On Death and Dying

I don't know what it is about today, but everywhere I turn, there's death. There's loss and suffering. There's pain and sadness. There's hope and life.

Many friends on Facebook are posting about lost loved ones within these past few days - at least three. And ironically, I happen to watch the Army Wives episode that is the post trying to rebuild after the bombing at the Hump Bar (season 2, episode 1). And boy is it terribly sad. 4 killed and 15 injured, 3 critical. I know it's just a TV show, but it draws real emotions. It shows how, in such a short time, life can change. Death is obviously a part of life, but that doesn't mean it's easy. Of course it's not easy. It's hard. Heart-in-a-blender-pulsed-on-high hard. How do you deal with it? There is no answer. There is no easy button. There's only ways to help cope. And sometimes that's not even enough. But we've got to remember that those lost loved ones, no matter how old, are in the glorified presence of God, at peace. They are watching over us and smiling upon us. And in the case of all of my lost loved ones, they are looking down on me, shaking their heads at me for being so utterly sad. They are in Heaven. At peace. With no worries. But sometimes it doesn't make it any easier.

So, take the time to tell your loved ones that you love them. Kiss them and hold them tight. Every day is a gift; don't take it for granted. I know I don't. And I pray. Lots and lots of prayer. And hope. Hope, no matter how bleak, will get you through the mightiest storms.

But sometimes the scariest times are thinking of losing your loved ones. That fear and anxiety. Not knowing when the last day will be their last day. And my own last day. I know that my time here on earth is also short-lived. My last day will come when it's my time. And that still scares me. I know that I will bask in His glory once I'm no longer in my physical body, but it's also the unknown. And I fear the unknown. But in increasing my faith, I know that God has His plan for me and that I will be eternally at peace in Heaven with everyone I've ever lost, and then some. But for now, right now, it scares me. So, I pray that my education in my faith increases and I will reach a point where I am no longer afraid. I am confidant I will get to that point before my time on earth is up. I just have to keep working on it. And I will. I just have to keep up my hope. And pray :).


Wow... Christmas has come and gone, once again!  I can't believe it goes by soooo fast!  It feels like just yesterday was Friday, December 21st, in which Christmas was highly anticipated coming the next week.  And now, it's already December 27th!  It definitely doesn't feel like 6 days later...

But, regardless of this all-too-fast-time-lapse, here we are, on December 27, 2012, anticipating the New Year - 2013!  It feels so weird to see that number.... But again, anyway, I will recap my 2012 Christmas holiDAZE that was absolutely fantastic! 

On December 15, 2012, we celebrated Christmas on my mom's side of the family.  I'll be honest here and say that I really do wish we had it on Christmas Eve again like we used to when my Granny was still alive.  It's just that 2 weeks into December is too soon to celebrate Christmas - we were all in shorts and t-shirts because it was pretty much 85 degrees outside, and it felt nothing like Christmas at the time.  However, we ate, and ate, and ate (as we always do) and played Train dominoes and had a blast as always. 

On December 21, 2012 (only 6 short days ago), Hilary, Josh, Colten, and I decided to trek over to the trail of lights in Austin to marvel in all of its spectacularness.  Yes, I know 'spectacularness' is not a word - but it is now! :)  Besides the freezing cold temperatures, it was amazing!  In the five years I've lived in Austin, I've never been to it - although, it didn't happen the last two years due to monetary problems with the City.  But this year, we wanted to get in the spirit and check out what had Austinites talking for months.  Ok, let's start by saying that to get there (and back), we had to travel on a BIG YELLOW BUS!  Wow - I haven't been on one of those in AGES!  Ok, maybe only for five years, but they are definitely a lot smaller than I remember them ... or maybe it's because I'm bigger than my high school years...who's counting anyway?!  Ha.  Once we got there, we had to walk for what seemed like a bazillion miles to the end of the line to get into the trail - which ended up being an hour wait time, and we began at Mo-Pac...we got our exercise, that's for sure!  Once inside, we were in the trail for an hour and a half, in amazement at all of the exquisite light displays - they were gorgeous!  I've always been a fan of Christmas lights, so it was definitely amazing to witness - and a night I'll never forget! 

After getting back on the big yellow bus to head to the car, we all headed home, in three different vehicles.  Add the freezing temps, and exhaustion, and the fact that it was 10 o'clock at night, and we were in for a looooong trip home to mom and dad's.  But, we made it, after a driver switch or two.  The next morning, we celebrated Christmas with our immediate family - Mom, Dad, Hilary, Josh, Chelsea, Colten, and myself.  What a bunch!  Everyone got what they wanted gifts-wise, and then some!  And we had lots of laughs and memories to add to our holidays together.  Then, mom wanted to take family pictures, so we reluctantly got out of our PJ's - it's Christmas...of course I wanted to stay in my PJ's!  We took the picture and then headed to town to visit with Pops since we weren't able to spend his birthday with him.  He, of course, didn't mind and enjoyed the visit, as did we!  We then headed home, where I ended up taking a 3-4 hour nap!  Holy cow!  I didn't realize just how tired I was, but it was a glorious nap.  And all the while, Colten was glued to the bed in the spare bedroom playing on his Xbox.  What would he do without it?!  Haha. 

The next day was Sunday, so we all got ready, dressed in our Sunday best-ish, and headed to church, minus Josh, because he apparently 'celebrated' a little too much the night before with Chelsea's family!  After church, Hilary headed to Victoria to meet up with a friend and the rest of us hung around the house, playing cards, which is always great fun!  Then it was time to head to Yorktown to celebrate Christmas with Colten's mom and step-dad.  They loved the gifts we gave them: 'Bubba' made out of deer horns, a cross, ritz cracker kit, photo charm bracelet, fuzzy socks (who doesn't LOVE fuzzy socks?!), and a set of taco bowls.  It wasn't much, but it was what everyone wanted, so it was great!  Colten received his camoflauge coveralls that he's been dying to get, and I don't think he's gotten out of them once!  Well, maybe a few times, and to sleep possibly.  I got a vacuum food sealer, which I tried out yesterday and it's so cool!  I've always seen them advertised on TV, but I never thought I had to have one.  It's pretty neat.  I also got a cross with the state of Texas on it, from Heather, and from Ricky and Trenton, Colten and I each got a $25 Visa gift card.  We spent the night with every intention of heading back to Schulenburg around noon.  However, we were really enjoying the stay in Yorktown, and Colten's best friend, Kyle, ended up heading over, so we spent Christmas Eve in Yorktown with Colten's family - fireworks and four-wheelers included!  It was a pretty fun day!  We ended it with watching Fireproof on Netflix and staying up until at least 2:30 watching it...whose idea was that again?!  We had to be up the next morning by 5:30 to leave by 6 and head to Schulenburg for Christmas mass.  Boy, that sure was early!  But luckily, Colten drove the entire way, so I was able to nap for about an hour, which was glorious.  Then, to church!  Church sure was pretty empty for Christmas morning!  I was definitely shocked, but many could have gone the night before and to other churches with their families in other towns...it was just kind of weird!  After church, we headed up to Pops's house to celebrate Christmas with dad's side of the family.  We had soooo much to eat, as always!  Everything was so delicious.  We were able to take Pops out for a few hours to spend with us and open gifts - I really think he enjoyed it!  After lunch, we opened gifts.  For my dad's side, we still draw names and buy for one person, which is so fun!  I wish we did it still on mom's side, but traditions are changing I guess.  Sadly.  I got a bamboo dish drying rack that I've been wanting for forever and an iTunes gift card.  I was one happy girl!  Colten got the camoflauge duffel bag he's been dying for as well.  We cleaned up!  After gifts, Pops had to get back to the nursing home, and the rest of us hung around and played Apples to Apples.  If you've never played it before, especially with a crazy bunch of people, I'd highly recommend it!  After that, Colten was bored and headed home to play Xbox - surprise, surprise, right?!  Haha.  Then, Amber, Haley, Nolan, Josh, and I headed home to mom and dad's house as well to play Xbox - Fruit Ninja, FIFA, Angry Birds, and Grand Theft Auto.  We had both Xbox's set up in the living room - it was quite a sight!  And sooo many laughs.  Great cousin bonding time :). 

Yesterday was a catch-up day...which meant I caught up on SLEEP!  I slept until NOON!  We spent the day just hanging out at mom and dad's and enjoying just relaxing with absolutely nothing to do. 

In all, we had a great Christmas holiday with lots of family!  And more importantly, Colten was blessed enough to get all five days off from work in order for us to spend every minute together.  I'm so unbelievably blessed!  And, with that, I'm very excited to jump-start the new year!  It's going to be an even better year, and I can't wait! 

Because It Still Hurts

Because it still hurts, not only me, but the entire nation, especially with the holidays days away... 

Because it still hurts, it's discussed.  It's talked about and commented on and prayed about by so many people.  

Because the Newtown, Connecticut mass murder on December 14, 2012 STILL HURTS, I can't not talk about it. 

