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…but not staying here at running for the prize.

I’ve been posting to the new blog since December 2. Check it out. Really. Now.


…continued from Tuesday…

A trifle can be…gasp…healthy? I hope that all of you have been able to enjoy a trifle dessert sometime in your life. The delicious decadence that is chocolate on top of chocolate on top of cool whip on top of fresh fruit, then repeated. Oh l’amour! So, how the heck can you eat it without it being sinful? Well, perhaps I’m a bit late to this bandwagon, but I’m learning the art of ingredient substitution. The cake mix calls for a cup of oil? I’m using a cup of sugar-free applesauce. And I need an egg? I’ll use two egg whites instead. The trifle needs something crisp in the center like oreos? How about fresh strawberries and blueberries? Oh and for that whipped topping, sugar-free, fat-free Cool Whip. And voila! A dessert that could have had 100s of calories and lots of fat grams–not to mention cholesterol (from the eggs) turns into a sweet, virtually innocent treat. And yes, the rules of substitution apply no matter what you’re making (i.e. I used applesauce instead of oil in our waffle mix this morning).

It’s official. We’re no longer joined to PA or SC Legally, anyway. We love all of our friends and family in both places and wish we could visit more often! That said, we’re now official resident of Georgia–Georgia peaches, if you will; although South Carolina is the real peach state, but whatever. We’ve finally gotten the tags, titles, insurance, utilities–heck, even our voter’s registration. We’re set and hope that we don’t have to move again any time soon!

July 4th sans fireworks So what is Independence Day without shooting fireworks? It’s whatever you want it to be. We went to a cookout at Russ and Sarah’s place for a cookout and met some awesome couples for the first time and got to hang out with folks we’d met before. It was a whole lot of fun, and the food was delicious. A side note: the night before, David and I were watching a movie at the apartment and heard fireworks. We walked out onto our breezeway and got to watch the last 15 minutes of the Savannah Sand Gnats (baseball team) stadium’s firework show. It was spectacular! So much so that we didn’t feel the need to buy and light any ourselves–plus it’s illegal or something.

Endangered species Last Saturday, we went beach combing with Joe and Amy. What’s beach combing? you might ask. Well, it’s when you walk the full beach front of Tybee Island beach at 5:15am looking for crawls–or disturbed sand caused by a momma sea turtle coming out of the water to lay her eggs. Sea turtles are endangered and fiercely protected here in Savannah. There are sea-turtle-crossing signs along the road on your way to Tybee, and caution tape and stakes around their nests. Well, we didn’t get to see any crawls that morning, but as the sun rose, we came upon a non-endangered species of bird, but the bird himself was in trouble. The brown pelican (very large bird) had a broken leg from what we could tell, so Amy (biologist) took off to get a box. Once she got back, she covered the bird in a jacket to keep his wings down and put him in the box. David got to carry him and loved every minute. Once upon a time (and still today, really), David wanted to be a marine biologist.

Hearts all over the world tonight Yes, from the Chris Brown song, “With You.” While yes, there are hearts all over the world tonight, there are two that stand out. My parents. They’re in Brussels, Belgium right now and headed to the Netherlands and France before coming back to America. I hope David and I can travel like them when we’re empty nesters (assuming kids come at some point, of course). Twill be fun!

Time management crisis Help. There, I said it. I need help. David and I want to work out 4-5 days per week, including an hour or two of running for two or three of those days. But when? Between David working nearly 60 hours a week at this point, me working for Clemson and for Gap, church, errands, friends, enjoying Savannah, oh and sleeping and eating, etc, we haven’t found the best time. Today, we ran at 4:00am. Not ideal. Please pray that we’d be able to get a grip on our time management, please!

And on that note, it’s time for something that trumps working out–date night!

While talking with my dad this morning, he mentioned something that his dad told him back in the day in regards to career aspirations. With my job search still in full swing, this really stuck with me:

“Whatever it is that you become in life, let it be said about you that you were one of the best”

Sorry for my obvious break from updating. David and I are up to our necks in boxes, packaging tape and sharpie markers. We’re hitting the road bright and early Thursday morning and will be making the drive down to our new place in one shot (after stopping for a good southern meal at my grandparents’ house along the way).

