reason this play kitchen was more expensive than I wanted. If you find a piece at Goodwill, etc., it's SO CHEAP!

Here's the piece, which was black. It also had a shelf that gave too much coverage, so I knew I would trim that off. Use your imagination when looking for a piece. (Note: this did have a cupboard door, but I had taken it off to paint.)



2. Prime your piece of furniture. I used spray primer and it went really quickly.



3. Gather your extras. Here are some things I picked up to accessorize the kitchen:
-Wooden letter "J" for a faucet (Hobby Heaven Lobby)
-Metallic Spray Paint (HHL)
-Flat Wooden Disks for burners (HHL)
-Wooden Knobs (ended up not using these)
-Layer Cake Pan  for sink (Walmart)
-Wooden legs to add height as Evy grows (Lowe's)


4. Experiment with your kitchen layout and decide where you want everything to be. Just play around with it!



5. Use a jigsaw and/or router and cut a hole for your sink (and any necessary holes if you're using a real faucet, which I didn't). My dad and a man in our church traced around the cakepan and cut a hole with the jigsaw. Then they used a router to cut the shelf back so there was more room to play.


6. Paint your piece of furniture. I had no idea how much painting would be involved with this! I did two coats of a paint color I didn't like (below). It just didn't have any color, and for a fun play kitchen, I knew I wanted it to have color!


I went and got the next darker shade on the paint chip (Lovely Lilac by Olympic, I believe) and gave it another two coats. Perfect!


7. Seal your kitchen with Poly or some sort of varnish. I would recommend Polyacrylic, because what I used (I think just plain polyurethane?) has yellowed in some spots where it went on too thick. Not a biggie (to me), but just be aware. Also be aware that you'll need paint thinner to clean your brushes. I ended up just doing one coat of poly and throwing my brush away. Allow plenty of time for the varnish to dry.

8. Add all of your accessories. I painted the "J" metallic silver. I tried painting the wooden knobs to use, but after trying to poly them, it was a mess and not cute. I went to Hobby Heaven Lobby and bought some knobs that work great! Dad screwed them in (you'll need to drill pilot holes) so that she can still twist them and they won't come off. I just put my sink in the hole--no glue necessary. I used Liquid Nails for my faucet and burners. I think it was because of the varnish, but they didn't stick. I added some hot glue and they're in place for the moment, but if curious little hands get TOO curious, the faucet could pop off again. I recommend finding something that you can drill/screw into the kitchen so it really stays in place. The "J" is just too adorable though! We added simple ceiling hooks to the side for her pots and pans (ceiling hooks from Ace Hardware and miniature pots and pans are from Walmart). I found a "refrigerator"-looking handle from Lowe's.

Here's the final product!








(Click picture below if you'd like to see it bigger).


Evy loves her kitchen, and she has already played so much with it! I believe my total for the kitchen was about $90! VERY reasonable for a custom, cute kitchen! If you have any questions, let me know! :)

December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

This year has been so defining for us. Evy turning one year old, moving, getting settled, and most importantly, being called to bring home a child from a land that is not our own; born from a woman who is not me.

Today, I just finished reading Mary Beth Chapman's book "Choosing to See," about their journey through adoption, love, and even loss. It was a great book, and only confirmed to me that we are meant to do this crazy thing called adoption.

This might seem strange for a Christmas post, but adoption is all about love coming to someone who might be deemed "unlovable." It's all about a rescue, or even redemption, taking place. Just as we were "bought for a price" (1 Corinthians 7:23) by the blood of the Lamb, we are paying a price---both literally and figuratively---for this child that will be ours. Love came to us over 2,000 years ago in a dirty, smelly, dingy, and dark cave of a stable. Where there seemed to be no hope, Hope incarnate arrived. THAT is what we celebrate on Christmas, and we are so incredibly humbled and blessed to be on the journey of adoption. It so clearly models what Jesus did for us.

When I started to think about what I wanted to say in my Christmas blog post this year, it came to me clear as day. Joseph adopted Jesus. Jesus Himself was adopted on Earth! No wonder he has such a heart for orphans! And then, through His death, those who believe in Him are adopted into His family forever. Amazing correlations.

Dr. Russell Moore, who wrote one of our favorite books, "Adopted for Life," once wrote on Orphan Sunday---"Pray for the fatherless and the Fatherless." That is our prayer this coming year; that we will minister to the fatherless and give hope to the Fatherless. We also pray that more people in the Christian community will open their hearts to adoption and let the Lord totally invade their lives with this beautiful act of taking in an orphan. Will you?

Merry Christmas---Let us celebrate being adopted children of the living God!



December 23, 2010

Christmas Activties

We've been busy lately with holiday fun. Here's what we've been up to!

