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.

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

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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.

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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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: five. the greatest show on earth.

Y’all. Boy came through AGAIN.

 

HE TOOK ME TO THE CIRCUS.

THE CIRCUS.

I have never been to a legit circus (if you don’t count county fairs and the like). It’s been on my life bucket list for awhile. And lo and behold, a few days before coming to visit, The Professor discovered that BARNUM AND BAILEY would be in town! Can you believe it??

He’s a good Boy. He didn’t even hint about what we would do or where we would go on Date Night. We spent our morning visiting with a lovely family, then spent our afternoon hiking to a little waterfall in the middle of some beautiful Kentucky woods. It was raining, so we set up a tent on the edge of the falls, climbed in, curled up, and he read to me. Kind of awesome. Like a movie.

this is my life

After spending a little too long in the woods (we love nature), we rushed home to change for Date Night. Still, he didn’t let a peep out about what we were going to do (and this after a long day of me trying to sneak out any information). So we headed to an unknown destination (Lexington) to do some unknown activities (dinner and mystery date).

We had the most delectable food, and then at a specific time, The Professor asked for the check, and then got us on our way quickly. Following a gps, he raced us to a huge mystery building. I still had no idea what we were going to do. I kept trying to figure out what on earth it could be, because there were a few people walking into the building with us. But no signs, no balloons, absolutely no indication as to what was going on.

We ran up some escalators (standing and waiting is for the birds), and still- no breakthrough. What on earth could we be doing?! Seriously. How were there no signs or banners at all?

Even when we entered the main hall where our tickets would be taken- nothing.

And then that video happened.

HE HAS BROUGHT ME TO THE CIRCUS.

And he bought us seats in the SECOND ROW.

I still can’t believe we spent our Saturday night being wowed and amazed by The Greatest Show On Earth. And it was.

It really was.

LOOK HOW MANY KITTIES

Acrobats on trampolines walking up walls. Clowns who did magic tricks with snakes and bunnies. Trotting ponies and dancing poodles. A guy on stilts. A woman shot from a canon. Aerialists. Tight-rope walkers. FIFTEEN TIGERS IN A CAGE AT ONE TIME DOING TRICKS IN UNISON. More horses. A four-person acroyoga act. Dancers. More clowns. Some awkward singing. And THEN THE ELEPHANTS CAME OUT TO PLAY.

why am i not riding an elephant, too??

There was so much going on, and the transitions were so fluid, and the acts were so unbelievable. It was hard…no, impossible, to take everything in. It was amazing. I screamed and clapped and giggled and cheered and gasped and laughed my way into a frenzy. There’s this piece of my heart that is a six-year-old, and something I do my best to keep under wraps.

This was the night it came out.

And much to my relief, The Professor was delighted in it. He laughed and cheered right along with me, although I’m pretty sure he was cheering more at my joy than at the show. He loves to surprise. And this was such a surprise! There was so much to look at and see, and the show just kept going and going. He’s convinced I was easily the circus’ biggest fan that night. A little boy a couple seats down from us kept turning to watch us rather than the show. We were a riot. I’m sure The Professor thinks I alone was the riot, but he was next to me, so he gets included for sure.

I’m still excited.

Whew.

The circus was everything I had hoped it would be, and so much more. It was more than I could even imagine. What a wonderful gift, and surprise, and how grateful I am to check this off the bucket list with such a wonderful Boy next to me.

he’s pretty cute, too

[you can find the full 30-before-30 list here]

a change in the wind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I bought a book about gardening vegetables.

I got the hiccups a lot.

I didn’t spend one weekend at my apartment.

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

I coached the most amazing girls at a conference.

I only wore chacos.

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

I ordered something online.

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

I bought things from local farmers.

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

My love for nutella almost ruined my waistline. Again.

……

Whew.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bring it on, Autumn.

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

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

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

everyone was SO clean…and smelled so good

It was an awesome day and a half.

Know something else that was awesome?

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

Seriously.

This place is a glimpse of my personal heaven.

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

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

THIS WAS THAT PLACE.

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

Heaven.

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

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

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

It was simply a breath of fresh air.

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

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

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

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

30b30: two. horses are for riding

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

It.

