.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

ENGAGEMENT PHOTOS | sneak peek

Through the years, if you were to ask me what my ideal, dream engagement photoshoot would be, I would have told you - glamorous, fancy and very romantic. I know I say it all the time, but, the Lord has proven Himself to be so kind, gracious, and detailed. I gave God the "pen" to write my love story years and years ago. And in the past year, have seen Him answer those prayers... ten-fold. In such specific ways. Blessing us with answers to seemingly silly, simple, small prayers and showing His heart: a good, faithful Father who loves to love on us. While on the East Coast, Daniel's talented sister-in-law, Kristen Leigh (see her blog + book her here) shot an engagement photoshoot for us and I am elated with the results! (She is truly one of my all-time favorite photographers in the world. Check out her beautiful work and book her for your weddings, engagements, family sessions, life shoots, children, and more!) 

Just sharing a few sneak peeks of the photoshoot... more to come soon! 




Friday, October 10, 2014

Beauty + Tea

Beautiful readers! 

Erin James here, the MIA blogger of this little space on the Internet. And I am so sorry I haven't been posting very regularly. Life has been a wonderful whirlwind of dreams come true, busyness, work... and mostly, getting engaged to the sweet love of my life, Daniel. We are currently on the East Coast for work and visiting his family! And yet, I miss this space and community oh so much. Lately, dear readers and friends have asked me "Are you going to be ending your blog once you get married?!" And the answer is, no! In fact, I am only expanding it and sharing more of my life and story now that I am moving down the path of marriage. And my man and I have some exciting dreams we are chasing that we would love to give you a peek into soon. So, dear reader, I'm still here. And will be back next week regularly again (all while getting Graceful Magazine up and running, and of course - wedding planning! ;) 

For a happy Friday favorite, I would love to share something I just discovered and truly ADORE. My Beauty Tea

It is not secret that I am tea-obsessed. I drink it daily - in the summer, winter, spring and autumn. If it's hot, I drink it iced. And when it's chilly, there's nothing like a steamy cup of tea with honey to warm you up! Tea has so many health benefits, as well. (See my Pinterest board all about tea) Antioxidants  and healing properties (read about herbal tea health benefits here) I've tried just about every tea and every brand name. And have (honestly) never really found a favorite. Until recently. The wonderful company, My Beauty Tea, sent me some delicious tea to try and I literally fell in love! Honestly, it's the one of the best teas I've tried - so fresh, flavorful, and delicious. 

On the first autumn-feeling day (we have few in Southern California) I boiled some water and filled a cup, dunking My Beauty Tea's fabulous Sugar Chai. So luscious!

My Beauty Tea is a wonderful online business that specializes in loose leaf teas. And it is run by a 20 year old entrepreneur, Stephanie (I love seeing and supporting young women who pursue dreams and business!) My Beauty Tea has so many great qualities: they're naturally sugar free, almost calorie/carbohydrate free, and use natural ingredients like flowers and fruits! Tea is so good for our health and our skin - it can help you stay hydrated all day! 

My Beauty Tea is high quality and tasty. I want to order all the fun flavors! "Get Comfy," "Red Blush," "Creamy Lemon," and (the one I want to try most ---->) "Mermaid Blend!" 

Gals, go get yourself some - you will love it! Tea lovers or not ;)





I'm writing our engagement story and sharing the lovely photos soon.

l o v e 
y o u 
+
you
you!

XO

Erin

Monday, September 22, 2014

I'M ENGAGED!

Oh, friends......I have some **pretty** special, big, life-changing news I'm excited to share with you today.... This weekend, my biggest dream since I was 5 years old came true. Years ago, I gave God "the pen" to write my love story & waited longingly & sometimes painfully for 27 years for "my man." Saturday, September 20, 2014 was the day. The day I was waiting for. The wonderful man of my prayers asked me to marry him (!!!!) in theeee most beautiful, moving, thoughtful, dreamy, special, detailed, romantic proposal ever. I said yes!!!!..... 

And so, we would like to announce... that WE ARE ENGAGED!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 [oh how good the Lord is.]


photographer: ally stepp / lovelifestudios.com

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Oh...He Loves

Sweet friends! 

I am so missing this little space on the Internet, but my time has been spent lately nurturing and starting and chasing one of my biggest dreams - beginning an online and print women's magazine! www.GracefulMagazine.com 

More to come as I will share a blog post all about it very soon... but, go check out the website (first issue coming soon!) and email me at hello@gracefulmagazine.com if you want to be involved or advertise or have a question! 

In the meantime, I just had to stop by and share this beautiful video my "Cowboy," Daniel Morris recorded and filmed. It just gives me chills and is oh so encouraging. If you need a reminder of how LOVED you are by God, then take a few moments to soak in his beautiful rendition of "How He Loves" - 



Visit his website here 
(www.danielmorrismusic.com) 
 for booking 
[he loves playing at weddings  + events, and loves to travel to them, too!] 
and
go to "Buy Album"
to purchase his new solo album 
full of his own original songs!



