Well, it's happened. I got an iPhone, and now I only take pictures with that. In my defense, instagram is just too fun and easy. And my camera is too obnoxious to lug around everywhere.
I had such a fun birthday!
My friend Patti brought in pie for her 6th hour class, which meets in my room, and had them all sing to me. Then after school, we went to Zin, in downtown Plymouth.
The waiter described this dessert as "fudgy lollipops"... aka, cake pops? 
Actually, they were more like brownie pops, with pistachios and a whipped espresso cream.

On my birthday, Doug made me breakfast in bed! And it snowed!

We had a leisurely day... or rather, I did, because Doug spent the day making THESE! 
1. NOT instagram! 
2. CHUBBY HUBBY cupcakes! (minus the peanut butter)
3. Zooey may have gotten up on the counter & eaten about 4 of these.

For dinner, Doug & I got dressed up & enjoyed a quiet, delectable meal at Ocean Prime.
(not instagram!)

The most incredible calamari I've ever had...

The hottest husband ever.

The awkward birthday girl.

crab crusted blue tilapia. oh the gluttony.

complimentary birthday creme brulee! 

After dinner, we went to the Homecoming Social at PCA, because ain't no birthday party like a high-schooler infested birthday party! It was actually a really fun time celebrating my seniors' last homecoming (and high five for coming in 1st place!). 
Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes & for making my day special!


3 awesome things

1. Passed a first-grade class in the hallway this morning, and little boy looked up at me and said, "Hi, pretty lady!" What up, playa?

2. Yesterday were the lip syncs for our spirit week, and my seniors came in 3rd place. We were all really disappointed, but the kids managed to maintain decent attitudes... and then last night, while we were eating dinner with our friends Patrick & Kennerly, the doorbell rang. Doug went to answer it, and all that was at the door was this:
 I seriously love my kids.

3. Birthday gift from my friend & fellow English teacher, Patti. We've been drooling over this copy of TKAM at Barnes & Noble for a couple years now...

Happy Friday!!!


a comment on comments...

Um, I usually assume that anonymous comments are from my mom (probably about 99.9% accurate).
So, if you comment anonymously, you should expect to be referred to as "mom" in my response to you.

Thanks for being my #1 fan, Mum. xoxo

Also, just because I'm obsessed with instagram & like posts better with pictures - drool with me over these perfect, incredible cookies that my friends Patti & Sarah made...


senior poster

Yeah, I pretty much have to brag about my kids.


from the desk of mrs. parton...

Happy prep hour
(starbucks & spotify!)
happy Friday!


things that have occurred within the past week

... some cool, some weird, some inappropriate, some random & some downright embarrassing.

- My little bro turned 24! I feel bad because I haven't been doing birthday posts this year, much to some of my siblings' chagrin. Sorry guys.

- I read the word "seaman" aloud in one of my classes and nearly giggled. NEARLY.

- I worked out twice on MLKj Day?

- I'm having trouble walking as a result.

- We talked about pole dancing in my small group. My adult small group, people! Yeah... that doesn't really sound much better, considering the context.

- A class made fun of me because I had hiccups.

- Doug & I got to spend time with our beloved friends, Dave & Sara.

- Sara and I helped a 21-year old boy decorate his condo with "homey, yet masculine" decor.

- My leg was attacked by a vicious and potentially demon-possessed cat. This might be an overexaggeration. See picture below, in which Sara is refusing to come any closer to psychotic cat.

And my favorite...

- I almost peed with the bathroom door open in the teacher's lounge. NBD, as the kids say... N.B.D.

So, what's been happening in YOUR life lately?


the destination of marriage

[the following is a devotional that i did at my friend (& co-worker!) kelly's bridal shower. i had a few people ask for a copy of this, so i'm putting it here. kelly is having a destination wedding, so our co-worker hosting the shower suggested that i tie in the theme of "destination". i'll offer the same caveat on my blog that i did at the shower - i've only been married for 4.5 years. however, marriage experience or lack thereof does not negate truths about marriage. one more warning: this is long.]

The Destination of Marriage

A magnificent marriage begins not with knowing one another but with knowing God. 
-Gary and Betsy Ricucci, When Marriage Meets Grace

When we think about the destination of marriage, some of the immediate things that come to mind are happiness, fulfillment, eternal love, comfort, completion, etc. And yes. A healthy marriage can and should possess and strive for many of those things. The problem is, first, that we become too focused on our own happiness, and second, we want that happiness to come from our spouse.

Understandably, this self-centered approach to marriage causes friction between spouses and diminishes the joy that can be found in a marriage. In addition, marriage should be so much more than just two people trying to find happiness in one another.

The teachings of Tim Keller and Gary Thomas hae really helped me understand more fully God's intentions for marriage and the ways that our culture has misunderstood this intricate relationship. I'm going to briefly address our culture's misunderstandings about marriage, and outline a Biblical "destination" for marriage.

