Wednesday, October 31, 2012

my brilliant plan

Hello, faithful readers!

Firstly, happy Halloween! I hope you're enjoying the menagerie wandering through your neighborhoods, and saving some of that candy for the critters at your door instead of eating all of it, like we all know you really want to.

As for me and my house, I think we're buying a couple of bags after they go on sale tomorrow, because man, am I going to need it.

Why, you ask? Well, if you facebook stalk me happen to notice my posts in your facebook news feed, you may already know that this month, I am participating in NaNoWriMo. You can check out the website here if you like, but the short version is that in the next 30 days, I will write a novel (50,000 words, to be exact.) Hence the need for candy.

While this is awesome and exciting and ambitious, I imagine that writing a novel won't leave a whole lot of time -- or mental energy! -- for blogging.

But I've been doing so awesome at blogging regularly since I got married! And you all love reading it! And my blog is probably one of the biggest reasons I have the momentum to even THINK about writing a novel in 30 days! I can't just throw that all away with no sense of loyalty whatsoever. And I know you're all out there, nodding your heads in agreement.

So I've concocted a brilliant plan.

The plan is that I'll be writing up our love story, mine and Chris'. Not the love story you get to hear about every time you read my blog because I just can't help but brag about how awesome my husband is. No, I'm going to tell you how it all got started, from the spring soul-searching to the summer lightning flash to the autumn move to the winter heartbreak, to the way spring always seems to bring people back to soul-searching again...

I'm not sure if I'll be posting less often but the same length, or sharing our story in short daily bursts, but either way I'm excited to finally have it down on (virtual) paper. It's not even in my journal, not really, mostly because I thought it was too good to be true and didn't want to jinx it.

I'm superstitious like that, I guess.

Anyway, keep an eye out in the following days for the beginning of our story, back in April 2011 when a certain girl finally decided to start going to her North Carolina singles' ward...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

so punny

Chris and I sat at breakfast this morning, slowly chewing on our yummy oatmeal and talking about how I filled the "assignment" Chris gave me to check out the other side of the river from where we took our walk.

"Oh, so I didn't tell you before -- the trail in the other direction, away from the lookout point, is really boring."


"Yeah. It's mostly just buildings and powerlines and cornfields, and since it's past harvest those are nothing to look at anyway! There was a bridge not far from where I finally turned around, but even that  was kinda boring. I got excited though, because right after that, an unpaved trail splits off of the paved one. I followed it -- it's twisty and forest-y. The trail gets sandy, and then you realize it's lead you to the waterfront. Which is cool, until you read the sign that says something like 'THIS COULD BE REALLY POLLUTED. YOU ARE PROBABLY GOING TO DIE, and you start to notice that there's sand in your shoes, and it's probably eating away at your foot and giving you cancer."

"So, you could say it's literally eating away at your sole?"

Heh heh. Oh, husband.

To be honest, the best part was that I didn't get the pun initially.

Heh heh. Oh, me.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

just so us

"I love trees."

I hung over the railing, the view from the bridge awash in greens and autumnal yellows, thick trunks extending toward the sun only to create their own shade in a glory of foliage.

"Why?" Chris asked. I've said it so many times that it was a fair question.

Because they're pretty might seem like the obvious answer, and probably the kind of answer I've given before, but this time my instincts told me there was so much more to it than that. "I honestly don't know," I told him after a few moments of brow-furrowing. "I know why I like rain, but not trees."

"Fair enough." A classic Chris answer. Demanding is just not his style.

We continued across the bridge, hand-in-hand, feeling our noses grow chilly. I acted as tour guide on this particular date night, which he didn't mind. We circled through the train station, then down the long walking path that is now familiar to me. I wondered out loud what kind of tree a certain one was, and Chris responded by using his smartphone to take a picture and run a Google search. I kept walking backwards to listen to Chris with ears and eyes, not to mention holding both his hands.

"I want to show you something in particular," I said. "I like aimless meandering fine, but I thought you might appreciate having an actual destination."

