What I’m Into…May 2017

I’m excited to link up with Leigh for her monthly “What I’m Into” series and share what I’ve been into this past month. I LOVE this month, and this year it did not disappoint. I always thought I’d like to have an outdoor wedding in May. Then Bryan proposed in May, and I thought, “Do I want to wait a year to get married? Nah.” 🙂 Now I just think back to his awesome proposal at this time every year! But I digress…

I finished three books this month (and abandoned one). I also want to give a shout out to this children’s book that has been a huge hit at bedtime in our house recently. GGCS

We checked it out from the library, and now I need to buy Ben a copy because he’s completely in love with it.

My MOPS group did the Restless study together this spring and finished it up this month. I got a lot out of it and really appreciated that it required a good deal of self-reflection and some critical thinking. It was definitely more my speed than some others I’ve done. I loved revisiting the story of Joseph and thinking about how I can use my gifts to have a positive impact and be more intentional within my sphere of influence.

Although I struggled at times to get into some of the stories in The Tucci Cookbook, the food was beautiful. Since reading this cookbook, I’ve been inspired to make risotto and tried two different kinds this month. RisottoNote: This photo was taken about halfway through the cooking process. I can’t wait to try more. I really enjoy Italian food. Also, Stanley Tucci. Who’s seen this?

Unbroken got a rare 5 star review from me on Goodreads. I listened to it on audio which helps me deal with violent scenes. On the page, this true story of a WWII plane crash and POW camp survivor might have been too tough, but with the resonant and steady voice of the late, great Edward Hermann narrating (and a task distracting my hands), I made it through. I’m so glad I did. At times, it was hard to believe that these were real events. What Louis Zamperini endured is unfathomable, and his hope and endurance will stick with me for a long time. I also learned some things about the war that I’d never known before, and it made me feel closer to my grandparents who lived through this challenging and redemptive time in our country’s history. My Pawpaw was a radio operator stationed in Senegal. He communicated with the pilots crossing over on their missions. My grandmothers both lost a beloved older brother. Hillenbrand sets an engaging pace as she lays out Zamperini’s story, and the details she includes give a wholistic picture of a live well lived. I was overwhelmed when I finished this book—in a really good way. I didn’t intentionally read this one right around Memorial Day, but it was nice how the timing worked out.

Favorite Spotify listens this month include: Ashes and Wine—A Fine Frenzy, My Offering—Nichole Nordeman, Glory to Glory—Bethel, You Are the Best Thing—Ray LaMontagne, Home—Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros and Blame It on the Boogie—The Jacksons. We had some epic family dance parties this month.

Speaking of “Blame It on the Boogie”, I discovered a really fun Instagram story series this month that I’m excited to share with you. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and in honor of this, a mom in Utah decided to record a dance move (almost) every day because dancing is how she relieves stress and improves her mental health. I. love. this. What a great example of self-care, and honestly, she’s just delightful and fun to watch. You can’t help but smile. Here are a couple of my favorites.

This month, I got to celebrate being mama to this little love of my life for the 3rd time. 18278541_10100845231581477_4815928551278859178_oHe is a delight. My dad was traveling, so my wonderful mom spend the weekend with us. My sister and I took her to see Beauty and the Beast in a fun downtown theater. It was perfect movie to see with my two best gals…although, now that I’m thinking about it, there aren’t many mothers in it. Mrs. Potts! Mrs. Potts is an awesome mother. Also, my sweet husband brought me a hydrangea plant (my fave), and so I’m now a plant mom to several potted plants both indoor and outdoor. I’m trying desperately to keep them alive. Advice is welcome. This beauty from the front yard seems to be doing just fine.IMG_0697 2

Thank you, May. You’ve been good to me once again.