We cannot wait to be at our new place! We’ll miss Pittsburgh and the friendships we’ve formed here, but we’re anxious to see what God has in store ahead. Our internet in GA should be up and running by Monday of next week, so look for an update then.

Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers.

Yesterday at 11:46am, David and I crossed the finish line of the Cleveland Marathon.

A lot took place before that statement could be made, though. We trained for 18-weeks, starting with small three and four-mile runs with “long” five to six-mile runs on the weekend, and building up to our one and only 20 miler.

Then race weekend came. We drove up to Cleveland on Saturday morning, arriving at the Expo by 10:30am. Being a pretty large race (10,000 runners total in the three events), the Expo was impressive. Around 50 vendors put on quite the display giving out free samples of granola, protein bars, yogurt, peanut butter, jelly, energy drinks, runner’s gel, protein-packed donuts etc. Needless to say, we stocked up. There was even a health station where you could get your blood pressure taken, a body fat analysis, and have your glucose and cholesterol levels tested. Too fun!

After wandering around for a bit, we picked up our racing bibs, t-shirts and goody bags. It made me think of Megan’s post about race t-shirts. The marathon shirts were black and dry-fit, while the halfers got a red cotton one. Not sure about the 10K racers–did they even get shirts? Poor people. Oddly enough, the prize for winning the 10K ($1,500) was larger than the marathon ($1,000). Hm.

One of the pace team leaders (the race provided pace runners that you could stick with during the race based on the time you wanted to finish in. For example, there was a 4:15 pace group that, if we stayed with them, would finish in four hours, 15 minutes) was giving bus tours of the course for free, and we immediately jumped on board. It was a beautiful day in Cleveland, and the course was equally gorgeous. Part was through a park, part on bike path, and part right along Lake Erie. We were going to be running by the Browns’ stadium and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What could be better, right?

Shortly after the tour ended, we headed back to the hotel to get off of our feet before David’s parents arrived. We sorted through our goody bags determining what we would keep (i.e. sample sizes of icy/hot, sun screen, lotion, hairbands) and what we’d throw away (umpteen brochures for other races, coupons for random brands of granola bars, Kotex pads–ha!).

David’s parents arrived, and we headed back to the Expo where we met up with Mike, (our trainer from the gym who also ran in the marathon). Mike was aiming for a Boston Marathon qualifying time (had to beat three hours and 15 minutes to do so), but we were not. Maybe one day!

The race sponsored (after we paid for it) a pasta dinner, and boy was it tasty! I ate more pasta that night than I have…ever. I figured I’d need the energy. After Mike, David and I sat down, the other tables started filling up, but not ours. We thought we had the lonely table until a group of four joined us–all from Pittsburgh. We all laughed together at the “hills” in Cleveland (compared to Pittsburgh) and talked about North Park, etc etc. It was a lot of fun.

David and I went to bed at 9:00pm Saturday night since we knew we’d have to get up at 4:30am to get ready, pack up, eat, meet up with our pace groups, and walk to the start by 6:30am. A relevant side note: when we left the pasta dinner (held at a different hotel), we heard some really loud music and saw lots of high schoolers in exquisite attire: prom night.

So, back to the story, we went to sleep. Around 1:30am, I woke up to the sound of people running up and down the halls screaming obscenities. Yes, you guessed it. Prom kids. I looked out of our room’s peep hole and saw a group of guys and girls–all with beverage bottles (you know the type) in their hands–sort of stomping around and arguing. David was able to sleep through it, so I went back to bed in hopes I could do the same. Then 2:00am rolled around. More yelling and heavy steps. David woke up and called the front desk; the concierge assured us that he’d send security up. Shortly after, it got quiet.

Then at 3:30am, back to it. By that point, David and I just prayed for deep sleep and ignored it until our alarm at 4:30am.

