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Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Galapagos Islands

If you missed my first update you can check it out here.  
After the team left Ecuador Dustin and I moved to a different part of the city.  
We actually stayed right in the city center in Old Town (the President's mansion is behind us) 
We stayed in the coolest hotel and spent a day exploring this part of the city.  
This is also when we went to the Basilica, which i blogged about it here.  
After a day in Old Town we woke up early Saturday morning and flew to the Galapagos Islands. As we prayed and talked about this Ecuador trip we decided that if we were going to be in a foreign country for work/ministry we wanted to stay a few extra days and do something fun together.  After much research we decided we wanted to make this our destination.  And it.was.incredible.  
The Galapagos islands are a group of islands straight west of Ecuador in the middle of the Pacific ocean.  97% of the islands are uninhabited by people and most of the wildlife that is there is found nowhere else in the world.  It's actually where Darwin came up with his theory of evolution.  
To be honest it's the most unique and beautiful place I've ever been to and there is really no way to capture it in pictures.  These pictures don't do justice at all.  

 One thing we learned about the Galapagos is that it's not easy to get to.  From our hotel in Quito to our hotel on the island of Santa Cruz we took 2 taxis, 2 planes, 2 buses, and a boat.  
 We stayed at Casa De Judy, in a room that overlooked the ocean.  Because there are so few people who inhabit the island and there is literally no pollution the sky is beautiful all the time.  During the day it's a crystal blue and at night you can see stars and planets all around you.  
We had no internet or tv on the island, so we were really able to unplug and just enjoy the scenery and nature around us.  
We went to the Darwin Center one day to see the giant tortoises.  Again pictures don't do it justice of how big these animals are.  

We tried to do a mixture of exploring the island on our own and going on a couple tours to other islands. 

 We counted up in our 5 days on the island we took about 10 boats.  You literally get to everything by boat.  We had the opportunity to snorkel a couple times and swam with giant seat turtles one day.  We got amazing underwater footage on our go pro.  

  
 We saw so much nature around us that we had never seen before. 

 One moment we felt like we were in the desert and the next on a beach.  One island we went to was filled with giant lava rocks and many people described it as walking on mars.  Because everything on the islands goes untouched you really get to see nature in it's truest form.  
 These sea iguanas were everywhere.  They don't hurt you, but as you walk you literally have to watch your step because there are groups of them covering the islands.  
 The Galapagos were formed from multiple volcano explosions, so you see this black lava rocks everywhere.  
On one of our tours our tour guide took us to this giant swimming hole.  The water was so beautiful and natural (and like 50 degrees:)) 
Our plane landed on the Island of Baltra and had to take a boat to Santa Cruz.  They transported our luggage on top of the boat (not strapped down). From that moment on I knew it was going to be an interesting trip:)

We went back and forth on whether we should take this Galapagos trip, but in the end I'm SO glad we did.  The whole time we were there we just kept looking at each and realizing what an incredible experience this was to have together.  We had so much fun exploring the islands, eating good food, talking, and just being in such a unique place.  
I know it's where Darwin came up with his theory of evolution, but I feel like God used this trip to show me in a deeper way what an incredible creator He is.  Our time there was worshipful and made me even more thankful for the God that were serve.  

We came back from the Galapagos rested and rejuvenated and ready to wrap up our time in Birmingham and move to Atlanta 2 weeks later.  
One thing is for sure we will not be able to look back on our first year of marriage and say it was boring:-)  

Here's to an incredible trip and an experience of a lifetime!   





Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Summer in Ecuador

As usual I am late updating my blog.  I am still committed this to be a scrapbook for me, so here goes the Ecuador update.  

