Thursday, December 31, 2009

End of an Era and My Quarter-Life-Crisis: Reflections on the Past Decade

I can remember the New Year's Eve of the over-exaggerated 'Y2K.' Actually, that was one of my most favorite New Year's Eves. December 31st also happens to be my birthday, so if it is a great night, all the better. If NYE is a flop, when then, I lose two major events in one night. (Personally, I tend to think NYE is a bit over-rated).

Anyway, on the last day of 1999, I was house-sitting for my sister and we had this big bash at her house. We cleared out some of the rooms so we could dance on her hard-wood floors, friends just kept showing up - with friends of friends and food. By the last few moments of 1999, there were probably about 60 of us gathered around her big screen TV, watching Y2K around the world, waiting for the NYC ball to drop.

I just remember it was such an exciting moment...with so many friends and people around. Then, when the ball dropped, it was just hugging and kissing and toasting and celebrating. After, a bunch of us then decided to drive to Montauk Point (the eastern-most tip of Long Island) to catch the first sunrise of the new millennium.

We got our coffee and blankets and headed out...and to our surprise,
hundreds of other people had the same idea! What a great morning. A friend of mine even got quoted in the Newsday article that came out the next day.

So, the new millennium was off to a great start. But not long after that, I hit my 'quarter-life' crisis. And this is how it happened:

When I was starting my senior year of college in 1995, my roommates and I decided to write a time-capsule of where we thought we would be in the year 2000. True to our promise, we met at the Jersey Shore in the summer of 2000 to read them.

It was fun and sentimental...some of the girls were right for a few of their predictions. One of my friends was like 10 for 10, lol.

Me? Way off. I mean,
waaaaayyyyyy off. Not that my life was terrible - actually, at 26, it was a lot of fun. But, I suddenly realized that nothing, I mean nothing, had gone like I had thought. And that scared me. It hit me all at once how little control I really had in my own life.

And that sort of set me on this fearful, internal journey of the quarter-life crisis (which is actually a real term). I guess you graduate college with all of these hopes and dreams of how your life will turn out. Anything is possible.

And then, year after year, reality sets in more and the hopes of your dreams becomes just slightly less. Again, not that my life was bad. It was just different. And that was a little hard to deal with.

So, I guess the next decade was dealing with all of that. I mean, there were some wonderful moments along that next ten-year period:

  • I became a teacher at S. Christian School.
  • I have had some wonderful relationships with my students and co-workers.
  • My baby sister got married.
  • I saw the birth of three new nieces.
  • I had guardianship of my nephew (who was 15 at the time) for 2 and half years. Some of the best times of my life. Don't know how to express how much I love that kid.
  • I traveled to some amazing places on missions trips - Belize, Ukraine, Nigeria, Brazil, Morocco, Nicaragua, Trinidad.
  • I got my Master's Degree in Liberal Studies/English/Adolescent Education
  • I saw God heal a special friend from cancer.
  • I have been blessed with some of the greatest friendships in the world and had some great times with Becky, Jen, Ryan, Liz, Kelly, Laura, Liz, Jodi, Rhonda, Steph and many more.
  • I met J. and got engaged :)
  • I am planning a wedding and getting ready to buy a house.
  • I discovered Jesus in a way I never had before in my life and experienced true joy and healing.
But, there were some hard moments, too:
  • I had my first serious break-up that messed me up for a bit of time.
  • I struggled with being single into my thirties and all the sadness and hard stuff that comes with it.
  • I suffered from more than a few crushed dreams and disappointments in relationships.
  • I lost my grandma.
But you know, as I think about it, those probably were the worst times. And over the course of a decade, that is not half bad. Actually, it is pretty amazing. When I look at the weight of all the ways I have been blessed, compared to some of the hard things I've gone through, I had definitely made out well and have come out ahead.

My family is alive and well. And so am I. I live in America. I have a job - two, actually. I have an apartment I love and a house that I will be moving into. I found a godly man to marry.

And even though my life isn't what I thought it would be, I guess little by little I am learning to let go and be OK with so. So far, so good.

My devotional verse today was: '
Thus far has the Lord helped us.' (1 Samuel 7:12). And if His past track record is any indication of His future track record, I think I will be just fine.

Happy New Year and here is to all the best in the decade to come!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 in Review

Looking back, looking ahead. This actually is a yearly tradition of mine.

In my 'blog-stalking,' I've come across a kindred spirit in Jen from "After the Altar" - fellow Long-Islander and newly-wed (which I will shortly be joining the ranks of).

Anyway, she got the idea from another blogger, Scary Mommy (not quite there yet) of doing the year in review in a blog. I only started this blog in July or August, because that is when I got engaged. However, I started my other blog - the mother blog to this one, One Girl's Journey - October 2008 and posted sporadically; my year-in-review will pull from both.

So let's have at it:

Jan-March: Well, I started blogging in October 2008, was pretty good for the month, but didn't blog again til April 2009. Oops. At that point, James and I went to Fla to visit my grandparents, took the pre-covenant classes at church (before we were engaged), and then my blogging (therapy) began.

April: I guess being in the pre-covenant classes surfaced some 'inner issues', so I sort of began a personal recovery. "Detour on the Journey" sort of explains in a transparent way some of what was going on on the inside (it's a little messy), and "Relationships are Not Linear" was one of my epiphanies along the way.

May-June: -Ummm, took another break from blogging. Guess the therapy was getting too deep, lol. I did go to Morocco on a missions trip and I wish I had blogged about that. Maybe I'll reflect on that in a future date. Se la vie.

July: OK, engagement! And that was when the blog really came to life! Technically, I wrote this blog of our engagement story, in September, complete with pictures, but it tells of when we got engaged in July.

August: One Girl's Journey to the Altar is born! This post "How I Came to Meet the Border's Guy" tells the story of how we met at Border's (honestly, this is like a story from the movies!) and this post tells how God amazingly, Providentially, supernaturally brought us together.

September: I am a teacher, so this post contains some thoughts about getting back to school, "Back in the Saddle." I also had some lessons I was learning about relationships and marriage along the way: "We Marry Because...??" and "Eve's Curse".

October: A month of simple truths. It was great...got me out of psycho-wedding-planning-world and back to some bottom lines, and oh, how I love a bottom line: "Words from a Recovering Perfectionist" and "God is My Treasure."

November: Can't say it is the most interesting post ever, but just some updates on the wedding planning: "Full Steam Ahead".

December: This was probably my most reflective month. The holidays do that to me. I love going over the year (it was a tradition I did for years in my journal), looking back and looking ahead. My birthday is December 31st, also, so I like it that when the calendar flips to a new year, it is also a new birth year for me, too. Keeps things nice and clean. So, before I look ahead, one more stop in December: "Taking A Breather" has helped me recenter myself again and "I Almost Missed It" again reminds me of what is the single most important thing in my life. And oh, how I need to be reminded again.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em: How I Became a Jets Fan

The long and short of it is this: James tricked me.

When we first met, he played it all suave and smooth - like he had all of these diverse interests (which happened to be what I was interested in), loved socializing, didn't mind going here and there - to festivals and plays and bookstores - but all along, he had this secret side he did not let me in on:

James is a sports addict. Oh, and he was good at hiding it. For months, he never let on.