My chosen landmark was the underside of the car bridge, where someone has painted a mural. Two green, dragon-shaped longboats (and one whimsical car) convey amorphous people over the river, while in the background, the sky fades from night to day over a city. It's well-executed, with vague enough symbols to warrant conversation. Chris did not disappoint, and we lingered there for several minutes, hypothesizing about the passage of time, industrialization, and how the cityscape was obviously Lafayette. (That part was news to me.)

I looked back, as we walked away, and smiled, my eyes soaking in the bridge. "I think," I said suddenly, "that I love trees for the same reason I love bridges and stairs and doorways."

"Bridges and stairs and doorways?" Can you hear the incredulity?

"Yes. They're...passages. Like the wardrobe in Narnia. You never really know what's on the other side. Of the doorway, or the bridge, or that line of trees. And...I think finding out comes with a sense of...privilege."

"Because you've been granted passage?"

"Precisely!" I smiled, gratified that I was being understood. "I think that's what a writer is like. We see what's through the threshold, around or underneath, or we want to. We're fascinated. Sometimes that's to my detriment, because I don't see what's obvious and on the surface - but it's sure fun."

He just nodded, content to mull it over, while I basked in the joy of having finally verbalized what I had always felt and never said. We stayed silent to watch the train go by.

That walk was so uniquely us. We have these moments that are saturated with our particular way of interacting, with Chris being really him and me being really me, and it really works. It's like being married to him is the most obvious thing in the world.

And yeah. I guess it is.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

morning jog

I woke up this morning with a mysterious pain in my hand, and an equally mysterious asperity in my heart.

"Are you okay?" Chris asked over breakfast.

"Hmm? Yeah, just not awake yet."

But by the time we were ready to get out the door, Chris leaned against the counter and said, "I'm sorry I'm trying your patience this morning."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because you're acting like your patience is being tried."

I paused, and sighed. "I think it says more about my short supply of patience than anything you're doing. I'm sorry."

"It sounds like your patience is being tried by the fact that your patience is being tried. Sounds counterproductive!"

We laughed, but he had a point. "I think I feel a hard day coming on," I told him.

After I dropped Chris off at school, wishing (as always) that he didn't have to go, I sent up a little prayer. I've been avoiding the usual dramatics of asking why do I have so little emotional energy to give? why do I have to be so fragile in this way? because those questions are not far from asking why me?! and there's just never a good answer to that. So instead I asked, What can I do to make things better? How can I have a good day, so that Chris doesn't have to worry, and I can still give to him the way I would like to?

In answer to that prayer, the thought to turn left, toward the park, instead of going straight, toward home, appeared in my mind. Despite still being in the clothes I wore to bed, I didn't question it. I just went to the park, grateful for the subtle guidance of the Comforter.

Tapawingo Park is quickly becoming my favorite place in our new town. The approach has an appealing sense of urbanity, with a view of the bright morning sun hanging over downtown as you cross the bridge. Like the other times I'd gone, I left the bridge in favor of the tree-lined, paved path below. Unlike the other times I'd gone, I did it at a jog rather than the usual sightseeing amble.

As I progressed through the park, I felt the stiffness in my joints and muscles loosen. The tension gave way to a pleasant fluidity, all the more enjoyable in contrast to the burning tightness in my throat. Over the sound of my panting, placid thoughts slowly filtered into my brain:

I never thought I'd be the early morning jog type, but here I am. I am active. I am strong. I am beautiful. And, perhaps most importantly of all, I am grateful.

I covered more ground than I had on my previous visits, so the pliancy in my joints eventually gave way to a twinge in my calf, a tiny pain in my right side. But, in the cool, purple shadows beneath the still-green leaves, I realized, it's just one more thing to remind me that I am alive. My tranquil thoughts continued on that strain, a steady mantra to accompany my rhythmic footfalls:

I'm alive. I'm alive. I'm alive.

And what a wonderful thing that is to be.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I'm studying for the GRE lately, and it's stressful. Not only do I have to muster the discipline to sit down with my study book, not only will this determine whether or not I can go to grad school in the near future, not only do I take it in less than two weeks....

...But I also have to do math.

Math has never been my strong point. I've never loved it or had any real curiosity about why it worked the way my teacher explained. The extent of my math skills were to memorize the steps to a process and actually get the requested result, given enough practice.

