a big change: we're moving!

Our two-year stint in San Diego is coming to an abrupt halt at the end of this month. Two weeks ago today Luke accepted an offer to be the head men's soccer coach at Indiana Wesleyan University (side note: I find it funny that Luke went to a Wesleyan high school, Wesleyan college and now will find his first head coaching gig at a Wesleyan university...and we're not Wesleyan). We will be moving to Marion, Indiana--about an hour north of Indianapolis--in less than two weeks!

Luke has been applying for head coaching jobs since the fall season at Point Loma ended. A couple prospects seemed promising, and one in particular at Roberts Wesleyan didn't work out and left him pretty discouraged about the reality that he could secure a full time coaching job this year. We kept saying that even if nothing came to fruition, we would be able to make it work in our current scenario, even with a new baby. True, our apartment is teeny tiny. True, we don't make a whole lot of money. True, we don't get benefits. But we are confident in God's provision and he has never let us down.

After celebrating Christmas in Chicago with Luke's family, we planned to drive down to Charlotte to spend the last few days of vacation. Luke had already applied for the IWU job so we made a slight detour to see the campus. As we got closer to Marion I was reminded of my visit to Houghton College with my parents. It was SO desolate, even for a girl who grew up in rural Pennsylvania. My dad poked fun at me, offering to buy a purple school bus that was for sale on the side of the road leading up to the college. I was convinced I could never go to school there based on location alone. But there can be something inexplicably special about these places and the kind of community they foster, which is exactly what happened for me during college. Marion is in central Indiana, and all I remember are the corn fields and total flatness as we drove into town. My honest thoughts were probably along the lines of "Oh dear God where are we?" We drove onto campus, and thankfully things started to look up. It's a really impressive school on the edge of a not at all impressive town. The women's soccer coach, Tim, met us and was kind enough to tour us around and answer our questions. At the time, I really didn't realize how valuable this visit would be--I'll be honest, I was in a bit of a foul mood. I was cold, hungry and tired from our early wake up call. I couldn't imagine Luke and I leaving our lives in San Diego for this place. Luke and I both left the visit feeling somewhat "meh" about the whole situation.

However, in the weeks to come our tunes began to change. Deep down, I must have already known that this could be our future, because for a couple hours on the remainder of our long drive, I looked at local real estate on Zillow. (Another side note: shockingly real estate low costs. After living in New York and San Diego, there is no other word to describe it. Shocking.) We started to imagine what this opportunity would mean for Luke's career and our growing family. Luke secured a phone interview, and in the days following, we waited anxiously to hear if he would be invited onto campus for a full day interview. The morning he got an email saying he would be one of two final candidates to interview, I've never seen him so excited/proud/relieved. He prepared incessantly until the day he flew out for what was to be one of the busiest and most grueling days of his life: an hour of Q & A with the dean of the chapel about spiritual beliefs and theology, teaching a class, meetings with the hiring committee, HR and men's soccer team, lunch with the interim coach, and finally running the training session for the team that night.

When I talked to Luke that night, he was so happy with the way the day went. He told me that he knew these were good people and that IWU was a special place. He was impressed by the professionalism of the program and the way the school was run. He loved the team and the people he would be working with. At that point, on my end, I'd already picked out a home for sale near campus--you know, just in case. :) We waited a week for the phone call which finally came on Thursday, January 29th. It was the weirdest feeling when Luke's phone rang and he just looked at me, held up his phone and said "Margaret." I flopped onto the couch and listened to him in the other room, knowing right away he was being offered the job. My stomach was all in tangles. It sounds really dramatic...but I can't really articulate what this opportunity means for us and our growing family. I haven't even fully absorbed the extent of all this job provides for us. Answered prayers, goals achieved, and the joy of seeing the person I love most step into a role he has been preparing for for years...and a season of transition and unknown finally coming into focus.

Since that day, life has been a whirlwind. We are in the process of buying our first house, trying to fit as much time in with the people we love as possible, packing up our little apartment and mentally preparing for this new phase. It kinda feels like we're riding a crazy wave.

At the beginning of the year, a mantra came into my head, and it goes like this: "Be generous. Be grateful. Trust that the Lord will provide." In recent months, weeks and days we have experienced generosity in a huge way through the support of friends, family, and even strangers from our new community. The Lord has proven his faithfulness and provision in huge ways. And we are so, so grateful. So many people ask me how I feel about everything that's happening, and the first word that comes to my mind is "grateful." True, I'm also scared, nervous and aware of the great challenges that lie ahead...but gratefulness trumps all, because we are experiencing a truly sweet time in our lives right now. And life, with its constant ups and downs, is worth savoring in those moments when everything seems to fall into place.

yoga

Lately I've been thinking about yoga and how grateful for it I've been, especially during my pregnancy. I just remembered I've written about yoga once before, so the dates tell me that I've been practicing for almost 4 years now! I have been wildly inconsistent with it--memberships can be very pricey, so for a few years I would just practice at home from online videos or go to classes here and there if I found a new student deal.

