May: Birthday Week And Then Some

I have a confession: I love cake. If there is a celebration where cake is involved and I refuse cake, it would be wise to make sure that I am not very ill and on the verge of dying. Cake is the perfect complement to any celebration–light, sweet, and delicious. A day when I can enjoy a slice of cake is a good day. When life allows an entire week of enjoying cake almost every single day, that week is bound to be a memorable and important week.

Cue April 30-May 5, 2013.

April 30

A group of friends and I decided to surprise our younger friends on the college campus where we all met. We all became friends through a campus ministry organization, so what better way to surprise our friends than by crashing the last meeting of the year for that ministry? Our group of alumni first met up for dinner on the opposite side of campus. When we are all together, especially for the first time in a very long time, we become that group of obnoxiously loud, always laughing people. We may or may not have actually scared the girlfriend of one of the guys as she met us for the first time. She’s still friends with all of us, so we couldn’t have scared her THAT much ;) After we ate, we headed across campus to put our plan into action. We gathered in the kitchen next to the meeting room where the campus group meets. Excitement was bursting out of all of us. We tried to keep our voices down, but the more we whispered, the more excited we got for our plan. Once we were all ready, we opened the door, yelled, “SURPRISE!!!” and ran out of the kitchen. Sean, a fellow alumni who had taken up a leadership role in the club after graduation, went around and picked as many of us as he could hold in one hug off the ground out of sheer excitement, until he had picked up all of us.

 

The night was spent laughing, sharing stories, and taking pictures. It also happened that one of the underclassmen had a birthday that week. A cake was bought for that person. Well, once there was word that a birthday cake was involved, Megan and a few others made sure that the whole room knew that my birthday was only a couple of days away. When “Happy Birthday” was sung, I was included. A night with dear friends, in the place that brought us all together, celebrating Jesus, laughter, and a bonus birthday cake? Yes, please.

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(Most of these photos are courtesy of my lovely friend Kristen).

May 1

May 1st was the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner for Sam & Krystle‘s wedding. I made sure to get out of work on time and went right to the wedding venue. Under most circumstances, a rehearsal is done the day/night before the wedding, but the only day that was available with the venue was one in the middle of the week. One of the other bridesmaids, Leanne, had gotten engaged since the last time I saw her. Before she even said hello, she jumped up and down and showed me her gorgeous ring. We ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the ring and chatted until everyone who was able to make to the rehearsal arrived.

We went through the details of how we were to be lined up and who would walk in when. We then did a practice run. Rocky, our maitre d’, was impressed that I knew how to lead off the bridesmaids with an appropriately timed walk, even though I told him that I had the same responsibility in January. ;) Once we all got to our places, Rocky was explaining to Krystle and Sam more details of the day. Leanne and I were talking and joking around. I noticed that the lighting was AMAZING and snapped some photos on my phone.

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The rehearsal itself was pretty short. Soon enough, we were getting ready to leave to head to the dinner. Krystle’s dad asked if we all knew how to get to the house. The rehearsal dinner was being held at Krystle’s childhood home–which is three blocks away from my house. Growing up, the easiest way to see if she was home was to stand in the middle of our street and look to see if there were any cars at her house. I responded to her dad, “Umm…..I am not quite sure…….”  to which he gave me a look, smiled, laughed, and hugged me. Even though Krystle and I have been friends since 6th grade, her dad never hugged me until that moment. It was finally the right moment for a hug. :)

The dinner was good all around–good food, good conversations, good company, good dessert, good laughs. Even though the night was celebrating Krystle and Sam, when it was time for cake, part of me couldn’t help but see the moment as half celebrating the happy couple and half celebrating my birthday. It was the day before my birthday, and I got cake and gifts. This thought was given more validity when Krystle and Sam presented the bridal party with gifts for being part of their wedding. We ended the night seeing our bouquets, figuring out some last minute details, and almost everyone practicing the dance to “Gangam Style.”

May 2

HAPPY 25TH BIRTHDAY TO ME!!! I celebrated by working at returns from 10 am-7 pm. Of course, there were some crazy/stressful moments, but the fact that it was my birthday made the stress not a big deal. On my lunch break, I got free Chick-Fil-A and free Rita’s water ice.  After work, I came home, opened my gifts, had a little bit of family time, read all of the birthday posts on my Facebook wall and then had to get to sleep early, as I had to open the next morning at work.  I did not have my birthday cake on my birthday because I have problems as it is getting a good night’s sleep before an opening without having a sugary dessert right before bed. Free Rita’s water ice made up for the lack of cake.

