Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Safe and Sound in Sunny Florida

+JMJ+

This past week has been quite the whirlwind! In fact, everything about my environment has changed so much so quickly that I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that we actually live here in Florida...because I keep looking around thinking we are on some heavenly vacation.

Once my husband officially signed his new work contract last Monday we kicked it into high gear with our plans to move in only 4 days. Thankfully his first day of work isn't until August 5th...but with our baby due on the 10th we wanted to move and start getting settled ASAP.

Somewhere in...Tennessee (?) on day one of traveling
Day 2 of traveling - officially 38 weeks pregnant!
It took many hours of packing (thank Goodness my mom was able to come to Michigan and help me!), several hours of driving with frequent restroom breaks for the pregnant lady (also good that my mom was there to drive my car so I could just be a passenger), and a few days of unpacking and learning our new whereabouts, but suffice it to say that we made it and are quickly making this new place our home.

Yesterday I met my new ob/gyn, today we got internet, and tomorrow we have an appointment with the new hospital so we can see where the baby will be born and can pre-register. :)

My mom also flew back to Indiana today (after helping us a lot with the packing/unpacking/moving) which leaves us the rest of the week to continue settling in, adjusting to our new place, and preparing for the baby before Michael starts his new project next week.

Exploring on our first full day in Florida
Like I said, this past week has been a whirlwind and I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that only
a few days ago we lived in Michigan. Now we're here in Florida...living near the ocean, soaking in the sun, and trying not to freak out at how much nicer and more spacious this new apartment is than our last. I'm not sure whether I should be outraged at how much of a rip-off our tiny, one bedroom/one bathroom apartment was in Ann Arbor or if I should be jumping up and down with joy at our new, 2 bedroom/2 bathroom place that has much more space and nicer...well, everything. Honestly, though, I'm just happy and feeling overwhelmingly blessed to be here.

God has been so good to us - from guiding us here, blessing us with the moving help we needed, to ensuring our safety and freedom from too much stress as we quickly went through the process of moving, starting to settle into a new place, finding a new doctor and hospital only 2 weeks before our baby's due date, and more. I cannot get over how insanely blessed we are...or how excited I am that I did not go into labor in the midst of everything.

At this point I feel confident that even if the baby arrives early, our lives will not completely turn to shambles. I'm bracing myself for the time we get to finally meet our son and our lives will forever be changed - but am thankful that we won't have to deal with moving and unpacking on top of everything else that goes hand in hand with having a newborn baby. God is truly good and knows what we need, so I trust Him to lead us and take care of us as we continue to prepare for the baby and all the joyful chaos it will bring. :)

Once our new place is unpacked enough to share photos I'll make sure to give you all a tour! But in the mean time, you can have this first glance at the outside of our building:

It's not even funny how much of an upgrade this is from our last place (for nearly the same cost). Amazing!
Ann Arbor was great and all, but I have a strong feeling that Palm Beach County is going to be quite the welcome change in scenery for the next 6(ish) months....

Thank you again to all who prayed for us and the safety of our baby as we moved! I'm so so happy we made it safe and sound and can't wait to get back to all my "nesting" as the baby's due date rapidly approaches.

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.” 
-Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym

Monday, July 22, 2013

Headed for the Sunshine State!

+JMJ+

Remember all those times I mentioned that my husband's work translates into "we really have to be open-minded about moving at the drop of a hat" because things are constantly evolving? Well, I'm pretty sure you can guess where this is going...


How soon, you ask? Uh, in 4 days to be exact.
How long have we known, you ask? Well, unofficially...2 days. Officially: since today.
No big deal or anything.

Honestly the project that has kept us here in Ann Arbor has gone on longer than we initially expected; we thought we'd move after only a few months of marriage but then this spring my husband was extended through the end of June. Then, halfway through June he got extended through (we thought) the end of August. Last week he discovered that his portion of the project was actually scheduled to end on August 2nd...which of course meant he wanted to find his next project either immediately or so that we could move in late August/early September when the baby is approximately a few weeks old.

Over the course of the past (almost) 10 months since we've been married I've learned huge lessons from God in letting go of control, patience, and trust in His plans for us...and I'm so thankful because it has truly allowed me to be sincerely joyful about moving at this stage in pregnancy (crazy, right?). Without God's grace I'm pretty sure I would be a 37-weeks pregnant hot mess right now. After all, packing up all your belongings and leaving the apartment you've so tediously cleaned/prepared for a new baby goes against the very fiber of any "nesting" mother's being. However, I've known this could happen so I've been forcing myself to not get too "settled" all along.

We plan to move this weekend which will put me right at 38 weeks(!) - which sounds stressful but I'm being sincere when I say that I am so very happy! It's been quite the winding road as Michael and I have constantly discerned where to go next and when over the past several months. There were a couple times we seriously thought we would be moving but God had other plans. Weird things have happened where projects have fallen through at the last minute and my husband has also turned a couple opportunities down....and we've always managed to realize (sometimes in hindsight) that these places were not where God wanted us. The biggest warning sign has usually been that something didn't feel right - which made us hesitate ever so slightly. This new project that we have accepted is different from all the rest because for the first time everything has lined up perfectly and we feel 100% at peace that this is where God is leading us. 

This entire ordeal has also made me laugh because Michael and I told ourselves that if he got an offer and contract by Friday, July 19 we would still be willing to move before the baby is born...but any later and he would simply tell any new employer that he was unavailable until the end of August. Last week we were pretty convinced we'd be here in Ann Arbor for the baby's birth...but lo and behold, God revealed His plans to us at the very last possible second! On Thursday Michael came home telling me he had an interview for Saturday morning and he got the offer Saturday. God is so sneaky like that sometimes but I truly trust in His timing and that He knows what is best for us.

Obviously I've said over and over that I'm at peace, I'm excited, and explained that because I've been praying about following God this entire time I can hardly complain that I'll be moving at 38 weeks pregnant. However, packing and moving/traveling at that point in time does make me a little nervous - not because I don't trust in God, but because I am really really really hoping His plan isn't for me to go into labor on the way! So please pray for us as we get everything ready this week - and let's hope this baby comes after we arrive at our destination.

