Friday, December 30, 2011

2012, I'm ready.

2011 was a fun, gut-wrenching, soul inspiring, "no laziness allowed" kind of year. There were parts that I absolutely hated and parts that inspired me to dream bigger and love better. Here are some highlights of this past year:

Went skiing in Colorado and we had our first accident in 20 years. Patrick got a ski pole to the eye and had to get his eyelid stitched in the Vail ER. Luckily it was close to the end of the trip? And his eye socket wasn't broken? 

In March we went to the Middle East with a team from Bethel Atlanta. This is some of us in the town of Biblos (where we get the name "Bible"). Amazing experience where I learned a lot about "practicing God's presence." They were in a 7-day storm when we were there, and it also snowed. We had to borrow winter clothes from some of our buds over there because who would have expected snow when you are on the Mediterranean Ocean?

In April I went to Haiti with The 410 Bridge. We worked in a town called Chadirac, and had the opportunity to work on one of the Land of a Thousand Hills Haitian coffee plantations. This was one of the harder trips I've ever been on, and still I am unsure as to why. I came home and practically collapsed and cried for hours. I don't know why I cried or why it was hard. it. just. was. And I don't know if my heart will ever be ready to go back.

In May I turned 26 and celebrated with some of my best friends at La Parrilla. Patrick was out of town for work, which I had a TERRIBLE attitude about, but I'm thankful for great friends that made it so special. Who doesn't love margaritas, chips and salsa, sombreros and a group of your best buds?

In June we bought our first house in Marietta, GA, so back to our old stomping ground! We're in a different part of town than where we grew up, but it's still Marietta. Excited to raise our family here in our beautiful neighborhood surrounded by so many great parks and restaurants. And internationals.

Sometime during the summer I got an iPhone and it's probably one of the best things EVER. I have not regretted this purchase for one second. Instagram, Diptic, and Lightbox are my favorite apps thus far. And Words with Friends. And Shazam. And Scoutmob. And Red Laser. And Facebook.

In July we got this sweet little baby, Lucy. She's 60 pounds, so "little" is not quite accurate. She and Bailey the cat are not quite buds yet, but we're declaring that 2012 will be a year of reconciliation between our animals. And maybe a year of weight loss for Bailey.

At the end of July/beginning of August we went to Charleston to the beach with my dad's side of the family. It's our annual tradition and one of my favorite things to do. 

 In September Patrick and I went to Southern California. He had a work meeting, so we made it a long weekend. We went to our first Azerbaijan restaurant in San Diego, and it is probably our favorite meal to date. Now if only The Weather Channel would re-locate us to California...

In October I started a new job with Pardot, a marketing automation company (if you are unsure what marketing automation is, I'm still probably not the one to ask). The learning curve is pretty steep, but I really enjoy the people I work with and all the perks the job offers. Who wouldn't love unlimited vacay?

We had our Korean neighbors over in October for dinner, and surprised them with a lesson in pumpkin carving. They're only here for 2 years, so we're trying to help them maximize their time in America! We tutor the 8th grader, HaRim, who is standing next to his dad. He's a gem. And these were the jack-o-lanterns that we put candles in and set up on their porch. All original designs.

In October I had my first Happy Hour at work. And yes, we also have a beer fridge. Secular jobs are not all that bad! 

We had lots of family pass through Atlanta, which meant lots of meals at Fellini's with my dad, Jill, and Libby Gray. This is my cousin Baird on the left, in town from Charleston. Lucky for him he also got to visit Sweetwater Brewery.

I read The Hunger Games series, and started the Harry Potter series. Yes, I realize I'm a little late on the Harry Potter train, but at least I made it.

 This might not interest anyone but me, but in November WE GOT A DINING ROOM TABLE! It's beautiful. And one of our best purchases to date. We also were blessed and got to have our families over to OUR house for Thanksgiving, so it was the perfect reason to break in this baby.

I got re-tweeted by the Bert Show TWICE. Probably the highlight of my year. Naturally.

At the beginning of December we took a trip to Asheville and Charlotte to visit friends and family. This was taken at my aunt Marilee's art show. I love getting to catch up with family. 

We went to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra at Phillips Arena and had KILLER seats. 

