the things i’m doing

I really really haven’t been blogging a lot these last few months. Don’t get stressed out- I haven’t been journaling much either. I’m finding that the time I have to pour myself out and onto paper is getting smaller and smaller as my wedding draws nearer and nearer. But I did just want to squeeze in a few minutes to share a little bit about where I am and what I’ve been doing since Christmas.

1. As of today, there are only THIRTY-NINE days til I marry Prince Charming. So close and yet so far away.

2. I have been working at Adventures In Missions for almost two months now. I work in the Interview Department and spend my time pouring over online applications and then calling applicants to follow up with them to see how much health and spiritual/emotional maturity they are truly walking in. I love love love my job, and I’m sad that it will potentially end soon. I took the job under a temporary contract so I wouldn’t have to fundraise before my wedding, and the contract ends 4 days before the Big Event. I’m currently praying about if this is something God has for me in a more long-term position. I’d be agreeing to fundraising if I chose to stay at Adventures, and that’s a lot to think about, especially with my soon-to-be Husband also support raising in his job at Adventures. So maybe that’s something you can pray for me/us about!

3. I also have been teaching a course on Discovering Your Identity for the CGA at Adventures. CGA stands for Center For Global Action and it’s kind of like a graduate program for World Racers returning home who want a little more intentional discipleship before launching into whatever their futures look like. I meet with a group of 12 students weekly and facilitate a class that is utilizing Peter Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (one of my top 3 reads, ever- SO powerful!) to sift through topical occurrences in order to get to and work through root issues. In plainer words, the book is helping us recognize and establish tools that will help us do the hard work of emotionally maturing. It’s heavy stuff, but my class is full of people who want to learn and grow and be challenged. Weekly, they come ready to dive into the material, participate in group discussions, invite vulnerability in their personal reflection time, and throw off old habits that don’t serve them. I honestly believe I get more from those students than they get from me. I’m learning so much about the power of vulnerability and willingness and openness. Watching them have revelations about current behaviors that stem from subconscious lessons learned in their school lives, families of origin, etc. is transformative for me. That coupled with my job in the Interview Department is really reminding me of how deeply I want to go back to school to get a counseling degree. A blog will be coming soon about all the incredible truths I’m learning from these two jobs.

4. I have made a habit of cooking dinner for the Professor regularly. I love it. I feel so good about providing for him in a tangible way. And as we spend more time at the Root House preparing it for his moving in, I half expect him to sit on the couch and wait for dinner to arrive. Instead, he is running around the house fixing little things or improving it in any way he can think. I feel like we’re a team, and it’s such a privilege to watch him running around improving our lives and then showing up at the dinner table, hungry for whatever I have cooked that night. I think I could really get into this wife-thing.

5. I have been working out like a mad woman. Every morning I’m up at 6:45 and throwing in a workout dvd: pilates, barre, or a rip-off version of P90x that my old roomie and I used to do. And since our bosses gave us a treadmill desk, everyone in the Admissions, Interview, World Race, and Short Term Missions Department has been signing up for 30 minute slots to get their movement on. It. Is. Awesome. I fall a little short in the dieting portion of wedding preparation, but I am killing it in the workout arena.

ok, this isn’t technically working out, but it WAS a really tall mountain…

6. The Professor and I bought our wedding bands last night. It took us about an hour to choose. He was a little stressed and sad because he loves to take his time and do his research. I loved it because I’m much more of a spontaneous, in-the-moment kind of girl, and the rings we chose we absolutely LOVE.

7. I still have not seen the new Cinderella movie, and I’m dying.

8. Last weekend The Professor and I traveled away to our respective Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties. He dressed up like a cow and ran amuk in the streets of Greenville, South Carolina, and I took my sweet new Georgia friends up to a cabin in the mountains near Blue Ridge, Georgia for a weekend of sugar, hot tubs, and rest. The Prof is convinced his weekend was better, but I’m sure mine was really the best. We both feel like we’ve been released into this season of marriage now that we’ve had a real opportunity to process our single lives and celebrate the beginning of our married life together. Also, he dressed up like a cow.

9. I sent my wedding dress off to get altered today. A sweet Russian lady named Luda regaled me with stories of how she met her husband and what their two-year-old daughter is like while she secretly eased my stress about having all the things altered. I was walking on sunshine when I left that shop.

10. I have made all kinds of sweet friends here in Gainesville! Women I work with, women The Professor works with, women I randomly know because he has known them for years. I felt really sad when most of my friends from back home couldn’t make it to my bachelorette weekend, and even sadder that many of them cannot make it to my wedding. But I also feel really loved and supported here, and if my Kentucky friends were the women who walked me through my single days, these Georgia gems are the women who will walk me through my marriage life. And I’m really good with that.

also happy st patty’s day

11. I turned 30. But then you already knew that! Thanks for reading that blog. 😉 #thirtyisthenewtwenty

12. I started taking voice lessons again. It is terrifying. It is invigorating. I feel like I’m slowly beginning to conquer my fear of singing in front of other people, and taking ownership over the sound of my own voice, rather than just hating it in general. My instructor is crazy amazing. I leave every lesson feeling like I’m on top of the world.

13. The sun has started coming out in Georgia and it’s been so warm I’ve worn dresses more days than I haven’t. And while sitting on my pilates ball at work is supes uncomfortable in a dress, and there aren’t windows in the office where I work, it’s still worth it to be walking forward into spring.

14. The Professor completed his season leading the Fellowship at Adventures. A new class of Fellows are moving in this week, but he has moved on to a new job, and we’re both excited for the freedom that will bring him, both with time and with energy. He loved his time with the Fellows, but is eager to move into a new season and a new job, one that will challenge and grow him in new ways.

15. Wedding planning is going great! Mostly because all the major tasks are completed, and the less-major-but-still-more-than-minor ones are delegated to human beings that are not me. Don’t get me wrong- there’s still plenty to do, but it is absolutely getting done. As The Day draws closer, I find myself caring less and less about the event, and more just about marrying my best friend, but that stresses him out because he then feels like he has to carry the weight of caring the most. So I’m trying to be more helpful. But I’m just so ready to be married!

16. The Root House is coming together! In the last month, especially, we have bought tons of furniture and started decorating. I’m more interested in making a home for him to move into, and he’s more interested in planning a wedding everyone will enjoy. But we’ve been doing a good job of meeting in the middle. ❤

17. I became unnaturally obsessed with chicken chili stew. And then frosted mini wheats. My current unhealthy obsession is honey bunches of oats with almonds. The struggle is real, y’all.

18. I had a bridal shower in Kentucky a month and a half ago. We’re having a couple’s shower here in Georgia this weekend. I love celebrating things.

19. My book club is actually a tv show club, and we finished watching the most recent season of Downton Abbey a couple weeks ago. We’re resuming this Thursday with SMASH. You’re all invited.

20. My fingernails have been polished every day for two months. I dig it.

21. We had a terrible ice storm and were without power/heat/jobs for 4 days. It was so cold, but I didn’t worry, because The Professor found places for us to stay that did have heat, and provided for me in every way. He’s going to be an excellent husband.