Oh! And where is this destination, you ask?
Let me introduce you to a little place in Palm Beach County, Florida that we'll soon be calling home....


Okay, okay, so we won't actually be living on a pier at the beach...but we'll be about an hour and a half north of Miami and we will live 10-20 minutes from a few beaches. But here is what our pool supposedly looks like:


I know, right? Following God's will is such a sacrifice sometimes....

All I know is that after a winter in Ann Arbor (2 for Michael!), a winter in Chicago (when Michael drove through countless snowstorms to visit me), and an entire lifetime of Midwestern winters I think I'll find it within my heart to accept one winter without snow.

“I give you this to take with you:
Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can
begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.”
-Judith Minty, Letters to My Daughters

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Full term, baby! Or "Full term Baby!"

+JMJ+

Yesterday marked the day I hit "37 weeks," which means our baby is now considered full term - hooray! We've got a few more weeks to go before his due date on August 10, but realistically all of his organs should be fully formed and ready for life outside the womb...which means he could arrive any day now! Clearly my subconscious has latched onto this knowledge because I've started to think of and dream of babies on a regular basis; last night I dreamed up a lovely scenario that has no chance of coming true - because in it I delivered our son after only 2 minutes of pushing with virtually no pain (ha! In my dreams...literally).


Supposedly our son should weigh about 6 and a third pounds (so I'd imagine he's probably already 6.5 or something) and I've definitely started to feel it. My mom gained 50 lbs. with all three of her pregnancies and my older sister gained 40-45 lbs. with each of my nieces...so it doesn't come as much of a surprise to my family when I say that I've already gained about 46 lbs. (pretty much on track for 50!). However, when I tell my friends on the phone how much I've gained they tend to gasp and freak out. Um, thanks (clearly they didn't read the post I so obviously wrote for them). Last time I checked, my pregnancy has been healthy and complication-free so if that's what my baby needed to grow and be the little man God intended him to be then so be it. My doctor isn't concerned and I'm not concerned. :)

Thankfully, all the women I've befriended lately and/or female friends I've seen in person have helped to reassure me that my pregnancy weight gain is not a big deal because those women tend to be shocked to learn I've gained as much as I have (thanks, Patty, Cynthia, Sara, etc!). They've generously told me that I certainly don't look it - and they said it in a way that made me actually believe them (so they are either great actresses, blind, or I am somehow managing to look more petite than they think most 37 weeks pregnant women do), which is exactly the kind of compliment that can make any pregnant woman manage to continue feeling beautiful!

Just beyond 36.5 weeks
All in all I think I feel pretty great for being 37 weeks pregnant. Sure, I'm experiencing things all pregnant women experience at some point (swollen hands and feet, lower back pain from carrying all that weight, crazy pregnancy dreams, uncomfortable sleep, frequently having to empty my bladder because my baby puts weight on it, etc.). However, I've come to realize that the list of symptoms I've experienced throughout the past 37 weeks seems minimal compared to the list of things most women deal with.

In fact, I am constantly praising and thanking God for how much He seems to have spared me in this pregnancy. I can hardly believe how many common pregnancy symptoms I have not had to deal with...and I continue to remain ever grateful. Acid reflux? Severe constipation and/or hemorrhoids? Frequent leg cramps? Intense Braxton-Hicks? Stretch marks? Bloody noses and/or miserable congestion? It's as if these things aren't a part of my pregnancy vocabulary (you can go ahead and send me your hate mail...I understand completely). For some reason I have been so so so blessed and I attribute it all to 3 things: good genetics, constant hydration, and the good Lord's mercy (He only gives us what we can handle, right? So maybe I'm just a wimp and He has mercifully allowed me to coast through. Whatever the reason, it wasn't part of His plan to make me suffer much with this pregnancy).

Do I have those days when everything seems to either ache or feel exhausted, making me move at the pace of a turtle? Sure! But the number of days I manage to have energy and can still move around a lot are far more numerous. So now that I've probably sufficiently made several of you shake your heads in disgust (I'd imagine some of you quit reading awhile ago out of annoyance - trust me, I know how obnoxious I must sound to some of you who have dealt with far more difficult pregnancies), I'll simply say that I give all the glory and thanks to God and our Holy Mother Mary's prayers for blessing me with such a healthy, smoothly-sailing pregnancy.

I'll admit, it can be difficult to share with others how few pregnancy discomforts I'm currently dealing with - because no one wants to be that girl that everyone loves to hate - but when the Lord blesses me I cannot bear to do anything other than shout it from the rooftops (and isn't that what we're supposed to do as Christians? To let our light shine for others to see?)! It's with great joy and humility that I share the radiance of His love and light throughout my 37-week journey into pregnancy thus far.

Thank you, also, to those of you that have been praying for us! Please pray for a healthy and uncomplicated labor and delivery in His timing. I feel overwhelmingly blessed and simply cannot wait to hold our son for the first time in the very near future. :)

"Father asked us what was God's noblest work. Anna said men, but I said babies. Men are often bad, but babies never are."
-Louisa May Alcott

Friday, July 19, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 21)

+JMJ+


Linking up with Jen and the crew, per usual!

--- 1 ---
Oh, this week. Where do I begin?! I'll start by saying that this was simultaneously one of the busiest/most productive and the most fun weeks (as far as ordinary weeks go) I've had in awhile! Everything began on Monday when I had the great pleasure of meeting up with Patty (of Tales of Me and the Husband) for lunch. It was the first time I had ever met someone in person that I first encountered through the blogging world...and I had such a blast! I would tell you more about how awesome Patty is and how exciting the entire endeavor was, but she has already written a beautiful piece about our lunch date...so I'll let her tell you all about it. :)

--- 2 ---
This baby is adorable, so just imagine when it's OUR son instead!
Also exciting was the fact that Michael and I assembled our baby's bassinet, swing, and will soon be assembling his dresser that came in the mail yesterday. For a 36-week pregnant woman who is starting to feel the clock ticking, these events are totally noteworthy and thrilling! I cannot wait to finally put all of his washed clothing and bedding away in his little baby dresser where they belong (that's the clean freak and the "nesting" talking)...and I cannot wait to meet this little boy in 4 more (perhaps fewer?) weeks!

