it's just a ring

If you saw that and thought it was a wedding ring, you're not alone.

But no, calm yourself, I didn't get married. And I'm not engaged, either. It's a True Love Waits ring.

This simple silver band has been on my finger since I was thirteen. I took it off around my 20th birthday, but only because I was gaining so much weight, it was growing painfully tight and cutting off circulation. You can imagine my excitement when two years ago, as those pounds started coming off, the ring fit once again. I haven't taken it off since. Until today.

Yesterday afternoon, a co-worker and I were walking out of the school together. As I held the door open for her, these foreign words found my ears: "I didn't know you were married, Nurse Jennifer."

I stopped and stared at the woman, rather dumbly, I suppose. But my clueless expression didn't matter, because she wasn't looking at my face. I followed her gaze to my left hand, which remained glued to the open door. A flash of silver caught my eye. My ring. "Oh. No, I'm not married."

Her eyes met mine for a second, just long enough to display her confusion, before they shifted back down to my ring.

"Oh, um, that's nothing," I stammered. "It's just a ring."

"Just a ring, huh?" she repeated, sounding doubtful.

I felt my cheeks growing warm. "Yeah." With that, I stepped onward and quickly changed the subject to the lovely weather we were having.

For the rest of the afternoon, that brief exchange consumed my thoughts. I felt such guilt. Conviction. And I knew why. I was too ashamed to tell the truth, to admit to someone that at 25 years old, I still wear a purity ring.

I hate that. I hate that my purity embarrasses me, that fessing up to it feels like coming out of the closet. I hate that our profane culture makes me feel this way. I hate that I brushed off her question and called the most meaningful piece of jewelry I own "just a ring."

And I also hate that because of that conversation, I've moved the ring from my left hand to my right. It's practically invisible over there. It's just a ring.

But that's all it ever has been. Just a cheap little piece of sterling silver. It never had any magical powers; it's never been more than a symbol. In all actuality, the reason I bought it for myself all those years ago had nothing to do with sex. I never signed a True Love Waits pledge, promising to "save" myself for my future husband (Although that's still the plan, in case you were concerned.). The real story behind my ring is too much to explain to such a casual inquirer.

As a thirteen-year-old browsing through a Family Christian Bookstore, scouring the shelves for any Plus One merchandise I didn't already own, I came across these tiny, elegant black velvet pouches for $19.95. Each pouch contained a minimalistic silver ring with the words "True Love Waits" engraved upon them. While most people read it as "True love have sex", I read it as "True love waits...for you". True love awaits. What a beautiful promise!

And my cheesy-romance-loving, daydreaming-like-Anne-of-Green-Gables self instantly visualized an incredibly handsome man in a tux gently removing that ring from my finger at the altar and replacing it with a wedding band. A custom wedding band with these three perfect words etched inside: "True love waited."

I bought the ring that day and put it on with a little private ceremony. I made a pact with God, promising that I would trust Him to bring an amazing man in my life in my future, and that in the meantime, I would wait patiently as I grew in Him. That's when I began to pray for my future husband every day. I wrote letters to him. Songs about him. I had no idea who he was, where he was, or when we might find each other, but the ring on my finger meant that he was out there. That he was waiting for me somewhere in the future.

As dramatic and corny as all of that might be, these thoughts have guided me over the years. A glance at my ring has talked me out of dating guys I knew weren't right for me. Those words, True Love Waits, have reminded me not to settle, but to wait for the right person. My true love.

I couldn't share all of that with the random co-worker as we walked out the door. I couldn't bring myself to speak up then, and I still wouldn't want to do it today. I'm wearing the ring on my right hand now to prevent further awkwardness. Am I doing so out of shame or embarrassment? Somewhat. Does it make me feel guilty? A little.

So I keep reminding myself of one thing. It's okay. It's just a ring.

#37- Go to Disney World

This year, during Spring Break, I had a lifelong dream fulfilled. I went to Disney World!

When I was a kid, my cousin worked at Disney and got us free passes to Epcot and MGM Studios (now Hollywood Studios). I was a little too young to really appreciate it back then. I don't remember much, except that my parents wouldn't ride anything, so it was basically just a hot, crowded place with a lot of walking and the occasional meet and greet with a Disney character. Not nearly as much fun as those free VHS tapes we always got in the mail from Disney made it look! Plus, we never made it to the happiest and most magical of all places, Magic Kingdom.

That gave birth to a dream: I wanted to go back to Disney World, I wanted to stay in a Disney resort, and I wanted to ride rides!

Well, I finally did it.

We stayed onsite at Pop Century (not quite the Grand Floridian, but still awesome!) and got to visit all four parks: Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and yes, Magic Kingdom. We paid a bit extra for park hopper tickets, and I'm so glad we did, because we ended up going back to Magic Kingdom every. single. day. One day we even stayed until closing time. At midnight. That was definitely the best time to go; all the families with small kids high-tailed it out of there after the fireworks, so the rides had 10 minute wait times or less.

Alright. I'll try to "briefly" (lol, yeah right) give you my favorite highlights with a few photos below:

1) Fireworks & Parades

Fireworks show at Epcot

You can't do Disney without either of these. We went to the amazing water/lights/fireworks show at Epcot as well as the ultimate classic Disney experience, fireworks at Cinderella's castle in Magic Kingdom.

We also saw two parades at Magic Kingdom. The brand new Festival of Fantasy parade and the spectacular night time Electrical Parade.

2) Characters

We met several famous faces including: The Fairy Godmother, Cinderella, Aurora, Stitch, Snow White, Goofy, Mickey, and Minnie. I felt oddly starstruck.

3) Eating around the world at Epcot's World Showcase

Gnocchi Parisien à la Provençal in France – Parisian-style dumplings with vegetables and mushrooms

The International Flower and Garden Festival was going on at Epcot while we were there and part of that involved each country of the World Showcase serving a few authentic dishes for $5 or less. Soooo, we loaded up on cash and ate our way from one country to the next! From Mexican quesadillas to Morrocan baghrir to British scones. Everything was great.

Um, yeah. I should mention I came home six pounds heavier.

4) Eating at Be Our Guest

Yes, more eating. But this place was incredible. As a huge fan of Beauty and the Beast, this was on my Disney Bucket List. Be Our Guest is a new dining experience that puts you inside the Beast's castle. The attention to detail took my breath away. They got everything just right; the suits of armor, the tapestries, the big chair by the fireplace...everything was exactly like the setting of the movie (except for one very important thing; uh, the library!?!?!?? Where the heck was it?! That better be an upcoming addition!) There are three main dining rooms. I wanted to eat in the forbidden west wing, where they had slashed portraits, the enchanted mirror, and the famous petal-dropping rose. Buuuut it was full. Instead, we ate in the grand ballroom, which was just as awesome. They even had holographic snow falling outside the enormous windows to make it feel just like the movie. Ahhhh!

And the food was flipping amazing, too! I had the quinoa salad, and the three of us split The Master's Cupcake, which was topped with the world-renowned Grey Stuff. OMG. Best cupcake of my life. I wish we'd each gotten our own. Or maybe a dozen of our own.

The Master's Cupcake. OMG.

Oh, and when you enter, each employee welcomes you with a cheery, "Bonjour!" I got a little teary-eyed over this magical experience.

5) THE RIDES!!! 

Aboard the Mad Tea Party

As much as I adored all the classic rides like Peter Pan's Flight, Dumbo, Aladdin's Magic Carpets, the Tea Cups (which made me super dizzy, by the way), my favorites were the space rides. Of course. Space Mountain, Star Tours, and Mission: Space were tops for me. But I also really loved Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Aerosmith's Rockin' Rollercoaster, Soarin', and Toy Story Mania.

And the Peoplemover. It should get more credit.

And the Winnie the Pooh ride was surprisingly great. I miiiight have done it twice.

And I enjoyed Captain EO, too, dang it. Don't judge me.

(For the record: I found It's A Small World incredibly creepy. That ride felt like the opening scene of a Supernatural episode. I literally got chills.)

6) Seeing the cast of The Middle filming

Look in the center and you will find Axl Heck...

We happened to be there at the same time as the cast of The Middle, one of my favorite sitcoms. Since I've always been so interested in TV/film production, watching the crew set up, the cast arrive, the way they shot different takes, did makeup/hair, etc. was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Plus, it was fun stalking Axl. And the Janitor from Scrubs.

I even made eye contact with Patricia Heaton. Oh yeah.


Man, I could ramble about this trip for hours. Now I want to do a special post listing all the things I learned about Disney World. Maybe I will. Before we left, I read so many bloggers' tips and guides, but I felt differently about many things they said. Perhaps I'll work on that.

In the end, I left feeling so inspired by Walt. It's so incredible that everything Disney has become, this ridiculously massive empire, all began with this one guy's imaginative ideas. Just... wow. Dreams really can come true!