Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas 2009 Update

Dear friends and family,

We hope that 2009 has brought you a year of blessing and joy. Because we are big music fans, we have chosen to catch you up on our year with a few song titles. Sing along with us!

Going to the Chapel… We walked down the aisle and spoke vows to each other on April 18th, beginning our married life together. Surrounded by family and friends, our wedding day was a wonderful celebration, filled with joy, laughter, food and, of course, great music!

Soak Up the Sun…The day after our wedding, we headed off to a weeklong honeymoon is Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. We relaxed and recovered from the wedding, enjoyed spa treatments and delicious food, drove a dune buggy through the dessert, zip-lined across a canyon and rode on an America’s Cup sail boat.

Leaving on a Jet Plane…Bethany continues to jet set around the country producing live corporate events. She has been at One Smooth Stone for 4-1/2 years and this year took her to Nashville, Colorado Springs, Atlanta, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, and Minneapolis, to name a few.

Working Man…Nate has been working at Christianity Today as a Marketing Coordinator since April of 2008. He currently markets Leadership Journal and PreachingToday.com, two resources for church pastors. He especially enjoys staying up on new media and creative ways of marketing his products online.

Into the Ocean… We enjoyed 4 days at the Gran Melia Resort in Puerto Rico in August, a trip we termed “Honeymoon Dos”. While Bethany worked on an event, Nate laid by the pool and photographed iguana. We enjoyed a few days together on the beach before returning home.

Sunday Morning… We became members of Parkview Community Church in Glen Ellyn, IL in January. We are blessed to be a part of a great church community, where we serve on the music worship team and participate in a weekly small group bible study.

Home for the Holidays… In September, we moved to a 1 bedroom apartment in Wheaton. Better location, more affordable and well-suited for just 2 people. We’ve made it home and decorated our first Christmas tree together a few weeks ago!

Born to be Wild… One of our favorite pastimes has become going on “food adventures”. In addition to trying new local and ethnic restaurants, some of the interesting foods to come out of our kitchen have included sushi rolls, pad thai, fresh pasta and ravioli, paella, curried lentils, and trifle.

Love and Marriage… We are enjoying married life…sharing a home, making memories and getting to wake up every day next to each other. Even with our differences and quirks, we love each other very much and still make each other laugh.

May 2010 hit every “note” you hope for. Merry Christmas from the Johnsons!

- Nate and Bethany

“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” Psalm 100

Merry Christmas from the Johnsons

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pad Thai and Christmas Cheer

Photos of one of our new favorite meals...homemade Pad Thai (courtesy of Alton Brown)

It's officially Christmas season...last week, we got our first real Christmas tree!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thanksgiving in Connecticut

Last week, we enjoyed 5 days in Connecticut with my family. This included my brother, Erik, his wife, Amy, and their four kids, Meg, Nate, Kate and Caleb (in from Atlanta). My sister, Crista, her husband, Chuck, and their kids, Kylie and Tyler, and my parents were there (they all live in CT). True to tradition, we took our annual family photo!

The nice Christmas card photo

The photo that shows what we're really like!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Photo Diary from Caribou

Last Saturday we went on a walk over to Caribou.  I have always wanted to do a photo diary entry so here is my attempt!

what occupies your weekends?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Today is the day...

I was really challenged by an article I read today, sent by Rev. Thomas Gold is his November prayer letter. (Thomas is a dear friend of ours. He is the pastor who married us and a wise man from whom we often seek counsel. Thomas used to head up the College and Career ministry at Friendship Church in Minnesota, where Nate attended.)

The article challenges readers to stop delaying and act now, today. Life on earth is fleeting and we only get one chance to live through it, before eternity in heaven. So what is holding us back from truly living out the gospel on earth, while we still have the opportunity? Why aren't we loving our neighbor, selflessly loving our spouse, honoring our parents, and telling the world about Jesus? Our life here on earth is perhaps only a blip on the radar, in comparison to our eternal life...but it's still an important blip and one we shouldn't waste. Wow...that's convicting.

Obviously, its our sin that so entangles us and holds us back from truly living Christ-like lives. But that may look different for everyone. For me, I think I tend to be held back from action by insecurities, fear of rejection, and the "tyrany of the urgent"... getting caught up in tasks that appear to be urgent at the time, but in the grand scheme of things really aren't as important as I make them out to be. This article was a good reminder that I need to surrender my time, money, actions and life more fully.

My mind goes to Hebrews 13...here are the first 6 verses, with emphasis added (by me) on verse 6. This is a reminder of how we should live and the confidence we have in the Lord.

"Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
'Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.'
So we say with confidence,
'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
' "

Monday, November 9, 2009

Spending Less...Impacting More

As the holidays are approaching, this time of year typically means being bombarded with advertising campaigns and the pressure to spend, spend, spend. And to a certain extent, I'll bet that 2009 will not be too much different than years past. However, I have been pleasantly surprised that a different message has broken through the clutter of communication - the message to spend less this Christmas.

In the last few days, I have come across a few different pieces of communication that are striving to get out a different message this Christmas, one that encourages Americans in particular to go against the norm and spend less this year. A video and compaign that I was especially impressed with and convicted by is the Advent Conspiracy (see the video!). Our church, Parkview Community, is promoting and participating in this campaign. Today, I read a great blog entry by our Executive Pastor on a related subject...read his thoughts here.

Reading and watching and hearing this new message has been encouraging to me, but it is also raising a lot of questions in my mind. It leads me to go back to the fundamental question of whether or not we should give gifts are Christmas. Is giving gifts to loved one a good way of showing love to them? If so, when are we going overboard? How much is too much? Coming from a family who loves giving gifts and being a person who really loves to give and receive gifts, it would be hard for me to cut this out of the holiday as a way of celebrating. This year, I hope I will be an especially wise steward of our finances...spending some money on gifts for family and friends, being creative in how I spend those funds and giving a lot of time/energy/money away to those who need it more than we do.

What do you think about giving gifts at Christmas? Share your thoughts!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Leap of Faith

Bethany and I watch a show called ‘The Amazing Race.’  If you have never seen the show, the premise is that teams of 2 race around the world accomplishing tasks that relate to the places they visit.  Most of the show is not getting lost and not killing one another in the process. 

On the last episode there was a situation that really got me thinking.  A couple was approaching the finish.  All they had to do was go down a waterslide (pictured above) and run across a beach to finish this leg of the race.  The first few minutes of this video show her completely paralyzed by her fear of heights and water. The video is in the full post.

When we first watched the video, it was pretty astonishing.  It isn’t often that you see someone at in their worst moments like that.  To see her stare her fear in the face and blink is interesting to watch.

But I think there are so many times when our decisions are shaped by fear.  Often it isn’t the large moments like this video depicts but smaller choices and smaller moments.  Do you think is a primary motivator in our culture?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tim Keller Sermons, for FREE!

I noticed on Justin Taylor's Blog that you can can find Tim Keller sermons for free! (they are $2.50 or so)  The site isn't quite up and running yet but it should be soon.  here is the link.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Not Very Often

You won't see a bunch of marketing posts here, I promise. But this link caught my eye.

So often we go back and forth and put off deciding - often not realizing we just made a decision.

Every one (yes even leaders) could benefit from this post.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Intentional Community

Recently, I have been thinking about community. I know the word "community" is possibly the broadest term out there, so let me bring it down a few notches. Digital community is all the rage. Online, you can attend a church service, do a service project, or even "have community". A lot has been made about this in recent months...you can read some comments on Out of Ur by Bob Hyatt. While I don't really feel the need to weigh in on this is debate, an aspect of this discussion has stuck out to me in recent conversations and readings.

I was reading a newsletter recently that was talking about the use of Facebook as a marketing tool. The premise of the piece was that the beauty of Facebook is that you can check in on someone's life (stay connected, follow what someone is doing) with little to no actual interaction with someone. Some may just call this "Facebook stalking" and there isn't anything inherently wrong with this. The article was praising it is as good thing. From their perspective, your customers can tell everyone via facebook that they are involved in your brand without actually needing to say much in person.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Birthdays, Weddings and Moving

A few updates from the last few weeks...

- I (Bethany) turned 26 yesterday. And Nate did a fantastic job in making my first married birthday special! We were involved in a wedding on Saturday and then the festivities started. We explored the town of Geneva, IL, after the wedding and went out to dinner at a cute little Thai restaurant. Then on Sunday, we enjoyed a picnic in a local park after church and played some frisbee. Sunday evening was the big surprise...a surprise party! Friends came over for a BBQ and game playing. Yesterday evening, we went out to dinner at the Cellar Bistro in Wheaton and then enjoyed some Cold Stone ice cream. He also bought me a beautiful handmade earring and necklace set made in Guatemala. He is a wonderful and loving husband!

- Our friends, Emily and Jason Miller, were married on Saturday afternoon, August 29th. They are great friends, fellow camping adventurers, and Emily has been a co-worker of mine for several years. I had the previlege of serving as her personal attendant for the day and was running around taking care of details all morning. The wedding was beautiful and we are so excited they are in the marriage club!

