Thursday, January 28, 2010

Growing Up

I wish I could remember the exact conversation that precipitated the thought, but I can tell you exactly where I was when I had it. James and I were driving from his place to our new house (I couldn't help it! I love saying it!) - and we were making arrangements for getting the mail forwarded or calling LIPA (our power company) or some other home-owner related task.

And I said something along the lines of, "I guess we finally have to grow up." He mumbled something like, "No, I think you can grow up..." to which I replied back that we needed two grown-up people in this marriage... And the conversation just got me thinking...

All this home-owner business - all this marriage business - it is the stuff of grown-ups. It's not like I feel like James and I aren't grown up. I'm 36, he is 41, we both have stable careers, pay our bills, having working cars, are not homeless...we aren't immature - we are responsible individuals. But I wonder if not being immature is the same thing as being grown up.

And, I guess that, at any point prior to this, we could still choose not to act like grown ups - and it wouldn't really affect anyone but ourselves.

Not anymore - it's different now. If I choose not to act grown up, it's not just me in my un-grown-up world. You can't live in an un-grown-up world and get to enjoy all the things that only come in a grown up world.

And even though I would say we act grown-up a majority of the time, I guess it is the idea that now we have to grow up. And as much as we maybe have resisted seeing ourselves in that demographic, we have, really and truly, entered the grown-up world.

I've been reflecting on how things will be different. I think the move and the house is what really spurred on this chain of thought...

I rent an apartment from my parents...I have for the past 5 years. Beside my years in college and despite my numerous, unsuccessful attempts to move out, I have lived at this address my whole life. As much as I have wanted my independence and freedom, I can't deny the convenience of just 'running upstairs' if I ran out of milk or just wanted to borrow an egg. Or, if I didn't feel like cooking. Or, if my car started making a weird noise. Or if I needed help hanging my black and white pictures.

That's gonna change. I won't be running to dad when I need something fixed and I won't be asking mom to cook for me when I'm too tired lazy to cook for myself. As much as it might not have always been the most 'mature' action, I could get away with it. No longer.

The house, the move, the marriage...I can't escape it. It is time to grow up.

So, all these things we could 'get away with', if we wanted to....not anymore.

It's exciting to me to think of having our own home and running a household and being in charge of my own little corner of real estate. But it is a little scary, too. I wonder if I am ready to be a 'real' grown-up. With a house. And a mortgage. With no escape clause if I don't like how it is working out (owning a home, I mean - although I don't believe in an escape clause from marriage either. But the home is what I was referring to).

Maybe it is the idea of commitment - commitment is very mature and adult. It is the essence of 'grown-up.' And I think that is good for us. It's not like we don't know about commitment or that we haven't thought about it or haven't commitment to anything before this...but I guess it is more tangible now. More permanent.

Buying a house is a very grown-up step. And so is getting married. I think we are ready for it. [I think.] I think it's time. And honestly, I think we need to do it. Being a 40-year-old 20-year-old is a little unbecoming.

So grown-up world, ready or not, here we come.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Movin' Out - Part 3: The Morning After

So, yesterday, we closed on our house [insert excited squeal here]!

For those who missed the previous episode and are interested, you can catch up on part 1 and part 2.

I was a bundle of nervous energy all day, but I not only worked one of my jobs, but both. Everyone asked me 'How can you even work today???' It definitely helped me to stay productive distracted me from being nervous - and, well, if I don't work, I don't buy a house.

Everything went without a hitch. The lawyers were great, the owners were amazing (one of the nicest couples I have ever older couple around 65-70 years old)...and there in the lawyer's office surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, James and I signed our life away for the next 30 years.

We went out for dinner to celebrate (yes, we still actually had a little something in our checking account) and then headed over to our house.

It was surreal as we pulled in, and I said to James, "Hon, this is our driveway... to our house..."

We went into the house, and inside the fridge was a bottle of wine from the owners. There really wasn't anything we could do just yet, but we just wanted to be there. (Well, we had our first hug in our new house :) . So we just parked ourselves on the living room floor and were just quiet for a while.

So many changes, all happening so fast. I am so thankful they are good changes, but changes none the less. I guess that is what I feel most unprepared for: this roller coaster of emotions. I just sort of thought I would float on puffy clouds through this whole wedding-marriage-home-buying process.

As I mentioned in my previous post, there is a bit of a back-story as to why it was so huge for us to get this house:

[I never want to share too much of James' business, so I will do my best to convey the story while respecting the fact that he is not blogging his life on the internet...]