--- 3 ---
Michael and me. :)
At this point I'd like to give a shout-out to my wonderful husband, Michael...because he has been such a helpful, supportive husband this week (I mean he always is, but I especially noticed this week). It's the little things - like doing the majority of the bassinet and swing assembly as I sat on the couch reading him instructions (because I'm way too big at this point to comfortably or quickly maneuver around on the floor), staying calm and remaining patient with me when I got completely flustered by a few terrible assembly instructions, washing more of the dishes because he knows I'm currently pitifully slow doing most everyday things, and massaging and stretching out my calf muscle when I woke him up in the middle of the night with my pregnancy leg-cramp-induced whining - that make me so grateful to have him by my side. I seriously don't know what I'd do without him! Wo ai ni, Michael!

And in case you're curious how we met, I shared our story this week: 

How I Met My HusbandParts one, twothreefour, and five.

--- 4 ---
The fun continued on Wednesday when I finally managed to meet up with a fellow parishioner named Cynthia, who is currently in charge of our parish's "moms' group." Even though I didn't first encounter her through the blogging world like I did Patty, the result of our first meeting was quite similar; I felt like I had known her for a long time and was simply catching up with one of my good friends. If you remember my post about Forming Friendships after Marriage, you probably understand how refreshing it was to meet not one but two new people this week! And not just 'people,' but women who I genuinely relate to and could easily foster real relationships with. Thank you to all of you who read my friendship posts and said you'd pray for me to make connections like these!

--- 5 ---

Last week I mentioned the iPhone debacle that took place when Michael and I got our new phone plan. Fortunately, that has all been resolved and we managed to get a brand new Samsung Galaxy S III (the phone I actually wanted all along!) for only $40. We had to get really creative to make it all work (considering we used my upgrade to get Michael's new phone and his number isn't eligible for an upgrade for another 22 months), but God was truly on our side! I'll spare you all the details and leave you with the fact that we successfully got our new phone plan set up (I had to get a new number) and we both managed to get brand new phones at severely discounted prices. Now if I could just figure out how to stop my phone from telling me every time I get a new email or Pinterest notification, that would be great.... 

--- 6 ---

For all you pregnant ladies and/or mothers out there: red raspberry leaf teadiscuss! For real. I'm curious about who has tried this and whether or not you believe it helped shorten your labor & delivery time. A woman I know swears that her 20-minute delivery (with her first baby, no less!) is due to her drinking it starting in her 36th week. I've read very mixed reviews and haven't found solid evidence that it works or that it doesn't...but based on what I've found out I think I'd feel comfortable starting to drink it right around this time (assuming my doctor has no qualms). Any knowledge or experience you have in this department would be greatly appreciated!

--- 7 ---


If by chance you're looking to donate to a charity in the next eleven days, consider supporting this non-profit that is run by the brother of one of my fellow parishioners. They work against human trafficking and provide shelter, food, clothing, and education for many children...and are the only organization of their kind in the African region they are in. Time is running out for them to raise the funds for a much-needed anti-trafficking training program! Please spread the word and pray for them!

I hope you all have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How I Met My Husband, Part 5 (final!)

+JMJ+

At the end of Part 4 I had officially left Bloomington to go home and pack for my year of volunteer service. Michael and I didn't quite want to say goodbye & we had yet to "define the relationship," so we made plans for him to visit my hometown in the next few days.

As soon as I got home and shared the game plan for Michael to come visit and stay Thursday night my mom was thrilled. Obviously she knew that this guy must be a big deal and she was ready to welcome him with open arms (although let's be honest, there aren't too many people my mom wouldn't welcome with open arms). By coming to my hometown Michael would be more fully introduced to my family and staying the night in our house...even though we hadn't even decided if we were officially a couple!

If Michael felt awkward about meeting some of my family and staying in our house so soon, he never let it show. I think we were both so focused on getting to see one another just one more time before I left that nothing else seemed to matter.

A few hours before we "officially" became a couple
I don't remember too many details about what happened once Michael arrived in my hometown, although I'm pretty sure I gave him a quick "driving tour" that ended with taking him to a local ice cream shop. The biggest thing I remember is that we had a lot of fun together and later that night we finally hashed out "the" talk.

Long after everyone else had gone to bed, we stayed up late to discuss what we wanted to do once I left Indiana for my year of volunteer service. We spoke about what it meant to each of us to be dating vs. the exclusivity of officially being "boyfriend and girlfriend" and agreed that we certainly weren't interested in dating anyone else. We knew that my going to Chicago and being long distance would have its challenges, but we reasoned that the point of being a couple is to give it a real shot - and if it doesn't work out you simply break up...but the thought of me leaving and us never even trying to see what could come of our interactions was something we both thought would be such a waste of something that had the potential to be very, very good.

In other words, Michael asked me on Friday, July 29, 2011 (because it was after midnight already...Michael recently informed me that he remembers it was approximately 1:19 or 1:23am - I love my engineer husband!) to take a leap of faith with him by becoming his girlfriend and seeing what could happen by officially giving a long distance relationship a chance. There were so many unknowns that laid ahead of us (how often would we be able to see each other? What kind of free time would I have as a full-time volunteer living in an intentional faith community? Would my volunteer roommates be okay with my boyfriend visiting?), but clearly I agreed to be his girlfriend and we trusted that it would all work itself out.

September 2011
That weekend I was booked with a Frassati Society conference for young adults in my home diocese, but when Michael and I parted Friday morning he offered to return on Monday...and Tuesday before I left Indiana on Wednesday of that next week - which made me feel quite special and realize more deeply how great of a catch my new boyfriend was.

