Saturday, May 16, 2015

Quick Takes Friday (on a Saturday) [vol. 20]

seven quick takes friday 2

Happy weekend, friends!! It's a rainy day here but the temps are climbing to the 80's today so I'm going to order some sunshine and some outdoor time this afternoon!!

What's new with you? How was your week? Here's what I've been up to in pictures...


--1--

Don't mind my loooong arm...it didn't look like that in the square instagram camera, haha!!
My dad invited me to a coffee date this morning!! So beautiful to have this one-on-one time
as his single daughter before I become his married daughter! He is amazing, so blessed
to have such a solid father in my life. I know his love and support are what helped keep me
on the right path in life-- in education and career decisions, in my spiritual life, and even
in chastity-- I knew I was loved by my dad and did not need to seek it in unhealthy ways
from other men. Thank you, Jesus, for this gift.

--2--

Baby K is peeking through the front of the stroller...it's like a Where's Waldo picture but I'm giving you the hint.
My sister and I took her three littles to our town's lilac festival last weekend! I'm treasuring these purposeful moments with friends and family. And I really can't get enough of my always-joyful nephews and niece.

--3--



Speaking of lilacs, I received this one five years ago at the first festival I went to. It was the same year I moved out of my parents' home into my apartment (fresh from a broken engagement, too). I planted it and cared for it these last several years and this is the FIRST year it BLOOMED!! What a beautiful gift to have it bloom the year I'm getting married. If you're struggling, don't give up! Keep hoping, keep persevering, keep watering your lilac...life will bloom for you. God is at work in the soil. 


--4--



Enjoying my last days of coffee on this deck in the morning. Oh, the memories at this sweet little place!!

--5--

But...joy of joys...

The front porch of our new home! 

I'll have a new coffee place in a month!


--6--

Lots of burlap, lace, and chalkboards. Thanks, Pinterest!

I'm so done with society's expectations of a wedding. As we near our day, I'm grateful we choose to do a lot of things ourselves. It added memories and subtracted costs. :) And though it's been tough to swim against the current of the wedding industry, there's a sweet joy in focusing on simplicity and the Sacrament of marriage. Here's a sample picture of our reception table decorations (on my carpet instead of the linen tablecloth ;) ). 

--7--

The babies are just chilling out on their "deck" to the left of the nest.

If you follow me on Instagram, you've seen my posts of this robin's nest and babies! The nest was just outside my sliding door, so I had the most fun watching all the stages of this life cycle-- from the momma on her eggs to the babies outgrowing their nest! What a miracle! Yet another delight during my last spring here...a small gift from my Heavenly Father, perhaps.

--Bonus!--

Thought I'd share a peek of our engagement pictures. We had a lot of fun with these! I'm so happy with our photographer! 




Have a lovely weekend, friends!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Why, hello there

Helloooo, my precious blog friends!!! And happy Friday night! It's been too long.


I think I'm back. And here to stay for awhile.


It's not that life was horrible and I needed to hide. It's not that life was all flowers and chocolate and I didn't think about you. I think I just needed a break.


But my fingers are itching for the keys and my heart is wanting your friendship again.


So I'm here. I can't fit all the details of the weeks into a single post (nor do I want to! That would be an exhausting read for you!), but I can tell you it's been a crazy, beautiful ride these months of engagement. And if I were to summarize it into one sentence, you know what one I'd choose?


I really need a Savior.


Isn't that a crazy sentence to describe an engagement? But it's so true! Because as P. and I have walked this new path together, I've realized it all comes back to Christ. When the going is good and life is brimming with joy and delight...it's all the more sweeter to remember the Giver and the purpose He has for our marriage. The joy is multiplied when we invite Him in, and when we work together for His people. And when the going gets tough, I can step back and remember that marriage isn't mean to make us happy, it's meant to make us holy (Thank you, Sacred Marriage!). And that involves some serious sanding of rough edges, let me tell you. Both of us have grown already during these seven months...it's actually really awesome to look back and see it over such a short period of time.


Our engagement season has been anything but perfect. And in our secular culture, there's an overwhelming amount of pressure that both the engagement and the wedding must be perfect. (Funny they don't seem to focus on the marriage part, though...). But guys...though our engagement season wasn't perfect, it has been absolutely beautiful.


Because I see how we grew through trials. We chose love time and time again. We held each other up in stress, grief, and fatigue. We learned more about sacrificial love. We honed our communication skills in the big decisions and discussions (like house hunting!). We held on to each other and let go of what wasn't important-- including the culture's expectations of engagement and weddings. It was messy. It was funny. It was difficult and exciting and overwhelming and fun. And so, so beautiful. Because grace is written all over it. Every moment.


