2018: a goodbye letter

Dear 2018,

We met at a beautiful ranch in the middle of nowhere, Texas, surrounded by a group of amazing people. There was an abundance of food, love, and noisemakers.

I felt hopeful about our relationship. I had goals about flossing and reading and working out. I had dreams about going to Spain and getting pregnant.

On January 9 I wrote in my diary, “For the first time in my life I have baby fever. I can’t wait for the day I find out I’m pregnant.” In February I wrote, “I’m so excited to be a mom. I feel ready!” followed by, “Rozy thinks Justin and I are having a boy first.” (10 months later, I would learn she was right.)

We weren’t going to start trying until late spring, so I spent the first half of the year praying for the ability to get pregnant.

Amidst dreaming and praying for a baby, I also grieved the sacrifices having a baby would require (mainly, the ability to travel with ease and as often as I’d like.) There were nights I cried to Justin about this.

Rozy and I went to Guatemala to spend time with a Gap Year squad at the end of February. It was my first time traveling for work in a year. It was a productive work trip.

On March 1, I surprised Justin with a trip to Harry Potter World for his birthday. I told him we were going to Atlanta for dinner with friends – little did he know I was actually driving to the airport. I had booked plane tickets, lodging, rental car, and theme park tickets all without him knowing. I was so nervous leading up to the reveal I felt like I was proposing.

When we were at Harry Potter World I made him wear one of those “It’s My Birthday!” buttons the park provides for free. All day people wished him a happy birthday. I loved it. (He pretended he didn’t.)

The weather was perfect (warm, not hot) and we never waited in line more than 30 minutes. In the afternoon we sat on the curb, eating PB&J sandwiches and Cheez-Its. Later, we drank butterbeer.  I couldn’t believe how good it actually was.

This trip is one of my favorite memories from the entire year.

Overall, the first half of the year was slow. Justin and I spent our weeknights cooking and writing thank you cards for wedding gifts. On weekends we read, walked to our local coffee shop, and ate pizza on Friday nights. We attended a few weddings and a gender reveal party. I watched my goddaughter get baptized. We visited family North Carolina and Ohio. We played in a pickup volleyball tournament and attended the Atlanta Dogwood Festival. I choreographed and performed an Easter dance with some friends.

The slower pace was strange, but nice.

At the end of May, after an annoying amount of paperwork, online tests, and fingerprints, Julia and I began volunteering at the local juvenile delinquent center. I had attempted to volunteer for the last few years (this was my 3rd attempt), but it never worked out for one reason or another. This time I was determined to make it happen. It helped to have a friend go through the process with me.

The first time we showed up was during family visiting hours. As we waited for the youth to be brought in, families loaded up with their kid’s favorite snacks and drinks from the vending machine. This small act of love made me choke up. These parents loved their kids so much.

Julia and I were only able to meet with our individual girls a few times before summer got hectic with work and weekend trips.

On May 29, the day before my 32nd birthday, I wrote in my diary:

“How have I changed in the last year? More fulfilled than ever before! Coming back alive to the injustice in the world and wanting to do something about it (aka feeling 21 all over again.) Finally found my footing at work — feeling more passionate and capable than ever before. Actually excited and expectant to be a mom + to create a family with Justin! Getting better and better at managing my ‘7’ tendency for going too fast + doing too much. Feeling more and more secure in my friendships. Wow, God. Thank you for such an incredible year. You were right when you said “the best is yet to come” back in 2011! I can only imagine what you have in store (babies??)”

The next day (my birthday), Justin and I drove to Atlanta for brunch at a restaurant called Homegrown, followed by coffee/chai at Joe’s Coffee Shop. I talked to Justin about why foster care was so important to me and asked him to attend a foster care orientation that was being offered in June. He agreed (happy birthday to me!) After that we picked up my sister Melody and her husband Mike at the airport – they came to visit for my birthday. For dinner, we ate at a delicious Sushi/Asian fusion restaurant with Joe and Talia.

My birthday celebration continued that weekend at Julia’s lakehouse in South Carolina. It was the perfect weekend – filled with friends, food, and a boat (!!) One of my top 3 fav memories from the year.