James had something of a 'colorful' childhood as far as where he lived, home life, etc. He has lived in lots of different places, with different people, over the course of his childhood. And as you might guess, that's not really the most advantageous environment for a kid to grow up in. So, 'home' never really had the greatest connotations, if the concept even existed in his mind at all.

Our God is so redemptive and in spite of all the disadvantages he faced, he (with God's help) has made his life something to be proud of. I certainly am, and I know God is, too.

Ok, back to the house...well, the apartment James has lived in for the past 8 years is the longest he has ever lived in one place. And he LOVES the area he rents in (which happens to be a bit pricey). And as one might conjecture, that has become 'home' for him. The idea of leaving a place that a person has grown so attached to is hard, even if it is a good change. So, when we were discussing where we would live, you can imagine some of the inner conflict.

Now when the possibility presented itself to us to buy a house, I so wanted this for James. I wanted us to have a chance to not only have a place where we could settle and not have to move in a year, but one that would be his own home. To me, it just seemed so right and redemptive that, at the start of our marriage, he would be able to begin his new life with something he never had before - something so integral to it.

So, when we found this house, I wanted this so badly for him. It's small and modest (we're OK with that) but most importantly, it would be ours. Not only did it seem like something we would really be happy with, but it was only 2 miles from where he lives now. And liked I mentioned, he loves this area. That is when I really started getting fearful that this wouldn't work out. I would have been more disappointed for him than for me.

In being an honest storyteller, I have to say that James never mentioned that this carried the same importance to him. It might just be my female conjecture, but I'm guessing some similar thoughts may have run through his mind too. But I know that I just wanted him to have the feeling of joy and safety and sanctuary that having a home that is your own to come back to each day brings.

I know, every couple would like to have a home at the start of their marriage. I agree. But for us, I just felt like there was a lot more riding on it; it was a lot more significant. But that's just me.

So when we signed those papers and drove into the driveway of our home, I was in awe of this new reality God had created for us. It all just seemed so providential. And - we found out that for a reasonable yearly fee, we actually have private beach rights to four different beaches! (I tell here how James feels about the beach and what it means to him. And actually, now that I think about it, it is so cool that God is giving us a new beach - and not just Cedar Beach - to be our beach.)

Last night before we left, we prayed together on our living room floor in our empty house and asked God to bless it and make it a home for us- with love and peace, that we would be a light to our neighbors, that this gift from Him to us would be consecrated to Him and used for His purposes.

So, the morning after, we are (still) smiling at His faithfulness.

"The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning ;
Great is Your faithfulness."

~Lamentations 3:22-23

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Movin' Out - Part 2

For those just tuning in, you can catch the first part of the story in my last post.

OK, I left off describing how we lost the bid on the first house we were hoping for. Here is where we pick up again:

After about a week of licking our wounds, we started to look again. Armed with our new list, we did the circuit again. By the end of the day, there were two that we were interested in. We made an appointment with our realtor, and it was clear which was the better of the two.

The one we liked had just been updated with new siding, roof, windows, doors, cesspool, fence, and electric. It was a nice-sized flat lot (rare in that area) with the potential to be expanded in any direction - and it had a white picket fence to boot.

Not to be outdone again, we put in an offer right away.

While we were waiting to hear back from the realtors, James and I would say to ourselves, "What are we doing??? Should we even be doing this??? Now??? A wedding and a house???? Are we crazy???" It's funny though, because all of the wise people we ran this crazy scheme by affirmed that it was not so crazy after all. In fact, it was a smart move (Yay! Point for us!).

A few phone calls, a few negotiations, a few stipulations - but they took it. They accepted our offer.

We could hardly believe this was happening for us. Now that we had gone beyond 'just a dream' to a 'real possibility,' my anxiety started to kick in a notch. By this time, I was scared to get my hopes us.

There's a little bit of a back-story as to why this was so important to us that I'll share another time, but just trust me when I say, moving into 'our' house was important to me. We had prayed at every stage of this process and we knew we would be OK if things didn't work out. But the blessing it would be to move into a house that was actually ours would be was huge (and not in the I-need-to-be-living-the-American-dream- kind of way).

But, deep down, I just felt like this was a long-shot (See? My negative thinking!). There were just so many odd-shaped pieces that had to fit together:

The taxes had to fall within a certain amount. {They did.}

The house had to pass inspection. {It did.}

We had to officially get approved for the mortgage. {We did.}

The seller had to agree to the closing concessions. {He did.}

And he had to agree to do the minor repairs. {Yes, that too.}

The house had to be appraised for the right amount. {Mmm- hmmm. You know where this is going...}

I was so afraid we would get to the next stage and the bottom would fall out. But to my surprise, lack of faith, God kept the ground firm beneath us and opened the next door for us to walk through. There were a few unexpected expenses (which actually is to be expected), but amazingly, the money was there each time. Don't ask me how...but it was.