And there's the clincher. With my last math class being 5 years ago, I am definitively out of practice, and yet must demonstrate enough quantitative reasoning that they won't throw away my grad school app at a single glance. True, my field isn't really dependent on critical thinking in the context of numbers, but I have to at least prove I'm not a moron.

That felt like exactly what I was proving this morning. Actively fighting tears, I lamented, "I just hate the idea that we spent $170 on a test just for them to tell me that I'm bad at math and I can't go to grad school anyway."

Against every "how do I fix this??" instinct of his male, scientific brain, Chris just frowned. "Can I give you a hug?"

It got so much better from there. We decided that these questions are more like logic puzzles than math problems, and then Chris got to have fun with it too. "Now, can we try something? I want you to apply the dimensional analysis we just learned--"

"The thing with the units?"

"Yes, the thing with the units. Apply that to this problem here."

"Okay. Hmm...oh, uh-huh. Mkay. Like that?"

"Yep! Congratulations, you just derived the Ideal Gas Law. It's something like what I have to do on my math."

"Cool! I did engineering! ...Chris, is that attractive?"

"You have no idea."

I decided this math stuff isn't so bad after all.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


My husband has an as-yet unexplained addiction to waffles. Maybe he wasn't loved enough as a child? Maybe the little squares, four cozy walls surrounding a pocket of flavor, make him feel safe? I have no idea. Regardless, he loves them with a passion rivaled only by whiteboards, technology, and...well, me.

Our current favorite waffle uses wheat flour, with plenty of dark chocolate chips mixed in, and a generous spoonful of cinnamon. Chris would eat these every morning if he could, I'm certain. I, on the other hand, really don't want that much sugar all the time, so I've been trying to change things up now and then.

Clearly, that was my first mistake.

I think every other incarnation of waffles I've made, Chris has been disappointed. Sweetly, kindly, gently, of course. But disappointed. He'll make a perfectly reasonable suggestion for improving them, and add, "these are still good though! Thanks, wife." He'll smile, and take another bite. Then his face will cloud with nostalgia. "But I think I still like the chocolate ones best."

After a while, this got old. Who wants to disappoint her husband every morning? So yesteday, I pulled out the big guns. "Tell you what. Tomorrow I'll make nutella waffles."

His eyes were so alight I thought he'd spontaneously combust. "Promise??"

"Promise. Nutella waffles...with strawberries and whipped cream."

Accordingly, I spent a few minutes this morning googling around before I found a recipe that called for nutella in the batter. Three-quarters of a cup of nutella.

"You've gotta be kidding me..."

But when a wife makes a promise, she really ought to keep it, so I cautiously proceeded. A smidge less nutella there, a little butter substitution for fruit puree there, and suddenly, we had waffles. Ones that I was pretty sure weren't going to send me into a sudden, unprecedented diabetic coma.

Chris ambled out of bed when I told him waffles were ready, and watched with interest as I dressed them up with the strawberry sauce I'd made, and whipped cream. We prayed; he took a bite, chewed thoughtfully. And said nothing.

I wasn't going to stand for that. I quickly prepared my plate, sat down, and placed the first delicious-looking square into my mouth.

I rolled it around my mouth, tested it with my teeth, savored the fruit and cream. It was lovely! And then, right there at the end, I caught the faintest chocolatey-sweet whisper:


"I like how it makes you slow down and figure out the flavors," I told Chris, grasping at optimism. He just nodded and took another bite. We proceeded with breakfast, mostly silent like we usually are at eight in the morning. Finally, I had to say it.

"I think the nutella flavor really gets lost when you mix it in the batter."

His relief was like another presence in the room. "I agree. I think with waffles it's just really important to have chunks interspersed, instead of things incorporated in the batter."

"I wish it would have worked better! It called for so much nutella..."

"Yeah." Chris took another bite, sadly smiling.

You'd think I'd have learned my lesson there, but no. I had to be sure. So I whipped up spice waffles, thinking pineapple juice and ginger/nutmeg/cloves would give it a gorgeous, cider-y taste.

No dice, my friends. Mostly they just taste like plain ol' waffles. I anticipate there will be a day that the knowledge that waffle mix-ins must be chunky, no exceptions, will save my marriage.

