October 30, 2013

Our Fall Wreath

Fall Wreath_ Painted Wooden Letter

Being a part of the blogging community has often sparked the creativity in me. That spark finally blazed into a roaring fire as I completed my first DIY/home decor project: a Fall Wreath. 

This wreath was inspired by a post I saw on BlogHer early September. I thought the first wreath pictured was the most beautiful ever and just had to recreate it. I slowly gathered supplies and finally sat down to paint and design the wreath last week. Beau was absolutely against polka dots, so I tried stenciling a leaf pattern on the wooden letter, but that was unsuccessful on many levels, so I opted for clean, neutral rugby stripes. I quite like the outcome, and Beau does too. Our wreath is now displaying on our front door. I am so proud. I now see why artsy people are into this kind of thing. Painting was surprisingly very relaxing. 

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October 23, 2013

One Year in Our Home

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One year ago today (literally like one month and one day before our wedding day), we purchased our first home. It's a quaint little row home on a somewhat busy street in a borough right outside of Philadelphia. I don't think we knew it at the time  (not sure how), but it does get extremely busy and noisy during the morning and evening rush hours. Our street connects two major roads, has a middle school at the end of the block and two large high schools in close proximity, so I guess it makes sense. It was difficult trying to sleep with the windows open once the warmer months rolled around, but I got used to it.

Our neighborhood is diverse. I love it so so much. Since I'm a homebody, I haven't really gone out to speak with our neighbors, but I see them walking by. I remember the first weekend in our house, I saw all kinds of people walking by, and I thought "oh my goodness! we have Asians in our neighborhood!". haha. It seems silly, but I grew up in Philly and the inhabitants of our block were predominantly Black. We did have a mixed race couple living on our street, but then they moved a couple years later. In any case, I am really glad to have the diversity here. Our immediate neighbors are- I think- Liberian, Eritrean, and Indian, and we see many other people of various racial backgrounds taking a stroll down the block on a nice, sunny day. I really think that is the highlight of living here. I no longer feel like I am stuck in a box where demographics are concerned, and I can honestly say that I feel pretty safe living here as well. (Although, the neighborhood my mom lives in Philly is also relatively safe).

Now for the house itself, it has it's ups and downs. Firstly, who knew that hardwood floors throughout would be so challenging to maintain?! This was one of the top things on my wishlist when searching for a home, and when we got it, I really wanted to renege. The house is a dust magnet! It's okay though. I prefer dust congregating on the floors than in the carpet. My allergies and sinuses also prefer it.

Our home was in move-in condition when we purchased it. But of course, that came with hidden faults (eg. wall accents in the bathroom falling down, taking patches of paint with it. The previous owners used Command Strips to hold them up. What in the what??;  Crazy draft during the winter months; a broken thermostat in the fridge leading to a super cold freezer and a lukewarm fridge... goodbye orange juice, eggs, and milk). Overall, it really is a good house. Mishaps and breakages are to be expected when owning a home.

In regards to decor, we have yet to get the ball rolling on that. Right now, we have the basic necessities: bedroom furniture, dining set, bookshelves, and a desk. We also have a set of recliners in the living room that Beau's parents gave us. To be honest, I dislike the things, but they work for now.  It is really hard, financially, for us to get other things to furnish and decorate our home to my our liking, but I know that the opportunity will come-- slowly, but surely. We've been told many tales of our family and friends getting their first place and having to furnish it piece by piece and finally getting a desired result years down the road. They always say that it is discouraging at first, but it is also very rewarding to look back on where they started to see how far they've come. Their stories are such an encouragement because being a part of the blog community, I see so many young couples who get married, purchase their first home and are then able to (what seems like) fully furnish it within weeks. I am fully assured that we will be able to do the same in no time, so no worries here.

So, that is an update of where we are one year after purchasing our first home. I've recently had a sense that we won't actually be residing in this house for long. Strange, I know. I'm not sure why I feel that way, but it was a feeling I got a couple weeks ago while thinking about our home and what it would be like once fully furnished. I don't know if or where we will be headed to, but I am sure the Lord will provide- just as He has this past year.

