First comes love, then comes marriage…

… then comes the baby in the baby carriage!

613 days after saying “I do”, two pink lines appeared on a stick.

July 7th, 2016 could easily be the 2nd happiest day of my life.

 

We’re pregnant!

 

Waiting to share our news was one of the toughest secrets I’ve ever had to keep, especially when morning sickness started to make itself present around week 6…

We told our immediate family at 8 weeks, right after we’d had our first check-up and ultrasound.

Now at 15 weeks, we’re telling the world!!!

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The announcement called for a photo shoot with none other than the shoes we started our adventure with… Chacos! Unfortunately, while I was searching online, I realized their smallest size sandal would be too big for our needs. So, the $5 sandals from Old Navy would just have to do. We’ll buy our baby Chacos when they can actually walk…

Photo Credit goes to my friend Lindsay, who being 8 months pregnant at the time, squatted down to get the perfect angle of our feet. And although our faces were not in the photo, I was indeed smiling the whole time…

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The photoshoot took place over Labor Day weekend while camping with friends down by the CDA River at Little North Fork, Post Falls, Idaho. For our nature loving selves, we couldn’t pick a better place to announce the addition to our growing family.

Can’t wait to bring our Little here in the future!

The Domino Effect

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We’ve all done it, lined-up dominoes centimeters apart to form a giant spiral atop the dining room table or kitchen floor. We held our breath until the last domino was positioned, then with the slightest flick of our finger, we sent the domino tumbling backwards.

Each corresponding domino collided with the one behind it, whirling around the table until what once was a meticulously planned design ended in a flattened mess.

Depending on how many dominoes you used, it may have taken over an hour to set-up, yet when set into motion you watched the whole thing fall on its face within seconds.

Maybe you hadn’t even finished constructing it when your hip bumped against the table, accidentally catalyzing the twirl all too soon.

You may already get where I’m going with this- you’re smart people.

For those of you who still need an ‘ah-ha’…

We make plans, we work hard, we dedicate precious time to things that matter much more than dominoes, but sometimes all it takes is the tiniest shove and you feel like you backslid back to the very beginning of a world you thought you had under control.

When this happens, there’s a tendency for everything you learned along the way to suddenly lose the value it once had. In that moment we focus on the failure and mistakes more than the journey itself.

Maybe you pick up the pieces right away and re-set the dominoes exactly the way they were before- only to have them fall down again.

Maybe you give up entirely, and with one long swoop across the table you shove the pieces back into the box and march it back to the game closet, grumbling about trying to make it work in the first place.

Maybe you put it on pause and distract yourself with other chores, only to find yourself back in that kitchen chair staring at the messy table of flattened dominoes before you.

This past year, my husband and I set off on an adventure, one we thought for sure would stick. We started settling in for the long-run: planting our roots, laying a foundation. We invested in relationships, spent time sharpening our skills in correlating areas of need, and put great effort into stepping out of our comfort zones.

Then with just one bump, somewhere in the middle of our spiral, one of our domino pieces tottered over. The results were messy, but not completely ruined, and from our side it looked we could line them up again.

So we tried. And tried. And tried again.

But each and every time, the dominos kept getting bumped. Not only forwards, but backwards as well. Causing us to ask the question: “How long should we keep trying?”

We finally put the dominoes away and looked at the clean table. I guess it was time to start something new…

Refinement.

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A trusted mentor shared with me a story someone once shared with her. I’ll do my best to share it with you as beautifully as she did me…

Once there was a woman who wanted to understand what the Bible meant when it talks about refinement, so she went to a goldsmith to learn firsthand about the process.

As he answered all her questions, she asked him if he sat and watched the gold the entire time. Of course! He replied. For if the flames become a degree too hot, or if I keep it in for a second too long, the gold would be destroyed!

The woman thought about his words, and compared them back to the specific passage she had studied earlier.

“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.” -Malachi 3:3

Our Refiner sits.

Whenever we feel like we’re in the fire, we can find comfort in the fact that not once does God take His eyes off of us. Nor does He let the flames get too hot nor does He keep us in for longer than we can endure, for His sole intent is our purification. He sits and steadily holds us in His hands, in His perfect wisdom, and in His perfect timing. 

How do you know when the gold has been refined? She asked the smith one last question.

He smiled and answered her. When I pull it out of the fire and I’m able to see my own image reflecting back at me, that’s when I know the process has been completed.

Although God uses every trial we face to purify and refine us, it’s easy to feel like we’ve fallen victim to an unjust world. OR we may dismiss suffering as spiritual attack, argue that no good could come from it, and immediately pray against it.

I’ll raise my hand for both those feelings.

But as true as both quite possibly may be, how we respond and grow through such seasons of life is up to us.