22. I’m exhausted. I want to sleep much more than my body needs. Preparing for a wedding is emotionally exhausting.

23. I’m so happy. I love my job, I love my house, I love my fiance. I’m making friends whom I love, I’m making memories I cherish, and I’m finally starting to feel like I’m finding my rhythm and can be myself again. It’s a good feeling.

the one where i turned thirty

I just had one of the best birthdays of my life. My sweetheart planned up an extravagant day full of things I love in order to celebrate my life.

I woke early, just in time for The Professor to arrive and make me delicious breakfast. He held my hand and prayed over me, and kissed me. He gave me a card filled with words of affirmation (one of my primary love languages!) and a gift he had bought for me last April. He’s so patient! After breakfast he cleaned up the meal and the kitchen to give me time to finish getting ready, and then we sat together and talked until it was time to head out for Birthday Adventure Time!

HE TOOK ME TO THE AQUARIUM.

THE. AQUARIUM.

I love all zoos and aquariums. They are some of my favorite places. I should probably wish all animals were free and roaming around in nature and wildlife preserves, but I’m so grateful for an opportunity to see them in a somewhat-natural habitat and to learn more about their lives and conservation efforts for their environments. When I was growing up I wanted nothing more than to be a Marine Biologist so I could work with whales in the Pacific Northwest. Seeing them at an aquarium is the closest I’ll ever get to that now. So give me my dang aquarium and teach me how to do a better job of nature conservation.

Anyway.

It turns out that there was some sort of weird ComicCon-esque Super Hero Day going on at the Georgia Aquarium and it was PACKED. You probably don’t know this about me, but I have pretty severe social anxiety. When there’s a large crowd of people wandering around without plan or instruction, and kind of pushing their ways about, I have panic attacks. It feels like swallowing acid. It’s extremely stressful for me, and I have no idea where it came from. But I’ve known for a couple years, and thus have begun avoiding places where it may spring up for the attack: midnight premieres of hugely popular movies, concerts with general admission or stadium seating, and the like. The Professor had no idea it would be so packed. I spent my afternoon feeling torn between absolutely loving every second and enjoying some serious pleasure at watching all the sea creatures float about, and feeling extremely claustrophobic. I kept apologizing for how hard I was taking the crowds, and he kept hugging me and kissing me and telling me I was okay. He is such a champion for me.

We roamed about enjoying various mysteries of the deep. We were fascinated by the Sea Dragons which are apparently an actual thing. I begged The Professor to get me a sea otter for my next birthday present. We stood in front of a huge IMAX-size glass wall and watched enormous whale sharks and back-flipping manta rays swim about. We ooohed and aahhed at the coral reef, and dreamed about our own tropical honeymoon that’s coming up soon, but not soon enough.

And then he took me to THE DOLPHIN SHOW. There was a dolphin show. And it. was. awesome. First of all, it was a musical. A guy actually sang through the entire show, and while the material was campy and clearly made for children, his voice was great, and the visual effects were amazing. BUT THEN THE DOLPHINS.

Can you volunteer as a dolphin trainer? Or maybe someone who comes in and plays with the dolphins to give them enrichment, the same way you can at an animal shelter? Because sign me up for that.

They were seriously amazing. They did such cool things, and every time a trainer would ask them to do something, it looked like they were SO HAPPY to do the thing. Dolphins actually smile. Not the fake emoticon smiley that stingrays have, but actual wide-mouthed, golden-retriever-type smiles. It’s so cool! It was easily my favorite part of the aquarium.

Afterwards we left the huge and stressful crowds behind and went to sit on the grass outside to soak up the last few moments of warm sunshine. We talked about the show and our favorite sights, we laughed at all the kids running around and jumping and screeching and falling down. We dreamed for a minute about our own future kids. We took some selfies. #selfiesaturday

We trounced a few blocks away to the CNN Center and grabbed a bite to eat inside. Delicious and quick, and we got to sit in the center of the building that looks up at all 13 floors and the glass ceiling. He loves architecture and I love food, so we had a pretty good time at dinner. More conversation, more laughter, more handholding. He spent the entire day speaking my love language-physical touch. He held my hand, rubbed my back, kissed my forehead, my hair, my cheek. When I was in the throes of my crowd-induced anxiety attack, he had me rest my head against his chest and listen to his heartbeat. It helped.

The Professor has few days when I can have his total, undivided attention. There is something profound about giving your person complete focus. I could feel my heart filling up to overflowing. I would fill so much that it had to spill out- I would randomly burst out with “I love yous” and “You make me so happy”. I couldn’t help it. Sometimes you’re simply overwhelmed with the emotions of relationship, and the next natural step to alleviate how full you are is to let it out. Which, lovely enough, fills someone else up, too. It’s a beautiful cycle.

But that is definitely one thing I was surprised at- how full I felt, and how loved I felt, and how treasured I felt. He did such an amazing job- he always does- and each day is better than the last.

After dinner we drove back home to attend the birthday party he set up for me. His fabulous sister Kimberly showed up early to decorate and when we got there she and my friend Sarah Anne were finishing up food prep. It was a pretty sweet spread!

So many other new-turning-old friends showed up to mix and mingle and celebrate, and it was so great. I love having people in my home, and the more furniture The Professor and I acquire, the more I love having people to fill up all the spaces. They sang me Happy Birthday, they toasted to my friendship and my future, they gave me chocolate chip cookie cake and the most delicious punch. We played a girls v. boys group game and the girls dominated. Of course we did. We always do. Everyone laughed and talked and mingled and caught up and laughed some more. As I hugged everyone goodbye, I was reminded that this is how our lives are meant to be. We are meant to celebrate each other and walk together through life. So many of the toasts I received contained a little piece about the excitement of knowing they were going to walk through the next 30, 40, 50 years with me. I felt so loved. And so treasured.

Oh, and just so you know, The Professor gave me the biggest birthday surprise of all time.

He listened to me (for weeks) dream about and cast vision for a floor-to-ceiling, Beauty-and-the-Beast style bookshelf for our sitting room. He commissioned it about a month ago. Little did I know he and Ben- our incredible carpenter- worked hard to make sure it was completed and installed secretly while he took me out and about on my birthday. When I came home, it was waiting on me- a perfectly captured vision, perfectly matched to my breakfast table, and ready for me to decorate with books and flowers and candles. Easily the best birthday present of all time. I’m sitting here this morning, just staring at that bookshelf, thinking of all the time and planning and coordinating and love that had to go into it in order to make my dream complete.

That’s what The Professor does. He actively encourages me to cast vision. He listens intently when I do. And then he goes about making it happen.

What a birthday. I’ll write a blog soon about all the things that I feel about actually turning 30, and all the things I’m releasing from my 20’s and all the things I hope to embrace in my 30’s, but for now I’m just going to sit in my favorite seat, feet resting on the perfect ottoman, and enjoy the sight of my beautiful birthday bookshelf, feeling all the things you feel when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are loved and wanted by all the people you hope to live the rest of your life with. Even those that couldn’t make the party last night made their presence known all day.

I am a happy girl.

I am a blessed girl.

I am a girl who drones on and on.

And that’s okay.

Because birthdays are meant for celebrating, for talking (a lot), for reminiscing, and for casting vision.

Thanks for taking the time to enjoy these things with me.

dec 6-dec 6

It’s December 6th today.