But after my miscarriage in June--literally the next morning--I decided to do something to take care of myself. I signed up for a 3 month membership at a local studio called Yoga Six, which is very close to our apartment and such a beautiful space; it calms me down just to walk in the doors. I called in to get information about the membership and the woman I spoke to was SO incredibly kind, helpful and genuine. I gladly began going to hot classes about 3 times a week and Allison, the woman who helped me sign up, always remembered my name. One day she was getting ready to teach the class I attended, walking around beforehand to ask each student individually how our bodies felt, what we needed today, etc. I told her I recently had a miscarriage. I don't know why I shared it, but I felt like I could give her an honest answer. She responded compassionately and class commenced. At the end as we relaxed into savasana she played the most beautiful, heartbreaking piano music I'd ever heard, and immediately my mind went to the little baby I had lost. I laid there with tears in my eyes, immersed in the music and the heartache, when I felt Allison begin to massage my shoulders, neck and head. I felt so strongly in that moment the love and care she was showing me. I don't know any other way to put it. I was so sad, vulnerable and weak, and here she was taking an opportunity to lift me up. I have never forgotten that.

Practicing consistently helped my body get strong again, and I firmly believe it's been hugely beneficial in keeping me strong throughout this pregnancy, too. After my initial 3 months of membership were up, I didn't think I would be able to continue since it was such a big monthly expense. Enter Allison again to tell me about a program they offer called yoga for trade, where I work a 3 hour cleaning shift once per week in exchange for free unlimited yoga. Crazy, right?

So for the past 4 months, I have had the total blessing of being able to practice yoga every single week for free. I don't always go as much as I'd like, but I try to go 2-3 times and I always go at least once weekly. I'm not able to do hot classes now that I'm pregnant, but there is a warm class called slow flow that has been incredible. I truly see it as a blessing in so many ways. My main motivation for doing yoga is definitely for the physical benefits--I love the way it makes me feel; I love the strength and flexibility it helps me gain--but the emotional/mental benefits of allowing myself time to slow down, relax and detach from the day are monumental as well. I used to get crazy cabin fever from working at home. I'd come to the end of many days feeling really moody, even worthless. This has helped me so much. Not to mention the people I've gotten to know through my cleaning shift. Let's be honest, it's never fun to be a cleaning lady--but I see this as the most worthwhile cleaning I've ever done since it allows me to continue practicing yoga. I've even come to enjoy it somewhat--when I come in to clean, I still feel the calming, peaceful atmosphere of the studio affect my mood right away. I've also gotten to work with some wonderful women--of course Allison is always at work during my shift!--who have watched my belly grow over the months and celebrated milestones with me (they gave me flowers on the day we found out that it's a boy).

I guess I just wanted to write this to remember how much Yoga Six in Point Loma has meant to me in this season as my body has been nurturing and growing our little boy. I like to think the benefits are being passed to him and that somehow, this is all helping me to prepare for birth. I hope that I'm able to continue with this practice after he's born and for years to come.

 

all photos from yoga six website

 

our little cliff

Our son is coming in late April, which means I am more than halfway through my pregnancy. It's gone by so fast, although I still find myself getting impatient--waiting for my baby bump to show up a bit more, feeling anxious about giving birth, excitedly anticipating his tiny body in my arms.

I feel incredibly grateful and downright lucky that my pregnancy so far has been wonderful. I had a few days of nausea here and there in my first 12ish weeks, and since then I've suffered a handful of bad headaches, but other than that I've felt great. I do remember the crazy fatigue of my first trimester, though...poor Luke was waking up at 5:30am every day for training and I would finally drag myself out of bed no later than 9. And we were going to bed at the same time every night!

My energy is back now, and at 23 weeks I'm beginning to show a little more, but mostly I feel like he must be a little peanut. I love his kicks and jabs (except when they seem to be directed at my always full bladder...and occasionally my bowels? is that weird?) and it's crazy when he kicks me hard enough that I jump a little. One of my favorite times feeling him move happened a few weeks ago when I felt him start to kick around frantically and I put my hand on the side of my lower belly where it just so happened he must have been smushed up. He was shifting, or turning, and I felt a whole leg or arm or torso move against my hand like a little snake. Not the nicest comparison, I know. It did kind of freak me out. Still, I wanted to feel it again and again in the days since, but I haven't felt anything quite like that again.

My favorite thing is when Luke talks to him. He insists Cliff can hear him best through my belly button, and sometimes he whispers so I can't hear what he's saying. I try to tell him no secrets allowed, but he says it's just guy talk.

We spent two weeks away in December visiting family and friends all over the east coast. It was wonderful--Cliff is so blessed by his generous loved ones. Now that it's the new year, I find that I'm really excited to begin getting ready for our sweet baby a little bit more.

Cliff, you little stinker, I am so excited to welcome you into our family. You will be so loved in this world. You have the best daddy ever and I hope you grow up to be just like him. Thank you for being such a good little baby already and being kind to me in the womb. I know you will be born before we know it, but until then I promise to take care of you the best I can as you hang out inside my body. You are my little buddy and I love you.

fall finally

I cannot tell you how much I've missed fall this year. I've realized that I am very attached to the changing of seasons, the newness that comes as the winter fades into glorious spring or summer fades to crisp fall. Here in San Diego, we're experiencing weather in the low 70s for the first time since summer began, and I'm grateful, but it's not quite good enough--there are no chilly, cozy, rainy days, no need scarves or sweaters. It sounds crazy to complain about warmth and sunshine day in and day out, but I can't explain how my soul has craved the sight of trees that seem to be on fire with color, the smell of burning leaves and dewy branches and the feeling of my lungs chilling as I breathe it all in.

Quite frankly, I currently hate every tank top and pair of shorts I own. I want to put them away for a long time.