The rest of June brought me to Orlando with Melody and Charlotte to see Wong family. My brother Paul came to visit, followed by my parents. Justin and I went to the foster care orientation. I spent the month preparing for Gap Year Training Camp in July.

The first three weeks in July were focused entirely on Gap Year camp. July marked three years since I’d been put in charge of Gap Year and two years since I’d been responsible for camp. At the end of camp I wrote:

“I’m proud of how well Training Camp went. The sessions, the flow, the speakers, the worship. I created the schedule – took a few risks – and it all played out so well. I’m also proud of myself for the ways I showed up physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Such a contrast to last year when I had too much on my plate (Passport) and was burning out. I did a good job and it feels good!”

At the end of July/beginning of August, Justin and I went on our first family vacations as a married couple – starting with the Mendolas, then the Wongs. I loved every minute of it.

Later in August, I found out I was pregnant and got into a car accident on the same day. A week and a half later, I was hit with nausea/vomiting/exhaustion from pregnancy that left me disoriented for all of September and October. I traveled to some beautiful places (Europe! San Diego! Thailand!) and saw amazing people during those months, but I mostly felt like I was stuck in a bad dream I couldn’t wake up from. I’ll always remember sobbing that last night in Paris.

November brought relief – I felt like myself again. I started exercising after 3 months of surviving. Julia and I began volunteering at juvy again. I choreographed another dance with friends. Justin and I announced my pregnancy to our families and bought/decorated our first Christmas tree.

December was a whirlwind of Christmas festivities, my best friend’s wedding, driving to Ohio and North Carolina, and finding out the sex of our baby. I ended the year at Julia’s lakehouse, surrounded once again by lots of food, love, and noisemakers.

2018, you were good to me. There were a few bumps in the road (car accident, feeling like crap for months…) but overall you were kind. Together we journeyed through my first calendar year of marriage and the first half of my pregnancy. I’m ending this year with a full heart (and belly!) I’ll always remember you fondly…

Thanks for the ride.

Love,
Hope.

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on my first trimester:

The first time I felt “morning” sickness was at three in the afternoon. I was kind of excited because apart from missing my period, it was the first physical pregnancy sign I had.

That excitement soon faded as I found myself hovering over a trash can on my bedroom floor, trying to be grateful I was pregnant but hating the way it made me feel.

I threw up at work. At home. In the car. In a hotel room before speaking in front of 250 college-age students. On the grass at a friend’s birthday party. All over the dirty dishes in my kitchen sink.

One night I fell asleep in the hallway next to the trash can because I didn’t want to wake Justin up with my vomiting. There were days I couldn’t go to work because I couldn’t stop throwing up – I was worried I would have to quit my job or get fired because of it. Justin and I seriously considered canceling our first anniversary trip to Europe. I couldn’t imagine getting out of bed (or off the floor), let alone on a plane across the Atlantic.

I was miserable. I couldn’t keep food down no matter what I tried – jello, dry toast, ginger, saltines, “preggy pops” – I even tried sniffing lemon because I read that was supposed to help. All my guilty pleasures became my biggest aversions – Starbucks, Chick-Fil-A, ice cream (gasp!)

I was 6 weeks pregnant (but had only known about it for 2 weeks) when Justin called my OBGYN office and asked if there was ANYTHING that could be done to help.

They prescribed something and on the way to pick it up I threw up an entire bowl of chicken and stars. It was still warm.

I found myself yelling at small children through the car window, “Do you even KNOW what your mother went through for you???” and texting my mom friends for sympathy (special shoutout to Katie, Erin, Talia, and Grace ❤️)

I decided I didn’t want three kids anyone – this one was enough!

Thankfully, I got some pills that stopped the vomiting (for the most part), but I was still on the verge of almost throwing up for a maddening amount of time. I learned to carry a plastic bag with me wherever I went.

I’ll never forget the time Justin was at our kitchen counter, cutting my pills in half so I could swallow them without gagging. I don’t know if I’ve ever been more in love with him.

Justin and I ended up going to Europe. We had some good moments, but the trip was mostly tainted by my pregnancy symptoms. I was so exhausted I could barely get out of bed (one day I didn’t get up until 1pm and was back in bed by 7pm.) Walking around left me winded. I was constantly looking for places to throw up. I could barely eat anything – I watched Justin eat our anniversary dinner. I couldn’t stop burping (…yes, a pregnancy symptom. talk about romantic!)

