The Random Writings of Rachel: February 2014

15 Must-Have Wedding Photos

This is so random. It's not even an anniversary or anything. As closely as I can calculate, we've been married 3 years, 2 months, and 24 days as of today. But I've been sorting, deleting, and organizing pictures recently and decided that a wedding photo post sounded like fun. Here are my recommendations for gaining the ultimate in wedding snapshots:

1. Stalker Photo. Because, it's true, right? He's a stalker.



2. Bride attempting to stay warm.


3. Pastor, stealing the show.


4. Groom forgetting how to smile properly.


5. Groom Eating Bouquet.


6. Bride pretending to be a gangster for unknown reasons.


7. Eyelash shot. No mascara on either one of us.

8. Little cousin forgetting how to smile. (Probably taking notes from Angel.)


9. Bouquet Shot. Necessarily accompanied by eyes that say, "Why do they insist on taking a close-up of my bouquet? It's plastic! This is awkward!"


10. Bride and Groom ignoring their photographers and bridal party. No, this wasn't posed, either. See all the rest of these shots? We were having a hard time actually looking at the camera in general.


11. The "We actually did it! We finally got married!" facial expressions.


12. The chocolate fountain that was put together upside down. On that day, we all learned how to put together a chocolate fountain the right way. We also learned that they still function when put together the wrong way, just not quite as well.



13. Groom looking positively dismayed at the sight of the highly decorated getaway car.


14. Groom taking a picture of the photographers taking a picture of him. Because what else would Angel do?


15. Optical illusion in which the pastor makes the newlyweds look tiny. This is no illusion. He's just kinda tall, and we're kinda short.


All photos by J&K Weymers Photography. If you want to see a million more shots of me smiling as if I were in a competition with Tour Guide Barbie (Toy Story 2, anyone?), you can check out their gallery.

Contentment and Faithfulness


 Me, as a sophomore.

In February 2010, I was a college sophomore majoring in Chinese who had just figured out how to get a guaranteed scholarship that would allow me to spend a semester studying in China for free. My parents, at first hesitant about the idea, had told me to go for it once I told them it wouldn't cost anything. This was a dream for any Mandarin major. I'd already picked up the application to study abroad and had started filling it out, but I hadn't yet turned it in.

I was 18 and single and passionate about language study. At that point in your life, if you get an opportunity to live abroad for free and study a language you love, you take it.

However, I never turned in that application.

Because, one sunny, freezing day, I was walking between buildings on my college campus and right there, in the snowy, ice covered world that I detested, I heard clearly, "You will be content HERE." In case you didn't catch that, there was a strong emphasis on the HERE.

Now, I knew a few things right away. I knew that that statement came from God, and I knew that it meant I was not going to pursue spending a semester in China.

Still, I stood there, motionless, out in the cold, my immediate thoughts being: "Really? I'm Rachel. It's like you don't even know me. I've never been content here!"

I was the kid who never wanted to go to college, who cried herself to sleep a significant portion of freshman year, and who, in spite of her beloved friends, was always scheming to find a way OUT of that town. I even hated winter. With this study abroad plan, I had already figured out how to fly to Malaysia at the end of May, go straight to China in August, fly back to Malaysia in December, and not return to the US till the next February. I was planning to be away from Michigan for 9 months, and I was thrilled about it.

But suddenly, because of that statement, all of my excitement and desire to move to China faded away. God had told me I'd be content HERE, and I knew I would.

Soon after that, my grandpa called me, upset because he'd found out that I'd decided not to go to China. He asked me, "Why won't you go?" I told him that God had told me I'd be content here in Michigan, that I knew I wasn't supposed to go. Grandpa said, "Oh, well, can't argue with that. Good choice."

In December 2010, while most of my Chinese classmates were still in Beijing, I got married. Yes, you read that right, I went from single in February to married in December. I didn't regret staying.

