Last weekend Cason and I visited Homestead Heritage in Waco. We enjoyed the cafe for lunch then toured the village shops, which included the potter’s house, gristmill, forge, and fiber arts buildings. I’m hoping to go back and take some fiber arts classes in the fall, if my schedule will allow. Please check out their website for more information and enjoy our photos below! We had a truly fabulous date day (as we like to call them), and we are looking forward to going back!
A photo of us together on the bridge to visit the village shops.
Cason getting ready to enjoy his delicious peanut butter pie.
Cason in front of the gristmill.
Cason checking out the inside of the gristmill.
Inside of the fiber arts building.
Me in front of the fiber arts building.
Side note: Expect more posts soon about my first year in graduate school as well as my upcoming study abroad trip to Costa Rica!
My talented future mother-in-law designed our Save the Dates and sent me a proof last week! Here’s a sneak peek:
Super tiny sneak peek, but isn’t it pretty? Somehow during this busy weekend I managed to find time to order them! (Imagine that!) I cannot wait to see them in print! They should come in sometime this week, and I think it will be a pretty sweet end to a busy two weeks! Now we just have to finalize the guest list, and as soon as this semester is over, I’m going to address these babies and get them in the mail!
It’s the little things that make everything seem real. I mean obviously getting married is a very real thing, so I’m sure you’re wondering how it may not seem so real at times. Well, here’s the truth: life is crazy busy and in living day-to-day with my fiancé I sometimes forget that there’s a wedding coming up and a honeymoon and a new life together. Plus it’s so super far away (255 days, to be exact) that it’s easy to forget that it’s “coming up.” But the save the dates arereal, and they will be delivered to me so soon! Then they will be coming your way, so be on the lookout!
For my first Wedding Wednesday post, I present to you, our ENGAGEMENT PHOTOS, done by the lovely Sammie Culpepper! It was so much fun working with her, since all we had to do was be ourselves! We are so thankful for the memories and the photos that we now have to share with our family and friends. If you haven’t yet, check out Sammie’s website, and look forward to meeting her at the wedding in January!
A few things to note:
I was having a really, REALLY good hair day, if I may say so myself.
Cason was the cutest, sweetest, funnest Cason on this photo shoot. Had I not started getting hungry/grumpy, I could have taken pictures with him all day.
You can click on an image to make it larger–then you should be able to scroll through the larger versions of the images.
Family & Friends: If you would like to see the full album or order photos, feel free to text/email me for the link!
Last night I had a series of strange dreams. First, I dreamed that my family was celebrating Christmas in Arizona. While we were waiting for the food to finish cooking, Mom and I decided to walk outside with my dog, Georgia. Mom and Georgia went first, and I followed behind. So as I’m walking out these sliding glass doors, I see a killer whale jump out of the pool in the back yard and onto the cement surrounding the pool. It reminded me of how the whales slide on the ice to try to catch the seals, and in that moment my dog looked, to me, like a little baby seal. All of this happened in slow-motion in my dream, and what followed was mass chaos. I began yelling at my mom to catch the dog, both of whom were running around the pool like mad men. Finally, I had to run to catch the dog and yell at the whale to ‘GET BACK IN THE POOL!’ Why he listened, I’m not sure, but he did. So that was the first dream scenario that tried to ruin my Christmas.
Then I dreamed that I was driving my car around town when every maintenance light began to light up the dash like our Christmas tree. I’m certain that all of the lights were fake, but that’s beside the point I suppose. I think my dream was trying to ruin my Christmas wish and prevent me from traveling home for Christmas. However, jokes on you, nightmare, because we’re not taking my car home for Christmas; we’re taking Cason’s car, and it works fine. (Mine does too, for the record.) Alternatively, the dream could be about how much I dread the 13.5 hour drive home, which would be accurate. If the cars break down, we HAVE to fly, right? That would be nice. Haha. All I want for Thanksgiving and Christmas next year are plane tickets home.