We met in September, and I began to see a little of it in the spring, when Mets season started. [Now, I really like baseball and once upon a time (junior high, that is), I was a die-hard Mets fan, too. I sort of grew out of it a little, but I still really enjoy a good baseball game.] Our lives didn't completely revolve around the Mets schedule, but I began seeing that it was important to him - so, no problem. I could be the Mets-fan-girlfriend.

That was all well and good, but I admit, I was sort of looking forward to the end of baseball season - to when we could get on with our life.

Well, that was, until I realized that football season started in the fall.

You see, when we met in the previous fall, there was NO INDICATION WHATSOEVER that he liked football. So, OK, not too bad- I could deal. Football was only on Sundays and Mondays. I could handle the Jets 1 day of the week.

Well, NFL is only on Sundays and Mondays. College football is another story - Thursday, Friday and ALL DAY Saturday.

So, I found myself patiently waiting until the end of football season...until I realized... hockey season began somewhere in the middle of football season. You guessed it - James loves the NY Islanders. And ice hockey - go figure - doesn't end until JUNE! What the heck?!?!?

Oh, dear...I began to see where this was going. Basketball season starts - I don't know when - late fall, I think? - but then there is NBA, college basketball, March Madness - and that ends just in time for -right again - baseball season.

And, it's not just the Mets. James will watch ANY baseball game. And any football game. And any hockey game...yeah, you get the point.

So, yeah, he tricked me. Never let on that he was obsessed with sports. Until it was too late - I was already in love with him.

Needless to say, this has caused some minor rifts between us at moments. And in his defense, James does not (necessarily) arrange our life around all of these games (Not to say that he wouldn't if he had his way. But still, he gets it. And in fairness, he does have other interests, too).

And at times, I have gotten frustrated because - call me crazy - sometimes I would like to diversify our time together and - leave the house maybe???

But I realized that me resenting sports would not make him like them any less (actually, that reaction typically has the opposite effect). So I decided that my only sanity if I was going to be in a relationship with a guy who loved sports was to learn to love them too.

Thankfully, I do like them, for the most part. I really do enjoy a good game (just not games on end). I could manage most sports (I was even a 3-sport athlete in high school), but my issue was football. I just could never get into it. For whatever reason, it just did not make sense to me...it looked messy, unorganized and just an excuse for guys to smash each other.
Football was only useful to me as an excuse to have a fun Super Bowl party (been to several and have never watched an actual game. Ever.)

But I started asking questions (note to self - don't ask too many questions while he is actually watching the game), and I am starting to get it.

And actually, I am starting to like it. Today, I made a concentrated effort to really try to pay attention and appreciate it...and I enjoyed it. For a while, I even forgot why I was trying to learn the game and actually asked him to please move a little to the left because he was blocking my view of the game.

This has been a good lesson for me. I got convicted a few months ago when I heard Andy Stanley do a teaching on marriage, and he used the verse in Philippians 2 that says something like, 'Each of you should not only look to your own interests, but also the interests of others.' And it hit me that I would never get James to stop watching sports or stop liking sports. That is just who he is. I could either let this make a wedge between us, or, if I were smart, I could get over myself, take an interest in what he is interested in, and let it be a bridge. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

And that is how I became a Jets fan. :)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Where We Come From and Who We Are

Yes, I mean families.

I've always heard, 'What you grow up with feels normal to you, but it doesn't mean that everyone else's family is like that.' Not wrong, just different.

I knew that but I don't think I really knew that. I think, deep down, I really believed that every family was like mine (or that every family should be like mine - or at least wanted to be like mine).

I come from a good size Italian family. It's not huge, but I
have 3 sisters with their families, plus a host of aunts and uncles and cousins (not that we see them so much anymore, but in the past, especially when my grandmother was still alive, our holidays involved them much more).

Our holidays were never the serene moments around the dinner...eating on fine china, drinking from crystal glass, with a warm glow of candlelight. No, not our house.

When my family celebrates the holidays, it is typica
lly chaotic. Not in a bad way, just in a ...well...loud way.

Our holidays usually involved a lot of
busyness - visiting different aunts and uncles, people popping over unexpectedly, a lot of noise and energy, a lot of food ...sort of a open-house-free-for-all. The more, the merrier. Most years, my parents invited people they knew had no where else to go, so we always had this random assortment of company.

There were usually kids running around,
dogs barking, loud talking to compete with the volume of the TV and other conversations, people coming and going. The table wasn't big enough for all of us, so it was usually pushed to one side and we ate buffet style, in different parts of the house. Usually just an informal celebration of sorts. The most formal thing we do is probably just say grace before the meal.

And I thought that was great - and that everyone wanted
their holidays to be like that.

This year, I spent Christmas Day (and Thanksgiving as well) with James' family. It was different in a few ways:

First, it was smaller - just us, his parents, his sister, niece, and nephew (and one close family friend for Christmas).

It was
quieter...the TV was on, but it was sort of just background. And for a while, it was just on the station that played Christmas music. A very serene atmosphere.

There was more
ceremony and formality - First, for both holidays, we all sat around the table together. I can only remember a few holidays that we have done that at my house.

For Thanksgiving, we all shared something that we were thankful for. Then, his mom (which I couldn't help thinking of her as this wise matriarch of the family) went around to each family member (me included) and expressed why she was thankful for that person and just spoke these amazing words of life and encouragement (almost prophetically, it felt like). There were some tears shed, and it was definitely very moving.

For Christmas, instead of gifts, she and Tony (
James' stepdad) wrote out these personalized prayers based on Scripture for each one of us, putting our names in the verse, and read them to us. It felt like she was passing on this spiritual legacy to us. (For James, it was Philippians 3:12-16; For me, it was Proverbs 31:10, 29-31). She included a picture of each of us and a Christmas card that she felt portrayed the verse. It was so special.
On the way home, James and I took the scenic route and just listened to Christmas music and took in all the Christmas lights. Then we just sat in his driveway quietly for a moment...sort of soaking in all the changes that will be taking place in the next few months.

It was fun to think about what the holidays will be for us ne
xt year. Being married. In our own home. The traditions we will start. Beginning a new branch of each of our family trees.

But it was bittersweet, too. I realized that this Christmas morning was the last time I would wake up in my parents' house and go upstairs and have breakfast with my sister and nephews. The realization hit me that next year, the holidays will be something different than what they have always been in the past. Not just how his family does it, not just how my family does it, but how WE will do it.

I'm sure it will include pieces of both...where we have come from has made us who we are. We bring that with us.

But as we two become one, something brand new will start as well. And we are both very aware of the magnitude of this new chapter we are beginning, the legacy we are creating - that is now in the making - the one we will pass on someday to our families.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I Almost Missed It...

Christmas, that is. Because of all the wedding planning and the impending move, I didn't even bother to put up Christmas decorations. My classroom? It would have remained undecorated if some of the seniors on the "CCC" (Christmas Cheer Committee) hadn't volunteered to do it. I think I went Christmas shopping for the first time on Saturday. December 19th, that is.

