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.

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.

#yes: an engagement story

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

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

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

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

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

“NO.”

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

…I think I made myself pretty clear.

Except that I didn’t.

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

Anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What?

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

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

1

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

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

5

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

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

14
and then i became little red riding hood

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

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

6

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

And then we couldn’t open the package.

struggle all the things

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

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

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

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

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but she’s really pretty so i love her anyway

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

10
newly-married olivia!

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

11

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

WHAT?!?!

IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING!??!!?

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

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

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

12

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

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

9

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

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

27
soooooo good.

The rest was a blur.

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

Of course I said yes.

Who wouldn’t?

20

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

18

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

25

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

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look at it look at it look at it!

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

22

life change. WHAT.

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

The Professor drove up to Kentucky to surprise me.

Which he totally did.

With a diamond ring.

Which I totally died over.

That’s right, friends!

I’M ENGAGED!!!!

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

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

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

I’M ENGAGED!!!

Oops. Sorry. Wrong announcement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

………

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

gosh, this boy.

book reviews: passion and purity

This book was given to me by my lovely roommate Mary Alice. She’s a big fan of both Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, and has read most of the latter’s books. So when, earlier this year, I told her I was looking for a few good books to read, she not only recommended this one, she handed me her copy.

The subheading for the book is Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control. That sounded like the book for me, for sure.

But, to be honest, I wasn’t entirely thrilled with the book. I didn’t understand where she was taking her readers through most of the book. Her old journal entries, the back-and-forth love letters, even the hymns- while they were lovely and thrilling to read (who doesn’t love hearing old journal entries?), didn’t seem to add up to a lot. I found myself thinking, Wow, that was a good chapter. But I’m still not sure what she’s trying to teach me, or what I should be taking away from this. I wonder when she’s going to start talking about all the bullet points listed on the back cover…

Not to say this is not an excellent book. It is. And we’ll get into that. But I wanted to express my full opinion, from beginning to end.

The only other issue I had with this book has to do with the love story we find in it. The Jim-and-Elisabeth-Elliot love story is quite famous, and really something to behold. They waited seven years for each other. Seven years without kissing or holding hands or any of the common habits we see in modern couples today. Other than the occasional use of an affectionate nickname- a stray darling or dearest– their love letters were mostly encouragements to one another to press into the Lord for as long as He has called them to remain single and chaste. It’s a beautiful, enduring love story to read. She loved him, he felt called to remain single for the Lord (he felt there were things on the mission field he could not do/places he could not go, if married), and so he asked her to release him from her affections, even though- and this is where I take offense- he loved her. He really cared about her, he longed for her, but he felt he could not ask her to wait for him.

Wait a minute.

So he loves her- and basically says so- as well as actually saying if the Lord released him to marry, he would marry her… but he could not promise these things, so please don’t feel like you have to wait.

Okay.

While this is a lovely story of two people who remained sexually pure despite circumstances, feelings, etc… the area that I really struggled with (throughout almost the entire book) (and I kept coming back to my feelings of frustration and indignation for her) is where he should have kept his mouth shut.

Listen, if you’re a man and you feel convinced the Lord has asked you to remain single for only-He-knows-how-long, you’d best keep your mouth shut and your flirtations nonexistent if you want to be obedient. How many women can resist a man whom she has had multiple encounters with (intimate in the cleanest sense of the word), whom she is clearly in love with, and who tells her “If God would let me marry, I absolutely would marry you. I really care for you, and you have so many of the traits that I’m looking for in a wife. But God has told me to remain single for an undisclosed time, so I can’t ask you to wait for me.” VERY FEW.

Just keep your mouth shut. There’s no reason he dragged her into the responsibility of remaining single. Had he not shared his affections with her, she may have released her feelings for him and moved on. Things worked out okay (read their entire story for the truth behind this), but COME ON. It’s not her responsibility to wait for you, but that’s all she’s going to do if you tell her you would marry her if you could. That’s just selfish.

I mean.

I reeeaallly really struggled with some serious frustrations all throughout this book. I couldn’t even concentrate on the beauty of what “waiting” did for her character, or the patience she learned, or the opportunities she had to press into the Lord and learn obedience and total dependence on Him. Which are all incredible, life-changing things which we all need to learn. But I was so overwhelmed with how she should never have had to suffer through seven years of waiting for a man who MAY NOT EVER BE ALLOWED TO MARRY. Seriously. I’m still mad about it.

