Teacup Arrangement

Flower arranging is always a skill I have admired, but never seem to get right! Nevertheless, I saw this post on a craft site and despite my reluctance to buy fresh flowers (they die so quickly!) I think that I need to try this. It would be great for a tea party bridal shower or just a fun, colorful arrangement in your home! And, you don’t need a huge vase to create this, so that’s a plus if you don’t have many flowers to work with. Some day I will give this a shot, and post it for you all to see. In the meantime, you can admire and learn how to create this beautiful teacup floral arrangement here: http://www.craftbits.com/project/teacup-floral-arrangement

What the blog?!

Another one? Yes…Jonathan has a new blog for all you reformed thinkers out there…and for those that aren’t, well you should still read it because it’s pretty darn cool! The tagline is “reformed thinking: Books, Movies & Culture Examined Through Scripture” – in other words, awesome. I love you Jonathan! Look to the right of this page for a link to his creation…and stay tuned for more info about an up-and-coming Christian quote website.

Aloha,
Lisa

Post-valentines dinner

Jon went skiing with the youth group today, so after seeing Dear John with some of the sophomore gals that didn’t go skiing, I ventured to cook him a yummy post-ski meal! with no particular menu the in mind, I wound up preparing 4 dishes, my favorite of course being dessert – fruit pizza with a heart made of strawberries in the middle. Jon loved the romantic candlelit dinner & we’ll have to get back to you on dessert cause we’re too stuffed right now to try it! Until my next infrequent post…aloha!
Lisa

Why I’m Thinking About Attending Seminary

Some people know that I’m considering attending seminary next year.  For many people, when I first told them of my seminary plans, they were quite shocked.  That’s OK because I was shocked too when the idea came into my head.  Below is an essay that I wrote, primarily to help clarify my thoughts, but I hope it also helps answer your questions as I consider this drastic career change.

Career Change: Why I’m thinking of Seminary and Full-Time Ministry.

Everything was good.  I just finished my time with the Marine Corps.  I recently married a wonderful wife. I was leaving the service, healthy and with all my limbs.  I looked forward to my bright and sunny future as a small business owner.   I traded my fatigues for dress shirts and loafers, and I couldn’t be happier.  From as far back as I could remember my dream was to start a business, be successful and retire happy.

But while my fatigues lay in the closet, and I basked in the freedom of creating my own hours and being my own boss, I didn’t realize how the Marine Corps changed me.  It took half-a-year before I would see this change.  One night this past September, as my wife and I pondered our future, a strange thought entered my head.  I wasn’t nearly as happy as I thought I’d be running my own business.  I felt like I wasn’t using my gifts fully.  For the first time, I feared that I could retire as a successful small business owner and not feel as if I’d fulfilled God’s purpose for my life.

But why such a change?  I have to admit the immediate circumstances had an impact.  August 2009 was a slow month for KTG.  I struggled to see how I could make a career out of my new company.  Was I just wasting my time?

But there was a more fundamental change.  Up till that September evening, my only thoughts of the Marine Corps involved how thankful I was to be finished.  But now, almost as if a light was turned on, I started to understand the deep, personal impact of my two tours in Iraq.  In ways I never expected, the Marine Corps showed me that I have a deep care for people who are hurting.  Through the death of others God showed me that he provides a way to deal with such horrors.  Through returning safely from Iraq and with a peace of mind, God revealed that I should share his message of hope with others.

While the Marine Corps is made up of the toughest, fiercest fighters, the Marine Corps is not made up of the people with the best backgrounds.  When talking with junior Marines I would often hear stories of how the Marines Corps saved them from a path headed towards gang involvement or jail.

One of my first experiences with a young man who was likely rescued by the Marine Corps was Lance Corporal Chamroeun.  About three weeks after taking charge of my platoon, Chamroeun tried to illegally buy a pistol from a pawnshop.  “Why?” I asked.  “Because it was all chromed out sir.” Chamroeun seemed to believe that because the pistol was shiny, that justified buying it even though he was under age.e  As I learned the stories of the men in my platoon I developed a deep care for each of them.  While I tried to help them develop professionally and personally, I realized that the deepest impact I could have on them was by ministering to their spiritual needs. Just a few days into my first deployment in Iraq a roadside bomb killed LCpl Chamroeun.