 I shared a little bit about Ecuador in this post.  Dustin finished out his 9 years on staff with CRU (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) by leading a summer project for college students to Ecuador for 5 weeks.  The first 3 weeks of the trip we were a part as I stayed back in Birmingham for work.  It wasn't the most ideal situation in our first year of marriage, but the Lord met us in those weeks and they went by pretty fast!  
The last 2.5 weeks I joined Dustin in Ecuador.  Het me at the airport with a sign and a coke light (my favorite)! It was so cool to get to join him and the team on campus and really see what they had been doing.  I spent 9 weeks in Africa with Campus Outreach when I was in college, so I felt like I was re-living the college cross cultural project.  They had some amazing opportunities and were able to begin a new partnership with the University and CRU ministry in Quito. 
Although it was summer we were right on the equator at a high altitude and it was chilly!  
Although I've been to Ecuador before this was a totally different experience and was really cool.  I loved being in the city and getting to be on a college campus again. 
 One Saturday we went up the Teleferico to see a beautiful view of the city.  Let me just say we were already at 6000 feet above altitude in Quito and then we went up several thousand more feet.  We were literally in the clouds and I've never felt so out of breath! But the view was worth it!  

The last few days before the team left we went to a small town called, Banos, outside of Quito for a time of debrief.  We stayed in this little hotel in the mountains, and it was gorgeous!


 Banos is known for it's hot springs, beautiful mountains, and all kinds of outdoors adventures.  We had a great time experiencing the beauty of this town and going on different adventures each day.  

On the last day we went to "the swing at the end of the world".  Basically a huge swing that goes off the mountain over a few thousand feet.  It was a pretty cool way to end a great trip with the team.  

I really loved getting to partner with Dustin in this trip.  I feel like we learned each other even more and it was cool to minister together oversees.  It was a great way for him to end his season on staff and to wrap up college ministry.  

After the team flew back to the states Dustin and I stayed in Ecuador a few extra days and went on another adventure...

Saturday, July 29, 2017

On Saying Yes....




Today marks 9 months of marriage. 9 months of learning what it means to be live with one another day in and and day out, to appreciate each other for the way that God made us, to love one another when it feels really hard. 9 months of laughing and crying and really awesome moments and really hard moments. 9 months of saying yes every morning and every evening.  

I've been thinking a lot about this concept of saying yes. We all say no to a lot of things in life, but most of us probably say yes more often. And every time we say yes to one thing we are saying no to another. Saying yes to marriage is probably the biggest (or one of the biggest) things we will do in our lives. It's a commitment. It's a covenant. It's saying yes despite what circumstances might bring, how this person may change, or how life might change. It's a big YES.  

These days specifically I've been thinking about what it meant for me to say yes to Dustin. People would always tell me when I was single that marriage was so much harder than singleness.  It truthfully made me angry because let's be honest, life can be hard whether you are single or married. But one thing that has been hard and stretching for me in marriage has been the idea of following my husband. That life and decisions are no longer just about me and what I want, but now there is another person. A person with dreams and desires of his own.  And God has specifically called me to partner with him, support him in his dreams, and to follow him.  For us that meant making a move 8 months in to marriage. A move that, to be honest, has been hard for me.  

I can so vividly remember sitting in a hotel room in Indianapolis in December while at a college ministry conference with Dustin (for his job) spending time with the Lord and hearing the Lord so clearly say to me, "you need to follow Dustin in his career.  you need to put him first and support him".  I'm not saying I believe in the Lord outright talking to us, but in the quietness of the moment he spoke to my heart.   I knew from the time I met Dustin that one day he should go to seminary.  He was made for ministry.  Yet because of where we were in life Dustin made the move to Birmingham to support me in my job as Children's Director.  He stayed on staff with CRU and we both did full time ministry in very separate areas.  This allowed us to get married and begin our marriage in the city I was already living.  But we both knew change was probably coming.  That his calling was changing and that both of us being in full time ministry on opposite sides of Birmingham with opposite schedules was probably not going to work long term.  But  the idea of following him into a new career and possibly making a change was terrifying to me.  I was finally getting use to my job and life in Birmingham and really who loves change?  But 2 months into marriage the Lord spoke to me and begin to teach me that following my husband was my #1 calling (other than following Jesus:-)) So I began to pray that God would help me let go and trust and do whatever I could to support my husband on this journey for him.  