I was determined to somehow find some fall scenes, but at the coast it's just not happening. And I'm sorry, local grocery stores, but those fenced off areas of your parking lots where you stack hay bales and pile pumpkins just don't cut it. So yesterday Luke had a club soccer game up in Orange County and I went along, hoping we could seek out some fall if we headed east towards the mountains. I typed "apple picking" into my Google Maps and noticed a cluster of 4-5 farms all in one spot about 1.5 hours northeast. It seemed promising, so off we went after his game ended.

We found a slice of fall and home, and to me, it was heaven. The air even had a tiny bit of a chill! There was forest! Trees with changing leaves! And even though we were two in a million other CA residents just trying to get their fall fix, we enjoyed hopping from orchard to orchard, sampling apples and ciders and picking a few to take home with us. We stood in an absurdly long line at Snow-Line Orchard to get some mini apple cider donuts (so worth it). As we searched a few almost-bare apple trees in a very small, somewhat sad orchard where the effects of the drought were obvious, we were reminded of the sprawling orchards near Houghton where we would be the only ones there, eating apples that were dripping off the trees and picking an entire bushel for $10. We admit that we've been spoiled in that regard. Still, what we found was a little slice--a small reminder--of that, and it was exactly what I needed.



hawaii

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to tag along on a soccer trip to Hawaii with Luke and his team. It was so nice to have absolutely no agenda, no work to do and plenty of time to rest and relax. I even managed to avoid emails, instagram and facebook for a full week! Luke's parents and brother met us there, too, so it was an extra special time being all together.

It was my first time in Hawaii and we stayed right on Waikiki beach in Honolulu. I didn't know what to expect, but I was surprised by how big and bustling the city was. I guess when I think of Hawaii I think of the mountains, beaches, natural settings and rural landscapes. Waikiki was super crowded, touristy and geared towards out-of-towners who come to spend lots of money. It made total sense to stay in this area with a group of 20+ college students, but I'm so grateful that we had a rental car to explore other parts of the island--and now I know if we ever make it back I'd love to stay on Maui, Kuaii or the big island to experience more of HI's incredible natural beauty!

Still, there was so much to see and do on Oahu and we enjoyed every minute. We watched lots of soccer and got to see the team enjoy their first wins of the season--phew! We hiked, snorkeled, ate our fair share of shave ice (almost daily) and explored the local food scene (my father-in-law always makes sure of that). I think what I enjoyed most of all were the drives to and from the north shore, taking in the drastic scenery and enjoying the views.

 

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chalkboard hand lettering

It's not too often that my work gets shot professionally, so I had to share these lovely photos from B schwartz Photography with you. I was thrilled when Heather of Carter and Cook Event Co. contacted me about providing chalk lettering for Makenzie + Teddy's gorgeous Greek wedding. I hand lettered all the table numbers and the seating chart, which was one of the largest pieces I've done at 5' tall by 3' wide!

Heather sourced the vintage plates and giant frame for the seating chart.  I used real chalk for the lettering--as opposed to white marker--to keep the look authentic. For the names I used a white charcoal pencil, which emulated the look of real chalk beautifully while allowing me to draw fine lines.

Such a fun project to work on! Thank you to Heather, for getting in touch and designing such an inspiring event, and to Becky for the beautiful photos. See more on her blog here.

Psst -- this wedding also got featured on Style Me Pretty! Check out the post here.


loss | part 2

She was quiet for too long, I knew, as she studied the monitor during my first ultrasound. I had waited weeks for this appointment. It felt like forever since I'd taken that positive pregnancy test, and every day I felt unsure, not knowing exactly what was going on or if I was really even pregnant. I had every symptom in the book, but this was all new to me and I just wanted a doctor to tell me all was well. I had been so nervous as we sat in the waiting room, and Luke had told me not to worry, but now amidst the silence I saw the look on her face and I worried. I didn't dare look at the screen. What truths did she see there? How could I bear them?

Just before the ultrasound, I remember saying to Luke that I might not be ready for whatever was about to happen. I meant it more in terms of the positives, the joy--what would it be like to actually hear our little one’s heartbeat and have everything sink in? Could I really be ready for that? But deep down I also knew there was a chance that things might not go as we hoped and planned. Despite the fact that I wasn't exposed to it growing up--my mom gave birth to 5 children naturally and never miscarried--I was well aware of how common miscarriage is and never really thought it couldn't happen to me. In recent years, especially, I'd heard of numerous women who joined this "terrible club," as one friend aptly put it. Maybe God allowed me to be exposed to these stories, these realities, so I wouldn't be shellshocked when it happened to me.

“Well, you ARE pregnant…" she finally said. I almost had time to sigh with relief, but her voice still held concern. First she told us that she thought I wasn't as far along as we'd suspected. Not surprising. The truth was I had no idea how far along I was--I'd made an assumption based on a guess at the date of conception, but I'd never kept track of my cycle. She told us she thought I was 6 or 7 weeks pregnant versus the 8-10 weeks I thought I was. And then she spoke the words that made my heart sink: there was no heartbeat that she could see. She told us it could possibly be because it was still so early, or it could be that the pregnancy has ended.

I don’t remember really what happened next. I was devastated, scared and frustrated to still be in this place of unknown. The rest of the appointment was a bit of a blur. She explained that I should wait another week or so and then get another ultrasound, but in the meantime, I could get blood taken to test my levels of pregnancy hormone, which should multiply every day if the pregnancy was healthy. We agreed to do it.