One year ago today I flew back to the States after eleven months away. It felt good to be home. Although I wasn’t sure what the next year would bring, I was confident that the Lord would take me to new places, both figuratively and literally. I just felt that this year was going to be a year of transition for me. Boy, if I only had known!

A year ago today I came back home after being away.

Today I “came home” in a different way. Today is my first full day in my new home. A new apartment, a new community, a new town. And it’s permanent.

I can hardly begin to describe what I’m feeling. It doesn’t seem real that I’ve moved. It’s almost as if I’m just visiting The Professor again, and no more. I’ll head back “home” soon enough.

But that’s not reality anymore, is it? Home isn’t Kentucky any longer.

It’s the strangest feeling! But it’s nice to be reminded that home isn’t so much a place as it is the people you’re with. Home can be anywhere, with a lot or with nothing. For me, Home is becoming wherever The Professor and I happen to be- wherever our feet tread is Home to us. And for the foreseeable future, it’s in Gainesville, Georgia.

“Home” is such a strange enigma. I don’t know what job I’ll find, I don’t know how long it will take for my new friendships to feel like old friendships, I don’t know how easily it will be to transition to a new church and a new small group and a new community… But so long as my feet are here, I’m opening my arms and my heart and embracing what’s in front of me. On the wall of my temporary apartment is a painting that says “Come what may, and love it.” Let it be so.

Amen, and amen.

5677-country road_edited

okay. i’m ready.

Whew. It’s been a crazy month. So much has been happening and all of it has been so spontaneous.

The Professor proposed. I gave my (month’s) notice at my job. I started saying my goodbyes to people I have loved for a decade. I spent my last official Sunday interpreting at my church for a new Deaf couple. I visited friends far away for the last time (for awhile, anyway). I bought my wedding dress. We set a date. The Professor booked our wedding venue. More huuuuge blessings that we’ll announce soon.

Whew. I’m overwhelmed.

I’m moving to Georgia in 3 days.

Three. Days.

Not just a visit. It’s not like all those times I drove to see The Professor for a few days. It’s not going to be the same as filling up my daytimes while he’s at work and then coming up with something big and bold and outrageous to do when he picked me up for a date.

We won’t have to try to cram into one weekend all the experiences and conversations and emotions you normally have over a full month.

We won’t have to say goodbye again. Ever again.

I’m moving to Georgia. Permanently. Georgia will become my home.

I can’t hardly believe it.

We’ve been preparing for almost a month, and now it’s right around the corner…. and I cannot hardly believe it.

I have felt like a nomad for two full  years. While on the World Race we traveled every few weeks, camping down wherever there was space (whether a bed was available or not). I came home and spent a month traveling to see friends and family for the first time in a year. I moved in with my sweet roomie and immediately got a job with a commute which, at the very least, required a 40 minute drive through awful traffic. Both morning and night. And I spent on average, not counting the commute, 11 hours a day there. When I finally get back to the apartment, it’s bedtime or very nearly. Every weekend I would drive 2 hours south to spend time with friends and church, or I drove 7+ hours to visit The Professor. I believe, in my 11 months of living in Northern Kentucky, I’ve spent maybe 3 weekends total at my apartment. TOTAL.

Can you see why I still feel like a nomad? It isn’t because I don’t have a place to sleep. It isn’t because I’m not welcome anywhere I tread.

But it’s exhausting to be on the move all the time.

I was driving to see friends a few days ago and about an hour and a half into the trip I had to pull over to the side of the road because I was losing my mind. Tears streaming down my face, snot threatening to choke me- all the emotions of the last 2 years gurgling up to suffocate me all at once.

And it isn’t because I’m unhappy! I’m SO HAPPY. So very, extremely, overwhelmingly joyful.

But it’s a lot to take in all at once.

Processing the last 2 years of my life, grieving this season of singleness, independence, Kentucky-living, constantly-being-surrounded-by-everyone-I-know-and-love and at the same time celebrating this incredible and exciting new season of newness- new engagement, new wedding planning, new state, new job (hopefully), new friends, new community, new church, new home- it’s just hard, man. It’s so, so hard. Especially trying to take all of the things in and celebrate all the new things on my own, still living 8 hours away from the boo, and having literally zero amount of time to myself. In the next 3 days, I work 34 hours and have to pack up the rest of my life and move it to my car. For Thanksgiving, we’ll spend a week with The Professor’s family. The Monday after, I fly back up to Cincinnati to work one more week. That Friday I’ll fly back down late, and prepare all the things for our engagement photos to be done that Saturday.

Exhausting.

Whew.

Listen. I know that I know that I know that I’m ready to move to Georgia. I know that I know that I know that I’m ready for this next big life change and all the things that come with it. Maybe ask me again in a couple months just to be sure, but honestly there’s no turning back. This is the boy I love, and I’m going to marry him. And when I marry him all his things will become my things and all his people and all his traditions and all his memories and all his life. And vice versa! It really brings new meaning to that verse in Ruth (1:16):

“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”

I’m just so ready to be done with all the transitioning, and ready to move on to the roots-planting phase of life with someone else. Even though we won’t be married for another several months, there are so many things for us to do and accomplish before we’re ready to take the plunge: job-hunting (for me), setting up house, church-finding, marital counseling, financial counseling, wedding planning: just a few of the millions of tasks on our immediate to-do list.

But I’m so ready- and so grateful- to finally be taking a real step forward, a step toward all the dreams we want to make happen. I’m ready to take a break from traveling all the time and just spend some quality face-to-face time with this man I’m marrying. I’m ready to finally set down some roots.

I’m so ready to make this move, to grieve my last season well, and leap boldly into this new one.

Okay. I’m ready.

that brid(ah-ha)l moment

I’ve heard time and time again from all my friends who have married before me (which is a LOT) that when they went shopping for their wedding gown they put on a specific dress…. and just knew. They knew in a way they didn’t know that they could know that this dress was the dress for them.

It sounded so cliche, so….movie-esque. This was definitely a moment that happened in a romcom and therefore perhaps these lovely lady friends of mine were just hoping to experience similar emotions? Maybe?

NOPE.

This is, indeed, a real moment, and it happened to me.

My mom and The Bestie took me dress shopping in Cincinnati’s Wedding District, a pretty famous place as it turns out. A teeny little corner in a cute little neighborhood, the area boasts just three wedding gown/formal shops, but they’re all amazing. A small shop style, rather than a chain, they’re set up throughout a couple city blocks in sprawling multi-room building complexes. I liked the idea of a boutique- it seemed much more intimate and one-on-one. I had visited larger chain stores in the past and really felt like I was on a factory belt, even just for bridesmaids dresses. This was really quite appealing. We chose Bridal and Formal for our first (and hopefully only) appointment.

car
all focused on the goal. clearly

However. We arrived nearly a half hour early and I must say I was blown over by the number of women that were squeezed into every room in this shop. A sufferer of mild social anxiety, I immediately felt suffocated. There was no room to move or breathe, let alone shop. Soon-To-Be Brides and their entourages of sisters, friends, mothers, cousins, aunts, neighbors, hairdressers, and third grade teachers were bustling around talking, laughing, swishing, hair-holding-upping, back-of-the-dress peering, mirror-gazing, and just overall breathing in all the places.

It was super overwhelming. All my elation at finding the perfect dress would have been deflated if it wasn’t for the receptionist who called me over and introduced me to a random “floor boy.” He was going to “show us the floor.”