As of now,  I've been living in Michigan on and off for over 5 years (most people can't say  they live somewhere 'on and off' but trust me, it makes sense in my situation). Some seasons have been characterized by more contentedness than others, but in these 5 years, I've learned much that I really needed to know.

I chose to obey God when I was 18, and it wasn't really a hard choice. As soon as I heard, I was able to instantly drop all those plans I'd been making. My longing to go to China disappeared. I'm glad I listened. At the time, I didn't know whether it meant I would stay in Michigan forever or not. At some points, it looked like it might be forever, and that I would have to be content with that. I knew that if that were the case, I would be.

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Two weeks ago, I was sitting on the floor, surrounded by piles of things. Trash. Stuff to Give Away. Treasures to Pack.

It was Valentine's Day, and in that moment, on the floor, surrounded by the things I'd emptied from a cupboard that would be taken from me before the day was gone, I was afraid.

Last summer, Angel and I became strongly convinced that Michigan is not our forever home. We've been working on the move since then, but suddenly, on February 14th, faced with the very immediate prospect of an empty home, what ifs filled my mind. What if airplane ticket prices go up before we're able to buy them? What if we don't get the jobs we're hoping for? What if moving abroad is hard? What if we have less than I've ever had before? What if Angel chickens out? What if I get sick?

Besides the what ifs, there's the things I know to be true. The ice cream won't taste anything like American ice cream. Visas aren't always easy to obtain.  We won't have a house and large yard anymore. We'll miss our friends and relatives.

Right then, this exact question came to my mind: "Is there any way that God cannot be faithful?"

That was all I needed. I took a few moments to seriously ponder the matter. The question humbled me, because I already knew the answer. Nope, there's no way. If I am faithful, He is infinitely more faithful. I won't be forsaken if Angel and I obey this dream for our lives that God's given us. I simply won't.

4 years ago, I was planning to move overseas, but I didn't. This year, I was planning to work in a salon while my husband went to grad school, but I won't. And, although there are passing moments where I doubt our sanity, I couldn't be happier that life didn't turn out the way I imagined. I choose to be faithful to a God who I know can't be unfaithful.

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{If this post made no sense to you, Summer Vacation Changed my Life and No Valentine's Date might help clear things up. Or, to sum things up, my husband and I had no intention of moving abroad together, but we are, and in the very near future. And this post about the adventure of obeying God completes my Month of Adventure. Thanks for reading!}

How to Become Pinterest-Famous







Just one simple step: Add a mason jar to it. Here's how I gained Pinterest fame, and it's easy for you to do the same. First, check your scary basement to see if there are piles upon piles of ancient mason jars stashed away somewhere.

 Check.

Next, randomly and subtly insert mason jars into your home decor, in both purely decorative and practical ways, take photos, post on your blog, and let the pinners have at it!
 

Are your toothbrushes too short? Use a mason jar to make them taller!
 

Does your refrigerator have empty space? Use a mason jar to make your fridge seem fuller.
 

 Distract your husband with a mason jar.


Decorative pillow shams too expensive? Use mason jars to add flair to your bed instead. (I mean, you weren't going to sleep on the decorative pillows anyway, were you?)
 

Organize your remote controls in an extremely trendy way!
 

Store OTHER mason jars in a mason jar. Double the jar. Awesome.


Are your Flintstones vitamins too ugly? Store them in a jar. Ta-da! Instant stylish vitamins!
 

Also, just for practical purposes, instead of storing them in a dingy, scary basement, you can just store them next to your pet bear.

That's it, your easy path to Pinterest fame.

Too Young to be a Snowbird?

So guess what? I was in Texas again last week.

My parents had to go to Texas for meetings, and it made sense for me to go with them to spend a little time with Angel's family. Still, I put off committing to the trip for as long as possible because I feel like I haven't been at home or with my husband much lately, and I haven't! But Angel really wanted me to go....Michigan's icy weather didn't do a good job of convincing me to stay home...and hey, February was supposed to be a "Month of Adventure" anyway, so I chose adventure over the easy route of staying home.


