Sweet Home Santa Barbara

Monday, May 23, 2016

Marriage Mondays - Many Advisers

PJ & I had a combined 22 people in our wedding party, 11 on each side. As we would share that number with people leading up to the big day, we were typically met with "woah! that's a lot of people!" And yes, you could definitely say it is. But for us, there was just no way to cut it down. 

Each of these people carried a significant place in our heart. They were either family, or pretty much family. They are the ones who we shared every detail of our relationship with, from "I met a cute guy!" to "I just bought an engagement ring." They were the ones who listened, who prayed, who advised, and who laughed with us along the way. And we just couldn't imagine our big day without each of these wonderful people beside us!

Having these people beside us in dating made it so that there was also someone to go to with a prayer request, or when needing advice. Nothing in our relationship was kept secret, we made sure people knew the happenings of our lives so that they could advise when necessary.

I think there's a fine boundary between overly sharing, and being overly private. There's wisdom in not sharing all things with all people, but there's one particular verse that I've seen proven true in my life over, and over again in regards to sharing life details. And it continues to make itself useful & relevant in marriage, as well:

The older I get, the more I realize that I simply need advice and counsel from other people. I now see that the moment I think I have it all figured out, is the moment I've been deceived by my own pride. I never have it all figured out, and I never will until I see my God face to face. Until then, I will fully utilize the community that has been given to me to walk through life with many, many advisers. 

Friends, this is so true within marriage. Whether you are simply vulnerable enough with a friend to divulge the happenings of your marriage, or humble enough to seek outside counsel (I'll say I have already done this in less than 3 months of marriage, ha!), there is such wisdom in sharing with other people. Humility comes from allowing others to speak into your life, and humility will help a marriage thrive. Pride on the other hand? Not so much. 

Before I end this post & have you dishing all your deets to anyone who will listen, let me caution with one last point. In my life, I've come to learn the importance of considering the source before I go for advice. Many, many people can advise you in life, and the reality is that advice can take you in all. sorts. of directions. You can tire yourself out by trying to put into action the counsel given by too many advisers, or the situation can worsen with only one piece of poor advice. Don't forget that we're all human, and we're all susceptible to incorrectly advising. 

One way you can turn over-sharing into wisely-sharing is by asking yourself, "will this person give me wise advice?" It can be so easy to talk just to talk, but there is just as much danger in that as there is staying overly private. When you talk, be sure it's with someone who you can trust to steer you in the right direction. For me? That means I'm talking with someone who I know will steer me to Christ. 

Thank you to the many advisers that I have in my life. I know that this marriage would not even be in place had it not been for the influence you have all had on my life. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Marriage Mondays - Getting Ready

This weekend, we got all of the pictures from our wedding. Our friend Becky Davis did an absolutely incredible job; we are SO happy with how they turned out and captured our big day!

I thought it would be fun to share some pictures each week for Marriage Mondays, and tie them into the topic of the post. Today, I want to chat about getting ready, and how we did our best to prepare for marriage leading up to March 5th. I want to share about what that looked like, and how it actually ended up playing out now that we're married. 

For us, I would say preparation began fairly unconventionally on the night we met. I've shared about that night a few times (such as here), and if you know about it, you probably already know that we got real deep, real quick. Sitting on a bench, me in my bridesmaid dress & him in a fancy outfit he had bought at Target hours before, we chatted about what we envisioned our future marriages looking like. 

For him, it was probably the liquid courage. ;) And for me, it was nothing more than my love of heart to hearts. But there on that bench, we realized that we had a lot in common for how we wanted dating & marriage to look. 

Having broken the ice, we had no fear of talking about marriage for the entirety of our relationship. As a matter of fact, leaving our "first date" weekend a few weeks later, we made a game plan of how the rest of our lives would look, starting with marriage. It was a common topic of conversation for us, probably because we were long distance & discussing marriage meant discussing the mutual hope that we would be living in the same city one day.

I had a lot of friends go through pre-marital counseling, so I knew the gist of what was covered. As engagement got closer, our conversations got more specific. Instead of dreaming about what marriage would look like, we'd cover the heavy topics like finances, children, roles & responsibilities, and yes, intimacy. 

No question or topic was ever off the table, and I think that's what gave us both such confidence of where we were headed. It seemed odd to know at such an early stage in the relationship that we'd one day be married, but neither of us ever wavered from that hope & expectation. 