It's everywhere.  It's in the media.  It's at work.  It's brought up by family, friends, & strangers.  It's mentioned in passing to that person you rode in the elevator with.  It's on the news.  It's online.  It's everywhere - because it still hurts.  And there continue to be many unanswered questions, many of which may remain unanswered forever.  It's just hard to say. 

But, on this subject, there have been many beautiful and glorifying tributes to the souls that were lost that day.  There is so much sadness to go around, it's sometimes hard to breathe.  Sadness for the 27 people whose lives were taken for some unknown reason.  Sadness for the families of those victims, both young and old, whom will most likely never be able to think of and experience the holidays the same.  Sadness for the survivors whom are now dealing with survivor's guilt and the trauma of witnessing such a tragedy. 

I don't watch The Voice, because, let's face it, I watch way too much TV already as it is, and I love my shows dearly, which means no room for new ones.  However, I heard about a tribute they did for the victims of the senseless shooting last week and looked for it.  How heartwrenching and truly touching is this! 

It definitely puts into perspective just how many people lost their lives that day, and just how many were young, innocent children.  This also goes to show how much of a big deal the situation is.  Like I said, it's everywhere.  And don't get me wrong, I'm definitely not complaining!  It needs to be broadcast.  It needs to touch the heart and souls of people everywhere!  Mass murders are a problem.  And those poor families... 

My heart goes out to everyone touched in some way or affected by this tragedy. 

And then you read something like this article from the Global Post, about a 6 year-old-girl who survived: 
'A brave six-year-old became the sole survivor of her first grade class at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. becasue she played dead as shooter Adam Lanza went on his rampage.  According to a pastor close to her family, the unnamed girl lay among the bodies of her 15 classmates until she thought it was safe to leave.  Pastor Jim Solomon told ABC News: "She ran out of the school building covered from head to toe with blood and the first thing she said to her mom was, 'Mommy, I'm OK but all my friends are dead."'
Just imagine what she saw in there.  Whenever she thinks back on her school memories, just imagine what her thoughts are going to be about first grade.  She was so brave and very smart to act as she was already deceased among the bodies of her friends.  The article goes on to say that the girl's family was suffering from survivor's guilt because many of their friends were not as lucky and had lost children in the tragedy.  Friendships frayed.  Tensions rising.  Although it is not the family's fault that their child survived and their friends' children didn't, but as a parent, how could you not be upset at them for being able to cling to their child when yours is dead?  Such a terrible event, of which these families will be facing the aftermath for years and years.  Read the entire article, here. 

I also read in a blog I follow of something her mother told her when she was struggling with her grief of loved ones lost, unexpectedly to a tragedy:

Life on this earth is hard, and the Heavenly Father knows that.  He loves us so much that He doesn't want us to stay here one single second longer than we have to.  When our time is up, He takes us home.  It's hard for the rest of us, but it's a gift of love and peace to those who die.  Just know that as long as you have a pulse, you have a purposeDon't take it for granted.

This will be forever burned into my soul and is such an amazing lesson to take away from such a tragedy.  I pray that some questions are able to be answered and that the families affected will be able to rebuild their lives, while grieving for their loved ones.  Prayer does wonders.  Prayer heals.  Please, pray.  Pray for the families of the victims, pray for the survivors, for the children that saw something no human should ever witness.  Pray for the community, that they may continue to band together and help rebuild around such a horrific event.  Pray for the nation, that this tragedy does not cause spontaneous reactions that will have lifelong consequences, but that leaders will make the right decisions in assisting those affected by this tragedy and to figure out where and how to help prevent this in the future, if it's even a possibility.  Pray for humankind, as a race, that we will listen to our friends and family when they reach out to us for support, help, advice, or just a shoulder to lean on - that we will take the few minutes out of our lives to listen and help in any way we can.  Pray for peace - that although their loved were ripped from their lives, that the families of those lost souls will know that their loved ones are at peace with God in His kingdom.  Pray for patience, as the nation grieves.  Pray, because it still hurts. 

The Worst of Times

Sunday morning's sermon was very eye-opening, and quite honestly could not have come at a better time!  In life, we get so caught up in the hustle and bustle, and when things don't go our way, or in some or most instances, go completely awry, we are stressed and 'freak out'.  I admit, I've had so many of these 'freak outs' that I can't even begin to count them.  But, as discussed this past Sunday, we are so burdened with tunnel-vision, that we cannot see anything outside of the terrible things that are happening to us, in which we are so quick to place blame.  Instead, we need to turn to God and praise Him.  Philippians 4:4-8 is the go-to passage for these not-so-easy-to-be-thankful moments:

Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.

We are being told to always rejoice in the Lord.  No matter the situation, especially in the worst of times, turn to him, with thanksgiving (which, let's admit, it's hard to be thankful for what we have when we're faced with hardship) and give Him thanks!  Rejoice (it's so important that it's said TWICE) in what you have been blessed with and do not worry.  'Do not be anxious about anything.'  This is probably the hardest part for me.  For example, when burdened financially - let's say quite a bit more money was taken from my account for student loans than what we were told - I asked, how am I supposed to NOT be anxious?  Of course I was anxious!  It was our finances and it put us in quite the bind.  However, I did not let it seethe within myself.  As always, the good Lord provides, and he allowed us to be helped where help could be given.  And for that, I am eternally grateful.  When school wasn't quite going as well as I was wanting, I was completely anxious, but I wasn't supposed to have been.  Instead of only seeing the hardship that was my Kinesiology education, I had to be thankful for everything else that I had and know that God would get me through it.  And boy, did he ever?!  I took a complete 180 degree turn in life and pursued my paralegal degree, and now I'm at a job that I thoroughly enjoy!  It is true - do not be anxious about anything and rejoice!  I know that it's easier said than done, but it all happens for a reason.  So, I challenge you.  We all know that tragedy and hardship strikes nearly every day - but it's up to you how you take that and deal with it.  I challenge you to write this scripture verse down and put it somewhere that you can come back to.  And when things aren't looking your way, pull it out and remember to present your requests, with thanksgiving, to God, and always think about anything that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy in your life.  Think about all of the good that outweighs the bad.  I challenge you to not let the worst of times overwhelm you.  I challenge you to pray.  I challenge you to let go, and let God. 

This sermon was such a great reminder - especially because I get so down on myself when things aren't going right.  I don't like for things to be out of my control, but that's part of life.  I logically know that I cannot be in control at all times, because only God is in control of my life.  It's hard to let go, but I'm trying more and more each and every day.  And lately, I see and know that it's working.  While I was sick these past few days, it was dreadful.  I felt miserable and had no energy whatsoever, but I was thankful for my family and my husband for helping to take care of me and provide for me in what I needed.  I was thankful for the shelter I was able to confine to and for the food I was able to eat.  There is so much good in my life, it helped my sickness be more bearable.  I have a post-it note on my computer monitor reminding me:
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is not think, not wonder, not imagine, not obsess.  Just breathe, and have faith that everything will work out for the best.  Let go and let God. 
I love seeing the reminder every single day.  There's also one particular song that comes into mind in helping deal with the worst of  times: Gary Allan's "Every Storm".

I saw you standing in the middle of the thunder and lightning
I know you're feeling like you just can't win, but you're trying
It's hard to keep on keepin' on, when you're being pushed around
Don't even know which way is up, just keep spinning down, 'round, down...

Every storm runs out of rain
Just like every dark night turns into day
Every heartache will fade away
Just like every storm runs, runs out of rain

So hold your head up and tell yourself that there's something more
Walk out that door
Go find a new rose, don't be afraid of the thorns
'Cause we all have thorns
Just put your feet up to the edge, put your face in the wind
And when you fall back down, keep on rememberin'

Every storm runs, runs out of rain
Just like every dark night turns into day
Every heartache will fade away
Just like every storm runs, runs out of rain

It's gonna run out of pain
It's gonna run out of sting
It's gonna leave you alone
It's gonna set you free
Set you free

Every storm runs, runs out of rain
Just like every dark night turns into day
Every heartache will fade away
Just like every storm runs, runs out of rain

It's gonna set you free,
It's gonna run out of pain,
It's gonna set you free

This is such a great reminder that it's going to happen - there's no way that we can go through life with no storms to weather.  But, every storm runs out of rain.  Every dark night turns into day.  It's going to run out of pain and sting.  If God puts you to it, He'll get you through it.  I personally know that the last thing you want to have lectured to you is that it'll get better, that things are going to look up.  But it's true.  It is going to get better.  You've got to keep on keepin' on and not let the 'thorns' of life keep you down.  Lean on your friends, family, and most importantly, God, and you'll get through the struggles of life.  Because part of living life is enduring the storms that are placed in our path.  You've got to enjoy life and make the most of what you're given, and this song is definitely motivation to do so.  Don't wait for your life to start, because in doing so, your life turns into waiting for reality to happen.  And what kind of life is that? 

