Book Review: An October Bride

I was really excited for this one because I was an October bride! Forget June, October is the PERFECT time to get married. Fortunately, it was a cute read so I wasn’t disappointed. Quite honestly it wasn’t a very inventive plotline—childhood friends who secretly like one another and end up married. Yet there was enough going on to keep it from being too flat, despite a predictable ending (of course, you can’t hate too much on a happy ending).

Emma was a little frustrating and pigheaded. Like, think before you try to send your life and someone else’s life in a tailspin and what’s going to happen down the road. Yet it was so cute how much Jake and Emma really wanted to be with one another, and the whole time you want everyone to stop keeping secrets because it would all be so much less stressful.

For such a short story, the author really worked in a lot of character growth for Emma. She really ran the gamut from only wanting to do this for her dad, to wanting it for herself, to thinking her dad was going to be just fine, to realizing he probably wasn’t. It felt like she finally got to a place that she needed to be at the end, which was probably even more satisfying to me than the romance.

I received a free copy of this book to review from Netgalley.

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Fatigue.

I’ve been tired for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I just wanted to rest after school or do quiet, low-key activities. As I got older I just thought I was weird, and then attributed it to being an introvert. Then at some point in law school I realized something felt off, and that it just wasn’t normal to be so tired all the time. I had blood work done as soon as I was insured (following the wedding), and got the good news:  blood work looks great, nothing is wrong.

I was thankful yet discouraged. Of course you want good blood work results, but I also wanted an answer. I would really like more in depth thyroid tests, but we haven’t met our deductible and I don’t want to juggle any more bills. Vitamin B12 shots are helping to an extent, but I need so much more. I’ve prayed, I’ve Googled, and I don’t really have any more answers. A few weeks ago I realized that I could use this as a learning experience, that God was showing me that I had an opportunity while I waited for a solution.

There are different types of tired. Sleepiness that drags your eyelids toward your toes. Mental exhaustion that requires just leaving the house for a walk so you can’t even attempt to read anything. A good physical tiredness following a long workout, or a satisfied type of drained after a long weekend of fun and socializing. All of those can be good in their own way, almost providing a sense of accomplishment because they come at the end of something.

When you feel like you need to sleep for a solid week for absolutely no reason, there is no satisfaction, only guilt. People say, “You should exercise! You’ll feel better and you’ll sleep well.” Oh, okay. I can barely get off the couch, but I’ll follow your advice and go sweat it out. Although people are trying to be helpful, comments like that only cause more self-doubt and frustration.

This, it seems, is my lesson. I realized that I have to give myself grace. I have a certain amount of energy, and it seems to be quite a bit less than most people have. This means that while I have a list of 75 things I want to accomplish, I might have the capacity for three. That might mean cleaning the house, or going to the gym after work, or skipping the gym and cleaning in order to go visit my grandparents. On a really bad day, it might mean alternately dozing off and reading a book for a while after work. Every so often, like today, I’ll have a spurt of energy and have an amazing day and think, Is this what everyone else feels like? I could rule the world! Or at least paint my dining room. Other times, like this past weekend, I’ll have some really bad hours or days and fear that I’ll never accomplish anything, I’ll never be worth anything, and the people who love me will be completely disappointed by me and give up on me.

I’ve always criticized myself incredibly harshly. I can’t let myself off the hook. It makes me try and strive and work extra hard and feel like I’m spinning in circles and accomplishing nothing with a whole lot of effort. I began to realize that this fatigue is part of my life and I sometimes have to make accommodations for it, but that I can be much smarter about it than I have in the past. I hope I won’t always deal with this, but while I am, I can start to understand my needs better and take better care of myself.

I’ve made a commitment to start to better analyze how I’m feeling and decide if I’m avoiding something because I’m legitimately too tired, or if I just don’t want to do something and I’m trying to cop out. I almost talked myself out of going to an auction this weekend, but Ernie was really sweet (and stubborn) and reminded me that I had really been looking forward to it. I was so glad we went, because we got a pair of matching curio cabinets that I’m going to upcycle and a full set of really pretty china, both amazing deals. It was a good reminder that sometimes I have to say no to how tired I am, let myself just be tired later, and deal with it. There has to be a balance between not letting life pass me by and allowing space for when I just can’t.

For the past couple of years, God has taught me a lot about grace. Sometimes those lessons haven’t made much sense, but maybe that’s because I haven’t learned how to extend grace to myself first. If I can’t treat myself well, how am I supposed to treat others well? If I can’t accept my own humanity, how can I adjust my expectations of others and let them know it’s okay when they mess up? I have to live a life of grace for myself as well as those around me. This is a goal worth my energy.

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The Little Things.

Our wedding is in two and a half weeks. I can’t believe it’s so soon, and yet I feel like I’ve been waiting for ages.

