Friday, July 26, 2013

Small Joys: volume 7

Hello dearest friends!  Another Friday is upon us and I'm trying to get back into the swing of things with some "Small Joys" for you.  This week has been quite mundane to be truthful, but it had those elements of small joys sprinkled in that made it wonderful in its own way.  Not every week is going to be full of life-changing moments, but I've learned to appreciate the little moments that make up our lives.  I've read a quote before that says something like this: "Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."  I so appreciate that, and that's what small joys are all about for me.  Finding small pieces of joy mixed into the ordinary, everyday living.  And with that in mind, allow me to share some joy with you this week.

No. 1: The marriage of the Lanes. Oh my word.  This past weekend I had the pleasure of being able to witness the marriage of a high school friend, Chris, to his lovely bride, Sara.  Their wedding was beautiful in every way.  The location was stunning, the weather incredible, and the presence of the Lord and his Spirit apparent in every way.  I am so thankful to know this wonderful couple and am so happy to have been able to participate in this day with them.  Here is a photo I was lucky to catch with the bride and groom during the festivities! After this photo was taken, they told me that they realized I was their only guest present who was a true mutual friend of both of them.  I wish them a beautiful marriage rooted deep in the heart of Jesus and His mission.

No. 2: You've Got Mail.  I'm sitting here now at 1AM writing this post while watching You've Got Mail.  I'm coming off of a week of night shifts and am having trouble falling asleep-- so what better to do than write and watch one of my all-time favorite movies?  I just love Kathleen Kelly and feel that in some way we would be great friends if we ever met in real life (and if she was real).  She values life and love and books in the same ways I do, and for that I just adore her.  There are so many quotable moments from the movie, but here's one of my favorites.  

"Sometimes I wonder about my life.  I lead a small life.  Well, valuable, but small. And sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave?" 

I so feel that.  I wonder about my small life sometimes, but truth be told, I do find value in my life just as Kathleen Kelly does.  My value comes from a real and living God and the purpose he has buried deep within my soul.  You know how I told you I was writing a book? Well, it's sort of about this.  It's about serving God from where you are, whether it's going on a big adventure for God or serving His people in your job at a coffeeshop or a restaurant.  It's about serving Him in the midst of a small but valuable life.

No. 3: Ephesians.  Speaking of marriage, I've recently buried myself in literature and Scripture in preparation for my own impending nuptials.  Lately, I haven't thought much about marriage but more about moving, job hunting, finances, making friends in Indy, etc.  But it's nice when I sit back and think about why I'm moving to this city and what these changes are for-- a new chapter with Scott as my husband.  And Ephesians has been a wonderful place to bury my head the past few weeks.  I know Ephesians stirs up a lot of controversy regarding marriage in our society.  People don't like the idea of women submitting to their husbands; they look at the gender roles and view these verses as sexist implications that are outdated and irrelevant.  But oh, how relevant they are.  Wives are to submit themselves to their husbands as to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22) And husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her to make her holy by the washing with water through the word (Ephesians 5:25-26).  Our culture has so polluted marriage and what it means to be one with your spouse; we miss what marriage was created for.  It is not for our ultimate happiness but for God.  For him to make us holy through marriage and to learn what it is for the church to be the bride of Christ.  Don't pass over Ephesians and think that it's outdated and irrelevant.  It's more relevant than it's ever been, and our world could use the wise teachings in Ephesians to learn the truth about what marriage is meant to be.  

No. 4: Running in Vibrams.  Ok.  Vibram Five Fingers are WEIRD shoes.  I'm so going to agree with you there.  I never thought I would ever own a pair, but I must say I quite like them.  My runs in them are very different from my runs in my other running shoes (I'm a self-proclaimed Asics & Mizuno lover).  If you read about my altar run in volume 6 of "Small Joys," this post will be quite different.  I did not run with abandon today in my Vibrams; instead, I ran a "focus run."  I was careful with each step I took, cognizant of my form and how I placed each foot when I took a new stride.  My legs feel so different than they do after other runs, but in a good way.  I know I'm working muscles that aren't normally used, and I kind of like that.  I also feel kind of like a gazelle when I run in these shoes.  I try to run in the grass when I can to protect my joints, and I just feel very gazelle-like as I take each step.  But I can't see I'm as free as a gazelle like I am during altar runs.  It's the run of a gazelle who is careful about where she steps and who prances with precision.  If you haven't tried Vibrams, I'd recommend them.  I think they're a fun challenge to run in.  I also really like using them for strength-training in the gym. 

