fearless, not situationless

If you follow the blogs of anyone who works at Adventures In Missions, you probably know that every Monday morning we start our work week off with an hour or so of worship together. The whole staff gets involved, there’s a revolving door of worship leaders each bringing their own gifts and flavor, there are prophetic teams and prayer teams, and a huge open space to shout it out for the Lord.

This morning found us singing

From my mother’s womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again
Into your family
Your blood flows through my veins

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

Over over we sang the chorus until it finally sank in. The Lord was speaking, and it was directly to me.

2 Continue reading “fearless, not situationless”

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rain rain go away: a wedding day tale

It’s not often that I get the chance to see a miracle. It’s not often that I get the chance to experience on personally. But on one particular day I did.

Did you know it was supposed to rain on my wedding day? For the ten days prior to the big day, it was forecasted at 100% chance of rain. That means there was ZERO chance of not raining. After having planned an outdoor wedding I was, needless to say, more stressed than I’ve ever been. Not only was it going to rain on my perfect day, but having an April wedding in the mountains meant that we’d most likely be enduring rain AND cold temperatures.

YIKES.

For the first few days of this forecast, I gave it a hearty effort to stay positive and hopeful. But as the days wore on and chance of rain didn’t diminish by even ten percent, my emotions and stress began to wear on the outside as well as the inside. I think I may have cried every day for the last week leading up to the wedding. I would be great in the morning, pleading with the Lord to make it sunny, to keep the rain away, promising that I would trust in His sovereignty because He is good and He loves me. But then by nightfall my natural bent toward worry and stress would explode in full bloom and I would lament the evening away, often– and unfairly– toward my soon-to-be husband.

But one of the many reasons I fell in love with The Professor is that he is absolutely solid. Nothing rocks his boat. He trusted the Lord so absolutely that he was able to hear his near-wife freak out about the incontrollable weather days before the wedding and still not be shaken. A practical man, he took the steps to reserve a tent for the wedding, and prepare whatever he could in case it did still rain… but mostly he just spent his time reminding me that the Lord loves me and is good and will bless us with the perfect day. The Professor was convinced to his very core that, despite the TEN DAYS OF FORECAST, we were going to have a warm and sunny wedding.

Our rehearsal was spent under a blue sky and hot sun. It was perfect. We probably should have just gone and gotten married there and then. But we had agreed early on, and individually, that April 25 was meant to be Our Day. So we rehearsed a couple times under the tent in the driveway of the venue as well, just in case the rain made its scheduled appearance. As I should have embraced from the very beginning, there was nothing I could do to prevent poor weather or guarantee the good stuff. So I finally let go of the weight of attempting to control the uncontrollable through the power of my stress level, and surrendered to whatever was to happen.

We woke up the morning of the wedding to an absolute downpour. There was lightning and thunder and a flood-like wave of heavy rain. But I woke up strangely peaceful. This was my day. I thanked the Lord for His love. I thanked the Lord for my almost-husband. And I went about preparing to head to the venue.

By the time we got there the rain had stopped and was replaced by a quiet mist. The clouds hung low over the mountains, but it was relatively warm and quiet and my heart began to hope we could still get married outside under the trees.

Our bridal party dressed and prepped with us and still the rain held off. The Professor and I decided to have a first look before the wedding, to have a few special moments for just us, and that way we could conquer all the family and bridal party photos before the event, too. We did. And still the rain held off. It even began to warm a little more.

We finished our photos and the guests began to arrive. And then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the sun appeared. Bright and big and powerful, we watched as the clouds literally began to melt away. By the time the men walked out to take their place and the bridesmaids ushered me to the beginning of the aisle, the sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

This was my miracle.

God had literally rolled the clouds away to bless His daughter with her dream wedding. And as I began walking down the aisle toward my future, I was filled with a sense of just how much He loves me, and just how perfect this day had become.