Despite not the best night of sleep, we woke up excited and energized about the race. We got dressed and headed downstairs. Remember the beautiful day before? The morning of the race was anything but. It was in the 40’s and raining–not drizzling, raining. We donned garbage bags for warmth and to keep dry, then headed out to the start. We saw some friends along the way (a coworker of David’s, the Berry Anns, Nathan’s sister, Melinda) which got us pumped up. The start was sort of depressing since we stood there in the pouring rain waiting for 7:00am to roll around.

Then the horn sounded and we were off to “Cleveland Rocks” playing in the background. The marathoners and halfers all started at the same time, and with nearly 5,800 total in both groups, the first few miles were pretty crowded. The course was more flat than hilly, but it did have a few climbs. The first of which was in between miles two and three (climbing up the hill by the Browns’ stadium).

David and I were trying to keep a decent pace, and the first 12 miles or so flew by. For those of you who are not runners, that may be hard to believe–after all, that’s about two hours of running. Trust me, though, once you get in the zone and have tons of spectators cheering you on and are in a group of 100s of other people doing what you’re doing, it passes quickly.

Around mile three, the rain stopped, and we discarded our trash bags. The overcast skies gave way to sun around miles 10 and 11, and the gorgeous weather was back!

Then at mile 12, the halfers took a left-hand turn to go to their finish line while the marathoners kept going straight. Things started to get tough for us a few miles later.

Without the large group of people around us, the run started to get a little lonely, but we kept right along trucking. There were 18 water/powerade stations along the way and two Hammer Gel (GU, essentially), and not being used to hydrating that often, David and I over-hydrated a bit causing me to have to stop at a porta-john. Ugh! Granted, it was like a 60 second stop, but enough for me and David to both be aware of the lactic acid building up in our legs. I’ve heard of people running marathons and (sorry for the details in advance) using the bathroom “on the run” without missing a stride, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that. I’m not that hard core.

Anyhow, we got right back to running and were still at a pretty good pace by mile 18. Then we turned onto the bike path along Lake Erie and the wind said “hello.” Not just any wind, might I add, but a nice gusty headwind for over five miles–you know, the kind you could probably lean pretty far into without falling. Intense! We walked/ran those five miles, but kept pushing.

By that point, it was really just a race to finish. We no longer care about how long it took, but just that we finished strong! From mile 23 until the end, the streets were covered with people cheering, and that pumps just about anybody up. We made the turn right before mile 26, and just had a half-mile straightaway left. We could see the finish line. All of the burning in our legs faded at that point, and we finished holding hands. It was intense.

As soon as we crossed the finish line, I was completely overcome with emotion, and David and I hugged for a while. We received huge medals for completing the race and immediately wore them around our necks with pride. We then joined up with David’s parents and Mike for pictures and lots and lots of juice, bananas, water, pretzels, etc. So good! Oh, and let me just add, the shower after the race was the best I think I’ve ever had!

A few huge pluses:
1. We had tons of people praying for us; thank you so, so much! God was definitely keeping us going!
2. A lot of our friends and family were tracking our progress via text message/email, and knowing that pushed us forward.
3. We saw David’s parents cheering us on at the start, mile 11, mile 23, mile 25 and at the end. It was such an encouragement for us and made the race that much more enjoyable. Thanks Mertens!

All in all, it was an incredible experience. Was it hard? Uh huh. Did it hurt? Yeah. Are we sore? Oh yes. Are we tired? Absolutely. Would we do it again? Without a doubt. When? December 6…Kiawah Island.

No, don’t worry. I’m not pregnant!

Quite a few of our friends as of late have been announcing their great news, so I didn’t want to throw anyone for a loop.

Now that that’s out of the way, once upon a time, David and I talked about having kids a couple of years after we got married. Seemed like enough time for us to get settled and spend time together before embarking on the journey of parenthood. Then God sent me a babysitting job for a then-three month old baby boy in August 2007. He’s a wonderful child, and at nearly a year old, has been a lot of fun to watch once a week.

