Tuesday, March 26, 2013

So loved, and so in love.

Hello, Loves!  Words cannot describe how wonderful the past few weeks of engagement have been.
 My heart  melts at how much love I have felt from God, and from my dear fiance.

The first week or so was an overwhelming stir of questions, ideas, planning suggestions and just an overall outpouring of congrats from beloved family and friends.  

While that was indeed a wonderful and precious time, I am so thankful for the season God has Jon and I experiencing now, a season so incredible and beyond anything I could have imagined or hoped for, one of new depth, hope and excitement.

In this time, I can so strongly feel God preparing our hearts, souls & minds for marriage.  This is a concept that is quite surprising and new to me because I've always viewed engagement as a means of preparing in terms of the world mostly (wedding ceremony, reception, food, future housing plan, etc) while already being prepared for life with my fiance, already having given him my heart.  As I feel Jon and I are in fact ready for marriage and could be married today and successfully serve one another and Christ, this time of our engagement is proving to be something way beyond table decor and caterer selection.

Although God is allowing us to savor each others company almost every weekend, He is being so much more gracious than that.  As we cherish the support of all family and friends, the outpouring of Christ's love in our engagement is currently blowing our minds and our hearts.  It's as if He is showering us with His blessings in this time of preparing to become one, as though He is already at work in each of us, faithfully sewing us together as His one in this period, so that on our wedding day we are there, complete as one, His new creation.

While I cannot wait to be married to Jon, this time of engagement is one that I will always cherish and reflect upon.  I feel as if God, knowing our hearts and our strong desire to be married, is walking hand-in-hand with us, calming our hearts, leading us, and just beginning to reveal to us the great plans He has in store for us to know Him and to know one another.

so excited, so blessed & so loved,

ps-  We're getting married at Maymont Park, where we had our first date. :)
First Date. September 29, 2012
Engaged & Wedding Planning. March 15, 2013.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

We're getting MARRIED! :D

Well guys, I'm sure glad I had the opportunity to introduce you to my boyfriend, Jon because now I have a fiance, Jon. :D  He proposed last Sunday morning, March 10th on Myrtle Beach at sunrise, and it was perfect.

We had gone down to stay the night with some awesome friends of his who were vacationing.  Just being around these sweet believers made for a delightful weekend.  Little did I know, God & Mr. Jon were about to blow my mind...which, come to think of it happens quite regularly, and I am by no means ever opposed.

The previous weekend we had intended on seeing the sunrise in Wilmington, which due to scheduling, did not happen.  Therefore, when Jon indicated that we should see the sun rise the next morning at Myrtle Beach I was all in...until I realized the next morning that I was cold and tired.  However, Jon being the motivator that he is, got my cold, tired, grumpy self out on the beach.  The plan was to sit, watch the sun rise, read our bibles and bask in the vibrant rays of God's love.

First, we strolled along the beach for a while.  I love strolling on the beach with my Jon, and it was a beautiful morning to do so.  We laughed, talked and flirtatiously kicked one another as usual.
Suddenly, Jon picks me up in his arms and sits me in this random chair that seemed have been left out by the water's edge.(*conveniently placed there by Jon's friend, of course...the same friend who was staged to take all of these wonderful photos that we will forever cherish)

  Immediately, Jon drops to one knee and all of a sudden his previous slight sketchiness makes sense to me.:)  Initially, it's somewhat a blur...a moment that I couldn't quite believe was actually happening to me.  However, as I looked on at my prince and heard the sweet words he had prepared for me, God was working hard in my heart to impress that this was in fact His beautiful reality for us.

After washing my feet in the ocean, and right before asking me to be his wife, Jon read to me Ephesians 5:25-33.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Our hearts cannot wait to serve God as one, and to experience all of the joyful lessons marriage is sure to teach us.  We both leap for joy at this blessing! 