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May 3

I worked in the morning. My family and I went out to dinner to celebrate my birthday. I chose Applebees as the restaurant. After we ate, we went home and I finally had my birthday cake. I had no idea what kind of cake my mom had made me. Prior to my birthday, I kept asking her for sprinkles on my cake. She kept telling me no. No part of me could understand why my mom, of all people, was not allowing me to have sprinkles on my birthday cake! When she opened the cake pan and I saw the cake, she explained why she had been so “mean” about the sprinkles. If there had been sprinkles on my cake, the smiley face would have looked diseased!

bday_cake_dinner

May 4

Birthday cake is never finished the first day. I’m positive that at some point, I enjoyed some more birthday cake, because why not? It was still my birthday week and completely acceptable.

In the evening, Krystle, Gina, and I met up to get our nails done for Krystle’s wedding. While we were in the salon, I also saw a friend from church and her daughter and took a few minutes to talk to them. While we were talking, I also saw Sam’s brother and his girlfriend. Apparently the thing to do the evening before your brother’s wedding is to take your girlfriend on a date to the mall. Who knew.

dodge_nails

After our nails were done, we drove over to Michael’s, since Krystle still needed to get her “something blue.” We walked back to the ribbon section and rummaged through the ones on sale and found a cute, small ribbon with blue bows on it. We walked up front, Krystle paid, and we got in our cars. Krystle took Gina back to her parent’s house, where she was sleeping over. I drove home, picked up all of my stuff for the next day (dress, shoes, bag, etc.) and  went over to Krystle’s house to drop off my stuff. I put my things in what used to be Krystle’s bedroom (but was now being used as our dressing room). Krystle, Gina, and I talked for a little bit. I don’t even know what we talked about, except we were SO excited and giddy. The day was finally almost here!!!! I did not stay long. Once I got home, I took a shower and got my last minute stuff ready. I tried to get to sleep early, but I probably did not get to sleep as early as I wanted.

May 5

“He doesn’t want to heal you. He wants to resurrect you.” Moment Maker, Carlos Whittaker

The wedding of Sam and Krystle, a day that was one of the best days of my life. This day deserves it’s own entry (or a handful of entries). Be on the lookout for this!

(And yes, there was cake at the wedding).

 Dodges_teaser

Other highlights of the month of May include celebrating my Mom’s birthday, playing one game of softball with my church team, and deciding to go for a run after the game. Going for a run might not sound like a big deal, but it was the beginning of a new chapter in my life.

 

May 2013 is a year that will be hard to top with any birthday celebrations in the near future.

 

 

 

 

Categories: 2013:Immeasurably More | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Re-Learning To Dream

I have always been creative. As a young child, my creations were fueled by my never-ending imagination and by the dreams that come along with an active imagination. When I painted something, there were no limits or rules to what could come out as my final product. Rules of reality did not necessarily apply. When I wrote a story, I was in charge of creating new worlds and new people and new stories for the people to live out. If I had a dream and it didn’t work out exactly as I had hoped it would, I was not fazed. Failure was just an opportunity to re-work the original idea and make it better than before.

Somehow, without realizing it, I have become a boring grown-up who has forgotten how to dream.

I recently made a list of dreams for my life–big dreams, small dreams, and everything in between. I tried as hard as possible to not hold anything back or edit myself as I wrote. I took time in crafting the list over the course of a few days. I knew that the list would not ever be finished, as dreaming without abandon leads to more dreams being thought up.

But even my well thought-out list was lacking.

I didn’t realize what it was until I was laying in bed a couple of nights ago. I was tired from work, but my mind was still wide awake. Sleep wasn’t going to come until my mind wore itself out. I had a thought of, “Since I know that I have my birthday weekend off this year, how should I spend my birthday?” It wasn’t long before ideas jumped out at me, eager to be seen. As the ideas came, I caught myself thinking, “Wait, I’m allowed to dream about this? It’s not selfish?!?” The same question came in my mind during a recent time of prayer at church. “Jesus, I’m allowed to dream like that?! Really?!?”

Somewhere along the line, I’ve come to believe that to allow myself to dream is a selfish action.

I could come up with many reasons as to why I’ve fallen into that thought pattern. But, perhaps, the real reasoning is one that I never thought of until I caught myself asking for permission to dream. My head is a fierce protector of my heart. It makes sense–responsibility balancing out a free spirit–but sometimes protection is the last thing my heart needs. I can’t help but wonder if dreaming has been pushed to the back burner as a way of protecting my heart because my head has seen dream after dream NOT come true, forgetting about the wonderful and amazing dreams that have come true in my life. It’s a battle between my head and my heart, between fear and freedom. Dreaming for other people–easy and thrilling. I love dreaming with other people about their lives. Dreaming about my life when I was a kid came as naturally to me as breathing. I had no fear in telling people about my dreams. As an adult, it is easy to dream the big dreams for my future. Dreaming the small, everyday dreams is the challenge for me–“Shouldn’t I be thinking about other people and how to help them and serve them and love them instead of dreaming about things that may never happen? I don’t want to be selfish, so I just won’t dream. Besides, what if that dream doesn’t come true? Then I would have wasted time and the opportunity/effort of helping someone else when they needed it.”

What I’m realizing now is that to not dream is the selfish option.

