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What I Learned and Loved in August (And September’s Goals)

What I Learned and Loved in August {praylivecreate.com}

I skipped a month of what I learned and loved, but I figured this post served as a good wrap up of where I was in July. So here’s what I learned and loved in August…

I learned that nothing really depends on me. When I chose to follow Jesus into less, it was because I didn’t have anything left, and I knew that even if I couldn’t get everything right, I could say no a whole lot more. Honestly, nothing really changed except that I got the first hint of emotional and mental space that I’d had in years, and I learned who can and can’t handle hearing the word no in my life. I also saw God carry me in ways only He can do. It reminded me for the millionth time that I am not my provider and also that I don’t need to have answers to anything in life, I just need to rest in Him.

The names that God chooses to call us say a lot about His feelings for us. I’ve said it a bunch, and I’m honestly not done saying it that I think if we all really believed we’re chosen, loved, blessed, belong, gifted, forgiven, known, and secure our lives would look so much different (and less busy!). I’m preaching to the choir on this one, because it’s something that I know but fail to live out when I’m wrapped up in the day to day demands of an especially demanding city.

I also learned that Holland built a system that would allow the nation to flood low-lying areas of the country with water that was too shallow for boats but too deep for troops to cross in case of war. From my understanding, the system was never used, but that didn’t stop them from building a series of forts throughout the country that are now used as public parks or bed and breakfasts. Interesting, right?

I fell in love with Maine during our anniversary / birthday trip last weekend. We spent the weekend in Portland with a stop in Kennebunkport on the way home. I’ll probably be sharing more about it soon, but it’s hard to say which town I liked more. Coming home has been both easier and harder in some ways, but overall seeing how people live outside of NYC and getting to experience a slower pace of life was so good for us and it gave us both a lot of hope for whatever God has in store.

And lastly, I’m re-learning how to use my voice. In the past, I was a pretty outspoken person. But somewhere along the last three years I toned it down, because there were bills to pay and people to please to make that happen. Honestly, if there’s anything I’m learning right now it’s that people who need to be pleased aren’t really worth the time. My biggest priority for this month is continuing to ask God to come in and bring His best and give us confidence to not mind the fall out along the way. Which leads me to September’s goals!

September’s Goals

Say no even more. There are still a lot of areas where I’m working on this, and some of them are harder than others (i.e. they involve upsetting a lot more people). So it’s staying on the agenda.

Host a movie night. Heshan and I used to host monthly movie nights as an opportunity to get together with everyone we know, break bread, and have a fun night together. It’s been a few years since we’ve had one and we’ve done a really good job of being anti-social over the past month, so we’re hoping to get a new movie night on the schedule for this month.

That’s it’s for me. What did you learn and love in August and what are your goals for this month?

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What I Learned About Life on Our Two-Year Anniversary

Heshan and I were married two weeks before my 30th birthday and three months before his 32nd. While I sometimes wish we’d met and married earlier, started a family in our 20s, and gotten a head start, overall I know that the timing was perfect for us. Last weekend we walked over the threshold of our two year anniversary, and I started thinking back to our wedding day. I didn’t have any fairy tale ideas as to what our wedding or our marriage would be like before I walked down the aisle, but it’s safe to say that I also had no idea what was in store (and how much harder but better it would all be than I had imagined). If pulling off a wedding was our first big feat as a unit, then it was also full of a few lessons that have held true for all the days since.

Photo by Annabelle Dando

1) We can’t do it alone. Our wedding day was definitely a labor of love for the people in our life. We knew right away that we wanted to marry on a budget. We also knew that we didn’t want the focus to be on us so much as on our family and friends who would travel to celebrate with us and also God’s love for us as a community. We chose to put a verse from 1 Corinthians 13 on each table as a reminder to ourselves of what love in community looks like. Steph and I painted 5×7 frames from Ikea and she printed off each verse and inserted it over craft paper. We added butterfly stickers from a scrapbooking set from Michael’s.

Photo by Annabelle Dando

My mother-in-law gifted us with all of the flower arrangements on our tables and down the aisle. We ordered in bulk from the floral section of our grocery department, and she glued red ribbon at the top of each vase. I didn’t see these until our wedding day, and they took our breath away.

