J and I were driving back from a day in Denver on Saturday, June 23rd.  We were about 40 minutes away when we began seeing a smoke cloud.  We saw people’s Facebook posts that a wildfire had begun in Waldo Canyon, close to Colorado Springs.  I took this picture when we were about 20 minutes from home, around 4:45pm.

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We saw that our neighborhood was under a voluntary evacuation, so we sat and watched the news online throughout the evening, ready to pack and go if it changed to mandatory.  At 8:00pm the evacuation in our area was lifted.  This was a picture taken from our guest room on Saturday.

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Sunday and Monday seemed fine, it sounded like the fire was moving away from the Springs.  We relaxed, and had no idea what would happen Tuesday night.

I had Tuesday afternoon off, so I came home for lunch before going to the dentist.  I could tell something had changed, the smoke looked heavier.  When I arrived home a friend called to let me know that we were under pre-evacuation (less than voluntary, just means to be alert).  I left for the dentist and planned on packing a few things when I got home just to be safe.

Leaving the dentist, I could see that smoke was very dark on the west side, where we lived.  I checked the news and we were still under pre-evacuation, and I began planning in my head everything I needed to pack.  The panic really set in when this was my view close to home.

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I pulled into the driveway and saw some neighbors standing outside looking toward the mountain.  I stood in shock as I looked at fire beginning to burn on “our side” of the mountain.  It had jumped the ridge.  This was the first time we could see actual fire.  It was about 4:00pm.

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I ran into the house, tried to get a hold of J, and starting throwing things into a suitcase while trying to hold it together.  And by holding it together, I mean trying to think clearly while crying and ignoring a pounding heart.  I grabbed enough clothes for three days, our wedding guest book, and important papers.  At some point during the chaos my friend called again to say that we were now in mandatory evacuation.

I quickly took things outside to put in the car.  I looked in horror as I could see the fire had quickly grown in size and was becoming a wall of fire.  I saw all neighbors with car doors open, throwing suitcases and belongings in quickly.

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I ran through the house one more time, debating on grabbing different items.  My wedding dress, J’s favorite items … it was too overwhelming.  I felt the need to leave and quickly.  My last look down our street showed the illumination of the fire as it grew.

I drove away with many others, catching glimpses of people standing along the street watching but not believing what they were seeing.  I drove to Compassion to meet Jeremiah, where we were going to drive on to our friend’s home on the east side of town.

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The sky turned black as we drove across town.  We didn’t know what was going to happen to our home, our neighborhood, our beautiful city.

We watched on the news that night, with the rest of the city, as the fire began to consume structures (starting around 6:00pm).  We watched homes burn, newsmen and women cry, and tried to believe that it was real.  We later found out that 346 homes on 35 different streets had been destroyed.

The next day was hard.  We didn’t know if our home was there.  Even though we were living in uncertainty, we were surrounded by love.  Coworkers, friends, our realtor … so many people called and texted to make sure we were safe.  We felt so loved and cared for.  These days would have been much harder without that.

Thursday morning we knew that our house was standing because our thermostat, Nest, was connected online and we could control it from our phones.  This had not been the case the night before when all power was shut off in our area.  We were elated!  What a wonderful glimpse of hope!

The rest of the week was spent waiting for any news about our area of town, including when we would be able to go home.  The evacuations slowly started lifted over the weekend.  We found out Sunday afternoon that we could go home Sunday at 8:00pm.

We drove up to our home so full of gratitude.  Our home was there, undamaged, just a mile north of hundreds of homes that are gone.  With our thankful hearts, there is also sorrow for the loss in our community.  This is going to be a long rebuilding process.

Tomorrow is our 2nd anniversary, and I am struggling to realize that.  This week turned our world upside down.  But it is a good time to stop and celebrate not only two wonderful years of marriage, but that He has been with us every step.  Including this last week.

Dad @ 2002 reunion

Four and half months into this Colorado adventure and I’ve had the suggestion to revisit one of my earlier posts.  When we first moved to Colo Spgs, I had many questions rolling around in my head and heart.  And God has answered some of these, so this will be a time of reflection.  He didn’t abandon me … even though it sometimes felt like it.

Why won’t someone hire me?

