Category: Berry friends

The countdown begins

Frenzied.  That’s the best way to describe the 3 or so weeks leading up to my wedding.  Not really in a bad way…there was simply tons going on, and although I enjoyed most all of it, I also found keeping up with it quite exhausting.  I definitely can’t complain of being bored, though! 🙂

I got to spend most of those 3 weeks with my good friend Caro.  You may remember her from my Peruvian exploits last year – she was a fabulous travel companion then and has become a very dear friend since.  Anyway, she was in my bridal party, but wanted to come for more than just a weekend – gotta get your money’s worth out of a plane ticket from France!  Our first stop was somewhere near and dear to both of us – Berry College.  That’s where we met, and it utterly stole both of our hearts, so it was only natural that we would spend a few days back there.  Once there, we did very little together – we had different friends to catch up with and different priorities for our visit.  Caro flitted around all over town catching up with people; I spent most of the 3 days we were there to myself, resting and relaxing and preparing myself mentally for the next few weeks.  I did go to my old church for the Sunday service, and managed to have dinner with some dear old friends one night, which was really lovely.  But other than that, I simply basked in the beauty and peace of my alma mater.  It was a very much-needed mini retreat for me.

From Berry, we drove further north to Tennessee.  For as long as I’ve known her, Caro’s been obsessed with country music, and has always wanted to visit the heart of country music – Nashville.  So we drove up there and spent a few days exploring the world of country music – taking a tour at the Grand Ole Opry, walking down the historic Broadway Street, going country dancing at the famous Wildhorse Saloon, and watching a show at the Bluebird Cafe, a place for up-and-coming musicians that was made famous by the hit TV show “Nashville” (of which Caro is a huge fan).  Reserved tickets at the Bluebird cafe were sold out, so we got there 2 hours before the doors opened in order to get one of the 20 or so additional open seats.  The show was very good, but even if it wasn’t, just seeing her excitement made the trip worth it for me! 🙂

As the days in Nashville passed, however, Caro’s excitement level grew, while mine dissipated.  The nerves and to-do list of my upcoming wedding – at this point just a week away – were starting to get to me, and I was turning into a quite distracted and not very good travel companion.  It had been fun, but I knew that I needed to get home.  She, on the other hand, wanted to stay a day later than originally planned so she could go to a show at the Opry and see more of the city  So, I let her have my car, and I took a bus from Nashville back to Atlanta.  It worked out well – Caro was able to do more in Nashville, and I was able to surprise Michael at work and have dinner with him that evening.  Plus I got to have a few days to myself before the wedding week craziness ensued, the value of which cannot be overstated.

Speaking of wedding week craziness…while up until this point, I was only hosting Caro on and off while she was in town, starting the weekend before my wedding my house turned into a regular hotel.  It started with my dad, sister, and brother Josh coming up on Saturday.  They wanted to have a little time with me to themselves, since they knew they wouldn’t get that the following weekend.  We were able to go to a little community arts and crafts festival together, which was nice.  We all had a lot of fun, and I really appreciated them making the effort to come up and actually spend some quality time with me.

The next day, dad and Josh went home, but Hope stayed with me.  We got to spend a few days together, and she was a lot of help wrapping up last-minute details and keeping me company.  I enjoyed that time with her immensely.  By the time the bulk of the guests started arriving, I had very little in the way of wedding details to still take care of.  That was wonderful, because it allowed me to focus on spending time with the out-of-towners that I hadn’t seen in a while.  I decided a long time ago that that was what I wanted my focus to be during my wedding – not obsessing over all of the little details that no one was going to remember, but spending time with and focusing on people that I love and how much they mean to me.  I went to the airport 3 times in 3 days – to pick up my grandfather, and also my dear friends Sarah and Rachel.  It wasn’t a lot of time we spent together, but it was something, and I treasure the one-on-one moments I had with them.  I also got to have breakfast with my Aunt Cathi the Saturday before the wedding, which was a REAL treat!  She lives in Arizona and we rarely see each other, and I’m not sure we’ve actually ever had one-on-one time like that before.  It was lovely to take a step back and just be there in the moment with her for a few hours.

