Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Time

Merry Christmas!!

More than one person this year has told me they are becoming some what of a "scrooge" about Christmas. I think they have a good reason to be.

There are some things I enjoy about Christmas. My fiance's love languages include gifts, so I know that it is a time that I get to remind her that I am in fact thinking about her when she is not around. Now that I don't live at home, it is really great to spend concentrated time with my family. Travel, while stressful at times, is mostly adventurous.

But I am beginning to be overwhelmed with this nagging feeling that a solid 65% of the things that I do surrounding Christmas have little or nothing to do with the "reason for the season"... (and by typing that, I think I threw up in my mouth a little bit).

I don't think this feeling is limited to Christmas either. Bunnies and little fluffy yellow chicks have more to do with Easter than death and resurrection.

Others have felt this discontentment. They have stared movements like the advent conspiracy. While this is a great movement, I get the feeling that this can at times pull the focus of Christmas to a third meaningful, yet ancillary direction. The logic goes something like, "we want people to see Christmas as selfless, so let's pull the conversation towards redirection of funds towards social causes." While I would never say that social causes aren't important, it is also a divergence from the true nature of the season.

The center of Christmas is not anything else we have made it.
It is the irony of the incarnation, the fulfillment of promise, and it is the beginning of the end.

I guess I want a holiday or a time of year or something that will remind me of how wonderful this is and so often this holiday is about so many other things.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Baptism Audio Recording

After a little bit of trouble-shooting and internet research, I figured out how to post and stream an audio file here on the blog. Here is the audio recording of my baptism in November. Feel free to take a listen and here my testimony. The recording is only about 3-1/2 minutes long...but when I was reading my testimony in front of the congregation, standing in waist-deep water, it felt like an eternity! (Note - the recording below can only be listened to in internet explorer)


Sunday, December 21, 2008

missions coffee

So it wasn't exactly a missions coffee but Bethany and I met with a couple that is with WorldVenture. We had a great time talking to them about the challenges and joys of ministry life. Often, for me anyway, it is easy to see our missions goals as something very far off and disconnected instead of some thing that we are consistently working towards. This was a good reminder that God is continuing to lead us in this direction. It was good to get to see their perspective and to hear their story. I am really excited to see where God has for us!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I guest posted on my brother's photography blog photography exposure. It was pretty fun to take a thought and an image and put them together. If you have a second you should look at some of his other images, they are pretty amazing.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Thanksgiving Up North

We enjoyed a very jam-packed, fun-filled thanksgiving weekend with Nate's family and our friends up in Minnesota last weekend. It was a great 5 days of quality time with people we care about! Highlights included:
  • Lots of delicious food at Aunt Diane and Uncle Steve's house, along with a game of dominoes
  • A family trip to the Minnesota Zoo
  • A visit to the CnC Christmas party
  • Food and fun at Matt & Lizz Stendera's with Joe, Meg and Nikki
  • Eating dinner and playing Loaded Questions with Nate & Emily Manaen and Scott & Amy Whitmore
  • Decorating a tree and eating pie with the Minnesota Veermans
  • Sharing wedding details and updates with Nate's parents
  • Going to see the new bond flick, "Quantum of Solace"
Here are some photo highlights...

Steve masters the art of carving the turkey

Nate's brother, Evan, and his girlfriend, Anna

All of the grandkids (or future grandkids)

Anna shows her best side

A rousing game of mexican train dominoes

Posing in the shark exhibit at the Minnesota Zoo

The "awkward turtle"

Some kind of bear at the zoo that was adobably sleeping with his legs hanging straight down over a tree branch

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Baptism Photos

Here are photos from my baptism this morning. I was baptized by Susan Shelley, the children's pastor at Parkview. She and her husband, Marshall, have become friends of ours because they lead the 20-somethings group at the church and a few months ago, Marshall became Nate's boss at Christianity Today. Before I was baptised, I read my testimony to the congregation.

Thanks to those who came out to watch! There was a row of 8 people right at the front, cheering me on :) It was a very memorable, spiritual, blessed moment for me and I'm so thankful for the opportunity. It's also fun to reflect on the fact that in less than 5 months, another big event in my life will take place on that same stage!

Susan talks about how she knows me.

I share my testimony.

I am fully immersed!

Friday, November 21, 2008


OK, my turn! Nate is clearly beating me in the race to see who can write on our blog more :) But it's not a competition, so...