Thanks for my miracle. I’ll never be convinced it was anything but.

bruinsma-103

(all images by the incomparable Jessica Elaine Rice. You can find more of her
incredible heart
and work at http://www.jessica-elaine.com/)

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.

jesus and honey

Like a waterfall of honey
let Your love be poured out on me

As the body of Christ, we sang this song in worship this morning. It was new for me. I hadn’t heard it before and, as with all songs I have yet to learn, I stood and listened and let the words and the music and the voices flow over me.

What a beautiful song. What a great concept- to not simply allow but to feel God’s love being poured out on us, dripping down like honey from a honeycomb.

There are a lot of beautiful things about honey.

I recently moved to Georgia. Did you know? And Georgia has some crazy amounts of pollen. Because the Professor and I are getting married outside in the springtime wilderness of Georgia, it was suggested to me to start taking local honey every day to begin preparing my body for the inevitable onslaught of allergies.

That’s amazing, isn’t it? That something as simple and natural as honey can help protect our bodies against illness. Wow. And when our bodies become injured, honey works as a natural antiseptic- it can be used to heal scrapes, cuts, and burns. Further, its natural sugars (glucose and fructose) act as an energy booster and they help to prevent fatigue during exercise. Amazing.

Honey is also incredibly sweet. You can throw it in almost anything as a substitute for sugar or chemical sweeteners: tea, coffee, oatmeal, cakes. It’s just enjoyable. Effortless, smooth, thick, delicious. That’s what honey is.

And as I was thinking about God’s love being poured out on me like a waterfall of honey… I began thinking about all the ways that God’s love is so sweet to me. It can make difficult things easier to handle. And I thought about all the ways that God’s love protects me from pain and hurt. And all the ways God’s love heals me when I’m down, and energizes and sustains me when I need it most. I thought about all the ways that, like a pouring out of honey, God’s love covers me completely- no inch of me is left untouched. Thick and heavy and sweet and smooth, God’s love is a waterfall of honey. And I’m so blessed to know the feeling of the weight and the glory of that protection and love.

Thanks, God.

i’m a mirror, you’re a mirror

I’ve recently found myself teaching some Vision Casting sessions for various groups of people. Yesterday at the completion of our time together, some of the participants told me I sounded like my fiance when I prayed. “You guys say ‘Jesus’ exactly the same!” I laughed at the time, thinking how silly that sounded, and that I hadn’t caught that connection myself.

But then I started thinking.

You know, it’s kind of beautiful that The Professor and I are starting to sound the same. We’ve been able to spend a lot more time together now that we live in the same town, and a lot of that time is spent praying together, seeking The Father. Or even just sharing what we’ve been learning about Him.

So it’s kind of awesome that we’re starting to sound alike.

I thought about other people I share random quirks with. My best friend (and the person I have spent the most time on earth with)-Sarah- and I have this weird “game show host” voice that we both somehow fall into each and every time we’re together. We also went through a strange phase when we used dancing hand guns (think the final dancing scene from Grease) and those gestures seeped out of us and into the small group we were co-leading at the time. Each of those girls, in turn, picked it up and would find themselves using the same dang dancing hand guns when saying pretty much anything of a non-serious tone. Those girls have also picked up my quirky habit of repeating things, like saying “NoNo” to make a dramatic point.

…I’m realizing now as I’m re-reading for editing errors that I technically didn’t have to share an example of repetition, but now that it’s typed in this draft… well, what can you do? I better just leave it… in case.

I’ve also spent a GREAT deal of time with my Sweet Janice, most of that time in intentional discipleship and mentoring. I have thus picked up her gift of discernment in most situations. When I’m trying to figure out what my next steps should be (or shouldn’t be), her voice is often the sound I hear in my conscience. She recently wrote an incredible book about discipleship (you can find it online here and here – and I highly recommend it- it’ll change the way you view discipleship, especially the discipling part)…and in it describes how disciple relationships work- that they are just for a season (length depending on a number of criteria), but they come to a close when the student begins to resemble the teacher. You don’t need continual meetings with someone when you can answer the questions before you ask them. And so our discipleship time came to a close when I asked her questions and then answered them for her.

Why?

We looked like each other.

