December 24, 2011

And to All a Good Night...

Images of the season... enjoy.

 Snow, courtesy of :)

Thanks be to God for the gift of our Savior.
Oh, and thanks be to God for the gift of HTB, too. :)
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

December 18, 2011

All is Well...

"All is well."
That's the name of the song that pierced my soul last week. 

Let me give you some background: I have never been so harried, so frazzled, so klutzy, and so spazzy as I have in the last couple of weeks.  I have become Lucille Ball.  My life would actually make for a hilarious sitcom right now, if it wasn't in fact my life.

I keep dropping things.  Dropping things and breaking things.  So much so that HTB has taken to carrying fragile items for me and has become a Krazy Glue expert.

Want some examples?  Take yesterday, for instance.

I got up really early and packed for Chicago.  Then I spent a half hour looking for some paperwork for my new camera that I found out later I had actually packed already.  Then I opened my suitcase and smelled my mistake immediately.  Sure enough, red nail polish had leaked in one of my bags, covering and destroying my nerd glasses and random pieces of jewelry.  Then, I went to move my other suitcase (full of Christmas gifts), forgetting it was open, and all its contents were dumped on the floor.  "DON'T LOOK, DON'T LOOK," I shouted frantically as I picked up the gifts and put them back inside.  As I went to sit down and take a load off after a day like that, I put on my slippers... only to find out I had packed two right feet (I have two of the same pairs). 

So now I sit down to this laptop, the one I spilled water on last week and now have to use a mouse instead of the track pad, and I type about how "all is well."

It really is, you know.  Sure, all of the above makes me a bit like a frenzied Lucy, and sure, I am stressed like I've never been stressed.  Yes, my house is a crazy mess of gifts and no place to put them, and of course I have to somehow make room in my house for another person and make it a livable environment.  Yep, I'm getting married in 24 (!) days and still have a to-do list, and yes, Bestie and her husband just moved 2.5 hours away.

But, all is well.  This struck me last week at our church's Christmas cantata.  Bestie was playing beautifully on the piano; I realized this would be the last time I'd hear her play at church for who-knows-how-long.  I began to cry.  But then as the choir sang "All is Well," I listened to the words:

All is well, all is well;
Angels and men rejoice.
For tonight darkness fell
Into the dawn of love's light.
All is well, all is well;
Let there be peace on earth.
Christ is come, go and tell
That He is in the manger
All is well, all is well;
Lift up your voices and sing.
Born is now Emmanuel
Born is our Lord and Savior.
Sing Alleluia
All is well

How can all not be well, when Christ is come and there is a way to have a relationship with God?  Christ was born to die.  He was born to die for me, as the sacrifice for my sins.  No striving for "good works" to save me; no uncertainty if I've been "good enough."  He alone is sufficient as the atonement for my sins.  And because I trust in Him for that salvation, I can truly say, "all is well."

So my friends, is all well for you?  Or do you yet need to put your full faith in the One who was born to die for you?

December 5, 2011

Either the Edge of Glory or the Edge of a Cliff...

Somewhere between rolls of twine and a freezer of leftover ziti, I lost my cool.  Tension had been building for a while; my to-do list was growing when it should be shrinking; my day was too full to get anything done; daily life was encroaching on my bridal dreams.

And then yesterday.  HTB walked with me to visit Bestie and Bestie Jr.'s mom, who had embroidered some weddings gifts so beautifully.

"I don't know how to tell you this, Amanda," she said, "but these scarves are filthy."  Imagine the horror on my face as I see a scarf that had been so neatly tucked into its store packaging, clean and tidy, now strewn with dots of mysterious dried matter and dirt smears.  All of that had been so cleverly hidden by said store packaging.  I felt ill.  I had bought those in Chicago.  In June.  And here I am, 38 days before the wedding (but who's counting?), with filthy shawls for my bridesmaids.

I held it together.  Walking back home, HTB (who likes to straddle the line between trying to be helpful and trying to make me laugh) was about to make a suggestion.

"Just don't even say it if it's not helpful," I said, casting a warning glance in his direction. 

"I actually think this is kind of a good idea," he said. 


"What if you just tye-dye them?  Then no one could tell!" 

"Really?  REALLY?!  Tye-Dye.  What are we, hippies?!"

Despite HTB's fantastic advice, I managed to deal with the situation.  And then I saw one of the monograms.  I had given Bestie's mom the WRONG initals for one of my bridesmaids.  Well, it was the right initials, but in the wrong order.  Her shawl now reads "KJV," like she's a Bible or something.  Sorry buddy... I suck.

But HTB now wants to forever refer to her as "King James."

I believe after that, I kind of fell in to HTB's arms and muttered things like "Just want to go to heaven," and "Don't even want to be alive anymore," and "Can't handle it."  A little dramatic?  Perhaps.  But slightly accurate?  Maybe.

And then today, let's just say that after a rude line-cutter at the post office a stupid USPS employee, frozen containers of baked ziti falling out of the freezer and busting, and dozens of gnats being born in my drain, it was even more accurate.

But thankfully, we're still reading through the Psalms backwards and last night read Psalm 39.  I couldn't even get through the Psalm for my tears.  HTB picked up where I left off and read about how our lives are but vapors; we must number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  Life is short.  In the grand scheme of things, what does a shawl matter?  Or a jerk at the Post Office?  They don't.  The only thing that really matters is if I'm glorifying God through each situation.