But that isn't what I mean. I almost missed Christmas. What it really means.

My students have heard me often enough get on my soapbox about the commercialism of Christmas and the disgust over what our society has made it. It's like we have this month-long extravaganza celebration, with all the decorating, songs, shopping, parties, cantatas - all for what was supposed to be a commemoration of Jesus' birthday - and it is like we have forgotten to invite Him to all the festivities! And in some cases, not even forgotten, but He is not even allowed to come!

Did we forget it is called CHRISTmas for a reason???

But I digress (the soapbox again). I almost missed it. I think this morning is maybe the first time I had a chance to really reflect on why we are celebrating. I got up to do my quiet time and was ready to rush through it because I had to get to Stop N Shop, Costco, Ulta, Dollar Tree, Gap Outlet...

Then I felt this gentle nudge in my soul to just slow down. Stop. Reflect. I was becoming all of the people I get so angry with - the ones who are doing all the celebrating and not keeping the focus on why. Or I should say Who, really.

Jesus.

God's perfect gift to a humanity doomed to bondage. Sin. Evil. Themselves. He came...not just to stay a baby. That was only the start. He came to be a Savior. For a creation He loved dearly and who desperately needed saving. Not just for 'a creation' but for me. I was doomed to bondage. Sin. Evil. Myself. I desperately needed saving.

And He did it. He came. Gave up heaven and shrunk Himself to fit inside human skin. To die a horrific death so I could be free from bondage. Sin. Evil. Myself. To have friendship with God. So I could be a clean, pure daughter in right-standing before her Daddy. Forever.

That is the miracle we should be celebrating. What kind of God does this??? Not on a whim but as a result of an intricately, meticulously designed plan, one invented even before light appeared on the horizon of the universe and the first bite of the apple was taken.

Because He saw me. He saw you. And to Him, we were worth it.

"Long lay the world, in sin and error pining
Til He appeared, and the soul felt its worth..."


"A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn..
."

Oh, what an amazing day we are celebrating. What an amazing God. He came. "Immanuel." God with us. God with us still.



(Picture and lyric inspiration borrowed from Or So She Says)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Of Expectations...The Dream vs. Reality


The idea of dreams and expectations has come up a few times in the past day or two in some blogs/articles I've come across, and of course, it has gotten me thinking.

I think every girls grows up with some dreams about what her marriage will be like.

For me, getting married was always this elusive, 'out-there' experience that, in the back of my mind, I daydreamed what I thought it would be like. Or, maybe just what I wanted and hoped it would be like. Possibly the product of an overactive imagination or a glutton's diet of romance books and movies as a teen, I think I scripted line by line what I imagined it would be like and just sort of filled in the blanks myself.

How much that was in line with reality, I'm not sure. Actually- I'm pretty sure - not much at all.

I've read a few thoughts on this that have just brought me back down to earth, and honestly, has given me a more realistic look at married life and helped me appreciate what I have - which is a good, honest, loving, honorable man.

Boundless.org has an 'engaged' page with some good articles. There was one entitled 'Managing Expectations' that had some good things to say:

"My dad once told me that learning to manage your expectations of others (and others' expectations of you) is what makes life, well, manageable. I've found, however, that I have expectations about life that don't seem unreasonable; they're just not God's plans....

"None of these expectations were particularly
wrong, but they haven't been what God has had in store for me. And, honestly, that's been disappointing for me. I've learned to throw out certain expectations and go with whatever God has in store for me, but I find I still carry certain expectations about life around...

"Managing expectations and dealing with the disappointment of unmet expectations is something I'll spend my whole life doing — in my marriage, with extended family relationships, at work, in church. I pray that I have the courage and faith to follow God's path wherever it leads, especially when things don't work out the way I plan
."

Those thoughts helped me. We all have expectations and dreams for our lives. And I don't think they are always wrong - just not necessarily accurate. It comes down to trusting God when those expectations aren't met the way we think they should be. And it has helped me to know that those expectations just may not be part of God's plan for me - nothing more, nothing less. At least for the moment. Letting go of control once again.

I also came across this article at crosswalk.com. This guy (Hudson Russell Davis) wrote about his experience being single and then waiting for God to bring his wife. He finally got married and he had this to say in his article:

"There is a danger in wanting something very badly; it can become, in our minds, more than reality could ever provide. What we want can become pure fantasy in which real people have no place. Our own fantasies and dreams can conjure for us what is impossible to hold in flesh and blood—what is impossible to find in a person. Life punishes such frivolity through disappointment...

"...I am glad that I did not have a list of "expectations" for marriage as it has allowed me to be surprised, pleasantly surprised and excited by "discoveries." I had not scripted for myself the details. I had not visualized how all things would be and so I was not disappointed...


"It is not that we cannot expect certain things but that our list or "expectations" should be short indeed, lest it become a script for failure."


I think there is a lot of wisdom in that. Not just as a girl, but even well into my single adult years, I had visualized relationships and marriage down to such great detail, that in some ways, it was inevitable that I was setting myself up for disappointment. Not to say that James is disappointing, but who can measure up to a fantasy?

This article has helped me renegotiate my expectations. Like Davis says, not that we cannot expect certain things but to keep the list short. In that way, you leave room for surprises. And, I also think, it makes you a lot more appreciative of all the things your partner does and is. Because it is just who he is - not a report-card pronouncing 'pass or fail' of an unrealistic ideal.

The dreams of a little girl transformed into the reality of an adult. I think there is still room for wonder and surprises and dreams becoming reality. We just do not get the luxury of scripting it ourselves. The pen still remains, sometimes much to my frustration, in the hands of a very brilliant Author.

Such is the journey on planet earth...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Taking a Breather


Stop the insanity!!! I have gotten into the nightly happen of checking on all the blogs I follow - which is a good thing and a bad thing. On the one hand, it helps me decompress a little. On the other hand, it sometimes adds to my stress by seeing all the things I 'should' be doing and 'should' have as a part of my wedding.

Ironically, I came across a post from one of the said blogs - weddingbee - this blog in particular. She discussed how easy it is to get sucked into all the expectations of a perfect day, which can completely suck the joy out of this amazing event. It was interesting - and refreshing to read this on a blog that sometimes contributes to the problem (inadvertently, of course!).

For the moment, I have taken a breather from all the plans - to just touch down to earth again and get out of the parallel universe of wedding planning. It's nice to just think about family and Christmas without worrying about what I should or shouldn't be having, planning, doing, etc.

That is one lesson I learned ( - well, am learning) through this process - and it is really applicable to anything: Stop trying for perfection. It will be good enough. I don't need the perfect dress, the perfect favors, the perfect invites, the perfect hair and make-up (well....if I could have the perfect something, I might put my energy here! Vanity! lol)...it is going to beautiful and beautiful is good enough. It does not have to be 'the best.' It does not have to be 'perfect.' It will be beautiful. Good enough is good enough.