Fast forward a couple months when Dustin came home from a trip to Atlanta (where he was taking a week long seminary class) really excited about an opportunity for him there to go to seminary and work at Perimeter Church.  It was one of those things that I was excited with him about, but in my heart I honestly thought "this isn't really going to happen".  The idea of living in Atlanta was never a thought for me and to be honest never a place I desired to live.  But God had other plans.  Through much prayer, counsel,  conversations, and just flat out wide open doors of opportunities we made the decision for both of us to change careers completely and move to Atlanta.  

So on July 15th we both ended 9 year careers.  For him it was 9 years of being on staff with CRU college ministry investing in college students and for me it was 9 year of Children's Ministry being on staff with 2 different churches investing in children.  We packed up a Penske Truck and moved to Northeast Atlanta to the suburb of Duluth.  I would be lying if I were to say it's been easy.  I feel like so much of my adult life has been transition so the idea of  transitioning to a new place, learning a new city, making new friends, and just starting over has been hard to come to grips with.  Not to mention leaving my family in Birmingham.  I sobbed saying good-bye to my nieces, I've cried since I've been here, and I'm still adjusting to the fact that this is going to be our home.  

But here's the other side of the story.  These months of following my husband, supporting him, trusting him, and saying yes to him  have been so good for me.  I prayed for a man to follow, I prayed for a Godly husband like Dustin, and the Lord gave to me abundantly.  Dustin's calling to full time ministry with a church is so clear to me.  He is so incredibly gifted and his heart to teach God's word and pour into others is so apparent in his life.  I really believe God is going to use him and he has gifted me with the opportunity to partner with this man and be a helper to him.  

And so starting August 1 we will both start new careers.  He will be doing a two year residency with Perimeter Church working with young families and young adults.  It's an incredible opportunity for him working specifically in an area he's passionate about and under a man he deeply respects.  I'll begin working for the PCA for the Committee of Discipleship Ministry.  My role will be more of an Executive Assistant to the coordinator, but I will continue to have opportunity to be involved with Children's Ministry through conferences I'll be coordinating and other outlets.  And then on August 23rd Dustin will begin seminary at RTS beginning his Masters of Divinity Degree.  We know we will be here at least two years and possibly longer.  

And so here I am today 9 months in to marriage, living in a new state, with my still new husband.  We both say our marriage has taught us a lot about walking in faith and clinging to the Lord in the unknown.  My heart is still wrestling with this move and what it means for us,  but I really do believe that when God calls you to something he provides, he meets you, and he blesses you. When I stop and think about it I'm so excited to see what the Lord has for us here. This is a whole new journey for us, but we both feel so confident that God has led us to this. And the same God who was so incredibly faithful to us in singleness is present in our marriage and in this new path. My head is there and I'm asking for my heart to catch up.  To be all here with my husband.  To continue to say yes to him daily and to watch the Lord unfold the story he has written for us.  
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Friday, July 28, 2017

Our Honeymoon

I know I know, this is SO late! But since this blog is a scrapbook for me, I wanted to go back and blog about our amazing honeymoon to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic!  
So one of the most fun things about our honeymoon was that Dustin planned the entire thing (with the help of a friend of ours who is a travel agent) and surprised me!  I knew we were going to a tropical location, but other than that I knew nothing until we got to our gate at the Miami airport.  It was so fun to be surprised and to be thought for in that way.  
We stayed at an Excellence all inclusive resort.  It was amazing.  Dustin told them it was our honeymoon and so they treated us like royalty.  Our room had a double balcony that overlooked the Gulf Of Mexico.  
Everyday they would leave special treats in our room with they cleaned it.  
The resort was completely all inclusive with about 8 restaurants, beachside service, and room service all at our fingertips. We took advantage of room service several mornings and had breakfast on our balcony.  
One night they served us a special dinner as part of our honeymoon package.  It was so fun to try all the restaurants and be able to order anything we wanted! Sometimes we ordered multiple entrees so we could taste different things:-)  

One of our favorite things was the queen size covered beds overlooking the ocean. We spent many hours out there reading and taking naps.  

