June: Run With Joy

For the record, I really do not mean to take a hiatus between each post on here. I’m back to re-counting the wonderful memories of 2013.

Working in retail is very stressful at times, but there are moments that make all of the stress worth it. One of my favorite things is when little kids find a flower that has fallen to the ground and they make a point of giving it to me, just because. There was one night in June when this happened, but for the first time, the flower I received was a fully bloomed hibiscus. When a family came up to my register to ring up their purchase, their little boy proudly gave me this beautiful flower. His sister was dancing around and being twirled by their mom. It was a beautiful moment to witness and be a part of. That family is a family full of love. Waiting on those kind of people make up completely for the not so nice customers.

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* * *

When I was in high school, one of the sports that I participated in was spring track. I joined track only so I could stay in shape for soccer. I was a distance runner, but mainly stuck to the half-mile for meets. I ran the mile every so often, but never ran the 2 mile race in a track meet (even though I ran farther than that in practices). Aside from practice, I very, very rarely went out for a run on my own. I carried the same mentality into college and into the “real world” after graduation. Going for a run by myself just didn’t seem like a fun thing to do. On a whim last June, I downloaded the Nike running app onto my iPod and went for a run to test it out. I ran just beyond one mile, but it was in that mile that I knew that I was choosing to be a runner again. I had measurable goals to strive towards, all due to my run being recorded on the app. I knew I was choosing to do more than I thought that I was capable of.

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(image via Pinterest)

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One Saturday in June, I went strawberry picking with friends from church. We had a picnic afterwards to celebrate the fruits of our labor. One thing that I LOVE about living in NJ is the abundance of the best produce I’ve ever tasted. Picking your own fruit makes for a fun experience AND it is super cheap as well! Having an afternoon to spend with fellow believers who are your own age, who have become your friends, is also a wonderful moment to experience and remember.

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(top left image via my friend John)

* * *

I saw The Great Gatsby   with friends when it came out in the theaters. I went into the showing having heard mixed reviews about the movie. A lot of the negative reviews complained about having modern music in the movie instead of music that was more suited to the time period. I think having modern music was a wise decision. Contemporary music helped the viewers relate to and grasp how wild Gatsby’s parties actually were. The story was told very well. The hopeless romantic in me was still amazed at all Jay did in order to win Daisy’s affections back. Towards the end, I found myself almost yelling, “NOOO!!!” when Jay and Daisy got in the car to go back home (I’m not going to spoil the ending, if there are any out there who have never read the book or seen this movie).

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(image via Google Search)

* * *

June was also the month in which my church held our annual, week long Vacation Bible School. We did a program called “Kingdom Rock,” which taught the kids many different lessons about the Kingdom of God. The main phrase of the week was “Stand Strong!” Even though I am way past the target age of VBS, I also learned more about what it means to stand strong for Jesus.  In addition to getting very catchy songs stuck in my head, I helped as a photographer. Being able to capture the events of the program was a privilege and a joy. I knew most of the kids through helping with Children’s Church, but there were also new faces to meet. The best part about being a photographer for VBS is the fact that you are able to interact with ALL of the kids, instead of just the ones in your group. I might be a bit biased, but these kids are truly world-changers. Their love for God is so sincere and encouraging!

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* * *

June 2013 was the month of wedding number 3 in 2014 for me. This time around, it was my lifelong friend Kellianne. Our parents have been friends for years, so there has never been a time in our lives when we have NOT been friends. Growing up, we vacationed together. We celebrated birthdays and New Year’s Eves. We visit them at their beach house in the summer. Kellianne and Brendan’s wedding was the first wedding that my immediate family was able to attend together in a few years. Attending this wedding as a guest instead of a bridesmaid was a welcome change of pace. This wedding was a big deal, not just because of who was getting married, but because of my appearance.  The dress that I bought was one that caught my attention in the store while shopping for something else. I initially did not buy the dress, but upon sharing with my mom and sister about the dress, I went back later that night and bought it, not even knowing when I would have an opportunity to wear it.

This wedding was also the first time I CHOSE to wear makeup and the first time I APPLIED my own makeup, ever. Yes, I know that most girls apply makeup on their own long before they turn 25, but I’m not most girls. It was a “coming of age” moment, of sorts, and a moment that I was very proud of. For most of my life, I NEVER thought that I would EVERY buy and wear makeup on my own free will. In the words of my co-worker, “there really is a girly-girl inside” of me. A huge shout-out goes to my friend Steph and my sister for teaching me how to apply makeup.