All right! Some direction!

He quickly showed us the Trunk Show Room, the Couture Wall, the $12,000 And Up Wall, and the “rest of the dresses.”

“Go ahead and browse around, pick a few dresses that you think you might like to try, and your consultant will help you from there.”

O.Kay.

Clearly this is not meant to be my day. My smile was GONE. You mean I have to traverse this tiny section of an overwhelmingly-over-priced wall of fabric sacks with no direction and no supervision? Totally on my own? Cool. This doesn’t intimidate me in the slightest.

I almost threw up.

The Bestie and I “walked” through teeny tiny aisles and attempted to find any dresses at all we liked. I walked into the store with a verrrry specific dress style in mind. And it was NO WHERE to be found in these aisles. Also, STATIC ELECTRICITY. It is a real and very dangerous thing, and I actually walked through a force field of it. It felt like a spider web of friction and heat on my face when I walked out of an aisle. It was distinct, it was awful, and there went my beautifully-cultivated curls for the day.

I remember Sarah turning around and her jaw dropping nearly to the floor. She came over and tried to smooth out the damage but with little success (remember those crystal ball things of electricity? that we played with at those cool museums as kids? and it made all our hair stand up? that had nothing on what i looked like in that one crazy electric-chair aisle).

Finally we just grabbed an armful of kind-of-but-not-really-we-just-wanted-some-help-dresses and snuck over to the front rack to wait for our consultant.

At this point I was on the verge of tears. We found zero dresses in the style I wanted. We found zero dresses in my size. A woman backed into me “accidentally” and elbowed me in the boob and didn’t say she was sorry. My hair looked slightly better than Albert Einstein’s on a bad morning. It was freeeezing in that little space.

Was this how it was supposed to go?

A little over an hour after my appointment was supposed to start, our consultant finally got to us. Poor thing, it really wasn’t her fault. The store was SO overrun with brides and family and friends, I’m sure it was overwhelming for her, too. She was incredibly apologetic (but sweet) as she showed us into one of the dressing areas.

Honestly, I was over shopping by now. I’m not really a shopper anyway, it’s not really one of my pastimes, and this had started me off soooo on the wrong foot. Overwhelmed, stressed, cold, and super sad about not finding a SINGLE DRESS I thought I would like, I told her straight up that none of the dresses we brought to her were even remotely what I was looking for.

“Bobbi*,” as we’ll call her (*that is her real name), smiled and shrugged and said, “Ok, baby, you just tell me what you’re looking for and I’ll see if I can’t help find it for you.”

I was skeptical…and sad…. but as Mom, Bestie, and I started describing the kind of dress I wanted, and busting out all the pinterest pics we’d all found, she started smiling and laughing and said to give her a couple minutes, that she knew what she needed to look for.

I “calmly” explained they had zero of those dresses on the racks we had been shown, but she said not to worry. She’d go upstairs (there’s an upstairs?!) and pull some dresses for us just to start with.

Sitting in that cold room in just a robe, experiencing what I’m sure is the non-military version of PTSD, waiting 15 minutes for Bobbi to come back was not. fun. I was convinced they didn’t have my style of dress (even though they boasted a collection of over 4000 gowns), and I thought maybe we were just wasting our time. I knew I had to find a dress- and soon- in order to get it in time for our wedding (date to be announced soon!), and I really thought this was going to be the place to find it. But having elbowed my way through a sea of women and nine-sizes-too-big dresses, I was completely convinced I was wrong.

So when Bobbi showed back up with an armful of gowns, I wasn’t very excited to begin the process.

The first dress she put on me was ALL WRONG. The fabric, the neckline, the sleeveline, the beading.

Except for the cut. I had never considered this type of cut before… But it felt GREAT!

My mom, an expert on wedding dresses (I see you, TLC’s wedding dress lineup), already knew this was the cut for me. Thankfully, she let me decide I loved it before spilling the beans.

So that’s a start! We tried on a few more styles before agreeing that the original was the way to go for me. Now we had to figure out the rest- fabric and neckline and overlays and all that other bridal stuff.

We were at that shop for- I kid you not- FOUR. HOURS. We actually ended up being the last people standing. AFTER the shop was closed.

I maintain that it wasn’t our fault- our appointment was supposed to start an hour before it actually began.

But about halfway through that time, I started to enjoy myself. Bobbi was so funny and endearing and really actually knew her job well. She literally stole every ounce of stress I was feeling and replaced it with laughter and enthusiasm. We eliminated one thing after another after another, and with every armload she carried back we got closer and closer to the Dream Dress.

When we decided on what kind of fabric I wanted, she thought to herself a moment and said, “Wait a sec. I’m going to bring a couple ‘naughty dresses’ that aren’t for you to buy, but just to give us an idea of what you might like. And then I think I have the perfect one.”

I was pretty nervous about that idea. Naughty dresses? Like… bachelorette party? Wedding night naughty? What did that even mean?! And why would they carry that crap in a wedding gown shop?!??!?

Turns out she just meant price wise.

The gown she had me try on was $6500. Okaaaayyy.

And yet it was indeed perfect.

This was not my bridal moment, to be clear. Sarah took one look at the tag and, after vomiting a little, said in her quietest and most gentle words, “Take it off RIGHT NOW.” So I knew before I could allow the feels to come up that this was not the dress we would have The Moment in.

But because it felt so. good. and looked so. good. and was so right, Bobbi immediately ran away to bring back the last few dresses we would try. And the first one she gave me was IT.

I slipped the dress on, she did up the back (as all dresses need- don’t try to figure out what kind it is) (just go ahead and stop it right now), and I turned around to look in the mirror and all 4 of us- Mom, Bestie, Bobbi, and myself- gasped. This was The Moment.

I liken it to that whole weird “imprinting” thing Twilight tries to use as a justification for Jacob to lust after Bella’s newborn baby. It just…happened.

Even with the clamps to take up the extra fabric, and the crappy lighting, and the poor choice of air conditioning, I felt like I was wearing a cloud. In a good way. Every single thing about this dress was perfect, and I didn’t even know it was what I was looking for. Of all the things I thought my “Dream Dress” would have, only one item was shared between my “dream” and my “Reality Dress.” It was priced a little over what I wanted to spend, but when I looked at my mom, she winked and said it was in our price range. This was Mom’s gift to me. WOW. The Moment could keep flowing, because this dress was about to become reality in a very tangible way.

I cannot imagine wearing anything else the day I pledge forever to the boy I love. I felt, for the first time, like a Bride. I felt both exactly like myself and like someone totally different, but in a good way. I just never really imagined I could feel so good and so beautiful and so elegant. How had I never thought a wedding dress could do that for someone? The tears and the breathlessness and the joy I felt were indescribable. Probably because it all sounds so cliche and movie-esque.

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we said yes to the dress!

But it’s true. It’s a real moment, and it takes your breath away.

I walked into that shop knowing what dress I would leave with.

And I got something totally different.

And it’s perfect.

And I can’t wait to wear it again.

e00e4f01c943dee69d7289fe30504f5d
*not me. not my dress.

life change. WHAT.

As most of you probably know, about a week ago my life changed in a big way. A Big Way.

The Professor drove up to Kentucky to surprise me.

Which he totally did.

