Friday, January 28, 2011

Be Still

2011 is still so fresh. 
Our resolutions and hopes have set the first few prints of tracks in the snows of January.
As the snow blows into February and threatens to sweep away the beginning tread we've put in, I still feel sure of where I'm headed, thanks to a weekend this January at The Cove.

Over a snowy Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, Neal and I threw a few hoodies and sweatpants into a small suitcase and headed for Lake Geneva, WI.
We'd decided ahead of time that getting away to watch movies, surf hotel cable channels, and lounge around eating Oreos, while it wouldn't be bad, wouldn't be much different than what we do at home on the weekends at our laziest.
So instead of traveling to WI to cozy up and do just what we can do at home, Neal planned a spiritual retreat of sorts for us, knowing the refreshment would be much deeper, besides just being flat out needed to head into 2011 after such a tumultuous 2010 for us.

I read recently that really we shouldn't call such getaways retreats, but rather advances.
 I can't decide now which I think it should be.

Retreat was important: we shut off phones, internet, TV, all media.
And simply rested.
We got away from work and to-do's and people.

But advance happened: we studied chapters of God's word, sought the Lord in prayer, recorded the ways He's been faithful to us in this recent season of trial, read books, found new promises in Scripture to cling to, grieved losses, celebrated hope, planned for the present.

Retreat in order to advance.
There, that seems about right.

Honestly, it was amazing.  Within a matter of hours of no media, we both felt more calm than we had in months.   
Apparently we picked the right weekend, because the hotel was pretty much ours... the pool, the hot tub, the workout room... just us (sweet!).
Our focus in Scripture was on Psalm 31 and James 1... and the Word did not return void.

It was ground-breaking for me in processing how to go forward from here with my health trial, but instead of trying to write it all out here, somehow I'd rather talk about it in person with all of you dear friends.
Phone date, coffee date, pajama pants date?
I hope we get to do that soon!

So for now, a few pictures to remember what I know already will be one of the best parts of all of 2011.

{The Cove}

{View from our window}
{Be still}

{The pool}
{Walk in the snow}

{Away is a good place to be}
For a little while.

I'll sign off with a few verses from the weekend that are still with me as my boot prints cross from January into February.

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have it's full effect." 
James 1

"But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, 'You are my God.'  My times are in your hand."
Psalm 31

"Oh how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you."
Psalm 31

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Hunger Games

So, I think I mentioned to you that in preparation for the sub-freezing temperatures of last weekend, I had collected a couple books to keep me inside and cozy.
I decided to start The Hunger Games over Harry Potter, since the latter has 7 books or something, and the The Hunger Games only has 3.

I read all weekend.
Hours that felt like minutes.
Somehow, we had a pretty cleared out weekend, and I let myself fall into another world.
I highly recommend this falling-into-another-world thing, should you get the chance. 
If you like a good fiction series that's easy to read and an absolute page-turner, look no further.
Though for The Hunger Games, you may have to look at the store instead of the library, since every copy in all the Chicago Public libraries were checked out or on hold!

Meanwhile, Neal feels as though his lucky stars have finally smiled upon him.
All I want to do is curl up and read, and he's pinching himself to make sure I did really just say, "My plan for this weekend is to not leave the house once!" rather than proposing this new coffee shop and that museum and such and such meandering about the city.

As it stands, we both like to go out and we both like to stay home, and January is just the sort of time for staying home, don't you think? 

Since I started The Hunger Games books, I've stopped living and am just reading.
Is that a problem?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Feels Like 2

What do you do with a weekend when says today's temperature "feels like 2?"
 It's funny, but after the busy week I've had, nothing sounds better than to have an excuse to curl up in our apartment all weekend and read and cook and nap! 
Last night our apartment was completely packed with students and friends and some good hard laughter and a late night.
Just the way we like it.
Now it's time for the pendulum to swing over to quiet and rest for a day or two.

My usual defense against Chicago winter involves my North Face down, the best base layer, smart wool socks, and Cloud Layer fleece.
This weekend I'm arming myself with a few different weapons which include...

