Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Our Pile of Stones

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”
1 Samuel 7:12

Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder... to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that ...these stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
Joshua 4:4-8

When we started thinking about moving, we began to learn how to rely on God every day for every thing. We knew he wanted us to move and do this kind of crazy thing, but we kept getting so consumed by the details that we would freak out a little bit. (OK, maybe that was mostly me freaking out, but I'm a details person, OK?) Every few weeks we would be faced with something that seemed literally impossible. We could not, in our minds, conceive how it might work. Each time we would commit those things to God, learning to pray fervently, telling God that we couldn't do it and begging him to please do it for us. And do it he did. Each and every time we prayed, God moved. Not always in the exact ways or in the exact timing we would have planned, but always better than we asked or imagined.

Things began to fall in place one at a time, in God's timing, and we saw what God was teaching us: being worried is pointless. Instead, he wanted us to commit all our worries and details to him. I was reminded that God ALWAYS does things in a way that will bring Him the most glory. He specializes in doing things in a way that can only be explained in a way that includes Him.

Each step that God has led us in is precious to me. I want to be able to look back and say just like Samuel, "God did it. Look how God has helped us so far." Here are stones that we are praising God for. For me, they serve as a reminder of all that God has done and all he's asking us to trust him for in the future.

Stone #1: Admission & Tuition
As I said in my previous post, not only did Brent get into one school, he got into three. We felt that Duke was the best fit for us taking into consideration location, program, quality of life, and people. We were thrilled for Brent to get admitted and were prepared to take out loans to pay for the degree. But God gave us more than we even asked - Brent received a scholarship to pay for his tuition. We are so grateful, and this made us even more sure that Duke was the place for us.

Stone #2: Houston Home
Maybe you've noticed, but it's not exactly a good time to sell a house. Much less a custom-built house. Much less in a short time frame. Much less in Humble, Texas. Much less when there are THIRTEEN other houses for sale in your very subdivision. So it will come as no surprise that I was pretty worried about selling our home. We put our house on the market back in January and began to pray. Every time I drove in the driveway and saw the sign, I tried my best to not freak out, but it was hard. However, I temporarily forgot that God does things on his own time, which is even better than our time! We prayed for the perfect buyer to come along, and she did. Our house is in the final phases of being sold, and it will close the very week we are leaving for Durham. Perfect? Yes. I certainly did not bring that buyer. The Lord did.

Stone #3: Durham Home
We visited Durham for 4 days back in April for Brent to attend the new student weekend. We knew this was the only time we would be in Durham before we actually moved there, so it became apparent that we needed to find a place to live in a very short time period and in between all of the events Brent had to attend. We planned to mostly look at apartments, but at the last minute, we found a Realtor who would show us a few houses for rent. I prayed for God to go ahead of us to Durham and prepare the perfect place for us to live, and he did. We met the Realtor as soon as we got off the plane and looked at the three rentals. The first and third houses didn't fit our needs, but the second one felt homey from the moment I walked in the door. We weren't ready to make a decision quite yet, so we went and looked at tons of apartments, but I just didn't feel good about any of them. The whole weekend that second house kept tugging at my mind, and I made one of the quickest decisions I've ever made - I told Brent I could not stop thinking about house #2 and what did he think? Well, he couldn't stop thinking about house #2 either :-) So we immediately called to rent the house and got it.

I am in love with this house. It's smaller than our current house, but it's so cozy and charming. It's an old cottage that's been totally remodeled. It's on a beautiful, historical, tree-lined street within biking distance from campus. The giant front porch with beadboard ceiling makes my heart beat a little bit faster. I can not WAIT to get some rocking chairs and sit on that porch in the cool NC weather with a glass of wine. SO EXCITED.

View down the street from our front yard

Front of the house with the awesome porch

View from the front porch that you will have when you come visit

Light & bright kitchen

Looking into the living room

Super cute study which will become super important! Read on.

Stone #4: Job
I won't go into every single detail, but I prayed hard for a job for me in Durham. I applied to two jobs that I really wanted, but I didn't get either of them. Although I definitely cried, I began to realize how wonderful closed doors are. I'm so glad I didn't get those jobs because clearly they were not God's will for me. It's like God was protecting me from myself. I ended up getting another job offer in Durham that sounded really promising, and I was about to accept it.

