Looking Back

Our New Year’s Day was cold and rainy, so we cuddled on the couch and had a mini Downton Abbey marathon (I’m trying to catch J.R. up!).   As you Downton lovers can imagine, it was a wonderful day.

We also took some time to talk about goals for this new year.  We don’t call them new year’s resolutions, because that simply doesn’t work.  Try as we might, our self-improvement wish list won’t come to fruition because we just can’t do it on our own.  Instead, we pray that God will use the Holy Spirit to work through us and change our hearts’ desires so that we can better worship Him.  Some of our goals were financial, but most of our goals stemmed from our desire to really live in community and invest in relationships.   We’re praying for energy for J.R. in the midst of 10 or 11-hour work days and for me not to prioritize my to-do list over more important things.

Looking back at 2013, I see that the year had many exciting, challenging and beautiful moments.  Here are the most memorable ones:

March:

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Meet our furry friend Burgh.  We found him through a local dog rescue and adopted him on March 9th.  He’s cute, cuddly and energetic.  We love him.

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Aletheia Gainesville moved to the Hippodrome & launched Sunday morning services on March 10th!

May:

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We celebrated 2 years of marriage on May 28th!

August:

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We went on vacation to San Diego in mid-August.  We explored downtown, Coronado Island, La Jolla, Torrey Pines, Old Town and the zoo.  It was absolutely amazing.

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On August 26  I joined the Gator Nation!  In my new job as UFIT’s Public Relations Coordinator, I get to write, take pictures,  manage social media & help plan events.

November:

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We spent Thanksgiving in Virginia with J.R.’s family.  It was our first time driving instead of flying, but it actually wasn’t too bad.  It was so nice to relax and spend time with J.R.’s family.  We miss them.

December:

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Christmas was spent in Gainesville at our apartment.  My parents came up and we all made a big dinner.  We even got to watch our favorite movie, White Christmas!

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We brought in the New Year with sweet friends.  Happy 2014!

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Sweet Virginia

A couple weeks ago we made the 12-hour drive up to Virginia to see J.R.’s family for Thanksgiving.  I love being surrounded by mountains and walking on crunchy leaves, but what I love most about sweet Virginia is the people we get to enjoy.  I’m not done going through all of the photos from our trip, but these are my favorite so far.

 

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Photography

Over the summer I received the ultimate birthday present:  my very first DSLR camera.  The big box was so overwhelming – it was full to the brim – and I had no clue what to do with any of it!  Camera, lenses, tripod, cleaning supplies, memory cards, DVDs, instruction manuals………

We were headed to California in less than a month and I needed to learn how to use the camera – and quick!  So, I did what any rational person would do.  I googled it.  I sucked in articles and blogs and videos until I realized half the battle was just picking up the camera and experimenting.

IT IS SO MUCH FUN.  The joy of creating pictures (because you see, pictures aren’t just taken) is certainly an experience I want over and over again, so I guess photography is my new hobby!

I have so much left to learn, but I wanted to share a few of my favorite photos from our San Diego adventure back in August.

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Location: Torrey Pines State Natural Preserve

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Location: Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

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Location: Balboa Park Rose Gardens

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Location: Coronado Island, view of the San Diego skyline in background.

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Photographer: This was a J.R. photo! I love it!
Location: San Diego Zoo

Oh, Christmas Tree!

We finally have ourselves a Christmas tree!  Although we are going away for Christmas, this year we finally had the space and I had the time to decorate our little home.  I really enjoy Christmas decorations.  I grew up in a home where there were about 12 Christmas trees put up each year.  Every one has a theme (like the UF tree for Dad, UCF tree for Mom and USF tree for me) except for the big tree that we put the presents under.  It’s my favorite tree because all of its ornaments have stories.  Some of the ornaments are cheesy hand-made ones, some are from cool places we’ve been and many are gifts from others.

J.R. and I only have one-and-a-half trees for now (I have a little tree that I decorated with snowflakes and snowmen).  It was so much fun to decorate our big tree together and talk about each ornament’s story.

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Here are a few of my favorite ornaments on our tree:

You can tell a lot about people from their ornaments (we like penguins, Star Wars and music!).

You can tell a lot about people from their ornaments (we like penguins, Star Wars and music!).

This one's from my parents to remember our wedding anniversary.

This one’s from my parents to remember our wedding anniversary.