Book One of both Harry Potter and the Hunger Games... which one do you think will hook me first?  I can't wait to find out!
Bread pudding
Chai tea
My camera manual

The only venturing out this weekend we will do is to drop off a car load of items our small group bought for a refugee family from Burma who is moving in in Chicago today.
Chicago's giving them a harsh welcome, but I hope we can make it a bit gentler showing up at their apartment door with groceries and blankets.

Hope you all stay warm this weekend!

Friday, January 14, 2011

2010 Year in Review

1. Started a new tradition of going to Montrose Harbor on New Year's.
2. Got schooled by friends on how to send care packages by the way they cared for me at the lowest point of my health struggle this year.
3. Began providing pre-martial counseling using the "Prepare-Enrich" assessment, and found a love for couples counseling.

1. Spent a day out in the city celebrating Valentine's Day.
2. Went to the Joffrey Ballet's performance of Cinderella.
3. Met our twin nieces, Halie and Addie, for the first time.
4. Started leading a small group through our church, Harvest Bible Chapel.
5. I started "City Lights" blog on Feb. 29.

 1. Enjoyed a 10-day staycation in Chicago exploring our city.  We went to the Field Museum, Garfield Conservatory, a historic home tour, new coffee shops, a comedy show, Margie's Candies, a new book store in our neighborhood, and more.
2. Re-discovered a love for Third Coast Cafe.
3. Bought a Vespa scooter.  The city is our oyster now!


1. Passed the National Counselor Exam and got my LPC license.
2. Mom, Tiff, and my niece Lilly came up to celebrate my 26th birthday, and Lilly got her first American Girl doll.  It was such a special day!
3. Around the time of the spring blooms, my dear friend Esther came from NE for a few days to visit.

1. Sent Neal's brother Grant off for a 2-year counselor position in the Dominican Republic.
2. Spent Memorial Day with Neal's family at the lake and opened the pontoon boat for the summer.
3. Summer farmers' markets (where we love to get fresh flowers) returned to the city.
4. Neal went on a trip to 3-Lakes, WI with his best friend Pete.
5. I took a calligraphy class.

1. Read my first Russian novel: Anna Karenina by Tolstoy.
2 & 3. Spent lots of beautiful summer days visiting home.  We traveled a ton this summer!
4. Neal attended the Association for Christians in Student Development conference in PA.
5. I read Shauna Niequist and found my new favorite author.

1. Spent 10 glorious days in our favorite place together, Naples, FL.
2. Went by boat to spend an afternoon on an island in the Atlantic.
3. Visited friends at their charmingly secluded vacation home on Hird Island.
4. Celebrated the 4th of July with a giant family reunion in Tremont and fireworks and boating at Neal's parents.

1. Welcomed my little nephew Kaden.
2. Neal and I didn't see much of each other in August with the start of a new semester (and a fire at Moody!) but we spent lots of catching up dates at Chipotle.
3. Found a new spot that's captured our affection: late afternoon rides on the Vespa up to what we called "the our part of Lincoln Park" for going so frequently.  The north part of the park that blooms in late summer.

1. Celebrated our 4th anniversary at North Pond and fireworks at Montrose.  Our favorite and most meaningful anniversary so far.
2. Washington Park bench became another part of the city we call "ours."
3.  Vespa rides in the late summer and early fall became the perfect illusion that summer in the city would last forever.
4. Our church opened a new location in Roscoe Village, and we became members... finally!

1. Enjoyed our third trip to Apple Holler in WI, and of course brought home apple cider donuts and cider.
2. Spent some of the most beautiful fall days on Lake Bloomington boating, hiking, jogging, and resting.
3. Hiked at Starved Rock State Park.


1. Took our Moody small group students on a retreat.
2. Learned how to make the family cinnamon rolls.
3. Celebrated with my family one of the most fun Thanksgivings I can remember.
4. Completed training for a 5K... and ran 3.1 miles ourselves instead of paying $50 entry fees for official races in the city.