Photo by Annabelle Dando

Heshan and I wrapped peaches in copper tissue paper that we hand stamped with a short quote about love. We wrapped wire leaves around the top, and our friends set them out at each place setting as a gift for all of the guests. Our wedding was literally pieced together with the hard work of people we love, and our marriage looks a lot like that today.

Photo by Annabelle Dando

2) It doesn’t always go according to plan, but it all works out in the end. When Heshan proposed, I was convinced that I could plan our wedding for $3,000 in just a few months. My initial plans involved a big backyard, a pot luck buffet, grocery store flowers, and homemade cupcakes.

In the end, our wedding took place at a gorgeous tree farm in Southern Maryland (complete with bunnies and butterflies), and we couldn’t have asked for a better setting.

Photo by Annabelle Dando
We went far above our $3,000 plans, thanks to the generosity of family and friends. While we did buy flowers in bulk for the centerpieces and aisle markers, Heshan spent up to include special details like the bouquets and a photo booth for family and friends.

Photo by Annabelle Dando

Photo by Annabelle Dando
One of the best decisions we made was to work with Annabelle Dando to capture our day. Looking back at our photos, I’m so grateful for way she documented our big day and captured the moments that flew by so quickly. (Also, she’s an incredible woman through and through and it’s clear everything she does is done with love.)

Photo by Annabelle Dando
3) We’re blessed with a lot of amazing people
.We had a small wedding with only 44 guests, but the people who made the trip to celebrate with us have been the ones who have stood by us every day since. We married at a time of big transitions for both of us, and in the past two years we’ve formed friendships with people who I wish could have celebrated with us on our big day. But the people who were there continue to be huge blessings in our lives. We’ve gone on adventures and international trips (I totally count Canada as international, you guys), we’ve held pot lucks and movie nights (and maybe even a few Fruit Ninja nights too), and even though life seems to be calling some of us in different directions, they’re the family God’s given us and we’re thankful for them everyday. They also climbed up on ladders to string those lanterns you see in the photo below, so we’d like to think they risked life and limb for our big day. (P.S. our friend Erin totally got engaged after catching that bouquet, so I’d like to think our wedding day was kind of a big deal for her, too.)

Photo by Annabelle Dando

Photo by Annabelle Dando
4) Everyday should be a celebration
. Everyone says it, but it’s true. The wedding day is just a day. At the same time, it taught me a lot about taking time out to celebrate. It’s easy for me to focus on the bills and the jobs and stress of living in NYC and spend my days waiting for that amazing “someday” that I keep praying for. As we’re moving forward in our marriage, God’s teaching me the value of celebrating the everyday and finding that “someday” today. He’s also teaching me to continue splurging on the meaningful things even when I want to be tight-fisted, to make time for community, and to live with less fear and more faith (and a lot more dancing).

Photo by Annabelle Dando

Photo by Annabelle Dando

Photo by Annabelle Dando

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Fave Finds: Affordable Cards

7 adorable greeting cards by super talented artists #floral #tribal

L-R from Top to Bottom

triangle thank you cards by penandpaper

1. | Triangle Thank You Set | penandpaper | 24 for $10

set of 4 folded note cards by penandpaper

2. | Set of Four Folded Note Cards | penandpaper | 4 for $8.50

Be Filled with Joy Note Card Set by thewheatfield

3. | Be Filled With Joy Notecard Set | The Wheatfield | 10 for $12

midnight garden thank you card by rifle paper co

4. | Midnight Garden Thank You Card | Rifle Paper Co. | 8 for $16

arrow hellow mini cards by penandpaper

5. | Arrow Hello Mini Cards | penandpaint | 24 for $10

You are So Loved Floral Folded Note Card by penandpaper

6. | You Are So Loved Floral Folded Note Card | penandpaint | 4 for $8.50

hello dear note cards by eastwestdesignco

7. | Hello Dear Greeting Cards | eastwestdesignco | 5 for $8.00

Kim from praylivecreate.com

Collage by Stephanie Oh

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The List: August 2014

a collection of blog posts about saying yes (or no!) for less stress and more joy. Love these! Definitely worth a read!