Iraq showed me suffering.  There are few things that are harder to explain than the loss of a young man killed in combat.  But despite this, God showed me that he is to be trusted.  Perhaps the most influential event during my two deployments was on June 26,2008.  Around 10:00 AM a man wrapped in explosives walked into a tribal meeting between local leaders and Marines.  Within seconds of the detonation, 26 people were killed, including four Marines.  LtCol Galeai, the Battalion Commander and Capt Dykman were both people I had grown to care for and respect deeply—both couldn’t be recognized after the explosion.  My life was shaken.  LtCol Galeai’s death was particularly hard for me. LtCol Galeai was known among us as being extremely demanding and difficult to please.  Several of the officers couldn’t wait for LtCol Galeai to leave the battalion. But for some reason, LtCol Galeai seemed to like me.  In fact it was something of a mystery as to why I was the only of the battalion’s senior officers who he hadn’t chewed out.  I deeply respected LtCol Galeai.  To this day I still see him as the greatest influence upon my leadership style.   Knowing I would be leaving soon after returning from Iraq, I looked forward to telling LtCol Galeai how much I respected him and how much he taught me.  That day would never come.

At the time of the suicide bomber, I happened to be reading Fear and Trembling by Søren Kierkegaard.  I know that God wanted me to read Fear and Trembling in June 2008.  Kierkegaard looks at the story of when God told Abraham to sacrifice his one and only son.  Abraham did this unhesitatingly, despite waiting his entire life for this son.  Kierkegaard calls Abraham a Knight of Faith because Abraham completely suppresses his own desires and trusts completely in God.  Despite God’s command, Abraham still believed that God would fulfill his promises to build a nation from Abraham’s heirs.

I couldn’t understand why God allowed these Marines to die.  Each one left a wife and children behind.  Each one should have a long life awaiting them.  Yet God took their lives away.  Why?  Through Fear and Trembling I realized that I didn’t need to understand why.  I needed to have faith.  The kind of faith that Abraham had when he took the knife in his hand and was ready to kill his only son.  This faith isn’t like building up, or trying harder, but an act of total surrender.  A faith that says I give my life to you Lord.  A faith that removes my ideas of what is good and trusts in God.

After the loss of Capt Dykman and LtCol Galeai I had the chance to turn my back on God.  I could reject God on the basis that he couldn’t allow such awful things to happen.  But what I found was that Christianity helped me to make sense of this violence.  There was a surprising peace in surrendering my thoughts to God.  There was an incredible peace in knowing that Jesus experienced the same suffering that I did.  Christianity helped me make sense of this life.

I’ve returned from Iraq and I’m thankful to say that I’m fine.  I don’t experience many of the struggles other Iraq Veterans do.  This isn’t to say I wasn’t affected.  I find that I’m very sensitive—even to the point of tears—when I hear of service members being killed.  Certain movies that show soldiers being deployed and taking casualties now touch me in a deeper way.  But, Christianity has given me a way to make sense of all this.

One of my favorite hymns is “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.”  The third verse reads:

“His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower”

Certainly many of my experiences in the Marines could be described as bitter.  But I’m beginning to see how those bitter experiences deepened my faith, and shaped me spiritually.  I am thankful that God placed me in these difficult circumstances.  I’m starting to see that the bitter bud of loss and suffering is blossoming into a sweet flower.

Even though my uniforms still lay in back of the closet, the lessons I learned in Marine Corps remain with me. Through my experiences I’ve learned that Christ offers hope for suffering and Christ offers a way to make sense of the confusing.  This is a message I wish to share with others.

In order to test my desires for ministry I’ve started meeting every other week with our pastor to discuss my calling and pray.  Lisa and I were also asked to become youth group leaders.  I have really enjoyed preparing lessons and studies for the youth group.  I’m also working on creating a young men’s ministry for the High School seniors.  I believe that through these activities God will show me if I have a true desire and the gifts to participate in full-time ministry.

As I consider this drastic career change, I feel at peace.  As a test of my motives, business for KTG began to pick up.  I started getting larger projects and repeat clients.  I could see the light end of the tunnel.  I could see KTG being a career.  But I also see that God is involved in shaping my aspirations and the direction I thought my life would take.  I’m not sure where I will be 5 years from now, and I’m sure that my paychecks will never reach what they could have if I continued as a small business owner. But faith is pushing aside our desires, submitting to Christ’s purposes and knowing that in our weakness Christ will provide.

Philly!

Jon & I are in Philadelphia right now…celebrating our 1st anniversary (yay!), exploring highlights of our nation’s history, and checking out Westminster Theological Seminary. It has been quite rainy so far, but the colors of the leaves are absolutely gorgeous and compensate for the wetness. Since I am writing from my iPhone right now I will update more later and leave you with these pictures from Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed!

The Pickles

If you’ve got a few hours to spare, pickling is really, really easy. There is only one essential tool I have to recommend: a mandoline. We used a handheld one by Oxo from Crate and Barrel…it worked SO well and cut each cucumber with ease and uniform thickness. One of my favorite new kitchen tools! Jon loved this, too. (Thanks, Susan, for suggesting this!) Anyway, the first step in making pickles is the longest, only because once you cut the cucumbers you have to sprinkle them with salt and wait 3 hours until you start the actual canning. The salt helps pull the liquid from the cucumbers, which is then drained off before you mix the other ingredients. So really, it’s only a long step because you have to wait…not because you are stuck in the kitchen for that length of time. Here are some pictures of our great pickling experience, followed by the recipe we used at the end. Enjoy!

