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.

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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.

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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.

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*not me. not my dress.

#yes: an engagement story

This is a story of how a boy proposed to a girl. And you guessed it. It’s my story.

I wanted to publish a blog about this because there are moments when I think back to our proposal and I can’t believe it really happened. So much of my relationship with The Professor has been a fairy tale, and it was no different with how he went about asking me to marry him. I also wanted the opportunity to share our photos with you. The Prof’s roommate JF drove up from Georgia just to record our little piece of forever, and he captured some pretty magical shots. Combine that with all the random iphone snaps my bestie took on the hike up, and we basically have a pop-up “Once Upon A Time” fairy tale book.

Now, there is A LOT to this story, so just buckle in and hang on to your butts.

I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I’m enjoying re-living it.

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~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

To give you a little backstory, The Professor has been planning this proposal for months. My dearest friends have been in on the surprise for quite awhile, as well. He asked me long ago if I was the type of girl who wanted her boyfriend to ask someone’s permission or blessing in order to propose to her.

“NO.”

I’ve been independent for 12 years now, living on my own, taking care of myself, handling my own business. The only permission a man needs is MINE.

…I think I made myself pretty clear.

Except that I didn’t.

And beyond my stamping my foot about my own independence he needed, as a pretty traditional guy, to ask someone’s blessing to pursue me in such a way. So a little less than two months ago, he dove up to Kentucky extra early to take my pastor (and surrogate father) out to lunch. As any good father would do, he put The Prof through his paces, grilling him about finances and marriage and what he would bring to the table. I didn’t hear about any of this until after he proposed. And when I heard, emotion rose up in me that I didn’t know I had or could feel. To know there was a father figure out there who was looking out for my best, who loved me enough to ask hard and demanding questions… and to know there was a man out there who loved me enough not only to endure this but to seek it…. there are few words that can sum up how that feels. And for a girl who grew up without great male role models (and certainly without a dad), this means almost more than the actual proposal does.

Anyway.

Around this time, my Bestie Boo called me to ask when we could catch up, if we could make some time to go hiking at our favorite place- The Pinnacles. The only real weekend I knew I’d have available was the last weekend of October. She also had that weekend available, and we were both excited to have the chance to relive some of our ridiculous photo shoots and hiking stories one more time before winter set in. And- again- I was thinking this was all happenstance when in reality she was already in cahoots about the proposal and needed us to go hiking that weekend. The Professor had already decided that was when it would happen, and that he would do it at The Pinnacles.

He loves nature. And hiking. And mountains. And sky. And the beautiful thing is that I do, too! He had decided early on that when he proposed he knew he needed to do it one of two ways: as a flash mob (which he thought was right up my alley), or on a hiking trip (which reflected both of us really well). I’m so glad he chose the latter. The second thing that is so beautiful about this story is that I’m a Super People Person. I LOVE to celebrate all things with all people all the time. The Professor is much more private than I am and prefers to celebrate one-on-one face-to-face. Not this girl. The more friends I have around me, the bigger the party. Literally and figuratively. So as he decided that his proposal needed to be more focused on me and what I loved than on his own desires, he began to invite people to be a part of it. And this is how it went:

Saturday, October 25th. 6:30 am. I woke up SO. EARLY. in order to drive the 2 hours south to get to The Pinnacles by 9 am- the time Sarah (The Bestie) and I decided we’d head out on our hike. She had a birthday party or something to go to with her husband’s family at 12:30, so we needed to get an early-ish start. I texted her around 8 am, halfway to the destination, to make sure she’d be there. I knew how hard it was for me to drag myself out of bed so early on a weekend, so I wanted to make sure she was up and at ’em. She texted me back that 9 am was too early, and could we do it a bit later? OHIWASMAD. I thought, great. Now we won’t get any time together because it’s getting later and she has the family thing and pout pout POUT. I’m not dramatic, as you can tell.

I decided to stop in at The Pastor’s House, where my Sweet Janice was preparing food for the college meal. Maybe I could hang there til Sarah was ready. And so began my morning. Coffee and chatting with Janice until Sarah arrived. She had asked me to bring a pretty dress and boots for her to borrow for that night (she was going on a date with her husband), and right away she had me run outside to throw the clothes in her car (so her husband could take them home). We left shortly after and headed out for our hike.

When we arrived there were so many cars! The weather forecast was bright sunny skies and a high of 70*, so I figured everyone wanted to get one last hike in. I thought we’d have the mountain to ourselves, but oh well.

We got out of the car hacking and coughing and sneezing (we were both sick), and we decided to pray before heading up. Pretty normal. But as we finished, she took her phone from her pocket and said she had just gotten a text from The Professor and he had left a note in my car secretly.