Sometime in early December I had a "come to Jesus" with Abby about my attitude. It took a few hours, some lunges, Starbucks, and 2 hours of track-walking. But I hope I'm better for it. Someone who loves me can tell me if it worked.

This is Libby Gray at her Christmas pageant. She's not even my child but I had to fight back tears when I watched her walk on stage. She knew all the songs and motions, and was obviously the star of the show. Isn't she so beautiful? She's actually spending the night with us tonight, and we've been planning activities ALL week for her.

 Our Pardot Christmas party was held at the Aquarium. This is me with two of the greatest girls I know, Susan and Ginny. 

So all in all, things turned out more positive than negative. There were some really tough moments, none of which are really mentioned here. But trust me, they were ever present. And I'm still not over or through any of them unfortunately. And I sometimes wish that I could be gut-level honest with myself and my life in a space like this, but I would hurt 2938472358203481 people's feelings and probably have no friends by the end of the post. And since I'm an extrovert, no friends would be terrible. So maybe one day I'll come clean with what this year has been like, and pray that no one gets mad at me. Which is probably impossible but maybe we'll make it there eventually.

Cheers to 2012 - I CANNOT WAIT FOR YOU. Come quickly and do not delay. And bring with you great community, cocktails, a fire pit, 24/7 worship, and some new books. But let me keep my pets of 2011. Thanks.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lovesick Love

I love the ministry of the Holy Spirit- He is LIFE for the dying heart. He is COMFORT for the broken soul. He is tangible HOPE for the hopeless and weary. He is not an idea, a concept, or sound theology. He is the presence of God filling my car. He is the lap that I lay my head on to cry. He is the very present listening companion when my heart is bursting with emotion. He is my Secret Keeper. My Heart Holder. My wings when i forget how to fly... He is my 1000th chance. My Starting-Over-Tomorrow Mercy. My Lovesick Love. Dream of My Life. My Only.

-Ginny Hill

let me be


fully engaged

with the nearness of



Living for this one


to hear you whisper

in the stillness


slow down-

this evanescent



is much too valuable

to be distracted

by lofty ideals

and thoughts


Take up residence

and be my


never again subject

to the pain of


i am 

[seated with you.]

-Ginny Hill

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bethel Christmas

This year was Bethel Atlanta's first Christmas Eve service. Now that might not sound like a big deal to you, but for me it is huge. Getting to tangibly spend time in God's presence on Christmas Eve was one of the most fulfilling things I could ever ask for. Worshiping alongside our closest friends, and getting to not only sing Christmas carols, but actually worship through them was incredible. I just love God's presence. And feeling like I was truly honoring Him on Christmas was better than I imagined.

Most Christmas songs have weighty words. And for some reason, most church services never spend time really digging into the songs. It's easy to sing 7-8, or even one or two songs quickly without ever actually unpacking God's heart in them. This past weekend I found that God had so much for me within certain song lyrics, and I'd never really been given the space to pull those sentiments to the surface until now.

'til He appeared and the soul felt its worth

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease

He rules the earth with truth and grace
and makes the nations prove
the glories of His righteousness
and the wonders of His love

Sing choirs of angels, sing in exultation
sing all ye citizens of heaven above
glory to God in the highest:
O come let us adore Him

These are some of the lyrics that really captured me this year. None of them are earth shattering when you first read them, but having worship leaders sing prophetically through them was just amazing. God's presence completely overwhelmed me on Christmas Eve, and singing of His holiness and glory only magnified His presence around me. This year I am so grateful for a church that isn't satisfied with just "doing church."

If we don't experience God's presence, we've missed it.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Etsy Prints

Almost every day I feel like I walk around my house, scour Pinterest, and read blogs looking for the perfect inspiration for my life. Unfortunately I have had very little success recently. I feel like each room in my house is a hodge podge of colors, aesthetics, and ideas. And the only room that it's kind of working in is our bedroom. But thats because there are no patterns to clash, and just a few solid colors and some cool photographs. 

I always envy people who have vision for rooms, because my vision is limited to Pinterest and its 9834752934872341 options. Which are obviously impossible to narrow down. West Elm also offers me no resolution, nor does Restoration Hardware. Not that their ideas aren't beautiful and sophisticated, they just happen to be upwards of $3,000. Yikes.