Was.

MAGICAL.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Stubborn.

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

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

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

30b30: one. night hike

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

happy 30 before 30!

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

photo 1
i mean, come ON

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

seriously! just look at that!

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

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

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

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

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

treeeee
because this is legit what it looked like

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

facebook official, baby!

happy happy

Philippians 4:8-9; Psalm 84:1

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– if anything is excellent or praiseworthy– think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me– put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

+

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty!

=

my newest happy place🙂

happ1

29 random acts of kindness

I read a blog a couple years about a woman who did 36 random acts of kindness for her 36th birthday. By then I had already passed my birthday for the year, so I kept it in the back of my mind, ready to conquer it the next year.

The next year, however, I left on the World Race.

So this was the year! On my actual birthday I woke up, already having prepared for the day, excited about the opportunities to love on the world around me. But, as life does, things get in the way, and I ended up working for 10 hours AND going to the doctor (I’m fine). So, giving myself grace (what a great lesson for me!), I postponed the fun to the next weekend- TODAY!

So here for your reading and viewing pleasure, are my 29 random acts of kindness to celebrate my 29th birthday! I firmly believe I received so much more from this day than anyone else in the world- so much joy and excitement and feelings of good will… I am so fully blessed.

Also my sweet friends Caroline and Emilee joined me on this day of adventures, and we were LEGIT superheroes!

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1. Finish baking bread for Janice

2. Taped popcorn to a Redbox

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3. Left love notes on cars in a parking lot (Caroline hand-delivered one to a lady who was getting into her car. She read the note and smiled and gushed with thanks)

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4. Bought a $20 gift card in Walmart, immediately turned around and handed it to an elderly couple behind us. The wife gasped and said “Dear God! You’re giving this to us?!” AWESOME.

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5. Caroline helped put grocery bags in an elderly lady’s shopping cart.

6. Donuts to the workers at Chick-fil-A!

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7. Donated to the Haiyan Typhoon Survivor Fund (I was actually in The Philippines when this struck) (we also donated to other funds throughout the day)

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8. Helped a girl chase down fly-away napkins at Panera

9. Focused on being a kinder driver/allowed other cars and pedestrians the right of way all day (even if it wasn’t!)

10. Donated hand-crocheted blankets to the Pregnancy Help Center

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11. Sat with someone and really listened

12. Struck up a conversation with an older couple in line next to us at the movie theatre, found out which show they were heading to, bought their tickets, and handed them to them. This was my favorite moment of the day! They were so surprised!! It took a moment for them to recover, and they were all smiles and laughter and appreciation. It was the best.

13. Baked cookies and took to the local fire/ems department

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14. Spent the day smiling and waving at everyone we passed

15. Corralled carts in the Walmart parking lot

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16. Dropped pennies in the local park for kids to find

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17. Donated magazines to local hospital reception/waiting area

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18. Donated clothes to Vineyard Compassion

19. Left quarters in machines at a laundromat

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20. Bought local restaurant gift cards, put them in envelopes with love letters and left them in random places

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21. Paid-it-forward at Purdy’s (the best coffee shop on the planet)

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22. Left extra popcorn bags at Emilee’s for roommates

23. Swept Caroline’s neighbor’s outside steps

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24. Baked cookies and left them on my neighbors’ doors

25. Bought coffee for the people behind us at Hastings

26. Wrote thank you notes to my favorite bloggers

27. Mailed a letter to an old friend

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28. Hopped out of the car at an intersection and high-fived friends in front of us; was almost run over by more friends calling us “Hooligans” (I’m looking at you, Chris Barger)

29. Hid gift cards among books in local bookstore

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This day was AMAZING. And on top of everything that happened, Jesus kept smiling on us in more and more ways:

*the weather was a perfect 64* with bright blue skies
*we ran into friends all over town!*I successfully upgraded my phone for a fraction of the actual cost (thanks, non-ATT store!)
*I ran into old friends I hadn’t seen since college
*high fives all around. from everyone.

Jesus is good, birthdays are good, kindness is good.

Spread it all around!

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in one final act of goodwill, we left our faces on the demo phone at at&t