Nothing is perfect and I think God is teaching me this lesson. That being said, I am taking a hiatus from all the planning, and it feels great. Instead of being ultra- stressed, I am choosing to take the chill approach, realizing that it will all come together in the end. Which, actually, is what James said in the beginning. {Grrrrrrrrr!!!!!!}

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Day All Our Own

So now that most of the major vendor shopping is done, I have been able to just let my mind wander to think about what kind of day I want this to be. I feel pressured in a lot of ways from all these blogs and wedding websites. They sort of spell out for you what this day should look like. I guess I was just going with the flow for a while, but I've started to pull back a little bit. This day should be about US - me and James - and what we are all about as a couple.

That being said, I have been putting some thoughts into how we can make our wedding reflect us, not just a standard, plug-in-the-generic-wedding-items kind of wedding. Here are a few thoughts I came up with:

  • The invitation wording: This was one area I wanted James' input because he is so articulate and good with words. I went back and forth, but here is the text we may use because I feel like it expresses what our day is about:

Together with the Lord

Katherine M.

and

James David L.

have reached a decision

to unite their lives as one with Him.

They, joined with their parents,

invite you to worship with them and

celebrate their marriage covenant


I like it because it mentions:
  1. 'Together with the Lord' - we didn't get to this point apart from Him
  2. 'reached a decision' - it wasn't just a romantic, emotional decision (although that has been involved), but it is a prayer, rational, conscious choice we are making
  3. 'unite our lives as one with Him' - we are not only uniting with each other, but uniting ourselves and uniting with Him in the center of it
  4. 'joined with our parents' - we have their blessing and they are an important part of our lives
  5. 'worship with us' - because it is about worshiping God for us; He is the center and for His glory is why we want our marriage to exist - as a demonstration of worship; and finally
  6. 'celebrate our marriage covenant' - it is a celebration - we are grateful for God's hand in our lives and it is not just a wedding but a solemn, sacred, unbreakable covenant we are making before God Almighty. That is serious and deep and heavy - and wonderful.
  • The Reception: James and I aren't big dancers or party-people, for various reasons. We are just sort of low-key and don't really like to be the center of attention. I have been thinking of something to sort of 'fill the time' when, at most weddings, people are dancing. [People are welcome to dance if they want - it is going to be more of a 'cocktail party' type of atmosphere, though, so we aren't really pushing it]. I didn't want to do something just to 'do something.' But I was thinking about what might represent US as a couple. And I think I would like to have someone lead us in worship for a while. We want Jesus to be the center of attention that day, not us. It won't be a big stand-up worship service, but maybe someone just to lead us in a few of our favorite songs. I was worried it might be a little cheesy, but I don't care. It is our day and I think it would be a very sweet Presence of the Holy Spirit incorporated into atmosphere.
  • The Favors: I am not sure about this one yet. I had thought of making a donation in leiu of favors, since we are both mission-oriented. But I have to admit, I still like the aesthetics of having pretty favors on the table. So, instead of just doing candles or coasters or keychains -which are fine but maybe a little generic - I think I am going to do custom-made bookmarks. James and I met at Border's Bookstore, both of us looking at CS Lewis books. So literature and our love of the Lord was a big factor in bringing us together. I think that would sort of personalize it, but also giving them something useful. I don't want our face plastered on it, but maybe just a quote about love from CS Lewis on the front, in our wedding colors, and a small thank you on the back.
So, that is as far as I have gotten. I have a few thoughts for the ceremony and programs, but there will be time for that as we go on. But, I am seeing more and more that I want our day to reflect US, not the expectations society puts on us for this day. We have to feel good about this; it should reflect what is important to us, not the opinions of others.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Great Give-Away Week at "Bride on a Budget"

I am becoming addicted to these give-aways! I've won only one, but I am persevering! You never know! I entered to win an e-gift certificate from Bride on a Budget blog! She is sponsoring this give-away from myweddingfavors.com. Very cute, original items! I really like the sea glass luminaries...they come in light blue and light green...2 of my 3 colors! I think they would be really nice on the tables!

Feel free to enter...This one is open til Dec. 16...

Another give-away she is sponsoring is from Design Alley, where you can win a free monogram. I was just talking with Diana (my sister and MOH) about that, telling her I would like to somehow incorporate a monogram into our wedding. So, that would be cool to win! This contest is open until December 19. The ones I liked (with a few slight modifications) are below. Wish me luck!


The next contest I entered this week is from Garter Lady - to win a free garter! How fun is that! You never know! My favorite one is shown below:

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Inspiration Board

I entered a contest on Style Me Pretty (didn't win) but you can make fun inspiration boards! Had a good time doing it, may try it again....Here's what I came up with - it captures the essence of it my colors and themes (I think!)!



By the way, I have come across some really good wedding blogs. Check them out under 'Blogs I'm Following.'

Good Friends...

Just wanted to give some credit to some dear friends who are willing to help me out!

Eileen Kogut - she is a banquet manager at the Hamlet Wind Watch in Hauppauge and has been giving me ideas and the scoop on what brides are doing these days. She tipped me off to Dermablend, a great foundation that hides everything! And for centerpieces, she also has a ton of candles she said I can use and put together for my centerpieces. Much cheaper than flowers! She gave me a few phone numbers of vendors and possible 'wedding night' hotel packages for us. She even offered to go to Miller Place Inn with me to check out what might be the best way to decorate. She's awesome! Thank you!

Kari Haegeland - old high school friend who has amazing style and is also an events coordinator (I think that is her title?! Sorry, Kari, if I got it mixed up!). But she has a bunch of candelabras and centerpieces and candles that she has offered me as well - and her personal help if I need it. That is huge. I'm so grateful for people like this! Thank you!

Even two of my students - Sharon Clause and Ashley Steffens - have volunteered to help with whatever I need. They have been cutting clippings for weddings for a while now, lol, and they said they would be happy to help. How sweet! Actually, a few of my former students have volunteered that too - Shae Kogut, Lynea Jacobsen - very sweet of them!

Thanks to all who are helping! It's huge!

Flowers!


I forgot to say that I am going with a different vendor for flowers - Michelle from Hidden Essence. I liked her right away. She is my age, a cool, middle-class mom of two little kids working out of her home. She can give me the package for $100 less, including tax and delivery. So, for my bouquet, 3 bridesmaids bouquets, 6 bouts, and 3 corsages - a total of $350. And although I really liked Liz, I have to go with the cheaper package and I felt really good about giving someone like Michelle my business.

So, my bouquet will be sage green and white, something like these:


The bridemaids' bouquets will be sage green, white and periwinkle, something like this:

or like the one at the top (I couldn't get the picture to move down! lol) - maybe a combo of the one above right here and the one at the top. More hydrangeas, a little puffier, I think. I had some better pictures, but I can't get them to copy in here. Grrrr. I'll work on it.

She will send me a sample picture before the wedding, so I am excited for that. So, here are some ideas of what my flowers will look like - at least the general color families. I feel good about my choices...finally, lol.

The Hair Snafu

I went for a hair trial with someone that was recommended on liweddings.com. In Nassau county. First of all, I was late leaving school because I had a guest speaker in my missions class (but it was totally worth it to have Stephen Zarlengo speak!). Then, killer traffic on the Southern State. Grrrr! Heading west. At 3:30! Tell me again why I am still on Long Island? Then, I get lost. I didn't have her phone number, and it took me about 3 stops until someone finally pointed me in the right direction. And I was just about out of gas to boot.