So, yesterday, we did the walk-through, and we are so convinced this was the right house. The owner was amazing and spent over two hours with us, showing us the ropes and letting us pick his brain for how we might do some renovations. We were so excited to plan and dream and imagine our life together in this house.

It all happened so fast - we only started house-shopping in November! But the contract was signed by December 22, and we will be closing tomorrow on January 25. And honestly, the timing is perfect. Any earlier, we would have had to pay the mortgage and my rent for a few months. Any later, the wedding would have been right on top of us.

So, James will start moving in this week, which will give him the weeks between the Jets play-offs and the Super Bowl to get settled in the TV hooked up(and if you knew my James, you would know what a big deal that is!). Then, little by little, I will bring my stuff over and then move myself in after the wedding (Yes, we are waiting until after we are married to live together).

We are prepared for the next few weeks to be a little crazy, but we are totally awe-struck when we sit back and think this over. Who would have thought a social services housing worker and a Christian school teacher on Long Island could have ever afforded to buy a home on Long Island???

It is beyond what we would have thought to ask - but not beyond what God would have thought:

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you," says the Lord,
"thoughts of peace and not of ev
il, to give you a future and a hope."

~ Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

Only God could have come up with this. Only God can make those crazy-shaped-pieces-that-don'

Our new 2 bedroom 'cozy' cottage. Thank you, Jesus!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Movin' Out - Part 1

The big move. That has been on my mind the most this week. And on the floor of my apartment. This is just a small corner of the chaos I have been living in: The place is in disarray, but it is sort of metaphoric for my state of mind: scattered, disorganized, too much activity in one small place...but an current of excitement underneath it all.

On Monday coming up, we are closing on our house.

Ok, let me back up and tell you how we got here, before I start diving into the internal/mental/emotional/over-emotional aspects of the move.

It is so miraculous that we are in this position. Honestly. It was God. After we got engaged, we didn't really talk about where we would live; we just assumed that we would just rent an apartment. Realistically, that was all we could afford to do.

But one day James mentioned that a guy at work just bought a condo, and put x amount down and only pays y each month. He mentioned that we should look into it. I asked him if he was serious [James 'mentions' a lot of things] - because if he was, I would start researching. He was.

So, I did a few google searches, signed up for a real estate listing that popped up, and soon, I was getting email updates of homes for sale in the area we were looking in. OK, there were a few possibilities. Of some really cute homes. That we could afford.

I have a church friend who does mortgages, so I gave him a call and just asked him to run our numbers and see what he thought. Was this even a realistic possibility??? I told him how much money we had in hand, what we could probably afford a month, our salaries, debt, credit, etc. Did he think we could get approved for a mortgage and how much cash in hand did we need. And I wanted him to factor in every possible, potential cost. If it wasn't realistic, I didn't even want to get my hopes up.

He checked it out and said, 'Yeah, Katie. I can pre-approve you for x amount -and for an FHA (First-time Homebuyer's loan) putting only 3.5% down. With the cash you have, it should be no problem.' And the interest rate he thought we could get? About 5%.

Whoooaaaaa. Deep breath. 3.5% down - we can afford that. The cash in hand needed - we had that. The payments with those rates would be x dollars per month. We can afford that. And that is what we would probably be paying for rent for a 2 bedroom apartment anyway.

Ok. Another deep breath. So this really was a possibility.

All-righty then, here we go. I pulled together a list of addresses, and we went 'shopping' on November 1st. One of the houses on our list was actually having an open house that day. Just went on the market that week. In fact, it was my favorite of all the houses on my list. We went in, took a look around...and we were in love.

We were so excited about the possibility of this house. It was within walking distance from the beach, move-in condition, big kitchen, granite seemed perfect for us. We could totally see ourselves raising a family here.

We put an offer in that week. Too low. Her realtors told us that the owner wasn't going to get into a bidding war. She just wanted best offers and then after a week, she would choose. We had met the owner when we were there and really felt a connection with her, so we thought we had a good chance. 'Unofficially,' our realtor told us that it was between us and another couple; the owner felt torn - liked us both. Our realtor said to write a letter...sometimes that can sway the vote. So I did - a darn touching letter, I might add - sincere and honest - but touching.

About a week later, we got the call.

She chose the other couple.