Kurt's mom made me a shirt as a surprise to match Evy's "Fa La La" shirt! Too cute!


My family gave Evy her Little People nativity set. Here's "Pinka" doing the honors:



Kurt and me before our Christmas Worship program that we sang in:



Hudson's Furniture Holiday Window:


Before Kurt and I left for our Lifegroup (Sunday School) Christmas party:


I included all of these pictures to show what it's like trying to get a picture with Evy these days. Notice her tights that she's wearing as a scarf:





Before we went out to look at Christmas lights for a family night:


Cape County Park lights:


Lynwood's display!


Afterward, we went to Barnes and Noble just to browse. Evy was in heaven!


After church one Sunday:


Our first snow of the season!



We had two couples that we love over for a dinner party. They're brothers that Kurt is good friends with, and I'm good friends with their wives! Little friend Ansley came over to play, and Miss Whitney is expecting baby Brynn this spring!


Aunt Pinka dropped by to say hello:


Mr. Ryan (Baby Brynn's daddy) practicing for his new role of Dad by playing "lion" with the girls.


Such good friends! :)



My mom always does Evy's hair in this flippy, boufant hairdo when she gets to do her hair. As a joke, I did an exaggerated version before we went to see Gigi one day. This is what Evy thought of it:


Mom and Dad kept Evy so Kurt and I could go to a Christmas dinner show that my former music teacher puts on each year. We loved seeing Mr. Dumey and had a great time!


Cookie night!







And finally....LOOK what my sweet husband gave me for an early Christmas present!!!!!


It's a Canon Rebel t2i!!!!!! It's the newer model of what I had, and I pretty much almost cried when I opened it. Amazing, and I'm BEYOND grateful. Seriously, I have never been so appreciative of a gift!

More pictures coming after all of the celebrations are over. We're heading to Kurt's family for Christmas!

Christmas festivities are the best!

December 21, 2010

Our Family Christmas Traditions

I've done a lot of thinking about the Christmas season and how I want it to be for our family. I think this time of year is so sentimental, special, and heartwarming. I always want our family to create memories and moments together. I LOVE reading other posts from different people about how the holidays are celebrated in their homes, so I thought I would share how our little family "does Christmas."

-This year, we had a cookie making/decorating night. I made cookies from scratch and Evy helped decorate (pictures to come at some point!). From now on, I'll be using pre-made dough. It just wasn't my thing to make the dough from scratch. I think you still get the same effect using pre-made dough! :)

-We have a drive-through display of lights in our town at one of our parks. City businesses, churches, and groups put out little displays. It's simple, but very cute. We took Evy and she kept saying "Lights! Pitty! (Pretty!)" We also drive downtown to see the quaint little shops. One of the old furniture stores (the storefront looks straight out of the 50s) has a cute window display each year. Evy really loved seeing it!

-We participate in Operation Christmas Child, which is a WONDERFUL program. You fill a shoebox with goodies for a little boy or girl, and Samaritan's Purse Ministries delivers the boxes to children in other countries that would NEVER have the experience of Christmas otherwise. The gospel is shared and these children feel loved and special. It's an incredible ministry!

-This was our first year to provide Christmas for a child in need, and it was such a great experience. Our church has partnered with the Christian Activities Center in East St. Louis to provide Christmas for these children. We went in with my parents and sponsored a little girl. We LOVED picking things out for her! This is a definite tradition that will continue for our family.

-We contributed to the food basket ministry at our church this year. Our church puts together a basket of food so that families can make a holiday meal. We didn't deliver this year, but will begin doing that next year--I want our children (and US!) to have that experience!

-Kurt and I are in worship ministry at our church, and we sang in our Christmas program last Sunday night. We both had solos and the Lord really calmed my nerves. The program focused on the different perspectives of those involved in the birth of Christ. I sang the song from the perspective of Mary, and Kurt sang about what the wise men must have felt. We look forward to participating every year in this beautiful experience.

-For the years that we're in town for Christmas, we LOVE the Christmas Eve service. It's absolutely beautiful with candlelight, singing, and a simple message.

-We celebrate Advent in our family. This year we just had a simple calendar for Evy, but as her age allows, we will expand the emphasis of Advent. I mentioned that our student pastor's wife, Wini, spoke at church about Christmas traditions. One thing I love is adding elements to a nativity scene over the course of Advent. Baby Jesus arrives on Christmas morning! I love the discussion that allows and how you can really talk about how each person must have felt.

-We want to minimize gifts and make them purposeful. I've heard of some people only giving three gifts. We might make that our practice at some point. We don't just give excess junk to each other or our families, which I think is important. Wini also shared in her talk how you can give a "Gold" gift, "Frankincense" gift, and a "Myrrh" gift. Gold is the gift that person has really been wanting and hoping for. The Frankincense gift is for your spiritual growth, like a new Bible, Christian CD or book. The Myrrh gift is something for your body, like clothes, lotion, etc. It's just a good way to keep gifts purposeful and centered. We might use this idea in the future too!