This Sunday, I am getting baptized! I know, I are probably thinking, "Bethany, why haven't you been baptized yet, if you have been a Christian for so many years?" I actually was baptized in my church in Connecticut as an infant many years ago. And since then, I had never really given it a second thought or been confronted with the challenge or opportunity to be baptized as an adult believer. I always assumed that I had been baptized once and that was enough.

A few months ago, Nate and I began to learn more about becoming members at our church, Parkview Community. We have really enjoyed and been blessed by our experience there and we hope to make it a longterm home church for us. However, we also found out that in order to become members, each of us needed to be baptized as a believer. All of a sudden, I was confronted with a decision. Did I want to be baptized again? Did I think and believe this was ok?

The issue of baptism has never really been one that I consider "major" in the realm of theological, divisive issues in the church. There are people on both sides of the fence - believers' vs. infant baptism - and I believe both sides are well intentioned and have good, biblical support for their beliefs. And even though I have decided to be baptized as a believer, I do not lose respect for anyone who leans the other way.

At the same time, going through this experience has definitely produced joy, excitement and a new sense of involvement related to the baptism issue. I am excited to publicly declare my faith in front of my church. It is a bit intimidating and that is good - it is pushing me to do something out of my comfort zones and there will be many more times where God will push me to do uncomfortable things! This is just one small step. I also believe the symbolism of full immersion baptism of a believer is so powerful - the water washing away my sin is a very tangible experience of God's grace in my life. I am also excited to celebrate my baptism and salvation with Nate and several close friends on Sunday, along with our church family.

Thank you, God, for the joy and grace-filled experience of baptism!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

sunday morning thoughts

The Pastor of our church (Parkview Community Church) has been teaching through Galatians "recently." We are in chapter 5 and the well known section of "the works of the flesh are (list of bad things) but he fruits of the spirit are..." I have been blessed by Ray's handling of this text.

Today's sermon was on the second fruit of the spirit. The fruit of the spirit is JOY.

I had a new perspective connection related to this, and the more I think about it the more simple it seems. But I have begun to realize that a life lived by the spirit will produce joy. I think I can unpack why this is a little more of a realization.

For most of us it is easy to connect some of the other fruits of the spirit with the life of the spirit. We talk a great deal about love displayed as we live by the Spirit. So much of caring for people in our community is motivated by the love of the Spirit. This is considered our primary reason for engagement. We point to scriptures like 1 Cor. 13 and point to the centrality of love as a motivation.

Patients, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control all have external components that are easier for us to look at them and say, "wow that girl is so kind, she must be walking in the Spirit." but I am not sure that 'seeing' someone joyful is as quickly connected with the life of the Spirit.

But joy is something that we should seek and something that is just as vital as a product of the life of the Spirit. Deep seated fulfillment and trust that God is in control is central to our experience of the Christian life. Piper has made great strides in bringing this to the attention of our generation. The joy that the life of the Spirit produces will carry us through hard times and is as central to the christian life as any of the other fruits of the spirit.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Life of Suburbs

I am going to tell you a story that will make you complementarian.

I was listening to This American Life while I was working out today. The theme was outsiders looking in and insiders looking out. I guess there is a story about that floating around in the news these days. The final story was of a woman who lived in a ticky-tacky suburb when she was growing up. Her father was a lawyer and made enough money for everyone to get what they wanted. One day all of this fell away.

Her mother announced a "family meeting" and brought her family together. When she entered the room the first thought on her mind was, "my parents are divorcing." This was confirmed in her mind when she could see that her father was a wreck. After everyone was gathered, her father began to tell them the real reason for the "family meeting."

It seems that early on in her father's legal career he had won a case. A case in which he had become an executor of a large trust on behalf of a wronged family. Initially he had taken the case pro bono but after a little while began to siphon money out of the trust. Tomorrow the father was going to turn himself in and the family should prepare for some major changes.

Well things changed, her father became a nicer person and chewed gum, her mother no longer felt the weight of being a suburban house wife, started a charity to help the homeless. All in all this changed their house for the better.

The interesting piece came at the end of the story. She said that one day they drove by their old house and the question came out, "why did Dad turn himself in?" Here was the answer. He got a letter from his oldest daughter who was in college. She said that she was proud of her father and all that she did and she wanted to become a lawyer like him. This completely undid her father and her mother found him crying in the fetal position in the den.