There isn’t a whole lot left to do. Had a meeting with my caterer last week, and all I need to do is give her a final count. Getting all of the RSVPs in was difficult. I had to contact most people to follow up and see if they were coming – which has taught me a huge lesson on how to be a guest. Fortunately, we either got answers from most or knew they wouldn’t be able to travel anyway.

The seating chart was actually nerdy fun. It was like a logic puzzle, and I love those. It was pretty easy to do, except for a couple who has offended a shocking amount of people who are going to be there. Don’t be like that, just don’t.

A wedding is full of little things. So many tiny details that go into one giant event in your life. The little things cause stress and grief and really won’t matter in the end, but seem so huge going into it. One of my bridesmaids continuously reminds me that the little things aren’t important enough to ruin my wedding day, so I shouldn’t let them. That’s helped more than she could have known. Not just about the wedding, but life in general.

I notice little things. I get overly upset about little things and overly pleased by them. I get ridiculously frustrated when Ernie forgets something we talked about two hours ago. If I screw up a simple task, I feel way worse about it than I really should.

Then there are the beautiful things. There’s a bush outside our new house that had these ugly sticks coming out of it. I had no idea what kind it was and I was looking forward to getting rid of it until someone visited and said that it was a hydrangea. I wanted to prune it because it’s encroaching on the sidewalk and the dead parts are really ugly, but then websites said there are many different types of hydrangeas, and they need to be pruned at different times, and I really needed to wait until it bloomed to see which type it was. I figured I’d have to wait until next year to see.

Until suddenly, I walked by one day and there was a bloom right beside the front porch. Day after day, it grew larger and a bolder shade of blue. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone outside and peered at it up close. We have some other buds on there that are about to open, and I can’t wait to see them.

We painted the hallways in the house a pleasing gray color. It was a yucky brown that kind of grossed me out. I find myself smiling in the hallway a lot. I also take pride in the fact that I did a lot of the edge work and it looks really good.

We bought our bedding since we needed it and I didn’t think anyone was going to spend that much to buy a gift off of our registry. When the bed is made up with all of the shams and the decorative pillows,  it looks super comfy and pretty.

A cup of tea that was brewed for the perfect amount of time and sweetened exactly as it should be. My favorite episode of a show up next on Netflix, a text from someone I haven’t heard from in way too long, an opportunity to wear heels that make me feel powerful. Small good things that make me forget the stress of the big bad things.

There are so many giant stressful things in my life, lack of job and outrageous student loans the greatest of them. Those things have weighed me down so much that for a while, I couldn’t even be happy over big things. Somehow, the small things have taken over and become important things. Previously, I would have ridiculed myself over getting so excited about a hydrangea or pillows. Now I don’t even care how stupid it sounds.

 

The other day, we were in Starbucks and Ernie was talking to friends a few feet away from me. He caught my eye and winked at me. It’s totally ridiculous how happy and loved that made me feel. It reminded me that relationships are made up of so many little moments that make the greatest memories and lead to developing and sustaining love, security, and trust. I can either let those little things hurt or heal. Going into our marriage, I want to let the bad ones go and allow myself to be excited over the good ones.

Happiness has been so fleeting my whole life because something usually comes along to snatch it away. Maybe the key is finding joy wherever I can and letting that sustain me through the tough times. There will always be annoyances and frustrations, but there will also be afternoon naps during thunderstorms, soft blankets and a crackling fire on a cold winter evening, and unexpected good hair days to balance them out.

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A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander

Thanks to Netgalley for a free copy in exchange for review!

I waited a month until after the release to start the book, because I knew I would read it quickly and then wait for AGES for Tamera’s next book. I wanted to start it before bed one night, but knew that I’d end up staying up all night to read it and tried to exercise self-preservation. I started it the next day, read about a third to half of it, and then I stayed up all night that night to finish it.

That’s how good her books are. You desperately want to make them last, but you can’t. Then you hate yourself for it because then you have to wait another year for the next one!

I think the author has really hit a new level with the Belmont novels. I love how Adelicia is in the background with her hand in everything because she is a fascinating woman and historical figure, but the young women who have to deal with her are great characters totally created by the author’s imagination. The settings are so well-drawn and the history of Nashville’s restoration after the war is an interesting topic.

I’m not totally satisfied with the decisions that the main characters made in the end in this one,  but their personal growth throughout the book was rewarding. Both Eleanor and Marcus fought against who they were meant to be and who they thought they were meant to be. It was an interesting story about how the situation and society you’re born into don’t always match up with the dreams in your heart, and how you have to mold those dreams and ideas to work with your given scenario as well as stretching the boundaries of society to make your goals happen. It was a most enjoyable story, and I would recommend it as highly as any other book by this author.

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Sand Dollars.