It has been quite clear to us for a while that God has great plans for us as a couple.  We have rejoiced in being able to follow Christ together, drawing closer to Him, and closer to one another.  

Words cannot describe the love I feel from my Father as I make plans to spend the rest of my life here with this truly amazing, strong and loving man.  

Just as this proposal went beyond anything I could have ever dreamed of, Jon far surpasses my lifelong dreams of who I imagined my husband would be.  To me, this clearly demonstrates that God has the ability to give to us things far past our grandest imaginations if we simply choose to trust and follow Him.

so happily engaged,

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Birthday Weekend Amazing-ness with the BF

So my birthday was this past Friday, March 1st, and was simply too wonderful not to blog about.  :)
I must admit that I am one of those girls guilty of carrying on a week-long celebration in honor of my day of birth...mostly so I don't feel guilty for a week-long session of stuffing my face with every cake and chocolate that makes its way into my path.
Therefore, my "birthday" actually ran from Thursday to about Saturday.

After work Thursday, I ventured out to my parents' house to have my favorite dinner (spaghetti mmm) and cupcakes with them.  We were also joined by my cousin Melissa, who happens to be one of my closest friends.  We ate, laughed, talked and consumed countless cups of joe (another love of mine).   Although we didn't actually do anything all too exciting, I try to drink in every second with family, remembering each moment I share with them is a gift I won't always be guaranteed.

Friday, my boss took me out to lunch along with several others in my office.  I always enjoy their company.  So precious, these people, and so funny.  We often laugh until we cry.  I work in an extremely small town, so naturally the restaurant we went to was a locally owned sweet little mom and pop type place with amazing food.  I had soup and salad, followed by a gigantic slice of cake.
Speaking of cake, my amazing boyfriend had my favorite cake from my favorite sweet shop delivered to my work.  How sweet is he?  Pretty darn sweet.

Meet Dulce de leche from Petite Sweets.  An amazing sweet shop that uses only all natural ingredients.  It will rock your world.

After work I ventured the 4 hours to see my #1 Sweet.  :)  We had an amazing dinner with friends, marveled over how Christ was working in our lives as we shared stories of our weeks, and of course, ate cake.

Saturday, Jon took me to Wilmington!  I love the beach.  You guys know this by now.  On my birthday, or on any other day really, I simply want to be on a beach more than I would want any other present.  I was telling Jon that I think my favorite thing about the beach is that God made it.  To me, it is one of His most beautiful creations, a place where I can marvel in His beauty, a place where my soul sings.

We had about a 2 hour car ride. I love car rides with Jon.  <3 
He uses this opportunity to have really serious or intense conversations with me because I am literally locked inside a moving vehicle.
I pretend not to like this, but secretly it's one of my favorite things about him...a man who truly cares to know the deepest thoughts of my mind and heart, a treasure.

First, we had lunch on the River Walk in downtown Wilmington which is absolutely charming.
We ate at Le Catalan French CafĂ© & Wine Bar.  Super cute and cozy bistro style place right on the water.

After lunch, we explored through some shops on the waterfront where Jon bought me a beautiful scarf for my birthday. I love scarves. and Jon. :)
Then we made a stop at Food Lion for beach supplies, gathering snacks and wine.  
After this, we were ready to head out to Wrightsville Beach!  It was absolutely beautiful! 
 We straight chowed down on some chips & dip, drank sweet wine, read and bundled up for an awesome nap as the waves crashed against the shore.  A perfect day.  A perfect birthday with my Love, in the place I love, feeling so loved by God for the gift of this man, this place and this day.

 Upon waking up from our nap, we were freezing as the sun had disappeared and the wind had picked up.
Jon undoubtedly had the best solution: coffee.He is a very clever leader.  So we headed on over to Port City Java for some joe and to discuss plans for the evening. 
 The sweet baristas there gave several good suggestions for dinner, so we took their advice and headed back to the oceanside for Tower 7, an amazing Baja Mexican Grill.  We thoroughly enjoyed the food and the atmosphere was excellent.  Loved it.