But only if it's chocolate.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

be(come) happy

Life has been overwhelming the last couple of days, and I'm not sure why.

My ability to handle situations seems to flow and ebb, with no more reason than the passage of time. I'm sure that's normal, but it never ceases to catch me off guard and leave me wondering what on earth I did wrong. Discouragement mounts as I realize that the problems I'm facing are not ones I currently have the tools to fix, and that I doubt that I have the character strengths to acquire those tools.

In short, I don't always know how to be happy.

I sure try, though. Generally, step one is admitting that something is amiss in my thinking if my thoughts are along the lines of "this is impossible." After all, "there hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13). I will never confront a challenge that I cannot overcome through Christ. He doesn't often make things easy -- when would I ever learn, if He did? -- but He does make things possible, and offers the perspective I need to joyfully make sacrifices.

So I talk things over with my sweet husband. Chris gives me a hug and reminds me it's going to be okay, that he's proud of me and he knows I'll get things figured out, that it's perfectly okay to stop and just breathe. When I take that first real inhale, it seems to knock things loose, and the exhale is a prayer, still full of questions, but also newly full of faith.

And things always start to come together from there.

Instead of feeling discouraged, I begin to recognize that I don't have to fix everything all at once. Instead of feeling worried, I start to acknowledge that there are a lot of solutions we haven't tried yet, and they're all within our control. Instead of getting depressed, I remember that God is good, and it's okay to connect deeply to what's going on in my life. It may not be fun, but I will always make it through because He is at my side.

So no, I'm not quite certain why I'm in a slump lately. (It could be any number of things, including side effects from my new birth control.) Regardless, I have the privilege of seeking out joy in whatever way works best for me, and I don't have to feel guilty about it. Today that means getting taking a hot bath, listening to fun arrangements of hymns. I might get a haircut, and I will almost certainly ignore the large sinkful of dishes since I gave the apartment a thorough cleaning yesterday anyway.

And that's perfectly okay. I have a responsibility to be joyful, even if that means not getting a million things marked off my to-do list. My goal at the end of the day is to greet Chris with a smile and a kiss and an idea of what's going on for dinner. That's it. And if I manage that, well then, today has been a great day.

Friday, October 19, 2012

missing pieces

A face, a mom, legs with a face floating above them, a daughter,  a face with a heart, and a son. 

You've all seen them -- the row of cutesy stick figures, each representing a member of your family.

So what's the story here????

Thursday, October 18, 2012

wedding picture sneak peak

*A very special thanks to our photographer, Shallyse Gastelum of Fresh Poppy Photography. You can check out more of her work here and here!

Exactly 2 months and one week ago, I married the love of my life.

I look at pictures now and think, wow, we really are this happy. I love seeing the bit of awe -- reverence even -- on our faces.

Then again, it's hard for us be serious for too long.

In a way, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. All we knew was that I loved him....

He loved me...

And God loved us. And for us, that was enough.

In the meager handful of weeks since the wedding, I think we've both had to take a long, hard look at ourselves. "I really need to grow up and get focused," we say, and "I can't believe I get mad so easily," and what seems like a hundred-thousand times, "I'm sorry."

They're hard, but we always come away from those moments more in love, more committed, more sure that we've made the right choice.

We know we're here to stay.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

how to be a domestic goddess

It's all about the presentation.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

two months

I knew that marriage was going to teach me faith in the hard moments, but I had no idea it was going to teach me faith in the very very best ones.

Today marks two months since Chris and I got married. It's been drifting in and out of my attention all day, but as I type it out in introduction to this blog post, I'm honestly tearing up. I knew all along he was a fun, smart, sweet, funny guy who suited my personality well. But I had no idea just how good he really is.

Last night, we lay in bed, planning the next day on (of course) a pseudo-whiteboard. Chris' day was cut and dry: class, study, dinner, test. Mine was less so. I'm a wife; there's plenty of things for me to do, but after a day of feeling like I'd wasted my time, I was discouraged. "What's the point of planning it if I'm not going to do it anyway?

Chris gave me a long look. "Take the day off."


"Take the day off. You need it."