Of course, in talking about the last few days before my wedding I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful bachelorette party that my mom threw for me.  Most brides would hesitate at the idea of even letting their mom come to their bachelorette party, let alone having her plan it.  But it was an easy decision for me.  My mom is undoubtedly my best friend, and although she drives me crazy sometimes, I never doubt that’s she’s my biggest fan and always in my corner.  I found out later that she was really nervous about planning it, worrying that I wouldn’t like it, but I think it was superb.  It had a perfect mix of tasty food, fun (and somewhat embarrassing!) games, pretty decorations, great company, and godly wisdom and encouragement.  My favorite part was when all of the attendees surrounded me and prayed for me.  It was a good reminder that wedding preparations may be fun, they may be stressful, but really at the end of the day what matters is marriage preparations, and learning how to daily give up your life to serve God and your spouse.  I’ve sure got a long way to go learning that!

It is often said that the bachelorette party and last few weeks before the wedding are a person’s last hurrah.  In some ways, I suppose that’s been true for me, as well.  I got to travel some with just me and a girlfriend, something I probably won’t do very often now that I’m married.  I really enjoyed being able to celebrate my last few days of singleness with dear friends and family.  But I don’t feel like this is the end of the story.  The days until the wedding have been steadily marching down, true…but I hope and pray and truly believe that this isn’t the end of my adventures, but rather the beginning.  The beginning of many adventures that I don’t have to experience alone, but rather I get to share them with my best friend.  Now if only my poor nerves would go along with that and calm down! 🙂

4th of July camping trip and visit to Berry

During my time in Atlanta, I have been blessed with some truly extraordinary friends.  Not only do we love each other dearly and care about what goes on in our lives, but we also like each other.  We spend lots of time together, just because we want to.  One of my favorite examples of this was this past 4th of July.  A big group of my small group members went camping in Cloudland Canyon for the holiday weekend.  Despite having a very inauspicious beginning – one of the cars broke down in the middle of nowhere, and a few people had to go back and get those passengers, and then drive up to Chattanooga at the end of the weekend to get a rental car to get everyone home again – it was an amazing weekend.  In fact, the car breaking down almost made it better – it was really awesome seeing how positive and upbeat everyone stayed…they just pulled together and did what needed to be done, and had a great time doing it!  Plus it gave us a great story later on… 🙂

Aside from our little vehicular misadventure, we did plenty of other more traditional activities – went hiking, made bonfires, found a fun little playground to reconnect with our inner children, played card games, and found a lovely little waterfall to hang out around for a bit (Elizabeth and Caleb even went swimming in it!  Crazy kids…).  It was such a nice, relaxing weekend; I was so grateful to be able to spend it with people that I cared about so much.

(continue reading past the pictures below for the rest of the story)

As a bonus, we even got to stop by Berry on our way home!  Caleb and several others in the group had always wanted to go to Berry but never had, and of course I will NEVER argue about a trip to Berry; since it only meant about an extra 30 minutes of drive time, we decided to make the detour and go visit the place where I have some of the best memories of my entire life.

I got to play tour guide for the people in my car – I was a very enthusiastic guide.  I felt a little bad for the guys in the other car, who were missing all of the stories.  Of course, my story-telling may have gotten a little too enthusiastic at times…perhaps I should have been feeling bad for the people in MY car, lol…

But anyway, we had enough time to visit all of my old haunts – my old dorms and the lovely mountain campus and the famous Frost chapel and the beautiful Old Mill and the original one-room schoolhouse that Martha Berry founded before Berry was even a glimmer in the future. We tried to go to the Martha Berry museum, since most of the people in the group had never been there before, but it was already closed :(.  But it was still a wonderful visit.  I always love going back to Berry, but going back with people who’ve never seen that part of my life before, but are eager to learn about it and hear my stories, just made the visit all the more sweeter.  It really was one of the best weekends of my year.  And to think I almost stayed home and missed it!  Many thanks go out to my friend (and now roommate) Amy for convincing me to go!