What?

I checked the glove box and- lo and behold!- there was a secret note hidden!

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He had apparently snuck it in there the week before when I was visiting in Georgia. It said a few sweet things and at the bottom was signed “Enjoy your hike!” I couldn’t believe it! How did he know?! Had I told him I was hiking with Sarah?? Maybe!  This was so thoughtful, I thought, and something he does pretty often. Sarah seemed like she thought it was pretty funny, but really didn’t pay that much attention. We took off for the hills, and immediately began noticing rose petals were strewn about all over the place.

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When we pulled into the parking lot, I spied a couple heading up wearing matching pale yellow shirts, so I figured maybe they were doing engagement photos and the petals were from them. I really didn’t pay any mind to them.

About a quarter of the way up, we hit a clearing with a bench that was occupied by my dear friend Emilee.

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What is she doing here? Just sitting on a bench?? So weird!

She greeted us with this beautiful basket and blanket, and a little love note for me, written by The Prof. Aww! How precious is this?! The note was just a little something reminding me that I had pointed this basket out to him way back in the spring, on a date to a little mountain town in North Georgia. He had gone back the next day and bought it for me. He never knew when a good time was to give it to me, but he thought today might be it.

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and then i became little red riding hood

This is where I should have figured that something was up. But I absolutely. did. not. You see, he had told me a couple weeks before that he would be going on a spiritual retreat the weekend that I was out hiking with Sarah. It’s something he does pretty regularly, and something I really admire in him. He’s also an incredibly truthful man, sometimes to the point of being overly blunt, and he would never lie to me. Especially not about his time with THE LORD. He also had sent me a sweet package in the mail awhile ago with a little love note that said the surprises inside were so I wouldn’t forget about him while we were apart. I honestly just figured he was stepping up that game. It didn’t occur to me once that this day was different. I thanked Emilee for being a part of this cool basket surprise, hugged her, and continued on my way up the mountain with Sarah.

Halfway up we met my sweet J Hart who was waiting with a wrapped book and another note.

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Again, I SHOULD HAVE BEEN TIPPED OFF. But no.

And then we couldn’t open the package.

struggle all the things

Finally, I opened the book, which was a hardbound copy of some of our early writings, and all of his journal entries concerning me from the very first day we met. He also had photos printed and had copied down prayers about me (and what he heard the Lord saying about me).

Talk about mind-blowing! Another love note, another trail of red rose petals to follow, and we were off.

Many of you might be thinking I should have known by now, but truly- I believed with my whole heart that he was off on a spiritual retreat and this was just one of his grand romantic gestures.

Sarah was not helping ONE BIT. Everything she said was full of her classic dry wit and sarcasm, and I really didn’t think there was anything to it.

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but she’s really pretty so i love her anyway

We kept driving upwards and about 3/4 of the way to the top we encountered yet another of my girlfriends waiting on a bench with a note and a computer.

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newly-married olivia!

Liv sat me down and opened the laptop to reveal a video made of 45 second clips of some of the parental figures and mentors in our lives. They talked of their love and support of us, they shared stories of how they’d seen us grow and develop both individually and as a couple. Joe and Janice, my pastors and surrogate parents, were the last video.

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Janice ended with “We can’t wait to see that big, pretty ring!” And Joe said “Happy Engagement!!”

WHAT?!?!

IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING!??!!?

IS HE HERE?? IS HE STANDING UP THERE WAITING ON ME?? Is he for real proposing? Is this happening? Is this real life?!?

Some of a million questions that instantly ran through my head. How did I not know?? How had I not gotten all the clues??

Olivia hugged me before Sarah led me up the final stretch of trail, at the top of which was standing yet another sweet friend- Jess K- waiting for us.

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She led us off the trail and behind some trees where heavy curtains had been hung to provide a changing area. There was a full-length mirror and chair, makeup, nail polish, hair supplies, the works. Sarah had carried in her backpack the dress she had asked to “borrow,” which apparently The Professor had chosen for me.

They sat me down and loved on me, hugged me, handed me makeup, painted my nails, praised my hair (even though it was super dirty from the hike). They prayed with me and then sent me on my way. This last part I needed to do on my own.

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Walking alone-for the first time- was quite nerve-wracking for me. I never thought I’d be the girl that needed to lean on someone, but in that moment I really thought I needed to hold Sarah’s hand. I was so nervous! Elated, excited, ecstatic, joyful- but definitely nervous.

I walked out to the edge of the cliff where he was standing and waiting for me. He turned around to see me and- gasp!- was finally wearing a bow tie and suspenders! I’d been nagging him for months to invest in those things and here they were! And he looked goooooooooood.