Sure enough, things did work themselves out and we quickly settled into a routine of Michael visiting Chicago (since I was a poor volunteer without a car or money to travel much that year) nearly every 2 weeks. We communicated constantly and ended my long days with good conversations that often went late into the night and led us to understand the plans God had for us as a couple.

Anyone who has been in a serious, long distance relationship can tell you that the distance either makes or breaks your relationship. Likewise, long distance can either drag out the dating process or expedite it greatly. In our case, the frequent communication and need to be on the same page that came hand in hand with long distance forced us to talk about the big things in life right from the get go - meaning that things progressed rather quickly and all of the sacrifices we made for each other only solidified our relationship more and more.

October 2, 2011: the night we first said "I love you"
In late October (only a few months into our relationship) we first broached the topic of marriage, understanding that we still needed to continue discerning but could already see where we were most likely headed. We spoke hypothetically about timelines and what my plans would be after completing my year of volunteer service, depending on where things were at between the two of us.

In my mind there was only one remaining factor that I needed to know - which was whether or not Michael's RCIA classes and his faith journey would lead him to become Catholic on Easter Vigil 2012. I was secretly holding out to see what would happen, but that same night that we first spoke about marriage Michael revealed to me that he knew for sure that he wanted to become Catholic. Once he said that, I knew in my heart that he was the man God had been preparing for me to marry all along.

After that, it was only a matter of time before we would become engaged. Michael admits that had it not been for the long distance and the knowledge that if we weren't engaged by the time I completed my volunteer service that I could be pursuing mission work overseas, attending grad school, or getting a job anywhere in the country (which would create even more long distance), he would have taken more time to propose. However, we knew that we wanted to marry one another so he made sure to lock everything in before I could even think about moving further away. ;)

My birthday celebration in Chicago - December 2011
In late January 2012, while I was on a mid-year retreat for my volunteer program, Michael secretly drove to my hometown and spoke to my parents about proposing to me. He received their blessing and my great-great grandmother's diamond ring that he knew was to become my engagement ring someday. He then went to work choosing a new setting and ring for the diamond.

A couple weeks later, he came to visit me in Chicago. That Sunday, February 12, 2012, we went to Mass on the north side of the city and headed to Marytown – a Franciscan perpetual adoration chapel I had discovered earlier that year. After praying the rosary outside in their rosary meditation garden, we started to head inside when Michael stopped me - and got down on one knee. And because I love the way my husband told it on our wedding website, I'll let him tell you all as well:
"I can still recall the expression on her face; it was a mixture of pure joy, excitement, and a bit of shock. I started to say that there was a reason why I wanted to pray the rosary outside in the cold.... I began saying that she was my best friend, I loved her, I couldn’t picture my life without her, and that I wanted to grow old with her. After saying this, I stated that we both took a leap of faith together when we started dating, so then I asked if she would take another leap of faith with me and marry me and she said “yes.” At that moment I had felt like a great weight had been lifted off my chest. My heart filled with so much joy and excitement and I knew that my wish had come true that I could now be with the woman of my dreams."
Next we went inside to the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe and lit two votive candles for special intentions regarding our future together. We then entered the main chapel and prayed before the Blessed Sacrament for the first time as a betrothed couple. While we did this, I finally came back down to earth and everything that had just happened finally started to sink in. Feeling more at peace about our relationship than ever, I left that chapel filled with excitement and gratitude for finally knowing my vocation. For more details about the proposal you can check out this entry on my former blog.

February 12, 2012: the day we got engaged
April 29, 2012: rainy day engagement photo shoot in Chicago. Brian Powell Photography.
Brian Powell Photography.
The next 7.5 months were a whirlwind as Michael became Catholic, I completed my year of volunteer service, and we planned a wedding together while living in different states. Because we had met at The Bluebird and we liked the symbolism of love and joy behind the Bluebird of Happiness, we planned a bluebird theme for our wedding day.

Then, on September 29, 2012 (exactly 14 months after I said “yes” to being Michael’s girlfriend – and the Feast of the Archangels) we married in my hometown parish in Indiana. We were married by a Dominican friar I had first met during my college years and had a full Catholic Nuptial Mass. We then celebrated with about 170 of our closest friends and family members before heading off to Belize for a week-long honeymoon.

Brian Powell Photography.
Our wedding favors were bluebird magnet clips that my older sister made by hand! Brian Powell Photography.
Brian Powell Photography.
Yes, that is a traditional Korean wedding dress I wore for part of the reception. :) Brian Powell Photography.
And here we are now, reminiscing on how much has happened since we first kissed on that July night two years ago...married for almost 10 months with a healthy baby boy due in less than 4 weeks. God is truly good. :)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

How I Met My Husband, Part 4

+JMJ+

At the end of Part 3 Michael and I had just shared our first kiss (scandalous!) but hadn't quite reconciled the biggest obstacle to our possibly dating.

The next evening we met up for a beer (I don't remember how "coffee" got turned into "beer," but apparently we both appreciate good coffee and a good beer so it didn't matter to us too much) and enjoyed one another's company as we chatted on a bar patio, watching the sun go down.

Not wanting the evening to be over quite yet, we walked a few blocks down the street to take a twilight stroll through campus. Considering Michael wasn't too familiar with IU's campus and I had worked (twice) for New Student Orientation, I was beyond thrilled to give him an unofficial tour of a small part of campus - narrated by yours truly.

We had a good time continuing our conversation, although I would jokingly scold him for not paying attention to my "tour" if he ever interrupted my narration about various buildings, statues, traditions, and legends. When the mini-tour was over we still didn't want to part ways but it was getting dark - so we headed to the house Michael was living in (which was owned by one of his friends I first met that night at The Bluebird).

We proceeded to keep talking while half-watching episodes of Power Rangers on Netflix. Eventually it was time for Michael to drive me home. When we arrived, I began to exit the car when suddenly I paused - then climbed back in. The moment of truth had arrived.

