Thursday, February 1, 2018

A Love Story

On an overcast day in March 2017, I sat down across from Brooks in a coffee shop for our first date. He alternately stared at the ground and then at his hands while he nervously poured out his heart to me. To my surprise, I was remarkably calm.

I had never planned to date Brooks. He and I had known each other for almost a year before that first coffee shop date. During that time our acquaintance had consisted of seeing each other at church, sometimes saying hi to each other, and mostly avoiding one another. Brooks avoided me because he had a crush on me but was really confused about my relationship status for the longest time. I avoided Brooks because I was in a long distance relationship. And then when that relationship ended, I was making plans to go back to school fulltime and didn’t really want to think about relationships for a while. You know how it goes.

With all of this avoiding one another, how on earth did we start dating? Let me tell you, it was not without a lot of encouragement from our friends and family. My dad was the ultimate wingman. I can still remember the day when he walked up to me after church and said, “Dani, have you met Brooks?” I read the ulterior motives between the lines, feigned indifference, and resumed my aloof avoidance of Brooks.

In spite of our best efforts, Brooks and I ended up going on a date together in January of last year (a whole year ago!). It was a complete accident. Our group of friends were supposed to go see a movie together in the city. Everyone bailed at the last minute. I could not think of a legitimate reason to bail. Neither could Brooks. So we ended up driving to the city together to go to a movie. It was painfully awkward. I talked almost the entire time there and back. Brooks drove way too fast and was pulled over for speeding on the way home. The officer let him off with a warning. 

“I guess you’re my lucky charm,” Brooks said to me before speeding all the rest of the way home. To this day it is a point of disputed ambiguity whether this accidental date was our first real date or not.

Let me be completely honest. When Brooks first asked me out, I was not sure if I wanted to say yes. Not because I had any qualms with Brooks. I really liked him. But I had plans. I was going back to school. I was moving. I was turning over a new leaf. I also knew that if I said yes to Brooks, it would be serious. Like marriage serious. And I didn't know if I was ready for that. Because I had never felt ready for it before. 

But when I sat down across from Brooks in the coffee shop on that crisp March day, I was overwhelmed with peace. All the anxiety leading up to that moment completely dissipated. Brooks shared his heart with me. And it was then that I knew that this man could and would love me better than anyone else I have ever known.

Our relationship in the months following was an unconventional whirlwind. Things moved quickly. Clearly. I never expected them to, but they did. 

Dating Brooks was fantastic. We had a lot of fun together. We went to museums, went to movies, hung out in coffee shops, took our dogs on walks, and explored the great outdoors together. However, we quickly realized that the things we loved doing the most together were simple things like going to the grocery store together, reading together, going to church together, and making dinner together. We loved being a team doing the little things together. Basically, it did not take us long to realize we wanted to get married. This became more and more apparent when I moved to go back to school. Fifty miles is not a long distance but it is distance enough and it was hard for both of us to be further apart.

A lot changed after I moved. The pastor of my church congregation left. The church congregation dissolved. Brooks decided the best thing for him was to move closer to me where we could be part of the same church. That was when we knew we just needed to get married. So we did. We planned a destination wedding in a month’s span of time and got married. It’s crazy to think we managed all of that in a month. The housing. The packing. The moving. But we did. And if I could do it over again, well, I wouldn’t. Because it was perfect. 

We knew our decision would raise a lot of eyebrows. When I called my best friend and told her we were getting married—this was the week after we were officially engaged—she said, “Dani, are you pregnant?” Half joking. Half serious. Obviously I was not pregnant. Brooks and I had simply encountered what marketing experts like to call a “strategic window”. The opportunity was there. We took it.

Brooks and I had always known our wedding would be a small private affair. Neither of us wanted to plan a big wedding. Neither of us wanted a six-month to yearlong (or longer!) engagement. Not that these are bad things by any means. They were simply not what we wanted to do. We wanted to be married. What really sealed the deal for us was the support of our families. Our parents were on board and wholeheartedly supportive from the moment we told them what we had in mind for our wedding. They were more generous and loving than we could have ever wanted or deserved. 