That was not a realistic mothering situation, though. I watched that adorable baby boy once a week for 10 hours and got paid for it. How awesome would it be to get paid with a check to be a mom? Not the case, but…

According to a survey of 18,000 moms by, stay-at-home-moms would make an average of $116,805 per year based on hours spent in the 10 main job functions of mommyhood! And what, according to them, are those job functions? Well, in order of number of hours spent:

Day care center teacher
Laundry machine operator
Computer operator
Facilities manager
Van driver
Chief executive officer

Whoa. So there’s a lot more to being a mom than just feeding and clothing a baby, isn’t there? Motherhood is all about sacrifice. It’s about putting your child’s needs and wants far above yours. It’s about molding and shaping a brand new life.

I was fortunate enough to have a mom that performed every aspect of her “family manager” job with grace and ease, and she was always striving to be better at it. She absolutely deserved seven times that $116,000 salary!

I know my drive to work harder and always better myself comes from her. Let’s revisit those job functions again as they pertain to my awesome mom (including a few of my own):

Housekeeper/Janitor – I definitely got my organizing and cleaning skills from my momma. Even when me and my brother were little, she worked her hardest to keep the house in tip top shape.
Day care center teacher – My love for reading started with my mom and dad. No matter how many times I wanted them to read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, they kept it super exciting.
Cook – I’m still working to master this field without having any kids around. She did it with two wild ones! She made sure that we always had a great meals through the day and a family dinner at night with everyone at the table. I plan to continue that tradition when David and I are parents.
Laundry machine operator – Somehow my laundry hamper never overflowed. My mom always kidded that any money left in dirty pants pockets was hers to keep–her payment for doing laundry. It taught me quickly how to be sure to double check pockets before throwing clothes in the wash. Ultimately, I wanted to do my own laundry, and one of the first times I tried, I used far too much Tide and had to be taken to the hospital for some Benadryl. Who drove? Mom. And she encouraged me to keep trying with the laundry until I got it just right.
Computer operator – My mom doesn’t give herself enough credit in this realm, but she’s a tech-savvy momma. She was fortunate and didn’t have to worry much about computers until we had one when I was in middle school. Never daunted by a challenge, she took the computer head on and learned her way through the software of Microsoft Office (2007!) and the Internet. Now, we video conference like it’s no big deal. Go mom!
Psychologist – Mom has an advantage with this; she majored in psychology. I think her minor was in reverse psychology, but she has yet to admit it. She can really sense how I’m feeling and what it is that I need, and can “reverse psychology” me into doing what’s best for me, whether I want to or not. Love you, mom!
Facilities manager – This is sort of similar to housekeeping, but mom got to coordinate all the repair men visits to fix the plumming or steam clean the carpet or finish construction on the addition to the back of our house. She kept our house in great working order.
Van driver – Of course, I swear that I’ll never drive a van, but we’ll see. My mom got to drive a Dodge minivan with an extended roof–had to make room for the TV in the back for me and my brother. Oh yeah, we were advanced for our time! Thankfully, by the time I learned to drive, that van was history. Just a year or two ago, my mom said “goodbye!” to her van driving days and is now a suave SUV gal. Did anyone else have assigned days in the front seat of the car? My brother and I got every other day. Woo!
Chief executive officer – This is synonymous for my mom’s personal title, “Family manager.” As organized as she is, she made managing our family of five (until our cat died…) look easy!
Emotional support network – My first vivid memory of my mom supporting me through a tough time was when I was diagnosed with scoliosis at 13 years old. We hugged and cried together on my bed and vowed to get through whatever was going to happen together. Then there is the vivid memory of my complete breakdown early on into college (see my previous posts on sleep and my lack thereof and all the side effects)…I called my mom at a complete loss as to what I should do, and she left immediately, drove to Clemson, and took me out to dinner to get me away from everything. She’s just that awesome.
Wedding planner – Those of you married women in the crowd, could you have planned your wedding with your mom? I know I couldn’t have. David proposed in August, and we were married in February; that’s a pretty quick turnaround. My mom was there, though, 100% of the way and made the planning so much fun. I think we solidified our “best friends” status during those six months.
U-Haul driver – When I moved up to Pittsburgh in February ’07, I got to drive the Acura MDX while mom drove the U-Haul (with no rear-view mirror). Not fair for her in the least…add on top of that the horrible weather (snowing, sleeting, cars sliding on the road) and the 10-hour drive. She is my hero.