We both decided that honeymoons should be a regular thing:-)  We were both so exhausted after the wedding.  Engagement was such a fun season, but man was it busy.  It was so nice to be an environment where we could truly relax. Our biggest decisions each day were whether to lay by the pool or the beach and what restaurant we should eat at!  
We did do one excursion (but I don't have any pictures) where we rented a speedboat and went out to the Caribbean to snorkel. It was so fun! Other than that we spent everyday at the resort.  
9 months in, we know each other SO much better than we did when these pictures were taken (and I know we will only continue to get to know each other better). It's a crazy thing to go from dating, engagement, a wedding, and taking a trip like this together. But we really did have such a great time learning each other, laughing together, and being completely away from real life for a bit. Our hope and dream is to be able to return to our honeymoon location again one day!  


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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Lessons from the Basilica

10 days ago we got back from Ecuador.  Dustin was there for 40 days and I was there for 16 days.  It was an incredible trip in so many ways,  At some point I want to go back and blog some of the trip here, but for now I want to share a about a lesson the Lord taught me through a specific time in Ecuador.  It all goes back to the 4 letter word I have struggled with for as long as I can remember.  It's my go to, the thing that creeps in to my mind in the middle of the night and as much as I push it away it likes to stay there and creep back in when I'm not expecting.  It's called FEAR.  For me it's fear of everything.  Fear of others, fear of "what ifs", fear of the future, fear of the unknown.  Yes I've asked for the Lord's help, I've quoted scripture to myself and clung to it.  And yes the Lord has worked greatly in my life in this area.  But it's also been an are of ups and downs for me. And as Corrie Ten Boon would say "rob me of today's joys".  
The last 8 months have been (and continue to be) the biggest season of transition in my life. Marriage has been one of the biggest blessings of my life.  It's been the sweetest and best thing I've experienced.  It's also forced me to release control, let go, and walk closely with another person. With marriage comes new joys and for me new things to fear. 

And that brings me back to Ecuador and the Basilica.  The Basilica is a beautiful church up on a hill with scenes of the entire city.  It really is incredible.  But part of seeing much of the beautiful city is climbing to the top of this one of a kind church.  Climbing lots of stairs, climbing ladders, and climbing a skinny spiral staircase where you can look down and see lots of space beneath  you.  And here's the thing.....I hate heights.  And I hate spiral staircases.  When I was 7 I flipped down a metal spiral staircase the pain and fear that I experienced in that fall is still with me.  Ever since then I've struggled with this type of staircase.  BUT I wanted to see this view of the city that Dustin had been telling me about.  I wanted to experience what was at the top.  I almost backed out halfway through as my fear intensified, but Dustin reminded me that I could do this.  I could get to the top.  And so I did.  I took a deep breath and climbed..and climbed...and climbed.  And when I got to the top I saw the city....and it was worth it.

I sat on this slab of concrete and looked out over the city and took in all the colors.  I looked down at how high I was and I was reminded that pushing through my fears really was worth it to be able to see this city.  And then it hit.  How many things do I miss out on because of my fear?  How often do I not see "the beautiful view" because of the fear of the unknown or the what if's?

In 7 days we move to Atlanta. And to be honest it's been a hard move for me to come to grips with.  Not because I don't think it's best or am not excited about the opportunities there.  I believe The Lord is leading us and we are following the path we are called to walk, but my fear has been so much more present that I would like.  I could write you a page long list of all my rational and irrational fears that I have. But sitting at the top of the Basilica reminded me of the beautiful story that God is writing for Dustin and I, and he's choosing for Atlanta to be a part of that.  Who am I to let fear rob me of what the Lord has at the top of spiral staircase?  Life is a journey and we daily have opportunities to walk in fear or faith.  But fear halts us.  It tells us we can't go on and if we do it will be bad.  Faith tells us to keep walking and to believe that the Lord is right there with us leading us each step of the way.  