Finances are tight. They’ve always been, but it’s different now that I have student loans and am itching for a job. I have the opportunity to make a small amount of money each week, and I’m really grateful for it. But the fact remains that I need a livable salary. I went to law school so I could have a better life. I want to work and I want to put in the effort to learn how to do a job well.

It’s hard to believe that one day, I might actually be able to shop for better quality clothes. To actually have enough money to be generous enough to meet a real need. To have a car that’s less than a decade old. I’ve been praying for the right job and direction for my first steps to financial security, but it’s taking a while to get going.

One of my friends is going to the beach with her family, and she just bought me a plane ticket. The condo is already rented. Then Mom offered to buy me a new bathing suit and some shorts. I’m having some major allergy issues this weekend and have felt really terrible, but I got a definite boost when today, someone else gave me enough money to pay for my food for the time I’ll be there. My entire trip is covered.

When things like this just come together perfectly and unexpectedly, I feel like they’re gateway faith moments. No, I don’t have extra money. But I’m reminded that God does care about things like getting a few days at the beach, and that He’ll make that stuff happen the way He sees fit. If someone had given me the exact amount of money that I would have needed to cover a trip, I wouldn’t have used it for that because it’s not the “smart” choice. This way, I get to go to the beach and there’s no reason to feel guilty about it!

Stacked up against everything I really, really need, this doesn’t look like much. But the amount of encouragement it provides can’t be assigned a monetary value.

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Road Trip? Why Not.

I decided to come down to Raleigh this week to see some friends. It’s getting a lot more common to become real life friends with people you meet online, but I guess I was ahead of the curve. I met Elisse on a forum many years ago, a forum full of self-righteous ridiculousness that I quickly realized I had no business being a part of, but I came out of it with two friends. She was one. She’s a redhead, pint sized (I’m always surprised when I see her how short she is!), ridiculously clever and extremely generous and loving. I’m so grateful that she encouraged me to come down and offered her guest room.

Hannah is one of my bridesmaids. I met her on livejournal when we were both in high school, and we visited each other all the time during college, when summers and spring breaks provide perfect opportunities for road trips. I haven’t seen her nearly enough since I started law school, but we can pick up right where we leave off no matter how long it has been. Hannah reminds everyone of Anna Kendrick, and is gentle and sweet and the type of person that makes you feel better simply by being in her presence.

Being down here doesn’t change any of the stuff I’m struggling with, but it is a good distraction. I hope I can kind of reset my heart and mind, and face my situation with renewed strength and faith when I get back. For the time being, I am so thankful that I was able to meet these girls in such odd ways, because their friendships and love are a truly wonderful part of my life! I love that Elisse moved down here from Pennsylvania after we met, so I can see them both whenever I come down.  It’s so strange how stuff like that works out, but gives me hope that something good will develop soon that I’ll still be thankful for years down the road.

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We Need Counseling Already?

Ernie and I had our first pre-marital counseling session last week. It’s not super formal, but we like and trust our pastor (Mark) a lot, and thought it would be a good idea. I figure that if we learn one thing or get one issue ironed out before we get married, it’s beneficial. We took a pretty long survey (separately) and then Mark got the results. We haven’t seen the report yet, but he said that we were no different than most couples in needing to work on communication and conflict resolution.

It was more of a get-to-know-you session for our first one, because Mark knows Ernie much better than he knew me, so he asked a lot of questions about me and my faith and background. Later, Ernie said he was pretty surprised about how much I opened up about my family’s history. It’s not easy or fun, but I felt like it was important to be honest and see if Mark (and later, his wife, who couldn’t join us for this session) has any insights to help me move beyond my past and not project anything onto Ernie.

Although we didn’t intend for it to be a heavy or deep session, there were still some helpful things said. First, we talked about our history and how our relationship had a rocky, uncertain beginning and how things even lately haven’t gone how we wanted. Although most of those issues have worked out for the better, it’s still hard sometimes to think about hurtful things that happened between us before, or disappointments that we had to weather in our own ways, and not be sad about what happened. It was actually really encouraging to hear Mark say that after years of marriage, he and his wife still have those moments. Even more, that it’s okay to mourn the things that didn’t work out as long as you don’t let them define your relationship or progress.

I also shared everything that was going on with my job search and finances and how hard this all is, and it was interesting to hear a different perspective. He said that it was going to be great to see the outcome of what God is doing in me right now.

Honestly, I’ve been feeling like God has just left me to my own devices for a while, rather than doing anything. I know, I know, that’s not true and I shouldn’t believe that. But knowing and believing and feeling can get all mixed up, and you don’t know what’s in your head or your heart or gut. We use so many vague terms to describe emotions and faith that they stop meaning anything.

The idea that this time I’ve spent struggling and suffering and striving isn’t for naught is actually really hopeful. Maybe I will come out of this better. Or at least really really thankful for whatever job I finally get.

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No Pressure.