October 17, 2013

Pleased to Cook or Cook to Please?

Life of a Newlywed with text 

Ever felt like you've lost some of your capabilities after getting married? I do!

I am the observant type. I learned how to cook by watching my mom and older sister in the kitchen. The gist of preparing Jamaican cuisine is all the same: season very well, brown (sear) meats, and finish off with a cup or two of water and allow to simmer. Of course, that is just for cooking meats, but the methods for preparing other dishes also followed a pattern that was easy to remember.

My favorite thing to cook for the longest time was pan-seared pork chops. Yes, ma'am! That was my specialty. During college, I was on a pasta kick, and I still am. I really loved making pasta with bolognese sauce (something about big meatballs turns me off, so I prefer meat sauce with smaller chunks of meat). Then, I tried my hand at making alfredo sauce from scratch and fell. in. love. Shrimp fettucine alfredo is my favorite to make. I love it, and Beau loves it too. It was the first meal I've ever prepared for him.
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Since that meal was a hit with Beau, I never really feared preparing meals for him (on occasion)... until we got married. I mean, I don't even know what got into me. But a crazy desire to be spontaneous, unique and fun came over me and I started trying new things in the kitchen, only to hate the taste of it when dinner time came around. Not complete kitchen disasters per se, but substandard flavors, for lack of a better term. I am not sure if he was being polite, but Beau liked those meals. I, on the other hand, was not impressed. I couldn't quite figure out what was wrong with my cooking, until Beau pointed it out-- I was cooking only to try and please him. I can't even explain what that entails. But if I must try, I will say that I tried to be fancy with different sauces and things and I also tried really hard to not make things salty. Now, don't get me wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong with cooking to please your spouse, but when it causes you to mess up completely, it's not worth it.

The thing is, Beau liked the way I cooked before we got married. I cooked with no frills or tricks up my sleeve-- just using the skills I learned while observing my mom and sister in the kitchen. I have recently gone back to cooking that way I used to and it is so much better.

Baking? That's a different ballgame. I suck at it.
 -- Exhibit A: my chocolate chip muffin muffin-shaped bread baked from scratch

Do you cook to please others (spouse, family, friends) or do you cook to meet your standards?

October 10, 2013

Company Picnics and Overcoming Social-Awkwardness

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I feel like I have been seeing a lot of Beau's co-workers lately. Not that I'm visiting him at work everyday (or, ever), but his firm has been hosting some events lately, and we've been attending them.

Note, this is actually an exaggeration because there really has only been about 3 events, but I think that's enough to make it seem like a lot.

In any case, we drove up to Point Pleasant Beach for his company's picnic last weekend. I'm not quite sure what I was expecting, but I knew some awkwardness would arise. I have a self-diagnosis of social anxiety, so it made complete sense why I would expect awkwardness at this event.  I hate being at the center of attention. I don't feel confident when meeting new people, and I am just all-around terrified of anything going wrong.

The company picnic wasn't half bad though. I learned that contrary to my belief, people don't bite.


October 8, 2013

My Faith Story

My Testimony_smaller

I guess you can say that I grew up in the church. I sang on the choir. I played Gabriel in the Christmas pageant every year until I was too tall to blend in with the younger 'angels'. I was meek. I was quiet. I was just an all around "good kid".

When I was in the 7th grade, I decided that I wanted to get baptized. I'm not even sure what got into to me to want to be baptized. I don't remember the exact date like most people do, but I do remember the day after like it was yesterday. As I was riding on the bus to school, I felt different. I no longer wanted to do the things that the other kids did. I remember a consciousness of sorts in my mind that "I am baptized now. I have to be different. I have to live like a Christian should live" -- whatever that meant. I wasn't quite sure what it meant at the time. I just knew that cursing and thinking bad of people just wasn't the way to be. My pressing conscience was seared soon after. I stopped having a pressing conscience, but I always strived to be "good" to the best of my abilities.