No. 5: Writing.  Though I don't have much to show for it on the blog lately,  I've been writing more recently than I have in the past several months.  When Scott and I got engaged, my focus became planning the wedding, planning for my move, and preparing for marriage.  However, this week I felt that sense of urgency to do those things dissipate a bit, and I felt ready to pick up my pen again.  Ok, it's not really my pen I picked up.  I opened my laptop and started letting the words flow again.  I picked up on writing my book, more of editing some of the chapters, really, and then I did something really unexpected: I wrote my vows.  On Sunday, I had one of my days where I just didn't want to have a wedding anymore.  I've had these frequently during our engagement-- I can't quite explain them, but I'll try.  I can be doing mostly anything-- working, driving, reading, sleeping-- and out of nowhere, I get this overwhelming feeling washing over me of anxiety and fear, and I feel tears well up in my eyes as I consider the possibility of marrying Scott without a big blowout wedding.  

The big wedding is expensive and stressful and overwhelming, and some days I think, "what if I just save all of the money I've been saving for my wedding to use for something else? What if Scott and I get married and take a fun trip (a honeymoon?)?  What if I invest it? What if I use it for later in life when we want a house?" But then I shake it off, and I'm back in the trenches of planning a wedding.  All of that is to say that after the week I had been through, I needed a reminder of why I was doing all of this.  So I pulled out my Bible, scribbled some notes in the margins with verses I really liked about marriage, and I set out in writing my vows.  They're going to be my work in progress for this year; they are by no means complete, but as of right now, they say everything I feel about entering into the covenant of marriage with Scott and walking as one with him in marriage.  I cried while writing my vows this week, and I'm fairly certain I will do so next April, but I just cannot wait to speak those words to him and share my heart with him.

No. 6: Kickboxing.  I was telling Scott recently how I've been really disappointed in myself with my workouts lately (or lack of workouts, really) and how I feel so lethargic and unhealthy.  I don't really know what I wanted him to say about it all, but I just wanted to wallow in self-pity over it for a good bit. He didn't let me do that.  Instead, he told me to pick a workout that I have always really loved and to just start with that again.  So I dug out my pink kickboxing gloves the following day and took up my old passion of kickboxing again.  Right there in my bedroom.  With no instructor or video to guide me, I started with the simple punches-- hook, jab, cross, uppercut-- and then fell into the old familiar combinations of them that I remembered from classes at the gym.  I added my kicks in and felt so strong and happy.  Something about kickboxing does that to you-- you feel empowered, strong, and like you could step out on the streets and face the world fearlessly.  Scott and I have talked about putting up a punching bag in our house when we get married and I am SO serious about making this happen.  If you haven't tried kickboxing before, I'd recommend it to you.  

No. 7: My Indiana nursing license. After weeks of waiting in anticipation for all of my documents to be processed, I finally have my license to practice as a Registered Nurse in the state of Indiana!! I am so so excited about this, even though it makes me sad to leave my job here in North Carolina.  Sometimes I have to push the things I'm sad about out of my mind so that I can make room for the excitement I feel over getting married and setting out on my adventure with Scott.  With that said, obtaining my Indiana nursing license is a HUGE blessing and was the final step in preparing for my job hunt.  A few weeks ago I sat down and knocked out my resumĂ©-editing and cover letter writing, and I kept saying "once I get my nursing license I will start applying."  And here we are, license in hand (well, not entirely true.  They don't issue paper copies in Indiana unless you pay for it... so for now my license is an online one :)).  I guess the search for a job is on now... how completely terrifying! 

No. 8: Dates with old friends.  Or old roommates, to be exact.  This week Rachael, one of my former roommates from the Penthouse, texted me to say she would be in town if I wanted to meet up at all one day this week.  I was working night shift and thought it probably wouldn't work out, but I decided to sacrifice some sleep to meet her for dinner.  Our other roommate Chancey met up with us and it was such a lovely hour and a half.  I rarely laugh as hard as I did with those girls during my senior year, and it made me nostalgic for our Penthouse days.  I recently caught up with all four of the Penthouse ladies, some over the phone and some in person, and I must say that my mama-heart is happy.  I also had the pleasure of eating with my lifelong friend Alex for dinner tonight at my favorite sushi place.  We sat outside with the sun lightly dancing around us as it set, and we laughed and talked about all of the things about grown up life that we never used to talk about as little 7 year olds in Girl Scouts together. 

