Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Multitude Monday, Take 326

Given that it's now Wednesday, I wouldn't ordinarily bother with this post, except that I already went to all the trouble of uploading pictures on Monday--so here's last week's gratitude, better late than never, I guess. Thanking God this week for...

6230. Vacation Bible School for both boys
6231. coffee with a new friend
6232. lunch at Pizza Hut (still using Book-It certificates!) with a friend and her boys
6233. Jude still little enough to eat from the buffet for free
6234. invitation to my brother's wedding in the mail

6235. Elijah's reaction to my zucchini bread pancakes: "Mom, these are so delicious! You're the best cooker of breakfast ever!"
6236. regained ability to do lots of real pushups
6237. an encouraging first meeting with the principal at Elijah's new school
6238. Jude helping me make zucchini lasagna

6239. making it to the zoo just in time to catch the DinoTrek exhibit

6240. patient goats

6241. baby camels drinking from a bottle

6242. Galapagos tortoises coming close

6243. fun outing with the boys

6244. sunbeams filtering through the trees

6245. the prettiest loaves of bread I've ever made

6246. brunch with a dear friend to break up my road trip

6247. safe travels up to Cincinnati and back by myself
6248. an excellent audiobook to pass the time
6249. a beautiful day for an outdoor bridal shower
6250. getting to come celebrate with my future sister-in-law

6251. girls' night with my mom and an aunt
6252. making it back for church Sunday morning
6253. the boys' faces and eager hugs and kisses when I walked in
6254. our pastor's edifying, passionate preaching

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Steve and Amy: A Love Story (Conclusion)

[continued from part fifteen // start here]

The first order of business after I moved home from Denver in August 2004 was setting a wedding date, and just that simple task was dramatic and frustrating--it was a microcosm of the entire process, in fact. I'm sorry to say that wedding planning was not the joyful, dreams-come-true time it could have and should have been for me. A year (minus one day) was far, far too long to be engaged; we wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

The long-distance aspect of our relationship got more and more difficult; Steve burned up the road making the 3.5-hour trip between Cincinnati and our hometown. I took on two part-time jobs, thinking that 20 hours of each would be the equivalent of one 40-hour-a-week job (WRONG...oh so very wrong). And I went through a dark, dry, scary wilderness in my walk with the Lord.

Event planning is not my gift; making choices about thousands of details is a nightmare for an indecisive perfectionist. And it seemed like things went wrong at every turn, from the dilemma of finding a church, to the drama of trying to find the perfect dress, to a mixup with the invitations...

Steve, my mom, and my matron of honor, Julie, helping assemble invitations--we put on dramatic faces for the picture, but it really was a pain! say nothing of the poor decisions and lack of foresight that led to a lackluster reception. Oh, there are so many things I would go back and do differently!

At any rate, Steve graduated from college in June 2005; I traveled to Cincinnati with his family to celebrate his graduation and move all his stuff back home.

We had three more weeks to finalize last-minute wedding details (and secure our first apartment--and in his free time Steve built a beautiful solid cherry bed for us!) and long was time to say "I do."

After all the stress and frustration of planning, I'll never forget standing at the back of the church on the night of our rehearsal. Our musicians--three dear friends of mine from college--began singing, and I was bouncing with giddiness. I had known they would be fabulous, but when I actually heard them, I was beside myself. People kept asking little detail questions throughout the rehearsal and I was all, "I don't even care! Figure something out! I am getting married tomorrow and I am SO HAPPY!" :)

Though I wish I would have thrown a better party for our guests, the ceremony itself (which had been the focus of my attention and planning) was everything I had hoped for and more. Because of my unbelievably talented friends, we seriously had the best wedding music in the history of weddings, forever and ever, amen.

The parts of the ceremony that didn't go smoothly (like the fact that no one could find a source of fire for the mothers to light their candles, or the fact that there was no wine or juice in the communion goblet) were little things that were funny and memorable even as they happened. And most of it came off beautifully.

So, after sixteen years of knowing each other, seven years of real friendship, three years of off-and-on unrequited love, eighteen months of dating, and a 364-day engagement, Steve and I were finally Mr. and Mrs. on July 2, 2005.

The cake was one detail that turned out perfectly--I had lots of very specific requests and our baker more than delivered!

We honeymooned in Maui, a dream vacation...

...and then, two days after flying back home, we packed up our lives and moved to the South. In the space of two weeks we had a new marriage, new job, new home in a new state. But God was gracious to give us a wonderful first year as newlyweds. We had our challenges, sure, but it wasn't the difficult, conflict-wrought first year many married couples experience.

The two of us at Steve's older brother's wedding, which was just eight weeks after ours--2005 was definitely the summer of weddings for us, as we participated in three besides our own!

Two kids later (four years and counting past our "five-year plan"), we are still here in Tennessee, and still growing together and loving each other.

In the process of writing this (ridiculously drawn out) love story, I reflected to Steve that it's strange how, ten years later, old insecurities still bubble up. When I read through the details, it totally makes me laugh, and I love it because it's our story. Countless times I have enjoyed laughing with Steve as we tell it in person, tag-team style. But when it came to posting it on my blog for the entire world to read, at times I started to feel defensive and even a little embarrassed, specifically when it came to Steve's perspective.

Suddenly I was reminded that our story was not the fairy-tale-esque story I had concocted in my mind all those years, the kind everyone might have been expecting after nine episodes of know, where the scales fall from Steve's eyes and he confesses that he is madly in love with me :) It made me want to jump in with all kinds of disclaimers, like, "but he developed feelings for me soon after that! It wasn't long before he was asking God to ease up on the feelings!"

