Inspiration

 

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Angeles National Forest

 

I couldn’t honestly call myself an author, though I always will be at heart. Inspiration is fickle and often do we part.

Perhaps the downside of happiness is that it doesn’t draw me to the pen, but with every lesson in life, I will return again.

I once dreamt of worlds without end, but it seems that life doesn’t cease to happen.

From time passed I have learned, the morning doesn’t favor the artist, the light of day makes writing the hardest.

Perhaps it is the moon, the stars and the quiet, that bring out the characters and the stories they’re hiding.

Though to be an author, I must be a writer, to my writing I return, and I’ll always be a fighter.

Tori Lynn Cortez

Santa Paula – Ventura

 

Travel time again! I must give a little back story to this trip in particular; When my husband and I got married, we were in a tight place financially, Johnny was out of time off from work and seeking better employment, so our honeymoon was very short. With that being said, we agreed to go on a trip once a month to enjoy our first year of marriage in a spread out way, instead of all at once. Sadly, after I was laid off from my full-time job, it took us a while to get back on our feet, but we finally made it!

Our most recent venture took us to a small Stars Hollow-esque town near Ventura a few weeks ago. Due to the Antelope Valley’s summer heat and our lack of AC at the time, we opted for a much cooler getaway. Santa Paula was the perfect escape from the heatwave, and the small town feel was extremely relaxing. We checked in at the rustic Glen Tavern Inn and settled in to explore our new find. The charming inn was the perfect opening point for our adventure. The small town was home to an Agriculture Museum, an old railroad and a handful of small parks and old town restaurants. Although almost everything in the town seemed to be closed on Mondays, we found a nice little BBQ spot to meet our hunger cleverly called “Best BBQ”. After strolling around the outside of the Agriculture Museum, we decided on dessert at the Irish Pub near the hotel, called Garman’s. To be honest, I’d never been INSIDE a pub before, and after all the movies and shows I’ve seen, I don’t really know what I expected, but it was perfect. It was a quaint little spot, and we had a perfectly delicious bread pudding. Honestly, some of the entrees looked so tasty that I wished we hadn’t already had dinner.

After strolling around the outside of the Agriculture Museum, we decided on dessert at the Irish Pub near the hotel, called Garman’s. To be honest, I’d never been INSIDE a pub before, and after all the movies and shows I’ve seen, I don’t really know what I expected, but it was perfect. It was a quaint little spot, and we had a perfectly delicious bread pudding. Honestly, some of the entrees looked so tasty that I wished we hadn’t already had dinner. At the table across from us, an older couple seemed to have been reunited with their grandson from France, a little further down a family with young children were watching the soccer game on the pub’s giant flat screen.

On Tuesday, after having breakfast at Vince’s Coffee Shop, which turned out to be a country/Mexican breakfast cafe (Not what I would’ve expected from the name, but it was good), we headed out to Ventura.

What I’d have to say about Ventura could be summed up in the word refreshing. After a short and cold trip to the beach, we found a pretty good (but a little overrated) fish tacos place and then took our food up to the Ventura Cross for an ocean-view tailgate.

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As long as I can remember, the most refreshing times of my life have been nearby a body of water, especially the ocean and this trip was no exception. We found a bunch of other neat spots on our way back, but I think getting away is an essential part of life, at least it always will be for me.

Another side note for any of my natural travelers, if you’re carrying homemade soaps or anything that includes coconut oil, make sure it’s sealed super tight! It has a nice smell, but I would’ve like to keep it all INSIDE of my containers.

Sincerely,

Tori Lynn Cortez

Phoenix

I love traveling. There are few things in my life I enjoy as much as I love to travel, but the action of traveling is a lot different for me now. For one, it usually results in unnerving fatigue, back pain, leg pain and strong emotions as a result of those things – which results in a pretty strong headache for my husband. However, I’ve still found a great deal of joy in traveling, despite how much it can wear on me.

Arizona Sunrise Recently, the opportunity presented itself to surprise one of my husband’s best friends and old roommates for his birthday. We haven’t gotten away for a decent amount of time since our 2-day honeymoon in San Diego, so I was thrilled to take the opportunity.

Since my husband and I currently live in a desert in Antelope Valley, I didn’t think there would be much of a climate change.

I was wrong.