So... now I'm either on the edge of glory or the edge of a cliff, but either way, I'm going to try my darndest, with God's help, to employ fewer tears and more joy.

November 24, 2011

Thanks Be...

Every year at Thanksgiving, I wonder, for those who don't have a personal relationship with Christ, to whom/what do they give thanks?

And this year I wonder the same.  I don't think anyone anywhere would say they aren't thankful for something.  Thus, the question is begged... can you be truly thankful if there is no recipient for your thanksgiving?  They might be thankful for family, friends, food, shelter, bacon... but it loses their meaning if their thanks simply goes out into the great unknown; spoken words that die the moment they leave their mouths.

For me, when I give thanks both now and throughout the year, my thanksgiving is directed to the Giver of all gifts-- my God and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Without Him, life (including whatever thanks I might give) has no meaning.

So on this Thanksgiving Day, I sit on my parents' couch in my pajamas (still), post-parade, watching Miracle on 34th Street.  I'm browsing online for some Christmas shopping, and I'm counting my blessings.

Thanks be to the Lord.

And now it's time for a picture post!  Enjoy some photos from two of my bridal showers here in Chicago! :)

My cousins and me, minus Carolyn and Emily.
I received so many lovely handmade gifts-- like this afghan (Grandma) and cross-stich (Aunt Marge)
We <3 each other :)
Look at my fun shower surprise: one of my bridesmaids and best friends came in from Texas!!!
And yes, we went to a graveyard.  Whatev.
 A lovely montage by Kelly Johnson at Duna Photography!
 Looks like I'm laughing at my own private joke.  HAHAHA
 Mom made us a Chevron quilt!
 The flower girl and me, with the bow bouquet!
 HTB, whispering something sarcastic, to be sure. (photo by Kelly Johnson)
 My reaction... HAHAHA (photo by Kelly Johnson)
 YAY, we're getting married! :) (photo by Kelly Johnson)
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!

November 8, 2011


ANTICIPATION: how I both love and hate this concept.

I love anticipation because of that feeling I get on Christmas Eve.  You know those little exciting flutters in your belly that let you know that something really special/fun/happy is coming?  I think I still love Christmas Eve more than Christmas Day for that very reason.  Each year I stand in my parents' foyer, the multicolored twinkle lights on the towering tree behind me, Bing or Nat crooning around me, and I pull back the lace curtains.  I peek out at the snow (hopefully) falling softly and my brother faithfully lighting the lumenaria in the little paper bags down our driveway.  I smile and feel a sense of warm anticipation about the special day that will come in the morning. 

When I was a small child, my parents couldn't even tell me when exactly Christmas was because I'd keep myself awake every night with that same anticipation.

Call me weird (it's OK, go ahead-- I know you do anyway), but I even get that feeling about walking into bookstores or libraries.  I anticipate all the new information I'll find and the worlds that will be opened up to me, and oh, do those butterflies abound!

But then, I hate anticipation.  I went to my first "Howl-O-Scream" at Busch Gardens with HTB on our one-year dating anniversary (because nothing's more romantic than being chased by zombies through haunted houses, right?).  I wasn't actually scared in any of those haunted houses, no matter how grotesque or gruesome they were.  Sure I screamed when they jumped out at me, because who doesn't scream when that happens?  But what gave me sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach was the anticipation of the unknown.  What would they do to me?  What would it be like?  When will they pop out at me?  Will I actually die in this haunted house?  What if HTB makes me go first?  I hated that anticipation.  It ate at me as we waited in line for the first house, and a creepy "vampire" tried to chit chat with me about the scarf around my neck.  I nervously played along, but really I just wanted to not anticipate the unknown anymore.  Turns out it was all fun, but I didn't know it would be.

This is also why, when playing hide-and-go-seek as a child, I'd walk into a dark room and shout, "Don't jump out at me!" because I hated the anticipation of the unknown-- just knowing I was going to be scared, but not knowing when or how or by whom.

And if one event has ever given me more reason to both love and hate anticipation, it's this engagement time.  I just love anticipating all the fun stuff.  I get that Christmas Eve feeling about my wedding showers, and setting up my little apartment as our tiny "love nest," and thinking about the fun of the actual wedding day itself.  I have those giddy butterflies thinking about being married and being a wife to HTB, and making a life together.  Having children and living our days out together are all things that give me those warm fuzzy anticipatory feelings...

Until I start to anticipate the unknown: the fights, the hard times, the hard work it will take to stay best friends for the rest of our lives, the unknown challenges, the physical ailments, the things that could go wrong on our wedding day, financial worries...

This anticipation thing is so weird.  How can I both love and hate the feeling?  I guess the anticipation I love is when I'm anticipating something familiar, something I know to be good from either personal experience or word-of-mouth.  And I suppose the anticipation I hate is when I'm anticipating something unknown-- something I either fear or have heard negative things about from others.  I guess what I'm getting at is that I need to remember familiar, good things I know will come with the wedding and marriage, and not sweat the unknown, because it's just that: unknown.  Who's to say my experiences will be anything like those around me?  And knowing my God, I do know for sure that it will be good, because God created marriage, and marriage itself is good.