We didn't begin formal marriage preparation until months after we were engaged, but as you can imagine, those conversations really paved the way for that. 

We started pre-marital counseling with our (amazing!) pastor a few months before we got married. We went through the book Preparing for Marriage, but we also kind of just went through life, too. PJ moved down to Santa Barbara 6 weeks before we got married, and even though we weren't living together, we sure shared a lot of space & time together. 

I think it was about then that we realized that as much as you can talk, and imagine, and dream, and prepare, there is always going to be things that pop up that you didn't expect. We grew a lot in those 6 weeks, and got a better glimpse of exactly what we were preparing for with marriage. We never walked into a pre-marital counseling session without some event from the prior week (or day!) to discuss.

I'm so grateful for those 6 weeks! They were entirely different from our long-distance dating experience, not to mention with the added stress of moving & planning a wedding. There were quite a few growing pains along the way, but that almost made it more fun & more real. Seeing how we processed conflict in this new season made me even more confident in our relationship, and upcoming marriage. And the topics we covered in the book were very helpful, too!

One thing I learned in the book that has related to our marriage is that there is a difference between truly communicating, and talking. Being long distance for so long had me suuuper confident in our communication. But I've found that living in the same town, and now living together, has communicating taking on a whole new form. It can be super easy to either a) talk at each other, or b) just sit & relax without talking at all. Communication, or at least authentic communication, can take some real intention!

All this to say, even with an abundance of preparation, there is still a lot of fumbling and learning our way through marriage. I relate it best to parenting. You can read all the parenting books in the world, but until you have your baby with you, waking you, needing you for every little thing, it's very hard to truly understand & fully prepare. You simply prepare the best you can, and learn as you go. 

As are we. 

I love that man with all of my heart. Last night, I went to bed still stunned at & praising God for the fact that I get to live life with him every day. There is absolutely no one else I'd rather be fumbling & learning my way through marriage alongside. ;)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Black Bean Taco Recipe

Happy Friday, friends! I was going to post this on Fit For More's new Facebook page, but then I realized it's been forever since I shared a recipe on the blog (or anything other than Marriage Mondays, really). So, here we are! Today, I want to share a favorite recipe of mine. It's a great way to get in some protein as a vegetarian, and a tasty way to have some Mexican food while still watching your health, too. Wins all around, yes?

Oh, and to keep things real honest, I eye ball when I make this. So the measurements listed below? They are 100% "I thiiiink that's how much I use?" status. Feel free to use what feels good to you. ;)

Black Bean Tacos

For 2 servings, you'll need:

4 corn tortillas
1 cup black beans
Garlic powder (I used this kind)
Olive oil (I used the garlic TJs brand)

Things that mix in well:

Bell Peppers


Step 1: Chop whichever vegetables you are choosing to mix in with your black bean tacos.

Step 2: Add a teaspoon or so of the olive oil to your frying pan, and preheat. When the frying pan is hot, add your chopped vegetables and black beans. Pour in a few tablespoons of liquid aminos, and a teaspoon of garlic powder. If you've never used liquid aminos before, it basically is a healthier version of soy sauce. No need to add salt with this delicious flavoring! Let saute for 5-10 minutes, or until all liquid has evaporated. 

Step 3: Add tofu if you're including that. I prefer my tofu to be pre-cooked, and I'll be posting a recipe on that soon! Let saute over heat for an additional 2-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stirring will prevent the beans from sticking to the pan.

Step 4: Heat up tortillas, either over the stove or in a microwave. Pour a forth of bean / vegetable mixture into tortillas. And voila! Black bean tacos. :)

Even PJ approved of this meat-less recipe, so you know it's good! What are your favorite vegetarian recipes? I'd love to hear them!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Marriage Mondays - On Marrying Your Best Friend

Growing up, I think I romanticized the idea of the person you're dating also being your best friend. I would say it with nearly every person I seriously dated, that they were "my best friend." And I would genuinely believe it, too. 

Looking back, I think a more accurate statement would have been that they were the person I spent the most time with at that time, or my favorite person to be around. It wasn't until I began dating PJ that I first experienced the beautiful merge of friendship & romantic love. 

Perhaps it was the long distance between us that led us into deep friendship, or perhaps it was just how our relationship progressed, but either way I am forever grateful for this aspect of our relationship now that we are married. Because now, I can say without any hesitation that I married my best friend. 

