Birthday + Thanksgiving Recap

It has been such a fun week of celebration around here! Working in a hospital, holiday days off can be scarce so I was grateful to have Thanksgiving day off. I hope everyone enjoyed the time with their friends and fam!

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On Monday night, Josh surprised me by taking me to Guasaca for dinner where two of my best friends and their husbands were waiting to eat with us for an early birthday celebration! It made me feel so thankful to be here in Raleigh around people we love. That is something I really try not to take for granted.

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On Tuesday (my actual birthday) I stayed at work to help out with a volunteer event. Every year WakeMed does a Thanksgiving dinner for the patients, and so Josh and I decided to help out with it. I’m not going to lie- initially I wasn’t super pumped about being at work all day on my birthday. But I asked God to give me joy in serving and He totally did! So it ended up being a really great day.

On Wednesday, Josh and I went on a short hike at Umstead after I got home from work. One thing I love about where we live is that we are about a 5 minute drive from miles of gorgeous trails! I am amazed every single fall at how beautiful the leaves look. That evening Josh worked and I relaxed, did laundry (which actually feels kind of relaxing to me!) and got started on some Thanksgiving recipes. This year I made a side salad and an apple crisp, and Josh made beer bread.

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Thursday was, of course, Thanksgiving! Josh’s parents live about 45 minutes from us, so we headed there for the afternoon to eat and spend time together. His family is a lot of fun and I always enjoy my time with them. In the spirit of authenticity, I will say that despite having a great Thanksgiving day, I did feel that strange feeling of longing/sadness that I mentioned here. I’m curious if anyone else feels this on holidays?!

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No big plans today other than work and hopefully some chill time! Black Friday shopping intimidates me, despite the fact that I love a good deal. I think the overwhelming-ness of the crowds outweighs my desire to save money. 😉

This year I am determined not to get myself in a tizzy trying to curate all of these “perfect” holiday moments and instead just soak up each day as it comes. (Side note: my friend Alex wrote an excellent blog post about this here if you want to check it out!) My holiday time off from work is next week, and Josh and I will be spending a few days in Hilton Head with my dad. I’ll be back here in a week or so with a recap! Hope everyone enjoys the beginning of this holiday season!

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28 Things

In honor of my 28th birthday tomorrow (!!!), I decided to make a list of 28 things in my life that I am currently grateful for- big or small. This also coincides perfectly with Thanksgiving, which is one of my very favorite holidays. Let’s goooo!

1. Being married to Josh

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2. Helping patients who have had strokes, brain injuries, etc.

3. Listening to podcasts on my way to work

4. Free coffee at our apartment complex

5. The Raleigh and Durham farmers markets

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6. Going to friends’ weddings

7. Coconut errythang

8. Living ~30 minutes away from two of my best friends and my sister

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9. My new favorite Nike sweatpants

10. Eucalyptus in a vase on our kitchen table

11. The “Incredibull” from Happy + Hale

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12. Writing on this blog

13. Passing a Trader Joe’s on my way home from work

14. Getting Josh hooked on Grey’s Anatomy

15. Rollerblading

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16. Living near a public library

17. Our first batch of home-brewed kombucha

18. $5 burger night at Bar Louie

19. Hiking at Umstead Park

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20. Penpals

21. Inspirational people on Instagram

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22. Sunday night small group

23. Season 2 of Stranger Things

24. Serving in the church nursery aka holding chubby kiddos

25. Yoga videos on YouTube

26. Crockpot dinners on repeat

27. Saturday morning boot camp

28. Plants on the patio

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Have a lovely Thanksgiving week, everyone! Sing some praises and eat some turkey!

Nurturing Joy

Recently, I attended a continuing education course on traumatic brain injuries. We heard from several speakers at the hospital where I work, and one of them was a case manager. Something she said really struck me. She said that she has seen so many patients and their families feel almost guilty for laughing or being happy during such a sad and difficult time, and what she always reminds them is that this is exactly the time they need to encourage and nurture joy. How beautiful is that?

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Sometimes when I read the news or hear stories about what others are going through or even deal with my own personal struggles, I am tempted to despair. It seems that the default mode is discouragement, cynicism, fear. What if, instead, I sought to nurture joy? This is not at all to negate someone’s experience of hardship. Trust me- I am all about a good cry session, and I think we should acknowledge and feel our emotions instead of pretending they don’t exist. And yet- don’t we all have a little room to encourage joy in our lives and in the lives of others? Doesn’t it seem like these are the days when our world needs an extra dose of it?