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This one I found in my grandma’s collection of ornaments. It means Merry Christmas in Polish.

Here are some other little decorations I put up around our apartment:

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Front door

My mini tree

My mini tree in the guest room

My DIY Pinterest trees!

My DIY Pinterest trees!

Free Pinterest printables for the kitchen.

Free Pinterest printables for the kitchen.

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Ornament center piece for the table.

One day when we get a house I’ll write a post about my crazy Christmas lights.  Yep, I’m totally going to be that person.  It makes me sad that less and less people decorate with outside lights.  My dad and I used to decorate fabulously with Christmas lights.  I would climb the ladder and put them on myself (he did all of the hard stuff on the roof).  I’m not sure how enthusiastic J.R. is about outdoor Christmas decor but I’m sure I can get him on board (and maybe one day on the roof!).

Gainesville

It has been about a month since we made the move two hours north to join the Aletheia Gainesville team.  Gainesville, home of the Florida Gators, in case you were wondering (I still wear my USF shirts though).  I finished my last undergrad class a week after we moved, so I’m officially done and fully immersed in a job search.  J.R. began his new job right after we moved and was immediately tossed into a crazy hiring season for his company. As a recruiter, he is one busy man.  He leaves around 7:30 am and often times doesn’t get home until 7 or 7:30 pm.  I’ve been busy settling into our new home and doing this and that to help finalize our transition.  I have not had this much time on my hands since…..ever?  At moments I am loving it and at others I’m getting a bit stir crazy.  I am thankful for this time though; I know as soon as I get a job I will have NO time at all.  And anyway, I have plenty of fun books to catch up on.

We love our new home!  I am so thankful the Lord blessed us with this place.  With a spacious interior, lots of storage space, tons of fun things to do in the neighborhood, and a great location, I don’t think we could’ve gotten anything better.

We obviously love our home, but there are tons of other cool things we like about living in Gainesville.  To name a few:

  • Our awesome Aletheia Gainesville church family
  • We feel safe at night!!!  (this is funny if you know anything about Tampa)
  • There are hills (mountains in my opinion)
  • We can walk to Publix
  • Significantly less traffic
  • J.R. has a 4 minute commute to work
  • Saving money on gas!
  • There is a gym, pool, tennis & basketball court in our apartment complex
  • Zaxby’s
  • TCBY
  • Piesano’s (yummy Italian/pizza place within walking distance from our place)
  • Tons of fun outdoor adventure opportunities
  • Downtown
  • UF sports

There are a few things we miss in Tampa, like:

  • Our Aletheia Tampa fam!
  • Cheesecake Factory
  • Muvico
  • Busch Gardens

We are excited to be here and be a part of Aletheia Gainesville.  Our first group study on campus is happening this Sunday night so pray that all will go smoothly and that God is glorified!  And if you ever want to visit, we have an extra room waiting for you.

2011 Recap and 2012 Preview

2011 sure went by fast.  This year is going to be a crazy one.  I can finally say, “I’m graduating college this year,” and “We’re helping start Aletheia Gainesville this year.”  This spring and summer semester are going to be a dash to the finish line for me.  I’m taking 17 credits in the spring, starting an internship with CBS, and working one day a week.  I’m co-leading a new bible study and am an intern for Aletheia Tampa.  Oh wait, and before all of that, I’m a wife (which I absolutely love being)!

Needless to say, this is more than I’ve ever taken on at once.  Last semester was pretty tough.  J.R. and I had very different schedules so time together was not as much as we would have liked.  This semester isn’t going to be any better.  But, it’s not forever, and I’m not doing this on my own.  My prayer for this new year is that I can be more focused on God’s word than I was at the end of last year.  Yeah, I got through the semester, but I was plain burnt out.  This month of rest has been refreshing, but the only way I’m going to plow through the first half of this year is by getting refilled and replenished by the word of God daily.  I spent a large chunk of last year studying Isaiah.  Reading about the promised Messiah in the OT and constantly being challenged to identify the idols in your life was amazing.  Now I’m reading Acts, which gets me super pumped up about church planting.

