Monday, April 30, 2012

wedding post - ceremony

The most magical 35-45 minutes of my life.  The love of my life took me as his wife, my best friends beside me, and all of the people who mean the most to me in the same room.  Doesn’t get much better than that.  The planning was not all roses and smiley faces though.  I’m one of those girls – you know the kind that has every single little detail of her wedding picked out at age 15?  Yep that was me.  However, I learned very quickly after getting engaged that my wedding was not all about me.  And that was hard.  Luckily I got my bridezilla moments over very early in the process, and for the most part in private.  As I accepted this new discovery, my experience became joyful and so memorable.  I hear lots of horror stories about wedding planning – crazy mother-in-laws, bratty bridesmaids, and worst of all a bitch for a bride.  I can definitely say I was not a victim of the first two and as for the last; well you’ll have to ask my friends :)  My loved ones were supportive, loving and excited.  Sure there were differing opinions, a dress crisis which you will hear more about later, and some less than ideal reactions – but all in all, I loved planning my wedding.  I’m also slightly a control freak so I had my hand in everything.  From florist meetings, to the harpist, to the place settings – I planned it all.  When people would ask who my wedding planner was I’d smile, point to myself and then introduce them to my mom and my sissy.   We were like the three musketeers conquering any and all wedding task at hand.  

But OK back to the ceremony.  My church does not have a center aisle.  I know I know – so what’d I do?  Well I walked up one aisle and down the other.  Apparently people do this all the time but this was an extremely difficult concept for me.  I had always pictured walking down a center aisle.  Well I got over that very fast when my mom told me I wasn’t having a destination wedding.  So I accepted the two not-so-center aisles – and it was perfect.  It’s funny how moms always seem to know what they are talking about.  Both our pastor and our youth director officiated our ceremony and I cannot thank them enough for the sweet, personal messages they gave.  Music?  Harp and organ.  Old fashioned ? Maybe.   Romantic? Definitely.   My cousin’s wife also sang the Lord’s Prayer beautifully.  Funny thing is neither Matt nor I had ever heard her sing before.  We were pleasantly surprised…. Thanks Jess!  Best part of the whole ceremony though – the feeling afterwards….
Without further ado, here are some pictures courtesy of DVA Photography of my special ceremony and the moments leading up to it:

getting ready with my best friends

where it all went down
my sweet grandparents

my handsome groom
me and sissy getting ready

the lopatka boys pre-ceremony
me and my daddy - one of my favorite moments ever

1. me and my dad walking down 2. my and my soon-to-be husband at the alter

my programs




1. the kiss 2. the exit
sweet congratulations

leaving with my nephew for the reception (photo credit: meredith miller amazing bridesmaid and best friend)

Friday, April 27, 2012

wedding week coming

My life is in full party-plan mode.  I shared some pictures earlier this week from an engagement party I helped host last weekend and now I am on to planning a shower for yet another best friend.  I know Im so lucky, I've got amazing friends.  After that, Ill continue the planning for two bachelorette parties and a special birthday party!  And I love it I cant get enough of happily-ever-afters.  But all of this party planning has made me reflect on my own big day and has led me to want to share all the details that made my perfect day a reality.  So next week I will relive my wedding and the days surrounding!  If you missed my first teaser post you can catch up over the weekend here.
Happy a good weekend and see you Monday!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

1000 gifts

raleigh, wilmington and virginia beach

my family - Matthew and Sevilla

best friends

For today’s post and for a little challenge for the rest of 2012, I am teaming up with Sarah from Fairy Tales Are True to try and list 1,000 gifts in my life by the end of the year.  Her post was inspired by the book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp.  The title itself says it all.  It is a challenge, a call to action – to not just live right where you are but to live fully where you are – be present.  When I started this blog I hoped to document and journal the things of which I am grateful for and the 1000 gift challenge seems to go alongside with that perfectly.  I think one of the most important things in life is to be aware of what you have and not of what you don’t have.  If you are always concentrating on what you want, you will miss the blessings and gifts in front of you now.