Luke kept telling me we had to stay positive, that we didn't know anything for sure yet. He didn't want me to lose hope or let my mind go to dark places. It was a massive struggle over the next couple of days as we waited, but work kept me busy and the Lord kept me at peace somehow. When the day came to find out my blood test results, I dreaded making the call. I spoke to the girl at the front desk and thought she'd transfer me to the doctor or have her call me back, but instead she just read me my numbers from the blood tests: 30,000 and 32,000. I can't blame her for reading them off like the final score of a game she didn't really care about, but to me, those numbers held the difference between life and death for my child. I  didn't know what they meant, so I implored her: was that good or bad? She said the doctor would call me to talk about it. I immediately googled info about hcg levels. I couldn't figure anything out; I read one thing and started to cry because it hit me that those numbers probably meant something bad, but then I read something else and got a little hope back. Everyone's experiences are so different. When the doctor called me back an hour or two later, she told me the numbers were "not a good sign". She too, delivered this news as if it weren't the most earth-shattering information I'd ever received, as if I somehow wasn't still holding onto hope that our baby's heart was still beating, as if I'd actually accepted the fact that it was unlikely I would ever hold him or her in my arms. She asked me if I was bleeding (I wasn't). She said I should still go get an ultrasound later that week "just to confirm." That word rang in my ears. Nothing was "confirmed" for me; I still believed that our baby could be healthy and knew the Lord has power to do whatever he wants against all odds. But deep down, devastatingly, I felt there was no longer life in me. My symptoms were lessening by the day, the glaring nausea, the super sore breasts, the constant need to pee. Still, my body wasn't showing physical signs of loss so I still felt caught in between two realities. It was a scary place to be.

loss | part 1

I remember it clearly, sitting at my desk in the All Across Africa office a few days after returning home from a road trip with my Mom. We had driven nearly the entire coast of the Western United States, from Seattle to San Diego. It never occurred to me along the way that I could be pregnant, otherwise I probably would have skipped that glass of Pinot Noir in the Sonoma Valley. Sitting there at my desk, I got a strange feeling in my belly. It was brief, but unfamiliar, so I decided to stop on the way home and pick up a pregnancy test.

I took the test that evening and it seemed to take no more than 5 seconds to display “PREGNANT” on the screen, like the test was just that sure of itself. I can’t even begin to describe what emotions followed—I remember looking up at myself in the mirror, my eyes wide with shock, my hand instinctively coming up to my mouth. I felt unbridled excitement followed by a wave of panic. I think I may have started hyperventilating slightly, but my mom and sister were out in the living room so I had to keep these feelings quietly to myself. Worst decision ever: to find out you are pregnant with your first child but not be able to tell anyone because your husband isn't at home and you can’t tell your mom and sister before him and you’re in the middle of a project and you have to go about the rest of your day as though it’s normal even though your life is actually completely changed forever.

After what seemed like a very long time, Luke got home from practice, but immediately got in the shower. I couldn’t wait any longer so I took the test to him in there. “I have to show you something,” I said as I held up the test so he could read the screen. He stared, blinked a couple times, and then finally looked at me, mouth open, eyes wide, similar to the face I’d made at myself in the mirror earlier. He asked me if I was messing with him and I remember adamantly telling him that no, I did not in fact stage a fake positive pregnancy test just to trick him. He had to sit down in the shower. I was laughing at him but I sat down on the bathroom floor too and we just looked at each other. I had already gotten used to the idea of being pregnant after just a few hours—it’s amazing how much the worry and uncertainty fade when you’ve spent time imagining all the wonderful things about having a sweet baby. I was a little concerned about his apparent ratio of panic to excitement, but I didn’t blame him. He assured me he was actually happy. I believed him.

 

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1) 2-3ish weeks. Didn't plan to share this but it's one of few photos I have of myself with that little life still in me.

2) Luke wanted me to take a second test before we told my mom the news.

3) A day after we found out I was pregnant. Minds blown.

joyride

this evening, a few minutes before 5pm (closing time for my local post office), i jumped on the scooter to rush one final piece of mail to the drop off, as i often do. i didn’t even have time to put my coat on, but was surprised to find the air warm enough that I was still comfortable, even in my sleeveless shirt, even with the wind whipping against my skin as i buzzed down the hills of point loma. every single light was green, and what could be a 10 minute drive took me about 4, but i won’t pretend i didn’t push the speed limits too. i pulled up right in front of the door and kicked the stand into place, taking off my helmet before heading inside. it’s typically in a panic that i approach the door of the post office, half expecting to find it already locked, but today there were still a couple people being helped. after seriously hustling to complete today’s mailing, prepare the label and speed down to send it on its way, it struck me as funny to coolly set the package down on the counter and walk out as if i’d been that calm and collected all along.

walking back outside, the weather was so pleasant that i decided to do a little joy riding. point loma is amazing in that it’s a peninsula, which at its highest point is 422ft above sea level, but the streets wind down to the pacific ocean on one side and the San Diego bay on the other. so if you live on one side of the peninsula you could have an amazing bay view with downtown San Diego beyond it and some really impressive mountain ranges beyond that, and if you live on the other side of the peninsula you could have an ocean view. win/win. except if you live somewhere in the middle and only have a view of your neighbors (raising my hand). oh well. from our balcony we can see the teeniest sliver of the ocean, a little under two miles away, so i still count that as a win.

