Tuesday, January 17, 2017

the one with the rejoicing

Well, here I am - finally emerging from a long (and needed) hiatus! So many things have happened since I lasted posted: we kissed summer goodbye, cherished this fall's extra bright foliage, welcomed lots of students into our campus ministry family, turned 29 (okay, that's as of today), endured countless doctor appointments, prayed and cried and prayed some more, and finally, and I mean finally, got pregnant!! I spent the majority of November and December in a state of delighted shock and happy-exhausted-nauseous-but-crazy-happy haze. As the reality of this little miracle sets in - it's hard to even begin to express all that my heart wants and needs to. I'm fairly certain that this post will turn into a series...so prepare yourselves...but also know that I won't be offended if you don't want to follow along. 

That said, today, I'm not really going to discuss the journey or the process or the heartbreak - I'm going to start at the end; I'm going to begin with the rejoicing. 



We found out we were pregnant earlier than we should have...mostly due to my own impatience. I caved and took a pregnancy test (much to my husband's very-wise and very-careful dismay). I day-dreamed of positive pregnancy tests and plus signs more times than I care to remember but there was never a time where we even came close to a positive. It was all stark-white pee sticks for us (sorry, TMI). The first positive brought equal parts shrieking (on my part) and cautious optimism (on J's). We were worried that it could be a false positive due to some medication I was taking so I sent a photo of the test to two friends who had experienced a similar infertility journey. Both texted me with so much enthusiasm I thought my iPhone might explode like a Galaxy Note. A teeny flame of hope began to light in my heart. 

The next morning, I woke up before the sun, heart racing, and took another test. Still. Positive. This flame started to become a full-on fire at this point. I told the only person sure to give me both an accurate - albeit emotional - response: my big sister. Let's just say that when she saw those pink lines - there was zero heart-guarding going on. All the tears, all the joy, all the shock, all the relief. Watching someone you love accept the news that you can't quite believe is the best, most surreal feeling I can describe. 

Two agonizing days (and an election) later, we went in for a blood test. Around noon, the nurse called with the results and we listened - stunned - as she told us what we longed to hear. 
"You're pregnant!" she said, with a huge smile in her voice. We thanked her profusely (through the tears), got off the phone, and Jesse and I just held each other weeping and asking each other if we believed it. I'm not quite sure if we did. We thanked God through the shock and basked in the miracle.



The next few days were filled with sharing the news with the prayer warriors who stuck by us through our darkest days. Seeing their eyes light up, tears stream down their faces, and all of the finally happy prayers -- humbled us in a way I can't describe. 

Romans 12:16 says, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." I think most of us know this verse by heart but I never saw it truly come alive until we faced infertility. Just like I day-dreamed of a positive pregnancy test and just as I still dream of this sweet, sweet baby -- I also dreamed of finally telling people that God heard their prayers on our behalf. I longed to see my faith and the faith of our community become sight. I had a feeling it would be special - but nothing could have prepared me for the outpouring of love Jesse and I received as we shared this news. 

When you wait as long and as publicly as we did, there are moments of so much exposure to the struggle and your own weaknesses, that you're tempted to wonder if it's worth it. However, yet again - God taught me that vulnerability breeds closeness like nothing else. So many of you (that I hardly know!) prayed for us, shed tears for us, and have since rejoiced with us. Each of you have built my faith in indescribable ways. Through you, I dared to believe that God sees me, that God hears me, and that God cares about what I care about. After all, if we as sinful humans can have so much compassion on one another - how much more does our Father in Heaven long to "satisfy our desires with good things" (Psalm 103:5)?

For those of you still waiting, still mourning, still longing - you may not realize it - but you have a community at your disposal who longs to be there for you. Many of you have waited longer and through more trying circumstances than I can begin to imagine - and I cannot and will not pretend to truly understand your pain - but I can promise that God sees you too, he loves you too, he cares about you just as fervently, fiercely, and fully as he cares about anyone else. I hope that the story of our answered prayer gives each of you hope. I long for the day when you too experience the gift of sharing your good news, only to see your own celebration reflected in your friend's eyes. 