The Amazing Race: Oregon edition

Every now and then, you meet someone with whom you immediately click.  Someone with whom you can share everything with, and no matter how many miles or months may separate you, as soon as you see them again you can immediately pick things back up where they were left off.  Many people only have one or two friends like this in a lifetime.  But I’ve been blessed with several; although they’re scattered all over the world, I’ve no doubt that they will be in my life for a very long time.What’s more, I actually got to see one of them last week!  Rachel, one of my roommates in college, had the nerve to get married and go off to Oregon to go to optometry school.  But I suppose I can’t get upset, since I left her for Korea, haha.  It had been a while since I saw her, and I was blessed with a fantastic deal on the flight, so after I finished up my finals, I headed out west to pay a visit.

I must admit…I don’t think I could ever live in Oregon (**knock on wood**).  The fog and creeping chill is something that I’m not used to, and I imagine would have a very hard time acclimating myself to.  But nasty weather is easily overlooked for a few days, especially when you’re with such lovely people! 🙂

Rachel still had to take a final the first day that I arrived, so Ryan and Seth (an old friend of theirs and also their housemate) took it upon themselves to entertain me while she was taking her test.  We went to a Sherlock Holmes exhibit at a hands-on science museum in Portland.  It was really excellently done.  They had some artifacts from the time period on display, as well as a lot of biographical information about the author, Arthur Conan Doyle (did you know that he was an army medic?  The character of Watson is modeled after himself).  There was even a recreation of Sherlock’s living room!  But after that, it got even cooler.  They had recreated a “crime scene” in the exhibit hall.  We had to go through the clues and compare the evidence to the official police theory, and see if they were right or not.  Eventually we cracked the case!  The police had it all wrong :).  It really was a fantastically done exhibit…I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The next day, Ryan and Rachel and I went on a walking tour of Portland.  There’s an app called Stray Boots Tours that you can get that sends you on a scavenger hunt around the city, so we bought it and followed the clues.  I felt like I was on the Amazing Race – actually with both the Sherlock Holmes exhibition and the Stray Boots tour, but particularly the walking tour.  I had to remind myself several times that there was no need to rush, we were not going to be eliminated if we came in last.  In fact, between the clues, scavenger hunts, and trying lots of new things – from homemade beer to lockpicking driving super fast cars to videogames – the entire weekend felt somewhat like a tamer version of the Amazing Race, haha :).  They were definitely my kinds of activities, though!

One of the first stops on the Stray Boots tour was a vintage record store
Another clue took us to Powell’s, the largest new and used independent book store in the world.  We spent quite a bit of time there…. 🙂
The rare books section.  I thought I found the most expensive book.  I found out later that apparently there’s a book there that costs around $200,000!
Check out the Christmas Tree – it’s made from beer bottles.  Rather fitting for a famous pub, I’d say 🙂
A map of tea across the world in a cute little tea shop

The rest of the week was marked by board games, an introduction to the video game Portal (every level is basically solving a series of puzzles; I’m not a video gamer, but that one was pretty darn fun), seeing Rachel’s campus and meeting her friends, and oh yeah…a Tesla test drive.  Teslas, for those who may not know, are premium fully electric vehicles (they start around $70,000 and go up from there).  And they are gorgeous.  Ryan arranged for Rachel and I to have a test drive while I was there.  Oh my word.  It was like a dream.  I’ve never really had car envy, always been perfectly happy with my beat up little Subaru; but I must admit, car envy may have reared its ugly head during that test drive :).

It goes without saying that the week flew by all too quickly.  I’m so grateful to have been able to go, and I missed them even before I boarded the plane back to Atlanta.  No time to mourn their absence, though…it’s time to get geared up for Christmas!  Only 3 more days!!