- The latest development in our life is...we've decided to move! We're relocating to a 1 bedroom apartment in Wheaton, which will save us money and help us downsize a bit. Since we hope to move to Europe withing the next 2 - 3 years, this is the beginning of getting rid of things we will not need. I'm a little intimidated by the process of packing and moving all over again, but it will be well worth it. We've been selling items on craigslist and will be having a garage sale in a few weeks, in anticipation of the move.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Happy birthday, Mom!

Sorry for the lack of blog posts lately! July flew by quickly for us... I (Bethany) was out of town for a bit for work and we have had a few more weekend excursions that have kept us busy. But don't worry - no news is good news. Nothing major is our life has really changed, so there hasn't been much to say! :)

One of my recent excursions was this past weekend...a wonderful celebration of my mother. My Mom turned 60 yesterday and to celebrate this momentous occasion, my brother, sister, Dad and I teamed up to plan a surprise party for her. We did tell her we were going to have a small celebration, but in reality, it was a lot bigger than she was expecting! She was welcomed to the party by about 30 friends and family. Erik flew in from Atlanta and I flew to CT from Chicago and she was so surprised to see us there, she started crying. It was the best moment of the evening!

It was really special to have all of us together and to get to celebrate how wonderful my Mom really is...she is a true blessing to all of us and is so generous, thoughtful and caring. I don't know where I would be without her. As I've become an adult, she has become one of my best friends and I so treasure that. I am also thankful that I got to stay in Connecticut until Monday afternoon and enjoy some quality time with my parents, my sister and her kids. We swam in the pool, went to New York, went shopping and lounged around together. It was a great weekend!

The original Veermans
from the left...my Dad (Paul), Me, my Mom (Darian), my sister (Crista) and my brother (Erik)
My Mom and I, enjoying the party!

60th birthday decorations!

The rest of the photos are posted here: http://tinyurl.com/lacx64

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Scooters, Camping and More

Some of our latest newlywed adventures...

  • A few weeks ago, we purchased a red Schwinn 50cc Collegiate scooter. It's so fun! We found it on Craigs List and had talked about getting one for awhile before finally making the purchase. Nate rides it to work and Bethany is hoping to do the same one of these days. No photos of us riding it yet, but here is what it looks like...

On June 13, our good friends from Minnesota, Joe Pint and Meg Wisdom, got married! Nate was honored to be a groomsman in the wedding. We had a fun time celebrating with them and catching up with friends and family while we were in town.

Joe and Meg, the happy couple!

Nate and Bethany at the wedding - another happy couple :)
Last weekend, we enjoyed a 2-night camping trip in Wisconsin with Nate's parents. We camped at Mirror Lake in Baraboo and drove over the Devils Lake for a hike on Saturday. We enjoyed exploring the area and hanging around the campfire. (photos below) It was so fun, we were inspired to plan a backpacking trip for this coming weekend. We leave tomorrow for 2 days in Kettle Morraine State Park with our friends Emily & Jason.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Newly-wed game

Hello Friends!

just a quick note about how our life has been since we got married. The key word has been fun! We have had a ton of fun on all kinds of adventures! We have been to two weddings, survived colds and colon infections and explored Old Town. Here are some pictures of our adventures!

We used our Paella pan to make a delicious dinner.

While in Minnesota for a wedding we got to meet our friend's new baby!

We were directed to some horses that were grazing right in the middle of the city!

And here we are at the spot we got engaged!

So we have had a great time in our first month and some of life together!

Love you all!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My First Trifle

Today, I made my first trifle dessert using one of the fun, new kitchen items we were given as a wedding present from our bridal registry - a trifle dish (kudos to Suz for purchasing it for us...she's been known to make a mean trifle herself). It has been fun over the last few months and weeks to explore many new kitchen items and dishes, including cooking Asian food with our wok, forming turkey burgers with our burger press, making homemade pizza dough in our food processor, grinding hummus in our Magic bullet, baking with the Kitchenaid Mixer, and, as of tonight, creating paella in our paella pan.

I suppose making all of these things for the first time are just some of our firsts as a married couple...in the last few weeks, we've woken up beside each other, shared living space, attended church and social functions being labeles as married, and enjoyed being able to call each other husband and wife, all for the first time. All of these firsts have an excitement and freshness to them, as we lay the groundwork and begin a journey that will last a lifetime. I hope and pray that as we move forward on that journey, we continue to look at each new day and step together with the same excitement and eagerness that we feel now.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

We're married!