So here we are. Approximately a year later after our accidental movie date. Mr. and Mrs. Carlson.

Photo: Leslie Nichole Photography

Related Blogposts: 
The Lies We Believe About Love
When Your Best Friend Gets Married
What He Must Be 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Essential Oils: The Organic Stress-Reliefs that You Need

The reason why many people find it difficult to handle stress is because it is not a tangible wound that could be easily treated with an ointment or a pain reliever. It happens mostly in the mind and stays right there unless the brain itself, is calmed. Fortunately, essential oils are there to help.

Essential oils are pure and organic plant extracts that come in the form of oil. Since they are organic, they retain all the beneficial properties that are found in their original plant sources. One of these properties is the oils' calming effect to the mind. They are known to relieve stress more effectively than medicines.

How Essential Oils Relieve Stress

Essential oils are mainly used for their fragrance or aroma. Through your nose, their properties are delivered straight to your brain's limbic system. The limbic system is the particular area in the brain that controls emotions. The effect of an essential oil is immediately applied the moment its molecules reach this area.

Essential oils are also considered as adaptogens. Adaptogens are natural herbs, compounds, or substances that help the body "adapt" to a health issue, most especially to stress. They can uplift a person's feeling by regulating circulation and by promoting balance among hormones.

Furthermore, the vibrational frequency found in essential oils are extremely high that they can affect a person's vibrational frequency easily. Electromagnetic vibrational frequency or vibrational frequency (expressed as megahertz or MHz) is a measurement used to describe how quickly a matter's energy vibrates.

Everything has an energy and each energy vibrates differently from others. Humans' energy typically vibrates at 62 to 78 MHz. It is, however, not a stable state. It can go up or down depending on a lot of factor but emotional-wise, positive emotions are said to increase vibrational frequency while negative ones affect it the other way.

The Best Anti-Stress Essential Oils

Essential oils have higher vibrational frequencies than humans. Due to their high frequencies, they can increase humans' energy and can therefore bring in positive effects. And though all of them are adaptogens, there are four essential oils that are considered to have the best anti-stress properties.


Cedarwood is an essential oil that targets the serotonin as its way to relieve stress. Serotonin is the chemical substance in your body that stabilizes your mood. The aroma of cedarwood is an organic sedative which brings a calm feeling to the body.

The best way to use cedarwood is to inhale its aroma directly. You can rub a drop or two onto your palms or on a handkerchief to make inhaling easier. Rubbing the essential oil directly to the upper part of the nape also helps relieve tension.


Lavender's relaxing scent can calm agitation and reduce your body's stress level. Studies about mental health that involved lavenders also claim that it is an excellent mental aid, as it can help clear the mind and increase a person's concentration.

Stress headaches can be easily relieved by rubbing a drop or two of lavender essential oil onto your head's temples. However, if you need to calm your mind or improve your thought process, inhaling lavender's aroma directly is better.

For a stress reliever-moisturizer combo, you can create an essential oil blend by mixing two drops of lemon oil, six drops of coconut oil, and two drops of lavender oil. Apply onto your skin or use it as a massage oil to relax your mind and moisturize your skin at the same time.


The scent of lime is a fresh boost to a person's energy. It can invigorate you without overdoing it. Its citrus aroma works wonders when it comes to relieving stress as well as ridding of negative feelings such as grief, loneliness, and fatigue. This is also the reason lime is considered as a positivity booster.

Diffusing lime all over the room is the best way to utilize a lime essential oil. It does not only provide an anti-stress fragrance, but it also acts as a natural air freshener that kills airborne bacteria.

In case you are not at home, transferring a lime essential oil into a roll-on bottle is a good travel buddy. You can roll a little oil on your wrist when you need to calm your mind quickly or you can simply inhale the scent from the bottle.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil may be tough on bacteria (it fights acne big time), but it is actually gentle to the mind. The aroma of tea tree oil is a popular anxiety relief that is distilled from the wood and leaves of a tea tree plant. Its main solution to stress is calming the nerves and giving the mind a mild cooling effect.