Here's a little video I made of some of the responses I got to witness :) And there may be a little announcement at the end that's worth waiting for...

video

All our love and all of our gratitude, 
A+J 


Photos courtesy of Fergie Medar Photography

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

the one with that 70s flair

Culottes, wide-leg pants, cropped wide-legs, or whatever you wanna call 'em -- I think I {with extreme surprise to myself} am a believer. First of all, they have the lady-likeness and breeziness of a midi-skirt with the practicality of...well, pants. Secondly, they pair well with the boxy tops that have been so popular lately. Third, they make me feel like Barbara Streisand in a 1970's dramedy. Can you say, "BONUS"?!?



Anyway, I'm excited to see how these bad boys transition into the cooler months. And did I mention my mom almost bought them too (twinsies)? Cross-generational style for the win! But to be fair, I'm fairly sure she wore them in 1975...but in a tasteful orange plaid.




For more ideas on how to style wide leg pants, check out my Pinterest board, "wear" -- I've pinned several looks on there that I'm pretty crazy about.

Peplum top: Banana Republic Factory
Culotte (similar): Banana Republic Factory
Sandals: Target
Necklace: Francesca's
Lip Color: Magenta in Sephora Long-Lasting Luster Matte

xoxo
A+J

Thursday, August 25, 2016

the one where i pulled the plug


*not a post on euthanasia* 
In mid-June, I temporarily deactivated my Facebook. It was my first time deactivating since joining Facebook back in 2006 -- you know, back when you had to have a college email address to create a profile? Over the course of my 10 year Facebook career they've invented about a thousand other ways to keep us connected.They added news feeds, opened registration to moms and grandmas the world over, created the chat and messenger features. But in my case, these tools of connection threatened to turn into something a little more sinister - a method of comparison.
So back to June: I was reading this book, and the author asked where we turn in times of anxiety and stress. She asked if we turned to social media to self-medicate - or if we turned to God. It was a question I already knew the answer to. I turned to social media. And inevitably, at the end of these scrolling sessions, I would leave feeling dissatisfied, even more discouraged, and increasingly self-focused. I saw someone's latest adventure and felt dissatisfaction for my own life creeping in. I would read someone's great, beautiful news and be tempted with jealousy. I saw another person's opinion laid bare about some news story or political event and begin to get stressed out. Isn't it amazing how many temptations can come up from a simple scroll?! 

So right then and there, I did something I had been unwilling to do for a long time -- 
I disconnected. 
{Cue my husband doing a happy dance and nearly instantaneous relief washing over me}