Romance gives me butterflies when I walk in the room, and friendship has me going to him for advice. Romance has us slow dancing in the living room, and friendship has me laughing at all of our inside jokes. Romance has us holding hands while driving along the 101, and friendship makes him my all-time favorite travel companion. Romance is what sparked our connection at first sight, and friendship is what gave me a deep sense of security in our relationship. 

Even in just our 6 weeks of experience, I can already see the importance of being intentional with both romance, and friendship. I see how easy it is to slip into the day-to-day routine without leaving room for romance, and I also see how important it is to have a foundation of friendship to help during arguments or "off" days. 

I am so grateful to have gotten to marry the man who caught my eye from across the room, but I am equally, if not more grateful to marry the man who has faithfully pursued both my heart, and my friendship. 


I am ending today's post on a question, because I'd love to hear it! What are some ways that you intentionally pursue both romance and friendship in relationship? A girl could always use some new ideas, right?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Marriage Mondays - Trust & Control

One of the first lessons I learned about marriage is the importance of grace. "Extend grace" is one of the most common pieces of advice aside from "don't go to bed angry." And that advice becomes extremely applicable as you are learning each other's habits and preferences, noticing what ways you irk one another, and what unintentional ways you can hurt one another. 

Another area where grace is helpful? When you write a post for your "Marriage Mondays" series on a Tuesday evening, ha! Such is life, yes? Good thing there's grace. ;)

Today's post has to do with the 4 legged addition that came into our family last week, and how adopting a puppy reminded me of a valuable lesson for not only marriage, but faith in general. 

We adopted our sweet Koby boy from Santa Barbara's Dog Adoption & Welfare Group. Our apartment has a strict 25 lb. weight limit (we were so relieved Koby met that requirement!), so after some failed attempts due to hesitation at how big a puppy would grow, we decided to keep our options open and look at some full grown dogs. The first one we spotted was a beautiful year and a half old spaniel / dachshund mix named Woody. 

He had a gorgeous, long-haired coat (something I'm a total sucker for), and a seemingly calm demeanor. He looked perfect for us! We were nearly ready to fill out the paperwork before an employee came over & gave us some fair warnings on some behavior issues. Woody had already been returned twice, and they wanted to be sure they found the right owner to ensure he found a forever home. 

As she explained to us the type of training and atmosphere a dog like Woody would need in order to thrive, she said something that really caught my attention and stuck with me. She didn't emphasize the immense amount of behavior therapy that he would need, nor did she drill us on the extensive amount of training we would have to give him; she said, "with the right relationship built upon trust, Woody will learn to feel safe & respect boundaries." {Or something like that.}

She was saying that relationship leads to obedience. And that concept has stuck in my mind ever since. 

We didn't feel in the right place to step into that role in Woody's life, but we have stepped into that role in Koby's life. And I'm so grateful for that employee sharing those wise words with us, because it has helped me focus on building a relationship built on trust with my pup versus trying to control him. And in doing so, we have seen awesome results!

It was this past weekend that I drew a connection between this concept of dog training, and having a relationship with God. It's not only dogs that require trusting relationships, but us humans, too! For so long, I struggled with obeying the Lord. Now, I can see a direct correlation with my obedience of the Lord, and my trust in the Lord

As I began to trust the Lord, I began to obey the Lord without a second thought. If I trusted Him, what reason would I have for not obeying Him? Why would I struggle giving up control to someone I trust? Just like a dog can relinquish control to a loving owner, I can relinquish control to a loving God. 

And ding-ding-ding! That's when this lesson related to marriage, for me. Because as one can imagine, sharing your life with another human being involves a lot of giving up control. You go from having total control of everything in your life, to sharing it. You share your finances, you share your time, you share your food. The chores you used to do yourself? The ones that you didn't even realize you were particular over? Yeah, you share those duties now. Sometimes, you do them your way. And sometimes, he does them his. 

I didn't think I was controlling before, but boy! Do I see it with new light now. It's something I'm consistently working on, how to surrender control gracefully instead of forcing my hand, and my way. 

So this lesson? For me, it showed that if I have a loving, trusting relationship, I can joyfully yield control. My dog does not fight me for control of his leash, does he? And just as I hold the leash directing him, I know Who holds the reins in my life. So whether it's yielding control to my husband, or yielding control to my God, either can be done when I remember how much I trust, respect & adore them both. 

