Thursday, August 28, 2014

when your best friend lives in Russia...

in May 2011, i walked through airport security with two suitcases & boarded a flight to Wasilla, Alaska. my ultimate destination was LaVerne Griffen Youth Recreation Camp which would be my new home for the next three months. i had talked to my rommate, Rebecca, briefly over email & now i would finally get to meet her in person! 

we instantly clicked and became good friends during those three months. we served together, loved on campers together, laughed together, explored together, and shared our stories and lives with each other. we helped each other through struggles and encouraged each other through doubts. serving with someone really creates a special bond & those 3 months birthed a lifelong friendship! 

when we left Alaska, she went back to Missouri and i went home to South Carolina. it was weird at first, having been together for 3 months straight, and now so many miles separated us. but we kept in touch by texting, emailing, skyping, writing letters and cards, and visiting each other! fast forward to May 2013 and she was the maid of honor at my wedding

now that we are both out of college, we don't have the luxury of much free time. it's hard to coordinate skyping when we are both super busy & the sun is setting for her when it's rising for me. however, since we have always been long distance friends, we've always had to be intentional with keeping in touch. so when she moved to Russia in March, we just had to be intentional plus work around an 8 hour time difference! 

when we were in Alaska, one thing we loved was the weekly post office visit! i always get so excited when a letter or package is addressed to me! but it was also so much fun to see what Rebecca got as well! snail mail is my favorite whether i'm sending it, receiving it, or watching someone else open their mail! 

i love sending mail, even to my friends that live in the same city as me, because it's just an extra way of saying "hey i'm thinking about you!" texting and instagram are convenient, but snail mail will always say that little something extra! i used to mail Thomas letters when we were dating & now that we are married we still send pillow mail to each other! it is just one of those timeless fun things! 

since Rebecca has been in Russia for almost 5 months now, i figured it was high time to send her a box of goodies! :) it just really says something special when you take the time to write a letter, put together a package, and take it to the post office! 

i wanted to send her something fun, personalized, and useful, so i am mailing a modge podge of goodies! Shutterfly lets you personalize cards by adding messages & pictures to the card you create, so that was the perfect way for me to add a personal touch! i also sent a Harry Potter print because it's so adorable & every HP fan should have one! i tied the teas & wooden owl together with twine, and yes i am corny and wrote "owl see you soon" on the owl! Rebecca also likes to read like i do, so i sent The Reason for God by Tim Keller for her to read when she gets days off! you know, a little light reading! :)

personalized card | Shutterfly
harry potter print | Lovely People
The Reason for God | Tim Keller
wooden owl | Hobby Lobby

how do you keep in touch with your long distance friends?
what is your favorite type of mail to send or receive?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

real talk | life is messy (& that's okay!)

if you walked into my house right now, you would find....
- my pajamas on the bathroom floor because i threw them off in a rush to get ready for work
- a glue gun still sitting on the fireplace in the living room where i used it last to make a flower pin for Jenna's bridal shower (3 1/2 weeks ago)
- dishes piled in the sink & soaking because we didn't scrub them right after using them
- half chewed clothespins all over the floor because our basset hound has decided these are her new favorite snack (to steal)
- rabbit bedding & hay all over the dining room floor from Albie pushing it out of his cage & the dogs tracking it everywhere

this is actually how our house looks a lot of the time. why? because we live in it. we rush in the mornings because we hit snooze too many times, we cook & don't always clean the dishes right away, we get things out & don't always put them away in a timely manner. why am i telling you this? it isn't to convince you that we are messy, although i'm sure you now believe it. 

i'm telling you this because i am okay with messy. not because i want to live in a pig sty, but because there are other things more important than cleaning sometimes. we might not have swept the floors on Saturday, but we spent the entire day together creating memories & growing in our marriage. the dishes didn't get washed, but we spent 4 hours with our church community officially covenanting together. there are things that take priority over having a spotless house.

i am also telling you this because i am okay with not coming off as "put together". i don't always have the right answer, but i realize that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. i am not always an encouraging helpmate to my husband & i get irritated over silly things, but we repent and forgive. our house is not pinterest worthy, but it is perfect for us. our dinners aren't pretty enough for instagram, but they are healthy & quick.

and i'm okay with that.

and if you're honest with yourself... i think you want to be okay with it too. coming off as perfect is so exhausting. i want to invite people into my home & my life even during the messy parts. especially during the messy. i want to do life with others & that cannot be done if i am too busy creating a facade of perfection.