Here's what I discovered in my time off Facebook: 
  • The world didn't end because I didn't know about so-and-so's engagement or watch so-and-so's hilarious video. In fact, I felt free to enjoy living in my reality rather than someone else's. 
  • The birthdays I really needed to know, I remembered/saw them on Instagram/apologized if I was a little late. And guess what?? No one was angry with me! Another valuable life lesson - people aren't usually angry with you for not knowing things :) 
  • I had more time to be more present in the real world. I followed more news stories and got a little more educated on the world at large rather than the lives of acquaintances over the Internet. 
  • There are plenty of ways to reach me outside of Facebook messenger. Can we all just agree that messenger is the WORST? I'm bad enough at responding to emails in a timely fashion much less an entirely different medium that needs its own separate app!  So anyway, it was nice to finally not disappoint someone for a little while.
  • There's something liberating about not knowing. "Sorry I don't have Facebook," became my favorite sentence. All of the sudden, I was free of my 21st century, self-imposed expectation to be constantly "plugged in."  It was inexplicably freeing  find out information a little late - or even, gasp!, not at all. I found I worried about people a little less and trusted God to take care of them a little more. I prayed rather than investigated their Facebook posts. I prayed...and then maybe checked Instagram...but really and truly, my anxiety level went down. 
  • Facebook stalking is a sport I will never be in good enough shape for. I think you know what I'm talking about: Your best friend's profile leads to someone else's profile and pretty soon you're down the rabbit hole of someone's cousin twice removed who lives atop a mountain in France with her model husband and chunky baby (with dimples) - and oh look!, she's got another on the way! Before you know it you're coveting someone's life in French and needing to get open with a friend about your secret shame...but then afraid of judgement. Then, you spend the next half hour determining if your Facebook profile pictures look as cool as that couple with a baby on a european mountaintop - change it 15 times, "maybe that one pic of me studying abroad 7 years ago still looks hip?" - only to change it back to the one with you and your dog because - everyone likes a good puppy pic, right? Whew. See what I'm talking about?? EXHAUSTING. And I needed a break (ahem, repentance!) from my severe cyber-stalking.
**disclaimer: I decided to keep Instagram and Twitter. On those mediums, I follow a limited number of people and therefore, have found it less of a black-hole of comparison.**
  • Bottom line, I learned that I wanted more for my life than what social media offers. Going forward, my life should be more than a collection of well-curated images, more than witty statements made in 140 characters or less, and more than "likes." After all, I follow Jesus and I'm pretty sure a lot of people wouldn't have "liked" his posts (And believe me, I don't mean this in a high and mighty way - but rather as one of the worst offenders!). I want to do better. I want to be better. Yes, I still want good pictures, fun trips, and dare-I-say-it, approval from those I love - but I hope and pray that I get to a place where those things matter less and less to my own sense of worthiness. I hope and pray that my ego learns to takes a back seat. Who cares what image I present on the internet if the image of Christ isn't the first thing I'm portraying? How easily I had forgotten (ahem, keep forgetting) that my image and my worthiness are not measured in comparison to another person's. Rather, I've exchanged my tattered, too-stretched, ever-flawed image for the unchanging image of Jesus. I've exchanged human approval for the approval of God - and he has already deemed me good enough, valuable, and loved.
 So fast-forward to August and I'm back on Facebook but with a new-found perspective and some self-imposed boundaries. Why go back, you ask? Well, primarily, because it's helpful for my job in the ministry (we use Facebook as our primary mode of communication for announcements with our students) and also because I missed the good pieces of it - swapping life stories (and even sharing my blog) on it! So anyway, here I come Facebook! But beware, if you mess with me again, this time -- I won't be afraid to pull the plug.

What about you? Could a little Facebook break be just what the doctor ordered? :) 



Saturday, April 30, 2016

the one she needed to write

she's here

she's a woman caught between stages. she's fixed somewhere between just married and happily ever after. she's not sure who she is. she's not sure who she's becoming. she's unrecognizable. she's ever-changing. she's ever the same. she's defined by this. she's undefined. she's all the things. she's none of them. there's a chance she's crazy.

she hurts

she feels dramatic. she hates that. she wants to pray. she cries instead. when she cries, it's not soft and sweet. it's snotty, red-faced, and audible. she feels embarrassed. but she feels a little better when she stops.

she aches

she goes on living. breathing in, breathing out. she listens to friends. she congratulates good news. she smiles. she laughs. she aches and she aches. she answers 'fine.' she means it sometimes. other times, fine is a fine-line. but overall, she's fine.

she longs

she doesn't want the moon. she doesn't crave the stars. she daydreams of normal. she dreams of no-meds, no-shots, no incessant blood tests. she dreams of pink lines and plus signs, nausea and swollen ankles, booties and sleep-deprivation. she vows to savor. she vows to never complain. she makes promises she knows she can’t keep. she does it anyway.

she waits

nothing is bad. it's more the absence of good. she has seen what could-be. she has felt what might-be. she wishes it came easy. she wonders if it's her fault. she wonders if God knows, if God cares. she wonders what he's doing up there. she keeps going. she keeps praying. she keeps going.