I then said something like, "Here's the deal. I like you...I think you are awesome. I would totally date you, but religion is really important to me." I'm pretty sure I caught him completely off guard with my blunt statement but he followed up with, "I know," to which I skeptically replied, "No, I don't think you really know...."

I quickly summarized why my last serious relationship had ended and why it was so important for me to date people who shared my Catholic beliefs, morals, and values. I didn't want to waste anyone's time because I knew what it was I was looking for. Michael listened patiently as I unloaded all this information on him...and he surprised me by then telling me that even though he would consider himself agnostic, his family isn't religious and he had never had anyone challenge him or ask him what he believed...so he didn't know. He had never been to church and didn't know much about Catholicism, but he was willing to learn so he could better figure out what he believed.

...Say what?

In my mind I had thought that ultimately our differences would keep us from ever dating and I could move on and dismiss him - not having to deal with how much I already liked this wonderful man I had started to get to know. Instead, he threw me a curve-ball by saying he was interested in learning about Catholicism...and he even agreed to attend Mass with me the next weekend. 

From that day forward we began spending as much time together as possible.

It was practically mid-July and we both knew that I was leaving at the end of the month to begin my year of volunteer service in Chicago with the Dominicans. We only had a couple of weeks so we made time to see each other almost every single day once we were both off of work. When I spoke with Michael about this recently he said he remembers that we didn't see each other on one of those days - because he had thought to himself that maybe we should take a breather, if you will. However, on that one day we didn't see each other he thought to himself, "Wow, this is stupid," because he wound up thinking about me that entire day. :) I don't think either of us necessarily said it out loud, but I'm pretty sure we both wanted to get to know as much about one another as soon as possible - to help determine whether or not we should pursue a real relationship knowing it would be long distance. Because of the short time frame we had to work with, we talked a lot...and I like to joke that I "put him through the ringer" because in all honesty - I did.                                                                                                    

The more I grilled Michael put him through the ringer got to know Michael, the more I was hooked. Obviously he wasn't Catholic - which completely went against what I had thought would be the one mandatory prerequisite for the next person I dated - but whenever we spoke about morals or values he voiced his beliefs in a way that led me to think, "This man sounds like a Catholic who doesn't yet know he is Catholic." Plus, I had been entirely up front about the importance of my faith life and he began attending Mass with me. Much to my delight, he said he felt rejuvenated after that first time and said he wanted to go again the next week. We had gone to a 5:30pm Mass on Sunday afternoon so we then returned to my apartment and got into a great discussion/Q&A/explanation session about Christianity (especially Catholicism) as I cooked us dinner. After the second week, he informed me that he wanted to continue going to church on his own once I left town...which made me believe that the Holy Spirit was truly doing work within his heart - rather than him simply attending because he was interested in possibly dating me.

When I think back on July 2011 I can't help but smile because it was such a beautiful time of year and an exciting season in our budding relationship (which had yet to be defined). Those were the days of staying up late talking for hours, not caring that we had to be awake in only 4 hours for work - because that time together was more exciting and precious than any sleep we lost in the process. In only a couple of weeks we spent much quality time talking about the big things in life as well as having fun going on simple adventures together. He came to listen when my friends invited me to sing/perform with their band, we went bowling with friends, we spotted Saturn together from IU's planetarium, I got our friends together for wine tasting so I could introduce Michael to my favorite winery, and he introduced me to Turkish food at a great ethnic restaurant...and all the while I continued praying that God would help me understand what to do when it came time to "DTR" (define the relationship).

Our Turkish dinner date the night before I left  (what we consider our first official date) on Monday, July 25, 2011
By the time July drew to a close I was fairly confident that we could have a real future together. I distinctly remember thinking that if his faith journey led him fully into the Catholic Church, he was probably the man I would end up marrying. I had a strong feeling about where everything could be headed but the only way to find out would be to give it time - something I was willing to do because I clearly had a feeling this man was worth it.

Pretty soon it was my final day in Bloomington; I would still be in Indiana for another week before leaving for my volunteer orientation, but those days would be spent back in my hometown so I could pack and say goodbye to my family. Plus, my final weekend was booked with a Frassati Society young adult conference I had made plans to attend with a good friend. On that final Tuesday in Bloomington I stopped by Michael's work to say goodbye one last time...and we quickly realized we were dying to see one another again before I left. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - stopping by Michael's work to say goodbye as I left town
We still hadn't discussed what our intentions and plans were once I left for my year of service, but we both knew we wanted to see each other again in the next few days - so instead of saying goodbye right then and there we made plans for him to come visit my hometown on Thursday after work (which was an hour and a half from Bloomington but only an hour from where he worked). In order to maximize our time together, we figured out that he could stay the night in our guest room and leave early for work the next morning. This meant Michael would have to meet my parents and one of my sisters, which I had no problem with...and I knew without even consulting my mother that she would welcome an overnight visitor and would be thrilled to get to know him better. :)

---

Want to know what happened when he came to visit my hometown? Stay tuned for the 5th and final part of our "How We Met" story!

Update: You can read Part 5 right here.

Monday, July 15, 2013

How I Met My Husband, Part 3

+JMJ+

At the end of Part 2 Michael and I had just gone on a platonic coffee date...and had both independently concluded that we could be great friends, but probably didn't have a romantic future together because of our religious differences. Obviously we were wrong, but read on to discover how any obstacles to us dating slowly crumbled down!

When we parted ways that first night we got coffee I wondered if Michael would try and meet up with me again. I honestly wasn't surprised when I never really heard from him. In reality we were both busy; I was finishing up my final semester of undergrad and (I'd later learn) he was experiencing a rather busy season at work that had him working unusually long hours.

Even though we were both busy, each of us made time to occasionally go out to some of the local bars with friends...and as Divine Providence would have it, we always seemed to make it out on the same nights - and would often overlap our time at some of the same bars. Sometimes we would even text each other to see where each of us were going that night; if we wound up at the same place at the same time we always made sure to say hi and catch up for a few minutes.