I finally get there, all flustered from being late, and then come to realize after my trial, that I had locked my keys in the ignition. And not to mention, I had to be back in Smithtown at 7:30 for our school's Christmas Concert.

All in all, it was a stressful, awkward experience. I didn't really sense a warm vibe from the lady. She said the right things, but I didn't feel any sincerity - 'Don't worry, it happens to everyone. It's OK.' But while saying it, she just stood and stared out the window her husband who was trying to get my keys out. For about 15 minutes. Without saying anything. Do you know how long 15 minutes is when you are standing in silence with a stranger staring out a window??? And you can't escape - because that is why she is staring out the window?!? I felt so uncomfortable. Finally, the neighbor 'knew a guy' and he came over, and this twenty-something year old kid opened it in about 30 seconds (wonder where he learned that). I wanted to tip him and only had a $20, so yup, there went my gas money.

It might have been OK if I loved my hair...but I didn't. I mean, it was pretty, but I just don't know if I want to look like that on my wedding day. So, I decided to eat my frustration with a Whopper Jr and French Fries in the BK parking lot.

The moral to this story? I dont know, but I do know I am getting frustrated paying for trials with people that I won't end up using. So, it looks like I might attempt doing my own hair. I have three and a half months to practice....so, we'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Contest on I DO!

I have found some great blog sites for weddings! There are TONS! Planning a wedding and reading all the fun stuff could be a full time job! Anyway, there is a contest on I DO Originals for $100. Click on this link to enter!!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Full Steam Ahead

Well, the plans are coming along. Oh, gosh...I feel like I am in overdrive and am just being pulled along! It might be better that way, lol.

I still have a few more major things to do, but overall, it is coming together. I cannot believe the way God is helping us to save money. And I think it will still be a beautiful day!

DJ/Music - A wonderful person from our church (who I've never met) has DJ equipment and is willing to let us rent it. He will come set it up and break it down - for only $250. My nephew Mike is going to be the MC and we are just going to hook up his Ipod (oh, excuse me - his Zune) with our own playlist. He is a great personality, so I think that will be great.

Invites - OK, one of my sweetest deals. I have been stressing over DIY and getting them done. They would end up either expensive, not that nice, or very time consuming - quite possibility a combination of any of the three. Someone mentioned etsy.com on liweddings.com and I checked out the site for homemade items. Well, a woman was discontinuing one of her styles and had 100 left. She was selling the invite/envelope/response card/envelope for $.80. Unheard of! And she does all the printing and assembling. The color is sage green, which I was thinking about. That made my decision fast! Sold!

Flowers - I am in the process of negotiating that one. I don't need a lot. I got a great quote from Liz, a great woman in Sayville. I am still shopping around to compare, but I think it is a sweet deal.

Make-up/hair - I went to one trial with Jacqueline Nicole. She is a sweetheart and we had such a good time talking. I left there beautifully made-up, but not sure if that was how I wanted to look on my wedding. I was a little stressed, because the trials are so expensive! I couldn't really afford to keep getting trials done! Through a course of conversation, I found out that my former student Shae is really great at make-up. I went to her house, she did a trial - and it was great! And she wants to do it for me as her gift to me. Sold! Her sister Keira is really good at hair, so we may be trying that as well.

By the way, her mom Eileen is a wedding pro and is giving me all kinds of help, too - candles for centerpieces, connections at a hotel, connections w/ flowers, limos, etc.... My good friend Kari is also an event planner, so we are planning to have a conversation about all this, too! Yay!

We are in the process of planning the rehearsal...I'm tempted to say dinner, but it's not a dinner. We are thinking of doing it the Saturday morning the weekend before the wedding. If it all works out, we'll rehearse, then go back to my parents for bagels, muffins, fruit - a brunch type of thing. Much simpler, much cheaper. I think I would be stressed if I had to do this the week of the wedding.

I also got my time off from school approved! Thank you Jesus!

So, what I still have left to do...centerpieces, decide on hair, limos, flowers, ...I still need the veil, shoes, jewelry... it's a lot, but most of the big ones are out of the way.

The big news, though? The place we will be living...more to come on that later...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Big Daddy

My Father is definitely coming through. I felt so much worry and stress over details, but it's been so encouraging for my heart to see my Daddy taking care of me.

I know most earthly dads want to throw their girls a big, dreamy wedding. I know my dad would if he were able to.

I didn't think God was into that. Now, I'm not saying that I think God is behind spending excessive amounts of ridiculous cash on this. But, I do think God does recognize the importance of the occasion and will provide for what we need.

Case in point: Just met with the videographer. He is our neighbor and he is giving us a great deal. Amazing. Half price. I am actually under-budget for this.

Another testimony: I have been searching like crazy for invitations. I could do the DIY, which I'm not opposed to at all, but I just worry about what they will look like, for all the time invested in it. Still an option, but I finally found a site that got good reviews - and the prices were extremely reasonable. It is called vponsale.com. Very cute invitations! Not that an invitation is an important part of the day...but I don't know, I guess I just wanted to do the best I could do, without sacrificing some of the aesthetics. It looks like that might be possible.

I am learning not to worry and just trusting that things will come together. And that God will help. I'm starting to believe that God is actually excited about the occasion and planning it, right along with me.

Finally, wedding planning is starting to become fun. :)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Learning Curve

That is what I am finding out about this process - it is a huge learning curve. It's not like you can prepare for being a bride before you actually are a bride. I mean, you can maybe get some ideas, but it's sort of on-the-job training. A one-shot deal.

I tried not to think too much about it before I got engaged- even while I was dating. I don't know, maybe I was superstitious, but I didn't want to jinx myself. I know I didn't want to distract myself with what wasn't reality yet...you know, me being the practical girl, not so much the romantic dreamer, if only due to necessity.

So, like in the dress scenario, I sort of went in there without even having a good idea of what I wanted. I have been looking at dresses since then, and I realized I should have gone in with a better idea of what I wanted. And there it is - the learning curve. What is done is done - David's Bridal is no return/no exchange. And I'm just not up for trying to sell it on Ebay and going through the whole process of finding another dress.

I had a little bit of a meltdown a few weeks ago about the money. I am trying so hard to be economical, but on Long Island, it is just so hard. You just can't do the cake and punch thing here (much to James' disappointment). And everything is so expensive! Even when you are trying to do it cheap. So, it's not just trying to find quality vendors, it's trying to find quality vendors in your budget!

And then, is it OK to go a little over budget, because it feels impossible just to cut those corners? Is the stress worth saving that little bit? Or, should you try to do without those things because it is only a one-day event?

I'm sure there are better ways of doing things, but by the time I figure it out, the planning will be over and done. I'm doing a lot of reading and research, but I still feel a little unprepared to handle every scenario that comes up. And seriously, if I let it, planning this event could become a full-time job. I guess that is where a wedding planner would have been handy - just someone who knows how to do all this stuff. But then, it is back to the budget issue.