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All finished...yummy bread and butter pickles, canned and sealed!

All finished...yummy bread and butter pickles, canned and sealed!

Grandma Stoddard’s Bread and Butter Pickles

1 quart cucumbers (English work best)
onion and bell pepper (optional)
1/4 cup salt (we used sea salt and it’s recommended not to use table salt)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp white or yellow mustard (whole)
1/4 tsp tumeric
1 liter apple cider vinegar (approx.)
canning jars (3-4 medium size)

1. Slice cucumbers 1/8-1/4 inch thick and place in a large bowl. Add chopped onion and bell pepper if you desire.
2. Sprinkle salt over cucumbers/onion/bell pepper and stir. Let sit for 3 hours.
3. Drain liquid from cucumber mixture & rinse in colander with water to pull off excess salt.
4. In a large pot add cucumbers, sugar, mustard, tumeric, and enough apple cider vinegar to cover. Stir and heat but do not boil.
5. Meanwhile, sanitize/heat jars in lightly boiling water. Heat lid seals in warm water as well.
6. Once steps 4 and 5 are complete, you can start adding the cucumber mixture to the jars, leaving about 1/2 inch of space to the top of the jar. Wipe off the edge of the jar to ensure a clean seal and put lid seal + screw ring on top. (You will know your jar is properly sealed when you hear a “pop” and the middle of the lid seal in inverted.)
7. The next day, unscrew the ring around the jars and wipe off the top edge of the jars again. They will remain sealed, even with the ring removed, and will keep for at least a year.

Happy pickling!

We still exist!

You’re probably wondering where in the world Jon and Lisa have gone…well, wonder no further. We are right here in our cozy home in Denver, CO…just being utterly lazy when it comes to updating this blog! I truly will attempt to update more frequently, although life tends to get in the way and supersede my good intentions to to do so. At any rate, we’ll give it a-go once again. 🙂

Let’s see…since April (the last post) we have stayed quite busy – whether it be travels, family, work, or hanging out around the Denver area. Here’s a quick rundown:

May: Mom and Dad (Lisa’s) came out to visit as Mom had an APU event to attend in Highlands Ranch. They stayed in the spare bedroom and we had a lot of fun pretending we were a B&B and spending some much needed time with them! Jon’s birthday was also at the end of this month and we enjoyed his 27th by going to the Colorado Symphony and hearing an incredible Brahms piano concerto.
June: The weekend before Lisa’s birthday we went camping in Rocky Mountain National Park (Near Estes Park) and experienced nearly every weather phenomenon from hail to snow to wind and rain. We still managed to have fun though and snuggled inside the tent and read and practiced knot tying when the bad weather hit. For Lisa’s 25th birthday (the 11th), Jon made an incredible afternoon tea full of scones and a multitude of tea sandwiches! I must also mention the tea, which was some of the tastiest I’ve ever had. It was called “Creme Caramel” and came from The Tea Spot in Boulder. For all you non Coloradans, you can purchase it here: http://theteaspot.com/creme-caramel-black-tea-bulk.html?catid=253. So delicious! Also this month Lisa’s whole family (Mom/Dad, Mendi/Kasey/Brian & Grant) came out to visit for a few days. Their time here was packed with river rafting on the Arkansas River, a Rockies game, Father’s Day/Patti’s b-day celebration, hiking…you know, all the essential summer Colorado activities!
July: The 4th of July we spent up at the cabin in St. Elmo. Each year on Independence Day there is a town meeting/potluck in the old schoolhouse. Built in 1882, this schoolhouse functions as the town’s last municipal building. STE2 We enjoyed meeting the other families that enjoy this ghost town just as much as we do and had fun with Jon’s Aunt Becky, Uncle Paul, and Grandpa at the cabin. Lisa also attempted to climb her first 14-er (CO term for “14,000 foot mountain”) but stopped shortly after 13,000 feet/treeline due to inclement weather. (Jon, being a major stud, went all the way up!). Still – the hike was gorgeous and educational if I do say so myself! Toward the bottom we encountered a man kneeling down below some Aspen trees picking gigantic mushrooms! They looked kind of like these http://doorbell.net/lukes/a090602.htm and told us they were delicious sauteed with butter. He even gave us one, but after much contemplation we were too scared to cook it for fear of it being the wrong kind of mushroom…the kind that could potentially cause paralysis or even death! Haven’t you heard those horror stories of expert mushroom hunters accidentally eating poisonous mushrooms?? Yikes!! Too scary!
August: The big event this month was Jon’s cousin Ben’s wedding in upstate NY, providing a great opportunity for a Stoddard family reunion! The wedding was beautiful and we also were fortunate enough to see Niagara Falls while we were there and pick up some delish Canadian candy. 😉