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

COWBOY + ME | a love story


"It is astonishing how short a time it takes
for very wonderful things to happen." 
- Frances Burnett 

         Oh, how quickly very wonderful things have happened in my life this year. If you were to tell me one year ago how fireworks-blasting, butterflies-flying, over the moon, Elizabeth-Bennett-incandescently-happy I would be today, I would not have believed you. Meeting-[out-of-nowhere], getting to know, + this once-in-a-lifetime falling head-over-heels in love with this beautiful guy I call Cowboy has been the sweetest joy of my life so far. And you, my dear readers... you have been the dearest. Our happiness has been sweetened all the more with your genuine excitement with and for us. The pure joy you've shared, happy tears you've cried for us ... really mean the world! 

   Aside from sharing tidbits on Instagram, our story [so far] hasn't been told. I've taken a [not-planned] hiatus from blogging - partly because I've been rebranding + updating [after almost 3 years, it's time!] - moving in some new, exciting directions. And partly because this beautiful guy I call "Cowboy" has swept me off my feet + falling in love with him has kept me busy. And it's been a good, rich, dream-come-true kind of busy. But I've missed you all.  Truly, I have. I think about you all the time. I love the blog community, my readers, this sisterhood. And I am happy to be re-branded, back, launching Graceful Magazine in the next few weeks [ah!] and... here tonight - finally - to tell you a little bit about my love story with Cowboy and how it all began.

 Each moment with him... like a pearl I've carefully held in two fingers; admiring it's rarity, beauty, value, and color... gratefully stunned by how just-plain good God is to give it to me. Taking my time to breathe, soak it up, drink it in. And then ever so gingerly place it on a string, for safe keeping on my neck - like a precious piece of significant jewelry. It's all been so sacred and overwhelming [in the best sense] that it's been hard to sit down and write it out for you and you and you... my dear online friends. Relationships are not to parade around or share on social media to "get hits" or follows or likes. The timing hasn't been right, in my own heart + for our story - til today. If you're a long-time reader of this blog, you know how open, honest + downright vulnerable I've been about singleness + waiting on God's timing in relationships. In the past few years, my blog has taken on a life of it's own - completely unplanned - and in many ways, it has become a ministry. Through sharing my brokenness and heart [and, let's face it - sometimes hot mess] in posts like this one on how waiting was sometimes hard + lonely. How being the "only single girl" in my group of girl friends was hard. How sitting through, genuinely rejoicing with, and sometimes needing to duck into the bathroom to wipe away overflowing, hot tears at my dearest friend's weddings + baby showers felt at times like grief. How my "Plan A" of getting married + having babies by the age of 21 ["at the latest!" I would always say as a young girl] did not work out. How my kind + wise God was + is writing a story oh so much better, richer, and more beautiful than my plans could have ever been [even though letting go of those plans, at times, felt like He was asking me to cut off my right arm.] Twenty-seven is not old, and really - twenty-seven years [in the scheme of things] is not even that long. But, the waiting often made me feel as though it would never end, and I know that so many of you understand what I mean. This little blog has been a place of honesty for me. If you are close to me, you are well aware of the following: I cannot function in the morning without my coffee, I could eat tacos for dinner every day of the week, I am  a major "feeler," I wear my big heart plainly on my sleeve and my emotions and passions are always strong and close to the surface. The Lord placed on my heart to write openly about my waiting journey... and also, because of my personality, I just couldn't not share what I was feeling and thinking and struggling with here in this space. Much of my writing + relationships built through the blog world have been on the topic of waiting - not settling for second best, the beauty of saving sex for marriage, and sharing my commitment at the age of 13 to wait for "my man" when I told the Lord, "I want one man, one man only and I want You to pick 'him' out!" For the past twenty-seven years, I've seriously-dated very little [on purpose] and chose daily [though at times it was difficult] to wait - even if I had to wait 'til I was fifty - for God's plan and for Him to write my love story. Fully believing that He knows best for me. Not waiting out of a legalistic standard I had to fulfill, but because I have always passionately loved Jesus + knew Him - and, because at the age of thirteen, He placed on my heart a fierce love for my future husband [starting when I read of the Proverbs 31 woman in the Bible who "did her husband good + not harm all the days of her life."] Each one of us lives out a unique, different story. That is good + right. For me, this love for my future husband and passion to wait? It's something He put on my heart, intensely.

  Meeting Daniel + falling in love with him has truly been the most delightful gift and the worth of it is not lost on me. Especially because I've waited so long to meet a guy just like him. Prayers upon prayers prayed for years upon years are being + have been answered right before our very eyes. In the most specific, unbelievably special, extraordinary ways. It takes my breath away. I never, ever knew falling in love would be so delicious. And at the risk of sounding dramatic [who me? dramatic? never. ;)] the only word I can muster to describe this season is: magical. Sparks. Dreamy. Splendid... and very, very happy.

