Monday, September 30, 2013

Paper Anniversary

Now that our one-year-and-one-month anniversary has blown by, it's about time this newlywed posted about our anniversary gifts. 

Thomas and I decided beforehand that we wanted to try sticking with the "traditional" wedding anniversary gifts for each year {paper, cotton, leather, etc.} but take a creative spin on them. Neither of us are subtle in offering up gift ideas for birthdays or Christmas, so we decided it would be a fun challenge to pick something for each other that went along with tradition.
{Via Southern Weddings}

When thinking about a paper gift for Thomas, I immediately thought of traveling. My initial idea was to buy a really cool map, frame it, and then use colored push pins to plan out where we want to go together and where we've been before. That idea didn't exactly work out {ones I found online were too cheesy, expensive or gigantic}, so I started searching the Web for abstract maps. That's how I made the discovery of Herb Lester, a company out of London that creates "witty, pretty, curious and opinionated" travel guides. The design and typography immediately had me saying "heck yes!" and after using them for travel tips, we're going to frame these pretty babies. I'd love to own them all, but for Thomas I chose four... Austin {where we live}, San Francisco {where we've been}, Chicago {where we hope to travel to soon} and Paris {a dream destination}! Check out @herb_lester if you love to travel or just appreciate fun art. They sell stationary too!

Thomas hit a home run with my anniversary gift! He knows how much I enjoy writing and receiving handwritten notes, so he went to Paper Source to create personalized stationary for me. They're so beautiful I almost can't bring myself to write on them just yet, so if you receive one from me, you should feel especially loved.

Already trying to plan what I might get for T for our second anniversary. Cotton... new bedding? Clothes from J.Crew (can't go wrong there!)? I've got 10+ months to figure it out!

Does anyone else do traditional gifting for wedding anniversaries? 

If you missed the recap of our anniversary weekend, catch it here: "ONE YEAR: What We've Learned and a Weekend Away"

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Blogtember Day 16: A Book Review

Today's Blogtember assignment is to write a review on a book, place or product. When I read through all the prompts back in August and saw this one, I knew exactly which book I wanted to share!

I heard Lysa TerKeurst speak at a women's event more than a year ago, and thought, "gahhh I want to be that lady's friend!" She's sarcastic and sassy, yet poised, humble and so wise. I really look up to her! Reading her book Unglued after hearing her give a message in person, it was almost like I was sitting in her living room, listening to story after story of her life. I could hear her inflection and I laughed out loud on several occasions. I could not recommend this book more highly!!

I've shared a few of my favorite quotes below, but a short summary of the book goes a little something like this: as women, we are so totally controlled by our emotions, which can complicate life a whollllle bunch. We overreact, we overanalyze, we overwhelm ourselves with hypothetical or imaginary scenarios... if you're OVER all of that mess, this book is for you.

Lysa teaches in this book that "people come unglued in one of two ways, either by exploding or by stuffing. Exploding means pushing emotions outward. A rush of feelings surge up and out of our mouths and bring a whole host of lovelies with them -- stern words, harsh looks, raised voices, condemning attitudes... exploding feels good in the short term but awful in the long term. Stuffing means pushing emotions inward. We swallow hard and lock our hurt feelings inside, not in an effort to process and release them, but to wallow in the hurt."

I'm most definitely a stuffer. I internalize. I sweep things under the rug because I don't do conflict. I want peace, calm, happiness, comfort. But stuffing emotions doesn't solve anything, amen? At a certain point, I can't fit anything else into that stuffing space, and I become an exploder. The tiniest thing sets it all off and it seems like my world is crumbling around me because I haven't dealt with alllll the junk that's been making me sad.

Okay, I'll quit talking because I could honestly go on and on and on about all the things this book has taught me. Pick up a copy ASAP. It is SO GOOD.

Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions

  • "Sometimes we girls think if we don't make instant progress, then real change isn't coming. But that's not so. There is a beautiful reality called imperfect progress."
  • "God gave us emotions. Emotions allow us to feel as we experience life. Because we feel, we connect. We share laughter and know the gift of empathy. Our emotions are what enable us to drink deeply from love and treasure it. And yes, we also experience difficult emotions such as sadness, fear, shame and anger. But might these be important as well? Yes, but I must remember God gave me emotions so I could experience life, not destroy it. There is a gentle discipline to it all. One I'm learning."
  • "Perspective taught me a valuable lesson... I can face things that are out of my control and not act out of control. Acting out of control only adds to my troubles."
  • "You see, if I know there is potential good hidden within each chaotic situation, I can loosen my grip on control. It's easier to loosen my grip when I can see the good. When I can't immediately see the good, loosening my grip becomes a matter of trust."
  • "When I feel unglued, the integrity of my soul unravels."
  • "Saying 'I'm fine' to keep the peace, when we're really not fine, isn't honest. It may seem godly in the moment, but it's false godliness. Truth and godliness always walk hand in hand. The minute we divorce one from the other, we stray from soul integrity and give a foothold to the instability that inevitably leads to coming unglued." 
  • "We must bring all of our raw reactions under the authority and truth of Jesus."

And lastly... I shared this little snippet with Thomas when I was reading, and now we both say this to each other when something is frustrating us. 

"If this is the worst thing that happens to me today, it's still a pretty good day."

Happy reading!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Blogtember Day 11: Reliving a Memory

Being a newlywed, I think that the answer to this question is obviiiiiously my wedding day. But reposting past blogs for a blog challenge would technically be cheating, huh?

{shameless redirection to wedding posts}

Another memory I'd love to relive would be my mission trip to Uganda in May of 2010 with the college ministry at Highland Baptist Church. It was honestly the trip of a lifetime, but probably not the ONLY trip there in my lifetime! Thomas went to Uganda the summer after me, and it was clear to both of us after he returned home that we have places in our hearts for this country and its people. We want to go back together and serve side-by-side. 

There were so many things about my trip that I'd love to relive...
  • African sunsets. 
  • Watching the sun rise over the Nile River. 
  • Showering outside at night, looking up and seeing every single star in the sky!
  • Playing duck-duck-goose over and over and over again because hey, it transcends the language barrier.
  • Experiencing the sheer joy of Ugandan children learning about Jesus for the first time.
  • Watching kids ham it up in front of the camera because they rarely get to see themselves in photographs.
  • Laughter. Again with the language barrier... everyone laughs!
  • Journaling by lantern light at night. 
  • Sleeping under a mosquito net.
  • Ugandan rainstorms while sleeping under a tin roof. And I thought Texas thunderstorms were amazing!
  • Eating Ugandan "chapati" and rice & beans. 
  • Fresh pineapple for breakfast every morning and dessert at night.
  • Hiking to the top of Murchison Falls, the world's most powerful waterfall.
  • Singing songs from "The Lion King" soundtrack while on safari. 
  • Going on a SAFARI. Hello!? Seeing elephants, hippos, baboons, crocodiles, giraffes... simply amazing.  

Blogtember Day 1: Where I'm From
Blogtember Day 2: Three Months Off
Blogtember Day 4: A Story of Fear

Friday, September 6, 2013

Blogtember Day 4: A Story of Fear

{missed out on day #3 of Blogtember on account of a crazy schedule, but hey, c'est la vie.}

Friday, September 6: A story about a time you were very afraid.

I'm sure that in my life, I've been afraid many times. But the one event that immediately comes to mind {and that makes for a good story to tell} is the time I was hit by a car while crossing the street during my freshman year at Baylor.

Baylor kids sometime joke that with the university being a primarily closed campus to vehicles, that if you get hit by a car anywhere on campus that your tuition gets paid for. Well folks, Alex Hefner and I are living, walking examples of how that is certainly not the case!

It was the MLK three-day weekend and Alex and I were leaving the Collins girls dormitory to run a few errands. The intersection in front of the dorm doesn't have a stop sign for cars, and with people turning onto 8th Street from the I-35 frontage road, traffic is usually pretty busy. It was a January evening, so it was already dark around 6 p.m.. Let me set the scene...

The arrow you see on the right is pointing to the crosswalk that goes from the dorm to the parking garage. See that Toyota 4Runner? It's sitting on a road called MP Daniel Esplanade, waiting to turn left onto 8th Street. 

Like any smart person, Alex and I looked both ways, right and left, before stepping foot into the crosswalk, and we got three-fourths of the way across just fine when BAM!!! Next thing I knew, Alex's body barreled into mine from the impact of the vehicle and we both found ourselves sitting {or lying? I don't remember!} on the pavement.

We were in absolute shock from what had just happened. "Did we really just get HIT BY A CAR?!"