Ryan really liked the Tesla shirt that Rachel got him for Christmas 🙂
Rachel’s campus – doesn’t it look eerie with all the fog and devoid of students??

Memories of the silver and the blue

A few weeks ago, for the first time since graduation, I was able to go back to my beautiful alma mater for a visit.  And it wasn’t just any old weekend….it was Mountain Day!!  Between being abroad and being in friends’ weddings all over the country, it had been 4 years since I had been to a Mountain Day.  I cannot begin to express to you my excitement.  I woke up that Friday morning with Berry’s alma mater stuck in my head, and I couldn’t get rid of it until well after I had returned to Atlanta the next day.  (On a side note, the alma mater is where the title of this blog came from – the first line says, “far up in the hills of Georgia stands old Berry tried and true, the shrine of many a memory of the silver and the blue” [our school colors]).

Berry College – Gate of Opportunity.  Such great opportunities!!

But what, you ask me, is so exciting about Mountain Day?  Well, I’d like to tell you.  And I promise that I will do my best.  But at the end of the day, I think that I will fail – Mountain Day (and really, Berry College as a whole) is something that cannot be described, just experienced.  But I’m going to give it a try, anyway…here goes nothing!

Mountain Day weekend is always started off by the Mountain Day Olympics, a huge field day in which dorms, commuters, and even faculty and staff compete against each other to earn the coveted title of olympic champion.  Every dorm dresses up in a different theme, and the games include serious events such as egg tosses, human pyramids, and tug-of-wars :).  I left Atlanta after classes, and got to Berry right after the olympics had started.  Surprisingly, I was joined by my friend Amy.  I had asked her if she wanted to go with me a week before, but she didn’t think she could; then, an hour before I was going to leave, she changed her mind.  Yay for spontaneity! 😀

Pilgrim guys dorm – I think their theme was mountain men 🙂
The faculty/staff team – their theme was 80’s workout
The Berry College vikettes did a performance at the end of the olympics  

In fact, the whole weekend was an exercise in spontaneity.  When we left Atlanta, we had no idea where we were going to stay that night.  I had put some feelers out among my friends who still lived in town, but nothing had materialized yet.  The hours ticked by that afternoon – 3:00, 4:00, 5:00, 6:00 – as I made the rounds around town visiting my old friends and haunts.  We still had no idea where we were going to sleep that night.  Worst case scenario, we figured, we would just sleep under the stars.  (On a side note, I’m really glad that ended up not happening; Berry stars are lovely, but Berry nights in mid-October can get pretty chilly.)  Anyway, around 7:30, we were doing some work at Panera, when I ran into one of the 4 current students that I still know.  We started talking, she asked me where I was staying that night, and by the end of the conversation, she had invited us to stay in her adorable little on-campus cabin (it’s actually student housing, just very unlike a traditional dorm).  The house is over a hundred years old…I loved the little architectural quirks in it.

Our little cabin – check out the curved ceiling and the slated door 🙂

That evening, Amy and I went into downtown Rome.  I ran into a ton of alumni that I knew from my time at Berry, plus we got to do a little exploring on our own.  We continued the trend the next day, when I took her around to see the best spots on campus.  It’s hard trying to show 4 years of memories to someone in a day!

The sunset over the river on Friday night
Downtown Rome
Saturday morning sunrise

Of course we would have been remiss if we had missed the Grand March, the crowning event of Mountain Day weekend.  On the surface it’s really just all of the current students walking up and down a big hill several times, while everyone watching cheers them on.  Perhaps it’s just my sentimentality, but it’s really a whole lot more than that to me – and probably most every other Berry student, as well :).