she wonders

she meditates on His promises. she wonders what it all means. she holds on for dear life. she rides the waves of uncertainty. she fixes her eyes on the Father. she paints his or her face in her mind. wondering what kind of special human is being prepared in the heavens. she thinks it must be someone special. someone she can't wait to meet. but someone she's always known.

this is me






Thursday, March 10, 2016

the one with {london calling}


Today was one of those overcast, misty, nearly-spring days that make you want to sip something warm and stay in a cozy house all day. But the weather also served as a perfect reminder of our trip to England a few weeks ago....and also the perfect motivation to actually share about our experience abroad! One of our best friends, Steve, recently moved to the United Kingdom to serve as a missionary and he invited us to speak at two spiritual retreats - one for teenagers and another for university students. We were there for the fastest 5 days of our lives. Our visit was a joyful blur of lush English countryside, deep conversations with students and ministers alike, LOTS of tea, sermons, jet-lag, laughter, and even some London sightseeing. Meeting Christians from the UK was such an honor and even though we went to bring encouragement to our family in England - we ended up receiving far more than we gave. But isn't that the way it goes? I'm reminded of Proverbs 11:25, "those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed." Per usual, the Bible says it waaay better than I can!

Seven years ago, I had the chance to study abroad for a summer in London and be apart of the church there. It was an interesting time for me in my faith. I was wrestling with desperately wanting approval from the world but also wanting to honor God. I'll never forget the conversations I had with British disciples that summer. Hearing their deep convictions about holiness challenged me and I returned to the States much stronger than when I left. During my study abroad, I also remember being struck by the hospitality of the disciples in England. They were so generous, so welcoming and so warm to the annoying American with a whiny accent and a terrible sense of direction. But they opened up their homes and their hearts to me in such a memorable way. I felt that same spirit of hospitality this visit but I was also struck by the fervent faith of the students we met. It was amazing to see the ways God has moved in the UK over the last few years. To see 75 teenagers come to the winter retreat and over 100 students be apart of the university retreat - we were so inspired! 

Jesse and I did our best to bring some of their zeal and faith back to Boston -- and I also did my best to bring back proper tea etiquette.

Here's to a faith-filled, tea-riffic weekend. 

Cheers 
A+J
Reunited with Steve in Trafalgar Square
Officially a big fan of prayer walks in the countryside
Westminster Abbey
Making Friends Part I
Making Friends Part II
Staying Friends Part III
Friends Forever Part IV

Monday, February 8, 2016

the one with the {sneak-er} attack

Four days ago, we were celebrating the warmest winter ever with lighter jackets and (gasp) NOT boots. We were basking in the whole "Punxsuatawney Phil did not see his shadow" situation and the promise of a speedy spring arrival. Turns out Ol' Punxsuawtawney Phil totally Punx'd us (groan-worthy pun intended). We've had two snowstorms in the last four days and the weather is going to be absolutely frigid for the rest of the week. But honestly, I'm not even that upset about it. I savored this year's unseasonable warmth with every fiber of my Southern being, but I still wanted just a few snuggly, cozy snow days. And now, I've experienced the best of both worlds! I'm still hoping for an early spring, but in the meantime, I'm counting down to wearing my new favorite accessories again - the comfiest, coolest, most Dad-basic shoes on the planet - New Balance sneakers. Last year, I pinned (and drooled over) a bunch of wintery outfits with trendy sneakers while Snowmageddon 2015 piled 8 feet of snow outside my door. But this year, my sister-in-law and her husband (actual sneaker experts) bought me a pair of New Balances for my birthday in January - and surprise of ALL surprises - I was actually able to wear them before April! So for all of you out there wondering how to style your cute, adorable sneakers BEFORE Phil cashes in on his spring promises, here ya go. And for those of you stuck in an igloo - I listed some other links to adorable sneakers for your consideration and future buying pleasure. Because honestly, sneakers are the new flats. And no, I'm not taking that back.