So without further ado, here is the beginning of my list.  Check the side button often because it will be continually growing….
1.    My husband’s smile
2.    My puppy’s sleepy eyes
3.    The fact that no matter how old Sevilla is she will always be a “puppy”
4.    Cooking dinner with Matt
5.    Daily chats with my mom
6.    My favorite nightgown
7.    Red Wine
8.    All Reese Witherspoon movies
9.    My oldest nephew, Chase’s phone calls
10. Dark chocolate popsicles with raspberry filling (I know right – Weight Watchers from Harris Teeter)
11. My blue heels
12. My blue tennis sweatpants from high school
13. My husband’s text message every morning when he gets to work
14. My husband’s persistence
15. My pink satin pillowcase
16. E News
17. Finishing our first study as a small group
18.  Walks with Sevilla
19. My new bike
20. Bike rides with Matt
21.  Daily emails with old friends
22. Support of my parents
23. Fantasy Football (yes babe, I said it.  It is a gift in my life too – because you love it)
24. College Football – Pack, Deacs and Hokies
25.  My first year of marriage in Winston-Salem





Tuesday, April 24, 2012

just dance



Today I am grateful for dancing.  I am grateful for my husband’s sometimes two left feet yet his ability to get me on the dance floor.  This was one of the things I fell in love with in our early days.  I am grateful for the late night dance parties where fist pumping is a must and for slow dancing in my kitchen.  I am grateful that my mother always took the time to dance with me, even if that meant in the middle of the grocery store.  And I am grateful for all the times my dad and I have shared a dance.  Dancing really does make me happy.  And I believe it can make you happy too.  So no matter how horrible of a day you may think you have had – and trust me I know some of them can be bad – kick off your shoes and cut a rug.  It will make you feel better.  I promise.



Monday, April 23, 2012

sweetest thing

This past weekend I had the privilege of hosting an engagement party with some of my best friends for one of our best friends.  The weather was questionable but ended in our favor as we spent the night laughing, smiling and just being together under the hanging lanterns and Raleigh air.  We had a blast decorating with burlap and fresh cut flowers but you want to know the best part?  When I looked over at Katelyn and Brent (the bride and groom to be) and in that moment I could see their happiness and time just kind of stopped.  Saturday night the world seemed to stand still and I remember saying to Matt over and over – this is perfect.  One of the best things in life is seeing one of your friends truly happy and at peace.  Sure there was excitement and giggling and lots of talking louder and louder and louder – but there was a peace about the night that just seemed right.

Katelyn,
I could not be happier for you and Brent as you begin this journey together.  Saturday night was just the beginning of many celebrations to come for years and years.


And now some pictures from the weekend…
wine, candles and mason jars
great friends


1- with the bride and Brittany 2- The Moyes, our sweet hosts
with Margaret Ann and David

with Anna Elizabeth and Katelyn
a perfect night

the happy couple and the bride with her parents
the husbands, boyfriends and fiances



Sunday, April 22, 2012

coming home


After a wonderful weekend with best friends, it always feels great to come home to the sweet excitement of our pup.  Whether we are gone for a day or 3 weeks – her excitement never wanes and the ride home is a blissful piece of heaven.  Hope you had a wonderful weekend!  I’m excited to share photos from the party this week so stay tuned…



Friday, April 20, 2012

friday

Happy Friday!



So sorry this week has been sparse!  It has been filled with field trips, tests, dinner parties and lots of engagement party prep work (aka me running around like a crazy person).  I promise next week will be frequent and I cant wait to share pictures of the party!  Love to you all and have a great weekend!





Xoxo The Lopatkas

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

gracias mama'

