Thursday, October 3, 2013

Another summer's end

Well, Fall has begun not only officially, but the weather has begun turning cooler here in Chicago. Though the Summer weather was quite mild, we were able to enjoy some summer time fun before coolness keeps us indoors.

Lets see, where to begin...

The beginning of the summer we had our six year anniversary. We borrowed a friends tandem bike for the Bike the Drive event. Chicago closes down Lake Shore Drive, which goes along Lake Michigan and thousands of bikes go out for a ride. It was about 30 miles, beautiful and fun!

We celebrated Preston's birthday! He was actually out of town at a conference on his actual birthday, but he still got to enjoy a peanut butter cheesecake! :)
Surprisingly to us, one of the Visser's childhood friends from Pittsburgh, Dave Santistevan, came to Chicago for an event at one of our church branches close by. Dave, who is now the Creative Arts Pastor at a large church in Pittsburgh, was the featured speaker for a weekend worship conference that our church, New Life, was putting on. What a fun blessing to see an old friend (and his wife Emily) and their new baby Tyler. Since then, Dave has actually been back to speak and perform.  

Oh yes...most of our summer Sunday afternoons were spent with study group at our house. Every Sunday afternoon, Preston and a few other psychology people got together at our home to study for the EPPP exam. EPPP stands for "Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology" and it is required for anyone that wants to practice clinical psychology.  Our good friend, Casey, was over at the house many nights, especially in the week prior to the exam, as she and Preston crammed for the big day (June 27th).  We all had to wait a couple of weeks to hear the results of the test, but we were SO excited and grateful that Preston and Casey both passed the exam. Praise the Lord!! We cracked Sobes in celebration (2nd picture). 

Preston, Dr. Lia, and Casey studying for the EPPP
Preston and Casey with the celebration Sobes after learning that they passed the EPPP.

As a thank you for helping her with her dissertation, one of our friends (Preston's co-worker) took us out for some authentic sushi. We ate the raw stuff!

Since the beginning of this year, I have been a part of a home group bible study. Now I lead the group once a week. I really like the way our church here is set up with small home groups rather than Sunday school classes. It works well. Small groups often do outreach and activities together. One of the things we did this summer was paint a mural  next to an open lot where gang members hang out. The word of the Lord never goes out in vain, right? We pray the wall is a witness to those who see the wall. 

Another unique Chicago experience....PIZZA POT PIE! A small hole-in-the wall restaurant where we stood in a disorganized line for about an hour keeping watch on an old Italian that paced to and fro, just awaiting his subtle nod to indicate that we were allowed to take a seat.  It was quite crowded, but they have got some great pizza.

Speaking of pizza, we had some friends over for homemade pizza party; thin crust (them) vs deep dish (us). 

Dave and Noelle with their homemade pizza.  It was excellent.

Definitely the deepest pizza I've ever made.  Wheat crust, turkey sausage, turkey pepperoni.  One slice was a whole meal.

Hot air balloons anyone?  Plenty hot air balloons at the annual Hot Air balloon festival in Lisle, Illinois. 

When it got dark, the owners of the hot air balloons would count down from 10 and then all light up their flames at the same time.  When they got the timing right, it was pretty cool to see.

The World hot air balloon was pretty sweet.

Since Preston passed the EPPP his weekends have, for pretty much the first time in our marriage, been freer. I say freer and not FREE, because, Preston is ALWAYS working on some project. lol. But, yes, he has been much more free, and on a random Saturday afternoon we went kayaking along the Chicago River.

It is quite a different experience kayaking through tall buildings and near big tour boats rather than through the wooded areas of Tennessee, but it was still an enjoyable time in the city.

Summer time means biking time for us. Preston rides his bike every day to work, and I ride my bike some days. But, on warm afternoons we may take a bike ride to get some food, or go sit by the lake. 

FINALLY, we bought a tent!! We were so excited about the tent that we put it up in our living room, and yes, we slept in the tent that little kids.
We did use the tent for real camping too. One weekend we drove about an hour outside the city to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and camped for a couple of nights. Camping spots around Chicago are difficult to attain. We were so blessed that my co-worker (Netara) happened to be camping there the day before, and she reserved a spot for us (and had to chase away some random family that tried to steal it even though it was already paid for and reserved!).

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is one of the four National Lakeshores in the country.  Last year, we went to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan.  Now, Preston says we are obligated to go to the other two.  

Preston actually cooked.  We should go camping more often.

Panorama shot of our campsite. 

Chillaxing in Lake Michigan.

We got to visit my parents in Kentucky one weekend.  While there, we stopped by this fascinating place that is of major international importance to the way the Roman Catholic Church supports hurting parishes.  Apparently, they answer directly to the pope.  It's located in rural Kentucky of all places.

Church has been a blessing to us up here. Preston continues to switch out weeks of leading the worship team. The first Sunday in September our church had a big block party on the street. We got to be a part of the worship team on that Sunday. Chicago is so full of block parties throughout the summer, it's fun to have a church block party for the neighborhood.

