Guys, I'm about to make a Life Application based off my recent cake baking experience. Things are about to get DEEP. Ya'll ready for this?! (Cue lasers & bass-pumping music.)

I like to appear like I have my life under control. And I like being able to present life through this blog like I've got it all together and everything always works out nicely & neatly.

Case and point: my Easter cake.
It looked and tasted perfect.

But life is so rarely like that.
I'm scattered, I'm messy, and some days it just takes multiple tries.

So here's an honest look at how things really go sometimes.
Sometimes, your cake won't come out of the #@$! pan.

AND it was a store-bought mix.
Because the homemade cake you made earlier in the day? That overflowed while it was baking.

You didn't do anything wrong - you followed the directions, greased the pan and even floured it. And since it's 11pm, you put the knife down slowly, stand for a minute just looking at your destroyed work, then leave everything there and go to bed.

The only thing you can do is get up the next day, run out during your prep hour and buy another box mix, rush home after work and try again.

So, I started that part of the blog yesterday afternoon, but had to finish frosting the cake for my small group. Got to small group and guess what our topic was?

The Life Application part of the story.

Why are we so hesitant to let others see our mess?
(Or, if you want to get even deeper - why are we so afraid to confess, to admit when we've done wrong? According to Andy Stanley, the three motivators are rejection, fear and pride. I'd say that's just about right...)

We all have those days - we all have areas of our lives that we try to stuff in the closet when guests come over. What mess are you trying to keep hidden?


recently i'm... (5)

Excited About: 37 school days left.

Reading: Going through Prodigal God again, with a different small group (3rd time's the charm, right?). Also reading What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert with Doug. So good!

Listening to: my current favorite song is "I Already Know" by Mandi Mapes with Brook Hills Church. Watch this video (or at least the first 20 minutes).
Story of Love

"I already know Who's gonna save you, I already wrote the end of the story.
You were made for Me, and I'll never leave you. In the end, it's all for My glory."

Watching: Um, hello. Glee is back!

Annoyed with: Will it never end?

Cooking: Ahem. I've been slacking on my New Year's Resolution! I'm blaming it on hot dogs. Friends, it is hot dog season. And that may seem a weird or gross thing to love, but - I love hot dogs! They're so easy & they're so... summer! Anyway, tonight I've got a recipe for Sherried Chicken that looks pretty good...

Grading: Stupid research papers (still). About halfway done... but my juniors start their research papers on Monday.

Thankful for: Blossoms.

Laughing at: Sadly, the Toyota Sienna Family commercials... same style of humor as The Office.

Missing: the boys at Fountain of Life...
"Dear Racho,
How are you Racho, how do you see owr beautifull country. I wan't to tell you that I apreciate your help. For taking me picture, for taking your time to come and stay with us. Thank you for all that. Your husband is very silly I love him. I like playing with him every moment that we met. I will miss you too you are my best friends. Racho without hidding I love you. May the Lord bless you, may you and your husband have a beautiful family. Racho I love you and I will miss you when you are away. May the Lord shine his light over your life. God bless you. I will be praying for you. From Paul."


April 14th

WARNING: Post contains an excess of sentimentality & mushiness.

Today is a special day in my heart, because 6 years ago today, Doug & I started dating. Now that we're married, we don't celebrate dating anniversaries, but I'm usually pretty good with dates, so each year when it comes around, I have a little smile in my soul all day.

Spring is the season for twitterpation, so I thought, hey, the Internet needs to know our love story. So here's our "timeline" (try not to gag on all this sweet, lovey-doveyness!).

January 2004: Picture it. My freshman year at college. By this time, I think I know the ropes pretty well. I'm familiar with most of the faces at our small, Christian school, and I'm loving la vida single! One day in the dining commons, I see an unfamiliar face. A really cute unfamiliar face. After some sly inquiring, I was informed that this was "Doug Parton - he's a junior, and he was studying abroad in Costa Rica last semester." Turns out we had friends in common. And we kept showing up at the same places. And no one was introducing us. So one day, at the Spring Arbor Library, I was talking with one of my friends, and "Doug Parton, who was studying abroad in Costa Rica last semester" was sitting next to this friend. Turning to Doug, I stuck out my hand and said, "Hi. I don't know you. I'm Rachel." Naturally, he found me irresistible, and 3 years later we were married.

Oh, more details? Sure.

We chatted for a bit that evening, and became friends quickly. Because I was a flirtatious freshman (me?!), I wanted Doug to like me, but I didn't want to date him. However, I did confess to my best friends that I had a "baby crush" on Doug. We had established that a "baby crush" meant you thought the person was cute and dateable, but you weren't quite at a full-fledged crush. Because there's so much difference!