So, in the worst of times, rejoice in God and give thanks for what you've been blessed with.  And remember, every storm runs out of rain. 

Newtown, Connecticut Shooting

Today is another sad day in American history, for lack of a better word. Hmm...here are a few more: senseless, stupid, disaster, selfishness, tragedy, devastation, horrific, terrifying, unnecessary. Need I continue?

And I thought I was having a rough day this morning. Little did anyone know that 26 lives would be taken, 20 of them children under the age of 10, by a monster. For the 13th time this year, a crazed human being has successfully ruined the lives of many families.  View the detailed list here.

This morning, a 20-year-old boy took it upon himself to murder 27 people. Of those, 20 were innocent, naive children who will not be celebrating Christmas with their families. As one young man put it, "Hey you. You. The Ones that left us today. The ones that experienced the worst that humanity can do. You little angels who closed your eyes in a living Hell this morning. I'm so, so very sorry that this world didn't give you a chance. Even though you didn't even have a chance to realize how big the world is, today, the sad end of your lives affected MILLIONS of people. It's probably of little comfort to you at all, but tonight in America, Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia...everywhere...mommies are holding their kids a little tighter and a little longer. Daddies are listening to their kids and showing them more love. You twenty little souls were set free this morning, and there is nothing good that can be said about that. But because you left, and the way you were taken, millions of kids still here on earth tonight will be shown more love than any other ordinary Friday night. Your short and precious lives had a value and a purpose. Godspeed."

Couldn't have said it better myself. These families have been affected to the bone, to their very core. These families (of all the victims) will never have another traditional and joyous holiday season. These families will be reminded every year at this time of what was ripped from their lives - their loved ones. I pray with all that I am, that the loved ones of the departed are touched by God's healing hand and know that the victims are now at peace in His presence. I pray for their heartache to be lessened to allow them to breathe and to focus on rebuilding their new lives. I pray for humanity - that those who are filled with hatred and the need to place torture upon others will be placed in the path of righteousness and not harm innocent individuals. I pray that, as a nation, we support those affected this year by such tragedies. I pray for healing. I pray for guidance. I pray for God to be implemented back into our society. I pray.

None of what has happened makes sense. It almost doesn't seem real. Is this actually happening?! Yes. It is. Sadly, it is impossible to feel safe anywhere anymore, not even the movie theater or an elementary school. Sadly, there are sick individuals who seek attention and to cause pain and suffering. Sadly, it's not quite as shocking, each time a mass shooting occurs.

And really?! Small children?! I'm angry. I'm angry that the shooter was willing to take his own life and harm so many innocent human beings. I'm angry that this is becoming a norm in our society. And I'm scared. I'm scared for our future as a nation. This definitely draws my heart and soul closer and closer to God. For with Him and through Him, all things are possible. Even the healing process for those whose lives will forever be tainted with the bloodshed of their loved ones. It's possible. My heart is broken tonight, but let the healing begin. As long as it may take.


I have lived through 1/1/1, 2/2/2, 3/3/3, 4/4/4, 5/5/5, 6/6/6, 7/7/7, 8/8/8, 9/9/9, 10/10/10, 11/11/11, and now 12/12/12.  I guess for some people, these dates are significant and mean that the day is extra special.  I don't know.  For me, it's just another day.  Just becasue it's the same repated number - it has no special meaning to me, for I know that God performs miracles on any day of the year, not only on these repeated number days.  It's 'cool' I guess, but other than that, there is no significance.  I admit, I was keen on my driver's license expiring on 10/11/12 (that's cool too, right?), but other than this so-called 'cool factor', it meant nothing.  I perceive these repeated dates the same way.  To me, it's just another day.  Today, I woke up late (as usual), hurriedly got ready for work, got to work on time (yipee!), and performed my duties at work as usual.  Then, I will be going to my second job, as usual for a Wednesday, and then I'll go home to my husband.  I don't take any of these things for granted - I know that I am blessed to be able to do each and every one of these things, but again, there's no significance that today brings, being 12/12/12.  I believe dates like these are played up by social media.  People also tend to pick dates like these for their wedding day, maybe they perceive it as a lucky day?  Colten and I married on 11/12/11, and I cannot even begin to count the number of times we were asked, "Don't you want to have your wedding one day sooner, so you can be married on 11/11/11?"  Umm, no, but thanks for asking!  The date we set was special to us, and we weren't about to change it just to jump on the 'cool' bandwagon.  Plus, I believe everything worked out the way it was supposed to that week.  If we had changed it (although there was absolutely, positively, no freakin' way we would've even thought about it), it would've burdened people, and that 'special' week (as I now call it) would not have played out as it did.  What's meant to be will be. 

Again, I admit it's 'cool' that it won't happen again for another 1,000 years, but I'll just simply smile about that and move on with my day. 

"Ladies and gentlemen, it's 12.12.12 and...... Nothing happened," Aazief Khalid of Malaysia tweeted Wednesday. 



Perusing Facebook (I know, I know...), I came across a friend's post she shared of her husband's blog  today focusing on Advent.  This completely merges with my recent studies during this Advent season, preparing my heart, mind, and spirit to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Please take the time to be inspired by The Good Rev. Mack's look into Advent.  It's most definitely an inspiration!

And today's prayer:

Jesus, you are the good Shepherd, caring for me and giving me rest, correcting me when I stray, tending my wounds and protecting me from my enemies.  I confess that I am weak-willed and prone to wander.  Yet you never give up on me.  You refuse to abandon me - even when I have brought calamity upon myself. 

Teach me the joy of surrender and the blessings of obedience.  Help me to willingly submit to your lordship in every area of my life, to obey your teachings.  Guide me in doing the work you have set out for me to do.  I love you.  My hope is in you, my trust is in you.  May I learn to discern your voice so that I may live in obedience to your will right up to the day of your glorious return.  In your name I pray.  Amen.

Have a blessed day!

Welcome to the World of Photo Gifts

I just recently became more aware of just how awesome sites like snapfish.com and shutterfly.com are!  I know, I know...I'm way behind.  But, in my defense, I've only recently gotten married, and it would be a little silly to have Christmas cards with only my face on them, which is what got me into these sites this year.  Don't get me wrong...I love all of the different Christmas cards that are printed and ready for you to purchase - I know how much time and effort it takes to do.  However, this year, I wanted to be different.  I wanted to send out cards this year with pictures (originally, only one picture...) of Colten and I, one year being married!  So, I decided to buckle down and get serious about it, which really meant that we had to figure out a day that Colten could go home to Schulenburg with me so that we could get my mom to take the pictures.  However, this wasn't as difficult as I anticipated, as we decided early enough when we would be around anyway, at Thanksgiving.  That week(end) was so chaotic and crazy - with lots and LOTS of driving (over 250 miles), but the picture taking was a stress reliever and was so much fun!  But who am I kidding, my family is ALWAYS fun!  And who wouldn't have fun 'riding a haybale'?!?!  I mean, come on!  Haha. 

Anyway, we decided on which looked best and what we wanted the final product to sort-of look like...and voila!  Thanks to my amazing parents for loaning us the money since Cyber Monday provided great deals on Christmas photo cards online!  :)  They came in the mail a few weeks ago and we absolutely love them!  They turned out great, and they show us as a couple and our individual crazy personalities.  Yes, my friends, Colten is riding a haybale on our Christmas card.  How much more country can you get?!  Haha.  It was a blast, and definitely will be another memory added to our family fun. 

But, now back to the websites that provide such great products!  Although we ordered our cards on cyber Monday and got great deals, I've been getting coupons and discounts in my inbox since and it's out of control!  Luckily, my cousin found a fantastic app that lets you create different word pictures, and it's come in quite handy (let's just leave it at that at the off-chance the gift receivers read this entry!).  So, I've used these sites several more times since purchasing our Christmas cards (which will be going in the mail on Wednesday...only because I refuse to use Forever Stamps and want those pesky Christmas Baubles!), as recent as today!  50% off photo cards, site-wide, 30% off home decor, 50% off calendars, and FREEE SHIPPING.  Hello there, photo gifts!  So, I purchased another photo gift today and anticipate its arrival, as it uses a picture I created with the previously-mentioned app!  We'll see how it goes!  I see myself using these sites many, many more times throughout the year and during the Holidays!  What better gift than a personalized photo gift?!  Definitely sentimental and thoughtful, I must say! 

Happy Shopping! 

Advent Season

This time of year, we look forward to Christmas - to the celebration of the birth of Christ.  So, I will take this time to now bask in the presence of His glory. 

I recently purchased a devotional for this advent season, wishing and hoping to deepen my knowledge of this season and the true meaning of Christmas.  I'm not sure if it's just the way I'm perceiving and absorbing Scripture these days (it's definitely deeper than I used to!), but I was entranced with only the first entry! 

It is only in Him that we find our true dignity and purpose as people.  He is the author and finisher of our faith, the One who remains faithful even when we are faithless.