We had lots of incredible experiences in Ecuador, and to be honest I even had fear about going.  It was a hard decision for us for Dustin to say yes to leading this trip. Being a part 23 days, being out of the country the month before we move, and a few other factors.  But I'm so glad we said yes.  For SO many reasons I'm glad.  But sitting at the top of the Basilica may have been one of my favorite moments of the trip.  It was where I felt like the Lord spoke to me in a way I needed him to speak to me.  To remind me that he's got this.  That I really do have nothing to fear and that if I'm willing to trust him and walk with him there is something really beautiful on the other side.

And so as we pack up our home, live in the middle of boxes, wrap up our jobs, say good-bye to our friends here and make this move I'm reminding myself of that moment when I got to the top of the Basilica.  I'm reminding myself of the beauty of following the Lord.  I'm reminding myself that we prayed through this decision and watched the Lord unfold it in a way that we knew so clearly we were called to go.  I know that fear will always be something I wrestle with. But I also know that the Lord is so much greater.  Fear is not from Him and He can trample the one from whom fear is from.  

It's a daily struggle for me, but i've seen time and time again that it is worth it to not let it hold me back.  I know that the path before us may not always be clear or easy, but I also know that where he calls us he will be with us.  I want to remember that as we embark on this new journey.  As we walk forward down a road where we can't see what the end will look like.  What we can trust in the God who turns the darkness into light, makes the rough places smooth, and promises there is beauty along the way.







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Monday, June 5, 2017

14 tips for wedding planning

It's been 7 months since our wedding. 7 months since that day that I had dreamed about for so very long.  Hard to believe, yet so much life has happened since that day.  As much I think about writing about marriage I've been wanting to a wedding wrap up post.  When I was planning our wedding I was that person that asked advice, read magazines on wedding planning, and really wanted help from those who had gone before me.  One of the first things I did when I got engaged was email a handful of my closest friends who had gotten married in the last 1, 5, 10 years and asked them to tell me a few things they loved about their wedding that they woulnd't change, and a few things they would do differently.  This helped SO much!  I took their advice and ran with it.  And so i wanted to type out a few things I learned from my season of wedding planning for those who are in this season, know someone who is, or just interested!


1. Before you start planning spend some time as a couple dreaming about what you want your wedding to look like.  What is the vision for your wedding?  What are the top 3-5 things that are priorities to you?

2. Write down your top priorities and then start really thinking about how you want those to influence your wedding.  For Dustin and I we knew our wedding would be big.  We wanted the freedom to invite a lot of people, so that immediately took out quite a few venues that we liked but weren't big enough for our wedding size.  We also knew we didn't want  a long engagement so that impacted looking at venues and vendors that were available in our time frame.
  
3. Keep an ongoing to do list.  For me google sheets really helped.  This way I could keep multiple tabs with different to do lists and I could share it with Dustin and my mom so that we could all see the same thing.  

4.  Try to map out a timeline for the said to do list.  So much is waiting on vendors and other people but as much as you the more you plan ahead the better.  We were engaged 5.5 months, which at the time felt like forever but looking back we had to race to get a few things done.  

5.  Date your fiance.  It was so easy for me to be in wedding mode all.the.time so Dustin would sometimes say to me, "let's not talk about the wedding tonight" This was hard for me at times, but really we needed to have fun, and keep dating through this process!  

6.  Pre-marital counseling.  Best thing ever!  To be honest I knew this was important, but when we were thinking through it I felt overwhelmed about how we were going to do it.  We met with an older  couple on staff with Cru who had been longtime friends/mentors for Dustin.  We did coffee together on Thursday mornings for about 2 months.  It really became a time I looked forward to and we learned so much!  We had to really protect this time in a crazy season, but it was so worth it!  