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soooooo good.

The rest was a blur.

He hugged me, said some stuff, got down on one knee, and invited me into forever.

Of course I said yes.

Who wouldn’t?

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We were laughing about this moment a few nights ago- neither of us really remember what he said in those precious few minutes. But we agreed on all the important stuff.

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When he stood, he placed the ring on my finger, popped out his phone to play a song, and we danced on the edge of this mountain. Later he brought me champagne in a picnic basket, and showed me where he had taken nearly 3 hours over the course of 2 days to carve our initials into a huge rock. Unbelievable.

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My girlfriends rushed out to celebrate with us, and we headed back down the mountain to go to my pastor’s house for an already-arranged engagement party! He really pulled out all the stops. He really sacrificed his own preference of celebrating one-on-one in order for me to feel celebrated by all my loved ones at one time in one place. And so many people were there! They had all brought food and desserts, decorations and cards and flowers. It was breathtaking. His mom had driven up to surprise even him, and having both our mothers there was so meaningful and lovely.

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look at it look at it look at it!

It was the perfect moment. I’m looking forward to all the rest.

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#postpartumprobs

Let me just begin with this: No. I am not pregnant. No, I have not had children yet. No, I am not expecting.

Some girlfriends and I were discussing pregnancy and birth plans and what have you this past Sunday. As we do. One of the major topics of discussion became the area of postpartum care. I recently read this article about the lack of postpartum care for new mothers in America and how detrimental it can be to go from just you and your spousey-poo to you and your spouse and lots of new baby poo. And crying. And diaper rash. Oh, and learning the art of breastfeeding. And the art of Never Sleeping Again. Ever.

I feel like it could be the next Harry Potter series:

Harry Potter and the 24 Hour Labor
Harry Potter And the Colicky Baby
Harry Potter and the Neverending Poo Stream
Harry Potter And 18-Year-Long Night

You get my point.

But, seriously, how are we supposedly at the top of our game as a country, and yet we are the only country without paid maternal leave, and one of the few countries without normal practices of postpartum care? Rather than being a community of women-helping-women, we’ve become a society in which the moment a baby leaves a mother’s body, the mother is expected almost solely to care for her brand new human being, and forever deny her own needs. If she attempts to put her health or needs above baby’s, she’s considered lazy, selfish or, at worst, neglectful. In the article I recently referenced, an Argentine woman compares post-birth to a plane crash. We’re all told that in a crash, you must place an oxygen mask on yourself first, and then your children. Yet, milliseconds after birth, women are expected to hold their breath for the next 18 years, attending first and nearly-only to the needs of her child. Especially during infancy and early years. Rather than take care of herself so that she is physically and mentally able to take care of her children, she is expected to undergo major physical trauma and then immediately recover in order to focus solely on the infant.

And we wonder why postpartum depression is on the rise.

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, your mother will show up to help for a week or two. Maybe, also, your mother-in-law. Or a sister if you’re suuuper lucky. But for those without extended families, or with poor familial ties, what’s the alternative? To suck it up and get on with it.

Are you judging me quite yet? Perhaps you’ve been through it all and you’re thinking to yourself, By God if I had to do it, and I made it through alive, everyone else should quit complaining and just deal, too. Or maybe, It’s not normal to need or expect someone else’s help. You brought a baby into the world, you decided for yourself you wanted children, so you brought this on yourself. Again- deal with it.

Or maybe you’re a mom went through the exhaustion of a new baby for the first, second, third, fourth time… and you know how desperately you needed someone to talk to, help change the baby, give you 15 minutes so you could shower for the first time in a week.

I’ve seen repeatedly on facebook, posts like such:

“Eat, sleep, or shower? I can only do one.”

“Baby finally went to sleep. I’m too exhausted to sleep so I guess I’ll just sit here on facebook.”

“I haven’t showered in a week. Can someone please come watch baby so I can clean myself?”

And the list goes on. Perhaps instead of spending our time judging each other, why don’t we just help a family out? We were always meant to be a small town, no matter where we choose to live. In moments of tragedy, people line up all the way around the corner with meals for the grief-stricken family. What about for the sleep-stricken new parents? Where is the meal train for them?

And let me also just say that I’m not condemning the world. There are a LOT of people, friends, family, community, churches out there who respond to the needs of new families with clothes, diapers, meals. But what I’m saying is that, for the most part, the idea of a culturally-accepted postpartum support system is nil, and I think it should change.

So do my girlfriends.

As we stood around the island in the kitchen dreaming of one day when we’d all have our own babies, we began planning a pact, per se. A promise to be there for each other, post-birth.