To not dream is to withhold a defining part of me from the people around me.
To not dream is to not give someone else the courage and inspiration to dream their own dreams.
To not dream is to not see opportunities to make the world a better place.
To not dream is to not grow as a human being.
To not dream is to underestimate and water-down my potential in life.
To not dream is to walk around in the muck and mire of life when I’m meant to soar through the air in freedom.

I know that not every single dream that I dream will come true. I can’t be afraid to dream because it might not come true. The crazy thing about dreams is that some of them do come true!

From today on, I will allow myself to dream the same way as when I was a child. Not only will I dream, but I will work towards turning the dreams into reality, even when it seems as if my efforts are in vain. I will allow Jesus to bring new dreams into my life, no matter how crazy they seem. I will dream for others. I will dream for myself. I will live life as a dreamer.

 

(Image credit: Disney’s Pinterest)

Categories: Dreaming Dreams | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Single Is Not Second-Class

This is part one of a short series that I am writing with my sister. We are taking on common misconceptions in Christian circles about dating and trying to reconcile them with real life situations. Whatever your relationship status–be it happily married, engaged, in a serious relationship, divorced, single and loving it, single and hating it, a complicated relationship–we hope and pray that our words are able to encourage you.

I’ve heard it all. As a single woman in her mid-twenties who has grown up in the Church, I’ve come across every possible opinion of what dating looks like for a believer in Jesus. I’ve read the books. I’ve heard the sermons. “You should date.” “Don’t date at all.” “Courting is the way to go.” “No missionary dating.” “If you do X, Y, and Z, God will reward you with your future spouse.” “A relationship will happen when you least expect it.” If you attend a Christian college or work at a Christian summer camp, you know that you are expected to walk away from it, hand in hand with your future spouse. The mentality of “ring by spring” is serious business.

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I know the intentions behind every one of those statements are to give young adults guidance and direction, yet I can’t help but wonder–why is so much emphasis placed on being in a dating relationship? Why is there an unspoken mentality that being single in your mid-twenties signifies that there is something wrong with you?

I hate when people, upon learning that I am single, respond with pity in their voice. “Aww, I’m sorry to hear that.” There is always a part of me that wants to respond: “Why are you sorry that I am single?” Before I have a chance to respond, they are almost always giving me advice that I didn’t ask for, advice that I’ve heard before time and time again. “Enjoy this season of singleness while it lasts, but don’t worry, it will be your turn soon.”

Marriage with my earthly husband is not the end goal of my life.

Marriage will be part of my life, yes, but not the end goal. The end goal of my life is to live fully for Jesus, to do what He asks me to, in preparation for the glorious day of His marriage to the Church. My relationship status should not define or limit me in the context of following after Jesus. I am not any less significant because I do not have a significant other.

For many years, I prayed for my future husband to be brought into my life as soon as possible. I had bought into the lie that if I wasn’t dating “by my age,” that there was something wrong with me. I felt pressure all around me to enter into a dating relationship as soon as possible, because “time is a-tickin’.” I am no longer praying for my future husband to come RIGHT NOW, simply because I don’t want my impatience to cloud my vision of what is before me in this moment. Serving and loving Jesus is the best adventure possible, whether you are single or married. Right now, I am single—and in love with Jesus. When I am dating, I will still be in love with Jesus. When I am married, I will still be in love with Jesus. I do not have to wait until marriage to experience the full life that Jesus promised. It is available for the taking, so today I will grab hold of it with all that I have. I will do the same tomorrow and each day until I see Jesus face to face.

andthatswhoiam_single_free

(image credit: and that’s who I am)
Categories: Love & Dating | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Spring Is In The Air

I’m trying something new with today’s post and participating in my first blog link-up.

In Its Time

What is spring like where you live? Spring weather in New Jersey is crazy. Take today, for example, even though it is technically still winter. Our high temperature is near 70 degrees. Tonight, a cold front is coming through that will bring rain and possibly thunderstorms. Tomorrow morning, there is a good chance that the rain from tonight will be frozen. The high for tomorrow is around 30 degrees. Even with the changes in the temperatures, I love the weather of spring. It is always a welcome change from the frigid months of winter and also is an opportunity to look forward to the glorious warmth of summer.

What’s your favorite springtime accessory? I would have to say either my TOMS or a pair of flip-flops.

Do you have any springtime traditions? Go to Rita’s and get a free water ice on the first day of spring. The few years in college when I was not in the country for the first day of spring, I definitely missed going to Rita’s.
EDIT: I can’t believe I forgot to include our Easter pancake breakfast at church and family Easter dinner/Easter egg hunt! The Easter pancake breakfast is something that our family has done forever. We have a certain table where we always sit. My sister and I still manage to be the first ones in line, every year.