Our wedding is two weeks from today. I don't know if it's all going to come together (I hope so!) but I do know God will be there. Marriage is going to take all three of us. And I couldn't be more grateful (or excited!) to be vowing faithfulness to the one I love, knowing he will lead me closer to the Heavenly One I love.


(It's midnight and I'm headed to a local festival in the morning with my sister and her littles, so I am off to bed! Next time I'll try to share some of the fun deets...like the house we closed on today! Rest in His love tonight!)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Loss

We're getting married in two months.

My dress needs altered.

We don't know where we're living.

We don't have all of the music selected.

And four weeks ago, life changed forever.


Because his dad died unexpectedly. 


We were in town with all of his siblings. For a baptism.

Welcoming a new little one into God's kingdom on earth...while his dad was welcomed into eternity.

And we're reeling.

I'm not his wife yet. I feel too fresh, too inexperienced, for this.

I'm floundering something fierce. Making mistakes left and right.

Loving imperfectly.


But somehow there's grace.


There's grace in knowing his dad was praying at the very moment of death. That he left an incredible legacy of the story of his life, his faith...and his family.

There's grace in seeing the man I'm going to marry be so beautifully tender and vulnerable...and so immeasurably strong and faithful. Watching him cling to the cross. And hold on to hope.

There's grace in watching the faith and strength of his mom as she trusts in the Lord unconditionally and still worships with joy.


But there's still pain.


Because he can't call his dad or hug his dad or ask him for advice.


The space between heaven and earth is wide.

And my inadequacy as an almost-wife feels deep.


Pray for us?


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

NAS: Qualities of a Husband


My internet time has been anything but consistent lately, so it was wonderful to spend some time this morning catching up on blogs. You all inspire me so much. I was particularly touched by this post and this post. Natasha has long been a blog-mentor for me and I know I'll continue to seek her wisdom in my first year of marriage. Britt Leigh reminded me to pause in the craziness of engagement and remember why I'm so grateful for my man! So I'm going to link up with the N.A.S. girls today, too. They're talking about desired qualities in a husband (and I hope they don't mind I'm joining in the discussion!).

P. and I had a marriage counseling session with my parish priest on Thursday and then on Saturday we went to an Joy-Filled Marriage retreat. Both sessions were intense and very helpful and fruitful! Seriously-- it's such a challenging, humbling season for a recovering perfectionist, a self-proclaimed introvert, a dramatic over-thinker (umm...yes, me). Because we're two unique individuals raised by two different sets of unique individuals...trying to become one with a God-breathed vision of a future lived for Him, together. It's exciting and beautiful and amazing...and kinda hard.

So I'm pausing today. Looking back at the qualities I desired in a husband, and how beautifully He fulfilled those desires in P.

A Country Boy- Okay, this one is kind of funny. This was one of my non-negotiables growing up...but P. is a total city boy. He worked in downtown Cleveland, he loves skyscrapers, he is energized by the hustle and bustle of the city. Thankfully, he appreciates my love for the country and he has his own love for God's creation in nature.

Solid in His Faith- check. check. check. He has a degree in Biblical Theology so the head knowledge is there, but even better is that it has traveled down to his heart, where there resides a beautifully sincere desire to know the Lord and grow in personal relationship with Him.

Close to Family- we both value our current families and the potential of our future family. He is very loving with his parents and siblings. His dad is paralyzed from the neck down, and it never fails to move me greatly seeing the two of them interact.

Intelligent- I'm pretty sure he's smarter than me. haha. We both love to read. He loves deep conversations and I try to keep up for the most part.

Attractive to Me- this was a big one! I really really wanted to be attracted to my husband! There was always the fear that I'd get a 'good' man but not one I was attracted to! Silly, untrusting woman that I was...(and still am so often!) Godly men are very attractive and this one still makes my heart flutter!!

A Great Leader- Though I love biblical femininity and desire a home modeled after Ephesians 5, I also am by nature a leader. I love leading in whatever ministries or opportunities the Lord provides, but I really wanted a man that I could look up to as the primary leader in spiritual matters and with a family. Though my stubbornness spunkiness still asserts itself occasionally when we disagree, I'm so grateful the Lord sent a man I can follow with respect and admiration.


There are also some qualities that weren't necessarily on my unwritten list but are such wonderful traits in P!...