Meet my mom – Linda.  I was planning to save my mom introduction for the upcoming Mother’s Day festivities but life happened and it feels right to post it now.  Partly because of a conversation I had with her yesterday but mostly because each day I pray that I am a little more like her.  So anyway – my mom.  She’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met and as I grow older, she continually amazes me – blows me away really.  Her grace and selflessness truly leave me in awe.  As I get older the lessons I take from my mom became more frequent and cut deeper and deeper, but three things that stand out as of late are her selflessness, integrity and forgiveness.
My mom is without a doubt, the most selfless person I know – sometimes too much in my opinion, but she’s also stubborn so don’t try to tell her thatJ.  She’d do anything for me, my dad, my hubby, sister, my friends, their dogs and third cousins.  Yep, if they mean something to you – they mean something to her.  Everything she does is for the good of others.  Her unconditional love is unwavering and it challenges me as a woman.  And it’s not even about what she does for others - and believe me she does a lot - it’s why she does it and how she does it.  She never expects anything in return.  She doesn’t do things for recognition or praise, she does it out of love – unconditional, undying love. 
It is this love that makes her such a good forgiver.  Something that I am not as good at.  There have been plenty of times when my sister and I have flaunted our bratty ways, said something hurtful or taken advantage of her.  But everytime it’s as if we’ve done no wrong.  She accepts our apologies and moves on – really moves on.  She could hold a lot of grudges too.  There have been plenty of people who have lied, cheated and stolen from her in attempt to leave her in the dust.  But trust me, she takes no pity, erases their wrongs and believes with all her might that people are genuinely good.  And that is something truly remarkable.
Last my mother has developed a grace and integrity that can only come from unconditional love and a forgiving heart.  She does not let others determine her happiness.  She has the ability to look at a situation and chose her reaction based on her morals, principles and conviction and not by the surroundings or others.  No matter how someone or something may make her feel, she rises above the mess with a smile.  Kill em with kindness some may say – but my mom – she says love em with kindness.  And that’s exactly what she does.
So thank you mom.  Thank you for listening to me complain and worry about something so small but giving me the advice I pray I can give my daughter.  Thank you for reminding me of my blessings, keeping me grounded and always being my number one fan.  Even though, looking back, I know I wasn’t always right or good, you believed in me.  You challenged me.  And you still do.  And now you’re right down the street….. love you

Monday, April 16, 2012

may i have your attention


               
                At church yesterday my pastor began his sermon by pointing out that one of the things in our fast-paced lives we most crave from others is attention.  Between Twitter, Facebook, the instant updates and 24/7 streaming there are a million things pining for our attention at all times.  Just check out your to-do lists… mine are humongous and constantly growing.  I’m a multi-tasker like you’ve never seen.  I can talk to a friend, make dinner, do the laundry and walk my dog all at the same time.  I know right – I’m good. But is that really good?  Am I truly present when I am doing any of this?  Or am I just marching through the day and then poof – it’s over.  Sure at times I need the multi-tasking – I need my head to be processing 5 things at once.  But then there are other times, like dinner with my husband, or a phone call with my mom, that require my undivided attention.  They require that I step away from technology – from the world – and just be present.  Present with them, present for them and for me.  I sometimes get frustrated with my hubby when I want to have a serious conversation and the T.V.’s on (disclaimer: I consider any conversation I have with my husband serious, even if it’s about what I should wear to a part tomorrow night… another something I’m working on).  I know he’s not really watching the T.V., and I know he is listening to everything I say, but that’s not enough sometimes.  I need to feel like I’m the only thing in the room – the only thing in the world – that has his attention at that very moment.  So this week as I head off to the mundaneness that some Mondays can bring, I will freely give my attention to the people in my life.  Whether it’s a co-worker that needs me to stop and listen to a worry or trouble, or to my dad talking about his Monday night racquetball jaunts.  I am grateful for their attention and I will give them mine…

Thursday, April 12, 2012

be the first

Today I will try and be the first.  Because no one wants the blame, the guilt or the conflict and life is just too short for them all.  Grudges are a waste of time, energy and relationships. 
And why remember the pain and the negative when you can focus on your blessings and the positive?  Simple right?  Of course not.  Nothing of worth comes easy.  But today and onward, no matter how difficult, I will try to be the first.... will you?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

what's in a name

gratefully inspired
I’ve sat down to write this post a few times now. I have wanted to explain to my readers the significance of my blog’s name and how I came to the conclusion, but I haven’t been able to put to pen what is in my little head. That happens to me a lot. I will have an idea for a blog post and that idea will formulate in my head for weeks until I actually write it down. Maybe it’s “writer’s block” or inexperience, or maybe even laziness, but it happens. And it happens a lot.