Anyway, as much as I think this year is going to be a big year, I guess 2011 was too.  I mean, I did get married and all.  So, here’s a recap of last year:

May 28, 2011-  We finally tie the knot…..I say finally like we had been dating for a long time before we got married, haha.  We were pretty eager.  But we were just being obedient to what God told us.  This picture is us walking out to our massive hummer limo that I did not order.  I just wanted a sleek little black one to take us to the airport.  I had never been in a limo and I figured this was my chance.  Well, I can assure you, if I would have known how horrible that experience would be, I would have never done it.  The driver repeatedly got lost, stuck, lost in a mobile home park, and stuck some more.  Thankfully, marriage is an entirely different experience.  It’s awesome.  You learn a lot of things about your sweetie, and a lot of things about yourself (mostly how selfish you are, haha).  We are past our first half a year and it has truly been a blast.

We went to the Dominican Republic on our honeymoon.  I miss that place.  It was very peaceful.  It was quiet, not busy at all.  You could lay on the beach, lay by the pool, lay on the porch, eat steak, eat lobster, and eat fabulous bacon…..and you could do all of that all the time.  Great way to kick off a marriage!

July 29- I turned 20!  We took the day off work and had fun.  Enough said.

We went to Rock the Universe in September.  Funny story, we bought tickets to go and then won tickets a few days later.  But there were some perks in winning.  We got to meet Switchfoot and ride a roller coaster with Family Force 5.  Another highlight of the trip was hanging out with Captain America (side note- Captain America was one of the best films of 2011).  J.R. discovered he likes roller coasters and we got to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (amazing).  The concerts at night were fantastic.  We discovered a new band called For King & Country that is awesome.  Other bands there were Relient K, Anberlin and Brandon Heath.

In December we went to New York and Virginia to visit J.R.’s family.  I got to meet some of his relatives for the first time and we spent Christmas in Long Island.  We even made a trip into NYC and walked through Central Park.

I had to add this to the end.  When we were in Winchester, VA after Christmas, I got to hang out at the library.  I had been eager to go back ever since we visited J.R.’s family in 2010.  It is so spectacular.  I love books!  And really old cool looking buildings!  And I got more time to hang out with my sister, Emmaleigh, which is always a blessing.

That’s 2011 in a nutshell.  I’m excited to see what God has planned for 2012.

Married Moments!

Two months into marriage and time is flying by.  Everyone likes to ask me how married life is going, and although my response will sometimes vary with some goofy story, the main answer is always “great.”  God has made the transition fairly easy for us and it feels like it’s the way it should be.  Not to say we haven’t had our moments, but we are so thankful to finally be one.  I can definitely say that I am continually learning how selfish I am.  Thankfully my husband and I have lots of grace with each other.

I think one of my biggest issues is cooking.  I am certainly not a gourmet chef, but sometimes I wish I was.  One night I forgot to make rice for burritos and literally cried about it.  Haha.  I’ve had a couple of meals that have turned out a bit weird, but over all they’ve been pretty tasty.  It’s more of the stress I experience during the process of making it and the mess my kitchen becomes.  I still am working on timing things appropriately and portioning things better.  Sometimes I make too much, sometimes not enough.  Sometimes I put the noodles in too soon and the meat not soon enough.  The funny thing is, my husband could care less.  He’s happy to be fed and half the time he genuinely likes what I make more than I do.  I just put way too much pressure on myself to look like I have it all together.

But, really, we’ve been having a blast.  We’re just two goofballs in love.  A few nights ago I woke up and saw J.R. sleeping beside me and totally freaked out.  I practically jumped out of bed.  I must have forgot my marital status for a brief moment.  I’m pretty delirious when tired.  I’m an awful morning person, too.  I used to be a crazy runner so I’d get up at 5 to practice, but those days were so long ago.  My first week of work (praise Jesus for a job!) I was an absolute mess.  J.R. thought it would be fun to sing at me to get me out of bed.  Now, when I say sing, I mean more like yodel or something like that….Not anything pleasant like you hear on Sunday mornings.  Anyway, my dad used to do the same sort of shananagans while I was growing up.  The flashback was more than I could handle and my poor hubby got an earful from me that morning.  Haha.  I think I’m becoming more pleasant when I wake up, but I still am not super chatty.

A couple weeks ago I celebrated my 20th birthday.  We both got the day off and had so much fun hanging out.  He took me to the aquarium and we went out for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  We went to a Japanese steakhouse where they sang to me while hitting a gong.  I had to wear a big paper chef hat.  I was slightly embarrassed, but it was fun!  They gave me a cupcake and J.R. still took me out for dessert.