Later on we reflected on how all of this transpired and admitted that because we always happened to be out on the same nights, we each thought the other must go out to the bars a lot. I assumed if I saw him out every single time I went out that he must constantly be out drinking with his friends and he assumed the same of me - which couldn't have been further from the truth! All of this makes me chuckle and think about how mysterious God truly is sometimes....

After running into one another a handful of times that spring and early summer, we eventually ran into one another again on a night that would forever alter our future interactions. It was early July (my final month in town before leaving to begin my post-graduate volunteer service!) and one of Theresa's friends wanted her to come celebrate their birthday out at the bars. It wasn't the birthday of anyone I knew particularly well, but Theresa was my best friend so naturally I tagged along.

With Theresa (she truly witnessed the start of everything with Michael!) and with Michael on July 9, 2011
I don't remember if Michael and I had texted each other to find out if we might run into each other that night or not - but regardless we ended up at the same bar at the same time. It wasn't very busy and we spotted each other pretty quickly. Because I didn't know the person celebrating their birthday I wasn't too interested in joining their party - so Theresa went and found her other friend while I spoke to Michael.

The bar we were at has a large beer pong table (kind of a gross concept for a bar, really - unless you are excellent at never letting a ball touch the ground) and Michael invited me to join his friends in a game. I realize how all of this sounds, but contrary to the fact that we met in a bar, continually ran into each other at bars, and reunited again playing beer pong at a bar - we are not crazy partiers...I promise (hi, Mom!).

I joined in their game as Michael's partner and I have a strong suspicion that we didn't win because I remember being totally off my game that night - but Michael never made me feel bad about it which is something I do remember. :) Apparently at one point one of Michael's friends we were playing against (who would later be the Best Man at our wedding) whispered to Michael that I was the kind of girl a guy could bring home to their mom and Michael agreed...which I had no idea about at the time but made me insanely happy when Michael told me months later.

Michael learned that evening that I was permanently leaving in a few weeks - so I think each of us realized we wouldn't have too many opportunities to continue randomly running into one another; we enjoyed catching up so I continued hanging out with him and his friends while Theresa fulfilled her duty of showing up for a friend's birthday. Eventually Theresa returned and we spent the rest of the night hanging out with Michael and his friends. We ended the night dancing and, of course, I danced with Michael. Even if the whole religion thing made us seemingly incompatible, we were both secretly attracted to one another and I was happy to have him as my dancing partner.

At one point as we danced our heads got closer together and I remember thinking that he was probably going to kiss me - and internally I began to freak out. I did not want to kiss a guy in a bar and be one of "those" girls...plus I was still under the impression that it would be hard to pursue anything real with him because he was agnostic...so I felt pretty certain that meant I couldn't let him kiss me.

I struggled internally with what to do as it became more and more obvious that Michael was going to try and lean in for a kiss sometime soon. Eventually (probably because I felt slightly buzzed) I gave in and we kissed. I was SO HAPPY that my secret admiration was apparently reciprocated! Pretty shortly after that (immediately it felt like) it was time to part ways and we each headed home. Within about 3 minutes (I think I had barely gotten in the passenger seat of a car) Michael texted me - wanting to know if I'd like to get coffee the next day.

Although part of me felt slightly ashamed for letting Michael first kiss me in a bar after we had both been drinking a little bit, I am so grateful that everything happened as it did! Months later Michael would admit to me that if I hadn't kissed him that night, he probably wouldn't have contacted me about hanging out the next day...but that kiss gave him the reassurance that I was interested and the confidence to pursue things further. Because we kissed, he knew he wanted/needed to seize the opportunity to get to know me better before I left in a few short weeks.

Soon we would be spending time together nearly every day for the remainder of July, but first we had to talk about that whole religion thing...which is what came the next day.

---

How did we reconcile our differences and figure out whether we should keep spending time together or not? Stay tuned for Part 4!

Update: Click here for Part 4. :)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

How I Met My Husband, Part 2

+JMJ+

Where were we? At the end of Part 1 I had just randomly met Michael at a bar while another boy was on his way to come visit me. 

I had started to figure out that perhaps Michael was legitimately interested in me - which made me feel a slight twinge of guilt; after all, there was a perfectly nice Catholic boy literally driving at that very moment to come visit me that weekend. However, I certainly hadn't done anything wrong and Michael can also verify that when he first met me I very clearly had my guard up (my husband is an intuitive fellow, what can I say?).

Once it became clear that the headlining band was about to start, Michael and I wrapped up our conversation...but not before he asked me for my number. I had been anticipating that might happen (and had already worried about whether or not it was okay to give it to him), but I was still somewhat surprised...because how often had I ever met a genuinely nice man at a bar and had him ask me for my number? (I'll tell you how often - never ever. Zero times) What was even more surprising was that I actually felt okay about giving him my number and did so gladly. Even though I hadn't been trying to flirt or anything I could tell that I had a great deal in common with this person and could see us becoming friends.

From that moment on I simply enjoyed the concert with Theresa and left when my friend texted to let me know he was out front. I didn't talk to Michael any more that night, but I did happen to notice where he and his friends were standing as I exited the building. In true girly fashion, I think I was secretly hoping he would notice and look at me when I walked out - as if I wanted him to be interested in me...even though I simultaneously didn't want him to be interested because I clearly was involved on some level with the guy I had been "talking" to that gave me a ride home from the concert that night.

I went about my weekend spending time with friends and enjoying my final dance performance. On Sunday, before my guy friend left town, we had a serious talk about where each of us were at and what that meant for any possible dating future. The main reason this young man and I hadn't ever officially dated and things were so up in the air was because he had been discerning going to seminary...and (perhaps you can guess!) that very weekend he told me that he felt he needed to apply. He wasn't sure whether or not he was being called to the priesthood, but he would never be able to commit to anyone or anything else unless he had tried to go and figure it out.