Here is where the kicker is, his daugther's respect for him and his work was enough to shock him out of his denial that the sin he was involved in was ok. The cognitaive disonence that he knew he was not respectable and yet she respected him, touched him deep in his soul. This story resonates with me in that this man did the honorable and respectable thing. The more I think about how respect connects with me, the more I agree about the value of respect in the male gender.

Monday, November 10, 2008

worldview at TED

I have engaged in a new lunch time ritual. I have begun to watch talks on What is TED you ask? TED is a conference of some of the worlds greatest thinkers from as many different disciples as you can imagine. Physicist, Biologists, Anthropologists, and so much more meet together and discuss their ideas. In this video Lee Smolin discusses his view that advances in the philosophy of government and law coincide with forward movement in astrophysics. Basically he sees a progression of our worldview.

Basically as we have seen in law where it is defined by relationships, our understanding of legal precedent, so physics is no longer about absolutes and about defining objects in terms of their relationship to the world around them. His argument went further in that while Aristotle needed an "unmoved mover" and Newton needed an external constant, all be it a deistic force, we are now free to simply define relationships and no longer need an objective constant.

I have a problem with this. Not only because I am a fan of the bible or because I believe in God, but because if someone says that we are fine to simply define ourselves in terms of relationship and not need a transcendent reference point of meaning, and that is ok, something in me cringes!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The common cold and my namesake

When I don't have a cold I completely take it for granted. The problem is that when I get a cold all of that goes out the window. It is one of those things that will sit in the background of life until it goes away constantly poking you and reminding you that there is something off. It lingers below the surface. I want to say something here that will redeem this little aside, but I am not sure that it is there or that it is real.

This leads me to the Namesake. (spoiler alert, I assume that you have seen the film, if you haven't - go see it, then we will talk) Bethany wanted to see this movie for a while and I was a little more cautious about it. I am not sure exactly why, maybe because I have an aversion to movies that will pull up deep emotions in me. I sorta knew that this film would. Here are some things that stood out to me.

The main character (Gogol) went on some what of a journey to discover his cultural heritage and ultimately himself. What was most facinating about this 'journey of discovery' is how normal it was. It involved falling in love and mourning the death of his father. I have often thought during 'pivotal times' in my life, "well here I am, this is supposed to be important." There was an emotional piece to it, but the truly profound discoveries of life have a way of sneaking up on you. The jump out of the fuzzy memories of life and suddenly cement themselves.

For instance, it was not a 'here comes a big moment' for me sort of thing when I went to a friend's wedding. It was his day, but for some reason God saw it fit that I would meet my future wife there. In that moment the memories I was creating had one significance, namely to share in my friend's joy, but now they have a completely other significance.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Unity and Community After College

Here is an article that I (Bethany) wrote recently for an online magazine - The Brew. Thought you all might enjoy reading it!

Unity and Community After College

“One hundred religious persons knit into a unity by careful organization do not constitute a church any more than eleven dead men make a football team. The first requisite is life, always.” - A.W. Tozer

There have been seasons of my life when I have been extremely blessed by unity and community with fellow believers, one of which was while attending a Christian college. Most students were required to live on campus and a tight-knit body of believers naturally formed. It was a place where students were challenged by their peers, both spiritually and intellectually, and where community members learned to share life (and possessions) with each other. It was also a place where I developed close, vulnerable, unified relationships with friends and mentors that led to significant and life-changing spiritual growth.

Now that I am a few years out of school, I have in some ways lost the sense of Christian unity I had in college. As a single young adult, it has been easy to become disconnected from those around me. I have the “freedom” to make decisions for though this may keep me from experiencing the unity and community that God wants for me. He calls and us to do life together by living as “one in heart and mind” (Acts 4:32). What does this look like? How do I change my life in order to recover the unity I experienced in college? Three ways that my college environment facilitated unity can also be used to seek it in life after college.

First is mentorship. In college, great mentors abound: professors, counselors and staff that have years of life experience and are eager to share their wisdom. I took this for granted as a student and didn’t realize until post-graduation what a gift it was to have so many wise, godly men and women around. When I still was a junior, I took on the role of resident assistant, where I was sometimes at a loss of how to best encourage and support girls. I made it through because of the mentorship I found in the senior staff members of my dorm. I went to them when I didn’t know what to say or how to act. I went to them when my uncle died and I felt like I couldn’t play the role anymore. I went to them when I was lost and they pointed me to the Truth.

Not only have I experienced the blessings of mentorship, but Scripture also endorses it and offers countless examples of what this relationship looks like. For example: Mordecai mentored Esther; Jesus himself mentored the twelve apostles; and Paul mentored Timothy, who in turn helped train Epaphras.