I really don't think I am a bridezilla...but it is a significant day. I'm letting go of perfection, but at the same time, I'm not just planning a Saturday afternoon BBQ either. James and I will be a making a covenant. Before God. That's a big deal. And it should be celebrated. With fanfare. It should be one of the biggest and best celebrations I ever have in my life.

Not that I am one to give bride advice, but here are a few lessons I've learned:

1. Stick to your guns - especially when it comes to family advice, especially if you are the one paying. You should feel good about your choices.

2. It is good to bring an older and a younger set of eyes when you try on dresses.

3. Try to think through, as much as you can, what you would really like in a dress, what feels like 'you' - style, material, train length. Even if you don't get your ideal dress, you still can probably find something close to it. And then if you veer from that, at least it is a conscious choice to. (In retrospect, I should have gone to dress shops, tried on dresses and seen what I liked, and then checked the internet to order it more cheaply. Grrrr!)

4. It is OK to cut corners on things that aren't a big deal. For me, the invites, favors, bridesmaid dresses, centerpieces are less of a big deal to me than reception location, ceremony program, dress and photographer. Decide which are priorities and put your money there.

5. You can find out a lot via email and internet. Lots of research and price quotes can be done online. It saves a lot of time in phone calls. For LI, liweddings.com has been pretty helpful for vendors. And theknot.com and brides.com are good for pictures and ideas.

6. Word of mouth is good. Ask people you know who have been married recently who they used and who they would recommend and who gave them deals.

7. Trust God. That has been a lesson for me, too. I didn't think God would approve of me spending this kind of money for a wedding (and believe me, for NY standards, I am definitely the conservative, budget-bride), but I'm realizing that He is a part of our day, too. He cares about this - He brought us together. And it is a big deal. And He will provide, even for this. Not that it is license to spend extravagantly, but, as always, He has my back.

8. Try to have fun and not stress out. Don't let 'the perfect wedding' be your standard. That is maddening. Accept what you have to accept, imperfections and all. And by the way, my dress came in, I tried it on, and I like it now. If I had more time, I think I would have ended up with this dress - or something close to it. Which brings me to my final bit of advice:

9. It all works out in the end.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bullied

I should have known better than to go dress shopping with my mom and Nana. I was very sincere in thinking that it would be a good bonding experience. You know, three generations of girls picking out bridal dresses....It sounds beautiful. And not that we didn't have a nice day, but I should have realized from past shopping experiences, that Nana is a tough woman to say no to.

We went to David's Bridal on Columbus Day (without an appointment) and they were able to get me in at 12:30...about an hour and a half later.

No problem. We hit up Cheesecake Factory for a quick bite to eat (salad for me...who wants a puffy stomach when trying on wedding dresses?) and then went back.

David's Bridal is an off-the-rack place, which I like. I browsed around a little bit but then I was told to pick out a few in the catalog and then Mandy would bring me those dresses.

So Mandy brought over a few and helped me into the first one, along with the undergarments and the big slip. I walked out with the first dress (which I didn't need the slip for) and I could tell by their faces that they loved it. 'Oooohhh, oh, Kate, this is you.'

Mandy went to get more dresses, and I got myself into the next one. Definitely less enthusiasm than the first one when I made my appearance. The way the routine went was that their faces were kind of blank when I walked out...then slowly went sour..."It's OK"....or "Not you."

I tried on a preview dress, which was beautiful (Mom and Nana nixed it). The one after that I loved (Mom and Nana didn't), but it was about twice what I wanted to pay. And so it went. Nowhere near as much enthusiasm as the first dress.

Finally, at the end, I put the first dress on. Again, smiles from the viewing committee and they just kept saying, 'Kate, this is your dress. Just get it. It's totally you.' 'Well, I don't know...maybe I should sleep on it. The sale is until tomorrow.' 'Kate, just get it. You are so indecisive. For once in your life, just do it.' And this went on for about 15 minutes.

OK, I'll just do it. I'll bite the bullet. 'I'll take it.'

Mandy happily rang me up and I was chewing on my nails when we left. We drove in silence and I was wondering why I wasn't feeling better about this. It was a good choice, definitely a beautiful dress...why was I feeling uneasy? Nana's wise words to me were, 'You shouldn't regret what you do, only what you don't do.' (Hmmm, not sure about that advice, but anyway...)

Then I realized I had been bullied. It wasn't that I didn't want the dress or didn't like it, but I guess I felt forced into making a decision on the spot and that is not how I operate. Maybe I need to learn to stick to my guns a little more, even if the big matriarchal voices are saying something else. Or maybe I need to learn to be more comfortable in that on-the-spot-scenario, but, even so, I didn't like the feeling of being bullied - like I wasn't being give a choice in something that, for all intents and purposes, is a pretty big deal to a bride. I guess I wanted that feeling of 'I LOVE this dress. It's PERFECT for me.' I didn't feel that way. But I just don't have the time (or money) to shop all of Long Island for the perfect dress.

It's beautiful, but maybe I have this fantasy of EVERYTHING being perfect. I am seeing how that has been getting in the way a little bit, even in the planning stages. I want a perfect-world scenario and that is just not possible. Maybe it's OK to be OK with less-than-perfect.

So, even though bullying is never a good thing, maybe there is something to be learned after all.

If you want to see my less-than-perfect-but-very-beautiful-dress, click here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

It's Official: 3.26.10

The Wedding of James and Katie

It's official! March 26, 2010
6:30 pm


Finally, an official date.

Such a relief.

I was getting so discouraged because without a church, you can't set a date.

We picked the weekend before Easter because A) weddings that are not summer weddings are much cheaper, B) it wouldn't be a winter wedding, therefore no threat of snow ruining things, C) I already get a week and a half off from teaching because of Easter Break, and D) we really just didn't want to wait longer if we didn't have to.

There are more reasons, but those are the big ones. All that to say, that weekend really worked best for us.

However, finding a church proved to be a huge challenge. We couldn't use our church because it is all decorated for our Easter Passion Play. As it turns out, many other churches also have Easter cantatas - or Friday evening services - or Easter egg hunts (yes, Easter egg hunts. One church said no because their sanctuary would be filled with ... Easter eggs?. It's fine - it's their church. They are allowed to do what they want. Regardless, neither James emerging from Jesus' tomb nor a sanctuary full of eggs was really the effect we were going for.

Then it was no because of other scheduled church events, other wedding rehearsals, only if we used their organist.... Some said yes if we could use it at 3pm or 4pm, but we wanted it later to give people a chance to get home from work.

So, I was very discouraged.

I ran into my friend Naomi on Sunday and told her my dilemma. She said her former church might be available - it was a brand new building and her sister had just gotten married there. She'd check.

Well, that week was our school's Spiritual Emphasis Week, and I had just prayed with another teacher about all this wedding related stuff. Just knelt at the altar and laid it all out before God - He knew the beginning from the end, how it all worked out.