Feb. - Mar. 2004: On Feb. 1st, Doug & I hung out for the first time - I had expressed interest in his time abroad, so he invited me over to look at his pictures from Costa Rica. College boys - if you can't play guitar, make sure you get some pictures of yourself holding impoverished children. Anyway, we looked at pictures and talked and Doug was totally laying on the charm, and it all worked. I realized this Doug Parton guy had an amazing heart and he was smart and funny. So I got over my denial and admitted to myself that I liked him. Throughout the rest of February and March, we continued to hang out with increasing regularity. Toward the end of March, Doug and I got around to discussing how we felt about one another, which is known on Christian college campuses as a "DTR" - Define The Relationship. We didn't start dating, but we at least knew the feelings were mutual. Phew.

Apr. - Aug. 2004: On April 14th, 2004, Doug & I were on our way to a Tigers' game together. We were about 10 minutes down the road when Doug said, "So, do you want to make this official? Do you want to be my girlfriend?" Naturally, I found him irresistible (and 3 years later we were married...). Doug & I were apart for the summer, but we saw each other a couple times. We still liked each other, so we kept dating.

Sept. 2004 - May 2005: We were an established, typical couple at SAU. One funny thing about the year was that 2 of housemates and best friends were engaged, and I was living with their fiances, so all of us spent a considerable amount of time together. Which obviously put some pressure (both intentionally and unintentionally) on Doug. It manifested itself every month or so, when Doug would randomly tell me that he didn't want to talk about marriage or engagement or anything yet. Mind you, Internet, this pressure was not coming from me! But I found these conversations mildly amusing, and would routinely console Doug by telling him that I was only a sophomore and totally content. Doug graduated in May, and began the tedious process of looking for a REAL JOB.
Oct. 2004
June - Aug. 2005: Doug & I spent another summer apart, seeing each other a few times for the weddings of those friends. At some point over the summer, Doug told me that he "could see us getting married someday." Score! The day I returned to Michigan to go back to school, Doug made a special dinner for us and told me for the first time that he loved me. THE L-WORD, PEOPLE! This was a big deal.
Aug. 2005
Sept. 2005: Doug got a job offer in NYC. Which meant we'd be doing long-distance again. For a longer time. The day before he left, we looked at engagement rings together. WHOA.

Oct. 2005 - Apr. 2006: We did the long-distance thing. We saw each other at holidays, I drove to NYC to surprise him for his birthday in December, he flew me to NYC for my 21st birthday in January. Then in February, he came out for a weekend to visit. Unknown to me, he also purchased an engagement ring that weekend. In March, he took a secret trip to Excelsior Farms to ask my dad for permission to marry me. On April 14, 2006: Doug proposed on our 2-year anniversary, after setting up a sweet little scavenger hunt on my family's farm. Naturally, I found him irresistible and said yes.
April 2006
May - Aug. 2006: Still long-distance, seeing each other sporadically.

Sept. - Dec. 2006: I spent a semester abroad in England! Doug flew out and surprised me around Thanksgiving and we visited France together.
Nov. 2006
Jan. - June 2007: Student teaching. Wedding planning. Registering. Grading. Daydreaming. Practicing writing "Rachel Parton". Ahh, twitterpation.
April 2007
July 7, 2007: Our beautiful wedding day at Excelsior Farms! The start of our marriage. Details from this point forward have been chronicled in varying length throughout this blog.

For our 1st anniversary, Doug & I took a weekend trip to Mackinac Island. For our 2nd anniversary, he got me a puppy. This year, our upcoming 3rd anniversary, we'll be in Jamaica with the youth group on a mission trip.

I feel so blessed.


road trip 2010, pt. 5

Friday morning we woke up and drove through the Custer State Wildlife Loop and then up the Needles Highway. I can't say much, other than "breathtaking" and "PRAIRIE DOGS" (new favorite animal??). See for yourself (& seriously, plan a trip so you can really see for yourself):

Hey, dirty. (Please note, this picture was taken from a safe distance, as we were amply warned: BUFFALO ARE DANGEROUS ANIMALS. DO NOT APPROACH. Relax, I was just hanging out a window. He was totally cool with it.)

Did someone say squinty-eyed photo shoot?!?!

Fact: Buffalo have black tongues.

No, he did not pose for this.
Yes, that is a giant buffalo turd behind him.

Maybe posed for this one.

You had to know this was coming:

PRAIRIE DOG! You should hear their cute little barks.

"Needle's Eye"

After driving around for a couple hours in the park, we headed back East. Doug took this picture while I was driving - looking back West.
Have I mentioned yet about how much of a saint my husband is? Because Doug drove pretty much the entire week. I drove maybe a total of 8 hours? On Friday, we started for home around 12pm (ET). Doug drove the whole morning in the park, and then he drove until we stopped for dinner at 6ish (ET). I drove from about 7 to midnight (first time in Iowa, whoo!), then Doug drove from midnight until 6am. I was feeling good around 6am, and we were in Michigan, so I thought, no sweat - I'll get us home. Yeah. Around 7:30am, I pulled over to avoid killing us because I was almost asleep. I planned on napping for half an hour and then driving home, but Doug woke up and was ready to go. We got home at 8:30 on Saturday morning. What a rock star!

