Friday, September 30, 2011

Life Lately.

Here is a glimpse at life lately through my Instax Mini pictures :)

Here we have a picture from the Harry Potter premiere with Kate on the left (aka Tonks) and Nicole on the right (aka Harry Potter).  I'm dressed as a snitch in the center and although you can't see them, I am wearing wings and my shirt says, "I open at the close". (Nerd Alert, anyone?) The picture on the right is of our friends Chris and Rachel and their sweet baby girl Ainsley!  I would like to point out that something was wrong with this particular batch of film because Nicole doesn't usually have a softball sized pimple on her face and Rachel doesn't usually have one on her arm.  Sorry about that girls!

Contrary to the popular opinion that William and Kate had the wedding of the year... or the not so popular opinion that the Kim Kardashian did (really America? Really??), the wedding of the year actually goes to one of my very best friends Emily and her new hubby Mike :)  We had so much fun celebrating with them! 

They also had the cutest wedding favors, a photobooth and bookmarks! 

And finally, a couple of pictures from our time at Myrtle Beach.  You'll notice that I had to stand in the water for the picture on the right.  This was very brave of me considering I am really good at dropping EVERYTHING.

My Instax Mini is still proving to be one of my best purchases ever!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Seed.

This is the first Fall since Josh and I have been together that we haven't been in full swing starting youth group and hanging out with teens. In July, a large group of parents and friends threw us a " Josh and Leslie Appreciation Night" and one of our sweet seniors wrote this poem.  She read it out loud and without even realizing it I just started crying as I listened.  Isn't it just so precious?  I'm keeping it forever.

The new youth Pastor is here and he and the entire group is thriving.  We are feeling so blessed and encouraged by the way everything has gone with the transition to a new leader.  The teens are still coming and learning about the Lord, and we are feeling incredibly excited about the direction things are going.  We support their new leader with complete confidence that these kids we love are in the best, most capable hands they could possibly be in.

In fact, the entire transition has gone so smoothly that Josh and I think we could probably write a book about it! (I'm only half joking about that, by the way).  There are countless stories of ministry transitions going terrible, so we are relieved that ours is a tale of emotional health, honesty, transparency, prepared planning, and group effort. This combined effort from the leaders at our church is the reason that the movement we worked for four years to start will sustain itself and, in fact, is now poised to grow exponentially.  

Seeing all of the exciting things that are happening with and for the teens can invoke one of two feelings.  Excitement about the direction things are going, or resentment about being "replaced". (Bleh. I don't even like typing the second part.)  Obviously, we have chosen (and will always choose) excitement.  How could we not?  We feel thankful, not resentful.  We feel released, not replaced.  We feel celebrated, not forgotten.  There is no room for negative emotions in a season such as this.  My heart is free to enjoy what is happening because I really feel that God spoke the following words to my heart a few weeks ago:

 "Leslie, you and Josh were the seed that had to die so a bigger plant could grow.  You, the seed, did exactly what you were supposed to do for the season you were supposed to do it.  You gave life to something that was always going to be much bigger than you.  Every seed must die so that a new life can be born.  This season is that new birth."

So, as a truly fulfilling and blessed season of our life officially comes to an end, we look forward to the knew plant that is our former ministry, and the new seed that we are.  We are moving forward in the new direction that God has lead us.  We are looking back at what we created and what we did the last four years fondly and will continue to witness - joyfully - all that is going to unfold in the years to come with the teens.  

Maybe we'll always be "seeds".  Starting new movements, and when the time is right, dying so that something bigger than we ever could have imagined could grow.  Being the seed means a life of humility and knowing that we aren't going to be the biggest/best/most important part of anything.  

and I like the sounds of that.

"Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life."  John 12:23-25

Monday, September 26, 2011

Our Honeymoon.

As I'm working on the "Adventures" tab of my blog, I realized that I have never actually blogged about our Honeymoon.  It's been a lot of fun to go through the pictures from our first week as a married couple and reminisce about all of the fun we had together. Looking at these pictures I can't help but think of Brad Paisley's song, "And I thought I loved You Then" because I swear we barely knew each other at that point.  (Of course that's not true but it feels that way now).  I love growing and discovering and learning more about Josh with each passing year. 

We were married at 4:00pm on Friday, October 10, 2008.

We were on our flight to Grand Cayman Island at 5:45am on Saturday, October 11, 2008.