1. Neal graduated from Wheaton with his Masters degree, hooray!  So proud of him.
2. God used my health trial this year for good as we went to speak at a church in OH about personal suffering, counseling skills, and ministering to young adults.
3. Over the year, I developed an interest in photography, and our families gave me a Canon Rebel DSLR for Christmas.

Though these are the highlights we like to remember, we also went through such pain and suffering with my health this year that could never be pictured.  We were supported by friends, family, and students with such love and so many prayers, and yet this year, God said no to returning me to physical well-being and strength.  But He said yes to making our hearts stronger.  More sober.  More compassionate.  More sensitive to joy.  In 2010, I found a way to say, "Blessed be Lord who daily bears us up," (Ps. 68) and "His grace is sufficient, truly sufficient for me," in the bitter and the sweet... and there is always the presence of both bitter and sweet in this life.  We'll remember plenty of both from 2010.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Yesterday it snowed in Chicago all the day long.  It was white, and then blustery, and then more white upon more white snow.
The silvery blue gleam of the Trump Tower disappeared from view, and at one point looking out my apartment window was oddly akin to looking out of an airplane window when you're going through a cloud.  Strange feeling, that.
Yet today, it's settled, streets scraped, sidewalks salted, and the city never missed a beat.

Back at Timber Pointe, where we spent Christmas, the snow brings a greater power.
The power of the unplowed wooded drive, the power of a forest full of snow-gilded branches, the power of the still and quiet.

Neal and I just had to venture out  for a couple walks in that other-worldly place.
Narnia, anyone?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Anderson Christmas

We were enveloped in winter dreaminess at the lake this year, where we joined Neal's family for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebration.
The snow started falling Christmas Eve, and it fell, and it fell, and it fell.
With the living room nestled between 3 sides of windows to the lake, the scene was more picturesque and magical than any "dreaming" I had been doing, as far as "white Christmases" go.
Over traditional Christmas Eve fondue (Neal's parents had fondue their first holidays together as a young married couple, and the rest is history), we went around the table sharing "memorable Christmas" stories.
I have a feeling that years down the road, this white Christmas at the lake will come to mind next time someone asks.

"Well, there was this one Christmas when we were in our 20's and had been married a few years.  We lived in downtown Chicago and came down to Lake Bloomington to spend Christmas.  It snowed a foot that Christmas Eve, such that we could hardly make it to the Christmas Eve church service.  Snow covered the frozen lake in drifts, swirled and fell magically around the frosty windows that surrounded us, and coated the wooded drive of trees like icing.  Inside we watched movies, ate cookies, opened lots of wonderful gifts, and sat around the holiday table.  If ever there was a Christmas spent in true winter wonderland fashion, it was that one."

Depending on who asks, I might also tell you that the utterly grandness of the snowfall soothed our hearts that had been bruised by a difficult year that was still bumping up against us with its troubles. 
I might tell you that the ability to take such joy in the snow was pure victory,
because it proved one of the ways I had grown the most this year:
to live fully and find joy in the midst of pain, rather than wait it out in fetal position, which is what one often feels like doing in such stretches of time.
Or is that just me?

A few pictures to remember the whitest of Christmases.

1. Gifts for my sweet nieces, Halie and Addie.  You can find the tutorial for the wrapping here
2. I found these pink converse shoes for them and couldn't resist
3 & 4. Auntie Ash and Uncle Neal with the twins

1. Christmas Eve
2. All the Anderson girls
3 & 4. Christmas coziness

Christmas morning
I'll never forget opening up my DSLR camera!!

Snow, snow, snow!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Thompson Family Christmas

Thompson Family Christmas was replete with nieces and nephews this year, or granddaughters and grandsons, or great granddaughters and great grandsons, depending on one's familial position.
My brother Luke and his wife Mary drove through rain, sleet, and snow, possibly literally or otherwise figuratively, all the way from Seattle, WA with their 2-year-old toddler and 4 month-old baby.
It was a treat, as well as a hoot, to have the 6 little people (Tiff's 4 kids and Luke's 2) take their place in the family Christmas.
The statistics were staggering, with 3 married kids and their spouses, 2 college kids back from college, 1 Tyler (who calls for a category all his own) home on vacation days, 9 kids on Christmas vacation from school, Mom/Grammy and Dad/Big Papa, the 6 grandbabies, then Grandma Lu and Gramps, and Granny and Grandpa.