The ceremony was beautiful. There was an extended period of time between the ceremony and reception, so my family did the most obvious thing possible–stop by Chick-Fil-A for some food to tide us over. Walking into Chick-Fil-A fully dressed up was a weird experience, but no one said anything about it. I’m sure people wondered to themselves why in the world we were dressed up for a meal at Chick-Fil-A.

The reception was wonderful and full of precious memories. My sister and I danced a lot, even though the dance floor was crowed. We took a ton of family photos, which is something that we don’t do on a regular basis. Above all else, we simply enjoyed celebrating the marriage of such a close friend.

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(top left image via my sister)

* * *

The month ended with a birthday lunch for my grandmom, a church picnic, and a store meeting in which our managers rented an ice cream truck for the night. In other words, I got paid to eat ice cream. Yes, there was work-related things that were addressed that night. But getting paid to eat ice cream is a wonderful, wonderful gift.

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For Mom

First things first–Mom, grab tissues. I got teary-eyed thinking of writing this, so I can guarantee that you will cry.

Now, onto the important part.
I don’t even know where to begin or how to thank you for everything that you have done for me–whether I have realized it or not. I know that Leeann and I have done many things in the past to show you the love we have for you. This is the first time my love and gratitude will be spelled out in public, for all to see.

Mom,
I know that you have never sought out to be famous, but I can assure you that you are very famous. Sure, Hollywood might have forgotten again to come make a major-motion picture about you. I know that the New York Times keeps running stories other than the story of you. You are not a YouTube sensation, and no talk shows are competing for your presence. Action News has never interviewed you. The media’s forgetfulness has not made you less famous. You see, you are famous simply because of how you have loved me–and continue to love me.

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Whenever someone asks me what I am reading, it is because you have given me your love of reading. You taught me to love words, to love reading, and to love books.

Whenever someone says that I have taken a good photograph, it all comes back to you. You were always snapping pictures of our family, recording history and capturing memories. As a photographer, I can never say thank you enough for photographing our family as the years have gone by. You have forever recorded some of my most treasured and important memories. You gave me my first camera when I was a lot younger, and I fell in love with taking my own photos right away. The rest is history.

Whenever someone compliments me for being creative, they are really complimenting you. I still remember sitting next to you in church and asking you week after week how to draw different things as I drew in my bulletin. Even though you didn’t always know, you never let that stop you. You took a hold of my pencil and showed me which lines went where.
Thank you for loving me well enough to put up with my constant requests of, “Mom, can you help me with my hair?” even though I am twenty-six and should be able to pull off an amazing hairstyle on my own without help. Pinterest makes everything look easy, but a photo from someone else’s life does not help my heart to feel loved. You sitting there, taking the time to learn and try your hardest as you brush, comb, control, and attempt to style my hair shows me your love. When people compliment the hairstyles you have done, you become more famous. I never take credit for what you have done.

You have taught me that dreaming is something we should constantly engage in. Sometimes, we dream big. Sometimes, though, we dream together just by walking through the kitchen appliances in Target, yet again.

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You show your love in a variety of ways and always have: dancing with me in the supermarket, having the patience to deal with me the many times I have been sick and miserable, taking me to the playground after school just because, coming to all of my (home) soccer games and track meets, snuggling with me on the couch, throwing me a princess birthday party even though I am an adult, buying me gifts that you knew I would love yet would never ask for, chaperoning countless field trips, handwriting letters for me when I was working at camp and living at college, praying for me, teaching me responsibility at a young age, cooking and baking with me, supporting my dreams (even the crazy ones), listening to me (no matter what), making way too many jokes to even count, speaking truth over me, protecting me, becoming friends with my friends, trusting me enough to allow me to spread my wings, allowing me to keep living at home (even though I am sure that you never imagined I would still be living here now), cooking meals for me, doing laundry load after laundry load, cleaning the house, hugging me and kissing me, allowing me the time and space to be creative, de-licing my hair when I was in 4th grade, driving me ALL over the place (even the one block to school when I twisted my ankle in junior high)—I could list example after example of your love, but there is no way I could be finished in time for Mother’s Day. No matter what the specific example of love looks like, they all share one common connection. You have shown me your love simply by sharing your heart with me. We always joke that we share a brain, but I think we also share a heart. There is no other way to explain our similarities in our personality and viewpoints. There is no other way to explain the depth of the love we have for each other. A few years ago, you bought a birthday card for me that referred to me as a “fraughter”—a friend who is also a daughter. It is an honor to be considered a close friend of yours, in addition to being one of only two people on the face of the planet who can call you “Mom.”