As I’ve been praying and seeking the Lord on this area in my own life, He’s reassured me that refinement is a necessary process. All His beloved children will go through it.

Even though it’s not always fun and may seem like God is nowhere to be found, the truth is He’s in full control of the entire process. Once it’s complete, His image will be reflected in us for the world to see.

I mulled over some recent scenarios that have specifically been targeting my character and spirit, AKA God is probably using them to refine me. I jotted down a few…

I can know I’m being refined when                                                                      .

…I’m feeling the heat. (punnnnnny, sorry)

…I’m constantly battling to deny my flesh.

…I’m facing painstakingly difficult situations that give me an opportunity to become more like Jesus.

…I want to run away in anger, but I stay and attempt peace.

…bitterness and offense are eager to spring up, but the Holy Spirit extinguishes them.

…forgiveness is the last thing I want to do, but by God’s grace alone, I do it.

…I feel stuck.

…I’m waiting for healing.

…I’m waiting for answers.

…I’m questioning my purpose.

As hard as these may seem in the moment, the Lord is using all of these scenarios to turn me towards Himself. To seek His Will. To know His ways.

To reflect His Image

To be molded as He chooses.

That I may bring offerings in righteousness before Him.

 

Beautiful things take time.

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Sometimes it’s only when you run away for awhile that you’re able to understand what it is exactly that you had to run away from.

This happened to my husband and I a couple months ago when we hopped on a plane to get out of the city for 5 days. As soon as we rose out of the smog-laden city and emerged into a clear, blue sky, we suddenly realized how trapped we had been feeling.

It became obvious to us that our coping mechanisms for city living are not where they need to be. Although we gave ourselves 5 days to go to the beach, explore ancient ruins, and climb mountains, we weren’t at all ready to get on the plane back home.

Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE what we do. Our culture shock isn’t necessarily from living in another country, but it derives from the stresses of terrible traffic at all hours of the day, minimal greenery, and nowhere to go to be alone due to the 6,530 people (roughly) populating every square mile.

To anyone that asks us, we’ll admit that it’s been tough figuring out how to take care of ourselves in order to be healthy and thrive. Especially when we’re in a place that seems to strip us of energy before we even start to work…

On one of the days during our much needed get-away, we decided to rent a car and go check out a waterfall. What we found was better than we’d imagined it would be. The waterfall wasn’t extraordinarily huge nor was it in the middle of a tropical rainforest, but it was a sight for our city-sore eyes.

After we’d been delightfully refreshed by the waterfall sprays, we found a giant tree root and plopped ourselves in front of the waterfall. We sat there, mesmerized as the waterfall gently collided into the crystal bay of calm turquoise before us.

I wanted to sit there forever. I think my husband felt the same way. Emotions began to blur my vision, so I gave-in and let a few tears escape. The silence was softly broken as I heard my husband praying beside me. I let a few more tears fall and leaned my head on his shoulder.

A little bit later, he spoke up, “See the rough edges? This waterfall was probably created over the years as the river cut into the rock, eventually creating the crevice you see now.”

Beautiful things take time.

While our life may feel extremely messy, exhausting, and out of our control, the fact of the matter is that the current cuts and bruises we’re experiencing is quite possibly the only way for deeper beauty to be made.

So as we run back to what we ran away from, we do so fully aware of the hardships we’ll face, but we also run back with patience for ourselves, grace for every situation, and trust in God for His perfect timing.

We continued to sit in front of the waterfall for a couple more minutes, breathing in all we could of the sacred moment. It took all our strength to get up, but eventually we were able to tear ourselves away, and we started the climb back to the parking lot.

 

 

 

 

Our Flower Friend

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Every day on the way home I pass a small flower shop. Because I live in a cement jungle, I tend to gravitate towards anything that grows. Since this city is seriously lacking in the color green, whenever I walk by the shop, I make it a point to breathe in the freshly produced oxygen from the plants displayed outside the door.

Usually I’m in a hurry, but all it takes is one quick whiff to remind me of the sweet fragrance of my Creator before I continue on my way to face the people and the traffic.

When I got sick on Thanksgiving day, my husband ran to the store for some juice and crackers, but when he returned he also carried with him two small trees and a beautiful bouquet of fresh stems.

Nature is healing, and I don’t think humanity can live without it. Scientifically, we can’t survive with out it. In all his genius, God didn’t only give us creation so just we could live, but also for our enjoyment. While the atmosphere around us does indeed allow us to breathe, it also beckons us to stop, admire, and find peace.

The flower shop owner’s name means “patience.”

He’s been in the same small shop for 30 years now, so he’s seen the city develop from farmland and animals to busy street and underground trains. He said one of the reasons he’s stuck around is to remind people of the beauty that once was, and that one of the reasons people are so stressed out is because they forget.