How true is this?!  This is just one of the many glorious things that I am very grateful to be a part of.  Just think of someone who remains faithful when we aren't.  Someone who will be there with open arms to receive you when you've been absent from the relationship for years and hasn't moved on.  That's right - no one comes to mind except our Savior.  Jesus Christ wants everyone.  He wants to accept you, me, my neighbor, your friends, the homeless, the non-believers - everyone!  No matter how long you've been away or haven't come to Him yet, he is waiting to welcome you into His loving arms.  I'm blessed beyond words. 

Popping the Question

Yes, it's DECEMBER already!  And with that comes commercial after commercial regarding 'that special someone' and gift giving, etc. etc.  Most of these commercials are jewelers - of course!  This time of year also brings about the cliche of proposing during the holidays.  DON'T DO IT! 

I'm not saying I don't believe in proposing to your significant other when you feel it's right and you're ready, but I have a few reasons why proposing this time of year might not be the best idea.  I've done a little research into it, and I've come up with three main reasons why NOT to propose during the holidays.

1. Pressure

With the abovementioned commercials constantly hammering away at your subconscious, there is a lot of pressure to get your special someone something, well, SPECIAL!  And a special gift is important, as it will be memorable and she/he will be very grateful for your thoughfulness in taking the time to do something special or worthwhile instead of just something practical or impersonal.  With that said, the pressure of the commercials and retailers reminding you that the gift needs to be special, too many people give in and decide to make the holidays the time to pop the question to their loved one.  Don't give in to the pressure! 

2. Predictable

Proposing to your special someone during the holidays is also very predictable!  Yes, guys, she sees the same commercials that you have, and if you're at that point in your relationship, how is she NOT thinking about it?  That's true, she probably is, but that's not because of the commercials and pressure.  It's because she is at that point in your relationship in which she can picture spending the rest of her life with you!  I promise you, it's not because of the holiday season and the special 'air' about this time of year.  Don't be predictable!  Don't fall into the cliche that so many others do!  If she's the love of your life, make it a surprise!  You both deserve to have your own day.  Don't mask your engagement with the stress and bustle of the holiday season. 

3. Timing is Everything!

Don't just fall into the trap of being guilted into propsing this time of year.  Timing is everything, in that you both will have the story to tell your future children, grandchildren, and other relatives for years and years.  Make it a special day that otherwise is overlooked.  Show her that she means so much to you not only during the holiday season, but every other day throughout the year.  I'm all for giving her a special gift for Christmas, but proposing shouldn't be it.  Just think about it, how are you going to top that gift next year?!  Be creative and make it a surprise!  Don't be a cliche.  Don't give in to the retailers' tricks.  If you purchase that diamond ring during the holidays because it's on sale or you gave in, fine.  But don't propose until the new year.  You'll be grateful later! 

Thinking of this also surfaces memories of my proposal, which I absolutely cherish!  It was April 19, 2010, and I had gotten out of class early (Contracts with Duane Crowley - loved that class, hard as it was!).  I was very exhausted and had gotten home to Colten, looking forward to just relaxing.  But noooo...Colten told me to get dressed (wasn't I already?? yes..but not well enough apparently).  He then drove out to Mount Bonnell and had me climb ALL those stairs!  But it was all worth it!  We went to a quiet corner and then he gave his speach - he was nervous and kept stuttering - it was so cute!!  He brought me to tears immediately, as he is not usually so open with his emotions and feelings.  Then, he got down on one knee and pulled out the ring!  I said yes immediately and gave him the biggest hug ever!  It was amazing.  He later admitted that he was nervous because he wasn't sure of what my answer would be - sooo cute!  Then, fireworks went off across the lake (completely unplanned but very special nonetheless)!  It was dark by this time, as it was after 8:00, and it was so romantic just overlooking the water and not having any other care in the world.  I was so happy.  Then we headed to the car to make several phone calls.  My parents were very happy for me, as were my brother and sister and grandparents!  His family was happy as well.  It was amazing!  And luckily, it was still early enough to head over to our favorite restaurant (Olive Garden of COURSE!) for dinner.  It wasn't anything overly dramatic or super planned with lots of expensive gestures - it was just him expressing his love for me in a very intimate and romantic way on just some random day when he couldn't wait another day without knowing whether or not I'd spend the rest of my life with him.  And it was amazing.  And it was our day.  The hardest part was waiting a year and a half to become his wife!  But it was all worth it, and a story I will always cherish.  It's 'our' story.  <3>