1. | “Worry is a horrible tenant. It lives rent-free in your soul, and furthermore, it demands to be paid — with the deposit of your precious thought life.” – A Prescription for Worry by Jennifer Dukes Lee.

2. |”When we really and truly trust God with the little details of life—even the important ones, like money and housing—we are free to do both the wild and the small, however He leads. If we’re daring enough to let go of our stuff, then we can pack light…knowing there’s a net below us, held by Christ himself, who said He’d never leave us.” –  The Wild and the Small by Tsh Oxenreider via (in)courage.

3. | “In her book, Lysa says, “The decisions you make determine the schedule you keep.  The schedule you keep determines the life you live.  And how you live your life determines how you spend your soul.” – Saying Yes to What Is Best Allume

4. | “… It’s fun to say yes. That word makes people happy. Yes I will do that. Yes I will be there. Yes I will work on it. But sometimes, we don’t understand that when we say yes, we are saying no to the things that really matter.” – 5 Ways to Say No by Jon Acuff

5.| “..The movers and shakers would have us thinking that a platform is what elevates your visibility above the crowd so your message finds its audience. But there’s a deeper current of Truth running through the cosmos: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” – 3 Truths About Platform and What Your Soul Was Never Made For by Ann Voskamp

6. | “It’s becoming clearer every day that the price I pay for trying to attend to even just all the good things is my joy and creativity. Everything cannot be done. Or addressed. Or even acknowledged. This is a new thing from me as a person. It’s crept up slowly but now it slapped me in the face.” –  The World Needs Makers to Say No Boldy by The Nester

7.| “You, the one without time or talent, you are the one. Write, paint, dance as a public service to our human family. Be a servant with your art. Don’t use it to say “Here I am!” Use it to say “Here we are. We are okay, you know.” Forget talent and just use your hands.” – You Don’t Need More Talent or Time by Glennon Doyle Melton

8. | “Sometimes, you need to ask yourself really tough questions and then be ready to accept the answers. As I sat still, I asked myself, “what is causing my noise?” Then, in the deep, deep well of my spirit came the answer. My noise was three things – the desire to please, the desire to succeed, and the desire to have things as perfect as possible.” – Freedom Because of Christ by Leann Burda

image in header from Lysa TerKeurst’s new book The Best Yes

Kim from praylivecreate.com

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Marriage and Happy Beginnings

why marriage isn't a happy ending, but a beginning {praylivecreate.com}

 photo by (the always amazing) Annabelle Dando

I get to spend my days dreaming up ways to make wedding planning easier, and I can honestly say I love every second of it.  There’s something about marriage – even as I wish that churches and communities would stop defining people by terms like “couples” and “singles” – that is worth celebrating. But whenever I hear people talk about a marriage or wedding as a “happy ending” I don’t really get it. Inside, the wheels start turning.

Hesh and I married two weeks before my 30th birthday and 2 months before his 32nd, and for the life of me I’m still trying to figure out what about marriage looks like an ending.

Our incompleteness now that we’ve found our “better half”?

Our search for love?

Or if we take the “unhappy ending” perspective, our personhood? Our independence? Our freedom?

Or all of the above if we’re to believe anything society has to say about walking down the aisle?

I actually firmly believe in biblical definitions of and mandates for marriage: two becoming one, building a relationship on respect and love, mutual servanthood, and all of that. Even though I’m still learning what it l means and I don’t always get them right. And I’m the first to make jokes about my “better half” when the moment is right. I know at the end of the day marriage is a monumental shift and a bonding of two people together, and I know that this is in and of itself awesome .

But I don’t get the “ending” part of that phrase “happy ending.” Because for the life of me, in the two short years of my marriage I haven’t found a good opportunity for the credits to roll and to call this thing smooth sailing from here.

Marriage is hard. It’s happy, but it’s hard. It’s daily. It’s a new beginning, and it’s also more of the same.

What I’ve come to find is very little ends at the end of the aisle. While we exchange our vows and promise to be together until death do us part, and we begin what will ideally be a lifetime of commitment and getting to know each other more and more, we’re still bringing ourselves into the equation. Whatever personality quirks or hang ups or issues or cultural influences or even traditions and passions and dreams and fears, anxieties, and past experiences, even in the best of marriages and especially in the best of marriages, those things come with us. They don’t end. Some of them will benefit the marriage and some of them are smoothed away with time. Like iron sharpening iron, or even as one of my former pastors put it, sandpaper smoothing down a block, which is probably exactly how it feels.

