Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Kindness of Strangers.

An older gentleman flagged me down tonight as I walked home tonight in the rain without an umbrella. "Miss! Miss! Where are you going?" I told him, and he insisted on walking with me to keep me dry, because it wasn't far from where he was headed.

He introduced himself, and I told him my name. He explained to me how his surgeon friend gave him a tip about how to always dress in light layers in the winter, so as not to sweat. If you do this, he said, you will never get the flu. "I haven't had a cold in 18 long years!" he happily declared. I was further informed of how I should consider a freezing cold water numbing option at the dentist (because it is such high technology, I don't even need Novocaine).

"Do you have a boyfriend?" he asked as his next non sequiter. I told him I did, and that in fact, I had a fiancé and am getting married in two months. He advised me not to do it, telling me that that marriage was just a piece of paper and asked a rhetorical question about why I would want to change something if it already works.

He had just come from his girlfriend Isabella's house a few blocks away. He told me he had gotten her a fourteen karat gold ring with a blue topaz for their fifth anniversary, and that it had cost him about $700. He asked if I wanted to know what he got her for their tenth, and warned me that he didn't have any smelling salts, and that I might fall over. The gift was a gold necklace with her name plate and 35 tiny diamonds!

He then told me how I could "psychologically" go about getting my fiancé to buy me a gold and topaz ring: I should tell Nick over a cup of coffee that I had seen this book on the ground and in the pages was a picture of this beautiful gold topaz ring, and that ever since, I couldn't stop thinking about it.

He finally wrapped up the mostly one-sided conversation on my doorstep. "Good luck with your boyfriend! God Bless You," he said. And we parted ways.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Reading for A Friend's Wedding.

I recognize this is somewhat of a repetitive thought, but since it took a slightly different form, I thought I would post it anyway. Clearly, God is still speaking to my heart so much about marriage and community and how the two go hand in hand.
- - -
Here it is, you’ve made it. It’s your big day.

Today is not the finish line in your relationship, but the start of a new exciting chapter. Today is the beginning of the rest of your lives together.

“Happily ever after” looks different in reality than it does in fairy tales. Yes, it is fun and absolutely filled with love, but real happiness requires work and sacrifice. It takes dying to yourself daily and choosing to put the other person first. It’s about learning how to love in all circumstances.

Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book Committed says, “There is hardly a more gracious gift that we can offer somebody than to accept them fully, to love them almost despite themselves." You will not complete each other, but in your marriage, you will push each other to become better versions of yourselves. You will learn your strengths and your flaws and year by year, you will learn the art of becoming each other’s complement.

All of us are here today to witness this commitment you are making to each other before God and by our presence, we too make the commitment to see you through. Marriage is about more than the two of you as a couple, it is also about your community. It is about your family and friends and the people you choose to live your lives beside.

When you’ve got a good thing, you’ve got to hold onto it and fight for it daily. You will go through hard times. You will wake up some days and doubt. But I challenge you, during those times, to look back to this day and remember the promises you have made, and all the reasons you made them in the first place.

I pray God’s blessing upon you both, that through the years you may keep your marriage covenant, and so grow in love and the knowledge of the One whose love never fails, that your home may be a haven of blessing and peace.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wedding Inspiration

My current desktop background created from various blog photos to "inspire" me towards completing tasks for our upcoming wedding on 1.21.2011!

(click to enlarge)
Wedding Countdown Ticker

Do you have any fantastic winter wedding or purple themed ideas to share?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Not Like the Movies

This song is from Katy Perry's new album. I wish I could sit down and chat with her, she fascinates me as she comes from a strong Christian background but seems to have gone a different direction with her life.

I think I understand her heart behind this song but I have to admit I find it frustrating. I sympathize with that deep longing for "that fairy-tale feeling." I still fight doubts and fears about why my love doesn't look like the one I imagined as a kid. The reality is that for a lot of people, love doesn't resemble what we see the movies. And that's probably actually a good thing.

I don't know if Katy Perry wrote the song from a "teenage dream" perspective or the one she views the world from now. I wonder if she feels that Russell Brand was "made perfectly" for her, and the fulfillment of her childhood dreams. Part of me hopes she does, and that he is, and its for real. But the jaded part of me wonders how long it will take them to follow the traditional Hollywood whirlwind romance path and end up divorced.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

transitions galore.

A lot has changed since I last blogged. I got engaged April 10th (I suppose I’ll save that story for when I finally launch a wedding website), turned in my resignation letter to All Souls stating that my last day of work was June 25th, and last Wednesday, I packed all my earthly possessions in the back of a 10 foot Budget rental truck and drove over 600 miles “home” to Pennsylvania.