More to come on how this story played out in the next post...

{For those who have read this before, I decided to break the original story into two posts, due to length! Sorry for any confusion!}

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Blog Envy - And Other Bits of Soul-Searching

Blogging has been an interesting leg of the 'journey.' Being fairly new to the blogging world, I remember trying to nail down my philosophy as far as what I was going to write - and to who. Was I writing for me? For you? How much energy and effort should I put into getting readers and followers? My first and second posts on my initial blog 'One Girl's Journey' kind of explored that a little.

It's been interesting to look back and see why I started blogging in the first place. And in the short time I have been doing has caused me to do a little soul-searching.

A few other really good blogs I have come across sort of tackled some of the issues in blog-world. After the Altar had a really good post about blog-world being like high school - trying to get in with the 'popular crowd' so we get noticed (or read, in this case). Out of the Extraordinary put up a post about our tendency to be ruled by the amount of comments we get and if we get 'back-commented' (I mean, who hasn't been there?). And I came across a rebel blogger who just didn't care anymore if anyone read her blog - she was writing for herself. And I totally respect that.

But like I said, it has caused me to look again at my original purpose for blogging. I think it is fair to say a certain amount of 'evolution' might take place as we are all kind of putting ourselves out there and figuring out what kind of blogger we want to be (well, me at least).

But it has made me question even my own sincerity sometimes. Am I just writing what I think people will read - or what I feel inspired to write about? Am I commenting so someone will comment back? Do I become a follower of someone hoping they will become a follower of my blog? Am I just writing a certain way to get in with the popular 'blog crowd'? Am I trying to fit in and be like everyone else?

If that is the case, then that's pretty crappy. I think we all can smell insincerity a mile away.

So, it has caused me to re-think my blog and purposes for blogging. I feel like I am still kind of 'defining' what kind of blogger I am. For instance, take the title - 'One Girl's Journey to the Altar.' My original blog was just called 'One Girl's Journey.' My sister encouraged me to make a branch that focused on my wedding.

I have been doing this wedding blog thing steadily since the fall, and I have to say, I find myself wishing this leg of my 'blogging journey' hurries up and gets done because I am feeling a little confined by it. I mean, I love talking about my wedding, but it is not my entire life. Nor do I want it to be. And I have a hard time believing everyone out there is as interested in my wedding plans as I am.

I have nothing against girls whose blogs focus entirely on that - and I am all about idea-sharing - [I actually enjoy reading those kinds of blogs], but I don't know if that is for me. I have ideas and thoughts about lots of other things, and it feels restricting to me to only write about my wedding. And if you notice some of my posts, I haven't been able to stick with it. I try to put a 'wedding slant' on it to be true to the title, but it's like trying to make a shopping cart with a broken wheel go straight. Feels like a bit of a strain.

So, all of that to say... I have some ideas of where I think this is going. I actually have alot of ideas in my head, and I'm kinda excited. Not that it is going to be totally different - in fact, it might be kind of similar to what it is now - just tweaked a bit. And not to say that it might not have some of a 'catch' to it, but I will know in my heart it is what I want to do and I'm not doing it for the wrong reasons.

But I'm making a promise, at least to myself, that it is going to be true - to who I am and the kind of writer I want to be. Not imitating the blogs who have lots of followers and get lots of comments. Not gimmicky just to get my followers and comments up. It is going to be sincere -in what I write and in all my dealings with other bloggers. None of this 'give to get' kinda thing.

So, I'm not fully sure where it's all heading, but we'll see where the journey takes me. Being true to my commitment to be "honest and sincere", I will say that I would love to have you along for some of the ride. But if this is where you feel you need to part ways - all the best and Godspeed! Sincerely! And if you choose to come along for the ride...thank you, and I hope we can learn a little from each other.

So stay tuned!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Distracted: The Lure of the Sirens

It's getting bad. I have so much to do, and I am so distracted. This is not uncommon for me, but because I have so much to do with work, the wedding and the house, it is even more important that I focus. Well, the verdict is not looking so great for me today. :(

Today we get MLK Jr day off, and I had these lofty plans of spending the day getting my English essays graded (my 11th graders are taking the NY English Regents in two weeks).

The J-man and my nephew went to an Islanders game with his dad and nephew, so I saw them off about 11am. As a good fiancee, I lovingly offered to have dinner ready when they got back (I am trying really hard to learn how to cook), so that would necessitate a trip to the grocery store at some point. That's a valid distraction. I mean,we gotta eat, right?

