Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Our first REAL fall!

Hello and happy fall to all!

I have to say it has been wonderful to experience my first REAL fall here in Decorah.  Autumn has always been my favorite season, I guess it is because I have always longed to experience cooler weather and the changing of the trees.   In Texas, if we dropped from 95 to 85--then fall had arrived!  Here in Iowa, we have been experiencing 40s in the morning and 50-60s during the day.  Wow!  We are actually pulling out all the fleece, jackets, scarves and hats!

God has graciously surrounded us with beautiful trees with leaves of red, orange, and yellow.  We even have one in our front yard!  People walk by with their cameras and take pictures!  Our neighbors have young girls and they came to our yard the other day with bags to collect leaves.  When we asked them if they were cleaning our yard for us, they replied,  "No--we just want these leaves in OUR yard!"  We laughed!

 It has been amusing to read the facebook statuses of family and friends back in Texas.  Many of the remarks bemoan the fact that fall weather is not arriving.  I remember that feeling, and right now, I am loving and soaking in this perfect weather.  I know in January, I will be wishing I was experiencing a Texas winter rather than an Iowa one!  Iowans say that January is the hardest month.  It can get down to 30 below zero--and that is without wind chill.  The sun sets at 4:30 p.m.  The snow piles up.  I am praying right now for strength and a joyful outlook during January!

But, for now, I am relishing the cool, crisp air and watching as God paints in beautiful hues of orange and red all around me.  As I mentioned in my last blog, I am taking a photography class.  Here are some pictures I have taken around town.  Hopefully these photos will capture just a little of the beauty we are enjoying.

A look at the Bluffs from the prairie

Dunning's Spring

Daisies in the prairie

Our maple

We have also been outside quite a bit--Here are some pics in our front yard.

Enjoy the season, everyone!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Caroline's wish came true this week...

Well, Julianne Nicole took her first steps this week.  Needless to say, we were all thrilled for her!  A few weeks ago, as we were traveling back to Decorah from Rochester, the sun was setting and the first few stars were appearing in the sky.  Caroline noticed a star and asked if she could make a wish.  She quickly said,  "I wish that Julianne would walk."  The fact that our 4 year old daughter would wish for something great to happen to her sister warmed our hearts.  So, yesterday, when Julianne took her first steps, I said to Caroline:  "Your wish came true!"

She has been so close for so many weeks, but just lacked the "want to".  Then, a couple of days ago, she just started standing up and trying to walk--all of her own volition.  This video was shot on her second try, so you all are getting to see her first real steps!  :)

It is such a joyful thing to watch your children reach different milestones.  I hope you enjoy watching Julianne walk, and our reaction to this happy occasion.  Needless to say, we didn't hide our emotions!

There is much to report, but I will save it for future blogs.  For now, we hope you will feel like you were right here in Decorah with us as you watch this precious footage.



Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New Beginnings...

Well, its time for an update!  Many things have taken place in the last couple of weeks and we can't believe we have already lived here for a month!

Lets begin with Allen:
At the end of this week, Allen will have heard about 600 students audition for the choral program at Luther.  No, that was not a typing error--600 college students!  Out of the approximately 2500 students that attend Luther, a fourth of them auditioned to be in choir!  Isn't that amazing?  Eventhough he has come home worn out the past couple of nights, he is really glad to be starting school.  He was getting a bit antsy.   The faculty here have been so welcoming, and he is impressed with how things work here.  In addition to Nordic Choir (the top choral ensemble at Luther), Allen will be teaching a conducting class and choral methods class.  He has been working hard on organizing his classes, planning repertoire, and thinking ahead to Christmas at Luther, which a huge event on campus this December.  Since we have been here, he has been offered two church positions--both of which he turned down.  No, that wasn't a typing error, either!  :)  He is really wanting to focus his efforts.   Even though first years are always hard, I believe it is going to be a very satisfying experience for him.  Since we have moved here, God has really been working in his life.  Allen is really seeking Him and depending upon Him like never before.

