Monday, October 25, 2010


Elsie (Ben's sister) came up with the idea to refer to Ben and I as "renben" because this nickname simplifies things for when she is talking about both of us because it takes out the "and" from ren and ben.  I mean, the girl is a genius ;)  So, Ben has, in turn, decided to call Elsie and Alex "Alsie."

So, Alsie came to visit last weekend.  We had a lovely time together.  They recently got engaged and have set the date for their wedding as May 28th.  We are SO excited for them and had a wonderful time with our newly engaged family :)  They are both applying to law school at the University of Chicago (among others), so Ben and I made it our mission to persuade them into coming to Chicago!! (Ok ok, we'll let God take care of it.  But we're praying for them to come here if it's HIS will.  And we're praying for our will to align with his will.  Note: different from praying for his will to align with our will.  I've done that. Bad plan.)

Here are some pictures from our visit.  They are a few highlights, but most of all we just love spending time with one of our favorite couples and we loved celebrating their new engagement.

Enjoying dinner at Medici's - a local restaurant

Fun first night dinner (although we give the restaurant a B or lower...)

Taking turns with pictures in front of the pretty pumpkin garden.

Neither of us has had a sister before! :) woohoo!

Last picture with the same background, I promise :)

Grilling out near the lake

Using our amazing grill tools (wedding gift) for the first time on the worlds' smallest grill.  Not sure what that tool is for?

Intense game of super scrabble

I guess it's not going so well for Alex...

Elsie was probably winning super scrabble.. she's a pro

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We love the Italian Beef at Ben's new favorite restaurant - Portillo's

Bowling lane in hyde park where you keep your own score.  Proud to say that team BenRen won ;)

Proud that everyone's burgers AND buns fit on the tiny grill!!
Ben, Alex, and Elsie also went to visit some of the sites at the University of Chicago.  They loved the campus - hopefully they'll love it so much they'll come back for 3 ish years to study. 

Thanks for visiting, Alex and Elsie!  We loved having you :)

-Ren & Ben

Monday, October 11, 2010

Weekend with the Cook Boys

Ben's brothers, David (10) and Will (8) came to visit last weekend.  We had been planning for them to fly out from Nebraska alone until my mother in-law discovered it was the same cost to fly the boys out as unaccompanied minors as it would be for she and her husband to just fly out and spend the weekend out here too.  The boys stayed with Ben and I while Chris and Paul stayed downtown- a rare weekend "away" since they have 2 little ones still :)

Our weekend was definitely fun filled and eventful.  Friday night, we went to the Sox Game.  $3.00 tickets from Stubhub in the nose bleed section + nachos + curly fries + hot dogs = fun night despite the pathetic loss.
David was really into the game! (okay, it was staged)
Stadium in the background- all in all, a great night
Will got the best curly fry all night! tasty ;)

After the Sox game, we went back to our apartment where a desperately tired Renee went to bed... needless to say, the boys did not.  I'm pretty sure they played Wii with Ben untill 1 or 2 in the morning, which probably explains everybody's tiredness the next day.  Saturday (10-2-10... our original wedding day) was freezing and rainy in the city, but we still had a great time.  We went to the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower- which I had never done before even though I've lived near this city my whole life)! What a fun adventure...

The new glass additions are scary and amazing!
Floating over the city :)

We introduced the boys to Portillo's (Ben declared after his first visit "it's my favorite restaurant") - David and Ben went to Navy Pier to try mini golf (Will and I wimped out- too cold) and had to skip it because of the torrential downpour and wind.  We had a cozy night at home with pizza and Wii... what's not to love!?

The next day, we met Ben's parents at Moody for church and then went to Rainforest Cafe. 
Waiting for the train

Funny statue inside the Merchandise Mart

All of us at lunch

All in all, it was a great weekend.  We love our family.  My family is mostly here in the Chicago area... Would we love to have everybody in one place? Of course!  (For those of you whose families are all in one spot- what a blessing!)  But we are so glad to be able to host visitors and we're thankful we can travel back and forth frequently.   It makes the family-in-multiple-states thing work.

Well, thanks for reading :) For now- it's back to enjoying my day off work.  Agenda: clean, lesson plan, lunch with Ben, read, rest and relax.  (Maybe I'll even get crazy and write another blog post.) 