Needless to say, all I want this Christmas is to arrive home, safe and sound, and enjoy a nice break with my family. I want to eat Nana’s creamed corn, have brunch with my friends and go dress shopping, open presents with my family, and make sure my teacup poodle doesn’t get attacked by a killer whale. That’s not too much to ask for, is it? Cason and I have so much to do in the next few days just to prepare for the long trek home, but we are excited, nonetheless. We’ve prepared most of the presents for our families, purchased new Christmas outfits, mailed out Christmas cards, and done all of the laundry. All that’s left is to clean out the cars, tidy up the house, pack all of our things, and make the journey home. In just a few days we will be homeward bound! Until then…
*The images in this blog come from various artists on Etsy. Click on the images to redirect to the respective Etsy shops. I just wanted to share some of my favorite holiday prints, as I am personally thankful for some extra traffic in my Etsy shop this holiday season. Enjoy!
My sisters are chatting about candle lighting ceremonies. My cousin has made herself available to help with questions and contest entries. Local friends have given me names and websites for photographers. My aunt and mom have already started planning. I now own several magazines. I have a rather large rock on my hand.
It’s official, I’m engaged!
For the story of how we met, click here.
And without further ado, here’s the detailed engagement story you’ve been waiting for…
Our engagement story:
On Friday, November 1st Cason went in to work and I planned an afternoon of shopping followed by an evening of studying. I was at Target when Cason texted me to let me know they had too many people for his shift, so he got to go home. I asked if we were making plans for the night, and he said he wanted to have a nice date night since we hadn’t planned one in a while. (This is not unusual–we like to randomly plan fun nights, spur of the moment, where I put on a dress and he wears something besides athletic shorts.) He picked me up at 6:30pm and we ended up going to dinner downtown at a place called Sam’s on the Square. They had about 10 different kinds of tacos to choose from–I got fish tacos, and they were surprisingly delicious. At dinner we did our fair share of people-watching; we constantly overhear tons of hilarious conversations among “college kids.” So at first I didn’t notice how quiet Cason was being. Towards the end of dinner I remember asking why he was so quiet–come to find out, he was super nervous.
After dinner we went to one of my favorite places in Waco–Katie’s Frozen Custard. We get Katie’s at least twice a week because it’s so delicious! Then we took our frozen treats to Baylor instead of to my house to watch TV, which is perhaps when I realized something was up. We parked on campus and walked towards Pat Neff Hall, passing the Judge Baylor statue and stopping in the gardens to sit and enjoy our frozen yogurt. At one point in our walk I got pretty excited about the shrubs because they were cut to spell “Baylor Bears,” and I remember thinking it was strange that Cason seemed indifferent. (We usually get excited about random/new things, but he had seen the shrubs before when he scoped out the location, and he had other things on his mind–which is obvious in retrospect.)
So we sat down in the middle of the garden looking at the glowing green Pat Neff Hall. I’m trying to eat my frozen custard, but it was unusually cold outside for Texas so I gave up and listened to Cason tell me the history of the glowing green light. (I’m still rather shocked that he did his research.) After sitting for a few minutes I told Cason that I had to go to the bathroom, so he said, “Well then I will make this quick.” (This is it!) Then he got down on one knee, with the glowing green building behind him, and he told me how much he had always looked forward to finding the right person, how at times he wasn’t sure it would happen, and how he was blessed to have found me. Then he said my full name and asked me to marry him. I said, “Yes” through my tears and I got down to hug and kiss him. Then he stood up and asked me if I was going to say yes (which apparently happens in more engagements than you would think), and I told him that I did say yes and that I do want to marry him. So he put the ring on my finger and we smiled and laughed and kissed and hugged. Then, since it was dark, he pulled out his iPhone and turned on his flashlight so I could see the ring. (It’s perfect, by the way. We previously looked at rings, so he had a good idea of what I wanted, and he just took it and ran with it. 🙂
We walked back to the car, giddy, and I asked all sorts of questions like, “Were you nervous? Did you think I would say no?” etc. (Yes he was nervous but not because he thought I would say no.) Once we got back to the car, we called my parents and face-timed them so they could see the ring. Then we face-timed Cason’s parents, who were on their way to Florida with his youngest brother. It was all very exciting to start sharing with family. I also called my aunt and my nana, and my cousin’s reaction was priceless.