The ride home was amazing, just as every car ride is with my Jon.
Especially in the evenings. There's something so sweet about feeling so safe and comfortable there next to him in the dark car, seat warmer on after a chilly day.  As I often become sleepy and silly, he stays alert to get me home.  This is a precious time when we dream together; dream of our futures, our homes, our careers, our family.  It is also a time of learning; of hearing from our sweet Spirit, and a time of prayer; praying that He may lead it all.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Jon: My Godly Man, My Blessing

Since beginning this blog adventure I have debated on when I would introduce my romantic life to the picture.  I recognize that the sweet love stories add so much, and help to get to know the writer on a deeper level.  I have been hesitant because although I am currently writing an amazing love story with a wonderful man (rather, Christ has written and is currently unveiling it to us), I want the greatest love story of my life to remain known to be my love story with my Heavenly Father.

One of the greatest struggles of my life has been the desire to find the "perfect guy", "my other half", someone who "completes me".  I had a set mentality that if I just found "him" everything else would magically be perfect and fall into place.  Can you blame me? Society teaches it. While I knew and had a relationship with Christ, there is no doubt in my mind that sadly I was putting more value in seeking my "perfect man".  I wandered off the path God had for me, even knowing it at times and asking Him to join me where I would venture.  I will tell you--God will go anywhere with you. He will never stop pursuing you.  And boy, did He go everywhere with me; often comforting me as I had made the sad attempt to lead us somewhere that was not in His plan for me.

The relationships that left  me with a broken heart were not necessarily all bad.  However, what made them all bad was my desire, need and intention to seek total fulfillment and comfort in those relationships.  Lesson #1:  No relationship with any other being on this planet will provide you with fulfillment or completeness.  That fill comes from Christ, and Christ alone.   Lesson #2:  The man to spend a lifetime with is one who loves Jesus more than anything else.  I learned these lessons probably more painfully than God would have had me learn them, but He did tell me time and time again to follow Him. I simply continued to conform to patterns of this world in many ways.  This ultimately required me to be broken before God in order to really hear and see my need for Him and Him alone--Christ; my love, my life, my everything.  Praise Him for His unconditional and unfailing love.

I learned through Him to be thankful for the trials and for the heartache, but most importantly, I found my "perfect guy". It was Him.  It has always been Him, and will always be Him.

God loves me so much.  Aside from never leaving my side and seeing me through the greatest and darkest times of my life, He has blessed me with a true prince.



Everyone, meet Jon.

Isn't he so handsome?! His heart is even more handsome. 
I just love him.:)

Our "Love Story"

About 6 months ago, I definitely was not in a place in my life where I was looking for a relationship.  I was in the "brokenness" stage of the journey I previously described, clinging to Christ with everything I had, but feeling as though I had so little to offer.

My brokenness consisted of me feeling as though I had nothing good to bring to a relationship, fear of being crushed further, not trusting, feeling undeserving and so far from beautiful.

I had no idea what to do or how to handle anything really.  The only thing I knew for certain was that I needed Christ.  Well, as He would have it, He had plans to show me His love in ways that I had never experienced.
I knew I was lost in a lot of ways, but I had faith that Christ had a man on this earth for me.  I was already praying for his well-being. I just didn't expect God to be so quick about it.  He was quite pushy actually. Jon literally walked into my office.  He found me.  He was super sweet, but out of my brokenness I did not trust anything about our meeting really.  In fact, I pretty much had a wall up during all of our interaction.  Thankfully, my boss (who is a second father to me), saw the good in this young man.  Still very hesitant, I decided to give him my number after rejecting the first opportunity to do so.  Silly me!