Give Thanks

So, I'm a little late, but what else is new?! Ha! Thanksgiving has come and gone, and I was sure to take a moment to reflect on everything that I am thankful for. Since November has started, I've seen post after post referring to things people are thankful for each day of this month. I didn't participate (let's face it, I probably wouldn't keep up with a daily post anyway...), but that doesn't mean I'm any less grateful or thankful than everyone else! So, now I'll post 30 things I'm thankful for in my life, in no particular order:
1. Health - I have my share of problems regarding my health, but for the most part, I'm pretty darn healthy! I don't have any major disorders or diseases, and what I am hit with, I am able to handle and get better in a flash (although some 'flashes' take a bit longer than others)
2. Mind - In the field I currently work in, I am reminded on a daily basis of some people's reality, and it's very scary. I am truly thankful that I am of sound mind. I do not have an alternate reality that only I live in, and for that, I am truly blessed and eternally grateful.
3. Work - For some, it takes months, and even YEARS, to find a job with their degree. Nowadays, it's not just about going to college and obtaining a degree - you have to also join the hundreds of thousands of people on the job hunt in order to put that degree to use! I am forever grateful that I was fortunate enough to have landed a job within only 2 months of graduating college.
4. Memories - Just think if memories did not exist... Seriously, contemplate that for a second, or even a few minutes. Now, it would be terrible, wouldn't it?! Memories are sacred moments of time that you can reflect on at any time. Especially in losing loved ones, memories help us to remember them and to cherish the time you spent with them, no matter how long ago.
5. Family - I could fill a 500-page book writing about my family and how important and influential they are to me. No matter the situation, they are always there for me 100% and support me through it all. Whether it be financially, spiritually, emotionally, physically - they're there. Always. And always (well, almost always) without question. I know that no matter what I'm faced with in this lifetime, I can count on my family to be there to face it with me: good or bad. We enjoy the happiness life has to offer, and we face the saddness that sometimes succumbs us. Not everyone can say that about their family. This world can be pretty scary, especially if you have to face it alone. On the darkest of days, my parents and siblings were there to show me the light. They always helped me to see the silver lining of any situation.
6. Food - As anyone who knows me, I love me some food! And usually, I'm not very pick, either. There are so many unfortunate souls that do not have enough food to nourish their bodies, and my heart breaks for them.
7. Rain - I know that here in Texas, it doesn't happen very often anymore, but I'm just thankful it happens at all! It was scary for a while there, but rain has nourished the earth once again, allowing trees and plants to flourish.
8. Holidays - Although they are stressful, I absolutely love the holidays and am thankful to get to spend them with loved ones! My favorite holiday is Christmas, which is no secret! I love the excitement of putting up the Christmas tree and decorating until I collapse. I love the colors and SO.MUCH.GLITTER that comes with it all. Then there's the shopping to put a smile one someone else's face! So joyous! I also love the cold that comes with it. There's just something in the atmosphere during the Christmas holidays that is utterly amazing - there are just no words. It's cold, there's Christmas spirit in the air, everyone is bustling about making plans and getting together, snuggling in front of the fireplace, watching Christmas movies....I could go on forever! I love it.
9. Friends - I've struggled with this topic for a little while, and off and on throughout my short 24 years, but I am truly thankful for the friends that I have. No matter the situation, I always have a friend that I can turn to when I'm in need, even if it's just for support. Although there isn't just one friend for everything, I have a lot of friends for it all! And for them, I am thankful. Let's face it, it takes a lot to put up with me ;).
10. Post-It's - I recently posted on Instagram my love for post-it's, and it's true: I love them! I'm so thankful for them because they help make my life [and job] so much easier! Most of the information I need to jot down is temporary - and what better way to do so than on post-it notes?! I obviously can't think of a better way.
11. Music - Without music, life would be boring (yes, I know not everyone has the luxury of listening to music)! It definitely livens up my life. It also helps to calm me down or get my mind off of things. Whether I'm mad, happy, sad, upset, silly - there's always a genre I can turn to in order to help with my mood. It's glorious!
12. God - God is my savior! Without Him, I do not exist. I do not eat, breathe, sleep, cry, or dream. He puts thorns in my life to allow me to struggle and become of better character. If He puts me to it, He gets me through it! I do admit that some challenges are way harder than others, but I always come out of the other side thankful for the storm. There's a reason for everything, and although it may be hard to accept sometimes, God has His plan for me, and I accept that and put my total faith in Him. I continue to grow closer to Him and allow Him to light my path in this journey through life.
13. Heart - I have a BIG one! I love so many people and so many things, and when someone is down on their luck or struggling to complete even the easiest task, my heart breaks. My heart feels for homeless people and animals alike, for those in need of food, that live in poverty, those stricken with any type of medical disease, for the lonely...I'm making myself sad just typing them all out! The list goes on and on. However, even though it causes sadness, I'm thankful for my big heart. It allows me to feel and give to those that otherwise are neglected. I do what I can when I can, and it's very rewarding.
14. Technology - Who knew that the invention of the computer would have come so far in such a short amount of time? Everything in life has its pro's and con's, and technology is not exempt from that, but technology makes our lives so much easier and more efficient. I realize that it's the cause of our fast-paced world, but there must be progress in the world, and technology continues to progress year after year! I mean, come on...I can see someone that is miles and miles away! I live two hours from my parents, but I can see them anytime I want (mostly anytime I want...as long as we're both connected to wi-fi haha). That's special. And a blessing when you're homesick or have to be away from your loved ones, whatever the reason.
15. Social Media - This kind of goes hand in hand with the technology, but I am thankful for social media. It helps to keep in touch with those we would otherwise lose contact with, and it also is quite entertaining! Additionally, it makes getting news out to people faster.
16. Marriage - We spend our lives in search of that one person we are going to spend 'forever' with. I am eternally thankful to have found my 'someone'! We've had our share of ups and downs, but Colten truly makes me a stronger person and is the most amazing husband I could have ever wanted for myself. I am blessed to have been able to marry him and continue our lives together.
17. Life - I am thankful to be alive! Every day is a blesing and we should cherish it as such. It's so easy to take for granted each and every day, but it is so important!
18. Pictures - The art of photography and being able to capture a moment in time is precious! I admit that I am addicted to photography and am always in love with the ability of those special moments we hold in our hearts to be displayed for all to see.
19. Small Towns - Growing up, I was not thankful for this, but as I've matured and grown up, I am truly thankful for small towns! The city is fast-paced and impersonal. Yes, everyone knows your business before you do in a small town, but it has charm and comfort that you can't find anywhere else.
20. Extended Family - My extended family is also there for me and my immediate family, no matter what. We all have our differences, but when it comes down to the wire, they're present and extending a hand wherever it's needed (most of them anyway). I also am thankful that our extended family gets together for every Holiday throughout the year. Being surrounded by family so often throughout the year is something that many people cannot relate to. I know that it's precious and I absolutely love that I'm a part of such a great tradition. Of course there's always the dullest crayon of the bunch, but we're all family and I love everyone in mine!
21. Blogging - Obviously, I do have somewhat of a life and cannot live on my blog each and every day, but I am thankful for the ability to share my life story and experiences with others in a way that I wouldn't be able to without my blog. I mean, face it, my life would suck without me ;). *see what I did there? HA!*
22. Books - Oh my word - what would I do without books?! Whether it be a physical book or an ebook (which my love for grows stronger every day), I am thankful for authors and publishers that grant me the opportunity to dive into someone else's life for a little while-whether it be for a few chapters or a couple hundred pages-and forget my reality just for a bit. Most of the time, it helps me to appreciate all that I have and the drama-free(ish) life that I live. I'm a book whore - and I love it!
23. Country - This topic is two-fold. I am thankful for THE country - as in, the land with open space and cows and chickens and sky and trees (a.k.a where I grew up). It is so peaceful to spend time in the country where there are no stresses to worry about: parking, traffic, noise, strangers, etc. I am thankful for every day that I get to go back to that place and run wild and free (okay, we all know there is no running involved...). The second part of this is that I am thankful for country MUSIC! It pretty much sums up life. Love, hate, life, death, tragedy, cheating, breaking up and making up, cowboys and pick-up trucks...you name it and there is a song for it! It always puts me in such a great mood. Yes, I'm a country girl and damn proud of it! *no matter which city I may live in*
24. Little Things - I am truly thankful for the little things in life. I don't have to live an extravagent life and take a zillion trips across the world to be happy. I love living a simple life. And I cherish the little things.
25. Laughter - We all know there are many days that just don't go your way. We all have them, most more frequently than we'd like. But laughter always brightens my day. Whether it be at the office or at home or just a phone call, laughing always makes me feel better, and for that, I am thankful!
26. Faith - Without faith, I would not put such trust in God, and I would be miserable. I am thankful that I am filled with faith in God that He has a plan for me to live a happy and prosperous life.
27. Education - As much as I disliked it, I am thankful for the education that I've had the opportunity to possess. Without it, I would not be at a job that I love with such amazing co-workers. It wasn't the path I saw for myself the entire time, but it was all worth it in the end!
28. Love - Without love, how happy can you truly be? Whether you love your friends, family, neighbors, pets, spouse, significant other, God, educators, co-workers.... love is fragile and should be cherished. Love is abundant in my life in every aspect that I can think of, and for that, my friends, I am utterly thankful - words cannot express just how much.
29. Crazy - "Crazy?" you ask? Yes, crazy. I am thankful for crazy. Not the mentally crazy that you're psychotic and don't know what you're doing, but the crazy that allows life to be more than a boring routine of work, home, sleep, repeat. I'm thankful for the crazy that is in my life. One thing that comes to mind when I think of 'crazy' is my family. We are crazy. We will act crazy, say crazy things, DO crazy things, it's all there. And I love it! And it's amazing. And I am thankful for crazy.
30. Unanswered Prayers - We all have those prayers we make when we think we know exactly what would make us happy at that particular time, but I'm thankful for those prayers that went unanswered. I will reiterate that everything happens for a reason, and what we think may make us happy may turn around on us and make us totally miserable. God has His plan, and if the prayer went unanswered, it was for a reason. Without everything I asked for in life, I am truly happy with who I am today and where I am in my life. I'm not perfect and I don't have a perfect life - believe me! But I'm happy. And who knows if I'd be happy of those prayers would've been answered? I don't, but I'm thankful for them.

Of course I am thankful for much more than this, but I feel this is a great list that includes a wide variety of things I am thankful for. I'm also thankful for the holiday of Thanksgiving, in which we are especially reminded to be thankful for what we have. It's easy to forget sometimes...we all do it. So, give thanks and be appreciative of everything you are blessed with throughout the year! I know I am and will.

Proud to be a Lady Horn

The Schulenburg Lady Horn Volleyball team will be playing for the STATE CHAMPIONSHIP tomorrow morning!  The first time in the school's history! 

How amazing is that?!  I know that while coaches push their athletes and train them - they all have one goal in mind: State Bound.  However, Schulenburg's Lady Horn athletic program has come up shy for....well, forever!  But all that's changed this year, and it's so exciting to see it happen!  Although I couldn't go to the State Semi-Finals yesterday afternoon, I was able to watch it on the computer - those girls looked totally in control!  I would've been freaking out.  Seriously.  It's STATE for the first time ever!  But they kept their cool and won in 5 sets.  Talk about a nail-biter!  Although I don't know most of the girls on the team (they were like in elementary school while I was in high school!), I'm very proud of what they've been able to accomplish thus far.  No matter the outcome tomorrow, they've made history!  I'm also so excited and thrilled for coaches Donald and Melissa Zapalac.  They've been coaching Lady Horn Volleyball since I can remember, and they do such an amazing job!  They've definitely earned it and all deserve to be in that match tomorrow.  I can't wait to watch. 

However, this also surfaces so many memories of my high school athletic years.  From simple district games (every game is important!) to the Regional Tournament...they've all been on my mind the past few days.  Am I jealous?  No.  I'm so happy for those girls and I would've loved to have been able to play in the State Tournament, but I have my own memories, and I wouldn't trade them for anything.  It also brings up my love for the game.  I absolutely love volleyball.  So, it's kind of crazy that I passed up a chance to play collegiately, isn't it?  Well, I don't know.  It was such a hard decision to make as high school graduation loomed over me.  My family and I toured Oklahoma City University (Go Stars!) with the possibility of playing on their team, but I had reservations about it.  Did I really want to move to Oklahoma?  Did I really want to pursue collegiate volleyball?  Did I really want to continue on the path that so many thought I'd be taking?  Why wouldn't I?!?! 

Well, that's a little harder to answer than I thought.  There was just something in me that wanted more.  I wanted to be more than volleyball.  Let's face it, what happens after college when volleyball is over?  I wanted to invest in my future - my entire future.  I wanted to live my life and do what was going to make me happy.  Did I hurt people in the process? Yes.  Did I waste my parents' money during all those years of club volleyball?  Probably (and I'll always feel terrible about that).  But those are memories that I cherish dearly.  And I made great friends along the way!  No way would I have been as good as I was in high school if it wasn't for playing club ball.  And my memories wouldn't be the same.  So, to my parents, I am forever grateful and thankful for all of the time and money that went into club volleyball.  I know I disappointed them with my decision not to play collegiate volleyball, and that still hurts.  But I absolutely love where I am in my life and the people in it.  If I would've gone to Oklahoma, my life would be completely different.  But now, I have a job that I love in a field I've always been drawn to but only decided to pursue these past few years.  I have an amazing and loving husband that I cherish and adore.  I have a supportive family unit that I love more than anything.  I have an amazing life that I wouldn't trade for the world!  And I know it's impossible to know what my life would be like right now if I had chosen OCU, but that's all in the past now.  It's been a rough past four or five years with so many ups and downs, but I've become a stronger person for it and am on my way to bigger and better things!  It's all part of the learning process and growing up.  But everything I've ever done, accomplished, and failed at has played an important role in shaping me into the woman I am today.  Have my dreams changed?  Yes.  Have my goals for myself changed?  You betcha.  It happens.  Life happens.  Life changes.  Constantly.  But do I still think about it from time to time?  Absolutely.  Do I still love the game?  You better believe it!  But do I regret it?  Absolutely not. 