Nestle's yummy candy from Canada

Nestle's yummy candy from Canada

Jon and I went to NYC for the first time after the wedding festivities and had a blast, to say the least! We sat nearly 10 feet from the stage for the classic musical South Pacific and I never want to sit farther than that ever again…we were spoiled! We also experienced NY bagels…which really are better than any other bagel I’ve ever had in my life. Central park was another highlight and I was ready to burst out in song when we walked near the large fountain from Enchanted…it was a magical moment. Haha. Our other favorite part about NY was The Frick Collection – a beautiful mansion built in 1913 that now functions as an art museum, housing a large collection of fine European artwork, furniture, rugs, etc. THIS is the museum to go to in NYC…I’ve never enjoyed a museum so much and because it was a private residence at one point, there is something haunting, quaint, and intimate about it. Plus, it’s not nearly as crowded as the MOMA. Needless to say, we loved NYC!
September: Ahhh…enter Fall…one of my favorite seasons and truly gorgeous time of year in Colorado! This month we went up to the cabin again and spent several days re-building the deck as it was completely rotted (supports and all) unbeknownst to all of us. It was quite a task but Jon, Uncle Rex, and AT managed to get it done as Susan and I worked to stain the wood. Good thing too…we’d hate plummet through a six foot high rotted deck in the middle of winter! Jon also completed a Century bike ride this month in Boulder (aka a 100 mile ride) in 5hr 7min to be exact. Go Jon!
October: TBD! Nothing majorly exciting so far, but we are planning a visit to Philadelphia, PA at the end of this month to check out Westminster Theological Seminary. Celeste will be getting her Master’s in Counseling here starting in the Spring and Jonathan is considering going for a Master’s in Divinity sometime next year. Yes, you heard right…Jon is thinking about entering the field of ministry! Believe me, we have been praying about this decision non-stop. At this point in time, all we ask for is prayer as this is a big decision and one that we want to make sure is truly God’s calling and not solely our own desires. Keep your eyes peeled for a post detailing more about this from Jonathan in the future.

So that, in a rather large nutshell, is what has been happening in the Stoddard household. Until next time, au revoir!

St. Elmo Cabin Weekend

We just got back from a fun weekend getaway in St. Elmo, Colorado. Jon’s grandpa owns a cabin up there that he graciously allows the rest of the family to use any time we so desire.  The cabin is just west of Buena Vista, CO in the coolest little town, and by little, I mean little! In fact, I’m pretty sure no one actually lives in the town any more, save the people that own the Bed and Breakfast. There is probably a total of about 20 buildings in the town itself (just estimating) and many, if not most, are abandoned due to the fact that they were built in the late 1800’s when Colorado mining was at it’s peak. Here’s a website for more info on the town: http://www.st-elmo-colorado.com/

Anyway, Jon and I were eager to get up to the cabin one last time before the snow had completely melted so that we could do some x-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. We only saw 4 people while up there – 2 on snowmobiles and another 2 in a Jeep that were heading out of the town after digging their car out of a ditch they managed to get stuck in. Needless to say, it was incredibly peaceful! Here’s a video of some of our adventures, complete with Lisa almost singing her narrative and Jon doing a British narrative for some reason:

And, some pictures too! Enjoy!

sport stacking ever heard of it?

Never fear…neither had I. Until, that is, Amy Stoddard introduced us all to this unusual “sport” that she coaches at a local elementary school in Colorado Springs. Here’s a video you all must watch of the current Sport Stacking World Champion, a 10-year old kid!

Amazing, no?! We all tried this a few weeks ago at a family b-day gathering and it is super challenging. Not being so athletically inclined though, I think I would’ve enjoyed something of this nature in my elementary school days. It’s nice that someone is finally reaching out to the athletically-challenged/braniac kids out there and calling this a sport!

In other news, Jon and I are, of course, still loving living here in Denver. It snowed quite a bit yesterday although it will probably be clear by tomorrow (that’s how things work here). Right now we’re trying to plan something fun for our b-days (which are about 13 days apart) and we’re thinking that camping might be the solution. In Estes Park, CO there are some great camping spots w/ excellent hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. In addition to satisfying the nature-lover part of me, there are also many cute shops & restaurants plus the ultra-creepy Stanley Hotel made famous in the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Shining”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Hotel) You must watch this movie – theversion with Jack Nicholson – it’s a classic!
Featured in "The Shining" and "Dumb and Dumber"

i can't believe i get to live in this beautiful state!

i can't believe i get to live in this beautiful state!

Well, it’s time to wrap this up! We’ve got a Sport Stacking National Championship game to attend to!

-Lisa

OUR HOME!

At last…here are some photos of our townhouse here in Denver, Colorado! Hope you all enjoy 🙂