We said 'Amen, I walked out, and I ran into Jerry Margiotta, who just 'happened' to be doing some work on the building. And I just 'happened' to still be at the school at 4:30 pm, which I never am unless I have to be. He, too, asked how the plans were coming and just said, 'Katie, God wouldn't bring you this far and just leave you there. Have you thought about..." And he went on to name a church and pastor. I said no, and Jerry said he knew him well and would call him that minute.

About 3 minutes later, Jerry walked into my classroom and told me that we had a church. Ahhh! So excited! Not even so much that I had a church, but that God was so faithful to arrange that meeting, right after we prayed, just to show He was with us and would provide. Awesome.

Well, we had an appointment at Miller Place Inn the next night, thanks to Taryn, who had spoken to the banquet manager over the weekend for us ...and then, I read an email from Naomi. Didn't I get her voicemail? (No. No voice mail. Weird, but true.) Her church was available, at 6:30 - and they said we could use it! And, it was only 15 minutes from MPI. It would be so perfect if it worked out, I thought!

So, James and I went to MPI and LOVED it! James was the harder sell about this whole reception deal, but he thought it was perfect, just the kind of place he could see himself getting married in...and he was really starting to get excited. Awesome. (It's funny, because I had stopped at MPI over the summer and thought, 'Definitely no.' But when I went this time, I felt like I was looking at a totally different place. It was perfect. And the cocktail room is named 'The James Room.' He liked that. A lot, lol ).

They gave us an AMAZING deal...totally affordable for us and really just what we were looking for. It's quaint, cozy, warm...perfect for a March evening wedding.

After our meeting, we went to our 'Feasts of the Lord' class and the teacher had us all worship under the succot, a place of dwelling to remind us of thanksgiving and the reality of God's presence with us - and in us. I felt so grateful for how the Lord has just provided - and to be able to worship under this special tabernacle, together with my future husband. It was a beautiful moment.

The next night, I met with Tom of Thomas Paul Photography who Taryn also hooked me up with (After Jesus, she is the second hero in this story). She spoke with him (she helps him with weddings on the side), and he gave me an amazing deal as well. So much better than I thought I could afford.

So, in about a day and half, we had a church, a reception hall and a photographer. The 'big three' were done.

Things are under way... and it is starting to feel real now.

James has been spending a lot of his energy with the preparations for our marriage rather than just the wedding, and I'm so happy to have someone who cares about our future the way he does.

So grateful to God for how He is blessing us in these ways...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Eve's Curse

Oh, what a cursed gender are we!!! Why, Eve, why?!?

We all know how Eve ate the apple and spoke for all of us when she said goodbye to the perfect existence (Thanks, Eve). But the longer I'm in a relationship, the more I see how her curse affects us.

The part I always remembered about her curse was the 'pain in childbirth' part. While I'm not minimizing the significance of that (shout out to all you mothers...especially those of you who opted not to use drugs for the delivery - whoa! Amazing!), that pain is temporary. While excruciating (so I'm told), it's over and done.

I'm thinking of the part of her curse that we keep on having to deal with: "Your desire will be toward your husband, but he will rule over you" (Genesis 3:16 - The Complete Jewish Bible).

One commentary I read put it this way: "She was doomed as a wife and mother to suffer pain of body and distress of mind. From being the help meet of man and the partner of his affections [Genesis 2:18,23], her condition would henceforth be that of humble subjection."

And I can tell you that so keenly do I feel the effects of this. The desire for the man - for his love and affection...the power struggles...the desire to control...sometimes it feels like desire out of control.

We were made to be his helper, his partner. But now, it doesn't work that way so cleanly. And possibly, maybe our desire for him (and I think that includes our desire to control him) - has a dark root. It almost like it's just the nature of the beast of relationships in the same way pain is part of childbirth. This part of our nature is part of relationships now.

The Hebrew root of that word 'desire' likens it to a beast devouring, an overflowing, an abundance, a stretching out. It's the same word that is used in Genesis 4:7, when God tells Cain that "sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." That's a little scary. So, it sort of begs the question...is this intense longing we feel for the men in our lives the way it was meant to be - or the result of a curse? Yeah, sometimes it does feel like a curse. I think because we fear- and I think we know - they will never - no, can never - be enough. And we want them to be. So we try to control them to make them be.

I'm not saying that I think desire is evil or abnormal. But I can't get away from the fact that, according to Scripture, this desire is part of the curse. I think something that was supposed to be balanced and beautiful has somewhere gone wrong.

And I think about alot of the struggles in relationships...is it coming out of this internal wrestling of not wanting him to rule - over me? Over himself? Maybe I want to be in control...of me...of him...of everything... I don't like having someone ruling over me. I am just learning to be OK with God ruling over me, but it is difficult when it is another human being...who isn't doing everything the way I want him to. Especially when in my eyes, I think I've done just fine ruling over myself (humanly speaking, that is).

So this is the part of relationships I've been mulling over. There are no intense power struggles going on between me and James (at the moment, lol)...but the temptation is always there. And I'm realizing - when I boil it down to its simplest terms - that my frustration comes because James is just simply not doing what I want him to do. There it is again - CONTROL. But life would just be so much easier if he did things my way (translation: if he let me control him)! Why can't he see that?!?

It has mostly come up in the wedding planning (or lack thereof). I've had to walk very softly when it has come to this area. And it is a fine line between being sensitive and tactful and being manipulative and controlling. I can hear the crunch of the apple in my ear even as I attempt to justify my actions by calling it 'finesse.'

But what I think both of us are learning (by trial and error, more or less)...that things work best when God is in control. And I have to realize that, curse or not, it is not God's will for me to be in control of the relationship. For as much as I am learning to be subject to James, I can find peace because I know he is subject to God.

I can see the beauty of God's plans and purposes even in this. And God can even redeem a curse.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Break from the Wedding World

Just to change things up...I thought I'd give a little info here for a cool giveaway I came across. Here's how it happened -



I came across a site I found on SITS (which Diana recommended to me) which led me to Or So She Says, which has some great ideas and things of interest...especially to the female sex (hence the title).



They are doing a great giveaway - which ends tonight. If you hurry, you just might make it. And if you miss it, check out their site anyway...good stuff going on there. Have fun!

Friday, September 11, 2009

We Marry Because...???

For better or for worse, I'm a deep thinker (it's usually worse). One of the biggest struggles I've faced in being in a relationship is trying to sift out fairy-tale fantasy from realistic expectations. Like I blogged earlier, apparently I have been very influenced by all the movies I've seen and books I've read. I really thought I was smarter than that, but on a subconscious level, it must have somehow shaped my mental picture of what a relationship should be like.

So, whenever we'd hit a bump in the relationship, I'd find myself asking, "Is this what it's supposed to be like???" I guess that somehow I thought that the "right relationship" equaled "perfect relationship." And in my very annoying, over-analytical way, my mind would set to work on trying to come to a bottom line about this.

I'm one of those people who can't see the forest for the trees. I look at the details so much that I can't see the big picture. So, in obsessing over every detail, I just couldn't get a clear picture in my head of what a normal and healthy relationship looks like, forget trying to figure out if our relationship was normal and healthy. Then I would over-analyze my own thoughts and feelings so that everything just would become fragmented. I would just lose an objective sense of the whole.

