Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Since so much has happened in the last two weeks since returning from The Rushes and since it's Christmas, we are giving you an additional bonus post to let you know how we've been doing since returning from Wisconsin.

After returning from Wisconsin, we decided it would be best to stay in the Twin Cities for the final two weeks of December. So, in addition to two final weeks of working hard to reach our support-raising goals and continuing to share our story of how God's been leading us, we've been able to re-connect with some family and friends in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area as well.

Lindsay's 27th Birthday Party
On December 17th we gathered with a group of friends from our college days at Concordia College in Shoreview, MN (a suburb of the Twin Cities) to celebrate Lindsay Lowther's birthday. She insisted on cooking for all of us and it was a scrumptous meal indeed (see photo below). It was a wonderful time filled with laughter, good food, and good friends!

The delicious birthday dinner Lindsay made for us: roasted pork, mashed cinnamon apple sweet potatoes, spinach salad, and cranberry barley wild rice. 

Lindsay blowing out her Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake.

our dear friends: Sarah, Christie, and Dan with Jim.

The birthday girl and I!

Allie and Dan Owen, good friends from our college days!

Grabko/Olsen/Funk Christmas
On December 18th we celebrated Christmas with my immediate side of the family in Eau Claire. Although my brothers weren't able to make it from California and Sweden (we missed them terribly), we were able to have a fun evening. I cooked Linguine with Clam Sauce and my dad grilled some juicy steaks. We sang Christmas carols and opened gifts around the tree - probably the best highlight for me was the gift all of us kids got for my dad. He's a very generous and giving man and rarely spends money on himself...he works very hard and us kids wanted to give him a gift that keeps on giving. So, we all pitched in to get him a brand new bedding set. In the last week he has said a few different times how well he has slept and it is such a joy to know that a guy who works as hard as he does will also be able to sleep just as hard now, too! Love you, Dad!

My sister, Christina, Abe (her youngest), and me enjoying egg nog 
before opening presents.

Sham (Christy's husband) and Charlie (their middle son).

Our niece Baela (8 years old) wearing the new earring 
and necklace that Jim and I gave her.

The new bedding set we gave to my dad.

Trimming the Tree
This Christmas has been a little different for Jim and I since we haven't had our own space or home to decorate or carry out any of our usual traditions. However, we have been so blessed by our family and friends that it's been easy to forget how non-traditional these last few months have been for us. The other day we even helped my dad decorate his house for Christmas and it was fun to hang up many of the same ornaments that I hung up as a kid...even on the same exact artificial tree that we had throughout my childhood! Jim did a great job making that old thing look brand new and it was a fun, festive day. That night my dad took us to his favorite vietnamese restaurant, Kinhdo, in Uptown Minneapolis for fresh spring rolls (my favorite), egg drop soup, and pad thai - it was a fun day!

Jim trimming the tree.

Us in front of the tree.

My dad and I after our delicious vietnamese dinner at Kinhdo Restaurant.

Our 5th Wedding Anniversary
On December 22nd Jim and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. It was fun to reflect and think back on our five years and to then consider where we will be five years from now! We praise God for our marriage and are humbled by His goodness and mercy in our lives; we couldn't imagine being on this journey to Ecuador without one another or how we would have made it through five months of traveling and living out of suitcases without the love, support, patience, and help of the other. We decided to celebrate by taking it easy and enjoying some of the fun things the Minneapolis/St. Paul area has to offer.

First, we went to the Macy's Holiday Display in downtown Minneapolis. This year's theme was, "A Day in the Life of an Elf". Here are some snapshots from a few of our favorite scenes.

The Elf Dormitory.

The Elf's dorm kitchen.

The forest of Caroling Christmas Trees.

Animals of the North Pole decorating the tree.

Santa's Workshop - the baker's corner.

Santa's Workshop - making the garland.

A photo of us outside the display.