The day finally came and now, Nate and I are husband and wife. Yay! We had a wonderful wedding week and a beautiful wedding that we both really enjoyed. It was amazing to have so many great family and friends together for the big day - what a blessing. After all of our planning, the day went very smoothly (I can't really think of anything big that went wrong) and I wasn't stressed at all the week of the wedding. I was SO thankful for this. The ceremony and reception were exactly what we had envisioned and they were both a reflection of who we are as a couple and what we value.

We both have agreed that the wedding was one of the most exhausting things we've ever been through. The combination of spending so much time with family and friends and not being able to sleep because of the sheer excitement meant that we were extremely over tired by the time we left the reception. Thankfully we had a wonderful and relaxing honeymoon in Los Cabos, Mexico planned for the following week!

Here are a few photo highlights from the wedding... (Photos from friends are just now trickling in.)

Listening to the message from our pastor, Thomas Gold

Watching the musicians. On the left is my sister and matron of honor, Crista.

Pouring the unity salt - two colors of salt meshing together to symbolize our lives being melded into one. It was poured on a foundation of white sand to represent God as our foundation.

Departing the church for the reception.

The bridal party!

Cute pic with my cousins' girls - Natalie and Amy.

Posing at the reception with my bridesmaid, Sarah, who flew from Moscow, Russia to be there!

Posing with my beautiful bouquet!

A special performance by the Veerman brothers... It garnered many laughs!

Our final dance before departing the reception...
lindy hop (8-count swing) to the song "The Best is Yet to Come".

Here are a few photo highlights from the honeymoon in San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico.

Visiting a blown glass factory in Cabo San Lucas

America's Cup Sailing Adventure

Riding a dune buggy through the desert to a large canyon...

Then ziplining through the canyon!

Self portrait on the beach

The view from our balcony

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Next week, everything changes!

It definitely hit me this past Monday – Nate and I are getting married next week. WOW! After 8 months of being engaged and many more months of anticipating engagement and dreaming about our future together, we are just days away from beginning our lives as husband and wife. If you were to ask me how I’m feeling right now, I would probably list emotions such as excited, nervous, overjoyed, eager, mildly anxious, and impatient. We are so ready to be there and at this point, it just feels like the days are dragging by! And then, when we each walk out of work next Tuesday and enjoy the rest of the week with family and friends, I’m sure it will fly by so quickly we can hardly keep up with it all.

It’s interesting, as our engagement is coming to a close, to reflect back on this time we’ve had to prepare. I cannot tell you how many times people said to me, “Enjoy this special time of preparation! Don’t get too stressed! This is such a fun time for you both!” Overall, these are good words of wisdom because it is a special time – to begin making plans together and to create a day to celebrate your marriage. But…I have to admit that engagement definitely wore on us after awhile and it was harder than I expected it to be. We’re both tired of being in limbo and waiting for our lives to start. We feel like everything is kind of put on hold until the wedding and then we can move on and face the joys and challenges of marriage. So, for all of you engaged couples out there, I have one thing to say: It’s ok if you don’t like being engaged after awhile. Don’t feel bad for admitting it, just because everyone tells you’re supposed to enjoy it. It’s hard to wait, but it will get better!

One thing that I am currently very thankful for: I am not stressed or overwhelmed. I worked hard so that these last few weeks, I wouldn’t be very busy and, in fact, I’ve run out of things to do. My tasks for this weekend are limited to cleaning my house and car before guests arrive late next week. Yay for planning ahead!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

we are to that point

We are to the point where whenever we say our wedding date, the other person's eyes get really big and they say something like, "wow that is really soon!" I think it is one of the only times that we as a couple are wandering around on the cusp of a major life change and don't really physically appear to be there yet. For example, if we were having baby, it would be pretty obvious if you just looked at Bethany (especially 3 weeks before the due date!). I guess maybe we would be in this position if we were adopting a child. But even that is so much more private, there isn't the same comparison.

It is a fascinating proposition, to stare at yourself in the mirror and say, "I am right on the edge of a story that I will tell for the rest of my life." There is a surreal quality to all of this. I felt this way acutely when I was in Bosnia for my internship. People would tell me, and I would tell myself, that this experience will shape how I view the world for a long time. So what exactly does the monumental feel like? Is it supposed to be that much different than a normal Tuesday?