Part of the reason Daniel + I want to share out story is because it is such a gift, and nothing short of a miracle. It is really a testimony - not to how awesome or faithful we are, not at all - but to how endlessly good the Lord is. Looking over our shoulders at the last handful of years is sobering - both of us have experienced deep heartache + trials, broken dreams, disappointed hopes. We've separately walked bumpy, confusing roads of brokenness, loss, disillusionment. 2013 was the most difficult year in my family's life in our history - by December when I met Daniel, I had rushed into an emergency room at midnight gasping + racing at the shock of nearly losing one of my people. I'd held onto a gurney + begged God to spare life. I watched a person I love more than anyone suffer the worst kind of loss, sharp betrayal,  severe pain. I buried one of my dearest held-onto dreams. Things I could not share here on this little blog, because -well, they were not my story to tell. By the time I met Cowboy.... I felt withered + weary + weak + misunderstood + alone + numb. Sitting on my bed at night, staring; at the end of last year I could not even feel or cry or journal or pray articulately or smile anymore. Daniel, too, knows pain + sorrow in the most acute sense. He's suffered more physical loss than I can imagine: holding + loving on + praying for + caring for + watching as his beloved baby brother Joel slipped from this earth to Jesus' arms, fighting a painful battle with cancer. Daniel knows mourning like I've never tasted. He battled with severe depression at one point in the past few years. The kind of depression that makes one feel heavy + despairing, immobilized + dark. The kind that made him forget what he enjoyed... that made him forget how to tie his shoes.  

    The joy + answered prayers of this season? Are not lost on us. We are in love. We are living a God-written story. And we keenly appreciate the pure happiness of it all, because we have both tasted bitterness, sat down with disillusionment, listening to her tell us her lies, we've walked hand-in-hand with heartache, and grief has been our friend.

   Someday soon, I will tell the story fully. All the little details. All the snapshots taken. The conversations + adventures savored. Like we are teenage girls at a sleepover whispering over bowls of buttery popcorn and sticky candy all about the boys we like. But [call me silly] that kind of "here is our whole love story, part one, two, three..." appropriately comes after a certain *ring* is slipped on a certain finger. ;) So, stay tuned for the whole story soooometime soon ;) Until then, I wanted to give you all a little tidbit peek into how we met and first got to know each other. 

Unexpected + unplanned, our lives collided and our hearts met their match. 

"I've been spending the last eight months thinkin' that all love ever does is break and burn and end. But on a Wednesday in a cafe, I watched it begin again." 
-taylor swift 

And this is how it all began....

On a wintery Sunday evening. January 29th, 2013. Our lives were about to change forever.

He slipped on brown boots, a black coat, a scarf. Back home at his family's Oklahoma farm for the Christmas season, a plan was made to go ice skating for the evening with his siblings [by the way, he has twelve!] His mama [a blogger at www.weloveyoujoel.blogspot.com] asked the older boys in the house to line up + she snapped a picture of them. Off they went. She posted the photo to her Instagram


And then, in her typical sweet, having -fun-while-always-looking-out-for-her-kids way, she wrote this - [and got a pretty enthusiastic response from many ladies + young women expressing their 'interest' in her handsome sons! Several "tags" + shout-outs to sisters, single friends, and daughters were commented. And well-intentioned, silly, fun 'matchmaking' commenced!] 

Yet, of course - I didn't see any of this. His mama + I were not Instagram or social media "friends" and knew nothing of one another's blogs. I was simply sipping chai tea by the fireplace that chilly evening, while making post-Christmas new year plans - 1,364 miles away, clueless to the life-changing matchmaking occurring on social media. As the Lord would have it, one of my first connections ever through Instagram - the dear Amy of www.kissestohershey.blogspot.com saw the post... and thought of me. She + I are online friends, and have never met "in person" yet I knew her well enough through several years of blogging, commenting + chatting that she is a woman I trust. I followed her two or so years ago when I first made an Instagram profile and started using it to "network" and connect with other bloggers. She was and continues to be one of my very favorite mama bloggers to follow [she is wise, deeply loves the Lord, and shares her family's wonderful life - she inspires me!] Knowing my heart for "waiting" for my man, she "tagged" me in the comments of Cindy's post. [From where I stand today, oh how thankful I am that she did.]

He saw it after ice skating. And spent the rest of the evening looking through every single photo I've ever posted on Instagram. He was interested + smitten. (*awwww!*) He thought,[his direct quote, not mine ;) ]  'This girl is soooo attractive! Model status. And after looking at her posts, her heart is just as attractive. Man, this is the kinda girl I would wanna be with but there's no way. So unlikely that she would wanna be with me. I don't really think there is a chance...' 