Today, I meet once a week with a woman from church who is at least 20 years my senior. She has helped me navigate the waters of job struggles, roommate challenges, and preparation for marriage. Her life experience and mature faith have been a great support to me.

An entire article could be written about these benefits but, suffice it to say, we should all find a mentor and stick with it. Ask the Lord to guide you and provide as you seek out an older, wiser Christian adult in your community or church. Doing so will open the door for God to provide guidance and accountability in a new way in your life and put you on the road to unity with God and fellow believers.

Another way to find unity is through accountability in prayer. Living in close proximity to 30 other Christian women in college, accountability came easier then than it does today. For instance, when two of the four girls in my freshman quad revealed they had or were struggling with eating disorders, the four of us were able to come together in prayer and ask God for wisdom and freedom from that struggle. This gave us access and permission to hold each other accountable–to make sure the girls were eating and to ask them tough, pointed questions. We were united and connected to each other as it is describes in Hebrews 10:24: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

I still want to live like this, but I must intentionally seek out relationships characterized by accountability, prayer and a willingness to call me out on my sin. Since college, I have found these relationships through a women’s young adult Bible study. Each evening we meet, we study the Word and then break up into smaller groups for prayer. The women in my group have become some of my closest friends because of our mutual sharing, vulnerability and communal prayer. I can “air my dirty laundry,” knowing they will correct but not judge.

The final way is through sharing. I am thankful that I was a part of a college community that valued sharing time and money with others. It was this environment that challenged me to take a bold step my junior year and apply to Youth Hostel Ministries (YHM). I spent the following summer working and evangelizing in a Christian youth hostel in Amsterdam and the experience changed my life. I am now moving toward becoming a full-time missionary in Europe because of it. Experiences like YHM, which allowed me to serve alongside my fellow classmates, united us in “heart and mind” and helped us form close bonds.

If I am truly seeking unity, I must learn to share. This means being willing to share my time with those in my community, my resources with people in need, and my life with whomever God places in my path. For me, sharing has meant continuing to work through challenges in my relationship with my roommate and figuring out how to share space with someone who functions differently than me. It has meant sharing the responsibility of leading Bible study discussions at my small group and sharing my time with a local crisis pregnancy clinic as a counselor. I have become more united with my close friends and church community as I have shared and served in these ways.

All of these methods are very counter-cultural. The world tells us to be independent, to hide our needs and insecurities, and to accumulate wealth and possessions for our own use. But God wants us to live differently. And where will we be if we intentionally seek these things? We will be united with believers in our immediate community, the global body of Christ, and most importantly, with God Himself.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Welcome Friends and Family

Hello everyone! We would like to welcome you to our new blog. It will be a place for us to share pictures, thoughts, and stories of our adventures in life together. In the beginning, this blog will chronicle the time leading up to our wedding. We will have all the info about what we are doing and how we are planning for marriage.

So feel free to sign up and receive email notices when we update, add our RSS feed to your feed reader, or just come back and see us and post a comment and share with us in God's grace and glory!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Update on wedding plans...

Since Nate and I got engaged on August 4th, we've accomplished a lot of planning for our April 18th wedding. It's been a fun process so far and we are very excited about the day and how it is going to reflect us as a couple. Our goal is to create a day that celebrates our love for each other, as well as our commitment to loving and serving God. And my personal goal is to plan everything well enough that I don't have anything to worry or stress about on that day!

So far, we have finalized the following details:

* Church
* Reception location
* Menus & cake
* DJ
* Color scheme
* Bridal party
* Florist
* Photographer
* Make-up/hair artist
* Wedding gown and bridesmaid dresses
* Honeymoon location
* Wedding day transportation
* Invitations (they have been designed by yours truly)
* Save the Date (already sent via email)
* Guest list
* Wedding bands (purchased and on hold at the jeweler)
* Ceremony musicians
* Linen rentals
* Wedding website created:

That's a pretty long list! I hadn't written it out before... Since we've accomplished so much, we are just slowly moving along now as details unfold. it's been a fairly stress-free process! We have begun to discuss scripture readings for the ceremony, reception and ceremony music, and wedding favors. It is fun for us to brainstorm together the elements that really reflect who we are and what we value.

That's the update! :)

We also had engagement photos taken a few months ago by our wedding photographer (and friend). Here are a few of our favorites...