However, I did buy two prints from etsy today. I don't know what I'll do with them, but they are fun and brightly colored, and I'm just crossing my fingers that they'll bring life to a dull space. Like the downstairs bathroom. What do you think?

They could easily clash with each other, which is a slight fear I have. But at $8 a print I'll take my chances. And if they clash, I can always separate the two. Or put them in really unique frames. 

My other idea to liven up a dull space, or give people something really eye-catching to look at, is this:

Making a poster of mine and Patrick's instagram prints. Because we can put as many or as few pictures on a poster as we want, which is awesome. I think that this is a great way to chronicle some of the travel experiences we've had in a loud and modern way, or even some of the cool "artistic" shots we've taken and edited. And the friends that we hang out with in swanky places. Truly this would be something the whole family would enjoy.

The instagram poster could be a little bit intense, but I think you could even cut it into two squares and frame them each side-by-side? Who knows. The possibilities here are seemingly endless. I just hope that they are not all completely lame. But that is a risk you take when trying to do something cool and different. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wedding Shower

Tonight I'm throwing a bridal shower for a sweet friend of mine who is getting married in April. I know you're just DYING to know what I'm baking for this festive event, so here are a few pictures to whet your appetite. And for those of you that aren't coming, I'm sorry to tease you like this. 

Homemade junior mints.

Fruit pizza cookies.

Chocolate peanut butter bars.

Feta dip with parmesan pita chips.

Seasoned saltines with a kick.

Santa Sangria. The white version.

Well, there you have it folks. Some of the glorious snacks that will be had tonight at my house. The only thing I left out was hummus, but that's because I just bought hummus at Publix. No grand fanfare there.

It should be really fun, and hopefully the treats will be up to snuff. But obviously as long as Natalie feels loved and cherished, nothing else matters. Cheers.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stolen Life

This past weekend my sweet cousin Maggie's boyfriend was killed.

By a drunk driver. 

On his way home from work.

A week before Christmas.

I got the text first thing Saturday morning that it had happened at 4am, and my uncle was boarding a flight from Louisville to go see Maggie in Charleston. To hold her and let her cry. To love her and spend as many hours as he needed to with her. To get her food or blankets or movies. To make her take a shower or change clothes. To let her scream. For some reason there are times when only a dad can help. And this was one of those times. And I hope that it's innate in every dad to know when his time to rise up is here, because you don't always have the strength to ask for him.

Maggie and Quentin had been together for 7 years. They went to Alabama together, then moved to Charleston together. Spending 7 years with Quentin made him more than just a "boyfriend" to Maggie. He was her best friend. Her biggest supporter. Her other half. The one she told everything to. The one that inspired her dreams. And just because he's gone doesn't mean that she doesn't need those things anymore, or that any of those feelings go away. If anything she needs more of that than she ever thought possible. But how do you truly grieve? How do you move on from something this catastrophic that turns your world upside down?

Right now I don't have a box to put this experience in. Maggie and I are the same age, just three months apart. We grew up together. And Patrick and I have been together for about as long as her and Quentin. And I simply CANNOT wrap my mind around losing my best friend. The one person who knows what I'm thinking without me having to say it. Who knows when I need a hug or a pat on the back or a cheeseburger and a coke. Or when I'm fighting back tears or trying not to laugh. Without Patrick I would be devastated. And no love from anyone else could really make the pain of losing that life-long counterpart bearable. 

Right now all I know to do is pray. Even though I'm mad and angry and sad and torn-up over one of the biggest blessings of my sweet cousin's life being stripped from her without warning. I'm praying that there'd be peace. That there'd be justice. That people would love her better than they've ever loved her before. That Quentin's family would still claim her as their own. And one day she'd be able to meet someone who would fulfill all of those desires again. That would turn her world upside down. And cherish her the way Quentin so wonderfully did.

Quentin you will be dearly missed.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

California Experience

If I could live anywhere, I'd probably live in California. Or Italy. But I'm thinking more in terms of State-side. Because everyone would really prefer to live in Italy. 