That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Bearing resemblance to those you spend the most time with.

I started thinking about Jesus (“Jessuuuuuus”) and how wonderful He is. I thought about all the beautiful traits and qualities that make Him so….Jesus. And if I was reflecting those things.

Am I? Am I spending enough time with Jesus that I am starting to reflect Him in all His goodness? The way He sees and treats other people… The way He calls His friends out when they’re making terrible choices- in authority and love… The way He seeks so much time alone to spend with His Father…

If I am not resembling Jesus, I’m clearly not spending enough time with Him. If I give so much of myself to my friends and my loved ones that we look alike, but I don’t do the same with my Savior, there’s an imbalance that needs to be swiftly corrected.

I love that The Professor and I are starting to sound alike, especially when we pray. What a gift. I’m so happy that I carry pieces of my best friend with me when we are far apart, because we’ve spent so much time together we’re basically the same person. I’m overwhelmingly grateful that the voice of the Holy Spirit in my life sounds like Janice Wood.

I want the rest of me to look like Jesus. I want to reflect and resemble Him. I want us to look and sound and act the same.

And to do that, I need to hang out with Him more. More and more and more.

And so I guess I’d call this my first “New Year’s Resolution”…. and thank God He used a vision casting session to give me a vision of what it would be like to look more like my Savior. I want it. And I’m gonna have it.

Are you?

hiking revelations

This morning I met up with my sweet friend Kate and we drove around north Georgia to find a great hiking place. We settled on one of the plentiful state parks in the area, parked our car, and headed up a trail into the (completely unpredicted) rain.

It was supposed to have been sunny all day.

But that dampened neither of our spirits as we laced up our shoes and took a few deep breaths before launching into long-winded updates on our lives.

There are times for utter silence in the woods.

And then there are times for external processing and heavy breathing and beautiful revelations about and from The Father. This was one of those times.

We shared our Christmas stories of visiting family and friends. We discussed things that had our hearts burdened. We laughed and celebrated new beginnings and hope on the horizon and stories about how funny and charming the Lord is. And He spoke to us. He really did. And this is what He shared with me:

I am a do-er. I was created to be an accomplisher of great things. I have always identified myself as a “do-er” even to the point of missing out on how awesome it is to just be me. I have passed over on opportunities to sit and be still, to relax, to be silent, to receive, all because I felt the need to get up and do something. God created me to do great things for His Kingdom. And do them I will. But He also created me to be amazing. I am passionate and witty and kind and sexy and brilliant and fierce and beautiful. I am whimsical and emotional and dramatic and enthusiastic and I sometimes take things too seriously. I am made to be a shoulder for people, to be a sounding board for their pain and their celebrations. I am a storyteller and a performer, I am a planner and an organizer and a nest-er. I am beautiful. I am strong. I am exactly who I need to be. Just because I Am.

And you know what?

The God Of The Universe is captivated by my brilliance and beauty. Utterly captivated. He is delighted that I am who I am and that He knows me. He thinks I’m a treat. He believes me to be so special and so unique and so worth it.

And you know what?

He thinks that about you, too.

You captivate the God of heaven and earth. You are clever and generous and lovely. You are tender. You are strong. You have what it takes. And when you feel like you don’t, you really do. And you are wise and charming and necessary. You are so necessary. And enchanting and satisfying and enjoyable. You are grand.

And the God who reigns over all is completely and devastatingly and totally captivated by you. Exactly as you are. Right. Now.

It’s time we start living like it.

So what are we to do now? Well, I can tell you how I feel about it. I’m going to stop saying negative things about my body. I’m going to start saying awesome things about my body- like how it’s so useful for getting me to and fro, for doing all the things I ask it to do without hesitation, and for how beautiful it is. I’m going to start moving and eating and sleeping and drinking like I love my body, and I’m grateful for it. I’m going to stop saying hurtful things about my personality. I’m going to embrace all the goodness and all the flaws and all the quirks and all the humor that comes with being me. I’m going to love it. I’m going to stop feeling so insecure about myself around other women, or other professionals, or other yoga teachers, or people with straight teeth. I’m going to start celebrating how awesome other people are. I’m going to tell them how great and fierce and fabulous they are. I’m going to remind myself that I’m fierce and fabulous and breathtaking all the time. I’m going to enjoy where I am today, even if I’m working on it. I’m going to breathe in and fill up with joy and exuberance and peace and hope and love for all people and all things. I’m going to breathe all that goodness out onto whatever or whomever happens to be in the same zip code as me.