Now in the meantime, I do need to guard myself against a common mistake I made as a child.  I let the anticipation of Christmas Eve grow to such an extent that when Christmas came and went, I was left with the day-after-Christmas-blues.  After such great anticipation, there is nothing left to anticipate and therefore an emptiness where those fun butterflies used to be.  I don't want the let-down of December 26th (for those of us who don't celebrate Boxing Day) on January 13th... or any other day thereafter.  I hope I always anticipate the rest of my life with the best kind of anticipation, and that every new year brings the butterflies that indicate something very special/fun/happy is coming.  Though it may be unknown, it will be good.  Why?  Because I have God's Word on that, and I have HTB by my side.

October 31, 2011

Playing Dress-Up...

Here's one clue I've met my match: we both really enjoy an excuse to be someone else for a little bit.  Sometimes we get that privilege at a youth group theme night.  Other times, it's Halloween.

So yesterday night we met up with the group (now a quadruple date, really) at the Applebee's.  Mike was Dean Winchester (if you haven't seen "Supernatural," you really should.), and I was some kind of 80s jazzerciser, which morphed into being Olivia Newton-John.

The best was when HTB's mom watched me apply blue eyeshadow and tease my side pony and gingerly and tactfully asked, "Do you have plans tonight?"  "No," I replied, "I just like to dress like this on Sunday nights."
And it was so fun.  Nevermind that the rest of the group (save the Libertarian and the "celebrity" attempts by the besties... not bad ladies, for last minute :) ) didn't join us in our Halloween extravagance.  So here's to a forever with my HTB-- and partner-in-let's-play-dress-up-for-Halloweeen crime. :)

October 25, 2011

Fail Blog...

I'm a failure.

Yeah, you read that right.  I had a mini-meltdown (let's just say it's not the only one I've had during this wedding-planning season) on Sunday night and realized it's because when push comes to shove, I'm a failure.

I felt like I was just existing, that I wasn't doing anything excellently anymore.  Let me give you some background:

If you scroll through to my much-earlier posts, you'd see what my life was like as a single woman.  I kept an immaculate house, because I had time to clean it thoroughly every week.  I baked cupcakes like nobody's business, and made delicious meals from scratch, just because I had the time.  I blogged regularly, because not only did I have the time to blog, but I had the time to examine life and think about what would be blog-worthy.  I didn't gain weight for two years after I lost it because I could be picky about what I ate, since I was only feeding myself.

And then I entered into a relationship.  Don't get me wrong-- I wouldn't change a thing.  I would never want to live without HTB again.  But I look at myself now and see this:

A woman whose house is a mess because she doesn't have time to clean it, plan for a wedding, go to work, meet with friends, and spend time with her fiance.  She is gaining weight because she stress eats and now cooks for a burly man.  She never bakes because why tempt herself, and plus, who has the time?  She rarely, if ever writes in her journal, let alone blogs, though this is one of the most precious times of her life.  The reason: lack of time.

I confessed to HTB that I was afraid I wouldn't be a good wife because I can't juggle life like a good wife can.  I know how to juggle life like a single woman, but not a fiancee or a wife.  And because I'm so overwhelmed, I've simply been walking a tightrope, singly concentrated on my one step after the other, praying I won't fall.  And I feel like I'm missing life around me, and I can't see the forest for the trees.  I'm not doing anything well anymore; I'm just existing.

It was then that HTB reminded me that I am not the girl I was a year ago.  A year ago, I was not ready to be a wife.  Even though I pridefully thought to myself, I'd be a wife like a boss!  Look at me-- cooking, cleaning, baking, writing-- I'd be freaking awesome at homemaking, I wasn't ready for that-- not emotionally or spiritually.  I wasn't ready to depend on another person or put his needs above my own.  While other things have fallen out of place, God has been readying my heart.

And the truth is, I am a failure.  But God knows that and can use me anyway.  I can't do everything by myself.  I absolutely, without a doubt need Him and His strength to help me juggle everything life's throwing at me at this point.

In the next two and a half months, I need to:
Get premarital counseling
Sort through and pack up tons of stuff I need to get rid of
Sort through and pack up HTB's stuff
Have a garage sale
Paint and set up my apartment as a home for HTB and me
Finish wedding stuff (that's a whole other list)
Help Bestie move across the state
Visit Chicago twice for the holidays
Buy Christmas presents
Lose 13 pounds
Have a Christmas youth group party
Bake Christmas cookie gifts
Keep up at school
All while still maintaining my time in the Word, spending time with HTB, spending time with friends, teaching at discipleship, keeping a clean house, cooking meals, keeping a handle on finances.

Oh, is that all?  Yet I know there are homemakers out there with lists ten times as long as mine.  Still, it's a lot to juggle, and I am failing at it.  Yet when I am weak, then He is strong.

August 22, 2011

Over Three Months Ago Feels Like Over the Rainbow...

For shame.  For a dirty, dirty shame.  To think that I have neglected my once dear friend Blogger for over three whole months!  What have I been doing, you may ask?  Oh, nothing... just a little bit of Israel, Chicago, wedding planning, Mom visits, curriculum planning, and house hunting.

