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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A Post Containing Long Sentences about God.

I’ve been carrying a huge weight around for the last few months. I looked for a job pretty steadily after I took the bar, and really started pushing every contact and lead that I could after I received passing results. I realize that the job market isn’t very good, but the longer I go without a job the worse I feel about myself. Obviously, the financial burdens that I have are really stressful, but I also keep thinking about how the longer it takes to really start my career, the farther I fall behind. I want to get some significant legal experience so that I have more options down the road. I want to put my education to good use. I want to work.

I felt God poking at my heart a little bit just now, as I was pondering how much money I have left, how many bills that will pay, and how quickly I’m going to be faced with bills and loan repayment and needing to buy food and gas but having no money. He asked me if I was out of money yet. I’m not. He asked if I’ve gone hungry yet or been unable to pay my cell phone bill. I haven’t. He pointed out that I got a Starbucks card for Christmas and basically had free money with which to buy my drink today. He reminded me that He knew exactly how much debt I had, and how many bills were coming due, and how much interest was accruing, and that even if every cent of my debt was caused by bad decisions that I made without seeking Him or following His voice, He isn’t going to just abandon me and make me figure out how to deal with it alone.

He reminded me how many of my wants are met, even though things that I feel like I need, like a job and a means to pay off my debt, haven’t come about yet. He told me not to feel guilty about that, and to enjoy the things I have right now, like my sewing machine and time to sleep in or hang out with Mom, because if I don’t enjoy them then there’s no point in having them.

He reminded me that He can provide for me, and that He cares about what I need. He knows my situation and He feels my emotions. He’s close, even when He feels far away, and He is intimately interested in every detail of my life and what concerns me. From the thing that my friend and I discussed Friday night that scares me, to the fact that I’m trying to lose weight and the trouble spots I wish would shrink, and the person in my life who is making me extremely frustrated – He cares, and He knows, and even if I have a wrong attitude about something, He cares about that and wants to help me make the adjustment. For my benefit. All to help me, because He loves me and He wants me to succeed according to His definition.

His only request was that I look over and beyond these things, and see Him. To let the details fall away and be eclipsed by His glory. Not because He wants us to ignore them, but because once they’re in perspective, I can realize that He is in fact big enough to take care of them, and that He wants to.

For once, I think my defenses are down enough to believe it.

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My Wedding Dress Story

I’ve been wanting to blog forever about what happened with my wedding dress, and I just haven’t gotten around to it! The reason I want to is because it’s such a great story of things working out awesomely, and I feel like I need to celebrate every time that happens because it happens all too rarely. At least, it feels like it does, but maybe it’s perspective.

Anyway, I had two options for looking at dresses. I could go to a local boutique called the Rosetree, which doesn’t have a great reputation but was extremely convenient for several reasons. Or I could go about 45 minutes away to another boutique called Nandel’s, which wasn’t as convenient. I couldn’t find many reviews for them, but I did find some good ones. Additionally, not as many people I talked to had even heard of them. I took the plunge and went to Nandel’s with Mom and Leanna.

My experience was wonderful. The bridal part of the store is upstairs, and there was only one worker when I got there, so she had to check downstairs a couple times, but she was very attentive. When a second worker got there, she was just as nice and helpful. I tried on probably 8 or 9 dresses in several different styles. They had a lot to choose from, and they even had the dream dress that I had drooled over online. My dream dress was in a size 18, which was way too big, but I got the general idea and I was glad to see that they had beautiful dresses in all ranges of sizes. I saved that dress for last, and just as I suspected, it was absolutely the one.

They gave me all of the information regarding the ordering process. Although I wasn’t ordering that day, they didn’t treat me any differently than if I had rolled in there with stacks of cash ready to spend. They were respectful to Mom and Leanna, who also tried on some dress options. The patience of the workers was great. I also appreciated how they didn’t flatter us. If they liked something, they said so, but they didn’t gush on and on just to try to get us to buy something. They gave good suggestions and told us what was appropriate if we were unsure of any etiquette or traditions.