I bawled during our last night in Paris because I didn’t get to eat a macaroon and because I couldn’t imagine being this sick for the rest of our trip, let alone the next two months.

Europe wasn’t what I hoped it would be, but I’ll always have fond memories of Justin taking care of me – carrying my luggage, walking as slow as a grandma with me, sprinting to get me fresh orange juice when we learned that helped, and never once complaining or getting annoyed with me (even though was annoyed with me…)

I had my first baby appointment a few days after getting back from Europe. Justin was traveling for work, so I took my friend Betty with me. When I checked in I was told this wasn’t technically a maternity appointment because my pregnancy hadn’t been confirmed yet. I was slightly offended – what about everything I had just been through???

As soon as I saw my gummy-bear sized baby on the ultrasound screen I started crying (just thinking about it now makes me tear up!) Apart from a pink line and missed period four weeks earlier, this was the first happy pregnancy sign I had. There was a baby inside me. I could see it. In that moment, the fear I had about miscarrying was gone and all physical pain I had suffered was worth it. The technician handed me a Kleenex.

Then, unexpected to me, the heartbeat was played. My own heart stopped in my chest as I heard the thumping noises of another heartbeat inside me.

I will never forget the moment I heard my child’s heartbeat for the first time.

A few days later, I took off for San Diego for a reunion, followed by Thailand for work and a weekend getaway with Justin (all planned before we knew I was pregnant and almost canceled a couple of times due to my pregnancy symptoms.)

There were many times I gagged over a barf bag while flying. One time the guy next to me was like, “are you okay?” I told him I was pregnant and he offered me a piece of Big Red gum, which I thought was sweet. There was the time I nearly threw up in front of hundreds of Taiwanese people before boarding our plane. (Thankfully, I ended up belching over a trashcan instead.)

Miraculously, during Justin and my weekend getaway in Thailand, I felt almost normal. I could eat. I wasn’t completely zonked. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier.

The day we left, I was sick again. I truly think God gave me those two days as a gift and I am forever grateful.

Toward the end of my first trimester, I kept crossing my fingers that my nausea/vomiting was done with, only to be hit with it once again. It was so discouraging and would leave me in tears.

It wasn’t until a few weeks into my second trimester (the beginning/middle of November) that I started feeling like myself again. Not only could I eat, I WANTED TO. I stopped burping as much (!!) and had more energy. I finally reached the ‘honeymoon stage’ of pregnancy I heard about, but always seemed so far away. I don’t know what the third trimester will bring, but right now I’m soaking up all the second trimester has to offer.

If there’s one thing I learned during my first trimester, it’s that women are even stronger and more amazing than I thought (and I’m a feminist!)

I have a whole new respect for my sex…

Women are HEROES.

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on finding out i’m pregnant:

In August, a few days after ovulating, I had a dream I was nursing a healthy newborn baby. I woke up and immediately wrote down the dream on my phone, ending with, “I was happy. It felt so real.”

I had no doubt the dream was from God, but I knew it didn’t necessarily mean I was pregnant right now. It could mean I’d have a baby one day.

Still, I wondered.

A week later, I texted Justin, “Pre-period cramps are starting ☹️”

I wasn’t pregnant.

I was at a house show and tried to pay attention to the musician, but I was distracted by my disappointment. I would have to wait a whole month to find out if I was pregnant the next time.

The following day, I felt a little off, but chocked it up to stress from work and not getting enough sleep. Even so, I wrote down the symptoms I was experiencing… because maybe, just maybe I was pregnant after all.

I decided I wouldn’t say anything to Justin because the chance was so slim.

The next morning I woke up and the first thing Justin said to me was, “Are you sure you’re not pregnant?”

“Why did you say that??” I asked him, surprised.

“Because you don’t seem to have your usual PMS symptoms,” he said. “I think you should take a pregnancy test.”

I jumped out of bed and took a test.

We waited 3 minutes and saw the faintest pink line you ever saw – like maybe it wasn’t even there – but I still thought I saw it. Justin claimed it was the lighting (I later found out he was lying because he didn’t want to get my hopes up.)