 Purse & Scarf: Old Navy
Jeans: Banana Republic Outlet
Sweater: Gap

Other Cute Sneaker Options for your Tuesday:

New Balance 574 - Ahhh these colors, though!! Literally my kitchen - but on a shoe. I could look at all of the different vintage-feeling New Balances for hours and still want more!
Nike Elite Shinsen - So old school it's insane
Nike Air Max 1 Ultra - Available in a bajillion colors but I'm especially digging the plum. It just reminds me of something delightfully 80s and super girly all at once. 
Nike Juvenate - These have turquoise polka-dots on them. This is not a drill.

Happy Sneaker-Hunting!
xoxo
A+J


Monday, January 25, 2016

the one about a pup named {Huck}

Elise Orlowski Photography
Three months ago, this little fella came into our lives. We have learned lots of things since getting our Olde English Bulldogge -- but here are 10 of the most important.

1. There's no time to {pee} like the present -- House-training puppies is not for the faint of heart. Waking up in the middle of the night, taking him out right after he wakes up (after napping approximately every single hour), learning that barking gleefully is actually a strangled cry for emergen-pee, stopping every conversation with house-guests 10 times per hour to let pup out, clean up pee, or exclaim, "PLEASE! NOOOOO! JUST HOLD IT....aw, dangit."...and clean it up all over again.  

2. One man's trash, another {canine's} treasure -- Toys are fun, bottles are significantly MORE fun. Probably because they seem like something forbidden to the little terror. At one point in young Huck's life, he was up to at least 5 different size plastic bottles scattered around the house. He continues to sneak into the pantry, steal bottles, and trot out like he has conquered his own personal Everest. 

3. Snoring with your eyes open confuses the humans -- So does grunting like a little piggy. 



4. Who's your Alpha? -- Playing Who's the Boss? with your 11 week old puppy is a lot less exciting than it seems and you find yourself googling Cesar Milan tips and pinning puppy training tricks for a solid couple of hours per week. Eventually, he looks at you with those sad puppy dog eyes and you have to pin him down in spite of yourself.   

Huck thinks he owns the place. Specifically, my cozy, birthday fort.
5. I found the friendly New Englanders -- Usually, Bostonians follow a strict, "Don't-Smile / Don't Wave" policy when walking down the street. But ever since we've gotten Huck, all of that has gone out the window. People smile, girls shriek, and everyone reaches out their hands for a pet, snuggle, and tummy-rub. It's the weirdest, most delightful way to make friends I've ever experienced. I'm savoring my pup-ularity for as long as it lasts. 

6. The Case of the Pink Sock -- Three days ago, I lost a pink sock. Today, we thought Huck vomited  up an internal organ. And then, we realized it looked remarkably like polyester. Five minutes after sanitizing the fake-organ, Huck pranced in the room with a blue sock in his mouth. We are currently accepting Sock-Rehab Center recommendations. 

7. No lap is too small for a ever-growing, snuggle-loving bulldog -- Huck's face describes exactly how you feel when your mother has the audacity to suggest you're getting too big for her lap. 




8. If you can take your baby, I can take my puppy -- I smuggled Huck into Target. There, I said it. No regrets. 


9. It Takes a Village -- Letting a dog out every four hours is HARD. How do people with normal jobs have puppies?!! Thank goodness for friends, college students, and neighbors who have a love for you (or maybe just your freckled-nose bullie) that is completely undeserved. 

10. Puppy Paws, Wiggle-Bottoms, and Sad Eyes -- It's been a tough few months for the Ghoman family, and although puppies don't make everything better - they certainly make most things better and all things more bearable. Thanks for making our hearts happy and our home more messy, Hucklebaby. We're glad we get to keep you. 

Fergie Medar Photography
xoxo
A+J