A Great Communicator- I thought I was a great communicator but P has shown himself to be a wonderful example to learn from! (I still think it helps that he doesn't have all the crazy emotions we women have when we're trying to communicate!) He is steadfast, patient, and calm in the tough conversations, and excellent with conflict resolution.

Fun- he's really fun! I'm in my late 20's and he's in his early 30's, so I love that we both can still act like kids together! We both acknowledge that we take life too seriously, so I appreciate his lighthearted, silly side!

A Heart for the Poor- this one continues to challenge me and I know the Lord is using it to mold me into the woman He desires to be. P. has always loved the poor and wants to serve them in some radical ways throughout our life and marriage.

Great with Kids- even though I love kids, I never really thought about this quality as long as a man wanted a family and children. But P's gentle, creative side with our nephews and nieces is so endearing. I can't wait to see him as a dad.

Athletic- again, since we're 'older,' I sooo appreciate that we both love being active! Running, biking, tennis, basketball, frisbee-- it's so much fun to play sports together or be active outdoors (though he's the more athletic one-- I just like running around and being competitive!).

Social Skills- I'm always happy to introduce him to people or be together in a group setting. He's great at drawing out others in conversation, leading group prayer, being polite and genteel, and making a group outing fun.

So there we go! We certainly have our challenges at times and will continue to, but I am so deeply grateful for the manly (and godly!) qualities of P. as the Lord draws each of us--with our unique qualities-- together to grow in greater love for each other, for Him, and for the world.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Quick Takes Friday [vol. 19]



Well, hello, friends. It's Friday night again and almost a week since I wrote. (I think I missed a Wisdom for Wednesday...oopsies.)

I do believe we have a new host for this link-up. You can find all the other S.Q.T. friends hanging out with Kelly at her host blog. 

It's been a good week. It's always an adjustment after the holidays, though, you know?

--1--

I still have my Christmas decorations up. They're not really even looking tacky and I'm still enjoying the Christmas lights every morning. I'm pretty sure I'll take them down and pack them up this weekend, though, now that Epiphany has been celebrated-- and since my next favorite holiday is coming up: Valentine's Day. It's time for some pink and lace and hearts! And possibly a birthday... ;)

--2--

I made cheeseburger soup this week. Recipe?? Here you go. :) I love that it was cheesy and hearty, yet also had some healthy veggies in it.

--3--

We've had temperatures below 10 degrees for the last several days. On one morning, the digital sign at the bank read -10. Brrrr!!! Tomorrow P. and I are headed to the abortion clinic an hour away, where he hosts a monthly prayer vigil. It's always a sobering experience to be outside the facility but an inspiration to see those praying and hopeful despite the chill of the air and the chill of evil. God will triumph. We're on the winning side. We just need to be faithful soldiers and show up on the battlefield (or pray from afar).

--4--

I bought my wedding dress this week!! It was my second trip shopping and a totally different experience than the first! After my trip to the large chain store, I cried from feeling overwhelmed by $1000 dresses and feeling less than pretty compared to the models! This time I enjoyed a tiny, adorable local store where the name reminded me of Phillipians 4 (Rejoice). The employees were delightful and the dresses inexpensive! It was such a blessing to find a modest, inexpensive, lovely gown. I just can't think of spending hundreds of dollars on a dress for a day when I held starving babies in Haiti, you know? Every time I see the dress hanging in my spare room, it just doesn't feel real.  Pictures to come!

--5--

Speaking of weddings and such, this week has been such a lesson in putting God first and going back to God's plan for marriage and engagement. As soon as you search weddings on Pinterest or meet with any vendors, it's amazing how much pressure there is for the day to be elaborate, perfect, stunning, and so on. Even after buying my dress, I was a little worried that I didn't feel like it was "the one" as people say, or that I simply carried on with my day after the purchase instead of drooling over it. Then I realized that's exactly how it should be instead of idolizing a piece of clothing! This world. Sheesh! I think the devil really uses the materialism and pressure to pull our minds from focusing on the sacrament and the spiritual preparation. When I feel stressed or inadequate, I have to remind myself that we already have what we need for a wedding: a church, each other, and grace! :) 
This was my favorite article this week and brought me back to beautiful, godly reality.

--6--

Today I had three beautiful patients who reminded me of the joy, beauty, and grace we find in simplicity. These three each had a form of mental retardation, some more severe than others. Talking to them, smiling with them, holding one's hand during an IV needle poke...the simplest of interactions kept tugging at my heart. Because for all my stressing and worrying and yep, obsessing, these three reminded me that all we have is today. This moment. With so much for which to be grateful. So many gifts. So many gifts. 