7.  Don't make it about the money!  OK yes money is super important, but weddings are expensive!  I could get so consumed with how much everything was costing and how stinkin expensive weddings are.  What helps is to set a budget and then decide how you want to spend that budget.  I had to let go of things I originally wanted, because other things were more important and it all wouldn't fit in the budget.  That's ok!  We spent a lot of time praying and thinking through it all and just made it work.  I realized things that originally were important to me became less as the planning went on.  Everyone kept telling me it would all work out and it really did! 

8.  Have a candy bar and a photo booth!  For as long I can remember I wanted these 2 things at my wedding.  My parents thought I was crazy at first, but they were willing to oblige to my request. And it was SO FUN!  Photo booths are just fun!  It reaches all generations and it gives people and opportunity to take pictures and be silly together.  our wedding was a reunion of sorts because so many family and friends came from different seasons who had not seen each other in awhile.  It was fun to see people from these seasons gather in the photo booth together for a silly pictures!  plus our photo booth company made an album for us so that we got a copy of every picture taken with notes from our guests.  Do research on photo booth companies, because different companies will offer different services, but really I highly recommend it for a fun addition.  We used Little Red Photo booth and they were awesome!  Candy tables are also super fun!  We bought all our candy from Sams and then just collected little containers from thrift stores.   We bought baggies from party city and made stickers on vista print. It was the perfect little "make your own party favor"  

9.  One of the best pieces of advice i received was "don't try to do stuff yourself" Yes we wanted to add some personal touches that we did ourselves, but hiring out much of the wedding was the best thing ever.  I knew I wanted my mom to be the mother of the bride on my wedding day and not running around coordinating food, decorations, or anything.  Knowing that other people were handling the day of logistics was the best feeling ever.  We really got to enjoy the day and didn't have to worry about a thing!  

10.  Don't be afraid to ask for help.  I had so many people offer to help me. I learned pretty quickly that I needed to write those names down and take them up on it:-)  From simple errands, to little logistical things several of our friends were SO helpful especially day of!  


11.  Be ready for your wedding a week before.  This might have been one of the best pieces of advice I received and I really tried to do this.  I might not have been ready a week before but by the time my bridesmaids arrived on Thursday I wanted to be done.  And pretty much we were!  This made the days leading up to the wedding SO fun.  I was able to just relax (for the most part:-)) and enjoy time with our families and wedding party.  Those days with my bridesmaids specifically were incredible.  I made a point of trying to make it as relaxing as possible for them (as much as wedding weekends are) and just enjoy the reunion and celebration that it was.  

12.  Remember this is your wedding (and your fiances) Everyone has lots of opinions and YES listen and take notes, but at the end of the day if you are like me don't stress about what everyone else thinks.  There were certain things that Dustin and I decided that probably wouldn't have been other peoples first choice, but our family and friends were respectful and at end of the day it just dosen't matter what everyone else thinks.  And it's going to be great no matter what because it's your wedding!  

13.  PRAY!  We made a prayer plan for our engagement season and personally and together really fought to spend time praying through this.  We prayed for the logistics, we prayed for the friends and family traveling, we prayed for our relationship during engagement, we prayed for marriage. And prayer is a beautiful thing.  As we prayed it allowed us to release things, to cling to the Lord, and to be united together. We were able to see the Lord work and be a part of his story and plans!  We watched the Lord answer prayers and he really blessed us with his presence.  

14.  When the day comes just have fun!  Yes everyone says something will go wrong.  And yes it probably will, but don't stress about that.  Just do all you can to plan, give it to the Lord, and let go!  It will all work out and you want to enjoy your day.  I can honestly say Dustin and I truly enjoyed our wedding day.  Yes it was a blur in many ways, but we soaked up every minute, went with the punches, and had the best day of our lives!

I know everyone's dreams, visions, finances, and plans are different but I hope some of this will help if you are that person in this season.  I loved my wedding and am thankful for the opportunity to plan a day that meant so much to Dustin and I!