I hesitated. "I'd actually been thinking about that - that I don't so much have a full-time job as an all-the-time job. That's kinda depressing."

"Yeah, exactly. So take a break."

I felt a lump rise in my throat. "But I don't feel like I deserve it..."

He held me for a moment, while I held back my tears. "Tell you what," he said. "If you do more than two productive things tomorrow, no Skype date tomorrow."

I gave him a watery smile. "What if I'm doing productive things for fun?" I asked, thinking of the writing I could do.

"That's fine, but if you tell me you did the dishes for fun, I won't believe you."

I love this man so much.

I can't believe I have someone who is willing and able to share the burdens of this mind and heart I've been given. Chris' two-month present to me was a guilt-free day, one I could spend writing, researching, reading, and catching up with a few friends. I don't know how I could possibly top that, and it would probably be foolish to try. (Especially because his day is really full...he's actually off taking a big test right now, for which he spent all day studying.)

I keep thinking that I already know how much I love him, that I "get" what this whole marriage thing means. I'm discovering how naive that is, even beyond the fact that we haven't been married long. It's like saying we know how much we love Jesus, knowing that He is going to save us anew, every day, in a way that is going to make us love Him more.

Marriage is like that, I think. I know my husband has a good heart -- one of the best, in fact. Times like yesterday though, when he comforts me in my moments of greatest vulnerability and does it in exactly the way that I need, provide a glimpse of who he is beyond the goofiness (which makes me so happy) and the brilliance (which I think is just so attractive). I see the honest, humble man, who just wants to help other people be okay. And I get to have him in my life every single day.

If that's not evidence of God, and His complete adoration for me, His often confused and frequently fearful little girl, then I don't know what is.

Happy two months, babe.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

industry and peace

Having just dropped off Chris, the apartment is silent, save the usual refrigerator hum. The morning light illuminates both the sky and the yellowed trees outside my window. Autumn is setting in, with its jacket-weather days; the vibrant summer-blue is fading from the sky. I sit, thinking. Drinking hot water with honey and lemon. Staring out the window. It's an application of one of my newest thoughts, a principle I've always needed to learn:

When I am stressed, I should take a break to reconnect to why I'm working so hard and thereby find peace.

It's so easy for me -- for all of us, I think -- to run from one project to another. I'm frequently dissatisfied with my progress, wishing I'd made time for X, Y, and Z, feeling like I should have made the time. My anxiety mounts as I harangue myself for not doing what I said I'd do. I rush through my chores, thinking if I can't trust myself to keep my word, how can expect the trust of anyone else? or I stay home all day, and I can't even manage to get that done? I really must not deserve this life.

This is not the way to find joy.

I'm trying to find a happy middle ground between stress and idleness. Days go by when I do spend most of it in that moderate, balanced place. Praying makes a difference, certainly, as does studying the scriptures. Daily devotionals soften my heart, so that I can proceed with the daily business of an orderly home with a methodical sort of joy, instead of dropping hours of my time into the abyss of the internet, and running around like the proverbial decapitated chicken.

It's much less dramatic. The lack of drama is less emotionally stimulating, but it leaves me the energy and peace of mind to do the things that really matter. Besides, when I entrust my heart and hands to the Lord and His work, one step at a time, I find at the end of the day I have made a huge investment. The emotional -- and spiritual -- payoff is so much greater if I sacrifice the dichotomy of anxiety and procrastination for simple, steady industry. And that industriousness is so much easier to attain when, as I'm starting to get stressed, I take an interlude to remember the goal:

Men are that they might have joy.

After a sandpapery sort of morning, I needed that. I'm pausing to seek peace. I'm not getting much done, but I have set aside my to-do list for the moment. Now, I'm prepared in all facets to work with a softened heart and an open mind.

Now, I can not just work -- I can do so with joy.

Monday, October 8, 2012

purpose in Christ

So, I don't know if you know this but...

I'm a writer.

I know, I know, you're thinking, "uh, Sara? I follow your blog. That means I'm reading words that you -- wait for it -- write."

And that's certainly true. I try to channel my joyful living into this little corner of cyberspace, filling it with stacks of words and even the occasional picture.