He also reasoned, No.. this couldn't work out. I don't know her! I live in Maryland, she lives in California. And despite his sweet family's (and mama's) prodding, he was cautious. But... he decided "to give it a try."  

I, on the other hand - missed all of it. Because, randomly that evening, one of my Instagram followers 'liked' every single one of my photos. And [apparently] news feeds only show a certain amount of comments, likes, new follows, etc - thus, Amy's 'tag' on his mama's photos was so far down in the news feed, I did not ever see it. What I did see late that Sunday evening as I was brushing my teeth + turning on the shower with one hand, while holding my phone and scrolling through Instagram with the other, was a new follower... His handle? @daniel_t_m. 

Daniel Morris,

his account profile read. My Instagram account is not private, and because I'm a public person/blogger/writer, I network often and most of my new followers are strangers to me. Yet, this guy seemed so out of the blue - he wasn't a blogger and, in a quick check through his profile, I noticed we shared no mutual followers or follows. 

He's handsome. I thought. And plays violin? Woah. Never met a young guy who does that. 
And, full disclosure? As I scrolled through the snapshots of this random guy's beachy, musical, [sometimes shirtless] photos, my other thought was: Nice abs.


Yet, I moved on. I didn't follow him back. I just hopped in the shower and went straight to bed. 

Monday morning. December 30th, 2013. Sun streaming through my white eyelet window curtains, I woke up. Pulled myself up in bed and grabbed my iPhone from my bedside table. Rubbing my eyes and yawning, my hair a hot mess on top my head, I mindlessly clicked on Instagram. WHEEWWW did I have a lot of notifications. 

What are all these comments? I wondered, when I saw more than a few long comments pop up on an old post from a few weeks prior. I was puzzled. So I looked through my feed and noticed “@Cindy1962” had left me 4 or 5 comments. What on earth? I wondered. Thinking it was most likely a woman asking for advice, sharing her heart, asking about my book, or telling me how thankful she was that I wrote about purity because her daughter was touched… typical comments I received often on Instagram. But no... what was this? I quickly scanned through her words, not really reading them - my eyes moved through the sentences, just trying to get the "jist" of it. And before I really read through her comments, my heart began pounding and I felt.... dread.  Noooo. I cringed. This person is trying to match me up with some guy? OH GREAT. I rolled my eyes.Twenty-seven year old Christian women - who also happen to blog all about waiting for Mr. Right - very often get "matched up." It's just how life works. I can tell ya the horror stories. Everybody + their uncle Fred at church, in the family, and on the Internet [so sweetly!] tried to play matchmaker with me + their "precious grandson," "adorable cousin," "godly son," or "cute brother." I always appreciated their efforts, but one thing was certain in my heart of hearts: yes, I am a blogger but no, my future husband will not be found on the Internet. I ALWAYS quickly + graciously turned these down without blinking an eye. 

Good or bad, I also very easily [and at the snap of a finger] had a pattern of "writing guys off." 

And the following recipe: 1 ex-boyfriend + some good guy friends I sometimes fell for + many "group dates" + awkward coffee dates + a handful of "real dates" paired with standards as high as the Empire State Building - combined with a very upfront online ministry where my "standards" and heart for waiting were plastered all over the Internet = created the perfect storm for my dating life. Couple this with a semi-closed off heart, fear of being hurt, and a perspective that "98% of men out there are not the kind of man I want to marry so why waste me time?" Come December of last year, I was left in a very guarded, rather unattainable, closed-off, sometimes-overly-careful, and very picky state of mind. 

  His mama, though. As I took a deep breath and more carefully read through her comments, I smiled. Spontaneously. I just could not help it. And despite my prickles on the outside, in that moment - my heart melted. Warm, sweet, genuine, open, humble. Not 'too much' as many matchmakers before her 'came off' to me. Not pushy or creepy or weird as people on the Internet could sometimes be. Just pure, plain love for her boy...her son, and the Lord - just seeped out of her words like cream cheese out of the middle of a toasted bagel. 

The most palatable sense of peace literally washed over me in that moment as I sat up in my bed in the sunlight, holding my phone... and shaking. Something was different about this matchmaker. And I could feel it in my bones. Deep breath. Her eagerness to share (with me!) her wonderful, lovable, faithful, godly, servant-hearted, gifted, and amazing-in-every-way son took my breath away. And I could not not respond. Yet, in my heart of hearts: I was afraid. Afraid I would fall, get attached, get hurt. 