The Grand March – senior girls wear blue, all the rest wear pink; senior boys wear white, all the rest wear blue
Some old classmates that we ran into at the Grand March
Me and our mascot, Victor the Viking

We were going to go to Marthapalooza, the carnival on Saturday evening named after our founder, Martha Berry.  However, eventually we decided that it was time to get back to Atlanta, so we skipped the carnival and came back early.  I hadn’t even left the city limits before I was missing Berry again.  I’m so grateful to have been blessed with 4 wonderful years in that place!!

The Ford dormitories, some of the most iconic buildings on campus 
Frost Chapel – popular for weddings and senior pictures
Possum trot – the original chapel and school buildings 
The Old Mill – this is the first time I had ever seen it operational
The House-of-Dreams – Martha Berry’s private retreat

Church farewell party

I’ve been super busy these days.  The clock keeps counting down, but I try to ignore it, and just enjoy each day as it comes.  New deadlines at school have kept me hopping at work, and the litany of things that must be done to wrap up a year of living in a foreign country have assured that I’m never bored outside of work.

But in between the monotonous and the mundane, there have been some beautiful moments.  My favorite this week was undoubtedly Sunday.  My church threw me a going away party in the evening after church.  A large percentage of my congregation is from the Philippines, so they all got together and made a Filippino feast for us.  There was shrimp, and marinated beef, and flan (yummy!!), and lots of other stuff which I have no idea what it was called, but it was delicious, anyway.

About 20 people came (which, when you only have a church of maybe 35 or 40, is a really high percentage!  Lol…), and we ate together and talked and laughed, and just overall enjoyed each other’s company.  They surprised me with a cake (made me blow the candles out and everything!), and a slide show with pictures and messages saying things like “we’ll miss you, Lauren!” and “We love you!”.  I may have shed a tear or two.  It was beautiful.  I will miss them so much.

Oh, I almost forgot!  After dinner, we all gathered around and watched Courageous, the most recent production of my home church, Sherwood Baptist.  My friend James had sent it to me as part of a care package earlier in the year, and when I suggested that we watch it as a church, everyone agreed.  It was a nice end to the evening.  One of the Korea pastors liked it so much that he asked me how to get a copy.  I gave him mine.  I figured it was the best use of the gift that James had given me :).

My second favorite moment this week happened the next day, on Monday night.  A friend of mine from college, Emily, got a scholarship to come to Korea.  She arrived about a week ago, but has been spending most of her time in Seoul.  Well, this weekend her program came down to Gyeongju, and I actually got to meet up with her.  We went for a walk, and spent about 2 hours catching up.  It was great to see her, and also a good way to mentally start preparing myself for my impending new reality – the one in which I’ll be able to have fluent conversations like that with almost every single person that I meet.  It was a very nice ending to my day.  Thirteen days until touchdown!

Me and Emily <3

Where we ended up on our walk

See the projector screen?  **sniff, sniff**

My church family…. <3

Filippino food = sooooo good

The cake they got me – they made me blow the candles out and everything 🙂

God, friends, and dancing….mmmm :)

I am so blessed. Like, holy cow. This weekend started off fairly humdrum. I was looking forward to a quiet weekend with little activity. That didn’t exactly happen, but it turned out to be much, much better :).

Friday night, I got a call from a friend from college, Nayu, who graduated in the spring of ’09. She is Costa Rican, and moved back after she graduated, and I haven’t seen her since then. She told me she was in Atlanta for a friend’s wedding; she had to leave the next day, but she wanted to see me before she left! So, I caught up with her in the morning on Saturday. I also inadvertently completed my goal of riding MARTA to a random stop and getting off :). I was supposed to meet her at the Lindberg station; after I had gotten there and walked around for a while, I got a call from her saying she was still a good 45 minutes away. So I went back to the apartment and waited for her there, instead. It was a little frustrating, but I got to find a really cool MARTA station and surrounding neighborhood, so it’s all good. I’m going to try to get back there before I leave. So much to do, so little time!!!

