Thursday, January 26, 2012

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

"Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.  Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

The Return of the Prodigal Son (1773) by Pompeo Batoni

     I made a promise last time to make this post shorter than my previous two.  I'm going to do my best to uphold that promise.  With this in mind, I'm not going to go into one of my dissections of the Bible verse above.  But, I do encourage you to read it a couple of times before you go on.  It's very packed. In case you feel like reading something longer here's a link (this link is for all readings on the 4th Sunday of Lent in cycle C.  I definitely put that picture of the Prodigal Son up before I realized these readings appear together in the Church liturgical year, I guess the Church kinda knows what she's doing).  I'd also like to clarify that the reason my spirituality post will likely be shorter has no bearing on how important it is to Jason and I.  In fact, it's shorter because it's so clear to me how God has moved in us the past couple of months.

    I read somewhere that a key quality of a good blogger is to be completely honest with your audience; no sugar coating your life or only showing your best side.  So the truth is, Jason and I didn't keep up with praying together, becoming involved in our church, etc. quite like I had laid out for us in my first post.  In fact, reading the meditations from the The Ignatian Workout lasted only a couple of weeks at best.  We quickly settled back into our old routines.  This persisted throughout our engagement.

    I have to give a lot of credit to our marriage prep classes for re-inspiring us to delve back into this mission.  Every person we talked to said the number one thing that keeps a marriage together is keeping God in the center and making praying together a habit.  Now, we didn't immediately go home and pick our book back up, but the seed was constantly being planted and watered.  I'll say more about the marriage prep in a later blog.  Yes, I do believe it deserves a whole post!  I 100% recommend couples do some sort of marriage counseling before the wedding day (so does the state of Texas.  Whoop for not having to pay a fee to get our marriage license!)

   The biggest spiritual movement and growth happened only 2 days before the wedding.  Throughout our engagement Jason and I talked about wanting to go to Reconciliation.  It would be Jason's first Reconciliation as when he was Baptized last Easter all of his sins were washed away, "clearing" him to receive the Eucharist.  It would be my first time to go in while...much longer than I like to admit.  I have a weird relationship with this particular Sacrament.  I 100% believe in it's graces.  Every time I go I leave feeling better than I've felt, well, since the last time I went.  It's hard to describe the freedom and sense of calm I feel.  But, for some reason (likely the large periods of time in between) I get so nervous to go.  I expect the priest to gawk at me, shake his head disapprovingly, or lecture me.  This has NEVER happened, see above feelings of freedom and calm.  

   So, the Thursday before the wedding Jason and I both made plans to go to Reconciliation.  I went to All Saints as I was going to my mom's afterwards and Jason went to St. Rita because it's close to where he works.  The confessionals are located inside the Adoration Chapel at All Saints.  What a beautiful way to prepare for Reconciliation!  I got to spend about an hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament and did part of the Rosary while waiting for my turn.  This instantly helped to calm my nerves and remind me of the purpose and power of Reconciliation.  

    I'm not going to go into details of my confession, but I would like to expand on the priest's response.  It's possibly one of the most loving responses I've experienced.  He noticed that I was holding myself back in some way and that somewhere there was a block in my willingness to let God be in complete control.  He looked at me and said, "If you don't mind I'd like to come next to you and pray over you."  I consented.  "I want you to let everything go right now.  Allow the Holy Spirit to work and lift you up."  He recited a beautiful prayer and then we sat in silence for a couple of minutes.  Wow.  I don't know how to describe this, but I could feel myself being healed.  It was incredible.  Then he sat back down and continued to talk to me about my penance.  The number one thing he had said throughout the Confession and now was the importance of Jason and I praying together.  He encouraged us to make the Chaplet of Divine Mercy a regular prayer for us to recite as a family.  I left feeling awesome and more ready for marriage than ever!

   Later that night I received a text from Jason saying "I did it!" He then went on to tell me his penance was none other than to pray together!  I don't know why, but this just really moved me.  We went to two different priests from two different churches, but still received the same penance.  We became more committed to this than ever.  When we saw each other later that night we said the Chaplet of Divine Mercy together.  Now, every evening we do a meditation from a book Jason's dad and step-mom gave to us for Christmas.  We also devote at least one day a week to deeper prayer.  I feel so confident in our marriage as long as we are able to keep this up.  We are also more committed to going to Reconciliation on a more regular basis.  Please keep us in your prayers as we begin our life together! 