I was just in Texas for Christmas, so it didn't seem like much had changed, but this particular trip was characterized by:


Playing with my baby nephew!


Shopping with my sis-in-law who's a couponer. Cereal and shampoo and conditioner for free, anyone?


Wearing sandals instead of snow boots. It had to be documented. My feet were free!!

And my parents met my in-laws for the first time ever. It's funny to think about, but Angel and I have been together for nearly 4 years and they had never met because this is the first time my parents have been in the US in all this time. They bonded like only the parents of kids who really, really like each other can do.

On the way home we had an extraordinarily bad transit experience. I've been flying all over the world from a young age, but have never experienced this many problems in one route. If it was weather-related, that would be more understandable, but this was just mismanagement on the part of United. We eventually made it home, no thanks to customer service, but thanks to creative thinking on my grandpa's part, as he looked up flights online that would get us home via an alternate route, and also thanks to Angel, driving out to an airport none of us had been to before to pick us up. We were so happy to be home!

Another Texan adventure for the history books, but I'm glad to be home with Angel now!

A Pretty Dress at the Nursing Home





 I loved this outfit. The snow and strong wind, not so much.



During my freshman year of college, I lived with my grandparents. Every Sunday morning we'd go to church, and on the way home, we'd stop to visit my Great-Grandma at the nursing home where she lived. When I was little, my Great-Grandma had lived next door, and as the oldest great-grandchild, I'd occasionally run over to visit her, and have a lesson or two in crocheting or dominoes or painting ceramics.


But in my freshman year of college, she was in a nursing home, and every week my grandparents and I would visit her. She would be sitting out in the common room with 4 or 5 other elderly ladies, all in their wheelchairs. My great-grandma couldn't speak very clearly after her stroke, but she made a point of introducing me to all of the other women in the room, telling them about my family in Malaysia and about the college I was attending.

I knew my great-grandma always looked forward to our visits, but I soon realized that her friends did, too. Ya'll know the way I am. If I have the slightest excuse, I like to dress up. I usually wore dresses to church, and afterwards, in the nursing home, I'd be subjected to endless comments and compliments. From my great-grandma, "You are so beautiful. Beautiful." to the comments of the other ladies.

"When I was your age I had a dress in just that color, I wore it to my Senior dance."

"I wish my granddaughters would dress up the way you do. All they want to wear is jeans."

"Be grateful for that figure while it lasts; I used to be just as slim as you!"

Their comments always made me smile. Sometimes they had stories to tell of dresses from their past,  other times they had a commentary on modern-day fashion.

One day, we came in, and no sooner had I hugged my great-grandma than a lady piped up, "I was just telling Bertha over here that I couldn't wait to see what Margaret's granddaughter would be wearing today!"

Lots of people at my church wear jeans and sweaters. There's nothing wrong with that in my book. But you can bet, after I heard that comment, I put a little more time into dressing up each week. There was no way I'd disappoint the nursing home ladies by coming over for a visit wearing jeans. Sometimes I would switch things up by wearing a Malaysian traditional outfit, which definitely created an uproar.

I dress up because I like to. But also because I learned, over a period of visiting a nursing home every week for 6 months, that dressing up nice can bring other people a little joy, too. I was a 17 year old scrawny college student. These were grandmothers and great-grandmothers, who had lived in a century I could barely remember, now confined to wheelchairs after accomplishing plenty of living. But a pretty dress was a common language. My Sunday clothes turned into conversation starters. Those pieces of fabric jogged memories.

My great-grandma passed away toward the end of my freshman year of college, and I didn't go back to the nursing home after that. But those memories remain. Once upon a time, a little group of women looked forward to talking about what I wore each Sunday, and I gave them something to talk about. Pretty good reason to get dressed, if you ask me.

Adventure Around the Blog World

I think most bloggers spend more or less time reading other blogs that they enjoy. Though I might be the only one trying to write along a theme of adventure  this February, I've noticed that plenty of other bloggers have been having their own adventures that sound pretty awesome, and I thought I'd highlight a few adventures that have caught my eye as I've been reading blogs lately.