I wondered if I had stretched out and built up the story too much, to the point where it was really anti-climactic and even odd. Maybe my perspective is just totally skewed. But for some reason, underneath all the laughter, it still made me squirm a little bit to read about how Steve did NOT want to date me and had to be dragged into this kicking and screaming.

When I shared those feelings with my husband a while back, he responded in his usual wise way:
It is interesting reading your perspective here, mostly because it hadn't even occurred to me what you would be feeling. I have been too engrossed in my own feelings to stop and ponder yours. 

So, given that, let me give you my perspective. If there is anyone who should feel embarrassed, it would be me. The way I see it, me being apprehensive about dating you has much more to do with my blindness than it does with your value. As I think about where I was way back then, I tend to drift to two main thoughts; my thick-headedness, and God's unmerited grace in spite of that. I wasn't asking for a wife at the time really, and would have likely been asking for the wrong thing if I had been. Yet God, in his mercy, gave me you, whom I believe has done much to sanctify me and bring me joy. 

Is our story fairy-tale like? Not really. But, for the most part, neither is anyone else's. What our story does do is point to God as a loving father who knows his children (better than they know themselves) and seeks to glorify himself in the working out of the details of our small little lives. Who ever heard of an all powerful king taking notice of the peasants of his land, to the point of arranging their marriages for their own good?  

And that, I think, is a fitting place to end this series. The story of Steve and me isn't a Disney movie or a blockbuster rom-com. In a way, it's better: it magnifies a kind and generous Father who wisely and lavishly loves His children, giving us gifts "far more abundantly than all that we ask or think"--gifts that will make us more like Jesus and bring us joy along the way. Steve has been, and continues to be, that kind of gift to me...and so I give thanks, for the crazy love story God has written in our lives, and the story He continues to unfold. 

The Entire Series: 
1: Second Grade Beginnings
2: Junior High Crush
3: Kissing Dating Goodbye
4: Falling in Love, Onstage and IRL
5: "Are They Dating? They Should Be"
6: Other Fish in the Sea
7: Enter Prince Charming (Not Steve)
8: Not Actually Over Him After All
9: Have I Just Made a Huge Mistake?
10: A Wrench in Steve's Plans
11: A Revelation: Steve Speaks
12: And So It Begins
13: Cautiously Growing Closer 
14: Define the Relationship: Just How Serious is This? 
15: Sparkly Jewelry
16: I Now Pronounce You Husband and Wife

Monday, June 16, 2014

Gifts at the Beach (Multitude Monday, Take 325)

Last week we received too many gifts to recount here, in the midst of a family vacation to the beach! We joined my parents and some extended family for a few days on Hilton Head Island. It was the boys' first time to see the ocean (well, Elijah was there when he was 10 months old, but that didn't count as a vacation for anyone, trust me!) and we made so many wonderful memories. A few photos to illustrate the blessings...

6214. this view
6215. ripples on water and sand

6216. wave-jumping

6217. reunion with an old friend, and getting to meet her husband

6218. bike rides at low tide

6219. boogie boards

6220. sand play

6221. ice cream runs

6222. incredibly generous and loving grandparents

6223. a boat ride to see dolphins up close!

6224. walks on the beach, sand between our toes

6225. first light

6226. these incredible colors in the sky
6227. grace to get out of bed and not miss this beauty
6228. girls' outing with my mom and aunt
6229. family photo outtakes :)

Monday, June 02, 2014

Multitude Monday, Take 324

Thanking God the past two weeks for...

6176. Elijah's quickness to tell me about a "bad day" he had at school
6177. the fact that he didn't return evil for evil
6178. an opportunity to teach and encourage
6179. Elijah's hard work this year and his receiving several awards
6180. his joy over tiny trophies

6181. Christians who speak out on behalf of sexual abuse victims, who fight for the weak and oppressed
6182. His perfect justice and the guarantee that one day all wrongs will be made right
6183. weightlifting with Steve
6184. not seeing fit to make me born into the royal family of Britain--as appealing as aspects of it may seem, I'm sure it would be terrible for my heart
6185. this adorable photo, one of my favorite-ever pics of my firstborn

6186. moments of clarity about how soon this will be the real thing

6187. Jude doing so well through two long and boring programs past bedtime in one week
6188. Elijah: "Mom, I like to hold your hand!"
6189. the first of our rewards from the best Kickstarter campaign ever
6190. His mercy in making the first few days of summer go smoothly despite my lack of a plan
6191. a playdate at the park with a new friend and her handsome boys

6192. dinner with friends
6193. perfectly grilled porkchops
6194. boys watching This Old House with Daddy
6195. Ligon Duncan's powerful sermon on Numbers 5
6196. our friends' baby boy's adorable fauxhawk

6197. uncontrollable, tears-streaming, belly-aching giggles
6198. veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms I enjoy
6199. finally finding all the words (or making them) for a quote for the cover of my new journal
6200. bathroom windowpanes finally covered in privacy film = no more blinds, lots of natural light
6201. more and more and more freshly picked organic strawberries

6202. Jude "reading" favorite books
6203. Elijah actually reading!
6204. a big-girl domain for my blog, finally: did you notice I'm at now?!
6205. Psalm 1:1 copied in Elijah's ridiculous cursive handwriting
6206. tiny freckles sprinkled across Elijah's cheeks

6207. a friend's willingness to babysit our boys; the way she loves them and *wants* to have them over
6208. Saturday morning date with Steve
6209. hours spent exploring and learning about Nashville's history
6210. Chicago-style pizza for the first time in a decade or more
6211. the boys' excitement to go to church

6212. our friend's powerful, hilarious, encouraging Sunday school message about what God is doing through him and his family (and indirectly through us and our church) at Hope Community Church and around the world
6213. the sweet kindergarten teacher who invested in Elijah this year and taught him so much