First, I'd like to share an excerpt from... an excerpt of Tim & Kathy Keller's book, The Meaning of Marriage, titled "You Never Marry the Right Person." <article here>

So, when we overlook the presence of sin, we have this false idea that two people in love should have no problem creating a happy life together. Gary Thomas wrote a book called Sacred Marriage, which can be summed up in the question he poses on the cover: "What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?"  The Biblical destination for marriage? Holiness.  Throughout the book, Thomas  explores ways in which couples can use the challenges and celebrations of marriage to draw closer to God.

Thomas quotes 17th-century Christian writer, Francis de Sales, who responded to a letter with questions about marriage by saying that marriage might be the most difficult ministry one can undertake. He writes, "The state of marriage is one that requires more virtue and constancy than any other [...] It is a perpetual exercise of mortification [...] From this thyme plant, in spite of the bitter nature of its juice, you may be able to draw and make the honey of a holy life [...] We have to look at our disappointments, own up to our ugly attitudes, and confront our selfishness." [1]

As we're celebrating Kelly's wedding, we can't help but feel excitement about the big day. Weddings call us to our best - creating almost an impossible ideal of marriage. It's what we want marriage to be - excitement, fluttering stomachs, love. But as Thomas points out, marriage reminds us of the daily reality of living as sinful human beings: "Most of us who have been married for any substantial length of time realize that the romantic roller coaster of courtship eventually evens out to the terrain of a Midwest interstate - long, flat stretches  with an occasional overpass. [...] We can run from the challenges of marriage [...] or we can admit that every marriage presents these challenges and asks them to address them head-on. If we find that the same kinds of challenges face every marriage, we might assume that God designed a purpose in this challenge that transcends something as illusory as happiness." [2] Transformation occurs in marriages during the commitment of twenty-four-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. This is what shapes us into the character of Christ. We are called to a new and selfless life.

If we want, as Paul encourages, to be conformed to the image of Christ, community is essential, and there is no more intimate community than within a marriage. In such close context, much is revealed about our behaviors and attitudes. Thomas continues, "We have to change our views of marriage. If the purpose of marriage was simply to enjoy an infatuation and make me 'happy', I'd have to get a 'new' marriage every two or three years. But if I really wanted to see God transform me from the inside out, I'd need to concentrate on changing myself rather than on changing my spouse." [3] 

Part of this change can occur only when we know where our identity and meaning comes from. As Keller mentioned, we too often look for that in our spouse. Thomas wisely says that marriage is "one of many life situations that help us draw our sense of meaning, purpose and fulfillment from God." [4] If we do believe that our primary meaning comes from our relationship with the Lord, then we need to view marriage as another opportunity to draw closer to Him. Because of this, both spouses can, as Thomas writes, "find even more meaning by pursuing God together and by recognizing that he is one who alone can fill the spiritual ache in our souls." [5] As much as we may love our spouses, and they us, we will never love them or fulfill them the way Christ can. Thomas sums it up by saying, "We need to remind ourselves of the ridiculousness of looking for something from other humans that only God can provide." [6]

As I was reviewing this devotion, it felt kind of heavy to me. I do think that marriage is incredibly serious, and worthy of such seriousness, but at the same time - marriage is incredibly beautiful. It is a gift from God as a picture of his relationship with the church, and Scripture is filled with marital imagery (Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Revelation, hello - Song of Solomon?!). Keller writes, "The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the Gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The Gospel is - we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared to believe, and at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dare hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us." [7]

God didn't intend marriage to be drudgery. He designed it to be a reflection of his intimacy with us - a profound and beautiful mystery. As we pursue holiness through the intimate relationship of marriage, I think we find that by centering our marriage on Christ and His Gospel, and by putting one another's needs first, we begin to experience more happiness and fulfillment as a result - a "holy happiness", as Thomas calls it.

In the book of Deuteronomy, young Israelite men served God by defending Israel in war, with one exception. Deuteronomy 24:5 says, "If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married." Thomas writes this beautiful passage:

"Although [this verse] addresses just the first year of marriage, every spouse should spend some time thinking about how to make their spouse happy - and celebrating the profound reality that making their spouse happy pleases God. [...] When Jesus said, 'Love the Lord your God... love your neighbor,' he opened up the vistas of love and 'religion' much bigger than we realize. [...] Marriage is designed to call us out of ourselves and to learn to love the 'different'. Put together in the closest situation imaginable - living side by side, sleeping in the same room, sharing our bodies with each other - we are forced to respect and appreciate someone who is very different from us. We need to be called out of ourselves because, in truth, we are incomplete. God made us to find our fulfillment in him - the Totally Other. Marriage shows us that we are not all there is; it calls us to give way to another, but also to find joy, happiness, and even ecstasy in another.