life is messy. people are messy. vulnerability is messy. marriage is messy.

to do life with people & truly be in community with them, is to be involved in the messy. not to be afraid of my mess or other people's mess, but to embrace it and to walk through it together.

to truly be known is to let people see the real me, not the image that i put off to the world. i don't want to miss out on life in the search of perfection.

i think it begs the question though, why are we so afraid of messes? why are we afraid of vulnerability? why are we afraid of letting people see who we truly are? why are we afraid of failure?

vulnerability is scary & sometimes it hurts but it is also freeing. it is healthy. it is needed. 

failure is never fun, but it helps us to learn. it gives us experience & it helps stretch us out of our limits. 

saying "i don't know" is okay. you are not expected to know everything & it is okay to admit that you need help.

messy is part of life. it is nothing to be afraid of. through the messy parts of life, real life change happens. embrace it & live in freedom!

"A perfectly kept house is the sign of a misspent life."

how do you embrace messy?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

passport to fun | Ghanzi, Botswana

we were supposed to go to Botswana in July, but life got too busy and we had to push it back to August. i picked Botswana because one of their local meals is spaghetti with broccoli and i wanted to make it! however, since we were fitting two passport to fun dates into one month, we decided to do food for Thailand and adventure for Botswana! 

we decided to go to a local animal park so we could see & interact with some animals that live in Africa. this place has lions, monkeys, zebras, camels, rhinos, and more! the thing we love about this animal park is that you can feed (most of) the animals! they also do safari rides where they take you out to pasture in a safari bus and you get to feed the animals from the bus! 

this is my favorite zoo to go to because you can actually interact with the animals rather than just look at them. all of their animals are very used to humans, so it's probably one of the only places you can actually pet a zebra & the zebra like it! typically zebras are very skiddish of humans, but Holly is unique and loves humans (and crackers)!

i am an animal lover, so this date was my favorite! we have been here before, but i had never seen the camels, so this trip was the first time i got to pet a camel & it was awesome! we got a selfie with said camel too & i die laughing looking at this picture! that camel is one of my favorite animals i've ever met! even after i ran out of bread, he let me pet him for a while!

we were going to watch The Lion King as our African themed movie, but we found a DVD we bought a few months ago about the wildlife of Africa & India so we decided to watch that instead! it was a DVD we found at a dollar store we frequent & we both love animal documentaries so we got all the different ones they had! so even though this date was foodless, it turned out pretty awesome! :)

what's your favorite safari animal?
have you ever pet a camel?

Monday, August 25, 2014

week recap

- i finished James Potter 4 & am kinda sad that the 5th book isn't out yet! i am slowly recovering by starting the Divergent series! i also want to read The Giver again before seeing the movie, so i may just read both at the same time!

- my mom in law got me a copy of Charlie The Ranch Dog and i cannot emphasize enough how much i love this book! bassets have always been my favorite dog & i can't get enough of those cartoon chunky paws!

- i also found out this week that i'm going to be an aunt again! Thomas's sister is due in February & this will be the first grandchild for his parents!

- this weekend trip was so much fun & so very needed! Thomas & i have been so overwhelmed with all of life's little details lately that it was so restful to just get outta dodge for a few days! Thomas planned the whole trip for us & it was amazing! best birthday yet! :)

- sending mail
- impromptu dinner with friends
- having a day off work :)
- weekend getaways with my husband
- train ride & staying in a yurt

- it is okay to rest today - the world can rob you of your sleep, but not your Savior! good word!
- i very much needed to read this about learning to lighten the load we carry with us. some times we need to put things down because they are just too heavy!
- sometimes it is easier to accept forgiveness from God & others than to learn to forgive ourselves!
- Jess @ The Artsy Cajun is having an awesome birthday giveaway extravaganza & you should enter to win!
- the only way to deal with fear, is to take it to the throne room!


how was your week?!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

birthday | number edition

Saturday is my birthday & i am excited because i get to spend an entire weekend celebrating with my husband! before getting married i didn't really do anything for my birthday except celebrate over dinner with family. i am way too introverted for parties & i hate being the center of attention.

i love celebrating birthdays being married, however, because Thomas & i can take trips together and go on adventures! which is exactly what we are going to do this weekend! we are both taking tomorrow off & getting away for the weekend! Thomas has planned the entire weekend & i am so excited about it! adventure awaits

but first! i am an accountant which means that i love numbers, so i am using my birthday as an excuse to share some numbers with you!

as of Saturday, i have spent 26 years on this earth! hard to believe, but i have learned a lot along the way!

since we got married, Thomas & i have discovered that 12 groundhogs live around us! (2 of those groundhogs even live in our backyard!) it is fun to see who can spot the most groundhogs on our drive home from work!

as of today, i have been married to my favorite guy for exactly 462 days! that is even harder to believe, some days it feels like less & some days it feels like much more!