on my joyride i actually felt incredibly joyful (imagine that!) as i tried to find which street had the best city/bay view. i found a pretty good overlook at the corner of hugo and plum. i wished i had my phone for a panorama. you could see mission hills and the entire bay, city, coronado island and even down almost to the point of point loma. so good. i kept going and inexplicably i was singing “i’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts” at the top of my lungs. i decided to head to sunset cliffs. i crossed the 10 or so blocks to the other side of the peninsula and when the ocean came into view, i thought about how very lucky we are to live here. seriously, why don’t i enjoy it more? i don’t know how much longer we’re going to be here. i doubt we will live here forever. i need to get out of my house and away from my computer and get into the sun, warmth and sea as much as possible from now on. i drove down to froude street and starting noting some discoveries i was making: first, that there are some streets i haven't heard of yet in point loma. no! why is that? i should be walking them or running them or scooting them every day. i need to explore these streets. second, there are homes down by sunset cliffs that have ocean views to the west AND south based on the nature of the peninsula. that is just unfair, but really cool none the less. third, it smells like flowers everywhere right now. the air is just insane. spring has full on sprung and the roses are killing me the most.

i parked on the street right by the cliffs and walked to the edge. it was just the perfect evening. i watched the surfers catch some really good sets and i wished i could do what they do. i find it incredibly relaxing to watch them, but i know they’re working hard. on the secret beach below, three people laid in the sun with their dog. sun, waves, surfers, sunbathers and a dog. i had a revelation right then and there. we need to move into a studio on the beach and finally get our doggie. live the real beach life for awhile. i’ve already run it by luke and he agrees. so i’ll keep y’all posted.

a post about nothing and something

Last Thursday Luke set off for Vegas to do some recruiting and I made my weekend list. Now, I love my husband more than anything on earth and I absolutely adore spending time with him. When he leaves for a recruiting trip, I get sad. But then after I’m on my own for a little while, a couple things happen...

First, I get uber-productive. I make lists, I accomplish tasks, I clean the house, I tackle things that I’ve been putting off. It’s AWESOME. A less awesome thing that happens is that I revert back to being in some kind of weird bachelorette mode: I stay up too late watching bad television, I sleep in, I don’t cook a darn thing. Tonight I had chips and salsa and wine for dinner, although I must say it was delicious homemade salsa with avocado, mango, kiwi, tomato, cilantro, salt, pepper, garlic & lime. TRY IT. My new basil plant lost a leaf in transit so I chopped that up and tossed it in to boot. Why not?

Earlier in the evening, since the apartment was empty, I had all the time in the world to let my jog linger on and on. I haven’t done much running lately, but I ran 2 miles down to the beach just as the sun went down. The thing about sunsets here is that they, too, linger on and on. Long past the time the sun sinks below the horizon, the sky is alight, shifting from pinky peach to burnt orange to dark blue. I love sunsets, the way they slowly change. You think they’re good, but then they get better; right up until the last tiny bit of light fades from the sky, they are beautiful. Good ’til the last drop. I walked down to the water and watched for awhile. I sat on the sand and listened to the waves. There’s something about being right there on the edge of the land, imagining how far and long and wide the water stretches out before you. Because I’ve learned that sometimes a simple change in perspective makes everything come alive, I turned my head sideways. I noticed the clouds, illuminate, small and scattered at random across the sky. I studied the way the colors of the sunset faded from one to the next—a perfect gradient. Then I sang a couple songs to myself. I thought about joining a choir again.

After awhile I got up and started jogging again, only because I wanted to speed up the next leg of my journey to a local co-op market. The best. I knew that the moment I walked in those doors, life would slow down once again. It would be nearly as peaceful as the crashing of the waves—strolling the aisles, basket in hand, taking in the bounty of fruit and vegetables and plants—I wasn’t expecting the baby plants!—and all kinds of other wonderful products. I was there for a few simple ingredients for the salsa, but as I said, the baby plants seduced me and before I knew it I had basil and heirloom tomatoes and three packets of seeds in hand. How could I not, when the beet packet boasted of greens in 20 days, beets in 40?

When all was said and done, my bill came to $23.13. I walked out of the store with my brown paper bag and marveled at the incredible resources I have access to. How thankful and blessed I am to be able to afford $23.13 for a few items at the market. I have to say, these days Luke and I have less than we’re used to in the way of finances. I’m trying to run my own business as my primary means of income, and that’s shaky ground to tread on. It means that we’ve gone without some of the things we’ve enjoyed regularly in the past: meals out, an overabundance of groceries, the occasional clothes shopping trip or home decoration item. But what I’ve found is that the money equation is really quite simple: you make more, you spend more. Making a lot of money is great, and I would never fault anyone for it. It's the natural thing to want to do and pursue. But the flip side of the equation is also simple: you make less, you spend less. Right now we’re in a season of making less. There are things for our apartment that I’d like to have. In fact, I’d like to not have an apartment at all—I’d prefer a beach cottage or bungalow. But these days we are going without the bigger place, the weekly restaurant jaunts, the $12 movie tickets, the nicer car, the newer clothes…and I am none the wiser, folks. I’m actually more aware of every blessing I have. I’m more thankful for every want and need fulfilled. And I am keenly aware of God’s provision in our lives, which never ceases to blow me away. These days our emptier bank account really seems to go further. Our goal is not to have money in excess, but to be generous with what we do have.