"There are no lessons to be learned when a husband dominates his wife. There are no inspiring examples to emulate when a wife manipulates a husband. But love unlocks the spiritual secrets of the universe. Love blows open eternity and showers its raindrops on us. Christianity involves believing in certain things, to be sure, but its herald, its hallmark, its glory is not in merely ascribing to certain intellectual truths. The beauty of Christianity is in learning to love, and few life situations test that so radically as does a marriage. Yes, it can be difficult to love your spouse. But if you truly want to love God, look right now at the ring on your left hand, commit yourself to exploring anew what that ring represents, and love passionately, crazily, enduringly the fleshly person who put it there." [8]

In light of Kelly's profession as an English teacher, and as a fellow lover of literature, I thought it appropriate to end with the words of T.S. Eliot:

Marriage is the greatest test in the world... but now I welcome the test instead of dreading it. 
It is much more than a test of sweetness and temper, as people sometimes think;
it is a test of the whole character and affects every action.

- - -
[1] Thomas, Gary. Sacred Marriage. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000. 12-13.
[2] Thomas 16-17.
[3] Thomas 23.
[4] Thomas 24.
[5] Thomas 24.
[6] Thomas 25.
[7] Keller, Timother. "You Never Marry the Right Person." Relevant Magazine. 5 Jan 2012.
[8] Thomas 42-43, 50-51.


newborn photography: isabelle

One of my friends & co-workers, Elise, just had a beautiful baby girl - Isabelle Marie.
Today I got to take newborn pics of her little bundle of joy!


10 on 10 : jan


1 :: a dismal start. Back to work today. I have not missed seeing this on the alarm clock.
2 :: back to work. I haven't really missed this view either!
3 :: out on my prep hour to pick up class t-shirts... and Starbucks!
4 :: class t-shirts
5 :: lunch!
6 :: came back from Christmas break and found this little origami guy sitting on my desk...
7 :: condo row in the village
8 :: cupcakes for small group tonight (yep. from the store.)
9 :: sometimes she's so sweet
10 :: John 11. He who believes will never die...

Thanks, Rebekah!
Join in on the 10-on-10 fun here!
ten on ten button


insta date night!

UMI Sushi
Shrimp Tempura, Spicy California, Philly, Volcano & Malifornia rolls.
Pocket knife to split the last roll...
Sweetwater Coffee for dessert. 
My Caramel Creme was delicious.
The desserts looked awesome, but... were less than delectable.


We always have so much fun with these guys!

In other news: 
Go buy this & read it immediately.
What Is the What
by Dave Eggers

Based on the real life of Valentino Achak Deng, but termed a novel because of the recreation of several conversations and minor events that Deng couldn't have remembered from such a young age. The novel dramatizes Deng's escape from Sudan, his life in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, and his life as an adult in the United States. Heartbreaking and enlightening. Read it now.


"and i am yours"

I've talked before about our friends Jim & Emily, who are adopting from Ethiopia.

2011 was an intense year for Jim & Emily - they continued in their adoption journey, lost their first referral, were put back on the waiting list, mourned and celebrated Emily's mother going to be with the Lord, and rejoiced at the referral of their incredible son, Moses.

Give1Save1, a website that assists with fundraising for families adopting from Africa, has shared Jim & Emily's story. You can read Emily's words and watch a great video about the Hapners and the story God is unfolding for them here. Jim & Emily should hear about their court date any day, which means they will make the first of two trips to Ethiopia. As you might imagine, last minute overseas airline tickets are quite pricey, so this fundraising will help alleviate the last large portion of their adoption costs. Click over to Give1Save1 to help them out!


another annie success

Homemade vanilla bean caramel sauce.
Good on ice cream, good on apples... amazing.

Recipe here!


post 700, featuring a new obsession.

Happy 700th blog post!

Soooo.... instagram.
It's official - I'm hooked.
 Ann Arbor with Doug, Robert & Bailey, and Katie

Pics from today:

[Christmas gift from Grandma Lynk]

[thanks, Barnes & Noble]


[God bless Christmas break.]

[Repeat: God bless Christmas break!]


happy new year

Looking forward to in 2012:
- Turning 27? 
- Going to Costa Rica with my seniors
- My parents' 30th anniversary
- Celebrating 5 years of marriage with Doug
- Continuing to see God's faithfulness in our adoption journey
- New babies in the extended Bannister family
-  & much more! (Some that can't be divulged yet. Ooh, suspense!) 
(trying to keep my readers hooked here!)

Big Resolution:
Ephesians 4:1-3
... live a life worth of the calling you have received.
Be completely humble & gentle;
be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit
through the bond of peace.

Mini Monthly Resolutions: January
Decided to do mini monthly resolutions/goals with weekly wishes this year.
- Complete home study
- Work out 2 x's a week

Weekly Wishes:
- Get to doctor's office to pick up paperwork.
- Go to Planet Fitness & sign up for membership.
- Paint mini bookshelf.

Happy 2012!