What is your favorite spring treat? Strawberry lemonade and Rita’s water ice, even though I enjoy them past springtime. Hmm, I wonder if Rita’s has a strawberry lemonade flavor…

Favorite spring holiday? Easter. I also consider my birthday to be a holiday, so I’m including that as well. ;)

What’s your favorite thing to do in the spring? I love being able to go outside without wearing 1548318 layers of clothing. I love having a nice day to go down the shore. I love that the days get longer. I love seeing flowers bloom.

And here’s bonus challenge for you over-achievers: find and capture your favorite sign of spring and tell us about the photo!

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I took this photo in 2011, I believe, at one of the “I need to get off of campus” places (near my college) that I frequented.  There is one tree in particular that I have become quite fond of. Having the chance to come back and see that tree grow in different seasons allowed me to see myself in the growth.

Categories: Blog Link-Ups, Spring | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

April: Hidden Gems

April 2013 started just like any other month–I did not have anything major planned, aside from preparing for my friends’ wedding the next month. Yes, I had work and other routine things, but I didn’t enter the month with excited anticipation for what was about to happen.

Yet, 2013 was the year of immeasurably more. I should have been expecting the immeasurably more from the get go. Jesus was waiting with joy and excitement to show my heart immeasurably more.

For many years, Ocean City has held a special place in my heart. It is by far my favorite shore town to visit. I have fond memories from my whole life, spent in different parts of the city. When there was a day in early April of temperatures soaring to the upper 80′s and lower 90′s, I took full advantage of the fact that I had not been scheduled to work. I made it the first beach day of the year. I started my day at one of the more secluded parts of the shoreline. When I visit Ocean City on my own, I almost always have the same goals for the day:

  1. Have time alone with Jesus
  2. Go for a short run on the beach
  3. Stick at least my toes in the water
  4. Eat Manco’s & Manco’s pizza
  5. Enjoy Kohr Brother’s ice cream or Rita’s water ice
  6. Avoid getting a horrible sunburn
  7. Take photos

I successfully accomplished all of those goals on that visit to Ocean City. I had wonderful conversations with Jesus as I embraced His presence relaxing my soul.  My run was very short, but it was the first time that I had run in a couple of years. Slow progress is better than no progress. The water was still painfully cold, regardless of the warm air temperatures, but I did get my feet wet. I had delicious pizza for lunch, followed by chocolate ice cream and rainbow sprinkles. If you look closely in the photo of the ice cream, you might even notice that I drew a smiley face on one of my nails. Joy was all around me and flowing through me that day. I avoided sunburn by looking in a handful of stores during the hottest part of the day. The winds shifted in the afternoon to a sea breeze and were chilly enough to force me to buy a sweatshirt. It’s rather hard to get sunburn when you are covered up. ;)

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This visit to Ocean City was important for me, not just because I was able to enjoy an unseasonably warm day in one of my favorite places on Earth. It was a chance for me to express my deep gratitude to God for the freedom that He was bringing to my heart in a life-changing way.  Since 2011, I have been praying for God to let me see myself the way that He sees me. Praying such a simple phrase has led me on the most amazing of adventures with God. 2013, the year of “immeasurably more” has allowed me to experience many moments where I thought that my heart simply would burst if it were filled with any more joy. This one day in April was a celebration of what I thought was the fullness of God revealing one of the major ways that He sees me–as beautiful. My time at the beach ended with me dancing in joy and worship before God after I wrote the words “Freedom in JESUS =)” in the sand with my fingers. When God brings freedom to your heart, you can’t just keep it to yourself. Sometimes, the best way to share it with the world is to write it on the beach of Ocean City.

Freedom_On_Beach

Other highlights from the month of April:

*Going out to dinner with my family to Cracker Barrel. We don’t get the chance to eat out a lot, so any time we can all go, it’s a good night. Mom had won a gift card from Cracker Barrel on Facebook, so we used it for our dinner.  Her gift card was for $50, and without trying, our total was $49.87. We could not have gotten any closer if we had tried!

*I helped Mom and Dad re-paint their bedroom.

*A coffee/hot chocolate date at Starbucks with a friend from church that ended up being a four-hour long event. We shared our hearts with each other, and quickly realized that sometimes sharing your heart is not a speedy process. We ended our time by walking around the mall, my proving to her that I could fit in a kid’s chair outside of one of the stores, and dancing in Bath & Body Works with the cashier (who is also one of my friends) to “Good Time” by Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen. I found a fragrance that I loved, and knew would be using for my friends’ wedding in just a few short days.

*A semi-spontaneous meet up with some of my college friends. I’ll post more about this in my entry about May, as I consider that night part of “Birthday Week” (which is in the beginning of May) more than I consider it to be one of the events of April, even though it happened the last day of the month.

It’s always a good time.

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Categories: 2013:Immeasurably More, identity | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know (Valentine’s Edition)

Valentine’s Day and I have a love-hate relationship. I love love. I love celebrating the fullness, depth, and variety of love that this world has to offer. I love getting cards and candies. I hate how Valentine’s Day has come to be a day of exalting romantic relationships, while disparaging singleness. I know I am single and do not need extra reminders–20% off Something Sweet For Your Sweetheart, Top Ten Ways To Know He’s Your Man, Half Off Dinner With Your Other Half–everywhere I look.