With a diamond ring.

Which I totally died over.

That’s right, friends!

I’M ENGAGED!!!!

Soooo crazy!! I still cannot hardly believe it. I keep looking at my left hand to make sure it wasn’t really a dream (which it most certainly still feels like).

I’ll publish a blog soon about the proposal story, with toooooooonnnnns of photos (because believe me- it’s worth it’s own post. We’re talking fairy tales and lifetime channel movies). (Seriously, though. Prepare yourself for the legit onslaught of photos). But I wanted to go ahead and make some important announcements before my facebook gets out of control. It just seems easier and more manageable to share all my big newses here, and answer any questions there.

So, for those of you who don’t know yet….

I’M ENGAGED!!!

Oops. Sorry. Wrong announcement.

ACTUAL ANNOUNCEMENT: my last day at my current job, with the sweet girls that I nanny will be November 26th. It’s extremely difficult for me to imagine my life without seeing those faces every day, but I know even better things are around the corner.

I will be officially moving to Gainesville, Georgia (where the Boo is) during Thanksgiving weekend. It’s kind of a time crunch to get everything in, but as my lease runs out on November 30th, we decided it would just be easier to bring my things down with me when I go to his parents’ for the holiday (rather than making two trips).

That being said, there are some major things I’d like to request your prayers for:

Please pray that I am able to downsize my already-downsized life, and that the things I do decide to keep can find a Kentucky home for a few months until The Professor and I find a place of our own and can bring them down. Neither of us really own any furniture (and I really mean nothing) so please pray that we can find some great things for affordable prices in the coming months.

Please pray that I find a job quickly- and one that will bring me joy and satisfaction, as well as the ability to pay bills and save up for our wedding. (OUR WEDDING!!!).

Please pray that my transition into a new community is smooth and easy, and that I find my own friends outside of my relationship to The Professor.

Please pray that we find a church to call home. It’s so important to us both that we graft ourselves into a community outside of work- one that will offer us opportunities to join a small group, serve our town, and grow together in the Lord.

Please pray that we find the perfect starter home. Again, we’ll be starting from scratch in this area, so pray that he will have great insight into places to look, that we will be given great favor in our search, and that we find the home that will serve us best during our first few years of marriage.

Please pray that we continue to keep Christ front and center as we move into the challenging season of Actual. Wedding. Planning. Pray that he will keep his patience with me and that I will offer him respect and support during particularly stressful moments.

Please pray that as I prepare to move away from my Vineyard Church community- away from my dearest friends and loved ones, that I will guard myself from a spirit of comparison, and that I will eagerly look for any and every opportunity to plant myself in a new place and start growing… the way that Christ created me to.

………

Mostly I just want to say thank you. A biiiiiig thank you to all those of you who have loved and supported me, who have encouraged and challenged and discipled me. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today if it weren’t for you. I’m so excited to walk into this new season with my soon-to-be-Husband (whaaaaaatttt), and I look forward to sharing all our crazy milestones with you. May God bless you and keep you until we meet again!

gosh, this boy.

30b30: six and seven. cannin’ and jammin’.

cleaning

This past weekend I had the real pleasure of spending time with some amazing women at their awesome farmhouse in the middle of the rolling hills of Autumnal Kentucky. Poetic much?  Yes.

It’s been on my list for ages now to learn how to can something. I’m learning more and more about sustainable living and some of the Appalachian folk skills that are kind of dying out. Less and less people know how to grow vegetables, make their own bread, preserve their own harvest. And while leagues upon leagues of produce are to be found at places like Kroger, Meijer, and Walmart- UGH- the produce has to travel quite a ways and has been modified to look uniform and last much longer than produce should. It’s great for when you’re in a crunch, or when you don’t have access to rich soil or great weather, but really it would be nice to grow and preserve things locally.

Since I have yet to plant my own vegetable garden/fruit tree Eden, I asked some of the loveliest women in my life to teach me to preserve something through a canning process. Jill and Jessica kindly agreed. They prepared for the weekend by purchasing a couple bushels of locally grown apples and some locally processed cider, got out their surplus mason jars, and made some hot tea to enjoy while the conversation and work grew.

I arrived to cheers and smiles and warm hugs all around and Jill whipped up a delicious sweet potato soup (seriously, though, to die for) so we could eat before we boiled, and when the lunch mess was cleared we headed back to the kitchen to check some things off the bucket list.

First thing’s first.

a recipe for APPLE SAUCE

Clean and sanitize the jars.

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Peel and slice the apples.

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Boil the apples down with a little water (the amount of water depending on how juicy the apples are).

While in the pot, add cinnamon and raw can sugar (again, amount depending on how many apples are being boiled).

sugar

Continue boiling.

Prepare jars for impending hot water bath by placing into a couple inches of boiled water.

glasses

Pour applesauce into jars, clean lip, add boiled lids, and seal with cap.

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Place jars into boiling water for hot water “bath”, return to boil. If using pint jars, boil for 20-25 minutes. If using quarts, boil 35 minutes.

hot water bath

Take from hot water bath, place on drying racks, and wait for that sweet sound of the lid popping into a perfect seal.

jar finished

Place jars somewhere special and take out to enjoy when ready.

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What a fun afternoon! It took longer than I was expecting, but the warm conversation, the laughter, and the smell of cooked apple and cinnamon made my time there so rich, so full. I’m convinced that this is the kind of life and the kind of community we’re all meant to have. We chatted about updates, we talked about plans, we shared sorrows, we gushed about boys, and we filled our time with a sweet productivity that will soon bring smiles and delight to people that we love. I feel so full from my weekend spent in the company of precious women. This is what abundant life is. It must be. Not only the conversation, but the work of making something magical in the kitchen that will last. At least for awhile. It brought me such pleasure to learn a craft much older than I am that will carry on into my own parenting.

We also made delicious apple butter.

And cheese.

cheese 1 cheese 2 cheese 3

And bonus! I got to milk their sweet dairy cow, Queenie, and feed her precious little boy with a bottle.

milk cow baby cow

Happiest Girl Ever.

(ps. you can find the original 30 before 30 list here)

a change in the wind

Whew, it feels like summer just began and already my girls are back in school. You can’t tell because of the UNBELIEVABLE heat and humidity we’re finally experiencing (which, let’s just be honest, is about dang time), but autumn is quickly arriving and with it a new season. And I don’t just mean climate-wise.

Summer was incredible. Maybe just a bit too short, but wonderful none-the-less. Even with my 50-60 hour workweek, I have been able to do all sorts of things. The Boy came and “lived” up here for three weeks, I visited him for two separate weeks. There was the annual street swing dance in Lexington, and multiple USABDA dances on warm Saturday nights. I visited a zoo and an aquarium, went to considerably less movies than my usual summer haul, and ate more sushi than I care to count. I visited Ellice and my sweet Laurana, drank coffee in the kitchen with PJoe and Janice, and tried my hand at brand new pie and cake recipes. I started teaching my girls to bake.

I discovered a new pinterest interest (although I’ve had an account for years), and am currently on day five of a facebook fast. I’ve taken Jackpot to the dog park enough to make actual friends with other regulars who bring their dogs, and I’ve spent weeks laying out in the sun by a pool where V and K perfected their back dives and front flips. I’ve dressed up for two weddings, both of which were more emotional than I was prepared for. I have traveled so much I currently believe I’m actually living out of my car, rather than at an apartment with Mary Alice, who has been one of my best friends for years. And I’ve watched as our friendship has grown deeper and deeper, especially over the last month.