Turns out – someone did!  Just took His timing.  I started working at Vanguard Skin Specialists almost 3 months to the day that we arrived in Colorado.  It took trust (and patience) that He had a plan for me, and that meant turning down a job in the process.  I received a different job offer the same week I accepted a Patient Care Coordinator position at Vanguard.  And then received numerous phone calls after that for interviews at places I thought I was very interested in working.  But it is apparent to me that this is the place I’m supposed to be.  It blends my relational and administrative sides very well, and I work with a great staff of people.

When will I make friends?

I’m nowhere near having the type of friendships here that I had in Manhattan, but I at least have had glimpses of the beginning of possible good friendships.  And that is encouraging!

Which church should we choose?

We attended a church for a month and a half, but we didn’t feel settled in choosing to stay there.  So, the hunt began again.  Thankfully, it only took a couple weeks before we went somewhere that we both really liked.  We’ve gone four Sundays now and are still pleased.  We have yet the hear the senior pastor, but are looking forward to getting that next week.  It’s about the same size as the church we came from, and the people seem so intentional.  They recognize we’re new and want to meet us, and then remember us the next week.  Love that!

When will it get nice enough on a weekend to be outside?

Ha!  Well, when it finally stopped snowing off and on (mid May), we got to start enjoying little bits of Colo Spgs.  It has been nice!

Am I having days of purpose right now?  Is this just wasted time?

Looking back over the 3 months of unemployment and not knowing many people, I still don’t know how to answer this question.  After we had been here for about a month, I tried to look at my weeks more assertively.  Thinking through what errands would be best to do when, etc.  I joined a summer women’s Bible study that met June-July, and that was very helpful.  It was something that added a little more discipline to my life, and accountability with it.  But, I also gave myself more grace to enjoy having the time off and enjoying something relaxing each day.  Once June hit, I tried to go to the pool daily for a couple of hours when it was nice out (and got to meet neighbors through that as well), or I went to a coffee shop or watched a movie, etc.

What are the real desires and passions of my heart?

Oh, this one is hard.  I want to know the answer, but I’m afraid to as well.

How can I be a better wife today?

And this one is hard too.  :)  I think the biggest answer I’ve discovered these days is: Spend the time with God that I need.  I can so clearly see that I’m a more nagging, impatient, easily frustrated, and selfish wife when I haven’t given God any time.

Where does my encouragement come from?

From the Lord.  And He often sends encouragement through friends, family, and Jeremiah as well.

When will I feel comfortable here?  When will I feel like myself again?

The last month or so this has really started improving.  I’m not feeling as scared, nervous, and lonely as I was at the beginning.  I think it will be a slow process, but I am grateful that it has begun.

One of the good parts about having actually written these questions down, is that now I can look back and really see how God has provided and answered.  He did not abandon, He was there and still is.

I am a physical touch person.  I realized the other day how much I miss hugging friends.  Sometimes I heard that it was a fad of my generation – hugging friends.  Even if you had seen them the day before.  I would stand back at Challenge and see students run across Forum Hall to hug someone that maybe they even saw earlier that day.  And maybe for some people it is something you do without thinking about it, something shallow, something you do to belong.

But, for me, a hug is worth a lot.  Receiving or giving.  And I miss them.  I hug my hubby all the time … cling to him sometimes.  And often he just laughs and shakes his head after two or three hugs in a row.  And it is great, but I really miss hugging friends.

Yesterday morning I met up with a gal I had known at K-State who lives in the Springs now.  And we hugged when we saw each other – that’s when I realized how much I miss having enough of a connection and comfortability with a friend to hug in greeting or goodbye.  I look forward to the day when I can hug a friend that I’ve made in this new city.  That will be a sign for me that there have been connections made, that this can be a place I experience community.

I like hugs.

We have been in Colorado Springs for a month and I have had lots of questions rolling around in my mind and heart during this time – most of them end up being directed towards God.  Of course, He is the best One to ask and the only One who is big enough to help carry my burdens and emotions.

Why won’t someone hire me?

When will I make friends?

Which church should we choose?

When will it get nice enough on a weekend to be outside?

Am I having days of purpose right now?  Is this just wasted time?

What are the real desires and passions of my heart?

How can I be a better wife today?

Where does my encouragement come from?

When will I feel comfortable here?  When will I feel like myself again?

This move has presented challenges that neither of us expected.  But, we can already see how God is using these challenges to grow our marriage and I can see it forcing both of us to seek God.  Life had gotten pretty comfortable in Manhattan … not that there wasn’t growth there, because there was.  Moving here has sped up growth and has forced me to examine my heart daily.  This has brought lots of confession and humility.  Questions like the ones above feel good to ask, but it’s hard not always getting an answer.

Last week I attended a women’s night at one of the churches we’ve attended.  The speaker talked about how every day is like a blank canvas – no matter how messy our canvas got yesterday, each day God offers a new fresh start.  The last point she ended on was this:

“Let go of control and trust Him for the outcome.  We are not to worry about, to try to anticipate, to use energy to figure out how God will work.  It is for us to trust that He will work.”

Oh God, help me learn to trust.

Up til now this blog has just been about my 101 list.  But I am feeling the need to do some reflecting, so I’m taking a break from writing about the list and am just going to write.

In 9 days my husband and I are going to move to Colorado.  I never thought that I would live in Manhattan forever, but now that the reality is sinking in that we are leaving … the sadness of leaving is beginning to set in.  Manhattan has been so much more to me than I ever expected.  It’s where I went to college, where I “grew up,” where I met God in a completely new way, where I have made lifelong friends on a deeper level than any friendships I’ve had before, where I had my first adult job, where I discovered what health insurance was, where I purchased my first car, where I lived the longest, and where I met my husband.  Manhattan has truly been my first home outside of my parents’ home.

I had no idea that God had all this planned for me when I left O’Fallon, IL, to attend Kansas State University.  But I cannot be more grateful for His plans.  And this gives me great courage to take this step forward in faith.  I believe that He truly does have a plan for me and my husband.

So, to help with this reflecting process, here’s a picture from each of my eight years in Manhattan.  :)

Joanna and I in our dorm room freshman year.  Ha ha!

The LIFE group I was in sophomore and junior year.  These girls have been so important in my life!

Rachel and I.  Best friends for life!  :)  2nd year as an RA’s in Goodnow Hall.

Senior year Kimberly and I decided to sell a year’s worth of cakes at the Challenge Auction.  This is the one we made for the display, I think we made two others after this … this was the best one by far!

First of three years on Christian Challenge staff with this amazing group of people.

First year living with the Classens.  Loved it!

Joanna and I live together again!  All grown up this time … well, sort of.

Started dating a really great guy and married him!

Enjoyed 9 wonderful first months of marriage.

These pictures just barely skim the surface of the last eight years.  There might be some more posts of reflection before we move.  So much to think about, so much to be thankful for.

 

Last month Jeremiah and I took the Good $ense Budget Course.  This was the first time that a Good $ense class was offered at E-Free that I could attend and I’m so glad that we got to go.  It was just 2 hours for three Thursday nights.  We talked about everything – giving, savings, debt, spending, different types of budgets, buying a home, etc.

We felt like we were most impacted by the topics of debt and savings.  The class presented some great thoughts about these two areas as well as practical “how-to’s.”  So, we’re very excited to be making large steps of progress in getting out of consumer debt while still being able to put some aside in savings.  And for the next few months we’ll be trying out a written down spending plan, rather than the envelope system or something on the computer.  We think that it will be better for us to have to manually write it down and have it somewhere that both of us can can easy get to it.

This class was just right for us – felt very low pressure and all the scripture that was used was very appropriate and eye opening.  It had a great balance of looking practically at finances as well as discussing what life application this all has.  We also had the chance to get down to the heart issues that money can bring to the surface.

I’m so glad that we got to take this class!  And I’m even more glad that I can cross it off the list.

This was a really fun weekend activity!  Jeremiah, my little brother Eric, and I took on this very time consuming task this past weekend and it was a blast.  We began at 10:00 in the morning and finished up at 11:30 pm, only taking breaks for the bathroom and getting lunch and dinner put together.  And quickly whipping up a batch of delicious brownies – which I’ve put the recipe for below, because seriously they are yummy!  Oh, did I mention that we watched the Extended Versions … whoa.