The street in front of our church gets shut down for a day, and we have a party!

One weekend, our church went down to a lake for the annual outing and baptisms.

I don't think that the rain bothered the people getting baptized.  Preston's there in the middle with this guitar.  Everyone sings loudly the whole time the baptisms are going on.  It's a great celebration.

The people to be baptized in the front and their mentors behind them.

For my birthday we had a real treat! Seems like in Chicago there is always a way to do the normal in an upscale way, that's what the bowling alley was like that we went to...upscale bowling! We ate dinner, bowled and played some pool. Fun evening in the city. 

On the first day of Fall, September 22nd, some gals, Preston and I went APPLE PICKING!! It is always SO nice to go anywhere outside the concrete jungle. Even though the apple trees were not huge and awesome, it was fun to get some apples, be in nature, and be with good friends. 

Gals Left to Right: Allisa, Kari, Casey, Brook, Amy, Karen, Krystal 

Just last weekend, Preston and I ran for the third time in the Lawndale 5k, put on by the clinic Preston works for. Preston beat his time from last year. Me...not so much. That's okay. The important thing is that it is a great thing for the community, and a fun time! 

Mello likes posing for the camera.

Mello? He survives! He's doing just fine. Unlike some football teams out there. :-/  Preston and his family are having a rough season.

Now we get ready for Fall and the winter which will soon follow.   Preston's just waiting on the state of Illinois to approve his application for licensure as a clinical psychologist.  I'm staying busy with my job as a lead advocate; I've been traveling more often recently to train new hires around the state.  Praise the Lord for our work and stability here in the Big Windy City!

God is great!

Blessings, Preston and Krystal

Monday, May 13, 2013

January 2013 to present

The year began with Preston and me going to GUATEMALA with a fun group of adventurous folks from Community Church in TN. We worked with Mike and Kambria Robertson in their ministry to widows and children.  It was a blessed time. Check out youtube video - if you would like (at end of blog).
In Guatemala with the kiddos!

Laura and Shay and the kids

The weather in the mountains of Guatemala apparently remains a pleasant 70 degrees or so year round, which was wonderful to experience in the middle of January.  Coming back to Chicago after the trip, we jumped back into the cold winter that persisted stubbornly until recently.

 To have a little fun in the middle of winter, we went downtown to see a live recording of  the NPR quiz show "Wait Wait Don't tell Me" in the Chase Auditorium.  Some of the humor was a little off color for our taste, but overall the experience was enjoyable.  Plus it makes you feel smart when you catch some of the subtle political jokes :)  Preston also got to travel down South for a quick trip to see his family and spend some time with his friend, Andy.  He spent many hours behind the wheel that weekend, but I know that he really enjoyed seeing everyone.

 At the end of March we celebrated after I passed the Licensing exam for Social Work.  That was a big relief for me.  Preston has since become part of a study group preparing for the big psychology licensing exam, which he will take at the end of June.  The three ladies in the study group come to our house once a week for a few hours. It's a joy to have them and we pray their studying pays off. 
Master's Social Work License
Casey C., Suzanna Z., Lea K., and Preston V.

We continue to be blessed with the body of Christ here in Chicago. New Life church has been a great fit for both of us. Preston and another lady take turns leading the music on Sunday mornings. I teach Sunday school on a rotating schedule and have joined the church's new choir, where my guitar lessons are being put to use!  The church was just started up about six months ago. It's great to see the church growing and to be able to serve in our community.
Friends: Michael and Laura, Stephen and Amy, Dave and Noelle (and me)
My friend Amy!
Noelle, Dave, Me and Preston
 Recently, we spent some time in Indiana visiting with my parents.  We were able to meet them about halfway between our home and theirs, so the trip was only 4 hours getting there.  It was great to see them in person (rather than via Gmail chat).  While we were there, Preston and I went on a huge Zip line!
Getting ready for the Zip Line!
Even more recently Preston and I participated in a nighttime 5k.  It was a GLOW IN THE DARK run with a "Rave" theme.  It was really hectic getting to the run because of public transportation problems, so we decided to just walk home after the race.  We got plenty of steps in that day, and I could feel it for about a week!  Here are some photos of our evening:
At the glow in the dark race with our glow in the dark glasses. Yay!
Saw some kids and gave them our glow in the dark gear.
For his work, Preston and several co-workers got to travel to a conference in Atlanta that focuses on Christian healthcare.  He and our good friend, Casey, presented a workshop together about how to work with patients that do not comply with treatment plans.  Everyone seemed to have a great time.

Preston at the CNN Building in Atlanta, GA
We feel very grateful for the friends, jobs, and home the Lord has provided. Chicago is a beautiful city and 2013 has been a wonderful year so far.

We look forward to the rest of the year, especially now that it is getting warmer!

Preston and Krystal

"Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking." - Romans 12 (The Message) 
Can't forget Mello...just chillin' usual
Excited to find sugar free chocolate syrup. I know it's still not good for you...but going a whole year sugar free, gotta give myself a treat some times. ☺

 Here is the Youtube of Guatemala: