Monday, April 28, 2014


Who would you say you are? How would you respond if someone said to you: “tell me about yourself."
Mary, tell me about yourself.
I am 28 years old. I’m from Texas. I live in SE Portland. I go to this church and I work at that organization. I drive this kind of car and I live in a little yellow house. I belong to this group and I’m part of that family.
I place so much of my identity in those statements. But I don’t think all of that makes up my identity; I think it tells about my circumstances.
What happens when all of a sudden those circumstances change? What happens especially when those circumstances change for the worse? What happens when you place your identity in your job, and all of a sudden you don’t have that job anymore… or you place your identity in that guy you were dating, and then you break up… or you place your identity in the car you drove, and suddenly the car has to be replaced… or you place your identity in your social group, but life changes and your group disperses.
I wouldn’t say I struggle with my identity. I am confident in the person that I am and my God-given potential. But sometimes I forget my true identity or I have a hard time expressing it.
True identity is found deep inside of you. It isn’t visible on your skin or in the letters that make up your name. Your true identity is always there, deep inside you; it doesn’t change or fade away. Throughout your life, your sense of identity will only grow stronger as you peel back the layers and gain a better understanding of the incredible person you are – the person God is refining you to be.
Oftentimes, your circumstances (good circumstances and even more so bad circumstances) give you a stronger sense of identity. Think of all of the times when you finally made it through life circumstances and came out on the other side saying “I really learned something during that time”… or “I gained a better understanding of who I am”… or “I’m stronger because of that experience."
It’s not possible to stand firm in your circumstances. They will change. But you can stand firm in your identity with confidence in the truth of who you are in the eyes of God.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bonjour, France!

Spain was fun, but our time in France came out as the highlight of the trip.  Our French holiday started in Nimes, which is in Southern French wine country.  Absolutely beautiful!  My cousin Madison (God bless him) connected us a wonderful French couple, Antoine and Georgina, who live in Nimes and they were generous enough to host us for two days at their chateau right outside of Nimes.  These pictures will not do our time with them justice.  We could have stayed there for our whole vacation (or forever).
Domaine de Montroche: turning down this drive to arrive at our chateau for the next two days was breathtaking.

Our chateau - a true French dream!
(notice the two beautiful yellow labs at the door)
The first night we were there, we visited Georgina's mother who lives next door. She had a fire going and served us sweet wine and French pastries. What a welcome!
That night we enjoyed a wonderful, long dinner with Antoine and Georgina. It took no time at all to warm up to each other. Our time with them was rich and meaningful from the minute we met them.
I wanted to soak up every minute of my time there, so I woke up early the next morning to go for a sunrise run. Unbelievably beautiful. And when I walked back in the house, Georgina had set out a delicious breakfast for us with local baguettes, homemade jam and fresh eggs from their chickens.
 They drove us out to the small town of Tarascon where Martha, sister of Mary Magdalene and Lazarus, is buried.  Such deep history in these areas!
We drove out to a quaint coast town by the Mediterranean Sea and walked around and had lunch.
Antoine took us to the facility where his wine is produced and we toured and tasted wine from the barrel!

Wine tasting in an international country is an item on my 30 Before 30 list (30 things I want to do before I turn 30 years old)... checked that one off!
That night, Georgina's friend Elizabeth (from America but has lived in France for the past 10 years) came over for dinner and to talk with us more about French politics and faith in the country.

Our last day there, we relaxed, walked the gardens, played tennis and soaked in our sunny time in Southern France.

our amazing hosts whom we will never forget: Antoine and Georgina

Although Antoine kept telling us to "take pictures with our memories, not our cameras", we convinced him to snap a few photos for us.
And now off to Paris!
We arrived there on Thursday night and had a wonderful dinner near our apartment in the 14th arrondissement.
The next morning, I went on a walking tour (free and with a guide who is a local Parisian) while Nicole and Samantha went to the Louvre (which I went to when I was in Paris with Baylor in 2006). I would highly recommend touring with Discover Walks when traveling in cities where they offer the free tours!
We walked around Paris, found a great lunch spot (Le Pain Quotidien), and enjoyed the amazing architecture that was around every corner. 

We stopped in a small local bookstore (I think this guy out front was also from Portland).
Then admired the beauty of Notre Dame, which I have decided is the most beautiful structure I've ever seen.
This one's for you, Hannah VanD!  (Get it, everybody?)
So many great memories of Baylor in Great Britain and our week in France in 2006.
Friday night, we took a scenic boat tour down the Seine and cruised by all of the famous sights of Paris.

We knew we had to eat some delicious beef bourguignon while in France, and this meal was wonderful!

They even had Bordeaux on tap! Oui, s'il vous plait!
The next morning, we visited the Paris Flea Market. Amazing (even though it was in a sketchy part of town).

We walked around and enjoyed the amazing weather we had.

Just hanging out in Paris, y'all!

Visited the Musee d'Orsee, even if only for an hour because we were so exhausted.
And my one wish for the last night of our trip was to have a picnic dinner under the Eiffel Tower.  It was magical!
So that's our epic trip to Spain and France in a nutshell.  I'm so glad that the three of us were able to get away from the "real world" for a while and just enjoy traveling through Europe and experiencing these cultures.  Au revoir, Europe ("goodbye, for now")!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Viva Espana!

I just returned from an amazing 10-day trip to Spain and France. My two friends, Nicole and Samantha, and I decided a few months ago that we needed a European vacation and we actually made it happen.  This trip was a much-needed getaway for each of us.  I'm so glad that we took the opportunity to escape reality for a bit and enjoyed exploring new countries and cultures.
I don't even know how to begin sharing our experience with you, so I'm going to let the pictures do most of the talking...
(this post will be dedicated to the Spain portion of the trip.  I'll post about France soon!)
departing Portland International Airport: we traveled light, each only bringing a backpack
our street view from our apartment in Madrid: we rented through which I highly recommend

catching up with my friend Elizabeth from Waco who now lives in Madrid

amazing statues and architecture everywhere we looked

Nicole enjoying tapas and wine, like a local

Retiro Park

Retiro Park

Palacio Cristal in Retiro Park
Samantha and I lounged in the Crystal Palace for a while

Flamenco dancing show

packed up and headed for Barcelona
catching the train to Barcelona
endless tapas

we lucked out with some pretty great weather

Fat City Bike Tours: my favorite part of our time in Barcelona

such a fun way to explore the city

Catedral de Barcelona

overlooking the city
I went for a run one morning in search for this free outdoor rock climbing tunnel - so awesome!
we found an amazing Mexican restaurant in Barcelona with legit margs and guac

we met up with some of my cousin Madison's friends from Spain who used to live in Portland

train ride from Barcelona to Nimes
Next post will be all about France, the even more wonderful part of the trip!