Posts Tagged With: Immeasurably More

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.

hibiscusatwork

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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.

strengthinovercoming

 

(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.

strawberrypicknicking

(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).

gatsby

(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!

vbsstandstrong

* * *

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.

kelbrendan

(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.

hdmtgicecream

 

 

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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.

scf_alumni

(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.

rehearsal_light

 

rehearsal_lighting_tree

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.

bday_2013

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.

 

 

 

 

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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

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

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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.

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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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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
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January: Let Our Hearts Embrace This Moment

2013 started with eager anticipation. I celebrated New Year’s Eve with family friends, a lifelong tradition with only a few exceptions. We ate far too much of our share of pizza, snacks, and desserts. As we shared a simple meal, we also shared our hearts with each other, catching up on what has happened in our lives since our last gathering. We played Bananagrams until a couple of us were too tired to make words. My parents and I left before midnight and rang in the new year on our couches, snuggled up under blankets. I wanted 2013 to get here, and get here quickly. I knew that once 2013 arrived, it was only a matter of weeks before two of my best friends got married. Working the days in between didn’t seem as stressful as usual, because I had such a major milestone to count down to.

NYE tree 2013

   In between New Year’s and my friends’ wedding, a little event called Passion 2013 happened in Atlanta, GA. Passion is an organization that seeks to “glorify God by uniting students in worship, prayer, and justice for spiritual awakening in this generation.” I had attended Passion conferences in the past, but was unable to be in Atlanta for 2013’s conference. I was still able to attend the conference, thanks to the donations of some very generous people that allowed the conferences to be streamed online. I wasn’t able to watch every session, but the ones that I did watch were amazing. It was during Passion 2013 that God showed me what would end up being my theme Bible verse for 2013.
   The conference also unveiled new worship songs. As I watched the conference on my computer, two of these new worship songs invaded my heart. “God’s Great Dance Floor” and “Shout” became my new favorite worship songs because through those songs, I was able to embrace freedom like never before. I danced around my room, knowing how silly I looked. Regardless of how silly I looked while dancing,   I was dancing in freedom. over every one of the chains that used to hold me captive. My dancing was proclaiming TRUTH where there used to be only lies and confusion. I was taking full claim of the promise that God IS DOING something NEW in my life. A line in “Gods’ Great Dance Floor” says “Let the future begin.” I held that line close to my heart–I could sense that a whole new adventure (one of immeasurably more than I could dream of) was about to begin.
   Before I knew it, the time for my friends’ wedding had come. I had been looking forward to this wedding since the fall of 2008. I had already become friends with Derek the year before through a Christian group on campus. Megan and I became best friends right after we met at an outreach event on campus. It wasn’t long before Megan and Derek met and I found myself  answering Megan’s questions about Derek and giving her relationship advice (including the simple statement, “Meg, when he asks you out, say yes.”). He did in fact ask her out, and the rest is history. Megan and Derek have the kind of love that would make a Hollywood chick-flick jealous.  In their four years of dating, I have had the privilege to see their love for God and their love for each other deepen and intensify to a level not seen by many in today’s world.
   In the months leading up to Megan and Derek’s wedding, God was preparing my heart for what was yet to come. He was answering prayers that I had been holding in my heart and asking Him for years and years. Jesus showed me that He sees me as beautiful. What better way to fully celebrate for the first time the understanding that I am beautiful than being a bridesmaid in the wedding of two of your closest friends?

Everything about the wedding weekend was beautiful, wonderful, and perfect. I went to a nail salon for the first time in my life and got my first manicure. As an added bonus, the lady who worked on my nails gave me a shoulder massage as my nails dried. I am very ticklish, so for someone to be able to give me a massage without me laughing and telling them to stop a few seconds into it is a huge deal. I also wore makeup for the first time in my life (not counting the couple of times that I wore just one or two types of makeup, usually under much protest). I rode in a limo for the first time.

The ceremony brought almost everyone in the room to tears. I could not look at my friends during the ceremony, because I knew that certain ones were bawling their eyes out—if I looked at them, I would have started to bawl my eyes out. There is nothing wrong with crying, except when formal photos still have to be taken afterward. The ceremony was a mixture of Chinese and English. Derek’s family is Chinese, and some speak very little English. Derek’s mom read some Scripture in Mandarin Chinese for her family.

The day ended with a joyous reception. I looked forward to dancing as a way to celebrate the day itself, to celebrate the joy of realizing that God sees me as beautiful, and to the freedom God had given my heart earlier in the month. I’m not a good dancer, and I don’t know many moves, but the few songs I danced to became treasures in my heart.

Not long after Megan and Derek’s wedding, I went bridesmaid dress shopping for wedding number two of 2013. This experience did not go as smooth as dress shopping for Megan’s wedding had gone. The day we went shopping was the first day I met one of the bridesmaids. She is very nice, but that day, we had to deal with the slight awkwardness of not knowing each other, yet having to work together to find dresses for the wedding. Our experience was beyond stressful (our consultant forgetting about us was the least of our problems), but in looking back, many precious memories were created that day. Our dresses were successfully ordered and I started a new friendship.

What a way to kick off a year!

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2013 In Review

2013 was an amazing year. There is no possible way that I can summarize this entire year in one blog post. My “2013” album on Facebook has close to 900 photos in it–memories of special moments–and that is with me showing restraint in uploading. I didn’t even include the album of one of the weddings I was in or the album of photo adventures from a day with a friend. 2013 has been full of joys, full of challenges, full of dreams coming true, full of new dreams being created. 2013 has been, without a doubt, a year of “immeasurably more.”  This year also had its share of difficulties and things not going as I had hoped or planned. The struggles and doubts of this year in no way negate the overflow of blessings that God gave me this year.

To kick off my come-back to blogging, I am taking a suggestion from my sister. As I ate breakfast this morning, she was working on a “2013 In Review” series for her blog. She then suggested that I do the same thing. I thought it over, and will be starting a series of posts that highlight the best parts of 2013.  Each entry will be about one month of 2013. If I had planned this out better (and had not been sick right before Christmas), I would have had one entry per day for the final 12 days of 2013. Real life happens, and I did not plan this out as well as I could have. Even so, the entries will be coming as soon as possible. I am excited to share about the goodness of this year!

Dandelion Sunset

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