In summation - it was an incredible trip! I wish we had been able to spend more time hiking & exploring & what not, but at least we got to see some amazing sights and spend time with my amazing brother!


road trip 2010, pt. 4

Thursday morning we begrudgingly packed up our belongings and bade our darling cabin farewell. We made the trek to Stroh's Ranch and tagged along with Robert as he fed the baby calf, fed hay & minerals, and fixed some fence. Barbed wire, folks.

Then we had to say goodbye. It was such a short visit, but I'm so thankful I got to see my little brother. Girls, if you're looking for a cowboy... well, stay away from my brother until I conduct a thorough interview, complete with background check. I love this kid so much.

Then we were off to South Dakota: "Great Faces. Great Places."

We made a couple stops on the way just to get out & run around a bit. Because, why not?

And we drove through some cute little towns.

Including the illustrious Deadwood.

& then we arrive in the Black Hills. Which are gorgeous.

Oh, we saw these guys:

& we stayed at the Creekside Resort in Custer State Park. Since it's the off-season, we got a discounted rate, and it felt like we were the only people in the Park, and perhaps the world. It was AWESOME.

We had a delicious dinner at a lovely little place called "Sage Creek Grille". Then we went to Dairy Queen for ice cream and drove back to the Creekside. Next post: Custer State Park Game Loop, a mini photo shoot, Needles Highway, buffalo and PRAIRIE DOGS!

Before I go - some things you should watch out for in South Dakota:
(Sadly, we saw neither.)


road trip 2010, pt. 3

Wednesday morning I woke up at 6:22am MT. With no alarm clock. Because my body was telling me it was 8:22am ET. I woke Doug up and we looked outside, and saw this from the porch of our cabin:

After a hearty Poptart breakfast, we took a pic with our beloved cabin...

and then started to leave, but we ran into Lynn, the guy who owns the Lone Butte Ranch. We listened to him talk chatted with him for about 20 minutes. He informed us that the cabin had been rented for the following evening, so we decided to follow through with our original plans and head down to South Dakota after all. (We had been contemplating staying another night in ND and forgoing SD). After our chat, we headed down the "driveway"... (4.4 miles to the road)

... and headed back to Killdeer.

I snapped a picture of what Robert sees when he walks out the front door every morning, mostly for Mom:

Then we went to tag the baby calves that had been born the day before.
That's Robert, wrastlin' the calf to the ground, and Tony, his boss.
They put a tag in each calf's left ear the day (or day after) it's born, then they tattoo the same number in the calf's right ear, just in case the tag is lost over the years. I'd never seen the tattoo process before, and I'd wager that about 90% of my faithful blogging audience hasn't either, so here it is (if you think this is "animal cruelty", you should probably skip this part):

First, put some ink in the inside of the calf's right ear.

Then, take the tattoo machine-thing (pretty sure that's the technical name for it) & clamp down.
This tattoo-machine-thing is similar to a date stamp, but it has needles. They're in pre-set numbers, and you rotate it to the number of your choice.
Very faint in this picture, but if you click on it, you can see the tattoo.

I was amazed by how gentle the Hereford cows were. Especially after growing up with Angus cows, who want to kill anything that goes near their calves. Here's Robert, taking a calf's weight, while the mother looks on inquisitively:

This was a very educational trip for me. I learned that when a purebred Hereford cow is bred to a purebred Angus bull, the resulting calf is called a "baldy", which is pretty much adorable. Tony breeds all his first-calf cows to an Angus bull, so he had quite a few "baldys" running around. They are so sweet.

Here's the little twin calf that Robert had to take to the barn and now feeds with a bottle (so adorable). I'm trying to get Robert to name him "Doug"...

We tagged along as Robert & Tony did other various chores - feeding hay to the yearling bulls, getting minerals for the cows, scooping up a dead cow from the pasture with the tractor (that is not a joke), etc. Then we drove with Robert to another of Tony's pastures.

Then we went back to downtown Killdeer for lunch. We saw the little cafe where Robert goes every couple weeks to check his email, Nana Lil's.

And of course, we had lunch at the Buckskin again.

And then we drove to the Badlands again, to see them in the daylight.

In this picture, I am leaning out of the window of our car as we're driving along, facing backwards to take a picture of the road we drove down, snaking through the hills:

After our scenic tour, we went back to the house & played pool.

Afterward, Doug & I got a few groceries at "Jerry's" - the local grocery store. We went back to our cabin and started getting dinner ready. Robert joined us a bit later for hot dogs, baked beans and fries. Then the 3 of us soaked in the hot tub for a good two hours, just chatting & laughing. Then Robert headed back to Killdeer, and Doug & I turned in for the night!