16 July 2012

Tomorrow: Croatia & Slovenia!

It's been a while. Most of May/ June was spent in China and because of all the restrictions in The People's Republic, I didn't post.

After China, we celebrated 4 wonderful years of marriage in Thailand. It was a belated trip at the end of June, and it was incredible. The weather, the sun, the sea, lush flora fauna, exotic animals, and delicious food - it was a trip unlike any other. Unforgettable, I hope we go back to Koh Samui soon!!

We got back at the end of June and welcomed several friends in London. We saw Mark & Debbie, Thompson and his roommate Watson, Matt & Kate, some Huntsville people for the air show and a reception at Kensington Palace, and Walt with a few new friends from Birmingham and Atlanta. So much fun with so many friends! We saw Stahler off, so he's back home in the States, and we're making the most of our last months here.

Mark & Debbie

We got tickets to Wimbledon!

At first, we entered with regular grounds tickets, where we saw tons of singles and doubles, my favorite of which was watching Americans Blake and Querrey take on Marrero and Seppi. We also luckily got tickets for Centre Court to watch Novak Djokovic play American Ryan Harrison. It was awesome.
Novak and Ryan - we actual sat 6 rows back, right behind Ryan!
We also spent a day in Cambridge! We had so much fun. It's such a quaint and perfectly English town, full of academia and countryside. We had the best time and spent the better part of an afternoon taking tea at The Orchard Tea Garden in Grantchester!

Saturday we helped Alexander celebrate his first birthday at a beautiful party in Surrey. It was full-on fun with bouncy castles, kid entertainment, catered eats, drinks, and CAKE! Katia & Bobbie's amazing home in Oxshott provided the perfect setting for a classy but fun kid party. We had a blast.

Yesterday we explored Brighton with our dear friends Nate & Kate. It was pleasantly surprising and we had great weather and blue skies (that rarely happens here!). We walked around, saw the sites, and rode the rides on the pier!

Tomorrow Kate and I are embarking on an 8 day excursion to Croatia, Slovenia, and beyond! We're booking some of it as we go, but we know we're kayaking the Soca River, hiking around Lake Bled, trekking through Plitvice, and snorkeling along the Dalamtian Coast. Whether we go south and east into Bosnia, or we go north into Austria (or north west into Germany) will be game time decisions. Smart phones and the internet are amazing.

Lake Bled, Slovenia

Soca River, Slovenia

Plitvice National Park, Croatia

Dalmatian Coast, Croatia

When I get back, Grant and I will only have:
16 days until Grant's man trip to Iceland
21 days until his parents come to visit
23 days until his graduation

28 days until I'm turning in my dissertation early
29 days until we head for America the Beautiful

What a whirl-wind year of adventure!!

31 May 2012

Our 4 Year Anniversary: a Day for Singing

Well, it's been four wonderful years for me and Grant. This time four years ago, I was at my bridesmaids luncheon and he was playing golf with his groomsmen at the country club.

Then we were getting ready - me with my mama and his in the room I grew up in; he with his daddy and his closest friends near the church that raised me.

At the church we kept the tradition of not seeing each other before the covenant ceremony. That time with my girls was really special. I'll never forget it.

Then the quiet moments of prayer and preparation right before my daddy walked me down the aisle brought a few sweet tears that slipped slowly over my cheek in joy and anticipation and excitement. The song that a friend sang in our wedding has been playing over and over in my head lately:

I pray You'll be our eyes
and watch us where we go
and help us to be wise 
in times when we don't know. 
Let this be our prayer 
when we lose our way.
Lead us to the place. 
Guide us with Your grace
to a place where we'll be safe. 

God has been so faithful in our lives and in our marriage. This year has been so different than the others. We have been in transition, moving to London, traveling around, and now considering the move home. There has perhaps never been a time in our marriage with less uncertainty: where will we live, what will our careers look like, will we buy a house or rent an apartment, which city will we choose, what church will we go to, how close will we be to friends and family, when will we see our new friends again after we leave London? Transition has been the name of the game for us this year, and there are still many questions unanswered.