So my mind started asking all of those deep, philosophical questions like, "What is the point of getting married? Why do we get married in the first place? What is GOD'S plan for two people being married?" Because, honestly, that last question is really what counts. He instituted marriage. It is His idea - so then, it's not really even about my thoughts or feelings. (I'm not saying feelings aren't part of the picture, but we all know they come and go. So I knew that it had to be about more than just feeling 'in love' 24/7).

I came across an article (really a Q and A), but there was a section that just sort of clicked for me:

"We can't answer your question until we understand something critical about marriage as God intends. For all of its "practical" benefits — sexual pleasure, happiness and health, etc. — marriage, and intercourse, is not first about that.

"I cannot emphasize this enough. If marriage is ultimately and primarily for me and my needs, or her and her needs, if it is primarily about us, about self, then I will always struggle with disappointment, because there is never enough for me. Never.

"I use the words primarily and ultimately purposely here. Clearly, biblical marriage benefits me, and as such it is a great gift to me, but it is not first and foremost about me (or my spouse).

"Paul teaches in Ephesians that the mystery of marriage is this: It is primarily and ultimately about Christ and the Church; it is a living, breathing human parable on display to the whole world about the relationship between Jesus and His Bride.

"Christ gave everything of Himself for the Church. We are to give ourselves completely to Him. "Greater love has no one than this," He said, "that someone lay down his life for his friends." The throbbing heartbeat of the cross of Christ is a complete emptying of one for another, the complete giving of oneself for the good of the other. It is in losing our lives that we find life...

"A final thought. To give oneself away to another person in such a way as I've described here requires great trust in the One who brought you together with this other person. Does He know what He is doing? Do we trust that He can heal when we stick our heart out there to another human and get hurt (because even in a growing Christian marriage, both husband and wife will experience hurt)?

"Do I believe that God is big enough to catch me when the other person doesn't? Only in completely abandoning ourselves to Him first can we give ourselves in this way to another. And giving ourselves away to another, especially in sexual intimacy, is a beautiful way for us to express our trust in Him."

I've come back to that thought several times - a living, breathing human parable about the relationship between Jesus and His bride...complete emptying of one for another...complete giving of oneself for the good of the other...

That is hard. And scary. And like the article said, even in a Christian marriage, it's about putting yourself out there to love and knowing that hurt is unavoidable. But trusting God to catch you even when your spouse doesn't. That's heavy. Love and pain. Two sides of the same coin. Impossible to love without the potential of pain. Try to think of an exception to that. I haven't found one yet. So in loving, there's risk, there's pain. It's not all pain, but it's part of the deal. But somehow it helps me to know ahead of time that's what I'm signing up for. And you know what? Even knowing that, I'm still in.

The purpose of marriage - the choice to love someone else in the same way Jesus has loved me. I gotta let that sink in for a while...


Monday, September 7, 2009

Goodbyes - And Hellos - at Cedar Beach

cedar beach cedar beachThis weekend, James and I spent a good amount of our time at Cedar Beach. If you know Long Island, the South Shore beaches are on the ocean, the North Shore beaches are on the Long Island Sound. South Shore has waves, wind, and that 'beachy' feel (typically crowded, too). North Shore has rocks instead of sand (mostly), no real waves - unless a boat is zipping by - but it does have serenity.

James has lived on the North Shore for many years, and if his time is added up, he probably has spent the equivalent of months of his life on this beach. For him, it is an oasis from the traffic, the rush, the chaos of L. I. He finds peace and solititude and a time to be alone with his thoughts. Time to just 'be.' (One of his most frequently-heard phrases - "Can't we just 'be'???"). There are crowded pockets (mostly near the restrooms), but mostly, solitude can easily be found if you want it.

This place has always had significant meaning for him. Before we met, like I said, this was a place he would go to just find peace and escape the madness of the world. He also spent a lot of time there when marriage was not even a blip on his radar - many years of hanging out with the guys and his friends. In some ways, Cedar Beach was a tangible symbol of his single life. It was his beach.

I actually spent some time at Cedar Beach before we met as well. My friend Liz lived in a cottage not far from there and we would go there, too. We'd sport the bikinis under our church clothes and pack the sand chairs in the back of the car. So, I have some fun memories of single life there as well. Not to the extent that James has, but I associate Cedar Beach with Liz and her cottage - and that is always an association of fun, carefree single days.

Cedar Beach actually plays a role in how we met. On the Friday night of Labor Day Weekend, 2007, James was home and spent some time in prayer about some things. The next day, his friend Rob (the one from the first blog) showed up at Cedar Beach with his girlfriend. James recognized immediately that there was something providential in his showing up there - a direct link to the prayers he had prayed the night before. It was so uncommon and out of the blue - Rob just should not have been there that day. Anyway, he ended hanging out with Rob and Angela that evening, and the next day, Rob invited James to come to church that Sunday - which was the Sunday we met (also detailed in the first blog).

So, what led us together actually had its beginnings at Cedar Beach. Since then, James and I have spent some special time there together. Typically, on a nice weekend, that is where we will find ourselves, often from morning til sunset - and sometimes even later than that. Sometimes, we'd even just leave our blankets and chairs there overnight and find them there the next day, still in the same spot, totally undisturbed. Or sometimes, we'd go down there for a walk on the beach, the pier, or the nature path - sometimes all three.

It has been a transition for him, incorporating me into a place that has been so significant to him in his single life (For James, it is all about the 'process' lol). He has realized that this is the last summer he would be at Cedar Beach as a single guy. Although I've been there with him many times and it has been great, for years this was his place. In some ways, that is bittersweet for him.

So, on this anniversary weekend for us - it was two years ago on Labor Day weekend we met - it seemed fitting and right that we spend some time at Cedar Beach. We didn't plan it - it just sort of 'evolved' (another one of James' favorite phrases: "Let's see how it evolves," lol).

It was a weekend of goodbyes - to the single life being left behind. It was a weekend of celebrating - the providential moments and meetings that brought us together. And it was a weekend of hellos- realizing that the next time we spend the day at Cedar Beach, it will be a brand new experience for us - as husband and wife. And that's exciting, too.

Cedar Beach represents a tangible lesson I'm learning since we have been engaged: it is a series of goodbyes and hellos. We are both a little older (he's 41 and I'm 35), and we have both been single a long time. Although we are super-excited for our new life together, it's a little daunting - and bittersweet - to say goodbye to a familiar, comfortable life you've always known. A life that did have measures of happiness, too.

It's goodbye to complete freedom, independence, self-indulgence - but also goodbye to loneliness, isolation, and alienation, too. It's hello to partnership, oneness, intimacy- but also hello to sacrifice, selflessness and interdependence.
I guess like any change, you have to let go of one thing to embrace another - and both the positives and the seemingly negatives. I have to say, though, I think we both gain more than we lose.

I think Cedar Beach is the link between worlds - between single life and our life together, between his world and my world. I think Cedar Beach has been significant in all of those worlds. It seems that all of our worlds have converged right on that beach.

Goodbye, Cedar Beach. For now. Mr. and Mrs. L. will see you next summer.