“Oh, you need someone to come in and help when your mom has to get back home? You can count on me. Sign me up for a week.” “Two weeks for me!” “You pay for food, I’ll buy it and cook it. And clean your house so you can rest.” These are the things we promised to each other. And not without weight.

Just as in major surgery, a woman needs to recover physically. It takes time and it takes sleep, two things a new mother has ZERO of. But what if our community of friends gathered around us to give us just a little extra time to adjust and recuperate? What if, like a million years ago when neighbors came to help bring in your crop under the promise that you would help when their crop came in, we (especially as women) gave a week of our time post-birth to help a new mom? And she would lovingly and gratefully return the favor when your babies came?

I can just imagine what it would be like to have a newborn baby and sleep. In the same breath. A husband who is able to work and also sleep. Food that is prepared, and friends to help keep up with laundry. Just long enough to recover physically and learn the basics of caring for a brand new human.

I don’t think it sounds selfish. I don’t think it sounds lazy or neglectful. I think it’s what we’re meant to do for each other as a basic community of love. We are supportive of those around us when grief abounds. Let’s be supportive of each other when major life changes go down, too.

What’s your opinion on postpartum support?

on graham cooke, inheritance, and what favor truly is

I’ve been walking through some junk over the past several years. And the name of the junk monster is FINANCE. I’ve really struggled (haven’t we all?) with budgeting, making enough, and getting All The Things paid. And I’ve been feeling for awhile now that I’ve been walking through some curses, financially speaking. That may sound like hoo doo, but it certainly hasn’t felt that way. Coming home from the Race I was faced with an overwhelming and unexpected financial situation. God blessed me with a job, and I began the painstaking journey of pulling myself out of the pit one day at a time. When I felt I was making some good headway- finally– I was bitten by a poisonous spider and suddenly faced three separate emergency medical bills, as well as unbelievably expensive antibiotics. 

I kept going.

I got those bills paid off, and my credit card paid off… and this past weekend my car decided to die suddenly while I was driving down the highway.

Cool.

Not cool.

There were 3 recalls on my vehicle, and they were fixed for free at the dealership. Thank You, Jesus! You know I can’t handle car expenses right now. But within 20 miles of driving after picking my newly-fixed car up, all the same warning lights as before came on, in addition to a terrifying warning sound… and then my gas and brake pedals stopped working.

Cool.

Not cool.

So as of last night, Penelope the Prius is back in a shop, where I was warned that it would be nearly $100 just to look at her. But… as we do in this day and age, I need a reliable vehicle, so I took her in anyway.

And proceeded to lose my mind in fear and anxiety about what may or may not be wrong, and how much it may or may not cost.

I wept through an entire conversation with The Professor about it. We discussed the Lord’s favor, and His provision, and my fear that I didn’t have enough faith to believe His favor could or would show up in my life in such a tangible way as a free fix or even- as The Prof encouraged me to pray- for an upgrade to my car. I just didn’t know. I have a long history of not receiving favor in that kind of in-your-face, extraordinary, supernatural way. He reminded me that my history does not predict my future, and that he had enough faith and trust to believe for both of us that this situation would work out the way it needs to, and that it will all be okay in the end.

I spent all of yesterday in prayer to the Lord, asking for His divine favor in the form of an upgrade to my car or, at the very least, a lack of financial burden to fix what’s wrong with it. It’s cool to get new things, but I love my car very much, and don’t care in the least bit for a new one. I just want my feelings of safety in regards to my car to be restored. I want to drive down the street knowing that I will get from Point A to Point B safely and without issue. That’s my real desire.

I also spent a lot of time thanking the Lord for who He is and for giving me this chance to renew my dependence on and trust in Him.

This morning during my break at work I found a new Graham Cooke youtube video. Graham Cooke is a prophetic speaker, and he reeeaaallly speaks to my soul. I think anyone who listens to him would have the same reaction. The Professor introduced me to his videos a few weeks ago, and I’ve enjoyed them all immensely, but none have touched me the way this particular one did.

It was about favor.

I have been looking at favor (and seeking it) as a one-time imparting of a tangible gift. I’ve been looking for a physical, touchable handout, instead of looking at favor as what it truly is: an intentional bias toward me because of relationship.

I’ve been looking at favor all wrong!

Favor is a special kindness from God to me because we are in relationship with one another. I’ve been seeking an end result; God has been asking me to look at and enjoy the process of what my current circumstances are creating for me. I have been financially burdened my whole life. I have struggled with finances for as far back as my memory goes. I keep looking for a fish, when God wants to teach me how to fish, and how to enjoy the process of relating with Him.