They forget to stop and smell the fresh blooms, to catch butterflies, to sit in the sun.

But his shop remains as a symbol, waiting patiently for the world to remember the Creator and creation. To stop working overtime. To spend time outdoors. To bring sweet fragrances into their homes and onto their balconies.

Balconies much like this one…

Thank you, dear flower friend, for your wise words and your beautiful flowers.

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Let’s be Real

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A couple weeks ago, my husband asked if I would speak during the message portion of a prayer and worship night. My initial reaction was a big loud “HECK NO!”, followed by a million excuses for why I’m the last person he should ask to speak.

I mean, c’mon, nobody wants to hear a story that doesn’t have a happy ending yet… That was the first lie.

Besides, God and I aren’t really that tight right now. Lie #2.

I can’t say anything meaningful while I’m still battling with my own doubt. Lie #3.

I don’t have any spiritual insight worth hearing. Lie #4.

I don’t want to burden others with my own suffering. Lie #5.

Need I continue? You get the picture.

My husband challenged me to pray about it, and as I sought for an answer, the Spirit lead me to 2 Timothy 3: 14-15

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

and then I turned back to 2 Timothy 2:13 and read outloud,

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful still.”

Even though I feel like my faith has been rocked, that I failed God as soon the road got tough, I KNOW IN WHOM I BELIEVE. My God has a relationship with me, and He has never once let me go.

And for that reason alone, I share with you now what I shared with them on that anointed Saturday night.

If you’ve got 30 minutes, sit down, grab your Bible and some coffee, and listen HERE.

While I do apologize for the blubbering and for the poor recording quality, I will not apologize for being REAL.

May God receive all the glory.

 

 

To Women Living as Expats: it’s Okay to be Rude Sometimes

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Since moving overseas I’ve had many experiences I wish hadn’t happened. But they did.

Were they my fault? No.

Could I have prevented them from happening? Perhaps, though doubtful.

What emotions did I feel after they happened? Shame. Guilt.

But did I do anything wrong? No.

No. In most of the scenarios there was nothing I could have done differently to stop the experience from happening.

From day one in my new middle eastern city, the bronzed-zippy-Californian-friendly college girl disappeared and in her place was a dark-haired, eyes-straight-ahead, talk-to-me-and-I-give-you-an-icy-stare seriously rude woman.

Gone were the generous smiles and chatty small-talker. If you saw me on the street, you would hardly recognize me.

Why the sudden personality change? I realized that in this country, anything short of looking mean would only bring me unwanted and unsolicited attention.

Yet despite my efforts to be invisible, I am still a woman.

I am a woman living in a patriarchal society.

While the culture has gone through significant breakthroughs regarding equality and embracing modern women in the business world, its roots of male domination go deep.

I’ve had to report multiple incidents to my husband about being touched inappropriately while out by myself.

What’s even more frustrating is that it happens in the light of day without any invitation whatsoever. I could be walking down a sidewalk, riding the train, or waiting at the bus stop minding my own business, and then suddenly be a target for someone’s un-controlled advance.

I’ve stepped on feet, thrown hands away, and elbowed men in the gut. I’ve yelled shameful words and called attention to their disgraceful actions. But whats done is done, and they run away without any real punishment for their crime.

What’s worse is that it’s accepted.

I’ve seen men slapping and hitting their wives in a public park, spitting on them and being rough. The passer-byers just keep passing by. They won’t get involved in a man “controlling” his property.

Before I knew better, if I man started talking to me and touching on the arm, if it seemed innocent enough I would tolerate it for awhile for fear of being rude. I know several other girls who’ve told me the same story. They didn’t want to be mean because they didn’t know if it was normal or not.

Unless the man is related to you, it’s not.

In this culture, the only reason a man touches you is to gage how far he can go.

The man knows he shouldn’t be doing it; local women wouldn’t tolerate a touch from a stranger for an instant.

Don’t even let him start.

If a man says he’ll show you which stop to get off of at the bus, tsk at him and move far away to show how disinterested you are. Don’t give him any reason to start a conversation with you. Some men will jump at any excuse to be invited into your space.

But know this: even if you do your best to send stay-away-from-me signals, you’re still a woman– a foreign women who will be seen as prime material to be taken advantage of.

If it happens, holler and shame the heck out of them. Please feel free to even take your shoe off and hit them with it.

Most importantly, know that it wasn’t your fault. The feelings of guilt and shame do not belong to you; you did nothing wrong.

Go home, confide to your husband or roommate, have them pray for you and give you a hug.

Then remember, next time you go out, it’s more than okay to be rude sometimes.