Later that morning, Amy sent me a private message on the Instagram app. She told me how carefully she chose to 'tag' me & Daniel in that comment. She is not a silly or a teasing or flippant lady by any means. We haven't met face-to-face, but I knew all the same - she is careful, wise-hearted woman.  And so I knew - the very fact she would think of this young man as a potential 'match' for me? It would be unwise, unkind, and just plain stupid of me not to at least be *open* to the possibility (which, as I've said - was quite difficult for me in the season I found myself last December) 

That afternoon, I drove Mom + Dad (in a super nice car I was reviewing that week, thanks to Drive STI) to run their monthly Costco trip and while they shopped, I sat down at a small, wooden table at Starbucks. I ordered a grande caramel macchiato with soy. And opened up my laptop. Spending the next 2 hours on Daniel's mama's blog [which, by the way, you should go read... their family story is awe-inspiring + encouraging.] I read about their family's desire to honor + follow the Lord. Tears fell down my face as I read the story of sweet Joel. His battle with cancer, and how their family and his parents faithfully cared for + fought for his life, until he passed away at age three. Coffee grinders grinding + people chatting.... and I sat there, engrossed. And I knew: these people are the real deal. I "stalked" Daniel on Google, finding his YouTube channel. That coffee shop. That moment when I first pressed play on his video + heard + saw his music. Someday, when I am old + sitting in a rocking chair somewhere, reminiscing + musing on the best days of my life, I will remember that moment. I clicked on his videos, one after another -beautiful viola + piano. I sat with my earbuds in + the volume turned up. I listened. I played it again. And my heart? Entirely overwhelmed. I had to turn it off. I pressed pause. I sat + tried to breathe. I turned it on again.... his skill level: like a virtuouso. And his heart? Oh, I could feel it. Later that night, I wrote in my journal:

"It is something about the way he plays. With so much expression and passion and feeling. I cried. I said aloud: 'This is too much to handle.' I watched him play, with so much feeling... more than anyone I had ever seen. The song went on and on, passion pouring from his fingertips onto the keys." 

That night, I watched more videos on my laptop. I wept. Healing. It was healing, somehow. 

And in my faithful journal, I wrote: 

"... and here is something about his eyes. They are beautiful and sad and wild and life. Like they hold the whole history of the world in them. I have never in my life seen someone with such beautiful, deep, expressive, pure blue eyes. Ever. I could drown in his eyes. I am NOT KIDDING." 

I replied to his mama's comments. I couldn't help myself.

New Year's Eve came. A kind response from his mama. And no word from him.
Hmmmm.I thought. I guess nothing will come of it, after all. Never a pursuer of guys, myself, I knew that if we were to talk at all - he would need to be the initiator. Hmmm, that Daniel Morris. On my mind.

He initiated. New Year's Eve, 2o14. 

Commenting on Instagram, on one of my older photos. He was calm, cool, friendly, not creepy, + obviously kinda interested. 
[The perfect combination, I say!]

He wrote to me?! 

I died. 

Immediately, I called Sister. She was shopping at the grocery store with Dot [our grandma.] 

I told her everything. I sent her pictures of him I found on Facebook. I sent her a screen shot of his comments. 

She hesitated for 3 seconds and then she very purposefully said: 

 "He is a TEN. He looks exactly like Robert Redford and he is a cowboy!" and then loud and clear through the phone, I heard her speak [in her most serious, bossy voice I know she only uses when she means business + you better listen up] 

"Sis.... Do NOT screw this up."

  So.... I replied. Openly. Kindly. Friendly. And he replied. We talked of music. And life. My book. His viola, his album. 
Butterflies. For the first time in a long time. 

I spent New Year's Day at a very summery, warm Malibu beach. With a latte in hand, a journal in the other, and my family by my side. We were on opposite ends of the country.
We chatted for a few days on Instagram. And then? He asked for my email address.

I just knew: 2014? It was gonna be different. And really, really good. He spent NYE 2013 in Times Square, New York City. He posted this on his Instagram: "Cheers to 2014 being the best year ever." Oh, darling. Little did you know then. It has been.

His first email popped up in my inbox on January 2nd, 2014. 

He wrote... "Hey Erin! It's Daniel. Well, I guess we can e-mail now haha...." And went on to tell me all about his adventures in New York City on New Year's Eve.

Jane Bennett once said of her Mr. Bingley [Jane Austen fans, can I hear ya?!] "He is everything a young man ought to be...." And so was Daniel. Kind, respectful, intentional, thoughtful, gentlemanly, clear, and NOT creepy. Somehow, he was all those things rolled in one. I could tell. I was surprised. He was detailed + told me things. He asked me things. And something that really, really struck me about his first emails? He talked less about himself + asked more about me - which is a selfless qualities I had never, ever seen in a young man I'd spoken to before. The guys I dated before.... they didn't care about me. They didn't care about a girl's passions or dreams or music or plans. Or my heart. My mama was floored when I told her about his emails. Sister - flabergasted. She showed our Grandma Dot, and we all swooned at his care, detail, attention, and maturity.