There is so much more, but I think you’re getting the picture. I have a fantastic mother for whom I am extremely thankful. I missed getting to see her yesterday, but she was definitely present on my mind.

Happy mother’s day, mom! Thanks for all that you did and all that you do. I know that when it’s my time to be a mom, I will be emulating you. I hope to be as good to my kids as you were to me. I love you so, so much.

So the story of my happy, surprise-filled, early-birthday celebration weekend.

Last Thursday, our small group planned to meet for dinner at Ryan and Lisa’s place. I had been really busy with work in the week leading up to this dinner, so I didn’t really ask any questions until the night of. David got home from work, and I asked him if Ryan had mentioned what we’d be having for dinner. David said he thought it was some sort of chicken dish, but he wasn’t completely sure. I love chicken, so no further questions from me!

We drove over with Sarah, and nothing in the conversation led me to believe that anything out of the ordinary would occur at any point that evening.

After arriving, I commented that dinner smelled fantastic, and Lisa responded, “Yeah, Ryan’s been cooking up a storm all day.” That should have struck me as odd, but I just let it pass. Ryan offered to get us drinks, and while he was in the kitchen, I walked into the dining room with everyone else; I should have noticed the two extra place settings on the table, but nope. I was clueless.

I was a little more focused on the appetizer dip on the table. If you’ve seen my “Dinner in Greenville” album on Facebook, you saw a photo of this dip. It looks gross and sounds gross, but tastes amazing!

I started going on and on about how my mom made that dip! I was shocked that Ryan had even heard about it before, but Lisa mentioned that it “must be a German thing…” (Ryan is Polish, so this should have caught my attention too). I grabbed a couple of crackers and chowed down as Ryan said, “David, don’t you have a gift for Sally Ann?” David smiled at me and walked into the kitchen.

Now, I immediately thought back to November when, for David’s birthday, I made cupcakes and brought them to group. I got all happy inside that maybe David had made me some cupcakes, “How sweet of him!” I thought to myself.

Little did I know…

Instead of David coming back out of the kitchen with cupcakes, he came out with my parents! And for those of you who know me well, you know that I’m really close to my parents. This was a huge deal! They flew up from Greenville to surprise me for my birthday and had been collaborating with David for about a month to pull it off. Kudos! They got me good.

My mom made the dip, of course, along with my favorite home cooked meal (poppy seed chicken, pineapple delight, creole green beans, knot rolls, rice, and sweet tea). Mmm!

On Friday, we spent a large part of the day at the Pittsburgh zoo and aquarium–tons of fun! Lunch was at the original Primanti Brothers in the Strip District of downtown, of course. If you’ve never been there, they serve Pittsburgh’s most famous sandwiches: huge sandwiches stuffed with meat, cheese, fries and coleslaw, and anything else you might ask them to add. Amazing!

After filling our calorie count for the entire day in one meal, we headed back to the apartment to relax and talk until my parent’s flight out that evening.

It was so nice to be able to spend that much time with them in real life–not over a video conference or phone. I love and miss them both so, so much! They made my birthday one that I’ll always remember. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

…my birthday got even better (is that even possible?!) yesterday. More on that later!

12/20 UPDATE: Roland Martin from CNN agrees. Check it out.

Only one week until December 25.

Since it’s on the same day each year, you’d think we’d be prepared in advance in order to avoid any unnecessary stress. But we are a nation of procrastination, and I’m one of the guilty in the crowd. I am still struggling to break free from my college and grad-school mentality that I can only finish large tasks and accomplish great things when I’m under the pressure of an impending deadline. Can you relate?