However, at the same time, my current employer, YES Prep, talked to me about an interesting offer. I have been blessed to work for YES in many capacities for five years now, and I'm quite entrenched in the organization. Right now I'm the Content Specialist for middle school English meaning that I basically manage middle school English across eight campuses including curriculum, common assessments, and teacher support. I never thought to ask or even dare to imagine that YES would consider keeping me on staff. However, that's just what they offered, and I accepted.

I'm going to be working full time in my current job and traveling back and forth. The majority of the time, I"ll be working from home in North Carolina which is pretty much a dream come true. Then I'll travel to Houston for one week every six weeks to run professional development and district-wide meetings and observe teachers in their classrooms. Though I'm sad about leaving the classroom, I'm grateful to get to work on things I love: curriculum, instruction, assessments, and teacher development & coaching. I will also have tons of flexibility to hang out with Brent and hopefully get involved with a new church and a campus ministry. I am BEYOND excited about this arrangement, and so glad I get to continue to do what I've worked so hard to build up. Praise God for giving me something I did not ask or even hope for! He is good.

Stone #5: Grad School
More than a year ago, I was trying to decide if and where to attend grad school. I looked at a lot of schools here in Houston since that seemed to be easiest and make the most sense. However, God really led me to choose the summer program at Columbia. Praise God that he knew the plan WAY before we did! Moving to NC will not disrupt my grad schooling one bit. Had I done a program here in Houston, I'd be scrambling to find something else right now. I'll be in NYC the entire month of July this year, and (this is the best part!), Brent gets to come with me! That's right... he will be on break before his school starts, so he's going to come to NYC and hang out with me for a month! Again... couldn't even dream it, yet it's happening. We're renting an apartment on the Upper West Side for the month, and we're even bringing Blazer since we're driving from NC. I mean.... seriously? Is God good, or WHAT?!?

Here are a few pics of the apartment we will rent in NYC. The quality is not great since I copied them off the Internet, but you get the idea! Love it! That couch looks pretty comfy if you want to come visit!

We have so much to look forward to here in the Norwood Nest and pray that your family is also blessed by our amazing God. God has done it!! As we look back on the stones and remember what God has done and who He is, how can we not trust Him with our very lives?


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Where You Go, I'll Go

For the past eight months, the Lord has brought us on a journey that is only just beginning, and we're ready to share it with the world!

We're moving!!!

To North Carolina!!!

As of June 10th, we will be official residents of Durham, North Carolina and Brent will be a proud member of the Duke MBA class of 2013! That's right... the Aggie of all Aggies will add "Blue Devil" to his identity.

We are thrilled and couldn't be more excited. Though we will always be Texans, we can't wait to add North Carolina to our life experience. It is only through the Lord's loving direction in our life that we are embarking on this journey. Praise God that everything we are and everything we have is from Him!

At this point you may be thinking: "Wait. Didn't the Norwoods JUST move?!" Let's pause for a moment to play a little game I like to call "Nail Down the Norwoods". It's difficult, but you can try and play along at home.

Q: How long have the Norwoods been married?
A: 6 years.
Q: How many places have the Norwoods lived?
A: Two owned houses, two apartments, a rental house, four cities, and a partridge in a pear tree.
Q: How many jobs has Katie had?
A: 6 jobs at 2 schools.
Q: How many jobs had Brent had?
A: 4 jobs at 4 companies.
Q: How many degrees do the Norwoods have?
A: 3 finished and 2 in progress.

If you're starting to think that the Norwoods are gypsies and/or want to wallpaper their living room with diplomas and tuition payments, then you would be correct! All kidding aside, we have never been happier because we know we are in the middle of God's will. The Lord has very clearly led us down this path, and we have found immense comfort, provision, and joy in His plan for us.

Weather you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying "This is the way; Walk in it!"
Isaiah 30:21

I used to plan where I would be in two years, five years, ten years... and guess what? I don't care about my plans anymore!!!! I want God's plans, and I can say that honestly now. In the last 8 months, I cannot tell you how many times I have been on my face on the floor begging for God's will, not mine, to be done. In the midst of uncertainty from every angle, I discovered the sweet comfort of God's sovereignty compared with the terrible stress of trying to do things on your own. Oh, how grateful I am that it's not about me. I am a terrible decision maker, so seeking God's will is the most joyful comfort I have found.

Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
James 4:13-15

I can't WAIT to tell you all the details. many things to say!!!! We've been waiting for the right time to tell everyone, but now I don't even know where to start. To God be the glory for everything. In my next post I'll tell you all the ways the Lord has faithfully provided, led, and loved us. Praise Him!!

"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is within us, to Him be glory!"
Ephesians 3:19-21

For now I need to brag on my husband for a moment. About a year ago, the Lord began to lead Brent towards returning to school. At the time, I was not, um, thrilled. One thing about Brent...when he gets something in his mind, HE WILL DO IT. So when he started talking about going back to school, I knew: We were moving.

God has blessed Brent with incredible work ethic and intellect. Brent is just REALLY good at what he does. He studied for the GMAT, aced it, applied to four business schools, wrote 20 different essays, and flew to interview at 5 schools. Brent kept saying he was not going to get into any of the schools he applied to. I respectfully disagreed. I knew we were going. Period.

God answered our prayers and was so faithful in both opening and closing doors. Brent got into not one but three of the top business schools in the country - Cornell, Duke, and the University of Michigan. Duke was our first choice and everything about it was blessed by God. I am so, so proud of my husband for his ambition, leadership, work ethic, intelligence, and faithfulness, and I can't wait to go on our new adventure!!


Monday, May 16, 2011

A Spoonful of the Sea

I am a Southern girl at heart, but my family is from the North. I grew up on my grandparents' clam chowder and have always loved all things seafood. Every Fourth of July, my grandparents make a giant batch of fresh clam chowder. It seems odd because soup is hot, but clam chowder is a summer staple in New England.

If you've ever had that goopy, thick, tasteless clam chowder out of a can, forget it. Gross. Homemade clam chowder is TOTALLY different. Clam chowder with fresh clams is about as good as it gets.

I've never attempted to make it before because I thought it was a) too difficult, b) too expensive, and c) unhealthy. However, I was happily surprised to find that none of my preconceived notions were true. I found this clam chowder featured in the May 2011 issue of Cooking Light. I immediately knew I wanted to try it, and a lazy Saturday afternoon seemed like the perfect time. I modified the recipe a bit, and it was the most amazingly delicious soup ever.

My grandparents make a delicious and simple version with milk, potatoes, and clams. This version kicks it up with wine, onions, celery, bacon, chives, thyme, and a hint of red pepper. It tastes like a spoonful of the sea (in a good way!). The flavor is super deep and complex - rich, spicy, creamy, salty, and utterly yummy.

Clam Chowder
Adapted from Cooking Light, May 2011

1 1/2 cups onion, divided (I used a combo of red onion & shallots)
1/2 cup unoaked chardonnay
3 pounds littleneck clams (We bought them at Whole Foods, and they were super fresh and not too expensive... you buy the clams live in the shells... they're right there in the seafood case)
1 (8 oz.) bottle of clam juice (find at any grocery store next to the canned tuna)
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon butter
2 slices bacon, chopped
3 cups diced red potato
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup reduced fat 2% milk
3/4 cup half & half
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1. Rinse clams under water and scrub lightly.

2. Combine 1/2 cup onion, wine, clams, clam juice, and bay leaf in a dutch oven and bring to a boil. Cover and steam 2-4 minutes or until clams open.
3. While clams are steaming, chop remaining onion, potatoes, and celery.
4. Use tongs to remove clams from cooking liquid. They should be open. If any clams are not open, discard them. I threw away about 4 clams out of 3 pounds. Aren't they just beautiful??? 5. Strain cooking liquid through a sieve and save just the liquid in a bowl. That's liquid gold, baby. Don't let one drop of flavor get away.
6. Let clams cool slightly and remove meat with your hands. Discard shells and chop clam meat into large bite-sized chunks.

7. Add butter to dutch oven and brown bacon until crisp. 8. Add potatoes, celery, onion, and red pepper flakes to pan. Saute for about 3 minutes. The veggies won't be totally tender at this point, but don't worry... they will cook fully in the liquid later.

9. Add flour and cook for one minute. 9. Add reserved clam/wine liquid to pan plus 1/3 cup water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
10. Add chopped clams, chives, thyme, half & half, and milk to the pan. Stir to combine and warm through. Remove from heat.

11. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with chives, if desired. Serve with crusty bread and imagine you're eating on a dock in Maine.

Enjoy your bowl of chowda!!!!


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Wait... I Like Running??

Believe me, no one is more surprised than me. I am by no means a runner, and let's just be honest with ourselves - I will never, ever run a marathon. However, strangely enough, lately I have been trying my hand at running, and I'm glad to report that I really like it, and I'm not half bad!

I love walking, so that's my go-to outdoor workout. However, I knew that I needed to up the ante, so I decided to incorporate multiple one minute jogging intervals into my walk. At first I must have had terrible form because my calves and hips hurt so much I could hardly walk the next day. So I started focusing more on good form and the pain went away.

I've been building up, and now I have a 50 minute workout that is working great for me. I walk briskly or do the elliptical for the first 15 minutes. Then I do 35 minutes of 5 minute intervals - 2 minutes walking, 3 minutes running. Some of you are probably laughing at me right now (and rightfuly so... it's silly to be proud of 3 minutes of running at a time), but if you add it all up, I'm running like 21 minutes! I'm not sprinting, but I don't think my pace is too shabby: 5.2 mph. We've been lucky in Houston to have cool weather with very low humidity, so I've been running outside quite a bit. Sometimes I get so into my Lady GaGa or Ke$ha that I forget to look at my watch and accidentally run 4 or 5 minute intervals! I'm finding that it's easier to run on the treadmill at the gym... there I can run 10 or 12 minutes without stopping at a slight incline.

The thing I love most about running, though, is that it's getting me results. I recently stopped doing boot camps because my beloved workout partner of two years went and got pregnant so she can't do boot camp anymore. I know... the nerve of her! :-) I think the boot camps were building up too much muscle and now I'm losing some muscle, but I'm kind of OK with that. I'll add back some strength soon, but I'm happy with my intense cardio for now. After I started doing my 50 minute running workout 3-5 days a week, I lost 8 pounds in the blink of an eye. I'm entering a 10 pound segment of the scale I thought I may never see again. To be fair, my foray into running coincided with an intensely stressful situation that caused me to eat very little for an entire week, so that probably helped. But I do think the running was the tipping point. That success really motivates me to keep running!

I'm not worried in the least about speed or distance. I just concentrate on not cheating on my intervals. I think I can do even more than I'm doing now, and I'm pretty excited about it. So who knew? I like running!!


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Shake Up Your Salad

I love salads, but I get bored quickly, and I get seriously bored with lettuce. So I was delighted to find this recipe in my newest issue of "Everyday Food" - which is probably my fave food magazine. It looked good and sounded good, but the final product WAY exceeded my expectations. I modified it a bit, as usual, so my version is below.

I LOVED it for lunch today. It was light, tangy, fresh, and filling. I could envision this salad at a backyard barbecue, a picnic, church dinner, or just at your laptop for lunch as pictured here :-) It's super quick to make. I forgot to prep it last night before I went to bed, so I had to make it from start to finish before leaving for work this morning, and I still got to school on time!

Here's to summer and non-boring healthy food!!

Tuna & Two Bean Salad
Serves 1, but you can easily make a bigger batch.

large handful trimmed green beans (I bought the nice haricot vert packaged at the grocery)
3/4 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 package white tuna in water (I like the kind in pouches instead of cans)
handful cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup thinly sliced pepperoncini peppers (so good, you have to add them. You can buy them already cut up.)
olive oil
white wine vinegar
salt & pepper

Bring a small saucepan of water to boil. Boil green beans for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop cooking. Pat beans dry, cut into one inch pieces, add place in a large bowl. To the green beans, add cannellini beans, tuna, tomatoes, onion, and pepperoncini peppers. Toss to combine. Prepare dressing by whisking together olive oil, white wine vinegar, and a dash of salt & pepper. If you're serving the salad immediately, dress and toss to coat. If you're packing a lunch, pack the dressing separately and dress the salad right before you eat.

I packed a piece of bread to eat with my salad today, and I didn't even need it because the salad itself was so good and satisfying. It tasted like summer in a bowl. Hope you like it too!


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Pretty Sure Our Moms are the Best.