Emails were exchanged, daily. My heart lept into my throat every time I heard the ding! and saw his name in my inbox. His sister-in-law tells me he typed every one of those e-mails on his phone, curled in a corner of a room - writing for hours. Those e-mails... long + wordy + warm + then, a little flirty.

Guys often asked me, "Soooo... you blog + are a freelance writer? What is your real job?" It always felt like a slap in the face because....um, that was my real job. My dream. That I was sacrificing for + moving-home-with-my-parents-for, and not making loads of cash for but working-my-tail-off-for. But Daniel? He asked gingerly, sensitively. "How amazing that you have a blog! Is that what you do full-time?" His carefulness + respect for my dream-chasing? Meant alot to me. Spoke volumes about his values, his heart, his sensitivity. 

Sixteen e-mails exchanged. It was all very "You've Got Mail" of us. Hearts racing. 3,000 miles apart. He wrote, "I am in Maryland, you're in Los Angeles... we really could not be further apart in the US! But that is no biggie."

And then he asked for my number. And it was all over when I heard his warm, shaky, excited, "Heyyyy..." colored with a Southern accent. It was like I'd known him all my life. 

And yet, so sudden + thrilling + new. Made me feel like I could fly! 

Oh, I can't wait to tell you about our first phone date. 

And our first texts.

I can't wait to tell you about how we talked once or twice a week, late into the wee hours of the morning. And found we were kindred spirits.

How one day, he didn't text or call at all because [later I found out...] the poor man hurt himself on a construction job. And how I had a meltdown on the bathroom floor [with faithful Sister on the phone] at the thought that maybe this guy ["after I'd been SO CAREFUL to not get attached to anyone for three freaking years!"] I am falling for from afar hurts me or takes off or doesn't ever follow through? What if it is all too good to be true?

And how it really, beautifully was not too good. It was even better. 

How one day, I had to sit down when I opened his text. Because he wrote,  "Erin, we have to meet. I'm coming out there." 

Oh, how I can't wait to tell you all about the first moment I saw him. At LAX airport. All tall + rugged + handsome. How he wandered through the baggage claim until we met eyes + I melted + life changed. 

" All I know is we said, 'hello.' 
So dust off your highest hopes. " 
- taylor swift 

About the whirlwind of a week we spent together in California. The word "swoon" comes to mind quite vividly to describe it. 

I can't wait to tell you how he assumed + misunderstood something I said right before we met; how he thought I planned a chaperon to accompany us every moment of the trip. How he spent two plane rides from Oklahoma to Colorado, to Los Angeles in agony. [we didn't ;) ] 

How that week could have been a full-on awkward disaster. He flew across the United States to meet a stranger + stay at my family's house! But it was truly the most perfect seven days two strangers have ever spent together. 

I can't wait to tell you all about our first day together in person. Spent in balmy, dreamy Malibu. How we hiked + laughed + walked two miles on a beach through paradise. How he took my hand to help me up the steep parts, and.... *butterflies!* 
How he picked a little yellow flower + slipped it in my hair. 
I can't wait to tell you all our wild + free adventures. 

Like the time we rode bikes all day in pristine Santa Barbara. How we stopped at a quaint narrow, wooden-floored flower shop that smelled like heaven. How he bought a heart-shaped box of sea salt caramel chocolates + stood with me beside our bikes, laughing + flirting + popping them all in our mouths. How I loved the way his eyes danced and nose wrinkled when he really, really smiled. 
Or the time we broke into a garden atop gorgeous Catalina Island. How we climbed over a fence, ran through flowers + trees, breathless + hiding to keep from being caught. How we slow danced without music. And held hands in that lush, stately garden for the *first* time.
How [completely unplanned!] we caught each and every beach sunset that week.

Or when he took me to my favorite seaside spot, Laguna Beach, + whisked me out [just in time for the sunset] to a jagged rock out far past the shore. How we stood, barefoot + jittery with all-consuming, head-to-toe, "spark" + romance - on that rock. It felt like we were in the middle of the ocean. Waves crashing wildly around us! A hot pink round sun + a pale yellow and baby blue sky all around us, painted by God's very own hand. How he whipped out his alluring viola + played love songs for me.... and how he had to hold me up - my legs went weak + would not work, for swooning. How he took me to a fancy dinner + bought me a special little necklace, "As a token. So you know I am coming back to California." 
[photo taken in the same exact spot a few months later, as we didn't snap one "in the moment"! thanks imkristen.com] 
I can't wait to tell you all about my first trip to Oklahoma. To his family's dreamy little farm. I fell in love with them. How he took me to his land + house - that he invested in and built years ago, for his future family. How he brought a perfect little picnic. A basket full of all my favorite things. A pink vintage quilt that belonged to his grandma. A blue Mason jar full of wildflowers. Pink champagne + chocolates. How he led me by the hand to the grassy yard of a charming old early-1900's schoolhouse [straight out of "Little House on the Prairie" - oh my heart!] right by his land, out in a field. Branches of trees making a canopy above us. Butterflies literally flying around us heads. Perfect warm sunshine. How that red dirt took a little piece of my heart that I'll never get back when he asked me to be his girlfriend + spun me around + around in circles when a resounding yes! tumbled off my lips. How he picked up his guitar + sang me a song he wrote a few years ago, for his future "someone"... how I cried.
I can't wait to tell you about our first kiss + how dreamy it was to step back + both say.... "That was my first kiss ever. I have saved it all these 26 + 27 years... for the right time, the right one." | "ME TOO!!!"