I am going to own how good God has created me to be. Stopping with the excuses and the complaints, I’m going to embrace exactly who He has designed me to be, and celebrate that no one else on earth can be me.

Just like no one else on earth can be awesome, funny, delightful, terrific, beautiful, gifted, fantastic you.

And God is captivated by that.

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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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.

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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.

30b30: eight and nine. all about that dress.

One thing I know I’ve always wanted to experiment with is making my own clothes. Not weird she-definitely-knitted-a-romper-and-then-wore-it type things, but nice things… like knitting some socks. Crocheting a hat. Sewing an apron.

And over the last few weeks I checked a major one off the list: I made my first dress!

I was invited to a fancy, ritzy, fabulous wedding in Florida in November, but started panicking when they told us it was “black tie optional.” What does that mean?? Floor length? Cocktail? Why do all these dresses look like they’re for prom? Is it prom season?? Why do the only other dresses look like mother-of-the-bride gowns? What do I do???

See, I only have summer dresses in my closet. Definitely not appropriate for a fancy wedding. And since I really don’t love to shop, I clearly don’t know the places to go for nice dresses (in a non-prom, non-grandma fashion).

So I took a breath and, with some extra encouragement from my seamstress roomie, decided to just stinking make my own dang dress.

I scrounged the internets (mostly pinterest) for ideas of what I wanted the silhouette/neckline/waist area/length to be, and found a couple great ideas:

I looooove boat necklines, especially the super-high ones. I haven’t been nazi enough on my arms this fall to warrant a strapless or sleeveless dress, so I found a nice balance between not wanting sleeves and actually needing them. And I knew I wanted to do something with the back, and found a really daring deep-vee plunge (that I made a bit less daring so I wouldn’t shock myself or others with a surprise meeting of the small of my back.

I then proceeded to panic over color, fabric, drape, embellishments, and any number of other cool sewing terms until the roomie calmed me down with her sweet wisdom: “Whatever you choose, it’s going to be fabulous. Also, I like option B.”

Option B! The winner! When down to a deep purple-y wine color and a rich navy blue, the navy one. And it was definitely the right choice.

I loosely followed this tutorial for the dress, and added a deep-vee plunge in the back via a loose form of this tutuorial.

I struggled a bit with the elastic (the fabric was too heavy and the elastic too thin), so I ended up adding a double layer of elastic at the waist. This is the one area of the dress I really didn’t love, so I added a belt and a do-it-yourself bow at the bottom of the vee plunge in the back. It could have been a bit larger, but I still liked the outcome. All-in-all, from the cutting of the fabric, to the finishing of the bow, (without taking into account the entire week I put off doing the belt), the dress took me about an hour. Maybe a bit longer. But it was SO SIMPLE and turned out SO ELEGANTLY. I loved it.

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Bonus? The dresses at the top ranged in the couple-hundred dollar category. I made my entire dress for less than $20. Suck it, Saks.

And THEN, checking off yet another bucket list item, I got to dress super fancy and do something awesome. I added a sweet pair of heels, some great nail polish, and a killer necklace and hit the ground running. My good-lookin’ date helped a bit, too.

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We went to this fabulous wedding (of which he was The Best Man) (also the best man), and ate, drank, and danced the night away at the best reception I’ve ever been to. I laughed a lot, I made new friends, I stuffed my face, I laughed some more, and in general I felt stunning. I felt prettier and more glamorous than I have all year long. I’ve deeply longed for a real reason to get dressed up and do something fabulous, and this was a better excuse than I could have imagined.

What a perfect night.