And I think there are some lessons I'm learning, too.  At school, I seem to be learning that I am truly a broken vessel.  I'm handmade, but easily broken and quite fragile.  And the funny thing is, God somehow puts those broken pieces together and makes something useful out of something worthless.  He uses this broken vessel to fulfill his purposes, in some miraculous way.  See, I was pretty burnt out after last year.  And yet I received an email from a random student who needed help and prayer.  And they turned to me.  Not because of anything I had done, certainly, but definitely because of what God had done through me somehow, without my knowledge.  Amazing how God can even use broken things.  It makes me think of 1 Corinthians, when we're told that God chooses the foolish things of this world to shame the wise, etc., so that no one can boast before God.

Consider me humbled.  For now.  I'm sure I'll have to learn this again.

And as HTB and I make our way backwards through the Psalms as a countdown to our wedding, I have discovered another lesson God is trying to teach me.  I found myself in tears several times lately because of the stress of the following things:

1.  house hunting: should we buy now?  Should we buy a starter house?  What if we miss the buyer's window and it starts going up again?  Should we rent?  How much can we afford?  Can we commit to a 30 year mortgage?  How big should it be?  Should we get a fixer-upper?
2.  wedding planning: why is everything so freaking expensive?  When will I have time to plan this?  Will everything come together?  What if I forget something?  Will it be pretty?  Will people have a good time?
3.  debt paying/budget planning: how long before we're debt-free?  Will we have enough money to save and pay off debts?  Will we have enough money period?  How will we ever afford to have kids?  How can we make more money and still stay sane?
4.  thinking about kids: when should we plan to have them?  What if I'm too old when that happens?  What if we can't afford it?  Should we wait until we're debt-free?

This is a lot to think about.  Yet as we read backwards through the Psalms, there are two recurring themes: Praise the Lord, and God can be trusted to meet our needs.  I think the two must go hand-in-hand.  You do one, you naturally do the other.  So my goal is to keep handing all those worries over to God, who certainly knows about them and has a perfect plan, and that includes meeting our needs.  And in the process, I am trying to Praise the Lord in all things. 

That's a little hard when I'm really tired at 6 a.m. or I get a bill from the doctor, but there is simply no other choice.  If we as people failed to praise the Lord, the rocks themselves would cry out in praise.  So, with the hopes of avoiding creepy singing rocks, I will praise.

Here's hoping I'm back on the blogging wagon. :)

July 14, 2011

What I've Been Doing In Lieu of Blogging...

I promise, Blogger, that you've been on my mind.  Even though I've been gone for almost TWO months, I haven't forgotten you.  But life was simply too busy to sit down in front of my laptop and type away.  Life for the last two months has included these things:
1.  traveling to Chicago to prepare for my trip and enjoy some family time.
2.  traveling from Chicago to Israel for the trip of a lifetime (pictures to come later).
3.  traveling back to Chicago for some downtime before the wedding dress hunting began.
4.  sister time in the City.
5.  finding a wedding dress and bridesmaid dresses.
6.  HTB visiting for a nice long time and getting the full Chicago and family experience (pictures to come later).
7.  taking awesome engagement photos (pictures to come later).
8.  finally coming back to Florida after being gone for a month.
9.  finishing our registries (so fun!).
10.  searching for a reception venue.
11.  feeling pretty darn stressed.

So... that's what I've been doing instead of blogging.  But soon, if I can get my head on straight, I will hopefully thrill you with pictures and stories. :)

May 22, 2011

So... Now What?...

So I'm engaged... now what?!  HTB (husband-to-be) left for a fancy shmancy international cruise the day after he proposed, and now I have been left reeling in the aftershocks of new engagement.

The day after was so fun: I got to bring a lot of joy to people just by flashing my ring (which is fabulous, is it not?  HTB did it all by himself, and did quite well, if I do say so myself.).  I feel that in one's life, there are really only two occasions on which you can bring such joy and even squealing-- engagement and pregnancy.  I played a game of hangman with my students until they guessed "Miss Hardt is engaged."  They were thrilled.  All of them wanted to know if they could come to the wedding, and a few wanted to be flower girls and/or ring bearers.  One student ran out the door and yelled down the hall, "She got bling!!!"

But with the excitement comes a bit of nervousness.  Not about HTB, because there is no one else I'd want to be with, ever.  But about the solemnity and reality of marriage.  It's for the rest of our lives, for better or for worse.  That's heavy!!

Seeing HTB's face on google talk after a day and a half of not seeing it calmed me down a bit (it always does), but I have found that I'm struggling with the same thing I struggled with at each new step of our relationship: trust.  It's the lesson God continues to teach me, and I don't know why I didn't expect it with this change.  With each change, I would freak out just a little, and forget that God's in control and had brought us together each step of the way.  And it's the same now, only even more exciting.  Once things got "normal," and "comfortable," I'd stop remembering I needed to trust.  So I've been reminded, and that's a good thing.

If you're looking for something to pray for us, please pray that we both trust the Lord and continue love Him more than each other, and that God would prepare us to enter into a lifelong, 1 Corinthians 13-type love affair.