At the risk of making it sound simpler than it was: I like to think God gave me the grace to handle that entire situation very well and I wholeheartedly supported my friend in his decision, knowing fully well what it meant for our future (or probable lack thereof). We parted on a positive note and I'm happy to inform you that he has currently completed his first two years of seminary (only four more to go!).

Shortly after he left, I received a text message from Michael wanting to know if I'd like to get coffee sometime.

What?! What timing. Clearly I didn't have to feel guilty about anything because my soon-to-be-seminarian friend and I had agreed to simply be friends...but I knew that I needed time to get my head on straight and really focus on what God was calling me to do after graduation (I was still discerning which year-long volunteer program I would be pursuing).

I accepted Michael's invitation to coffee with the caveat that it was platonic...and he agreed. He claims that he wasn't trying to pursue anything more than friendship, but I have somewhat of a difficult time fully believing that considering he also admits that he found me attractive...and (spoiler alert) he eventually put a ring on it. ;)

Where we met up for our first shared coffee experience :)
Later that week we met up for coffee. I arrived first and spotted him as soon as he walked in, but he hadn't noticed me yet as he ordered his drink. I suddenly felt slightly awkward and self-conscious...as if I had no idea what to do or say. After all, I had only met this guy once - and I was a little worried he might not even recognize me because I happened to be wearing my glasses for our coffee friend date (that doesn't sound like much of a disguise, but Michael tells me that it did throw him off at first). Thankfully any awkwardness faded away entirely as soon as we sat down and began getting to know one another better.

When I think back on that night I remember it being as good as it could have possibly been. We had great conversation and I felt like I could truly be myself with him. Any smiles or laughter exchanged was completely genuine and I found myself sharing things with him that some of my closest friends didn't even know about me.

I almost hated to say goodbye, but it was a weeknight and at some point we both needed to get home and prepare for whatever we had going on the next day. Two things had become very clear to both of us that night: 1) we got along extremely well and had a lot in common and 2) we probably didn't have any sort of romantic future together (wrong) because I had spoken a great deal about my involvement in the Catholic Church and he had shared that he was agnostic.

So there it was. We found in one another the potential for a good friend (albeit a good friend we were each attracted to)...but not too much more. He could still tell I had some walls up and he figured I would want to date someone who was more religious...and I was mentally thinking the same thing.

For the time being, that was it. But God had plans that neither of us knew about yet.

---

How did we eventually start dating? Stay tuned for part 3! To be continued further....

Update: Click here to read Part 3!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

How I Met My Husband, Part 1

+JMJ+

Joining Grace and her "How We Met" link-up to bring you all the nitty gritty details of how I first met Michael - and how that led to me becoming his adoring wife. :) Enjoy!

It was Friday, March 25, 2011 the first time I met Michael. I honestly wouldn't have been able to tell you the date had it not been for the fact that the following night I had my final dance performance of my college career. I danced competitively for years (jazz, hip hop, kick routines, pom, etc.) and had continued dancing in college by adding a minor in contemporary dance and making it onto various teams that focused on different styles over the years. My 5th and final year at Indiana University my younger sister and I both made it onto the campus hip hop team and had lots of fun performing together again (just like our high school days!) before I graduated.

Basically I remember that weekend clearly because my parents and a handful of my friends attended my final hip hop performance on that Saturday night. Trust me, that detail will make this story more interesting in a bit.

My little sis & me after a hip hop performance -
and possibly my FB profile pic when Michael
& I met?
On Friday night I decided to head to a local bar (The Bluebird) with one of my best friends, Theresa. An extremely popular cover band (Dot Dot Dot - any other Hoosiers out there know who I'm talking about?!) was playing and if you attended IU when I did then you already understand that everyone loves Dot Dot Dot. I actually thought about not attending the concert that evening because I had a friend arriving from out of town - but because he was driving down from Chicago after he got off work he wouldn't be arriving until midnight or later. Not wanting to waste my evening waiting around, I decided to head out with Theresa and simply have my friend pick me up at the bar on his way into town.

Who was my friend and why was he coming to visit that weekend? Well, this is what (in my opinion) makes the timing of this story that much more interesting.

I had been "talking" (you know - getting to know someone better because there is a possibility you might date but you're not "technically" dating even though you kind of act like it already) to this guy friend of mine and he was coming to visit so he could cheer me on at my final dance performance that Saturday night. I had known this friend for years through campus ministry and after I got out of a serious relationship my senior year due to differences in faith and major core values I had decided that I needed to focus on finding a Catholic man. After all, it had been obvious that the lack of being on the same page in that department led to the end of said relationship, so it made sense to me.

As I entertained the notion of only dating Catholic men (since I knew I wanted that in a marriage) I began talking to this campus ministry friend. We actually first "talked" towards the end of my senior year but the timing was way off considering he was graduating and I was too recently out of a relationship. We remained friends and several months later began "talking" again in the spring of my 5th year.

Now back to Michael. :)

After the cover band finished playing there was about a 20-minute break before Dot Dot Dot took the stage...meaning there were about 20 minutes when you could actually talk to your friends and be heard without having to shout. Theresa and I stood around chatting when suddenly Michael came up and introduced himself...to Theresa, not me.

I distinctly remember laughing internally and having to turn away slightly so no one would see me roll my eyes as I thought to myself, "Here we go again. Theresa is getting hit on as usual!" (because she had seriously been getting hit on ALL the time - to the point where she and I joked about it). I also distinctly remember smiling and thinking, "Oh, that's cute. He's Asian and he's hitting on her because she is Asian," because Theresa is Filipina and has a history of being hit on by Asian men even though historically she has only been interested in white guys. Poor suckers. I stood by silently so Michael could do his thing and hit on my friend...though little did I know that wasn't what was happening at all. 

Theresa and me! Not the night I met Michael, but still.
A few minutes later a couple of Michael's friends also came up and introduced themselves to Theresa because (I'd learn later) Michael had been playing the role of "wingman" for his friend. Almost simultaneously one of Theresa's high school friends found her so she turned around to speak to him - shifting the attention of all these new guys for a moment. At that point in time Michael realized I was with Theresa and introduced himself to me.