Phoenix is SUPER HOT. Unlike our beloved desert here in the AV, it does not cool down at night. However, it hosts much more of the cacti that you would expect to find in a desert, some well over 10 feet tall. At the last minute, we decided to take the 7-hour drive at 2 am Friday night instead of arriving around that time. I slept on and off through most of the drive but had the wonderful opportunity to pray during the sunrise.

In addition to the surprise element of the trip, I’m grateful we had the time away to realign our focus. Personally, I need that time away every now and then to remember what I’m doing in life and why. The past month or so, I’ve felt overwhelmed by what I’ve not been able to do because of my condition. In reality, I just needed a breather and some good friends to refresh my perspective.

Although Arizona is one of the few places I can think of that’s hotter than Antelope Valley right now, it drew me out of the stupor I’ve been floating in lately. Life doesn’t always come at you in the ways that you would hope, but all we have left is to make the most of what we’ve been given.

The purpose of the trip was to surprise one of my husband’s long-term best friends; Anthony for his birthday. The guys used to be roommates back when we were all single but being married hasn’t kept them from staying close and keeping up – in fact, I’ve found pretty wonderful friendships with their wives as well. These are the kind of memories I want to build, the kind of friendships that every person needs to survive in life.

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Myself, Gabi, and Ashley – Johnny, Anthony, and David

Life is challenging – but that’s no reason not to enjoy it. I hope from here forward to grow and thrive, to find joy in every curve we face in life.

Sincerely,

Tori Lynn Cortez

Even if Not

Sometimes the old lessons ring truer in the future…

Thoughts from Hazel

I have to admit, my faith is weaker than it should be.  I always wonder why, though.  For if I am certain that something is within God’s will, my faith is through the roof.  However, if it is something I am even slightly iffy on, my faith is more likely through the floor instead.  Until recently, that is…

Daniel 3:17-18 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

This morning, I was blown away at their faith.  “Even if he does not…”  They were prepared to face death, yet they stood in faith.  It didn’t appear to go unnoticed either.

Daniel…

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Once Upon a Lifetime


Once upon a time old friend,

Our roads were intertwined

Once upon a time 

Our past was redefined

Once upon a time my friend

Our stories did rewind

Once upon a time

What was yours was mine

Once upon a time back then

Our friends were all the same

Once upon a time

We swore we’d never change

Once upon a time to them

We’d be close all the same

Once upon a time

We said we’d never drift away

Once upon a lifetime

We were all caught by surprise

When once upon a time

Our friendships slowly died. 

“Some Great Thing”

During my 3+ years of campus ministry at both Cerritos College and Antelope Valley College, I’ve come across a common response that has often broken my heart. 

“Do I really have to follow what the Bible says?”

Growing up, I never could’ve imagined that people could think they were following God while completely disregarding his commands. However, this is the state of most people who call themselves christians. If I’d actually counted all the women I’ve studied the Bible with, I’m sure it would be in the hundreds, but I can name every one of the few that actually followed through with obeying Gods call in their life. 

Even inside of a group of people who are following God, it’s so easy to find myself and others not wanting to do the simplest things. Even if you’re reading this post, I’m sure at some point this week you struggled to wake up early enough to have time with God that morning, or brushed it off completely. Yet, I’m sure many of the people in the world who wouldn’t pick up a bible, read and follow it would tell you that they’d die for their faith. 

My only question is; why?

Why is it so much easier to die for something than to live for it?
This evening I found myself reading 2 Kings. One of my favorite passages highlights this very question. 

During the time of the prophet Elisha and the king of Israel Joram, an army commander for the king ofAram was stricken with leprosy. Despite this terrible disease, he had many great victories. 2 Kings 5 highlights his story, as he finds out about a prophet in Samaria that could heal his leprosy. However, when he comes to Elisha, he is less than pleased with the direction he’s given. 

2 Kings 5:10-14 “Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage. Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.”

Following the response of many, Naaman, the commander was appalled by the prophet’s simple instructions. He had hoped for an immediate, flashy miracle, but that is not what God gave him. (There is so much incredible symbolism in Elisha’s command – but I will save that for another day) He wanted something easy, dramatic and on his terms. 

However, the voice of reason in this passage comes from his servants; “If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?”  

Wow. 

How many times do we neglect to follow the simplest instructions in the Bible, yet claim that we would give up our lives for the gospel. My dear friend, giving up your life is most useful and honorable while you are still alive. 