I’ve been in a transitional state (yes, again!) since January of this year. I knew big decisions were to be made within the next six months. Getting engaged long distance, quitting your job, moving over 600 miles to a new city, planning a wedding, and hunting for employment is a LOT to balance, but that’s what I’ve been attempting for the past three months. Honestly sometimes it’s hard for me to picture what this process would look like for “normal” people who have actually dated in the same town and are planning to combine lives. They say that wedding planning is stressful but WOW, this must be a whole new level.

So we have no date yet, because just this past Saturday we were finally able to go visit venues together. It was so good to finally go and experience such an important part of this process together in person instead of just being stuck doing research, research and more research online. We hope to be able to come to a decision in the next couple weeks and finally set a date! I promise you, dear friends, when we finally know something in stone, it won’t be long before you’ve been informed.

Last week I moved all my non-essentials to my parents’ house, and packed Nick’s car full of the rest and moved me up to Jersey City Heights, which is about a 20 minute walk from Nick’s place in Hoboken. I’m subleasing here for the next month or two, but will have to come up with a new plan come the beginning of September. I am realizing that while I do have savings, they won’t last very long with NYC cost of living. I will need a job before long, and ideally I would like to find something that is in the editorial world. I’ve considered the idea of being a live-in nanny or working retail, etc. just to make ends’ meat but something keeps pushing me to just go ahead and apply for jobs that actually relate to my career path for a month or so before “giving in.” We’ll see how that goes.

I spent the 4th of July on the Hoboken pier with Nick and his friends from Hoboken Grace. It was a poignant moment, sitting there under the fireworks, considering that everything started between Nick and I on the fourth of July two years ago. Back then we (especially I) fumbled things pretty badly. I knew I liked him but wasn’t sure what I wanted, and here we are, months from spending the rest of our lives together. God sure has a sense of humor.

Feel free to call or write (leave a comment if you don’t know have my current contact info). I’m unemployed again, so I’ve got all the time in the world ;)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Giving Up on Prince Charming.

[started 2.8.2010]

When I was younger, my hope and prayer was that someday, my prince would come, and we would fall desperately, madly in love, and live happily ever after. (Yeah, thanks a lot Disney!) In my mind, this meant that somewhere in the world, there was this perfect person out there who I was meant to spend my life with.

In high school, my mother bought me every Christian dating book there was, hot off the press, in hopes that I would learn from the wisdom of these authors and someday marry a wonderful man who loved Jesus. Some of these books were completely lame, but some of them actually grabbed my attention when I realized the authors had actually managed to find "the one" for them. I think I got it into my pretty little head that if these people had found the loves of their lives by loving God as much as possible and following the strict rules they had laid out for themselves, that maybe if I followed the formula, I would get to have a love that looked like theirs.

I remember one summer - I think it was after my sophomore year in high school - I heard a woman give a talk about relationships at a Christ in Youth (CIY) conference. She said she had made a list and prayed for her future husband every day for X number of years. One day, she met this boy, who she hardly knew, but was quickly enamored with. Some immensely short period of time passed, and this boy asked her to marry him, and as she was thinking and praying about this boy, she went looking for her list, buried somewhere in a drawer. She was alone, and yet heard a voice say, "You don't need it anymore." Now I'm sure I'm forgetting all kinds of details that make this story seem less crazy, but after hearing that story, my heart so badly wanted something similar.

I don't remember whether it was before or after hearing that story, but around the age of 16, I made my first list of the attributes I wanted in my "perfect" guy. To give you an idea of the thirty-some traits I listed: He had love God more than life itself, be funny, like dancing, and he had to have "NICE" arms. I think I had good intentions in letting my heart be known before God in the writing of this list, but in doing so, I quickly developed standards that were quite honestly, ridiculous. I promised myself that when it came to marriage, I wouldn't settle for less than God's best for me. And honestly, "God's best" in my mind was probably closer to "what I think is best for me."

After a series of not-so-good dating choices in high school, and being hurt even by boys at bible college, I resigned myself to the jaded idea that maybe my prince charming got hit by a bus. I still hoped he would come, but figured maybe he was delayed. That maybe I didn't have my heart completely in order yet, but that when I did, Jesus would reward my devotion with the perfect husband.

Now, approaching 25 and still being unmarried and having fought through more than I had ever hoped of the messy side of love, I think I'm finally willing to rearrange my teenage beliefs and theology on love. I think I'm left with way more questions rather than being closer to the answers. But I think I am recognizing truth when I hear it or see it, and taking note of those moments, like putting together a puzzle one piece at a time.