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The City of Water

Without further ado…Venice!  The canals of Venice make it unique among the beautiful, ancient cities of Italy.  At night, the water reflects the city lights, and it’s pure magic.  IMG_0035 IMG_0039 IMG_0032We arrived around sunset and had just enough time to find our hotel, settle in and freshen up before heading out into the night to explore.  As Bryan and I wandered the streets hand in hand, taking it all in, my thoughts drifted to March 2004–a little over TEN years ago, when I was here exploring this city with a group of college friends.  We were on our spring break during a semester in England, and I was 19.  I remember climbing the stairs up to the center of the big bridge over the Grand Canal and looking out over the glistening water.  I thought dreamily of what it would be like to be there with my husband.  I couldn’t imagine a more romantic setting.  So here I was at 29, and Venice hadn’t changed at all.  But I had.  🙂  I’m so grateful for that surreal moment I had holding hands with HIM our first night in Venice and looking out at the Grand Canal from the same spot.

We did a lot of walking during our two days there.  We found the church from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and sought refuge inside when a heavy rain came on suddenly.  IMG_0146They had a DaVinci exhibit going on.  What a brilliant visionary!  Talk about feeling like an underachiever.  They had recreations of many of his inventions with his original sketches.

Of course, we took in beautiful San Marco Square and watched the pigeons (and the people) for awhile.  IMG_5139 IMG_0119 IMG_5132IMG_5142I got my first gelato of the trip while Bryan and I watched Costa Rica play England in the World Cup.  IMG_5144
We bought an umbrella and cuddled up together underneath it as we matched the pace of our steps.  It brought back memories of when we were dating in Costa Rica during rainy season.  We heard a gondolier quote a price of 40 euros for a ride to a European-looking couple just ahead of us on a bridge.  “Cheap!”  As we approached, he assessed our appearances (or, more accurately, my appearance) and shouted out to us, “80 euros!  Cheap!  Cheap!”  We opted to skip the gondala ride based on the “which will you regret more?” philosophy and instead rode the steamboat through the city.  It was great fun, albeit with slightly less ambiance.  The people watching in Italy during high tourist season is fantastic!  We heard bijillions of different languages, and I loved observing people.

Venice was a great start to part 2 of our Italian adventure.  From here, we hop a train to Florence!  See you there.  🙂

A Love Poem and a Video for Valentine’s Day

I thought this day would be the perfect occasion to share this video of my darling grandparents.  I asked them for marriage advice a few months ago since they’ve had more than 65 years of experience…(Please ignore my weird voice.)

And now for a love poem.

I carry your heart with me

by E. E. Cummings
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

DSC_0836

It’s Been a Year

Greetings, dear ones!  I hope your holidays were cozy and delicious and full of quality time with your favorite people.  I know it’s time now to look ahead to 2013, so I’m a little late with my reflections on 2012.  I’ve been driving all over Texas the past few weeks, so I am just now taking the time to write about my look back at this past year.  I guess that’s kinda my style.  Someday when we have small children, my family will be the one sending out a New Year’s card for everyone’s fridge instead of a Christmas card.  But I digress.   First, I want to talk about my recent one year wedding anniversary.  The following post was written before our anniversary on December 17th, but with what happened in Connecticut a few days earlier, it didn’t seem like the right time to share it.  As we all were, I was shaken up by the news and only wanted to pray and reflect and hug my loved ones and pray some more.  I plan to be back soon with more reflections on 2012 and aspirations for 2013.  For now, here are my anniversary thoughts…

This is going to be sappy.  (I wanted to let you know up front.)  One year ago I married the love of my life surrounded by our family and friends in the beautiful church building that we call home.  The holiday season will always hold a little more magic and romance for us now as we remember our wedding day and celebrate a milestone in our journey together.  Looking back on that day and on this first year of marriage, it’s hard to put into words what I am feeling.  How can you describe such a gift?