This was shorter, right?  Maybe?  No?  Ok I'm sorry, but at the very least it was more focused.  Next up Marriage Blog...somewhat of an extension of this blog.  I do plan on blogging about the wedding, but I'm waiting until we have pictures from the photographer.  I also plan on doing a blog about our Honeymoon, but I need to upload pictures before that happens too.

Until next time,  

The Vrly-Fries  (like curly fries?)   

Sunday, January 22, 2012

If you give a girl an engagement ring, she'll want a glass of wine

It is so nice to be able to say we are done with planning the wedding.  I don't know what it was: the fact I was also in school, my perfectionist tendencies, or the other pressures I had going on around me last semester, but I can't say I really loved wedding planning.  It started out great.  We knocked so much out the first couple of months I figured I would be able to cruise into January.  Nope.  Mostly, that just gave me a false sense of security and when I realized how much more I needed to get finished with each vendor it about overwhelmed me.
 I think it was sometime in late September or early October when I sat down and filled out my planner with all the appointments I had coming up and potential dates for ones I still needed to make.  Every weekend was full.  Then I had the pleasure of going back in and adding in my school deadlines.  I had a bit of a break down.  One of the many reasons I believe God chose Jason for me is his ability to get me through these break downs.  He never gets angry or annoyed, but is always ready to sit and listen to me and then help me refocus on the important things.
  I also had a little bit of odd luck with vendors.  I think I received at least one email from each of them about some kind of position change or crisis.  By the end of it I was no longer shocked to receive these.  It became a given: "Oh yes of course your store is shutting down.  No big deal."  As you'll find out in a later blog, it all ended up being beautiful and more lovely than I could have imagined.  I'm not saying I didn't like my vendors, they were all excellent at their craft when it came to the big day; I simply wasn't prepared for the number of hiccups we had.
  Then there was the guest list.  Oooo the guest list.  This has to be the most stressful part of wedding planning.  There are so many people you want to invite, but there are also so many people your fiance wants to invite, and your parents want to invite.  And then of course there are those who you have to invite whether or not you want to.  It's the epitome of family politics.  When you start getting replies you start to think horrible things like "oh good you broke up with that guy, so he won't be coming anymore then?...Quick dear send out that other invite we have on hold."  Then there's the not knowing about the group of replies you never get back.  And last minute changes that leave little time to invite someone else on your "gosh I wish I could invite you" list.  Of course there are also the decline RSVPs from people you had really wished would have been able to go.   You always understand why, I mean living in a different state is a pretty good reason to not be able to make it.  But it's hard to let that vision of your wedding surrounded by you oldest and best friends and family go.  But like I said before, in the end, it all works out and all that stressing seems silly at this point.
  Okay enough of that.  Now do you understand the glass of wine reference?  I'm pretty sure my mom and sister could use a bottle of wine at this point as they read this and re-experience all my phone calls.  Speaking of these two...I love them.  I am so very lucky to have such a great support system.  I could easily write a whole post about my sister and how great she was at being a MOH.  I mean really, it made me want to go back and re-do being her MOH just so I could live up to her.  Hindsight is 20/20.  I think wedding preparation is a pay it forward kind of business.  Once you've been there you know what it's like and you're well equipped to help the next person in your life who is having a wedding with anything they need.  You know what they are secretly hoping for but not saying and understand any emotional or difficult moments they may have.  There were times I felt like no one really cared that Jason and I were getting married.  I mean people might ask how things were going, but they didn't seem to want to be invested.  But the second I would start to feel this way Kimberly would send me an email or do something to remind me I have her.  So thank you Kimberly for being my person.  You are excellent.
   Here's a list of wedding happenings with some pictures to go along since the last time I posted:

Jason and I had our engagement session and the lovely Stephanie Burrows came along!  Oh man, it's such a good thing Stephanie came along.  First, she watched Boots for us, but mostly she kept things light and happy and continuously reminded us to just focus on "us" being engaged and how great that is.  For the sake of brevity (hah brevity this post is going to last forever) I will just say we had an interesting experience this day.  It was a total of a three hours and we got some really beautiful pictures.  Also some really cute pictures of our little puppy :)  Here's a few of the unedited images.  Courtesy of Susan Gilbert Photography.