Adding drops of tea tree essential oil to your shower is an instant stress relief. Alternatively, you can pour a little amount of the essential oil in a bath tub filled with hot water and mix it with a quarter cup of Epsom salt. Then feel free to soak yourself in the calming water.

Essential Oils for Instant Stress Relief

The above mentioned essential oils are your best options when it comes to stress relief. You can definitely try other essential oils if you want. To give you a tip, even if you are not travelling too far, it is always best to have a roll-on bottle that contains an essential oil. You never know when stress will attack so it is best to have an instant potion that you can bring with you anytime. Got Oil Supplies is a great place to buy bottles, jars and containers for your essential oil needs.

Guest Post: by Stacy T. Welch from Got Oil Supplies

Friday, January 5, 2018


2017. What a year. What a fantastic. Busy. Heartbreaking. Happy. Beautiful year. I am not sure I have ever lived a year with so many extremes of happy beautiful experiences and sad trying circumstances. Some of the highlights of this year included the birth of my (second!) niece. My sister getting married to the love of her life on a beautiful June day. Going back to school fulltime. Wholeheartedly enjoying being in school. Finishing a semester strong with straight A’s! Buying my first dog. Seeing relatives and extended family. Those happy occasions when our entire family was together! Being reunited with my best friend after seven long months. Dating Brooks. Getting engaged to Brooks. Marrying Brooks.

The low points of the year included saying goodbye to our pastor after eight years. Saying goodbye to my church after eight years. Moving. Missing my best friend for seven long months. Moving again. And…moving again! 

A lot happened in the short span of 365 days. Most of it was completely unexpected and unplanned. 

In spite of all the busyness and the moving and the activity in the last year, 2017 was a year when I became more rooted. More focused. More grounded. It was a year of growing into a deeper sense of belonging. A deeper peace. A stronger certainty of my identity and where I belong. It was a year of realizing God’s faithfulness more and more, even when my faithfulness woefully floundered. It was a year of letting go. Learning to trust. 

My biggest takeaway from 2017 was that life hardly ever turns out the way you plan. It can be far more painful and heartbreaking than you could have possibly expected. But it also can be more beautiful and good than you could have ever imagined. I had a lot of expectations going back to college. Most of my expectations were immature and not very realistic. I guess I had this fantasy of reliving the years I lost when I dropped out of school. I love being back in school. I enjoy the academia. I really enjoy the program I am in, the professors I have gotten to know, and the friends I have made through my classmates. But the fact of the matter is I am twenty-three years old and a little too old to enjoy the “college experience” like most students. And that is okay. Because most college students are still young enough to be searching, to be free, to have a world of options at their feet. I was there once. I am not there now. My life is more stable, more final, more committed, and more rooted than ever before and it turns out this has been the most fulfilling year of my life. I am just so thankful to have a God who knows my desires and my needs better than I ever could. College has been so fulfilling, but not necessarily in the ways I thought it would be. 

In 2018 I am looking forward to pursuing and completing my collegiate career as a wife. I look forward to the way God will unexpectedly change my plans. We make our plans. God directs our path. 

Another big takeaway from 2017 was simply realizing the faithfulness of God. It was really difficult to not grow bitter this year—toward God and toward the church. A lot of cynicism sprang up in my heart, causing me to grow apathetic toward my personal spiritual discipline and my relationship with the church. I saw how my bitter heart not only hurt my relationship with God but my relationships with everyone else. Praise be to God that His goodness and faithfulness to us does not depend on our faithfulness, but on the faithfulness of His Son and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf! 

I want 2017 to be a year of faithful obedience from a grateful and joyful heart. I want it to be a year of trusting God and having peace in my soul even when everything around me is chaotic and when I cannot make sense of my circumstances. I want it to be a year of letting go of control, letting go of resentment and sin, accepting my circumstances with grace, and loving others selflessly. I want it to be a year of growing more deeply rooted…rooted in Christ, rooted in my new home and new life, and rooted in the Word of God.