When I met Bryan, I experienced this unique peace about him that allowed me to feel safe very quickly and gave me the courage to open my heart…finally.  We just fit.  And as crazy as it was to be taking this huge step in my life when we were preparing to get married, it also felt very natural.  I am an expressive person (aka…I cry a lot), and several people made comments after the wedding day about how surprisingly calm I seemed.  Beforehand, I wasn’t sure how I would respond to the emotions of the day having never been in that situation before.  It was, in many ways, an out-of-body experience.  It’s impossible to process something that huge while you’re experiencing it (at least it was for me), but I had on my waterproof mascara just in case.  As it turned out, I was outwardly pretty serene.  Mostly, what I remember feeling was eager anticipation.  I couldn’t wait to be Bryan’s wife.  It felt like we had been looking forward to this day forever.  Of course, my heart raced when my dad told me it was time for us to begin our walk down the aisle.  A lot of my memories from that day are a blur.  I was overwhelmed by all the time and energy that went into making the day special.  So many people helped bring it all together, and so many loved ones traveled from afar to share our wedding day with us.  I will never forget how grateful and humbled I felt by the outpouring of love for us during that time.  I felt the full meaning of the verse, “Rejoice with those who rejoice”. (Romans 12:15)Husband and Wife

Married life is truly wonderful with my “alma gemela”.  We have learned so much about each other this year.  We have had conflicts and frustrations, and we have shared so much laughter and joy.  This is a unique time in our lives.  We are more and more aware of the demands on our time that children will add someday as we watch friends become parents, so we try to cherish the evenings and weekends spent together.  Quality time is my love language, so I take advantage of as many lunch dates and lazy Saturdays with my husband as I can.  As cliche as I know it sounds, he really is my best friend.  I hope and pray that we will be making memories together for many years to come and that YOU, too, will find your alma gemela if you haven’t already.  🙂

I memorized this beautiful poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning for an English class in high school.  She wrote it for her husband, and it’s been on my mind lately as I reflect on my own marriage…

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Happy anniversary, Sweetheart!  Te amo.  Thank you for moving thousands of miles to be with me and for asking me to spend my life with you.  I can’t imagine it any other way.

Forest

The Saga of the Two Dresses: Part Two

[If you missed part one of this story, you can catch up here.]  We left for Costa Rica, and I found myself thinking a lot about the dress I had picked for my “big day”.  Was it really me?  It was so far off from what I had imagined, but then again life is like that.  I pulled up pictures of the dress on my computer at night and wondered if I would really feel my most beautiful in it on my wedding day.  I couldn’t picture it.  It didn’t seem right.  I told myself for weeks that I was being silly and it would be fine.  It’s just a dress, after all.  As they say, it’s about the marriage–not the wedding.  I tried to convince myself that my concerns were shallow and materialistic, but I couldn’t shake this feeling of dread.  I had the groom I’d always wanted and the colors I’d picked out years ago.  Our family and friends including Bryan’s family and two best friends from Costa Rica and all four of my grandparents would be there–just like I had dreamed.  I just couldn’t help but struggle to imagine myself experiencing it all in that dress.

It became clear after about two weeks of this inner struggle that the situation must be remedied.  After all, if there was ever a time to splurge on fashion in order to get exactly what you want this was IT.  It was time to stop worrying about being THAT girl.  I wrote a long email to the owner of the boutique explaining my hesitation and asking if store credit would be possible.  I told her about the kind of dress I had imagined.  She graciously agreed to let me pick out another dress when we returned and apply what I had already paid toward it.  Immediately, I felt lighter and happier.  There was hope!

I returned to the shop in August with just my mom and sister.  The shop owner helped me pick out a couple of dresses that were more in line with what I had envisioned.  I put on a lace gown that was understated and classic looking.  IMG_1297
IMG_1295She added a bit of sparkle at the waist for a subtle touch of glamour and suddenly the clouds parted and a light shone down from heaven.  This was me at my most beautiful.  I could see it.  My mom and sister confirmed that the dress was beautiful and much more me.IMG_1315

We ordered it and did the fitting.  I am pear-shaped (maybe some of you can relate), and I’ve been different sizes on top and bottom for years.  What a wonder it was to have a dress that fit me so perfectly!  Can you tell I don’t usually spend money on tailoring?