Some things are hard to explain, and that decision not to play is sort of one of them.  But I wouldn't trade where I am in my life for anything.  And I could play that oh so popular 'What If' game, but I won't.  What's the point?  I'm not unhappy.  I look forward to where my life will go from here, but I will always have those amazing sports memories to reflect back on and cherish.  Let's face it, there were some great moments!  I loved the adrenaline that a 5-set match brought.  I loved game days and the feeling that the world seemed to stop during game-play.  I loved the warm-ups to music in the gym.  I loved the coaching staff and things they tought me about life as well as the game (I think about Coach Zapalac from time to time, and I'm so thankful to have had such a great coach all those years!  He really taught me a lot, and he believed in me in ways no one else had ever done...it's a relationship that's hard to explain, but those athletes with a love for the game they're playing and great coaching to help along the way know exactly what I'm talking about).  I loved all of it (well, not 'all' of it...those workouts and mile-runs during two-a-days were NO fun!).  But it was high school, and life goes on past high school, despite the thoughts of several people who think high school was the best time of their lives.  I refuse to allow that to be the best time of my life.  Life moves on.  With or without you.  It's up to you if you decide to move on with it.  But that doesn't mean I have to forget those great moments!  I will always have them to reflect on, but I love my life.  I love where I am.  And I wouldn't trade it for the world.  Oh, memories.  What great things! 

In Just One Year

In just one year, my life has completely changed.

This simple sentence is definitely an understatement, to say the least.  My life has DRASTICALLY changed in just one short year.  This time last year, I was so bogged down with many milestones that were about to happen in my life:  I was preparing for my wedding that would happen in 5 short days, working towards college graduation in a month, pursuing an internship with the Office of the Attorney General, and working.  That's a LOT to have to keep up with, but I must admit, I did it pretty well and am very proud of the outcomes :).

However, little did I know that my life would change even more in a short amount of time.  Early in the afternoon, on November 7, 2011, I received a call from my husband-to-be.  He told me that instead of going to class later that evening, I needed to go home.  Now, this was a very strange request.  He knew how important school was to me and how missing even one class could be detrimental to my final grade - and it was a class I was not particular keen on.  Plus, he wouldn't give me any additional details - just that I needed to go home after I left my internship for the day.  I couldn't just leave it at that, though.  I also could tell in his voice that something was terribly wrong.  Little did I know just how wrong it was.  I asked a few more questions, and he told me that he received a phone call from my mom about my grandmother.  I immediately hung up the phone with him and called my mom.  She asked who had told me, and I told her that Colten did.  How was he supposed to keep that from me??  Especially after my questions - I was not going to give up until he told me what was going on.  Upon the realization that 'something' was wrong, my mind automatically ran through a list of terrible things that could have happened and the several people I cherish dearly in my life that it could have happened to.  I needed to know.  My mom informed me that my grandma had passed away.  What?!  This couldn't be right.  She was fairly healthy for her age and had been doing fine a few days prior when I had seen her just the weekend before.  My mind just couldn't fathom the information I was trying to process.  My mom continued to explain what had happened - my grandparents were doing what they loved most: taking care of the farm.  They were attempting to give a sick cow a shot.  Their dog could sense the cow's agitation (of trying to be penned up and being sick - I'd be pretty agitated, too), and went after the cow to protect my grandparents.  They loved that dog, who returned that love towards them.  The cow got loose and took after my grandma, who was head-butted in the chest and died.  At least, that's the information we had.  To this day, no one really knows exactly every detail of what had happened, but we have closure, and it's pretty close to the truth from what we can tell.  My grandpa held her tight, begging her not to leave him - that he needed her and loved her so much.  He could not go on without her.  In the midst of everything, my grandpa had been knocked to the ground.  After an amount of time that no one knows, and to be honest, it doesn't even matter, he drew up enough strength to pull himself up and make the trek to the house to call 911.  My grandmother was pronounced dead on the scene.

Upon hearing the news, I lost it.  I completely and utterly lost it.  I couldn't think, I couldn't accept the news, I couldn't even breathe.  Granny was gone, and Pops had witnessed it all.  They had been married for over 50 years, and I cannot imagine, even to this day, the emotional toil this has put him through.  How do you move on from that?  How?  Why?  Why her?  Why then?  So many questions - of which none matter.  It was her time, and God called her to her eternal resting place.  Immediately, I went into my boss's office and just broke down all over again.  I had to tell her the story of what I couldn't, and wouldn't, accept.  How could I?  I was preparing to marry my best friend in 5 days and it was just a sick joke!  Only, it wasn't a joke.  It was far from a joke.  No joke at all.... none.  My boss immediately told me that she was driving me home (obviously, I was in NO shape to drive), and a co-worker followed us in her car.  I got home and immediately hugged my fiance.  I was crying; he was crying; my boss was crying.  It was a mess.  My boss left and then it was just us.  My body was in shock.  My mind was in shock.  Colten didn't know what to do.  What do you do in that situation?  What do you say?  I don't know.  I still don't know.  But it didn't matter.  I knew that I had to get home.  Everyone kept telling me that I didn't need to be there right away - there wasn't anything to be done anyway, but I needed to be home with my family.  I had to see Pops.

The next few hours were a blur.  I hadn't packed anything to go home for the wedding, and I had a LOT to pack.  But I had way less time than I had planned, so I hurriedly gave Colten a list of things we needed for the wedding and prayed that we wouldn't forget anything important.  Then we packed for the funeral.  Have you ever packed for your own wedding and a family member's funeral at the same time?  I didn't know what to feel or how to feel it.  I wanted to be excited for my upcoming nuptials, but Granny had just died.  My wedding didn't seem to matter much.  We packed up, grabbed the dog, and headed home.  Colten, bless his heart, got me home as fast as he could - we even encountered the sheriff for speeding, but were let go with just a warning.  It was an emergency.  I had to get home.  Upon arriving at my parents' house, there were no words.  One look was all it took and I was in my mom and dad's arms crying.  We stood on the porch for a bit to gain our composure since Pops was in the living room on the other side of the door.  Was he okay?  Well, of course not!  How could he be okay?  I had to see him, but I had to allow myself to gain some kind of composure before going inside to give him a hug.  While on the porch, my cousin arrived at the house.  We were all hurting in the same way, and we all had the same questions, but there was nothing to say or do in that moment.  We just all stood on the porch looking around like zombies with tears in our eyes.  We obviously had not accepted and could not believe what had happened earlier in the day.  But after a little while, I couldn't take it anymore.  I went inside and lost it all over again upon hugging my grandpa and seeing how much physical and emotional pain he was in and would be in for some time.  I don't remember who else was at the house at that time - the number of visitors that week were countless, but I know who all showed up, just not 'when' they showed up.  It was a long night, but we somehow survived.  Plans needed to be made for Granny's funeral, and it couldn't wait.

Throughout that day and the next, it didn't occur to me to cancel the wedding for now and reschedule for another time - to be honest, my wedding wasn't on my mind at all.  Memories of Granny flashed through my head, and I couldn't get past the pain I saw in my grandpa at every second.  So, plans were made, and we held the rosary on Wednesday evening.  So many people showed up to support us and to give their condolences for our loss.  Pops did astounding.  He made it through the entire thing, and held up better than I honestly thought he would.  I caught myself a few times feeling guilty because, at times throughout the rosary/wake (before the actual praying of the rosary began), my siblings, cousins, and I would laugh about a memory or two (or ten, haha), that we would think of that was our childhood growing up with my grandparents so involved.  And those memories are countless.  But I knew that she would be happy that we were remembering the good times and that she had touched our lives in such a way that we would never forget.  The next day was the funeral.