We have lived in 310 square feet (a far cry from our 1500 sq ft apartment in Atlanta) with leaks, cracks, mildew and other inconveniences, without a dishwasher and without a microwave or washing machine that work regularly. We have learned to make do with less - less time together, less space, less spending money, less sleep, less time with friends, and much less time with family.

And yet, God is faithful!

He has increased so much. He has given us the protection, provision, and security we need to be grounded in the here and now - even if the here and now is transient. He knows the answers to all our questions - and many more! He loves us and will not allow anything to happen to us that will not make us better as He uses these life experiences to mold us into His image.

I have learned so much this year about God's glory; about how it's His whether I like it or not, whether I give it or not. I can either be a willing and grateful participant or I can miss out. Thankfully, God has taken us aside for this year on-the-go and has shown us how to glorify Him in all circumstances, to be thankful in all circumstances, and to praise Him in all circumstances.

Yes, we're at a time in our lives and our marriage when praising God is easy, but my hope and prayer is that He's revealed enough to us throughout this unique year in our lives so that we can remember to give thanks in all things in all seasons. That's the gift God has given us this anniversary.

The Bible is full of songs and so is my heart so here are a few psalms to end today on:

"The LORD has done great things for us 
and we are filled with joy!" 
Psalm 126:3

"This is the day that the LORD has made, 
let's rejoice and be glad in it." 
Psalm 118:24

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; 
His love endures forever." 
Psalm 118:29

"They LORD has done this and it is wonderful to see." 
Psalm 118:23

"You crown the year with with a bountiful harvest; 
even the hard pathways overflow
with abundance."
Psalm 65:11


29 May 2012

In 24 hours I'll be flying to see Grant in China

This time tomorrow, I'll be checking my bags, reading on my Nook app, and settling into my gate and terminal before I embark on a 15-hour journey to Shanghai by way of Moscow.

Grant is in the middle of spending about 8 weeks in China as a rotation of his MBA program at Hult International (recently ranked top 40 MBA in the world!!). I have been in London attending 4 weeks of classes for my grad program (and visiting castles with Stahler and hosting cousins showing off the best of London).

This month apart has been such an interesting time. God has been so gracious to us. It's as if He's built in time in our marriage to focus on communication and purity - which is a funny thing if you think about it. It is rare to have time dedicated to these two after the wedding day. We have enjoyed quality conversation, a deeply spiritual connection, self-control and discipline. It is rare to find time and focus like we've had over the past month. We both are very grateful for it.

It's totally characteristic for God to take what could be a hardship (separation) and turn it into a blessing (sanctification).

Did I mention that we are celebrating 4 years of wedded bliss on Thursday? I have never known that such depths of love existed. I cannot wait to rush into the arms of my beloved.

Next time I blog, I'll be in China! #crazy

27 May 2012

Did I mention Grant's Cousins are in town?

Evan and Aubrey, Grant's girl cousins on the Duggar side, are here visiting! We're having so much fun! Here are a few pics from our random happenings lately #tryingtoblogmorefaithfully

24 May 2012

Random Day in London

Today Stahler and I have just had a lovely random day in London. We've walked most of the Queens Walk along Southbank, the Thames Path on the northern side and a bit of the Jubilee Walk as well. The weather is great (rare!) and we have enjoyed being outside!

18 May 2012

Our Story: London, Part 4

"You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; 
even the hard pathways overflow with abundance." 
- Psalm 65:11

{you can read Our Story: London parts 1-3 and a summary here.}

There have been so many interesting things here for us. The ups and downs of surgery, culture shock, graduate school, and finding our way in a new place. We have made some of the most amazing friends - deep and wide relationships that will last a lifetime. 

It has not been easy, but it has been unbelievably beautiful. 

Remember my cake post? Well, we are still firm believers in loving the messy, this-is-not-what-I-thought-it-would-be life; and that laughter heals much. 

Psalm 65:11 verse is the theme verse of this year in London. God has truly crowned our year here with a harvest that will last - friendships that encourage, memories that will never fade, and travel opportunities and experiences that we never could've had any other way. He doesn't promise bliss without the hard; He promises that the hard places will "overflow with abundance" - and thankfully, God is faithful. 