I guess the girl looked to her right, saw that a car was a short distance off, and thought she better hurry and go then or else she'd have to wait a little while. You've been there - those moments when you think, "ahh, I hesitated. Too late now." Well, she didn't look for people in the crosswalk she was turning into!

By the time we picked ourselves up, fetched our phone/keys/shoes from wherever they'd flown, the girl was leaning her head out the car window saying "OHMYGOSHOHMYGOSH!! Are y'all okaaaaaaaay?! I'm SOOOOO SORRY!!!"

I think we mumbled "yeaaaaah, we're okay..." as we scrambled to the sidewalk to assess our physical state. I needed to catch my breath and figure out "what do I do now?" Y'all, if you'd given me a second, I probably would have come to some sort of my senses to process and think, "hmm, I better get her name and phone number, and probably her insurance information just in case my adrenaline is masking the pain of something more serious and I need her to pay my medical bills," but do you want to know what happened next?


It seemed like a dream. I kept thinking, "that didn't just happen, right?." Yeah, I felt okay right then, and she couldn't have been going more than 8-10 mph as she made that left-hand turn, but SERIOUSLY?! How could you think it's OKAY to FLEE THE SCENE?!

I'm sure had we waited around and asked for help, that somebody driving by may have chased her down to at least get her license plate number, but Alex and I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. That's our natural inclination right, to get away from danger? And in my mind right then, I wanted to get as faaaaaar away from the fear and embarrassment that came from what just happened. But like any person who'd just experienced trauma crossing the street, I sure has heck wasn't going to cross the street again. And we were too shaken up to go get in one of our vehicles and go about our errands.

Alex and I were both pledging sororities at the time, and thankfully the Panhellenic building that houses our sorority chapter rooms is next door to the parking garage. We ran inside, called our parents first {that's when the blubbering tears really hit}, called someone to come give us a ride {yes, a ride back to the safety of our dorm}, and then called campus police. The rest of the story is pretty boring really - an officer met us in the lobby of our dormitory and kinda shrugged, like "sorry that happened, but, come on, you didn't get her name or license plate number, and you don't appear to be injured, so what do you want me to do?"

And that, my friends, is the story of "that one time I got hit by a car." As terrifying as it was, Alex and I can look back on it now and laugh as we tell the story. See, we even took a silly symbolic photo at the end of our freshman year to commemorate what we'd survived together.

Alex was the one who convinced me to go to Baylor, and I'm so very thankful for her friendship. We've been through A LOT together over the years, aside from surviving that terrifying January day!

Blogtember Day 1: Where I'm From
Blogtember Day 2: Three Months Off

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Blogtember Day 2: Three Months Off

Wednesday, September 4: If you could take three months off from your current life and do anything in the world, what would you do?

I love my job, especially the gals I work with, but it's funny that this Blogtember question comes as we're in a MAJOR time crunch for the launch of our rebrand next week. This has meant long hours at work {more than 13 hours yesterday, ewwww}, lots of overtime, stress and mental exhaustion. There's days when it's fun and we're laughing from deliriousness, and there's days when we're so overwhelmed we want to cry. But it will all be worth it when we feel the accomplishment of finishing strong. It's going to be amazing once it's all said and done!

That being said, if I could take three months off from my current life, from my current job (don't worry Kristin + team, I'm not going anywhere!), I know exactly what I'd do. I'd pack my bags, buy two plane tickets to Europe and two Eurail train tickets, and relive my three month adventure when I studied abroad. Thomas and I started dating only two months before I left for Maastricht sophomore year, and now that we're married, I want to take him back with me and show him EVERYTHING. I want to take him to all the countries I visited, I want to teach him the things I learned. Heck, do you know how many places I went with all my girlfriends, thinking "this place is so romantic! I wish Thomas were here!" 

Over the course of my European adventure, I visited 15 countries. If I had three months off, I'd do it all over again, but this time with my man. 
  1. Netherlands (lived/studied in Maastricht, also traveled to Amsterdam and Lisse, home of the famous Keukenhof gardens)
  2. Germany (Berlin and Cologne)
  3. United Kingdom (London, Bath and Wiltshire, home of Stonehenge)
  4. France (Paris and Nice)
  5. Switzerland (Gryon and Villars)
  6. Spain (Barcelona, Madrid, Segovia)
  7. Italy (Venice, Naples, Pompeii, Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre)
  8. Greece (Athens and Santorini)
  9. Luxembourg (Luxembourg City)
  10. Vatican - it counts as it's own country!!
  11. Belgium (Bruges)
  12. Czech Republic (Prague)
  13. Hungary (Budapest)
  14. Austria (Vienna)
  15. Monaco (Monte Carlo)
Down the street from the university in Maastricht.