And I’m happy they finally married. I’m so happy their love story worked out in the end (for a little bit). I’m happy there is a beautiful story about how a girl loved a boy, and used all her time of waiting to improve her heart and character, and to bloom where she was planted.

But I cannot get over a man who dragged her through seven years of waiting without a promise in sight.

UGH.

It’s not really my place to judge someone’s relationship. I’m happy for Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, and the heaven they experienced together for a few short years. But the long-suffering story they both walked through was the direct result of his lack of self-control. And it’s frustrating, because I’ve known so many men like that. I want my cake and eat it, too. You can’t have it both ways, buddy.

Well, I guess you can, but it can have some serious consequences. Not all love stories end like this one. (And even this one had a truly painful ending, even though good still came from it). (Probably due to the time she spent pressing into the Lord).

Anyway, back to the beauty of the book. Now that I have that off my chest. And I’m sorry for the rant.

Mostly sorry.

Anyway.

The entire last quarter of the book was fantastic. Full of wisdom, encouragement, and fulfilled hopes. I raced through the last few chapters, writing down some quotes to dwell on later, and trying to take in the things Mrs. Elliot had learned from all her years of growing while she waited. I found a lot of encouragement and challenge about relationships, and in particular marriage, here at the end.

I’m glad I read this book. Despite my frustrations with the choices of Jim Elliot in regards to Elisabeth (which is none of  my business anyway), I did end up learning quite a bit about waiting on the Lord in joy and movement- blooming where I am planted.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“By trying to grab fulfillment everywhere, we find it nowhere.”

“The problem starts when we make up our own minds what will give us happiness and then decide, if we don’t get exactly that, that God doesn’t love us.”

“Life requires countless ‘little deaths’– occasions when we are given the chance to say no to self and yes to God. …But even little deaths have to be died just as great ones do.”

“It helped to develop in my soul tensile strength- resistance to stress, the kind of strength that can bear stretching without tearing apart.”

“Don’t walk straight into [the wayward impulses of youth] and then blame God if the temptation is too great for you.”

“Charity, which is always self-giving, says ‘I grant you your rights. I do not insist on mine. I give myself to you; I do not insist that you give yourself to me.”

“There is no ongoing spiritual life without this process of letting go. At the precise point where we refuse, growth stops.”

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]

book reviews: love and respect

The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs

My boyfriend handed this book to me after he had completed it. He was looking to understand how he could treat me and love me better. This book was recommended to me long ago, and I had always imagined I would read it with my fiancé, right before we got married. But hearing the cool things Neil was learning about women and loving well (and how deeply some of those truths resonated with the way I felt), I thought why not go ahead and read it? Can’t hurt to learn some new truths early.

And so I did.

Although written in 2004, this book uses slightly dated lingo. To be honest, both Neil and I had to skip over some of the last few chapters in Part One. Every chapter in Part One deals with the way men and women give and receive communication signals- and how very different they are. Each chapter approached the topic from a slightly different angle so- as Neil said after I’d complained about the redundancy- different people would be hit by the information at different stages. Some people might get it right away, and others might understand after a few different stories from a few different perspectives. And that’s true. But for me, having grown up hearing about the difference in communication and love styles between men and women, the lack of new information for such a long amount of time was too much for me to handle. If I heard “pink sunglasses and hearing aids, and blue sunglasses and hearing aids” One More Time…

So I skimmed the middle few chapters and totally skipped the last couple to get to Part Two.

This is where stuff got real. The first half of Part Two was written ABOUT women FOR men. Women don’t have to read it, because they already inherently know the information. I read for curiosity’s sake and found myself singing some hallelujahs and amens. I couldn’t believe the things I have felt and struggled with for so long in relationships (both romantic and platonic) were written down right there on the page! I hadn’t been wrong to feel some of the things I’ve felt! It was incredible!! I remember underlining several areas that were so on point I couldn’t help myself- and, as a rule, I don’t write or underline anything in a book I don’t own. But I was so amazed at some of the stuff that I just had to had to had to. And then I would call Neil (or wait til he called me at the end of a long day) and gush and gush about all the things he had read in those chapters that WERE REALLY TRUE. He would always laugh and thank me for bringing certain things to his attention, and remind me that he would feel the same when I read through the chapters for women about men.