I've been studying my purpose, though, particularly in this season of my life. Happily married, to someone perfectly willing to provide an income so that I don't have to, and with (theoretically) hours and hours of time to fill -- that begs for a mission, a purpose, some grand scheme to strive toward. So I've been pondering that.

First and foremost, I am a disciple of Christ. I'm still wrapping my brain around this one. It's so over-arching, yet so powerful. My discipleship leads me to set aside negativity, impatience, and judgment, leaving no place for it in my head or heart. As a follower of Christ, I have to replace that with hope, longsuffering, and charity. If I'm really paying attention to this, this purpose can take up a lot of my thoughts and energy in a given day. It makes my days sunshiney and delightful, because I am full of Christ and feel Him pouring His grace into my motivations and into my heart, providing tenacity and peace.

With that kind of relationship with the Master, every other purpose becomes easier. I am a wife, meaning that no, I don't get an income, but you'd better believe I have a job! The best job in the whole world: making my home a pleasant place, full of order and peace and safety. I work every day to make this little apartment a haven for Chris, this amazing man that I so deeply love. (Some days, it goes beautifully. Other days, like today, not so much. That probably explains why I'm up at 11:53, frantically blogging so I can say I put in my 15 minutes of writing today.)

When I was a teenager, and facing a bit of an identity crisis, I plead for guidance and was told "thy time shall be given to writing, and to learning much." That still holds true. I am a writer, though perhaps not an accomplished one, or an experienced one, or one who knows enough about it to teach it. But I am a writer nonetheless. In the end, I "labor diligently to write, to persuade [others] to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God." Heavenly Father has planted that emblem deep in my heart these last few weeks, and I'm trying so hard to live up to it.

Today I can say that I wrote for 15 minutes, like I promised myself I was going to do every day from now on. It's 479 words, and counting, that didn't exist in the world before. I hope that someone, somewhere, will find them and believe in Christ. He's the reason for the words, the hope in my heart, and the only way to lasting happiness that has ever worked for me. He gives me purpose and strength, whether that's because He brought my husband to me (and believe me, Chris provides so much purpose, and strength) or just because Jesus loves me, loves all of us, and wants us to know it.

Today, stress and imperfection and totally messy apartment aside, I know that He loves me.

And so, tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


I felt pretty good about starting laundry today.

But this is what happens when I don't finish it.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


The sign pictured above has stuck with me for hours now, after my long walk this morning. It doesn't warn of a fork or a dead end, just that the path curves a little. Its presence implies, "this road may require a bit of sidestepping, but please, by all means, continue on your way."

My life has been full of sidestepping moments lately. Not moments where I've had to make some sort of life-altering choice, or moments when I've had to stop dead in my tracks and turn back, reevaluating to see what I've done wrong. No, instead they have been moments where I've been able to adjust my course just slightly and still stay in motion.

Take this morning, for instance. Chris doesn't have his early class on Thursdays, leaving us time to sleep a little longer, have a leisurely breakfast, and prepare a little more thoroughly for the day in general. When I dropped him off on campus, the weekly farmers' market was not yet in full swing, so I "sidestepped." I went to the park, and spent a blissful hour exploring the winding paths and autumn-bright trees.

When my hour of free parking reached its end, I drove back to campus to find parking for the farmers' market. None of the usual free spots were available, and instead of getting frustrated about it, I "sidestepped" and found metered parking a short walk away. My dollar got me an hour of parking instead of the 20 minutes the free spots allowed, so instead of rushing through the farmers' market so I could leave again, I paid for my eggplant and made my way to my husband's office to say hello. I'm so glad and grateful that I was willing to slightly change my methods in order to still reach my original goal.

After all, I'd pay a dollar for a kiss from my husband any day!

It's just a small example, but a telling one, I think. As we are open to joy, instead of only thinking of getting things done, the love of God seeps into our lives in ways we couldn't have pictured.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


I always wondered what would happen if you just plopped down a candy machine in someone's store.

Now I know. 

The tape reads "this machine is UNAUTHORIZED," with some fine print at the bottom.

When I first saw it, I thought it was just some gimmicky "candy so good it's daaaangerous!" kind of thing. But no!

I think anything that requires a double-take justifies taking a picture.