I did a consultation at the Rosetree just to see what their processes were like. The worker I had the appointment with was nice to me, but rude to a co-worker in front of me. That didn’t really sit well. After some more thought, I went with Nandel’s. I really felt like the money would be better spent at a place that gave me such great service. When I ordered the weekend after Thanksgiving, they said it would be in around March or April, but they would call the designer that Monday and then let me know the ship date. I was measured, and the woman that took the order mulled over the chart for a minute. She said that I was in between sizes, so she actually went upstairs and got a dress that was the same designer and style and had me put it on to see which size to order. She didn’t have to go to that trouble, but she did. I’ve heard of stores ordering two sizes bigger just to get alterations done, but she didn’t do that and ended up ordering the smaller size.

Monday, they called, and said that the designer had one ready to go, in the size we ordered and in the right color, and that I’d get it before Christmas. I didn’t realize it, but the one I picked was actually a priority gown that they try to keep in stock. What I appreciated was that they said I didn’t have to start payments on the balance right away since we hadn’t anticipated that it would be in so quickly. I was really sick, so I just made the appointment for last Friday to go in and try it on. Additionally, that was a great time for 3 of my bridesmaids and Mom to go with me, so it all worked out.

When we went to my appointment, they were so happy to pull my dress out and let me show it off. The back laces up, and she actually laced it all the way closed and thought I might have lost some weight. It will need altered a little more than I’d hoped, but then again I hope to lose more weight between now and then so we’ll see what happens. At least it won’t need altered down several sizes! On that visit, they were also happy to discuss dresses with my other bridesmaids and talk to Mom about her dress again.

Not only were they great and patient and happy to have us there, the dress came in months early. Then, additional awesomeness that was unexpected: some people in my life were incredibly generous and gave me money to put toward the dress. The amount that I had written into the budget was reduced by more than half. The dress was going to be my guilty wedding splurge, and then suddenly, it wasn’t at all!

Recently, a bride posted on her blog about a horrible situation she endured at the Rosetree. I feel so sorry for her, and I’m so glad I ended up going with what I felt like God was leading me to do – go to Nandel’s. I can confirm that my dress was brand new, and clean, and shiny, and in the proper bag from the designer. It was definitely not cut down from the size 18 that I tried on!

Things have been really working out for me regarding wedding planning, and I am so appreciative of that fact. Every time I freak out about something, God reminds me to be still and that He has control of it. And then almost immediately, the wrinkles are ironed out. I’ve honestly never seen God work so quickly in my life, and I really really really like it. I wish some of that would transfer over to getting a job like, NOW, but maybe He sees that wedding stress would put me over the edge. For whatever reason, He is just making this go along shipshape.

Next up: blogging about the photographer. That one will really knock you for a loop!

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Ho Ho Ho Hum.

I am normally a Christmas freak. I falala from Halloween until January and can’t wait to do it all again. Most wonderful time of the year? Absolutely.

This year, it has been incredibly difficult to get into the Christmas spirit. I was hoping all year I would have a job by the time bar results came around so I could afford to get Ernie a really nice item he’s been wanting for a while. No job, so I haven’t been able to get the good gifts that I really wanted to get for people. I know Christmas isn’t supposed to be about the consumerism, but I love giving gifts. I have some amazingly generous people in my life, and I wanted to have the fun of giving back to them around Christmas. I hate the reminder that my professional life is totally stagnant…even though I’ve been working for someone for free to get experience.

On top of that, several members of my family have had some personal and health issues. Mom had to go to South Carolina for two weeks (she came back for 2 days in the middle) to help take care of my uncle’s sister-in-law. Since this is my first Christmas out of law school and my last Christmas at home, I really wanted to spend a lot of time with her. While she was gone, I came down with a nasty virus and was incredibly sick. It has been two weeks since my first symptoms appeared, and I still have a cough and don’t have all of my strength back.

A few days ago, it finally started to turn around. Seeing my mom make some huge sacrifices for other people is such a great example of true, heartfelt giving at Christmas. My great aunt, who was in a coma and on life support following surgery, suddenly woke up and recognized family members. I have some amazing memories of her, and she’s very precious to our family, so this is a complete Christmas miracle.

Yesterday, at church, there was an absolutely gorgeous version of Oh Holy Night. They sang it not as a Christmas song, but as a worship song. It was so moving and powerful, and I finally felt that Christmas spirit come alive. It was such a wonderful reminder that not only did Jesus do something amazing for humanity on the cross, but that His very existence was a miracle. I know a lot of people who think that Christians are total suckers for believing in a virgin birth, but…that’s okay. Jesus is worth being a little crazy.