Those chapters are really good, too. A lot of it was common sense (or, I suppose, simply just ingrained into the minds of young twenty-somethings who are immersed in modern church culture). And yet, the more I read, the more stories Eggerichs shared, the more I found myself writing down in my journal. Oh, this is what I should have done/said/acted like previously… THIS is what I can do in the future… Oh, THAT’S what that means! I have to be honest- I spent A LOT of time in prayer over ways I have disrespected men in my past, and how I want to live in a more loving and respectful way in the future. I feel like this book gave me a very clear vision of what it really means to make a vow to love someone- because love isn’t about YOU.

Part Three was the conclusion, and all about how we are meant to love and respect our spouses with or without them treating us the way we want or need. It’s all about how our motivation to love is to be obedient to the Lord. It was pretty eye-opening to look at love (and respect) through that lens.

All in all, it was a really great book. I learned a lot, and I think I’ll definitely use it as a reference for the rest of my life. I recommend it to everyone- married, engaged, dating, single. There’s a lot of truth to apply in all relationships.

But just remember- with great power (or knowledge) comes great responsibility. Don’t use this book or this information as a way to manipulate to get what you want. At its basest level, love is about other people. We love and respect and serve others for their sake, not for our own gain. So read and let love (and respect) change all our lives!

book reviews: love does

Just finished reading Bob Goff’s Love Does. A quick read and, true to its cover summary, full of whimsy.

The first few chapters were really good, but if I’m totally frank, there were a couple in the middle where I fought to keep interest. What he does in this book is share a story, funny anecdote, or random happening from his life and then equate it to things He’s learning from or about God. Some of the chapters are brilliantly written, with spot-on relatability (<– that’s a real word) (it’s not, but just go with it), but a couple chapters felt a little reaching. Like there was a great story, and a great idea about God, but they didn’t really intersect as well as he was hoping.

Passing those tiny bumps in the road, the book just kept getting better and better, and at the end of each chapter I felt myself a little more emboldened, a little more courageous, and a little more anxious to get my hands into something worthwhile. With the closing of each chapter and the nearing of the end of the book, I began to feel an urgency to get started on something and, perhaps even more powerful, I felt the possibility that I actually could do something extraordinary with my life and my time and my resources.

I think that’s the treasure that Bob Goff brings to the world, to this book, and to its readers: a “can” attitude. He makes you feel like these enormous adventures and capers he undertakes aren’t at all that out-of-the-realm of possibility. He makes you feel as though the crazy things we see people do in movies aren’t all that crazy and, in fact, we can do them. We just have to dive in. What an incredible gift to bring to the world- the gift of possibility. The gift of can. The gift of do.

His whole idea is that love is not a feeling, nor is it a word; it is an action. It’s a doing of something more, richer, crazier, because it’s too big to leave to the occasional card or gift. And I like that. It really challenges my belief system; if I say I believe in Christ and what He believes in (which is to love God and my neighbors) but I don’t actually walk that out, do I really believe in Him? If I say I adhere to an idea or a faith that asks, or demands, something of me and I never really give anything away… do I really adhere to it?

So the big question that I walk away from this book asking is: is the love I give myself, my friends, my family, my God- my world- real love… or is it just a handful of empty words and no backbone?

Really makes you think.

Notable Quotes:

If Adam is right about memories being reserved for folks who don’t do anything cool anymore, then I don’t want to just collect memories anymore. I’ve been thinking I’ll follow love’s lead and find some capers worth doing, ones so saturated with whimsy they have to be rung out like a wet towel to be understood fully.

That’s one of the things about love. It doesn’t recognize boundaries and never obeys the rules we try to give it.

Love does whatever it takes to multiply itself and somehow along the way everyone becomes a part of it. You know why? Because that’s what love does.

PS. Last year on the World Race, a lot of my squadmates ended up reading this book. They got in touch with Bob Goff and asked him to come to our final debrief in The Philippines. Being a man who does we all thought, why not? He maybe might! Unfortunately we caught him a little late in the game and he had prior commitments, BUT he sent a video to us via our squad coach Bruce, saying how excited he was about the things we’d been doing all year and how he wished he could be with us. What a man of honor and generosity! I’m not sure many people would have gone to the trouble, but even though he wasn’t there in person, not a single O Squader felt anything but excited, loved, and encouraged. When he says “let’s talk about this stuff” and gives you his number, he really means it. Thanks, Bob!