I love dancing with my man 

We practiced dipping the night before.  No joke. 

Had to throw in a little school spirit

This is one of my favorites.  Boots did such a good job turning around at the perfect moment

Omygosh our dog is cute!

My mother in law threw me a shower in Houston and it was so much fun.  She planned a really awesome trivia game and had Jason record his answers so it could be interactive.  Unfortunately, they may have underestimated how competitive I am (insert picture of giant swollen ankle) and how much of a perfectionist I am.  Jason apparently went back through the questions and amped up their difficulty levels; not a nice move.  This resulted in a lot of missed answers.  I felt pretty crappy afterwards actually.  I had this horrible feeling of "wow I don't know you at all apparently."  But to be fair he mostly asked me minute details about his childhood that I was in no way apart of.  For example:  What was the make, model, and color of Jason's first car and who was the last owner of this car?  This is a reasonable question if any of the following were true (hint none of the following are true): A) I knew Jason at any point during which he drove this car  B) I knew the people who last owned the car and they were still in possession of it  C) It was some ridiculously nice car that he definitely would have told me about because it was that awesome  D) He was super into cars and therefore would have told me about this car because it's his favorite thing to talk about  E) Some really important event in his life happened in this car and therefore he certainly told me this story and the car played a integral role.   I got this question wrong.  There were others like this.  Apparently I'm still holding onto this, quick let's move on!
My favorite part of this shower was when Jason's mom gave us a scrapbook she had started making.  It was made to help us document where we started, the engagement, and various wedding events throughout.  She left extra pages in the back for us to add more invitations and keepsakes.  It was so thoughtful!
Said scrapbook which is now on our coffee table

Next on the agenda:  Bachelorette/Lingerie shower.  SO. MUCH. FUN.  I'll let the pictures speak for this one.
Cupcake bra and lingerie! 

Cereal lingerie courtesy of J Wag

And then we went to Vertical Fitness.  Kim had heard me mention in passing one time how much fun it looked and then surprised me by taking me here for the B Party.  Awesome!
We're a pretty talented group of friends 

The oh so graceful and lovely crew

Woot!  It's time to Party!

I had a rather interesting list of to do's that night:  The first one marked off the list?  Rub a bald guys head.

Have someone buy you a shot/meet a guy on his bachelor party 

Get a guy to give you an article of clothing 

Have someone buy the whole group a shot

Oh then I went on stage at Pete's and here's what happened

"Rebecca's party needs to get her another drink.  She's doing too well."  No sir.  I'm just competitive. 
Would I have dove on the floor at one point if I didn't have enough to drink?  I hope not.
I know my alphabet 
Might be my fave 

My Aggie girls! 

Other items marked off list: Get a kiss on cheek.  Rub finger through hair.  Hug a stranger.  And as an extra we also got a free magic show
 Alright.  Next up:  Bridals.  I woke up early that morning and Ms. Stephanie Burrows came over to do my hair.  She did such a great job.  I am forever thankful to her for doing my hair for this and the wedding day.  Having talented friends is so convenient!  A few notes about the pictures: 1) these are unedited  2) This was before my last two dress fittings, so my dress wasn't fitting quite right.    Photos courtesy of Susan Gilbert Photography.

This one is edited.  It was used as my bridal portrait

Next:  Dallas shower given by my Aunt Carol and and Confirmation Sponsor, Mrs. Larson.  It was the loveliest shower I could have imagined.  Mrs. Larson lives in the most quaint house in all of Dallas as far as I'm concerned.  This was the shower the day before the half marathon.  This worked out nice because Mrs. Larson is a nutritionist so she had me set with all the foods I needed to do my best.  I also decided that I should have used Mrs. Larson's garden as the site for my bridals.  It's so beautiful and organic.  If Jason and I ever do our second day shoot, I think this is where we'll go.