Then, since I was off today, my mom wanted to go to Costco to get the card renewed (we have a joint membership). Of course, you can't say no to the woman who gave you birth?

OK, so Costco. Ohhhhh, Costco. Besides all the fun, super-size stuff (and free food samples!), they also have furniture! And that is where the distractions for the day really took off.

I just found out that we are OFFICIALLY closing on our new home next Monday! That is another post (oh my, did God ever put this together for us), but anyway, my eyes began to wander over to the furniture section in Costco. They had these microfiber sectionals (with the chaise). So nice! And the poor J-man will move in first...with only his bed, a chair, a coffee table, and some bookshelves. So what could a loving fiancee to do besides scope out some new furniture for her man, right?

I know I shouldn't really even look until we close make sure we have enough money to close, but I just started getting excited and couldn't stop myself. I sat down on the sofa and sank right in. So comfortable! Then, my mom says, "You know, you might want to jump on that. They probably won't have them for too long here." OK, if I was calm and patient at all before this, that was slowly becoming a faint memory.

I resisted doing anything drastic, but I couldn't get it off my mind. So, when I got home, I put the chili on (such an easy recipe - My sister at The Girl Creative hooked me up), tried to discipline myself to grade, but the evil-Siren-computer was singing: "This deal won't last forever. You really need to start looking today." I knew I had more immediate stuff to attend to, but the song was so.darn.convincing. Tie me to the mast of the boat! Odysseus, I feel your pain!

It happened slowly - I did make a valiant effort. I gave myself a time limit: "OK, it is 2:43. Just 17 more minutes and that's it.' And that worked. For awhile. At about 3:13, when I had graded about a paper and a half, I remembered that Ikea sells inexpensive furniture, too. Ok - but just for a minute.

Well, it is now 5:27 and I have gotten 7 essays graded. Not good.

But, in trying to work on my negative thinking make excuses to myself, on the bright side, I know that Craig's List has some good local options for house items, Ebay probably won't work because of the cost for shipping, and compared to other stores, what I saw at Costco is a pretty good deal.

So, the chili has been stirred tasted several times and is looking good, computer distractions have been mostly explored,and a new blog post is up. {I promise, my motivation was to write a post, get it out of my system so I can focus on the essays at hand.}

5:47 pm. I am signing off for the night, and all is right with the world.

Until the boys get home...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Of Things Blessed and Unblessed

Human suffering. Tragedy. Despair. I get this same thought every time I am exposed to it. I've gotten it on every missions trip I have been on. It is the one plaguing question I can't get away from:

Why them?
And even more pointedly, why not me?

I struggle with this. A lot. I've been told by others that I have a 'bleeding heart' - and honestly, I don't think this is a bad thing. But sometimes it makes life hard (which I don't think is a bad thing either).

I said in my last post that I had a hard time even thinking wedding details in light of what has happened. But that doesn't take away from the fact that I still have had wedding details to take care of. And honestly, as far as that is concerned - it has been a great week (which is VERY hard to say in wedding-planning-world. At least for me).

In stark contrast to what is happening in Haiti, I feel like God has given me an extra dose of His blessing this week, which honestly, is really hard for me to reconcile. These two images are juxtaposed in my brain: Me with these blessings all around me and the Haitians in the overwhelming suffering. I don't need it as much as the Haitians why is He coming through in all of these little ways?

Now, these 'blessings' may not seem big to someone else...but I don't want to deny them as God's little blessings to me. I was given a brand new panini press that I was hoping to get. We found home-owner's insurance for about $300 less than we thought. I won a blog giveaway for a cell-phone wallet. My friend Liz surprised me with a package of this pumpkin butter I mentioned sounded yummy (She's in Belize, by the way). I ran into one of my favorites friends from high school last night, who was just sooo good to see.

But in light of Haiti, I am tempted to say, 'Who cares?' to all of those other things. When people's lives have been literally crushed, what do these things matter???

But I am wondering if maybe occurrences like the tragedy in Haiti is precisely why these things matter. We want to help them get back on their feet. To give them love and support. But for what?

Maybe so they can one day be in a place to enjoy little blessings for themselves. True, it probably won't be a panini press for them, but shouldn't they have the chance to have quality friendships? To have a home for their families? To have a peaceful life? To get a surprise gift?

I am not equating possessions and what we call 'American prosperity' with happiness. People with far less often are much happier than we Americans. (Believe me, I've seen it firsthand).

But, I am talking about the chance for a blessed existence (which I know doesn't necessarily mean a cotton-candylife). For me, it wasn't so much those 'things' that made me feel so happy and blessed. It was the fact that God was with me and had stepped into my world in those little, personal ways. And while God is actively blessing all the time - even in 'less-blessed' times (at least from my narrow perspective), it is not every week that I experience it so tangibly.