Anyway, by the time I was walking home from the co-op, it was dark out, but I felt completely safe. The air was cool but I was comfortable. As I considered my blessings, I thought about how lucky I am to live here. This thought comes to mind all the time. Daily my eyeballs are bombarded with beauty: the constant sunshine, the sparkly marinas, the pretty boats, the bursting florals, the breathtaking landscapes, the waves crashing on cliffs, the soaring palm trees, the masterpiece sunsets. It’s an amazing place and I wish you could all be here with me. I won’t pretend it’s all easy—it’s very hard sometimes, of course. The toughest part is being 3000 miles away from most of my family. But overall I can’t express how grateful I am for this place in our lives. It’s a sweet time for sure.

Luke said something about me that gave me a lot of joy and pride awhile back. At our community group we were asked what each other's life motto would be if we could assign one to our husband/wife. Luke stole mine from North Face: “Never Stop Exploring”, and I loved that. What an amazing life motto to have. Never stop exploring the beauty of this world. Never stop exploring how much you can love others. Never stop exploring the depths of Christ’s love for you. Never stop exploring how far you need to step out of your comfort zone to find real excitement and fulfillment. Never stop exploring how much you can give and be amazed at what is provided. Never stop exploring the endless things you have to offer. I never knew it was my life motto, but I’m glad Luke revealed it because now it’s time to live it more. 

I don’t have an ending for this blog post and it’s already incredibly long and choppy, so I’ll end with a story from the other night. I was walking in the Target parking lot and a homeless guy asked me for money. Whenever I get asked for money, I give it, as long as I have cash. Everyone approaches this type of thing differently but I always think of something our old pastor offered on the issue of giving money to beggars: “People say you shouldn’t give cash because ‘They might use it to buy beer.’ Yeah? Well, YOU might use it to buy beer!” Touche, Pastor Frank. That I probably would. So I gave him a dollar and he thanked me, and then he spouted off this long monologue that made absolutely no sense. He said he was going to get some money soon because he was the King and people owed him tax money. He said some other nonsense and then abruptly ended with “Well, thanks again! Love you.” And he reached out for a fist bump. There was a crazy innocence in the way he said it. I think it was because he was strung out, but still, it really struck me. I fist bumped him back and said “Love you too” and went into the store. He was gone by the time I came back outside.

valentine's weekend

Hello hello! It's been forever since I've posted a personal update, but this weekend we broke out our "real" camera a few times so I wanted to share those photos with you. Friday was Valentine's Day and Luke brought home FOUR DONUTS after his team trained in the morning. Yes, we did eat them all. Yes, you have permission to call us Valentine's Fatties.

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Our one tradition for the day is a dinner of homemade soup, which began in 2008 when Luke ended up getting sick on our first Valentine's day as a couple. In past years we've made broccoli cheddar, tomato, creamy potato, and vegetable beef--I wish we'd kept yearly recipes! This year the soup of choice was chicken tortilla. So good.

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I did write down the recipe loosely this year which I'll try to get on a printable recipe card for you. It has a béchamel base and gets its flavor mainly from cumin, chili and cayenne seasoning which is what I happened to have in my cupboard! I don't know where I'd be without my trusty cumin supply...

Then yesterday we drove up to Newport Beach to go on a whale watching trip. It was really fun to be out on the water and thrilling to see the wildlife! A pod of dolphins swam and played alongside our boat at one point and we saw a huge gray whale surface in between dives several times--it was the first whale I've ever seen in my life! Everyone on our boat gasped and cheered whenever he showed just a fraction of his massive body, which was such a testament to the power of nature even in our world of ever accessible larger-than-life photos and HD video.

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(Luke actually gave himself a haircut later on in the day Friday after 6 months of growing it out! In case you wondered what's different about him here…)

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So that was our sweet little weekend. I hope you all had a good one, too! I'll try to be back before too long to give you an update on my work and business. Have a great week, all!

black and white bridal shower invitations

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Love these simple shower invitations, a collaboration with Suzy Lee of Dear Darling Calligraphy. That girl can WRITE. 

Also, in case you didn't hear, printing services are up on the website! You can now easily order custom photo cards (like the above) along with greeting cards, stationery, envelopes and even custom liners. Super excited to make your designs come to life.

hello little love | baby shower invitations

One of my dearest friends is having a baby this spring! I created custom invitations for her Valentine's shower with a watercolor heart motif throughout. Such a fun, sweet project to work on.

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To make these I hand-painted a variety of watercolor hearts and scanned them into Photoshop along with custom calligraphy.  I also painted a solid area of watercolor to use as a custom liner. I had a tough time deciding between the heart pattern/solid watercolor for the backer/liner...do you think I made the right choice? I think it could go either way, but something about the sprinkling of hearts on the back of the invitation is just too sweet.

These are giclée printed on 118# Reich Savoy (100% cotton) paper.

And just for fun, here's a screenshot from the moment after Allison announced (via Skype) that she's pregnant. :) I love you, Al, and baby girl Mathias too!

 

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advent | peace

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My sweet friend Megan created a "word-a-day" writing challenge for Advent--check it out on her blog and join in if you wish!

A season of peace so appeals to me. So often I find myself in a place of unrest--from an overloaded work or personal schedule, as I wrestle with big decisions, when I feel bogged down by the worries and cares of life--and I choose to walk in that rather than surrendering my burdens to the Lord who came to bring peace. The passage above in Isaiah is entitled "Birth and Reign of the Prince of Peace". How amazing is it that this was one of the chief goals of Jesus' birth? To bring peace into our world (when he comes again there will be no more war) and into our souls (when he comes again there will be no more unrest)! Isaiah 9:7 says "There will be no end to the increase...of peace." Such a beautiful reminder for our often restless hearts.