Chocolate Chip Brownies

Melt 1/3 C margarine; add 1 C brown sugar.

Beat, then add:
1 Tbsp water
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

To above, add and mix:
1 C flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 C nuts (optional)
1/8 tsp baking soda

Spread in greased 9X9 inch pan.  Sprinkle with 1/2 bag of chocolate chips (I did both white & semi-sweet chips).  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.  (Can be doubled, use 9X13 inch pan.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until tests done with toothpick.)

Since my last blog post on December 11th, there have been some major changes in my life.  In short, I started dating a guy (a very special guy) the first week of January.  We dated for 2 months and got engaged on March 6th … and 4 months later, on July 3rd we got hitched.  :)  So, blogging was one of the last things on my mind during this time.  BUT I do have items to cross off the list!  And you’ll get to learn a bit more about my new husband through this as well since most of these I can cross off because of him!

#64 – Go on at least one date a year. Jeremiah’s and my first date was on January 6th, pretty great way to kick-off the best year of my life!  He took me to Houlihan’s and to see Sherlock Holmes.  I haven’t been on many first dates, but I’ve got to say that this one was pretty stellar.  I knew immediately that I liked this guy.  Here’s a video that some sweet girls took right before Jeremiah picked me up.  It’s through Skype, so that’s why I’m in the computer.

#70 – Watch all the AFI top 100 movies – Hoosiers. Jeremiah looked at my blog and saw my 101 list and decided that he wanted to help accomplish this fun task.  He especially likes the movie challenge and happens to own a few of the movies that I haven’t seen.  So, for our second date he had me over and made me dinner, then we watched Hoosiers.  I knew that I couldn’t blog about this one right away, because I couldn’t remember half of the movie.  And still don’t actually.  Come on, I was sitting next to this cute guy on his couch, how could I pay attention?!  But, still I watched it and I’m sure that we will watch it again sometime.

#52 – Take a group of friends to St. Louis. When I originally wrote this list, I imagined taking a small group of girlfriends.  It ended up being just me and “my Jeremiah friend.”  We went the first weekend of February because I helped out with a youth weekend near there.  Jeremiah stayed with his friend in STL.  On Sunday afternoon I got to show him around town – we went up the arch and to the zoo before driving back to Manhattan.  We had a great time!

#59 – Go to the Top of the World (Manhattan, KS). I definitely didn’t expect that my first time visiting the Top of the World would be for my engagement pictures.  It was a very windy day, but we had a great time!  Our amazing photographer, Erica, did a fantastic job!


#56 – Learn how to make fresh white bread. My good friend Kelsey is a baker and she was kind enough to teach me how to make bread.  We had so much fun making bread in the bakery science lab last month.  It smells so good!  Here are some pictures from the process:

#13 – Take a train somewhere. Jeremiah and I went to Atlantic City, NJ, for our honeymoon.  It was great!  So relaxing.  While researching AC and deciding what to do, we looked at how close New York City was and found that a train ran from AC to NYC on the weekends.  It’s only a 2 1/2 hour trip and super cheap tickets.  And we were excited that this would take care of #13 on the list!  Here’s video that we took:

#46 – Make homemade ice cream. I totally forgot that this was on my list!  My parents bought us an electric ice cream maker for a wedding shower gift and our first night back in Manhattan after the honeymoon we had all the Wenzel siblings over for some homemade ice cream.  While enjoying this delicious treat we opened wedding gifts.  Very fun night!  Sadly no pictures, though.

I am looking forward to continuing the work on this list.  With just over a year left for the project, I’m not if I’ll complete it all.  But I’ll be enjoying what I can get done!

#58 on the list is to see the lights turn on at the plaza.  My parents have lived in the KC area for 2 1/2 years and we’ve talked about going before, but each year something came up that caused us to wait.   But, this was the  year!  The weather was great (meaning nothing was falling from the sky, but still very cold) and everyone was healthy.  It was fun to fill the street with thousands of people and kick-off the Christmas season with the plaza lights.

My friend, Shylu, was with us for Thanksgiving.  It was fun to experience something for the first time all together with her!

Sadly, the pictures do not do the lights justice, and the video that I took isn’t uploading.  If you’ve never seen the lights at the plaza, you should go if you get the chance!