You might notice that we left for our much anticipated Honeymoon rather quickly.  In hindsight, I wouldn't recommend it for anyone.  The sheer exhaustion of getting married, dancing, sleeping, getting to an airport, figuring out we didn't have our marriage license, waking our parents up to get said-license, running through the airport to make it to our flight on time and sitting in our seats with 5 extra minutes definitely put a little strain on our first trip together.  

While planning our honeymoon, we were so excited to get out of West Michigan and into the sun of the Caribbean that we didn't really consider that an early flight the morning after the biggest day of our life might not be the best idea ever.  Needless to say, we landed in Grand Cayman, made our way to our resort, and took one big long married NAP.  Exhaustion isn't very compatible with healthy thinking patterns in this mind of mine, so I was relieved to wake up refreshed and no longer going through the major identity crisis I had been experiencing on the sleep-deprived flight down ("Who am I?", "How is my name different but I'm the same person?", and "ohmygosh we are married FOREVER.") After feeling like I was from CrazyTown, it was nice to join the rest of the crowd in Normal-ville.  We were ready to have a great week together!

On our flight.  I made matching shirts. I hadn't considered Josh might not want to wear pink but he was a trooper about it.  I still have my wedding earrings in.  I wonder if I slept with them?  Probably.

The view from our room.

We tried to find local restaurants to eat at but could only find one.  Vivine's Kitchen.  It was literally an addition to the kitchen in this woman's home with just a roof and tables under it.  You had to walk up her back stairs, order inside her home kitchen, and wait for her to bring the food out.  Grand Cayman was uninhabited when it was discovered, so there really isn't much of a cultural heritage.  It was pretty much just like the United States which, for a couple of cultural enthusiasts like us, was the only mildly disappointing aspect of this trip.

Just getting out of the pool after a late night swim.  Oooh la la!

Checking out shipwrecks. 

We officially declared Burger King our "Honeymoon Restaurant".  We decided that we would rather spend our money on experiences on the island rather than food at all of its fancy restaurants.  One day, we ran into fellow honeymooners from our resort downtown and had this conversation:

Other honeymooners: "We were just on our way to lunch at the (insert fancy restaurant name here)
Us: "That's great!  We're on our way to lunch too!"
Other honeymooners: "Oh really? Where are you two going?"
Us: "Burger King."
Other honeymooners: "Oh.. um... that's....nice."

Cemetery Beach

We found a blow hole.  I was sure my new husband was going to get knocked down, crack his skull open, and swept out to sea.  So naturally I stood there, helplessly taking pictures of what was sure to be the last moments of his earthly life... (fortunately I was wrong).

I made one - ONE - attempt at driving on the left side of the road in the right side of the car.  It was terrifying. and weird. But I wanted the full Cayman experience.

Rum Point where we saw and chased sting rays while we snorkeled! 

 Everything was so colorful.

We snorkeled every day of our vacation.  It was so much fun and we have yet to see anything even close to as beautiful as the underwater life we witnessed in Grand Cayman.

However, I did get a case of swimmer's ear by the end of the week. 

After one glorious week, we boarded a plane to head back to our new life as a married couple. 
We were officially ready to take on the world together!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Ultimate Photo Bomb.

I was born at the same time as the goofball in the left picture,

 aaaaaaand I sleep with the goofball in the right picture.  

How lucky am I?

(This being an excellent example of a rhetorical question, BY THE WAY.)


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Our Adventure Book.

For our second anniversary, Josh and I were inspired to do a photo session based on one of our favorite movies, the Disney Pixar film "Up". If you haven't made time to see it yet - I forgive you - but you should probably go do that.  Riiiiiight now. Or tonight at the very latest.  Because you are seriously missing out and I promise you won't regret it.  Josh cried twice the first time we saw it. TWICE, people. I only cried once because I was so distracted by the fact that Josh was crying. ("Awww baaaabe, are you seriously crying right now?") It was the sweetest thing ever.

Our friend (and wedding/engagement photographer) Brandon from Modern Photographics took these for us, and we absolutely adore them.  

Buddy in his "The Cone of Shame"

I'm so thankful that Josh is secure enough in his manliness to feel free to do things like this. We both had such a great time that we are starting to think having anniversary pictures taken might become a yearly ritual.  There is something about it that encourages our happiness, our in-loveness, our silliness, and our playfulness.

(In fact, I'm starting to plan our anniversary session for this year aaaaand I'm pretty excited about it!)

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Process of Surrender.

The process of "surrendering my life to Christ" is something I've been considering a lot, recently.  Originally, I thought that I was supposed to surrender my life to Him... once.  One time and that's it and I'm good to go.  What I've learned recently, though, is that while my life is His based on that long-ago initial surrender, there are a lot of aspects of my life that I need to continually surrender to Him.  Especially when it comes to moving overseas.