This season I am choosing to walk in peace. I have never followed any kind of reading program for Advent, but my friend Melissa contributed the lovely artwork for this book and I began it this morning. It's geared towards families with children, but I love it so far. I know it will be good for my soul.

New shop launched!

I've been working on something fun--a small collection of items to share with you this Christmas season, and they are finally for sale in the new Nightingale Handmade shop! AHH!

I'm excited to launch this little shop, but also nervous. I hope you see something you like, but if you don't, know that my goal in the upcoming new year is to bring in the work of numerous other artists/makers/craftspeople to fulfill all of your heart's handmade desires! In the future there will be more than just paper, metal and leather in there (although there will be lots more of that, too).

I truly love all things handmade and I'm really looking forward to this quest to seek out lovely offerings for the shop. Thank you so much for taking a moment to look! Feedback welcomed, of course. xo

PS - Don't forget that I offer custom printing and design services! Let me know if you have a custom request like holiday card printing, or if you'd like me to email you a price sheet. 

inspired words | steadfast love

I created these hand-lettered pieces to send to my mom recently. Sadly the second page suffered an ink spill so she only endedup getting one. Sorry Mom!

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:22-23 

I used a watercolor brush and calligraphy ink--a very pretty, very metallic warm silver. It is so soothing to use a brush for lettering.

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brokenness

some days more than others i am just reminded of how incredibly BROKEN our world is. someone's beautiful blonde precious daughter underwent her THIRD open heart surgery…as a three year old. and now they wait in recovery…wait through complications…wait through uncertainty. someone else waits and wades through uncertainty for a baby boy birthed by someone else, though they have already fallen in love with him as if they can recall the very moment they conceived him, but they didn't conceive him because they can't conceive. they applied to adopt him and now they don't know whether or not they will ever get to open their arms to his perfect tiny warm body because the birth father may not consent to his release. jesus. a friend recently lost his mother to a battle with cancer. another friend recently lost her father to a battle with cancer. another friend bravely faces each and every day with a father who is battling cancer. jesus. help us. this world is so so broken! this is not what you intended!

my own problems and grievances feel so massive these days. my family is broken. my parents are getting a divorce. my thoughts and feelings whirl around in the salad spinner of my mind and i dream dreams that confuse me and i toss and turn at night and cry and feel fear and sadness and grief for what has been lost, and what has never been at all. i curl myself up on the floor of the shower and all i can utter is "help God help God help" and it's my prayer for the entire world.

but there is hope amid the brokenness. two friends are getting engaged today…maybe as i type this. tonight i will go to a celebration to see her blue eyes glow and her diamond ring sparkle. in a world full of broken families and broken hearts, the two of them get this brand new chance to stand against all the hopelessness that sickens and pollutes our world and CREATE a destiny together, a family together, a story together and i know it will be a good one. God has not deserted us, i believe he weeps with us in the hardest of times. dances with us in the best of times. and this is what we MUST do for each other. life is too impossibly CRAZY difficult not to hold each other and cry together and lift each other up physically or figuratively in prayer. and life is too incomprehensibly beautiful not to laugh and sing and share joy with one another. friends. we belong to this incredible body of believers…for a reason.

PLEASE let me know if there is any way i can help, pray for, encourage or celebrate you. 

 

just popping in to say...

Life is crazy. Not in the "I'm-soooo-busy" way, although there's always that. What I mean is that life is a crazy ride, and when lived in obedience to God it will NEVER be boring. God's prompting via books I've been reading (1, 2 and 3), messages at church, and the voices of those who love me have caused me to realize that I need to step out in faith knowing that God is calling me to something deeper with Him. I honestly don't even know what that means or what it entails. Those are just the words echoing in my mind for the past 3 or so months. So when I feel that I'm being called to something deeper, and then receive opportunities to act on that calling, I want to say "yes" without hesitation.

afc half marathon

Running a half marathon was never on my bucket list. I've never really even considered myself a runner, per se, since my routes don't typically exceed 2-3 miles. I simply never pushed myself beyond that distance--maybe because deep down I didn't really believe I could do it. Now I know it's not that I couldn't run long distances, it's that I wanted to avoid the discomfort of running long distances. I also now know running is never without discomfort. It doesn't matter if it's a 15 minute run or a two hour run, at some point you will probably want to stop. But when you don't stop, you will feel like a champion. 

Shortly after moving to San Diego, I decided to train for this race, mostly so I would have something to do. Running helped get me out of the house after work each day and into the wonderful sun. Every time I achieved a new high distance, it felt like a miracle. "Did I really just run 6 miles? 7 miles? Seriously, 12 miles?!?" It definitely wasn't without pain, and I let my training go for a couple weeks and worried myself towards the end, but I had committed to running 13.1 on August 18th. So, just a week before it sold out, I finally registered to run America's Finest City Half Marathon along with 8,000 other runners!  

Runners getting ready to begin.

Runners getting ready to begin.