I had a light bulb moment a few months ago: I think I have been looking my whole life for my other half, my soul mate, my best of best friends. I think to some extent, I've been looking for a clone. A mirror image of myself. Or as one of my roommates recently said, a better version of myself - someone who is everything I wish I was. I wanted someone to completely "get" me, to share my passions and finish my sentences and spend hours upon end discussing life's endless possibilities. Sure, we'd have a blast. But would we ever get anything done? Would we know how to stretch and challenge each other to become better people? At nearly 25, I am seeing that maybe my "ideal" wasn't completely healthy.

Some time ago, I retired the notion of looking for someone to "complete" me, and reassigned that role to Jesus. I think I was somewhat on the right track, but in this life, in my sinful human flesh, I don't know if my heart will ever be fully and completely satisfied and my every need will be met with just Jesus. I mean, that is the goal of course, but it is a lofty one. I am part of a church that deeply values community, and encourages and expects its members to literally live life together. In this way of intentional way of living, I am more readily recognizing my strengths and weaknesses.

Now maybe more than ever, I am able to appreciate these people and the unique way they have been designed. The "body of Christ" makes sense to me. Eyes and hands and feet all perform different functions, but without the coexistence of these parts, the body would not be able to perform as it is designed. As I have learned the beauty and value of committing my life to this group of people that are purposing to seek the peace of our city in every way possible, I have come to realize that I need them. And if my future husband meets all of my needs, why would I need anyone else? Why would I need the church? Why would I need friendships or extended family?

When I moved to Knoxville over a year ago, I knew I wanted to get involved and connected in a local church to plant deep roots and not just "church hop" like I did throughout my first three years of my college undergraduate career. Making the commitment to joining a church is a lot like signing a marriage contract. Becoming a member is saying I am not just an individual, I am a part of something bigger. I am responsible for the care of other people, and they in turn will care for me. In the case of my church membership ritual, there were even vows involved, stating that I would pursue a life of holiness, with God's help.

I should probably admit that commitment has terrified me. While living in Philadelphia during my last years of college, I half-jokingly began to refer to myself as a "commitment-phobe." My heart's desire was to love and be loved deeply, without reserve, but past experiences had allowed me to build walls and hold any guy who tried at arm's length.

I have come to realize this commitment issue showed up in my spiritual life as well. I never committed to a church because I was still looking for one that was "the perfect fit" or had all the things I valued and was looking for. While All Souls is by no means a perfect church (there is no such thing!), I quickly learned its heart and vision to seek the peace of Knoxville and delve into God's word and invite the Holy Spirit to speak and be in genuine community and practice the arts. As I looked at this church, I realized that it was an answered prayer. That the places God had been leading me on my lifelong journey with Him had led me here. I was able to take the plunge because I had been paying attention to the desires God had been steadily placing in my heart, and I recognized them as they were being recalled and realized.

God doesn't promise that his beautiful but flawed bride called the church won't fail. That it won't mess up and at times, break your heart. He doesn't promise that of marriage either. It is largely a leap of faith. The imagery of the church as the bride of Christ makes so much sense to me. I am learning, both with God and my patient boyfriend, what it looks like to stop running and being propelled by fear and that commitment actually can be a beautiful thing. I'm learning that whether its in church or romance, it's not all about me. (Isn't that a lifelong lesson?!) On both fronts, I am learning to recognize where God is showing up and breaking through and saying,

"Hey, do you remember that dream? That desire? I'm fulfilling it. It looks nothing like you thought it would, but you can let go of those standards you built up for yourself. What I have for you is so much better. So much more than your wildest dreams. "

So I'm burying the fairy tales. Reality can be beautiful, too. I am learning what committed love looks like and I will love, deeply and fully and passionately, with God's help.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Recently a friend of mine told me that I always made more resolutions than anyone else she knew, and that she loved that about me.

Up until this point, I've not really made a ton of new, specific resolutions. I usually go into the new year acknowledging it as a fresh start, excited for the new things it will bring. This time around, I was just so happy to say goodbye to 2009 and its expectations that it's been hard to let myself put new ones on 2010. Last year was one of the craziest, hardest, most exhausting years I've been through.

I think this is evidenced by my complete lack of blog presence. Not that I should offer excuses for why I disappeared from the blogosphere, but I just couldn't bring myself to pour my heart into a medium that becomes an external display of its inner workings. Maybe I wasn't willing to see what what was really going on in my heart. But mostly, I think I struggled to even find the words to describe the persistent dull ache in my chest.

I made a pact with my roommate this past fall that Monday nights would be dedicated to writing at Remedy, and I was only semi-successful at that, but it was a step in the right direction. So maybe my 2010 resolution shouldn't be some grand sweeping, life-altering goal, but simply to meet the one I already made.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Repost: Santa Christ? Jesus Claus?