And maybe these little blessings feel so good to me because I do know what it is like to go through dark times that have felt 'unblessed'. So in contrast to that, these little blessings feel so good. And maybe they wouldn't mean as much if I hadn't gone through those dark times.

But those times did pass, and I believe they will pass for the people of Haiti.

That is my hope for the people of Haiti: that they can be restored and know what it is like feel His blessings on them - whatever form His blessings might look like. To have hope that even when bad times come, there is a chance for Him to bring good out of it. To walk with God and know His friendship, which is actually what makes a life most blessed.

And for us who are not suffering like they are, I think it is right to ask, 'OK, God - this didn't happen to me. So what do you want me to do with all the blessings you have given me?' I don't think He wants me to just sit back and enjoy my panini press and pumpkin butter (certainly not at the same time, lol). But I think there is a certain responsibility we have, those of us who are blessed, to help and reach out to those who are feeling 'unblessed' at this time.

Then, when the people of Haiti recover and experience their time of blessing, they will be in a good place to enjoy God's blessing to them and then reach out and bless the ones who will need it at that time.

In bringing this stream-of-consciousness to a close, I don't think the point is for me (or you) to feel bad about my blessings. But I also do not think I am to stay self-absorbed in all my blessings and ignore the suffering of others. I think we should enjoy our blessings as Ecclesiastes says, but we also are to get beyond ourselves, use our blessings in a positive way, and get involved in helping the suffering of others.

I don't know the mind of God, I don't know how this all works out. I can't answer why them and why not me. But I do know that since it was not me, I have a responsibility to do what I can. Because, honestly, that is what God did. He saw us in our suffering and mess, but didn't just stay in His 'blessed' heaven; He got involved in our mess and brought salvation.

It reminds me a quote I read from John Ortberg's book some years ago, God is Closer Than You Think:

" God chooses not to stand apart from our suffering. He is not unmoved by the pain of the creatures he loves. He embraces that pain and suffers with us. Karl Barth wrote that God would rather be unblessed with his creatures than to be the blessed God of unblessed creatures."

We should be like our Father.

[P.S. - After poking around on blog-world, I have see A TON of bloggers setting up their blogs to help Haiti, give suggestions, donate money based on comments...all sorts of generous things!!! One of the best ones is here. SOOOOO encouraging to see all the blessed people out there using their blessings to help! What a boost!!!]

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What is Really Important - A Prayer for Haiti

Picture from

I just can't think wedding today. I was going to write a post today about all the details coming together - wedding, the house, all the good things happening...but I can't get Haiti off my mind. Somehow, my small details like pretty invitations and filling up my registry just doesn't seem very significant.

My heart breaks for what is going on over there. It's strange, because on Monday night, the J-man and I were watching a documentary on Haiti. It traced the years of poverty and unrest. But now, it was reporting that Haiti was in the 'window of opportunity.' There were investors coming over to help; new industries and factories and job opportunities were being created; international workers were training their police and getting rid of the gang violence. It seemed like Haiti was finally stabilizing and maybe being given something she never had before: hope.

The commentators emphasized that Haiti has been given this window of time to take advantage of all the help being given to her to get on her feet. It almost seemed like this was the last shot for Haiti to get it right; this was the moment all the world was really helping her, and she had this last opportunity to take advantage of it.

Then, eerily, the very next day - this. A 7.0 earthquake. It is hard not to ask why. Why - in a country with so much poverty and devastation and unrest already? Why not us - a country that has the infrastructure to deal with this? You wonder just how much more can a struggling nation can take.

At this point, I'm not really seeking answers to these questions - my heart is so sad for them. Our missions team from our school is actually going there in April (I would be on that trip too, if it were not for the wedding in March). A few students in our school have parents who are there now - and have no way of knowing if they are dead or alive.

I'm just sad. That's all. It's hard to feel helpless...wanting so badly to help.

Giving - we can do that. Some ways to help:

*World Vision

*Compassion International

The American Red Cross is accepting donations as small as $10, charged directly to your phone bill by texting 'HAITI' to 90999.

Some can go. I'm jealous. I wish I could, too.

We can care - even if it is just making the choice to watch the news, follow the stories - to at least try to feel their pain and suffering and not shut it out to go quickly back into our safe, comfortable world.

We can pray - That's what we can do from here. And, thankfully, God is not limited by distance, time or resources.