--7--

It's Friday night! What are you up to? 

Get ready for my dazzling plans: washing dishes, tidying my room, and reading a book. 

Don't be jealous.

I think I'll even pour of mug of salted caramel hot chocolate.

Okay. Now be jealous.



Haha. Have a beautiful weekend, friends. I pray it's one of joy, peace, and refreshment.

Love and hugs,

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Turning the Page

This has been a beautiful holiday break. I mean, hey, it's 1:15pm and I'm cuddled in my chair with coffee, the Little Dog, and a Christmas quilt. Does it get any more cozy than this?

Quiet simplicity and time for reflection. My soul is happily expanding.

I'm reflecting on 2014. And looking ahead at 2015. I'm thinking about all of you. Some of you have been with me the past several years...maybe even some of you since the blog started. You, too, have caused my soul to expand with your own stories, your comments, your love and encouragement. God uses everything. Even (especially?) the internet. To connect His children. The kindred spirits I'd never have known if it weren't for the blog. So thank you. For being with me on the journey.

This past year was full of sunshine and storms and much grace. The beginning of the year found me lost in Paris. No joke. Stranded alone at an airport without a working cell phone and only a French phrase book to guide me. Pretty much an emergency course in trusting God's providence and protection. But all is well as I sit in my American home a year later, realizing with His help I conquered the metro system and my fears.

February found me reeling from a second break-up with my now-fiance. Even on heart-sharing blogs, there must be some things kept in a private corner of the heart. So though I want to share more details, and certainly would if you were across from me with your own coffee mug in hand, I'll simply repeat that God uses everything. I never doubted P.'s love for me, but both of us painfully separated to figure out what God really wanted from us. What a time of surrender and being covered by grace. Of being stripped of everything but the present moment. Of learning to pray with an open hand and heart, confused but earnestly desiring God to make His plan known whatever it might be. If you're going through your own storm right now, my heart is with you. I have tears in my eyes as I write this because hearts that have been broken love best and care most. Lean into Him, friend. He is enough. He does love you and has not forgotten you, even when you don't understand His ways.

I resigned from my manager position with the crisis pregnancy center this spring. It was a difficult decision (to put it mildly) but seemed best when I looked at the neglected areas of my life due to a too busy and stressful schedule. I'm still able to volunteer for them and have more one-on-one contact with clients, including performing ultrasounds-- my true passion. So though I miss the leadership role, I think this current role is perfect for this season and I look forward to how the Lord will use all my experiences in the future to promote a culture of life.

The summertime found me traveling to Tennessee with a carload of 6 girlfriends en route to our cabin in the mountains! We called our Facebook planning group "Epic Tennessee Adventure" and looking back, I can't think of a better description! It was an adventure, and it was epic. I learned how to cook on a charcoal grill, prayed devotions with the girls on our cabin deck, braved class 4 white water rafting, hiked the Smokies, and soaked in a hot tub with my sisters while Dollywood shot off fireworks in the distance. Traveling is such a bonding experience (and it can bring out the worst in us, too, haha!); this trip was a treasured gift and memory.

Then in October, there's this fairy tale where the dragon is slain, the forests are navigated, and all of a sudden I have this diamond on my left hand, the man I love before me, and overflowing joy in my heart. It's humbling and crazy and amazing and messy and indescribably beautiful. Our time apart has solidified our foundation in Christ and I am forever grateful. For all of it. Our God is in the business of redeeming everything we give Him...especially ourselves.

So this 2014 stuff: lost in Paris, then found in Tennessee. A broken heart then a heart that overflows (Psalm 45:1). What can happen in a year...

Now I'm turned the page. 2015. Marriage. Moving. Life as I know it is changing. Will you stay with me, my friends? You who have traveled with me, who send emails and comment love, who remind me time and again how beautiful are human hearts? I invite you into my journey of 2015, my heart and my life. I hope you will let me walk with you, too.

Grace upon grace,

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"The Christmas story has an unconventional hero-- not a warrior, not a worldly conqueror, not an individual at all, but rather a family."

"The family is the key to Christmas. The family is the key to Christianity. Pope Saint John Paul II noted that everything good--history, humanity, salvation--'passes by way of the family.' When God came to save us, he made salvation inseparable from family life, manifest in family life. "

"The truth of Christmas begins with a family...And now the heritage is ours! We are Christ's family, and so the joy of Christmas belongs to us."

-Joy to the World, by Scott Hahn