Mr. Cooke reminds us that when circumstances arise in which we feel we are losing, or we aren’t receiving favor, there are a few questions we must ask:

  1. What does this mean?
  2. What should I do to partner with Your cause and Your Purpose for me?

It all comes down to this point:

God, what is it that You want to be for me now, that You couldn’t at any other time?

If this is our focus, if this is our starting point of thought and intention, everything else falls into place. If we look at circumstance, we’re lost. If we concentrate on our relationship, we’ve won. Even if and when it feels like we can’t go on, when the burdens seem too difficult to bear, we will not sink, because our eyes are on the goodness of the Lord. Which is unchanging. Which is unfailing. Which always is. We shouldn’t desire to see God’s goodness retroactively. We should want it right now, up front, in the thick of it.

And so my focus should move from Will I be able to afford the cost of fixing my car? to God is good. He is so, so good. And He loves me. And He is for me. And if this is the situation I am in, He has something very special and very important for me.

Cooke opened his message with this:

In the world, if it’s ‘too good to be true’ someone is being conned. But in the kingdom, if it’s NOT ‘too good to be true’ it’s not God.

Wow. Talk about stretching your faith. I didn’t grow up in a church that freely discussed the favor and the mercy and the goodness of God. I am a part of one now, but this is a long-reaching belief to replace. I’m still not a wealth-and-prosperity believer, but I do believe that as my Father, God loves to give me things. Sometimes they are hard things to receive. But they are always gifts, and they are always for my good. When a circumstance arises, or the Holy Spirit convicts me of something, there is something being pointed out in my life that isn’t working. Cooke says that it’s when this happens that God gets excited. EXCITED. Because it’s only when He points something out that He is ready to do something about it. This is the area of your next miracle, or- in his own words- your next UPGRADE.

There! There it is! The Professor asked me to pray about an upgrade the Lord might have for me, and this is it! It is an opportunity to grow closer to Him who loves me and delights in me so much! It is an opportunity to grow my faith and to embolden my trust that He has my back and is working for my good. Favor does not mean life runs smoothly. It means you are consumed by God’s desire for you.

Mr. Cooke reminds us that the Holy Spirit is the most excitable, enthusiastic, encouraging, and empathetic Person he knows. And this is so true! How have I not thought of this before? I was asked recently which of the Trinity I felt most connected with. I immediately answered The Father. Mostly because of my daddy issues, and the redemption He has brought to that specific area. But I’m convinced now that it is the Holy Spirit. I am created in the likeness of the Spirit- passionate, enthusiastic, encouraging, excitable, empathetic, present, dramatic.

Talk about the acorn not falling far from the tree.

This encourages me so much, because I also don’t come from a background of knowledge about or trust in the Holy Spirit. It’s just not something we talked about or learned about until very recently in my relationship with Christ. And knowing that He has modeled me after this one mysterious part of Himself, it gives me a hunger and desire to know more and experience more and more and more.

This is the favor of the Lord in my life. This is His calling me to draw closer, to come more intimately near Him, and grow up.

Mr. Cooke talks about two more things: an inheritance verse and our unique Name for the Lord in each of our lives. The latter I’ll discuss in a later blog (because it’s deserving enough- and I’m sure long-winded enough- to merit it’s own post). But an inheritance verse is something that the Lord gives us individually- a word spoken to us, over our lives, from the Bible. Cooke says the Lord is previous-minded. He will put a verse on our hearts- and most of us have heard this, we just haven’t recognized it or given it enough thought- but we will recognize it and claim it for ourselves in future circumstances. Cooke says once we receive that inheritance verse, we need to start living like it, owning it, using it in battle against the Enemy in all his lies and deceptions- THIS is what the Lord says about my life. This is His favor over me.

And for me, that verse- given to me about two years ago, is Luke 1:45:

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.

This is in direct connection with God’s Name in my life, God’s unique affection with me.

Perhaps in my life I’ve not seen God’s favor show up in supernatural tangible ways. My friend Emily has seen this a lot (you can check out more of her incredible stories (and wonderful writing) here). I haven’t prayed for free furniture and received it. I haven’t asked for supernatural healing and received an inexplicable health report. And these are all stories from people I know personally! But God has shown up in my life in extraordinary ways, unique to the story He’s weaving with me. I always, always know He’s around. There’s never been a time in my entire life- even before I had a relationship with Him- where I didn’t know who He was, or that He was with me. I always, always feel The Comforter’s Presence. I always, always receive frequent reminders that God is thinking of me- little coincidences, little nods to the supernatural, every day. Every single day. Always.

God’s favor is thick on me.

Who knows how much it will cost to fix my car? Who knows if a miracle will happen and when I show up at the dealership a brand new car will be waiting on me? Who knows if I will spend the next two years of my life trying to pay for the repairs?

Who cares?