So, Lord, I ask You to be with Haiti. Give them help. They are desperate and need a miracle. Only You can help them in the way they need. My heart is so heavy for them. Dear Jesus, bring good out of this tragedy. You can do that. And only You can do that. Be with the creation You love so much. Bring them to Yourself. Give them hope and peace. Give them what You know they need. Give them Yourself.

In Jesus' Name,

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Awards, Give-aways, and Other Random Blog Events!

OK, lots of things going on on some of the blogs I read, so I am going to share some of them with you!

* On JDaniel4smom 's blog, she is giving away 4 free sessions with a life coach! That is pretty amazing, considering all the amazing things that might transpire in your life from that! And a little daunting - sometimes we are comfortable in our dysfunction, lol! But it is a great way to boost the new year's resolutions. Check out her blog and enter!

*For all of you coffee drinkers out there, The Coffee Shop, a blog that makes you feel like you are just sitting in with a friend having a nice latte, is giving away a $20 giftcard to Starbucks! That's pretty great! I haven't splurged on Starbucks in a while because of all of the wedding/house stuff going on, so that would be a great treat!

*Here is a shout out to my sister, The Girl Creative, [who got me blogging in the first place]. This is for all of you crafty, DIY-types...Moody Girl Projects is using my sister's blog to host a "Top 10" Party launching January 15th. You post your top 10 crafty projects, then link up at The Girl Creative! Check it out if you'd like to attend!

* I mentioned this before, but Daisy Kisses is hosting Project 365 - a picture for every day of the year. Even if you can't jump in (Why not? Start now! Better late than never!), by following some of the links, you will see some great photography. I feel like an amateur next to some of them, but I am hopefully going to get better as the year goes on. Feel free to visit This Beautiful Mess to see some snapshots of my attempts to see something extraordinary in my ordinary life. Which leads me to my next

*Out of the Extraordinary and A Chocolate Lover's Confession have both given me my first blog awards! I didn't even know awards existed until last week, but I feel very honored to get them! Out of the Extraordinary is just like it says...finding the extraordinary in every day things. Chocolate Lover's Confessions is a wedding planning blog. Both are great! Take a visit!

Saturday, January 9, 2010


First, a big THANK YOU for all who commented on my last post with their wisdom for resolving conflict! I am so appreciative of that!

What is on my mind today is love languages. Some of you might be familiar with this, based on the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman (If you visit his site, you can take a quiz to see what your languages are!).

The basic concept is that there are certain ways we as individuals like to give and receive love. If someone is showing us love in our 'language,' then we get a sense of feeling loved by that person. A person may still love us, but if he is showing love in his language and not our language, we might feel unloved by that person, when in fact, he does love us.

So, the point is to find out which way you and your partner give and receive love, and try to show him love in the way he receives it, not in the way I like to give it. And vice versa - your partner should try to show you love in the way you receive it, not in the way he likes to give it.

Well, the J-man and I had another pre-marital counseling session, and the focus was on love languages. We had taken a love languages test months ago, when we were in our pre-covenant classes (a great 8 week course required for anyone getting married by one of our pastors). We both scored high on 'physical touch' and 'words of affirmation' - so that was good.

But the one difference we had was in 'quality time.' I scored very high on my need for quality time, and he scored much lower. And this makes sense. The J-man values his alone time and often is OK spending time with himself. I, on the other hand, while I need time by myself to regroup, I generally like to be around people and find it stimulating (most of the time!).

Now obviously, the point of a relationship is to relate to another person which can only be done by being with him/her. But I think this was enlightening for both of us. For me, it showed me to not take it personally if the J-man needs to be alone at times. It is just who he is.

On the other hand, the J-man was encouraged to be aware and sensitive to the fact that my needs are different, and that if I am feeling disconnected, then quality time is needed on the double.

And over time, the hope is that it will balance out - he will get used to spending more time together, and I will grow to be more comfortable with time he needs alone.

The give and take of a relationship. The dying to self - that was a point our pastor made. Sometimes, to love someone else, in his or her language, it's not always what is comfortable for us or what we would prefer. But if we love that person, we will get beyond ourselves. And, by doing that, we learn to grow as people. Which, really, is one of the points of marriage.

[p.s. - I just added Gary Chapman's blog to my blog list. They have some great relationship resources and articles! A great find! It's definitely worth a visit!]

Monday, January 4, 2010

Love... and War

Yeah, the other side of relationships. The Battlefield.

I float around on a lot of these blogs, and sometimes I think, 'Everybody's life just seems so happy. So perfect.'