-We watch the classic Christmas movies and specials at our house. We only watch the old classics, with a few new ones like "The Holiday" and the new "A Christmas Carol" thrown in. I don't allow "A Christmas Story" or "Christmas Vacation" or things like that. I just don't like them at all. I'm just a classics person! :)

-I send out a Christmas card and letter each year. I've said this a million times, but this is one tradition that I will ALWAYS do! I got that from my mom, and I love sending them out.

-We do incorporate a little bit of Santa at our house. I've written about the debate before, and I still stand by our choice. Growing up, I never questioned that Jesus was the entire purpose of Christmas, and Kurt was raised the same way. My parents did such a good job of allowing the pretend magic, but never losing sight of our Savior's birth. I really do believe it can be done! We have decided that Santa will only leave little happies in our stockings. Any other gifts are from Mommy and Daddy. I think it's a great compromise, because the childhood magic is there, but Santa's role is minimal. I'm really pleased with the decision we've made, and I don't think we're less spiritual because of it. JUST MY OPINION!! :)

-The biggest thing in our family is that we honor the established traditions of our extended families, while creating our own. We do all of these little traditions on nights throughout December, so that we can spend the actual holidays with our family. That's what makes the holidays so special---celebrating the Lord while surrounded by precious family members. Those are memories and moments we cherish!

-I do want to start some new traditions next year. We want to attend "Road to Bethlehem," a live nativity experience in another town near ours.We've heard it's great! I'd also like to host something in our home. I did the home tour for our Women's Ministry this year, and next year I'd like to at least have one thing in my house, even if it's just a small dinner party. As Evy gets older and we add more children, I want to do more Christmas crafts. And finally, I'd like to do more service-oriented projects at Christmas. Sarah is so inspiring in how she gives to others at Christmas, and I'd love to do more in the following years. We really want to make this a BIG priority, and I'm looking forward to blessing others around us in even bigger ways.

Christmas is such a wonderful time for creating memories, serving others, and spending time with family. How do YOU celebrate Christmas? What are your traditions? I'm going to add a link-up so if you've written a similar post, please share!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

December 17, 2010

Our 2010 Christmas Card and Letter

Since I can't send out Christmas cards and letters to everyone (and I REALLY wish I could!), here is our Christmas card and letter from this year. I've said this before, but this is one thing that I MUST do each year. It's non-negotiable! My mom sent out a Christmas letter and card from the time I was born, so it's just a family thing that's special to me. I also love having a condensed summary of each year that we've been a family. So pretend this arrived in your mailbox today! :) As an important sidenote---we have an adoption update! CLICK HERE to read the news!

Merry Christmas from the Lancaster Family!

2010 has been an incredible year for us! In February we celebrated our precious, perfect Evy Kate's first birthday! We had small family parties, and the birthday girl was her adorable self. In April, Kurt and I traveled to Boston with my family to see my Dad run the Boston Marathon! Evy had a wonderful time staying with Kurt's parents, “Mia” and “Randad!” We saw amazing sites like Old North Church and Paul Revere's home, which was amazing. It was a life-changing experience to behold the marathon and Boston as a family, and we will never forget it!

June brought about some BIG changes. We said goodbye to our first little home as well as many years' worth of memories and friendships and moved from Mississippi to Cape Girardeau, Missouri! It was like coming home for me, and Kurt was excited to get started in his new position at St. Francis Medical Center. He still had to finish up residency, so we lived apart for several weeks (it was so difficult!). I went back to Mississippi at the end of June—on Kurt's birthday!—to see him graduate from medical residency. What a moment! Residency was a long journey and chiseled us in many ways. I sat with Kurt's parents and I know we were all beaming with pride! He was spoken so highly of by his educators and colleagues. After that weekend, Kurt joined Evy and I in Cape where we got settled in! We are loving our home, neighborhood, church, and especially having family nearby. God has been so gracious and good to us!

On July 22, God did a HUGE work in my heart and changed the course of our family forever. Through reading a friend's blog, the Lord clearly called me to international adoption. With tears streaming down my cheeks, and a good dose of apprehension in my heart, I said “Yes!” to God's call! I shared what had happened the next day with Kurt, and he committed to pray about adoption. On September 24, we were in agreement that this was God's plan for us in bringing our second child into the family! We are in full adoption mode, and working to adopt an infant from South Korea! Praise God! We don't know the full timeline of this process, but we will begin our homestudy in January, which is a big step. We know God's plan is perfect. Adoption is such a beautiful picture of what Christ has done for us. We have been adopted through Jesus Christ and are now able to inherit God's Kingdom. We are so excited to follow the Lord's will for us and bring a precious baby home!