Earlier this week, I stopped by Kohl’s after work. I went in to just have a jewelry associate measure my fingers so that I could finally know what ring size I am. I had found a couple of beautiful rings online, but didn’t want to buy the wrong size. Before I got to the jewelry department, sales racks caught my attention. 60, 70, and 80% off are the prices that I can afford at Kohl’s. I looked through a few sales racks, and then found myself meandering through the departments. After awhile, I did make it over to the jewelry section. I was in no rush, and continued to take my time as I looked over the many beautiful items. I did get my fingers sized for rings as I chatted with a sales associate.

I was about to leave the store and run a few more errands before I went home, but a couple of sales racks that I had not looked through before grabbed my attention. It couldn’t hurt to look through a few more racks. I looked through the clothing, not looking for anything in particular, and not even expecting to find anything that I wanted to buy. I knew that I was going to be buying myself a ring online soon, and didn’t have extra money to buy clothes that I didn’t really need.

In my relationship with Jesus, I have found out, through many experiences, that Jesus loves to surprise my heart in very intimate ways. He knows my heart and knows what it takes to make me smile, to fill me with joy, and what it takes for me to feel–and know–that I am loved by Him.

* * *

Months ago, my sister and I were at Kohl’s. I saw an adorable pair of jeans by Lauren Conrad. Up until last year, I had never even heard of Lauren Conrad. When I went Easter dress shopping and a beautiful dress from Lauren Conrad fit me like a glove, I became a fan of her clothing line. The day I was with my sister, I tried on a pair of Lauren Conrad jeans. Finding jeans that fit me is a huge challenge, as I am small and short. Most times, I end up buying short jeans and have to have them hemmed. The Lauren Conrad jeans fit me perfectly. I showed my sister and was beaming with joy. Unfortunately, Lauren Conrad clothing is a bit out of my price range, and her jeans are no exception. I left the store without the jeans, and soon forgot about the experience.

But Jesus had not forgotten.

* * *

I passed hanger after hanger on the sales rack, unimpressed with the selection before me. I saw a pair of Lauren Conrad jeans among the articles of clothing. I recognized them instantly as the ones I had loved many months prior–light blue with small white hearts printed on the denim. My heart started to beat faster with excitement as my fingers worked faster to get to the jeans. I’ve learned from almost every past shopping experience to not get my hopes up, especially in regards to jeans, especially in regards to jeans on the clearance rack.  My heart couldn’t help but to be excited–could they really be my size?! I pulled them off of the rack and looked at the tag.

The jeans were my size–a size that rarely makes it to the clearance rack, because of its popularity. This one pair in my hands was the only pair of this design left in the entire store–and online–and it was my size.

I turned the price tag over, to see if they really were on clearance, or if another customer placed them on the 80% off rack out of convenience. They were on clearance, and within my price range.

Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Some people might say that my finding a pair of jeans is not God at work–it’s simply that I was lucky that day. Some people might say that there are more important things for God to be taking care of than giving me a pair of jeans as a gift from His heart. To me, these jeans–jeans that I would never have considered buying a couple of years ago because of their delicate beauty–are a visible sign of God’s faithfulness. Between the time that I found the jeans and ended up buying them, I did not pray, asking God to bless me with those jeans. I didn’t save up money for them. I simply continued to delight myself in the Lord and follow His leading in this adventure called life.  Even when we cannot see it, God is at work in our lives. Sometimes, He is quiet, simply because He is working on preparing a surprise for you.  The Bible speaks multiple times of our Heavenly Father giving good gifts to His children. Sometimes, the good gifts He gives come in the form of designer blue jeans, on the 80% off clearance rack at Kohl’s, with an additional coupon that I used from my e-mail, as an early Valentine’s Day present.

I have not forgotten you. Happy Valentine’s Day, my beloved.

valentines_jeans

He is our Portion, and we are His prize

Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes

If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking

So Heaven meets Earth like a sloppy wet kiss

My heart turns violently inside my chest

I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way that He loves us

Categories: Simple Joys | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

March: The Celebrations Continue (Part Two)

To my few faithful readers: I apologize for the gap of time between my last entry being posted and this entry being posted. I will try to be more consistent in my writing and publishing from here on out!

I love dreaming. One dream that I hold in my  heart is to serve on the World Race (an 11 month mission trip to 11 different countries) someday. Many people who go on this trip get a lot of their gear from a store called REI. My dad goes to REI on occasion to purchase biking gear. World Race dreams aside, ever since I first heard of REI, I knew it was a store I would love to shop in. Camping gear, hiking gear, biking gear, fitness gear–what’s not for an outdoors-loving tomboy to enjoy? Every time we receive a catalog from REI or L.L. Bean in the mail, I flip through it, dreaming of the many adventures that can be had.