Meanwhile, I'm ankle-deep in bridal magazines, sketches, planners, and ideas, and only just took a sigh of respite when my dear friends had a "pow-wow" with me, and HTB and I chose a date: January 12, 2012.  Why that date?  Because HTB is a little OCD (enough so it's endearing, not annoying) and he likes "1.12.12."  Seriously. :)

So now that I'm engaged, what do I do?  Pray for God to settle my crazy emotions and give me peace amidst my overwhelming feelings, pray that God would be shaping HTB and me into godly, mature, loving spouses, and get giddy now and then... because if there's ever a time to be giddy, it's now!

May 18, 2011

He Said, "Will You?" and I Said, "Yes."...

Somehow, in the last seven months, my dreams have begun to come true.  Not my nighty-night sleep-tight dreams, but my hopes and dreams.  First, a friend of mine became more than a friend.  Second, we fell in love with each other.

And now, we are getting married.

You read correctly-- GETTING MARRIED!!!!!

Somehow God saw fit for this man

To love this woman
For the rest of our lives.  :)

I can hardly believe it!  It seems unreal, like a nighty-night sleep-tight dream!  After all the planning for others, watching most of my friends pair off in wedded bliss, it is now my turn, and I can hardly fathom it!

"The story!" you say?  Of course I'll oblige.

I'll start by admitting, I was very surprised.  I had thought it might happen this summer, perhaps when BF (wait... he's now fiance, but I'd rather not call him "F."  haha.  I'll have to think on this one-- any suggestions?) would come to visit Chicago.  With that being said, I had a few sneaking suspicions. 

1.  He said he had a skype appointment yesterday... I thought perhaps he was asking my parents for permission to marry me... but surely he wouldn't ask yet.

2.  He said he had bought me something I couldn't have yet while he was in Las Vegas.  But surely he wouldn't give me a ring yet.

3.  He did some mysterious texting that I thought could have been giving some select people heads' up, but I thought, not yet, not when he's leaving tomorrow!

But he still surprised me.  I love this story, because it's pretty funny to me.  I think things didn't go as he planned, and he panicked a little when he actually proposed, which is so cute.  We were at the driving range, practicing golf swings (let's just say I made him look really talented).  He had planned to "tie his shoe" and kneel and propose, but there were too many people around.  He said that as the bucket of golf balls dwindled, he began to panic!  We ended up in his car, ready to go to Rita's for some frozen custard (mmmm), when he handed me his glove and said, "You need one of these-- try this on so I can see what size to get you."  There was something lumpy in it.  I pulled out a red die with white dots and looked at him quizzically.  He said it was something from Las Vegas.  I said, "really?"  And he said, "no."  I was puzzled, but whatever.  He's been known to do/say stranger things. 

I peered over at whatever he was texting, and he insisted that I show him my texts.  I gave him my phone and he snatched it and stuck it in his pocket.  When I asked for it back, he rummaged around in his pocket, mumbling something about, "it will take a second," and I legitimately thought my phone was stuck in his pocket until he said:

"Oh, I forgot to tell you, I got you something else when I was in Las Vegas..." and he pulled out a ring and held it up.  That's right, sitting in the front seat of his Trans Am, he pulled out a ring.  I stared.  I mean really, I just stared for several seconds, then squeaked out, "really?!" a couple times.  I think I couldn't believe it was actually happening, and I was surprised at the way he did it-- though not displeased.

You need to know that when he is nervous, he literally loses the ability to speak how he would normally speak, like when he asked me out and there were lots of long pauses.  So he finally eeked out, "Will you?" just before I almost said, "Is there something you want to ask me?"  Of course I said yes. 

I was shaking.  I couldn't believe it, as I put that ring on my finger, that this was real, that this was my life!  We headed over to Rita's, and despite the fact that I was no longer hungry, I wolfed down my cone as we chatted, still reeling over what had just happened.

It turns out, he'd had a plan, but when it didn't work out, it threw him off, hence his "will you".  So when he relaxed a bit, he told me why he wants to marry me (for the record, he thinks I'm wonderful, and I don't think he's too bad himself), and back at my place he got down on one knee and said, "will you marry me," just to make sure I got to experience that.  It's hard to get down on one knee in the front seat of a Trans Am.  But I wouldn't have changed a thing.  It also turns out that the die is in reference to a comment a friend made at a wedding last week after I didn't catch the bouquet (on purpose, because I hate that).  She said, "I'm sorry, but the die is cast."  She knew I'd be next, and she was right!

So we set a tentative date in January.  He picked that so I could have one last Christmas with my family, which I thought was very caring, but every time I mention that, someone thinks it sounds like they're going to die or something.  That's nice.  Then began the phone calls.  I called my mom, then all my bridesmaids, then every one of the families in my extended family, then texted a select group of other friends. 

We went over to Bestie's house and Bestie Jr. and her husband came too.  We toasted to January, and to us, and we laughed and squealed and giggled... and that was just BF!  JK, the guys pretended to stab themselves with kitchen knives.

After skyping with my parents and brother, we had some alone time to just sit and soak in this big change.  It's really exciting, and so fun to bring such joy to others.  But part of me is still nervous, knowing that marriage is a huge commitment and a big responsibility, and it's for life.  I wouldn't want to spend my life with anyone else, but it's very overwhelming.