During my high school years, I faced some really discouraging times (which I will write more about in a future  Testimony post) and I got myself into an inappropriate relationship at the age of 17. That secret became exposed. My mom was absolutely livid and it seems as if my reputation was marred in the sight of my church members. I felt judged and unloved by many of the members there. After some time, I began hating church and everything about it. I hated the stares. I hated the whispers. I hated the judgmental spirits. The things mothers said to their daughters about me indirectly, but loud enough for me to hear. I hated how hypocritical the people were. I could not wait to get away from there and head to college in hopes of never returning.

I went to college with a freedom in my heart that I was free and can and will do whatever I wanted. I went to college with that liberation mindset, but sill had a bit of conscience  left. And with that bit of conscience, I sought out a church and I chose to live on a substance-free floor my freshman year of college. I lived pure that entire year with the exception of a party every couple weekends or so. With the start of college, I thought I had gotten away from my home church for good, but during school breaks, I had no where to go or stay but home. My mom always went to church on Sundays, so I never got out of attending service. Nothing changed when I went back to my home church. I still felt rather bitter towards the members and I still felt as though they could not look past my mistake. I felt like they didn't love me

The next couple years in college. I moved from the freshman substance-free floor to a dorm with upper classmen and I found friends. Other than the one church service I attended freshman year, I never attended church again during the months I spent away at university.  I became more open to trying things and got into drinking and partying with my friends just about every weekend. My conscience was still there however because I would never go more than one or two days without praying. (Ever since I was a child, I found that if I did not pray before going to sleep, I would have nightmares at night. This fear of nightmares caused me to keep a line of communication between God and I-- even though I had no relationship with Him outside of it).

At the start of the Spring semester of my Junior year in college (January 2009), I began talking to my sweet Beau. He shared his personal testimony, and something about it spoke to my heart. I found myself wanting less of partying and drinking with my friends. Whenever my friends and I went out, I found myself bored to the point of wanting to fall asleep (seriously!). I still mingled with them though. I never quite knew how to just drop friends or explain to them why I no longer desired to do the things they were doing. A part of me wanted to live pure and clean for the Lord and to allow my relationship with Beau to blossom, while the other part of me also wanted to continue doing what my friends were doing for fear of having to explain 'why not?'.

Fast-forward to 2010 when I finally graduated college and started graduate school in Connecticut. I felt like I was finally able to live a clean, pure life. I searched for a church the day that I moved in and attended it the very next day. As I walked through the door and into the entry way, a woman there greeted me with great smile and a big hug. And as I entered the sanctuary, everyone greeted me with a smile and a handshake/hug. I left there thinking two things:
(1) 'Wow. Beau and I were about 2 out of 4 Black persons in that church today'...
(2) "Wow.... those people were so warm and loving."
Weeks went by. I fell more and more in love with the church. The service was shorter than I was used to (I attend a Caribbean Pentecostal Church-- so, you know), but every sermon seemed to have sparked my interest and left me wanting more. I found myself wanting to attend just about every mid-week service; if not to learn more about the Word of God, then to bask in the fellowship of these loving people. My heart was so full. These people, who did not know me from a can of paint, accepted me into their church and loved me. They invited me to their homes for casual dinners, annual holiday parties, Christmas brunch, Thanksgiving dinner, etc. They prayed with me and for me. One person even prophesied over my life that very first day I was there.

My time at Cornerstone Church ended after grad school and I moved back home. I received a gift card as a graduation gift and used part of it to purchase a Study Bible. I bought it thinking that I need to read the Bible more and since I was having a hard time trying to find a job, it also gave me something to do. I started reading it and discovered truths about the Bible I had never known before. I was able to fill in the blanks to  Bible stories I had heard about as a child, but never knew in full detail. I read through Genesis for the first time ever, and then embarked on also reading through Exodus. As I got to Exodus 6:2-3, I broke down into tears. It says:

And God spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am the LordI appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name Lord I was not known to them.