Venice, Italy

Santorini, Greece

Netherlands // Pisa, Italy

Vernazza (Cinque Terre), Italy

Tulips in Keukenhof

Berlin, Germany

If you're super bored, feel free to peruse my old blog that I used for updating family on my travels!
Blogtember Day 1: Where I'm From

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Blogtember Day 1: Where I'm From

Last time Jenni from Story of My Life did her "Blog Every Day in May" challenge, I was late to the party and never jumped in. This time, I learned about her "Blogtember" challenge early enough to be prepared! The next few weeks at work are going to be nuts, but I'm going to try and participate as much as I can. Here's to inspiring blog creativity and kicking writer's block to the curb!

Tuesday, Sept. 3: Describe where or what you come from. The people, the places, and/or the factors that make up who you are.

My story starts in September of 1988 in Anchorage, Alaska. Yes, Alaska! It's one of my favorite "did ya know?" fun facts to share with people.

After meeting at the University of New Mexico, my mom and dad got married and then moved to the Dallas metroplex. Soon after, my dad was offered a job with his company in Alaska and they promised my mom a job as well. They were hesitant to make the move initially, but my grandparents encouraged them, saying "you guys are young, you don't have kids yet... how many people can say they've lived in Alaska? Go, have fun!" Mom and Dad thought they'd go for a two-year adventure and then move back, but they ended up staying for nine! We moved back to Texas when I was in kindergarten, and have lived in Austin ever since.

Us Alaskans really love our ice sculptures. Check out my sorority squat, even at age four!

Alaska's close to the North Pole, so naturally the reindeer make appearances at company Christmas parties. 

We spent so much time outdoors. LEFT: Wildlife viewing at Potters Marsh // RIGHT: Catching salmon with dad. 

When you're an Alaska transplant in a Texas elementary school, you might as well have said you're from Jupiter. The wide eyes and questions never ended, "were you born in an igloo? Have you seen a moose? Did you travel via sled? Is it true the sun is always up in the summer?" {in case you're wondering, the answers are "no, yes, no and yes."}

Life in Alaska was wonderful, from what I can remember. My sister and I cherish those home videos and photographs. Snow {so much snow}, sledding, building snowmen, watching the Iditarod race, fresh fish and home grown fruits and veggies, mountain views, the state fair, seventy-degree summers... it was a fun place to live as a kid. 

 Believe it or not, there were beaches in Alaska! Sarah and I were natural eskimos, obvi.

More than anything, getting my start in the great state of Alaska helped me to appreciate the simple things in life, as well as the importance of family. It was just the four of us up there - grandparents and aunts and uncles would make the trip to visit, but because we were so far away geographically, we had a lot of time just us. Also, Mom and Dad threw caution to the wind to move waaaaaay north, so I'd like to think my sense of adventure and love for travel came from their example. Sure, I've stayed close to home and moved back to Austin after college, but hey, I lived in Europe for three months, and I certainly have been bitten by the travel bug! M&D - thank you for giving Sarah and I the special memories of living in "The Last Frontier."

Moose were frequent in our yard. I'd always sit in the windowsill {like you see above} and yell at them to stop eating out of our garden. So loud, in fact, I woke the neighbors once.

Sadly, we haven't been back since we left. Some summer, hopefully soon, I'll get to go back with the whole family and bring Thomas along to visit the place I spent the first six years of my life. Alaska in the summer is absolutely gorgeous - I can't WAIT!

Monday, September 2, 2013

ONE YEAR: What We've Learned and a Weekend Away

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that in the days leading up to our one-year anniversary, I was starting to get little teasers about a getaway to celebrate. And teasers they were, because the notes offered no inkling of any clue or hint. It was a total surprise!

On Friday, August 16, Thomas picked me up from work and handed me a real clue. It read, "we may not be close to 40, but today let's go over the hill." We started driving west and before too long, we were sitting at the light for Barton Creek Boulevard at the top of a hill, looking out over the gorgeous Texas hill country, and I screamed "we're going to BARTON CREEK!!"