That led me to think about timing. Timing in life. Timing in love. Timing in my little world. And you know what? I think the timing is finally right for me to explain my little blog’s name… I promise the rest of this post won’t be so dramatic.

Two words – Gratefully. Inspired. I think I’ll start with the second one. I have forever been in love with the word – inspiration. It brings forth emotions that are strong-willed, determined and loving. It has me thinking about my dearest family and friends, times of triumph and wise words. To be inspired is something truly great. It is what I look for every single day; something or someone that ignites a fire inside of me. Whether that fire burns for a cause, a task, a person or my own self-improvement that cause is given just meaning because of the inspiration it has offered. You see, I am an extremely passionate person – an all-or-nothing-kind-of-girl. May it be my blessing or my curse, I need passion in my life to do something well. My husband often has to ask me to lower my voice in restaurants because people around us are starting to shoot us worried and annoyed glances. As I begin talking about something I am passionate about, something that inspires me, my voice grows louder and louder and I become over-the-top animated (think wide eyes and hands flinging everywhere – yep I’m that girl). I can’t help it. It’s as if my body is a puppet and is being completely guided by the feelings in my heart –in my soul. I am consumed. So it is these inspirations of every day life that I look for – that I am driven by. Whether it be, the sweet note my husband leaves in my lunchbox, the nice lady who lets me go first at Port City Java, or a troubled student that has overcome their past to better their future– these are what drive me. And more than anything I hope that my blog offers you another way to look at life; that it reminds you that there are things, people and places that can inspire you if you let them. In my opening post when I said, “Sit back, relax” I meant it. Sit back and enjoy life. Take it all in and slow down.

That leads me to my first word – gratefully. The word "grateful" holds immense importance in my life, especially this year in 2012. Every year instead of making a list of 25 New Year’s Resolutions (that I usually end up breaking by March) my church, as a congregation, encourages everyone to choose one word. This word will be your focus for the entire year. This word will offer you a way to better live the way God had intended. This word will offer clarity of God’s plan. Now – this is not to say that my church is implying once you choose your word it will become magic and you will have a great year. It’s just saying that instead of focusing on so many changes in you and then loosing sight of all of them, focus on one word and see the change really progress. Well, you guessed it – my word is grateful. This is my year of being grateful. My husband and I have been through a lot of change over the last year – over the last 2 years really. We graduated grad school, got hitched, moved cities, bought a house, moved into that house, had to leave that house 2 months later, moved cities again and found new jobs. It’s been a lot. And in the midst of all of the change I found myself excited but sometimes frustrated and definitely overwhelmed. I am also a planner. Whoa baby am I a planner! I like to know the Who, What Where, When and Why two weeks in advance. And sometimes that leads me to miss the beauty of the Now. I am always looking to the next step. So this year I am focusing on being grateful. Grateful for where God has me in my life right now,grateful for the people He has placed in it and grateful for the plans He has for my future. And that’s where this blog was born. It was born in a part of my heart that led to my brain and here we are. I hope to chart my journey in life and not only remember, but write down (well, type) all of the many inspirations that leave me humbled and grateful.

So there it is –the meaning behind the name. I hope you’ll come back and continue to grow with me.




Monday, April 9, 2012

good morning monday

Good Morning Monday. 
I wasn't ready for you.  Not at all.  Yesterday when I was making my lunch for you it was as if you were standing in the kitchen laughing at me.  You made me sad yesterday.  I had a whole week of relaxation, family time, fun to-do lists and me time and now you're here to take it all away.  At least that's what I thought yesterday....

Yesterday I woke up at 6:30 to make it to our church's sunrise service in one of the most beautiful places in Wilmington - in the world really - Airlie Gardens.  I rolled out of bed and in 10 minutes I had managed my contacts, teeth brushing and finding my husband's biggest fleece to bundle up with.  I didn't feel like going but knew I had no choice.  Then I got there.  And it was breathtaking.  The trees, the sounds, the smiles all around me.  The sun rising; slowly casting shadows on the Azaleas and Oak trees.  All I could think was, "I want some more of this."  Sure I've been to that place hundreds of times, sometimes for church, sometimes for cocktails and music.  But it was as if I had missed the stillness of this place.  The stillness of the morning.  And I had - I missed the sunrise.  I get up before the sun every morning Monday through Friday but I'm not able to take it in.  I'm rushing around with my eyes half-closed.  But Sunrise, I vow to find you more often.  I vow to take a few extra minutes some mornings and just sit, thankful for you and thankful that God shares you with me.