Thomas turned 29 this year (on our anniversary)! he is 3 1/2 years older than me.

we welcomed Albus the bunny into our family & we now have 3 pets at the House of Black!

i have read 3 James Potter books this year & am almost finished with the 4th one!

i have published 252 blog posts on this blog since i created it! you can check out some of my favorite posts here!

Thomas & i have been able to go on 6 trips together since getting married (7 if you include this weekend!), including family vacations & business trips! during those trips, we were able to visit 9 different states!

in my life, i have been to 4 countries outside of the US! The Bahamas, Canada, England, and France!

i've completed 11 items on my 30x30 list so far! i've only got 4 more years to finish!

5:00pm is the time i wish it was so i would be off work & starting my long weekend! :)

what number are you thinking about today?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

passport to fun // Bangkok, Thailand

we missed our passport to fun date in July because our weekends were so packed! which means that we had 2 dates to do in August! our weekends in August were just as packed, so we tried doing our Bangkok, Thailand date on a weeknight after work! 

there is an authentic Thai restaurant in our city that we just love! it's run by a Thai family & so they cook real Thai food, but tone it down for us Americans! :) we frequent this Thai place & i do not say that lightly.... one of the waitresses knows us as soon as we walk in! for instance, the last few times we've gone, including this time, she didn't give us menus & knew our order by heart! she asked us to make sure it's what we wanted, but we pretty much get the same thing every time! 

we haven't quite been brave enough to try the curry yet! i had chicken curry on a cruise ship once when i was younger & didn't like it at all. so i hesitate to try it now, although i know my taste buds have changed & widened since then! 

i generally get the chicken fried rice (no tomatoes or onions) & Thomas gets the chicken pad thai! they have a heat scale and you can order your food as a spicyness of 1-10. i normally get a 3 & Thomas gets a 4! we used to both get 5's but we couldn't eat much because it was spicy! since this was a passport to fun date, we decided to add on an order of spring rolls as an appetizer! these spring rolls are the best & i could eat an entire plate of them!

since it was a weeknight & we were trying to stay within budget, we didn't do any sort of super creative Asian activity! but after dinner, we went to a lake to feed some ducks! they have ducks in Thailand so i imagine you could do this there as well! :) i am not sure that they have black swans in Thailand, but we had one came up to us & was being super sweet asking for bread! he would just look up at us & stare at our bread! 

what is your favorite Thai cuisine? are you a curry fan?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

26 things i've learned in 26 years

in four days, i will officially be 26 years old. one year older than 1/4 of a century, guys! didn't i just turn 25? where does the time go? at times it is hard to believe i'm almost in my late twenties. most of the time i feel so much younger than that. being an adult is just weird sometimes. working full time, paying a mortgage, friends having babies, etc. when did this become normal life? can i have an entire summer off again? :)

it's always felt strange to me - because i guess you expect to feel different when you turn a year older. but it's really just like any other day. maybe you get a few more phone calls & texts. but it's a pretty normal day. and you don't really turn the entire year older all at once! you are continually growing the whole year, you just recognize it on your birthday. & i think that's why birthdays don't really feel all that different. the change has already happened, and you experienced it as you went along. but i digress.

i've seen some bloggers do posts where they talk about what they've learned in the time they've been on this earth. and i always love reading those posts because people think so differently and have different perspectives, but there is always some good truth in those posts. so today i am sharing some things i have learned in my 26 years on this earth. while humbly acknowledging that i have so much more left to learn!

o1 | no matter how hard you try, you can't befriend everyone. some people aren't going to like you and you can't make them. but be kind & do your best anyways. the only one you have control over is yourself.

o2 | your words can wound deeply. be intentional with the words you speak. just because you feel a certain way or think something, doesn't mean you always need to share it.

o3 | keep your priorities as your priorities. everything else can fall by the wayside. there will be so many good opportunities, but you do not have to take them all.