I think I'll stop with 8 this week.  I'm in a good place right now and am anticipating so many lovely things ahead.  Wedding season is upon us and I'm filling my coming weekends with bachelorette parties, bridal showers, weddings, and my own bridal portraits!  

Grace & peace to you all, and lots of love this week.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

On living the life in front of you

A few weeks ago my book club decided to read Shauna Niequist's Bread and Wine for our monthly read.  And I must tell you, rarely has a book ever seeped into my soul as much as this one did.  With every page I read, I felt more and more like Shauna was my kindred spirit, like she completely understood me.  Her writing style felt very similar to mine-- she is very honest, descriptive (maybe overly so- as I consider myself sometimes), and she talks to you like she's sitting next to you on the couch drinking coffee with you.  And I loved it.

Her earnestness in how she approaches cooking and baking reminded me of myself, too.  I was by no means born with natural talent to cook.  My first meal in my apartment junior year that I made for myself was out-of-the-box penne with pasta sauce from a jar (my mom is in Wilmington shaking her head right now... my grandmother Helen in heaven is crying over these words.  I come from a family of Italian women who slave over their sauce every Sunday as their homemade sauce simmers on the stove).  I'm the girl who once used powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar to bake cookies with, to the point that those at the gathering I was bringing them to asked if there were macadamia nuts in the cookies.  All that to say, I'm not a master chef by any means.  But I have been elbow deep in mixing bowls before attempting a new recipe, and I've sat in a kitchen surrounded by pots and pans with different mixtures in them-- knowing full-on it would take me two hours to clean up (and it did).  I've burnt dishes that I was SO excited to try because of something silly like forgetting to set a timer.  And I've completely left ingredients out of meals and wondered why it didn't taste like it was supposed to.  But Shauna understands this, and I loved that I could feel that through her book.  And like me, she presses on with cooking and baking, even when things don't always look like the pictures you see on cooking blogs or in your cookbook.

She wrote a chapter call "Swimming in Silence," about a trip that she took to Mexico where she was essentially "unplugged" and away from technology and chaos and the busy-ness of life.  There was one quote in particular that has really stuck with me and that I keep trying to remind myself of when I feel the growing pressures of comparison.

"...I think back to that week often, to how non-fragmented my brain and spirit felt, how little I missed on Pinterest and Facebook.  I think about how valuable it is to live the life in front of you, regardless of how tempting it is to press your face to the glass of other people's lives online, even though doing that is so much safer and entirely addictive."

How lovely.  Simply live the life in front of you.  It seems such an easy thing to do, until you log onto Facebook and see the dozens of exciting things going on in someone else's life-- engagements, new babies, weight loss, acceptances to graduate schools, great scores on exams-- and then you lose your resolve and feel like you need to do more to be better in your own life.

But that's not true.  We have such trouble with being content with our own lives.  We're wired to compare ourselves to other people, and social media makes it that much easier.  Close your laptop, exit out of Instagram on your phone, and delete that last tweet you were typing about how "blessed" you are feeling right now.  Do you know that for Christians, that's supposedly a humble way of bragging? What an oxymoron that is.  I'm guilty of it.  All of it.  But we need to learn to appreciate what we've been given and learn that we're not going to have the same life that anyone has, no matter how hard we strive.  Be thankful for the good things in your friends' lives, but don't envy them.  Be even MORE thankful for the good things in your own life.  And the bad.  Because all of it, the good, the bad, the ugly-- it's how God grows us.

So this week (and every week), live the life in front of you.  Value your life.  And stop pressing your face into the glass of other people's, no matter how tempting it may be.

Grace & peace,

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Small Joys: volume 6

After almost a month of not blogging, my fingers are aching to type this post.  It's been a busy few weeks, hence the lack of posting, and I apologize deeply for my inconsistency with posting over the past few months.  With several things behind me now, I hope to be able to find more time to write again .  I know it's Monday and my joys are usually shared on Fridays, but in an attempt to launch back into writing, here are the small joys of the past few weeks.