It was a wonderful phone-free three days filled with love, laughter, good food, and lots of rest and relaxation as we reflected on 365 days of marriage. We stayed at the resort all weekend, eating all of our meals there, playing mini golf, lying by the pool. I was surprised after breakfast on Saturday morning with a couples massage, and Mr. Romantic also made it a point to pack a leftover bottle of champagne from our wedding, along with the toasting glasses and cake server we'd used.

To make the weekend even sweeter, our wedding cake baker {Sugar Mama's Bakeshop} made us a fresh cake to celebrate. No frozen one-year-old cake for the Reeds!

On Saturday night as we ate our second round of wedding cake, Thomas and I spent some time in prayer and discussion, thanking the Lord for all He'd walked us through in our first year as husband and wife. We prayed for continued grace and wisdom as we navigated our commitments, our church involvement and giving, our careers, our finances, and ultimately our future family. We want to travel, we want to own our first home in the next year, and we want to get a dog soon after that. In a few years, we cannot WAIT to be parents, and we have a heart for adoption, praying it's His will for our family to play a part in rescuing orphans. It was a sweet sweet time together as we spent time dreaming of all that God has planned for us.  

We also asked each other: what are the most valuable things you've learned after one year of marriage? After one year of being a married gal, I certainly don't have all the answers. We're learning and growing every single day by the grace of God, but here's my list of truths:

COMMUNICATE. Never stop talking. Keep each other in the loop. As each weekend comes to an end, ask each other "what does this next week look like for you?" Take the time to look your spouse in the eyes and say "how are you REALLY doing?" We've gotten in such the habit of asking "how was your day?" and then going about our evening of dinner making, TV watching or church going, and then getting ready for bed and waking up to start the routine all over again. More often than not, when I ask the question more sincerely, Thomas will unload, sharing more of his heart, and I love those moments.

Prioritize date night. Thomas and I strive to have a date night once a week. Usually its Friday nights, but if something comes up or we make other plans, we'll make sure we have uninterrupted alone time together on another night during the week. Continually pursue one another. Just because you're married doesn't mean you stop dating your spouse.

Go phone free. This one is sooooo hard for me, and I'm sure many can relate. I feel like I'm glued to my iPhone, flipping through work emails, staying current with what's going on with social media, or keeping up with friends and family through text messages. Thomas is really good at helping me out with this one. He'll announce "I'm going to leave my phone on my bedside table tonight," which is a loving suggestion that I do the same. We might just be watching a movie or playing a board game, but having our phones in another room helps to fight the urge to turn our attention elsewhere. I need to preach this to myself most days: Amanda, you can survive without your phone!

No money talk after dark. Just... no. Don't do it. Unless it works for you, then ignore me. But Thomas and I have found that budget discussions do not end well if we start them at night. At night, you're exhausted from your day and emotions (at least mine) are more sensitive than usual. With finances being one of the top causes of divorce, we've made a conscious effort to have our budget sessions when we're fresh and energized, when we'll likely have more patience to work through the tough stuff.   

Fight as teammates, not as opponents. Thomas and I both hate conflict, which means we don't have many big fights. When we do get into a disagreement or find ourselves snapping at each other, we have to remember that we're on the same team. We're in this together.

Pray together. Besides making sure you're individually chasing after Christ, praying together as a couple is the best thing you can do for your marriage. For us, it's the perfect way to end a day, when we're in bed, about to turn out the lights. Thanking God and asking for discernment, healing, patience, and strength helps us keep our eyes fixed on Him.

And finally, marriage magnifies. As a single person, you can go about your day, your moods and your tasks, without it seriously affecting too many people around you. Sure, if you're a grump, it may cause conflict with your roommates, coworkers, or a family member, but when you're married to someone, they're equally affected by whatever you're walking through. Whatever "funk" I was in on a day in college may not have seemed like a big deal, but now that I'm married - whoaaaa. Everything is magnified. They say marriage is a mirror and boy, is that true. It's like I'm hyper-aware of my flaws and weaknesses all of a sudden, but you better believe it ends up making me better. Just the same, the GOOD in life is magnified! Laughter is more frequent, accomplishments are celebrated doubly. As it was said in our wedding ceremony - "the joys of life are doubled because you experience them together. The trials of life are lessened because the burden of them is shared." The beauty of a Christ-centered marriage is that through the magnification of joys and trials, we ultimately have the decision to magnify Christ. When Thomas and I are 90 years old, our prayer is that we'll look back and see specific times when Jesus got the glory, when HE was the one magnified.