My love for hammocks has been re-awakened. I helped my mom move some stuff from storage into a moving truck so she could unpack at her brand new house- something she has been waiting on and praying for for at least a decade. I got my hair cut. And colored. And it is AWESOME. I even got a tutorial on how to use hair products and which ones to buy. I perfected the art of the dutch braid, thanks to youtube (and a little assistance from Mary Alice). I have ROCKED learning how to curl my hair.

I’ve gone putt-putting. I’ve juiced. I watched food documentaries and learned stuff. I went hiking A LOT. I’ve taken time on various road trips to pull off and spend time at a river, a lake, a mountain lookout, and a super-cool, slightly-hidden pottery house. I stayed for a weekend in a log cabin with girls who make me feel incredibly special. I reunioned with Sarah and her husband. I celebrated the 5 year birthday/anniversary of the best church on the planet. I walked through an abandoned mall that creeped me out. I’ve seen more deer and fawns than I can count. I paid off my credit card. I bought the perfect flannel shirt.

I got a Netflix account that equally improved and ruined my life. I watched every season of Parks and Rec, and The West Wing (except I still can’t bring myself to view the final episode, knowing it’ll really be over).

I went to an actual running store to buy actual running shoes. I ran 5 miles without stopping one time. And with a few stops another time. I went running more than I wanted to. I did barre workouts less than I wanted to. I did yoga even less than that. I took a lot of naps. I read a lot. I knitted and crocheted more than I ever have in the summer. I’ve celebrated new mamas and babies. I celebrated new friendships. I said goodbye a lot to people heading to the mission field. I welcomed them home.

The Boy gave me a tshirt. We watched lots of sunsets and a few thunderstorms. I told him I loved him for the first time. I kissed him under a bridge at dusk. We ran a 5k and then I covered him in leftover colored corn starch. I kayaked for the first time. I paddle-boated for the first time. I paddle-boarded for the first time. I swam at night for the first time. I pretended to love red wine. I started to love red wine. I threw a surprise birthday party. I said “I love you” some more.

I drank a lot of coffee. I learned to love soy and almond milk, and I started to not love actual milk anymore. I didn’t take vitamins like I should have. I did floss like I should have. I wore sports bras and running shorts far too often. I didn’t wear dresses nearly enough. I did wear heels though- a couple times. I learned to love wildflowers…really and truly love them.

I bought a book about gardening vegetables.

I got the hiccups a lot.

I didn’t spend one weekend at my apartment.

People I barely knew taught me the real meaning of hospitality.

I coached the most amazing girls at a conference.

I only wore chacos.

I introduced V and K to the magic of Harry Potter. No pun intended.

I ordered something online.

I had to buy (and start regularly using) a patellar strap.

I bought things from local farmers.

I re-ignited my love of jigsaw puzzles and hummus. Not together. At least, not very often. I learned to love peanut butter. Especially with apples.

My love for nutella almost ruined my waistline. Again.

……

Whew.

It’s been an incredible summer. And now it’s over.

As wonderful as things have been, it feels as if I’ve lived totally in one of two camps: One being that time is simply going by too fast to keep up, and the other being the exact opposite- what’s next and why can’t I figure it out? For the first time in my life (maybe the second, if you count the World Race), I feel totally out of control of my time, my work, my relationships. But in a good way, like I just get to sit back and enjoy what happens as it’s happening. I’m going to stop looking very far in the future, and instead focus my energies on being as fully present as I can, and sopping up every ounce of joy and fulfillment that I can.

It seems like something is missing. Like I’ve been only enjoying half of my time, and the other half is spent just trying to catch up. So I’m making a few conscious changes for this autumn. Most particularly in reference to my job and all the time I spend there. 100% of my time this summer has been spent in workout clothes (so that I can take the pup running, and I can get messy doing projects with the girls). But I don’t want to be that girl who shows up only in yoga pants or running shorts. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But I want, need, to put more effort into my life, to not allow time to just slip by because I’m too busy.

So one thing I’ve decided to do is take one day and dress in actual clothes: shorts made of a fabric other than nylon, jeans, an actual bra. Really anything other than what I’ve lived in. I think it will be good for my psyche (and also my poor workout clothes that haven’t had a dang break in three months) to wear normal clothes once in awhile.

I’m also challenging myself to get out of my house and do something else one night a week. Typically I leave my house around 6 am and return anywhere from 7-8:30 pm. Which means I’m in bed and konked out by 10:30 at the latest. That’s not a lot of time for myself. But I’ve decided it’s important for me, as tiring as it may seem at first, to do something besides come home and work out/read/knit/watch tv or any number of quiet, solitary activities and then pass out.

I actually allowed myself to do something spontaneous yesterday during an afternoon break at work (sometimes I have 3-4 hours off in the middle of the day). I took myself to see a movie at a dollar theatre (it’s typically $3, but on Tuesdays it’s half-off). The theatre was at the back of an almost totally abandoned mall (which kind of felt a little ghost-like). The floor was so sticky that every time I moved my foot, my sole suctioned off and then back onto the floor. The chairs smelled equally like body odor and cat urine, and both were strong. So strong, in fact, that at one point about halfway through the movie I honestly thought about leaving. But I stayed to the end, and it was a really enjoyable film- truly entertaining.

Today I decided would be the day I wore actual clothes. I did show up to work in my normal workout attire, because within 45 minutes of arriving I walk the girls (and two of their neighbors) to school and then go on a run with Jackpot. But afterward I came back home (and since I had a break today, too) I took a shower and changed into cloth shorts and a plaid tank top. It feels weird. But this is the vow I have taken.

I also took myself out for coffee this morning. I went to a coffee shop I’d never heard of (but google swore it was the best in Cincinnati). And it was cute– built into what I’m sure had to have been an old historic home. Good coffee, too. But absolutely ZERO parking and the one place I found had a strict one-hour policy with a tried-and-true history of cars being towed. So I enjoyed my iced hazelnut almond milk latte as quickly as I could and then skedaddled. Thus began a cafe crawl to find a new place with free wifi and free parking.

So now I sit at Panera, typing to you. Because local coffee shops don’t have free parking, or parking without vehicles already parked. I’m not sure what this new season has in store, but I’m really looking forward to it. Autumn has always been my favorite season and, traditionally, it has been very good to me. There are a couple weddings coming up, and some really special birthdays. The Boy will visit me and I will visit him. My sweet Ellice will have her third baby. The leaves will change color and I will hike some tall peaks to better enjoy the view. I’ll unpack the boots and the scarves and the cozy sweaters I pine for all summer long. I’ll try my hand at making hot cider for the first time. I’ll finish my journal and begin a new one. I’ll keep loving coffee. I’ll keep running with Jackpot. I’ll keep trying to keep up with the girls.

And I’ll enjoy every minute of every day, lapping up all the abundance life has to offer, knowing

“The Lord will keep [me] from harm–
He will watch over [my] life;
The Lord will watch over my coming and going
both now and forevermore.”
Psalm 121:7-8

Bring it on, Autumn.