:) Ren

Sunday, October 3, 2010

October 2, 2010...

... for those of you who received a save-the-date to our wedding, you may or may not remember that 10-2-10 was our original wedding date.  That's yesterday.  A couple thoughts about 10-2-10 and why that date will always remind me how great God is.

1. If you were outside near Chicago yesterday, you know that the weather was horrible- raining, freezing.  We were having a sibling weekend with Ben's little brothers and walking all around the city in the freezing rain.  Let's just say I'm glad we weren't walking from the church to the restaurant we had booked in that weather yesterday.

2. I have officially been teaching for a month and going to school to work for about 2.  I cannot IMAGINE doing this commute (to 87th street off of I-94) all the way from my parents house in Mount Prospect.  Even more than that, I can't imagine this past month of school happening successfully while in the last month stage of wedding planning. 

3. Ben and I spent our first month of marriage with wonderful family in Omaha which would not have occurred if we hadn't have gotten married until yesterday.

4. By the grace of God (and with a little bit of gracious, kind persistence from my dad), the original restaurant we booked returned our partial deposit, although the contract did not permit this.

5. I am sitting next to my husband of 3 months enjoying a quiet Sunday night of football in our first home. 

Life is good.  God is good.  He made it possible for us to get married in July 3 instead of October 2 because He knew that would be best for us.  Back in March, after we had planned many many details for the Oct. 2 wedding, we decided to move up the date.  Many people thought we were nuts (although we appreciate the continued support of our closest friends and family.)  I think most people figured we were just anxious to get married (which was partially true... okay, very true, but not the only reason for moving the date) or pregnant (obviously false).  But, we had a clear peace from God about moving the date, so we went forward with it.  In retrospect, moving the date was absolutely the right choice.  Advice: listen to the Lord even if a lot of people around you think you're nutso.  He always knows best.

I'm happy to sign off tonight as a married woman of 3 months and not 1 day :)


Friday, October 1, 2010

Becoming a Living Sacrifice

The past couple posts have been about school/ work but I'm going to take it in a different direction tonight.  Last year, I was living in Mount Prospect and working in the city.  With traffic, I had about an hour drive each way give or take a few... this commute gave me built in alone time with the Lord every day! before AND after my work day :) I would crank up the gospel tunes (picture me jamming by myself in rush hour traffic even though everyone around you looks angry and tired in their cars... hmmm)   anyway, I would also have the luxury of plenty of time to listen to good sermons.  Well now that my commute is only 15-20 minutes, it takes me a few trips to get through a sermon.  This past week I have listened to a sermon titled "becoming a living sacrifice" based on Romans 12:1-2.  The pastor taught that we all have a destiny to be fulfilled in Christ.  So many people wander through life thinking "what am I here for?"  Even as a Christian, I have often questioned why this season?  what comes next?  what am I supposed to do anyway? what's my purpose?  Through many past situations, God has faithfully reminded me- "I am the potter, you are the clay... let your light shine before men... you have Christ in you... I have a plan for you.... follow me."  The pastor explained that our first step to "fulfilling our destiny" is becoming a living sacrifice.  He said that God loves us too much to give us more than we can handle.  When God gives us a dream/ vision or desire for something, that might be a long haul thing and we need preparation before.  We have to be tested and strengthened and we have to become a living sacrifice.  It led me to think about some of the Bible "greats..."  Moses- long time in the desert before leading the Israelites.  David- even after God anointed him king, it was several years before he became king.  Joseph- had visions of his family bowing down but ended up in prison and as a servant.  Even after he gained power under pharaoh, it was still years before his brothers came to him.  Paul spent 3 years prepping.  (The pastor also noted that we so often think we're ready before God thinks we're ready... hmm)  In addressing ministry specifically, he said we make ministry so complicated sometimes.  Think about it- the uneducated apostles evangelized the known world within a matter of a few decades... and they didn't have any of the communication or technology we have now.  That's a lot of round about discussion all to say a couple things:
1. Thank God for his grace and desire to have a relationship with me :) He WANTS to communicate with me and teach me.  He is a personal God!
2. I need to become a living sacrifice by renewing my mind with the word... repeatedly... constantly. 
3.  It's okay to have a preparation phase.  To not have it all figured out.  To wait on the Lord and do his will where I am right now. every day.

What has God been teaching you personally lately?