November 28, 2010

Showering Jordan

Over the holiday, some friends and I had the privilege of showering my dear friend, Jordan in anticipation of the arrival of her daughter, Jane Ellen (Ellie). We had so much fun brunching and watching Jordan open her gifts. She got everything from a tutu with "Ellie" monogrammed on it to an owl hair clip (future Chi-O) to a swing.

I offered Jordan some words of encouragement as she and Adams embark on this new chapter of their life. I wanted to make it applicable to everyone in the group--women who were mothers and those who were not. I started by stating that children are a gift and a blessing from the Lord.

We tend to do a few things with blessings:

1. Worship it over the creator

2. Worry about it (losing it, etc)

Instead we should:

1. Let it point us to Christ

2. Hold it loosely and trust that God is sovereign—Ellie already belongs to Him!

What do our fears have in common? Many of them are in our imagination.

Our minds generate countless scenarios of “What if this happens? How will I deal with it?”

Often most of the bad things we imagine never actually come true. But there will be other trials—ones we can never anticipate. 

That’s why Elisabeth Elliot’s wise advice is invaluable in fighting fear: “There is no grace for your imagination.” God does not sprinkle grace over every path our fear takes. He does not rush in with support and encouragement for every scenario we can imagine.

Instead He warns us to stay off those paths. Psalm 37:8 explicitly tells us: “Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” 

There is no grace for our imagination. That’s why our fearful imaginings produce bad fruit: anxiety, lack of joy, futile attempts to control.

However, God does promise sufficient, abundant grace for every real moment of our lives. That’s why the Proverbs 31 woman can “laugh at the future” in contrast with being worried or fearful about it.”

Welcome table! Each guest signed the book The Night You Were Born for Ellie
as a keepsake to put in her nursery. Jordan's baby bonnet (hand made by
her mother) is on the left.

Gorgeous flowers and delicious food

Opening gifts

The hostesses and Jordan

We met in Mrs. Germany's 7th grade math class...
and the rest is history!

Brooke, Ginger, Jordan, Sara, and me

November 26, 2010

Thankful Hearts

October through December is my favorite time of year...fall, cool weather, special holidays and time with family and friends. I also appreciate the changed in my daily routine that allows me to pause and reflect on the year that is passing. I was blessed enough to have two Thanksgiving meals on Thursday this year! I went to Brookhaven for a delicious lunch at Kern's house then came back to Madison to eat dinner at Gran Fran's! It was a very special and fun day.

Before I went to Brookhaven, I started my day at First Pres for our annual Thanksgiving service. The scripture reading was from Psalm 30: "Joy Comes with the Morning."

Thanksgiving comes from a Biblical perspective on life. It can be hard to remain totally thankful when we are going through phases of prosperity because we tend to believe that we are self reliant. In verse 6, David admits, "As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.”" Being truly thankful means that you recognize the things that you love come from the Lord. There are also more to trials than what meets the eye. Sometimes our trials are results of our own sin, while other times they are completely out of our control. However, either way, trials are intended to produce spiritual maturity in us. This is one of the parts of Christianity that blows me away--we have a God who can use any situation in our lives to mold us into his likeness. What an awesome God!

Verse 5 reminds us: "For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning." Trouble is an overnight guest for the Christian--yes, it will come and we are to expect hard times in this life (John 16:33) but joy is a resident in the Christian's life.

We all have much to be thankful for. No matter what we are going through, there is a God who is working his eternal plan for our good. We also have the freedom to worship, thanks to a band of people from England who had faith that they could cross an ocean and establish a new life for themselves and their descendants. We live in a country that is safe and where we can have our own opinions. Let us not forget our troops this holiday season. They sacrifice so much to keep us free.

What are you thankful for? Take some time and really think it through. I pray that God will make me thankful not only for the good things in my life, but also for the trials he sends my way because I know it will all be for good.

November 19, 2010

Happy Birthday Mama!

Today is my wonderful mother's birthday! One of the worst parts about living 1000 miles away from your loved ones is not being able to spend birthdays together. So we call. We video chat. And look forward to next Tuesday when we will be reunited.

I am blessed to have a mother that is also my friend. We are very similar in some ways and very different in some ways, but we have learned that our difference often compliment one another. We both love projects and getting things done. Any time I am in town, we always have a "to-do" list, but amidst the work we have a blast together. My mother is one of the strongest people I know. She truly exemplifies the woman of Proverbs 31. I often think of her when I read verse 25: "Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come." Observing my mother's relationship with the Lord throughout my life has strengthened my relationship with Him. I have watched my mother go through hard experiences, but she never falters and always relies on the Lord FIRST and foremost. She is not swayed by other people's opinions--she is unafraid to be her own person. These and so many more are the qualities that I love about her.

Mom, can't wait to see you next week. Get the to-do list ready! :)

Last Christmas
Graduation from college
At a family wedding
Having fun wine tasting in Napa
Love with the Bop It!
Fam pic in the Grove

November 18, 2010

If I had a million dollars...

I would buy these completely impractical but absolutely adorable Kate Spade flats (Nell):

A disco ball for your feet (we can't get enough of shimmer and shine). finished with a sweet bow at the toe, they're equally delightful with jeans or dressy shorts and sparkle plenty with a favorite party dress.


OR the heel version, CHARM:

I mean, come on, who wouldn't feel magical in these? I bet they can take you much better places than back to Kansas...

November 15, 2010


When you live and work in a town like Washington, DC everything changes all the time. Change is our constant here. Voters speak their minds (or don't) and the landscape and makeup of the city is different. Friends get new jobs and move away. People lose their jobs and have to move away.

I also feel like our country can be so obsessed with the political leaders in power--either pulling for them or fighting against them--that they forget who the true Ruler is. Even though I do work in politics, I find extreme comfort from the fact that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. As I am often tempted to let my emotions carry with the current event of the day, I remind myself that contentment is not based on circumstances. I think Sarah Young says it well in Jesus Calling from last week. Here is a paraphrase:

People tend to think their circumstances determine the quality of their lives. So they pour their energy into trying to control those situations. They feel happy when things are going well, and sad or frustrated when things don't turn out as they had hoped. They rarely question this correlation between circumstances and feelings. Yet it is possible to be content in any and every situation.

Put more energy into trusting Jesus and enjoying his His Presence. Don't let your well-being depend on your circumstances. Instead, connect your joy to Jesus' precious promises:

"I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
Genesis 28:15

"And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in
glory in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:19

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39

Now those words are healing and soothing. What is the worse that can happen to us? Praise God for his love, power and promises.

November 10, 2010

In Honor of my Favorite Veteran

The definition of a veteran is:

vet·er·an[vet-er-uhn, ve-truhn]


1. a person who has had long service or experience in an occupation or office

2. a person who has served in a military force, esp. one who has fought in a war: a Vietnam veteran

Working in a Congressional Office has allowed me to talk with many Veterans from our armed services. There is no way I can ever adequately thank or repay them for their service to our country. I am humbled to know that because of their sacrifice, I am free.

Today I would like to honor my personal favorite Veteran--my father, Bill Penn. You see, in my life, he has exemplified both of the definitions above--he has had long service and experience as my father and he has also served our country in a war (Vietnam to be exact). My dad has not only served his country, but he has served our family, our church and our community.

I've always been a big believer that is it really the little things that matter. In high school, my dad would come to my room every morning and carry my backpack downstairs and put it in the car for me. He would (and still does--when I'm home) put fresh roses in my room for me. He is always the first one in our family to volunteer to do whatever task is needed--from washing the dished to vacuuming. The clincher is this: Dad does all these things with a smile on his face and usually whistles while he does them. He wants to serve. I have no doubt that my mom, brother, and other individuals in our community have stories where my father has stopped what he is doing to serve them.

So Dad, I really appreciate you and value you in my life. You have been such an amazing father and set a Christ-like example for me while also teaching me to follow my perfect Heavenly Father. Thank you for everything you have done for me in my life. Also, thank you for serving our country. I'm so proud of you and I love you very much!

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are some fun pictures of my dad:

Family in the Grove in 2009

Family at my St. Paddy's Day party in DC in 2009

Grove, 2008

Father's Day in...2006ish?

At a wedding in 2006

Christmas 2005

Eat your veggies

I feel like a kid again. I'm attempting to acquire a taste for brussel sprouts and I just...can' I really like almost every kind of vegetable, but I cannot get to used to brussel sprouts. I think they are absolutely adorable...they look like miniature cabbages, but I do not (I repeat do not) like how they taste.

I'm really trying hard. I ate them with dinner last night and then brought some to work (that I couldn't force down) and ate them with lunch. But I think it's official now: I don't like them. Unless, that is, someone out there has a fabulous recipe that disguises their true taste, although this will most likely render them unhealthy and I will be back to eating the green veggies that I love plain: peas, broccoli, green beans, etc.

"Scientists" say your taste buds change every seven years so I'll check back on my 28th birthday. Better luck then!

November 09, 2010

Mississippi's new Delegation

With a small congressional delegation, Mississippi has long relied on members with seniority to bring home federal money.

Political scientist Marty Wiseman said the state finds itself on different footing after Tuesday's midterm election in which two of the four U.S. House members were defeated.

The incoming congressmen, Alan Nunnelee and Steven Palazzo, go to Washington with zero seniority, like every other freshman. But as Republicans, they'll be in the House majority.

Palazzo defeated Democrat Gene Taylor, who's been in office 21 years. Taylor chairs an Armed Services subcommittee and has helped secure federal contracts for shipbuilding.

Nunnelee defeated Democrat Travis Childers, who's been in Congress since May 2008.

Republican Rep. Gregg Harper held onto his seat on Tuesday by defeating Democrat Joel Gill in the 3rd Congressional District. Now the senior House member in the state, Harper acknowledged that reducing spending, as Republicans promise, could mean less money for Mississippi projects. Harper admitted that his relationship with soon-to-be House Speaker John Boehner could help state-supported university projects like the Cancer Park at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

"It is going to help by way of committee assignments, which help in getting our legislation through on things, that hopefully, will be beneficial to the country," Harper said.

Democrat Rep. Bennie Thompson won another term by defeating Republican Bill Marcy in the 2nd District. But because of the shift in power, Thompson will be forced to step down as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.

"I will still be involved but I will be the ranking Democrat and not chairman," Thompson said.

Economist Dr. Bill Penn said if there is an impact on the economy, it may be in the perception of a troubled economy.

Take a few moments and watch the dad is towards the end!

November 07, 2010

MCM replay!

Sunrise over the Capitol before the 10K

Marathon finisher!

6.2 miles and 26.2 miles
If you want to feel like you where there (minus the sweat and exhaustion) check out this video!

November 03, 2010

Asparagus: obsessed!

I tried a new baked asparagus recipe last night and I could not be more obsessed. It was the perfect mix of crisp and crunchy asparagus cooked tender and covered in a delicious sauce that had a hint of sweet in it! I recommend trying it.

Baked Asparagus with Balsamic Butter Sauce


  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed
  • cooking spray
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Arrange the asparagus on a baking sheet. Coat with cooking spray, and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Bake asparagus 12 minutes in the preheated oven, or until tender.
  4. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat, and stir in soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. Pour over the baked asparagus to serve.

And there it is Ladies and Gentlemen...vegetable heaven! Enjoy!

November 01, 2010

In the words of a marathon finisher...

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to present to you a guest columnist, Mr. Kern Hoff, MCM finisher and avid squirrel watcher. Mr. Hoff is contributing a piece today regarding his personal experience of training for and running the 35th annual Marine Corps Marathon. Pictures and more recap tomorrow!

"On an April morning ealier this year, I was listening to the announcements in our newly joined running club. We were welcoming new members to Capitol Hill Running Club, and a particular opportunity caught my attention. The registration for the 35th Marine Corps Marathon was approaching, and the club had a few reserved slots available. I thought, "why not?"

The first Marine Corps Marathon was held on November 7, 1976. That year's race welcomed 1,175 runners, and has grown to a little over 30,000 starters in this year's edition. The Marine Corps Marathon is the fourth largest marathon held in the U.S. and the eighth largest in the world. It has gained the nickname, "The People's Marathon," because it is the largest marathon that doesn't offer cash prizes.

Throughout the spring and summer, Emily and I had the benefit of excellent trainers. The Capitol Hill Runnign Club is coordinated by the Marine Corps liason office on Capitol Hill. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday they provided the early morning motivation to get us going. Often times, they were a little more amped up than I prefer. And thats alot, because I usually consider myself full-tilt, full-time. The Marines scheduled routes and distances that would gradually get us in shape to compete in the race. Emily's favorite route was a loop that headed west from the Capitol toward the Washington Monument, then north around the White House. As we passed the White House at the early hour, you could catch the scent of cookin' bacon. As you can imagine this would steal her attention, and a little coaxing was usually needed to get her back on track.

Early race-day morning, I headed to the Pentagon for the big race. Riding the Metro, I noticed the anxiety in the other runners' faces. This was really encouraging. I arrived at the Pentagon around 6:45 for the 8:00 start. I will never understand why folks began warming-up an hour before a race that takes four hours to complete. The participants were grouped at the start according to their expected finish. There was a F-14 fly-over and Dr. Jill Biden was the Official Starter.

I can't recall much about the four and a half hours and 26.2 miles, because everything was surreal. There is alot of telling yourself, "just keep going." I remember the most popular costume was "Where's Waldo." I was passed around mile 19 by a running hotdog. I don't recall seeing any squirrels. And I barely finished ahead of a Special Forces member who set a Guiness Record for completing the entire marathon wearing a gas mask. The best piece of advice I would give anyone planning on running a marathon is don't."
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