Sunday, December 21, 2008

The TRUE blessing of Christmas

As I take time to really reflect on the Christmas season this year, I find myself filled with many different emotions. I have found myself very busy enjoying all the preparations it takes in preparing for Christmas day. The one item I have somewhat dreaded this year however is our Christmas cards. I came to a point a couple of weeks ago and decided not to do them. Nothing really exciting has happened in our lives this year and the things that we have experienced weren't necessarily what I wanted to share in a Christmas card. However after walking by the stack of Christmas cards resting on our desk, I finally gave in and completed them all but two. I chose not to do a letter in any of the cards but I still wanted to send out a card/picture and let all of our friends and family know we love them and wish them a Merry Christmas. However I had two cards I saved for the end. These are two very dear friends of mine from college that unfortunately I have not talked to for a very long time. I knew my friends would want to hear from me and would want to know the changes that Tim and I experienced this year.

So with two cards left to send out I finally sat down this weekend and decided I would write them both a personal note. I sat down yesterday afternoon and at first decided I would write the note out by hand, the first one got the best of my emotions so I decided to make a couple changes and write a second one. However, by this time my hand was throbbing with pain, my hand clearly is not in shape for hand written notes! Anyway after stopping in the middle of the second note I finally decided to attempt a third one and type this one out. I can't tell you how much of a blessing this Christmas letter turned out to be. God has revealed so much to Tim and I through our miscarriage in September and it is amazing to see the number of blessings we have received despite the pain we have experienced. I am so blessed this Christmas to know that not only is our child in heaven with Christ this Christmas season but that Tim and I have been given the greatest blessing of all and that is our personal relationship with Christ. There are so many things that Tim and I can be thankful for this year but most of all we are thankful for God sending his only son to us so that we can live an eternal life with him. With this amazing gift we will one day be reunited with our child who is already in heaven.

It is so easy to get caught up in the "preparations" of Christmas and overlook the true meaning of Christmas. I am so thankful that God has used this experience and this time of year to really awaken me to the true meaning of Christmas. I found myself wallowing in my self-pity of writing a Christmas card with no exciting news to really share however I was missing the point. Tim and I have the greatest news of all to share and the unexpected "disappointment" has in turn renewed our walk with Christ and opened our eyes to the true gift of all.


Luke 2:10-11

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Fall has always been one of my favorite times of year. This year I have especially enjoyed it! I don't know if it is because we have previously experienced such a long/cold winter and then a soggy summer. Whatever the reason I have made a point to do all of my favorite things during this season. Here is my top ten list of favorite things to do in the fall in no specific order:

1. Go CAMPING! I love to camp and the fall is definitely one of the best times to go. The leaves are changing, sleeping weather is perfect and the warm campfire always feels great in the evenings! We have started a tradition with my brother, sister-in-law, sister, brother-in-law, nephew and my cousins, Emily, her husband Ben and my cousin David to make an annual camping trip to the ledges around this time of the year. Last year was our first year doing it and we continued the tradition this year at the beginning of October. Unfortunately my cousins and brother-in-law were not able to make it but rest of us continued the tradition! We had amazing weather and enjoyed a wonderful time together. I can't wait for next year!

2. Visit a PUMPKIN PATCH We were able to visit the Carroll Pumpkin Farm in Grinnell, Iowa this year with a group of friends. We had a great time and were amazed by all the activities that were there. The farm is absolutely beautiful! The weather was great and thanks to Joni (Carroll) Boone we were able to stay a little later and enjoy dinner around a campfire that evening!

3. Decorate PUMPKINS! I wanted to get a pumpkin this year and didn't want to deal with the mess of carving it. So I thought of a different idea and decided to "monogram" the pumpkins instead!

4. Visit the FARMER'S MARKET. I wasn't able to attend the Des Moines Farmer's Market as much as I would have liked to this summer. So I wanted to make up for it this fall. I have had quite a few weekends in October and September that I have been able to attend. It is by far one of my favorite things to do on Saturday mornings. Now that I have Tim hooked on the "famous" breakfast burritos he is more than happy to tag along with me! Last week while I was at the Farmer's Market I picked up a delicious bag of apples which will go along with my next item!