No. 1: The homecoming of my sweet fiancĂ©.  Oh, my word. I can't quite explain how full my heart was this past week when Scott was home.  I was so thankful to be able to enjoy over a week off from work to spend time with this handsome man.  We hit all of our favorite local Wilmington spots, travelled to Myrtle Beach with his family, and spent time with two of his friends from Indy who came down to visit.  It was an incredible week, and I'm slightly in denial that it ended so soon.  The next time I'll see him will be the end of September for his sister's wedding.. which isn't too far away at all now! We're so close to living in the same city and I'm so excited for it.

No. 2: Peaches. Yes, peaches.  They are possibly my favorite fruit.  When I was younger, my dad used to make me a treat called "Peach Surprise" that I always loved.  It was basically cut up peaches in a tupperware with a little sugar and whatever sweet beverage we had in our refrigerator-- iced tea (yes, we lived in New York.. so it was ICED tea and not sweet tea :)), orange juice, apple juice, etc.  And it was yummy.  Scott and I spent hours cutting up peaches on a hot June day while his dog played with my family's puppy in his backyard, and then we made peach cobbler in Myrtle Beach (using his grandmother's incredible recipe) that was TO DIE for.  So SO good.

Slicing up peaches with Scott's dad's fancy machine

The finished product-- our peach cobbler!

No. 3: Trader Joe's.  It's a rare occasion these days if I make it to Trader Joe's, which is so sad considering it was once the only grocery store I ventured out to.  The closest one to us is about 20 minutes away now, so I go every so often when I am in Chapel Hill as a special treat.  Yesterday I spent an entire day in Chapel Hill, and on my way home I thought it would be a great idea to stop at TJ's for some groceries.  $50 later I emerged with this bag of joy. Indianapolis, please have a Trader Joe's nearby. Please, please. I'm begging you. 

No. 4: Fresh flowers.  You see them in my TJ's picture above. but here's my arrangement of them in one of my jars that will later be used in our wedding next April.  For $4, I have beautiful flowers to decorate my room with during my week of night shifts.  Another thing I love about Trader Joe's flowers are that they last forEVER.  In the past, I've had them last as long as 2.5-3 weeks. That's incredible.

No. 5: Baking with Shannon. I'm more of a cook myself (though, from my two baking experiences in this blog post, you wouldn't know it), but baking is something that intrigues me and that I like to try my hand at every so often.  Yesterday I spent the afternoon and evening with my dear friend Shannon to help her bake for a gathering at her house that she's hosting today.  She was so kind as to allow me to wait in her apartment for her while she was at her practicum, so I flipped through her cookbooks to see what we could make.  In the end, we decided on Gaia cookies from our book club's read from last month-- Bread and Wine (a MUST read. I can't sing enough praises for this book).  We made a few modifications, and boy, were they YUMMY.  We were excited to break in Shannon's Kitchenaid mixer for the baking extravaganza, and I must say that I quite love Kitchenaid mixers now.  

There she is.  I have registered for one of these
in hopes of having one to use once Scott and I are
married.  It's probably the most expensive item on our
registry.  But I want it so badly that I would almost like to
tell everyone to forget the rest of the registry items and to bring
just $2 to the wedding to contribute to the mixer.  If all of our guests 
brought $2 I would have this incredible item. And Scott would have
none of the tools he registered for :) I'm kidding of course.  But I 
am crossing my fingers for this kitchen item.  

The oh-so delicious Gaia cookie

No. 6: The book of Acts. I've been reading through Acts again and marveling at God's faithfulness to the early church.  I've been particularly captivated by how God used Saul, a man who once detested followers of Jesus and did all in his power to destroy them.  He later became known as Paul, who wrote most of the letters in the New Testament and who was arguably one of the most dedicated apostles of Jesus and the Gospel.  Here's a verse I really treasured when reading through it last week.  It made me realize that no matter what you have done in your life or how wretched you believe you are, God can use you for his kingdom.  What comfort and peace there is in that.  
"Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." Acts 9:15
And that was said about Saul to a God-fearing man who knew all of the destruction that Saul had brought to Christians.  But God was bigger than that and knew he would use Paul to bring the Gospel to the nations.

No. 7:  Strawbs and bluebs. Yes, more fresh fruit.  Sweet Christie Ray introduced me to this fun way of naming strawberries and blueberries in college, and I have thought it ingenious ever since.  Y'all, the fruit lately has been AWESOME.  I was FaceTiming with Scott last night and he was making fun of me for how much I was eating... but the strawbs were SO GOOD.  Probably some of the sweetest I've ever tasted.  And the perfect shade of red.  I wish I could have fruit this fresh year round!