This thinking was sparked several weeks ago in an intense moment that caught me off guard.  I've been pondering it in my heart and mulling it over and I only just shared these thoughts with Josh a few minutes ago.  I began sharing them with him in the matter-of-fact tone that comes with most of my unemotional "new realizations", but as I continued to share this 'heart-thought' (as I call it) I started to cry.  I kept pausing as I was talking because the words were getting caught in my throat and I hadn't expected that, but there wasn't anything I could do to stop it (although I attempted by clearing my throat several times).  So finally, I let them come.  (Tears while I'm talking are always a sign that something about what I'm saying is very truthful deep inside of me). They weren't weepy tears.  I just kept talking and they fell down my cheeks.  

One at time.
Two at a time.

As I finished talking the tears finished falling and a sense of relief came over me because I had finally put into words what I have been feeling for months.  The 'heart-thought' was born in an intense moment that was sandwiched between a symphony of beautiful moments.  We spent Labor Day weekend at my parents cottage with four of our very best friends: Nicole & Kenny and Emily & Mike.  We had so much fun together playing games, taking pictures, swimming, wake boarding, riding 6 people in our Le Sabre (ohhh yes the front seat is a bench seat. I know, I know... completely awesome!) and being silly in Meijer like we were freshman in high school (Everyone knows the cool thing to do in high school is wreak havoc in the local super market).  It was a special weekend and it encompassed everything that I love about the cottage that I have spent every summer at since I was 12.  

On our last night, we took the boat out for a midnight cruise.  The stars graced the sky and we spent a lot of time chatting and laughing and I even got to play my ukulele a bit.  Eventually, it got quiet and we sat in silence looking at the stars and feeling at ease in the presence of friends who love each other.  As much as I wished for time to stand still a little bit longer, eventually, this especially special moment came to a slow end as Josh re-started the engine and aimed the boat for shore.  Suddenly, I was struck with a deep inner panic.  I thought to myself:

"This is the last time I'm going to be in this boat for three entire years.  This is the last time I'm going to enjoy this cottage for... 


This terrible realization hit me hard and fast and suddenly I found myself trying to remember and absorb every every detail I could.  The way the boat rocks on the water.  The smell of the gasoline. The feel of a warm blanket and a cold seat.  The texture of my lake-wetted, air-dried curly hair.  The feeling of satisfaction that always comes after a day of fun and laughing at the lake.

In the same moment of intense awareness of the blessing of the cottage and how much I was going to miss it, the thought immediately following it was a short prayer:

"Lord, I surrender this to You, too.  All of it.  It's Yours.  The boat.  The lake.  The stories we've written here.  It all came from You and I'm giving it back to You.  I surrender this to You and I thank You that it was ever mine to give up."

This is what makes it so hard to leave.  The surrendering of little things that I thought were mine.  Surrendering things that I thought I deserved or experiences that I felt I had a 'right' to.  It's a process.  And sometimes my tears aren't calm like they were tonight.  Sometimes they are hot and uncontrollable and heavy.  And sometimes, like tonight, they are resolved and inspired and willing.  

I don't think this process of surrender will ever go away.  I think the closer I come to God the more I will be aware that my life isn't mine and that He owes me nothing and I owe Him everything.  (and that I cannot out-give the Giver of all good things.)  So as the time approaches to leave, I will continue surrendering all that is mine, willingly, with the hopes of gaining what can never be lost.

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20 

(My "life verse" I chose several years ago)

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Glimpse.

Here are a few glimpses of our life according to the iPad :)

Josh's Dad and Grandma
Giving Buddy a bath in a doggy station at a carwash
You say "unfinished basement"?  We see "built in skating rink".
Tomato Tomahto.

If I was ever going to do an "outfit post" it would probably be this outfit.  Alas, I am not.   
Nicole wearing the traveling birthday crown!
Prrrrobably my favorite picture of Rob and Kate. Ever.    

Date night.  You know how sometimes people look mad in their "pensive" pictures.
Well, this is a picture where I actually was mad, but it just looks pensive....
and I'm confessing it to you now.

Happy!  At last!

Not as mad anymore.  Mostly pensive. 
Quidditch match.

Shantel and her sweet Baby Girl
This is in Baby Girl's room.  The tree says "One reason birds and
 horses are happy is because they aren't trying to impress other
birds and horses."

Gahhhh!  That face!

Working at the Inn.

Cuddle buds.

 Exploring an abandoned house.