Next:  Couple's Shower in Dallas given by my siblings!  So much fun.  I think everyone should have at least one shower where both guys and girls attend and is devoted to the "younger" crowd.  It was date night themed and we received lots of really fun date ideas.  For example:  We have two gift certificates for us to go rock climbing together.  Yes please!  Also, one of my favorites, Ellie gave us "Guesstures" which was the game Jason and I played together the first night we met.  Oh nostalgia :)

Next: Final dress fittings.  I was having trouble getting my dress to fit the way I wanted it to.  Thanks to my now well-known "Soup Diet" it was a little roomy.  Because it's backless and didn't have any kind of corset or lace up top this caused some problems.  I went to my final fittings right before Christmas hoping for a solution.  Mii did a little tugging and a lot of pinning and for the first time when I looked in the mirror I felt like I was actually wearing my dress.  Even with all the pins, it looked better than I had seen it before.  When I got to put it on again after Christmas I was so happy.  I don't think she made it quite as tight as she had pinned it, but it's okay...I guess it allowed me to sit, which is a good thing, especially if you're having a Catholic wedding (sit, stand, sit, kneel, stand, etc).

From here it was just a whirlwind of last minute items and payments.  The two weeks leading up to the wedding went by so fast and yet so slow all at the same time.  I look back now and have some regrets, but that mostly has to do with my attitude toward things.  I've got to learn to relax.  Luck for me I now have a husband I get to live with who is an expert at helping me calm down.

Next up:  Spirituality blog.  This is one of the ones I've been most looking forward to.  Don't worry, it will be considerably shorter  :)

The Fries

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Oh Hello Again - Running the Race

Hello again.  It has officially been 98 + 14 days since my last post.  Wedding planning and school did a fine job of taking every last bit of energy I had.  You probably would not have enjoyed my blogs had I attempted to write them.  They would have sounded something like this: Wedding planning - hard; Vendors - pain; Running - not enough; Spirituality - not enough; Becoming a house wife - sparse; School - how much longer again?  

Alright now if you're a fan of brief summaries you can stop there.  However, if you'd like to know a few more details and a retrospective view of these things keep going.  Oh how looking back on everything sure does put it all into perspective.  I'll devote this post to what first inspired me to start blogging: Running. 

I've done it!  I've completed my first half marathon.  Whew.  I guess I should start by thanking my running buddy Jared.  We started out running every Tuesday evening, but as soon as my semester started up realized this was not going to work.  I was tired when I finally got home and not terribly motivated.  We switched it to Saturday/Sunday morning.  This was a great move.  I was available more for these runs and it started to get me acclimated to running in colder weather.  

Okay I guess this is a good time to expand on Jared's patience with me.  I have this terrible tendency of not following through on plans all the time.  There were a couple of late Friday nights or early Saturday mornings where I would send an "ooo I'm tired" or "oops I forgot to tell you I was going to Houston this weekend" or "oh I just had my bachelorette party and am in no condition to run" text.  For a lot of people this would get old immidiately.  I'm not proud of this characteristic of mine.  It's something that having a running buddy has really brought to my attention, and something I'm really trying to work on.  Well, Jared was perfectly nice about it every time.  Instead of just dropping me to run by myself he would just respond with an "okay no problem!  Try and run X amount of miles sometime this week!"  I am so grateful for this.  And then later in the week he would text again asking how my run went.  Still keeping me accountable without making me feel like a complete jerk for cancelling.  

Alright so I'm cruising.  We are right on schedule with my training about to start the longer runs (9-10 miles) and start pushing the pace.  Or not.  Instead I go and injure myself playing basketball.  That's right Jason; I'm gonna put it out there, it was not Jason's fault.  I mean he did steal the basketball away from me in an unnecessarily rough manner, but it was my pride that then led me to chase after him and try to get the ball back.  In the end it resulted in a huge ankle and about a 3 week recovery time.

    So here I was, a month and 14 days out from running my first marathon unable to run.  I was bummed to say the least.  I think Jared sent me a text after he saw the photo saying something along the lines of "soooo you want to cancel our run this weekend?"  Umm yes perhaps.  Oh side note, this was also about two weeks out from my bachelorette party.  My second top concern after "oh no I can't run!" was "oh no what if I can't wear heels!"  It's the important things in life really.  