My hopes were already up, but we had to wait 24 hours to take another test. I felt crazy the rest of the day – was I pregnant or not???

On Monday, August 20, we took another test. The line was still faint, but it was there.

I was pregnant.

I’ll never forget holding that tiny stick in my hand, knowing my entire life would be different but at the moment feeling exactly the same.

Later that day I was in a car accident that totaled my car and sent the other driver to the hospital in an ambulance. I stumbled out of my car in shock, tears streaming down my cheeks, worried about the tiny, vulnerable baby inside me. The first people I told I was pregnant were the police officers who showed up at the scene.

Miraculously, I was fine besides bumps, bruises, and an incredibly sore body.

The emotions I experienced the next few days were a blur of happiness about my pregnancy, grief about my car wreck, and shock about both events. It was a strange, confusing week.

A week and a half after that fateful day, Justin and I were on our way to see a used car when my first wave of nausea hit me. I knew pregnant women should eat when they’re nauseous, so I grabbed some hummus I had in my car and ate it.

Unfortunately, the hummus had been out for a couple of hours and gave me food poisoning, nearly landing me in urgent care the next day.

Getting a foodborne illness while pregnant can be dangerous (even fatal) to the baby’s health. It’s why women are told to avoid a variety of food – to limit the chance of getting salmonella or listeria (etcetera.)

Again, I feared for my baby’s wellbeing.

After recovering from food poisoning, I sat at my kitchen table and cried. Less than 2 weeks in and I had already failed as a mom. I wrote in my diary, “I’m worried about the baby to the point of tears. All I can do is trust God. God, please protect this baby. My trying isn’t enough – I still got sick and in a car accident.”

God’s response to me, “Why do you think I gave you that dream?”

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on being married 1 year (and the journey to get there…)

When I was in my early/mid 20s I bought a piece of art from an Andy Warhol exhibit. The piece said, “the idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting.”

That became my anthem as I waited for my husband to come into the picture. Waiting meant anticipation and excitement. Waiting meant I would appreciate the very thing I had been waiting for more than people who didn’t have to wait as long.

Waiting became less exciting the older I became.

Soon after turning 27, I had a breakdown in a Ugandan hut with more snot and tears than tissues could keep up with. I bawled to my mentor Rozy about how I felt let down by God (I thought He said my husband was coming but where was he); I also hated that I cared so much about being married when people around the world were suffering. “It’s selfish and small-minded,” I said with tears pouring down my cheeks. “I want to care about bigger things.”

Rozy rebuked me and said it wasn’t small minded to desire marriage, noting that often times couples can accomplish more together.

Six months later I was crying again, this in my counselor’s office. The ache for marriage was overwhelming, all-consuming, a thorn in my side. I dated guys but none of them felt right. My counselor said she thought I was a little depressed but also assured me it was normal, biological even, to desire a mate. She told me I would know when he was the one. (My response? “Fairy tales aren’t real.”)

The same day I was crying to my counselor about being single, my future husband was on a plane to Zambia. We had met 3 months prior. This fact continues to blow my mind. I already knew him!

Six months after my tear-filled counseling session, Justin asked me out. What followed was 2.5 years of on again, off again as we figured out the nuances of our relationship. Early on he was overcoming addiction. Later, I was paralyzed by fear.

Nevertheless, there was something about him that captivated me.

6 or 7 months into dating (the third time), Justin would scoop me in his arms and declare, “I’m going to marry you!” with a big smile on his face. “Oh really?” I would respond. “How can you be so sure when I don’t know if I want to marry you?”

I knew I loved him. I didn’t know if I wanted to marry him. Where was that feeling of ‘knowing’ my counselor promised?

At the end of December 2016, when I was 30 years old, I decided to stop waiting for that feeling to come and instead make a choice. I would marry him.

Cue the BEST DECISION I HAVE EVER MADE (apart from following Jesus.)

Marriage is everything I hoped, cried, prayed, and dreamed it would be. Sometimes I can’t fall asleep at night because I’m so happy. I milked my single years for what they were worth, but at the end of the day, I was made to do life with a partner.