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Scattered Thoughts on Thanks.

Every November, people start putting something they’re thankful for every day in their facebook statuses. It drives me totally insane because it doesn’t feel very sincere. And really, do we need to know how thankful you are for your house slippers at the end of the month because you’ve already used up all the good ones? No, we do not.

I was struck, though, when I saw a blog post from someone that I don’t know well, but who I spent enough time around to know that she is a very sincere person. I know she’s had to make some tough choices in the past couple of years, and I don’t think that I would have done half as well as she has and I wouldn’t have liked the results at all. Yet she finds so many things about her life that she loves and she’s excited about.

I haven’t had an easy life, and I’ve always worried about money. I haven’t realized until lately just how much that wears on a person. It’s exhausting and it keeps you from being truly thankful for what you have. It’s always felt like I praise God in spite of the way my life is rather than for who He is. As if I’m fighting against every dark force to have faith rather than having my faith bolstered by love and belief in Him. It’s always a struggle.

I know that life isn’t supposed to be easy, but is it always supposed to be so difficult?

How do I become just flat out thankful, with no reservations or doubts tickling the back of my mind?

The easiest thing to be thankful about is my family. I have an absolutely wonderful family. We not only love each other, we actually like one another, which is seemingly becoming a rare phenomenon from what I read on twitter. We had an awesome Thanksgiving, and it felt like everything came together perfectly and it struck me several times how blessed I am to have all of them. I feel so loved and safe around them and excited to see them, every time, without fail. The best part of law school was coming home to them, and it feels like such a gift to be back home with my family now.

If everything were as easy to give thanks for as my family, I’d be the most annoying person on facebook.

It’s awful to struggle with being thankful. I don’t want to be like this. I ordered my wedding dress today, and I am blown away by the generosity and blessings that allowed me to get the dress I want and pay for over half of it without any money coming out of our planned wedding budget. It’s like God orchestrated it all to remind me that He can provide and make things be awesome. And yet I got all worked up tonight about where we’re going to live and how we’re going to ever afford a house with my mountain of student loan debt (which would buy a pretty nice house in my area).

I want to be thankful and leave it at that. I’m tired of my worries overshadowing my praise.

It’s funny that Matthew 6:25 in the ESV starts out very plainly, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life…”

If I managed to not be anxious about my life, I could actually do something great with it.

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Because Why?

I’ve never been an extremely confident person. I’ve always been a little awkward (some would say very awkward), but my lack of confidence came more from being uncomfortable with attention than feeling like I should be ashamed of myself.

In the past couple of years, between the weight gain and the general misery and inadequacy one feels in law school, I started feeling that shame more than ever before. I was also going to church and in lifegroups with some girls who were extremely confident people. They were so comfortable in their own skin because they felt so loved by Jesus. They knew their faults but weren’t overly concerned by them, unless it was something really big that was impacting their relationships and lives that needed to be worked on quickly (and there were a ton of support groups at church for things like substance abuse, eating disorders, etc). It’s really hard to be around confident people like that because it’s so maddening when you can’t grasp how they’re just so okay with themselves.

I went to look at wedding dresses on Monday, less than a week after getting engaged. I don’t know how many times I justified it to people. “I need to get an idea of how much I might be spending so we can adjust the rest of the budget.” “I’m looking for a job so I want to have this out of the way when I start work and won’t have to use my Saturdays for this.” “I just want to see what’s out there.”

At some point, I got super sick of it. The real reason I went is because I was incredibly excited to finally be engaged and I wanted to feel pretty and try on dresses and have my mom and one of my best friends “ooh” over me. I wanted to do something girly and wedding-y.

I just wanted to.

I realized that I try so hard to explain myself and justify my actions to people so that they don’t think I’m stupid, or crazy, or lame, or that I’m making decisions without thinking through them first. Yet no matter how much I explain or justify, people are still going to think those things about something that I do because they simply don’t agree with my decision.

I’ve spent way too long worrying about stuff like that. I just really want to start enjoying life and all of the decisions and experiences that come along with it.

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