About two weeks to go before the marathon I start trying to push up my miles again.  I had gotten stuck on a comfortable 4 mile run.  Not good news when that is only 1/3 of the race.  I ran 6 miles while we were in Houston and another 6 miles in Denton.  On Thanksgiving morning, one week and three days before the race I decided that if I was going to do this I had better get in at least one long run.  So I strapped on my shoes and put on my nifty gift Jason had given me for my birthday.  It's a training watch with GPS and heart rate monitor.  It lets me know how far I've gone and my current pace.  I love it!

I had already mapped out my run so I knew exactly where my destination point was before I would allow myself to turn around.  In short, I ran 12 miles at a not so great pace, but I had done it!  I decided to save that extra 1.1 miles for race day.  I knew I was going to at least survive the race and that was all I wanted at this point.

Okay so race day arrives.  The night before I do everything I'm supposed to.  I have a bridal shower (relaxation and lots of gifts is always necessary before a race).  I loaded up on the carbs and water for dinner.  I went to bed at a decent hour and set my alarm with enough time to meet Jared at his apartment the next morning.  I was set.  

I get a text message in the middle of the night.  "Whyyy is someone texting me in the middle of the night!"  I figure I had better check it in case there's an emergency.  Oh wait it's not the middle of the night!  I missed my alarm!  It's Jared asking me where I am.  

Side note:  My first semester in college I slept through my calculus final exam.  It was the worst feeling ever to wake up and realize you've missed something very important.  This approximates how bad I felt texting Jared "Oh I just got up"

Okay so I get ready faster than I thought possible.  Original plan:  Eat half a Cliff bar and a banana; dink some gateorade; bring a water bottle.  Instead, I scarf down a Cliff bar and run outside to meet Jared.  As usual he doesn't even show a hint of being annoyed.  I mean come on!  I'm completely making this a stressful morning, when all a person really wants to do is focus on the race ahead.  Again, I'm so grateful for his patience.  

On top of all of this the weather is a mess.  Cold cold cold, windy and rainy.  Oh also I needed to use the rest room but by the time we got there we didn't have time to stop at one of the long lined port-a-potties.  Which is probably for the best because they are gross...oh except that then I had to run 13.1 miles needing to pee.  That was not so great.  Motivation?

So we're off.  I start out at a good pace, I'm surprisingly happy with how I'm feeling, except for the need to go to the bathroom.  Mile 1 done, 2 done, at about mile 3 I give up on trying to avoid puddles, mile 4 done, mile 5-6 check; mile 7 (ish?) oh look this is where the hills start; mile 8 oh my gosh I do not want to do this anymore, not because i'm tired now but because I know I have 5 more to go.  Mile 9 - thank goodness Jared is here.  I feel like dying and he is high fiving the crown, commenting on the signs, having a great time.  Oh and then one of the people in the crowd gave him a beer.  That was pretty awesome.  

Mile 10 ok I can do this, anytime now I'm going to see Jason.  We agreed that he would be somewhere along mile 10...Mile 11-where the F is Jason? Maybe I missed him, I'm going to feel bad if he was out there an I missed him.  That sucks.  Mile 11.5 - JASON!  Holding a sign for me :)  I give him a high five.  I'm feeling awesome!  2 more miles to go!  This is cake.  

Mile 13.1!  I did it!!  I may have felt like crying a little.  Best feeling ever.  Until you realize it's still cold and rainy and you are no longer running.  Also until you realize you still need to pee and the line is forever long.  I get through the line and find my way to Jason in the car.  It takes me at least the rest of the day before I start to feel warm again.  But it was worth it!

In the end I ran it in 2 hours and 52 seconds.  My orignal goal was 1 hour and 45 mins for my first half.  Following my injury that time was revised to 2 hours.  So I was a little over my revised goal, but considering the weather conditions and the need to go to the bathroom the whole race, I was pretty happy with the final result.  I'm excited to improve with the more races I do.  It's a great feeling to get the first one out of the way! 

Next month I'm doing a 15K with Jared called the Hot Chocolate 15K.  Yay for free Ghirardelli chocolate!  Then in April Jason and the Wagner's and I are all going to do Warrior Dash!  So excited!  

Also glad to get this first post out of the way.  Still to come: update on wedding planning and execution; becoming a house wife; spirituality; and more!