This is just one hiccup in the great adventure we call life. Stuff like this will always show up. But I believe in and have a relationship with a God who ‘is too good to be true.’

And I want more of it.

Not more of His gifts. Not more of what He can do for me.

More of Who He Is. More of Who I Am when I’m with Him. More of Who He Wants Me To Become.

I’m hungry for more.

And I’m ready to start living out my inheritance- and His favor.

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.

to mr. h. potter, the page, the shelf:

come at me.

A few months ago K (one of the girls I nanny) asked about reading the Harry Potter books. For weeks thereafter we went to the library to search (always in vain) for the first one. Finally she decided that she didn’t want to read them anymore- maybe she was tired of looking, maybe the moment had passed. Either way, her parents found out and told their parents, who brought the whole set home when they came to visit a couple weeks ago.

At the beginning of this past week, we decided to dive into them. I don’t know what prompted it, but one afternoon I found myself sitting in a cozy little chair in the girls’ play area downstairs with a captive audience at my feet. They had dragged over a ton of blankets and pillows, and their dog, and were waiting impatiently to hear the story. This from girls who have seen the movies and believe they already know the story. But read we did.

lots of cuddling happening here

The idea was to tackle one chapter every day- it gives us some quality “us” time, gives the girls an opportunity to discipline their attention spans, and gives us all something to look forward to. It’s always a good idea to have something that your kids/students/young ones are eagerly anticipating. I first heard this idea from PJoe’s wife Janice, who read to her children one chapter a day, every day, when they came home from school. She said they loved it and, because she stopped after one chapter, they were always waiting excitedly for the next day to come so they could find out what happens next.

I thought this was a great tool to use with Harry Potter. So on Day 1, we plowed through a surprisingly long Chapter One and concluded. Maybe because it was the first chapter, and maybe because it was a lloooooong chapter, but the girls were quite content to put the bookmark in there and move on to something else.

The next day, however, was a different story. By the conclusion of Chapter Two, both girls had forsaken the pillows and the blankets and the toys and were perched on the arms of the chair I was sitting in, reading over my shoulder and begging me to continue. I happily obliged, but had to cut it short when time ran out- we had to get to gymnastics class. Reluctantly they got up to get ready, but by the time we got back home, they were both okay with doing a different activity.

jackpot sometimes wants in on the action, too

Today we’ve spent almost the whole morning reading. A cooler summer day, I set my hammock up in the woods in the backyard and we sat and read two entire chapters together. We decided it was  a bit too chilly to stay outside, even with our hoodies, so we raced back indoors where they unabashedly demanded another chapter. So we read a third together. At this point, they were asking to read as well- they would read two full pages and then share with the other. In between they would ask me to read a bit. But I cut us off after three chapters. I had woefully failed in the we’re-only-reading-one-chapter-a-day-period challenge, and I didn’t want them to get burnt out or bored with the story. Especially since they have already seen the movie. But I think I’m losing the battle. I’ll suggest an activity or something we can do, and they both answer with, “Actually, can we just keep reading the story?” or “I’d rather read the book some more.” It’s amazing. I’m not sure if it’s amazing in a good or bad way, but so far a lot of great things have come up in conversation while reading the book:

*They’re learning the pronunciation and definition of new (and much longer) words.

*They’re learning that, while in movies you get all the answers up front, with books you have to be patient and willing to wait it out. Answers are most usually revealed later on in the story, or simply when you least expect it. V has some serious issues with this and will constantly interrupt her sister to ask questions about the plot, or about something she remembers from the movie that either hasn’t been introduced yet, or is different than what we’re reading. So they’re definitely learning there is more to a book than a movie, and often it’s a secret or a character or an entire plot line that has been left out of the film. So hopefully they’re gaining the ability to appreciate a text on its own, rather than just relying on a movie to tell the whole story.

*They’re learning patience. When V asks a twentieth question in a row and K gets frustrated because the story keeps stopping, it’s a good opportunity to discuss how books reveal answers to your questions in good time. And as much as this confuses her, it gives her a great chance to hang on to information that she doesn’t fully understand in order to apply new knowledge to the problem later. As the story unfolds and cool new stuff is revealed, she’ll suddenly burst out with, “Ohhh!! That’s why Uncle Vernon was so mean to Harry!” or whatever the case may be.

*They’re learning that sometimes authors write sentences that don’t quite make sense because they words are made up (C’mon, Hagrid! We get that you have an usual accent, but really? Do we need to read “ter” and “yeh” and “summat” a hundred times in order to get it?) (The answer is YES). And as we begin to understand that people can have different accents than us, our horizons begin to broaden. A question that came up today was (K) “Why does Hagrid say ‘was’ instead of ‘were’?” I’m hoping this leads to understanding and patience for all people, whether they talk the same as us or not.