I am just so blessed with a Godly husband and so thankful to be surrounded by Christian couples who are awesome examples of what marriage is all about.  Being a wife is definitely part of my sanctification process and I know that even 20 years from now I will still be learning how to serve my husband better.  I will continue to ask God for wisdom.

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”- Proverbs 31:30

For your next date night….

A few weeks ago, J.R. surprised me on date night with a downtown Tampa adventure.  He wouldn’t tell me where we were going or what we were doing.   When we finally got downtown, we parked and just started wandering around the city.  He told me we were just exploring for the night, but I knew he had a plan….I just couldn’t figure out what it was.  Turns out there are some pretty cool things scattered around downtown.  Eventually, we got to our destination- the Tampa Theatre!  The theatre was playing the movie Jane Eyre, which I had been wanting to see.  It was one of my favorite books in high school (I love old 18th century romances).  The movie wasn’t playing in any of the theaters we usually go to so I figured I’d have to wait until it came out on DVD.  But my amazing fiance found out that it was playing and made sure we saw it.  Isn’t he the sweetest?

Here he is sitting in this awesome chair in the second floor of the theatre.

It is an amazing building.  It opened in 1926, when movie theaters were more than just theaters, they were “palaces.”  We were mesmerized by every detail of the building, inside and out.  It is such a cool thing to see that they actually give tours of the place.  We got there early enough to take our own tour and climb up the stairs to the balcony level.  The ceiling of the theatre is made to look like a night sky- it’s dark blue with twinkling lights.  While we were waiting for our movie to start, the stage floor opened up and a woman playing an organ popped out.  She was so cute and super talented!  She even played some songs from one of my favorite old movies, Meet Me in St.Louis with Judy Garland.

The Tampa Theatre, where we ended up!

The organ has to be one of the hardest instruments to play....she was moving her hands and feet in different ways at the same time = crazy skill.

The movie was great.  I tried not to act too excited about it right after, figuring that J.R. had been suffering the whole time.  He was pretty quiet and started asking questions, so I thought he was thinking the movie was crazy (it totally was, it adds absurd twists on the classic 18th cent. romance).  Then he told me he was just processing everything that had happened and he really liked it (yay!).

So after the movie we were in the mood for a snack…..and right around the corner is a little pizza shop, Eddie and Sam’s.  Apparently those guys get their water shipped from NYC so they have legit New York pizza.  It was sooooo good.  I can’t eat those big slices of pizza the proper New York style way, so I was a total mess, but J.R. looked fine afterwards.  I do the same thing with ice cream, so go figure   🙂

Wedding Chatter :)

Let’s talk wedding.  I just finished putting return address labels on the save-the-dates that will soon be mailed out.  They are so cute (thanks to Ashlee Proffitt Design)!!!  We’ve really gotten so much done in the last month….God’s been providing awesome deals for us.  We have the venue booked- a lovely little country club in Trinity, FL.  We taste-tested on Saturday and the food was amazing.  AMAZING.  Mahi-mahi or stuffed chicken.  I still can’t decide which one to choose for myself but I have more than a few months to figure it out.

We also chose our cake baker- A Piece of Cake.  J.R. and I are not really cake people.  I think it’s my least favorite dessert.  But, we are spicing things up with a cupcake cake.  We’ll have a few different flavors so people have some options (the bride and groom will be chowing down on carrot cake….mmmmm).  We definitely agreed that taste-testing is the best part of wedding planning.  Here’s a pic of the cupcakes we tried:

We have decided to go with TWO photographers.  Our awesome friend Shay (who did our amazing engagement shoot!) of Shay Cochrane Photography is doing some photos beforehand and then we are having Marissa Moss Photography for the ceremony and reception.

As for colors and such, I’m going with a royal blue (David’s Bridal calls it Horizon) and yellow.  The bridesmaids picked out their favorite dress so they’ll all be a little different.  Yellow roses are my choice flower for the moment, but I have not booked a florist yet so it could definitely change.

Well that’s pretty much the current status of things.  There’s lots more to be done but we’ve put a decent dent in the planning.  I keep saying that people should have a huge marriage celebration after you’re actually married….the whole planning process seems to drag out the engagement and we sooo want to be married!  Patience patience patience.  130 days to go.