There are so many practical ways to incorporate this in our day-to-day lives. I don’t think it needs to be through huge grand gestures, although those can certainly be fun. Simple things like bringing someone flowers, sending a thoughtful letter, or throwing a party just because are all ways that we can nurture joy in our lives and give ourselves permission to enjoy this crazy ride. (As seen in these photos, another way I love to encourage joy in my life: dancing!)

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It can be so easy to succumb to despair, but I like to think that we have a choice. Instead of sinking into the pit of discouragement in our times of difficulty, maybe we can choose to inject little moments of joy here and there. Joy can coexist with sadness, and not only that, I believe it can lift the veil of darkness and remind us of all that is good and true in the world.

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[All photos courtesy of Kimberly Coccagnia]

Camping Weekend

This weekend, Josh and I went camping with our small group and it was… cold. 😉 I tried to keep my whimpering to a minimum and we enjoyed staying up and chatting at the campsite, roasting hot dogs, making s’mores, and watching random things burn in the fire. It was fun but I have to say, if I ever go camping again it will need to be at least 30 degrees warmer!

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I read these words from Dallas Willard over the weekend and thought they would be a good Monday morning reminder:

“I am one in whom Christ delights and dwells. I live in the strong and unshakable kingdom of God.”

Every so often (and by that I mean like all the time) I just need a reminder of who God says I am. Amen?

Have a great week everyone!

Showing Up

The majority of this week was chilly and overcast here in Raleigh, which either has a positive, calming effect on my mood (it’s so cozy!) or somewhat of a negative, depressing one. I definitely experienced a bit of both this week. On the one hand, I loved bundling up and clutching warm drinks and looking at the lovely orange leaves against gray skies. On the other hand, I felt a little down. Like I was longing for something but couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was.

When I experience these feelings of melancholy, I am tempted to just throw in the towel. I need a new job, a new church, a new location. “Let’s move!” I told my husband more than once this week as I scrolled obsessively through Zillow, looking at homes that we can by no means afford.

Then comes the discontentment. There is obviously something wrong with my life if I feel this way, right? I need something better or different or more interesting, right?

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[Source]

It’s a comforting illusion to tell ourselves that something different will be better and will make us feel perfectly safe and loved and happy 100% of the time. What is more difficult, for me at least, is to keep putting one foot in front of the other and showing up to my actual life, not the one I wish I had. Sometimes it feels hard for me to wake up every single morning with the agenda of simply being faithful to the work God has called me to do- which, coincidentally, looks a lot like it did yesterday, and the day before that.

I think there is something beautiful that happens when we show up to our lives, fully present, ready to engage and build relationships and do the hard thing. When God calls me to make a change, I hope I am listening well enough to hear Him and to respond in obedience. But for now, I think He is telling my soul to calm down and sink into this beautiful season He has given me. There are opportunities for gratitude and love and joy at every turn, and I want to pay attention to those moments instead of being distracted by how I wish things were.


So I’m asking God to give me the courage to show up, and I’m trusting that He will be faithful to supply the grace I need.

The Next 10 Minutes

These days, when I feel overwhelmed by the day stretching before me and the never-ending list of tasks to accomplish, I practice returning to this concept:

“What does it look like to love God for the next ten minutes? What does it look like to love the person in front of me for the next ten minutes?”Jan Johnson

I am finding so much freedom in those little questions. I don’t have to have my whole life mapped out. I don’t have to have a ten-year plan for marriage and family and ministry and career. I just have to put one foot in front of the other, do the next right thing, and love God and the people in front of me. How liberating is that?!

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Halloween 2017

1. Happy belated halloween, and 2. HOW IS IT NOVEMBER ALREADY??? I think I say something to that effect every month, but come on. November?! Crazy. I’m partial to this month because it involves my mom’s birthday, my birthday, and Thanksgiving. Bring on all the food and coziness and family/friend time!

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Fall in the 90’s… good times

I have never been one to get super thrilled about halloween, but I do love holidays in general, so it felt fun. I went to the Dollar Store and got turtle shells for Josh and I so we could be turtles! At the last minute I also grabbed some headbands, so we ended up being halfhearted Ninja Turtles. 😉

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To “celebrate” halloween this year we: ate pumpkin-shaped Reese’s, watched Stranger Things (why is it so addicting?!), and had dinner on the porch of our sweet friends’ new house while handing out candy to adorable trick-or-treaters.

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Delicious turkey chili + avocado + red wine (Side note: I loved this wine! It was “Coastal” cabernet sauvignon from Trader Joe’s)

Now it’s time to get pumped for November! My holiday time off is at the end of this month and Josh and I are going to Hilton Head for a few days, so I’m looking forward to that. In the meantime I will be over here sipping every hot beverage I can get my hands on, enjoying the pretty changing leaves, and perusing Thanksgiving recipes!