What mighty praise, O God, 
belongs to You in Zion.
We will fulfill our vows to You, 
for You answer our prayers. 
All of us must come to You.
Though we are overwhelmed by our sins
You forgive them all.
What joy for those You choose to bring near, 
those who live in Your holy courts. 
What festivities await us
inside Your holy temple.

You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, 
O God our Savior. 
You are the hope of everyone on earth, 
even those who sail on distant seas. 
You formed the mountains by Your power
and armed Yourself with mighty strength.
You quieted the raging oceans
with their pounding waves
and silenced the shouting of the nations. 
Those who live at the ends of the earth
stand in awe of Your wonders.
From when the sun rises to where it sets, 
You inspire shouts of joy.

You take care of the earth and water it,
making it rich and fertile.
The river of God has plenty of water;
it provides a bountiful harvest of grain,
for You have ordered it so.
You drench the plowed ground with rain,
melting the clods and leveling the ridges.
You soften the earth with showers
and bless its abundant crops.

You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; 
even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture, 
and the hillsides blossom with joy.
The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep,
and the valleys are carpeted with grain.
They all shout and sing for joy!
Psalm 65

Too quick catch up

Ok. So life has been happening too fast to keep up on the blog! Gloriously good, but FAST! I would love to update with full posts and pics on Greece and my bday in Greece (and hopefully I will in the near future!) but for now I've downloaded an app on my phone for posting on the go in an effort to stay better caught up. This is not just a quick catch up but a too quick catch up. Sorry ;)

1. Greece was amazing.
2. My birthday was incredible and spending it in Greece with my honey was more than perfect.
3. Leaving was triple sad: we were leaving Greece, I was leaving for London, and Grant was leaving for Shanghai.
4. I was very sad :(
5. Stahler flew in and we've commenced the Brother-Sister Summer of Awesomeness.
6. Matt Reynolds and Pat Barrett came to stay and visit. It was so great to show off London to them. Good food, great company. Grant was missed.
7. Stahler and I went to the Thorpe Park amusement and ride park with my uni friends. It was amazingly comparable to Six Flags and this adrenalin junkie (and her brother) were happy!
8. Today Stahler and I are at Hampton Court Palace. We've seen the Chapel Royal, Henry VIII's Kitchens, the wine cellars, and several of the gardens. Up next: the Maze! and dinner at The White Horse in Richmond.

Tomorrow: Leeds Castle, Canterbury Cathedral, and the White Cliffs of Dover!

Like I said: too fast but gloriously good #life

27 April 2012

Today: Greece

The Kameni Islands formed after the caldera. 11 eruptions since 197 BC have made the two islands. The most recent eruption at Santorini was in 1950 on Nea Kameni, the northern island. The eruption was phreastic and lasted less than a month.

The island capital of Santorini, Fira clings to the edge of a cliff, which is, in fact, the rim of the crater. It is 900 ft about the landing port and about 800 broad zigzagged steps up from the port. You either take the donkeys or mules up the winding steps or modern-day travellers prefer the cable car. Climbing the steps with a mule had been a tradition on Santorini for years, until 20 years ago when the cable car made its appearance. 

The Castle of Skaros is worth a visit. When Venetian leader Marko Sanouthos conquered the island in 1207, he raised the flag on the castle. It was at this point that Thira became known as Santorini (Santa Irene). The castle guarded the western entrance to the island from attacks. The castle had two portions, one called Rocka and the other where Roman nobles and Catholic bishops had their residence. The castle was never defeated during the 600 years of existence. Because of its proximity with Fira, it is connected with a public road or by the old path, offering tremendous views as you walk along the rim. 

Akrotiri Village is one of the most important prehistoric settlements of the Aegean. The various imported objects found in the building indicate the wide network of its external relations. Akrotiri was in contact with Crete but also communicated with the Greek mainland, the Dodecanese, Cyprus, Syria, and Egypt. The town's life came to an abrupt end in the last quarter of the 17th century BC when the inhabitants were obliged to abandon it as a result of severe earthquakes. The eruption followed. The volcanic materials covered the entire island and the town itself. These materials however, have protected up to date the buildings and their contents, just like in Pompeii. 

This is what we'll see in a few short hours!