What happened for you in 2017? What are some of your resolutions for the New Year? Please share in the comments below! :)

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Extent of Love

This summer I purchased my very first dog. It was a momentous occasion to say the least. I cannot quite put into words the feeling of stepping out the front door and seeing Brooks—who drove a four hour round trip to fetch my dog—standing on the patio with a four-legged 10 lb. pointy-eared fluff ball standing next to him. There is an ingrained instinctive reaction in every human’s brain to love puppies. I have never known this because while I have seen puppies before, I have never loved one that belongs to me. I never owned a dog growing up and I always presumed pet-sitting other peoples’ dogs was sort of like owning a dog of my own—been there done that, you know? Well, I was wrong.

Something opened up in my heart when I saw my puppy for the first time. Like I said, I cannot quite describe it, and if you think I am just being over-the-top ridiculous (like all those fanatic dog owners!) well then you have simply never owned a puppy of your own. All I remember was the puppy was dirty. She was really dirty and smelly. And covered in fleas. But I picked her up. I couldn’t help but pick her up.

The next few weeks were a messy adjustment to owning a puppy. Brooks had to deal with most of the mess since Dierdre lives with him and his Siberian husky. I got to deal with some of the mess though when Brooks was gone for a week at a work conference and I volunteered to check in on the dogs a couple times a day to feed them, walk them, etc. Well as it turns out Dierdre had worms, not surprising considering I got her off of a farm and she probably had not received any worm-prevention treatment. Needless to say, things were very messy and the dogs were very unhappy that week.

It was a good inauguration into pet-owning for me. Owning pets, owning a puppy especially, is incredibly inconvenient. Puppies pee and poo everywhere. Puppies are expensive. They need a lot of shots, kennels, collars, leashes, food bowls, food, water, baths, flea treatment, and most of them eventually need surgeries. I learned something really important the week I missed two days’ worth of classes and a day of work in order to take care of a sick puppy and take her to the vet.

I learned that it is one thing to hold a cute puppy and an entirely different thing to really love a puppy. One of my friends recently shared this quote, “We love to the extent we are willing to be inconvenienced.” For some reason that quote has been resonating in my mind ever since I saw it because when it comes down to it, love is not convenient.
The people who probably understand this more than anyone else are mothers. Think of all the love and care mothers give their children. Think of all the many ways mothers have let children inconvenience their lives, schedules, careers, goals, and everything else.

Yet for all of the ways I know I have inconvenienced my parents, I have never once felt like an inconvenience upon them. I have never felt like a nuisance, something they are eager to be rid of or something they resent. We all know the difference. We all know what it feels like to have someone begrudgingly accommodate your existence in their lives…and then the people who welcome you into their world, move around the furniture, make space in their life for you, and don’t think twice about it because nothing could make them happier than your happiness and your comfort.

The world seems so deprived of love right now, especially where it should be the strongest—the family, the church. The more I see of it, the more aware I become of how much love has been bestowed upon me even when I feel like there is so little love in my heart.

To be completely honest, I was afraid for a while to let anyone or anything disrupt my existence. I was afraid to be inconvenienced, afraid to have my carefully crafted plans derailed, but let me tell you…if you open up your heart, if you let yourself be inconvenienced, if you can meet other people where they are, if you can learn how to willingly accommodate the existence of someone else (or even something else like a puppy!) you might just find the boundaries of your heart expanding and growing. You might find that the inconvenience, mess, and disruption are completely worth it.

Hey thanks for reading this blog post! 
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Friday, August 11, 2017

College Life, Rest, and the Christian Identity

I dropped out of college going-on-four years ago. But I did not drop out because I was failing. If anything, I had every opportunity to succeed. So what happened? What happened was I burned out. Plain and simple. I overextended myself, overcommitted myself, took on too many credit hours, took on too many work hours, and got involved in too many social commitments.