After the Christmas display we went to a matinee at the movie theater and then headed to Grand Avenue in St. Paul to look at the Christmas lights in the Summit Hill neighborhood. We ate dinner at Punch Pizza (they serve authentic Napoli style pizza cooked in a wood-fired brick oven...just like the pizza we ate during our trip to Italy in 2007!)  then did some window shopping before sharing a Campfire Mocha at Caribou Coffee. All in all, it was a great day spent with my very best friend - so fun!

Us at the movies.

We forgot to take pictures of the christmas lights we saw, so we took a shot of the St. Paul Cathedral to document that part of the night:-)

Punch Pizza - home of the Napoli style pizza.

Yummy Greek Salad at Punch Pizza.

Margherita and Toscana pizza - so yummy!!

Christmas 2011
Because both of our families are spread out across the U.S. (and even world), each year has been a little different for us in terms of where we celebrate Christmas with family. Last year we celebrated the holiday in Seattle, WA with Jim's family and the year before we were on the East Coast celebrating with family in NY and CT. This year our growing little one has prevented us from being able to travel too far and Jim's family has graciously agreed to meet us here in MN (even though his parents and siblings no longer live here!). So, we found a cabin in northern MN that has enough beds to sleep 12 adults and we will all be traveling to meet one another! Jim's parents, younger sister & fiance, and younger brother are driving in from WA and Jim's older sister and husband are driving in from NY. Jim's older brother and his wife won't be able to join us this year - we will greatly miss them, but they have just recently accepted a pastoral call in NY and will be driving from CA to NY while we are in Chicago for our training! So, we will plan to see them then!!

This is the first time that we haven't celebrated Christmas in one of our own homes and it will definitely be a new adventure for all of us. However, the owners of the cabin have decorated it for us and we are really looking forward to some great quality time with Jim's family!

We hope all of you have a wonderfully blessed Christmas full of many memories 
and that you also have a joyous start to your New Year!

- Jim and Suzy<><

The Rushes

It has been exactly two weeks since Jim and I returned from our week of R & R in Door County, WI. When reflecting back over these weeks and, more accurately, over these last five months it is truly humbling to see how the Lord has provided for us - spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Our time in Door County two weeks ago is just one of many examples of this...

Admittedly, leading in to the week, we were feeling the natural wear and tear of being on the road for four months straight. Even though we had been having a wonderful time meeting with so many great friends and family throughout the East Coast and Midwest, a week with no schedule and no driving was very welcomed. Our goals for the week were to relax, take naps, read by the fireplace, maybe even go for a swim in the resort's indoor heated pool, and browse through the shops at a few of the nearby towns. And that's exactly what we did. We cooked, we ate, we read, we slept, we watched movies, we swam, we looked at lighthouses, we played Monopoly Deal and Skipbo, we journaled, and through it all left the week renewed and filled by the grace and peace of the Holy Spirit.

This was only my third time visiting The Rushes, the timeshare community where Jim's parents own a week, but Jim has been going for years (his parents purchased the week in 1984). However, in the three years that I have been able to go we have created some traditions that include making lefse, walking along the trails at the Rushes, having breakfast at Al's Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay, WI, stopping by the British import store in Egg Harbor, and visiting Cana Island Lighthouse and Cave Point. In addition to the annual activities we also were able to attend a fun day of Christmas festivities in the nearby town of Ephraim. I've highlighted some of these in the photos below - I do hope you enjoy!

Town of Ephraim Kick-Off to Christmas Celebration

There were several events taking place in Ephraim including tours of a few different Inns (like the one above), pictures with Santa, the annual lighting of the town's Christmas tree, and caroling.

Visiting Cana Island Lighthouse

 Cana Island Lighthouse

Al's Swedish Restaurant

A window display at Al's.

A picture of the four of us in the lobby of Al's.

The cozy fire in our unit at The Rushes.

Cave Point.

The icy shore at Cave Point.

Cave Point cont'd...

 Jim, Cheryl and Stan at Cave Point.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Week in Wisconsin...

Hello All!

    We are taking a short break from support raising and are going to get away to rest, read, rejuvenate, and spend some quality time connecting with God, each other, and Jim's parents. They have a time-share in Door County, Wisconsin and we'll be heading there tomorrow.

It is good to rest.

more to come!  -jim and suzy