For example, I set deadlines for when each chapter of my thesis had to be completed and turned into my graduate committee for review. Without fail, I would tinker around a particular chapter for a week or so, but then when the deadline was glaring in my face (Oh! Only 12 hours until it’s due!), I’d hammer out 15+ pages. When I tried to write over the course of a week and over multiple sittings, I found that my thoughts weren’t nearly as coherent as when I did it all at once with pressure bearing down.

Plus, when the deadline is nowhere near, there are plenty of other things that can fill the time, right? “Oh, I need to vacuum,” or “I’ve been needing to wash my car,” “Wow! There’s a sea lion documentary on Animal Planet!” You get the point.

So for the past few weeks, I’ve had a Christmas To-Dos list hanging under my calendar, glaring at me from my computer’s desktop and pleading to be looked at from the inside cover of my planner. Despite my strategic placement of these lists, quite a few of the items have yet to be marked off. They will before the deadline, though, of course.

In the midst of the shopping, decorating and baking frenzy that has already settled down upon Pittsburgh (and I’m sure the rest of the nation), it’s tough to focus on the actual meaning of CHRISTmas. It’s as if everything around us fights to blur our focus. When you really take the time to think about it, the holiday is centered around the birth of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Santa wasn’t a part of the manger scene. There may have been a few reindeer (who knows?), but no Rudolph and no sleigh. There weren’t one-day sales, Hershey’s kisses or stockings.

How has Christmas become so commercialized?

Christmas is a time to spend with family and friends–a time to reflect on the impact of the birth of a little boy over 2,000 years ago. It’s the most monumental birthday of all time. It’s so easy to get swept up in all of the decorations, parties, advertising pressures, familial expectations and other obligations that we fail to spend any time truly thanking God for sending his son to save us from all of the sin in our lives. How can something so monumental as the birthday of God’s son on Earth be swept under the rug so easily? I don’t know, but I’m working to keep the true meaning out in the open at least for David and me.

We opted not to get presents for each other for Christmas. Sure there are things that we want and perhaps even need, but we’re trying to set a precedent this year that will follow us through children and beyond. For each other, we bought little boxes that we’re calling “I love…” boxes. Each day (starting December 1) we write down on a little slip of paper something that we love about each other or something that we’re thankful for/proud of in the other person. On Christmas morning, we’ll open those boxes up. Also, we decided to do $10 stockings just to see how creative we can get on a budget. For our third gift to each other, we’ll each be doing an act of service (to be decided).

We plan to follow my parents’ example once we do have kids; each year, we had a birthday cake for Jesus, read the Christmas story from Luke and sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. My brother and I each received three gifts–just like Jesus.

I hope that you’re able to find a way to keep CHRIST in Christmas this holiday season. It’s ok if the “to-do” list doesn’t get finished. The really important thing is that you take time to let the gravity of the first Christmas sink in and thank God for it. Merry Christmas to you all!

In closing, the fitting lyrics of my favorite Christmas song:

Oh holy night! The stars are brightly shining.
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Fall on your knees! Oh hear the angels’ voices!
Oh night divine…oh night when Christ was born;
Oh night divine. Oh night…oh night divine!

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.

So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,

Here come the wise men from Orient land.

The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;

In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,

Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!

Behold your King, Behold your King.

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,

Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim!

His power and glory evermore proclaim!

…and I’m back! Or, actually, I’ve been back since Sunday. Thrilled to be back, by the way.

For those of you unaware, the route between PA and SC involves a whole lot of West Virginia. A whole lot. It’s like driving from the very north to the very south of Georgia (those southerners in my audience)–never ending. I used to have a blanket-dislike for the state based merely in Interstate 79 and 77…until I met people from WV. Thank you, Sarah and Nathan for changing my views!

On the way down with rain most of the time, dense fog through a 5-mile 9% grade incline, my poor 4-cylinder trying to maintain 70mph on some intense hills and curves and the frazzled cell-phone reception, WV was an issue–despite my more positive attitude toward it.