Speaking of repeating things, I also made it back to the Martin Luther King Jr. Museum this weekend. Nayu and I met another Costa Rican friend, Oscar, for lunch at Atlantic Station. We also randomly saw a third friend, Wade, who had graduated last December. He was with his family and couldn’t join us for the afternoon, but I did get to catch up with him before we left, which was good. So anyway, me, Nayu, Oscar, and some friends from Ellijay went to the MLK museum after lunch. After sending Nayu on her way to the airport (**sniff, sniff**), the rest of us went back to my apartment for a while. On our way to the car we were intercepted by a homeless man asking for money to eat. I really wanted to take him somewhere and buy him food; I was wary giving him money. If I had had only had one person with me, not 4 people who were all hot and tired, I probably would have. But as it was, I didn’t want to drag all of them with me to buy him food, so I gave him a few dollars and prayed he would buy food and not drugs with it. Oscar said I was “too good”. Maybe I was just a pushover. But either way, I felt great knowing that I had done SOMETHING. I can’t ignore hurt like that like I used to.

So anyway, Oscar had to go home; after he left the rest of us watched Jurassic Park 2. My palms are still sweaty thinking about it. Scary movies I do not watch….for a definite reason. Although most people would not classify Jurassic Park in the “scary movie” category, it falls squarely within that genre for me :).

Next day I went to church, yay :). It was amazing!!!! I had been going to a conservative baptist church, First Baptist Atlanta, with a friend of mine. But she couldn’t make it this morning, so I decided to try out a different church that Chris had recommended to me, Buckhead Community Church. I hadn’t realized how much I had missed contemporary worship and an environment like that until I was in it again. And the people there were sooo friendly. One woman walked me through the entire church to show me where I needed to go. I struck up conversations with several people around me. One guy, Kevin, definitely broke the stereotypes about lawyers; he was far too nice to be a lawyer. I told him so. He laughed. I left thoroughly refreshed, and also thoroughly depressed that I only have 2 Sundays left to go there :(. But that’s definitely where I’ll be going next time… 🙂 After I left, I also got thoroughly lost trying to find I-85. I’ve decided it might be a good idea to look up directions both ways in Atlanta, instead of trying to read my directions backwards. That doesn’t work very well when there is a plethora of 1-way streets included in the directions :).

But I finally found my way (apparently, people are much more willing to help when you’re asking them for directions and not money), and made it back to the apartment. In my wanderings, I also happened to drive past the Lindberg MARTA station, the station I went to yesterday morning when I was waiting for Nayu. I don’t know why, but I found that rather amusing, considering my desire from the day before to go back and explore that station. Anyway, I spent the afternoon researching graduate schools and other post-graduation opportunities. A boring, but necessary job, so I did it because I had to :). As much as I’d love to just stay in school and travel on my breaks forever, I doubt I could make a living doing that. So, it’s off to the real world for me, **sigh**. But hey, if I could find a job in Atlanta or a similar place, maybe the real world wouldn’t be so bad! 😉

But to escape reality for a few hours, I went dancing. There’s a popular song on the radio right now called “Your love is my drug.” It’s not a very good song, I wouldn’t recommend looking it up; but the title makes me think of dancing. Dancing is my drug :). It’s awesome to see how much I’ve progressed in the 4 months that I’ve been learning West Coast Swing. The guys there made me giggle tonight. I wore a bright red dress to the dance; it wasn’t very flashy, just simple cotton material with no ornamentation at all, but apparently it made me stand out. I had 3 requests to dance before I got my dance shoes on, and multiple comments on it throughout the night. **Note to self, don’t wear red if you don’t want to get asked to dance….** 🙂

Unfortunately, the drug trip is over, and it’s back to reality for me. Work begins anew tomorrow. But this will be a good week! I’m excited about it, excited about my future, excited about life! To steal the words of a man I danced with tonight when I asked him how he was doing, I’m amazing but don’t worry, I’ll be better soon! 🙂 Goodnight, sweet world….

P.S. What do y’all think of my new blog theme? 🙂