About our road-trip. Oklahoma to Kansas to Colorado to Utah to Nevada and back to my home of Los Angeles. How we got to know each other real well. Spent time with family + friends. Through rolling fields of wheat, flat prairies, red dirt roads, snowy Rocky Mountains, dry + painted western deserts + all the way down to the blonde sandy dream beaches of California.
How we spent the entirety of April eating cinnamon rolls + Mexican food, splashing in warm waves, + exploring vineyards + coffee shops + restaurants in Santa Barbara. Beaching in paradise, along with his kind twin brother + his darling, fun little family.
How we started talking + being more open. How we realized we feared being totally open-book genuine and talking about hard things. How it was hard, but we pushed through it... to telling secrets + shedding tears + doing real life together + seeing each other's brokenness + weakness + fears + strengths ... and how all wrapped up: the beautiful + "swoony" + romantic + ugly + weak + messy ... it is all even more beautiful, and better together

I can't wait to tell you our epic day at Disneyland. How we watched the spectacular fireworks show. And then he walked me through Sleeping Beauty's Castle - reading her story  as we climbed stoney stairs and familiar fairytale music played. How he took me out to the drawbridge forecourt. Sitting before the stately, lit-up, enchanted thick walls + pointed towers. I felt like a princess when he said, I love you... for the first time. And I burst out, Oh I love you too! How we kissed and cried and danced in under the arch, overlooking the moat. My favorite song played. The song my great-grandparent's dubbed as "their song" fifty-plus years ago played right then. 

What a gift to fall in love. And to do it in so many special, lovely, wonderful places.

Sometimes I stop + think, How can this be real? And so so wonderful? I don't deserve this! It's all too good and too amazing and dream-like. Yet, it is real. And it is ours.

All due to a very kind, graceful God who loves to answer big-hearted, wide eyed, impossible prayers of little girls + boys who love Him. Who fail + fall + wander + wonder. But who trust Him + look to Him + ask Him very specifically for good gifts, in His time + way. I am blown away - in every sense - by God's goodness to us. Every doubt or question through my years of waiting.... those dark moments of, What if He is not good? What if He is not who He says He is? I don't understand His ways. I don't know..... I always knew He was good. But, I have never seen His goodness so palpably. So right-before-my-very-eyes. I know mama's feel this way when they hold their new baby. Lovers feel this way when they say "I Do!" Dreamers feel this way when big dreams come to pass. Grievers feel this way when they see a sign and know their lost loved one is still there. Worshippers feel this way when His presence just falls + it is all okay. 

If there's anything I've learned through this season of falling head-first, fearlessly in love is this: do not give up hope on your dreams. Keep praying the very-big prayers; the ones haters hate on + make fun of you for. Keep waiting + saving your heart + soul. Keep not settling for second best. Keep saving those first kisses, + everything else's - for the right 'one.'  Keep trusting in a big, good, mysterious God. In darkness + depression + loss + failure + dry waiting deserts .... He will not let you down. I promise. Whether all your plans work out and dreams come true or they crash down - He is good. He works all things for good.

I can still taste the searing ache of waiting - I remember it, and I always will. Girls, there are good, strong, godly men out there who will woo + win + romance you. Know that. Don't settle for anything less. I didn't - even though at times I was mocked, questioned, misunderstood, + pitied for it. Now, oh how worth the wait.

Never in my life have I met a young man with such strength of character. 

I love him. His kindness. Passion. Love for the Lord. Sensitivity. I love his tanned + strong, veiny, rough + hardworking, skillfully talented hands. His chiseled jawline. His sandy hair. Those sky blue, make-my-heart-melt eyes. His strong, firm arms and chest that tell of many hours and years of working construction and helping out on the farm in Oklahoma. I love how his face shines + lights up when he plays music. He is imaginative, wild, disciplined, patient, calm, joyful, deep, vivacious, smart, careful, optimistic, courageous, hardworking, spontaneous, funny, compassionate, faithful, + gracious. 

For this man I prayed. For this man I am grateful. 

And that is how I met him. 

More to come.... someday. Soon. 

"In that day they will say,

'Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him;  

let us rejoice + be glad in His salvation." 