Jon actually lives about 4 hours away from me, but while he was in the area upon our meeting we were fortunate to get a bit of time together one afternoon for a walk.  Up until this point I had thoroughly questioned his intentions.  It did not take long at all to see and to feel this man's love for Christ.  He was so open, honest and sincere that in a lot of ways I was left speechless.  I remember I cried and prayed the entire drive home that day because this man was everything I had hoped for, everything that God had whispered in promises to me if I would only surrender my search to Him.

Now that I had found him (or he had found me, actually), I felt at a place of being so incapable of loving or accepting love from another. However, if God truly wants you to love someone, you will regardless of how capable you think you are.  Jon and I joke now by saying that "I had no choice, really".  The funny thing is, I don't think I did.  God had it for me to fall in love with this man.

However, it did take time, and would never have been possible without Christ.  Claire of the past would have jumped to fall helplessly in love with hopes of finding complete happiness and contentment in this wonderful man.  However, Broken Claire was all too familiar with the outcome promised by God if I dared to take that route once more.  Also, the Lord was changing my heart.  I desperately needed to love Him and to feel His love.  He had undoubtedly laid this on my heart with promises of true life in doing so.  I needed to be romanced by Him before I could be romanced by Dear Jon.  Parts of me believed that since he had the love of Christ in his heart I could have something with him.  I wanted that.  However, in our first weeks as I saw and felt love like I had never felt before, I still felt my sweet Father asking my undivided attention.

Here I was, slowing trying to mend, spending precious time with Prince Charming, but being asked by God to let that go for the time being.  There was something so strange in how I was feeling. As much as I hated to give up one second with Jon, I felt God's promise to come through for the both of us.  I'm not sure what this looked like yet, and it was quite scary because I did not want to lose this treasure of a soul.

In all of our interaction, Jon was so true to Christ.  Fearful of losing him in taking time apart, I knew he would be nothing but supportive in an effort to serve, understand and grow more in his Father.  A beautiful servant of Christ, he is.  I am so thankful.  He was more than understanding as we took time away from one another to focus on God.  This may sound sad, but don't be.  This is an extremely marvelous and happy story.  Words cannot describe it, but I felt a sense of comfort, peace, calm in our hearts during this time, a comfort that only comes from Christ; and a hope, a hope from which my heart was learning so much.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.--Hebrews 6:19

During this time, Christ spoke to us in incredible ways, revealing the same bible verses to us, embracing us, teaching us and loving us as His children.  For me, He let His love, forgiveness and grace overflow my heart, my soul and every fiber of my being.  In Him I was truly reminded of the unconditional love He has for me, the love He gives for us to show the world.  He assured me of my beauty and worthiness, and illustrated to me what is was to trust in Him, so that I might once again trust in others.  He restored me.

He restores my soul. --Psalm 23:3

Christ had been clear to me in communicating that He had work to do in my heart before I could give any of it to this sweet young man He had placed in my path.  Praise Him that I wholeheartedly listened for a change!  Turns out, He wanted time alone with Jon as well.  This time apart couldn't have been more perfect actually.  In fact, looking back on it, I don't really see it as time apart because Christ was connecting us in so many ways, something I pray He does until the day He calls me home.

This time "apart" lasted only a few short weeks.  Since then, we have moved forward in Christ together.  Jon is truly a blessing.  He is everything my Father had whispered in promises to me as this world so diligently strived to convince me it didn't exist.   Nice try, world.  Don't kid yourself. God will always prevail.  And praise Him for it.