5. Make a homemade APPLE PIE. I have never made an Apple Pie from scratch and with Apple Orchards in season I thought this would be the perfect time of year to make one! I love to bake so this was a lot of fun. I will have to continue to work on the "decorative" part of it but enjoyed making my first Apple Pie!

6. Enjoy a PUMPKIN PIE BLIZZARD from DQ. Pumpkin Pie is my favorite kind of blizzard from DQ. This kind is seasonal so I have to enjoy them now while they are still available. If you have never had one, try one they are delicious!

7. Sip on a PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE from Starbucks. Again these are also seasonal and one of my favorite drinks from Starbucks. I have only had one so far but I am looking forward to having a few more before they are taken off the menu!

8. Attend a FOOTBALL GAME. Football is one of my favorite sports to watch and fall is not fall without watching a game outside. I love bundling up in a cozy sweatshirt, a comfy pair of jeans and enjoying the crisp air and excitement of a good game! This unfortunately I have yet to do. The ISU games have not worked into our schedules so I am hoping to attend the Ankeny/Southeast Polk football game in a couple of weeks!

9. Play on a FALL SOFTBALL LEAGUE. Tim is basically good at every sport and if we ever play a sport one on one he always beats me! This can be very frustrating to me at times because I do tend to be competitive. One of my character flaws would be that I don't like to lose (just ask Tim about our monopoly game!). So it is so much fun to play in a sport where we can be on the same team and win together! We both enjoy playing softball and it is actually a sport that I can keep up with Tim in. Playing in the fall is always fun. We are on a co-ed team through our church this year and have had a lot of fun.

10. REJOICE and make time to thank the Lord for the many blessings he has given us. Everyday I am in awe of the new things the Lord teaches me and this season I have been in awe by both the teachings and amazing beauty he provides us with everyday.
"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. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations."

I hope that maybe one of my top ten list items will inspire you to enjoy this season! Also if you have a favorite thing to do in the fall that I have not mentioned send me a post! I would love to hear any new ideas!

Monday, October 6, 2008


Last December during my Christmas break I woke up early one morning to have some "quiet" time. During that time I came across verse 16 in 1 Thessalonians "Be joyful always". This verse has stayed with me and the word joy has constantly been on my mind since that time. Also shortly after that devotional time we celebrated Christmas with my extended family. Each year we have a random gift exchange (we draw numbers, person with number one gets to pick a gift first, the person after them can select their gift or pick a new gift etc.). So we never know for sure whose gift we will receive. Randomly after many different trades I ended up with a gift from my Grandma. The gift ended up being a Willow Tree Angel and the description on it read Joy "Joy frees the spirit". I was completely taken back by the gift and again felt that God was revealing this word to me for a particular reason. I know that the Lord is wanting me to learn from this verse/word and apply this verse/word to my daily life.

This fall I was thrilled when I found out that a study was going to be led in our church on the book of Philippians. I feel the Lord has been leading me to study this book for the last couple of months and again this book is centered around the word joy! I am excited to see what the Lord is going to reveal to me during this study. I also feel that with everything I have gone through the last two months joy was something the Lord did not want me to forget when dealing with a very difficult situation. No matter what the circumstance we are to always feel joy in our hearts because we have the greatest joy of all and that is our personal relationship with Christ. No circumstance/situation can every void out that joy that will always and should always remain in our hearts.

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer". Romans 12:12

Monday, September 29, 2008

Many things in my life have changed since my last post. Over a month ago I was enjoying my last bit of summer vacation and dreaming of possibly expecting a child within the first couple of months of school. August quickly became a very busy, exciting and difficult month. The beginning of the school year is always a blur and I am always amazed at how I am able to have my classroom "ready" for the first day of school. During this very busy first week, Tim and I found out our dream of having a child had come true! So now the excitement of starting a new school year was mixed with the pure joy of expecting a child! At that moment I decided nothing about this school year was going to get me down because my dream had come true! I didn't care if my students ended up being the most horrible class, my heart was set on April and the new joy of being a mother!