And telling my students was fun.  I had them play hangman and when they figured it out, their faces lit up.  I had students ask to be my ring bearers and flower girls, but my favorite was when a student ran into the hall shouting, "She got bling!"

I did.  But even more than the bling, I got HIM.  And my dreams are coming true.

May 14, 2011

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder and Fonder and Fonder...

See this guy above?  I love him.  He just graduated from college {have I mentioned I'm a cougar? :)} and his "real life" is starting.  And I get to be a part of that.
He is now Uncle Mike, with the birth of his niece.  He doesn't really know how to handle newborns.  I mean, he hasn't dropped her on her head, but when she made a gassy face and pooped in her diaper, he freaked right out.  But he still holds her.  And what's cuter than a handsome, bearish, tough guy holding a little girl?  Nothing, I tell you-- nothing. :)

The funny thing is, hipsters might take this picture for real.  But BF was just being a ham sandwich and making me laugh, and my hipster photography editing skills made it look like he was really "in the moment."
So this is BF.  He's away for a while, and we will see each other for only about 3 days from last Wednesday until June 26. :(  But I miss him and love him, and these were just a few reasons why.

May 13, 2011

Celibacy in the Suburbs...

{thanks, Blogger, for losing my post on the one day I happen to update my blog in over a month, and for making BF go looking for it for me, the tech-genius he is.  And by "thank you" I mean "Grrrr."}

Trying to find blog direction these days is difficult. With that being said, I've been meaning to use this post title for a very long time. It's been waiting patiently in the recesses of my mind, and today I'm finally employing it:

According to the world, hereafter personified as "World," I've done things wrong-- all wrong. World must look at me with a cocked eyebrow and say, "Ooooookayyyyy??"

Let's start with my choice of education and career:

World suggests you get into the very best institution you can for the purpose of doing as well as you can so you will make as much money as you can. Ivy League is preferred; state institutions are acceptable. Even some high-profile private Christian universities are sometimes nothing to sneeze at.... Hey World, how do you feel about a tuition-paid Bible Institute that's not accredited? That's what I thought. Even my high school guidance counselor advised against it. I went to a Christian high school.

With a high college GPA, World might believe that I should have pursued a career that would rake in the Benjamins, that would fill my sweaty little palms with cold, hard, cash. Legal, medical, business, design-- all are acceptable career paths. Let me ask you, World, do you think I should get a degree in elementary education and become a teacher at a tiny Christian school, making half of what a public school teacher makes? Yikes, World, you don't have to yell.

Or take my location. I grew up just outside a hub. Not just a U.S. hub, but a world hub-- Chicago. World would say that the networking, culture, and high life are all at my feet in that city. But what would you say, World, if I told you I wanted to move to a coastal town in central Florida? Listen, I know we differ in opinions, but you don't have to be rude about it.

Now let's get down to the nitty gritty, as my friend Nacho Libre likes to say.

While World nods its head in silent agreement with Sex in the City, I am living celibacy in the suburbs. World says to date as many men as possible to determine if one of them is "the One." Break a few hearts-- it's empowering! Get your heart broken once or twice-- it gives you wise life experience! Date for fun-- see what you can get out of it! Hey World, you need to know that I have turned down a couple people for dates. Not because the sight of them made me nauseated, or because they lived in their parents' basement as hermits, or because of body odor, but because I knew they weren't marriage material. That's right, I said marriage. I was friends with guys instead, and knew before I even started dating that I could potentially marry that man. There is wisdom in not getting my heart broken, and not breaking the hearts of others, and dating is not about what I can get out of it, but what I can do to love him and honor Him.

World, I know you think I should sleep with my boyfriend because it's just "the thing to do," and "everyone does it," and "it's fun," and "what if he's bad in bed?" Guess what, World-- I'm waiting until I'm married to do that. Pick your jaw up off the floor-- that's unbecoming. While you revel in titilating stories of conquest and walks of shame, I have chosen abstinence. Not because I delight in depriving myself or making life difficult, though difficult it may be, but because God told me that's how it should be, and because of His faithfulness, I trust and obey that. Plus, World, bonus: I'm disease and pregnancy free, so take that with your outbreak of herpes!

And World, when the time comes for me to get married and start a family, you would say that I need to find a fulfilling career away from my family, or I'll "lose myself." Well let me tell you, being a wife and mother will be my dream job. And while I won't be a prisoner in my home, I will revel in my marriage and motherhood because that is fulfilling.

Please don't mistake this post as a self-righteous soap box. It's just a reminder that as a believer, I need to not be conformed to the world but transformed, and that World's view of life is not God's view of life and therefore not my view of life.

So while World might sit around a diner table with its girlfriends and talk about things that might make my grandmother's eyes cross, I think I'll opt for sitting around a Panera table with my girlfriends and talking about things that makes my God smile.

March 23, 2011

The Anti-Hipster...

My generation is a generation of hipsters.  For those of you over the age of forty, under the age of five, living under a rock or maybe in Oklahoma: a hipster is, as defined by the urban dictionary"a subculture of men and women typically in their 20's and 30's that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter."

