rain rain go away: a wedding day tale

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

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

YIKES.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was my miracle.

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

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

bruinsma-103

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

Advertisements

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.

#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.

23

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

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!

4

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.

10441932_10101105422037653_1752463682677862636_n
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.

26
look at it look at it look at it!

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

22

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

cleaning

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

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

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

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

First thing’s first.

a recipe for APPLE SAUCE

Clean and sanitize the jars.

FullSizeRender-3

Peel and slice the apples.

FullSizeRender 2

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

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

sugar

Continue boiling.

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

glasses

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

FullSizeRender 3

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

hot water bath

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

jar finished

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

IMG_9340

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

We also made delicious apple butter.

And cheese.

cheese 1 cheese 2 cheese 3

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

milk cow baby cow

Happiest Girl Ever.

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

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.

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!

IMG_2401

1. Finish baking bread for Janice

2. Taped popcorn to a Redbox

IMG_2409 IMG_2410

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)

IMG_2404 IMG_2408

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.

IMG_2411

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

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

IMG_2413

IMG_2415

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)

IMG_2417IMG_2508

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

IMG_2475

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

IMG_2477

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

15. Corralled carts in the Walmart parking lot

IMG_2471 IMG_2510

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

IMG_2473

17. Donated magazines to local hospital reception/waiting area

IMG_2442 IMG_2453

18. Donated clothes to Vineyard Compassion

19. Left quarters in machines at a laundromat

IMG_2501

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

IMG_2474

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

IMG_2421

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

23. Swept Caroline’s neighbor’s outside steps

IMG_2488

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

IMG_2456

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

IMG_2506

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!

IMG_2420
in one final act of goodwill, we left our faces on the demo phone at at&t

safari bingo

originally posted at http://andimoore.theworldrace.org

Guys. GUYS. I got to go on an AFRICAN SAFARI. For reals.

It was one of THE COOLEST experiences of my life so far.

Since I was a little girl, I had dreamed of going on a real African Safari, I’m sure spurred on by my love and hundreds of viewings of The Lion King, Jungle Book (Live Version), and Jumanji.

My Mom, who loves me enormously, so much so she is willing to sacrifice her own comfort, sent me money to go on this dream trip. A few of my teammates, joined by handful of two other teams, headed out for Maasai Mara on a cold and early Friday morning.

After passing the first herd of zebra, grazing nonchalantly on the side of the road like common deer at home, I knew I was not sufficiently prepared for the surreality of what was to lie ahead.

11 hours, several pit stops, a riot with tear gas, and a delightful little hotel in the middle of nowhere later, early Saturday morning we arrive at the park where we’ll be making my dreams come true. Our driver, Steven, pops the top of the jeep up so we can stand and look out into real life. After 45 minutes of waiting for our passes, we finally pass through gates worthy of Jurassic Park status, and begin the adventure of a lifetime.

What they tell you about safaris: you’ll see TONS of live animals.

What they don’t tell you about safaris: 90% of it will be zebra and wildebeest herds, who incidentally live, eat, drink, and migrate together. I cannot begin to describe the enormity of these herds. There must have been thousands upon thousands that we saw in the first two hours of the journey. I can only say that that scene in the Lion King where the wildebeest stampede to the detriment of Simba’s and also every little girl’s heart is REAL. Not only do they live in those kind of numbers and more, but when we saw them stampeding later, supposedly being chased by a cheetah in the back of the herd, it was like a real-life enactment of the movie.

After the third hour of seeing only zebras, wildebeests, a smattering of tiny antelopes, and the occasional water buffalo herd (at which point in time I sang a resounding chorus of Larry The Cucumber’s hit Everybody’s Got A Water Buffalo), I was ready to see something different, something crazy. And our God, who is tender and sweet to my heart, answered my prayers.

We saw, in no particular order:

elephants and their babies
From andimoore.theworldrace.org

lionesses snoozing (and this yawning one)
From andimoore.theworldrace.org

a BOY LION (the one thing I desperately wanted to see, above and beyond anything else)
From andimoore.theworldrace.org

of course wildebeests
From andimoore.theworldrace.org

the funniest-looking water buffalo face of all time
From andimoore.theworldrace.org

zebra herds
From andimoore.theworldrace.org

herds of giraffes AND zebras

From andimoore.theworldrace.org

troops of baboons walking down the road, playing and carrying their babies on their backs

From andimoore.theworldrace.orgFrom andimoore.theworldrace.org

hippos floating and yawning in the great Mara River
From andimoore.theworldrace.org

two crocodiles next to them who seemed to care less that their one natural enemy was lounging yards away from them
From andimoore.theworldrace.org

a cheetah who snored himself awake under an acacia tree only feet from where our jeep parked
From andimoore.theworldrace.org

white-bodied and black-faced monkeys eating and swinging through the tree tops
From andimoore.theworldrace.org

storks who look like they wear suit jackets
From andimoore.theworldrace.org

vultures eating at the remains of a wildebeest carcass (and then this stately-looking one)
From andimoore.theworldrace.org

giraffes in the far distance
From andimoore.theworldrace.org

giraffes eating a tree
From andimoore.theworldrace.org

and one who saw our jeep, walked out of the brush, and stood right in front of us like a model striking a pose.
From andimoore.theworldrace.org