Kristin, husband, and Scout are moving to Colorado

Mackenzie from Bell Bliss got to ride an elephant in Thailand--and put in the research to make sure that the elephant conservation center they went to was an ethical one. I'm impressed!

Check out the comment section on this post, several ladies were confessing some hilarious (and gutsy!) adventures

This is an adventure I embark on rather frequently: Erica decided to make a rainy, bad-weather day more exciting by baking a cake even though she didn't exactly have every single ingredient necessary for the recipe. Last time I did something like this, I made a strawberry-black raspberry crisp/oatmeal slush/baked thing that was heavenly delicious at like 9:30 pm one night.

Liz recently changed her url. Now that's an adventure that I never EVER want to have again.

Like in the case of changing urls, not all adventures are fun at the moment, but they can make good stories later. Kayla recently got stranded due to alternator trouble, an adventure that I could relate to all too well!

Jennifer is always getting herself into one adventure or another. Seriously, read her blog for a constant flow of stories of an adventurous life characterized by kindness. Recently she found a way to say "Thank you" to sanitation workers who probably don't get thanked too often.

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I know this post just barely scratches the surface of all the adventuring that's been going on lately, so if you've posted about an adventure of yours sometime in February, go ahead and leave a link in the comments for the rest of us to read all about it!

Snow Painting


Angel said, "Let's go out and paint pictures in the snow!"
I asked, "With what?"
He said, "Your purple hair dye!"

I was okay with painting the snow, but I didn't think that my purple hair color was the best way to do it, even if I didn't particularly like that shade of purple. Together, we brainstormed ideas. My oil paints? No, they wouldn't mix with water. Watercolor paint? We didn't have any. Angel was back to the plan of using purple hair color when I vaguely remembering seeing something about people painting snow with food coloring. I had food coloring!

We were outside in the time it took us to choose our color and mix up some food coloring in a spray bottle full of cold water. It felt a bit risque, almost like we were vandalizing our own yard with our messages. But the next day it snowed again and covered them up. They didn't last long, but it sure was fun!



I don't think either of us are destined to be graffiti artists.

*Warning: If you decide on a month of adventure in February, realize that a rather large proportion of your adventure might end up involving snow. Because that's what you have to work with!

How to Have More Adventures


 I dug really hard to find a picture from when we were filming scenes for our spy video, mentioned below. I have a feeling Anna was the star of the scene for this particular day, seeing that she's wearing both a black t-shirt AND sunglasses. Extremely spy-ish.

A long time ago...I wrote a blog post about how I satisfy my impractical craving for adventure when adventures don't seem to be too readily available. However, that post did not contain an exhaustive list of adventuresome ideas, so here are a few more:

1. Wear an outrageously fancy outfit to the mall, restaurant, or grocery store. Make people whisper behind their hands and wonder who you are and why you are wearing what you're wearing. One of the achievements that I'm most proud of in my whole life is that I convinced Angel to dress up with me in our wedding clothes on our 1st anniversary and we went out to eat at Logan's and pretended that we'd just gotten married. People believed us. It was awesome.

2. On a day off when you could catch up on general household chores--put them off just a little bit longer and hold a movie marathon, but do it in style and do it intentionally, not accidentally or in an embarrassed manner. It's not very adventurous to suddenly realize that you "wasted" your whole day on Netflix. Do it on purpose, and with flair! Buy your favorite snacks at the grocery store, the ones that you always say, "No, they're too expensive/too unhealthy." (For me, that's avocados and fake butter flavor popcorn), and dedicate the whole day to an excellent movie or tv series. (Suggestions: LOTR, Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Wars, Downton Abbey)

3. Start a grand creative project of one kind or another. Once upon a time, I organized my whole family into making a "Spy Movie" that involved all of us kids wandering all over our city wearing black clothes and sunglasses and speaking in code. It didn't cost anything (besides, perhaps, gas for my Dad's car). There wasn't even entirely a plot, but I had a blast making it. The finished project was hilarious. Someday our kids will watch it and be proud of us. Maybe your project is something you could sew, maybe it's a book you write or a scrapbook you finish. Hey, maybe it's getting together with your family and saying--let's clean the entire house today and take boxes of stuff to Goodwill! Completing something is a worthwhile adventure. I could have spent Summer 2009 doing boring stuff, but instead I embarked on my escapade in movie-making, and I know we're going to be laughing at our "Spy Movie" for decades to come!