No. 8: Chapel Hill. Yesterday I was able to spend my ENTIRE day in Chapel Hill.  I forget sometimes how much I love that place.  I spent the morning presenting my new graduate RN project (SUCH a relief to be done with this! It's been weighing me down for weeks now), and then I met sweet Jordan for lunch at Bskis.  Jordan and I have always had a thing for getting lunch together.  We met through my dear friend Hannah, who attended high school with Jordan in Wilmington.  During our freshman year at UNC, Jordan and I would meet fairly regularly for lunches on Franklin St. (any excuse to escape the meal plan!), usually at McAllister's, which I believe is still, to this day, Jordan's most favorite place :)  And since then our friendship has evolved and deepened, and I have been blessed to have such a God-fearing woman as a friend in my life.  I so treasure our lunches together and will miss them terribly when I move to Indianapolis.  After lunch with Jordan, I went to get fingerprinted for my Indiana nursing license (the final step in my application!) and then waited at Shannon's apartment for her so we could bake (you already knew this though, from above!).  It was blistering hot at that point of the day and I was craving YoPo, so we walked to Franklin to enjoy a frozen treat.  I got something way different from what I normally get (I'm boring at YoPo: I always get a kids cup with Ghiradelli chocolate froyo and chocolate sprinkles): Irish mint mixed with Ghiradelli chocolate in a waffle cone with Kit Kats on top. Oh, it was good. 

No 9: Finishing my new grad project.  I don't have much to say about this, except that I surprised myself with this one.  For so long I viewed it as a burden, but when I went to present yesterday, I found that I was strangely passionate about my topic and that I took great pride in talking to people about it.  

No. 10: Running with abandon. Friends, I wish I could explain to you in proper terms what happened when I went for a run last night, but I don't think I can do it justice.  I will do my very best, though.  After spending an afternoon with my trusted and true running buddy, Shannon, I had an itch to run.  I had seen her running shoes sitting by her front door and felt an ache deep in my soul for my own running shoes.  She had even asked me if I had been running recently, and I told her that I hadn't but wished that I could find time to do so.  And as I drove away and headed back to Durham, I was taking in the beauty of the setting sun and appreciating the slight coolness in the air from the summer breeze.  I saw a runner as I pulled into my neighborhood and envied her for the beautiful run she was on.  I ran inside the house, dropped my groceries and quickly unloaded them into the refrigerator, and I ran upstairs to put on my running shoes.  They felt like old familiar friends, though I had neglected them for so long.  I could feel my feet fit into the grooves inside that miles of running have produced, and they were perfectly molded to my feet and ready for this run.  

And I will tell you that I ran like I have not run possibly ever.  This summer marks three years of running for me, and the journey has been an interesting one.  I started with LOATHING running and thinking people who ran all the time for enjoyment were NUTS.  Here I am three years later in the ranks of the nuts.  Last night, I ran like a WILD woman.  I had decided to run as far as my legs would take me before the sun started setting.  At about 1.5 miles, my legs were screaming and the sun was setting further, leaving dusk behind in the summer sky.  I turned around and started heading back to the house.  But friends, I felt wild and free, as I haven't felt in months.  I ran with abandon through the streets of Durham, moving through my old familiar roads and pushing through the burning I felt in my legs.  My little neon yellow laces on my running shoes pushed on, until I ended back in our neighborhood after 3 miles of bliss.  I had neglected all of my usual running rituals and habits and ran what I call an "altar run."  With all of the stress I've felt over the past few weeks with wedding things, looking for jobs, my impending move, and my new graduate RN project, stress had taken over the joy in my soul and I felt so far from Jesus.  On my altar run, I left all of my fears and worries behind and left them at the altar for Jesus.  He has been so faithful to me this year, from my engagement with Scott to carrying me through my first year as a nurse, it's been a blessed year.  I've perceived it as stressful, but when I really think about it, it's been an incredible blessing.  And on my altar run, I landed at the foot of the cross back in my room.  I read through my chapter in Acts and started fresh with Jesus.  My worries and fears from this year weren't with me anymore; I left them on my run.  Friends, I hope you can experience an altar run at some point in your life.  I really feel that it was unspeakably beautiful and so needed for my soul.  

 Thanks for sharing joy with me this week, friends.
Grace & peace to you.