I love California because it has something to offer everyone, and each region has its own group of people, preferences, styles, etc. Simply put, there is always a place you can go and fit in. And I kind of like to fit in. A lot. And Daniel Lau would tell you its a problem that I need to deal with. But right now I prefer to live in my backslidden state and no, I am not ashamed. 

Without further ado, here are a few highlights from mine and Patrick's trip to California in October. I realized I never posted any of these because I was choosing to live in a black hole and talk to no one, so I'm sorry these are a bit late. BUT THEY'RE STILL GOOD! So check them out. And enjoy them. And remind yourself that YOU can be a light in my dark hole if you're interested. I'm looking for a way out. :) Thanks.

 On the pier on Balboa Island

Just to keep with tradition 

Balboa/Newport Frozen Banana dipped in chocolate and rolled in cinnamon and sugar

San Diego - our view from the hotel room when we woke up (it was dark when we checked in the night before)

Our favorite restaurant to date. Cafe 21 in the Gas Lamp District of San Diego. These are assorted sangrias and mimosas. 

The meer cats at the San Diego Zoo. Just as cute as they look.

Proof that we saw more than meer cats.

We also spent a few hours in Laguna Beach and discovered that yes, it really is as beautiful as everyone says. However LC and Heidi were nowhere to be found.

All in all we had a great trip. Despite not seeing ANYONE from The Hills.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Visually North Carolina

This past weekend we went to Montreat, Asheville, and Charlotte, NC for a long weekend of r & r. Unfortunately, the r & r piece was conveniently missing from the trip, but in its place we put new restaurants, good friends, art, and wine. Here are some visual glimpses of our trip.

This is the sunset through the rain before I left last Wednesday. Our office is on the 34th floor so we always get killer views when it's storming.

First thing on Thursday (we arrived late on Wed night) we packed up our books and went to the Dripolator to visit Jess. I had a "Cesspool" - a glorious coffee concoction with cinnamon, caramel, and salt.

 Malbec wine. A new fave. At Lexington Avenue Brewery.

Hot chocolate with dark chocolate ganache and coconut cream. At French Broad Chocolate Lounge. All gourmet, fair-trade, organic chocolate.

 Patrick's "Liquid Truffle" with added dark chocolate. *"Salted maple", and "maple bacon" were also optional flavors.

A re-cap: beer, fish tacos, and Lexington Ave. Brewery, and hot chocolate from the Chocolate Lounge.

 If I could buy this dishtowel for some of my besties I would. 

View from my grandparent's porch. Amazing in the fall.

Biltmore Winery. Free wine tastings of 23 wines. Thankful for grandparents who have season passes. However I got to wine #7 and felt slightly uncomfortable with my grandparents sitting next to me.

Met Theresa for dinner at Tupelo Honey.

 Saturday we went to Charlotte because my aunt was in this art show. Her art was also the feature piece on all banners, postcards, and signs!

 Family at the art show: Sally (ok, she's not technically related), Sloan, Patrick, Marilee, Jamie, and I in Marilee's booth.

All in all, we had a great weekend in NC, albeit busy. But I did get to catch up on Harry Potter, and Patrick got to read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. Glorious books if you ask me. And our babies had so much fun while we were gone that this is what they did ALL DAY yesterday:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I love long, uninterrupted time with friends. Where you air out all your crap, kick it around a little bit, then repackage it and swallow it again. Hopefully not to have it come up again in the same ugly way, but maybe finding its own way of making you better.

Creating a space for friendships to grow and be fostered is not an easy task, but the benefits far exceed the pushing and pulling and mashing of schedules that has to happen in order to get there. And sometimes it involves long 4 minutes voicemails with life updates, 3 hours of track walking and lunges, or long emails with brain dumps to multiple friends in order to stay intimately connected to each other. And get a group reprimand if its needed. 

Relationships are so key to who we are and how we function best, so it's imperative that we learn how to do them well. In season and out of season.

Unfortunately, there are times that we have to do them in a crappy way before we can figure out the better way. But all that serves to help us grow and make us better people. That love well, give generously, and fight in the trenches for each other. 

So here's to you, my friends: 

Thanks Tim for your inspiration.