I have come to the {happy} realization that, despite the pressures of today's culture and my age bracket, I am not dating a hipster.  While I myself may or may not possess some hipster tastes, BF does not.  Am I alone here?  In a sea of hipster men {weird amalgamations of nerd and metrosexual}, does your man stand out as anti-hipster, and dare I say, more stereotypically manly?  Hipster men, don't get me wrong: you're OK in my book.  I just don't want to date you {or anyone besides BF for that matter, but you know what I mean}.

You know your man is anti-hipster if:

  • He sports neither man-bangs nor some other such Florence Henderson-type 'do.
  • His pants would never be mistaken for jeggings.
  • He believes cardigans are for Mr. Rogers (though I kind of dig cardis.  See what I mean?).
  • Vintage paraphernalia, in his opinion, is dead people's stuff.
  • The artsy-fartsy type annoys the crap out of him.
  • He doesn't know what an "etsy" or an "urban outfitters" is.
  • His glasses are functional, nothing more.
  • His shoes have laces.
  • You immediately know he's male; he's not even a little androgynous.
  • He likes what he likes, even if it's mainstream.
  • He doesn't need his iPod surgically removed from his ears.
  • He doesn't have/want/read a blog.
  • He has not had a philosophical phrase/symbol tattooed anywhere on his person.
  • He doesn't even wear a scarf if it's cold.
  • He thinks bicycles are toys.
  • The only time he uses the word "progressive" is in relation to sanctification.
  • His only hat is a beat up baseball cap.
  • He weighs more than 100 pounds.
{I must note, however, that BF has had an ironic mustache, wears witty t-shirts, and displays public nerdiness (though his is genuine)}

These hipsters are the more educated and less apathetic hippies of my parents' generation, and while they have their charms, I am glad I'm not dating one.  Mostly because of the whole androgynous haircut and jeggings thing.  So don't hate-- celebrate-- if you too are one of the few and proud to not be dating a hipster.  Which maybe is a hipster mindset in and of itself...? 

{image found here}

Stay tuned for my opinion of this generation's d-bag style.

March 15, 2011

A Birthday With Sisters...

Can you believe I've posted here again... twice in one week?!  What can I say; when BF is away, Amanda will play on her blog.  Can you blame me if I'd rather spend time with BF than blog?  I don't think you can. :)

But I needed to document my belated bday celebration with my sisters.  We have a very unique relationship, I feel.  Each of us is unique in her own way, but when we come together, we have that sister/friend thing going on that is inexplicable.  I try to explain to BF how two girls who don't share my parents are actually my sisters, but there are really no words.  Closing in on a decade of shared experiences, common faith, and real love for each other will do that.

My sisters know me well.  They took me to my favorite part of town: Hyde Park.  There's a little park with a fountain and tall trees in the midst of cute shops that are much too expensive for my blood, but not too expensive for my taste (mmmm.... Anthropologie...).  It reminds me a bit of Chicago, but not quite.  And I like it because it's not Chicago.  It's a little slice of city somewhere else, a little retreat from suburbia that is right here at home.  Beyond the shops of this little section of town are gorgeous, well-kept homes that look like they popped off the pages of a "Better Homes and Gardens" magazine.  Victorians to make your spine tingle.  Bungalows to make your knees buckle.  It's all too much yet not enough for my little heart.

But my sisters know that.  They took me there and we did what we do best: photo shoots, laughter, and exuberance.  In the glow of the sun I opened their cards, more precious than any material gift.  And then we shopped, and I came out of my favorite store, happily laden with bags.  And then we tried something new, thanks to Bestie's new toy (her beloved iPhone): Amelie's, the most fun little French bakery I may have ever eaten in this side of the Atlantic.  A chocolate croissant later, we were on our way to dinner...

...Where we got a free sundae because the waiter felt bad about my hoarse voice.  Guess there is still compassion in this world.  Either that or he was hoping for a huge tip or a phone number.

Then we three headed home: they to their husbands, me to my empty apartment ready to get a call from BF, the international traveler extraordinaire.

And it was nice just knowing that I have sisters who know me well and love me, in that inexplicable sister/friend sort of way.

March 13, 2011

A Bit of Birthday...

Here are my delightful parents, fresh in from snowy Chicago, enjoying the Florida sunshine. :)

So... I've neglected my blog.  I'm sorry (that is, if anyone even reads this anymore).  But life has a way of getting crazy.  I have some deeper thoughts to share, but those will come later.  Here is a picture tour of my birthday weekend, in all its glory:
And this is BF and me.  He asks, "Do I need to have a real smile?"  And then does this.  Maybe it's Opposite Day, and if I say, "no, you need to grimace," he would smile normally.  He tries. :)

We went to Tarpon Springs on my birthday for some fantastic Greek food.  I mean really, this place is tops.  Saganaki (flaming cheese) may very well be the food they serve in heaven.  Here I was surrounded by my favorite Floridians. :)

This picture makes me laugh so hard.  BF looks more awkward than I ever intended to make him feel while taking pictures.  I love it.  PS, my birthday cake was the best baklava I've ever had, but with only one candle, because twenty-seven is a fire hazard.  Twenty-seven!!!  YIKES!  Late twenties?!?!

It WAS at the sponge docks, after all.

We had a bit of a photo shoot, much to BF's chagrin.
I took the group one on a timer, set atop a newspaper thingy.  Haha, success!!