Can anyone else out there relate to me??? Am I the only one who feels like sometimes love and relationships are (cough, cough) less than perfect??? That they can be hard sometimes?

I'm sure nobody wants to hang their dirty laundry out there for all of cyber-world to see - I am not saying they even should. Some things are private and should be kept between you and your man. Absolutely true.

Maybe we women are trying to respect our men and paint them in a positive light - and that is great. I am all for showing our men respect and think that is totally appropriate.

But being newly-engaged and soon-to-be-married, I guess I am curious to hear how other couples deal with conflicts in their relationships - I can use all the insight I can get! And I haven't really seen a lot written about that.

I don't know if there is a 'right' way - each couple is so individual. And we are all works in progress. But I guess sometimes I want re-assurance that we are "OK." "Normal." Not that we are being graded, but I guess sometimes I want to know where we fall on the Bell Curve. But that's just me...the recovering perfectionist.

[I have to add this disclaimer - of course - you knew that was coming: things are actually very good with the J-man and myself. For real! They are!]

But I admit that it takes a lot of mental energy always trying to decipher the best way to deal with conflict.

To not react emotionally.
To seek to understand before being understood.
To think logically about what way of communicating is effective and what is just a waste of time.
To know which battles are worth fighting and which ones will only put us on separate sides instead of on the same team.

They told us in our pre-covenant classes that women see the world through pink glasses, hear with pink hearing aids and speak through a pink megaphone.

Men, on the other hand - yep, you guessed it: blue glasses, blue hearing aid and blue megaphones (That came from Love and Respect by the Eggerichs). And I am sure that those differences alone cause most of the skirmishes.

It's a lot of energy to just try and understand them as men.

So I guess I am curious to hear from you ladies - married, engaged, dating, newly-wed and even singles... Can you relate to this??? What kinds of things have come in between you and your man? How do you resolve it? What have been your experiences with this? (It's OK to be honest but no male bashing here! I hope we all love our men and want to respect them!)

Relationships. It's all about love - but it can feel like war sometimes...
It's a lot of energy.
But to have a relationship with a good man, to love him and experience his love in return, I've found, that is worth fighting for.

(PS...God is teaching me a few lessons about this, too. I'll share some in future blogs.)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Oh No You Didn't!

Yes, I did.

As if I didn't need another excuse to procrastinate and be distracted, I have started another blog.

I got the idea from Nicolasa who is hosting Project 365 on her blog - a picture for every day of the year. I had to join. I had to! So, I started another one. Feel free to visit, if you would like, at This Beautiful Mess - or maybe even start your own! You can link up at Nicolasa's blog!

Fear - Be Gone!

OK - New Year's Resolutions. To make them or not to make them?

Some people don't like them, but I do. I don't know why...just maybe the chance to start over and get second shot at what I didn't get right last year.

I can't say I have had a lot of time to give this much thought...but I would like to start this new decade with some kind of goal in mind. So, in giving it just a little thought, one goal I think I do want to consciously work on is my negative thinking.

I tend to be a worrier, and I am really starting to feel the effects of these worries (or if I am honest - these fears) in my life. I've kind of struggled with "stinkin' thinkin'" over the years. Not that you would think I am a pessimist if you met me; I am typically an upbeat person. But inside, I feel like there is this vat of negative thoughts and expectations that just swirl around in there. Sometimes I am aware of it and can get it under control - and sometimes....not.

Maybe because I am such a do-er perfectionist, I feel a bit out of control when I make a situation better force things to turn out how I want. And the results of what I can't control scare me. And it just leads to a messy thought life...which leads to negative emotions...which takes its toll in my physical body. Who wants to live like that?

Take a look at the picture above. I debated using it in my blog because it is so ugly and disturbing. But then I thought...No, that is a great visual for fear. Fear is ugly and disturbing, and that is what it looks like inside of me. And I refuse to have that controlling me. Honestly, I feel tired of being afraid.

I tend to live in the world of 'what if' - which is a scary, dark world. And I need to know, down in my gut, it should be 'so what, if?'

I have God. I will be OK. Everything will be fine.

So, as far as resolutions go, I think this is the one that will effect every other area of my life.

Of course, there are the others...drop a few pounds, be less selfish. I want to grow closer to Jesus and be more faithful to Him. I want to be a good wife to J. I want to be a better teacher, and I want to stop procrastinating and waste less time. I would like to be a better writer and blogger.

But this sums up my goal for this year:

Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious - the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

(The Message - Phil. 4:6-8)

What about you? Do you make resolutions? Keep them? Have any for 2010?