And now to Caroline:
Caroline started school August 19th.  The public school began a new Pre-K program this year and she is a member of the Pre-K class at Westside Early Childhood Center.  We were choosing between public school and the Montessori school.  In the end, we feel that the public school is going to suit her better.  God provided her a Christian teacher who is really great with the kids.  Caroline really loves it.  She comes out of that school each day with a huge smile on her face!  She was so ready to meet new kids and make friends. This whole process has shown us just how social she is.  She is like Allen in that way.  She has craved friendship and has begged for play-dates.  We were so used to a "play-date" lifestyle in Houston.  She really had a close network of friends at Holy Spirit and at Tallowood.  You wouldn't think a move like this would affect a 4 year old, but it does.   She has actually shed a few tears as she talks about the friends she misses in Houston.  To help her establish some new friendships, we have enrolled her in dance and Kindermusik classes.  We have also been attending a larger church up in Rochester, MN that has a well-developed preschool and children's ministry.  More on that later.    Decorah has so many activities for children.  It is really amazing!  We could easily over schedule her if we aren't careful!  Caroline loves the park nearby and the trips we make to the Whippy Dip for ice cream.  She also loves her new room and spends a lot of time in there playing princess.  Please keep praying that she will adjust to life here and make meaningful friendships.

Julianne is doing great.  She can stand on her own now and can walk while holding my hand.  I think she could probably do it all on her own--she just isn't sure about it yet.  She is talking up a storm and learning new words pretty rapidly.  She is so much fun.  Her smile will melt your heart.  Her sense of humor is contagious.  It is amazing the things she will do to get me to laugh.  She loves to make faces--on purpose!  Like her sister, she is a spitfire.  She's strong, and we love that about her.  Its funny the things she tries to get away with.  I simply tell her,  "Your sister has trained me well--you will not get away with that kind of behavior, so you might as well stop trying."  Of course, she doesn't understand a word I say, but I feel better having said them.   Her favorite animal in the whole wide world is the yellow duck.  She says the word with such verve and intensity:  "DUCK!"  After she says the word with over-articulated diction, she then lets out a "quack, quack!"  I still laugh when she says it.  For Halloween we were planning to put Julianne in the flower costume Caroline wore at 18 months old, but we decided that she just has to be a duck.  

McCoy is slowing getting back to normal.  Losing your best friend and having to move to a new place can really be shocking to a dog.  He's been depressed, but seems to be coming around.  I try to walk him everyday and he loves that.  We have a public sidewalk just a few feet from our house and it has been hard for him to keep quiet as he sees various people walking and biking so close to our windows.  We've talked about getting another dog, but I think we are going to wait until McCoy is completely settled and back to normal.  It may be next year before that happens.  He is really great with the girls.  Just today he trotted up to both of them, wagging his tail, and tried to kiss them.  Caroline knew to turn quickly but Julianne got a big fat kiss right on her nose.  She wrinkled her nose and immediately tried to wipe it with her hands.

And finally, my update.  It looks like I am going to be joining the voice faculty at Luther!  I am teaching on a part-time basis, since Julianne is still a baby.  I want to spend as much time with the girls as I can.  I'm really excited to meet the students though, and to be a part of a college music faculty again.  I really want to get a Bible study started and my hope is to begin one here at home next Spring.  But, I am keeping this semester in my heart and prayers if God has other plans.  I am also planning to take Hebrew.  I'm signing up for it tomorrow, in fact.  I'm really excited about this--I've always wanted to learn the Biblical languages.  There is also a women's Bible study that I am going to take part in each week.  I'm really excited to meet other women who love Jesus and are seeking Him.  It is an interdenominational study--so women from over 8 different churches are attending.  We are going through the Bible study co-authored by Beth Moore, Priscilla Shrier (sp), and Kay Arthur.  I think Tallowood offered this study the summer I had Julianne.  I had wanted to attend it, but couldn't.  I'm excited to see what God is going to do!  Life is going to be full, that is for sure!