People asked me if I was surprised, but I think the better question is, “Were you pleasantly surprised?” Truth be told, if I had no inclination that it was coming, I would have been surprised, but I’m not sure that I would have liked it. Cason’s proposal, for me, had the right balance of expectation and surprise. So yes, I was pleasantly surprised. It was a special moment shared between the two of us, which we will never forget. Even now when I drive by campus at night and see Pat Neff Hall glowing green in the distance, I get this big grin on my face.
Cason and I met back in high school through a program called Teen Advisors (TAs). He was homeschooled, but he came to my high school for TA sessions. We knew each other, and we had plenty of mutual friends, but we weren’t close at the time. (Cason says he had a crush on me at one point, but he steered clear because I was dating someone throughout high school.) After I graduated, Cason and I didn’t stay in touch. When I was home from college during Christmas and summer breaks, I went to a young adult ministry called The Door, and we ended up reconnecting through that ministry.
During my sophomore year in college and after a recent breakup, I bumped into Cason at Fantasy in Lights over Christmas break (2011). We chatted like old friends–he asked about my experiences at Mercer and shared about his adventures in Australia. Given my introverted nature, a conversation this detailed, however brief, was a big deal to me. Cason, naturally social and chatty, probably didn’t think twice about it.
The next time we saw each other was during the following summer break (2012). We both attended The Door one evening, and afterwords Cason invited me to Buffalo Wild Wings with him and some friends for his birthday. I accepted his invitation, which was also probably a pretty big deal for me–if you know me, you know that in all honesty, I probably just wanted to go home for some alone time after being with a group of people for two hours. We talked about our travels including one pub in London that we thought we had both visited. After I got home that night, I sent him a photo of the pub that I took during my travels, but I never heard back from him. (Thankfully, we can now laugh about how he never responded to me.)
By the spring of this year, I had graduated college and returned to our hometown to prepare for my trip to China. However, Cason was interested to hear about my travel plans, so he messaged me on Facebook one night and invited me to grab coffee with him. It’s funny because the day before he messaged me, I was feeling pretty bored at home without all my friends. So I was trying to think of people to hang out with, and I saw that he was online on Facebook. I went to message him–opened the chat window and everything–but I got distracted by my parents and ended up not messaging him. (Though it’s unfortunate that the trip to China never happened, I think now it’s obvious that God still had great things in store for me.)
If you ask me about our first date, I would say it was that February night at Starbucks, though Cason will admit that he didn’t think of it as a date at the time. I was quite surprised by how naturally we hit it off, and I remember wondering why we never hung out more in high school. Cason is genuine and very forthcoming about his life and experiences, and I appreciated that very much. I think we can both agree that at that point in our lives we were tired of unhappy endings and playing games with people; we were both looking for something real. I must have seen that right away in Cason because that night after Starbucks, I told one of my friends, “I’m gonna marry this guy.”
In our dating relationship, we were very intentional about getting to know each other. (We knew of each other for so long, that it made it easy to transition from the general to the more specific.) Early on, we both realized that we had found what we were looking for, so to speak, so naturally we talked about getting married; we already had the mindset and the devotion–we wanted it to be “official.”
Over the summer, I found out that I got into Baylor, and I was both thankful and surprised to find that Cason was more than willing to move with me to build on our relationship and embark on this new journey with me. Not only was he willing to move 700 miles from home with me, but he also would have married me before-hand, had we not been brought back down from cloud nine.
