Friday, December 19, 2008

A Wedding, A Move, & A Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

We mailed out our very first Christmas newsletter as Man & Wife Blankenship this Christmas. Unfortunately, due to a number of factors (ie: poor time management, a very limited number of stamps in our household, and a sheer lack of manpower a.k.a. no Christmas elves) we managed to actually mail them out to a very small handful of people. If you received one, well then you're a very lucky lady or fella and you should now be jumping up and down with joy! If you didn't get one, it's not because we don't love you so please don't cry, pout, and bang your fists against your carpet (or someone else's carpet). Either way, here's the newsletter in blog format for all to see.

Our Very First Newsletter...EVER!!!

That's right! In case you hadn't heard, we got married. The whirlwind romance that began on the slopes of Steamboat Springs, Colorado in February of this year and blossomed over the course of cross-country trips, phone calls, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 emails has indeed transpired into a blissful marriage.

On November 8th of this year, Dan and I tied the knot in a beautiful ceremony in Winter Park, Florida. Surrounded by hundreds of friends who had literally gathered from the far corners of the country, we became man and wife. Mom and Dad, in true "Tyckoson tradition," went above and beyond their parents- of-the-bride obligation to spoil us and our guests with an elegant, lavishly decorated dessert reception. It was amazing!

A beautiful, week-long honeymoon was next on the agenda. Dan surprised me with a Caribbean cruise with ports of call in Key West, Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico. Our honeymoon adventures included cave tubing, lounging on a private beach, and visiting ancient, Mayan pyramids. The week was lovely in every way. We had phenomenal weather and came back rested, sun-kissed, and more in love than ever before.

We stuck around Orlando for a few days to spend time with my parents and my sister Julie, say goodbye to friends, and visit Disney. Then came the 3,000 mile move from one corner of the U.S. to the other!

Dan's parents had graciously offered to drive my car, along with a U-haul trailer in tow, all the way to Washington for us while we were on our honeymoon. What an amazing blessing that was! Dan flew home to Washington a few days ahead of me, but by November 22, I too was calling Washington home.

Next came a frantic (on my part) search for "the perfect apartment." I quickly came to the realization that apartments in Washington are nothing like those in Florida. There was a great deal of mumbling and fist shaking as I attempted (rather unsuccessfully) to navigate the confusingly-numbered streets of the greater Seattle area. Somewhere in the midst of all the U-turns, I stumbled upon what was indeed "the perfect apartment" in downtown Edmonds and, with the help of Dan's parents and brother Joel, we happily and briskly moved in on December 2.

We've fallen in love with the cozy, small-town charm of downtown Edmonds. Nestled along the Puget Sound, with a view of the Olympic Mountains and the Cascades, downtown Edmonds is the kind of town where you can walk to the local grocer, bank, movie theater, or Starbucks (my favorite). Dan and I have enjoyed exploring Edmonds on foot and then coming back to our place to warm up with a cup of hot cocoa.

I am loving my first Washington winter season. The irregular sunny days and days of snow have been accompanied by much oooh-ing and ahh-ing on my part. I'm enjoying the need to bundle up in hats and scarves before we walk the streets hand-in-hand while smoke curls up from nearby chimneys and Christmas shoppers scurry from shop to shop. Our tea kettle is always hard at work in effort to keep us warm while we watch Christmas movies beneath the glow of our Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

Yep, we have our own Charlie Brown tree. Dan and I decided to drive up into the snow-dusted mountains to cut down our own tree. With our tree permit in hand, we proudly procured a tree that sucks up water like a sponge and incessantly sheds its needles on our carpet. We've lovingly decorated it with homemade and collected ornaments and white twinkle lights. We even wrapped a blanket around the bottom of the tree, just like Linus did.

We think we've found a home at the Shoreline campus of Mars Hill Church under the preaching of Mark Driscoll. We've joined a small group, consisting mostly of newlyweds, and we plan to take home the trophy this weekend at our first church function, an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party.

I continue to search high and low for a job and ask for your prayers as we trust the Lord to provide for us financially and as we embark on married life in Washington.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and pray that the Lord blesses you in the New Year.

With much love, Dan & Jill

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Well, Dan told me before I moved out here to the Great Pacific Northwest that we probably wouldn't see the sun until July and that we wouldn't get much snow and when we did get snow, it probably wouldn't stick. Well, this year is a little unusual. I've had countless sunny days since my arrival on November 22 (I keep telling everyone that I brought the sunshine from Florida) and currently there's about 8 inches of snow outside my door with more snow on the way.

Needless to say, my cravings for seasonal weather are being met and I still find wonder in walking around in the snow and watching it fall to the earth.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

We wanted our first Christmas tree as a married couple to be a special one. And special it is.

After church, we went out and bought a $10 "cut down your own tree" permit from REI and headed North in search of mountains and snow, which we thought to be the perfect backdrop for procuring our first Christmas tree.