I have asked for prayer about our church life, so I wanted to give an update on that, too.  We have visited two churches here in Decorah and a church about an hour north of here in Rochester.  Even though it is a commute (which we are used to, by the way!), every time we go we have really felt God's Spirit.  The trouble is, we want to be a part of a church that we can serve--not just fill a pew.  We have been visiting Autumn Ridge (in Rochester) on Saturday nights, and then attending a church in Decorah on Sunday.   The positives about a Decorah church is, we can really become involved and serve the body.  The drawback is that the 2 churches that believe what we believe have very small congregations and not much in the way of preschool/children's discipleship classes.  Autumn Ridge in Rochester has pretty much everything we have been used to at Tallowood.   We feel very comfortable there.  But, are we supposed to be comfortable?  Maybe God wants to use us in one of these smaller congregations, even though the experience for our girls (and us) will be very different.  Its been hard to know what to do.  We've thought about doing both--but can we sustain that?  We really want to follow God, even if that means going somewhere where we are stretched and a little out of our comfort zone.  Also, when its 20 below zero in January--I doubt we will be driving to Rochester!  Its easy to just find the church that seems to be the best for your family, but is what we think of as "best" really God's best?  So, we are really wanting wisdom and discernment.    In the meantime, we will keep visiting the two churches in Decorah, and driving to Rochester on Saturday nights.

This area of the country is definitely not the Bible belt, but God is here and He is at work.  People who believe that the Bible is inerrant and complete Truth are definitely the minority.   Speaking in terms of "religion", it is very pluralistic.  In other words, "Your truth is your truth and my truth is my truth, and  they can co-exist together."   We have been surprised to come in contact with people who believe as we do.  It looks as though God may be providing us with some friends that we can share and talk the deep things of God.  We really want to be salt and light here--to show the love of Christ.  I have become convinced of some things the last few weeks about faith and love.  I will share this on my other blog soon, so check back if you are interested.  In the meantime, please continue to pray that we will listen to God's voice and make Jesus Christ the center of of our lives.

We love you all!

In Him,


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Getting settled in Mayberry...I mean....Decorah

Well, we have lived in our new hometown for a little over two weeks now!  It has been a full time of unpacking boxes, arranging furniture, re-arranging furniture, hanging pictures, decorating each room, etc. etc. etc.  Its been great fun making this old house our own.  I know many people have been asking about pictures, so I will include a few in the posting.  Watch my facebook page for a complete album of photos in the next couple of days.

Before I post pictures, I just want to take a little bit of time and describe the town that we now call home.  Allen and I have commented many times that Decorah feels like Mayberry.  It is such a charming town.  Just about every shop on Water street (that is the main street of town) has its own quaint feeling.  In some ways, I feel like I have been thrown back to 1950, but in other ways, Decorah is definitely 21st century.  For an example of throwback, I give you the grocery store known as Fareway.  From the moment I walked into this market, I felt like I was in a different era.  All of the employees are dressed in nicely pressed white shirts and black pants.  Every person greets you with a smile and offers 100% customer service.  To get your meat at Fareway, you don't pick up pre-packaged ground beef or chicken.  Instead, there are about 10 employees behind the counter and they hand wrap everything for you in that nice old meat market paper.  It made me think of what my grandpa's meat market in Midland must have been like in the 60s and 70s.  They take the chicken right off of the rotisserie and serve you with a smile!  When you are ready to check out, the cashier empties your cart for you and another employee stands ready to bag your groceries.  They don't even ask you if you want your groceries taken to the car--it is company policy to take your basket AND load your car.  The customer service at Fareway is unlike any I've ever experienced in a grocery store.  I love it!

Another thing that I just love is how close everything is to our house.  We live in the historic district of town and our street, Broadway, is full of Victorian homes and old churches.  If you walk about 3 minutes one way, you end up on Water street and all that downtown has to offer is right at your finger tips.  If you walk 4 minutes uphill, you come to one of the most beautiful parks I've ever seen.  Caroline and Julianne love playing at this park, and Allen and I have enjoyed many wonderful evening walks there with breathtaking views of the Iowa river and valley below.  We also walked to a nearby waterfall!  Decorah actually has two of them!  Each night as we have walked, the fireflies flicker across our path and the sound of crickets fills the air.  It is so peaceful here.  I am really looking forward to many quiet moments with God.