Stella’s Servant Heart

2010 didn’t end as I expected it to. Two days after returning from Ohio to bury my grandmother Joan, I got a phone call from my mom in a panic, saying my other grandmother, Stella, was found unconscious in her car at a Wal-Mart parking lot. I prayed and waited to hear…..My dad called me back shortly after, saying she had passed away before the paramedics could even attempt to revive her.

Four days before Christmas. J.R. and I were planning on going home and having a relaxing Christmas celebration with my family in Melbourne. Suddenly another funeral needed to be planned. It really was a blow. I loved both of my grandmothers very much and had a close relationship with both. They both lived near by my parents and I as I grew up. They were always there. Having to take another name off of my wedding guest list was painful. I wanted them both to be there so very much.

I had seen Grandma not even a week before she died. I showed her the picture of my wedding dress, talked with her about wedding plans…..My mom had made plans to go dress shopping with her….Uncle Jesse was going to be her date. I think Grandma was almost as excited as I am for the wedding. She was so happy when I told her we were engaged, she wanted all the details. She absolutely loved J.R (how could you not?). The first time they met, J.R. and I had went over to her house and it was pouring. She opened up the garage door and had an umbrella in her hand. We assumed she was going to come and escort us up to the house, so we started to get out because we didn’t want her to get drenched. But she walked right past our car and started going down the street chasing after her garbage can. The umbrella was flipped over and she kept going. J.R. ran out and grabbed it for her. We got into the garage, all of us pretty soaked, and I introduced the two. She had a curious look on her face, like Who is this strange man with Allison? It is an awesome memory, and so suiting of her.

On my last visit with her, she was talking to me about my other grandma’s memorial service and how J.R. looked so nice in his suit. “He is so nice looking,” she said. “He’s a nice man too, but he’s very good looking.” Her comments like that always cracked me up. I wish they would’ve gotten to know each other more but I’m so thankful we all had the time together that God blessed us with.

Stella was an amazing woman. She had a servant’s heart. Her last action on earth was buying her best friend a Christmas present. She was involved with SO many clubs and organizations. She volunteered at the hospital for over 30 years. She was a part of the Polish American club, the Democratic Women’s club, the Melbourne Women’s club, the Red Hat ladies…..I’m sure there are more. Grandma was an amazing cook! She always made my favorite Polish dish, stuffed cabbage (I’m so thankful I have the recipe). She was such a great cook that she didn’t go by recipes, she went by her memory and “a dash of this and that” (I certainly didn’t get that gene!). She knew everyone and everyone knew her. She raised 5 children and was married to my grandpop for over 50 years. She was Catholic. She loved Jesus. I had some great conversations with her about God.

She was blessed with great health. While all of her friends were slowing with age and battling health problems, Stella kept going. She drove them to doctor’s appointments and tended to their needs, just as the very best and loyal friends would. She would have turned 87 on January 28th. You couldn’t tell her age, though. It seems odd to say that you were shocked by an almost 87-year-old woman’s death, but I certainly was, and I was not alone in my surprise. But I’m so thankful she didn’t suffer through months and years of physical ailments. She wasn’t planning on dying that day….but who really is?

God’s timing is perfect. Even though it has been a rough holiday season, I trust that He’s in control. We celebrated Jesus’ birth on earth, while they celebrated with Jesus in heaven. That brings joy to my heart. I read the following verses at both of my grandmother’s services, so I thought I’d share:

Isaiah 40:27-31

“Why do you say, O Jacob, And speak, O Israel:

‘My way is hidden from the Lord, And my just claim is passed over by my God?’

Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth,

Neither faints or is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall,

But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength;

They shall mount up with wings like eagles,

They shall run and not be weary,

They shall walk and not faint.”

In thinking of who God is, how could we question His awareness of our circumstances or trials? He is in control. He is unlike humans, who become weak and weary. His wisdom is not fully understandable to us and we cannot attempt to comprehend the reasoning behind certain trials. We can only trust that our human suffering is directed by His perfect wisdom for an eternal purpose.

Looking through all her pictures, especially the ones of her and grandpop when they were much younger, I can only imagine how fast their life went by. Our lives are just a speck. I don’t want to waste the time God gives me on earth. I don’t want to be consumed with things that have no eternal purpose. That’s my New Years resolution.