I was still under the impression that Michael was interested in my friend so I assumed that he was simply being polite by acknowledging my presence and was patiently waiting until she would finish chatting with her high school friend and he could resume talking to her. Thankfully I was wrong.

Michael and I began speaking and continued speaking the remainder of the 20-minute break until the start-up of loud music forced us to part ways. We started off by talking about his job and what I was studying; he was a biomedical engineer that had attended college in Ohio and had come to Indiana for his first job after graduation - and I was in my final semester studying Kinesiology as a Fitness Specialist. This launched us into complete nerd speak as we discovered our shared passion for things like anatomy, physiology, and all things fitness-related. Unlike the chucklehead guys who usually try and tell me about fitness, he legitimately had a scientific understanding of physiology which I found refreshing. At some point he had me guess what two nationalities his Asian racial makeup consisted of and somehow I managed to figure out (Divine Providence?) that he was half Chinese and half Korean (something that apparently surprised him because no one ever successfully figures that out). We spoke about our hometowns and where we came from - and it was at this point that I finally understood he might be interested in me. 

When Michael told me about his hometown (a western suburb of Cleveland) he mentioned that there aren't many Asians there and that he was one of only a couple Asians in his entire graduating high school class. He followed this up by saying something along the lines of, "Yeah, people tend to assume that just because I'm Asian I am interested in Asian girls...but that isn't what I grew up with. I mainly went to school with Caucasians so really I prefer Caucasian girls." Well, dang. Okay. Thank the Lord that he said this so bluntly because up until this point I really was clueless that he wasn't somehow still trying to hit on Theresa! But then I wondered...could he actually be interested in me???

At this point I had a quick conversation with God that went something like this:
"Really?! Is this happening right now? I n.e.v.e.r get hit on and the one time an attractive, seemingly genuine guy might be hitting on me I have this ongoing, unresolved situation with another guy - who is literally driving to come visit me right now. And this nice guy is muscular AND Asian - of course!"

That muscular and Asian guy being Michael, obviously. Any of my close friends or family could tell you that while I had never been particular about many physical characteristics in a man the one common denominator that could potentially define my "type" had always been: muscular/athletic. 

The Asian part made me laugh at God's sense of humor more than anything else because even though all my boyfriends had been white I had suddenly found myself becoming close friends with Asian people left and right (Theresa, the boy driving to see me, and a handful of other people as well). Just like Theresa and I had been joking about her always getting hit on, we had started joking about how I had randomly started having all kinds of Asian friends...so perhaps it was a little of this combined with a lot of my Asian baby obsession that made me think God was doing something intentional here. In a funny way, perhaps He had been preparing my heart to be with Michael because I honestly believe all my positive experiences with my Asian friends had opened up my eyes so I would recognize the incredibly intelligent, muscular, Asian man in front of me as someone I was immediately attracted to - regardless of my history of Caucasian boyfriends.

---

What happened to the nice Catholic boy driving down to see me? And how did Michael and I move forward from there? You'll have to stay tuned! To be continued. :)

Update: Click here to read Part 2!

Friday, July 12, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 20)

+JMJ+


--- 1 ---
Do any of you have a smart phone for sale? Or know anyone getting rid of a smart phone? Last night Michael and I (finally!) managed to jump off our parents' family plans and get a new plan together. The process had gotten more than a little drawn out and complicated because my sister-in-law used Michael's upgrade when her phone got stolen on her trip to Europe a few months ago - locking Michael into their plan for another 2 years. However, after a lot of research and figuring out what we could do things were looking good - really good! We managed to keep Michael's phone number (I had to get a new one), get a new plan, and get him a new Samsung Galaxy S4 for practically nothing after trading in my 3-year-old Blackberry (color me surprised because who knew that phone was still worth a decent amount of money?). The game plan was for me to take Michael's 3-year-old iPhone until we could ride out the remaining 22 months he was locked in and then get me a new phone.

Sounds awesome, right? It was...until Michael's iPhone was getting prepped to receive all my contacts and it DIED. Out of nowhere. We tried to take it home and connect it to iTunes in hopes it would somehow resurrect itself, but no such luck. The AT&T employee said he had never seen this happen...ever. Long story short, I have an awesome $15 go phone until we can find me a new (or used!) smart phone. So do you have one??? :)

--- 2 ---
Sometimes it can feel like the world is turning into a place overrun with selfish people. Then stories like this get circulated and I'm reminded that there are so many good, pro-life people out there! I'm sure many of you have already heard about the priest who helped save a Down Syndrome baby from abortion by utilizing social media to find adoptive parents (if not, see the link above); it blows my mind (and warms my heart!) how many people responded to his plea...and what blows my mind further is that I received word about this via email as it was unraveling. I certainly don't know the couple involved at all, but I received a forwarded email from a friend who had received a forwarded email and I passed it on, etc. Thank you, internet, for being utilized for something GOOD! So refreshing.

--- 3 ---


Discovering this song by Diamond Rio also rekindled my faith in the people of our nation a little bit. It helped remind me that even though it sometimes feels like our blessed nation is being overrun by people who want us to turn our backs on God, there are still plenty of believers willing to take a stand and fight for religious liberty! +St. Thomas More, pray for us.+


--- 4 ---
While I'm at it, I might as well share why 6/26/13 was so hard.  I think Lauren does a beautiful job explaining all of this, so please take a few minutes to read her heartfelt piece that is simply radiating the love of Christ. I read it and simply wanted to say "Amen! Amen! Amen!"

--- 5 ---
Need something to make you smile? No problem. This is why I follow an entire Pinterest board of adorable Asian (and half-Asian!) babies:

Asian baby in a panda hat <3

--- 6 ---
Go ahead. Smile some more:

Asian babies dressed like monks <3

--- 7 ---
And one more time:

Asian baby hipster <3

Have a blessed weekend, friends! And make sure you head over to Jen's for more quick takes!