You see, God has always been that all-powerful, all-mighty being to me. I recognized this when I decided to get baptized in the 7th grade. I knew this when I had a conscience regarding doing right and wrong. I knew it when I prayed to Him only to keep my nightmares at bay. I even knew this when I sought a church while attending university. I knew this. I understood and accepted that He is God. That He not only exists, but He is worthy enough to be deserving of obedience and powerful enough to keep away those bad dreams. Yet, I only knew Him as such. I did not know Him as Lord... Jehovah. Yahweh. The I AM. In that moment of reading those two verses of scripture, I felt the Lord asking me to make Him Lord of my life. To make Him the I AM over every situation in my life. That whatever I sought at the time (a job, love, deliverance from abuse) , He is.

I can't quite explain how, but I am absolutely positive that everything that occurred in my life, both good and bad all played a role in bringing me to God. As I read those verses in Exodus, I decided in that moment to give up trying to do everything on my own and many things began falling into place over a short period of time,  including purchasing our home, planning our wedding and having peace of mind. As I continue to dig into the scriptures, I uncover so many truths. I discover the sovereignty of the Lord, Jesus Christ, and the unconditional love He has for us. I am then reminded that all those times I felt unloved by others around me, and those times when I fell into sin, He loved me.

God loves you too... Even when you feel hated and rejected by those you feel should love you... Even when you feel as though there's no one there to love you. Yup, even if you mess up...

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In lovehe predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace  
~(Ephesians 1:3-7)

October 3, 2013

My Testimony Series: Intro

My Testimony_smaller

Lately, I have had this burning desire in my heart to use this blog as a medium to share my testimony. There are so many things that I have endured during the course of my short twenty-five years of life. Situations that I know many other young girls can relate to. Stories that I know many women my age and maybe even a little bit older can read and say "Wow. This really speaks to my heart". Stories that, looking in retrospect, I know that it is the grace of God that brought me through, gave me a forgiving heart and continues to sustain me today.

I have been pretty open about most things on here, but some stories that I've wanted to share in the past, I've recoiled from sharing for fear of it being too much. Some things just hurt to the core. Some stories are so incredibly miraculous. Others, I just never thought anyone would want know.

But I feel my heart strings being tugged at. I hear a voice saying to me, "Tell your story, so that others may hear and know how you overcame... and find hope in it."

So, I'm diving in. Knowing that this is not anything of my self. No, it serves a greater purpose: To share how my life has been changed through Christ's redemption; To share how The Lord often uses our tests and trials to bring about a testimony of His goodness, grace and unfailing love. Not for anything that we have done to be deserving of it all, but because He loves us.

"...that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus."
Philemon 1:6

** Feel free to post any questions or comments regarding these posts. And, if you have a more personal question or comment, please feel free to send me and email-- the email addy is located under the "contact" button on the right, or more directly if you click the envelope under "Welcome" note.

October 1, 2013

The Weekend: Museum Day Live

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This past Saturday (September 28) was National Museum Day. Hundreds of museums across the country offered free admission that day! My first choice would have been the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but they did not participate in this event, so we opted for a museum outside of the city: The Brandywine River Museum.

The Brandywine River Museum is about a 40 minute drive from where we live (really, really close to our wedding  reception location). The exterior is similar to that of an old barnyard. The interior has a rustic look with thick wooden beams, heavy wooden doors, and floor to ceiling windows. 

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The museum featured paintings from the Wyeth family and painters from the 19th century to present day  - many of which were landscape and still life. Beau and I really enjoyed our time here. I especially loved reading the story behind some of the paintings and seeing various depictions of Philadelphia and surrounding towns... We recognized Manayunk in one of the paintings almost immediately. 

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The exterior of the museum was also beautiful. The building overlooks the Brandywine river where we saw many painters drawing inspiration from the scenery. There was also a river trail behind the parking lot the lot that yielded a peaceful view of the river. This was a nice outing for the both of us. I really enjoy getting out on the weekends -- not only to get out of the house, but to spend good, quality time with Beau. 

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Did any of you participate in Museum Day? 
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