We went caroling to the neighbors (neighbors is a loose term more accurately described as across the field and into the woods), had family pictures taken (more accurately described as watching all the nieces and nephews melt down one by one), took up 3 rows in the movie theater for "Voyage of the Dawn Treader," watched Connor play the comedian at his 2-year-old birthday party, opened a few gifts early, and even did some napping and reading.

It was merry.

Here's a peek.

1. Driving home for the holidays.
2. Christmas comforts
3. Oreo truffles
4. Fireside reading
1. Caroling
2. Watching Polar Express with husband at night in our guest room at Granny's
3. Opening gifts with Lilly
4. Our classic manger scene

Nieces and nephews
1. Me, Parker, and mustard yellow
2. Family pictures
3. Kaden & Garrett
4. Love
Merry, merry.
Happy Friday everyone!
My weekend plans must, must include taking down my Christmas decorations, although Neal says as long as they're down by February, we're respectable.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


 I don't know if you noticed this year, or maybe you have in other years past, but the closer and closer the calendar date gets to Christmas, the harder it is to just go out and have fun and actually taste and see all the beauty of the holiday.
It's easy for Christmas to taste like scotch tape, receipts, and acid reflux rather than the savored sights of twinkle lights, the deeply inhaled smell of fresh garland, and the perfectly Christmasy way that the flavor of peppermint blends with chocolate.
To be able to truly taste the latter, I'm convinced after this year that it helps to buy a couple extra days by starting a tad early.
That being said, a few of these pictures are from us getting our holiday on even a bit before Thanksgiving.
After all, when Christmastime comes to city, it calls you to come out and join it!

We did a lot of Christmasy things this season in addition to regular life, and, this being my first Christmas having a blog, I didn't quite figure out how to keep up here, so City Lights fell a little quiet.
Maybe next year I'll sneak to the computer with a mug of wassail to update more often instead of sitting in front of the tree trying to figure out what's in all my gifts.
But, for this year, consider this post an explanation in pictures for where I've been, and as you take down decorations, I'll be doing the same, along with posting some pictures of our Christmas and year in review.

{Early Christmas shopping at Oakbrook Mall}

{Taking a break while cinnamon rolls rise}
The Saturday before Thanksgiving, I made the yummiest family recipe cinnamon rolls for Thanksgiving, and doubled the recipe to freeze half for Christmas.
It was one of my more intelligent moments.

{The Lighting of Michigan Avenue}
I have to admit, Neal and I were debating up to the last minute whether we were going to venture out of our warm, cozy apartment into the cold to watch the lighting parade.  
We ended up going, and it gave us both a burst of Christmas spirit.
Stood in the exact same spot as last year.  It's a good spot we've found.

{Foreshadowing of a white Christmas}
The first snow is always the best.
As long as it's not in October.
This one came the first weekend in December, just in time to add its own charm to the festivities. 



{Visiting our favorite little cafe, Third Coast}
Charming as ever during Christmastime.


{Fondue holiday party with our dear friends, the Suttons}
We had cheese and chocolate fondue, wassail, and watched "The Holiday," all cozied up in our little city living room.
I'm thinking tradition from here on out.  Suttons?  You in? 

 {RA Christmas}
Neal had his RA's up to our apartment for a white elephant gift exchange.
I think I also made them chocolate covered peanuts.
I think they liked them a lot.  College boys have got to be the easiest audience to bake for.
{Christmas packages}
These came in the mail from my sweet friend, Ilene.  Sooo fun.
They went under the tree, but I couldn't wait until Christmas to open them!

{Gift Tags}
Found these tags from Papersource, added a little calligraphy, punched a hole in them, and then they were strung onto ribbon to greet their recipients.

I think of my Great Gram, because her gift packaging was special.

{Dessert at the Grand Lux}
One of our 12 days of Christmas dates.