Home.

I apologize right now for how long this is going to be.  It's been a really busy month, and I have a lot to say!  Thanks for sticking with this!
I went home for two amazing weeks.  Home is a complicated word for me.  I've lived in a lot of places and it can be very confusing.  What is "home"?  I've come to realize that for me, it's where my family - my mom & dad, my sister & brother - are.  The traditional sense of "home" ended for me when my parents moved across the country the week after I graduated from high school.  From that point on, my home because very confusing.  Is home where you went to school, where your friends are, the place that is familiar, where you grew up, where you were born? 
 
Anyways, my parents and sister currently live in Southeastern Oklahoma.  I lived there for two years before moving to Chicago, so it's sort of home, but I still don't know a whole lot of people there, and don't have many friends there, so it isn't really.
So yeah, when I say I went home, it's a bit different than a lot of people.
 
 
But my sister got married, so I spent two weeks in Southeastern Oklahoma, helping with the wedding and spending time with my family.
One of the many things I've realized about myself this year is just how important my family is to me.  I think it's because we moved so much when I was a kid; nothing in my life was consistent except the five of us.
 (my mom has always been one of my very best friends)
 
And so it was really, really important for me to be there to help with Becca's wedding.  Thankfully, Little Brothers and Krista have both been very generous and understanding with time off, so that wasn't a problem.
I'm not going to go into it too much right now, because this is already going to be way too long, but the week before I left Chicago was the hardest one of my year by far.  It was bad.  And so I was so ready for a some time with loved ones and a break in routine.
This is one of those occasions that meant a lot to me, that people don't quite understand just how much.
 
I spent the first week helping with a lot of projects for the wedding, which was why I was there anyways.  I worked really hard doing things like going shopping for last minute supplies, cleaning, various DIY projects, making trips from the church to my parents' house to my sister's house to the reception site, etc. 
 
 (the roses were in full bloom.  so so gorgeous.)
 (my biggest DIY project, I made a sandwich-board-style sign for the wedding out of an old pallet)
 (I enjoyed the wide open spaces and warm tempertures in Oklahoma - almost 90 degrees on some days!  And the kitties, of course)
(Oklahoma had leaves long before Chicago did.)
Then the extended family started to arrive.  My grandpa, Aunt Julie, and cousin Maya arrived from Whidbey Island, Washington on Wednesday night.  Aunt Libby (also from Washington), Aunt Ann & my cousin Maggie (from Wisconsin), and my cousin Kaitlyn and her boyfriend Tyler arrived on Friday.  My Aunt Amy (from Denver) came on Saturday with my cousin Ethan, as well as some good family friends from when we lived in Central Illinois, the Harts.  We were all so overwhelmed with love and with how far people traveled to be there to celebrate Josh & Becca's marriage.  It made for a very busy, but fun-filled weekend.
 
 
The wedding was a very DIY affair.  Everyone worked so hard to decorate with things borrowed from friends, from the church, from the school where my mom works, etc.  We cooked the food ourselves with the help of a friend who caters.  I did the photos, with the help of a family friend & her boyfriend. 
 
Yes, you read that right.  I was a bridesmaid & the photographer at my sister's wedding.  It was really chaotic and not an easy task and required more multi-tasking than I thought was possible, but hiring a professional proved impossible because Hugo is so far in the middle of nowhere plus their engagement was just so short that the few photographers were already booked.  So I told her I would figure out a way to do it and spent a lot of time figuring out just how in the world I could do this!  I am so thankful that Tori & David were able to help me out for the parts that were just impossible for me to do by myself - for times when I just couldn't be in two places at once, like during the ceremony and for group shots that I was in.
 
 
 
 
 
The ceremony was at the church where my dad is the pastor, and he officiated.  My grandpa (who is also a pastor) led the beginning of the service so that my dad could walk Becca down the aisle.
The wedding party consisted of my cousin and I as bridesmaids and Josh's two brothers were groomsmen.  The flower girl, Emma, was the daughter of one of Becca's friends.
It was simple and beautiful.
 
The reception was at a house at Hugo Lake, a state park just outside of town.  We were very blessed to be able to use that space and it ended up perfect.  The weather was gorgeous so most people sat out on the deck, which overlooked the lake, and the bugs weren't even that bad! 
 
 
 
There were also a lot of special touches on the day.  My sister wore my mom's veil, which my mom bought while she was serving a "Summer of Service" in Belgium the summer before my parent's wedding.  Becca also wore my grandma's wedding ring on her right hand, which was really special since this was the first of her grandchildren's weddings she wasn't at.  By aunt also brought my grandma's actual garter.  We used the china from our church that they used to use for church dinners back in the day.  The roses in the centerpieces came from our neighbor's rose bushes.  Some of the decorations came from a friend of my sister's wedding last year.
And then week two consisted of cleaning up (because it turns out when you spend a week setting things up, it also takes a lot to tear it all down!), spending some time in my mom's third grade class, taking people back to the airport (a three hour trek), and editing wedding photos.
The entire two weeks was jam-packed with busy-ness.  But it was soooooooo good to be back with my family.  I have missed them more than anything while in Chicago.
To be honest, it was really hard to come back.  Really hard.  Thankfully the beautiful weather has helped, but I would appreciate prayers as I try to finish strong - it's hard to believe that my year in Chicago is almost over but with only a few months left, it really is coming to an end, which is pretty bittersweet.
(And oh man, as I was looking through photos to add to this post, I realized just how many other thing I have to blog about.  So look for more posts soon - and bother me if I don't post them - cuz I'm just going to fall further behind!)