As Naaman’s servant said; “How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!”

So I leave you with the same reflection I hold in my own hearts. What simple commands of God are you not following because you don’t think they’re great enough for you, or you’re embarrassed because you don’t want other people to know you haven’t been following them?

Think about it, and then change it. If you need any help with this, I’d be more than happy to talk about it further or direct you to someone who is in your area. 

James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

To God be the glory,

Tori Lynn Cortez

Our 48 Days of Engagement

I must apologize for not updating you before the wedding, but if I’ve ever called my life a roller coaster (And I have, many times…) this past month it has been intensified more than ever, although in a very good way. Planning a wedding in 48 days is perhaps the most insane thing I’ve ever done, but I don’t regret it in the least.

I worked really hard on our wedding website and if you didn’t get to check it out, there are several great stories and pictures of Johnny and I together throughout our dating life and engagement. For example:

 Our story has morphed into so many things over the past couple of years. From a love at first sight story to a “I don’t think she’s into me”, it has been a mystery how we ended up right here.

Although we weren’t engaged for very long, we did our best to enjoy every moment and for me, it made the entire thing much more special. However, planning a wedding in less than two months is NOT for the faint of heart, it’s not for everyone and I don’t recommend it unless both you and your future spouse are completely 200% on board and are okay with tons of last minute changes.

We absolutely couldn’t have pulled off this feat without the help of our dear friends and family and I am grateful for each one of them. Above all, for God getting us this far. There is no way we could have the wonderful marriage that we do without His grace and direction in our lives.

“Funny how sometimes, you just find things.” -Tracy McConnel (HIMYM)

Since as long as I can remember, I wanted to be married before I turned 22. However, I never could have imagined the brilliant love story that God had in mind for me. Just before Thanksgiving of 2016, my (at the time) boyfriend and I were on a red-eye flight from LAX to RDU to spend a holiday with my family. As we posed for our traditional airport family photo, Johnny surprised me with a question that would forever change my life – fully supported by my entire family.

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I remember waking up from a nap shortly after (trying to get back in the right time zone) and just staring at my hand in shock. I was engaged to my best friend!

From that moment on, everything seems like a blur. From the hundreds of best wishes and congratulations on social media, to starting watching Gilmore Girls with my family, each moment of those 48 days was so precious.

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Our engagement was a strange time for me, but I learned a great deal about trusting God in the details of life and that great communication makes everything easier.

 

Some details came easier; Anthony officiating the wedding, our wedding party, and color scheme. Others were more challenging; getting our families on board with the date, our budget and getting my family to California. However, The Knot wedding checklist saved so many details for me that I would have easily overlooked. (Thank God for technology, amen.) In all the details, the pre-martial counseling and financial strains, Johnny and I fought to preserve our relationship with God and friendship with each other, and that’s what has brought us here today.

Almost two months after our wedding day, I’m still not entirely sure what happened to our arch, a lot of our wedding footage was lost, and we’re on a new adventure of finding more stable full-time jobs, we’ve finally finished Gilmore Girls, we still haven’t gotten a copy of our marriage certificate back, and we’re happily learning what it means to be married and live together. The little slip-ups at the wedding don’t really matter anymore, I still have about 100 programs because we accidentally printed way too many and we’re just now hanging up pictures in our place together.

To me, 48 days was plenty of time to plan a wedding, but a marriage is something we’ll be working on for the rest of our lives.

If I had any advice for the future brides out there, I would say this;

  • Don’t forget to be friends. There’s a lot of planning to do, but your friendship has to come first.
  • Check details and keep checking them – especially to people you don’t know. (3 people looked over our original programs and no one spotted that it said “Wedding date” instead of the actual date of our wedding until they were printed.
  • GET A COPY OF YOUR MARRIAGE LICENSE BEFORE TURNING IT IN – No one told us this, but probably because everyone assumed we’d know that. We didn’t. It’s supposed to only take about 45 days, but in the words of Ted Mosby, I’d do anything to get those extra 45 days. I honestly have no idea which name to put on job applications anymore.
  • Get advice and help from tons of people.
  • At the end of the day, make your decisions and enjoy your special day, but more importantly the rest of your lives!

In all gratitude,
Tori Lynn Cortez