So we moved to Texas together, and though it has been difficult at times, Cason has been a great blessing to me during this transition. I know that the move has been just as difficult for him, and that helped us grow together and closer to Christ in the process. We’ve found a church and made new friends and just have generally done life together from day one here in Waco. We had talked over the past couple of months about getting engaged so needless to say, I knew that a proposal was imminent.
Over a week. We have been in Texas for over a week, and it still hardly seems real.
On Thursday afternoon, my parents and I began the 13-hour drive to Waco around 1pm. We arrived around 1:30am and headed straight to bed. Friday morning we were up and at ’em. We got the key to my beautiful house and started moving things in right away. That afternoon we made our first trip in Texas to the nearest IKEA, and when we returned Dad and I put together my new bed. We spent the rest of the weekend getting me settled in, buying groceries and the like.
Tuesday night, the ladies from my cohort enjoyed an evening getting to know each other. We would have invited the guys, but they hadn’t joined our Facebook group at that point. We met and spent time chatting about ourselves, where we’re from, and what we’re doing here now. Spending some time together helped us to feel comfortable as we navigated the orientations that followed.
First we experienced the Graduate School orientation together, followed by Baylor’s Educational Psychology department orientation. There we met several of the faculty and most of the first year students in the Ed. Psych department. On Thursday, all 7 of us introduced ourselves to one another and to our professors at our School Psychology orientation. We learned more about the program before heading off to a local eatery for lunch. There, we shared some good ole Texas barbecue. After lunch we learned more about Baylor’s Autism Resource Center, known to us now as the BARC.
When we were done navigating orientations as a group, we split up on Friday as my roommate and I headed to our graduate assistantship orientations. There we learned about Baylor’s Academic Success Center, where I will spend 20 hours a week working with students to provide them with resources for success here at Baylor. (Meanwhile, I will need your prayers for this part of my endeavor.)
In other news, I can find the following locations without my GPS:
HEB (the grocery store)
& various restaurants
Needless to say, I’ve got the necessities down.
We’ve been in Texas over a week and I’ve already met over 20 new people and visited about 6 local eateries, and this is just the beginning. Next up: a recap of my first week in grad school!
THREE WEEKS…and the excitement is currently overwhelming. I get excited/overwhelmed and cry at everything. I don’t sleep. It’s going to feel like the night before Christmas for the next few weeks, and honestly it may get a little ridiculous. I feel like a hormonal teenager, but I’m honestly just super excited.
This week everyone in my cohort found out their graduate assistantship positions. By the grace of God and extreme devotion and hard work from our program director (and potentially others, behind the scenes), everyone in our cohort has 100% tuition remission for the fall and spring! That means we pay nothing but fees for our first year in grad school! If you don’t believe me, here’s the email:
In other exciting news, I got my first book for grad school today! Along with my professor, this book will teach me all about the DAS-II…don’t ask me what that is. Just kidding…it’s a “psychological assessment instrument” (aka, a test) that measures certain cognitive abilities for children from the ages of about 2-17 years; at least, that’s what I gather from the first page. 😉 Here’s a photo of me with my happy face and my new book:
I think I’ve really found where I’m supposed to be. I’m ready to get to Texas. I’m ready to start learning. I’m ready for the next chapter. I don’t doubt that it will be difficult. I don’t doubt that it will take work. I do hope, though, that for the most part it ends up being fun work, and I do believe that it will all be worth it. I forgot how much I love to learn, and I’m just ready to get back in the groove. I’m ready to have more of a schedule. I’m ready for everything…except the rest of the packing that I still have to do. Oh, and the drive. I’m not ready for the 13-hour drive. Other than that, let’s get this show on the road!
Here it is…the post that you all knew was coming, and the one that I have honestly been putting off for a while.
I’m not going to China.