The fall was a busy season, as we were involved with many church activities, traveling to see family, and still getting into a good routine. In October, Kurt and I had a wonderful getaway trip to Disney World! It was a great week, and we just loved spending the time together. Evy was loved on to pieces by both sets of grandparents! We had a beautiful Thanksgiving here in Cape and we were so excited to celebrate with lots of family. Evy is always the star of the show(as it should be!)!

Currently, Kurt is is adjusting so well to his new job and really enjoys his colleagues. He has already made great decisions while on the job (he would never say that, but I'm a proud wife!). He has more time now to read, sing in the church choir, and landscape around the house. I love having him home so often compared to residency! I am still blogging, and the Lord has really blessed me through that hobby. I had the privilege of being asked to interview Lisa Whelchel (from “The Facts of Life”) and I've gotten many emails recently from people simply asking for godly counsel. I'm always praying that the Lord just speaks through me, because I want His message to be heard. I'm also involved in the music ministry at church, which has been so enjoyable! Kurt and I have really loved serving together. Most of all, we love being the parents to Evy Kate. She is just so full of life. Her little personality is coming out more and more and we are constantly laughing at how adorable she is! It's amazing how each day our love for her grows. She is our biggest blessing!

Now that the Christmas season is upon us, we're enjoying decorating our new home for Christmas, making travel plans for the holidays, and creating traditions for our family of three. A major goal for me is to keep this season less chaotic and simply celebrate Jesus! One of my favorite Christmas hymns is “What Child Is This?” In one of the lesser-known verses, there's a stanza that reads, “Let loving hearts enthrone Him.” In all that we say and do, our goal as a family is to enthrone our God and make Him known. He holds all of our lives together (Colossians 1:17) and for that we give Him praise forever!

We love you!
Kurt, Ashley, and Evy Kate



December 13, 2010

Answering a Few Questions!

I've had some people ask questions over the course of my last few posts, so I thought I would answer them here. If you have/had one and I don't answer it here, please leave a comment or email me! :)

-I made our Family Rules Canvas using this tutorial from The Pleated Poppy. Like the tutorial says, I painted around the edges of a large canvas. I cut out strips of scrapbook paper for the rules to go on. I had to cute TWO STRIPS per pattern to make them long enough. I wrote out the rules by hand with a black paint pen rather than printing anything with a printer. I sprayed each strip with spray adhesive and positioned them on the canvas. Then I Mod Podged the whole thing. The only snag I really had was getting the scrapbook paper to glue down flat. I saw in another tutorial for making frames that if you dip the scrapbook paper briefly in water and THEN glue down with Mod Podge, it helps it to be smooth. I didn't try this so I'm not sure if it works--and it might be different with a canvas (as opposed to a wood frame like that blog was talking about).  We borrowed some of the rules I saw on the example canvas but then added some of our own. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask!


-About Evy getting into the Christmas tree: She really doesn't! She helped me put up ornaments and saw me decorate the house, and I was CONSTANTLY telling her that we need to "keep the tree pretty" and therefore leave it alone. She hasn't messed with it at all, with the exception of a few times.

-Some people have commented or asked about my hair color in our Christmas card picture. I don't color my hair, and that's my natural color! I also didn't boost any colors in Photoshop. My hair is naturally auburn and I think the sun hit it a certain way in the picture where it looks way more red!


-Lots of people have asked about the [AMAZING] Marshmellow Crescent Puffs that I made for Thanksgiving. Here's the recipe!

ROLLS:

1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cans (8 oz each) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
16 large marshmallows
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted 

GLAZE:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 to 3 teaspoons milk
1/4 cup chopped nuts (Optional---I never use nuts!)

DIRECTIONS:

-Heat oven to 375°F. Spray 16 medium muffin cups with cooking spray. In small bowl, mix granulated sugar, flour and cinnamon.

-Separate dough into 16 triangles. For each roll, dip 1 marshmallow into melted butter; roll in sugar mixture. Place marshmallow on shortest side of triangle. Roll up, starting at shortest side and rolling to opposite point. Completely cover marshmallow with dough; firmly pinch edges to seal. Dip 1 end in remaining butter; place butter side down in muffin cup.  

-Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. (Place foil or cookie sheet on rack below muffin cups to guard against spills.) Cool in pan 1 minute.  

-In small bowl, mix powdered sugar, vanilla and enough milk for desired drizzling consistency. Drizzle glaze over warm rolls. Sprinkle with nuts (if you're using them). Serve warm.

   
Okay, I think that answers some questions. If you have more, let me know! :) 
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