Both girls are avid readers and love to spend a rainy afternoon by a window with one of their favorite books (I seriously love my job) (*tear*), but reading out loud (really for the first time) is giving them a new perspective on reading. They’re having to learn cadence and pacing, both with the sentences and with their breath. And reading aloud brings to attention words they have yet to see or be able to pronounce, so we get to work on vocabulary (as I said earlier).

It’s a pretty incredible experience so far, and something I’m coming to look forward to. I know it’s only been a few days, but it almost feels like we’re on a mission together- that we are trying to conquer something as a team that takes longer than an hour or two, or even a day. Coming back to a task we’ve left off somewhere in the middle the day before just feels good.

All in all I’m really enjoying the process of Reading Time with my girls. They’re enjoying it, too. I’m hoping this will keep continuing to engage them as good books and good stories always do. Reading gives you so many opportunities to have adventures or learn something new or make new old friends. It introduces you to new words, new ideas, and new places. They’re learning a lot from this time, but I have to admit: I think I may be learning even more- about children, about parenting, and techniques and tools that I want to use when I have kids of my own.

What a great book.

What a great job.

Thanks, Mr. Potter.

not quite us, but pretty close.

new world race video

To all my friends, family, and supporters:

Have you wondered what my year was like on the World Race? Have you wanted a glimpse into the ups and downs and everyday life? Well here’s your chance! Johnfrank Dieguez, Emily Tuttle, and Brody Contarino, a talented media team, put together an incredible and accurate portrayal of life on the Race.

Watching this video honestly gives me chills. If you’re looking for something out-of-the-norm, if you feel that you’re meant for something more extraordinary, if you are looking for an opportunity to live something bigger, check this out. Maybe the Lord is whispering to you, too.

 

30 Before 30 Project

Several of my friends have adopted this project in the last few months and I think it is fabulous! What a wonderful way to celebrate the last year of your twenties- by challenging yourself, reaching for some dreams, and celebrating life in huge ways. Tomorrow will begin my twelve month journey through the end of my twenties and I’m ready for it.

As I was preparing for this, I was asked on multiple occasions how I could possibly top things I’ve already done. I just came back from doing the Race, traveling all around the world loving on people. I’ve been in independent films, I’ve danced, I did martial arts and firefighting and plane flying and hair dyeing and nose ring getting and all kinds of cool stuff. And it has been incredible. I’ve been so blessed to lead the life I have. But my answer to that question is that there’s always something new to experience. There’s always a new place to go or a different thing to do or someone new to befriend. There are personal challenges that can be met, fears to overcome, deeper levels of intimacy to get to even within your own self.  So I’m hopping on the 30-before-30 train and I’m asking you to come along and be a part of it. Join me on some of my adventures! We’ll make beautiful new memories to keep us going through the dry seasons. Love and life and blessings to us all!

1. Go to the circus ……… 9.6.14
2. Spend a weekend in a cabin……..8.15-8.16.14
3. Go on a night hike …….. 4.3.2014
4. Host a themed party ……… 1.23.2015
5. Travel outside the States
6. Learn to can/jar something……… 10.1.14
7. Take a pottery class
8. Finish making my quilt
9. Give something away that is a real sacrifice
10. Ride an elephant
11. Serve a multi-course dinner for more than one other person ……… 2.11.15
12. Pay off credit card √……..8.20.14
13. Learn to drive stick shift
14. Participate in a fundraising 5k/walk …..6.14.2014
15. Spend a day at an outdoor festival
16. Go horseback riding ……… 4.5.2014
17. Sew myself a dress ..…… 10.28.2014
18. See a professional hockey game live
19. Get dressed up for real and do something awesome ………. 11.8.2014
20. Volunteer scuba dive at an aquarium
21. Buy a green plant. Keep it alive ……… 1.10.2015
22. Beautify a public space
23. Go backpacking for at last 2 nights
24. Pursue motivational speaking seriously
25. Participate in a 30-day Self-Awareness Project aimed at discovering (or re-discovering) my own beauty
26. Learn basic car maintenance
27. Make my own homemade jam ……… 10.11.14
28. Go rock climbing
29. Visit a Californian winery ……… 2.26.15
30. Spend a weekend in Asheville or Chattanooga
*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Optionals (because every cake needs icing):
*write/mail a letter every day to friends/family for 30 days
*spend a day volunteering at an animal shelter
*do the skydive simulator in Gatlinburg (no, I will not actually go skydiving)
*see a live theatre performance (I’ve done this a lot, so I didn’t think it merited putting on the official list)
*go white water rafting again (nothing will ever compare with the Nile, but I love it so much I needed to add it anyway) [8.30.14. kayaking down a river totally counts)
*go on a pub crawl
*get thai bodywork done (hopefully by Matthew Higden!)
*do something crazy and lovely to celebrate the big 3-0
*learn how to make origami
*spend time on a sailboat
*renew my daily yoga practice
*renew my daily meditation practice

366 days to go!

what’s next? or, how YOU can help

Family, friends, readers of all ages: I need your help.