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I know that sharing your heart with someone is not always an easy decision to make. It’s a choice to be vulnerable and selfless. I thank you for trusting me enough to share your heart with me. When I was growing up, I only knew you as Mom—and that’s how it is supposed to me. Now that I am older, I have been allowed the joy of getting to know you not just as Mom (because that relationship is always growing and changing), but also as Val. I know that your life has not always been easy, but the strength of your heart and your faith in Jesus are such clear indicators of who you are. You possess and radiate beauty, strength, faith, love, grace, humor, understanding, compassion, mercy, and a heart that is always thinking of others first.

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I know that living with two adult children isn’t the easiest of situations. I know that tensions sometimes flare up. I know that my room is rarely as clean as you want it to be. I know that I sometimes scare you when I come home late or leave early for work. I know that sometimes it seems as if we do not listen to you. If this letter is any indication, we are listening to you, more than you ever realize. Your job as mom has made you famous—not because your name is a household name—but because your heart touches and transforms the world every time Leeann and I leave home.

I love you and can’t wait to celebrate Mothers’ Day and your birthday with you!

Love,
Susan

PS. I would ask you for your autograph, since you are famous, but I already have it in multiple places—written on papers and also written on my heart!

mothersday5

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Dating Is Not A Formula (And God Is Not A Genie)

This is the second post in a series my sister and I are writing together. 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’m convinced that Christians who give dating advice almost all love math.

Math was never a favorite subject of mine. When I was little, math didn’t seem that bad–I’m really good at basic math. I can wrap my head around those concepts. As I grew older, math became more complicated. Algebraic formulas and geometric proofs frazzled my brain as I worked to understand them. Algebraic formulas made (somewhat) sense to me because there was a structure, a defined procedure to follow in order to find the value of x.

One thing that I have noticed among the Christian relationship/dating advice that I have come across is that almost all of it involves some type of formula.

“If you want to find your future spouse, you must do this, add this, subtract this from your life, add this in two steps later, divide it, find the square root of it, and multiply all of this by the level of patience that you have.”

It is almost like they are telling me to complete the Quadratic Equation, with “x” symbolizing my future husband.

quadratic_formula

“If you want to find your future spouse, you must pray about it as often as you can.” “If you want to find your future spouse, you must be obedient; you must read Scripture daily; you must do everything else that makes you a “good” Christian–give money to the poor, fast, evangelize, disciple, worship, attend church….” “If you want to find your future spouse, you have to be fully content being single.” “If you want to find your future spouse, you must not actively desire a relationship.” And of course, we can’t forget the two most commonly quoted Scriptures given as dating advice—“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).” “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23).”

If finding your future spouse is as easy as plugging some life circumstances into a formula and waiting for it to work itself out, there is an obvious answer to the question of, “Well, why am I still single?”–it is because you haven’t done the formula. In other words, being single becomes a result of not fully living out the Christian life.

If formulas based on “good Christian behaviors” were the end-all to attain your future spouse, I should have been married before I graduated high school. The truth is, I am nowhere near entering into a dating relationship, let alone marriage. Just the other day, an older guy joked with me, “You should be married off by now.” The truth is, I can count on one hand the number of guys who have shown a romantic interest in me. The truth is, I have friends who in complete honesty have told me, “I don’t understand why you don’t have a guy pursuing you. You have so many good qualities.” The truth is, I have no answer for the question, “Why aren’t any guys lining up at the door to date you?”
guy_knocking(image credit: Reidsville Baptist Church)

God is not Genie in Aladdin. You can’t just rub a magic lamp (or complete a formula) and have God grant you three wishes. “Poof! What do you need?” “Poof! What do you need?” “Poof! What do you need?” is not how God works. God also does not work in formulas. Jesus consistently called out the Pharisees for their insistence that religious duties and full obedience of the Law were your one-way ticket to salvation. If following specific rules and structure doesn’t give me eternal life, why would I want a specific, cookie-cutter plan so that I could “find” the value of x—I mean, my future spouse?

My life is not a scavenger hunt from God. I do not get any brownie points from Jesus for handing Him a list of things that I have found. “Look Jesus! I found my husband! I had to look all over for him! You sure made that difficult, Jesus.” God is my Provider in all things—including my future husband. Let’s leave the formulas where they belong—back in Algebra class—and live our lives leaning into the adventure God has for us, trusting Him as Provider.

Categories: Love & Dating, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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!

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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.

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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).

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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.

 

 

 

 

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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)

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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!

flowers_bloom_God_Spot_april2011

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. ;)

OC_April

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.

April_Collage_2

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.

REI_day

* * *

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.

firstdayofspringclouds_sun

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

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