And one of my favorite items of the weekend is the above purchase: two vintage dishes.  We went to an antique fair in my little town, and I got these for a song.  I mean, not literally.  No one would give me anything for singing, I'm that bad.  But $25 for the pair is pretty good.  And I picture them on a Thanksgiving spread someday in my own house, on my big dining room table, passed by family members. :)


But the most special item of the weekend was this treasure, given to me by BF.  Relax, it's on my RIGHT hand.  It's another claddagh ring, this time white gold with my birthstone (aquamarine), and it's special for a couple of reasons.  First, Mike remembered that my parents gave me mine fifteen years ago, on my birthday.  Secondly, it's a promise from him, that someday he'll give me another ring. :)

February 16, 2011

Classic V-Day...

Yesterday was not my first Valentine's Day.  And yet, it was my first Valentine's DayKnow what I'm saying?  It was the first year I'd ever actually had an honest-to-goodness valentine.  I have always loved the day, for whatever reason.  Don't lecture me about Hallmark-- I know, I know.  I know it's all ridiculous, but I love it.  I don't think I love it for its romance though; I might love it more for the pink and purple hearts everywhere. 

But this year I got to experience the quintessential Valentine's Day.  I'm the kind of girl who would be happy pulling on sweats, making grilled cheese, and popping in a new movie on Valentine's Day, but BF likes to pamper me.  It began on Sunday.  I had ruined his plan because I decided to have a five-day fever that meant I might or might not be at work on Monday.  So just in case, he brought over my first gifts that were intended for my desk Monday morning: a dozen long-stemmed red roses and a box of candy (let's get this straight: not waxy chocolate bon-bons with finger indentations to see if it's a toffee or a nasty eggnog cream... Lindt Lindor truffles, only the best chocolate ever).  As classic as hot dogs at a Sox game, evergreens on Christmas, and Lady Gaga having some sort of weird relationship with a food product/animal/shape/color.

Then on V-Day itself, he stopped in on my free period at work and brought me a teddy bear.  Not just any teddy bear, a Vermont teddy bear resplendent in Captain James T. Kirk's uniform.  That's right.  I don't know if you know this, but BF is a Trekkie (but a cute one, not a creepy one).  I loved it.  So... while a teddy bear is classic Valentine's Day, his garb is decidedly... "us."  After work, he came by my place and gave me one more gift: a framed DIY ancient-looking print of my favorite Psalm, in Hebrew.  That's right folks: DIY.  It was shocked and awed, in the best possible way.  He then informed me that we were getting high-class carry out, and he proceded to pull a tablecloth, placemats, and candles from his backpack.  This was BF's version of "cooking" for me; what girl doesn't love that?

As if that wasn't wonderful enough, he then cut up strawberries and put together little strawberry shortcake dessert, paired perfectly with our sparkling white grape juice.  We finished our evening of classic V-Day activities by heading to the beach.  Surprisingly, we were alone; two cold masses huddled in the sand, staring up at the impossibly bright moon and stars.  I flung sand in his face unintentionally and later crunched sand in my teeth, but that's the price one pays for romance, isn't it?

And thus was my very first Valentine's Day.  It didn't disappoint.  But as I wrote, even grilled cheese and my sweats wouldn't disappoint, as long as I was with my valentine.

January 24, 2011

The Claddagh Ring...

Let me explain a little Irish tradition: the Claddagh ring.

This ring, given by one who loves the wearer, has much meaning.  The little hands symbolize friendship, the crown is a symbol of loyalty, and the heart is a symbol of love.  Tradition holds that when the hand holds the heart pointing outward, towards others, the wearer's heart isn't taken.  When pointed inward, the wearer's heart is indeed spoken for. 

Just about everyone (including the men) on my mom's side of the family wears one of these rings.  I received mine on a snowy night in 1996: my 12th birthday.  My parents had taken me out to The House of Hughes for that special birthday, and gave me my Claddagh ring. 

For fourteen years I have worn that ring, the little hands holding the heart pointing towards the world, waiting (albeit guardedly) to give my heart away to one who would be worthy. 

Just a couple nights ago, I turned my ring around.  My heart is taken.  And, like my new ring position, it takes some getting used to.  It somehow feels both natural and foreign.  That little ring had molded to my finger and was comfortable where it had rested for so long, just as I had become comfortable in the singleness I'd lived for so long.  So now it fits strangely; the crown is bent upward just a bit, and it catches on my clothes.  I'm learning how to live with it, waiting for it to become just as comfortable as it had been, just as I am learning to live with this new relationship, waiting for it to become just as comfortable as my singleness had been.  Only, it's a much more enjoyable process than getting used to my ring's new position.

Funny.  Fourteen years ago, as I shoved the too-small gold ring onto my chubby right hand ring finger, I thought about the day I might turn it around.  Many times over the past fourteen years I've thought about the when and the where of turning that ring around, and especially the whom.  But never in those fourteen years did I anticipate the rich blessing, the great joy that would accompany such a seemingly insignificant event as turning a little gold ring around.  As I flipped the ring and slid it onto my now-slender right hand middle finger, I thought about all it meant and all it will mean... and maybe all that will occur in my life in the next fourteen years.

January 21, 2011

A Year in Pictures...

 My YEAR in PICTURES, as promised...


 WELCOME, 2011...