Everything is better with Justin by my side. Grocery shopping, going to movies, traveling, lazy Saturdays, falling asleep at night, sitting in coffee shops, driving, dancing at weddings, making decisions, dreaming about the future, and all the other high, low, or in between moments life has to offer.

I’ve loved finding our rhythm together as one. Fighting doesn’t feel like fighting anymore because it’s no longer a jolt that disrupts everything; instead our fights weave in and out with ease.

Life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, of course. The last few weeks brought some low moments – I got into a car crash, leaving my car totaled and my body bruised, followed by a bout of food poisoning that had me crying (and puking) into a trash can.

Justin was there every step of the way — showing up at the scene of the wreck, dealing with insurance, searching for another car, changing trash bags, rubbing my back, bringing me dry toast and lemon water.

In good times and bad, Justin is always there and I am forever grateful.

When I was in my early/mid 20s I thought the longer I had to wait for marriage, the more I would appreciate it.

Turns out I was right after all.

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dreaming at 21:

I graduated from college 10 years ago today. 10 years!!

It’s amazing to look back on all I’ve experienced since then – missions, travel, friendships, falling in love (to name a few.)

In some ways I feel like I’m still 22, in other ways… not so much (aka it’s no longer fun to stay up all night “just because.”)

I wrote the following essay for one of my writing classes a few weeks before graduation. I love seeing the dreams I’ve fulfilled in the last decade and I’m excited for the ones I have yet to accomplish…

Enjoy!
________

My biggest fear is to settle for a mediocre life. I don’t want to work nine-to-five. I don’t want a husband and 2.5 kids and a white picket fence. I don’t want to retire when I’m 65 and move to Florida. I want more.

I want to travel. I’ve heard Broadway is best in New York, and lobster tastes best in Maine. Montana has good mountains, Arizona has the Grand Canyon, and Portland, Oregon has the best beer (though I don’t drink beer). For years I’ve desired to visit Mark Twain’s house in Connecticut, Norman Rockwell’s museum in Massachusetts, and the hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot in Tennessee. He had a dream, and I do too. I want to sink my feet in the sands of a Fijian beach, taste the cheese in Switzerland, and swim in Italy’s Blue Grotto. I want to gaze upon King Tut’s tomb, walk through the Taj Mahal, and stand by the Great Wall of China.

I want to read. I’m curious to see if Jane Austin is as good as everyone says (maybe she can even teach me how to love). Oscar Wilde is supposed to be funny, so perhaps he is the cure for a crummy day. If I’m ever bored, Sir Arthur Connan Doyle should be stealth enough to keep me guessing, but if he isn’t, there’s always Edgar Allen Poe to make my head hurt. While I’m catching up with the classic writers, I also want to become acquainted with the modern ones. I want to appreciate poetry as much as the people who understand it do. I want to be the woman who is always found reading at the park, or coffee shop, or Taj Mahal.

I want to write. Whatever happens to me, whatever doesn’t happen, I want to put into words. The ordinary days, the odd days, the awful days, they all deserve to be documented. Microsoft Word, journals, napkins, whatever it takes. I want live with the oppressed and bring their stories of injustice to life–the child soldiers in Africa, the sex slaves in Asia, the poverty stricken all over. Being published would be nice (though I don’t want to judge the quality of my writing on such basis). A book is my dream.

I want to teach. If I do it right, my students will learn that there’s more to life than high school. They will have to sit next to someone new every day. If the weather is nice, we will go outside. Field trips will be a regular occurrence. Documentaries will be shown. Short stories, essays, and articles will be read. They will be forced to write. Every day. A five-minute free write to start each class period. A reflection on the covered material at the end of class. Their homework will be to think. Final exams will be flexible—a paper, presentation, art project—whatever they want to do to show all they have learned. Grades will be based on their attempt, not necessarily their ability. I will probably get fired.

I want to love. I want to love my family even though they’ve hurt me. I want to love mean people—the closed minded, the insulting, the ignorant, and the annoying. Perhaps no one has ever loved them before. I want to love a man. I dream of the day when my knees will crumble because of the way he looks at me from across the room after years of being together. I dream of the fights, the fun times, and the make-ups. We won’t have an average wedding—it will be inexpensive and outside. A cookout on the beach with shrimp sishcabobs and a ukulele. No shoes allowed. But then again, maybe we’ll just save ourselves the invitations and elope. I long to be a foster parent, to provide love for the children who’re lacking. I desire to give birth, to create life, to understand the connection between mother and child. I want to love like Jesus did. I want to stop pulling a Peter and actually stand up for my savior (even when I’m doubting, embarrassed, or angry at God).