My dad needed to go up to REI one Saturday in March to pick up his bike, after getting it fitted with a new gadget. I did not have to work until that evening, so I was able to go with him to our nearest REI store (about an hour away). I was officially going as an interpreter of sorts–translating any tech-talk he didn’t understand for him–but I also knew that I was being given the opportunity to see a dream unfold in front of my eyes.

It’s not very often that my dad and I are able to just have one-on-one hangout time for half a day. My heart deeply treasured our conversations throughout the day. After we were done at REI, Dad and I went to lunch at Panera Bread. It was my first time eating at a Panera Bread. I had heard many good things about this restaurant from a plethora of people, and was excited to finally see what all the hype was about. Panera Bread did not disappoint, at all. The snow falling outside complemented the warm, cozy, and inviting environment of the restaurant. All in all, this day spent with Dad ranks as one of my favorite days spent with just Dad in recent memory.

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* * *

One of my favorite annual traditions is getting free water ice from Rita’s on the first day of spring. It’s free water ice. How can there be anything wrong with that arrangement? The only way one could not enjoy free water ice is if someone has never had water ice. If that is you, I feel for you.  I celebrated the first day of spring with a friend from church. We did get our free water ice, but also simply enjoyed spending the day together. At one point, we were driving around and saw a beautiful sight of light breaking through the clouds. We were at a stop sign, and just stared at the sky, in awe of God. I took a photo, but the photo does no justice to what we saw.

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Later on that evening, I found out that my cousin and her husband were expecting their first child! This cousin, only a year older than me, was one of my closest friends growing up. Their news brought great joy to my heart. :)

* * *

My life does not just revolve around fun activities with friends and family. I work part-time at Home Depot. In March 2013, I had worked there for just over two years. I had my annual review in March, even though I had gotten hired in February and should have had my review in February. My review went very well. It went well, just like every other review I’ve had at this job. That is, until I saw one word–a word that I had desired to see since my very first review, a word that I had worked very hard to earn it being said about me–”promotable.” Unfortunately, I did not write much about this occasion, as monumental as it was, because quite honestly, I was in a whirlwind of emotions and events that week. Seeing with my own eyes that all of my hard work was not in vain gave me much needed value and confidence.

promotable

***

Bridal showers are an opportunity to both celebrate and to dream. It’s a continued celebration of the lucky couple’s relationship and a chance to dream about the new adventures they are sure to experience in the newest chapter of their lives. My friend Krystle‘s wedding was in early May, so a Saturday in March was the best time to throw a bridal shower. She was not surprised about the shower–her maid of honor flew up from North Carolina to be part of it and stayed with Krystle. There were a few bumps in planning the shower, but in the end, everything worked out well.

krystle_shower

Since Krystle’s maid of honor was unable to come up another weekend in between the bridal shower and the wedding, the bridal party surprised Krystle with her bachelorette night after the bridal shower was finished. We got manicures, drove to Krystle’s favorite restaurant in Ocean City for dinner, took a quick walk on the beach, and went back to her parent’s house for a Pirates of the Caribbean marathon (in which we all quoted most of the movie). One of the bridesmaids made us matching T-shirts and also decorated drink glasses for each of us. She did an amazing job, and those small touches made the evening more special. When we were in Ocean City, we ended up going to the beach just a couple of blocks away from where a group of ladies from my church were on a retreat. I joked about just walking in to say hello to them–and almost did–but decided to not intrude on what could very well have been a serious time of prayer or discussion. The night was simple, but sometimes it is the simple moments that are the most memorable.

krystle_ocnight

***

A month of celebration is not complete without a birthday celebration. My cousin and wife had a combined birthday party for one of their sons and one of their daughters in the end of March. Their son had just turned one, and their daughter was about to turn nine. The theme of the day was cowboys and cowgirls. We all donned bandanas or straw hats as part of the festivities. Even though I am not able to see my cousin and his family on a regular basis (due to driving distance and my ever changing schedule), seeing his kids grow up brings great joy to my heart.

cousins_bday

***

March’s celebrations were finished off with the celebration of the greatest event in human history–the celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. I attended our church’s Good Friday service, where our pastor shared about how the cross is not just a symbol of Christianity, the cross is also personal–to Jesus and to us. Easter celebrations started with an annual family tradition–a pancake breakfast at the church I grew up in. My sister and I still managed to be the first ones in line. ;)  After the pancake breakfast, I drove over to my current church, where I had breakfast number two. The sermon delivered by our pastor was about how Jesus was focused on going home to God the Father–to Daddy, to Papa. My notes that day end with “Your power comes in your relationship with God the Father.”  Little did I know in those moments how God would reveal His heart to me as my Heavenly Father throughout the rest of the year, in major ways. After church, I drove home for Easter dinner at our house. Our house was full of people, but to quote singer TobyMac, “Love is in the house and the house is packed.” I would much rather celebrate with a full house of love than an empty house of hate.