I agreed to do a reading at the funeral, but I didn't realize just how hard it was going to be to stand up in front of a packed church with my grandmother's body in the coffin right in front of the pulpit.  It was hard.  I wanted to read God's word and make her proud, but I couldn't stop crying long enough to do so.  Somehow, I found my composure and was able to hold the tears back long enough to deliver God's word and make it back to my seat.  After the funeral, we headed out to the cemetery.  Were we really about to bury my Granny?  My Granny??? Less than a week after I had seen her?  Yes.  That's exactly what we did. We laid my grandmother to rest just two days before what was supposed to be the happiest day of my life - my wedding day.  But again, that's not where my mind was.  I couldn't, and refused to, be selfish.  I needed to grieve.  We all did.  But my parents wouldn't let me. They shifted the focus of the rest of that day to wedding plans.  I still had to pick up my dress from Moulton from getting it cleaned and steamed.  We still needed to buy the fruit for the snack tables.  We still needed to get a trailer to get everything to the reception place.  We still needed a miracle.

Well, we received miracle after miracle - in the form of family and friends.  Amazing family and friends.  So many people played such a huge role in making my wedding day so memorable and go so smoothly.  Family from out of town (that I don't see very often, but know well enough) offered to take me to pick up my dress, so I accepted.  That same family drove to Victoria to hit up Sams to purchase all of the strawberries and grapes for the snack tables so we would have fresh fruit.  That family is amazing and their help will never be forgotten!  Family closer by stayed around and helped organize decorations and things that needed to be at certain places at certain times.  The next day, Friday, was the day to decorate the hall and have the rehearsal at the church.  That day was a blur!  We had so much help decorating, I'm still truly touched by everyone who extended a hand during this time to make sure that my wedding was about mine and Colten's love for each other, and the true meaning of love and family. My aunt and uncle even brought Pops by the hall for a bit to get him out of the house.  It was so good to see him out and about, even if he wasn't enjoying himself and didn't want to be there.  Who was I to blame him?  He buried his wife the day before.  I'm sure the last thing on his list of things he wanted to do was to attend a wedding in which he would be reminded of his loss.  But he continued to tell everyone that he would go to our wedding, but after that, he didn't know what was going to happen or what he would do.  I was just ecstatic that he wanted to be there for us on Saturday.  So, we decorated the hall and did what we could in the amount of time we had, which was a lot!  We successfully decorated the place to be country chic-ish.  Which is exactly what we wanted.  I couldn't have been happier with the result of that.  Then, it was on to rehearsal.  I didn't have a single minute that day to grieve for Granny.  I bottled it up deep inside of me and keeping pushing forward.  We successfully attended rehearsal, ate, and went home.  That night consisted of a lot of hurt feelings, grieving family members, and a fight between me and my sister.  But we got everything out in the open, made up, and looked forward to the next day.  Not exactly how I saw the night before my wedding day going, but it's okay.  Nothing that week was what I had anticipated.  So, why not?

Then it was my wedding day.  I got my hair done, hung out with the girls getting ready, and then I put on my dress.  I felt beautiful.  I felt amazing.  I felt a giant-sized hole in my chest because I knew my grandma wouldn't physically be there and my grandpa would have to endure being there without her.  Of course, with every wedding, there were some glitches, but I didn't care.  So what if one of my groomsmen had a different color vest than the rest?  Oh well.  So what if one of my bridesmaids left her shoes in another town?  Oh well.  So what if the bridesmaids decided to take scissors to their dresses just mere hours before the ceremony (okay, this was actually hilarious!)?  Oh well.  So what if my husband was intoxicated at our reception? Oh well.  My wedding day was beautiful and absolutely amazing, but it wasn't exactly as I had imagined.  It was BETTER!  Due to everything that had happened that week, my focus on my own wedding changed.  The small stuff didn't matter - I didn't care if Mark's vest was a different color.  I didn't care that part of my dress ripped during the reception.  I didn't care, it didn't matter, and we all had a great time!  Instead, the focus was on family and friends that showed up to help us celebrate our love.  The focus was on every single hand that helped make that day be such a magical dream come true.  The focus was on the meaning of that day, not the little things.  My heart was overflowing with love and support from every person in the room - and I knew my grandmother was there in spirit.  It didn't make the pain any easier, but I managed.

The next week was our honeymoon - and I couldn't have asked for a better location.  We went to Rockport to the Rodgers' beach house.  It was quiet, relaxing, AWAY from everything the previous week had put me through.  It was a break.  A break that allowed me to break down.  A break that allowed me time alone with my husband to begin healing.  A break away from the 'it's okay', the 'I'm sorry for your loss', and the 'she was here in spirit'.  It was a great break.  And my husband was there with me every step of the way.  He held me when I cried, he gave me space when I asked, and he was okay doing whatever we wanted to do whenever we wanted to do it.  Nothing was planned that week, and we went with the flow.  It was amazing.

So, I was a married woman!  And within a month, I had completed my last college class to obtain my Paralegal degree.  So then I was a college graduate as well!  Whew!  Then came the holidays and the stress of trying to figure out where to go when and who was where and when we'd leave and when we'd come back and so on and so forth.  It's hard to please everyone!!  But we survived.  The following months were countless job applications and sending resumes.  Then, the day came that I received an email from my old boss from the internship.  She had a position available if I was still interested.  Boy, was I!  I applied (after a very long night of editing my writing sample with my siblings and Splosion Man), and I scheduled an interview.  I remember leaving the interview in tears.  I mean TEARS!  I was so frustrated with the job hunting process and I wasn't happy full-time at my current job.  I was a mess.  Then, I began to fully allow myself to grieve - which lasted over a period of MANY months, and I'm still grieving, to this day.  I kept it bottled inside for so long, that it has taken a while to let it consume me.  Today, I'm still gripped with the raw emotion that consumed me a year ago upon receiving the devastating news.  But then the call came.  I GOT THE JOB, if I wanted it.  Umm, yes please!  I immediately told my boss at the current job at the time that I would need to change my availability because orientation for my new job started the following Monday.  Talk about a whirlwind!

In just one year, my grandmother had died tragically, my grandpa went through something I wouldn't wish upon anyone - losing their wife and best friend of soooooo many years, I got married, I graduated college, and I got a job with my degree.  In just one year, I'm a different person.  In just one year, I am utterly and considerably blessed beyond words for my job, my family, my husband, my faith, my life.  I don't take one minute for granted, and I definitely cherish every minute I get to spend with every person that I love in my life.  It may not be as often as I'd like, but the time I do get with them, I am thankful and very grateful.  In just one year, I've been hit by heartache, joy, utter sadness, desperation, happiness, low self-confidence, depression, amazing self-confidence, love, and so many other feelings.  I'm scarred, but it makes me stronger.  Going forward, I know that life is never going to be the same, but it was never meant to stay the same.  It has its ups and downs, and I experienced both and then some in a short amount of time.  Every wedding anniversary, I will be reminded of the tragedy that struck my family that Monday afternoon, but every wedding anniversary, I will also be reminded of the love and support that gives life meaning.  I will be reminded that I am loved for who I am and I have such an amazing support system.  I will be reminded of the reason for living.  I will be reminded to cherish every moment that we are blessed with to be with those we love.

In just one year, my life has completely changed.

No Time Like the Present

Old habits die hard!  I was taking Plexus on a regular basis for a little over a month and felt absolutely great! However, due to our financial situation, I was not able to continue on it last month - and I could definitely tell a difference!  But, I'm excited to say, I have purchased and RECEIVED this month's supply!  I couldn't be happier to finally get back on it.  It makes me feel great (loads of energy, which is in dire need lately), and I was losing weight.  Granted (and this is great news, people), I didn't gain weight in the month I was off of it (okay...maybe a few pounds, but that Halloween candy is sooooo good!), but I feel better on it, and I can't wait to get back to my confidant self.  :)

Everything else feels kind of chaotic as well.  The apartment has started to become such a MESS lately.  And the sad truth of that is that I have z.e.r.o. energy to do anything about it.  While I'm not home, I have all sorts of ideas and motivation to tackle it, but once I'm home - nope.  It does not get done.  However, I truly feel these 16-hour days have a lot to do with it.  I work three 16-hour days in a row every week.  Talk about exhausting!  By the time I get home, I literally shower and go to bed.  And this past weekend, I did literally nothing.  I caught up on tv shows and did not pay one ounce of attention to the housework that needed to be done.  Not good.  Not good at all.  Thankfully, I have an amazing husband who keeps the apartment from being taken over by rodents of all shapes and sizes... :D.  However, I need to focus and put int the effort to organize it and maintain a clean house.  I really think with Christmas coming up, it'll be a great time to go through everything and organize it.  Plus, Christmas is absolutely my favorite time of year! What's not to be excited about?!

I think some of my weird feelings lately also come from going home a lot.  At LEAST two weekends a month, I'm in the burg visiting with my family and being sure I'm there for Pops.  I know it's a good thing that I'm doing and I love spending time with him, but it definitely catches up with me the following weekend - which leaves ZERO weekends to be productive.  It's a never-ending cycle. *sigh*  But I'm praying to break out of it soon, and I know getting back on Plexus is going to do me wonders!  Bring.It.On.  That pretty much sums it all up.  In a nutshell.