[Isaiah 25:9] 



Monday, August 11, 2014

FEARLESS | free printable

Happy Monday, beauties. 

Last night, I Instagrammed some thoughts on my heart on fear. [ s e e  h e r e

Many of you were encouraged + I realized we are not alone in our struggle with fear. Whatever you may feel anxious about, may you find peace & rest in Him who takes all our burdens + covers us with His love. 

Enjoy this free printable [ in JPG format, just click below on the photo and save as a picture. Print it out, post it on your social media (tag me so i can say hi / give me credit please! ;) use it as a computer or phone background, + be encouraged! ]


XO

Erin

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

THE BEAUTY OF COMMUNITY | influence conf

Two years ago, I quit my job, moved home with my parents and started a blog. I felt strongly led by the Lord to share my heart openly on these pages. To pursue my dream of freelance writing. And my passion to speak into young women's lives - to encourage them in their lives and faith by talking about real issues. A "ministry" started to grow, spontaneously, through this little blog. Connecting with other women on a heart-to-heart level. Finding kindred spirits and really-true-friends. Out of nowhere, an "email ministry" began and high school and college age young women began writing to me and sharing their stories, their struggles, their hearts. I found like-minded women through the Internet, through this blog world. And yet, I lacked community. I lacked that feeling I remembered from college - sitting around with sisters, sipping coffee and just "being." I missed the "in-person" camaraderie, the sisterhood. And that's when I found out about Influence Conference. It was a new conference, never before hosted and a new venture for the ladies who led it. Financially, I was in a season of trusting the Lord big time. A season of holding my hands open, giving him my fears and hopes and dreams. When I first read about the Influence Conference online, I immediately felt a stirring in my heart: Oh, I have to go! These women are just like me. They are kindred spirits, I know it. This is just the kind of conference I would love to go to - to connect, mingle, bond with, and build a sisterhood and community! All of which I lacked desperately at the time. And yet, I could [in no way] afford it at the time. I remember, oh so clearly, one Saturday afternoon that summer. How I checked social media + noticed many "blog friends" announcing their ticket purchases and plans for Influence. How passionately I wanted to go. Yet, how impossible it seemed. I slipped into my bed in the afternoon and shed a few tears. Lord, there is no way for me to attend, I can't afford it right now. But, oh how I wish I could go. DING. My phone email rang out. Wiping away a black-mascara-tear, I picked up my phone and read my newest email. From a blog friend I knew only from heart-to-heart Skype dates and encouraging emails. She simply wrote these words:


I'm excited to meet you in October, Erin.
This is for you.

Scrolling down, even bigger tears filled my eyes. My "blog friend" bought me a ticket to Influence. And just like that, I was going to attend. The Lord answered my prayer. In the most unexpected way. This gal knew nothing of my prayers or desire to go. 

Friends, it blew me away. She later shared with me how she stood in worship at church that morning + felt strongly [out of nowhere!] the Lord speak to her heart, to purchase a ticket for me. She wrestled + wondered. Budgeted and counted. Really, Lord? And then, she obeyed. 

I hopped on a plane from LAX to the MidWest that October. And spent the sweetest three days in Indianapolis with some of the most amazing women  I've ever met.

Community came around me in those few days and enveloped me in a new, refreshing, raw, real, tangible, overwhelmingly good way. I felt understood. Not so alone. The speakers were so relatable. The girls I shared a room with were kindred spirits. The ladies I chatted with - grandmas and new mamas and single twenty-somethings - were all gems and the kind of women who felt like sisters. I attended that first year and the next, too - serving as a community leader and speaking to the sweet single gals. 

Sisters, I highly recommend joining the community at Influence Conference. Despite fears and questions and insecurities - the ones I had the first and second years. 

What if my blog is not 'big' enough? 
What if I am not accepted by these other women? 
They're all wives and moms, I'm still unmarried and single... what if I don't fit in? 
What if I don't dress like or look like or act like 'the ideal blogger'?

Oh, friends. I faced the fears. The insecurities. The struggles of flying half-way across the country and putting myself out there. Being vulnerable and real and open to sisters I only knew online. But, you guys - it was oh so worth it. 

I will always remember the worship night that ended the conference on year one. How I ugly-cried through the entire hour. How I felt like I was standing beneath a waterfall of blessings and felt the Lord presence in a way I hadn't for years. How the brokenness and pain in my life those years melted into worship and healing began to come. In a way I hadn't felt at church, even. 

There is something sacred about women coming together - blogger or non-blogger, it doesn't matter at Influence Conference - and being sisters. Being friends. Learning. Growing. Chatting. Having coffee dates. It is powerful and life-changing and world-changing.

Sister, I hope you join me and these beautiful-hearted women in our community. And build your online family + sisterhood.

'Cause, it's really good, healing and beautiful.


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