Happy Mother's Day to the best mom I know!!
Thank you for:
Staying home with me for 18 years
Coming to every field trip, PTA meeting, gymnastics meet, t-ball game, choir concert, school musical, and honors society ceremony
Writing excellent scripts for any and all occasions
Being a Girl Scout leader
Cooking dinner every night (except Sunday!) for 18 years
Checking my homework every day
Making my lunches for school every day for 12 years
Babying me when I was sick and giving me microwave pizza and Chinese food
Buying me books whenever I wanted them
Pushing me to try out for things I didn't think I'd make
Planning sweet birthday parties
Helping me move like a million times since graduation
Setting an example of what a great teacher looks like
Keeping an immaculate house without the help of a maid. Ever.
Taking me to church
Giving me sympathy when I need it
Sending me random $100 bills in the mail even today
Always giving Brent and I grace, understanding, space, encouragement, and mercy
Being my over-the-phone therapist

Happy Mother's Day to the best mother-in-law I know!

Thank you for:
Accepting me into your family as one of your own
Loving me from the very first time we met and Brent & I were not even dating
Bringing me chicken and soup when I was sick and had just started dating Brent
Letting me come to your house to drink wine, eat dinner, and grade papers my first year of teaching
Helping me move all of my college stuff to Houston
Coming to my classroom to catalog books in my library
Reading my blog and being my own personal blog marketing agent
Including me in every family tradition, party, and shower
Taking care of your grand-doggie Blazer any time we go out of town and leaving lipstick on his head
Being excited for everything Brent & I do
Praying for me
Taking me out for random lunches and dinners
Rescuing me with a credit card when I ran out of gas without my wallet
    Mom & Vicky, I appreciate you!!!


    Saturday, May 7, 2011

    Happy Endings and Sweet Beginnings

    Today I had the honor of helping to host a graduation brunch for Brent's cousin, Kelly. My mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and I had a great time putting this together for Kelly. Although it seems like a million years ago that I graduated from high school, I do clearly remember my graduation tea that was held at Lady Primrose in Dallas, and it was a super special day. We wanted to make sure Kelly was honored with her friends at her own graduation brunch. We had the party at a super cute place in Sugar Land called Flora & Muse. Kudos to Wendy for coming up with the adorable party theme: Happy Endings and Sweet Beginnings. Kelly is one of the smartest people I know, and she is graduating with honors and heading to UT in Plan II. I was able to put aside my fanatic Aggie self for the day, and I even wore burnt orange for the occassion! I know... I'm so selfless :-) We are so happy for Kelly and her friends! It was a great morning.

    To continue the "sweet beginnings" theme, we had a brightly colored candy bar as favors and a centerpiece.

    We had this adorable little corner of the restaurant with four funky chandeliers overhead. I would totally do this in my house if I wasn't married :-) Brent would not allow it. I know... why ever not???
    We tied brightly colored ribbons around the silverware - the colors were teal, hot pink, black, and white. We also had a chandelier theme since the restaurant has those chandeliers. I made the menus you see below with the chandelier stamp and teal card stock.
    Cute shot of the table
    Pink & teal "K" for Kelly cupcakes! No, didn't make them. As guests arrived, we served "Kelly-tinis"! They were some sort of delicious concoction involving Italian soda, orange juice, grenadine, and cream. Kelly with the hostesses Kelly with her grandmother, mom, and aunt We also had several tables outside on the patio

    I made this "Hook 'em Kelly" banner for the occasion. The one for my sister's shower went so well I decided to make another. It turned out cute I think! I had to make it when Brent wasn't home, though. It would have pained him to see me cutting out letters that spelled "hook 'em". But I pushed through.

    We did a "sweet things" tree for her friends to write favorite memories for Kelly to keep. OK, at this point you're probably thinking: Wait a minute!!! Haven't I seen this before? Blessing tree, glitter banner, candy bar??? Haven't you done this before? Well, people, YES. My party planning skills are still somewhat limited, and if it ain't broke, don't fix it!!!! I will most likely be using the blessing tree and banner trick until people find me out and tell me to stop. Deal with it :-) I gotta say those sticks from Hobby Lobby were a pretty good investment since I've now used them 5 times. Just saying.

    Oh, to be young. She's so cute and effortlessly fashionable!
    Wendy gave a lovely toast with the Kelly-tinis.
    Girls writing their memory / blessing cards for Kelly
    We're proud of you Kelly! Congrats and good luck!


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