On the way back, however, the weather was perfect–freezing, but perfect for driving. Jamming out to the tunes of John Legend, Dave Matthews (and regretting not grabbing my Leela James CD before hitting the road), I got to witness some of the most gorgeous fall color displays I’d ever seen. WV was beautiful, welcoming and dry. Hallelujah for that! Although my CR-V struggled a bit on the hills, it was hard to notice with all of the gloriousness around me.

I played car-tag with a little Hyundai with “JUST MARRIED!” scrawled all over. Each time I passed them or they passed me, I felt like I should do something…like send out a thumbs-up while pointing to my ring or something. Cheesy thoughts for sure, but hey, they were entering the same boat that I’ll be stepping off in February–the USS Newlyweds. I think you lose that title after a year of marriage, right?

Who wrote that blasted rule book anyhow? Probably the same person who decided that the traditional gift for a first anniversary is paper. “Hey honey, this is for you. College-ruled, just like you like it!” The only paper David will be getting is a card.

And I digress.

My trip to SC did go very well. I added about 30 customers to my MK business, interviewed a potential team member, caught up with friends I hadn’t seen in far too long, and spent time with my dear family. I love my parents and brother so much that it physically hurts at times to think about how far away they are. God definitely knew what he was doing in placing David and me here in PA, though. I needed to learn to establish my own identity away from my family. It’s been a tough, but character-building experience.

Speaking of character, David and I just joined a small group through our church for other young newlyweds, and we’re doing a study on character. Last night was our first time to meet, and we both really enjoyed our time. The first chapter of the book we’re reading was only five pages long, but we had fantastic discussion and really got to know our group a little better. Great couples!

Also on that same note, David and I have been trying to memorize one short scripture verse a night before going to bed. It’s been pretty fun so far (only five verses in, FYI), and although it seems daunting, my eyes were opened during my drive back from SC. I put in a DC Talk CD. Remember them? “What will people think if they label me a Jesus Freak? What will people do if they find out it’s true? I don’t really care if they label me a Jesus Freak. There ain’t no disguising the truth!”

Even if you’ve never heard of them, they were pretty popular in Christian circles while I was in middle school. (Ok, so what’s your point, SA?) I hadn’t listened to their CD since eighth or ninth grade, yet I still knew all of the lyrics. How can I claim to not be able to memorize bits of scripture when I can spell out all of the lyrics to all of the songs by a band I listened to in middle school? So, David and I have memorized five passages and are looking forward to adding many, many more.

So, life is good. No, it’s great. God is constantly showing me and David how he’s watching out for us, and it’s so encouraging!

Exodus 14:14 “The Lord, your God, will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

David and I headed to New Paris, PA this weekend to Boyer Orchards 1 (I’ll explain the “1” later) in hopes of picking our own apples and thereby getting a ridiculously great deal on a ton of apples. We arrived to Boyer Orchards 1 and were informed that they no longer allow “pick your own” at their orchards because of the liabilities involved. My goodness. We were pretty disheartened at that, but bought a peck of apples (Cortlands and Jonagolds) and headed on our way to Fayetteville.

David’s grandparents live right outside of Chambersburg, PA in Fayetteville, and we were heading their way to spend the night, share our wedding album/video/other photos and have some quality family time. Once we arrived, we shared with them our apple-picking woes. They immediately ushered us into their van (along with David’s uncle who had stopped by to say “hello”), and off we went to Boyer Orchards 2. Both were Boyer Orchards, but they are completely unaffiliated with each other. Who knew?

We got to pick our own there and got a healthy amount of Fuji apples. Tomorrow night will be spent making apple pies, apple crisp, apple cobbler and anything else we can think of. Woo! Any leftover apples will be implemented into our lunches and possibly dinners too. Hooray!

It was definitely nice to get out of the city for a few days and drive through the country out to Fayetteville. The leaves were so vibrant along the majority of our route–just beautiful! It was hard to come back to the city, but now that I’m here, I’m glad to be here instead of there. Odd how that works.

I’ll have to update later to let you know how much we actually paid per apple vs. how much we would have paid for the same amount in the store. Can’t wait!