But marriage isn’t an ending, it’s a beginning. Of whatever crazy new change this union of two people is bringing about.

And it’s not an ending to some perceived incompleteness that comes before the rings have been exchanged. No matter how much our culture tries to tell us so, there is nothing about saying “I do” that makes us a more full person. There is no moment after the wedding night in which one of the two wakes up and says, “everything I’ve ever wanted in life has finally been fulfilled.”

At least not for long. Because if we subscribe to that model of thinking there will always be something next to make us feel incomplete until we’ve checked it off the list: children or a house or getting the job of our dreams. And then living where we want, having that perfect wardrobe, or even wearing the right size jeans. There will always be something telling  us we’re incomplete if we’re willing to believe that lie.

Marriage is after all modeled on the gospel. God’s first institution to unite humanity in a relationship so intimate that it hints of God’s love for us (even as it’s not the only form of human relationship that does so – consider parenting or care giving or even the faithfulness that comes with long term friendships and family relationships). And like the gospel, it transforms us into a new creation and it teaches us something about faithfulness and endurance and love that doesn’t give up even when it really, really wants to. It’s about commitment to a person who doesn’t always deserve it and love for someone even when we can’t always feel it.

When we make marriage about a happy ending we forget about the lifetime – literally – of the hard work of loving and surrendering and serving and honoring and cherishing and trying to figure out what all of that means that comes afterward. Marriage is a beginning and a blessed one, but a beginning nonetheless and it usually has nothing to do with getting what we want or tying life up with a pretty bow and everything to do with becoming more like the One who created it in the first place. Because it’s only in Christ that we’re complete and it’s only in Him we stake our personhood.

He’s our alpha and our omega. The beginning and the end. And married or single or something in between, our happiness is really only found in Him.

p.s. I love how Rachel at Our Yellow Door puts it,too!

Kim from praylivecreate.com

Linking up with Community Brew at Wetherills Say I Do

community brew link up

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Ocean City, Maryland

 

3 days in Ocean City, Maryland {praylivecreate.com}

Our friends very graciously invited us out to their beach house for a long weekend in Ocean City, MD last month. The house is just two doors down from the boardwalk and is such a treat to stay at.

Ocean City, Maryland {praylivecreate.com}

Ocean City, Maryland {praylivecreate.com}

Ocean City, Maryland {praylivecreate.com}
My favorite part of Ocean City is riding beach cruisers on the boardwalk. Bikes are allowed on the boardwalk until 10am, so David and I always wake up early, eat a quick breakfast, and enjoy a couple hours riding around and taking pictures before the crowds descend.

 

Ocean City, Maryland {praylivecreate.com}

Ocean City, Maryland {praylivecreate.com}

Ocean City, Maryland {praylivecreate.com}

The last time we were in Ocean City there was a sand sculpture of the Last Supper. This year’s sand sculpture was just as impressive.

Ocean City, Maryland {praylivecreate.com}

Ocean City, Maryland {praylivecreate.com}

Ocean City, Maryland {praylivecreate.com}

The boardwalk is 2.25 miles from one end to the next sandwiched between a large, sandy beach, and low-scale buildings on the other: hotels, beach houses, lots of tourist shops and restaurants serving boardwalk fare like funnel cakes, boardwalk fries, pizza, and softshell crab sandwiches.  A tram runs along the boardwalk after 11am and takes passengers from one end to the other for $3.

Ocean City, Maryland {praylivecreate.com}

Ocean City, Maryland {praylivecreate.com}

At one end of the boardwalk is an amusement park with a pretty big selection of fair rides and games.

Ocean City, Maryland {praylivecreate.com}

Ocean City, Maryland {praylivecreate.com}

Ocean City, Maryland {praylivecreate.com}

Near the  amusement park is a fishing pier that’s a prime picture taking spot for great beach views like the one below.

Ocean City, Maryland {praylivecreate.com}

 

Ocean City, Maryland {praylivecreate.com}

Watching a sand soccer tournament.