In two months I will be embarking on a trip HOME and, having said that, I will be coming home to nearly nothing: no apartment, no furniture, no job.

I am SO excited.

I have infinite possibilities in front of me, infinite opportunities to go anywhere and do anything.

However, I have felt for awhile now that I have failed myself on several levels by not giving myself a real shot at theatre. It’s the first interest, the first passion I ever had. I ended up going to college to study theatre more, and ended up with a degree in it.  But I told myself for years I didn’t need or want that life, or that I’d rather wait ‘til I got married and then move somewhere to start auditioning. And so I have put off for a long, long time the deepest desire of my heart, and the first passion the Lord ever gave me.

But no more.

I owe it to myself, to my future happiness, and to the happiness of my future husband and children to be a whole person, to have chased after my dreams with reckless abandon. If there is anything that the World Race has taught me, it is to have no fear. So I go.

From andimoore.theworldrace.org

I am also looking to continue growing in financial maturity and freedom. My immediate plan is to find a job and work there for one year before I begin auditioning, saving money and paying off debt.

I have spent the last several years of my life working in multiple dead-end, “part-time,” no benefits, minimum-wage jobs that made me a helpless, frustrated mess. I am now looking for a job that will challenge and inspire me, one I will be excited to wake up in the morning to go do. I’ve been praying about and mulling over the possibilities of working as a Personal Assistant- a varied and challenging job, one I feel very equipped to handle (what with my organizational skills, love of planning, and unadulterated enthusiasm for life).

Here is how you can help:

In a few days we’ll be moving to China, perhaps to a place where internet usage might be unreliable or inaccessible. I will be praying and practicing Staying Present as I finish my last two months on the Race. However, it’s nice to prepare for the unknown as well.

If you know someone in the market for a personal assistant (beginning at the earliest after New Years), let me know! I have a resume ready to be emailed out in an instant. My goal is to move to a city where there is an active theatre district. In a perfect world, that city would be Washington, D.C. (heeeeey, American Shakespeare Center!). Others in my list of top places to live include Seattle, Portland, and Atlanta. So you see I’m willing to move almost anywhere.

Before we left for the Race I sold 99% of everything I own in order to chase God wherever He leads. I believe He is leading me to a new season of adulthood and womanhood and living in a place that affords me opportunities I don’t have in my place of permanent residence.

This decision has come with a lot of heartache in leaving behind my loved ones, and a lot of excitement at finally having the courage to pursue my dreams. If you have any ideas where to go from here, help a girl out!

Thanks, and blessings to you all!

From andimoore.theworldrace.org

house spa

 originally posted at http://ohdancewithme.blogspot.com

I have this silly little dream that isn’t congruent with any other plan I have in mind.I have this idea that I’d like to buy one of the big, old houses downtown in Richmond… and turn it into a spa.

Wouldn’t this just be such a charming place to spend a day away?
I would renovate it, have all hardwood flooring, maybe some exposed brick walls (maybe), and lots of rich, deep color on the walls. Each room would be a different sort of spa activity. There would be rooms for manicures and pedicures, rooms for massages (all different kinds- deep tissue, hot stone, Swedish, Thai…), rooms for facials and hair masks…  I would have a sauna, a yoga room, and a room where you can eat all kinds of delicious (and healthy) foods and beverages. In the back I might have a garden, a hot tub, a place to sit and enjoy the sounds of nature. Basically, everything you might want to do with your bridesmaids if you were getting married and wanted to spend a day at the spa- all found in one centralized, affordable, (and lovely) location.
I really think there is a market for this in the Richmond area. There isn’t really anything like this anywhere in this part of the state. I think it would do remarkably well.Unfortunately, I am not business-savvy enough for this type of commitment, nor do I want to be settled permanently anywhere right now. I still want to travel and spend time overseas, I want the chance to audition (and maybe travel with) a nationally-touring Shakespeare company, I want the opportunity to say yes to some big thing that might come my way.

So this dream might be a future endeavor. It could just be a dream, and nothing more.  But I think it would be fun, and lovely- an opportunity to make women feel special and beautiful. To give them a day away from everyday life. An escape to somewhere extraordinary- to bring a destination resort to a hometown.
Maybe one day.