30b30: three. i MUST live in a log cabin… i mean, congrats betsy and josh!

It’s been a minute since I’ve done any real blogging, so here’s a toast to beginning again the process of publicly journaling my life.

This past weekend I traveled a few hours north of where I reside to have a wedding reunion with O Squad- the loud, colorful, joyous, hilarious, indescribable group of people with whom I journeyed the world round last year. Two of our own- Betsy and Josh- were officially tying the knot. It was a quick but lovely ceremony, followed by a reception dinner that was basically an excuse to continue catching up on what everyone is doing these days, who is dating whom, where everyone is living, and which of our numerous memories from our year together are our favorite.

everyone was SO clean…and smelled so good

It was an awesome day and a half.

Know something else that was awesome?

The log cabin some of us got to stay in for the weekend. Betsy’s family put the whole squad up in various locations, and I was one of the suuuuper lucky few to bag the cabin (thanks for your logisticing skills, Emma!) (#racebestie)

Seriously.

This place is a glimpse of my personal heaven.

I woke up each morning early…not even that early… but I had about an hour each morning totally to myself. “Not a creature was stirring” kind of quiet. It was incredibly life-giving.

I have to start at the beginning. You see, my version of heaven includes lots of trees and wilderness, and a house resembling, well, a sweet-looking log cabin. Lots of natural hardwood flooring, big windows, open ceilings with visible rafters. There’s an old-timey front porch with handmade rocking chairs, for sure, and definitely a back porch.  A big kitchen with a table for everyone, and a warm feeling you get as soon as you walk in, that spreads from your head all the way down to your toes.

THIS WAS THAT PLACE.

From the front porch- wildflowers and weeds and tall grasses as far as you can see.  From the back porch, nothing but woodland and underbrush. Then to the side of the cabin was a small pergola opening into a garden.  The house was surrounded by a picket fence that looked as old as the ages (and yet also well-maintained).

Heaven.

That first morning I woke with the idea to grab my bible and journal and head to the front porch to spend time with Jesus in a rocking chair. But I was so overwhelmed with the aesthetics of the place that all I could do was walk around and around and try to drink in every sight. I picked some wildflowers from along the “road” (an extremely long gravel-and-dirt driveway), place them in a piece of pottery from the cabinet, and start the morning coffee. I walked all over the side garden, and across the “driveway”, where a little pond was surrounded by a grassy path that led through a tunnel of small trees. I did rock on a chair on the front porch, but only for a minute, because there was so much else to see. There were little walking paths all over the place, made of flat rocks, with pieces of weed and grass growing between them. The sun was still rising above the trees behind the house, so only the tops of the trees and flowers at the top of the hill in the front was illuminated. Everything was still and quiet and covered in dew and my feet got wet and grassy pretty quickly.

I went back inside to unpack some of the groceries Emma had picked up for the house, and to stand in the middle of that silent kitchen and just dream. What an amazing place to be able to live! A big island in the kitchen to prepare food on while your family sits or runs around. A huge table with lots of seating. There was even one of those old metal hangy-things that had peppers and garlic drying from it. And also old pans and skillets.

I felt so clean and de-cluttered. I felt in that moment, standing with my coffee, listening to the sounds of the early morning, that I could do anything, be anyone. I dreamed of my own future house with my own future family, and how I hoped it could be like this- big and open and lived in. As my squadmates woke up and filed in and life began, I kept thinking what a wonderful place it would be to even simply live in community- just have a big cabin and fill it with my best girlfriends- women who would sharpen and encourage and challenge each other to live closer to Christ.

It was simply a breath of fresh air.

Sunday morning was similar, except instead of running around marveling at how creative God is, and how creative His children are (to make such a perfect building), I just sat in the nook with my coffee and my bible and read about how awesome and faithful and loving He is. I sat in the again-quiet kitchen and drank in the goodness of the Lord. After spending all afternoon and evening with my squad, laughing and sharing and storytelling and bonfiring, I still woke up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. I felt like I had been at a retreat. That’s the power of finding your place– those spaces that make you feel new.  For me, it’s a cabin in the woods, far from internet or cell phone service (SERIOUSLY, OHIO), full of hardwood floors and walls, big windows, and some history. A place to escape life and responsibility and tasks for just a little bit. A place to take a walk and meet God in nature- to see His beauty in His magnificent handiwork.

I’ve recently discovered a love of flowers (wildflowers in particular), and a love of lacy things, and a love of feeling feminine in the most old fashioned ways. This weekend was all of those things.

I consider myself an introvert and really need a pretty good amount of time alone to recharge. And yet, God plopped me down in the middle of more than half my squad to celebrate a momentous occasion. And even with all of those things, He gave me just the tiniest amount of alone time in the perfect space, and I feel new. I feel so refreshed. Such a full, busy, travel-y weekend, and still I am fully ready for another 50-hour work week.

The power of the perfect place. Thanks, Ramser family, for allowing us to live in your cabin. Thanks, Jesus, for knowing and blessing my heart. You’re so good, and I’m so full.

30b30: two. horses are for riding

Wow, two in one week! Checking off the dos, Neil surprised me last Saturday with a beautiful trip over a creek, through the woods, up a mountain, and past a meadow, all on horseback.

It.

Was.

MAGICAL.

I had been wanting to go riding for the last several years and either couldn’t find the right opportunity in the right season, or couldn’t find anyone to go with me. The last time I had ridden was waaayyyy back in the 12th Century BC, when I was around 8 years old. It was seriously time to revisit the fun of stable life.

We arrived mid-morning to a farm right on the edge of a small mountain (tall hill?) and were met by a large, burly, smiley, good-ol-boy with a voice as big and deep as the sea. His hands were literally the size of hams, and his handshake was something to be reckoned with. He had a phone in each hand, one eye on us and the other on his daily calendar, which was (as we were standing there) filling up by the second. It was hysterical listening to him try to answer 6 phone calls at once, direct his employees on which rider got which horse, welcome all the families arriving to ride, and have a conversation with Neil. He was a master multi-tasker, for sure.

This was all happening with a faint fuzziness to it, as I could not believe this was real life. I felt like I was dreaming all of it, especially when the horses were sent out to us and we saddled up. I sat astride this massive (not-so-massive) living, breathing animal, and literally could not believe life was happening to me.

The trail took us all over the place, up and down some pretty steep paths, and past some narrow ones, too. Neil’s horse Smokey, we were told, was a bit anti-social and didn’t like to have horses behind her. Anytime my horse (Poco) and I would get a little too close for comfort, Smokey would turn her head and give us The Eye. At one point she turned completely around and tried to run us over, but Neil, being the smooth guy he has, quickly reigned her in and around. Shew! Quick thinking!

 

The trail we took brought us past a huge roped-off area with all these terrifying signs that said things like Warning: Blast Zone and Danger and 5 Whistles = 5 minutes to detonation. Terrifying signs. We didn’t hear any whistle blows, but about 3/4 of the way through the ride we did hear some strange warning sirens in the distance. We think it was the military compound nearby doing some stuff, but that wasn’t very comforting to think of, either.

We also saw a hug black snake sprinting away from the trail and into the underbrush.

The trip took somewhere between 1 1/2-2 hours, and every second of it was perfect. Those horses were so well trained that even when I tried to turn mine off the path and into green grass in the meadow, she shook her head, snorted a little, and kept on marching right behind the horse in front of her.