Although the race consumed most of my thoughts on Friday and Saturday, by that time I wasn't nervous. I've been training since April!  I felt ready and even excited to finally do it. I read articles online about what to do and what to eat the days leading up to a race. Hydrating was a no brainer, but I found good information like this about eating lots of carbohydrates so my muscles would store up extra glycogen as an energy source during the race (this is obvious to many of you athletes, but it was all new to me). Then I enjoyed every second of getting to eat extra bread, muffins, pancakes and pasta starting two days before my race (okay, maybe I took proper carbo-loading a TINY bit too far). On Saturday I went for a 15 minute run that felt like 45. It didn't do a lot to boost my confidence, but still I held out hope that I could conquer my race the next day.

On Sunday I woke up at 4am to eat breakfast: dry granola, a cup of blueberries and lots of water (I took two mini LARA bars for later on). I put on my running clothes and made sure my hair was in a bun that wouldn't fall out while running (the worst). I have a tiny pocket in my running shorts where I kept a small bag of sport beans, which I was told help give you energy during a race. I also put two dollars in my pocket in case I needed to buy a water bottle before the race. It felt cool to pin on my bib and attach a cool contraption onto my shoe that would keep my official race time.

So overcast. Perfect running weather!

So overcast. Perfect running weather!

One of my favorite parts of the experience was, interestingly, the playing of the national anthem just before the race began. It still surprises me to feel the sense of reverence as hats are removed and hands are placed over hearts in a huge crowd like that as our country's anthem plays. We were at a national monument site that sits basically on a military base, so I was feeling very patriotic and truly grateful for the opportunity to do what I was about to do. After that, we all lined up for the start. I heard the gun go off, and slowly people began walking, then trotting, then we all settled into our individual paces.

To be honest, the race as a whole is kind of a blur in my memory. I don't wear headphones while I run and often my mind wanders, but I don't remember a single thing except for little moments and decisions I was making throughout. The first 4 miles were basically all downhill so I had to be very intentional about running at a pace that felt natural and not faster than normal. I was feeling really good. Then, at mile 4, I realized I was going to have to stop at the next port-o-potty. Stupid! I had drank a final cup of water about an hour before the start, and looking back, I really should have skipped it. Now I was uncomfortable and knew I couldn't run 9 more miles feeling like I had to pee! So I made a quick stop and was back at it in no time (feeling much better). :)

I started looking for Luke around mile 7.5 since he had given me a general idea of where he would wait to see me mid-race. I was still feeling strong at this point, and I decided to get my first drink of water at an aid station. At about mile 8, I began to have some pain in my right knee. This knee has given me trouble for awhile now and is the reason I took a little time off from my training program, but I thought that rest and foam rolling had really helped it, so the amount of pain I was suddenly in really took me off guard. I decided to eat my sport beans to take my mind off of it. When I retrieved them from my pocket, my two dollars fell out! Looking back, I feel like I was a little delirious at this point because it seemed totally not worth it to stop and pick up my two dollars, so I let them fall to the ground and kept running! What?! So, two dollars in the hole, I ate a few sport beans and tried to focus on the sight of Luke from the side cheering me on. Finally I spotted him at mile 9, and I was in so much pain I was almost limping. My pace had drastically slowed down--from 8:36 in mile 5 to to 9:47 in mile 9. I ran over to Luke and asked him to pray for me because I didn't know if I could finish. He did. He cheered as I ran off again, and I really think he prayed and cheered me right to the finish line. After that, there are stretches of the route that I honestly have zero recollection of. I was focused so hard on getting to the end. I yelled out "YES!" when my RunKeeper app talked to me to say I'd run 10 miles. Only 3 to go. 

By now we had run from the tip of Point Loma (a peninsula) all the way into downtown San Diego. At mile 11, the course began a steady uphill that would continue nearly to the end. SO. CRUEL. I had to keep reminding myself that I was fine, I could still go faster, I could push myself harder. When someone would pass me, I tried to match their pace for as long as I could. The crowd support was unbelievable--spectators lined the sides of the road holding signs and yelling encouragement. At mile 12, I was saying weird things out loud to myself. I tried to share my excitement with the girl next to me when I exceeded my longest distance ever. She didn't seem impressed. Oh well. I had to do everything possible to keep going! It felt like we climbed that hill FOREVER. My body was so tired.

Finally, the road leveled out and someone yelled to us "The finish is right around the corner! For real this time." He was right, people had been telling us that for the last mile! Not helpful. We entered the final stretch and I scanned the crowd for Luke. I spotted him along with our friends Emilee, Kyle, Olivia and Cathi.  They were cheering like crazy and I especially remember Cathi jumping up and down with the hugest smile on her face! I ran across the finish line with a final time of 2:03:22.  

At the finish!

At the finish!

I know you've heard this a million times before, but if you think you can't run a half marathon, YOU CAN. Your mind is your only obstacle. When I started training, I couldn't wrap my brain around the possibility of running 13.1 miles. I honestly don't even really enjoy running! But it's incredible to set a goal and watch yourself achieve it--just give yourself lots of time and patience, and don't give up. I was lucky to have a lot of support from family and friends, too. Thanks especially to this awesome crew (& Cathi who took the pic) for being there for me at the end of the race! 

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inspired words | heaven filled me

I really love these lyrics from one of my favorite songwriters, Josh Garrels. He is a wonderful poet, incredibly talented musician, and admirable in so many ways. He recently ran a campaign where all of his albums were offered for free download, with just a request that listeners leave "tips"--100% of which he donated to World Relief in their efforts to bring peace and restoration in the DR Congo where the conflict and  terror is unimaginable.

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