We saw towards the end of the day another lioness who sat right beside our jeep and when I purred at her, looked right at me.
From andimoore.theworldrace.org

We saw impalas with horns that were larger than any I had seen in a zoo
From andimoore.theworldrace.org

lonely ostriches who walked with their heads near the earth (except for this confidant one)
From andimoore.theworldrace.org

guinea fowl who resembled what I always imagined dodo birds might look like
From andimoore.theworldrace.org

hundreds of termite mounds the size of a small car
From andimoore.theworldrace.org

warthogs that didn’t look or act nearly as friendly as Pumbaa led us to believe they would (hence, no picture)

every kind of deer and antelope you could imagine
From andimoore.theworldrace.org

a dust devil
From andimoore.theworldrace.org

and some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen.
From andimoore.theworldrace.orgFrom andimoore.theworldrace.orgFrom andimoore.theworldrace.orgFrom andimoore.theworldrace.org

with some yoga action in there, too
(and in the far distance, you can see a giraffe in the shade of my tree)
From andimoore.theworldrace.org

I went home the next day knowing what it felt like to have a long-envisioned dream come true. I went home having seen animals I had only dreamed of and, being an enthusiastic and outspoken animal lover, this was one of the most special moments on the Race so far. I am so grateful to have had this experience, and so grateful to my Mother, who makes dreams come true.

my first 5K!

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

This morning I ran my first official 5K.  It was for EKU’s Homecoming, and it was incredible.  The day didn’t start out well, however.

I woke up super early, which was unfortunate since I didn’t get to sleep until late the night before.  When I woke up, however, the sun was streaming through my window…all signs pointing toward greatness.  I was encouraged to walk to the registration area, since the road might be closed due to the upcoming parade (following directly after the start of the 5K). So I walked.  And walked.  And walked and walked and walked.  Speedily.  We aren’t talking leisurely stroll.  I had somewhere to be!  Nearly a mile and a half later, I finally get there.  “Is this where we pick up our numbers for the 5K?”  The reply: “No, sorry.  It’s at the other gym.”  AWESOME.  I am not happy.  I’m really, really frustrated, and really, really concerned that I’m going to be too tired to finish the run.

But after another quarter mile walk, I arrive at the actual registration site, get my number and my sweet shirt, and run downstairs to the locker rooms to change. Well…the shirt was a medium. In most cases this is no problem, because shirts run small usually.  However, this particular shirt was HUGE.  Absolutely enormous.  It actually looked like a dress.  So, I’m already tired AND I’m running in a dress.  This stinks.  Luckily, my running buddy Casey is THE most selfless, caring, considerate person on the planet and graciously offered her small shirt in exchange for my medium.  Realizing how selfish this is of me to accept, I do so anyway, under her encouragement that she wouldn’t wear the shirt after today anyway (yeah right, Casey…but you’re too incredible to let me feel bad, so you lie anyway. Lovely girl).

So finally we both arrive at the starting line (another quarter mile away), to be greeted by tons of friends, smiles, and well-wishers. We get a few minutes of quick stretching in, and the race is on!  I didn’t realize we would be running on the roads, and in front of a parade, so the entire town had filed out to watch the whole thing.  We ran past hundreds and hundreds of people, all clapping and cheering.  It was really encouraging, and somewhat distracting, and I got a little more winded in the first mile and a half than I would have liked.  But it was really cool to run in front of a crowd, and to hear people cheering us on.  Unexpected, and really official-feeling.

We ran up SO MANY HILLS. And they were STEEP.  It was rough.  I really hoped to finish the run without walking at all, but around the mile and 3/4 mark, when we were literally running up the side of Mount Everest, I needed a break.  I made it to the top, and then Casey and I walked (quickly) for a few seconds so I could catch my breath.  I felt a little disappointed, but then I thought of the 2 miles I speed-walked directly before the race and I let that comfort me a little.

Casey and I walked twice more, for a very short amount of time, and finished the run in 37:07.  Not too bad considering.  We were greeted with water and oranges, and high fives all around from friends who finished before us.  It was an incredible experience.  I’m so grateful I had the opportunity and courage to participate.  It was a big step for me, and I’m so thankful to have friends who can encourage and push me past where I think I can go.  What a day.

update, schmupdate

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

Wow.  Life is CRAZY. And AMAZING.  So much has been going on!

This blog started as a record of my journey toward finding a career, or at least figuring out what I’m doing with my life right now, so I’ll start out with an update on my job: I recently had an informal interview to become a Service Professional at Red Lobster.  Basically I’d be doing the same thing I do anyway on weekend nights, I would just have more authority to help other servers out with issues in the dining room, rowdy tables, and messed up checks.  I don’t want to become a manager with this company, because I’m called to other things, but I’m definitely going to stay with this company until I find a full-time position at a church as a Girls’ Minister. Red Lobster is huge and I can travel anywhere I need to go and still have a job. I’m hoping to hear back, and positively, soon.