Two hours of singing along to Christmas songs on the radio later, we had arrived at Stevens Pass. We chose an obscure trail and drove precariously with my front-wheel drive compact SUV up the path as the amount of snowfall steadily increased.

After only one near-death incident with turning our truck around, we found it! Not just any tree, but THE tree!

We pulled over, grabbed the hacksaw from the trunk, and began feverishly sawing away at the trunk of our glorious tree. (Well, Dan sawed and I took pictures and caught snowflakes on my tongue.)

After an exhaustive amount of sawing (our borrowed hacksaw wasn't at the top of its class), I yelled "Timber!" and the tree finally came crashing down to much applause and cheering (mine and Dan's).

We trimmed it down to a more manageable height (again, Dan sawed while I took more photos), dragged it along to the truck, hoisted it up onto the roof rack, and tied it down tight! We were officially the cutest Christmas couple ever with our tree atop the car.

We made a pit stop to sit in Dan's cousins' hot tub and down some hot chocolate on the way back. Second stop: Target! We bought our tree stand and ornament hooks. We were off to a great start!

When it came time to trim the tree officially and bring it inside, we used only the most modern methods of technology. I had Dan lay down next to the tree and raise his arm above his head so that we could make sure the tree wouldn't be too tall to fit inside. (It worked. Don't knock it 'til you try it.)

Then came the moment we'd been waiting for. We stood back and observed our tree....its snow had now melted. Its branches had dropped. It was....well, it looked just like the tree in Charlie Brown's Christmas movie.

Appropriately, we put the Charlie Brown Christmas DVD in the TV while we hung lights and carefully placed our ornaments, both new and old. We wrapped a blanket around its base as only Linus would do.

Our tree rocks!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Picture Perfect

We met in downtown Sanford, Florida with Cory Callahan of Callahan Photo for our engagement photo session. The photo shoot itself was a lot of fun and we are more than thrilled with the results. Cory and his wife Mandi make up an incredibly talented, artistic team.

Visit to view the rest of our photos.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Busy as Bees

[Jill] Bees seem to be the recurring theme these days. Dan and I, along with our parents, are busy as bees with all of the planning and preparation that's going into our upcoming wedding day as well as my cross-country move after the honeymoon.

Life is abuzz with preparations for my sister Julie and I as we ready our house to put it up for sale...pulling weeds and laying sod. I'm collecting cardboard boxes so that I can begin packing up all of my belongings, putting my furniture on Craigslist in hopes that it might sell, and simultaneously searching for a job in Washington via the internet. Meanwhile, Dan is in hot pursuit of an apartment for us to live in and the best moving plan to relocate me and my belongings there as well as helping me with my job search and finalizing our honeymoon plans (which are a surprise for me).

I think we might even qualify as being busier than bees!

Bees were also the theme at my bridal shower, earlier this month. Hosted by Reidi Lott and her daughter, Lindi, who are longtime family friends, the party was incredible! Reidi went above and beyond in her preparations and decorations.

The theme was "Meant to Bee" and she had a customized banner with our names on it, personalized honey jars for each guest to take home, and three "beehives" of delicious, homemade bee cupcakes. A beautiful gourmet buffet was laid out for the 60 plus friends and family members she invited on my behalf. It was a lovely and very special celebration that I wish Dan's Mom and sisters-in-law could have attended as well.

In all of our busyness and stress, Dan and I are trying hard to maintain our sanity and keep our focus on the Holy God who has a perfect plan for our future. Having witnessed His plan that orchestrated our meeting one another in Colorado and a romance that blossomed over 3,000 miles of distance, it's not too difficult to believe that He isn't finished with us yet and that He will indeed work out all of the details of the months and years ahead. So why not start with trusting Him with today, right?

Please keep us in your prayers as we strive to do just that.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Whole New Spin on a Tale of Two Cities

[Jill:] It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

I think I have an idea of what Charles Dickens meant, although I'm taking a radically different direction than he was. He may have written about London and Paris, but I'm writing now about Orlando and Seattle. Who would have thought that the period in my life when I would FINALLY be getting married would simultaneously be one of the most difficult times I would encounter?

One moment I'm drunk on love and grinning ear to ear because I can't stop thinking about how blessed I am to be marrying the man of my dreams. The next moment I'm crying uncontrollably because my job here in Orlando is ending and Dan and I don't know whether we should live in Florida or Washington. I could practically hear The Clash repeatedly singing "Should I stay or should I go?" in my head as I tried to sleep at night.

For months we struggled prayerfully over the cold, hard facts before us. We weighed the pros and cons. We asked God for guidance, but the neon signs never flashed in our eyes. We listened to sermons, read Scriptures, asked friends and family for advice, and even posted an online poll just for kicks. We asked God to open doors or close them. (Note to self: closing doors sometimes crush toes and pinch fingers!)