I see lots of people on twitter talking about how their families pressure them. About dating, getting married, having kids, finding jobs, visiting, finding better jobs – it sounds exhausting. I’m sure it is.

I’ve been making it a point lately to appreciate how amazing my family is. I know I’ve taken them for granted at times because they’ve always been so great, but then I hear about how other people have nightmare family situations and that serves as a great reminder.

Mom never pressured me about grades. I graduated high school with a perfect GPA, but I always knew that she wouldn’t be upset or even disappointed if I didn’t do as well in a class. The pressure was all mine.

My family has never insinuated that I was less of a person or less important because I didn’t have a boyfriend, and when I started dating Ernie they just loved him and weren’t concerned about our timeline. They’re excited for our wedding and want us to have ginger babies, but they know it’s our life and our timeline.

I’m never even pressured by Ernie. You’d think that having a jobless (for AGES after graduation) fiancee would be stressful, but not for him. He’s so laid back and chill and ridiculously proud of me and cheering me on no matter what, which is a little disconcerting sometimes because it’s the opposite of what I’m telling myself.

Since I didn’t have the pressure many people do, I decided to put it on myself. I always felt like I needed to be better and do more. We should have gotten engaged faster, and married faster. Most of my friends are married, some of them have children. Despite having a law degree and still only being 25, I’ve had to fight feelings of being behind. It hasn’t helped that since 5th grade, my close friends have been years older. Graduating high school and college very young compounded the issue. Even church friends were always several years and milestones ahead. I even had to request a different lifegroup at my last church because only 3 of us didn’t have kids, and I was the only one out of those 3 that wasn’t married!

I want to have kids and be done having children sooner rather than later. I want to chase after toddlers while I have more energy and I don’t want to be changing diapers at 40. Ernie and I have discussed the kind of timeline that we would prefer for starting a family, and felt pretty comfortable with it. Suddenly, last week, I just got so overwhelmed and thought, will I be ready? It’s not super soon, but it felt that way.

That’s me, worrying about something you’d need a telescope to see.

At that moment, I felt God saying, “Well, if you want to wait, you can. Who’s the one that came up with the plan anyway?”

Oh, yeah, I did.

Sometimes I just need permission and a reminder to take the pressure off of myself. It was a huge eye opener, and it feels kind of stupid to write about because at this very second, the subject matter is such a nonissue. I totally get that. Yet in the way that always happens, Jesus managed to use something that was freaking me out to teach me a bigger lesson in a loving way.

I want to take steps to live in a less pressured way. I’m not quite sure how to go about that yet. So if you see me freaking out over something ridiculous, remind me that I’m the only one creating the stress.

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Making Time.

I thought that an engagement was going to be a really exciting time, but it’s actually incredibly frustrating. It’s dating with a ring. We aren’t living together, so it’s a weird limbo of still living pretty separate lives while planning to live one life. Nothing major has changed.

The most annoying part is our lack of time together. He works from home, but I don’t want to go over there during the day and be a distraction. It’s not practical for either of us to be together every evening. He has some projects he wants to work on, and I want to work on my quilt. I want time with Mom in the evenings. Sometimes we don’t see each other at all half the week. It’s not a huge deal, but it can be a little lonely sometimes as we wait for when we can be together all the time. I know at that point we’ll be glad for excuses to have some time apart, but it’s not like that right now.

For Valentine’s Day, I asked him to cook dinner for me. I didn’t make a request or want hints, I just wanted a surprise. It was delicious, and then we snuggled for a while and watched House of Cards. A perfect evening.

Some Saturdays and Sundays we might not see each other at all, but we made a point to change that this weekend. We spent several hours together both days. Even though this whole weekend basically consisted of talking, snuggling, eating, and watching House of Cards, it was somehow exactly what I needed.

I love the fact that simply being in his presence for a while fills a space in my heart. I think it’s the attribute of our relationship that proves to me that we’re made for each other. I’m glad that we can both survive without being around each other or in constant contact, because a healthy partnership requires two people who are fulfilled on their own. Yet it’s also important that we can recognize when we need some extra closeness and adjust our routine accordingly.

I’m really glad I’m in love.

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Need a Chiropractor, Please!

You ever have those times where it feels like life is jerking you around? Totally happening right now.

I barely have time to be happy about something or utterly disappointed over something before I get tossed in the other direction. I’m suffering from emotional whiplash here.

I have learned, however, that I’m finally starting to take note of which of my behaviors and decisions are reactionary. Not that I’ve actually reached the point of making decisions that are non-reactionary, but at least I’m noticing. So, that’s a half a step forward, right?

And I’m down a few pounds. Not a huge amount, but maybe I can combine that with the previous half step forward and make it one giant leap? (I was good at math, but never liked it, so now I just fudge numbers to be how I want them. Unfortunately, my student loan balance disagrees with this tactic.)

Tomorrow might be an important day.

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