Stubborn.

We finished our ride in the warm sunshine, and I dismounted a happier, wholer girl. Yep, “wholer” is a real word and I’m sticking with it.

What an incredible morning, what an incredible experience, what an awesome thing to check that off the list.

It was definitely worth the wait to go on this trip, with this boy, at this place. Thanks, Jesus.

30b30: one. night hike

I can officially check off the first item on my 30 Before 30 List! (you can find the full list here)

happy 30 before 30!

Neil took me hiking up Yonah Mountain (north Georgia) to watch the sunset and then to hike down after nightfall. It was AWESOME. We arrived at the peak in perfect time to drink some water, set out a little mat, and snuggle up for the show. It was breathtaking. It was also the first time I had seen the sun drop beneath the horizon; I guess I just get so caught up in all the other colors dancing around the sky that I really don’t pay any attention to the actual sun setting. Which is, as they say, the exact point of a sun SET.

photo 1
i mean, come ON

This sunset was spectacular. The sun was a deep shade of crimson, and as it dropped beneath a mountain the sky and all the clouds lit up in various shades of red, gold, pink, and finally purple before it was all said and done.

seriously! just look at that!

We spent some time having really great conversation and prayer, and then it was off to hike down the (pretty stinking steep) mountain in the dark, with just our headlamps to guide us.

This was it! This was what I had been waiting for!

It was eerily quiet the whole way down, except for the various sounds of leaves rustling in the almost-nonexistent wind. Within the first 10 minutes of climbing down we heard something moving in the distance and lo-and-behold it was a pair of deer!! Just hanging out right off the trail, we followed them downwards for maybe a minute before they left to go do their own thing. I would probably use the word majestic to describe that… if I had to. But no big deal, I guess. Just walkin’ around with Bambi. No big.

The rest of the way was pretty uneventful. The woods seem like such a smaller, more enclosed space in the dark, and I found myself looking around at every errant sound to make sure a mountain lion wasn’t going to pounce. Or something even worse… like a big spider. Neil manfully blazed the trail ahead of me so if there were any vengeful spiders lying in wait he would take the hit and not me. I was super grateful.

At one point we stopped on the trail and turned our headlamps off to watch the stars twinkle through the still-bare branches of some pretty tall trees. I was singing “Colors of the Wind” secretly to myself the whole time.

treeeee
because this is legit what it looked like

We finally turned our torches back on and found our way back to the car, where we celebrated with a hug and a high five and spent the last part of our evening sharing our happy little world with the rest of mankind.

facebook official, baby!

whimsy musings from an unlikely nanny

People have been asking me what I’ve been up to since returning home from the World Race. Other than sleeping a ton, traveling all over the place to visit friends and family (who have all seemed to move far away since my being gone), and resting in the Lord, I’ve not been up to a lot.

Except I got a job!!

It took a minute, but I accepted a job as a nanny for a swanky family in Cincinnati, OH back in February. I’ve been at it for a little over a month, and I’m really enjoying it! I care for the two sweetest (and sassiest) girls on the planet: “K” and “V”, fraternal twins who just moved back from China, and also turned 9. They have a 10-month-old-ish pup whom we’ll call “J” and is the highlight of my mid-mornings.

A typical day will involve leaving my apartment no later than 6:10 am (which means I’m up and at ’em far earlier, attempting to beat the morning rush into and through Cincy. I grab the newspaper from the sidewalk on my way in, greet the pup (who is always awake and waiting for her meal), and wait for the girls to come to the kitchen. Then I make them breakfast, make sure they brush their teeth and hair, and then walk with them and J to the bus stop. Afterwards, the pup and I take a nice long walk, and when we come back I do a load of dishes. Then, depending on the day, it’s off to laundry, sweeping, vacuuming, grocery shopping, dog grooming, and any other random assortment of tasks and errands that may need to be done. I’ll pick the girls up from school, maybe we’ll hit up the public library on our way home, and then have a snack, do some homework together, do some online math together, and have them practice their piano pieces on the days they don’t have piano class. I finish the day by cooking dinner for the fam, and then hop in my car to head home which takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on the ALWAYS TERRIBLE Cincy traffic.

It’s not a bad gig.

I’m really enjoying it.

I’m also beginning to realize what a lonely life nannies ultimately lead. My day begins between 5:30 and 5:45 and ends with getting back to my apartment between 7:30 and 8:30… which is honestly late enough for me to shower, crawl into bed with a book, and drift off to catch as much sleep as I can before it all begins again. My days are spent mostly to myself, which I’m comfortable with, and when I’m surrounded by people, it’s really only two 9-year-olds and a dog. I don’t work in an office or building where I’m having conversations with other adults, I’m not meeting coworkers for coffee or drinks on the way home, I don’t have enough energy to go out with friends once I get home.

I’m realizing how much I miss normal human interaction.

But I’m willing to suck it up and deal with whatever this job has to demand of me. I have the opportunity to pay my bills and drag myself out of debt. I have the opportunity to work unsupervised and to develop a work ethic that encourages my employers to continue placing their trust in me.

And, most beautifully, I have the opportunity to invest in these girls and impress upon them value, identity, and a sense of how special they are.

I read this article a while back about how we as Americans are really missing the ball on connection and communication. For instance, we say, “How are you?” and we are really only expecting a “Fine, thanks” and let’s all move on. God forbid someone actually stop to tell us how they really are and cause us to pause on our way to Somewhere More Important. The article said we should strive to deepen our communication by asking intentional questions seeking intentional answers. I’ve been implementing this in my days with the girls: when I pick them up from school I ask questions like, “Did anything make you feel proud today?” or “Did you feel excited about anything?” And if these prompt no real answers, I ask more basic questions like “Did anything make you feel angry (or sad) today?” The goal is to get them to process how they are feeling and what is creating that emotion within them. For the first several days (up to almost two weeks) they were a little shocked at the questions and didn’t really have a lot to share. After that it become a pretty normal conversation for us to share. I would always have to prompt them, however, before they would offer what happened during their day.

UNTIL this past week when I picked the girls up from school and they both immediately launched into excited monologues about what made them proud that day, and why. I felt like such a proud mama nanny!

Our days are full of laughter and stories and dancing, playing with puppy, practicing piano, and playing games. We make it a very serious point to play Disney songs (of course they love Frozen) every evening as I make dinner. We dance around the kitchen and sing at the top of our lungs and make general fools of ourselves for the love of music and joy. Their hugs goodbye are the best gifts ever, and when they feel bad and need to cuddle, my world is a complete place.

I never would have imagined myself in a role such as this, pouring myself out for the benefit of someone else’s children… but I can’t imagine doing something else in this season. Having this incredible opportunity to impress upon these girls a real sense of their worth and beauty and intellect and value is completing me in a way I didn’t know was incomplete.

This is (hopefully) just a taste of the legacy I want to leave on this planet: a legacy of love and value that I can pour one day into my own children and that they, in turn, can pour into theirs. Isn’t that what life is meant to be? A tabletop full of champagne goblets being filled and then overflowing into the next and the next and the next until the flood reaches beyond the edge of the table and spills over into the Great Wide Somewhere.

Thanks, God, for this season.