I guess I am just marveling at the fact that in the end it will be exactly like everyone says. I will forget what I did most Tuesdays or even most Saturday nights for that matter. But on April 18th something mystical and lovely is going to happen. And it will shape how I think and feel and see the world for the rest of my life. And there really isn't anything that I can do to make most Saturdays more normal and that day any less abnormal - in a good way. I think the best I can do is to ride it out. Ride the emotional and surreal waves of life and drink what I can from those cups while they are my table for that day.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Authentic Worship Experiences

There have been many times in my life where I have looked at a church service and said, "wow, if I didn't believe this was true, I would totally be out of here." Sometimes I have even looked at a worship gathering and said "I am so out of here", even though I believe it to be true. Like many in my generation, I seek authenticity in worship. This authenticity is something that is often expressed in different ways than in previous generations.

One of the largest changes in this generation has been a move away from sentimentality. Extravagant emotional experiences were often the norm in times and places where lack of technology or poverty created a material void. This void was often filled by grand romantic gestures, especially in formal events or worship experiences. In our generation, this sentimentality has come into question in as much as it is related to worship experiences. We no longer want a worship experience that gives us an emotional high as much as we want one that reflects the reality of life.

Emotional heart strings have become too easily pulled. The marketer's savvy has cheapened this sentimentality. The problem comes when someone from my generation interacts with previous generations, where this sentimentality communicates authentically real emotions. Those from my generation tend to look at that and feel as though the experience is very inauthentic. The question here is 'authentic to whom?' If the sender and the receiver of the message are communicating real emotions through culturally understandable means, the experience is truly authentic. I am the outsider for their experience. Were they trying to send that message to me, I wouldn't receive it, but I can't judge their heart and motives in this. But I, and those from my generation, do this every day.

In the end, it can be an opportunity to lay down myself and experience a different 'form' of worship than I am used to. I get to set aside my preferences in the face of their authentic communication of emotion and internal realities. This doesn't mean that I have to have the same experience they are having, but I can appreciate it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sushi and Living Life Together

This weekend we learned a few important things,

first and foremost we learned that ingredients for sushi go a lot longer than we thought they would.

On Saturday we had a couple from Bethany's old harvest small group over to make sushi and enjoy some good food and good times together. We definitely had plenty of both. We had a ton of food. From Pot Stickers and edamame to our very own sushi rolls full of all kinds of fish and veggies (who knew that cooked Eel would be any good?). Actually...we had so much food that we were able to have some friends over from church for another round of sushi making on Sunday! And, Bethany still made 4 more tupperware containers full of left overs to take for lunches (as long as it lasts).

The most fun was being with the people. There is definitely an intimate dynamic that is present when you share a meal with some one especially in a home setting. I wonder if our cultural values of "food on the run" and "go out to eat" are actually the most intimate of things. Not to say that dining out is bad and can't be a great special occasion. But there is something simple and wonderful about a meal in a home around a table. As a single person, I found that I did that very rarely, but I do hope that I get to do that more once we are married.

Along these same lines, we have started a ministry tradition. We try to have lunch with a group of people or a couple after church. It is a great way to connect with people that you may or may not know from church and bring people together is a very relaxing atmosphere. It also is another way in which we are trying to not just attend our church but engage with people there. It is great that we can use something as simple as eating to do life together.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bridal Showers and Counting Down

It is officially 59 days until the wedding and today, February 18th, is just 2 months away from the big day...April 18th. It's crazy to think that it is almost here! We are very ready to get married and can't wait to celebrate with everyone we care about. RSVPs are slowly trickling in online and it's fun and exciting to see all of the people that will be there!

I had the chance to celebrate this past Sunday with many friends and family at my second bridal shower! It was so fun to get lots of ladies together and to have the chance to catch up with friends I don't see all the time. My bridesmaids, Suz and Jenn, did a great job planning - thank you so much! My wonderful Aunt Gail hosted the event and her home was a beautiful place to have it.
Here are a few photos:

The personalized cookie favors that each guest got to take home...

Me wearing my "bride" tank top!

A group photo of all of the Veermans who were in attendance.
We seemed to have a color theme going... :)

Last month, I flew home to CT to attend my first bridal shower that my mom and sister threw for me (with the help of two of my other bridesmaids, Kristen and Cori). It was another great time of celebration and it was so fun to see friends who I hadn't seen in a long time (in some cases, years!) Here are a few photos from that shower:

My mom reading a heartfelt letter to me (she, Crista and I were all crying!)...

Playing a game where I had to chew a stick of gum for every question
I got incorrect about Nate (and trust me - they were obscure questions!).
The spread of delicious appetizers!

Posing with my matron of honor (Crista), my two bridesmaids (Kristen and Cori)
and one of my flower girls, Kylie!

Assembling wedding invitations the day before...