Those first two weeks of school I was on "cloud nine". I was busting at the seems to tell everyone yet a part of me wanted to hold back just in case something happened. The more I told people the more excited I got however a part of me still felt that I should be more reserved with our news. Then on Friday, August 29th exactly two weeks since school had started and six weeks into our pregnancy I began to experience a miscarriage. The emotions that started that day are indescribable. No one is prepared for this emotional roller coaster. I had so many questions, so much pain, confusion and anger and I had no idea how to deal with any of it. All I knew was that the child I had just begun to dream about was just as quickly taken away. How could this happen? This was not the way I expected my first pregnancy to go. What went wrong? Was I not praying for my baby enough? Was I not trusting in the Lord enough during the pregnancy? I never even got to even hold my baby. These were many of the thoughts and questions that quickly began to fill my mind.

Since Labor Day weekend I have been on a very difficult grieving and healing journey . Through many people's prayers the Lord has carried me through the hardest times and walked with me during the days that I began to recover. I have never doubted the Lord and believe in my heart that His plan is a perfect plan and I trust that we will have a family on earth in His time. I know this experience has brought me closer to the Lord and blessed me with a newer and deeper personal relationship with Him. However, I do still miss my baby and long to hold my baby but I have hope and peace knowing my baby is in heaven and someday I will be reunited with her/him. I am comforted knowing my baby is at peace and in a perfect place.

Thank you to all that have been praying for Tim and I during this difficult time. We felt all of your prayers. It was especially hard on the very difficult days for me to pray and seek God's truth on my own, your prayers lifted me up and carried me when I was lacking in my strength. I especially want to thank my husband, Tim. The support, strength and love you showed me during this time was amazing. I don't tell you enough how blessed I am to have you as my husband. When I prayed for a husband I never dreamed I would be blessed with a man like you. Thank you for listening, praying and holding me. I love you.

God is awesome and even through the difficult times, when we feel so alone, He is there and will never leave our sides. The Lord is our forever constant, hope and strength.

"Not only so, but we also glory in our own sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Romans 5:3-5

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Valley Junction Farmer's Market

This was my first experience at the Valley Junction Farmer's Market and I had a fabulous time! The weather was perfect, we were with great friends, we ate delicious food, visited many "girly" shops, saw many adorable dogs, and I was able to find some great gifts! If you have never been, you need to go, and if you need someone to go with give me a call!


This was a very simple and delicious recipe that I tried this week. Can you guess where the recipe is from? Yes of course, from one of my favorite magazines Simple and Delicious!

I love cooking and I am always interested in new recipes. If you have any great ones feel free to post them to my blog!

Grilled Pork Tenderloin

1/2 c. Italian salad dressing
1/4 c. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 pork tenderloin (1 pound)
1/2 teaspoon steak seasoning

*In a large resealable plastic bag, combine salad dressing and soy sauce; add the pork. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for up to 4 hours. (The longer you refrigerate it the better, I made this twice and the second time I refrigerated it overnight and it had a lot more flavor!)

*Coat grill rack with cooking spray before starting the grill. Prepare grill for indirect heat. Drain and discard marinade. Rub pork with steak seasoning.

*Grill pork, covered, over indirect medium-hot heat for 25-40 min. or until a meat thermometer reads 160. Let stand for 5 min. before slicing. Yield: 4 servings.

Tomato Cucumber Salad

5 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 medium cucumber, coarsely chopped
8 ounces cubed part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 c. balsamic Vinaigrette

*In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the tomatoes, cucumber and cheese. Add dressing; seal bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate for at least 15 min. Serve with a slotted spoon. Yield: 8 servings


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Our Dog Max

One of my favorite McFarland Moments was the day we adopted our adorable Schnoodle, (mix between a Schnauzer/Poodle, basically an expensive mutt) Max into our family. Tim and I had both grown up with dogs and were really excited to someday have a dog of our very own! After we were married we decided that was the next natural step to take.