o4 | it's okay if you don't get the perfect picture. sometimes you need to lay the camera down, and just enjoy the moment. soak it in and "be here now". it still happened even if there's not a picture.

o5 | allow yourself to take a break. just because you could keep going, doesn't mean it's the best thing. taking some time away can refresh your perspective and give your soul rest. it's okay to take some time away from work, or your husband, or your family to just have some time to yourself and time with God. it's needed - and your relationships will only benefit from it.

o6 | social media is just a highlight reel. it is so easy to get sucked into facebook and instagram feeds and start believing that everyone's life is perfect except for yours. but it's important to remember that the real, messy, raw parts are happening behind the scenes. comparison is a lie either way, but you cannot compare your entire script to someone else's bullet points.

o7 | it is okay to make mistakes. mistakes are how we learn & grow. i would even say they are necessary for success.

o8 | God's plans are better than your own. don't feel as if you need to manipulate in order to control a situation. God has ultimate authority & if He wishes for something to happen, He can make it happen. rest in that. if something you want doesn't come to fruition, trust that it is less than the plan He has in mind.

o9 | laughter really is the best medicine. instead of getting angry about a situation, just learn to laugh about life's mishaps. instead of being embarassed by something you did, just learn to laugh at yourself. it makes life easier & more enjoyable!

10 | time is money. or at least, it's like money! once you spend it, it can never be spent again. so choose wisely.

11 | you never know until you ask. asking questions, even if it may be awkward, is the best thing you can do. so many good things can happen just by asking a question. and the worst thing that could happen is that the answer could be no. but at least you asked.

12 | creating healthy habits can be hard. but when you're young is the time to do it. it will be so worth it.

13 | relationship status does not define who you are. your worth is not found in "married" vs "single" - your worth is found in Jesus. you are His glorious creation no matter if you are a wife, a single lady, a mom, or a widow. Jesus defines the core part of you, and don't you ever forget it.

14 | focus on the donut, not on the hole. there are going to be a lot of things in life that you don't have, but guess what? you don't need them. focus on what you do have & use what resources are supplied to you. don't get lost in thinking "if only i had ____" because if you expect one thing to make your life perfect, nothing will hold up to that expectation. focus on where you are not where you wish you were.

15 | embrace the messy. the perfectionist in me sometimes cringes when things don't look the way i want them to or when things don't go the way i planned. but the best and most memorable parts of life are often messy and not scripted. i don't want to miss the memories because i'm trying to hide the mess. messy is real.

16 | beauty is there. you need only look for it.

17 | be vulnerable. it can hurt to open up & share the deep parts of you with other people. but life is so much richer when you do. it is awkward at first, but your marriage & friendships will deepen because of it. let people in.

18 | do uncomfortable things. whatever it is that is outside of your comfort zone, just jump in & do it! they are some of the best learning experiences & the greatest memories!

19 | have a plan. let's face it, some things just won't get done if you don't plan to do them. (exercise, meals, retirement, date nights, even down time)

20 | leave some wiggle room. even though i believe planning is very important, it's also important not to plan everything to a T with no room for flexibility. some of the most fun moments in life are spontaneous!

21 | worry isn't worth it. there comes a point in time where you realize that worrying doesn't actually change anything about what's going to happen. life is going to happen & no amount of worrying will stop that. worrying does nothing but subtract from your joy.

22 | it really is the little things that matter. there are going to be awesome BIG moments in your life & they will be great! but life is made up of much more little moments that really define your life. life change happens in the details. look for the little things and treasure them.

23 | your parents are growing older too. it's easy to get caught up in your own life & all of the exciting things that come with growing up. but remember that as you are growing older, so are your parents. (and grandparents!) they won't be around forever, so make your time with them count.

24 | it is more than okay to say no. there are so many things that you can invest your life in, but no one can do it all. remember that because the older you get, the more opportunities come, and the more you will need to say no. allow white space in your life & invest in your marriage/relationships above all. events & functions are great, but relationships are what matter.

25 | always forgive. even before the person asks for forgiveness. because it really is true that bitterness & unforgiveness hurt no one but you. if you let it sit, it will become toxic. forgiveness is hard work and it hurts, but it is more than worth it. forgive, forgive, & forgive again.

26 | have fun! this is the only life you will get! don't spend time being embarrassed - people are going to think what they are going to think & you can do nothing to change that! dance, laugh, let your hair down & have fun!

what is some wisdom you have gained over the years?