In the time that passed without flashing, neon signs and thunderous Charleton Heston voices descending from above or any nearby burning bushes, I think we began to look at our circumstances a little differently.

I was visiting Dan in Seattle and we were driving around town listening to a Mark Driscoll sermon series on Ruth. I had wanted to listen to the sermon for one purpose, but God brought a different message to light that afternoon. What we heard Mark say loud and clear that day was that God doesn't ever leave us hanging. If we pray for answers, He gives them to us. Sometimes we're just too busy looking for the answers that we want to recognize the answer that God has provided. And it was that day that we decided to look around at what God had already given us, rather than what we were hoping He would provide.

With newly opened eyes, we began to watch the doors closing on Orlando. Seattle is going to be our home come November.

I'm sad to be placing more then 3,000 miles between me and my parents and sister, to be saying goodbye to my incredible friends, to my church, and to the familiarity of my Publix, my bike trail, and my neighborhood Starbucks. At the same time, I'm excited about getting to know my new family members and Dan's friends, about the adventure of exploring new biking trails and hiking trails, and having mountain views outside my windows! And I know I won't have any trouble discovering many new neighborhood Starbucks locations in the town of Seattle!

Although I do love change, change breeds discomfort. I'm pretty certain that there's always something lost in the process of gaining something great. Just as victory carries a price, so life charges us with grievous goodbyes as we charge toward new horizons and yet-to-be-seen blessings bestowed by God's firm and loving hand.

I look forward most to seeing how God will show Dan and me more of His greatness as we trust Him to provide a new job for me in Seattle, to provide a new place for us to live, and to provide a new home church where we can be fed and serve alongside one another. I know that God works ALL things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose and I cling to that knowledge when I'm unsure of where He's leading me or why.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. But it was all in God's timing.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Once Upon a Time...

[Jill:] Once upon a time, there was girl who dreamed of the day she would meet her handsome prince and begin living happily ever after.

Every little girl dreams this dream. "Some day my prince will come" isn't just a line from a Snow White tune. Those words are the heartcry of most females I know. I mean, come on! Haven't we all read and "Amen"ed our way through the book Captivating by now?

I dreamed of my prince for 26 years. It's probably the only real dream I've ever had, the dream of becoming a wife and a mother. A good many of those latter 26 years were spent restlessly, I admit. I grew tired of my singleness and a cloud of doubt threatened to darken my dreams. Perhaps God wanted me to be single forever? *gasp*

But then in February of 2008, just a month shy of my 27th birthday, something unexpectedly wonderful happened.

I went to Colorado on a ski trip with friends from church.

Oh, that wasn't so unexpected and although it was wonderful, there was a lot more to it than your average ski trip. There, outside the Denver airport, I boarded an SUV and began the first chapter of a story I'd longed for my entire life. 32-year-old Seattle resident Dan Blankenship was behind the wheel of that SUV. A mutual friend had invited Dan to join us for a week on the slopes of Steamboat Springs. Right there when I first saw Dan, I thought to myself, "Oh, he's cute!" and the rest is history. It was there in the mountains of Colorado that God began whispering to each of us, quietly and clearly.

I came home from Colorado with silly, fun, and sweet stories to tell my friends and family about Dan. From the moment when he picked me up and threw me into a huge pile of snow to when he and the other guys rescued my friend Emily and me from being lost on the side of a mountain in the below freezing temperatures. My favorite part of the story though was telling about when he took me aside, sat me down, and prayed for me before we left. I was excited about the five days we'd spent together, but never thought for a moment that he would pursue me across the country. Then came a sweet, surprise Valentine's Day gift from him. "Ok," I thought to myself, "he really does like me."

Over a span of some 3,000 miles and three time zones we began to date. Daily emails and nightly phone conversations led to a long distance committment, full of risk and adventure! Fast forward a few months through a few long weekend trips on both sides of the country - trips full of family and friends and walking hand in hand.

On Saturday, July 28, Dan woke me up at 4:30 in the morning during a stay at his aunt and uncle's house in Cedar Grove, Wisconsin to take me down to Lake Michigan to watch the sunrise. There on the deserted beach, just as the glowing, orange sun rose up from the horizon, Dan asked me to be his wife!

I said yes, of course.

And so, 100 days from today I'll be Mrs. Daniel Blankenship. Wow.

Chapter one of our dating life is coming to a close and chapter two of married life is soon to unfold. Please read along with us as God writes our love story...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pray With Us

We have a pretty huge prayer request and we would absolutely love and appreciate it if you would join us in praying about it. Since we met in February, we've been making the most of the 3,000 plus miles between us. Now, less than three months away from being married, we are at a major crossroads...

Please pray for us as we face the daunting decision of where to live: Seattle or Orlando. Pray that God would open and close doors as we look at both options. Pray that the Lord would speak to each of our hearts individually and give us both a "peace that surpasses all understanding" regarding our final decision.

Thanks for praying with us and for us.

-Dan & Jill