And on that note, another guy I adore? Koby. Here's a video of our first week together as a family of 3, if you'd like an extra dose of cuteness for your day. :)

Happy Humpday, friends! Thanks for reading. It blesses me more than I can say!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Marriage Mondays - The First "Fight"

Hi, friends! I got the idea a few weeks ago to start a weekly series called "Marriage Mondays", partly to hold myself accountable to consistent blogging (which I miss SO much!), and partly to chronicle our first married year. 

I always loved reading about the marriages of other bloggers during my single years; it was so raw & real, and yet HEALTHY too. It inspired me as to what to look towards in a marriage of my own one day, and I'm so grateful for those bloggers sharing their lives with little ol' me. It impacted me more than I could say. 

I can't guarantee the content of these posts, mainly because I can't guarantee the content of this first year! But what I can guarantee is an authentic look into how God is moving in the marriage of PJ & A. I can guarantee a transparent view of two human beings trying to merge into one life, and the simultaneous beauty & mess that can transpire as that happens. 

And, what I can guarantee the most is the mush & the gush of how insanely grateful I am to have Philip James Cosentino as my husband. Because boy, did I marry up. ;) 

I had a total vision for this first post. It was either going to be an account of our first married date night, or a letter to single me encouraging her to be patient. Both of which likely would have detailed the flowery parts of our first {almost} month of marriage, which would have been entirely accurate because boy have there been a lot of that!

But then, life happened. And I find myself actually sitting down to blog after an incident that taught me much, and deserves to be recounted. An incident that shows that for anyone like me or PJ, with a dating past that wasn't the healthiest, there are very real consequences for that. 

I don't mean consequence in a bad way, like a punishment; I mean more of a chain-reaction series of events. Our hearts get marked by dramatic times in our lives, and even though some people can walk through break-ups without a single scar, most can't. Most of us walk out with new emotional responses to situations that we may not acknowledge until they stare us straight in the face. Like mine did last night!

I don't get mad at PJ often, and when I do, it's often my own moodiness to blame. He is so dang wonderful at being a human being, that he's hard to get mad at. Don't get me wrong, I still find ways to get frustrated. It's just usually harmless things (most of the time that don't warrant frustration), so we move onwards from it quickly.

Last night, I found myself deeply angry at my husband. I put the word fight in quotation marks in the title because it was pretty much me fighting with myself, but my level of anger felt like it warranted the description of our first fight. And my level of anger was not warranted, given what happened. It was a simple absent-minded mistake of PJ's, having to do with miscommunication, that was in no way, shape or form intended to hurt me. 

And yet it did. And instead of responding with the buckets of grace that I would have liked to, I felt like I somehow time traveled 6 years in the past to 21 year old Amy handling relationship drama. I praised Jesus for removing alcohol from my life, because being at a birthday party, things could have gotten reallll sloppy. Or at least sloppier than sober Amy made them, ha! 

I couldn't put the pin point on WHY I was so angry, I just was. I was in a state of mind that the genuine words "I'm so sorry" couldn't even penetrate. And it wasn't until later in the evening that I realized that my anger 100% was a defense mechanism. I was not angry, I was hurt. And I was not treating PJ like my loving husband whom I trust with all my heart, but like my past. Like the relationships where I never felt stable & secure as I do with him. 

I share this to show that our marriage is just like any other marriage. We are two human beings coming together, and learning more about each other every single day. We are two human beings with nearly 25 years of life lived before we even knew the other existed. We are two human beings with triggers, scars, and lessons that came out of those 25 years of living. 

BUT, we are also 2 human beings that have been bought & redeemed by the blood of Christ. We are 2 human beings that seek to live transformed lives every. single. day. We are 2 human beings that know that we need Jesus more than each other. And in a world where the divorce rate is climbing by the minute, THAT is where my hope comes from that my marriage will not add to that rate. 

I am thankful for grace this morning. PJ needed it last night, and I did too. And thankfully, God never fails to extend grace like I did last night. His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23), and by His grace, we get to continue growing & learning how to move from the unhealthy situations of our past to the opposite. We get to take those emotional responses learned from the past, and retrain them. Because PJ is not my past, and I am not his. 

By the grace of God, we get to be each other's future. And that will have me happy dancing and raising all the praise hands into eternity.