The most difficult decision was deciding on a breed. Tim had his heart set on a large dog, (Golden Retriever or German Shepard) however because of our living situation and association rules we could not have anything over 25 lb. I had only grown up with large dogs (Yellow Labs and English Springer Spaniels) so I was not familiar with a lot of small dog breeds but was kind of excited to finally own a small dog. Having had the opportunity to grow up with large dogs my whole life I knew exactly what characteristics drove me up the wall and ideally I wanted to find a small dog that did not have these same characteristics!

Growing up I was never a fan of slobbery wet kisses that our dogs for some reason thought I enjoyed. Also I was not a fan of always managing to leave the house with half of my dogs hair still on me! Ok, maybe I was exaggerating a little bit about the dog hair, but I know I was very thankful that the lint roller had been invented! I also am a little bit of a cleanaphobic. Dog hair everywhere would not have been a good anecdote to my phobia. Having a dog that did not shed would make my life so much easier! There was one characteristic of a small dog that I did fear as well. That was the barking. Most of the small dogs that I had been around had this endless bark that I knew would put me over the edge. This characteristic was also added to my list of traits I did not want to have in our dog. Yikes, after this list maybe I wasn't ready for a dog... maybe I should have just gotten a web kin! :)

However, with that list in check we began our search for a small, minimal barking, non shedding, and minimal drooling dog! I didn't know if there was a breed out there that could meet these expectations. While we were searching every small dog breed out there Tim became set on wanting a Beagle. Yes they are nice looking dogs but I was told they had an uncontrollable bark and with that said there was no way I wanted to pursue them any further. Plus I had my heart set on this soft, fluffy (non shedding), cuddly puppy and Beagles did not seem to have any of those traits. Tim agreed that the barking would get old and so we began our search once again. I never mentioned the soft, fluffy and cuddly traits to Tim...I didn't think he was probably interested in those! :)

I wasn't sure if there was a dog out there that could meet all of our/my expectations until I discovered the Schnoodle! No shedding, does not drool, minimal barking and absolutely ADORABLE! It did not take me very long before I was sold on this breed. After convincing Tim that this was something we should look into we began scanning the newspapers/Internet for Schnoodles. We finally found a breeder in Altoona, IA that sold them!

We were very excited to go, ok I was probably more excited then Tim but I think he was a little excited as well! :) When we first got there we were shown about 6 baby Schnoodles. They were all adorable! I didn't know how we could decide on just one. After playing with all of them and being very indecisive we finally decided on one. They took him inside to give him a fresh bath, but while they were inside cleaning him up we discovered another one that caught our eye!

Sitting in the middle of a cage with other puppies around him, was this adorable puppy smiling right at us! As soon as I made eye contact with him I knew he was the one! I convinced Tim that there was no way I could leave without him. We had to tell the owners we picked the wrong one! By this time the owners had come back out with the freshly bathed puppy we had originally picked. I slowly walked over to the owners and told them I was very sorry but I decided to pick a different puppy instead. I think they were use to my indecisiveness and probably anticipated me changing my mind. They said it was no problem to switch puppies and agreed that the puppy we picked was adorable! So finally they gave our puppy a bath, handed him over to us and sent us on our way with our first Schnoodle puppy.

It has been about 2 yrs. since we got Max and he has lived up to every one of my expectations! He is a wonderful dog and I am so glad he is part of our family. We have had many funny memories with him and look forward to sharing many more!

I really wasn't sure what I wanted to write in my first blog but for some reason Max came to mind! I think it must have been inspired because I am reading Marley and Me by John Grogan which is an adorable story about a family and there life adventure with a very spontaneous dog! If you haven't read it, I would highly recommend it!