So, this is kind of cheating. But I never "officially" posted this on my own blog, just on a friend's blog (Make A Difference to One), completely out of season this summer. I shared this last night as an offering at All Souls' worship service. The first time I read through it again, six months after writing it, my initial reaction to my own writing was, "That sounds so trite. You're really considering reading this in front of the entire congregation? You really think no one has heard some version of this before?" I had to remind myself of the stirring in my soul during the summer -- the recognition that Miller had finally put into words this understanding of God that I had never before thought to verbalize. It was possible that last night, in that room, were people who needed to hear it as much as I did. That maybe they would be touched. Maybe their views of God would be challenged. It's a scary thing to put something you've created out there for everyone to witness. I had to remind myself of what my high school Writer's Workshop teacher used to communicate to us: art is to be shared.

Art is the perpetual motion of illusion. The highest purpose of art is to inspire. What else can you do? What else can you do for anyone but inspire them?

- Bob Dylan

Earlier this year I finished Donald Miller’s Searching for God Knows What, which is a book composed of Miller’s thoughts about and experiences with God. Miller’s books are always entertaining and thought-provoking. He is one of those authors who always seems to be able to put those things we struggle to verbalize into words with an artistic flair.

Chapter two of this book spent some time exploring the parallel between a child’s understanding of Santa Claus and Jesus Christ:

“In my opinion, there are two essential problems with believing God is somebody He isn’t. The first problem is that it wrecks your life, and the second is that it makes God look like an idiot.

When I was a kid and, to be absolutely honest, a teenager and perhaps even a young twenty-something, I believed God was like Santa Claus. I realize grown people should not think God is like Santa Claus, but you wouldn’t believe how perfectly convenient it was for me to subscribe to this idea. The benefits were astounding. First: To interact with Santa Claus, I did not have to maintain any sort of intimate relationship. Santa simply slipped into the house, left presents, ate half a cookie, then hit the neighbors’, There was no getting out of bed in the middle of the night to have sloppy conversations about why I was still wetting the bed.

Second: Santa theology was very black and white: you either made the list or you didn’t and if you didn’t, it was because you were bad, not because of societal pressures or biochemical distortions or your parents or cable television, but because you were bad. Simple indeed. Third: He brought presents based on behavior. If you were good, you got a lot of bank. There was a very clear reward system based on the most basic desires of the human heart: Big Wheels, Hot Wheels, Legos. You didn’t have to get into the spirit of anything, and there was nothing sentimental that served as the real reason for the season. Everybody knew it was about the toys: cold, hard toys. Fourth: Kids who were bad got presents anyway.


After reading this section, a resounding “WOW” echoed in my head, because everything Miller just said, I had pretty much subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) believed about God at one point in my life. I’m still struggling to get away from it.

As an American kid, growing up, while I knew “Jesus was the reason for the (Christmas) season,” that big ol’ jolly guy in the red suit was definitely a reason, too. Always the inquisitive one, I had figured out by about age 5 or 6 that Santa Claus was just a story, but it didn’t stop me from wanting all the perks on Christmas morning that came along with believing. And yet there was still a magic about the whole Christmas experience – although I don’t think it came from a heart filled with wonder over the birth of the savior of the world. Sometimes it surprises me that although I knew from a very young age that Santa Claus wasn’t real, the idea of Jesus as a man who once walked this earth and now lived in Heaven remained very real to me. As a twenty-something, I am going through the process of stripping away this “pop culture” and “Americanized” version of who I believe Jesus is, and trying to figure out who he truly is.

While I have known this in theory my whole life, I am learning that in order to truly follow Christ, I have to be in intimate relationship with him. I have to come to him with every aspect of myself and my life and ask him, “Hey, what do you want to do with this?” And expect him not only to listen, but to answer. I don’t believe Jesus wants me to jump into his lap, list off the things I want, and then be on my merry way. He is eager to give me good gifts, but he wants me to understand why he’s giving them in the first place. He wants me to know that he loves me, that he’s proud of me, and that being loved by him should overflow into my life and how I love others.

Whether I’m naughty or nice, my God still loves me. There is nothing I can do that will make him end his pursuit of me. It does not mean that I have the license to run around and act like an idiot and make foolish decisions while expecting a pat on the back, but it does mean that whenever I screw up (which is often), he is there waiting for me to ask his forgiveness for breaking his heart, and start again. And there is nothing I can do to make him love me more, or want to give me more presents. His view of me always has been, and always will be the same, and that is that I am his creation, and because he made me just as I am, he loves me just as I am.

In this season of life, I am discovering that there IS a wonder, magic, and mystery to this man Jesus of Nazareth who called himself the Christ. I don’t have to wait anxiously for him to come around once a year, and wait with bated breath to see whether I’ve made the “naughty” or “nice” list. I can meet with him daily, and ask him with confidence what good gifts he has in store for me. A real, interactive relationship with Jesus is worth far more than any material thing I could have ever asked for from Santa Claus.