Our society has little to no regard for rest, especially when you are eighteen years old, young, and strong. What’s more, our society has about zero regard for God’s designated rest, the Lord’s Day or Sunday.

The Ten Commandments are becoming more and more offensive to our society, but let us not forget that God gave the commandments, especially the Fourth Commandment, as a means of liberation for his people. The law gave the Hebrew nation constraints, but it also defined them as a free people, free from the Egyptians, free from slavery, and free from sin. Instead the Israelites were now free to love one another, and free to worship their God.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11).
The Ten Commandments were the blueprint for how to love God and love one another. Remember, Jesus said all the Law and Prophets are summarized by the commandment to love God, love one another, and do unto others as you would have them to do to you (Matthew 7:12, 22:34-40). If you are looking to know how to love God and love your neighbor, look no further than the Law and the Prophets (i.e. everything in the Old Testament). When we see God's Law, we are not simply looking at a set of rules imposed upon some ancient civilization. We are looking at the essence of what it means to love God and love one another. In short, these commandments are important and relevant to us, especially God's command for us to rest. 

Two of the most defining characteristics of the nation of Israel were worship and rest.

The Israelites were a people who rested from their work. Every seven days they rested. Every seven years their land rested. They were a people who rested in order to worship God and complete good work the following week. This characteristic separated them from their former identity as slaves in the nation of Egypt. Who knows how frequently Pharaoh let them take a day off? Now they no longer served Pharaoh. Instead they served and worshipped Yahweh the Creator, a merciful and good God who gave His people rest. God wove rest into the very fabric of His Law and into the core of the entire civil Law that structured the nation of Israel.

God’s people are no longer restricted to one nation. His church is global, but the defining characteristics and the heart of His law remain the same, and this includes His day of rest. The Christian life should be characterized by rest. It should be the rhythm of our life. Because we are not slaves. We are not slaves to our sin, work, money, success, studies, grades, or even the social expectations and demands of our friends. Yes, we should want to glorify God in our work, but we need to remember that good work is always preceded and completed by rest. If we fail to rest, we will inevitably fail in all other areas of life.

Think about it.

Everything and everyone in this world demands something from you. Time. Energy. Attention. Work.

But God beckons you to come and rest.

Instead of heaping more burdens upon you, He invites you to lay aside your burdens for one day every week and instead worship and praise Him and, yes, take a nap or two because sometimes sleeping is the most holy action possible.

“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2).
So you should sleep every night. Because God gives His loved ones sleep. And God gives you enough time to do all the work you need to do. He also gives you enough grace (through faith in Jesus Christ) to conquer sin. I promise this is true, even if it does not feel like it is true. There is enough time. There is more than enough grace. And even if there is not enough time, anxiety and sleeplessness are never going to give you more time. So go to bed. Go to sleep. Let rest and peace define your life, not your anxieties and deadlines.

Rest is about more than simply getting enough sleep and doing a good job in college. Rest is about holiness. Rest is about possessing the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. It is about being a follower of Christ. It is about ultimately trusting God with your time, your work, with everything. God called the Israelites out of Egypt to be a nation set apart, a holy nation, a sanctified people. In the same way, God calls you, the saint, the Christian, and the entire church to come and rest

My challenge this semester and this year and for the rest of my life is to approach Sunday, the Lord's Day, and the Worship of God, not as another burdensome task I begrudgingly complete, but instead as a respite I cheerfully anticipate whether I am tired or well-rested. Because when it comes down to it, the Lord's Day is something I need more than it is something I need to do.

I want to approach this day as a day when I can do less, put aside everything else that has been causing me anxiety the rest of the week, be tired if I want, dress casual if I want, but still have a joyful attitude and peace of heart because I know God welcomes me into His worship regardless. I want to make it a day to put aside my needs and instead find ways to extend mercy to others. Because God has given me more than enough time and more than enough grace! And He gives His loved ones rest.

“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:9-12).
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