So, basically, I'm just ready to become a better 'me' and get back to having energy and feeling great about life!  Not that I don't feel great about it now, but I'm kind of just 'content'.  Which is fine for a while, but I'm ready for my optimism and positivity to shine right through!  So, I'm going to continue praying about it and get back on Plexus TOMORROW.  There's no better time than the present to make the necessary changes that I am looking for.

*Aha* Moment

So, bible study has been going phenomenally lately! Yay!  I'm loving it!  But the third day's reading was still eating away at me - let's just be honest here.  The whole "women need other girls as good friends..." thing was getting to me, and I think I let it get a little too far. However, God is so good and puts the right people in your path exactly when you need them (whether you think you do or not!).  My co-worker, whom I have become closer and closer to, helped me through it.  She is religious and has helped me in so many ways since I was hired in February (has it really already been 7 months?!).  Through everything that has been thrown my way these past few months, she's been there for me without question and I can always count on her - professionally and personally.  Well, she talked me through the commentary about needing a same-sex friend.  And boy do I feel so much better!  She helped me to see that just because I may not have that true 'best friend' in the moment, but it could be perceived as God helping me prepare and be ready for that friend when the time comes.  Let's face it, we aren't always doing everything the Bible tells us to do every single day.  Some things are in preparation of what is to come, and some thing are to help understand what has already happened.  I truly believe that it was God's way of telling me to be open to new friendships when they come and be open to the introduction of new girlfriends.  How exciting!  I'm always open to new friends, and have made many the past few months - between work and church and friends of friends...I feel totally content.  Although there are things I wish were different with some people, I cannot change others' feelings about anything.  I have to do what is right for me and to accept that everything changes, including people.  I'm changing as well, and I believe it's for the better (others may have different opinions - let's just leave it at that, okay?).  I'm growing and maturing as a human being, but also spiritually, and I couldn't be happier.  I truly love my life and know that I have been blessed beyond belief.  How many 24-year-olds can say that?  Not too many, let me tell you.  In the past year, I've experienced great grief, pain, love, joy, - I've gotten married, moved into our own cozy 'home' (our first official apartment picked out together), graduated college, gotten a job with my degree that I look forward to going every.single.day, and I get along so great with my co-workers!  Who wouldn't be excited about that kind of life at my age?!  I'd be crazy not to be truly thankful for such blessings being bestowed upon me.  So, that's where I am right now.  I had my 'aha!' moment, and I am personally, emotionally, and spiritually content (and excited!) with the journey I'm on and what my future holds.

Dear Lord, I want to thank you for another day of living and being able to see, hear, and walk.  I am blessed because You know me, understand me, and most of all forgive me.  You have given me so much and You continue to bless me.  You have forgiven me for everything I've said, done, or thought, past, present, and future.  Please shelter me from all evil and harm.  Guide me each day and give me an "attitude of gratitude."  Let me make the most of each day and clear my mind so I can hear from You.  Provide the wisdom I need to accept all things, good, and bad.  Don't let me dwell on the negative circumstances I have no control over.  Give me the strength and courage I need when I feel I've reached my limits.  Even when I don't pray, You listen to my heart.  You have a plan for my life, so guide me to do Your will.  Continue to give me your grace so that I can be a blessing to other people.  Keep me positive so I can provide encouragement to others.  I pray for those who are struggling and have lost their way.  I pray for those who haven't discovered You yet.  I thank you for my belief in knowing that You can change all people for the better.  There is no problem, circumstance, or situation in this entire world that is greater than You.  I give my burdens and struggles to You, for nothing worthwhile can be accomplished without You.  Father, I love You, need You, and want You in my life.  You don't give up on anyone.  Amen.  

TV Time

So, I've fallen in love with Tia and Tamera's reality series on STYLE.  And, last night was the season 2 premiere!  Of course, I forced myself to stay up and watch it instead of just going to bed once I got home from my super long day!  It was worth it though - soooo good!

Now, I've seen several shows and movies that these twins starred in, and I admit that throughout the entire Sister, Sister series, my favorite was always Tia.  I don't know exactly why, but I guess she seemed to be more stylish and have it more together - but that also is probably just the way the producers portrayed each character.  BUT, watching their reality series, my favorite is definitely Tamera!  At times, I even feel really bad for Tamera.  Tia seems to think that the world should revolve around her and seems to be demeaning to her sister.  For instance, when Tamera was planning her wedding last season, Tia hardly showed up and tried to make it about her and her unborn child instead.  I'm sorry, but it's your sister's WEDDING!  Why would you not support her and do everything you could possibly do to make her day special?  Instead, she had to go on her 'baby-moon', which is great for her, but couldn't she have planned it at a different time?  Ugh.  That's where it started to go downhill.

Last night's episode *spoiler alert!* was awesome.  But, once again, Tia tried to act like she knew exactly what to do in Tamera's life, being that she has already had one pregnancy.  Well, I've never been pregnant, but I do know that every woman's body is different and every pregnancy is different.  Just because they're twins, doesn't mean that they go through every life scenario in the exact same way.  It seems that Tia acts that because she's going through life and experiencing the big moments first: getting married, having a baby..., she holds it over Tamera like she has no idea what she's talking about.  It's disgusting, honestly.  So, last night, Tamera was filming a Christmas movie while being five months pregnant.  I LOVED how she did make a point that when Tia was five months pregnant, she was exhausted all of the time, whereas Tamera was full of energy and in love with being pregnant!  But Tia, once again, has to act very high and mighty and tell Tamera that she can't do it and that it's super hard - of course it's hard!  She's PREGNANT and working long hours!!  She knows it's going to be hard, but she supported Tia when she worked while being pregnant.  I just don't understand why Tia can't just be supportive and not make everything all about her.  Tamera seems way more laid back and seems to not have to be the center of attention all of the time.  I'm so happy for Tamera that she is married to her best friend and they are AMAZING together!  I love seeing them together and going through everything.  I also love that Tamera is so involved in Adam's family, even in regards to the winery in Napa Valley.  Good for her!  She definitely needs to take a stand and do her own thing...and I'm loving watching her journey!

I know this post is more of a rant than anything, but it's been bothering me and comes up EVERY.SINGLE.EPISODE of this show.  Regardless, it's a great show and I'm really enjoying how down to earth they are, with realistic views of life and living in LA (and Napa for Tamera!).  :)

My LiFe

Life has been absolutely AMAZING to me, especially lately.  That's right, no complaints here!  My birthday was last week and I turned the big 2-4.  My husband was amazing and surprised me with GORGEOUS gladiolas - in three colors I might add!  They are starting to bloom and are breathtaking. They have definitely become one of my favorite flowers, easily!  Then he planned a get-together with close friends and family - those that could make it.  He was upset that not more people showed up, but I had a fantastic time!  I've never been one to be the center of attention and have people fuss over me...so the quaint gathering was perfect!  And we didn't even do much - just relaxed and enjoyed each other's company with some cocktails.  I loved it :).  And it was definitely one never to forget!  So, if you're reading this and you attended, thank you!! =D 

Then, Saturday was upon us.  My awesome BFF DeMarcos treated us to brunch at IHOP, which is always delicious and this time didn't disappoint!  After that, I spent the afternoon cuddled up with my husband watching The Last Song.  Okay, I know what you're thinking, "Really, Bri?  The Last Song? With your husband?  Poor guy!"  He felt the same for the most part, but it really was the best quality time we've had in a while.  We had a very deep discussion about things and just being in his arms the entire afternoon was perfect.  He said he didn't mind and enjoyed the movie. 

Sunday was here before I knew it, and my fabulous parents decided to make the trip to Austin and take me out to eat for my birthday - along with Colten and my sister (Josh had to work).  We went to Olive Garden and it was amazing!  (I think I need to find a synonym for 'amazing')  Mom and I tried one of their new dishes, and it was by far the most amazing meal I've had in a while!  Then they hung out for a little while and Mom helped me decorate my last sad wall in the apartment...now I'm so in love with it!  Pictures will come as soon as I attack the task of deciding on pictures to print, print them, and then put them up in frames.  Right now, my apartment is filled with strangers....weird, I know!  Haha.  But I'm so happy that it's all done and now all that's left to do is the fun part!  It's been almost a year that we've been married, and sadly, I still have yet to order ANY wedding pictures!  My bridal portrait is the lone picture in the place.  That will soon change :). 

So, it was a GREAT weekend celebrating my life (all 24 years of it), and I wouldn't have wanted to spend it any other way! 

On a side-note, I know I haven't been blogging my daily Bible study, but I've come to the conclusion that updating every single day the way I need to commit every day is unrealistic.  I'd rather commit to the daily Scripture reading and journal it as it pertains to my life and apply it, and I will update my blog at LEAST once a week on the day that stuck with me the most.  So, have no fear!  I have not quit or abandoned my journey.  I simply do not have time every day to delve into the reading AND blog about it after I've journaled it.  I hope you'll forgive me!  But that's just the way it is.  And I've accepted it!  Just wanted to give the update :).  Have a blessed Monday, y'all!
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