I want to be happy. No matter the circumstance. People will die, misfortune will come, and life will treat me unfairly. I want to find joy in all of life (and even death). There is always something to be grateful for. Each day is a gift, yet I treat it like a burden. Monday is just as exciting as Friday. It’s a day I get to breathe, laugh, and learn. I want to defeat the routine of everyday life, the stress of to do lists, and the fear of failure. I want to stop comparing myself to others, and stop measuring my worth by success, beauty, and boys.

I want to be uncomfortable. God only knows I’m most alive when I’m being challenged. I need obstacles and setbacks and the strength to overcome them. Life should be lived dangerously enough to get hurt. Contentment is not my goal; I desire to live for more than myself.

I want a lot of things. I want to change, to be a better person than I was yesterday, yet still flawed enough to grow tomorrow. I want to live simply; to detach myself from the materialism that has already consumed me. I want to meet Johnny Depp, win an Oscar, ride in a hot air balloon, donate a kidney and encounter every person in the world. I want to wear Chucks when I’m 40. I want to be remembered.

I’m a twenty-one year old on the verge of college graduation.

I want to stop dreaming and start doing.


What are some of your dreams (whether from 10 years ago or last week)? I’d love to hear! 

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on being married 6 months:

For the first 30 years of my life, being married was always something other people experienced. The older I got, the farther away marriage felt… as if it was a balloon floating away, always out of reach.

Now I find myself 6 months married.

During the first few months Justin and I would look at each other and exclaim, “we’re married!” as if we had to remind ourselves because it didn’t feel real. I still feel like I’m playing house when I call Justin ‘my husband’ or he refers to me as ‘his wife.’

Being a married person may take some time to settle, but doing life with Justin feels like wearing a big, comfy sweater. Why would I wear anything else??

A few weeks into marriage I learned Justin is funnier than I thought; he learned I’m weirder than he thought. The thing that makes me laugh the most? When he makes fun of my weirdness. The man has made me collapse to the floor in laughter.

He’s a morning person and I’m a night owl, yet every night we go to bed together. He falls asleep with his hand on my leg while I stay up another hour or two. In the morning I text him – sometimes words, often an emoji – his cue to come upstairs and crawl back into bed with me. If I have the energy I’ll sneak out of bed to brush my teeth first.

I honestly can’t believe I found someone who loves me morning, noon, and night. Specifically the morning part… eyes half-open, hair a mess, raspy voice, grumpy, somewhat helpless. He refers to my morning self as ‘sick child from the 1800s.’

We have a tiny bathroom with pink tiles. When we get ready in the morning we bump into each other, one person reaching for toothpaste while the other is styling their hair. In order to use the mirror at the same time one of us has to stand behind the other. It’s the perfect bathroom for our first year of marriage.

Having a kitten has been fun for many reasons, one of them being a glimpse into our parenting styles. I’ve been so impressed with the way Justin has trained and taken care of Chai. When people ask Justin if he’s a cat person he always responds by saying, “I’m a Hope person.” (swoon.)

We’ve had our fair share of fights – on our honeymoon, on Valentine’s Day, this morning (but really…) There have been tears, screams, and slammed doors. One time I stormed off to our bedroom and threw myself on the bed, determined to stay there for hours. Three minutes later I was bored. I decided I would go downstairs to get a book but wouldn’t look at Justin. I barely made it to the kitchen when he cornered me, wrapping his arms around me and kissing me. I melted.

This is how all our fights end. We can’t stay mad at each other for long.

They say you fall more in love the longer you’re married, that the amount of love you feel for each other on your wedding day is just a glimpse of what’s to come. I experienced that for the first time a few weeks into marriage. I was curled up in the fetal position on our bed; Justin was gently coaxing me out of my shell. I felt my heart swell as his tenderness pierced crevices in my heart I didn’t know existed. “This… this is what they were talking about,” I thought in awe. That love has only continued to grow.