Easter

 

Whew, what a month!

 

Categories: 2013:Immeasurably More | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

March: The Celebrations Continue (Part One)

Of all the months that span the season of winter, March is my favorite. Perhaps the fact that makes my heart happy during March is the fact that winter ends and spring begins. Perhaps it is because I have had many wonderful experiences in March over the years. Whatever the reason is, March 2013 has earned its place in the record books.

The month started with what was supposed to be a normal family dinner at my grandmom’s house. My cousin, his wife, and two children were preparing to leave the United States to serve overseas as missionaries. They had made a trip up to New Jersey (from Tennessee) to see family and friends in this area one last time before they moved to their new country. At the last minute, my grandmom was unable to host guests at her house, due to a plumbing issue. My grandmom, at first, was worrying about how the dinner would continue. She had already made the food. Understandably, she was upset. Thankfully, my parents volunteered our house as the location to gather for the meal. My dad drove over to her house to help her transport the food back to our house.  Mom-Mom even brought over a jar of chocolate chip cookies, because what is a family dinner without dessert?

Ever since I was a little girl, I have been inspired by people who chose to live overseas as missionaries. One of  my lifelong dreams has been to serve as a missionary overseas (for more than just a week). Since I am unable to do that right now, the next best thing is to soak up everything that my cousin has to say about his new country. My cousin’s wife was unable to attend our dinner, because she was visiting a friend (in the area) from college. I had not been able to see my cousin or his two boys since 2009, so our family dinner brought peace and joy to my soul. I would have loved the night to last longer, but before my cousin left, he did extend an offer for me to visit him and his family in his new country (or one nearby). We agreed that the next photo we took together would be in a different country. I cannot wait for that day!

March_fam_dinner

The young adult group at my church decided to go out to lunch at a hibachi restaurant after church on March 10. It was my first time at a hibachi restaurant–I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew that the time spent with friends would be treasured in my heart, no matter what happened. I loved the entire experience. After we finished our luch, a few of us walked across the parking lot to get coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts. I have yet to acquire a taste for coffee, but I enjoyed the conversations that were taking place. A handful of us then decided to get ice cream. Wonderful conversations–the type that make you linger and savor every moment–were a grand finale to the day. My heart was teeming with delight once I finally made my way home.

hibachi

There are two days in the month of March that I celebrate because of their major significance in my spiritual life. March 13 is the day I was baptized. March 15 is the day that God spoke to and wrecked my heart on my first overseas mission trip. To me, these days are just as important as my birthday. I always do something special on March 13th and 15th as a way of remembering these meaningful moments. This year, I celebrated by treating myself to Chick-Fil-A on my lunch break at work (Fun fact: Our Chick-Fil-A opened on March 15, 2012. Yet another reason I love March 15ths!). I ordered a breakfast sandwich and ice cream, even though it was only 9 or 9:30 in the morning. A celebration isn’t a celebration without ice cream!

cfa_ice_cream

Since 2013 is the year of immeasurably more, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that God had even more incredible gifts to give me.  Yet the night ended with God showing off His goodness to my heart in very intimate ways. God knows how to give good gifts, and every March 15 since 2008 is proof of that–including March 15, 2013.  My heart was surprised when God lavished His love on me that night, but in the best way possible.

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Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Dear Writer’s Block (WB),

I’ve never written a break-up letter before, thanks to you. I’ve had these feelings and thoughts in my head for some time now, but whenever I wanted to write them down, you wouldn’t let me. You have strived so hard to become first in my life, and now you have finally earned it. You are the inspiration and the reason for my first break-up letter.

I don’t appreciate your visits or your rudeness. Yes, for awhile we were friends. I knew you were around as much as you could, but I never understood why. I couldn’t figure you out. You showed up at inopportune times and made yourself at home–even when I didn’t want you around or when I told you to leave. Your arrival was always announced from the top of your lungs. If I ignored you, you hovered around me until I was forced to acknowledge you.  Once I acknowledged you, I had given you what you had desired the most–my attention.  You then started up a conversation with me–the same idea every time, disguised by fancy words and a convincing tone.

WB, I’m on to you. I can now see you for what you really are.

You are insecure.

You are anxious.

You are afraid.

You are a liar.

You are a thief.

You are selfish.

 

How did I come to see all of these things after an extended period of time of hanging around you and not seeing them?

Well, for as long as I’ve known you, there has been someone who I have known longer. They recently came back into my life. The relationship that I have with them has never been a secret. In fact, my friendship with them is why you act the way you do around me.  It’s why you are so overprotective of me. It’s why you are jealous.  I never should have allowed myself to walk away from the deep friendship and relationship that Creativity and I have.

I am breaking up with you, Writer’s Block, because Creativity has won my heart.