4.Eavesdrop. Okay, okay, maybe I'm not supposed to suggest that. Everyone, eavesdropping is rude. But seriously, if you just keep your ears alert while you're strolling the mall or picking up needed items in the grocery store, you might happen to catch the most random snippets of conversation--snippets that will fuel your imagination. It's quite an adventure to make up a reasonable (or not-so-reasonable) context for a random sentence you just happen to overhear.


What's your best way to turn an average day into an adventure? I'm always up for more ideas!

No Valentine's Date for Me

It wasn't for lack of planning. I had two completely different and completely awesome Valentine's Date ideas.

1) We would go play paintball. Angel's never played paintball before, I've played twice, and it's awesome fun. Nothing wrong with this plan.

2) We would go to SkyZone, jump around, and spend the evening with some of our favorite friends at the college Bible study where we met. This date idea was perfect because it combined exercise and fun with romance (you know, the 'back to where we met' factor)

Either one of these would have been an awesome Valentine's adventure. However, when the day came around, our evening adventures turned out to be characterized by a U-Haul and take-out pizza shared with half of my family instead.

While I'd sure like a raincheck on paintball or SkyZone one of these days, our February 14th was an adventure in its own way.


Some of you may remember my post last October about how Summer Vacation Changed My Life. I haven't written much on the subject since, but trust me, in the background, this life change has been motivating most of our actions, with the result that we're working toward moving overseas this summer. I will write more details about it at some point, but for now, what you need to know is that we're preparing as best as we can for a big move a few months from now, which led to how we spent Valentine's Day.

The day before, my mom called me and sprung the news that my parents have decided to sell the house that we live in (we're renters) when we move out. Therefore, they'd decided to show up the next day, February 14th, with a U-Haul to take all of their furniture and everything they had stored in the house out of it so that they wouldn't have to worry about the location of their stuff when it came time to sell the house.

A large percentage of the furniture that we have used for the past three years actually belongs to my parents, so this meant that we had to quickly clear and empty cupboards that needed to be loaded in the truck. My parents also recommended that we take advantage of the already rented U-Haul to take any of our most treasured heirlooms away for storage at my grandparents' home, and we did.

 Goodbye, cupboard.

All of this meant that we spent Valentine's Day itself as well as the next day moving furniture (well, not me. Angel, my dad, brother, and uncle did that) and packing and sorting (that was the job that the ladies tackled!)

Is this book a treasured heirloom, something to give to a friend, or should it be donated to the thrift store?
Valentine's Day was the beginning of my encounter with how big of a change this move will be in Angel's and my lives. In recent months, it has already changed our future plans and dreams...but now it's changing the way my house looks. As I packed boxes, I realized that with this move, I'm letting go of my childhood dreams of owning a dollhouse and having a luxurious library in my own home. I'm letting go of the cupboards where I've stored dishes for the last three years and the desk where I have written hundreds of blog posts.

 Goodbye, gorgeous, gorgeous bed. I will always love you.

Some days, summer, and the adventure that awaits, still seem painfully far away. But then again, I know it's coming closer. We don't have plane tickets yet, although I'd like to, but we're doing exactly what we know we should be doing, and there's so much peace in the midst of what could be scary decisions.

I had plans of fun and frivolity for Valentine's Day, and instead, the weekend left me with a home much emptier and a heart much readier to go.

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On that note, who's up for playing paintball with me?