In the area of yoga, amazing things are happening. My students are growing in leaps and bounds, breaking down physical and emotional boundaries more and more every week.  Poses are becoming more accessible to them, and to myself, as I continue growing along with them.  Admittedly, I’m not taking classes enough for myself, having a schedule that rivals the President’s, but I’m still working as often as I can.  My students can’t grow if their teacher is not growing.

 

As most of you know, I’ve been running off and on since this past spring. Well…more off than on if I’m completely honest with myself.  There is a loop around campus from my house that measures 2.2 miles. My roomie and I used to run it every once and awhile, and my bestie and I got into a really sweet habit of walking it every other night this summer.  But I haven’t really been faithful in continuing to train. I started running with my friend Casey 2-3 times a week, just to have an opportunity to hang out with her. The farthest I could ever go was just over 2 miles, and that was a streeettttccchhhh.  I decided to go ahead and sign up to run the EKU Homecoming 5K, because…well… why not? It’s only 3.1 miles. Since signing up for it, our schedules have gotten completely overwhelming, and we haven’t had a chance to run together in 2 weeks.  Earlier this week, after having taken 10 whole days off, I decided I’d give it another go. The 5K is this weekend, I should at least attempt to run a little.  I started at 2 1/2 miles. I thought I’d conquered the world.  My elation was unparalleled. After work, two days later, I threw on my running shoes and hit the pavement.  I was back at my old loop, thinking I’ll just run this 2.2 and be finished for the day.  A little less than a quarter mile from home, I felt God asking me to just keep going.  What was I going to lose? “Yes, Lord.” And so I did. I just kept going! And 53 minutes, 41 seconds and 4.66 miles later, I was finished.  4.66 MILES!!  Unbelievable!! It really is a mental game.  Once I hit the 2 mile mark, the world is mine! I feel SO good about myself, and SO good about my first official 5K (which rocks my world tomorrow). Breaking down walls one step at a time!

It’s also gotten cold enough that I’ve taken up my favorite wintry activity: knitting and crocheting!  I feel complete again. So far this month I’ve completed 4 slouchy hats, and started work on a new pair of mittens.  Also, I started a stitching group for the women of my church.  We meet every other Thursday at a local coffee shop for 2 1/2 hours to talk, laugh, enjoy being outside our homes and, of course, get our winter projects finished.  I know I’m such a grandma, but it brings me so much joy!

Speaking of church, you know we’ve been on a 3 week rotation interpreter-wise (2 weeks on, 1 week off), and I’ve really struggled with it. I hate not interpreting every week.  This is the first time in 7 years I’ve sat through a service without signing anything at all, and it stinks.  BUT it’s given me an incredible opportunity to volunteer elsewhere in church on my week off. I’ve become a greeter! Ha, never thought I’d go there.  But, indeed, I have. On my week off, which is my week of greeting, I go to both services, hand out things, hold doors open, and just in general welcome people to church. Beyond that, it’s given me the opportunity to meet new people.  As an interpreter, I spend 100% of my time near or on the stage. The first thing I do when I show up is run to the sanctuary to meet with the other interpreter, figure out who is doing what, and greet the Deaf member(s). Then we spend the whole service interpreting under lights that DO NOT allow you to see past the first row, and after the service I spend 20 minutes getting feedback from the other interpreter(s) and Deaf member(s). So by the time I make it back out to the lobby everyone is gone. I didn’t realize how much my eyes have been shut to the other members of my church.  Having the opportunity to stand at a door and say hello to everyone has been such an awesome blessing.  I’ve met more people in my church in one week of greeting than in an entire year of interpreting. I get to greet again this coming Sunday.  And while I’ll miss interpreting, I greatly look forward to meeting more new friends, and seeing old ones.

 

Also, after church we’ve been going to my pastor’s house for lunch (all college-aged students…and some a little older……me……), and that has morphed into an in-depth discussion of relationships, dating, singlehood, and the innards of male and female thought and behavior.  We affectionately call it Table Talk, because it started around a table in the kitchen one random Sunday afternoon.

Further, after that’s all said and done, a small portion from this group have gone out to the local park to play ultimate frisbee and soccer the last several Sundays followed by, of course, more eating.  It’s been SUCH JOY to play soccer again! I’ve lost any resemblance to skill I once had, and ALL my endurance, but I LOVE IT. I’m devastated that winter’s a’comin’ and soccer will most likely have to be put on the backburner until it warms up. But I could definitely be up for a Snow Cup or two.

In conclusion…I have so much to be thankful for. I lead such an incredibly blessed, joyful life.  Shame on me for complaining about dumb, impermanent things. So what if I have a rough day? So what if things don’t go my way? The Lord is a pursuer, and He shows me daily that He thinks I’m lovely enough to invest in, again and again and again, even if I’m blind to what He’s doing.  May I never lose sight of the small, incredible things the Lord does to tell me He loves me.

Currently watching: a Friends marathon.