Remember, WB, in The Little Mermaid, how Ariel gave up her voice so that she could be transformed into a human by Ursula? Unbeknownst to me, you have led me down the same path. I may not have signed a glowing contract, but you tricked me into giving up my voice. You knew that you are insecure, so you convinced me to believe lies about myself, just so you wouldn’t be alone. You told me that I have no room for Creativity in my life anymore. You told me that Creativity and I have no future together. You told me that Creativity has nothing to offer me. You were afraid of the power of the voice that Creativity has given me, because you knew that in Creativity was the one thing that you could never be–fruitful. WB, you are the king of laziness and excuses. You can’t be part of my life anymore. My voice will no longer be silenced by your theft, for your selfish gain.

Creativity is one of the best things that has ever come into my life. I’m not going to make the mistake of letting go of Creativity again. Creativity reminds me not only that I have a voice, I have a voice that is valuable. Creativity gives me opportunities to share my voice with the world. I have a voice so that through it, I can share my  heart and my viewpoint with the world. Creativity has given me courage, and will give me more courage in the future. That’s more than you ever offered me, WB. You gave me fear, doubt, and way too many wasted hours.  You are not welcome in my life anymore. Don’t stop by, announced or unannounced. Don’t call me, text me, e-mail me, or try to contact me in any way.  I’m sure you’ll see me around though–I’ll be walking hand in hand with Creativity.

magnetic poetry

 

Categories: Creativity, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

February: Laughter Is Good For The Soul

February 2013 was a month of celebrating the little things in life.

My aunt and uncle, who live in Tennessee, came up to New Jersey for a visit. My grandmother had a family dinner to celebrate the occasion. Those of us who were able to make the dinner crowded around the dining room table, the table reserved for large gatherings. My grandmother’s house is cozy and full of love, but it is not extremely large. I’m not sure if my grandparents ever dreamed of having a family that is too large to sit at one table for a meal when they moved into their house many years ago.  Even though no one has much wiggle room at the table, it is a table of love. Besides, we’re family, so a little elbow nudging here and there won’t upset anyone.

Fam dinner Feb

The love of family is not only shown during a large dinner. The love of family is also shown through small moments filled with deep joy. One day when my sister and I were at Walmart, I saw a package of pink pancake mix with chocolate chips. Leeann loves anything and everything pink.. As soon as I saw the packaging, I picked up the mix and put it in the cart. I told her, “I just found something for you to buy because you are going to enjoy it.” At first, she was not happy about me spending her money for her. Once she saw what I had picked out, all of her frustrations dissipated. The two of us made the pancakes on a night we were both home.  I enjoyed the pancakes, not because they were pink, but because they gave my sister and I an opportunity to hang out and do something together.  Another special memory I have with my sister during this month is the night we decided to go to Yogo Factory for frozen yogurt. The temperature outside was frigid, yet we still ventured out and enjoyed the opportunity to indulge in a tasty dessert.

Leelee yogo

I had the opportunity in the middle of the month to meet up with one of my roommates from college and her husband for dinner. They had recently bought a house, and this was my first chance to see it. By the end of the night, my roommate and I had shared our hearts with each other for about 6 hours, and it still felt as if we had just barely scratched the surface. We celebrated God’s faithfulness in our lives and were open about the struggles in our hearts. Once her husband came home from work, he also joined in our time of sharing with each other. In a sense, it was a very small church service. No hymns were sung, but we broke bread together. We shared our hearts together. We lifted up Jesus together. We prayed together. It was a beautiful night, and a beautiful time of church.  A few days later, it was during a “regular”  church service that God brought my heart into a freedom it had never known before, yet had wished and hoped for and dreamed of.

HL_happy_bloom

Towards the end of the month, I met up with three of my friends from college for dinner. We had been talking and dreaming about a small reunion since we had seen each other last. Our plan originally was to meet up for church and then have lunch, but our schedules only allowed us to meet up for dinner on a Saturday night. Three of us carpooled to our pre-determined meet-up place. Once our fourth friend showed up and got into the car, we all squealed with delight.  As we drove to Applebees, conversation flowed easily as we began to catch up on each other’s lives and the lives of our other friends who were not with us that night. During our dinner, none of us saw the need to be quiet in our joy. We were that loud, obnoxious table of people who laugh at everything.  We saw a family, seated near us, who had also been at Megan and Derek’s wedding. The four of us walked over to surprise them, our joy, smiles, and giddiness giving us away before we got over there.  We lingered as long as we could at the restaurant. After dinner, we drove to Yogo Factory for dessert. We continued with our joy-filled laughter and conversations. We were some of the only people there, which made our conversations seem even louder. We stayed until the workers started to close up the building. It is this type of friendship–the type of conversations you can barely finish because you are too busy exploding with joy and laughter, the crazy dreams you dream together, and the moments of life that you share together with one heart–that I will never take for granted.

 Feb_Applebees_Yogo
Categories: 2013:Immeasurably More, identity | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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