Before our honeymoon, I wondered if we would get bored or sick of each other. I had never spent that much time with only one person before. To my delight, I loved every plane ride, car ride, Airbnb, and in between moment with him. It didn’t matter if we were talking or silent for hours. Being with him made even the dull moments more colorful.

I can only imagine what the rest of my life will look like with him by my side.

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2017: a goodbye letter

Dear 2017,

I met you on the beach in Tybee Island, giddy for my first New Year’s Eve kiss with a boyfriend. I missed the countdown, though, so when fireworks started going off I was confused. Was it midnight? Justin reached for me and tried to kiss me, but I was still trying to figure out what happened.

2017, you took me by surprise.

When I think about the beginning of our relationship it feels like another lifetime. I can’t believe we’ve been through so much together. Thankfully, you’ve been kinder to me than the last few years have been.

I’d go as far to say you may have been the best year of my life.

In February you took me to the Dominican Republic for work. I knew it was likely my only work trip of the year. I was right. I didn’t mind because I knew my season was changing. It was time to start making space for other things.

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In March you took me to South America with Justin and Daniel. On the third day, Justin got down on one knee. It was weeks before it felt real.

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A few weeks later I experienced my most intense moment with God out of the whole year – it still makes me tear up thinking about it. He gave me the wedding venue of my dreams. It was so much more than the venue, though. It was that deep place in my heart he reached down and touched with his grace.

In April you whisked me away to Texas for a women’s retreat. It was amazing; I was undeserving. When they washed my feet I wept.

A week later I found my dream wedding dress and couldn’t stop smiling. This was probably my second favorite day of the year (after my wedding day.) It was just all too good to be true.

I turned 31 in May. It was rainy. Justin took me to Atlanta for the day and I had dinner with my girlfriends. A simple birthday.

Summer brought lots of work – training camps and debriefs and new hires. It wore me out more than I realized. My mom took me to Alaska at the end of July – it was there I felt the beginning of burnout.

Alaska was incredible.

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August brought 2 wedding showers and a bachelorette weekend.

September. The month I got married. The week leading up to my wedding was a disaster – Hurricane Irma hit, resulting in a loss of power (and my sanity), I was on my period, and I was moving. This was easily my least favorite week of the entire year. I cried like the world was ending. God bless a fiancé who comforted me and roommates who continued to celebrate me amidst my tears.

My wedding day was as everyone says – the happiest day of my life. I always thought it would be the happiest because you are getting married, duh. After living it I know it’s because all my friends and family were together in one place. Friends from high school, college, Adventures in Missions. Family from Ohio, Boston, New York. All together to eat, drink, and dance. It was heaven on earth.

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Soon after getting married I felt the weight of my burnout. Getting out of bed to go to work took all my energy. I had very little drive; I didn’t feel like myself. My biggest dream in life was to sleep in and have no responsibilities.

In October I flew to New York City to see Anna. We got lost in Central Park, wandered through the Met, slurped up tasty ramen from Ippudo, saw Anastasia on Broadway, walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, and waited in line for lox bagels from Russ & Daughters. New York City always makes me feel alive.

I signed up for counseling in November and cried my way through the first half of the session. I realized the night before just how much stress I had been carrying from working at a nonprofit the last few years. My counselor told me I needed to lean into my husband, to allow him to shepherd me where I used to shepherd myself.

The next day I left for my honeymoon. Honeymooning in New Zealand had been a dream of mine since I was in high school. 15 years later, that dream was fulfilled. I’ll never forget the joy I felt when swimming with wild dolphins.

December brought my first Christmas as a married woman. I loved everything about it. At the end of the month I flew to Texas for a reunion with C squad at the Floyd’s ranch. We talked and worshiped, played games and ate good food.

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2017, you’ve outdone yourself. I started the year with a boyfriend and ended with a husband. I still can’t wrap my mind around that. I had the privilege of standing as a bridesmaid in 3 weddings. I traveled to outstanding places. I got a kitten. I could go on and on and on…

But now it’s time to say goodbye.

Please know I will never forget you – you are the year my dreams came true.

Love,
Hope.

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