There's more though... it's not just the beauty of the sunrise that I missed, it's the hope that it represents.  Yesterday on facebook my friends had posted lots of "Happy Easters" and encouraging bible verses but one of my best friends said this "I love Easter... such a beautiful reminder of new beginnings!"  And I thought to myself, "Yes Anna Banna you're right.  That's it."  And that's what our sunrise tells us too.  With every sunrise we are given a clean slate.  A new opportunity.  Grace.  A new beginning.  I believe that it why it's so astonishing - because the magnitude of what it represents is epic.  It's life-changing and it's real. 

So Monday, my thoughts have turned and I'm ready for you
Though you bring 6 am alarms and to-do lists that are not as fun, I am grateful for the new beginning that comes with you.  And Sunrise, I vow to try and visit as much as I can and am humbled by the promise of hope you bring.  So here it is - with a renewed mind and the hope of a sunrise, I will go. 
Happy Monday! xox



Friday, April 6, 2012

good friday

He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed."
-- 1 Peter 2:24


Today I am grateful for my salvation.  I am humbled by what Christ did for me on the cross.  And I am free in His name.  Happy Good Friday.  I will leave you with a few verses from one of my favorite songs by Phillips Craig & Dean.

What kind of love is this,
That climbs the hill,
That bears the cross,
That takes the nails?
What kind of love is this,
That takes my place,
That gives His life,
And clears my name?
Oh, I want to know
What kind of love is this?

What kind of love is this,
That gives His Son
That bears the sin of everyone?
What kind of love is this,
That cries alone,
That tastes of death
To bring me home?
Oh, I want to know
What kind of love is this?

It's wonderful,
It's glorious,
It's full of grace,
And full of mercy,
Powerful,
It's marvelous.
That's what this love is.
That's what God's love is.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

outside noise

Charleston, South Carolina – one of my favorite places on this planet.  The colorful houses, southern charm and our country’s history all served up with a side of sweet potatoes.  Yum.  The past few days have been spent in this little piece of heaven with my mom and my dad.  While we didn’t walk Rainbow Row this time; we were able to cheer on our favorite female tennis stars at The Family Circle Cup on Daniel Island. 

Ever been to a tennis tournament?  Huge crowds, dressed in their Lilly Pulitzer best, with the signature drink in their left hand and their camera in their right.  Little kids everywhere, dancing between games and taking mental notes on how to become The Next Big Tennis Star.  All of this I expected; but one thing I didn’t?  The silence.  I had forgotten how quiet tennis matches can get.  It’s numbing.  I believe it’s one of the only sports where the referee actually comes over the loud speakers and ask the fans to please be quiet.  Over and over!
So why the silence?  Why doesn’t Serena want the crazy lady in the top row screaming out her name to pump her up?  Why is there no flash photography during match play?  Tennis is such a mental sport.  Half of the game is in your head.  During my U.S. Open-like matches in high school I would give my mom the evil eye if she was cheering too loud or offering unsolicited coaching advice on the sidelines.  I get it.  I had to tune the world out so I could focus on the task-at-hand.  Winning.  It’s when I thought about it too much that my game and my opponent got the best of me.
I think this is a little like our day-to-day life.  Sometimes we have to tune out all of the noise of the world to accomplish what we want to accomplish.  Sure, there are times when you need those family and friends cheering you on and picking you up, but then there are those times when you need to tune it all out.  Drown out the criticism and suggestions on how to be a “better you” and just be…  Let go and be.  I’m a huge people-pleaser – always worried about what others think and whether or not they are happy.  I get it from my mom.  My mom would rather everyone around her be happy even if it makes her miserable.  She’s selfless like that.  But sometimes we just need to say “here I am, take it or leave it.”  And that’s just what I will do today. 
So here’s to drowning out the noise, even for a little while, and being grateful that the people in your life love you for you….