Ocean City, Maryland {praylivecreate.com}

Fisher’s Popcorn has been in the same location on the boardwalk since 1937. I don’t usually eat refined sugar, but I cheated and tried some of their caramel corn. I’m convinced it’s the best popcorn in the world.

Ocean City, Maryland {praylivecreate.com}

On our last night at the beach we went digging for sand crabs for one of our friends to use as fishing bait.  We used our cell phones as flash lights and dug right at the waterline once the sun set.  The ladies dug and we let our guys pick the crabs up and put them in the bucket (they reminded me of cock roaches!). It was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done.

Have you been to Ocean City? What’s your favorite thing to do there? Any other beaches we should check out?

 

Stephanie from praylivecreate.com

linking up with Jack of All Trades at A Harvest of Blessing

 

What I Learned and Loved in June (and July’s Goals)

June was one of the best months I’ve had in years. I don’t know how else to say it other than that it was just so covered in grace, even during the rough parts. I shared a little bit more in depth with last week’s update and post on Ruth, and there’s still more to share about what I’m actually doing with my time when the time is right. But all that to say, in the last month I was aware of God’s presence and love in my life in a way I haven’t been in a long time. And it feels awesome.

So as always let’s look back at a few things I learned and loved in June and look forward to what I’m hoping to see unfold this month, if the Lord’s willing. And if not, we’ll wrap it up again next month, right?

What I Learned and Loved in June: Treat Cards {praylivecreate.com}

Treat yo’ self: I could make all sorts of excuses about why I’m sometimes bad at sending cards in the mail (sometimes I’m really good at it), like how I stand up on at least part of my commute and walk down 8 flights of stairs at the end of the day because waiting for the elevator in my office building is like waiting for the rapture – that is to say with great expectation and longing but with no confirmation of the day or hour – but the fact is it’s just hard to get to the store sometimes and even harder to find the right card. So I’m resolving to send any cards I have to send this month through Treat, which lets you order online and still mail to their address. I’ll let you know how it goes, but I’m convinced I’ll love it more than trying to find the last un-bent card at Rite Aid with the right sized envelope.

What I Leaned and Loved in June: Pocket {praylivecreate.com}

Pocket. My boss turned me on to this app / website that makes it incredibly easy to save anything online for later. You guys, I love it. I’ve been putting everything into my “pocket” for later, and I love that I can tag the items so I know why I wanted to read it. It’s great for saving blog posts I need to read later. (Notice, I did use the word “need“…) And also for important things. How is it different than Pinterest? It’s not so much about saving pretty things to look at as it is a great way to save reading for a time when you can come back to it.

On the list of random things I learned (and this one was technically July 1st) is that raccoon’s only have a lifespan of two to three years in the wild. Who knew?

Here’s how things shook out with June’s goals… 

I set one major goal for June, and that was Just Say No June. Overall, I think we did pretty well with asking ourselves, do we need to say yes or is this something we should say no to? And we found ourselves with more time and more peace, even if June wasn’t perfect. (It never really is, right?)

But the best thing I picked up in June was joining along with She Reads Truth’s study of Ruth. I literally cannot get enough of it. After months of wanting more Bible study in my day, I’m loving being able to pull up the daily study on my phone every morning on my way to work, and I love that it’s a community of women doing it together. We just started a new series on the Sermon on the Mount this week, and I’m already a day behind but I can’t wait to catch up.

July’s Goals

Other than sticking with the good things that we already have going (like going to bed earlier, enjoying my daily Bible study routine, walking with Jesus and not outpacing Him), here are a few “light” goals if you will for this month.

Relabel and reorganize my Pinterest boards. I want to put all the DIY cleaning products onto a board called “Clean,” and I want to reorganize them in general.

Pick a few pins and try them out. I also want to go through my boards and remind myself why I pinned certain things. Sometimes it’s for me, sometimes it’s for other people, sometimes it’s just because I like to curate a cool board on a certain topic. But I want to pick out a few things that I already pinned and try them out.

Get back into menu planning. When I was menu planning it changed our lives, but I got way off track when I was working two jobs and going through the general commotion of life change. I want to pick that habit back up again and see if it is as great this time around.

So that’s it over here. What about you guys? What are you learning and loving, and what are you looking forward to in July?

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