From the day he walked into my life, I have felt a love from Jon that is so different from anything I have ever felt in a relationship.  It is quite clear to me that the reasoning for this is that the love he shows me is not of this world or even of himself, but instead the love of Christ flowing from his heart.  This is so evident.  If we do not seek this love from God to give to one another, we are doomed, for God is in fact love. This love causes me to blossom like the woman God created me to be, to really live, to spread that  life, love and the beauty of our Creator. He is so good, and I am so grateful.

loving with His love,

Memory Verse 10: Lamentations 3:22-24

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.” --Lamentations 3:22-24

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Memory Verse 9: Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. --Romans 15:13

DC: a place in which to delight

Last week I attended a work conference in DC.  It was super awesome!  The thing that surprised me most about the conference was the encouraging attitude for the GIS community to join together and to share experience and data.  This was shocking to me because my experience in the work world has sadly been more of a dog eat dog mentality with everyone looking out for themselves as far as accomplishments go in the workplace.  This, however, was refreshing. :)

I was blessed to have a mile-long walk to the conference from my hotel each morning, catching glimpses of the Washington Monument through busy streets as I passed by. Ahh, love.  I love to walk, and currently drive 50 minutes to work each morning, so the walking to work thing was delightful.  I wish I could do it for the rest of my life.  The thing I found most interesting was the fact that people really make an effort to avoid eye contact on the sidewalk.  This earned me some extremely interesting looks as I made an effort to say "good morning" or "good afternoon" in an attempt to share my delight with others.

I really feel like God wants us to delight; to delight in walks, to delight in work, to delight in strangers, sunshine, and even afternoon showers.  DC in all of its splendor of history, culture, parks, restaurants and monuments should undoubtedly be a place in which to delight in life.

This led me to question, "why aren't people delighting here?".  I feel as though DC, just like the rest of the world, could use more Jesus.  Without Him, we shift to an extremely individualistic society, always looking out for ourselves.  Knowing Jesus, I find it completely impossible not to delight in Him.  Delighting in Him causes me to long to spread that delight.  It also causes me to delight in this journey and in everything with which my Father has truly blessed me.  He wishes to see that in us. I know it.  My prayer is that the delight in this life only causes more of a delight in Him.


Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.--Psalm 37:4

Monday, March 4, 2013

Cinnamon Coffee Cake Muffins

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil 
  • Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • In another bowl beat the egg, milk and oil; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.
  • Spoon 1 Tbs. of batter into paper-lined muffin cups.
  • Top each with 1 teaspoon cinnamon mixture and 2 more tablespoons of batter.
  • Sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon mixture.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.

John 14-16

Chapter 14:12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 

Jesus is awesome.  These verses deeply touch my heart, and fill me with so much hope for life.  Sometimes we can find ourselves extremely discouraged in our ability to do great things here on earth.  Jesus sets us up to do great things in His name.  The crazy thing is that He even says we will be able to do greater things than those He did while on earth because He must return to the Father.  Doesn't this just empower you?!  Come on guys! Jesus wants us to ask and to do great things in His name.  What are we waiting for?! Let's go! Ask & Do! As if the gift of Himself isn't enough, Jesus also promises that the Father will provide us with the Spirit to live in us and be with us always.

Chapter 15:18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

Lately I have really been challenged by thoughts, opinions and trends of this world, in non-believers, but also in believers who are still conforming to the patterns.  Just before Jesus is arrested He reminds us that the world will hate us just as it hated Him.  This is sometimes difficult to swallow, but at the same time restores so much hope in my heart.  It definitely helps me to understand and be at peace with the fact that others may not always see the explanation for choices I make in how I lead my life.  Heck, they may even make fun of me or hate me, but that's okay because the world hated Jesus too.  It is comforting to be reminded that the world does not love me as its own, because the reality is that Jesus has chosen me out of this world 

I love Him<3

Chapter 16:12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

The gift of the Spirit is to me one of the greatest ways God shows His love for us.  He could have chosen to simply watch over us.  However, He blesses us with the Spirit so that He may be with us and in us always.  Oh, how He loves us. :) He desires to walk with us each step of the way.  I cannot think of a better or more thorough way to feel love than for someone to desire to guide us and experience everything with us.

He is beautiful. 

Hallelujah: Tenth Avenue North

Memory Verse 8: Acts 15: 8-9

God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. --Acts 15: 8-9

Memory Verse 7: 1 John 3:1

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. --1 John 3:1