I still don’t have the words to explain why or what changed in my heart, but something changed. It was taking forever to get an invitation from the government, and I saw the potential time I would be spending there slowly dwindling. I didn’t like that. I wasn’t a fan of the fact that my 5 months in China was going down to 4 and eventually only 3. Sure, any length of time in China would be an experience of a lifetime, but I was putting my entire life here on hold and it was unhealthy.
I was afraid to build friendships and relationships in my hometown. I was afraid to go back to my college town and hang out with my friends because I knew I would be leaving them soon. It felt pointless to get a part-time job when I had no clue how long I’d be available to work there. Everything was in limbo, and while I was doing my best to trust God’s plan for the situation, I was emotionally overloaded and highly stressed. That’s when it occurred to me that God’s plans for this trip perhaps changed. I can’t explain it, but I felt and still feel like I need to stay here for now.
It was terribly difficult to decide not to pursue a dream that I had been planning for so long, but after the decision was made I felt relieved. Life is not always about making the right or wrong choices; it’s about making wise choices that you can live with. That’s exactly what I elected to do in this situation. Would I still like to be going to China? Sure! But do I regret the decision I made not to go? No, I don’t. Later down the road if I find myself saying, “Man, I wish I had gone to China,” then hopefully I will be in a position to plan a trip at that time.
And that’s how I feel about that.
P.S. I know this blog started as a way to document my path to China and my journey while I was there, but obviously that has changed. I definitely plan on updating the blog regularly with info about my life, relationships, and graduate school. However, I’m still trying to figure out a clear direction and plan for the blog, so bear with me while I work to bring the best to the table here.
For those of you who don’t know, I’m preparing to go to Beijing, China in February and stay through July. It’s becoming more real to me, as I had a ton of paperwork to gather and email today. It’s kinda funny how reality sets in only once the stress rears its ugly head. Yes, paperwork is kinda stressful for me, especially when I don’t have the forms to fill out in the first place.
Anyway, what I really wanted to address about China is that, on more than one occasion people have asked me what I’m running from or why I’m running away. Usually it’s people who know what my struggle with depression has been like. I’ve heard things like, “You can run, but you can’t run from yourself,” or “Don’t you think the depression will follow you to China?” And yes, I have heard statements like this from adults, professionals, doctors. Maybe you’re reading this now and you totally agree with them. You’re thinking, “Yeah Jess, why are you running?” Thanks for your concern, and here’s why…
Here’s the truth: I’m not running. Yes, I am leaving school, my family, and my friends. I am taking a small hiatus from my life here. But why does that mean that I’m running? Just because I’ve been suffering with depression doesn’t mean that I make all of my life choices based on that. While depression may affect aspects of my life, it doesn’t control my life, and it’s not who I am; it does not define me as a person. I know that people care, and I really do appreciate that; please don’t think that I’m just complaining.
But the truth of the matter is that I’m going to China because I believe it will help with the depression. I believe that it will provide me with the opportunity to be the person that I really want to be. For the past three and a half years that I’ve spent at Mercer, I have made some wonderful memories and I have enjoyed learning new things. However, my heart wasn’t always in it. I had to constantly remind myself to be present and minister where I was in this time of my life. Yet, I’ve always looked forward to things like travel, service, having a family, etc. I MADE IT! I’m here on the precipice of something big, and NO I’m not running away. I’m finally running towards something that I will hopefully be doing for the rest of my life: travel & service. I’m not running away from myself, rather I am embarking on a journey to find myself. Yes, I get nervous at times, and I do realize that I will still have to manage the depression, but for the most part I am excited and eager. Those are feelings that I haven’t felt this intensely in a while. I mean this is CHINA.
So, why am I running? I’m running to explore China, to discover new things about myself, to meet new people, to serve others, and to go on the journey of a lifetime! How can you not be on board with something like that? It’s all about the journey and running down a new path, and I can’t wait. Stay tuned, because I think it’s going to be tremendous!