On my wedding day, I felt amazing in my dress.  My girlhood fantasies of my wedding day were fulfilled with this gown, and I felt like my best self walking out to meet my future husband.  The added bonus was getting to wear my dress twice!  Bryan’s family threw us a beautiful reception in Costa Rica for everyone who couldn’t make the trip to Texas for the wedding.  DSCN1801If you saw a tall, dark and handsome man and a pear shaped blonde girl running through the Miami International Airport with a huge white garment bag last December, that was probably us.  It was quite a conversation starter in boarding lines.

So, what I learned from this experience, and what I hope we will all remember, is that it’s important to trust your gut.  In stressful situations, we mustn’t allow ourselves to get overwhelmed and make impulsive decisions.   We should hold strong to our ideals, and ultimately, go with what our hearts tell us even with little things like this.  It’s worth it.first look -16Surely I’m not the only one with a dramatic wedding dress story.  I’d love for you to share your own saga in the comments!  🙂

Unexpected Bliss

Today I’m participating in a “Love Carnival” hosted by the wonderful Modern Mrs. Darcy.  Doesn’t that sound like fun before you even know what it is?  I have been enjoying her writing, and I’m excited to join the carnival.  You can read my post below, and then click here to see the other Love Carnival posts.  Enjoy!

There are times when traveling to an exotic land and falling in love with a tall, dark and handsome Latino man is not as glamorous as one might expect.  However, even on your hard days, you tend to receive some sign, some confirmation that carries you through.  At least I think that’s how it works when you keep surrendering your will to God.  Every day and sometimes every hour.

When I left for language school I never expected this to be my life.  I had spent the last two years practically living in the library working on my masters, and I was hungry for an adventure.  Unlike many of my colleagues, I felt directionless as we approached graduation until I revisited the long-dormant idea of studying Spanish abroad.  It was to be a time of spiritual and mental growth, and an opportunity to see a part of God’s glorious creation that I had yet to witness–waterfalls, cloud forests, ocean, and lots of Spanish.  I never imagined that I would fall in love.  That I would find IT.  The real thing.  The Love of my Life.
Once again, God proved to be the best story writer.  I always worried that I wouldn’t meet someone because people say it happens when you least expect it.  Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I was ALWAYS expecting it…except for this trip.  My practical side never would have allowed for the possibility that any relationship could happen in such a short amount of time.  I wasn’t willing to date someone that I couldn’t foresee a future with, and I couldn’t foresee a future with anyone who lived in another country.  So, the old saying was true for me.  It happened when I least expected it.  And it was breathtaking.  To feel simultaneously completely thrilled and completely safe and at home with someone was something I had only dreamed about until I met HIM.  And that was it.  It was just right, and I had peace, and I knew long before I was willing to admit it to myself that he was my person.  I was finally inspired to be courageous and open my heart and do whatever I had to do to be with this man.
After meeting each other’s families and countless conversations and prayers, we made a plan that would allow him to finish his degree in the U.S.  Then, the waiting and trusting and hoping from thousands of miles apart (2,493 miles, to be exact) began.  On that hard day, a few months into our separation, I was having a difficult time trusting and hoping.  The challenges we faced seemed insurmountable.  I didn’t see a solution that would allow us to be together and happy at any point in the near future.  I was furiously typing all of my doubts and worries to him on G-chat (while he was at work).  He tried to comfort me and reminded me to trust God.  I knew he was right, and I was momentarily thankful that he couldn’t see me… all splotchy and sniffling.  Then my phone rang.  We only talked on Skype and G-chat because those were free, so I knew it wasn’t him.  I glanced at the number, annoyed that some undisclosed caller was interrupting my pity party.  I took a deep breath and tried to compose myself.  “Hello?”  It was him.  “I could tell you were crying.”  And then I melted.  Our connection was stronger than ever.  There must a reason for this, I thought.  This must be leading somewhere good.  That afternoon in April 2009 seems like yesterday in some ways.  We were apart for a total of eight months.  About two years after that hard day, he proposed.  And now that handsome man is my husband.  God’s timing is perfect.