But, the place, other than our house and Luther, that we have frequented more than any other is none other than the Wippy Dip.  Yes, the Wippy Dip is THE place to go for ice cream, sundaes, shakes, tornadoes (that's the WD's version of the Blizzard), and of course, the dipped cone.  Let me confess that we have gone there WAAY too many times during the last two weeks.  But, heck, its summer and its yummy!

Okay, now to our house.  As I said before, we live in the historic district of town.  When we closed on our house, we saw the abstract and it dated back to 1850!  There was another home on our property at that time, and around 1890, this home was constructed.  It is Victorian in architecture and has tons of character both inside and out.  Here are a few pictures of the outside:

We live right beside the major landmark of the town--First Lutheran Church.  In fact, you can see First Lutheran from almost anywhere in town!  We also have sidewalks very close to our home, so we see many people walking or biking by.  We have a lovely porch and a small garden just off of our back patio.  Today alone I harvested 15 cucumbers!  Yikes, that is a lot of pickles!  We are also growing jalapeno peppers, green beans, onions, and carrots.  I am really loving the idea of gardening.  I have never done it before and am determined to make it work!  It has been so awesome to pick fresh cucumber and make a salad with them, or  pick some green beans and serve them up with some bacon and brown sugar!  :)  Fresh produce is constantly at our fingertips.  We can get fresh sweet corn (my new addiction!), tomatoes, herbs, peppers, potatoes...the list goes on an on!  Fresh is amazing!

Ah...but I digress.  Back to the house.  Here are a few pictures taken at various times of day.  

 Well, there you have it:  a smattering of pics from our new abode!

Another way that Decorah has felt like Mayberry is that everyone has been so welcoming.  People have come to our door with wonderful Norwegian desserts, flowers, food, and more food.  We are really feeling right at home.
I could go on...but I'll save it for another blog!

So, friends and family, thanks for your prayers.  We are settling in nicely.  Please continue to pray that we find a church home.  I will write about our church experiences in a few days.   Also pray that we fervently seek God and abide in Christ as we begin this new chapter of our lives.

  We think of all of you often and miss you! We have to admit that weather-wise, the last few days have reminded us of Texas! ;)



Monday, July 19, 2010

Swimming in Boxes...

...Or, I guess I should say--playing in them!  I forgot that the best toys for kids are free (or around $3 at half price boxes or Walmart).    The girls have loved sitting in them and having us build "houses" out of them.  Allen is actually quite the builder!

Well, we only have a few days left before we head north to Iowa!  This Friday, we begin our trek up Interstate 35!  Just 3 months ago, we never would have dreamed that this would be happening!  But, here we are--on the cusp of a new adventure with God.  We are really excited about joining Him in His work at Luther college and in the small, but vibrant community of Decorah.  

That being said, our month of goodbyes has been tough.  We have had the privilege of sharing some excellent meals with very dear friends and family.  Each gathering has been very meaningful to us--especially to Allen.  We really are going to miss everyone, and are already looking forward to visiting during the holidays...that is, unless we are snowed in up there!  Ha!

Over the coming weeks, I will try and update this blog regularly, so that everyone stays up-to-date with the joys and trials of such a major transition.  We are confident in God's call and guidance, and place our lives in His hands.

Blessings to you all!  We love you!


Sunday, June 20, 2010

A home in Decorah

As many of you know, Allen and I traveled up to Decorah, Iowa this past week in search of a new home and a school for Caroline.  Let me just say that God provided in ways we could not have dreamed.   The home that we have a contract on came on the market while we were in town.  We were the first one's to see it, because the listing agent was in the same firm as our realtor.

If you want to read the whole story, hop over to my other blog "It All Boils Down to Faith."  There, I detail just how perfectly God has provided!

This house was built in the 1880s and is truly Victorian.  I have always wanted to live in a Victorian style house.  This one is fully updated--it even has central heat and air!  For this home grown Texan, that was good news!  It is also a short walk from downtown and from a fabulous park!

Here are some pictures of the house and the neighborhood park.

We are so excited about our new hometown!  The median age of Decorah is 31!  There are lots of young families with children, and we have already met several people that we would love to build friendships with.

Please be in prayer for us:

1)  To find a new church home and a body in which to serve
2)  To find a moving company that will be reasonable financially
3)  As we begin our goodbyes