And now some pictures from the tournament.







Tuesday, April 3, 2012

hello from Saudi

Meet Brittany (and her sweet fiancé Daniel)


Our friendship dates back to our preteen dancing days and is one that never seems to lose its place. We always pick up right where we left off. Brittany is one of the most real people I know. Her kind heart and honest words always fill me up and keep me begging for more, or spit out my drink because I’m laughing so hard. She is also quite fearless and is currently planning the wedding of her dreams while living across the Atlantic in Saudi Arabia. You can check out her blog here and I’m excited to share her with ya’ll. So sit back, relax and prepare to laugh…


So here is the run down…. My name is Brittany, 26 years old, I was born and raised in Wilmington NC. I am engaged to a man I’ve known nearly 8 years as a hot mess (which is pretty convenient because I, too, am a bit of a disaster) and !BONUS! I am planning the final details of my North Carolina wedding from my new “home” in Saudi Arabia. I am pretty fearless when it comes to traveling, experiencing different cultures and just life in general (my fiancĂ© and I actually reconnected as we were both joining the Peace Corps) so while Saudi Arabia sounds like insanity, most of my friends and family have had the same response of “Oh you would. That is so Brittany.”!

I have been here for a little over a month and I am doing my best to adjust to life. I am not a Muslim (shout out to my homie Jesus!) so I do not cover my face like all of the other females and I am the ONLY white girl in this city, so it’s no secret that I am definitely not from here. Nobody seems to be able to pick out exactly where I am from; in fact, that is a secret weapon I have always had when I travel and usually comes in handy because not many people like us Ah-mur-reh-kanz. Despite being raised in the South I am proud to have a pretty stellar non-regional dialect, thanks to my Jersey mother. Sure I can turn on that Southern charm when needed, but most Americans guess I am from Connecticut and most foreigners think I am either French or Russian.

While I love experiencing this bizarre adventure I am not sure I will ever fit in here. And I NEVER thought I would say this, but I think I am too Southern for this place! I am not talking about Southern Belle/oh darlin’ I feel faint because I need a man to rescue me Southern, I am talking about mind your manners before I knock you back into last week Southern.

***Now before I go any further, let me make a HUGE disclosure… what I am about to say does not describe EVERYONE here. I have met some really amazing Saudi people who are kind and respectful and have literally welcomed me into their home as one if their own. But the bad apples of this community really stand out in my mind and have shocked me to the core, and I would be doing you a huge disservice if I didn’t share the realness of this situation! So let’s get real… ***


For your entertainment, I have compiled a short list of the most bizarre things I have experienced so far…
   1. Kids run the show – they don’t listen to their parents, they stand on tables, eat candy until 2 am, scream, don’t wear seatbelts, push adults and walk like they are wearing a blindfold.
   2. Trashcans might as well not exist – people throw their trash anywhere and everywhere but an actual trashcan; on the floor, out of the car window, etc.
   3. Men are pigs – they stare at my bare face like I am a piece of meat, they cut me off when I am standing in line, they do not hold open doors, they are nosey and R-U-D-E!
   4. Nobody smiles – apparently smiling is just not a part of their culture. So when I am being stared at all day by the men, it is not just a stare, it is a mean-mug! And if any female actually does decide they want to smile at me, I would have no clue because their faces are completely covered. Tyra Banks needs to come out here and teach these girls to sm-eye-z so I can read some emotion from these chicas!

I miss being around children who have a healthy fear of adults and being around people who have a shared concern for our environment and being around men who are MEN (definition of men? Read Proverbs 1-4 in the Bible– Man School!). And because I don’t know what else to do, I handle these situations like any good Southern woman would… I smile big, say hello/please/thank you to EVERYONE, I pick up trash children throw on the floor and direct them to the nearest trashcan and I stare right back at the nasty men who can’t seem to take their eyes off of me because if ‘ish hits the fan, I want them to know exactly who is coming after them! Don’t you know? Hell have no fury like a Southern woman! Bless yall’s Saudi hearts!

xoxo,
Brittany

Brittany being welcomed to her new "home"